Saturday, May 18, 2024

Commentary on Recent World Events


Years ago, my therapist taught me that anger is a secondary emotion.  It is a symptom of another feeling not being recognized or not being addressed.  For example, one might get angry because one is not able to identify when one is getting frustrated because one is not allowed to have their say in things.  Lately, the occupations of college campuses in support of Palestine have been in the news.  Sadly, most people have not bothered to do a Root Cause Analysis of the problem, and are blaming the wrong set of actors.  Pro-Palestinian supporters are right to complain about the needless suffering and loss of life going on in Gaza.  Pro-Israeli supporters are right to complain about Hamas' kidnapping and killing of innocent Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023.  However, only focusing on the latest atrocities to happen in the region prevents people from seeing the underlying problems in the region and dealing with them in a healthy manner.  Large groups of people are unable to identify the underlying causes of the problems in Israel and Palestine, and are unable to effectively deal with these problems.

What is happening in Israel and Palestine has its roots in the aftermath of World War 1, where the Ottoman Empire was carved up by Britain and France into their own mandates.  The Ottomans ruled the Middle East in relative peace for generations (their rule was far from perfect), and that peace was destroyed by the victors of World War 1.  In Europe, France was responsible for the humiliation and emasculation of Germany, imposing onerous conditions for post-war peace.  As a result, Germany's economy collapsed, Germany's currency became worthless, and the seeds were sown for an authoritarian leader to take control of Germany when the Great Depression happened - and one did. We know how evil Hitler proved to be.  Millions of Jews died in concentration camps.  Many who didn't die fled to Britain's Palestine mandate, feeling that friends in the Holy Land would provide them shelter.

After World War 2, the Jews wanted space in the holy land, and the UN carved out a map which gave the Jews a relatively small area which they could call their own.  However, Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia were against this, and started a war in which they lost land which the UN had allocated to the Palestinians.  Outside agitators kept stirring up the Palestinian people, teaching them that Israel had no right to exist, and drew maps showing Israel as "Occupied Palestine".

Around 1979, Iranians overthrew the pro-US government of the Shah, installing a theocratic government.  That government became rabidly anti-Israel, and has sponsored war against the Israelis and against the US (by its proxies, such as Hamas and Hezbollah).  And this is where the most identifiable root cause of the problem comes from.

It is no secret that a "Grand Bargain" was about to be announced, where most of the Arab world would follow Saudi Arabia's lead and recognize Israel's right to exist, in exchange for Saudi Arabia to perform limited uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes and to have a national security arrangement with the United States.  I have no doubt that Iran authorized Hamas to attack Israel to disrupt the "Grand Bargain".  Sadly, this action succeeded beyond Iran's wildest dreams, causing Israel to attack what its people see as the root cause of the problem - Hamas' existence.

Of course, fighting Hamas on its own turf would result in needless Palestinian deaths.  But what was Israel to do?  Its people thirsted for blood revenge.  Hamas hides between the skirts of women and children, building its infrastructure in the midst of innocent Palestinian civilians.  To fight Hamas, Israel would need to inflict a lot of "Collateral Damage" on the Palestinian people.  This would cause many people to see Israel as committing genocide against the Palestinians, where the Israelis would see the situation as simply fighting a necessary war against an enemy who doesn't care about the deaths of its supporters. It didn't help the cause of peace that Bibi Netanyahu thought (before October 7th) that he could work with Hamas behind the scenes.  So, Israel is, in part, responsible for giving Hamas the power to cause Israel harm.  Bibi now has to "look tough" to preserve his place in Israel's power hierarchy.  But how much revenge should Israel be allowed to extract?  No one addresses Israel's legitimate needs in the recent protests.

So, why aren't people protesting against the real problem, Iran sponsoring terrorism?  People focus on the symptoms of diseases, and not their causes.  How many of us (like myself) look to take pills to manage our blood pressure and blood sugar levels, when diet and exercise can help deal with these problems when done often enough, with appropriate intensity?  People don't like doing root cause analyses, and this leads people to being divided and unable to properly address the real problems in the world.

Hopefully, we will see the Arab world forced to step up and propose ideas for peace which recognize Israel's right to exist, see Israel give up the unlawful West Bank settlements, and to have an Arab force policing what is to become a Palestinian state until a non-corrupt Palestinian government grows into the role of good governance, Now is the time for the Arab world to take the risks to make peace with Israel, proposing honorable terms for all.  This would block Iran from causing too much mischief in the Middle East, and would sow the seeds for long term stability in the region.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Game Night after a long day doing little. (a short post)

Another day, and the only reasons I got out of bed were: (1) to do laundry before RQS gets here tomorrow, and (2) to go to Game Night in Yonkers.  And that's about the only thing I did today, save for writing this blog entry.

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Although I woke up early, I really began my day around 3 pm.  (I spent much of the time watching TV and killing time.)  Once I got out of the bedroom, I started taking care of things, such as doing some of the laundry that was in the hamper since I got home from my cruise.  (I was starting to run low on underwear, so I knew that I had to finally take care of this task.)  While my laundry was in the washer (and dryer), I got ready to go out for the evening as Marian. When I was ready to go out, I almost forgot that I had clothes in the dryer.  So, I brought them upstairs before going out to play games.

I arrived in Yonkers around 8 pm, and hung out until the second round of games started.  Of course, I did poorly in comparison to the others.  But then, I go to Game nights for the connections to people, and not for the games themselves.

On the way home, I called RQS, and we chatted for the better part of an hour.  It'll be nice to see her in person tomorrow.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Miracles of modern dentistry?

Long gone are the days where going to the dentist would be this uncomfortable.  Unlike getting a leg amputated in the Civil War, one couldn't bite a bullet to deal with the pain of a tooth extraction.  Years later, they perfected filling technology and local anesthesia, making a visit to the much less painful (except, maybe, in the wallet).  And now, the balance between bodily pain and financial pain is in favor of financial pain, as fewer people fear going to the dentist today than in the past.

Today was my visit to the dentist.  In addition to a scheduled teeth cleaning, I got an updated set of x-rays and a dental exam.  $500 later, I was out of the office with another appointment scheduled in 2 weeks for a small filling.  AARGH!   At least I have the money in the bank to afford it.  But this is only one of the money sucks that I'll deal with this month.

Sometime later in the year, I may decide to take another (small) distribution from my 401k, this time to finance a dental implant that I've done without for over 10 years.  If I had stayed employed with the bank, I'd have done this already.  After 10 years, the dentist will have to start from scratch, including a CAT Scan of my jaw to see if I have enough bone mass for the implant..  And this will cost even more money,  Not having the tooth in this place has affected how I chew on food.  So this may finally be the time I deal with the problem once and for all....

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Catching up with things at home


Today was another do-nothing day.  I might have done a little bit of putting away stuff, but not enough to say I did much.  

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I woke up today with only one thing on my schedule - a "Tea" meetup in White Plains.  (Think of: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and China Black, not the herb my generation also called "Tea".)  So, I lollygagged for most of the day, save for putting travel related items back in their storage bag.  When 5:00 pm came around, I showered, shaved, and dressed to go out as Marian.  As I was starting up my car, an acquaintance called to talk about many things.  (I had missed her call this weekend, as I was in-flight to JFK.  I just wonder what happened to the message I sent her, saying I was in transit.)  This kept me busy for most of the drive to the meetup.  

When I got to White Plains, I had a little problem finding the tea parlor.  But I found the place in time to have a savory danish and a serving of iced tea before we moved over to Playa Bowls next door.  Our motley crew kept up the conversation started in the tea parlor.  (One woman asked whether I had been to the LGBT center nearby, and I mentioned that they are constructing a building of their own in the heart of White Plains.  So I know that she probably read me, yet treated me as just another woman.) We talked about some of the meetup groups in Westchester, and noted that the leader of one of the groups (a leader that couldn't deal with me being transgender) was a bigot, and that her group wasn't worth being in.  (This feeling was echoed by others at the table.)  Hopefully, I will be able to meet these people again soon, as we all "clicked" together.

All too soon, it was time to go.  So I decided to make a run to Wegman's to pick up some food for the rest of the week.  Shortly after I loaded my car, I saw some lightning.  By the time I got home, it was raining hard enough to have me leave two 12-packs of soda in the car.  At least I got home safe and sound - and ready for tomorrow afternoon at the dentist....

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

A day with RQS at her place as Marian, then going to my place for the evening


After 9 days away from home, it was nice to spend the better part of the day at RQS's place in Marian mode.  Unfortunately, I had to make it home, as I had an appointment at the bank as Mario, so that I could take care of some co-op business the next day.  So both of us trekked to my place to spend the evening together - something we haven't been able to do for a while.

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As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I spent the whole day in transit from LA, returning to NYC.  Neither RQS nor I wanted to get up.  So we lollygagged a bit, then went out for tacos.  One thing about the Ridgewood Taco Factory I can say is that its food is as good as any Mexican food I've had in California. And it was a better choice for food than the bagels RQS might have selected for our meal.

Once done with lunch. we went back to RQS's place, picked up our bags, and proceeded to the bus for our trip to Croton.  I had chosen a subway route which would allow us to use "Accessible" stations (elevators from/to street, mezzanine and platform levels), so that neither of us would have to use staircases with our rolling bags.  All went well as we transferred from the bus to the subway, and that's where the irritation started.  One of us used our transit cards to open the gate used by handicapped people, and a stream of 20 people entered without paying their fares.  We encountered some of those people again at the elevator, as these mothers with children took up the space on the elevator for two cycles.  Luckily, we still had time to spare before the train to Manhattan came.

We took the train into Manhattan, and got off at Union Square for the next leg of our trip to Grand Central.  And this is where we encountered another glitch in our plans - the elevator to the uptown platform was out of service until the summer.  So we ended up having to use a staircase after all.  I had no problem with the large suitcase that weighed over 50 pounds, but RQS was having trouble with the smaller suitcase that may have weighed 30 pounds.  Luckily, some good Samaritan helped RQS with the smaller bag, and we were able to make the train to Times Square, then a transfer onto the shuttle to Grand Central.

Finally, at Grand Central, we were able to take a break for 5 minutes.  I was already sweating a little because of my wig and my physical effort, and knew I'd need to take a break when we got to Croton. We ended up taking the local, then caught a cab to finally reach my apartment.  Although we later went out for a bite to eat, our day was effectively over, as neither of us had much energy to do anything else but watch reruns of old TV shows before finally going to sleep.

Monday, May 13, 2024

California Vacation - Day 10 (Disembarkation & Returning to New York)


Last night, I put my large suitcase out for delivery to the pier upon the ship's return to LA.  This morning, I woke up unnaturally early (4:30 am PDT) and couldn't justify going back to sleep.  So I decided to shower early, finish packing for my return trip home, and go to the buffet before the crowds arrived.  And this proved to be a wise move, as I was able to eat in peace AND return to my cabin to relax before Debarkation.

Disembarkation on the Discovery Princess is a reasonably well organized affair.  A night or two before the end of the cruise, room stewards supply cruisers with luggage tags to be used for Disembarkation. Different colored tags are associated with groups of travelers.  For example, I was given Cream tags, associated with people with paid airport transfers.  Others had Brown tags, associated with people who had scheduled bus tours with airport transfers afterward.  As expected by the cruise line, I left the assigned gathering spot (the Princess Theater) at 8:20 am, and made it off the ship by 8:30 am.

Once inside the LA cruise terminal, it's a long walk to retrieve one's bags.  I figure that I must have walked a mile from the time I started my walk from the Princess Theater to the place my large suitcase was placed in the terminal.  From there, it was a short, quick walk to US Customs, where they matched my face against the photo ID I provided before the cruise.  And then, it was another long walk to the bus for my airport transfer.  Along the way, a fellow stopped me to ask which airline I was flying on, and he made sure each of my two bags were tagged with the correct terminal number at the airport.  So, by the time I got on the bus, my bags were ready to be returned to me when I reached Delta's terminal.

When I got to the airport, I retrieved my bags and proceeded to check in my bag.  With a little help from an attendant, my bag made it to check-in, and I made it to the TSA security checkpoint.  And that's where the "Fun" occurred.  Although I presented the first person with my legal ID (male, with Mario's name), when I reached the scanners, someone pressed the female button - and my genital area was flagged for inspection.  So I ended up getting a pat down by the first officer available - a female.  She was totally professional, and I was on my way into the secure zone in less than 5 minutes.

My flight home was uneventful, save that I didn't hear which luggage carousel would be used for this flight's bags.  So I was very glad that I had Delta's app on my phone - and found that my bag would come out on Carousel #12.  One problem - Where was Carousel #12?  I asked someone who told me that it was off to the side from Carousels #10 & #11.  Once I got there, I found my bag without problem, and began the long walk to the Uber stand.

For those unfamiliar with JFK airport, it is located in the middle of Jamaica Bay.  This means that it is usually uncomfortably humid.  Even with 75 degree weather, I was uncomfortable wearing leggings and a short sleeved dress.  After I reached the Uber stand, I summoned a car, and he was looking for me within 2 minutes.  Within 30 minutes, I was at RQS's house and ready to get some sleep.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

California Vacation - Day 09 (Ensenada, Mexico)


This is as close as I got to setting foot on Mexican soil.  Last year, RQS and I reached this Port in better weather, and we decided to stay on board.  This year, I have been cruising as Marian, and I didn't want to risk the hassles of getting off the ship in a foreign land as Marian.

I didn't see my new friend this morning, and it's just as well.  This was a day where I wanted to prepare for my return trip home.  Unlike my flight to LA, I have to make sure that everything I pack in my large suitcase is not needed until I reach New York, as it must be in front of my stateroom door by 8 pm.

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Most of the day, I stayed to myself.  Looking at what I did onboard, I didn't take advantage of more than half the "freebies" included in my fare package.  Yet, I feel I got my money's worth.  Did I need the specialty desserts?  No.  Did I go to any of the casual restaurants for lunch?  Only one - the pizza joint.  And I certainly didn't take advantage of the exercise classes.  But, when I factor in the fact that virtually everything was paid for up front, the only expenses I incurred were off-ship dining and transportation.  That's not bad.

As I write this, I have yet to pick up the three 8"x10" pictures taken of me on this ship.  I will post a few in this blog over time. But my main focus over the next few hours will be packing my large suitcase and spending the remainder of my non-refundable credits before they expire.  So I doubt I'll have more to say before I leave for New York.

It's been a good trip.  But I wish I could have visited my uncle.  There's no way I can say, "better luck next year", as he is no longer with us.  So I'll sign off for now, and provide a recap with tomorrow's entry.

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...