I Call Bravo Sierra

Common sense isn't very common.


Posted by Keen Observer on June 13, 2013

OK, so I’m confused: several of my posts say that the comments are disabled when viewing them, but in edit mode, the Allow Comments check-box is on. What the hell is up with that? I’ve done a quick search online, but I can’t seem to find anything that specifically addresses the issue. I’ve tried toggling the comments off and on again and updating the posts thusly each time, but there’s no change. How does this happen, and how do I fix it? Stupid WordPress.


Posted in general, stupidity, technology | 1 Comment »

On Friendship – Part 2

Posted by Keen Observer on May 21, 2013

I didn’t really plan to write this one, but the basic point I want to make has been rolling around in my brain for a few days, so I thought I’d kick the hornet’s nest and see what roils out. Usually, it’s more than I bargain for.

I used to think, pursuant to some things I had learned in school and elsewhere, that the optimal solution in a relationship was to be the best friend of whomever it is you choose to love. As a result of recent events, both in my life and in others’, I now no longer believe this to be true.

The common wisdom seems to be (to my eye) for a couple to be each other’s best friend, to be the source of all support and validation, the keepers of secrets, the discussers of weighty matters and problems, the accepters of all that makes us…us. This seems to be reasonably sound in theory, but I find that in practice this falls short, and it can, in fact, be somewhat damaging.

In a good relationship, things are usually fine, and this sort of issue generally comes up but rarely or inconsequentially. However, if a relationship is less-idyllic or trending sour–but still has value to both parties–with whom does one confide, if one does not know how to approach some issues with one’s partner? Parents or siblings are sometimes “outs”, or perhaps a clergy member (if you’re into that sort of thing). Some friends can be good friends enough that you feel comfortable talking to them about deeply-personal, potentially-embarrassing problems. But for people who make few friends, and who rarely have casual friendships, this is not a likely situation: private people don’t like sharing such details very much, especially if any of the details may show us in a bad light or create a sense of weakness or humiliation.

This is where a best friend comes in really, really handy. Some wag long ago said that a best friend is someone who knows all about you but loves you anyway. This is partly why I now think that this a critical resource to have outside your relationship. Your best friend–if you are lucky enough to have one–isn’t going to judge you and find you wanting for discussing your embarrassing (or whatever) problems with him/her; a true friend will be what you need him/her to be…listener, advisor, sounding-board, reality-checker, second-opinionator, tell-me-if-I’m-overreacting-er, calming-down-er-er, and so on. Even sometimes just a friendly voice on the other end of the phone call when you’re feeling too frazzled to deal with something just now, and you know you’re not in a stable frame of mind. I think this is a critical component of keeping peace, communicating well, and solving problems effectively in a relationship.

My reasoning is that sometimes, your confrontations with your significant other (SO) can become too emotionally-charged or too heated, and rationality can fly out the window. Stepping back and talking to a friend before saying something you can’t take back can often cool you down enough to make better sense of whatever problem it was that set you off, even if it’s just from the time it takes to step back and call your friend. Most of the time, your friend will support you and validate your position/feelings; many times, he or she will ask a question about the story being told that makes you stop and think about something a little harder than you had. Sometimes, your friend will even be strong enough to say, “I think you’re in the wrong here, bud,” which is a resource beyond price. But you have to be strong enough to accept such criticism. Sometimes, it’s not a heated exchange with your SO: sometimes, you’re just confused as to what to do, or you don’t understand what your SO is saying very well, and you know you’ll both just get frustrated trying to get to the same terms of reference to be able to resolve things without resorting to vases and dinnerware. A best friend can help you navigate those waters better without things blowing up in your face. They still might, but the odds are much lower, and you can go back into that conversation with your mind clear and your emotions more levelled. And as a side benefit, your friendship also grows stronger as a result.

And a best friend can also serve as just a general pressure valve, helping you keep emotionally grounded by talking about things that are just minor things of no real consequence, some of which you know your romantic partner has no interest in hearing about, despite protestations to the contrary. You don’t need to worry about that sort of conflict–or boredom–with your best friend, because you and your best friend are generally on the same page…connected on a very close level, but differently from the one shared by you and your SO. And talking about what’s bothering you can help you decide that you just have to bring some of these peeves to the attention of your SO before they become real problems, or it may turn out that hashing it out with your friend can make you realise something was really No Big Deal after all and set your mind at ease.

Nor is the role of best friend restricted to bad things. A best friend is also the receptacle for all your wondrous news and items of interest that might also bore a lower-quality friend to tears…or fly them into paroxysms of annoyance. These can be crazy fun to discuss, too, depending on the subject matter and level of shared interest…or opportunities for the gentle mockery and teasing that exists between true friends. And one of the reasons for this need is that people are, by their natures, fairly gregarious/social: they must communicate with others; they must have feedback and validation. But the audience capable of true interest in these very personal topics–and worthy of the trust implicit in hearing them–is very, very small. There is no better source for that–and interest come by honestly–than from one’s best friend.

The other side of this is that each person’s SO must acknowledge that there is a best friend that may be hearing very personal details of their relationship, which can create feelings of awkwardness. But I think it’s also important for the SO to buy into this, because it relieves the SO of having to feign interest for some things, and it off-loads some of the drama/stress elsewhere, so that the couple can focus on the issues that are actually important in their relationship, and not “sweat the small stuff”, as the saying goes. This can be a “dangerous” situation, though, if the SO doesn’t buy into it, because the knowledge of someone else knowing what goes on behind closed doors can turn from a chip to a crack to a fissure to a fracture to a rift to a chasm. And we don’t really want that. So, that could be a dangerous shoal to be navigated: only the people involved can judge the correct course.

On the whole, though, I think having a best friend to talk to is an integral part of any successful, romantic relationship. And I think it’s something you don’t automatically think of or realise, until you go through a dying relationship with no one to talk to about humiliating and embarrassing details, because your SO was your best friend and had been for more than a decade. And then you start talking about them with someone who becomes your best friend, and you realise how much more sense it makes to be able to step outside the relationship and get some sober second thought. Or a few wisecracks. Whichever.

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship – Part 2


Posted by Keen Observer on April 26, 2013

Reviewing history, excising dross,
Cleansing me of my past.
Feelings of blue, kept inside,
Leak out with each memory.
Just like my eyes.

Posted in life, personal, poetry, Writing | Comments Off on Blue

Guns are tools

Posted by Keen Observer on January 13, 2013

Sandy Hook was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or its parents should have to suffer through what those people did. At least one teacher died a hero, not knowing if her efforts to protect her charges would be successful. People the world over could stand to emulate her behaviour.

Utoya was a horrible, horrible thing. No child or parent should have to suffer through what those people did. Premeditated murder of dozens of people not known to the shooter, while security forces were mobilised over a devastating bomb used as a mere distraction, is nothing more than psychopathy.

Both of these horrific crimes were perpetrated on innocent children for the most part. Both were perpetrated in so-called “gun free” zones, either by designation or de facto. The body count was much higher in Utoya, at least in part because the shooter wanted to kill as many people as possible In Sandy Hook, I’m not sure that was his goal. What was semi-ironic in this to me is that Utoya is in Norway, a country that has gun-control restrictions at least as severe as in Canada, and perhaps more so. Yet the shooter still managed to end up quite well-armed.

One thing that immediately leaps to my attention in both cases is how within hours, and wholly expectedly, the cries began to be raised before the bodies were even cold (or counted): Ban guns; Restrict Guns; Register Guns. In Norway, not much can be done, given the state if its laws. In the US, the semi-regular cries to make responsible firearms owners into criminals have taken on a fever pitch. Echoes of it appear in Canada, especially with the federal government recently striking down the legal requirement to register long guns that have been legally purchased.

The primary difference between gun-control arguments waged in the US and gun-control arguments waged pretty much anywhere else is this simple little sentence attached to their constitution via the amendment process:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That’s it. The sum total of Amendment II to the US constitution, and it’s been argued over since it was written down. To me it looks pretty clear: “…shall not be infringed.” People mostly seem to argue over the inclusion of the Militia into this clause, but to me, based on the structure, it’s only there as a preamble and justification for allowing unrestricted access of the people to arms. Any kind of arms, since there is literally no restriction to this element. Though a howitzer would probably be pretty awkward to carry around with you. In fact, my reading posits that the only constitutionally-valid option available to the Americans is registration and licensing. That’s it. And Amendment X already has allowed that in place on a state-by-state basis, if so desired. And just as a reference, the state of Vermont has the fewest gun laws of any state in the Union (including Texas), and it also has the third-lowest total crime rate. The only law they seem to have is a “must-issue” law, in that if someone asks to be issued a permit for ownership or carrying, one must be issued to them.

Now, it is possible that Americans would genuinely want to restrict this stuff constitutionally. That’s fine. There is a process in place since the country’s founding to amend the constitution. Knock yourself out. But until then, it seems to me that the hue and cry being raised is all about increasing political capital and/or statist control, and not about safety or the children. Because you see, there is little to correlate increased gun ownership with increased violence, and almost nothing to correlate it to mass shootings on any sort of realistic basis (I wish I could remember where, but I saw one statistic that showed Canada had a higher rate of school shootings than the US on a per-capita basis). I’ve seen a couple of recent suggestions, in fact, that gun violence correlates pretty well to drug trafficking more than anything else, and can be inversely correlated to the removal of lead from paint and gasoline. A different study correlates an inverse relationship between increasing gun ownership and decreasing murder rates in the US, using the FBI’s own statistics.

But among all the various studies, what it comes down to–in my not-so-humble opinion–is people. People will kill. People will kill (if they’re of a mind to) using whatever tools are available to them. Guns are handy, but so are chemical explosives or cars or propane tanks or edged weapons. Japan or China has had about eighteen separate mass killings with edged weapons in the last five or ten years (don’t remember that source today, either). The worst was about eight people killed with a meat cleaver. The truth of the matter is, you can’t prevent psychotics or sociopaths from killing…at least, not until they expose themselves, and then dang it if you don’t wish you were carrying that day.

There were about a dozen mass killings in the US last year. Twelve people showed how fucked-up nuts they were. Out of a population of some 350 million. To my recollection, only Sandy Hook got this kind of coverage or reaction. And there were about 9000 non-justified gun homicides in 2011 (based on FBI stats and rounded off). So, because of these people, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth to abrogate the constitutional rights of the other 349,990,988 people (roughly), or else “you just don’t care about the children, you monster!”

In Canada, some firearms laws have been on the books since about 1935, because we have no such constitutional protections. A recent study by an ER doctor, Cailin Langmann, showed an actual inverse correlation between the enacting of the three main stages of Canadian fireamrs laws and crime rates. The more restrictions put in place, the worse crime gets. Anecdotal evidence from other places shows similar results, in that crime almost disappeared in a Georgia town after a law was passed to require gun ownership by the head of household. The states in the US with the most restrictions–Illinois and California–are also the most violent states. But you won’t generally hear this sort of thing in the “popular” news media, because it doesn’t fit the narrative: “Gun Ownership is Evil!” In fact the news article I read about this in the National Post ridiculed the results as being suspect, because Dr Langmann is a known supporter of gun ownership…without noticing the irony that they said nothing about the contrary position being held by an organisation dedicated to ending personal gun ownership.

I wish that I owned a few weapons some days, but I’m not going to, not in this climate. Even though the long-gun registry has been destroyed (fuck you, Quebec), just applying for and getting a Possession and Acquisition Certificate (PAC) surrenders rights to the state that ought not to be surrenderable. Even if I didn’t buy a weapon after acquiring the PAC, the state now has the right to enter my home for any or no reason at all and search the fuck out of it…just in case I store a bullet next to a gun, or some bullshit. The laws are incredibly restrictive and do nothing for anyone. And I don’t want to deal with that. And then I’d always have to worry about using such a weapon to defend myself in my home against an intruder. There have been too many cases of people doing that and getting arrested for it, which is absurdly wrong. If I don’t have the right to defend myself by whatever means necessary, then I have no rights at all. And as some others have pointed out, that right was enshrined in the Diefenbaker Bill of Rights (passed in the early 1960s), and it has never been contradicted in law. However, it seems that the courts need a specific law to hold their hands and explain things to them, so the sooner a Castle Doctrine is enshrined in law, the happier I’ll be. But the registry itself should be a warning to Americans: it just won’t work. Registered firearms kill people all the time. But most handgun murders in Canada aren’t with registered weapons, because, you know, criminals don’t register their fucking guns! And though it’s easy to be accused of Godwinism in any argument, the comparison with Nazi Germany is valid in this case, because they instituted gun-ownership restrictions on the Jewish population. See how that worked out?

Beyond the hysteria of the gun-control crowd, it boils down to this: firearms are tools, nothing more. A weapon is inert and useless, until it is wielded, and it must be wielded by conscious act. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gun or a knife or a bomb or a fucking baseball bat or a garden trowel. It just lies there until someone picks it up and uses it. Guns are especially inert, because not only does the weapon have to be acquired, it has to be loaded with ammunition that also has to be acquired, aimed, and a trigger pulled. And you have to hit what you’re aiming at, which may be dozens of feet away. To me, the only sane response to crazy people on a rampage is not to be helpless before them, not to be out-gunned by them, and not to let the state make us all into victims by preventing that and preventing preservational self-defence. Because a gun in your hand can be an amazing equaliser, and for an assailant not to know who is armed and who is not makes them less likely to attack randomly. Psychopaths will still be psychopaths, but a rampage is a lot easier to stop when someone besides the shooter is armed. And that’s another key point to remember: “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” Police aren’t a preventative measure. They are there to clean up afterwards, and in some cases cause the problems (but that’s a different rant).

So let’s do away with the hand-wringing and pearl clutching and the “won’t someone think about the children”-ing. I used to hate the phrase when I was younger, but you really can’t argue with it: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But you just can’t seem to argue that proposition with the gun-control crowd. Because, “you’re an evil child-killer, you monster!” You can’t reason with the unreasonable, and you can’t argue someone out of a position they weren’t argued into in the first place. But hysteria serves no one, and I really wish it would stop.

Posted in American, Canadian, news & journalism, opinion, politics, stupidity | Comments Off on Guns are tools


Posted by Keen Observer on November 12, 2012

Memory:  personal memory, institutional memory, corporate memory, cultural memory, tribal memory.  These are the types of memories that living beings tend to be aware of, even if perhaps not all the time or in a consistent way.  But they are there.  I hope I don’t need to go into details on them, so I won’t.

Most of these—if not all—were consistently shared between individuals and generations in a largely oral tradition in times earlier than this.  Histories and fables, facts and survival/prosperity tips, and other such similar things were handed down to the general knowledge base or to specific, “worthy”, recipients.  Because of the way memory works, sometimes knowledge was lost, and sometimes less-valuable knowledge was discarded if favour of something better or more important.  This is evolution of a sort.

However, the advent of modern technology changed that somewhat.  It started gradually, but it eventually became the way that technology displaced the mostly-oral tradition, and it was thought to be progress or “better”.  One could argue that this change started with writing and tablets, before moving on to scrolls, but even in those cultures where these things arose, there would have been a significant majority of any population for whom this technology was out of reach, and thus would have had to rely on continuing the oral tradition.  These simple forms of technology were all there were for centuries, although as time went on, larger (though still very minor) percentages of the various populations would have acquired the use of these technologies.  It could even be argued that in some societies, the populace were deliberately kept ignorant to keep them under the control of their overlords.  I’m looking largely at feudal Europe, here, especially the iron control of the Church.  Countries like China and India and Japan had better literacy rates at the same time, I believe, even if there were entrenched class systems.

A seriously-significant piece of technology changed Europe (and the world) permanently in the middle of the last millennium:  movable type and the Gutenberg press.  In addition to aiding in the relatively rapid dissemination of knowledge to all and sundry, it had an additional effect on the human use of memory.  It started to become less necessary for people to remember things themselves, or similarly for the various groups of people outlined above to retain and pass along acquired or historical knowledge.

Jump ahead a couple hundred years to the present day, and that trend has almost reached its conclusion:  few  people or organisations remember any more than they absolutely have to to get by in life or business/whatever.  The word “memory” is not used as it was in the past, except in rare instances.  In fact, it is almost ubiquitous in its usage as a technological construct in the form of computer memory (RAM) or less correctly as storage (hard drives, thumb drives, optical media, and the like).  If you asked a random person on the street, “How’s your memory?”, you’re about as likely to get the answer in gigabytes as you are to hear that he’s been having a harder time remembering names lately.  We rely insanely heavily on other things to do our remembering for us:  books, journals, computers, disks, libraries, corporate manuals, legal codes, and so on.  And because other things do the heavy lifting for us, we no longer have to do it ourselves.  It’s almost become that a person with a good memory is considered freakish, it’s so bad.

Our memory “muscles” atrophy from disuse, and it becomes harder and harder to remember things.  When I  was younger, I prided myself on my memory.   It wasn’t eidetic (to my chagrin), but it was pretty good.  There were times when I felt I was just a hair’s breadth away from being able to visualise perfectly a page which I had read, to be able to pull out of that page the specific phrase I was attempting to recall.  Frustrating.  But since I started to rely on other things to remember that which I needed to remember, the less my memory itself was used, a gradual trend over the past couple of decades.  And on top of that, the older I get, the harder I have to work to remember things I should still know, and it becomes harder to retain new information that I am learning or need to know.   And this annoys the crap out of me at many levels.

I see this trend away from using one’s own memory as something occurring society-wide, on a fundamental basis, and I don’t think this is a good thing.  I also think I see that the pace of it is increasing, with increasing amounts of technology being used in the classroom as though it’s a good thing.  Children are being encouraged and taught to rely on machines to remember stuff for them.  Smartphones (e.g., with their memo and calendar functions) and thumb drives are ubiquitous.  Even diaries have a state of impermanence, being stored on media that can easily be destroyed in ways that written hardcopy cannot.  I think—and this is just my opinion—that continuing on this path is not only detrimental to people and society, but it is actively contributing to society’s downfall.  People that don’t remember things on their own will not be able to react to problems quickly; they will not be able to adapt and overcome, if they must continually stop to check something on their phones or look something up on the Internet.  This is a sort of recipe for disaster, if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, because we must as a society be smarter than those who would wish to destroy us, if we wish to survive.  It also has the effect of reducing the candidate pool for highly-technical (or other) jobs that require that sort of mental flexibility and awareness.  This does not leave me exactly hopeful for the continued survival of our society.

Just some thoughts about memory.  And right on a thousand words, too.

Posted in computers, general, life, opinion, science, stupidity, technology | Comments Off on Memory

Heartbreak 2

Posted by Keen Observer on October 31, 2012

My heart yet quickens at her voice,
The sight of her still thrills.
That ship has sailed, transporting hope,
But the heart wants what it wants.

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry | Comments Off on Heartbreak 2


Posted by Keen Observer on October 27, 2012

Inspiration both confuses and scares me, and for the same reasons:  I don’t understand it, and I don’t know where it comes from.  And I certainly can’t seem to control it.  In broadest form, I get an idea, whose genesis may be known or unknown.  If the inspiration is poetical, I can barf out a reasonably-good poem in a small number of minutes, but it can take longer, especially if the inspiration isn’t completely formed, or I struggle with some of the concepts that result from the inspiration.  If the inspiration isn’t suited for poetry—or my conception of it—then a different course might take place.  I have had “ideas” or “inspirations” that have resulted in an insane amount of writing from me, quite literally in the hundreds of thousands of words in the aggregate.  Some of this I have never finished and doubt I ever will, and it is unlikely to be shared.  Some inspirations have taken shorter forms—equal to a few typed, single-spaced pages.  Some you have read on this blog.  Some are novels that I can’t seem to get written, where I start to get the idea burning a hole in my head out of my head, but then once the form is out and typed, I can’t seem to sustain interest in the project.

I ran afoul of the ex, because she believed she didn’t inspire me, or inspire me “enough”.  Of course with her, that meant the damage was done, because if I tried to show her how inspired she could make me (and I did), it automatically becomes “you’re just doing that because I brought it up…it’s not real inspiration.”  That sort of reaction was just another nail in our relationship’s coffin, part of the no-win scenario I kept fighting.  But she did inspire me, no matter what she might have thought.  I just couldn’t seem to make her aware of it, and so I stopped trying to show her.

Inspiration, though, strikes me at odd times and places and in unexpected ways.  Hopefully, I can remember enough to get it down later, but sometimes I lose the ideas, to my chagrin.  Sometimes, the inspiration doesn’t pan out.  Those are really annoying, because they are like ear worms you can’t get rid of, and then you finally do, and it’s disappointing.  Those don’t happen all that often, but it’s enough to be annoying.  I try to capture these inspirational ideas in some form so I don’t lose them, but I’m not always successful.  Enough, perhaps.

My latest inspiration is an attractive young lady I know who captured my attention in a very convincing way and without really trying.  As a case in point, earlier today something about her caused an inspirational moment to occur.  When I finally got it down later, it took about five minutes, complete, and with which I am mostly happy.  And that’s just the most-recent one.  It’s still awaiting review, so I won’t post it here yet, but I will show another, wherein I attempted to be clever in sonnet form:

“How do I love thee?” seems at this remove
A trite and hackneyed phrase,
O’er-used o’er centuries past
To enumerate the innumerable.

“Shall I compare thee” similarly
Suffering the sin of familiarity,
Performs the oft-requested duty
Of comparing the incomparable.

The sonnets’ sentiments, though,
Inspire lesser poets to create
Words that fail just as well
To contain the uncontainable.

Your essence is too grand to be defined
By mere words writ within poetic lines.

This one I had to finish in a few attempts, but the basic form was there quickly, but because of the rhyming-quatrain form I had originally chosen, it required more work on my part (I mostly work in free verse), and it was late in the process where I realised that “insulting” Shakespeare’s best-known love sonnets would also be best done as a sonnet, even if it’s not strictly correct in form.

Another inspiration from a few days ago (the preceding formed a couple weeks ago) seemed like an amazing idea in my head, but once I started writing it, I ended up disappointed with the result.  The start was really good, with a nautical metaphor:

Your Soul is my harbour’s beacon,
A promise of safety and solace,
Now nearer, now farther, dimmer,
A constant glow on the horizon.

The course I steer I do not know—
Shoals and banks surround me.
I cannot see stars by which to steer
The path I must follow to your shore,…

Rather than working as I had thought, it unexpectedly quickly became self-piteous and melodramatic in a way I was assuredly not trying to achieve.  There are three more stanzas to this poem, and it took me about ten minutes or so to write out.  I’m not ready to abandon it, but it’s simmering in the back of my mind to see if something can be made of it (I hate discarding my work, even if it is bad).

So, I get inspirations, some of which I really like and are really good (in my opinion).  And occasionally, really long.  But I don’t understand it, and that bothers me somewhat  That’s really all I wanted to say, and that the previous post was about my ex, in case that wasn’t clear.  That, and if you like my posts/writing, you are allowed to comment.  First comment must be approved by me, but then you’re good to go.

Posted in general, personal, poetry, Writing | Comments Off on Inspiration


Posted by Keen Observer on October 18, 2012

It should’ve been louder, when you left,
A horrid sound for a horrid death,
Trains colliding, a building collapsing,
The universe imploding—or a gunshot
At close range. It hurt enough.
Instead, the door severed your life from mine,
Extinguished dreams, hopes…maybe love,
With a simple, quiet click.

Posted in life, love, personal, poetry, Writing | Comments Off on Heartbreak

On Friendship

Posted by Keen Observer on October 14, 2012

I’ve been feeling the need to write something here in the past couple of days, but I’m apparently horrid at keeping up with my intention to post more frequently.  Some of it is laziness; some is a lack of motivation; some is a lack of a good topic; some is time constraints.  There are probably a scattering of other reasons.  So, because a very dear friend of mine is supportive and encouraging of my writing, I shall write something that touches on her, but that is more general in scope.  I will offer some thoughts on friendship, starting without much of a plan and seeing where it goes.  Only time will tell if it’s coherent, or if the end has anything to do with the beginning.

I am not the type of guy who has lots of friends.  I’m not a social butterfly, and I tend to keep to myself.  And I’m also not the type of guy to maintain contact with someone who gives no sign that such contact is appreciated or wanted.  I like to have friends that reciprocate, that don’t think I take friendship lightly, that understand that few good friends are more important to me than many casual ones.  These are kind of critical for understanding my viewpoints, and so I mention them here.

There are different types of friendship that I’ve recognised over the years.  There’s a fairly wide–but simple–spectrum of them.  They range from the “nodding acquaintance” through to the intense BFF type.  Some of the other major types that I can identify include:  casual, school, work, shared-interest, good, dear, romantic, genetic, particular, best, and variations on the themes.

A nodding acquaintance is really anyone you’ve met.  You know them and don’t dislike them, so you’ll say “hi” in the store, and maybe have a brief chat if you’re not rushed.  There’s really not much “there” there, in that kind of friendship.  A casual friend takes that a step further: you might have a coffee and talk sports with them; Facebook friends would fall into this category.  These two type of “friends” are crucial, in my opinion, to be able to function in society, and I think they form the bulk of our human networks and interactions, even for people who are less than picky about their friends.

The next grouping in terms of closeness of friendship includes the work/school friends and the shared-interest friends.  There are additional levels of connection involved, and they are also fairly critical in operating in society.  School and work friends are just variations on a theme, and they are sometimes the same people.  These are the friends you make in those environments, but where the friendship does not often extend beyond the school campus or the workplace (nor might you want that to be the case).  Politics and news might form some of the discussions between such parties.  Shared-interest friends are similar, in that you acquire them by doing activities or pursuits that interest you (and them).  All three cases provide a basis to expand and grow a friendship, but only a very small percentage will follow that path.  Friends in this group may also change regularly, due to things like changes in interests, disputes, moving, and so on.

The next grouping is definitely more close.  Good friends and dear friends are similar.  Good friends have regular interaction and do things together.  Conversations can be far-reaching and intense, and there is a mental rapport that is often reflected in shared views on various topics.  There are generally more shared experiences.  A dear friend also follows this, but I believe there to be a stronger emotional component.  Genetic friends are relatives that you particularly enjoy spending time with or talking to, beyond what might be expected of family.  A particular friend is almost an archaic usage, but it pops up from time to time.  These I would define as a dear friend, but with a physical bond.  This might extend into a friends-with-benefits case, but it doesn’t have to. I would also tend to include friends with benefits/booty call friends in this general grouping, though I’m not sure I should, primarily because I’m not sure the “friend” part of the equation is strong enough.  And friends from this grouping often develop into love connections, romantically or platonically.

The final grouping is the most intense.  Romantic friends and best friends.  It is not unreasonable to apply “soul mates” to either of these two categories, depending on circumstances.  Boyfriend/girlfriend/lover/spouse…all are sides of the romantic friend die.  These tend to be humanity’s most-intense friendships, not least because of the love/sex bond that forms.  Romantic friends can also be best friends, but I think there can be situations where that is not the case, unless one allows the possibility of having multiple “bests”.  In both romantic friends and best friends cases, the parties involved have a much deeper personal connection than in other friendships, and are much, much more at ease with each other than with pretty much any other people they know.  These types of friendships tend to have fewer boundaries, and they also tend to be more resilient from the shocks of negative experiences.  Such friendships can be broken, but the emotional trauma tends to be quite large.  And such friendships have the potential to last a lifetime, juvenile BFF proclamations notwithstanding.

I have had only a few notable friends across the years of my life thus far.  But I haven’t had more than a double handful of what I would call good friends in my 40-plus years.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember some of them, as I was quite young, and end up having to recall them from pictures—badly.  And I should point out that I generally have an easier time getting along with women than men, but most of my good friends have been male.

I really don’t remember the friends I had before I started school, not really.   I had a couple of friends early on.  One of them lasted until he graduated university (I stuck around there a bit longer than he did) and I left the Church.   We just ended up going separate ways, and I think we were both equally responsible there.  The other early friends I had didn’t really last more than a few years at school, largely because our interests diverged.  I think there might also have been some jealousy in one case that involved me getting into a special program that he had not.  Throughout elementary school, I had a few other friends besides this “best” friend, and not all of them were in my school.  I had some neighbourhood friends that I lost after moving; we played outside constantly all the time, and even did recreational sports stuff together.  There were mostly boys, but a few girls kept up.  After moving, a different set of neighbourhood friends appeared, but only one had any type of staying power, and that largely ended with us both in high school.  I don’t really know why.  I only had one or two failed attempts at romantic friends, during the elementary years, once I realised how interesting girls really were.

The slate of friends sort of changed in high school, as my best friend ended up being among the popular kids, with me the faithful puppy dog hoping for table scraps.  But he always had time for me.  Others came and went in his orbit.  My first girlfriend actually dated him first, but they didn’t last very long for some reason (I didn’t think of it at the time, but I’ve long since suspected that he’s actually gay).  High school was peppered with a bunch of people I might label as friends of the “good” type, but they were never really that good.  None of them really lasted beyond university, and most not even that far.  Even my girlfriend and I split up before we graduated, though we were always friendly.  But as time went on, even my best friend and I drifted apart.  I also had some outside interests in this period that gave me a different group of casual friends through another good friend at the time, probably my “second-best” friend.  He and I were schoolmates in high school, but we also shared an interest in the military and aircraft, so we were in Air Cadets together for the two years I participated.  He kept on with it and had a 20-year career in the Canadian Forces as a reconnaissance pilot.  I had lost contact with him after he left Royal Military College, and only recently reconnected via the wonders of Facebook.  We’ve both changed, both loved and lost, but the changes knock us back into casual friends, rather than good ones.

University was a new environment.  It was chock-full of casual and school friends.  Few of them stuck.  My best friend found a new best friend, and they retained their faith in religion, while I lost mine.  They became teachers, and I decided teaching wasn’t for me.  It’s hard to fight against that, and when they stopped trying, so did I.  I did, however, find my second girlfriend (and first lover) during this time.  We got along really well, in addition to being kinda bonkers for each other.  Because pre-marital sex was kind of taboo among my friends, that certainly didn’t help in me staying around them.  Plus, one of the group hit on my girlfriend kind of aggressively (which she told me about after the fact), and that also discouraged me, because the person was defended when I mentioned it.  This group of friends stayed more or less intact for a few years after university, but then stupidity on my part and lack of interest on theirs just basically cut me off from them.  I had a bit of despondency about it, but I eventually got over it.  One of them reconnected with me on Facebook when I joined, but I see now that they and I are just too different these days.

The remainder of my time in Saskatoon was floating between jobs.  I never really found good friends that stuck around.  I came close twice (I think that was all), but in one case the interest seemed not to be maintained from one side (I think his wife didn’t like me much), and in the other, she moved away just as things seemed like they might develop more closeness.  I also, towards the end of my university career, found my third girlfriend (and second lover).  She ended up taking over the role of best friend, as well as my romantic friend.  We were largely inseparable, until I started going into field work, and we talked for hours every day.  With her around, I didn’t feel much need for other friends anyway, so the lack of them didn’t bother me much.  We ended up with a very complicated relationship, but it survived in some form or another for over 15 years.  And the last three years have been me trying to distance myself from the pain she’s caused me.

Since moving to Calgary, I haven’t developed friends outside of work, except perhaps for ones I used to work with but now no longer do.  In only a small number of cases have I really found someone with whom I would associate outside of work.  Unfortunately, only a couple of them have persisted, though in one case, the friend moved to Montreal area to be closer to his wife’s family, so the distance between us as people can’t be faulted.  But few relationships have persisted beyond me leaving a company or they leaving it.  I can, at present, count only a handful who are more than Facebook friends, if that.  And I try to keep them up, but without reciprocation, it’s almost impossible for me to maintain something one-sided.  Nor am I inclined to maintain contact where there is no interest in such.  But I have a few friends now that I would call really good friends, even though they have demands on their time that reduce what time I an spend with them, and I’m OK with that.

Through all of this, I also had one pretty good family friend:  my cousin.  He and I and my one sister were fast friends when younger, always wanting to hang out and do stuff.  We used to visit regularly, if not frequently, because our mothers are quite close.  And our friendship has lasted through our lives, though he is much more concerned with his family and circumstances and his own interests, naturally.  That he lives in Ottawa does not help, but we try to keep in contact.  But family bonds allow these to take precedence without damaging the friendship itself.

Then there is this one friend at work that I really want to get to know a lot better than I do.  We have an amazing working relationship, and I find her attractive and funny and interesting, and I would like us to be so much more.  But, it’s complicated, and I’m scared of putting a foot horribly wrong.

And then I have my current best friend.  My highly-improbable, wonderful best friend, whom I cherish deeply.  Over the past nine months, I have become as close a friend with her as I could imagine–and which I couldn’t have conceived of when I met her the first time.  She fills a need in my life I hadn’t truly realised was there until she stepped in to fulfil it.  The topics we discuss are wide-reaching, and many go deep into our respective psyches/souls, sharing our pain and confusion, hopes and dreams, desires and foibles, thoughts and feelings, anger and fears, ideas and creativity, and many other things.  Our boundaries seem only to be honesty, support, encouragement, and privacy.  And not being a total ass.  So far, she seems to be (scheduling issues notwithstanding) pretty much everything I had ever wanted in a best friend, but which had been missing in previous such relationships.  This makes her special to me in a way that’s hard for me to describe fully, but it does have me wanting her to be my BFF, as corny and juvenile as it sounds, because I think that without her as my friend, my life would seem rather…barren.  But it really is quite nice having someone know all my secrets and still liking me and trusting me and willing to share with me in the same way.  She can satisfy my curiosity about her, and in the same sentence, create a new and deeper curiosity that needs fulfilling.  I was worried about sharing some things with her, but the more I tell her, the more I want to tell her–something that both scares and thrills me.  And yet, I feel completely comfortable with her in a way that I haven’t felt in years, perhaps ever.  And because of her, I think I have a truer understanding of friendship than I have ever had before by showing me what it can truly be, and not coincidentally, giving me a truer understanding and acceptance of myself in the process.  And the only way I can really thank her is by being the best friend for her that I can be and being there when she needs me.  Though I wonder what any future romantic friend might think of that…

I have no idea how I was going to wrap this up.  I’ve had a night’s sleep and a mid-writing nap since starting this, so I probably forgot.  I’m pretty sure I covered all the high points, but I have no idea what my conclusions were going to be.  So I’ll just say something trite:  there many types and levels of friendships, and everyone should have friends.  Friends are awesome, and best friends even more so.  And I wish I could read minds at will.  Wait, what?

Posted in general, life, love, personal | Comments Off on On Friendship

Traveling abroad

Posted by Keen Observer on August 3, 2012

So, I’m goin’ travelling.  In addition to my other recent distractions, this will also cut into blogging time.  Since I’m not really doing a travelogue blog, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for updates in the near future.  However, the trip may provide fodder for a post I started in April and never finished.  We’ll have to see.  I’ve been to Europe before, so this time I’m going to Asia.  By myself.  Which kind of scares the crap out of me.  I’ve wanted to go there for a very long time, and now I get to make it happen.  I expect to be thoroughly culture-shocked.  Hopefully, my anxieties won’t ruin the trip for me, but I’m trying to be positive about it.

See y’all when I get back! 🙂

Posted in general, life, personal, World | Comments Off on Traveling abroad