What's the big deal? Public records have always been public

I was all set to post something in response to all the news about Deval Patrick's website when I came across this post on Universal Hub. Apparently Paul McNamara over at Network World feels the same way I do, which is that it's hardly a revelation that public records are easily accessible on the internet.

In fact, he feels so strongly that he's launched a contest, offering $100 to the first person who can find his home address using the internet and explain how they did it. I was able to find it with about six page views. Once he's closed the contest, I'll explain how I did it (unless he posts how I did it, in which case you can polish your sleuthing skills by following the link to his page).

Edited to add: It looks as if I've won the contest...


I'm quite a fan of sites like tinyurl.com and snipurl.com, and I really wish people would use them more. Mom, are you reading this?

On a whim, I thought I'd see if there are any sites that make short urls longer. I mean, come on, it's the internet; there has to be someone who's done such a thing, right?

Wouldn't you know, there sure is.

The following URL: 1smootshort.blogspot.com has a length of 24 characters and resulted in the following
W-i-d-e-U-R-L which has a length of 112 characters: http://wideurl.com/one-ess-em-double-oh-tee-ess-aitch-oh-are-tee-dot-bee-ell-oh-gee-ess-pea-oh-tee-dot-see-oh-em

Globe editorial makes a great case for changing the name of DMR

The word is a throwback and a setback. It's insulting, demeaning, and hurtful, and it is all over the place. Legislation to change the name of the Department of Mental Retardation has been filed, and Commissioner Gerald Morrissey supports it.

Since this is an editorial, it understandibly doesn't have much background about the issue, so I thought I'd fill in what I can. "Mental retardation" is still currently the diagnosis applied to people who have an I.Q. below approximately 70 and a significant functional impairment in at least two life areas. A person who meets this diagnosis is "a person with mental retardation." As with any disability, it is generally frowned upon to change the diagnosis into an adjective "is retarded" or into a noun (I suppose this would be "retard"), as the person encompasses much more than his or her disability.

In the case of children, particularly those with multiple disabilities and/or complicating life issues, it is more common to say that someone has developmental disabilities or developmental delays. With a lot of children, there are too many variables, and we don't know whether they'll catch up eventually, or whether they might function a lot more typically once they learn to use a communication device. Most clinicians don't apply the term until someone is old enough and has had enough education that it seems appropriate to make the determination that the person's cognitive and functional abilities are not ever likely to be typical.

One place I've worked is opposed to any diagnosis of mental retardation or developmental delay, but I think this is erroneous until a better diagnosis comes along, because a person's cognitive abilities need to be taken into account in order to provide appropriate services. If someone is evaluated at this program, he or she might have a diagnosis of "cerebral palsy" without any additional diagnosis, which most people would assume means he or she has normal or above-normal intelligence.

A lot of states call their similar department something involving "developmental services," and this is the term I've been heard mentioned in this state. I don't know what specific terms are actually being considered here.

Another point that wasn't made in the editorial is that the Department of Mental Retardation in Massachusetts provides services to some people who do not have mental retardation. Until the age of 22, many disabilities are considered "developmental" because they get in the way of normal development, but do not involve mental retardation. I've worked with clients who were eligible for DMR services until the age of 22 with diagnoses such as multiple physical/medical disabilities, Down Syndrome with intelligence in the normal range, and autism spectrum disorders with intelligence in the normal range. Several of these individuals have expressed irritation about the name of the department that assists them. Surprisingly, despite being adolescents with very adolescent opinions of things, none of them seemed to mind being connected with the agency itself; these comments have all been specifically about the name of the place. One individual was more concerned about "retard" being in the name of the agency than about the accuracy of the agency's name as relates to this individual's disability.

Don we now our gay cuisine

I received a flyer that our agency is looking for submissions from people so that we can put together a multicultural cookbook. This is a pretty cool project in and of itself, and the person organizing it is really down-to-earth and mindful, so it should turn out well.

Still, the fact that the project a cookbook does kind of reinforce this agency's consistent viewpoint that "culture" only ever refers to ethnicity and race.

(And occasionally religion, but only if someone is very very observant, it's a non-Christian religion, and they grew up in the religion. If they strongly follow any type of Christianity and/or they chose the religion as an adult, then it's viewed as a "symptom." This seems to apply to clients and staff equally.)

I do really like the idea of the project, but I wish a term other than "multicultural" had been chosen. Because, well, what exactly is queer food? Or Catholic food or Mormon food or suburban food or feminist food or Deaf food? Sure, I have an ethnicity and a religion that both feature typical foods, but I also like to remind people that culture goes beyond this. I certainly identify on a daily basis much more with queer culture than with any other aspect of my culture. I also appreciate any opportunity to point out how the system in which I work ironically ignores people-with-disabilities culture, while creating and perpetuating a you-are-disabled culture.

So, anyway, I'll most likely contribute a vegan recipe and will write a blurb about activism and taking care of the planet, as this is an important aspect of my culture, and tends to be important to more GLBT folks than to the public at large. But still, I needed to find out whether there is in fact any queer food. I did what any good blogger would do, and I asked google.

I learned several things, including that Baked Alaska is the archetypal queer food, Steak is the prototypical straight food, “Gay food” should mirror our queer heritage of the open-minded and the adventuresome, and a gay restaurant has to be about more than just a bunch of queers chewing cheeseburgers.

I also learned that for some unknown reason, it took me a whole 30 minutes of research to come to the obvious conclusion that I should just submit a recipe for fruit.

Haute cuisine chez eeka

I'm so glad that this Lean Cuisine specifies that it belongs to the category of "casual eating classics."

Because had it not said that, I would have figured it was in fact a more formal microwaveable pizza, and I would have invited everyone over for Lean Cuisines and martinis tonight.

No, you know what? Actually, the label doesn't stop me at all. I would totally serve frozen dinners to guests. That's really not a bad idea. If only Stouffer's made TV dinner trays with a little pudding cup of gin or something, then it would be perfect.

If peace rallies are criminal activity, then only criminals have peace rallies?

From the Citizen Observer alerts page, which states that "The Citizen Alert is intended to advise you of criminal activity that may affect you or your community."

On March 24th, there will be a "Stop The War" rally and march. The rally will take place at the Boston Common bandstand at 11:00am. There will be music and speeches at the rally. ... Streets will be shut down during the march. Expect traffic delays in the vicinity of the march as the demonstrators walk along the route. There will be a significant police presence.

Because it's always fun to introduce facts to a perfectly good outrage

“It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it is true.” ~ Bertrand Russell

"In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms." ~ Stephen Jay Gould

Kansas City Star criticizes IHOP's homophobic policies, yet the online version of the paper censors the word "lesbian"

Dear Kansas City Star,

I'm noticing that in your website's forums, the word "lesbian" is censored when it is used in a comment (#### appears in its place), yet degrading comments describing gay men and lesbians as "abominations" appear without censorship. If you wish to have an unmoderated forum, have one and allow everything, but don't leave degrading comments while censoring a perfectly respectful word -- which is incidentally the preferred term in the professional journalism world. Please turn off this ridiculous censoring feature on your software.

You can kiss my subprime mortgage

On Thursday, NPR's On Point ran a story on subprime lending. Each time Tom Ashbrook introduced or recapped the segment, he stated that "we're talking about subprime mortgages -- loans for people with bad credit." He made some good points about predatory lending and brokers who work to convince people to buy homes they can't afford.

He also took calls from people who had lost their homes due to buying completely beyond their means and not understanding their variable interest rate. The callers did not even have the sense to sell the home at a loss when the payment skyrocketed, and instead kept the home until it was foreclosed. One caller in particular insisted that she was blameless in the equation. Ashbrook and his various experts also failed to mention that there are degrees of subprime lending, and there are reasons for taking out such loans.

I have a subprime mortgage. I also have excellent credit and always have. In 2005, when I bought my home, I didn't have five years of sufficient income history. I had been in graduate school from 2000 to 2002, and was self-employed and doing short-term contract work after that. My partner had also been in graduate school, been self-employed, and we'd been living in different places. Oh, I also didn't have anything for a down payment. So, I chose to take out a subprime loan. Granted it wasn't one with the horrendous rates some of the people on the show talked about, but it certainly is a subprime loan. The purchase was 100% financed, and the first mortgage is through Ameriquest, which is allegedly an evil corporation that forces people to buy homes only to lose them.

I was not coerced into buying a house I can't afford. I am in absolutely no danger of losing my home. I pay my mortgage on time every month without difficulty. I definitely did my homework regarding the different types of rates and am not going to encounter anything unexpected. I also am not a buyer with bad credit.

I've now paid my big old mortgage for the past two years without any trouble, yet I would still have have a hard time getting a standard mortgage today if I were a first-time homebuyer. This is because my income fluctuates too much, and a lot of it comes from personal checks that clients and their families write me on a weekly basis. The amount of the income and the good credit matter much less than whether someone has had a corporate paycheck at a set amount for the past five-plus years.

So, Tom Ashbrook, there's a whole other side to subprime lending. Some of us make an informed choice to take out such a loan, because we wish to buy a home but don't have five years of acceptable financial history. I'm quite happy with my financial situation and happy that I chose to become a homeowner. There is no need to label people with subprime loans as people with bad credit who are going to lose our homes.

Edited to add: I'd forgotten about this, but the broker also reported that a few lenders turned me down because their rules regarding what could be used as comparable homes were really strict. They needed the comp to also be four bedrooms, part of a three-family home, and within a few blocks of ours. There wasn't a recently sold house that matched this exactly. Other lenders with higher rates were fine with comps that were further away, or not in a three-family, or with using a three-bedroom.

In which I take back anything remotely positive I ever said about the Metro

Yes, I realize the Metro is hardly a legitimate publication and I probably shouldn't even waste my time critiquing it. But really. This is just beyond offensive:

Note: because they can't be bothered to provide online versions of all of their stories for handy linking, I'm reprinting a screen capture of their entire article.

So, when did the Metro suddenly turn homophobic? Really, the slant of this article shocks me, given that the Metro often prints really respectful portrayals of same-sex couples and their children. I know, I know, I shouldn't expect that the content editors actually know what goes on on other pages or in other issues. Actually, do they even have editors? Or are they the print version of those deejayless radio stations?

So, seemingly benign feature about this weekend's parade. I was actually hoping the article would mention the discriminatory aspect of the parade. I kind of got my wish when this lovely sentence appeared in the article without any attribution: "Also, efforts by anti-war veterans and gay and lesbian advocates to march in the parade have caused controversy."

Technically, I suppose that controversy has to be two-sided. In fact, that's exactly what it is: two sides. Contra verse. But the language here doesn't say that controversy arose when a group of Irish Americans were told they could not march in an allegedly Irish-American parade. No, it says that the victims themselves caused the controversy by having such an outrageous idea as assuming that they, as Irish Americans, were included in the category of, uh, Irish Americans.

It gets even better. This sentence also appears without attribution: "[The ruling that GLBT Irish groups can be kept out of the parade] was a victory for the First Amendment and was in keeping with the parade's Irish-Catholic foundation."

Wow, that's big of you, Tony Lee, whoever the hell you are, to speak for all Irish Catholics. And Americans, for that matter, since you brought the Constitution into this. Of course, I don't recall the First Amendment saying anything about "the right to use public land and police details and city resources to hold events that blatently discriminate against certain demographics," but then again, I also apparently live in some strange alternate universe where pretty much all the Irish Catholics I encounter are inclusive and accepting people.

Another great non-attributed line: "All of Boston heads to Southie for the parade." The line is under a photo of kilted marchers, but clearly isn't a caption of said photo. Apparently "all of Boston" doesn't include queer people. Or people who don't march in kilts, if we want to try and take the Metro at face value, but that's really never a good idea.

This line is at least a direct quote (from John "I-sure-am-Wacko" Hurley, of course), but the author and the publication did choose to run it without disclaiming it in any way: "We've had problems in the past, but we solved that by telling them to stay home." I'm assuming "them" is queers and anti-war veterans.

Nope, not even any rhetoric about how they made the tough decision to choose groups whose displays promoted a particular aspect of the culture, or even the usual phobic bullshit that he'd welcome us as long as we aren't "flaunting" it. No, he flat-out would like us to "stay home." Why hasn't that line been plastered all over the front pages of every publication in the city? It seems that most people have at least heard of the "controversy" regarding the discrimination, but I wonder how many people are aware that he is telling queers "to stay home." While there are certainly people who would continue to attend regardless, I imagine there are quite a lot of fence-sitters who would be ashamed to support the event if they were aware he had said that.

Advocate review of "Wild Hogs" kind of hard to, uh, read

I'm always a fan of deconstructing Disney films, particularly in terms of the racism and sexism that they just never abandon, despite showing that they are capable of making films like Lilo and Stitch. So I was happy to come across Kyle Buchanan claiming that Wild Hogs is blatantly homophobic, and looked forward to reading it.

The trouble is that the article is so full of colorful language and sarcasm that I can't tell whether the depictions in the film could be reasonably viewed as homophobic or not. I have no idea whether he's reading entirely too far into it and purposely blowing things out of proportion, or whether it is in fact oversensitive.

But really, I would much rather see analyses of the subtler issues with Disney films, such as the racist and classist patterns of accents and/or dialects chosen for voicing characters. These type of things that are usually only noticed by sociology-minded people would be more beneficial to include in reviews or other mainstream articles. Because, really, it's not news that Disney films are sexist and to some degree homophobic. While this has improved in recent years, the majority of Disney culture still revolves around helpless women whose entire identity is built on attracting some man who she's hardly interacted with. The homophobia usually isn't blatant (as it may or may not be in Wild Hogs), but there's usually a clear portrayal of the male's friendships involving drinking and shoving each other around, and the female not having any human friendships; this avoidance seems covertly homophobic to me.

My expectations regarding bass fishing

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Funny, I didn't know I had expectations about bass fishing. Or elephants.

Respectmyresearch.org launched to expose Focus on the Family's distortions of research on same-sex parenting

From their FAQ:

Is this a campaign by mean liberals and radical homosexuals?

In the case of Dobson, it was the very researchers he cited in his own work that challenged his academic integrity - not liberal or gay activists. It is clear by the very fact that he quotes these scholars that he respects their work. So efforts to now dismiss their criticisms or demonize them will prove ineffective.

I like it. Unfortunately, as Ethan Jacobs points out in Bay Windows, I'm not sure if the website is going to do a whole lot of good. TIME Magazine, which is a legitimate (albeit right-leaning) publication, ran an editorial by Mr. Focusonthefamilyhimself in December, in which he twisted medical and social science research to back up his claims that same-sex parents are bad for children. The research he "cited" was all published by big-name living scientists, yet TIME didn't contact any of them to get firsthand commentary on the research. Nor did they get quotes from the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Counseling Association or any of the logical authorites one would think they would contact in the editoral process of such a story. And for some reason, the journalism community and scientific community aren't taking any major action. So if TIME can't be bothered to seek guidance from the authorities on issues like parenting when they plan to run a story making such claims (I don't care if it was op-ed or hard news), what makes anyone think they're going to listen to a minor website?

Regardless of whether TIME will ever see it, go read the website. There's really no better source for proving that a particular researcher's work is being distorted than a piece written by the researcher personally. It's a good resource to have handy when people are trying to pass off Dobson's work as legitimate.