So I prepared a few pictures of a friendly little house finch. This one lives in the maple tree in front of the house, so I see him a lot. For some reason, he tries to climb in our picture window. I have no idea why unless it’s a reflection and he thinks it’s another bird.

He’s awfully cute!

THE NEW TOPAZ STUDIO 2 – Marilyn Armstrong

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE Topaz filters. I love them so much I totally panic if I think they aren’t working correctly.

One of the things I love about Topaz is if you buy a filter or a plug-in when they upgrade it — even if it’s a major upgrade — they give the new version to you for free as long as you owned the previous version. It’s a life-saver for me because I couldn’t afford to repurchase the filters.

Today they gave me a new version of Topaz Studio, or more precisely, Topaz Studio 2.

This involved a good deal of reorganizing all my Topaz filters and plug-ins. Although they provide complete instructions, my computer is not exactly standard. It’s not the “home version” of the operating system and Windows 10 has made more than a few changes to the system. So for the past two hours, I’ve been in a nightmare of “What am I doing? Will my filters ever work again?”

I think I’ve got them working but I haven’t gotten a grip on Studio 2 yet. Therefore, I installed both Studio 1 and Studio 2 and I think — but I’m not sure — that I may need both of them, for a while, anyway while they get Studio 2 sorted out.

The various plug-ins with which I’m familiar don’t seem to operate in Studio 2 — or if they do, they work quite differently. It’s going to take me a while to figure it out. If I know Topaz, before I figure it out, they will send me three more downloads which will fix the things that don’t seem to work as they should. Just when I think I need to get in touch with them, I get a fix from them. Each little fix is an improvement over the previous one.

Thus I want you to know no matter how completely confused I am at the moment, I’m sure somehow, Topaz will make it right. They always do.

That is what I call excellent customer service. They have always treated me well and in return, I think they are the best. I really don’t know how I could process pictures without their filters!

BLUE JULY AND UP IN THE AIR! – Garry Armstrong

Up in the Air We Go Flying Again

Oh, how I love to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so BLUE!
Oh, I do think it’s the pleasantest thing,
Ever a child can do …

But lacking a swing, will a helicopter do?

Blue sky and a helicopter



If you have asthma or any kind of chronic medical problem that requires continuing care and medication, that’s the message you are getting. We have had a brief interruption during which almost everyone had access to at least basic medical resources. You could go to the doctor, get some medicine. Have your cancer removed, your broken leg treated. Now … well … who knows what lies ahead.

If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’ve been getting for a while already. Several years. They’ve been chipping away at the benefits. Fewer dollars for medication. Fewer covered medications. Deeper deductibles for tests. The out-of-pocket costs for an MRI or CAT-scan are ridiculous. Garry hasn’t had any major medical issues, but I’ve had enough for both of us.

Yet, I turned down a cancer CAT-scan last year because I didn’t have the $450 co-pay … and I’ve had cancer twice, so it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

medicare__estelle_carol___bob_simpsonMedicare doesn’t cover eyeglasses, dentures, dental care of any kind, CATscans, MRIs, or asthma inhalers. In the 1990s, when my asthma finally got bad enough to require treatment, a daily inhaler cost (without insurance) about $75. Which wasn’t cheap, but I could manage it, especially if I didn’t use it every day (no matter what the label advised).

One day, two or three years ago, the same Advair inhaler shot up to more than $500 a month. Medicare will only pay for about $12 of that price. Although they are not paying for it, they will charge the entire price of the medication against my annual drug benefit.

Let me repeat that because you probably think it doesn’t make any sense.

It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. If a drug costs $535 per month and Medicare contributes $12, they charge all $535 against my annual drug benefit. The amount of the benefit has been dropping each year while medication prices have soared. This makes sense only if the real goal is to kill off the older generation.

In another bizarre but real piece of anti-intuitive reasoning, if you are prescribed a medication, towards the cost of which Medicare pays not a penny, and you pay for it out-of-pocket, Medicare still charges the entire price of the prescription against your benefit. “What?” you cry. Nonsensical, but true.

It’s a lose-lose. If you don’t get any medication, you will have trouble breathing. If you do get the medication, it’ll break the bank and burn through your benefits, even though Medicare isn’t contributing anything towards the cost.

It’s absurd and true.

medicare confusion

From the government’s point of view, I am not cost-effective. I am sure my compassionate government would prefer I cast off my mortal coil. Save them a few bucks.

Never mind that over a lifetime of work, Garry and I paid enough taxes to fund a small country. Our contribution vastly exceeded any amount we will get back. Even now, we aren’t exactly free-loaders. We pay income taxes, excise taxes, and some hefty property taxes. And Medicare, while not expensive (compared to no medical care), is not free.

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been downhill.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

Medical marijuanaNo problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified me, eliminating my disabled status. Poof — I’m just old and not disabled.

They switched me to standard Social Security, so I get the same monthly check but without the extra medical protection conferred by disability or the other discounts on electricity and heating oil. They also lowered the poverty guideline so we no longer qualify for any extra help on anything — not fuel, medication, electricity and are not entitled to senior housing. In short, we get nothing. Because apparently when you turn 65, your costs go down. You don’t need money when you get old. Nice.

We’ve outlived our usefulness, so how come we aren’t dead? Why do we stubbornly cling to life? If we cared about our fellow humans, we’d get out of the way.

My doctor found some free samples of asthma medication so if I’m lucky, it will keep me breathing for another 6 months. Used cautiously and only when I’m really desperate.

As of today, we have a president — if you want to dignify him with that title — dedicated to making the lives of everyone whose life is already difficult, worse. Compassion, common decency, basic fairness? What? Huh?

medicine wheel 8

Today was the first time, I realized being a Democrat is not just being part of a political party, but makes me part of “the emerging Democratic resistance.”

I have to admit, being part of an emerging Democratic resistance sounds more romantic than just being old, sick, poor and not Republican. Maybe they’ll write books about us. Sing ballads. Talk about how brave we were right up until the moment when they put us up against the wall and shot us.


FOTD – July 25, 2019 – COLUMBINE

Bright pink Columbine against an old picket fence. Bright color and the texture of aging wood.

Columbine and old wood texxture