Sunday, February 28, 2010

A prayer for the broken

And this, my friends, is what happens when you play the Secret Game. I promise the snark, sarcasm, and funny stuff will be back soon.

Of all the compliments I've ever received, "
You're hands down the most honest person I've ever met" is one of my very favorite. Ask anyone who knows me well to describe me, and you'll most likely hear a lot of things about how unusually (and occasionally inappropriately) open I am about my life. I've told near strangers about everything from growing up in a weird cult to helping pull the charred corpses of little girls out of a car my brothers in the Corps had blown up with a Mk-19.

It wasn't that I was unaffected by these things. I just really and truly believe that honesty is always best, you can't heal from things you won't talk about, and that holding all the dark things in your heart serves only to stain and corrupt all the good that you might want to keep safe. So I have no secrets, or almost none.

As you might imagine, this leads to a lot of trouble when I try to play the Secret Game. The Secret Game is my name for the age old practice of asking someone you love "So tell me a secret about yourself" and replying with a secret of your own. It's a bonding thing, a way of expressing trust, and of course a lot of fun for the professionally curious. I have a dear friend who shares my love for this game, but it's always tough for me as I just don't have many secrets. And the ones I do have...

There are a lot of bad things in my past, and they still inspire a lot of emotions in me today. Sadness, anger, despair, hopelessness; even filtered by the nepenthe of time and healing, nothing can ever make the deaths of those little girls ok, or erase the suicidal misery I felt when I was at the worst of my depression. But I talk about them, and every time they lose a little of their power. But there was something I always held back...

Shame is a powerful emotion, but sadly the people who most need it rarely seem to feel it. For over 20 years it's been there for me, and unlike any of the other emotions the past brings up it was enough to stop me from being honest. And I hate that it keeps me from that principle, hate that it's so illogical I feel it, and I won't let it be that way anymore.

When I was 5, a family member molested me several times. It happened again about 4 years later, but by a stranger on an airplane. Before today I'd never told anyone that, and I always wondered... Did they hurt other kids after me? If I'd said something, would they have been stopped, and the others saved? I feel so much guilt, so much shame. And it's goddamned illogical, all of it. None of it was my fault.

In reality, I've gotten off quite easily. The abuse was incredibly minor (I believe inappropriate touching is the technical term), it came from both a man and a woman so if I have any issues they're at least equal opportunity, and it actually has resulted in some positive things in my life. Exceedingly protective attitude towards kids (and women for that matter), a great deal of empathy for strippers/hookers/sexy barristas etc (damn near %100 of the women in those trades were sexually abused as kids), and a strong belief in the moral necessity of resisting evil.

And, in what is perhaps an arrogant gesture, I hope that my talking about it now can help others. Given the incredibly limited readership of this blog it's pretty unlikely anyone will actually see this who needs it, but I feel like I need to at least make the effort. So if you've been hurt, and feel broken please just know... You aren't alone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Couple-y friends

In Roman mythology, both Romulus and Remus (Rome's founder and his brother) were fathered by the god of war (Mars) and raised by wolves. It was a mixture of their divine parentage and feral upbringing that resulted in the uniqueness of character that allowed Romulus to found one of the greatest and most influential empires in all of recorded history.

My own upbringing is not nearly as auspicious, but it has gifted me with what are apparently some fairly unique traits. I was raised... by women. Not in a "Heather has two Mommies" kind of way; I just had a very domineering mother and sisters and weak or absent male figures. Hardly an original situation, but the effect it had on me was a bit unusual.

You see, I'm a fairly manly kinda dude. Did a tour in Iraq with the Marine Corps Infantry, worked as a truck driver and in a machine shop, doing high end building maintenance right now, know more about guns than any other subject, and totally would not blame my wife if she left me for Felicia Day or Jewel Staite. Ok, so that last one more proves my nerd street cred, but still...

In two important ways I am very, very girly. The first is that I love babies. All kids really, but I get especially chick-like around the tiny people. I mean come on, who could not love those tiny little shoes?!?! Aside from the fact that all women seem to presume that a man who does not have kids but likes them is a pedophile, this has not had a significant negative impact on my life.

The second, however, has been causing some issues lately, so I thought I'd just talk it out a bit in the hope it'll be less of a problem. I also communicate like a girl. You want to talk about your feelings? I'm there. I really want to know about your parents, your siblings, your friends, your significant other, and of course the state of your relationships with all of them. When I say "How are you doing?" I really mean it.

In the case of the single girls we know, this is usually resolved fairly quickly. Elisa knows I love her in an amount that cannot be properly expressed without the use of scientific notation, and once it's clear I'm not hitting on her our friends generally find it refreshing that I care about them as a person and enjoy talking.

But in the dynamic of a "couples" friendship, things tend to get a bit more odd. There seems to be an unspoken cultural rule that when a couple is friends with another couple, the guys are primary friends with each other and likewise the girls. Of course there is some overlap: polite chit-chat, perhaps some help given or received, and so forth. But in the grand scheme of things the strongest friendship is with the person of the same gender, and their significant other is a far more casual relationship mainly based on proximity and interaction tied to the primary friendship.

The problem for me is, I really like my friend's wives. They're darn interesting people, and by God they're willing to actually talk about real things that matter to them. And those things generally don't include men in spandex whomping on each other over a ball of some sort. Heck, the dearest friend I've ever had is a wee bonny lass*. Although to be fair, she is pretty into football for some odd reason.

As one might expect, reactions to this are fairly mixed. For the average woman it's a highly unusual social situation. Generally her husband's friends are politely disinterested in her, and when they do show substantial amounts of attention it's often not for chaste purposes. I've had more than one girl who simply didn't know what to do with me.

So, to all the XX halves of our various couple-y friends, I apologize if I've made you uncomfortable. I'm not faking it to be polite, I'm not trying to hit on you, and I promise I really am just interested in your life. I'm sorry if it's a social situation your life has not prepared you for. Believe me when I say I know that feeling, and it's not terribly enjoyable. But if you can get past the awkwardness, rumour has it I'm a mild to moderately interesting guy to know.

* Before anyone gets all aflutter that I didn't list my wife as my closest friend, allow me to clarify that I'm merely using the correct terminology. Elisa means far more to me than anyone ever could, but we have a romantic relationship, not a "friendship." I would no more classify Elisa as "a friend" than I would smooch on one of my female friends. Totally different hierarchies of relationship.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Four things I should be doing

I was originally going to call this one "Four things you should be doing" but this seems so much less accusatory. :) These are all good ideas regardless of your age, political affiliations, religious convictions, or past experience. I'll be listing each item, followed by why it's a good idea and why I (and maybe some of you) aren't already doing it.

1. Start a garden.

Why I should: This is one has been on my mind a lot lately. There really is no negative aspect to it. A little bit of time, a little bit of money (more than offset by the reduced food bills), and you get healthy food and increased independence. What's not to love?

Why I don't: Living in an apartment, we don't have much space. Any food gains would be too small to have a noticeable effect on ye olde grocery bill. As well, neither I nor my lovely wife are any good whatsoever at raising plants. There is that old "practice makes perfect" thing though (a common theme on this list).

Conclusion: even if it's just a windowsill pot full of herbs, there's no reason not to try this out. And with the advent of efficient hydroponic and enclosed box growing techniques, even a small place can yield usable levels of food.

2. Shoot more.

Why I should: shooting is a perishable fine motor skill. Although the basics of good technique can linger indefinitely, it requires regular practice to maintain a high level of competence.

Why I don't: ammo can be costly, the ranges in this area are atrocious, and time is an increasingly scarce commodity.

Conclusion: owning/carrying a firearm carries serious liabilities (both moral and legal) with it. Being able to use it well is one of those responsibilities. And if you don't agree that carrying a gun is a vital part of being a responsible grown up, well.... wait til next post and I'll lay that out for you. :)

3. Exercise more.

Why I should: probably the most self-evident one. Regular exercise means more energy, better health, and a longer life (speaking statistically).

Why I don't: I hate running. Can't stand it, and spending a couple years in a job where I was legally required to run most days of the week only intensified that. The forms of exercise I enjoy (swimming, hiking, kayaking, biking etc) require more money and time. Even making a couple yoga classes every week (a personal goal) has proven to be annoying
to fit into the schedule.

Conclusion: find what you actually like to do, make it a priority in your schedule, and do it. :) New Years is coming up for the resolution making types.

4. Develop practical, non-job related skills

Why I should: when your car/furnace/AC/etc breaks, would you rather pay the the eponymous sumdood $80 an hour plus %50 markup on parts to fix it, or would you rather DIY (the sweetest three letter acronym in the English language after EOS :D )? And those are just the beginning: from cooking to crocheting, you can never run out of things to learn how to do (or do better).

Why I don't: this one I actually have a decent excuse for. I spend a lot of my time learning this sort of stuff for my job. None-the-less, I could still do more to expand my horizons.

Conclusion: books, youtube videos, website tutorials, community classes; never has learning so many things been so cheap and so available. Hell, even MIT is putting their class material online free for anyone who wants to learn. Take advantage of it, and stop letting people take advantage of you.

Well folks there you have it. A little window into what I'm thinking, and maybe some motivation for you to do some of the stuff you've been wanting to but haven't gotten around to yet. Sorry, I know the last couple posts haven't been my normal smart-assery but I suppose I've had some serious things on my mind lately. I'll try to get back to the nonsensical humour soon. :) Please feel free to comment here or on Facebook and let me know the sort of thing you'd like to see here, or any particular topic you might enjoy hearing my take on. Lord knows I have enough opinions to go around...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some news items of interest

Goldman Sachs predicts sharp increase in price of food and oil.

Stimulus creates 640,000ish jobs (yay!) at a cost of $320,000ish apiece. Can't wait for that legendary efficiency to be unleashed on health care.

Audio clip from the BBC about the possibility of rising inflation as the next crisis.

US housing "recovery" entering bubble territory.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Historical snobbery, societal changes, and you

I've always been intrigued by history. Partly it's the ability to see "how we got here" and some of the underlying causes for the way the world is today. Partly it's the many fascinating characters that people all those dusty old history books. And partly it's to learn. It saddens me that the teaching of history has switched from "what are the lessons we can learn from the past" to "person X did Y on date Z." A part of the larger issue with modern schooling teaching you "what" to think, not "how" to think, but that's a different post...

Especially interesting to me are the ways civilizations (Imperial Rome, Mayans, the Anasazi) and countries (Weimar Republic, Peronist Argentina, Zimbabwe) fail from within. The one question I always have about these situations is: did they see it coming? I'm going to go ahead and just make all the history majors cry here by over simplifying and say "Generally, no." Most people are not willing to consider that their personal world could change drastically and irrevocably. How much more reluctant are they to consider that their society as a whole could come crashing down...

This brings me to historical snobbery, another favorite subject of mine. Modern people (especially in America) tend to look at everyone who lived before [/random date generally around 100 years ago] as some type of hopelessly foolish and naive rubes. It's inconceivable to many that anyone who lived their entire life without electricity could have any wisdom or knowledge to impart. I mean, they didn't even have, like, cars and ipods and stuff. Of course they couldn't see it coming, they worshipped gods that sound like a bad soap opera! To us advanced modern people looking back it's obvious...

So how does this apply to us? Society in modern America is a hugely complex and interrelated system. ~1-2% of the population produces the food for the entire country. The bulk of the food most people eat comes from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The water we drink and use for sanitation comes from many miles away, and depends on stable electrical power being delivered to the pumps at the central water plant. Being able to get to the store to purchase this food requires open, passable roads. The goods getting to the stores depends on those same roads, and about a dozen steps in the oil extraction/refining/shipping process. All of these processes depend on enough people being healthy and willing to go in to work. Any disruption in any point of this chain brings all the others to a screeching halt. Most large cities have 2-3 days worth of food available, total. When the electricity goes out, the water stops. No food or water for more than a few days will cause societal disruption.

When I lived in Arizona, I learned that all gas that comes into the state originates from two pipelines. I learned this because one of them broke. Poor maintenance, inevitable wear and tear; whatever the cause, it was out for a couple days. Gas was being rationed, huge lines at the stations, some were out etc. They fixed it before it caused any serious societal unrest, but it did get me thinking about all this sort of thing.

Preparedness gets a bad rap today. It seems like a pretty simple and non-offensive concept. Be ready to take care of yourself in an emergency, grow your own food (as much as possible), generate your own power (as much as possible), have some extra food stored, be able to protect yourself etc etc. How could anyone object to this? I find it's generally guilt by association.

I'm a hardline Christian, so my atheist/Wiccan/gay/bi-sexual friends associate me with the pricks who use a veil of religion to justify their own bad actions and biases. I'm a conservative so my liberal friends assume I'm... hell, I don't really understand the way they think so I'm not sure what weird stereotypes they have. ;) I admit I do it too; I fight against it, but when a large percentage of a certain group think a certain way it takes real effort to look past the stance and see the kind of person they are. Of course, a lot of the time they really are as bad as you think so you can safely dismiss them... :D

All that to say, look past all the nuts and kooks who flock to this subject, and start evaluating what you need to be ready for. Have an emergency fund of 3-6 months of your expenses in case of job loss. Have a few weeks worth of food stored. Learn how to dry/smoke/can your food. Have an alternative method of heating your house, safely. Every major blackout there is at least one family that tries to heat their house with charcoal and ends up dead. Plant a garden. Learn some basic first aid/medical procedures. Open your mind, and consider that things may not always be the way they are now. If there is another economic collapse like the Great Depression, would you rather be standing in a soup line, or tending your garden?

Sorry about that

Howdy folks,

sorry about the long delay. Been trying to study and sleep more, screw around on teh intarwebz less. This has not actually been a great success, but it has nerfed my blogging time. Stuck in the house with [zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]swine flu [/
zomgwtfbbqteotwawkieleventyone]. Not a huge deal, except for the "supposed to be leaving to go elk hunting this weekend" factor. Not cool.

I'm changing the fonts a bit to make it more readable, let me know how ya'll feel about it. I'm going to try to be a little more regular about posting on here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Balog's guide to appropriate work wear

It has come to my attention that certain local retail shop girls are a bit confused by what is, and what is not, appropriate clothing to wear to work. You'll notice I'm confining this valuable life lesson to girls; partly this is just to piss off feminists, but it's mostly because if the average dude retail worker tried to pull this crap he'd be fired (and probably sued for sexual harassment) in about 15 seconds.

Let's start at the bottom and work up, shall we?


unless you are a stripper, those stilettos aren't a good idea. You're being paid to stand and walk for eight hours. If you choose to wear cool looking shoes that turn into medieval torture devices after more than 25 minutes of continuous standing, you lose any right to complain about your feet/calves/back hurting.


again, unless the job description actually calls for customers to leer at your bottom, this article of clothing should really cover it completely. A special note to the movie lovin' thrift store shopgirl who waited on me and my wife a few weeks back. You do realize boy shorts are underwear, right? Underwear implies you have something on over them, as they are not enough to properly cover you. Jus' sayin' is all...


Clothing is intended to cover your body. It cannot accomplish this noble task when it is transparent. As an addendum to this, wear a damn bra. Seriously. I know you're all "Yay girl power let's read Betty Friedan" and whatnot, and admittedly there ain't that much there to begin with but... It's difficult to have a pleasant chat about new films with you when your "shirt" is 1. the only thing keeping your nipples from joining the conversation & 2. moderately see through. Thin white shirt + very pale skin + nipples = awkward. Srsly.

Well folks, there you have it. A handy guide for our non-existent female retail worker readership. If you have any questions, please for the love of God don't ask me. I've already got eyestrain from staring intently at your face and nowhere else.