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Archive for January, 2007

January 30th, 2007

Hubble And The Loss Of Part Of ACS

I’m always reluctant to post about Hubble and my work at the Space Telescope Science Institute, largely because I am not any sort of leading engineer or astronomer on the project.  I am merely one of the support Nibelung down in the software engineering services branch.  A happy Nibelung, if such a thing is possible, yes.  When they offered me the job at Space Telescope I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  But I cannot possibly speak for the Institute on anything that’s news breaking.  You are far better off getting it from our public outreach people then me.  They see the whole picture.  I can only see my little part of it.

But I have family and friends who are expressing some concern about Hubble, in light of the news that we’ve lost one of the really good Hubble cameras, the Advanced Camera for Surveys.  Well…actually we’ve only lost two channels of it, the Wide Field channel and the High Resolution channel.  There is still the Solar Blind channel, which I’m hearing now they expect to get back online eventually.

What you need to remember is that we still have NICMOS, and WFPC2.  The Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 has brought us many wonderful images, including the famous "Pillars of Creation" image from the Eagle Nebula.  The Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer has been used to penetrate deep into the heart of star forming regions, revealing features connected with the process of star formation.

So Hubble is still very much a capable telescope.  And NASA is committed to our Servicing Mission 4, which is currently scheduled for September of 2008.  SM4 will give Hubble a new and improved Wide Field Camera, which the folks at the Institute are expecting to be will essentially be an even more sophisticated successor to ACS. 

Space is a hostile environment, and you have to expect that even our best, most ruggedly built instruments will take hits that do serious damage the longer their missions go on.  But Hubble has kept plugging away, thanks in large part to our astronauts who have done such a wonderful job keeping our telescope healthy and up to date.  They’re going to give it one more service call and that, I’m afraid, will be it.  But the expectation is that Hubble will, after that servicing mission, give us many more years of breathtaking science.  Hopefully the James Webb space telescope will be in place to continue in Hubble’s footsteps, when Hubble’s mission is over. 

At the moment they’re busy juggling around the projects the science community wants to do on Hubble.  Obviously things that depended on ACS’s two lost channels can’t go forward for now.  But other research will fill in the gaps and when the new instruments are installed many things that were postponed can go forward I’m sure.  Even with the loss of most of ACS, Hubble will still be very, very busy between now and SM4.  We all still have much to look forward to. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Hubble And The Loss Of Part Of ACS

January 29th, 2007

Trying To Bloom In A Season Of Ice

Walking home from work today, I was noting all the things that had been trying to bloom just a couple weeks ago.  We had this very warm snap for a couple of weeks here in Baltimore, and now it’s below freezing again.  I passed a honeysuckle bush that was covered in blossoms, all shriveled and wilting now in the bitter cold.  I felt sorry for them.  There you are, a little bud sleeping.  And one day the warmth and sunshine wakens you, beckons you out, and you open up, extend your color to the world.  And then it starts getting cold.  Hey…where’s my summer…???  But you don’t know that there is no summer here.  And then the ice comes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trying To Bloom In A Season Of Ice

January 28th, 2007

Peterson Toscano in Portland

Good interview of Peterson in the Portland Mercury…

Ex-Ex-Gay
Peterson Toscano: A Survivor of the Ex-Gay Movement

For 17 years, Toscano identified as a "born-again, conservative, evangelical, Republican Christian," at odds with his orientation. He now travels the country to educate people on the dangers of ex-gay programs, and how he was finally able to reconcile his faith (now as a Quaker) with his identity.

If his show ever comes around to your neck of the woods you just have to see it.  It is amazing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Peterson Toscano in Portland


Respect

From the cartoon page…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Respect


I Need To Get Out Into The World More…

via Der Spiegel…from their Germany Survivor Bible series.  From the people who brought us Twlight of the Gods

Bernd das Brot [Bernd The Breadloaf] is a star on the German children’s TV network KIKA. He can best be described as a German Muppet in the form of a loaf of bread, and he hosts the show with his two comrades, Chili das Schaf (Chili the Sheep) and Briegel der Busch (Briegel the Bush). It’s a "variety" show with skits and music and lots of additional (human) actors, musicians and dancers. Bernd and his friends were, I believe, intended to appeal to children; but soon their popularity grew with teens and young adults and became a cult classic that still airs on KIKA — at a time of night when most of the Kinder should be sound asleep.

I first "met" Bernd in the summer of 2005. Each year, I bring a group of American college students to Germany for a study abroad program based in Düsseldorf. I was resting in my apartment one evening, channel surfing, and I stumbled onto Bernd’s show. I was instantly hypnotized. What on earth was this madness, and how could it be happening in Germany? But as it slowly dawned on me that Bernd was the German Everyman (or Everybread?).

Unlike his friends Chili and Briegel — who are unremittingly upbeat and happy and excited about life and their adventures — Bernd is a manic depressive. Here is a bread whose main tag line, used repeatedly in the skits is "Mein Leben ist die Hölle" ("My life is hell"). He admonishes his audience that he’s had enough, he’s going home, and you, the viewer, should as well! "Geh nach Hause!" says Bernd in his resonant, gloomy baritone. He hates us all and isn’t ashamed to admit it. He is the dark night of the German soul anthropomorphized as a bakery item…

And I thought I had My moments of Freudlosigkeit

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Need To Get Out Into The World More…


Another Reason Why I Oppose The Death Penalty

Via aTypical Joe

Brian Krebs on Computer Security:

A 40-year-old former substitute teacher from Connecticut is facing prison time following her conviction for endangering students by exposing them to pornographic material displayed on a classroom computer.

Local prosecutors charged that the teacher was caught red-handed surfing for porn in the presence of seventh graders. The defense claimed the graphic images were pop-up ads generated by spyware already present on the computer prior to the teacher’s arrival. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted her of four counts of endangering a child, a crime that brings a punishment of up to 10 years per count. She is due to be sentenced on March 2.

I had a chance this week to speak with the accused, Windham, Conn., resident Julie Amero. Amero described herself as the kind of person who can hardly find the power button on a computer, saying she often relies on written instructions from her husband explaining how to access e-mail, sign into instant messaging accounts and other relatively simple tasks.

Read the entire article, clickthrough to its links. You will find that in this case, as in so many others, the jury believed the police over a computer forensics expert and the testimony of the teacher. Said the expert:

This was one of the most frustrating experiences of my career, knowing full well that the person is innocent and not being allowed to provide logical proof.

If there is an appeal and the defense is allowed to show the entire results of the forensic examination in front of experienced computer people, including a computer literate judge and prosecutor, Julie Amero will walk out the court room as a free person.

You know what?  I’ll bet that prosecutor kept anyone in the jury pool who was a computer professional from sitting on that jury. 

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Another Reason Why I Oppose The Death Penalty

January 27th, 2007

Windows In A Box

[Geek Alert…] 

I’ve been getting very tired of having to shut down Linux and boot into Windows, every time I just wanted to run my checkbook program.  That one little program is pretty much all that’s tying me to Windows now for my own personal use.  Between the Macs and Linux I can pretty much deal with the other hassles of living in Bill’s World.  But there is just no good replacement for that checkbook program I use that runs on Linux and that’s surprising because I don’t ask much of a checkbook program.  I just want something to reconcile my bank accounts with the statements and, most importantly, print standard wallet size checks.  Yet there is nothing out there for Linux that prints those kinds of checks, something both Money and Quicken have done since the MS-DOS days.

So that leaves me stuck with my old checkbook program, which is Money 97.  Yes…I’m still using Money 97.  I like the user interface, and it just works.  But not in Wine, the so-called Windows emulator API for Linux.  And that doesn’t surprise me because I don’t think anything I’ve ever tried to run in Wine has ever worked.  But recently I was tasked to investigate VM technology for possible use in the software test center where I work.   As I did so, I began to think VM technology might be my answer…at least until a viable native Linux alternative to my checkbook software popped up.

A Virtual Machine is a program that emulates hardware, and upon which you can (theoretically) run a different Operating System within the one currently running.  Until the Intel based Macs came out recently, Macintosh users could use a product called Virtual PC to run Windows in, and thereby the Windows applications they needed that simply didn’t exist for the Mac.  You have to have a license for the "guest" OS you’re running, and there is a performance penalty due to the overhead of running inside an emulator.  But it makes running two different OSs at the same time on the same physical machine possible.

VMWare offers two free products that will run on Linux: VMWare server and VMPlayer.  But the server wasn’t really the kind of desktop setup I was looking for, and the free VMPlayer will only run pre-made VMs.  I did a little looking around though, and found some websites that will allow you to download a kind of VM template for Windows…an empty VM that’s ready to install the OS in.   I tried the one on www.easyvmx.com.  It limits you to a 640×480 desktop, and puts Windows in it’s own isolated disk image based file system. But it allows network card bridging (your guest OS can have its own network address). You just fill out a few items in their form and then you download your ready to run VM. I gave my VM a 10 gigabyte disk image to play in, and 1 gigabyte out of my 4 of core ram.  I figured even if it was locked into it’s own private file system, I could still share files via the network.

I decided I would run my copy of Windows 2000 inside the VM, since there is no software branding on 2000.  I assumed that XP would regard the VM as a new machine, and it only allows you to re-install it on two new machine configurations before you have to call Redmond and explain to them that you’re not a pirate.  I’ve already used one my XP license lives due to a motherboard failure on Mowgli so I didn’t think I’d be able to install XP at all on VMPlayer.  

VMPlayer installs via your usual Linux rpm package, and it set up without a hitch on CentOS, which is the Linux I’m running here at Casa del Garrett.  The VM I downloaded from easyvmx came in a zip file that I unzipped in my home directory. First you have to run the VMPlayer config script, vmware-install.pl which makes you agree to a license, and then confusingly asks you many of the same questions that the form on the easyvmx website does.  After that’s done you can run the VM by simply entering “vmplayer (vm).vmx” where (vm) is the name of the .vmx file in your easyvmx VM template directory.

When it first comes up without the OS installed it tries to boot, first from the CD player and then from the floppy.  So you install your guest OS just as you would if you were installing on a naked PC. So far so good.  My Windows 2000 install CDs boot from a set of four floppy disks.  VMPlayer was able to boot from them and then install from the CD without trouble.  When it comes up, it does so in a small 640×480 window. When you click inside the window your mouse and keyboard work with the guest OS.   But to get back out of it you have to hit control-alt. You can also hit alt-g to enter the guest OS.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my network card to work with it, and that was a deal breaker.  Without networking I’d have been reduced to shuttling my checkbook files back and forth via the floppy drive or the CD, assuming I could get CD burning software to work on it.  Still not sure what the problem was since from what I’m reading VMWare seems to work just fine with nearly every network card out there.  Worse, I also couldn’t get it to work with my printer, which I would have needed to print checks from my checkbook program. The VMPlayer kept complaining it couldn’t access the LPT port.  I figure my default print queue was holding it open.  I might have been able to access the print queue alternatively via the network, but I couldn’t get networking to work.  So I was hosed.

So that left me with either springing for VMWare Desktop ($190), or another product, Win4Lin (currently $70). The reviews of Win4Lin looked promising, and this Wikipedia page gave it a pretty good looking pedigree.  Even better, Win4Lin claimed to integrate the guest OS with the Linux file system directly, something VMPlayer wouldn’t do, so I could easily share files with it without needing the networking, if I couldn’t get my card to work with it.  Win4Lin pro sells for $70 currently. The web site claims the price is only good through October of last year (the normal price is $90), but I was still able to buy it at the sale price. They offered a money back guarantee. It looked promising so I decided to take a chance on it.

Win4Lin’s requirements page practically screams at you that they won’t support anything but certain Windows bootable CD-ROMs (oddly…all Win2k bootables except SP3)…yet when I read the documentation it looks like it will install a Guest Windows OS  from bootable floppies too, as well as directly from an MSDN library disk…which could be really handy because the only other way to install Windows from an MSDN disk on a naked PC is to make bootable floppies.

But based on what I read from their requirements page, I looked around for ways to make a bootable CD from my MSDN CDs.  I found this page, which gives you a good set of tools and step by step instructions.  Except it was only after following those instructions and creating a Windows 2000 CD with service pack three on it that I discovered that SP3 is The One Windows Install CD That Win4Lin Does Not Support.  Dang.  So I had to go back and make another bootable CD without the service packs.

Win4Lin installs via an RPM, just like VMPlayer, and needs certain kernel development packages handy on the host machine to allow its service module to be built on the fly. The documentation leads you through installing these on your Linux box on a wide variety of different distributions, but it seems as though all it needs is the kernel development package and the GCC compiler, so I can’t imagine any distribution that wouldn’t be able to run this. The rpm installed on my CentOS system without a hitch. After the rpm is applied, you run a configuration program which sets up the VM and its service, asking you some questions along the way about how much memory and how big you want the system disk image to be, and whether or not you want it to access the Linux file system.

Then you run a "load Windows" program which gobbles up your bootable CD into a disk image. They advertise a simple “one-click-to-Windows” setup, but I chose to do each step myself from a terminal window.  When I ran this part of the install it worked for a while and then complained that it couldn’t read my Windows CD.  So I put in a different one and ran it again. This time the software complained that a Windows CD had already been “installed”.  Hmmmm.  I tried the optional command switch that allows a reinstall of the Windows CD, and the process started back up again, and after reading the CD for a while gave me the same error message it did before.  So just for kicks I just went to the next step, which was to run the Windows install off the CD image Win4Lin had theoretically just gobbled up.  It ran without a hitch.  I’m guessing that for some reason the disk image program just wasn’t handling the end of the CD correctly.

The "install Windows" program runs the Windows installer off the disk image it just gobbled up, and then promptly shuts down the VM, and puts a link on your desktop. Double click on the link and a new window comes up and you can watch Windows booting inside of it, just as if it were booting on a stand alone PC.  Win4Lin gives it a nice 1024×768 desktop window right out of the box. I’ve not tried fiddling with it to see if I could change anything. There is a full screen mode too, which I’ve not examined yet.

Moving the mouse cursor into the window made the VM and its guest OS active, moving the mouse out made my Linux desktop active. The first thing I noticed was that the keyboard sometimes got confused as to the state it was in when I went back into the VM from the Linux desktop, and appear to be locked up.  It wasn’t, it was just in the wrong shift state for some reason.  I eventually discovered simply hitting the alt key whenever that happened would clear it up.  Hitting Shift F12 while inside the VM window brings up a menu of special keystrokes you can send to the guest OS, such as control-alt-delete, and the cut and paste functionality.

Networking worked right off the bat. I could bring up IE and it went right out to the network without a hitch. Charmingly, Win4Lin had somehow made their home page my browser’s initial default home page.  I reckon that happened via some OEM switch they used during the install.  Win4Lin does not support network card bridging, so my guest OS had the same network address as the host.  But it all seemed to work just fine.

Integration with the Linux file system in Win4Lin works like this: Windows is installed on it’s own disk image file under your /home/winpro directory. This becomes your Windows ‘C’ drive. But Win4Lin also puts in a link to a “//HOST/home/My Documents” directory it creates (if it isn’t already there).  In your Windows explorer this looks like your usual My Documents directory.  But it’s on your Linux file system as a normal user directory. You can put symbolic links in that directory to other parts of your file system as needed, and they show up in your Windows explorer as folders under My Documents.

If you install Windows off a disk image that Win4Lin has gobbled up, that image also shows up on your Windows explorer. So any time you change your Windows configuration and it needs to fetch something off your install CD it’s always right there. I suppose this is why they want people to install Windows their way, and not directly off the install CD.

You add your printer by adding it as the network printer: //HOST/host-printer, and then specifying the Apple LaserWriter printer driver. This is a generic postscript printer driver that talks to your default Linux print queue. Following those instructions I was able to get Windows talking to my old HP Laserjet from within the VM without any trouble.

Then I installed my old version of MS Money. The autorun CD feature on Windows works just fine on Win4Lin.  You put the CD in and, on CentOS anyway, the CD auto mounts and (since I’m running KDE) a Konqueror browser window automatically pops up, as usual.  But if the Win4Lin VM is up, the Windows running inside it detects the inserted CD too, brings up an explorer window on it, and the autorun feature starts if present.  The Money install went off without a hitch.  Then I ran the check printing setup, and printed a test check.  It came out exactly right.

So I was in business.  I decided to bring my Windows 2000 instance fully up to date.  I installed IE6, and then ran Windows update to bring it up to it’s final version.  Redmond won’t be producing a version of IE 7 for Windows 2k. But the last version of IE 6 is enough to get me past another couple of Linux/Firefox annoyances, such as my UMUC online web class site, which oddly keeps insisting that the current version of Firefox doesn’t support Javascript 1.5, on Linux, but when I run it on the Mac and Windows it’s fine.  When that was done I had an IE I could run from within Linux for those occasions when I was hitting on a web site that only worked right in IE.  As a test I logged onto my UMUC web classroom able to navigate around it without any problems.

After I had IE6 up to date, I could install the latest Windows Update active-x control and finish updating Windows.  That was when I realized something else about running Windows inside a VM.  What’s nice about Linux and MacOS is that doing a system backup is a fairly straightforward process, compared to Windows.  There are no hidden system files or delicate registries…it’s just a matter of copying files from one place to another.  In the VM, the Windows system disk resides on a disk image file and that makes it a simple matter to back up and do a system restore of Windows if necessary.  I made several safety backups of my Windows VM image file as I went through the process of applying all the Windows 2000 service patches, until I had an up to date (or as up to date as it will ever be now that Redmond has pretty much stopped supporting it) Windows 2000 installation.

Then just for kicks I tried installing iTunes for Windows. You can share your iTunes library on your local network, and when I’m running XP on Mowgli I can listen to my iTunes library on Bagheera, which is my iPod’s authorized computer, through the iTunes instance I have installed on Windows.  I thought it would be nice to be able to listen to my iTunes music while running Linux too.  iTunes installed in the VM okay, and after I poked a couple holes in the CentOS firewall for its ports, it detected the shared library on Bagheera.  But nothing would play.  Nothing.  Not the DRM’ed music nor the non-DRM-ed stuff I’d ripped from my own CDs.    iTunes would just sit there, with not even the track elapsed time counter moving.  As a test I tried directly importing and playing a local mp3 file into it and it still wouldn’t play.   I don’t know if that’s a Win2k issue or one with the VM, but I ended up uninstalling iTunes.  Oh well.  I can still plug my iPod into Mowgli’s audio input jacks.

The soundcard is gracefully shared between Windows and Linux.  I could get Windows media player to play some mp3 files in Windows and XMMS to play those same files in Linux.  I didn’t try playing them at the same time, I just wanted to know that playing one wouldn’t stomp all over the other.  It didn’t.  The desktop sound effects in both CentOS and Windows worked fine while the VM was up.

I installed only the basic Sun Java VM, not the SDK.  Then I installed my copy of Office 2000, mostly just for files that only Word or Excel would read.  So now I pretty much have everything I need to keep running Linux nearly all the time, without needing to swap hard drives back and forth whenever I suddenly need to run a Windows only program.  

Windows runs without any noticeable sluggishness on Mowgli inside this VM.  Mowgli, let it be said, is a 2 Ghz AMD Athlon 3200 64 bit machine with 4 gigabytes of ram.  I installed all this on 32 bit CentOS though. 

It works. So far, I’ve zero complaints about it, and I’m a bit amazed. This was really very simple to do with this VM product.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

January 26th, 2007

McHale’s Nay

From our Letters To The Editor Department…

To: editor@365Gay.com
Subject: Really Swell Ernest Borgnine Profile

Why the hell is a 365Gay giving space to an AP puff piece about the man who said of Brokeback Mountain the night of last year’s Academy Awards Ceremony: "I didn’t see it and I don’t care to see it…. If John Wayne were alive, he’d be rolling over in his grave"???  Has John Wayne stopped rolling now or something?


Bruce Garrett
Baltimore, Maryland.

  

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on McHale’s Nay


We Have Our Standards After All…

So Utah’s only (out) gay state senator Scott McCoy, a democrat who represents Salt Lake City, is proposing now that Utah repeal its sodomy law.  Such laws were rendered unenforceable when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas.   At least that’s the theory…Virginia seems to disagree but then Virginia has a history of that sort of thing.  So McCoy is stepping up to the plate and asking Utah to do the right thing now…

After all…as McCoy says, this is about getting government out of our lives.  What wouldn’t conservatives like about that, eh?

Bill would repeal law against sodomy

Utah’s only openly gay senator is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the state’s anti-sodomy law. But Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill has nothing to do with his sexuality.

"I’m doing this bill for all the consenting adults who don’t want the government’s nose in their business," he said. "It applies to heterosexual individuals with equal force." 

McCoy will try to gain support from conservative lawmakers who routinely support legislation aimed at Utah’s gay population by describing his bill as a "conservative" measure.

"This is a ‘government get out of my life’ bill," McCoy said. 

Well then conservatives should love it…right?  Hahahahahaha!

 But McCoy’s measure will still face heavy opposition from people such as West Jordan Republican Sen. Chris Buttars.

He promised Wednesday to "fight that all the way."

"You can like sodomy, I don’t," he said. "I think sodomy is sickening."

And as every conservative knows, government exists to enforce their own personal likes and dislikes on everyone else.  Particularly when it comes to people’s intimate lives.  But when it comes to protecting the safety of children, not so much.  If you look at the front page of Thursday’s Salt Lake Tribune, right next to the story of Scott McCoy’s attempt to get Utah to repeal its sodomy laws is this little gem:

Mandatory booster seats bill gets killed in the full House

The full House killed its first bill of the session on Wednesday, which would have required parents to place their children ages 5 to 8 in a car booster seat.

Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, sponsored HB209 saying that seat belts can be dangerous for youngsters.

"Seat belts designed for adult use are inappropriate for children," he said. "They simply don’t fit their bodies."

That argument didn’t sway many Republicans who argued that forced booster seats would place a burden on parents and grandparents who take care of many children.

"I don’t know if it would be practical," said Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

Provo GOP Rep. Chris Herrod said the bill unnecessarily impacts parental rights.

Swell.  We have a perfect right to tell consenting adults what kinds of sex they can and cannot have, but we couldn’t possibly mandate child safety seats because that would be an intrusion into people’s private affairs.  Who says republicans don’t have standards?

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

January 23rd, 2007

Sanctity

I remember vividly the day I realized for the first time that I was in love.  A more magical, wonderful moment there has never been.  I’d gone through most of my adolescence thinking love and sex were boring, stupid, icky things only jocks and dweebs cared about.  And then in an instant the world, and my life, became more richer and fuller then anything I could have ever imagined before.  When he smiled, I smiled.  When he looked at me a certain way, my heart would skip a beat.  Life was more wonderful, more beautiful, then I’d ever thought it could be.  Everything my eyes beheld seemed to radiate the joy I felt inside of me.  The future beckoned, bright with promise.  So long as we could be together I thought, everything was possible.  I was 17.  He was 17.  I would live my entire life over again, and every bully’s fist, every curse, every attack on my person, every assault on my intimate spirituality by piss ignorant bible thumpers, every job I’d ever been fired from for being gay, every opportunity denied, every tear I’ve ever shed in loneliness…I’d live it all over again, so long as I could live that moment over again too.

Now I’m 53, and desperately lonely.  But I know better then to blame my sexual orientation for that.  Rather, I never fully appreciate how much harder a gay person has to work at finding their other half, even in the best of tolerant cultures, let alone ours.  We are few, and when you realize how hard it is for heterosexuals to find the love of their lives, you wonder how gay people can even hope to stand a chance at it.  But many of us do…I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it is beautiful.  Some people are just naturally good at the dating and mating game.  But most of us aren’t, and especially the deathly shy and clumsy ones like me.  But were I heterosexual, I’d have had the unquestioned support of the culture around me in guidance and nurturing and encouragement.  Instead I had to endure not merely indifference, but outright hostility toward my efforts at finding love.  I can’t help thinking now, how much different my life might have been had I lived in a culture where same sex lovers were given the same respect, the same chance to succeed, that heterosexuals take for granted.  I’d have known earlier on that boys could fall in love with other boys.  Perhaps I’d have been more ready when my first love came into my life.  Things may have turned out differently.  But I didn’t grow up in that culture.  I grew up in one where the lives of gay people are the monopoly money with which so many heterosexuals buy their righteousness.

My fury at the way same sex marriage is under attack is in large measure a reaction to my own loneliness I’m sure.  I don’t think even my close friends know how utterly solitary my life is these days.  Fighting off the loneliness is a constant battle and it leaves me emotionally drained.  And then I hear some self righteous jackass step up to the pulpit to denounce same sex lovers as unfit to enter into the Sanctity Of Marriage and I think of how much that unmitigated contempt for the hearts of gay people has taken away from my own life and I just want to shove their faces into a burning wall.  It’s that kind of anger that worries my friends, and I’ve had more then a few recently tell me that I’m getting too angry.  But as long as I still believe finding my other half is possible to me, I’m unlikely to act it out.  When I meet him, I want to be worthy.  But I won’t deny that it is a struggle to keep anger, from becoming hate.

Sanctity.  I’ve loved and lost several more times since I was 17, but even so my dating history is a pitifully short one.  I’m just too damn shy.  Most of the heterosexuals I knew in school had been on several times as many dates as I’ve ever had by the time they were out of college.  You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find prince charming, as they say.  And it’s true.  But when it did happen to me, it was so wonderful, so awesome, so profoundly life affirming that to this day I just can’t grasp what kind of bottomless pit must exist in someone’s heart to make them want to spit on the affections of two people in love.  But every time they say they’re fighting to protect the sanctity of marriage, that’s exactly what they’re doing.  And I am convinced now, that a lot of them do it knowing full well how deeply it cuts into the hearts of gay people.  But if we don’t bleed, they’re not righteous.  So we have to bleed.

Sanctity…let me tell you about Sanctity…

Partner’s death ends happy life on ranch
2 decades together mean nothing in Oklahoma law

By Jessie Torrisi
Columbia News Service
December 31, 2005

On the face of it, Sam Beaumont, 61, with his cowboy hat, deep-throated chuckle and Northwestern drawl, is not so different from the ranch hands in Ang Lee’s Critically acclaimed film "Brokeback Mountain," which opened in  Indianapolis on Wednesday.

"Listen," the character Twist says to del Mar as part of a dream that goes unrealized. "I m thinking, tell you what, if you and me had a little ranch together –little cow and calf operation, your horses – it’d be some sweet life."

That pretty much describes the life Beaumont had. He settled down  with Earl Meadows and tended 50 head of cattle for a quarter-century on an Oklahoma ranch. "I was raised to be independent. I didn’t really care what other people thought," Beaumont said.  In 1977, Beaumont was divorced and raising three sons after a dozen years in the Air Force when Meadows walked up to him near the Arkansas River.

"It was a pretty day — January 15th, 65 degrees," Beaumont said. "He came up, we got to talkin’ till 2 in the morning. I don’t even remember what we said." But "I knew it was something special."

Beaumont moved to be with Meadows in his partner’s hometown of Bristow,Okla., a place of 4,300 people. Together, they bought a ranch and raised Beaumonts three sons. The mortgage and most of the couple’s possessions were put in Meadows’ name.

"People treated them fine," said Eunice Lawson, who runs a grocery store in Bristow. But in 1999, Meadows had a stroke and Beaumont took care of him for a year until he died at age 56.

That’s where the fantasy of a life together on the range collides with reality. After a quarter-century on the ranch he shared with his partner, Beaumont lost it all on a legal technicality in a state that doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships.

Meadows will, which left everything to Beaumont, was fought in court by a cousin of the deceased and was declared invalid by the Oklahoma Court of Appeals in 2003 because it was short one witness signature.

A judge ruled the rancher had to put the property, which was appraised at $100,000, on the market. The animals were sold. Beaumont had to move.

"They took the estate away from me," said Beaumont, who said he put about $200,000 of his own money into the ranch. "Everything that had Earl’s name on it, they took. They took it all and didn’t bat an eye.

Every state has common-law marriage rules that protect heterosexual couples. If someone dies without a will, or with a faulty one, his or her live-in partner is treated as the rightful inheritor.

But only seven states currently give gay couples protections — such as inheritance rights and health benefits — through marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships. What’s more, Oklahoma last year amended its state constitution to ensure that neither marriage nor any similar arrangement is extended to same-sex couples.

Last year, Beaumont moved to nearby Wewoka, Okla., to a one-bedroom place with 350 acres for his horses, white Pyrenees and Great Dane to roam.  

Sanctity.  I got your Sanctity right here…

He said he was continuing to fight the cousins, who are suing for back rent for the years he lived on the ranch.

Sanctity.  They took the ranch Earl left to his beloved Sam away.  But you need to understand that it wasn’t so much about taking the ranch away from Sam, as taking Earl away from him, and everything inside of Sam, that remembers Earl in peace and contentment and joy.  That’s why they’re suing for back rent.  So that Sam won’t be able to remember any of the years they had together without feeling pain, so any place inside of Sam where there was once love, must be emptied.  They want what was rightfully theirs, back.  Not merely the ranch, but the love Sam felt for Earl. 

When they speak to you about the Sanctity of Marriage, this is what they mean.  Our hearts must be empty.  Our lives must be empty.  If they’re not, if we’ve somehow managed despite their best efforts to find our other half, then we’ve stolen what rightfully belongs to them…Sanctity…And they want it back.  If they have to cut our hearts open to get it.

Sanctity.

One final note…  I don’t expect everyone in my life to agree with every political or moral stand I take.  And there was a time when I’d make exceptions for family.  But since mom passed away a few years ago my heart has grown that much lonelier, and that much harder, and I am disinclined now to accept excuses, let alone make any for people who have been content to sit back and watch me walk into my fifties utterly alone.  I have gone to bed with an aching heart for far, far too long to politely ignore the knife in my back.  If you’re about denying gay people, if you’re about denying Me, the means to find our someone to love and to build a life together with them to the best of our ability…And That Damn Well Means Also The Right To Marry Them If They Consent…then you are no friend of mine.  I do not know you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sanctity

January 22nd, 2007

Remember…It’s THOU Shalt Not. I’ll Do As I Damn Well Please.

So it seems that now you can go to jail for life for committing adultery in Michigan…

Footnote on adultery turns into a spotlighted affair

In Michigan, adultery has long been a felony.

But when a judge warned that unfaithful spouses could technically be sentenced to life in prison, an obscure and seldom-used provision of the state’s criminal law became the subject of international scrutiny.

It’s unclear how serious Judge William Murphy of the Michigan Court of Appeals was when he pointed out the possible consequences of extramarital sex. Some observers say the liberal judge was making a political point by taking a strict interpretation of the law to an absurd conclusion.

Others have suggested Murphy was trying to embarrass Michigan Atty. Gen. Mike Cox, whose office triggered the ruling by appealing for a harsher sentence for a man who traded drugs for sex. In 2005, Cox acknowledged having an adulterous relationship.

Murphy’s adultery bombshell was a footnote in a November ruling on a drugs-for-sex case. But since a Detroit Free Press columnist wrote about the footnote last week, blogs and radio talk shows have debated the pros and cons of life sentences for cheating spouses.

The ruling came in the case of Lloyd Waltonen, 43, a man from Charlevoix in northern Michigan, who supplied a cocktail waitress with the prescription painkiller OxyContin in exchange for sex. Last year, Charlevoix Circuit Judge Richard M. Pajtas sentenced Waltonen to four to 20 years in prison, but dismissed four counts of firstdegree criminal sexual conduct, punishable by a life term, on the basis that the sex was consensual.

The state attorney general’s office successfully appealed Pajtas’ ruling, citing an obscure provision of Michigan’s criminal law, which states that a sexual act committed at the same time as a felony constitutes criminal sexual conduct.

An appellate panel found Waltonen guilty of criminal sexual conduct. He has asked the state Supreme Court to consider an appeal.

In the opinion, Murphy wrote that although legislators may have drafted the law conceiving of scenarios in which there was a violent felony involving forced sex, he was "curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion."

Murphy wrote that a person was technically guilty of firstdegree criminal sexual conduct any time he or she "engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship."

He noted that state law defines first-degree criminal sexual conduct as sexual penetration involving another felony. Because adultery is a felony, he wrote, adulterous sex could result in life imprisonment.

So…dig it.  A wingnut prosecutor on an anti-drug jihad piles a sex charge on top of a drug charge, in order to get a stiffer sentence handed down.  The law he’s trying to bend out of shape here was only intended to apply to violent sex crimes, but never mind…he thinks he can use it any damn way he pleases, because he’s on a mission to clean up what consenting adults do in private.  And it works.  Even better then he probably wanted it too.  See…one of the big jokes here in all this, is that this prosecutor has admitted to having an adulterous affair in his own past…

No one in Michigan has been charged with adultery since 1971.

Nevertheless, defense attorneys across the state are snickering and speculating about the prospect of life in prison for the attorney general.

From his office in Lansing, criminal defense attorney Hugh Clarke Jr. chuckled as he contemplated the idea — apparently raised by colleagues — of setting up a special prosecution team to charge Cox.

"It’s all so silly," he sighed. "I only wish Judge Murphy would have used a different example. The judiciary in Michigan shouldn’t be held up to ridicule because of his use of that analogy."

Cox declined to speak to reporters about Murphy’s ruling. His spokesman, Rusty Hills, said Cox’s adultery was not relevant to the case.

He is trying to get a man sentenced to life in prison for trading drugs for sex, with a completely willing partner, and he thinks his own immorality isn’t an issue.  Well of course not.  Morality laws are for the peasants…to keep them in line.  The authorities live by their own rules, up in Valhalla. 

But this is what happens when the law starts treating purely moral issues as criminals ones.  It’s what happens when the law is reduced to panty sniffing by puritan nutcases who are outraged over the possibility that somewhere someone is having a good time.  Suddenly, we’re all criminals.  Every one of us.  And that’s the point.  All have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God…and especially fallen short of the glory God’s right hand men…  If we weren’t here to tell you how to live your lives…who knows what you’d do with them…

But the real belly laugh here isn’t the prospect of a jackass prosecutor getting hung by his own petard.  Here’s the belly laugh, proudly posted on the right wing news site, World Net Daily, and thanks to Pam’s House Blend for catching it…

What do you think of the possibility of life in prison for adultery?

Sex between consenting adults should not be a matter for any criminal court, period 32.43% (1248)
Leave it up to civil courts for monetary damages like alimony, but not jail time 15.75% (606)
Come on, if everyone who committed adutery were jailed, there’d be hardly anyone left on the street 12.16% (468)
Stiff jail time is needed, we have to do something about rampant infidelity 10.63% (409)
A little jail time is proper, but life is preposterous 9.98% (384)
Old Testament laws call for executions, so let’s get back to the Bible 7.28% (280)
Other 4.96% (191)
I agree, life in prison is appropriate 2.60% (100)
Any jail time for adultery is ridiculous in this modern age 2.31% (89)
Life sentence is too light, should be execution according to Sharia law 1.90% (73)

TOTAL VOTES: 3848

This is the same crowd that was screaming for blood when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.  This is the same crowd that thumps the bible like a machine gun constantly on issues of gay rights.  They can cite you chapter and verse each passage in the bible that they believe condemns homosexuality. 

Never mind that Adultery is condemned right in the fucking ten commandments not just once…but if you read it broadly enough, twice:

7. Thou Shalt Not Break Wedlock.

10. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s House; Neither Shalt Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife, His Manservant, His Maid, His Ox, His Ass, Or Ought That Is His.

-Translated by William Tyndale

Suddenly it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame when it’s a matter of…er…your own balls.  Listening to the American right wing bellyaching about morals and values, right up to the moment the finger turns around and starts pointing right back at them, you really begin to see why Jesus didn’t much like hypocrites.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Remember…It’s THOU Shalt Not. I’ll Do As I Damn Well Please.


A Question

I’m reading about the big blow-up at ABC over Isaiah Washington’s insults to fellow Grey’s Anatomy actor T. R. Knight.  Knight is gay and Washington called him a faggot on the set.  Then during the Golden Globe award ceremonies Washington announced to all the assembled reporters that he’d never called Knight a faggot.  You have to admit, the guy has a certain deft charm when it comes to his co-workers.  Seems like now everyone is calling for Washington’s head…

Anatomy of an Insult: ABC Is Stung by an Actor’s Anti-Gay Slurs

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 21 — Executives at ABC and its parent, Disney, are mulling the future of the actor Isaiah Washington, a star of the hit series “Grey’s Anatomy,” after Mr. Washington last week publicly used an anti-gay slur for the second time in roughly three months, a Disney executive said Friday.

The executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because company officials were instructed not to go beyond a prepared statement, said that Mr. Washington’s behavior could be considered grounds for dismissal under Disney’s corporate antidiscrimination policy.

ABC and Touchstone, Disney’s television studio, called Mr. Washington’s behavior “unacceptable” in a statement issued on Thursday, three days after Mr. Washington’s most recent remark, which occurred in the backstage press room at the Golden Globes ceremony last week.

Unacceptable.  Unacceptable.  I have a question.  Why is Mr. Washington’s calling Mr. Knight a faggot unacceptable to ABC, but not whitewashing the murder of Matthew Shepard by 20/20?

Ah…here’s why…

The situation has potentially great implications for ABC, which is reaping millions of dollars in advertising revenues from a show that, in its third season, is among the highest rated on television.

If you piss on the grave of a dead gay kid and it gooses your tabloid news show’s ratings…that’s good business.  But if a fag baiting actor’s antics start cutting into your multi-million dollar profits on your high rated prime time TV series…well, that’s just plain unacceptable. 

And…by the way…I hear the right wing shock jocks at ABC/Disney’s San Francisco talk radio station who called Barack Obama a "halfrican" still have their jobs. 

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

January 21st, 2007

In Your Dreams

It’s a fair criticism of popular culture, that most of the images of human beauty being thrown at us are completely unrealistic.  In fact, most of them nowadays probably aren’t even real at all.

Check out the images on this professional Photoshopper’s web site…

Greg Apodaca has worked as a digital retoucher in pre-press houses, design studios and advertising agencies in and around the San Francisco bay area since 1995.

He’s good.  This image is your typical hot babe in a bikini poseThis one is a beautiful cover girl.  Run the mouse cursor over it to see the before.  Take the mouse off the image to see the after.

Here’s a hot babe from another professional digital retouch artist, Glenn Feron.  Here’s something to think about the next time you see that Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue on the standsCheck out this beautiful babe on the sheetsAnd this lovely lass.

You need to understand, this is how it’s done nowadays.  That beautiful babe you see in this month’s issue of Maxim was probably computer enhanced to get your hormones going so you’ll buy the damn magazine.  I don’t know about the gay glossies, but I suspect the same is true of them.  Every month I get an Out Magazine and a couple others pushed through my mail slot, and I take a few moments to gawk at the beautiful men in them.  Hey…sex sells.  But I think eye candy, like real candy should be made with…er…all natural ingredients.  You have to be careful of anything these days that has too many cheap additives in it.  A steady diet of that kind of thing isn’t healthy. 

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of beauty.  But when the images of it we consume day after day aren’t even real, then its no wonder so many people have such poor self images, and so many behave in very self destructive ways…not eating right, taking drugs, hating their bodies…all for an image of human beauty that is actually quite inhuman.

I was blessed at a young age with a wandering, curious eye, and maybe that’s why I’ve never really believed in what the advertisements, and the glossy magazines have been telling me about human beauty all these years.  I like looking at them, sure.  But it’s like looking at anime in a way: The images are beautiful, but human anatomy just doesn’t do that   Ever notice how goddamn huge eyes are in anime and maga?  Not even birds have eye to skull size ratios like that.  It can be strikingly beautiful in its own way, but it’s an abstract representation of a human being.  It isn’t real.  Neither is what we’re seeing in ads and glossy magazines.

Go for a walk in the city.  Take in the faces at your local mall, or even the grocery store.  Real people are beautiful.  More beautiful actually, then anything you see in an advertisement, or a lifestyle magazine.  Go get yourself some real eye candy.  All natural.  Free range.  Seriously.  It’s better for you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In Your Dreams


Those Wild And Crazy Amish Kids…

Via Yahoo Finance…   The Craziest Tax Write-Offs (page 2, Item 9)

9. Pimp my buggy

This one was so outlandish that Dittrick actually faxed us the two-page itemized receipt to prove it: "We live in an Amish community here and we had an Amish guy who tried to take a deduction for his buggy with velvet interior, the whole works. It was tricked out. He was legitimately Amish, but with all the accoutrements on this buggy, when they’re supposed to live the simple life, it was absolutely hilarious," she says.

How pimped out was his ride? According to the receipt, this baby came equipped with dash lights, kick plates, tinted windshield, speedometer, hydraulic brakes and dimmer switches. The standard buggy costs $2,675; this pimped-out version ran $3,545.

"He could deduct the buggy of course, since it was used for business, but on that one, we had to pick and choose what we were going to deduct," Dittrick says. "But the Amish teenagers do go through a period where they sew their wild oats, so to speak, and put the fuzzy dice and boom boxes in them. Every so often in the police blotters up here you’ll see a complaint about a buggy with music playing."

My Baptist grandmother warned me about Amish boys driving buggys with fuzzy dice hanging off the rearview mirror.  ‘Don’t you go getting into one of those buggy’s’ she told me…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Those Wild And Crazy Amish Kids…

January 20th, 2007

And Yet, It Moves…

Via Ex-Gay Watch, I read this story about Levi Kreis, a gay musician whose only desire was, as he writes “to sing Christian music and be the purest vessel for God that I could be.” At 15 he secretly checked himself into one of Exodus ex-gay programs in order to, again as he puts it, “heal the homosexual in me”.

Well, you know where that’s going. He eventually came out, was dropped by his record label and expelled from the Christian college he was attending. Love the sinner.

There’s a passage in that interview that moved me deeply. It comes where Kreis discusses the impact seeing a performance of Del Shore’s Southern Baptist Sissies. What artists do for the world that they find themselves in, they do even more urgently for one another…

Southern Baptist Sissies’ was the sole catalyst in putting years of pain behind me. Embracing the thought of being an abomination to God and an embarrassment to my family instilled within me the heaviest, darkest self-hatred I could imagine. Walking in that theater one day, having no idea what I was about to see, I found myself in a fetal position in my chair crying uncontrollably. I had no idea there were other young men out there that had experienced the same journey as I had.

There is this hoary old bromide I would love to get my hands on and strangle, about how before an artist can produce great works that move people, they have to suffer. Paying your dues, as they say. It’s a lie. More often then not, the creative gift is strangled by great personal pain and suffering. It dies without ever being noticed. The one blessed with great creative gifts who manages to create something, anything, while in a state of great internal pain, does so in spite of it, not because of it.

“Del happened to be sitting behind me during my break down in the first act,” Levi continued. “He came to me during intermission to see if I was okay. After the show, he invited me to come in anytime and see the show as many times as it took for me to come to terms with my past. It was SBS that introduced to me the idea of a loving God; that helped me realize that I could actually love myself. The impact it had on me could never be accurately conveyed in words.

Creative gift or not, this is why our stories are so important. In telling them to the world we both heal ourselves, and one another. Don’t imagine you need a lot of talent to just tell your own story in your own voice, in your own way. Just put it out there. It will find someone to heal.

It might have to bounce off a few brick heads first though. In googling Southern Baptist Sissies…I came across this

Shores, in an interview, said Southern Baptist Sissies, which won an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), is about “love and acceptance” for homosexuals who “have felt excluded from the church, from the love of God because of the teachings and doctrines that were taught to us as children and beyond.” Shores, a homosexual activist, has said he was raised in a Southern Baptist church in Texas and attended Baylor University in Waco.

Shores described his play as ending “with the message of hope — that God loves us all, just as He created us.”

While the theme that God creates people to be homosexuals likely will be promoted in the film, it is unfounded, said Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, the site of a recent seminar on what the Bible says about homosexuality.

“The viewpoint that homosexual behavior is ‘natural’ for some persons cannot be supported by Scripture,” Dean said, noting that the behavior is regarded as sinful in both the Old and New Testaments. “But even if it were discovered that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, that would not remove the sinfulness of the expressed behavior. Heterosexual desires are ‘natural,’ but are also sinful when expressed outside of a biblically defined marriage between a man and a woman.”

Dig it. Even if the reality is that homosexuals are born, not made, it’s still unnatural because scripture says it is. Reading that pure submission to dogma over reason put me immediately in mind of this passage from Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man:

It happens that there is a philosopher called Friedrich Hegel, whom I must confess I specifically detest. And I am happy to share that profound feeling with a far greater man, Gauss. In 1800 Hegel presented a thesis, if you please, proving that although the definition of planets had changed since the Ancients, there still could only be, philosophically, seven planets. Well, not only Gauss knew how to answer that: Shakespeare had answered that long before. There is a marvelous passage in King Lear, in which who else but the Fool says to the King: "The reason why the seven Starres are no mo then seven, is a pretty reason". And the King wags sagely and says: "Because they are not eight". And the Fool says: "Yes indeed, thou woulds’t make a good Foole". And so did Hegel. On 1 January 1801, punctually, before the ink was dry on Hegel’s dissertation, an eighth planet was discovered – the minor planet Ceres.

Never mind what nature reveals…what does scripture say? But in the end it isn’t even scripture that matters, but the word of the person who claims to be an authority on it. Or as Groucho Marx once said, “Who are you going to believe…me or your lying eyes?”

Shores told Baptist Press he does not anticipate that Southern Baptists will “stand up and applaud” the message of his forthcoming film, that of “love and acceptance that would include gays.”

But Stith said he believes Southern Baptists will respond biblically. “The most loving thing we can do for them is say that this is not what God wants for them, and that they need to live in obedience to His Word,” he said.

No, no Mr. Stith…not God’s word after all…but yours.  The reason why the seven Starres are no mo then seven, is a pretty reason…  

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on And Yet, It Moves…

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