Saturday, August 22, 2009

More on the Vanilla Sex Magazine Article

Anais writes in a comment:

I want to know why a magazine has to "sell" vanilla sex to anyone. I'd be interested in reading the article just because I can't imagine what it says that could possibly interest me in participating in more vanilla sex and less kinky sex. I mean, yes, vanilla sex can be VERY hot -- but I would never voluntarily damp down the kinkiness factor in my sex life and I doubt any article will convince me to try it.

(Actually, I know a little about magazine titles, and of course this is just one more way to get the word "sex" on the cover, to make people want to buy the magazine.)

I think the question she raises at the beginning of her comment expresses what I was thinking when I first saw the cover. To me, the line "Vanilla Sex: Why It's So Great" register as "Settle for less. It's more than you think." Try recasting that statement in terms of something other than sex, and you can easily create statements of profound absurdity.

I did check the magazine's website to see if I could find the article in question. The only thing on their carousel about sex was this article:

Better Sex Now

but it's more about spicing things up in a moderately non-threatening way. I also Googled the headline as a quoted phrase and turned up another article for a Canadian magazine of a similar title that is cited as having been published in Oct. 2008.

Vanilla sex: The best you've ever had?

I wondered if the magazines might have a common publisher. If you look at the "favicon" (that little image that appears adjacent to the site's address on most browsers), you'll see the silhouette of Pegasus, which is a trademark held by the publishers of Reader's Digest[1].

If you click on the Subscribe link on the Canadian magazine, you'll find that it takes you to a server hosted on the domain. I think this gives us good reason to believe that the article is being repurposed in a sister publication in the US.

I read through the article and have mixed opinions. On one hand, he is right about the overemphasis on techniques when it comes to advice. Sexuality has mental and spiritual dimensions that make it more satisfying. But on the other hand, the article has a subtext that good sex requires the abolition of the unusual or the anxiety provoking. Indeed, it sounds as if he is cheerleading for Scharff's notion of "good enough sex".

Then there is this passage toward the end:

Now that I’m married, sex has assumed its proper place in my life. It generally happens at a preordained time. Sometimes circumstances prevent it; other times there’s a bonus. It’s pretty basic, stripped of all its bells and whistles. Afterwards, one of us might casually say, “That was fun.” Then we roll over and fall into a delicious sleep. Or we might get up and go about the rest of our business, of which—with three boys and two careers —there’s plenty.

He seems so... contentedly suburban, which is anything but what I am. Maybe that's why I found it so irksome?

For an alternative perspective, refer to "White Collar Holler", recorded originally by Stan Rogers and covered here by the Rambling Sailors.

I remember hearing Rogers' version of this for the first time on an episode of Dr. Dimento way back in 1984 and laughing my @$$ off.

[1] -- One of my casual Aspie interests is being able to recognize trademarks and know the formal names of companies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Says Who?

Saw this magazine cover at the drug store near work. I'm sure quite a few of my readers would call into question that headline in the left column. If you need a higher resolution image, you can click on it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Schnarch Rebranding

Longtime readers of this site will be well aware of my affinity for the writings of David Schnarch. I'm still on his therapy site's mailing list and got an announcement from them a couple of days ago. The key excerpt is quoted below:
We have two completely new web sites on the Internet.

The Marriage & Family Health Center is no longer located at Our new home is Check us out! is now exclusively devoted to our international best-selling book Passionate Marriage

I have updated the link to their site in the sidebar accordingly.

Also of note is that a new edition of Passionate Marriage is out with a new foreword and a key concepts guide.

Given the weightiness of that book, I think the addition should make the text more accessible to newcomers. I wish them the best of luck.

Where Did the Week Go?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Edited at 9:20 am on 8/16 for polishing and corrections. The original revision was written in the wee hours of Sunday morning as I was nodding off to sleep.

It's widely accepted that the passage of time seems to accelerate as we age. Minutes don't seem to take as long as they did in the past. I don't know if I crossed some sort of threshold when I turned 40 back in February, but it seems as if things have been really flying since I accepted the promotion a little over a month ago. I'm still trying to piece together what happened to my week.

I had high hopes starting. On Monday, I got up extra early and drove over to STBX's so that I could see my older daughter head off to her first day of first grade. As for work, I was going to be working on stuff that would be key development project items, taking over from some foundational work done by my ex-boss the week after he left the company. But the fates would have nothing to do with that.

On Monday evening, a flurry of system alerts about the site being down sporadically kept the systems engineer and I on edge up through the evening, and the cause was something that was entirely avoidable. One of the database servers had run out of disk space because the engineer had set the database up to write to a smaller disk partition rather than a much larger one which had been created just for that purpose.

Tuesday was chock full of meetings, and the night my time with the kids.

The weekly release was problem free, but my system engineer had been up so late rebuilding our test environment that he overslept. I called him six minutes after we were supposed to start pushing to production, and he answered saying that he had just woke up. We started the release with him talking our IT support guy through the process over the phone.

The other two developers were out of the office. One had arranged to work from home because his son started kindergarten that day, and the other e-mailed in that he was going to work from home because his car battery was dead. Given some other things that indicate his motivation may be less than up-to-snuff, I was skeptical about his claim.

On Wednesday night, I wound up writing a test script that would be used to judge the quality of the new approach we were taking on this development project. While auditing the stats, I found that the numbers did not agree with what I saw in production and tracked it down to an issue with the database again. This time, it was a secondary server that was used to create the snapshots.

Thursday night, I spent re-running the numbers that I was hoping to have done on Wednesday and trying to figure out how we would implement a new web service in production across multiple data centers. The application didn't have build in replication, so we would have to roll our own.

I time shifted my work schedule on Friday, going in over two hours early, so that I could take off early to pick up the girls while STBX worked a concession stand at the overpriced taxpayer financed athletic facility, which earns her tuition offsets for the kids dance classes.

Friday night and Saturday were spent rewriting major portions of code I had written in May 2008. It was core stuff that related to how content was fetched, and this new algorithm would break major portions of it. I managed to get it working for all but a couple of edge cases and one bug in a display widget. I checked all of that code in a couple hours ago, just prior to when our IT support engineer was taking that system down for some much needed maintenance.

A big event going on in the Circle City this weekend is a downtown convention that is aimed primarily toward gamers, but it has grown into a cultural event above and beyond the original audience.

Contrary to what you might expect from someone in my line of work, the event is not something I would be interested in. It does make for amusing people watching at lunch time, though. I would go so far as to say that you could make a drinking game out of it... sip of beer for someone dressed in all black, two drinks if they have dyed hair, a shot whiskey for cosplay, two shots if they are wielding weapons. I could go on and on, but as someone with a low tolerance for alcohol, I'd pass out before this paragraph was completed.

In the midst of the people watching on Friday, an awareness came to mind... While the demographics are strongly skewed toward the male side, the crowds do include some females. Some appear to be just as into the goings on. Others are just part of a couple. Some are both.

Going by appearances, most of the couples appeared to be in their 20s. Seeing them brought forth some unanticipated and painful emotions inside of me.

I've written in the past about how I struggle with this feeling that I am so unusual, at least for this area, that there is no one with whom I have enough in common for form a every close bond. In private conversations with others, I have described this state as "unknowability," a gut feeling that no one would find me worth the time of wanting to know and understand me.

As I watched these couples, I felt envy. It wasn't because I found myself attracted to the women in the couples[1]. It was because these men had found acceptance in the eyes of someone else so early in their lives, in spite of the fact that their alienation from society at large

That got me thinking about the subculture upon which the convention is based as well as other cliques that permeate our society. With the aid of social networks which draw people together who would have otherwise never known about each other, people manage to form associations and groups with those who have similar interests. Sooner or later, people find the tribe they call home, even the geeks.

I just happen to have niche interests that are so orthogonal to one another that it's hard for me to find a tribe of my own. My mind, arguably vexed with Asperger Syndrome, has left me with a clutter of knowledge of arcane areas such as railroads, math, radio station history, MGM cartoons of the 40s - 60s, musical genres of many tastes, software engineering, and erotic explorations, economics, existentialism, and non-traditional relationships. I am all over the place, so dispersed that it is as if I am nowhere... and I live in a metro area that is about as non-cerebral as you can get.

Despite all of this talk about being yourself and pursuing your dreams, most of society aligns itself with a set of life scripts. This allows different interests to accumulate size and form a community. The inability to connect on this level can lead to feelings of alienation, which ultimately leads to depression. Perhaps we are wired to do this because being a part of a sustainable group enhanced the likelihood of survival. Perhaps this is the basis of the envy and grief I felt.

The voice of Schnarch appears in my head to protest the sadness. Self validation, I picture him saying, means that you don't need the acceptance of a significant other to believe that you are good. Differentiation, first and foremost, is the ability to stand on one's own emotional two feet, and pining for a steady stream of acceptance isn't going to be a guarantee that everything will be OK. It's a crutch. Maybe this is just loneliness anxiety by any other name. I just know it was there in a big way, and I don't want it to engulf me.

[1] -- Although on Friday afternoon I did see a girl walking down the street, decked out in an outfit that included a short skirt and suspenders that gave her an arousing kick@$$ bad girl. She was not part of a couple, though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Should I Start to Worry Myself If I See Myself in T-Rex?

Despite the fact that it uses the same d@mned panels for every strip, I find Dinosaur Comics to be hilarious. Today's strip, especially panel (3), for some reason reminds me of some of my more off-the-deep-end anayltic posts in this space.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Late Night Listening XXX -- Wanderin' in the Rain

It's been a long, long time since I lost myself.
Put my pride down on the table, put my fear on the shelf.
So I bought myself a throne to reside and let myself go.
But I've traveled much too far, where I've gone, I'll never know.

What a long, long time...
Long, long time.
It's been a little old while since I felt so fine.
Wanderin' in the rain...
Losing my mind.
What a long, long time.
What a long, long time.

-- O.A.R. "King of the Thing", 34th And 8th

Heard a live version of this song being played on the Groove Show last weekend. I fell in love with the refrain, and it speaks to how I've been feeling lately.

Last Sunday, a post appeared on I Am Doing the Best I Can that struck a chord in me. I'll pull the relevant paragraphs and quote them here:

When you drop off the entire Bloggy planet and don't read any of your friends, even though you Love them...but participating in the bloggy world become just too much to bear because that means, well INTERACTING and shit...

When you decide after two years, which, lets face - is antediluvian in the time epochs of the internets - to wander back and try to find all of your peeps, your homies, your original Phi Delta Badass...

They ain't all there.

In recent weeks, my life seems to be filtering down to something. Wheels turning. Pulp falling to bottom of glass. I twist and squirm in my skin, trying to figure out what it is that I seem to be morphing into, but it still has no recognizable shape or form. I can only tell you is that it is Different.

I feel like I walked back into a playground that was waiting for me to arrive...but there is no one left on the swings. No one on the slides. No one over there by the fence telling ghostly tales and urban myths to each other.


"I'm sorry! I'm sorry I withdrew so deeply into myself that I locked the door to the yard and refused to go out. I'm sorry I missed babies being born, babies being lost and the million other joys and sorrows that happened in your lives. Marriages. Divorces. The terrible. The frightening, the sublime. I didn't mean to abandon you."

And I wait here in the edge of the yard...just on the edge of the dark peering out waiting for a noise. A whisper. Anything. I pick up a small stone and throw it up into the air and watch the bats dive and turn towards it.

I can wait.

It's bad enough that the third anniversary of this blog came and went without so much of a post on my behalf. Adding insult to the injury is the fact that I have been equally as bad about keeping pace with the many blogs I read on a regular basis and left comments regularly over the course of 2006 - 07.

Looking back, I see a similar pattern that happened over time with real-life friends. My dissatisfaction with my marriage and job some four or so years ago resulted in me pulling away from them. Not keeping in touch. Not answering e-mails. I just didn't think I could share this struggle with them. I built a cocoon, with the blogosphere as a lifeline to the outside.

With the change of jobs, I found myself swept up deeply in my work, which was good in to an extent because it helped me jump start a stagnating professional life, and it took my mind off of having to live under the same roof with an estranged spouse.

When STBX moved out, I had hopes of starting up a new circle of friends. I put up profiles on a couple of sites and I started to have some conversations, one of which led to an adventurous beneficial friendship with someone else who was in a similar situation. She has since moved on, but we keep in touch every now and then.

The e-mail nastygram from STBX in early December throttled my socializing. The addition of STBX to the ranks of the unemployed didn't help much either.

It was at that time that I really lost momentum for filing the divorce proceedings. For one thing, it seemed downright cold to have STBX served with a summons after having lost a job. Second, I wasn't sure how the courts would look upon the child support figures that STBX and I had agreed on back when she moved out, since they were based on her weekly gross earnings at the time. Third, the costly van repair at the beginning of the year made be fearful of my own finances, and the cost of paying the fees associated with the divorce seemed like a luxury.

The past eight months have gone by quickly. Up to and beyond the firing of the underperforming co-worker, I have increasingly allowed my life to be consumed by two things... work and my kids. Although I have put in some crazy hours at the office (and from my home), I have never backed out of a commitment to spend time with my kids. I spend time with them doing things when they are in my custody, and I show up for their performances.

Over this time, I regrettably started to neglect this blog and the relationships with those whom through this blog I had become acquainted. The cocoon was sealing, leaving room for only a few friends I had made over the past few months plus intermittent IM pings and e-mails with a few long time readers. In retrospect, this has not been a Good Thing.

Over the past month, several big changes have come down the line that are threatening to shake up the status quo.

Let's look at the home front. First of all, STBX's desire to get the divorce done has increased. A couple weeks ago, she said she'd like to get it filed sooner rather than later so that it isn't hanging over everyone's head during the holidays. Second, she is verging on running out of unemployment benefits, with no job in sight. She actually had an interview for an instructional aide position with our daughter's school system, but she didn't get the job.

On the work front, a month ago, my boss announced to our team that he had turned in his resignation to upper management and would be leaving the company at the end of the month to go work for "So You Think You Can Search".

The announcement caught us all off guard because we thought he was in it for the long haul and that he wouldn't ever think of hiring on at the search startup because of its non-existent progress over the past three years and its notoriously dysfunctional managerial environment.

He cited two reasons for the decision:

  • The work he had done to stabilize and solidify the source code and create a team to develop it was mostly accomplished, and he believed we could pick up from where he left off. He needed a more chaotic environment.

  • The role he was in, VP of Product, was transitioning to more of a business development role, and that wasn't his forte.

He said that his departure shouldn't be construed as a vote of no-confidence against the company. In fact, he said, he was purchasing the options he had accumulated over the years so that he would have a stake in the company's future success.

After the big announcement, he called me into his office to discuss something in private. He said that they were going to try to find someone outside the company to fill the business development role, but he didn't see the company finding someone to do that in the time he had remaining with the company.

He also brought up our past conversations on how he saw in me the potential to take on more of a leadership role. Upper management also agreed that I would be a good candidate to take over leadership of the Product team under the role Director of Engineering.

He added that there was a chance that the Product Support team, which was merged into our group in October of last year, might be moved out of our department and placed under the control of the new VP of Client Success.

I was given an offer letter on the spot, with a 12 % increase in salary and lots more options. He said he knew I would need time to think about it, but they would really want me to make a decision by the company meeting, which would take place on the afternoon of the next day. The offer didn't surprise me given the circumstances, but the increase in pay was more than I had anticipated.

I weighed what I would be throwing myself into. I would be trading off relatively long days of coding solitude for lots more meeting commitments. I would be responsible for managing things outside the scope of my expertise, like the systems engineering and IT guys. I would more than likely have to be on call 24/7 for server outage alerts. It would be the first time that I would have people reporting to me on a regular basis. I also knew that I would be the only server-side developer left on the team.

On the other hand, here I was at the age of 40 and really in need of experience with leadership. I recalled Drunken Housewife's remark from April where she suggested that I needed to accumulate some management experience. The department would have a leadership vacuum in our boss' absence, and they needed someone to help maintain the positive progress we had made over the past year and a half.

In an act of self-validation, I turned in a signed acceptance of the offer the next day. When the news was announced to the team, there was a collective sigh of relief on my coworkers' faces, which was reassuring. I know that I am looked upon as a reliable resource of information, but being viewed as a leader is a totally different thing.

The remaining days in July were a whirlwind. My life became so full of meetings that I felt like I was working for a completely different company.

As my boss predicted, there was a restructuring that put the Product Support folks under Client Success, which was a bummer for the Product Support team, but it did reduce the amount of fires I had to fight.

Then a week into the job, we closed a very big deal with a client wherein it became clear to our team that they wanted to use the applications in ways that would push parts of our server and user interface code to its limits, if not breaking them. So the focus of our work the next couple of months will be on making it so our app will be able to handle these demands. It will keep us very busy.

With the promotion, I revisited the child support calculation that I did a year ago and updated the numbers with current wages and insurance, turning in the new form on Monday this week I priced STBX's numbers as 40 hours at minimum wage. She got a boost of about 40 or so dollars per week, and I adjusted my direct deposit numbers accordingly.

The next day, after she had interviewed for the instructional aide position, she IMed me at work saying this:
1:18:03 PM STBX: well i just called daycare/preschools for (younger daughter) in case i get the job. it will be anywhere from $600-$800/month for (younger daughter) to go all day. i will probably need your help with this if it happens

As we found out earlier in this post, she didn't get the job.

But nonetheless, that maxed out my stress level for the day. On Thursday night, one of the nights when I had the kids, I was giving them a bath at her place while she was at our older daughter's PTO meeting. I noticed that she left out a notebook where she had taken notes when calling child care places. The three she had listed indeed ranged in the values she said, but all of them were also high end places, which confirmed my suspicion.

If she continues to push this issue, this may transition from an uncontested divorce to a contested one. This week, I will be scoping out divorce attorneys to be ready.

Finally, it should be worth mentioning that I have made a new friend via one of my profiles. She was shy about approaching me, but I'm glad she made the move. We have some commonality of experiences, musical tastes, thought processes, and desires which leads us to enjoy each others' company very much. She has been a source of peace in the malestrom that has been my July and August. I have added her to my blogroll, for those who may be interested in her story.