Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Practice, practice, practice...

There is a book by Malcom Gladwell called Outliers. In it, he describes something called the 10,000 hour rule.  Essentially, the rule states that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become a world-class master.

Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitan:
The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers [there we are], ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.
I remember seeing this video a few months ago, but now it's being featured in an NY Times article.  Watching it, I'm once again awed by what humans are physically capable of... we just need to get out from behind our computer screens and off our couches. All it takes is practice.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gaga for HomelessYouth

It's hard to believe it's only been a year since Lady Gaga's first album came out; she has so quickly become an ubiquitous presence in pop culture.  My partner and I went to her concert in Los Angeles on Tuesday night and had a blast.  It's the first concert I've been to in decades. 

I love her music and videos, but I also appreciate that she's already using her fame as a platform for worthy causes...  from appearing at the National Equality March this past fall, to speaking out about homophobia.

This video clip played before her show.

She's teaming up with Virgin Mobile's RE*Generation program to help homeless youth. It's a fact that homophobia is a leading cause of domestic violence, with at least 20% of all homeless youth identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Not sure why they call us a threat to the "traditional family" when it's overwhelmingly the conservative hyper-religious types that are kicking their own children to the gutter.

I think about the millions of dollars we spend fighting for the equal rights and protections guaranteed by our constitution and wonder how much better that money could be spent in our own communities.  The Mormon and Catholic churches raise millions to support hate groups like NOM.  Really?  That's the best use of their time and effort when there is so much misery and hunger in the world?  Really?

Check out the website I linked above.  There are lots of ways to help by donating money or volunteering your time and energy.  One really quick and effortless way is to just send a $5 text message donation. See below for instructions.
You don't have to be a Virgin Mobile customer to give back. Make a donation by texting the word FREEFEST to 85944 and a one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. (Remember to reply "YES" to the confirmation sms).

Standard messaging rates and additional fees may apply with Txt2Donate. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of Virgin Unite by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Virgin Unite will use $0.50 of your donation to cover administrative costs and the rest will go to The RE*Generation. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 85944.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's a Small World After All


Friday, December 18, 2009

Marchin On

This video doesn't require much in the way of explanation.  Please take a moment to watch it.

Thanks to Queerty for the link.

Peace out everyone.  Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cleaning out the Closet

I think the biggest tragedy of the closet is the vast emotional distance it imposes into our every human interaction.  Until I began coming out at age 24, there wasn't a single relationship that I trusted.  Co-workers, friends, siblings, even my Mom and Dad... I was absolutely convinced that if anyone knew my deep dark secret, they would shun and reject me.  Or worse.

It wasn't just paranoia.  Growing up, I had an effiminate cousin who was repeatedly beat by his older brothers in an unsuccessful attempt "turn him into a man."  I heard my father justify the attempt with faint praise.

In high school, I stood by and watched the disdain and contempt with which most treated the "less than masculine" guys that preferred band and drama over sports.  I joined in the laughter hoping no one would see through my facade.

At the US Air Force Academy, at least once a school year, a suspected cadet was escorted from classrooms and subjected to intense interrogations by the OSI.  He would be given the choice of admitting guilt and turning over the names of other gay cadets or risk having his "shame" exposed to home town newspapers.  For the week to 10 days it took to out-process these disgraced cadets, they were accompanied everywhere by an officer.  They wore stripped-down green fatigue uniforms to make them stand out from the rest of us in our uniform blues.  I vividly remember that sinking, brittle-glass feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I would run into one of them being escorted from dorms to administration building.

So what do you do?  Keep everyone at a certain emotional distance. Don't ever share too much.  Lock away every romantic feeling you have in fear it will expose you to shame and ridicule.

Is it any wonder the suicide rate among GLBT adolescents is three to four times the national average?

Over at Outsports.com there is an article about a South African rugby player who's using his blog to document life in the closet.  As a professional athelete, he's convinced (probably correctly) that his very livihood is at stake.  Here's the article... it's worth a read.


And here is his actual blog.  Closet Rugby Guy

If you are gay or lesbian, you'll probably see a lot of your own struggle in his words.  And if not, then I encourage you to walk a mile in his shoes... perhaps you'll gain a little insight.

The story can have a happy ending.  My own coming out experience was the best thing I ever did.  Both my parents have been amazingly loving and supportive.  My siblings accept my partner like family.  Recently I've been reconnecting with old friends via Facebook and I'm hoping to really get to know them this time.  If there is one thing I hope you take from this, it's...

Be who you are.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marriage is a Civil Rite

Here is a really nice write-up of the federal courts challenge to California's Prop 8.


This challenge is particularly important because it will have a massive impact at a national level.  If the suit brought by Olsen and Boies is successful, it'll put a stop to this emotionally and financially draining, state-by-state battle we've been fighting for decades.

Prop 8 (and by extension, all the anti-gay marriage laws that have passed over the last few years) is unconstitutional because it
** Violates the Due Process Clause by impinging on fundamental liberties
** Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
** Singles out gays and lesbians for a disfavored legal status, thereby creating a category of “second-class citizens.”
** Discriminates on the basis of gender.
** Discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
How many American's even know what the Fourteenth Amendment says?  Passed by congress in 1868, the pertinent text reads:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws*.
* emphasis mine

Yes, I understand the argument that says marriage is a "religious rite" and has "traditionally" been reserved for opposite-sex couples.  It's also "traditionally" included multiple wives, women as property, arranged marriage between strangers, and child brides, but I don't see religous conservatives fighting to bring back to those traditions.  At least, not most of them.

The fact is, no one is asking for forced participation in a religious rite.  Churches already have the right to refuse their sacraments to anyone they want.  A divorced Catholic can't get married in the church.  A protestant couple can be denied a jewish wedding.  And nothing changes when the (already existing) right of same-sex couples to marry is finally recognized.

Here is another fact.  The state doesn't interfere with other religious sacraments such as baptism, christenings, first communion or bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs.  Why?  Because none of those rites come with state funded benefits and protections.  But once married couples began to accept civil benefits based on their marital status, then it ceased to be solely a religious rite; it also became a civil rite... and therefore a civil right.

The way I see it, there are ultimately two options.  Either protect the right of ALL Americans to wed the  consenting adult of their choosing, OR take away all state and federal rights and benefits that accrue from marriage.

Which do you think is the more reasonable alternative?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Consequences of 2nd-Class Citizenship

Today mark's the 8th day since the start of my blog.  Looking back over the last week, you'll notice that many of my posts deal with the issues of marriage equality and human rights for GLBT Americans.  I trust my current circle of friends and family to understand why this is important to me, but those of you who are old acquaintances from high school or my days in the U.S. Air Force may be perplexed or downright apathetic.  You might be asking yourself...
What's the big deal?
Why do "those people" keep harping about "special rights*?"
I can't speak for everyone, but I'll tell you my reasons why.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let's Have a Little Perspective

This video presentation of images from the Hubble Telescope is very powerful.  After watching it, I can't help but think we should be doing everything in our power to protect and nurture this tiny little speck of dust we call home.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D

Separate, but (Un)equal.

This week, we are waiting to see if the New Jersey state senate will pass a marriage equality law in their current lame-duck session.  Hey, it could happen... even The Boss has come out in favor of marriage equality.

What I find really interesting about the New Jersey situation is that they have had gay/lesbian civil unions since January of 2007.  This supposedly "separate but equal" instition is what the religous right, and even some of our liberal friends and "fierce advocates", say we should be satisfied with.  Of course, over the last 15 years, every time we actually TRY to gain civil union rights, the conservative movement does everything they can to shoot those down as well.  In fact, Texans went so far in making sure gays and lesbians have none of the rights and priviledges of marriage, they may have inadvertantly outlawed marriage for everyone.  lol.. "As ye sow," and all that.

Meanwhile, back in January of 2009, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission (a state-sponsored body) unanimously decided that segregating same-sex couples into Civil Unions "invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Becoming a "Majority of One"

I came up with the title to this blog while driving home from work one evening.  I was pondering how completely unfair and undemocratic it is that a simple majority can decide to strip away something as fundamental as the right to marry.  It's called the "tyranny of the majority" and our founding fathers were wise to protect us from it.  They deliberately established a liberal democracy,  meaning it's based on a document ("liber" is latin for "book") that esures basic human rights, instead of a direct democracy, which has the disadvantage of easily falling into mob rule.  There is a vast difference... look it up. 

Kinda funny when you think about it, but America's architects clearly expected us all to be liberals, in the literal sense of the word!.  Take THAT Glenn Beck!  Why do you hate America?!

For me, being a Majority of One simply means that I have the inherent right to be the majority of my own life.  My god-given free will grants me not only the right, but the responsibilty to act morally, not because I live in fear of punishment, or because some cult leader says it's "the right thing to do", but because I've taken the time to fully examine the motives and consequences of my actions.  Blind obedience strips away the moral value of your actions and turns them, at best, into simply "following orders, sir!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

GoodGuide Mobile... ethical purchasing made easy.

Every wondered if the products you buy were made by companies that shared your evironmental and social values? What if you could scan a product barcode on your iphone, and instantly receive information on the company's evironmental and ethical polices or workplace diversity?

I've been playing around with this little iPhone app from GoodGuide that does exactly that.

Open up the app, touch the scan button and the just point the camera at the bar code.  They have about 50,000 products in their database and are adding more each month.  Definitely worth checking out.

First they came for...

Have you heard about the pending legislation in Uganda that outlaws homosexuality?  That actually punishes consensual gay sex with the death penalty or life imprisonment?

What's truly horrific is that it's being done with support and encouragement from American evangelicals and politicians.  We're sending our tax dollars to a country that thinks the best way to combat aids is to kill all the queers.

Rachel: The culmination of these efforts -- this massive focus on Uganda -- is a piece of legislation that`s been introduced in that country now that attempts, it says, to tackle the AIDS problem in that country and the problem of homosexuality all at once. It`s a bill that calls for the execution of any gay Ugandan who is HIV positive, who is caught having gay sex -- death by hanging specifically. And it`s not just gay Ugandans who are HIV positive who are being targeted, the sentence just for being gay is life imprisonment.
The sentence for knowing somebody who is gay and not reporting them to authorities, presumably so they can be prosecuted, is three years in prison. This bill was written by a Ugandan legislator purportedly taken in by Republican Senator James Inhofe and the Family here in America.
 Full transcript of this broadcast is available from Lexis-Nexis.

Thanks go to Crooks & Liars for bringing some much needed attention to this horrible piece of legislation.

California and New York.. not as progressive as Iowa?!

Here's another reason I love John Stewart.  He's funny, smart, and definitely on the right side of history.

Summer of Love - meh, not so much.

I sympathize with what equality-minded New Yorkers are feeling this week as their spineless state senators voted against equal rights for their second-class citizens (aka - gays and lesbians).  We went through the same thing in California last year with Prop-H8.

I remember waking up after election day, opening my web browser to review the vote counts, and feeling my heart fall completely out of my chest.  All the talking heads on the news were pontificating on how Obama's election meant that finally, FINALLY every child in America could dream of being the President and make it happen.

Yeah, well... not so much if you are gay or lesbian.  Or frankly, a woman, a latino, and asian... or god forbid (literally), an atheist, or muslim, or buddhist, sigh.. the list is pretty long isn't it?

Anyway, this week's NY senate vote reminded me of a wonderful post by my favorite 82 y.o. blogger, Helen Philpot. 

Summer of Love

We often say that if we are patient, we second-class citizens will finally achieve equality when the older generation "goes gently into the night."  Helen is living proof that we should listen more to our elders.  

Check it out, it's worth a re-read.

What I'm Reading - Wild Fermentation

What do beer, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, vinegar and miso all have in common?  They are the products of fermentation, perhaps the oldest method for processing and preserving food. 

The micro-organisms that result from fermentation can have a positive effect on both our palates and our digestive system.  If you've ever take a cycle of anti-biotics, you know how dependant we are on the little guys floating around our intestinal track.  Far from being solitary beings, humans are actually a symbiotic colony of trillions of good bacteria.  These little organisms are essential to good health.  They help our bodies function in a myriad of ways, and fight back infections from the bad ones.  Every single one of us is literally teaming with life.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

This book by Sandar Katz is less a cookbook (although there are tons of recipes) and more an exploration of "the history and politics of human nutrition." So if you're looking for a little "culture," here's a good place to start.

Family Values

While the NY marriage equality bill failed in the NY state senate this last Wednesday, there are at least a couple good things to take from it.  Not a single Republican senator had the courage to stand up and say why they were voting no.  It might not feel like it, but that really is progress.  Even they realize that bigotry is shameful work.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hello and welcome...

This is my new place for collecting the things and thoughts I find interesting, moving, and/or worth sharing.

Why the title, Majority of One?

Couple reasons for that.  First off, everyone has a unique perspective on life.  No one else in the world will agree with ME 100% of the time on every single issue, on every single choice.  So the idea that there is a "majority" for anything is kind of an illusion.  We might stand by someone on a particular issue, but be in exact counterpoint with them on something else.  Obviously, I'm in the majority when I say that slavery, theft or murder is wrong.  Unfortunately I'm NOT in the majority when I espouse that gay and lesbian Americans deserve the same rights and privileges as every other tax-paying citizen of this great experiment we call the United States.