Herbietown - Because Every Epic Midlife Crisis Has a Beginning

I Can Search the Ashley Madison List by Name. Is that OK?

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything in this space. My apologies to my loyal readers (Hi Mom!). Life got crazy. I’ve been thinking about writing another post – either about hockey or Ingress – but I’m fascinated right now with Ashley Madison.

So here goes.

Ashley Madison is an online dating service for married people. “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Ashley Madison Screenshot

I’ve known about the service for a long time, because they advertise on Howard Stern constantly. Their commercials are hilarious, but they always make you feel a little icky. Bloomberg Businessweek did a profile of them in 2011 and it detailed all sorts of sketchy behavior by their leadership.

So when hackers announced that they had infiltrated Ashley Madison’s website and were planning to release, well, everything, I was intrigued.  Apparently they tried to convinced the site to shut down, and after they didn’t comply, BOOM, they dumped 9GB of files onto the dark web.

I spent 6 hours on Sunday downloading the files and searching for people I might know. It felt a little dirty but I couldn’t stop myself.

There are services that have popped up online where anyone can search the database by email address, but some seem sketchy and since most people used burner email addresses anyway, it’s hard to find anything there.

For the real dirt, you have to download the 9GB of files and search the credit card transactions, which contain full names and addresses.  Most people don’t know how to do this; it requires knowledge of torrents, grep, and for the best stuff, MySql.  Half the fun for me was trying to learn some of this stuff.

It’s only a matter of time before someone creates a publicly searchable database of everything, and then it’s only a matter of time before they get sued.  And on and on.

It will get worse before it gets better, because the hackers claim they have chat histories and will release that in a future dump.  Signing up for the site is one thing, paying $49.99 is another, setting up a profile that tells the world you’re into blindfolds and Asians is yet another…but actual chat history is insanely damaging.

There were 5,000 records in my zip code alone.  That’s a lot of people looking for something they aren’t getting in their marriage.  Correction: that’s a lot of MEN looking for something they aren’t getting in their marriage.  It is almost entirely men.  Not sure who they were talking to, or thought they were talking to, but chances are it wasn’t a real woman looking for a discreet affair.

Not really a surprise I suppose, but it does expose the site as a massive scam.

So should this information be out on the Internet for anyone to see?  That’s the interesting question.

This isn’t WikiLeaks exposing government policies that have been hidden in secret, and that many Americans found to be shocking invasions of privacy and abuses of power.  And even if you disagreed with the tactics, there were legitimate arguments about safety and security and the release spurred an healthy debate we could and should be having in this country.

The Ashley Madison data is information about people’s private lives, with the potential to destroy marriages. Hundreds of thousands of marriages, maybe millions. What’s interesting is that because 95%+ of the profiles were males, it’s highly unlikely that any actual cheating occurred. But try explaining that little nuance to your spouse, especially after all the neighbors know you’re into anal beads.

If it’s politician or preacher who lectures society about infidelity, or worse, about how gay marriage will destroy the very institution itself…I’m 100% OK exposing that hypocrite who chose to thrust himself into the public debate. Bravo.  Go crawl back into your hole.

But for the average frustrated American male who had a moment of weakness and wanted a little escape online…well, what business is that of mine?  What good comes of it?  What healthy debates does it spur?

This information should have been released to reputable news organizations with the discretion to find the hypocrites and decide who the public figures are and what is newsworthy.  Releasing it to the world was an example of people doing things because they can, not because they should.

And yet… I cannot look away.

Vote on my New Year’s Resolution

I hate New Year’s resolutions.

January 1 is a completely arbitrary date for a resolution and most resolutions are frivolous and shallow.  Exercise more!  Lose 15 pounds!  Turn myself into a shiny, plastic caricature from a commercial, with bleached white teeth, a spotless house, and a sickeningly happy life.

The best New Year’s resolution I ever made was to force myself to enjoy the taste of Scotch.  It took 3 bottles but I eventually acquired a taste for it.  And now it’s one of my favorite beverages.

Still, I feel myself being swept up in the fever of reinvention and hope that is, I think, an American pastime.

So here are my potential resolutions, along with how I would measure my progress.  Let me know what you think.  I can’t do all of these things…I need to focus.

  1. misunderstoodBe less of a jackass.  Just a little.  A huge part of my personality is my charming wit of course, but sometimes I go too far, in the wrong forums, and people might be offended by my comments.  I don’t want to lose what makes me so special, or stop trusting in my instincts (which are naturally pretty solid), but I want to be a little more careful.I will measure this each day by recording 1 jackass comment I could have made, but didn’t. (Bonus: it could be an awesome Tumblr.)  [UPDATE: did this for a week and found myself trying to think of jackass comments that I would then not say.  I basically failed at this one]
  2. Be kinder.  I’d like to be a kind person.  I’d like to help people.  I’d like to be selfless.  I also believe, selfishly, that being kind will make me feel better as a human being.I would measure this each day by recording 1 kind thing I did.  Bonus: could be a decent Tumblr. Not as good as the jackass comments Tumblr, but making people cry is always a cathartic and good thing.  [UPDATE: tried hard on this, like to think I succeeded in some ways, at least am more aware]
  3.  Stay closer to my parents.  They aren’t getting any younger and I love them very much.  But distance, politics, and computer support questions separate us and I don’t make enough of an effort to connect with them.One of my best friends recently lost his father and it really got me thinking about my own relationship with my parents.I would measure this by making sure that I talk to them at least once every 2 weeks.  [UPDATE: total fail.  Need to do better.]
  4. bgeCook more.  I love to grill, especially since we got a Big Green Egg.  I also need to do a better job of taking some of the responsibility for meals off of Greta.  Just because she’s a better cook doesn’t mean she should have to prepare every meal.  And cooking helps take my mind off all the daily stresses of life.I would measure this by taking charge of at least 1 meal per week. [UPDATE: total fail.  1 meal per month at most.]
  5. Write more.  Last year I made 6 posts on Herbietown.  That is sad.  Things were busy in my life with work and a 3 kids and hockey and everything else, but that is no excuse.  I’ve found other outlets for my writing, including work and hockey (epic post-game summaries to the team), but I’m not doing nearly enough.I would measure this by 1 hour of writing per week (not for work or hockey). [UPDATE: total fail.  haven’t updated blog in 8 months]
  6. Network more.  I moved from the NYC area to Atlanta 2 years ago.  Things I took for granted in New York, like lunches and happy hours with old classmates and friends, don’t happen here.  I am making new friends of course, but I’m not doing nearly enough to stay in touch with people that I really care about, and people in the media and technology industries who I can help and who can help me.I would measure this by 1 conversation or email per week, to an old colleague, a friend or a potential connection.  [UPDATE: success!!  doing a pretty good job getting out there and meeting people]

So that’s it.  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Government priorities

Saw this analysis on LinkedIn that showed what people across the political spectrum feel about where government spending should be focused.

I find this interesting because it is ultimately what happens to all that tax money they collect, and it’s also the single biggest way to change society. I usually vote on social issues because I can’t, with a clear conscience, elect bigots to positions of power.

But then I disagree with how the non-bigots spend my money.

So here’s the chart showing the findings of the research, along wIth my stack rank of where I would spend the money. Note I’m assuming it’s changes from current spend…not total spend. We need money for defense but we don’t need as much, I would argue.

I put “job creation” last, because the only ways the government can create jobs are:
1) hire more government workers (which I’m against in general)
2) kick off infrastructure projects (which I’m for, but it’s covered elsewhere)
3) cut taxes to free up businesses to invest (not really a spending thing)

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Scary Tornado Warning and data from my PWS

Tornado warning issued in Cobb County this morning. Here’s the last 24 hours of weather data from my Personal Weather Station.

Interesting to watch the pressure drop and the wind gusts and rain pick up.

No worries, everyone is safe!

Thanks to my neighbor Laurie for calling and waking us up this morning – we didn’t hear the sirens.

IMG_0016

Here’s the actual polygon showing the tornado warning, just west of our location, at 6:02am.  From Weather Underground’s Wundermap.

2014.10.14_Tornado Wundermap Screenshot

 

And here’s what I had waiting for my kids as we emerged from the basement.  Now that is a good Dad.

krispy kreme

 

Introducing My Amazon Store

Want to be more like me?  Of course you do.

The problem is that you don’t have all the advantages I have: superior genes, years of perfect parenting and nurturing by my Mom & Dad, rugged good looks, an elite education, a charming personality, and most of all my deep humility.

But you can be more like me.  You can buy stuff that I have.

Introducing the completely revamped Herbietown Amazon store.  Here I recommend the best tech gadgets, baby & kid stuff, business books and philosophy books.  I will add more over time, but this should be enough to get you started.

Good luck.

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Disclaimer: I am a participant in theAmazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

World Cup, You Suck

Note: This is the first in a multi-part series intended to serve as my job application for the GM position of the MLS team coming to Atlanta in 2017.
askmeificare

Soccer can be a really exciting sport to watch. I used to really love going to soccer games in college. Middlebury has an amazing soccer field, with huge natural burms of grass surrounding the playing area, so you could just sort of lay out in the sun and watch the game. I seem to remember drinking stiff Bloody Mary’s most of the time, and cheering for my friends. It was great.

But watching The World Cup can be brutal. Are the fields bigger or something? It seems like the cameras are filming from the upper deck, or maybe from a blimp floating in the clouds.

I’m sorry, Soccer, but you need a few tweaks if you want to be accepted by the people that matter. You know, us, the Americans.  Here are 4 simple changes that will make soccer into a real sport.

1. No More Ties

You can’t play a 90 minute game with near-constant running and then just walk away without a winner. There’s no closure. There’s no sense of accomplishment, of purpose. It’s like having wild sex for an hour and a half, stopping suddenly mid-thrust, and just rolling over and going to sleep. Call me old-fashioned, but finish the fucking game.

I don’t care how you do it. Overtimes, shootouts, whatever.

I personally like the endless sudden-death overtimes of Stanley Cup hockey, because it separates the men from the boys. It’s about who wants it more.

But I also love the mano-a-mano aspect of a shootout (in both hockey and soccer)…it’s what makes the pitcher/batter dynamic in baseball so great.

I don’t care how you do it. Just finish, please.

2. No More “Extra Time”

How ridiculous is a game with a clock but no end time? Was this dreamed up from Alice In Wonderland? Why have the clock at all? It is ridiculous that I even have to explain this to people.

A co-worker on Friday told me “Well then you would need someone to stop the clock every time play stopped!”

So what? Is it too hard to find a guy willing to take the job? Maybe try raising the asking salary a bit? I don’t understand. Buy a stopwatch on Amazon. Hit start when the game starts, hit stop when play stops, hit start when play starts. And on and on.  Isn’t the ref doing this anyway to calculate the “extra time?”  Why is it a secret?

You have a clock to measure time and create drama. Fans want to look at the clock and feel a sense of urgency. When there’s 2 minutes left, you want the team to start trying desperate measures, maybe pull their goalie. Something. It’s what makes basketball so exciting.

The downside, I guess, would be the crazy end game strategies where you foul constantly to stop play. To fix that, just copy hockey and make penalties really costly. More on that later.

The other way to go is remove the clock entirely and do like foosball – first to 10 wins. Throw the clock away. Might want to tweak it so it’s first to 1 or 2 though, because it takes forever to score. You can’t have a bunch of 30 second Mike Tyson style knockout matches.

I don’t know. Just hire a guy to hit a button during the game. Play a loud buzzer sound when time expires. It’s pretty simple.

3. Make the Rules Understandable

To help get my kids excited about sports this year, I helped them make large posterboard brackets  of both the March Madness men’s basketball tourney and the Stanley Cup.

We drew out the single-elimination brackets and they understood immediately.

The World Cup bracket, on the other hand, is extremely complex.

In the first round, there are 8 groups of 4 teams, which each play in a mini-tournament of 6 games. The top 2 teams from each group advance to a second round of single-elimination play.

How do they decide the top 2 teams? There’s a complex system of tie-breakers based on wins, draws, losses, ratios of goals scored and goals allowed and goal differentials. Sometimes all of those things aren’t enough so head-to-head match ups of the same items are required. It is even possible to get to a point where you “draw lots.”

It really says that on the FIFA website. “Draw lots.”  (see page 50 of this)

I don’t know what that means and I’m not going to google it. I’m assuming it’s some metric system version of flipping a coin.

It is ridiculous.

The 2nd round is a single-elimination tournament, which is much better. But even there, they get it wrong. Because it isn’t really single-elimination. The 2 losing teams in the semifinals get to play again. For 3rd place. That is so un-American I want to puke.

The worst part about the system is that sometimes it isn’t clear who to root for. Normally if you’re watching a tournament game that doesn’t involve your team, you root for the guys who you would rather have your team play. (Have someone else knock out the best team so you don’t have to face them)  You might just want to see a good game and enjoy it for sport, but you at least have a sense of how the outcome of the game could affect your team.

Today I watched Germany play Ghana (both teams in the same group as the U.S. team) and I didn’t know who to root for. A Germany win would knock Ghana out of the tournament. That’s a good thing, right? But a Germany win would also give Germany 6 points, making them a virtual lock to move on and take the top position. That doesn’t sound good.

Was a tie really the best possible outcome for U.S. fans? That way each team gets 1 point, preventing either from getting too strong?  Spoiler alert, it’s what happened.

So Soccer wanted me to watch a game and root for a tie. Root for a tie? How do you even do that? Doesn’t Soccer understand anything about a good story, about identifying with a character, about basic human nature?

This is what the TV announcers put up on the screen after the game to try to help dumb Americans figure out the situation.

tvexplanation

I took a picture of it because it made me laugh so hard.  There is nothing here about coming in 1st or 2nd in the group (WAY too complicated for the average American).  Try to understand the first point about Germany, and how it differs from the third point about Ghana.  Is there a difference?  Basically whatever happens on Sunday doesn’t affect either team, right?  What if the U.S. wins?   Doesn’t matter?  WTF?

I made a chart with my son to try to understand and help teach him.  Here’s what it looks like.

jacksworldcupbracket

It’s a little hard to read because we had to make it in pencil.  We made it in pencil because it’s so complicated that you have to keep erasing and rewriting to get it right.

4. Stop Rewarding Crybabies

This one is probably the most important on the list.

A guy trips on the grass. He immediately scrunches up his face and yells out in pain. Sometimes he rolls around wailing and clutching some part of his body, usually a toe. 98% of the time it is a completely fake dive, confirmed both by the modern magic of instant replay and the way he hops right back up and starts playing again 2 minutes later. It’s pathetic.

Then there’s the guy’s teammates. They just stand there, happy for a chance to take a break from chasing a ball around a field. They never step in to defend their teammate. Really? A guy just slide-tackled your buddy and made him cry out like his bone was jutting out from his flesh, and you’re just going to stand there and watch?

And what about the guy with the bone sticking out of his leg? Does he go after the guy who did it to him? No. He doesn’t even look for him. Basically he looks around to find the referee, like a 3 year old looking for his mommy, and cries to her that life isn’t fair.

I watched a Premier League game a couple of weeks ago with my boys. We watched a guy dive and then make this big dramatic show to the ref. I forgot my kids were there for a second and I yelled something like “Oh come on, Sally, are you kidding me?”

I spent the rest of the game explaining this comment to my inquisitive sons. (Thankfully they didn’t focus on the weird sexist “Sally” part.)

No, Daddy doesn’t think it’s wrong to cry if you get hurt.

No, Daddy doesn’t think it’s right to hurt another player intentionally.

Daddy just doesn’t like when players fake being hurt, that’s all.

So how do you fix this one? Recruit tougher guys to the sport? Definitely.

But that alone won’t fix soccer’s crybaby problem. You have 3 choices.

First, instant replay. Have each trip reviewed on video, and have a penalty for embellishment (again, look to hockey for your answers).

Second, beef up the penalties. Having a ref run down the field blowing a whistle and waving a yellow index card doesn’t exactly send a strong message. I don’t even understand what a yellow card is, by the way, I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem to have any impact. It seems like the game just goes on. Why not put the player in a penalty box for a while? Give the other team an advantage?

The last option, and this one is a little out there, is to just make it legal to trip and tackle. Let the guys wear pads and helmets and just go after each other. Ha. These guys are way too pretty for that.

Want to know my favorite moment in all of soccer?

This.

Zinedine-Zidanes-headbutt-002

I remember it vividly.  (Pretty sure I was watching from a bar in New York with Tim Hannan, during the Summer of Chris.)  It was terrible sportsmanship.  Disgraceful.  Just the worst kind of stupidity there is, especially in such an important game from one of the best players on the team. It was the act of a dumb brute.  It was insane.

But it was also great. I guarantee every American who saw that moment remembers it.

You want soccer to succeed in America? Get more Zidanes and follow the rules above, and you’ll have a real sport on your hands.

 

UPDATE: there’s a whole post here about how the U.S. can qualify for the next round, with a huge debate in the comments.  Are you kidding me?

Free Puppies!

It’s no secret that I like pranks.  I always have.  I’m a 13 year old boy at heart.

Luckily, some of my neighbors here in Atlanta are also into pranks.  We have some neighbors right next door who got into an epic prank war with us last year.  It involved a lost dog sign and some fairly large charges at UPS at CVS.

Fast forward 6 months and we’re back at it.

My mom actually came up with this idea.  We were sitting on the back deck brainstorming and my Mom suggested that we put up “Free Puppies” signs around the neighborhood to attract people to their house.

I was instantly on board.

The next day, I went to Home Depot and got some signage.  Then I found some helpers (aged 5 and 6) to help me glue pictures of cute puppies on the posterboard.  We placed 4 signs around the neighborhood: 1 in their yard, 1 up the street a bit, and 2 on the main road.

The boys and I were gleeful when we made the signs.  We literally couldn’t stop laughing while we glued the pictures and placed the signs.  It was so great to be able to share these special moments with my boys.  Here are the results (actual address blacked out):

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Here’s us making the signs.  So happy.

freepuppies3

 

About 10 minutes after we posted the signs, a woman in a Mercedes showed up next door and knocked on the door.  We were crouching in the bushes watching.  So epic.  At first our neighbors were confused, but they soon realized it was a prank and immediately suspected The Herbert’s.

Unfortunately, in all of our glee, we didn’t fully anticipate the consequences of our actions.

We had written the full address of our neighbor’s house on the signs, and posted it on the main road near our house.  So we were basically inviting random strangers to come and visit their house and knock on their door.  Not so cool.

We took down the signs and apologized for the stranger danger, but it was still well worth it.

Can’t wait to see how they respond.

Why last night’s game was so brutal

1. The Rangers were up 2-0 and then 4-2, and still lost

2. The King’s 3rd goal should not have counted. Clear goalie interference that should have negated the goal AND resulted in a Ranger’s power play

3. The Rangers played better than the Kings in both overtimes and had tons of chances

It was excruciating to watch. I did not enjoy it. I love hockey but it was BRUTAL.

Ugly Sweater Contest

I went to a family Christmas party last week in Tennessee.  The theme was “Country Christmas” but I’d been calling it “Redneck Christmas” in hopes of offending my mother-in-law.

There was a prize for the person with the ugliest sweater.  I was determined to win it.  So, the morning of the party, I went to Walmart.  I thought for sure they would have a huge selection of ugly Christmas sweaters, but there was nothing.  I wanted to ask a salesperson to help me, but it’s hard to talk to a salesperson when you’re shopping ironically.  The best I could find were silk Santa boxers.  Hilarious, but underwear costumes aren’t really appropriate for a family party.

I left Walmart and drove to Target.  Target had nothing.  I got angry.  Where does one go to buy ugly clothes?  Don’t these stores want to serve their customers?  (Gap didn’t open for 2 more hours.)

On my way home, I saw a sign for Kmart.  Yes!!  I swerved across 3 lanes of traffic and pulled into the parking lot.  If anyplace has ugly sweaters, it had to be Kmart.

Wrong again.  They had some Christmas-themed clothing, but nothing that would even get me an honorable mention in an ugly sweater contest.  Distraught, I went home, rounded up the family and drove to Tennessee.

We crossed the border from Georgia and got off the highway.  I had hoped we’d find a thrift shop along the route, but all I could see were houses with rusty pickup trucks growing in the front yard.  

Then we rounded a turn and came upon a general store.  There was a huge sign advertising college football memorabilia.  The clouds parted.  Angels emerged, singing the Hallejuah chorus.  I was saved.

5 minutes later and $20 poorer, we were on on our way to meet my mother-in-law and her family.  Approximately 73% of the individuals at the party were Georgia Tech graduates.  Here’s a picture of me with my mother-in-law: 

UGA

Sadly, I didn’t win the contest.  The judge’s son won for dressing as cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation.  Apparently they were impressed with my effort, but decided that anyone wearing a UGA shirt can’t be a winner.

Whatever, obviously it was rigged.  The consolation prize is that I can wear this sweatshirt every time my mother-in-law comes over.

UPDATE:

This is what happened when I played the UGA fight song on Apple TV

MumbyUGAFIGHTSONG

Cars and Sweatpants

61005I recently paid off a massive student loan. The loan had started at $75,000 and the interest rate was an unconscionable 6.5%. I had been paying $750 per month for the last 6 years, plus a few big annual payments, and now finally it’s gone. I’m not debt-free (not even close) but I do have an extra $750 burning a hole in my pocket every month.

I know I should put that straight into my children’s 529 plan for college, or start applying it to my other student loans, or make extra payments on my mortgage, or start a rainy day fund, or just fucking kill myself.

I don’t want to do something safe and responsible.  I want to spend.  And above all I want a new car.

My 6 year old Subaru Outback isn’t cutting it anymore. It gets me from point A to point B, and it is fully paid for, but I live in Atlanta now. Atlanta is a car town.

In Connecticut, my Subaru fit me perfectly. 4WD meant it got me around in the snow, and the hatchback was perfect for our growing family. It was a practical car to own. Tons of people had Subarus.

In Atlanta, I am ridiculed for my Subaru. My new friends pull me aside and ask “what is the deal with your car, man?” They want to know if all Subarus come with Hillary 2016 stickers. My sexuality has even been called into question.

And it isn’t even practical anymore. The 4WD is useless here. I don’t need the hatchback either as we have a Honda Odyssey.

So why not just trade in the Subaru and get an Audi or a BMW? It’s simple, I don’t want an entry-level luxury car. Then I’m “the guy who couldn’t afford the 5-series.” I’d rather be “the guy who doesn’t care about cars.” It’s a real dilemma.

The longer I wait, the less likely I am to splurge on something I can’t afford. Which is good, since my brain knows the right answer is to drive that Subaru into the ground.

Last weekend I decided to splurge in a different way. I bought a pair of sweatpants for $88.  My new sweatpants are thick and luxurious and soft and I would wear them every day if I could.

I don’t care if Lulu Lemon got famous making yoga pants for women. Good for them. I’m secure in my manhood. I mean, come on, I drive a Subaru.

Some Clarifications

Tons of reactions to my recent post about Obamacare in the Deep South. I’d like to clarify a few things.

First, not everyone in the South is racist. Not even close. One of the things I’ve been surprised by is just how cosmopolitan and worldly Atlanta is. Most of the people I’ve met, both at work and at home, are open-minded, intelligent and interesting people.

My post was really about 1 guy who I met that I suspected was letting racism drive his opinion of Obamacare. I wasn’t even sure that was true, I was just raising questions. And I certainly wasn’t intending to suggest all Southerners are racist.

I did extrapolate and write about broad cultural themes like the defiance that seems to permeate the mentality of many Southerners. I believe that exists, in the same way that San Francisco is permeated by a sense of the power of technology and New York is permeated by a sense of opportunity and hard work. It doesn’t mean everyone is racist, I’m just making some general observations.

Second, I don’t believe that anyone who opposes Obamacare is racist. That’s crazy talk. There are perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose Obamacare that have nothing to do with race. It will be expensive to provide health insurance to millions of Americans who didn’t have it before. Giving the government a larger role in healthcare could result in DMV-like mismanagement, as evidenced by the disastrous rollout of the website. And there are some serious questions about the President’s prior claims that people can keep their existing health insurance.

All that said, I wish the Obamacare haters would make their own proposals or at least acknowledge that the health care system doesn’t work well today for many millions of Americans. Denying that there is a problem is ignorant and foolish.

Third, I am not a liberal. Most of my new friends here in Atlanta think I’m a flaming left-wing crusader. I may be socially liberal in the sense that I strongly support gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, and measures to deal with climate change. But I also believe in things that many conservatives believe in, like reducing our debt.

Many people identify with a political party as if it were their favorite sports team. They use terms like “we” and “they.” When Obama makes a gaffe, people sometimes send me emails to gloat, the same way I would send a disparaging note to Red Sox fans if their team lost. It’s crazy. I’m a citizen of the U.S. first, not a “fan” of the Democratic party. I don’t consider politics a game.

I tend to vote for Democrats because the social issues are so core to my beliefs and I just can’t get past the blatant bigotry of many Republican positions (e.g. Boehner’s refusal to support the anti-discrimination bill that the Senate just passed). But my support for Democrats doesn’t mean I take their side on every issue.

So don’t put me in box!

That is all.

Obamacare in the Deep South

article346153_confederate-flagI talked about Obamacare with some real Southerners last night.

I mostly listened, figuring this would be a good chance to get inside the heads of some real conservatives. These were intelligent, well-educated people, the type who I thought would be least likely to just repeat what they heard on Fox News.

The overriding sentiment seemed to be that health care works just fine as it is. The conversation went something like this:

“If you can’t afford a doctor, you go to the emergency room. You still get health care. I don’t see why we need to change anything.”

“But then you get an enormous bill and you end up having to declare bankruptcy. Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?”

“You don’t understand how it works. Listen, I didn’t have insurance when I was in my twenties. I hurt my hand and I went in to see a doctor and had him look at it. He said he could fix it but that I would need to fill out this paperwork and go see this doctor and all this nonsense. I said no, tell me how much it will cost for you to fix it right here, right now. We eventually agreed on $250.”

“And what if instead of needing a cortisone shot in your finger, you needed treatment for a serious disease, and you couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars? Would you still feel the same way?”

“Look at my cousin, he had a brain tumor and he didn’t have insurance and he just went into the ER and they took care of him. Doctors and nurses and people that start hospitals – they don’t care about money – they just want to help people.”

The problem here is obvious. This guy doesn’t see that there is a problem when 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance. He sees nothing wrong with the ER solution, where sick people without health insurance just go into the ER to receive care, and end up declaring bankruptcy when they can’t pay their bills.

I explained that bankruptcy ruins your credit for 7 years and how difficult that would make it to get a mortgage. His response: “come on, these people couldn’t afford a house before they got sick.”

“These people.” I’ll come back to that in a minute.

He offered his own alternative to Obamacare: 2 systems. One would be for people who can afford health insurance and would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who “care about making money.” The other would be a government system, with lower reimbursements and fewer service offerings, for people who can’t afford health insurance. It would be stocked with doctors and nurses and professionals who don’t care about money.

He likened it to education. Private schools for people who can afford it, and public schools for everyone else.

I asked him if he thought there should be a permanent upper class and a permanent lower class. He said no, that everyone should have the same opportunities but that there shouldn’t be extra artificial steps put in place for the privileged. Not sure what that meant.

There was a racial undertone to the conversation that is hard to describe. “These people,” he said. Maybe my imagination was running wild. But it seemed like this guy thought President Obama was trying to steal money from white people and give it to black people.

I hope I was wrong.

It may not have been a racial thing. But under the surface there was a real resentment to any kind of change that could undermine his position in society. I think that resentment is part of the Southern psyche. Let me explain.

140 years ago, southern white men could own other people. They ran plantations and lived a life of relative luxury. Then the intellectuals from the North protested and tried to get them to change their ways. So they rebelled. They lost.

Now, even a full 140 years later, every attempt to change society is an affront to their way of life. Even if they see the moral problem of slavery, they still resent being told what to do. And even if the proposed change will help them, like for example by protecting them from being denied care for pre-existing conditions. Any attempt to change things is an attempt to take away their freedom.

Is it worse when the proposed changes come from a black President? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m connecting dots that don’t exist.

It may not be a racial issue. But there is definitely a certain defiance that permeates Society down here in the deep South. It’s the same defiance that drives some people here to fly Confederate flags.

It is fascinating.

I Hate Facebook

hate-facebookI hate Facebook. Like, I really HATE it.

This is a new phenomenon.

I used to love Facebook. It used to make me feel connected to hundreds of people from my past. It gave me a creative outlet to express my thoughts and feelings. It was a great way to waste time.

But lately I’ve changed my view. Lately, it’s driving me fucking insane.

Every update makes me crazy. My heart actually starts racing and I yell at my computer or my phone as I scroll through an endless wasteland of self-serving minutiae. Pictures from exotic vacations taken by people with no children. Annoying declarations of love that make me sick. Political tirades that are cut-and-pasted from cable television. People just generally sharing how awesome their lives are, clearly just managing their tidy public image.

It makes me sick. It makes me angry. It makes me jealous and hateful and cynical.

I read somewhere that depressed people have no interest in the newspaper. They don’t care what’s going on in the world around them because they are paralyzed by a destructive downward spiral of negativity and hopelessness. I haven’t been in the best mental place lately but I’m still a voracious news junkie. No, my wrath has been turned on a new form of media – social media.

I wish people were more sincere in their Facebook updates. I wish they shared what is really going on inside their heads, a fuller picture that reflects the good and the bad.

Or maybe people are doing that and they just suck.  Maybe people really are just insanely boring. Hey look at me, I’m on vacation, aren’t you jealous! Hey look at me, I am super successful in my career! Hey look at me, I just ate this delicious dinner! Hey, look at me, look at how beautiful my family is in these posed shots we just took!

Am I guilty of this? Until recently it wasn’t unusual for me to post 5-10 things a day. I just looked back at my feed and almost every post held some value for the reader. At least in my mind. Call me out if you want to but I’m sticking to my guns. I am interesting.

So is Henry. My friend Henry is perhaps the only other consistently interesting person in my entire Facebook feed. He posts links to great articles on a wide variety of subjects and he is playful and sincere and interesting. Almost never self-serving. I love his stuff and almost always click through. He adds value to my life and I appreciate it.

Everyone else, you suck. Stop trying to project an unrealistic image of how amazing you are. Just be yourself. And if you don’t have anything interesting to say, say nothing.

That is all.

Oh, this sums it up far better than I could.

Happy Anniversary, Greta

OREOinMILK1I got married to Greta Herbert 9 years ago today.

If I had wings, she would be the wind beneath them.

If I were a planet, she would be the Sun I revolve around.

If I were a glass of milk, she would be an Oreo cookie.

If I were a magnet, she would also be a magnet.

If I were a hungry fat guy, she would be a Twinkie.

If I were Barack Obama, she would be Michelle Obama.

But I’m none of those things. I’m just another guy. A scrawny guy. A selfish guy. A guy with a growing gut and skeletor-like fingers. An obsessive perfectionist with an addiction to the Internet. An anxiety-filled introvert. In short, a total nutjob. I’m not exaggerating. It cannot be easy to be married to me.

Somehow, despite all of this, she’s stayed with me.

I have single friends who question the value of marriage. They hear married guys constantly complaining about their wives and they wonder why anyone would want that life. They cherish their freedom. They love being able to meet new women and not be tied down.

I listen to these single guys and I laugh and joke with them. But I like to think that I have a twinkle in my eye.

Greta is that twinkle.

Danger

weiner-underwearOn the one hand, your private life is your private life. Your professional accomplishments are what should matter. To each his own.

On the other hand, Carlos Danger.

Carlos. Danger. The fact that he led with the name “Carlos” is precious enough. I think of Zorro for some reason. And then he goes and picks “Danger” for the win. As if to say, just in case you’re not getting what this is, my last name is… Danger.

I didn’t get it at first because I know someone with the last name “Dangar,” and it’s pronounced with a hard G. So for some reason my brain didn’t read Danger, but Dan-gar. After seeing a few headlines, realization finally dawned, and I was gleeful.

Anthony Weiner might now be my answer to that stupid question: “Who would you most like to have a beer with?” It would be so fascinating to throw back a few brews and just pick his brain. I’d want to do it in Vegas or somewhere out of the country, so I could have the best shot of getting actual truthful answers out of him. And I would want there to be lots of good-looking women around, so I could see him in action, in his element.

I would definitely tap him whenever I needed a new name for something. A new business, product, kid, whatever. He is clearly skilled in this area. He should pursue a career in it.

He’ll need to do something to earn money, because there’s no way he’ll pull off a political comeback. It’s just never going to happen.  Must be a terrible feeling to know that you made such an irreversible mistake.

And your poor wife. Why does she stand by him? What is that? I can’t fathom it.

I guarantee that Carlos Danger gets more write-in votes than Anthony Weiner. I would be one of them if I lived in NYC.

And this.

Guvmint

GuvmintI know why people from the South hate the government. Their government sucks.

The DMV situation in Georgia is totally fucking absurd. It literally takes 3 hours to get to a window and begin speaking to an agent. Who has that kind of time? The lost productivity alone should easily justify spending more money to hire more workers.

The DMV’s in Connecticut are not like this. You can get in and out within 30 minutes. You don’t need to take an entire day off from work to handle some administrative bullshit. You can go on your lunch break.

How do people stand for this? It’d be such an easy victory for some enterprising congressman to introduce a bill which doubles the number of DMV workers in the state. We have elected representatives for a reason, to fix nonsense like this. Who would possibly disagree? It would be a rounding error in the overall budget.

One poor government service makes the rest of the government look bad. Because of the example set by the DMV, people assume that anyone working for the government is a lazy, inefficient freeloader out to steal their hard-earned tax dollars.

Maybe I’ll make a run for office and clean up this mess.

CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERZ, CHOP ON

I caught a Braves game last week with a large group from my company. Good times. I always enjoy the American pastime. I especially love seeing how the locals customize their ballpark. For example, Turner Field has mist stations to keep everyone cool in the hot Atlanta summers.

tomahawk chopWhat I wasn’t prepared for was The Chop. During a rally, the crowd stands up and starts swinging their arms up and down, simulating a tomahawk chop. They also do a whooping chant, Ooooo oh oh ooooooo, ah oh, oh ah oooooooo.

It’s insane.

What are you supposed to tell your children when they ask what The Chop means?

“Daddy, why do we move our arms up and down like this?”

“We’re intimidating the other team by pretending that we’re going to scalp them.”

“Daddy, what’s ‘scalp them’ mean?”

“Scalping is the act of cutting off someone’s scalp, the top part of their head. Europeans used to offer bounties for dead native Americans, but carrying around dead bodies was too hard so they just chopped off the top part of their head and carried that back to collect their money.”

Not exactly the conversation I want to have with my 5 year old.

It’s fun to have traditions and chants, and I recognize that many people don’t even know what they’re chanting. But isn’t it just absolutely astounding that in 2013 we are still doing this? It’s the total cartoonization of native American culture.

The team encourages it. There are tomahawk graphics all over the stadium and they move up and down during rallies, to get the crowd to start chanting.

chop onEven the sponsors get in on the action. There is an enormous statue of a cow in center field, from our good friends at Chick-Fil-A. We know they like to take every opportunity to advance good clean Christian values. The cow is wearing a sign that says “CHOP ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, CHOP ON.” As if God himself gives you permission to denigrate the savages.

A colleague suggested a good analogy. Imagine that the Nazis won World War II and now controlled all of Europe. The mascots for the soccer teams would be named after Jews. So instead of the Braves and the Indians and the Redskins, we’d have the Steinbergs and the Rosensterns and the Goldbergs. The crowd would have some sort of chant that sounded like a gas chamber filling up, and everyone would just sort of go along with it because most of the Jews were dead anyway. Chick-Fil-A would drop a million bucks to put up a big cow with a sign that says “GAS ON, CHIKIN LUVERS, GAS ON.”

It’s not that far-fetched.

Fun vs. Pretty

“You look pretty today. I like when you wear your hair up.”

“Thanks, Mom!”

“Why don’t you go under the water?”

“I don’t want to go under. My hair will get wet and I won’t look pretty anymore.”

“But you’ll have fun.”

“I’d rather be pretty than have fun.”

And that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

My 9-year-old niece had a big smile on her face when she said she’d rather be pretty. She was kidding but I think there was a degree of truth in it. To her credit, she was doing handstands and somersaults within a few minutes of getting in the water.

Pretty vs fun. It really got me thinking.

Until women start prioritizing fun over pretty in their daily lives, they won’t live up to their full potential. They’ll be missing out on whole swaths of experience. Being desirable will always be important, but it would be better if fun were desirable, wouldn’t it?

That’s where men come in. I think we need to do a better job prioritizing fun over pretty, too. I’m reminded of the Mad Men episode where they discuss the Coke commercial with the Bye Bye Birdie song.

Peggy gets upset that about the idea of stooping to sexuality to sell products, claiming that women won’t be persuaded to buy Coke products by a sexy woman. Don yells at her “You get how this works don’t you?” and explains that women will want to be considered as desirable as the other women on TV.

Don understands human nature and how to sell products.

We need to harness that kind of cynical knowledge of human behavior and go after the root cause. We need to change the definition of “pretty.”

And why not? Magazines do it every day.

So how do we change the definition of pretty? It starts with prioritizing fun. Encourage your daughters to play sports. Discourage them from cheerleading on the sidelines. Show them, by your example, that they can do everything a man can do, and have fun doing it. Teach them to use their imaginations and to follow their passions, even if it leads them into traditionally male areas. Most of all, have fun.

And men, well, I can’t tell you who you should be attracted to. But I can tell you that pretty fades with age.  Fun lasts forever.

Peepee on the Beach

“I have to go peepee, Daddy!”

Those can be the 6 most annoying words in the English language, when said at the right time. It’s usually when you’re out at a restaurant and the food has just arrived. Or when you’re driving in the car and home is about 15 minutes away.

Good parents are vigilant about bathroom breaks. Every time there’s a good bathroom opportunity, you take it. You force everyone in the family to go. “But I don’t have to go peepee, Daddy!” “You don’t have to go, but you have to try.” That gets them at least 50% of the time.

Yesterday, Charlie made his announcement on the beach. The closest bathroom was back up at the hotel, with a mile of sand in between. Not to mention a despised sand-rinsing operation. No, going back to the room was an emergency situation reserved for #2.

So my wife says “Ok Charlie, you can go in the water. Come on now, hurry, hurry. Daddy’s going to take you in the water.”

Charlie runs down the beach to me and starts to wade into the water.

“Daddy, can you hold my hand? Because I’m a little bit scared.”

“Sure, buddy, I’ll hold your hand.”

We walked until the water was about 3 inches high. Then Charlie abruptly stopped, released my hand, pulled down his bathing suit, and starting peeing. No warning whatsoever. He did it like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Did I mention that the beach was crowded with people?

I was about to yell “No, Charlie! Stop! We have to get deeper!” but before it got out of my mouth I realized it was too late. And it was too cute.

My wife immediately jumped up with the camera and snapped a few shots. As you can see, I tried to distance myself a bit from the situation. I don’t think anyone bought it.

peepee

Foursquare Time Machine

Foursquare just launched a new feature called The Time Machine. It’s a pretty cool visualization of your check-ins over time. At the end, it spits out a graphic with your stats.

I love Foursquare. I’ve been using for the last 3 years, to use Fred Wilson’s words, to “database” my life. I’m pretty sure that makes me a giant geek. But I don’t mind. I now have rich data about all the places I’ve been in the last 3 years. And that is cool.

Here’s the graphic:

foursquare-the-next-big-thing