Ads.

As I get older and probably more crotchety, I’m finding that I have a very low tolerance for advertising in general on the Internet. In a way, isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, because I used to make my living by writing ad copy for an advertising agency and a group of radio stations. There’s where my uproariously fantastic knack for humor comes from, from writing ads that were suppose to make people giggle as they listened to the morning show on the local radio station and were allegedly titillated by people that were paid to make people laugh and feel slightly sexy by off-color jokes.

What the hell am I talking about?

Oh, the Internet ads. Now, I don’t believe that I need a tin foil hat because after all, tin foil hasn’t been around in a few decades or six, but I’m really not enjoying the tracking that is done on the Internet for the purposes of targeted advertising. I don’t mind tolerating commercials on the radio and I have been known to sit down once or twice a year for live television and I have tolerated those commercials because after all, that’s what we grew up with. Some shill gets paid to tell us why we should ask our doctor for a pill that gives us oily, gassy excitement in our nether regions (among other things that are probably more productive), but I really don’t like having some shill tell me, specifically me, what I should by based on what I mentioned in an email. For example, I off-handedly mentioned in an email that I was going to hang out with friends and there’d be beer and cigars at the event and now I’m being bombarded with ads for cigar companies. I have mentioned a cigar once via my keyboard but all of a sudden I’m getting all these ads. That’s definitely the product of someone tracking me somehow and I’m not liking it. Now that I think about it, it was an email composed on my Google Chromebook and I wasn’t even using an Google services when I composed that email, it was one of my private email accounts, which can only mean someone is monitoring my keystrokes or watching specific words typed into a form using Google Chrome. I have since wiped Google Chrome off my Mac and I’ve shutdown the Chromebook (it’s for sale if anyone with a higher tolerance for banality than I have is interested).

So I’ve decided to start weaning myself off of ad supported services. I’m already six steps ahead in that game because I use primarily Apple products, which cost a lot more but don’t bombard you with advertising. I’ve had the same Google account for many years (Gmail, Google+, Google Maps, etc) but I deleted that earlier this week and that felt amazingly cathartic. Since Gmail was forwarded to my primary email account, the amount of spam/non-desired mail coming in has decreased to about a 1/3 of what it was in less than three days.

The other thing that is really irking me about ads on the Internet is the click-bait articles, especially those aggregated by the news aggregator apps like Flipboard and Zite. A well known tech blog site had an article entitled, “Why Windows 10 leaps ahead of Mac OS X” and because I’m a die-hard Apple boy, I clicked the link. After getting through an ad that blanked out the entire screen until I found the minuscule ‘X’ in the corner and then the auto-start of a video that blared some really cheesy music that I hastily turned off, the article turned out to be no more than five sentences talking about some inane feature in Windows 10 about network password sharing or something. It was a complete waste of my time and it irked me, so I completely deleted Zite, wiped out Flipboard and pledged to start reading the newspapers that I subscribe to instead of scraping the bottom of the Internet for something to entertain me.

While I’m on a bit of rant, I’m also going to mention that an new app on my iPhone or iPad gets ONE opportunity to ask for a rating in the App Store. If they persist in asking for ratings, I will give them a bad rating and delete the app, finding an alternative that is a little less needy. Asking for a rating is a glorified ad to contribute to a glorified ad for their product and I don’t want to be part of the snowball that this whole thing is starting to resemble.

Another service that I deleted today is Pinterest. Honestly, I’ve never quite figured out what Pinterest is for; I stumbled upon it in an Internet search for clocks to add to my collection and all it was was a bunch of pictures taken from other sites and tagged as interesting. Since Pinterest has since bombarded me with emails that have escaped my spam filters, even after I have filled out forms asking for no more emails, I decided that I can just find the damn photos myself and I yelled “Good Riddance!” to Pinterest.

I understand that most of these services make their living off of advertising revenue, just as I did when I worked for the ad agency and radio stations, but as an old-school consumer of sorts, there are some lines that I have drawn in the sand and I’m not going to tolerate companies crossing those lines.

I’d rather pay for my supper than have someone tell me what to eat.

Fly Guy.

So tomorrow is the big trip that I’ve been planning for a year. Earl is already in Indiana by now. Chuck, his wife Elise and I leave in the Cherokee 180 around 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

We are flying to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture, the big aviation celebration and convention that Earl and I have been going to for the last couple of years.

My first visit to Oshkosh was in 1984 with my dad and grandfather. No one from my family has ever flown an airplane to the event.

That will change tomorrow.

Monday.

Earl and I are in the midst of packing for our trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Earl has been kind enough to drive out alone; he will be leaving tomorrow afternoon. I will be flying the Cherokee 180 out along with our friends Chuck and Elise. I’m wicked excited about this trip. It’s going to be an awesome adventure.

Tonight we setup the tent to make sure we knew how to do it. It’s a big tent, and we are using it for only one night as we have a hotel room in nearby Appleton, Wis. I’ve always wanted to camp with the airplane at Oshkosh, so we are bringing the tent along.

It’s a big tent.

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Visitors.

This summer our back lawn has been a social gathering place for various visitors, much more so than in previous years. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t have a resident guard by way of the feline persuasion living with us or what, but every evening we can look outside and see deer, rabbits, turkeys and more. The deer usually come around meal time, whether it be I’m eating lunch during my workday or Earl and I are eating supper. I don’t know if they just have a terrific sense of timing or whether they can smell us grilling and/or cooking, but they like to stop by and see what’s going on.

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During one of the last visits from the deer, Mama had two of her kids come along with her. One of them jumped over the creek and into the woods as soon as I stepped foot on the patio, but the other kid and the Mama stayed their ground until I was fairly close to them. Mama then made a noise at me, the kid jumped along the same route as his sibling and then Mama jumped behind the both of them. A quick glance into the woods confirmed that they were just across the creek and looking back through the brush at me.

I enjoy the visits from our neighbors.

FaceAOL.

They say history repeats itself, that things go in cycles and circles, or something along those lines, but not the lines of a parallelogram. Cycles repeat. Even on final spin.

I’m in a silly mood and I’m blathering a little. The truth of the matter is, now that I’m teetering on that unnecessary label of “late 40s”, I’m starting to see history repeating itself. I saw a car that was the same color as the shade of orange as a relative’s 1970-something Pinto back in the day. Hairstyles are always repeating some earlier decade. And now the online experience is coming full circle.

Back in the 1990s you couldn’t go a week without receiving some sort of America Online marketing package, whether it was by mail, a free handout at the store or someone was chucking them off a float in your favorite gay pride parade. America Online was the onramp to the Information Superhighway for many and AOL did their best to keep everyone hooked by being inclusive. They provided a connection, lots of information, they provided chat rooms and discussion boards, communication tools such as Instant Messenger and it was always a charge of excitement when your computer exclaimed, “You’ve got mail!”. Yes, America Only WAS the Internet as far as many people were concerned back in the day. The broadband came to town and people realized that they didn’t really need America Online to get online and that there was a whole world wide web outside of the AOL walls. And people sought it out. Folks built web sites and blogged and technology picked up speed and moved forward. Life was grand.

Many years later, Facebook came to town. What started on a college campus soon took over the world and anyone that was anyone was on Facebook. You could easily find people, see photos, exchange messages, plan events, do pretty much everything you could do inside the walls of AOL back in the day, except with more glitz and glam and a heck of a lot faster. Like AOL, Facebook does its best to become an essential part of your online existence: they want you to use their Facebook Messenger, share anything and everything with friends, join groups and discussions with others with a common interest, look up restaurants and boutiques through location aware magic, share photos, videos, get your news, etc.

While I have been a Facebook user for many years, I’ve tried to enjoy everything on the Internet, not just the offerings of Facebook. I’ve kept my blog going, I Google things on an hourly basis, I read all sorts of news feeds, I tweet. My love/hate relationship with Facebook runs deep, but it isn’t my entire Internet experience. I know there’s a heck of a lot more outside the walls of Facebook.

But just like the days of AOL, people are becoming Facebook centric.

I am the web developer for a scholarship program called “Miss Mohawk Valley”. It sounds like a beauty pageant because it is a beauty pageant, in fact, the winner of “Miss Mohawk Valley” competes in “Miss New York” and can end up as “Miss America” if the cards and points are all in her favor. My friend Laurie was the Executive Producer for years and I enjoyed maintaining the website. When there was a change in leadership a couple of months ago, I agreed to continue the website, but there doesn’t seem to be an interest in it.

The current Miss Mohawk Valley does everything on Facebook.

Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this approach, everyone that’s anyone in the intended audience is probably on Facebook, but as an old geezer in the tech world, it seems a little dangerous to hand all that information over to a single entity. It resides on their servers, in their framework and on their dime. People getting to the Miss Mohawk Valley page are giving up information in all sorts of ways through Facebook’s ad-opportunity snooping mechanisms and, lack of tin-foil hat aside, this would make me nervous. This is one of the reasons that I go through the exercise of maintaining my blog on my own server with my own copy of software, etc. It’s mine and I want to make sure that it’s mine and I want to be sure that it’s available to everyone, not just folks with a Facebook account.

As more and more friends and the like tap me on Facebook for friend requests and such, I can’t help but wonder if everyone is jumping back into that AOL-like walled garden again. While I can play in the garden, I certainly don’t want to live there.

And I hope the walls don’t close completely someday.

Recreation.

I was recently going through some old photos from my childhood and found some pictures from various summers when I was in the late single-digits. I can vividly remember my childhood and can remember many of these photos being taken. Seeing smiling faces in the summertime back in the mid 1970s made me smile again.

One year, I think it was the summer of 1976, the school district offered a daily recreation program at the elementary school. Our family hadn’t moved into the house yet, we were still living in a 10×50 mobile home with an 8×45 addition containing a living room, master bedroom and a laundry room that had room for only the dryer (the washer was in the bathroom in the original trailer). It was a tight space for a family of four, but when the weather was good I would be outside running around, playing on an area called “the path”, which was a dirt path that went down through some maple trees and old grape and other berry vines along the pasture fence. The path was my favorite area to play, it was a road, it was a runway, it was whatever my imagination wanted it to be. And because of its location, my mom could look out the kitchen window and my grandmother could look out any of her back windows and see what I was up to.

However, Mom thought it would be better if my sister and I were away from the trailer and went to recreation at the school, so every morning we were whisked off to the elementary school to see kids that we went to school with. There was a structure to the recreational program, we did gym like stuff on the track and the playground, running and playing ball and whatnot. And then later we’d go inside to the music room (which was the old elementary gymnasium when the school housed all the grades in the district) and do arts and crafts and sing songs and the like.

Looking back on the experience, I can say that I was not amused. I didn’t need the structure, I was getting plenty of exercise playing in the path and jumping the pasture fences and the like and quite frankly I didn’t want to see the kids that I was going to school with when I wasn’t in school. I was a loner. I was quite happy and content with amusing myself without being told how to be amused. Arts and crafts were exceedingly boring to me, I could sing anytime I wanted to and I certainly didn’t want to be riding a school bus in July. But Mom insisted and off to recreation we went. I tolerated it by daydreaming about what I’d do when I got home.

Luckily, recreation didn’t take up the entire summer and by mid August I was back playing on the path and doing my own thing without having to worry about things I found pedestrian: throwing a ball, making popsicle stick trinkets, coloring inside the lines, etc.

It’s no wonder that I rebel at being told what to do.

Reruns.

This evening I had a tiny rant on Twitter about all these reality shows polluting the airwaves, cables and Internet vibes of the wire-cutters. Do we really care about reality shows that have nothing to do with reality? Mind you, this is coming from a guy who made it to the semi-finals for one of the Big Brother shows a million years ago, but at least when the gay man cried he did it because he meant it and wasn’t just following a script or something, or so we were told. Where is Bunky anyway? They wanted me to be Bunky, Jr.!

I’m digressing.

Back in my day, summer television was populated with reruns. Even though Kris Monroe was working for Charlie, during the summer you could still see Farrah Fawcett-Majors being Jill Monroe because they brought back the reruns for the summer. We didn’t see reruns during the actual television season because the length of a television season exceeded the length of your average burp, but today we don’t do that. Burp, a million dollars per episode, and back to the mans we go. That’s what the stars do.

There is a bright side to all this and it’s some of the game shows that have that family time feeling, with a fire in the fireplace, wood stacked in a strategic location on the stage and celebrities sitting on the couch playing fun games to help a couple of contestants win some cash.

It’s not “Circus of the Stars”, but they can be a hoot in this otherwise bleak television time.

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47.

So today I completed my 47th ride around the sun on this big blue marble. I’m feeling pretty great for 47 years old; I’m in good health, I’m where I want to be in most aspects of my life and I’m enjoying each day. I might get cranky about something once in a while but that’s usually a passing fad. My life is good, I can’t complain.

Here’s to going on the 48th ride!

Good Morning!

I am back on my game this morning for the first time in a long while. I’m recovered for my surgery with my follow up appointment scheduled for this afternoon. My plumbing is working the absolute best it has ever worked in my lifetime and quite frankly I feel amazing. 

  

Customer Service.

This evening Earl and I went shopping at Destiny USA in Syracuse. Destiny USA is the sixth largest mall in the United States. There are many of entertainment, shopping and dining options and it’s one of the reasons that we like going there. It’s something to do in Central New York.

I had a couple of gift certificates for “The Art of Shaving“. I enjoy their products very much and though the local boutique does not have the attached barber shop like other locations throughout the country do, they still have a wide variety of items to making my shaving experience enjoyable. I selected a couple of different soaps and I purchased a new DE (double-edged) razor to use; my current razor will be relegated to travel use and when I’m in the mood for something different but not feeling the need to live dangerously by using my straight razor.

My customer experiences at The Art of Shaving have been hit or miss over the years, though the variance of quality has not been limited to this one location. Actually, the folks at the Destiny USA location have been consistently pleasant. Tonight, Christopher was the sales associate that assisted me with my purchase.

As I was checking out, Christopher made some small talk and asked what I was up to this weekend. I responded, “I’ve been flying airplanes all weekend and will probably continue to do so tomorrow.” I was surprised when Christopher mentioned that he grew up flying a Kitfox, a popular homebuilt airplane that is built from a kit. My grandfather built a Kitfox late in life and had a good time flying it. I asked if he had his license, he said that he didn’t because the Kitfox was no longer available; his grandfather had passed while flying the Kitfox. I mentioned that my Dad had been killed in his homebuilt airplane and that while I had always wanted to become a private pilot, it wasn’t until then that I realized that I had to become a private pilot. We continued with a nice conversation about flying and the awesomeness of it as he finished up ringing the sale. We ended the transaction with a handshake. The look on his face went made it evident that he was happy that we went from just making small talk to actually talking about something that he enjoyed. And it all started because he was pleasant and I returned the pleasantries.

And isn’t that what customer service is all about?

I’m not big on hearing someone’s woes; Earl and I have had too many servers tell us how busy they are instead of smiling and looking at the bright side of life. After visiting “The Art of Shaving” we ate one of the many restaurants at Destiny USA and the server told us about moving to Syracuse from Key West to work at that restaurant (Margaritaville) and how she was still receiving from seeing snow for the first time. Again, just a simple conversation that probably started out somewhat scripted but she was pleasant, we were pleasant and it made for a pleasant experience.

If we could all just be a little more pleasant to one another I think that we would have a more pleasant experience here in the U.S. in the 21st century.

And I think that would be something to smile about.