Spelling Hints.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoid some of the popular spelling mistakes seen in today’s modern world:
 
 They’re going over there to see their new sofa.
 
 He will lose weight so his pants will be loose. This doesn’t make him a loser but his pants could be looser.
 
 They were at the salon lightening her hair with highlights during the thunder and lightning storm.
 
 He deserted his friends to eat an ice cream cone for dessert while sitting in the Arizona Desert.
 
 The animated French Fry’s plan was to group together with the other French Fries.
 
 If you’re one ass out of a thousand, there are many asses. Assess how many asses there are.
 
 You’re going to your graduation.
 
 Apostrophes do not appreciate when you use the apostrophe’s claim to fame inappropriately.
 
 
 
 

Video: Singing The National Anthem.

Every year around the Super Bowl I often turn into super critic after hearing someone sing the National Anthem before the big game. My biggest gripe is that the singer routinely turns the opportunity to bring the crowd together in national unity into something much more self-serving, bringing the spotlight on their performance instead. Performers often slow the song down to a ballad, which is contrary to the original intent of the song. It’s meant to be an uplifting tribute, not a schmaltzy ballad.

In all fairness, some have retorted in the past, “yes, but could you do better?” Fair enough. So here is a video of me singing “The Star Spangled Banner” into the webcam on my MacBook. I did this in one take, as if it was live. There’s no edits, no technological tricks, no auto-tune, no backing track. Just me singing the National Anthem a cappella. I cringe at the facial expressions I make and you probably will too. But this is how I sing the National Anthem, with just a touch of my personal inflection, in an effort to encourage others around me to join in if they so choose, at a nice jaunty pace.

I Can’t Sleep.

I’m up for the second time tonight. It’s actually 4:51 in the morning, but it’s still “night” as far as my sleep patterns are concerned. Actually, my sleep patterns are concerning because they’re in a bit of disarray because I can’t sleep.

This is the second night in a row that I’ve been unable to sleep. As a change of pace from other episodes of insomnia, it’s not negative thoughts that are keeping me awake, but rather just a barrage of thoughts in my head that refuse to shut up. In the past six hours of sporadic slumber I have dreamed about going to Sears (courtesy of writing the previous blog entry before bed), my happiness for a family I shall call “The Danburys”, giving presentations on software that I haven’t written yet and eating at Chick-Fil-A (please spare me your stories of horror about Chick-Fil-A).

I think the truth of all of this is that I have this growly feeling in my throat and I’m concerned it’s going to turn into something else. I’m downing orange juice like the best of them. I enjoy a vitamin C drop from time to time. I’m consuming Airborne when I’d rather be airborne.

I feel tired. I look tired.

That’s is. I’m going to finish this blog entry, close my MacBook and go to bed. End of story.

Sweet dreams.

Technology.

I have mentioned before that my interest in computers and operating system and my general, overall geek-ness started with a fascination with cash registers, specifically the electronic point of sale systems from the 1970s. While the mechanical Sweda cash registers at the local Ames were “electronic” in the sense that they punched a tape that could be read by an IBM mainframe, the Sears in both Watertown and North Syracuse, like all the other Sears stores across the country, had one of the first electronic point of sale systems ever installed for a retailer.

I could vividly remember some details of the point of sale system used by Sears. The cash registers were made by Singer. The lettering on the cash register was in all lowercase letters, as was the tech-chic style back in the 1970s. The LED number display was large and just one line of numbers across the top of the cash register. Instead of instructional messages being spelled out or illuminated on the display, the appropriate buttons on the keyboard were lighted up with the various options at any point in a transaction. The drawer popped open when the cashier pressed total. Amount tendered entry and the associated change did not appear on the receipt, it was computed after the sale was completed. That’s one of the reasons that the cashier asked about cash/check/charge prior to ringing up the sale. This is back in the day when cashiers cared about these things. An optical “wand” was added in later years, giving the cashier the capability of reading a price tag with OCR lettering. The price was usually entered in separately.

There’s not a lot of detail about this Singer point of sale system online; over the weekend I filled in the gaps of my memory by reading old issues of “Computerworld” via Google Books. It was there that I discovered that the point of sale system was actually called the Singer Modular Digital Transaction System, or Singer MDTS. Both the Singer and Friden Corporations had either merged or were working together on the project; some registers are marked Singer, some Friden and some Singer-Friden. The typical cash register in a Sears store had 2K of memory. That’s two kilobytes. To put that in perspective, it would take over 33 MILLION cash registers to provide the same amount of memory found in my iPhone 6s Plus.

My, we’ve come a long way.

As I was doing research on the Singer MDTS system, I came across an eBay auction for a press photo of one of the data terminal cash registers. Since I have a very small display of these old machines in the way of framed photos in the downstairs bathroom, I bought the photo and put it up today.

IMG_0184

I can’t help but think that technology from this era is when technology was truly exciting. Developers had to cram a lot of software into a very small space. User expectations weren’t set yet. Technology people were blazing into unknown territory. Today’s technology, while exciting in what it can do, is predictable and quite frankly, rather boring. There’s nothing new that has really shaken up the world since the introduction of the smartphone in the mid ’00s. That’s one of the reasons for my never-ending interest in Linux (even though I primarily use Apple products) because Linux keeps me in an explorer mindset and helps my geek-ness grow.

I’d love to get my hands on one of these cash registers to see what makes it tick, but I have a hunch they’re all sitting in landfills scattered around the country. I passing through a smaller Sears store in the mid 1990s and they had one of these registers still running in the kiosk under the stairs where they copied keys. I guess it was doing what it had to do so they stuck with it.

Grid.

From time to time I look up some of my history on my blog. This usually leads me to spending some time reading old blog entries, giving me a snapshot of my feelings, thoughts and such for a particular time frame in my life. I’ve treated this blog as an online diary and it’s served me well in that purpose. I like the idea of slowing life down enough to take the time to write more than a quick and witty blurb for posting on a social media site; I’ve never cared about the numbers of views or the number of comments I’ve received here. I do enjoy comments and trading thoughts back and forth with those that choose to read what I have written. There’s never anything wrong with a well-intended debate.

One of the things that strikes me when I read the older blog entries is the degradation of what I call my “quality of personal expression” after I joined Twitter. I still had a flip phone when I joined Twitter and I used to text my updates through a text message. Banging out 140 characters back then was a bit of a chore but I circumvented the problem by keeping that first tweet simple. On 9/24/2007 at 11:09 PM I simply tweeted, “Sleeping”. My evolution(?) from a flip phone to an iPhone improved my tweeting habits. Nowadays I share quick spurts of dialog with others by banging out an abbreviated retort or other piece of frivolity with others without giving it a second thought. This, in turn, has made me more outspoken. And that’s not always an entirely good thing.

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one”, as the saying goes, and sometimes the expression of our opinion turns us into an asshole. I was recently visiting friends down south and as I look back at it, I think I might have been a little more mouthy than usual when it came to discussing politics, the economy and whether or not I, as a gay man, should be eating at Chick-Fil-A. Looking back on the weekend I decided that while I am very firm in my beliefs and I am willing to enjoy a lively debate on a given subject, there’s a certain amount of couth that one can lose when they are expressing themselves, especially when they’re used to belching out their beliefs in 140 characters or less. Sharing my life on social media such as Twitter, and living behind a Twitter handle without the burden of being face to face with whom you are debating, has resulted in me losing a bit of the sophistication that I never really grew up with but that which I long to have as part of my personality.

Perhaps living your life on social media is not as grand as the social media companies would want you to believe it to be. The key to being part of the grid is to find balance in it all. Putting the phone during dinner. Shaking a celebrity’s hand instead of trying to get a selfie. Enjoying a beautiful sunrise without posting a photo of it on Instagram. Enjoy the gift, skill and thrill of flight in an airplane without barraging your Facebook feed with posts about every nuance of the flight.

Lately I’ve been drawn to social media services that are a little more robust in their content. I’m starting to read more and getting away from the “scan for pictures” services. I’m liking Medium and I’m still using RSS feeds to aggregate content from various blogs and such. And as much as I try to step away from the service, I still enjoy Google+ much more than Facebook. With a properly curated contributor’s list on your Google+ feed, the service is wonderful. It’s a shame that it hasn’t caught on more.

The most important thing that I am realizing in 2016 is that while technology is an awesome tool, it’s not the be-all end-all for everything in the 21st century. Perhaps I’m getting a little wiser as I grow older but sometimes I just need to sit down, turn off the bits and bytes and enjoy the moment. And when I am online, I need to find robust, engaging content that feeds me instead of draining me.

I want to be a novel in this tabloid world.

Tech Quandary.

I had a little bit of a hissy fit on Twitter this morning. The tweets were a result of me venting my frustration with my iPad; I had run out of storage on my device and it wouldn’t let me delete anything to make room for content because I had run out of storage on my device. I just love that vicious circle of techy errors where you’re scolded for running out of hard drive space or whatever but to gain more space you have to clear more space but you can’t clear more space because you’re running out of space. The kicker of the situation is that this is an Apple product; a marvelous piece of technology where everything is magical and rainbows fly around and unicorns dance and clap their hooves together. Investing (substantially) more more into Apple technology is a bid to the promise of being free of crazy error messages, worries about hard drive space and the other mundane adventures that mere mortals on Windows and the like experience. After all, when you buy an Apple product, it just works.

And now I’m getting worked up again. It’s amazing to me where my mind goes when I type a blog entry without any forethought; those streams of consciousness where I just let me fingers do the walking.

I am the “money manager” of our flying club. I maintain the banking accounts, the accounts receivables and the accounts payables for the dozen or so owners of our two airplanes. I really enjoy this role in the club because I like to think that I’m pretty good at it. I lucked out in that arena of life; growing up in a family-run retail environment gained me access to accounting practices at a very early age. The early geek in me picked up a lot and this has been a benefit throughout my life. Doing this sort of thing comes naturally to me. The thing is, we are well into the 21st century and quite frankly I’m sick of filing papers and keeping paper trails of all the transactions. Earl asked why I’m still tracking everything on paper because the reality is that I can store everything electronically and still be perfectly within the boundaries of good accounting practices and the law.

So now my tech quandary is this: I want to use my Apple devices to digitize these records but I don’t want them to live within the Apple Eco-system. Honestly, I don’t want them to live within any eco-system. I don’t want to rely on a paid storage service, I don’t want to use a paid app to maintain this data, I want this to be as accessible as possible using any computer by anyone that is granted access.

And this is where the full-blown geek kicks in. I have a plan in my head on how I’m going to store this information but I need to write it down to get my plan into action.

I’m discovering that I love writing things down instead of doing thing entirely on the computer. But this creates paper and it seems silly to create paper to plan out a scheme to get rid of paper.

It’s that vicious circle again.

The previous sentence was my planned final sentence of this entry but then this popped into my head: Is it a vicious circle or vicious cycle? Does the vicious circle have teeth? Does it go “grrrr”?

Things to ponder.

Happy Endings.

  
For the past week or two I’ve taken to watching reruns of the ABC comedy series “Happy Endings” during my morning workouts. Back in 2012 I had purchased the entire second season of the show from iTunes so that we could watch it when we cut the cord, but then iTunes got all funky and I forgot that I had the show in my queue until I moved to my new iPhone 6S Plus at Christmas time and all of my bandwidth for the month was used downloading the series to my phone.

In case you’re not familiar with the series, which was on ABC for three seasons, it’s kind of like “Friends” for the 21st century. There’s six folks, two of them are sisters, two of them are married, one of them is gay and he used to date another one of the ladies in college and one of them is super good looking and drives a food truck. The show is packed with rapid fire witty repartee, there are few winks and nods towards the existence of an audience watching the show sprinkled here and there all the while not taking itself seriously.

ABC really did itself a disservice by bumping this show around on the schedule in the third season and ultimately cancelling the show.

I am enjoying watching this second season that I never caught up on back in 2012 and I will probably end up watching the third season as well (don’t tell Earl until the iTunes bill comes along). While I may have thought that the quality of the show as borderline-ish back when it was in first run, the truth of the matter is that it is better than anything that passes for a sitcom today (“Two Broke Girls”, anyone?). 

If you’ve never seen the show, I suggest watching an episode or two and giving it a whirl. I think you’ll find it to be a good time.

The Real Reason I Dislike Winter.

I’m in a bit of a ranty mood this afternoon. I’ve been watching my Twitter feed fly by with bogus winter storm names, graphics depicting nearly Armageddon-like events and general idiocy regarding the Nor’easter winter storm slated to hit the East Coast metropolitan corridor starting today. I keep reading how this is “the storm of the century”. By my count, this is the 20th or so storm of the century to hit this century. It even has a name to make it easier to discuss online. Because everyone loves an online discussion about the latest catastrophe. It’s what drives the American public.
When I gripe about the hysteria that strangles Washington, D.C. and related cities during this type of event, many are quick to tell me that the affected areas are not used to this kind of storm and therefore they don’t know how to prepare for it. Apparently, preparations include raiding every grocery shelf of every morsel of bread and milk possible, lactose intolerance and gluten allergies be damned. The fact of the matter is, I must be smarter than the average of American because if I went through “the winter storm of the century” one or two times, I would certainly be well prepared by the time the 20th storm of the century blew through. It’s not that difficult to figure out, storms are allegedly growing more intense, therefore, I must be more vigilant in making sure that my family is prepared for the next big storm. That’s just a small portion of what we call Common Sense®. When I point this out to people, they say they’re prepared but the municipalities are not keeping up with the changing times. It’s someone else’s fault that they can’t get their precious rats named Mabel and Finster to their baton lessons. Well, if the municipalities can’t keep up with the changing weather, then logic would dictate that folks are electing the wrong people into the wrong positions for the wrong reasons.
My biggest question is, why are you so dependent on someone rescuing you from catastrophe? Why is their responsibility to make sure they can plow you out, provide you water, etc? Ma and Pa Ingalls did just fine in the middle of a Minnesota winter without electricity. Build a fire, light a gas stove, fire up the barbecue. Do you need water? Melt the snow.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t really dislike winter. I actually like winter better than the mud season we call spring, with water and melting slop all over the place. I can do without the bitter cold we get up here in Central New York (bitter cold being below zero Fahrenheit for days on end, not the balmy 30 degrees that folks in New York City are always bitching about), but snow doesn’t really bother me. Snow doesn’t cripple me. It slows me down to a sensible speed, but life does not grind to halt when we get a foot of snow, or even two feet of snow. I might get bummed out about not being able to fly, but I can always go out in the Jeep and play in the snow. It’s called Independent Thought® and that’s something that I wish would become contagious throughout the entire country. I feel that I could easily ride a winter storm out on my own until the sun peeked through the clouds again.
It’s the mindset of the general populace that I really dislike about winter. This is fueled by a media building an empire built on hysterics. Ever since 9/11, people love drama, they love catastrophe and they love chaos. It’s the new normal. The media successfully gets everyone so whipped up about things that wouldn’t be a big deal even 30 years ago that it needlessly cripples vast portions of the population. Gone are the true meanings of “epic” and “massive”. Open your front door to a wall of snow or climb out your second story bedroom window onto the snow in the lawn sometime, then let’s talk about the full wrath of Mother Nature.
In the meanwhile, please, by the universe of all that is sane, please calm down.