Burnout.

I follow a lot of aviators on Twitter. I follow musicians, I follow fellow bloggers, I follow friends both from real life and those I’ve met online. I follow politically minded people.

This morning I decided that I needed to shut down Twitter for a few hours.

I noticed that I’ve been checking Twitter upon waking each morning to see if there’s been some sort of global catastrophe, because my spidey sense is worried about what looms on the horizon and let’s face it, the country has been a bit of a dumpster fire since the Inauguration.

My Twitter feed has been all about politics. Well, that’s an exaggeration. My feed has been about 98% politics. My tweets have followed the same ratio. My handful of followers know how I feel on any given subject.

Today I just had to step away from it all for a little while and just practice some breathing exercise to get my head back to center.

The reboot helped. I no longer feel overwhelmed and I feel ready to continue the quest to do my part to make the United States the best it can be.

Onward and onward. Now if we could just do something about the dumpster fire.

Hello, Piano.

The first time I went to college (right out of high school), I went to study music education. My plan was to become a music teacher. I went on an instrumental study, having originally auditioned as a vocalist but after being rejected by the school I went and tried again as a tuba player. It was easy for me to get into the music school as a tuba player, tuba players are rare. I had played tuba since the fifth grade. I wasn’t exceptionally good nor passionate about it, but it helped me fill in the “bottom” of a given band, so I was good doing my part.

As a Music Education major I took many music theory classes. In depth study of how good music is constructed was quite interesting to me. In many ways music is math. Musical passages are fractions of the song and a well constructed piece of music makes use of equal fractions. I was always interested in how classical compositions related to modern music, especially dance music of the time. The college had just constructed its first electronic recording studio in the summer of 1986 and was offering classes in music recording, editing and the like. Because I was a music education major and because the equipment in the studio was very expensive, I was denied entry to any of these classes. I sometimes wonder where I would be in life today if I had pursued that line of music instead of the more traditional music education track.

One of the best ways for me to get centered for a work week is to listen to a composition of well constructed electronic dance music. It’s not really EDM in the sense of going to a rave and getting hyped up on E or anything. The intensity of the track needs to be subtle. Lyrics should be minimal and actually I prefer vocalizations that are instrumental contributions rather than the centerpiece of the creation. The use of real instruments, are at least very accurate representations, soothe my being. The track needs to have a “flow”; a logical construction that tells a story.

Please enjoy “Hello, Piano” by Inkfish and David West. This track is near perfection for my ears. Someday I’m going to figure out what the vocalizations are saying but I don’t get lost on trying to discern their meaning. I just let them blend in with the other instruments, the flanging between my ears adding to the bliss I feel when I listen to this track.

Best enjoyed with headphones.

1 Comment

Passport, Please?

Imagine coming home to the U.S. from a wonderful trip to the beautiful city of Montréal. As you make your way through customs, the agent asks you for your phone and password. Your passport is no longer good enough. He then takes a moment to flip through all your contacts, looks at your Facebook contacts and interactions, sees if you have Twitter and then takes a glance at your email. Perhaps before handing you back your phone and granting you access to cross the border, he peruses through all your photos. If you don’t do this you can’t get back home. Would you, as an ordinary American, be OK with this? Because there is speculation that we are about one and a half steps from this sort of thing becoming the norm.

2 Comments

Privacy.

As an avid tech enthusiast (what kind of enthusiast wouldn’t be avid?), I am starting to become a little paranoid about my online activity, especially in light of the fact that I’ve become rather outspoken on Twitter about the Trump Presidency.

I’ve started using a couple of tools in my online arsenal to make my experience with the Internet a little bit safer, and I thought I would share these with you.

Private Tunnel
Private Tunnel is a service that provides VPN (Virtual Private Network) connectivity to the Internet. This basically “hides” your location by routing all of your network traffic encrypted through a remote server. It also assures that all communication between you and the remote server is encrypted. This is particularly important when you are on the road using public hotspots.

Private Tunnel is free up to a certain amount of bandwidth and I found their subscription model to be affordable for my needs. The software client is available for a number of platforms which includes Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. At the very least I use this service for all monetary transactions. I routinely use it for all other browsing, especially if I’m using a public, unsecured network.

For more information, check out their webpage here. If you decide to go with a subscription, help me out by using this link. I believe my unlimited data plan was $29/year.

Better
Better is an iOS and MacOS Safari Extension that helps block all trackers, ads and the like while surfing the Internet on Safari.

While many of the ad blockers available for the various browsers do a decent job of blocking ads and the like, many are still supported by ad companies, which are placed on a “white list”, so their ads still get through to you. Better is not supported by any ad company or Venture Capitalist, so they have no obligation to anyone. Development is based solely on the purchase of the app or extension.

This blog entry better (heh) describes Better and if you’re interested in making your online activities untargeted, ad free and lighter (because all of that ad data is blocked from coming down your network connection) you should definitely check out Better. Link to the Mac App Store and Link to the App Store (for iPhone and iPad).

1Password
I’ve written before that no one should be using the same password across multiple sites. You should never have the same password for Twitter as for your email as for Facebook, etc. If someone has your password they’re able to get into everything and that’s not good.

Safari and other web browsers do a decent job of coming up with random passwords and storing this information for you, which in turn is stored behind another password to keep it all safe. The thing is, if you use both Windows and Mac or both iOS and Android, your saved Safari (or other browser) passwords may not sync between the dissimilar operating systems. Yes, Google Chrome works on just about everything, but remember, Google’s livelihood is supported by your data. You are not the customer, you are the product, so you probably should have another way of keeping track of all your passwords. Don’t write them down, put them in 1Password.

1Password is available for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. 1Password has a variety of sync options to choose from and no one but you can decrypt the data stored in your 1Password profile, so if you lose the password, you’ve lost your vault.

Their subscription model is quite affordable and I noticed that they now have a family plan available as well. Earl uses 1Password and finds it easy to use. I encourage users to keep their stuff safe with dissimilar passwords across platforms and to store them somewhere safe. 1Password definitely fits the bill.

FYI, the password to my 1Password account is over 25 characters long. I keep my stuff SAFE.

This is just the start of my arsenal of security tools. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or feel free to drop me a line.

Safe surfing for all!

1 Comment

Surgery, Part 1.

I am having surgery today. This surgery is part of the saga that has been going on for most of my life, and the subject matter might make some readers uncomfortable. I share these things so that others that share my issues may read about my experiences. I will not be offended if you do not complete this blog entry.

For some reason, many doctors suspect that it was because I might have rammed my parts into my bike when I was young kid, I have scar tissue that likes to grow in my urethra. This is not hugely uncommon among men; the scar tissue is called a stricture and it makes it difficult to urinate. Don’t worry, everything else is functional and I’m happy in the sex department.

I have had four surgeries to remove the scar tissue to open things back up. They started back when I was 13 years old so, with surgery in 1982, 1986, 2005 and 2015. Since the last surgery in 2015 I have used a catheter on a daily basis to keep things open. In the back of my mind I knew it was a stop gap measure and there have been times that I’ve had to use the catheter two or three times a day to keep things feeling and working the way they should. Shortly before Christmas the catheter went the wrong way, I had a lot of blood come out and then scar tissue started filling in the gap again.

In the 2015 entry I mention that there is another procedure that they can do that should correct the problem permanently. This involves taking some skin from the inside of my mouth and grafting it where the scar tissue is in my urethra, thus completely eliminating the scar tissue instead of just cutting it back and hoping that it doesn’t come back. My urologist wanted to do this procedure the last time but it was summer time and I wasn’t in the mood to be down for the count for 10 weeks or so during the summer, so I opted out. It wasn’t a mistake, but it ultimately just delayed the inevitable.

So this morning I am having what is called a Supra-pubic catheter put in so things can “calm down” in my urethra. This catheter will be a small tube between my belly button and my junk. I figure if folks fighting cancer can have ports installed to go through chemotherapy, I can run around with a pee tube for five weeks. So after today and through March if we talk face to face, I could be peeing in your presence and you wouldn’t even know it.

In March, if all goes to plan, I will be having the second surgery, where they’ll do the skin graft thing and rebuild the parts that are currently damaged. I will then have two catheters for a few weeks, a traditional one that makes some men shutter and the other pee tube that I’m getting today, the latter being the backup plan if something goes wrong after the reconstructive surgery.

When all is said and done, I should be as good as new. I should be able to pee across a football field and if I don’t have one of those handy, at the very least blow toilets off the wall like a superhero but without the laser beams.

The success rate of this type of procedure is 90%-95% for long-term success and as all the medical information I’ve read on the Internet says, “should be considered the gold standard as a solution for this type of problem.” The previous surgeries have a very low long term success rate so it’s comforting to know that my body is behaving just as doctors expect.

I’m apprehensive about the length of time for the procedures and the recovery; when all is said and done it’ll be like 11 weeks of prep and recovery time. But, other than a couple of weeks after the reconstruction part in March, I should be able to carry on just as I do today, albeit with just a little extra hardware. I did it before in 2015 and I can do it again in 2017.

I’m looking forward to not living with this issue anymore; all my life when I’ve had to go the bathroom I’ve had to say a little prayer, “please let everything work”.

From now on I know that everything should just work.

Mary.

In November 2013 I took a solo trip to Minneapolis because I had never been there and it was a non-stop flight from Syracuse on Delta. It was the first time I ever sat in First Class.

I planned on just exploring the city and picked out a reasonably priced hotel downtown. Much of downtown Minneapolis is connected by the Skywalk, which allows one to walk from building to build throughout the downtown area without ever going outside. When I left the hotel on my first exploration of the Skywalk, I suddenly realized that I was staying adjacent to the IDS Center, which was the location of many shots from the opening to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

I found the escalator that Mary had used.

I had to take my own photo.

Then I looked up and saw the restaurant where Mary and her then husband Grant Tinker are having lunch in the opening credits.

I ate lunch in the “Mary Tyler Moore booth” that day.

I was absolutely delighted to find this piece of Americana while visiting Minneapolis. That trip was life changing for me, for it was during that trip that I decided that it was time to become a private pilot.

Mary Tyler Moore passed away at age 80 today. I’ve always enjoyed her show and hearing the theme song and seeing clips from the show has made me smile today.

Love is all around. Thanks for the smiles, Mary. RIP.

1 Comment

Multipass.

So who wants to wager how long it will be before the Trump Administration starts pushing for a national “Multipass” type credential card for every citizen of the United States? I’ll admit that I have a tin foil hat in my closet that seems to not be gathering dust lately, but if you take a step back from the insanity spewing from the White House, you can see the signs where such a scenario is quite plausible. A National registration card using the latest technology for this sort of thing would be a wet dream for Trump and his efforts.

  1. Trump wants to deport illegal immigrants. No Multipass? Out you go.
  2. Trump is still carrying on about alleged election fraud, despite the fact that there is no evidence that massive election fraud took place during last November’s election. No Multipass? No vote.
  3. Trump wants to take our border security to the next level. No Multipass? You’re not getting back in the U.S.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. How long would it be before you had flash your Multipass to get into a sporting event or a concert or the mall? With embedded RFID technology in the Multipass, every citizen of the United States could be tracked at any given time. Why go through the hassle of bugging the telecoms or tech companies for access to smartphones and other devices when you can just track the Multipass? You wouldn’t even know when your Multipass is being scanned. Have a scanner in the mall and Johnny is at Destiny USA. Bomb goes off at Destiny USA, let’s round up everyone that was in the area where the bomb went off.

Craziness, right? Don’t be so quick to dismiss.

Now, I would use every ounce of voice that I have to dismiss such an act. One of the many perks of being an American is the fact that we can move freely about the country without constantly being tracked. But if there’s enough hysteria, enough lies and enough spin, I could totally see Trump supporters backing such legislation. And we know that Trump is really good at lies and his folks are really good at spin.

And his supporters think nothing of denying the truth of their own senses if they feel it’s in the best interest of their chosen political party.

Scary times, people. Scary times. I feel like I should start practicing, “J.P. Wing Multipass”.

1 Comment

Truth.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. … And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security. … And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent. — John F Kennedy, April 27, 1961

The words “truth” and “lies” have been coming up a lot since the inauguration of Donald Trump to the presidency. Mr. Trump has been president for four days and there has been nothing but the release of “Alternate Facts”, declarations and bold statements that contradict what we see and hear with our own eyes. Trump validates his success via ratings and numbers and polls, and when they don’t swing his way he declares that these numbers are false and that the media is nothing but a bunch of Fake News.

The controversy as to the attendance, in person and via television and media streaming, of his inauguration has gone on for way too long. The issue is that Press Secretary Sean Spicer made statements on Saturday that contradicted what actually happened and what was recorded by journalists, citizens and other observers at the event and around the world. The first appearance of Mr. Spicer as Press Secretary set a dangerous precedent of stating facts and painting the media as to be loaded with falsehoods, bad intentions and liars. Again, I reference George Orwell’s “1984”. We are coming dangerously close to the storyline in the famous novel.

In addition to “1984”, I can’t help but think of the original mini-series “V” and its follow-up “V: The Final Battle”. After an appearance of the antagonists, “The Visitors”, was thwarted by The Resistance and the Visitors were revealed to be who they really are, the broadcast was shut down and the journalist covering the story was shot dead. Later, a new press conference was held, completely staged, with the same audience threatened and instructed as when to applaud.

I can’t help but reflect on the fact that Mr. Trump had paid staffers in the crowd at the Press Conference before his inauguration clapping and cheering at his remarks. When the president spoke at the CIA Memorial Wall on Saturday, he used the opportunity to falsely talk about the turnout at his inauguration, slam the media a bit, attempt to reverse the fact that he and the CIA have been at odds over the possible connection between Trump’s business dealings and Russia (and perhaps Russian’s influence on our last election) and all the while there were staffers applauding his remarks. At a memorial wall that honors those that died in the line of service.

It is reported that Trump brought his own staff for the purpose of cheering his remarks during this event.

Today, Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned during the press briefing that the President believes that 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants cast a vote in the last election, alluding to the cause as to why Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote. The man just can’t let this go.

According to Trump, there has been some vast conspiracy across the country that caused this rift in the electoral process, despite the fact that:

  1. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this actually happened, despite the fact that the media has been trying to somehow prove this since Election Day
  2. The president is doing absolutely nothing in the way of an investigation to prosecute the people that were involved in this alleged conspiracy
  3. The president and his administration is taking absolutely no action to assure that this sort of voter fraud will never happen again
  4. There is absolutely no evidence that this happened
  5. Do we really think that if the election was so skewed by the numbers of voters he is stating that we wouldn’t want to have a special election after determining that the potential for fraud had been eliminated? Why is Congress or no one else taking action on this?

Trump is banking on the fact that if it’s discussed enough and if it’s said enough, this blatant lie will somehow become a truth in the dialogue of the American public.

People. This is the storyline of “1984”. This is how the Nazis ascended to power in the 1930s.

I am trying my best to maintain the respect of the office of the President of the United States. I really am. But I have absolutely no respect for the man that currently holds that title and most of that is because the man is a lunatic and all evidence suggests that he is some sort of pathological liar. The man lies constantly. He keeps telling these lies so he will believe them and he hopes everyone around him does the same thing.

I don’t think the American public is that stupid. I think we’re pretty stupid, but we’re not that stupid.

If Trump was being honest all the while I could wrap my head around the fight against some of his idiotic policies. Don’t get me started about him silencing the EPA or the National Parks Commission. But when you take honesty out of the equation, it is impossible to know what to fight, what to ignore and what to focus on. A man is only as good as his word.

And right now, Trump is proving that he is completely unworthy as a man.

I’ve always thought that Trump supporters, as much as their beliefs differ from mine, believed that they were doing what they believed was right as a patriot. A patriot has honor, dignity and respect. Trump has none of these. He’s a bully. He’s deluded. And he’s a liar.

We deserve better than this.