#WLAMF no. 38: Reinventing Myself

It is never too late to re-invent yourself.

When I first started college, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a computer engineer. I enrolled in an engineering school, got myself a programmable calculator, and I was off. Reality set in pretty quickly; it didn’t take me long to figure out that engineering wasn’t right for me. But that didn’t tell me what was right for me!

I left school and spent some time doing nothing terribly meaningful. I worked fast food, partied rather a lot, and generally became that kid every parentis afraid their kid will become…though somewhere in there I did write the first version of the computer game that now, many years later, helps pay my rent.

I explored relationships. I got married. Out of curiosity, I picked up a used SLR camera and taught myself photography. I discovered I loved it, and for the next ten years or so I straddled the line between dedicated amateur and professional. I set up a darkroom in my house, the whole bit. I also taught myself graphic design, mostly by publishing small-press magazines.

After that, I started a career in prepress, almost by accident. I needed a job, a friend was working in a prepress shop, and wham! I did that for about ten years, during which time I made a lot of contacts in the advertising industry.

I kept up with computers, both out of necessity and out of interest, and pretty soon my prepress clients were asking me how to set up networks and such. So I quit doing prepress and started a small consulting business doing computer installation and networking…and made rather a lot of money doing it.

One of my clients found out I had design experience, so hired me on full-time to do advertising and marketing for them. I did that for a few years, but my heart wasn’t in it; it didn’t fill me with joy. That client was absorbed into a small electronics startup that made storm detection gear, and I became a minority partner in that company. I moved to Atlanta, where my time was divided between maintaining the company’s Web site, doing advertising, doing photography, and soldering boards together.

The company folded, and I left Atlanta. I quit doing advertising and Web development and became a writer, sex educator, and activist instead. My partner Eve and I started a publishing company to publish our book on polyamory, More Than Two. It’s already sold more than 4,000 copies even though it’s only been out since September–not bad for a new nonfiction book by untested authors starting a new publishing company.

You can always change course, right up until the day you’re dead. There is always, always time to do something new. Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known.

Outside that brief moment when I thought I would be an engineer, I’ve never known what I wanted to be when I grow up. And it’s worked out fine. It is never too late to re-invent yourself.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 36: Antique Calculators

I first went off to college in 1984. (I say “first” because I’ve had a somewhat checkered college career, with many false starts.) On the occasion of my going off to school, to learn (or so I thought) computer engineering, I got myself a programmable calculator: a Radio Shack EC-4004.

I’ve moved rather a lot since then, but somehow, and without any deliberate intention on my part, that calculator seems to have stuck with me…kind of like a cursed ring in an old Dungeons & Dragons game, with less eternal suffering and more calculating definite integrals. (Yes, it could do that.)

I found the calculator a few days back, while I was digging through a drawer looking for a roll of tape. It’s been through a lot; it’s covered with dust, and I have a hazy memory of spilling a shot of apple schnapps on it at some point in the past.

I flicked the power switch, not expecting a lot, and…it worked! The batteries, which have never been replaced and are now old enough to vote and drink alcohol, still worked a treat.

As powerful as modern smartphones and similar devices are, there’s no chance they’ll still work after a similar amount of time. Flash memory is cheap but transient, and loses information over time. Modern lithium ion batteries degrade over time. Leave an iPhone in a drawer for twenty years and it will be a paperweight on the other side.

This old calculator has a paltry amount of processing power compared even to a modern watch, but you gotta admire the way it just keeps going.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 29: This is hard!

I got the idea to do a blog post for each contribution we got on the Thorntree Press crowdfunding site yesterday evening, while zaiah and I were driving home from the Humboldt Anarchist Bookfair in Arcata, California. “It will be a great motivator to write!” I said. “Sure, it’ll be a lot of writing, but how hard can it be?”

Apparently I’m completely bonkers. I’ve scarcely left the computer all day, and as it turns out, churning out a bunch of blog posts back to back is surprisingly tiring.

But hey, there’s always more caffeine!


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 28: The Erotic Heritage Museum

Should you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, I suggest… Well, to be honest, I suggest you don’t find yourself in Las Vegas. It’s a sad, desperate place, filled with people trying much too hard to convince themselves that this thing they’re having is indeed fun, and not some other thing, like not-fun (which, I must say, is more often the case). And they don’t much cotton to guys wearing bunny ears there.

But if you do find yourself in Las Vegas, one of the places on the very shortlist of places I suggest you check out is Harry Mahoney’s Erotic Heritage Museum. It’s quite a bizarre place, part museum, part Vegas festival, part…well, I don’t really know what.

It’s not terribly impressive from the outside, to be sure. It’s in an obscure corner of an industrial park, and from the outside, it looks like this:

We went there, Eve and I, not quite sure what to expect. We certainly didn’t expect the Erotic Heritage Museum wedding chapel, the first thing a visitor encounters when walking through the door. It’s billed as the only wedding chapel in Vegas where you can have your ceremony and also consummate the union, and given how uptight Las Vegas is with its Puritan morality, I believe it. It’s a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, though to be fair the movie Caligula was also a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, so I imagine that makes it about two-thirds Caligula and one-third Penthouse Letters.

I want to do…things in this place. With, and to, lots of people.

Also on the main floor is this…err, sculpture. Artwork. Thing. It’s carved from a solid block of limestone, and weighs something like two thousand pounds and change. It too makes me want to do…things.

Moving downstairs, one finds a large museum space filled with everything from antique vibrators (natch) to a collection, billed as the world’s largest such collection, of antique, ancient, and prehistoric dildos.

Including this rather fetching fellow, a proto-Hello Kitty design in carved stone.

There are a lot of carved stone dildos on display. Stone has, apparently, been a rather popular medium for sex toys for quite a long time.

Eve and I have discussed, for reals, teaming with a museum like this one and creating a line of high-quality replicas of various ancient stone dildos, each of which would come with a little insert that described the particular example of the art, along with historical information, information about where it came from, and so on. What do you think? Do you think there’d be a market for this sort of thing?

The exhibits also include props from the Star Wars porn parody (because of course there was a Star Wars porn parody) and, more inexplicably, this sculpture of a cock and balls, made of $4,000 worth of pennies.

If you find yourself in Vegas for whatever reason, and you’re unwilling to gnaw your own arm off to escape (possibly because you are the Kwisatz Haderach), definitely check it out. It’s a fascinating place.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 27: “Polyamory is wrong!”

If you’ve been part of any poly community online for more than…oh, about 400 milliseconds or so, you’ve unquestionably seen someone post the “polyamory is wrong” T-shirt. You know the one I mean:

Get it? You’re supposed to think at first that it’s saying polyamory is morally wrong, but really it’s just saying it’s wrong to mix Latin and Greek roots! Get it?

Except that…err, it’s totally okay to mix Latin and Greek roots. We do it all the time. In fact, even purely Latin words might have mixed roots, because the Romans had their grubby paws all over the place, and mixed words from different languages with gleeful abandon. Latin itself is about as pure as a Baptist in a tavern, and as it says in Job 14:4, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!”

But I’m not one to stand in the way of a good linguistic joke, so I most humbly propose the following additions to the canon:


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 26: The more things change…

There is a rather delightful little book on Amazon, available in Kindle edition for free. It’s called The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book, and it’s a book about proper manners written in 1864 by Eliza Leslie.

In among endless detailed information about how the British peerage system works and how you should talk to your servants, there are gems like these:

Truth is, the female sex is really as inferior to the male in vigour of mind as in strength of body; and all arguments to the contrary are founded on a few anomalies, or based on theories that can never be reduced to practice.

and

Men make fortunes, women make livings. And none make poorer livings than those who waste their time, and bore their friends, by writing and lecturing upon the equality of the sexes, and what they call “Women’s Rights.” How is it that most of these ladies live separately from their husbands; either despising them, or being despised by them?

Proof, perhaps, that conservative talking points aren’t new. And also, it’s possible (probably even common) for those oppressed by a system to endorse that same system.

Did I say this was a delightful book? I meant that other thing.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 25: Nature is horrifying!

The balance of nature. This is a thing that people talk about, and every time they do, I cringe.

Wikipedia has an entry on the balance of nature, which has this (among other things) to say on the subject:

The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited, as it has been found that chaotic changes in population levels are common, but nevertheless the idea continues to be popular.[1] During the later half of the twentieth century the theory was superseded by catastrophe theory and chaos theory.

In part 0.5 of my series on GMOs, which I’ll return to when the current madness is over, I talk about how one of the greatest predictors of whether a person is opposed to GMOs is whether that person sees nature as a gentle, benevolent force that exists in “harmony” and “balance.”

It’s easy for us, as humans with really short lifespans, to imagine there’s a “balance” to nature. If the number of predators in some place grows too large, they eat all the prey, and then they starve, and the number of predators falls, right? That lets the prey population rebound, and balance is restored. Balance! Harmony!

Except that it’s a load of rubbish. It sometimes (sometimes!) works that way in the short run, but in the long run, what looks like “balance” is more often two or more opposing sides that have reached an exhausted stalemate. A change in climate, a change in parasites, disease, a new adaptation, and that “balance” goes out the window. Catastrophes happen. Species go extinct, and are replaced with new species. There are no dinosaurs any more, or creodonts, or many other organisms. They didn’t disappear because humans upset the “balance of nature.” They disappeared because there is no “balance of nature.” Nature is neither kind nor benevolent; it’s only our privileged position at the apex of a very large and very bloody food chain that allows us to imagine otherwise.

Nature is, in point of fact, ruthless and amoral. Any adaptation that gives a species (or a population within a species) an upper hand tends to be propagated through nature.

And sometimes, the results are horrifying. I don’t mean just in the “species go extinct” kind of way; the adaptations that succeed are themselves often horrifying.

Exhibit 1 for the prosecution: Male Llamas Bite Off Each Other’s Genitalia.

See the teeth on the end? The canine and incisor? Those are fighting teeth. You know what they’re adapted for? Castrating other llamas. Why? Because if you have genes that code for teeth to castrate other males and the temperament to do so, you’re going to spread those genes pretty effectively, and before long, your whole species is full of individuals with a head for castrating each other and the tools to do it.

But wait! It gets worse! The anglerfish is even more horrifying.

This is a male anglerfish. It’s a little tiny blob of a thing, scarcely able to swim. When it finds a female, it bites her, whereupon she…absorbs it. She dissolves it, literally, until nothing is left but a pair of testicles, which remain glued to her body. She extracts the sperm from them and stores it for when she wants to reproduce.

Why? How could such a horrifying thing come to be? Because it works, and nature is amoral. Whatever works, works.

You might think that’s the bottom of nature’s basement of horrors, but you’s be wrong. Let’s talk about bedbugs, and a reproductive strategy called “traumatic insemination.”


Image: Rickard Ignell, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Traumatic insemination occurs when the male stabs the female and deposits his sperm directly into her body. If she survives, some of the sperm eventually reaches her ovaries. It’s the only way bedbugs mate. Why? Because nature is horrifying.

There is no harmony or balance of nature; those things are human constructs. What there is is unceasing warfare, constant change, and traumatic insemination. We’re very fortunate, you and I, to be born into a position that allows us to delude ourselves about the nature of mother nature.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 24: Kitties can anticipate the future

There is a book called Worry and Nervousness: The Science of Self Mastery. I don’t know a thing about the book or its author, except that its author must not own cats.

How do I know this?

The book makes the claim “man is the only animal that worries.” And anyone who would say such a thing has clearly never lived with a cat.

I have a cat named Liam. He’s generally pretty good-natured, except that he has the unfortunate habit of biting my nose to show me he loves me. I’ve only known him as an adult kitty, and must conclude that at some point when he was a kitten, someone must’ve thought the nose-biting thing was cute as hell and encouraged it.

But Liam is a neurotic kitty, and he worries. Specifically, he worries about his food dish and his water bowl.

He seems to have the capacity to worry about only one of these things at a time; perhaps it is true that man is the only animal that worries about more than one thing at once. A few nights ago, Liam woke me from a sound sleep to tell me something was Very Very Wrong, running back and forth between the bed and his food bowl. I stumbled out of bed all cross and blearly-eyed, to find his dish had only two inches of food left in the bottom of it–scarcely three days’ worth of food! This, naturally, led to something of a panic attack on Liam’s part.

So I filled his food bowl, and went back to dreaming of interviewing shambling horrors or flying an ultralight around the flooded ruins of Old London or whatever the hell I was dreaming about (I have to live inside this head full-time)…

…when Liam woke me once more to tell me something else was Very Very Wrong.

This “something else” turned out to be his water bowl, which was down to a mere three inches or so of water in it–clearly, if you’re a kitty, cause for panic.

Man is the only animal that matters? I beg to differ, sir, and would be pleased to introduce you to a counterexample.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 22: Accidental and Unintended

I had, many years ago, a friend who tended to cheat on her partners.

When I say she tended to cheat on her partners, what I mean is that she cheated on every boyfriend she’d ever had up to the point I lost touch with her, without exception. I asked her about it one rainy evening, and she said she didn’t set out to cheat; when it happened, it was accidental.

That’s an idea I’ve heard echoed countless times in countless conversations when I talk to people who’ve been unfaithful. “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it.”

There’s a certain element of self-serving justification in there somewhere. It’s likely related to the fact that folks in openly nonmonogamous relationships are at lower risk of sexually transmitted infection than folks in nominally “monogamous” relationships who cheat. If something is an accident, we’re not responsible for it. If we remember to bring condoms, or talk about sexual history, or do any of those other things, we’re obviously planning for it, and therefore it isn’t an accident. If it’s not an accident, we are responsible for it.

It’s a thin justification, to be sure, but it’s remarkably resilient. And part of that, I think, is we don’t acknowledge the difference between accidental and unintentional.

If I make a choice to do something (and as long as we’re talking about consensual sex, if I’m in bed with someone, it was a choice), then the thing I’m doing wasn’t an accident even if I didn’t intend to do it when I got up in the morning. That’s a distinction that matters. I might not have intended, at first, to cheat on a partner, in the sense I might not have woke up and said to myself “you know, I think I’ll betray the confidence of my lover this afternoon! Maybe I can pencil that in before I go to the gym”…but it was still no accident.

I realize that people will attempt to rationalize their choices however they can, and conflating “accidental” with “unintended” is a way to do that. Yet, maybe, just maybe, if we stopped seeing “it was an accident!” as a validation, if we as a society didn’t accept the notion that cheating is less wrong if it is less planned, things might change. I’m not naive enough to believe people might stop cheating, but maybe they might at least be a bit more safe about it.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 21: Kitties I have loved and lost

One of the stops on the More Than Two book tour took us to Paonia, Colorado, a remote town of about 1,500 people in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We got there late at night, after traveling along windy mountain roads in the dark and very nearly hitting both a bear and a deer, each of whom had for some reason unknown to your humble narrator chosen to amble out in the middle of the road and just kind of sit there.

We spent some time exploring the town before our book event, and happened upon a small park more or less in the middle of town. While we were walking through the park, I caught the eye of a young calico cat who was trotting across the street some distance away, doing whatever it is cats do in Paonia, Colorado.

The cat decided she wanted to make friends, and immediately came running over to us, where she threw herself into my arms with some gusto.

After some petting and playing with, she decided she wanted Eve’s attention, too.

We met many cats on the book tour, but this adorable little calico is the one I remember the most. She was incredibly friendly (and I say this as a guy who owns Tonkinese kittens, animals known worldwide for how strongly they bond to their people), but also had some of the signs that somebody somewhere was mistreating her. She was hypervigilant, and took off at the slightest sign that anyone else was walking toward us.

I sincerely hope nobody was being mean to her. There’s a special place in hell for humans who abuse animals. I wonder about this kitten often, and hope that, wherever she is, she is happy and warm.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.