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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Year 2012 in review - 7 years of blogging

 Thomas Kraemer Dec. 15, 2012 wearing thick eyeglasses made of real glass, not plastic

PHOTO: Thomas Kraemer is shown above, at the end of 2012, not much worse for the wear, sporting a bright white beard and feeling in the spirit of being a Merry Christmas Santa Claus, but while also wearing some very heavy and thick eyeglasses made of real glass (not made of the standard plastic lenses, which would be even thicker) to obtain the necessarily high index of refraction required to partially compensate for his low vision blindness, which was caused by an ischemic stroke a few years ago. His current vision is similar to the typical grainy nighttime security camera videos often shown on TV news shows to ask for the public's help in identifying suspects, but he is also unable to recognize faces and some objects in a group of objects. See my previous post My low vision blindness is like seeing a captcha all the time (1/1/12 where I describe some of the complex problems caused by my low vision blindness, all of which are uncorrectable using any technology known today.

Despite having gone legally blind, I am glad that I have been able to keep blogging for 7 years, even though I can only do it at much slower pace today. (See my previous post Year 2006-2011 in review - 6 years of blogging (12/1/11)) When I started blogging seven years ago, it was a chic thing to do and Google soon bought the Blogger service, which at one time was being directly used by several internationally famous gay pundits, such as the gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and gay liberal blogger Michelangelo Signorile. Both men soon become some of the first professional bloggers and shifted away from using Blogger.

The Blogger site of gay liberal Signorile moved to its own domain name for Michelangelo Signorile XM radio show. Also, blogger Michelangelo Signorile is the Editor-at-Large of Huffington Post Gay Voices page. Similarly, after using the actual Blogger Service for awhile, Andrew Sullivan moved to writing The Atlantic blog by Andrew Sullivan, "The Dish" at Andrew Sullivan's blog then moved to being hosted by The Daily Beast at

My purpose in blogging was never to do it professionally or obtain fame and glory by attracting a huge audience. I only wanted to use Blogging as a tool to document things of personal interest to me and share my notes with only a few other people on the Earth. I quickly discovered the real power of blogging, which is the ability to use Google search to find things in my own Blog notes. Unlike my decades of typewritten notes, which I can no longer search by skim reading due to my low vision blindness, I can quickly find things in my notes, even surprising things that I've forgotten writing, by doing a simple Google search of my blog.

I don't mind that many other people have also found my notes by doing a Google search, but the downside has been that a few trolls were attracted to my blog and they were able to trick Google's system into labeling my blog as having possible "objectionable content," which as a side effect disabled the ability to search my own blog. See my previous post This may be my last post - customer feedback to Google (12/1/11).

When Blogger disabled the ability to search my own blog, it became an even bigger problem for me as my low vision blindness worsened and I needed to be able to search my own blog even more in order to relocate my notes. After I was unable to solve this problem created by Google, I did a crude workaround fix and created the new blog you are reading now Tom's OSU Blog at, where I have been posting at for the last year. As a result, I quit adding new posts to my old blog (still readable, despite the "objectionable content warning" message) at Thomas Kraemer where I blogged for 6 years. This is why this post celebrates my 7 years of blogging.

I can still touch type blog posts as fast as ever, but my reading speed has been slowed considerably because I have to use computer software accessibility tools to read text. I also depend on picture captions, including closed picture captions that are not normally visible to users unless the internet browser is set to display closed captions and the Website has provided closed captions for pictures and videos. (You can try to see if your browser is displaying picture captions by hovering your mouse cursor pointer over my picture at the top of this post.)

Interestingly, even though I can touch type at normal speed, I can't dial a telephone number on a standard touch tone telephone number pad, probably because I never memorized the telephone key positions before my stroke and I am having problems making new spatial memories. After my stroke, for some unknown reason, I can't type either numbers or sentences while looking at any keyboard, I can only touch type without looking. This problem has made it hard for me to find and type special characters that I rarely use and had not previously memorized their positions on the keyboard before my stroke.

My Blogger posting statistics are a good measure of how much I've been slowed down by my stroke. During the last year I wrote 80 posts total, whereas I had averaged more than 250 posts per year during my previous 6 years of blogging, for a total of 1,553 posts before I suffered a stroke and started the new blog you are reading.

Unfortunately, my vision deteriorated even further during last year, probably due to more ischemic stroke damage according to my doctors and their fMRI images of my brain.

Everyone I meet asks me what I can see because I am clearly not totally blind, yet. The best description I've been able to come up with is that my vision is like watching the grainy night-time security camera videos that are often shown on TV newscasts to ask the public for help in identifying lawbreakers. Sometimes I can catch a few details of vision, but most of the time I can see only general shapes and little color. I still can't recognize faces anymore (something called prosopanosia or face blindness) and I therefore find it very difficult to watch movies with characters I am not familiar with. See previous post My low vision blindness is like seeing a captcha all the time (1/1/12.

Instead of blogging, the chic thing today is Facebook and social networking in general. Blogger was originally setup with many social networking tools, such as sharing and comments, but they are not used much despite recent attempts to add Google Circle social networking. The reason is probably because Blogger has typically attracted only the more intelligent crowd because Blogging required the ability to write posts whereas Facebook was set up to enable even the most casual user to socialize without ever having to work at it -- random socializing is much more fun for most people, including me sometimes!

Unfortunately, for some interesting and unknown reason, my low vision blindness and other neural perception problems are making it impossible for me to use Facebook, even though I had learned how to use it before my last stroke with my private family members. I don't know if it is because Facebook uses a more graphical user interface, which is hard for me to see, or if it is due to something else. I suspect I might have the same problem with Blogger if I was also using it as a social networking tool with the Google 1 Circle feature, but I have been using Blogger mostly as a solitary tool. Part of my problem is that I can no longer look at the screen and recognize the graphical connections between faces and other objects. I also can't read very fast either. I am sure that my disability would be an interesting subject for the user interface researchers, who I employed in a former job as an advanced research manager for the large Hewlett-Packard computer company, because user interface researchers are always looking for different models of perception in a quest to design better user interface designs more universally usable by everyone.

I plan to live another few decades before I die, but I have experienced some ominous signs telling me that I am about to die soon. The areas of my brain killed by the ischemic stroke are being consumed and swept away by my immune system, which is causing brain swelling and inflammation that in turn is causing me seizures and various neuropathic pains. It is hard to tell how much of my symptoms are benign and will heal to a stable point where I will suffer only from mostly vision loss or if my symptoms will progress further and cause worse problems, such as paralysis or even death.

Looking back at my life, I feel so blessed by God because my life has been much more good than bad. I am glad that I have been able to contribute a few small things to the world during my lifetime and hope I can do even more before I die. If I died tomorrow, I am glad that I have no regrets about how I've lived so far. (Although, I can think of things I would have done differently or even better!)

Speaking of looking back, here is my list of highlights from 2012:

Friday, December 21, 2012

PBS cancelled gay TV show 'In The Life'

VIDEO: PBS TV "In The Life: The Final Episode" posted on Dec. 1, 2012 -- Last aired on the local KOAC-TV PBS affiliate in Corvallis, Oregon on Dec. 20 and 21, 2012. (Note: this TV station's Web site no longer lists broadcast times for "In The Life"). Also see IN THE LIFE episodes and web exclusive videos at

The groundbreaking newsmagazine "In the Life" ends its 20-year broadcast run this month. Watch the final episode above. It's an illuminating look at the show's coverage of major issues -- and at how much has changed in 20 years. You can still view "In the Life's" archive online. Find out what In the Life Media is up to next, too.. (Quoted from "Farewell to 'In the Life,'" PBS WNET-TV posted Dec. 5, 2012)

In The Life: The Final Episode' At a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were virtually invisible in media, IN THE LIFE became the first to bring real stories, struggles and issues about the LGBT experience into living rooms across the country. In our final episode, we look back on highlights from our 20 years on public television. In The Life Media is coming to an end, but its vision is not. The organization will pass the baton on to communities, networks and individuals in the form of an online hub. Stay tuned for exciting news announcing ITLM's new home. You can still view "In the Life's" archive online. Find out what In the Life Media is up to next, too. (Quoted from "Farewell to 'In the Life,'" PBS WNET-TV posted Dec. 5, 2012)

TV Guide magazine said, "The gay TV news show "In The Life" premiered June 25, 1992, on PBS.".

I clearly recall watching the first airing of "In The Life." It survived both the Clinton and Bush era anti-gay political activity and so I am curious what has caused its demise during the Obama administration -- Washington, D.C. politics is always complicated. I hope it has noting to do with the PBS funding being cut by Republicans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mainstream ignoring US Supreme Court's 1972 gay marriage decision

Baker et al. v. Nelson, United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972, Oct. 10, 1972 'dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.'

PHOTO: An original printed bound copy of first U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage that was initiated by University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker in and his lover Michael McConnell in 1970 after they noticed that Minnesota State law did not specify the gender of married couples and they got married: Baker et al. v. Nelson, Oct. 10, 1972, "United States Reports, Volume 409, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court, October Term, 1972," U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974, p. 810. (See previous posts Baker v. Nelson 1972 Supreme Court order on gay marriage (7/22/09), Arthur Leonard CA Prop 8 appeal still citing Jack Baker gay marriage case (8/3/12) and (NY Constitutional law Professor) Arthur S. Leonard on Baker v Nelson gay marriage case (7/28/09))

National press coverage, of the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear cases concerning anti-gay marriage laws, is ignoring the Supreme Court's literally one-sentence-long ruling in 1972 that essentially said marriage is a matter of state laws, without any substantial Federal interest.

Even though the Supreme Court takes only a few cases, it was forced to rule on gay marriage in 1972 by obscure court rules, of that era that were exploited by the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker, who had been legally married in Minnesota when the law did not specify gender of marriage applicants.

In a personal communication last year, the ferociously private Jack Baker and his spouse Michael McConnell, now in their 70s, still consider themselves legally married, even though Minnesota later outlawed gay marriage, because no court has legally revoked their marriage license.

As a classmate of Baker, I heard firsthand Baker's constitutional law professors worrying that his case was too soon and it might set a legal precedent that would be hard to overturn. The professors were right it set a precedent that has been cited in every same-sex marriage case, but ironically, it has not been ventral to any judge's later decision.

Here are some links to interesting writing on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear some of the gay marriage cases:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Klüver-Bucy Syndrome, sexual preference changes and Simon LeVay Book


PHOTO: (click photo to enlarge) table of changes to sexual preferences in patients due to damage of their brain. The table was printed in the medical journal paper by Miller, et al., "Hypersexuality or altered sexual preference following brain injury," Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry with Practical Neurology, Aug. 1986, Vol. 49, pp. 868-873 -- PDF. This table included one woman who changed from homosexual to heterosexual orientation. The article notes that “temporal lobe structures play an important role in sexual preference and activity.” The paper notes that the Klüver-Bucy Syndrome, the bilateral temporal lobe dysfunction, is more commonly associated with changes in sexual preferences rather than hyper-sexuality. Note that the term sexual preferences is not the same thing as sexual orientation, such as being gay or straight, because sexual preferences includes other things, such as pedophilia and a desire for sex with objects. The Klüver-Bucy Syndrome and this paper was referenced in the book by Simon LeVay, "Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, The Science of Sexual Orientation," Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 219, as part of a larger discussion on possible theories for sexual orientation, which may include a biological mechanism in most humans that suppresses homosexual behavior instead of something that would activate it, such as a gene or other biological development process. See previous post Simon LeVay's new gay science book (10/14/10)

Unfortunately, this paper has been quoted out-of-context by ex-gay groups to justify their unethical attempts to change gay people to be straight via prayer and psychotherapy. It is clear from reading Simon LeVay’s book that being gay is an inborn trait that can, at best, be repressed in humans. with a choice for celibacy, and it is set at birth or very early in the development of both men and animals. It is clear that attempts at changing sexual orientation can cause iatrogenic harm.

Due to my low vision blindness, it is taking me years to read Simon LeVay’s news book on gay science. Simon LeVay has been a prolific author on the science of sexual orientation for decades:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Future of local reporting in the Internet Age and the death of newspapers

political cartoon on newspapers going out of business, 'When I was a kid, I carried the . . . Minneapolis Star,' reminisces Jack Ohman, 'Paper Trails...,' Oregonian, Mar. 22, 2009, p. E2

PHOTO: (click to enlarge) a political cartoon about the death of newspapers. Similar to the above political cartoonist, I was also a Minneapolis Star evening newspaper boy and therefore amused to see his caption that reminisces, 'When I was a kid, I carried the . . . Minneapolis Star.' (Cartoon by Jack Ohman the Oregonian editorial cartoonist in "Paper Trails. . .," Oregonian, Mar. 22, 2009, p. E2. See and my previous posts Minneapolis Star newspaper boy Jack Ohman (3/24/09), Newspaper TV guides R.I.P. (9/25/10), Corvallis newspaper circulation (10/15/08) and Kim Kraemer auto mechanic 1980 (11/7/09))

Here is my letter to the editor commenting on the future of local newspaper reporting:

While collecting money each week from my older customers, in my first real job as a 12 year-old newspaper delivery boy, I recall them fretting that new-fangled TV technology would cause the demise of local newspapers. At that time, even small cities had multiple competing newspapers with morning and afternoon editions.

Indeed, the advent of TV led to the demise of evening newspapers, including the G-T, which to stay in business had to become a morning paper and convert from molten metal letterpress to computer typeset offset printing technology.

Today, older newspaper customers similarly fret new-fangled internet technology will cause the demise of local news reporting, both in print and online. One example was the discussion at a Corvallis City Club meeting led by the recently "retired" editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald, Hasso Hering. (See Nov. 13 article in the Democrat-Herald, "Panel looks at future of local media" or Gazette-Times, "Tomorrow's news today.")

Having spent decades managing and investing in high-tech businesses that literally go obsolete every few years, I am sympathetic to the plight of newspaper publishers.

Decades ago, a beleaguered publisher of the G-T blamed the disappearance of newspaper boys on the "lesser work ethic of the younger generation." On the contrary, I believe today's boys and girls, who would have probably delivered newspapers in the 20th Century, will invent a way to provide local news reporting for a profit in the 21st Century.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Kids still have initiative," Gazette-Times and Democrat-Herald, Nov. 25, 2012, p. C4)

See these links:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

OSU vs. U of O and trans love

FTM female-to-male trangender Buck Angel. Too much woman for gay men? Village Voice 'Queer Issue' insert, June 18-24, 2008, p. 12, 14, 19 PHOTO: transgender FTM female-to-male Buck Angel featured in an article by Michael Lavers, "LGBT Without the T, As transgenders push for respect, a rift grows with traditional gay leadership," Village Voice "Queer Issue" insert, June 18-24, 2008, p. 12, 14, 19 published online as "Buck Angel, A Man With a Pussy: LGB Without the T". See previous post Transgender FTM female-to-male Buck Angel (7/3/08)

I was reminded of the above article when I read the Oregon State University student newspaper opinion column by Irene Drage, "Speak against transphobia," Barometer, posted November 18, 2012. She says, "You don't have to be queer to stand up for what you know is right; you just have to know what's wrong. In response to the question, "How can allies help to end discrimination?" on the OSU Pride Center's page, one of the answers is "They can interrupt gay jokes and derogatory comments." It's short, it's to the point, and it is absolutely correct." Also, Nov. 20 was the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I mentioned a century-old trans case in my OSU history: See Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010 available on the Web site -- "Corvallis, Oregon is located across the Willamette River from Albany, Oregon, the birthplace of "Alberta Lucille Hart" who lived as the man "Alan Hart" in the early part of the 20th century."

Coincidentally, another column by Megan Campbell, forum editor, "Corvallis doesn't mind stomping in the mud, smells better than Eugene," Barometer, posted Nov. 21, 2012 was primarily intended to be a humorous love letter to OSU and Corvallis, in preparation for the annual Civil War football game against the University of Oregon team from Eugene. However, I found it interesting that she freely confessed having a gender atypical major: "I once thought I was going to be a mechanical engineer. My career choices have changed, but my distaste for Eugene has not." She made this confession as an excuse for being an "artsy person" who should have logically attended the U of O.

On the same theme of "I love OSU better than U of O," was the editorial by Don Iler, "Even without the flash, OSU still better than U of O," Barometer, posted Nov. 21, 2012. Here are some selected quotes:

You'd think I should be at the University of Oregon right now.

I am a journalist. The University of Oregon has the state's sole journalism school.

. .

Yes, we have a College of Agriculture. And that does mean that sometimes campus smells like agriculture. But that college also happens to be one of the best agriculture schools in the country. Does your school have its own sheep herd, meat processing facility, brewery, vineyard or cheese? No, it doesn't. We also invented the Marischino cherry. You're welcome.

We have our own forest, north of Corvallis, where the College of Forestry performs research. Matthew Knight Arena may have the outline of trees on its floorboards, but it sure as heck does not have a forest. Also our College of Forestry is the best in the country. Are the Ducks the best at anything? No, Stanford showed them that.

Our campus has a covered bridge, a wave laboratory and a nuclear reactor. You don't.

. . .

We have a College of Engineering and a College of Pharmacy. I guess you have a Law School, but which is cooler, drugs and building things, or some dusty law books?

. . .

And then there is the question of school newspapers. Our newspaper won the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award last year for best all-around daily student newspaper in the region. You didn't. We get no training, we get paid less than you and we still make a better paper. And we do it five days a week.

Don Iler is a senior in history.

(Quoted from Don Iler, "Even without the flash, OSU still better than U of O," Barometer, posted Nov. 21, 2012)

Listed below is some other loosely rleated things of interest I've read recently:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

OSU Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez and OSU Pride Center building

PHOTO: Oregon State University vice provost of student affairs, Larry Roper, spoke at the ground breaking for new home of OSU Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez, which celebrated over 30-years of being on campus. It is one of several cultural centers at OSU, including the Oregon State University Pride Center for gay students. See article by Don Iler, "Breaking ground for a new cultural center," Barometer, Nov. 2, 2012, p. 1 and the previous story by Jaclyn Caballero, "Cultural center unfazed by the weight of looming construction, Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez working with UHDS to maintain the center's prime location near the new parking structure," Barometer, March 8, 2005. Cultural Centers at OSU have played an important role in supporting diversity over the last 4 decades. For more on the history of cultural centers at OSU see the history by Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Neither Bush-care nor Obama-care solves healthcare demand dilemma

Cover of paperback book Medicare and You 2013

PHOTO: cover of paperback book, which was mailed to all Medicare recipients, "Medicare & You 2013" from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2013 edition accessed Nov. 1, 2012 (PDF). Also see

The partisan bickering over healthcare frustrates me because nobody seems to be accepting the fact that there is an unlimited demand for healthcare and no magic potion will provide it for everyone at a reasonable. Although it was probably a waste of my time, I nonetheless wrote the following letter to the editor as a way of venting my frustration:

The Democrats' Obama-care health insurance plan appears certain given the election results. A prototype of how it will probably be implemented is the Republicans' Bush-care Medicare Part D prescription drug insurance.

Anybody curious about how the completely privatized Part D works can download from the 140 page book "Medicare & You 2013." This PDF is identical to the paperback book mailed to every Medicare recipient, except for missing the price list of plans available in Oregon during the open enrollment period ending Dec. 7, 2012.

For 2013, in Oregon there are 30 Part D plans costing an extra 15 to 122 dollars per month in addition to the "Original Medicare" health insurance premium of approximately 100 dollars per month (for most people). Alternately, Part D is included in the price of some privately run "Medicare Advantage" plans.

The Bush-care legislation promised lower taxes due to the "free market competition" of "Medicare Advantage" and Part D. Republicans said it would justify privatizing all of Medicare.

In fact, Bush-care failed. The Original Medicare program is still more efficient while maintaining a competitive approval rating.

Obama-care similarly fails to solve the dilemma of how to equitably allocate limited healthcare resources because Republicans rejected any solution as being a "death Panel." Despite this, nearly everyone, someday, will have an infinite demand for healthcare because they want to stay alive forever at any cost.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Medicare Part D is failed prototype of Obama health care," Gazette-Times, posted Nov. 14, 2012)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

OSU Barometer gay marriage editorial shows 40 years of progress

Barometer editorial 'Legalize gay marriage here too' Nov. 8, 2012, p. 3

PHOTO: Oregon State University's student newspaper Staff, "Editorial: Legalize gay marriage here too," Barometer, Nov. 6, 2012, p. 3 shows the progress made since 40 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Jack Baker's gay marriage case. The history of Baker and his connection to Oregon State University is documented in the history by Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010 on This editorial adds to a previous pro-gay marriage opinion printed this year in "The Barometer," See my previous post OSU students support drag, gay marriage and anti-gay newspapers (10/25/12).

Photo of story about gay women on page 7 of Jan. 9, 1976 Corvallis Gazette-Times

PHOTO: Jan. 9, 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,' " on p. 7-8 of (Corvallis, Oregon) Gazette-Times. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University. See previous post Gay 1976 newspaper controversy (5/3/06) on gay women in Corvallis wanting to get married. Also see Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010 on

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gay dot com snot stars in Silicon Valley Start-ups reality TV show

Gay David Murray in Speedo and boyfriend Dave in Bravo reality TV show Start-ups Silicon Valley 20121105

PHOTO: the openly gay "Silicon Valley Start-ups" reality TV cast member David Murray (top left) shows off his painted body spray tan in a Speedo next to his boyfriend Dave. See "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley," Season 1 premiered Nov. 5, 2012 (I watched the show on Comcast Cable TV Bravo Channel 779 10:01-10-31PM PT) Show description: Get a glimpse inside the high-stakes worlds of tech makers in Silicon Valley.. The David Murray biography at says, "Age 29, Hometown, Albuquerque, NM, Profession, Entrepreneur and CEO, Goalsponsors, Inc. -- David Murray is one missed mortgage payment away from losing everything. Still, he's setting his sights on creating the next big app without funding. His positive attitude makes him everyone's best friend, but when those friends force him to pick sides, David is reluctantly stuck in the middle." Also see David Murray photos and articles by Boonsri Dickinson, "Meet The 7 Stars Of The New Silicon Valley Reality Show" posted April 5, 2012 and Brock Keeling, "Meet The Cast Of Bravo's New Silicon Valley Reality Show," posted April 5, 2012.

Perhaps it is because I am too blind to recognize faces anymore, but I found watching this show to be tedious despite the fact that I could reminisce about my years working in Silicon Valley. It was interesting to see that the city of Palo Alto, California now has an elegant Four Seasons Silicon Valley Hotel, which is light years from the rat trap I had to stay at when I first visited the valley. Of course, this is probably a sign of the end when things get that comfortable.

The executive producer of the "Startups" program is Randi Zuckerberg, who is the sister of FaceBook Founder Mark Zuckerberg. I can guess where some of the money came from to produce this show. I suspect she likes reality TV because, despite what many critics say, this show does have some interesting moments, but I still find it hard to watch young dot com snots that are arrogantly optimistic about their new and better mouse trap idea will take over the world. I can't criticize them, however, because I've been guilty of having this kind of arrogance of youth when I was younger and I bet this type of arrogance is required to get past the hurdles facing all new things. However, as the TV show admitted, very few individual actually achieve making anything of lasting value in Silicon Valley. It is hard to get excited about yet another Web site to help you live life.

The "Startups" show highlights the casual attire tradition in Silicon Valley, even showing a close-up of the thongs or flip-flops sandals being worn by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. The granddaddy of Silicon Valley was the Hewlett-Packard company where co-founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard rejected the back east suit and tie tradition for a shirt sleeve attire, albeit dress shirts, as the dress code for their company. See my previous posts Bill & Dave by Michael S. Malone (5/22/07) and Obama and Facebook founder take off jackets in Silicon Valley fashion tradition (4/20/11).

Openly gay Silicon Valley company founders are not new. For example, Chris Hughes is mentioned in my previous post Openly gay Facebook founder in old HP building 17 Palo Alto (1/8/11). I don't know if it is a coincidence, but it seems to me that gay software engineers and computer scientists are more common than hardcore engineers, electrical, chemical or mechanical. Software writers always consider themselves to be creative like an artist or theater arts person, whereas most hardcore engineers view themselves as analytical nerds like the character Spock in Star Trek. Although there may be a difference, I believe gay hardcore engineers are just as numerous as the more expressive and creative software engineers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Government time standard via Web clock display

The above internet Web time clock display is provided by the U.S. Government National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a public service using the Flash Widget (See description page). It is a web clock showing the official time of day from NIST, displayed as a 12 or 24-hour clock, in a user-selectable time zone. The default time zone comes from the time zone setting on the client's computer, and it re-synchronizes with NIST every 10 minutes. It is very accurate, but is intended as a service only because it is not a traceable time standard, which is required for certain legal or scientific measurements and experiments. Note that links to a widget that works with more secure browser settings and the other government time service at will work with less secure browser security settings.

Everyone gets to change their clocks tonight by falling back one hour tonight. I have never understood Daylight Savings time and I know that dairy farmers in Minnesota have always hated it because cows don't change their schedules. Fortunately, this year I own some battery powered digital clocks that automatically receive the radio time signal from the U.S. government. They will reset themselves automatically.

Decades ago, the only time of day services available to the general public for setting their watches and clocks was wither the phone company's audio time of day message service, which could be listened to by calling a special phone number with any standard telephone, or by listening to the over-the-air radio signal broadcast by U.S. government's WWV station on the short wave radio band.

For some unknown reason, as a child I enjoyed calling the time of day phone number and later using by father's short wave radio to set my mechanical wind-up watch to the exact time. This is how I first discovered that my mechanical watch drifted by a minute per day whereas the wall clocks in my house, which were plugged into a 120V wall socket, would keep perfect time. My dad, being an old military radio technician, was able to explain to me the reason -- the electric power company, for various technical reasons, must keep the 60 cycles per second alternating current they generate exactly at 60 Hertz or suffer possible catastrophic failures of the power grid. As a result, electric clocks can be very accurate by using a gear driven synchronous motor that electro-mechanically counts the number of AC power cycles.

When electronic digital LED clocks first appeared in the 1970s, they were also able to count the power line cycles to generate very accurate time, assuming there were no power outages or noise on the power line. Of course, some of these problems can be solved with various circuit designs that also use battery backup, which can maintain the time during a power outage by courting the cycles generated by a small vibrating crystal in the clock.

Of course, keeping time by counting power line cycles requires the clock to be plugged into a known frequency, such as 60 Hertz AC power, which is standard in America. However, in Europe 50 Hertz is common and so digital clock makers must modify their clock for each country. In addition, other country's voltage standards range from 100 Volts AC to 240 Volts and more.

As a result, it can be an engineering challenge to design a wall plug that can be safely connected to and counted by low voltage digital clock circuitry. Meeting every country's safety regulations is an expensive process. To cut corners and cheapen things, too many digital clock makers today no longer count the AC power line frequency and instead use a cheap digital watch crystal to keep time, which is not very accurate.

I recently bought a Sony digital clock that plugs into the wall, but it drifts off time in a few months, probably because it is not counting power line frequency, but using a watch crystal.

I guess I'll see tonight if the above clock Widget resets itself correctly, which I assume it will.

On an unrelated note, I appear to have had more vision loss in the last few weeks and some other physical signs that are not good according to doctors -- I might become even less able to blog in the future. All I hope and pray for is that I have a peaceful death.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

OSU annual drag show shows progress since Stonewall

Drag performers filled the OSU MU ballroom

PHOTO: front page of the OSU Student newspaper, Oct. 30, 2012, featured a photo captioned, "Performers dance during this year's annual drag show this past Friday. The show, which took place in the Memorial Union Ballroom, drew quite a crowd and elicited much laughter and enjoyment from the audience." Liki Minaj" stands on stage collecting ballots during the voting for the Drag Show's king and queen. Liki was later crowned the queen of the show." As I mentioned before, drag performance art was common at gay bars until it became politically incorrect when Stonewall era gay liberation leaders wanted to dispel the stereotype that gay men were all swishy girlly men. It is a sign of progress that drag performance art can be enjoyed again without it being confused with the gay student group sponsoring the event. See previous post OSU students support drag, gay marriage and anti-gay newspapers (10/25/12).

Newspaper ad for 'OSU Night of The Living Queers' drag show in MU Ballroom

PHOTO: newspaper display advertisement for the annual Oregon State University "Night of the Living Queers" drag show in the Memorial Union Ballroom Oct. 26, 2012 as it was printed in "The Barometer" Oct. 24, 2012, p. 7. See previous post OSU students support drag, gay marriage and anti-gay newspapers (10/25/12).

How ironic -- I just noticed this is my 69th post of my new (this year) Tom's OSU Blog at -- I don't need to say anything more!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Letter on OSU free speech ruling for anti-gay student newspaper

front page of anti-gay Oregon State University conservative student newspaper 'The Liberty' April 6-25, 2005

PHOTO: (click photo to enlarge) Oregon State University conservative student newspaper "The Liberty" front page from April 6-24, 2005 featured articles to politically agitate students about their student fee money being used to support things they opposed, such as the Women's Center and the Pride Center, which the paper carefully noted was called the Queer Resource Center. A conservative OSU Professor Fred Decker sponsored the newspaper to further Republican causes, including opposing marriage equality and amend the Oregon Constitution to forbid same-sex marriages. The students claimed to be victims of political correctness and they successfully sued after their newspaper boxes were removed by OSU under a then unwritten policy against non-campus approved newspapers.

Photo of story about gay women on page 7 of Jan. 9, 1976 Corvallis Gazette-Times

PHOTO: Jan. 9, 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,' " on p. 7-8 of (Corvallis, Oregon) Gazette-Times. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University. See previous post Gay 1976 newspaper controversy (5/3/06) on gay women in Corvallis wanting to get married and my opinion piece by Thomas Kraemer, "As I See It: 30 years later, views of gay issues same, Gazette-Times, Sept. 13, 2005.

Below is my letter to the editor in response to the news stories by the Associated Press, "OSU loses court decision about student newspaper," Gazette-Times, Oct. 24, 2012, p. A3 and Joce DeWitt, "OSU responds to court decision about student newspaper," Gazette-Times, Oct. 25, 2012, p. A3 (Associated Press contributed to this report), which said, "Oregon State University officials on Wednesday said they were surprised by a federal appeals court ruling to revive a complaint by the creators of a conservative-leaning student newspaper who say OSU officials arbitrarily restricted the paper's distribution." I note that this was an anti-gay Christian Republican student newspaper funded by the late OSU Professor Fred Decker. This court decision was also covered in the student newspaper article by Gabriella Morrongiello, "Appeals court finds OSU at fault," Barometer, posted Oct. 25, 2012 See previous post OSU students support drag, gay marriage and anti-gay newspapers (10/25/12).

I agree with the court ruling against OSU's restriction of the free speech rights of a conservative student newspaper. ("OSU loses court decision about student newspaper," Oct. 24 and "OSU Responds to court decision about newspaper," Oct. 25.)

I believe OSU should respond by continuing to support marriage equality, which the late OSU Professor Fred Decker opposed by sponsoring "The Liberty" newspaper and helping Republicans amend the Oregon Constitution to prohibit gay marriages.

Freedom of speech protects all. Many angry Gazette-Times readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions because the G-T, as a "family newspaper," did not censor the Jan. 9, 1976, feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis; 'Now I want to marry this woman.' "

Coincidentally, "The Daily Barometer" student newspaper at OSU recently published an editorial titled, "Join the majority, legalize same-sex marriage," on Oct. 23.

Apparently, many conservative students now support marriage equality.

Thomas Kraemer, Corvallis

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Support of free speech always the right thing," Gazette-Times, Oct. 27, 2012, p. A7 published online Oct. 26, 2012)

I find it to be an interesting coincidence that one of the early gay rights activists in Corvallis, Dunbar Aitkens, was part of the University of California Berkeley Free Speech Movement protests in the 1960s. While there he was arrested for doing with another man in public what heterosexual couples regularly do without being arrested. (Meredith May, "40 years on, Free Speechers talk all they want," San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 11, 2004, p. B-5) This is why I made this the first entry in my timeline of the history of OSU gay activism, which the gay history Professor Wayne Dynes noted was the first time he had seen a gay history timeline start with free speech. Read the local history, leading up to the Oregon State University Pride Center by Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," posted April 30, 2010 on the Web site produced by The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS), located at the City University of New York Graduate Center. The site is and now hosted at the University of Chicago. The shortened URL will also go to it more easily if you are text messaging or hand typing the link.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OSU students support drag, gay marriage and anti-gay newspapers

Newspaper ad for 'OSU Night of The Living Queers' drag show in MU Ballroom

PHOTO: newspaper display advertisement for the annual Oregon State University "Night of the Living Queers" drag show in the Memorial Union Ballroom Oct. 26, 2012 as it was printed in "The Barometer" Oct. 24, 2012, p. 7. During the 20th Century, old fashioned gay bars had a long tradition of providing drag entertainment, especially on Halloween night. However, during the post-Stonewall gay liberation period of the 1970s, many gay rights leaders tried to hide the drag tradition in an attempt to debunk the stereotype that gay men were all a bunch of swishy girlie men. Gay leaders also wanted to further the political goal of establishing that gay people were the same as everyone else and therefore deserving of equal rights. While drag was deemed politically incorrect in the 1970s, the above ad shows the new form of political correctness that is expected in a university environment, such as the American with disabilities Act or ADA accommodations offered along with a disclaimer that says, "Warning: Show may include crude humor, foul language and vulgar choreography. Attend at own discretion." This annual event has become the biggest fund raiser for the gay student group on campus. Entire fraternities have attended and enjoyed the show in the past.

Some other interesting news items:

Headline 'Center orients women to man's world' in back to school orientation issue of The Barometer, Sept. 25, 1975, p. 33

Student newspaper article, "Center orients women to man's world," Oregon State University Barometer, Sep. 25, 1975, p. 33, recounts history of the Women's Center. The headline appears to be unintentionally sexist. The OSU Women's Center was formed in 1973 and an informal women's group in Corvallis led to the formation of the first gay student group to be officially recognized by OSU in 1976. The central role of the OSU Women's Center in starting the first gay student group at OSU in 1976 is documented in the history I wrote about gay activism in Corvallis, which is available on a site hosted by the City University of New York Center for gay and lesbian studies: Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," accessed Sep. 28, 2011. See previous posts Gay OSU Beavers history (1/28/09) and OSU queer history month speech (9/30/06).

Photo of story about gay women on page 7 of Jan. 9, 1976 Corvallis Gazette-Times

PHOTO: Jan. 9, 1976 feature article by Anne Wood, "Gay women: Coming out of the closet in Corvallis, 'Now I want to marry this woman,' " on p. 7-8 of (Corvallis, Oregon) Gazette-Times. One of the women profiled in the article came out in a letter to the editor of her student newspaper and she was active in early gay women's groups at Oregon State University.

See previous post Gay 1976 newspaper controversy (5/3/06) on gay women in Corvallis wanting to get married. Also see OSU Women's Center About Us and OSU Women's Center Resources - Sexual Orientation, both accessed Sep. 24, 2011 for an example of the current Web site.

Friday, October 12, 2012

OSU Coming Out Day 2012 meets preacher in the quad

OSU national Coming Out Day 2012 on front page of Barometer, Oct. 12, 2012

PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) Jarod Sleet, external coordinator for SOL (one of Oregon State University's LGBT student groups) demonstrated coming out in the public quad to celebrate National Coming Out Day for 2012, as shown in the student newspaper's front page coverage (center) and discussed in an opinion page piece and comments about the anti-gay preacher who was asked to step away by the campus cops after a confrontation. Curiously, as of 10:44AM today, the front page story had not been posted on the newspaper's Web site even though the editor had promised to post stories as they were written and not after printed -- I hope this is not because of some negative problem. The student newspaper's gay friendly editorial comments are an example of the tremendous progress that has been made since Stonewall, despite the stereotypical Jesus freak who forty years ago would have represented the mainstream views of society. (See the related opinion piece and editorial comments by Editorial Staff, "Yeas & Nays," Barometer, Oct. 12, 2012, p. 3 and Finn Van Order, "God is in the quad exercising First Amendment rights," Barometer, Oct. 12, 2012, p. 3)

"Nay to hateful fire-and-brimstone preachers in the Memorial Union Quad yesterday. We continue to support your First Amendment right to say what you want. However, everything you said was wrong.

"Yea to National Coming Out Day yesterday. If you came out, congratulations. What was a hard decision was made harder by the fact there was a nasty person shouting mean things with a cross at the same time. We support your decision, and rest assured that the Barometer as well as many other campus organizations have got your back.

"Nay to screaming your messed up theology in the quad. Even the people you may have swayed were turned off by your delivery. Go back to whatever hateful hollow you sprung from. Oregon State University is no place for it.

"Nay to invoking the name of whatever deity you believe in to justify your hate for other human beings. From what we can tell, Jesus liked to party, wore sandals, had long hair, turned water into wine and generally stood up for the oppressed. He also said to love your neighbor as yourself. Smart words.

"Nay to invading our quad with your mean words. Step foot here again and see what happens."

(Quoted from Editorial Staff, "Yeas & Nays," Barometer, Oct. 12, 2012, p. 3)

See my history of gay student groups at OSU and my previous posts:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

OSU gay party Facebook event vs. gay bars of past

Facebook screen shot of gay party event showing Catholic alter boys

PHOTO: (click photo to enlarge) screen shot of a 21st ad for the gay party near Oregon State University titled "Rainbow goes back to Catholic School" public event announcement posted on Oct. 5, 2012. Joshua Mayer posted a reply ironically asking the stereotypical gay question, "What should I wear if I do go??" Students of the theory of gay "camp" will recognize this party theme and response as being the epitome of camp. The Rainbow in the Clouds Corvallis, Oregon Facebook page says, "Every First Friday, we gather together to celebrate diversity! Each month is themed and deliciously diverse with DJs, a photo booth, donated freebies and goodies, and best of all, filled to the brim with PRIDE! Part of the proceeds from each event is donated to a specified organization that supports equal rights and opportunities." The gay party this time was held at Cloud & Kelly's Public House 126 Sw First St. Corvallis, Oregon

Craigslist screen shot in men seeking men ads to promote the Catholic School party

PHOTO: (click photo to enlarge) screen shot of Craigslist ad for "Rainbow in the Clouds - 21 (Cloud and Kelly's)," (section for men looking for sex with men) posted Oct. 4, 2012. The campy party ad says, "Okay kids, Check your guilt at the door. Salvation will have you dripping with holy water at this month's Rainbow in the Clouds. We need all you ex-altar boys (and girls) to come get righteous on the dance floor. Listen to the confessions of your box and pull out that rosary bead by bead. Dancing is a beautiful vertical expression of horizontal desires. Priests and nuns are also welcome but you might need to strap on the chastity belt! Friday Oct 5th!! Starts at 10. $3. . . Get more details on Facebook: Search for Rainbow in the Clouds and look under our events page. This is big gay dance party held on the first Friday of every month in Corvallis. This event is a fundraiser for the gay community. This month's beneficiary is the Rainbow Continuum group from OSU." The party organizers wisely knew a posting on Craigslist would catch many new Oregon State University students looking for gay sex (before they figure out that going to a party like this one is a better way to hook up than using Craigslist!). Gay party organizing has become much easier today with social media technology compared to having to use coded classified newspaper ads in the past. The only thing that hasn't changed is the campy gay party themes that can only be fully appreciated by students of theater and gay camp history.

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PHOTO: the gay party was held at Kelly's Public House near 126 SW 1st St, Corvallis, OR (Google Maps). Typical of a small town that can't support a dedicated gay bar, this restaurant brags about their "family friendly" menu, including opening for lunch service, something you would have never seen at a 20th Century gay bar.

I've written before on the ethnography of gay male MSM craigslist ads by OSU college students. See my previous posts:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dan Choi speech, ex-gays and OSU multicultural gays in student paper

gay student group ad for OSU speech by Lt. Dan Choi and headline CA Gov. bans ex-gay therapy in Barometer Oct. 2, 2012, p. 2 and 7

PHOTO: Examples of gay student group marketing efforts in the Oregon State University student newspaper include the same small, 6 point type, campus calendar listings used in 1976 (left), but also today it includes paid advertisements, for example, the above ad run Oct. 2, 2012, p. 2 and 7, for a speech by gay activist Lt. Dan Choi who fought the anti-gay military policy "don't ask, don't tell." The speech was supported by the Editorial Board, "We salute Lt. Choi," Barometer, Oct. 3, 2012, p. 3 and Staff, "Editorial: Yeas and Nays," Barometer Oct. 5, 2012, p. 3, which said, "Yea to Lt. Dan Choi speaking at OSU this week. Nay to gay marriage still being against the constitution in Oregon. We're glad that instead this election we are voting on more substantive issues like legalizing pot and casinos." A follow up article was written by Don Iler, "Rights activist, former soldier talks about life as part of Queer History Month," Barometer, Oct. 4, 2012. The article quotes Rylan Wall, the internal coordinator for the OSU Pride Center. (See previous post OSU gay student groups evolve from newspaper to Facebook Age marketing (10/1/02)) Also, coincidentally on page 7 of the Oregon State University student newspaper was a syndicated wire news story about California banning ex-gay therapy. (for more background see Wayne Besen, "The Convoluted Legal Case For Reparative Therapy," posted Oct. 3, 2012 and Jim Burroway, "NARTH, Liberty Counsel to Challenge California's Ex-Gay Ban for Minors in Court," posted Oct. 1, 2012)

OSU bowl with SOL photo spread in Barometer Oct. 5, 2012, p. 8

PHOTO: (click on photo to enlarge) SOL "the multicultural lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender support network at Oregon State University" is featured in a photo spread in the student newspaper with Photos by Neil Abrew, "Bowl with SOL," Barometer Oct. 5, 2012, p. 8. The caption quotes Erin Cahill, the internal coordinator for SOL saying, "There's a lot of people getting something from this event besides just free pizza and bowling." The marketing techniques of free pizza, along with manning a table in the quad, has proven to be effective along with the same old 6-point type notices in the campus calaender section of the student newspaper that were use to start the first OSU gay student group in 1976. (See previous post OSU gay student groups evolve from newspaper to Facebook Age marketing (10/1/02))

Headline Officials abandon wear black campaign Barometer, Oct. 2, 2012, p. 1

PHOTO: Student newspaper article by Don Iler, "Officials abandon "wear black" campaign," Barometer, Oct. 2, 2012, p. 1 documents the objections to asking students to all wear the official school color of black at football games because many perceive it as being racially offensive, especially after somebody came made up in black face with an afro wig a few years ago. Of course, many conservatives and others outside of the university see this type of ban as an example of typical college campus "political correctness" that is not productive and infringes freedom of speech rights. The free speech crowd needn't worry because before game day, the University President Ed Ray lifted the ban and asked everyone to prove OSU students can behave properly while showing school spirit. See the article by Don Iler, "Back in black," Barometer Oct. 5, 2012, p. 1. Also see Editorial Board, "Missed opportunity with blackout decision," Barometer, Oct. 2, 2012 and Letters to editor, Oct. 3, 2012.

It is amazing to think that a few years ago a few anti-gay Republican students started a competing student newspaper, "The Liberty." It is heartening to see things at OSU are moving in a more positive direction. See previous posts OSU 'The Liberty' plays victim card (9/26/10) and OSU antigay professor dies (4/11/09).

Gay Blade magazine competed with Playboy for straight men in 1956

Gay Blade magazine for straight men in 1956 competed with Playboy

PHOTO: The "Gay Blade" magazine was started in 1956 to compete with the then several years old, but very successful, Playboy magazine that catered to heterosexual male readers who were interested in sex. Although the term "gay" had been used in underground circles of homosexual men prior to the 1969 Stonewall riot, the word gay was not associated by the general population with homosexuals until in the 1970s. The above screenshot is from the very interesting TV documentary, "How Playboy Changed the World," History Channel program first aired Oct. 2, 2012, 6-8PM PT. It discusses the fight that Hugh Hefner, Playboy's publisher, led to repeal sodomy laws, which were putting even heterosexuals into prison for years just for having performed oral sex. Also, the show talks about the successful fight Hefner and several attorneys led to overturn Victorian era obscenity laws. Ironically, the last shot of the documentary shows the article written for Playboy magazine by the gay writer Dan Savage, which advocated why straights should be supporting gay marriage: "Gay Marriage, what's in it for you? Why straight guys should care about homosexual unions." (Note: I was unable to find a date or link to it, but I did find a short piece by Staff, "Playboy's Hugh Hefner: Gay Marriage Is A Fight For All Of Our Rights," posted Aug. 21, 2012.) Dan, who is gay, starts out his Playboy article by saying he read Playboy more than did his straight brothers. Eerily, the show also mentions that Hugh Hefner had a stroke at the age of 58, but recovered like me.

'The Gay Blade Clothes for men Oregon Washington' box artwork circa 1970s

PHOTO: See previous post the Gay Blade Clothes for men store (7/27/06) and history article by Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," where I show an example of a clothing store and ice cream parlor in downtown Corvallis, Oregon that used the word gay in their name before dropping the gay part in the 1970s.

Also see these previous posts about how the word gay became widely associated with homosexuals:

Monday, October 1, 2012

OSU gay student groups evolve from newspaper to Facebook Age marketing

OSU cultural center open house and LGBT ad in Barometer Sept. 25 and 26, p. 4
PHOTO: (click to enlarge) Oregon State University gay student groups are still using the same student newspaper's Campus Calendar section to advertise meetings just like when the first OSU group formed in 1976. However, today it is also possible for an article to be run (Barometer, Sept. 25, 2012, p. 2) announcing "OSU Cultural Centers holding open houses this week," including the OSU Pride Center open house on Mon. Oct. 1 from 5-7PM. (see OSU Pride Center Fcebook page events for "Queer History Month," accessed Oct. 1, 2012 ). Also, similar to how the first gay student group in 1976 advertised meetings, the SOL LGBT Multicultural Support Network or OSU Queer People of Color Meeting was announced in tiny 6 point print in the Campus Calendar section of the student newspaper. (See my history of OSU gay student groups: Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," accessed Oct. 1, 2012 )

As somebody who has watched the evolution of gay student groups at OSU, from the first officially recognized gay student group in 1976, to today, and also the evolution of computer technology and communication since the 1950s, I find it interesting to watch how the internet has been slowly been replacing the old school methods of announcing meetings in so-called "dead tree" physical newspapers. Likewise, the old school Web page and RSS feeds that were implemented just a few years ago by the OSU Pride Center website are being trumped this year by social media technology, such as the OSU Pride Center Fcebook page. I guess this makes sense, given this function is social in nature, however, I am having a hard time fully seeing it because the Facebook Web pages are not designed well for low vision accessibility, which makes it hard for me to fully understand how it is being used and evolving over time. However, given my decades of knowledge, I can make a good guess about how it could be used effectively for social media purposes.

Some other interesting things I've read recently include:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Survivor of gay mental illness treatments in 'Out' magazine

Feature story by Justin Torres, 'A Family Outing,' Out magazine, September 2012 p, 88
PHOTO: Feature story by Justin Torres, "A Family Outing, Until recently, people thought homosexuality was a sickness. The story of one man who survived the 'cure,'" Out Magazine, Sept. 2012, p. 88-93, 135 -- Torres was declared mentally ill for being gay, which he played along with for awhile. (A free link to this article appears to be unavailable as of this posting.)

This is an excellent first person account of gay man's struggles with being gay and other people convincing him he was mentally ill. Although being gay is no longer defined as a mental illness, it is clear that many of the issues Justin struggled with are still shared by many young men today and they could easily repeat Justin's decision to play along with the idea that they are mentally ill just to accommodate societal homophobia.

Justin was born in 1980 and became depressed at the age of 17 not wanting to be a "fag." He modestly says he was a "deft kid" who was able to politely humor the psychiatrist that his mother insisted he see regularly. From that experience and from independent reading, he had figured out the magic words that would allow the mental health system to lockup somebody: "I needed only to prove I was not a threat to myself or others, and they would be forced to let me go.

Justin then freely admits how at a low point in his life, which he doesn't recall clearly, to having made threats that he knew would result in himself being involuntarily restrained by "multiple white coats." He recalled, "Doctors asked me absurd questions and I answered with hostile and absurd answers. I put on a show, I dredged up every painful thing I knew about my folks and I hurled words at them, the most vicious language possible, while the doctors looked on. I wanted desperately to shame them. And did I want to die? You're dam right I wanted to kill. You're damn right I wanted to die. And they locked me up."

Although I will concede that I've witnessed mental illness cases that appear to be truly caused by some unknown physical defect in a person's brain, Justin's case is a more ambiguous one, which in my opinion is a good example of the more common situation where well meaning mental health practitioners do more harm than good. With perfect hindsight, it is clear that Justin didn't need to be locked up, but instead only needed to have unconditional support from his parents and the mental health system so that he could realize he was "not crazy" and only needed some help in getting over the anguish that he shares with every other intelligent queer boy who is ostracized by the homophobic "normal people" in society. Of course, I realize that unconditional support will not help the truly mentally ill, but it is clear, with perfect hindsight, that Justin is not and never was mentally ill -- he was just a creative smart gay boy who was shunned by those around him and he was emotionally wounded by it.

Torres provides a brief history of the past when being gay was classified as a mental illness and how it was eventually removed from the official list of Mental Disorders. Although the history he states is accurate, he omits some of the context that I learned firsthand from having lived through that period in history. The famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud invented theories of how the mind worked and he hypothesized that the mind was malleable because, by definition, it is capable of learning and therefore its behavior could be changed through psychotherapy. This theory was widely accepted at the time by most, well meaning people. Even today, most people are ignorant of the arguments between a person's chosen behavior that is considered criminal versus a behavior that the involuntary result of a person's genetics or biological makeup. In mental illness cases, it is often not clear what is voluntary behavior not caused by the illness.

The popular Freudian theory of homosexuality in the 1950's and 1960's was that homosexuality is caused by a boy having been raised by a domineering mother and a weak or absent father. The idea being that a boy learned how to be a man from a strong male role model. Numerous counterexamples to this theory have demonstrated that it couldn't be the sole reason, if it was the reason in any case. Various mental health treatments for homosexuality and the efforts of religious based ex-gay groups have tried to "cure' gay men by trying to teach them how to be more masculine. A few ex-gays have claimed these methods worked for them, but some of these same ex-gays have then been later exposed as still being gay and nearly all ex-gays will freely admit to having settled for celibacy or abstinence because they still feel a desire for same-sex sexual activity. This means that sexual orientation is partially a chosen behavior, but the homosexual arousal behavior also has a strong genetic component that is not learned or chosen.

The diagnosis of mental illness is treated with great skepticism by society. Many people worry that mentally ill people are pretending just so they can assume the sick role and escape from the duties society expects them to perform. In fact, historically most health insurance providers have assumed that all mental illness is malingering and therefore they do not cover it adequately. Of course, those who think they will get out of any responsibility by pretending to be mentally ill, will soon discover that it won't get them out of anything and in some cases it will cause them greater problems because they will be harmed by the drug treatments for mental illness, which are popular today, and also harmed by the stigmatization, which comes with being labeled as mentally ill.

I was also skeptical about the existence of mental illness until when I had my first brain stroke and it was scientifically confirmed with an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imager that can measure individual blood vessel flow rates in the brain and show where blood flow is inadequate). Many of the signs and symptom I had (e.g. delusions and hallucinations) could have easily qualified me for being diagnosed as mentally ill. Of course, I was smart enough and my doctors were smart enough to dismiss this diagnosis. However, so-called "mental illness" was not ruled out entirely until after my stroke had some tissue in my brain and all of these symptoms instantly disappeared and replaced by low vision blindness, which is a diagnosis that is considered to be a "organic illness," instead of a mental illness, by medical doctors. This different diagnosis matters legally because most health insurance policies will cover so-called "organic" medical disorders, but not fully cover so-called "mental illness." This bias appeared back in the Freudian days when treatment for mental illness involved and numerous expensive sessions with a psychoanalyst. Nobody wanted to pay for psychotherapy because mental illness was not considered to be real by most people.

Sadly, the bias of no medical insurance coverage for mental illness persisted even after it was discovered that certain psychoactive drugs, unlike psychotherapy, could help some mentally ill people get better. Nobody yet understands exactly why these treatments work, but if they are proven to work and safe, then they should be covered by medical insurance.

Clearly, as medical science develops a netter understanding how the brain works, I am sure the artificial distinction between physical and mental illnesses will vanish. Yes, there will always be some things that can be solved by talk therapy or by teaching and learning coping skills, but I am sure that doctors will become better at figuring out if it is the hardware or the reprogrammable software of the brain that needs to be fixed. See my previous posts and these related links: