December 2016


An article from Engadget recently detailed Facebook’s practice of obtaining off-line data about its users from third-party sources. The picture above is from the Engadget article.

From the article:

Currently, Facebook works with six data partners in the US: Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud, TransUnion and WPP. For the most part, these providers deal in financial info; ProPublica notes that the categories coming from these sources include things like “total liquid investible assets $1-$24,999,” “People in households that have an estimated household income of between $100K and $125K and “Individuals that are frequent transactor at lower cost department or dollar stores.” Specifically, the report notes that this data is focused on Facebook users’ offline behavior, not just what they do online.

I have a constant on-again, off-again relationship with Facebook. Though I have been trying really hard to dump the service, I have been using it during the holidays because many friends and family members use the service as their only means of communication. This is where they share their pictures, this is how they communicate (with Messenger), this is where they share their interesting news. If I want to know what’s going on with them I need to log in and take a look. Plus, several of the aviation forums I follow are through Facebook. Annoying, I know.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the privacy concerns when using Facebook. I was recently doing some research at work on a new software package and imagine my surprise when I logged into my personal laptop, fired up Facebook and saw that hideous interface populated with ads for the software package I had been researching at work. I know how it happened: I logged into Facebook on my work computer for some reason and then all of a sudden there’s a myriad of cookies in my browser reporting back to Facebook on every move I make on the Internet, providing Facebook with all sorts of data.

Well now Facebook is going outside online methods and gathering data from third party sources that aren’t even online. If you read the list quoted above, you’ll see that Experian is listed, which I believe is one of the credit rating services.

Zuck and friends want to lean in on your financial data.

Every time I log into Facebook to see how my high school friends are doing or to follow along with some flights with some online pilot friends I’ve met over the years I know that I’m giving Facebook data on my recent Amazon purchases, hints and raves about my latest online tirade placed through a commenting section of an article, etc. But frankly, it’s really none of Facebook’s business as to how much money I make or how much our mortgage is worth.

The thing is that I can scream about this until I’m blue in the face. I can share the frustrations of using that very invasive Facebook Messenger program (particularly frustrating for iOS users that should be using the much more secure iMessage app). I can tell people that Facebook is basically data raping them and they couldn’t1 care less. Facebook is easy and free and easy and free is the American way. “They have nothing to hide.”

I have nothing to hide, either, but I still value my privacy. Let’s see what I do with Facebook in 2017. Perhaps I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

1 Just a pet peeve of mine, but it is “couldn’t care less”, not “could care less”. Because, if you could care less, then you should care less if you’re really that disinterested.

Repost: Resolution Revolution.

The following is a blog entry written 15 years ago, 12/29/01. I find it amusing to go back and read my old blog entries from time to time. I guess I haven’t changed much.

Resolution Revolution.

With New Year’s just around the corner, it’s time to completely revamp one’s life with what I call the Resolution Revolution. I tend to take New Year’s Resolutions very seriously. With the dropping of the ball and the birth of a new year, its the best time to take a new lease on life, slip into the body that I’ve always dreamed about, clear my skin, become more spiritually focused, get involved in civic affairs, become a cook, a gardener, a sky-diver, a nuclear physist, the list goes on and on.

But seriously, I do have hopes of improving my life and well-being around the New Year’s holiday. The holiday holds so much promise.

Last year, one of my major New Year’s resolutions was to become a full-time vegetarian. I had been dinking around with being a part-time vegetarian for a couple of months beforehand, mostly when it was convenient, but I told myself I needed to become dedicated to the cause. If it had the ability to take a dump, I wasn’t going to eat it. That lasted until we went out west for vacation and I discovered “Sonic” and “In and Out” burger. So much for that.

Another resolution I made last year was to not spend unnecessary money. In celebration of this event, I went crazy on ebay and purchased a cash register system from a defunct department store. I guess I needed a place to store all the money I was saving.

One of my better resolutions of last year was to learn to speak French. I did the whole CD tutorial thing, along with “French for Dummies”. Earl and I headed up to Montréal for a weekend, the perfect opportunity to test out my French. Trying to be friendly, I tried to strike up a conversation with a nice older woman in the mall. Since it was July, I simply said “Boy, it’s hot”. After she slugged me with her purse I realized that I had said, “I’m in heat.” So much for French.

The first resolution of this year is the only one I am going to share. I’m not sharing my resolutions with anyone. After years of making promises to myself, and announcing them loudly to everyone within a 50 mile radius of my mouth, people tend to not take me seriously anymore. But after my Resolution Revolution of 2002, suffice it to say that I’m going to be rich, famous, a contributing member of society and absolutely gorgeous to look at. At least until January 15.


Somewhere in the “Operating Instructions for the American Gay Adult”, there’s probably a section on age 48 and how you should be comfortable with yourself way before then and therefore be doing something worthwhile like leading UNICEF drives or bringing bags of Mighty Taco to starving children in Zuzumbia as Madonna shops for her children. These are all very worthy causes and during this past year I have remarked to Earl on several occasions that I need to contribute more to the world. I’ve also suggested several times that we go to Mighty Taco but we’d most likely eat it before delivering it.

Here’s the thing, the problem is that I just sort of skimmed “Operating Instructions for the American Gay Adult” and I’m still working on that self-image and self-confidence part. I’ve put myself through several batteries of tests. I know that I’m an INFJ. I know that on a scale of 1 to 50 I’m a solid 39 (I’ll let the reader figure out what that scale is for). I’ve checked my IQ on both long and short tests, from Facebook quizzes to Mensa exams to sitting down and actually taking a real test in a real IQ testing setting and it’s a surprisingly good number. People tell me I’m a warm, sensitive guy that just lacks a dollop of confidence. The truth of the matter is that I’m the nachos without a dollop of Daisy on top. I have some zest, I have some spice, I’m crunchy and inviting but my lettuce is a little wilted.

The thing is that I have a really good memory. I might ask Earl the same question three times in the span of five minutes but by god I can tell you that sales tax was department 94 at Westons Department Store back in 1975. I have a very-accurate catalog of every insult, off-handed remark and snide comment that has been hurled in my direction over the last 48 years and every once in a while my internal Viewmaster likes to click through those little nuggets and relive things that have made me feel bad. I have no idea why I do this, I’d rather watch my old “Electrawoman and DynaGirl” Viewmaster slides but they’re long gone. I don’t remember where they are.

“I can’t be seen at the mall with you because you’re too flamey”. A chestnut from my first boyfriend in 1987.
“You could be cute if you tried”. A little nugget of wisdom from the end of my first gay date ever when I was in college in 1986. I never accurately concluded if I was a charity case or not.
“I don’t want to play with him because he’s just too weird”. Whining in 1979 from a sixth grade classmate who had some nifty electronic game that everyone else got to play but I couldn’t because in all actuality I was wicked good at it and she didn’t like being pushed from her perch from the weird boy.

Add these little excerpts of gray matter belches to the fact that my 48 year old body is starting to need some new parts, has a couple of decades of extra pounds and the intermittent but persistent stream of Internet comments such as, “You had such a great beard, why don’t you grow some facial hair again?”, and my warm, sensitive self with a wicked good memory starts to question its image in the world.

The fact of the matter is that it’s all hooey. All of it. The comments, the creaks and groans from my body, the replacement parts, all of it is just a bunch of hooey with big spitting motions. I’m better than this. I’m better than that. My rational mind knows this. And it’s time to start listening to the rational mind.

In 2017 I have just one resolution. One goal. And that is, to feel like *I* am worthy of a slow-motion entrance.

I want to make an entrance, comfortable in my clothes, determined in my walk, confident in myself. I want to drop the shlep. Yes, I need to get some parts fixed up on this old bod. I will shed some pounds (again!). And, as my loving family reminds me, I will just embrace who I am and just go with it. Yep, I’m eccentric. I can easily turn that weirdness I’m known for into a big bucket of zany (I originally typed “weirdness into zaniness” but I don’t know if ‘zaniness’ is a word. It looks like a New Age name to me.) I have lots of digits and letters that work in my favor and it’s time to start using them as powers for good.

I’m not going to be fine. I’m going to be awesome. Friggin’ awesome.

Sharing the details of this goal would be over demonstrative and there’s already too much over demonstrativeness in the world. I’m worthy of attention but not of pity. I have lists with dates but I’ll keep them to myself. This is a personal journey for 2017.

I will, however, share the video of my Slow Motion Entrance when I feel I’m ready for it. Getting ready for my Close-Up.


I was volleying instant messages back and forth with a colleague at work today when she asked if I worked in New England. I replied to the negative and told her that I was sitting in Central New York, more specifically to the east of Syracuse. She then commented on something on I had said earlier in the conversation which made her think I was a New Englander. I had written, “oh, he’s wicked smart about those things.”

Yes, I use “wicked” as an intensifier. “He was wicked mad about being short changed.” “The bar was wicked busy tonight.” “Wow, that meal was wicked good.”

I’ve said wicked for as long as I can remember. At first I was thinking that I picked the habit up when I lived in eastern Mass in the late 1980s (I can say ‘Worcester’ like a native without even thinking about it) but then I remembered having a conversation with my sister and her friend Tammy when they were in junior high school about the use of the word wicked. Apparently Tammy had used the word wicked in an essay or something and her English teacher didn’t like the use of the word in her prose.

What a wicked mean thing to do.

Since I can remember the conversation about use of the word wicked from my high school years, it must have been part of my vocabulary for longer than I originally thought. Now, as I try to fall asleep (I’m actually wicked tired tonight), I’m trying to recall if my cousins used the word in the same way. I’m pretty sure that my city cousins didn’t, but I’m not sure about the country cousins. I remember high school friends at our lunch table using the word wicked a lot, perhaps it migrated from New England to our area in the 1980s or something.

Whatever the reason, the word has remained in my vocabulary for the last 30 years or so. Its use has been a wicked good time.


Yesterday Earl and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. This is the anniversary of our original commitment ceremony, held on 12/26/96, at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. We exchanged our wedding rings and shared our commitment vows with one another with Earl’s youngest brother Rick and his girlfriend, later wife, Helen at our side. One of the cool things about being in a same sex marriage these days is that many of old school couples have multiple anniversaries to celebrate: original commitment and then the legal wedding. We throw in a couple of other anniversaries (first date, when I proposed, etc.) just to keep the merriment alive all year long, but December 26 is the biggie for us.

Isn’t that the idea of a solid marriage, keeping the merriment alive all year long? As a gay couple we are already outside of convention. With a chosen family, the three of us are outside of convention. But honestly, the only norm that I’m looking to adhere to is the norms Earl and I have defined for our marriage. We have a custom-made marriage and that’s why we’re able to celebrate our 20 year anniversary together.

I look forward to continuing the celebration for another 20 years. He’s my best friend and we were meant to find each other.

It’s a great gig when you find it.


I was watching music videos with the owner of the local record store. It was 1985 or so and MTV was running a bunch of Wham! videos in a row. My ears told me that the whomever was writing the pop harmonies of these imported tunes from the UK was very talented. For the first time in my life, I allowed my eyes to see lust.

“I find George Michael so sexy”, I said quietly. The owner of the record store, Gene, looked at me for a moment and said, “really?”.

“Yes, he’s a sexy man”, was my simple reply.

“Does that mean…”, Gene started.

I interrupted him quickly and said, “probably. I’ll figure it out someday.”

I went back to enjoying the video, feeling changed in a subtle way.

RIP George Michael. Loved the music but couldn’t understand your image during the “Faith” days, but then a lot of us were still trying to figure out who we were at the time.

Register 16.

I took a part-time job for the holidays of 1990. I had moved back to Jamestown, N.Y., a small city in the extreme southwestern corner of New York State, earlier in the fall. Things were not going to plan. I had abandoned a job reading blueprints of ball bearings and turning them into computer automation. It didn’t pay well and the constant homophobic remarks from a co-worker led to the abandonment. I was single, though living in a mobile home with my ex-boyfriend. I didn’t have the funds to go back to college as I really intended when I moved back to the area. I felt rather down on my luck.

A few weeks prior to Christmas Eve, my mom and dad came down to visit and had stopped at the Hills Department Store I was working at part-time. After working for the second largest computer company in the world at the beginning of the year, I was embarassed when they walked to the back of the store and saw their son working in layaway. That visit included one of the few father-son talks my Dad had ever initiated with me, he told me that the important thing was that I was working and there is no shame in working, ever. A working man is a productive man and you work to make things better. The talk was only a few words because my dad was a man of few words, but those words struck chords with me that have been the bass line of the music of my life ever since.

So as the holidays rolled on I wasn’t feeling as down in the dumps about working at Hills as I had earlier in the season. I worked in the layaway department with three ladies: Nicole, Natalie and Martha. They were all typical gals of the 1990s, Aqua-Net, big hair. I liked working with them. I was holiday help, they worked layaway year ’round. Layaway plays a less important role in the retail world after the mandatory pick-up date of December 21st, so the girls stayed in the back when the manager announced to us that he would start letting the holiday help go. That’s when I was pulled aside by the head cashier and given an opportunity to work through the end of the year. Her name was Trish, and she had noticed that I was a very fast and accurate cashier.

Now remember this was the days before scanning. Every item was manually entered with a department number, an inventory number and a price. Greeting cards had a special button for an automatic 10% discount at Hills. Food items, department 50, had to be entered as department and SKU (inventory number) all as one number so that the tax would calculate properly. My cash drawer was always within ten cents of accuracy, with the majority of my cash-outs balancing to the penny.

It was Christmas Eve morning. I was planning on heading to my folks, about 300 miles away, when I got a call from the manager. He asked if I could come in and work during the day shift. (I usually worked the second shift at the store). Eager for extra money I went in. All but one register was already open and there were lines. After all, the old slogan said, “Hills Is Where The Toys Are!”. The head cashier, who bore a strong resemblance to Penny Marshall, asked if I could work the “old express lane”, which was Register 16 that was never, ever used. They had cleared discarded inventory from the counter. The cash register was a slightly older model than the others, it had green numbers instead of red, and it matched only one or two registers in the back office that were used for inventory processing. It was at the end of “the loop” so it ran slower. I logged in and turned on my “10 items or less” (should be fewer, grrrr) light proclaiming that my lane was open. The first woman through the line remarked, “they never open this express lane. Thank you! I need to get home and wrap presents.” My talent for speed on the old NCR counteracted the slowness of being at the end of the loop. For seven hours, save for a 15 minute and a 30 minute break, I worked the old cash register, making customers smile as they got through the checkout quickly to get their last minute Christmas preparations finished. Looking out the big plate glass windows at the front of the store (I wish we still had those), it was easy to see that it was snowing.

The store closed at 6:00 PM, I printed my cash-out slip for the day and logged off, turning in my cash bag to the office before punching out for the day. I felt good that night, working a minimum wage job but contributing to pleasant Christmases for families in the small southwestern city in a small way. It might not have been the most prestigious job in the world but I was productive and I contributed to the world, and that’s what was important.

Getting home to my folks was slow going due to the snow and it was midnight when I finally pulled into the driveway. My mom was still up, making sure her oldest was safe. I remember her asking about the weather and my drive and me giving her a simple reply.

“It was a good day.”


Earl and I have decided that we will be relocating in 2017. We are still working on the details, so I won’t comment right now as to where we will be moving to as that part is still up in the air, but we have decided that at ages 48 and 56, it’s time for us to have another big adventure together.

The Mohawk Valley is relatively close to my native land. In the past I’ve always described it as being comfortably far enough away that we wouldn’t have to worry about family dropping in while we were running around the house naked (doing God knows what [insert mischievous laugh here]). Aside from friends met over the years, Earl has no deep roots in the area. I’ve had “, N.Y.” in my address for 45 of my 48 years, so moving elsewhere in the country will definitely be a big adventure for me.

I’ve casually mentioned to a friend or two and to my mom and sister that we are moving next year and have clumsily explained that I’m moving “in support of Earl”. That’s been rather cowardly of me, it’s not his decision to move, it’s our decision to move. I have to admit that I’m going to miss several aspects of living here (mostly a couple of friends that I made at my job a decade ago and the flying community that I am involved with) and that has given me pause, but it’s not fair for me to sound like a follower of this plan because it’s not true. I want to move just as much as he wants to move. I’m just more emotional about it than he is.

As we make plans for Earl’s continued retirement, this move and such, it’s a little odd that we have to make contingency plans for our financial well-being, playing out “what if” scenarios when it comes to our marriage and some of the things that the incoming administration is cooking up for LGBT Americans. What was a guaranteed certainty a year ago (mainly spousal benefits and legal recognition for same-sex couples) could easily change with a few votes from the new Administration. While Earl and I have very supportive friends in the area that we can always count on, I still have a hard time reconciling the knowledge that several of our family members voted for a ticket that is so blatantly untrustworthy. I keep hearing that I should have a positive attitude, but when I already see cheers for a “First Amendment Defense Act” that would basically give folks the legal basis to ignore same-sex marriages (denying benefits, service, the ability to visit in the hospital, etc) based on one’s religious beliefs, I can’t help but not trust people. And when these things come into question, I’d rather live in an area that is solidly “blue” with a more progressive mindset. Folks says “everything will be fine (the worst four-letter word in the English language)” but I want to know things are better than fine.

I have higher standards than that.

2017 is going to be a year of change. That goes without saying. Earl, Jamie and I are going to do everything we can to make sure it’s a change for the better. And that starts with my vocal support of our decisions together.


If there was a headline that served as the perfect example of what I feel plagues our society today, it would be this:

I didn’t bother to click through to the article, so I have no idea what the author’s beef is with his Apple Watch, but apparently he wants to destroy the watch because he doesn’t like it. It’s interesting that I assume that author is male. Now mind you, as I said, I didn’t read this article that came up in my Apple News feed, but the headline is telling.

1. The author has written a click-bait headline to grab my attention.
2. The author doesn’t like his piece of technology so he’s going to be very demonstrative in public and do something extreme to get attention on the Internet. God forbid the author give the watch to someone or sell it for charity or something. It’s more fun to destroy things, make a video and get lots of Google Ad revenue. And in my defense, I would feel this way if he was saying the same thing about a Microsoft Zune.
3. The author is contributing to our disposable mindset for our disposable society. His Apple Watch doesn’t make him feel special so he’s going to waste it and move on to something else.
4. Clicking through to the article would probably lead to an article that is poorly written and hastily put together with the sole purpose of generating ad revenue. In my defense, the majority of my blog entries are poorly written and hastily put together but I don’t share them for revenue purposes. Honestly, upon reflection I have no idea why I share stuff online. Maybe they mold an opinion or something.
5. The author is apparently focusing on the negativity instead of any positive aspect of owning an Apple Watch.

Negativity and sensationalist language are the name of the game these days. It’s like the recent fad of “Elf on the Shelf”. Now, we don’t have kids so I have little more than a cursory grasp of how this Elf on the Shelf thing works, but apparently parents put a little elf somewhere different in the house on each day leading up to Christmas to help keep the kid in line. Perhaps Santa needed reinforcements. Whatever the motivation, the exercise is innocent enough and if it keeps said child from pooping on the television or setting the couch on fire, have at it. The thing is, many on the Internet are now perverting the whole thing. Elf on the Shelf is found next to a naked Barbie doll. Elf on the Shelf is holding a meat cleaver next to GI Joe. Elf on the Shelf has a mouse trap next to Mickey Mouse. Why have something lighthearted with great intentions when you can make it dank and dark like the world so apparently, desperately wants to be in the 21st century?

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a critical, judgey bastard that can point out the flaws of anyone at a moment’s notice and share these observations on the Internet. It’s a fault of mine that I am desperately trying to correct. Be the change you want to see in the world and all that. But sometimes it feels like people just want the world to be dank and dark. Destruction. War.

Well war, war is stupid and people are stupid. And love means nothing in some strange quarters.

The thing is, we can make love, or at the very least, a positive outlook, a trend again. Share your smile. Join me in trying to share what we like rather than what we dislike.

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.