Saturday, June 30, 2007

That'll teach me not to drop my glasses!

Last Saturday, I went to the optometrist for an (overdue) annual checkup. My eyes haven't changed, but she tried some new contacts on me. Since I wore my glasses in, I had to carry them out. I just put them in the plastic bag that they gave me to hold the free supplies (some samples of rewetting drops, etc.) and put the bag on the back seat of the car. When we got home, I opened the back door and the glasses came tumbling out (the bag had fallen over during the ride home). They fell to the pavement and landed right on the lenses, creating a couple of small scratches right in the middle of one lens.

Today I went back for a follow-up visit to see if I was doing well with the new contacts. The optometrist's office is in a LensCrafters location, so I took the opportunity to see if they could do anything about the lens.

No, they can't buff out these tiny scratches. All they can do is replace the lenses.

Now, this is when I wish I had been drinking something, because it would have made for a great "spit take." The cost for new lenses? Not frames and lenses... just lenses...

$290!!! Yes, $290. I really wish I'd had a mouth full of water, so I could have sprayed it everywhere and yelled, "TWO HUNDRED NINETY DOLLARS?!?!?!"

You may not be surprised to learn that I decided to just live with the scratched lens for now. Eventually, I'll need new glasses, and I'll just wait until then to get new lenses.

P.S.: I forgot to mention when I first posted this--these are simple "single vision" lenses. They're lightweight, UV/anti-reflective coated, etc., but that's it. No bifocals or anything. Just regular lenses. (Yes, a day later I'm still flabbergasted by this.) :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How cool is that?

As many of you may know, I used to hold a pretty high position in county government. Among my friends from those days is a really nice guy who held a big job in the county police department (for those of you not from this area, this isn't a small county or a small police department--the county has about 1.25 million residents, and the police department has almost 3,000 officers).

My friend had been with the department for over 20 years when we first met. At that time, he was a Deputy Inspector and later rose to full Inspector, a rank just below the chiefs, who in turn report to the Commissioner. Before his retirement (after something like 28 years with the department), he worked in the Commissioner's Office.

He retired about six years ago and has since worked in high-level government security. He really is one of the good guys, and I was sorry to see him leave. Of course, I wound up leaving the County, too.

And then comes today. As I was driving home, Marc called me to say he had seen my old friend on TV. He's coming back to the County. He's being appointed to replace the retiring Commissioner.

So the new Police Commissioner of this County is a friend of mine. Not that it changes how I feel about him--I've always liked him--but how cool is it to have a friend in a job like that? And he's really one of the good guys... so sometimes good guys do finish first.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That's why the death penalty is a problem

There are some people whose crimes call out for the ultimate penalty. Some acts are so heinous that we'd be hard pressed to keep from killing the person on the spot if we were to witness the crime. But such visceral reactions are not justice, and they're not how our system is supposed to work.

Once again, we're perched on the precipice. We may soon learn that an innocent man was executed. Whether it happens this time or not, the uncertainty that leads us to be able to wonder if a mistake was made should be enough to say we shouldn't be killing people!

We, in some states, take deliberate, structured steps to take the lives of certain human beings. With all of our flaws as humans, we feel certain enough to take this ultimate, final step and kill, not in self-defense but as an act of punishment.

How can we not be horrified by the thought of even once killing the wrong person? In this case, the man is dead already, and now the case is being re-examined. Witnesses have recanted. Allegations that detectives steered and/or coerced witnesses have surfaced. I could go on, but I feel like I'm beating an executed horse.

Yes, some people are horrible and their deaths wouldn't bring tears, but do we want to risk the errors? Isn't locking someone in a tiny cell for the rest of their lives without any chance for parole good enough?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hunting for berries of the straw

Last weekend, Marc and I drove to a farm stand not too far from here to get strawberries. They weren't the greatest, so we decided we'd have to bite the bullet and make the trek out east to farm country, starting out in the middle of the night (okay, it was 8:30am, but for me that's close enough for a Saturday!) to be sure to beat the traffic.

Yes, Long Island still has farms. We stopped at two of them this morning, so Marc could pick berries.

That's right, we didn't just buy them from a farm stand. Marc picked them. No, I didn't help. I drove, but I didn't pick any. If I wanted to go pick berries in the dirt, I'd become a migrant farm worker, but Marc thinks this type of thing is fun. So I just bring my camera and see what's around while he plays in the fields.

So did I sit in the car and stare at the steering wheel?

Nope. At the first farm, I took some shots of the cornfield and the other fields, including where Marc was picking strawberries...

The corn, not yet as high as an elephant's eye but perhaps as high as Dodger dog's eye

Not sure what's growing here

Can you see Marc? He's in this photo, busily picking strawberries.

The checkout counter

Our intrepid hunter returns

After about an hour at the first farm, we hit the road and quickly found ourselves at yet another "pick your own" farm.

The second farm, with corn in the next field and watering in progress

Speaking of watering, I love the sight of those huge sprinklers (if that's what they even call them on that scale), especially when there's a huge row of them on a gigantic contraption that would get the whole place watered. We saw a number of those today as we drove through the East End's farms.

Once again, we can see our hero in this photo, bravely hunting strawberries.

And the best part of the farms was the one across from our second stop. Apparently, they raised some kind of giant dogs there. These make our dogs look tiny...

Look at the size of them! Must be some kind of great danes or something! :)

After we'd practically filled the car's trunk with strawberries, we went to get lunch. Being in the neighborhood anyhow, we went to a favorite "comfort food" place, The Modern Snack Bar. Opened in 1950 and barely changed since, there's nothing particularly modern about the place, but the food's worth the stop. When Knotty visited, we took him there. It would have been nice if he'd been with us today, but, alas, he's far away now.

Anyhow, it was a fun stop in a fun day. As I type this, Marc is working on making strawberry jam. I'm sure it will be fabulous!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

10% to charity? How?

In recent years, I've tried to increase my charitable giving. I do a decent amount of giving--we both do--but I thought my goal this year should be 10% of my gross income. That's the traditional "tithing" some have observed--or claimed to--through the centuries. Tithing per se isn't something I learned from my own religion, although we certainly have deep traditions of charity. I just like the idea of a full 10% of my gross income going to help those less fortunate than I.

With that said, this is tough!!! First of all, I'm cheating. I decided, lame though this is, that money put into my nephews' college accounts should go against the total. Yes, it's my family, but it's not my obligation, strictly speaking, so I'm going to count that--this decision came after I realized how tough it is to spare so much money.

Part of the problem is that 10% of gross works out to something like 17% (or one-sixth) of my net paycheck. Still, that's right, because I should get the extra ~7% back next year when I do my taxes. Even so, it's a heck of a hit. And no, this doesn't count gifts to friends or support for political organizations. This money can only be used for real charities--which equates to IRS-recognized charities that I feel I should support (like God's Love We Deliver, the American Cancer Society, the USO, the March of Dimes, Long Island Gay & Lesbian Youth, etc.).

Don't get me wrong. I don't regret this. I love giving to good charitable organizations, knowing that my money is helping good causes, but this makes my cashflow kind of tight. I may make it to true tithing this year, but I'll have to see how the rest of the year goes before I can be sure if I'll pull it off! For the people who make it a regular practice, well... good for them. As I said, this isn't easy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bloomberg for President?

There's been talk of his running for a long time. Now comes word that New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is changing his voter registration, leaving the Republican Party and becoming independent.

If he really enters the fray, he could make for a very interesting candidate. I don't know how he'll sell in "the heartland," but this could make things very interesting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Three weeks later

I've been rather slow in getting photos posted from the GB:NY4 barbecue. It has been almost three weeks since that fun event, and I just got around to putting them online today. Actually, I shot only a handful of photos. One of our illustrious guests borrowed my camera to shoot others, so what you'll see today is a mix of mine and his.

It wouldn't have been a party without

Jase and his handsome boyfriend, Brian

Our on-the-mend friend

Another cute Brian, this one the partner of GB:NY organizer

Mark & Brian's good friend Steven

Jase's shirt

We were joined by
David and were very happy to make a new friend!

The girls trying to beg food. Dodger's not in this photo, but he's probably off somewhere else just helping himself to food instead of bothering to ask for it!

And now we begin the photos from our guest photographer, Jase...

Sorry for the delay in sharing (life has been busy, with the new job and other things), but I hope you enjoyed them!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

First Lady Special Agent Clarice Bush?

I'm sitting here, spending a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping coffee and flipping channels. One of the things I'm watching is The Silence of the Lambs. During commercial breaks in this movie, the channel has been running PSAs by Laura Bush.

I never noticed it before, but Laura Bush sounds a lot like an older version of Jodie Foster's Agent Clarice Starling. I'm not sure what to make of this, but it's somewhat disturbing.

I think it's time to head to the sunroom and read the Times.

Talk Radio

Last night, we went to saw Talk Radio with Byrne. First, a comment about the Longacre Theatre, where Talk Radio is playing. The Longacre SUCKS!

The two main things I consider when deciding whether I like a theater are acoustics and comfort. The Longacre Theatre's acoustics suck--when the actors' voices weren't amplified by the "on the air" microphones, there were times when they were hard to hear. As for comfort, forget it! My seat was painful! To some degree, I try to be forgiving in such things, since I'm not a small guy, but Marc was in pain, too, and I could hear rather small-size people around me complaining. Just terrible!

Now, as for the show, it was terrific! The cast was good, but the whole thing really rested on Liev Schreiber, and he was fabulous! I'll admit that, for years, I've had a bit of a crush on Liev Schreiber. He's not a pretty boy or anything, but I've always found something sexy and confident about him. Well, that had nothing to do with my enjoyment of this show.

His performance was terrific! He plays the part of an obnoxious talk-radio host who is rude to his callers and stirs people up for entertainment. To borrow one quote (of him speaking to his audience/callers) from the show's advertising, "Everything's screwed up, and you like it that way, don't you? You're fascinated by the gory details. You're mesmerized by your own fear. You revel in floods and car accidents and unstoppable diseases. You're happiest when others are in pain! And that's where I come in, isn't it?"

As we watch, Liev Schreiber's character, Barry Champlain, has a meltdown. What's really telling is that the meltdown just feeds this kind of radio work. The show was very entertaining, and Mr. Schreiber's performance of this messed up, intelligent, twisted character was terrific! Painful seats and questionable acoustics notwithstanding, I'm glad we went!

Thursday, June 07, 2007


On my way to work this morning, I witnessed an accident. I was on the parkway, as the car ahead of me, a gold Lexus, drifted out of the left lane and into the center where it contacted a Ford Explorer. The cars just barely touched, but the Explorer, understandably, swerved away. In doing so, it nearly hit a car in the right lane, then cut back, lost control and smashed into the center median.

The guy in the Lexus kept going like nothing had happened.

My first instinct was to stop and help. That's what I usually do at accidents, but I had another thought--the guy who caused this wreck through his clear negligence was getting away. So, seeing other cars stopping to help, I floored my car and took off after the Lexus. (Makes me wish I still had my old government car with the pretty red lights! And what is it with people? I've been in accidents--and I stopped, made sure everyone was alright, exchanged information, etc. Shit happens, which is why we're all supposed to have insurance! Besides, what about someone being hurt?)

As I caught up to the Lexus, I called 911 on my cell phone. I asked to be switched to the State Police (it goes to the County first, but the State Police cover the parkways), and then I gave them the plate number. The guy on the phone--with the State Police, it's usually a trooper, not just an operator--asked for the type of car and then told me to hang on. After a short wait, he said the plate matched the type of car (as opposed to being a stolen plate/car, I suppose). He then took my cell phone number (which is really just an honesty check, since he already has it in front of him) and my name, in case they had to get back in touch with me.

Considering the nice red stripe on the side of the Lexus, this shouldn't be too hard of a case for them to make... and I'm glad! Accidents happen, but it's appalling when people cause accidents and then take off! I hope they take this bastard away in handcuffs! I also hope the person in the Explorer wasn't too badly hurt, but I doubt he/she walked away unscathed.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Adding injury to injury

Earlier this year, I was laid off. I liked where I was working and had no plans to leave, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I helped enough other people who got laid off over the past couple of years (that's what we did in my office at the old place when it came time for layoffs--we tried to help the victims with outplacement or putting them into other jobs we had open), so I was positioned as well as I could be to deal with my own layoff.

I coped, and I'm now in a good, new job. In the meantime, I've had to do a lot of work to get them to send me the paperwork for COBRA (which they claim they sent twice, but they're full of crap), but that's not what this post is about.

What's got me bent out of shape is what I learned today. The first year I was there, I couldn't participate in the 401(k) because that had a match--you had to finish a year before you got that. Instead, I was in the no-match 403(b). Fine. So after a year I went into the 401(k). The match was a pitiful max of 2% of my salary, but I'll take it. Well, actually I won't take it.

There's a 5-year vesting period on the matching money. Actually, I knew that, but it's not like I chose to leave. They laid me off! So why should I lose the matching money? I held up my end of the bargain! But no, they're keeping it. Bastards!

Friday, June 01, 2007

This one takes some thought

Will tagged me with this, and I had to think about it for a bit before I could post my answers:

* List 5 reasons why you blog about the things you blog on your blog.
* Choose your 5 tag ‘victims’ and tag them nicely
* Write a comment on their blog letting them know that you tagged them.

So here are my five answers:

1. To be one of the cool kids. Not really a reason for my blog's content--more a reason for its existence--but it's an overarching reason for all of it. Never having been with any of the "in" crowds in school, I think I see blogging as a way to get to know interesting, fun people I might not otherwise meet. In school, I had my photography as a way to meet people--I got to know plenty of hot jocks, because I'd shot photos of them in games--and this seems like a nice way to meet other interesting folks (although usually with less carnal thoughts than the aforementioned jocks caused).

2. As a place to vent frustrations. Whether these are frustrations with work--or, on occasion, the lack thereof--or with family or anything else, this blog has let me vent in as non-destructive a way possible. So you'll see occasional posts where I'm just ranting about someone or something. It beats making Marc listen to all of it!

3. You'll see my photography on here every so often. I put photos on here to share pieces of my life and to share the photos themselves. When they're travel photos, they serve multiple purposes, including sharing the joys of travel and updating my friends on where we've been. When they're rugby photos, it's so you can enjoy the fun of watching athletes perform, and that's especially exciting with our gay hotties on the Gotham Knights. With all of the photos, whether they're travel photos, rugby photos, dog photos or anything else, I also like to hear when people like them. So that's certainly part of it, too!

4. Politics. I've always had an interest in government and a love for my country. This has driven me to voice my views on current events and politics whenever possible. A blog provides one more outlet for my venting.

5. This is a place to share personal developments, and it's a very efficient way to bring a number of friends up to date at once. Back when we were gutting and rebuilding this house, I could share updates on that. When something happens with the dogs, here it is. If it's some charitable work we're involved in (speaking of that, there's still time to sponsor a kid for the gay prom), then we can talk about it and encourage involvement. Even if it's just a recap of what we did over a weekend, I can share it here with ease. I guess the bottom line is that this is a very efficient communication tool.

I'm now supposed to "tag" five other bloggers, but I just don't have the heart. So if you read this and want to answer the same five questions, that would be great. In fact, please leave a comment here and let me know that you're doing it. I'd love to read your five!

Congratulations to FAWARB!

Yes, our friend Rob, known the world over as Famous Author Rob Byrnes (FARB), must be re-christened. He's now Famous Award-Winning Author Rob Byrnes, so I suggest that he now be known as FAWARB. :)

Okay, maybe that doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily.

Congratulations, Rob, on your well-deserved win of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance! It's wonderful to see a good guy's excellent work be recognized!