Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another faulty video game violence study

This post topic was suggested by my friend Candy Rose. Please visit her blog about wellness and travel, https://runningwiththeroses.wordpress.com/.

Long time followers of mine may remember a blog post I did dissecting some of the scientific papers that were published around video games causing violence. Unfortunately the wayback machine seems to have missed that post (or at least, it was too big a pita to find it) so... let's start over.

Scientific studies have consistently shown that there is an increase in transferable skills, but the effect is very localized. Moving thumbpads or a mouse to shoot someone? That's not going to make you a more effective killer. Flying a plane with a flight stick, throttle, and rudder pedals in a simulation that accurately represents wind? That will help some. Here is a meta analysis that cites problems with most of the studies done up to that point, and here are studies that show how video games can help improve non-specific, super general skills such as fine motor coordination, spacial reasoning, and general education (when designed by a good teacher who understands the advantages of the medium).

So, I claim that flight simulators with proper equipment could make you a better pilot. What about shooters with a toy gun? My personal intuition on the subject is that toy guns like the ones you'll find in expensive arcade machines do not relate very well to actual guns. There's never a safety. There's never a jam. There's never a misfire. There's never a realistic recoil. There's never a realistic sound, at least in terms of volume. I can't think of an example where the weight of a video game rifle was close to the weight of a real world pistol. I own a gun. I take it to the range. I have a healthy fear of the device, and I treat it with caution and respect. It's presence in my hand fills me with a variety of emotions. Toy guns never do that.

But a paper disagrees with my personal experience. It studied 151 participants over three video games, Resident Evil 4, Wii Play, and Super Mario Galaxy. In RE4 and Wii Play participents were given either a "traditional" controller (it's not specified, but I suspect it was a Wii pro controller from the description) or a "pistol" controller (the wii-mote in a plastic shell). They played these games for 20 minutes, then went to the range with an airsoft pistol to fire rounds at a mannequin.

That all sounds fine, except you don't have a round where the participants shoot at the mannequin to establish a baseline. Also, airsoft pistols don't address a couple of the differences I highlighted between real guns and toy guns - principally the volume. Then you get to the results. First, there was no significant change detected between players who had firearms training and those who had not. Then there's no significant change between players who were rated higher for aggression and those who were rated lower. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

The paper does not provide raw data for the study. It has a chart. And the numbers on the chart, to me at least, don't make a lot of sense. Maybe I just don't know how to read this type of chart. Thankfully, there are professionals for that. While the paper was in peer review questions were raised about the numbers, a request for the raw data was put in. The authors of the study never got back to it. It was later revealed the data was lost, which raises questions about the validity of the study, such as "Did you cherry pick or massage the results a little bit?" A few weeks ago, the University of Ohio issued a retraction for the study. Justice is served.

I'm not sure why there is such an impulse to blame video games for violence. The numbers show a coloration between an increased percentage of households that own a video game system and a decrease in murder rates. If nothing else, murder (and violent crime in general) are way down. There doesn't seem to be much need for a scapegoat.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Elite Dangerous in VR

I played around with Elite Dangerous in VR tonight for the first time. I spent about 3 hours straight in VR, which is too much time in VR, as it happens. My eyes are very fatigued as I write this post.

So, what's it like? It's cool. The first couple frame shift jumps I felt a little woozy, which is appropriate punishment for when one violates fundamental laws of physics. Keeping track of targets was way easier when I was able to look through all the glass in the cockpit. This gives me about 180 degrees forward, and 160 degrees above.

I haven't touched Elite Dangerous in over a year. The controls were unfamiliar to me. Not being able to look at the keyboard was a bit of a challenge. As I corrected bindings to put most of the important stuff on my HOTAS (a fancy joystick), everything was a bit easier. Landing gear and cargo scoops (both used fairly frequently) were stuck on the keyboard. Eventually I was able to hit the correct keys blind.

I run "VR Minspec" for the most part. The game ran smooth for me for the two hours or so. The twitch video was a little jumpy - but that's par for the course on this machine. The last hour it was a bit framey at times, and I consistently had some troubles in highly populated areas.

The twitch video is below. A few warnings: My audio was a bit low. The desk-mounted mic does not lend itself to VR. Also, the aforementioned jumpiness pops up a lot. Also, for the first bit there's a black bar on the top of the video. My bad. Hopefully future videos will be cleaner.


Watch live video from on www.twitch.tv

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Starting to learn to play Black Dog by Led Zepplin. Finishing up on Debaser by The Pixies. Some other songs thrown in for funsies.

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The Reaction to Sunday Sales in Minnesota

Minnesota has a long standing blue law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Bars are restaurants are permitted to serve, but liquor stores are not. It looks like a new law is on the way to repeal the old one. A lot of people are excited, but I'd like to take a look at the arguments a few people are making against it. The thread I'm following starts with Patrick Kessler's twitter. Mr. Kessler is a political reporter for the local CBS affiliate.

The first reply is a person saying "I can't believe this is a priority. Seriously." Well, why is it a priority?

Let's start with my favorite: separation of church and state. Blue laws are clearly religious in nature. I'm not religious. I shouldn't be required to follow the rules you've chosen for yourself - even though a quick visit to a tavern after Sunday mass shows many of you aren't adhering to this particular rule anyway. Similarly, my Jewish friends don't hold the same taboo... and if they do, it's certainly not on Sunday. It's a vestigial law from the church's awkward power grab that failed nearly a hundred years ago. It'd be better for your religion if the law was removed and people forget it ever happened.

There's also the free enterprise perspective: this law prevents the market from taking it's natural course. I claim regulation that limits the hours/days a business can operate limits the success of that industry. Maybe it helps a subset of proprietors (to be discussed further on), but it certainly hurts the industry as a whole and the consumers.

Finally, on a state level this issue has absorbed a lot of time already. Many citizens are upset about it, and spend time writing their legislators asking for something to be done. Clearing this issue will open more time for other issues to be handled. Personally, I hope we move on to work on increasing Minnesota's renewable energy production. The important thing here is that we move on.

The thread continues over on Reddit. The first complaint I see is "As someone who works at a liquor store let me keep my damn day off!" The liquor stores seem to have pushed this notion as something to get their employees behind them. Ultimately, scheduling is at the discretion of the liquor stores. I don't see a reason why an employee would not be allowed a set schedule. If they have one person working six days a week they're probably doing something wrong already. I can think of several retailers that have their employees work on consistent days and give them consistent days off. If they're having trouble finding people to work Sundays for some reason, a slight shift differential could resolve that problem fairly easily. There's no reason for this to be an issue unless the proprietor wants to make it one.

Another person posits "This law has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with liquor store owners who want to keep their operating costs lower." I've heard this claim several times before. Is it true? It's hard to tell. I was not able to find any sources that break down liquor sales by day for any given state. What I was able to find is the state's municipal liquor store report. There are 19 municipal stores in the Twin Cities metro area. They account for over 30% of all of the municipal liquor sales in the state. A quick glance through the table shows some of these stores operated at a a five figure loss last year, one reaching -$50,000.

My search to learn more about these municipal liquor stores lead me to The Minnesota Municipal Beverage Assocation page about Sunday sales. Their first claim is that their opposition to the law is not about increasing working hours. I was able to find sites claiming paying employees account for 70% of the costs after purchasing inventory, but okay... let's allow their assertion. Why are they opposed to the change? I want to start by pointing out two claims.

First, "It is about spreading six days of sales over seven days of expenses. Alcohol is not a destination purchase. People don't get up and say "let's go alcohol shopping." It is an impulse purchase that, in the vast majority of locations, doesn't pay the day's bills." Second, "In addition, Sunday Sales has the potential to lead to the elimination of 3.2 beer and ultimately Wine & Strong Beer in Grocery / Convenience Stores." I see a solution to the first problem in the second!

The MMBA is essentially saying without the state protecting their business model, they would go out of business. Since this particular business model leeches up to $50,000 from small communities' tax pools, I think it's fair to demand they compete with businesses that operate without taxes propping them up. If liquor is an impulse buy, or something people only want while they're already out at other places... why not sell it in places where people go while they're out?

MMBA also appeals to public safety concerns. They cite studies done in New Mexico in 2005. New Mexico permitted Sunday sales in 1995. A quick google search brings up AlcoholAlert.com's table on traffic incidents. New Mexico's population has increased about 70% from 1980 to 2010. Meanwhile, traffic fatalities in the same period are around 40% lower. Alcohol related fatalities made up 65% of accidents in 1982 (the first year on the chart, while a Sunday ban was in effect), and have not risen above 51% in the years following the removal of the ban. In fact, when New Mexico implemented an ignition system law for repeat drunk driving offenders, the percentage fell to the 30%-$38% range. It seems there are smarter ways to help public safety after all!

Next they say it's bad for business. They bring out my local store's manager, Scott Neal to say opening an extra day would increase our costs by 16% (I see 1/7=.14, but I'll give him a few points of wiggle room). He then assumes no increase of sales - I know I have forgone purchasing alcohol at least three times in the last six months on Sunday, and I'm not a heavy drinker. The Edina liquor store I go to is next to a grocery store. That grocery store's lot is thriving, even on Sundays. If alcohol is an impulse buy, as the MMBA asserts, this Edina Liquor store will see additional sales on Sunday. But if you assume increased costs, no increase in sales, boom! You've got a bad-for-business move on your hands. I think Mr. Neal made a bad argument.

Their final appeal is that car dealerships also operate under a blue law prohibiting them from selling cars on Sunday. "So, for those who support repealing the ban on liquor sales on Sunday – is it about government not interfering in commerce, or is it about more access to alcohol?" Can't it be about both? Here's a good video on why car dealerships suck, and how the government regulation helps keep it that way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weightloss Update

Since going "low carb" from ketosis, weight loss has stopped. Or at least, stalled a bunch. That's sort of to be expected, I've fallen in to my habits that mostly maintain weight. The graph is still trending down, just not at a decent clip.

The plus side? I had a beer last night. I pulled some long shifts with Uber lately, and eating out of gas stations and fast food is sort of the best I can do. I attempted to stick as close to keto as possible within those confines - so soft shell tacos, or beef jerky for dinner. I've had a couple sodas when I knew the coffee on offer was going to suck. I did grab a slice of pizza at Hello Pizza, which I will continue to recommend to anyone in the area.

I haven't been tracking food, so I don't know where my macros are. I suspect I've been under 50g of non-fiber carbs a day, with the possible exception of the two meals that were way over that (pizza and a sandwich), but I don't know that for sure.

Anyway, I've picked up most of the beer I was looking to sample. It seems like next weekend is when I'll have some friends over for sampling. Then it's back to keto. Huzzah.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Decisions regarding reproduction and polyamory

A recent Reddit thread discussed what happens when a pair (of I'm assuming primaries) aren't on the same page with regards to having kids. I don't want to talk about that person's specific problem, I don't have a lot of details and the details I do have make it seem pretty hairy. So let's talk in general terms - from the male perspective as that's the only view I have to share.

Personally, I never wanted to have children. Until last year, I was still capable of producing children. Why?

Getting a vasectomy is psychologically difficult. I had to spend a lot time reading up on it to educate myself on what was going to happen -- and even then I wasn't sure I believed what I read. It was a tough decision, and it was something I had to decide for myself. (There were also cases of the doctors saying "You'll change your mind when you're older." or "What if you meet a woman who wants them?" It took a while to be old enough to class out of one claim and push through the other.)

For that reason, I feel when a couple decides not to have children, it's unfair to pressure anyone into taking surgical steps to make that decision permanent. In polyamory the desire to exert that pressure is likely greater because of a fear that your partner may make a different decision with another person.

I can empathize, having a child is a huge time and resource commitment. If they do that with someone else, it's taking away from your time and resources!

Did you notice the mistake in thinking there? It's easy to feel like you somehow own your partners attention; but you don't. The time and money a person chooses to spend with you is a gift; you're not entitled to it. I would argue strongly that this is an axiom, even in monogamous marriage.

It's also possible that someone could take it as an insult. "They don't want to have kids with me because I'm old!" or "They don't think my genes are good enough for their kids!" or "They think I'd be a bad parent." Ultimately, I think this is jealousy talking. You are who you are, and your relationships are what they are. Wishing they were something different isn't going to change that. Getting angry over relationships you're not involved in will generally diminish the quality of the ones you are in.

So, how do you get on the same page as your partner? To be honest, I haven't given this much thought. I don't want to have kids, and I tend to date people that already have them or are also committed to not having them. But let's say I change my mind tomorrow and the doctors are able to reverse my vasectomy. How would I go about it?

First I'd talk to my partners. If I have a partner I'd like to have a child with, I'd talk to her first. Once she and I are on the same page, I'd begin to discuss it with my other partners, and my metas on my baby mama's side. What concerns do they have? What can I help with? What are outside of my control? Will the new situation bring an end to relationships as they are? If so, can we part amicably? What do I think their involvement will be in my child's life? What do they think their role will be? It will all need to be discussed. New boundaries will be created and enforced. Dynamics inside each relationship will change. That's the nature of the project, and what I'd be signing up for if I decided to undertake it.

It seems deciding to have a kid is a larger decision here than it might be for monogamous people. For that reason, it's important to know your partners' position on the subject as their attitudes shift. It may have an impact on your relationship and you may need to be ready for that. However, you must remember that you never have authority over someone else's time, money, or body.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nintendo Switch Impressions

Nintendo just did their press conference for the Nintendo Switch. They're sticking to their guns on being a generation behind everyone else.

The new console is pushing their take of 'play anywhere.' A feature Sony has had for some games since the PSP. Something Microsoft is doing better with the Xbox/PC integration. But okay, it's going to be all the games on the console, since the console itself is (sorta) portable. Great.

The controllers are kind of neat, but... They're motion controls. Look, motion controls aren't a thing. Stop trying to make them a thing. If you want simple, intuitive controls... look at what the Vive and Rift are doing. VR is the future. Wagglesticks are done.

The Mario game. First, it's not coming until holiday season, while the console is launching in Q1. Next, it looks like a Mario skin on Sonic Adventure 2. I'm sure people will find the Nintendo charm if they want to find it... but man, I could not care less.

It's launching for $300. They're planning to charge for online multiplayer. That's about what a PS4 or Xbox One costs. The PS4 has VR. The choice is clear: Not Nintendo.

Switching to low carb for a bit

My favorite local brewery announced they're releasing a sampler of my favorite type of beer, including a sub-style that I haven't had from them before. As a result, I'm planning to have at least four beers one day next week. That many carbs will certainly knock me out of ketosis.  Soooo... I am going to allow myself a small amount of carbs between now and then.

I'm looking forward to eating pizza and tacos while I have some wiggle room.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Facebook ads are getting really good.

I'm browsing Facebook while waiting for work stuff to happen. I notice an ad for a hoodie that I really like. I don't really talk about clothing. I don't think I've purchased a hoodie directly in months or years (I've been getting them via kickstarter rewards lately). Yet here is the ad, and it's for a garment that I'd actually enjoy wearing. This one puzzles me; I don't know how they predicted I would want that particular item.

I took stock of other ads. Geico has one up for me asking if I'm "considering expanding my family." I mean, sort of? I'm thinking about dating a lot lately. My insurance is with them already, so... I'd be prone to buy other insurance with them. Close miss, Geico. Easy to figure out how this one came up, I was shopping for insurance a month ago. I'm pretty open about my love life and Facebook sees me talking more to more women.

Under that is an ad for Febreeze, a product I have purchased recent. I don't need more Febreeze at the moment... but again, a thing I use, and I'm being reminded that it exists. I might have bought it online? Maybe? If not, I used a card at Target and it's known that Target collects that data... wouldn't shock me to learn they also sell it.

After that the ads are kind of all over the place. A point of sale terminal (I use Square and have an interest in the concept of money), Lays (the potato chip company, I mentioned eating Doritos here yesterday), a WiFi thermostat (I've talked about my nest a bunch in the past), DSL (clearly I'm interested in tech) and so on.

None of these are ads for something I'd never use - but they are for things I have or address have solutions for already.

My buddy Gary tells a story about how he had a Google Hangouts conversation about toilet paper and later saw an ad on Facebook for the exact brand he was talking about. As demonstrated with Lays, things I say here seem to appear in my ad feed the next day.

I guess the take away is that we are watched, constantly -- and since I'm not seeing ads for feminine hygiene products (until tomorrow, because of this post), I'm not entirely opposed to it. When this information is used for Minority Report-style pre-crime detection I'll get upset. For now, I love my corporate overlords.

Weightloss progress report

I weighed in today at a weird time, I'm not too worried about the results. What I am worried about is what I saw in the mirror this morning.

I noticed I am slimming down - across the chest and shoulders. Hurray, that needed to go. However my abdomen and hips are roughly the same size as they were. As a result I am not a very attractive shape.

I'm hoping this is an awkward transition phase but... I'm meeting someone next week and I'd rather not look like an egg with feet. I'm going to need to choose clothing very carefully going forward, for a bit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Let's talk about hash collisions.

As I work I listen to podcasts. Today this episode of Skeptoid on password cracking was in my podcatcher. Brian Dunning is usually pretty good with his assertions, and I enjoy the show in general. However, in this episode he claims the best hashing algorithms produce unique hashes. Let's look into why that's not necessarily true.

What is a hash, you ask? In the real world we use hashes to save passwords, or to verify the file we downloaded was the one we expected, it's a core part of what makes virtual currencies like Bitcoin work; they pop up a lot a layer or two under the computing most people do.

How do hashes work? I'll describe it in broad, simple terms. Alice wants to be able to prove that Bob knows something in the future, but she doesn't want to know it herself. Alice asks Bob to write the thing he knows into her magic box, and the magic box prints out something that looks like random gibberish. But it's not. Every time Bob writes the thing he knows the box produces the same random-looking gibberish. Alice cannot decipher what Bob knows, but she knows that her box will turn it into the same thing every time.

The magic box is performing the function of a hashing algorithm. It's job is to keep Alice from knowing what Bob knows, while allowing her to verify that Bob knows the thing.

There are two problems with this box, in a practical sense. First, if not bounded the output of the hash could grow prohibitively large. So, modern hash functions map data to a fixed size (say, 64 characters) to allow them to be stored and compared easily. This amplifies our second problem: collisions happen.

What is a collision?

Say Bob enters "taco" into Alice's magic box. The box prints out "fdsa342." Then Claire enters "The breath of the morning I keep forgetting the smell of the warm summer air." And the box prints out "fdsa342" again! Confused, Alice enters "Is this thing broken?" into the box, and it spits out "tkb432s."

The box is working as intended, so what happened?

Math happened. To distill the problem down to the point of absurdity, 2+2 equals 4, but 1+3 also equals 4. Now, hashing functions - particularly modern hashing functions - are way more complicated than that, but the problem is the same. If you permitted your hashing function to produce a value of any size, you could probably come up with a way to avoid hitting the same number twice. But it wouldn't be particularly usable in the real world we have to limit the size of the output of our hash function. This leads to what mathematicians call "The Pigeonhole Principal." In easy to understand terms, if you have 9 pigeons and 8 pigeonholes, at least two pigeons will share a pigeonhole.

So, since we have (the arbitrary) 64 characters worth of space to work with we have approximately 126,886,932,185,884,164,103,433,389,335,161,480,802,865,516,174,545,192,198,801,894,375,214,704,230,400,000,000,000,000. That's a lot of pigeonholes! But it's not infinite. Once we produce (!64)+1 combinations of data, we will have a guaranteed collision. As long as we allow humans and their tools to produce infinite combinations of data, and require hashes to produce values of a fixed size, we will have collisions.

There are ways to limit the probability of collisions, and we take advantage of (some of) those, but we cannot eliminate the problem completely.

The good news is that it is difficult to find useful collisions. The MD5 hashing algorithm is about as broken as anything in use today. You can read a technical explanation of the process of producing collisions for that algorithm here.

I hope you learned a bit more about what collisions are, why they're unavoidable, and why they aren't always the end of the world.

Progress resumes! Why?

I stepped on the scale today to discover I had lost two pounds since yesterday. Why?

Well, I had cottage cheese for breakfast/lunch to get it finished. There were more carbs in it than I expected, and my spirits were low yesterday. My girlfriend brought over dinner last night. It was a chicken and cheese-filled stuffed pepper. I ate extra fiber pills to cover the carbs in the veggies. Then, in the middle of the night, disaster(?) struck. I had to run to the office to do some paperwork. While there, I found cookies sitting out in the open. Figuring the low-carb day was shot, I devoured a couple cookies. My itch, once scratched, wouldn't be satiated, so I grabbed a mountain dew and a bag of Doritos from the vending machine. Then the fiber supplements kicked in.

The other thing... I did not have as much water yesterday as days prior. So, did I shed a half gallon of water somehow, or did I need to tease my body with some carbs? Or was it something else entirely?

I've done some further reading on keto and learned that there are three phases... the first, which I apparently just left. This phase is rapid water weight shedding and some slight weight loss from being conscious about food choices. There is a one-to-two week period of adjustment after that where weight will be stable, while the body adapts. After that my body will give up and begin burning stored fat as a primary fuel source. So while I was in ketosis, I wasn't done adjusting. Apparently.

The hypothesis I've developed to explain today's results is that the quick shot of carbs tricked my body out of starvation mode, allowing it to release stored water. That would explain the headache I woke up with that won't go away, hopefully. If not... then I might be back at the "keto-flu" which means it'll be 3-4 weeks from today when I achieve proper weight loss.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Diablo 20th Anniversary Patch

Diablo has been in my life for 20 years as of this month. That's longer than most people I know. Blizzard added an anniversary event to Diablo 3 to celebrate. They're so sweet. I played through the main part of the content last night. Here's the twitch stream. Be warned, the audio levels are a little goofy, sorry about that.

Watch live video from on www.twitch.tv

You'll notice the beautiful retro UI. The lowered depth for colors. The grain emulating low resolution. The fewer frames of animation. The 8 way movement. The classic font. It's a perfect tribute to what Diablo was in the 90s.

But this isn't just reminiscing on Blizzard's part. Oh no. They've got some paid DLC coming out sometime soon, and Season 9 just started. This is here to remind you that Diablo 3 exists, to hint that it might not be a bad idea to give them another few bucks. And here I am playing into their trap.

The number isn't getting smaller!

Last Friday I was at a friend's. My girlfriend and I cleared a bottle of bourbon. Whiskey isn't exactly anti-keto... allegedly it burns off pretty fast and then as soon as your liver is done filtering it out, you're back in ketosis. However, the White Castle we ate at 2-3 AM? That was not good for my diet. Weight loss kinda stalled over the weekend.

Since then I've been keeping it as close to no-carb as possible. Yesterday I slipped a little by making a tomato heavy bread-less chicken parm. I had about 40 grams of carbs all told. My goal is to stay under 20. Oops.

The other change in my diet: I've run out of cheese. That was my primary source of fat. Looking over my macros, I'm very protein heavy, low on carbs, and .... a bit lower on fat than I was the first several days.

Today I stepped on the scale and saw my first weight gain of the year.

My digestive system is still... weird. The fiber supplements are doing something, but I don't think the output is in line with the input yet. I'm going to rejigger my diet as much as I can, but it'll probably be Wednesday before I get more cheese in the house. Probably Friday for more fatty meats (I still have a freezer full of lean steaks to clear out). I'm not stoked about my chances this week, and I'm very tempted to scratch this week off and get a pizza. I will do my damnedest to avoid giving in.

Update: I just confirmed I am out of ketosis, or at least it's been set back a ways. I'll have to get back to it asap.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Damnable Ethics (Or: Uber driver confession) (Or: This never happens to me, but...)

I drive for Uber part time to knock out some bills. I had no plans tonight, so to the streets I go.

The night was pretty good. The later it got the drunker, and less punctual/coherent/cool my fares became. Three dudes ping me for a ride. It takes them 15 minutes to get in to the car... I'm glad I waited. They wanted to go from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville  which is a 20 mile trip. Great money. Hurray.

I drop them off after enduring them complain about a friend not hooking up with some lady. It was 1:15, there was still time to make some money, I just needed to get back downtown. A fare came in from Apple Valley. Not where I wanted to be, but whatever. Money is money.

This dude was the worst. He took 4.5 minutes to come out (we're encouraged to bail after waiting for 5 minutes) - then he needed to wait for his friend. Then he tried to offer me cash to take his friends someplace else, which is illegal and one of the few things I can do to get fired as an Uber driver. I nearly kicked him out of the car, but as it was getting to that point he was suddenly ready to go... after I agreed to run him through Taco Bell. During the ride he started talking shit about some black people he encountered. There was a lot of 'I'm not racist, but...'s in his diatribe. The place he wanted to be dropped off was a block away from the address he entered. Homie needs to get his shit together.

Once that guy was out of my car it was 2 am. I missed the better rates downtown, and was slightly upset about it. A ping came in from a bar called Wild Bill that was fairly close to me. I pulled in and noticed a pair of attractive women in the crowd, mid twenties to early thirties. They shouted at drunks who said drunk things. I smiled, then texted my fair. One of the attractive women looks at her phone and walks toward me. This trip is already better than the last.

They both climbed in, the olive skinned brunette got in the front seat.

The woman in the front seat asked "So is this your number? The 508 <whatever>."

"No, that's a proxie number." I didn't think she understood, but I wanted to assure her she was in the right car. I added, "I did send the text that said 'This is your Uber, I'm parked in front of the bar.'"

"Okay, good!"

We made some more small talk and one of them asks how my passengers have been tonight.

"Well... you two are good. You're both fine by me." I may have emphasized the word 'fine' a little harder than I wanted to consciously.

The brunette caught my accidental flirt. "We're not good," she replied wickedly. I tried to keep it light, and pretend I didn't notice the invitation there.

"Oh, well I guess you guys aren't good! I'd better get you out fast."

The lady in the back cries out, "What? We're good! Who told you we weren't good?!"

"It's just something I heard. Someone told me you two were bad. It came over the CB here." (I don't have a CB. I probably should get one, seems fun.)

The brunette and her friend talk a little bit, as if she were trying to bring her friend in on tone she was trying to establish. It didn't stick.

The woman in back said "Well that's not true! We're good."

The brunette replied to me, "Okay, well then I'm not good."

I smiled at her, she smiled back. I like this lady; she seems fun.

We got to their destination with little fuss. The passenger in back got out, and the brunette lingered a minute. "So, what do I need to do?" she asked.

"Nothing, you're all set!"

"Really, you don't want anything? A blowjob maybe?"

I looked her over, hopefully I projected a sense of mischief. Without missing a beat, "I'd love a blowjob. Call me when you're sober."

"Haha, I was kidding! Thanks for the ride." She wasn't kidding. She didn't have my number, even if she thought she did. Damn. I need to carry business cards.

I decided to call it a night there, my evening wasn't going to get better. Now I'm home alone, no blowjob, and nothing to do but play guitar and rub one out thinking of what might have been if I had fewer morals.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

1/7/17 Guitar Practice

Watch live video from on www.twitch.tv

Today's practice was a bit more metal. As such fewer sections of it are muted. \m/. There also more songs I'm familiar with, so... on the whole it's a more listenable stream. Enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Guitar Practice

Watch live video from on www.twitch.tv

Some of this is muted because twitch is the music police. Skip around. The red portions are blocked. You'll be forced to listen to me sing sometimes. Sorry about that.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Keto seems to require diet suppliments

Something I didn't catch in my first span of reading about keto... constipation is a problem. After searching the forums it seems like people recommend taking magnesium and/or fiber supplements. Psyllium husk powder was a common recommendation.

A quick look at psyllium husks tells me it's about 50% fiber so... a little bit of that should go a long way. I imagine it tastes like sand... I'm going to go with fiber gummies from the grocery store. I'm not a savage.

I'm amazed that I'm still losing weight despite half my digestive system not working; but progress has slowed. The last two days have been fractions of a pound, but like... that's good. I don't think shedding 3 pounds in a day is a healthy.

7lbs total so far. I imagine the next time I drop a deuce I'll be down another pound or two. ... I'm pretty uncomfortable right now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cursed fates! (Or, It's so hard when everbody wants you)

I've tried to focus a little bit on the unattractive aspects of the woman I wrote about a couple days ago. While I think I'm seeing her as a slightly more complete person, my interest levels have not diminished. I will keep at it.

In the meantime a woman who I think has been crushing on me for a year or so has started chatting me up again. She's not polyamorous and has expressed a general disinterest in it previously; however I have seen her in a temporary triad before; even if she didn't use those words. I have other reservations about dating this woman, even though she seems sweet. However, the temptation to pursue this is present. So, how do I ensure that this isn't a distraction from my emotions for someone else? How can I demonstrate to myself this isn't just a craving for some new relationship energy? If I'm being honest here, and I like to think I am, what if I just want some strange?

I'm not sure I can compartmentalize these emotions. I'm fairly good at not taking my anger out on people who have nothing to do with it, but I'm not sure I can say the same about love/interest/sexual curiosity.

Then again, I'm sexually curious about any vagina-wielding person I encounter. This is even true of a transman I met. A part of me is very curious about exploring new vaginas. Usually the higher portions of my mind are able to quell my unruly/horny monkey brain; but since the tool I use to measure success is the same as what's being measured it's hard to be sure. It's easy to get lost out here on the frontier.

What I can say is if I wanted an easy relationship/sexual encounter there are ex's I could phone up. It has never taken me more than a three days to find a hookup, if that's what I'm after. So we can rule those out since that's not what I'm doing.

I guess there's nothing to do but explore my crusher's interest cautiously with frequent checks on why I'm acting the way I am; while staying the course on my crushee.

Having the love of a third woman as a constant makes this situation much less torturous. <3

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Keto progress - Update 1

I don't know why this is, but at the start of every diet the first few pounds just fly away. I'm not in ketosis yet, but I've lost about 6 pounds. I suspect the lack of diet soda and carbs in general is causing me to shed water weight hella fast. I've been drinking tons of water, and a good amount of coffee.

Sunday I ate eggs and bacon for breakfast, then beef broth for the rest of the day. Someone recommended doing a 12 hour fast with only salted beef broth for sustenance. I was supposed to repeat it Monday, but ... screw that noise. Yesterday was eggs, cheese, and bacon for breakfast. Then tuna salad and cottage cheese for lunch (this is where I made a mistake, I think). Steak and feta salad for dinner. Sunday I had 0 carbs. Yesterday I had 38 grams, which ended up being 8% of all the macroneutrients I ate for the day. I think overall this is okay... and the salad and celery were fairly fiber-dense, right? Right?... ah well.

I'll be picking up keto strips and more cheese (so much cheese on this diet... it's pretty awesome) tonight.

I haven't felt hungry as I was on previous diets. I may stick to eggs and regular cuts of steak when I start leveling off keto in several months.  These seem pretty satisfying.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dealing with infatuation

Before I knew about polyamory I was very much a one woman sorta guy. If I started to crush on a woman while I was in a relationship, she was out of my life until I sorted it out. It's been close to two years since my last monogamous relationship. Half of that time has been spent fantasizing about a particular woman to various degrees.  Previously, biological imperatives would pull me along to the next crush. Now I don't feel that need to move my attention along.

Since my previous strategies for dealing with crushes were substitution or avoidance, I am pretty sure I've been doing a bad job of treating potential romantic interests as humans. Let me talk about my current situation a bit.

I have some backbone, I talked to this woman about my feelings. We got wasted together one night. Things seemed promising. I pressed to meet up again when we were sober. It never lined up for one-on-one meetings. I took the hint and stopped chasing her.

At this point I realize I'm more interested in the idea of her. The sex acts I know she's in to always play out in my head the way I want them to; I have no idea what the reality would be. I enjoy spending time with her when we do hang out in a group setting, but I don't know what an actual relationship would be like. Yet in my head I have built her up to a great fit into my life; and I slot into hers just as well.

I've been attempting to avoid new relationships while I sort out my feelings with this woman (along with some other reasons) but... I've lost a year to it.

So now I need to figure out how to deescalate my emotions for this person while staying engaged as a friend. It's a new trick for this old dog. I am going to attempt to focus on aspects of her personality that I don't find attractive for a while in an attempt to deconstruct my idealized version of her.

How do you deal with lingering infatuations?

Giving keto a shot

I had a checkup recently. My blood work came back with high triglycerides. My doctor suggested a low carb diet to avoid the looming threat of pre-diabetes. 

The majority of my problem on that front is my caffeine delivery vehicle of choice: coke zero. So I cut the coke zero out (drinking coffee instead) and that hurdle is handled. Now to slim my waistline. I don't really eat many sweets... but my diet is carb heavy. I'm pretty fat as a result. 

I know various people who are on paleo, Atkins, and a variety of other low carb diets. A lot of their meal-prep time seems to be invested in finding substitutions for "the real thing" and then there is dancing around beer and alcohol. I know if I can have any amount of carbs, I'll invest it into pizza. Really, I would be happiest eating pizza for every meal for the rest of my life.

So I can't allow myself a system that has room to be gamed for junk food allowance. Enter Keto, a diet around training your body to process fat as fuel by denying it carbohydrates entirely.

I first heard of keto via The Security Now Podcast. It was an off-topic episode, so I didn't pay particular attention to it. I have issues with some of the intellectual shortcuts Steve Gibson takes, but on the whole I think he's a pretty intelligent guy and worth listening to. Other tech-savvy folks started talking about it, referring to a ketogenic diet as "body hacking" or "bio hacking." At the time I wasn't ready to listen; I was a calories in, calories out kind of guy. 

I had middling success with CICO. Some months I'd be down 10lbs, others I'd be up 10lbs. It was a lot of effort to even approach my personal goal weight; and it seems impossible to reach an average BMI with that strategy. After several years I finally had enough. Reddit was praising keto. Every tech person I respect as an intellectual is either keto of some flavor of vegetarian (or unknown, to be fair to Bill Gates, Satoshi, and Elon Musk). I can't do vegetarian... I understand the ethical appeal of it, but asking me to part with meat is like asking me to cut off a limb. Sorry livestock, if you didn't want to be eaten you shouldn't have been so tasty and easy to domesticate. When we can affordably grow your muscles in a vat I'll switch to that.

So, what is keto? It's a low carb, high fat diet. The idea is to train your body to use animal fat (or fat in general, apparently the same mechanism does the work) as it's primary fuel source by denying it access to it's typical primary. The digestive system goes for carbs, then proteins, then fat. When you're trying to burn fat other fuel sources get in the way. 

So here's the downside: If your body burns fat as a last resort, that means you have to trigger "starvation mode" to burn fat...or exercise so much that your body has to turn to fat to function. I wish I had the time and discipline to do the latter, but I don't. Starvation mode kicks off all sorts of unpleasantness normally. Lower overall energy, moodiness, insatiable hunger that leads to poor eating decisions... it's a problem. The keto diet sidesteps this by providing your body with food... it's just food that it has to learn to process. 

There might be drawbacks to doing keto long term. Dr. Steven Novella (neurologist) warns that ketosis can produce metabolic acidosis which leads to headaches, stomachaches, joint pain, and other issues. His overall concern is that long term weight loss cannot be achieved through short term strategies. 

So, this is my long term strategy. I've demonstrated that I can maintain my weight (within margin) over long terms by watching what I eat and casual exercise. I've demonstrated that I have difficulties reducing my weight via these means, mostly because I feel I've room to "game the system" and I'm pressed for time/willpower to add exercise. So, I will put in place a set of rules that I cannot game for the medium term (6-12 months) in a play to decrease my weight and triglyceride levels. After the allotted time, I will slowly reintroduce carbohydrates into my diet. Maybe I get a slice of pizza on a date, or I make chili. As I make these small changes, I watch the effects on my weight (see yesterday's post Quantifying Myself). Once I am confident I'm at a level I can maintain, I return to Calories In Calories Out. 

I'm touching base with my doctor every three months. I am monitoring my ketosis levels every other day. If you're thinking about trying keto or any other diet, talk to your doctor. I'm just a dummy on the internet; I don't know how bodies work. I'ma try this thing to see if it helps me. Don't let me tell you how to live your life.

Polyamory, a primer

One of the goals of this blog is to talk about polyamory. People tend to have questions about it, and I find myself talking to other poly folks who want advice a lot. Well, let's start with the basics. This post is an overview of polyamory and some general advice on how to start a polyamorous relationship.

What is polyamory?

Polyamory is a blanket term that covers a lot of relationship structures. At it's broadest, polyamory means "Many Loves." A person who is polyamorous experiences romantic love for multiple people simultaneously. This can be applied to people who have casual relationships they lower-case-l-love while having an upper-case-L-Love relationship with one person. It can also be a person who upper-case-L-Loves a dozen people at once. Within this spectrum you have polygamists (one man, many wives or one wife many husbands), swingers, hierarchical poly, solo-poly, triad/quad/communes, hot-wife/hot-husbands/cuckolds/cuckqueans, and relationship anarchists. There are a multitude of other setups, but I feel like this list covers the bulk of them.

Woah, that's a lot of new terms. Break it down for me.

This is all broad strokes. One thing you'll learn when talking with polyamory crowds is that there's a lot of nuance, and everyone has a label they like to wear.

Polygamists are people with multiple marriages. People who practice this are frequently religious in the U.S. It's actually illegal here, and it frequently has an air of misogyny that doesn't sit well with the strongly-liberal poly circles I am in. There are folks who hold 'commitment ceremonies' with their partners. While these do not carry any legal weight, I have seen general support for the practice. The difference seems to be about consent and broader cultural attitudes. I have deeper thoughts on this matter, which may come up in another post. Update: Polygamy can be broken up into Polyandry, one wife, multiple husbands, and Polygyny, one husband, many wives.

Swingers are on the other end of the spectrum. Let me be clear - I am not a swinger and I generally don't date people that are. I apologize for any mischaracterization and will happily update this with more accurate information that is provided without aggression. Swingers are into casual sex. Typically they will have a network of trusted friends who will get together and eventually have sex. I've heard it described as "like high school, with more boning." Usually swingers will have a "primary" partner, such as a husband/wife, girlfriend/boyfriend. 

Hierarchical poly is a relationship structure where a person has a "primary" partner and one/many "secondary" partners. Typically primary partners will live together, maybe have a family. Secondary partners are just that... they frequently do not have equal stakes in their partners' life, and as such will usually have fewer responsibilities (such as raising children, paying mortgages, etc).

Solo-poly is how I identify. I live alone, and love my partners. I'm not afraid of commitment, and I will take a bullet for my partners. (Did that sound defensive? It might have been a little defensive.) Solo-poly is attractive to people for a variety of reasons: maybe they're introverted and need a good deal of alone time, maybe they're busy in a professional sense and cannot provide enough time to be there for someone with regularity,  Maybe they feel "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is a way of life. We aren't ideal candidates for a nesting partner, and it can be easy to overload us with attention. However, we make great secondary partners, and some are good fits for casual relationships, although we might catch feels you didn't intend. I've yet to date someone else who identifies as solo-poly, but it does sound nice to me.

Triad/quad/communes are probably the most common version of polyamory. There are a few different structures, but generally speaking these relationships are between 3/4/n people with no additions permitted. A lot of "closeted" poly families are in this category, but that isn't a requirement. You'll also see a lot of people who are new to polyamory go this route a la "My husband and I want a girlfriend..." There is some caution among polyamorous people when confronted with triads and quads for this reason.

Hot-wife/Hot-husband/Cuckold/Cuckqueans I'm lumping these together as in practical terms they're similar... but motivations and feelings involved can be different. Typically there is a primary relationship, and one partner is "shared," typically for sex. I'm a little uncomfortable with that phrase as it implies ownership, but that's what the hot-* folks use so... there it is. The cuck* do the same, only there's an element of dominance and humiliation involved.

Relationship anarchists are my favorite. It's a bit of a misnomer, as they have rules - in some cases a lot of them. What they don't have are labels. Each relationship is allowed to be it's own thing. If a relationship anarchist falls in love with a solo-poly person, the solo-poly person isn't asked to cohabitate. If they fall in love with someone who's a monogamist, they aren't pushed to see other people. It's a flexibility in fitting in to relationship structures that I am a little envious of, and I'm grateful that these people are out there.

What polyamory isn't

Cheating. In the same way that rape is not sex. If your partners aren't aware your the nature of your relationships you're doing a bad thing. By and large, polyamorous people will not give cheaters a sympathetic ear. Consent is king here.

Poly is also not a good way to save failing relationships. A lot of people try to be poly when they're having problems with their existing relationship and have found a new relationship. If I know anyone who's successfully saved their marriage by trying poly, they haven't mentioned it to me. I'd advise people to attempt to work out the problems of their first relationship before "opening up." Polyamory gets a reputation for "never working" because of this scenario. It's a bit of a hobgoblin in my social circle.


Modern poly communities are very much in the shadow of the LGBT movement. That means you are likely to encounter left leaning people, I consider myself to be socially liberal but at times it can be overbearing for me. If you can't be tolerant of tumblr at it's most radical, you may have a hard time finding an already existing place for you. If you vote for a republican, or heavens, a libertarian, it may behoove you to look for like-minded people in your existing social circle and branch out from there.

You will encounter people not like you in polyamorous circles. We're a small crowd, and there is little patience for infighting. 

Lifestyle vs Orientation

There is some debate over whether someone chooses to be polyamorous, or if they are polyamorous by nature. I suspect the truth is that there is a spectrum, similar to bisexuality. It's largely a philosophical issue, but occasionally you'll see flair ups over it. Generally speaking, don't assume someone chooses to be poly and you'll be fine.

Dos and Don'ts

Don't ask don't tell is where you and your partner agree to have other relationships, but not discuss them. This rule is usually implemented with the intention of protecting a partner. It's problematic because 1) it provides cover for cheaters, 2) you cannot consent to activities you do not know about. Please don't do it.

One penis policies or One pussy policies (OPPs) are set up when one party is bi, and the other is uncomfortable with metamores (a partner's partner) of the same gender. These usually considered to cover an insecurity or to ease transition into polyamory. I have heard of people living happily with these policies, but it is frequently considered misogynistic or discriminatory. It also becomes an issue if someone is attracted to a person who does not identify as the gender assigned at birth. I generally advise against these, and they can be a warning sign of a relationship that's in trouble.

Communication is really what makes polyamory work. Discuss your boundaries and repercussions with your partners. How do you add someone to your network? What happens if someone has a condom mishap? How will you handle holidays? How do you tell your friends and family what you're doing? It all needs to be talked about. Early and often.

Manage your time Polyamory has been accurately described as a Google Calendar fetish. It's important to know roughly who is with who and when. Maybe you want to see a movie with Alice, but Bob wants to get a drink the same night. Putting something on a shared calendar is a great way to let everyone know when you're free and when you're not. Get one set up as soon as possible.

Other Resources

https://www.morethantwo.com/ is a frequently recommended web page, and there's a book of the same name. I've referred to their site for specific topics, but I haven't read the book. 
https://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/ is an awesome resource for whatever stage of polyamory you're in. I'm frequently in there and giving advice.
www.facebook.com has a lot of polyamorous groups. There general groups, community-level groups, secret groups, public groups... you name it. I strongly recommend joining a group if you're more than a little curious.

I hope to do more specific advice on this blog. I may pull questions from Reddit or other poly communities I'm involved in, but I welcome requests for advice in the comments.

Quantifying Myself

Like everyone in the country, I'm constantly trying to lose weight. I'll have more posts on this topic later, but first I'd like to talk about the tools I keep handy. I like data. I like to know what I'm doing has an immediate effect - of some sort. This is how I figure that out.

The Withings Scale is a wifi-enabled scale. It will track weight and BMI. This data is uploaded to their website, and it can be linked to several other apps in this category. There is an API to pull that data out, I haven't taken a look in a few years but I remember it being a bit difficult to get access to. At a glance it looks friendlier now. Regardless, I've been using the scale for years, and I'm very much a fan.

Now that you know your weight, it's time to track what you're eating. I use MyFitnessPal. This is another tool I've had for years. It's free, with an optional subscription service. For my use, free is fine. It became a bit ad heavy when UnderArmor bought the app, so be warned. Key features: diet logging, social feed that shows your friends achievements/progress. It integrates with most of the other tools on this post - so when you step on your scale your friends are notified of your weight loss (never gain), and your calorie goals are updated. You can add me or check out my feed as an example, if you'd like: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/profile/inverno

The final thing I use is a fitness tracker. This one is a bit harder to recommend as it's future seems a little uncertain but.... the Microsoft band 2 is great. It does the basic FitBit stuff, but it also has a fairly accurate heart rate monitor that comes in handy when you're doing exercise that may not show up for other devices. You can also use it as a timer - so if you're about to go for a swim, tap the touchscreen, select the 'exercise' icon, choose 'swimming' from your personalized list, 'start workout,' then take the band off and jump in the pool. It integrates with MyFitnessPal, as well as several exercise tracking apps. It also has light smart watch functionality with integrations for Uber and Starbucks. A full charge lasts two days. Finally, it automatically detects when you fall asleep - and you can tell it when you go to bed. This is helpful if you're suffering from sleep-related issues. Again, it's not clear if Microsoft intends to continue to support this product; but for right now it's everything I want in a fitness tracker/smart watch.

That's it. I know how many calories I'm taking in, how much I weigh, and what I'm doing to burn calories. I have several years of data on all of these services, which is helpful for taking stock of changes in my health.

What do you use? Is there a better calorie tracker? Know a neat integration for the Withings Scale? Leave a comment.