Friday, June 27, 2008

A Gay Old Weekend

This weekend is the Twin Cities Gay Pride Parade and Festival in Minneapolis. Minnesota Atheists will be marching and have a booth present, right next to church booths and religious groups. There are rarely any fights, and reactions are usually positive. There have been some comments which people have found offense to the booth, because "God made me gay" almost as an excuse for the discrimination they face, like it's not my fault, or the fault of society for how I'm treated, it's God's will. That's a little strange, but I've met gay people in all sorts of states regarding coming to terms with their gayness. Anyway, Jeannette and I will be marching in the parade to show our support for a group of people who have seen rates of discrimination against them rise by 135% over a year ago.

To honor Gay Pride, Minnesota Atheists are featuring on their radio show Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out discusses “Exposing ‘Ex-gay’ Ministries” and Jane Bowman of Project 515 discusses “515 Minnesota Laws that Discriminate Against Gays.”

Wedding Do's and Don't - Why people go overboard

I have MSN Messenger on my workstation at work. It pops up with MSN Live! Today! or whatever marketing phrase they are calling it now a days, which includes tiny helpful elements, like number of emails, or the weather, large spaces for ads, and articles with popular entertainment news. Much of the "news" lately has been about weddings. Due to a sudden lack of crises at work, I clicked a link on wedding dos and don'ts.

It's written as a casual conversation between a handful of women. It's probably a raw transcript. The message of the article is to encourage simple weddings. Weddings today are massive affairs.

From the article:
"It is the biggest throwaway and means nothing later. It's the biggest waste of money and effort that I've ever heard of. It's like a big party where you just blow everything out; you have nothing left. It's got to cost $30,000."

So, what happens when couples and families spend this much money? A few things happen. I have seen couples go into $20,000 of debt right after a marriage. The husband felt that he should show his love for his wife through the wedding ring and engagement ring, which he spent $15,000 on. Why? It's what is expected. A diamond ring is a must, and it must be large. That is the message of the "Louder Yes!" campaign by Wedding Day Jewelers. A simple "yes" just isn't enough. You must provide, "pure, unadulterated elation." Of course, this elation won't come cheap. Now, you can spin this into buying a creative ring, but what companies like wedding Day Jewelers are looking for is financing opportunities. They want to fit you into a "manageable payment plan." All of this for some ring which is probably be lost, stolen, sold for much less, or damaged. Don't forget the ring insurance! No one should suffer economically for some piece of jewelery.

So, that's the guy's way of starting this mess. The woman takes over next, with her family, of course. Jeannette and I have argued over what should be done for a wedding, and the largest sticking point we've had has been over prices for things. From the previous article,
"But when it came time to actually get married, something from all those little fairytale books that she read when she was little came through. I think you carry that stuff in a backpack in your head. And she just wanted the glamour and the huge ... the romance of the whole vision. And we did. She had the biggest dress with the longest train and the most people."
All of the bridal magazines, wedding fairs, TV, and the rest of society with a fixation of materialism feed a many billion dollar industry which thrives on that "backpack in your head" of what it is like to get married, of what is expected. This is one expensive backpack. Only certain families can afford to throw this extravagant wedding people seem to be born with the idea of having. It's unrealistic and damaging. So, you buy the wedding dress, which won't be worn again, bridesmaid's dresses, which won't be worn again, accessories for your dress, and you're out a few thousand dollars for clothes which could be thrown away the next day. It's a waste, unless you can donate your clothes to people who can't afford what you've already bought.

Flowers can cost a few thousand dollars, the photographer can cost a few thousand dollars, transportation for guests can cost a few thousand dollars, tuxedo rental can cost a few thousand dollars, and facility rentals for ceremonies and receptions can cost a few thousand dollars. So, you're out $10,000, even before you pay for entertainment and food for your reception. Let's say you have 200 people at your wedding. An average cost of a meal is $18-$20. If you are providing drinks, you need to add another $10 on average per person. So, your food, including renting dishes, napkins, and other silly things which all have a line item, is $4,000-$6,000. And, that's if you do things cheaply. That can easily get to $10,000. A DJ or music can cost $1,000 to $2,000. Your total can easily get to $20,000 to $30,000, just for things which are expected.

What is the side effect of a $30,000 wedding? Immediate families, by tradition only the bride's family, but more often both families, will help pay for the wedding, or pay for all of it. Now, couples are paying for the event on their own, because immediate families have bills of their own, and can't take on the added burden. This then gets passed to extended families and friends with requests for money to help fund the wedding. From the article,
"the greed associated with weddings today is incredible. And the bridal industry, in recommending all these expensive things, is full of little hints about how to beg for others to help finance it, which is a revolting idea."
So, you can't afford what is expected, and it's your Big Day, and you're terrified that you'll be in debt for years and be miserable because of what you're going through to put on this one day. Brides get horribly stressed. Jeannette and I have been able to handle things pretty well. We're very lucky to know the owner of a restaurant who is providing catering. The reception will be very expensive, but we want to throw a fun party for our family and friends.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Houses keep you from getting bored

Jeannette and I are now in debt to our eye balls, but in exchange for the debt, we get to live in a condo/townhome thing. Moving in was a piece of cake, but here are the surprises which popped up in the few weeks here:

1. The first day, I was stuffing things under the kitchen sink, and the drain pipe popped off. Lesson learned; Don't bump pipes, and it's pretty easy to fix, once you learn which O ring goes where.
2. The toilet in the main bathroom was a little funny. You had to hold the handle down to get it to flush. So I popped open the lid, and the flapper was all white and spongy. Just as a note, it used to be rubber and red. Menards had a sale on toilet repair kits, so that was a piece of cake. Lesson learned; Don't put up with finicky toilets, it's easier to just fix them.
3. Again in the kitchen, the sprayer in the sink dribbled, rather then sprayed. So, I bought a replacement sprayer. Jeannette was off getting presents, so I had time to monkey with the sink. I crawl under there, and start to undo the nuts holding the faucet to the sink, and the bolt just falls off. I take off the other nut, and remove the faucet which had turned into a pile of rust in 25 years. So I run to Menards again to seek out a replacement faucet, and find a clearance set, with sprayer for $25. During the replacement process, I kept hooking up the hoses to the lines, and forgetting other parts which needed to be assembled. I took apart and reassembled the faucet about four times before getting it right. The good part, everything worked, and I didn't get soaked. Lesson learned; simple projects are rarely as simple as they seem.
4. Last night, I hear Jeannette shout up from the basement, "Bjorn, come here quick!" I thought one of the cats had changed the color of its fur by how loud she was. It had nothing to do with a cat, but a skunk. There was a baby skunk stuck in our window well. So, I took off the bit of wood fencing in place to keep critters out and I stuck a board to be used as a ramp to get out. I dropped cheese down there to entice the skunk, and put more cheese on the board, and left it alone. I checked on it until night, and it didn't move, but ate the cheese which hit the rocks on the bottom. So, I was left with a board with two slices of cheese on it and a skunk in a hole this morning. I tried calling animal control just across the tracks, and they were closed at 7 at night. I wasn't looking forward to trying to get a hold of them in the morning to make an appointment to get rid of the skunk. So, as we were getting ready this morning, I grabbed a length of networking cable, and a broom handle and made one of those fancy cinching pole things they use on those ASPCA shows. Well, it worked. The skunk looked miserable getting hauled out of the well, but when I let it go in the yard, it ran under the deck, and looked OK. It was walking alright. A few minutes later, and we saw it playing with a pine cone. So, we didn't have to bother animal control, and we weren't even late to work. Lesson learned; Reality TV shows can teach you something. That, and skunks are adorable.