Oh, for the love of God…

News item of the day: Woman blames security flaw in Mozilla web browser for destroying her relationship.

From the article:

“This privacy flaw has caused my fiancĂ© and I to break-up after having dated for five years… Firefox should be respecting every single area of privacy per user on one system. It’s not doing that,” the woman writes.

Now this here, folks, is an outstanding example of how people absolutely hate to take responsibility for their own feelings, responses, and emotional reactions.

The bug in Mozilla did not cause the breakup. Insecurity caused the breakup, together with poor communication skills on the parts of both people involved.

The woman says she and her ex were together for five years. Well, if they were dating for five years, what in the name of all that is holy were they talking about–the weather? Whose turn it was to wash the car? Clearly, neither of them was talking about the parameters and assumptions of their relationship, else she would have known that he was visiting online dating sites, and he would have known that she was not OK with that.

She learned something she did not know, because they were not talking. What she learned triggered insecurity on her part, which she did not deal with gracefully because she does not take responsibility for her own emotional responses. She did not talk about her feelings and the fact that his behavior violated her boundaries and expectations, because they both lacked decent communication skills. And somehow, all of this is…

…Mozilla’s fault?


Trebuchet habeo.

Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

Next weekend is the Florida Poly Retreat. I am signed up to do two workshops: one on jealousy management, and one on the design and construction of a trebuchet, a type of Medieval seige engine capable of throwing 300-pound boulders through a castle wall.

Trebuchets are cool.

This weekend, I’ll be designing and constructing hte trebuchet that’ll be used in the workshop. Originally, I had planned to build a six-foot trebuchet with an eight-foot throwing arm, capable of hurling a projectile the size and weight of a bowling ball about fifty yards or so. Shelly and smoocherie both, sadly, nixed that idea–Shelly because she was horrified at the safety implications of such a device, and smoocherie because the facility evidently doesn’t have enough space to be chucking bowling balls around.

So, alas, I’ve had to scale back a bit. I’m designing a trebuchet about three feet high, designed to toss golf balls or tennis balls around. Which is very sad, because tossing a golf ball is so much less fun than tossing a bowling ball. I think it would be fun to use an old-fashioned steel lawn dart as the projectile, but I don’t think you can buy those any more. (I certainly haven’t seen them in years…which, now that I think about it, is probably a good idea. Who the hell thought that throwing five-pound, sharp steel darts high in the air was a fun family game? No way THAT could go wrong…bit I digress.)

There’s actually a bit of accidental history behind this particular workshop. During the first Florida Poly Retreat in 2003, Shelly and I and some various other people found a pile of scrap wood at the facility, and I decided to use that and duct tape to make a quick, improvised trebuchet.

Well, actually, that’s not quite true. The device we ended up making was technically a mangonel–it was powered by a combination of a small counterweight and human muscle, a design first pioneered by the Mongols, who used caputured enemies as slaves to operate their mangonels, and built versions that could be disassembled quickly and carried on horseback which they used as antipersonnel devices rather than as seige engines…but again, I digress.

Anyway, the FPR in 2003 was arguably the first nationwide polyamory meeting to arm itself. We test-fired the mangonel by using it to fire the flashlights that were giveaways at the retreat, that projectile being necessitated because (a) it had a lanyard designed to be worn around the neck, removing the need for a firing sling on the weapon, and (b) it was dark by the time we were finished, so we needed a projectile that could be seen at night.

The finished engine worked far better than I had anticipated; by the time we got the firing mechanism worked out, it was hurling the flashlights about three times farther than I’d estimated. Which was great fun, as you can probably imagine.

Anyway, it’s been something of a standing joke since then–Florida Poly Retreat, the only polyamorous gathering to have seige equipment! So when smoocherie approached me with the idea of doing a formal workshop this time around, hey, who was I to say no?

The trebuchet workshop is being billed as a workshop on communication. Legendary cynic Ambrose Bierce described war as “untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue,” after all.

I plan to do a packet for the workshop that contains the plans, plus a writeup on the physics, theory of operation, and history of the trebuchet. For anyone who cares, this will be a HCW (hinged counterweight) design with a fixed throwing arm, and I’ll probably put it on wheels. If there is enough interest, I’ll probably make the packet available as a PDF from my Web site.

And now, off to Home Depot, the “Toys R Us” of the mad scientist and pervert communities.

Dreams and Weekend Stuff

So. Ove the weekend I had a dream–one involving zensidhe, datan0de, femetal, fatesgirl, and zombies. Any of you who know one or all of those people will probably know that adding zombies to the mix really isn’t that much of a stretch.

Anyway, in this dream, the six of us–the Smoosh, Shelly, and I–were all living in a big rambling country house together, a couple miles from town. During the dream, there was an enormous storm over the town, with weird glowing clouds and lightning and tornados and all kinds of chaos, and datan0de and I were standing outside the house watching the storm. A huge cone of light blasted out of the weird glowing clouds and hit right in the center of town, and somehow (through that weird dream logic that lets you know this sort of thing) we knew that it had turned all the dogs in town into zombies, and that soon the dogs would be biting people and turning them into zombies too.

So. datan0de and I were talking about this, in a casual offhand way–“Should be at least a Class 2 zombie outbreak in just a few minutes.” “Yep, seems about right. We probably have a couple hours before zombies are swarming all over the house.” “Yeah, I’d say that’s probably true. Hey, we should get the camera and take some pictures of the storm. Check out all the lightning!”

We were all relaxed and casual about the whole thing, because zensidhe was there, and if anyone knows how to handle a zombie outbreak, it’s him. So all of us were greeting the prospect of being overrun with a swarm of hungry zombies with about as much panic as you might expect from a weather report of a chance of scattered afternoon showers–“Yep, maybe we should take the lawn furniture inside and load the shotguns.”

Shelly feels that this dream is an expression of a great deal of confidence on my part in zensidhe‘s abilities. I think it’s just a subconscious desire to live with femetal and fatesgirl because they’re cute and all.

Sunday, Shelly and S‘s other boyfriend S and I drove up to Gainesville to meet indywind and her partner. I have no idea of her partner is on LJ or not.

We lounged in a park–or rather, I lounged in a park while indywind and her partner taught Shelly and S various Renaissance-era dances that are appropriate for poly folk. I have a new respect for how bawdy the Renaissance-era peasants were, but that’s a whole ‘nother post altogether.

The value of shame in protecting a healthy society…

…or, “strangeness in Franklin’s email yesterday.”

So. My Web site generates rather a lot of email, some of which tells me I’m going to hell, some of which is incoherent and relentlessy bizarre, but most of which is quite positive.

And then there’s this one, that just arrived:

Came across your website (http://www.xeromag.com/fvpoly.html), and had a strong reaction. I hope you might be interested. This is not your ordinary “you will burn in hell” flame mail.

You have revealed a great deal of yourself online–far more than any properly modest person would do (but you do not regard modesty as a virtue)–and my reaction to that is to analyze and critique what you have revealed. I’m embarrassed, even mortified for you. If ever you actually find a little more wisdom, I think you will look back at your online missives with utter horror for the rest of your life. But of course, stubborn fools die all the time.

The fact that you do not understand how mortifying it is to have so much of yourself, and of your friends, on display is very indicative to me. Once upon a time was nearly as self-revealing as you are, and so I’m motivated to offer you some unsolicited advice.

Your openness about yourself shows more clearly than anything else could that you believe that you are morally “in the clear.” That there’s nothing wrong with you or the way you live. For someone as arrogant as you are, I know that moralizing will not impress or help you in the slightest. The only thing that has a chance of helping you, actually, is a combination of intelligent criticism and real, liberal education (not just reading a lot of books).

You’re perfectly aware of your self-confidence. Among your other writings is a revealing section called “Three easy steps to self-confidence.” Self-confidence is in general, of course, a very good thing. But it seems you have confused positive self-confidence with the capacity to turn off your natural feelings of conscience, i.e., the ability to quell healthy and natural self-doubt. In this way, sociopaths are made, cults are born, and civilizations are ruined.

Every page on your webpage also conveys the message that you think you have it all figured out: you’ve thought it all through, and this is how it’s done. Your Polyamory FAQ is a perfect example. You’ve got it all covered. If you answer all the critical questions cleverly, that shows that polyamory as you approach it is morally OK. The trouble, of course, is that your FAQ proves no such thing. Your FAQ is absolutely full of elementary errors of reasoning and fundamental assumptions, which any sufficiently well-educated person could spot instantly. It is a statement of your personal dogma. The only thing it really proves is to me is that you are, underneath the facade you put on for yourself and others, a very confused person.

That’s why I recommend very strongly that you take some time out and get a real liberal education (from other, sane people–at a university) and learn the habit and virtue of self-examination. It’s quite evident both that you really have not learned that habit and that you think you have learned it. You are evidently reflective, and you pride yourself inordinately on that reflective habit. But you must not confuse a habit for reflection and introspection (i.e., self-indulgent navel-gazing, which any teenage girl can do) with a habit for well-informed, critical self-examination. The latter requires wisdom and critical thinking, which requires liberal education. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, and you’re an excellent example of why this is so.

Feel free to share this mail with your friends; amuse yourselves with it.”

Now, this is a very interesting piece of email, for a number of reasons. It’s not completely incoherent, but at the same time, I’m having a very difficult time understanding what this guy is saying, aside from the fact that he doesn’t much cotton to folks like me.

He seems to be saying, if I’m reading him correctly, that a deep and abiding sense of personal shame is the only thing that keeps society healthy, and that this deep sense of shame is the result of a proper education. I get the sense that for him, education, privacy, shame, and morality are all connected, and that for him, anyone who is not private both lacks shame and is “confused.”

I also get the sense that there’s a subtext here which suggests that this sense of shame is the only thing which prevents people from behaving unethically. He seems to feel that it’s lack of shame which characterizes a sociopath. (Most psychologists would say that a sociopath is characterized by a lack of empathy and emotional connection with other human beings; I wonder if this person feels that shame and empathy are the same thing, or that one can not connect with others emotionally if one is not shameful.)

An irony here is that he seems to feel a “liberal education” would fix my problems. This is ironic in no small part because I have sex [EDIT: Six! Six years’ worth! Aargh!] years’ worth of college education behind me, much of it a liberal arts education. It’s also ironic because, generally speaking, there is often an inverse correlation between degree of schooling and tendency to adopt socially and religiously conservative views; those who have a liberal education are, statistically speaking, more likely to talk about, and live, in unconventional ways.

Y’know, sometimes I just don’t get the way people think.

Flowers on the razor wire: or, how the weekend went

The catholic girls now, stark in their dark and white
Dread in monochrome, the sisters of mercy
High tide, wide eyed, sped on adrenochrome…

Friday, Shelly and I got gothed out and headed to Orlando to meet up with friends at a Sisters of Mercy show. Shelly now has a Catholic schoolgirl uniform, which she wore for the first time that night…and no, you don’t get to see any pictures, neener neener.

Good show, all in all. I’ve never seen Sisters before and never been to the House of Blues before. House of Blues is a weird venue, in that “corporate rock meets gospel with a touch of urban decay” sort of way; they try really hard to give the place atmosphere, honestly they do, but a corporate chain’s idea of “atmosphere” always comes off in much the same way (witness Sony’s corporate idea of “cool,” the Metreon in San Francisco, and you’ll see what I mean.) House of Blues is decorated in a kind of “folk art with a vaguely nonthreatening gospel theme and AK-47s” style, and features television monitors that run ads for HOB merchandise on a loop–even during the show. But I digress.

Opening for Sisters was a goth band called Warlock. Picture a group of avid, hardcore D&D gamers who get together one day and say “Hey, we should start a band! And…and…we’ll call it ‘Warlock,’ ’cause that’s like, the most goth name ever! And we can practice in my mom’s garage!” ‘Nuff said.

We are few, and far between
I was thinking about her skin
Love is a many splintered thing, don’t be afraid now
Just walk on in

We met up with smoocherie there. She’s decided she’s moving to California for sure, which means that the relationship between us is about to become long-distance.

And that right sucks.

She seems to be quite good at maintaining long-distance relationships. Evidence would suggest, however, that I am not. One could argue that we have a long-distance relationship now; she lives on one side of the state, and Shelly and I live on the other, a good several hours away…but we still see each other nearly every weekend. Opposite sides of the country makes that more…difficult. I don’t know yet how this will work.

I hear the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Love lost, fire at will
Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill,
I hear dive bombers, and empire down

My archnemesis datanode and I have remarkably similar desires for the world, all things considered. At the concert, we began negotiating a temporary truce, at least until such time as the Apocalypse comes. The idea of stalking him from within a steel exoskeleton across the shattered ruins of a post-apocalyptic world just seems so much more…satisfying than stalking him across a Wal-Mart parking lot, you know? And perhaps, if we learn to work together, we can pool our talents and help bring about that arclight-illuminated future nightmare of twisted steel and broken concrete that much sooner.

Besides, with the money I save on the swarm of self-replicating nanorobotic hunter-killer machines, maybe I can get a new G5 Quad computer this year.

Somebody tell me about the rhythm of the 4th floor.
This is the image, this is the place
Somebody tell me about the rhythm of the dance floor
This is the way the world will end

We spent the remainder of the weekend with smoocherie who has a Dance Dance Revolution pad for her Playstation. I’ve never understood the cultural phenomenon of DDR, much as I’ve never really understood the cultural phenomenon of “Friends” on TV, but Shelly seemed to think it was great fun. Somehow, things went from that to ballroom dancing, and Shelly (who’s taking a class in it) was showing some things to smoocherie (who’s planning to), and this involved me “being a guy” by, evidently, standing there and raising my arm periodically so that one or the other of them could twirl underneath it.

Which is an interesting metaphor for life, when you think about it.

Some people get by with a little understanding
Some people get by with a whole lot more
I don’t know why you gotta be so undemanding
One thing I know, I want more
and I need all the love I can get…

Sunday saw a PolyCentral meeting, which S was actually able to make. We realized that this represented the first time since I’ve been romantically involved with Shelly, smoocherie, and S that all of us have been in the same room together, so we took a picture outside the restaurant to mark the occasion:

I think it’d be great to get a picture of the whole extended family all in one place–smoocherie‘s other sweeties, S‘s other sweetie, Shelly’s other sweetie, and so on–but that would require rather a lot of travel, as at least two of those other sweeties live in California.

Long-distance relationships seem to be an ongoing theme here.

S is wearing a T-shirt reading “My boyfriend said I should be more affectionate…so now I have 2 boyfriends.” She has an online shop where you can buy it and other designs here.

You bought a mask, I put it on
You never thought to ask me if I wear it when you’re gone
Get real, get another
I don’t exist when you don’t see me
I don’t exist when you’re not here

Shelly has become disenchanted with the poly community lately, and I think I’m reaching that point myself. Part of the reason is that when it comes to communication the folks in the poly community can talk the talk but they often don’t walk the walk–poly folks stress communication more than any other group I have ever seen, but when it comes to actual communication, they’re lousy at it. Just trying to define words like “polyamory,” much less, say, defining relationships and expectaions, is met by fierce resistance bordering on hysteria in some corners of the poly community.

And part of the problem is that there is a certain approach to polyamory that seeks to box and contain things before they even exist: “Well, I already have a Primary relationship, and my Primary and I are reluctant to face our own insecurities and jealousies, so we’ll deal with them by making damn sure we let everyone else foolish enough to get involved with us that they are Secondary, not Primary, and that our Primacy will always reign supreme. Because, y’know, that’s the only way we can do this without being jealous, right?”

And lest you think that there’s a contradiction between wanting to define a thing and not wanting to box it in: defining a thing merely describes the reality of the form it has taken; it does not assign a shape to it.

Relationships are with people, and it is hard to see people for who they are if you’re too scared to talk about what you see and too jealous to let relationships take their natural form.

Sunday evening, S introduced us to some friends of hers (visiting, natch, from California). Her friends do not self-identify as “polyamorous,” and are supremely uninterested in having anything to do with the organized poly community at large. They are, however, cut in many ways from the same cloth as Shelly and I in matters related to romantic relationships; their refusal to identify as “poly” comes not from the fact that they’re monogamous but rather from a very similar frustration that Shelly and I are beginning to feel with polyamory as it is often practiced within the poly community.

Meeting them was absolutely delightful, and talking to them was natural and effortless. It’s nice, sometimes, to see a shared commonality in approach in someone.

I had a face on the mirror
I had a hand on the gun
I had a place in the sun
And a ticket to Syria…

We all–Shelly, smoocherie, S and her friends, and I–wandered around a shopping mall for a bit, then ended up at a combination ice cream shop/miniature golf place for a while. I realized that I haven’t taken a picture of myself since Shelly got at me with a set of electric trimmers, so I slipped into the restroom to rectify that:

I think I like the short hair. It’s…err, growing on me.

And finally, because this is LiveJournal and LiveJournal is ultimately all about pictures of cats, I give you:

Molly the cat, who spent last night sleeping in the dirty clothes hamper

Fun link o’ the Day: If Microsoft Redesigned the iPod Packaging

Apple doesn’t miss a trick when it comes to design. Their computers and consumer electronics tend to be stunningly beautiful–if you ever hold an iPod Nano you’ll see what I mean–and the same design sense carries through to their packaging, advertising, and other incidental design. I still have the box my iSight camera came in; it’s too beautiful to throw away. Hell, even the bags they give you your stuff in when you go to the Apple store are gorgeous.

But what would happen if the product packaging for the iPod, one of the most successful electronic devices ever, were redesigned by Microsoft?

This video seeks to answer that question.

Like life, it is funny because it’s true. Work-safe, with sound.

[EDIT]: The user who uploaded it to YouTube has now pulled it down. There is a direct download link to the .wmv file here. If that quits working, I’ve also mirrored it on my server here, but it’s an 18-megabyte download; please be kind to my bandwidth!