The subtle regionalisms are the most interesting

I find it really charming how "auntie" is used in New England as a noun in semi-formal speaking and writing (he has three aunties) rather than just a title for a specifc family member ("Auntie Jane"). It especially stands out to me when I see it in writing, such as "Client reports good support system. Has two aunties who live locally and visit him often." I particularly liked it when I heard it hypothetically today; someone was talking about a young teenager who lived with her father and wasn't comfortable talking to him about female issues and someone else asked "Does she have an auntie or someone she might talk to?" Heh.

How far south/west does this usage extend? Is it also common around the NYC area? Or DC? What about Ohio and thereabouts? I definitely know it's not common usage in the midwest or western states, where it would seem overly familiar to refer to someone's aunt as an "auntie" without knowing her quite well.

(And why isn't there unclie?)

Asking people to use more inclusive language is actually effective -- provided the place is a human services organization

A few weeks ago, I wrote an e-mail to the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange about some language use in the photolistings on their site.

...I've noticed that some descriptions use language such as "never letting his mental retardation get in his way" or"despite cerebral palsy." This type of language -- the practice of "glossing over" the disability, if you will -- is considered offensive to a lot of people with disabilities and also fails to give an accurate picture of what the child can and cannot do. ... In general, this also contributes to the ableist mentality that people with disabilities only warrant discussion if the person has "overcome" their disability.

Also, I notice that some descriptions do not mention any specific disability, but rather mention, for instance, that an adolescent is making fabulous progress in school, where he is learning to use two-word sentences and write his name. While the strength-based approach is admirable, this child has a disability. To ignore this fact implies that it is taboo to clearly state that the child has a developmental disability -- this is again offensive to this child (and every other child with a disability) to not acknowledge his particular needs. ...

I received a very nice reply from Dianne Curtin, who agreed that this language should not have found its way into the descriptions and said that it would be revised. She also shared some of the agency's struggles with trying to portray the children's strengths and repsect their privacy (both of which they do beautifully, really) while also trying to be realistic.

Indeed, the same struggles we all face in this work. When we describe someone in a way we would want to be described and the way we describe our friends and family, there's always someone out there who thinks the lack of pathologizing jargon means we don't have sufficient clinical knowledge. As if respecting someone and understanding someone are somehow opposites, when they really are so intertwined.

This is the coolest article ever

...Among 36 female patients who displayed stuffed animals in their rooms, Borderline Personality Disorder was diagnosed in 61% of these patients. Of 447 adult female patients admitted to the same unit over the same period, only 17% were noted to be diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. Stuffed animals as a bedside clinical clue may suggest evaluation for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Where can I get funding for this kind of research? That's just awesome.

Google ads is mocking me

Great, so I complain about elevators and Google starts putting ads for elevator companies on my blog.

Gimp hates MBTA

Dear MBTA,

Tonight when I got off the train at Roxbury Crossing, the elevator and escalator were both switched off, as they often are. There were no signs indicating an outage. The MBTA elevator hotline, updated 5 minutes before, did not list this station as being out.

I called the MBTA police to tell them I was at Roxbury Crossing and the elevator and escalator were both out. The officer said he'd transfer me to the right place.

He transferred me to customer service voicemail.

I called back, stated that voicemail wasn't going to get me out of the station. He stated that he'd send over an inspector.

The inspector came after about 15 minutes, walked over to the escalator and elevator, pulled out a key, and turned the power back on. I might add that he turned it back on while several able-bodied people were walking up the escalator. They jolted, then screamed at him that he might want to tell people before doing that.

The inspector then stated "these get turned off every day -- the highschool kids think it's funny."

He didn't offer me any sort of apology or acknowledgement that I'd been stranded on a platform, but rather yelled, "call the T" and ran out of the station.

Until you geniuses can figure out some way to make it so that only authorized T employees can turn off the power to the escalators and elevators, and so the elevator hotline can be aware if this has happened, my gimp ass would like to receive a free T pass each month. Please send it to the address below.

Thank you.

If only OTHER people were so permissive...

Tonight I was at the Burger King in Belmont in between clients (OK, so I have my vices. They do have a decent veggie burger though!). I placed my order, had approximately 25 aspects of it clarified, then saw it pop up on the screen along with a total. The woman over the speaker then said, "Thank you, please drive through the window."

Whole foods stops selling live lobsters

Ultimately, Whole Foods management decided to immediately stop selling live lobsters and soft-shell crabs, saying they could not ensure the creatures are treated with respect and compassion.

"We place as much emphasis on the importance of humane treatment and quality of life for all animals as we do on the expectations for quality and flavor," John Mackey, Whole Foods' co-founder and chief executive, said in a statement.

This is most excellent news. I can only hope they'll make similar decisions about selling dead lobsters in the future. And cows, pigs, birds...

The MBTA hates gimps

Once again, the MBTA announces some newfangled plan to make the T better. Well, better for people who don't have disabilities.

The MBTA's complete ignorance of people with disabilities is first demonstrated by the premise underlying their new plan: "What I see a lot of on the ride to work is able-bodied people sitting down and, more times than not, not getting up for someone who needs the seat more," [John Cogliano, state secretary of transportation] said.

Apparently, Mr. Cogliano is able to tell by looking at a seated person that that person does not have poor balance, visual impairments, severe anxiety, a tendency toward nausea or dizziness, pain or weakness in the legs or back, or some other condition that makes it hard for the person to stand on a moving vehicle. He also has apparently charged himself with deciding who needs the seats on the train more than other people.

It gets even better. Not only is he going around determining whether people need seats, but he's decided to go around and reward people for being able-bodied: select employees will hand out gift cards when they see riders offer up seats.

I imagine they aren't going to be handing many of these tickets to elders or people with disabilities who, well, aren't offering up seats. And if they did go around handing them to people with visible disabilities as some sort of consolation prize or something, um, that would be really offensive.

One thing that I think would help the situation on the T a lot (and would help this town in general) would be if people would speak up when they notice things instead of ignoring it or glaring at people. On a couple of occasions I have heard people ask, in a general fashion, "Is there someone who can offer this person a seat?" This is generally effective in getting someone to offer a seat, and it doesn't involve making the request of a specific individual, who may or may not be able to offer the seat and who shouldn't be obligated to have to explain that to a bunch of strangers on the T. The T might want to include in their ads and leaflets and things a suggestion for people to use this method, and to also give the suggestion that people shouldn't harass riders who are sitting down and/or assume that they're able to stand. Also, they should give Dunkies coupons to people who are helping request seats for other people, because this is just as thoughtful, and not all of us can stand on a moving vehicle any or all of the time.

Also, they really should give out coupons to somewhere that doesn't suck, but that's a separate issue!

Mad props to Blogger

I just realized I never posted this, but about a month ago Blogger introduced an audio option for people who can't see the fuzzy numbers to type them in. Now I don't have to choose between allowing people using text readers to leave me comments and avoiding the tons of spam that these sites are prone to. Yay!

White Ribbon Campaign perpetuates the invisibility of same-sex and female-perpetuated domestic violence

A friend tells me that a very insightful adolescent talked to her recently about being irritated that her high school hosted an assembly at which speakers from the White Ribbon Campaign -- Men Advocating Change presented to the students about ending violence against women.

Now, I of course think that ending violence against women is a great cause. I think ending violence against everyone is an extremely important issue.

The presentation involved asking the young men in the audience to take a pledge to never participate in violence against women. But the message this young woman took from the presentation was hardly one of empowerment. Instead, she reported that she thought it was sexist and homophobic that only violence against women perpetrated by men was addressed. She felt that the school was sending a message that the school (and the larger society) are not willing to hear the concerns of men who experience violence or women who experience violence perpetrated by women. She felt that the school was labeling half of the students as potential perpetrators and the other half as waiting-to-be-victimized.

And we wonder why so many men feel like they have nowhere to go to seek help in an abusive situation and to heal from abuse.

I think the approaches this group is using definitely have validity and purpose. The message of men speaking out to end violence against women is very powerful. But the approach of having a school-wide assembly forcing students to join a cause is flawed -- particularly given that it is a non-voluntary, mixed-gender group. It's also questionable how much value there is in taking a pledge in a huge anonymous group. The pledge approach might work quite well if, say, a trusted adult male explained that the issue is very important to him personally and asked his small basketball team or youth group to take the pledge (while also affirming that focusing on violence against women by men does not mean this is the only kind of violence that needs to be taken seriously.) These young men could then ask their fathers, their neighbors, their brothers, and their male friends to also take the pledge.

A better approach in a school setting should probably be done in smaller settings than an assembly, and could involve talking about how violence against women and negative stereotypes of women are promoted in the media and examining the students' own prejudices. has a lot of great resources on talking to students of various ages about issues pertaining to a specific group. There are units focusing on violence against women, but in a way that allows for more discussion, more personal thought, and can be done without sending the message that other violence is not to be taken seriously. More importantly, the units also highlight the achievements of whatever group of people are being discussed -- which is what really is effective in combating objectification and violence.

One trabecula short of a ventricle?

I've just been informed that there is a cardiologist named Leslie Smoot at Children's Hospital.

Ask not what google ads can do for you

Over at Bettnet, Domenico Bettinelli posts another one of his usual hateful tirades on how GLBT folks are an abomination:

This isn’t just a minor blip on the gay scene either. If you’ve ever been to a “gay” town like Provincetown on Cape Cod or San Francisco, you see depravity dressed up as normalcy all the time. The happy image they want you to see are the two chinos-clad, normal-looking, professional guys with the white picket fence and two kids adopted from a Third World hellhole. What they don’t want you to see is the bondage, self-mutilation, open sexual activity, bigotry, and outright rage that is very common.

It seems that justice has been done though; given that Google Adsense policies state that ads may not be placed on any page that advocates against a particular group, the Google ad generator apparently is programmed to assume that a site that says "gay" all over the place is, well, a gay-themed site, and it is providing the site with ad feeds accordingly:

(click for larger)

Happy 666 everybody!

Some math geekery involving 666.

Some linguistic geekery involving 666.

Some site about how 666 is some conspiracy and we're all going to have barcodes implanted in us. What.

The folks at Bay Windows are good people

I read Bay Windows every week, sometimes the print edition but usually the online edition, since I can browse through it while I'm on hold or playing phone tag or waiting for someone to show up. I was particularly excited several months ago when they started including additional content that was updated more often than weekly -- mostly consisting of links to other news sites.

I got a little irritated though when I clicked on a link to a news story and got not only a news story, but a sidebar ad involving a picture of a woman with handcuffs and a whip. She was technically fully clothed and not actually pornographic, but dude, a giant picture of some bondage chick had just popped up while I was reading news at work. Not exactly something I want someone to see over my shoulder. Apparently the story was on a GLBT news site that seemed totally mainstream and professional -- but based in Amsterdam, where such advertising doesn't faze most people.

A couple days later, this happened again; this time, the story was on a Belgian arts and culture magazine's website and was accompanied by a picture of a buff bronzed guy in very short shorts and nothing else, smiling slyly and motioning someone (hopefully not me) to come closer. Again, not the sort of thing I want people walking into my office to think I'm seeking out.

So, I e-mailed the publishers at Bay Windows, telling them what type of stuff had, uh, popped up, and mentioning that I was now being really careful to not click on any external links from their site while I was at work. I explained that I realize the ads aren't actually inappropriate, particularly in the cultures where the sites are based, but that they're not something I expect to see when I'm looking at a site like theirs that I've always considered appropriate for work.

Jeff Coakley wrote back and said that he poked around and found the sort of thing I was talking about, and that it's frustrating because they might link to a site one day when the site looks totally wholesome, but then the next day the same site might have handcuff girl in the sidebar. He said they'd be looking more closely at advertising trends and choosing their links accordingly.
It's been about three weeks now, and I've been clicking on the external links (still mostly at home at this point...) and haven't yet found anything that looked inappropriate. Yay!

Lost hiker expected to die of hypothermia

OK, I parsed this headline totally wrong. After reading the story, it's clear that "expected" is past tense without an implied copula.

The story was way more messed-up my way.

What's this dood accusing me of?

Big mook walking down Canal Street this morning, talking to another guy:

"You shoulda SEEN how dey smooted me da LAST time dis happened!"

Yawn, another upscale fundraiser for MassEquality

I love MassEquality and totally support their mission, don't get me wrong. But really, I'm getting sick of how they seem to only know how to hold fundraisers and/or do activism by holding expensive parties at either posh nightclubs or super-expensive restaurants. Here's the latest:

Clear your calendar Monday, June 19th from 6:00-8:00.

Why? We're throwing the hottest party of the year at "twentyeight degrees," 1 Appleton Street in Boston's South End. Twentyeight degrees is one of Boston's newest and chicest night spots. The owners, Carl Christian and Bill Emery, are throwing this amazing party to kick-off our state-wide media campaign.

I understand that their activism takes place mainly through having a ton of money, and that one strategy for doing this is to only hold fundraisers that cater toward a crowd of people with a lot of money. But a lot of other charities also do the majority of their activism through money rather than volunteer hours, and they still manage to hold walks, fairs, and other events that don't scream "young white urban wealthy socialites only."

Even if it might (or might not!) bring in less revenue per event, I really wish they'd hold an event that would appeal more to families, working-class people, people of color, older people, and so forth. It doesn't even have to be a fundraiser -- they could hold their next political victory celebration or award presentation at a neighborhood bar and grill instead of a downtown hotspot. They're a very vocal and financially powerful presence in the queer/ally community, and I wish they'd also use their power to make our community more welcoming to a more diverse group of people.