How to be alerted when someone googles you

[This might not work for everybody]

1. Google yourself

2. See if a result comes up in the first page

3. If it does, go here and set up a zabasphere account that will let you know when there's a zabasearch hit for your name

4. When you get an alert showing you that a computer located in Mountain View CA has looked you up on zabasearch, this means someone has googled you

I'd better start writing my acceptance speech

...since I'll be receiving this award tomorrow night.

The way to address discrimination isn't to attack the dominant groups

I like the overall idea of this website, which is addressing the use of "that's so gay" to mean that something is stupid. The campaign starts out in the right direction, acknowledging that this usage has crept into people's vocabularies and gets used without an intention of hurting anyone.

What I don't like though is that they take it a step further and try to illustrate the issue by using similar slurs against jocks, cheerleaders, and gamers, and even go so far as to describe stereotypes of people who belong to these groups. That's not OK. The basic strategy of "putting yourself in their shoes" is fine, but it can be done without insulting anyone, as is done in those questionnaires where it asks people to reflect on how their family reacts to them being straight or what it's like when they mention at work that they have an opposite-sex partner. It isn't necessary to make disparaging remarks about "popular" adolescents, who can often be just as lonely and confused for different reasons. This reminds me in a way of the failed Dove campaign depicting plus-sized models as "real" people, implying that there is something wrong with thinner people's bodies rather than the intended message of acceptance for all bodies.

Plus, the strategy of making fun of the "cool" kids for being a member of that group really downplays the real issue of queer kids (and kids perceived as queer) being harassed, threatened, harmed, sexually assaulted, thrown out of homes -- all of which leads to high rates of suicide and self-harm in kids who've experienced this. All labeling, even positive labeling, is harmful to our youth, but it's really pretty offensive to imply that anti-GLBT bullying is similar to cracks about being a jock or a cheerleader.

The other really frustrating thing is the aspect of the site that points out that calling someone a "faggot" really means that they're "a bundle of sticks." Wasn't the original point that these words are hurtful? The origin of the words is immaterial when they're being used in a hurtful manner, and it's also worth mentioning that the words are often used in a positive manner when they're reclaimed by GLBT folks.

I guess what really irritates me about this approach is that the people behind the campaign don't seem to have much of a grasp of what works with teenagers. The teens I've worked with will actually use the original definitions of these words as an excuse as to why it's acceptable to use these words ("but all I called her was an embankment that holds back water!"), and teens especially are going to tune out any message that insults their intelligence. They know good and well what the words mean, and it seems to work best to be honest and frank with them about why I'd prefer not to hear a word, rather than trying to pretend that I feel very strongly about them not referring to bundles of sticks. I once had a group of teens in which a young girl was very effective in asking her peers not to use this kind of language. When someone would say something like, "dammit, these paintbrushes are so gay," she might say something such as, "that doesn't even make sense; paintbrushes don't have a sexual orientation, and I don't think it's right to make fun of anyone's sexual orientation anyway."

Worked a lot better than pretending that we all think "gay" means "happy."

Home Depot's suggestion algorithms are even more messed up than Amazon's

Home Depot just told me that if I'm interested in expanding spray foam*, I may also be interested in Roundup weed killer. This makes even less sense than when Amazon tells me that people who like Dave Matthews also like pants, or that people who shop for the same obscure sociological study I did also bought some printer ink.

*Which, believe me, I am extremely interested in. So interested that I have considered creating additional gaps in my house just to fill them. So interested that I'm deeply saddened when the can starts to slow down and I know that the poofy expandingy goodness is soon going to end, leaving me begging for just one more PPTTTHHWTTHHWWKK before I have to lay it to rest. So interested that I've thought about creating an internet forum just for extolling the virtues of expanding foam so that it doesn't have to continue to be insulted by being relegated to a few thin threads buried in the back of plumbing or painting forums.

I couldn't hear Delores Handy over the power tools

I'm doing some repairs and upgrades to my kitchen this week, and am not working this week, so I haven't had NPR on much. Though I listened a bit on Monday evening and she seemed to not be there. Maybe she's on vacation too, at Race Puont or somewhere.

My subfloor, it is a thing of beauty

The MBTA trip planner had too much coffee this morning

It thinks this is a good route to take from Roxbury Crossing area to Kenmore Square area. And that it will only take 64 minutes for the bus to pinball back and forth over the river several times.

Delores Handy word of the day

Tempted to go with "farn" (as in, "from another country"), but that's at least a standard pronunciation in some dialects, albeit not hers, which makes it messed up.

I'm going to go with "IZZrul" instead (as in, Jewish state in the Middle East).

(There were also a couple of "ath-uh-lete"s today, but that's too easy to give her any credit for. I'm sticking with words you actually have to try really hard to possibly mess up).

Why Massholes don't understand crosswalks

This is pretty amusing. I commented about how people in Massachusetts don't understand crosswalks, and think they always have the right of way including when there's a big red hand telling them they don't, or when they're not in a crosswalk at all.

So then a couple people showed up insisting that pedestrians do have the right of way, and the big red hand really doesn't mean anything, and it's just one of those weird Massachusetts laws.

Riiight. MGL chapter 89 begs to differ with you people. And the weird Massachusetts laws are in chapter 272 anyway.

Delores Handy word of the day

"horricane" (or was it whoreicane?)

with "kimistry" as a close runner-up

Special Olympics piece on All Things Considered missed the mark

The "coming up" blurb at mid-hour said that we would be hearing about the benefits of Special Olympics from the athletes' perspectives, but then the quotes were all from parents of athletes. One was from a parent of a person with a disability who has not been a Special Olympics athlete. Really, it's not that hard to find a Special Olympics athlete who is verbal and can discuss his or her experiences; I know of several dozen such people. They undid the whole message about opportunities for people with disabilities by presenting the athlete's point of view through having a nondisabled person speak for them.

Delores Handy word of the day


The National Grid webpage is such a sorry piece of crap

I've tried it on every browser and OS I have access to, and it's crappy and useless on each one, except with slight variations. I can see the balance and pay it of course, because clearly it's their priority to at least have that part up and running, but I don't plan to do so since I can't manage to see the goddamned bill to know what they're charging me for. Also, could it be any more butt-ugly and early-'90s-Compuserve-looking?

The one slightly useful link that I could actually get to work was the balanced billing summary:

Here is your latest Balanced Billing status after payment of current amount due:
Start Month:August
Has Been in effect for:0 Months
We have billed you:$.00
Your actual usage is:$.00
Status:No Balance Difference

Which I think means I don't have to pay them anything, since they're not billing me for anything. Oh wait, that was the conclusion I reached earlier when I couldn't get the goddamned bill to come up. Two crappy pieces of broken javascript can't be wrong.

What the mystery plant looks like now

I think we have a definitive answer as to what sort of plant it is.

Click to see more about my urban farming adventures:

Netflix is surmising all sorts of things about me

Just when did I ever tell Netflix that I enjoy drugs?

Announcing the 2009 Smoot Award winner

Did you even know this blog gave out awards? Neither did I. But there's a particular blog that is just so great that it warranted creating an award a few minutes ago, just so I could bestow the honor.

[Drumroll, please]

The winner of the 2009 Smoot Award goes to...

Jim "Suldog" Sullivan, for his relentless commitment to refusing to accept any more blog awards!

Please take a moment to congratulate Jim on his accomplishment over at his blog.

IKEA makes a surprisingly dumb mistake

Dear IKEA,

I recently purchased the Värde Counter Storage Unit (item number 94631707). The shopping experience went wonderfully smoothly, and I'm extremely happy with the final product.

That's not the point though. There's an intermediary issue that really needs revisiting. About a month ago, my family and I went to IKEA to get this piece, along with some other large pieces for our kitchen remodel. As we loaded the flat packs into our car from the cart, we noted the weight on each of them. One of the four boxes comprising this Värde storage unit was labeled as weighing 249 pounds, which I assumed must be the hardwood countertop. Not wanting to injure ourselves, we parked the car at home and called around to find professional movers to move the packages up the flights of stairs to our kitchen. This was something I didn't really mind doing, as I had purchased something that had a really heavy part, so this was to be expected, and I was happy to pay the movers.

Until I started unpacking the IKEA packages to assemble things a few days later. When I opened the 249-pound box, I found that it contained the 12 drawers that are part of this unit. In the box were 12 fronts, 12 backs, 24 sides and 12 bottoms. Which makes sense if one has just bought 12 drawers, but why the hell were they all in one box? Why could they not have been packed in three or four separate boxes, so that average homeowners could get the boxes into a house?

Of course, had I known what was in there, I could have opened the box and carried the pieces up in several trips, but it never crossed my mind that the 249-pound box contained more than one part. I didn't imagine that IKEA, famous for its streamlined shopping process and practical designs, would put 60 pieces of wood in one box so that it couldn't be lifted up flights of stairs by average people.

Please, consider a maximum weight-per-box whenever feasible. This stupid packing mistake made my piece of furniture cost an extra hundred dollars paid to the movers, which shouldn't have been necessary.