Verizon hires people to work with high-voltage wires who don't know how to open a gate

Once again, Verizon has disconnected my internet. Which is through Speakeasy, not Verizon, but Verizon has a monopoly on being able to do stuff in the phone box on the side of my house.

Speakeasy has dispatched the Verizon people to my house three times now. Each time, Speakeasy has checked on the service ticket "gate unlocked." The Verizon people allegedly came on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Each time, they reported to Speakeasy that they'd closed the service ticket due to "no access to property." Friday was "can't access gate," Monday was "can't access gate and dog running loose," Tuesday was "can't access gate."

The gate isn't locked. It doesn't even have a latch on it. You just pull it, and it opens. The downstairs neighbors have a dog, but it's only in the yard if they're with it.

How hard is it to open a gate? Or "ma'am, do you mind holding onto your dog while I work on the phone box here?"


Blogging under the influence

9:07 Not under the influence yet, but I have a drink ready, and I have The State of the Union Address Drinking Game 2007 pulled up on the screen.

9:08 Oh, liveblogging might kind of suck tonight, because my interwebs is down and I'm stealing wireless from a neighbor. Thanks, neighbor!

9:13 "Madame speaker." HELL YEAH. But not listed in the drinking game.

9:14 Praised a democrat by name (Nancy Pelosi) DRINK!

9:16 "Spending the people's money wisely." How's that going for you?

9:17 THE AMERICAN PEOPLE! DRINK!

9:18 It's pronounced EEKAnomic, you incompetent fool.

You want to balance the budget? I've heard you're spending quite a bit of money on buying tanks and leaving children behind.

9:19 URRMRRS? Is he trying to say "earmarks?"

9:21 Medicare! Medicaid! Drink!

9:22 Education! Drink!

Hahaha. He said "I passed No Child Left Behind" and paused for applause, only no one did.

9:22 Standing ovation from half of congress! DRINK!

9:26 "Pro-DECT" DRINK!

9:27 John Kerry! DRINK! My congressman/woman! DRINK!

9:28 TERRISTS! DRINK!

9:29 Why wasn't stuff about a bigass fence along the Mexican border on the list?

9:30 TERRISTS! DRINK!

NUKEULAR! DRINK!

ETHANOL! DRINK!

Oh, he's introduced some initiatives. Drinkretroactively. I was too busy bitching about his initiatives.

Will you PLEASE say "hydrogen?" PLEASE!?

9:33 Standing ovation from half! Drink!

W. and Cheney took a sip of water at the same time. Assuming that's water. That's gotta be worth a drink.

9:34 He said "judges" and they panned to them. Ditto.

9:34 Only Cheney applauding. DRINK! Oh, and half of congress! DRINK!

TERRISTS!

HOMELAND!

HARRAS!

TERRISTS!

glug glug glug glug

allies...offense...enemies...if this stuff was on there, I'd be drunk

9:36 terrists...terrists...terra...terrism...terra...

Dayum, after about three years of having them on the drinking game, they took out the obvious stuff, like 9/11, anthrax, Al Qaeda...

terrists, terra, terrists...

EVIL!

9:37 Beavis, what the hell are you talking about?

9:38 Terrizing! Freedom!

Damn, they used to also include "every time he uses a word with more than 4 syllables."

What are she-extremists? Drink.

Iran! He even pronounced it right. Terrists. Terra. Terrists.

9:39 Hillary! Barack! Drinkdrinkdrinkdrink.

Hey. He was talking about the "five years since we were attacked," but he just said "six" that time.

Kerry (again, worth two drinks since he's ours!)

9:40 Terrist! Freedom!

9:41 HOLY SHIT Condi has a look on her face like she's taking a dump.

Did he just say "in 3005, the people of Afghanistan..."?

Iraq!

Kerry! +2

Hey, where's Teddy Kennedy? (Fill in your own joke about him being drunk here)

OK, why's he recapping the world events of the past 6 years in details? Some of us are literate.

Iran. Terra.

9:44 Half of congress is standing.

9:45 Do we get extra drinks if he says "ee-rock" and "eye-rack" in the same sentence?

Terrists. Terrists. Terrists. Terrists. Terrists. Iraq.

"Now it's time for their government to react." Yeah, THEIR government.

Troops!

Baghdad. Baghdad. Baghdad. Iraq. Iraq.

9:47 Wassup with the repeated "my fellow Americans?" Like we need a reminder that the president is an American. What's next, "my fellow people who are older than 35?"

Terra.

She-what? Repeat after me: shiite.

Also, drink.

9:48 American people

9:49 Half a standing ovation, Dick Cheney applauding and Nancy Pelosi not

9:50 You haven't spoken with me in person!

No, you're right, I didn't vote for failure...I voted for Kerry.

Troops! Drink!

Terra.

A commission on terra? Is that an initiative? Oh, hell, DRINK!

9:51 Is he about to propose a draft?

Hey! They cut to a soldier. Where'd he come from?

They should also plant old people, uninsured people, schoolchildren, and illegal aliens so they can cut to them.

9:52 Nukeular. Nukeular. OH WHY WON'T HE SAY HYDROGEN?

9:53 Ted Kennedy! Drink! Hillary! Barack! glug glug glug

9:54 Hunger and poverty and disease? Where are the token people to cut to?

9:55 Yeah, fight AIDS in Africa, but continue to ignore it here and just tell people not to have sex.

9:56 Aside that I think is funny: NPR was talking last night about how he's been practicing this speech for 3 days. MMMMhmm.

9:57 Special guest, Dikembe Mutumbo! Drink!

9:58 OH NO YOU DID NOT INTRODUCE JULIE AIGNER-CLARK. OK, she's pretty cool because she's a female entrepreneur...but...Baby Einstein videos? *puke*

9:59 Oh, cool, they're talking about the dude who jumped onto the subway tracks and saved the guy who'd fallen. That's awesome. Hey, and he got more applause than anyone has tonight.

10:00 Special guest who is a member of the armed forces. Oh I've lost track. glug glug glug

10:02 characters...quality...COME ON! SAY GOD!

10:03 THE STATE OF THE UNION IS STRONG! DRINK!

GOD! DRINK!

UNDER AN HOUR! DRINK!

Hahahaha his approval rating is 26%, an all-time low. Love it.


The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.

~ Frank Zappa



One way that same-sex marriage directly benefits different-sex couples

A Globe article last week talked about a couple who married in California, where marriage laws are such that a woman taking her husband's name can do this automatically on the marriage license, but a man changing his name (in the case of this couple, to his wife's last name) has to appear before a judge and pay a hefty fee to do this.

The article reports that "Only six states -- Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota -- have statutes establishing equal name-change processes for men and women when they marry." It goes on to say that "Couples who want to hyphenate or combine their names also must endure the lengthy court procedures in California. One of the more notable examples was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who went to court to fuse his last name, Villar, with his wife's, Raigosa, when they married in 1987."

I actually had no idea. I've known plenty of different-sex couples who were married in various states not listed above who have hyphenated their names, combined their names, or changed both last names to a chosen name. In telling the story of how they decided on their family names, none of these couples mentioned having to go to court or pay any fees. This surprises me a little, given that many of the folks I'm thinking of are civil libertarian types who I would have expected to be vocal about the discrimination. But now that I think a little more about it, most of the couples I can think of are people with complex assets and routine dealings with attorneys, so it's quite possible that they just paid yet-another-legal-fee without pondering it.

The Massachusetts application for a marriage license had spaces for "name after marriage" for both parties prior to the inception of same-sex marriages. I don't know how far back this has been the case though.

When federal marriage finally happens, the forms in every state will have to look like the ones in Massachusetts, which have the same options for each person. So, really, federal marriage will benefit different-sex couples by giving them the option to easily and inexpensively have any names they choose.


eeka beats Carpundit to blogging a story about amazing new automotive technology

Kumho is set to release lavender-scented tires, and orange and jasmine are in the works. I really wish they came in something less foofy, like coffee or tequila, but I might have to get some of these regardless. I mean, dude, scented tires. Any time something around me smelled a little funky, I could just burn rubber. I can always use another reason to peel out.


The sorts of things that happen when you read and write about medications all day...

I just misread a spam headline as "COMPUTER ACTING WEIRD? FREE ANTIRETROVIRAL DOWNLOADS!"

Not only is it acting weird, but it looks like it has Kaposi's Sarcoma too...


Books I've read in the past two weeks

I'm trying to read at least 100 books during the 2007 calendar year. This shouldn't really be a stretch for me, but I thought it might be nice to keep track of books I read during the year, since I don't tend to blog about them like I do most other media.

Except for the rare instances in which I feel particularly inclined, I don't intend to review them or comment on them here, unless someone else initiates a discussion on the book, in which case I'll of course participate. I'm going to try to update the list every week or couple of weeks or so, but like everything else, we'll see how that goes.

And yes, the links do go to Amazon, and yes, I will make a few cents if people buy the books directly from my links. I'm not ashamed.

Or tired.


So, the list:

1. The Gay Baby Boom: The Psychology of Gay Parenthood by Suzanne Johnson and Elizabeth O'Connor

2. Looking Queer: Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Communities by Dawn Atkins (Editor)

3. A Guide to Succoth by Rabbi I. N. Fabricant

4. 50 Ways to Improve Women's Lives: The Essential Guide for Achieving Health, Equality, and Success for All by National Council of Women's Organizations (Editor)

5. Beyond the Chuppah: A Jewish Guide to Happy Marriages by Joel Crohn, Howard J. Markman, Susan L. Blumberg, Janice R. Levine


Some of these so-called "progressives" need to pull their heads out of their asses about designer embryos

You've no doubt been hearing about the "designer embryo" business from sources like NPR and Slate and others. Jennalee Ryan, who ironically worked for an adoption agency for years, has started a business of selling embryos created from carefully selected (anonymously donated) sperm and eggs. Sure, the science behind it is intriguing, and I agree with the political angle that it shouldn't be outlawed. But isn't there a big piece of the picture that's missing?

In the Slate interview, Ryan talks about the potential challenges that often occur when adopting a (presumably white) infant at birth, such as the birth mother opting not to go through with the adoption, and the idea that the child has "another family out there." She also mentions how adopted infants can have problems due to maternal substance use or lack of prenatal care. Her solution to this:

A better solution is to customize your embryo. By buying eggs, you can get "more control of the prenatal environment and heath of the child" than you'd get with adoption. Through Ryan, you can select an egg "donor"—in practice, a seller—based on "her complete application, her medical and psychological results, genetic screening," and "copies of all the pictures she sent our program of her children, if any, and siblings." The pictures are crucial. Ryan requires five color photos before she'll offer a donor's eggs to buyers. One advantage of buying eggs, she points out, is that you can "choose a donor with similar characteristics" to yours.

Yes, "customize your embryo."

Now, what's wrong with this picture? While these articles focus on how this shouldn't be outlawed, there's not a single word about the implications of the dynamics that are likely to crop up in such a family, or any examination of people's motivation for becoming parents in the first place. These are two separate issues, and I'd say that the "progressive" point of view needs to incorporate both sides.

First of all, no, it shouldn't be illegal to purchase a designer embryo based on thousands of carefully selected traits you wish your child to have. It's not the government's business to regulate these sorts of things. No one is being harmed here, and it should be each individual or couple's choice whether they wish to parent and how they wish to go about it. I'm all about reproductive freedom. It should absolutely be anyone's choice to sell or buy designer embryos.

But what we really need to look at is the motivation behind this business, and whether it's a good idea for most of the people pursuing it. In other words, why are NPR and Slate so focused on insisting that this should stay legal, but not examining it any further? And better yet, why are so many so-called progressive media outlets not even mentioning the number of children who are already here and could use a loving home?

Both stories talk about how the designer embryo option is desirable for many families because it allows them to choose their sperm and egg donors based on traits such as intelligence, academic achievement, general health, physical appearance, mental health, and so forth. They focus on how this is an "advance" over adopting a white infant at birth, because there's been such thorough screening.

Sounds good, except that you're forgetting that genetics aren't a guarantee of anything. Any child can be born with a disability, or be born just plain average. Or can get hit by a car later in life.

Isn't the whole point of parenting that you accept what you get? And that the child's happiness and enjoyment of life mainly come from quality of parenting? Shouldn't this be more important than whether the child is attractive or college-bound?

If these people are willing to shell out tons of extra money to increase the odds that they won't end up with damaged goods, how likely do you think most of them will be to truly accept a child who doesn't meet their expectations? If they truly were choosing to parent in order to provide a loving and stable home for a child, why the unabashed discussion of how wonderful it is to be able to carefully select certain desirable traits?

Again, this requires some not-so-concrete thinking, which understandably is hard for, um, the sorts of people who get super-excited about the idea of designer babies. To recap:

1. Selling designer embryos should be perfectly legal, because reproductive freedom is a human right.

2. It isn't anyone's place to judge a specific family that chooses to do this, and I fully respect the choice of any family and firmly believe that any means of building a family is beautiful. People have many reasons for choosing a particular means of acquiring children.

3. It is the responsibility of this embryo-selling business to give accurate information, which includes emphasizing that any child can be born highly capable, or average, or with a minor disability, or with a severe disability, and that these things are only genetic to an extent.

4. Society in general needs to give more of a voice to the concept that all people should be valued and that success is measured in many different ways.

Oh, and once again proving that great minds do in fact think alike, the fabulous Jodie has just posted a more, um, entertaining version of the forseeable issues that could arise with this new technology: Trends of the White and Fabulous


This really should dissuade just about anyone from pursuing a degree

I was kind of halfassedly considering Ph.D. programs during a period of boredom...

eeka: OK, really I just want the cheapest and easiest program that will result in people calling me doctor.
Adam: Change your first name.


Information for providers (or consumers) who are told that a health insurance policy can't cover anything out of network

This is a handy article. It outlines the language to use and the government agency names to drop (in Massaschusetts, anyway) when an insurance company states that they don't have an appropriate specialist in their network and seems to think that this means they don't have to pay for one.

Also, I found in one case that it worked to invoke the ADA when talking to an insurance company. This worked when a small private insurance company didn't want to let me bill to them for services, stating that they have sufficient mental health providers in their network. In this particular case, I had gotten a referral for counseling with a person with significant mental retardation. The insurance company acknowledged that her insurance provided mental health benefits, and acknowledged that none of their providers worked with people who are minimally verbal. So she pretty much outlined that she was attempting to discriminate against this person on the basis of mental retardation. I'm not actually entirely sure if the provisions in Title II and/or III (or Section 504) apply to insurance companies, but it worked in this particular case to bring up the ADA, given that the insurance company is self-administered by an employer for their employees, and Title I does specifically forbid discrimination toward employees with family members with a disability.


Patrick becomes nation's third African-American governor

Yes, you heard me, third.

While I realize that most of the sources are specifying that he's the second elected African-American governor in the United States, which is accurate, he is in fact the third to serve. P.B.S. Pinchback served as governor of Louisiana after an impeachment. Some sources are referring to Deval Patrick as the second African-American governor in U.S. history, which is incorrect.

Historygeekage aside, I'd like to welcome Deval Patrick as our new governor. He couldn't have been sworn in a moment too soon.

Now, Governor Patrick, see what you can do about certain state leaders thinking it's constitutional to vote on civil rights issues or to violate ex post facto. Thanks!


New gender-neutral restroom locator comes on the scene

A while back, I embarked upon a quest to make a listing of gender-netural restrooms in the Boston area. Several people provided me with suggestions, but I got in a little over my head trying to make a site with tied-in Google maps, so it never got anywhere.

Some people who actually know what they're doing have not only made such a site, but have included the whole United States. They've also set it up so that anyone can add a new restroom to the directory.

This is a great project and I hope it gets enough input that the database is actually useful. So go there and add away! I'll add the ones I compiled as I have time.


URGENT: Call your legislators (again)

If you know any of these people, or are in their district, PLEASE PLEASE contact them immediately and tell them to change their vote in the second election.

As governor-elect Deval Patrick said yesterday, gay marriage has been around for a few years, and the sky hasn't fallen. Over 8,000 same sex couples in Massachusetts have married, and it hasn't affect anyone's hetero marriage one iota.

Matters of civil rights should not be left to a popular vote. If it were, desegregation would never have happened.

If we can't change hearts and minds, the next best thing is to convince your legislators (whoever they are, CALL) to delay voting a second time so the earliest it can make it on the ballot is 2010, rather than 2008. The one thing people who believe in equal marriage rights have on their side is TIME. Also, if your legislators voted in favor of equality please call or e-mail and thank them. You can find their contact info here: http://massequality.org/action/voted.php

HOUSE:
Bruce J. Ayers, D-Quincy - Y
John J. Binienda, D-Worcester - Y
Christine E. Canavan, D-Brockton - Y
Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham - Y
Mark J. Carron, D-Southbridge - Y
Paul C. Casey, D-Winchester - Y
Virginia Coppola, R-Foxborough - Y
Robert Correia, D-Fall River - Y
Geraldine Creedon, D-Brockton - Y
Sean Curran, D-Springfield - Y
Viriato Manuel deMacedo, R-Plymouth - Y
Paul J. Donato, D-Medford - Y
Lewis G. Evangelidis, R-Holden - Y
James H. Fagan, D-Taunton - Y
David L. Flynn, D-Bridgewater - Y
John P. Fresolo, D-Worcester - Y
Paul K. Frost, R-Auburn - Y
Colleen M. Garry, D-Dracut - Y
Susan W. Gifford, R-Wareham - Y
Emile J. Goguen, D-Fitchburg - Y (Replaced in '07 by DiNatale)
Shirley Gomes, R-South Harwich - Y (Replaced in '07 by Peake)
William G. Greene Jr., D-Billerica - Y
Robert S. Hargraves, R-Groton - Y
Donald F. Humason Jr., R-Westfield - Y
Frank M. Hynes, D-Marshfield - Y
Michael F. Kane, D-Holyoke - Y
Paul Kujawski, D-Webster - Y
William Lantigua, D-Lawrence - Y
John A. Lepper, R-Attleboro - Y
Paul J. Loscocco, R-Holliston - Y
James R. Miceli, D-Wilmington - Y
James M. Murphy, D-Weymouth - Y
David M. Nangle, D-Lowell - Y
Robert J. Nyman, D-Hanover - Y
Shirley Owens-Hicks, D-Boston - Y (Replaced in '07 by Allen)
Marie J. Parente, D-Milford - Y (Replaced in '07 by Fernandes)
Jeffrey D. Perry, R-Sandwich - Y
George N. Peterson Jr., R-Grafton - Y
Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow - Y
Elizabeth A. Poirier, R-North Attleboro - Y
Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury - Y
Susan W. Pope, R-Wayland - Y (Replaced in '07 by Conroy)
Mary S. Rogeness, R-Longmeadow - Y
Richard Ross, R-Wrentham - Y
Michael F. Rush, D-Boston - Y
Angelo M. Scaccia, D-Boston - Y
Todd Smola, R-Palmer - Y
Joyce A. Spiliotis, D-Peabody - Y
Walter F. Timilty, D-Milton - Y
A. Stephen Tobin, D-Quincy - Y
Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth - Y (Replaced in '07 by D'Amico)
James E. Vallee, D-Franklin - Y
Anthony J. Verga, D-Gloucester - Y
Brian P. Wallace, D-Boston - Y
Daniel K. Webster, R-Hanson - Y

SENATE
Scott P. Brown, R-Wrentham - Y
Robert S. Creedon, D-Brockton - Y
Robert L. Hedlund, R-Weymouth - Y
Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge - Y
Michael W. Morrissey, D-Quincy - Y
Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell - Y
Robert E. Travaglini, D-Boston - Y


Tax preparation software -- which ones are queer friendly?

I'm asking people to help me with some research. As you start to prepare your taxes, please check and see what options your software offers for people who are married in Massachusetts only (thus have a federal "single" status and a state "joint" status).

Please post in comments or e-mail me and let me know:
1. Name of software (URL would be great)
2. Whether there's a specific option for "state filing status is different from federal"
3. If not, whether you can submit different returns by just going back and clicking on the other status, or whether you have to re-enter the entire return
4. Most importantly: if the software doesn't have a specific option for people with different filing statuses, find out if the software is going to require you to pay twice in order to submit a state return that isn't based off of the federal one, or is going to require an additional step like printing it out the state return and mailing it

If you are unable to tell how your software would handle a filer with two different filing statuses, please call or e-mail the support folks to ask.

When doing so, please do me a favor and simply ask them how to enter a tax return for a filer who is filing as married for state purposes and as single for federal purposes.

Then make note of whether the representative was immediately aware that this refers to same-sex couples in Massachusetts, or whether the person was ignorant of the Massachusetts issue and told you that the statuses can't be different, or told you that it's illegal to file with two different statuses.

Once you've determined whether they were aware of the issue before you called, try to find out how willing they are to solve the issue. Will they refund the duplicate filing fee if their setup required one? Try to determine whether the system has an honest glitch that they're apologetic about, or whether they're unconcerned. It should be possible to get these answers without having to actually be a married couple.

If will follow up with some sort of overview of "good" and "bad" companies on my site, and will also follow up with the companies.


Bay Windows discriminates against gay people...

...because I keep having trouble getting onto their site.

Oh wait, no one else can either. Nevermind.

Hey, Bay Windows people, you might want to buy more bandwidth or a bigger server or whatever it is that people do to accomodate more traffic, particularly on days when there's a major queer issue going down and you guys seem to be the only ones who know what's going on. Kthanks.

And speaking of people not knowing what's going on:

A recount of the vote to recess, according to the Senate clerk's office, shows that lawmakers did not, in fact, vote to recess. The vote was 101 against recessing and 94 for it.

So apparently now a group of people who have trouble counting and/or determining the larger of two numbers is being allowed to make decisions regarding my civil rights.

Bite me.


URGENT: Call your senator and representative right now to protect marriage equality

Byron Rushing has offered a motion to reconsider the amendment. They're at recess right now. Call your senator and representative right now and ask them to support Rushing's motion to reconsider the amendment. I just called, and mine (Gloria Fox and Dianne Wilkerson) both said they're in favor, which I figured, but call and voice your support anyway, especially if your representatives are fence-sitters.