Hey- I've been sitting on some really cool news for the last ten days.

Law firm Kramer Levin has just filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

The US Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 on March 26th (Prop 8) and March 28th (DOMA). The DOMA case being appealed is United States v. Windsor, in which a lesbian couple who married in Toronto, lived in New York (which recognized their marriage), and then had to pay $363,000+ in federal estate taxes when one spouse died in 2009. If they had been a heterosexual couple, they would have paid no estate taxes.

At the gathering of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns this month, in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, our group was asked if we might be added as friends of the court. We had received a letter from the law office just weeks earlier. A small group studied the draft filing (so amazingly well-written!) and recommended that we do add our name to the brief. Our Business Meeting then discerned this was part of our witness, and so we sent back our "yes" along with a few minor corrections- and additional URLs. ...And they cited our webpages! Our collection of Marriage Minutes are cited in a Supreme Court filing! The webpages which were put together by [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx and myself!
(Though I want to make clear that other Quaker bodies wrote these Minutes on the subject of same-sex marriage. We just collected and shared them.)

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE

BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE STATE OF
CALIFORNIA; MANHATTAN CONFERENCE OF
THE METROPOLITAN NEW YORK SYNOD OF THE
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA;
THE RABBINICAL ASSEMBLY; THE
RECONSTRUCTIONIST RABBINICAL
ASSOCIATION; RECONSTRUCTIONIST
RABBINICAL COLLEGE; RABBI AKIVA HERZFELD
OF SHAAREY TPHILOH; THE UNION FOR
REFORM JUDAISM; UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST
ASSOCIATION; UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST; THE
UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE
JUDAISM; AFFIRMATION; COVENANT NETWORK
OF PRESBYTERIANS; FRIENDS FOR LESBIAN,
GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER, AND QUEER
CONCERNS
; METHODIST FEDERATION FOR
SOCIAL ACTION; MORE LIGHT PRESBYTERIANS;
PRESBYTERIAN WELCOME; RECONCILING
MINISTRIES NETWORK; RECONCILINGWORKS:
LUTHERANS FOR FULL PARTICIPATION; AND
RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE, INC. IN SUPPORT OF
AFFIRMANCE IN FAVOR OF RESPONDENTS

Any information about the brief was to remain private until after it was filed; it's been tough to sit on this without telling anyone. The anti-DOMA brief is so very well written! How great is this...

"It appears that what those other amici want is not protection for their own free speech and free exercise rights, but rather immunity from disapproval they may face by those who affirm the rights and relationships of lesbian and gay people."

"[The preceding] belies the claim of certain amici favoring reversal that American religions speak uniformly or overwhelmingly in opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. To the contrary, American religious thought and practice embrace a rich diversity. No one view speaks for “religion” – even if, contrary to the Establishment Clause, it were appropriate to give weight to religious views in evaluating and applying the Constitution’s secular promise of equal protection."

"Were the federal government to start recognizing the lawful civil marriages of same-sex couples– as it does interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, and re-marriages after divorce – religions that disapprove of such unions would remain free to define religious marriage however they wish. They could withhold spiritual blessing of such marriages and
indeed bar those entering into them from being congregants at all, just as they are now free to do so on grounds of faith, race, prior marital status, or any other characteristic deemed religiously significant. Amici urging reversal fail to explain how their religious practice would be burdened by the fact that
other people are afforded equal marriage rights by the state. For example, the brief of amici Liberty, Life
and Law Foundation and North Carolina Values Coalition scarcely even touches on the actual legal
consequences of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Instead, it focuses on fears of having to
“endorse or facilitate” marriages of same-sex couples [...]"

And it keeps going.

---

It was a minor miracle of timing that the law office asked us to sign on just a few weeks before our gathering; and the deadline for our decision was three days after the gathering ended. A few weeks in either direction and we would have not been able to sign on as a friend of the court, since our group only meets twice a year.

And a final note: This law firm, Kramer Levin, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and cases for almost 20 years. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out to me that one of the three founders, Arthur Kramer, was a character in his brother Larry's autobiographical play, The Normal Heart. The two brothers had an enormous falling out in the mid 80s when Arthur Kramer would not lend his name to Larry's anti-AIDS activist group, Gay Men's Health Crisis, only offering personal support of his gay brother. Larry saw this as a cop-out; in the play, they remain estranged until Larry's death (though it seems that in real life they had some limited rapprochement).

And so this is a small part in a long story. And it keeps going.
Acting Up Stage Toronto had a recent run of "Caroline, or Change," written by Tony Kushner. The Globe and Mail gave it 4 stars and a number of blurbs said it's the best theater of the last year. Last year New York Magazine called it one of the "greatest musicals of all time", the only so chosen of the 21st century to appear on every panelists' short list.

So, hm. I wish I thought it was that good.

The story follows a young boy (modeled on Kushner) who lives in Lousiana in 1963. His Jewish family employs an African-American maid, Caroline. The title refers to all sorts of change: the coins in the boy's pocket (which cause drama as his step-mother decides Caroline should keep them rather than give them back to the boy), the political seismic shifts washing across the United States (including the Southern Freedom marches, the assassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War), the changes in social status of Caroline's high-school friend Rose, and against all of these, how Caroline feels the same as ever.

It is a powerful show; and there are notes of genius- the music is beautiful; the players are spot-on (except for one thing I'll note below); the magic of playing the Washing Machine, Radio, and Dryer as soul-singers is wonderful; and the Moon, played by a woman in a diva-like hat, occasionally gave me shivers.

In the end, the biggest problem I had was that it feels exactly like there's only one three-dimensional character, the boy Noah (who grows up to be the playwright). I think with a bit of tweaking to the book, this could be the amazing show for me that other people seemed to find it.

I think the ONLY fault in the production was sort of funny: a song about the moon talks about how her light shone, and the song rhymes shone with alone; but the Canadian pronunciation of "shone" is the same as the name "Shawn", and sure enough that's how it was sung. Um, yeah.

But anyway, it reminds me how difficult it is to change, especially when not changing has lots of comfortable attractions.
Last night, Laurie Anderson gave a concert at the Perimeter Institute. Much to my surprise, I was able to go [1] and so I offer this brief review.

I guess the atrium of the Perimeter Institute has improved a bit since the first concert I saw there, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, which featured very uncomfortable lawn chairs. This, this concert had real hard-back chairs. Not that I got to sit on one- I had a standing-room ticket, upstairs. Mezzanine. The whole 2nd floor was open, and there were only 40 standing-room tickets, so we each got a fair bit of space to ourselves.

Pluses: Unobstructed view: at the beginning I was standing less than 10 feet from Laurie Anderson. Straight up.
Minuses: We weren't allowed to lean on the glass railing, which I kept forgetting. And the top of a performer's head turns out to not be as exciting as seeing the front of her face. Also, I saw her glance upward once and realized it might actually be disconcerting to have audience perched just over-top of oneself.

So I moved back to 20 feet away, where I stayed for the rest of the show. It wasn't bad, even standing, and there was lots of room for me to sit on the floor, which I did for a while.

The acoustics were fine; possibly slightly less amplified, but that wasn't a problem. Fortunately, I also didn't find there were any annoying echoes in the big space.

The concert was 90 minutes. She started with her signature pitch-bended electric violin (which in the late 70's was a "tape bow violin"- with recorded magnetic tape as the bow, and a magnetic tape head as the bridge; though I don't expect that's still how it works). She alternated between instrumental-only pieces, some which I liked quite a lot, and spoken-word over instrumental and keyboard loops. Some of her spoken-word was pitch-bended into her trademark growling bass voice, which she has called audio drag or "the Voice of Authority." That voice matched her appearance- she was dressed up way butch, with spiky hair, a thin tie and dark suit, though the Voice didn't really say things of much authority- and she had a perfectly commanding presence with her own voice.

Lighting was quite dark: there were mood lights of various primary colours, and candles on the stage. She told stories. Very modern stories, simply told, many of them compelling, though I didn't feel like they hung together as a whole (more on that at the end). This is apparently the start of a new tour, "Another Day in America," which started last week in Calgary, and we were lucky enough to be the second city on the tour. I imagine it will evolve as it goes.

She spoke about the National Defense Authorization Act which Obama just signed on New Years Eve, which allows indefinite detention without trial of American citizens in military prisons. She noted that this piece of law centers on a redefinition of "battleground" to include all of the United States. And what does it mean to choose to bring the battleground to one's home? "We've been waiting a couple hundred years for the enemy to show up, and since they never did, we decided maybe it’s us."

She spoke about how annoyed Darwin had been with peacocks- "what could possibly be fittest about a giant bright blue tail?" and jumps to how the Catholic church has been afraid of science- and what if the Church was most afraid that we'd find many worlds, with other popes? Which pope would be the real pope? Perhaps one with the brightest, bluest tail?

She told about visiting one of the many tent-cities in the US which started during the housing crisis, which collectively have housed thousands of Americans over the last years. I have to say I thought she'd veered to the fictional, but google and wikipedia tell me the camp she visited is exactly as described.

Her beloved rat-terrier Lolabelle died this spring, on Palm Sunday; she told how the Tibetian Book of the Dead says when a living being dies, it will spend 49 days in a place called the Bardo, before it is reincarnated. And Lolabelle died 49 days before Anderson's birthday. She goes on to say that when Lolabelle went blind a few years ago, Anderson began teaching her to play the piano, and to paint; and then she shared a dozen of Lolabelle's paintings, and a video of her playing the keyboard (wagging, and barking in joy as she did so).

The last time I saw her, in Ithaca in 2006, she had just spent time as NASA's first (and last) Artist in Residence. She also had stories about Lolabelle, one which has stuck with me, about a walk in the woods when a hawk dive-bombs them and the dog realizes there's 180 degrees of the world she had never imagined could be dangerous- which turns into a parallel story about the US post-9/11. Really sharp stuff.

So, on the whole. I wish this concert had tied together more. I could feel the authority with which she was speaking, and maybe it's up to the listener to pull things together, but the way it was structured, I didn't find myself able to do so during the concert. Perhaps some of that pulling together can happen when I'm in Quaker Meeting this weekend.

I'm quite glad the PI was able to get her here- they have been trying for years. Perhaps she will be back! I would not mind that, no.

[1] So, how I got a ticket. If you are allergic to twitter, you won't want to read this. Just sayin'.

I found out about the concert from someone tweeting about it on Monday. I tweeted an "Aw, how come I just found out about this sold-out show?" After a bit of whinging to friends, I forgot about it. I had a faint hope to show up at the venue and see if there were unclaimed tickets.

But on Wednesday evening, I checked twitter and noticed somebody I didn't know had specifically sent me a message asking if I needed a ticket. I replied, but it had been 6 hours after he had asked, and he had also gotten re-tweeted by the Perimeter when he previously if anybody needed a ticket. ... and yet, somehow, nobody had; all of his friends who would have jumped at the chance lived in Toronto or New York or elsewhere. So Thursday morning, he came to my office and sold me his ticket at-cost! How cool is that?

What was I doing?

Friday, 24 June 2011 11:37 pm
Turns out I will remember what I was doing when New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill.

I was skyping with my parents; we had just said our good-byes, agreed it could take a while for them to get to the vote, even if it were a sure thing (but what if two senators fell and broke their noses and had to leave the chambers...) and mom made one last check on New York Times before hanging up, and there it was. And she got to read it from our Ithaca friend Diane M's facebook page as well. 33-29 votes in a Republican Senate. The bill will become law 30 days after Gov. Cuomo signs it.

This one, US State #6 for full marriage protection, is particularly noteworthy to me because I was born in New York State, lived there for my first 25 years; and so many friends in New York will now have legal marriage protection. In fact one friend (Vonn N.) is from the district of Steve Saland, the Republican senator who made a 10pm shift from undecided (without religious protections built in) to supporting it (with religious protections).

Congratulations, New York State! ...44 states to go, plus federal.

How's that go? Slow arc? Yeah, like that.
Biking home today, on my regular commute.

Though, not really, because I didn't turn at the usual block.

So I'm biking a street off from the usual commute, and I wonder why I didn't turn.

And I come up and see a bicyclist on the left side of the street, biking against traffic. Wearing a helmet. In his mid-20s.

So I say, "Hey there."

He says, "Hey," in a friendly way. I slow down a bit to match him.

I say, "I hope you don't mind, and I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but did you know it's really dangerous biking on that side against traffic? Because the cars aren't looking for things moving at bike speeds on that side of the road. And that's really dangerous for you."

He stopped and looked confused. "But I thought we were supposed to go against traffic to see them better. For safety." He sounded betrayed.

I said, "It's safer if you're a pedestrian. On foot, you're moving slowly, it's fine to be on that side. But on a bike, according to law, you're a vehicle."

"Oh. Wow. Thanks."

"You're welcome. Yeah, I think a lot of people got told that in school a while ago, that they should bike against traffic, but it's really unsafe for you, and it's unsafe for bicyclists who are coming the other way. Nobody expects bikes to be there."

"Oh. OK."

"Take care."

"Yeah, have a good day."

And I biked on home, with a lump in my throat.


---

Today at lunch, [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I were talking about the condition of being a bicyclist or pedestrian in this town, or in many places in North America. And we agreed there is no reason, other than lack of public will, for car/bike/pedestrian interaction to be as fraught as it is (particularly car/bike, but also bike/pedestrian). d. mentioned a friend's post today considering his choice to bike on less trafficked roads and to back away from engaging motorists who are being dangerous. This is come up regarding a recent grisly Toronto road-rage altercation that left a bike courier dead, though it's mostly gotten press because the motorist is a former Attorney General of Ontario charged with vehicular homicide. That situation is sad, but the overall condition of culture around bicycles is pretty damn sad too.

I want to see a lot more public will toward educating both cyclists and motorists about the rules of the road. I want to see a police blitz ticketing cyclists without lights or bells or running red lights; I want to see a lot of blitzes. I want to see a lot more adult defensive-cycling classes. (A national program recently sent a trainer-instructor here, for companies or individuals who wanted to teach cycling classes; I have heard nothing about its success or failures. And only heard about the program in [livejournal.com profile] take_the_lane's blog.)

But the status quo is deeply frustrating.

Ni Pena Ni Miedo

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 08:44 am
In Pinochet's Chile, a poet held and tortured in the dictator's jails named Raúl Zurita imagined "writing poems in the sky, on the faces of cliffs, in the desert."

In 1993, this poem was etched into a mountain-base: Ni Pena Ni Miedo.

No shame nor fear.

It is three kilometers long. If you zoom in on the google map in that link, you can the attention to detail. The desert has been reclaiming the field, just as the thousands of victims of Pinochet were disappeared.

But it is said that every Sunday the children of the nearest village go out with shovels and turn the dirt inside the letters to refresh them. My mind is boggled at the scale of this.

(I originally saw this on Google Sightseeing; there was more info in their links, and more also in the translation translation of his wp page here.)

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone.

Accomplished

Monday, 11 February 2008 01:15 am
I just completed something that has been on my plate (and that of [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx) for a few years, and it feels really good.

Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns has long had a commitment to collect the Minutes of Quaker Meetings affirming same-sex unions.

Minutes are a primary document by which a Quaker Meeting will document their discernment of God's will, as agreed upon by the entire Meeting. Different Meetings will have different openings to God, and their Minutes will record their collective understanding at that time.

So these Marriage Minutes are living documents of this discernment. They range back from a document from Illinois in 1974, to one in Australia in 1984 and a number from the late 1980s and many more from the 1990s and on.

A few years ago, I discovered an article in Friends Journal magazine, written by a man in rural Pennsylvania, Wallace Cayard, who reported he had done a complete survey of American Quaker Meetings and whether they had a minute which affirmed same-sex marriages and commitments. He did his survey in 1997 then again in 2004. As far as I can tell this project was entirely done by this elderly man and his wife Leonora.

He sent me a typewritten copy of his report, which looked like it had been done up on an ancient Underwood. He had records for 207 Quaker Meetings. Our group had records for about 100 Meetings at that time.

I've finally gotten around to merging them together and we now have records for 228 Meetings on the web- 128 minutes and 100 names of Meetings without the text of the minutes. Just having the Meeting names for them is a great start; we can send volunteers out to get those. And if someone is googling for information, they might get what they need just from finding the name on our site.

I've got lots of other things to do, but this gives me a pretty great sense of accomplishment, even if I should really be in bed right now.

And also, it's rather touching to be editing a document that includes statements such as:

"We joyfully affirm our willingness as a Meeting to sanctify celebrations of marriage for both same and opposite gender couples. We intend to follow the good order of Friends in arriving at clearness for all couples who are led to unite under our loving care. We call upon the state to give the same legal recognition to same and opposite gender marriages."

That, from Brunswick Maine Monthly Meeting. Thank you Friends...

ACLU

Thursday, 20 December 2007 11:05 am
Yesterday I got around to contacting the ACLU about their mailing list- specifically, I would like to donate to them, but I don't want mailings.  At all. Period. Their website didn't make it clear how to do this; it also made it clear that feedback comments could not be responded to. I sighed and I sent them a note anyway.

I got an email response, quite quickly, saying my email had been forwarded, and this morning I got a phone-call. 

Yes, they will tick a "no mailings" flag in their database if you ask them to. And yes, they definitely want to know if you've named them in your will.  A trust has made a matching grant of 10% of your future gift's value, if you're willing to tell the ACLU how much you think that will be.

Hm. Considering that you're going to be pulling that number from thin air, it sounds like a sizable donation to ACLU.  It seems sensible for all parties concerned- and if I'm willing to mention them in my will, I ought to be willing to let them know when I'm alive as well.  Right? Especially if they honour the "don't bother me" flag.
This is partly a post for me to link to in my todo list for next spring, because I want to think about longer days (wah, it's so dark at 4:20...)

Via [profile] speedyima:

One Straw Revolution, written by a guy who's doing permaculture in his subdivision.  (He wisely got himself elected president of the neighborhood assn first!)  He also has a basic essay on "Ecological 'Yardening'", covering the basics of lawn maintenance/eradication, vegetable gardening, etc.

His tips on how to get started reducing grass lawn appear sound and reasonably simple.  Though I think the title "yardening" is too twee. Perhaps re-reading this in the spring will inspire me after I never did get started on replacing any of the yard with attractive perennials last year.  Though- I did encourage the ivy to come out from the house into the yard, with careful mowing.  And I'll revisit this in April.

Also: the Eat Well Guide is a database of local farms, stores, and restaurants, from Canada and the US. It's an interesting find, and I'm curious if their overall coverage is better than for our area- it completely lacks most of the local sources I know of; but it would be neat to see this grow up to be a proper international guide.  I'm going to point them at the "Eat Local Eat Fresh" "Buy Local Buy Fresh" database, which is slightly less user-friendly but much more complete for locals.  The Eat Well Guide is from the folks who did the "meatrix" movie(s), which means I have mixed feelings about it- the movies are histronic and a bit misleading, but... it's not like there needs to be a monopoly on media messages about organic cruelty-free meat farms.
Chuck Norris has endorsed Mike Huckabee for president.

It's an awesome ad, but the guy's a Creationist Pro-War Death Penalty Advocate. I'd much rather see Mike Huckabee endorse Chuck Norris for president.

Conveniently, the video and audio to support that are right there.

I don't have the time or chops, but I bet someone out there does.

Waiting. :)

[ETA 3:30pm: R(TM)ark replied to my email to them with: "Sounds like a great idea! But we can't do it right now. Good luck!". damn.]

What have I done?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007 04:31 pm
I was just in the Student Centre, and one of the groups that was tabling is giving out free compact florescent bulbs. The goal is giving one bulb to every Canadian household, and they say they have the sponsors to do that.

I took my bulb, looked at their website, and was impressed enough by it to go back and ask a few more questions and whether I could give some out to my non-student friends and colleagues. For my troubles, they handed me a teeshirt and a bag of 50. :)

If you see me face-to-face in the next month, ask for your free bulb.

I might just start carrying a few around and giving them to strangers- I see very little downside to that, other than a little bit of talking-to-strangers phobia, which I'm trying to counteract by talking to strangers (win!). The package has non-embarrassing marketing materials, and the form-factor of the bulbs is smaller than a regular incandescent, which is an improvement on most of the CF bulbs in our house. They also claim to be instant-on, which is also an improvement. [edit to add: not instant-on, but maybe half a second, which is acceptable.]

(Boy, they might have made a mistake by handing me 50... how many unconverted lights does our house have?... hm, OK, not many.)

The women I spoked to said roughly half the people who took bulbs were also putting their names down to be contacted about becoming a volunteer.
*thud* That's the sound of my butt hitting my office chair, heavily. So glad to be home.

We're home from Wisconsin & FGC Gathering. This was a terrific week for me, enough to make up for the dorm-room beds, the heat, and the chaotic dining-halls. Among other things:

I had a long conversation with some non-theist Quakers, yesterday, who gave me interesting stuff to think about (and a post on that topic is forthcoming). My conversations with you all here, and elsewhere, were quite helpful, for helping me put my thoughts in order, so thanks.

I had a first-rate workshop throughout the week, on the topic of talking about Quakerism with non-Quakers. This, too, merits a post, hopefully this week.

Our Queer Quaker group has joined the 21st century and agreed to put our newsletters online (behind password protection). We also need to revamp our contact-lists, a project which was unfortunately stalled when the F/friend managing it died this last February. I have a fair bit of work to do on these, as the website co-manager (with the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx). At the moment, I'm wondering about pre-existing services to handle the mailing-list and donations (such as JustGive.org- except we're a religious non-profit, and not a 501(c)3.) If you happen to have any suggestions for mailing-list managers who might also handle subscriptions (by credit card or check), I'm all ears; otherwise I'll be doing some research this week.

[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I sought out two very dear friends for advice on two very different topics, which was rewarding. I do feel blessed for these friends as well as for for our many other wise friends. Very blessed. Lots of neat conversations. There may be a few more posts that percolate from some of these conversations, though I'm not planning any of them right now.

Finally, there was an interesting talk by Marcus Borg, a liberal Christian scholar who spoke at one of the evening plenaries on Biblical interpretation. If I get caught up, I may have something to say about him, but no promises.
What a fun day. How odd it is, that having just concluded I was probably an introvert, in a conversation in [livejournal.com profile] frankie_ecap's journal, that I had such an energizing day being unabashedly extroverted.

The best part for me was the unexpected ease of connecting with people. Lots of people were curious about the mechanics of how Quakers operated; and I found that LJ conversations with you smart lot were very helpful at putting my responses into useful language. You know how sometimes, you're teaching something and you can see exactly where the other person is at by the questions they're asking? It only happened a few times, but they were verra cool.

Now, I have huge problems with prostel prosthetiz prostheletizing. (...see?) Ultimately I think that word describes a form of violence on another person's psyche, based on manipulation... and patriarchalist religious assumptions.

I have to do some thinking about what doesn't bug me in the realm of talking about religion with strangers. (Maybe it's the fact that at this festival we had a huge whack of common ground at the outset of the conversations, and a fair motivation to learn.) Yeah. I'll keep thinking about it.

The festival's setup was: a bandshell at the bottom of the hill in the local park. In a straightish line up the hill, a double column of tables, each for an organization or vendor. The groups included the local Humanists (who organized and funded the event), Falun Dafa and the Bahai (the only two other explicitly religious groups besides the Quakers!), one anti-domestic-violence group, a housing co-op raising money for Amnesty, the Green Party (on my one side), Community Money (on my other side), and [livejournal.com profile] pnijjar's Fair Vote Ontario across the way from our table. It seemed to me that there were fewer hemp and craft vendors than I remember from last year, which was fine by me.

There was bright sun all day, and it was brutal. I'm glad for the sunscreen I put on, for the tree that provided partial shade, and for the sun umbrella we could move around for better shade. I went through 3 litres of water, probably a day's record for me. Plus another 500ml over dinner.

The organized program started around noon. They alternated bands and speakers at the bandshell. The sound setup was bad: the bands were audible all the way up the hill, but the speakers were only audible to the lower 1/3 of the tables. Which meant the majority of people at the festival couldn't hear the speakers. I asked one of the organizers about this; he asked the sound guy, and the sound guy said that was as good as he could do. I hope this can be fixed for next year.

I was the first presenter. I was preceded by a band, who played fairly good electronica. 20 people in the audience when I got there, and maybe 10 when I finished; and 5 of those were other Quakers. But, near the beginning when I looked up, there were a few dozen people standing a way up the hill, around the tables, listening.

The only other speakers I heard were [livejournal.com profile] pnijjar, who did a fine job explaining the Ontario Voter Referendum on proportional representation in just ten minutes, something I could never have done. I also heard a speech by a (30s-ish) woman begging everyone to reach out to teenagers, to look past the violent media they consume and try and guide them to better options, and don't write them off because they look scary. She seemed more passionate than many of the people I saw. I really would've preferred being able to hear more of the speakers.

At the Quaker table, we had anywhere from 3 to 5 people around at any time; a total of 9 of us over the day. I was surprised at how much difference that made, just for myself, compared with last year when I was alone for at least half of the day. Only off-and-on visitors to the booth. But we seemed to hit a critical mass of visitors a few times, when conversations would draw in other visitors. That was neat. I believe I saw the same happening across the way, at the Fair Vote Ontario table. I didn't see it happen at the Green Party tent.

My favourite moment was mid-afternoon, when I saw a guy with a Perl tee-shirt walk past. So I jumped up and accosted him. It turns out he's a friend of [livejournal.com profile] elbie_at_trig and [livejournal.com profile] thingo. He came over and we had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation for about half an hour (and I really need to learn more about Martin Buber's I and Thou, which he compared to Quakerism's "answering that of God in each other". Also I need to email his girlfriend some information about google labs and public-transit..) Elbie came by once or twice for a chat and eventually dragged him away. ;)

I suppose I could have more to say about the festival but I feel done for this post.
Later, a conversational post about today. Right now my brain's too fried. Today was good.

Here's the text of my talk at the nonviolence festival. )
Cul de Snack is an awful name for a lunch bar. It seems all cutesy until you remember what Cul means en français.

Yeah. Snack's Ass Cafe. Just the right impression.

On the other hand, this is a great name and font for an environmental campaign, and I don't mind that the province is co-sponsoring it. At all.
I've just added an LJ feed for the one and only [livejournal.com profile] peterson_tscano. If you've not read his blog, he's a Queer Quaker Performance Activist who's on the forefront of all sorts of wonderful things at the intersection of gender, identity, and faith.

[cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] queerinterfaith and [livejournal.com profile] quakers].
The recent UN report on climate change released in Paris last week seems to be affecting Canadian politics much more strongly than those in the US, though I was interested to see that the NYT article on that report is currently their most emailed and blogged story. But not so for a few other papers I just looked at, namely the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the LA Times. (Chosen somewhat unscientifically).

It's frustrating that this seems to be an "elitist issue" as much as ever in the US; and the Associated Press seems to be casting the report as a French statement, highlighting Chirac's statements, when the Canadian papers (Globe and Mail, Toronto Star) are casting it as an international coalition of scientists, as it seems to be from looking at the actual report.

Anyway, the environtment and advance notice about this report has been front-and-centre on the Globe and Mail for the last two weeks, and according to their reader polls, Canadians have plunked Climate Change at (or near) the top of their list of governmental priorities. This has made for an interesting political football, since the current minority government was elected on a platform of not particularly caring about the environment, including proposing to pull out of the Kyoto Agreement, and now Harper is scared of not looking green enough.

I liked an article I read in yesterday's Globe and Mail. It showed up in the Business section of all places. I think the author hit the essentials that politicians should consider, for the near and long term.

I would love to send something like the following to federal, provincial, and local representatives. (A major problem is that I can't vote here at all, so the first paragraph is disingenuous, at least for the time being).

---

Yesterday's Globe and Mail had an article by Eric Reguly with five suggestions for a Canadian response to climate change. These are great ideas, and I would sincerely like to be able to vote for whoever was able to make all of them happen.


  • The first point is essentially that increasing gas taxes would be political suicide. Instead, mandate increased product standards. We should be using the technology we have. Mandated standards would push development of better technologies.

    The remaining four points are excerpts from the article:

  • Rail, not roads: Canada was built on the railway. It's time to recreate it. Shipping by truck emits five to eight times as much greenhouse gas per tonne of freight than rail. Shifting the freight onto rail for medium- to long-haul routes would work wonders for the environment, for highway safety and for infrastructure maintenance budgets; it is trucks, not cars, that do the most damage to roads.

  • There isn't a road built on the planet that cured traffic congestion. They're highly skilled at achieving the opposite. Keep the maintenance budget and axe the capital budgets for construction. In the latest fiscal year alone, Ontario's construction budget was $1.4-billion, up from $1-billion in 2002. Imagine if that money were put into public transportation.

  • Insulate homes: Mr. Harper's Tories killed the EnerGuide program, which paid for home energy audits and reimbursed owners for the cost of better insulation, more efficient furnaces and the like. Realizing their mistake, they have just launched a program inspired by EnerGuide. But it's not ambitious. An ambitious program would retrofit all of Canada's 1.6 million or so low-income households. At, say, $5,000 a pop, the bill would come to about $8-billion.


  • Kill ethanol: In Canada and the United States, ethanol, the fuel additive made from corn, consumes vast amounts of taxpayer subsidies. If ethanol were the miracle cure for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, the expense might be worthwhile. But, at best, the environmental benefits are inconclusive. It would be far better to divert Canada's hundreds of millions of dollars of ethanol subsidies to technologies of proven environmental benefit.

    ---

    I can't say I disagree with any of these, and I'm glad to see them appearing in the Business section of the more conservative national paper. [ETA: hm, not sure why I just thought the G&M was more conservative than the Post. Must've been thinking of the Star? Donno.]

    The complete article is behind the globe and mail's paid subscriber wall. The rest of the article is mostly lightweight. But give a shout if you want a copy.

    I wish I thought the Canadian government were sincere about making real change. But, even more, I wish that citizens in both the US and Canada had the political will to elect politicians to make real change. I don't think that's there yet really, in either country. (In a month, will climate change be replaced here by Quebec as the biggest issue facing the nation? Or US relations? Sigh.)
da: (bit)
[livejournal.com profile] darkmagess pointed to a patent-busting effort by the EFF. They're looking for prior art (before 1999) of a website which:

  • uses wildcard DNS
  • HTML frames
  • and virtual domains


...to invalidate a patent by a company named Ideaflood.

Well, I think I know of a domain that does it, www.da.ru. That site offers free domains ending in "da.ru", which I've used (http://perlmonk.da.ru) since 2001.

It would be helpful if somebody could help me corroborate that it's prior art, as I don't read Russian :) Probably no more than 15 minutes web searching.

My evidence:

da.ru says the English version started in August 1999, but the site says copyright 1998-2006.

http://web.archive.org/web/*/www.da.ru suggests they had Russian-language services in 1998.

One of their users, http://colymp.udsu.ru/ , says copyright 1997-2006.

Can somebody browse around da.ru, or the archives, and help the EFF find prior art on this? Thanks!
Tonight I had dinner with friends K and J, who just returned from a five month walking pilgrimage through Northern Spain. I missed them while they were gone, one reason being the high quality of conversation we sometimes get to have. Tonight was one of those nights; after dinner we played a quick game of Ticket to Ride followed by a good hour-long walk through their neighbourhood.

It's sweet to learn how couples met. K and J got to know each other after an Anarchy Convention in Toronto some time in the 80s.

Jane Jacobs deserves many plaudits, but one I'd not expect is that one of her books (in part) effectively refutes the ethics of Anarchy as a social system. It's called Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics. I don't understand the argument; maybe I will when I track down a copy of the book.

We spent a while talking about how unbalanced the culture-wars are: between moral absolutists whose belief-system is threatened unless everyone follows it; and relativists whose beliefs can withstand co-habitating next to people who do not share their beliefs. J. mentioned an article I want to look up about Red Families and Blue Families, which I think was based on some amount of reasonable research.

idle thoughts

Monday, 10 July 2006 11:42 am
Saturday's globe and mail had an anti-idling editorial by David MacFarlane (actually, I guess it's a new Saturday column on urban etiquette). David tried to get a SUV idling for 15 minutes outside his house to shut off its engine, and failed. He states: yes, it's illegal, with a $130 fine. Yes, there are enforcement officers, but no, the police aren't going to be much help if someone won't stop idling near you.

Do you happen to know: are the police allowed/pre-disposed/required to accept photographic and video evidence of this kind of illegal activity? ...What would happen if the Toronto anti-idling enforcers got handed a big pile of videos every day, complete with license-plates, dates, timestamps, and statements by the observer?

Could cell-phone cameras have some practical social use after all?

I just realized I have a bit of history with videotaping wrong-doers, though that wasn't at the front of my mind when I started thinking of this.

Anyway: I don't know about the laws in this situation, specifically for Toronto or Canada as a whole. Do you?

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