Friday, December 31, 2004
We had been talking about getting another dog for some time, but when we went to the West Suburban Humane Society that day, I really thought we were going to "just look". We'd been leaning towards getting a puppy.
While admiring the dogs (and resisting the impulse to adopt them ALL), we were quickly smitten by a "Chihuahua" called "Babette":
By the end of the day, the "just looking" turned into bringing home a new dog. We had to run home and pick up Bailey so that he and the new dog could meet at the shelter and make sure that they got along. But, a few hours after we first walked in there, we were on our way home with a new dog. Neither of us liked the name "Babette", so she quickly became "Cricket".
According to the shelter, she was 2 years old at the time, but I am convinced she was younger. She still behaved very much like a puppy, and I swear she has grown taller since we've had her. I don't really know anything about her background...she had been at the shelter for just 4 days when we adopted her. Before that, she had been at animal control. She was mostly trained and had some bad habits (like begging at the table) that make me believe she had been in a home for at least part of her life - it seems unlikely that she could have been a stray.
They claimed she is a chihuahua, but she is taller and heavier than most chihuahuas (12 inches tall, as opposed to 6). Personally, I believe she is part rat terrier, particularly after looking at pictures at American Rat Terrier Rescue and Ratbone Rescues - Rat Terrier Rescue of North America. She has many chi traits (like shaking when she gets nervous or excited), but also many terrier-like traits as well.
Anyway, time for some Cricket pictures.
She always jumps up on this chair when we're getting ready to leave for work.
Trying to take a nap here:
Convinced her to sit still for a minute:
This one highlights her very chihuahua ears:
I just took this one this morning. She had been dashing about with that toy, trying to get the cat to chase her. I managed to get one "action" shot before she lost interest.
Be sure to check out this week's Friday Ark for more dogs, cats, and whatever else.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
It takes all of about 20 seconds, so please, head over and donate if you can. As of right now, they are at 54950 donors, and they have collected $3,199,169.00.
Thanks to Rick Klau's blog for the link.
So I have rather fond feelings towards Bozeman and find this current development rather disturbing.
Wulfgar lays it all out in a couple of posts. First in, Not the White Christmas I was Dreaming of, he gives an overview of what's been going on the last few months. Then, in I Live In A Town Of Morans, he makes the excellent point that calling Bozeman a "hotbed of racism" is, aside from totally untrue, quite counterproductive in dealing with these people:
"You just gave them what they desperately wanted. An endorsement. Well done, you twit. Thanks to you, Bozeman is now a "hotbed" of racism. We've condemned it, oh yes. But that won't stop their spread and you've just lent them credibility, folks. No one would want to come here ... except the racist motherf*ckers that you have just invited in. Thank you. Thank you very much."This one attracted some rather - unpleasant - commentators, which he then addresses in the most recent post. This one also has some thoughts on how to deal with these people without giving them what they want - which is a fight:
"Ignore? No, nor did I suggest that. Rather I propose the opposite in fact, and that's to know the nature of the beast. But it has to be done realistically. Keep in mind, these people are human beings ... ignorant, paranoid, self-absorbed, and frequently angry/bitter, but people none the less. They are not monsters, nor do they have the power of such. Like other humans, their only strength comes in groups, the larger the better. Keep them divided, struggling and insignificant and they have nothing. "There's quite a bit more; I recommend reading the whole thing. There are also a couple posts about this over at Winter of Dissent.
At any rate, this whole business has reminded me of a Montana / Bozeman story that Laura told me several years ago. Back in October 1995, a controversy regarding homosexuality was stirred up in Bozeman. It started with gay-supportive messages chalked on the university sidewalks - with the university's permission, I might add - that were then defaced with swastikas and rather unpleasant messages done in spray paint.
This triggered an ongoing debate in the letters to the editor of the local paper.* From this, a Belgrade** woman (Robin Kargel) who opposed to gays decided to hold a little protest and she rounded up a small handful of people and marched up and down main street. The news blurb I found for this, quoted her saying:
"They are saying we tolerate homosexuals in Montana and we don't - that's what this [march] is about."I am relying on Laura's memory of the incident from this point on, as I can't find anything further about the actual protest. Kargel had about 30 people with her on her march. There were about 500 counter-protesters lining the other side of the street, 3 - 5 people deep.
500 people. Keep in mind, most of them - the vast majority of them - were straight. According to Laura, many of the gays and lesbians did NOT attend the counter-protest because they were too closeted. Many of those counter-protesters probably had certain objections of their own - they didn't necessarily come out there because they wholeheartedly approved of gays, but because, from what I understand from Laura, there is a strong streak of "live and let live" in Montana. Montanans don't like being told what to do or think, or being told what they do or do not tolerate.
I've been keeping this story in mind while reading Wulfgar's posts. If these hate groups really believe that they'll win many Montanans to their side, I think they are sorely mistaken.
I have to end this post with one last thought from the Montanan I live with, here in exile in Illinois (yes, I think she does regard it as exile):
"What people dont see is that there have always been the crazies, but there are many many more decent people who show support when necessary."*I assume it was in the Bozeman Chronicle. Unfortunately, the archives only go back to 1996, so I can't look up the actual letters.
**Belgrade is the town next door to Bozeman.
OK, I lied, I actually must end this post with some pictures from my last trip to Bozeman:
Another view from Target parking lot, Bozeman Montana
A coffee hut in Bozeman, early morning
Leaving Bozeman in the morning
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Friday, December 24, 2004
She does not know that she could easily jump up on the kitchen counters. My cat-loving friends have cats that get up on the top of the refrigerator - Xena hesitates before jumping up on the couch. She has no idea that she is capable of much, much more.
She has no interest in cat treats. Offer her a little mouse-shaped or fish-shaped treat and she'll turn up her nose and leave it on the floor to be eaten by the dogs. The only treat that works is a bit of wet food. Even with that she'll wander off before finishing it, and we have to guard it from the dogs. She won't play with cat toys. She will, occasionally chase one of the dogs and give her a good smack now and then, but that is about it.
We have never had to defend the Christmas tree from her. She does not climb it. No, my freaky dog-cat just walks around it, sleeps on the tree skirt, and drinks the water. I think she finds the pine-scented water to be a special treat. It is actually quite handy, as she complains if the water gets too low to reach, which provides a nice early-warning system for keeping the tree well watered.
We didn't get a tree this year, so I can't document any of this with the digital camera. The best I can do is show these scanned pictures from a few years ago:
For a short time, I thought she'd show some catliness in the room I use as an office - she would jump up on the desk and sit next to the laptop.
Sometimes she lounged up there in a refreshingly catlike manner.
Ah, the cat actually jumping! Finally! But no, this habit seems to have faded away. She decided she'd rather lay under the desk, as if it were a cave...you know, the way dogs like dens...
All of the true cat-people out there are probably shuddering right now. How did I end up with a cat, I, a self-admitted dog person? Well, I must admit, it was not my idea. I resisted the idea of a cat for months before caving in. I grew up in a family that was decidely anti-cat. My dad used to grouse that he didn't like cats because they would "jump on the stove and lick the butter." The fact that we didn't keep the butter on the stove didn't seem to occur to him.
Eventually I caved and I was beguiled by the charms of kittenhood.
I love the cat, I am glad she is here. I like listening to her purr (though I wish she wouldn't drool on me!), but that doesn't change my dog-personness.
In some ways, a dog-like cat is a good thing. I mean, I don't particularly want my pets climbing the Christmas tree or knocking knick-knacks off the high shelves. Perhaps I should figure out how I managed to raise a dog-like cat and patent the process.
As I've pointed out to my dad, she never jumps on the stove or licks the butter.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we stopped talking about "marriage" and came at this from a slightly different direction.
Take a look at the word "family". It has never exclusively meant husband + wife. It currently frequently means husband + wife + children, but I don't think even most wingnuts would suggest that single people don't have families since they obviously have parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and countless others to whom they are related.
Next, lets talk about the concept of your "legal family". That is, the people that the government and other institutions recognize as being "related" to you. These institutions only care in certain circumstances - say you are in the hospital and someone needs to make decisions on your behalf. Your legal spouse is probably first in line*. If you have no legal spouse, then there are others in line. I have no idea the priority here -- brothers, sisters, etc. If all your close relatives are dead, then maybe the person making these decisions is your third cousin that you only met once ten years ago.
Anyway, in all of the ways in which people are related to one another, marriage is unique in that two completely (in most cases) unrelated people suddenly become related...and in the way that trumps all others. You don't get to choose your parents or siblings or cousins...but you do get to choose your spouse. Even in arranged marriages, someone is choosing the spouse...the relationship does not merely spring from the luck of genetics.
When I talk about why I want same-sex marriage, why I think it is an issue of justice, it all boils down to this concept of family. I consider my partner to be part of my family...but in the eyes of the law she is a complete stranger. My parents, my sister, my sister's children, my distant cousins I barely know - all these people are higher on the list of "related-ness" to me than the person with whom I share my life and entangle my finances. I would like some means to say "this person is now related to me; she is now part of my family in a legal sense."
The reasons I want this ought to be obvious. I would like her to have priority over all those other folks in line, both for practical reasons (that hospital situation I mentioned) and for symbolic reasons (I do not consider myself to be single. I don't want people to treat me as though I am single).
Currently, the only way I know of to make two unrelated adults related according to the law is via marriage.
What About Civil Unions and Contracts?
"Civil unions" could potentially also accomplish this feat of making non-relatives into relatives. However, they currently exist in very few places (Vermont and California, as far as I know) and do not bring along all the rights and responsibilities that go with marriage. I don't know whether they have the power to create a legal family or not.
Regardless, many of the people who argue the most against same-sex marriage are equally opposed to civil unions. For example, note this from an article about the five year anniversary of the Vermont civil union law:
"The following election year, after a virulent national backlash campaign, seventeen Vermont lawmakers who supported civil unions lost their seats. The newly-elected Republican majority in the House attempted to impeach the Vermont Supreme Court and overturn the civil unions law. But, ultimately the campaign to 'Take Back Vermont' failed, and civil unions remained in effect. "Yes, the move to overturn civil unions failed, but there were still wingnuts calling "the decision 'worse than terrorism.'" Furthermore, the text of several of the anti-gay marriage amendments passed this past November also outlaw civil unions.
Other options - well, a collection of legal documents might be able accomplish a few of the practical goals, such as the hospital scenario. Although even those solutions are under attack in some places, such as Ohio after the passage of its anti-gay marriage law. From an FAQ on the amendment:
Will unmarried senior citizens be the only group to lose the right to jointly own property and convey power of attorney over health care matters?We also can't forget about this nasty law passed in Virginia:
A: No. Issue 1 takes that right away from all Ohio’s unmarried adult couples regardless of their age or their walks of life. So vague and ambiguous is the language that constitutional legal experts agree that Issue 1 will bring decades of legal headaches for unmarried couples young, old. Issue 1 removes the right for unmarried couples to have their wishes be fulfilled with regards to health care, property rights.
A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable. [emphasis mine]As Eugene Volokh notes:
This doesn't just block courts from recognizing out-of-state civil unions, or creating special in-state civil union status. It also bars purely private contracts, if they "purport to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage." The phrase contract or other arrangement . . . purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage" is pretty vague, but presumably it would include, among other things, contracts to share property that will be acquired in the future, contracts obligating one party to support the other, wills that devise property to the partner, and so on -- all benefits and obligations that some states automatically confer on married couples.Needless to say, I won't be visiting Virginia anytime soon. Anyway, I imagine many of the folks who insist that we don't need civil marriage because we can get private contracts would be perfectly happy to see those contracts become unenforceable.
Even in decent states that recognize our contracts, a power of attorney or health care proxy, or what have you, does not make a person into a relative. You are still legal strangers, but with a few agreements written down.
It is all very simple really. If I and another adult are willing to assume the responsibilities of becoming a family, we should be able to do so. The related rights should come along. If you have a means to do this other than marriage, then please, enlighten me. I'm willing to listen, but I have a hard time imagining anything simpler or more straightforward than a state-issued marriage certificate.
What About Other Relationships?
Viewing marriage through this concept of family and relatedness has another advantage in that it neatly addresses a another argument that anti-gay marriage people like to bring up. I call this the "If you take away the male/female definition of marriage, then we have no way to distinguish marriages from any other relationships" argument.
I've seen this one expressed in a number of different ways, most commonly something like this:
"Well, there are other human relationships with love and commitment, but we don't call them marriage" [note, I'm not quoting anyone in particular here, although this argument did pop up several times in this outrageously huge thread. If you really have a ton of time to kill, read the whole thing. I gave up keeping up after about the 300th comment.]In other words, the maleness/femaleness of marriage is the only thing distinguishing it from "other" relationships, like friendship.
Now, friendship of all sorts is very important to most people and something that I highly value. But it is remarkably easy to draw the line between "I want this person to be related to me" and "this is one of my best friends". I think most people wouldn't have much difficulty making this distinction. Just ask yourself this question - you might adore your best friend, but do you want the legal responsibilities of making that person a family member?
Keep in mind that even today, in our opposite-sex-marriage-only world, there already is such a thing as "marriage of convenience". As in, a marriage based on something other than love, attraction, desire to make babies, or any other typical reason for marriage. Many of these may be based on nothing more than deep friendship and a desire to combine lives and finances for legal reasons. I personally know of one that is strictly for immigration reasons - although, ironically, the individuals involved are both gay and would not need to have this arrangement if gay marriage were legal.
Would such marriages also occur in a same-sex-marriage world? Probably, but this really doesn't disturb me much. Personally, I would prefer it if people used their opportunity for marriage for a good reason - to make a family, to find joy in life with another human. But, if someone wants to waste this opportunity for a more shallow reason, that is their problem, not mine. And again, this already happens today. Preventing gay marriage will not prevent marriages of convenience.
And again, the fact that legal marriage brings both rights and responsibilities would place natural brakes on the impulse to take advantage of marriage law, just as it does today. I think the incidents of, say, a straight man marrying a male friend for financial reasons would be mighty slim. Most single people are not willing to exchange their opportunity for a "real" marriage (i.e., one based on love and all that) for a marriage of convenience for financial or other reasons.
Getting back to the point here, it is pretty easy to see that the maleness/femaleness of the couple does not need to be the only feature distinguishing marriage from friendship or other relationships. The degree of relatedness desired between the couple is also a distinguishing feature.
*Yes, I know this does not always happen. Sometimes the law steps in between spouses...the Terry Schiavo case is an example of that. In some ways, though, this illustrates the power of marriage in the legal realm - Michael Schiavo would have had no legal standing in this fight had they not been married, or if he were instead a female partner.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Oh well. At least there have been a few good posts on the topic lately. Here's my quick roundup of posts regarding "controversies" over Christmas:
From the Whatever, we have Merry Christmas, You Godless Jerk, in which John Scalzi explains exactly why it is silly to get worked up over "happy holidays" versus "Merry Christmas".
From Mitch at Monkeys in My Pants, we have I should have been doing something useful, but instead I Googled up some references to goyim who were offended by the phrase "Happy Holidays." This one contains the classic line:
"I wonder if these guys would be offended if, instead of saying 'Happy Holidays,' I pointed out that they are, as we Jews say, one candle short of a Hannukah menorah."Thanks to a reference from Michael J. Totten, this great post going after both sides: And God rolled His eyes.
Monday, December 20, 2004
A reader then sent in this reply posted on the Letters page
I have read this now about 18 times and am still baffled. First the correspondent indicates that he doesn't have a problem with being hit on by gay men - he rightly takes it as a compliment. OK, so far, so good. I have a strong loathing for straight men who get all funny about being admired by another man - get over yourself already! But then he goes and says this:
"But oddly enough, there's one place this compliment would almost always be taken as offensive: if a straight man said it to a gay woman. Female homosexuality is politicized in a way that other sexual orientations aren't. Lesbianism is held up as admirable, even superior to heterosexuality, by many feminists, and it can often entail a rejection of maleness and male sexuality. My college crush became a lesbian after college -- and that entailed not just sleeping with girls, but working in a women's bookstore, going almost only to lesbian parties, et cetera. If I saw her on the street, what I'd be thinking would be, "damn shame; you're gorgeous". But if I said it, I'd be an asshole. Why is that?"My answer to his question - I haven't got a clue why, and I have to wonder, are you making this up? Have you ever actually been called an asshole in this situation, or are you just assuming you would be? And if it is the latter, then why are you assuming this? If it is the former, did you really just say "your gorgeous" and then go on with your life, or is there more to the story?
Personally, as a lesbian myself, I wouldn't be offended in the slightest by his compliment...provided it stopped there and the guy didn't badger me to death. Really. Maybe I'm not the right kind of lesbian, since I came out during the 90's (1996, to be precise) and have never worked in a women's bookstore. Maybe he's talking about attitudes from the 80's or 70's here. I don't know.
Furthermore, I don't have a clue about his comments about how female homosexuality is "politicized" in some way beyond male homosexuality. For me it has absolutely nothing to do with politics - it is all about who I am attracted to and who I am not attracted to. Politics is certainly important to my life because it is through politics that my rights to exist are secured. But politics is merely a means to an end, not the reason for my sexuality.
I think the part of this letter that bugs me the most is this:
"often entail a rejection of maleness and male sexuality."Is it just me, or is this incredibly self-centered here? The fact that I am a lesbian has nothing to do with men and everything to do with women. Is it really a "rejection" of male sexuality to not be attracted to men? If so, then wouldn't we also have to say the following:
1. Straight men reject male sexuality since they are not attracted to other men.Does anyone out there hold to those sentiments? If not, why would you then hold to the fourth statement:
2. Straight women reject female sexuality since they are not attracted to other women.
3. Gay men reject female sexuality since they are not attracted to women.
4. Gay women reject male sexuality since they are not attracted to menThey all go together - you cannot consistently believe number 4 while rejecting 1-3. All or nothing.
The whole thing strikes me as a guy who just can't get over the fact that someone would pick a woman over him. She must have done it for some devious, feminist, political reason involving the rejection of all the maleness in the world...it can't just be that, you know, she happens to find women (or maybe one specific woman) attractive.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Particularly Xena, who would like you to know that she does NOT like it when I stick that "thing" in her face and flash bright lights.
UPDATE - just for the record, I decided to post my closeups BEFORE I saw this.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Anyway, I found a few interesting things to link to. First, coming from Amanda at Mouse Words, this article in the Washington Post from William Raspberry. He quotes C.S. Lewis talking about the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, in the context of divorce:
"The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws.This gets at a huge pet peeve of mine - the way people constantly mix religious marriage and civil marriage. They are two separate things. My parents are not Christians, yet their marriage is perfectly valid. I've known many people who were married by judges with no mention of God at all - their marriages are also perfectly valid.
A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. . . .
There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members."
If "marriage" is a sacrament, then the state really has no business being involved in it at all.
Next, still on the topic of religion, OneMan has a rant about the religious right's focus on personal morality while ignoring some of the more important issues going on:
Often times the greatest force working against Christianity is Christians. Imagine what the perception of the world would be of America and American Christians if the church worked really hard on a single issue for 5 years. Lets say it's AIDS in Africa. The Church could spend billions caring for and help those affected by the disease, tell those they are helping about Christ but not making belief in Christ a requirement for help. That would be the best way to show the world that our God is truly an awesome God. A God of love.And then later:
But no, we focus on someone showing a boob on TV. That's trivial folks.Whilst I don't share OneMan's politics nor his religion, I can't really argue with him about this one.
This has sparked another thought here...how do you "judge" a religion? That sentence right there sounds rather strange to me and is probably offensive to the deeply religious, but I think it is a valid concept - for those of us who perhaps are not believers, how do you evaluate whether a given religion is a "good" thing?
In my mind, you do so by looking at its fruits. What comes from the religion? How does it improve the lot of humanity? How does it improve the lives of its believers? OneMan's rant goes right to the heart of it - show the wonder of your religion by making a difference in the world.
I realize this isn't entirely fair - people aren't perfect and religion will not make them perfect, so it is perhaps unfair to judge a religion entirely on the basis of its followers. The bumper sticker "Christians aren't perfect - just forgiven" comes to mind.
Of course, I've always hated those bumper stickers. I am not asking for perfection -- I do, however, hold Christians to the exact same standard as everyone else. My non-Christian friends aren't perfect either, and they don't behave in the same atrocious manner as certain "Christians" I've encountered in my life.
I should note that I'm mostly griping about people out there in the "conservative Christian" or "religious right" camp here - not specifically OneMan or other more moderate folks.
Anyway, this is turning into a bit of a ramble, so I should probably stop here. Definitely a topic to come back to when I have more brainpower available.
Friday, December 10, 2004
1. Don't get offended if someone says "Happy Holidays". There are multiple holidays going on this time of year, so it is a perfectly acceptable phrase to say.
2. The phrase "Happy Holidays' does not strip you of your freedom to practice your religion. It is not the equivalent of the Romans throwing you to the lions. Just accept the good wishes of the person saying the phrase and go on with your life.
3. Don't get offended if someone says "Merry Christmas." Christmas is just one of many holidays going on right now, and acknowledging this is not cause for offense.
4. The phrase "Merry Christmas" does not strip you of your freedom to practice your own religion (or no religion at all). It is not the equivalent of a taliban-esque theocracy. Just accept the good wishes of the person saying the phrase and go on with your life.
5. Don't get offended if someone says "Happy Hanukkah" , for the same reasons as above.
6. When you say "Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah", or any other similar phrase to someone else, be sure you are doing so because of a sincere feeling of good wishes towards the person. Don't say these phrases to make a political statement - that is not their purpose.
7. Recognize and accept that your faith and joy in your own belief system is not contingent on other people's beliefs or their recognition of yours. In other words, I assume you will continue to celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ regardless of what *I* might be celebrating in my house. I can sincerely wish you "happy holidays" and you can sincerely wish me "merry Christmas" and neither of us is required to revise our belief systems. Really.
8. If you want to see a manger scene outdoors, the simplest solution is to set one up in your own front yard.
9. Keep in mind that many symbols and traditions at this time of year have different meanings for different people. You might regard a Christmas tree as a symbol of Christ on the cross (yes, I read that in a letter to the editor the other day - the first time I'd ever heard of THAT meaning) while for someone else it is a cheery reminder of childhood and Santa Claus. For others, it may be a pagan symbol. For still others, it stands as a reminder of non-functioning bubble lights causing parental arguments (ok, maybe that is just me. Bubble lights are a pain, but very cool when they work).
10. Keep in mind that many the symbols and traditions we associate with Christmas predate Christianity.
11. Due to the two preceding rules, keep in mind that non-believers might have Christmas trees and listen to Christmas carols. It would be ill advised to attempt to capitalize on this and hammer these people with obnoxious shouts of "Jesus is the reason for the season!" Trust me on this - you will not get your desired result from such behavior.
12. Regardless of what you believe, try to practice that whole "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" part a little more strongly - and not just on December 25.
For a terrific list of holiday links, see this post at Watermark.
Time to meet the rest of the creatures who live in my house:
Bailey, the most good natured of dogs. We've had him since 1996.
Xena, who is also sometimes known as the Demon Cat...She's been bossing Bailey around since she was a tiny kitten
And finally, Cricket, who has been with us since spring of 2002. The wildest of the group.
Another version of the Xena picture, with a minor modification.
Hopefully this will work...I decided to give www.flickr.com a try for the photos.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Anyway, the packing slip included a personal note that was the following:
Laura - Marry Christmas...My first reaction was, well, we would have a marry Christmas if we could!! Alas, we do not live in Massachusetts, so that is not currently an option. But thanks anyway!
Ok, maybe it isn't that funny, but it did make me laugh.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Norman told me Monday that the ACLU "has its fingerprints all over a number of things that cause me to conclude that it has policy that's quite anti-religious," then e-mailed me just three legal citations over the last 20 years dealing with the ACLU and Christmas issues.Some supplemental links are available over at his blog.
This was after I reminded him that the ACLU frequently goes to court to fight for the rights of believers to practice their faith, and that in 1995 the ACLU signed on to the Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools.
That statement aggressively reminded educators of students' rights to express their faith in public school in numerous ways and for schools to present religiously inspired material--including music--as long as it was in a clearly educational setting.
Monday, December 06, 2004
When children who attend the McHenry County school gathered in the gym last week to brighten friends and parents with holiday cheer, they sang of lighting candles for Hanukkah, gave their rendition of a Jamaican folk song and even did their lists for Santa.According to the article, the administrators did not mean to exclude Christmas - they were trying to be inclusive. OneMan makes the following point:
But their songs never mentioned Christ or the Christmas story--an omission that drew swift criticism from Christian groups pushing public schools to remember the meaning of Christmas.
I am not asking for a church service or for anything like that, but could we at least pretend my tradition exists as well without living in fear of a lawsuit?Now, I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state - both for the sake of religion and for the sake of the state. And I tend to be somewhat suspicious when religious groups start harping that the godless ACLU is anti-religion (they aren't - they have defended the right of students to express religion in public schools. See this position paper for more).
That said, I pretty much agree with OneMan on this. A (public) school program that focused exclusively on the Christian Christmas story to the exclusion of all other traditions would certainly be wrong and unfair to those of other religions. A program that focuses on other religious traditions to the complete exclusion of Christianity is equally wrong. Why does this seem so simple and straightforward to me?
Christmas is a very strange holiday when you get right down to it - especially compared to other religious holidays. You generally don't see non-Jews celebrating Hanukkah, the High Holy Days, or Passover. You don't see non-Muslims practicing Ramadan. Yet many, many, many non-Christians celebrate Christmas every year.
This post over at Hugo's blog describes the non-Christian Christmas celebrations he grew up with:
"My mother bequeathed to me a passion for all things Christmas. My mother is also a firm non-believer. (She read Bertrand Russell in college and that did it.) For us, Christmas was about lights, about carols, about gifts, about chocolate, and of course, the tree. I was raised to be passionate about Christmas trees. I still am passionate about Christmas trees."This struck a cord with me, as my upbringing was very similar. My parents are not believers. As a child, we only went to church when we "had" to - that is, when Grandma and Grandpa visited on a Sunday. They did not approve of their son's decision to abandon the faith of his childhood, and they pushed religion at us at every opportunity. (As a completely off-topic aside, this is where I must point out that of their three children, my atheist father was the only one who managed to hold his marriage together. The other two, the ones who kept the faith and looked down on us heathens, they ended up divorced. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course, but you would think it might make them a bit less judgmental and a bit more humble. You would, alas, be wrong).
Anyway, we were not a believing family. And yet, Christmas was a huge day in our home - not just Dec. 25, but they entire month of December. My mom starts decorating shortly after Thanksgiving and sometimes isn't done yet by Christmas day...there have been many years when Laura and I went to their house on Christmas Eve and helped decorate the tree. Besides the Christmas tree, my mom also has an enormous collection of Deptartment 56 Snow Village pieces, and she sets up elaborate Christmas villages all over the house.
There was a very brief time when I was a teenager and in my Christian Fundamentalist phase (that's a story for another day) when I thought it very strange to see my non-believing mother arranging a manger scene complete with angels in the living room. I suppose this doesn't strike me as odd any longer, now that I am the mostly-non-believing one walking around with the words to O Holy Night echoing around in my head in December. That, incidentally, is one of my favorite Christmas songs, and it is hardly one you could call secular. I highly recommend the instrumental version performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
It just seems that there is enough room in the "holiday season" for everyone.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
We visited MT the first week of November. We left home early in the morning on a Saturday and stayed overnight in Fargo, ND. The second day (Sunday) we drove the rest of the way. We were only in MT for a week, and I came to the conclusion that one week is way too short when you need two days to drive there and two days to drive back. We left Friday morning to allow an extra day before going back to work.
We spent about half the remaining four days in Bozeman (where Laura's family is) and half in Missoula (her favorite town).
This was also my first vacation with a digital camera, and I admit I went a little nuts. I think I took at least 200 pictures...since I have mountains on my mind today, I chose 6 of my favorites...
Enough talk...here are the pics...
The Crazy Mountains, seen from a rest stop, just outside of Big Timber.
View from the Target parking lot in Bozeman...You have to love a place with this sort of view from the Target parking lot after all...
From a rest stop on our way to Missoula.
In Missoula, at the corner of Higgins and Broadway. The mountain with the big "M" on it is Mt. Sentinel (the M is for the University of Montana, which is at the base of the mountain).
Not sure what street this is, but I like the shot of the mountains at the end of the street.
Last one, back in Bozeman again, view from gas station as we're getting ready to head home in the early morning.
Friday, December 03, 2004
I just finished listening to the audio book version of An Unpardonable Crime by Andrew Taylor. The story takes place in London in 1819 and one of the characters is Edgar Allan Poe as a child. At the end of the book, the author includes a note discussing where the actual history ends and the fiction begins. As part of this discussion, he mentions the various theories to explain Poe's mysterious death in 1849. One of these theories is that he was a victim of "cooping" - which according to the author means "getting voters drunk and forcing them to vote repeatedly".
Well. At that point I paused my iPod and rewound it. Did I hear that right? I had a bit of trouble with the logistics of this...how do you force drunk people to vote, multiple times or otherwise? And why such a strange name for it?
Well, here is one description from an article in the Baltimore City Paper:
"Cooping" was another election-day gambit. Drunkards, vagrants, visiting farmers, shore-leave sailors, and other hapless souls were yanked off the street, corralled in dank cellars, and then dragged en masse to the polls and forced to vote the Know Nothing ticket--sometimes dozens of times. (This practice predates the Know Nothings--they simply copied it; a besotted and ill Edgar Allen Poe is said to have been "cooped" just days before his death in 1849.)The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore also mentions this as a possibility in Poe's death:
Coincidence or not, the day Poe was found on the street was election day in Baltimore and the place near where he was found, Ryan's Fourth Ward Polls, was both a bar and a place for voting....Some gangs were known to kidnap innocent bystanders, holding them in a room, called the "coop." These poor souls were then forced to go in and out of poll after poll, voting over and over again. Their clothing might even be changed to allow for another round. To ensure compliance, their victims were plied with liquor and beaten. Poe's weak heart would never have withstood such abuse.Learn something new every day.
Incidentally, I highly recommend the book -- it is a very entertaining mystery. It is available from audible.com.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
I followed campaigns for some of the states. Over and over the pro-amendment people insisted that their only motive was to "protect marriage." One of the pro-amendment brochures even stated that the proposal is "only about marriage....this is not about rights or benefits or how people choose to live their life."
Well, they lied. In Michigan, barely a month since the election, they are stripping domestic partner benefits from state worker contracts.
(links from Marriage Equality: State by State and Ex-Gay Watch)
Now, I posted about DP benefits a few days ago. I don't live in Michigan and certainly don't work for the state, but I can easily imagine what it would be like to suddenly lose health coverage for your family. Yes, those of us in gay relationships have families...even if the government doesn't want to admit it.
His posting The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time is hysterical. Everyone else is linking to it, so I thought I would too.
His other "I'm back" posting is also a good read - I like his comments regarding the election aftermath.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
First, I can't believe my original list left out John Scalzi's Whatever - I've been reading this blog for at least a year (maybe two) and it is one of my favorites.
I've also added some more Montana blogs to my list....
- Watermark is the site for a Montana poet.
- A Secular Franciscan Life
- Better Living Through Blogging
- Just thoughts
More Montana blogs...
Then, over at Alas, a Blog, amp has posted an extensive reading list of posts entitled Sixteen mini-posts about gay marriage. I've managed to hit a few of them, but I think it will take quite a while to read through them all.
Monday, November 29, 2004
My company, a cool progressive software company, offers domestic partner benefits. I originally proposed the idea back in early 2000. I armed myself with all sorts of arguments and information and research ahead of time (particularly ways to respond to counter-arguments) and recruited a few other sympathetic employees to the cause. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was totally unnecessary; the Powers That Be favored the idea based on my original suggestion. The only issue was the insurance company - it was not willing to provide the coverage until we had a certain number of employees.
We grew to that magic number and the coverage became available. I signed up Laura - at the time, she was a student and did not have very good coverage. A hospital stay and ongoing medical issues going back to 1999 made it all that much more important - for her to ever lose coverage would be a disaster. There were a couple minor glitches with the claims - mostly when doctors filed things incorrectly (i.e., filled in spouse rather than dp) - but for the most part everything worked out well.
Then, in 2002 my company changed providers. I worried for a few days that we might lose coverage and was relieved to find that partners would still be covered. I filled in the various forms and turned them in. The new plan was to start on the first of a month. The medical cards arrived. My envelope contained ONE card. Those with family coverage were supposed to have TWO.
I immediately talked to the Person in Charge of Benefits and she reassured me that she already knew there was a problem and had already e-mailed the insurance company. We waited. The next day, she told me that the insurance company required proof of domestic partnership, but hadn't specified what they would accept. OK. Apparently the notarized affidavit I had provided for the previous company would not suffice.
This back and forth went on for a week. The part that alarmed me the most is that technically, during this time, Laura was not covered. What if something happened during this time? What if she got sick or we had an accident?
During this time, the Person in Charge of Benefits could not have been more helpful or accommodating. She kept after the insurance company, asking them point blank why they didn't have their act together on this, seeing as they knew all about the DP plan from the beginning. The insurance company put Laura on the plan even as they waited for the official proof. She gave me the phone number for someone at the insurance company I could call for proof of coverage if necessary. She was amazing and helpful at time that was probably very busy.
We finally found out what the insurance company would accept for proof and received the new medical card. All ended well.
So, why was this story on my mind? A couple reasons:
1. I am very grateful that my company provides these benefits...BUT, at the same time, I would be willing to be that none of my married co-workers spent a single second worrying that their spouses might lose coverage during this switch.
2. I am very grateful that Person in Charge of Benefits did such a great job of fixing the problem...BUT, my family's security should not depend on the goodwill of my co-workers. It would have been remarkably easy to stonewall me, put me off, or simply not make fixing the problem a priority. Most people expect a certain amount of bureaucracy from insurance companies....she might have put me off a month if she had wanted.
What if she had been like this man? This guy objected to diversity posters at his workplace and responded by posting Bible verses in his cube, with the stated intention:
Peterson explained that he meant the passages to communicate a message condemning "gay behavior." The scriptural passages, he said, were "intended to be hurtful....Peterson hoped that his gay and lesbian co-workers would read the passages, repent, and be saved.This man found working in an office with a few diversity posters scattered around to be too much for his conscience; I imagine being asked to harangue an insurance company to provide insurance to a lesbian partner would have thrown him over the edge, regardless of the company's actual policy.
The whole incident just drove home to me the vulnerable state my family is in - largely due to the lack of marriage. Commentators like to bring up the idea of civil unions and domestic partnership benefits as solutions that make gay marriage "unnecessary". Yes, such things can help...but we are a long, long way from anything approaching equality. And we are at the mercy of the individual humans in charge of administering these programs.
My family must rely on the goodwill of others. So far I have been fortunate. Not everyone can be so lucky.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
This post makes a good point:
"Even in Montana, a state that Bush captured by 20 points, the Democrats have now captured the state Senate, the governorship and four of five statewide elected positions."And then further on:
Let us look west. In the mountains and ranchlands of the West, there are Democrats who understand real America. Out here, far from the nation's capital, there are Democrats who understand skepticism of the federal government. Out here, Americans will find Democrats comfortable in jeans and boots. In the West, we can find Democrats able to speak plainly in the language of real America.Looking at this from a great distance (and I've driven from Illinois to Montana several times, so I know just HOW great a distance that is!!), I find this interesting. The new Gov.-elect of Montana is Brian Schweitzer. He built a farming and ranching business back in the 80's. For another good post about him, see here. I imagine he would easily appeal to many voters in that vast swath of "red states." It probably didn't hurt that is running mate was a republican.
Then, Left In the West addresses the question of whether western democrats are "real" democrats or not (I particularly like the phrase "go fork yourself" - and when I described the post to the Montanan in my household she laughed and said, yeah, I could see why he'd say that....)
I think the real problem here is with blue state Democrats who are so confused by their own losses that they really can't understand that in Montana and Colorado, real Democrats won. We appreciate y'all trying to denigrate our successes, but we didn't elect any Zell Millers.Anyway, the crux seems to be that Schweitzer is personally pro-life but politically pro-choice - which actually is a reasonable position and one that is pretty close to my own....I do not particularly care for abortion, but I don't think it should be illegal.
With all that said, it probably looks like I am a die-hard Democrat. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said in a previous post, I don't identify with either party, and I very much see the flaws in both. I've met die-hard partisans and generally find them impossible to talk to. Way back last January, blogger Michael J. Totten (a pro-Iraq war liberal) wrote a terrific post called Hate Pundits about the political divide and the tendency to regard everyone on the other side of the aisle as wrong. It has stuck with me ever since, particularly this sentiment:
In a liberal democracy (there's that word again) with two major parties, each party, each overall governing philosophy, brings something to the table and gets some things right. They balance. Liberals are the gas, and conservatives are the brakes. (Or is it the other way around this year?) Yin, yang, Venus, Mars, and all that. And each party gets some things flat out wrong. Its just not possible to split a reasonably healthy political culture into halves and end up with one side completely right and the other side utterly wrong.After the 2004 election, I found myself hunting down that posting again for a good reminder.
Maybe someday I'll post my list of what each party gets wrong (and right).
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Barry points out that even the most die-hard anti-gay marriage advocates recognize that there are "acceptable'" and "unacceptable" ways of doing this - for instance, no one is suggesting banning divorce. The question is, why do these advocates see banning gay marriage as falling on the acceptable side when it is clearly discriminatory?
I'm not doing a great job at summing this up....Basically, read the whole thing.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Don't even get me started. I am continually baffled at how Christians in the United States portray themselves as some sort of oppressed minority because the Constitution prevents them from encoding their beliefs into law. Really - the government is not shutting down churches. It isn't banning voluntary prayer. It isn't preventing anyone from worshiping. And yet, because we don't have school-sponsored prayers, somehow Christians think they are oppressed. Please. Can you imagine how quickly Christians would stop demanding public school prayer if Muslims were in the majority and they were demanding Muslim prayers in schools?
I actually had a short "fundamentalist Christian" phase in high school / early college - thank goodness I escaped that. Seriously, I do believe strongly in freedom of religion. I just completely oppose forcing one religion's precepts onto non-believers. I don't even understand the impulse to do this - doesn't a religion mean more if it is freely chosen? If non-believers are following your rules because they are forced to by law, doesn't that water down the sentiment? How can you tell the true believers from those acting out of fear? I will gladly come to the defense of Christians if the government starts passing laws prohibiting them from worshipping. Until then, I don't have a heckuv a lot of sympathy.
One of my favorite sites on religion - Religious tolerance.
Well, probably not a lot. The election is over and done with (thank god!). I've no plans to turn into a general political blog - beyond the obvious political component of various issues (religion, gay marriage, etc.). My politics currently don't seem to fit most of the standard categories - I don't consider myself a republican or a democrat. On the Political Compass chart, I am in the lower left quadrant - the "left - libertarian" side.
Bicycling is my favorite form of exercise. Three years ago I rode in the Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride (there's another montana connection!) - over 500 miles from Missoula to Billings. The ride raised money for AIDS vaccine research. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done...I have never been remotely athletic and have spent large portions of my life despising sports (maybe someday I'll blog about unfortunate gym class experiences). It was very rewarding to train for the ride over the course of many months.
Ever since, I have continued to bicycle, although not nearly as many miles as in 2001! Last year I convinced Laura to start bicycling as well (that is, nagged her to the point of exasperation) and she ended up loving it as well. We've done several organized rides since - such as the Harmon Hundred (we did 50 miles last year; 25 this year) and the Bike Psychos Century (although we only did around 30). This past summer was a bad summer for bicycling for some reason - I am hoping we'll get more rides in next year.
Technical Writing and General Technology
Tech writing is what I do for a living. I write documentation for software products for a small-to-medium sized software company here in Chicagoland. I don't expect to spend much time writing any specifics about my job, but tech writing-related topics do spring to mind occasionally, along with notes about technology in general. Technology is the reason I like tech writing - the best part of the job is playing around with new software, figuring out its secrets, and deciding how best to present the information.
A good resources on technical writing - Techwr-l.
"Maybe Marriage," he thought, "doesn't come from the court.Although I am not entirely comfortable referring to my partner as my wife, maybe I need to figure out why and change my habits.
Maybe Marriage...perhaps... comes right from the heart.
Maybe Marriage comes from all the words the Gays say.
Words like Husband, like Wedding, and Spouse who is Gay."
And what happened then...? Well...in Gayville they say
that the Grinch's small brain grew three sizes that day!
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Guess I should have put away the grill before now.
So, Chicagoland got hit with the first snow of the winter. Early in the day, Laura was happy - yes, she likes snow. I thought that was just a quirk of her until I started reading some Montana bloggers...but apparently this is common among people from Montana.
I admit that I sort of like snow, too. My house is technically a condo (even though it is a detached single family home) and so the association takes care of snow removal. I like the way the snow looks on the branches of the trees.
BUT...I do NOT like driving in snow. At all. Especially the very first snow of the season when everyone is out of practice.
Anyway, it started out as rain this morning, then started looking more like rain with a little snow mixed in, then by later in the afternoon, it started to actually stick. By 3:30, the view outside my office window was boding ill for the commute home. The bare trees were certainly prettier with snow on the branches, but the roads were nothing but ugly. I could see a nice pile of snow piled up on my car.
The drive home was a bit trying...I left the office at 4:30, got to Laura's office a bit after 5 (this usually takes 15 minutes), and we headed out at 5:15. It was nearly 7 by the time we got home. Ugh.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Same-sex marriage and other gay issues
As you might guess from the name I mentioned in my first post, I have a partner I'm not allowed to marry. This is a huge issue with me. We are currently working on our 9th year together.
I will make an effort to avoid ranting incoherently about this every day since that would not accomplish a heck of a lot (instead, I will try to rant coherently). Suffice it to say we live a life that bears a striking resemblance to the heterosexual marriages I see all around me - my parents' (forty years and counting), my sister and her husband (hmm, I think around 10 years now), etc.
The notion that the person with whom I share my life and entangle my finances is legally no more than a stranger to me fills me with...rage and frustration.
Some blogs I read on this issue:
No, I don't live there and never have. I was born in Texas, but have lived my entire life in the Greater Chicagoland Area. But Laura grew up out there and longs to return. Her family is there. Montana suits her in a way that Chicagoland does not.
Most of our vacations involve visiting her family out here. We drive around mountains and I feel like I am in an exotic vacationland (mountains! everywhere you look!) while she feels like the world is normal again.
She doesn't particularly like the Greater Chicagoland Area. She doesn't like our long commute (50+ miles round trip). She doesn't like the way one suburb bleeds into the next with no definable line between them - towns in Montana are separate entities, with vast open space in between. She finds the number of people swarming around this area overwhelming - understandable considering that the GCA contains more people than the entire state of Montana.
And don't even get her started on the climate - cold without snow to make it pretty, hot and humid in the summers, the list goes on. I disagree with her assessment of this area in some areas, but agree in others. I've never liked the climate, either. But, I grew up here, so the negatives are a little less glaring to me.
At any rate, Montana is frequently on our minds and we try to keep up with happenings out there. Lately I've been reading (and enjoying) a number of Montana-related blogs. I also spent some time looking at Montana's election results after the 2004. I find it amusing that I live in a *Blue state*, but within a *Red county* (Kane). Missoula - Laura's favorite MT town - is in a *Red state*, but a *Blue county* (Missoula county).
Some Montana blogs I've been reading:
- Big Sky Blog
- A Chicken Is Not Pillage (I've no idea what the title means)
- Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere
Anyway, I finally decided to start my own blog. Why? Good question. I've been reading blogs for what seems like a long time - ever since sometime in 2001, I think. The majority of my aimless web surfing time is currently spent with blogs. Yet, until recently, I never gave much thought to creating my own.
But lately I find myself composing (usually only in my head) responses to happenings in the news and in my life that bear a suspicious resemblance to blog entries. While I could prowl around the Internet and find semi-relevant comment threads on which to post these, that seems rather silly. Why not have one spot to collect all this stuff? Hence, the birth of Sara's Spot. I'm not crazy about that name and am hoping to come up with something better eventually.