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Sean's Blog

Pride of Ducks?

On my birthday bike trip, I spent my birthday itself in Boston and its suburbs.  I decided to give myself a break from the bike seat for the day, so I got around on foot and by public transit.  After breakfasting at my hotel, I walked a few blocks through a residential neighborhood to pick up a bus to the Revere Beach train station, where I bought a day pass that’s good on all buses and trains.  It was a bargain at $9 (though the price went up to $11 on July 1).

I rode the blue, green, and red lines to get out to Cambridge, and went to a fun secondhand clothing store, The Garment District.  Specifically, their by-the-pound section (formerly known as dollar-a-pound).  For those that haven’t had the experience, they have a large floor area covered with clothing that you go through, and then you pay $1.50 per pound for whatever items you want.  The only thing I found that I wanted was an additional moisture-wicking shirt for biking (bringing my total of such shirts to 2).

I then took the train out further to Harvard Square, and hit a few stores, including a very good comic shop, Million Year Picnic.

I headed back into Boston after that, and walked around the Public Garden.  The best aspect of the Public Garden is the many ducks that make their home by the large pond there (ducks that inspired a famous book).

The pond:

Ducks and ducklings:

I like how you can see the beads of water on this one’s feathers:

The ducks will come right up close to people in hopes of being fed (and several people were tossing the birds food).  There were some birds who were kept separated in this fenced-off area, though:

Here the swans are building their nest:

 

After hanging out with the park’s waterfowl for a while, I exited to the south onto Boylston St., where a crowd was gathered along both sides of the street.  This was in anticipation of the Boston LGBT pride parade, which was scheduled to come by soon (I took my place in the crowd around 12:30).  When I got there, there was a nearby church playing, for some reason, ‘Danny Boy’ on its carillon.  When that ended, I was surprised and intrigued by the next piece of music that played – it was ‘Happy Birthday’.  I wonder how they knew…

Before too long, the parade came through.  This was the first time since the mid-90’s that I had been to a big city pride parade, and it was neat to see.

It started out with the mayor riding in a car, along with other dignitaries, such as the Pride King and Queen:

There were pink flamingo balloons:

There was, of course, a lot of rainbow-colored stuff, including this…interesting hat:

A gigantic rainbow flag is de rigueur:

There were a bunch of men in purple priestly vestments:

Cool balloon sculptures:

and The Price is Right!

It also wouldn’t be a pride parade without some leather men:

And their flag looked bigger than the large rainbow one:

This might have been the largest headdress I saw:

But this was a more impressive outfit:

Star o’ teal wig:

There were a number of politicians marching in the parade with groups of supporters.  They were mostly city councilors or candidates for state legislative districts in the area.  Toward the end of the parade, though, I did see my favorite U.S. Senate candidate:

After the end of the parade passed by, I went back through the Public Garden toward Boston Common.  I caught the last parts of the parade again as they came up Arlington St., and got a good view of this vehicle:

 

I went off in search of lunch, and found a Turkish place east of the common where I got a very filling falafel, hummus, and tabbouli sandwich.

Next time: the latter half of the day.

Posted by seaking on 07-20-2012 at 11:07 pm
Posted in Politics, Travel, Wildlife with 1 Comment

Pride Goes Both Ways

In May I participated in the Northampton LGBT Pride parade with a group from work for the third year in a row.  This year the parade route went a different direction than it had previously.  Instead of progressing into downtown, with the rally in a parking lot there, the parade started downtown and went out to the 3-county fairgrounds (which I had not been to before).

I biked over to Noho for the event, getting there later than I intended, as I got a flat tire on the way (fortunately I had a spare tube with me and was able to change it fairly quickly).  I still managed to meet the group in the staging area before we had to step off.

Here is the view as we had just started, and were headed up the hill to Main St.:

And the crowd on Main:

Some folks were watching from the bike trail bridge:

 

The crowd is always thickest right in the downtown blocks.  It certainly thinned out as we went on, but was still pretty decent:

 

There is a walking path/driveway that we followed down from the street into the fairgrounds, where we were greeted by this balloon arch:

 

I ended up carrying one end of our banner for most of the parade.  Here is a pic someone took of me in the act as we reached the end:

 

The group of us having finished the parade:

 

I hung out at the rally for quite a while afterward, wanting to see a couple of the speakers.  One of whom had a booth there:

Yes, I’m into Elizabeth Warren.  I had thought about wearing my Warren for Senate t-shirt that day, but it was in the laundry.

This was the stage for the speakers and performers:

And that is Dr. Warren herself on stage:

She was a ways into the lineup, after the mayor’s proclamation, a few musical performances, and an invocation.  Her speech was short, and touched on the same sorts of things I’ve heard her say in videos, but it was still neat to see her speak in person.  Also cool was getting to see another guest: Holyoke  mayor Alex Morse, whom I’ve written about before.

The musical performances I saw ranged from decent (gay men’s chorus) to oddly lame (Little Mermaid lip-synch, which admittedly was plagued by technical problems).  It was also a hot day in the mostly cooler days of early May this year, and it was very nice that there was a tent I could stand under to watch the proceedings.

After leaving the rally I biked home without incident, stopping off at my local bike store for a reason that will be detailed in my next post.

Posted by seaking on 07-07-2012 at 11:07 pm
Posted in Politics with 0 Comments

Conspiracy Siri

Today I got an e-mail from MoveOn.org, whose mailing list I’ve been on for years. The group often sends out alerts to readers about political issues that require some action, or online petitions needing signatures.  Much of the time, the items mentioned in the message are already known to me from other news sources, or they cite several sources for the information in the message.

The message today was not from the staff of MoveOn, as is often the case, but from a member using a petition site setup by the group, which enables mailing of petitions to other members.  The text claimed that Apple’s Siri, a sort of artificial intelligence search program that runs on the newest iPhones, was acting in an anti-abortion manner in dealing with family planning queries from users.  The message listed one source – this article from Raw Story, a site I hadn’t heard of.

This evening I looked at that article, which lists a bunch of other things one can find info on through Siri (some of them illegal).  I also googled some other information about this issue.  There are a number of other items about the story (including this post by PC Mag) that relate Apple’s response.  The company denies any anti-choice intent on their part (and I believe them, as they’re generally a pretty liberal company).  One possibility they suggest for the problem is the usefulness (or lack thereof) of the word “abortion” in searching for abortion services – the word is perhaps not used so much by advocates, but more by opponents.

Apple does point out that Siri is still a beta product, and they mention their intention to fix this glitch.  That seems good enough to me.  I don’t know how bombarded with angry e-mails they might have been as a result of this petition message (which assumed the worst of Apple, and was titled “iphone’s big secret”), but the company should weather the “storm” fine.  Whatever controversy has been stirred up seems to have been mild, and I think most people have probably, like me, thought “That’s odd,” and then waited for more info to come out.

BTW, after coming up with the title for this post, I googled the words “conspiracy siri”, and while there were one or 2 hits for the abortion story, nothing seemed to come up with that as a phrase/play-on-words as I intended it.  There are, however, a number of hits on some supposed conspiracy with a Catholic Cardinal named Siri.  I didn’t read much about that, but it looks intriguing.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-30-2011 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Politics with 0 Comments

Young and Restless

You’ve probably read and heard a lot of news about high profile elections that occurred yesterday.  I’m quite happy with a number of referendum outcomes in other states, but I think the neatest electoral result from the day is one that wouldn’t be known much outside of Massachusetts.

That would be the victory of Alex Morse.

I don’t live in the city of Holyoke, but I work there, and I’ve followed the mayor’s race with a good deal of interest.  Morse was initially just a name on a sign, but a profile of him in our local weekly revealed that he was only 22, and just recently out of college.  My first thought was that this was cool, but that he wouldn’t have much chance of victory.  He was one of three challengers to the incumbent mayor, and I figured that existing political forces would crush him.

Then came the preliminary election (kind of a non-partisan primary), which narrowed the field to 2 candidates.  Not only was Morse one of the top 2, he came in first, with 1 more vote than the current mayor.  Apparently voters in the city liked what he had to say, and/or what he represents.  It certainly helps that not only is he enthusiastic and energetic, but he is a native of the city.  He also connects with 2 important constituencies: the city’s large Latino population, by virtue of his speaking Spanish; and an ever-growing segment of young artists living and working in Holyoke.  After that initial election, he had tons of momentum, and that seems to have carried him through to the mayor’s office.

I think his win is a really great thing.  It’s not that I think Mayor Pluta has been bad for the city, but I don’t think she’s done much of note – it seems like it’s mostly been a caretaker administration the last 2 years.  I think Morse pushing for big initiatives could make some exciting changes come to the city, but in general I think it’s also of benefit outside the city to have him as mayor.  First off, young adults tend to be less involved in politics and civic life than voters in other age groups.  Seeing someone that age in a high-profile office could motivate a lot of 20-somethings to do more.  Someone young in office will also be more likely to represent the interests of youth – for instance, youth under 18 can’t vote, but they can potentially have their opinions reflected and respected to a much greater degree by an official who is close to their age.

Of course, I also am of the general opinion that we need more diversity in elected officials, in order for our governments to reflect the diversity of our democracy.  For that reason, any time we get someone in office who differs in some major way from typical elected officials, it is cause for celebration.

Posted by seaking on 11-09-2011 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Politics with 1 Comment

March in May, not June

This year, my workplace, Holyoke Health Center, registered a contingent in the Northampton LGBT Pride parade, and I was one of the people who marched.  Despite living in the Pioneer Valley for 5 years, I had not before ever seen this parade, mainly because it isn’t held at the same time as in other parts of the country.  Most cities in the U.S. have Pride celebrations in the month of June, but Noho Pride takes place the first Saturday in May each year.  I have not yet discovered the reason they hold it so early, but there you go.

The day turned out to be unseasonably warm – certainly a lot warmer than the days that preceded and followed it.  The staging area for parade groups was in Lampron Park, about a mile from the downtown rally site.  Here are some members of our contingent while we waited to line up:

Other folks around us:

Right next to us was the local shadow cast for the Rocky Horror Picture Show (who perform at the Tower Theaters in South Hadley):

Here’s our banner, which I helped carry in the parade:

After a bunch of waiting, we finally got in line:

We ended up behind a high school gay-straight alliance, but I didn’t catch which school.

Here are some shots of the crowd as we headed into downtown:

People lining the courthouse lawn and steps:

Here’s some of the HHC people while marching:

Saw this drag queen greeting paraders:

And some more crowd shots as we passed City Hall:

As the parade ended, there was a large drum and hula hoop corps performing:

As I got to the rally, the mayor (who is lesbian herself) was giving the Pride Day proclamation:

I stuck around a bit to grab some food and look at the vendor booths, but didn’t stay for the afternoon of entertainment.  I did climb up to the top of the downtown parking garage to take some crowd pictures:

On my way back to the car, I noticed these rainbow sculptures in front of a store:

I certainly had a fun time, though very different from past such events I’ve done.  In the past I’d usually participated in pride marches in areas which were more hostile to queer rights (i.e. the Midwest), and enough years ago that the national political and social climate was very different.  It was interesting not to see anti-gay counter-protestors, and not to have a political purpose to present to the local community and/or politicians – basically, just a big party.

Posted by seaking on 06-26-2010 at 11:06 pm
Posted in News, Politics with 0 Comments

Towards Fairness

Even though the news is a bit old now, I wanted to post in commemoration of 2 more U.S. states gaining same-sex marriage.  For those who haven’t heard the news:

  • On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a state law limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.  The ruling means that any 2 consenting adults can get married in the state, provided they meet the other usual criteria that the state sets.
  • The following week, the Vermont legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto, enacting a law that made same-sex marriage legal.

In the span of a week, the number of states allowing same-sex couples to marry doubled (Massachusetts and Connecticut already were allowing such marriages, in both cases as a result of legal rulings similar to Iowa’s).  Vermont is unique so far in achieving the goal legislatively, and I must admit I am encouraged by seeing a state reach marriage equality through the democratic process.  I think public opinion in a lot of places in the country is shifting towards acceptance of LGBT people, including in the arena of marriage, and this is both a reflection of that opinion (in Vermont), and something that can help influence opinion in other states (perhaps showing that “gay marriage,” as it’s often imprecisely termed, won’t cause the apocalypse, and might actually strengthen the fabric of society).

Having said that, it is the Iowa result that I find more surprising, and exciting, and about which I worry more.  I lived in Iowa for 4 years, and I experienced the climate for the LGBT community there.  At that time, about a decade ago, people were still working on trying to prevent job and other discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Such protections were in place in a couple of cities, but not statewide.  I helped with an effort to get the city of Cedar Falls to add sexual orientation to its human rights law, and the city council ended up voting the change down 6 to 1 (with some council members who had seemed favorable to the change being swayed the other way by their constituents).  The governor at the time, Tom Vilsack, issued an executive order to grant health benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees, and the legislature passed a law to rescind the benefits (fortunately not by a veto-proof majority).

Many Iowans may have become more comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage, but opinion polls seems to indicate that the majority of residents still object to it.  It’s wonderful that people will now be able to marry whomever they want in the state, but I worry about whether this will last.  We saw what happened last year in California – the supreme court there declared that it was unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, and then the constitution ended up getting amended to prevent those marriages.  At least one thing is in equal marriage’s favor in Iowa compared with the situation in California: in California it is much easier (almost ridiculously easy) to amend the constitution.  A sufficient number of signatures needs to be collected to put the amendment on an election ballot, and then a simple majority of voters must support the ballot measure at the polls.  In terms of process, Iowa is better compared with Massachusetts.

In both Iowa and Mass., a constitutional amendment has to be proposed in and passed by the legislature, and then passed again by the next session of the legislature, before it can go on a ballot.  In the case of Massachusetts, there was an attempt to amend after the court ruling, and enough signatures were collected that the legislature was forced to consider the amendment proposal.  A constitutional convention was held, and the measure did get passed on for consideration by the next legislature, but then in that session it didn’t get enough votes to go on to a referendum.  Our good state representatives (and senators) stopped the amendment in its tracks.  I do not think this is as likely to happen in Iowa.  I would expect that Iowa lawmakers are still conservative enough, or will be swayed enough by pressure from their conservative constituents, that an amendment will end up on the ballot.  Then we’ll get to see how Iowa voters really feel about the issue.

The good news is that the process won’t bring anything to Iowa voters for another 3 years.  That’s 3 years in which public opinion could possibly be influenced in a more favorable direction.  There will certainly be organized efforts to influence that vote long before it happens, and, hopefully, a plethora of newly married couples will be able to demonstrate to their neighbors that the court decision was just and right.

Posted by seaking on 04-19-2009 at 08:04 pm
Posted in Politics with 1 Comment

“Sufferin’,” but not in silence

(Note: After being busy with house buying and moving for a few months, I’m finally getting back to the blog.  This is the first of a few posts I meant to put up much earlier.)

On the way home from my Michigan trip in early July, I made a stop in upstate New York.  Many times before I had passed by the town of Seneca Falls, and this time I finally took the opportunity to stop and visit the Women’s Rights Historical Park located there.

marker1.jpg

This small park commemorates the convention held there in 1848 to demand legal equality for women in property, education, work and religious life, and, of course, to call for women to have the right to vote.

There’s a 2-story visitors’ center there, which has a display of statues on the first floor.

woristatues1.jpg

Some of them represent famous organizers and attendees of the convention, and others are meant to be generic attendees (i.e. they’re not supposed to be anyone in particular).

On the left here is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with Frederick Douglass in the middle.

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Here are Lucretia Mott and her husband James.

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The central figure here is Martha Wright (sister of L. Mott).

woristatues4.jpg

Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock:

woristatues5.jpg

and Jane and Richard Hunt (left and center), who hosted the meeting that led to the convention:

woristatues6.jpg

Beyond the statues there was a wall showing various images of the fight for equality.

wall2.jpg

wall1.jpg

The stairs led up to the main museum, with several exhibits showcasing the history and achievements of feminism.  Included here was another statue of an important figure who wasn’t at the 1848 convention: Sojourner Truth.

sojourner.jpg

There were a few signposts that gave a timeline of events, and from which I learned a few things I hadn’t known before.  For instance, before women gained suffrage nationally, a handful of states and territories granted the right to vote regardless of gender.  The first was the Wyoming territory in 1870.  I also learned that the first woman elected to Congress (Jeannette Rankin) was elected before the 19th amendment, in 1916.

Adjacent to the visitors’ center is the skeleton of the chapel in which the convention was held.

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Just down a slope from that building is a fountain in the form of a wall with water flowing down it.  Carved on the wall is the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments:

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and a list of the attendees:

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It’s definitely an inspirational site to visit, and I’m glad I took the time to stop by.  One of the sad things I reflected on was the fact that practically nobody who participated in that convention actually lived to see national suffrage.  The 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 – 72 years after the convention (which forms an interesting symmetry with the fact that the convention itself occurred 72 years after the founding of the country).  It’s also surreal to think about the fact that suffrage occurred less than a century ago – women have only enjoyed the right to vote in the U.S. for 88 years.  There has been progress since then, in gaining gender parity in several other arenas, but there remains quite a ways to go.

Maybe it will take less than another 160 years to finish the work started in Seneca Falls.

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Posted by seaking on 11-29-2008 at 12:11 am
Posted in Politics, Travel with 0 Comments

A little to the left

I discovered this quiz via Amyable’s blog. According to the result I should be supporting Dennis for president. Fortunately, I already am! I’ll be voting for him on Super-duper-mega Tuesday here in Massachusetts (known simply as February 5 for the half of the country that doesn’t vote that day).

93% Dennis Kucinich
92% Mike Gravel
80% John Edwards
79% Joe Biden
76% Chris Dodd
76% Barack Obama
70% Hillary Clinton
67% Bill Richardson
28% Rudy Giuliani
26% Ron Paul
23% John McCain
16% Mike Huckabee
16% Mitt Romney
13% Tom Tancredo
7% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Posted by seaking on 01-10-2008 at 11:01 pm
Posted in Politics with 0 Comments

Progress

I totally didn’t see or hear this reported in news outlets that I usually monitor, but a judge in Iowa has ruled that same-sex couples cannot be denied marriage licenses.  Fortunately, I got the news from my friend Stasa’s blog.  The story can be found at the Des Moines Register’s site.

This ruling, if it stands, would strike down the state’s defense of marriage law that defines marriage as being a union of a man with a woman.  While the initial effect is in Polk County, same-sex couples would gain the right to marry in the other 98 counties as well.  The next step is an appeal to the state Supreme Court.  They might be likely to overrule the county judge, so the freedom could be short-lived.

Even if the decision does get reversed, the fact that it happened at all is a sign of Iowa changing.  I lived in the state from 1997-2001, and nobody even talked about equal marriage – everyone was working on getting protection from job and housing discrimination in place outside a couple of larger cities in the state (only Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames at the time).  I participated in an effort to get those protections in the City of Cedar Falls, which only garnered the support of 1 of the 7 council members.  I went to one lobbying event at the state capitol for a statewide non-discrimination bill, but that got even less far.
Now that I think about it, though, there were signs of progress while I was there.  One instance occurred when then-Governor Tom Vilsack, early in his first term, issued an executive order allowing state employees to add same-sex domestic partners to their health insurance.  The legislature reacted by proposing legislation rescinding the order.  My state senator, Republican Don Redfern, was on the committee that approved the law, and he voted in favor of it in committee.  I wrote him a letter expressing my displeasure, as did others, I’m sure, and when it came to a full Senate vote, he was one of 2 members of his party to vote against it.  The bill passed, but without enough of a margin to survive the governor’s veto.  Even if Redfern’s opinion of same-sex relationships was not changed, he at least came to know how many of his constituents felt differently.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the ideal outcome of this case.  Many, many couples in Iowa (some of whom I know) have waited long enough already.

Posted by seaking on 09-02-2007 at 01:09 pm
Posted in Politics with 0 Comments

This Babe’s…er…Bud’s for You

If you’ve seen any beer advertising (and who can escape it?), you’ve probably noticed that it’s often something other than beer they’re selling in the ads. A billboard for Budweiser recently popped up in our neck of the woods – it’s on Route 9 as you head East over the river from Northampton into Hadley, which I do on my way to work – and it’s no exception. This one features only the torso of a woman with a bare midriff – and it’s a fairly inclusive definition of the midriff. The slogan at the bottom: “Expect Everything.”

Those familiar with the Pioneer Valley know that it is a place where anti-corporate sentiment, and feminism, not only thrive, but are loudly proclaimed. This billboard might as well have had a big target painted on it. It wasn’t long before the ad got reinterpreted through spray paint.

At first, it was changed to say, “We Infect Everything.” I saw this as some contractors were starting to remove the graffito, though I didn’t get a picture of it. The sign then had another week in its original form.

Then, it got altered again. Over Easter weekend, the “Everything” was
blacked out, and new letters painted in the same spot. This time, it was like that for a few days, and I got a picture:

“Expect Misogyny” I couldn’t have painted it better myself. Am I against sexuality, you ask? No, of course not. The point is that we’re bombarded with ads all the time that objectify women – reduce them to a sexual commodity rather than people – and someone decided here to call it like it is. The tough issue for me is the whole defacement of a billboard issue. I’m amused by what was done, but I certainly want to be careful about giving blanket approval to making political statements
in this way. I’d certainly feel different if Planned Parenthood put up a billboard about contraception, and it got defaced with an anti-abortion message. Of course, Anheuser-Busch is a much bigger and different kind of organization (and has much deeper pockets), so it’s not exactly a morally equivalent situation, but still.

I’d be very interested in any comments on this topic.

Also, I’m certainly not the first person to blog this.

Posted by seaking on 04-14-2007 at 11:04 pm
Posted in Humor, Politics with 5 Comments

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