No longer as truthful as should be deserved, some names, places and events deliberately vague to protect identities that aren't mine

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

It finally happened.

It comes as a surprise to none of you, I know that.  It's long overdue as far as you're all concerned.

But to me, it was a big and oddly-troubling decision.

I've never liked UK politics.  I've routinely hated UK politics.  I gain some inexplicable fascination and amusement out of US politics even as a globalised world means its own actions no longer are isolated from my life; but I continue to consider this fascination a distinct and singular aberration.  I detest politics, in so many ways.  It is broken, in ways that for all our supposed intellectualism we are unable to solve or even simply alleviate in any way thus far.  I acutely despise a world that makes politics the demesne of the financially independent, or obnoxiously vocative.  That necessitates tactical voting.  Where associations collaborate to decide explicit rules purely for the purpose of intentionally bending them in every way possible.  Politics is a universal and unrestrained disaster.  And we deserve every grievance we get for it.

It's a decision I've been debating internally for a substantial amount of time.  Both that, and the fact I was even considering it in the first place both struck me.  I have generally voted Lib Dem, Green or Independent all my life, that 's no shock,  But to actively align, to declare myself; to involve myself; that was always unconscionable to me.

Credit must of course go, to 2 friends in particular, who have in large part, convinced me of the merits, not of politics, not of parties, but specifically of the Liberal Democrats.  They made no grand appeals to my sense of fairness, no late night debates over the social mores of our time, they in fact, said nearly nothing.
They acted.  They continued on with their lives as they always had.  And their passion and commitment, both unique yet clear and undeniable, was disarming.  I have met few people so openly, unapologetically, and plainly open about their beliefs on the world.  My ignorance was never made to feel awkward, nor did it result in avoiding discussing things around me.  Sometimes, they were irritatingly quiet when I wished they would say more, or explain more, to help my own understanding of my shifting views.   But they let me come to my own views in my own time.
I went to Sleaford and ended up delivering leaflets.  That's simple I guess.  But I went to Sleaford to see a friend, to spend time with a friend, not to help in a campaign.  He never asked me to either.  But I chose to.  Because walking up every driveway in an housing estate or quietly addressing envelopes at a dining room table was about spending time with a friend, and seeing passion shine forth from him pure as you could ask for in the world.

I cannot, and will not sit by and do nothing.
I wholeheartedly, completely, rabidly believe in the right to vote.  I struggle to understand the right not to vote.
I disagree with Brexit, and even though I can understand the viewpoints now better than I chose to at the time of the referendum (credit for that goes to another acquaintance of rare and special mention; one who I admire for being more intelligent than me), I still fundamentally disagree with them.
I was born in the era of globalisation.  I was born in the era of the EU.  I was born a citizen of the EU.   Even after Brexit, I will, in my heart and mind, if no longer on paper, continue to be a citizen of the EU.
There are people who will fight for that.  There are people who will stand up and be counted for that when the need arrives.  There are people who believe in a more global world.  There are people who believe in paying higher taxes to help society.  There are people who desire a more federalised Europe.   There are people who think the status quo is something to be suspicious of.  Not all of these people are Lib Dems; not all Lib Dems are these people.  But I choose now to align myself with people who display more passion for their beliefs than I ever expected to find outside of religion.

I do not expect the Lib Dems, or Labour for that matter to win this election.  I expect Brexit to still happen.  But I wish to be counted.  I am ready to be counted.  I haven't entirely worked out what that means past this, but after today, now was the time to choose.

This isn't doing much, at all, really, in the grand scheme of things, or even in smaller, less-conspiratorial schemes perhaps.  But for me, this is a bigger moment than it first appears.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

We, The Unwilling, Led by The Unqualified...

For those of you who haven't been following the USA Hockey/USWNT dispute, what's particularly despicable about this whole affair, is that rather than admit the failing, rather than pay for USWNT's equipment, or their disability insurance during the Olympics, rather than find equal sponsorship, or pay their athletes more, or hell, just on a yearly basis, USA Hockey have decided not to do any of this.

First when USWNT refused to play to secure equal rights as athletes, USA Hockey started asking all the women's hockey players in the NWHL. They refused.
Then, they started asking NCAA (Collegiate level) women's hockey players to go to the Winter Olympics, instead of the elite team that has been training constantly for the past 4 years. They refused.
Now USA Hockey are asking women's athletes from nonprofessional leagues including high schoolers to pit themselves against professional grade athletes from other countries, but they still wouldn't get disability insurance, and would still have to pay for their own kit.

The US Women's Hockey team is ABSOLUTELY SUPERB. They have medalled in EVERY SINGLE Winter Olympics since women's hockey was introduced as a sport and have won the World Championship SEVEN times since 2000.
They are paid $1000 a month for 6 months, every 4 years, during the Olympic season only. For this they are expected to train year-round, every year. When they travel to play, they are booked coach and have to share a room with a teammate. If they're lucky enough to have one of the very few NWHL spots available, salaries range between $10000-26000 a year, and these salaries were slashed to a 'we'll pay what we can' basis earlier this year due to league financial problems.

The men's team? Their initial pay from US Hockey is no higher, but they universally are pulled from the NHL,wherer MINIMUM salaries are $650k per year. They fly business class, get a room to themselves, and can take a guest, who also flies business. Their equipment is paid for at very top grade of what's available. The receive extensive and thorough insurances.
USA Hockey, which has a mandate to grow the game, spends $3.5million on male outreach and youth projects per year. There is NO comparable women's outreach effort.
The performance of the men's hockey team?
They've got Olympic silver twice and world championships silver twice too since 2000. The rest of the time they failed to medal at all.

This is so far beyond any discussion of 'unfair glass ceilings'. This is pure discrimination. US hockey refuses not only to provide the women's team with the same level of benefits and supports as the inferior men's team, but when challenged about it, have elected to try and REPLACE the women's team, even going far as to trying to recruit high school seniors in place of top level professional athletes. And it will continue to not offer any of those high school seniors the same benefits and support as the men's team.

Make no mistake, the women's team CONSTANTLY performs BETTER and achieves MORE, IN SPITE of not having anywhere the same advantages of a bunch of rich white men. The organisation that is supposed to help them have said its 'too expensive' to give those things to the team that is of a consistently higher, but ultimately female, standard.

As an addendum, US Hockey appears in somewhat of a panic today, as largely all professional sporting leagues in the US have come out against their position.

Worse will for US Hockey, they NHL Players Association has voiced its support of NHL players threatening to boycott the upcoming World Championships in solidarity with USWNT.

Sometimes the work isn't a cold dark place....

 However as a counterpoint to the above comment, A LOT of the comments I have seen re: the female athlete's position is: 'they should stop whining and do what theyre paid to do.'

Sometimes the world needs firebombing till humanity is wiped from the face of it.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Layers within layers within layers


It's a bitch.

In some ways, its amazing - the layers of impossible completely unrelated phenomena together with totally implausible but just real enough to be viable connections even the world's best mad scientists couldn't dream up in a hundred years - if you could bottle it you'd put quantum supercomputers to shame.

But its horrific.  It takes everything you know and experience and twists it in the most specific worst way possible to harm you and sow strife and doubt about what you know and what you've perceived and experienced. In ways and extents you never thought possible.

The slightest vague thought, slightly not heard utterance, even positive ones, leave wild open parks for paranoia to play in.  Each opening spawns hundreds of new possibilities and open points to connect. 

New information, about something completely different, even years later is then collated, and run against every single possible scenario your paranoia has ever come across, wondering not only does it confirm or deny that particular possibility at every event along the chain, but also, what new possibilities does it spawn off each and every data point that you hadnt previously considered.  And then rerun with your data and recalculate new possibilities again.  And then rerun and repeat again.  And again.

You can even have voices in your head saying you things that you WISH were true, but know they're not, but the just possible enough viability of all the other bad things means you suffer the foolish hope that this outside impossibility might be stand even a small glimmer of hope.

Or two things that are mutually exclusive, such as times and places that are mutually exclusive that you still completely believe both situations happened and contribute to the same narrative.

You believe that things started with the best of intentions went wrong along the line and fit into a crippling warped narrative that leaves you questioning your reality

When you try to determine reality your paranoia again attacks that process - is the subject upset because you think that lowly or them, because of the emotional nature of the discussion, or because that's the reality they won't admit to, or because of a multiple layer bluff of these?  So you model all four scenarios into your paranoid narrative and create 4 new possible timelines, that you then need to populate with paranoia-attached inference permutations of all the actual factual data points they subject provided.

The only way to combat paranoia is asking for objective factual observations of others involved.  This is quite hard for others let alone to then piece together yourself.  It so restrained.
Persons x and y were here.
They had phones out and on and I did/didn't see x on the screen.
It happened at y time.
I was with x and then said y (cross-reference with y's own statement)

Apply every single possible bias possibility from every known source, internal and external, and know context of persons/place/time/including theirs, your own, other people's and the difference in perspective.

Redraw narrative.  Reapply entire process to apply new and missed possibilities and connections. 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Hellenica Day 3

My third full day - tomorrow I leave, but not till late, and tomorrow my friend finally has a day off work to spend together.

We drive 75km there and back to drop my friend at work - a necessity so he can work at one of the more lucrative tourist spots whilst affording a house.

I'm shown the port of Piraeus and the coast road in the light - it was dark walking it last night, only the huge ferries were obvious.  4000 people a day to Crete.  The only other feature I previously was introduced to, also at night, was the cruising spot in the ferry park at 2am - Turkish truck drivers stay on one side, Greek ones on the other.   Alas it was dead - no fish market on Saturday night means no trade to drive the 'trade'

We take the long coast road to Glyfada, passing endless tourist restaurants opposite multiple harbours of sailboats and yachts.  Nothing too huge; nothing too outlandish, that remains firmly the demesne of the ferry and container ports, at least while there's no big cruise ship in town - its nearly the end of the season here.

I'm dropped at the Flea Market and pointed towards Constitution Square.  Never ending 'unique' craft outlets and tourist tat that would no doubt have my aunts haggling like the seasoned pros their heritage entitles them to.  I take in the National Park and actually go into the Zappeion this time - a Russian cultural programme is being held - a photo exhibit and later a series of music performances which I return for.  I'm much more a fan of the Russian music tradition than Greek and the weather and setting of the Zappeion lend themselves well to outdoor performances with a wandering audience.

A circuitous route down to the Metro station adds to the km walked again today - my shoes become marked even whiter from my travels.   Back at Piraeus I manage to navigate enough Grenglish to order myself some souvlaki for another late lunch/dinner before starting the 5km uphill walk to my friend's house - no one parks with their wheels towards the curb; this seems almost sacreligious.  As I pass the Greek Orthodox churches (increasing in density as I travel away from the tourist port area) they are calling people to Sunday evening prayers - 1900, a little later than the British tradition, but not perhaps surprisingly given the warmer climate and longer sunlight hours.  Flashes of gold glitter at me from inside the churches and the spiritual side of me wishes to go in, observe, and join the service - to experience and feed on the spirituality of others which thereby renews my own.  But I've not had a confident day; I realise I know nothing of the Greek Orthodox tradition; I'm in an almost exclusively local area by now; and I'm wearing my bleachers which are hardly appropriate; I do not wish to offend or intrude upon the importance of the ritual of attendance and service for those who's place this is, so I move on.  I'll obtain my spiritual fulfillment another day.

Exhausted at home, I sleep for 2h before needing to go pick up my friend from work.  I drag myself up and get changed again before heading out - the 30km over the last 48h is making itself known.  As are insect bites from a rest in the National Park earlier.  A memory surfaces.  Exhausted whilst on holiday and yet going out - both me and my ex always tired from our various trials each day - both always forcing a way to drag ourselves up and out.  To see each other in the brief time we had, to see others when we had the rare chances, to rescue those who always seem to need it from boys barely holding on themselves.

I think I'll lie in tomorrow.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

What a game!

***Publication of this post was intentionally delayed significantly from time of writing as it brought several unseen advantages; if you don't know, you won't be told why, but the points still stand fairly even without full context***

I've taken a much more considerable and closer interest in the Rio 2016 Olympics than I did in the London 2012 ones - I pointedly and almost completely ignored the 2012 ones with a few minor exceptions.

I was, controversially, against London hosting the 2012 Olympics from the start - I remember specifically refusing to sign several petitions etc in the street when the country was trying to bid for it and demonstrate interest.  I didn't think it was a good use of money, I didn't think it would do the things it said it would, I thought it would run over budget and cause massive disruption.  Some friends I knew at the time who were involved in sports the UK considered minor at the time but were Olympic events did point out it would bring increased investment to their interests, and that was a very fair point that gave me pause.  It did.  Not as much as promised, or hoped for, and the interest has more often than not waned in the time since Summer 2012, but it was something.  It also did force through many public works projects that were sorely needed, and would never have been progressed had it not been for the Olympic shadow driving them forward.  Many friends have memories of the London 2012 Olympics that I do not and a small part of me regrets that I don't have those.  I still, overall however, consider it a vast waste of money for the country.  Participation in the Olympics is great; hosting it is generally folly in my completely-not-expert opinion.  (See also here for a good primer on some of the many reasons I think the Olympics, and the IOC, are generally bad news for the hosts)

This year, several people I know were involved in Rio 2016 at various levels.  Almost all of these are people I did not know 4 years ago.  Some of them I have an especially huge amount of respect and admiration for - indeed we often disagree on many things but I have never had a conversation with them where I have not been overwhelmed by their compassion, intelligence, and perception.  As a result, I have found myself watching these Olympics much more, across several events, and taking a keen and personal interest in the outcomes.  And I've found myself enjoying them immensely.

I regularly identify as a gay sports fan.  I shouldn't really - it somewhat self-promotes bi-erasure against myself, but no-one would care about the straight cis white male side of me that enjoys sports, that yells at the TV, that applauds and cheers good performance by athletes, that armchair coaches and curses judges and referees for calls I disagree with.
No, the bit that makes me 'weird', or notable, as a sports fan is the side of me that likes sex with boys, and so in terms of promoting visibility of interest, it is the gay sports fan side that is important to make known.

I've watched many many more events than I did for London across a broad spectrum; some where my interest was personal, some where it just happened to be what was on and entertaining that day.  And I've loved it.  And it further drives my consideration that whilst yes, at school I hated sports, I was ill in many ways, I had life-threatening asthma difficulties on a regular basis, I was short and small and bullied which does not make for a great team-sports player, it's more to do with the fact that I never got exposed to the right kind of sports at school, and this has a huge impact on how as a child you perceive sports.
I concede, it wouldn't have exactly been easy to get me exposure to the kind of sports I would have enjoyed - ice hockey, skiing, shooting, archery, mountain hiking, air-racing.  These all require extensive, even prohibitive resources and are largely the luck of location making them available. There's also the difficulty of being able to take things at your own pace - partly something you only learn over time as you grow, but fundamentally something that doesn't lend itself to teaching a class of 30+ kids.
But as I've got older I've learnt that actually, I'm a MASSIVE sports fan.  Not in football or rugby or tennis or anything traditional (certainly in the UK), but when I get into a sport it shines through in an utterly unmistakable way.

Part of this is understanding of the technical parts of the sport - its farrrrrr easier to maintain even a passing following of a sport you're not that interested in if you understand how the sport works, what is easy, what is difficult, what warrants and deserves applause against other things, and sports commentary is very complex, usually referencing a hundred different names of past participants, recent and near-ancient history of teams, performance, events etc.  To an outsider its boring and impenetrable.  And there is, unfortunately, pretty much no way to teach this barring sheer exposure.  The speed and aggression of ice hockey was what caught my interest when I was a child, but it is 20 years of following it, supporting a team, reading game recap!s and scouting reports, watching plays and listening to the radio and having to imagine the action off the basis of it, that means I love ice-hockey, because I understand it.  I like skiing because I can do it myself and I know what it demands of the body and mind; I admire the technical skill and physics at play in archery and so on.

Throughout these games I've been motivated to find out about the sports I've been watching, to learn how the sports work, and as a result, I've thoroughly enjoyed them.  I now have even more sports to follow and keen a close eye on and that's GREAT.  But I will never stop being slightly bewildered at how much I hated sports as a child, and how much that was a great shame, because the passion that comes with following sports is something that's quite unique, and not quite replicated by anything else.

Luckily, hockey season starts in a few weeks...

(There was of course, the abhorrent Nico Hines story of a straight man hunting down athletes on a gay sex app and then posting the sordid details of it as an 'article' online.  I have skipped over this as, although from a gay sports perspective its the obvious major thing that occurred in Rio, it has been covered plenty enough by the internet, and I have no wish to drag it all back up again here; it's not relevant to the points I was making.)

Hellenic Observations Day 2

A random collection of observations from day 2.

My shoes are covered in dust - dry sandy soils mean it can't be helped.  Walking over monuments and ancient fields makes it even worse.  My shoes become stained a dry white from walking.  I like walking on holidays.  I like hiking in the heat.  15-20km throughout the day as I encircle and recross the entire Acropolis hill 4 times over.  It's a good hike, something I don't get in the UK - the weather isn't good and I'm allergic to half the countryside there and just not enthused by the remainder.  The last time I hiked this well it was Labor Day and I walked 20 miles through the Marin County headlands north of the Golden Gate and back down through the Presidio along the cliff line.  I miss such days.

Coffee is popular here.  Good coffee.  I saw but a single Starbucks in 15 miles of walking (also meaning the availability of free power to scam is limited).  Coffee is cheap (1€) and available 24h everywhere whether in the centre or suburbs - is the 24h culture a product of the warmer climate, or is London just truly very very shit at 24h amenities? (An ever constant gripe of mine).  (As a side note, coffee is also awkwardly political, as its basically Turkish style coffee, but that's a dirty word, so here you have to say Greek coffee.  Because politics)

No McDonalds either.  A lot of fast food pita places though.  Not complaining.  Souvlaki has been my staple every meal except one.

The state of the economy is obvious.  Everyone talks about it to an effectively rich tourist like me.  Every street has multiple abandoned storefronts and homes.  Huge industrial complexes lie mothballed, the cost of recovering the equipment proving even too exorbitant.  Everyone here smokes - what is it about the seeming connotation between smoking (or drugs in general, be they socially acceptable or not) and low quality of life, despite the necessity for regular excess expenditure it creates?  There is graffiti everywhere.  I mean even on the abandoned shops next to the state palace (now parliament building) and on the fountain in front of the Zappeion.  There is no money to pay to employ people to clean it up.  Most of the shops I wander through outside of the tourist areas are run down light industrial and commercial - a fruit warehouse, car mechanics, spare parts for boiler repairs, phone and tech pawn shops.  I don't have a comparative point of reference, this is my first visit.  The middle class complains most to me - money they have but can't access, frustrated at having seen their quality of living drop so suddenly and dramatically despite their relative wealth.  But its a Saturday night, the streets are packed in my tourist free suburb of Keratsini, the youth of Athens and Piraeus out on the streets in their little groups and those around my age and older filling out every table in every restaurant.  If there's a shortage of money and rife unemployment you couldn't see it in the nightlife.  It's the harsh light of day that shows the stark reality of how many restaurants are surrounded by failed, vandalized once+competitors.

Friday, 30 September 2016

When not in Rome

Since I know this will be popular with certain friends (and to be fair I usually post such things)

First impressions of Greece as follows:
- Police here are hot
- Friend immediately took me to get food without asking.  This is a common feature of friends when they pick me up.  This is why we're friends ^.^
- Next highlights on his tour were the American Cemetery, Amusement Park, Jail, Cruising Ground, and Beach.  The guy knows me, clearly.
- The friend of his I'm hanging out with is apparently likely to also point out to me various cruising spots and other items of cultural interest
- This is my first time in Greece, so as someone who studied classics, I'm obliged to do the tourist thing at some point.
- As a linguist, I'm fairly ashamed I don't know any Greek at all
- It's also my first proper experience outside of academia of being confronted with, and trying to understand, non-Roman script on a daily basis, further complicating matters.  The emphasis of little prepared I am for this trip, linguistically speaking, is immediate.
- I suspect I may come away not having my bearings much or a good sense of how to navigate the city - my friend has a car and is transporting me around mostly.