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 WTF Dreamwidth

now my reading page only shows entries within the last 14 days? 

you realize i check my DW maybe once in that timespan?

why do you do this

random pointless edits are tumblr's thing

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 Manic-y intensity is shit and can go away now, plzkthxbai.

I should probably go sequester myself away from others for a bit because this is really bad.

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Classes are sorted out for this semester. Been a hectic week.

My schedule looks like this:

-Physical Geography on Monday and Wednesday, early afternoon
-Spanish on Tuesday and Thursday, early afternoon
-Wednesday only, right after Geography: Voice lessons (so yeah I decided to do something about this singing urge)
- Tuesday late afternoon: Yoga

It took some thinking and some venting to people and no small amount of stressing out, but I was pretty happy with it in the end. I switched Japanese for Spanish because it's both unfamiliar (and thus more stimulating) and also more *useful* in my environment.  Pashy learning a language she can use in her social surroundings, and easily find material in without having to go to much trouble? That's novel...

 It frees up Monday nights too, for attending Ojibwemowin language table at the tribal office (which will be back in session soon). Have missed that environment and some of the folks there. It's not just those things either -- taking the first week of Japanese left me feeling like I was back in high school. In disturbing, flash-backy ways. I am already unthrilled with having what is essentially a filler semester while I wait to find out about the fate of my academic future from U of M. The two states do not mix well *at all*; if I'm gonna be moody and awkward about it I may as well be concerned about performance and unfamiliarity rather than the fear that my life amounts to swimming in circles...

But yeah, it's a good set of classes. Forces me out of the house on a regular basis, poses very little transportation hassle, includes an exercise component, and it's all *interesting* to boot. If one has to do a filler semester, this is probably a good way.


<3Gwen has spent basically the entire time we've known each other suffering the dread Curse of Shitty Roommates. She's had new living situation lined up for about over a month now, but it was basically a waiting game, just enduring it (at steadily-increasing emotional cost) until the actual deadlines passed.

It's a familiar sort of problem. There hasn't been much I can do for her during this time except try to just keep being present and supportive in little ways, sorta pointedly trying to have a relationship with her that is not primarily about the difficulty she's been facing (ie, "helping within my limited ability to do so" but acknowledging those limits and so emphasizing "helping you remember you have a life outside all that, by actively contributing to the sharing of experiences in no way related to it"). But at last, the ordeal is over; she finally moved into her new place.

I helped out where I could, with packing and moving stuff this weekend. It was rather exhausting... but we've managed to find time for each other around all of it, too. Before, during and after we've just kinda made the most of things and it's been really nice. And...I don't know what to say really. I'm just kinda emoting and being quietly gushy here. Our relationship makes me happy. It seems like reflection, stability, self-ownership and communication abound between us.  And the compatibility *is* nice but it's also not...like, nice that we're not making too much of that? Or building it up beyond where it's comfy for both of us to be. It's very much just focused on the present, and enjoying each other and kinda getting familiar.


I better go to bed. Melatonin and hormones demand it. Night all.
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ATTN: Yes, my account did get hacked. Yes, I know. Yes, I've changed my password and am attempting to lock it down wherever it's an issue. Yes, I will probably still be getting "Hey, your account got hacked" emails for a few days. Yes, this is just something I'll have to deal with.

Yes, this post is done.
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 Still not over jet lag yet, but it's getting better. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm provided insomnia anyway.

I usually know these days when to keep participating in a reddit thread vs just ducking out. So noticing myself digging in heels and being stubborn about it in the last 24 hours is bleh. I think I just need any distraction from the blargh of close quarters, hot weather and bodily ickiness, and I'm not making very good decisions about where to find that.

Lots of self-questioning going on about a fairly important, albeit entirely personal issue.

School? In theory, yes. I may change my schedule around a bit from what it is right now, though. Need to go in and talk to financial aid. Not sure I'm up for that today -- some of the issue likely revolves around Social Security, and so I may not get much new information from just going in.

Noticing how emotional response patterns, territoriality and relationship psychology intersect for me leads me to feel a bit frustrated. I figured out some time ago that I do seem to have high-intensity versus low-intensity approaches to different people. It doesn't have to be representative of our actual relationship behavior, mind -- it's just about how my feelings toward the person and my response patterns when interacting with them lead me to prioritize them emotionally.

In context: Things are stressful at home due to cramped conditions, and I have to spend a lot of spoons to keep it at "crabby" rather than "chasing Marion out to preserve my boundaries", and it's hard to keep the accumulated frustration from leaking into our interactions directly. 

Zer situation isn't a great one, and as I don't want to see zer wind up on the street or something it's a mess. Which is being a big problem because, frankly: I have spent way too much of my life compromising my functionality and wellbeing in relationships. :\ The fact that there are some direct risks to life stability only makes it worse. 

I can't function in my home right now. I keep late hours here, but both rooms are occupied early in the evening by sleeping people, so if I have insomnia or jet lag is fucking with me I'm in a bad situation. I don't know how long I can make this work, either -- take a breath, calm down is the order of the day here. But it's still building up, and unfortunately my comfort in the relationship is suffering for it. Making the lack of shelter if ze's asked to leave not be my problem is...

Well, it feels cruel. I know it's not, exactly, but I've come close to slipping through the cracks, I hate to see it happen to others, and...I don't know how to make that play nice with the costly, at-length realization that I need to manage my boundaries a lot more carefully than I have in the past (something very valuable I got out of the trip to Australia) and that this is a really textbook example of a situation that aggravates that.

Ugh. Don't know what to do here.

The Bureau

May. 13th, 2012 12:31 am
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Originally published at deninet.com. You can comment here or there.


The Bureau

The Bureau exists in the the spaces between worldstrands, in the noise of possibility that fails to cohere. It is something like an agency and something like an organism, with the least-flattering features of both. It is believed to prune possible worlds and digest them into noise in order to fuel its own growth, but leaves coherent clusters behind. There are theories about why it does this. Some say the Bureau is gardening, or pruning, engaged in some kind of meta-historical bonsai project -- or perhaps ikebana. Others believe the Bureau leaves these branches, woven threads of coherent possibility, in place as a concession to the system upon which it depends. 

Another theory, less-popular than these, says that the Bureau excretes the worldstrands as a metabolic byproduct, the inevitable result of digesting so many other worlds. Objections that ingesting disordered things and excreting neatly-ordered ones is precisely the opposite of how digestion works are dealt with by the analogy of how purposeful dung looks to a beetle grub born therein (despite being waste shat out the backside of a wayward ungulate), or with recourse to causality-in-reverse, or not at all.

Seen from within, it resembles a nearly-endless office complex, ceremonial gathering, informal meeting of fellows, court, and nearly anything else that might stand in for the image of some group of people, more or less organized and gathered together for the purpose of getting stuff done according to the rules. There are sections that resemble a chess club match, a seasonal fishing ceremony, an illegal betting parlor, or BDSM dungeon. More than that, there are structures and working groups whose trappings and rules are related to none known, or only dimly connected to something in one's own history. The Bureau contains many people -- or at least they seem to be people, though none is completely independent from the Bureau as an entity. These people, along with the set decor and all of the interior contents, are believed to come from the possibility-threads that the Bureau digests, fragments of history incorporated directly into its structure. Those who have interacted with them often remark upon how normal they seem, and yet how utterly focused and fixated they are on their role within the Bureau. Some say they are its cells and active components; others, merely the atoms it has digested from its food. Biological analogies are always tempting, but ultimately fail to account for the details of the Bureau's organization. 

Seen from without -- which you cannot do -- it might look like anything. It's probably got tentacles, because these things usually do. Perhaps it looks like a snowflake mixed with a spider, or a living breathing version of its own org chart (if such there be -- government and corporate analogies are also tempting, and no more reliably successful than biological ones), or some kind of vast celestial bovine wandering in a forest of worldstrands. You can imagine anything you like here, because you'll never find out anyway.
The only thing that's known for sure is that it can and does interact with worldstrands from time to time, including the individual threads of potential and history that we are generally a part of. In so doing, the Bureau can serve as a bridge between worlds. 
Mostly, it watches. The Bureau seems to be interested in the goings-on of a world, from beginning to end, and no detail is too small or trivial to escape its interest. It can apparently watch a world from outside without obviously interfering in the course of events there (unless it should elect to nibble off the strand and swallow it). It is know to interfere and make changes in that flow, although its activities are typically subtle, usually a matter of rearranging contents by means of its agents. From time to time, it will engineer great changes in a world's course, although even then it does so in the subtlest of ways. Even the streams most spectacularly changed by the Bureau's interest are merely brushed, ever so lightly upon the surface, so as to allow its agents in. 
It is sometimes suggested, albeit never very loudly, that She Who Meddles may be its servant. 
Little can be said about its methods. It appears to whomever it likes, with purposes and motives that can only be guessed at. It is not usually whimsical or dangerous in its doings -- indeed, it can be relied upon to be explicit about its intentions to those with whom it treats, if not the greater context behind them, and it will always honor an agreement made in letter and spirit. It does have its own sense of what "spirit" means, though, and will tend to play by rules understandable to the other party. In that sense it serves as something of a mirror for one's own intentions. You will usually get as good as you give with the Bureau, unless it has decided you are part of its agenda whether you like it or not. Then you will find it impossible, in the end, to avoid its influence. 
It has no names, not even "The Bureau" -- only an endless list of more-or-less polite referents, taken from any number of languages, cultures and social contexts. Usually it will present whatever aspect of itself seems to fit according to the perspectives and experiences of those it intends to deal with. This is believed to be a form of communication in itself, signalling its intentions and invoking the desired response in the contacted party. Agents and decor will present themselves accordingly.


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It's a little surreal whenever I'm forcibly reminded that there exists a substantial portion of humanity who more-or-less sincerely believes a substantial portion of the following:

-Emotion makes one incapable of rational thought
-Anger in particular regresses one to the level of a screaming chimp
-It is impossible to reason usefully or intelligently about a subject which provokes strong emotions
-You can, however, reason usefully or intelligently about a subject that provokes no emotion simply by dint of that fact
-The things they think, that don't provoke a strong emotional reaction when they think them, are well-reasoned truths
-The people who disagree, angrily, are basically reduced, albeit temporarily, to screaming chimps with good diction (for a chimp, anyway).
-Any discussion worth having about an idea will proceed according to these terms.
-If they themselves should become so frustrated as to stoop to saying something angry or insulting (none of which happens unless they intended to deliver it that way), it is an acknowledgement of the futility of reasoning with someone who is beyond the reach of rationality or sanity, and not chimp-like feces-flinging as it is when the other party does so early on out of the gates.

I should know better, because one of my ex-boyfriends was one of them. It ended about as well as you imagine. Yet it still takes a while to tick over on occasion, because large portions of that mindset are just self-evidently broken to me -- teasing out *why* I think so suggests that my current perspective took years to develop.


Trolling as a communications protocol (that is, incendiary and informal style that doesn't presume to engage with the listener more charitably than the speaker is feeling) is not, in and of itself, a big issue for me. This doesn't mean I consider such delivery laudable, necessarily -- that heavily depends upon context, the actual message being expressed, the implications thereof and whether or not a hummingbird flaps its wings in Moscow that day -- but just that I'm able and willing to read between the lines; if I agree with or like what you're saying, underneath all the invective and vitriol, then it doesn't inherently put me off. Some very, very wrongheaded or nasty things can be said quite politely, or under moralizing auspices, so the idea that correct or insightful things can be said abrasively is straightforward from there (whether or not it's productive to do so, I think, has a lot to do with who you think the intended recipient of the real point is -- it seems like trollish communication is usually not for the sake of informing the second-person listener, but rather the third).

Whether or not I'd call it a great way to inform a sincere querent is another issue entirely -- see above about context...


Peter Watts was a whole lot more entertaining to me when he was just writing extremely nihilistic, somewhat clueless but scientifically-engaged fiction. Sure, I'd nitpick the hell out of some of those books (both academically and from a "death of the author"/literary analysis standpoint -- my "Blindsight" rant probably needs to be written down) and some bits left a sour taste in my mouth, but at least it was fun -- much more fun than watching stuff like this go down.


Given the way ACrackedMoon over at RequiresOnlyHate breaks kayfabe selectively but sincerely, it's pretty easy for me to tell that her hat is one part Performance Trolling (which may or may not be a person's bag, and if you can't handle confrontational communication for whatever reason best to avoid entirely, but see above about its irrelevance to idea and messaging) and one part Not Interested In Debating It Anymore. Given her subject matter and perspective, it's hard to blame her for the latter, but she does seem to respond genuinely to sincere querents there -- she's just pretty evidently uninterested in justifying herself. She's caustic as all hell and she doesn't bother to explain much if she feels it's a lost cause, but I find it easy to tell what she's *saying*, and to whom, and it actually seems quite important. I basically agree with this assessment (and Cat Valente's response downthread is classy, given that Cat herself has received a less-than-glowing review there).
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Cat is finally claw-trimmed. She had lots of ingrown ones and it seems to have been part of my bad mood spiral lately -- I can tell she's in pain, I can tell why, I keep imagining it, and it won't go away because she fights us if we try and trim 'em. She even fought the vet, this evening, as they held her down and clipped those nails. She's never done that before -- even when very uncomfy and upset at the painful and confusing things they do to her, Kimiko usually keeps it to a bit of unhappy mewing. Not this time -- it's lucky that we were able to get all her claws trimmed at all given how hard she was fighting.

She's walking normally again. She doesn't have that distinctive urge to seek out an unpleasant sort of ergonomic balance. I just...argh, I feel like a terrible person for letting it get this bad, and I feel like I've been suffering quietly alongside her this whole time and only now is it getting to leak out. Part of the problem was that Tess heard me talk about how much it bothered me and downplayed its importance because she was concerned about money. Well, the cat can't complain verbally to her so she has to rely on her ability to read feline body language, which is...marginal. :\ She assumed I was just fretting over the cat, when in fact it was a bit worse than that.

At least it's over with. We've got a schedule now for regular nail-trims so that this never happens again. Kimi and I are both visibly de-stressing now. My poor little kitteh! It does the heart good to see her passed out by the space heater now, in a luxurious position that's been too uncomfy for her to adopt until getting trimmed, basking in the warmth. Antibiotics are being administered in her food, and hopefully soon she'll be feeling better.
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Originally published at deninet.com. You can comment here or there.

A beautiful aurora!



Nevermind Texas, don't mess with Alaska. Things I love about it for 500...


Life discovered on dead hydrothermal vents
Eee, same niche colonized by different flavors of extremophile at different times in its geological history. ^^ Living things rock.


Flexibeast on attractiveness and trans folks in porn

Oh heck yeah. I love some of Tobi Hill-Meier's work in this area, but on the whole it's a big complex messed-up situation.


Nematodes communicate using precise chemical "language"

What was I saying about living things, again?


Restored wetlands don't measure up

Not surprising -- it's like old growth forests: those long-established patterns add a great deal of biological and ecological complexity that's missing from replanted ones. It takes a long time to build up, yet it does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of making that biome a productive, resilient entity.

Donate to Bobby Montoya, that trans girl scout who's been making the internet rounds lately.

Incidentally: what a cutie! I do hope that this trend of gradual normalization doesn't reverse -- it's nice to see that these days some folks can come out in their single digits and be supported by their parents. ^^


Speaking of cuties: Baby crow!


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Shadowrun inaugural session got cancelled due to Nick feeling ill. Poor guy. I was insomniac the night before so it's just as well, though. Looking forward to reschedule. Tess's character has the best street name ever: she's former corporate security and goes by "Auntie Trust." That's right, writhe.


Frustrated and dealing with a lot of empathy-pain because Kimiko has an ingrown claw, and won't let me clip it for her. I know the techniques the vet uses to keep her calm and still (scruffing, voice and bearing) but she doesn't respond to me like she does to the vet; she'll just fight no matter how composed I am, and I don't want to hurt her by accident so we're at an impasse. We'll get her to the vet soon to deal with it, but it's just awful to see her suffer -- her every move suggests the pain she's in.


Miss home a lot right now. The moreso for having discovered that there's a group dedicated to teaching Chinuk Wawa (several, really) for little or no cost (long as you abide by a code of ethics) and every now and again they hold weekend workshops that even I could afford to attend. The family who runs it seem like interesting people too. Apart from that I just kind of miss the Northwest -- it doesn't help that our winter is being rather more like a Seattle one, with only scattered snow and a fair bit of rain. Nostalgia bites sometimes.


Affection and cuddles and playtime are a big confused brain-knot right now, seasoned with mixed emotions and toasted to a golden brown. (That metaphor kind of got away from me there.) General shape of it seems to be "want more of all, not really finding that, enjoying a new cuddly-friendship at least online, generally trying to become more aware of how brain operates here." It's not a depressive or sad thing exactly, just kind of...tired, and quietly lonely in a patient-but-wistful way. It's like mild sleep dep, or having not eaten breakfast but not really feeling painfully hungry -- just a sort of light, quiet sense of "probably not enough of that thing" which fails to overpower.


I have like a million things on my mind, but not enough focus to journal about any one of them productively. There's a thing for that. I should go do it.
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Originally published at deninet.com. You can comment here or there.

Had a moment today where I realized I was passing, contextually, as "responsible adult" at the support group I facilitate on Wednesdays.


Understanding and accepting my feelings and brainthings is an important part of becoming more how-I-want-to-be. Self-censure and self-censorship cut down on reflective coherence. Goes for motivations to make such change too -- all aspects must be illuminated for behavior and intention to cohere.


Blue Raspberries are really a thing! I did not know this. Considering I come from the same place as them (and like to gather wild plant foods there), that's funny.


Interesting to see this explored scientifically.

The "Intrusive thinking" part is somewhat accurate in my case (it doesn't so much work its way into every thought I have as just I spend a lot more time thinking about the person who's the focus of the limerence). Fear of rejection is huge; I often find ways to try and dispel that early, and even if I'll be okay, objectively, once the rejection has happened and it's been processed, it still causes anguish.

The physical effects are very intense, for me -- "love sick" isn't a bad word for what can happen in an intense case. I also don't get the "need for exclusivity" trait there, but hey, poly. >>

Sexual attraction seems to be a bit of a seperate variable, though, and I'm not sure how much this sensation dovetails with my tendency to feel both crush and attraction as a normal part of social bonding with people. It's certainly not the case that everyone for whom I feel that winds up inspiring this sort of really intense, emotional-physiological response.

Brains are weird! o.O


Does anyone know the word for models-of-consciousness that purport to view it as naturalistic-but-non-discrete phenomenon? Like, analogy-wise you'd compare it to a television signal vs a TV showing a program specified by that signal? Someone mentioned it recently, it reminded me of some stuff both Alice and John have mentioned vis their views of afterlife, but I don't know if there's a word for this way of looking at it. (It got stuck in my head recently after a conversation with somebody, and now I want a term to refer to it.)


Need more income this year. Student loans brought current; need to deal with so can go back to school. Won't be able to do that until Fall, most likely. But if can get financial aid, then more money.

Otherwise: Job. Don't know how to make looking for one more-successful than it has ever been. Arg.


Tired. Cranky. Why am I not asleep?


The corn. Is. Green. o.o Even tastes green according to the add copy (typo, or a fellow synaesthete? You decide...) I want to grow this. Y'know. When we have a yard.


I don't know if I'm able to unpack it entirely right now, but this clip sorta encapsulates my dissatisfaction with cynicism as an affectation, and the concomitant dismissal of anything made out to be positive or happy or gushy. It's like, who died and made you the damn Terminator? (That's totally a hereditary position.)


Implicitly cute snake is implicitly cute.


Need to write intro adventure for Shadowrun. Got a couple days to do it. Goal: an interesting meetup joint, a random "encounter" to set the tone of the game and give the PCs a hook for their intro to the shadowrunning life (how will they react to a given situation, and what will it shape about how the world reacts to them?), and then their first group job. We *may* spend the first session doing pre-party RP though, just so everyone knows their angle on why they're there, but I wanna be able to dive right into a boilerplate "you all meet for a contract job" scenario, with a little fluff and "get to know ya" dispersed.


Also: need to send off verification of SSDI income to DOE so they put me on hardship deferment for my student loans. No gaming group this week, so I should get on that after swimming.


Sleepy. Brain still full, too much and too complicated to get it all out. Ah well. Sleep time, I guess.


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Joel Garreau and Jamais Cascio interviewed about the Prevail project

Interesting. I'm a fan of Cascio's writing in general, being as he deals with transhumanist and technophile culture from a rather more grounded perspective than I'm used to seeing. Joel Garreau -- what can I say, I liked the book he wrote in the 80's about regional cultures in North America, but he has yet to wow me on this topic, and the interview didn't fundamentally change that. Either way, I like the idea I'd some up as "putting the humanism back in transhumanism" -- that is, specifically, in acknowledging that it's not a one-way process by which technology changes humanity and society. We shape technology even as it shapes us; we shape it with our values and our social institutions, and we have rather more potential control over that side of the process, and should really start acting like it.

How to be more interesting

Why placebos work

Words and Offense

Future Sex: Beyond Gay and Straight

Color and clothing

Once-dying Chinook Language finds future voices in children
*beams* Old news, but it makes me happy.

A guide to Chinuk Wawa as it is spoken at Grand Ronde

Sarus: A conlang based on tones or colors

How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps

Native, lesbian Minnesota legislator Susan Allen was elected recently to my home district. Squee-plug:

Worldbuilding 302: Psychology

Hot spiced mead recipe

Lost Darwin fossils recovered
Ee, fossil plants!

Disabled bodies and ablist acceptance
(Tangent, but those prosthetic feet actually have a really appealing effect.)

50 Raramuri (a Mexican indigenous people) said to have committed suicide to avoid the fate of starving to death
The government of Chihuahua's response is especially galling here. See a few posts back about the emergency situation in the Atawipasket nation in Canada, too.

This is the size I come in

Clarifying the use of the term kathoey

Paleolithic (#Diet and Nutrition subheading) article on Wikipedia

History of alcoholic beverages (pre-Columbian America)

Was interesting to learn about Maya mead. :)
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Originally published at deninet.com. You can comment here or there.

Party at Nick and Abbey's place. He told me it'd be a gaming party. It turned out to be a textbook example of why I don't do parties and other similar social venues very often.

People are getting drunk all around. We don't much enjoy drunkenness as a social exercise ("buzzy" effects from alcohol are considered merely a pleasant side effect of consumption, and inherently suspicious enjoyment in much the same way NRE is*). Nick, as it happens, is one of the few people around whom we feel comfortable when they're drunk. He gets silly and inebriated, yes, but he doesn't really change much or get unpredictable. He's just more himself than usual, in a way that's noticeably-different only insofar as it's more obvious how he relates to other, non-us people. For most everyone else, it's disconcerting.

Not really a gaming party by any description, although they do break out a card game at one point. I get the impression Abbey informed Nick he'd gotten that wrong.

Abbey is playing hostess. It's a role she takes very seriously, and it's alienating and confusing to watch. She insists her husband do all sorts of stuff you'd think the hostess would do, even when he's obviously smashed -- let the guy rest, yeah? Sometimes it's creepy. There are two categories of people for her when she gets like this: guests, and people whose responsibility it is to enable her to play hostess and feel like an accomplished adult. The only people in said category appear to have consented to play this role in a passive sense (they didn't say no), but still, it squicks to see it in action.

I could do without all the utterances of "gyp" and "Retard" flying around... 

Someone has brought a baby, a little infant under one year old (I'm fairly sure, anyway -- he seems to be just a bit shy of crawling age). It isn't a problem of itself, and everyone present seems to enjoy a chance to interact with him, but eventually he must go to sleep. Parents apparently put him in the bedroom where everyone had tossed their coats to sleep alone. Understandable, and not a problem -- Nick and I discover him there when we go into the bedroom to talk privately for a bit. We spend a couple minutes very quietly cooing over the baby together and then sit down to talk. For half an hour we do this and kiddo doesn't stir or make a sound. We talk about the stuff on our minds. We talk about the kid, and about parenting. Nick doesn't want to be a parent right now, or even soon. He loves the thought in abstract but he isn't even remotely there. Abbey is insistent -- her biological clock is ticking and I get the sense this has been a point of some rather serious contention between them. Then Abbey yells for Nick from the bottom of the stairs -- apparently she wants him to make a drink for someone. Her yelling wakes up the baby, and I hastily tend to him while Nick staggers downstairs. Kiddo's tired and confused and cranky. I try to calm him -- I am a stranger, so it's not enough that I merely shush and hold him. He calms down at first, when I inspire him to imitate. Big smiles and blatantly-telegraphed "happy" language put him in a good mood, and he seems to like me, but eventually tired and confused wins out. I wind up having to walk an infant down stairs I can't even comfortably descend emptyhanded, terrified I might slip, so I can track down someone related to him. Fortunately, we get it dealt with, but still.

I'm in a lot of pain, later. It's headaches, it's social stress, it's the alcohol I took to defer those until people began filing out of the party. It's body pain as well -- I can't seem to go up or down the stairs without putting tremendous strain on my knees, enough that I'm gasping in pain with every step. I don't know what's wrong, and I have a headache. People aren't leaving as fast as I thought they would. It's early morning and still they're gathered, chatting and drinking and generally being people very loudly in my perceptual sphere. I can find quiet places, but they're not comfy. I can find comfy places, but they're not quiet. Someone is tormenting the cat within earshot. I shudder. Tess contacts me, offers to pick me up. I try to defer, instinctively, fearful of being a burden, but eventually clear sense wins out. She's offering out of concern and genuine desire to help, and I really need it. There's no way I'll be comfortable sleeping over after some of this. I just wish Nick had been given a chance to recuperate instead of getting run ragged while he was drunk until he just plain passes out. I cuddle with him and wait for Tess to arrive.

On my way out the door, someone is trying holding the cat against his will. When he yowls, pleading to be let go, they just hold tighter, maybe try to flip him onto his back. Cat has had *enough*, has had enough a long time ago, but nobody will listen. His cries and even hissing, attempts to bluff or bite are read as amusements, not signals of "Leave me the fuck alone I don't like this." The more he reacts, the more he is punished with continued holding -- he will only be released when he suffers in silence.

What kind of person does that to a cat? I want to yell at them for their lack of common courtesy, shock them into letting go, but I'll be seen as immensely scary and bizarre, and I am ashamed to say I don't intervene. I want to, it isn't right what they're doing and nobody else in the house seems to give a fuck (the one person who might is passed out downstairs -- we never got to finish our conversation), but I chicken out. Tess is here. I just need to get out of the house. Small mercy: they decide to let Mango be, satisfied with whatever pointless gesture of submission they've forced out of him.

It's too much. I'm crying by the time I get into the car. 


*NRE, or New Relationship Energy, is sorta pleasant and it's all rushy and giddy. It also makes me much less coherent, rational or perspective-having, and therefore it is highly suspect whenever its effects on motivation and behavior must be taken into account. Is okay to have feelings, but one should take care to discount some portion of any such temporary, extreme mental shift when it actually matters to what you're doing. The pleasant effects of alcohol are much the same -- enough bad and impairment can come of them that they are not to be ever entirely trusted. Odd how this doesn't seem to apply to the other substances we enjoy consuming, but then, those don't seem to mess about with our passions, and grant a great deal of perspective in their own right. They are also rather less likely to cause addiction or poisoning if consumed too regularly.

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 Dreams, dreams.

This set was interesting.

I was in Vancouver. Or my brain's "good enough" facsimile of Vancouver, at any rate, which is similar but leaves out a lot of real details and adds some, ah, creative embellishments.

Like a hotel in a mountain neighborhood that consists of a 23-story stone-and-brick tower, and an *inverted*, older, 9-story tower grafted onto it upside down. Or a coast road that consists of nothing but a dirt path above the beach, which was submerged in storm waves, and part of said road has eroded into the sea, making it necessary to back up. 

Otherwise it was fairly recognizable as Vancouver. 

Well, so I went here to stay with some new friends of mine, one of them a mixed trans guy with whom things got serious. We wound up getting married, I filed for citizenship, and moved in with him in his small apartment in East Vancouver. It was a bit cramped, but we were happy...until he got pregnant, and we moved into a bigger place on the North end, eventually having a daughter. The doctors were...confused. We were happy.

Then abruptly I was in an unrecognizable version of San Francisco, which my helpful in-head context-giving narrator voice pointed out had been rebuilt after the Meteor Strike of [year] with help from the city's various inhabitants. It was mostly lower buildings now, not as many towers or high-rises -- more like Seattle, I guess?. I had just finished absorbing this information when I noticed I was apparently in some kind of fully-immersive Shadowrun-esque RPG, and I had to specialize my character. 

Bloody alarm clock.
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 1. What is the first happy memory you can think of?

Actually, that'd be my first memory. It dates back to before my brain could entirely process visual images the way it does now. I know because bits of the image are blank or unformed, and angles and shape-recognition don't work right. Right angles in particular and out-of-focus areas are just a white empty blur. I can't actually recognize my father's face, but I can tell it's him (I have prosopagnosia so that's normal for me).

I was less than one year old. I was in a house I now know to be the house I lived in in Anchorage, Alaska for the first couple years of my life. My parents are talking to me, but only my father is visible. I can't remember what they were saying; the audio is gibberish, but it's happy-sounding gibberish, and I seem to feel happy in response to it. I'm looking at my dad, and from the muscle memory cues, I'm pretty sure I was smiling. 

2. What is the last book you read that moved you emotionally?

Sherman Alexie's "War Dances" made me laugh, in a way that is only possible when you're dealing with something that is not funny yet laughter is the only coherent response to it (the subject matter, I mean -- the writing itself is frequently genuinely funny). "Recovering Our Ancestor's Gardens", by Devon Mihesuah, made me feel a bit hopeful and nostalgic, and also very upset at the state of many Indigenous folks. Karl Schroeder's "Permanence" induced a gentle, sublime feeling of acceptance.

3. If you could choose to see in either infrared or ultraviolet (in addition to the common visible spectrum), which would you pick and why?

I actually used to see in the near ultraviolet. I don't know how, but one day I realized that a lot of flowers had blue shiny parts that nobody else was seeing. Like golden poppies, which aren't blue at all in the visible spectrum. I miss it. But I think I'd take infrared this time around.

4. What's a cool dream you have had or heard about recently?

I had a dream not too long ago in which the word "apophenia" was painted in red letters all over something. I didn't know what it meant until I looked it up, and spent the rest of the day laughing.

5. i can't think of a good 5.  

I will assume you asked me if I have a Mothra tattoo. And I do.
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Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Starreader dream last night.

Myself (cast for this dream as a young cis woman, indeterminate age, skinny with darker hair, skin more evenly tanned from a lifetime of winters and summers spent outdoors) and the family (a bunch of people I have not met in real life; a few were parts of the tribe we weren't related to) were walking into a city from the outskirts. It had been a long trip; we usually lived many hundreds of kilometers away in the wilderness.

As we got further into town proper, we were walking along a riverside waterfront. Across the river, the city there was strange and unfamiliar-looking, with architectural styles quite unlike the local standard and many bright colors on the buildings. The river marked a boundary between two countries; only passing familiarity and a few architectural coincidences made our side seem particularly comprehensible. We spoke the local language, albeit somewhat poorly -- people sometimes didn't understand what we'd said, and it was difficult to keep up with them if they talked at length.

For comfort, we spoke Senyalesh to one another, but the father of the kids I was looking after insisted we practice the local language to fit in. I didn't know about how well that would work, spotting the looks in the eyes of those we interacted with, but we all tried it. You listen to your elders.

The city's architecture and culture were clearly not any found on waking-Earth, but the overall influence of something a bit like Western capitalism had made itself known (choices of building materials as a reflection of the age of the buildings, some degree of standardization). On our side of the river, something like a blend of Northern European and Korean sensibilities, through the eyes of international modernist architecture and more interested in sprawling mall-complexes connected by skybridge than vertical skyscrapers. Lots of pedestrian-only roads.

Across the river, I almost want to describe the influences as a strange blend of contemporary Islamic (albeit lacking the specific religious elements of same), Soviet Constructivist and neoclassical. Not many skyscrapers there either, but quite a few more large, hulking multiplex buildings. I recall knowing that the border was fairly open, and customs checkpoints allowed pedestrian foot access across the many bridges -- the two countries were clearly on somewhat good terms.

Most of the population were of a different ethnic group than ourselves; the city's population seemed to have two or three core groups and then a smattering of minorities, none very large. They never corresponded precisely to any real-world group, though humans varied in the same ways as they do in the waking world and one wouldn't be terribly surprised by the features and modes of dress evident.

At one point I seperated off from the family, trying to go find a washroom. A lower-end restaurant didn't mind letting me in to do that, but the process turned out to be pretty complex. Since we were entering a downtown commercial area, a lot of the washrooms had keys, and since the area was full of buildings and lots that blend into one another, I overstimated how big the space was and immediately got lost. I hadn't used a key like these ones before, but it seemed intuitive enough -- the trick was figuring out what door to use! I could only just read the signs enough to get a very basic sense, and wandered around for a bit before I finally got it. Got a lot of stares wandering around like that, only just barely able to explain in the simplest terms what I was looking for, and there was more than a little dismissal of me as a backward outsider, though it scarcely registered as something worth internalizing yet.

I was more than a little dismayed that, of the two or three written languages I saw in the city, none of them resembled Senyalesh writing. A sideways, left-to-right language was weird in my eyes, though I'd learned the alphabet well enough to slowly sound out a word. The other two languages, I couldn't even figure out which direction they ran or what sounds their letters stood for, or even if they *were* letters and not something else (Senyalesh, after all, has ideograms, syllables and freestanding letters in one writing system). Eventually, my fascination with my surroundings began to be outweighed by the growing sensation that something was wrong.

I'd wandered off in a haze after finding the washroom, so attentive to my surroundings I no longer knew where my family was, or indeed where I might go looking for them. I tried retracing my footsteps, but the effort was soon overwhelming. The city became a maze full of strange sights, loud sounds, and too many people; I couldn't find my way back to anyplace that looked familiar enough to orient from. I didn't want to panic, had never panicked before after getting lost in the woods as a child, always found my way back eventually...

But those were familiar surroundings. The forests of my home I knew; forests elsewhere were unknown as yet but followed the same basic rules as forests anywhere. This...this was something altogether alien, and I sank into a sitting position sullenly, folding my knees up huddling over, afraid. What had I done?

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Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

We ain't from around here.

That's the impression we get whenever we find an outfit or combo that feels good and looks about how we want to look. Either we don't pass in this higher-scrutiny environment and can expext routine harassment for it, or we look underdressed and slacker-ish wherever we go (not something we mind always, but occasionally frustrating for the way our clothing gets us read by others), or it's fitting and looks good but it's just too ostentatious for local mores. I'm wearing my sarong and poncho over shorts and a tank top, and the only people in my neighborhood who ever seem to dress in bright colors and garments with this kind of cut and fall are Somali and Indian women. I don't mind that part, but it does mean a LOT of staring and social confusion once I leave the apartment, which feeds back to the heightened scrutiny around gender.

The perils of a hippie fashion sense, I suppose. Much of my ideal response is to shrug it off, and after the trip back home that's become easier. But one thing I've noticed out here lately, now that I'm no longer simply hiding behind presumed-androgyny and slacker lack-of-particular-aesthetics is that there's an undercurrent of hostility in the way some people look at me.

Is it just my imagination? I never thought of Minneapolis as innately more hostile than other places to people like me; sure, there've been a couple high-profile murders of trans women in town since I moved here, but somehow it didn't register as unusual (and isn't *that* a fucked-up state of affairs, that such a thing seems like the background of life). There are quite a number of us here in a fairly large and active community; if anything I thought the Twin Cities' trans people were rather more cohesive and generally possessing of communitas than the ones in Puget Sound (don't get me started). It's hard to tell how much of this is just a roll on the "Day in the life of a trans person" table, and how much reflects a growing...well, tension in the assorted cis people around me.

I don't know.  Maybe I just never really noticed because of how shy I am -- I'm good at projecting confidence as a means of fending off negative attention (and it has served me well over the years), but I use a lot of strategies and behavior patterns to avoid eye contact or much direct interaction with the people I pass. The visit home changed that quite a bit; maybe it's just a reflection of my own awareness increasing.

I don't know. But it's got me uneasy. And with the uptick in gun crimes in my neighborhood (it's getting depressingly routine to hear shots late at night, and just recently we had someone discharge a Colt 45 in the street as a threat to the people in the house across from us), I'm starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable in my own dwelling. I don't want my increased self-confidence and willingness to dress how I like put me at greater risk of being a statistic. And it may not be avoidable.


Been a bit worried about Kimiko lately. She lost a lot of weight during my trip, and has generally stayed small and whisper-thin since. She hasn't eaten very much lately -- probably due to the heat (or its alternative, the noise of the AC, neither of which are very comfortable for her). It's hard to tell if she's sick or it's just a reaction to the season; her behavior is uncomfortably close to that of a cat I had years ago, who started losing weight and eating less but only really got our attention once he was unable to keep food down and visibly jaundiced.

Kimi is neither jaundiced, nor having more than the usual feline rate of digestive tract rebellion. So she's not clearly and obviously sick in any way -- she just doesn't seem to be taking in much, and it's driving her weight down drastically. There wasn't much we could do for Silver when he contracted the kidney virus that caused his symptoms, and there's not much we can do for Kimiko if she's got the same thing. So it's probably just down to waiting and making sure her condition doesn't deteriorate.

She's real lethargic, but otherwise seems fine -- she's affectionate, and a bit clingy. She doesn't seem to have much interest in playing, which is unusual for her, but probably understandable if the seasons are making her uncomfy. We'll just have to keep an eye on her and see how it goes.

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Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

In the last post I wrote about the idea that sexual and relationship behavior might be more strongly influenced, on the balance, by the tension between "companionship-seeking" and "arousal-seeking" drives, which stand together and in tension, rather clumsily, as the real cognitive answers to basic the evolutionary drive to reproduce.

Quick note: "Clumsily", here, should not be construed as a negative value judgement -- it just seems like our DNA's stakes in the game, and our own personal stakes, are at odds. I'd favor valuing your own higher-order desires for stimulation and relationships any day; there is no reason I can think of why your biological heritage should be held on a pedestal! Human nature, and indeed, even accurate summaries of the parts of it one might be able to plausibly infer from our evolutionary history, seems *so* much more complicated than just "have lotsa babies that have lotsa babies!"

Today I want to talk about identity.

Sexual orientation is one of the more obviously-political parts of our lives, in the sense that the personal is political. From criminalization and pathologizing of same-sex, non-monogamous, non-vanilla sexual behavior to general shaming and repressive social mores about sex, bodies and behavior, those of us who don't conform to the prestige template of society have been punished for it, and continue to be. People from cultures that have more explicit room for such variance often still deal with marginalized status or their own repressive role expectations, though this isn't universally applicable (note, however, that colonization has made even cultures with relatively egalitarian and tolerant ideas about sexuality and gender roles fairly likely to have been forced into a Judeo-Christian ethos around this, to varying degrees).

The marked state gets singled out for attention, whether good or bad. It's very rare that the unmarked state goes so deeply scrutinized, except insofar as people fail to conform to it without necessarily leaving it altogether. Thus, for most of the history of Western European society (specifically inclusive of its colonies), the attention has been on (say) same-sex sexuality. Attitudes may have improved on the balance, but what hasn't changed is that most of our society-wide dialogue about the issue is about whether some vast, nebulous "we" should reconfigure "our" norms to include "them."

Use of scare quotes very intentionally ironic, here.

I think this has a lot to do with the specifics of identity and politics surrounding the issue. Queer people are used to being persecuted, treated as abberant, justifying our existence, and fighting for acceptance *on top* of just being people living our lives. All of this means that queerness in SF/F, to the extent that genre writing is dominated by Western voices generally, is often written by people who conceive of our identities and experiences through the lens of being queer in our culture. Additionally, to the extent that authors and fans appropriate our images for their own consumption (especially thinking of fandom here), the depictions of queerness I typically see within genre writing revolve around either including the identity we're familiar with in the world, or positing a scenario where *having* that identity isn't stigmatized as much as it has been. Direct inclusion (regardless of whether it's truly good at being *inclusive* -- a much more salient issue from the social justice side of things), appropriation for the sake of non-queer consumption (not uncommon with slash writing), or sort of de-facto advocacy (but still basically framed in terms of the specific identities).

(Or invisibility and erasure, or demonization, obviously, but my focus is on attempts to do it right, whether or not they fail. Problematic though they often are, they represent that someone is *thinking* about us, beyond just to deny our legitimate existence in the realm of human diversity.)

What I don't seem to see much of is attempts, within worldbuilding, to conceive of alternate cultural schema, genuinely different ways of being, that include people *like* us who *aren't* just us, flipped into that milieu.

That's often to the best -- I'd much rather see fiction that's set in something fairly recognizably similar to our world including us in it to the extent that all of their characters resemble real groups of people, or if the author can't do that gracefully, just staying away from the issue altogether (though I probably have little interest in it in that case, and the question of whether one wants to deal with tokens or erasure is a divisive one). But quite a lot of the time, science fiction and fantasy stories are set in other times, and other places, with different cultural contexts. In other words, it isn't our world -- and if it's well-written, it won't *feel* like our world.

This is the space of writing possibilities that interests me the most, because it has the most room for exploring what's really fundamental about the human condition (and changes to it, or expansions of it). And that includes queer, subversive or just non-normative sexual practices and identities as our culture defines them.

There still exist today many culturally-specific identities around gender and sexuality that can't be strictly framed in the terms of Western queer experience. What interests me is the degree to which this has room for expressing what's truly common to all of them -- it certainly isn't in the fine details of the lifestyle, or the localized cultures and social networks we form. Those are contingent phenomena, sensitive to the initial conditions. I suspect if you took the marginalization by normative society away, some of these elements would converge...but equally well, many wouldn't, because the cultural landscapes they inhabit are different, and the...well, self-identity maps that people in those landscapes construct have more to do in some ways with their relationships within those landscapes, than they do to the ostensibly-similar map-making inhabitants of landscapes far away.

Basically I think that interesting sexuality and gender themes in genre fiction can be derived from trying to realistically recognize what our specific, local identities have in common with those of people far away in space and time. Their identities may well not match ours, yet there will be threads of experience in common. The questions to ask are, how will those common threads interact with the different pieces to generate experience, and identity?

I imagine some people will assert that the broad pictures will be necessarily similar; others will disagree. What I'm interested in is seeing those discussions in literature, regardless of where people fall on the matter.


Okay, so that's the first part of this post. In the second, I want to talk about really-minority sexual practices.

Kink, fetish and paraphilia are a whole different beast in some respects. There is little coherent agreement as to whether they constitute elements of sexual orientation at all; the same is true of nonmonogamy. Sometimes they're pathologized -- indeed, the term "paraphilia" takes for granted that the unusual interest is perforce dysfunctional, especially when arousal is difficult or impossible without it. Often that's perceived to be definitional to the idea at all!

In the case of kinks and fetishes, it's often treated as something *strictly* personal -- "that's just their thing." The idea that it might emerge from the same sort of shaping forces that influence one's preferences in partners (or preference for none -- let's not forget that asexual people exist) is much more controversial to the extent I've seen it discussed at all.

To some extent I can understand why that would be. Talking about how and why and whether one prefers partners on X and Y basis is relatively easy; "Option 1, Option 2, Both, Neither" are relatively simple options to fit into a folk-psychological model of the world -- and that's really what people are building, for the most part, when they attempt to suss out the complexities of orientation. It's almost as if the idea of orientation *itself* is a conceptual primitive; given the history of the development of the concept, that's not really surprising. We've gone from the prestige template being the only option, and variance from it not even really counting as sexual behavior, to even many bigots acknowledging that distinct preferences exist; these days, the arguments they make are about the morality of that preference, and public opinion polls in the US show that at least here, they're gradually losing even that battle.

That's a pretty significant frameshift!

But what, then, of non-"vanilla" and non-monogamous sexual practices and identities? In the case of the latter, I've observed that many polyamorists are reluctant or unwilling to discuss their relationship styles in terms of orientation at all -- most poly folks seem to treat their preference for multiple partnerships as distinct from their orientation. I'm less sure about kink/fetish/paraphilia culture; those are often quite scattered and divergent from one another, and even organizations and groups dedicated to the subject generally find themselves condoning some and eschewing others (quite apart from the case of people whose arousal might cause discomfort or ethical questions; I mean that it's rare to even see self-disclosing furries at say, the Wet Spot in Seattle). In many cases, there is no obvious unified subculture. Some of these conditions are still highly pathologized, and just admitting to having them can get someone into serious trouble.

Anyway, here I'm flying blind, but I strongly suspect that future framings of orientation are going to be affected by the existence of non-monagomous and non-vanilla social identities that cohere out of what is presently a somewhat jumbled, disunited set of groups. Not that queer communities are really all that monolithic either (just ask any queer person of color), but on some level they've established cultural token that they can use to define themselves in terms that make sense for their context, and that the outside world will recognize as such (regardless of opinions about it). We're seeing this to some degree with non-monogamy -- while "poly" is still used for a whole bunch of identities and practices that bear little direct resemblance to one another, they're all beginning to accrue mainstream media attention at an increasing rate, along with those dynamically-in-tension-but-still-nonmonogamous polygamist groups who've been visible at a high level of late. This has its ups and downs; I'm not going to spend my time here asking whether or not it's a good thing because the reality is it's a complicated thing, and any such transition to "recognizeable minority status" has ups, downs, ins and outs beyond my ability to express simply.

Last time I suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that Part 2 would be about the difference between acknowledging the fact that these things are parts of human nature, and advocating any author's particular view of their own fetish-fuel future. I admit that I don't have a lot to say there; it should be fairly simply put that I think what qualifies as squicky varies from person to person; what's marginalizing is marginalizing; that some things are just not going to be acceptable to most people no matter how they're justified, and that in this complex world full of varying forms of oppression, a lot of things that might seem "innocent of unethical bent despite their uncomfortable nature" can in practice be deployed in squicky ways. I find the basic precepts behind the "Gor" novels intensely uncomfortable; I can see why a lot of people are uncomfortable with SF/F characters who look like a child but are "mentally" an adult (or ancient, or downright nonhuman) getting into consensual relationships; it's very often annoying and sanctimonious when an author presents their particular preferences as the wave of the future (ahh, Heinlein...). That's leaving aside the more mundane, but still generally-squicky depictions of sexuality, relationships, assault and so on (too many books to name).

I'll end by saying that I'm curious to find authors who handle these subjects well, and it's one of my goals as a worldbuilder and writer to create believable, but not too-mundane answers to some of these questions in my own work.

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Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

An article I saw prompted a train of thought that's been simmering for a while to bubble over and hiss on the burner of my attention span.


The article's short, but in summary some scientists did a little experiment. They raised male zebra finches in an sex-segregated population and found that upon coming of age, the majority of these finches selected mates from within the group and settled down into monoagmous pair bonds (many bird species are renowned for their monogamous habits, taken to a degree that would put most ostensibly-monogamous humans to shame).

These finches were presumably normal in every other respect; there's no reason to think they in particular would have pursued a same-sex romance (not an overblown word there; -- the birds are adorably affectionate and devoted to one another) had they been raised in a mixed population. Instead, for over half of them the drive to mate was satisfied by an affectional bond with another male.

And here's the kicker -- when they then introduced these couples into a mixed-sex population, only three out of eight elected to abandon their mates and seek out an opposite-sex partner. And now I'm just visualizing some poor, brokenhearted little male finches who lost their boyfriends to that darn breeder urge...

Anyway, that's a much larger percentage of the population willing to get into, and stay in same-sex relationships than we'd expect from statistical estimates of homo/bisexuality in the human population. In fact it almost seems too high, by that mark -- *assuming* that you treat sexual orientation as primarily a fixed-choice or even statistical phenomenon. I admit to not having done any population surveys of zebra finches, but I'm fairly sure they don't typically opt for homosexual relationships at a rate of over fifty percent. It seems very much like the social context was what determined, for many of these feathery little guys, what defined an acceptable or appealing choice of mates. Given only a pool of other males to operate over, whatever evolutionary algorithm you care to speculate is responsible for mate choice managed to score a resounding hit more often than not!

What's more, while clearly some did stray when given the opportunity to establish heterosexual relationships, a majority of those who got involved with their peers in the first place elected to stay with them.

It almost seems like forming affectional bonds is the goal; the criteria for doing so are malleable or fluid, or at any rate *flexible* enough to cope with situations that do not look like a normal sex-based population distribution. Whether the choice to stay is down to that remarkable avian monogamy or not, I can't say -- but it seems significant that the birds preferentially sought *relationships* rather than reproductive sex, and preferred to maintain existing relationships rather than give them up to gain access to it.

It's a common cliche among certain people, and something of a flammable subject within queer spaces, that "everyone is bi." The first thing I will say is that I don't think that simplistic, if memorable framing is accurate or helpful. It would be difficult to make the case scientifically, at any rate, if we went solely by observed behavior -- most people do in fact pursue heterosexual unions with decent odds of fertility. But I think it's significant that while people may desire children, that desire is found in people of any orientation -- not universally, certainly, but it's present. Clearly in an evolutionary sense reproduction is sort of the goal as far as DNA is concerned...but we aren't beholden solely to it's drives, and this is something I think a lot of evolutionary psychology advocates miss; namely, that when you're dealing with an organism as complex as a human being, the physiological and neurological implementations of that basic drive to reproduce are going to be remarkably complicated. How do you motivate mate-seeking in a creature so smart it can communicate in terms of wholly-abstract symbols, and yet so inherently arational that its cognition uses its own crudity to hack shortcuts through conceptual space?

I think it's safe to say that whatever chemical, physiological and psychological tools you care to include in the set that, taken collectively, defines how a human being evaluates mating strategies, it's very complex in operation, yet laughably simple to model compared to the systems that compose it, and at any rate it does not specify "inclusive genetic fitness" as its core goal content.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say it seems like humans perform a similar routine to the finches in the study -- we look for suitable partners on the basis of whether we feel socially attracted and physically aroused by them. The two factors balance differently for different individuals, and the list of things that can decide either of them can be quite long for any given individual. What we don't do is inherently, emotionally seek to maximize our inclusive genetic fitness -- that's DNA's "goal"; the robot can still rebel, and will because its own priorities are substantially different and optimized for a different domain of problem solving.

Okay, so I'm saying we're attracted to others who turn us on and provide what we're looking for, more often than not. That's nearly tautological. Here's where I'm going with this:

PZ Meyers, in his talk "A Skeptical Look At Aliens", goes over a series of tropes and common misconceptions, or really just heavily-biased conceptions, about the depiction of alien life. You can find that here: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/a_skeptical_look_at_aliens.php

What I'm interested in is this part: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/the_teeny-tiny_bit_of_my_tam_...

In it, Meyers discusses the frequency of interspecies romance in science fiction. He then points out the (not terribly erotic, for most people) display of a female chimp in estrus as an example of sexual cues that utterly fail to translate across the species barrier, yet are the very epitome of sexy in one of our nearest biological relatives. He concludes that the odds of real aliens striking anyone as sexy, of a *typical* person being aroused or turned on by an intelligent being from another world, are as good as none.

To which I can only say: are you sure about that? Have you really taken a good look at how humans form sexual relationships? And are the tiny minority you acknowledge with your "Rule 34" comment really as anomalous as you think?

Granted, I find it similarly difficult to believe that, in a hypothetical SF society of humans as we know them, voluntary xenophilia in the face of more conventional options would be considered mainstream. Not unless you want to posit some reeeeeaaally divergent cultural development there. But let's take a look at some of the things real human beings do with their sex drive so often that each of them has a dedicated subculture:

-Other humans with limited mobility or amputated limbs
-Statues and mannequins
-Fictional beings such as giants, human-animal hybrids, and mythical creatures
-Other humans known to have committed major crimes
-Human corpses
-People with physical deformities

I could go on.

True, most of these examples are pretty rare in terms of practice -- and it's rather difficult to literally act out an attraction to beings that don't technically exist. But take a look at them, and consider the many taboos, legal boundaries or just the difficulty of finding someone who shares that interest willingly (I'm not even going to hold to "safe, sane and consensual" standards here -- that is a methodological ideal for kink, not something coded into the way we formulate the sensation of sexual attraction in our brains). Consider the many normative messages driving them all underground.

For some reason, I have stricken many people in my life as remarkably safe to self-disclose to. I will name no names and specify no details, but a *whole* lot of people I've met over the years, from strangers or acquaintances to close friends and loved ones, in at least some cases people I was simply sitting next to on the city bus, have seen fit to share with me the "dirty little secrets" of their sexual attractions. Most of these people didn't seem like the type who were comfortable with such emotions, or even with fulfilling fantasies in private -- indeed, many of them were uncomfortable even having such feelings. I sometimes wonder why I in particular was deemed so safe to share this with -- suffice to say, I've got blackmail material on an unbelievable number of people, not that I'd ever use it. >>

I guess what I'm saying is, I think that the human mechanism for selecting partners or even just getting off is much, much more complex, malleable and counterintuitive than even many dedicated kinksters and sex-positive types are ready to acknowledge. Let alone mainstream society, and certainly moreso than would be obvious to anyone who thinks of sexuality primarily in terms of maximizing inclusive genetic fitness.

My point is not "everyone is bi", or "everyone is kinky", or "everyone has dirty little secrets. My point is that when I see societies like the one in Robert J. Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax trilogy (sex-segregated the majority of the time, everyone takes a same-sex spouse and an opposite-sex spouse -- Sawyer is a cis hetero guy and so doesn't develop the complexities or edge cases...) or the case of settings like Teelaverse (where at least some people engage in recreational, social or emotional sex with members of other species because that's the pool they have to draw from and it's not tabooed by their cultural training), or one where some significant proportion of humanity (ie, much moreso than here and now) is habitually non-mongamous in an open and socially-normal way, I don't find it terribly difficult to believe. And the reasons behind that make me strongly suspect that our own social context has much more to do with the way people in the real world approach sex and sexuality, than any hard-written rules firmly embedded in our genomes or brains or bodies or whatever.

This is at a level quite different from real people's modern identities -- I think it's just possible that for a significant portion of humanity, the primary constraints on how weird sexuality can get, and thus what behavioral schema might be plausible within speculative fiction, are rooted in where and when you live, and what cultural programming you absorbed in the process of doing so.

(If there is a part 2, it'll be clarifying the difference between just making this assertion, and condoning squicky depictions in SF/F of really divergent cultural models of sex. I am conducting the equivalent of a napkin sketch of the difference between identity and society and basic drives, not attempting a defense of stuff like Gor or the many examples in SF of authors getting a wee bit creepy or overbearing injecting their own fetish fuel into their work. Though I suppose one could readily accuse me of doing that latter with Teelaverse...)

Trips Home

Jul. 10th, 2011 02:55 pm
leakinglavender: (Default)

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Homecoming has been an enriching, illuminating experience.

I told Tess recently, while sitting in my grandmother's house after a fruitful day, that it is not simply that I needed to come home to remember who I was. It was that I needed to come home so I could find out at all. That's very apt still. Seattle, and the Puget Sound region generally, seems to be where I come to when I need to touch base with myself. For the longest time, my ambitions, hopes and desires all lived here -- it was the site of many of my fondest memories and the spiritual center of my cosmos. I seem destined not to make my residence here again anytime soon, perhaps ever -- but this is the place I come to, in order to learn who I am and what I'm made of. 

I want to head into town and pay a visit to my old neighborhood's Friendly Local Gaming Store. I miss the proprietor and long, geeky conversations with him on a sunny day. So this post is short, but I beg the indulgence of my friends and loved ones who are wondering how the trip has been. There will be more substantial updates soon.

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