Two Down, One In Progress

Well, that didn't take long…

Jumping Off the Train

I was reading this morning about the upcoming revision to OS X ("Lion"), contemplating what the upgrade requirements might be, thinking about the fact that my iMac is still running Tiger, and that I never upgraded my MacBook Pro to Snow Leopard, and that my wife was about to get a new MacBook Pro or Air of her own, and I really should get everything up to date…and then it hit me.

Do I really need to do this?

Living with the CR-48 for the past few weeks has brought home to me exactly how much I live in the cloud. There are occasional moments when I wish for a more traditional OS, usually when I want to print something (Google, can we please have a cloud print solution that works with a Mac-based household?), but for the most part I'm happy with what Chrome OS gives me. This morning before work, I was about to download and install Yoru Fukurou (a Twitter client for OS X) when I realized I was on the CR-48 and not my Mac. Since I run Chrome as the default browser on my Mac, the experience is fairly identical, and I had completely forgotten I was on the CR-48\. When you forget you're not using a Mac, I think that's significant.

So now I have a dilemma. I need to keep up with Mac stuff, since my wife is on the platform and will be for the foreseeable future. But I'm tired of being on the upgrade train, of spending $130 every year just to stay current (although it is true that I've neglected the last couple of upgrades). More than that, I'm not particularly fond of all the BS you have to go through when you do an upgrade, both the backing up (although I do have an ongoing automatic backup solution in place) and the actual upgrading, both of which are time-consuming and a bit of a pain. This is where Chrome OS has an advantage; if the Google team can succeed in their goal of pushing out upgrades automatically as needed, without user intervention needed, I think they're onto something.

For now, I'm probably going to upgrade the iMac to Lion when it comes out, since my wife uses it and she should have parity between the machines she uses. But for me, and my personal machines, I think I'm done. It isn't perfect, it needs some work, and it may not be for everyone, but the CR-48 really does work for me. The watershed moment has arrived: having moved most of my life to the cloud, I'm no longer chained to the relentless annual Apple upgrade schedule. It's time to jump off the train.

Twitter Takes Its Ball and Goes Home

For the 0.003% of the Earth's population that uses Twitter, the past couple of days have seen much posturing, hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over the revocation by Twitter of API access by the UberMedia apps, of which UberTwitter and Twidroyd are two.

While I understand the frustration of suddenly realizing that the app on your phone is no longer keeping you _au courant_ with your friends' tweets, I think there are a few things that need to be said:

  1. It's only Twitter.
  2. There are other clients out there that work just fine. I like Plume.
  3. You knew when you signed up that Twitter was a walled garden, an entity unto itself. If not, you should have. For heaven's sake, I told you so.
  4. If you're not happy, there are, Friendfeed, Google Buzz, even Jaiku (yes, it still exists). Go build a community in one of them.
  5. However, good luck with that, because what truly matters is where the people are, and for now where the people are is Twitter. 

That is all. You may now return to your regularly scheduled kvetching. Thank you.

I'm Back!

Sometime last year, I decided to move my blogging to another URL. This was a mistake, and I'm now back here. I've imported those few posts that appeared on the other site, and am consolidating everything here.

Oh, and I do have a few things to say. Stay tuned…

Food Elitism (Or McDonald's Is Not the Enemy)

On the heels of San Francisco's ban on Happy Meal toys comes word that the city of Los Angeles is considering new restrictions on fast-food restaurants in an area of South L.A. known to have high rates of obesity.

Oh, please.

Stuff like this drives me nuts. I'm sure it makes the well-off feel like They Are Doing Something, but what do they really think is going to happen? If they remove or restrict the McDonald's, Burger Kings, and Taco Bells, do they expect that healthy vegan restaurants serving salads of heirloom tomatoes and organic cucumber on a bed of locally-grown arugula are going to pop up? Do they think that people who would really like to have have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large fries and a chocolate shake are going to clamor for roasted vegetables on artisanal ciabatta?

Here's the thing: it's entirely possible to eat a reasonably healthy diet at a fast-food restaurant if you really want to. Most of them have salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and diet sodas available (as a diabetic who was given an ultimatum to lose weight or else, I know this from first-hand experience). The problem is that by and large, people don't buy them. They'd rather have a bacon cheeseburger, and that shouldn't surprise anybody. Until and unless the doctor tells you you're going to lose a limb to diabetes, you're probably going to want the stuff that tastes good, and sugar, fat and smoked pork products taste really, really good. I saw it time and time again when I was a McDonald's manager--the public would say they want one thing, then order another. Eventually, the healthy stuff disappears, because the restaurant is a business (surprise, surprise) and it needs to, you know, make money. Preferably lots of it, because that's what stockholders like. (Full disclosure: I am a McDonald's stockholder.)

But, you say, there's an obesity problem! There is an incredibly high percentage of fast-food restaurants in South L.A.! We have to do something!

Um, no. No, we don't.

You see, everybody who walks through the door of a McDonald's and is over the age of 18 is an adult. They can vote, they can enlist in the armed forces, and they can bloody well order a McRib sandwich if they want to. Nobody's forcing them to do it, and nobody has any business telling them they can't. If someone tried to tell me where I could eat, or restrict the choices available to me, they'd have a hell of a fight on their hands. But then, I'm an educated white guy in his mid-40s with a graying beard. People don't tend to get all up in my face about stuff.

The people in the affected neighborhoods, on the other hand, are generally not educated white guys in their mid-40s, bearded or not. They're generally poorer, largely people of color, and mostly less educated. This does not make them any less citizens with the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, although there are those who seem to think that such is the case. Oddly, the ones who think that tend not to be rich white racist ultraconservative corporate bigots. They tend to be Volvo-driving latte-drinking yuppies with the best of intentions, those intentions being to protect the poor and downtrodden from the horrors of modern American corporate foodservice. The problem is that the poor and downtrodden don't necessarily want to be protected from that.

No, what the poor and the downtrodden want is jobs and economic opportunity, and banning an entire sector of American commerce is not likely to be helpful in this regard. Whatever you think of the fast-food business, it does bring jobs. Yes, they're minimum-wage jobs, and not likely to lead directly to anything more substantial. But it's a start. Remember, these are not areas that are chock-full of the educated. When you don't have a degree, or in many cases even a high-school diploma, you're not going to start at $50k a year with stock options and comprehensive health insurance. But you can get a job that will put food on your table and a roof over your head. Once people have that, their purchasing power allows other businesses to start and to flourish, and that's when economic recovery and job growth happens.

There's no denying we have an obesity problem in this country. But you can't legislate it away, and you can't force out businesses because you don't like what people are eating, or because you think you know what's good for them. Unless they're children, specifically your children, it's none of your damn business. If you really want to make a difference in the lives of people in South Los Angeles, do something about the drug trade. Do something about a culture that has normalized violence and romanticized gangs. Do something about single-parent households with absent fathers, if you can. But don't waste your time trying to regulate what other people put in their mouths. That's just being a busybody.

And that doesn't help anybody.

Rant: Verizon and Android and Me

Note: When I started this blog, my intent was to use it to separate out more religiously-themed stuff from my other writing. So far, it hasn't really worked out that way, and it probably won't. It's just too much trouble to maintain separate blogs, microblogs, and so forth, and I do have other interests besides religion. Yes, I'm Orthodox; I'm also a hopeless geek. So it's back to a unified blog, for now. For better or for worse, you get all of me. (Lord, have mercy…)

I'd like to say a few words about Verizon Wireless and how they're handling their Android phones. Simply put, I'm frustrated.

Chalk me up as one of those people who was chomping at the bit for an iPhone, but unwilling to move to AT&T to get one. You see, I'm a former AT&T customer who paid their ransom (a.k.a. early termination fee) to get out of a contract after it became painfully obvious that AT&T's coverage in my area was, to put it mildly, execrable.

So when the iPhone came out, and was AT&T-only, I knew there was no way I would switch back, no matter how good the phone was, because above all I need my phone to be a phone, capable of making calls from such exotic locations as my office and my home. I'm so hard to please.

And then came Android. The G1 had issues, not the least of which was being saddled with the T-Mobile network, but at least it showed there was an serious alternative to the iPhone. It took a while, but when Verizon finally came around and introduced the original Droid, it seemed like a perfect match--America's best network and an app-based touch-interface smartphone with the power of Google. What could go wrong?

As it turned out, plenty could go wrong. I should have known it was too good to be true; Verizon has a long history of crippling phones and forcing their own substandard software onto them. When it was happening on the Razr and the enV, it was barely tolerable. On an Android phone, which like the iPhone is essentially a handheld computer, it's borderline evil. I'm looking for the "Google experience." I want Google search, Google docs, Google contacts, and especially Google Voice. I most emphatically don't want VZW Navigator instead of Google Maps. I don't want Bing instead of Google search. If I'm using Google Voice (and I certainly am), I have no need for Backup Assistant, because all my contacts are in my Google account. I don't want second-rate crapware forced on me that I can't remove. I won't put up with it on my laptop and desktop computers, and I'm not about to put up with it on my handheld computer. No how, no way. Yes, I can always root the phone, but why should that even be a necessity? And it's not like I'm eager to go down that road in the first place. To some degree, it sounds like it has the potential to be my Linux experience all over again, and I'm not eager to repeat that.

Furthermore, the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. It's like buying a BMW, and then being told by the dealer that you can only get it with an aftermarket padded vinyl roof, white-sidewall tires and a cheap tacked-on Bluetooth module. It's the mark of a bully.

The problem is that I really need to be on the Verizon network. They're simply the best in my area, and it doesn't hurt that I get a 19% discount on my service and hardware through my company, especially since I'm paying for a four-line family account. The savings are considerable.

So here's my dilemma: my phone will be out of contract in a few months, and Verizon is extending me the opportunity to upgrade now. I've been sorely tempted by the Droid X and Droid Incredible, although I know that the tech world being what it is, there are better/faster/newer phones coming down the pipeline. Do I upgrade now, before Verizon manages to sabotage these phones (and hopefully get grandfathered in to their current unlimited data plan)? Or do I wait and take my chances?

Alternatively (and here's the twist), I can do nothing. I have a two-year-old LG Voyager, which is certainly no smartphone, but it handles voice calls. text messages and Twitter posts just fine. On my four-line account, only one will still be under contract next year. If I hang onto my old phone, I can avoid having to sign a new contract, and be in position to move elsewhere--Sprint, perhaps--if I feel another provider can meet my needs, something easy enough to test out with a cheap pay-as-you-go phone.

Finally, there's the fabled Verizon iPhone. With both Verizon and AT&T transitioning from their current 3G CDMA and GSM networks to 4G LTE in the next year or two, we may very well eventually see the iPhone come to Verizon. Now that Apple is permitting Google Voice apps to be sold in the App Store, my main reservation about the iPhone has been resolved, and if there is anything certain in life it's that Steve Jobs won't permit the iPhone to be hobbled with Verizon's bloatware.

So, in the end, even though I love the network coverage and I really want an Android phone, Verizon's idiotic hobbling of Android may drive me into either leaving their network entirely or getting an iPhone after all. How ironic is that?

A conversation about Baha'i elections

Background: This was originally posted as a series of comments on this post at the Baha'i Rants blog, run by someone who uses the nom de plume of Baquia. I'm posting it here as a reference and a backup.

To be fair, political elections have similarly low rates of participation, so perhaps the low rate of participation in Baha'i elections is unsurprising.

However, probably a larger problem is the patently inflated Baha'i membership rolls. It is axiomatic that in almost all Baha'i communities, there are people on the rolls who are never seen or heard from. It's true that there are some who cannot make it to events, or whose partners are non-Baha'is hostile to the faith. But I suspect that the Baha'i fixation on administration and record-keeping means that many of them are simply people who left without bothering to officially resign. That should not come as a surprise. After all, having decided to move on, they can hardly be blamed for not regarding NSA records as important, or for declining to let their own religious identity be defined by someone else's paperwork.

Baquia's reply:

Larry, the last US election had a 63% turnout - that's between 2-3.5 times what I'm seeing for unit conventions. But do we really want to compare Baha'i elections to partisan elections?

Your point about the inflated membership rolls is a valid one. That is to say, it may not be just that people are not participating but that the total community population is artificially high so it seems that people are nto participating as much.

I think it is a combination of this and apathy. But don't you think an 18% turnout is too low? I mean, at what point does the LSA or NSA or UHJ say, wait a minute! something is really wrong here… let's do something about this.

I'm sincerely asking that. How low is too low? would you be ok if 5% turned out? would that be consiedered a Baha'i election?

Baquia, I think there are bigger issues here than just participation in Unit Conventions.

(Disclaimer: I'm an ex-Baha'i, not a currently enrolled one, so I'm approaching this from the perspective of an outsider who was once an insider.)

First, you have to take into account that it's an all-day affair, not just a quick vote. There's all the usual administrivia to deal with: registration, election of a chairman, election of a secretary, the presentation of reports, etc. There's tons of consultation. There's lunch, and then at some point in the afternoon you finally get to vote. It's a huge time commitment, all to elect a single delegate to the national convention, where he or she will be one of hundreds. It’s a tremendously indirect way of voting, and a great way to dilute the votes of individuals.

And who will that delegate be? Baha'i elections being what they are, that delegate is likely to be someone very well-connected, well-known in the community, someone who isn't going to rock the boat much. It goes to the nature of Baha'i elections: it sounds so wonderfully progressive to have elections without nominations or campaigning, but the reality is that when everyone writes down names on a list, it's not hard for a small group of like-minded people to determine the outcome. Would 5% turnout be valid? Sure, why not. It would probably be the same 5% that elects the delegate anyway. I've been a teller at conventions; I've seen it happen. This is not to say that it's some big conspiracy, just a matter of doing the math.

This is where the real problem lies, and you can’t change it. As with so many other things in the supposedly modern Baha'i Faith, this method of elections appears to be enshrined in the canon, given the force of law by the writings of a man who has been dead fifty years, left no successor and whose interpretations therefore cannot be altered1 until the theoretical coming of another Manifestation of God in a thousand years’ time.

So, if you have an 18% turnout, what you’re seeing is the dedicated core of the community, electing one of their own. If you’re a Baha'i who is uncomfortably individualistic, resists groupthink, or who feels marginalized for any reason, and you’ve been around long enough to see how things work in the community, you’re not going to bother. And I really don’t think there’s anything that can be done to change that.

Baquia's reply:

Larry, thanks for your thoughts. To be clear, while the convention may be a drawn out affair, voting for a delegate to go to the convention is effortless. You don't even have to show up in person, you can just mail your vote in or hand it off to a friend. So I don't see what you mean there.

Regarding the election process being enshrined in 'canon' - that is not so completely accurate. A few principles such as no campaigning and secret ballot are enshrined but the rest is rather fluid and has actually changed over time throughout history. We may not be aware of it but a look back at how other communities used to do it 50-70 years ago or in different parts of the world will show that to be true. So there is flexibility built in if we want to, for example, introduce term limits.

Out of curiosity, why did you leave the Faith? I get the feeling there's a story there.- if you care to share.

Yes, it’s true that absentee balloting is available, but it’s my unprovable hunch that apart from the elderly, infirm, and those who work or travel on business, anyone who takes it seriously enough to vote is going to make the effort to be there. That’s why I brought it up. It is, however, just speculation, and is perhaps therefore irrelevant.

Why did I leave the Faith? I haven’t written or spoken publicly about my reasons in any great detail, in order to spare certain people I left behind unnecessary pain, but as my resignation recedes into the past that concern has lessened.

The short version is this: I had been going through a slow process of spiritual disillusionment for some time. I might have worked this through and remained, had it not been for the relentless pushing of Ruhi, the Kalimat Press boycott and the disturbing events of the 2007 National Convention. When it became clear that I was the only one in my community with qualms about any of this, it led me to resign from my LSA, remove myself from community life and enter a painful period of contemplation, at the end of which I decided I could no longer make myself believe any of it, and sent in my resignation. Since leaving, I have spent considerable time coming to terms with all of it, and I’ve come to some conclusions about the causes of it all, but that was after the fact.

I don’t want to hijack this thread further, but I’ll be happy to expand upon my departure privately via email if you’re interested.

Baquia's reply:

Thanks Larry. Did anyone from the NSA contact you re your resignation or did they just accept it without any sort of 'exit interview'? I mean, if you didn't explain why you were resigning, did they ask? or offer to sit down with you and talk? I'm curious what approach they take to the process once they receive a resignation letter.

Baquia, I'm replying to my own reply since there doesn't seem to be the option to reply to yours.

Nobody contacted me about my resignation, either to challenge it or to let me know that my letter had even been received. To be fair, I made it very clear in my letter of resignation that I had moved on and where I had moved on to (I was baptized and chrismated into the Orthodox Church). Perhaps if that hadn't been the case, they might have contacted me, but there's no way of knowing. I had heard stories of people who had to explicitly reject Baha'u'llah in their resignation letters in order to get taken off the rolls, so I tried to preempt that.

As it was, the only way I knew they had received my resignation was that my login for the website eventually stopped working. I did receive a very nice letter back from my LSA, to whom I had sent a similar letter.

  1. This refers to Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of Baha'u'llah and the first and only appointed Guardian of the Baha'i Faith.

Larry's Ballot Recommendations for November 2010

Here's how I voted on the California ballot propositions (I vote by mail), and my rationale for each:

Prop. 19 (Marijuana legalization)

I voted yes. I'm no fan of marijuana or the drug culture, but it's about time we admitted the war on drugs is an abject failure. Because we did not learn from our own history (i.e., Prohibition) we have repeated the mistakes of the past. As the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s allowed the Mafia to flourish, the prohibition of drugs has allowed the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels to flourish, as well as gangs like the Crips, Bloods, and others. As the _Economist_ has pointed out, we have treated a public health problem as a criminal law problem, which has had the side effect of filling our prisons with drug offenders at a time when the state is in financial crisis.

It is true that it will not change federal law. Nevertheless, if the experience of medical marijuana is any indication, the federal government will eventually quietly acquiesce. There are also issues with the Tenth Amendment to be resolved. Oh, and did I mention the abject failure of the war on drugs? It's easier for kids to get pot, meth and LSD than it is for them to get beer. This is stupid.

Prohibition doesn't work, period. We should stop banging our heads against the wall. Vote yes.

Prop. 20 (Congressional redistricting)

I voted yes. This measure transfers authority for Congressional redistricting to the redistricting commission that we voted for in a recent election. It will help reduce gerrymandering and districts designed to ensure the re-election of incumbents. Vote yes.

Prop. 21 (Vehicle License Surcharge)

I voted no. This measure adds an additional $18/year to vehicle license fees in order to fund state parks. We all love state parks, but this is the wrong way to fund them. Vehicle license funds should be used for transportation projects and infrastructure. The right way to fund parks is through general taxation and appropriation of the requisite funds by the state legislature. I refuse to do their job for them, and neither should you. Vote no.

Prop. 22 (Prohibition on borrowing of funds by the state)

I voted no. This measure is an initiative constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from taking or borrowing local funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services even during times of severe financial hardship. I have two problems with this measure: 1) It seems shortsighted to tie the hands of the state in times of crisis, tying the hands of the legislature, and 2) it is a constitutional amendment, of which we already have far too many in California. We need to stop micromanaging the legislature. Stuff like this is what has gotten us into the mess we are in today. Vote no.

Prop. 23 (Suspends implementation of air pollution control law)

I voted no. This measure would suspend the implementation of AB 32 until such time as the state's unemployment level drops to 5.5% or less for one full year.

If you're wondering what the hell unemployment has to do with air pollution control, you're not alone. This measure was funded by the companies who would be affected (no surprise there), using the scare tactics of OH MY GOD WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT THOUSANDS OF JOBS AND LEAVE CALIFORNIA AND SEND THE STATE INTO A TAILSPIN JUST BEFORE WE CRASH AND BURN OH MY GOD THE HUMANITY. Oh, please.

Also, just as an aside, given our current circumstances it's likely to be a hell of a long time before our unemployment level drops to that level for a sustained period, and in fact historically it has only been that low in California for brief times on a few occasions.

Like smog? Vote yes. Otherwise, just vote no.

Prop. 24 (Repeals legislation allowing businesses to lower their tax liability)

I voted yes. This measure, which in a perfect world would be called the Corporate Welfare Act of 2010, would repeal recently passed legislation that was part of a budget compromise, which allowed businesses to lower their taxes. I'd like to pass a law that lowers my taxes, too. People in hell want ice water. Sorry, but I'm not feeling it. Despite the all the fear, uncertainty and doubt they're sowing, all this does is restore business taxes to the levels they were previously. That's all. Vote yes.

Prop. 25 (Simple majority to pass a budget)

I voted yes. This should have been done a long, long time ago. If this was already law, we would have had a state budget months ago. California is one of the few states that requires a supermajority to pass a budget, and it's one of the reasons for the annual budget circus of IOUs and so on. This measure fixes the problem and brings us into line with other states that only require a simple majority (50% +1) to pass a budget. I can see no logical reason to oppose this. Vote yes.

Prop. 26 (2/3 vote to approve certain fees)

I voted no. Go back and read what I wrote about Prop. 25\.

OK, got that? Apparently, since the state budgeting process has been so successful over the years (ha!) someone got the brilliant idea to require a two-thirds vote to approve certain fees. No, no, no. Bad idea.

Also, this is a constitutional amendment. Go back and read what I wrote about constitutional amendments in California in my remarks on Prop. 22. Do you have any idea how hard it is to overturn one of these after it's passed? Somebody should go find whoever dreamt this up and force them to spend the next five years listening to Gloria Allred recite the insurance code. Vote no.

Prop. 27 (Eliminates state redistricting commission)

I voted no. This one gets the 2010 Chutzpah Award. This measure would eliminate the nonpartisan state redistricting commission, and give the job of redistricting back to the Legislature, who have done such a sterling job with it in the past. Bloody hell. Just for good measure, this is also a constitutional amendment. Oy.

Look, if you're happy with gerrymandered districts, noncompetitive elections, and the general way things are going in California, then by all means vote yes. But if you're not happy with all of that--and nobody I know is--why would you give the current crop of Sacramento officials this kind of virtually non-repealable authority? This is a bald-faced attempt at subverting the previously expressed will of the people, and should be stomped on and left to die. Vote no.

Afterword on statewide offices

In the races for public office, you can make up your own mind, but as for me, for the first time in my adult life I find myself unable to vote for any Republican. I will simply not be associated with, or cast my vote for, any group, candidate or organization that has even the remotest link to, a partnership with, or which panders to the Tea Party phenomenon, with which I have major and fundamental disagreements on the most basic level. Therefore, I voted a straight Democratic ticket for the first time _ever_.

And that's my take on the election. Happy voting…

Resistance Is Futile: Rejoining Facebook

Yes, it's true. After making a somewhat noisy exit from Facebook (dead link) a while back, and having some uncomplimentary things to say about it, I've signed up again (sorry, S-P!).

Why? It's complicated, but paradoxically also simple. It's not that I've changed my mind about anything I've said or written--I still think Facebook is the AOL of the 21st century, I still think that Facebook the corporation is fairly untrustworthy, and I still think there are serious privacy concerns. I still think Facebook comes with an awful lot of baggage and cruft that I can live without.

That said, none of that matters. What matters is where the people are. The fact is that the world has increasingly adopted Facebook as a standard communication platform. There are people I want to hear from, photos I want to see, and things I want to share, and it is getting more difficult to do that without being a Facebook member, rather than easier. It's all well and good to say "I have a blog and a Flickr account and a Twitter feed, and people can follow me there," but the reality is that, people being people, they're not going to go to three different places when they can log into one and see everything there. It's not a question of laziness; it's a question of time management, of how much information individuals feel able to manage in the time that they have, and how they can simplify the process of information gathering. I have come around to the opinion that if you want to be a connected global citizen of the 21st century, you need to have a Facebook account, whether you like it or not, in much the same way that a mobile phone has become a necessity.

I tried to achieve the same thing with Google Buzz, but Google Buzz is a mess. It can't decide whether it wants to be Twitter, your blog, or your Facebook page, and in the end manages to do none of those things very well. Maybe Google will have better luck when it rolls out its rumored Google Me social network, whenever that may be, but in the meantime we have to deal with the world we have, not the one we wish we had.

And so, rather than be "that guy"--you know, the one who lives in the ramshackle house at the end of the block, insists that OS2/Warp is a superior operating system, refuses to carry a cell phone or get broadband, and drives a rusting Peugeot that sits in the weeds where the lawn used to be--I've chosen to acknowledge that the world won't mold itself to suit me. Except for me and a few other cranky geeks, nobody cares, so I'm back.

However, I'm approaching it a bit differently this time. I'm back with a new philosophy, which is as follows:

  1. Privacy is dead. Rather than expect Facebook to protect my privacy, I'm opening everything up wide, and assuming that whatever I post will be public now and forever. That way, I have no worries the next time FB changes its privacy settings, terms of service, or defaults.
  2. My friends are my friends, and I reserve the right to choose them. If we're close friends or family, if you're part of my church community, or if you're one of the few I've entrusted with my cell phone number, you're in like Flynn. If you're somebody who dated my brother twenty years ago, or sat three rows behind me in 8th grade social studies in 1979, it's not so automatic. I hope you have a wonderful life, and I'm sure you're a fine human being, but I'm really not here to reminisce about an awkward childhood. I'm here to keep in touch with people I know in real life, who I really care about, and I only have so many minutes in the day to do that.
    That isn't meant to be harsh, just honest. I'm not trying to violate Wheaton's Law, I'm just trying to firewall my time and my personal life in a way that makes sense to me and doesn't create a huge timesuck. I once calculated that since entering elementary school in 1971, I've worked and studied with literally thousands of people--significantly more than a thousand in my restaurant career alone, and that's not counting customers. I have to draw the line somewhere, and I will. Please don't be offended by that.

  3. No games, apps, or virtual gifts. No Farmville for me, thank you very much. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not my thing.

  4. I'm going to make a supreme effort not to get dragged into political stuff. If you think Obama is a Muslim, or Dick Cheney is the devil, or Sarah Palin is the savior (or destroyer) of American civilization, fine. But I'm not getting involved. From where I stand, the American political scene has gone mostly nuts, and I'm taking a step back from it. "Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation…"

Finally, a word about The Name. I'm participating in Facebook under my baptismal name (no, I'm not going to tell you what it is here, for various reasons, although if you know my Gmail address you know what it is). For some reason, Facebook won't let me add my birth name (Larry) to my profile, so all of you who know me as Larry will just have to get used to seeing the other name instead. Relax--I'm not insisting that anybody call me that, although I'll answer to both, and that's what my church community mostly knows me as. But I'm most emphatically not insisting that family and old friends do likewise--that would just sound weird to everybody.

Also, using my baptismal name has another advantage. In all candor, there are a few people I'm not terribly eager to be found by, and it will throw them off the scent somewhat. I've set up corresponding accounts on Twitter and the like under my Orthodox name as well, and over time I may very well transition over to them more and more--but that's a subject for another post.

So, to sum up, Facebookers, I'm back. See you there.

A Quick Note on the Proposition 8 Ruling

Here's what I wrote on the subject some months ago, on my "About Me" page. I still stand by today what I wrote then:

Barring significant constitutional changes, I think legalization of gay marriage is likely inevitable. I opposed Proposition 8. I believe that we live in a secular republic whose laws will sometimes contradict religious teachings, and unless we want to live in a theocracy (I don't) we have to accept that.

My personal preference would be for the government to get out of the marriage business altogether, and let churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc. decide which marriages to sanction. Perhaps this will spur some kind of change along those lines. We shall see.