We “Know” Who She Is, but Is That Really the Story?

A lot of attention is being given to actress Reese Witherspoon’s disorderly conduct arrest in Atlanta. And while I understand the interest in her “you’re about to find out who I am” comment, I am a bit more concerned with the fact that Witherspoon’s husband, Jim Toth, was, according to police reports, driving in the “wrong lane.” Toth, who was described by police as “appearing disheveled and smelling of alcohol,” blew .139 during his field sobriety test (the legal limit in Georgia is .08). Shouldn’t that be the part of this story that we are discussing?

On its website, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics offers the following as the opening sentence in a document titled “Drunk Driving by the Numbers”:

“Every 2-hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes.”

To me, that statistic is far more interesting (and much scarier) than Witherspoon’s bad behavior. And though I appreciate that the actress has apologized (CNN’s Erin Burnett seemed to think the apology was a really big deal and dedicated a portion of her show to praising it), shouldn’t we be asking why people with all the resources in the world (take a cab, Reese and Jim!) chose to drink and drive.

During her mea culpa, Witherspoon told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “It’s one of those nights, you know, we went out to dinner in Atlanta and we had one too many glasses of wine and we thought we were fine to drive and we absolutely were not.” She then added, “And we are so sorry and just so embarrassed. We know better and we shouldn’t have done that.”

That’s a good start, but I’d like to see America’s sweetheart do a bit more. And I’d also like to see the media report more frequently on what happens when the police aren’t around to intervene.

Nothing is Sacred, Not Even Voter Registration Information

256px-Do_not_disturb                                                                                                    (Photo credit)

As you might have noticed, I am the author of a blog. My photo and my first name appear on this blog and it is online for the entire world (shout-out to my regular visitor from Istanbul!) to see. I also run two other websites, both of which feature my photo and my full name. I like to hang out on: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. And up until recently, I was a regular contributor to an online news site. Yet despite all of this exposure, I still value my privacy.

I don’t mind sharing the details of my colonoscopy with you, but I don’t necessarily want you calling me at home. And no offense, but I don’t want you to know where my home is. Well, some of you maybe… but definitely not the masses. (What? There could be masses.)

It is probably borderline crazy for me to think that in a world full of oversharing and overexposure that I can maintain any level of privacy. But crazy or not, I believe that I should have a say as to who has access to my personal information. Increasingly, I am losing that say. And that makes me angry.

The latest invasion of my personal space came at the hands (indirectly and directly) of San Diego County. About a month ago, I received a phone call from a local marketing firm inviting me to get paid for sharing my “political views.” The woman who called began the conversation by saying that I had been selected based on “information tied to my San Diego County voter registration.”

At the time, I didn’t believe that San Diego County would sell my personal information. So after trying (unsuccessfully) to get the name of the firm that was seeking my opinion, I politely told the caller that I was not interested in participating in the focus group and that I wanted my name (phone number, age, home address, etc.) removed from their list. And then I hung up the phone.

But I wasn’t done. I figured the folks at the County of San Diego: Registrar of Voters would want to know that a scam was being perpetrated in their name. Only it wasn’t. According to the person who answered the phone at the registrar’s office, my voter registration information was available for purchase.

As you can probably imagine, this news did not make me happy. I value my privacy, remember? The nice person with whom I had been speaking must have sensed my displeasure, because she offered to send me a complaint form. She said that after I filled the form out and returned it someone would look into my concerns and get back to me. Um… no. I was not in the mood (at least not at that moment) to jump through hoops to find out why the County was selling my personal information.

Frustrated, but undeterred, I next phoned the office of Ron Roberts, the San Diego County supervisor who represents my district. I spoke with an assistant to Supervisor Roberts who shared my concern about the possible breach of privacy. I carefully went over the details of the call with Supervisor Roberts’ assistant and she promised that she would follow up soon.

She kept that promise, as a few hours later, I did hear back. During that conversation, I learned that the personal details that are attached to voter registration, because they are collected with taxpayer money, are considered to be part of the “public domain.” There are rules about who can buy (more on this later) this information, but it is accessible. And, according to the representative from Supervisor Roberts’ office, lists are sold, but the fee assessed is meant to compensate the County for employee time and materials — not to generate profit. (I’d like to see a breakdown of these charges.)

This wasn’t the end of the investigation, however. I think the fact that the telemarketer tried to lure me in by making it sound (even vaguely) like the focus group was somehow attached to San Diego County was cause for concern.

When my phone next rang, Michael Vu, San Diego County Registrar of Voters, was on the line. Mr. Vu could not have been more helpful. He was careful to stress that my information was not available to the general public. He then went over who did have access to it:

California Elections Code Section 2194

(a) The voter registration card information identified in subdivision (a) of Section 6254.4 of the Government Code:

(1) Shall be confidential and shall not appear on any computer terminal, list, affidavit, duplicate affidavit, or other medium routinely available to the public at the county elections official’s office.

(3) Shall be provided with respect to any voter, subject to the provisions of Sections 2166.5, 2166.7, and 2188, to any candidate for federal, state, or local office, to any committee for or against any initiative or referendum measure for which legal publication is made, and to any person for election, scholarly, journalistic, or political purposes, or for governmental purposes, as determined by the Secretary of State.

(Some of these categories — “scholarly,” “any person for election,” “political purposes”– seem unnecessarily broad to me. What gives “any person for election” the right to harass me by mail/phone when for-profit marketers aren’t allowed to do the same? A question for another time perhaps, but one that I’d like to have answered.)

I wondered out loud to Mr. Vu what might happen if a crime were to be committed by someone who was using information that the County had provided? Would the County also be liable? And I also wondered (I am quite the wonderer), where on the voter registration form it said that by registering I was giving permission for select groups to have access to (and use of) my personal information? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t say that anywhere. As a matter of fact, the privacy-related language on the form indicates that the opposite is true.

If you are interested in what California law dictates with regard to the purchasing and use of voter registration information, and what verbiage must be included on the registration forms, you can read that here.

Mr. Vu, to his credit, validated several of my concerns. And he said that he thought that the company that called me, because they failed to provide me with the name of their “client,” might be in violation of the law. He promised that he or someone in his office would look into my complaint and get back to me. And he kept that promise.

As it turns out, the marketing firm was operating outside of the law. I was informed of this fact two weeks ago when a representative from the registrar of voters called to update me on the investigation. She asked if I would fill out a complaint form and said that it would be forwarded via her office to the California Secretary of State. This time, I was more than happy to jump through hoops.

I’ll keep you posted as this continues to unfold. We all need to be a bit more aware of the law — and also a bit more protective of our right to privacy.

Don’t Fence Me In

I was going about my normal business this morning (which includes checking my Twitter feed) when I saw this go by:

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“Hmm…,” I said to myself after reading and then re-reading the tweet. (Sometimes I speak to myself in sound effects.) And then, because I am the inquisitive type and also possibly because I was hyped up on two cups of Nespresso, I decided to take a peek at the espnW website. ESPN’s tweet was an acknowledgment of International Women’s Day, so I was slightly curious about the site’s content.

I was not happy with what I saw.

First, I am not sure why ESPN thinks that women need to get their sports-related news from a woman-centric source. I thought espn.com was for me. And second, I wasn’t interested in any of the stories on espnW’s homepage. The ads for Secret Clinical Strength deodorant, which were featured at the very top of the page, (this is not how advertising is displayed on espn.com) probably didn’t help. Though, kudos I suppose for using a product that has the word “strength” in its title.

I am a big fan of football, college and professional. And according to this recent article in the New York Times, I am not alone. The NFL, to paraphrase Cheap Trick, wants me to want them.

From the New York Times:

In recent years, the N.F.L. surpassed the N.B.A. and Major League Baseball in the share of its regular-season viewers who are female, according to Nielsen. More women watched the Super Bowl — 43 million — than the Grammy Awards or the Academy Awards last year.

Yet, when I clicked on espnW, there was only one mention of football. And that was a story about the woman who received an invitation to try out as a kicker at the recent NFL combine. From what I could tell, most of the stories on espnW are about female athletes. And that in itself isn’t a bad thing. I think women in sports should receive attention.

But stories about female athletes aren’t always the “stories that matter the most” to me. And that is what espnW promises to deliver. And to be honest, I find that statement a bit off-putting. I am a sports fan — who also happens to be a woman. Again, I ask: Why do the powers that be at ESPN think that I need a separate website as my source for sports?

And espnW’s cutesy blog titles ( “HoopGurlz,” “That’s What She Said”)? I can also do without those. ESPN, you don’t have to add a coating of pink to the sports coverage you direct at me. You just have to provide good content.

What do you think?

Leather Rebel

I grew up during a time when Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro and Catwoman were all fairly popular. So seeing a woman dressed in skin-tight black leather pants wasn’t totally unheard of. Quite the opposite in fact, as Joan Jett’s videos ran practically every hour on MTV back then. Even with that being the case, I think I always loosely (and probably unconsciously) associated leather pants with being either a rock goddess or a dominatrix. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

Joan+Jett

(Photo source )

Despite my preconceived notions, it seems that every few years leather pants come into vogue. And each time, as I am neither rock goddess nor dominatrix, I have decided that this look is not right for me. That was until the spring of 2012 when wax-coated pants, a new take on an old look, became all the rage. For some reason, I decided that coated pants I could (and would) wear.

Leatherette Legging Jeans - Blackberry

(Photo source)

The pants I wound up buying are by AG and are called: “leatherette leggings.” Though, I think they are more pant and less legging. Regardless, I am crazy about them. It only took putting the AG leggings on once for me to realize what I have missed out on by not expressing my inner rock goddess. But not one to dwell on what might have been, I immediately switched my focus to thinking about how I was going to keep these pants wearable in the longterm. Because they seem kind of fragile.

I could tell just by eyeballing the leggings that washing them in a machine (which is what the label inside of the garment instructed me to do) was not going to work. Not even on a delicate or hand-wash setting. So I did what I always do when I need help, I turned to my friends at Google search.

And that is how this happened:

jeans

Why yes, my leatherette leggings are sitting on a shelf inside of my freezer. Don’t judge, I am washing them. Apparently, freezing specialty jeans is not only a perfectly acceptable method of cleaning them, it is the preferred method when it comes to those that have been wax-coated. You might be wondering why that is. I know I was. Here’s what the folks at Intermix.com, one of several online sites to recommend this method of cleaning, have to say:  “The freeze clean method will remove bacteria, preserve dark dyes and special finishes, and restore shape.” Who knew?

These are the instructions (courtesy of Intermix) that I followed:

  1. Spot clean stains and let jeans dry completely.
  2. Fold lengthwise twice, then smooth out wrinkles.
  3. Place jeans in zip lock bag and close tightly without air.
  4. Place jeans in freezer for a minimum of 24 hours.
  5. Thaw, wear, repeat!

I wore my pants twice before I put them into cold storage. And during my pre-freeze examination, I saw no visible stains, detected nothing but fine smells, and observed that the shape was holding up just fine. (So upon further reflection, it might not have really been time to clean them.) Thirty-six hours after depositing them in my freezer, and an hour after allowing them thaw out, my leggings looked pretty much the same way they did before the detoxification. The smell, however, did seem to be a tad bit fresher. So maybe two wears was too soon. But that’s okay, I’d rather err on the side of being fastidious than err on the side of this:

I’ve Fallen, and I am Not Sure That I Want to Get Up

[UPDATED]

Super Bowl XLVII is only days away, so I thought it would be fun to critique a few commercials. But rather than previewing the spots that we will be talking about on Sunday night and Monday morning, I thought I’d dissect a few that, in my opinion, should never have seen the light of day. And that is because all of these commercials have one thing in common and seemingly one purpose in mind: to make us afraid of getting old.

Let’s start by looking at the ad that features former NFL great Joe Theismann singing the praises of Super Beta Prostate. I am all for helping people fix what ails them, but did we really need to know that before Joe could step into the broadcast booth that he first had locate the closest bathroom? I didn’t need to know that. The only upside to this spot is that the image of Joe running around the stadium in search of the loo has now replaced my memory of him writhing on the field in pain after suffering his career-ending leg injury.

Along the same lines, what is up with the creepy Mc-Creepersons in the Cenegenics commercials? It was bad enough having to see the unnatural physical results of this program–but the line about the guy’s libido? TMI, Cenegenics! TMI!

And the new GNC commercial that features a 91-year-old, hip-hop dressing woman named Edith? Well, that ad is downright depressing. Edith spends the entire commercial yelling things like: “It takes a long time to become young!” And, “Be healthy!” Poor thing has a hood pulled up over her head and isn’t even allowed to take her sunglasses off. How do we even know that Edith is who she says she is? And if we can’t see her eyes, how do we know that we can trust her?

Remember the cute Snickers commercial from a few years ago that featured Betty White? All of us loved that ad, right? Well… if you really think about it, what Snickers was trying to tell us is that hungry and cranky equals being old. They even shoved poor Betty White into the mud. And we guffawed. But the message is still clear, and apparently, Blue Oyster Cult was wrong; you should definitely fear the reaper!

So consider yourselves warned. Even when we are amused (and not repulsed) by a geriatric-themed spot, the endgame is still the same. Advertisers are trying to scare us into having a full-blown case Gerascophobia. Watch this Sunday with care, my friends.

UPDATE: February 4, 2013

Taco Bell’s “We Are Young” commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl, did a great job of celebrating the elderly, so I thought it only fair that I add it to this post. Kudos, Taco Bell! I am now a little less afraid.

sit stay

Sit, Stay

“What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.” Peter F. Drucker Photo © 2011 The World According to Jennifer

Even the Losers


For those of us who regularly follow sports and have specific teams that we always root for, a big loss can be very tough to take. As a lifelong fan of the Atlanta Braves, a 25 (plus) year fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and a former season ticket holder for the Atlanta Falcons, I know this as well as anyone.

This past December, my Georgia Bulldogs lost a heartbreakingly close Southeastern Conference Championship Game [SECCG] to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Here’s some of what I posted on Twitter after that loss:

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Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 3.52.45 PMI went in search of those tweets after seeing how fans of the Seattle Seahawks were conducting themselves on Twitter after their team lost to the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff Game. While not happy about some of what the Seahawks fans were tweeting, I was fairly certain that when Georgia lost the SECCG that I had probably expressed my disappointment, heartbreak (and bitterness) in a similar manner. After re-reading my Twitter feed from December 1st-December 2nd, and after going through many of the tweets that were posted under the hashtag: Seahawks, I’ve come up with a theory.

And here it is:

The Five Stages of Grief, though originally identified by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as pertaining specifically to death and dying, can be applied to almost every type of meaningful loss that we experience in life–including those that relate to sports.

And to illustrate my point, I’ve *curated a collection of tweets from Seahawks fans that were posted in the period immediately following their team’s loss up until almost 24 hours later. I am not trying to pick on the Seattle fans–not at all. They are famously known for their role as the “12th Man,” so I thought that their post-loss behavior would make an excellent case study.

Stage 1: Denial.

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Stage 2: Anger.

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Stage 3: Bargaining.

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Stage 4: Depression.

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Stage 5: Acceptance.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 1.43.40 PMAnd because this is my blog (and my social experiment), I am going to add a sixth stage: Grace.

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How do you handle it when your favorite team loses a big (or little) game?

*All of the tweets that I’ve shared here were posted publicly on Twitter.