Thursday, February 26, 2004

A line has been drawn

You will probably have heard about Bush planning to amend the American constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriages. What??!!! Are there no limits to this man’s insanity?

Here in the UK I am pretty stunned that Bush is willing to enshrine this prejudicial stance in the constitution. I know it is part of a wider election stance, but I cannot believe that it could happen. We are little further forward in the UK, but civil partnerships for same-sex and opposite-sex relationships are being actively developed as an alternative to marriage. I think we are more secular here and the religious ceremony is pretty insignificant compared to the legal recognition and partnership rights that would make a real difference.

It all seems to go against the basic principle of Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Apparently the right to enjoy a union with your partner is nothing to do with life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

I don’t want to ape some heterosexual institution based on the historic ‘ownership’ of a woman and protecting the family line. I want the right for my partner and I to share pension rights, housing rights, next-of-kin status and the ability top take a public stance on our love and commitment.

The old argument that same sex unions undermine marriage is pure baloney. Allowing same sex couples to declare their love and commitment doesn’t stop opposite-sex couples getting married and doesn’t make their commitment any less meaningful. It is unlikely to make people think “Oh that looks great I’ll become gay and ditch my partner” Considering the prejudice people face for being gay you are very likely to actively choose to become gay against your inherent sexuality. If you are gay is it not reasonable that you society should recognise your rights as an individual to form a union with the one you love?

I hope any American readers follow BMW’s links and register their views. More importantly write to your representative and encourage all your family and friends to do so. You know that the religious right will lobby hard on this and the only way to defeat it is through representatives knowing that people oppose it.

In the UK there is still a lot of work needed to get civil partnerships enshrined in legislation - you should write to your MP about this, visit their surgery and make your family write to their MPs. My ‘gay’ letter may count but the letters from my parents and straight friends will probably carry more weight in convincing the MPs that this issue has widespread public support.

DO SOMETHING or keep quiet when gay people are maintained as second-class citizens. In the UK you can also use the faxyourmp site to have a fax sent to your MP detailing your concerns. You write the content and the site sends it off along with a note that faxed communications are a valid form of communication. Indicate in your letter that you would like a written response.

Great pic by the way! © BMW

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Disney hall glare heats homes

A report today says local residents are complaining that the new Disney concert hall in LA is reflecting the sunlight and making their apartments warmer and brighter. "Resident Jaqueline Lagrone, whose apartment faces the hall, said the problem made her flat very bright and warm" Poor lamb! Move the concert hall to my street now - I would love some extra light and warmth for free. More on this


Monday, February 23, 2004

Evening Standard - standard in its sensationalist reporting

I heard an item on the Today programme this morning about Jane Griffiths who has been de-selected by her constituency part in Reading. The BBC reports that she is to be replaced by Tony page and 'openly' gay man who "was chosen despite two convictions for indecency in 1989 and 1995, which he said his party colleagues and the public were fully aware of." Not really sure that this is as relevant as his political views but I'll let it go. However, you can rely an The Evening Standard to detail this further. Their tag line is Blair Babe dumped and replaced by gay man, and they go on to detail that Tony Page has two convictions relating to picking up men for gay sex in public places. On the first occasion he was arrested following an encounter with a man in a public car park. The second incident took place in a lavatory cubicle at Reading train station.

While I suppose I am just as tawdry in reprinting their coverage I fail to see why these details were necessary. I maybe paranoid but the sub text here is verging to the loony left school of reporting. No doubt this will be a tabloid headline tomorrow with Labour's political correctness under the spotlight. The report does mention that Tony Page is a former adviser to ex-Cabinet minister Jack Cunningham and Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, which in my book are far better credentials for being an MP than details about past sexual encounters.

There is a delicate balance here between highlighting that a gay man is just as capable of political office as any other person (what a radical concept!) and the opportunity to sensationalise a political appointment. I will follow this one with interest.

EU and Aids threat

News out today shows how HIV rates in Eastern Europe are on the rise accompanied by higher levels of other STDs in Western Europe. This is a sure sign that HIV infections are likely to increase as more people are having unprotected sex.

I worked in HIV prevention for about 5 years in the 90s, mainly with gay and bisexual men and young people. My remit was to work with these communities in largely rural areas and heavily deprived urban areas. At the time there was lots of health promotion materials produced by the Department of Health, but all of this seemed very removed from people's day-to-day lives. The young people I worked with often had generations of their families with long term unemployment due to the closure of mining, shipbuilding and other industries. They lived in small towns with very little social activities available and high levels of drug use. Faced with this, young people tended to have sex from an earlier age, especially when becoming a young mother was seen as a way of establishing an identity and bringing a purpose to your life.

For gay men I think things were even harder. Small communities in the northeast are not the same cosmopolitan hubs as London, Manchester etc. The images of attractive young gay men who are confidently leading their lives that were often used in health promotion materials were a world away from reality for these young men. Finding anyone who would make them feel better about themselves and accept them for themselves was a real challenge. In this situation it is easy to see how sex with another man was often anonymous and tended to involve more risky behaviour. Trying to embed safer sex messages into this culture definitely proved a challenge. I am not saying it wasn’t effective, but I often wonder what lasting impact it had.

I haven’t worked in this field for a long time and haven’t been in any of the local gay bars for years so I have no real idea what the culture is like now. I do think that there is a perception that the AIDS time-bomb everyone was expecting hasn’t materialised and it is the more metropolitan areas that present the most risk. There is a need for more health promotion from an early age set in a context of self-esteem, consent and caring for others. I hope this is filtering down to the current generation of young people, but I see little evidence.

All of this has been brought home for me more by the recent posts from Zeitzeuge, Ryan, maloney and Geekslut. We need reminding that many people are living with HIV across the world. Some better than others and some, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, dying in large numbers.




Sunday, February 22, 2004

Barcelona

I have been so busy at work since we got back that I haven’t had time to update on our break. We had a great time in Barcelona. It was a relaxing break and well needed respite for both of us. Even so it seemed to fly by. We were there for 4 days and managed to fit quite a lot in. My highlights were;

The people
I have visited Paris probably about 20 times and have a pretty good knowledge of the city and my French is pretty good. However, Parisians can still be a surly bunch even when you address them politely in French with a well-phrased question. Chit-chat is not on the menu and shop assistants often act like you have asked them if you can bugger their mother (I know my French isn’t that bad!).

In contract the Barcelonans are helpful, friendly, polite, interested and chatty. Although I persisted in speaking French, my partner has a pretty good grasp of Spanish and we communicated fine. A lot of the people also spoke English and between us we could have normal conversations. If a restaurant were fully booked they would offer an alternative. The hotel staff rang around booking restaurants drew maps, ordered cabs etc without a moments thought. There was none of the frostiness I would have expected in many British hotels.


Restaurants & bars
We ate in some great restaurants, all reasonably priced and friendly. Lingering over a meal is a way of life and making a drink last an hour seemed perfectly acceptable. The flight we were on had some delegates from Newcastle attending a conference about encouraging tourism. The Easyjet routes into Newcastle should help bring more foreign visitors. However, when we observed the nightlife in Barcelona with most restaurants still serving after midnight, bars open most of the night and clubs kicking in at 3am, I get the feeling that Barcelonans would find the nightlife pretty tame. They would be getting ready to go out as most people are going home!

Finding a good restaurant was the hardest trial. Not that there weren’t many good ones – just getting a table was tricky. There were queues at most places – although it was valentine weekend so perhaps we should have booked earlier. We did get were wanted to go – but eating at 11.30 one night and 9.30 the next. Great food though and relaxed atmosphere.

The weather
It was around 16 degrees most day, which for 2 boys form Newcastle felt like a warm spring day. We encountered many Spanish families wrapped up in there big winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves. They looked at us in out t-shirts and thought we were mad. A dose of sunshine after the gloom of a north-east winter was very much appreciated and reminded me that the sun does shine! Just can’t wait for it to hit Newcastle. As I type the sun has just gone in and the snow has started.

will write some more on Barcelona soon...

Friday, February 20, 2004

Who I will marry...

Yeah it is Friday...all those things that need be finished are hanging over me and I just want to goof off. So in typical Friday fashion I popped over to Quizilla to see which male celebrity I will marry Apparently Ashton Kutcher is the one for me - I was hoping for the Trousersnake or Robbie but there you go!



You are going to marry Ashton Kutcher. He is kind
and sweet, but pulls a lot of pranks (and
probably quite a few on you too!!) and can
always make you laugh."


Sorry Ashton but I am happy with my (non-famous) real life boyfriend. As we are not in San fran, we will have to holt the marriage plans for now.

the friday five

Time for the friday five. A bit dull today (I think)


When was the last time you...

1. ...went to the doctor?

In December 03. Not a lot of help really and a 30 minute delay to get in.

2. ...went to the dentist?

5th February. All teeth and gums healthy!

3. ...filled your gas tank?

About 2 weeks ago - needs filling this weekend. The new car is far more efficient than the old BMW. I used to have to fill that almost every week. The new car last a good 2-3 weeks on normal journeys.

4. ...got enough sleep?

Probably last week in Barcelona. Some mornings we didn't rise until after 10. Compared to my normal 7 am that felt like a real luxury. I also think whether you get enough sleep is dependent upon what you are doing that day. 4 hours sleep when you know you have a plane to catch seems fine. 12 hours before a big presentation is never enough.

5. ...backed up your computer?

Key documents are automatically backed up weekly (smug bugger!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Cool TV list

The Radio Times has published their 'Cool TV' list:

The Avengers (1961-69)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2001-)
The Man From Uncle (1965-68)
Miami Vice (1985-90)
Murder One (1996-97)
The Prisoner (1967-68)
Queer as Folk (1999)
The Saint (1962-69)
Seinfeld (1993-2001)
The Sopranos (1999-)
Spooks (2002-)
State of Play (2003-)
Twin Peaks (1990-91)
The West Wing (1999-)

I love The Avengers, QAF, Twin Peaks but I would also add in Bewitched, Buffy and The Champions.



What would you add?

Mobile sounds of the underground

I can't decide if this is a good thing or not - but Newcastle will have the first underground system (Metro) that allows you to receive and send mobile calls throughout the whole route. I don't tend to use the Metro that often as it doesn't reach my side of town due to old mine works, but as the new antennae, which are below ground level, will also connect mobiles in nearby shopping centres for a lovely seamless conversation from metro to the shops, I expect the rings and beeps of text messages to increase.
Apparently, the system is based on a network of micro cells (small transmitters that pick up mobile phone signals) that have been placed on every underground platform. I am assuming that they don't microwave you as you pass.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Off for some sun

I won't be blogging for a while. We are off to Barcelona tomorrow for a few days. A Valentine gift from my loved one. Looking forward to the trip as we both deserve a break. I have been off sick(ish) this week and think it is stress related. A few days away just strolling the streets, eating, drinking and having sex. I loive tapas and can't wait!

I haven't been to Barcelona for years and I am sure a lot will have changed. I would like to get out to the Gaudi park and maybe the olympic village. Mainly lookig forward to chilling.

Hope to see this and this.....


Monday, February 09, 2004

Unstoppable rise of the home computer

There is an interesting article (interesting if you are a bit geeky - and lets face it if you are a blogger then you probably are) about the rise of the home computer. It made me reflect on the role of the PC in the developed world and how PCs are ubiquitous now. I remember my first computer, the Commodore 64, which seemed really flash at the time. Now I realise it had less memory than a modern scientific calculator and programming was limited to:

10 Print "Jaymaster"
20 Goto 10.

This was supplemented at school by the very impressive Commodore PET. We were impressed by its cool styling and green glowing screen. All of which seems like ancient history now and as anachronistic as the 3 tonne car phones are to today's teenagers. I loved my C64 though and even managed to get a floppy drive (5" proper floppy - no smart remarks!).

When IBM launched the PC in the 80s things really changed. And now I am sat with my 40G PC with TFT, numerous USB ports, broadband etc. How did we come so far without realising (or is this just me?) I haven't lost my geeky interest, but my programming is now limited to simple HTML and online tools. I have admiration for some of the bloggers who really seem to have grasped the finer points of page styles. I am looking forward to investing some time in the future to increase my knowledge and transfer this blog to its own domain. The blog has probably rekindled my interaction with technology and reframed the value of having a web presence. It is not about being the most visited site or gaining media coverage and more to do with communities of interest, having others make me think and opening my eyes to the world outside of my own locality.

EUROPEAN

I saw this link on Eric's Blog and thought I'd give it a go - basically it is one of those net quizzes that I find strangely addicitive. This one is assess how patriotic you are as an American. Well I am obviuosly NOT American, and the magic of the quiz assessed this straight away from my quirky European style answers!

I am European



Which America Hating Minority Are You?


Friday, February 06, 2004

World66 - visited countries

Saw this link via DVboy. I thought I had been to a fair few places, but looking at a world map I still have an awful lot of travelling to do! I have only visited 15 contries (6% of the world) I aim to add to add to this every year until a good 70% is red.




create your own visited country map

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

Regular readers will know that I am big opponent of reality TV. However, I have to admit that I have become a bit of a loyal follower of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here!’ Tonight Johnny Rotten left and Lord Brocket bitched big style about Jennie Bond. I would love to see Jennie win and urge you to vote for her1 (I have had a few pints tonight and will no doubt regret this tomorrow!)



16/2/04 - Well jennie didn't win - which was disappointing - but she was second to cry-baby kerry and lasted longer than Peter 'Insania' Andre. (And no I don't have the lyrics available!)

ER drops scene over Janet furore

I have been totally perplexed and amazed by the reaction of US media to Janet Jackson's breast exposure. It was not at all shocking - Justin and Janet new what they were doing. I appreciate that families watch the Super Bowl, but are Americans really shocked by a quick boob flash? If the same thing had happened in the UK there would certainly have been widespread coverage, but then you would have seen the offending boob on the front cover of the tabloids the next day as a bit of light-hearted fun. It is weird how the Americans can seem to show all manner of violence and bad language on TV but nudity is a big no-no.



Perhaps I am missing the point here? There must be something that is different as I now see that ER have had to drop a scene with a breast as NBC fear the Janet stunt has made it too difficult to show. What?!!? A PR stunt is in a totally different context to a medical drama. From what I read there is no scene in ER where the docs break into song a whip of a patients gown to expose them.
NBC said although the scene was "appropriate and in context" it could not ignore the "atmosphere" created by Jackson's stunt on Sunday.” It seems that the US networks transmit their programmes through affiliate stations across the country, who can influence programming decisions. If I lived in America I think I would have to just watch HOBO, at least I can be treated like an adult.
Heigh ho! Rant over.

I' m no fun

Had a few tense words this morning with my partner, who feels that we are not spending enough quality time together. I tend to be out the house before 8 and back home between 7-8. All I want to do is have my dinner, chill out for an hour or so and then go to bed. The idea of actually leaving the house and interacting with people in the real world did seem a revolutionary concept to me, but after some thought I see that he may have a point.

I was wearily reflecting the other day that I have got another 30 years of work ahead of me and I can only imagine the workload increasing as my career progresses, taking up more time and energy and leaving me more exhausted. (Anyone who suggests I quit the rat race to open a jam making cooperative in rural Borneo can stop right now!) I know it is a question of priorities, but equally my work is large part of how I define myself as a person and I am keen to complete my current studies and advance up the ladder. I am unlikely to knock all of this on the head, so what is the solution.

Well short of adding another 10 hours into the day I suppose I need to get into a new mental state where I see having fun in the evening as a means of combating the daily work stresses rather than another task to add to the to-do list. My partner mentioned some couples we know who don’t go out a lot and we had previously deemed boring. I can see he is concerned we are heading the same way. This is either a natural consequence of working life or a pattern that you have to fight to avoid.

Not sure what will happen – updates to follow – but I am considering going out tonight!!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Polls should carefully word gay questions - 02/02/04

The Detroit news had an interesting article this morning about the acceptance of gay issues in America. It seems that a lot of the apparent tolerance (or not) to gay issues can be influenced by the way people are asked for their views. Small changes in the wording of questions can significantly affect the responses people give.

“Top poll analysts have noted with alarm that two respected national polls asking slightly different questions about amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage produced such different outcomes. (An Annenberg Center poll found Americans, by a 12-point margin, oppose “an amendment banning gay marriage.” But a CBS News poll found that by a 15-point margin Americans favor an amendment “that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman.”) “

I know that this seems a pretty small distinction in the way the question was framed, but it resulted in a 3% difference in response. Given that the democrats and republicans are in full gear for elections, this type of poll will no doubt influence the development of policy, so it is important to get it right.

One solution is for pollsters to refashion their tools to try to ensure they are merely taking the public pulse and are never accidentally producing results that are more hostile to gay progress than the public actually is.

For the last 50 years, researchers have consistently found a “spiral of silence” — meaning, people are less likely to voice their true opinion if they think it’s not the majority view. And given the human tendency to try to conform, many people give whatever reply they think the questioner — or pollster — wants to hear.

The article also notes that “polling suggests that Americans tend to overestimate each other’s hostility to homosexuality. “ If a question was addressed “Do you agree that discrimination against gay men in the workplace is acceptable?” you are more likely to receive a negative response, whereas asking “ Can you understand why some employers would prefer to employ a heterosexual work than a homosexual worker?” skews the issue in a different way.

It isn’t the role of polls to change public opinion, simply to reflect it. However, as the wording can influence the response make sure that you always know what the question was when someone quotes ‘public opinion’ at you.



Sunday, February 01, 2004

Bunton is back

At the risk of appearing out of touch with the kids, which lets face it at 32 I probably am, I have found a new admiration for Emma Bunton. Little Baby Spice has grown up into a 60s wannabe. Her latest single 'I'll be there' has the same 60s feel as 'Maybe' and is proving very popular chez jaymaster. The boyfriend is actually a bigger fan than me really!




I see that I am not the only one to think so as there is even a campaign site dedicated to making sure she hits the charts.


Back from Brum

I got back on Friday night from a week in Birmingham. It had been a pretty intense week. The module I was studying was all about health care planning. As this is my job I thought I should know something about it, but was also looking forward to learning new tools and theories.

To be honest there wasn’t a great deal about the legislative framework, policy documents or theories that I didn’t already know. At least it was user friendly and not couched in the usual management speak. It was a mixed class of part time students (like me) who are studying around their jobs and full-time students. It was good to share some of my learning with the group, but I was also conscious of not appearing like a know-it-all. I did ask a lot of questions of the speaker, but tended to do most of this in the breaks or after class. Some people said that they learnt a lot form my experience of planning,, so I think I got the balance right.,

We were given two more assignments, but I have until July to submit them so the pressure is off for those two. I do, however, have one due in on 17th February, which I really must get started. I also got my first assignment back. I got 60, which I was a meant I had passed with merit. I would have liked a distinction, but not bad for the first attempt. The marking scheme only seems to go up to 80, so I don’t know if I should view that as 60 out of 80 or 60 out of 100. The first option gives me 75% so I think I’ll stick with that!

The modules are more tiring due to spending a week away from my partner and home, stuck in a small hotel room every night. I tended to take my book to the bar in the evening and read over a couple of pints. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone, happy enough reading and eavesdropping on the occasional conversation! It was great to get home though.