Vasectomy – Update

I’ve had quite a few questions from people about my vasectomy so I decided to write out my experience. It is going to get a bit medically graphic so proceed with caution.

The Procedure
The procedure itself cost about $800 out-of-pocket. Luckily, my health insurance covered about $200 off the bat, even though I had not paid a dime into my deductible yet. My workplace also covers 50% of any out-of-pocket expenses for medical procedures, and I have already paid $200 into a Health Savings Account. So in the end I’ll be paying about $150. The biggest annoyance was scheduling the appointment, it was about a month before the doctor was able to get me in. I guess it could have been worse but clearly Missoula needs more urologists.

When I arrived for the appointment I was feeling confident. I had made this decision years ago and I was finally in a financial position where I could take care of it. I had to fill out the normal paperwork and after about 15 minutes of waiting I was brought back to the operation room. The doctor arrived shortly and we got started. First the doctor shaved a small part of my testicles and then felt around to locate the vas deferens (Fun Fact: vasectomy literally translates to “cutting out of the vas” but there isn’t really anything cut out, it is just cut). After locating the vas and covering up the rest of my genitalia a nurse came in to assist the doctor. I certainly didn’t care if she saw my penis but I guess it is proper medical etiquette to cover up everything except the workspace.

The next step was the local anesthetic… a fairly big needle that made a pinch. The pain wasn’t too bad, my apadravya piercing was way worse, but it was pretty uncomfortable. There was also a bit of a mental block feeling so vulnerable, I think we have an evolved primal instinct to not expose our genitals or allow dangerous things near them.

After everything was numb I didn’t feel anything else directly, but there was a lot of pressure and vibration along my upper thigh and in my upper pubic area. Apparently everything inside is connected so when you tug on things it echoes through the body. Most of what I experienced at this point was based on sight instead of touch. The doctor took out a scalpel and made a small incision along my upper scrotum, he then located the vas and cut it. There was some clamping and such involved but I couldn’t really see what was happening. Once the vas was cut they took out a small soldering tool and burnt each side of the vas shut to help guarantee they wouldn’t grow back together. This was probably the weirdest part, there is something really uncomfortable about seeing smoke rise from your crotch. The doctor then stitched that side up, added a little more anesthetic, and repeated the process on the other side.

The whole appointment took less than an hour and after holding some gauze on my crotch for 5 minutes I was free to go. The first stop was the liquor store.

The Aftercare
I’m on day three now and things have been going smoothly. I haven’t had to take any pain meds beyond over the counter aspirin and an occasional bag of ice but I am following my doctors orders not to do any lifting or exercise for a few days. I decided to take it easy and just lounge around the house. I wasn’t able to get it wet for 48 hours but I’m fine to do that now. I do have some bruising on my penis shaft and on my testicles but that is all normal. I also am not allowed to ejaculate for another five days or so. That will probably be the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. I had a similar restriction after getting pierced and it gets pretty tough to not release after a few days. I’m an adult though, so I can handle it.

Now it really is just a waiting game. After I can ejaculate again I am supposed to do that 20 times before bringing a sample in to get tested. Apparently live sperm can hang around for a bit. Once I get two samples tested that do not have any life sperm I am officially sterile and my partner and I won’t have to worry about protection with each other.

I am really happy with my decision to do this. As I pointed out in a previous post, this doesn’t prevent me from being a father but it does allow me greater control over when that will happen. I never really minded condoms much (once I found one that fit comfortably) but it will be nice to not need to worry about pregnancy at all.

Vasectomy

One week from right now my vasectomy will be complete. Since publicly announcing my decision to sterilize myself about a month ago I have received a lot of (unsolicited) thoughts on my decision. Many of them were positive and rooted in curiosity, while some were fairly judgmental. Given all the discussions and debates I decided to post my thoughts on this decision. If anyone has any questions or thoughts I welcome them, as long as you aren’t an asshole about it.

There seems to be an expectation that everyone should want and have children. This feeling is more prevalent towards women than men, but it still exists in one form or another. I don’t think everyone should have children. I believe the decision to raise a child may be the most important decisions that a person can make and it should not be entered into lightly. The bare minimum is financial stability, knowledge of how to raise a child in the modern world, and an enthusiastic desire to raise a child.

Many people make decision to reproduce selfishly, they have a kid because “they always wanted one” not because they think they are capable of raising a child well. It isn’t just intuitive and research on the subject is changing regularly. Things that were considered the norm like spanking are being researched and the results are not supportive of these practices. Parents quite literally have (often with the best intentions) lead their children to suicide. It is a life in your hand, not a hobby or friend. And it is a life that will grow up in a way that you might not want, I am certainly NOTHING like my mother would have imagined or planned. The expectations she had for me has created a lot of tension and conflict. Quite frankly, your child could be an asshole.

For me, I am not financially stable enough, knowledgeable, and I have no interest in raising a child. But of course, there is always Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). I hear time and time again that raising a child is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. That may very well be true, but that doesn’t mean it is for everyone. I don’t have FOMO as long as I feel like I am living my life the way I want. Nobody can do everything. When I biked across the country I met people who said “Man, I would love to do that but I can’t because I have kids” or “That’s awesome, if only I had done that when I was younger before I got married and settled down. Now it just isn’t possible”. I want to do things like bike around the world, live in a tiny house on a farm, sail around the world, skydive on every continent, and a thousand other things. A child just doesn’t fit into that equation. In order to raise a child well I would likely need to work at a job I would hate, put down roots in a single place, put my dreams and education on hold, and make that child my priority. Really though, that is all irrelevant because there is only one thing I need to say to justify my actions, “it is my body and it is what I want to do”.

Besides, getting a vasectomy doesn’t preclude me from being a father, just a DNA donor, but it does  allows me greater control of when/if I am a father, and allows for a more pleasurable experience with my partner in the meantime. There may be a chance that my replica could be a great person (or they might be a shitbag), but as my partner pointed out, there is a chance that the person that cures cancer or discovers faster than light travel or solves our energy issues or whatever is in an adoption center somewhere and just needs a stable home to reach their potential. My DNA is not special for our species, nobody’s is. With over 300,000 children in the foster system in the US there are plenty of children that I can be a father to if I decide to do that. In fact, I think it is ethically superior to adopt instead of bringing a new child into the world. Reproducing yourself instead of adopting is a selfish act. If every couple who had a planned pregnancy decided to adopt instead there would be no children without a stable home in the US within 2 months. Yes, I realize adoption is more complicated than allowing sperm to be squirted into an ovary but maybe taking responsibility for another person should be a complicated process.

Anyway, what it comes down to is this is the right decision for me at this time. I have health insurance that is helping me out and a flexible workplace that is providing time off and financial assistance for the operation. I won’t have those things after May, so it just makes sense to me.

Big Sky Film Festival – Some Shorts

Yesterday Anna and I went to a showing at the Big Sky Film Festival here in Missoula. It was the last day of the festival and I wish we had gone to more, but I’m glad we got out to see at least one thing. What we ended up seeing was five short videos on a variety of subjects. The each sparked a lot of feels and thoughts so I decided to get them down on paper to sort out my own views. I don’t remember the names of the five shorts so I am just going to refer to them by their subject matter.

Japanese Farming Couple: The first short was 30 minutes long (which was probably about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be) and followed some of the day-to-day activities of a retired couple in Japan who live on a farm. After finishing up a career in business they moved to the mountain and decided to just live off the land. All of their buildings, fields, and gardens were made by hand. It wasn’t clear if they eat solely what they grow but what the farm produced certainly contributed to it.This wasn’t a complete escape from society though, they had a cell phone and computer with the internet and had family and friends visit for dinners. It was a simple life but one that seemed to satisfy them, and to be honest it is really appealing to me.

I think we too often create this false dichotomy between a rural, “return to nature” life and a more suburban/urban technologically advanced life. I see no reason why you can’t live on the land, grow and create, have a minimalist life AND keep the internet, mass communication, and have access to the world’s knowledge. You can have farming without the drought, famine, and isolation. You can reject consumerism but keep the technological advancements that minimize your chance of injury, harm, and death. A small farm that grows food and raises chickens with solar panels, modern water filtration, and access to the internet would allow for leisure, contemplation, and artistic creation. It sounds perfect for me.

Gulf Fisherman: The second film was really short and was about a fishing family who was severely impacted by the BP Gulf Oil spill. The father was unable to bring in crabs and shrimp for his family, and because he owed money on his boat still it put them in a bad position. I’ll talk about environmental stuff in a minute because it was relevant in the 3rd film as well, but there was another issue at work in this film. The children in the family all wanted to grow up and be like their dad, they wanted to be fishermen and keep that tradition alive. I think that is a dangerous mindset for people to have in this day and age. Computers and technology are going to increasingly limit the amount of labor jobs available to humans. It will be possible to farm (or fish) for leisure, but not as a career. This transition is going to be a painful one for many families, particularly in conservative areas where life hasn’t changed too much in the last several generations. The era of “my daddy was a crabber, and his daddy was a crabber, and I’m going to be a crabber” is coming to an end. This transitionary phase is why I support a Basic Income Guarantee and an increase in education (though not necessarily schooling as we see it today)… but those are two subjects for another blog post.

Indian Coal Mines: The third film was about Rat Hole Coal mining in a region of India. In my opinion this was the best film that showed the complexities of most human endeavors. There were no “good” decisions that could realistically be made. Basically there were three groups involved: the tribal people living on the river, the workers and immigrants, and the coal mine owners. Coal Mining in the region was considered a “cottage industry” and existed without any regulation. Mine owners could hire whomever they wanted and pollute the local water supply without facing any backlash. The polluted water destroyed the river life that provided the tribal people with life and sustenance. In order to correct this the government banned the coal mines, which left thousands of the already nearly impoverished mine workers without work. Meanwhile, the mine owners (who were highly politically connected) continued a luxurious life while their workers, who were primarily immigrants with no way to return home, were left starving in the street.

Allowing the mines to be stay open would destroy the river and the lives of the tribal people. Closing the mines would lead to starvation and poverty for the mine workers and their families who have become dependent on the company. The pure libertarian position would be to keep regulation down but first there needs to be a way to internalize externalities*. The mine company (and BP in the previous movie) needs to be held fully responsible for the harm they cause to other people and the environment. Ideally the market would produce those results, but realistically the state (as long as they aren’t bought by the businessmen) seems to be the best institution to do that. But of course, you will deal with regulatory capture** and all the problems we currently face in the US where businesses basically write legislation to protect themselves from competition, all while saying they are protecting the consumer and/or environment.

So what’s the answer? I don’t fucking know. The anarchist and libertarian solutions aren’t practical, and their immediate implementation could be devastating. After thinking about this video I realize everything is terrible and I want a beer.

Alaskan Abuse and Alcoholism: The fourth video was the most difficult for me to watch. Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse in the country, particularly in native tribes. Alcohol seems to play a key role in the cycle of abuse. The film primarily follows a woman who started a shelter in one of the tribal areas to provide women with a safe place to stay with their kids. Unfortunately the state stopped providing financial support for the shelter so they are kind of on their own now. It makes me wonder how much money Alaska spends on things like arresting marijuana smokers and if that money would be better used providing care and support for it’s citizens in need. I don’t know what the solution is but, as a local police officer pointed out, incarceration of offenders doesn’t seem to be anything but a band-aid. Banning alcohol wouldn’t be practical (or appropriate). Education and economic opportunities could save the next generation but that may mean abandoning the traditional way of life that many of the indigenous people take pride in. Again, lots of questions and thoughts but not many realistic answers.

Syrian Refugees: The final film, and the best one in my opinion, was about a family who escaped from Syria into Jordan in 2011. The characters were engaging and their optimism that they would someday return home was incredibly encouraging. Despite (or maybe because) of their optimism they created a new life in the refugee camp complete with homes, businesses, and new families and friends. The movie did bring to mind an interesting phenomenon though. As an anarchist I support the elimination of political borders, but in this case these people were saved by a border. The Syrian government had no problem lobbing bombs at civilians as long as they were on the Syrian side of the border, but as soon as individuals reached Jordan they were safe. A line in the sand saved lives. I think overall borders and destructive and prevent peace but in this case there was a benefit.

Overall, the films really showed me some of the complexities of the world and helped subdue some of my more extremists views. It was easy to say that the world would be better off without the government when I sat in a classroom or some DC-based think tank, but as I got into the real world and have broadened my horizons I realize the solution isn’t that simple. A theoretical thought experiment may create the best outcome overall but in the process could harm and kill very real people. So, like most things, I don’t know really where I stand. I think we should celebrate the better lives that are forming around the world thanks to markets and technology, be skeptical of those who wield economic or political power, and try to live our lives filled with simplicity and love. We need to look out for each other.

*Externalities is an economic term that describes something that effects a third party who didn’t have any say in the original act. Pollution is a common example. When you buy a car and drive it you pollute the air and harm the environment (and maybe other people). In order to internalize externalities you find a way to hold the original person (ie: car owner) responsible. This could be through increased taxation whose funds go to cleaning the air or something similar.
** Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption when an agency assigned to regulate and control an industry becomes an advocate for that company or industry. I think this is unavoidable and terrible. As one example, Ken Salazar was a politician who was a huge supporter of the oil industry and voted against ending tax breaks or any new regulation, but he was put in charge of the Department of the Interior who is supposed to monitor off shore drilling. Salazar was praised by the mining industry as well for his support of them. This happens all the time, you see it in any industry the government is responsible for overseeing whether it is banking, agriculture, mining, etc.

25 Questions

I saw this on one of the blogs I follow and I feel like doing it. So here are some random things about me….

25 Get to Know Me Q’s

1. What is your middle name?: John. So my name is Peter John. Coming from a really religious family this shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

2. What was favorite subject at school?: Hmm, that depends. In high school I loved all my social studies classes. In college I preferred Economics and Poli Sci. Now I am more focused on psychology, philosophy, gender studies, and sexuality.

3. What is your favorite drink?: Non-Alcoholic: Earl Grey Tea, Beer: Killian’s Irish Red, Guinness Stout, or Sam Adams Summer Ale depending on my mood and the season, Liquor: Johnnie Walker Scotch

4. What is your favorite song at the moment?: Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

5. What is your favorite food?: Probably yellow curry, or sushi.

6. What is the last thing you bought?: Food from work, a computer from Wal-Mart, drugs from an anonymous source.

7. Favorite book of all time?: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It is technically seven books but I count it as one epic tale.

8. Favorite Color?: Light blue

9. Do you have any pets?: jYep, Higgins (Higgsnasty, Giggles, The Professor, Higgs, etc)

10. Favorite Perfume?: None, I don’t really like artificial smells on myself or others.

11. Favorite Holiday?: Meh… none really. New Years can be fun, and I like celebrating the Solstices and other season changes.

12. Are you married?: Yep. I didn’t expect to ever get married but I met a wonderful partner who had similar enough views on kids, monogamy, and lifestyle. Our marriage is far from traditional but it works for us.

13. Have you ever been out of the country, if so how many times?: Yep. Canada a few times to visit my brother, Mexico twice (once with a church group and once with some army buddies), Cameroon while I was in college, and Afghanistan and Iraq while in the Army.

14. Do you speak any other language?: I can understand a little German and Russian but nothing fluent.

15. How many siblings do you have?: Four younger brothers and one younger sister.

16. What is your favorite shop?: None.

17. Favorite restaurant?: Hmm, I would guess The Spot down in Los Angeles. Or maybe Doomie’s or Swingers.

18. When was the last time you cried?: A few weeks ago when my partner and I went to see Catching Fire.

19. Favorite Blog?: No real favorites. I like reading personal blogs of friends or blogs about random interests of mine like mental health, polyamory, transhumanism, sex education, history, spirituality, etc

20. Favorite Movie?: V for Vendetta probably, though I just watched The Lego Movie for the first time and liked it a lot.

21. Favorite TV shows?: Probably The Wire… but I watch a fair amount of TV via streaming services. The Office and Parks and Rec are my “go to” shows a lot of the time.

22. PC or Mac?: PC

23. What phone do you have?: Samsung Galaxy 4 Mini

24. How tall are you?: 5’8″

25. Can you cook?: I can follow directions pretty well. Cooking wasn’t something I really started doing until a year or so ago. I am still learning.

Prisons and Criminals

I like thought experiments. Playing out extreme scenarios in my head (or talking with others about them) helps me figure out where I stand on issues and find mistakes in my own life philosophy. I like being consistent, or at least knowing where I am inconsistent. It was with that in mind that I posted the following to Facebook. “If you had the power to release every single person in a US jail right now would you?” In hindsight the phrasing wasn’t what I really had in mind and the conversation kind of got crazy sidetracked, as these things to do on the internet. I actually find Facebook to be a terrible place for well thought out debate or discussions, and this reaffirmed that, but I still have the subject on my mind so I thought I’d put up a post.

A better way to phrase my question would have been, “If you had to choose between the status quo with a large number of people who are unjustly imprisoned and releasing all prisoners back into society instantly, which would you choose?” For me an unjustly imprisoned person falls into two basic categories. First, and likely pretty uncontroversial, are people who have committed no crime at all and are in prison anyway. This could be people wrongfully convicted, framed by police, or pressured into taking a plea deal when they were innocent. The second group, and maybe controversial for some, are those guilty of committing a crime but the crime itself is unjust. This would include those in jail for drug possession and dealing, prostitution, and some other non-violent offences.

The core principle this question raises for me is how much injustice are we willing to put up with for convenience and/or the perception of safety and stability. How many people and their families must suffer as collateral damage in order to keep real dangers to society like murderers and rapists off the street? Would it be a more just world if we just released everybody and dealt with the fallout? Is it simply a numbers game where if 10% of the people are unjustly imprisoned that is too high but 1% is acceptable? If so, how do we draw that line?

You could also look to see if this is an appropriate use of resources. In 2013, 11,208 people were victims of a homicide while over 600,000 die from heart disease. Would society be better off if we just sucked up the damage from murderers each year and instead spent that $212,000,000 on medical research or working to eliminating the cause of violent crime. To put those costs in perspective adding the criminal justice money solely to heart disease research would increase the budget by 300-times. If you take the average lifespan (80 years for simplicity) of someone and consider the entire thing a loss each year then there are 896,640 years lost annually. From a mathematical standpoint that 300-times increase in funding would need to add average of about 1.5 years to each heart disease victims life to even it out. I’d be willing to bet that massive increase in funding could do a lot more than that. Or maybe that money could go to help alleviate poverty (a cause of violence), increase mental health access across the country, or help provide stability for broken homes.

In the end, I have no fucking idea where I stand on whether we should release everyone and under what conditions. But the subject does get me thinking and I realize there is something VERY wrong with our current system. We need serious reform that includes legalization of victim-less “crimes”, a focus on reform instead of punishment, and increasing the economic opportunities available to people.

7-Day Update

It’s been 7 days since I decided to make some life changes, particularly concerning my nutrition. Basically, I wanted to try to make all my food from bulk or produce, and keep it vegan. I also planned on cutting down on my beer intake, which would hopefully help with other good habits like exercising, writing, reading, etc. The results were pretty good, but not ideal. I did learn a few things along the way.

Organization – I found organizing my goals into a spreadsheet that I keep open on my computer really helped. It was the first thing I saw in the morning and last thing I saw before going to bed. Just having it as a tab open on my browser was a constant reminder to be more productive instead of watching a bunch of stuff on Netflix. There is a screenshot below. The upper goals are what I was working on this week and what my original goal was, the lower goals are things I plan on introducing soon and include music, foreign language, specific exercises that I hate (like working abs), artistic stuff, coding, etc.

Screenshot 2015-01-21 at 11.41.23

Nutrition – Attempting to eliminate packaging and other waste from my food purchases went pretty well. All my meals (except for one drunken pizza order) were made from bulk purchased foods or produce. I did use some materials that I had around the house that did not fall into those categories though, and that could cause problems in the future. A lot of the recipes I love call for coconut milk and vegetable broth so I will need to find a way to make those myself or replace them in the recipe if I want to push this further. Eating vegan was really easy when I cooked, but I do have a habit of accepting free food when it is available even if it isn’t vegan. I did have a ton of fun making my own bread and my own almond milk, which is something I want to keep doing. There is something rewarding about creating instead of purchasing… and those skills will be helpful when the zombie apocalypse shuts down the world. Trust me, when that happens you want me on your team. Not only am I good with a gun but I know how to repair bicycles, bake bread, grow mushrooms, build shelter, teach sex positions, and mediate a quarrel between lovers.

Beer – Cutting beer out of my life is not going to happen. I do love the taste of beer and the bonding that comes from exploring new brews. It isn’t about the alcohol, but it is a part of my life. So, instead of trying to cut it out I am going to be much more moderate with it. If you look at my chart you can see that I basically fucked up all my goals on the day I went to the hot springs and got wasted. I think it is reasonable to keep my heavier drinking to when I am out sinning with friends (we all need a day or so of sin each week) and keep my other beer experiences to tastings.

Overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. I am going to keep pressing on and find new ways to put things into my life that I want to learn. If you aren’t growing, you are dying… and I plan on living forever so I gotta keep moving.

“N” – A Short Story (Part 2)

The following is second part of a story based on a dream I have had a few times recently. It is a rough draft and it has been a LONG time since I wrote anything fiction. I’d love for thoughts, feedback on clarity, grammar, or content. I think there will be three parts.

All around was silence and ice. Ortus could barely comprehend what had just happened. The blood on the ground was starting to cool and turning into a gel, the ice showed no sign of melting, scratches, or in any way registering the crowd that used to be here. The only thing Ortus knew was that it wasn’t safe to stay here. It was time to figure out a way to leave.

There was no way to figure out how to get back to the entrance so Ortus began to just explore at random. Occasionally another person would walk by and smile, but the smiles had sadness and fear behind them. The facade had come off and many of the people had abandoned all hope. All Ortus could do was pay attention and formulate a plan.

During this time wandering (hours? days? weeks?) Ortus came upon a darkened room that clearly had people moving about in it. No details could be seen but the movement seemed unnatural. It was spastic, flinching, and hard to track. Ortus proceeded in cautiously.

The only light was the open door behind Ortus, here the walls did not glow with that calming blue light. All along the walls were people in straight jackets mumbling and struggling. It wasn’t simply a dark room, it was a dark cavern that went on into eternity. Thousands or tens of thousands people of all shapes and sizes lined the walls flinching in their insanity. None of them seemed to notice Ortus’ presence.

As Ortus approached one thing became very clear, they were all saying the same thing. The sound of their voices in unison seemed to echo and amplify throughout the room.

We are one… We are none… The only difference is N…
The difference is N…
We are one… We are none… The only difference is inside…
The difference is In…

Then they all looked at Ortus and began beating their heads against the wall. The chant got louder and louder as they tried to block the entrance. Ortus ran.

Down the halls, making random turns, not stopping until there was no more air to breath. But eventually Ortus rose and the plan to escape became the only thing that mattered. So the wandering continued until Ortus collapsed.

Collapsed. And slept.

I’ve always loved my golden hair. It is the one thing about my body that I really feel comfortable about. My breasts, my hips, my legs are all pretty standard, but my long golden hair is beautiful. Even as I sit on this boat, with the wind whipping around, I should be anxious about arriving in a new country but all I can think about is my hair. I wonder if American’s will like it?

“Ortus! Ortus! Wake up! It is time for the Titling! It’s me, Geni! Wake up!”

Ortus woke up to Gen screaming and shaking. Around Geni’s neck was a silver pendent that said “Miner” and on his hips on his back was a number of tools including a pick ax, heavy duty gloves, and rope. His small stature was clearly primarily lean muscle and emotions seemed forced.

Ortus finally became conscious enough to realize what was happening and began to stand. Gen pulled and tugged and lead them both through the caverns. Ortus remembered the plan to escape and began to memorize the route. One left, two rights, one left, straight for 75 steps, and there is the hole to the surface in front with sunlight shining through.

The two eventually arrived at the red cavern just as the ceremony began. As the new titles were handled Ortus looked around, to the left was the newest arrival looking scared and confused. Finally Ortus’ name was called to the stage, the only Title unclaimed was Washer and it was given to Ortus. With it came rags, cleaner, and a knowledge of where to go and what to do.

And so the cycle continued for months, years, or decades. Ortus played all the roles and waited until one provided the tools and opportunity for escape. Finally the day came and the Miner pendent and tools became his. Escape could now happen.