Monday, December 31, 2018

Back in the Saddle Again (another week in review)

I'm not a fan of "Singing Cowboys".  Yet, I have to give Gene Autry some respect.  In addition to his work in movies and television, he became the only person (so far) to have  five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one in each of the five categories defined by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.  His trademark song, Back in the Saddle Again, has been used in many contexts, and I felt it appropriate for this entry....

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GFJ came Saturday night, and it was one last feast for her before a diet change to prepare for a GI Tract test.  (No, we're not talking of any *-Scopy tests. It's more of a digestion test that takes several hours. Don't ask me to explain more - I can't.)

The next morning, we woke up, and all GFJ could eat was chicken and rice.  (Eggs were ok too.) So we planned to have a limited diet for today, both of us eating relatively bland food.  Luckily, I have this stuff in the fridge, and would have eaten chicken anyway....

We took it easy for most of the day, then ate a quick dinner before trying to go out and see "Green Book.'  (We tried to see this last night, but it was sold out in Pleasantville.) There were only 4 people in the theater (including us), and we had no problem getting a seat.  I'd bet that if we tried to go to Pleasantville again, we wouldn't be able to see the film.  Given that the story was "inspired by actual events", I was glad to see that images of several real people portrayed in the film showed up in the credits.  If you have a chance, see this film while it's still in the theaters....

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Monday came, and GFJ went off to her digestion test.  Both today's test and the one she had last week were to test the amounts of two types of bacteria in her gut. They wanted to find out whether there was something about the bacteria cultures in her GI Tract that would be the cause of some problems she was having.

When GFJ left, I went back to bed, and was there until noon.  I had no energy, and nothing to do outside my apartment.  So I stayed inside and watched TV all day and much of the night.  The only time that I left the apartment was in the middle of the night when I put on a pair of pants and picked up my mail.

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By the time Tuesday came, I knew that I had to leave the house.  The Cat Lady (TCL) and I had a lunch date, and I made sure to get there for it.  After a few minutes of chatting, we went to a local diner for lunch - where I had a Greek salad with Chicken.  Strangely enough, I couldn't finish the salad.  We were surprised to find that we got both soup and dessert with our meals, and will likely go there again for lunch one day.

Once back at  TCL's place, I replaced the batteries in her thermostat, then helped her with her Xmas lights.  By the time we were done, I was late for my co-op board meeting. But that wasn't that big an issue as it could have been. Unfortunately, I found out some information that will likely become a "Clusterf--k" in the near future. (I wish I could talk about it here.)

After the co-op board's business meeting, we went to dinner with our current managing agent.  It was nice to get him to pay the bill for dinner, considering everything. And each of us was given a large box of chocolates - perfect for me to bring to the last board game meetup of the year.

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The only thing on my docket for Wednesday was the last Dining Meetup of the year.  So I took it easy, and didn't bother getting out of bed until noon.  (I didn't get to sleep until 3 am, so getting 9 hours of sleep was a very restful and helpful thing.)  Given how little I did during the day, I was surprised to find it was already 3:30 before I realized that I had to start getting ready to go out for dinner.

While getting ready for dinner, I had to deal with an issue my brother had found with my tax forms - some of the calculations regarding my share of the family home's profit/loss were different than those he filed.  So I had to send copies of everything (4 pages) to my accountant and await her response.  Hopefully, my brother is right, as I'd like to receive a few extra bucks from Uncle Sam.

By the time I was ready to go out (with time to spare), my brother called to continue our chat from last night.  I told him about last night's issues with the co-op that I can't recite here.  He agreed with me - this situation will become a "Clusterf--k" very soon, and there's nothing we can do to stop it from becoming so.  At this point, I barely had enough time to make it to the dining meetup.  It took me an hour to make it from Croton to a restaurant near the Mid Hudson Bridge.  But it was well worth the time getting there.  We had a very good meal, and lots of good conversation.

All too soon, it was time to go home.  GFJ was leaving her meetup at the same time.  But I got home first, and was able to change back to Mario before she arrived.

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Thursday morning came, and GFJ was up at 6:30 am.  As for me, I was asleep until 10:30 am - while GFJ was getting ready to go to the hospital for an outpatient scan.  By the time she was done, I had already driven out to Long Island (as Mario) to see my dad on his 91st birthday AND was having coffee with him when she called.

It took forever for me to get back home from Long Island.  Usually, the problem is Long Island traffic.  Today, it was traffic from the Bronx into Lower Westchester.  Yet, I was lucky.  I could have been on the Southbound side of the Sprain, and being forced to exit the Bronx River parkway at the Westbound Cross County parkway due to an accident blocking ALL the Southbound lanes.

Almost as soon as I made it back to Croton, I had to leave for Yonkers.  Luckily, I was able to make a quick, uninterrupted change into Marian and also be able to make it to Yonkers before the first game began.  When I arrived at game night, I made sure to give the two children their gift(s).  One was a "chocolate" version of the game of Uno that one finds during holiday season that both children could play. And the others were gift cards: the boy got a card for Barnes and Noble, and the girl got a card for Claire's.  I'm always glad I can do this for them, as I enjoy seeing smiling faces on children.

It was fun playing games again, and I even won one for a change.  I'll miss this venue for the next 2 weeks.  But I'll have GFJ to keep me company on New Year's Eve.

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Friday morning, I woke up without the alarm. Though I was wide awake before 8:00, I was in bed until 11:00.  And then I had to get ready to be at the GLBT Center at 12:45.

Arriving at the GLBT Center, I found that there was almost no one there.  The volunteer coordinator took a day off, and I ended up working with one of the directors.  (The film that was being shown at 1 pm was boring, no one else was there watching the film, so I turned the player off and sought out something else to do.)  The director had me sort out the CD's they had for sale, as there were cases where certain CDs which had been sold couldn't be found. And then, he had me insert newly acquired CDs into the containers, so that they now could find what they planned on selling.

Around 3:30 or so, I decided to drive to Yonkers and browse what was for sale at the Avenue.  There was one knit dress I was interested in, but I decided not to buy it because it didn't work well without well developed hips - which I don't have.  So I drove back home, had some dinner, and then relaxed for the rest of the evening.

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I'll talk about Saturday sometime soon.  By the time you read this, I'll be back to my usual lag between the time I write a post and the time it is published.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I have returned. (A smidgen more than week in review.)

Douglas Macarthur - A man who was larger than life, but in the end proved to be very mortal.  He was forced to evacuate the Philippines in WW2, saying "I shall return."  And return he did.  Sadly, he thought he knew more than his president about conducting a war in Korea and was forced out of the military for his actions.

But enough of that line of history.  I have returned from my cruise. and figured that I'd block a week's worth of information into a single entry, so that my posts can become more current.

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When I got back home from the cruise, I decided to catch up on my email and rest a little.  And then, I decided to take a drive up to Poughkeepsie to stop at Catherines and pick up some more underwear.  While there, I chatted with the salesladies, and found out how the chain was screwing the customers coming into this store - no one was being told that on the day after Christmas that there would be no returns, no gift cards, and no exchanges.  Women expecting to get the usual service from the store would be unable to do so - and the salesladies were quietly telling customers of the future situation.  One lady said that she expected that some customers would insist on the conditions of sale as of when their garments were purchased, and that the staff couldn't issue refunds.  So I suggested exchanges in kind, allowing the customer to get the same value product.  This would result in the closing inventory to be inaccurate, but with no consequences to the (to be) ex-employees.

While up in Poughkeepsie, GFJ called.  She was planning on spending time with me this weekend, dropping in on Saturday night and staying until Tuesday morning.  I'd have loved this, but the cough I picked up would likely be picked up by her and ruin her week.  So I warned her about the cough and suggested that we wait a few days until the cough and sore throat is gone.

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Sunday came, and my cough was still with me.  I didn't have much energy, as my body was fighting off the bug that's been bothering me.  So I didn't do much other than make a run to the bank to retrieve some money, then run to the supermarket to pick up some dinner.

When I got back from the supermarket I got into a nice, restful nap.  Then GFJ called me a couple of hours after the sun went down. Not being in the best state to talk with her, I chatted for about an hour while she drove home.  She then sensed how tired I was and let me go back to bed....

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Monday was a visit to the Doctor's office.  I wasn't looking forward to it, as he'd continue delivering the bad news related to me being overweight for so long.  Of course, the appointment took longer than officially planned, as I was there from 10:30 to a little after noon.  And if I didn't plan for this, I might have been late to see my ex-boss over in Rockland county.  I mentioned the problem I had contacting him before Thanksgiving, and he said that I should have left a message with the answering service.  Next time I plan to go away, I'll keep this in mind, as I don't want to travel without a full supply of medications with me.

My ex-boss and I met at the Cheesecake Factory, and had a long chat.  I yammered on and on about things, my cruise, my life, and then the usual political issues.  It's nice to see him now and then, but if it hadn't been for the work connection, I'm not sure if we'd have developed a friendship had we met some other way.

On the way home, I stopped by the drug store to pick up my prescriptions.  Several items were on back order,  All that I was able to pick up was an increased dosage of one drug, and that I should expect to see the other items arrive later on in the week.  AARGH!  I'll have to be in Mario mode for each visit, and I'm not looking forward to that.

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Tuesday was the day I was to meet Lili and give her a belated birthday present.  I've told her that it was the "gift of entertainment", but I gave her no clue about what the gift was.  Inside a big box wrapped with "Happy Birthday" paper, there was 5 assorted boxes of candy taped together.  Under those boxes was an envelope with a gift card to the local movie theater.

Lili and I met at the local diner for lunch.  I gave her the box with her birthday present, and she first thought it was only candy in the box.  Then, I had to tell her to open the second envelope (in which she thought was another card).  When she did, she was very happy. She realized she was going to the movies - any movie she chooses.

After lunch, I took a long drive home. And then stayed in for the night.  I felt tired, and wanted to let my body fight the bug that's been bothering me for a few days.

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Wednesday is dinner night with the Beacon Dining Group.  But I had to go out as Mario to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy.  And then, I had to withdraw the last tranche of rental income from the bank before changing into Marian.  While doing all of that, I put a couple of loads of laundry into the washer and dryer, so that I'd be able to put them away when I got back from dinner tonight.

Around 5 pm, I started to get ready to go to dinner.  I picked up my laundry from the dryer, folded some garments, and brought them upstairs to put away at a later time.  And then I started the process of changing from Mario into Marian.  During this change, I got calls from both GFJ and my Brother. So I was a little delayed in getting out of the house.  Yet, I got to the venue at a little after 7 pm.

This week's venue wasn't the type of place I'd visit again if I were hungry.  The Piano Piano Wine Bar only served "refrigerator snack food" during the week, and I had a choice between Mozzarella and Fresh Tomatoes, Spinach and Cheese dip (with tortilla chips), Salsa & Chips, and Three types of Hummus (with pretzels to scoop up the hummus). There was nothing substantial to slow down the metabolizing of the wine - and I had to drive home.  So I gorged on tortilla chips to have something in my stomach while I was drinking my one glass of wine.

When I got home, I decided to bake some brownies for Thursday night gaming in Yonkers. It was the least I could do, considering that I've wanted to use the brownie mix for a long while.  Hopefully, they will taste good when I bring them as my weekly offering.....

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Thursday was the scheduled day for my cleaning lady to come.  Waking up early (around 7 am), I took my time in getting moving, then cleaned up the place so that she could do her work. By the time the apartment was halfway presentable, it was 11:30 - barely enough time for me to get into the shower to be presentable as Mario when she came.

I left the house as the cleaning lady arrived, and went to Panera for lunch.  By the time I got back, the cleaning lady was done - but forgot the gift I left for her.  (I'm glad that she took the envelope with her year end bonus.)  So I took a little nap, and didn't start getting ready to go out as Marian until it was time for a quick bite to eat AND that I barely had enough time to make it to Game Night.

Well, I ended up getting to Game Night about 30 minutes late, and missed the first game of the night.  However, we switched to playing Fluxx, where I won the second of two games before I left.  (I had to give Lili a ride to the airport in the morning, and I wanted a chance to get some sleep.)  So I ended up adding a little something to this entry, stripped, and went to bed.

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As expected, I was a tired when I woke up on Friday morning.  Luckily, Lili wanted to do the driving to the airport.  However, she was nervous because I didn't pick up my phone when she called 11 times.  I was glad that I called her to say that I didn't hear my phone ring, and that I'd be ready when she got to my place.  When she got here, she sent her boyfriend to the wrong doorway - I'm glad that no one responded.  I had to call for him to come down - and we were on our way.

Arriving at the airport, Lili handed me the keys to her car, and off she went.  She had called me while I was on the way home. And again, I didn't hear the phone ring.  But I wouldn't have picked up the phone, as I was driving a car I wasn't familiar with and I was in heavy traffic at the time. So I picked up a breakfast sandwich at Mickey D's, and then went home to get comfortable and take a long nap.

Waking up around 2 pm, I realized that I did the right thing by skipping out on the Arts Westchester tour of the Newberger Museum.  But I still had to do my weekly stint at the GLBT Center.  So it was back to the shower, and then got dressed to go out.

Arriving at the GLBT Center later than planned, I put in about an hour's worth of work, then went out to do some shopping.  I first went to Yonkers, where I saw a nice pair of shoes for a little over $20.  However, I really didn't need another pair or two of dressy shoes.  Nor did I find anything else that I liked, that would fit me, at a price I could justify.  So out I went, and it was off to Target in Mt. Kisco. After this, it was off to Walmart on Route 6, where I finally picked up a makeup box to replace the one that broke before I went on my recent cruise.

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This Saturday would be the last day of speech therapy for the semester.  I'll miss going, but such is life.  So I set my alarms the night before to start ringing at 7 am, and woke up as the first of these sounds came from my cell phone.

I picked up a breakfast sandwich on the way down to Mercy College, and had my last session with the student practitioner.  We seem to waste too much time chatting, but we usually get down to work within a few minutes of my arrival.  In a way, I think this could be a good sign, as it may mean that I'm close to my goal of having a feminine voice and vocal mannerisms in the androgynous vocal pitch range.

After the session, I decided to drive home, picking up lunch at Shoprite before going home.  And then I relaxed until GFJ got here. We hadn't been alone together since before Thanksgiving, so it was time to catch up on things....

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Day 13 - Disembarkation

This is how Manhattan can look at 7 am on a Winter Saturday morning. It's a little depressing, but I was excited to be home again....

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Around 6:30, I woke up, got dressed and made up, then finished packing my bags. Although I had told a woman from the solo travelers group that I'd share a cab with her, I knew that was going to bail on that commitment.  Not only was the ship getting in 2 hours early, but I figured I need to get home quickly, in case my cough turned into a nasty monster.

I prepared to go out with my luggage, get breakfast, and proceed to the "self assist" line to get off the boat early.  Unfortunately, the steward politely hassled me a little, saying that I should have gotten luggage tags and have had my bag taken to the pick up area on the dock.  Since I've done the "self assist" route with Lili a few times, I decided to get breakfast and then pick up my bags for the self assist checkout.  Unfortunately, due to the steward's interference, I was about 1000' away from the exit based on the length of the queue.  Luckily, just as I got to the end of the line, they started draining the queue from my end, and I was off the ship by 8:10.

As I was approaching the customs stations, I met the same lady who checked me in when I arrived for the cruise.  We shared pleasantries, and then I sailed through the customs checkpoint without incident. Then it was off to the cab station for a quick ride across town to Grand Central.

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Normally, I'd take a minute ot two to pick up something to drink while at Grand Central.  I was very thirsty and had a sore throat.  But I had no time to waste.  I had 5 minutes to get myself and my bags on the train to Croton, and was willing to deal with a dry throat for the ride home.

I arrived at Croton feeling parched, and after a quick cab ride home, I was getting comfortable a little bit before 10:00.  If I had stayed on the ship, I'd have wasted 2 hours which I ended up spending catching up on my mail....

It's nice to be home....

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PS:  I'll be compressing my daily posts soon, and returning to my usual lead time between writing an entry and seeing it published.  Once I've reached this time, expect to see my posts delayed a little more than usual....

Friday, December 28, 2018

Day 12 - At Sea

Today would be the last day at sea and the last day on the cruise ship.  So I had to get prepared to leave the ship as much as I hated to do so.

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Strangely enough, I woke up early for a change, mimicking the sleep patterns that GFJ has had for the past couple of years.  She'd get 3 hours of sleep, wake up for a while, then get another couple of hours of sleep and need a nap in the afternoon.  I seemed to have picked up this sleep pattern while on the cruise, along with both a mildly sore throat and a mild cough.  Luckily, with lots of water, I could keep the cough at bay until I reached dry land.

I was scheduled to meet my Canadian friend around 12:30 at the mid-ship restaurant. But the place was closed.  Instead, I went back and forth between the mid-ship and aft restaurants looking for her and found her a little after 12:30.  She wasn't that hungry, but had a little food while I ate some forgettable fish and chips. We talked for 2 straight hours, and exchanged contact information. When we left the restaurant, we gave each other a very warm hug and promised that we'd be in contact with each other.

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Not having that much to do, I went back to the room and started packing.  This time, I realized that I carried way too much and would pay for it when I schlepped these bags out the door tomorrow morning.  When I stepped out of the room, I saw the steward.  He wanted to make sure that he could access the room this evening.  Since I knew that his only reason for doing so would be to lock the minibar, I told him he could do it there and then.  He did not do so.  But I slipped him a few dollars to say thanks, and he asked me to fill out a survey card to say what a great job he did.  There wasn't much chance that I'd do this, as his service was both too friendly and not professional enough. Since he was a Junior Steward, I had no reason to get him in trouble. So I'll finesse some helpful comments when I receive NCL's survey sometime after the cruise ends.

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Around 5, I walked over to where the Solo Travelers Group was meeting. And the "project" for the day was to exchange contact information with friends made on the cruise. This was a fortunate occurrence, as I wanted to keep in contact with another Canadian friend with whom I chatted a lot earlier in the week.  We took several pictures together, and everyone in the picture said that they'd email them to each other.  Hopefully, some of these pictures will arrive the week after I get home.  But I hold no confidence that this will happen.  Next, 14 of us solo travelers went to dinner, and I was lucky enough to sit with my Canadian friend.

All too soon, I had to rush up to my cabin to deal with some GI Tract issues and leave my group.  Hopefully, I'll get to meet some of these people again....

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Day 11 - At Sea

Once we left St. Thomas, the weather was going to change.  I should say that the ship was moving into cooler weather as it traveled North, so it felt like we were experiencing an "Indian Summer" day for one last time on the cruise.  It was the last time I'd see anyone sunning themselves on deck, and it would be the last time anyone bothered with the pools or hot tubs available to us.

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Waking up late, I wasn't ready in time for breakfast.  I enjoyed watching TV and relaxing before it was time to get myself moving.  Given how long it was taking for my swimsuit to dry, I decided not to go to lunch in my swimsuit and coverup (as many women were doing), but to wear a dress on the trip for one last time and skip the afternoon hot tub visit.

I started packing some of my dresses into my suitcase, but realized that I'd need to use the "expansion zipper" to be able to fit everything into a single piece of luggage.  Then I realized that I couldn't commit to what I'd leave out for the last day until the last moment. So I put the half-packed bag into the closet and went up to the library to read a new book.

Once done at the library, I went back to the room and washed my wig and relaxed for a few hours.  I wanted to look my best for dinner, as I was attracted to the woman I'd be dining with and wanted her to see me at my best before we parted ways.

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For the second night in a row, I had dinner with my Canadian friend.  If we were on a romantic date, we'd have likely been holding hands at times during the meal and sending signals that more could come of this evening.  Sadly, this could not be the case. But we agreed to have lunch tomorrow, as her last dinner on the cruise was reserved for her and her family.

Somewhere between the dining room and the theater, I lost the eyeglass case for my reading glasses. Since these are cheap glasses with a cheap "case", I could always replace the case when on dry land. But it is still a little bit of an annoyance.  Yet, it's better than losing the glasses themselves.

Tonight's theater offering was the comic magician, and he put on a good show.  However, I felt that there was something lacking as he spent an inordinate time with his patter and not enough time with his illusions.  I wonder if the cruise line limits the amount of props, costumes, etc. that any of their performers can bring along with them and whether this could have affected the show that comic magician was able to perform.

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After the show, I walked around the ship a little and met a woman all decked out in Santa clothing.  If she was already in New York, I'd wonder if she was going to Santacon.  Instead, I made a comment about how she was dressed, and we got into a nice conversation. I found out that she came from Pittsburgh and they spent $400 to park their car for the week. So I suggested that the next time her family comes to NYC for a cruise, that they consider riding Amtrak, then catching a cab from Penn Station to the Cruise Terminal.  They may spend the same amount of money, but have a much more comfortable trip from/to Pittsburgh.

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One thing of note:

Unlike other cruises on NCL, my steward didn't bother placing "Towel Puppets" on my bed each night.  Until I saw a note in the "Freestyle Daily" that they were giving lessons on how to fold these puppets, I didn't realize that my steward wasn't taking care of all of the responsibilities of his job.  At this point, his not refilling the shampoo and liquid soap dispensers came to mind, and I felt that this man may have been spending too much time chatting with people and not doing his job.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Day 10 - St. Thomas

St. Thomas - the shortest time we had in any port, and many of us wondered why we bothered stopping here for so early in the day.  As far as I can tell, they may have needed to fulfill contractual obligations to dock here a certain number times during the year, and this was one of those times.  But arriving at 7:30, then leaving at noon doesn't seem to make sense when most cruisers would not be able to enjoy a decent shore excursion before having to return to the ship.

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My alarms woke me up as desired, and I was on shore before 9 am.  I could have bought some fancy booze on shore for half the price that I saw it on the ship, but decided not to. Given my current rate of alcohol consumption, this could easily wait until my next visit. Lili got her present - a 4-pack assortment of teas.  She may not like it, but she will appreciate the thought.  And that's what counts.

While I was out, I noticed that the post office was closed.  The US Government decreed that December 5th would be a national day of mourning for Bush #41, and that all government offices would be closed.  At this point, I decided that I was not in the mood to buy anything more and that I wanted to go back to the ship.

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Once back on the ship, I weighed myself in the gym and then went to the hot tub.  This time, I stayed in for only an hour, as I had a dinner date with a new friend from Canada.  She was traveling with her parents and wanted to give them a night to themselves.  As for us, we had a nice dinner, and the conversation kept flowing for almost 4 hours.  We decided to meet again for dinner tomorrow night at the same time.  Although I couldn't act on it safely, I think I was getting the same vibes as when a woman was very interested in Mario and that there could have been a sexual component to it.  Since I still have male genitalia, there is no way I could even entertain a one night stand unless I were to tell her that I am transgender. So I did nothing to go over a line I could not cross....

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One thing of note - people on the ship that I've met keep coming up to me and saying hi.  It seems that they are attracted to me as a person enough not to avoid me when we pass.  It's a very nice feeling for a person who didn't experience the good side of humanity while growing up.  I guess I'm a better functioning person as Marian than I am as Mario.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Day 09 - St. Kitts

My mom's side of the family comes from the island of St. Kitts.  I've been to the island once before and I didn't want to bother with an expensive shore excursion that would be over too soon. Given that we docked a cab ride from the heart of town, I really didn't feel like risking the headache of accessing the ship without ID that matched my current presentation. There was just enough weight to tip the scales against going off the ship - even to buy a souvenir for Lili.

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Shortly after I woke up, I decided to get an early breakfast and look for photographic opportunities.  And the above photo of St. Kitts and nearby islands was one of the better ones I could get from the ship.

Today, I didn't bother with the hot tub, and decided to read the second of the two books I brought with me.  It was nice to enjoy the quiet of the library on the ship, and I worked my way through the book at a surprising pace.  It's been a while since I've been able to read more than a few pages at a time. And it was nice to get back into it again.

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In the evening, I met up with the couple from Day 7 for dinner (unplanned), and had a hard time hearing them due to the noisy area we were seated in.  They stayed for dessert (changing their normal routine) and then we went our separate ways.  I went to the casino where I doubled my money, turning a single $20 bill into two $20 bills.

At this point, I realized that I had one more port at which to buy something little for Lili.  Since St. Thomas was a short and early stop, I made sure to set my alarms to get up early and hopefully get off and on the ship shortly after an early breakfast.

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Considering that my mom's family came from the island of St. Kitts and that I have another link to this island that I won't mention in public, I love the coincidence that I can post this Christmas picture with a post about St. Kitts.

Since this post will likely be viewable on Christmas Morning, I want to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Day 08 - Antigua

Each time I visited a new port, I wished I had government ID whose picture matched my feminine presentation.  Sadly, I didn't and didn't want to take the chance on going out to where I'd need to show my picture before returning to the cruise ship. And Antigua was one of those places where I'd have liked to touch dry land for a while....

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Most of the time, the only thing to do near the pier is shopping.  It seems as if each port has the same duty free shops and the same types of local crafts.  So I didn't miss going off the ship that much - even though I wanted to touch dry land again and find a souvenir to give to Lili.  That task would have to wait until I reached St. Thomas.

Again, I started my day off with a good lunch, then changed to go in the hot tub.  I was having a good time until the "Alcoholic" bunch from the other day arrived.  At that point, I made an excuse to leave - and went back to the room to rest for a while.

- - - - - -

At dinner, I had an interesting chat.  I also found out where the solo travelers were meeting. While there, one person noted how useful last minute booking is if one wants to cruise for a minimum of money.  Of course, one trades the risk of not cruising where/when one wants for the lowest price possible for the cruise (if available).  He also noted some NCL pricing anomalies, where Balcony staterooms were selling for less than inside cabins and the risks of bidding for room class upgrades if one has a room in a desirable location.  I'll be sure to take advantage of his knowledge the next time I decide I want to go on a cruise.

After dinner, I decided to see Katy Setterfield again, and she recognized me again while performing.  Since her room often had the "Do Not Disturb" sign displayed, I left her a note with contact information and hoped that she would try to reach me when she got home.  (I correctly guessed that we'd never see each other again on the cruise, and that this would be the only way to pass along contact information.)

- - - - - -

One thing I learned so far on this cruise - Marian is much more of a risk taker with people than Mario is.  There is a word I felt that describes me when presenting as female, and it is "invincible."  I do not worry what people think.  Instead, I present myself as a female, and will acknowledge my transgender nature if brought up. People seem to overlook my anomalous presentation when they see the real me in front of them.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Day 07 - St. Lucia

Yes, I've grabbed another image from the internet.  But I wanted a picture of St. Lucia that reflected the beauty of the island, and knew I wouldn't have a good enough picture if I took it myself.

- - - - - -

Today, I missed breakfast because I woke up too late.  So I went to lunch and made the decision to stay on board the ship again.  Later on, I went back to the hot tub for a couple of hours before going back to my room to change for dinner.

While in the hallway, I met the singer (Katy Setterfield) from the prior night and had a great conversation.  We agreed to exchange email addresses before landing in St. Thomas, as she'd be leaving the ship then to return to Las Vegas and be with her family for the holidays. We chatted as 2 females, and not once did I feel that she was treating me as anything other than a "normal" female.  One of our topics was the repeal of sales taxes on feminine hygiene products - something which every state should do.  She was surprised and upset to find out that some states ration sanitary pads to women in prisons.  What do they think the prisoners will do with them?  Trade them like baseball cards???  Like many non-Americans (she's applying for citizenship now), she's very confused why we'd vote for someone like our president. I had to explain why many people needed to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of government, and why many of these people don't care that their beliefs and actions are misguided.

Although I've been gambling in the casino, it always has been low stakes.  I was only down $10 or so when I hit a nice payout - roughly $190.  This made my day.  I cashed out my winnings and left the casino while I was ahead.

- - - - - -

When I finally made it to dinner, I was seated with two people from New Jersey.  Both man and woman do a lot of travel together, but there is something subtle that bothered me about them. Could it be that he is foreign born?  Probably not.  Could it be that both were a little hard of hearing?  Probably not.  Could it be that the man talked very slow and let his partner do the talking?  Maybe.  I could make an argument that he was having problems with some cognitive tasks, as she was leading him through the menu to make his food choices and his after dinner beverage choices. And then, he was having trouble with a teapot and setting things up to finish dinner with a nice cup of tea.  I doubt that I'll ever know for sure, but I think this woman is trying to have as many positive experiences with this man as possible while he's in shape to have them.....

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Day 06 - Barbados

This is pretty much what the port of Barbados looks like from the air.  And if you imagine me being on the top deck of the ship on the center right, you'd have an idea of what I was looking at today while I ate lunch....

- - - - - -

Again, I decided not to get off the ship.  I realize that if I want my freedom, that I will need to find a legal way to get government issued ID that has a picture of me presenting as a female while still retaining government issued ID that has a picture of me presenting as a male.  If there is anyone who has an idea of how I can do this while living in New York State, I'd appreciate any help I can get in this direction.

After lunch, I decided to send a picture of me to both Lili and to the Cat Lady.  GFJ likes keeping her distance from me when presenting as Marian, so I decided to hold off sending her a message until just before arriving back in New York.

- - - - - -

Sometime during the afternoon, I decided to step into the gym and look for a scale to weigh myself.  Adjusting for the weight of my breast forms, it looks like I hadn't yet gained any weight while on the cruise.  (I figure that I would likely gain a couple of pounds or so.  But I wouldn't be sure of this until I weighed myself on my scale at home.)  Since no one was around, I decided to look into the women's locker room.  It was nicely provisioned, but was not well designed.  Even though it had 20 lockers, it only had enough space for 2 women to take care of their needs without bumping into each other and getting into each other's way. (Considering that I do not yet have the appropriate "plumbing", I felt it wise to leave the room as quickly as possible to avoid potential confrontations.)

- - - - - -

Tonight's entertainment was a comic magician.  He wasn't bad, and he was more entertaining than the comic who performed earlier on the trip.  Even though I picked up on a couple of his card tricks (I was seated close and had too good a view of what he was doing with his cards), he had a great patter and never failed to surprise the audience.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Day 05 - St. Maarten

I've recycled the above picture from a previous trip to St. Maarten.  The weather was similar to that I experienced the last time I was there, save that the sun was beating down much harder than my last visit to this island.

- - - - - -

Even though the alarm was set to wake me up early, it wasn't until 11 am that I finally went onshore and explored the shopping area near the ship.  My goal was to find bangles similar to those I purchased on my last visit - but to no avail.  It was very hot under the noonday sun, and the shop I bought the bangles in was no longer there.  So I went back to the ship and got comfortable. Although I left the dock with a little apprehension, I needn't have worried - the folks at this pier only checked to see that visitors had a pass to get back on their ships and didn't care who was getting on those ships.  (This would be my last time off the ship until I reached St. Thomas.)

I made it to the hot tub again, and finally got my first free drink of the cruise.  A fellow on an unlimited drink plan offered me the drink he was going to give his wife.  (This sounds a little worse than it seems - she still had a full drink, and she was comfortable with me getting her drink.)  Both husband and wife came from Brooklyn, and though they were nice people, I wouldn't feel comfortable with them as neighbors.

- - - - - -

At dinner, I enjoyed being treated like a lady. Then I met another couple from Seattle at the table next to me, and we had another enjoyable dinner chatting from table to table.  When we were done, I noticed the two ASL interpreters and sat down next to them for a few minutes.  Although we said that we'd try to have dinner together again, this was not a priority on their list of things to do, so I ended up sharing pleasantries whenever we bumped into each other at the 9 pm shows.

Walking around, I met a lady from Canada that I dined with at an earlier dinner.  Instead of going to tonight's 9 pm show, I stayed with her and chatted for a while  Like many from her nation, she wondered how people could vote for our current president - and I explained things to her.  We were developing the kind of friendship that could flourish if we lived near each other.  Instead, we could only be pen pals - and maybe meet when I'm in Toronto or when she's in NYC.

- - - - - -

To note:
  1. While watching the news today, there was an earthquake in Anchorage, AK.  There was a lot of damage, but from what was reported, no deaths.  Hopefully, they will be able to get much of the damaged key infrastructure repaired (or workable bypasses set up) before the worst of winter sets in.
  2. Bush #41 passed away today.  I did not know whether his funeral would be orchestrated in a similar way to Senator McCain's. But from what I found out later, Bush #41 believed more in traditional decorum than snubbing a tacky, selfish criminal holding the office of president.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Day 04 - San Juan

San Juan.  I'll never know why the cruise arrived at this port just before sunset. But it allowed me to shoot a photo or two that when properly cropped and enlarged would be worth framing.

- - - - - -

As has become my custom, I got up late today and allowed myself to relax.  I was a little apprehensive about going ashore because the gender presentation on my government ID didn't match my current presentation. Add to this issue that sunset was coming, and I didn't want to be off the ship alone. So instead of getting off the ship, I put on my swimsuit and went to the hot tub again.

Around dinner time, I left the hot tub and refreshed my makeup before going to the mid-ship dining room. I'd found that asking for a "sharing" table was a great way to meet new people, and this became my standard request for all but two dinners served in that room. And this time, I met a couple who sailed to NYC from Southhampton (England) on the Queen Mary and would be sailing back later on.  (Later on, I'd meet a single lady doing the same thing - and I wish I had her grace and self confidence.)

- - - - - -

The comedian from Day 2 was performing an "adult" show, so I decided to see him perform. And this time, he was recycling jokes from the first performance - including references to Balls/Testicles from his first show.  This time, I bailed on the show at the same time as the ASL interpreters and their clients.

I'm lucky that TV in the room carries both MSNBC and BBC News.  I'd go nuts without them to keep me nominally informed on world events while I'm away.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Day 03 - At Sea

This would be the third day at sea, and it would be the last one before reaching San Juan. I was looking forward to reaching our first port, but I had no plans for what I'd do when we got there.

- - - - - -

On my way to lunch, I met and chatted with a woman who had the room in my corridor next to the elevator banks.  I'll bet that she didn't like the nearby noise.  Little did I know that I'd see her again and have an even more interesting conversation before finding out who she was.  But more on that later.

The first thing I did after lunch was to change into my swimsuit and go into the hot tub. While there, I met a woman from Albany, NY and her family.  This woman (and her family) treated me as if I were a cisgender female - and I'd see her and her family many times during the cruise.

I was starting to get into the habit of mid day naps. After taking my dip in the hot tub, I was able to nap for the next 2 hours.  When done with napping, I went up to the buffet for a snack.  If I had remembered that the clock had been turned forward an hour, I'd have waited another hour for dinner.

Tonight's dinner was in the dining room at the back of the ship.  It is a little large and impersonal, but it is a place where I expected I'd have no problems sharing a table with new people.  And I was seated with a couple from Seattle, with whom I had a very pleasant conversation - even if I ran my mouth a little too long. Again, I'm not sure if they consciously recognized me as being transgender, as I felt I was treated as I were a cisgender female.

- - - - - -

I was a little late for this evening's show, and I could only sit near the back and listen to the performer sing.  Her show was much better than the prior night's comedian and she did very good impressions of Cher, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner and Bette Midler singing.  She had once been on "Britain's Got Talent" and has parleyed that performance into a career performing in Vegas and on Cruise ships.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Day 02 - At Sea

The first 3 days on the cruise were "At Sea" days. I knew that I had to find ways of entertaining myself without access to the internet and without having Lili to talk with during pauses in her gambling days. And I did just that....

- - - - - -

For some unknown reason, I woke up feeling very tired.  I think it was caused by having a split sleep session, with one session being from 1 am - 4 am and the other being from 6 am - 9 am.  So I took my time getting showered and dressed and went outside my stateroom for the first time that day.  After lunch, I was tired again, and took the first of my mid day naps - something which would become a habit on this cruise.

When it was time for dinner, I was seated with two ASL sign language interpreters from NYC and one gentleman from Atlanta.  The two ladies and I were really hitting it off, and we really enjoyed each other's company.  Too bad that we never got the chance to schedule another dinner with each other.

After dinner, I went to the 9 pm show.  This night, there was a comedian performing - and he wasn't that great.  Most of the audience was laughing at mediocre jokes.  One of these jokes involved the sign language expression for Balls (as in Testicles).  He was making way too much of a deal about this, and the two ladies doing the interpreting felt the same way about this comedian as I did - he wasn't worth the effort to go to the theater for a free show.

- - - - - -

Getting back to the room, a thought came to me.  Lili only likes to sleep on the left side of the room.  Given the configuration of the electric outlets, I was glad to have the room to myself, as my CPAP machine's power cord would be stretched across paths to both of our beds.  Having tripped once, gashing my leg on a previous cruise, I wouldn't want to risk this with Lili - I'd never hear the end of it if either of us got hurt.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Day 01 - Embarkation

As you might have guessed from my posts for the past two weeks, I was not making daily entries.  Instead, I scheduled several previously written posts to be published while I was away on a cruise.  And now, I get to write about it....

- - - - - -

Getting to the West Side cruise terminal is relatively easy if one takes both cabs and mass transit. Calling a cab service in Croton is easy.  Just dial 271-TAXI, and a car will be sent within a few minutes. Taking Metro North from Croton to Grand Central is easy, as long as one isn't humping baggage during rush hours.  But hailing a cab at Grand Central may be a little intimidating if one isn't used to doing it with baggage in tow.  One has to go out on the street where it would be relatively for a purse snatcher to run off with a purloined handbag. Luckily, I was able to exit the terminal at the corner of Vanderbilt and 42nd street and get a quick crosstown ride to the cruise terminal.

Total cost: $40 - Not bad when you consider that a cab service would charge between $140-$150 and expect you to tip the driver.

- - - - - -

When I got to the pier, I breezed through the lines, reaching the check in counter quicker than I usually do when traveling with Lili. Everything was going smoothly until the lady looked at my passport and did a double and triple take.  Again, I did my usual "Yes, that's really me" bit in my male voice. And she smiled.  For the first time, there was no "Mr." on my keycard.  Instead, the card simply contained my given name.  This would prove to be an asset, as it probably reduced the number of times I would be misgendered on the cruise.

Eventually, I made it to my room.  The configuration was similar to what I was used to for rooms on this ship, save that most of the time room entrances would be where my closet was, and that a closet would be where the room entrance was.

 Looking at the closet.
(It has more useful space than you think.)

 Looking at the bed
(The entrance to the room was on the left)

Looking at the bathroom
(At 3 square meters including shower, it's tiny.)

Not having to share the room with Lili, I knew that I had more than enough space to stretch out and store my stuff.  I could only imagine what it would be like if 3 people (2 adults and 1 child in a bunk) had to share this room.  It's bad enough sharing it with Lili.

- - - - - -

Later in the afternoon, I had to use the bathroom and I noticed one thing - the water wasn't draining from the sink.  With the help of the steward, I found out that one has to depress the drain stopper itself to get it to pop up, allowing the water to drain.  AARGH!  At least this steward was friendly, but he wasn't going to be up to the standards I was used to.  But more on that in a later post.

This would be the first of my nights dining by myself. When I went to the dining room, I was always greeted as "Miss" - something I really enjoyed.  So I did something I usually didn't do with Lili - asked to share my table with others. And I enjoyed dining with the first group of people I met on the cruise.

- - - - - -

PS: By the time you read this entry, I'll have been back from my cruise for several days.  I figure that it is always best not to tell people you have left town until you have returned home.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The doctor is in, but the computers are out.

Lately, I've had a conversation with a gentleman from an organization which is closing for part of a day to give employees the time to vote. It (the conversation) was a friendly point-counterpoint regarding how to make things easier for people to vote.  He wanted to use the internet, so that people wouldn't need to spend their time going to the polling place.  And I countered him by noting that there were too many problems with computer systems (bugs, hacking, opportunities for fraud, etc.) and that I was old school, where I felt we needed paper backup.  Little did I know that this would have an echo in the provisioning of my healthcare....

- - - - - -

Recently, I went to the doctor, and spent an inordinate amount of my time straightening out a "paperwork" screw up.  Seems like my current healthcare provider wanted something related to the coordination of benefits between them (HC-New) and a former healthcare provider (HC-Old).  After calling HC-New, I found out that New York State had listed HC-Old as my healthcare provider going into 2018 - even though my benefits ended in 2016.  This affected my doctor getting paid for ALL of my visits for this calendar year.

Before going much further, here's the timeline with key events:
  1. May 2014 : I was laid off from the Bank
  2. June 2014 - May 2015 : Medical coverage paid via separation agreement.
  3. June 2015 - February 2016 : Medical coverage paid by me (via COBRA)
    HC-Old coverage should have ended February 29, 2016.
  4. March 2016 - September 2016 : Medical coverage from new job.
  5. October 2016 - December 2017 : Medical coverage paid by me (via COBRA)
  6. Late 2017 : Enrollment in Healthcare via NY State of Health exchange.
  7. January 2018 - Present : Healthcare provided by HC-New.
  8. November 2018 : Notification (via Dr's office) that HC-New requires coordination
    of Benefits with HC-Old.
I called HC-Old, and they said that my coverage ended on April 30, 2018.  They would send a form to HC-New stating this.  However, they had to send me back to the bank to clear up this matter some more.

The bank's people had more issues.  They recognized that my coverage under HC-Old should have ended on February 29, 2016.  Then they forwarded me to their COBRA area to get this fixed.  COBRA area said they'd snail mail me a letter to confirm that my coverage had ended. So this may mean that I get an updated letter to HC-New to eliminate the coordination of benefits issue.  AARGH!

- - - - - -

Damn these computers!!!!   They can be both a life crusher and a life saver.

PS:  After a month, no more word came from either the doctor's office, the insurance companies, or the billing company that the remaining billing issues have been fully resolved.  Hopefully, I'll get no surprises when the new year comes....

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Quickie: I treated myself, though I should have saved a few bucks....

Considering that I'll be taking a trip soon, I decided to buy a new Vera Bradley handbag in a style that I have in two other bags.  And on a cold evening, I went to an outlet mall to buy a bag that I'll only use in summer months.  If you're thinking I'm crazy, then think of a Black Friday weekend sale that gave me 70% off on all merchandise.  I couldn't go wrong with that discount.

- - - - - -

Ever since I started presenting as female, I have found that I can never have enough shoes, handbags, or jewelry.  Each of these items can be used to dress an outfit up or down, allowing me to be casual during the day and formal in the evening - all with a minor change in accessories.

Women's clothing is much more complex than men's clothing. Most of the time, women in suburbia or rural areas tend to wear more practical clothing than those women from the cities.  For example, I rarely see GFJ in a dress or a skirt.  But I will often see Vicki in dresses or skirts - especially in the summer.  As much as many women like the simplicity of Jeans and a comfortable top, I prefer wearing casual dresses.  There is something in a dress that helps me establish myself as female when out as Marian, and I can use all the help I can get.

Today's handbag purchase was one of those things that will help me when in warmer climes.  I'm very comfortable carrying a simple black bag.  But it looks frumpy when I'm wering my summer wardrobe.  So I now have a bag more appropriate for the outfits I plan to wear.

- - - - - -

Sadly, the bills keep coming in. And I have to pay them from savings.  Luckily, I'm not spending my money quickly or wastefully.  Instead, I'm making investments in my future, including experiences I may not be able to have when I'm older.  GFJ says to live for the present, as the future is not promised to any of us.  I tend to do that, but make sure that there's something available for the future....

Friday, December 14, 2018

Thinking about a cruise I'll soon be taking....

Cruises are an ideal way to get away and relax.  When I'm home or on land, I am usually connected 24x7 - even though I don't always look at my electronic devices.  However, when I'm on a cruise, it's rare that I can stay connected, as the cost of being connected while on the ship is excessively priced.  So a cruise forces me to relax and disconnect for a few days. And I like this.

- - - - - -

Of these ports, I have stopped in San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and St. Lucia.  However, I have only been on St. Maarten and St. Thomas as Marian.  On one trip, I stayed on the boat  for St. Lucia and Antigua while presenting as Marian. And on another trip, I visited St. Kitts (as Mario) with my then girlfriend.  I wouldn't mind going back to St. Kitts. But I'd have to go as Mario to be safe - and I'd want to do this with GFJ.

So I think I will get off the ship at the 3 ports under US or EU law.  I feel that I'll be safe enough if I stay close enough to the ship. The shops near the dock are safe enough. And since there is little unique to see on each island after a fort, some handicrafts, and the local shops. why bother getting off the ship?

If I were traveling as Mario, I might consider one or two shore excursions. But most are over rated.  Time passes slowly on these islands, and for most of them, the tourist business is how they earn their hard currency.  Yet, some islands, such as the Caymans, have made themselves a name for private banking activities. Others have started to serve a less reputable class of customer, as noted by this State Department notice. One quote jumps out at me:

Due to the high volume of narcotics trafficking around the islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis remains susceptible to corruption and money laundering. The growth of its offshore sector coupled with unusually strong secrecy laws also remains problematic. The economic citizenship program is inadequately regulated, which contributes further to the federation’s money laundering vulnerabilities.

It's nice to know that Alexander Hamilton's birthplace is still a great place to do some sort of business.

- - - - - -

I shouldn't knock St. Kitts - Nevis.  When I was there last, it was truly a nice place to visit.  The fort on Brimstone hill was worth the visit, as well as spending part of an afternoon at Turtle Bay with its view of Nevis.

St. Thomas is something else.  I remember it as being more developed than St. Kitts. And when I stopped there the last two times with Lili, I saw all I needed to see of the island.  It had a little more history than St. Kitts, but not enough that I'd want to explore the place again.

Then there is St. Maarten.  Lili and I didn't take any tours here, and I wasn't that interested in doing so.  The best thing to do here is take a swim on the French side of the island.  But being Sunday, most people were taking off for the sabbath.

- - - - - -

As for me, I know which islands I'll be seeing and which ones I won't.  It's nice to be able to get away when I want....

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Quickie: Scammer Ignored.

Today, I received the scam message highlighted in red below.  Whoever sent it is a rank amateur fraudster. This person has no way to control my system, nor does he have any information that others do not know about me. 

You can write to the police, but they will not fix your situation. I am an alien, so they can not get to know my place accurately. Your PC has been compromised by my software. We turned on your PC cam the moment you browsed to the erotic web-site. I have the visual proof of you masturbate. We also have in possession your connections, so if you want me to keep this between us, you have to post 600 USD in BTC. Use this bitcoin wallet # 17HmMr17aa2hyQEXjHgf1rdf7skb4ET6aW to post the amount. You possess 29 hours after getting this letter. When you write back to this e-mail, my mainframe will right away transfer the information that I have full control over your device. So, immediately after your message, you will get new remittance details and you will need to post 2200 USD in place of the initial amount. Best of luck. Please be aware of the consequences. P.S. I am not a native English speaker but I hope you understand what I mean. Sending the money is the only way to prevent it from happening. Don`t try any funny stuff, it`s there is no point in that. This email was only used to notify me that you got the message. From Shanghai with love.

The reality is that messages like this are easy to ignore.  Just hit the delete button.  In my case, I copied the text and turned it into a blog entry for your entertainment.

- - - - - -

You'll note that this jerk mentions the police.  The local cops do not have much jurisdiction regarding this kind of attempted crime.  So why bother wasting their time?  The scammer says he's an alien.  Who cares what he is?  He is up to no good.  Has my PC been compromised?  Probably not.  I use a good malware detection package.  And why should I care who knows what I masturbate to?

Now, heaven forbid, this jerk has infected my machine.  I have another computer, uninfected, that I can use.  Yes, I'll lose some important data.  But I can always recover 95% (or more) of it.  It pays to back up everything, and that's what I do - just not as often as I should be doing.

- - - - - -

Right now, I see this message as an idle threat.  We'll see what happens over the next couple of days....

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More and more of us Transgender folk are traveling these days.

In the past, I worried about traveling as a person whose gender presentation is different from my legal identification.  Now, I don't worry too much, as I know I'm not alone.  Traveling transgender is not as fearful as it once was, as more and more of us in our community are getting out and about with minimal hassles.

- - - - - -

The first TG person I noticed traveling across the country in feminine presentation was Kim. She doesn't travel as much these days as Kim, as her job and her body have been conspiring against her these days. When I first noticed her blog, she was posting something every couple of weeks or so.  As the responsibilities of her job changed, she flew less and less, and I haven't seen a post on Kim's blog in months. I miss her posts, as she always had an interesting story to tell - even when she wasn't presenting as female.

Kim's exploits gave me the courage to travel as Marian. And it helped that I had Lili backing me up on my first cruise presenting as a female in 2013. Over the past few years, Lili and I have taken cruises in 20152017, and 2018 - Winter, and 2018 - Autumn. In addition, I have traveled to Washington DC several times, all without incident.  People are mostly tolerant of transgender folk as long as we are polite and treat others with the same respect that we want to be treated.

So when I see transgender people traveling as their authentic selves (mostly with papers that match their current gender presentation), it makes me feel good.  Sophie, Faith, Rhonda and others are going out as who they are and not getting hassled by security, or by people in the places they visit.  Things are not perfect yet. There are places that none of us would feel safe because we do not have perfect gender presentations. But things are getting better for us every day - in spite of the Trump Administration's attempts to nullify our existence. And I expect that this trend will continue if we live our lives in confidence instead of in fear.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Miscellaneous grumblings

Sometimes, I just have to rant a little.  And today is one of those times....

- - - - - -

Recently, I drove to a couple of clothing stores so that I could pick up a few items in advance of need. On the way to do my shopping, I encountered several cars who didn't know or care what the speed limit was on a clear, dry road in the daytime.  Does it take that much to drive somewhere near the speed limit if there is nothing on the road to prevent one from doing so?  Roads like Route 9 between Peekskill and Fishkill do not have enough passing zones, and if one drives too slow, s/he will create a traffic jam behind the slowpoke car.  If one is not comfortable driving at a normal speed, it doesn't take much to pull over, so that the backed up traffic can pass.

While out at one clothing store, I found out that the salesladies found out about their store's closing from the landlord of the building.  What a god awful way to find out one is going to lose her job - especially before the holidays.  Can't a better way be found to give the employees bad news when they know their numbers are up instead of letting outsiders unwittingly break the news?  And while we're at it, why should the salesladies sell gift cards to the store when, after closure, the nearest store to take the cards will be a 90 minute drive away?  Shouldn't they put the gift cards away and tell the customers a white lie, such as we ran out of gift cards at this store?

Of course, on-the-road stupidity is easy to find.  As I was driving home one day, I was heading into an EZ-Pass Only lane.  The person on my left was backing away from the toll booth, as the person in front did not have a working EZ-Pass with a positive balance. Two people did something stupid, and I could have gotten into an accident.  At the same time, there was a person "parked" in front of the divider that separates two toll lanes, and the person heading to the toll lane to the right of me made his move into my lane.  How stupid can people get?

As I've mentioned in other entries, I take blood pressure pills and pills to manage my blood sugar level.  (This is what happens when one is too Zaftig for her own good.)  When I went to the drug store, I found out that my health care insurance firm had no provisions for the early purchase of prescriptions when someone is going away on a trip.  I'm lucky to be able to afford paying the "rack rate" for my pills.  But I shouldn't have to do so.  Instead, they should have a process where I could get the pills I need for the length of time one expects to be away from home.  (Luckily, CVS will fill that prescription at any of its stores in the US. But one has to be in the US and be presenting with the same gender that appears on the insurance card.)  Another headache in this area is with my Doctor.  He has no way to contact his office electronically during his off hours.  If I had known that a prescription had no refills left, I could have contacted him at the beginning of the week - and have his office call in the prescription the next day.

Next, I have to think of the cruise line on which I've taken most of my cruises as of late. On the day of the cruise, Lili asked me to print off a copy of the cruise documents.  We were lucky that I had done so the night before, as they make this information unavailable the day of the cruise.  If you forget to print these documents, or lose them, you'll have headaches when you get to the pier.  Who needs those problems?

Given that the Christmas "Shoplifting" Season 😉 is upon us, why are they doing major road work down the road from the Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall?  I drove there the other day, and got stuck in the construction zone while driving from the outlet mall to the nearby Walmart, and then to Eastbound Route 6. This is the type of idiocy that will keep people like me from shopping in that area until the roadwork is complete.  And that will hurt the businesses that make their the bulk of their profits between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

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I could have gone on and on.  But I feel that six gripes are enough to vent in one day

Monday, December 10, 2018

As I said in an earlier post, I'm getting ready for a trip.

One of the things about planning for a trip is that one should generate a packing list well ahead of time, and then once the bags are packed - purge ruthlessly to carry only what is absolutely needed for the trip.  I'd have trouble doing this if I were flying, as I can never get the bag light enough to avoid overweight charges.  Thankfully, my trips are by train or by cruise ship these days....

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It's a nice thing to plan for a Caribbean cruise in the Winter.  Other than the cold weather clothing needed for the days of embarkation and disembarkation, one can usually wear Spring/Fall weather clothing on the second and last full day of cruising, then wear Summer clothing for the rest of the trip. On a 7 day trip, one can wear Summer clothes 3 days out of the 7.  But on a 10+ day trip, one can wear comfortable clothing most of the trip. It's not enough to be wearing comfortable clothing.  A woman has to make sure that all of her necessities are with her - makeup, swimsuit, sandals, etc.  And, it would be a shame NOT to have comfortable Summer weight dresses to wear when in those tropical climes.

When I woke up this morning, I still had my suitcase laid across my bed and stuff all over the place.  Most of the summer clothes I planned to take with me were already packed, but there was more to take care of.  HWA called asking when I would come by to drop off my car keys, so that while I was away the car could be moved if show plowing was needed. There was still so much to do, and so little time to do so.

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One of the things on my list to do was getting a mani-pedi.  Unfortunately, the salon I usually go to was closed.  So I went to another shop in town.  I was lucky, for as soon as I got seated in the pedicure station, several women came in wanting mani-pedis.  They had to wait for at least a half hour while the three of us already being served were finished with our procedures.  Shortly after finishing my manicure, the woman working on me asked if I'd like my eyebrows waxed.  And I said "Yes" without a thought.  (This may cause me problems on my return, but I'll deal with them then.)  This left my face looking much better than it had in years - and I intend to do this before going away on another long trip.

Once done at the nail spa, it was time to buy a couple of books to read on the cruise. So it was off to Barnes and Noble with a quick stop at The Avenue.  I didn't find the book I wanted, but I found two others worth the read and a book that I'll buy for the Cat Lady on my return - "You had me at Meow."  Hopefully, she'll enjoy it.

Arriving home, I sent Lili a picture of my face with the waxed eyebrows - and she loved it.  It'll be perfect for me on the cruise, but something I'll have to fill in when I get home.  I can only imagine what it will be like when I finally get my ears pierced.....

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The run up to a trip

Since my last cruise, I've been adding blog entries to the publish(ed) queue in order to avoid having to play catch up with posting entries when I returned from my next trip.  By the time you read this entry, I'll be back from another trip and will already be publishing new entries to cover events that happened on the trip.

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When I left GFJ on Thanksgiving, we agreed to get together for dinner and a movie today.  Our choices of movies weren't that great. But it would be the last time we will be together for a reasonably "long" period of time.

I didn't do much of anything until 1 pm, when I started preparing in advance of my trip. Since I'll be taking a cruise to somewhere warm, I had to take my summer dresses out of my storage containers and make some hard decisions about what to put in my suitcase. This is a big pain, as I have 10 storage containers stacked in one corner of the room, another 5 stacked near my air conditioner, and me not knowing where several dresses could be found.

After working on the sorting out of clothes for a while, it was time for me to get showered, dressed, and ready to see GFJ as Mario.  I lallygagged around the house taking care of little things until 3:30, and couldn't find the keys I use when out as Mario.  After 10 minutes, I found the keys in a place I wouldn't have expected - my coat.  Normally, I leave them in the pocket of the pair of pants I last wore outside. But I was rushed when I came in on Thursday, and couldn't bother with the niceties of putting things where I could always find them.

So I drove up to the diner to meet GFJ, and I got there a little early.  This was good, as I had time to read some email before the two of us went inside for dinner.  And then we went to see Instant Family.  (I joked, "Does this mean that there's a way to make a family by 'just adding water?'")  It's a pleasant, mindless piece of fluff.  But it was done well by the actors involved in making the film.

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All too soon, it was time to leave.  So GFJ and I hugged and kissed a little in an alcove, and we parted.  On the way home, I chatted with Lili, and found out that her computer was infected with some malware. If she doesn't get help from her neighbor, I'll recommend that she visit the computer shop that reinstalled my laptop's copy of Windows after a buggy update. (Let them deal with Lili - I don't have the time.)  After Lili, I chatted with the Cat Lady.  She's been hemming and hawing about buying Amtrak tickets to see her daughter in Virginia for Xmas.  I hope she does so soon, as ticket prices are about to spike again.