Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Year in Exercise

I probably won't get to walk tomorrow, though I may wind up doing some shoveling, so here's my walking(mostly)/kayaking(a little) stats for 2012:

  • 600.5 miles
  • 352 workouts
  • 227 hours walking/kayaking
  • 61,843 calories burned

And I do recommend for tracking your waling/running/biking distance statistics.

I have been, very informally, participating in an activity called "Walk to Rivendell," where a group of Lord of the Rings fans have calculated distances in Middle Earth. I walked at least 700 miles between 2003 and 2011, and 600 miles this year, for 1300 miles total. That's 9 miles short of Rauros (the end of Fellowship of the Ring).

My goals for 2013:

  • 800 miles (1,000 if still unemployed) - use treadmill more in bad weather
  • start adding some weight training and XBox workouts
  • try to learn a little yoga (have a book that says it MIGHT help with insomnia)
  • do more kayaking
  • walk on the Montour Trail - we've done about 5 miles of it in years past, but should do more. Maybe try to do more good weather weekends and attempt to do 20 miles over the next year
  • eat more spinach and fewer carbs and meat

Weightwise, I wound up loosing about 10 total pounds...but I had lost 20 and regained 10 over the fall. Ug. Main issue seemed to be when I stopped taking Ambien back in September, I started craving carbs again something fierce. Also, a bunch of travel, depressing life events, etc which tends to make me eat more. However, over the next six weeks, we won't be traveling and I should be able to get my eating back under better control. If I start to lose weight over the winter (and I never lose weight over the winter), that would be a very good sign indeed.

Who Said "Religious Freedom Doesn't Mean You Can Force Others to Live by Your Own Beliefs"?

Even in the days when I was still religious, I was never evangelical. I generally believed in "live and let live," but, well, religions that restricted women's rights and advocated beating children have always offended me.

When I can find quotes about life that are meaningful to me, I like to add them to my Good Quotes page. I also try to find the original person who said it, so that the quote is properly attributed.

I ran into "Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs" and liked it. It was on a graphic passed around that attributed it to President Obama. I thought I'd check...and, it looks like, he didn't say it.

Since we on the left are constantly reminding people that "facts matter," we need to be more careful about our facts. I'm about 99% sure he never said it, as I went to, and this quote is not attributed to him at his own site.

Now, he did give a talk back in February 2012 over health care and reproductive rights, where he clearly never made this statement. If he had made this statement, he would have probably included it in his concluding remarks:

Now, I've been confident from the start that we could work out a sensible approach here, just as I promised. I understand some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue, but it shouldn’t be. I certainly never saw it that way. This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today’s announcement, we've done that. Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.

We live in a pluralistic society where we're not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief. That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans. We are unique among nations for having been founded upon both these principles, and our obligation as citizens is to carry them forward. I have complete faith that we can do that.

So, who did say "Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs" first? It's not clear. I wish I had. But, certainly, people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison pretty much said it in the First Amendment over 200 years ago:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do You Think a Group That Practices Harassment Like the Westboro Baptist Church Should be Tax-Exempt?

I started a White House Petition 14 days ago to tell the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church. Since then, 72,000 people have signed it. A person named Ralph W from Maine was number 72,000. It'll be online another 2 weeks, and I hope to reach 100,000 signers by then.

Monday, December 24, 2012

From Holidaysburg to Newtown...

Since moving back to Pittsburgh in 1993, I've probably done the drive between Western Pennsylvania and Central Massachusetts 50 times. I take 22 to 220 to 80 to 81 to 84 to the Mass Pike, meaning I drive across the very rural parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and near many cities/suburbs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

So I've driven through many small towns in these areas many times without giving them a second thought...until this month.

Just off of Route 22, Holidaysburg was the site of gun-nuttery last Friday (just before Wayne LaPierre's infamous diatribe/non-press conference), when a man took a gun, shot into a church, murdered a woman, murdered two men out walking and shot three police officers who killed him.

A few hours later, we drove by the familiar sign for Newtown/Sandy Hook in Connecticut on Route 84. Someone had put a large wreath on it. I couldn't stop on 84 to take a photo of the sign due to traffic. The incident is now so well known that I don't need to say anything about it.

Except now I'll always think of my drive from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts as just another tour of gun-related mass murder.

When you live in Pennsylvania, you know people like their guns. Pennsylvania is full of hunters. Since moving to a more rural area of Pennsylvania a few years back, we hear target shooters and hunters in the woods behind our house much of the fall. While I would never own a gun myself, I have no issue with game hunters owning guns...except when they want to own people-hunting semis. That's got to stop.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Follow-up to It's Time to #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC

A few days after the Newtown Massacre, I decided my anger over the situation needed more than 140 characters, so I wrote a blog post. A number of things happened over the last week to the WBC/NRA/GOP this week, so I thought I'd update.

A week after the Newtown Gun Massacre, after a week of hiding away in an undisclosed location, NRA president Wayne LaPierre claimed he was going to have press conference. In reality, he spewed 20 minutes of a gun fantasyland, that included that America should have armed security guards in every school. He blamed everything he didn't like in America, never blaming the actual murder weapons themselves - the guns the NRA promote. While the easily-terrorized ran out and bought more guns, it sounds like more rational people have quit the NRA.

Just before LaPierre started to speak, a gunman murdered three people in rural Pennsylvania - a woman helping to decorate a church and two men, a man and his father-in-law, just out for a walk. He also shot (but did not kill) a few cops before the cops took him out like the mad dog he was.

There was even an excellent editorial in The New York Times by Richard Painter The NRA Protection Racket. And another one on gun control by Daniel O'Shea. And Andrew Sullivan is mad as hell and he's not going to take the stupidity and fanaticism of the Republican party anymore!

The GOP didn't have its best best week either. The far-far-right Tea Partiers deserted John Boehner's far-right Republicans and wouldn't vote in favor of his bad plan B because it still asked for more taxes from millionaires. So the House of Representatives couldn't vote, even though the right-wing Senate had approved a bill with rational concessions to avoid sending the country over the fiscal cliff. Boehner may be out of a job, but whoever replaces him will probably be worse given how highly the Tea Party thinks of itself and how utterly incapable they are of dealing with modern times.

My Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church petition has 58,629 signatures. Thanks to everyone who has signed it.

The Westboro Baptist Church did try to protest a few of the Newtown funerals, but the word was that good, local people came out to shield the mourners from the morons.

Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let Your Senator Know How You Feel About Semiautomatic Weapons

Mother Jones published a list of Senators and their opinions on semiautomatic assault weapons ban.

My Senators, Bob Casey & Pat Toomey, both call themselves pro-life. But, Toomey really cares about the NRA, and Casey...well, there might be a little hope for him. So this is what I wrote to both of them:

I hope you will take your "pro-life" attitude seriously and vote in favor of any legislation that bans semiautomatic weapon/ammunition and any legislation that repairs the gun show sale background check loophole. Your constituents are more important than an NRA rating.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Time to #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC

For me, the Newtown massacre was the tipping point.

It's time to stop pretending that the NRA is good for this country. It's a stain on the country, in much the same way that Grover Norquist, the Westboro Baptist Church and even the Republican Party are all stains on the country.

Without the NRA caring more about gun companies than gun owners and buying a number of politicians, this country would have had a semiautomatic gun/ammo ban, and hundreds if not thousands of people murdered in this country with semis wouldn't have been killed. I know banning semis will not end gun violence, but it will end massacres as we've had in Connecticut, Virginia and Colorado over the last few years. It will end the murder of mass numbers of random people.

The Republican party has done nothing but show that loyalty to Grover Norquist and big business and rich people is more important than supporting the country. It is utterly out-of-touch with the people, who should thoroughly reject it. Many of us have, but more need to. The Republicans have been convincing people to vote against their own self-interest for many years. The facts don't matter to Republicans. The facts should matter to the people -- we're the ones who have to live and die by facts.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a self-proclaimed church, but is not a real church. It is a group of raving, litigious homophobes. They picketed funerals of soldiers, and they are so low that they plan to picket the funerals of people murdered in Newtown. Enough is enough. If these people still have a tax-exemption, it should be revoked. I applaud the group of anonymous hackers who broke into the church's computer system and posted the names and addresses of members of this "church" online.

Enough is enough. We need to have a rational country. We do have a rational president, but, sadly, not a rational Congress. We must do everything we can to vote out the NRA-loving, gerry-mandering, women-hating Republicans and replace them with rational representatives who care more about the country as a whole than about the rich as a group.

But talking and tweeting is not enough. We must be advocates for people rather than for guns or for big-money interests. We must support groups like DemandAPlan and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to make semi-automatic weapons and ammo illegal. Remind the White House to take action on semi-automatic weapons by signing this petition (by the time I'd signed it on the afternoon of 12/14, I was around number 14,000). Sign the White House Petition to declare the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status.

As we Americans showed in the 2012 election, when we all work together, we can bring sensible people to government. We need to do this more consistently.

If you think it's time to stop these groups, add #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC to your tweets and other messages. Let's start a movement - stop these groups that have brought (in the case of the NRA with its loose gun laws) or tried to bring so much terror to our country. It's time.

By using a lot of social network reminders (especially Twitter), I collected 25,000 signatures in less than 33 hours telling the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church. The White House has gotten a number of anti-Westboro Baptist Church petitions in the last few days, and I'm glad mine is one they will have to read and respond to.

Related Essays

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Letter to President Obama After the Murder of Children/Teachers in a Connecticut School

I am horrified by yet another gun-related mass murder in this country.

But, President Obama, this is yet another fight you must take on.

I know, it's a hard fight. I know the NRA has many politicians in utter thrall, in much the same way Grover Norquist has many politicians in thrall. But it's time to stop letter guns be such a common splatter on our society and start controlling guns more rationally.

Enough is enough, sir. You are wrong to say that now is not the time to talk gun control. Now we must discuss gun control. I demand that the federal government starts dealing with gun control.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Letter to Any Republican Congressional Representative

You won your gerrymandered district. President Obama won a majority of the national vote. I trust President Obama - I do not trust you in Congress who consistently put the wishes of your party (and Grover Norquist) in front of the needs of your constituents. The top 2% can afford to pay a little more in taxes to help the country. Move us away from the fiscal cliff - serve the country for a change.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Preparing for Death Online - How ISPs and Social Media Companies Can Help People Plan

I'm a realist - we all die and we ought to have a few clues about how we handle the material we've written/developed online over time.

I'm maybe a little more conscious about this fact as I've been running a site called Dead People Server since 1997. This is a trivia site about celebrities, but it is a daily reminder that we all come to an end sometime. I've also had two surgeries over the last five years, and while I've recovered well from both, chronic pain, hospital visits, and putting advanced directives and living wills into effect remind you how fragile life can be.

I've been following, slightly, the "Digital Death" folks, who've been trying to remind people about the importance of being aware that "your online stuff" survives you. And Jaweek Kaleem wrote good article on Huffington Post called Death On Facebook Now Common As 'Dead Profiles' Create Vast Virtual Cemetery. Yes, the article was a little too Facebook-centric, as many of the same issues apply to other types of online sites, even Huffington Post itself.

So there are several simple additions sites like Facebook and Tumbler and Huffington Post can make to their profile software, to help remind people that their digital material will survive them - and what do they want to do about it?

  • Add an option for "my account's executor" - a name and E-mail address (or maybe multiple names and E-mail addresses) so the account owner, before they die, can assign a person (or people) the right to control their material after their death. We all die some day. Many of us will have an idea (we're old or sick), but some die in accidents, sudden death, war or natural disasters. Plan ahead.
  • Add an option for "make archive site" - it retains the site, but marks the site "archive" (for people who might quit a site while keeping their material up) or "memorial" (for people who've died - it might pin a note to the top of the site, saying how/where/when the accountowner died and keep the site open for comments from friends and relatives).
  • Add an option for "remove all accountowner content," with an option to download it by the account owner or executor if desired. Some people like their papers burned after death and this is the virtual equivalent (even if some of it still survives in

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Creeps in Society, Part II

Last weekend, I was in Philadelphia, co-running Smofcon 30, a small conference for conference planners (yeah, that does sound a little self-referential). As I still have bad insomnia, I tended to shower, dress, take my laptop and go find breakfast and free WIFI. I found a nearby 24-hour diner where I'd have an omelette and get caught up on my E-mail.

The second morning I was there, I was busily typing away when the man at the next booth got up and asked, "Can you look something up for me?"

This guy was probably 50-something and was a little scruffy-looking, but, what the hell. I'm 50-something and often a little scruffy-looking myself. "Sure."

"I have to see if my lawyer listed my company."


He gave me the name of his company. It was only listed in some public database of Pennsylvania companies. He had me look up a second company name, which was also just listed in the same public database.

Then he asked me to look up his name (which, while I do remember it, I will not mention it here). OK, this was getting a little odd, but, I did.

We concluded I probably didn't find him in particular because he's not online and his name is relatively common.

"Let me buy you breakfast."

Now, that was weird. "No, I'm all set."

"I want to buy you breakfast."

A little louder. "No."

"I insist on buying you breakfast."

WTF!! "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" I said it loud enough that it probably echoed through the room.

The man skittered back to his booth.

I returned to my computer, and it was quiet in our part of the restaurant. About five minutes later, the guy yelled, "I have a cell phone."

I looked up but otherwise ignored the creep. It's just occurred to me that he might have taken my photo. Ugh.

The waitress stopped back, I asked for my check, paid it quickly in cash and got the heck out of there, taking a quick look behind as I went to make sure the guy wasn't following me. He wasn't.

It was annoying example that many other women experience way more often than I have - that some men are sufficiently stupid that they don't understand the word "NO." Women need to be rude and loud when a man doesn't comprehend "NO." No apologies.

Later that day, I was going out to lunch with a friend from out of the country and she wanted plain old local food. We went over to the diner, as the food was about as local as you could get. We had a very pleasant lunch. At one point, one of the waitresses stopped by and said, "You were here this morning, weren't you?"

It turned out the guy was a known quantity in the diner and was a bit of a problem. She wanted to make sure I was OK, and I assured her I was.

Being firm to clueless men is just part of being an adult woman. If I'd had to do anything more than yell "NO" at the jerk, I bet the laptop would have been a fine weapon of self-defense.