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.

Arg.

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.