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Really, My Heart BLEEDS for You

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I'm finding this kerfuffle about airport security getting more intrusive fascinating. Why? Because I have been traveling with a typically muslim name my whole life.

Now, I'm not muslim. I hadn't even been to the Middle East before the trip to Turkey this fall. But that doesn't really matter to airport security. I don't look like the American stereotype of a muslim terrorist, female or otherwise. I strongly resemble my Portuguese mother, and I don't think this country has ever been on the lookout for Portuguese terrorists.

But that name. That funky, Middle Eastern, terrorist name that nobody can say. It gets me every time.

(Don't get me wrong; I am very attached to my name and it is a part of me. I would never consider changing it. And it has its uses: seeing how Americans react to it tells me a lot about their secret bigotry against people who are different from them in even only one very small, insignificant way.)

Since the mid-90's, airline travel has almost without exception involved extra searches for me. Yes, for those keeping track, that is before 9/11. By extra searching I mean body pat-downs, luggage searches (they bring your hold luggage up to a private room and go through it in front of you -- I recommend buying luggage with zip-out liners unless you like sewing), searches where I have been asked to remove clothing (before we got the TSA, they often asked me to do this right in front of my fellow passengers, and got angry when I asked for a private room), and more.

To be fair, I've only ever had one cavity search. But I wonder how many of the people who are so worked up about the choice between the full-body scanner and a pat-down have ever had to take off their underwear in an airport at the command of a guy with a gun? A guy with a gun who might not even be an American citizen, since in the bad old days they didn't require that for airport security.

Back in the 90's, airport security was run by private companies. They had very little oversight. San Francisco had some of the most sadistic security staff I ever encountered, including one woman who hit me around the head with the metal-detector wand because I didn't hop to her commands fast enough, and one guy who refused to allow me to get my pat-down from a woman because it would hold up the line. I regularly had my breasts not just touched but grabbed and sometimes twisted. I've had hands and wands and whatever was available shoved between my legs. Airline travel meant bruises and humiliation for me, and sometimes bleeding.

Still, I traveled. For work, for vacation. None of my fellow travelers ever posted any outraged protests of this treatment online or in the media. There were no congressional hearings. This was considered to be reasonable security to address the threat of islamic terrorism.

The TSA has been pretty good for people like me. They train their staff, and there are standards for hiring that seem to be much better than what those private security firms used. I like that agents have to be citizens. Since the TSA took over airline security, I have not been actually physically harmed during a search, and I count that as a big plus. But I have been searched. My luggage has been dismantled. My choice of carry-on items, my reasons for travel, my religion, my place of birth, my travel plans for the next year have all been questioned at varying levels of detail. I've been asked whether I changed my name or if I have aliases I use.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when I fly. I expect that anything and everything is grounds for questioning. We arrive at the airport ridiculously early for flights because we can't be sure I won't have to go through the crazy screening. This is just how I live my life, something I have come to accept as a trade-off for living in a country with other freedoms I consider to be more important.

I have an obsessive protocol about flying. Where TSA might let a bland white American get away with thinking stick deodorant is a solid (it says "solid" right on it, after all), they inform me that anything that conforms to the shape of its container is a liquid and take it, so now deodorant goes in the plastic bag (or Noel carries it, which lets it sail right through). I don't wear underwire bras, I pack any jewelry with pins in checked luggage if I bring any at all. I don't even bother trying to bring knitting needles on the flight, because while anybody else could easily get away with it, I've replaced too much stuff that seemed innocuous and was explicitly allowed to bother. My in-flight entertainment of choice is a book, because they can search that pretty thoroughly without destroying it. But don't bring too many or they wonder what you are up to. (The ebook reader seems to be just fine, and doesn't trigger questions about why I need more than three books for an eleven-hour flight.)

As I wait my turn for my pat-down, I sit there to the side of the security line with other women who are -- strictly coincidentally, I am informed -- much like me: small, modestly dressed (which is to say not wearing a skin-tight jump suit that leaves nothing to the imagination), with Middle Eastern names. Noel, my blond, blue-eyed husband, gathers our luggage and waits for me at the end of the line. He's only gotten to share in the extra searching when we are in foreign airports, where they don't rely so heavily on stereotypes.

As I wait, I can see them pick people out of the line for enhanced search. Women with head-scarves are certain to be picked. West Asian features, check. A blonde woman wearing a long loose skirt sails through unimpeded, but any woman with brown hair and a skirt is pulled to the side so that a TSA agent can feel the area around her legs, where you can conceal a bomb. Small girls with brown skin stand with their mothers, waiting to be patted down.

I appreciate the outrage over the new scanning procedures. I really do. But the outrage is way too late. It was all fine and well when it only happened to "terror suspects" like me. As soon as the TSA realized that unequally applied security is a huge risk and started searching white babies for bombs as carefully as it searches brown babies, everybody exploded in outrage. It's too intrusive, they say. The government is literally putting its hands on my body! How can they do this to us! They should be more targeted in their approach!

Hey. I'm an American citizen. My parents are American citizens. I was born and raised in this country, and I love it above all others. Given the choice to live here or abroad, I live here. I've served my country as a civil servant, and my brother serves in the armed forces. Three generations of my family have served in the US military during wartime (OK, fine, my grandfather was in the band, but you don't waste a fine trombonist on the battlefield). In every way that really should count, I am "us." And "they" have been doing this to "us" for a really long time. So cry me a fricking river that the rest of you are going to have to learn to live with the kind of intimate contact with the fears of your fellow Americans that I've put up with for a long time.

The pat-downs are really not so bad. If I were you I'd choose them over the scans (nobody at TSA has ever offered me a medical risk assessment for the machines, so I opt out when I am allowed to). After a dozen years or so, you get used to having to submit your body to the touch of a stranger to get on a plane. It starts seeming totally normal. The idea of arriving at the airport only an hour before your flight seems laughable and unrealistic. Now you're about ready to try flying out of the Middle East, which is a whole new level of intrusive. Welcome to the real world, fellow Americans.

Why Big Government is a Conservative Value


I keep hearing conservative politicians and pundits talking about how we need to reduce the size of government. But fundamentally, Big Government, with lots of employees doing lots of jobs, is something conservatives can get behind.

The thing is, the economy is changing. We're getting a lot of jobs that require more than just a college education -- biotech, computer science, advanced materials science, that sort of thing. We're also getting jobs that are, frankly, menial, like gardeners and cooks and child care, which those high-end wage earners need because America worships "productivity" rather than wealth or happiness (which means people stay at work longer hours and don't have time to do things like clean their own home or cook their own meals).

Where the jobs are disappearing is in the middle. What kind of job can you get with a high school education? Not much of one, but one place where you can get a job is from the government. And it's a stable job, so people with minimal education can stay employed rather than constantly being on welfare or unemployment. Which is where the conservative values come in.

See, conservatives are really behind this idea of work-for-welfare. They don't want anybody to get a free handout, which is fair enough -- I think anybody who went to kindergarten would like life to be fair. But for some reason they also don't want to provide jobs for those people. (By the way, the problem with work-for-welfare is and has always been exactly what work those welfare recipients would do, and who would pay them to do it.)

I don't think anybody would argue that it is better to have an entire (and large) class of people be unemployed and unemployable than it is to have them in stable employment that pays them enough that they can pay rent, buy groceries, buy large-screen televisions (this is a fundamental American value, folks), and buy gas for their cars. But nobody seems to know who is going to employ these people who are not the brightest and best the country has to offer. I think any conservative would agree that if the options are to have this person get public assistance for the rest of their life for sitting on their butt doing nothing, or to have them go to work every day and sort mail or monitor traffic cameras, the better of the two options is the one where they are out of the house and a marginally productive member of society.

Unless, of course, by conservative you mean somebody who wants to drive down the cost of labour. And in this country, that is what conservatives do. They want to make it harder to leave your job and start your own business (by tying health care to employment), they want to shove thousands of underskilled labourers into the workforce (by reducing the size of the government), they want to create more underskilled labourers (by gutting the public education system), they want to make people desperate (by cutting off government aid to those in need), and they want to drive down the effective wage (by demanding higher and higher productivity, so the actual wage paid per dollar earned for the corporation falls). We're already competing with what amounts to slave labour in the manufacturing sector. If conservatives in America had their way, we'd have slave labour wages all over the country. If unemployment gets high enough, you will see people clamouring to lower the minimum wage, and that would make employers very happy, indeed.

I can only chalk it up to the inadequate economics and logical reasoning education that the average American gets that this agenda is very popular among the very people it harms the most (just like tax cuts for the richest seem to be very popular with people who cannot ever hope to make that enough to benefit from them). Why else would you consistently vote for politicians who are stealing the future from your children?

But if you're really a fiscal conservative, you would think it would be better to have more people employed and paying taxes, rather than having lots of people who live off the work of others for no reason other than that that is more convenient for businesses that want to make more profits. A fiscal conservative should want economic stability, not a feudal corporate system that has no job security and lots of boom and bust years that are terrific for exploiting for profit, but terrible for long-term planning and social order. Large government, government that employs lots of otherwise unemployable people and gets economic value out of them, is a conservative government.

A Few Months of Random Photos


I was clearing images off my phone this evening -- something I do very rarely because I don't tend to use my phone as a camera -- and thought I would share some of the more interesting ones.

It's like a little diary of the last six months.

Truffle Week at Olivetto

In November we went to a Truffle Week dinner at Olivetto. It was very good, but the best dish was the buttered pasta we cajoled the chef into serving us (that's us, always ordering off-menu).

This is our truffle.

Not very functional toilets

In December we went out to a nice dinner in Seattle, and I admit, I put something other than toilet paper in the toilet.

Big maple bacon donut

In Portland, Noel got a Maple Bacon donut at Voodoo Donuts (it was OK; dough a bit heavy).

Dessert at Bangkok Bay

Also in December, a nice dinner at Bangkok Bay (Redwood City) ended with this on my dessert plate.

Five egg day

In March we had our first five-egg day.

Beanie on the porch

One day our neighbor's dog ran away and came to our house (where runaway dogs apparently come in this neighborhood). When I tried to get her to come with me back to her own house, she insisted upon sitting on the knee wall like this.

I don't know how to use this machine

These were the instructions on a hand dryer somewhere in the Midwest. I don't know how to use this machine.

All sorts of cheeses

At the Cheese Chalet, in Wisconsin, a refrigerated case full of odd shapes of cheese. The photo came out really weird.

Henry and Schwa play with their cat tree

And finally, this afternoon, Henry and Schwa were having fun with their new cat tree (courtesy of a terrific coupon the SPCA gives you when you adopt an older cat). I was not aware that Henry was limber enough to get into the tube, but he seemed quite comfortable there.

Hey, Healthcare

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It should not come as a surprise that I'm a big fan of health care reform. I'd have rather had single-payer, but what we got is better than what we had before.

For me the whole issue comes down to a single question: What should be the consequences of illness?

Should you only get as much care as you can afford with whatever savings you might have? When that money runs out, should the care stop? Should you die in the streets, to be picked up by a trash crew and dumped in a landfill? Should you be treated with compassion and given the best care that makes sense?

All of those options are currently the norm in countries around the world. My own inclination is that misfortune should not be treated as a fault of the person who suffers it. Even when that person contributed to that misfortune. So when somebody is dying from lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, I still think they deserve compassionate and, yes, low-cost health care. Just the same as I think somebody who is born with a heart defect, who has not contributed anything to society except their presence, also deserves compassionate and low-cost health care.

I wonder what the health care system preferred by people who oppose health care reform would be like? What would happen when you get cancer at 25 and use up your lifetime maximum health coverage getting into remission? What should happen? Would such a person be well advised to get some kind of extremely high-paying job (please let me know where to get such a job) on short notice, so they could pay their health care costs in cash for the rest of their life?

Do those people believe that the death panels that already exist at your private insurance company, who make decisions about whether you will get coverage or not based on whether you are costing too much -- not on whether you have a chance of recovery or not -- is sufficiently compassionate, and anything else would necessarily be less compassionate?

I'm a bleeding-heart liberal. I believe civilized, compassionate people who love their country and their fellow Americans have a responsibility -- one of the ones that comes with the rights we also have -- to take care of the neediest of our people. Some people fill that responsibility by serving in the armed forces, some fill it by volunteering, some fill it by donating money. We all fill it by paying taxes that go to pay for the common good -- to pay our soldiers wages and benefits, to pay for the roads we drive on, to pay for emergency relief to disaster areas.

I'm curious how a person can morally justify believing that we should let others suffer. I've seen people say the current bill is too expensive, ignoring budget office analysis that said it would actually cost less than our current spending. I've heard people say it forces people to pay for something that may not want, but a lot of us didn't want to go to war in Iraq, and it's not as if we're going to get to opt out of paying for that. But I've never seen anybody explain what they think is the right level of caring we should have for the unfortunate. If you oppose the bill, and care to comment, I'm curious to know.

In the meantime, I'm going to celebrate that that lifetime coverage cap that was getting so close is now gone. I'm a personal beneficiary of this bill, or rather, the future me is. And you will all benefit because my ability to get ongoing medical care means I won't go on permanent medical disability and cost you even more money. Win-win!

(As a side note, I also believe that having a health care system that profits on illness and medicalization is a bad idea. It is often (OFTEN) argued to me that without profits, nobody would do the research needed to improve health care the way it has been improved in the last 50 years. That doesn't make any economic sense, because so little of that profit is actually used to reward the people who do the research. First, most medical research relies on federally funded basic science research as a starting point. So we already pay for part of that cost. But then the government hands off basic science paid for the taxpayers to corporations to develop into a product. The profit made by those corporations is used to pay the shareholders of those corporations, and the executive and marketing staffs of those corporations. If we decided to keep all operating budgets exactly the same, to employ mostly the same people in the research and development roles, but to cut out the parts of the business that are wasteful -- executive salaries and marketing budgets -- we could afford to continue to innovate and produce new medical treatments on much lower costs.)

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Wool Auction

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Today we joined some friends and drove down to Monterey for the Monterey County Fair and Wool Auction. Actually, mostly for the Wool Auction, though appropriate fair food was also consumed (Noel: corn dog; me: funnel cake and cotton candy).

I loved this fleece, but it went for way more than I could have possibly afforded:

Lovely grey fleece

Also, looking at it, I realized that I really do not want massive amounts of coloured wool. This was light enough that it would dye decently, but still, being grey took some value off it for me, as lovely as it was.

Not that there was not plenty of fleece:

Fleece preview

Anyway, for the next few hours I sat and followed along on my auction list while knitting away at my latest project, which is the Icarus Shawl that was in Interweave Knits a few years ago. It's a nice, mindless lace pattern for most of the shawl, so modulo needing to be able to count while the guy was calling all sorts of numbers out, I made decent progress.

(I'm knitting it in some laceweight hand-painted alpaca I bought a couple of years ago and wanted to use up. There's nowhere enough shawl to use all 2400 yards, but I have a sort-of plan for the leftovers.)

Knitting while the auction goes along

Fiber buddy hlf bought three fleeces, one of which we're splitting (um, I think it might be the one under her at this point; she was a little giddy). We dropped them all off to go to Morro Fleece Works. It will eventually be delivered around November or later.

hlf hugs the fiber

I think I'll end up with a few pounds of pencil roving, which is nice and easy to spin. Although I am happy with the fleece and excited about getting the end result, the drawback to buying at auction is that prices are very high (in auctions, the winner always ends up paying more than the object is worth because by definition nobody else was willing to pay that much). I think I like events like the Spinning at the Winery day better; the pressure is lower and the prices are better.

After the auction, we had lunch then made a brief tour of the livestock pavilion. This sweet grey alpaca flirted with us when it kind of looked like we might have edibles in our bags (if we did, the alpaca wasn't getting any).

Alpaca says hello

And then the long drive home in the usual terrible Sunday traffic. I forgot how backed up it gets even on 101 coming North. I was always driving against it back in the school days; Noel was the one who'd get hit with that stuff coming back from a weekend with me in SLO.

I was intrigued by this place:

Out of business

I guess they had really sold out, then.

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A few people have e-mailed me lately asking why I opted out of a recent high school reunion (20 years), or why I opted out of a recent college reunion. The answer is multi-part, but the primary reason is this: I am the most Google-able person in any graduating class I have been in.

Seriously. Type my name into any search engine, and my web site is the first result. I have one of the more unique names on Earth, and I've been creating content online since before the web was created. I've had my own domain since the early 90's, and I've had this domain since about 1995 or so, I've lost track. I live a high school and college reunion every day. My classmates get online, they go to a search engine, they type in my name, and bingo! I get this e-mail:

Hi, Ayse!!!! It's been soooo long! I can't believe I found you on the internet! I just got cable internet and looked up your name! What a blast from the past!! Remember when we did [thing]? I've been doing [things] and living in [place] and always wondered what happened to you!

Some of the pieces change, but it's pretty much the same thing. Some of these classmates stay in touch and we get to know each other again, in the cursory way you get to know somebody who hasn't bothered to stay in touch with you for twenty years, or even somebody you didn't know all that well to begin with. They add me as a Facebook friend, I return the favour. You know the routine. It's great, I love getting e-mail from people I actually know wanting to say hi, and it is nice talking to old friends. But it happens often enough that it's not as if I needed to go to a reunion to find out what happened to my old classmates.

Which brings me around to the next reason, which is that a lot of people just couldn't be bothered to stay in contact with me. It was about ten years after high school that I winnowed my contact list and thinned out the number of people I was willing to make an effort for. What I did was just stop keeping in touch with people who hadn't initiated a contact with me in five years. Despite my introvert nature, I have a lot of friends, some close and many more distant, and staying in touch takes time and energy on my part. I don't see any real reason to spend time or energy on people who can't be bothered to reciprocate when I could spend it on somebody who obviously does want my company. By definition, if one of my classmates hasn't bothered to even drop an e-mail saying hello, I see no reason at all to fly across the country to see them in person.

Which brings me to the third reason, which is that the timing of all the reunions in the last couple of years has conflicted with other things I wanted to do. Like the incredibly engaging series of seminars on building systems I took over the last three weeks (ask me about fire suppression). I already have planned travel back east for holidays later in the year, and we've had two unexpected and sad trips to Minnesota already this summer. We have an unbloggable but time-consuming event coming up in this week and possibly stretching on for more than a month. We have out-of-town guests, and family visiting. There are a few wool shows I want to go to, such as the Monterey wool auction this weekend. Then we want to actually have a little vacation together at some point, for the first time in years. Adding a weekend trip or two would require a really compelling reason.

And lastly, reunions aren't fun. The food is always terrible, there's always retrospective music (but pop, not the stuff I ever listened to) played too loud, and everybody wants you to play the role you had in high school or college. When I was at Smith I worked reunion weekend a few times, and nobody ever seemed to be having huge amounts of fun. The 5-year reunion I went to at Smith was OK, but I was getting over being seriously ill and I didn't need the extra stress of being around a bunch of people who hadn't treated me very nicely the first time around, even to see the ones who had been good friends. I had planned to stay an extra day and enjoy Northampton, then take the Peter Pan to the airport for old time's sake, but instead I called a cab and paid to change my flight because I just wanted to be home.

I go to Ithaca at least once a year. I visit Minneapolis regularly, too. Heck, we often drive across the country. I'm on Facebook and a dozen other social networking sites. I answer my e-mail relatively promptly. I think that's good enough.

A Day at the Fair

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Today my friend Elaine and I went to the County Fair in Pleasanton. We had loads of fun looking at the animals and crafts and so forth.

For example, from highlights from the Fiber Arts and Food hall:

A first prize in cake decorating:

Cake decorating

A very vibrant quilt (the colours were a bit less saturated, but not much):


I liked the pattern on this quilt:


And this was a professional entry that was very impressive:

Lighthouse quilt

Several tables were set up with place settings on themes. Most of them seemed like exercises in creative shopping, but this one impressed me because it used crafted pieces (the china was hand-painted). Plus, I loved the theme:

Shel Silverstein place setting

Then we went to the Small Animals exhibits. There were lots of animals to coo over, like these parakeets:


And this pile of bunnies:


And these awesome pigeons:

Fancy pigeons

I admit that every now and then I think I would love to have a dovecote on the roof full of pigeons. I don't know what the neighbors would think.

They would probably look at me like this:

Irritated pigeon

I also occasionally think it might be fun to buy a few dozen quail and let them loose in the neighborhood. Probably not one of my finer ideas.


This is a bantam chicken. They're basically just small versions of the same big chickens, although some breeds are not available as bantams and some are not available in full sized chickens.

Fancy bantam chicken

These geese were making quite a ruckus. Hooooonk honk honk hoooooooonk. The long necks only make it funnier.

Honking geese

We went into the "pet store" and admired the piles of ducklings and chicks for sale. Look at all these ducklings:


And loooots of day-old weensy baby chicks. These are bantams, so they are extra-tiny little puffballs.

Chicks for sale

This frog was also pretty funny. A couple came around the other side of the tank looking for him, and burst into laughter when they saw him.

Frog in a tank

There was one exhibit hall entirely filled with cages of chickens and rabbits, some for sale and others just for show:

Rabbits and chickens

This sign brought to mind a certain over-quoted movie:

Biting bunnies

Most of the rabbits seemed pretty mellow, relaxing and just sort of hanging out in their cages. A few were anxious and clearly not happy with the noise of the show. This one was keeping an eye out.

Rabbit in the show cage

This one clearly subscribed to the theory that a good nap makes everybody feel better:

Socked out rabbit

Here are a couple of angora rabbits:

Angora rabbits

And of course, chickens. This is a bantam Seabright:

Seabright chicken

Looks like somebody laid an egg.

Bantam laid an egg

We admired the plumage on the bantams; many of the smaller breeds have quite lovely feather patterning.

Nice feather colouring

Elaine was quite fond of this configuration:

Harlequin colouring

I liked these guys, though they look somewhat diseased close up:

Gelled feathers

Then it was time for lunch...

Fried foods

I had deep fried ravioli (the St. Louis treat!)

Deep fried ravioli

Elaine had a pulled pork sandwich:

Pulled pork sandwich

And for dessert we split a funnel cake, ending up entirely covered in powdered sugar:

Funnel cake

Fair food is fun, though I admit it is more fun in concept than in execution. I really just love the look of the concession stands:

More food concessions

After lunch we made our way to the large livestock pavilion. Where we saw this interesting and informative (if somewhat weird) diagram:

Steer diagram

(Did that steer have the head of a frog?)

There were some steers to look at, but the exhibit was mostly smaller hoofed animals like goats:


And sheep:


And lots and lots of pigs:

Sleeping pig

We briefly watched a steer show:

Steer show

Then headed off into the Amateur Garden exhibit hall. We learned how cows are awesome and help prevent fires:

Amateur gardens hall

And learned that you should eat carrots, raw eggs, and pellets, but should not eat carrot tops or broccoli.

What you can and can't eat

We admired the cut flowers entered in the show:

Flower judging

Saw a small urban gardening exhibit,

Urban gardening exhibit

And spent quite a bit of time ogling the beekeeping booth.

Beekeeping exhibit

Including a terrific observation hive setup:

Observation hive

I liked this ice cream stand, which reminded me of driving around with my sisters-in-law last month, looking for vanilla/chocolate twist soft serve in Minneapolis.

Ice cream stand

And boggled at this until i realized it did not say "Shiksa Shack":

Shiksa Shack?

Then we made a brief stop in the Small Animals exhibit again to make a purchase:

Bunny being purchased

Yup, Elaine bought herself a lovely gray female English Angora rabbit, and I've promised to teach her how to spin its fur (since I can't tolerate being around rabbits enough to do it for her).

We made one last stop for cotton candy on the way out, and then it was time to go home and get the new bunny settled.

Cotton candy to go

A great day for all concerned, except maybe the rabbit did not care for the car ride home.

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School Will Make You Gay


Here's something crazy. Our local school district is working on a curriculum addition about gay families. Kind of a no-brainer around here, where kids have to deal with other kids from all kinds of family situations.

A group of "concerned parents"* is objecting to teaching children to be tolerant of others because "It appears to be advocacy for homosexual causes that goes beyond the mission of providing safe schools"

If you're straight, what would it take to convince you to go gay? And if somebody simply telling you to be polite to your classmates who are gay or have gay parents would do it, what on earth made you think you were straight in the first place? I keep seeing this objection, and it never makes any sense. The idea that advertising might convince somebody who was otherwise biologically oriented to the opposite sex that they might want to try being gay (and that they would like it!) is baffling to me. And if the only thing keeping you from switching teams is not knowing the definition of "lesbian" or that gay families exist, you might as well just break out the hot pants and rainbow flag right now.

Even weirder, the group suggests that the only reason to protect gay children from harassment at school is if they are the only ones who ever get bullied: "There are no statistics indicating that only children with issues related to homosexuality in their lives are at risk of bullying in elementary school." As if it's OK for them to be bullied and harassed because at least kids who are geeky or handicapped get bullied along with them, right?

Now, I'm not sure how much of a difference a curriculum like this will make in bullying. But I can tell you that every kid growing up in the US right now needs to learn to be nice to kids who aren't like them and not use rude words. This is not about safety, it's about job skills. If you can't play nicely with others, and you rely on a series of uninformed stereotypes about other people, you will find it harder and harder to get far in this world unless you have very wealthy and powerful parents (which you do not have if you are going to the public schools in Alameda).

Also, it would be a kindness to explain terms to any kid who got to fourth grade without knowing what "dyke" and "fag" mean. Are there any kids that age who don't know? All the kids that age on my block know what they mean and that they are derogatory, and this curriculum hasn't been implemented yet.

* I find it hard to actually credit this as coming from real concerned parents because the member list is suspiciously empty, and the only name given is "Concerned Parent." What are they afraid of? There's no evidence that only anti-gay activists are at risk of harassment when they air their views.

Bridge by Boat

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This month is Architecture and the City month in San Francisco, and on Thursday, Noel and I took a boat tour of the Bay Bridge construction offered by the AIA.

Unless you take the ferry a lot, you likely do not get this sort of view of the Bay Bridge. The tour was totally sold out, and I think they could have done another one, easily, given the number of people I know who wanted to go but couldn't. And only a little over half the people there were architects or engineers.

Looking at the Bay Bridge

Some people who are not very good with history or current events have mentioned to me that they thought it was stupid that they were replacing a perfectly good bridge at great expense. To them I must point out this image, courtesy of the USGS, of that "perfectly good bridge" in October, 1989.

Bay Bridge, collapsed

They've patched the bridge up, obviously. I go over that bridge a couple of times a day on my way too and from work. But if you're not nervous on that bridge, you have never heard a Caltrans engineer tell you what sort of foundation it has.

Get this: this bridge, over which hundreds of thousands of people pass daily, is on wooden piers that run only about ninety feet into the soft Bay mud. It's like a bridge built on a foundation of steel-reinforced pudding. It might sound strong, but it's worth nothing whatsoever.

That foundation is the reason why the bridge could not be upgraded: it would cost many times more than the new bridge, and the upper portion would still need upgrades, too.

Where the bridge broke

Anyway, that's the reasons why they're replacing the bridge, so let's get out on that boat tour.

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A Little Architecture About Town


I've changed how I walk to work slightly to avoid all the smokers on Market, and now I go by this site every day. This is the Contemporary Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Liebskind. Wikipedia says it opened in 2007, but it seems remarkably difficult to get into it on account of how they are in the process of placing concrete to make the large plaza that will connect it to Yerba Buena Gardens. I'm not a big fan of cultural museums like this (I prefer science or art museums), so it hasn't occurred to me to visit before now.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The museum is on a pedestrian alley that connects Market St. to Mission, the location of Beard Papa (which is closed when I make my commute, so no temptation to stop and get a $2.25 cream puff every day, thank goodness) and some interesting water features. There are a few of these pedestrian alleys along Market and they are always interesting, although not always very alive. This one is more so because it has a few restaurants along it, and also it is wider than the usual ones.

This is one of the fountains, which are very subtle but look like a lot of work (see the mineral stains on the bottom there?). I like how they add the sound of moving water without having spouts of water shooting everywhere. In a windy area, spouts of shooting water always mean wet pedestrians.

Water features in the alley

On Wednesday, I got a different view, because a few of us went out to the UCSF Mission Bay campus to do a materials study (holding material samples up to the walls of existing buildings and photographing them for comparison). The building I'm working on is out there, and the client wants the colour scheme to fit with the neighboring buildings to reinforce the sense of campus. While we were there I took this photo, from the terrace on Genentech Hall looking downtown.

View from Genentech Hall, UCSF Mission Bay

The campus is remarkably postmodern, which is not a great thing in my mind -- I think the whole pomo thing is going to look very dated in a very short time. Also, I think it tends to look a little sterile and contrived. Fortunately, most of the buildings have managed to avoid looking like they belong at Disneyland (Michael Graves designed much of Disney's corporate architecture).

UCSF Mission Bay is the research/technology campus (hence places like Genentech Hall) on the edge of a big redevelopment of Mission Bay into a biotech center. It's pretty ambitious on the part of the city, and it seems to be doing well so far.

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