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Monday, December 15, 2014

All Social Security recipients received gay marriage benefits information for 2015

I lived to see Social Security recognize gay marriage!

Each year in December, every U.S. Social Security Administration beneficiary receives via the U.S. mail a single folded, custom printed page that states what is the automatic cost-of-living adjustment for the next year and what will be the new dollar amount for their Social Security payment, less deductions for Medicare insurance and other deductions, along with the date they should expect this dollar amount will be direct deposited into their bank account. (I am not sure if anybody receives an actual check in the mail anymore.) -- (At the bottom of the paper form that I received on Dec. 12, 2014 was the footer: "Social Security Administration Form SSA-4926-SM-DI (1-2015)")

I was surprised this year, given my low vision blindness, to see a prominent headline that read (Social Security) "Benefits for Same-Sex Couples," which stated underneath the headline, "We are now able to pay benefits to more same-sex couples. We encourage people to contact us to find out if they or their children are eligible for benefits or a different benefit amount. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples, which I noticed automatically redirects to the page, "Important Information for Same-Sex Couples," U.S. Social Security Administration socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples/ accessed Dec. 15, 2014:

"On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Therefore, Social Security no longer is prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages to determine entitlement or payment amount." (Quoted from "Important Information for Same-Sex Couples," U.S. Social Security Administration socialsecurity.gov accessed Dec. 15, 2014)

More on the annual Social Security adjustment for inflation:

"Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced today.

"The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum. "

(Quoted from LaVenia J. LaVelle, Press Officer, "Press Release: Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2015," press.office@ssa.gov Wednesday, October 22, 2014)

Also see "Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2015," socialsecurity.gov/cola accessed Dec. 15, 2014.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My new kitchen chairs finally match my Herman Miller table

My Eames kitchen chairs and Herman Miller Table TV HP Touchsmart

PHOTO: A rainy Oregon day can be seen outside my kitchen window beside my new Eames Aluminum Management Chairs that finally match my previously acquired Herman Miller table -- a Twentieth Century design I have always admired and that seems to remain in fashion with TV set designers today. Even though i have become color blind, I picked the slate (bluish) leather to pick up on the light blue kitchen cabinets I have. For me, the chairs and table work well next to a wall-mounted HDTV (which I can no longer see, but I can listen to the TV news) and an HP TouchSmart computer with a touch screen interface to Windows 7 OS and integrated HDTV. I bought the HDTV and computers shortly before I had a stroke that legally blinded me, but fortunately not enough to be unable to post this photo. Behind the wall on the left is my laundry room, which I mentioned in my previous post New laundry room attic vent installed for Speed Queen Washer Dryer plus future cooktop (12/6/14), where I explained, "It seems like everything in my house is going obsolete and needs to be repaired or replaced. . . . For example, my kitchen chairs are breaking up and unrepairable, therefore I just bought a couple of designer Eames Aluminum Management Chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, in Vicenza Leather with chrome legs (17171), which I hope to blog about after they arrive as promised next week." Done!

"When Charles and Ray Eames designed the Eames Aluminum Management Chair and Side Chair (1958), they created a revolution in seating that has lost none of its edge. These chairs were originally developed as a special project for a private residence being designed by Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard. Moving away from the Eameses' shell forms of the 1940s, the designers combined a newly affordable aluminum frame with a sling seat that subtly conforms to the body's shape." (Quoted from Eames chairs dwr.com product information)

Fortunately, my bad luck with damaged shipments and poorly built designer furniture appears to have been broken this time -- the chairs came in perfect shape, undamaged and appear to have been built with excellent materials and craftsmanship. Caution, your mileage may differ.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oregonian book review of new gay marriage history book

ONE Magazine Aug. 1953 'Homosexual marriage?' cover headline PHOTO: ONE Magazine was ahead of its time when it mentioned the idea of "homosexual marriage" in 1953 long before "gay marriage" or same-sex marriage became a cause of some gay liberationists. Former Oregon State University Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture W. Dorr Legg was one of the major contributors to the ONE homophile magazine and he was a conservative who probably saw gay marriage as being a conservative value. (See previous posts Oregon same-sex marriage vote and Pope resigns hits front page (2/21/13), W. Dorr Legg OSU archives records 1935-1942 (7/31/10) and Thomas Kraemer, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004," printed to PDF from OutHistory.org in 2010 is permanently stored by the OSU Scholars Archives @ OSU)

Given my low vision blindness, it will take me a few more weeks to read more than just a book review of a new book on the history of gay marriage (See book review by Judith Barrington, Special to The Oregonian, "Surprising scenes behind the successful marriage war," The Oregonian, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, p. 4 A&E Section, and posted online December 03, 2014 of the new book by Marc Solomon, "Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits--And Won," Foreedge 2014)

The Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) Sunday newspaper reviewer Judith Barrington said, "I was pretty sure I already knew most of what would be in this book when I opened it. But as it turned out, there were plenty of surprises in Marc Solomon's 'Winning Marriage.'"

I'm guessing that a book written by the national campaign director of Freedom to Marry will focus on the more recent history of the battle for gay marriage equality, however, on Sunday I asked "The Oregonian" newspaper editor to publish the following bit of "ancient history" (as most newspaper editors dismiss it):

I noticed the Dec. 7 book review of "Winning Marriage" ignored the contributions of the former Oregon State University Professor W. Dorr Legg (1904-1994) who in the 1950's published an academic research journal paper that predicted "homophile marriage" would be a natural consequence of gaining equal rights for gay people.

I was a member of the gay liberation group behind the first U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage in 1972, which let stand Jack Baker's legally performed same-sex marriage because Minnesota marriage laws at that time did not specify gender and Baker's marriage was never legally ordered dissolved by any court.

Sadly, I witnessed the first national gay rights lobbyists in the 1970's angrily reject the conservative values and genius of Legg and Baker because, along with women liberation groups, they viewed marriage only as a tool used by men to oppress women.

Thomas Kraemer
Founder, Oregon State University Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for research concerning humans or animals with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, The (Portland) Oregonian letters to the editor on My Oregon Public Blog, "Oregon gay marriage history," blog.oregonlive.com posted Dec. 8, 2014 3:16PM)

My physical hardback copy of the book is scheduled to arrive today and I hope to blog more after reading it, which as I said might take several weeks, especially now that OSU is out for Christmas break until after the new year starts. (This is a small college that literally empties out during college breaks, which is great for doing many things without any crowds!)

(UPDATE 12/12/12/14) My physical copy of the book arrived and between perusal of the index and the ability to search inside the digital copy of the book, I confirmed that the book doesn't make a connection to prior gay marriage activism in America, much less internationally --this would make a good Ph.D. thesis for somebody to write, hint, hint!

Oregon Obamacare versus Medicare comparison letter

My local newspaper printed my letter to the editor about my experience with the Oregon's new Obamacare website versus Medicare:

During the recent open enrollment for Oregon's Obamacare at healthcare.gov I compared what it costs for a Corvallis early retiree at age 64 versus a 65 years old Medicare recipient with President Bush's Part D drug coverage.

I found 69 Obamacare plans offered in Corvallis Zip code 97330 that ranged in price from $420 to $938 per month.

Most Medicare recipients in Corvallis pay monthly premiums of only $104.90 per month plus approximately $30 per month for Part D drug coverage, however, Medicare prominently discloses that the government pays most of the actual costs equal to $826.60 for Medicare Part A and B plus approximately $63.40 per month for Part D drug coverage, as calculated using Bush's delayed cost method also used by Obamacare.

Shockingly, this adds up to annually over $10,000 per Medicare recipient without including the additional dollars spent on co-payments, deductibles and other uncovered medical costs.

Younger Republicans are furthering their agenda, of cutting Social Security and Medicare to lower taxes, by stoking resentment in young voters with the above facts and the propaganda that the Baby Boom Generation will bankrupt the system and leave them nothing.

If Democrats fail to convince voters that capitalism and free market competition will not control medical costs, then eventually only the wealthy will be able to afford medical care.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Soon, only the wealthy will be able to afford insurance," Gazette-Times, Dec. 8, 2014)

See the following links:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New laundry room attic vent installed for Speed Queen Washer Dryer plus future cooktop

Vents in attic for laundry room dryer and kitchen stove top

PHOTO: Two new stainless steel vents are shown installed in the attic, one vent pipe (right) is from my laundry room for my new a new Speed Queen Washer and Dryer and the other vent pipe (left) was installed in preparation for a new downdraft cooktop I plan to buy as a replacement for my existing 20 years old Jenn-Air electric cooktop and down draft vent, which currently vents down and then back behind the kitchen wall before being routed up and over the laundry room to an outside porch built with a cathedral ceiling roof and open cedar rafters extending three feet above the laundry room wall and some existing holes cut for attic venting because the building code inspector would not allow the stovetop vent to exit underneath the floor and so close to the laundry room window as the installer planned to do. I'm glad the inspector insisted on the change, because it places the vent out of the way and it is protected from rain and the weather instead of having a hole cut into the concrete porch as my builder wanted to do. (See previous post Wheelchair accessible Speed Queen Washer Dryer replaces old Maytag stacker (7/7/14))

Speed Queen Washer Dryer and laundry room vent to attic installed 2014

PHOTO: My laundry room in 2014 after installing the new dryer vent (above and left) for my new Speed Queen - Speed Queen Model AFN51F Stainless Steel washer and Speed Queen Model ADE41F Stainless Steel electric dryer, which had to be custom ordered because they normally stock only the gas model that is demand most everywhere except places like where I live that have low cost hydroelectric power generators and a history of being all electric. (See previous post Wheelchair accessible Speed Queen Washer Dryer replaces old Maytag stacker (7/7/14))

I recently wrote about having to replace my 20 years old dishwasher (see previous post Dishwasher projects time remaining on kitchen floor tiles (10/2/14)) and my nearly thirty years old washing machine (see previous post Wheelchair accessible Speed Queen Washer Dryer replaces old Maytag stacker (7/7/14)).

It seems like everything in my house is going obsolete and needs to be repaired or replaced. For example, my kitchen chairs are breaking up and unrepairable, therefore I just bought a couple of designer Eames Aluminum Management Chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, in Vicenza Leather with chrome legs (17171), which I hope to blog about after they arrive as promised next week. I already own a matching 4-foot diameter Herman Miller office kitchen table that goes with these chairs, which I noticed have recently become popular with many set designers for anchor chairs on national TV shows. I have admired this chair's design for decades, but I have never been able to afford buying them until now. I've had bad luck before with designer furniture and I am very leery about the quality of these chairs' construction, even though I love the quality of their design.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dissertate before you procreate advice given to striking grad students

Headline 'Ready to strike for benefits' Barometer, Dec. 2, 2014, p. 1

PHOTO: Oregon State University student newspaper headline story, about the University of Oregon graduate student teaching assistants strike, by Claire McMorris, "Ready to strike for benefits," Baarometer, Dec. 2, 2014, p. 1,4. Also see the sympathetic Staff, "Editorial: U of O grad students deserve fair wages," Barometer, p. 7.

I first heard the story about University of Oregon graduate teaching assistants striking on a Eugene TV station located next to the U of O and my first thought was, WOW, are students becoming more leftist after a few decades of going more conservative and I wondered what has changed their direction.

Although the U of O tends to be more liberal than Oregon State University, I bet any unionization effort will fail because Oregonians have typically either not cared about unionization or they see unions as a problem. I believe unions can be good, even though the history of unions is checkered.

What made me laugh was the U of O student spokeswoman for unionization who told the TV news that she was upset by the advice from "around" the U of O to "dissertate before you procreate!" -- get your Ph.D. first before rocking the boat. She went on to talk about her concern that she could not get pregnant because it wasn't covered by the U of O health plan.

Although I've heard this type of advice before at all stages in my career -- put your head down and do your job before you rock the boat -- I hadn't heard this adage before about grad students procreating.

It made me recall that my own grandfather and father worked on their Ph.D. thesis while procreating and raising children. Thanks to my dad, I got to play at his knee while he worked on a chemical engineering program on the first computer at the University of Illinois in the 1950's.

I am sure the U of O student strikers will get a good education in the politics of unionization and I wish them the best of luck, but my advice to them would be to be prepared for a bare knuckled fight they might lose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My last supper is a Li'l Butterball Turkey and a Birthday Cake

Li'l Butterball Turkey 8.84 lbs. Nov. 27, 2014

PHOTO: A very hard to find and very small 8.84 pound Frozen Li'l Butterball Turkey brand (typical weight 6 to 11 lbs.) is shown on my kitchen cutting board ready to be thawed in the refrigerator, breast side up, for 4 days before Thanksgiving Day. I was able to find one 6 pounder in a previous year and this year every turkey below 10 lbs. in weight was sold out several months before Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. I love buying the smaller of these turkeys instead of the traditional turkeys, which are often more than 20 pounds and suitable only for a huge family gathering instead of for what the Butterball info page calls "more intimate gatherings." Sure, even with the smaller turkeys I have to freeze leftover turkey in vacuum sealed bags, but it is not so many leftovers that it fills up the freezer and gets freezer burned because it takes so long to consume it.

Reynolds cooking bag instructions

PHOTO: Cooking instructions provided inside of the Reynolds Kitchens Large Oven Bags reynoldskitchens.com (See Reynolds Large Oven Bags Cooking Chart (PDF)) that the manufacturer says is for, "Making tastier, juicier turkey and in less time -- Cooking moist and tender meats and vegetables -- Making a one-pan meal with easy clean-up." The instructions suggest a 350 degree F. oven and to distribute 1 Tablespoon of flour inside the cooking bag to prevent sticking, and after brushing the turkey with seasoning, then close the bag and cut a few slits in the top of the bag for venting while baking for about 2 hours for an 8 pound turkey. Using an oven meat thermometer placed in the thigh as directed until it read 180 degree F Fahrenheit (and the center of the stuffing read 160 degrees), it took about two hours of cooking time for this 8.84 pound turkey, which had been thawed for four days before cooking.

Birthday cake Ditto for 60th 2014

PHOTO: A traditional custom baked and decorated birthday cake with two candles to be put on top.

In an act of pure gluttony and pleasure, on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 27, 2014 I plan to cook and eat part of the above 8.84 lbs. Li'l Butterball Turkey along with a birthday cake for my "last supper" because I am not sure if I will live to see another Thanksgiving Day -- if this sounds too melodramatic and macabre, please note that as a child I set the goals for myself to grow up to be six feet tall, a millionaire and live to be the age of 100 years old. Ironically, I achieved the first goal to be six feet tall and I want to go on record stating that I still aspire to meet all of my childhood goals, however, I must note that being a millionaire today is even harder because it requires accumulating assets of more than $8 million given inflation.

I've written about cooking technology before (See previous post Sous-vide cooking method for steaks and eggs (4/24/13)) and perhaps my current interest in it is a form of psychic channeling from my late father who had a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and contributed to the invention of engineered food at General Mills in the middle Twentieth Century. Similarly, the plastic mesh bag surrounding this turkey was made from nylon, which is also channeling my Ph.D. grandfather Elmer O. Kraemer who led the invention of it at DuPont. (See previous post Elmer Kraemer, chemist, nylon, synthetic rubber pioneer (10/8/09) and Elmer Kraemer (Wikipedia wikipedia.org))

For example, the science of heat transfer and thermodynamics theory can be applied to the Web page calculator "How To Thaw," by Butterball, accessed Nov. 10, 2014 on the www.butterball.com site, which calculates that a 9 lb. turkey will take 2 days 6 hours in the refrigerator, but given my past experience, and the fact that my refrigerator is set colder than normal, it will probably take longer to thaw it and so I plan on starting the thawing process on Sunday Nov. 23, 2014 at 8am four days before I cook it. The manufacturer's safety instructions state a fully "thawed turkey may be kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days before cooking" and so I should safe from it spoiling on me.

For easy cooking and cleanup of the oven, I like using Reynolds Kitchens Large Oven Bags reynoldskitchens.com instead of their bags they also sell for cooking turkeys because the Large Bags are smaller and fit a smaller turkey better. Using a cooking bag also helps keeps more moisture in the turkey, which eliminates the need for constant basting during cooking, and allows faster cooking time because the cooking temperature can be set to Reynolds' recommendation of 350 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the 325 degrees F recommended by Butterball. The Reynolds Large Oven Bags Cooking Chart (PDF) also recommends coating the bag with flour before inserting the turkey so it will be less likely to stick and be easier to remove after cooking. Using this cooking bag method in a previous year for a 9.48 pound turkey took a little over 2 hours to cook to the thigh temperature of 180 degrees recommended by Butterball and a little less time to reach the 170 degrees F in the deepest part of the breast recommended by Reynolds' instructions. The temperature was confirmed with a digital temperature probe in the thigh (not drumstick) of the turkey making sure it didn't hit bone and also the stuffing where the temperature in the center of the stuffing was 160 degrees F when the thigh was at 180 degrees F. (See "How To Place A Meat Thermometer," butterball.com accessed Nov. 10, 2014)

The quality, taste and size of the L'l Butterball Turkey brand has pleased me for years as a customer eating one has always felt to me like it was a guilty and pleasurable diversion from my normally healthy diet of low fat, high fiber foods, which has caused me before to pause and look at the Frozen Li'l Butterball nutrition label, which states the serving size is 4 oz. (as standardized by food labeling laws meant to allow easy comparisons), which is comically less than the typical serving size most people eat for Thanksgiving Dinners. Nonetheless, the standard 4 ounce serving has: "Calories 170 with Calories from Fat 70, Protein 21g, Total Fat 8g and 250mg of Sodium." The turkey meat contains no "Dietary Fiber" and the package ingredients label lists: "Whole Young Turkey. Contains up to 8% of a solution of Water, contains 2% or less of Salt, Natural Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphate to enhance tenderness and juiciness." This so-called "solution" injected in this turkey evidently to make it easier to cook and also to taste better than the typical organic turkey, which I've bought before, proving that engineered food can taste much better than organic or natural food, but it comes with the lingering fear in the back of your mind there might be something harmful about it. Of course, there are also many food safety issues with non-engineered food, which likes to call itself organic or natural, but the risks are little better understood than some of the yet to be determined health issues with genetically modified organisms, etc.!

See the following links: