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May 5th, 2024

Why? No…Seriously…Why!

There are moments when commercial social media, and especially Facebook, really weirds me out. Facebook has this “People You May Know” list, which is where Facebook helpfully tries to get you to “friend” other people “You May Know” so it can data harvest your life and theirs more efficiently. 

Yesterday this came up in mine…

I stared at this recommendation for I don’t know how long. What the hell Facebook?? 

(I’ve blocked the image of the person in question because I don’t think that’s the real name of the person in that profile, and probably he doesn’t want his mother knowing what he’s up to…)

This isn’t him, this isn’t anything even close to him, he would not use a nom de plume like that or anything close to it, and anyway he’s always insisted he isn’t on social media and never will be. And at moments like this I really don’t blame him. It gets very weird in here from time to time, and he can’t deal with weird.

There are moments I have a hard time dealing with it too, and I’m weird.

What the hell Facebook???

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 20th, 2024

The Pale White Boy In Florida…

I go out for my morning coffee walk and I see one of the maintenance crew trying to clean up some white chalky footprints off one of the walkways. I can’t figure who was wearing white paint on their bare feet.

So just now I’m spraying sunscreen on my bare feet before I go out again because just a few minutes out in this sun and my feet are already starting to show a tan. Then I realize that’s probably what happened this morning. Someone dumped a bunch of sunscreen on their feet and tracked it all over that walkway before it dried.

I put a bunch of paper towels on the floor of my room before I started spraying my feet. Should be dry by the time I’m ready to go to Hollywood Studios.

I’m doing dinner tonight at the 50s Prime Time Cafe, and hoping they’ve put the chairs back in the Tune-In Lounge.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

It’s Florida, It’s Almost June And No I’m Not Going Outside Much In The Middle Of The Afternoon

Definitely T-shirt and cutoffs weather here. I really need to be careful wearing sandals out in the sunlight here with these pale white feet of mine. Also the rest of me.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 19th, 2024

A Wee Disney Vacation…And Then Maybe Back To Work…

I’m at Port Orleans Riverside for a couple weeks. I’d extend my stay but I told the guy I worked under at Space Telescope before I retired that I’d be back home June 2 and he wants to discuss my coming back to work there part time.

So…making the most of this one while I’m here…

Still stunned that Facebook recommended “Tico Assmann” to me (see previous post). My head is still spinning, but that might be vertigo from the train ride.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 5th, 2024

There Is Nothing New In The Human Gutter

Every now and then I drop in on my Twitter account (Oh…did I just deadname X? Sorry…not sorry…) to check out the doings in the hate lounge. Actually by now I have a massive block list, so my Twitter feed is probably a lot less fragrant than what others see.

When I opened my feed, the first thing I saw was Ari Drennen’s post as follows…

Forcing trans kids to pretend that they are somebody else until some arbitrary age when their lives are allowed to start for real is not a neutral act either. There are, in fact, no neutral acts in life. Not one second is reversible.

So of course I did what you’re not supposed to do: I looked at the comments. Certain topics are ripe for finding more morons to block, and this one didn’t disappoint. But some of what I saw was, in a way, stunning. Lots of commenters telling her that transgender kids do not exist. And I mean the exact same verbiage which normally leads you, regarding Twitter, to think you’re seeing the activity of bots. But I remember when it was plain to see not all that long ago, and further back on USENET, how some new proverb would get posted to a right wing blog and it was like the bat signal had been given and suddenly everyone was just mindlessly repeating it. But then again you could say those were bots too. Human bots, but bots nonetheless.

And it reminded me of what is so spooky about the wave of winger harassment transgender folks are experiencing now…that it is almost play by play the same exact script they were using not all that long ago to harass gay people: There are no homosexuals, only broken heterosexuals. It’s like they took the script for online gay bashing and just removed all references to homosexual and replaced them with transgendered. Otherwise it’s the same exact script, page for page, play by play, argle bargle, argle bargle, argle bargle.

Nothing ever changes with them. Nothing. Just the names and faces and where the right wing money is coming from.

Posted In: Politics
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by Bruce | Link | React!
May 4th, 2024

And Speaking Of Cute Little Baltimore Rowhouses…

Having a house is like having a lover. Or at least I assume it is since I’ve never had a lover. But, so I’m told, lovers have their little ways of making it clear when they are feeling neglected. So do cute little Baltimore Rowhouses.

I came home Thursday after a week long road trip from Oceano back to Baltimore, which was after a two month stay at my brother’s house. I did the usual stuff before leaving the house…turned off the water at the main, shut off all the unnecessary electric devices, set the thermostat to vacation mode, and so on. The house was in winter mode when I left, and now it’s working itself up to springtime here in Maryland. So I get back to a house that’s still assuming it’s winter, with most of its services turned off and the first thing is a turn things back on, and then get the house set for warmer weather.

But first I have to get my stuff out of the car. I bring a ton of luggage with me on these road trips, plus cameras, and I’m getting too old to be lugging around all that weight. I’ll probably be unpacking for days, and after getting all that stuff out of the car and up the steps to my front door, I’m beat.

I notice I have squatters. Well…robins. There is a nest on top of my porch light. I look around for the parents and don’t see them, but I assume they’re somewhere in the trees watching. I know it’s robins because they’ve tried this before and if it were mockingbirds I would be being attacked now.

Later, I checked again for any sign of robins and I didn’t see any. So I got a mirror and looked in the nest for eggs. There weren’t any. It was a bit spooky how the nest looked like it was in pristine ready to move in shape and there was no sign it had ever been used. Something scared them away it seems. Or they got eaten. But the neighborhood seems not to have any cats around nowadays. I’ve no idea, but since the nest was empty I took it down.

I have not seen any robins at all since I got back. This morning I put the bird feeders back out and slowly the customers are returning.

My door has a mail slot so there is no mailbox to overflow. When I got back I had a mountain of unread unopened mail on the other side of my door, which made opening the door difficult. Last time, when I stayed in California for almost four months, I had mail forwarded. But I learned that some important letters don’t get forwarded anyway because the sender specifically asks the post office not to do that. So I didn’t bother forwarding mail this time because of that, and also I reckoned two months was not so long I couldn’t deal with anything that came while I was gone, and my monthly bills can be easily paid online. But while I was out there I started noticing that my city water bill kept showing a zero balance due every time I checked. I had no idea but thought it might be an adjustment of some sort, and I made a note to check the paper bills when I got back.

So first thing after pushing the door opened against all that mail on the floor on the other side was I gathered it all up and dropped it on the kitchen table, then sorted through it for the water bill. I found them and look and I see I see they’re using a different website now for online payments. For some reason instead of telling you when you go to the old website to go to the new one, or just simply forwarding you to it, the old website still looks active but it can’t show the current bill so it always looks like its zero.

Well, well. But I would have called them anyway about why the zero balance due, but…oh well. No harm done. I paid my last bill early before I left for California, and paid this one just now on the new website a week before it was due.

I turn back on the water. Then open a few faucets to get any air pockets out of the system. I turn the hot water tank back on. I go upstairs and notice the toilet tank is leaking where it connects to the bowl. It’s not a major leak and I put a bucket under it, hoping it fixes itself like it did the last time. What happens is when I’m gone for a long time with the water off, the water in the bowl evaporates, and the gasket sealing the tank against the bowel dries out. Last time it did that, a few days of use and water flowing into the bowl from the tank and the gasket began sealing again.

As I said, the house was in winter mode when I left. It was in the 80s when I returned. I discovered the central air conditioning, which would have been good to have right then, wasn’t working. Again. It’s been a problem for several years now after the BGE…excuse me…Constellation, tech that replaced the compressor did a lot of other work that might not have been necessary at all, but which gave her billable hours, and screwed most of that up. Last year it took a senior technician to get it fixed. It ran good all summer last year and I was hopeful for this year, but here we are. A senior tech came out yesterday and told me the system was leaking coolant again and they’d get someone else to come out with them later and try to find the leak. In the meantime I got out the window units. Again.

When I tried to get the cuckoo clock going again, I discovered its hands weren’t positioned correctly. I stopped the clock before I left but apparently the hands came loose while I was away and were dangling at 6:30. Getting them back right took some fiddling, but the clock is working fine now.

I was getting thirsty bringing stuff back up from the car, so I got one of the bottles of ice tea I had with me, poured it into a glass and reached in the freezer for some ice, where I discovered the ice machine in the fridge wasn’t working. But yes it was, it was just stuck trying to fill its tray. I’d forgotten to turn it off while I was away, and all that time it kept running, but since the water to the house was turned off all it did was try to fill its tray…for two months. I was able to get it running again by pouring water from a glass into its tray to get the cycle going again. In the meantime I went to the chest freezer in the basement where I keep ice for the bar and got some from that.

In the process I checked my long duration power outage tests. Basically, you fill some small paper cups with water, put them in your freezers, let the water and put a quarter on top of the frozen water. If the quarter is embedded in the ice when you get back home, you know there was a power outage long enough to thaw the water out and your food is all probably spoiled. My quarters were all sitting on top of the ice in their cups, so no power outages.

I began sorting the stack of mail into piles of things that need immediate attention, things that I can look at later, magazines, things that just need throwing away and things that need shredding first.

The toilet tank leak became so bad I had to take the tank off. As I write this, the second floor bathroom is out of service…

I have another bathroom in the basement that (thankfully) is still in good shape. Apart from my partially converting it into a darkroom.

That’s dust you see on the wall behind where the tank was. It probably hasn’t been touched since the toilet was installed which was sometime before I bought the house. I had no idea it was that bad. Dusting the wall there periodically isn’t going to be easy though, once the tank is back on.

You can see the tank gasket is pretty far gone…

I really didn’t want to have to do this because I was afraid the bolts holding the tank in place had rusted beyond any hope of getting them off without brute force. But a little WD-40 and it wasn’t too bad after all. I ordered a new tank gasket and brass bolts that should be here tomorrow.

So besides everything else I need to do with the house now…and I’d already been planning to replace several floorboards on my backyard deck this summer, and repaint it, getting the second floor bathroom working again is my primary task for now. In addition to the new tank gasket I need to go buy an entire new set of gaskets for the water feed lines because I had to disconnect them from the tank. Probably also a new flapper valve since the one that was in there is going to dry out while I’m working on this. Maybe a whole new set of tank innards. Might as well. So it goes…

I got tempted to replace the entire thing now that it’s this much disassembled with a newer one with the bidet built in. There are some good ones out there, some really impressive ones that open the lid automatically as you walk over to the toilet, and automatically flush when you leave. But like a lot of latest and greatest things out there there’s just lots more about them to fail and you have no idea how to fix any of it, and even if you did all the parts are now so specialized that if the company that made the thing goes out of business you are screwed, whereas the one I have in there is simple, uncomplicated, the parts are all standardized, and it works just fine, even for being a first generation water saver toilet. Yes, I’ve had to replace the tank valves several times over the years, but that’s easy to do, and if the add-on bidet fails I can replace it.

Once I got all my clothes out of the main suitcase, I took what needed washing down to the basement and got the washing machine going. Thankfully It did not complain about my absence.

I got the window air conditioners out and running. I especially wanted to get my bedroom cooled off before nightfall because I can’t sleep when it’s too hot. The one in the living room is easy to set up, since it just uses a big flexible tube to vent out the window and its support fits perfectly in one of the front windows. But the little window unit for my bedroom is a chore. I built a support rack for it some years ago when I was having central AC problems then so I could have a cool bedroom to sleep in. But I have to lift that thing up to the window and small as it is it is still very heavy. Then I have to seal the window around it.

Welcome home Bruce. If a house is like a lover, then mine apparently got pissed off at me leaving it alone for so long and it’s making me earn forgiveness.


[Update…] I almost forgot… Something else I discovered after turning on the TV was my Roku box wasn’t working.. Then I remembered.

It’s the new latest and greatest Roku box. When I tried to turn it on yesterday all I got was the No Signal screen on the TV. There are no buttons on this Roku box, you have to operate it from the remote and the remote could not turn it on. So I did the traditional IT solution and unplugged the Roku from its power supply and plugged it back in again, and Voilà…I had signal. But the remote still would not operate it.

Okay, thinks I, the batteries went dead while I was away. So I went to change the batteries in the remote, only to realize there was no battery door on the remote.

And then I remembered. This new latest and greatest instance of the Roku box comes with a remote that you have to charge using a USB power connection and it’s own special variation on the mini USB cable that’s just different enough from other mini USB cables that none of the ones I have in my cable bin would work with it.

But I saw that coming when I unpacked it…it’s par for the course these days…so I kept the box this new Roku came in along with its cables, where I keep all my computer stuff so I would know where to find them, and be able to recharge the remote when I needed to. But it took overnight to do that.

In the meantime I could have used the Roku app on my iPhone or the iPad to control the Roku, but now I wasn’t in the mood for TV.

I cannot begin to relate how much I despise the new reality of rechargeable devices with built-in batteries that cannot be user replaced. It goes along with the overall direction companies are taking now of preventing us from repairing what we own, to make us have to buy new again and again, if not denying us ownership altogether in favor of making us pay infinate rent.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!

Return Of The Non-Native

I joke that I’m a Californian exile, but it’s not all that bad. I’ve lived in Maryland nearly all my life and Maryland has been good to me. Much Much better than anywhere else mom was likely to resettle after the divorce. Either Pasadena where I was born, or Oceano where my dad’s side lives, would have been nicer for a gay kid growing up, but had she been able to go back to her former home in Pennsylvania I might have been driven to suicide once the hormones started percolating. 

And now I’m back in my little Baltimore rowhouse after another extended vacation in Oceano, and if it’s taught me anything it’s that trying to split my time between Maryland and California just won’t work. Either I move out there, which I can’t afford now because both renting and owning there on the coast are way beyond my means, or I stay here in Baltimore in my little Baltimore rowhouse with an easy mortgage payment, where I can walk to everything I might need on a daily basis, and just visit California for a few weeks at a time, but not for months at a time.

The pro of staying in California…somehow…is I get to spend time in the land of my birth, a place I’ve always felt deep down inside is my true home. It calls to me in a way nowhere else does. But I’ve lived for so much of my life in Maryland can I really say I’m a native Californian anymore? Technically yes, I was born there. Culturally it’s another thing. I notice the difference in mindsets and attitudes all the time while I’m there. I feel comfortable among them, at least the coastal Californians. I would be happy to spend the rest of my life among them. But in a way it’s like living here in Baltimore after having grown up in the DC suburbs. I’m comfortable living among the people here too. I enjoy their company. And the local food here is delicious. But I know deep down inside I am not one of them.

That might be that perpetual feeling of otherness that comes with being a barely post Stonewall gay kid in the late 60s/early 70s. Plus the constant static I got from my bitter Baptist grandmother for being my father’s son. But there is a truth there too. Baltimore has its own culture, as does coastal California versus central Maryland, and I am more Maryland than California.

Maryland has been good to me. It was one of only two states that gave same sex couples the right to marry by popular vote. Even California couldn’t work itself up to that. I blame the central valley. I got a very good public school education here in Montgomery county. I made many lifelong friends. I had good jobs once I got into micro computer programming, managed to buy a nice house within walking distance to everything I need including my office at Space Telescope. I have my dream come true car. I can spend my retirement here comfortably. I could wish it were different, but given how good Maryland has been to me it seems ungracious. 

So I think the die is cast. I can’t afford to move to California, I can’t afford to stay there months at a time and maintain my home in Baltimore too, and I’ve got it so easy here in Maryland now, both financially and situationally, it would be foolish to throw that advantage away. I can go visit California from time to time and be immersed in the land of my birth. But Maryland gave me a home.

Posted In: Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 22nd, 2024

DVC Again

Disney Vacation Club welcome tote bag…then…

…and now.

The tote bags are the welcome package you get whenever you buy points in the Disney Vacation Club. There are goodies inside, but mostly it was that first tote bag that really told me I’d bought into something special when I bought my first set of points a decade ago.

This time around…not so much.

When I retired I sold my DVC points because I thought the entire Disney World experience was going downhill and I probably wouldn’t go back. Bob Chapek, the previous CEO of Disney seemed to just want to trash everything people loved about the parks. The Disney message boards were full of heartbroken complaints about his disrespect for park theming and guest experience. All the little perks of staying in a park hotel were going away and the annual pass system was being changed out from under us. I never got a notice to renew my old annual pass and assumed they just didn’t want us having them because it was costing them money. For a while nobody could buy a new one.

And then there was the new park reservation system. They’d implemented that during COVID, but then it became a permanent fixture. So even if you had an annual pass, you still had to make park reservations and if you might not be able to if they’d all been taken for the days you wanted. So to my mind that made the annual pass worthless, and staying at Boardwalk pointless.

Then it began to look like single diners could not make dining reservations at the nicer sit down restaurants.

So I sold my DVC points and let the annual pass lapse. But then they fired Chapek and brought back Iger and it seemed things were turning around. Some of the perks came back (I’m still waiting for the bar stools and food menus to come back to the Tune-In Lounge…). I went back a few times and renewed my love of the parks, especially after the Florida republicans went on a warpath against Disney for treating its LGBT guests and employees decently. I bought tickets for the first time in over a decade (because no annual pass) and navigated the park reservation system. I still hate it, but with the new “go-to” days looks like Disney World is trying to move away from it.

With some difficulty I got the Disney World annual pass back. Then I visited Disneyland for the first time and lucked out on getting a Disneyland annual pass before my second visit. While at Disneyland I was approached by a DVC saleslady.

What happened was I was checking out the guest laundry at one of the hotel towers, which as it turned out was their DVC tower. My next trip to Disneyland I’m going to try to arrange a ride on the California Zephyr…a trip I’ve fantasied about since childhood. The plan would be to take the Zephyr to California, and pick up the Coast Starlight from Emeryville to San Luis Obispo where my brother could pick me up. I’d stay with him for a few weeks, then take the train to Anaheim again and Disneyland, spend five or six days there at the Disneyland Hotel, then take the train back to LA Union Station and pick up the Southwest Chief, which I’d taken before, back to Chicago and a train from there to Baltimore.

If I do it that way I will need to be able to do a laundry before the train ride back home because I won’t be able to carry a lot of luggage with me. Just enough stuff for the train. I’ll need to do a laundry before heading back. So I asked a security guard where the guest laundry was. He offered to lead me to it because it was down an odd hallway. Afterward we talked about our mutual love of the Disney Parks (I told him about the classmate, that Certain Someone who coaxed me into coming to Disney in the first place, showed him a picture of the guy, and he said he actually remembered him(!)) 

When we parted ways, a DVC sales lady came over to talk to me. She said she’d heard me talking about selling my DVC points and she asked me why. I told here basically what I wrote at the beginning of this post and she suggested (of course) that I might want to look into becoming a DVC member again. There were specials going on and she could get me back in for not so much money.

I thought it over, and later via email asked her about Saratoga Springs, which I used to use my Grand Floridian points for to have a nice warm weather vacation in February, at a DVC hotel that gives me walking access to Disney Springs. Saratoga Springs was the original DVC hotel, and it’s the least expensive one point wise. Walking access is super important to me. The reason I had points at Boardwalk, besides liking the theming of it, was it gave me walking access to my two favorite parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. But with the park reservation system that isn’t nearly as convenient as before. You don’t need reservations to walk over to Disney Springs.

Over the next couple days we talked it over…I had budgetary considerations…and I eventually agreed to buy in again. I got 100 points in Saratoga Springs.

What you see at the top up there is one of the two tote bags I got when I first joined DVC, first for 75 points at Grand Floridian, and then for 100 at Boardwalk. The tote bag below that is what I got after rejoining.

This came inside the new tote…

That’s one of the little goodies in the tote you get joining now. I’m sure the saleslady saw the look on my face when she handed that new tote bag to me. All I can think is Disney is still sweating blood over all the money they lost during the COVID lock downs and now they’re cutting corners everywhere they can that doesn’t piss off the guests.

But I’m fine being back in. Not as many points as before, but for now anyway I’m splitting my time between Disney World and Disneyland, so I don’t need as many points. There is a DVC section of the Disneyland Hotel, but even if I got points in that one it is so high in demand that I’d still have trouble getting in, so I’ll just pay the money for a stay there. My annual pass gets me a discount on a room there anyway.

Posted In: Life Travel

by Bruce | Link | React!

Weirdly Ill, And My First Use Of My New Disneyland Annual Pass

Week before last I was feeling extremely bad. So fatigued I barely got out of bed. No energy at all. It began to scare me enough that I went to the emergency room here (after checking that it was in my network). But they couldn’t find anything wrong…at least in the tests they gave me. So I was discharged with advise to get with my GP back home, drink more water, eat healthier food (good luck with that) and take a multivitamin. 

That afternoon, as I tried to give my car an oil change, I felt so badly out of balance that I fell over twice, and felt like I was about to fall over every time I leaned over the engine compartment of my Mercedes. I was tempted to go right back to the ER and tell them something was still wrong, you need to give me some better tests. But as usual with me, I decided to wait it out and see if it got any worse.

I’d bought some Boost Oxygen cans for a possible trip back home via I-70, to get me though that 11k plus altitude at the Eisenhower Tunnel. The next morning I tried huffing one to see if it helped any. Probably, in retrospect, it was just coincidence, but I began immediately to feel better. I think now that I might have had some food poisoning from that popcorn shrimp I had at the Dairy Queen in Santa Rosa NM. But I don’t know.

I am feeling much Much better now, but I still have this disturbing feeling that I’m about to lose my balance every time I have to suddenly change direction…like when I’m trying to avoid stepping on Henry, my brother’s Maine Coon cat, while he’s darting in front of me to get my attention. I really need to talk with my GP and see if someone can figure out why I’m still having balance trouble.

Last week I took my second ever trip to Disneyland. In a previous post I wrote about my good luck in getting a Disneyland annual pass. I got a chance to use it then. As before, I took the train down to Anaheim, which is a snap since the train station here is just a couple miles from my brother’s house. But I made a mistake I’ll never make again with the hotel reservations.

Because I saw myself spending so much money with the new Annual Pass and the road trip to California, I decided to see if staying at a nearby hotel instead of at the Disneyland Hotel would work. There was a Holiday Inn close enough I could walk to the park, and I am a Holiday Inn One member so staying there would get me membership points I could use later. And I favor the Holiday Inn Express hotels while on the road. So I made a reservation for that one close to Disneyland. It was about one-third the cost of staying at the Disneyland Hotel. But you get what you pay for.

It was a bad choice. The room was the worst I ever had at any Holiday Inn. Way too tiny for the two single beds in it, next to the elevator machine room, and the doors to get in and out of the pool so there was a Lot of noise from the other guests and the elevator. I couldn’t open the window without everyone at the pool being able to look in as the room was slightly below ground level. The bathroom was barely larger than a closet. I’d rate it as no better than a two star hotel. So I decided to see if I could get a room at the Disneyland Hotel and just accept the cost. I had an unexpectedly good tax refund this year, so the money was there. And I really needed this trip to Disneyland to get me out of the depressed funk I was in since February.

But there was a problem. The Disneyland Hotel website would not let me make a reservation before the Friday I was set to go back to Oceano. I tried the hotel apps and it looked like they were sold out for the week. So the morning of my second day in Anaheim, I walked to the hotel and went to the front desk and asked if they had any rooms I could reserve. The clerk said they didn’t make future reservations for walk-ins, only same day. That was fine I told her, I want to check in today and check out Friday.

They had a room! No annual pass discounts for same day, but I was desperate to get out of that Holiday Inn room. I went back, repacked my things, and rolled my luggage a quarter mile to the better hotel.

There were other complications…I could not link my hotel reservation to my Disneyland app for some reason because it was a walk-in, so they made a new reservation that would link to the app, but then the key cards I had wouldn’t let me in the room so they had to fix that, and then I got billed twice for the reservation because they hadn’t cancelled the walk-in one. But it all got fixed.

The Holiday Inn refunded me the money for the days I didn’t stay. Then billed me for them again, so I had to go back and find out why. Turned out the clerk that checked me out early and gave me the refund, didn’t actually note that was wasn’t using the room anymore. So I got that fixed.

And I was able, finally, to have a nice Disney vacation. Mostly at California Adventure because that’s my favorite theme park now, even over Epcot. First thing I did after getting into the Disneyland Hotel room was walk over to California Adventure and use my new annual pass to get in. I had to use the Disneyland app to show the cast member at the gate my pass, because I hadn’t just then linked it to my Disneyland Magic Band+. Things are different there versus Disney World, where the Magic Band does it all. More about that later. 

So I’m back in Oceano now, and my mindset is much, Much better. Apart from the occasional feeling of losing my balance. Which happened to me lots while trying to navigate the crowds in the Disney parks, and Downtown Disney.

Oh…and I’m back in the Disney Vacation Club. More on all that later…

Posted In: Life Travel

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 21st, 2024

Discreet? Not Exactly…

Many years ago a girl that a friend of mine was dating told me, approvingly, that I was a discreet homosexual. I replied that I was single and it is easy to be discrete about your love life when you don’t have one.

I blogged about my relationship with that family previously, and about when I finally realized that all the time I thought I was teaching them that gay guys were just another thread in the American quilt, and that liberty and justice for all thing applies to us too, they thought they were encouraging me to stifle myself and be discreet. It’s easier for some heterosexuals (not all) to accept a gay friend or family member provided they don’t have to ever see any specific evidence of their sexual orientation. Such as a boyfriend. Or the way a beautiful guy can jerk your eyes around and make you look, stunned. As long as they don’t have to see that, they’re fine with you.

One of my straight friends, from way, Way back, friended me on Facebook, and then promptly de-friended me. When I asked why he said he didn’t want all that gay stuff I was writing about on his Facebook page. Of course I wasn’t putting it on his page, but mine. The thing was that he saw it, because he’d friended me which meant he could see all the posts I marked as friends only, and he didn’t want to. 

It was like that whenever we spent time together. He could talk about his love life, but when I talked about mine, or rather my struggle just to simply have one, he would change the subject. I was okay for me to be his gay friend, so long as I wasn’t…you know…gay. 

Especially when all you can see about your LGBT neighbors in this life, is sex.

It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance. -Vito Russo

It’s on this website, in my artwork and on this blog, that you really see the shameless homosexual that I am. Which is not to say I am given to a lot of overt displays of sexuality here. My art gallery is full of sexy guys, but there is no pornography, which I consider just pushing buttons. I am not given to graphic descriptions of sex, even in my fiction. But there is no doubt that I like beautiful guys and that that same sex couples in my fiction are lovers. What makes me shameless is I really don’t think there is anything wrong with being homosexual. I am fine with this. I am not ashamed. 

Because once upon a time I fell in love with a classmate, a stunningly beautiful guy, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve written before it really was like something out of a Disney movie. I walked with a lighter step, the birds sang a little more sweetly, the skies were a little more blue, the stars shined a little more brightly. I was twitterpated. It was wonderful. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of that.

I can see how your average heterosexual might have some trouble grokking this. Sex is a basic drive inside of us, older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us, and our libidos are what they are. It either turns you on, or it turns you off. Fine. I get that. But you don’t have to obsess about the sex I might be having to appreciate that apart from that detail of sexual orientation my desires are not that different from anyone else’s. 

All my life I have searched for that significant other, to have and hold, to share a life together, body and soul. And all my life I keep getting told that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with being homosexual, and having homosexual sex. But being reduced to a sex drive you can miss how the sight of a beautiful guy arouses more than my libido, but also every higher emotion of wonder and joy within me, that make life worth living. That’s the part that keeps getting missed when all you can see about your LGBT neighbors is the sex you think they’re having.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 

That sonnet speaks to something deep within us, gay and straight alike. 

I never found that significant other. I’m 70 years old now and looking back at having walked my entire adult life basically single and alone in my heart. I blame the world I came of age in, that kept telling me and everyone else that homosexuals don’t love they just have sex. In a better world I might have found someone to have and hold. A nice guy I might have met at a church social or in high school or at some social event for the gay kids arranged by caring adults. Someone I could have brought home to mom and told her this is my boyfriend and she’d have made a place at the table for him. Someone I could have made a life together with, body and soul.

So if you ever see me gawking at some drop dead beautiful guy, just let me have my moment. Beautiful guys are still a good reason to keep on living, and I’m probably not just drinking in his beauty, but also seeing what might have been if only the gay kid I once was had lived in a better world.


Posted In: Life Thumping My Pulpit
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 9th, 2024

California Is A Horn Of Plenty

I see the strawberries are in season now…

This is a big strawberry field less than a mile from my brother’s house. This shot is maybe one-forth of the area of the field. When I arrived last month the strawberries weren’t ready to harvest. They’ve a little shack on the street corner where you can buy fresh from the field strawberries. When they’re open they’re always busy.

This vacation spot where my brother lives…the Five Cities…has a surprising amount of agriculture going on. This is just one of several large and productive fields growing things in the area. It’s maybe a mile south of Pismo Beach. To our north it’s wine country. The grape fields are everywhere as far as the eye can see. To our south it’s all fields of various kinds of fruits and veggies. I pass through orange groves driving here from Barstow.

Driving from Baltimore I pass through vast fields of wheat and corn. Then there is cattle country. It seems like the rest of the dinner table is here in California. 

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
April 8th, 2024

Those Little Day To Day Coming Out Tests Of Nerve

I was reminded the other day, while in the ER, that there is a non-trivial likeness in the experience of being gay and of being atheist. I’m in the ER because I’d become so weak and unable to balance myself it was getting scary, but I am visiting my brother in Oceano California and I don’t have a local healthcare provider here. So I checked with my insurance to see who was in my network and it turned out the local hospital is.

Long story short, they found nothing that could be causing my problem. All the tests they ran not only came back good, but excellent for my age. So I will need to go over all this further with my cardiologist and my new GP (the previous one retired) when I get back to Charm City. That said, I am feeling much better now so maybe it was just a passing infection of some kind.

While in the ER, a technician came to do some paperwork on me. I say “paperwork” but it’s all in digital form these days, and then you get a paper printout when you are discharged. One of the questions she asked me was did I have a religious affiliation.

I said no, and for the briefest of moments, hesitated. I could have left it at that but it felt like I was closeting some part of myself. It didn’t feel right. It felt like I was ducking. So I added “I’m an atheist.”

No problem. She simply nodded and took it down. And that was that. But I took note of how much it felt like one of those little sudden moments a gay guy gets periodically when you are asked some innocuous question but it pertains to your relationship status and out of the blue you have to make this snap decision, do I duck or do I come out.

I am proud to say whenever this has happened I’ve dug in my heels and come out. But it’s always a bit nerve wracking. You never know what to expect. I blogged about a particularly bad outcome Here. Karma there was the guy who fired me and insisted it wasn’t because I am gay, was later arrested for not being able to keep his hands off young girls.

There’s a scene in Howard Cruse’ magnum opus Stuck Rubber Baby where the main character Toland Polk, describes his coming out during the memorial services of an openly gay friend who was lynched, and his lover in present day New York City avers “Say it once in public and the grapevine’ll take it from there.” Yes. But no. Probably within your own community and family that’s true, but you will find yourself coming out of the closet again and again all throughout your life in these little unexpected sudden out of the blue moments of truth.

You come out not simply to assert your own personal truth, and not just simply to stand up for yourself and your right to live an honest life, but also to be living testimony to the stereotypical falsehoods of who people like yourself are supposed to be. Yes I am a gay man. Yes I am an atheist. Whatever you thought that makes someone I’m a living example of one such and you have now been gifted with a small slice of truth, a living fact.

You’re welcome.


Posted In: Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
April 7th, 2024

Artists And Friendship

I have been called “a piece of work.” Perhaps. But there’s another word for it. It’s a word that feels really pretentious to call myself. But I am an artist. Given what Stephan Fry said even so…

Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it. That is your punishment. But if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
— Stephen Fry

This is truth. So maybe artist is just one of the verbs I go by. But notice all the verbs he goes by are arts. I am an artist, and not simply because I create art…

art·ist / noun

a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.

a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.

I would add something to this. Something about you produce art so you don’t go crazy. Something about you do it because you have that inner compulsion to do it and you can’t not do it. Vincent van Gogh so I’m told, once said he painted so he wouldn’t go mad. I know that feeling even if not to the degree he felt it. And to that I would also add that you have that need to get it out of you, whether or not you have an audience. You would do it if you were alone on a desert island. You would do it alone on a desert island if you did not have any of your artist’s tools, because you would make tools out of whatever you found on that island.

This is me. There was a time when I became so depressed at seeing what was coming out of me…my second attempt at finding love failed miserably because I’d crushed on a straight guy…that I stopped completely because I just didn’t want to deal with my feelings anymore. But it’s not so easy. You can’t stop yourself…

One way or another it comes out. I was doing volunteer work for a gay BBS and while creating login scripts and programs to help out with some of the work I’d signed up for, I discovered there was beauty in the relentless machine logic of computer code, and it was a kind of beauty that didn’t get into my broken heart feelings. It was mostly a left brain enchantment, all logic and elegance of form. I dove into it. And that led to a well paying career as a software engineer that I worked for just over thirty years before retiring. Then, part way through that I stumbled onto the Hopkins student fair grounds while they were setting up the rides and something inside me reawakened, and I got out my camera again after nearly a decade. I rediscovered my other art media…painting, drawing, cartooning. I am a graphic artist, mostly. For a while I felt whole again.

Maybe being a bit older by then allowed me to work with my feelings and make art again. Also, I was part way into strike three and it had not yet come undone, so there was a new allotment of hope there. Now I’m 70 and at a crossroads feeling hopeless again and not wanting to do art anymore because I hurt so much inside. But I know I will eventually.

So this is the essential thing to know about me, noun or verb: I am an artist.

And the thing about that is, if you have a thin skin, we really can’t be friends.

Because I’ll either piss you off or weird you out. I won’t mean to, I won’t want to, but it’s like that scene in the movie The Adam Project, where Big Adam played by Ryan Reynolds asks his younger self (it’s a time travel movie) played to perfection by Walter Scobell, “Do you ever have a thought and not let it come out your mouth?” I’m 70 years old now and I’m only just getting the hang of that. It mostly goes into my artwork, but sometimes it does just come out of my mouth or it’s something I do or something I’m wearing or something I’ve done with my hair that you just think is weird.

I am an artist. I will occasionally say and do some very weird shit. I’m pretty solidly Chaotic Good on the chart, but that’s my tribe.

I am not the sort of person who provokes for the sake of provoking. To make me deliberately insult someone they have to really Really get on my nerves and even then I’m more likely to just walk away. I was raised by a single divorced Baptist mother and there is a lot of morality baggage that comes with that, some of which I still very much appreciate and live by, some of which I still struggle with (I really should have learned to dance). But though I might initially appear to you as some sort of middle class quiet kind of guy, not very adventurous, not given to extremes (except for that long hair), I am an artist. I will occasionally say and do some very weird shit. Not that I think it was weird when I said or did it. If anything I might have thought you would appreciate it. 

If that is going to bother or offend you then maybe just keep your distance. Even if I am sending signals that I’d like to get closer. No…especially if. 

We tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves (if you’re any sort of regular reader of this life blog you know what I’m talking about here), and that makes them easy targets, even if you don’t really mean to stab. And the thing about that is we also wear the scars on our sleeves (have you been reading my blog?). Hell, we take them out and make art with them. Some of my best art is stuff I made from the scars. Nearly all of my art photography is off of some bleeding part of my heart. This is how we deal with the weight of our lives. Normal people just drink. Well…we do that too actually.

The fact is a thin skin does not pair well with an artist.

(This post is mostly for a certain lieber Deutscher. Yes I was talking to you. Mostly.)

Posted In: Art Gently Tapping My Pulpit Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
March 30th, 2024

Out Of It

This was something of an ad hoc trip to California. The initial plan was to wait until August maybe and do the road trip there and back then, after I’d had a chance to do Disney World around Gay Days. But then I lucked out on getting a Disneyland annual pass and that combined with the depressed state I was in after February/March gave me motivation to do California now, and work in a trip to Disneyland along with it.

I really needed something to pull me out of the gray dismal state of mind I was in, and I thought a stay with my brother and a nice road trip would pull me out of it. It hasn’t. I’m still pretty depressed. I can’t seem to work up a head of steam for any artwork or photography, though I’ve brought all my tools with me.  I’m just vegetating here like I was back home. I try to sit down and draw something, I put down a few lines and then I can’t go on. I haven’t touched my cameras since I’ve been here. It almost feels like that period back in the 1980s/90s where I stopped doing any art because I couldn’t stand to look at what was coming out of me. But it isn’t that exactly. I want to work, the energy just isn’t there. I feel like nothing inside.

I know what it is. Or at least I think I do. It’s end of life depression. Any hope I might have ever had for a love life is in the rear view mirror now. I’m 70 years old, and I’m seeing all those jokes about old men losing interest coming true for me now. I’m a heart patient, I’m on drugs that keep my blood pressure and heart rate down. I’ve no stamina anymore, but a lot of that might well be I just don’t keep myself active. The sexual interest is evaporating. My libido, which was never a hot volcanic chamber of magma to begin with, is shutting down. I will have walked from one end of an adult life to another without ever finding a lover, a true love, even if just for a short time. Just a lot of near misses in the rear view mirror, and gay friends who really didn’t care about the human I am and the life within me.

Theoretically, I’ve had a wonderful life. I got to be part of the space program. I spent 23 year immersed in space and science and all the wonders therein. My signature has been in space three times, on posters the astronauts took with them into orbit that we all signed…a small thing but a very very cool thing. I got to speak with the astronauts and listen to their stories firsthand, along with lectures given us by the scientists and astronomers working a Space Telescope. I was a part of all that. I have a little house of my own, and a car I’d always dreamed of owning. I have a small, but surprisingly (to me) excellent body of artwork and photography to look back on. I did photojournalism at some major political events in Washington DC. My photos and political cartoons were published in local papers across the country. I have screen credit as Associate Producer and for Still Photography, and an entry in the Internet Movie Database. You could say I’ve had an interesting an amazing life.

I’d trade it all, like Alexander Hergensheimer in Heinlein’s Job – A Comedy of Justice, and wash dishes for eternity for a boyfriend, a spouse to come home to, that I could have and hold. But fate does not give us those sorts of choices, and I feel like I’ve lived a completely worthless life. Remembering the gay “friends” who basically told me to my face that I’m too ugly to have those kinds of hopes doesn’t help my mental state. I trusted them. It was a mistake. But I always got left behind. Somehow, despite everything I had to offer as a friend and lover, everyone seemed to know I wasn’t worthy. I try to hold on to what I know about the person I am, and that yes I was, but it’s a lost cause now. I’m 70, everything that might have happened is in the rear view mirror now, and it’s all lost to me. I can’t not know at this point, that it will never happen to me.

It’s very hard to care about anything now.


Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | React!
March 19th, 2024

Light To No Posting Until I Get To California

…sorry. But between the server move and my being on the road during a time of crazy winter hanging on even in the Southwest weather, I haven’t had the energy or the time to post here. I wanted my few regular readers here to know this place is not abandoned, regardless of what you might have been seeing if you tuned in. And I have a backlog of stuff I want to write about when I get to Oceano, so stay tuned.

Posted In: Blog Administration Life
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by Bruce | Link | React!
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