Friday, May 1st, 2009

Twitter logo
tweet (verb): to post on Twitter.com
Inflected form: twat or tweeted
I’ve been Twittering, or I guess tweeting is the proper verb form, starting when #amazonfail hit the fan but continuing since. No one cares about #amazonfail any more, but there are always a lot of gay tweets. At least a third of the gay tweets are stupid kids calling things gay, but most of the rest are links to or responses to gay-related news items, and the biggest gay-related news item right now is gay marriage. People tweet about New Hampshire’s and Maine’s legislatures’ votes on gay marriage, and people are tweeting about Miss California’s joining the campaign against gay marriage.

People are also tweeting about how intolerant gay people are being towards Miss California, and they’re tweeting about the National Organization for Marriage’s new ad featuring Miss California, the one that complains about how her religious liberty is being threatened. Christianists are even monitoring the tweets, adding gay Twits to the list of people whom they follow. I should know better than to engage in twitversation with these Christianists, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Today I got a barrage of tweets from a Christianist who’d started following me and with whom I’d tweeted a bit. I’m done because I’m not going to change his mind nor will he change mine, but I want to comment here about one of his tweets in particular and about Christianists’ perception that they’re being persecuted somehow.

This Christianist twat that “[His] children are discriminated against in school [because] they believe in creation and pray before eating lunch.”

If I cared to engage him further directly, I’d ask him exactly how his kids are being discriminated against. I’d bet that he’d say they’re being discriminated for believing in creation because Creationism or Intelligent Design (or however else the Christianists are dressing up the idea that the earth and all that is on it was created 1,000 years ago as is) isn’t taught side-by-side with Evolution in public schools. My answer to that is that Creationism is a religious belief, one that not all religious people share, and as a religious belief it’s not supposed to be taught in public schools. If this guy wants to send his kids to a private school or to a Sunday School class which teaches the religious belief that Genesis is literally true, that’s his right. That public schools don’t teach the Bible is not discrimination.

I also might ask this Christianist for a specific example of discrimination against his kids based on their praying before lunch. Perhaps he could say that a teacher was verbally harrassing his kids because she doesn’t like kids who pray or that the principal told his kids that Christians aren’t allowed to pray in the school cafeteria. I’d be really surprised though. If something like either of these scenarios happened, this guy could justifiably make a big deal of it. A court case about kids not being allowed to pray before they eat lunch would be such big news that everyone would be hearing about it.

And think about it. If this guy’s kids want to take a moment before they start eating to thank God for their food, not only will no one try to stop them but also there’s no way anyone could stop them. What does it take to say a prayer? Even if we were living in some Godless dictatorship that really did forbid prayer, all someone who wants to pray has to do is to pause quietly and think their prayer. If this guy’s kids want to think before they start eating, “Thank you, God, for providing us with food and shelter and clothing, and please help America’s leaders see the light and turn America into a theocracy,” no one can prevent them from doing so.

As a matter of fact, if you want to get all Biblical about it, praying in this manner is exactly how Jesus said we should pray. Christianists who instead want to pray “on the street corners [or in the school cafeterias] to be seen by men,” who want to “babbl[e] on like pagans,” aren’t following the Bible which they think should be guiding America.

So this Christianist thinks his kids are discriminated against because we don’t have big mass teacher-led prayers in school cafeterias, during which kids who don’t want to pray really would be discriminated against. In other words, unless he can enforce his views—that there should be prayer before lunch—on everyone else, he’s being oppressed.

 

Which brings us to Miss California and the National Organization for Marriage. When gay marriage is legalized, will she be oppressed? Will she no longer be able to enter into a God-sanctioned “opposite marriage”*? Will she no longer be allowed to say that she thinks gay marriage is wrong?

Of course not. Miss California will still be allowed to marry a man. Her constitutional rights to say that gay marriage is a sin and to attend a church that doesn’t allow gay marriage will still exist.

Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009
Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009 and anti-gay marriage spokesmodel, who’d rather not face criticism (and thus I won’t comment on her rather interesting outfit choice here)

But that’s not good enough for Miss California and for the Christianists. No, they’re being oppressed not just if they’re still allowed to refrain from same sex marriages themselves and to say why they do so but also if they aren’t able to prevent those who disagree with them from having the right to enter into and to support same sex marriages. And anyone who criticizes their views is being intolerant.

Well guess what, Christianists? Your having the right to oppose same sex marriage does not include the right to be sheltered from any criticism of your views. Criticism is not the same thing as intolerance. And the inability to prevent others from taking actions of which you do not approve is not the same thing as oppression.

*I did make fun on Twitter of Miss California’s rather incoherent answer in which she used the term “opposite marriage” for so-called traditional marriage, and someone twat in response that he too might not have done so well if asked to response to a question on national television. Um, hello, answering questions is a traditional part of beauty pageants! Contestants are judged not only on their appearance but also on their ability to respond on the spot cogently and lucidly. Miss California has every right to her views, but she should have taken a deep breath and said simply, “I respect that Americans differ on this issue, but I believe that marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman.” Rambling on for the alloted time just sustains beauty queen stereotypes.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

You may have heard of bookmarklets, bookmarks that don’t bring up webpages for you but rather run some javascript (hence another name for them, javascriptlets) for you on whatever page you’re already on.

For example, one that I use often, made up of this javascript:

javascript:void(location.href=location.href.substring(0,location.href.substring(0,location.href.length-1).lastIndexOf('/')+1))
brings me up a level at whatever website I’m at. That is, if I’m at http://www.davidlauri.com/blog and access that bookmarklet, I’ll find myself at http://www.davidlauri.com.

A bookmarklet I really like:

by
I recently discovered a great bookmarklet called Readability by a web development firm called arc90. What it does is take a page that looks like this:

and turn it into a page that looks like this:
,
in other words making it much more readable. Absolutely fabulous!

Of course to do what it does takes more than a single line of javascript, and if you go to the Readability page to get the bookmarklet for yourself, you’ll see that what the bookmarklet does is call a bunch of javascript stored in a file on arc90’s server that then strips the existing styles from whatever webpage you’re on and applies a new CSS stylesheet also stored on arc90’s server.

Also, if you try Readability for yourself on the page I used for my example above, you won’t get the exact same results; instead you’ll see icons for three tools at the upper left of the page and the Readability and arc90 logos at the bottom of the page. I didn’t like seeing the icons or the logos, nor did I like running a bookmarklet that goes to arc90.com every time I want to make a page Readable, so I adapted their stylesheet and javascript for my own use, something you too can do if you have any javascript and CSS experience and if you have access to your own web server. Otherwise, you can make do with arc90’s originals and will still find reading things online a lot more pleasant.

Friday, May 8th, 2009
An open letter to a Twit

Dear MAConservative,

Please tell me what I should read,” you whine, after I’ve told you to “go read some state supreme court decisions on same sex marriage.”

Well, I’ll tell you one last time. Read Varnum v. Brien, Iowa 2009. Read Kerrigan and Mock v. Connecticut Department of Public Health, Conn. 2008. Read In re Marriage Cases, Calif. 2008. Read Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, Mass. 2003. Read Baker v. Vermont, Vermont 1999. Read Baehr v. Lewin, Hawaii 1993. For good measure, also read Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, Canada 2004.

Yes, I get the fact that 52% of voters in California amended their constitution to proclaim that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” perhaps the only section of any constitution you actually have read.

But have you also read the part of California’s constitution that says that revisions or “substantial alteration[s]” of that constitution require the prior approval of two-thirds of each house of the state legislature before voters may vote for them? You may argue that Proposition 8 was only an amendment and not a revision, but you can’t say that people who disagree with you are pulling something out of their asses.

For, you see, marriage is a substantial right. You seem to think that my referencing Turner v. Safley, U.S. Supreme Court 1987, and Loving v. Virginia, U.S. Supreme Court 1967, was an attempt to say that these two cases justified same sex marriage, but that wasn’t why I pointed out those two decisions. I pointed them out to rebut your silly argument that marriage is not a right. Marriage is a “fundamental freedom,” one of the “basic civl rights of man” (both from Loving v. Virginia). The right to marry is even more important than the right to vote—in many states convicted felons lose the right to vote, but no convict in the United States loses the right to marry.

You keep harping on the fact that in states other than California the voters haven’t had a chance to vote on whether queers may retain their constutional right to marry. Well guess what? Voters in these states had the opportunity to ratify their state constitutions, including the processes for amending those constitutions. It may well be in California that a 2% majority can vote to take away a fundamental right such as marriage, but voters in other states decided, when they ratified their constitutions, that they wanted stronger protections of the rights their constitutions guarantee.

And it’s been 10 long years since Baker v. Vermont and 6 years since Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. So your claim that what happened in Vermont and Massachusetts “were not decisions made by the people of those states” doesn’t have much substance, does it? If you were right, the people of these states have had quite enough time to vote out the legislators who have supposedly stymied their right to vote on same sex marriage.

Call me ignorant all you want. You’re the one saying you don’t have to read further on this issue than the most recent amendment to California’s constitution.

So, no, you can’t say that I haven’t “put forth a coherent argument.” You may not want to hear my argument, but I’ve put it forth.

I will concede that I’m not going to make you change your mind. Luckily I don’t have to. You and your ilk may win some battles. California’s supreme court may well let Proposition 8 stand. But it won by 2%. And we queers and our allies can keep coming back until the tides turn, which, MAConservative, they are.

Sincerely,
dlauri

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

A bit out of focus
but still legible

David Esrati is annoyed that Karl Keith gets to plaster his name on all the gas pumps in Montgomery County. Today, while I was pumping gas in Columbus (on my way to Equality Ohio’s annual Lobby Day [yes, David, you can indeed count on me “to make everything about being a gay thing”]), I remembered this and snapped a photo with my cellphone of the sticker on the gas pump here. In Columbus, it’s not the Franklin County Auditor who gets the free publicity but rather Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

Friday, May 15th, 2009
William Ireland
William H. Ireland
August 26, 1943 – May 15, 2008
My uncle Bill died a year ago today. I still miss him very much. He was more of a father to me than my biological father ever was. The following is what I said last year at his memorial service.

My uncle Bill was many things to many people. He was an uncle, a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a student, a teacher, a philanthropist, a volunteer, and many more things. Of course of all these things, to me he was first and foremost an uncle. He used to tell me that, despite what I believed, he did not know everything, and now that I am an uncle myself, I know that he was right. You see, one doesn’t decide to become an uncle—it’s a choice made for you by a sister or a brother, and even if you have some notice that you’re going to become an uncle, unlike for prospective parents, there aren’t tons of books that tell you how to be one.

Doing some figuring I realize that my uncle became an uncle when he was just twenty-two. Now to my nephew Carl, who’s eleven, I’m sure that seems awfully old, twice his age, but to me, Carl’s forty-two-year-old uncle, that seems awfully young. Of course one good thing about being an uncle is that you get some time to grow into it. When you’re first an uncle you get to help out from time to time, but you can always fall back on parents and grandparents. I don’t know if Uncle Bill ever had to change my diaper, but I do remember that once I was old enough he got to take me in his orange Volkswagen bug to McDonald’s, the start of a long string of his treating me and others in our family to eating out. I also remember that he did do some babysitting of my sister and me, one time at my grandparents’ house, chasing us around their tiny dining room and resulting in the breaking of one of the legs of my grandmother’s dining room table. An advantage of being an uncle is that you’re not expected to be as responsible as a mother or a father.

My grandmother’s table survived, and I remember family dinners sitting around that table where my uncle and my mother would laugh and make jokes, jokes I usually didn’t get but knew often came at the expense of my poor great-aunt Kathryn, who fortunately usually didn’t realize they were about her. My uncle loved books and words and could be very punny, often casually dropping, during the course of family conversation, a pun that would elicit laughter or groans and the observation that if we ignored his puns he’d stop, which of course he never did. My uncle Bill was also infamous for answering “or” questions logically, not making a choice when asked, for example, if he wanted vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream but simply saying, “yes,” because if either condition in an or clause is true, as any programmer knows, the statement is true.

As you might suspect from that, Uncle Bill was kind of nerdy, or as they say now, geeky, and that was always a great comfort to me as I grew up feeling different. Maybe most boys didn’t like to read lots and lots of books, but wherever my uncle lived he was surrounded by books in cases along the walls and in stacks on the floor. I might get teased at school for liking books, but from my uncle, who’d take me to the Acres of Books used book store in Cincinnati, I knew it was okay to like and to collect and to cherish books. And later, as I taught myself to type and to program, first on my mother’s Osborne 1 computer and then on my own Commodore Amiga 1000, he also got an Amiga so we could share geeky ideas about scripting and emacs, even though by that time he was living in Arlington, Virginia.

Although my uncle was born in Dayton and died in Dayton, he managed to get around some in his life, first moving with his parents and brother and sister to Cincinnati where he graduated from Western Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati. From there he went to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he got his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia, and then he accepted a teaching position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where some of my first memories of him are, in a tall, old apartment with books and a cat and glass bottles of Tab diet cola.

I didn’t know my uncle well then, but by the time I was nine, he became a much more central figure in my life, moving back to Dayton to help support our family, a role he continued ever since. He came to offer my mother support during her divorce, both emotional support and, as best he was able, financial support, the extent of which I really didn’t realize at the time. Along with my grandparents he helped to make sure that my sister and I had some stability and normalcy, in our daily lives and in our holidays, making sure we had presents like the giant stuffed lion from Rike’s downtown that he surprised Kathie with one Christmas.

A challenge of an academic career is that the pay isn’t the best, and you have to be willing to move to where the jobs are. Faced with wanting to be able to help us more than he might have been able to otherwise, my uncle Bill made a rough choice particularly for him, a somewhat shy man who didn’t like travel much, accepting a job at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I had no idea at the time how scared he was to leave to go teach in a strange land, but I did know how lonely he was, how much he missed us, how glad he was to see us at the end of each school year when he returned with exotic gifts and stories.

Those were the days before Internet and e-mail and cheap worldwide long distance. My uncle did buy my grandparents a speakerphone around which we would crowd for the occasional brief phone call, but the real way in which we kept in touch was through letters, written on thin blue international aerogramme forms. At first my sister and I would each just write a brief note at the end of a letter my mother had written, and my uncle would jot brief notes back at the end of his letters to her, but as I got older, I started to write my own letters to Uncle Bill, confiding in him feelings of anger towards my absent father or feelings of sadness at not being like other kids, feelings I somehow was able to express in writing that I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk about in person. The letters he wrote back to me, written in his angular near illegible script, were a great comfort to me. Those were the days when I thought Uncle Bill knew everything.

We all so looked forward to summers because that was when Uncle Bill would be home. I have so many memories of him, too many to share now, most of which I can’t date exactly, ranging from going with him to Dayton Mall Cinema 1 to see the first Star Wars, to endless loops through our subdivision as I learned to drive a stick shift in his Toyota Corolla, to a trip with him to Houston in the heat of one summer when he went for a job interview, to countless movies and concerts and dinners out with him, either just the two of us, with my sister or mother, or with the whole family, and it was during these that he got into the habit of always paying for all of us.

Eventually my uncle quit his job in Arabia and, following in my mother’s footsteps, took up a new career in computers. Living for a time outside Washington DC with my uncle Willard, he worked at the Census Bureau, and in the summers my sister and I would drive out together to visit them. And then, as my grandparents grew older, Uncle Bill moved back to Ohio, first taking a job at Computer Sciences Corporation in Cincinnati and then finally coming back to Dayton to work at Mead Data Central. He lived in my grandparents’ house, taking a big share of the burden for helping my grandmother through her battles with cancer, then caring for my grandfather after her death, and also being there for my great-aunt Kathryn, who lived just a few blocks down the hill, first while my great-uncle Frank was ill and then afterwards when she was on her own.

Although my family is not a particularly touchy feely one, I knew that my uncle Bill’s love for us, not often expressed in words or in hugs, was unconditional, and one of the best examples of that is when I came out. When I finally made the decision to do that, I asked my uncle to meet me at my mother’s house one evening after work, and I told the two of them together that I’m gay. Mother, who’s been great since, cried and had questions, but my uncle just said, very matter of factly, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to ask to borrow money.”

Actually that wasn’t such an illogical assumption, because over the years my uncle has helped us financially, giving me money, for example, towards the purchase of houses or when I went back to school. And when he found out, two weeks ago, that he had terminal liver cancer, one of his biggest concerns was double-checking that everything was in place, so that we’d all be taken care of. And he wanted his great-nephew Carl to understand that although Uncle Bill would no longer be with us, he would still help to provide for stuff like the Battle of Cincinnati and football camp and other things that made him so proud of Carl. And he was happy to know that the tree house Carl will be building this year will be named in honor of him.

So you see, my uncle Bill was a great uncle, in every sense of the phrase, to his great-nephew Carl, to my sister Katt and to me. He may not have known everything, but over the course of his forty-two years of unclehood, he taught me so much, not just about how to be a better uncle but also how to be a better person, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Thursday, May 21st, 2009
I breakfasted on my balcony this morning (cold pizza from Pizza Factory, yum!), enjoying the summer weather and my flowers.
While I was breakfasting, Dayton blasted its river fountains, perhaps flaunting its abundance of water in preparation for a water war with Montgomery County.
This photo, obviously, is not from this morning but rather is of a full moon over Dayton two weeks ago.
Click any of the above photos
to embiggen
 
Monday, May 25th, 2009

Check out my latest gallery page to see where these photos are from.

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Grantability
I had to make a custom Readability script for Granta

Before

After
Earlier this month I wrote about a bookmarklet I like very much called Readability. Today I adapted it further to work better with a magazine I read from time to time, Granta. Because of how Granta’s HTML is written, the Readability script wouldn’t grab the entire text of an article, but it was easy enough to change arc90’s javascript to do so. Actually, it makes for a much simpler script, although one that works only on articles on Granta.com, because instead of having to figure out which <div> contains the article’s text, it just grabs the contents of all of the class “gntml_centreDocument” <div>’s. If you’re interested, you can view the javascript.

Earlier this month I also posted what I’d written a year ago after my uncle Bill’s sudden death, and reading Granta is something I picked up from him. He kept every copy of Granta from its re-launching in 1979, and, as a “magazine of new writing,” every issue of Granta is still worth reading, even after the writing in an issue is no longer new. Now Granta subscribers have access on Granta.com to the magazine’s archives, and, especially with my fancy new Grantability script, I don’t mind reading on my computer, but there are also plenty of times when it’s relaxing to sit down with a hardcopy issue, whether it’s one that’s just shown up in my mailbox or one from my uncle’s archives.

 
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