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12:40 am EDT        46°F (8°C) in Mechanicsburg, PA

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Some of you may remember my updates from late February and early March in which I complained about various changes to my company's procedures. In the interest of fairness, I am reporting that sanity appears to have prevailed in the implementation of another procedure change. After almost two years of talking about it, the company has decided to supply its drivers with E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection system used on toll roads, bridges, and tunnels in West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts (in lieu of the Masspike's "Fast Lane" system), and Illinois (in lieu of the I-Pass system). E-ZPass will work at any exit off of the long-distance toll roads in those states, including ones that (up until now) the company refused to reimburse when the tolls were paid in cash. (Two examples: the Pennsylvania Turnpike is only reimbursed between New Stanton and the east side of Harrisburg; west of New Stanton to Ohio, and east of Harrisburg over to Philadelphia and New Jersey, tolls are not reimbursed. Also, in New York, they only reimburse anything between Rochester and Schenectady on the Thruway if there is a pick-up or delivery en route; to get to Massachusetts or points northeast, they want you taking Interstate 86/New York Route 17 through Binghamton, and then the eastern Interstate 88 to Schenectady.)

I, for one, greatly despise the route the company always suggests to get from southern/eastern Pennsylvania to northern Ohio: US Route 322, a twisting, undulating two-lane stretch of road with a pair of 8% grades in the infamous Lewistown Narrows segment. Using the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Interstate 79, northwest of Pittsburgh, and then following I-79 to Interstate 80 westbound, is a much faster and safer route. There's only one problem: the company does not reimburse the stretch between New Stanton and I-79, meaning that when I pay my toll at the Warrendale Toll Plaza going west, I'm spending as much as $17.00 out of my own pocket to run that way.

Now, with E-ZPass, I'm not going to have to fumble around with cash at toll plazas. Obviously, in some cases, it is far easier to run a non-reimbursed toll road than to detour to avoid the toll, and I would expect that any unauthorized tolls I accrue would be deducted from my weekly payroll settlement. However, some past procedure changes had been accompanied with threats (or so I perceived) for non-compliance, and I had to wonder if this would work the same way. As I found out today, though, the payroll department will simply deduct the unauthorized toll amounts from my check, with nary a peep about using unauthorized segments of toll roads. Common sense prevails; this is a change that will make things easier for drivers.

Unfortunately, at another well-known company, common sense has been thrown out the window. Microsoft, the giant everybody loves to hate, decided to quietly pull its support for Senate Bill 1515 (a gay non-discrimination bill that would add sexual orientation to the usual list of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, age, etc.) in Washington state a couple months ago, thinking nobody would know. Well, they got caught: AmericaBlog broke the story about 36 hours ago, and the news was all over the gay community by today. Unfortunately, AmericaBlog's report came only one day before the scheduled vote on SB 1515 (which occurred yesterday afternoon), and it fell one vote short of passage, 25-24.

Apparently, this pullback from supporting SB 1515 occurred after a meeting between an unnamed high-level Microsoft executive and Ken "Hutch" Hutcherson, a former NFL defensive lineman who has turned into a wacko right-wing extremist "preacher." Hutcherson reportedly threatened to organize a boycott of Microsoft if the company continued to support SB 1515. Think about it: aren't most of his Wacko Satanic Righty followers pretty old, and therefore likely to be computer-illiterate or not even own a PC? It's not like they would be buying any Microsoft products anyway, so a boycott by Hutcherson wouldn't accomplish shit.

On the other hand, most "out" gay people are fairly young by comparison (many older gay people have never come out or never will, because they grew up in a less-accepting climate than today's). It would stand to reason that as a group, gay people would be far more computer-literate and likely to be buying Microsoft products all the time. Furthermore, gay lobbying groups have had great success with past boycotts, such as that of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's sponsors, of Florida's citrus-growing cooperative, and many others — so this decision by Microsoft to turn its back on gay Washingtonians makes no logical sense whatsoever. As it was stated in a letter from AmericaBlog to Microsoft, "Dear Microsoft, you messed with the wrong faggots." As for me, I will have to seriously consider the purchase of a Mac the next time I'm looking to get a new computer.

I'm going to take one update off from my "manifesto" here, as this update is already long enough. However, I am going to close with this tidbit that I consider fairly humorous: when the North Carolina School of Science & Math is located on Guess Road in Durham, is it any wonder why our school kids are falling further and further behind the rest of the world? wink