Hysteria.

And it’s started. We have less than a half inch of snow on the ground at the moment (we had more yesterday) but the television is covered with so many warning crawls you’re lucky if you can see more than one eyeball of any character on any given show this evening. Winter storm warnings. Winter storm watches. Winter weather events. Polar vortices. Snow Devils. Icicle launches. Blizzards. Typhoon. Bad breath. The list goes on and on.

Undoubtedly the weather channel has named all of these events. So have I. I have dubbed the “asshat”.

Either I’m getting crankier as I get older or people are becoming insane. I lean toward the latter. Folks are Up. In. Arms. about the fact that it’s snowing in these parts in November. Global Climate Change. Gas emissions. Starbucks. Chemtrails. Everything is to blame because it’s never been this way before. Snow in November. Who’d a thunk it.

Except when I was kid I went trick or treating on several occasions in snowstorms.

When I worked for ARC in the 90s school was closed in mid October due to an early snowfall.

I’ve ridden a sled or snowmobile on Thanksgiving day at least a dozen times in 46 years.

Listen people of Upstate New York, I don’t know where all the fair weather freaks are coming from but I ask that you kindly leave and take your hysteria with you. I’m damn proud to be born and raised in the Lake Ontario snowbelt and just to prove my point I’ll haul my ass into the office everyday the local schools close as administrators cower in fear and teach their students to do the same.

I was born and bred of hearty stock and I’ll wear that like that badge of honor it is. And I don’t care if it’s covered in snow, get the hell off my lawn.

Time.

32 years ago on Thanksgiving Day I accidentally slid down a pile of chicken manure, fell through the a hole in the barn floor and whacked a tractor with my left arm before landing on the cement ground floor of the barn. I jumped up and grabbed my left elbow. My sister laughed because I looked like I was running around like one of the villains on Scooby Doo.

sd-ep-13a

My mom had to make a few phone calls to get a physicians assistant to open up the nearest medical facility, which was called NOCHSI. This was in the days before 911 and associated hysteria. The nearest official emergency room was over 35 miles away. It was determined that my left elbow was either broken, sprained, dislocated or disconnected, but they put my arm in a sling and told me to go to the doctor during normal office hours.

It turns out my elbow was fractured and keeping my arm in a sling for the next six weeks would get me on the mend immediately. To this day I know when it’s going to rain because my left elbow was rewired for that sort of thing during this incident.

Thanksgiving took place 10 days ahead of the school play that year; the drama club would be presenting “Mame” (the musical version). I had a very prestigious part as one of Mame’s guests during the “It’s Today!” number. I can still creak out the bass part of the song if I put my mind to it.

My mom wanted me out of the play but I had some sort of early gay actor hissy fit and she acquiesced like she normally did. No words were necessary, just a glare followed by a look of resignation. My dad’s response was predictable, a smile followed by the word “huh”. That meant “I love you”.

When I went back to school and the subsequent after hours rehearsal for this part, I was approached by a girl a couple of years older than me. She told me that I needed to drop out of the play because Mame’s guests did not have a sling on their arm. Now, the director of the play, one of the music teachers who was a truck of a lesbian but with a heart of gold, didn’t have a problem with the sling, but this fellow cast member told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was bad enough that I was ruining the play with the way that I walk and talk but having a sling was just going to make it worse. It was going to accentuate the freak in me. She hoped I would be dead or something like that.

Ah, the days of jovial chatter amongst classmates. The teamwork of a cast and all that.

I held my ground and appeared throughout the decades the storyline called for in “Mame”, sling and all, and I just walked and talked the way I usually walked and talked on stage. There was no glitter or drag races or anything, just me being me as one of Mame’s guests and everyone survived. There was a standing ovation at each of the shows and this was before people gave standing ovations and applause for shows that achieved the basics of theatre (don’t fart into the microphone). Reviews in the two newspapers made no mention of my sling nor my walk.

For some reason I dreamed about this last night, with a particular focus on being dressed down in front of everyone for my sling and well, my general physical, mental and emotional demeanor. Curious, I found the old hag (my words, not hers) on Facebook and it confirmed what I thought, her “likes” included the likes of Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin for President, Michele Bachmann and Walmart.

It’s odd to me that my psyche would decide to bring this old topic up over three decades later in the way of a dream; I had pretty much forgotten the incident (and fixed the scars from it) but now that I’ve had the dream I can relive the incident in my head as if it was yesterday.

Whatever the reason that this was dredged up 32 years later, all I know is that I survived the ordeal just fine.

And my elbow says it’s going to snow today.

ApplePay.

So as I mentioned last week, I now have an iPhone 6 and quite frankly I am loving it. I had a brief moment of hesitation before deciding to continue my journey with Apple, as I have not been happy with some of the blatant bugs in the latest versions of iOS 8 or OS X. I think Apple can do better.

However, one thing that Apple has gotten completely right is their implementation of NFC (near-field communication) payments, or as they call it, ApplePay.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s how it works. You register your credit or debit card with Apple through an app on the phone. I think most people use the credit or debit card tied to their iTunes account. Now, when you go to a retailer with NFC readers, such a Panera, Walgreens or Bass Pro Shop, you can pay with your phone. You tap your phone on the customer facing credit card machine, validate your fingerprint with Touch ID on your iPhone 6 and then tap your phone again. At least, this is how I’ve been doing this. The reader is given a one-use credit card number as your credit card number, so the retailer is never given your credit card information. The transaction is approved and off you go. Ironically, when I used this at Panera, they still printed a receipt and I had to sign the receipt, but apparently that was because the transaction was over $25 (I was buying lunch for three).

NFC payments are not new; Google has been doing this for a couple of years with Google Wallet, however, it hasn’t caught on as quickly as it should have. Hopefully the popularity of ApplePay will help Google Wallet catch on as well.

The thing is, there’s a consortium of retailers coming up with a new approach called “CurrentC”, which will be released sometime in 2015. CurrentC has an admittedly outdated approach; you scan a QR code on the cash register with your phone, punch in your credentials on your phone and then the cashier scans a QR code that appears on your phone. It’s a much bulkier approach and it uses QR codes which have proven to have security issues. In addition, CurrentC will allow only your debit card or a direct tie to your checking account, because the chief motivator for CurrentC is for the retailers to bypass the surcharges that credit card companies collect per transaction. In addition, CurrentC will store your personal information on their servers, so if hackers had broke into Target next year instead of a year or two ago, they would have had access to your debit card or checking account number, social security number and driver license number, as the latter two are required to sign up for CurrentC. The CurrentC app also requires access to your health data on your phone.

To make matters more interesting, a couple of retailers in this consortium have disabled their NFC readers, the same ones that used to work just fine with Google Wallet. When I tried to pay for a transaction with ApplePay at Best Buy, the cashier told me that it’ll try to work but because Apple doesn’t exchange enough personal information about me with Best Buy, they can’t approve the transaction.

This really rubs me the wrong way, to the point that I have abandoned shopping at any retailer that has purposely disabled NFC payments (ApplePay or Google Wallet) in favor of CurrentC, which hasn’t been implemented yet.

I am all for competing technologies letting the market decide which product is superior and I firmly believe that given a level playing field, it’s a no brainer that NFC, whether it’s Apple Pay or Google Wallet (both work with the same system, though there are slight differences in the implementation) would hands down beat CurrentC. But I can not and will not support an organization that is trying to beat the system by purposely disabling technology features that they already had before Apple released ApplePay to the world.

Heroes.

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States and I’d like to thank each and every veteran for their service to our country. Becoming a member of the Armed Forces takes a lot of courage, time, effort and sacrifice and I am truly grateful to each soldier that has fought for our country.

I’m sure you’ve heard the hype around the Navy SEAL who came forward as the person that pulled the trigger when Osama Bin Laden was killed. When I first heard the ads on Sirius/XM for the exclusive interview and whatnot, I was rather surprised by the whole exploitive opportunity. While I’m sure that this particular soldier is a brave man, I am doubly sure that every member of the team that went on that mission is a brave person. I am certain that the team gave 100% to accomplish the mission that was handed to them and I know that each team member was an integral part of the effort.

I’m not going to name the soldier that pulled the trigger here because I can’t name every member of the team that went on that mission. Yes, I am thankful for the mission and I am thankful that the soldier pulled the trigger on the target in an effort to keep our country safe but I do not believe that the job should be exploited along the lines of celebrity status.

As far as I’m concerned, they’re all heroes. I don’t need to watch an interview, I don’t need to read a book and I don’t need to know any more about one member of the team, no matter their role on the team. Stepping out and saying “I pulled the trigger” goes against everything that our military is built upon.

Third.

Earl and I walked into the Town Hall around 2:30 p.m. on Election Day. There were three cars in the parking lot and a few signs indicating the 100-foot marker from the voting area. The large hall, which has been devoid of traditional voting machines for several years now, was quiet. Three senior citizens sat at a table: one was writing down the name of each voter and assigning them a number. This was recorded in a standard wire-bound notebook. The second person looked up our records in one of two large books. We signed next to our own signature from a couple of decades ago. The third person gave us a ballot sheet and pointed us toward the shabbily installed designated “marking area”. Earl and I colored in the dots on the sheet from the third person in the processing lane; this is how we now vote in New York State.

Earl and I were the only two people in the large voting room. No one was waiting nor walking nor coloring in dots when we got there. No one was arriving as we were departing. I was voter #210 according to the wire-bound notebook. Curiously, my sheet was recorded as #206 on the electronic voting machine. I don’t know what happened to the four missing votes, but a lively conversation between processing line members one and three indicated that they were having issues with the electronic voting process again this year.

Now, Earl and I were voting in the middle of the afternoon. In this neck of the woods the voting locations tend to be busier after work. However, by Wednesday morning the news outlets were chattering about the fact that about one-third of the voting public voted in this 2014 midterm elections this year.

According to some news sources, voter turnout was at its lowest in 70 years. According to Al Jazeera News, turnout was comparatively lower in 40 of the 50 states.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 12.59.07 AM
Image courtesy of Al Jazeera News.

I find this disheartening. One third of the American people made decisions for the entire populace. While this is most certainly democracy in action, it’s certainly not how I believe democracy is suppose to work.

I have never missed an opportunity to vote. I soundly believe that it is our civic responsibility to cast a ballot whenever given the opportunity to do so. It’s the right of every American citizen and it’s a right that should not be taken lightly. To disregard the responsibility of having your voice heard, as far as I’m concerned, is anti-American.

Do you know what happens when there’s a low voter turnout? The most passionate, typically those on the far-left and far-right, tend to be the ones that assure their voice will be heard. The vast majority of Americans tend to be closer to the center of the political divide. Why would you want the extremes making decisions for the entire country?

It’s going to be an interesting two years until the Presidential Elections in 2016. I’m curious to see what happens at our next major opportunity to make our voices heard.

As an American, you have a voice. Don’t take that lightly.

Speak up.

iPhone 6.

It was about 40 days ago that I stepped up to the Verizon Wireless kiosk at the mall, spoke with our trust Verizon person named Mike and ordered a Space Gray, 64GB iPhone 6. Since placing that order I have been nursing my aging iPhone 5 along, waiting for the day for the new iPhone to arrive.

Today was that day.

Verizon sent me a tracking number on Wednesday night, advising me that my iPhone 6 was in FedEx’s hands. Thanks to a wonderful little app called Deliveries, I knew the exact instant that my iPhone 6 arrived at the mall kiosk. When delivery was confirmed, I sent a text message to Mike who assured me that he was at the store. I raced down to the mall and picked up my new phone.

IMG_0001
iPhone 6 and iPhone 5 side by side.

If I am to be honest, I can’t say that I have been delightfully thrilled with the Apple Experience lately. Work recently sanctioned the latest version of OS X, Yosemite, for our work MacBook Pros and this crippled my ability to use the built in Mail app with our Office365 mail server at work. Thankfully, Microsoft released Outlook 15 for Mac and it works great. iOS 8 has been a little buggy, especially on my iPhone 5. The thing about that is that I don’t know whether the actual iPhone 5 was starting to fail (I suspect that it is) or if iOS 8 was having some sort of fit, but whenever I left the house I would have to toggle airplane mode to make my iPhone 5 find the nearest Verizon tower.

I haven’t had to do this with the new phone. This looks promising.

While I have found that the excellence of the total Apple experience has come down a bit in quality, I still believe that they offer the premium computing experience overall, so I continue to keep my faith in Apple products. I’ve had several Android phones over the years and while the experience has improved drastically in the past year or two, I don’t find the Android experience to be as cohesive as I have come to expect on iOS. Yes, I think that some of what Apple does is kind of gimmicky but I believe the quality of their hardware is the best in the business and as I mentioned before, I think they offer the closest thing to “it just works” that we have right now.

I’m excited about my new iPhone 6 and I look forward to having a happy run together. I still proudly wear the ´ú┐Dude (Apple Dude) badge.

Night.

With sanity restored for a few days (the end of Daylight Saving Time) before the insanity started again (the midterm election results), my instructor and I took the opportunity to do a little bit of night flying last night. Technically when we started the flight yesterday it wasn’t quite night but by the time we meandered around a bit (and I worked on maneuvers for my approaching checkride), it was plenty o’ dark quick enough.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 8.26.23 PM

While flying at night brings interesting challenges to the sport of aviation, I have to admit that I really the extra challenge. Everything is beautiful from the sky; the city lights twinkle, the car lights snaking their way through the city streets.

With last night’s flight I am “night current” and once I get my ticket I will be able to take passengers at night. I am really looking forward to that.

In Tune.

I am always in search of good music to listen to at work. I usually opt for something along instrumental lines, but once in a while I find a lyrically-focused artist that doesn’t intrude too much into my concentration. My searching usually results in going back to the 80s or 90s or earlier, as overly produced music tends to distract me too much. And I have mentioned before that auto tune makes me want to crawl up a wall.

Last week I started listening to Air Supply’s Greatest Hits album. I’ve always been a closeted Air Supply fan, primarily because of the quality of their musicality. They play real music, they employ real vocals and you can feel their heart and soul in their tracks. They love what they do.

Curious as to their whereabouts these days, I decided to look them up on YouTube to see if they had performed live recently and come to find out, they still do about 150 shows a year. Earl reminded me that they perform at the local casino from time to time.

We’ll have to get tickets the next time they’re in town.

The thing that absolutely astounds me about Air Supply is that over 30 years later they still sound amazing. They’re not pitching their songs down in a lower key, they’re not auto-tuning the hell out of their vocals, they are simply still sharing their heart and soul through music. I’ve always found Russell Hitchcock’s tenor voice to be crazily crystal-like and I’m very surprised that at 65 years old he still sounds the same! Same key, pretty much the same quality. Yeah, there’s a little bit of age in his voice but it hasn’t turned into some husky ghost of what it used to be, like other 80s singers have done.

Here’s a video of a recent live performance of “Sweet Dreams”.

Sync’d.

So, here in New York State we are back on Standard Time. At 2:00 a.m. this morning, Daylight Saving Time came to an end for the season and for approximately the next four months, the clocks will match what the sun is doing in that noon will be approximately when the sun is at the highest point in the sky for the day.

That’s the way it’s suppose to be.

I have wretched about Daylight Saving Time every year since the birth of this blog back in 2001. With the Energy Something Act of 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended by three weeks, all in the name of “saving daylight” and “saving energy”. I really don’t know anyone that enjoys whipping the clocks around but in the circles I hang in I tend to be the most vocal about it.

No one really knows why we change the clocks twice a year but we still do it, much like the stoning of that pleasant woman in the short story, “The Lottery”. Something about the corn is high when the stones are thrown or something like that.

I’m just happy that things are back the way they should be for the next four months. I feel awake, I feel alive and I feel quite happy.