Silence.

For Halloween I might dress up as Spock in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and give the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to every ass that blasts their music without headphones in every Starbucks or on every bus or train I travel on.

When did it become OK to blast your music out in public like some sort of shrieking banshee? When did it become acceptable to scream a custody battle with your ex on your phone while wedged into a tight public space with dozens of people you don’t know around you?

Let’s get back to the simple social contract: Don’t Be A Dick In Public.

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Unstable.

I’m a happy man. I have a wonderful husband. I have a wonderful family. My career is going well. We finally live where we’ve wanted to live for a while. I can fly an airplane when I want. I can see and do things that I enjoy. So why do I occasionally feel glum? Why did it take a conscious effort for me to not crawl back into bed this morning? It’s the tempo of our society. While I have whittled down the number of news sources, political reporters, etc. that I follow on Twitter, my feed is still a constant barrage of Trump stupidity. It still boggles my mind that there are enough incredibly stupid people in the United States that managed to find their way to a voting booth and cast a ballot for this pathetic excuse of a human being, let alone leader of anything. I look at Facebook hoping to see happy faces of friends and family enjoying life and there’s a bunch of commentary about the same thing: the blatant idiocy, inadequacy and utter instability of the President of the United States. Once in a while a politician will belch out some sort of statement that is meant to admonish whatever the Idiot has done this week but the words ring hollow. There is never an action as a follow-up. It’s all about the words. It’s all my fault for relying on my computing devices for information. There are many times that I long for less of a connection to technology. I know this is odd, since I make a living building applications to make the user experience better but honestly I would be perfectly content reading and writing text on a flat-panel black screen with amber characters and a flashing cursor. Perhaps that’s the route I should take. Find a laptop with a beautiful display that just gives me a command prompt when I log in. When we ride the train I noticed that 85% of the people around us are glued to their phones. There’s always someone taking a barrage of selfies. Most have headphones in. They’re looking down and oblivious to the world around them. I wonder if they’re reading about the latest display of ignorance from the White House or if they’re just watching videos of teenagers trying to drink boiling water through a metal straw (don’t even get me started on that) or if they’re watching movie trailers of another dimly lit superhero movie. Where’s the sunshine? Where’s the positivity? While there were some horrible things going on with racism, homophobia and the like in the mid 20th century, you have to admit that back then eyes were on the future. People dreamed of flying cars and going to the Moon and building computers that helped make our household lives easier. Today many have eyes down a hole, looking for zombies and making moves to take us to the past. The times we live in are so unstable. I would give something, anything for just touch of stability.

No Escape.

 

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Earl and I were in the mood for something sweet before bedtime. We don’t really have the option of going to a late-night diner in this neck of the woods, as the only diner open at this time of night is Denny’s, and our local Denny’s has security to help control unruly crowds, drug rings and folks that try to leave the building without paying their bill.

This is not our idea of enjoying some time together over a slice of apple pie.

The local convenience store chain, Fastrac, has introduced their weak attempt at being like Wawa or Sheetz. They call their little eateries “Fastrac Café”. They brightly lit and have a kitchen where you can order things on a screen, just like Wawa or Sheetz in Pennsylvania, but that’s not open for the late night crowd. They also have a selection of bakery goods. Earl and I selected a sweet treat, filled up a cup of pop with diet(?) ice and sat down in the little café area to eat our treats.

Many establishments in this area have installed a television in circumstances such as these. The trend started shortly after the attacks of 9/11. Prior to that the only place that really had piped in news was the airport, and even then they showed the “CNN Airport” network. Televisions are found everywhere these days and in this neck of the woods they’re usually tuned to Fox News. 

There is no escaping the news in modern America and there’s especially no escaping the likes of Donald Trump. As we sat in the Fastrac Café we were assaulted with debates about how latest belches of tweets on Twitter. People yelling and screaming and laughing. Of course Fox News trotted out a news clip of Joe from Morning Joe saying something derogatory about Melania back in 2007 and said “see, that’s why we have fake news today”.

Fake news. I really, really, really hate that term. It’s such a reductive thing to say. People hear something they don’t like on the news and they belch out “FAKE NEWS!” as loud as they can. It’s the Trump version of putting your fingers in your ears and going LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA. 

There is no escaping Trump and there’s no escaping news bias and there’s no escaping idiots that buy this stupid shtick on either side of the aisle these days. You can’t go anywhere without being assaulted by a blaring television. You can’t go online without someone screaming “Fake news!” at one thing or another. You can’t go an hour without someone somewhere mentioning another stupid thing the Trump Administration has done. Anyone that thinks this country is “the greatest country on Earth” is delusional. That country is long part of our past. We should be doing better than this, we are better than this and we deserve better than this.

I’m always bewildered as to why Fastrac advertises that they have “diet ice”. I once asked why they label their ice, which is frozen water in cube form, as “diet ice” and they told me it was so customers would know that the ice was calorie free.

‘Merica.

Be Better.

I’m getting tired of reading about the recent rise of bigotry, racism, misogyny and homophobia in the United States. School shootings still make me shed a tear, no matter how commonplace they become. No matter how hard folks try, one can never erase the fact that POTUS 44 was a black man and the Republic is better for it as a result of his leadership. Do unto others as they would do unto you. Give more to society than you receive. It’s not hard, people. But we live in a time where willful ignorance and outright stupidity are celebrated. “It’s not my problem” is the mantra of the day. Stupid, idiotic, banal things like Pepsi ads and James Bond microwave oven conspiracy theories and Kardashians are the distraction from the nepotism, the stripping of common sense legislation and the sheer greed planting strong roots in Washington D.C. Our government should have representatives of sides of a debate, not warring factions intent on the utter destruction of “the other team”. This is not a reality TV show. This is real life. And we should be working together, through compromise, intelligent debate and without these grandiose, empty and often damaging gestures to make the entire world a better place. When our country thrives, the world thrives. As a pilot I can tell you this: when you look down from the sky, there’s no way to tell one country or one state from another unless you build a wall. Don’t build a wall. Build a better world.

The Pedestrian Rant.

I haven’t been riding my bike in recent weeks. Most of this is probably due to laziness but I’ve also been concerned about my safety on the roadways as a cyclist. Over the past couple of years I’ve had a few close calls that made me sweat a bit; motorists coming quite close to me even though I’m over as far away from the driving lanes as I can safely be without losing control of the bicycle in the dirt or some random person’s lawn. I’ve been walking every morning to somewhat compensate for the change in exercise patterns. We live on a former country road that has been developed with apartment complexes and housing developments up the hill from us. The posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour. The county will occasionally post one of those electronic speed meter signs that tell motorists how fast they are driving. When that’s up and monitoring traffic, folks still come down the hill well over 45 MPH. I wouldn’t mind their excessive speed as much if they were safely driving the vehicle, but in the morning hours there are folks fiddling with their phone, putting on makeup, shaving, etc as they make their way down our hilly and somewhat curvy road. The shoulders of the roadway are four feet wide with two feet of pavement and two feet of dirt. If there is no oncoming traffic I walk on the paved portion but remaining on my side of the white line delineating the driving lane from the shoulder. If there is traffic coming along I move over to the dirt portion. Many sections of the road around us are flanked by a three foot deep ditch immediately off the shoulder so that’s why I try to stay on the shoulder as much as possible. Now, I realize that this particular road wasn’t designed for pedestrians, it was designed for vehicles so that’s why I do my best to stay as safe as possible while I’m making my way to a quieter street about a mile away from the house. However, over the past year, and especially the past six months, I can’t help but notice the degradation in driving habits as exhibited by these fine folks flying down the hill making their way to wherever they feel they need to be. This next portion of this blog entry may sound sexist and ageist and the like but the fact of the matter is I’m making honest observations based on a small sampling of the drivers coming down the roadway in the morning. 1. Young girls will be wearing aviator sunglasses, have their hair tied up into some sort of arrangement on the top of their head and will rarely be looking at the road. It could be before sunrise but they still have their sunglasses on. They are enthralled with whatever is going on on their phone at the moment and driving the motor vehicle comes secondary. They will be over the white line, they will oversteer the curve, glance up to see why there’s dirt flying around and then resume their primary objective, playing on their phone. I jump into a ditch. 2. Young men will do anything they can (hat turned sideways, scruffed up fuzz, tattoos all over, gold chains, etc) to look contrary to their middle to upper-middle class upbringing, have some sort of low riding vehicle that basically turns into a hockey puck in the winter and will have their seat slung back so far that they have no hope of seeing more than six inches off the front of the car. They casually glance at their phone as they look around to make sure people are looking at them. The bright side of this equation is that they’ll slow down to 5 MPH to cross the railroad tracks because anything faster will rip out any and everything on the bottom of the vehicle. Like their female counterparts, they are too busy doing other things, will oversteer the curves and I’ll end up jumping in a ditch. They, too, wear their sunglasses at night. 3. There’s one middle aged guy driving a BMW that is always shaving. Always. Every day. He drives by, he’s shaving. He slows down for the school bus, he’s shaving. This supports my claim that men that shave with electric shavers are highly disorganized, lazy people that have little disregard for their appearance, the people around them and any sort of common sense. It’s about him and only him. As he tries to get that spot under his nose, he’ll oversteer the curves and I’ll have to jump in the ditch. 4. The old woman that drives somewhere at 7 a.m. every day has her own story. She’s lucky to know what country she’s in let alone worry about keeping the damn vehicle between the white lines. She’s moving at 20 MPH (somehow she has the vehicle moving nearly sideways), giving me plenty of time to jump in the ditch when she oversteers the curve and brushes by the bushes in front of the neighbor’s house, scaring the occupants and sending me cursing. 5. One of the two biggest competitions for motorists in this area is to see how long of an empty trailer they can tow behind their truck without dragging the ass end of their F150 onto the pavement. There’s never anything in these trailers, they’re just empty as they get towed behind these big trucks. Being in a lower income area of the state, I can only assume that these empty trailers are to be considered in the same way as rich men driving Hummers. They’re dick extenders. They oversteer the curves, the empty trailer swings around a bit and I end up jumping in the ditch. 6. The other biggest competition for motorists in this area is to see at what young age they can get a handicapped sticker hanging from their mirror. They can’t see the line because they have this big ass handicapped placard hanging down the middle of their windshield, guaranteeing them a parking spot close to the corral of electric scooters at the market, and thus they oversteer the curve and I end up jumping in the ditch. 7. And last, but not least, there’s school bus 380, which makes multiple trips through the area picking up children that are sitting on the corner tapping at their phones. School bus 380 comes barreling down the hill well above the posted 45 MPH speed limit. The driver then jumps on the brakes when he realizes the railroad tracks are still there, same as yesterday, and he must stop. Sneaky railroad tracks. A casual glance inside the bus reveals school aged children hurled forward with their heads in a downward position. They must be looking at their phones as they endure this gaiety. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to walk along a highway when there is theoretically plenty of space for me to do so. I could go on with my rant but my blood pressure is up now and I need to calm down a little bit.

Chronological.

instagram Like most folks, I enjoy life most when it happens chronologically. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the sunrise comes before the sunset, that an airplane will take off before it lands and that when a group of people go out for a drink they start out sober and then get drunk. There’s an order that we humans have come to expect and I don’t believe it’s unreasonable that our history get documented in a such a way. Here’s what happened when we went from point A to point B. Instagram recently brought their algorithmic, curated timeline to my user account. This means that when I open the Instagram app on my iPhone, I am now presented with what Instagram thinks I want to see first instead of a reverse chronological order of posts from the folks I follow. As a person that tries to exist in this chaotic world with just a touch of OCD, I find it incredibly frustrating to wake up in the morning and see posts of sunsets before posts of drunk people from midnight which are coming up before posts of airplanes taking off first thing in the morning. I don’t think it’s unreasonable but I want to see beautiful posts of sunrises in the morning and sunsets in the evening. One of the cool features of a chronological timeline is that you’re seeing life as it happens in Instagram, not as it happened. As a person that tries to live in the present, it’s important to me to see what’s happening now. I’ll review what happened then when I have time to muse back in time a little bit. Instagram feels that users have been clamoring for this new curated approach, though several searches on different search engines (because life isn’t all about the Google) have turned up very little on anyone outside of Facebook and its Evil Empire touting how great this new curated approach is turning out to be. (Facebook owns Instagram, an incredibly unfortunate reality). A quick Twitter timeline search turned up over 100 tweets in the past two hours (not including mine) about users complaining about the timeline reconfiguration. I didn’t find any praises about it there, either. Curating the timeline in this fashion encourages user habit learning, strategic placement of ads and ultimately more monetary opportunities for Leaned-In Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, a lad that will eventually become Dr. Sivana in a DC Comics universe somewhere. I just want to see photos from my friends. Facebook is a steaming pile of privacy hacking bits and bytes that frustrates me beyond no end. Twitter isn’t really photo friendly, though it tries to be (and they dink around with the timeline order from time to time as well). Flickr is, well, it’s owned by Yahoo! and it tries to be pretty but for all intents and purposes, it’s sailed into the sunset to join MySpace and other services destroyed by good intentions. The WordPress app on iOS prevents me from uploading photos my blog with any sort of ease. I’m at a loss on how to easily connect with people, share my photos and experience the experience of others in a chronological order. If anyone wants to loan my a couple of million dollars, I’d build an Instagram crushing service in a minute. Or two.
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You Won’t Believe What I Wrote.

Click bait articles are really starting to get on my nerves. You know those articles that start with “I Couldn’t Believe What Happened Next” or “You Won’t Believe What He Found In The Toilet!”? Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the infestation that has taken over the Internet. I was perusing through the Apple News app this morning when I noticed a black and white photo of four women. The caption read, “a photographer takes the same photo of these four sisters for 35 years and the results are incredible. Click for more.” Now, the caption is rather click-baity with the “the results are incredible” tag, but the photo was moderately appealing and I read into the caption thinking that the pose was consistent over the time frame indicated. Wrong! This was simply a photo of the four women in a random pose, one per year, with some sort of Photoshop filter applied to it to give it a Vaseline smudge look to it. Of course, to see each photo you had to click to the next page (1 of 35, 2 of 35, etc) and there was a barrage of ads accompanying each page, complete with blaring video and sliding Javascript. I didn’t even make it to page three when I feverishly backed myself the hell out of that hole. I then found I couldn’t get back to the main Apple News app which angered me in an irrational manner. If Apple hadn’t locked me into forcing the Apple News app on my iPhone with removing the ability to delete the thing, I would have promptly removed the app, never to gander at Apple News again. Instead, in a fit of frustration I threw my iPhone down onto the bed and jumped up to write this blog entry. Thank you Apple for the motivation to bury the app in a “do not use” folder and subsequently get on with my day. I have just now stopped cursing myself for falling for a click bait article. It’s bad enough that I’m constantly fed ads from Sheryl Sandberg and her ilk of pictures of toes that are having a heart attack or a woman peeling her face off to make her 85 year old haggard, haggy face look tighter than a snare drum in an effort get me to buy something. But these click bait articles, which I am normally intelligent enough to outsmart, are really getting on my nerves, especially when they’re starting to appear on “reputable” news sites like CNN (which indicates the real motivation for Wolf Blitzer and his magic wall). Journalism my ass. I don’t even read some halfway decent blogs anymore because they’re so populated with ads that the content takes only a third of the page and there’s things moving all over the place when I’m trying to focus on the “content”. The local newspaper is famous for things sliding around if you don’t pay some outrageous amount for their dubious content and then said content contains headlines such as “Mayor Makes Startling Discovery in His Lunch Pail”. I know I’m starting to sound like the cranky old man that sits on his virtual front porch, but I miss the days before the Internet Infestation of ads. Honestly, I can take the little Google Ads that appear in a small box. I can take a two-to-three screen slide show of photos and commentary pertaining to a news item prefaced with a reasonable headline, “Citizens Protest Lunch Conditions at City Hall”. But these headlines that I won’t believe, that will astound me or that have nothing to do with the actual content of the article have got to come to a stop. Stop clicking on them, please.

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. 101d47b0acb7d02d8e248bf886fb4eb1
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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”.