Friday, December 31, 2021

Going through my overflowing closets


Recently, I've had the excuse to start going through my closets, donating all the clothes and shoes I no longer use to a local charity.  So far, I've filled 4 donation bags, and I am likely to fill at least one more before I'm done.  Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg - I have other things to clear up in this apartment as well.

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When I had a steady girlfriend, I tried to keep the place neat enough for someone to come over and spend a weekend.  She'd tell you that I was far from perfect in this regard.  But when she broke up with me and the pandemic started, I let my place go to hell.  And I'm gradually clearing my place up from a full year (and more) that I stopped caring about much.

My closets were not just overflowing with clothes.  They were overflowing with other things as well, such as old electronics (and associated supplies) that I figured I might use again.  These days, I no longer record much on CD-Roms. Yet, I have a supply of blank CD's, DVD's and associated cases that I haven't touched in years.  My newest computer didn't even come with a CD/DVD drive - it assumed that everyone uses memory sticks.  Even now, after a cleanup has started, I have more things to get rid of than to keep.

The storage area in my basement is even worse.  There is stuff in it that I haven't touched since my wife was alive.  And I have to get around to cleaning this area out, so that I have room to store the things I do use.  Not only do I have the bulk of my Vinyl (33 1/3 rpm) record collection downstairs, but I have 2 never assembled cabinets for this collection stored there as well.  (Do you know of anyone who might take this collection off my hands?)

The Swedish have a word for what I want to do with my apartment and storage area:  Döstädning.  This word refers to the Swedish practice of "death cleaning."  No, this process is not morbid in nature.  Instead, it is a process of removing the clutter from one's life, so that one can live the rest of it more productively. It also has the side benefit of making it easier for one's heirs to settle out one's estate when that time comes.

One person I know has to go through this process as she had to move out of her place sometime in the next month.  I have a choice.  Do it now, or let things fester until I am no longer able to do the cleaning by myself.  And then it will be much, much harder for me to deal with.  So, now is the right time to work on this project when I have the time to do so.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

You know your closet has overflowed when....

Recently, I awakened by hearing a noise that I couldn't identify.  When I got up to go to the bathroom, I didn't see anything amiss - virtually everything was where I expected it to be.  But it really wasn't.  Today, when I looked at my closet, I noticed that the closet rod had failed. Over time, excess weight on the rod from all of my dresses had caused it to warp and come out of its support.  This caused most of the clothes in the closet to fall on the carpeted floor, giving me an excuse to prune even more things from the closet.

Although I should have done something to support the rod better, I didn't.  So I shouldn't have been surprised that my overflowing closet's rod would fail me again.  But it did give me an excuse to fill up a donation bag, this time with "sparkly" tops I don't wear anymore, some gifts to me from friends, and some shoes I've picked up along the way.  Yet, I haven't seemed to make much of a dent in things.

Over time, I plan to do some more extensive pruning of the things I have in this closet.  I've bought way too many dresses, tops, bottoms and shoes for one woman to wear.  I've become much more of a clothes horse than my wife ever was.  However, I can still afford to indulge myself in having a full closet.  And, I have developed a better sense of what clothing I can and should wear in certain situations thanks to the friends I've had in my life.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A quick note: I could be away for the better part of a month next year


The above is a cruise that I might be interested in taking with a friend who knows me as Mario.  Why so, you might ask?  Well, it's hard enough to pack for a trip as Marian, and I am uncomfortable flying into Vancouver in Marian Mode and having to deal with Canadian customs.

- - - - - -

The itinerary below would allow me to visit ports in Alaska I have yet to visit, and would also allow me to visit Skagway again as well.  (I shouldn't ignore that this cruise sails into Glacier Bay, one of the "Must See" places on an Inside Passage cruise. 

The tail end of this cruise ends up in Hawaii.  It's not as good as NCL's 7 day cruise around Hawaii, but it allows the cruiser to schedule his/her own tours of the same places which NCL's 11 day Hawaii Cruisetour goes to.

There is one person who has expressed an interest in joining me on this cruise.  However, I don't think it will come off.  It would be nice to take this cruise, but I am still aiming for the 11 day ALL HAWAII trip.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that I can make to Hawaii in 2022.

What would you do in my shoes?  Should I take the Alaska/Hawaii cruise, then spend an extra 3-4 days in Hawaii?  Or, should I spend the money on NCL's 11 day Hawaii Cruisetour?






Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Thanks to Trump, I can't take this cruise

During the Obama administration, the USA relaxed travel restrictions for Americans wishing to visit Cuba.  This small trickle of people served an important purpose - it helped our two countries to learn how to trust each other again, and see that cultural exchange benefits both nations.  When Trump came into office, the limited number of cruises to Cuba stopped, and many passengers who booked these trips cancelled their mini vacations.

I'm one of those people who would like to take the "Axis of Evil World Tour" documented in Scott Fisher's book of the same name.  (I'd skip Iraq, as it is not a "Stable" country.)  It would be interesting to see North Korea before the regime has its next generational transition.  And, more than that, I'd love to see Iran and hear their point of view about the troubles in the Middle East.  (The DPRK is one extreme model for a country and Iran is the other extreme model for a country.)  Given that this kind of travel would require me to travel as Mario AND have US State Department approval, this will likely never happen.

One travel itinerary which may open up again in my lifetime is Cuba.  We slammed the doors shut on that country during JFK's administration, and it has only opened up a little for a lucky few over time.  (I've known a school counselor who legally went to Cuba when I was young, and a friend who went there during the 2010's.  I am envious of both.)  I want to see the Hershey Electric Railway there, as well as the 1950's American cars that they keep running with Scotch Tape, Chewing Gum, WD-40, and Duct Tape.

Sadly, there are still way too many Cuban Exiles in Florida who want to keep my wish a dream.  There is no hope that the current regime will fail.  Yet, they still have their dream of the Communist Regime falling and having all of their properties restored to their former owners.  Sounds like the calls of "The South Will Rise Again!" heard in the former Confederacy.  To me, both groups can screw themselves.  We live in the present, and not the past.  (And this coming from a person who wants Major League Baseball to return to Brooklyn....)

What do you think?


PS: I decided to contact a friend in Canada for more information.  Even she can't find any cruises.  But her situation may be more realistic in information gathering, as Canada has not embargoed Cuba.  Instead, none of the top 3 cruise lines serve this market, as their management (not their ships) is based in the United States.  And it doesn't make much sense for anyone else to serve this market without access to the United States market.




Monday, December 27, 2021

I wish I could take this cruise again.


This is a cruise I wish I could take again.  Not only was it the first cruise I had taken in over 20 years without a travel partner, but it was a cruise on which I made a new friend.

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In my old blog, I documented this cruise in more detail than I will detail here.  Not only did I mention issues related to cruising with my former cruise partner, but the details of this cruise now seem to have melded with details from other cruises.  Instead, I'll note the highlights, and remember this cruise fondly.

In the past, FCP would either have someone drop us off at the cruise terminal, or park at the terminal herself.  This can be cost effective for short cruises when two or more people are traveling.  But it is not so for someone traveling alone on a long cruise.  For someone like me, it makes more sense to take the train into NYC, then taking a cab to the cruise terminal. If I spend $60 each way to get to/from NYC Pier 88, I have still saved $160 that I could spend on drinks onboard the ship.  Until I am traveling with someone again, I expect that this is the way I will go between my apartment in Croton and the Manhattan cruise terminal.

On this cruise, I met two people, one of which I still communicate with.  First is a singer, Katy Setterfield, with whom I had several great conversations before she left my ship to perform on another ship.  Sadly, we lost contact, and I haven't heard of her performing in public venues since then.  The other was my pen pal, LKC from Canada.  Although we haven't seen each other since this cruise, we've stayed in contact in the 3 years since.

There is a part of me that wishes that I did the cruise in Mario Mode.  That would have made it possible for me to visit the islands of St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Antigua.  But many of the islands hold LGBT travelers in disdain, and I didn't want to risk getting trouble in a foreign land.  So traveling as Marian eliminated some of the places where I'd have liked to get off the ship and walk around.  But if I had done this, I'd never have met the two people who made this trip enjoyable.



Sunday, December 26, 2021

It's a big change for me.


My first cruise out of New York (Manhattan) was on this ship, the Norwegian Gem. It's a good ship, and it doesn't overwhelm you with its size.  I find it to be comfortable, without any of the needless frills, such as water slides, rope courses, and race tracks, etc. being added to newer ships.

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On an earlier cruise, I traveled in an inside cabin.  This is the type of room that forces you to go outside and be with people.  There is not much in the room, but there is enough room for two people to travel comfortably. 

You'll note that the bed has been assembled as a queen size bad for two to sleep together.  However, the two halves can be moved to the sides (as noted in the second photo), so that each person can have a bed to him/herself.  This is usually the lowest cost cabin category, but can also be the most comfortable, as they are often on lower floors near the ship's center of gravity.  (This can be very important during storm weather.)

- - - - - -

On other trips, I have traveled in an ocean view room.  These cost a little more than an inside cabin, but you get the benefit of an outside view.  (I had one of these on a Holland America cruise, and felt it was a reasonable compromise in the price/value equation.)

There is a drawback to ocean view rooms.  Sometimes, in stormy weather, the ship can rock from side to side.  And I found that this kind of rocking can be exaggerated being on the side of a ship.

- - - - - -

Next comes the balcony cabin.  This is a popular, but more expensive category.  When the pandemic hit, passengers in these cabins had outside air while confined to their rooms. 

However, sometimes, one can find pricing anomalies between the cabin categories between Inside Cabin, Ocean View and Balcony rooms.  In one cruise mentioned in my prior blog, I found a fluke where demand based pricing caused an inside cabin to sell for the same price as a balcony.  Although the balcony uses space less efficiently than the balcony cabin, I'd choose the balcony any day.  Yet, when the same balcony sells for twice the price of an inside cabin AND I'm traveling alone, I'll take the inside cabin.  If one is at sea, the same view can be found on deck, and one has to get up and moving to do so.  If one is in port, you may have a terrible view.  And who wants to pay extra for that?  But that's me - I don't need a lot to feel relaxed.

- - - - - -

Lastly, I'll mention the last of the cabins I'll consider cruising in, the Club Balcony Suite. (Note: not all browsers can support viewing images in the linked page.)  On the cruise that I'll soon be taking, it only costs twice as much as the inside cabin and gives me over twice the room in the cabin to spread out.

If you closely at the bottom picture, you'll see that this cabin has a full bath and not a stand up shower as you'd find in the other categories.  I could get used to traveling this way if I could afford to do so in the future.  This kind of splurge is a big change for me, even though I got the room at a steep discount from its normal price.

I wonder how many of the people I've cruised with over the past 25 years can say they've enjoyed a cabin like this....

- - - - - -

Compare the following cruises and their prices: 

The 12/26/21 cruise on the Norwegian Gem has a single occupancy inside cabin priced at $1707 while the sail away suite is priced at $3681.  This is what I'd normally expect to spend.

Above is the 02/27/22 cruise on the Norwegian Getaway.  A single occupancy inside cabin starts at $1301 while the sail away suite is priced at $1797.  This looks like another unicorn in the making.  But I'm not as familiar with the size of balcony cabins and sail away suites on that ship.  However, it is not the great bargain as the following cruise with the same itinerary as the above two cruises.

The above is the 12/19/21 cruise on the Norwegian Gem.  You will note that unlike the other two cruises, there is no single supplement.  On this sailing, a single occupancy inside cabin is priced at $650, while the sail away suite is priced at $1154.  You can guess which one of these cruises I chose to take.

- - - - - -

It's obvious that I've encountered a wonderful fluke in cruise pricing that I will never see again.  But I love hunting and pecking through the cruise offerings to find great bargains.  It's a safe way of spending time, as I can't afford to squander money anymore.  By focusing on the hunt for a bargain, I have a purpose for my search.  And when I find a "unicorn", I jump on it for a great trip.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find another unicorn sometime in the near future.


PS: The Cruise got even cheaper after I booked it, then went back up....

This is the price for the same cruise as of 10/14..... 

The cabin I booked now sold for roughly $900 plus taxes and port fees.

And then, as of 11/01...

None of the cabins are at their lowest price, and the pricing is a little more rational.  But one day later....

The prices for this cruise started to inch up as we got closer to sailing date.  Even though I could have saved a few extra dollars in Mid-October, that deal had sailed by the time November came along.

And lastly, a price chart taken on 12/08:

These look like the lowest prices we'll see for this cruise.  $1154 - $749 = $405 price savings by booking at the last minute.  Given that they still have mini suites available, I feel that this means that few people are booking this cruise.


It looks like one or more of the suites numbered 11632, 34, 36 / 11132, 34, 36 are still available as of 12/08.  It's too bad that I don't have someone who I am intimate with.  I could have afforded to treat her to a great cruise at this price!  Hopefully, next year at this time, I will have company for my travels....




Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas to all my readers!  I'll have a bit of new stuff to come soon. 
But for today, enjoy the holiday with your friends and relatives.

Friday, December 24, 2021

More and More Covid....

I received the above message from NCL about my upcoming cruise.  It seems like the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has caused the cruise line to rethink its safety protocols, and determine that we must take a few steps backward to stay safe on board the ship.  As much as I was looking forward to being on a ship without having to wear a mask, I agree with NCL that their first priority must be to keep passengers as safe as possible from the virus.  NCL recommends that passengers take a PCR test before the date of their cruises, and that has been on my list of things to do.  Luckily, CVS offers this service at some of their stores, and it is covered by insurance - for now.  So I know what is needed for me to insure that I am no threat to others who may be cruising with me.

Part of me wishes that I weren't going on this cruise. However, it was a bargain too good to pass up.  At the time I booked my trip, Omicron had yet to rear its ugly head. Now, it's poised to cause more trouble than the Delta variant, as it is more infectious and it can bypass many of the defenses that the vaccines put up to keep us from getting sick if infected.  Yet, if one has been vaccinated and boosted, one will likely be able to avoid a hospital visit - unless one is there for other reasons.  It's the unvaccinated that should give us reasons to be concerned, as hospitals are again being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients - almost all of them coming from our unvaccinated population.

Shortly after lunch today, our former personnel manager called everyone into a quick meeting.  She told us that two of our workers had been diagnosed with Covid-19, and are quarantining themselves at home.  People working closely with these two people have been told to get tested.  I was not one of those told to get tested, though I got tested anyway.  I figure that it's better to be safe than sorry - especially if one of those two people is my boss....





Thursday, December 23, 2021

It's getting harder and harder to make charitable donations


I used to have no problem getting rid of clothing I no longer needed.  When my wife died, I brought at least 15 large bags of clothing to a local charity - and they were grateful to get it.  Today, with Covid-19 causing many thrift shops to close, it's much harder to get rid of extra clothing without putting it into the roadside bins without receiving a receipt for a charitable donation.

When the LGBT center's thrift shop was open, I used to bring bags of clothing there for resale - and I know that it did the center good.  However, Covid-19 forced the center to make a hard decision, and they closed down the thrift shop.  Luckily, I knew of a few places that still accepted clothing donations.  But they had limited store hours, most closing at 5 pm.  AARGH!  Since I didn't want to wait until I got back from vacation to make my donations, I drove to a nearby donation center - and arrived a minute before closing.  (Their lights had just been turned off as I pulled into the place.)  So they reopened just to take my bags (and of the woman ahead of me), and get us out of there as quickly as possible.

I have nothing against this place, and I will likely use them again.  But I intend to use Goodwill for my next donation, and see what receipt I get from them.  If I'm lucky, I'll get the type of receipt that my accountant can use to maximal advantage at tax time....

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

It's hard to believe that the year is almost over.


This is not what I think of when I think of a hot dog. But it best illustrates the absurdity that we've been through for the past two years.  We think we know what to ask for.  But when our order comes, something has to have been lost in communication.

- - - - - -

Last year at this time, many of were worried about what could happen to us if we were to risk being in the same room with others not part of our residential units.  Now that most of us have been vaccinated, we're not worried about catching the virus - even though the vaccines do not guarantee that we won't get sick.  Last year, it was if we were being told: "Go directly to Jail.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200."  This year, it seems as we're going directly from "Go" to "Free Parking" and back without any risk.  But there is a big risk that us vaccinated people are ignoring.  We could catch a Covid-19 virus variant against which the vaccines do not protect us.

In 2020, our world seemed to slam on the brakes.  This year, it seems as the world has started up again, but with dirty fuel.  So we're seeing inflation, supply shortages, regionally high unemployment - all in a booming economy.  None of us alive can remember a world that surprises us as much as it does today.  And it's just as well that we don't....

- - - - - -

When I started at my current job, I never thought I'd be here at year end.  And now, I will finally go on the company's health care plan.  This is only a short term thing, as I will be on Medicare by mid year.  Will my costs go down?  Probably not.  But for this gal, I expect that my world will continue to spin faster and faster as things continue to change quicker than any of us are used to....

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lately, I've been watching cruise videos for entertainment.


Lately, I've been watching cruise videos for entertainment.  Yes, there are several cruises I'm planning to take in the next few years, a Hawaii cruise being one of them.  It'll be strange to get out and about to see parts of the world I've never been to before.  Yet, this is part of the process of breaking out of my shell.

- - - - - -

There are several Vloggers whose videos I watch.  Two of the Vlogs I watch most are "Tips for Travelers" (TFT) and "Emma Cruises" (EC).  Both Vloggers are British, but focus on different experiences.  TFT focuses both on the basics and on high end cruising.  EC focuses on some of the basics, but more on value oriented cruising. There are others, such as Life Well Cruised that give travel hacks, and La Lido Loca that focuses on cruise industry news.  All of these Vloggers proviide valuable information, and their videos should be watched before planning a cruise.

Why do I mention these Vloggers and their Vlogs?  Well, to give one example, I have learned which cabins I should book if I want a "smoother" trip in stormy weather.  Several years ago, I was on a cruise where the ship hit stormy seas.  Normally, I don't get seasick, but I could have gotten so in a storm which made walking through the corridors feel as if I was riding a roller coaster.  If I had his advice, I might never have been in the cabin I was in, had I been traveling alone. As I write this entry, one of these Vloggers is discussing the best cruises to take during each month of the year.  And from my experiences so far, this Vlogger is on target with his advice.

Vlogging earns these people good money.  But to achieve this, these Vloggers must provide real value in their videos.  So far, I'm finding that there is a small number of Cruise oriented Vloggers that know each other and support each other.  It's a friendly competition, as they know that viewers like me will want to see what each of these Vloggers have to say and form our own opinions based on information they provide.

So, if you are planning a cruise, you could do worse than to watch these Vloggers' posts....

Monday, December 20, 2021

Brunch with the Fun Time Friends



There were two things on the docket for today: 

  • Brunch with the FTF's in Connecticut
  • Dinner and a Concert in Tarrytown with Vicki

Both of them would have me attending as Marian.  Yet, if I had my druthers on this dreary day, I'd have stayed at home and in bed.

- - - - - 

Although I was awake before the alarms rang, I still needed them to get moving.  In a rush, I ended up putting on my makeup outside my normal sequence. And this delayed my departure, as I had do triple check that my presentation was on target.  When one has a masculine body, one has to make sure that as many signs of masculinity have been disguised, and that as many signs of femininity are displayed. For the most part, I think I do tolerably well as presenting as a large size woman.

After an hour and a quarter of driving in the rain, I made it to the meetup and had a nice brunch.  The seafood pot pie was large, and well worth the price that the restaurant charged.  However, I had two meals out scheduled for the day, and should have chosen the salad for the first meal.  But I didn't know this at the time.

When the meal was over, I drove home, talking to a new woman from OK Cupid.  She's a widow, and located on Long Island.  Given our mutual schedules, we probably won't be seeing each other until the second week of January.

- - - - - -

Around 5:30, Vicki came over, and we drove to Tarrytown for dinner, then went to the Music Hall (a theater) around the corner to see K.T.Turnstall and Martin Sexton perform.  When we got to the theater, we were directed to a pair of orchestra level seats that Vicki found unacceptable - she ordered a pair of seats on the aisle, not in the middle of the row. When people were directed to our seats, we knew we had a problem.  So we ended up (after a discussion) being told that our seats were on the balcony level.  And again, the seats were not what Vicki thought we were getting. So, again, it was a trek to find someone who could help us.  This time, our seats were exchanged for two seats in the orchestra section, closer to the stage than before. But we had the aisle seats that Vicki wanted.

We both enjoyed the concert.  Yet, we were both glad when it ended - it was a long day for both of us. So, I dropped her off at her car, and I did the most feminine thing I could think of - take off my bra, and get into something comfortable....




Sunday, December 19, 2021


I don't own this dress anymore.  When I bought it, I thought it would look nice on me.  However, my style has changed a lot since then, and I no longer shop just for things that fit me.  Instead, I try to choose garments that both fit well and make me look pretty.

Why do I mention this?

My place was never as bad as it is now while I was seeing my last serious girlfriend.  I've more than documented the disastrous end to that relationship and the loss of two friendships when I could have used them most.  So I won't go into talk about the past, save that I miss having company now and then.  Right now, I have 5 large bags of clothes in my living room which have to go to charity.  And I want to do this (and more) before I have a woman come to this apartment.  It's been over 2 years since I've had a guest here, and I'd like to make it presentable for someone new - preferably before New Year..

Today, I talked to TCL on my way home and I was reminded about why a relationship never clicked between the two of us.  One might say that she is too smart for her own good.  But that alone wouldn't be an issue.  Instead, she is both too judgemental and wanting too much to tell others about what she thinks is the correct way to do things. For example, I mentioned  the issue with Amazon's last mile delivery, and she said that I should have dropped the mis-delivered packages off at the correct apartments. Since I was in a rush, I alerted one of the neighbors that her package was mis-delivered, and asked her to pick up the packages bound for her doorway.  She did not do that.  She was focusing on what she would have done, and not my telling of the story.  And that can be off-putting when one has to deal with it every day.

Given everything, I'm leery of buying anything from Amazon during this holiday season.  Yet, I just had two packages come that I ordered two days ago - each from different companies.  The first was a bigger box that contacted 3 packages of disposable makeup wedges.  The other contained two rolls of clear medical adhesive tape.  Both these things are in short supply at Walmart, Target, and local drug stores. But I could get them through Amazon.  And I will have a big enough supply before I'm on my cruise without worrying whether the brick and mortar stores will restock them in time for the cruise.  (I can still remember when Walmart had no house brand exfoliating makeup remover wipes in their stores, and going to buy out the last of the remaining stock in a nearby store.)  

There's a part of me that wishes there was a way to reconcile with the former cruise partner (FCP).  Yet there's another part that doesn't want to deal with her anymore.  We once had a "sail away" inside cabin (or ocean view cabin) which was directly below a lounge area.  She couldn't deal with the bands making music above our cabin until 11:00-11:30 pm, preventing her from relaxing.  So she hectored "hotel staff" on the ship until she got a satisfactory substitute - a balcony cabin.  I'd have accepted the original room, as we let the cruise line pick the room before sailing and they delivered on their side of the contract.  Although we got a nicer room, I didn't like how we got it.  And this would bother me if I had to deal with her again in any close relationship.  Sometimes, a person has to accept a "no" on minor things, so that s/he can demand a 'yes" on the important ones.

In short, I'm finding that I hate pushy people.  I don't like being pushed around, and will push back hard when pushed.  Sometimes, being pushy is appropriate for the matter at hand.  But when someone is too pushy for too long, I lose my tolerance for that person.  So far, TCL knows that limit with me.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Amazon Delivery. It can suck big time!

Today, I came home to a pile of packages in front of my doorway's indoor mailboxes.  One problem.  ALL of these packages were delivered to the wrong place.  ALL of these packages should have been delivered to the next doorway.  Amazon's captive last mile delivery service screwed up big time!  

- - - - - - 

Sadly, almost every business requiring home delivery uses last mile delivery services.  UPS, FedEx, and USPS all tend to give decent service.  (I have my issues with UPS, due to a screwed up delivery they made several years ago involving a new cell phone.)  However, when firms use contractors such as LaserShip and CDL Last Mile, that's when quality goes to hell.  And that's what has happened with Amazon and its captive last mile shipping companies.

Years ago, I used to get delivery of precooked meals from Freshly.  Once each week, I would expect to receive an insulated package containing 6 meals, which I would then eat during the week.  However, Freshly lost money having me for a customer, as they had to give me refunds for improperly delivered packages.  Out of 13 deliveries, only 4 of them were close to being delivered according to the shipping instructions on the package.  Half of these packages were delivered to the wrong doorway, and placed in front of the wrong apartment.  So, I dropped Freshly, and started looking for pre-made meals at the local supermarket.  I preferred Freshly's quality. Yet, if I couldn't count on acceptable deliveries, it wasn't worth my time to call in for refunds on what seemed like a weekly basis.

A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor's insulin shipment was delivered to my door.  The person making the delivery didn't care which group of 6 apartments he dropped the box at.  Instead, he made the package drop, and said "to hell with it."  Luckily, I spotted the problem, and a neighbor took care of delivering the box to its intended recipient (with an apology for accidental opening).  What would have happened if this box was left in front of an apartment that was vacant (which happened to one of my Freshly shipments)?  This woman would have been without an essential medication.  This is inexcusable!

When I tried to contact Amazon, I reached a chatbot - which couldn't understand that I was complaining about someone else's products being delivered to me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to have Amazon call me.  This is just as well, as I want to get this fellow fired.  He doesn't deserve a job if he can't get a simple delivery straight.  


PS: A lot of people are having problems due to last mile delivery services.  I'd rather pay for shipping and know I'm going to get my goods delivered correctly.  Too bad that I'm in the minority in this country....


Friday, December 17, 2021

I didn't have much to say today....


My late wife and I loved going to this joint on our two trips (together) to the West coast.  On all my trips to the region (save one), I made an effort to stop by this place for some of the freshest seafood I could get.  Even though it has changed hands since I was last out there, I expect that the new owners will treat the place with the respect it deserves, so that it can attract customers for many years to come.

So why do I open up about a restaurant a continent away from where I live?  The answer to that is simple.  I'm thinking of making a future Hawaii cruise an open jaw trip at both ends.  Instead of flying to Hawaii from New York (and returning to New York after the cruise), I'm thinking of flying to LA to see my Uncle, then flying to Hawaii for the cruise.  After the cruise, I would like to fly to San Francisco and visit some of the places my wife and I enjoyed when we were in the Bay area.  From there, I would then fly home to New York after a San Francisco stopover.  (Or course, I could fly to San Francisco first, then return home from LA.)

Considering that my uncle is 87 years old, I'm not sure if I should put off a trip to LA next year.  But I certainly don't want to let him know about Marian.  Why put him under any additional stress?  Yet, I want to be able to afford that Hawaii cruise.  So, I'm going to need to make a hard decision soon....

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Can you spot the "Nina" in this picture?


Many of my friends know I was a fan of the late Al Hirschfield's line drawings.  His style was unique, and he was known for hiding the name of his daughter (Nina) in most of the drawings that he produced.  One of my dreams was to have three drawings done by him: (1) A caricature of me in both male and female presentations, (2) a caricature of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico Marx, and (3) a variant on the subject of this drawing.

I found it interesting that the US Air Force used his drawings to help pilots develop their skills of rapid pattern recognition using Hirschfield's drawings. But  the world is stranger than we know....

- - - - - -

Tonight, we had a meeting of our co-op board, and I found out that one of our new members may not be up to the task.  He was having problems with something as simple as dealing with an email attachment. It looks like I'll be needing to do his job, as he didn't seem to get that to take notes for a meeting, one has to know what NOT to report.  In my case, I know how to keep things short and sweet, and when needed, leave out the details of what was discussed.

I have to be careful.  It is important that I am seen as contributing to our mutual goals.  However, I don't want to get roped into running the co-op as its next president.  If we're lucky, one of the two new members will be ready to take on that mantle.  If not, I'll still let my presence on the board expire, by not running for another term.  It's not worth the effort for me to deal with the headaches that our co-op's president has to deal with....

PS: Did you spot the "Nina" in the drawing? 
       If not, look very carefully.  Fortunately, there is only ONE "Nina" to find.
       Please let me know if you find her or not.....

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Backorder, Backorder, Backorder...


I figured that I'd post something pretty instead of another meaningless caricature of myself.  Instead I figured that my readers would like to see a work of Chihuly glass. 

And now, to today's post....

Over the past year, I've found that there are a lot of problems with keeping goods available when needed and/or desired. Most of these problems are related to logistics issues triggered by the pandemic.  For example, the control units for my air conditioners were likely delayed, as parts they needed had to come from Asia, where people were kept from working due to Covid-19 infections..  Clothing I've ordered has taken longer than usual to be delivered, as warehouses did not have enough workers to process incoming orders.  And now, makeup I've ordered has been back-ordered, as the company I usually buy from didn't have enough units in stock to fill my order.  Thankfully, I try to maintain an adequate inventory at home, so that I can withstand disruptions like those I've been experiencing.

Last week, I ordered 4 units of beard cover, and 4 units of contouring makeup.  Unfortunately,3 units of the contouring makeup is back-ordered and should be delivered at some future date.  I'm hoping that I receive this makeup before I go on vacation.  If not, I'll have to ask my next door neighbor to intercept the package if delivered while I'm away.

- - - - - -

Things could be much worse for me.  I could need to buy a car.  Right now, prices are 10%-20% above MSRP for most cars.  I don't want to justify that price unless I need to do so.  Why are prices this high? Almost ALL of the major carmakers decided to overly rely on "Just In Time" (JIT) supply chains.  They made the big mistake of not having enough inventory of key items to get them through a supply chain disruption.

As much as we're seeing prices spike right now,I expect this will be a short term issue.  Supply will eventually catch up with demand, and prices will become rational again.  Until that date, expect to spend more for fewer available essential goods - including makeup!


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Subway and the Mattress


Today was a day I almost wasted.  Like yesterday, I didn't have much energy.  Unlike yesterday, I knew that I had to get out of the apartment to do some shopping for the week.  However, with that as an excuse, I was motivated to get up to test a mattress I'm thinking of buying.

- - - - - -

Normally, I'd take Metro North into NYC, then take a bus (or subway) to the area of the mattress store and hoof it from there.  However, I had other transit plans for the day. Since I knew I'd have problems with an out of date Metrocard (see above), I decided to go to the subway station nearest Ex-GF-M's house and see if I could get help transferring the balance from one card to a new one.  The older card (expiring during the worse of the pandemic) has to be mailed into the MTA for a refund.  But at least, I should get some money back.  The newer card hadn't yet expired, so I exchanged it for a new card and added some money to it.

Once on the subway, I knew that it would be a 1 hour trip into midtown.  Luckily, the studio was only a short walk away.  After trying out their "HD" mattress for size (it's designed for heavy folk like me), I was close to making the decision to buy the mattress then and there.  But I figure that I can wait until tomorrow, and be sure that I'm doing the right thing.

Next, I went home, buying some lunches for the coming week.  I decided to cancel a few meetup RSVPs, so that I can spend more time at home - and maybe clean up my apartment with some of the time I freed up.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Vaccination Passports


Above is a typical CDC Covid-19 vaccination blank.  For many, the card may be the only record they may have of being vaccinated against the virus, and many people guard this card with their lives - and for good reason.  In places like New York City, one must show proof of vaccination in order to enter public spaces such as museums, stadiums, restaurants and more.  It is an effective "Get out of Jail free card" for people like me, as it allows most of us to go about our lives almost as if nothing has happened.

Early in the history of Covid-19 Vaccines, some state governments recognized the need for a vaccine passport that a person could use his/her cellphone to display, allowing the person to safely leave the CDC card at home.  New York was one of those states with its Excelsior Plus App.  Sadly, due to politics, our Federal government stated that there would be no need for a National vaccine passport.  As a result, Americans may be forced to bring the CDC card with them when traveling overseas, instead of showing the results of an internationally recognized app on their phones.

For someone who was at "Ground Zero" for the pandemic in the USA, I find it appalling that the governors in some states have fought to ban businesses from requiring people be vaccinated to enter their property or use their services. This year, NCL has had to sue the governor of Florida to nullify its requirement that everyone on their ships be vaccinated.  NCL sees the requirement as a net positive, as it realizes that people will want to know they are at minimal risk of being infected on the cruise - it can't afford another 500 day shutdown due to another Covid-19 outbreak.  The governor of Florida, on the other hand, wants the votes of the anti-vaxxers, and it willing to do whatever it takes to get what may be the deciding votes in his next election.  

Since I will soon be going on a cruise, I will carry my CDC vaccination card with my passport - and keep it safe at all times.  NCL's 100% vaccination requirement is an asset for them, as it allows their ships to sail into the Bahamas - a nation which requires that ALL visitors show proof of vaccination before entering the nation.  If NCL did not require every passenger to be vaccinated, it would not be able to bring passengers to their private island, nor would it be able to provide a cruise experience  equivalent to what they offered on roughly the same route before the pandemic.

By this time next year, I am hoping to take another cruise.  At that time, I hope that the worst of the pandemic will be gone.  The remaining anti-vaxxers may have gotten a free ride because the vaccinated rest of the population will have allowed us to achieve herd immunity.  If we had had their cooperation, we'd have achieved this status much earlier.  At least, we're in sight of achieving this goal....

Sunday, December 12, 2021

I'm hoping that things work out more ways than one.


Sometimes, I just feel like I have no words to describe how I'm feeling.  Today, I have some of the words, but my thoughts are still up in the air....

- - - - - -

Yesterday, I had a job interview with the NYS court system.  Given my age, a job offer for a contingent-permanent position might be the only way people would be willing to take a chance in hiring an older person.  The body is needed, and a person like me could have less at risk than a younger person being hired for the job.

The condition I worry about is that the position becomes a permanent position AND that the civil service list is still active.  If the canvass attracts more than two people higher up on the list, I would be bumped out of a job I've been doing for a while. Yet, if the list has expired by that time, then I would get the position without a second canvassing.  Luckily, the list I'm on likely expires next August, unless it was extended due to the pandemic. But this would be no comfort to me if I were to take the job, then get bumped out of the position by dumb luck....

Vicki has recommended that I take the chance on this position.  But the nature of the clientele this office serves makes me a little nervous. Additionally, I would likely have a worse commute than I now have, and I didn't like the commute when I worked less than a mile away on the same road.  So I'm of mixed mind, and hoping that the fates present me with the options best suited to my needs.

- - - - - -

When I got home today, I changed into Mario mode and went down to see CWS for dinner.  If it weren't for the restaurant looking to close, we could have continued talking for another hour or two.  Both of us have our baggage.  I just wonder what her reaction will be when I eventually tell her about Marian.  Again, I'm hoping that the fates guide me through this mess safely.

- - - - - -

This is a very confusing time of the year for me.  Sooner or later, I'll have to clarify where things stand with MWL.  But then, she may already have an idea, as we never progressed beyond heavy kissing. I'll also have to clarify things with CWS, and find out where she wants to head with things.  If I end up with no romantic option, I'll finally feel free enough to get my ears pierced, and lay off dating for a few months.  Strangely, this may also be a good path to take....

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Waking up late for a good reason....


Sometimes, I'm able to stay home late on a weekday.  It is such a treat.  And I wish I could do this much more often than I can do right now.  Yet, as long as I have this job, I intend to be a responsible employee for as long as possible.

Today, I did a Zoom interview for another civil service job.  However, if it is offered to me, I will be at risk of losing this job from the minute I accept it.  If you look closely at the warning I received, I can lose the position if either of the following two conditions are met: (1) that the person who previously held the position wants it back, or (2) that upon re-canvassing for the position, someone higher on the civil service list wants this position.  Normally, I wouldn't take such a risky position.  But a trusted friend said that I should go for it, as my current job is mind numbing.

Life is all about taking risks.  Right now, I can afford to take this risk.  But do I really want to do so?   The population served by this position can be troublesome.  Do I need the headaches? 

Friday, December 10, 2021

Covid, Covid, Covid... AARGH!


I hate having to wear masks.  But I do so, in order to both stop the spread of the disease AND to help prevent contracting it myself.  But now, several people I know have potentially exposed to the virus AND one person has caught it.

Hopefully, the friend who was infected with Covid will have a speedy recovery AND not develop any troublesome symptoms.  Regarding the friends who might have been exposed, I'm hoping that this is a false alarm.  I'd hate to see them and their children be reinfected with the virus.

As for me, I'm taking extra precautions to avoid catching this bug before I go on my cruise.  I'm hoping that I can stay virus free until I return, and that the vaccinations + booster shot I've received will protect me from the worst of symptoms.

So I have one bit of advice....

Get Vaccinated ...NOW!


PS: The couple who host our bi-monthly game night had to postpone this week's session, as their daughter was also potentially exposed to the virus.  Hopefully, this will also be a false alarm....

Thursday, December 9, 2021

I exchanged contact information with a new friend from work.

The above wristlet has nothing to do with what I plan to talk about today.  But it was a pleasant memory, and I felt like it would be appropriate to share this photo again....

- - - - - -

A lady at work and I have developed an office friendship.  Since she has a business on the side that I might want to use, we decided to exchange contact information.  And I sent out a test message before starting to catch up on my other chores.

You might be wondering, why is this important?  If all goes well, I will find a way out of this company, and start a new job with the state. That means I will need to have contact information sooner or later, and it made sense to exchange it now, considering that I expect that both of us will be leaving the office - but for very different reasons.

- - - - - -

The new crew is gradually making its presence known at the office.  The former HR person is still employed, but seems to be a minister without portfolio.  Other people have had their responsibilities reduced. And new management is not comfortable with the pay scales they need to have to attract New York region employees.  So I think a lot more changes will be coming, and few of them for the better.

Being among the grunts gives me a unique perspective on things.  And I am lucky that I don't depend on this job to get by from day to day.  As I see it, the work will keep coming in, and they will phase out the "management" that once ran the old firm.  By the time they are gone, I will likely be gone too.  It'll be an interesting thing to say that I started in an Bronze level "Elite" level of corporate life, and ended up in the mail room....


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

This is why I manage my schedule the way I do.


Although I had mentioned to my boss that I planned to take an unpaid week off to take a cruise, he asked whether I noted it online - which I didn't.  In addition to setting up an account on the new payroll system, I also put in a request for a week of unpaid time off.  What I didn't know was that I would need to schedule something else for when I should be working, and whether I should attend an interview as Mario or Marian.

When I got home today, I received the following email:

Good afternoon Ms. Johnson –

We (Name 1 and Name 2) left you a message last week to inform you that we are interviewing for the Clerical Assistant position in the Westchester office of Mental Hygiene Legal Service.

We will be conducting virtual interviews on December xx, 2021.  If you are interested, please contact me.

Thank you.

Name 1

Principal Attorney.

Although I found a record of this call, I did not see any evidence of a message being left on voicemail. (I'll have to talk to them about this when I meetup with them.)  But what I noticed most about this email was that it was addressed to Ms. Johnson and not Mr. Johnson, as in my application.  Considering that all the paperwork that NYS has uses my legal name, I wondered how this mistake could be made.  Even more, how could I make this work to my advantage.  So I called Vicki for some advice.

Vicki advised me to mention that it was all right co call me "Ms." as I am transgender.  However, to clarify things, I have not yet changed my legal name, although I have worked two jobs (including the one I am in) as a female.  And then, shift the conversation to whether I am right for the job at hand.  If this person remembers me from a prior interview, I will mention that it was easier to then interview as a male at that first interview out of a desire to be overly cautious.

So now, once I hear back from this office, I will need to schedule some time off for this interview AND schedule some time off for my yearly physical.  AARGH!  At least, I have been able to keep the times I need to present male and female fully separate from each other....


PS:  This was too good to be true.  The next day, I received the following email.  

Good afternoon Mr. Johnson  -

This email will serve as confirmation of your interview for the position of Clerical Assistant with the office of Mental Hygiene Legal Service.  The interview will be held  ....  via Microsoft Teams.  I will send you a Microsoft Teams link prior to your interview.  Should you be unable to make the interview, please contact me at the phone number provided below.

The interview panel will consist of the following individuals: 

xxxxxxx - Deputy Director of Administration
xxxxxxx - Deputy Chief Attorney
xxxxxxx - Principal Attorney of the Westchester Offices
xxxxxxx - Secretary - Southern Westchester Office

As discussed,  this position is Contingent Permanent.  I have attached a “Status of Position” statement which further explains the “Contingent Permanent” status.  Please sign and return the form to me prior to your interview.

*In accordance with OCA guidelines, all new hires must be FULLY vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by the date of hire, unless granted a reasonable accommodation due to disability or religion.

We look forward to meeting with you....

You'll note the dreaded "Mr."  at the beginning of the above email.  So I guess I'm going to attend this online meeting as Mario after all....





An early dinner with a friend

  Last night, I mentioned to Pat that I wish I could have been born a cisgender female who looked like this when younger.  If I were younger...