Funny, the government has never had any issues with letting queers pay taxes...

Obama administration says they can't lift "Don't ask, don't tell" quite yet because they have other things going on. Wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to lift it? Like, just lift it right now? Then they wouldn't have to spend time and money investigating whether soldiers are queer and spend time and money discharging queer people who wished to serve our country. So why exactly is it that they're so intent on keeping this bill that does nothing but create us-and-thems and waste people's time and money?

While they're at it, how about letting us marry and have passports? I wonder how much money is being wasted by the denial letters and the lawsuits and the meetings to determine which federal agencies are going to use the Denial of Marriage Act as an excuse and which one's aren't (I'm talking about you, IRS).

Wainwright Bank does well accommodating seniors, people with disabilities

I found out something that made me really happy today. Wainwright Bank allows customers to choose whether they want overdraft protection on their accounts. To give a little background, having overdraft protection means that if you write a check, withdraw money, or make a debit card purchase beyond your available balance, the transaction will go through, but you'll get charged a substantial amount, between $20 and $40 or so at most banks. The benefit of this is that if you really need to pay for something right then and there, you just have to pay a fee, which can be better than, say, being stranded somewhere. The downside is that if you lose track of what's in your account or a deposit didn't clear when you thought it would, you start racking up a fee for every transaction you make.

Many of the large banks have overdraft protection as a standard feature on every account. I know that Sovereign Bank and Bank of America do. Both banks say there is no way to take the feature off, even for seniors or people with cognitive disabilities. I've worked with several people with disabilities who lost track of what was in their account, went and made several couple-dollar charges for coffee or grocery items or whatnot, then found out they'd gotten a $35 charge for each transaction. So they ended up closing their bank accounts and resorting to using check-cashing places and carrying large amounts of cash.

The representative at Wainwright told me that they specifically offer this option with elders and people with disabilities in mind. They're aware that many people don't have the ability to balance a checkbook, but are basically capable of managing their money on their own. She also told me that if someone does incur a fee and calls customer service, they'll usually just waive the fee. As she put it, "We're a bank; we already make money just by having customers, so it isn't like we lose money if we waive a fee for someone."

The only downside to not having the overdraft protection is that some places like gas stations and hotels will authorize your card for a set amount, like $50 or $75, so it might be declined at a gas station if you have only $20 in your account and want to buy $10 worth of gas, but the gas station might be set up so that it declines the card if a charge of $50 won't authorize.

Still, it's nice to have the choice.

Read the article, but don't bother with the comments

This article in today's Globe is great. To summarize, it's about a couple of Massachusetts colleges and how they're looking at how well-rounded applicants are, since their mailboxes are full of applicants with perfect grades and perfect scores. There's also an aspect of how they're looking to diversify and get away from having such a homogeneous student body.

What's discouraging are the comments people are leaving. People who say that their white middle-class children are getting shafted, because they think the schools are "favoring" applicants with disadvantaged backgrounds. Wow, some people really don't understand privilege. I think the way to look at it is to ask which student worked harder. If a student from a rough neighborhood and a family involved with drugs and the penal system got similar grades and test scores as a white upper-class suburban student who was provided with tutoring and SAT classes, I think the answer is pretty obvious.

I love the idea that colleges are looking to the students who thought for themselves and worked with little support, rather than those who just rode the wave all the way to the top. This doesn't mean that white upper-class kids have no chance; it means that if the path to straight A's and perfect test scores is already paved for them, then they need to display some creativity and work ethic by having a job or volunteer project that really shows what a unique individual they are. It makes perfect sense to me to waitlist the upper-class student whose volunteer project and hobbies are the same ones her parents are interested in. Someone who has a privileged background but is truly outstanding is going to go against the grain and pursue different hobbies and volunteer projects, and really display as much passion as the less privileged applicants did. This doesn't mean rejecting your family's background and values, but it means taking it in a direction that's clearly one's own.

I've had some of the more privileged teens I work with show me their college (or private high school) essays, and it seems that the trend is to present one's activities as something that "everyone does" or that's "no big deal." Even the essays in the books about how to write essays often have an air of making sure the admissions people know that ballet and volunteering to serve tea at the ladies' luncheon are something that one's family has done for centuries, you know, so the admissions people know that the applicant is from a very important and very cultured family. This seems a bit backwards to me. I'd place a lot more value on an essay where the student demonstrates maturity and individuality by talking about how they served tea at the luncheon out of their honor for their parents' community ties but also took on a project that was more personally meaningful and more needed.

There is actually a comment on the article where someone refers to privileged students "whose place at an elite college was taken by a minority." Seriously? Where does this person get the idea that these were "their" spots? Did the spots have someone's name on them? I'm guessing that people with this sort of view really aren't encouraging their kids to work hard and carve their own niche, because clearly this person's kids already have a place with their name on it.

It's also interesting that the article doesn't mention affirmative action, and there are no claims that the admissions practices are affirmative action practices, yet the commenters are quick to blame affirmative action. Do they not understand the idea of a private college? As long as the college isn't doing anything that legally qualifies as discrimination, they're free to admit whoever the hell they want. The colleges are allowed to choose which students will be a good fit for what they want their college to look like. They're not even systematically denying admission to ├╝ber-high acheivers; they mention the couple thousand students who are "shoo-ins" because of amazing grades and test scores, and don't even warrant scrutiny from the admissions committee.

But apparently the commenters on the website think that all of the spots should be based on test scores and grades. I'm guessing this is because that's all their kids have going for them. People with a lot of privilege don't like being told that they might need to work a bit harder to make sure they get what they want, instead of just expecting it. I'm going to hope though that it's a loud, um, minority of people who felt the need to minority-bash on the website, and that most of the readers from multi-generation-elite-college-attending families saw what I saw in the article -- a glimmer of hope that elite institutions are trying to broaden the concept of what elite means, and maybe even the realization of what it's like to be less privileged and have to really go out of one's way and work to get something instead of just knowing it's promised to you.

How you know we're truly in a recession

Today the guy at the Shell station at Morrissey Blvd and Freeport Street told me, "we've recently had to start charging customers for air."

The real issues exposed by the Rihanna gossip: sexism and racism

This article by Elizabeth Mendez Barry sums up the issues nicely. It says everything I was thinking much more eloquently than I could have.

This study by the Boston Public Health Commission shows that nearly half of the Boston teens surveyed felt that Rihanna was responsible for her abuse. Scary.

IKEA launches "my first candle" -- made especially for dwellings where occupants are not familiar with such devices

1) Allow candle to burn for at least 20 hours to allow sufficient break-in time for the wick.
2) Do not measure candle while it is lit. For your convenience, we have measured it at the factory.
3) Candle should only be used while sitting backwards on a rocking horse.
4) Do not allow dogs to bark at candles, as this may frighten the wax.
5) Similarly, do not measure distance between candles while lit. The distances may be calculated using the standard ratio for determining distance relative to height and flame temperature, or by consulting this handy chart.
6) This candle is not intended for use in popcorn cases, such as those found at fairs and sporting events.
7) Care should be taken to ensure that candle is placed near a canceled stamp while using.
8) Candles often exhibit fear of the sun, and may seek comfort from small robots. Rest assured that this is normal operation and is not a defect in manufacturing.
9) When providing a belt or other stylish accessory for one candle, make sure to provide similar for all candles, as they may otherwise exhibit jealousy.
10) Similarly, it is important to quickly address any type of conflict or tension that may exist between candles being employed together.
11) Should your candle be subjected to a beheading, do not attempt to reattach the head yourself, as this may result in the candle growing an unsightly tail in order to compensate.
12) When your candle is ready to undergo his brit milah, or "bris," the mohel may choose to use scissors or a knife, either of which is appropriate for the procedure.
13) When taking your candle outside, make sure that headwear fits snugly and is sufficiently warm. Hats may be tethered to coats or other outerwear to prevent loss in the event that the hat comes off.

My cousin wants to work for you for free

Hey there, blog readers. My cousin, who lives in France, is almost finished with a M.S. in finance and management. He's looking for an internship in the U.S. this summer. He's quite the brain, great with people, and his English is fantastic.

Since I know nothing about this type of field, but do have the advantage of being in the U.S., I thought I'd try to help him find something. Any and all help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Sovereign Bank totally sucks ass

Today I went to Sovereign Bank (incidentally, at the branch that's attached to their headquarters), pulled up to the drive-thru ATM, inserted my card, typed in my PIN, was told to insert my deposit.

Then the thing froze up. With my card inside. Wouldn't display anything other than "please insert your deposit." I pressed the living bejeezus out of all the buttons, smacked it a few times, got out and kicked it. Nothing.

So I went inside, told them their ATM had just frozen with my card inside. "No problem, we'll get you a new one."

Um, what? My old one is inside your machine. Can't you override it and get it out? Or call the IT people and have them restart it?

Nope, they can't do any of that. "It's not a technology issue, it's a security issue."

OK, and I'm right here, in person, with my ID. My ATM card is right there, a few feet away from your head, stuck in your ATM that just ate my freakin' card.

So they ordered me a new card, which takes SEVEN TO TEN BUSINESS DAYS. They're able to tell me the card number, but not the expiration date, so I can't use it. They insisted on canceling the old one ("for security reasons!") that I have set up in various online billpay things that I need some way of paying. So pretty much for the next 7 to 10 business days I can only access my account in person at a Sovereign branch during business hours.

Oh, and they're charging me $25 for a lost card. WTF?

The best part is that after this happened, I mentioned it to a friend, who told me that she recently forgot her ATM card when going to Bank of America, and they offered to give her a temporary one right on the spot. Sovereign apparently can't do this even if THEIR TWENTY-YEAR-OLD CRAPASS MACHINE EATS YOUR CARD RIGHT OUT IN FRONT OF THE HEADQUARTERS.