Media coverage

I was just interviewed by Ethan Jacobs at Bay Windows. The story will run tomorrow, inviting people to be part of the GLBT/ally presence at the march.

This is great news, but it's still really important that people make an effort to show up. Even though we now have media coverage, this is still a small event taking place in a neighborhood; it isn't a major event at City Hall where people will inevitably show up. Please do everything you can to show up and to let people know about the march.

GLBT/ally presence needed at anti-GLBT march on Sept 3rd near Franklin Park

DATE: September 3rd 2005
TIME: 10:30 a.m.
PLACE: Meet in Franklin Park, at the play structure with the pointed roofs, right off of Seaver Street, between Humboldt Ave and Elm Hill Ave
MBTA: 22 or 29 bus from Jackson Square T, or walk 1 mile from Stoneybrook T
BRING: Pro-equality signs, clothing, etc. -- but keep it peaceful
CONTACT: (organizer of GLBT/ally presence, not of the original event)

Dear Supporter:

On August 24, I returned to my home in Roxbury to find a flyer in my mailbox from Save The Children Ministries (headed by Roy Owens, candidate for city councilor at-large) announcing a march and rally to take place on September 3rd in Roxbury and Dorchester. The purpose of the event is spelled out in the flyer, and states that it is a movement to protect children from gang violence, teen pregnancy, neglectful homes -- and from "the evil principalities [that] have promoted the homosexual lifestyle."

A copy of the flyer is available at my website:

I have not yet heard anything about any GLBT/ally groups planning to attend the event. If you are aware of other groups, please let me know, so that we can collaborate. Otherwise, I would like to invite others to join me in attending. I don't wish to protest the event per se, as I wish to honor the organization's stated intent of being geared toward betterment of the community, but I wish to spread the message that a strong community can only be so if it is an accepting community. I think the presence of clergy or others active in the faith community would be particularly helpful in spreading this message.

My plan is to have any interested individuals meet in Franklin Park on September 3rd at 10:30, one half hour before the march starts, to briefly get acquainted with one another and then walk over to the march a little before 11:00 and arrive together. We can convene in Franklin Park at the play structure with the pointed roofs, which is right off of Seaver Street, between Humboldt Ave and Elm Hill Ave. This is about half a block from the starting point of the march, so it is convenient, but we won't be readily identifiable as planning to attend the march. I'd like to invite people to bring signs, clothing, and so forth that promote a message of equality, but again, keeping it nonconfrontational and emphasizing the message that our group is in favor of a strong community just as the other group purports to be. Also, if we keep our intent as that of joining the existing march, we will not be in danger of violating any city regulations regarding event permits, as we are joining an existing event.

Please e-mail me and let me know if you plan to attend, and also please feel free to contact me with any and all questions, concerns, advice, and so forth. Please distribute this widely.

Save the Children

This flyer was in our mailbox on Wednesday. Click for larger:

So far, I've found no information about this group. I'm not sure if they're a veiled anti-GLBT organization, or if they're an organization with a generally legitimate concern for the community -- which happens to be a little misinformed in equating queer folks with sexual deviance. I'm unfortunately learning toward the former, only because we can't find anything indicating that the group has actually been responsible for any sort of community outreach or youth programs or anything.

However, until I am proven otherwise, I'm going to assume that they're a legitimate organization with real concern for our community.

I think a great way to prove this -- one way or the other -- without being threatening or disrespectful is to organize a group of people to show up at their gathering.

I would like to organize a group of GLBT and ally folks to show up on September 3rd at 11:00 a.m. A group of people who also wish to see improved lives for children in the community, but who strongly believe that this should be done without including an anti-queer message or the other anti-feminist sentiments contained in the language of the flyer.

I'd like to invite any and all GLBT and ally folks to help me with this. I'd particularly love to have the support of queer and queer-friendly clergypeople and others who are active in local religious communities, as I think their inclusion could potentially send a very strong message to an organization that identifies as faith-based. I would like to propose that we maybe have a meeting the Friday night before their event, to decide exactly how to proceed, and then show up at their event. I'd like to emphasize that I don't wish for our presence to be a protest, but rather a source of support for the broader cause of community improvement, but with the message that a strong community needs to be inclusive.

Please pass this along to any people or organizations who might be able to help, and please encourage anyone who is interested in participating in any way to contact me at or to contact me through my website. Additionally, if anyone is aware of any other GLBT or ally folks planning on attending or organizing anything, please let me know so that we may contact one another.

Thank you!

And to think this is only the second time I've seen a punch thrown in the 3 years I've had the car...

Today I was driving down Mass Ave past Boylston Street, headed toward Huntington Ave. The car in front of me had stopped to let a family cross the street in the crosswalk. The woman was probably in her 60s, a large Black woman who struck me as a very proper Southern woman, though this is of course an assumption. She had a flowered dress, nicely curled hair, was wearing a hat and had a handbag over her shoulder. She had with her a girl about 8 and a boy about 10, who were probably her grandkids. The kids were wearing what appeared to be school uniforms (or maybe daycamp or summer school this time of year -- have any of the schools started?) They had on pressed shirts and khakis and their hair nicely done. All of the sudden the girl reaches behind Grandma and punches the boy. He first looks startled, then she laughs and points to my car. They both point at it and laugh, and Grandma just kind of rolls her eyes and herds the kids across the street.

Buddha calling

After four weeks in our new home, I've finally had the time to set the meditation space up. I even went a little nuts on Sunday and built a new altar out of some scrap lumber. I'm not sure how I like it or if it will stay up, but it makes me feel settled in.

"Yes, I'd like to book a flight straight outta Compton please..."

Most attemps to revamp a corporate image serve only to be annoying. When Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC so as to deemphasize the "fried," this didn't fool me into thinking they had replaced the deep-fat cooking process with the much healthier process of f-ing their food. Instead, it inevitably led to many Knights of Columbus lying awake wondering why people kept walking into their lodges and ordering biscuits and gravy.

When KMart changed to Big K, I didn't suddenly think the store had been bought out by a new, stylish, modern socially responsible independent retailer. I wondered which sweatshop had made the giant light-up K out front and whether it was safe to walk near it.

I have to say though, ever since Northwest Airlines officially changed to NWA (an acronym to which the company has held the rights to since 1936), I've been convinced that this was in fact one corporate rebranding that was worth it. Every time I go on their site to make a reservation and I see that logo, how can I help but bust out rhymes? And I especially love how the luggage and jetway handlers wear black caps with NWA embroidered on them. They have this strange late-'80s familiarity to them, despite the airline having just introduced them in 2003.

Well, I'm off to book another flight on my new favorite airline. I can't wait to scan through the SkyMall catalog to see if they have any bootlegs from back before Ice Cube left or anything.

If you see something, say something

Dvorak, Bartok and Kodaly recorded the folk songs of rural peasants on wax cylinders and based their compositions on what they gathered.

Steve Reich used tape clips of people speaking about issues of his time -- the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Harlem Riots -- and altered the sound clips to make his recorded pieces "It's Gonna Rain" and "Come Out."

As for me, I'm currently writing a concerto for viola, guitar, and transit watch announcement.

Jesus-scented candles?

First of all, these are lame. Christianity has some really beautiful traditional imagery. Could they not have come up with something better to put on Christian candles than a plain block of text with a little random woodcut next to it? Maybe some stained glass, a cathedral, an altar, a detail from a painting of Jesus? Even a cross at the very least?

The inspiration of His EssenceTM comes from the Holy Bible.  Psalm 45:8 tells us when Jesus returns, the scent of his garments will be of myrrh, aloe and cassia.  We carefully combine these ingredients and the result is a fragrance which serves as a reminder of His Presence.

So not only are they selling Jesus-scented candles, they're selling hypothetical-Jesus-scented candles. I mean, those who believe that Jesus has returned don't believe that he returned as a physical mortal guy. Like, he isn't on Earth somewhere, renting a place in Cleveland and strolling around the mall smelling like myrrh, as far as I've heard. So how on Earth (pun intended) is anyone confirming that he smells this way? Do the faithful just get this kinda herbal feeling when things are going right in their lives?

For those biblical scholars who lean toward other interpretations, and for those of other faiths, I'd like to propose another line of candles. The Jesus Was Just A Guy And Didn't Return series. Candles that fill your home with the gentle scent of unwashed dreadlocked hippie wandering through the desert in worn-out sandals.

Waiter, there's WHAT in my soup?

When I'm in an area and can't find an appealing independent purveyor of fast eats, Au Bon Pain is typically a favorite choice of mine. They're clean, fast, friendly, and their food is made of, well, food. They have lots of great made-to-order salads, wraps and sandwiches, and they have such options as imported cheeses (all unprocessed), cucumbers, sundried tomatoes, avocados, grilled portabellas, roasted peppers, olive tapenade, and, as the name implies, a number of fresh homemade breads from which to choose.

The place is particularly liked by many of my fellow vegetarians because it has so many interesting vegetarian options. It isn't meat-centered like many sandwich shops tend to be. Also, all of the packaged salads and wraps are labeled with all of their ingredients, the made-to-order sandwiches only contain what you ask for and don't have any default "special sauces" or anything on them, and the staff are very aware and willing to grab you the label from the mayonnaise or soup or tortillas to tell you exactly what is in it.

The thing I find really disappointing, especially given that the place tends to be centered around fresh, whole foods, is that most of their soups have meat ingredients in them. Granted they do have a good vegetarian chili and a good vegetarian lentil soup, as well as the boring, overpriced generic "vegetable" soup. But they also have a corn chowder -- a common vegetarian staple -- that contains bacon. I've almost always found corn chowder to be vegetarian, even at places like truck stops and concession stands and hospital cafeterias. They also tend to use meat broth in several of their vegetable soups. On a typical day, they will have five or six soups at the larger locations, and some days there won't even be one vegetarian option. Other days there might be one vegetarian soup, one meat soup like chicken noodle or beef stew, and three soups that do not contain meat, but are rendered nonvegetarian by chicken or beef broth. Or pieces of bacon.

Shameless plug

Support Our Ribbons offers magnetic ribbons with a variety of, um, sentiments, including a 16" ribbon bearing the words "My Ribbon is Bigger Than Your Ribbon." They even will make custom ones with a variety of colors and up to 50 characters, such as the lovely ribbon I'm ordering based on the example above.

I'm going to have to check and see if the hatchback lid of the Beetle is actually, um, metal. I believe it's one of the many plastic panels on the car. I do know from having changed the taillight that the fenders are definitely plastic and, uh, styrofoam. I'm not certain about the hatch panel, but I think it's also plastic. Oh well, if it turns out not to be magnetic, I do know that my desk in my office is definitely magnetic.

Note: I don't have any personal affiliation with Support Our Ribbons. I just think it's really, really funny.

Continuing Ed? Who's Ed?

I need 10 CEUs by December in order to renew my license. So, I went to the NBCC website and looked up their list of approved continuing education providers in Massachusetts. I decided I might as well do something that interests me personally and professionally if I'm going to spend time and perhaps money (depending whether I can get it reimbursed) at the course. Luckily, I found two places that offer CEUs for LMHCs, The Kripalu Center and the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. I particularly want to do the latter, because they present a Buddhist Psychology Film Series, which consists of watching a Buddhist-themed film, discussing it, and getting 3 CEUs. For $35 per session. Can't beat that. The only thing is that they aren't certain they'll be offering it again this fall (the last run finished this past spring), so I need a backup plan.

So, onto the backup plan: I looked at the Continuing Education division of my graduate alma mater, figuring they must offer plenty of CEUs, given that they graduate a large number of LMHC candidates each year. I was wrong. They don't seem to offer any CEUs for LMHCs. I spoke with one of the staff there (who I must say was quite helpful, and who would like to enlist me in helping her expand their offerings) who initially didn't understand that we have to have CEUs that are approved for our particular license, and that we can't use CEUs that are intended for teachers or other professions. I suppose I could take a class for academic credit, which can be converted to CEUs, but this requires filling out extra forms, not to mention paying for tuition, which is considerably more expensive than paying for a workshop. The woman did tell me that she believes a couple of other divisions of the school offer CEUs.

So, as a backup plan of the backup plan, I used the school website's google-based search engine to search for "CEU" "mental health." At first I was dismayed to see that they indeed do not offer mental health CEUs in any of their several schools. But then I happened to glance down the margin, and I saw that google was pulling up several links to programs that offer approved online mental health CEUs for a very small fee and minimal work. One even offers a free CEU for taking their survey following completion of a course. Sounds a little rogue to me, but the sites are all listed on the NBCC site as being approved. So if I don't find a worthwhile course to take to earn CEUs, I'm just going to have to go with the send-away route.

Maybe while I'm at it I can earn my certificate in TV/VCR repair or train at home to become Sally Struthers a veterinary assistant.

Archived documents on the City of Boston page

Molly and I bought a house a couple of weeks ago, which the public record states was built in 1900. Yesterday I was poking around on the City of Boston homepage in the various areas, to see what kinds of information I could find out about the neighborhood and the house. I found out where we vote and when our trash is picked up. I didn't find the street cleaning schedule, though I've pretty much figured it out from the tickets. The signs are no help; I have really good vision and can't make out the tiny lettering on the signs posted along the street at giraffe level.

So, I stumbled across the building permit section of the website, actually thinking I'd look to see what sort of permit I'd need to build a roofdeck. I saw "search for a building permit," and thought that this might be handy information for a homeowner, because I could look up who'd done recent work on the house, or at least who'd paid for the permit, which could come in useful if we ever need to track down people who've worked on the house.

Was I ever surprised to find that, rather than the couple-year database I expected, they have .pdfs of actual scans, and they have what seems to be every permit ever issued for the address. I found the original permit to build on the lot, issued in 1893. I also found a fire marshall report that there was a fire that ruined the interior of our kitchen and bedroom in 1923. I found out when the siding was replaced, when the current roof was put on, and when there was some sort of code violation involving the front door. Another interesting thing I discovered is that the permit lists a building standing 14 feet behind where ours was to be built, where there is now a vacant less-than-standard-sized lot that essentially extends our yard for the time being until someone builds on it. My next plan is to rifle through the database and try to figure out what was there and when it stopped being there.

Application for permit, including all the specifications of the house, and an estimate that it would cost $4,000 (!) to build.

Volkswagen distributing visor cards for deaf individuals

Well, they might make cars with frustrating electrical systems, but Volkswagen is once again on my good side for distributing the "driver is deaf" visor cards. These cards, which have been talked about in various communities for the past few months, allow police officers making traffic stops to immediately know that the individual is deaf upon approaching the car so that the officer is not frightened when the driver reaches for a pad of paper or PDA for communicating or confused when the driver is trying to request an interpreter. These had been talked about all over the place, but as far as I know, Volkswagen is the only large national entity making them readily available. They will send one free of charge with a phonecall or e-mail. Only downside: they only have a voice line available for requests, but hey, at least they specify this so people wanting to make a request are prepared to round up a hearing individual to make the call.

Putting the "stank" in Hoobastank

Call me a little behind the times, but I just figured out who Hoobastank is the other day. Hey, I rarely listen to commercial radio. But I was listening to 106.7 FM (the official station of dentist's offices) in the car, because I'd been surfing and found Elton and had to scream along.

Then that "AND THE REEEEASON IIIIIS YOOOOOUUU" song came on, and then they back-announced it as Hoobastank. Dude. I'd been seeing Hoobastank stickers on cars and Hoobastank buttons on bags and things for years, which for some reason had made me think that they're a good band, like if people go to their shows. Then I figured out who they were and I was like, what? I mean, they're a competent band and everything and it's a good song, but what's up with all the people going to their shows and having Hoobastank merchandize and stuff? They aren't that great.

Molly didn't get why I'd ever assumed they must be a good band:

"I'd always just figured that, dude, they're called Hoobastank."

No wonder we aren't getting our mail

Since moving into the new house on July 26, the only mail we've gotten has been:

1) A letter addressed to someone we've never heard of (not the previous owner)
2) A couple pieces of mail containing, oh, mortgage documents, that were found delivered to the unoccupied house next door and were sitting in a pile of tile dust and renovation tools in that house's front hallway
3) The packet from the post office stating that the mail is being forwarded, which was left wedged between the doorknob and the doorjamb
4) A letter from FedEx
5) A package from UPS

The house has large, obvious house numbers on the front door, and there's a large, obvious mailbox next do the front door with our names on it.

So I went to the USPS website to contact them. I eventually found the link for complaining about missing or delayed mail, but much more prominently, I found this:

FAQ: How do I address a letter to Santa Claus or God?

Along with the lovely answer that mail to God or Mr. Claus can be mailed to any city, state, and ZIP code.

At least I'm not alone in that postal service can't figure out where I live.

Sales Tax Holiday

The Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday wasn't publicized nearly as much this year as it was last year. I visit a lot of websites of local retailers, and none of them are advertising it. I happened to hear a commercial on the radio from some smalltime furniture store telling people to "pay no sales tax on purchases made on August 13 and 14" at their store. They didn't make it clear whether it was one of those promos where they're picking up the tax, or whether it was another statewide one. So I googled, and sure enough, the tax holiday is here.

I'm going to go get a futon from Sleep-a-rama, finally go get trashcans and a few other things the new house needs, and donate 5% of what I spend to a charity of my choice. Probably MassEquality, but I haven't decided. I love the idea of being able to choose how my taxes are spent, at least for one day. I wouldn't put a lot of faith on this working if we all individually chose how our tax dollars were spent all the time.

Incidentally, while googling it, I couldn't remember the official name of the day, so I tried "no-tax day" and "tax-free day." I got a bunch of hits for Texas' tax holiday, which apparently has the slogan "No-tax day! Only in Texas!"

They really are blissfully unaware of what goes on outside of the state, aren't they?

New Vivaldi piece discovered

I just heard on King FM streaming radio that a musicologist in Australia has discovered a new piece by Vivaldi. The host sounded very excited, especially as he relayed that there was strong evidence that the piece had never been played before.

My question though is how anyone is able to tell that this is in fact a new piece and not just yet another copy of his other 21362854657374 "different" pieces that all sound identical.

Am I dumb, or...?

Why on earth does the IKEA website not have any sort of wishlist or registry or anything? Or am I just too dumb to find it?

More info on the Boy Scout issue

I spoke with Margaret Crateau at the Gloucester District Court clerk's office. She told me that when someone offers community service as part of a settlement or bargain, they make an offer of who they will provide community service to. When community service is recommended by the court, the individual is asked to choose a charitable organization to serve.

This makes me feel better. The Boy Scouts certainly provide opportunities for boys and do a service for some members of the community, even if the national association makes a policy of not including all boys.

I'm now curious to know though how this plays out when people are assigned community service and they don't specify a charity. I'm guessing the probation department has a list of community service projects to which people can be assigned. More when I find out.

How is this serving the community?

From a story in the Globe about someone who was charged with trespassing and a few other things in Gloucester District Court and who ended up settling:

The settlement also requires Weitzman to pay $300 to the Rockport Boy Scouts, instead of performing community service.

Wait a second. How do the Boy Scouts get to receive this money? These are public funds. The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization whose national policies exclude athiests, girls, and individuals who identify as gay or bisexual. Scouting for All's website states in their legal FAQ that it is acceptable to deny use of public facilities or representation at community functions to a scout troop unless the individual troop will adopt a nondiscrimination policy.

I'm going to write to Gloucester District Court and the Rockport Boy Scouts and see if a nondiscrimination policy exists. If it doesn't, I'm going to organize some letter-writing about the use of public funds going to a discriminatory organization.

Stay tuned for updates.

I generally expect dealing with UHaul to be frustrating, but still...

So, yesterday my girlfriend and I returned a UHaul van. As much as they're a huge rip-off, their hands-off business approach is great. Any yahoo can walk in there and take a truck, do anything to it, and bring it back whenever. They're such a rogue business that they recognize this, so they'll throw in plenty of free perks. You usually get a way bigger truck than you "reserved," because they never have the one you "reserved" since it was abandoned last week after someone used it to drop off some bodies in a ravine. Which is so common that UHaul trucks actually have pre-printed stickers right on the window instructing law enforcement officials on how to return impounded or abandoned vehicles. Dedicated phone number for this.

Yesterday really took the cake in terms of UHaul idiocy.

So, we rented the van, gas gauge at full, drove it 23 miles, took it to the gas station, pumped until full, looked at the meter that said we'd put 7.61 gallons of gas in it--whaaat? There's no way a 2005 Savana gets 3 miles per gallon.

OK, so I figure this is a pretty clear-cut problem that they should easily fix. We have the gas receipt from 2 minutes ago from the gas station next door to the UHaul place. Everyone knows that the basic manual dipstick-type gas gauges have several gallons of play in them, so I figure it's pretty clear that the last person took it filled, burned 5 or 6 gallons, didn't gas it up, and returned it with the gauge more or less reading full.

I showed the guy who parks the trucks my receipt, he agreed with me that the van should get about 12 MPG and must have not been actually topped off, and said just to take the receipt to the manager and he'd fix it.

I did this, the manager said, "We don't pay you for gas. You take it full, you return it full. You signed that the truck was full when you took it. You should have looked at the gauge."

So I told him that, yes, I looked at the gauge, but that the gauges aren't particularly accurate, and I could have gotten it to read full by parking it on the hill rather than filling it.

He told me that the gauge is perfect, because the van is brand new.

At this point it seems that he knows nothing about cars, since most gas gauges are estimates unless it's one of those fancy gauges hooked into a mileage computer thing. I find this possibility really disturbing given that he has a job responsibility of doing things like, you know, calculating whether your engine and transmission are appropriate for towing heavy loads on a highway.

Therefore, I come to the reasonable conclusion that this guy is completely bullshitting me, which I just don't appreciate. Tell me that your policies aren't flexible or even be a jackass to me, but don't lie to me, assume I'm stupid, or go around asserting things you don't actually know to be true.

So I told him that the gauge had also read barely below full when I took it to the gas station, but I'd been honest and filled it up as I'd agreed to do. I told him again that I put 23 miles on it, as the odometer slip showed, and I'd put 7.61 gallons of gas in it, as the receipt showed. I asked him, "This van does not get 3 miles per gallon, correct? It gets, what, about 12?" He said, "Yep, it gets about 12. Look, we run into this problem every day and there's nothing I can do about it. The tank is full, someone drives it about 20 miles, it still shows full. The person ahead of you must not have put gas in it, since it still said full. You shouldn't have signed that it was full then."

You run into this problem every day?!

I explained to him yet again that it read full. He just said there was nothing he could do. I said to him, "So you agree that I've purchased gas that I didn't use and that this gas is in your company's possession, yes?" He said, "Yeah, there's nothing I can do about that."

I politely told him that they could stick a nozzle in each truck when it's returned, and if the tank accepts more than a topoff, they charge the previous renter's credit card. His response was, "Naw, we just go by the gas gauge. You shouldn't have signed that it was full."

If I do ever rent from them again, I'm going to insist that we go over the gas station next door and do some pumping before I agree that the truck is full.

Of course, a couple of liters of soda or other sugary beverage would also make the gas gauge read full for a lot less than $17. Not that I'm suggesting such a thing, of course. Just sayin.