“Bouncing Off the Walls”
(August-October, 2004)

Welcome to my WebLog.  (I won’t call it a “b--g”; I don’t like the word.)  Way too much information about my life, my thoughts, my fears, and my ever-evolving politics.  For those of you who care (or for those who just accidentally found this page due to a web search).

Note that the parent site for this WebLog is designed for “mature audiences.”  So if you can’t handle kinky sexuality and adult language, or if you are a current or prospective employer, don’t go poking around.  You might want to leave right now, in fact.


9:58 pm / Monday, September 27, 2004

What Were They Thinking?: Sweet and Salty

Click here for the previous entry.

Fast Food Salt and Pepper

These Salt and Pepper packets came from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Er, make that “KFC”.  The company is trying to disassociate itself from both the “Kentucky” and the the “Fried” portions of the name.  Check out their website and you’ll see barely any mention of what the letters stand for.)

It’s kind of surprising to see ingredients listing on packets like these.  After all, what will they say?  “Ingredients: Salt” and “Ingredients: Pepper”?  Nope.  The salt packet says “Ingredients: Sodium Chloride, Sodium Silicoaluminate, Dextrose, Potassium Iodide and Sodium Bicarbonate”.

Yup, you read that right: one of the ingredients in fast food restaurant salt is sugar.  (As I recall from a few years ago, when I first noted it at McDonalds or Burger King, in some packets, sugar is the #1 ingredient!)  And they wonder why we are fat as a nation.

Note that the pepper packet is fun in its own way, saying “Ingredients: Ground Immature Whole Berries of Perennial Vine, Piper Nigrum L.”  (In other words, pepper.)

Click here for the next entry.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

4:10 pm / Monday, September 27, 2004

Selection 2004: The Gender Card

Click here for part 12 of Selection 2004.

The Washington State governor’s race is now down to two candidates: Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi.  Up until a couple weeks before the primary, every reference I had seen or heard to Gregoire used her full first name, “Christine”, but her website and all the yard signs use the shorter form, “Chris”.

Perhaps the shorter, single-syllable form sets her off from two-syllable competitor “Dino”.  Perhaps it removes any religious connection which might come from having “Christ” in the name.  Perhaps the marketing wonks said that the meter of the two two-syllable names was bad.  Perhaps she saves a couple cents per yard sign by using less ink.  (In know, or perhaps “Chris” is really what she prefers and all the references to “Christine” weren’t especially accurate.)

My first thought when I saw one of the signs, though, was that she was using a shorter, non-gendered name in an attempt to project a masculine image, especially to more conservative parts of the state and to those voters who will go entirely on name recognition, never seeing the face of whom they vote for.  “Yeah, I’ll vote for that ‘Chris Gregory’ guy.  Probably better that the guy named for the dinosaur on The Flintstones.”

Click here for part 14 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

4:38 pm / Friday, September 17, 2004

When E.F. Hutton Talks…

You’ll get to hear people yapping on their cell phones for your entire flight as soon as 2006, per this article.

It’s bad enough that the moment the wheels touch down, you hear a dozen chimes of phones being turned on, so that people can tell someone “We just touched down.”  Neither you nor your loved one could wait the five minutes until we get to the gate, or the ten minutes until you get off the plane?  But now we’re going to have to hear you all the way from Seattle to Dallas?  Oy!

(And I recall the flight I took from New York in February, 2003.  The stewardess told the Orthodox Jew sitting in the aisle across from me – not that his religion has anything to do with it other than the particular outfit he was wearing – that he needed to turn off his cell phone.  He held it up, still glowing green, saying “It’s off, look!”  Ten seconds later, it rang.  I swear, if she wouldn’t have lost her job by doing it, she would have taken the phone from him, threw it on the floor, and stomped on it.  I was tempted to do so myself.)

When I used to take the commuter train to and from work every day, at least once a week, there would be somebody blabbing on about some business deal or another, probably sharing confidential info with the entire car.  One time, after the person had finished his conversation, I waited about 20 second, turned to my seatmate, and said in a loud voice and basically repeated the guy’s conversation, something to the effect of “So, I hear company X is going to be doing a deal with company Y to bring product Z to the market.  Guess I should call my stock broker, huh?”  (Oh, what a look I got!)

(Weblog Title Reference: From an old TV commercial.  “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

4:26 pm / Friday, September 17, 2004

Selection 2004: Absentee Voting

Click here for part 11 of Selection 2004.

This question was posed on the whiteboard at work today:

If I send in my absentee ballot on election day and the winners are announced that night, does that mean my vote doesn’t count?

Well frankly, yes.  Your vote doesn’t count in that case.

More to the point, your vote never counts.  Almost.  The only time a single, individual vote ever really counts is when the election is decided by a single vote.  And that never happens.  (But it can sure come close.  Florida, Oregon and New Mexico in the 2000 Presidential election were all won in the hundreds or low thousands of votes.  And the last Seattle monorail vote was won in the tens of votes, and absentee ballots could have changed the poll results.)

The power of democracy is that our votes add up.  Individually, we have no power, but combined with others of like mind, we become a wave, a force, and unstoppable movement. (Or not.)

The power in voting comes from, for lack of a better term, peer pressure.  “I did my duty, did you do yours?”  On some level, I vote so that I can coerce/guilt other people to vote as well.

I also vote so that I have the right to bitch about the results.  If you don’t vote for anyone, even if you chose a candidate who didn’t win, then you have no right to complain.  (Okay, you always have the right – that’s Free Speech for you – but any reason for people to take you seriously vanishes.)

A third reason to vote is to make a statement.  In the 2000 primary election in California, only registered party members would have their votes counted, but people form other (or no) parties could still vote in those races.  I was registered Green at the time, so I may have had a choice between Nader and some even less electable guy, and I didn’t really care about the outcome of that race.  So instead, I “threw my vote away” by voting for John McCain on the Republican slate.  My vote had no direct impact, but perhaps it (and others like it) were noted by the California Republican Party as an indication of the views of non-party members on the overall race, or even just by the McCain people to encourage his different heading on Republican issues.  Even if there is no formal record of my vote because of the non-value of it, it still gives me an example to talk about – bitching rights, if you will – something that voting for Nader in that primary would not have done.

Back to absentee ballots, though.

Primarily (ahem), absentee voting is like any other voting: you get to say “I voted, did you?”  You did your civic duty.  You participated.

Washington State, in particular, has a strong tradition of absentee voting.  There have been may close races where absentee ballots affected the outcome of the election (or at least might have done so, as with the monorail vote mentioned above).

Further, remember that come November, you aren’t voting only for President.  (At least I hope you won’t be doing only that vote.)  You are voting for President (and Vice-President and the entire administration which goes with it), and for Governor, and Attorney General, and Senator, and state legislators, and Insurance Commissioner, and whether to switch from a “Montana” style primary to the “Louisiana” style, and probably some tax levies and stuff like that.  The big races are the ones which get announced, yes, but you’ll probably have to read a newspaper to get all the details on the smaller ones, especially on which ones are close.  Any within a couple percentage points, even if the winner is “projected”, could be affected by absentee ballots, so your vote on lesser issues and races could still count.  (It’s worth noting as well that absentee ballots tend to be more liberal, reflecting people who are intent on voting as much as those responding to a particular issue or race.)

Click here for part 13 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

10:29 am / Wednesday, September 14, 2004
Updated at 1:30 pm / Sunday, October 3, 2004

Offensive Driving

I sent this complaint to United Parcel Service this morning:

I want to file a complaint against the driver of UPS Van #<xxxxxx>, driving in Seattle, Washington.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 15, at about 9:00 am (give or take a couple minutes), I was driving on I-5 north, on the “I-90 bypass” which is just south of downtown Seattle.  This section of road features three lanes of traffic which merge into a single lane before joining the main I-5 freeway: the left lane merges into the middle one, then the right lane merges.

I was in the leftmost lane at the merge location (just shy of where the two lanes fully become one), attempting to merge right.  Fully half my vehicle was ahead of the front of UPS Van #<xxxxxx>, but the van kept coming forward, trying to force his way ahead of me.  This would have required me to either slam on my brakes and attempt to merge behind him (assuming that I could and the such action didn’t cause an accident with the person in the lane behind me), speed up and hit the vehicle I was trying to merge behind, or ram into either the concrete median or the UPS Van.

This forcing by the UPS Van driver continued for several seconds: I would start to merge, he would speed up to prevent me, and I would have to speed up to maintain the ability to start to merge in; at least three repeats of this occurred.  I finally laid on my horn for several seconds, and your driver let me merge in.  He also then backed off a couple car lengths, allowing a car from the right-hand lane to merge between us.

The van had two delivery persons in it, both male (I think; it’s hard to tell from a rear-view mirror while driving); the driver was white, the other one was black.  (I had to read the number of the vehicle in reverse through the rear-view window as well – it was printed on the front of the van – but I have been good at reading things in reverse most of my life, and this was just a short number.)

I clearly had the right of way, due to most of my vehicle being ahead of the front of the van.  Is this sort of polite, defensive driving that UPS encourages of its drivers?  Is delivering packages on time really worth terrorizing fellow vehicles, attempting to force them off the road?

If you would like more information about this event (although I don’t think there is more that I can provide), feel free to contact me at this e-mail address or by phone during the day at (206) xxx-xxxx.

James Drew
Seattle, WA

Update / posted October 3, 2004:

There has been absolutely no response to my e-mail.  (Their site warned that all e-mails could not be responded to, and evene implied that they might not even be read!)  I’m going to see if I can find another complaint submission method.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

2:41 pm / Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Men in Uniform, Right Next Door

Unfortunately, they were firemen.

Not that firemen aren’t sexy, but they were working… if you catch my drift.

At 3:30 am on Saturday, I was awakened by a repeating, high-pitched “beep beep beep” sound from somewhere outside.  I sleep fairly lightly through much of the night, I guess, although the minimal traffic noise in our neighborhood never disturbs me.  It’s things which don’t stop which sink through and wake me up.

My first thought was that it was a car alarm – the California State Bird, as we termed them in the mid-90s.  I couldn’t catch the direction from the bedroom window, so I went out onto the deck, but I still couldn’t tell where it was coming from – the next street over, I guessed.  I closed all the windows, which cut a lot of the sound into the house (so maybe I could get back to sleep) and then I could tell it was coming from next door.

My first thought was that it was a burglar alarm.  Perhaps stupidly, I went out our front door and over to the neighbors’ front porch, only to meet Al and Linda coming down from upstairs.  (Their kids live in the downstairs part of the house.)  And I smelled smoke.

Long story made short: The kids were gone for the weekend.  Al got the door open and clouds of plastic-smelling smoke wafted out.  911 was called, and three police cars and four fire engines showed up (on our narrow street!).  Fire hoses and a big venting fan were brought up.  Source of fire was found to be small, no major damage and no one hurt, everything calmed down.  The local TV station did have a cameraman there, just in case.

As best we can tell, it was a build-up of lint in the dryer hose.  The lint caught on fire – unknown reason, maybe related to the proximity to the furnace – and burnt the plastic dryer hose, and hence the smell and the smoke.  The fire definitely came from outside the dryer.  (Guess I should check our dryer this week, huh?)

Once the fire engines arrived, I woke Rusty up, but he went back to sleep a couple minutes later, figuring that I (or firefighters) would wake him if the fire was serious and threatened to spread.  Rusty’s daughter Sarah, whose bedroom window faces Al and Linda’s house, never knew anything was going on.

I swear, those two could sleep through Hurricane Ivan.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:20 am / Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Life’s Too Short to Drink Industrial Beer

For approaching thirty years, there has been an ongoing boycott of Coors beer by the gay community.  It has lasted so long that many gay people have an ingrained hatred of Coors with no cognition of why there is a boycott.  (Hmm, I guess that makes it kind of a religion, doesn’t it?)  In recent years, though, with outreach from Coors, there has been a softening of the stance from some segments of the community, but perhaps an intensification from others.

Some observations on the Coors boycott:

  • The boycott apparently originated not from anti-gay stuff but from union busting activities on the part of Coors in the 1970s.  Even in semi-rural central Washington in the early 1980s, “Don’t drink Coors” was in the public consciousness for teenagers; that sure didn’t come from a gay boycott.
  • The gay side of the boycott apparently stems from a Bay Area Reporter article listing Coors as a donor to Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign, a claim which was later retracted.  (But retractions never go as far as the original report does.)
  • Coors Brewing has done good things for their employees.
  • The gay community tends to believe in “Never forgive” rather than just “Never forget”; we remember past sleights forever.  Short of shutting down the company and the family committing mass suicide, there is no way for Coors to ever redeem itself in the eyes of some members of our community.
  • The virulence that some people exhibit against Coors is so strong at times that I can’t help but wonder if there’s something driving them beyond “Do good for the gay community.”  Not that I have any knowledge to the contrary, but if we believe that the Republican National Committee (or whomever) is a shadow behind the Swift Boat Veterans, is it impossible that other adult beverage companies wouldn’t like to see the Coors boycott continue and might even work to help that occur?
  • The level of scrutiny on Coors and its major shareholders is great, but has similar research been done on Starbucks, Subaru, American Airlines, Miller Beer, and Showtime?  What do we know about other companies which want our money?  Do we really know that none of their major shareholders are not also donating to anti-gay causes, or do we assume they are fine because we haven’t heard otherwise?  And if it’s the latter, isn’t it a little bit hypocritical to be so concerned with only one company?
  • The recent retraction of some female employee health benefits is a genuine reason for concern and greater scrutiny of the current state of the company.

All this said, I personally do not knowingly drink Coors products.  I know enough to have some moral questions.  The “Don’t drink Coors” concept has been in my head for more than two decades, and that isn’t easily bypassed.  And besides, I prefer local mini-brews when I can get them.  As one friend put it several years ago, “Life’s too short to drink industrial beer.”

But if a gay organization wants to accept Coors’ money, I will not damn them for doing that.  They have (presumably) weighed the pros and cons as they know them, and they have made a decision.  My decision to attend or not attend an event is not affected by the particular sponsors, so their decision is not apt to color mine.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

Posting date unknown / about September 10, 2004

Selection 2004: Thongs, Sandals, and Pool Slippers

Click here for part 10 of Selection 2004.

I’m not especially concerned about Kerry’s alleged “flip-flops”.  By and large, the claims of such boil down to two things: change and context.

First is the idea that politicians are not allowed to change their position on issues over time.  Kerry spent nearly 20 years in the United States Senate.  Think about the ways the world (and American society) has changed in the past twenty years.  Think about the ways you have changed in that time.  (Myself, I’ve gone from 18, a single virgin, and on my way into college to be a Physics major, to being 38, a kinky gay leatherman with a partner and two step-children, and a home-owning software tester.)  I see my own attitudes having changed over that period, reflecting both the changing mores of society and my personal educational and economic growth.  I have no problem believing that a politician might have held some views twenty years ago – and made votes on behalf of his constituents’ needs at the time – but would vote differently today due to those views or the needs of those constituents having shifted over the decades.

Second is that complaints about such “flip-flops” are taken largely out of context.  In isolation, it may appear that Kerry voted one way at one time, but the opposite way later on.  But with many of these votes, you have to go a level deeper.  What was it that drove his vote?  Odds are that the details are not identical.  Was one vote on procedural grounds?  Was another to curtail a budget out of control?  Was there an unrelated rider amendment attached to the bill, making it more important to stop the rider than to pass the main bill?

But the ultimate reason I’m not concerned about “flip-flops” from Kerry is because Clinton – perhaps the best overall President we’ve had in my lifetime – was himself accused of “waffling”.  (You may recall that a waffle was used as Clinton’s stand-in in the Doonesbury strips of the time.)  In fact, even “flip-flop” was used on Clinton, such as from this article originally from The Daily Texan.  If they want to put Kerry’s governing style in the same class as Clinton’s, hey, no problem.

Click here for part 12 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:29 pm / Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Edited at 12:47 pm / Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Here I Sit All Broken Hearted

It amazes me at times what you can see in a bathroom stall which the previous user really should have cleaned up.

The most common – and perhaps most disgusting (but please don’t offer up worse things, thanks very much) – are mystery trails of dried liquid.  Many a clueless man (I’ve talked to some of them) has sat there and thought “What a lousy paint job, to have missed those drips” or “The cleaning staff needs to wipe up the disinfectant dribbles better” before realizing that the drops are the seminal remnants of previous stall users.  Cum, that is.

What kind of an idiot feels the need to beat off in the bathroom stall at work, especially at a high tech company where the employees are in theory a bit better educated and refined?  (In theory.)  Are they wanking over the hot chick in Human Resources, or maybe the bear cub in Tech Support?  Do they do it in the middle of the day, while someone else may be grunting over other emissions in the stall next to them?  Or are they working late, maybe cruising porn sites, and came in for quick relief?

But more to the point, why the fuck can’t they clean up after themselves?  Grab a little toilet paper and jerk off into that.  Or catch it in your hand and wipe the cum off from there.  Or for God’s sake, if you can’t control yourself any better than that, at least wipe off the wall when you’re done!  Are you trying to “mark your territory,” akin to a dog pissing on a tree?  Is there some secret thrill that you get from knowing that other people may come in later and see your dried slime trails?  And what does the mirror in your bathroom or the wall behind your bed’s headboard look like, since I assume that if you can’t be bothered to clean up the wall at work, you must not at home, either.

I guess the one thing to be thankful of with this is that I’ve never found the slime trails when they are wet.

But dried cum isn’t the only mystery substance to be found in the stalls.  (No, I didn’t find a baggie taped behind the toilet tank!)  This morning, glancing under the stall wall while using the urinal, I saw a bunch of short hair trimmings.  Three possibilities:

  • The guy got a haircut on the way to work and was shedding clumps which the barber did a lousy job of brushing out.  I’ve had little shreds litter my papers and keyboard before, but this was a lot more than that.
  • The guy trimmed his beard in the stall, probably while taking a dump – might as well do double-duty!  You would think over the bathroom sink would be more efficient, although maybe he had a mirror he hung on the back of the stall door.  But it sure looks like he would have ended up with prickly beard trimmings in his underwear.
  • Or he was trimming his pubic hair in the stall.

Whatever.  Just clean the fuck up after yourselves!

Update (witnessed less than an hour later):

And let’s not forget spitting in the urinal but missing, leaving the loogie to drip over the side and congeal and dry into a frothy mass.  Ick!

(Weblog Title Reference: From the infamous bathroom graffiti poem: “Here I sit all broken-hearted / Tried to shit but only farted / Then one day I got the chance / Tried to fart but shit my pants.”)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

5:44 pm / Friday, September 3, 2004

Here We Come a WASL-ing

The results of the latest WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) scores are in, and while some score are up moderately (but see below for more on that), the real numbers are pretty dismal.  (See full article from the Seattle Times.)  Only 38.8% of 10th grade students received “proficient” marks in all three subjects needed for graduation (Reading, Writing, and Math).  “Proficient” is a minimum of 61% correct.  Summarized further:

Less than 40% of students can get at least a D- grade in Reading, Writing, and Math.

The only thing to be cheerful about here is that the numbers are slightly less bad than they were last year.  Oh, and they reduced the requirements for passing this year, so the touted increases and improvements are much smaller than they actually seem to be.

(Why am I concerned about this, being a gay male who isn’t in the education field?  Rusty’s teenage daughter Sarah lives with us, and she goes to Cleveland High.  Which incidentally is perhaps the worst school in the entire state when it comes to WASL scores – with the exception of some with “NA” scores, it’s the worst in this part of the state – with a whopping 3% pass rate.  That’s right: of 10th Graders at Cleveland, less than 1 in 30 could pass this test.  That gives me real qualms about the education system in Seattle in general, not just at Cleveland, since the education to pass a test like this has to have started long before 10th grade.)

Now, you can lay out arguments about how the test – any standardized test – may be biased against some racial groups (or other minorities), or how some students simply do poorly on standardized tests, or how students learn in different ways and at different rates, or that the test doesn’t actually test what the students are learning.  And I would agree with you: to a certain degree, all those things are probably true.  They certainly contribute to some good and average students doing less well than their real potential, and some middling-poor students not being “proficient”.

But we’re talking that 60% of students on average fail this test.  (And 97% percent at Cleveland!  Ninety-fucking-seven percent!)  Not “lose a few percentage points,” but “get less than six out of every ten questions correct.”  That’s a lot bigger than can be explained by the test not being quite in synch with the students.

Three possibilities seem to be there:

  • The test is completely out of whack.  Frankly, I don’t buy this.  Somewhere along the line, adults have surely vetted this test to make sure it tests pertinent information.  (Of course, this assumes that what is deemed pertinent really is.  But I remember these tests: addition, subtraction, geometry, spelling, analogies, reading comprehension, synonyms, stuff like that.  The validity of testing these things has not changed in decades.)
  • The students are not being taught what the tests cover.  Given the flack in recent years about schools which teach explicitly and only what the test covers, in order to ensure that students pass it (other valuable teaching be damned), I also don’t buy this one.  I went to school (K-12) in three different parts of this state, and I know that at least some of the schools (try to) teach the pertinent info. (I never failed these tests.)
  • The students are what is out of whack.  Now this is what I expect is the case.  I can observe Sarah, and what I observe from her is confirmed by what I know from other kids (including one I heard on the radio discussing this subject).  The students don’t care about this test; heck, some of them may even actively try to fail it.  (We believe Sarah did that when she took the Food Handler’s Test is June: quite easy for a kid as smart as she is, but since she was going home to Kentucky for the summer the next week, her incentive to pass this test was close to zero.  Why pass a test to get a job when you don’t need to get a job?  SO we think she just blew away the questions intentionally.)  This is probably even more true with students at dead-end schools like Cleveland: how many kids from a school where 3% pass this test do you think expect to go on to college?  How many aspire to anything more than working at Safeway or driving a bus – unless it’s to be a sports star, a rap star, or a drug dealer?  How many even care if they graduate from high school?

Next year or the year after, passing the WASL will be required to graduate.  (Students can take it at least once each year, maybe more often.  It’s not a one shot, “blow it in 10th grade and you’re sunk” sort of thing.)  I’m sure this will boost improvement quite a bit – imagine, actually having to do something other than get a D- in all your required classes in order to graduate! – but it will also show us how many don’t care.  And it will probably be accompanied by even more lowering of standards, because the only thing worse than No Child Left Behind is keeping as much as 97% of your Senior Class another year, or two, or three.

No, I don’t have a solution for this.  I find it very hard to compare to myself, because I genuinely wanted to learn, and these kids – not just the ones at Cleveland, but almost every teen I have contact with – don’t.  Sarah won’t read a book unless it’s required; according to her, she has “no imagination” and can’t get anything out of them.  Gee, do you think that’s because of a steady diet of television, movies, and crude hip hop music (“My neck, my back, lick my pussy and my crack” is not appropriate lyrics for adults to listen to, much less teenagers), overloading the senses, dumbing things down, and generating a culture of passivity where everything has to come to you, rather than you going to get it.  If it’s not both passive and excessive, the kids don’t want it.

I can’t blame the schools, unfortunately.  They do the best they can, but between students who don’t want to learn and a legal system which all but requires them to pass the kids just for showing up and won’t let them levy any sort of threats of dire consequences, what can they do?  They put the info out there, but the kids don’t sit down to eat.  I guess you have to blame the parents; I had really good ones, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

It’s going to be really interesting to see what Sarah makes of herself in 5… 10… 20 years, much less some of the kids who are her peers.  Many of them have great talent – Kerizma sings, Kinsey makes jewelry, and so on – but they are so unfocused, unsupported, and untested that I fear it will be wasted.  Many of these kids live in the poor part of town and can’t even conceive of getting out; they don’t realize that there’s an out to get to.

If these are the future of our country, I’m very scared.

(Weblog Title Reference: From the Christmas carol “Here We Come a-Wassailing”  Wassail is a spiced holiday beverage given out to carolers.)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

2:43 pm / Thursday, September 2, 2004

Selection 2004: Primary-ly Geared to Generate Lawsuits

Click here for part 9 of Selection 2004.

Washington state has a new Primary Election system this year, as mandated by a court decision.  We used to have a “blanket primary”, where anyone could vote for any candidate – a Democrat in this race, a Republican in that one, and so forth.  In our new system – the so-called “Montana” style – voters must select a single party and then vote only for people running under that party.  (Everyone gets to vote in the “Non-Partisan” races, like for Judge – we call them non-partisan because there’s no explicit political party listed, but we all know every one of the candidates has a political agenda of his or her own which may color how they perform once in office.)  The winner from each of the main parties (Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian), plus any minor party candidates, ends up on the General Election ballot come November.

Needless to say, a lot of people are angry about this, because it changes how they have been able to vote in the past.  I certainly understand that, because I, too, liked that freedom.  But people miss an important fact there, the purpose of this sort of a Primary Election:

The Primary Election is not intended to winnow the field down to just two candidates.  (At least not in most states.  Some use the “Louisiana” style, which does just that: if the top two vote getters happen to be from the same party, those two end up in the General Election.)  Instead, the Primary Election’s purpose is to choose the candidate from each party.  To that end, the parties are right in wanting only Democrats to vote for Democrat candidates, and only Republicans to vote for Republicans.  Or at least Democrats-for-the-moment: if you are willing to vote only for Democrats, they’ll (grudgingly) take you, no matter what party your official registration is with (if any).

Part of the goal here is to prevent “spoilers”.  You may not care who gets the nod from your favorite party (or it may be in the bag), but you may feel that one candidate in the opposition party has a greater chance of beating out your party, so you might want to throw your vote to his in-party opponent in order to get the less “dangerous” candidate into the General Election.  Needless to say, the political parties don’t like such “spoilers”.  One way around them is to set things up so that you can still vote as a “spoiler”, but you have to be one across the board: if you want to vote for anyone from that other party, you can only vote for that party.  (Or you can still cross party lines and have your ballot invalidated.)

And that’s what my big concern is with this election.

There are two balloting methods going on.  In most of the state, voters will declare which party they intend to vote for, are given the ballot for that party (all three ballots have the non-partisan section attached), and away they go to vote.  There are two downsides to this: first, each precinct has to have enough ballots for every registered voter (although at best half will actually vote) to vote in any party, even Libertarian (which is apt to actually get maybe 5%, tops); this triplication can be expensive.  Second, this presumably means publicly declaring your party intention to people who could be your friends (or enemies) and who might be taken aback at a party affiliation (even if only temporary) which does not match their own; I’m sure there are ways to avoid such declaration, though.

But for six counties – Snohomish, King, Pierce, Kitsap, Klickitat, and Chelan, which contain large Washington cities such as Everett, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Bremerton, and Wenatchee – there is none of this triple ballot stuff.  Each person gets a single ballot, marks a preferred party, and votes accordingly.  But if there is any crossing of party lines (intentional or accidental), including marking the wrong party and then voting consistently beyond that, those votes are invalidated:

[Secretary of State Sam] Reed expects a number of ballots will be tainted, with voters neglecting to mark their party preference or trying to vote for candidates of more than one party. Those votes won’t count.

Above excerpt from the Seattle Times.  According to the Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet, only votes which don’t conform to the party selection are discounted, rather than the entire ballot.

This thing is bound to be as problematic as the Butterfly Ballot was in Florida in 2000.  In the other counties, there’s no question about keeping to the selected party, but in several of the largest cities in the state – and in the strongest Democratic areas, if that’s important – ballots which can be expected to cause confusion are being used, in the name of saving money.  (Which I’m all for, mind you!)  But you have to admit, things look a little suspicious.

If there are any close races from those counties, you can expect lawsuits up the butt and new buzz phrases to drive “hanging chad” out of the vocabulary.  The state had better plan on recording all the invalid votes in order to provide statistics to refute those lawsuits, and have backup plans in place for handling recounts.

Fortunately (perhaps), Initiative 872 comes along in November, and if it passes (which is considered likely), will move us to a “Louisiana” style primary (the old “blanket primary” was deemed unconstitutional).  Of course, the political parties are campaigning against it, “saying it would deprive voters of party choice and could disenfranchise those who back minor-party candidates.”  (The first part is also known as “It would take away some of our power.”  The second part is truer, but if you can’t make Top Two in September, you ain’t gonna make it in November, either.)

Click here for part 11 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

3:26 pm / Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Clubs, Forums, and Alpha Wolves

I am or have been involved in a number of clubs, online forums, and other groups over the years.  If you have as well, you’ve seen them ebb and flow.  You’ve seen personalities clash.  You’ve seen people drop out, and others never really participate – sometimes because they have nothing to add, but sometimes because they fear being attacked.

Cartoonist Donna Barr makes some good commentary on the matter in this article.

There are people who seem to survive well in these sorts of environments, though.  Maybe these are the “Beta Wolves”: the people who recognize the politics for what they are and don’t let the politics control the people.  They are people with no more than a minimal agenda, but who are willing to give as good as they get: they aren’t afraid of getting barked at, but no “alpha” attacks them without getting bit himself.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

5:00 pm / Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Selection 2004: Undecided

Click here for part 8 of Selection 2004.

Is there really anyone “undecided” left in this country when it comes to who they are going to vote for in November?  Myself, I’ve been pretty well decided since, oh, December 2000: Anybody But Bush.  Firmly so since this campaign started, anyway, once we knew for sure that only a Democrat opponent would have a chance of winning and that such could be no worse than Bush.

But what about other people?  Are any of them truly “Undecided”, or is that a myth?  As I think about, they are probably real, but not in the way the term is usually batted around.

  • I suspect that anyone who voted Democrat in 2000 – and most who voted Green (Nader) – is in the “No question” camp.  Polls indicate that there are a number of people who voted for Bush last time who are at least questioning it this time.  So some “Undecideds” are actually “Undecided whether they will vote for Bush again.”
  • I’m on record as being less than thrilled with Kerry as a nominee (although no worse than I was with Gore in 2000), but I know that I will swallow and vote for him anyway, as the candidate who will do my pet issues the least harm, and because note voting for him is 1/2 a vote for someone who will do those issues some harm.  I’m sure, however, that there are people who genuinely can’t stand either Kerry or Bush, who think that neither one is good for the country, and thus they are “Undecided whether they will vote for either guy.”
  • As we all know, there are many who are apathetic about the entire thing.  Often, this is especially the younger crowd, the ones who are old enough to be cynical without being wise, or who simply don’t care.  These are “Undecided whether they will bother to vote.”
  • Everyone likes to be a winner, or at least on the winning side.  Look at sports fans, who are gleefully happy if “their team” wins (even when they don’t live where that team is based).  I’m sure there are people out there who just want to say they voted for the winner (or maybe gripe because their candidate didn’t win; they want griping rights more than a winning candidate, because they know they’ll never be happy with whomever wins).  And thus they are “Undecided which way they will throw their vote until the last minute, when they can see who is apt to be the winner.”

Click here for part 10 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

1:16 pm / Tuesday, August 31, 2004

In the Mood for a Hero

While reading The Stranger’s review of Hero – which I hope to see tomorrow night – I caught a side mention of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung’s prior movie appearance, In the Mood for Love (2000).  And my mini-review of same:

Maggie Cheung’s ass in this film would be enough to make any man go straight, if she wasn’t wearing so many fabulous dresses.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:40 pm / Friday, August 27, 2004
Edited at 5:02 pm / Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Selection 2004/Gay Marriage: Pending Amendments

Click here for part 7 of Selection 2004.
Click here
for part 20 of Gay Marriage.

Hidden down at the bottom of this CNN article, after all the stuff about the Republican Party convention platform calling for an amendment to ban same-sex civil marriage, is this little tidbit:

On abortion, the proposed platform again calls for a constitutional ban, asserting “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

You got that?  The Religious Right now sees Constitutional amendments as the best way to forward their agenda.  (Yes, I’m aware that a call for an abortion amendment has been a staple of their platform for several elections, but this time it has company.)  They realize that the weight of law and court precedent is increasingly against them on the gay rights front, on abortion, on stem-cell research, on flag burning, and so on, and thus that their best (perhaps only) option is to do an end-run to where the courts can’t touch them.  (And then presumably stand there, going “Neener-neener!  We win!”)

You want a slippery slope?  This is it.  If any of these controversial amendments pass – just pass Congress, before they ever get to the states – there will be a rush to push all of them through the channel and burst the dam.

One of the primary purposes of the courts is to protect the individual and the minority against the rule of the majority.  This is the right wing’s method of imposing majority rule.

You want something that will destroy our civilization?  Don’t look at gay marriage.  Look at amendments which restrict the rights of minorities.

Click here for part 9 of Selection 2004.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

1:21 pm / Friday, August 20, 2004

Go to Hell

This article on CNN.com is representative of the problems I have with organized religion.

To summarize: a girl with celiac sprue disease (wheat gluten intolerance) is being denied the rite of Communion by the Catholic Church.  Church doctrine requires unleavened wheat as part of the communion wafer.

Regardless of what the Catholic Church doctrine says about transubstantiation – that the wafer and wine change into literal body and blood of Christ, which is pretty sick if you think about it – Communion is a symbolic rite.  I doubt anyone really believes that transubstantiation occurs; they have “faith” that it does, but they don’t believe it.  (Someone will surely pipe up and say they do.  No, you don’t; you have been told to believe it, and you’ve accepted that.  That’s what faith is: believing what you’re told to.)

So in the name of holding to Church doctrine, this child is being given a choice: become ill, or do not receive salvation.  That is, risk your health or go to Hell.  What a choice.

(Now, not to judge the entire Church.  Some individual churches are willing to substitute a rice wafer.  But not the one the child’s parents attend: that one invalidated her Communion done at a friendlier church.  And of course the Vatican has already decided the issue, in the negative.)

In the end, it should boil down to this: “What Would Jesus Do?”  Would he tell a child no?  I don’t think so.  Maybe the Church should give some more thought to this.  And maybe adherents to the Catholic faith should give some thought to what they actually have faith in.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

5:44 pm / Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Edited at 10:39 am / Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Gay Marriage: Why Gays Get Married

Click here for part 19.

Jonathan Rauch has an opinion piece on gay marriage in the online version of the New York Times.  Registration required.  (Troy points me to a no-registration version at Independent Gay Forum.)

There is an understated point in here that I find interesting: the idea that being gay and wanting to marry are orthogonal.  Okay, today, when we’re so wrapped up in the pending possibility, that doesn’t seem unusual (although some seem to fear that “married” will become the new gay norm, that those who are not coupled will be shunned).  But before/outside this current spate of marriage fever is a different matter.

We usually think of gays and lesbians who get married (in the straight manner) as denying their orientation.  However, in an orthogonal world, it’s not so much denial as suppression.  For whatever reason, some men and women feel that being married is An Important Thing.  It is something they sincerely want to do/be. And thus, in the name of achieving this goal, they put aside any same-sex orientation drive they may have and pursue the left turn at Albuquerque.

Of course, drives – sex, hunger, and I’ll propose a “sexual orientation drive” as something distinct from the traditional “sex drive” – can only be idled for so long, and eventually things break down and they have to be addressed.  Which has been the demise of many an opposite sex marriage where suppression has occurred.

One more reason to favor same-sex civil marriage: it may actually reduce the divorce rate, by allowing those with the need to pursue marriage to do so without the suppression of the sexual orientation drive which tends to tear such things apart.

Click here for part 21.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

1:06 pm / Friday, August 13, 2004
Updated at 2:55 pm / Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Talk the Talk

Submitted for your perverse consideration.  (Or based on the previous entry, perhaps your kinky consideration?)

My Fair Lady

Professor Henry Higgins, a scholar of language in all its forms, takes in and educates Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, enabling her to pass herself off as a member of the continental nobility.  Despite his protestations to the contrary, Higgins falls for the woman.


Dr. Dolittle

A skilled veterinarian learns to talk to the animals, and sets off to have great adventures involving giant sea snails and the Pushme-Pullyu.

Goodness but these two language experts look alike, don’t they?  (Okay, I know they were both played by Rex Harrison, in 1964 and 1967 respectively.  Humor me.)  What if…

Despite realizing his love for Eliza, it is easy to imagine that Henry might never actually marry the woman.  True, it would be a scandal in that age – but so would taking in a Cockney flower girl, after all, and Henry Higgins was never one to care much for what “polite society” thought of him – so it is not hard to imagine Henry and Eliza raising a son out of wedlock.  Or perhaps Eliza eventually realizing that Henry would never actually marry her and departing for another part of England with her son and a comfortable stipend.

Advance time forward a few decades, and witness Eliza’s son (with a single letter change in the surname) becoming a successful veterinarian, undoubtedly with his education and travels funded by the estate of his father. Although the good doctor has never demonstrated a particular interest in the art of language, blood will tell, and when given the opportunity to do so, he readily picks up the ability to “Talk to the Animals.”

(Further, both the above movies have a non-specific Victorian era setting.  With no specific references to place the two films temporally, that period is broad enough to fit the timeline.  At least to the degree of accuracy any Hollywood film manages.)

For extra credit, find other Rex Harrison (or Audrey Hepburn) movies which fit into this concept, where the character is played by the same actor (or actress) and shares sufficient traits to be a relative of Henry (or Eliza).

Comment by Sterling / received August 24, 2004:

I must admit that I really enjoyed your take on the Doolittle names and Hollywood.  Very amusing.  I will place it in the same chapter as demonic advertising and hidden messages in rock music.  (Two other areas I enjoy reading about for a good laugh!)

Pygmalion (1916) by George Bernard Shaw, coined the name Doolittle in 1916.  [The book] was based on commonly known mythology.

Dr. Dolittle was conceived during the 1917-18 war (in the battle at Flanders to be exact) as a reaction to Hugh Lofting seeing Regimental Horses destroyed when wounded.  (The original story was in a letter to small children that he wrote.)  Once Lofting was wounded himself and send back to NYC, he wrote the story to be published in 1920.  The series of books based on the exploits of Dolittle that followed was begun in 1922.

If you would like to ready why the two could not be related by blood (the child of Eliza and Higgins) there is a great scholarly piece on the web to read.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:57 am / Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What is “Kinky”?

I’m not about to try to define the word.  It seems to fall into the same class as obscenity: “I don't know what it is, but I know it when I see it.”  Pinning it down (ooh, there’s something kinky… maybe) is impossible, because the specifics differ from person to person.

What I will say, though, is this:

If you do it, it’s kinky.
If they do it, it’s perverted.

(And if you don’t do it, but you’re oddly intrigued, then it’s edge play.)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:33 am / Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Gay Marriage: Talking Points

Click here for part 18.

Stanley Kurtz has an opinion piece on gay marriage in the online version of the National Review.

I don’t agree with much of what he has to say, but one point comes out clear and accurate:

Gay marriage is an issue most people prefer to avoid.  The public may oppose gay marriage, but what it really wants is to avoid having to talk about it.

This parallels the well established scenario where people who are against gay rights (of any sort) tend to change (or at least soften) their stance when they have a family member, close friend, or co-worker come out.  Once they have a face to put with the situation, they tend to actually think about it, rather than going with their squicked gut reaction.

That is undoubtedly true for the same-sex civil marriage side of things, too.  The arguments against start (and pretty much end) with “It’s wrong!!!”  Once people are forced (er, encouraged) to actually think about the issue (if you can get them to think rather than preach), if you can put a face on it, then you’ll fund them at least softening their stance.  (The first sign of that being “Well, I guess civil unions might be okay.”)

People are sheep: they want to be herded from one field to the next.  People are metaphoric ostriches, sticking their heads in the sand.  They will pointedly ignore the truth of an issue in favor of repeating other people’s rhetoric.  The best cure for this is personal activism – “Being out is more important than coming out” – so you need to do what you can to make those around you aware that same-sex couples are here, are queer, and deserve the rights, benefits, and responsibilities which every other loving couple gets in our society.

Click here for part 20.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

9:39 am / Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Butch Fun Cars II

Click here for part 1.

Land Rover logo

Freelander SE3

Land Rover Freelander SE3.  2004.  Rutland Red.  Last night.

More later…

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:46 am / Thursday, July 15, 2004

Conflicted about the Conflict: We Would Have Invaded Anyway

Click here for part 14.

This week, the Butler Report was released in the United Kingdom, reiterating what has been coming out in the United States recently: that the intelligence agencies had reservations about weapon stockpiles, that Saddam Hussein was not an immediate threat, and that Blair (and Bush) pushed forward regardless.  On BBC Radio’s “World Service” program yesterday was an interview on the subject with Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons.

You must listen to this (Real Audio).  It’s 4:24 minutes long.  At least start at 3:30 and hear the last minute of the interview

But let me transcribe that part

(Symons) The crunch issue is, “If we knew then what we know now, would the decision over what we did in Iraq be the same?” and the answer to that is “Yes.”  Because as the Butler Report makes clear, Saddam had had chemical and biological weapons, he had had a nuclear weapons program, he had concealed them, he had used these weapons in the past.

(BBC Interviewer) If we’d known that there were no stockpiles, no weapons of mass destruction, we’d have invaded anyway?

(Symons) I think that the threat that was posed to us at the time was a threat that we could not have simply passed by. Because the fact is that at the time, we were getting all these reports, not only about the belief that Saddam could be building up these stockpiles, but of course, as well, it was the coming together, as the Prime Minister made very clear in his statement, of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist threat.

[Online program ends here.]

In other words, “Yes.”  If we had known at the time that there were no weapons of mass destruction, we (or at least the United Kingdom, and I think it’s safe to say the United States by extension, since the UK wouldn’t have done it without us) would have invaded Iraq anyway.

In short, the war was about deposing Saddam.  And nothing else.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:35 pm / Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Edited at 11:41 am / Thursday, July 15, 2004

Conflicted about the Conflict: Big Deal

Click here for part 13.

There has been a big hoopla over the fact that the Philippines has decided to pull its Coalition forces out of Iraq in order to secure the release of one of their people held hostage.

According to this site, that’s going to be a total of 43 people removed (down already from 51).  Forty-three!  Big fucking deal!  (In fact, the only Coalition members with fewer personnel in Iraq are Norway, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, and Moldova.  Tonga has about the same number as the Philippines; they only just arrived on July 4.  Oh, and of course Spain has pulled theirs out already, and Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua are listed with none present.)

On the other hand, that one hostage equates to some 2% of the Philippine forces there.  If the United States had 2000 or more of our forces held hostage – I’m not sure just what the current number of troops in Iraq is, but it’s somewhere above 100,000 as I recall – then maybe we would do the same.  (Or maybe just when we reach that number of deaths.  We’re only at some 881 today.  Whoops, wait, that was last Friday.  The number is probably higher by now.)

Click here for part 15.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:08 pm / Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Gay Marriage: Rotten to the Core

Click here for part 17.

In his July 10 radio broadcast (transcription), President Bush referred to courts defining marriage as a “mere legal contract.”

From a legal, governmental, secular standpoint, that is what marriage is.  The United States government does not and cannot recognize a religious aspect of marriage and instead wraps contract law around and through marriage, pointedly ignoring (but allowing) any religious aspects.

Or at least that’s how law sees it, from an agnostic point of view.  (Note: not atheistic, which would be “There is no God,” but agnostic, “God isn’t required.”  There is a difference.)  Religionists like Bush, however, (claim to) look from the inside out: they see marriage as a religious rite, and the legal contracts as stuff wrapped around the outside.

This is then the crux of the issue: is marriage the religious rite in the center, and the other stuff is just fluff?  Or is marriage the legal contracts, and the religious stuff is an optional piece?  (Picture a toy car given as a birthday present, perhaps: the toy won’t run without the batteries, but the batteries aren’t much fun without the toy.  Of course, the toy car can probably be pushed around and played with to some degree sans batteries.)

As observed on this site, outside of Christian terms, marriage is merely such a contract, a means of establishing whose woman (and children, and associated property) is whose.  Out of that has grown all the other legal incidents involving inheritance and taxes and “in sickness and in health”.

I”m not going to say who is right and who is wrong – that’s a question unanswerable by anyone but God, and He ain’t talking.  But clearly if you don’t accept the religious rite as a required core, then marriage is probably the other stuff.

But if the religionists do manage to push through the Federal Marriage Amendment, or something similar to it, it’s worth considering whether this is merely the first step on a proverbial “slippery slope”.  Once they have had one success in codifying their religious beliefs (note: not religious beliefs in general, since some religions are not opposed to same-sex marriage, even as a religious rite; with the toy example above, you can buy whatever brand of batteries you want) into law this way, the next step becomes easier: tying marriage to the religious right (er, to the religious rite).  Not requiring people to be married, but restricting the benefits and legal incidents of marriage to those who are married.  And then defining “married” as requiring the religious rite.  And then defining just what that religious rite is.

In other words, once they can define marriage as being one man and one woman, they can start to work at it having other limits (in order to make it conform to tradition, of course; to their tradition).  They can disallow marriages done in non-approved (non-religious) way, including Justice of the Peace, Common Law, shipboard, and of course mayors and other political persons.  And from there, it’s a simple hop to stripping existing marriages of those sorts.

The FMA isn’t about protecting marriage.  It’s about restricting it, reserving it to only those who the religionists deem worthy.  Disallowing same-sex couples is only the first step.  (Make that the third step: they already kicked out groups other than couples, and they used to have limits regarding race, but lost ground on that.  Perhaps only temporarily, in their view.)

Click here for part 19.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:25 pm / Monday, July 12, 2004
Updated on Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Best Deal for Travel

I don’t want to get in the habit of touting one business over another, but…

When I need to get airplane tickets (and this is fairly often, as I’ve been in, let’s see… Palm Springs, Long Beach, Seattle, Houston, Nashville, Paducah, Vancouver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas, Columbus… at least 11 metro areas this year, with at least three more to come before the year is over), I go to a variety of websites looking for the best price.  Most of my cross-country flying is on American (for the miles), and my West Coast trips are usually on Alaska (again, for the miles), but I also check Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia as well.  You never know which might have a Web Deal or even just a fare a few bucks lower.

Twice in the past year, poking around for best fares – both times going to Texas, oddly enough, and gasping at the prices – I’ve found my best deal to be through Travelocity, with their “Search Flights + Hotels” option.  They partner with area hotels – anything from a 2-star Comfort Suites to a 4-star Crowne Plaza – and get you a package deal which is below the cost for the items separately.  This has proven true even when I was staying at the host hotel for an event at what should be a cut price off the standard rate.  For my upcoming trip to Dallas, the net saving will be about $80 off the separate pieces, a bit more than one night free at the hotel.

(Of course, I have to be a good consumer of the event as well, and call the hotel to confirm the reservation and make sure they record it as being in conjunction with the event.  Events and conventions need room nights at the host hotel to ensure that they get ballroom and exhibition space at as low a price as possible.)

Update / posted August 11, 2004:

I need to downgrade the above recommendation somewhat after my trip to Dallas this past weekend.  I realized as well that I used Travelocity for my hotel on a trip to Las Vegas back in June, and I’ve used them now and again in the past just for airfare, and that helped establish a pattern.

Both of my airplane seats on this last trip were “E” seats – middle of the right side – and my memory says that this is a pattern.  That is, as a bulk seller of airline seats, they put you in the less desirable middle seats (or perhaps those are the ones made readily available to them; can’t put all the blame on them without knowing all the details).  On both legs of my Dallas trip, the plane was packed to the gills (even on a mid-afternoon flight out of the hub on a Monday!) and there was no availability to change seats.

Worse, though, is that they do the same thing (perhaps) with hotel space.  When I got to the Sheraton in Dallas, I was greeted by “I see you’ve requested a Smoking Room.”  I most certainly did not: with my asthma, it’s bad enough going to bars and dating a smoker, I sure don’t want to breathe leftover smoke all weekend while I sleep.  I had the same situation with the hotel in Vegas; I don’t recall about Houston last October.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to change to a non-smoking room each time, but it was no sure thing in Vegas.

Again, it’s impossible to say whether this is an intentional thing, that the hotel partners offer up smoking rooms because they are less able to fill them, or if it’s just a bad web interface which doesn’t ask about smoking preference and the lack of info gets pushed through to the hotel as a default preference for Smoking.

Whatever the intent, caveat emptor: you can get a better deal this way, but there may be hidden bits of undesirability.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

4:41 pm / Friday, July 9, 2004

Gay Marriage: Change Begins at Work (Conclusion)

Click here for part 16.

Back in March, I wrote (in “Gay Marriage: Change Begins at Work”) about our company’s gay and lesbian employees group’s effort to get our Domestic Partner Benefits requirements changed, updating them to account for today’s domestic partner registrations, civil unions, and legal same-sex civil marriages.

This had been the text from our benefits book:

Domestic Partner Coverage

Adobe extends coverage under Personal Selections (PS) to qualified domestic partners, same
and opposite sex, and their eligible dependent child(ren). Domestic partner coverage applies
to the coverages—medical, dental, vision, dependent life insurance and long-term care—in
which spouses and children may be enrolled.

To be eligible for domestic partner coverage:
• You and your partner must be at least 18 years of age.
• You must be in a committed, exclusive relationship.
• You must have lived together for at least 12 months.
• You must be jointly responsible for living expenses.
• Your domestic partner’s child(ren) must satisfy the same criteria applied to an employee’s
child(ren). (See “Who Is Eligible” earlier in this section.)

Roommates and relatives are not considered domestic partners. You must also wait 12 months
before re-enrolling a different domestic partner. If you are in a domestic partnership and
your 12-month anniversary falls at a time outside of the Open Enrollment period, this will be
treated as a qualified change in status, and you may apply for domestic partner coverage
at that time.

I’m pleased to say that, after diligent research, Human Resources has agreed to the bulk of our requests on the subject.  (Aside: There was an article in The Advocate in March indicating that some companies were making changes like this, but without naming any of them.  Well, here’s one to be named!)

Here is the text (effective July 1, 2004 ) to be incorporated into the next printing:

Domestic Partner Coverage

Throughout the year, Adobe periodically reviews our benefit plans and policies. Due to our review and recent legislation, the following changes have been made to our Domestic Partner policy:

• Official government registration of an employee’s domestic partnership can be submitted in
lieu of Adobe’s Domestic Partner Declaration (Affidavit).

• Domestic partner eligibility requirements

An employee and their domestic partner must be:

– At least 18 years of age
– In a committed, exclusive relationship AND
– Jointly responsible for living expenses.
– A domestic partner’s child(ren) must satisfy the same eligibility criteria applied to the child(ren) of an employee.

A domestic partner relationship must:

– Exist for at least 12 consecutive months AND during this time, maintain the same principal residence with the intent to do so indefinitely.
– The domestic partner relationship must be recorded, certified, and/or registered by a national, state, city or regional U.S. government authority.

That is, whether or not they have lived together for 12 months, the presence of a government-recognized and registered relationship is sufficient for Adobe Systems to accept that it is a genuine domestic partnership.

There are two things which they did not approve:

• Payment for the benefits of the domestic partner come out of post-tax dollars, while that for married opposite-sex spouses come from pre-tax dollars and may cost less.  This is not something Adobe Systems has control over; it is dictated by the Federal Government and insurers.

• This policy change only affects United States employees whose partnerships are registered in the United States.  Adobe has other policies for its employees in Canada, the Netherlands, and other countries where same-sex marriage laws are different.  In particular, though, U.S. employees who marry in Canada but do not otherwise have a registered partnership in the United States are not covered.

There is also one impact that I note for which we didn’t request a change:

• Same-sex partners must share living expenses, which implies the earlier requirement to live together as well.  It is unclear how this would affect a couple for which one partner had to live in another city for an extended period due to his or her job (or military service) and was unable to contribute to the living expenses, for example.  For opposite-sex married couples, there is no requirement for shared living expenses or cohabitation; technically, the two never have to see one another again after marrying.

I suppose someone may request an examination of that requirement at some point, although I am personally not too worried about it.  I believe that Adobe would do the right thing by a couple separated for job or related reasons.  There are few couples (same or opposite sex) who would fall into the last class above, and I would be more apt to fight to prevent opposite-sex couples from receiving benefits in such a case than to secure them for same-sex couples.

In all, a very favorable resolution to this issue that I spearheaded.

What’s that?  Will it actually affect any employees?  You bet it will.  One of the female employees has already spoken up to say that it will.  But even more, my partner Rusty currently has no health insurance.  We are still waiting for his divorce from his ex-wife to finalize (it’s been in process since before we met!), but once that happens, we will register our partnership with King County and be able to have him (and his daughter Sarah, who also lives with us during the school year) covered, hopefully by Labor Day, several months before the old policy would have enabled such coverage to start.

Click here for part 18.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:32 am / Thursday, July 8, 2004

What Were They Thinking?: Where All the Lights are Bright…

Click here for the previous entry.

The Loft 2 ad
(click to enlarge)

This ad came out of the July 2004 issue of American Way Magazine.

So where is “The Loft 2” located?  Downtown where?  What city, what state, what country?  (Lest we forget, American Way Magazine is in the seat pocket of thousands of seats on hundreds of planes traveling all over the country, maybe the world.  In my case, I was traveling from Seattle to St. Louis to Columbus, all of which have downtown areas.)  The ad gives no place information.  There is no mailing address, no telephone number, no e-mail address, and no web site listed.  (Of course, if I was the sort of person who wanted to live in “The Loft 2,” perhaps I would already know about “The Loft Downtown” and wouldn’t need to wonder about this.)

For the dedicated person, though, there are two clues in the ad:

Palm Trees at The Loft 2

Bag for Bathroom Glass

Palm Trees
The Fine Print


But Florida is a big place.  Tallahassee?  Jacksonville?  Tampa/St. Petersburg?  Ocala?  Orlando?  Ft. Lauderdale?  Miami?

A web search on “Loft Downtown” and on “Related Cervera Realty Services” (mentioned in the ad copy) finally reveals that the original building, and thus presumably the new one as well, is in Miami.  But even then, there is no direct website to either the building or the agency revealed in the top listings on Google, only references on other Miami-based sites.

Click here for the next entry.

[Weblog title reference: From the Petula Clark song “Downtown”.]

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:40 am / Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Letterhack VII: Try It, You’ll Like It!

This letter was printed in the June 30 issue of the Seattle Weekly, in response to an article in the previous week’s annual Gay Pride issue.

In Nina Shapiro’s article, she glosses over the higher divorce rate amongst same-sex couples vs. heterosexual couples in some studies from Europe, positing a couple answers (lack of kids, lack of obstacles to leaving relationships).

Let me put forward another reason: marriage (and marriage-like options) may genuinely not be the right answer for some couples at some times.  Same-sex civil marriage (and such) is something new for us, and we don’t have the benefit of centuries of learning about how it should be done [Edited out: it’s never been an option before].  As a result, a lot of same-sex couples may think it’s the right thing and later find out otherwise.  Give it a couple decades, and the rates of divorce should fall close to heterosexual levels.

This is one of the strengths that today’s society is reluctant to embrace just yet: the idea that “one size fits all” doesn’t.  Career dad, stay-at-home mom, 2.4 kids, and a Golden Retriever is a scenario that we can’t all force ourselves into, but which a lot of people try. Civil unions, same-sex civil marriage, communal living, wife swapping, polygamy, open relationships, and just plain shacking up are all variations on a theme enabling us all to find the relationship model that works right for us, rather than trying (and failing) to wedge ourselves into the same one as everyone else.

[Weblog title reference: The classic Life Cereal commercial, featuring Mikey.]

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

10:15 am / Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Edited at 11:34 am / Thursday, July 8, 2004

Selection 2004: Ho Hum 2

Click here for part 6.

Kerry/Edwards as the Democratic ticket.  Completely predictable.  Boring.  I continue with the same feeling of impending void: I will vote for Kerry/Edwards, not because I’m enthused by them (nor because I’m a registered Democrat and always vote the party line, since I’m not and I don’t), but because I can’t vote for Bush/Cheney and because I (we) can’t afford to not vote.

On the flip side, Edwards probably truly is the best choice.  Not because he gives a North/South balance to the ticket, or because his “humble beginnings” offset Kerry’s “privilege”, but because he minimizes exposure.  The only thing that the Republicans seem to have to throw at Edwards right now is a relative lack of experience, which is exactly what Bush himself ran on four years ago, as a candidate who had held only one elected office before running for President.  Edwards is no less experienced than Bush was, and in fact has private successes prior to office, which the current President cannot claim.

Click here for part 8.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

10:04 am / Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Coined Phrase: “Metro Redneck”

Someone who lives in the city and drives a pickup, but isn’t a contractor.

Back in 1999, I switched jobs and started working in downtown Menlo Park, CA (an upscale part of the Bay Area).  One day, as I walked from the office to Starbucks – across the street, maybe 100 feet – I counted on the order of 28 SUVs and pickup trucks, and thus created this phrase.

Today, I see an increasing number of Cadillac Escalade EXTs – Cadillac pickups!  If there was ever a pickup truck whose bed will never ever be used for hauling lumber back from Home Depot, this would be it.  Über Metro Redneck: the pickup truck as a status symbol.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me


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