Snow.

I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. When I was a kid I didn’t really plan any costumes ahead of time or something; I’d just throw a sheet over my head or where a pair of shorts or roller skates or something. Growing up in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt it was always a crap shoot as to whether we’d be wearing ski jackets over our costumes or not.

One of my strongest memories of Trick or Treating is riding in the backseat of my Aunt’s Datsun B210 through a blinding snow storm between my great Aunt Rena’s and great Aunt Frances’ houses. They both lived on the same road about three miles apart. I remember the ride between their houses being about 20 minutes long.

That’s how we celebrated Halloween in the Lake Ontario snowbelt.

They’re predicting a dusting of snow tomorrow here in Chicagoland. Per the vibe of the 21st Century social media is flipping out, newscasters are having fits, and weather forecasters are having discreet orgasms.

It’s a dusting of snow. Have an extra piece of candy and calm down.

Sources.

My husband comments frequently on my expressions of frustration while driving around the greater Cook and Lake County areas of Northeastern Illinois. His frequent comments are probably a result of the frequency in which I share my feelings about the drivers and society in general.

I fully believe we have an up front, first row seat at the drastic dumbing down of American society.

My biggest frustration with driving on the roads of the United States is that everyone is forced to the lowest common denominator for everything. Speed limits are set for people that can’t handle anything faster. Drivers have to constantly guess if a vehicle is turning in front of them or not because that driver can’t be bothered to use their turn signal. Motorists love to camp in the “passing” lane because they think they’re living life in the fast lane. The list goes on and on but you know all this.

The latest trend I’ve noticed is pulling over to the left side of an expressway with a broken down vehicle instead of the right shoulder like we all used to do until about five or so years ago. We can be in the middle of Iowa, hardly any traffic around, and a driver will get a flat tire and pull over to the left side of the expressway instead of the right side. This is most likely because they were camping in the left lane (the passing lane) instead of being in the right lane (the driving lane) where they should have been in the first place.

Left side shoulders are generally not as wide as the right side shoulders along American expressways and freeways. Unless there’s a grassy median (and not a concrete or steel barrier) with plenty of room in between the travel lanes of a high-speed roadway, you shouldn’t be pulling over to the left side of the road.

Another thing that makes me crazy here in Illinois is work zone speed limits. IDOT and the Illinois Tollway Authority love posting low work zone speed limits, which in theory, should increase safety for the workers. If a roadway is obviously under construction and workers are present, I’m all for lowering the speed limit. But lowering the speed limit for the duration of a project, even though the paving is done, the stripes are in place, and the new signs have been installed, and there’s not a shred of evidence of a construction zone aside from the “WORK ZONE SPEED LIMIT 45 $375 MINIMUM FINE” sign in a normally 70 MPH roadway, endangers workers in real construction zones. It minimizes the impact of these work zone signs and motorists just start ignoring them everywhere.

So little common sense these days.

Sometimes common sense takes effort to implement and unfortunately American society is becoming more and more lazy. Common sense is hard. Apparently it’s easier to just waver between lanes while catching up on Instagram and drinking a cup of coffee.

I’ll just stick to flying where the majority of pilots make a concerted effort to follow the rules.

Autonomy.

Photo courtesy of extreme tech.com

I love technology. Lord knows I blog about it enough. I’ve been fascinated with all things tech since I was a young lad and my interest in technology just gets more geeky with every passing breath.

Tonight, my husband and I watched the latest episode of “Madam Secretary President”. Aside from the fact that Téa Leoni is my straight crush and that the final season of this show gives us a picture as to what the United States could have been like with the first female president, this episode, “Killer Robots”, discussed the dangers of Autonomous Weapons, or killer robots running on A.I.

We are not safer when we remove the human component of something, especially when technology can be hacked by bad actors.

This got me thinking about autonomous aircraft. I learned to fly at an airport jumping head first into UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The airplanes were rather cool in that you’d see a Diamond DA-42 go by on the taxiway without anyone in the cockpit. The airplane was being controlled by a pilot at a computer terminal located elsewhere on the airport. When a traditional airplane entered the airspace for landing, the unmanned aircraft would be redirected outside of harm’s way. When we left the area they had not sequenced manned and unmanned aircraft in the pattern together as of yet.

Many talk about taking the next leap to autonomous airliners. Imagine stepping onto an Airbus and knowing that not only are there no human pilots in the cockpit but there isn’t even a remote operator located somewhere on the ground, monitoring operations from a remote location. I’m not even comfortable with the idea of flying on an airplane with a remote pilot let alone flying on an airplane being controlled entirely by Artificial Intelligence. In both scenarios, whatever is flying the aircraft has no skin in the game. To the pilot controlling the UAV from the ground? It’s like operating a video game. To the aircraft controlled entirely by computers and artificial intelligence? Who knows what it’s thinking.

I love flying airplanes. And I know many men and women that enjoy it maybe even more than I do. I know I’m getting on in my years, but I fully believe we will always need an onboard human element when it comes aircraft hauling passengers or being used for missions that involve human interaction. Honestly, I’m not even comfortable with the idea of airlines reducing the flight crew from two to one; it’s good to have checks and balances, a human set of checks and balances.

Technology can do amazing things and I’m excited to see the advancements we make during the second half of my life. But we must never lose sight of the fact that we’re human and we need that human foundation.

We may not always act like the smartest species, but we’re still a feeling species; and that just feels right.

Bucket List Item.

I need to experience this type of flight once in my life. Many will say they have no need for this type of service. I absolutely want this type of service once in my life.

This is a goal.

UA 1500.

We are on our way home from a wonderful eight-day adventure at Walt Disney World. I have taken dozens and dozens of photos, I have pondered a lot and pondered a little, and I’m feeling the most relaxed after a vacation I have felt in several years.

This has been a wonderful vacation.

We are aboard flight UA 1500 en route to ORD Chicago-O’Hare. The flight is quite smooth; flight time is a little over 2.5 hours. It will be nice to be back in Central Time. As an aside, I’m looking forward to the end of Daylight Saving Time in two weeks. I know many folks don’t look forward to losing their “extra” daylight, but my circadian rhythm feels all nice and adjusted when we get back to Standard Time.

My husband and I were counting out the number of visits we have made to Walt Disney World during our 23+ years together and I was surprised to realize the final tally. As a process and technology dork, it’s interesting to see how things have changed over the years and how much things are progressing. Experiences that seemed very cutting edge back in 1997 now feel a little dated. I still adore the “Disney Tradition” and approach to excitement but I sometimes wonder if the average middle American family enjoys the experience as much as I do. I tend to be an outlier in the way I see things. I’m good with my point of view; sometimes you need commentary from a different vantage point in the room.

One of the things that’s becoming more difficult to do at Disney is shutting out the outside world a bit. Without making changes to notification schemes and avoiding certain apps and streams, you can still become inundated with the travails occurring on the other side of those magical walls. While I tweeted and shared our experiences, I didn’t do a lot of reading of news and the like. I’m sure everything is still as off the rails as it was when we embarked on this journey last Saturday.

I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to keep this sense of centered-ness alive for as long as possible. I have a few little charms that will be in my reach at my work desk. I have a few chants I’ll say to myself from time to time.

It’s good to be in a great place.

And it’s awesome to be in an airplane, enjoying the view. Any seat on an airplane is an awesome seat.