life


This (long) weekend I walked 16.5 miles. There are three main routes I take: a 3.5 mile route through the neighborhood that I regularly walk with Pants Wilder; a 7.3 mile route up to the American Tobacco Trail, down a good length of it and then back to The Boyf’s & my place through a series of neighborhoods that includes Zinfab’s; and a 9.5 mile route where I go up to the ATT, down a length of it, then turn around and come back the same way. I did the shortest route twice and the longest once over the course of the weekend and it felt great: beautiful weather, a floppy straw hat that both fits and was bought on clearance at Target. What, me Scottish? Never. In point of fact…

I also ponied up the cash for a fancy pair of headphones because I am sick to death of the default iPhone earbuds. The originals were fine and all for occasional use but once I started wearing them for long periods I realized that whereas the left one fit great the right one couldn’t decide whether it most loved to fall out or to rub my ear bloodily raw. No thanks. I opted for earbuds I thought were crazily expensive but extremely well-reviewed: the Klipsch Image S4i.

Long story short, they stay in without issue, are very comfortable, have bud tips large enough to fit my ears and sound good enough that I can understand a podcast or the lyrics to a song without turning the volume up beyond quite modest levels. Given that my hearing is already iffy in certain circumstances, this is an excellent thing. I do not need to damage my hearing further than marching in front of the drums and years of Legends’ goth nights already did for me. They also don’t completely deafen me to the outside world. I can hear cars and bicycle bells and the clank of chains just fine so I don’t find myself shocked when a car or a dog walker or the like turn up right behind me.

The weather this weekend really was exceptionally good and the walks were incredibly restorative. I get an uncontrolled twitch in my right eyelid when I’m too tired or too stressed and that thing had been going crazy for weeks. Last weekend we consciously took it easy and that helped but this weekend seems to have made it go away. It’s nice to feel a little more in control of my health and it’s nice to spend hours in the big blue room and feel good after.

Local blogger Lisa B. posted this morning about Chubby’s Tacos’ really not-OK uncredited use of a photo she took in their store:

It’s an OK photo, right? Well I thought so, at least. And apparently so did Chubby’s Tacos, because they decided to put it on their web site. Without asking me. Or giving me attribution.

All of my Flickr photos are licensed under a non-commercial, with attribution, share-alike Creative Commons license. This means if you are NOT using the photos for business purposes (such as selling tacos), you can use my picture without permission as long as you grant me attribution and whatever you use it in is also distributed with the same Creative Commons license. But if you’re trying to sell tacos, or if for some reason you want to use the photo without attribution and whatnot, YOU HAVE TO ASK ME! Dangit! Chubby’s didn’t bother with that bit.

As someone who has taken plenty of personal photos in a variety of public and private settings and then made those photos available online, I am somewhat interested in the question of attribution and ownership but I don’t know anything about it and wouldn’t dare make any assumptions based on my own lack of knowledge. However, since Lisa B. goes so far as to license her photos under the Creative Commons, I already know that she knows more about this than I do.

No, what really interests me is (a) the irony that a relationship so geographically intimate as that between a local business and a local blogger can be spoiled by the communications-enabling Internet and (b) that this serves as yet another example of how the commercial/corporate world has become so accustomed to farming out every aspect of widget manufacture that no one can be blamed for anything. I’m not saying that Chubby’s needs to do their own web design; by all means, let them continue to make excellent food, thanks, and taking advantage of someone specialized in the work one’s own business doesn’t do makes perfect sense. I am saying, however, that it’s probably a situation where the website developer used the image thoughtlessly and never asked Chubby’s first and now Chubby’s is tarred by it but isn’t really at fault nor, probably by way of language in their contract, is the web designer since they probably have a clause that they just make the bits fly and aren’t responsible for the contents as long as they conform to certain loose boundaries; or, someone at Chubby’s has all the FTP credentials and uploaded a photo they liked online and the web designer, who would know all about things like CC licensing, is aghast that they might be viewed as having stolen a photograph.

It’s a microcosm of what drove me out of the corporate world in the first place, at least in part: every step in widget manufacture has been so walled off and outsourced that no one is accountable for anything or to anyone. Same as it ever was, probably, at least in terms of what’s involved in making stuff, but the age of conscious branding has created an expectation that companies who want the marketing advantages of a cohesive, coherent identity will also have some basic awareness of what’s being done in their touted name and yet they quite often don’t – and don’t want to. When at least three distinct corporations may bear some or all of the blame for the BP oil spill and no one’s terribly surprised by that, we’re all doing something wrong.

On Saturday I won the NC Japan Center’s speech contest for my level (level 2). I am… honestly, I am extremely thrilled about this. I worked pretty hard to write my speech and then to edit it down to reasonable levels and after mangling the Japanese language in last year’s speech contest I am thrilled to have pulled it off this year. My speech was about books vs. e-books. I’m pretty pleased with myself. Mad snaps to my classmates, too, who both delivered excellent and funny speeches and to the other winners of the other levels.

Now, for the nerds: on Friday my work laptop notified me that the automatic upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04 was available. I did a little reading online, found that no one was having major problems with it and then set to downloading it. This took… a long time. I got it done, though, and during our weekly staff meeting my laptop chugged away and turned itself into a 10.04 laptop instead of 9.10. When all was said and done everything seemed to work as expected only faster. Nice! Or so it seemed.

This morning I noticed that what was happening some on Friday was continuing to happen: Outlook 2007 under Crossover Linux was frequently locking up and dying on me. Great. My work is changing over to Exchange and the Outlook calendar is going to be our single calendar as of a few months from now. Some people are already using it, too, so I had no option but to figure out a way to get this working. Nothing I did – downloading and installing the latest build of Crossover Linux, etc. – seemed to make a difference and I was starting to get a little concerned.

Further reading let me in on the fact that the most recent release of the evolution-mapi plugin for Ubuntu’s native Evolution mail client was included in 10.04. I had tried an older version of evolution-mapi a few months ago and found that it choked on the calendaring side. My only hope – after hours of fiddling with Thunderbird and Lightning and all sorts of crap – was to give the newer evolution-mapi a shot.

Initial testing showed that the calendar was working fine – just great, in fact – but Evolution kept croaking when it had to refresh my rather overstuffed inbox (about 6,500 messages, yes, I know). One manual inbox clean-up via webmail later, I had my inbox down to about 1/10th its starting size and now Evolution is having no problem at all. So, I guess the latest version of evolution-mapi works. If you, like me, were finding that Evolution would hang when trying to load your mailbox, try cutting the mailbox down to size first. It doesn’t seem to like large inboxes but it does seem to handle all the Exchange stuff just fine.

This is why elections matter:

President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.

[…]

Hospitals often bar visitors who are not related to an incapacitated patient by blood or marriage, and gay rights activists say many do not respect same-sex couples’ efforts to designate a partner to make medical decisions for them if they are seriously ill or injured.

“Discrimination touches every facet of the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including at times of crisis and illness, when we need our loved ones with us more than ever,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement praising the president’s decision.

This negates about one third of the paperwork requirements AT&T used to try to pry The Boyf off of my benefits when I worked there. I am extremely happy about this. Neither of us has any reason to think we’re ever going to end up in a hospital any time soon but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it, that we never know when we’re going to need this sort of support and contact?

One might ask where the President got the idea – other than from basic human decency, I mean – and one might be surprised:

Yesterday, President Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that same-sex partners and others are able to visit their loved ones in hospitals across the country. The memo quotes the hospital visitation provision of the North Carolina Hospital Patients’ Bill of Rights which Equality NC proposed and got adopted by the state in 2008.

“We are thrilled to see that Equality NC’s work at the state level has provided a model which the President is now taking nationwide to ensure that hospital patients get the care and companionship they deserve,” said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director.

The Presidential Memorandum signed yesterday states:

Many States have taken steps to try to put an end to these problems. North Carolina recently amended its Patients’ Bill of Rights to give each patient “the right to designate visitors who shall receive the same visitation privileges as the patient’s immediate family members, regardless of whether the visitors are legally related to the patient” — a right that applies in every hospital in the State.

So, thank you, EqualityNC. I’m not involved with them beyond having made a few small donations here and there, but this is completely freaking awesome.

Here is, word for word, an email I sent to KJ asking her advice this morning after an incident on the way to work. Any thoughts are appreciated.

(I should note that, on re-reading, I think I failed to communicate the amount of moxie the young woman showed in her responses to him. She had a do-not-give-me-shit shield that she put up from the first moments of their interaction.)

So, this morning I was standing at the bus stop with a very pretty
young blonde woman when a much older guy wearing nice but strikingly
mismatched clothes dashed through traffic to join us. As he ran up he
said to her, “How much is the bus,” indicating that he’s new around
here. He then looked abruptly at me like I had said something, then
turned back to her for her answer. She told him that all the buses
are free and he immediately started “joking” about “Hey, why don’t we
run away together, then, let’s just get on the next bus and see where
it takes us,” etc. She laughed it off with obvious nervousness and
then he got on the bus with us – I got between them when we got on, but
the bus was empty (spring break) and so he had plenty of ways to sit
near her – and started pointing out cop cars in sight. “Are they
looking for *you*?” she asked him, which got a chuckle out of me. He
said no, the only reason they would be looking for him is if he
*didn’t* talk to her because that would be a crime, hardy har.

There were a lot of things about him that sent up red flags: a
generally manic air, the fact that he was wearing two watches and
carrying a third, that he was carrying a pair of glasses he never
seemed to need (a classic of social engineering, as someone carrying
glasses is strongly associated in most minds with professionalism,
doctors, lawyers, scientists, people assumed to have their shit
together). She pointedly asked about the watches and he said “Well,
you know, the recession.” He then launched into a sob story about his
sister and how she died of brain cancer and lung cancer and he had to
decide to pull the plug, and way, WAY before she needed to, she pulled
the cord to ask the driver to stop at the next bus stop so that she
could get off the bus.

Her body language told me – and him – that she wanted to get OUT OF
THERE, to the point that he said, “So, if I got off at the next stop,
with you, and walked with you, would that bother you?” She didn’t
hesitate to say that yes, that would bother her, and she’d appreciate
it if he did not do that. He tried another limp round of boohooing to
try to sway her but she ignored it and when the bus (finally!) stopped
she got off in a hurry with a backwards, “Thanks for an interesting
morning.” He said something inexplicable (“Thanks for an interesting
life,” I think) and then looked at me and I looked back at him the
rest of the way to *my* stop. He got twitchy in a big way and kept
producing this dry sniffle that I’ve always associated with major coke
heads and that would explain a lot of his mania and talkativeness and
generally sketchy vibe. My goal throughout – as I was paying obvious
attention to him throughout his monologues to her – was to make it
clear to him that there was someone else around who was noticing him.
I wanted him to be sure that he couldn’t do anything without someone
having a good look at him first.

My quandary is, should I have asked her if she wanted/needed help
getting rid of the guy? I consciously chose, when she from the get-go
seemed to be onto his antics, to take the stance we’re trained to use
at elections: when someone wants help, they will ask for it. Should
I have intervened, though? More than once I opened my mouth to say to
the guy, look, lay the fuck off, OK? I didn’t want to step in where I
might not be wanted, though, and I didn’t want to suggest that she was
somehow incapable of ditching him and, happily, it turned out that she
was (capable). I honestly don’t know, though, if I drew the correct line on
when to intervene in what seemed like it had the potential to get
weird in a bad way.

…when there’s legal gay marriage happening RIGHT NOW in the District of Columbia!

WOO-HOO!

I’m not actually mad about this at all, it’s just that my car is red.

On Saturday I stopped in at Parker & Otis for something to eat before hitting the Carolina Theatre of Durham for the Oscar-nominated animated shorts program (also playing tomorrow, Thursday 4 March, and well worth it). I parked in a kind of isolated spot adjacent to their building, between a wall and a huge SUV, so I was kind of invisible. After I’d eaten, I came outside to find two of my car magnets – magnetic bumper stickers – were missing. They were one of the old red and blue “Vote for Change – Obama ’08” circles and a highly stylized Cthulhu fish that parodies the Jesus fish that adorn so many cars.

At first, I assumed someone had been making an editorial comment. I didn’t see them, like, thrown down and stomped upon by indignant feet, though. The person also left behind my gay equality magnet, though since that’s just a yellow equals sign on a blue background, maybe it was too abstract for them to assign it any meaning? The other weird thing is that they left the other Obama magnet and the other Cthulhu fish on the other side of the car. (Their leaving the Cleveland Browns magnet is entirely understandable.)

So, did they just not see those? Were they afraid of getting caught? Or, is it that they wanted them for themselves? How strange to be left unsure whether I should feel annoyed or flattered by the sight of a blank red fender.

Either way, lame. They could have just left a note if they liked them or if they hated them. I’d find that a much more interesting experience.

Last night we got a little snow and a lot of sleet and when I couldn’t sleep I had to go out in it and take pictures. At one point I freaking huge black Mercedes made its way up our street, both unsteadily and quickly, shocking me into realizing that some people really will drive out in weather like this to get their drink on.

Around 3:00am a truck drove through and then back again, presumably dropping someone off. When they saw me they stopped and stared and even talked to one another about me before moving on. I said to The Boyf that I found this perfectly understandable since it’s not likely that someone standing in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night, wrapped up like a Russian soldier and taking photos during a snow storm was high on their list of expectations.

Pictures I took at night and pictures I took when we went for a walk this afternoon are both up in my gallery installation.

In a few scant hours my flight leaves for my fraternity’s national convention. I hate flying. I hate it so much. I am already packed, yes, but here are the things I’ve done tonight just to make sure I don’t get ejected from the terminal:

  • placed masking tape over the ends of all the spare batteries I’m carrying for my camera
  • verified on the TSA’s website that I can carry spare batteries in the first place
  • researched whether it’s OK to wear my Dr. Scholl’s onto the plane. I can’t.
  • identified which slip-on shoes I’ll wear tomorrow
  • gone through a weeding process to pick a t-shirt that can in no way be construed as creepy or threatening in case someone at security hasn’t had their morning coffee when I get there
  • identified which of my middle-tier dress socks will be most suitable for showing off to everyone in the airport
  • packed and repacked so that the baggage checkers hopefully won’t have to utterly destroy the packing job I’ve done on my clothes the way they did two years ago
  • learned that one of my TSA-approved baggage locks doesn’t work at all
  • faced that it is pointless to try to keep my dress shirts wrinkle-free since they will simply be wadded up and shoved back in by security anyway
  • researched whether I can take my camera in carry-on (I can)
  • tried on pairs of jeans until I found one that didn’t need a belt
  • gone through my underwear to find a pair I don’t mind someone else seeing should I get pulled aside
  • learned I’ll have to pay $50 at check-in for my baggage
  • been advised that I shouldn’t bother using the luggage lock that does work, even though it’s TSA-approved.

In the happy news column, the hotel is letting me do early check-in, which is good since I plan to get there and immediately find out where there’s a bar. I don’t really care that it will be 11am.

Is this what it felt like at the end of the ’80s? Some combination of “thank the gods that’s over” mixed with “what the hell can they possibly throw at us next?” I suspect it was. I was in high school at the time, so yes, it was like that, but it didn’t necessarily owe anything to the decade in general.

I am going to be mighty glad to see the back of the Aughts. In ’99 I remember loving the gigglingly prophecied nickname of “the naughty aughties.” Turned out there was plenty of naughtiness but none of it was fun.

I turned 35 this year and on Saturday, at our big family Christmas-ish dinner, my sister admitted that she had been a little freaked out by the thought of her little brother being 35. Then it came up in conversation that the youngest member of the generation after us is about to start driver’s education and my sister turned to me with wide, frightened eyes. “Nevermind about you turning 35 anymore,” she said to me. “I have something new to be freaked out about.”

Completely as an aside, I confess that one of the things that most bothers me about the Detroit would-be bomber is that it pisses me off to think what new indignity I’ll have to endure when I fly in a couple of weeks. What a load of shit. I’m starting to wish I’d opted for the 16-hour train ride after all.

Friday night I went out to grab a bite to eat with KJ, Steve and LeAnn. There is a new Japanese fast-food place around the corner from LeAnn that turned out to have very tasty teriyaki beef. The place kind of looks like an Arby’s on the inside, which is a little weird, but the food was good and the company excellent.

While there, though, I noticed an amusing set of matched misspellings in the cups/plasticware/chop stick/straws section:

Soda Lips? Water Lips? SEGA?!

The following are things I occasionally find myself shouting from my car, while driving, thus marking the onset of years:

  • Cross with the light!
  • Cross with the fucking light!
  • Don’t wear yourself out trying to get out of the way!
  • Hang up and fucking drive!
  • Hang up and fucking walk!
  • Who taught you to look both ways? Helen Keller?
  • It’s the one on your right! The long, narrow pedal on your right!
  • That must be some great life insurance, asshole!
  • Do not just walk out there!
  • DAMN IT I SAID DO NOT

Honest to the gods, I do not know how people survive being pedestrians. When I was a freshman (yes, yes, make the back-in-my-day joke, just go for it) at orientation they made a thing out of warning us – since so many of us, myself included, were from hick towns with no sidewalks or crosswalks or the like – that we needed to use the signals and look both ways and everything. Now the undergrads just walk out in front of you or, better yet, walk out in front of you with their hand up in a STOP motion. That’s real nice, kid. I hope Student Health can sew that hand back on after someone’s grille snaps it clean off.

Dark Stores from the site Not If But When.

Particular People (PDF link), my NaNoWriMo last year, was set in the very real 100 Oaks Mall – a wonderfully ironic name that made me wonder if that’s how many trees they cut down to build the place or if they instead had installed 100 saplings in containers inside the mall. 100 Oaks was a Nashville, TN, shopping mall that opened and closed repeatedly over the course of its life. It’s now been bought by Vanderbilt and is being redeveloped as medical offices or something. When I asked KJ to get me pictures of it last year she couldn’t because it had been closed off in preparation for that work.

On a practical level, of course, it’s always preferable to see existing spaces redeveloped instead of new projects take up new spaces but were I king tomorrow I would decree that a certain percentage of dead retail and development spaces had to be kept around, unmaintained, as silent monuments to… something. Hubris? Ecology? I don’t even know what lesson is to be learned there, just that there is a lesson there of some sort. That the CitySearch page for 100 Oaks is still up is both amusing and insufficient.

m4s0n501

Bruce McCulloch, Kids in the Hall, 1990.

Tonight (Monday) the good version of the anti-bullying bill made it through the first of two votes in the NC House. This is the version that includes explicit mention of sexual orientation and gender identity as aspects of a student’s life that may make them more likely to be bulled.

The vote was a very close one – just 59 to 57 – but I am reminded of the time I had to back a truck over a flexible irrigation pipe at the research farm. The irrigation system was made up of flexible hoses joined to one another by metal couplings. Having been warned to avoid backing over a coupling I managed to miss the nearest one but only by about this much. When a co-worker teased me about it my boss said to me, “You know what? An inch is as good as a mile.”

Part of why I’ve followed this bill as closely as I have – I wrote to and called my state representative, who in fact voted in favor of the bill, and I’ve already sent a thank you message – is that I am so utterly galled by the two main conservative responses to this bill: to claim that recognizing that queer students are often picked on will somehow lead to gay marriage being legalized and to claim that the bill is insulting to teachers and administrators because it suggests they don’t know which kids need to be protected.

I hate to break it to the conservatives – Republican and Democrat alike – in the state house, but some teachers and principals plain don’t know which kids need to be protected. Worse, though, and much more likely in my experience, they know exactly which kids are the targets of bullying and for one or more of a variety of reasons they simply turn a blind eye. Worst of all, there are some teachers and administrators who actually join in.

This happened to me twice in high school. For various complicated reasons two of my high school teachers had explicit knowledge, or close enough so as not to make a difference, that I was a gay student in their school.

One had become one of my favorite teachers ever over the course of my senior year. She was warm and supportive in her commentary on my work and I did well in her class. When she found out I was gay, however, she immediately went cold. She just froze up like a block of ice. For the rest of the semester she didn’t address me directly that I can recall in any manner other than the bare minimum required by my presence in her classroom – say, during role call – or to criticize me in front of others. On the last day of school I stopped by her room to thank her for what I had learned that year – she remained a gifted teacher – and she simply looked at me before turning around and going back to what she was doing.

The other made fun of me to my face in front of most of our very large classroom. He was known, however, as a master manipulator and so of course he did it in an oblique way that would have required me to out myself to my classmates in order to call him on it. I have probably felt more humiliated in my life but I couldn’t say when. This left such an impression on me that a couple of years ago, when I heard he’d had some major health problems and that some old classmates were sending him cards together, I commented to The Boyf that I wanted to send the guy a card but that I wanted to write in it, “I guess I’m not disappointed that you lived.”

Hell, one of my acquaintances, when he asked an assistant principal to help him ward off some bullying, was told that “things might improve if [he] got a fucking haircut.” Yet another acquaintance was the object of such scorn that when he was assaulted one day in the lunchroom a group of teachers held up makeshift Olympics-style scorecards. Eventually he dropped out of school and, last I heard, had run off to a major city in another state and become a prostitute to support himself. He was in ninth grade.

I don’t think that the existence of these rules would have necessarily prevented the experiences I and others had. I know they wouldn’t have fixed the environment that made such treatment possible. However, having them on the books is important. Bureaucrats live and die by the letter of the law and a smart kid could potentially use these rules to chip away at the ground under the feet of an uncooperative or complicit administrator. A good teacher or a good administrator could use it as a shield against those in their communities who think fags are for beating up. It wouldn’t have stopped that teacher from making fun of me but it would have given me something to call him out on. When I was that age and convinced I was the only person in the world who felt what I felt, I would have taken all the help I could get.

In an ideal world, the conservatives who think this bill goes too far by naming categories of student, who think that teachers and administrators will protect all students equally, would be right. Unfortunately, we live in nothing even a little bit like an ideal world.

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