Commute.

So the last two days of work have been all about training. The company has a few offices in Chicagoland, but as an official remote employee, I’ve never been to these offices before. However, since some management training became available, I decided to sign up, dust off my badge, and make a trek to the ‘burbs.

Having never officially commuted for work in Chicago, I left myself plenty of time to get to the office. I needed to travel about 25 miles by car (17 miles as the crow flies). I allowed myself 1 hour and 45 minutes, because I am no stranger to Chicago and I know how traffic works.

It turns out I needed 1 hour and 30 minutes of that time. I had just enough time to grab a cup of coffee, meet fellow employees in person, and settle into my seat at the training room at a comfortable pace.

I actually loved the experience of commuting again, despite the traffic doing what it does. It was much more interesting than the commuting I engaged in back in Upstate New York, where I’d wave at the same cow or have to slow down for an Amish buggy delivery milk day after day, but being able to people watch other commuters on the various expressways along my route was a refreshing change of pace.

I might have to head out to the offices more often.

Dunes.

Apparently seven years ago today I went for a Jeep ride to my hometown. Apple Photos was kind enough to remind me of this. I don’t remember taking this photo but I am very familiar with the area, as it is only a mile or two from where I grew up.

You’ll notice there are sand dunes along the green field in this photo; when Dad was digging the basement for our new home back in 1975, I remember mounds of sand all around the excavated area. The land of my hometown is very sandy, as once upon a time it was part of Lake Ontario. Even though the spot in the photo about is about 10 miles in from the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, there’s still plenty of sand dunes in the area, lending evidence to the fact that what we called home was once under water.

When we were kids we would ride our Coleco toboggans down those sand dunes. We’d have fun with our cousins, riding down and then trekking back up to do it all over again.

These dunes were on the approach to runway 34 at the small airport we were at every weekend; where my dad learned to fly. I always liked looking out of the back seat of the Piper J-5A and seeing the dunes, even though there was no lake to be found.

Seeing this photo made me smile. We need more smiles in today’s world.

Passion.

I had the pleasure of listening to an aviation podcast earlier today after a wonderful breakfast with my fellow members of the flying club I belong to. The podcast is called Simple Flight, and is produced by a couple members of the club right from the clubhouse at KPWK. If you’re an AvGeek and enjoy podcasts, I highly recommend you adding it to your playlist for your listening pleasure.

In this latest podcast (09 Jul 19 episode), the guest was a man who has the goal of owning and flying a Phenom 300 business jet. He is working his way toward that goal, and it’s clear from the enthusiasm exhibited during this interview that he has a passion for aviation and I have no doubt that he will realize his dream.

As I was sitting in traffic on Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway, making my way home while listening to this podcast, I started daydreaming about my passions, and how I’m happiest when I’m focused on those passions. I enjoy many things, but I’m passionate about four things, and I have dreams that I’m still striving to realize in this second half of my life.

So what am I passionate about?

I say this is without hesitation, but my first and foremost passion, is my family and home. As my mother would say, “well duh, John”, the truth of the matter is, I feel fulfilled and happiest when I’m in our home space in a place that I love with the people I love. My love for my family is the driver for everything else, and this enables me to work hard, play harder, and discover the next big thing in my life.

My second passion is aviation. I live life without regret but honestly I wish I had become a pilot sooner in my life. Obviously things happen when and where they best should happen, and become a pilot five years ago was the right time and place, but sometimes I wonder where I’d be in the world today if I had found the confidence and resources to become a pilot earlier in life. Would I be flying for the airlines? Would I be flying cargo? Would Earl and I own an airplane together? My passion for aviation drives me to become a better pilot with every flight, and I honestly I’ve been too slow in getting the ratings I want. I need to ramp that up. Focus on the passion, not the distraction.

My third passion, and this is another thing I could talk non-stop about, is what I call “practical technology”. I am fascinated by how far technology has come along in my lifetime, but the truth of the matter is, not all of it is good. Practical Technology needs to continue to move ahead, but this extraneous stuff to me holds little interest for me. I definite practical technology as tech that makes a positive contribution to the world. Practical tech makes using technology easier for the user. A number of years ago an appliance company designed a washer that connected to the dryer so the dryer would know when the washer was finishing up its cycle and start warming up ahead of time. This is nifty and certainly possible, but is it practical? What’s it accomplishing? If you’re not standing right there when the washer completes, how is this going to help? It’s like this trend of having cars turn off and automatically start again when you step off the brake, all in the name of energy conservation. How much energy does it really conserve? How much does it screw up traffic patterns due to waiting for the car to restart when the light turns green? We have so much technology available to use that is not practical; I’d really like to see what I can do as a software engineer to bring technology back in the line of being practical again. I’m really interested in bringing more tech into aviation. I’m not a fan of remote controlled passenger aircraft, but I am a fan of succinctly informing the pilot with as much data as relevant to a situation.

My fourth passion is music. Great music, full of emotion and feeling, and performed in a genuine manner, makes my heart sing. So much new music today is created for the purpose of stardom and making money. This type of performance elicits no response in me. But powerful moments, where you can nearly wrap your arms around the joy the performer is feeling during their performance, will nearly bring me to tears. I care less about perfection and am always looking for the genuine. Seeking out performances of this nature will always make me happy, and my passion for finding this happiness always makes me smile.

There’s a lot of things one must do for the purpose of generating the opportunity to pursue their passions. This is the energy that all humans should be allowed to expend.

I’m certain the world would be a happier place if we all just allowed one another to be passionate.

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Relaxed.

One of the perks of working from home is that I have the opportunity to take a few moments to relax when I need a time out during the work day. I spent a few moments relaxing on the bed after lunch today and Truman hopped up to sit next to me.

It’s hard to believe that he’s lived with us for over six months. He has his routine and while it was disturbed a bit during our recent time away, he seems unfazed by the whole thing and is indicating expectation for his schedule. He’s not much of a cuddler as he prefers to sit nearby rather than on me or snuggled up with me, which is fine. I just needed to learn the ground rules early on.

As I relaxed on the bed with him alongside, he situated himself so he could see out the window and observe the goings-on on the rooftop patio next door. We had the windows wide open, as it was a glorious day in The Windy City today, and every time a train passed on the Brown Line, I noticed his little notice would go into action sniffing the air passing through the open windows. I don’t know what he was smelling, but his nose would jump around a little bit, almost as if he was using smell to read a newspaper. Come to think of it, that may be a way that felines communicate. Perhaps they rely on smell as much as we rely on sight.

When I was a teenager we had an orange and white cat named Waldo (named after the cartoon “Waldo Kitty”). One day he was laying next to me on my bed and I noticed that if I looked at him with one eye he had a more orange hue to his fur than if I looked at him with the other eye. It was like a green tint was removed and/or inserted to his fur color, depending on the eye I was using to look at him.

Forty years later and I was playing the same game with similarly-colored Truman this afternoon. As his nose wiggled, I switched back and forth between my left and right eye, the green tint in his fur coming and going depending on which eye was in use.

Closing and opening each eye individually caught Truman’s attention, and he turned away from the window for a moment to see what I was doing. I smiled and gave him some nice pets.

He commenced purring.

Relaxing on the bed is a good way to boost the energy in the midday.

Home.

Earl and I are on a 5-day getaway, currently aboard a United flight from O’Hare to Denver. This getaway is a focus on relaxation for the two of us, and I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long while. Denver is not out final destination today.

There are many things I love about calling Chicago home, and one of them is the fact we live so close to a major airport. Not only can I watch flights on approach into O’Hare on a daily basis (something I love to do), but many of our flights out of the Windy City are a one hop experience (contrary to today’s flight). When we leave ORD I’m always excited to identify the landmarks I can easily identify as a private pilot. Here’s a photo fo KPWK, the home airport of one of the Flying Clubs I belong to and the airport where I’ve logged many departures and takeoffs in the Archer III.

I’m at one of the most happiest moments in my life, despite all the chaos going on in the world. Life is what you make it to be, always strive to make it the best it can be.

Ponderance.

According to Apple’s spell check, “ponderance” isn’t a word. Betty White could never give enough clues to guess that Password.

That’s how I feel tonight: full of ponderance. There’s a lot to think about.

Random.

CTA sign shoved behind a kiosk at the Rockwell Brown Line Stop in Chicago.

When Earl is working an evening game at Wrigley Field I end up with some time on my hands. In the summer I don’t feel much like going outside but I’m not really a fan of driving the car all over creation while living here in the city. Yes, I went to school to be a Traffic Engineer but I believe urban areas such as Chicago have much better options in the way of public transit. I love the ‘L’ here in Chicago and I ride it almost every day.

Wanting to get a walk in during this beautiful weather I’ll jump on the ‘L’ and get on whatever train is first to appear at the station. I’ll ride a random number of stops and then I’ll walk back home. Today I walked two miles back to the house and I loved every step of it. You could almost feel the sigh of relief that the Monday workday was over and people were enjoying a drink or a meal with a spouse or friends on the sidewalk.

I love that energy. I love the vibe. One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that people of a certain age seem to be on their phones less while seated at a table. I’ve always been sensitive to the use of technology in social situations, but I don’t know if it’s because we live in a different socioeconomic situation than when we did a few years ago or if the pendulum of smartphone use is starting to swing back the other way, but it’s rare to hear someone having a conversation on their phone in a restaurant or at a bar. Back in Utica we’d hear about custody battles and people making doctor’s appointments and fights with a bank. I don’t notice it nearly as much in Chicago.

Maybe I’m just better natured since we’ve moved here.

I do love the vibe of happy people enjoying life with friends and/or family. It’s energizing.

And we all need good energy.

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51.

51. Not prime, but awesome. Some numbers physically look more awesome to me than others, and 51 looks awesome.

A health provider recently said to me, “you’re on the back nine, the best part of the game.” Yep. A great place to be.

NY Route 51 goes from Mount Upton to Ilion. It’s a nice, scenic drive. There’s ups, there’s downs, curves, and straight runs. Enjoyable all the way.

Back in my school days, bus 51 was driven by a woman named Jean. Not my regular bus, but word had it she could bounce two HS football players against each other while keeping one hand on the wheel. She was in charge.

There is no Illinois 51. There is a U.S. Route 51 in Illinois and it runs the entire length of the state. I’ve been on approximately half of it, and Earl and I will finish the other half before the year’s end.

I’ve never had “51” in sequence in any of my home or personal phone numbers, but my internal office number when I worked at Digital was DTN 251-1282.

I’m right where I was meant to be at this point, on this planet, in this moment of time. No regrets. I look forward with excitement of what lies ahead.

Relaxed.

It is an absolutely divine evening in The Windy City. It’s 77ºF after 10:00 p.m., perhaps the warmest it has been at this time of night in 2019. Impressive thunderstorms passed through earlier this afternoon; I was called from my office to the balcony when I heard hail banging against the windows. When I looked out I couldn’t see the clock you see in the snapshot I just took a moment ago.

The weather cam on our balcony caught a bit of the storm.

Mother Nature may throw us some more storms throughout the night. Looking at the forecast discussion in my aviation weather apps, there’s probably going to thunderstorms on and off through the weekend.

I might not get to fly much over the next few days but at least Mother Nature is strutting around impressively. For the moment, I shall sit on the balcony, enjoy the summer breeze, and relax. It’s a good way to wind down for the night.

Sideways.

I notice things that many people don’t pay much attention to. I’ve always been this way; at age 8 I remarked to my mother as we were driving through town, that someone had taken down all the corner street signs throughout the village. As it turns out, the village had taken down the signs to have the cast iron signs repainted. Why they did this with all the signs at once was beyond my comprehension, but nevertheless, she said she would have never noticed that sort of thing and she felt I should become a scientist or something.

When we first started coming to Chicago to visit Jamie, I noticed that every electrical socket in his apartment was sideways. I thought this may have been just a quirk of the builder of the 1950s apartment building he was living in, but then I started looking at wall plugs everywhere we went in the city and aside from when the plug was sharing a box with a wall switch or something, the plug was always turned sideways.

By the way, by sideways I mean the “face” of a typical U.S. electrical outlet is on its side, rather than looking like two eyes and a mouth agape underneath.

A little research on this revealed that most Chicago-based contractors do this because they always have, and that’s how you can tell you had a quality electrician doing the work in your home. City codes also require conduit in the walls, and it’s easier to install wall boxes sideways when you’re working with conduit.

It is of little consequence as to which direction the plugs are oriented on our wall, except if you have a nightlight or something, because then the nightlight is pointing sideways. So if you’re particularly religious or something and have a nightlight featuring the Virgin Mary, she’s going to be laying on her side.

I talk about this today because I spent a few minutes replacing one of the outlets over the kitchen counter with a new receptacle that contains USB charging ports as well. Since I come from a family of building contractors, it seems that I am required to do this sort of thing on my own in lieu of hiring a handyman to do it, and of course I over-tightened the wall plate and cracked it, resulting in a trip to the local hardware store. Since this wall outlet shares a box with the switch for the garbage disposal, it’s one of the three plugs in the entire condo that is vertically oriented.

Regardless of the direction it’s facing, I’m pleased with the result of my work this afternoon. Now I’m going to take a few moments and lay on my side.