An open letter to the RMV

Dear RMV:

Why are you only open Monday through Friday during most people's work
hours? Would it be that hard to have different hours each day and some
hours every day? When are people supposed to go to you?

Once we sort this out, we can move on to the issue of why you gotta be
a "registry" instead of just a department like every other one of you
is. At least you're not an authority, I guess.

No love,

I think I just got accused of recruiting

I was sitting in my car waiting for someone on a side street near
Grove Hall when a man said to me, "you gotta advertise there with your
lesbian sticker on your car? Most of us, we just show what country we
are from, you know? [Pointed to his Jamaica sticker]. What if people's
children see that?" Not exactly sure what he was getting at, and being
in favor of friendly discourse when feasible, I shrugged and said,
"hey, people are people, you know? You and I and everyone else should
all be proud of who we are." The guy said, "OK, fine, but what if
people see the lesbian sticker and pretty soon everyone want to be
that?" then shook his head and got in his car and took off.

Somehow I don't imagine the RMV has a sense of humor

My registration renewal is sitting here waiting for me to have $50 that I haven't blown on booze to be mailed in, and I'm noticing that I can change the color of the car without needing to submit documentation or anything. I'm quite tempted to write "plaid" and see what happens. And in the event that my registration does actually come back with "plaid" listed as the color, I'm more than willing to get creative with some of that nifty colored electrical tape so as to not have a fraudulent car registration.

Gardening fail

I can't remember if the peppers I planted are red or green (largeish,
look less oily and less hot than a jalapeño). There are a dozen or so
that are mature. And no, I didn't save the seed packet. So do I use
them now and risk them being substandard unripe peppers, or do I wait
for them to turn red and risk rotten peppers?


I need a good word for that affect/presentation in which one is a wee bit too serious, slightly agitated, quite frank, slightly entitled, basically calm and collected but in an ever-so-slightly heightened arousal sort of way, talking slightly fast yet clearly and with every other word or so in bold or italics, and really really wants to make sure you know that everything they're saying is quite important to them.

You know, the one where 99% of the occurrences of it are from people with Asperger syndrome.

Everyone knows exactly what I mean, I'm sure, but I just don't think I can quite describe it that way in a report.

Molly and I ponder why no one ever says they're from Tobago

Me: "No, really, no one is from Tobago. They're all from Trinidad. I've asked people from Trinidad why there aren't people from Tobago, and they tell me there are, but they just don't know any. Sounds suspect to me. Where are the people from Tobago? I want to know!"

Molly: "Maybe they just SAY they're from Trinidad, because if you asked them their nationality, they'd have to say they're Tobagan."

Me: "So? What, then people would push them down hills?"

Molly: "Hm, have you tried looking at the bottoms of hills?"

DIY: Hardwiring light fixtures that are meant to plug in

I've been asked several times lately how one goes about doing this, so naturally I thought I'd blog about it.

Caveat: I'm not an electrician. I'm a blogger. Anything you do based on my advice is of course at your own risk. Hell, pretty much everything you do is at your own risk. And when you burn down your house, the fire department doesn't really care that some chick on a blog told you to install your lights that way. That being said, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what's safe and a decent understanding of building codes, but I haven't studied the ins and outs of what exactly is legal.

To start, there are basically two ways of getting a plug-in electrical fixture to be hardwired into the home:

1) Install a receptacle (this thing)

into the ceiling. Then plug the thing into it. I'll talk later about how one might camouflage any of these wiring options so there isn't a bunch of wiring hanging out of the ceiling. To do this, pretty much swap out the existing lighting-type wiring for this type of plug-in receptacle. Make sure that you use the proper connectors and that everything is enclosed in a box, not just hanging out haphazardly in the ceiling. As far as I know, it's up to code most places to swap out one of these for the other, and it's certainly safe if done correctly.

2) Modify the light fixture so that it can hook up to the lighting wiring in the ceiling. This can be done by chopping off the plug and splicing it to the wiring, or by using one of these thingies:

(Click through to buy it at Amazon)

The above adapter requires that there's a socket up there into which one would screw a lightbulb. If there isn't one, you can buy one and install one.

Cutting off the plug and installing the fixture as if it were meant for that is basically safe, provided you have everything enclosed in a box and have used appropriate connectors. It isn't, however, up to code, since these fixtures are inspected and approved for temporary plug-in use. The method of plugging it in with adapters is more legal and more what they had in mind as far as temporary use, though it's harder to make a case for this if you've enclosed it in some sort of setup that involves new plaster, screwing into the ceiling plaster, permanent adhesives, etc. It's obviously more legitimately a temporary plug-in application if it's hidden by use of a plate meant for such things, or using any of the various magic temporary adhesives. And of course, this is an electrical connection after all, so treat it like you'd treat a plug in a wall socket, and don't put anything flammable around it.

Now, how to make it look nice.

In this example below, the fixture is suspended using normal ceiling fixture hardware attached to a bar attached to the ceiling box. The plate is something I recycled from something or other and painted silver. It's not attached to anything per se, but has a nut above it and a nut below it so I could crank it flush with the wall:


For this one, I used a standard commercial setup where a threaded steel nipple (huh huh) screws into the bar attached to the electric box, then a nut with a ring on it screws onto that (and holds the plate up) and the fixture attaches to the ring and hangs from that:


In the case of these, well, they're totally safely installed, but sketchy in terms of convincing any inspector-type person that they're temporarily installed. These fixtures are this model of socket-on-the-end-of-a-cord. I cut the plugs off and attached them to the existing wiring using insulated connectors. The long cords are enclosed in very heavy plastic insulation with fibers running through it, appropriate for bearing a decent amount of weight (same sort of stuff that a lot of industrial fixtures hang from). Up in the ceiling, they're knotted around the box several times so that the electrical connection isn't bearing the weight. Then, well, I ran the cords through those ceiling medallions before installing the lighting, and then the medallions are secured to the ceiling. So hardly a UL-approved temporary installation. But it's safe and it looks good.


My two cents as to why paper bags are better than plastic bags

There's debate as to which is better, since plastic take less energy to make and recycle.

  • plastic bags are also made at least in part out of nonrenewable resources
  • they hold much less so a bag-for-bag comparison doesn't really work
  • they kill sea life
  • the ones that don't get into a recycling place won't biodegrade
  • they end up in trees
Also, paper bags are, um, just regular brown paper, so they're usable around the house. They can be recycled without any energy use by using them for:
  • wrapping packages or presents
  • lining drawers
  • making cards and crafts
  • sewing patterns
  • sorting/storing household items

Delta Air Lines continue to be a bunch of homophobic dumbasses

My e-mail to them:

Hi, and thanks for your e-mail. While I appreciate your efforts, my spouse IS FEMALE, and her name is Maura Shira, not "Mr. Shira" as you referred to her in your e-mail. The credit I received is issued to "Locke Shira." I'm not even sure who this is, and this person is certainly not a member of my family. Again, your airline can really use some training in GLBT sensitivity, as I said in my original e-mail. Not very many straight people use the term "spouse," and it's homophobic to assume the gender of one's spouse when someone does use the term. Can you please issue the voucher to the correct person and do whatever you can to ensure that Delta staff get some training in being respectful of GLBT people? Thanks.

Their response:

Dear Ms. Shira,

RE: Case Number 642679

Thank you for contacting us concerning the name on the e-credit vouchers. On behalf, of Delta Air Lines, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused due to our procedures.

Unfortunately, there must have been an oversight on my part and I regret that your spouse was addressed incorrectly. However, we will issue a voucher for Ms. Maura Spouse correctly and I will send you a copy of her voucher to the email address given on file. Please note the voucher
number and associated Terms and Conditions will be arriving in a separate email. I encourage you to add Delta Air Lines to your receiver list so the voucher document is not misdirected to your spam folder. Please keep the voucher number and the Terms and Conditions since the
number is required for redemption. It is also important to remind you that there is no Direct Ticketing fee for reservations confirmed online at

Ms. Shira, thank you, again, for your email concerning the name on the
e-credit vouchers. We appreciate your interest in our company.


Sam P. Rosario
Coordinator, Customer Care
Delta Air Lines/KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

My reply:

Thank you for correcting the name on the voucher. This is much appreciated. However, in both of your e-mails, you've continued to ignore the homophobia on your part in assuming my spouse must be male, as well as the homophobia on the part of the flight attendant in referring to my spouse repeatedly as "your friend," as well as the flight attendants ignoring the passengers seated next to me who made homophobic comments throughout the flight. Is there a Delta policy regarding just completely ignoring homophobia and pretending it doesn't exist in the world? Also, you've not yet addressed my suggestion regarding Delta providing some training to employees regarding GLBT sensitivity. What training does Delta currently provide?

I wrote to Delta to complain about homophobia and I got a homophobic response back

My original e-mail follows. I've highlighted the relevant portions.

On our flight from Ireland to New York yesterday, my spouse and I had ordered vegetarian/no dairy/no eggs meals. These were not on board. We also were told at the check-in counter that our seats weren't together, but that the flight attendant would have no trouble having people shift around. When we got into the plane and asked a flight attendant, she told us "there aren't two empty seats together." She also referred to my spouse as "your friend" despite my corrections. When I tried to explain to her that maybe she could ask someone flying alone if they'd switch, she seemed confused and insisted "there aren't two empty seats together." I ended up seated in a window seat with a couple on the outside of me who made racist and homophobic comments the entire flight.
I was too intimidated to ask to step over them so I could be reseated, particularly given that the flight attendant didn't seem to care about our situation and seemed homophobic herself. When meals were served on the flight, ours was not onboard. The flight attendant was again aloof, stating that we could eat the pasta or chicken instead. When I asked
what was in them, he said he didn't know, but we could look at them. I explained that looking at them wouldn't tell us the ingredients, and asked if there was anything they had with ingredients listed. He said there was not. Four hours later, when the in-seat TV monitors started crashing on everyone, another flight attendant, Sheryl, told us she would provide us with some complimentary snacks to pass the time, and she came out with various bagged chips and other snacks with the ingredients printed on the labels. When I asked why these weren't offered to us when our meals were forgotten, she said she did not know, but proceeded to offer us various items and was very accommodating. While I did eventually get some tortilla chips for dinner toward the end of my seven-hour flight and found Sheryl to be very kind and helpful,
the other flight attendants were absolutely incompetent, and I find it ridiculous to pay hundreds of dollars to fly on a flight where we aren't fed and are subjected to rudeness and incompetence on the part of the flight attendants and harassment by other passengers, especially after
the flight attendants have refused to make arrangements so that I could sit with my family member. I would suggest that flights have onboard some more substantial nonperishable items that people with various dietary restrictions can eat, maybe some energy bars or whatnot. Since
my dietary restrictions are accommodated on Delta flights and I have never had my meal forgotten before, it didn't occur to me to bring my own food. I also would suggest that the flight crew is trained in GLBT sensitivity -- had the flight attendants modeled some respect for our family, the other passengers might not have felt so entitled to make homophobic comments throughout the flight.

Their response, also with the relevant portions highlighted:

RE: Case Number 642679

Thank you for your email describing the inconvenience you and your
spouse experienced due to our poor customer service, onboard meal
service, seat assignment issues and disruptive behavior of your fellow
passengers while traveling with us. On behalf of everyone at Delta Air
Lines, I sincerely apologize for the problems you encountered and also
appreciate your kind comments for one of our flight attendant.

I am truly sorry you did not receive the special meal you requested and
certainly understand this causes concern for a person with strict
dietary and/or nutritional requirements. Passenger comments like yours
are critical in our efforts to provide superior service.

We also recognize our passengers have seating preferences, and I
certainly understand your frustration when you and Mr. Shira did not
receive seat assignment together while travelling from Ireland to New
York. We understand that our passengers have seating preferences, and I
certainly realize your disappointment with our seat assignment policy.
Flying with Delta should be enjoyable, and I am unhappy for any role we
may have played which caused your travel experience to be otherwise.

Further, we were concerned to learn that the actions of another
passengers disruptive and unpleasant behavior onboard. We truly wish
there were some way to ensure that passengers would be considerate of
all travelers. We strive to provide everyone with an enjoyable and
comfortable cabin environment, and I regret your experience was to the
contrary. The inconvenience you experienced does not support our goal
of providing a high level of service and value to our customers.

After reading your email, I certainly understand why you wanted to bring
this matter to our attention. We expect all our flight attendants to be
helpful and professional at all times. I am truly sorry that you did
not receive the service you expected and should have received.
Nevertheless, we appreciate your kind comments regarding the service
received from our flight attendant Sherry. We believe that she is one
of our most important assets, and I am happy to learn that she exceeded
your expectations in extreme travel conditions.

Please know feedback like yours will help us to improve our overall
customer service. Be assured your comments will be shared with the
leadership teams of the concerned department for internal follow up.

As a gesture of apology for the inconvenience you and your spouse
experienced due to our poor customer service, onboard meal service, seat
assignment issues and disruptive behavior of your fellow passengers
while traveling with us, I have issued an Electronic Transportation
Credit Voucher (eTCV) in the amount of $75.00 for you and your spouse.
Please note the voucher number and associated Terms and Conditions will
be arriving in a separate email. I encourage you to add Delta Air Lines
to your receiver list so the voucher document is not misdirected to your
spam folder. Please keep the voucher number and the Terms and
Conditions since the number is required for redemption. It is also
important to remind you that there is no Direct Ticketing fee for
reservations confirmed online at

I did receive the credit vouchers, and this was nice of them. One is made out to me, and the other is made out to some person I've never heard of, who has a pretty obviously male name. WHAT THE HELL, PEOPLE?! Molly and I have the same last name, and we bought our tickets together on the same reservation thingy. Not hard to figure out who my spouse is, unless you're a homophobic moron who is insisting my spouse has to be male AFTER I WRITE YOU AN E-MAIL ABOUT WHAT A BUNCH OF HOMOPHOBES YOUR AIRLINE IS.

Edited to add: Look, Delta has a "gay travel" page, in which they tout how gay-friendly they are. They have a HRC 100% score, which we all know is a bunch of bullshit, since all it looks at is whether they offer benefits, not at whether they train all staff at all levels to, like, realize there are gay people. There's of course no links to any sort of diversity chairperson or anything that would actually be helpful. Just a page indicating that Delta would like gay people to spend money on their airline.