31 October 2008

What Next?

There's an article about me in today's Los Angeles Times. Not me, specifically, but me and the estimated 32,000 gays and lesbians who will have gotten married in California between 15 June (the first day such marriages were legal) and election day (next Tuesday).

After 13.5 years, my partner (Matt) and I drove to California and did the deed (03 July). And now, we're a statistic. Next week we'll still be a statistic, but I don't know which kind: either we will be part of the initial wave that got married or part of the group in legal limbo (will our marriage still be legal?).

You see, California has this thing called Proposition 8 -- known in some circles as Proposition H8 (get it?) -- in which some people seek to "protect" traditional marriage (from what, no one seems to know) by codifying discrimination in the California constitution. It essentially says marriages would only be valid if between a man and a woman.

Everything I have read about the reasons for this "necessity" say it is important to ban same-sex marriages "for the children." How this affects children is never quite explained.

(Interestingly, here in Arizona we have a similar piece of proposed legislation floating around, called Proposition 102. Everything I have read about the reasons for this "necessity" say it is important to ban same-sex marriages "for the children." Again, no one explains just how this affects them.)

Anyway, right now it seems that Proposition 8 will not pass -- but just barely. This means, of course, that in two years the same issue will be before the voters. But it also means more tens of thousands of gays and lesbians will have gotten married and will, just like now, have to live with the threat that their marriages will be rendered invalid by a bunch of ignorant bigots. Oddly, almost the exact same thing happened here two years ago when an enlightened electorate defeated a same-sex-marriage ban. I mean, seriously, what part of "no" do they not understand?

So, for now, Matt and I remain married and ready to celebrate our 14th anniversary next month.

P.S. Last week I was called for jury duty (and did not get picked, damnit!). You know the part of the selection process where you have to tell about yourself, where you work, if you're married, etc? Well, I was listening to all the straights telling about their wives and husbands. So, this is what I said: "I am happy to say I just got married to my partner of 14 years, and HE is a graphic designer." I figured I would piss off a lot of people by saying that. You know what happened? During a break about half a dozen people came up and congratulated me. Can you imagine? Maybe there is hope yet.

You can read the article here.

21 October 2008

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Monday's Wall Street Journal had a really interesting article about low-income consumers, how they organize their thoughts, purchases and lives. It's geared toward marketing to this overlooked consumer niche, but is intriguing on its own.

Studies have found that low-income consumers often have low literacy skills -- like the 14% of Americans estimated to be functionally illiterate in America (that's an astounding number!).

The article gives examples of how their thinking about products is different from what you might expect -- like one test to observe the ability to grasp abstractions. Subjects were shown four objects -- a hammer, saw, log and hatchet -- and asked to select the three objects that could be placed in a group. Rather than picking the hammer, saw and hatchet and calling them "tools," the subject chose instead the objects that would be involved in chopping wood -- presumably the saw, log and hatchet. Of course, that makes perfect sense, but is totally different than how I would have answered. I find this kind of stuff really fascinating -- and you might, as well.

Apparently such information has ramifications about how stores should group products to better align with this different process of thought.

You can read the article here.

17 October 2008

Calling All Calders

For most of my life I have been intrigued by the mobiles that were crafted by Alexander Calder. Whether gigantic or small, their shapes, colors, ebb and flow always fascinated me -- like the wonderful mobile created for the National Gallery in Washington (pictured).

I was surprised to learn many years ago that Calder also made little wire sculptures, like those featured in the current exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He made jewelry, toys, portrait heads, and lots more out of wire and simple objects.

You can read more about this new exhibition

Find out more about Calder

15 October 2008

Whaling Tales

It is sure a good time to be a whale -- especially if you swim around Chile. Today, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed a law that bans all whaling off the country's 3,400-mile coast.

You can read more about this move to further protect these wonderful animals here.

03 October 2008

Breathing 101

I like breathing, and I feel comfortable assuming most other people do, too. Unlike most people, however, I have trouble with breathing owing to a lifelong friendship with Mr. Asthma, the brothers Allergies and a fleeting acquaintance with Miss Bronchitis. This is one occasion where I was not able to pick my friends.

Breathing has been such a challenge for me that, on several occasions when I was young, I nearly died. Until the mid-1960s there were almost no treatments for asthma, so there were a lot of deaths. Allergy medication was also pretty much unknown with the exception (in my case) of chewing on pieces of local honeycomb (which is filled with pollen, which exposed me to small amounts of stuff to which I was allergic, building up [in theory] my resistance to that pollen).

My mother tells the tale of one night, when I was five or six, that she awoke to the sound of me NOT breathing. She raced into my bedroom and found me a pretty shade of blue, slowly asphyxiating because my tonsils were so swollen they closed off my throat, and my sinuses were so congested that no air passed through.

Even after my tonsils were removed, I still had trouble breathing. I nearly always ate with my mouth open because of my severe sinus congestion. (To walk a mile in my moccasins, pinch your nose closed when you are next eating, and then try to eat with your mouth closed. Oddly enough, it's impossible.)

So, throughout my childhood my illnesses made me an outcast (because being the smartest kid in school and wearing glasses were clearly not making me outcast enough). I was not able to join in any of the reindeer games and used to spend my phys ed period in the library, reading.

Thankfully, puberty came along and lessened the amount of breathing problems I had. They never went away, but they were significantly reduced. One of the other visitors in puberty, smoking, passed me by. I had trouble enough breathing clean air, why would I breathe in smoke?

Fast forward about 20 years when I was nearing the age of 40. Guess who came back for a return visit? That's right: Mr. Asthma and the brothers Allergies. Miss Bronchitis stops by usually for xmas, but otherwise is scarcely seen.

I don't have breathing problems like I did when I was a child. I still take allergy medicine, lots of decongestant, and occasionally have to use an inhaler for my asthma. Luckily, I don't have the severity of breathing problems as some people do -- especially people who smoked most of their lives and now have emphysema or lung cancer.

A few years ago I had a real scare: My spouse and I got hot wings for dinner, which we were eating at home. One bite in and I suddenly could not breathe. That sometimes happens, but usually clears once I stand up and start thinking about breathing. Not this time, nearly five minutes went by with only the smallest stream of air able to enter through my now-swollen throat.

I stood there, unable to breathe, unable to tell Matt what was happening. So I took a moment to think, to remember that panic kills, and started thinking through what I could do. I figured I was in anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) and experiencing the most common symptom (throat swollen shut).

We have an alarm system at our house that includes a medical panic button (push the button and the ambulance is alerted). I thought about pressing that, then decided I would instead concentrate on breathing.

I stood there, barely able to breathe, and thought to myself "Be calm. Be calm. Breathe as deeply as I can. Be calm, breathe deeply." To my great surprise, I was able to breathe better, my throat was still swollen, but I was getting in oxygen. Over time I was breathing better and was able to start clearing my throat. After a few more minutes I was able to take some medicine that reduced the reaction. I clearly dodged a bullet this time.

Later, I visited my doctor and told him about this and he said I did the right thing by not panicking. He gave me a prescription for an epi pen (a hypodermic with anti-allergy medicine, which I ended up never needing).

I have had only one other reaction, this one more severe (after eating fresh caught tuna) that sent me to the emergency room.

So now I wear a medical alert bracelet whenever I am away from home (like on vacation). Matt knows about my possible allergic reactions, so do my co-workers, so I am safe there. But it appears that these kinds of things can happen anywhere at any time.

Still, I harbor within me the same great fear I have had since I was old enough to understand the concept of death: I fear I will die by suffocation. That would be poetic, wouldn't it?