Wednesday, December 31, 2008


One of my friends, Tom Frost Jr., has had a bit of an online feud going with a woman who goes by the online handle "Bonobobabe." She has two blogs, one public knitting blog called Woolly Musings, and one private blog (which, out of respect for her wishes, I will not link to here); I stumbled across her knitting blog while doing a search for info on my troll.

In one entry on her private blog, she mentioned that she made it private because she was trying to avoid a "stalker;" she was referring to Tom. She said she wasn't sure if he had the address of the blog. Well, he does; I gave it to him the day I discovered it.

Why? Put simply, over the past two years, I have had it up to my eyeballs with people, particularly people online, who immediately judge people on the basis of one small area of their lives, slapping labels like "stalker" on many who, while they might make pests of themselves, are otherwise harmless, good people.

Tom is a good example. He is a highly unusual individual, no doubts there. However, I've gotten to know him fairly well over the past year. I originally wrote him when he posted a comment to Riin's blog to which I originally took offense. I wrote to tell him how I felt. I didn't expect a reply; I just felt the need to express my ire. To my astonishment, he not only apologized to me but actually went to Riin and asked her to remove his comment.

This caught my attention; in his shoes, that is exactly what I would have done. That's when I realized Mr. Frost was truly a man of honor. Honorable people seem to be in unfortunately short supply these days, particularly online. So, at that point, I decided to get to know Tom better. As we corresponded, I discovered that he was one of the most interesting, kind and unusual individuals I've met online. He has since become someone I regard as a friend.

Yes, Tom is a bit obsessive compulsive. Of course, that is one of the points of identification I share with him; I am a bit OCD myself. Yes, Tom's obsessiveness might make him fairly persistent in sharing his point of view but he is otherwise harmless. If he doesn't like you he might try to get under your skin but he'd never hurt you.

That is, in fact, exactly why it troubles me that Bonobobabe slaps the label of "stalker" on him. I had the same label slapped on me as well. The simple fact is, neither Tom nor myself would ever hurt anyone. Yes, we both sometimes make pests of ourselves to make our points, but being a gadfly does not make someone a stalker.

Bonobobabe at one point whines that she has a right to an "online presence;" she feels that Tom is trying to take that away from her by harassing her into silence. The thing she fails to grasp however is that, when you have an online presence, you have to accept the fact that there are always going to be people who comment on you. You're not going to like all of them, and they are not all going to like you; that goes with the territory of being a blogger.

As far as I'm concerned, the term "stalker" should never be applied to anyone unless they actually physically follow someone around, invade private accounts (like E-mail, bank accounts etc.) or they make threats. Other than that, not every person who decides to follow someone's public image is a stalker no matter how annoying they might be.

The troll on this blog is an excellent example. He or she is bloody annoying, no denying that. However, as a blogger, that's the risk I take. I put up with this idiot for over a year and did absolutely nothing about them because, by putting my life out in cyberspace, I invited comment; I deal with it. It wasn't until they decided to physically threaten me, complete with my street address in the threat, that they crossed the line from gadfly to stalker.

In the Star Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius," Elaan, the Dohlman of Elas, had to learn polite behavior before she married the leader of Troyius, a marriage that was intended to make peace between the two warring worlds. As the leader of her world, that was her obligation, but she spent most of the episode complaining bitterly about it.

Captain Kirk castigated her for her attitude, saying: "If you enjoy the privileges and prerogatives of being a Dohlman, then be worthy of them. If you don't want the obligations that go along with the title then give it up!"

With a little paraphrasing, I could apply the every same sentiment to Bonobobabe (and, by extension, all bloggers): if you enjoy the privileges and prerogatives of having an online presence then be worthy of them. If you don't want the hassles that go along with the territory then give it up.

The Dohlman of Elaas ultimately went through with her marriage, preventing a war.

Likewise, I think Bonobobabe should continue to maintain her online presence if that's what she wants; I simply think she needs to learn to deal with the consequences, good and bad, of that choice. I mean, what's the point of having an online presence if no one knows you're there? I think she should open her blog back up to the public, suck it up and deal with people she doesn't like.

Ultimately, that's what we all must do in life.

On January 7, 2009 3:52:14 PM AST, Tom Frost Jr. wrote:
It appears that you might have succeeded in shaming her into slightly reducing the extent to which she censors us "stalkers": I see she just _approved_ a response by _you_ there!
Yes; I was somewhat surprised to see that. Not that there was anything particularly inflammatory about my comment itself but I thought she might have something against me since I admitted responsibility for deliberately trying to lead you back to her blogs.
I'm _not_ holding my breath, on the other hand, for her to approve any of _my_ responses there . . .
If you were holding your breath, you could breathe easy now, anyway. Go back and take a look; you'll see what I mean... ;)
Anyhow, in my latest . . . response there, I actually _complimented_ her, for doing her latest promotion of her eating habits in an uncharacteristically-for-her, devoid-of-negativity way. Specifically, she connected a certain set of dots which I'd never connected before:

[Editor's Note: In the blog posting in question, Bonobobabe was talking about how so many people tell her they "feel better when they eat meat" to which I replied in my comment that I feel better when I eat vegetarian.]

1. _I_ feel better when I eat meat (unlike her), _exactly_ like in her responding-to-that-concept blog title. She (and to a lesser extent, you) equates meat with junk food, which I don't.
That only speaks to the point I made on her blog that perhaps some people's bodies simply work differently. Maybe your body handles meat well; mine doesn't. Simply speaking, you, I and everyone has to decide to eat what feels right for each of us; no one standard fits every body.
However, I _would_ be happy if I could just kick the _extreme_ _version_ of that habit which I've developed lately (and which then spiraled out of control thanks to my Bible-thumping, anti-Muslim-bigot, "friend" taking me to McDonald's _thrice_ as often as _even_ _I_ _want_ to go there).
Funny you should bring that up. On a recent day trip to visit a friend I caught sight of a McDonald's when I got into her town. For some reason, I suddenly had a monster craving for a Big Mac. I didn't cave, though; like I said, my body feels too good when I keep meat out of my stomach and I wasn't about to subject myself to the... digestive problems McDonald's used to cause me... :P
But I also feel better . . . when I jump right into a creek regardless of the temperature . . .
Define "regardless of the temperature." We talking "polar bear" swims here?
[H]er censorship of that latest response there by me, is also a typical example of her ignorant, "better"-than-yours-or-mine, brand of - or in her case, I think complete lack of - humor.
As it turns out, she might not be so lacking in humor after all... ;)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fiction and the Theory of the Universal Wavefunction

I've just come from reading the comments on the latest Yehuda Moon comic. This posting started out at a comment there but, as I wrote, it became clear this was going to be a lot longer than a simple comment; I felt a blog posting would be more appropriate. Besides, this gives me an opportunity to promote Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery a little. ;)

So, what is it that's got my inner tube in a pinch? A comment made by someone under the name of roderick. I, and several others, had made a few comments about Yehuda's riding position on his new Rapid Blue Line (a steel framed custom bike made by the shop in the comic). Roderick's reply:
people [sic] are giving a cartoon advice [sic]
This isn't the first time I've encountered people with his attitude, and not only on Yehuda Moon; my uncle has a similar attitude about all fiction. I've never understood such people. I mean, what's the point of fiction if one can't get into the fictional world? What's the point of reading a comic if, at least while you're reading it, you're not imagining the characters as flesh and blood people? Why do people like roderick even bother to read comics?

When one reads fiction, the natural tendency of the reader is to put themselves in the place of the characters. In my case, regarding the above comic, I was wondering why Yehuda chose a particular riding position which, if I was in his place, I would not have chosen. Most readers got what I was trying to ask; there were two particularly illuminating comments made by Paul and Chris Moore that explained it nicely.

I do not like roderick's tone. It's bad enough that he apparently thinks we're crazy for getting into a comic so deeply. OK, he has a right to his opinion, but does he have to be so sarcastic about it? People like roderick, the way I see it, are the Grinches of the fiction world; they know they can't get into the spirit of things the same way everyone else can so they try to make everyone else who can feel foolish for doing so.

Well, up yours with a studded tire, roderick. Be damned if I'm going to let your Grinchy attitude spoil my enjoyment of Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery, or any other reader's enjoyment, for that matter.

So. For all the rodericks out there, let me offer you a thought that perhaps, one day, might help you join in the fun with the rest of us.

There is a theory in quantum physics called The Theory of the Universal Wavefunction. In layman's terms, subatomic particles exist as waves, essentially existing in all of their potential energy states simultaneously. From the perspective of our reality, this implies that for any event that has more than one possible outcome, all outcomes do, in fact, happen, each outcome creating an alternate "quantum reality."

Now we, making choices in our reality, only experience one outcome; the other outcomes are experienced by alternate versions of ourselves that are created at the branching point. That is to say, if I experience an event that has five possible outcomes, I experience one and four copies of me in alternate realities experience the other four. So, every event with more than one possible outcome, essentially, creates "branch" realities.

In theory, since every possible event happens at every branch point, it stands to reason that there must be a virtually infinite number of realities out there, some very similar to our own, some radically different depending on what events occurred at each branching point. Now, if this is true and, for every possibility there exists a universe where it happened, this has a very interesting implication when it comes to fiction.

Infinite possibility implies that virtually any combination of events one can imagine must have happened in some reality somewhere. In other words, if this theory is correct, it would be impossible to imagine a world that does not exist because, given infinite quantum variations, any combination that can be imagined must exist in an alternate reality somewhere.

In effect, any fictional world that you have ever read about, watched on TV, seen in a movie, watched in a play or even read in a comic must exist as a reality in some universe somewhere.

Now the barriers between quantum realities are fixed. We can't cross from one reality to another (at least in this reality ;)); if we could, it'd make life pretty confusing (see the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Parallels" for a good example of why it's better to keep quantum realities separated ;)). So, we can't go out and visit Yehuda Moon and his friends, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that they are out there. Somewhere.

So, to roderick and others like you, next time you read a comic, watch TV, go to the movie or read a good book, remember Kiri-kin-tha's First Law of Metaphysics: "Nothing unreal exists." There's no shame in giving advice to fictional characters because, like you and me, they are flesh and blood people.

Somewhere... out there. :)

On December 29, 2008 8:22:20 AM AST, the mostly reverend wrote:
is it just possible you've overreacted to his little comment? it's not the first time someone has observed--let's assume tongue-in-cheek--that it DOES seem a bit odd to be getting so wrapped up in a cartoon.
Actually, I'll admit I exaggerated my response a bit for dramatic effect. :) Still, I do believe in The Theory of the Universal Wavefunction and I do believe the theory I describe here regarding fictional universes. Further, I was also quite serious when I said I don't understand how people like that can even enjoy fiction; isn't the whole point of fiction to lose yourself in it (so long as you know when it's time to come out ;))?
one might even suggest that it's a bit odd that someone could get so wrapped around a tree trunk that they'd post something on their blog about it.

i'm certainly not suggesting that it's TRUE, i'm just sayin' . . .

Actually, truth be told, I've always wanted to do a posting on my ideas about the Theory of the Universal Wavefunction; roderick's comment simply provided an ample opportunity. :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Idiots and Trains Don't Mix

I don't remember exactly how I stumbled across this; I had been searching for Star Trek bloopers and somehow got sidetracked (no pun intended). Anyway, when I saw this, I remember a shiver just going right up my spine. Bicycle wheels can slide on railway tracks, particularly under wet conditions and/or when the tracks cross at a steep angle; if that had happened to this guy...

As a year round cyclist myself, absolutely under no circumstances would I ever do this. I do not cross a railway crossing when the signals are running if a train is approaching. Period.

I wish I could talk to this guy for just 30 seconds to find out where he was going that was so gosh darn important...

On Dec 28, 2008, at 6:18:42 AM AST, Darren Alff wrote:
I don't think it's cool to call anyone an idiot. It was the biker's choice to cross the tracks. He made it across without any problems. If he had crashed or something, then I could understand this whole video, but otherwise, I don't see what the big deal is.
The big deal, Mr. Alff, is that cyclists have enough trouble gaining respect from motorists without wantonly violating traffic law. The crossing signals were running; his cross was illegal. Besides, as I've said, if he had slipped and fell (common for cyclists on railway tracks), he would have been rail salsa. In my opinion, the cyclist did something incontrovertibly foolish; that is where he earned the label "idiot" at least as far as his riding prudence goes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I realize not everyone is Christian; heck, I'm not. Yes, I observe a Catholic prayer ritual but that originally started with a Catholic friend I wanted to pray for. Later, when I realized that most of my friends and loved ones are Catholic, I decided to adopt that particular ritual on a permanent basis; had my friend been Protestant, Anglican or, for that matter, a Hindu or Buddhist, the prayer could just as easily have been drawn from one of those traditions.

I believe in God. Period. Specific religious tradition is irrelevant.

Whatever my religious beliefs are now, however, I have always celebrated Christmas and I always will.

I just got a Christmas greeting from a good friend. Regular readers may recognize him; he's commented here under the identities "Wanderer," "Lonnie" and "L" in the past. He's not Christian; he follows Buddhist traditions. As a fellow non-Christian, he has his own ideas about the value of Christmas which closely mirror mine. I'd like to share his Christmas greeting with you, making a few comments of my own along the way:
Once again the Christmas season is upon us. For many of you that means time with family, friends and business associates. For those of you of non-Christian beliefs, it is a time to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the next as the short days of winter encourage more time indoors with a good book and perhaps a warm fire. But there are many who have none of these Blessings. Millions of people around the world are homeless, jobless, are grieving for loved ones who are no longer with them. I encourage you to open a compassionate heart and offer a prayer for the less fortunate.
For those of you who believe in prayer, you might want to send one my way; I'm alone this Christmas for the first time in 36 years.
In these "politically correct" times it seems dangerous to offer a holiday greeting such as "Merry Christmas" for fear of offending those of other beliefs. Yet, in my experience, my friends who are Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim, take no offence and usually return the greeting with a cheery smile and often a warm handshake or embrace. Wishing a Merry Christmas is not meant to offend, but to extend warmth, friendship and good will into a world that is far too often cold and uncaring.
I wish more non-Christians would understand that. I actually read a blog entry recently on We Move to Canada where the author actually complained to the HR department at her workplace because someone had put religious-themed Christmas decorations in a cubicle which she shared with someone else. Personally, I think that's way overreacting, and I said so in comments to her posting.

Non-Christians, in my opinion, are getting way too sensitive about religious-themed messages, particularly when it comes to Christmas. The way I see it, a shared cubicle is semi-public space. Having to share decorating space with the other person who uses it is analogous to having someone you don't like the look of sit next to you on a bus; so long as their decorations don't crowd out yours and vice versa, that's just something you have to deal with in public.

Now, this same person also wrote an entry about a Christmas card she got that was obviously intended to push a Christian agenda. Now I understand why she's upset with that. It's one thing to simply display decorations themed around one's religious beliefs; it's quite another to launch an attack against the beliefs of another. Going back to our bus analogy, that's like the person sitting next to you telling you to move because they don't want to be near you.

If she, or anyone else, has a problem with Christmas, that's their right. However, such people need to remember that not everyone feels the way they do. They also need to remember that not every person wishing people Merry Christmas is trying to push a religious agenda; for most people, myself among them, it's simply meant as an expression of goodwill which transcends the holiday's religious origins.

That being said, I'd like to leave you all with Lonnie's Christmas wishes; he expresses how I feel about the season perfectly:
So, I offer to all of you… Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Wiccan, Native American, and those of you who celebrate religious beliefs I have not even heard of, a warm and wonderful season to correspond with the winter solstice… In other words,

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Unicorn and the Elf

A Poem by John A. Ardelli

While wandering through the forest one day, the Unicorn came upon an Elf
Sitting below a weeping willow, sitting all alone by himself.
He looked so sad, the Unicorn felt she had to know what was wrong.
"Why do you cry?" she said with concern. "Have you been sitting here long?"

With a sigh, he nods, not raising his head. "I've been here 24 days.
"But the trees are so dense and I got lost; it's like trying to go through a maze.
"I tried to find my way back out of this place, but I just end up back at this tree,
"So all I can do is just sit and wait here and hope my friends will find me."

"I know this forest most intimately well," the Unicorn tenderly said.
"Climb unto my back; I'll take you somewhere where you can sleep and be fed."
The Unicorn knelt low to the ground and invited the Elf up to ride.
"Once you're strong again, I'll take you where you want; just let me be your guide."

Grateful, the Elf climbed onto her back and she carried him into the night.
By dawn, they came to a great, sunny clearing and he could barely believe the sight
For before him stood a great Unicorn herd. "Meet my family," the Unicorn said.
"The grass here is soft and the fruit here is sweet; here you can rest and be fed."

Three days he stayed with the Unicorn herd; they welcomed him into their home,
But he began to miss his trek through the forest; he felt a strong urge to roam.
"I'll go with you," said his Unicorn mate. "I'll guide and watch over you.
"All I ask is, wherever my travels take us, you'll take good care of me, too."

Happy that he is no longer alone, the Elf agrees with a smile.
He climbs back up on the Unicorn's back and they travel the woods for a while.
At first, their journey was a happy one with frequent returns to the herd.
At first, it is not at all hard for the Elf to keep his faith and his word.

But then the skies cloud; the storms start to come. Wind pulls the Elf off her back.
They try to protect each other against the storm's relentless attack.
Nine days of storms and their spirits finally break; there is a terrible fight.
Wounded, the Elf and the Unicorn turn and walk away from each other in the night.

At first, the Elf thinks to himself, "Good riddance; she was just in my way."
But as time went on, he felt more and more sad and realized he wanted her to stay.
He went in search of his Unicorn and found the Unicorn herd
But, he having hurt one of their own, they turn their backs and say not a word.

Sadly, he turns and goes back into the woods and goes back to sit by his tree.
But now he's twice as sad as he was; now he knows what it's like to be free.
He waits there now in the hope that she will someday return to him again.
Sometimes he gets up and goes through the woods, searching for her now and then.

The Elf's sad spirit is heavy to bear. His soul is falling apart
For the Unicorn and her family she loves have left their horn prints on his heart.

For Lisa Brewer
December 22, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Riin Gill and Annie Wilkes: Separated at Birth?

"The meaning of life is to seek happiness. Practice compassion toward all living things. Find peace. Knit more." - Riin Gill, A Happy Fuzzy Blog

"Ri-i-i-i-ght..." Dr. Evil, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

In my December 7 entry "Rudy" I mentioned briefly that I had dropped Riin a quick note of condolence on the passing of her rabbit; this is what I sent to her:
From: John A. Ardelli <>
Subject: I'm Sorry
Date: December 7, 2008 9:35:29 PM AST
To: Riin Gill <***********************>


I just have one thing to say:

I'm SO sorry about Rudy. I just started crying the moment I read your blog posting.

I wish there was something I could do to help.

For what it's worth, my thoughts will be with you.

John A. Ardelli
That's all there was to it; just a simple, heartfelt expression of sympathy.

I was discussing this with my dearest friend later, wondering if sending that was a mistake; she didn't think so. She said, if she were in Riin's place and received a kind word like that after losing someone important to her, even if it came from someone she didn't want to hear from, she would have appreciated the gesture. That was exactly what I thought when I wrote it. I figured Riin would be mature enough to take it in the spirit in which it was intended.

Apparently, I gave her too much credit; from her most recent blog entry:

Thanks to everyone who commented or emailed after my last post. I really appreciate your kindness. [Except for StalkerBoy. Dude, what part of the police telling you never to contact me again do you not understand? (This is a rhetorical question. Do NOT answer.) I will not press charges THIS time (and this time ONLY) given the circumstances, but get it through your thick skull. I do not want to hear from you ever again. Your words do not bring me comfort because they remind me of your existence. I do not want to be reminded of your existence. Do not ever contact me again. This means leave me the fuck alone.]

Sorry to everyone else. I try to keep my dirty laundry off the blog, but it couldn't be avoided this time.


Here, briefly, are my thoughts on this:

First, she didn't decide not to press charges because of "the circumstances;" she decided not to press charges because, if she had taken that E-mail I sent her to the police, she would have been laughed right out of the station and she knows it. So, since she couldn't hurt me that way, she decided to make a big public show of her indignation in the hopes of scaring or shaming me. Nice try, my pharisaic nymph, but I stand by what I did; I am neither ashamed nor afraid.

Second, she claims that she couldn't avoid putting her "dirty laundry" on the blog this time. Balderdash. Apple Mail, like all mail clients, offers a "Reply" button; if she felt the need to say something to me she could just as easily have responded in E-mail. The only reason she did it in the open on her blog was to grab attention and play the victim, both of which are things that Riin has down to a fine art; she's an expert at manipulating sympathy out of people.

And to think I was actually thinking about going back to reading her blog regularly once this troll mess was over.

My judgment of character is usually spot on. I thought there was actually a perspicacious paragon under the skin of the pharisee but, if she can respond to such a simple act of kindness with that kind of venom, there is no paragon; there couldn't be. Riin is truly hypocrisy incarnate. "Practice compassion toward all living things" she says, yet she feels no compassion for anyone whatsoever; she just pretends to to make herself look better in others' eyes.

I once read Misery over the phone to her (she used to like it when I'd read to her). My original intention was to read a chapter a night but I couldn't help but notice that she would frequently ask me to read more. We got through the entire novel in less than two weeks (and Stephen King books are pretty thick to read aloud in such a short time).

Looking back on that now, I have to wonder if maybe she liked it because she could identify with it. Specifically, I think she was identifying with the character Annie Wilkes. If you ask me, Annie Wilkes and Riin Gill were both cut from the same cloth. Both understand the feelings of others yet don't have any compassion for them, both think the world is out to get them and both think they are the most important people in the universe.

The only difference between Annie Wilkes and Riin Gill seems to be in the area of violence. Where Annie is extraordinarily violent, Riin is extraordinarily pacifistic. Other than that, however, they're virtually twins emotionally.

Riin Gill = Annie Wilkes on Valium.

'Nuff said.

On December 14, 2008 12:24:22 AM AST, Wanderer wrote:
She says,"Practice compassion toward all living things..." quoted pretty much verbatim from the Dammapada, or the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible. Is Riin trying to convince people she is Buddhist?
Not precisely. I remember her mentioning Buddhism as an inspiration for some of her beliefs, though. I just tried a Google search on "Riin" and "Buddhism;" I found a comment on The Yarn Harlot where she calls herself an "atheist/pantheist/Buddhist hybrid," whatever the heck that means...
Being vegan and speaking a few catch phrases does not make one a Buddhist! A true Buddhist would firstly NOT refer to anyone as "Stalker Boy" but have compassion and understanding for that person and realize that every person has a right to be on this planet. (Or some other planet for that matter) A true Buddhist would attempt to help someone they perceive to be a stalker achieve a less threatening way of inter-being with others. A true Buddhist would forgive, and not make threats of calling the police.
In other words, "practice compassion toward all living things."

Here's the thing. If Riin considers herself to be a theological "hybrid" of some kind, fine. Choose the beliefs she wants to follow and reject the others; that's her right. However, I believe it to be the height of hypocrisy on her part for her to specifically quote a tenet of one of those beliefs prominently on the front page of her blog that she so blatantly does not follow.
The more I learn about Riin, the more she reminds me of my ex-wife, a woman I would call "Psycho Bitch" if I were not so damned understanding of her mental illness. Actually, my ex was touched when I saw her and expressed my sorrow that her dog had died.
Then I guess she and Riin aren't that much alike. That's the way I would have expected Riin to respond, the way I would expect any rational human being to respond.
I think you are better off wothout Riin, and I hope this will help you see that.
Oh, I already know that. The only reason I'm still on Riin's blog is to watch for further comments from the troll. Once the troll is caught, I'll have no further use for it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christian Elitism

Somebody close to me recently accused me of being an atheist; they claim my late grandmother told them this.

I find this highly dubious. My grandmother knew what my beliefs were; I've told her point blank that I do believe in God (if not necessarily the strict Christian interpretation of said deity). Of course, on the other hand, this person is quite prone to mishearing what others say because she spends most of her time telling people what she thinks and tends to block out, and sometimes actually interrupt and talk over, things she doesn't want to hear.

As the conversation went on, I got the definite impression that she drew this conclusion herself without any help from my grandmother. This conclusion was based on a statement she made during the conversation. I made the comment that I don't necessarily take The Bible as literal fact based largely on the unavoidable fact that The Bible is a 2000+ year old document that's been translated and retranslated so many times that its accuracy cannot be strictly relied upon.

When I said that, she said, "Anyone who doesn't believe in The Bible doesn't believe in God because The Bible is God."

Is it now? Well, if that's true, so much for the "there's only one God" theory. Given the sheer popularity of The Book (the King James Version was, after all, one of the earliest books ever set in print), there must be literally billions of Copies out there. By this woman's logic, that means there must be billions of Gods.

I imagine she didn't mean it that literally; I'm just a little miffed so I'm on sarcasm overdrive here. I'm guessing that what she meant was that, if you don't believe in The Bible, then you don't believe in God. Obviously, that's where her belief that I am an atheist comes from; if I don't believe strictly in The Bible then I must not believe in God.

I take profound offense to that very concept.

Given that the original writers of The Bible believed that the Earth couldn't have been created much more than 4000 years before the birth of Christ, it stands to reason that The Bible, even the very first, original version of its earliest texts, could not be any older than 6008 years old; this planet, according to modern estimates, is about 4.54 billion years old. If God created the Earth then He must have existed long before this Book.

I'm not saying The Bible isn't a Good Book; It is. It is one of the finest road maps of moral and ethical behavior ever committed to paper. However, this woman believes that The Bible was written by God, using humans as His instruments.

The Bible was not written by God; even Biblical scholars acknowledge that. The Bible is a book about God written by humankind. Does that make it any less important to Christian belief? No. It simply means that, like everything else ever written, it is merely the writers' interpretation of the subject matter. In other words, The Bible describes the Christian interpretation of God.

In that word "interpretation" lies the key to my own beliefs. I do believe in God, but I have my own unique interpretation of Him. One of the key concepts in my own beliefs about God actually flies in the face of a key concept in traditional Christian belief: that Christianity is the "One True Belief." That idea says, in effect, "We know the 'real' God; anyone who does not agree with us is wrong."

My central belief is the diametric opposite of this: I believe it is the height of human arrogance to assume that we, as a species, are even close to advanced enough to understand anything about a life form as advanced as God must be. Therefore, in my view, Christians or, for that matter, a believer of any faith who believes their beliefs are the "One True Belief" are displaying a level of hubris that, to me, calls their very judgment into question.

The other thing that concerns me about beliefs so strict is that such beliefs cannot adapt to changing times. All belief systems, if they're going to remain relevant to modern society, must adapt to advances made in society. For example, the moment we discovered that the Earth was more than 6008 years old, the traditional Christian Story of Creation could no longer be taken literally; creating the Earth obviously took a lot longer than six days.

Personally, I think too much emphasis is often placed on details like this which, in the final analysis, have no relevance whatsoever to the teachings of The Bible. So God took a little longer to create Heaven and Earth than Genesis says. So what? All that means is the people writing this particular interpretation simply didn't have the knowledge and technology needed to learn the true age of the Earth and only guessed on the basis of surface observation.

That doesn't change the idea, however, that this planet was created by an Intelligent Force which the writers have chosen to call God. All it means is that God is so far above us on the evolutionary scale that, beyond the fact that He created this world, we really know virtually nothing whatsoever about Him. In other words, acknowledging that Earth was created in billions of years instead of six days does not automatically dismiss the concept of God.

Therein lies the problem. The woman I've been talking about believes, if you question word one of The Bible, you don't believe in God; that includes such obviously incorrect, and ultimately irrelevant, details as the time Creation took.

This woman is one of the most intelligent people I've known in my life. However, for someone of such keen intellect, she is astonishingly closed-minded in some areas; religion is one of them. This is one of the reasons why I tend not to trust her judgment. I trust her intentions certainly; she means well and is often very helpful to those she loves. However, her judgment is frequently impaired by her priggishness.

I do not appreciate being told I don't believe in God on the basis of a fallacious argument, especially since she apparently told Lisa's mother that I was an atheist. This is particularly troubling given that I've been saying prayers for her, her husband and for Lisa on a regular basis. Now I'm concerned that I'm going to look like a hypocrite or, at the very least, a fraud.

The fact is, I believe in prayer; I always have. Until recently, however, my "praying" was always of an "informal" nature. By that I mean, when I prayed, I'd generally just "talk to" God, or the spirits of my loved ones who passed on, as if I was talking to a friend. Lately, however, with so much turmoil in my life, I've felt a need for a more formal, ritualistic approach to prayer.

Through a Catholic friend, I have discovered of late that some of the most beautiful prayer rituals I've ever encountered come out of Catholic belief; I have therefore chosen a Catholic prayer and prayer tradition as my prayer style of choice. Although I am not Catholic, I choose to respect, and honor, Catholic traditions when it comes to praying because of my admiration for Catholic prayer and ritual.

One of the concepts in Catholic praying I found most intriguing was the concept of the patron saint. This, actually, fits with my beliefs about the spirit world. I have mentioned on this blog previously that I view the spirit world as a sort of "chain of command" with the spirits of those who pass on being the medium by which requests to God are made; the idea of patron saints, who speak to God on your behalf, fits nicely into this belief.

So, I chose a patron saint to whom I now pray regularly: Saint Rita of Cascia. Several times a day, and at least once before bedtime, I say her Prayer of Petition to ask her to help the people I love in my life. There is a certain comfort in the formal ritual of the prayer; by repeating the exact same words every time, it gives me a stronger sense that my prayer is actually being heard. Also, reading a formal prayer, to me, is a sign of respect to both St. Rita and God.

My beliefs about God have not changed; I'm not converting to Catholicism. I simply choose to honor Catholic rituals when it comes to prayer simply because I love and respect their style of prayer and because the concept of patron saints fits so well into my established belief systems. Also, most of the people I love in my life, outside of family, happen to be Catholic; it seems appropriate to honor their beliefs when praying for them.

We all must interpret God in our own way. Some of us may even choose not to believe in Him. However, I maintain, and have always maintained, that the specific details of a person's religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are irrelevant provided that their belief system follows the simple Golden Rule:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

In closing, let me clarify something unequivocally:

I am not an atheist.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


This has been a horrible day, not only for me, but for everyone I've heard from so far today, both in meatspace and cyberspace. One friend is worried about family. Another is having conflicts with their spouse. Myself, Lisa left me officially today; her father came in to get her stuff and, while he made it clear we're still going to be friends, Lisa will not be coming home. I've tried to talk to her; she flatly refuses and her parents, naturally, are taking her side in that.

Merry f*BEEP*ing Christmas. :(

However, when I just went to do a "troll sweep" if Riin's blog, I saw that Riin is having a worse day than any of us.

Rudy, Riin's pet bunny, has died.

Rudy meant the world to Riin. I've never been more sorry that I'm not able to be there for her anymore.

I broke silence and sent her a brief E-mail of condolence. I had to. I don't expect her to reply but I needed her to know my thoughts are with her.

Goodbye, Rudy. I'm sorry I never got to know you.

On December 7, 2008 11:21:35 PM AST, Wanderer wrote:
I have often heard . . . that the Universe . . . never gives us more than we can handle.
If that's true, then why do some people commit suicide?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Good Advice: Easy to Give, Hard to Follow

"It's not easy to understand other people's problems, but it's very easy to think you do." - Mokey Fraggle, Fraggle Rock, "The Preachification of Convincing John"

Lisa and I have decided to make our breakup official, though we're having trouble agreeing exactly when. I want it to be January 24; that way, we won't have to deal with packing stuff up until after Christmas. Lisa wants to leave January 10; I'm trying to talk her out of that because, if she leaves that early, that means we have to deal with the logistics of it over Christmas. However, at least we have agreed that the final breakup will be in January.

It's not that I don't understand why she wants to leave as soon as she can; I do. Besides the pain we're causing each other, her mother is quite ill right now; she wants to go home and help. Normally, I would consider the time, more than a month from now, adequate; it's simply the timing of it, right through the Christmas season, that's troubling me. I'm only asking for 14 more days so we can have a peaceful Christmas unfettered by sorting and packing.

Unfortunately, the contention over this initiated a rather fierce exchange of fire last night; shields took a beating on both sides. The thing is now, while she's away at her parents', I'm surprised to discover that I'm actually missing her badly for the first time since this snafu began a year ago. I don't know why; I just do. I've even been posting how much I miss her to my Facebook profile and changed my relationship status from "Single" to "It's Complicated."

Like most people, I've known my fair share of people with relationship problems. Also like most people, I have had my fair share of relationship problems; first my breakup with Riin, now my breakup with Lisa. In the first case, Riin initiated the breakup; in the latter, I initiated it. In both cases, the person who initiated the breakup was hoping for a smooth separation; in both cases, it didn't turn out that way.

I've seen elements in my current situation with Lisa and in my past situation with Riin in a lot of the relationship problems other people in my life have had. Now, when I'm advising a friend on what to do about their relationship problems, I'm almost always able to give sound advice. Following that advice myself, however, would seem to be much harder.

For example, last night during our argument over the date of our breakup, Lisa hit me over the head with a broomstick. Now, if a friend were to come to me and say that their partner had done that to them, my first advice would be to charge them with assault. Further, if their relationship had a repeated pattern of physical abuse in it, as mine with Lisa does, my next advice would be to get out immediately.

Objectively, I know that's good advice. However, being in the situation makes it much harder to look at it objectively. Yes I know it's probably for the best that Lisa and I are separating. However, while she's away visiting her parents this weekend, I can't help but miss her terribly and I wonder, "If I'm missing her this much now when she's only away for a few days, how the hell am I going to get through her leaving for good? I don't want her to leave."

This makes it easier to understand why women whose partners do horrific things to them, even extremes like beatings and sexual assaults, sometimes still want to go back. No, wait; that's not quite right. I do not understand why; even being in it myself right now I don't understand why I feel this way. I have no more understanding of why women sometimes stay in bad situations, either. It's more accurate to say that I understand how they feel.

I've heard women even in the most reprehensible situations say, "I can make this work. He can be a better person. I just have to try harder." The thing that scares me is that right now, in this moment, I'm having the exact same thoughts about Lisa: "I can make this work. She can be a better person. I just have to try harder."

There are probably some cases where that's true. However, I've been with Lisa for 12 years; in all that time, it has not gotten better no matter how hard I've tried. Lisa drags behavior out of me that I simply do not exhibit with anyone else because, with Lisa, I often find myself desperate trying to communicate with her, and desperation sometimes makes people do things out of character (like how hard I pushed Riin; I don't usually act like that but I was desperate).

If I had a friend who'd been in a relationship for more than a single year, never mind 12, whose relationship showed such repeated patterns of abuse as my relationship with Lisa has, I would be begging them to get out. I can sit here and know full well that's good advice; I know it's advice I should follow. Yet I still miss her. I still don't want her to leave. I still spent all night tonight wanting to call her (miracle of miracles, I managed not to do that at least).

Why is it so easy to know the right thing to do and yet so hard to do it?

I'm sitting here thinking how sad our next anniversary will be; August 17, 2009 will be a very sad day. I'm thinking about all the years I've put into this relationship and I can't help but think I should still be trying to hold it together. I do still love Lisa but, like Riin, she no longer trusts me and simply won't listen. Of course, this time, that feeling is mutual; I don't trust her right now, either.

This would be easier if I could just have this one last peaceful Christmas but, if Lisa insists on leaving January 10, that'll cast a pall over my Christmas spirit no matter where I spend it. Her family has offered to let me spend it with them, as has become tradition (and, although I've given thought to traveling this Christmas, more and more I'm thinking I'd rather spend one more with them) but that'd be really awkward under the circumstances.

I don't know what to do. Should I try again? Probably not.

But I can't help but want to.

Monday, December 01, 2008

This is Getting Scary...

I hate to admit that (since I'm sure it'll give my troll plenty of satisfaction), but it is...

I just got the following comment on my previous post from Riin's ex-husband today at 12:49:12 PM AST:
This morning, a friend pointed me to this:

"I've stopped following the blogs of Peter A. (after a childish comment he made about me at Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery)..."

I didn't leave that "childish" comment. In fact, I'd never heard of the webcomic in question until I followed the link this morning.

Evidently, not every troll is functionally illiterate.
I know that the above was written by the real Peter; I know what ISP he uses and there's a connection in my StatCounter log from that ISP around the same time as his comment.

I noticed that my troll, for a brief period, did start using proper grammar and spelling around the same time that he/she tried to impersonate Riin on my blog. Either that was a different troll or, more likely, my troll decided to start running his/her postings thorough grammar and spell check before posting them to disguise their origins, knowing I'd identified the unique grammar and spelling mistakes they habitually make.

It never occurred to me, however, that this comment on Yehuda Moon would've been from the troll. Why? This is what makes it so scary:

Until today, I have never mentioned Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery on this blog; comments on Yehuda Moon also can't be Googled because the comments are hidden by default. I also never E-mailed anyone about it (I was waiting for a while to see where it was going before I recommended it to anyone). I had only mentioned it to a handful of people in meatspace. So there's no way anyone could have found out I was reading Yehuda Moon unless:
  1. They are a cyclist who already knew of the comic and was already reading it.
  2. They are on a cycling group where the comic was mentioned (that's how I found it).
  3. They are somebody I know personally in meatspace whom I see regularly present day.
When I saw the comment by "Peter," I assumed Option 1 or 2. Peter is a cyclist; he doesn't ride often but he does have a bicycle. So it seemed likely to me that either another cycling friend showed him Yehuda Moon or he discovered it himself on a cycling group. Since I figured the troll wasn't likely to know about the comic and, as Peter points out, the comment was written with proper grammar and spelling, I figured it had to be him; it couldn't be the troll.

To be honest, it never occurred to me that the troll would impersonate Peter anyway. Why would they? I mean I can understand why they'd try to impersonate Riin in order to stir up trouble twist the knife but Peter? I never would have guessed that. Besides, since Peter doesn't know me that well, I can quite reasonably see how he might've come to the conclusion that I make a habit of chasing married women (Riin, incidentally was the first, and only, one).

Given that, I could certainly have forgiven him a certain amount of rancor towards me. It wasn't what was said that I thought was "childish" as much as I thought saying it in a public forum as an obvious attempt to embarrass me was (similar to the way I viewed Riin saying Peter should "grow a brain" was also childish, in part, for the same reason).

Actually, looking back on it in hindsight, that's probably exactly what the troll was trying to accomplish: to embarrass me. Unfortunately, he/she succeeded, though not exactly as they planned. The comment itself didn't embarrass me but it did cause me to accuse someone of something they didn't do; that is more embarrassing to me than anything the troll could possibly do to me.

That's the first battle the troll has won in some time; I intend to make it the last.
You are free to read or not read my blog as you wish, but I'd appreciate not being called "childish" on the basis of a comment I did not make.
Agreed. Please accept my sincere apologies. I simply didn't anticipate that this could possibly be the troll. I should have come to you first (I still have your E-mail address in my archives from my early days with Riin) and asked you if that comment was actually from you; I didn't.

From now on, if I ever see anything posted publicly ostensibly from you that offends me that doesn't appear on your blog, I will double check first with you to make sure the comment is genuine before I say anything public. Further, I'm going to start second guessing anything like this ostensibly coming from anyone who was ever involved with Riin. I've evidently underestimated this troll; I'll have to be more vigilant until he/she is finally caught.

Also, to demonstrate my honorable intentions, I'm going to show this posting to Yehuda Moon author Rick Smith and ask him to remove that comment. Whoever did this has no right to speak under your identity or any identity that is not their own.
[I]n light of this experience, I would say your dearest friend is wise to ask you not use her name.
I can understand your frustration and I sympathize, but please do not take this to be indicative of the way I ordinarily treat people. This was an error in judgment on my part; I simply didn't anticipate that anyone would impersonate your identity in an attempt to get to me. Again, I give you my word, I will not repeat the mistake.

"I won't underestimate him again." - Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek, "Balance of Terror"

As for my friend, she doesn't like anyone using her name online; she doesn't even have a Facebook profile (which is extremely rare these days; everyone I know has one, aside from her). Her request that I not use her name has nothing to do with me; she trusts me as implicitly as trust her. She's simply a very private person, and I respect that.

The only names I use freely on this blog are the names of persons, like yourself, whose names are already out in cyberspace or persons who have given me express permission to use their names (such as my friend Robert Martell; he doesn't have a blog or online presence but I asked his permission before using his name in a recent posting).
In light of that wisdom, I've abberviated [sic] my last name in this comment, and ask that you do the same, and not link to my blog.
I will respect your wishes here. However, I submit that it won't accomplish anything. I don't link to your blog very often but I have in the past; your name and links to your blog are already in archived posts. It's far too late to change them now; links to them via Google will persist for many years.

Besides, given everything that's happened over the past year, I would ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was an isolated error in judgment (which it is) and allow me the same freedom to link back to your blog, when appropriate, as any other blogger would have.

OK. Now that I've made my apologies, that leaves me with one very serious question:

Who is this troll?

The warrant has been issued by now; it's just a matter of time before I find out, and I'll feel a lot better once I do.

On December 2, 2008 9:34:33 AM AST, Monica wrote:
I do know Peter. We've been friends since 1983, so I feel I can speak to his character. (I'm the one who introduced him and Riin, by the way, fwiw!)
I know; Riin told me the whole story, back in the day. ;)
I'm also the one who pointed him to your comment.
I suspected as much when he said "a friend." ;)
I knew straight off that Pete would not have made that comment. Pete is neither vindictive nor careless; he blogs under his real name and is sensitive about comments he makes online.
Thanks for bringing this to his attention, then. Obviously, I don't know him well; all I do know of him was filtered through Riin's perceptions. Unfortunately, Riin's perceptions of him weren't exactly flattering; from what she said about him, it seemed perfectly possible he might've made a comment like that. Combine that with the fact that I did not anticipate that the troll would think of impersonating him and you can understand why I assume it was him.

I guess that's something else I need to bear in mind: take anything Riin has ever said about anyone with a whole shaker of salt... :P

I have no desire to accuse anyone of something they didn't do (or wouldn't do); I know all too well what it feels like. :( Thank you for setting the record straight.
I had composed most of an email to you to say this when I decided I'd let Pete address it himself.
I appreciate that as well. I believe, when you make a mistake (by "you," I mean people in general, not you personally ;)), you should have the backbone to stand up, admit it and apologize.

The only time I don't confront someone directly when I have a problem with them is in situations like this troll situation; I can't confront someone if I don't know who to confront. :P If I knew who it was, though, I guarantee I'd be talking to them personally rather than bringing in the police. Indeed, once I find out who it is, in addition to charging them, I intend to confront them eye-to-eye and ask them one simple question:


Maybe I'll get an answer; maybe I won't. Either way, I feel I have to ask.


My dearest friend (she prefers me not to use her name online) often says that everything happens for a reason. Recent experience has me wondering if there may be some truth to this idea. I've been through some painful experiences recently but, I must admit, most of them have taught me something or brought something great into my life. Even my relationship with Riin, as badly as it ended, still taught me things about life, the universe and everything.

Now, perhaps the troll has taught me something valuable. Until he/she drew my attention back to Riin's blog, I had planned never to look at it again. However, in monitoring it recently to watch for activity from the troll, I have rediscovered the reason I liked to read Riin Gill's writing in the first place, long before we fell in love. The woman has some truly sharp insights; her ideas on the way the world works are still, to this day, the most interesting I've ever read.

Before the troll, I wasn't able to see this because then I was visiting Riin's blog, not to enjoy her writing, but looking for opportunities to contact her. Now, however, reading her blog without this agenda, I'm able to relax and just enjoy her pearls of wisdom (no sarcasm; I mean that). Actually, I find her writing even better now because, having known her, I can now see her writing in light of the person she is which only allows me to see it in greater depth.

I don't follow many blogs. I've stopped following the blogs of Peter Alway (after a childish comment he made about me at Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery) and The Yarn Harlot (while I enjoyed her writing, I didn't enjoy it enough to deal with running into Riin's comments there). Actually, the only blogs I still follow regularly now are Northeastern Pennsylvania Bicycle Messengering and We Move to Canada; a blog has to be really good before I'll follow it.

Grudgingly, I must admit that I have the troll to thank for helping me rediscover Riin's blog. I think, after this is all over, I'm going to keep visiting it; things on there often really make me think, and I like things that give me something to ponder.

Riin's most recent posting is an excellent example. She talks about an incident at a Valley Stream, New York Walmart where shoppers broke the door down five minutes early and trampled an employee to death; they were oniomania sufferers who couldn't wait any longer for an after Thanksgiving sale the store was opening early for. Apparently, some of them even refused to leave the store when they were told it was closing after the death.

I agree with Riin's feelings on the event. Certainly, shopping is an addiction for some people and these people definitely need help. However, seeing Riin's ideas through the lens of our former relationship and what I know of her as a person, I do take exception to her ideas about the solution to the problem. Riin suggests:

[M]aybe [addicted shoppers] need to stop shopping for a while. Stop looking at ads. Stop listening when other people talk about what they bought. After a detox period, if you need to buy something, ask yourself, do you actually need it, or do you just want it?

Think about it for a while. If you just want it, do you really want it? Or do you just feel like buying something? You might decide you'd be just as happy without it. It's ok to buy something you want occasionally, but think about why you want it. Would it really bring you happiness? Don't buy it if you can't afford it. Don't buy it if it harms others, or if it harms you. And don't shop just to get a high from shopping.
One of Riin's strengths is that she is capable of breaking addictions through sheer willpower; if she decides something is bad for her, she can pretty much just stop doing it cold turkey. Unfortunately, one of Riin's weaknesses is she cannot see things from the point of view of others; she therefore doesn't recognize that we're not all capable of doing that. The advice she gives would work for her if she suffered from oniomania but it might not work for others.

This seems too familiar. I used to drink heavily. Riin used to take exception to this not only because she was worried about my health but also because of a fundamental issue she has with drinking in general. She wanted me to quit completely. Because she can do that with addictions, she automatically assumed I could; when I couldn't, she thought that meant I loved my drinking more than I loved her.

I know from experience: this is not the way addictions work.

When you're addicted to something you know is bad for you, you know you have to stop, but that knowledge doesn't help. Knowing its bad for you can help you stop in the short term but once you do, as time goes on, the craving for your addiction grows stronger and stronger. Eventually, you start to look for excuses to start again. Sooner or later, usually after a particularly stressful day, you just say, "To hell with it" and start the cycle all over again.

My drinking is a good example. After Riin left, I did quit. I knew my drinking was in large part responsible for my losing her; that was my initial motivation, and it was strong enough to keep me away from it for several months. However, as time went on and I realized she wasn't coming back, I started thinking, "Why am I doing this? It's not going to bring her back. Why should I deprive myself if she's not here, anyway?" That became my excuse.

So I did go back to drinking. I didn't mention it on the blog because I was too ashamed after everything I'd said to admit it. If someone had asked me if I was drinking again I would've told the truth (I can't do otherwise; it's against my nature) but, fortunately, the topic never came up. Until now.

I am not saying, by the way, that Riin is responsible for my drinking; she's not. I freely admit I was using her as a scapegoat, an excuse to drink. However, at least I recognize this; knowing this gives me a chance to deal with it. She may have been the catalyst but, like everyone else, the ultimate responsibility for my actions rests with me.

That being said, this past summer I finally realized I needed help. I knew I had two choices; I could either go to Alcoholics Anonymous or I could make a pact with a friend I trusted to control it.

Of course, this is a very personal problem for me. I don't have a problem with people knowing I have the problem, but the person who helps me with it must be someone I trust implicitly. On realizing that, I realized that AA was out; there was no guarantee I'd meet anyone at AA meetings I could trust. So, I decided to make a pact with a friend I trusted (the one I mentioned earlier).

My original pact was simple. "I will drink only two beers a day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; I will drink no beer any other day of the week." Now I knew this pact would be hard to keep, so I also promised my friend, should I ever break the pact, that I would tell her.

Of course, the problem with keeping this agreement was the fact that I know I have no willpower when there's cold beer in the house. I prefer beer in cans and most canned beer comes in packs of eight. I wasn't sure, once I had two from a fresh pack, I would have the willpower to stay out of the other six. So I decided to switch to imported beer which was available in individual cans. That way, I could buy only two at a time.

I found a beer, a German import called Holsten Maibock, that was absolutley delicious. As a side benefit, it was also 7% alcohol and came in big 500 ml cans so it still provided a bit of a buzz even after only two. So that's what I started to drink, replacing my old favorite Moosehead Dry Ice.

Now here's the problem. Those who have been following the story with Riin will know that one thing I excel at is figuring out loopholes in agreements. For example, when Riin told me not to "call [her], E-mail [her] or write comments on [her] blog," I agreed to that. To get around that, I sent her snail mail, since that wasn't one of the three things I promised; that way, I could keep my word in the strictest sense and still be able to contact her.

Well, the same thing happened to the above agreement. One night, after the agreement was made, Lisa and I went to the casino for a snack at The All Star Grille. Instead of getting a snack, however, we decided to splurge on wine. Before I knew it, we had drank a litre each. I didn't feel I was breaking my vow because my vow was aimed specifically at beer; technically, I still hadn't broken my word.

However, the next day, I recognized that this was a loophole that had to be plugged. So, next time I talked to my friend, I amended my agreement to include all alcohol, not just beer. In the process she, bless her heart, actually talked me into making the agreement more strict. From then on, it was no other alcohol and two beers each Friday and Saturday but not Sunday. I haven't drank on Sunday since.

After a while, however, I began to miss the feeling of being mind numbingly plastered. Unfortunately, that is one of the things that keeps people drinking; it can be fun. So I started thinking of ways I could get back that feeling without breaking my word. I hit upon the idea of finding a stronger beer. I knew that imported beers were often strong, but I wasn't sure if there was any such thing as a beer that was more than 7% alcohol.

Then, one day, I was riding my bike and saw a cyclist proceed straight through an intersection in the right turn only lane. As a strong advocate of vehicular cycling, I felt compelled to stop him and discuss it with him. Over the course of our discussion, he happened to mention that he was headed for the liquor store and, when I brought up that I wished I could find a stronger beer, he said the beer he was going for was 10%.

So I'd found a new beer: Faxe 10%. When I first got it, both the cyclist and the staff at the liquor store told me it didn't taste very good and suggested I buy something else with it in case I didn't like it. Instinctively, however, I had a feeling I was going to like it just fine and just got the Faxe 10%. I was right. I don't know what they were talking about; it was delicious, not to mention it went right to my head. "Finally, I got the 'drunk' back!" I thought.

Drinking Faxe 10%, however, I discovered something else about alcohol addiction I didn't know before, at least about how it affects me: the stronger the beer, the stronger the pull of the addiction. Since starting with Faxe 10%, I've found myself tempted to break my word. Now, being obsessive compulsively honest, I talked to my friend about these temptations; this, in turn, helped me keep my word, knowing how disappointed she would be in me if I broke it.

Faxe 10% is also the only beer that makes me sorely tempted to lie. Over and over, I've had the thought that, if I was to drink more than two of them on a Friday night, if I didn't tell her, my friend would never know the difference. These thoughts disturb me. Under normal circumstances, I do not lie; the fact that this stuff is tempting me to do so makes me wonder if drinking this particular beer is a good idea...

Faxe 10% also pushed me to be a little more creative in my interpretation of my agreement. For example, I couldn't drink more than two on Friday night, but I managed to get around that by drinking two when I get home and saving another two for after midnight; technically, after midnight is Saturday and I've kept my word. Of course, the downside of that is that I have no beer Saturday night; that made Saturday the most difficult day of the week.

This weekend, I finally ended up breaking my word. However, the way which I broke it taught me something important and I now know that, thanks to my friend and her support, there is a way out of this addiction.

This Saturday afternoon, I was thirsty and we were almost out of pop. I decided to have one of Lisa's beers. Because of medication she is taking, she drinks Coors Light which, at 4% alcohol, is at the other end of the scale strength-wise from Faxe 10%. That's how I rationalized my choice; I figured it's just this side of non-alcoholic beer, anyway, so it won't hurt.

In a way, I was right about that. The experience of drinking Coors Light was radically different from the experience of drinking Faxe 10%. After my first Faxe 10%, I just crave the second one and can hardly wait to get the can open; after drinking a Coors Light, on the other hand, I didn't feel any craving and, in fact, it was several hours after the first one that I had the second one, and then only because I was thirsty again and I still hadn't gotten out for groceries.

That's when I realized that Faxe 10% was such a bad influence. Ever since yesterday, I've been giving serious thought to doing something I never thought I'd ever do: switch to light beer.

The thing is, I like the taste of Coors Light just as much as I like the taste of Faxe 10% so it was still enjoyable. Plus, Coors Light bottles have a unique feature I haven't found on any other beer. The label has a picture of mountains on the front. When you first get the beer, they're white but, once the beer is cold, they turn blue to let you know the beer is cold enough to drink. I hate warm beer so I find that feature very useful. :)

The most important thing I learned that afternoon, however, is that Coors Light doesn't drive my addiction. I can drink Coors Light just like any other beverage. At 4% alcohol, it has little or no effect on me so I can relax and enjoy the taste without worrying about how smashed I'm getting. Besides, it's also the favorite beer of my friend; if she ever comes to visit, I'll know that the beer I have on hand will be something she likes. ;)

I'm going to have to talk this out with my friend and make a final decision before next weekend. However, I'm 99% sure at this point that I'm going to make the switch to Coors Light because it does not drive my addiction; it'll allow me to continue to enjoy a relaxing beer after a hard week without having to feel the pressure of the addiction. Maybe some day I'll give it up completely; maybe I won't. Either way, though, it's clear that Coors Light is a safe alternative.

So, what's the point of all this?

This is one addict's story: mine. Riin would have everyone believe that fighting addictions is only a matter of willpower for everyone. As someone who has been addicted to something, I can tell you right now: it's not that simple.

I used to think the way Riin does. I used to look down on smokers, for example, particularly because their addiction pollutes the air around them, affecting the health of others as well as themselves. However, having been in the grips of an addiction, I now have much more sympathy for what they're going through, and much more respect for those who've managed to beat their addictions.

That's a sympathy that seems to be beyond Riin's grasp. It's not that Riin has bad intentions; she doesn't. She did try to help me with my alcohol addiction, and I love her for that. The problem was she didn't recognize that I wasn't her. She didn't recognize that I didn't necessarily have the willpower she does and, by extension, my inability to break my addiction didn't necessarily say anything about how much I loved her.

This is also why my aforementioned friend is having much greater success helping me with my addictions. She understands addictions; most intelligent Cape Bretoners do because alcohol is such a huge part of our culture here. So she also knows that helping me through this addiction is a matter of baby steps, not "cold turkey" quitting. If Riin had taken this approach, she probably could've helped me, but she didn't understand the strength of the addiction.

I agree with Riin that the shoppers who killed that Walmart employee need help; I simply don't think she understands how difficult addictions really are for people to deal with.

I sincerely hope she never does; having been there, I wouldn't wish an addiction on my worst enemy.

On December 1, 2008 3:36:00 AM AST, Wanderer wrote:
As one who has fought SEVERAL addictions, I strongly urge you to stop feeding yours. Having two beers a day, two days a week is still giving in to the addiction and it will eventually take control again.
In your case, that may be true; in mine, the approach I've been taking has given me more control over my addiction than I've ever had before.

What you're suggesting here is the same thing Riin suggests: just quit. It doesn't work that way for all of us. Some of us have to quit in baby steps; I am one of these people. Although things have not been perfect, I am drinking far less than I ever have. This is in contrast to what happened when I tried to quit cold turkey; when I had a setback when using that approach (and setbacks are inevitable) I fell off the proverbial wagon hard, drinking myself into a stupor.

Remember, though I may not have Riin's strength, my word is a strength; I do not break my word. I've never given my word about my drinking before because I was afraid to, knowing the power of the addiction. However, with the help of my friend, by giving my word on taking specific, small steps towards the goal, I am making progress. Using this approach, when I do have a setback, it tends to be relatively mild and is addressed immediately.

This would seem, therefore, to be the right path for me.

I'm glad to hear you've found a way to deal with your addictions but, remember, everyone is different. What works for you might not work for me just as what works for Riin might not work for everyone (as she seems to think).
When I make the switch to light beer (I have decided, in the hours since posting this, that I am going to do so; amending my pact with my friend this week will make the decision "official"), it'll be another step in my goal. I don't necessarily want to quit drinking altogether (though I'm not opposed to the idea if I had good reason to) but I do want to quit getting drunk altogether; that is the addiction I'm fighting, and light beer might just be the answer.
I am addicted to everything I've ever done, good and bad...
There's a good example of a difference between you and I, then; I get addicted to some things but I don't get addicted to everything. Maybe my approach wouldn't work for you because you're constantly being pulled by addictions of all sorts; maybe my approach works for me because I'm dealing with only one addiction. Or, maybe it's because of some other unknown difference between our respective psychologies.

Whatever the explanation, though, what I'm doing now is clearly working for me; that's all I need to know.