Real Names on Facebook; A Vote in Favor

Trigger warning: mentions of physical and sexual abuse

Most of the people in the web industry, and especially in the diversity outreach circles, hate the Facebook “real names” policy. They say it prevents free expression, self-determination of identity, and privacy. While I have sympathy with some of the arguments, for the most part I support wanting real names. There’s a difference between lying about who you are and using a nickname or stage name. For example, a performer using their stage name on Facebook rather than their birth name seems logical, even if they haven’t gone to the trouble of legally changing it. A nickname that’s been in use for a long time and is more recognizable than your legal name — same thing. If you can show that the different name is what you typically go by, I think it should be allowed. Ditto for anyone who is transgender and still in the process of establishing a new name identity (or hell, anyone who’s using a different name and just hasn’t jumped through the hoops to legalize the change yet). As someone who has changed names twice, once just through common usage and once legally, I get the complications that name-dissonance can cause, and I don’t think Facebook should force people in those situations to live or die (at least on by the name on the birth certificate. But: kids!

I didn’t write about it here (though I alluded to it on Twitter at the time), but in 2010 I helped put an online sex predator in jail. I was at that point a primary caregiver of teenage girls, and thanks to a broken wifi card, a forgotten logout, and the fact that we were using the same gmail color scheme, I happened into email not meant for me. I was pretty horrified when I opened the first one; its references to what the guy wanted to do to various of “my” body parts were so far out there that my first reaction was that I was being trolled by someone. A second look told me it was intended for one of the teenagers, and that it was part of an ongoing thread, all of which was pretty graphic on his part, pretty blasé on hers.

After investigating the emails in the account, I started googling, and I found him on a site called Kupika, with a list of 300+ girls that he had relationships with, including an icon-based guide to how well he knew them, what level of naked pics and/or meetings he’d had with them, etc. There was also a VIP Calendar Girls room that required special access. There was a giant collage in the middle of the page, and when I saw a picture of my teenager, I flipped. I changed all her passwords that I could (since he was also on Facebook and her other social networks) and screamed for her to GET IN HERE.

As it turned out, this guy had been writing to her since elementary school, and had been grooming her for YEARS until she hit the age of legality in her state for sending naked pictures, at which point he made requests very specifically to keep him on the “right side” of the law. Now, sure, kids go through family crap and need outlets when the world seems unfair. In my generation, that meant crying in the bathroom mirror and reading Sweet Valley High novels. In this generation, that outlet is more likely to be online and/or over texts with strangers. It’s really scary. The guy in question’s profile said he was a hunky 19-year-old from California…what teenage girl wouldn’t want that guy to be her escape? But when I put Google to work (reverse engineering from his username and email address), I discovered he was a lawyer in his 40s who’d been excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses (How bad do you need to be for them to kick you out? The articles I found told me — really bad!), and a schlubby one with bad hair, to boot. He was also about to be disbarred.

cartoon showing dogs at a computer, captioned, "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."The anonymity of the internet is one of the things that appeals to a lot of people. But what if you’re not looking for an anonymous escape, you just want to use the technology to facilitate honest communication? We’re forced to assume that anyone or anything on the internet might not be for real, in a constant state of distrust. I have to think that is doing something to our collective psyche.

That guy? I worked with the LAPD, who’d been trying to catch him for years but had never been able to trip him up, and we got him. I won’t go into details, but basically there was a sting, he was arrested in a mall food court for traveling to have sex with a minor, and then they found all kinds of nasty on his computers and phone. He was sentenced to 6 years in Chico, one for each girl who was listed in the complaint (based on their parents finding out and reporting it, I believe).

So yeah, I like the idea of a social network, especially one that started out being for students and requiring a .edu email address to gain access, wanting people to not lie about who they are.

But it’s not just kids who get duped.

It was recently brought to my attention that my aunt had friended someone on Facebook that turned out to be my 1st stepfather, aka the abuser who molested me and beat me with a hairbrush every night when I was five years old. Insert family drama here, but it came down to my aunt saying she didn’t know it was him. Why? Fake name on the Facebook account. Why would she suspect that Elly Medina was actually Nicholas Nitura, 7-month husband of her sister back in the 1970s, and doer of all evil deeds? No, he’s not transitioning, the photos in the timeline show him as the same guy he was 35 years ago, but with more belly and less hair. I saw that he asked on the timeline if I (using my new last name) was her niece, and it sent me straight into PTSD relapse. So that was awesome. And then today, he left a comment on this blog — MY BLOG — in response to that picture from the Park City chairlift that I posted a week or so ago.


screenshot of comment notification

A) I guess he figured out I am me, and now he’s coming onto my site? B) What does that ‘two men and a woman’ thing mean… is he trying to imply he had something to do with creating beauty and tranquility in me? The only thing he created in my family was a bunch of fucked-up kids, a traumatized mother, and furious grandparents who spent years trying to undo the damage he did. C) What the fuck?! 

Cue the PTSD! So it happened again, while I was working this time, and I had to leave the coffee shop where I was co-working with a friend because I was pretty sure I was going to cry or have a panic attack (or both, or something else).

If he’d been using his real name on Facebook, then theoretically my aunt wouldn’t have accepted the friend request, he wouldn’t have had access to her family list, he wouldn’t have asked about me, he wouldn’t have found my blog. Okay, sure, people with good google savvy could do it pretty easily, but that’s not this guy. So, yeah.


  1. Monitor your kids’ internet activity. Know what the hell they are doing online, and who they are doing it with. If you would want to know where they are and who they’re with in person, don’t make the internet a big giant loophole. Even if they seem sweet and innocent. My teenager had been introduced to this guy on Kupika by a sweet Christian drama club girl at her school that could do no wrong.
  2. Real names are good.
  3. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know just because you want to have a lot of “friends.” If they won’t bring you soup when you’re sick or pick you up from the airport, they are not your real friends.
  4. Child abusers are bad.
  5. Online sex predators are bad.
  6. Both deserve to rot in jail, but most don’t.
  7. Coda to #1.

Feminism, or PMS? Vote!

So, when I started working at Automattic 6 years ago, I bailed on finishing my college degree. I’m going back now and tying up some loose ends so that I can graduate next year. One of those loose ends is a Psychology of Women class. I took it once and failed it — I just stopped participating because it was driving me crazy, and it was past the allowed drop date when I decided this. Then I tried to take it again to replace the F, but it still drove me crazy, and I withdrew early enough that there was no grade. Third time’s the charm? This is just the first day (it’s an online course) and I am remembering all the reasons it drove me crazy the first two times, but I swear I’m going to stick it out this time.

I will need to write a three 5-8 page papers. Two of them are to be about women who have broken barriers in one of half a dozen areas. IIRC, last time I did them on Ada Lovelace and maybe Harriet Jacobs. I will need to pick two new women about whom to write 5-8 pages each. Historical and contemporary allowed.

Then there’s a research paper, which I think is new. It seems to be mostly asking 6 people a question, writing down their answers, and writing up a summary of what they said and if there are any commonalities. Not so much research as just getting people to tell you what they think, but okay. We get to choose from two research topics (the professor has already written the interview questions to be used): Feminism or PMS.

Having scanned the assignments for this term I have to say that it feels like a not-very-well-executed women’s studies course, not an upper level psych course, but again, okay. Either way, I’ll need to write these papers. So what do you think, folks, Feminism or PMS?

And any favorite women who’ve broken barriers that you think I should write about?

Warring Values; Decisions

Say you found an organization or a program that you wanted to get involved in and/or support because it pressed all your buttons around social justice, health care, classism, inclusion, and practicality. Say you got really excited and made plans to commit yourself to this course of action. Say you then found out that the institution’s physical home was going to be in space rented from a Catholic Church, an organization that has some pretty nasty things to say about gay folks, discriminates against women, still bans birth control in this day and age, and in this particular archdiocese, was part of the big sex abuse lawsuits a while back, followed by the archdiocese trying to divest itself of property by giving it to the parishes before declaring bankruptcy so that it wouldn’t lose the properties in the lawsuits, and more recently made protesting against gay marriage a major initiative?

In my case, it makes me feel like I can’t be part of the program, because I don’t want to support the Catholic Church and the things it finances.

Then again, if this building in particular is part of a parish that is known for its diversity and social justice leanings, does that make it okay?

But does that mean they’re just spreading doctrine that still says the above stuff to a more diverse group of people?

If the money goes straight to the parish, how much trickles up to the archdiocese and eventually the Vatican?

Would I be giving money to anti-gay-marriage efforts? To camps to “rehabilitate” gay people? To protesting abortion clinics? To keeping women in unequal positions? To, in short, one of the most glaring examples of some of the worst outcomes of patriarchy?

And is there a way that can be okay, given the very good things about the program in question (social justice, affordable health care, etc)?

In my usual day-to-day life, the answer would be to skip the program, and put my money places where I am proud of the work it will do. But, there’s nothing else like this program, and I want to be a part of it both for my own benefit and to support its goals. So what should I do? I need your advice. Vote in the poll and tell me why you voted that way in the comments. Thanks!



East Village Eating

Being back in New York for WordCamp is another nostalgia inducer, since I organized that event in 2009 and 2010, and lived in NYC for three years. I typically like to find a place to live where just about everything I like is within 5 blocks, and my East Village apartment definitely had that. These are the places to eat that I’m suddenly nostalgic for (that are still around) and want to visit before I leave town if I have time.

  • Veniero’s. Italian pastry place on E 11th St and 1st Ave (my old corner). Ridiculous. Has been around since the 19th century. When my stepfather was about to be put into an induced coma during his (ultimately unsuccessful) cancer battle, I dropped everything and flew/drove from NYC to Utica one morning. I bought a flight while in the cab, reserved a car while on the plane. But before I got in the cab, I grabbed some mini-tarts  and cannoli from Veniero’s. I got to the hospital just in time, and told my stepfather that if he wanted the tarts he needed to wake up after they induced the coma. It turned out he was too sick to do the procedure, so he got to eat the tarts sooner than expected. Tip: They ship some things via online orders.
  • Bar Veloce. Skinny little Italian wine bar on my other old corner, E11th St and 2nd Ave. Wine. Tasty little finger food stuff. But! The balsamic strawberries are the real reason to go.
  • Veselka. 24-hour Ukrainian diner onE 9th St and 2nd Ave. Pierogis, borscht, sure. But thing I used to get most often was their blintzes. Mmm.
  • Patsy’s. I wrote about Patsy’s the other day, and it’s all still true. The perfect margherita, IMO.
  • Awash. I’m very lucky to live only a few blocks from Bete-Lukas in Portland, but I still have fond memories of Awash for Ethiopian food. I will say this: Bete-Lukas never leaves my fingers stained yellow, and Awash always did.
  • Le Pain Quotidien. I know, it’s a chain. But they have this yummy tuna tartine and I have nostalgia from eating here with my boss from Ball State when we were getting ready to open the usability lab (with lasers!). Broadway and 11th.
  • Liquiteria. Fresh juice on my corner, E 11th St and 2nd Ave. I liked the tops they used on their to-go cups, and when I was writing a murder mystery set in the neighborhood, I made them a clue. Talked with the owner a few times when I was waiting for a chai (they were very good, but very slow) about making them a better website or hooking them up with a designer I worked with, but we never did more than talk about it.
  • Lil’ Frankie’s. Oddly placed apostrophe aside, there’s good pasta to be had. I never had a meal here that was less than delicious, nor did anyone I knew. East Village Radio used to broadcast from there, but it looks like they recently packed it in. Damn you, Clear Channel! At least there’s still spaghetti.

Apizza Scholls, Nostalgia

Apizza Scholls is a pizza place in my neighborhood in Portland, where I went for dinner last night with Amye*. It inspires nostalgia in three ways:

  • Location. It is located directly below the apartment I lived in with my then-boyfriend back in the mid-90s. Back then the space was part of a theater/bar combo. A tree that was a sapling when we lived there now completely obscures the 2nd-story windows that belong to the apartment.
  • Pizza. This pizza is the closest I’ll get in Portland to my favorite margherita from my old neighborhood in NYC, from Patsy’s. I used to get pizza at Patsy’s all the time because it was just a block from my office, and 5 blocks from my east village apartment. I know others tend to prefer Totonno’s, and that’s good, too, but I still like Patsy’s better. And Apizza Scholls tastes pretty much just like Patsy’s.
  • Garlic. When I was a teenager working at the Adirondak Loj in the woods, black flies were a constant source of annoyance. One of our hippie approaches to bug control was to eschew bug repellants like DEET or Skin-So-Slimy and instead eat a raw clove or two of garlic every day. We would exude garlic fumes, and the bugs would leave us alone. Since pretty much everyone, employee and guest alike, always smelled like hiking sweat and river mud and various other outdoorsy scents anyway, no one was bothered by this. Twenty years later, I can say with confidence that there were at least 4 cloves of garlic on that pizza last night, and I am exuding garlic like crazy today. If only I still lived in the woods where we all swelled like sweat and mud and other outdoorsy scents.

Now I really want to go to Patsy’s while I’m in NYC for WordCamp this weekend, and I want to go up to Lake Placid to the Loj and climb Mt. Jo and visit Rocky Falls or maybe the Johns Brook slide.

*Amye used to have her old personal site on WordPress, but now uses GitHub Pages. This is a portent on par with the birth of a two-headed calf. Or the death of a two-headed turtle.


Since it’s my first summer in the house I wanted to see what would come up on its own, so I haven’t been weeding or cutting down plants. As a result some thistles grew up near the path to the front door.

At first I didn’t cut them because I had vague notions of looking up the leaves to see if it was milk thistle, which is good for the liver. I didn’t get around to looking, though, and they kept growing. They’re just about as tall as me now, protruding into the walkway.

a. Sorry, mail carrier.
b. It’s ridiculous that we get free home delivery of mail these days.

Last night I finally looked up the thistles I have, and they’re not the helpful milk thistle, but rather a common invasive species. So I suppose I will cut them down and toss them in the compost.

a. You are welcome, mail carrier.
b. Sorry, Eyeore.

I will say, though, that for all the sharp and spiny stabbery that thistles bring, they have a pretty flower, and pollinators love them, as I saw today.


So maybe I’ll wait a little longer to chop down the thistles. Sorry, mail carrier.

Uses of String

I used to have dozens of houseplants, but certain felines like to eat them, so it has come about that I can only have plants if they are hanging up. I don’t much like most plant hangers though, so I’ve just been plantless for longer than I’d like.

Today I took a page from Tiffany Aching and decided to see if I could rig something simple with a bit of cotton string.
Apparently certain felines like string as much as plants.

I just did two sets of winding knots, but I like the end result:

Plant: Maidenhair fern
Pot: Recycled bamboo

Little Free Library

I don’t take nearly enough walks, but when I do I usually take a picture of something that catches my eye. On recent walk around the SE Division and 50th neighborhood (taken only because my Ethiopian takeout was going to be another 15 minutes), I came upon this:

A Little Free Library box in Southeast Portland

A Little Free Library box in Southeast Portland

Something about the way it’s painted was just so cheerful, that was the picture I took for the walk.

I remember backing a kickstarter project in Brooklyn a few year years ago for a tiny free library project, and certainly I’ve seen little book boxes like this one scattered throughout Portland, but I never really thought about there being an overarching organization. There is, though! Little Free Library is a whole network of people putting book boxes on posts, with around 15,000 in place today. You can buy a pre-assembled box, but boy are they spendy — you could buy a used car for the price of some of them. They also have free plans for some of the models they sell, and you’re free to build a box in whatever style you like, as long as it keeps the rain off the books.

I’m not letting myself start any more projects until I finish unpacking my house and build a driveway ramp so that I can park my car near the house (low-slung hybrids and steep driveways don’t mix well), but I’m thinking that at some point maybe I’ll make a box and join the Little Free Library network in memory of my grandmother, who was the one who taught me to love reading. She went to the library every week and maxed out her card until the day she died, which was about a week after she told my mom that she was ready to die because there was nothing left to read. She hated her name, which was Myrtle, but maybe I could plant some crepe myrtles around the box.

And then I’ll start the book club I’ve always wanted. Not a lively intellectual discussion group, debating the subtext of the imagery inherent in author x’s description of y. No, I would start a Sit Around and Read Book Club, and it would be just like it sounds. Bring a book (or grab one from the box, once it exists!) and sit around and read it. Company + time to just read. The introvert’s party. :)