Would you trade a paperclip for a house?

On One Red Paperclip, Kyle MacDonald chronicles his quest to trade the paperclip for bigger and better things until he reaches his goal: a house.

So far, he's traded up the ladder and received items such as a pen, a swanky ceramic knob, a generator, a cube van, a recording contract, and a year rent-free in Phoenix. He is currently accepting trade offers for a day with Alice Cooper.

It's a really intriguing sociological study in the value that various things (and "things") hold to different people. Several different systems of determining value of goods and services are playing into this.


The times I really love my job

I just got to, as an officially sanctioned job function, google the instructions for making freebase cocaine and crack cocaine.

OK, well, I didn't exactly get to try out the recipes or anything. It was to find out which method of cooking cocaine is the one one can easily do in one's home so as to make sure we were using accurate terminology.

Turns out "freebase" is more of the generic term and could refer either to making crack (simpler process using baking soda) or making actual freebase cocaine (using ether, requiring better chemistry skills and risking blowing the place up). So "freebasing" is a correct term for any type of process in which someone is cooking cocaine in order to be able to smoke it.




Jewelry to support access to birth control

Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland has commissioned artist Chris Sweiger to design jewelry made out of birth control pills and is selling it as a fundraiser. Not only is it a good cause, but the jewelry is really awesome and is a way to wear a social statement anywhere that buttons and t-shirts aren't appropriate. They even have designs that are more typically feminine and much less typically feminine, which rocks.

My favorite one is the one on the right, but I've got to say that I also appreciate that one was designed to coordinate with One Smoot's layout.




National Day of Silence is today


The National Day of Silence is taking place across the U.S. today. I applaud the students who are organizing and taking part at various schools.

The Advocate has a couple of good columns about the past and future of the event.


Scottsdale mayor not excited about opening of Pink Taco

In a city aspiring to be defined by its good taste, a new Mexican restaurant, the Pink Taco, is opening with a name that some find offensive.

Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross was so put off by the name, a slang term for vagina, that she asked its owner to change it.

"I don't appreciate anything that offends more than half the population," Manross said. "But he said no and heard my concern. I really didn't want to see a business with that name opening anywhere here."

Putting the name aside for a moment, I don't think the place sounds sexist or anything. I mean, it seems like they provide services equally to people who eat tacos, people who eat burritos, people who eat some of each...


I can't believe I've just about given myself a hernia laughing at something that involves Wilford Brimley

These videos are brilliant. Be sure to watch the second one all the way to the end.

Beetis Vol. 1

Beetis Vol. 2

(How do people come up with these things?)


U.S. Appeals Court: Public schools can ban anti-minority messages

"Public school students who may be injured by verbal assaults on the basis of a core identifying characteristic such as race, religion or sexual orientation have a right to be free from such attacks while on school campuses,'' Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the majority opinion.

...

Those rights, he said, include the right of a historically persecuted minority group to be free from "psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society.'' He also said requiring Harper to remove his T-shirt did not interfere with his religious beliefs or practices.

It's about time lawmakers in this country are starting to realize that harassing people isn't a protected religious practice.


No muppet is an island

One of the great things about Boston is that, really, nothing here is done with subtlety. Life here is a participatory sport. There's some unwritten rule that even if a particular event doesn't personally really concern me, it still does concern me. How many times have I heard someone remark, "Only one more week until boating season starts..." and thought, "Wait, what? You don't boat!"

There's just something about this city -- maybe because it's centered around such a small downtown area -- that makes it so we find ourselves in the midst of just about every event, even if we don't plan to. Any day there's a Red Sox game, I find myself in an energetic crowd of people with jerseys and painted faces, and this requires no effort other than emabarking on my regular commute home. On St. Patrick's Day, I made no effort to go out, because I just had to step out of my office to be in a crowd of loud drunk green people. The walk across the crowd to the subway entrance and a beer out of my fridge once I got home was enough St. Paddy's Day for me. Any day there's a concert at Symphony Hall, all it takes is a walk from Bread and Circus to the Mass Ave T stop, and I can get sandwiched between hairdos in fur coats and run over by limos, just like the paying customers get to.

Last night really took the cake though when I unwittingly stepped onto the Orange Line as Sesame Street Live got out and found myself in a sea of bobbing Elmo balloons.

For the whole ride home, I heard little voices singing Sesame Street songs and watched toddlers pressing the buttons on those light-up propeller contraptions and promptly getting hit in the face. I pretty much got to take in the essential parts of the show, only this didn't require me to drop a couple hunge on tickets or take any time out of my day. Or to have any kids.


Planned Parenthood now resorting to lies and propaganda?

I just got an e-mail from Planned Parenthood telling me why (presumably every single) crisis pregnancy center is vehemently anti-choice and harasses women looking to have an abortion. The text of the e-mail is also on their website:

One such center in Indiana shares a parking lot with a real Planned Parenthood clinic, and was designed expressly to lure our patients and deceive them. Recently, people from the fake "clinic" waged a campaign of intimidation and harassment against a 17-year-old girl who, with her mother and boyfriend, came to what she thought was our clinic for an abortion. Over the following days, the anti-choice extremists called the police to say the girl was being forced to have an abortion, showed up at her home, called her father's workplace, and even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion. The worst part? Your tax dollars are funding these "crisis pregnancy centers" to the tune of $60 million.

Sure, it's a legitimate concern that "crisis pregnancy center" is not a national organization and these centers may be extremist organizations.

But I'm having trouble believing that this story happened. First, too much identifying information has been taken out. Since they've already stated that her school and much of her community has been privy to her stolen personal information, why wouldn't they at least state what town this happened in?

If I do google searches (both news searches and web searches) for various combinations of indiana, "crisis pregnancy center," "planned parenthood," "harassment," "clinic," "abortion," and so forth, I get absolutely nothing relating to this, except for occasionally the story on the Planned Parenthood site.

This seems odd. There is really no way that this could have happened as the story describes and not have hit several major news sources. It's clearly newsworthy, and there were several opportunities for the media to hear about it. Police dispatches are all listed in a public record, which is mainly viewed by journalists. A call regarding "a minor forced to have an abortion" would certainly have prompted journalists to investigate. Harassment at a public school would certainly have caught media attention, as would people showing up at the girl's home.

I've e-mailed Planned Parenthood with these concerns and asked if they can point me to a version of the story in a mainstream news source. I will update if they respond.

Planned Parenthood is a really good organization that provides valuable services; I'm not going to continue to support them though if it seems they're making up stories in order to sway politicians and financial supporters.


Dar Williams fabulous as always; opening acts sucked ass

Last night I attended a Dar Williams concert put on by Wellesley Women for Choice as a fundraiser. Dar was excellent, as usual, and the small intimate venue (Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center) was fabulous. The group had tables set up in the back of the venue for signature-gathering, additional fundraisers, information leafletting, and letter-writing. Good times.

The choice of opening acts, however, was atrocious. Since they were billed as openers for Dar, rather than as a festival-type performance, I'd have expected that the organizers would have chosen acts that were suited to the venue and likely to be appreciated by the same audience as Dar. Totally not the case.

The first band, We're All About The Love These Days, wins the award for unnecessarily long band name. The band was three young guys performing mostly original upbeat pop/rock tunes. They were talented, but kind of generic. They were more the kind of band I'd want to see while bouncing around in a club or an outdoor event, rather than a band I'd want to sit and listen to in a theatre. They did have a couple of plastic robots onstage while they played, which just makes them cool.

The second band, One Degree of Separation, just skeeved me the hell out. Now, I like a lot of types of music, but this was just plain awful. The band was three young guys, complete with unkempt beards, bandanas, chains, skulls, and biker boots. A young girl, dressed in ass-tight jeans with a mudflap girl belt provided the vocals for all their songs. I don't know any way to describe their music other than "bad metal," or perhaps "butt rock." They were all plenty talented, but it seemed they were basically going for as-fast-as-possible and as-loud-as-possible.

At several points during the show, Mudflap Girl humped the leg of the rhythm guitar player as she sang. At one point, she actually lay on the stage on her back and gyrated and kicked the air while singing. This wasn't along the lines of Madonna or Gwen Stefani using sexuality in an empowered way; this was just plain trashy and objectifying. It came across to me as clearly antifeminist.

I'm guessing that the organizers didn't actually audition these bands before booking them, especially the second one. Maybe it wasn't clear from hearing a few tracks of a demo disc that the singer planned to hump the stage during a feminist/choice fundraiser. I'm willing to bet though that there have got to be at least two singer/songwriter types attending Wellesley who would have gladly opened for Dar and been much more appreciated by the audience.


Register THIS, asswipe

I just went over to the Registry of Deeds to file a document pertaining to our condo association. The first part of my trip was amusing, as the officer who had placed my bag through the metal detector at the entrace to the courthouse told me he was going to need to confiscate my camera. He then placed it in a plastic bag printed "confiscated weapon" and had me sign a receipt for a weapon.

Once I'd been disarmed, I went into the registry, where I've been previously to look up information about my property and a few others. The archivists who locate information and explain the filing system are most excellent nerdy old folks, and I've always had pleasant experiences dealing with them.

The clerk who handles transactions is a bit different though. I walked up to the counter, told him what document I had, and asked him if he could help me file it. He grabbed it from me, sneered "that all?" at me, and started typing some stuff into the computer. He then said "do you have an envelope for this to go into?" (I had brought it over in a folder.) Before I could answer, he glared at it, said "of course you don't" and shoved an envelope at me. He then told me, "OK, you're going to start by writing your name on this..." I asked him if there was anywhere in particular I should write it, and he said, "Gee, you've never addressed an envelope before?" Oh, see, telling me I was addressing it to myself rather than writing my name on it would have been helpful. He then flipped through the pages of the standard lawyer-prepared document, glared at me, muttered "jeez" and typed into the computer some more, handed me a receipt, and said "yerallset" as he picked up a several-gallon Dunkin Donuts coffee from under the counter.

He might want to lay off the crack-laced burnt coffee and switch to ludes or something.


Yet, no one has asked the hat how it feels about the labels...

New York Magazine reports: A few weeks ago, a member of the Park Slope Parents e-mail forum who’d encountered a stray piece of winterwear in the neighborhood posted a notice to the group titled “Found: boy’s hat.”

This spawned a discussion about the implications of someone having found a hat and decided it must belong to a girl.

Gawker has gotten ahold of the full text of the e-mails and has posted them for your reading pleasure.



I must have missed the part in the Bible where it says to be a moron

Bill Nye seems to have angered some people during a presentation in Waco last week:

He pointed out that the sun, the “greater light,” is but one of countless stars and that the “lesser light” is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light.

A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence.

“We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.

Wait, what? How is this incongruous? I believe in a God. I also believe in evidence we've gathered in the past few hundred years indicating that the moon does not generate light. It makes perfect sense that the people writing the Bible a few thousand years ago didn't know this yet, and made the reasonable assumption that the moon gives off light. Even today, it doesn't seem unfactual to refer to the moon as a "light in the sky" when speaking poetically, as is done in Breishis/Genesis.

Do these people honestly think that it's some sort of sin to accept any knowledge that has come about since the time of Jesus? Wouldn't they then be blaspheming any time they turn on a light or start up their SUV?


MBTA and disability rights organizations reach settlement

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and organizations representing people with disabilities have reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought over accessibility problems that denied [er, continue to deny ~eeka] people with disabilities equal access to the public transportation system. Under the agreement, the T will undertake major improvements in equipment, facilities and services that promise to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities while improving service for all T passengers.


Finagle my bagel

While walking by Curious George Goes to Wordsworth the other day, Molly wondered, "is there any other store whose name is a sentence?"

I immediately thought of Boston Beer Works, but she informed me that I was parsing the name incorrectly. We thought of plenty of other store names that took even more stretching to construe as sentences, which I'll do my readers the favor of not posting. The only other business names we've found so far that are legitimate sentences are Stop & Shop and Finagle a Bagel.

Can anyone think of any others?


Jane Doe, 86, architect, philanthrophist, annoying busybody with scary hair

I haven't read the book yet, but the interview on NPR intrigued me. In The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, Marilyn Johnson talks about several aspects of obituaries, such as the journalistic practice of writing obituaries in advance for elders or people in poor health, which have on occasion been accidentally published prematurely. The best part though is how the author talks about a new trend in obituaries: honesty. She tells how some writers, tired of the monotonous columns about what a nice person someone was, have chosen to include details about the deceased's drunken binges or irritating personality.

By the time I die, I think the "blunt obit" is going to be passé. I'm hoping my writers will go a step further with letting the world know I was a weirdo, maybe by publishing it in mirrorwriting or in a non-local language or something.


I'm all for a government run by the people, provided the people use their brains a little

I don't really feel like I have anything terribly novel to say about the Massachusetts health insurance bill.

I do have some thoughts on the commentary coming across from various blogs on my RSS feed reader though:

1. Why have so many of you people never heard of MassHealth? People are acting like providing healthcare to people with disabilities and/or with low incomes is some brand new thing and is going to make taxes skyrocket. We're already paying for the healthcare of people who are unemployed and/or have disabilities, as we should be. We're also paying for the healthcare of people who work at McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts and aren't offered insurance through their employers. Those who choose to patronize these establishments are further enabling these employers to abuse their employees.

2. Why are so many political and financial people with absolutely no knowledge of the healthcare system purporting to be experts, yet ignoring major issues pertaining to healthcare? Sure, those of us who provide healthcare are biased toward being, uh, pro-healthcare. I'll acknowledge this. However, we also have certain things in mind that career politicians and people who run hardcore libertarian websites don't. For instance, we know that if your upper-middle-class child sustains a brain injury from an accident or illness and develops a severe disability, your anarchist ass will no longer be able to say, "I provide for my own family, just like everyone should," because your child will now have several million dollars per year in medical bills, rehabilitation bills, and therapeutic school tuition, most of which the state picks up after your private insurance cuts you off or after you go bankrupt because you only considered the possibility of routine medical concerns when you opted to self-insure.

EDIT: Jodie provides this link, into which one can enter information about a household and see if anyone qualifies for MassHealth. As she points out, it's often surprising who qualifies.


If you're a big tool, this is for you...

From the "you know you're sleep deprived when you start laughing at banner ads" department: