101 things to do in Boston to expand your world

Inspired by BU's list of 101 things to do before you graduate, I'd like to compile a, well, somewhat different list. Their list has some good historical spots, but overall is too white/straight/Christian/male for my tastes, and centers too much around hanging out in near-downtown neighborhoods and spending money. Not that there's anything wrong with that sort of entertainment, and not to say that I don't engage in plenty of that myself, but I would think that most people can come up with the downtown nightlife stuff and the touristy stuff without needing help from a list.

So, I'm proposing a different list. I'll probably retain some of the more funky ideas from BU's list, but I'd like to diversify the list a bit. I'll start with some obvious ones. Please comment or e-mail me with things to add to the list. I'll put in links at some point, I promise.

1. Volunteer to serve a meal at somewhere like Rosie's Place, Women's Lunch Place, or Boston Rescue Mission.

2. Attend the yearly Pride Parade or related events.

3. Eat Ethiopian food at somewhere like Addis Red Sea, Fasika, or Asmara. You get to eat with your hands!

4. Check out a reading or workshop at The Center for New Words.

5. Visit the ether dome at MGH.

Republicans push for poll tax

Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006" (HR 4844), sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., which would require all voters to obtain and show government-issued photo IDs proving their citizenship before they could vote.

The only document that meets the bill's requirement for proof of citizenship is a passport. According to the State Department, only 25 percent of Americans over age 18 have a passport. Passports can cost as much as $100. In order to get a passport, you need your birth certificate. Do you know where your birth certificate is? Many would probably have to pay for a replacement copy of their birth certificate so they could get a passport. At least another $20.

Let's face it: HR 4844 is the equivalent of a poll tax since voters would have to pay for a passport to prove their citizenship in order to vote. So we are left then to wonder why the need for this reckless law that will actually discourage, confuse and discriminate against voters.

If passed, this onerous bill would prevent many eligible voters from exercising their right to vote, disproportionately affecting people of color, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, rural and Native American voters, the homeless, low-income people and married women, who studies show to be less likely to carry a photo ID.

I've been reading discussion about this bill on various blogs, and it's just infuriating how many people really have no perspective on how "the other half" lives. Several people, while trying to point out how easy it is to get ID, have mentioned that a high school yearbook can be used as photographic proof to go along with a birth certificate.

How many of the folks my agency serves spent a whole school year in a typical high school that would have put out a yearbook? Maybe 15. How many of them were living with caretakers at the time who would have had the money and cared enough to purchase them a yearbook? Maybe 4 out of the 15. How many of these people would still have the yearbook and wouldn't have lost it while hospitalized or homeless? Of all of the people with disabilities whom we serve, I can think of maybe 2 people who would have a high school yearbook in their possession today.

No, it isn't the only way to prove identity, but it infuriates me that so many people assume that since they have a high school yearbook, most people have one. Yearbooks aside, most of our folks don't have any form of ID. Most don't drive, most don't have bank accounts, most don't cash their own checks. A lot can't locate their birth certificate or any family members. And they certainly don't have $100 for a passport if they did find these things.

This isn't about homeland security. This is about discouraging voters who don't align with Republican ideas.


Looks like Deval Patrick has the nomination. WOOHOO!

Now just gotta see how Sonia Chang-Diaz did.

(Hell, she might have gotten the nomination for a couple of different offices, because, well, the people handing out the stickers gave us sheets of three, and I wanted to make sure I put them to good use...)


Just a reminder to everyone, particularly if ye have meetings, that today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Also, vote.

Vote early and often

For my readers in locations where there's a primary tomorrow, be sure to vote. That is all.

eeka and others die of injuries, are rushed to hospital and treated anyway

So, as planned, I participated in Operation Poseidon on Sunday morning. I did learn a lot, and the equipment and uniforms and everything were quite cool, but the whole thing really amounted to a waste of tax dollars.

The simulation was very poorly done. We all had name tags listing our symptoms and our vital signs. We were instructed to act out what was on the tag and not to add anything else. There was no instruction though regarding whether we were supposed to otherwise behave as we would in a disaster, or what. So, when the bomb went off, all of the people who were "oriented" and "able to walk" ran out of the mall. Very few people tried to get any of the seriously injured people out of the mall, and very few people rendered first aid to injured people or tried to flag down the emergency personnel. Well, a lot people would scream "help" and "ow" when the personnel walked by, but I only saw a couple people actually doing things like running up to a firefighter and shouting that someone was having trouble breathing.

All of us were put through the radioactive screening and decontamination process before any injuries were triaged. It took me about an hour to get through the first screening. By then, the huge contusions they'd painted all over my neck and chest would have bled out. No, actually, since I was able to walk, I would have bolted out of there and gotten myself to a hospital, but we weren't allowed to do this (other "victims" who were supposed to have fled the mall and walked to a hospital were planted at each hospital nearby, but it was only maybe 20 out of 150 victims who were staged as self-transports).

When we finally got treated and sent to the Royal Sonesta for lunch, I heard about a lot of infuriating wastes of money and equipment. Some individuals at various hospitals said they'd received actual X-rays and CT scans, which was clearly not necessary in simulating treatment.

I did learn that a suprising number of people have little clue about what constitutes a life-threatening injury. A lot of people were trying to push in front of the lines because someone around them had a situation such as an abrasion to the bone (with safe vital signs). A good chunk of the volunteers were healthcare and emergency services personnel, yet no one was explaining to these people that someone with safe vital signs and bleeding on an extremity was pretty low on the priority list when there were others with failing vitals. I have no doubt that people would have taken more of a leadership role in a real emergency, but it didn't happen yesterday.

There were plans for people who are bilingual to speak only their other language and to pretend not to speak English, but a lot of bilingual people didn't hear about the plan. I only encountered one person who was speaking another language (Farsi!). I didn't hear how she or anyone else fared in terms of receiving adapted instructions from personnel or getting a translator at the hospital.

The Globe and Herald have two very different takes on the disaster. Just as I would have suspected, The Herald praises emergency services for everything running smoothly, and The Globe reports that the emergency personnel let everyone die. The truth of course is somewhere in the middle, like it usually is.

The reasoning behind that model ban is commendable. The approach is not so great.

Madrid's fashion week has turned away underweight models after protests that young girls and women were trying to copy their rail-thin looks and developing eating disorders.

This is great that the orgnization is recognizing that media images are one contributor to body image issues in females (and males too, really). But the approach of "banning" any woman under a BMI of 18 is not the way to do it. This is actually reinforcing the very idea that some bodies are acceptable and others are not.

Courtney E. Martin mentioned the ban in her column today (it isn't up on her website yet at the time of this post). Throughout the piece, she applauded the ban and said how great it is that we will get to see "real women." Just like the infamous Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, Martin dismisses thin women, stating that they are not "real."

The problem here is not any one super-thin woman, and the solution is not to be discriminatory and offensive toward super-thin women. The problem is when young women see page after page of super-thin models, even if the models are all women for whom this is a healthy size. The problem is that organizers are scouring the planet looking for the thinnest group of women, rather than taking a natural cross-section. The solution is to encourage the fashion industry to hire an evenly distributed array of women in different size categories, including a few thin women. I personally think this should be a requirement for any publication or event that is marketed toward minors.

In either case, BMI is not an accurate measure of body size for something like this. While it can be a useful guideline, it doesn't work as an outright determination of whether someone is unhealthy. Many women with very small frames, for instance, a lot of Vietnamese women, are under the 18 BMI cutoff and quite healthy and fit. For that matter, a healthy woman with paraplegia might be considerably under 18 BMI because of muscle atrophy.

Why not instead hold tryouts in which a model is selected for each clothing size between 2 and 24? This would eliminate the real problem, which is a fashion show or catalog in which every model is a size 2. They might end up with some models who weigh too little for their body type. They might end up with some who weigh too much for their body type. They might also end up with some models with asthma or learning disabilities or credit problems. But there wouldn't be a message that any particular "defect" should be hidden from the public eye. Super-thin women would be presented as perfectly "real" women who make up a small percentage of the population, but not as the norm or as the only attractive women.

How not to make tacos

Fire fighters were called to a single-family home on Lothrop's Lane at 6:02 p.m. for reports of smoke in the building from an oil explosion. The boy had been molding tortillas around a can of chicken noodle soup and then dunking the shells - and the can - in hot oil to cook them, Maruca said.

The soup inside the can boiled and turned to steam. The boiling contents put pressure on the can, which exploded and shot flaming droplets of hot oil into the teenager's face and across the kitchen.

Boloco needs your help to fund their wasting of fossil fuels

The Boloco website states that, "Starting Monday, August 28th, the price of our burritos (and only burritos) is increasing 25¢."

I do seriously appreciate that they're so forthcoming about the price increase and the reasons for it. I have a lot of respect for Boloco, and I think that they do the "responsible small business" thing quite well. I like that they're commited to treating their employees well, particularly in terms of providing health insurance. And one of my main reasons for going to the place so much in the first place is that their food is made of real food, which in our backwards society can be more expensive than heavily modified food. I like that the food comes in minimal packaging, most of which is recyclable, though they do lose some points for not having recycling bins in the stores. It's also understandable that they're dealing with rising energy costs...

Wait, what the fuck?

The past three times I've been in a Boloco, it's been around 65-75 degrees outside and about 50 degrees inside the Boloco. I've sat there freezing my ass off.

How about if you people start responding to energy costs by using fans when it isn't super-hot and moderate amounts of air-conditioning on the five days a year when it is? It really isn't that big of a deal to me that my burrito is going to cost 25 cents more, but your waste of fossil fuels pisses me off enough without adding insult to injury.

AP story about eviction due to suicide attempt doesn't give enough information to determine whether ADA violation occurred

NEW YORK - A depressed Hunter College student who swallowed handfuls of Tylenol, then saved her own life by calling 911, was in for a surprise when she returned to her dorm room after the ordeal. The lock had been changed on the door.

She was being expelled from the residence, the school informed her, because she violated her housing contract by attempting suicide. The 19-year-old was allowed to retrieve her belongings in the presence of a security guard.

The linked story is the full text of the AP wire story on the incident. It seems that the story is trying to paint a picture of the issue being discriminatory against a person with depression. But the story doesn't have enough information about this case to indicate why specifically the student was evicted and whether it seems there was an ADA violation.

It does seem pretty clear that there was a bit of an ethical violation in terms of how the student's eviction was logistically handled. I would think that regardless of whether she had been belligerent in regards to the decision, the process of informing her of the eviction and helping her move out of the residence could have been handled personally by a dean or someone, rather than changing her locks and having security escort her.

In terms of the grounds for the eviction, the story does not quote the specific reason for the eviction as would have appeared on paperwork used to make the decision. It simply states that she attempted suicide, then returned to find that she was evicted.

There aren't enough facts here. I wasn't there, and I can't find any additional information, so it is entirely possible that this woman was a respectful rule-abiding member of her residence and was evicted for attempting suicide. If this is the case, this would seem to be an ADA violation.

However, given the statistics regarding people who attempt suicide -- particularly in this sort of manner -- it is highly likely that she had presented with threatening and provocative behavior on multiple occasions. The ADA specifically states that a person with a disability can be evicted or fired if he or she has violated a regulation, performed substandardly, or otherwise created a legitimate reason for taking action. It doesn't matter if this was caused by a person's disability.

In terms of a college residence, where there is presumably some expectation of communal decision-making and responsibilities and so forth, it is within the school's rights to expect that residents have an ability to show respect for one another's safety and well-being. If the student was in fact acting in a threatening and provocative manner on a constant basis, she was violating rules. That being said, she might have some legal grounds if it had never been officially pointed out to her that her behavior was affecting others and needed changing. If it had been raised and the behavior continued, then the other students did have the right to have her removed from their residence.

In terms of how someone's illness affects others, it makes a huge difference whether someone has sought some amount of help and is able to assure others of this. It absolutely jeopardizes the safety and well-being of others if someone is frequently broadcasting that she is feeling suicidal, then refuses any sort of help. It's a vastly different picture if she can at least tell a concerned housemate that she has established a relationship with a counselor. Or even that she calls a hotline somtimes. Or that she reads freakin self-help books.

No matter how desperate and hopeless someone is, it's her responsibility as a student, housemate, or employee to take steps to see that her illness is not getting in the way of having basic respect for others. She may not be able to immediately stop cutting her arms, but she can refrain from doing so in the residence's living room, and she can wear long-sleeved shirts, and she can assure a concerned housemate that she's getting treatment for it. She may not be able to immediately stop feeling depressed, but she can stop leaving pills and razor blades and ropes around her room, and she can stop running to a different acquaintance each night screaming that she is going to kill herself.

I don't mean to be insensitive, and I do believe that people who are hurting deserve the utmost compassion. Part of this compassion should be that these folks aren't allowed to become the person who, 10 years later, has to live with the fact that she made her housemates and professors sick with worry and helplessness while at the same time angry and resentful. If someone's illness is really keeping her from abiding by the rules of her residence or school or workplace, the duty of compassionate people is to see that she finds somewhere that is more equipped to support someone who is in such pain.

A sudden urge to share my thoughts on unifix cubes with the world

For whatever reason, I just suddenly got this image in my mind of unifix cubes, whose existence I hadn't previously thought about since, oh, kindergarten. No, I have no idea why an image of the things just popped into my head, why on earth I remember their stupid name, or why I decided it warranted leaping out of bed to google the things and subsequently blog about them.

I'll say one thing though, which is that my opinion of unifix cubes seems to not have changed in the slightest during the past few decades. Unifix cubes are stupid. They're like Legos, except they only connect in one direction. The only thing you can build with them is a damn line. I've now learned from my little google exploration that they can apparently be used for learning about place value, bar graphs, and patterns, among other things. None of this purposeful-use-of-unifix-cubes stuff seemed to happen much in my school though.

Rather, unifix cubes were in one of 30 or so cigar boxes of "manipulatives" from which we could choose. Had I been about 10 years older when I was in the kindergarten room, I'd surely have been stuck on a shelf labeled "manipulatives," but as it were, the boxes each contained a set of some sort of educational toy.

The most popular sets were little wooden houses, fake shrubbery, little cars, coins from various countries (each one housed in a big square of laminate, presumably as some sort of anti-theft precaution), kaleidoscopes and little farm animals. The least popular set was the unifix cubes. Even the other mundane math toys like geoboards*, pattern blocks and Cuisinaire rods were preferred over the unifix cubes. The kid who ended up getting called up last to choose a box -- thereby ending up with the unifix cubes -- was always looked down upon.

I do wonder if maybe the actual point of unifix cubes was to teach us kids that, hey, if you don't sit in your seat and politely wait for your turn, you end up having to be seen with unifix cubes on your desk for 20 minutes. It wasn't a totally foolproof system though, because there were a few times that some kid actually went up and chose the unifix cubes. This was a relief for whoever had screwed around the most prior to manipulatives time, but it signalled to the whole class that, well, you can make your own inferences about someone who willingly chose substandard Legos over kaleidoscopes.

*Mind you, this was in kindergarten, before we discovered that geoboards made awesome slingshots. I'm guessing the reason unifix cubes disappeared after kindergarten is because they'd actually make great ammo.