Your Kid Will Come Out to You

This was a long thread of tweets I posted in August of 2018, but since tomorrow, October 11th is Coming Out Day, I figured I could turn it into a blog post.

Watching the first episode of Making It… and between the laughs, there was a terrible moment where a man revealed that his parents sent him a funeral wreath when he came out to them “In memory of our dead son.” I have some thoughts…

If you think this is a thing that doesn’t happen anymore, it 100% does and worse. Did you know that most homeless teens in the US were kicked out of their houses for being LGBT? It’s true.

If you think your kid won’t be gay if you never talk about it, and they’re never exposed to any information about it, you’re wrong.

They’ll be miserable and have no way to explain to you or themselves what’s wrong.

They’ll be exponentially more likely to commit suicide.

If you think your kid being gay is the worst possible thing that could happen, we should talk.

If you love your kid, think about how you’ll react when they come out, because you only have one chance.

The most important thing you can do when your kid comes out to you is tell them that you will always love them.

That is literally all that matters.

And if you can’t love them, then you’ve got things to work on and you should start on them NOW.

If you’re a Christian, the most important verses in the Bible aren’t the two or three that might be about homosexuality, they’re the dozens about loving our neighbors AND OUR KIDS unconditionally – which means gay or not.

You being in denial isn’t love, it’s selfishness.

Being queer is hard. LGBT kids have increased rates of suicide; almost all of that is because of unsupportive families.

That risk goes down to almost the same as “regular” teens when they have support at home.

Do your homework. Get ready, because your kids are coming out.

If you have questions, check out your local PFLAG group.

There are support groups for parents in most towns, and if not, there are some great online support groups too.

Or, ask me. No shame.

Toxic Data

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Nassim Taleb, found on Farnam Street

This is the most concise explanation I’ve seen of the problem of social media, how easily it’s manipulated by bad actors, and how hard it is for normal people to cope with it.

Our ability to manipulate people far outpaces our ability to resist that manipulation.

Media Diet: September 2019

I did one of these earlier in the summer, so this one will be a little shorter. I was sick for a while, and we had to evacuate for a hurricane, so I’ve watched a bunch of stuff.

  • Bahubali 1 and 2: On Netflix. Two of the highest grossing movies in Indian history. They’re both gorgeous, and because I have no background in the underlying mythology, completely insane and inscrutible. Highly recommended just for the sheer spectacle of it.
  • The Spy: On Netflix. This kind of developed into a theme the past couple of months. Sasha Baron Cohen plays a spy who infiltrates the Syrian government. Saying more would spoil it, but it’s compelling and heartbreaking. The acting throughout is amazing.
  • Our Boys: On HBO. Another based on a true story, around murder, retaliation, mistrust and politics. Heartbreaking, tense and frustrating. Very worth watching.
  • Operation Finale: On Prime. About capturing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley are great in it.
  • Mindhunter Season 2: On Netflix. Another one of those anxiety-ridden shows. I wish they’d left out the bit with the son and spent more time on BTK, but I’ll still anxiously await the third season.

That’s not everything I watched, but I started several shows and kind of sputtered out on them, or have forgotten them, which might be worse. I am thrilled that The Great British Bake Off (cough, sorry) Baking Show is back and it’s still perfect. I wish there were more competition shows that could feel that fun.

Social Media is a Cancer

Sunset over Wilmington Island

Back in January, I came up with my new social media rules and they worked for a while, but the more I actually looked at how I felt before and after a session on Facebook or Twitter, I decided they weren’t working – and worse, that at least those two platforms aren’t worth it.

Facebook is a cancer that’s taken our relationships and turned them against us in order to sell advertising. I’ve always called Facebook “what community would look like if designed by a sociopath” and it just gets truer. Facebook, as a company, has no ethics, no moral compass, and lies constantly about the effects it has on our society, and more importantly, our relationships. It’s powered by outrage and amping up emotions.

I started taking stock of my emotional state before I opened Facebook and then after I close it, and I never feel better after having scrolled through the outrage-of-the-day posts, dumb memes and gripes about this and that. Never. Not once.

Twitter’s even worse. I used to say that Twitter was the internet’s dinner party where you’re always two seats away from the best conversation. Now, it’s the internet’s brick fight. It’s constant outrage, clapbacks, sarcasm, and vain attempts at temporary viral glory. It’s gone from fun to toxic.

So, what to do about it? Eject. I now treat Facebook and Twitter like email addresses I don’t care about. I check it once or twice a day just to see if I have any new notifications and that’s it. I might post when I write something new here, or if there’s an event I’m organizing (like codebar), but that’s it. No more endless scrolling. No more posting in hopes of more likes. I still post photos to Instagram, because photos are great and it’s been somehow immune to the worst impulses of its parent company.

It’s taken a while to break the habit. Deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone has helped. But, I also installed several new games on my phone to try to keep myself from going back to old habits (I’ll just start toxic new ones, yay!). Instead of compulsively opening Facebook when I pick up my phone, I’ll see what’s going on with the Angry Birds or if I can level up a hero in Fieldrunners Attack.

I’m sad about the state of social media. I had such hopes for them bringing people together and building empathy. Unfortunately, it’s brought together nazis, pedophiles and assholes – and the rest of us now have pointless arguments to make algorithms happy. It’s all so… stupid.

I don’t know where those platforms will end up, but at this point, I don’t care and they can go there without me being trapped there.

Summer Media Consumption

A big oak tree covered in spanish moss at sunset.

I’ve been a fan of Jason Kottke’s Media Diet posts forever and decided it’s time to start my own, because I consume so much, I forget what I’ve seen, what I like and what to recommend to folks. So, consider this the first in what will hopefully be a series of “stuff Kevin’s watched so you can watch it to” posts.

  • Crawl (might still be in theaters?): I saw this on vacation with my kids, my brother, his wife and daughter. It’s a great summer scare, and lots and lots of alligators. Rating: B
  • Black Spot (Netflix): If you like Twin Peaks, but wanted more procedural elements and 99% more French, and a little less David Lynch, this is the show for you. Set in an isolated small French town in the mountains next to a huge forest, there’s spooky creatures in the woods, personal drama, weird murders and compelling characters. Rating: B (I think the show needs to pick whether it’s supernatural or a police procedural… it’s not enough of either to be an A)
  • American Gods Season 2 (Starz): I caught up on this one with a free preview week on Prime (it’s great – if there’s only one show you want on a network, get the 7 day free trial of the channel on Prime Video and binge it, then cancel). This is one of the most beautifully produced things I’ve ever seen on television and watching Ian McShane and Orlando Jones chew through that beauty, stealing every scene they’re in, is a joy. Rating: B+ (it’s a little uneven)
  • The Deadwood Movie (HBO): You should read this profile of David Milch before you watch the movie. This is a loving (well, what Deadwood thinks of as loving) farewell to one of my all-time favorite shows. The characters are all older, a little worn down, calcified or fading, and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful send off. It’s gorgeous, and the last 2-3 scenes are beautiful. Rating: A
  • The Boys (Prime): The antidote to OD’ing on Marvel and DC. More Watchmen than Spiderman. Rating: A+
  • Undercover (Netflix): It’s a Flemish cop show based on a true story about an undercover operation against one of the largest MDMA producers in Europe. Lots of fun. Rating: B+
  • The Mechanism Season 2 (Netflix): Brazilian show, also based on a true story, about fighting large scale government corruption. The second season moves a little slower than the first, but the last three episodes are worth the wait. Rating: B+
  • Big Mouth (Netflix): Gross, juvenile (it is about puberty) but ultimately sex-positive and kind of joyful. One of the funniest things I’ve watched in a long time. Rating: A+
  • Blown Away (Netflix): It’s The Great British Bake Off, but glass blowing. It’s way better than I thought it would be, and the contestants are all great characters. Rating: B
  • Taco Chronicles (Netflix): Short light series about tacos! Each episode concentrates on a different variation and you’ll definitely learn something. Rating: B+
  • Street Food (Netflix): It’s Chef’s Table for street food and just as good. Just turn on subtitles and the original language, or it’s hella confusing. Rating: A
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (OMG, it’s a book!): I know, I’m as shocked as you are. This is a short book, but beautifully written and compelling. It’s got old myths, old gods, young men, old women and one of the most satisfying relationships I can remember in a book. Rating: A+

There you go, my first media diet! I’ll try to do these more regularly so they’re not this long. Happy viewing (and reading)!

Roadtrip Media Survival Guide

Dark storm clouds over some random shopping center in Northern VA.
The family just did our big annual road trip to see my family in Northern VA.  That meant over twenty hours on the road.  I almost always create a new Roadtrips playlist every year (first in iTunes, then Rdio, now Spotify).  This year’s was a little different since I let the kids add songs to it… and they did (for better or worse).  We didn’t end up listening to it on the big drives, but it was great for our trips around town with everyone in the van.

We mostly listened to podcasts.  This year, I created a new playlist in Overcast of things I’ve been meaning to catch up on, or that I know the kids like.  It worked great, especially since I limited all of those podcasts to only the 5 most recent episodes. It kept us from getting too many episodes of the same podcast in a row, and kept me awake since I never knew what was coming up next.

I had to skip podcast series where you have to have listened to all the episodes to know what’s going on, so no Limetown.

Here’s what we listened to, along with my recommendations (1-5 stars):

  • The Cut on Tuesdays: 5 stars. You never know what you’re going to get with the one. It could be an interview, or a fun story about “bad” dinner parties (my favorite episode), or a story about the history of birth control.
  • Revisionist History: 5 stars. Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast is now in its fourth season and it’s great. Super thought-provoking and great storytelling.
  • Scene on Radio (The Seeing White season): 5 stars. We only listened to the last four episodes of the season, but it’s amazing. It’s a great introduction to the history of whiteness, its power over the systems that run our lives, and some hopeful ideas on how to fix it.  It’s like a podcast of Dismantling Racism and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • Everything is Alive: 4 stars. A really silly concept: that everything is alive, so let’s interview them, but it turns into some mind-bending, funny, and touching conversations. I especially like the elevator one.
  • Every Little Thing: 4 stars. There’s some heavy stuff in this playlist, but ELT isn’t one of them. Audience questions get turned into explorations of things you never thought about. It’s always educational and fun.
  • Lore: 4 stars. You know about this one already, right?  Scary stories haltingly told.
  • Sawbones: 3 stars. The kids love this one.  It’s hit or miss for me.  Some episodes are great and hilarious.  Others just don’t work for me.
  • Solvable: 3 stars. Solid interviews with people changing the world. A little dry, but worth listening to.

There you go.  Hopefully that helps your end-of-summer roadtrips a little more pleasant.  Enjoy!

Talking About It

The last time I talked to a therapist for myself was when I was five or six after I fell into a beehive and then was petrified of bugs – to the point I had ulcers.

I found a program offered by my insurance company called AbleTo; it’s an eight week combination of therapy and behavioral coaching to help improve … whatever it is you need help with.

I asked for help making healthy choices and sticking to them – because boy have I struggled with that over the years.

In talking to my therapist and my coach I realized that I have failed to keep up with exercise and weight loss in the past not because I’m weak or incapable but because I’m too hard on myself. I get sick or hurt and feel like a failure… so I give up.

It’s the height of allergy season. I literally have a headache and sinus pain 24/7 right now. My therapist was worried that I’m hermiting myself away so we went through my calendar and she was blown away by how many commitments I have and am still able to keep.

And that’s when the light went on. I do not have to do it all and it doesn’t all have to happen now. Almost all of my guilt about things not getting done is self-inflicted. That guilt keeps me from seeing how much I’m able to get done in spite of my various health “challenges”.

So, no more. I will say no to things. I will do what I can and stop feeling guilty for not doing it all. I will stop sabotaging progress because that progress is halting.

Half assed is better than nothing.

Funny Not Funny

I was reminded of this story today, and wanted to write it down before I forget it.

My dad was in the Air Force for over twenty years, from a little after I was born until a little before I got married. He was a navigator, planned exercises and did all kinds of stuff I didn’t understand at the time.

When my brother, Tim, and I were high school, we went to his office after school (why, I don’t remember, and I think my mom might have been there, but I’m not sure). Almost as soon as he got there, he had to go talk to one of his coworkers, leaving Tim, me, and his desk, all alone. We were bored, so started looking at all the stuff on his desk. What did we find? His super awesome, self-inking, bright red, clicky-clack noise making, CLASSIFIED stamp!

We started stamping every piece of paper we could find CLASSIFIED: Post-Its, to-do lists, you name, it got CLASSIFIED.

Dad came back in, saw everything we “decorated,” pursed his already narrow lips, put his hands on his hips and said in his sternest dad voice: “Not funny.”

We, of course, thought it was hilarious. We thought it was so funny, we got him a blue, self-inking, clicky-clak noise making, super awesome, NOT FUNNY stamp for Christmas.

Developer Vocabulary Additions

This is my 20th year as a full-time professional web developer. I’ve learned a lot over the years… and at this point, forgotten more than I remember.

My favorite thing about being a developer is that we’re the heroes and villains of our story at the same time. We create the bugs and then get celebrated when we fix the bugs we create.

I’ve had a couple great bugs in the last week and my new response to the thanks I get from my Planted fam when I fix them is:

I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

It’s easy, concise, and both apologizes for creating the issue in the first place and acknowledges the gratitude for fixing it.

Elegant. That’s me.

My New Social Media Rules

Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! It’s awful! It’s ruining everything! Why are we all still using it then! I’ll leave it to experts to explain that part, but in an effort to extract myself from the worst of Facebook and Twitter, here are my new rules for myself. I’ve been following some form of them for over a year, and they’ve definitely made me feel better, almost as good as when I stopped watching cable news.

My Facebook Rules:

  1. Remorselessly snooze and unfollow toxic people, even if they’re close friends or family. I’m trying a two snooze then unfollowing if I still can’t deal with their posts showing up in my feed.
  2. Don’t dive into comments on a post where you don’t know everyone. There are too many trolls, and it’s not worth it.
  3. Don’t join new groups unless you have to.
  4. Never ever ever click ads. They’re almost always a scam anyway.
  5. No quizzes ever, not even the funny ones.
  6. Don’t share content from pages you don’t run.
  7. Set a timer. That’s your “mindlessly wandering Facebook” time. When the timer goes off, close the app.
  8. Use Facebook in a browser you don’t use for anything else (or use the Firefox Facebook Container extension).
  9. Before you post, think “should this be a blog post?” and post it here instead of on Facebook. It’ll last longer, and you’ll be able to find it again.

My Twitter Rules:

  • Don’t leave twitter open all the time. Check it like you would email.
  • Don’t speak in the internet’s, and especially twitter’s, default “sarcastic jackass” tone. Be conversational. Be helpful. Be fun. Because there’s too little of all of that.
  • Don’t feed the trolls (this is evergreen, but twitter is now majority troll and it’s just not worth it).

I don’t always follow them. I’m human. I screw up, and I can’t think of a case where I didn’t regret it almost immediately. I hope they’re helpful to you.