Flight.

My friend Chuck and I went flying today. I hadn’t been in the pilot’s seat in over six weeks, so I felt a little rusty but after a few moments I was on my game. We flew the airplane that Chuck is part owner of: a Cherokee 180. It has much more get-up-and-go than the Cherokee 140 that I am part owner of. The speed difference coupled with the challenges presented from an increase in performance made for that much more of a great flight.

It was good to get off the ground.

The forecast for next week shows Mother Nature getting her act together a little bit and that we might start seeing signs of spring. I am more than ready.

IMG_0637

IMG_0638

Archives.

I am fascinated by the New York State Historic Newspapers archive (nyshistoricnewspapers.org). The archive has scans of numerous newspapers dating back to the early 1800s. Every issue of the two newspapers that were in my hometown, The Pulaski Democrat and The Salmon River News, are available in this archive. Full text searches are available. The interface is quite nice and easy to use.

I have been using this archive to research the airports in the area of my hometown, as well as the building of Interstate 81 and the reconstruction of many roadways in the area. For example, I always wondered why “Confusion Corners” was named as such; it turns out that the intersection of (then) US Route 104 and NY Route 104B was poorly marked, contained a lot of medians in the middle of the roadway and generally created havoc for motorists when it was opened in 1950. There were also several car related fatalities in the area. I had always thought that the roadway was built in the 1960s, but it turns out Confusion Corners was born in 1950. It had a similarly designed, but not as busy sibling at the other end of NY Route 104B, where it intersected with NY Route 3. Both of these intersections have been reconfigured to a standard intersection as of sometime in the 1990s.

After searching around about airplanes and roads, I started looking up the history of various family members over the years. I found an interesting article about my paternal grandfather’s poultry farm, which was awarded by Niagara-Mohawk (the local power company at the time) a mercury vapor light to illuminate the yard. Apparently the farm had a lot of electric equipment and the power company was quite grateful for this consumption, so they award the farm a light.

farm

A smaller farm down the street also received a light for their yard. My grandfather is quoted in the article that accompanied the photo as having a friendly competition with the other farm and that first and foremost they were neighbors and friends.

The photo and article have such a technology-progress vibe so typical of the 1950s and early 1960s to it. I get a kick from the “looking forward” ambiance of the photograph. It reminds me of another photo I found in an archive years ago, where two women, in their 1950s dresses and high heels, are standing under high tension wires in the Finger Lakes, gazing up at the towers carrying the electricity overhead.

It was such a different time back then.

NiagaraTowers1
Photo courtesy of Niagara Mohawk Corporation

Incentive?

Adirondack Central School District has decided to implement “Incentive Raffles” for students taking state mandated exams. ACSD is about 30 miles from us.

acsd-incentie

Students are entered into a raffle if they attend school all three days of standardized testing. If they take the tests they are suppose to take, they get entered into the drawing. If they get good grades, they are entered into a drawing and if they show improvement when compared to last year’s performance, they are entered into drawing. Prizes include gift cards to Subway, iTunes, Google Play and the like.

As mentioned in the newspaper opinion piece linked above, the school is essentially bribing their students to participate in the standardized exams. I have no children in any school district, so I don’t really have a vested interest in this, but I can’t help but think that bribing students with prizes simply to take a group of tests can’t be a good thing for the public in general.

When I was in school (I graduated 29 years ago) we had standardized testing as well. In elementary school we took the “Iowa Tests”. There are only two things that I remember as being remarkable about the Iowas: it was the first time we colored in the dots on a scan sheet for scoring purposes and when we got to the end of the section for our grade, there was a very accurate STOP sign graphic signaling where the test ended. I didn’t feel emotionally scarred by having to take a standardized test. I don’t remember it phasing me in any way; it’s what we had to do.

As an adult do I agree with standardized testing? Absolutely not. I think the whole Common Core program and the endless barrage of scripts and mandates and the like are ludicrous but then again, I think that the thought that EVERY student that graduates from high school is automatically going to go to college is idiotic as well. Not every person is wired to go to college. The latest approaches to education in The Empire State focus too much on trying to make every student fit into the same ideal. There’s no room for creativity, on the behalf of the teacher nor the student. Follow the script, take the test, move on. I really am against standardized testing.

But this is the direction that our education system is headed today, just like when they got rid of “Algebra”, “Geometry” and “Trigonometry” when I became a freshman in high school and they replaced it “Course 1″, “Course 2″, and “Course 3″. Did I have an interest in every subject I had to take? No. I couldn’t care less about “Afro-American” (a Social Studies course) but I still took the course, for the most part did what was expected of me and got through it. The “bribe” in all of this was my success. I did what I had to do to succeed. This should be the rewards. Not game store cards, not iTunes cards and certainly not food. Is the school going to give them a biscuit when they sit on command?

In a society that seemingly gives child a reward for remembering to breathe and refraining from not soiling their pants in the middle of a restaurant (and if they do poop, they still get a reward, because, well, just because), how are students going to cope with life once they’re outside of their little world full of bribes, goodies and prizes for routine, mundane activities?

Yes, I think this whole standardized testing thing is ridiculous, but Adirondack CSD is approaching this in completely the wrong way by having door prize raffles simply for attending what should be a required activity. Example #71823 why I think the world has completely lost its collective mind.

DST.

I came to the realization this morning that this week is the last week of normal time, otherwise known as “Standard Time” in the United States until mid-November. At 0200 Sunday morning, we will turn our clocks ahead an hour in the interest of “saving” daylight. Daylight Saving Time in the United States starts on Sunday, the 8th of March. Unlike the days of my youth when the shift occurred somewhere in mid-April, government officials have decided that they need to mess around with the populace by turning them into zombies while everyone adjusts to morning commutes in the dark again and children risk standing next to six foot snowbanks in the dark whilst waiting for the school bus to arrive so they get their first period class in progress long before sunrise. 

Because, you know, it’s all about “saving” daylight.

I’ve ranted and carried on in a crazy manner on numerous occasions, usually on a yearly basis, about how much I dislike Daylight Saving Time. It’s a stupid, outdated concept that provides little benefit to the populace, other than that we’ve done it for a long time so let’s just keep on doing it. It’s kind of like that story “The Lottery”, where we the population stones a woman to death because, well, that’s what they’ve always done.

If God wanted the day to be longer he would have moved the sun. It says so, right in the Bible. “And God moved the sun to positional primus, whereas the cow would graze and the chicken would croweth in happiness, for the time was abundant and the daylight was whereth it needeth be.” — Jack 1:24

I’m just getting beyond the whole SAD thing from a hellacious winter and someone decided that we need to start waking up in the dark again so that little Mildred and Finster can sit in their living rooms playing video games while the sun is shining outside.

I’ve decided that if I hear anyone make an offhanded remark about how “the day is longer” with Daylight Saving Time, I’m going to offhandedly smack them. If they call it “Daylight Savings Time” (notice the difference), I will make a guttural, growling noise that will make many around me weep and anyone that tells me that this whole useless exercise saves energy will get their foot stomped on by whatever boot or shoe I happen to wearing at the moment. 

Because after all, Daylight Saving Time is designed to make us “feel better”.

Sunshine. 



While it is is still very chilly today, there’s still a slight feeling of spring in the air. The sun seems more abundant, more powerful. 

We still have a lot of snow on the ground but my spirits are lifting and the winter blahs are starting to dissipate. 

Train.

Earl and I are sitting at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station awaiting our train for our weekend in New York. The train is currently on a 90 minute delay. I am not surprised by this.

We are spending the weekend with Jamie in New York. Tomorrow night we shall see “Kinky Boots”. I am looking forward to relaxing a not driving in the Big Apple. It’s not my favorite place in the world but it will do for the moment.

If we ever get there.

Ker-Ching.

I have mentioned this before in the past and there’s a link at the top of my blog that leads to further information on my interest in the subject, but I got my start in computers in the retail realm. While I had a passing interest in the cash registers I saw as a youngster at the grocery store and at Kmart and Sears, I wasn’t really intrigued with how they worked until the opening of the Ames Department Store in my hometown. If memory serves correctly, the store opened in 1977. I remember going during the grand opening and purchasing a red and blue toy airplane. Besides the excitement of buying the airplane, I was quite fascinated with the cash registers they were using at Ames. They looked like the cash register used at the little grocery store in town, but with many more buttons and some extra pieces on the side. Even at nine years old, I noticed the difference.

It turns out that the cash registers at Ames were the first generation of computerized cash registers. I use the term “computerized” loosely, because the machines were entirely mechanical. There were no electronics anywhere in the guts of these cash registers. However, the extra buttons and the additional mechanism I observed were actually used to punch a computer tape. In later years I found out that these tapes were removed on a regular basis and sent somewhere official where they were fed into an IBM (presumably) mainframe computer. Hence, computerized inventory.  All of the items at Ames were marked with a department number; some items also had a three digit SKU number as well. Cashiers could fly along punching in these extra numbers and the store executives were assumedly happy with the inventory information they were receiving.

Legacy technology like this fascinates me. Yes, it took a little longer to get through the checkouts in those days, but to think that all the mechanics in those cash registers could do so many different functions is incredible to me. Unfortunately, while there are many of the grocery store models of these cash registers out and about just waiting to be restored and cherished, I haven’t seen an inventory control model in many years, aside from one picture taken in a landfill, at least until a fellow restorer sent me an eBay listing.

Yesterday, this arrived.

IMG 0585  1

 

Aside from the three lower buttons in the very left hand column, this cash register is identical to what I remember from Ames in 1977. The owner warned me that it needs a lot of work; he couldn’t get the drawer opened and the motor just buzzes.

Last night I started taking the register apart and figuring out what I had gotten myself into. The cash drawer is now working. I didn’t expect to find any money inside, and I didn’t, but I did find a receipt that indicates where this cash register came from. This register was last used in May 1986 in an Alco Discount Store.  I had never heard of Alco until that moment, a quick Google search showed that they are in the process of going out of business. They’re a discount department store chain some in the midwestern United States.

Getting this cash register working again is going to be a project that I am looking forward to. While the wind is still whipping and the Arctic winds keep blasting our area, it’s good to step away from technology and just tinker around a little bit. Doing so let’s my mind wander a little bit and I find it relaxing.

I’m looking forward to getting this working someday. It’s my way of preserving some of our early computerized heritage.

Politics.

I was recently listening to a political talk show on satellite radio. I normally enjoy such endeavors, but there was something about the moment that was just rubbing me the wrong way. As I thought about it, I realized that there were actually two things that were rubbing me the wrong way.

Firstly, the hosts was using words such as “totes” and “deets”, for example, “I totes have the deets on what Chris Christie was doing yesterday.” I don’t know who came up with the idea that a person using the words “totes” and “deets” in this way was suppose to be taken seriously, but nevertheless, the person speaking is a respected political journalist and apparently quite successful in their endeavor. I think this speaks volumes as to the direction of the National Average IQ.

Secondly, the conversation was about the 2016 election and the viability of Jeb Bush running against Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Election. The only thing that was running through my head regarding this discussion, other than the fact that “totes” and “deets” were smattered amongst the dialog, was, “really? There’s no one else that can run? There isn’t anyone else from some other family, some other part of the country, anywhere, out there, that can run for President without assaulting the citizens with a big ol’ helping of leftovers?

Is there anyone in the general populace that is excited by government these days? Does anyone find them productive? Intelligent? Representative of the populace that they serve?

Talking about this with Earl made me realize that I need to stop paying close attention to politics for a while. Fox News is a joke. The whole lynching of Brian Williams is beyond ridiculous (he got way more press than the whole WMD debacle in Iraq back in ’02 and ’03). And quite frankly, the slate of corporate sponsored politicians is getting tiresome.

I have narrowed my talk show consumption down to one show. The guy is a moderate, has a sensible head on his shoulders, doesn’t have an offense accent and has a great selection in hairstyle. If you want further details, ask me in the comments or send me an email.

I’m not going to tolerate the dumbing down of syntax during a debate nor am I going to get all excited about a ballot that is mediocre at best. I expect better. We deserve better. I don’t have the answers.

Maybe someday I will.

Cold.

Maintaining the winter theme of my last post (a week ago!), today I took some pictures of the beautiful day we had today. The only downside of the day was that the temperature barely reached 0ºF. The wind chill is predicted to be below -30ºF tonight, so we’ve been doing what we needed to do around the house.

I’m so ready for spring.

IMG 0052

IMG 0059

IMG 0060

IMG 0061