Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Catching up

So when we last chatted, I'd had a hard day. Fortunately, most days are far better than that one. Things are going pretty well. Work has been busy, but I'm doing good work. And Marc and I have had lots of fun since--and we continue to. Life is good, and it's important that we all focus on the good as much as we can, since many have much tougher lives!

Let me share one event I recently enjoyed. This actually happened before the last post, but I hadn't put these photos online yet. For once, not photos I took but, rather, a couple of photos I'm in. These are from Gotham Rugby's 10th Anniversary dinner...

Me (second from the right) and some friends

I'm in this one, with a few more of the boys. Can you find me? (Click on it for a better view.)

Unfortunately, Marc couldn't join me for this fun party. I hate going to events without Marc, but he had a work event that night that he had to attend. In fact, his event is an annual one that I usually attend, too.

Fortunately, there's another rugby party this Saturday--the far less formal End of Season Dinner--and Marc will be going to that one.

We're also looking forward to attending next year's Bingham Cup tournament in Manchester. We've attended a few Bingham Cup tournaments, including the one in Dublin a few years ago, and it's always a fun event!

I could go on sharing, but I think I'll stop there, mostly because I'm tired! :) I hope everyone who's reading this (both of you?) is doing well!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I should have just skipped today

Maybe I should have hidden under the covers all day. Whatever, I've sure had better days. Work had a ton of headaches, but nothing was worse than the drive to work this morning.

I hit a squirrel.

He ran right out in front of me, just feet away. I slammed on the brakes, but I heard the thud, and I saw him in the road in the rearview mirror. Much as I'd like to think he was just stunned, I suspect it was worse than that.

I usually go home a different way than I go in, but today I retraced my route. I didn't see a dead squirrel on the street where I hit him, but I suppose someone could have disposed of the body. Still... no, it's silly to hope that he was just stunned. Squirrels generally don't walk away from these things. I know it was unavoidable, but I hate what happened. I hate that some dopey squirrel got itself killed, but that's how I am. I ache for every dead animal I see in the road, whether it's a squirrel or a raccoon or anything else.

Would it be an easier life if I were a heartless bastard, instead of hurting for every little creature I see? I don't know, but I am who I am.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I've again neglected my blog. So how about we go back to posting photos from last year's trip to France?

After Nice, we got back in the car and drove up to Lyon. When we got there, we found that our hotel--one of the best rated hotels in town--wasn't in the old part of Lyon. Still, I found the view lovely and had to take a shot. This was done hand-held, bracing against a window frame, so it isn't exactly perfect...

An interesting feature of Lyon is the traboules. They're passageways that run through buildings, connecting streets and courtyards. Many of them are open to the public. Our friend Eric, an American who has been living in France for much of his life, took us around and showed us through some of his favorites. Here's a view from inside one...

All kinds of interesting architecture back in those passageways...

Check out one of the many little details!

Many of the windows have crosses built into them. In a country where Roman Catholicism is the official religion, one might think this was just a common profession of faith, but Eric explained that these windows go back to a time when there was a window tax. Having the cross apparently gained an exemption; hence, lots of crosses built into windows...

Another traboule, with Marc & Eric up ahead, Marc videotaping as he walks

I seem to recall these wells having some sort of religious use back in the day--yeah, that's all I've got. Can't remember what was said about them!

There's something special about this shop that got me to shoot a photo through the window...

What's special is that this is the Miniatures Museum, and everything you're seeing is tiny. The chairs are maybe two inches tall.

I loved the name of the pub in this next shot. I particularly liked the drawings at either end of the awning (you may have to click on the photo for a larger version, so you can see it well).

Please note: you shouldn't encourage your dogs to smoke. It's not good for them!

A building I found interesting

A street in Lyon

I suppose that's enough for one post. Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An important day

Ten years ago today, we received a wonderful gift. The gift gave himself to us. His name was to be Dodger, and he walked up to me on a Brooklyn sidewalk, skinny, hungry, dirty and looking to share his love with people who would care for him. We gave him what we needed, but we got the better part of the deal.

Thank you, Dodge, for all the years of love and fun. I hope you have many years left to share with us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Didn't have that in mind at all!

It's car shopping time. Okay, for normal people, it wouldn't be. I have six months left on my car lease, but I want to really know what I want well in advance. So I've been poking around online. I'm also the type who keeps an eye on what's new in automobiles. I even watch Motorweek on PBS. I know, sad.

On the way back from rugby on Saturday, we started visiting car dealers. I'd already seen the new Ford Explorer up close and had that on the mental short list. Oh, I should mention that I'm leaning towards a crossover or SUV now, having had enough sports sedan for now. Marc has a crossover, but we really could use something with a little more room. So the Explorer looks interesting. We also had a few others in mind.

So on the way back from rugby, we stopped at... I can't even believe I'm typing this... a Cadillac dealer. Yes, Cadillac. We looked at the SRX. I liked its looks and had read some good things. Unfortunately, we sat in it and took an instant dislike. The legroom wasn't enough for Marc, the stitching on the headrests wasn't stitching but rather a sort of application, and the issues went on from there. I really expected to like it a lot and was disappointed that we found a lot not to like.

Okay, on to our next stop. We have friends who love Subaru. So we went to a Subaru dealer. I'd seen the Outback and thought it looked nice, so I wanted to check it out. Again, sitting in it took care of that. Neither of us was impressed. Actually, I'm sure Marc was relieved that I didn't like it, since I tend to say Subaru as Soo-Ba-Rooo (think Scooby Doo).

Here's where it gets interesting--well, for me; you're probably bored to tears by now. The Subaru dealer was a combo Subaru and Lincoln dealer. I hadn't even noticed those being together, but we later saw another dealer that was Ford-Lincoln-Subaru, so I guess there was some kind of deal to pull them together. Anyhow, Lincoln wasn't really on my radar, but we took a look at the MKX crossover as long as we were there, and it was quite nice. Definitely a contender. We were going to leave it at that when the salesman said something about the MKT. To me, it looked like a stationwagon (if they even call them that anymore), and I honestly thought, "hmmm, that thing is pretty ugly." Here, take a look...

Okay, not horrible, I suppose, but not as sleek as the Caddy. Here, check out the big butt on this thing (not that I should talk!)...

So its looks didn't wow me, and I'd like more ground clearance (the past winter's snowstorms made things tough). Still, I hopped in it to check it out. Oh my dog! It's sooooo comfortable, and the available features are amazing. As I said to Marc, of the cars we've checked out so far, this is the one that had me immediately imagining being on road trips with him and the occasional visiting friends. From the technological features to the "Eco-Boost" engine to the huge (HUGE) sunroof to the refrigerated compartment in between the second row seats (okay, so those are options that would up the price), I really was blown away. Plus, it's top-rated for safety. I'm amazed that this vehicle is relatively unknown.

Also interesting are the "meh" reviews it has gotten, including by Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, when I checked Owner Satisfaction in its category, I found that it blew away every other car, including Acura, BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti and even its fellow Lincolns. I feel like I found a secret. With that said, I don't know if I'm getting one, since I haven't even driven it yet. That's yet to come.

So really, a Lincoln? I saw that as a car for someone a lot older than me, but the MKT definitely is a contender.

We also went to the Toyota dealer to check out the Highlander. I was particularly interested in that one, because they have a hybrid version available. Unfortunately, I was troubled by "fit and finish," as they say. Since my headaches with the Infiniti I now own come from easily dented (and I mean really easily!) sheet metal and paint that is marked way too easily, I would like something a little tougher. My prior vehicle was a Volvo that didn't pick up so much as a scratch in the years I had it. This Infiniti, in comparable conditions, is all marked up and has a few dents because of its tinfoil construction! Too much of a headache! More importantly, I didn't find the Toyota seat supportive in the right places. My commute is too long to compromise on such things!

So what are we left with? Well, Marc has ridden in a Buick Enclave and said it's very nice. That's reason enough to go check it out.

Other than that, I've checked out other vehicles online and eliminated quite a few, either due to feature issues, underpowered engines (New York roads are not for the meek--getting safely from an acceleration lane into traffic during rush hour can require some punch) or price. A couple of the ones I liked looked okay until I started adding features, like navigation and such, at which point their prices ballooned to huge amounts.

So I suppose the current short list is:
Ford Explorer
Lincoln MKT
And maybe the Buick Enclave, but I haven't even sat in one yet.

Of course, with six months left on my current lease, I may yet find something else to like, but I really am surprised at what's on my list. I really didn't have Lincoln in mind at all. Go figure!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That shouldn't be cause for praise

A week and a half ago, one of my staff members, Joanne, lost her husband. He had cancer, and it took him from her when he was just 48 years old. Last week, there was a wake and funeral. The wake was on Wednesday, and the funeral was on Thursday. Everyone wanted to go to the wake. People could have gone in the evening instead of the afternoon, but so that everyone could go to the wake together and show Jo our complete support, I closed the department.

Today, a longtime employee of another department who has known Jo for years made a point of telling me how wonderful she thought it was that I did what I did. I know the look on my face had to be complete confusion. At first, when she mentioned what I did for Joanne, I honestly wasn't sure what she meant. Then she explained that she was talking about closing the department, adding that "everyone is talking about it, and is so impressed that you did that for her. And that you went to the funeral, too."

Are other bosses so cold-hearted that doing something so simple stands out? Really, what else would I have done? This is one of our own, and she suffered a horrible loss. The right place for all of us to be was by her side, and that meant me, too, both for the wake and the funeral. I'm just amazed that people were amazed. Am I not enough of a prick to be in my job? Sometimes I wonder. But I'm not changing. I will continue to do the right thing as I see it. In the end, I have to look at myself in the mirror, and I want to be happy with the man I see. It's unfortunate that an ordinary gesture of kindness is noteworthy. It really shouldn't be!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kids today don't have what we did

For all of the technology and advances over the years, there's something missing that people even a bit younger than me can't grasp. The end of the last Space Shuttle mission this week brought that home for me. When I was a kid, the dreams were bigger, or at least that's how it seems to me.

We were actively pushing to go to the stars. We were pushing hard. Whatever our differences, in this country and around the world, we could stop every now and then and marvel at what humanity--and America in particular--was accomplishing. These were such proud moments. Of course, those younger than me know the Shuttle, but they know it for routine missions, occasional problems (like tiles falling off as the old workhorses aged) and the occasional terrible disaster. But what they don't know is the thrill of it being new. The thrill of it being our next step into space. The amazement at what looked like a plane, but it could go to orbit and then land like a plane. The wonder, fear and nervousness as we watched the test flights, the first launch and the first landing.

I was three years old when man first walked on the Moon. My Mom loved to tell the story of how I, at three years of age, watched the astronauts taking off from the Moon's surface to come back to Earth and said, "why are they going up?; they're supposed to be coming down!" Hey, it was a decent observation for a three-year-old! :)

But let's stick to the Shuttle. For anyone who is too young to remember it (I was 15 when this happened), just imagine it. There's this amazing new machine, but what if something goes wrong? Brave people are risking their lives. They took the Enterprise (yes, named for the starship--but appropriately so, as they both carried our hopes and dreams for the future) up on the back of a 747, released it and landed it in tests. But then it was time for the Space Shuttle Columbia, may she and her last crew rest in peace, to go up for the first real flight. Up to orbit on columns of flame, and at the end of the mission back on a fiery re-entry before coming in for that nerve-wracking landing.

So imagine it. You're watching the Shuttle come in. She has chase planes with her as she glides in. And she does glide, but she really drops like a rock with wings. As they track her in and you see her approaching the runway, you can't imagine that it's safe to be coming in that fast. And as she gets closer, it's not like a jetliner with its gear out for miles as it lines up for its approach. No, it's seconds away from landing and there's no gear down. Twenty seconds before she's going to touch the ground, the gear start to come down. Twenty seconds. And in she comes. Here, watch...

And remember, we were sitting there, biting our nails and hoping nothing would go wrong. "She's going awfully fast!" "They're almost there. Where's her gear? Why isn't the gear down?!" And then down they came with seconds to spare. And then it went so perfectly, and she made her picture-perfect landing...

There's no Super Bowl, no World Series, nothing that is like the triumph of that moment. That amazing accomplishment of mankind. That fulfillment of a dream and the promise of so much more to come.

We need more of that. We need those dreams and those big things to reach for. That's missing today, as far as I can see, but I hope it's not missing from our future. It will be a better future if we can chase those big dreams! Not everything is dollars and cents. Some things we do to learn, and, at the same time, to dream and grow bigger as a species. We need that!

And while we're at it, imagine the first launch. Would this even work. We all watched it live...

And we were all thinking--or yelling--go, baby, go!

Dream big, everyone! Look at what we can do!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

All a matter of perspective

Yesterday was a fun day. We went to hang out with some friends for "lobsterfest." Our friend Rob, with the help of his wife, Laura, cooked a huge bunch of lobsters, along with ribs he slow-cooked in a smoker in his back yard, some clams and various other delights, capped off with a fabulous cake Marc had made.

At the same time, we were learning some terrible news. Remember when I posted something a few days ago, referring to it as a good day? Well, that's where the perspective comes in. From our perspective, it seemed to be. But from the perspective of our friend Jase, as we only found out yesterday, it was probably the worst day of his life. You see, the night before, his mom was murdered by a stalker.

We sent him a card, and we'll certainly watch for the arrangements, so we can go support him. We'll also do anything we can to be there for him after the formalities are done, when the weight of it all really hits. But Marc and I are both at such a loss. One or the other of us will stop during the day and just say, "I still can't believe what happened" or words to that effect.

I've lost a number of loved ones, including my parents. Marc has lost his dad and other loved ones, too. Losing a parent is crushing. Still, there's something about such a sudden, senseless loss that is beyond most of us. The killer went on to kill himself, so at least Jase and his family won't have to endure a trial and looking at the evil man who did this, but I can't even imagine... I hope he's finding some solace somehow. We're certainly sending our best thoughts his way and our hearts are pained for our friend's terrible loss.

Our hearts go out to you, Jase. We love you, and we're so very sorry for your loss!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A good day, and the world's a better place

I was hoping we'd wrap up negotiations with one of our unions today. We've been negotiating for months, and I was hoping it would reach an end. Alas, that wasn't to be. Not the end of the world. These things can take a long time until the sides find the right little patch of middle ground.

While that was a disappointment, it freed me up to join Marc for a program at the Long Island Gay & Lesbian Youth Center. Initially, I thought today's union negotiations would go into the night, as they often do when negotiations appear to be reaching their final sessions. But when they didn't, that freed me up to go to LIGALY's PEP (Pride Empowerment Project) Career Forum.

Marc and I, along with several other professionals from a variety of organizations, were able to share tips with teenagers in the PEP program on how to search for a job, prepare for an interview, dress for an interview, etc. We fielded a variety of questions, and I think it was a fruitful night for the attendees.

The best part came at the end. A transgender kid we knew from prior LIGALY events asked about a problem few people have to face. She looks more like the he she'll eventually be, and she likes to go by a male name but legally still must use her legal, female name on applications. She wanted to know how to deal with telling people she really goes by a male name. We were able to share what I think was sound advice, but that's not the really good part.

The good part came afterwards. She mentioned that it's a catch-22, because this situation makes it harder to find work (already tough for a 19-year-old in this economy), but she needs to find work to afford to pay for the court filings, etc., necessary to make a legal name change. With court filings, legal notices she'll have to put in those tiny listings in local papers, etc., we're talking probably a few hundred dollars. Maybe $500 at most. So Marc and I agreed with a guy from a staffing agency who was on the panel for the event that we'd all split the cost so she could get the name change done and move forward with her (soon to be his) life. Also, one of the LIGALY people will reach out to a law firm that has been a supporter of the organization and get them to do the court filings (we know them... they'll do it). There's even a shot at the staffing agency finding her work at the same time, so that was a bonus.

This sweet young person was pretty overwhelmed (if you're wondering, her family has refused to help her), and she had to give us all hugs. We told her that when she's our age this amount of money won't be so hard to come by and then she'll be able to help others like we are, and she'll know what a joy it is to be able to help. We're so happy to have been able to offer help that her own family has denied her. And tonight the world is just a tiny bit better place. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blogging beats Facebook

Okay, so I use Facebook regularly, and I've been very bad about keeping my blog updated. I'll try to do better!

A reminder of the value of blogging came tonight when Marc asked when we'd first met a fellow blogger face-to-face. I was able to search my blog and find a record of that meeting and what we did on the weekend when we met him.

That's the thing. Facebook is an online social medium, but blogging is, at its heart, an online version of a diary. It's a log of one's life (or the parts one wishes to record) maintained on the web, as you all know. That's where the name comes from.

I have photos to share, since I never finished posting from last year's France trip and I haven't even started on this year's trip photos (including a photo of hot Parisian firemen with Marc). Of course, there are rugby photos to share, too, as well as bits of stuff from our lives. So I will endeavor to do better. Blogging is so much richer than Facebook, and I'm sorry I haven't done more of it!

By the way, the blogger mentioned above is our dear friend Greg. Amazingly, our "in real life" friendship with Greg appears to be a bit shy of three years in length. Funny, but it seems like we know him a lot longer. Yes, we know him online for longer, but it really feels like we met him much further back than not-quite-three years ago.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We interrupt our France trip (yes, again)...

We'll get back to France. But first, a few local photos. Why local photos? Because we just got a new camera. No, not a new SLR. Instead, it's time for a new "point & shoot" camera. I did a lot of research, shared what I learned with Marc, and we chose the Canon PowerShot S95...

We got the camera yesterday, and then we went to Huntington to get haircuts, followed by lunch. We grabbed lunch at a Greek restaurant, and it was great. More importantly, the light in the restaurant was pretty crappy for photos, so it gave us a good chance to see how the new camera really performs.

The restaurant

My date

He got the camera away from me

I got a hummus appetizer--forgot to take a shot before most was gone!

Silly Marc got a salad!

Marc got chicken souvlaki for his entree, and I got a beef gyro. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures before it was too late...

For dessert, health food! (Well, chocolate's good for you!)

Check out the color in that last shot (click on it for a better view; and even that is a reduced size, as full-size is quite large, the camera being 10 megapixel). If you're into photography, you know how difficult lighting is in a setting like this. Harsh overhead fluorescents, the lights in the case... nothing here says "good photo," but it looks great! So far, I'm very pleased with this camera. No camera like this can be like an SLR, but it really does a great job and will be great for those times when we want to be able to take some photos but don't want to lug a big, heavy SLR.