Saturday, December 31, 2005

I Love New York!

Just got back from my annual after Christmas adventure to the Big Apple. It was, as usual, fantastic! There is nothing like NYC, especially at the Christmas/New Year's Season. I was particularly spoiled this time as we stayed at THE FOUR SEASONS hotel. We were pampered and treated like royalty. The crowds this year in NYC were reportedly larger than usual, and our trek in Times Square on Friday night, the night before the big New Year's Eve event, proved that Times Square was wall-to-wall bodies.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chalk One Up For The Unions

I guess the New York City Transit Workers made their point last week when they walked off the job for brief three-day strike. Thousands of bus and subway workers are poised to reap up to $14,000 each in a new contract pension windfall that will ease the pain of their strike penalties - but will cost commuters an estimated $110 million. I know the strike was hell for those who rely on the NYC mass transit, but as a union man myself, I have to say, "Way to Go!" The MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) and Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint wouldn't comment yesterday, but some workers said the deal made last week's strike worthwhile. I had mixed feelings about the strike when it took place, but then I found out that the MTA had a surplus of about $1 billion, I sided with the Union members. Typical "corporate America": make more, more, more, and give less, less, less. Who was going to reap from that large surplus? Do you really think the transit riders or the workers? Of course not! That surplus would have probably stayed right in the bigshots pockets. So, it was time the transit workers reaped some of the benefits of the surplus, and they appear to have obtained it. Outsiders said there was no clear winner in the contract. Assemblyman Richard Brosky (D-Westchester, NY) said, "They both got what they could live with, which is what collective bargaining is all about." As far as I'm concerned, this was a victory for unions and workers all over America!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Another Postal Rate Hike

I was standing in line at the Post Office today, and the man in front of me asked the postal clerk for a book of stamps. The postal clerk asked if the man wanted the old stamps or the new? The man said, "What do the new stamps look like?" "As of January 8, 2006, the cost of a stamp goes up from $.37 to $.39," the clerk said to the man. I heard someone a few weeks ago say something about the Post Office wanting to raise the cost of stamps, but I don't remember reading or hearing anything more about it. But, sure enough, as of January 8, 2006, the cost of a first class stamp is going up to $.39. The United States Postal Service, it appears is raising its rates 5.5%, so it's not only first class stamps but all postal services. And if you think you'll save by using other mail delivery services, they're going to be following suit. FedEx and UPS will be also raising their rates as of January 2, 2006, and DHL will surely follow soon thereafter. The reason for the rate increase with the United Postal Service is to help pay for the cost of retirees benefits. Before I knew that, I must say, I was pissed! But, I guess I can't complain too much about the rate increase if it is going to be used for retirees. After all, look at what the major car manufacturers did to their retirees; cut their health benefits!
Even though I won't complain about the USPS rate increase, I will complain about its service, or lack thereof. It's one thing to have an increase in something if it means better service, but the USPS service just seems to get worse and worse! A few days before Christmas I needed a four stamps. So off to the local Post Office I went. The line, as I suspected, was long. So, I went to the handy-dandy stamp dispensing machine, which rarely works right anyway, and I know it. But it seemed functional. So I put in a buck for 2 stamps: total of $.74. I received my stamps, but no change. The machine's message read, "Credit for refund can be obtained from clerk." Well, that's nice; I used the machine because I didn't want to wait in line, so I'm not going to do so now for my $.26 change. So, needing two more stamps, I put in another dollar and lost another $.26. So, the USPS got an additional $.52 from me that day.
The Friday before Christmas, a package arrived for me. Since I was not at home during the time of delivery, the postman, or postwoman, left the package right in front of my apartment door. Damn good thing I was coming home! I cannot believe the package was just left there! Not that I really wanted to go to the Post Office to pick it up, but how did the mailman know I was even home. That package could have sat there for God only knows how long. And my friend informed the other day that his mailman had a package to be delivered for him. The mailman quickly rang the doorbell, tapped on the door, then left, all within a matter of a minute or so, before my friend could even answer the door. So he had to go to the Post Office to get his package.
No, I don't mind paying a little extra for postal service. But please, Mr. Postman! Give me a little better service for my little bit of extra $$$. I will continue to try to do as much over the internet such as bill paying to avoid adding too much revenue to the USPS.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Help For Gay Teens

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization established to promote acceptance of gay teens, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group. A hotline is available to any gay teen: 866-4UTrevor (866-488-7386).

Buying With Equality In Mind

This coming year, I am going to try my best to buy merchandise that is made/sold by companies that support gay rights and equality. I hope you would join me. The Human Rights Campaign has a "Buying For Equality" guide that will provide you with the information needed to support products from companies that support equality. I suggest you take a look at the guide and see what companies support equality.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

My Christmas Eve

“Man am I stuffed,” I said to myself as I drove home on Christmas Eve. I had just finished visiting family, and the food and drink could have fed a third world nation. Well, maybe a few families in a third world nation. Seafood, cold cuts, salads, cakes and pies, wine and beer; all so delicious and filling. Christmas music was playing in the home, and even a few brave, well, maybe drunk, souls sang along. If we had a karaoke machine, I’m sure as the evening progressed so would have the participation. And now, on my 30 minute drive home, I would have to be extra careful to abide by the traffic laws. Even though I hadn’t drank that much, and it was a couple hours now since my last one, I certainly didn’t need to get pulled over by some overzealous cop protecting his citizens from intoxicated drivers. And I wouldn’t want any cop perceiving my tiredness as drunkenness.
About 10 minutes into my drive I decided to stop at the next Wawa for a cup of coffee. And, there it was, just ahead of me. So I parked my car a bit away from the door hoping the walk in the cold air would help invigorate the blood flow in my system. As I opened my car door, I noticed a man, I’d say maybe in his 50’s, standing near a trash can. He saw me get out of the car, and he slowly moved toward me. “Oh no, not a beggar asking me for money,” I said to myself. So at first I pretended not to see him, and I was for sure not going to make eye contact. “Excuse me sir,” he said to me. What was I to do now? Pretend I was deaf as well as blind? “Hi,” I said. He looked safe enough, not as if he was intending to do me any harm. “Anyway you could buy me a cup of coffee?” he asked. Now, it was Christmas Eve, and I do not consider myself to be a Scrooge, so what was I to say? “OK. I’ll be right out. Oh, and do you want anything in it?” “No. I drink it black,” he said to me, and I proceeded into the store.
When I came outside, I at first did not see the man. Then I realized he was standing by my car. “Damn, buddy. I bought you a cup of coffee, now don’t expect anything else!” I walked up to the man and gave him his cup of coffee. “Thanks,” he said. “Can you do me a favor? I only live about 2 miles up the highway. Anyway you could give me a ride home? It’s been a long day and I don’t feel like hoofing it there.” Now what? I don’t make a habit of giving total strangers rides home. After all, my mother always told me not to ride with strangers. But, it was Christmas Eve, and the man looked desperate. And besides, what could happen? “OK. I can give you a ride. Hop in,” I said to the man. I unlocked the doors and in he jumped as I walked around to my door. “You don’t know how much I appreciate this,” the man said to me. “It’s cool. Not a problem at all,” I lied to him and myself. “Just tell me where to stop,” I told the man, then drove up the highway, as I watched the odometer for the 2 mile mark.
As I drove I couldn’t help but think that even though I work in a “helping” field, I do very little direct “helping” and now was my chance to do some of the “helping” I profess to do. So on I drove. Just before the 2 mile mark, the man said, “Here it is. This is the driveway back to my house. I live a little bit in the woods.” I was expecting the man to just have me drop him off at the end of his driveway, but I asked anyway, “Do you want me to drive in?” “If you don’t mind,” he said. Now what was I to say? I had just asked, out of stupidity or for whatever reason, if he wanted me to drive him to his house. How could I say, “No, I changed my mind. Walk down that long, dark driveway of yours and leave me alone!” And it was, after all, Christmas Eve. So I turned in. It was a dirt driveway, well actually a road, but fortunately, it was dry and hard gravel, not muddy or messy. And damn! What a long driveway it was. I would guess it was at least three quarters of a mile before I could make out a building of some kind. It was dark, except for the light of the moon, so I really couldn’t see if it was a house, a garage, or whatnot. “This is my humble abode,” the man said to me. I noticed several boxes on the porch to what I now could tell was a house. “Before you leave, anyway you can help me take those boxes inside?” the man asked me. Now what was I to say? After all, it was Christmas Eve. “Yes,” I said. “ I guess I can help you. But I really need to be going quickly. I am tired and need to get to bed early so I can be up early tomorrow morning.”
So I parked the car and turned off the engine. “Was that the right thing to do?” I thought to myself. “What if I need to make a quick getaway?” But the man seemed harmless enough, and by now, I felt pretty confident he was not some deranged killer or madman. He was just a man down on his luck that needed someone to help him, and maybe give him some human compassion. “We won’t be very long, I promise,” he said to me, as he exited my car.
I followed him up to his door. He opened the door, reached inside, and turned on a dim porch light. “There. That should help some,” he said to me as he reached for one of the boxes. I grabbed a smaller box and put in on top of a larger box, and proceeded to go into the house. As I stepped into the house, I felt a jolt of something! It felt like that feeling when you stick something into an electrical socket. And a bright light, one that I never experienced before, blinded me! “What the…” was all I could think. And then, a feeling of complete nothingness overtook my body. It was as if someone had drugged me with valium and my muscles just relaxed to the point of not being able to move, and not really caring that I couldn’t move. Then the light dimmed and I could see into the room.
There, in front of me, was the man, now dressed in a three-pieced suit, and behind him, a party of some kind. It looked like hundreds of people, nicely dressed, eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing having the time of their lives. “Karl,” the man said to me. “Because you had the decency to help me, you will experience what very few have. My friends, all who have already left this world, welcome you into theirs. Join the party.” No longer did I feel full from eating earlier. No longer was I tired. And I did, I did join the party. I ate, I drank, I laughed, I sang, for what seemed like hours. But I never felt tired. I never felt stuffed from all the food and wine. I was in a feeling of complete euphoria, complete satisfaction. And I noticed that my back, which was a little sore earlier in the day, didn’t hurt a bit now. What a party this was! I had never been to one so full of life, so full of excitement!
Finally, the man came to me and said, “It’s time to leave now. But you will be back, I assure you. One day, when it’s your time, you too shall join us for the party again. But then it will be a forever party; one that will never stop. If you keep on helping others as you did me, this is what awaits you. If you keep on fighting for rights of others, for equality and justice, this is what awaits you.” And the man led me to the door.
Once outside, all seemed as it had before I entered the house. I turned around to the house, and all I could see was the porch and the dimly lit light. I looked at my watch: 8:45PM. But it coudn't be. I must have been in that house for hours! I got into my car and drove home. Feeling so at ease and peaceful, I immediately went to bed and slept like a baby.
I never heard another thing until Christmas morning when I heard the neighbor kids playing with their new motorized cars on the walk outside my bedroom window. After getting up and showered, I just had to go back to the house where I dropped off the man. Going in the opposite direction, I looked and looked for the driveway that I drove the man down just last night. But I couldn’t find it. Then, I saw the Wawa where I met the man. I turned around in the store parking lot and watched my odometer to see when I had traveled two miles. Still no driveway. I pulled over, turned around, to again look. Still no driveway. I again headed back to the Wawa. I again kept my eye on the odometer and on the road, making certain I pulled over at the almost two mile mark. As I approached the two mile mark, I pulled the car over and slowly drove, looking at every inch of tree to find that driveway, but no driveway. I know I hadn't dreamt the whole thing. It was too real! Then, on one of the trees, I noticed something. It was a coffee cup nailed to the tree.
A Christmas miracle? After all it was Christmas Eve.

Don't Change The Name of The 30th Street Station

I know Benjamin Franklin was a great man, one to be honored, but for what my 2 cents is worth, as a New Jerseyian, not even a Philadelphian, please don't change the name of the 30th Street Station to Ben Station (The Philadelphia Inquirer-12/25/05).

"Brokeback Mountain" An Aid In Breaking Down Discrimination?

In Today's Philadelphia Inquirer (Sunday, 12/25/05), there's a front page story, 'Brokeback' signaling a new attitude on gays? As most of you probably already know, Brokeback Mountain is a story of two American cowboys that fall in love. The movie is slowly gaining popularity in the US, and the movie is being released in more and more cities. (I myself have not yet seen the movie). The Inquirer looked at the impact the movie is having on Americans. "The pulse of a nation can't be measured by the popularity of a single movie," the article states, "...the early success of Brokeback Mountain. an anguished love story about two male ranch hands, is being interpreted by some as a sign that Americans are growing more compassionate and broad-minded about homosexuality." According to William Doherty, professor of family and social science at the the University of Minnesota, "It's very clear from surveys that the country has been moving rapidly toward more acceptance." In the Inquirer article a registered nurse is interviewed, stating she wanted to see the movie, "because I have friends who are gay, and I wonder what it's like for them." Another person interviewed was a psychologist, who said, "I see a lot of gay kids who are in high school, and it's something I'd like to understand in order to help them."
Brokeback Mountain may well be another tool to help Americans better understand the gay community. In turn, hopefully more acceptance will be the result. I would also like to suggest that maybe if more of our gay brothers and sisters with celebrity status had the courage to come out, perhaps even more acceptance of gays would be the result. (I personally know coming out is not an easy decision). Look at the positive affect celebs admitting to depression or a medical condition has. Statistically, 10% or 1 in 10 men are exclusively gay per the Kinsey Report. I would argue this percentage is even higher; one cannot admit being gay, even in an anonymous survey unless one can admit to himself that he is gay. So, if 1 in 10 men is gay, there must be more gay athletes, actors, doctors, and so forth. Look at a professional football team and tell me there aren't any gay players out on the field.
At the end of the Inquirer article, one interviewee states, "My father is a fisherman and a hunter, but I can guarantee you he and his buddies are not going to see it (Brokeback Mountain)." Well, statistically, it is highly likely this father has at least 1 gay buddy in his group. And yes, gay men do hunt and fish too.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Believe what you believe. Celebrate what you want to celebrate. But to me, this is Christmas:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.
(King James Bible, Luke 2:8-14)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Maybe This Is Why We Cannot Allow Gay Marriage

A 64-year-old man in Wisconsin has pleaded no contest to charges in Clark County Circuit Court after telling police he regularly had been using calves for sexual gratification. Many opposed to gay marriage give as one of their reasons why gay marriage should not be approved is that if we allow gays to marry, we have to allow marriage of people and animals. I argue that maybe if this guy married one of these cattle, he wouldn't have wasted the courts time and money. Go on! Make an honest man of this guy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

They're So Much More Advanced Than Us!

The USA is so hypocritical. It promotes freedom abroad and preaches tolerance towards all. But, right here at home, freedom and tolerance is not allowed for all. Just ask those of color. Just ask those of different nationalities. Just ask those of different religions. And just ask those of us that are gay. Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, will be joined together tomorrow in a civil union in the UK granting them the same rights as married couples. Former President Bill Clinton has evern given them his wishes for a happy life. But here in America, gay individuals, for the most part live as second class citizens. No freedom to marry. No freedom to the same rights as other married couples. And some face intolerance everyday. Sure, it's not as bad as in some countries, but the US should be setting the example. Just as we supposedly are doing elsewhere in the world. The US should practice what it preaches. Tolerance, not necessarily agreement, with all.

Senator Barbara Boxer Demands Answers!

Below is from an e-mail received from Senator Barbara Boxer seeking further clarification of Bush’s authorization of illegal, perhaps impeachable, surveillance of American citizens:
On December 16, along with the rest of America, I learned that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge. President Bush underscored his support for this action in his press conference today.
On Sunday, December 18, former White House Counsel John Dean and I participated in a public discussion that covered many issues, including this surveillance. Mr. Dean, who was President Nixon's counsel at the time of Watergate, said that President Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense." Today, Mr. Dean confirmed his statement.
This startling assertion by Mr. Dean is especially poignant because he experienced first hand the executive abuse of power and a presidential scandal arising from the surveillance of American citizens.
Given your constitutional expertise, particularly in the area of presidential impeachment, I am writing to ask for your comments and thoughts on Mr. Dean's statement.
Unchecked surveillance of American citizens is troubling to both me and many of my constituents. I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter as soon as possible.
Barbara Boxer United States Senator
This was sent by Senator Boxer to:
  1. Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago Law School

  2. Bruce Ackerman, Yale University

  3. Susan Low Bloch, Georgetown University Law Center

  4. Michael Gerhardt, College of William and Mary School of Law
America needs answers!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Let The Gift Giving (And Receiving) Begin

Started giving, and yes of course, receiving this year's Christmas gifts. And what a smile a nice bottle of wine can put on my face. I wish everyone of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Joyous Whatever you may celebrate!

How Do Your Legislators Do With Gay Rights Issues?

Check out HRC's scorecard and see how your legislators do in supporting gay rights.

Is America Gonna Fall For It Again?

George Bush interrupted important television last night to again try to persuade Americans that he has everything in control, and that everything is hunky-dory over in the land of Iraq (pronounced by Bush as Eye-Rack). The US is fighting the terrorist over there so we won't have to fight them here. And this comes just days after Bush admitted to giving his approval to the NSA to illegal conduct survellience on Americans. Is America going to fall for this clown's mistruths and misadventures again?
First, in 2000, Bush wins an election through the courts, not the public vote. Then he leads America into an illegal war. He continues to make excuses about how Iraq was not cooperating with UN Weapons Inspectors, and how Iraq was producing Weapons of Mass Destruction. This of course, was found to be untrue, so now, as Bush mentioned in last night's address, Iraq had the potential to develop weapons. What country doesn't? He continues to indirectly link Iraq with Al-Qeida, which has also been disproven. And most recently, Bush informs American citizens that he authorized the illegal survellience of Americans. No big deal, you say? Maybe you were one of those wiretapped or videotaped or whatever for no other reason than you made a long distance call to a specific location deemed an enemy. What will Bush do next?
How can Americans continue to support this man? He lies. He sidesteps the law. He ignores the Constitution. And all because the US is in a "state of war." So that makes everything Bush does OK? This is the USA. Not Saudi Arabia. This country is based on laws. This country has a solid Constitution which nobody, not even the President of the US, has the right to disregard. Bill Clinton was impeached over what? Personal misconduct? And George Bush continues to do whatever he wishes with total disregard for the law. When is America going to wake up and say, "Enough is enough"? This clown has be stopped. Who know what his next step will be. Besides dividing a country like no other president in recent times, Bush puts us all in jeopardy with his behavior.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Smooth Jazz Christmas With David Koz & Friends

I just returned for WJJZ's Smooth Jazz Christmas with David Koz & Friends at the Commerce Bank Center For The Performing Arts in Washington Township. David was joined by South African singer/guitarist, Jonathan Butler, pianist, David Benoit, and a much slimmer singer, Patti Austin. The show was awsome! The group played and sang Christmas songs and their own individual hits and favorites. David and Patti sang, "Baby It's Cold Outside" with a slightly different twist as Patti tried unsuccessfully to "seduce" David, despite telling her, "It's not gonna happen....I told you already, Patti, I'm gay." Patti and Jonathan did one of the best renditions of "O Holy Night" I have ever heard. The harmony and combination of their voices was out of this world! It was two and a half hours of pure pleasure and enjoyment.

Prediction on Damon/Bozan Marriage: 4-6 Months

My prediction on the length of time Matt Damon and Luciana Bozan will be married is 4-6 months, 12 months tops. Just face it, Matt & Ben: you were made for each other!

Great Christmas Music & Light Display

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert for the first time. It was an amazing show. I hope Lost, from Lost's World, doesn't mind me making this reference, but you have to check this music & light display out. (Click on "Watch this" when you get there).

What Kind Of Day Did They Have?

Yesterday, while driving to the gym, there was a fair amount of traffic. It is Christmas time and I live near a mall and many stores very busy at this time. And I must admit, I get very impatient with drivers; they're either in the wrong lane, moving too slowly, stopping/starting, or some other thing that makes me, the perfect driver, get ticked. So, I am in the left lane of a four lane highway, and all of a sudden, a mini-bus ahead of me moves over in the left lane, in front of me. Soon a van does the same thing. I assume they are together and they have quickly realized they need to make a left turn not too far ahead. And I, cursing under my breath because these vehicles should have realized before hand that in order to turn left, one must be in the left lane, and there is no reason why these vehicles didn't get in the left lane earlier, began to move into the right lane to go past these two morons! And then I realize why they moved into the left lane so suddenly. There was an accident blocking the right lane that from where I was, could not be seen. Those vehicles in front of me weren't intentionally trying to aggravate me. They had no choice but to move into my lane as a result of what they were experiencing. I then realized I was the moron, jumping to conclusions as to why those vehicles so ignorantly moved in front of me.
But it made me realize something else. So many times we, and I will include myself, become impatient with others because of what we perceive as just plain ignorance or stupidity. But what we fail to realize is we have no idea whatsoever what these individuals have just experienced in their own lives. We don't know if someone of importance just died in an individual's life. We don't know if someone just broke up or divorced a spouse or partner. We don't know if someone just got news that he/she has some terminal illness. I know some people are just plain ignorant, but sometimes there may be a perfectly good reason why someone appears to be so. At this time of the year, and always, let's try, and I include myself in this, to realize there may be a perfectly good reason why someone acts the way they do.

Will The Truth About U.S. Interrogation Come Out?

Poland has announced it will conduct a "detailed" probe into secret prisons in Poland run by the U.S. CIA to interrogate suspected terrorists. There will be more than a dozen such investigations taking place in European countries that hosted secret U.S.-run prisons in which prisoners were reportedly tortured. It will be interesting, and possibly embarrassing, for the U.S. We all have seen movies of such occurrences, but could they be for real? Has the U.S. CIA been torturing prisoners in foreign countries. There were reports that I heard shortly after 9-11 of the U.S. sending suspects to foreign countries to conduct "interrogations." These countries reportedly used torture to obtain information. Since the U.S. would not do such "business" in its own country, sending suspects to foreign lands to get information was the next best thing. I only hope that when the European countries are done their probes, the U.S. will not be seen as bad as many of the countries we reprimand for such behavior.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What News Does Bush Watch?!

Can someone please tell me what news Bush is wathing? How can he keep touting that Iraq is making such progress?. Bush is "amazed" at the progress being made in Iraq! That's not what is being reported. That's not what the generals in the field are stating! But then again, Bush is in awe of people like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney! So I guess it isn't so amazing that Bush is amazed. He is easily amazed!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

'Tis The Season!

Tis the season! Started the day by putting up the tree and the few decorations around the apartment. The cold, crisp air today made me feel like Christmas! Shopping at THE WALK in Atlantic City really put me in the Christmas spirit. Well, actually it started last Saturday night with a tremendous concert by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Wow! The music was fantastic. Sitting, relaxing now with my "honey", listening to Diana Krall sing Christmas songs, and the prospect of a little snow tonight! Again, wow! So, it has begun! The Christmas preparation.