Friday, December 19, 2003

Bloody Vikings!


On some level, spam e-mail is just like junk mail.  Why can’t people just use their Delete key and get rid of it, just like tossing (or recycling) paper junk mail?  That’s what I do.  (And it doesn’t even waste paper.)

On the other hand, let’s look at some of the negative issues which surround it:
  • There’s an awful lot of it.  I have a half-dozen or more e-mail addresses I deal with every day, and I get a minimum of 50 spam items a day, probably closer to 100.  But I also make use of spam blockers at work and with my home e-mail ISP.  The former blocks maybe a dozen a day, while I check the latter every three weeks and clear out more than 1000 items each time, making for another 50-plus items each day which I don’t have to delete directly.
     
  • I have DSL at home and a LAN at work, so the impact of getting a single spam message — or even a few dozen — is minimal, a matter of seconds to download it all, usually in the background while I do other tasks.  My mother, on the other hand, uses dial-up with a 56K modem, so the impact for her of getting spam is 10 times as much or more.
     
  • Spam items are usually just a text or HTML message, but some contain graphics.  Again, for me with high-speed connections, downloading a 100K spam e-mail is a matter of a few seconds, but for someone on dial-up, it can be a minute or more for each message like that.
     
  • I’m on a lot of e-mail lists and Yahoo! groups, so I get a lot of legitimate e-mail every day, probably 4-5 times as much as the spam I get.  As a result, dealing with the spam is a small part of my e-mail time, especially since I don’t need to reply to them or otherwise deal with them in depth.  If my daily amount of real e-mail was in the range of only a dozen or so items, a couple dozen spam e-mails would drown out and hide the real stuff.
     
  • I’m a very process-oriented person, and I’m quick to pick up on patterns.  (Dealing with a couple hundred e-mails every day, you have to be.)  As a result, I can usually tell just from the subject line that it’s spam and thus never have to open it.  (Anything saying “girls”, “viagra”, “xanax”, or with no subject at all is spam.)  Less savvy people may open every item to be sure it’s not legitimate, and thus take half a minute with each item where I take half a second.
     
  • Many spam items come as HTML with embedded graphics, content which doesn’t come with the e-mail but gets downloaded from a server at open time, just like visiting a web page.  Thus, what takes 2K to download as e-mail can then load hundreds of KB more when you view it, making people wait wait wait that much longer.
     
  • Once the item is in your Inbox, it appears to take the same amount of space as anything else (one line per item), but if you look more closely (and have the mail program UI set to show it), you can see the size listed for each item.  Comparing to junk mail, that would be like seeing your mailbox stuffed with envelopes, but when you pull them out, finding that some have cleverly concealed bricks inside.
     
  • HTML-coded spam sends a request back to a server, especially is the graphics are server based rather than embedded.  That request may be able to carry the e-mail address the message was sent to, and thus just by opening the message to see what it is, you send a message saying “We’ve got a live one!  Send more spam!”
     
  • Paper junk mail is often legitimate on some level: it was sent by a real company which is trying to sell you a real product or service (admittedly, sometimes a scam, but typically real), but they are doing it basically blindly, since they don’t already know you are someone who might be interested.  Some spam is like this, but most has false return addresses, subject lines intended to mislead (not that “check enclosed” or “date-sensitive information” on junk mail aren’t in that class, too; if the envelope says “this is important!”, it probably isn’t), and spam messages point to sites unrelated to what the message is about.
     
  • There’s an awful lot of porn flying about.  Really, my mother isn’t interested in making her penis larger or in seeing Suzy do it with a Great Dane.  (Frankly, neither am I.  I’m gay, not into animals, and my a penis is already long and thick enough, thank you very much.)  Imagine if junk mail delivered by the post office had such text splattered all of the envelope!
In the end, most (99.9%) spam is intended to mislead, to block the ability of ISPs to send and deliver legitimate e-mail, and generally to bring down the infrastructure of the Internet.  Somewhere between malicious and terrorist, frankly.  (Yeah, that last term is extreme, but realize the effect these spammers have.  While not intending to cause fear and terror, they sometimes are attempting to disrupt international communications and destroy legitimate commerce.  That ain’t the equivalent of jaywalking.)

I met one of the spammers (as he called it, “e-mail direct marketing”) who was active around 1997 or so.  He tried to use marketing “Dilbert-isms” to explain why his sending unsolicited and unwanted e-mails was a good thing, but in the end, he was unconvincing: the spammer was just a scammer.  The ones today deserve to have the book thrown at them.  (Make it a heavy one, please.)

[Weblog title reference: Monty Python’s Flying Circus did a sketch involving the breakfast meat SPAM.  It involved Vikings in the background singing about how lovely and wonderful SPAM is, until they get so loud and abundant that they drown out the rest of the sketch.  And thus junk e-mail is called “spam”.]



Updated on November 2, 2010
These days, I’m up to 10 or so e-mail accounts I get mail from every day — different types of messages go to different accounts.  I no longer check the spam filters (my old ISP no longer even makes viewing the filtered spam doable), except at work when I know something I sent there form one of my own accounts didn’t come through.  (Those are usually messages with just a picture or a URL attached — high on the list of potential spam, although of course they aren’t, but the computer can’t reliably know that.)

I removed a bullet point above which implied that virus packages could come with HTML e-mails.  I don’t believe that was ever true.

An additional term has been created for e-mail messages which you in theory expect to get, but which clutter your Inbox because while you want them, you don't want them now: bacn (“bacon”).  Things falling in this class would be Facebook updates, specials from your favorite airline, ads from the candy company you ordered from last Christmas, etc.  (I get at least three a week from Shepler’s western wear, which results in me never reading any of them.  If it was one every two weeks, maybe I would order something, but why would I ever bother with this frequency?  I complained once, but they said they couldn't change the setting.  Really?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Ace in the Hole


I’m sure it’s purely coincidence.

There’s been this rumor for some time that the U.S. government has actually had both Saddam and Osama for a while, just waiting to announce their capture.  And now they have announced that they have caught Saddam.

Since a story like this can be expected to have good for just over a week, the date of Saddam’s capture looks suspicious: twelve days before Christmas and capture on a Saturday ensures that the story keeps hitting strong for the first couple business days following, and then slopes off just right to ensure that people have a good feeling about the conflict and the Troops (and the President, of course) right up to and thus through Christmas.

A few days earlier and there would have been a news focus gap before Christmas during which something anti-Bush could have snuck in.  A few days later, and the media would have had to force the story to die off quickly so as to not impact the feel-good crap that has to be projected for Christmas.  (Can’t have war impact the holidays!)  A few days further yet and it would have had to be reported at Christmas, which would be a double-big no-no.

Okay, fine, so they caught him.  Now would you please get the country stations to stop playing that damn Toby Keith song, “American Soldier”, every time I turn around?  How about a nice piece of Lee Greenwood ├╝ber-patriotism instead?

[Weblog title reference: Hussein was the Ace of Spades in the deck of “most wanted” cards issues by the U.S. military, and Hussein was found in a “spider hole.”  “Ace in the Hole” is a country song by George Strait.]



Updated on October 27, 2010
 

Friday, December 12, 2003

Punishment is a Capital Idea


The Death Penalty has always been one of the more controversial pieces of our penal system.  On some level, it hearkens back to Biblical punishments: “An eye for an eye.”  Some deem it a way of providing closure for victims’ families, especially in light of our system’s parole methods, whereby a killer can sometimes eventually go free before having served an entire term (although they have to convince a board that they have learned their lesson, are sorry, have changed, etc.).

Opponents like to put up four primary arguments against it.
  • First, that we know our system is flawed, and we sometimes unfortunately put innocent people in prison.  And given that that is bad enough, how much worse is it to kill someone for a crime that they did not commit?  This is really the most cogent argument against the death penalty, that it raises major moral and ethical dilemmas.  I tend to think that we should not use it if there is the barest shadow of a doubt; in my college days, I was much more willing to to discard some innocents in the name of disposing of the truly bad ones, but I know more about the real world today.  Fortunately, with DNA evidence techniques and such, we are increasingly able to toss that shadow of a doubt.
     
  • The second standard argument is that European countries have almost to a one done away with the death penalty, and so should we, in order to become more civilized.  Unfortunately, this ignores the question of why the Europeans have discarded it.  I don’t think it is only because they are more “civilized” (whatever that means).  I think that because of their smaller societies, different diversity of populace, language, and thought, different legal structures, and so on, that they simply have a lower incidence of such extreme violent crimes.  (Statistics bear this out, from what I’ve seen.)  As a result, they simply don’t have either the number or percentage of criminals involved in death penalty-level crimes, and thus perhaps less need to deal with them in extreme ways.
     
  • Third is the claim that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.  Hello?  The person (assuming they are actually guilty) killed someone.  (In most cases.  I don’t know that the death penalty is appropriate for violent or serious crimes which don't result in death or maiming.)  I suppose you can argue that some of the death penalty methods (electrocution, hanging) may be more painful than others, and thus more “cruel” (but then again, some death crime methods are also more painful than others), but in the end, the criminal is getting what he or she dished out.
     
  • The fourth — and my “favorite” &mdash argument against the death penalty is that it doesn’t work.  Not that it fails to kill people, but that as a deterrent, it doesn’t work.  Follow that thinking through: despite having the death penalty available as an option (in most states), people still kill, and thus the death penalty doesn’t serve to stop anyone.  Do you see the fallacy in there?  Let’s try it with a different violation of the law and a different penalty.

    There is a fine associated with automobile speeding.  The more you speed, the higher the fine, and it may be increased further in construction zones, school zones, and under other circumstances.  But people still speed, don’t they?  Does that mean that the deterrent of the fine doesn’t work, that the existence of the fine doesn’t stop speeding?  What if the fines were ten times as high: speed and you face a $2000 fine.  Would that stop speeding altogether?  No.  What if the penalty was the extreme: death.  Would no one ever speed again?  Heck no.  What you would find is most people would pay really close attention to their speedometer, and a heck of a lot of people would abandon their cars completely, to prevent the accident.  A small minority would still speed, most of them probably only a little (like many of us do now, 3-5 miles over the speed limit), with the expectation that they would not get caught, or they would be able to legally wrangle themselves out of the extreme punishment.  But so long as there were cars and speed limits, people would do it, no matter what the penalty.
     
So back to the death penalty for capital crimes…?  The question isn’t whether the death penalty is a deterrent at all, it’s whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent. We know there will always be extremists (of whatever stripe) who will commit the crimes.  But will the existence of major penalties slow them down any?  Will it stop any of them?  Has there ever been a single person who, because of the death penalty as a potential result, decided to cool his or her head and thus did not kill someone?  I don’t know, of course, but I sure do believe that it’s likely to have happened at least once, and thus probably actually fairly often.  (On some level, every time you, a non-criminal, give any thought to the penalty, it is doing its job as a deterrent, reminding you of the extreme result that extreme actions can have.)

So then we’re left with the much dicier question: given that the death penalty presumably does act as a deterrent, for some people and in some cases, can we measure how good a job it does?  (I suppose we could try to find similar populations in states which do and do not have the penalty and compare violent crime rates, but I suspect that the cognizance of “There’s no death penalty in this state, they can’t kill me for this crime” really doesn’t enter into things to the degree that “The death penalty means I could get killed for this crime” does.  Even if a given state doesn’t have the penalty, the thought probably is that the country as a whole does, and that’s sufficient.)  And the parallel question: is it possible to shift the way our system operates so that the deterrent of the death penalty is more effective, such that people will both be aware of it and won’t believe that they can get off with a lesser penalty for the crime.

Needless to say, I don’t have an answer for these.  So I’ll just settle for recognizing that the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent is flawed and doing my best to make sure the opponents of it are aware of that.  In my experience, on many social issues, neither proponents nor opponents have genuinely thought through their support/opposition to it; rather, they just parrot a simplistic phrase about the subject that they got from someone else, someone who had an agenda to conflate a deterrent which isn’t 100% effective to one which isn’t effective at all, or someone who is just over the top with regard to punishment in general.



Updated on October 26, 2010
 

Monday, December 8, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Giving Thanks


On Thanksgiving Day, President Bush made a covert visit to Iraq, to have Thanksgiving dinner with a selected group of soldiers.  The event was done under heavy security, apparently with many in the White House itself not aware of what was happening, nor the President’s own family, and only a select group of aides and reporters were taken along.

To hear Talk Radio go on about it for the next few days, you would have thought he bit the head off a puppy on live television.  The lefties ranted about how the event was a superficial photo op, pure politics.  The righties ranted about how Bush was a “stud” for doing this (yes, that term was used) and how the lefties were just trying to co-opt the event.  (And then they went on to decry Hilary Clinton’s trip to Afghanistan as superficial photo op, pure politics.  And the same thing about Howard Dean and his brother’s remains in Laos.)

In reality, they are both right.

We’re less than a year out from the next Presidential election.  Everything that Bush does is geared for maximal political effect.  The administration wants to direct and control the media as much as possible, and to get big impact out of every event they can.  Don’t be surprised to see further big “events” occur every couple months — at Christmas, at Memorial Day, at July 4th — any time that Bush & Co. see their numbers needing to be propped up.  Expect most of these to involve the Troops, which plays to both the pro-War side and the “Support the Troops” folks.

At the same time, everything that the Democrat candidates do is also geared for maximal political effect.  (In the Dean case, the 30th anniversary of the death of his brother was in mid-December, but Thanksgiving week plays better.)  Nothing will be done without the impacts — both Democrat-positive and Republican-negative — being carefully scoped out, maximized or minimized, and targeted to where the largest impact will be.  Expect to also see some attempts by both sides to pre-empt the stunts of the other.

On the other hand, Bush’s visit to the soldiers in Iraq was, without a doubt, the right (ahem) thing to do.  Discarding the political photo op side of things, it was a brave action to visit a strife zone like that, and it is bound to be a morale boost for the Troops, to know that the President is willing to take that sort of an action and show his direct support for them.  (I’ll stop short of calling Bush a “stud”, though.)

(As for Hillary’s visit to the Troops in Afghanistan, some pundits said it was yet another overture on her part to test the waters for a 2004 Presidential bid, but I think that she would need to have declared by now if she was going to do that.  It was definitely a photo op, and arguably a really good thing to do for the morale of the Troops who are being forgotten about in Afghanistan, what with 99.9% of the media focus having turned to Iraq for the past year.  I can’t help wonder, though, if she didn’t somehow get wind of Bush’s trip, and did hers to suck some of the wind from his sails.)



Updated on October 22, 2010
 

Gay Marriage: The Meaning of Massachusetts


I’m on the Legal Marriage Alliance mailing list for Washington State, and after the Massachusetts decision was handed down, someone asked:
If I interpret the decision correctly, in six months time, same-sex couples in Massachusetts will be able to marry.  How does this impact out-of-state couples?
I responded with a number of bullet points, and I’ve added a little more to them here.
  • The court said that not letting same-sex couples marry violates the state constitution and that the legislature has to resolve this in 180 days.  I don’t know what happens if that deadline comes and goes with nothing happening.  Does the court fine the legislature?
     
  • In Vermont, it was “resolve it or create a parallel institution,” and hence “civil unions” were created, but that’s apparently not an option provided here.
     
  • Hawaii and Alaska sidestepped the issue a few years ago by amending their state constitutions.  That evidently takes three years in Massachusetts, while the deadline is six months.  An amended constitution could happen anyway, but with a gap where same-sex
    marriage is legal.  Every year it takes will surely work in our favor.
     
  • Assuming things do progress as we would hope, this directly affects only couples who reside in Massachusetts, as the state can only grant the benefits that the state has power over.  But it’s a stepping stone to insisting on those benefits elsewhere.
     
  • According to an Associated Press piece (no longer available at the original site), Massachusetts state law doesn’t allow non-residents to marry there if their marriage would not be legal in the state where they live.  A little web research indicates that there is no basic residency requirement.  Given that such legal here/not legal there marriages have not been an issue for decades, this may be a law dating to miscegenation times (or earlier).  If this law is still on the books, it’s not clear what value or legal weight it has beyond being a stop sign to convince couples to not get married in Massachusetts.  In particular, does it have any effect when Massachusetts residents marry and then move elsewhere?
     
  • The Massachusetts marriage issue itself is not something which should go to the Supreme Court, as Massachusetts’ definition of marriage is limited to Massachusetts.  What would go to the Supreme Court is someone being denied marriage benefits in another state when they are married in Massachusetts, via a violation of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution.  Framed in terms of whether a marriage in one state should be recognized in another, regardless of who the married people are, that’s the same thing that the Supreme Court has already ruled on decades ago, regarding miscegenation (inter-racial marriages) and should be a win for us.  (But it ain’t over ’til the fat Justice sings.)
     
  • One potential outcome of this is likely to be a national hodgepodge: some states allowing the marriages, all states being forced to grant the benefits.  That might take decades to resolve to where the marriages could be legally done in every state.
I’ve often personally wondered why the religion card has never been played on the gay side of this puzzle before.  If MCC marries a same-sex couple, then DOMA and other laws are Freedom of Religion violations (“Congress shall make no law…”) in refusing to recognize those marriages and give the benefits accruing to them.  (Of course, non-religious performed marriages would not be covered, so it’s not a slam dunk for everyone.)



Updated on October 21, 2010
Indeed, some of that “hodgepodge” has become the case now, several years later.  Some states recognize same-sex marriages done in other states despite not being willing to do them directly.  In other cases, states which do not recognize same-sex marriages have refused to grant same-sex divorces (since that would mean tacitly “recognizing” some legitimacy of the marriage, but at the same time, Massachusetts will not do a divorce unless the couple (or at least one member) resides in the state and has for at least a year, leaving those couples high and dry.

The “religion card” idea is still untested, so far as I know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Whacko Jacko


In the long run, I don’t care if he did it.  [He = Michael Jackson.  It = sexually molest young boys.]  But some of the media hoo-hah surrounding it this time brings up some things worth commenting on.
  • Is the investigation racially motivated?

    Pfft.  I rather doubt it.  Everything negative involving a black man is not racist.  Get off the cross, we need to burn it.  [For the sarcasm impaired, yes, that last comment is intended as a tasteless joke.]  However, it’s worth noting that since there are fewer famous blacks than famous whites in this country, we do tend to pay more attention to the stories involving famous blacks, and thus the media may give us more of what we pay more attention to.  So while I don’t think the investigation is racially motivated, the media attention may be, indirectly.
     
  • Is this an attack on Michael himself?

    Well, sort of.  But less because he’s famous than because he’s eccentric.  Oh, and because rumors and full-on investigations about exactly this have swirled around the guy for over a decade.  Let’s face it, Mikey: it’s not like no one ever imagined that you might have done this before.
     
  • Why does this happen when he has a new record release?

    Is this taking advantage of Jackson’s other current media attention to get this higher play?  Or the conspiratorial reverse, is this intended to distract attention from his new record and damage his sales?  These questions play into both the racial and personal attack screeds.  Frankly, when I heard that the police search of the Neverland Ranch occurred while Michael was in Las Vegas shooting a new video, it seemed apparent that the investigation probably was timed… to be done while Michael was out of town and couldn’t interfere with the search than to specifically target his fame.
     
  • And finally, did he do it?

    It’s really tempting to say “Yes, of course, I always knew he was a pervert,” but what we “know” is largely innuendo and supposition and accusation, all supported by a media who would love to crucify him (there’s that cross thing again!).  Him or anyone else equally famous they could dig at.

    On the other hand, Jackson has enough eccentricities that it could be just one more.  Maybe this all truly is a fabrication of a sex-crazed media, and he really does love (platonically) children and wants to embrace his inner child so very dearly (perhaps in response to his own media-stolen childhood), and thus when he “sleeps” with kids he really does just sleep with them, cuddling them like teddy bears.  And nothing else.



Updated on October 19, 2010
And as of summer 2009, we will perhaps never really know.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Gay Marriage: Marital Misdirection


The opposition to same-sex marriage is composed of almost exclusively misdirection.  In the end, there are no rational reasons for the opposition, only emotional ones, and thus the arguments put forward are typically intended not to counter same-sex marriage but to derail the discussion, driving it off course and getting it stuck in a swamp.

First is the partial misnomer, “gay marriage.”

The proper term is “same-sex marriage.”  To call it exclusively “gay” is a convenient shorthand, but it also allows (even encourages) the discussion to focus exclusively on the male-male side of the question, and thus male-male sex, which is a subject which squicks a lot of straight America (certainly more than are squicked by girl-on-girl sex).  In focusing on the male component, it also thus renders half or more of the marriage seekers somewhat invisible — and its those “invisible” ones who are often in the most stable relationships and thus more likely to be raising children within their relationships.  And speaking of “invisible”, let’s not forget the bisexual men and women who might be in a longterm same-sex relationship: just because you can’t visually tell whether they are exclusively homosexual doesn’t mean that they are.

(Even more proper a term is “same-sex civil marriage”, which takes the religion component out of the picture.  So long as the government certifies marriages for opposite sex couples without requiring a religious component, religion doesn’t deserve any say into whether government can do the same for same-sex couples.)

Second is the “slippery slope” argument.

If same-sex marriage is approved, won’t that lead to triad (or more-ad) marriages, to intra-family (mother/son or sister/brother) marriages, to adult/child marriages, or to human/animal marriages?  The answer to this is that those questions are different from (but parallel to) the same-sex marriage question.  One type of marriage will not automatically lead to another type, just as mixed-race marriages didn’t lead to other changes when they became fully legal, nearly 40 years ago.  The laws which specifically prohibit same-sex marriages (DOMA, et al) don’t address these other types of relationships, and there are already separate laws relating to those which don’t touch on the same-sex issue.

The opposition likes to put this strawman up as a question to same-sex marriage proponents: “Well, if gay marriage is accepted, what will you say to the man who wants to marry his sheep?”  The best answer is “I don’t care.  That’s a different type of marriage.  Let him fight his own battle.”  Keep the discussion properly and narrowly focused.

On the other hand, maybe same-sex marriage would lead to other marriage shifts, but in a completely different way.  (And by extension, the mixed-race marriage issue may be a lead-in to same-sex marriage after all.)  Without passing judgment on any given type of relationship where those involved might like it to be a full-fledged marriage, we see in both the mixed-race and same-sex cases that some of the laws governing them were (are) regressive, hateful, and downright wrong.  Once we take the time to examine those laws closely and see them for being the bogus laws they are, we may also find that other laws governing other sorts of relationships are equally as regressive, hateful, and wrong, and thus also need to be changed.  (Or we may not.  I don’t foresee marriage being approved for those who cannot give informed consent, such a children and animals.  But that’s merely one example, and there are many other laws relating to such relationships.)

Third is the “marriage is for procreation” argument.

There is absolutely nothing about procreation itself which is improved by the presence of a formalized bonding of exactly two opposite sex, unrelated people; the wife is not more fertile as a result, nor is the man’s sperm more aggressive.  And there is nothing about marriage which requires that progeny result from the union.  This is actually a confusion of procreation with heredity.  Procreation is deemed to be best when it occurs within marriage because then the spouses have better control over one another (more specifically: the husband knows who the wife is having sex with), and thus the line of descent (and of inheritance) is made clear.  In the end, ensuring proper inheritance is a goal of both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.

(Note that this does not make any statement about the raising of children by anyone.  I’ll discuss my thoughts on that at some point.  The stated opposition here is only about procreation, so that’s all I am addressing in my counter-argument.)

Fourth is the “thousands of years of tradition” argument.

These traditions never actually applied to exclusively “one woman and one man,” because two of a single gender just wasn’t a social option.  When society is unable to conceive of the existence of homosexual people, much less of ongoing relationships between such people, society doesn’t have rituals which apply to such people and situations.  Let’s face it: society changes over time, and when it does, so do its traditions.  Holding to “thousands of years of tradition” would have our sailing vessels never leaving sight of land.  It would have us using human and animal power for all our transportation needs.  It would have our systems of government be non-democratic monarchies.  It would have us treating women and children as property.  It would feature multiple wives for each man.  It would have us worshipping a multitude of different gods.  It would have us huddled in caves, painting on walls.



Updated on November 11, 2003

Updated on October 14, 2010
Added bit about “same-sex civil marriage’.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Pick a Number, Any Number


You know what annoys me?  (This week, anyway.)  The abuse and misuse of math, specifically in number metaphors.

Lately, I’ve been hearing an add for Seattle-area car dealership Carter Subaru which claims that they are in the Top Three (which means they are #3, because otherwise they would say they are #1 or #2) out of 500-and-some dealership teams in the nation in sales.  All well and good.  Then they go on to brag at least twice in the commercial about how proud they are to be in the top 99.5% of the sales teams in the nation.  SCREEEECCHHH!  Everybody except the bottom 3 or so would be in the top 99.5%; it’s nothing to be proud of.  (What they really mean is that they are in the 99.5th percentile.  Ah, the subtlety of a single syllable.)

Twice in the past month or so, I’ve seen misuse of “360 degrees”.  Once was in The Stranger, comparing something to a drag queen making a 360-degree spin on one heel and going the other way, and once was in the Seattle Gay News (never noted for their skillful editing anyway) about Mary J. Blige’s latest album being a 360-degree change from her previous one.  (Unfortunately, web searches won’t bring up either reference.)  Girls, “360 degrees” is a full circle; you can’t go the other way out of a 360-degree spin, and a 360-degree change means that Blige’s latest album is no different from the previous one!  (What they both meant, of course, was 180 degrees.)

In the same vein, but not using numbers per se, are Disneyland references to when they used to use ticket books for the rides rather than an all-day pass.  (They changed around 1980, I think.  I had been to Disneyland maybe a dozen times as a kid, and I recall being enthused about not having to have a ticket book when I went to Dollywood in 1979.  We had a simple pass when we went to Disneyland again in 1982 or so.)  The ticket books featured A Tickets, B Tickets, and so on up to E Tickets, each type being good for a different class of rides.  The really cool ones (the Matterhorn Bobsleds and such) were E Ticket rides (and you never got enough of those tickets in the booklet!), while the A Tickets were the extremely tame rides like the King Arthur Carousel and Sleeping Beauty Castle.  Today, 20-plus years from the end of the ticket books (and even a decade ago, only 10-plus years out, when I wrote one of my earliest letters of comment on the subject), people forget this and they assume that “A” was the best thing, perhaps like getting grades in school.  And thus, when someone refers in print to some experience being “a real ‘A Ticket’ ride,” I can only roll my eyes and bitch quietly to myself.



Updated on November 23, 2003

Updated on October 13, 2010
According to the tickets shown on this site, Sleeping Beauty Castle was a C Ticket in 1957, reduced to a B Ticket in 1959.

This site indicates it as an A Ticket in 1972; I would have been at Disneyland as early as 1969 (age 3).

Thursday, October 23, 2003

It’s Not Easy Being Green


When I still lived in California, up through November 2000, I was registered with the Green Party.  That wasn’t necessarily because I agreed with all of their platforms and directions — it worries me when someone says they do agree with everything some person or group says or does — although I did agree with a fair number of them.  In part, it was to keep the Democrat Party off my back: as a donor to gay causes but not registered with any party, I got way too many presumptuous mailings from them.  Mostly, though, it was to help ensure that there was some added variety in the California electoral process, something beyond the double-headed coin of Republicans and Democrats we usually had.

(Now living in Washington, I’m not registered with any party.)

In the 2000 Presidential election, I did not vote Green.  In the primary, I voted for McCain.  At one time, California had an open primary, where anyone could vote for any candidate, but the state had recently (after a court challenge) shifted to a semi-open primary, where anyone could vote for anyone, but only the registered Republican votes counted for the Republicans (and so on).  This is probably a good thing for the parties, especially in states which lean heavily to one side of the coin: if enough Democrats (and Greens and Independents and…) wanted to in the previous system, they could have thrown the state primary to McCain rather than Bush (and left the core Demos to nominate Gore, already a foregone conclusion); with a state like California, this could have tilted the entire national scene.  So that option precluded (alas), I still voted for McCain in the primary as an “advisory” vote, a note to the state party and others that a heck of a lot of people who weren’t registered Republicans (for whatever reasons) still cared enough to send a message that McCain and his policies were preferable to Bush’s, in the hope this might end up coloring the national platform beneficially.

(Update: The down side to this is that if your party had no one running for an office, or if you weren’t registered for a party at all, you ended up with no vote in the primary at all, even if you actually favored one party or another.  This has the bonus effect of convincing people not to vote in the primary at all, since not being able to vote for some of the races lessens your interest in voting for any of them.  Variations of the “blanket” primary are still an option in some states, including Washington.  You apparently have the option of choosing a singe party slate to vote for the in the primary.  That is, if you pre-choose the Democrat slate, you only get to vote for Democrats in all pertinent races on the ballot, even if you are registered Republican; you don’t get to choose from all the candidates, but you at least get to choose in some fashion.)

Come the general election in 2000, I ran scared.  I voted for Gore rather than Nader.  I didn’t think Gore was a better candidate than Nader, but I knew Nader could not win and I was scared that Bush might in California (and thus nationally) if Gore didn’t get enough votes.

So now we turn to Florida in 2000, where the popular vote was close enough to cause recounts and grudge-holding and claims of election theft years later, and where the small percentage of Green voters, had they voted for Gore instead (they sure wouldn’t have voted for Bush to any significant degree!), would have solved the whole matter and kept Bush out of the White House.

Thus the question: Should the Democrats blame Nader and the Green Party for Bush winning the White House?

And then the answer: No.  They should blame themselves.  If anything, the Democrats deserved to have 3% or so of the electorate (6% of their base; the most progressive, extreme, and dedicated-to-their-ideals portion) pulled away from their voting bloc.  One of the most depressing facets of the 2000 campaign wasn’t that Bush beat Gore, but that Gore and Bush were the best candidates either party could put forward.  (If nothing else, that should shine a light on the folly that is an automatic granting of Chosen Candidate status to the incumbent Vice-President.  The only thing worse than Gore in that regard would have been Quayle!)  If the Democrats could not offer up a decent candidate, one who could overcome the inadequacies of Bush with a loss of just 3% of the voters — less than that, given the small number which Buchanan pulled away from Bush — then perhaps the Democrats truly didn’t deserve to win.  They made the bed, but we all have to lie in it.

And there’s a corollary: The Greens need to pay attention as well.  Nader was never electable; no one will seriously claim he was, no projections would have ever given him more than a tiny percentage of the votes (enough to affect the overall outcome but not to win himself).  With the result of Bush winning — someone even further from their position than Gore — Greens who voted for Nader in Florida (and anywhere else where the vote was very close) should be taking cold comfort in the idea that by holding to their ideals, they allowed Bush to win.

Ideals are great things to have, but they are even better to have when the country is in a state where you can enjoy them.

[Weblog title reference: “It’s Not Easy Being Green” was a song sung by Kermit the Frog.]



Updated on November 21, 2003

Updated on October 12, 2010
Washington eventually changed its primary structure (via a popular vote) to a “Top Two” primary: voters get to choose from all candidates, and the top two vote getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.  This had the political parties completely up in arms, because it meant that a strongly liberal or conservative district could promote two candidates from the same party, if they both got more votes than the others, locking one major party completely out of some races.

(In theory, in a strongly leaning district, this meant that second-tier parties could actually make it to the general election as one of the only two choices.  Voters willing to gamble could even throw their votes away from a sure thing primary winner onto a lesser party to try and block the other major party from getting to the general election at all.)

They took this to the state supreme court, claiming that the primary wasn’t about narrowing the field, it was about the party selecting its candidate — and thus the whole bit about having to chose a party ballot and only being able to opt for candidates from that party.  As I recall, the supreme court said that the political parties were right, but then it got appealed back to the national Supreme Court who said, “Nope, the voters get the sort of election they want” and tossed things back to a Top Two status.  There was something about Montana-style (fully open) and Louisiana-style primaries (top two) in there, too, but I’m not going to bother looking up the details.  Okay, I did look up a little.

Fallout from this meant that candidates in partisan races had to declare a party, but they didn’t have to hew to Democrat/Republican/Green/etc.  So we got some Repulicans in the 2008 election listing themselves a Conservative party or GOP party or other things intended to distance themselves a bit from the blackball word of “Republican”.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Who cares what mLife is?


A couple years ago, there were billboard ads all over the place, asking “What is mLife?”, but never cluing you into what the product or service or whatever was.  After seeing the umpteenth billboard ad — actually, after seeing probably the third one — I stopped caring.  If they couldn’t bother to tell me, I sure couldn’t bother to buy their service.  (Apparently, it was merely a wireless phone service from AT&T.  Big whoop.)

A couple years before that, I saw a couple billboards in the Bay Area, black text on white, saying “Protect me from what I want.”  Again, no information about what comp nay took out the ads, what the product or service was, whether it was a political statement, and so on.  (A web search on the phrase today finds dozens of sites with lyrics from the band Placebo, but not much beyond that.)

The Seattle gay bar C.C. Attle’s reframed part of itself a couple years ago as “The Men’s Room.”  They led off the remodel with a series of ads in the local gay newspaper, asking “Where is the Men’s Room?”, two or three small display ads per weeks for three months or so.  For the first couple weeks, it was cute — “It’s down the hall and to the left!” — but it quickly grew stale as the weeks dragged by.  (“If you can’t find the Men’s Room by now, just pee in the damn bushes!”)

Currently, there are a series of billboards and bus ads up around Seattle with the tagline “Five As One.”  They feature body parts — an eye, a hand, the x-ray of a foot — split vertically into five strips and reassembled, each one coming from a different person, usually each one from a different race than the one next to it.  Is this a race relations thing?  (Let’s see: white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American…?)  Based on the x-ray, is it something medical, maybe a uniting of five hospitals?  Is it a new nightclub, or somebody’s new wireless plan?  Since there is a city election coming up, does it have to do with the five City Council positions which are not up for election?  Beats the hell out of me: as with the other ad campaigns, not one whit of guiding information on the ads, and even when I go to Google to search on key phrase, nothing comes up pointing to the ads.

(Update: They are apparently ads for the Seattle Supersonics pro basketball team, as one of the billboards — but only one that I’ve seen — now has a Sonics logo on it.  The others are still without any identifying logo or text.  Here’s an article about the ad campaign.)

I suppose you can make an argument that on some level, ad campaigns like this work, since I remember them even years later.  On the other hand, I only remember them because they annoy the fuck out of me and pretty much ensure that I will have nothing to do with the product or service.  Having your ads remembered only so that people avoid the products doesn’t seem like the best tactic.  (Exception: I do go to C.C. Attle’s — aka the Men’s Room — once every three or four months.  The ads didn’t drive me away, but they certainly didn’t bring me in, either.  I go to bars in other states [and countries!] more often than I go to the Men’s Room.)



Updated on November 21, 2003

Updated on October 11, 2010
Still no luck on the “Protect me from what I want” campaign.  The world may never know.

C.C. Attle’s closed on September 30.  They have allegedly signed a new lease for a location on Olive Way, hoping to be reopened by the end of the year.  We shall see.

Guess the “Five As One” ads didn’t salvage things for the Sonics.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Do You Know about the Purple Pill?


Neither do I.  But I sure hear about it on the radio.  The latest commercials feature someone who interrupts the chatter of a cocktail party or similar event with the question: “Do you know about the purple pill?” The conversation thuds to a stop, as though people are looking at the guy, wondering “Who the fuck is this idiot?”, and then gradually comes back to normal.

In comparison, their previous radio commercial pretended to interview people on the street, all of whom just glowed about how their lives had changed since they found the purple pill.  With both commercials, listeners are then directed to ask their doctors if the purple pill is right for them.

Note that at no time do they offer one whit of information as to what the “purple pill” (brand name: Nexium, chemical name: esomeprazole magnesium) is for.  Depression?  HIV?  Weight loss?  Birth control?  Diabetes?  Puts hyperactive kids into a comatose state?

So I took the bait, and switched.  I asked my doctor if he gets a lot of people asking about the “purple pill”.  He told me yes, and he really dislikes it.  (He doesn’t hate the pill, he hates the marketing message: ask your doctor if random drugs are what you need, whether you even have a problem or not.)

Not that this marketing misbehavior is limited to the marketers of Nexium).  There was a big flak a few years ago with HIV medications which showed the people allegedly taking them doing things like climbing mountains, implying that result for taking their drugs, when more likely would be simply being able to get out of bed and maybe work again.  Since then, I saw an ad for a drug where the ad was a rose in a pair of hands (echoing some Buddhist imagery, I believe), the name of the drug, and the direction to ask your doctor.  By the ad’s placement in a gay bar, I presume it was an HIV medication, but there was no indication of that on the ad itself.

On the side, while discussing people panicking about mystery diseases, I do recommend the comic book (formerly a comic strip, but editorial hassles got too much for the artist) “Liberty Meadows” by Frank Cho.  Among the cast of characters is Leslie, the hypochondriac bullfrog, who periodically goes to the doctor/vet complaining of a host of imagined ailments.  My favorite strip was when he was asked what he was suffering from, and Leslie (who is male) replied, “ovarian cyst.”



Updated on September 13, 2010
 

Monday, September 22, 2003

Come Out to the Regal Beagle


Move over, Will & GraceQueer as Folk be damned.  Bury Six Feet Under and tell no more Tales of the City.  The most influential television show in terms of gay rights was Three’s Company.

In case you don’t recall, the original premise of the show was that the only way for Jack to share the apartment with Chrissy and Janet was for him to pose as gay, and thus was someone who would not be a “risk” to the pair of single women.  (As I recall, it was upstairs neighbor Larry who came up with the idea.)  Jack thus had to play gay — which means John Ritter had to play straight playing gay, an echo of Victor, Victoria — while around Mr. Roper, the landlord, while also pursuing the life of a swinging single guy in the 1970s.

Today, of course, we tend to dismiss the show as perpetuating ugly stereotypes, but for the time, this was pretty groundbreaking.  The plotline wasn’t used every episode, and my memory says it was pretty much forgotten after the first season, resurrected for a bit when Don Knotts came on as the fey new landlord.  But just the fact that “gay” was used with any regularity at the time is impressive.  And although played for laughs, “gay” Jack was still accepted and treated as a whole person by his friends and neighbors.

In other words, Jack Tripper was one of the formative influences in my gay identity.  I wish it hadn’t taken John Ritter’s death to make me realize it, though.  I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for the man in the past few days, thanks to this realization.

I’m also struck by the idea that Three’s Company is ripe for being remade into a new sitcom today.  (Three’s Company II, bouncing off the line from the old theme song?  [Track 36 on this album])  There are a number of twists which could be done, most obviously being to make Jack be gay playing straight (rather than the original reverse).  Or maybe Janet and Chrissy are a lesbian couple and Jack’s a straight boy.  Or move a single straight girl in with a gay male couple: Jackie, Jon, and Chris?

[Weblog title reference: The Regal Beagle was the local bar in Three’s Company.]



Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on September 10, 2010
Added links.

Victor, Victoria is from after Three’s Company, so it wouldn't have been an influence on the show, but it is a remake of a German film from the 1930s.  The American musical version of La Cages aux Folles also post-dates the TV show, although the play and film it was based on are from the 1970s.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Less Ovaltine, Please!


Several years ago at work, not having milk (much less Half-n-Half) available, repulsed by the idea of all the chemicals which go into “International Delight” (and such) creamers, and even more repulsed by Cremora and Coffeemate powdered chemical creamers (Cremora: doesn't that have the same root as “cremation”? — ewww!), I figured out that I could get my desired milk solids and sugars into my coffee by using instant cocoa packets instead, making for a creamy, sweet, yummy beverage.

I call it “Focha”, short for “Faux Mocha.”  Hmm, I think I need my afternoon focha right now, in fact…

Ah, that’s better.  Focha is also a great room odorizer.  You’ve never heard so many people say “What is that?  It smells good!”

This week, one of my co-workers offered me chocolate milk out of a carton to put in my coffee instead.  I’m sure it would have been fine, but I haven’t had chocolate milk out of a carton or a machine since college, 15+ years ago.  The Student Union cafeteria had big milk machines where you held a glass under a spigot and pulled a lever to dispense from what must have been a big plastic sack of milk inside. Once, I was getting chocolate milk from the thing and it went SPLORP!, belching out pudding-consistency milk into my glass, which came out so suddenly that I dropped the glass, which broke on the floor and sprayed me with dollops of milk pudding.

Later that same year, I got chocolate milk in a carton: I opened it, took a sip, and gagged on the half-congealed stuff contained inside.  You can see why I prefer to mix my own from Quik! powder (hmm, now just called “Nesquik”, much less enticing), where I get to see the milk first.  (Now, I’m sure these sorts of things could happen with regular milk, too, but they’ve never happened to me thus far.  Knock on waxed carton.)

As for Ovaltine, can’t stand the stuff, not since the first time I had it around age 10.  It may be chock full of vitamins and other good things, but Ovaltine vs. Quik! is like carob vs. chocolate.  (As the old line goes: “Carob works on the principle that, mixed with enough fat and sugar, it can approximate the taste of chocolate.  Of course, the same thing can be said of dirt.”)

[Weblog title reference: “More Ovaltine, please!” is the catchphrase for that foul chocolate milk powder.]



Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on September 9, 2010
Added links and Cremora comment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — Pick a Card, Any Card


I used a Bank of America ATM machine today and was struck by how bad the user interface was.

First Question: What is the most common thing you do at the ATM?  That’s right: you get money.  You make a withdrawal.  So after you insert your card and enter your PIN, you are presented with a list of 8 or 10 different activities you can do, and where is the “Withdraw Cash” item?  In the upper left, as the first item in the list, so it’s very easy to find?  Hell no!  Bank of America sticks it in the middle of the right hand column, the hardest place for you to find it!

Second Question: What do you want to do after you get your money?  That’s right: you want to leave.  You want to grab the money and go to the bar, go meet your date, go do Christmas shopping.  What you don’t want to do is answer more questions.  No, I don’t want another transaction, just give me the damn card back!

So Bank of America designed their ATMs to make it hard for you to find the action you want, frustrating to conclude your action, and prone to leaving your card in the machine and your account wide open.  (After all, they gave you the money, so you may take it and leave, not realizing that you haven’t got your card back yet.)  Sure, use their ATM enough times and you will learn where everything is, but hey, rearrange the furniture at random enough times and you’ll learn not to walk around with the lights off, too.

Compare to the Wells Fargo ATMs.  They put the withdrawal item in the upper left, the first item that you read.  And when you make the withdrawal, they first pop your card out, forcing you to take it (and hopefully put it in your wallet) before they give you your money.  The downside to this is that it forces you into a particular workflow — always do any cash withdrawal last — but this isn’t an especially painful one (since you’ll typically be checking balances and transferring money and making deposits before taking money out anyway), and for the most common use of the system, it is very efficient.



Updated on July 9, 2004
Remixed into Weblog
Updated on September 9, 2010
Some ATMs have improved over the years.  Most of the Chase ATMs don’t hold onto your card at all; you insert it and then remove it, so it never leaves your hand.  They don’t limit you to doing a cash withdrawal only at the end of the process, but require a new entry of the PIN to go and do another action; while this can be annoying at times, the trade off is worth it, since you can do other activities after, or you can just leave without leaving your account open for the next person in line to loot.

However, the Withdrawal button is buried in the right-hand column of actions.  (I think; must verify.)

Monday, September 15, 2003

Voting: Scylla and Charybdis


Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 16) is election day in Seattle, with four City Council seats up for election, plus county council, port commissioner, and school board seats.

We also have two ballot items which have finally (for good or for ill) drawn some attention away from the California Governor’s Circus.  One will make personal-use marijuana possession enforcement the lowest priority for the police department.  (Which is about as close to legalization as can be managed at this time.)  The other, truly bizarre one is a 10 cent-per-cup tax on espresso drinks, with the tax monies going to fund child care programs.  (What espresso consumption has to do with child care is unclear, but this is definitely a tax on the rich rather than the poor; it takes a certain income level to warrant spending $3 on a cup of fancy coffee.)

I’m reminded once again about the true purpose of voting, of choosing one person over another.  The purpose isn’t to choose the best person for the job.  (The best person usually isn’t running, or if he/she is, it’s from a party or position that is unelectable.  Witness the 2000 Presidential Election.  Regardless of who won or should have won, neither Bush nor Gore was anywhere near the “best” person for the job.  I still can’t decide if I’m more surprised that Bush was the best thing the Republicans could put forward, or that Gore couldn’t beat the socks off him.)

The purpose in voting isn’t to choose the one who is in favor of your pet issue, either.  If you vote purely on single-issue grounds, whether that is gay rights or gun control or school prayer or abortion or the Middle East Peace Process, then you are ignoring the rest of the picture.  While that person may be spot on for one thing, they could be all over the board for others.

No, the purpose in voting is to choose the person who will do your issues (plural) the least amount of harm.  That is, the person who, in pursuing agenda items you are in favor of, won’t also pursue lesser ones you despise, or won’t ignore lesser ones you also favor.

So what will it be: The Devil or the Deep Blue Sea?

(For President, I’m currently leaning toward Howard Dean, but there are still months to go before I have to make a choice.  Of course, he’s the only candidate that the right-wing talk shows seem to be paying attention to, so he’s probably a pretty good choice.)

[Weblog title reference: Scylla and Charybdis are from Greek mythology, a sea monster and a whirlpool guarding the Strait of Messia.]



Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on September 8, 2010
Added links.

Pity that Dean self-destructed — rather, that the media screwed him over — due to a hoarse voice and a sensitive microphone.

Curious: I always understood that “the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” was a reference to Scylla and Charybdis — the monster vs. the whirlpool — but the Wikipedia entries don’t confirm that.
Updated on September 14, 2010
Found an old David Horsey cartoon on the outcome of the pot-and-coffee votes:

Sunday, September 14, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — Everything’s a Dollar


Back in 1979, the United States decided to do away with the old Silver Dollar coins, and introduced the Susan B. Anthony coin (the one on the left).  The coin quickly failed to catch on, and the bulk of the reasons for failure are obvious.  The coin was almost the same size as the quarter, and it was the same color.  This made it hard to pick out as separate in a handful of change.  (In comparison, the old 50 cent piece was larger than this dollar coin, and the silver dollar had been larger still.  [Here’s a Wikipedia page showing the sizes.])  The Susan B. Anthony dollar also had a nice 12-sided shape stamped into the coin, but the coin was (foolishly) left round rather than using the angular shape as the edge of the coin, which would have allowed it to be differentiated by feel.  In fact, this dollar coin even had the same grooved edge as the quarter.

(Conspiracy-minded folks would say that these similarities were intentional, ensuring that the coin would fail.  That the coin also had a woman on it, and not just any woman but a major feminist symbol, surely adds to the conspiracy “proof”.  Less conspiracy-minded folks note that stores have a set layout for the coins and bills in their cash registers and thus don’t have an empty slot waiting to fill with dollar coins.  Or $2 bills.)

In 2000, the US Mint gave another run at a dollar coin.  This one, featuring Sacagawea, was the same size as the previous one, but with its smooth edge and gold tint, it was able to avoid much of the problems built into the previous coin: you could sort of tell it apart from the quarter by feel, and there was no problem by sight.  It still failed, though.  (And it still had a woman on it…)

Somehow, the Canadians have been successful with their dollar coin (the Loonie): it is slightly larger than our dollar coins, and it has a beveled edge.  And their two dollar coin (the Toonie) has a gold circle embedded in the silver: you can tell it apart even in a dimly lit bar.  (Of course, having a woman — the Queen — on their coins is not going to be a problem.)

With the Sacagawea coin, I am told that the intent was to have it replace the $1 bill, much like the Canadians did in 1989.  One bar in Chicago was giving them out rather than bills for change when I was there in November 2000.  (I winkingly accused them of doing it to boost bartender tips, since people often just dump their change into a jar without counting it closely.)  The replacement effort failed or was abandoned, or perhaps never was more than a rumor; it’s hard to imagine it would actually succeed in this country.

Today, pretty much the only place you can get these coins is in post office vending machines, whenever your change would be more than a dollar. (When it’s less than a dollar, the change all seems to come in nickels: not even dimes, and certainly no quarters.)



Updated on July 9, 2004
Remixed into Weblog
Updated on September 8, 2010
Added links, made other revisions

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Letter of Comment
    — Why So Negative?


Here’s my latest published letter to the editor, to the Seattle Gay News, in the September 5 issue (2nd letter, 2nd column [no longer available online]):
Why so negative about gay marriage?

Marriage: the uniting of two people in love via a public ceremony.

Is it my imagination, or do the gay arguments against gay marriage always boil down to “I’m single” and “Don’t rock the boat?”  That’s what comes across from Jason Fleetwood-Boldt (“Gay marriage isn’t necessarily the next step for Queer nation”) and Hastings Wymann (“Capital Letters — Gay marriage: Gain or pain?”) in your August 22 issue.

Fleetwood-Boldt covers his complaints in a veneer of “Why should we want gay marriage when marriage itself is such a bad thing?”  He then goes on to say nothing that is bad about marriage itself, just about the legal benefits that our society attaches only to marriage.  While he’s right that it would be good to apply many of those benefits to a broader spectrum of people, their attachment to marriage doesn’t mean that marriage itself is flawed, or even tarnished.  In other words, he has some beef with marriage that he can’t express with a logical argument, so he has to toss rocks from a distance.  Only he can say what exactly that issue might be, but I’ve seen other cases where it boils down to the person bad-mouthing marriage solely because he has no marriage-type romance prospects on the horizon.

Wymann’s piece is, if possible, worse.  His argument against gay marriage is that it might shake things up.  If gays and lesbians got married, they might move in with each other, settle down, have fewer sexual partners, raise kids and become pillars of the community.  They might even gain the respect of straight couples.  And (gasp!) they might even on occasion break up and have to go through the same messy things straight couples do!  “Don’t rock the boat,” Wymann might have said at Stonewall.  “Just let the police do their raids and we’ll all be just fine.”

Gays who don’t want to get married don’t want resources expended on gay marriage.  Ones who don’t like the army don’t want us to waste time on gays in the military.  The ones who ditched the church want to ignore gays in the priesthood.  Those who don’t want kids don’t want to give to funds which fight for gay adoption rights.  If it’s not something potentially fatal to every one of us — AIDS — then we’ve got naysayers wanting to distance themselves from it and in the process distance us all from it.

God forbid that we as a community should seek something which we as individuals don’t immediately need for ourselves.  Because after all, if it isn’t for Me Me Me then it’s not worth it.
(With slight edits to remove the SGN’s forced capitalization of “gay” and “lesbian”.)

The SGN doesn’t have the two articles referred to on their web site, but here are links to them elsewhere:
Click here for Jason Fleetwood-Boldt’s “Gay Marriage Isn’t Necessarily The Next Step for the Queer Nation” (from Fleetwood-Boldt’s own website).  [No longer available online]

Click here for Hasting Wymann’s “Gay marriage: Gain or pain?” (courtesy of the archives of the Texas Triangle).  [No longer available online]


Updated on September 7, 2010
The SGN archive now only goes back to 2005.
Jason Fleetwood-Boldt’s website is defunct.
The Texas Triangle (and its archives) is defunct.

Boy, you can’t get a historical trace on this stuff at all!

Monday, September 1, 2003

I Hate My Job II


(This follows up on an earlier item.  Read it here.)

Well, I hate my job less these days.  We finally got to the stage where the software was actually working well enough to test (after they dropped a bunch of features), which means my ratings look a lot better because I can actually do something.  I’m also getting a lot less flak from my manager.

But I also got crappy results from my review.  The review was good — not stellar, but above average.  But when I got transferred to this project, the company apparently downgraded my job classification without telling me (or my new manager).  The result being that for my pretty good review, my raise was going to be a pay cut.  They apparently had to push it all the way up to the CEO, saying “You don’t do this to someone with ten years seniority” in order to make my raise be absolutely nothing instead.  Which means I’ve now had a 2% raise in the space of two years.  (Which isn’t great for retaining employees.)

I’ve been pretty scared for my job for a couple months, though.  Our company has gotten in the habit (if twice can be considered such) of doing layoffs in Q4.  It’s a great way to shore up the bottom line at the end of the year, by taking 10% of the people off the books.  That’s how I got on this project, by being “reallocated” rather than being “reduced”.  The last project concluded at the start of Q4 and then got the runaround about when we could start on the next release, until they ended up moving the project to India and laying off 85% of the team.

So you can imagine my trepidation with this project slated to be done in Q4, this and several others at the company.  Do I smell a 15% layoff in the air, despite the stock price being 50% higher than it was a year ago?  Fortunately (I think), they’ve decided that our project needs more time, so they pushed out the schedule by three weeks or so, and then after that, we’ve got perhaps another two months of localization releases to push out: Spanish, Finnish, Simplified Chinese.  This is a great relief; maybe I won’t have to go job hunting again this year.

The project has been plagued by communication issues.  It’s bad enough that we have to deal with (coordinate with) several other teams, each with their own agendas and demands.  But our own team seems to have no sense of process and communication within the team.  A couple weeks ago, there was discussion of a late-coming feature change which I had heard nothing about.  I asked when it would be available for review, and I was told in a day or two, after it had been approved.  In other words, only after they had decided to make the changes would those of us who would have to test it get a chance to know just what it would do (by which point our input would not be usable).  After I complained about this in that meeting, they sent out a copy of the text of the change by e-mail, and after I commented heavily on it — including that I didn’t think it was needed at all — then other people (in management) also spoke up against doing it, and the change turned into a “guidance” document.  (That is, here’s some desirable behaviors and workflows, but we’re not changing how things actually work.)  In other words, none of the people who were supposed to be steering the ship were paying attention, so that a few people were running roughshod over the process and bypassing the safety checks of a proper review.

Click here for part 3.



Updated on September 7, 2010
Clarified the process fuck-up mentioned in that last paragraph.

The previous project was AWS (Adobe Workgroup Server), which then became Version Cue.  We then got dumped onto what became Adobe Bridge.  So far as I know, Version Cue was never touched after that, although it was part of Adobe Creative Suite through CS4.  I doubt very many people ever used it.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — Where’s the Beef, er, Juice?


“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

I felt like the old lady from that Wendy’s commercial once I read the ingredients on this bottle of “Cranberry Grapefruit” Fuze:

Filtered Water, Crystalline Fructose, White Grape Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Cranberry Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Red Grape Juice Concentrate (for color), Ascorbic Acid (C), Soy Protein Isolate and Rice Flour, Niacin (B3), Calcium Pantonthenate, Vitamin E Acetate, Selenium complexed with amino acids and polypeptides, Black Currant Juice Concentrate, Raspberry Juice Concentrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Vitamin A Palmitate, Caramel Color, Cyanacobalamin (B12).

So where the hell is the “grapefruit”?  Does this constitute false advertising?  (The beverage tasted sort of like grapefruit, but not all that much, which was why I read the label.)

A quick check of other Fuze products reveals similar lapses.  While the “Orange Carrot” lists both orange and carrot in the ingredients, the “Peach Mango” apparently has neither peaches or mangoes in it (unless they collapse under “Natural Flavor”).  And the “Mixed Berry” shows blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries on the bottle, but only contains the juice from one of the three in the ingredients.

Here’s a site with the ingredients for all their drinks.



Updated on September 14, 2003

Updated on July 9, 2004
Remixed into Weblog
Updated on September 2, 2010
It looks like Fuze has changed their ways over the years.  The offending drink types have been retired, and the ingredients all seem to match the labeling these days.  Good for them.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — I’m Feeling Safer Already


“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

I picked this up at the Chicago Eagle, I think.  Or it might have been a bar in Seattle, since I saw them here, too.

Sidestepping the idea of a bank providing bar napkins — which is actually kind of cool, having some business other than cigarettes and alcohol trying to reach bar patrons — what were they thinking?
Place your credit or check card here.  That’s what it’s like to be protected with Total Security Protection.™
Putting my credit card on a bar napkin is the equivalent of Bank of America’s protection plan?  Putting it on a picture of a snake is the equivalent of Bank of America’s protection plan?  Should I just walk away and leave it there, too?  Will I feel even more protected then?

Remind me not to trust my savings account to Bank of America.  They might put it in a drawing of a safe.



Updated on July 7, 2004

Updated on July 28, 2010

Updated on September 2, 2010
 

What Were They Thinking?
    — When “Clean” Isn’t Enough


“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

The first of these is a toilet seat wrapper from a Howard Johnson’s in San Francisco.  (We usually think of these as saying “Sanitized for Your Protection” instead).  The second was a bag wrapped around a bathroom glass at the Dufferin Hotel in Vancouver, BC.

In both cases, why “sparkling” clean?  Without that word, do they think I would doubt that these things were really most sincerely clean?











Updated on August 29, 2003

Updated on September 14, 2003

Updated on July 7, 2004
 

What Were They Thinking?
    — Am I Blue?


“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Picked this up at a Starbucks at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

While I understand that blue is the color of the millennium, there’s nothing wrong with green, especially when your name and logo scream for it.










Updated on July 7, 2004
 

Friday, June 20, 2003

Dream Journal: Celebrity Dreams


I only rarely remember my dreams, and even then it’s usually just a single snapshot.  Of the dreams I do remember, a few have involved celebrities:
  • Most recently (June 15, 2003), I dreamt that country music singer Terri Clark had died and her sister came by carrying a huge banner, asking people to be in a tribute show.
  • Sometime around 1993 (maybe), I dreamt I was taking a tour of San Francisco, and we were underneath the Bay Bridge.  Our tour guide was Connie Chung.
  • A couple years before that, I dreamt I was in a snow drift on a ski slope at Tahoe, strangling Annette Funicello.  (The memory snapshot I have of this dream is similar to Kirk strangling the shape-changing salt monster on Star Trek.)
As you can imagine, I try not to analyze these dreams too much.



Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on July 26, 2010
Added links, retitled to merge into Dream Journal thread.

Monday, June 9, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — Playing Hard to Get


“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

On the way to work today, a van for the Executive Extended Stay hotel passed by me, undoubtedly shuttling someone to a nearby site or attraction (per their website).

Plastered on both the side and the back of their van was the hotel logo and phone number:
(206)   23-9300
I guess the sticker for the number peeled off (in both places?).  So fix it.  Or don’t you want executives to extend their stays?



Updated on July 7, 2004

Updated on July 26, 2010
The hotel no longer has a website; I’m not sure it exists anymore.  Numerous travel sites have entries for it, including an alleged pic of the hotel featuring towering palm trees and spiny desert plants.  In Seattle, on First Hill?  Really?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Disease of the Month Club


Now that AIDS is out of the way (cough, cough, hey buddy, wanna buy a bridge?), it’s time to select the big important disease of the next 15 years, the one to get all the research bucks and to get conservatives all up in arms about the attention being paid to it and the groups it affects most.  So which one will it be…
  • Ebola?  Coming from deepest, darkest Africa, with unknown origins and even unclear methods of transmission, Ebola has all the makings of a panic inducer.  On the other hand, it is largely confined to the Third World at this point.  Can it really be a worry if it isn’t affecting middle class white males in the United States?
  • West Nile Virus?  Malaria redux, and you can get it just by being outside when mosquitoes are out.  Doubly scary because it affect crows, too.  And horses.  And llamas.  And crocodiles.  And…
  • SARS?  The double whammy of having a four-letter acronym (which might change once we learn more, of course; AIDS was originally GRID) and coming out of China, giving an easily identifiable group of people to point at and run from.  May also have jumped the species barrier, akin to some theories on the origin of AIDS.
  • Something else?  It’s seems like a new deadly disease has shown up every couple years for the past decade, so there may be more on the way, things to topple even these three as King of the Hill.


Updated on May 31, 2003

Updated on July 26, 2010
Something else, obviously: H1N1 Bird Flu.  Attack kids.  Comes from Mexico, or Southeast Asia, or somewhere that people have different colored skin.  Perfect.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dinner, Anyone?


Courtesy of the March 2003 issue of National Geographic is today’s fun word:
iculanibokola
A fork used by cannibals in Fiji to feed people who were considered too holy to touch food.
 

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Caller ID


Sometimes Caller ID gives the wrong information, by accident.

Saturday night, I got a call from “Emerald Hospita” (Caller ID only gives 15 characters).  My mind filled in the missing letter, so when I answered the phone, my heart rate was already up, and when my boyfriend’s voice was on the other end, it jumped another notch.

“Are you all right?” I said, scared.  “Why are you at the hospital?”

“I’m at work.”  My boyfriend works for a hotel chain, the local branch of which is operated under the name “Emerald Hospitality.”  Whew!
 

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Look Both Ways… Please!


A few years ago, I saw an e-mail list which included this: “You know you live in Seattle if… you stand on a deserted street corner in the rain waiting for the light to change.”  (Item #3 on that list.  To which I added: “And it’s 2:00 in the morning.”)  Of course, probably the biggest part of this is that jaywalking in Seattle actually can get you a ticket!  Still, Seattle has a reputation for polite and patient pedestrians.

But it also has incredibly stupid ones.

Twice in the past week, someone has been crossing the street in front of my car — mid-block, not at a crosswalk, so much for waiting for the light to change — and they look to see that I’m coming, then walk out into the street.  Which itself is fine, since I’ve not been right on them, ready to hit them the second they step out.  But as they walk across my lane, with my car barrelling toward them at 30 miles an hour (or more, undoubtedly a couple miles over the speed limit, like everyone else), they are looking away from me.  While it’s good to check where the cars are in the next lane over, I personally would want to see if the car I’m already in front of is, say, being driven by a homicidal maniac who sees me as a target and is bearing down on me even faster.  You know, pay attention to the more immediate threat.

If they want to pretend that I’m the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal — that if they can’t see me, then I can’t see them, and thus they can’t be hit by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beastmobile — then I wish they would at least be properly froopy and put towels over their heads.  It would make clean-up after they get hit that much easier.



Updated on July 23, 2010
 

Targeted Advertising


You’ve probably heard about “targeted advertising,” where advertising pertinent to specific person viewing it is inserted into a magazine or a television show.  You can see it in its basest form when an ad for a local business airs on a nationally syndicated television show.  You can also see regional newspapers which will have a section aimed at a specific county or city.  They could even use their databases to say “In this zip code, the average income is this high, so put in ads for that luxury car, but in the next zip code, incomes are lower, so include ads for an economy car.”  Or for an extreme, they could (in theory) include ads targeted for the specific profile of each subscriber to a magazine.

Today, while driving to work, I had a bit of targeted advertising shock.  While listening to the local NPR station, there was an ad (oops, a “sponsorship message”) for Wallingford Center, a small shopping complex in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.  I was stopped at a red light at the moment, and looked over to the left… and there was Wallingford Center.

Spooky feeling.



Updated on January 28, 2004
In January, 2004, I had a repeat of this, with a Taco Bell commercial coming on while I was sitting at a light in Rainier Valley, right next to a Taco Bell.
Updated on July 22, 2010
I first encountered this idea when I was working for SoftBook Press — an eBook company which preceded the Kindle and company by a decade — in 1998–2000.  One of our projects was to-your-device delivery of e-versions of newspapers and magazines; you would leave the device plugged in to your Ethernet connection, with a device timer set to wake it up at like 4:00 am and do the download, so the newspaper would be there for you to read at breakfast.  As part of this, we discussed but never implemented, the ability to target advertising based on user profile geography or demographics.

I also briefly worked for Classmates in 2000, and they had some implementation of this, working with advertising partners to be able to supply more targeted advertising attached to their e-mail communications to subscribers.

Google, of course, puts content-related ads in their stuff, so you may well see a Kindle ad attached to this very post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Mutant Trivial Pursuit


No, this has nothing to do with X2: X-Men United.

Back in my college days (1984-1990, including grad school), Trivial Pursuit was in high flower.  The original Genus Edition had been out for a while and we were just starting to see all the various sub-editions (Silver Screen, etc.), plus all the card sets put out by other companies which could be used with the game (I remember a religious one, and I know there were others).

My college crew had been playing Trivial Pursuit for a few years, and by then, most of us had gone through the entire original card set: mostly legally, although some people had just sat down to read every question/answer pair in the set.  So the game itself was getting a little boring.  Until we came up with our own spin on the game: Mutant Trivial Pursuit!

Here are the rules:
  • Everyone takes a stack of cards (50 or 100, maybe; it doesn’t really matter).
  • Choose one person to be the first reader.
  • The reader chooses a question from his or her top card and reads it aloud.
  • Everyone else chooses the “best” (funniest, usually) answer from their top card.
  • The reader (or group consensus) chooses the “winner” from the answers provided, and that person becomes the next reader.
A guideline for choosing what question to use:
  • Avoid questions whose correct answer is a number; many cards will have no adequate answer.
Some guidelines for choosing what answer to use:
  • A truly correct answer (it happens) always wins.
  • Answers involving dead presidents or sex are good choices.
  • Answers which are numbers don’t usually work.
Some of our best mutant question/answer pairs:
  • What do you throw into a boxing ring to stop the fight?
    — John F. Kennedy.  (Guaranteed to work, no?)
  • What is receding from the Earth at a foot per year?
    — A brassiere.
  • What is the symbol for the zodiac sign Gemini?
    — Testicles.  (Twins, eh?)
(You can also reverse the game, of course, and read an answer, with the other players offering the best question.  That’s Mutant Jeopardy!, though.)

Note that there is no score kept and no overall winner (although you certainly could score based on how many rounds each person won).  The point is to have an hour or so of offbeat hilarity.
 

Long Dry Spell


Whoof.  It’s been a month since I added anything to this log.  Mostly, that’s because I’ve been busy: a trip to Kansas City, tax time, some deadlines at work, and a new boyfriend.  Time to get some more content in here.



Updated on July 22, 2010
Later updates would be much longer than one month, so this seems so minor now.

The “new boyfriend” turned into a 4.5 year relationship, so that wasn’t so minor.