Traveling.

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So I’m traveling for work this week. Earl is traveling for work this week. At the end of the week, we will meet up with Jamie in the greater Denver area to visit friends, go to a wedding and a long weekend of vacationing. It’ll be good to all be in the same place for a change.

I spent the late afternoon and evening exploring the greater Greenville, S.C. area. I like what I found; there are some really nifty houses in the Greer area. It’s close to an airport, it’s a reasonable commute to the office and the houses have some of the mid-century charm that I adore. We are still a couple of years from relocating but I feel confident that we would be comfortable in Greenville.

I’m getting ready to dive into the work week tomorrow and it’s a good feeling. Perhaps it’s being in the nicer weather where spring has sprung for real.

Never Stop Trying.

Friday night Earl and I were sitting in the movie theatre waiting to be enthralled by “Captain America: Civil War” when a message popped up on my phone. A pilot friend asked if I had any interest in purchasing his airplane. I’ve flown his airplane on a couple of occasions; it’s in beautiful shape and is not as old as the two airplanes I fly as part of the flying club. It is meticulously maintained. The last time I flew it I mused to myself that I wouldn’t mind owning that airplane.

So Earl and I decided to go ahead with the preliminaries of the airplane purchase. There’s quite a bit involved with buying an airplane and one of the biggies is crunching the numbers to make sure you’re not going to go so far into debt that you end up buying an airplane that you can’t afford to fly. The Budgeting Department declared that we were good there but we were getting close to the upper limits of the purchasing budget. The Budgeting Department then skipped town for the week in the name of work. I’ve spent the last several days putting together the required paperwork for financing, working with aircraft mechanics and trying to find an insurance company that would insure a pilot like me. I was eating, sleeping and spending all my free time involved with all things airplane.

Without getting into the weeds, after speaking with the aircraft mechanic, the airplane was indeed in excellent shape and would make a fantastic short-term purchase for me, but if I was going to further my pilot career and start flying in the clouds and such, it’d take a considerable chunk of change to upgrade the avionics.

I decided to counter the asking price with another offer. After a few hours of consideration, the owner decided not to sell the airplane after all.

Nothing lost, nothing gained.

So I’m back in the market for my own airplane and in the meanwhile I’ll continue to fly the two airplanes that I co-own in the flying club. I’ve been using the month of May as a turnaround point to try to take a more positive spin on life so this experience has been an awesome learning experience. Am I disappointed? Perhaps a little bit, but I now have a better sense of what I want, what I’m looking for and how I’m going to get it.

My dreams continue to fly.

The Power of Friends And Loners.

I’ve mentioned before that I have always been fascinated by this publicity photo from the 1950s. It was taken by the local power company at the time, Niagara Mohawk. When I see this photo I can’t help but notice the optimism this photo exudes, blue sky, well dressed ladies, the power of progress marching on.

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I’ve always wanted to recreate this photo in modern times. It’s been around 60 years since the original photo was taken. It took some pretty geeky sleuthing to figure out where the photo was taken as there have never been any hints to the location associated with the photo, but coupling my obsession with our power grid with some fancy use of the satellite view of Google Maps, I’m pretty sure I figured out where the two ladies were standing that day.

Unfortunately, the spot I targeted (I’d rate my accuracy around 90%) is now very overgrown and surrounded by quite a bit of suburbia.

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So while Earl and I were out on a drive today, I found a field with a similar run of powerlines that would help me capture the spirit of the original photo. I would stand alone in the field and at this location there would be only one set of towers instead of two.

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When the original publicity photo is grouped with my new photo, I call the montage “The Power of Friends and Loners”.

And now for a couple of geek facts.

I believe the original photo and my assumed Google Maps view contains three circuits at 115kV each. The smaller towers (on the right) are older than the lines on the left. In the original photo the ladies are facing east.

In my photo I believe there are two circuits at 115kV each. Like the ladies in the original, I am facing east, though this is a completely different line around 70 miles from the location of the original photo. The towers shown in both photos are a relatively unique design in that I’ve only found that design (a ‘flat’ steel structure instead of one with four legs on the base) in Upstate New York.

Infrastructure.

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Earl and I were riding around the area in the Jeep this afternoon when we got into a discussion about the crumbling infrastructure of Upstate New York. While I haven’t heard any reports about water issues like the atrocities in Flint, Mich., one can’t help but notice that Upstate New York municipalities, as well as the NYS Department of Transportation, is having a hard time keeping up with one component of our critical infrastructure, and that’s maintenance of our roadways.

In order to move goods to and fro around the area we need to have a good highways with safe bridges and road surfaces that aren’t going to ruin a vehicle. As we bounced along a state maintained highway, I remarked to Earl that in my nearly 48 years of living in the Empire State I have never seen the roadways in such disrepair. And I have been very attentive to roads my entire life.

Back in 1987 a bridge on the New York State Thruway over Schoharie Creek collapsed, killing ten people. It was a very big deal when this happened nearly 30 years ago and measures were taken to avoid the situation again. Money was poured into our highway infrastructure throughout the Upstate counties and the roads were beautiful. But Mother Nature can be quite hard on asphalt around here and the constant scaling back of construction projects due to budgetary concerns is really start to show the wear and tear on our highways.

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On a recent road trip, I was startled by the condition of the main thoroughfare in the Jamestown area. The picture above was taken along NY Route 394 in the Town of Busti. This busy road serves the majority of commercial interests in the area. I can’t help but wonder how many cars get beat up on this roadway as residents try to do something as simple as go to the mall.

Businesses that might consider moving to the area must look at the condition of our roads and buildings and bridges and wonder if the state is really as committed as they claim to be when everything seems to be in disrepair.

I know this all falls on the shoulders of the budget and the fact that there’s just not enough money to go around. I hear the word “entitlements” being thrown around quite a bit. Some like to blame welfare, others like to blame the “lack of taxes” on the rich. I think it’s a mix of everything.

I wish I could suggest a solution to the faltering economy in the Empire State, but I don’t have answers. All I know is that what we are doing isn’t working. With weekly reports of politicians being hauled off to jail I suspect that corruption is part of the problem as well but the populace seems too lazy to vote to get some new blood in Albany.

This is disappointing.

I’m hoping that someday I’ll be around to see the Empire State live up to its name once again. I just hope I don’t lose the Jeep in a pothole while I’m trying to get to the grocery store.

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Modern.

The nearby city was recently named the sixth most distressed city in the United States. This title goes hand in hand with a ranking the city achieved in 2013, when it made the “Top 10 Most Miserable Cities in the United States” list. Consistency is something that cities should strive for but these particular accolades are probably not doing this area any favors.

Looking for a little pick me up, I decided to research the most modern cities in the world. Surprisingly, out of the Top 10 Cities that are considered the most modern by this list, only one of them is in the U.S. and that was San Francisco. So I sat back and reflected and realized that while U.S. cities do have a lot of charm, we’re really not that advanced here.

This is a bit disappointing to me.

I feel like society, and as an extension of the will of society, our political process is holding us back from our full potential. It seems like we’ve lost the spirit of team work and we are more interested in breaking off into factions focused on their own interests instead of advancing our country as a whole.

Modern cities worldwide have WI-FI available. High speed rail is everywhere. Skylines have green spaces on top of their buildings. The societies of these modern metropolises embrace progressive thinking around societal issues (family benefits, same sex marriage, etc.)

They’re looking forward, not clinging onto the past.

I’ve been following the flight of Solar Impulse, a solar powered airplane that is making a voyage around the world. There’s no fossil fuel involved with this aircraft, it is completely powered by the sun. This morning it took off in the early morning darkness, with absolutely no fuel on-board, only the batteries charged by the sun.

Yesterday, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Transport concept had its first test in the Nevada desert. When this idea comes to full fruition, the Hyperloop will transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes.

These achievements are beautiful things, but we need to band together as a country and stop all of this divisive bickering and shun the negativity that is pervading our society. Honestly, there shouldn’t be a list of the most distressed or miserable cities. Instead of touting these articles for click-bait and ad revenue (notice I didn’t link to them), our efforts should be focused on moving into the future in a positive direction.

Maybe then we’ll catch up with the rest of the world.

Scent.

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Few scents make me happier than the scent of lilac. I don’t know if it’s because I associate the scent of lilac with the arrival of spring in these parts or if they invoke memories of happy times when I was a kid (Grandma City had a wide variety of lilac bushes in her lawn), but I was delighted to see that our lilac bush is getting ready to produce some lilacs for the season. I was concerned that the freeze a couple of nights ago was going to kill off any chance that we would see lilacs this year, but the tree has grown heartier of the years and the little buds look like they’ll be full blown lilac flowers soon.

I’m looking forward to enjoying the fragrance that I associate with happiness.

Scandal.

With our regular viewing of new 2015-2016 TV episodes coming to a close with the season finale of “Madam Secretary” (which was awesome), Earl and I have been searching for a television series that will keep us engaged, yet not too bogged down with negativity over the summer. Of course we could entertain the thought of just keeping up with the elections, but quite frankly I am so burned out on what is happening with these campaigns I am currently at the point where I want to check box D, “None of the above” and just be over with it.

We were spinning around randomly on Netflix when we came across a series that we both had heard a lot about but had never really made an investment. That series is “Scandal”.

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I knew Shonda Rhimes was involved in some way with the show, so it was safe to assume that it would fit a certain formula that is common in Shondaland (story arcs over multiple episodes, a semi-serious storyline, a funnier storyline, a storyline that advances the season arc, etc). So we sat down and dialed up Season 1 Episode 1.

We really enjoyed it. I won’t say that we loved it but we liked it a lot and it showed promise.

Tonight we watched Episode 2 and now we are invested. I like the idea of an “outsider” being involved with governmental affairs. I like the plot twists and turns. The show feels familiar without feeling overdone. Kerry Washington as lead character Olivia Pope is like able and relatable. The only distraction I’ve had with the show thus far is the Quinn Perkins character played by Katie Lowes. I can’t shake the fact that she seems like an Ally McBeal knock-off with her stuttering, lawyer-esque ways. All that’s missing is a dancing baby.

I understand that “Scandal” is currently in its fifth season, so we have 100 or so shows to watch to catch up on the program but I think we can make that happen over the summer.

At least we didn’t resort to reality shows. Or the election. Or both.

Ambience.

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Ambience.

I’ve discovered that late in the evening is not my best blogging time. I read about humorists, bloggers and the like writing their best work in the middle of the night, but my brain doesn’t seem to be wired for that sort of creativity at this hour. I think I’m more of a lunch hour writer. Back when I worked in an office not far from the house, I would dash home during my lunch hour, have a bite to eat and write a blog entry. When I commuted 55 miles to the office, I would sneak off to a parking lot near the local Dunkin’ Donuts and write while sitting in the Jeep. Things were happening around me then and I felt motivated to share my life experiences through words. I enjoy writing things down.

Now that I work at home full time, I find it a little more difficult to be creative when it comes to writing. I find this a little surprising, because as I recall, many authors work in their home offices. Erma Bombeck had an old door balanced on two shelves and some sort of typewriter that she enjoyed while writing in her bedroom. I’ve read that Jennifer Saunders writes her scripts in long hand. I know technology blogger Paul Thurrott writes from home, though I don’t know how his home office is set up.

I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table, typing on my iPad Pro using an application called Ommwriter. I haven’t used this application in a number of years and I have to admit that I’m surprised that it works on this latest technology from Apple. The application hasn’t been updated in a couple of years. The latest update has all new music, but these new tracks fill the intent of the original in that I feel like writing when I have these ambient sounds resonating in my head. The shifting colors of the display behind my words are also inspiring.

I think I have a novel or two bouncing around in my head. When I go for my morning walk before work I try to go along a route that has little chance of becoming a spectator sport, because I sometimes work out science fiction storylines out loud. Some of my musings are a continuation of a story I have read in the past, or a tangent off a familiar television show or movie. I’m not interested in rebooting or making my own; I’m more of a fan of continuing an established universe. I don’t know if I’ll ever write these story ideas down. Perhaps I should just sit down, crank up the ambient tunes and just let the words flow through my fingers. I can never thank my mother enough for teaching me how to properly type when I was still in elementary school. 40 years later I can still type over 100 words a minute. Typing my words comes naturally to me.

Maybe I try too hard.

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Fear.

Earl and I are at our local Panera again tonight. Many of the local restaurants in this area are closed on Sunday and those that were open today were focusing on Mothers’ Day festivities with brunches and the like. We were in Syracuse earlier today for a lovely brunch with my Mom, sister and nephew, but we wanted something small and relatively healthy so we opted for a quick bite at the local Panera. It is busier than I expected it to be.

I’ve been catching up on Facebook today. Amongst all the wonderful photos of folks with their mom or memorial photos posted along the same theme, there was a post from a local class mate talking about the school board’s plan to put some sort of security wall across the lobby of the elementary school I attended. This school was built in 1939 and was built in Art Deco stylings that were popular at that time. The lobby has marble walls, a grand staircase that fanned in two directions to an overlook from the second floor above. Hundreds of photos have been taken on that staircase. There are glasses trophy cases set into the walls that frame the lobby. Walking into that lobby is like taking a step back into time.

Except now the current school board feels it needs a security wall down the middle of it. To the best of my knowledge there has never been any sort of threat against the school, it’s just what we do in the United States today. We overreact to an isolated incident and convince ourselves that if it happened there, it’s going to happen here. Whenever I hear a grand speech of how Americans are resilient and strong and the best citizens in the world, I have to smirk and roll my eyes, because that is hardly the case. I can’t imagine that folks in other societies live in constant fear of some sort of manufactured boogey man.  Yes, there was an awful school shooting in an elementary school a couple of years ago. The news media, in their constant quest to gain as much ad revenue as possible by replaying the same horrific, exaggerated news stories over and over again, is successfully reprogramming the American populace to be fearful. Fearful of everything. What’s in your food? What are your neighbors up to? What is that other passenger on an airline flight writing in his diary?

Did you hear about the American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse that was delayed a couple of days ago? A woman passenger saw a “non-American man” writing math equations in a notebook and was convinced he was a terrorist. He was removed from the flight, questioned by authorities who realized that he was a math professor and then allowed to fly on to Syracuse. The passenger that made the claim was held back for a later flight. Ignorance at its finest.

I am so tired of hearing about fear and all the terrible things that might (but most likely won’t) happen to me and/or my family. People don’t let their kids play outside anymore. Walls and gates and prison like tactics are being added to school buildings. Guards are being posted at shopping mall entrances. People are looking suspiciously at fellow citizens because they’re a little bit different. How long will it take to “chip” our kids?  If this is what we feel freedom is about in the 21st century then I want to go back to the 20th century where we were a happier place and weren’t so scared of everything. I can’t help but thing we are doing things wrong. Exaggerated response to fear is only multiplied when it’s passed from generation to generation.

When does the pendulum swing back toward rational thought?

Saturday Night.

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So Earl and I are sitting at the local Panera on a Saturday night. We are both using new Apple devices we purchased earlier today: iPad Pro with keyboard and Apple Pencil. This is the perfect setup for blogging. I feel inspired again.

To accommodate our gadgets and to make room for our food, we selected a table on the larger side near the area where food is put out by the kitchen. This used to be where people would come up when their pager went off. This Panera switched to the table runner service about a year ago; some customers still don’t understand how it works and they come up looking for their food. A couple of people seemed quite taken aback when the kitchen person explained someone would bring their food to them.

One woman came up to the counter complaining that her turkey-avocado-BLT had too much turkey and avocado. She just wanted a BLT. Earl and I muttered somewhat under our breath that she should have gone to Denny’s. This resulted in a judgmental comment from me that this area really needs a Waffle House. I’m sure many of the people here at Panera would enjoy Waffle House. I’ve been to Waffle House only once, in some random location along Interstate 10 in Louisiana, and I don’t feel the need to repeat the experience. Because that’s the way I roll.

With the purchase of the new iPads Earl and I decided to trade in our old iPads in Apple’s recycling program. We both received a rose colored gift card, which we promptly used for the new iPad purchase. Our salespeople Phyllis and Julia seemed to be knowledgeable about Apple products. They were happy to learn that I am a software developer by trade. I sometimes wonder if I frighten Apple salespeople because I left my fanboy pride shine from time to time.

I know, this is a complete 180º from the way I was talking a couple of weeks ago, but after trying other solutions, even with the bugs that are showing up in Apple’s software lately, they still provide the best fit and finish. If there’s anything close to “right” with the computing experience, I still find the best solution to be from Apple.

I have quite a few iPad Air 2 accessories to sell. I’ll probably list them on eBay, as the iPad Air 2 seems to still be quite popular.

I recently watched a review of a Ubuntu Linux based tablet that is suppose to effortlessly convert from tablet to full-blown laptop with the addition of a laptop and mouse connection. During the review the tablet, made by a company called BQ, crashed several times. That has to be very embarrassing. I know that on the couple of occasions that my software has crashed during a demonstration I have ended up being quite mortified. It’s unfortunate the people think software bugs are part of the norm. You wouldn’t accept your washing machine forgetting to fill with water once in a while or your hair dryer blowing smoke at your head, why do people just shrug their shoulders and go “eh?!?” when software screws up?

Strive for perfection.