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Fri Dec 15 2000 at 19:36:53 (23.2 years ago )
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Sat Dec 1 2007 at 02:44:45 (16.2 years ago )
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Mobile phones, handhelds, games, horses, dot-com disasters
Glu Mobile
To err is human; to hop lepine.
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Esophageal Cancer
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A programmer who writes games for mobile phones.

The following (if there's anything there) is a node-in-progress. If you should stumble across this, feedback is quite welcome. Just /msg Thumper.

Free markets are not always the answer

Capitalism as it's practiced in the United States is based upon consumer choice motivating competition and quality. This works swimmingly for things like cars and VCRs. There's a wide variety of these products, and they are generally of high quality. Addictive drugs (alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs) and necessities such as health care don't work in this system because the consumer has no choice.


The medical definition of addiction describes a lack of control. The person loses the ability to make rational decisions about the addictive substance. This undermines the mechanisms that make free markets work. No matter what quality or price, the consumer will still purchase the product. This leads to terrible abuses, the clearest example of which is perpetrated by tobacco companies. The products they sell are highly addictive, very expensive compared to the cost of production, and are clearly deadly.

Caffeine is mildly addictive. It has withdrawal symptoms and its stimulant effects gradually decrease during a lifetime of consumption. It's also a less than ideal product from a consumer's point of view. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are advertised as refreshing drinks, but the caffeine in them is a diuretic which dehydrates the drinker. On top of that, most of these products (all dark colas) are known for stripping the outer protective layer of enamel on drinkers teeth, promoting tooth decay. Despite this, caffeinated sodas are extremely popular and have startlingly high profit margins.

That's not to say that addictive substances shouldn't be bought or sold. For instance, codeine is a useful yet addictive drug. It isn't available for purchase by every consumer. Instead it must be prescribed by a doctor, and there are regulatory safeguards to prevent doctors abusing this power. It is exactly these protections that prevent such drugs from forming a free market.


A patient can certainly make some choices when it comes to medical care. "Should I take the cough medicine that may make me drowsy?" Such decisions are comparatively benign. When a patient requires critical care such as an AIDS treatment, what choice is there? The patient can buy the drug or die.

Types of Poly relationships

Most people's only exposure to poly is the "Alternatives" section of personal classified ads. Though these ads represent a part of poly, they are a tiny slice of a complex phenomenon.

Society provides little useful context for poly relationships. The only related theme that is common in movies, books, news and religion is infidelity. This has a profoundly negative connotation (and rightly so). It is the one behavior that is universally rejected by poly people.

Monogamous relationships have abundant and generally well understood categorizations—dating, engaged, married. Every such term implies that exactly two people are involved, so they are often unsuitable for describing complex poly relationships.

On occasion the common terminology of monogamous relationships can be useful for poly people. One can describe the relationships between each pair of people, but this gets laborious quickly.

Since society at large provides no ground rules and no accurate assumptions about poly relationships, polyfolk must laboriously describe their relationships. This is especially true when starting a new relationship. The people involved must carefully describe their expectations, boundaries and existing relationships. Such a duty should be familiar to experienced polyfolk as it follows the poly credo: "communicate, communicate, communicate, and when in doubt, communicate."

Polyfolk enjoy defining, revising and discussing the terminology of their relationships. The inevitable differences and disagreements in such discussions mean there cannot be an authoritative list of definitions (at least, not a useful one). The following is therefore biased by my own experience and should not be expected to apply universally.

First of all there exist a few relatively well-known relationships:

This is defined as a man who marries multiple women. This term is perhaps well-known because it is based upon the monogamous concept of marriage. Because of this basis it implies that the wives each have a relationship with only their shared husband.

This is equivalent to polygamy with the genders reversed.

Swinger is a comparatively vague term. It indicates someone who has casual sex outside of a relationship, but it doesn't specify whether the swinger also has any long-term relationships. It often has a negative connotation, especially when used outside of poly contexts. To some it connotes infidelity, dangerous or disrespectful behavior, or promiscuity.

It may seem odd, but monogamy can be considered a subset of poly. In fact, I consider myself poly but monogamous. I am in a committed, closed relationship with my fiancée. I still consider myself to be poly because I am open to such relationships. However my fiancée is not, and the commitment I have made to her is that I will always be faithful to her and obey her wishes.

There are some terms which are fairly well defined among polyfolk.

threesome or triad
This is a relationship involving three people who are all emotionally involved with each other, usually with a long-term commitment. "Triad" is usually preferable to "threesome" because the latter can also mean a one-time sexual encounter rather than a relationship.

Foursomes, fivesomes and moresomes are obviously the same with more people involved. They are also exceedingly rare. (What is the logical progression after "triad"?)

A V relationship is one person who has a relationship with two others, but those two do not have a relationship with each other. This also implies long-term relationships, and that the two people at the ends of the V are at least acquainted with each other, if not living together. It also implies that the two relationships are of equal importance

This is similar to a V except that one of the two relationships, the primary, is stronger, longer-term, or more committed. Often the primary relationship is a marriage. It is not intended to imply that one person is better than another, rather that the relationships differ. I believe this is the most common arrangement among long-term poly relationships.

Primary, secondary and even tertiary are commonly used to rank the importance of the bonds that an individual has.

Less common:





long term

always come home

always be safe

right of veto

don't tell me

tell me everything

only if I'm present

only if I'm involved too

Even all the definitions above are insufficient. No two people are the same, especially when examining the intricacies of their relationships. There are as many methods of poly as there are people practicing it.

There are personal ad services which cater to polyfolk, but their questionnaires fall short. There's never an appropriate checkbox that sums up a poly person's situation, desires and fantasies.