Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mystery Solved?

Looks like Google+ has been toying with photos that I uploaded to Blogger. They've created "Auto Awesome" photos and slide shows as a "gift" to me (and you, too, probably).

So somehow this photo that I posted and chose because it happened to just "be there" when I was trying to do a blog post from my phone, had been previously manipulated by Blogger/Google to have snowflakes. And there you have it.

UPDATE: After some Googling I find that this happens through the Google+  and I thought the App must be on my iPhone, but it is not available for the iPhone, so it must have been done through my Google+ account???? Apparently you can't actually control the final product, Google does it for you.  Go figure.

Here is a video "gift" Google+ made from random photos from my various blogs:

So Russ, you, being on Blogger, are not immune from the Borg. You are just unaware of its power over you. Just stay away from those evil smart phones....

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Out at Applebee's

I'm trying to do a blog post from here sitting at the table at Applebee's.

Now the trick is how to put a picture in this post.

Back home now and I have NO CLUE how this picture of my dog Benni has got artificial snowflakes coming down. This is beyond mysterious. The proverbial Christmas miracle? If I knew how this happened I could do it again, but believe me, I don't know how. Something to do with the iPhone, I imagine.

Anybody have an explanation?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Best Friends

Dottie is a good friend that we met a couple of years ago at the dog park in Bristol. Her Czechoslovakian shepherd Katija and our dog Benni hit it off so well they amaze us every time we walk our 2 1/2 miles through the meadow and woods. Which we do usually three or four times each week.

Benni and Katija are truly soul-mates. I have posted several photos and movies of the two romping and running and playing tug with sticks and posing for photo ops on Benni's blog Benedict Bentley.

In early autumn for about a week Dottie was snapping pictures of Katija and Benni every time we went for a walk. I thought nothing of it.

Well, last night we went to Dottie's for dinner and even though we agreed no gifts, Dottie got us a gift. When I unwrapped it I immediately felt a picture frame and thought knew why Dottie had been snapping pictures - that she had one of the photos framed.

But then I saw a familiar signature "N. Poli" and I recognized it as that of Nicoletta Poli, a Provincetown artist whose art, especially her paintings of dogs, we really love.

"No, Dottie, you didn't" I said.

But when I saw the painting, a watercolor of two black dogs in the woods I got all teary-eyed. It was an original painting of Benni and Katija - our two dogs who are truly Best Friends - the title of the painting.

Last summer on a trip to PTown we picked up a book of Poli's prints - all of dogs - and gave it to Dottie as she is a real dog lover. I mentioned that Nicoletta Poli was a favorite artist.

What I didn't know until Dottie told us last night was that she actually made arrangements to meet with Nicoletta to go through the photos she had taken and to commission a work for us. Dottie drove the five hours to PTown to do this, the two women decided on a theme and Nicoletta did the painting and sent it to Dottie a week or so ago. Dottie was so excited to give it to us.

What an amazing person is Dottie! To give such a thoughtful, amazing, personal gift to us. I had tears in my eyes - partly because the gift was so special and partly because Dottie is so special to do this for us.

We are truly blessed to have a friend like Dottie and Benni is fortunate to be Best Friends with Katija.

Benni mentioned the Poli Gallery  once, and again here, but didn't give the name of the artist/gallery.

Here is the link to her gallery: Nicoletta Poli

Christmas Afternoon Madison, CT 12/25/13

On December 31, 2013 I sent the following email to Nicoletta Poli:


On Christmas Eve, my partner, Leon and I were presented with a beautiful Nicoletta Poli painting of our dog Benni and his "Best Friend" Katija, by our dear friend Dottie Kern. 

At first, before unveiling the picture, I thought it might be a framed photo as Dottie had been snapping photographs for weeks, every time we went walking. As I removed the bubble wrap, the first thing I noticed was your signature, which I recognized immediately. I became excited, thinking Dottie had purchased one of your paintings as a gift. 

Unwrapping further - it was a challenge as that bubble wrap was stubborn - I realized that this was not just one of your paintings but a special one of our dog Benni and Dottie's dog Katija. It literally brought tears to my eyes - first, because it was one of your paintings and second, because Dottie had done such a thoughtful, kind and generous gesture of friendship. 

Leon and I were amazed and grateful. Dottie said that because of her initial reaction to the emailed thumbnail photo of the painting, you were a bit anxious about whether we would like the painting. Rest assured that we do in fact love the painting and that it gave us great joy to receive it. 

Thank you for that, and for capturing the essence of "Best Friends".

P.S. We spoke to you last September when we purchased a book of your paintings for Dottie. You checked out Benni's blog. He has written a post about the painting you did of him and his girlfriend. You can read it at:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Utah Amazes Us

From what I've read I'm not sure it's a fait accompli but Congratulations to our friends in Utah on joining us as a marriage equality state.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Affordable Care Act - More Questions Than Answers

I spent a good part of the morning researching how the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in Connecticut. I am on Medicare, so it doesn't effect me, but Leon is self employed and has private health insurance; we think he can keep his coverage beyond January 1st, but we're not rally sure. It is confusing.

Not as simple as it is being made out to be - at least not for some people.

Of main concern is the fact that in Connecticut we have adopted "extended Medicaid" - an expansion of  Medicaid to include anyone whose income is below $15, 500. For people who are making minimum wage or are self-employed, $15,000 can be a wage that allows for the accumulation of some assets - a retirement fund, savings, a car, even a home. Now it is a wage that may effectively force these individuals and their families into poverty.

Given state statutes that are on the books, I believe that Medicaid can attach such assets, put a lien on a house and obtain payback for expenditures on behalf of that individual after the persons death - leaving nothing for a spouse or family, let alone an unmarried "partner"- unless, and this is very unclear, unless these provisions are not enforced under "extended Medicaid" - but nowhere on the state's websites is this made clear or even addressed.

And I searched every which way I could for several hours. And I spent over an hour calling state agencies and state legislators. Nothing. I actually knew more than most of the people I spoke with, not surprising, really.

I've also learned that many individuals with HIV may possibly lose state assistance that pays for private medical insurance premiums under Ryan White if their income is less than $15,000 because they too will now be forced into Medicaid.

So for the nouveau pauvres on the Medicaid roles there is no information about how being on Medicaid will affect retirement savings, a home or other assets.

It could be that such individuals may lose everything they've worked for and at death, their estate, if any, will be used to pay back the state for lifetime of health care premiums and costs with nothing left for survivors, even taking marriage equality into account.

I could be wrong about all of this, and I hope I am, but no one here has been able to clarify these issues. I've actually called several state agencies and received contradictory information.

So, I think the working class being forced into Medicaid is despicable. Some philosopher once said that every solution creates new problems. So it is for the Affordable Care Act.

I blame the Congress for making minced meat out of Obama's original proposal - Universal Health Care with a single payer system.  Obama's biggest mistake - letting them call their Frankenstein monster Obamacare and using that as a term of endearment himself.

P.S. If anyone who knows anything about this issue can clarify it for me - please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Marriage Equality - New Mexico

According to HRC 38.37% of the US population lives in Marriage Equality States counting New Mexico as the latest state to come aboard. Congratulations New Mexico.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Memory of Clara

Clara Cannuciari, of the YouTube Cooking With Clara series passed away recently at the age of 98.
AThank You to Russ for the news. I am posting her memorial here also.

What a Difference 50 Years Has Made

Here's a little eye candy and some music for the kids.

It is amazing that young people today have some out and proud gay pop music stars that they can relate to. Though I don't know how widespread Steve Grand's fans are or how popular his music is among young people or how much exposure he gets in the music media.

Came across Steve Grand some time ago on one of the blogs. I'm not crazy about his lyrics or even the music, but the video shows gay guys having relationships with fun and tenderness and infatuation and all the things we only vaguely imagined in a contorted, convoluted way as adolescents in 1963.

Back in 1963 only the girls screamed when the Beach Boys performed while many of us gay boys just watched in silence and tried to imagine, unsatisfactorily, that the Boys might, in some alternative universe, be singing to us. After all, we were not the Surfer Girl, but wanted to be with the Surfer Boy...somehow it just didn't work and always left us feeling empty and alienated.
Now, young gay people can see and hear about gay love and infatuation and emotional bonding in a real-life context. They can see others in normal, everyday situations acting like young people.

Here's another video by Steve Grand, about falling in love with a straight friend. Have we all been there? Unfortunately, I was never as sexy or good looking as these guys.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

When You Think You've Heard Everything Category

Being wealthy is now a defense for teenage drunk driving! As if the wealthy need more privileges.

I can see being merciful and just but not on the heels of this bogus defense. I can't even comment any further on this, it is so outrageous.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Technology: You Can Bleed To Death If You're On The Cutting Edge - OR - The Rebel vs Technology - OR - This Is Not Walden Pond But We Do Grow Christmas Trees

I don't handle change well.

A few weeks back Leon and I decided to buy a new stove. He says because I like to cook that I should have a decent stove. I'd been putting it off for years because I was turned off by the electronics that are a part of almost all new ranges. My old gas stove was from the Sears Dent-and-Scratch Store.

It had dials. On, Off. Oven On, Set the temperature, Cook, turn Off. Simple. It had pilot lights. When the power was out for a week we were able to use the cooktop and the oven.

The new ones need 110AC to operate the oven.

I used the new stove to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the family. It was OK. But I have a few observations.

The new stove is a Samsung. Now, don't they make computers? And Smart Phones? My question is why can't they make a smart stove?

The other day I turned on the oven to preheat. Several minutes later, I find the oven cold. Well, Samsung made it so when you push the "Oven" button and set the temperature, you then have to press "Start". Well Duh. If I turn on the oven, I guess I want it ON.

Then, if in the course of cooking you want to change the temperature, you have to turn the oven Off by pressing "Cancel" and then set the new temperature and then press "Start". Way too many steps for a simple task. Why is there no Up/Down button for the temperature? That would make too much sense. Maybe they are afraid someone would "accidentally" change the temp, so they made it fail safe????

Oh, and when you light the burners you have to make sure you stop the dial at the point where the electronic ignition will spark. Now I was used to turning the gas all the way up, waiting for the pilot to fire the burner and then usually start cooking on high anyway. The other day I went through the old motion out of habit, was surprised for a minute that the burner didn't light then remembered to turn the dial back to ignite. Whoosh boom the gas ignited. If I had waited any longer I could have been toast. Ugh!

But OK, I guess I'll get used to it.

Then we decided to got a bit further into the technological world.

My antique cell phone finally bit the dust. Reception had become sketchy, the battery would barely last long enough for one uninterrupted phone call and the window was so scratched up I couldn't make out the display.

So Leon and I went down to the AT&T Store last Saturday and I decided to enter the 21st Century and get an iPhone. The 5c in White plastic. We've been on a family plan or whatever forever and so the upgrade wasn't too outrageous. Especially as I did not opt for any texting and took the lowest data plan. I can use wifi hot spots for free. And we got a "good" 2-year (iks!) contract deal on U-Verse internet and TV -including $100 toward our cancelation of Direct TV, a faster internet connection than the AT&T DSL, a rebate in the amount of the $99 I paid for the phone, waived installation fee and a free phone case. OK, so AT&T is not feeling any pain in this deal but the bottom line for Leon and me is the new deal is less than we were paying for Direct and DSL.

I absolutely love the iPhone. It is a toy that I find fascinating and entertaining. I can speak to Siri and she will find out stuff and dial numbers and write my email and spell it correctly too. I don't have to carry a camera, and there are so many things it can do, I couldn't begin to tell you. I can do blog posts, listen to music, there is a calendar, notes, GPS, Flashlight, Swiss Army Knife. OK, so I'm kidding about the Swiss Army Knife.

So all was well with that.

Yesterday we had U-Verse installed. Let me just say that when the robo-voice at AT&T says, "Thank you for choosing AT&T" my response is always "Yes, most reluctantly". I didn't choose AT&T when they took over our local phone company and now, well I haven't been impressed with them in any respect.

I teach computer courses at the senior center and we use Yahoo mail. They, AT&T Yahoos, changed the interface so many times it is now about as anti-intuitive as you can get. The instructor teaching this round of classes is exasperated and he is a computer professional. The senior center also upgraded (?)  to Windows 7. My frustration with Yahoo is exacerbated by Windows 7 - what Yahoos designed this lame operating system?

Personally my experience with AT&T/Yahoo is just as frustrating when I occasionally go in to check my spam folders. Sign in on Yahoo, sign out and try to sign in again as a different user and each sign-on screen is different. I tried to disable a never used email address and was redirected to three different pages and had to sign in with my user name and password each time. I started at Yahoo and ended up at AT&T; U-Verse got into the act too at some point. AT&T has an identity problem: are they AT&T, Yahoo, U-Verse, or what.

Anyhow, U-Verse is installed; the internet connection is faster (6.0+) but not near the 12.0 ("up to" as AT&T promised).

The TV also does not allow for more than two TV's or one TV and one recording in HD at a time. AT&T NEVER tells you this. They don't exactly address the issue, so they don't directly mislead the consumer. Record up to 4 shows at once - but NOT all in HD. And, Oh it depends on your distance from whatever and the lines, and and and...

We got an error message on the TV that directed us to call AT&T support. We were on the phone for quite some time and she had me registering a new account on the AT&T website, a new user name and temporary password; I had to change password and the passwords I chose were rejected and she didn't know why as they all met the "criteria". Then there were "security questions". Like AT&T website is a Bank and someone might get into my account and withdraw 3 million dollars or something!!!!! What BS.

Well in my opinion, AT&T is good at leading consumers to believe they can deliver more than they are really capable of. "You can watch or record "UP TO" four separate shows" but not necessarily all in HD.  We can piss and moan about the remote, the guide, the way stations are listed, etc. etc.

We just don't do CHANGE well.

Last but not least, when they set up the U-verse, of course the printer couldn't connect wirelessly. I thought I knew how to reset it, but I got off track and deleted then reinstalled the drivers and software. I inadvertently missed one crucial software packet. I called Canon Tech Support.

The tech guy walked me through - actually we ran through at a good pace; once he identified the software that was missing I was a step ahead of him all the way. The printer was up and running in no time. The tech was knowledgeable, clear, logical, anticipated each step, and was above all HELPFUL.

AT&T could use a lesson from Canon on customer service.


And just a little something for the season. We have a hillside full of small evergreen trees that I have planted over the years.

There was a pair of Siamese Twins - two trees fused into a single trunk as seedlings and I decided that one would be cut down to let the other develop fully; the one that I cut will be our Charlie Brown Tree this year.

This Year's Charlie Brown Tree
And today we got our first real snow of the season...not as bad as some places.

So that's my story of cutting edge technology. And Walden Pond looks better and better.  Nature is, when all is said and done, where I feel most at home and at peace.

So Leon and I took a walk in the woods with our dog Benni. It was so quiet with the new snow muffling any sound. It was peaceful and healing to get away from the technology and hassles of modern life... away from the stove, the U-Verse, the TV, the computer...but I did bring my iPhone. Never know when you might encounter a big hungry bear...hum.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gayness in America

In the "no shit, Sherlock" department: An interesting article at the New York Times reports convincing evidence that at least 5% of American men are gay and many are still very closeted, especially in less tolerant states.

The thing I found most interesting was the methodology used for this "study". Thanks to Wicked Gay Blog and Queerty for the links.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

A courageous, humble and inspirational leader of great integrity has passed. Perhaps the last of his kind. I truly hope not. The world is a better place because of him.

Our nation and the world desperately needs more leaders such as Mandela.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

World AIDS Day Plus Two = Not Disclosing HIV Positive Status Still A Crime

Me, Leon and Bob W. at the Quilt Washington DC 1989?
Thanks to Bob Slatten at I Should Be Laughing for this link - Sex, Lies and HIV: When What You Don’t Tell Your Partner Is a Crime

This article is a sad commentary on the regressive laws enacted in this country, mostly back in the 80s and 90s out of fear of AIDS and when little was known about transmission and treatment; the article relates how these laws are being enforced and destroying the lives of so-called criminals who fail to disclose their HIV positive status before having consensual sex - even Safe(r) Sex. 

Many convicted under these laws retain the additional label of "sex offender" - a scarlet letter law and another misguided reactionary kind of legislation that is on the books on most states.


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