Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich


February 29th, 2012 · Law, Politics, Religion

Marriage, like love, is an abstract concept. You cannot point to something and say “that’s a marriage” any more than you can point to something and say “that’s love.” You can describe aspects of the concept, or give long lists of examples, but there is no tangible, physical object that is “marriagedness.”

With this ring…Because it’s an abstract concept and not a material, measurable thing, we have to come up with ways to define what is meant by the word. Folks have very strong feelings how marriage should be defined, especially since this abstract concept is also a matter of law.

With law, definition is everything, so this has lead to a rather heated debate.

On one hand we have a group declaring that a marriage is defined as a legal union between a man and a woman. On the other hand, we have another group who feel a marriage is a legal union between any two individuals regardless of gender.

Let’s ignore how or why people come up with these definitions for a moment. Let’s just look at them semantically. The definition of marriage as a union of two individuals is actually inclusive of the more restrictive definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Let’s call the man/woman marriage definition the “exclusive” version, and the two individuals marriage definition the “inclusive” version.

There is a strong disagreement over whether the laws regarding marriage should either embrace the exclusive definition or the inclusive definition. To me, strictly from a reasoning standpoint, this doesn’t make sense. The inclusive version is broader and simpler. Anyone covered under the exclusive definition is also covered under the inclusive definition, so there’s no change for existing married people. Those who still personally use the exclusive definition will not find their conduct or options impaired anyway if the laws accept the inclusive definition.

I understand that marriage is also much more than just “a legal union”. There are issues of religion, tradition and culture bound up in it as well. For most, marriage is more than just a legal definition, but also very personal.

In that respect, marriage is a lot like faith. People have a broad spectrum of beliefs about spiritual matters. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists can talk about their respective faiths very differently, and disagree over a great deal. Yet it would be strange for a believer in one religion to tell another person of another religion “that’s not faith.” Or, if they did, we’d find that pretty crass.

In other words, my own personal faith is defined by me, and however you define faith for yourself, it doesn’t cheapen or diminish my own. And we can at least agree that we each have our own very different faiths. Faith is a large, conceptual umbrella, and under it, each of us has room to find what it means for us personally.

When I hear anyone talk about how the inclusive definition of marriage would affect those who believe in the exclusive definition of marriage, I can’t understand it. Married Christians don’t feel upset when Buddhists get married because they don’t share the same beliefs. How is inclusive marriage different?

Marriage is also a large conceptual umbrella. The legal benefits of marriage are just a small part of why we get married, but they are a logistically important part. Denying anyone those rights and benefits just over a personal disagreement about details of the definition is wrong. It’s no different from publicly stating your religion is the only right choice, and anyone else with other beliefs should be treated as inferior.

If the definition of marriage legally is inclusive, it doesn’t mean everyone has to define it that way for themselves. There are lots of religions with dietary restrictions, but those who follow those faiths do not argue that their proscribed foods or drinks should be illegal. It’s important for those involved in the debate to remember that the religious aspects of marriage are separate from the legal aspects. Marriage, in the eyes of the law, is simply a social contract.

Marriage is such a personal thing that the law should be the least restrictive and most permissive about it. How could anyone happily married feel that the sanctity of their own marriage is somehow effected by what goes on in other marriages?

I think some more empathy is called for in these debates. Regardless of your beliefs or how you feel marriage should be defined, imagine there was a person in your life that you loved dearly and wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. Now imagine a law said you couldn’t marry them for because of an arbitrary aspect of that person: race, religion, nationality, hair color… How would you feel about that law?

Should adding gender to that list make it different?

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Intel supports epilepsy AND tinnitus

January 23rd, 2012 · Advertising, Stupidity, TV, Videos

I’m very grateful that we can watch full episodes of the Daily Show on Comedy Central’s website. Hell, if they had a subscription plan, I’d pay for that. Instead, they try very hard to sell ads. Clearly, no one is buying these ads, because they show the same two ads, over and over again, often back to back.

The most annoying of the two is an ad from Intel for the German market. It’s got obnoxiously loud music and a seizure inducing video that I guess is supposed to look “cool”, but really, it looks like Flash is about to crash again. Unless Intel is trying to make people want new computers because their old one suddenly seems to have a problem streaming this ad, I don’t see what they are going for here. When I see stuttering, choppy video playback, I don’t think “awesome processor.”

I took some liberties with the ad to show its true nature.

(I yanked 10 seconds of the ‘still’ moments and put in a more appropriate soundtrack. I’m telling you in case you don’t want to suffer through the original, which I completely understand.)

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Every day I write the book

January 18th, 2012 · Novel, Writing

As much I tried to keep various projects all moving a little bit every day, it turns out I work better when I focus. The one exclusion to this is my German lessons, where I feel spending some time every day matters. As for the most part, I’ve been very consistent there, and it is adding up gradually.

The holidays didn’t exactly help with being productive on any count either.

Being more singular in purpose does make it harder to write here, since I’ve been trying to put my attention either on learning and doing development work on iOS, or writing my book. Lately, I’ve been making a big push to finish the book, and that pretty much saps most of my energy for writing, thus the break here.

No need for paper anymore.So, yes, I’m writing a novel. I started it as an erotic short story to entertain my wife over a year ago, working on it in bursts when inspiration and free time came together. Once I had it started, it began to take shape and grow into something more complicated. Right now it’s over two hundred pages and I think it’s only about two-thirds done.

While it outgrew its erotica starting point, it’s still a pretty explicit work, and in a rather untypical way. Right now, the best way to describe the book is to call it a fetish romance novel. High-brow literature it ain’t. But I’m trying to keep things grounded in the real world, and there’s some humor and intrigue as well. I’m hoping the unusual inclinations of the main character make the story interesting. It’s quite possible I’ve put the whole thing in a strange middle ground, where it’s not “hot” enough to be considered erotica (it’s not) but it’s got parts too explicit and non-vanilla to find an audience. We will see.

When I finally finish it and push out electronic editions for sale, I’ll be delighted if I sell a dozen copies to people who don’t know me personally. Even if I don’t sell any, it’s taught me a great deal about the process. After this, I may tackle a “real” novel that’ll have a broader appeal.

This novel is the singularly most self-indulgent personal project I’ve ever attempted. It’s also the longest in terms of hours and effort. It’s hard work, but it’s intensely rewarding to spend time crafting something I care about for a change.

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Seasonal Adjustments

January 17th, 2012 · Cooking, Family, Germany

The Christmas season in Munich was lovely. Compared to the madness and mobs of New York City, it was quaint by comparison. Of course, people here think they have to deal with holiday crowds, so I guess it’s all relative. Give me a few years here and I’m sure I’ll start complaining when I have to share a table to enjoy my gl├╝hwein at the Christkindlmarkt. There is a little less emphasis on shopping and much more on spending time with family and friends, and many more opportunities to do so, which suits me just fine.

The one thing that I found myself missing though: Starbucks’ eggnog latte.

Tasty eggnog latte!There are Starbucks here, of course, which I never go to now. It’s hard to justify the expense when excellent coffee drinks are available everywhere for less money. But for my eggnog latte, I would easily make an exception. But they simply don’t offer the eggnog latte here, for the simple reason that there is no eggnog to be had. Anywhere.

In the U.S., you can pick up cartons of the stuff during December at every grocery store. Outside of the eggnog lattes, I’d drink eggnog with dark rum during our own holiday parties. Here in Germany I was out of luck on all counts.

With no other option, it was time to make my own. I wanted a cooked egg nog recipe, so that it could keep a little while, since I might just be the only one drinking it. Once again, the folks at Cook’s Illustrated came through with a fine recipe.

I did a half a batch as a test, and shared it with my mother-in-law. It was a hit. I then made a full batch for the next holiday gathering, making almost two liters. Nothing was left over.

I made one final batch near the end of the holiday, and saved a liter specifically to try making eggnog lattes with it. They tasted even better than the Starbucks ones. Maybe it just seemed that way because I got to drink it surrounded by family and friends instead of sitting alone in my office at work. Or maybe it was just the dark rum.

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Never too late to be thankful

January 16th, 2012 · Cooking, Family, Germany

I was too busy planning, preparing and cooking Thanksgiving to write about it here, which is a bit of a shame. It was interesting trying to pull off a true American Thanksgiving in Germany for eight adults and one child. That’s the largest group I’ve ever cooked for, so there was a bit of a challenge involved even if I could easily find all the ingredients I needed.There was table in the other room with the other side dishes. Honest.

Though once we secured brown sugar as the Asian grocery, and stumbled over sweet potatoes at the supermarket (even if they were kind of small), I wasn’t worried.

Surprisingly, cranberries could be found almost everywhere. For the first time I braved making my own fresh cranberry sauce, which I should have done much sooner: easy, tasty and make-ahead even.

The only mishap was my lack of familiarity with the “fan” oven that cooks things a bit faster than I expected. The turkey was a little over-done because of it. I’ll be on top of that next year.

Here’s what was on the table:

  • Roast, crispy skin turkey with gravy
  • Green bean casserole
  • Glazed carrots
  • Corn on the cob
  • Smashed potatoes
  • Glazed sweet potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Cranberry Sauce

Everything was hot and ready at the same time, thanks to Conny View definition in a new window and her Mom’s assistance in the final hour. Even with eight people there were plenty of leftovers for the next day. I also relied heavily on Cook’s Illustrated for many of the recipes.

No one getting sick I consider a success. People going back for seconds is a triumph. The thing I was most thankful for was I am off the hook until next year.

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