Monday, January 31, 2005
Bandit hanging out with Nicky last week:
Bandit taking over the dog bed that is really too small for her, but who am I to argue:
She's here another week. Still, with Nicky and Alex gone, it is a bit less of a zoo.
The room I use as my office has had bare windows for the last four years. We bought some simple curtain rods and valences about two or three years ago and didn't get around to installing them until this past weekend.
In 2003, we hired someone to paint most of the downstairs...but for some strange reason we didn't have her also paint the powder room and laundry room. I think it was a combination of cheapness and indecision on color. So, finally, we decided to be bold and used some leftover brick red paint to make the room a bit more interesting.
It is really hard to photograph a tiny powder room, by the way -- especially an interior room with no natural light. I had to use the flash, which naturally reflected off the mirror and all the nice shiny silver surfaces.
We thought some artwork would dress it up a bit, so I took six photos -- three of the pets, three of Montana scenes -- and applied a "sepia" effect, then printed and framed them with these two silver frames.
You can't see the pictures very well in the photo, so here are the sepia photos themselves at Flickr. I didn't notice it when I selected the pictures, but in the left-hand frame, the top picture of the river and the bottom picture of the road work very well together - they curve away in the same direction.
Anyway, we're happy with the results. Painting a tiny powder room is not much fun - we were constantly in danger of stepping (or sitting) in the paint tray, as there was no safe place to set the damn thing. After seeing it all done, I just wish we'd done it years ago--it is such a nice change from the cheap white paint provided by the builder.
We have several other jobs waiting on our list of additional work to do--mostly painting:
- Paint the laundry room
- Paint almost all the rooms upstairs.
- Install a new light fixture in the dining room. We bought it on Saturday; the only question now is whether I can install it without electrocuting myself.
- Finish cleaning and rearranging the loft, which is the room I use as an office at home. I've been working on this one (on and off) since November. I still have piles of paper to sort and file / shred / recycle /whatever.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Attendance at the feast was by invitation only. Certain types of people were invited, while other types were not allowed. Those who were not invited happen to comprise a very small minority representing about 5-10% of the population, depending on who you ask. According to the planned rules, anyone showing up at the door without an invitation would be turned away.
Because everyone in this village was hungry, a few of the Uninvited Minority went to see the feast organizers and pointed out the inequality and injustice of the situation. Some (although not all) of the organizers were quite sympathetic, but pointed to archaic village laws that prevented them from opening the feast to all. As a compromise, they offered the Uninvited leftover scraps from the feast. Accepting these was a bit degrading, but the Uninvited were hungry, so they agreed to this plan.
Now, among the Invited elite, there was one man who decided that even though he was hungry, he didn’t want to bother to go. Instead, he asked to be included in the scrap handout.
The Uninvited were generally a friendly bunch, but they were a bit put off by his request. “You can go if you want to, you know!” they pointed out. “We would if we could,” they said. They asked why he didn’t just go to the feast if he was hungry, but he had no good answer.
Some thought perhaps he was making a statement of solidarity with them, pointing out the injustice of the invitation-only feast. They praised him for this -- after all, that would be a great symbolic sacrafice on his part -- until he said, “no, it’s not that, I just don’t think I should have to go to the feast to reap the benefits of it. You don’t have to go, after all.”
Since many of the Uninvited desperately wanted to go, they found his stance quite baffling and a little bit offensive. Finally, they suggested that if he wanted to extend the scrap handout to include the Invited elite as well as the Uninvited, perhaps he should take his case directly to the feast organizers himself, just as they did. Perhaps he could make a good case for why he should receive the scraps by refusing to attend.
This was too much work, so the man chose to do nothing. He did not go to the feast and he did not receive the scraps. He sat at home hungry and has spent hours since complaining about the injustice of it all.
The above story illustrates my feelings towards heterosexual couples who complain that they are excluded from domestic partner benefit programs offered by some employers. You can get married. We would if we could. Why do you want our pathetic scraps when the entire feast is yours for the taking?
I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple days, after hearing this story on NPR the other day. The description:
“In Massachusetts, many private employers are phasing out their domestic partner benefits over the next few years, on the logic that since gays can now marry in Massachusetts, there is no need for benefits for unmarried partners -- gay or straight. Commentator Heather Dune Macadam says that if straight couples in Massachusetts want to share health insurance, they ought to get married instead of taking advantage of rights that gays have worked hard to earn.”Now, I don’t have any sort of problem with employers who choose to cover both same and opposite-sex unmarried couples. This is actually quite common. I imagine in some companies, more heterosexual couples take advantage of the benefits than gay couples. My own company covers both types of couples. I admit I don’t really see the point, seeing as straight couples are free to get married, but if employers want to, then so be it.
I do have a problem with whining about employers that don’t choose to offer both. Why? Well, because it makes me think of the man in my little story up there. In most companies, domestic partner benefits didn’t just appear one day. Maybe in some cases the CEO of a company woke up one morning and decided to offer domestic partner benefits, but I would guess that this is pretty darn rare. In most cases, someone much further down the ladder – an ordinary employee – decided that his or her family deserved to be protected. That ordinary employee did the research, made the suggestion to management, answered questions, - that is, presented a business case to the “feast organizers” that handing out these scraps makes good business sense.
So, if you want your company to offer something like this, stand up and ask. Don’t sit around complaining that life is unfair. Make your case.
Regarding Massachusetts, I can understand why some of the employers are dropping the benefits and I don’t have a huge issue with this. Discovering that your family's health benefits are threatened a big deal and very scary, though, so I sure hope they’re giving employees enough time to get married and switch over. Also, I hope they have a backup plan in place just in case the state amends its constitution to ban same-sex marriage, thus invalidating thousands of marriages. If that happens, hopefully the companies can re-activate the domestic partner benefits for gay employees. Also, companies that are based in Massachusetts, but with offices and employees in other states need to remember that marriage isn’t an option for all of their employees.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Now, Qatar certainly isn't Iraq and my BIL is not really in a combat position -- to be honest, I don't actually know exactly what he does. He was only there a few months, not a year like many of the soldiers sent to Iraq. That didn't stop my family from worrying about him. The most concerning time was in November when he told my sister that he wouldn't be able to contact her for a few days because he had to go "somewhere" to "guard something." I still don't know exactly where he was or what he was guarding.
He got home this past Saturday. Their two kids (ages 6 and 4) have apparently been excited now for days. They finally started settling down today.
Anyway, I am thankful that he is back home with his family again.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
They have never been left somewhere other than home before; my mom used to swap dog-sitting with her neighbor. The dogs would stay at their own house and the neighbor would stop by several times a day to look after them, let them in and out, etc.
Anyway, they are somewhat despondent about being here. The multi-colored blanket is from my mom's house - I think she brought it so that they would have something familiar to sleep on.
Cricket is used to being the center of attention. If you pet or hold Nicky or Alex, you can bet that Cricket will be itching to get into your lap as soon as possible. She's keeping a good eye on things from her perch here:
My dogs don't particularly like the outdoors, at least not in the winter. Bailey goes out, does his business and comes right back in. Cricket will lounge in the sun if it is at least 90 degrees, but she gets picky moods where she doesn't like the backyard. Nicky and Alex, on the other hand, are used to a big yard with squirrels and rabbits and fascinating scents. So they keep asking to go out and are continually disappointed with my postage-stamp back yard.
I think Nicky is saying "there's nothing to do here!"
So he comes in and tracks snow everywhere.
Ten minutes later, he, Alex, and Bailey all went out for about 30 seconds and decided to come back in. Bailey leads the way, as he hates to get his feet wet.
My mom did provide them with doggie coats (in matching contrasting colors), but they are less than enthusiastic about them.
Finally, the cat is spending all of her time upstairs in the loft, under the desk. When the dogs venture into the loft, she growls at them. Really, she has them intimidated to the point that they don't want to come upstairs at all, so she has nothing to worry about.
If you haven't done the math yet, I currently have five four-footed critters living in my house. Plus, one of our friends is going on vacation next week and will be dropping off her border collie on Monday or Tuesday. Five dogs and a cat. That should be fun!
And a couple good ones here from Positive Liberty:
- The Soft Midsection - a very insightful look at the gay movement and the problem with focusing too much on the personal and the national and not enough on the "midsection" (i.e., the states).
- A good reply to another blogger regarding same-sex marriage.
Then I discovered I was a little too clever in my software choices 10 years ago. For reasons I can't remember, I started using a word processor called WriteNow 3.0 in the very early 90's. I didn't chuck my copy of MS Word 4.0...I just used both. I have no idea why; I just know that the WriteNow files don't come into the Windows version of Word very cleanly. So I've had to add a few more steps to my overall process - open the WriteNow docs, save as RTF, then continue with the transfer.
Also, while still in college I bought a copy of a program called StorySpace. This allowed you to create "hypertext" documents - you know, docs that branch off to other areas with links. Like the web, but I believe this predated the web by a few years. It uses this concept of "writing spaces" which can contain any amount of text and can be linked to other spaces. I mostly used it as a sort of high-tech journal and for brainstorming. I would write these rambling journal entries, then create links off to new writing spaces to elaborate on particular ideas.
Anyway, a quick google showed that StorySpace is still around and has both Mac and Windows versions. It was never really intended for the uses I found for it; it was intended for writing actual literature in hypertext form, which is a kind of cool idea. Just for fun I downloaded the demo Windows version and found myself in a flashback to Windows 3.1 or so...the interface looks sooooo old and strange! As far as I can tell, it hasn't been updated in several years. Surprisingly (or maybe not), it opened up my old files just fine. I briefly considered buying/upgrading to the Windows version, but at $295 for fairly old technology, I don't think it's worth it. Perhaps the newer Mac version is a bit more up-to-date.
The coolest thing about StorySpace was the ability to drag the writing spaces around the screen and just draw links between them, then view the overall path in different ways.
Fortunately it does include an export option for dumping all the text out into plain text files...I will lose all my clever linking, but at least the text can be saved.
Monday, January 17, 2005
There is currently some tension between my parents and my partner, Laura. This tension all came to a head a few years ago in a very unpleasant incident that I'm not going to get into here. Since then, things have smoothed over and are mostly ok, but every so often I get reminded of that tension. It happened again a few weeks ago in a conversation with my mother.
One of the problems is that Laura's job history before we met and in the first few years of our relationship was not as stable and steady as perhaps my parents may want. There have also been times during which I provided all of the support for our family. I have no problem with this, and I do find it puzzling that they do, considering my mother has never supported herself in her entire life, and my older sister is currently a stay-at-home mom, and they have never uttered a complaint about this. So it seems it is acceptable for a man to support a woman, but not OK for a woman to provide the support for another woman (or man, I imagine).
Anyway, my mom referred to a "pattern" in Laura's work history. In trying to be honest and fair, I look at the same history and I don't see a pattern - I see a normal life. She was working as a receptionist when we met - in a job obtained through a temporary agency. Perhaps I was unclear when I explained this to my parents - or maybe that fact got clouded over in the general haze and angst of my "coming out" that took place right around then. Temporary agencies = temporary jobs, so the fact that the assignment ended was annoying, but no great surprise.
This was followed by temporary position microfilming reports at an agribusiness company. Again, she was placed by a temporary agency in a job never meant to be permanent. She did leave that one on her own because the work was horribly boring and her boss was annoying. Laura got tired of being forced to listen to "sermons on cassette" and other religious broadcasts during work every day. But still, it was never intended to be permanent. There was a finite amount of work the company needed done - that's why they hired through a temporary agency.
This was followed by about 3 years at Starbucks. That hardly seems the stuff of terrible patterns to me. My parents' viewpoint is a bit skewed, I think, given that my dad just retired after 32 years at the same company. I don't know a single person my age who expects to be at the same company for 32 years -- not one -- so while his experience might have been great for him, it is hardly representative of what my life or my peers' lives will be like. It seems unfair to judge our modern job-hopping ways by a standard that is unattainable for most of us nowadays.
Laura voluntarily left Starbucks and did a short stint selling furniture -- mostly to earn significantly more money. This was not a particularly good fit and still didn't achieve her goal of getting out of retail work. At this point she realized (perhaps a bit late) that she'd never escape dead-end jobs without a college degree, so she went back to school and earned a Bachelor's degree. It was during that time that I provided all the support for the two of us. She considered continuing on with a masters and PHD in Archaeology with the goal of doing research and working as a college professor, but a four-week long field school digging in
When she made this decision, I found myself dreading telling my parents. Would they think poorly of her for changing her mind? Or would they manage to comprehend that the whole point of the field school was like an internship - try out a possible career and see if you like it before spending thousands of dollars and going deep into debt for graduate school?
She's worked a regular office job now for the last 2 years, and has hated it for about the last year and a half. Yet she has hung in there, partly because we liked the extra income, partly because the economy hasn't been conducive to job hunting right now, and partly because I couldn't stand the idea of telling my parents about another job change right now. In a few days she is leaving that job and I can't say that I'm sorry about it, even if it does cause some temporary financial hardship. It seems silly to be miserable for 8 hours a day when you have alternatives. (We also have some future plans I can't go into right now that make this latest change make good sense).
Yes, undeniably she has changed jobs and career paths numerous times. Is this a "pattern" that somehow suggests some sort of problem? To them, it is, although I am not sure what the "problem" suggested by this pattern is supposed to be. Flakiness? An unwillingness to stick with something? She's stuck with me for nearly nine years now, so clearly she is more than capable of the long haul. Since I understand the reasons and motivations behind every change, I don't see any sort of pattern or problem.
That is not to say that Laura has been some sort of unfortunate victim of circumstance. We've discussed her job history ad nauseam and she's done some significant soul-searching on this topic. The biggest common denominator among the short-term jobs that didn't work out has been poor choices - Laura tends to panic and grab the first job that comes along, regardless of whether or not it is a "good fit". That is the exact reason she ended up in her current position that she hates - it was the first offer she received after finishing her degree and the field school. It was a bad decision, but it wasn't motivated by laziness or lack of work ethic or a desire for constant change or any other negative trait - it was motivated purely by the fear of a crummy economy and the belief that any job is better than no job. I imagine that my parents criticism of her periods of joblessness probably helps foster the very fear that leads to poor choices like this!
Finally, there is just a hint of hypocrisy in all of this. When my father finished school back in the 60's, he bounced through three jobs in three different states (
Of course, he has good reasons for this - they didn't like living out east, he was laid off from the job in
Getting away from the pure personal story for a moment here, there is a lesson in all of this - it is very easy to look at a situation, jump to conclusions, and judge someone without having all the facts. I know I am as guilty of that as anyone else - you read an article or hear a story about some situation involving strangers and immediately condemn someone without necessarily knowing what really happened or the motivations of the people involved. Perhaps if I was on the outside looking at this situation, I might feel the same way my parents do and wonder about Laura's stability. By the same token, an outsider in 1973 looking at my dad's job history up to that point might have burst into laughter at the idea that he would stay in his new job for 32 years!
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Shortly after I finished college and got a real job (around 1993 if you're curious), I bought a new computer. It was time to upgrade from my aging Macintosh SE. I bought a brand new Mac LC III. The "large" color screen seemed utterly amazing. Plus it had a hard drive with 160 MB! Amazing! Well, really, it was amazing considering that my old mac that had carried me through college didn't even have a hard drive - just two floppy drives. And ONE MB of RAM. In 1987, that was one technologically advanced machine!!
But anyway, back to the LC III. This is the computer in question:
At the time, my job required the use of Windows machines, but I didn't entertain the idea of bringing work home, so the OS difference didn't really matter.
Several years later, different job, I wanted to be able to work from home occasionally so I bought a Compaq (not-so-fondly remembered as ComCrap). That computer was, in turn, replaced by a Dell laptop in 2002.
The Mac LC III has been sitting in the spare bedroom of my house ever since I moved here. Finally today I hauled it out, hooked it up and started the very slow job of transferring old files (mostly documents written in Microsoft Word 4.0) to the laptop. The only way I can think of to do this is very, very time-consuming:
- Use Apple File Exchange on the mac to copy files to a Windows-compatible floppy.
- Copy the files from the floppy to the laptop.
- Erase files from floppy and go back to step 1.
- Repeat until you go mad.
Eventually - once I get all the files moved over - I plan to archive them all to a CD-ROM.
At least it is somewhat amusing. Many of the files are old college papers. Many are also bits of fiction and journal entries I had forgotten all about. I freely admit that reading some of this stuff makes me cringe. Or sometimes laugh. It is probably silly to save it, but at the same time I hate the thought of it disappearing forever.
One last picture - my current laptop and the ancient mac side-by-side:
Thursday, January 13, 2005
There are a couple bills they are looking at. The one that leaped out at me is a measure that would create Vermont-style "civil unions"
The civil union bill would allow straight or gay couples to enter into a legal arrangement that would grant them all the same legal protections of marriage.The interesting thing about this of course is that these civil unions would be created by the legislature, not by a court order - thus eliminating the complaint of "judicial activism" that conservatives like to throw around.
The other interesting thing here is that Montana voters just passed an amendment prohibiting gay marriage this past November. However, unlike many of the state amendments passed in 2004, this one very explicitly only bans marriage, not other possible arrangements. Here is the wording (courtesy of Marriage Equality: State by State, which does a great job of gathering this type of info):
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state"Succinct and to the point. Very Montanan (so I'm told by the Montanan-in-exile in my household). Contrast this with say, the amendment passed right next door in North Dakota:
Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or givenClearly, if Montana had wanted to draft an amendment that prevented the establishment of civil unions, they could have. They didn't. This gives me great hope for this new bill. Furthermore, although Montana was clearly considered a "red state" in the 2004 elections, it really isn't that simple.
the same or substantially equivalent effect
Monday, January 10, 2005
The post itself is quite good and makes many points I've seen numerous times. Always a nice change to read a conservative blogger and NOT have my blood pressure shoot up.
But then I went and read the comments. A commenter named JimBob began insisting that marriage is about the government restricting your behavior, not about the benefits. He presents this example:
Sorry, but marriage is a restriction of rights. Anyone with half a brain can see it. Simple example. Man with good job marries a poor woman. He buys them a house, she leaves him a few months later and files for divorce. She claims half the house even though the husband paid for it with his money.This was followed by a demand that sodomites should shut up.
Now if the man had just invited the woman to move in and then she leaves a few months later, she has zero claim to anything.
Is it just me, or is this a really strange way to "defend" marriage? This man is basically saying that there is nothing positive about marriage - it is just a nasty scheme that poor women can use to wrest property and money from men with good jobs. If marriage is such a crummy thing, why on earth does it require "defending".
This isn't the first time I've seen arguments like this that push the idea that the benefits of marriage really aren't that great, so gays don't need them or shouldn't want them. Sometimes they like to point out that many gay couples would be adversely affected by the marriage penalty taxes, for example.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a co-worker several years ago. He was newly married and had just been hit with the "marriage penalty" on his taxes. He said something to the effect that, other than the emotional side, he didn't really see any benefits to marriage. I pointed out that many of the benefits really only become noticeable when something bad happens - your spouse is in the hospital or dies, etc.
I often wonder if people advancing this sort of argument will find it backfiring on them as more heterosexuals believe them and decide that there is no point to legal marriage after all.
Of course, the truth is that marriage is not some nasty scheme for stealing property. This argument conveniently forgets that marriage is a package deal with both benefits and responsibilities. Those of us in favor of gay marriage understand this and are willing to accept both. I am willing to risk my partner "stealing" our house (bought with "my" money) if it means that I don't need to hire lawyers to ensure that we can visit each other in the hospital. It really is as simple as that.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
The suit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose. One antitrust expert called it a long shot, but Californian Thomas Slattery is hoping for unspecified damages for being "forced" to buy an iPod, one of the most successful electronics products in years.Um, OK. Forced to buy an iPod? Did someone hold a gun to his head and force him to buy the 99 cent songs in the first place?
The key to such a lawsuit would be convincing a court that a single product brand like iTunes is a market in itself separate from the rest of the online music market, according to Ernest Gellhorn, an antitrust law professor at George Mason University.
And does Mr. Slattery know how to burn an audio CD, which enables you to play those songs on any number of portable players?
This is just plain silly. More here.
Filing a lawsuit against a show because it grossed you out. Okaaaaay. I have a better idea - DON'T WATCH FEAR FACTOR!!
Trust me, it is a very effective strategy against being grossed out by your television. I've been following this strategy for years.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
I don't live in the city anymore (I'm way out in the 'burbs) and when I did, I didn't have a car so I honestly didn't pay much attention to it. People in my current neighborhood do park in the street - which I find odd since every house here has a 2-car garage - but I haven't noticed this custom here in the last three winters.
I did notice it quite a bit when we lived in Berwyn, though.
Personally, I find the whole idea rather annoying. Aside from all the odd junk piled in the street, the whole problem would go away if everyone in the neighborhood would do their part and clear the area in front of their homes. I do find it funny that even though the practice is technically illegal, Mayor Daley always makes statements supporting it.
I think I have been influenced by the Montanan-in-exile with whom I live. We were listening to the radio this morning as they talked about the upcoming snowstorm and they mentioned Daley's comments regarding the strange Chicago custom. She observed:
"you know, there are places that are much snowier than here that somehow manage to clear the streets and park their cars without cluttering up the street with ugly lawn furniture."Of course, Laura doesn't really approve of Chicagoans complaining about winter weather at all. Compared to Montana, it just isn't that bad.
You can read (and participate in click-polls!) about this over at Eric Zorn's blog (no permalink, so the entry might move. It is currently called "THE RULES OF DIBS: LET THE PEOPLE SPEAK!"). Amusing info from a previous go-around about this issue is here.
My lawn furniture is where it belongs...on the porch!
Snow in the backyard...with the remains of my summertime container gardening.
No cars parked on the street right now...
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
It's always good to travel. That way you don't get as ingrown as a bad toenail. I have been to Wingnuttia, a part of the blogosphere that may not be a safe place for a pagan goddess. But I am back in one piece.After (briefly) visiting the blog post to which she refers, I have to agree. Wingnuttia is not really a safe place for anyone who is, um, normal. "Normal" is defined here as "not a crackpot who somehow believes that all women would rather be prostitutes than work."
In other news, someday this rotten cold will go away and maybe I'll actually start posting more often. Sigh.