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Beauty blogger and her new husband ruined their wedding photographer’s reputation over a $125 fee, so a jury told them to pay her $1 million.

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An Indian woman was born into the Dalit caste, which made her “untouchable” by society. Despite the odds, she managed to immigrate to America where she became the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York Subway.

Adobe to (finally) pull the plug on Flash, for real this time.

She encouraged a girl she babysat to continue with her interest in art. Eleven years later she got this letter.

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Meet Anatomic Anna and Andy, dolls with removable organs.

Extinguished, a stunning animated short, will positively melt your heart.

Interactive art center Meow Wolf is forging a new business model for artists.

11 women who did groundbreaking things that men got the credit for.

The British Museum creates 3D models of the Rosetta Stone and 200+ other historic artifacts for free download or view in virtual reality. 

How the plastic pink flamingo became an icon.

A free tutorial on how to make a cardboard geodesic dome den.

An entire Manhattan village owned by African Americans was destroyed to build Central Park.

Why the myth of meritocracy hurts children of color.

Comic Parchment, the ultimate font.

Play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game, which was designed by author Douglas Adams in 1984, for free online.



I’m devoting this Throwback Thursday post to my wedding day mainly because today is not only what would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me for someone else but June 8 falls on a Thursday this year. June is the month that many couples in the U.S. traditionally get married. On top of it this month is LGBTQ Pride Month and I have a wedding-related story that definitely fits with that theme.

A couple of months ago on March 31 I saw a bunch of stories suddenly crop up on my Facebook feed about people speaking openly about either being transgender themselves or having a friend or loved one who is transgender. I didn’t know that the transgender community have been having an International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 since 2009. This year it really took off with all of the testimonials about transgender people and issues. I only wished someone had given me advanced notice because I would’ve told my own particular story then. So I decided to wait until Pride Month to tell my own story.

I grew up being completely ignorant about transgender people. I was raised Roman Catholic and the topic of being transgender was simply never brought up in church. The local public school system never mentioned that topic either in all the years I was a student there. The first person I recalled who actually had sex-reassignment surgery was a British man named James Morris, who became known as Jan Morris after having the surgery. I was a kid then and I thought it was pretty mind-blowing that one could change genders like that. I remember Jan Morris got tons of publicity and it ignited all kinds of debate about transsexuals (which is what transgender people were referred as at the time).

A few years later a tennis player named Renée Richards attempted to compete in the U.S Open as a female athlete. She became controversial when it was revealed that she was originally born a man and she, too, had a sex change operation. There were female tennis players who protested the idea of her being included in their tournaments.

When I was in college I picked up a copy of Gloria Steinem’s book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which was a compilation of articles that she wrote in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Among those articles was a 1977 essay about the Renée Richards controversy called “Transsexualism.” Her hypothesis was that people opted for sex change operations because of the rigid gender roles that were proscribed in society, which dictates that boys don’t cry and girls don’t play sports. She basically said that if society were to loosen gender roles then men won’t feel the need to have sex change operations so they can express emotions more easily and women could play sports without having sex change operations to become men. Her closing words were “But the question remains: If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

In the years since Gloria Steinem wrote her “Transsexualism” essay, there have been major changes in terms of gender roles. More men are opting to become stay-at-home dads while their wives work full-time. There are now male nurses, female doctors, male flight attendants, and female postal workers. The WNBA is a professional women’s basketball team and there is the FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer. Women’s basketball, women’s hockey, and women’s soccer are all Olympic sports. Yet, despite these advances in gender equality, more and more people are coming out as transgender because they feel that they have literally been born in the wrong body, with the most prominent being Caitlyn Jenner, who once won an Olympic gold medal as Bruce Jenner.

During my college years at the University of Maryland at College Park, I met a couple of gay and lesbian students but my first-hand experience with transgender people was limited to going to a midnight screening of a certain cult film that has this musical number:

After college my fiancee and I decided to get married and it was my fiancee who, out of the blue, said that he wanted a church wedding. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) I had stopped going to mass and I would’ve been content with a civil marriage by a justice of the peace. I told him that we would’ve had to go to marriage classes if we were to be married in the Roman Catholic church while he would have to promise that any future children we had would be raised Catholic. He remembered an ad I had shown him that was published in The Washington Post a year earlier that was for Unitarian Universalism that said “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fits me” while telling him that I was impressed with it. (I remember when I found that ad while I was going through the Sunday paper. There were no Unitarian Universalist groups on campus and the nearest congregation was only available by car, which I didn’t have at the time, so I never followed up on that ad and I soon forgot about it.) He even found a local UU congregation that he said we could try. (He also lined up a few other denominations we could try as well—namely Quaker and the United Church of Christ—in case the UU church didn’t work out for either of us.)

So we went to our first UU service and we were impressed with the minister. We found out after the service that the woman was a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following week. We were still impressed with the fact that the church had a weekly coffee hour where people stuck around and socialized after Sunday service. (In contrast, my old Roman Catholic parish had something similar called “Hospitality Sunday” that was only held once a month. Otherwise, people basically spilled into the parking lot and drove home once mass ended.) We were also impressed with how friendly the people there were. We went back the following week to check out the regular minister and we were impressed with him as well. We started going every week and, after a few months, we signed the membership book. We even managed to get the minister to officiate at our wedding so my husband got his way on having a religious wedding.

So we were married by a UU minister. During the reception I threw my wedding bouquet and one of the single ladies caught it. Then my new husband removed the garter from my leg and one of his single friends caught it. Then the bouquet catcher and garter catcher posed for a photo with me and my newly wedded husband.

The guy who caught my garter was named Dave Norris. Dave’s mother and my husband’s mother were friends and there were times when Dave hung around with my husband and his neighborhood friends in Long Island even though Dave was a few years younger than my husband.

Traditionally there is this old wives’ tale that says that people who catch the bouquet and garter are the ones who will be married next. That doesn’t usually happen in real life but Dave was the rare exception because he got married the following year while my husband was the best man at his wedding. It was a short-lived marriage that happened soon after his girlfriend found out that she was pregnant. The bride was six months pregnant at the wedding. Three months later she had the baby. Three months after the birth, Dave and his new wife separated and they were soon divorced.

My husband and I saw Dave in person a few more times after the quick wedding/separation/divorce. The last time we saw Dave was when he traveled to Maryland with his then-latest girlfriend because he was going to a conference in Washington, DC. The four of us ate at a local restaurant. After that we lost touch with Dave for a few years.

Meanwhile my husband and I became more involved in our new UU congregation where we made new friends. About a year or two later my husband and I ended up as co-chairs of the church’s Social Action Committee. During that time AIDS was starting to ravish the nation. At the same time there was a big March on Washington for LGBTQ people that was announced. A long-time member came to us about doing a lay service about AIDS. We knew that he was previously married to a woman and he had two children (one of whom would tragically die in a car accident when she was only in her early 20’s). It was during that time he came out to us as gay. A short time later he came out as gay to the rest of the congregation. I have to admit that the congregation was shocked but ultimately accepted him because he had been an active member. (If he had been a member of my old religion, he would’ve been driven away no matter how long he had been a member.)

I’ve already written plenty about that longtime member coming out as gay in this blog so I suggest reading this post if you want to learn more about Ed Kobee and his spouse, Al Usack. After Ed managed to rally his fellow congregation members (including my husband and I) to actually attend the March on Washington for LGBTQ rights, he and Al became activists within both our congregation, the Joseph Priestley District, and in the greater UUA for that faith to become more welcoming to LGBTQ people (which resulted in the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program). Due to those efforts we started to seeing people who were openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual attending our Sunday services. Some became members for years while others attended for a short while then moved on.

I met my first openly transgender person through my UU congregation. One of the newer members was an open bisexual who had joined with her then-husband, who was also bisexual. (They gave a forum at my congregation on bisexuality where they said they had extramarital dalliances with same-sex partners.) That marriage subsequently ended and her husband left the church. She started a new relationship with a person who was born a man but he underwent a sex change operation and was now living as a woman. Yet she was still sexually attracted to women. I attended a forum on transgender at my church and this person spoke openly about how she felt like she was born in the wrong body yet she was still attracted to women. That was how I learned that gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. This person was born in a male body and was sexually attracted to females so society designated him as a heterosexual. After the surgery this person was a woman yet was still sexually attracted to females so society designated her as a lesbian.

Basically the bisexual woman and the transgender woman started a relationship and stayed together for many years until the transgender woman died a few years ago. Over the years we’ve had other transgender people attend our Sunday services. I really can’t elaborate further on these other people because it’s really not my story to tell. On top of it, even though these people are openly transgender to my congregation, they aren’t quite as open to the general public outside of church. That’s because there have been too many cases of transgender discrimination on the job and in housing. And that’s not to mention the fact that there have been Republican lawmakers who are trying to pass those bathroom bills that only exist to make a transgender person’s live much harder. If that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that transgender folks are frequently targets of beatings, sexual assaults, and other acts of violence perpetrated against them by transphobic criminals.

Getting back to my husband’s friend who caught my garter at our wedding, we basically didn’t hear from Dave Norris for a number of years. One day, out of the blue, Dave called our house. My husband and Dave had an enjoyable conversation on the phone. Dave told my husband that he had started his own consulting firm and he gave my husband the URL to his new website.

My husband visited the website and saw the page that had the list of the small staff that the consulting firm had along with headshots. He saw the name “Denise Norris” on the list. At first he assumed that Dave had gotten remarried and his wife was helping out in the new venture. But then he took a closer look at that photo and saw that it looked like Dave dressing in drag. My husband soon called his old friend back and asked point blank if this person now a woman. His friend admitted it.

I remember that night my husband decided to take me out to dinner and he relayed that story about his friend is now living as a woman while we were in the car. We had the car radio on at the time while my husband was telling me this and this song suddenly came on the air.

Talk about serendipity! My husband and I got a good laugh out of it.

I have to admit that accepting my husband’s friend as a woman was slightly more challenging for this reason. The other transgender people I met through my UU congregation had already made the change so I never knew them in their previous gender. On the other hand, both my husband and I knew this person when he was a guy. (And my husband knew this person longer than I did since my husband hung around with this person while they were growing up on Long Island.)

A month or so later Denise was in the DC area attending a conference so we decided to get together for dinner at a local restaurant. It was awkward at first but then we hit it off, especially when my husband and Denise started talking about the old days when they were growing up and they would get into some escapades together.

We also learned that basically Denise had long felt like she was a female even though she was born a boy but she had kept those feelings to herself while she was growing up. I can understand why she felt she had to do this. There have been too many cases of transgender children being rejected by their parents and being targeted by bullies in school. It was only after she reached adulthood that her feelings became stronger and it reached the point where she felt that she had to have the surgery. I also remember that her mother was dead by then. (I don’t know if Denise ever came out to her mother before her death or not.) I’m only paraphrasing here because I don’t have an exact transcript of our conversation from that night and I’m just relying on my less-than-perfect memories here.

I have to credit Unitarian Universalism for my husband and I quickly adjusting to the fact that Dave Norris was now living as a woman named Denise Norris. If we hadn’t met other transgender people before seeing Denise, I think it would’ve taken both of us longer to accept Denise as she is now.

We would see Denise in person a few more times after that. I think the last time we met in person was sometime before 2008 (the year I had my hip replacement).

As for the woman who caught my bouquet at my wedding who is also in that photo I posted a few paragraphs ago, her name is Trisha and she’s my godfather’s daughter. I last saw her in person when my father died in 2000 and she stopped by the funeral home one evening during the viewing period. My husband and I told her what happened to the guy who caught the garter at the wedding and how he is now living as a woman. I remember Trisha smiling and deadpanning, “I have that effect on men sometimes.” (LOL!)

Denise Norris now works at Accenture and she is also a transgender activist whose speciality is getting corporations to not only end job discrimination among transgender people but also offer benefits to them (such as health insurance that’s broad enough to afford such expenses as hormone therapy and sex change surgery). She frequently gives media interviews on the topic, such as this recent example. I follow her on Facebook where I read her posts on transgender issues and fellow transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner. (Like many in the transgender community, Denise basically has a dim view of Caitlyn mainly because Caitlyn continues to support the same Republican Party that has been coming out with those notorious bathroom bills in recent years.) I haven’t directly communicated with her in years, especially since I am now divorced and Denise had been more of a friend of my ex-husband’s than mine. On top of it, our paths simply haven’t crossed in real life. There are times I wonder if Denise still has my old wedding garter and, if so, had she ever worn it. (LOL!)

As for my UU congregation there are still LGBTQ members who are active. The most recent transgender member is a person who originally joined my congregation as a man a few years ago. He was open about admitting that he was suffering from gender dysphoria and he was seeing a therapist about that. Last year this person decided to undergo medical treatment and she is now living as a woman. She is also in a relationship with a cis woman who’s a lesbian. This member now looks happier than before the change.

That’s it for my story.

I’m announcing a new feature of this blog, my Twitter account, and my Facebook account. This is something that grew out of my recent trip to Connecticut.

While my husband and I were in that state attending our nephew’s wedding, we made a side trip to Mystic Seaport. On my way out of that place, we stopped at a gift shop where I found copies of Benjamin Franklin’s classic Poor Richard’s Almanack on sale for $10. I had long heard of that book and had even read brief excepts from it when I took an American Studies class during my college freshman year a long time ago.

I began to thumb through that book and I realized one major thing: the book consists of brief words of wisdom, much of which would fit in with Twitter’s 140-character limit. I began to come up with an idea, one that I hope will get increased readers to my blog/Facebook page/Twitter account.

I know that for the past few months, Keith Olbermann has been devoting the last few minutes of his MSNBC show every Friday to reading one of James Thurber’s short stories. I thought about doing something similar for Benjamin Franklin. In fact, Franklin is ideal since his writings in Poor Richard’s Almanack is way shorter than one of Thurber’s stories. Franklin mostly devoted one or two lines to a platitude or words of wisdom. Occasionally he would do a very short poem but the writings in this book are mostly very short.

On top of that, in recent months Glenn Beck has been appropriating Ben Franklin (as well as the other Founding Fathers) to misuse them to make increasingly wacky far right extremist points in his controversial Fox News show. I want to do something to rectify this by showing Benjamin Franklin’s words as he really wrote them, not how Glenn Beck has twisted them to suit his own agenda.

After reading through parts of Poor Richard’s Almanack, I realized that it contains sayings that could inspire anyone regardless of political or religious beliefs. In fact, you don’t even have to be an American to appreciate what Franklin wrote. Even though that book was published in the 18th century, much of the content is still relevant today.

Even though Benjamin Franklin is listed as the author of Poor Richard’s Almanack and he wrote some of the content himself, he didn’t originate all of the words of wisdom in that book. Much of the sayings were commonly uttered by his contemporaries in the 18th century. Franklin basically wrote down much of what he heard other people say and compiled them together into a book. What Franklin did was no different from what the Brothers Grimm did when they travelled throughout Central Europe and copied down commonly told folktales that resulted in their classic Fairy Tales book You can say that Benjamin Franklin was an editor.

Over time I’m hoping for two things: 1) increased readership of my blog/Facebook page/Twitter account and 2) people will learn more about Benjamin Franklin than as the face of the US$100 bill or the guy who once flew a kite in bad weather. Here are a few parameters of this new weekly feature. Each Friday I will provide one short quote from Poor Richard’s Almanack and I will cross-post this quote in this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Each quote will be presented as is. I will not correct spelling or punctuation because I want to preserve Franklin’s writings as he wrote them. I also used the British spelling of certain words (such as "neighbour" instead of "neighbor") because Franklin used it. I won’t offer any interpretations of what Franklin wrote because I want each reader to come to his/her conclusion as to what he/she thinks Franklin really meant.

So, without further ado, here is the first Benjamin Franklin quote from Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Benjamin Franklin

WITH the old Almanack and the old Year, Leave thy old Vices, tho’ ever so dear.

My husband and I arrived late Saturday from Connecticut, where we attended our nephew’s wedding. Here is a brief description of what we did. We arrived in Connecticut via Amtrak late Wednesday night. We spent Thursday morning and early afternoon at Mystic Seaport, where we saw lots of historical buildings and ships along a beautiful waterfront. We went to the wedding rehearsal late Thursday afternoon because I was asked to shoot some photos of that event. After the rehearsal we went to a rehearsal picnic at a waterfront park where we saw this lovely sunset.

Friday morning my husband and I slept in late at our hotel room. We headed back to Mystic Seaport to check out a few attractions that we missed yesterday and we also took a nice horse carriage ride of the entire place. Then we went back to the hotel room where we changed into our nice clothes and headed to the wedding and reception.

Here’s something cool that I encountered. Both the wedding and reception were held in this golf clubhouse facility. When I got out of my car, a woman wearing golf clothes took one look at me and praised not only my new outfit (which I recently purchased at Nordstrom’s) but also my shoes. I was especially thrilled about the shoes comment since, if you’ve read my entry from a couple of days ago, I had customized those shoes myself.

The wedding and reception were both lovely. Both events were pulled off without any major drama or glitches. I’m happy that my nephew picked a lovely person to marry.

While my husband and I were away, we’ve learned that our hometown of Washington, DC was hit with a 3.6 earthquake. There were no reports of any deaths or even major damage so we were able to continue to enjoy our weekend in Connecticut without any major worries.

There was one minor annoyance. The hotel we were staying at had cable but the choice of channels were so limited that it didn’t even offer the Bravo channel, which sucked because I had to miss the latest episode of Work of Art. I tried looking on Bravo’s website but the people behind that website have been incredibly slow in uploading the latest episode online. (As of this writing, only the previous episodes I have already seen are available to view online.) It was the first hotel I’ve been in that had such a limited cable lineup like that.

This morning I’m sitting in a hotel room in Connecticut and I’ve heard in the news that the Washington, DC area was hit with a 3.6 earthquake. The good news is that, as of this writing, there is no major property damage reported. It figures this had to happen while I"m out of town.

In any case, today is my nephew’s wedding. He’s going to be married later this afternoon. So I’m just going to rest some more now.

In case you haven’t guessed from my last entry, I’m going to be out of town yet again. My nephew is getting married this Friday in Connecticut. I’ll be back late Saturday. I’ve put my Etsy shop on vacation mode. My Zazzle shop will be unaffected since I’m not directly responsible for fulfilling orders from that store. I may or may not update this blog, depending on wedding-related activities. If I find the time to update this blog, I’ll definitely be less prolific than usual.

My oldest nephew is getting married this coming Friday in Connecticut. My husband suggested that I treat myself to a new fancy dress and a new pair of shoes from an upscale store for the occasion so I went to Nordstrom where I purchased this really nice navy blue dress that fitted me so perfectly that I didn’t need to take advantage of Nordstrom’s tayloring and fitting services.

Finding matching shoes was another thing entirely. Nordstrom had shoes but the ones I liked all had tall and spiky high heels. Unfortunately high heels and I do not mesh well together. I’m a tall, broad shouldered big boned woman. Wearing high heels would not only make me as tall as Frankenstein but I would also have trouble with walking in them.

I’ve always had this problem. When I was in the fourth grade, my mother bought me a pair of sandals that had thick yet tall heels on them (they weren’t outrageously high but they did add an extra inch or two to my height). I literally had trouble with walking in them. In fact, I had such a hard time walking in them that those shoes were relegated to church and other special dressy occasions. Even then I couldn’t walk too well in them and I always felt like I was walking in stilts. I was so grateful when I had a growth spurt that made my feet too big for those sandals. It was the last time I ever wore anything that even remotely resembled a high heel.

So I didn’t find any suitable shoes in Nordstrom’s. I looked around briefly in a few other places and it was the same result. I finally went to Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse where I found a pair of navy blue shoes that fitted me perfectly and didn’t have any high heels. The shoes matched the dress and it was passable enough for me to buy. The only problem was that I thought they were a bit on the plain side.


But then I remembered the Etsy meet-up in downtown Washington, DC a few weeks ago (see June 19, 2010 entry for details). During that meet-up, someone from the Oxford is Heaven Etsy shop did a demonstration where she embellished an old pair of shoes with flowers and ribbons and she used a hot glue gun to attach the new decorations to the shoes. I took a few photos of that demo, along with other photos from that event that you can view in my Flickr account as either a slideshow or individual thumnail picutres that you can view at your own pace.

So I had an idea on how to improve my new pair of shoes. Luckily there was an A.C. Moore’s located next to Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse so I looked around and found a few decorative items that I thought would go well with the shoes. For added measure, I also looked around at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts where I found a pair of faceted buttons that I also thought would work well with the shoes.

Once I got the shoes home, I plugged in my hot glue gun and started working. It took about an hour or so to decorate the shoes. Once I finished, I admired my improved shoes. I am now ready to attend my nephew’s wedding in style.


As to the total cost, I paid $35 for the shoes and an extra $8 for the trimmings. I’m looking forward to seeing if any of the other guests notice these shoes.

Shoes-Before and After

cosa verde is like Etsy in that they specialize in selling handmade goods from individual artists. The big differences are that cosa verde requires that the handmade item is made out of sustanable materials and it donates 10% of all its fees to charity.

Since June is the most popular month for weddings, future brides and grooms may be interested 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding, which trades tips on creating DIY weddings for a fraction of the cost of a large traditional wedding. The site features instructions for craft projects that one can make for his/her weddinng.

Lucy E. Moore is a photographer who takes stunning photos of everyday stuff like pots and pans or food.

Joshua M. Hoover is a photographer and videographer who also does very stunning work.

Friday my husband and I saw our friends get married in Sydney, Australia. No, we weren’t able to go to Sydney for the wedding (although we were invited) but the couple had live Internet streaming (via because the bride’s parents, who live in the U.S., hate to fly, which makes traveling to Australia pretty problematic if you don’t like planes. (The bride is an American and she met her new husband through an Internet political discussions forum that my husband and I also belong to. She flew to Sydney to meet the guy and really fell so much in love with both him and the city that she moved to Australia and they are now husband and wife.)

Yesterday I had a full day. In the afternoon went to Baltimore where I checked out the annual American Craft Council’s show at the Convention Center. (I didn’t buy anything but I did collect a whole bunch of business cards from booths whose stuff I like but I either can’t afford it, don’t have the space for it, or both. Maybe someday I’ll have enough money and space to buy something from these people. <Sigh!>) Then in the evening I checked out the closing artist reception for the Lust show (where two of my pieces were shown), which had its final night.

Of course all this took place against the backdrop of this really devastating earthquake that happened at 3 a.m. Saturday morning in Chile. The earthquake is far more powerful than the one that struck Haiti last month (and that one was really awful) and the aftermath is still going on as of this writing. Here are some news stories about the Chilean earthquake…

…which led to a tsunami in Hawaii…

…and a larger tsunami in Japan.

I thought about my recently married friends in Sydney when I heard that Australia was also on a tsunami alert but the tsunami didn’t happen so the country cancelled its alert. I’m glad my friends didn’t have to start their new married life fleeing a tsunami.

Right now I’m back on watching live feeds from Chilean television about the earthquake. I’m trying to draw on the Spanish I took in college a long time ago to understand it but the people are taking so fast that I can only make out an occasional word or two but sometimes the video helps me to understand. (Right now I’m looking at footage of people looting local stores while the police are making lots of arrests.)

Google is already providing links to sites where people can donate to help the people in Chile.

I’m sure in the days to come there will be public calls in the U.S. to help the earthquake victims in Chile just like there are current calls to help the earthquake victims in Haiti.

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