Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The difference between boundaries and rules

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In a completely different context, I wrote about the difference between threats and boundaries.

At that time, there was a group of people who saw my boundaries as being threats. I think my distinction still holds.

More to the point, I think this distinction holds when you're talking about the difference between boundaries and rules. Boundaries are all about power over your own decisions. Rules are about power over other people's decisions.

Sometimes boundaries can seem like rules. "I am not willing to be in a relationship with someone who lies about their sexual partners", for an example, could be taken as a rule about someone else's behavior.

But that'd be wrong.

A boundary like the one above only states what you are willing to do. The other person can do whatever they like.  You're simply controlling your own body and destiny.

Intent matters here (more on this later this week). If you state something wanting to control another's behavior, it's a rule. If you state something about how you will conduct yourself, it's a boundary.

Rules - and really, anything wanting to try to control another - tend to fail. Boundaries, on the other hand, are something that only you control whether they stay firm or not.

Proceed accordingly.

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Everything Is Awful and I'm Not Okay, in multiple formats.

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As someone who has talked about their own suicidal thoughts in the past (whether about how hard it can be to talk about suicidal thoughts, or how people reacted in the military, or some of the things I do to help myself cope with those thoughts), you know that the post "Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay: questions to ask before giving up" would cross my radar.

It's a great list.

Trust me. I've used it.

Not only does that list exist as the text in that Tumblr post, but some folks have made it into a printable PDF.  (Thank goodness for Creative Commons licensing.) Others have asked if it could be made into an image for pinning to Pintrest, so I present to you the print-quality PNG of the PDF (click the image to get the hi-res version):

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Writing Music Review: OVERWERK

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It's probably a good testimonial that I've just picked up OVERWERK's latest album on Bandcamp.

OVERWERK is techno-infused electronica for people who typically hate techno music. He's a Canadian DJ that takes a lot of symphonic sounds and weaves them seamlessly into the techno beats. As a result, you get a series of instrumental tracks that have that percussive rhythm you need to get your blood pumping, while at the same time with the melodies you need to keep you from being simply bored.

I particularly recommend After Hours (embedded below) but all of them are quite good; most of his albums are on a "pay what you want" kind of setup with full previews, so you can definitely check him out risk-free.

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The Well Meaning White Guy (Which Can Also Be Me)

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This post is all the more needed because I unintentionally insulted a transwoman on OKC last week while trying to compliment her. And it was totally because I was blind to my own privilege.

I can apologize until I'm blue in the face (and I did), I can keep wearing #IllGoWithYou buttons (and I will), but that doesn't take away from the fact that my blindness to my own privilege meant that I insulted a woman and didn't even realize it.

One of the most toxic things about privilege is its invisibility.

Not to the people who don't have privilege. They're well aware of it.

Privilege is invisible to the people who have privilege. The ways that we (remember, straight white male writing this) move through the world are shaped by that privilege whether we want it to or not.

The structures of the world are like a giant game of Monopoly: it's just the way you play the game. And for people with privilege, the system works, after all.

And that's where the well-meaning ally often fails.

We come up with solutions - just report the rapist, just stand up to the guy, just use a nicer tone, just ignore "race" and gender, just be civil and polite to the cops.

Those solutions that really would work.

For someone with privilege. 

For the person suggesting it.

But not for the person who it is being suggested to.

I can track several milestones in my own progress in understanding how much privilege I have - and how different life can be for someone without that same privilege. I've made most of the same mistakes, suggested most of the "reasonable" solutions that would never, ever work for anybody who didn't have the same privileges as I.

But they were milestones. They were waypoints on the path to where I am now, on the path I'm still traveling.

It's still painful when I see other, well-meaning white guys (and it's almost always white guys) make the same mistakes and say the same stupid things I used to say.

I wish there was a way to bootstrap these folks into seeing why these plans wouldn't work.

But until then, I'm glad they're at least walking on the same path that I did.

The post, "Cloaking Device Off: Homophobia in the SF Community", is well worth reading, as is this comic, "On A Plate".

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Writing Music Review: Big Robots, Big Cars, and Big Monsters

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That's right folks, this week we're going to go big or go home.

There's two movie soundtracks that are must buys of the last few years:

If you are somehow not familar with these two, it's Pacific Rim and Mad Max: Fury Road. Not only do I highly recommend both of these movies (really, really recommend both), but they both have frakking awesome soundtracks.

Even doing something stupid like cable management seems epic when listening to the Pacific Rim soundtrack, and let me just say that you probably should not drive while listening to Fury Road.

Take a listen to each soundtrack and tell me it doesn't get you pumped. Both are great for writing high-impact action sequences. And you want to get the extended version of the Mad Max soundtrack. Trust me.

Click the movie poster to head to Amazon to buy 'em, or get 'em from Google or iTunes like I do.

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The Topical Changes In Science Fiction And Fantasy Has Nothing To Do WIth Sad Or Rabid Puppies

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The change in science fiction and fantasy over the last sixty years little to do with politics, and a lot more to do (ironically) with technology.

The current state of sf (science fiction) and f (fantasy) has a small vocal portion of its readership bemoaning the loss of "traditional" science fiction and fantasy. An oft-repeated quote is paraphrased as "Back in the day, when you bought a book with an astronaut on the cover, you knew what you were getting."

The historical accuracy of this impression, like much nostalgia, is debatable. But more importantly, it is irrelevant.

To understand why, we must look to the Ferris Wheel.

In my lifetime, the Ferris Wheel is a symbol of safety. The "relaxing" ride at the amusement park or fair. It was not always this way.

As The Memory Palace unpacks, the original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 World's Fair was a seen as an achievement to rival the Eiffel Tower. It was a thrill ride, not something safe and relaxing.

The difference, of course, is familiarity. At the time, there was no way for most people to experience being two hundred feet in the air and nearly unsupported. We simply cannot recapture that first amazing experience because that experience is commonplace.

Which brings us to the second bit of technology I want to mention: video capture.

We have cameras everywhere, with people filming - and sharing - nearly every experience. Want to hurtle down a mountain on skis? ParaglideFreefall from space? Those experiences are only a click away.

These images are not the same as being there... but they do activate some sense of being there.

There were reports of early cinemagoers fearful of black and white images of trains hurtling toward the screen - something that seems ludicrous to us today. Likewise, the early 3D attempts seem hilariously primitive...but *were* effective when premiered.  And our technological prowess has only grown.

It is arguable, that we're almost at (or have reached the point) where we can represent almost any image on screen.

Which brings us back to SF/F literature.

I read Rendevous With Rama only a few years ago. It is a book built entirely upon worldbuilding and exploration. Like this classic of Clarke's, much of classic SF/F is built on portraying things that we couldn't otherwise experience. Elves. Non-humanoid aliens. Massive starships. Giant armies.

You know, things that CGI can easily do.

In an unpublished essay, Peter Watts made this compelling argument:

Back then, with very few exceptions, there was only one place to go if you wanted sheer eyeball-kicking sensawunda, and was the written word. Iain Banks bragged that his Culture novels, by virtue of their epic scale, were "unfilmable" and, back then, they were. The human imagination, it seemed, was the ultimate special-effects engine.\
That was then.
But the movies achieved verissimilitude in the depiction of space travel forty years ago; since then, only hyperreality will do. We're not just watching epic space opera on our movie screens; we're playing them, living them, in our game boxes.
And what did they leave us? What's the one thing they didn't think was worth stealing from science fiction?
Specifically, wild ideas. Mindbending ones. Dangerous ideas.
You doubt me? Pick up Star Wars, pick up Independence Day, pick up Mission to Mars or Jumper or Alien vs. Predator or any number of other big-budget sci-fi blockbusters. Turn them upside down and shake them, as hard as you like. Any ideas fall out? Anything more complicated than a bumper-sticker?

He's right, but I'd extend it even further: that it can examine ideas, people, and relationships.

And that's what we're seeing (even in Watt's own hard SF work). We are seeing authors portray characters that intrigue and interest them. Or as Ferrett Steinmetz put it:

I’d seen a hundred white dude leads before in fiction. When I read a book and go, “Oh, hey, it’s another hard-boiled ex-cop,” I put it aside, because I get little pleasure from repetition. My favorite books are the ones that show me something wildly new that I haven’t seen before.
To me, I hear “Indian trans character” and I go, “Wow, that’s new! I wonder how that would work!”  And I’m excited to read that, and to write that, if I have a home for that person.

And as always, speculative fiction is speculating about things we haven't seen, or can't see.

And ironically, what we speculate about, what we have left to imagine about in our literature is largely driven by movies and special effects on film.

Not puppies.

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The Three Sides of Goth Music

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As far as I'm concerned, there's three big sides to goth music, and I've got a recommendation for each type for you today.

First, there's the death/doom metal side, and for that I've got an interesting pick for you:  Mount Salem.  This female-led band is heavy, but without the oh-so-annoying deathgrowl thing that drives me up a wall.  Check out the official video for "Lucid" below:

Then you've got the dance/EBM side of things, which is quite nicely represented by the band Curse of Cassandra.  Check out "Binding" below:

And then there's the harsh EBM style, which is really nicely exemplified by Combichrist with the song "Sent to Destroy".  Combichrist is particularly interesting in seeing how their style has shifted from a more dance/EBM style to a much harsher style.

What do you think? Have I missed a major goth style? Or do you have band recommendations for any (or all) of the styles above?

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The Gentrification of Genre and the Coarsening of Literature: Where both shall meet

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"There's no such thing as a 'literary' genre novel," she tells me in between panels. "They just slap the word 'literary' onto any genre book that makes it outside of our ghetto."

My reaction at that moment let me know that I had changed.

Not long ago, I was far worse - openly scornful of literary works as being full of poseurs and navel-gazers, imagining those authors and readers layering their own insecurities and layers of symbolism onto fiction and poetry - oh yes, poetry - until that cigar was not only transformed from a cigar into a phallus, but into a monument to every deeply Freudian bit of pathos in one's soul.

But things have changed.  And I don't think it's because of me.

I don't think that literature is like that any longer.

Those poseurs and navel-gazers exist, yes. They may be the most vocal (and obnoxious) elements of "literature". They may be deserving of every bit of scorn... but they are not literature.

I had the chance to ask Joyce Carol Oates what she thought the difference was. She offered this analysis:

"Genre fiction ends resolutely and clearly; literary fiction can end ambigiously and irresolutely."

At first blush, this is a useful distinction as well - there's no argument that, say, Star Wars or any episode of Star Trek does not end cleanly. The pulps definitely had clear resolutions while literary fiction did not.

I don't think that's the case any longer either.

There is a growing body of fiction that gets called "interstitial fiction" that inhabits that space between literature and genre. That body of fiction has grown large enough, I think, that we can begin to look at these classifications1 as more of a spectrum.

Certainly there are stories and books that firmly fit on either side... but there are more and more that are inbetween to some degree.

The lines are blurred, and as genre writers experiment with the fancy plating and etiquette of literature while literature writers incorporate simple pleasures into their own works, we end up with more and more fusion as each style informs and enhances the other.

And this is a good thing.


1 Originally developed to know where to shelve books...which is less of a problem these days.

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On His Flaming Phallus Substitute (or "Why Does It Burn When Vox Posts?") and The Whole Tor Thing

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 I'm posting this comment on my own blog, since B-movie villain Vox Day seems to be all keen on trying to attribute words to other people and organizations.

So Jim Hines did a great job (as usual) of recapping the current "Tor Mess".  You should read that first, if you haven't already.  TL;DR: Vox Day, or Theodore Beale, made a screencap of a comment on a private FB page and then tried to get folks riled up at the commenter's employer.

Vox asks:
"Why does it burn when I pee?"
Here's the key part I want to address of our resident "Doesn't Realize That Profile Pic of a Flaming Phallus Substitute Reminds Us of Syphilis"'s recent actions, and why I'm (dismissively) calling him a B-movie supervillain.

Vox (or Theodore Beale) revealed that he had held on to the screencap in question for weeks for maximum effect.  To quote what he told File770 (source):
I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the “sinister plotting”, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.
So here's the thing.

I think Beale got a case of the supervillain soliloquy when he made that comment on File770 - because it tips his hand.  It clearly shows that this isn't real outrage.  He's not really upset about what was said.

Vox's actions are a deliberate, orchestrated, premeditated attack on a person and group that he has a beef with.  This isn't about beliefs or values.  It isn't about anything in fiction. This looks like nothing more than sociopathic pique, spite, and bile.

As Jim pointed out, this all happened almost exactly two years after his Flaming Phallusness was the second person ever to be ejected from SFWA. (Note: I called for his expulsion as well. Some context at this blog post: )

Which makes the two-year anniversary thing so interesting... since his soliloquy about how his posts could hurt SFWA's reputation was a key part in demonstrating that his actions were premeditated in trying to hurt SFWA.

Again, I will repeat my call for those who were/are on the Puppy slate to at least  publicly repudate the actions and statements of Vox Day/Theodore Beale.   If you needed any more evidence that he, at least, is acting out of sheer spite and cold-blooded malice instead of whatever principle you hold dear, this was it.

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A quick note to those on a Puppy Slate

[Edit to add a clarification/tl;dr: from the comments]

TL;DR: Hey, nominees, your silence is being read as agreement with everything that Brad and Vox and Wright are saying. If you don't agree with that, you probably should say so.

[end edit]

Hi.  I know some of you, some I don't. 

I do not particularly care at this point if you knew what was going on when you got on a Puppy slate. And I'm not going to ask that you withdraw. 

I am going to ask that you take a stand. 

Because it is pretty clear at this point that the leaders of the Puppies will try to speak for you (as Juliette Wade discovered here: ).

And this creates a problem for you. 

Because the head Puppies (and Mr. Wright) are espousing some pretty hateful stuff.  

And yes, Brad, it's now documented that "[you] don’t mind being linked to Vox, because I don’t hate and fear Vox like a little schoolgirl who’s been stung by a wasp.”, so when Vox asserts “White American men simply don’t rape these days. At this point, unless a womann [sic] claims it was committed by a black or Hispanic man she didn’t previously know, all claims of rape, especially by a college woman, have to be considered intrinsically suspect.”, that means you don't mind being linked to that kind of racist crap. 

Though Torgenson has gone off the rails a bit as well. 

Which brings us back to the other people on the Puppy slate. 

I'm not asking you to withdraw your nomination.

I am asking you to take a stand against the racism and sexism and homophobia that the most visible Puppies seem to enjoy (or enjoy being linked to).

Not some feeble "let's all get along" speech, but simply taking the time to denounce racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia.

Because right now, whether you like it or not, you are linked to racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia.

And in this case, silence means that you're okay with that.


Using Tasker to Sign Into WiFi Networks on Android (including Lollipop)

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One of the frustrations with the Lollipop update was actually supposed to be good for users:

Yes, Smart network switch.  It's actually described really well right there.  And ideally, it works great.

Except for one thing.  When you have a network (say, at work or at a coffee shop) where you have to accept terms and conditions.  Then, the OS is smart enough to figure out that you can't connect to the internet via WiFi (because you haven't accepted the ToS), so instead of presenting you with the login page, it automagically switches to mobile data.

Which, um, is not smart.

So I've come up with a solution using Tasker (and nothing but Tasker).

Tasker is a paid app, but well worth the cash.  Yes, it has a huge learning curve, but it's totally worth it.

My solution is made up of a profile and two tasks:


The profile that is called upon connecting to any wifi network


Calls . If the response is anything that doesn't make sense, it sets the variable %IPaddy to ; otherwise it will return with the valid address.


Calls checkip and if the result is, launches Chrome, then afterward calls checkip again to set the variable properly.

Installation is like anything else for Tasker. Once you've installed Tasker, navigate over to the Tasker wiki page for WiFi Login: (be sure to click the "Files" button to see the files) or my GitHub page for Tasker stuff: .

If you're having trouble importing stuff into tasker, check this video out:

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Writing Music Review: MoMaMusic/Tim Bryant's Melodic Dubstep Mixes

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I've spent the last few writing music posts focusing on dark stuff, so I thought I'd spend a little bit of time highlighting one of the happier and nicer finds lately - the melodic dubstep mixes put together by Tim Bryant.

The key here is, of course, melodic.  While there are definitely some drops to keep things interesting, these mixes are just dynamic enough to keep you going while soothing enough to file off the rougher edges that dubstep can have. As Tim says in the comments, enjoy the mellow side of dubstep.

But as with all of these, don't just take my word for it;  below you can hear them on YouTube, or you can download the mixes from Tim Bryant's Facebook page.

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Updated and Expanded #Origins Schedule

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My schedule for Origins has been altered - well, expanded - somewhat, so it's even easier to catch me at the convention.

Here's the panels (and reading!) I'll be at this weekend:
  • Thurs June 4: 12:00 – 12:50     A Writer's Group is Not Just A Group of Writers: C223
  • Thurs June 4: 15:00 – 15:50     The Short Story and You: C223
  • Thurs June 4:     19:00 – 19:50 Story Hour: C222
  • Fri Jun 5: 13:00 – 13:50 Writing From A Feminist Perspective: C223
  • Sat Jun 6: 10:00 – 10:50 Worldbuilding 101: C223
  • Sat Jun 6: 11:00 – 11:50 Learning To Tell Stories Through Role Playing Games: C223
  • Sat Jun 6: 13:00 – 13:50 Social Media 101: C224
  • Sat Jun 6: 16:00 – 16:50 Flash Fiction: C223
  • Sat Jun 6: 17:00 – 17:50 Diversity in Speculative Fiction: C223 - Speculative Fiction: C223
  • Sun Jun 7: 11:00 – 11:50 Crowdfunding Your Novel: C222
  • Sun Jun 7: 13:00 – 13:50 Mysteries, Reveals, and Twist Endings: C222 
Pretty much the rest of the daytime I'll be in the dealer's room!  I look forward to seeing you there!

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A Few Thoughts On Mike Huckabee (with animated GIF action!)

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You might not have heard of the latest quotable thing Mike Huckabee said.

Let me fix that for you.

See, this guy said - and we are quoting here:
"Now, I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE," Huckabee said. "I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.'"

Is this horribly insensitive to transpeople?

Oh hells to the yes.

Does it display a complete disregard to the discrimination, self-hatred, and violence that transpeople deal with on a regular basis?

Oh hells to the yes.

Here's the thing, though:  Mike Huckabee is 59, and so considerably older than me.  And I remember what it was like growing up.  The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was considered horribly racy.  The women's underwear section of the J.C. Penny catalog was prized material, let alone Victoria's Secret. If I wanted to see a woman's naughty bits (and as a straight teenage male, I did), I either had to somehow get my hands on a paper magazine or try to squint really hard at this:

So maybe, in his stupid, ignorant, privileged way, Mike Huckabee somehow thinks that pretending to be transgender would be "worth it" if he got to see some woman's naughty bits.

It's possible.

...but not likely.

But see, here's the thing, Mike.

These days, there's this thing called the internet.

Fabulous thing about the internet.  You can't throw a goddamned stone here without finding pictures (and video! and live! video!) of naked people.

And this is a good thing.

Because it clearly demonstrates this whole "pretend to be trans to see people naked" thing is so much bullshit.

If Mike Huckabee is so desperate to see naked women that he'd risk the discrimination, threats of violence, and suicide risk of being a transperson... maybe someone should just show him how to google images of naked women in the shower.  (NOTE: The link does exactly that!)

Or maybe Mike Huckabee is just a douchebag pandering to transphobic people so insecure in their own sexuality and gender identity that they have to worry about someone else's.

Yeah, it's probably the latter.

There's no real correlation - either way - between porn consumption and sexual assault (reference, full pdf); that said, given Huckabee's statement above, I gotta think that maybe going to PornHub and searching "shower" might just work for him to get his jollies.  You're welcome for that mental image.

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The Relationship Escalator and Certainty In Relationships (Questioning is hard, but good)

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I saw this cartoon about the relationship escalator on Facebook, where a friend had posted it "friends-only"... which meant the rest of you couldn't see the attachment.1 

[Edit: This comic is from Kimchi Cuddles.]

So let me share this with you here:

If you didn't get it from the context, the relationship escalator is the idea that once you start on a relationship, it escalates automatically through various stages, signified by rituals like "the kiss", "sleeping with", "moving in", "engagement", and so on.2

If you want to read more about the relationship escalator, SoloPoly and PolySinglish have good writeups.

But this isn't a poly thing;  it's a relationship thing.

One of the things I really like about the advice that poly folks give (and the way most poly folks think) is the actual examination of the "automatic" things our society tells us to do or feel.

I think that's a wonderful attitude to have with a relationship.

And this cartoon is also important to me in another way - again, regardless of what configuration of relationship you have.

Look at it again.  Not as an examination of the concept of the relationship escalator, but as problem solving among people who care about each other.

The blue-haired person says:  " things just stay casual forever? I don't want that."  They're expressing their boundaries and fears.

In a really hard-line way of looking at boundaries, that might be the end of the conversation.  Blue-hair doesn't want casual, so BOOM, there goes the relationship, since black-hair doesn't want exactly the same thing.

In that hard-line way of looking at boundaries, black-hair would only have two choices:  get on the escalator or detonate the relationship.

It would be a showdown of ultimatums, a drama-filled, anxiety-ridden turmoil.

But that's not what happens here.  The black-haired person hears the underlying concern:  that blue-hair wants to hear and see and feel that they're loved.  And they suggest a new way:  "Tell me all the other ways you can hear [that I love you] besides for [sic] living together & hanging out every day."

Black-hair isn't meeting blue-hair's false dichotomy... but black-hair is definitely trying to address blue-hair's needs and desires while respecting their own.

When one partner offers that kind of a dichotomy presented as a boundary ("Do X or else I have to do Y") there really may not be any other way to get around it.

But I think that's the rare, rare, rare exception.  We think it's common because we're afraid of what our partners might do.  We're afraid of what they might not do.  We want guarantees and certainty... even if that might not get us what we really want.

Which brings us back to the relationship escalator.  It's a false promise - a promise of certainty, of guarantees.

But they're illusions, too.  Divorce, breakups, broken engagements, and moving out are very, very common.  I think that relying on that illusion of security, those symbols and rituals, make us more complacent and more vulnerable than actively looking and examining what's going on.

I'd rather have a partner where our relationship was based on what we actually felt rather than where we thought we were expected to be.

I'd rather have a partner who knew and worked on their failings than one who pretended to be perfect.

Because when everything is uncertain, when everything is risky, those who know how things really are with themselves and their relationship are a far, far lower risk than those who just want to pretend that everything's okay.

1Unfortunately, I didn't get the source for the artist - and TinEye couldn't dig it up -  so if you know, please let me know so I can credit them.
2Obviously, in our society, not all rituals are necessary for all folks... but there is a common thread.

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I just finished watching season six of Community.

There is really only one thing to say.

This show hit me in the feels so often, so well, and so hard - while having me laugh my ass off - that I can't appreciate it enough.

Other to say:


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