Does language shape views or do views shape language?

Twice in the past few days, I've encountered language that suggests to me that the speaker does not place the same value on same-sex relationships as opposite-sex relationships. In both instances, I did not get the impression whatsoever that the person speaking actually consciously held this view, but rather that it was something the speaker had absorbed societally. I wonder though where exactly the speakers absorbed this and what the best way is to try to shift this.

First, an individual who I do not know well, but with whom I've had very frank and warm interactions, asked me if "your friend" would be able to make an event and stated that she would like to meet her. I know I've used the word "partner" with her. I've possibly used the word "girlfriend," and I've definitely made reference to us having shopped for our house together and so forth.

Then, I was talking to a coworker, who is not someone I'm necessarily close to, but someone with whom I definitely feel friendly and with whom it's typical that we discuss our weekends and so forth. I mentioned to her that Molly and I were going to be driving a truck of stuff from the midwest to Boston in January, and she said something like, "Wow, driving across those cold states in January -- you're a really good friend!"

The way I read it, the first person's comment seemed more like she just happened to come up with a word that wouldn't be the one preferred by me, or by most anyone in referring to one's significant other. It still struck me as a bit odd though, given that I'm sure she has a lot of friends in same-sex partnerships and/or unmarried partnerships, given the type of work she does and the types of organizations to which she belongs. I do think it's entirely possible that she's valuing of people as people and of legal equality, yet still holds some sort of view that we aren't a full-fledged relationship.

The second person's comment seemed to me to also be intended harmlessly, but had somewhat of an implication that she's learned from somewhere that same-sex couples aren't expected to be as dedicated to one another. She's always asked about Molly when we chat, and she's also someone who's very involved in diverse and progressive circles. Yet something struck me as strange that she stated that I was "a good friend" because I was helping my partner drive a truck of stuff in the middle of the winter. Would she think it would be unremarkable for me to just decide I'd rather not do it? For what it's worth, I also know her husband and they seem to have a really good relationship. I wouldn't think either of them would even consider it an option not to help each other out with a similar task. So has she somehow absorbed the idea that I'm "being a good friend" rather than doing what most reasonable people would consider is pretty much an expectation? Or is it more that she's absorbed the type of language disparity that the other person has, and she's in fact just intending to provide me with the feedback that I'm being appropriately faithful?


Why do dead people need therapists?

A job posting I received:

Work with victims of domestic violence and survivors of vehicular homicide. Full time, salaried position, driver's license and car req. Exp. with survivors of domestic violenc eand/or trauma req., LMHC or LMHC eligible pref. Bilingual pref.


They were manufacturing what, exactly?

The Globe now states that the apartment where artist Kevin McCormick died of a heart attack did not in fact contain a meth lab, but rather contained a lab whether other substances were being manfuactured:

A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is spearheading an investigation with Boston Police, would not elaborate, except to say that McCormick's apartment contained a ''very sophisticated clandestine drug lab." Among substances seized were the designer drug MMDA, which produces effects similar to mild LSD, and hallucinegenic mushrooms.

What? MMDA? Wait, what exactly was being manufactured here? Clearly not MDMA, also known as ecstacy. Did they seize substances used in the production of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority? Or perhaps the Michigan Medical Device Association?


Another thought

Molly just suggested that once it snows, we complain that the city is failing to plow our-driveway-cum-street.

Actually, I think I might start e-mailing the mayor's office and complaining about potholes on Highland Terrace and insisting they come out and fix them.


The ambiguously owned plot thickens

Man working the plans counter at the Registry of Deeds, to me: "I've looked everywhere, and we only have the three unit plans and the roof plan. The page numbers match up and everything, and this is definitely all that was recorded. There is absolutely not a survey of your plot on record with us. So how the hell did someone grant you a mortgage?"

I'm going to try the assessor's office next to see if there's at least a survey showing what land was included when the building had a single owner.


Back from the Registry of Deeds

The master deed for the building refers to the space to the right of the building as "the private drive" -- The Boston Redevelopment Authority repeatedly used the term "public way" -- and says that it's deeded exclusively to the third floor (my house).

I've ordered a copy of the property plan so I can see where the property line is and see whether the driveway is in fact on the building's parcel.


If it ain't broke, don't redevelop it

It never ceases to amuse me that everything in the Northeast is an "authority." They aren't just any old redevelopment board or department or committee or office; they're the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

I suppose it's a good thing that I can at least be amused by the little things, because I was just told by the Boston Redevelopment Authority that my driveway and side yard actually belong to the city and that I'm parking illegally on a public way. I think my lawn also might be trespassing, though we didn't discuss that.

I've been working with members of the neighborhood associations over the past few days, opposing the plans to build a home on the two tiny parcels of land at 2 and 3 Highland Terrace. Where exactly is Highland Terrace? Well, the City of Boston Assessing Department (not authority?) search engine and interactive parcel map shows the two parcels as being surrounded on all sides by other parcels, including the one on which I own a home. There is currently no street named Highland Terrace, and there has not been since the 1930s. These parcels, which have been vacant since 1932, still have an address on Highland Terrace.

So, one small part of the issue we neighbors had with this construction was wondering how the property would even be accessed by the owner, let alone how construction equipment or emergency vehicles could get back to this little parcel wedged between my house and a cliffside. When I was on the phone with someone at the Zoning Board of Appeals yesterday, she told me that there are not parcels of land in the city that do not abut a street, because this just doesn't happen. I described to her where this parcel is in relation to mine and others. She again stated that it could not be surrounded by parcels like I described, and had to abut a street.

She finally pulled out a map and told me that the parcel did in fact abut a street. We spent about five minutes discussing this, her describing the map and me describing how the lots and the street actually are. We finally arrived at the conclusion that this street actually lies in my side yard, where there is currently a paved driveway on which I can park, a small lawn, and some shrubbery. The street has not been maintained in decades, since there was no reason to do so, and the area that I thought was my yard is in fact city property that became a de facto yard once vegetation grew in and it started looking like, well, a yard.

The deed to my home (the third floor of a three-decker) only has the floorplan for the third floor and the roof (which I also own). It does, however, state that there is off-street parking deeded to the unit. Since the house touches the property line on the left and front, and is very close to it in the back, there is actually not any off-street parking if I do find out that the city is correct and the driveway to the house is city property. This would mean I was sold property that does not exist. Fortunately, I have title insurance.

I'm going to the Registry of Deeds this afternoon to look at the master deed for the lot and see if the survey of the lot shows that that land goes with our parcel or not. If it shows that it belongs to our parcel, this will mean a battle with the city. If it doesn't, then this means I was knowingly sold property that doesn't exist, in addition to not being informed about the plans to build that house and road, which the Boston Redevelopment Authority states the seller knew about at the time I bought the house.

Whatever happens with the deed issue, I just hope they don't end up wedging a house into an already dense neighborhood and putting yet another maintained road into our winding maze of narrow cowpaths.


Neighborhood associations on Fort Hill

Last night I attended the Hawthorne Area Neighborhood Association meeting. Tonight I'm going to attend the Highland Park Neighborhood Association meeting at 6:30 at the E.J. Cooper garden on Linwood Street; e-mail me for details. Yes, the hill has two neighborhood associations. Both are established associations with a local police officer and the local governmental representatives attending meetings. It seems that the Hawthorne one tends to be more geared to the south side of the hill and the Highland Park one toward the north side, but there isn't a true division. Both meetings are currently talking about opposing the proposed construction near my house (on the parcels at 2 and 3 Highland Terrace).

One interesting piece of information I picked up at the meeting, which I sort of knew but hadn't really synthesized, is that there seem to be two distinct systems through which "market" housing prices are set. The system in which people use real estate agents, or even craigslist, is distinctly separate from the system in which people sell homes through word of mouth without any sort of advertising. Several neighbors last night mentioned having purchased single-family homes for half of the price of mine during the same time period. These purchases seem to have been made from either known individuals or through informal connections, but without any sort of formal listing.

When I looked at listings during the same time period, including looking with neighborhood real estate agents who do not use the MLS, I found that most of the homes in the area were priced at $250,000 and above for homes of similar size and condition to mine. This would be what is commonly known as the market value of homes in the area. Given that a large number of people are selling homes at these prices, people believe they have to pay this much to live in the area, and people (like me) pay it.

However, there are clearly people who wish to sell their home to a fellow middle-class resident for what it is truly worth, forsaking the huge profit they could potentially make. It's understandable that these people aren't going to list their homes with a real estate agent, because then it's just going to get snapped up by someone who will turn around and sell it for twice as much, which forces out many of the people who really value this neighborhood with a rich history of artists and entrepreneurs and immigrants. It's a tricky situation though, because by keeping these home sales clear of "the market," this also means that they aren't considered in determining the "market value" of homes in the area.

Last night we had presentations from two developers who were asking the neighborhood association to grant variances for renovations and new construction they were looking to build (almost everything in the neighborhood requires variances, since it's an old neighborhood with odd-shaped lots and so forth, where none of the existing houses would be up to code today). The neighbors repeatedly asked the developers whether their homes would be affordable, to which the developers responded that they would be "market value."

The most notable thing about the neighborhood association, really, was that it definitely reinforced the reputation of Fort Hill, which is that it has a culture of people getting along regardless of race, class, profession, roots, provided that people are committed to being hard-working and considerate. It was inspiring, really, to hear discussions among people who come together and use their various skills -- people with professional expertise, people with longtime community connections, people with tenacity -- to work toward a common goal of a neighborhood that is safe, welcoming, and honoring of its historical past.

People at the meeting all seemed to be strongly opposed to construction that could harm foundations of historic homes built on cliffsides, construction of unaffordable homes, or construction of homes that would look out of place in the neighborhood, but I didn't hear any of the statements commonly heard from various neighborhood associations in the city regarding not wanting the neighborhood to be home to any rich people, poor people, or any other group about which they've formed stereotypes. In fact, some of the discussion revolved around how a good community is welcoming to all types of people and mentioned the need to have a certain amount of housing geared toward elders, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.

I think we're in a good neighborhood.


Where babies come from in Germany

Someone has scanned a great illustrated children's book explaining sex, conception, gestation, and birth. In fact, I want to get in touch with the publisher and see if I can offer to translate it and get it sold here.


FREE BURRITOS!

I got this e-mail from Boloco (formerly The Wrap), and I thought I'd post it, both for my friends who enjoy a good burrito themselves, as well as my friends who might want to pass it along to the homeless and/or low-income folks in our lives. Personally, I've passed it along to some folks who could use a free meal, and I'm going to try to hit up each location myself!

FREE BURRITO DAY IS OUR SMALL WAY OF SAYING THANKS
Guests are invited to enjoy any regular sized burrito. Limit one per customer.

November 16: Water Street, Federal Street, Pearl Street, 11am to 4pm
November 18: Massachusetts Ave. and Newbury Street, 11am to 7pm
November 21: Northeastern University, 11am to 7pm
November 22: Children’s Hospital (Longwood Avenue), 11am to 7pm
November 29: Cleveland Circle, 11am to 7pm
November 30: Harvard Square, 11am to 7pm

Look on their website for the exact address of each location.


Messing with Amazon.com

The e-mail I got from Amazon just reminded me; Apple seems to have taken my suggestion that they include same-sex imagery in the "wedding" and "love and romance" sections on iCards. I didn't ever receive a response, and I'm guessing I was probably one of many, given how highly queer Apple's employees and users tend to be. Anyway, it is nice to see.

Amazon.com doesn't seem to have taken the similar suggestion I made. Their wedding section, which contains tons of information about event planning and etiquette and so forth, uses gender nonspecific language throughout, but is covered in stock images of White, middle-class, opposite-sex couples. Well, there are a few people of color plopped into these scenes, but imagery of any traditions other than White American is noticably absent. I e-mailed them and mentioned that I appreciate the gender-neutral language and pointed out how popular the site is among same-sex couples, and suggested they might want to include some imagery depicting same-sex pairs. I did not receive a response to the e-mail I sent months ago, and while they continue to update the wedding section, they are still using the same sort of stock photography.

I did, however, receive a response from Amazon when I sent them this e-mail:

COMMENTS: It would be great if the "sold, ship now" e-mails for items with expedited shipping could have "expedited" stand out better. For instance:
Please ship item immediately via EXPEDITED shipping speed.
Please ship item immediately via ***EXPEDITED*** shipping speed.
Please ship item immediately via OMGOMGEXPEDITED!!!1!!111!!11ONE11! shipping speed.

I got an actual personal response, saying that my obnoxious, half-joking suggestion was valuable and would be used in future updates to the system.


The Museum of Transportation is proud to selectively honor diversity

About a month ago, I inquired about the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation as a possible wedding/reception location. Someone I talked to online told me they'd gone to a really cool wedding there, and I've always liked the place. After a few irritating conversations with caterers and venue representatives who were basically professional, but clearly uncomfortable with a same-sex wedding, I've learned to ask outright. The museum requires that a caterer from their list be used. I checked all the websites, and none of them list same-sex weddings as an event for which they cater (there are many many local caterers who do specifically list same-sex weddings and/or have imagery such as same-sex cake toppers on their pages). I also cross-referenced, and none advertise among the extensive lists of wedding vendors in BayWindows or PurpleUnions.

So, I e-mailed the director of events to ask her which of the caterers are LGBT friendly and are accustomed to providing services for same-sex weddings. She wrote back this vague response that all of the vendors act in a professional manner, and that it wouldn't be appropriate for them to inquire into the political beliefs of their vendors. She then assured me that they honor diversity by pointing out that they have a Kosher caterer and one who specializes in catering for sects of the Hindu and Buddhist population. I do realize that there are concerns in these cases regarding the actual food being provided, but clearly someone whose business provides food conforming to certain religious laws is familiar and comfortable with being at a ritual in that tradition. Apparently being aware of and welcoming to couples who are Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist does not constitute a "political belief," but being welcoming to same-sex couples does.

I've now left her two phone messages and sent her two more e-mails, specifying that I would like to know which of her vendors have experience with same-sex weddings, emphasizing the aspect that I wouldn't want to hire a business to perform a service with which they are not experienced. It's been a week, and I've heard nothing back. I think that pretty much answers my question regarding how LGBT-friendly the museum itself is.

EDITED 11/10/05 5:30 p.m: I just received an e-mail from the events director, stating that she'd recommend I try three caterers, whom she lists, and says, "they should be fine."

I'm a little ambivalent though, given the runaround it took to get a straight (haha) answer, and given that she does seem to really take the stance of "we wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable by asking if they're familiar with the LGBT community, or ourselves uncomfortable by really going into the issue; so we'll just let you be uncomfortable at the event you're paying thousands of dollars for instead."


Meetings to discuss MBTA accessibility are a little, um, inaccessible

I keep getting alerts from groups such as the Boston Center for Independent Living and Adaptive Environments, inviting community members to meet and discuss experiences with the MBTA and suggest improvements. I would love to attend one of these meetings and document my frustrations, particularly the experiences when an elevator has been out of service and MBTA employees have been clueless about other accessible routes (hell, they don't know the main accessible routes in and out of most of the stations) or have been downright rude.

The problem is, all of these meetings are planned for weekday daytime timeslots. I'm at work during these times. I think the issue isn't even so much the particular timeslots they choose, because there are also people who work or have other obligations during other timeslots than mine, but that each organization sponsoring meetings seems to be having several meetings, all planned for the same timeslots. If they want people to be able to attend, why not plan a morning meeting, an evening meeting, and a Sunday meeting, instead of offering 3 or 4 options that are all in the same timeslot? In my case, I'm even someone who gets a lot of paid time off and has a fairly flexible job, but I just happen to be flexed out the next few months in terms of other things I've chosen to schedule during the workday. I'd imagine though that most people who are employed who have things to contribute to these meetings have less flexible jobs than I do, likely ones without paid time off, and I know that many have a harder time getting around than I do and would need to plan considerably more time off to get away from work or other obligations.


And these are the same people who claim to be more civilized than "all those godless savages"

The US state of Kansas has ruled that science classes in public schools should include the teaching of intelligent design and the doubts it casts on Darwinian evolution. The move has dismayed the nation’s scientific community.

Putting aside the fact that most nonliteral Christian and Jewish scholars believe that scripture is compatible with evolution, does anyone find it ironic that the "educators" pushing for this type of teaching are the same sorts of people who write the ethnocentric textbooks James Loewen discusses, which describe "primitive people with crazy beliefs about spirits and demons"?

OK, maybe those exact words aren't used in textbooks (I can only hope), but do the fundamentalists really not see the irony in their viewing other cultures as godless and primitive and needing civilizing, when they're going around viewing it as a scientific fact that a human-like man up in the sky pointed his finger and created the modern world in six literal 24-hour days?

A philosophy course involving discussion of various creation theories from numbers of cultures, along with how they could all be interpreted to be compatible with current scientific knowledge, would be a great exercise in multiculturalism and critical thinking about multiple viewpoints. I'd love to see how the fundamentalists would react to a proposal that any religion taught in schools had to be taught in a manner involving, you know, thinking. And how far does this pan out, anyway? Are they going to cry discrimination when their kids try to apply to medical school but don't have any passing grades in biology courses?


We've secretly replaced the mayor with Folgers Crystals...

For the second time now, I've called the mayor's office between 1 and 2 a.m. to alert them to noise/safety issues and have had the phone answered by someone who I believe was the mayor. Or at least who sounded a lot like him. The first time was regarding some teenagers riding mini motorcycles around our neighborhood; last night it was a couple of young guys shouting and fistfighting in the little park area. Is the mayor himself actually working some of the off-hours shifts at the mayor's office?

Other times I've called with various questions or concerns, the phone has been answered by other people who clearly are not the mayor and who have a manner more like a regular secretary, i.e. "OK...let me take down your name and see what I can do..." The person who I think might be the mayor takes a much more active stance; when I called about the bikes, he sounded personally frustrated that the kids had been riding in a circle for around for a couple hours, so obviously no police cruiser had gone through the area in a couple hours. He said something like, "Yeah, I've asked that they patrol the residential areas regularly, especially on weekend nights. I'll see that they do."

Last night when I called about the guys making noise and someone potentially getting hurt, the man on the line asked if I had called the police. I replied that I hadn't, because I had tried that once and had the police headquarters tell me I'd need to call my local station, but that they didn't know the number for my local station, saying that my address wasn't valid and seeming to think Roxbury and West Roxbury were the same place. Again, the man seemed outraged and said "hang on..." and suddenly I was on a three-way call with the police dispatcher. He stated that he was from the mayor's office and had a constituent on the line. I told the dispatcher what was going on, and he then emphasized, "You need to send someone immediately, not in several hours. This is a public safety issue. It's 1:22 in the morning and those kids should be home and in bed."

A few minutes later, a police car rolled up.

Mayor or not, whoever is answering the phone over there is doing a great job.


A sure sign I spend too much time on the internet

Reading "0mg saturated fat" on a package of black bean burgers and processing this as "OHMYGOD saturated fat."

And worse, not even having it initially seem like an odd phrase to have on a food package.


FOXSports: Is sports ready for a gay male athlete?

Jeremy Shockey calls Bill Parcells a "homo" in a magazine interview. Matt Millen calls Johnnie Morton a "faggot." Shockey says he "wouldn't, you know, stand for it" if he found out he had a gay teammate at the University of Miami. Garrison Hearst and Todd Jones join the boys-will-be-boors chorus, declaring in no uncertain terms that they don't want any gay players on their teams.

A surprisingly fact-based article from FOX, which even cites the director of a GLBT community center throughout.


Apparently I'm not the only one who carries around a Sharpie[TM] and correction fluid for emergency copy editing...

My brother took these pictures of a couple of signs in the Denver airport. He declined to specify whether he was involved in the improvements to the signs.



For those people who really can't pass up a purported deal

I'm cranky, so I think that for a few days this might just become a blog in which I make fun of stupid things I find on the internet. And likely elsewhere.

In that spirit, Sierra Trading Post, which is a great outlet store for outdoor clothing and gear, now has a section labeled: Hot Deals! Everything priced under $99.95!

"Wow, socks for under a hundred bucks? Hey, and water bottles too? Even energy bars? How 'bout that?!"