Posting every couple years whether it needs it or not

I used to rank LJ, FB and Twitter like this:

LJ: Check out the pictures of our bathroom remodel!
FB: Finally finished our bathroom remodel
Twitter: I've gotta pee

IOW, I saw LJ as less ephemeral than FB, and far less than Twitter.

I still kind of wish so much of my social media world hadn't migrated to FB, although I can clearly see why and how it happened. (Hint: a billion users.) And now, FB has fallen out of fashion among the younger crowd. None of the kids in the youth group I advise use it at all, except maybe for messaging. They're all on Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and any number of other sites whose names are missing vowels.

Oh, for the days when it was just us and Blogger (except for the furries, who all went over to DeviantArt).

  • Current Music
    Not Christmas

Not all problems are temporary

Given the events of the past 24 hours, the Intertubes are all abuzz with the basic concept of suicide.  We keep hearing that "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem".  This is usually in the context of depression or similar mental illnesses, implying that support and treatment (presuming the person can get it) will get them through the worst of it, and on to a better life.  In a lot of cases, this is true.

But not always.

Long-time readers of this journal (that's him over there) have read many posts about my migraines.  For those of you who don't know, I get migraines. Bad ones. Lots of them. Since grade school. Except that they're controlled and relieved by a whole arsenal of treatments, from chiropractic to Botox. Unless some medical breakthrough happens, they are never, ever going to stop.

This is not a temporary problem.

If it weren't for those treatments, I'd be down five or six days a week instead of two or three days a month. Not even counting the suffering, it would mean no job, no ability to be a decent husband or father, basically no life.  And I know people who have it worse. People whose intractable pain is constant and unrelenting. To deny these people escape is nothing but cruelty.

Throwing that old saw in the faces of these people is telling them to just tough it out.  It's like telling someone with deep depression to just snap out of it.  It denies what's really happening to them and reduces it to a bumper-sticker sound bite.  I understand that it's well-intentioned, especially coming from someone who believes that suicide is a one-way ticket to Hell.  But often, they're making the judgment that suicide is a cowardly, selfish act whose immorality trumps the person's need for the suffering to end--that endurance of that suffering is somehow a moral obligation to those around them.  It is also a Catch-22: Serious consideration of suicide is seen as prima facie evidence of incompetence.

Robin Williams fought his demons for over forty years.  Who are we to say he didn't fight hard enough?

BTW, don't read between the lines here. I'm good. My migraines are under control, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.  As for the rest of me, I have everything I need and most of what I want.  I have nothing to escape from.  This was not always the case, and the foregoing draws upon my own darker days, and those of my late mother, who had migraines worse than mine and did not have the treatment options I do.

What should Barilla do?

We all know about Barilla CEO Guido Barilla's icky homophobic comments, and the half-hearted apology.  It looks as though Barilla's 25% U.S. market share is about to suffer a noticeable drop as a result.  What now?

The biggest problem is that the Barilla family has owned their eponymous company since it was founded, and it has never gone public.  Common forms of shareholder pressure won't work to change the company's attitude.  If the Barilla family doesn't care about the reduced income, even a boycott won't help, and it certainly won't do any favors for the workers at the company's factories, two of which are in the U.S.

Can the U.S.operation go against the home office in Italy?  I know I'd feel a lot better if I saw a Barilla billboard featuring a same-sex couple, along with some public statements about how in the U.S., Barilla does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that they do offer domestic partnership benefits (I do not know if they do or not).  It would have to be very convincing, though.

Consider a roughly parallel case: Suppose Georgia-Pacific wanted to distance itself from the politics of the Koch brothers.  It wouldn't be terribly hard, since Koch Industries didn't create G-P, they just bought it, and they don't personally run it.  Even under new owners, a corporation can retain at least some of its core values--if the acquiring company wasn't planning on selling the acquisition off in the first place, they won't be in a position to fire everybody whose ideology they don't agree with.

I'm not sure it's that easy for Barilla's U.S. subsidiary.  Internally, they're going to have to convince the top executives that here in America, at least, proclaiming and acting upon religious-based prejudices is almost always very bad for business.  Even then, the best you could hope for is that the Barilla family grudgingly allows the provincials to run the business in line with local values.  But it would at least be a start.

I like Barilla's products.  My kids love pasta, and Barilla Plus is one of the few pastas out there that adds protein while still looking and tasting like basic semolina pasta should.  Signore Barilla, please really fix this so I can start buying again.


I'm just going to come out and say it

The Second Amendment needs to be repealed. Not that I want guns outlawed or confiscated--I DON'T, so hold the hate mail.

Two reasons:

First, I just don't believe that gun ownership is a right in the same sense as the freedoms of speech, religion or the others in the Bill of Rights. Gun ownership and use should be privileges in the same sense that ownership and operation of motor vehicles are privileges. First you have to demonstrate that you can do it safely and lawfully. If you then do it unsafely or unlawfully, the privileges are revoked.

On a more abstract level, everything in the Bill of Rights has statutory limits (well, except maybe the Third Amendment). But as long as the gun debate is dominated by the extremes--"Unless you're a cop or a soldier, no guns ever" and "You can't deny me or the voices in my head our Constitutional rights!"--we'll never find the "sweet spot" that we have with the other amendments. What other freedom in the Bill of Rights has as much variation from state to state as the gun laws? I predict that in our lifetimes, this country will never come to agreement as to what "the right to keep and bear arms" really is. If nobody can agree on the meaning of a law, it has no business being part of the supreme law of the land.
  • Current Mood
    cynical cynical


Someone just posted this to my FB feed:

It's yet another article decrying sports leagues where everyone gets a trophy just for playing.  This is what the author blames for the problem of his young new hires acting like they're entitled to things just for showing up.  He runs an advertising agency, and what he really wants are people with the will to win.  After all, advertising is cut-throat competitive.  Thing is, he's missing the point.

My eitght-year-old daughter is not naturally athletic, but she LOVES to play sports.  She's been in those leagues where nobody walks away empty-handed.  Know why?  Because she CAN.  When we were kids, all the sports leagues were WIN WIN WIN, and if you weren't good enough to WIN WIN WIN, you didn't get to play.  Period.  You went someplace else to get fit, learn about teamwork, the rules of the games, and all that.  Or you went back to the couch.

She, OTOH, gets to play.  There's still such a thing as winning, and she knows it.  She knows the difference between a first-place trophy and a participation ribbon: One is an award for outstanding performance, and the other is a souvenir.  In the meantime, she's not being taught that "Winning isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing," "You're either part of the steamroller or part of the pavement," etc.  I don't want her to be taught that.  If you really want to teach your kids to win at all costs, that's still there.  The higher-level leagues are as competitive as the Boston Marathon.  Excel there, and the colleges will be watching.  In the meantime, my kid is off the couch, doing what she enjoys, and staying fit and active.

Participation ribbons are not why kids enter the adult workforce thinking they don't have to earn anything.  In too many places, it's because the kids have little or no chance to do the jobs we did as teenagers.  The reason they're not flipping burgers, stocking shelves or scrubbing toilets is that those jobs aren't available to teenagers.  With so many unskilled and low-skilled jobs moved offshore, the adults that would have done them are now doing the jobs we did in high school.  In today's McDonald's, Walmart, or jantorial service, the working language is Spanish and the medan age is over 30.  These are the working poor, the ones earning minimum wage not for gas and date money, but for rent and baby formula.

So, Mr. Brunner, if your ad agency can't find new grads who've ever earned anything, maybe you could do a couple things: First, convince your executive buddies to bring back some of those offshored jobs so that the working poor could get past minimum wage, freeing the McJobs up for teens.  Second, tell your executive buddies to stop using the word "earned" when describing your own compensation packages.  Did Lloyd Blankfein "earn" a million dollars a WEEK in 2007, the same way I "earned" minimum wage proofreading medical bills in 1977?  That's what kids read, and what they think is waiting for them when they're told to "earn a living".

And just to land this plane, yes, I as a parent am responsible for teaching my kids what it means to earn something.  My 14-year-old desperately wants a gaming computer.  Nothing fancy.  He wants to build on a $600 budget, and I've agreed to give him a $200 credit for the computer he already has, because I'll replace one of my older machines with it.  He's got about $100 saved of the $400 he needs, and we're working on ways for hm to earn the rest.  He'll work, earn and save his way to something he really wants, with a tangible result at the end.

Not just participation ribbon.

Diet. WHAT?

Those of you who know me from high school will remember that when I graduated, I weighed 115 pounds (52kg, about 8 stone).  I even made a bet (which I won) with my best friend's father that I wouldn't be overweight on my 40th birthday.  By 1998, I was still only at 125.  Then I quit smoking, and almost immediately jumped to 140.  A heart-disease scare the next year got me into the gym, where over the next couple years I put on another 15lb or so of muscle.

So far so good.  5'9.5" and right in the middle of the normal weight range.  But then, somewhere between five and ten years ago, the switch broke.  I'm talking about my perfect "I'm full" switch what would sometimes cause me to put down a forkful of food.  No longer was it physically unpleasant to continue eating after I was no longer hungry.  The weight started to creep up, thanks to all the usual bad eating factors.  It only crept up, because I never stopped exercising.  By last year it had leveled off in the upper 160s.  Not good but not too horrible, either.  Then came the broken feet.

The first broken foot, last Father's Day,  wasn't so bad because I could still swim.  The ankle stress fracture last October was worse, though.  It left me pretty sedentary until I started running again this past March.  But since I had to start from scratch, I wasn't burning many calories on the track, and my eating habits were still pretty bad.  I hit 180, and took the Zeroth Step: "This shit has got to stop".  Never mind that by most charts I still wasn't technically overweight for my height and activity level--I was too big for *me*.

(Sidebar: I should make it clear that I'm NOT looking for sympathy.  So many people I know have struggled with weight issues their entire lives, and I had 50 years of never having to give it a second thought.  I'm just talking about that increasingly rare thing: a completely new experience.)

So for the last 3-4 weeks (I can't remember exactly when I started this), I've been on a 1500cal/day, colorful-food, no-junk diet.  It helps that I'm pretty sure I've identified pizza as a migraine trigger.  As expected, the first ten pounds melted off.  I think that's mostly the no-junk part, because that really lowered my salt intake, so I'm retaining less water.  I'm down a total of 14 so far, and it really hasn't been "DIE with a T".

I haven't set a hard goal, though; something in the 145-155 range should be OK.  The qualitative goal is to make running easier.  Right now it's all I can do to little-engine-that-could my way through a 5K.  There's been noticeable improvement: My times are no better, but my torso has become less jiggly--I don't feel like I'm carrying a baby in a sling when I run.  Also, less weight means less strain on what Louis C.K. calls the "incurable shitty ankle".  Oh, and mitigating my genetic predisposition for heart attacks and diabetes might be a good thing, too.

We'll see how it goes.
  • Current Mood
    hungry hungry
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Breaking things, Part 2

...The only trouble I had with C25K was the same trouble everybody has: The jump from week 3 to week 4, where the length of each run doubles.  That week lasted a fortnight.  Week 5 is the first week where all three days aren't the same, and it ramps up pretty quickly, too: three 1/2 mile runs, two 3/4 mile runs, then a single 2-mile run.

The day of the two-mile run was also the day I had to go out of town for a funeral, so for the first time, I ran before 7:00am.  I don't know if the time had anything to do with it, but the run was fantastic.  Towards the end I had to remember my promise not to overdo anything, because it really did feel like I could go a full 5K.  The only unusual thing was that my left ankle started to ache about 3/4 of the way through the run.  I didn't think much of it and finished the two miles, but then the damn ankle didn't stop hurting.  Hustling through airports didn't help, nor did the campout with Maggie a week after I got back.  I went to my regular doctor, who sent me for X-rays, which came up negative.  *whew*  Except the pain was still there.  So the doctor sent me for different X-rays, but they came back negative, too. *whew* again. Except the pain was still there.

Finally, a month after what would be my final run of Crutch-to-5K, I went back to the orthopedist, who sent me for the MRI I should have gotten right away (the insurance company had more to do with that than my doctors).  The MRI tech, not being a radiologist, could only say. "Yeah, it lit up pretty good; there's definitely something going on down there."

That something was a high lateral malleolar non-displacement ... [wait for it] ... fracture.  That's right, fifty years of nothing and now twice inside of six months, and back in Das Boot, although I could at least still drive.  The resulting bone-density scan indicated osteopenia, and led the orthopedist to correctly guess that I was lactose intolerant.  No surprise that I'm hitting the calcium citrate pretty hard now.

Out of Das Boot in eight weeks, I was cleared to ski, but this year's yucky warm rainy winter made that not happen.  But on March 3, I started C25K from the beginning, one more time.  And like last time, I was out of shape enough that starting from the beginning was the right thing.  I'm almost on borrowed time.  I'm in week 4 again.  The first two days were hard enough that I may have to make it a fortnight again.  But I'm really curious as to what's going to happen when I do hit week 5 day 3 and that two-mile run.

In any case, if I get hurt again before completing the program, that's it for running. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Breaking things, Part 1

[Since I've always seen LJ as less ephemeral than FB, this does kind of belong here.]

Until last year, I had never broken a bone.  I had no idea what it might feel like.  Then on Father's Day, it happened.  My right foot went half off some pavement, my ankle turned way inside, and I and everyone around me heard what sounded like the loudest knuckle crack ever.  It hurt, but only about a 5 or 6 on the ten-point scale. When it happened, I immediately went down, and my left leg took all the weight, getting cut up in a bunch of places.  Of course, this had to happen at a campsite, two hours from home.  I recruited Brian (you know he's 13 now?) to load up the car while I patched up the cuts, then I drove home.  The pain was down some, and I knew I'd pass close to several hospitals on the way home, but I really wanted to go to my local hospital, just for the easier paperwork.

We made it home fine, I had almost no wait in the ER, and the X-ray definitely showed a break.  But it was only a stage 1 break (a crack) instead of stage 2 (a split with a gap) or stage 3 (displacement).  Between the ER and the first orthopedist appointment, we all played amateur doctor and tried to decide whether this was a Jones fracture or an avulsion fracture.  Turns out it was both: visible only to a specialist's eye was a second break.  So I walk out of there with what I came to call Das Boot, no surgery, and a whole lot of gratitude: The alternative to the fractures was all manner of torn ligaments, soft tissue damage, pain, physical therapy, pain, more time on crutches, and pain.

Fast forward two months.  By then Eileen was understandably sick of driving me everywhere, but YAY, Das Boot could come off.  Aside from the rare minor ache, everything looked and felt fine.  The orthopedist and I thought that a great rehab would be to do Couch-to-5K from the beginning, even though I had been doing a good bit of running before the accident.  I agreed to do it absolutely by the book.  No overdoing anything.  Turns out that after being laid up that long, I was far enough out of shape that for the most part overdoing it was never an issue.

Things went great...

Backing away

I'm not leaving LJ, but my use of it has diminished a lot over the last couple years.  The last entry I posted was almost a year ago, and it led to an argument.  For the first, and second times in my life, I broke bones this past year (I'm fine now), yet somehow I wasn't motivated to post about it here.

It used to be that I considered LJ to be permanent, Facebook to be semi-permanent, and Twitter to be ephemeral.  Facebook has become more permanent, and that's where I go to post about my day-to-day life.  I'm also Facebook friends with nearly everybody I've been close to on LJ--y'all are still in my life.

Since this is only my second post since I last paid for my LJ subscription, I'm going to let my account revert back to free.  I'm not sure what it will do to the look of it, but I'm hoping I don't lose my customizations.  You'll know I did if all of a sudden I'm using a stock template.

As for other services, I don't do a lot outside Facebook or Twitter (@edhorch).  I'm also "edhorch" on Flickr, but I only set that account up to post hi-res pictures of our Hurricane Sandy damage for the insurance adjuster in Texas.  I may have a Pinterest account, but it'd just be a placeholder that I signed up for at some point.  I don't have an Instagram account, because it seems like people mostly use it to make a 10MP DSLR shot look like it was taken with a Kodak Disc camera in 1983.  I have a Google+ account but don't use it much.  If Facebook gets too onerous in their policies I might move over, but not yet.  I just started playing around with Goodreads; we'll have to see where that leads.

So really, this isn't goodbye, but it's just an acknowledgment of what role LJ plays in my online presence these days.