Scouting Dilemma

On the one hand, the Boy Scouts of America are (officially) a discriminatory organization of whom I really do not approve. On the other hand, my boys are in Boy Scouts (Cub Scouts, technically). They enjoy the peer social activities, and I enjoy the opportunities they would not have if they were not in an organization like that (camping, civic duties, volunteering, etc.). I also like that they have friends there and get to hang with them.

But I am finding it more and more difficult to reconcile the two.

There are few established alterna-Scouting opportunities available in our area. (No CampFire group, no YMCA Adventure Guides, no BPSA group.)

So, I can:

  1. Keep my kids in the BSA and shut my mouth (or work from within for change). In the meantime I keep sending money to the BSA, implicitly supporting their positions.

  2. Pull my kids from Scouting and enjoy not having annoying activities three times a month.

  3. Put my time and treasure where my ethics are and start something myself, either personally ((DIY looks cool) or with the structure (if not support) of some organization like BPSA.

The first choice, sticking it out, is where we have defaulted. But when we joined the current Pack, (remember, we just moved) at the introductory meeting some honcho from the local Council came to sell it, and the first thing he said was how wonderful it is to have a place “where we can talk about God. We can’t do it in our schools!” He went on a bit about how glorious this was, and how important, and then he might have caught my eye and he never came back to it. It left a really unpleasant taste in my mouth.

The second choice, ditching, would be easy, but it feels so wrong. Worse than choice number one, in fact.

The last one is clearly the right choice. But I am old, lazy, and tired (or at least I feel that way) and this would be a huge commitment on my part. I think there might be some support in the community (at the very least in my church, where it has already been brought up once), so I probably wouldn’t be flying alone. But this is really quite a daunting task. I am, shall we say, daunted by the thought of it.

Thoughts? Encouragement? Volunteers?

My thoughts on the election

So, the election is over. And I am pretty pleased with the results. I don’t have anything really grandiose to say about it, no proclamations or predictions, but throughout the night (I was up until 1 am local) and this morning I have had some random thoughts.

There may be profanity below. There will definitely be Liberal bias, so you have been warned.

  • During his concession speech, I realized that I have no animosity towards Mitt Romney. I think he is an ambitious man used to success, and he really, really, really wanted to be President. I think he really is a moderate, and I don’t think he believes half of what he “stood for” in this campaign. And while it disturbs me that he would be so glib with his values, I don’t hate him for it.
  • But Mitch McConnell can take a flying leap onto the nearest freeway. Here is what he said this morning, “Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office. To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.” (Source). That is such bullshit, coming from a Republican Party that deliberately, explicitly, and ultimately unsuccessfully stonewalled the President on everything he tried to do, even when he moved to the right of the political center. I call bullshit, Senator.
  • I confess that listening to Obama last night, I felt a little of the hopey, changey thing from four years ago. And it felt good.
  • I may have gloated a bit on Twitter last night. But seriously, the GOP spent the last four years actively denying Obama, trying to cast him as a failed President, and last night they got their ass handed back to them by the People. Fuck yeah.
  • Where has Boehner been? Isn’t he from Ohio? Rob Portman was popping up everywhere like an eager gopher, but not John Boehner. Curious.
  • Last night, only one person I voted for was actually elected, even all the way down to the local school board. Not the worst ballot experience I have had (that was 2004 in Omaha, Nebraska, when nobody I voted for was elected). I may be living in the wrong place.
  • The next generation has arrived. Gay marriage passed in two states (after losing 33 times in previous elections). Pot is (or will be) legal in Colorado. (Source). And the youth vote carried Obama again, just like it did four years ago (Source). So fasten your seat belts, Boomers, your young tattooed Latina barista is about to take the wheel.
  • Fox News, et al., was not only wrong, but dishonest with their viewers, all season long. This article in the Atlantic is (liberal and) very interesting. And they call us sheeple. (The Atlantic)
  • And finally, this. “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.” (Transcript source)
    See the video

I voted. Also, donuts.

Last night we got together with some like-minded neighbors to kvetch about the election. It was tons of fun, and we are eternally grateful to the host for tracking us down (she showed up at our door with an invitation, based on our yard signs). Then this morning we got up before the crack of dawn to bundle the kids into the car and go vote. We actually got there before the polling place opened (6 am!) and there was already a line of forty or fifty people. We voted, I dropped everyone off at home to get dressed, and I went and got celebratory donuts.

It has been a good day so far.

Please, exercise your right to vote.

Take your kids to show them how important it is.

And then get donuts.

In Defense of Apple’s Maps

We got iPhones 5 a few weeks ago now, and I have been very pleased with it. The extra screen space is nice (the keyboard doesn’t cover everything up now!) and the speed is especially welcome.

But my favorite feature, by far, is the new Maps app.

We’ve been living in Kansas City (KS) for a little less than a year at this point. I don’t know my way around terribly well. I had been using Navigon for GPS routing and it was… well, awful. Hard to start (slow, obnoxious address entry), hard to manage (volume was always set to “whisper”, seeing the entire route was painfully slow, and ending navigation was not easy to do), and the spoken directions were too frequent and annoying. I never used it because by the time I knew I wanted it, I was often already driving, and stopping for ten minutes by the side of the road to find the address and enter it was not going to be helpful. Although I did that once or twice.

In contrast, Apple’s new Maps app, in combination with Siri, does exactly what I hoped it would. Easy to find destinations, often just by voice request. Immediate startup of turn-by-turn directions. Clear maps, just enough voice direction, easy overview, resume, and end functions. Whatever problems Siri or Maps have, I don’t feel them here in KCK. I have used turn-by-turn directions more in the last few weeks than I did in the previous two years. Heck, sometimes I do it just for fun.

So, count me a fan.

The Legacy of Nine Eleven?

Driving to work today, I drove by a home in our neighborhood where they had mounted a huge American flag on a flagpole attached to a tree. I thought of all the people who had their lives taken from them on 9/11/2001, and all the people who had someone ripped from their hearts on that day.

I have visceral memories of watching the towers go down. I was stupefied, horrified, and angered. But above all, I was sad. I felt hollow to my core.

I also gave thought, this morning, to all the people who have died in the aftermath of the events of that day. I am a Liberal, and so I am predisposed to dislike war, but I think everyone can find room in their hearts to decry the end results of the second war on Iraq, entered into on the pretext of security/revenge for 9/11, but against a country that was ultimately determined to have had nothing to do with those attacks.

Let me repeat that.

The People of these United States went to war with Iraq because we were told Iraq was responsible for 9/11, except that it turns out they were not. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator, yes, killing with abandon and with no fear of retribution. But Syria’s Assad is the same, and our country has no will to fight that fight. We were told we went to war with Iraq to avenge, and prevent, any further 9/11s.

This is part of the legacy of 9/11:

  • Victims killed on 9/11 itself: 2,977 (source)
  • US Military killed in the Iraq War since 2003: 4,409 (source)
  • Iraqi citizens killed in the Iraq War since 2003: over 100,000 (source)
    (These numbers are from various Wikipedia articles, fwiw, and that last number is the lowest of estimates)

Here’s what I take away from this.

Terrorists attacked our country, killing innocent people in numbers staggering to behold. Almost three-thousand people died on that single day. In reaction, and for no good reason, we sacrificed almost four-thousand five-hundred of our bravest men and women, and had a hand in killing or provoking the deaths of over one-hundred-thousand people, most of them as innocent as the original 3,000 who died eleven years ago.

I think today is a day to hang our heads in shame, and in anger. That we were attacked. That innocents have died. That we reacted so childishly, so violently, with such patriotic fear. We did the work of Evil for them. We killed thousands of our own, and a hundred thousand innocents died because of us.

I am sorry.

And I still find myself, on this day eleven years later, ineffably sad.

My health is good, how’s yours?

I remember hearing this story on NPR back at the start of the year. Basically what it says is that if you get to middle age as a non-smoker, with good cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure, your chance of dying of a heart attack is super-low. But if you have two or more of these risk factors, you only have a 50/50 chance of getting to The End without a heart attack.

On hearing this, I felt an overwhelming urge to tell my twenty-year-old self to get with the program, that my already-middle-aged self couldn’t do anything about it at this point. Twenty-year-old self thumbed his nose at me and ate more Cheetos.

I hadn’t had a physical in a few years (in my defense, my doctor told me the last time to come back “in a few years”), and I don’t think I’d ever had my cholesterol or glucose checked. Like ever.

So, on the cusp of 42, I scheduled a physical.

My doctor is a hoot. She’s like 6 foot, tall and muscular, and could snap me like a twig. She’s also funny and personable, and likes taking some time to chat. We went over how I’d been, how I was interested in this blood panel of stats, and, oh yeah, we have this little prostate thing to check, now that you’re over 40.

I had been expecting this, but was holding out hope because in some places on the Internet you can find people who say you can wait until age 50 before checking your prostate health. Of course, other places on the Internet will tell you it’s best to check your prostate health yourself. And those places have video. The Internet is all about picking and choosing your sources, right?

My doctor hadn’t been to either of these sites, apparently, as she went on to deliver a very detailed description of what she was about to do. In the end (rimshot!) it was quick, painless, and really kind of anticlimactic. It seems my prostate is fine. She tossed her glove, washed her hands, and we went on to stories about her kids (apparently they’d LOVE my t-shirt).

On Monday, I got my blood test results. And as it turns out, I am well within the healthy norms for all the things they check.

So, yay me. Not dead yet.

In reading the linked study (yes, the actual study, yay Internet! I forgive you for the prostate self-test videos), a couple things are clear.

First, I still have a long way to go (age 55) to really meet their criteria, so I have some time before I can start huffing cans of Reddi-wip for breakfast.

And second, lowering the incidence of heart disease and heart related deaths (and stroke, they mentioned, too) really requires preventing risk factors from emerging, rather than treating them once they exist. Getting regular blood tests to monitor your blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol can be key in noticing when things are getting bad before they get bad.

Which means, go see your doctor, twenty-year-old selves.

Password strategery is confirmed!

So, you all probably remember my ranting about passwords here previously. Today i randomly came across Jason Kottke’s page of stupid password requirements, and he linked to an article by Thomas Baekdal on good passwords that says exactly what I said, only better and with more research. He also posted a FAQ later that answers the (mostly stupid?) questions people had about his first article.

Baekdal’s post is from early 2011, and I’m still having to keep a crappy 8 character, 1 special character, no consecutive-special-uppercase-number-signs password in the stable, to trot out for bad, bad, bad websites I still have to deal with.


Foodie gore is pink! (Or, Foodie-gore-is-pink!, depending.)

This is not the religious freedom you are looking for

Attention, religious conservatives decrying the government’s crackdown on your religious freedom: you’ve got it all wrong. See, you think religious freedom means you have the right to practice your religion wherever, and whenever, you like. Not true.

Religious freedom actually means “freedom from religion.”

Let me explain.

Clearly, you are free to practice whatever religion you like. We agree on that. I cannot force you to practice my religion. Likewise, you can’t make me practice your religion. Nobody is dragging anybody into a church here. Your religious freedom is actually the freedom to not be dragged into my church.

In other words, you (or your daughter) are free to not wear a hijab. Not your religion, so nobody’s going to make you do it. Awesome. That also means that my kids are free to not pray in public school. Not their religion, nobody’s going to make them do it. Double-rainbow awesome.

So nobody imposes their religion on anyone else. Religious freedom in America, as the founding fathers envisioned it. Huzzah! Don’t you think we should all be able to agree on that?

Please apply this to your own life. And get your religion out of mine. Thanks.