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. http://www.demandaplan.org/.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

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.
No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

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 archive.org).

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

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.”

“OK.”

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.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Republicans Still Can’t Come to Grips with Voters

The Republicans are still pretending that they lost many of the 2012 elections, especially on the federal level, because they were not conservative enough.

Since they don’t like dealing with facts, they are ignoring both the vote and many exit polls that indicated the following facts:

  • Voters believe in keeping abortion legal – roughly 60% in favor
  • Voters want improved rights to health care by implementing Obamacare
  • Voters don’t believe that women magical powers over their bodies, like mystically becoming non-pregnant if they become pregnant as the result of a rape
  • Voters believe people shouldn’t be subject to different laws because they are gay
  • Voters believe the rich should pay more in taxes
  • In many areas, voters will vote for candidates without worrying about their race or gender

I heard the Republicans complaining over these issues time and time again yesterday.

The Republicans lost the big elections because they are completely out-of-touch with the average American. Yes, they do have very vocal supporters, there’s no doubt about that. But most Republican politicians cannot relate to people who do not share their regressive views.

Even now, the Republicans are still playing the “we can’t increase taxes” card. This is bull. Grover Norquist and his famous “no new taxes” pledge is crippling this country, threatening to send it over the famous fiscal cliff at the end of December. An awful lot of our hideous national debt is due to Bush, Cheney and Norquist, but to hear the Republicans talk, it’s all the Democrats’ fault.

Reality check – when was the last time we didn’t have a high federal debt?

Under President Clinton, a Democrat.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

My Hopes for the Second Obama Term

Watching the returns after the 2012 election was mostly a thrilling experience.

I’m so happy that the billions the Republican noise machine spent trying to discredit Obama were wasted! I’m very happy that the Website 538 was spot on with its meta-analysis of polls. I’m very happy that the members of the Rape Caucus lost and that Chuck Fuqua (“Parents should be able to execute their disobedient children”) lost and that Michelle Bachmann almost lost. Women won all over the place – Warren, McCaskill, Baldwin. Paul Krugman has been nothing but right for years. Twitter was heavily overloaded and did not crash and burn Election Night. And Faux News was completely discredited as anything like a news source all night long. Millions of us already knew this, but I think millions more finally caught on last night,

Mostly, I’m glad we’ll have four more years of President Obama. Like other developed nations, we’ll have a more inclusive healthcare system. Yes, some people (and we might be some of them) will need to pay more taxes. The long “tax holiday” is over. Yes, I’m sure we’ll still have some obstructionism, but I don’t think the gridlock will be quite as strong as it was.

And, I do look forward to the coming civil war within the Republican party. The TPers are still as delusional as ever and think the American public wants them. They don’t. More Republicans don’t even want them anymore. For the next four years anyway, the country will progress and not regress. I think the TPers will try to start their own party, and will become increasingly less relevant. America voted for more women, voted for gay rights and legal pot, and re-elected a black president with both plenty of electoral votes and a clear popular majority.

The people who lost will continue to whine and cry – heard a few minutes of the Akin “concession” speech and it was amazingly juvenile. They can whine and cry all they want, but democracy and rationality basically won the day yesterday, and we can be very happy about that. Vote suppression and vote buying did not win – the voters won!

It looks like our country will finally not be involved in multiple wars simultaneously. While Romney and the hawks seem to want nothing more than a war with Iran, there are ways around that, and I’m sure Obama would not start a war with anyone unless absolutely necessary.

Perhaps our country will finally raise enough in taxes to improve crumbling infrastructure, improve the schools, contribute to science research and NASA. America can be a great country again, but it needs the tax money to do so.

Forward!

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

The Importance of Pollworkers

Good pollworkers are the lifeblood of every election. It’s a thankless job with long hours. Getting sharp pollworkers is vital, particularly given voter intimidation, voter suppression and voter fraud efforts. The pollworkers are there to ensure we have a fair election and that every vote is counted (at least in most states) and that every voter votes only once.

We live in the suburbs west of Pittsburgh, in North Fayette Township. It’s a very white, fairly Republican area. We’ve voted there without any problem since 2006 when we moved here. Usually, we’re in and out in under 20 minutes, maybe a half hour.

We decided to vote early, got there before 7:25 and were shocked to see the many cars parked illegally and the long lines. We also parked illegally and got in line for our precinct. One line moved reasonably well, but our line moved extraordinarily slowly. One rumor that went down our line was that there was only one working voting machine for our precinct. It felt a little like voter suppression, except that we’re in a Republican area in a state where Governor Tom Corbett has said he supports voter suppression in Democratic areas like Philadelphia. It seems unlikely they would try to suppress votes in a majority Republican area.

After about a half hour, someone who seemed to be working for the town said that the slowness of our line was due to “trainees.” So they didn’t see if their “trainees” could comprehend alphabetical order before they gave them a job as pollworker? That wasn’t a good sign.

When we got inside (after a very cold hour and 15 minutes outside, we could finally get warmed up), some of the pollworkers looked pretty familiar to me. It was taking each person almost a minute to get processed to vote. When I got up to the table, it was already 8:50 (and, remember, the polls opened at 7:00) and I was voter number 102. That meant it was taking nearly a minute to process each voter before they even got to vote!

I don’t like to criticize older people for being a little slow, and I appreciate the work they do. Heck, I’m middle aged and I’m slower than I’d like to be. But the woman who was in the critical position of having to look up people in a book that was in alphabetical order had trouble doing so. She couldn’t remember that “M” was at the beginning of the second book. She couldn’t find my husband’s name right away, but once she found it, I said “and I”m after him” so she’d keep the book open to the same location.

They say with age comes wisdom, but it isn’t wise to put a person on a voter processing table who slowed down hundreds of voters today. What if we lived in an area without enough voting machines, or if genuine voter suppression efforts were in play? How much longer would the line have been? How much longer would people have waited? But, most people waited.

Finally, we got to the voting machines, selected our candidates, pressed the big VOTE button and pressed CONFIRMED. We were out of there.

And the line outside was longer than ever.

So, if you’re voting in North Fayette Township today, dress warmly, wear comfortable boots and maybe bring along a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee – you’re probably going to need it. But vote anyway. Everyone’s vote is too important to be deterred by slow processing.


Twelve hours later, I was tweeting with a neighbor who was in line at the same precinct after 8pm (PA polls close at 8). She said 150 people were in line in front of her. She didn’t get to vote until 9pm. Her husband tried to vote earlier. They told him they couldn’t find him on the voter lists, told him he was in the wrong place (when he wasn’t) and did not offer him a provisional ballot. Residents of North Fayette Township need to talk to the County Board of Elections about this. It may not be deliberate suppression but it is gross incompetence.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Get Out and Vote, 2012 Edition

It’s interesting how terrified Republicans are of all adults voting. It’s as if they’ve finally realized how irrelevant they’d be in a true democracy. I frankly don’t care who you vote for (well, of course I’d prefer that you vote for Obama), but I’ve always believed, whether I’ve tended to vote Republican, or gone the straight Democratic ticket (since 2000), that it’s the civic responsibility of all adults to study the candidates and vote. Voter suppression, as already seen in Ohio and Florida, and will probably see in parts of Pennsylvania (especially Philadelphia) tomorrow is just plain evil no matter which party is doing it (but, over the last 20 years, it’s been Republicans).

There are been times in our country’s history when the Democrats have been the party of idiots, and now it’s been the Republican party for over 20 years.

On the federal level, they’ve obstructed President Obama at every turn, including when he tried to bring more federal aid to job creation…and then they claimed in their political advertising that Obama failed to create jobs. I’ll grant you, President Obama has had problems, but when I compare what he actually accomplished in the poisoned atmosphere of the Congress, I’m amazed.

In some states and localities, Republicans have gone out of their way to make it difficult for people to vote. Witness the long voting lines in Ohio and Florida. Why is that? These area with lines are in areas that tend to vote Democratic. You’ll never see voting lines like that in Republican enclaves.

Republicans keep claiming they’re for freedom…unless you’re a woman, of course. Or a Muslim. Or an atheist. Or trying to vote for someone other than a Republican. Or…whatever minority they want to control this week.

The Republicans are trying to turn the United States of America into a tax haven for the rich and a hell hole for the poor. We’re on our way to being a third world country because of the way they’ve turned “taxes” into a four letter word. I want to live in a place where there are good roads, good schools and good health care. Infrastructure matters – have you already forgotten what Sandy, Irene and Katrina did to areas that failed to have the cash to make needed improvements?

I want a government that’s forward-thinking, and not one that only wants to go fight another war somewhere.

I want a government that’s paying attention to environmental issues, not one that’s busily polluting our water and air.

I want a government that’s realistic and admits there are problems and wants to correct them, and work across the bureaucracy and with businesses and citizens to correct them. We need a big tent approach that’s inclusive to deal with the future, and not a little estate that supports only the 1%.

I want four more years of Obama. While I’m not a big fan of Bob Casey, he has my vote for Senator as he’s less bad than his opponent. Ditto Larry Maggi for Congress, Matt Smith for PA House and Mark Scappe for PA House.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Insomnia, Ambien and Me

I’ve had insomnia, on and off, since I was 5 years old.  Also had issues with depression and, at times, anxiety.  Been on and off of Prozac a few times, but not in this millennium.  Started having really chronic insomnia about 10 years ago when I was 45.  Went through temazapan and something else – both stopped working within months.  The one time I took Lunesta, it made me sleep much less.

In the meantime, I went from working full time to working part time to getting fired from a contract job because my concentration was so poor.  I work occasional odd jobs and do a lot of volunteer work.  Luckily, my husband has a job, but I’d really like to be able to work full time again.

In early 2008, I got involved with a medicine sleep study at the University of Pittsburgh, run by Dr. Douglas Moul (now of the Cleveland Clinic).   I spent three nights getting my sleep recorded and observed.  While it is frequently assumed that the sleep problem of all fat people is sleep apnea, I do not have it (which is good because I know I could never sleep with a CPAP machine). They found no reason for my persistent insomnia at all.  The only symptom they observed was that my blood oxygen decreased slightly just before I woke up.

I was put in a randomized group and given either a mystery drug or a placebo.  Within days, I was sleeping about an extra half hour to hour a night without any side effects.  Eight weeks later, I found out I was in the Ambien group.

Not that Ambien solved all my problems, but any extra sleep was very helpful.

So, since I wasn’t having any side effects, I stayed on Ambien.  Every few months, I’d take an Ambien vacation where my sleep would drop to 2-3 hours from the 5-6 hours I’d get on Ambien.  So I’d go back on it.

Over time, though, I was getting less sleep on Ambien.  After 4 1/2 years on it, I finally took my last Ambien a month ago, at a time when I am unemployed, walking 2-4 miles a day, not drinking anything caffeinated and drinking maybe a beer or glass of wine a day.

Other than the insomnia being worse than ever (never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time), I feel OK.  No depression, just frustration.  I have tried Melatonin and it does nothing for me.  Ditto Benedryl.  Ditto Valerian. Ditto a white noise machine. Ditto a variety of specialty pillows. Ditto wearing orange safety glasses for a bit in the evening to cut out “blue light” (though I’m still giving that odd trick a try). Ditto buying a high-end mattress 10 years ago after 17 years of a water bed. Ditto not having a phone in the bedroom. Ditto…well, you think of any odd sleep trick and I’ve probably tried it over the last 10 years.

I do break down and take Nyqil once a week as that helps a little. Sometimes, having some tuna as a snack in the evening seems to help due to tryptophan. 

The only side effect (other than sleeplessness) from getting off of Ambien I’ve had is craving sweets.  I’m walking enough that I haven’t gained any weight, but I’m currently not loosing either. Ambien was also a very slight appetite suppressant for me and helped me lose about 30 pounds while I was on it.

The insomnia I’m having now is somewhat different from the insomnia I was having pre-Ambien.  Ten years ago, I’d sleep 3-4 hours, wake up for 2 then, sometimes, sleep for an hour.  Now, It takes me an hour to fall asleep, I wake up 4-6 times a night and I haven’t slept for more than 2 hours at a time in over a month.

During the day, it is pretty much the same as when I was on Ambien.  Some days, I get a lot of things done.  Other days, I get very little done.  My concentration is, generally, a little better when I can concentrate, so that’s a good sign.

So, during a particularly bad bout of insomnia tonight, I went to our computer and looked up “Ambien withdrawl.”  I ran into some pretty bad horror stories.  I’m having a somewhat different experience than many.  I don’t feel depressed, suicidal or confused. I’m just very tired.  The fact that my insomnia is so different means that I agree with the point many of have made – Ambien can alter the sleep receptors.  I never had any of the bad side effects of Ambien people mention – no sleep walking, no sleep eating – other than not remembering dreams.  And I’m still not dreaming. I did have those odd “shocky” feelings at night sometimes, but those are also reported by menopausal women who aren’t on Ambien.

The root cause of my insomnia is probably due to estrogen.  My mother had terrible insomnia in her 40s, but it got better in her 50s, and she said her grandmother had the same experience.  So I’m hoping, now that I’m through menopause as well, that that will also help get my sleep back into some sort of normal pattern.

But, it turns out that a few people who had warned me about Ambien were right – it is addictive and it can change your brain in ways you don’t expect.

For a lot of discussion on Ambien addiction/recovery, see http://www.topix.com/forum/drug/ambien/T8MMMFNQIK6VHJOV6.  I only wish I’d started reading this area five years ago.

PS (10/28/12): No Ambien for nearly 7 weeks and my sleep is more disrupted now than it was before I took Ambien. Very annoying. Melatonin does nothing. Nyqil helps a little but I only take that one night a week. And now, there’s a link between taking sleeping pills like Ambien and cancer.

PPS (3/15/13): No Ambien in over 6 months. Sometimes, I’m sleeping up to 3 hours at a time once during the night, which is a gradual improvement. I generally get about 5 hours of sleep a night with one or two brief wake-ups, but some nights get only 2 or 3 hours of sleep for no reason at all. On the down side, I’ve gained about 15 pounds since September, but the carbohydrate cravings are getting better so I’m being more “mindful” about my eating. I rarely drink soda (don’t have any at home) but sometimes have Diet Coke or mocha drinks when I’m out. Still averaging 2 miles of walking a day. Am writing a little more some days.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog

Creeps in Society

I would like to be surprised by the way some people are trying to redefine the word “creep.”  One person’s bad behavior shouldn’t deserve being called “the creep,” as if he was somehow unique.  Many fans have creepy behavior.

I can think of three types of creepiness:
  •      personally creepy
  •      generally creepy
  •      specifically creepy
Personally creepy is what creeps you out.  It may not creep out anyone else in the world.  Take clowns.  I enjoy clowns, they are generally amusing and often acrobatic.  Now, maybe it was in response to Killer Klowns from Outer Space or It, but, about 20 years ago, people started to say that clowns creeped them out. I still don’t understand that one.  I was in the situation for most of the summer of being majorly creeped out by my own body after surgery.  I hate looking at incisions.  In fact, I would not look at my incision if I could possibly avoid it.  As fascinating as medicine has always been to me, I could never consider a career in medicine because of this problem.  But it doesn’t seem to bother medical professionals that much.  So I know my response was my problem.
Generally creepy is behavior that people engage in without thinking about it and it’s not aimed at any individual.  Wearing clothes inappropriate to a situation, for example, not bathing regularly…general behavior we can point at and say “Weird.”  But it’s just the way the person is.  We can either accept it or reject it.
Specifically creepy is when one person does something to another that really creeps the second person out.  This happens from time to time in personal interactions, and is more likely to happen when one person is attracted to another, and completely misreads the situation.
Take that Readercon situation again. I respect the fact the man involved really creeped out one specific woman during Readercon. I believe the woman who brought the complaint about him. Given the Readercon rules of conduct, she did the right thing.  But, an awful lot of people have chosen to go beyond being sympathetic and helpful to the woman to being outraged and therefore generally creeped out.   They are trying to project their feelings of outrage on the rest of us by blowing this unfortunate situation out of all proportion.
What’s next – burquas? Male bodyguards? Being forced to stay home to avoid the possible outrage of a man making a pass?   Now that’s really creepy.

Related postings:


  • They Said/They Said

  • Dealing with Anonymous and/or Abusive Comments

  • Sexual Abuse and the Pillars of Society

  • No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog