Recently I have been playing around with photo taking, editing, and manipulation software on iOS. I have an iPad 3, and an iPhone 5, both of which have nice cameras as well as phenomenal processing for graphics, like most Apple products, and I miss photography and videography, so this fills some of the bill for me. If you go into the App Store, you can find a ton of various apps for all sorts of photography, editing and sharing of the images, and a lot more than the shitty Instagram filters.

So instead of trying to read up on them, or take other people's word for them, I have decided to try a bunch of them out and assess for myself. Over the next several posts I am going to go through them and try out several of the photo apps, the editing apps, and the sharing apps, and try to find the right combo for me. I have some favorites, but I am going to try a bunch of them and give them a fair shot.

Oh and I'm also trying out an auto-posting thing that posts on FB and Twitter when a post goes up here. If it sucks, let me know.

Just a quick blurb

So in an earlier post I mentioned how I was working to lose some weight. Just wanted to say that on August 12th or so, I weighed myself and was a hearty 331. Which I was happy about since I was over 350 last November or so. So on the 19th of August I decided to make an effort to change my diet, etc, as chronicled in my earlier post.

Today I am 308 even. And working on exercising more now that I am less of a hazard to any sort of workout gear I dared go near. Including swimming pools.

Just wanted to put that out there though that simple changes in diet and practices can make a huge difference. No fads, no supplements, no Tommy Lasorda diet shakes, just simple changes in habits and approaches to lifestyles.

Chicago bound

I am going to be traveling to Chicago next week for work, and while I am actually looking forward to the trip, there are a couple of things that are making me a little hesitant to go.

First, the airplane. I usually fly JetBlue, but this time going out on United, which is ok, but nowhere near as comfortable for a guy who is 6’4″ and a, shall we say, large-framed gentleman. United is especially bad, but it’s only about two hours so I can suck it up for a quick trip. One thing that is guaranteed however is that the person in front of me will lean their seat back making it impossible for me to do anything. It’s almost impossible to even read a book when that happens, and so far it has happened on EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT I have taken on United.

Another issue is eating. I will be staying at an apartment but the temptation to go to the awesome restaurants all around downtown Chicago will be hard to resist and I will end up doing that instead of cooking something back at the apartment. I know it will work out that way, it is inevitable. Chicago has far too much really good food and I am weak in the face of such awesome.

On the upside though the commute is much better, since the apartment is right across the street from the office I will be working at. So yay for sleep!

Scapegoating is as bad as bullying

This is going to be an unpopular statement and I know there are a few people that are going to be a little pissed off at me for saying this, but I feel sorry for Dharun Ravi. He is the Rutgers student who was convicted on several charges related to his videoing (and streaming on the Internet) a sexual encounter that his roommate, Tyler Clementi, had with another man. Clementi shortly thereafter committed suicide by leaping from the George Washington Bridge.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning or justifying the acts that Ravi committed. It was mean, bullying, and a terrible invasion of privacy. He was a stupid kid doing a stupid thing. He did not cause Tyler Clementi to commit suicide, however. He contributed, sure. Maybe his act was the proverbial last straw. But he could not have reasonably thought that the next day Clementi would kill himself. That demon was already clawing at Tyler, and this was what put him over the edge.

Dharun Ravi is now going to jail, and may be deported. He deserves punishment. But the past few days it has been really bothering me that this kid has now been demonized and is sort of being a scapegoat being served the justice and anger that people have against a much larger problem. Like I said, Ravi was not the sole cause of Tyler’s suicide. Or any of the LGBT kids that have committed suicide because of the loneliness and despair brought being ostracized, bullied, told by parents, teachers, churches, and many other adults that they are abominations, freaks, sinners, and deserve to catch AIDS and die.

Dharun Ravi is now the face of that bullying and hatred and people are celebrating his conviction and bemoaning that his punishment is not more severe. That is unfair. What he did was wrong but pales in comparison to what goes on day after day, in schools, churches, homes and even on the news. Presidential candidates espousing the kind of rhetoric is more insidious, more damaging than what Ravi did, and drives more and more kids into despair. Passing laws making it illegal to even mention homosexuality in a school environment, even when necessary. A nine year old kid said (with no preceding context) to my son, “Lesbians are gross”. That is not something he came up with on his own, nor is it a conclusion a nine year old would come to on his own. He heard it somewhere and parroted it.

That is the real villain here, not an eighteen year old kid who did something stupid and mean. That is what we should focus anger and resolve on, not a dumbass freshman.

This month in crazy-busy and crazy-hatred

This month is turning out to be a tumultuous one for me, but also for the country as a whole. The two are not entirely unrelated, either.

Starting locally, I stepped down as Cubmaster for Pack 27, because it was getting too difficult to be effective in that role with work really picking up in intensity and hours. It makes me sad to step back, being the Cubmaster has been one of the most fun, rewarding experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. Now I’ve been involved with Scouting for quite a while, being a Cub and Boy Scout as a kid, getting my Eagle, staying on for a while after turning 18, then coming back when my sons started a few years ago. I have always been a firm believer in the benefits the program has for boys when the program is run correctly. Granted, it’s not always run correctly, and my definition is slightly different than the national organization’s, but it is what it is.

The key for me though is to make sure the kids are having fun, but learning important skills and creating a sense of self-confidence, and in turn give them a greater sense of self-worth. This is especially important in some kids who might be overshadowed by older siblings, or peers with stronger personalities or better athletic prowess. In doing so, we try to make sure that each boy’s strengths are also recognized by the other kids, to show how everyone has their strengths and yes, they may be different than yours, but that doesn’t make you a better person.

As a part of this, I have had to deal with bullying. Both my being bullied, recognizing when I was the bully (not easy sometimes), and helping kids through being bullied themselves. The best weapon against that is having the kids recognize their own strengths, as well as appreciate what others do and have to offer. Also, making it very clear that it is utterly unacceptable in the group is important too, but imposing rules doesn’t attack the root of the problem. That’s why I have stayed with it, despite my disagreements with the national organization.

But the reason I had to step back my involvement is my work has been taking more of my time, and I haven’t been able to devote the time I want and need to the pack. Short version, I am the QA Manager for a great company, and get to work with one of the best teams I have had the privilege to be a part of on some incredibly amazing and important projects. Not just the one we are most famous for, which is still a major source of pride, but great projects like It Gets Better and Lady Gaga’s new Born This Way Foundation, and other organizations working against the bullying and harassment and demeaning of young people based on their race, sexual preference, or just because they don’t fit the “normal” mold.

This is not just a problem for kids, though. And with kids, you can almost make an excuse for them, adolescent brains are still developing, and a lot of impulse control is just not there. However, this week in the news, we are seeing a kind of bullying that literally fills me with a level of rage that bothers me in its intensity.

During the whole controversy over contraception coverage by insurance companies, a young woman named Sandra Fluke gave testimony before Congress, and since then has been the target of unthinkably vicious attacks by the right-wing media, particularly Rush Limbaugh, who has called her a “slut”, “a prostitute” and even suggested that if she wants to get coverage for contraception, she should make pornographic videos and distribute them as “payment”. It’s not just Rush Limbaugh either, though. Several talking heads and pundits on Fox News have taken to showing us how to thoroughly bully and demean a woman, really taking misogyny to a whole new level.

In the past few days, she has been called a “spoiled brat”, a “tramp”, and been told essentially to keep her damn legs together already. Nevermind also, that they are throwing all these comments about condoms around, ignoring how roughly 40% of women who take hormonal birth control do so for valid medical reasons, like extremely painful periods or other menstrual difficulties. People are defending such statements as “Contraceptive Coverage Is Like Woman “Knocking On My Door” And Asking For Money Because She Has To Have Sex Tonight” and other wonderfully hate-filled sexist comments.

Here’s an example, from Rush’s show this afternoon, after President Obama called her personally to offer his support and encouragement during the torrent of abuse she is getting from Rush and Fox News. He has also offered (jokingly, he said) to buy all the women at Georgetown aspirins to keep between their knees, in a great callback to Foster Friess, who proved that no one likes that joke, and he looked like a total ass for saying it.

Now, I have some friends who are incredibly offensive with their humor. I have many friends who are legitimately in comedy, and some who really should be. The difference is that they don’t mean it when they make jokes, they aren’t trying to pass themselves off as serious political commentators or leaders in a political movement. None of them have as wide an audience as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, and none of their audiences take what they say as fact, the way so many people take Rush and Fox as gospel.

This woman bravely stood up for something she believed in, and went before Congress to present her case. In doing so she has been demonized and called so many utterly degrading names, had her reputation dragged through the mud, had other women insinuate things about her that turn people’s stomachs, and been on the receiving end of a shaming that if it occurred in a high school now would result in suspensions and people clamoring for the heads of those involved. And rightly so. But instead this is major national media completely abandoning the ridiculous pretext that this had anything about religion, and gone right into “putting that little bitch in her place for getting uppity and speaking up.”

So, why am I proud of my job, and the work we do, and the hours we put in and the people I work with? Because we are working against that, and if because of the work we put in to get these websites working and getting the message out there, one kid feels a little better about him or herself, decides to not escape the pain by ending it all, if we can get someone elected that can fight against this sort of hatred, then it is all worth it.

And if I ever have a kid in the scouting program who acts like that, he is not welcome if he refuses to treat people with decency and respect. If you are an adult and around me treating people like that, I cannot guarantee I won’t react badly. Actually I can almost guarantee I WILL act badly. Disagree all you want, have a valid viewpoint and argue it respectfully. But to pillory this woman for speaking up and getting involved in the debate is inexcusable, despicable, and completely and utterly unAmerican.

I’ll just close with one statement: If this is how our adults act, our media outlets act, how can we possibly expect our kids do act any better?

Extended Thanks

At Thanksgiving, one of the stereotypical traditions is the family goes around the table, stating what they are thankful for. Generally they are things like “having this family” or “my health” or “Great-aunt Mildred leaving me the beach house in her will”, and while all of those are valid, and of course I am thankful for my family, friends, and relative health, I realized there are a few other things that would get short shrift in the going-around-the-table conversation.

So here are some things I am thankful for (outside of the usual list):

  • Pandora’s collection of Northern European heavy metal.
  • co-workers who have a sense of humor. Nothing helps get through the day without having the pressure of not being able to crack a joke for fear of having to fight with an HR report.
  • Whoever the genius is at JetBlue that first put the TVs in the headrests of the seat in front of you. Now if that person can come up with a way of not having the person in front of me ALWAYS recline.
  • Sweet Tarts.
  • This election cycle’s crop of GOP candidates. So many of them are so ludicrous and making the lives of late-night talk shows and The Daily Show’s writers’ lives so much easier.
  • Not having cable TV as a kid. No, really, having to mess around with rabbit-ears or worse, that circular UHF antenna, gives a deeper appreciation for cable tv.
  • A bunch of friend in college that I have since fallen out of touch with, for the most part, but helped me get through an incredibly difficult period in my life, and at least waited a few years before judging me.
  • The dynamic of the internet that has somehow made it so that I have good friends in most of the major cities in the country, and some in other countries. Explaining to people about being invited to a wedding in Toronto for two people I know a ridiculous amount about but have never actually met was not what Tim Berners-Lee imagined, I know, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

There are more, but really, that’s enough.

Happy Easter! Thanksgiving!