I recently received the following e-mail:
We recently contacted you regarding advertising for one of our clients.
We pay an annual fee to you as soon as the advert is live. It is a straightforward process and we work with you to make sure we fit naturally with your site. Please let me know if you are interested and I'll send you more details.
Would you be interested in selling us a simple text based advertisement on your website Imho.com?
I've never had advertising on this site, and I know I don't get too much traffic (especially to this blog). This likely has something to do with my frequency of blogging, but somehow I get caught up in things that are a bit higher of a priority for me.
That said, I'm not sure how advertising would "fit naturally" with a site that is designed, in part, not to have advertising on it. I'm also not sure how the capitalization of my name got quite so mangled (the shift key works the other way), but the fact that both this e-mail and the previous one mangled my name in the same manner indicates to me that this was blanket e-mail that was sent out to a large mailing list. And it's likely a list that I never actually asked to be on, so technically, this e-mail looks like it fits the legal definition of spam in this country.
It is amazing to me that the Senate still hasn't gotten around to passing any legislation that will allow for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which prevents LGBT service members from serving their country while being honest.
Why hasn't this been passed?
For one thing, I thought the Democratic party had majorities in Congress as well as the presidency. What does it take to pass some legislation? The lesson from 8 years of the Bush presidency was that it didn't even take a majority for Republicans to get their legislative agenda passed; why can't the Democrats manage to do anything despite actually having the seats? Why can't the Democratic party actually stand up for their purported platform, and set in motion the repeal of this discriminatory law?
From the Democratic Party's web site: "Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in." (emphasis added.) So why haven't we had some movement on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (not to mention the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), which would help end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity?
It's not like this is actually a controversial opinion: for at least this entire calendar year, public opinion polls show that a vast majority of US citizens believe that Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed. Even if you restrict the poll to Republicans (where much of the roadblock is in Congress), a majority of Republicans think repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a good idea.
But until Congress gets their act together, the following is true (thanks to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the following list):
I doubt anybody who knows me (or has read much of this blog) is surprised to learn that I'm happy about yesterday's decision ruling Proposition 8 unconstitutional under the federal constitution. It seems to me that in any fair and just society, it ought not be possible for the majority to take away rights from a minority, unless there's a compelling reason to do so.
Somehow, I've managed to get on the National Organization for Marriage's mailing list, and of course they're angry about what happened yesterday. They fairly regularly say things that just don't make sense to me, so I'll start with a quote from Brian Brown talking about the advertisements the Yes on 8 campaign ran:
This was the ad's message: Gay marriage would be taught in the schools, whether parents like it or not. Is this true or not true?
The fact of the matter is that marriage between people of the same gender already exists. It's part of our reality already. It's the way that some people talk about their relationships even when the law doesn't recognize it (in some cases, religions are already marrying same-sex partners, and lamenting the fact that the law hasn't caught up.) I'm very good friends with a couple of lesbians who got married in Illinois a few years ago. From that point on, they started calling themselves married and referring to each other as wives, and the people around them (their friends and families) generally follow suit.
And even if somehow California's state law trumps that reality, it's still a reality that there are quite a few kids in classrooms that have two mothers or two fathers. While in a couple of states it's not legal for gay couples to adopt, even in some of those states there are ways for enterprising gay people to have children; it's a fact of life these days that there are family units headed by parents of the same gender.
Don't we want our schools to teach reality?
Of course, the arguments that schools shouldn't teach about realities that parents find unsettling are a bit pervasive from many of these people. To overgeneralize and lump them together, they tend to ignore the outcomes of science (a lot of these people are global warming deniers, or think that evolution is the wrong thing to teach in schools), they don't believe that comprehensive sex education is a good idea (in spite of peer-reviewed research that shows that abstinence-only education doesn't really work all that well), and they want to eliminate any sort of suggestion that being gay is part of the spectrum of natural behavior (in spite of evidence that therapy to change sexual orientation doesn't work and is harmful, and that there are plenty of examples in both history and biology of same-sex attractions).
It's a bit dishonest for supporters of gay marriage to say that the existence of gay marriage won't be brought up in school. But it's completely honest that the kinds of things that the opponents of marriage equality want to keep out of school are a bit more far-reaching than marriage: they don't want kids exposed to the idea that it's okay to end up in one of these relationships.
I guess if you believe that therapy to change sexual orientation works, then there's a risk of exposing kids to "teh gay" like this. But here's a news bulletin that NOM and the rest of the proponents of Proposition 8 don't seem to get: that sort of therapy doesn't work. The studies they cite to show that it does work are based on self-reports rather than observations of behavior, and tend to be short-term studies, and aren't inclusive of a representative sample of patients. And aren't peer reviewed. On the other hand, as some evidence that these programs don't work, we see plenty of advocates for them doing things like hiring rent boys to handle their luggage and provide erotic massage, or being sighted in gay bars.
Here's my point of view: exposure to the concept of same-sex attraction doesn't have the ability to turn straight people gay any more than exposure to the concept of opposite-sex attraction turns gay people straight. That's just not how it works. Sure, societal pressure and self-denial can get people in relationships that they otherwise wouldn't get into, but that really only explains gay people getting into unhappy relationships, not straight people turning gay. However, exposure to the fact that gay people exist does increase the chance that when someone realizes that he's gay, he won't fall into depression or engage in self-destructive behavior.
The ads the Yes on 8 campaign ran did suggest that passing proposition 8 would "protect children." Unfortunately, it seems that all it does is "protect" a worldview that gay people are a threat to children somehow, and this is something that the evidence doesn't bear out.
I'm not sure the following message makes sense in the context of a ballot referendum, but here's what I think was true: Proposition 8 really did have nothing to do with schools. Schools were (and are) going to teach about the fact that same-sex relationships exist, because that's part of the reality in which they exist, and when kids ask questions about things, most teachers will give an honest answer. Proposition 8 doesn't change this fact. But what's really true is that the opponents of marriage equality seem to be hell-bent on preventing schools from teaching about the facts of the world around them, as though somehow ignoring certain facts will make them go away.
(Small aside: I haven't posted anything in a long time. This doesn't mean that this domain is for sale; I use the server for more than just my blog. And if it were for sale, I'd likely charge something greater than the market rate for it, so you're adequately warned.)
One of the activities I've been getting up to for the last couple of years is advising groups on how to do advocacy and engagement using online tools. I suppose I could say I advise on "new media" or "social networking," but neither seems entirely accurate. Still, if it's helpful for giving an idea of what I've been doing, there are some buzzwords for you.
An idea that's been kicking around in my brain for a while is that I could post a bit on some of my pet peeves with how people use these technologies. And today, I got a couple of examples in my inbox, so let's get started.
Subject: over 2000 people... havent replied on this facebook invite AND you are one of them.... it isnt hard, just click yes, no, or maybe (they offer "maybe" people) ;-) If you are coming, register for YOUR ticket at (link omitted)
Now, there are a few problems with this message.
Let's go a bit more in-depth on these.
Here's what it looks like on my phone:
(name) to you: over 2000 people... havent replied on this facebook invite AND you are one of them.... it isnt hard, just...(reply "n" for next)
I don't recognize what event you're talking about from your name. Facebook's SMS feature is actually very bad about giving context, but that just means that the people who send these messages have the responsibility to get the information formatted properly. If your name doesn't give me enough context (and apparently this message went to 2000 people, so the sender doesn't know them all personally), then mention the name of the organization and/or event in the first 100 characters.
What event are you talking about? (That's visible up above where the message is, but often events have nondescriptive names.) What organization is this event for? (I happen to know it from the name of the poster, but I was actually receiving his messages for a few months before I figured it out.)
All of this information is discoverable with a few clicks, but every time you force someone to take an action to discover something, you'll lose a portion of your audience.
There might be reasons that I think are justified for you to shame me. Not replying to a Facebook invitation isn't one of them. This invitation, as far as I can tell, is being sent to me because I joined a group on Facebook. (I have since removed myself from this group's membership, in large part because of what I'm writing about in this post.) I typically don't join too many groups, but that doesn't mean that the groups I do join should feel free to inundate me with invitations (many of which aren't in geographical areas that are feasible for me to get to). And I'm more discerning about which groups I join than many of the people I talk to who use Facebook.
The fact that this sender seem exasperated with the lack of response makes me question whether he has reasonable expectations about Facebook. And from the volume of messages I've received from him, it's not from lack of experience.
A message that was very similar (although not identical) was sent within minutes of this one. It didn't reach my inbox for a couple of hours, and I wasn't checking my e-mail at the time, so they were part of the same thread. This is really more of an annoyance than anything else: if you're going to spam me, why are you spamming me twice within a few minutes?
I realize this is a bit hard to get right especially in the context of constraining a message to be reasonable for an SMS message, but that's no excuse for improperly using punctuation, spelling words incorrectly, and avoiding capital letters. Contractions have apostrophes in them. Sentences begin with capital letters. Commas are great for getting rid of ambiguous sentences.
I recently got the following comment, and it asks a few questions. Since this comment wasn't all that related to the post it appeared next to, I thought I'd just create a new post for this reply.
Hey, just wanted to thank you for your blog and especially your post on Chaos Theory- it's exceptionally clear, and has some really eyepopping info. The pics from your trips in China are pretty cool too.
Since you're linked to Harvey Mudd, I'm going to assume that you go/went there. What's it like? (Classes, atmosphere?) What kind of people would benefit the most from going there? I'm a few years from having to apply, but I've heard some raves and a few less enthusiastic opinions, so can you help?
Oh yeah, on the topic of marriage equality (or the lack thereof)- as an Iowan, there was a huge (by Iowa standards) throng of people celebrating when same-sex marriage was legalized; we're not all cantankerous conservatives who can't spell. As far as my age group goes, most people at my school accept people who are out, but gay is still a common insult and guys who act effeminate are ostracized.
Fajitas are delicious =D. Keep posting!
Thanks for the encouragement. I'm hoping to post some pictures from my trip to England before too long, so hopefully I'll be able to keep that up too.
I graduated from Harvey Mudd College with a degree in math and computer science in 2000. I've also been involved with the alumni association and served a term on the Board of Trustees, so I've been pretty involved even after graduating. It's a pretty intense science and engineering school, but one of the things that makes it unique is that everyone is required to take a third of their classes in the humanities and social sciences.
I'd say that if you're pretty sure you want to go into a technical field that Harvey Mudd is a good school for you. When I started at Mudd, I thought I wanted to study Physics. My second choice was Computer Science, and my third choice was Math. My fourth choice at the time probably would have been music (and that would've been hard to do at Mudd, at least as a major.)
One of the big distinguishing characteristics Mudd has is that it's a small school. That does mean that there's a bit of a lack of diversity that you might find at a bigger institution, which is mitigated a bit by the fact that it's one of the Claremont Colleges and you can get access to all the classes and activities going on at all 5 undergraduate colleges. It's not like going to UC Berkeley, though, where you might find a full set of graduate level courses (if that's the sort of thing you're looking for.) The advantages this gives is immense, though: the professors not only know their students, they actively do research with them. I did research with three different professors while I was there, something which would have been unlikely at a larger institution.
When I compared Caltech and Harvey Mudd after I was accepted but still hadn't decided, I visited both schools. Caltech students were only happy about the visiting prospects because the food was slightly better (ignoring some of the cool things that were going on, like Nobel Laureates coming and speaking... Even though the students weren't trying to impress us, the school was...) On the other hand, Harvey Mudd students were actively trying to figure out fun things to do in the spare time in our schedule. You'll be spending a lot more time with other students than anything else, so make sure not to ignore student culture.
As far as Iowa and marriage equality goes, I've been to Iowa a few times, and I'm not surprised that it's one of the first states to recognize the rights of gay people. I'm just hoping it stays that way: out of state groups are trying to funnel money into Iowa to elect homophobic senators. As much as I believe that the people of Iowa are sensible when it comes to these question, I also believe that the homophobic organizations putting money into races like this have figured out pretty effective ways to muddy the waters and get their base out one election day, so if they're pouring this much money into a race, I start to worry.
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about and working on marriage equality recently. Enough so that at last night's dinner party I stepped out for a phone call on the topic for about half an hour. (Did I mention I was throwing the dinner party?) Anyhow, the latest news on that:
But this isn't a post about marriage, I was going to talk about food! Last night's dinner party had a Mexican theme, and my friend Michael came over to help me cook all afternoon. Everything on the menu was made from scratch (and where we could, we bought everything at the local greenmarket.)
And just in case someone wants to make nuclear-hot salsa verde, here's how I did it (the recipe is loosely based on ones I found online.)
Nuclear Salsa Verde
Unwrap and simmer one pound tomatillos in boiling water for about 5 minutes. (They should darken in color.) In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, 1 handful chopped onion, 1 handful chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp lime juice, a pinch of sugar, 1 habanero pepper, and 1 serrano pepper. Chill in the refrigerator.
It's a pretty simple recipe, although it's a bit too spicy. Last time I made it, I used half a habanero and 1.5 pounds of tomatillo, and it wasn't nearly spicy enough. Next time I'll definitely tone it down a bit, but I was looking to make something very hot, and it's almost there. I'm thinking that 1.5 pounds of tomatillo with that much pepper is probably the right answer.
(If you really need exact numbers in your recipes, where I said "handful" substitute "1/3 cup", but I didn't measure exactly.)
For those who find it inconvenient to read blog posts going backwards in time, a summary and chronological ordering of my trip to China in July 2009. The trip was a Harvey Mudd College alumni event to go to China and Tibet to see a total eclipse. While in China, I blogged and posted pictures every day.
Today was the last real day of the tour. Today was basically a free day, and the tour guides gave us the option of taking a ride out into the countryside to visit Lake Yamdrok. At 14500 feet, it's one of the highest lakes in the world, and it's a Buddhist holy lake.
The weather in the morning was rainy, and as we passed through Kambala Pass (approximately 16000 feet elevation) we could barely see outside the bus, so I was worried we weren't going to get much of a view. Once we descended below the cloud layer on the other side of the pass, however, we got an amazing view of the lake:
We spent about an hour hanging out at the lake, which was pretty peaceful. The clouds and mist kept rolling over the mountain peaks, and the view was spectacular. I think this picture captures the moment perfectly:
I spent the evening out with a few other Mudders, because it was my last chance before heading home (I'm flying back a few hours earlier than everyone else, which means I'm flying all the way back to Beijing tonight while they have an overnight in Chengdu.) This will likely be my last post until I get back to the US, but it has been an incredible trip.
Apparently, on rainy days, my camera doesn't make it out nearly as often. I only snapped 10 pictures today (the first week I averaged close to 150 per day.)
I started the day by going out with a few people to the street market. This time we actually went into a couple of the shops rather than simply looking at the street stalls. I saw a couple of stores that I think I'd like to go back to, and some of my friends made some pretty good purchases.
Lunch was at a Mongolian hot pot restaurant. This was pretty similar to the last hot pot experience, although with different things to cook in the broth (pork meatballs, spam, vegetables, and quail eggs).
Unfortunately, due to the rain, the debates that usually happen in the afternoon were cancelled, so we didn't get to see the Buddhist monks debating the finer points of philosophy. Still, this monastery was even more impressive than Drepung, so it was well worth the short drive out there.
Dinner this evening was a mostly western meal (spaghetti and pizza, in addition to the curry and samosas). It was fine, but if we were going to diverge from all Chinese all the time (with a smattering of Tibetan) I'd rather try some food from some other nearby culinary tradition. We're so close to India that there's got to be good Indian food somewhere... At least it made some members of the group happy; I guess not everyone is as happy with Chinese food as I am.
It's a bit of a hike up to the top, since there are a lot of steps, and they only let you stay inside for an hour. I don't have any pictures of the inside because photography wasn't allowed. The most impressive part was the tombs of the Dalai Lamas, which used tons of gold and thousands of precious jewels. On the way out, I got this picture of the clouds over the mountains in the distance:
I didn't actually go into any of the buildings there, but relaxing on the premises of the palace was exactly what I was looking for at the time.
We had dinner at the Mad Yak restaurant, where we had some Tibetan food. One dish was sheep lung, but most of the rest was yak-based in some way. I have not yet acquired a taste for yak butter tea (which doesn't taste much like tea, and does taste like a bit of butter dissolved in hot water). There was a show with dinner, and the opening number was dancing yaks: