My Facebook profile

About Me

My 15 minutes of fame
"Finding a job you love means never working a day in your life."

My family Idaho roots Seattle European vacation Walking Smartphone Where I stand Living tips Contact me

  My name is Eric Pence, and I am a husband, a father, and a web programmer. I am in the 60s generation—the children of the 1960s now in their 60s (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe¹). I could be described as a classic, aging, baby-boomer but I have tried to stay current with the new things that have evolved in my lifetime (in my mind sometimes I am still 20-something), and my career reflects this attitude. Throughout my life I have been fascinated by new and developing things. This influenced me to major in engineering when I went to college, and my active involvement in performing music ultimately led to contemporary jazz, the most experimental form of improvisational music. See my Music page for more on this. In the 1980s I became very interested in another "new" thing—computers—and took up programming. Like most programmers at that time I started out working on a mainframe, but I soon realized that I wanted something more challenging, and my career ultimately led to web development. See my Programming page for more on this.

Having a website is the definitive expression of many of my interests, and I enjoy it so much that working as a web programmer makes me feel like I get paid to have fun!  (See my slogan at the top.)

Besides what's on this page, some of my other interests include reading, programming, music, cities, maps, tennis, and travel, and I expound on these things on various pages on my website.

My Facebook profile

My public listing – if you login you can see more

My iReports

Commuter boat to Boston – this was posted to the topic Show us your commute
My first car, a 1953 Buick Special – this was posted to the topic My first car
Snow in Boston and suburbs – this was posted to the topic Winter weather near you

My YouTube videos

Stanley Clarke - School Days – I made this from a DVD I own
Sunday Night Barbecue – my friend Jim's video of their garage fire, set to appropriate music
The Road To Perdition – my friend Jim's video of their dog Lucy being wrongly impounded when visiting their beach home in Clinton, CT (great song, Jim!)

Some links . . .

MY_WTC – I posted this family photo to this website
Special songs – I was telling someone about songs that were special to Patti and me back in the 70s and decided to share them on a webpage
Cars I've owned – I thought this was an amusing way to express my car history

I wasn't sure where to include this but I couldn't resist putting in on my website. For some reason my wife Patti took this picture, probably in the 70s,
showing a gas pump with a 34¢ a gallon price and costing $3.80 for 11.2 gallons (probably a fill up). Click to enlarge.
You can really express yourself with a great bumper sticker. My personal favorite is which I put on my car.

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My family

  My wife, Patti Rosenfield, is a Nurse Practitioner, and we live in Hingham, Massachusetts, a coastal community south of Boston, where we have a beautiful, old, Victorian shingle-style house. We raised our two sons in this house but now they are grown and have left home. Alex graduated from The New School in Greenwich Village, New York City. Ben graduated in Computer Science from George Washington University in Washington, DC. We are very proud that both our sons have finished college and begun their adult lives, and I think it is pretty cool that they have each lived for years in my two favorite cities, NYC and Washington, DC. Alex and his girlfriend Laura have left Brooklyn, NY, where they lived for years, and live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where they both teach English. Ben worked for 2 years for the Federal government, but is now taking off up to year to travel in Southeast Asia. At home we have two cats, Mandy and Pepper (and Alex's cat Monstar, that we call "Baby"), and a dog, Casey. See the Gallery page for pictures of all of us, including the animals.

I am a web programmer for Safety Insurance in the financial district in Boston, Massachusetts (see my building) and to get to work, I take a commuter boat—a pleasant half-hour trip—during which I usually read or chat with friends (and sometimes have a little excitement!). The Boston Globe did a comparison of commuting from the South Shore by car, boat, train, and Red Line (the subway), and not surpisingly, the boat came out on top. When I arrive at work in the morning or at home in the evening I am rested and relaxed, a very different state than that of many suburban commuters, who drive their cars in the intense, bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic. In my opinion, I have the best of both worlds—a nice, peaceful, safe environment for my home, and the daily adventure of being in a great city.

Times have certainly changed since I was a kid. For several years, my mother has been using email from her home in Boise, Idaho, to help stay in touch with her children and grandchildren, who all live thousands of miles from her. Alex also communicated with us from boarding school his freshman year of high school (2000) using another online method. He went to the website on his PC in his dorm room (this was before Skype), and using a headset he was able to place free (at that time) long-distance phone calls to our home phone number. When Ben was away at camp one summer (French Woods) he used email with us (email at camp?) instead of the telephone or hand written letters. Ben also has a website of his own. Family dynamics have changed a lot in my lifetime, and they are affected by much more than just new technology. Here is an article I saw in The Boston Globe, "Raising a Perfect Child," that presents an interesting view of parenting today. There are links to more parenting articles on the Articles page.

   Family news (chronological) . . .
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Idaho roots

  I grew up in Payette, Idaho (some of you may be interested to know that Idaho's in the Northwest, not the Midwest, and this map shows you that Idaho and Iowa are two different states a thousand miles apart!) and I lived there until I finished high school in 1966 (see my Payette High School page). My great-grandfather, Peter Pence (read about his life), was one of the pioneers of the town (there is more Payette history here). My cousin Bob assembled a Pence family tree, starting with Peter's son (my grandfather). I have one famous relative, my late uncle Herman Welker (married to my dad's sister, Gladys), who was a U.S. Senator from Idaho from 1950-1956. I don't agree with his politics (he was a Joseph McCarthy supporter) but I was just a kid then so it didn't cause me any distress. Payette's claim to fame is that baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew grew up there.

Here's an interesting juxtaposition, my childhood  home in 1963 and 2005 (the recent photo taken by my friend Barbara Wilson). You can also see it in Street View¹. Following high school I went to the University of Idaho in 1966, where I majored in mechanical engineering, partly because my high school guidance counselor and my SAT scores pointed me in that direction, and partly because I thought that when I got out of college as an engineer I could avoid the draft (more about that here), which was something that all men of draft age (18-26) had to worry about at that time. After my first year of college I went to Atlanta, Georgia, with my brother for a summer job selling dictionaries door-to-door, which I did for about 2 weeks before I decided that where I really wanted to be in the summer of 1967 (the "Summer of Love") was San Francisco. So I went out to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and hitchhiked cross-country to California. I was only in the Bay Area for part of a summer, not really long enough to consider it a place of residence, so there is no San Francisco section on this bio page (but I did experience Haight-Ashbury during its cultural peak). That fall I returned to college at the U of I for another year, after which I came to the conclusion that life would be more fun without the responsibilities of school. In 1968, after 2 years of college, I moved to Seattle, Washington.

The classic Big Potato postard I saw as a child.

Some Idaho links . . .

Official Idaho Vacation Guide see some beautiful Idaho images on this travel and tourism guide the Official Website of the State of Idaho
Idaho Commerce & Labor the Idaho Department of Commerce has a very thorough website
State & County QuickFacts from the U.S. Census Bureau
Idaho Genweb Project this site has lots of interesting information
Imaging/Imagining Boise a photographic exploration of Boise's past and present
Idaho Potato Official Website I couldn't resist including this one
You know you're from Idaho when . . . from an email
200 year old copper wire from an email
Payette links
City of Payette the official town website
Payette Chamber of Commerce just what you'd expect
Payette, Idaho - Wikipedia good info here
Payette on City-Data I love the photos
Payette County IDGenWeb Project this genealogy page is part of the IDGenWeb and USGenWeb Projects
Wikipedia: Payette I was surprised to find this
Payette on Google Maps Looking up main street
Payette High School my webpage for sharing things with my high school classmates

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  Beginning in 1968 I lived for 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a great city. You might call those my "hippie" years, when I had long hair and lived a lifestyle emulating the values of that culture. I went to many antiwar rallies and marches (see Where I stand), rock concerts and rock festivals (see 60s music). I have many fond memories of my years in Seattle, where I made few commitments and pretty much focused on the here and now, living a lifestyle of hedonism.

Seattle is a beautiful city, bordered on the west by Puget Sound, a salt-water inlet from the Pacific, and on the east by Lake Washington, a fresh-water lake (see map). There are many smaller bodies of water throughout the city and it is known for its boating. I once read that Seattle has the most miles of shoreline of any city its size in the world. There are many bridges and ferries that bring visitors and commuters into the city. To the east of Lake Washington is the Cascade mountain range which includes the beautiful Mt. Rainier, that you can see to the southeast on a clear day (I know, there aren't enough clear days in Seattle, see for yourself on this webcam view) and to the west of Puget Sound is the Olympic Peninsula, which contains the Olympic Mountains. From the city you can look to the East or West and see mountains. Seattle is definitely one of the most scenic cities in the world.

Seattle has gotten a bad label as a rainy city but that is not the way I remember it. Boston, where I live now, has more annual rainfall, and Boston is not thought of as a rainy city. I had a bicycle in Seattle and rode it all over and rain was never a consideration. I think the number of cloudy days in Seattle may have caused this misunderstanding.

I played guitar when I was in Seattle, and since my style was fairly experimental my musical tastes evolved into jazz, so when I decided to go back to school to study music, I chose Berklee College of Music, where I switched to upright bass (see more on my Music page). So, in 1973, I came to Boston . . .

Some Seattle links . . . the official website of the City of Seattle; take the Virtual Tour
Beautiful Seattle a site with access to lots of information
Dan Heller's Photos Dan Heller's photographs are always beautiful
Seattle Photo Galleries the title says it all
Seattle Skyscrapers from Skyscraper Picture Collection
A Seattle Lexicon Lingo from the Far Corner events, attractions, map, etc.
The Space Needle I first saw this at the 1962 World's Fair Seattle Post-Intelligencer the Seattle Times Homepage The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
Lost in Seattle a clickable map of downtown Seattle
Seattle Viewpoints where to see and take photos of Seattle's great views the Quicktime VR Tour of Seattle
Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907 panoramic photos of the waterfront from the same vantage point, taken 95 years apart
Penny Postcards from Washington many vintage scenes
You might be from the Northwest if you . . . from an email

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European vacation, 2010

  The first two weeks of May, 2010, Patti and I and our friend Paula vacationed in Europe. I wrote this description to be put on Facebook, where I have had many inquiries about the trip, but I found out that FB only allows 420 characters on a posting and this was way bigger than that, so I created it here and added a link on Facebook to come here.


On Saturday, May 1, 2010, we flew to London. Our hotel was in South Kensington, London, near Hyde Park. There was a Tube stop a block away so it was easy to get around (the P.A. warns you to "Mind the gap" as you step off the train at each stop). On a very rainy day we went to the Tower of London, where Patti slipped on the wet steps when walking on the wall and hit her head breaking her glasses. She only needed a bandaid ("plaster" in London), and fortunately she had a spare pair of glasses! If you take the Tower Bridge across the Thames you will see the fabulous City Hall). We took hop on-and-off double-decker bus tours around London and saw many neighborhoods. We took a boat ride on the Thames from Tower of London that ended at the London Eye, an extremely large passenger-carrying observation wheel across the river from Parliament & Big Ben. We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, toured Kensington Palace where Princess Di had lived, and had High Tea at The Orangery in Kensington Gardens. And of course, we shopped at Harrods, the biggest department store I have ever seen!


On Wednesday we took the Eurostar high-speed train to Paris via the Chunnel (tunnel under the English Channel). In Paris we stayed in an apartment on Rue Saint-Antoine between Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and Bastille, which on current maps represents the Métro stop and the former location of the prison (that we learned after a fruitless search was destroyed during the French Revolution). In Paris we visited Notre Dame (Patti and Paula climbed the 387 steps to the top), strolled on Champs-Elysées (where the most accessible bathroom was in McDonalds) and climbed the Arc de Triomphe (great views in all directions). We also went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre where we saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and took the train to Versailles to see Napoleon and Josephine's palace and gardens. We used the Métro a lot to get around Paris, took a boat tour on the Seine, and several double-decker bus tours (on one we passed by The  Thinker sculpture by Rodin). In Paris we ate some of the best crepes and omelettes we have ever had. Our son Ben, who goes to school in Amsterdam, joined us in Paris and did many of these things with us.


On Monday we took the train to Amsterdam where we stayed in a hotel on the Amstel River near the Magere Brug ("Skinny Bridge") that had no elevator so we had to climb 4 flights of stairs to get to our room. We walked a lot in Amsterdam and took many trams. I love the city with all its canals and bicycles and bike paths (Amsterdam has more bicycles than cars—the Central Station has a bicycle parking garage). We visited the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum. We took boats on the canals and had pancakes (a Dutch delight that also comes in varieties with meat, vegetables, and cheese) at Sara's Pancake House, which we later learned in a review is the best in Amsterdam. We flew back to Boston (via London's Heathrow) on Thursday, May 13. We kept our eye on the news of the Iceland volcano and were relieved it didn't interfere with our flights (both airports closed after our return).

Here are Patti's photos. She has posted some of these on Facebook with comments.

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One of my main passions is walking. At lunchtime my colleague Margarette and I walk a 3-mile loop from my office that takes us around the Boston Common and Public Garden at a brisk pace, not quite a power-walk but it does help to keep me in shape. I also do daily dog walks.
  I have participated in several fundraising walks, which lets me do something I really enjoy while earning money for good causes. I usually do The Walk for Hunger with my regular walking partner Margarette (we've done this 20-mile walk almost every year since 1999) and at our rapid pace we have completed it several times in just 4 hours (that is walking at 5 MPH for 20 miles!).

Project Bread, The Walk for Hunger
AIDS Walk Boston
Walk to End Alzheimer's
Dog walks – in memory of Lucy
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  I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. I have had a cellphone since 1995, starting with a series of flip-phones, but in 2011 my son Alex gave me my first smartphone, a Droid X. I used it for several years before replacing it with my Samsung (I bought my Mini for 1¢ at Staples!). One of the things I like best about having a smartphone is having Google in my pocket. Before, I would often think of something I wanted to look up, and would have to remember it until I was at a PC. Now I just pull out my phone and Google away! It's also great to have Gmail and the web so readily available. I also love getting notifications when someone sends me an email or text message. Now when I travel I check my smartphone for things like email, Facebook, and news. I still always have my laptop but the smartphone has become the most convenient way to do these things.

Lest anyone think the smartphone has complicated my life—before I had one I listened to music on an iPod and read books on a Sony Reader. Now I do both on my phone so I've done away with 2 extra digital devices I used to carry around—so having a smartphone has actually simplified my life. Since airlines have loosened up on using cellphones on planes I am not forced to shut off my phone and stop reading on flights.

At first I set up my phone with a lot of apps for things that have websites, until I found apps like Facebook were running in the background when I wasn't using them—probably using battery power looking for notifications. My smartphone does these notifications fine so I have put shortcuts to the websites on my Home screen and gotten rid of the apps, and probably saved battery life. For certain notifications that require setting a ringtone, when I don't want to hear my phone ring I use a silent ringtone, silent.wav. For instance, I use this on Gmail, where I still get an icon in the Notification bar for new email but the phone doesn't audibly ring. For text messages, I get a notification icon and the ringtone on my phone is a little chirp. (Get ringtones here.)

You can get airline boarding passes sent to your phone which get scanned at the airport (but not all airports support this yet). In Boston the MBTA (local transit system) has made the passes that previously only came on plastic cards available for smartphones in this fashion. Certain businesses that use cards to scan for purchases now offer apps that do this and you don't have to pull a card out of your wallet every time. I anticipate more and more things coming this way.

FYI, the standard 1900mAh battery that comes with the phone is OK, but I keep a spare battery fully-charged in a battery charger.

My favorite apps . . .
My wallpaper
  For the wallpaper on my smartphone I use this aerial photo of Paris. It appears to have been taken from a helicopter hovering over the Louvre, looking up the Champs-Elysees.
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Where I stand
  I was raised in a household similar to the one I raised my kids in, where my parents taught me values that I retain to this day (I will always remember the impression that was made on me when my dad took us to see Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's story of bravery and justice in small-town America) and I have hopefully passed these on to my sons—values like integrity and charity, and a desire to participate in a kinder and gentler world, and help create a more humane and just society.

Coming of age in the 1960s civil rights have always been very important to me. When I evaluate a candidate who is running for public office, the first thing I look at is his stance on social issues like women's rights and gay rights. If the candidate fails on those I don't care what his positions are on everything else, he will never get my vote.

I took this Political Compass test (a brief explanation) and the results show me as "Libertarian-Left", meaning I believe in social freedom and some economic regulation. Not surprisingly, I am at the exact opposite setting on the compass to George W. Bush.

  Artist Shepard Fairey created this great portrait of Barack Obama.

"I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support." — Barack Obama, February 22, 2008

For more years! I'm very excited that Obama was re-elected!

I live in Massachusetts, a very blue state, and am happy to be around others who feel the same way. I have always found the anti-tax view of conservatives to be selfish ("I don't want the government to take my money to help others." Compassionate conservative? Give me a break—what an oxymoron!) and was offended by the right-wing trying to turn Obama's "spread the wealth" comment during his first presidential campaign into something negative. I am happy Obama was elected and look forward to his changes that will compensate for 8 years of Bush's policies.
Obama Accomplishments – here is a list I made after he had served 2 years

    This cartoon appeared in The Boston Globe after the GOP retook control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections. In some convoluted logic the voters think the Dems failed because in 2 years they couldn't fix the problems the Republicans took 8 years to create.

click to enlarge

  Adjust, don't conform

"Humaneness is one of the hallmarks of being a liberal." — Walter Cronkite  
  My social and political views are very liberal, which is the essence of logical thinking and humanitarian concerns. During my formative years in the 1960s I was mostly surrounded by people with the same values, but as I got older and moved away from the college setting I came to realize that I had been living in a somewhat sheltered environment, and in order to co-exist with some of the others I met whose views were very different from mine I would have to keep some of my opinions to myself (though I would not have to change my values). I thought this philosophy was stated very well in the slogan at the progressive New England boarding school my wife Patti attended, the Windsor Mountain School in Lenox, Massachusetts:

"Adjust, don't conform."
  Pacifism & resistance

"My pacifism is not based on any intellectual theory but on a deep antipathy to every form of cruelty and hatred."  — Albert Einstein
  I have always been a pacifist but my commitment to my beliefs was really put to the test in 1969 during the Vietnam War when I became a draft resister. Like millions of other Americans I opposed the war for political and moral reasons and participated in many antiwar marches and rallies. After a couple of years of college I took some time off which resulted in the loss of my student deferment, and when I received my draft notice I responded in the spirit of what we used to chant—"Hell no, we won't go!"—I refused induction into the army. Taking this stand put my personal freedom in jeopardy for a period of time, but finally, after an anxious year involving lawyers and an FBI investigation, I was able to put that episode behind me and move on with my life. I was far from alone in my war resistance—the Justice Department identified 570,000 men who "violated" the draft laws.

   My draft resistance – a serious and stressful episode in my life
   We Ain't Marching Anymore – draft and military resistance to the Vietnam War
   An interview with a Vietnam draft resister 35 years later – this could be me
   Carter's pardon – a discussion on President Carter's pardoning of Vietnam War draft dodgers
   A "fan" letter – from someone who does not agree with my views

When I was in high school in the mid-60s I subscribed (with many thanks to my open-minded mother) to the Berkeley Barb, an underground newspaper loosely associated with students at UC Berkeley. Something I learned in one issue was the history of the Peace Symbol , a superimposing of the semaphoric signals (nautical signal flags) for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament, and created in 1958 in the UK.

This is somewhat esoteric knowledge and I presume if people have any association for the symbol they just know it stands for peace. Now I see it on clothing and other items as a "fashion" icon and realize that many very young people might not even know its meaning. Oh well, it will always symbolize an anti-war theme for me.

  War is immoral

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." — Dwight D. Eisenhower  
  War is a hostile and barbaric action that is the result of a total failure of diplomacy (or as Isaac Asimov put it, "Violence is the diplomacy of the incompetent."). I strongly oppose war and I do not support our leaders who get us into wars when they cannot work out problems with other nations using non-violent methods. I do support the men and women in the armed forces because they are honorably putting their lives at risk for the security of our country, and they are not responsible for the failure of our leaders' diplomatic efforts. We have a military to protect our freedoms if our country is ever threatened or attacked by another nation (which is why we call it the Department of "Defense"), but when our troops are sent to preemptively attack the citizens of another nation on their own soil as we did in Iraq, we are invading them, and I say,   "Bring our troops home!" (I can't believe our National Guard is being sent to foreign countries to participate in war—isn't the mission of the NG to protect the homeland?)

This is from A Grandfather's Last Letter To His Grandkids on Huffington Post. I thought it was pretty good advice.
"Don't join the military or any organization that trains you to kill. War is evil. All wars are started by old men who force or fool young men to hate and to kill each other. The old men survive, and, just as they started the war with pen and paper, they end it the same way. So many good and innocent people die. If wars are so good and noble, why aren't those leaders who start wars right up there fighting?"

   War Resisters League – "There is no way to peace – peace is the way."
   Nonviolence.Org – "War is just a racket." – Major General Smedley Butler, USMC
   Letter To Bush – I received this chain letter after 9/11

  Jimi Hendrix said it so well!

Yay! Bush is Gone!
A monument has been erected in Iraq to honor the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush.
This was created after I removed this section and I thought it deserved its place of honor here.

  Liberties & rights
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, that you can't even passively take part; and you've got to indicate to the people who run it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"  — Mario Savio  
  It is everybody's right to live free of arbitrary, unnecessary rules, and we should all be able to openly express our personal freedoms. Unfortunately, we do need laws to protect these freedoms because not everybody is respectful of the rights of others, but if you want to engage in a non-harmful activity there should be no law restricting you.

     Free Speech Movement Archives
     The Berkeley Free Speech Movement

  • Gun control
    I'm tired of firearm enthusiasts saying the Second Ammendment gives them the right to own guns. The Second Amendment states

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
    "Yes, a well regulated militia, not a personal arsenal free-for-all!"  — John Stewart

    When this was put in the constitution in 1791, the most lethal weapon was a single-shot musket, not the semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles that anarchists have today. Possessing something that makes killing this easy is too dangerous to be considered a "right" and this savage, barbaric activity should not be allowed or encouraged in civilized society in the 21st century. Compared to other countries, the gun situation in the U.S. is really out of control. In one recent year, guns murdered four people in New Zealand, 19 in Japan, 54 in England, 57 in Australia, 66 in Switzerland, 151 in Canada, 373 in Germany, and 11,798 in the U.S.!

    And for those Americans ranting about taking on the government if they try and confiscate guns, who exactly are they planning to shoot? Soldiers? Police officers? Maybe their neighbors' kid who joined the National Guard?

    Personally I see no need for guns in society and would love to live in a world that had no guns. But that is unlikely, and after mass shootings in several locations like Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown it is clear we need to have some regulation of guns.

       The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
       The ACLU on Gun Control
       Put reason back in America's gun debate

  • Gay marriage
    All this activity to prevent gays from marrying is nothing more than homophobic people trying to validate their prejudices by making them into laws. Many states, including Massachusetts, are trying to enact constitutional ammendments to keep gays and lesbians from having the same domestic rights as heterosexuals. Former President Bush even wanted to write this into the U.S. Constitution. Give me a break.

       Human Rights Campaign – working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights
       Wedding distractionsBrian McGrory, The Boston Globe¹, 2/13/2004
       Where Is My Gay Apocalypse?Mark Morford, SFGate, 3/5/2004

  • Women's rights
    Gender discrimination is immoral. Women and men have the same entitlements, and there should be equal compensation for equal achievements. There should be no restriction on a woman's right to choose abortion. The attempts to create laws controlling this are typically made based on religious grounds, which is an illegal basis for law. No one's life should be restricted by someone else's religion. Down with dogma!

       Human Rights Watch: Women's Rights
       A Woman's Right to Choose – at the Center for Reproductive Rights

  Rants "People who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do." — Isaac Asimov
  So far I've said where I stand on some of the important issues of the day. Here are some things that may be less important, but they are still annoying.  
  • Telemarketers & spammers
    Every merchant is entitled to provide products and services for a profit, but consumers have rights too. I used to receive frequent annoying telemarketing calls at home, but I was able to stop them by signing up on the Massachusetts Do Not  Call registry. (There are still problems implementing the national registry, but the state one is working great.) I think we also need a 'Do Not Spam' registry to shut off the huge volumes of spam we get in our email.

    National Do Not Call Registry & State No Call List Information
    Fight spam – my own how-to section

  • Smoking
    People who smoke cigarettes may think that it is their right to do so, but when they do it in my breathing space it robs me of my right to breath fresh air. My friends and family do not smoke so it is not an issue in my house. In Massachusetts, smoking is not permitted in workplaces, including restaurants and bars, and smoking is prohibited on the public transportation in Boston, including cabs, so I live in a 100% smoke-free environment (it surprises me when I travel to another area, even in the U.S., that is more tolerant of smoking). Many smokers find private spaces to smoke, like their cars or homes, but it saddens me when I see parents smoking around their young children, knowing the health problems those kids may have from growing up inhaling second-hand smoke.

      "If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."
    — On a sign in a non-smoking area

    Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
    CDC's Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS)

  • People who impose their religious beliefs on others
    I have been an atheist my entire life, and I find it disturbing when people who believe in God assume everyone does. My point of view on most things has a strong foundation in science and reason, which religious faith lacks. The term "faith" means accepting something as truth based only on "belief," which doesn't work for me at all. A pithy quote that expresses my view very well is from a Tess Gerritsen novel, The Sinner, where a woman who has strayed from her Catholic upbringing is being questioned by a priest.
    He says, "You grew up in the church. Isn't there anything left of your faith?"
    She replies, "Faith requires no proof . . . I do."
    And what's with this "Bless you." when someone sneezes? I find myself wanting to stifle a sneeze in public because whenever I do sneeze I immediately hear "Bless you." from those nearby and I feel obligated to acknowledge it with a "Thank you." or something. What does that mean anyway? It sounds more superstitious than religious but I am not sure.

  • People who can't stop emailing or texting on their cellphones in public
    If you are behind or approaching one of these obsessed "CrackBerry" addicts on a sidewalk you may have to walk around them since they are so absorbed in their task they don't know you are there. I can't believe how often I find myself behind one of these people in a line, say at a place like Starbucks, and it's all they can do to stop long enough to order their coffee. What's with all these people I see walking on a sidewalk staring at (probably reading) their cellphones? Give me a break—can't they wait a few minutes until they are someplace more private, or at least not walking?

       Stay Focused: Don't Text & Drive – and texting while driving is the worst

  • Doddlers
    Waiting in a queue is generally tension producing (there was a good article on this behavior in The Boston Globe¹), whether standing in a line of people or in the car in bumper-to-bumper traffic I find it stressful when I find myself behind someone who does not move forward when the person ahead of them does, or when the car ahead of me doesn't keep pace with the car ahead of them. This lackadaisical behavior doesn't jibe with my natural sense of order and efficiency—possibly something I learned in the marching band in high school where you are trained to keep the same space with the person in front of you, not fall behind. Label me OCD but it irritates me to have my time managed by someone so "tuned out."

  • Other drivers!
    I am a fan of this Facebook page because it stated my feelings so well. I copied some of the postings here: Yelling at the car in front of you. OK, you could say this fits right in with the spirit of Boston driving, but I have been a Bostonian since 1973.

  • People whose voicemail message doesn't identify them
    I hate it when I call someone, perhaps for the first time, and a voice says, "You have reached number ###." If they don't identify themselves, at least by first name, I am not sure if I have reached the right person and I don't want to leave a message.

If I sound very opinionated it may be because I grew up in the 60s, the era of the Free Speech Movement, when it was considered pretty normal to express yourself openly. See my Articles page for more in support of my views, or on the lighter side, see Political satire.

 1 Some articles have links that expire too quickly so I save them offline.

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Living tips
  Here are a few things I have learned how to do that I want to pass on. They may seem rather silly but they work for me.

  • Peeling a hard-boiled egg
    After the egg has boiled let it sit in cold water for a minute before peeling. This usually makes the shell not stick to the egg.

  • Popping all the kernels when making popcorn in a pan on a stove
    Follow these steps to pre-cook the kernels . . .
    1. Put the popcorn into the cold oil in the pan.
    2. Turn on the burner.
    3. When the first kernels pop, take the pan off the heat and let the kernels sit in the hot oil for 1 minute.
    4. Then just put the pan back on the heat and make the popcorn as you normally would.

  • Curing hiccups
    This technique sounds like an old wives' tale but it works 100% of the time for me.
    • Sit with your arms unsupported and point your two index fingers at each other about 6 inches in front of your face.
    • Keep your fingertips almost touching but not quite.
    • Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds and your hiccups will stop.
    This may work because of the concentration required to keep your fingers so close but not touching.
    More tips

Tips.Net: Household Tips, Handy Hints, and Thrifty Ideas
Household Hints
Robbie's Handy Household Tips and Tricks
Bob Allison's Ask Your Neighbor: Helpful Household Hints

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Contact me
  To guard against spambots that search webpages for email addresses I am not spelling out any complete email addresses contiguously anywhere on my website.

My email address:

Patti's email address:

Replace (at) with @ in the above addresses. I have stopped listing our email addresses, but they are still valid and checked on Gmail.