Data Geek.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Since my first visit to Walt Disney World in 1997 I have been fascinated with their use of technology. When Earl and I were first here back then, I promptly noticed Disney was using a modified version of the IBM 4680 General Sales Application for their retail needs. At the time they were using IBM 4695 touchscreens in the food outlets, running software I was unfamiliar with.

If you look in older stores at WDW, you’ll notice holes in the counter that used to accommodate the customer display as pictured above.

With each visit to Walt Disney World I’ve noticed evolutionary steps in their use of technology. Point of sale systems were upgraded. The food service program I noticed at the first visit (MATRA) was then used throughout the entire property. IBM 4695s gave way to NCR touchscreen terminals. iPods started making an appearance as another point of sale device. RFID capable credit-card sized tickets were introduced. Then they were capable of unlocking our resort/hotel door. The cards gave way to Magic Bands, which can be used for tickets to the park, charges to the room, unlocking doors, identifying who you are for photo opportunities; the list goes on.

Tonight I noticed several of the Disney establishments are upgrading their point of sale terminals again. The size of an iPad, it looks like they’re still running MATRA but they take up half the space of the preceding terminal. The customer information display is bigger and brighter.

When we check into a FastPass+ attraction, the cast member monitoring entrance activities has the opportunity to say, “Hello, John!”, as my name appears on their screen.

Technology is awesome when it’s used responsibly and enhances our real life experiences. Having a Disney Cast Member take our photo and have it appear in our Disney Parks Photo Stream on our phone 10 minutes later is awesome.

Technology has come a long way since Walt Disney World opened in 1971, apparently using Sweda Model 46 cash registers, as evidenced by this receipt I found online.

Cultural Mingling.

I’m a people watcher. Find my a bench near busy pedestrian traffic and I could sit and watch people all day long. I’m fascinated by the many elements of the human equation.

One of my joys of spending time at Disney is the blend of cultures in progress at any given moment. There’s almost always a whole bunch of languages in use within one’s given proximity. Folks from different continents are looking for cuisine that fits their expectations. And laughs and smiles on a Disney attraction is universal.

The successful blending of people in this manner in the “Happiest Place on Earth” proves that with a little effort and with a common goal, we can all get along just fine. The color of our skin, the language we speak, whom we are holding hands with: none of it matters when we’re all just looking for some happiness in our lives.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Existentially Yours.

Several states in the union have legalized the use of marijuana. As a Gen-Xer that grew up completely without a clue (I never knew why people a classmate “Weed” until I was about 30 years old), the legalization of pot is a direct 180 from the “Just Say No” mantra drummed into our heads in the 1980s. If we did weed our brains were going to fry like eggs in a sticky pan and our lives would be ruined.

I don’t care that people want to do pot. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong with it and I equate it with a night of drinking. A couple of edibles = a couple of shots. But just as I ask myself while I’m drinking, I’m always curious about the impetus that drives on to drink or do recreational drugs.

I’m thoroughly convinced that when historians start looking at statistics during the Trump administration, they’re going to see an increase in all sorts of inebriation. It feels like more folks are dulling their perceptions of reality. My view may be skewed, as we moved to Chicago within a year of Trump taking office. We live in a very craft beer friendly neighborhood. There are pubs everywhere. So I see a lot of people drinking.

My husband is always telling me there’s not always a “why” to every decision. I respond, “why is there no ‘why'”? Every decision is driven by something. It doesn’t just happen. There’s a reason I choose to wear a blue shirt or grow a mustache or jump in a pool or get slammed with multiple alcoholic drinks.

So I’m curious as to why more people are looking to get recreational with their niceties. Maybe there isn’t a reason; perhaps the government is just legalizing to increase revenue. We all know the current administration is capable of spending money like a drunk sailor in a whore house.

I probably waste too many cycles on wondering “why” all the time. Maybe I should take my husband’s advice and just enjoy the ride.

I’ll drink to that.

First Class.

My husband is kind enough to adjust our budget so we can invest some money and accumulated miles and fly First Class when we go on vacation. I’ve always said any seat on an airplane is an awesome seat, and I firmly believe that to still be true, but the other truth of the matter is seats get even more awesome the closer you get to the front of the airplane. If I am not able to be in the cockpit, I want to sit in the single digits.

I’ve been spoiled.

I joke a bit while we’re up here, talking in my best Thurston Howell III voice and not making eye contact with the riff raff as they make they’re way to the back of the airplane where the recycled air is and kids scream at the top of their lungs. In the back of my mind I know our ability to travel in style could change in an instant and we are very blessed to be able to do what we do.

But I do enjoy traveling this way while we can.

I follow several bloggers that spend their days flying from one continent to the next, usually with a more luxurious experience, all on airline miles earned while hacking the credit card system. I admire this. My husband, being at the very tail end of the Baby Boomers, believes in debit cards. “Can’t spend it if we don’t got it” (in his best Philly accent). On the other hand, I’m one for gaming and hacking the system the best I can. Let’s build those miles and enjoy the caviar, dahling. While he says, “use the United card only for restaurants and hotels”, I believe in buying everything and anything on whatever card is going to get us the biggest bang for the buck. Cash rewards? Check: Apple card. Mileage rewards? Check: United.

What debit card?

The key to enjoying this frivolity and not going broke while doing so is part of the mantra I have lived by for my entire adult life: “always be aware of your surroundings”. This includes knowing your balances, knowing your budget, and remaining within your parameters. It’s like being a private pilot. It may look clear and sunny and an utterly gorgeous day to fly, but if the crosswind exceeds your personal minimums, stay on the ground.

Don’t go in the red and bang up the airplane.

UA 848.

Unknown airport

We are on United Flight 848 from O’Hare to Orlando. The whole family is along for the ride and the four of us are in row two of this Boeing 737-900. We are spending the week at Walt Disney World; the house sitter has been installed to keep Truman company while we’re gone.

As a private pilot I always feel inspired to push my flying career further when I’m flying commercially. My grandfather and father, both inspirations as to why I became a pilot, were happy with their Private Pilots’ Certificate flying under VFR conditions and building airplanes in the basement of their homes. I did not inherit the talent or desire required to build my own airplane; I’m much more interested in the tech around avionics when it comes to that stuff. Dad flew with a six-pack. I want glass everywhere.

One of the only challenges I face as a pilot since we moved to Chicago is getting enough time in the cockpit. It’s at least an hour drive to get to either Chicago Executive or Waukegan National (the two airports where I belong to a club and have rental aircraft available). It’s doable, especially when I crank up the tenacity, but occasionally work gets in the way or Mother Nature has different ideas. Back in Upstate New York I used to fly around 80 hours a year but this year I’ll probably fly around 40.

I need to amp that up, as it lends to my frustration quotient.

As a private pilot I have shied away from flying a computer. I’ve done it a few times and my head always goes into a “I wonder how this thing is working” mode. Plus, I’m not feeling anything. I rely on tactile sensations when I’m flying and a computer just doesn’t provide that, at least in my experience. I’ve never flown a full motion simulator but I doubt it’s in our budget and my husband would never let me put one in the condo.

I’ve seen glimpses of Microsoft’s planned release of Flight Simulator. I’m intrigued. I’m thinking it may be time to make the investment in a computer setup where I can practice my instrument approaches and stay in the pilot mindset, especially during the crazy winter months we experience in the Midwest.

I’m going to put together a purchase quote for the accounting department of the household while enjoying this United flight to MCO.

It’ll be a nice way to sit back, relax, and enjoy the Friendly Skies.

Coming Out.

A “National Coming Out Day” post I wrote back in 2007.

I don’t think National Coming Out Day was around when I “came out”. Well, I actually didn’t really come out, for the most part I didn’t really feel the need to. I guess people just assumed. After all, in high school, I ended the morning announcements with phrases like “Have a Wonderful Wednesday” or “Have a Fabulous Friday”. I mean, come on, all that was missing was the flashing pink neon light. When I lived in Massachusetts, my dear friend Donna told me that coming out was only a big deal because gay men and women made such a big deal about coming out. If it’s not a big deal to you, then it’s not a big deal to anyone else. I can sort of see the logic in that and it’s a theory that I subscribe to, though I don’t think it fits in every scenario. For example, I don’t think that a teenage boy living in the middle of the Bible belt is going to be able to drop a “That was a wonderful six hour sermon today. I really liked Maude’s punch at the church social afterwards. By the way, I’ve been sleeping with the farm hand, we both like boys, but it’s really no big deal” and not have the family get their panties in a knot. It would be wonderful is the Mother and Father then embraced the boy and welcomed the farm hand into the family, and the positive energy in me tells me that this has happened at least once in a great while, but I fear that there’s not enough of that type of support in the world.

So here it is, National Coming Out day, so I’m going to share my story. I knew my sexual orientation in my early teens. Actually, now that I think about it, I knew I liked other boys when I was in elementary school. Second grade to be exact. I always opted to be on the girls’ team when we played “shove the kids on the ground” on the playground because after all, the girls needed help (wink wink). I actually wanted to be pushed around by the boys and I wanted to wrestle them to the ground. But it wasn’t until my early teens that I knew what all this meant. I figured it was just something that all guys went through. God Bless my mother and father, they never talked to me about how these things worked so I had to figure it out myself. It wasn’t until my later teens that I figured that whatever “this” was was here to stay and I might as well just live with it. Even though I had a girlfriend at the time. Luckily, my girlfriend dumped me (guess I didn’t put out for the prom or something) and I was free to pursue my true feelings. I had a crush on a classmate named Dave, but he ended up going out with my sister. She always got the cute ones back then. Towards the end of high school I accepted the fact that I found some of my male schoolmates attractive, though I didn’t really do anything about it. When my parents dropped me off at college, I made a vow to myself. I was never going to hide who I was again and I would always allow my inner feelings to be. And boy, was I “out” in college. It’s all I ever talked about! Small wonder I failed out of school, I was too busy trying to be gay (even though I didn’t go on ANY dates!). Someone should have dumped a bucket of water on me because my pilot light was flarin’ WAY too high. So much for preconceived notions on how gay men should act. Luckily I was at a music school or else I would have been beat up a lot.

I didn’t really talk about my homosexuality with my family until Earl came along, save for my mother, my sister and my cousin Stephanie. I told my mother my first break home from college, with the usual dramatic flair, but she told me she knew all along and that she still loved me very much. I can still picture sitting in my parents’ living room having that discussion with my Mom back in 1986. My sister just knew. Perhaps it was the discussions years earlier about how cute Rick Springfield, Jack Wagner and the guys in Duran Duran were. And my cousin and I were very close and she always teased me about being gay so I finally just confirmed it. I finally calmed down a bit and ended up having one boyfriend in the year or two after college that I brought around once or twice, then a half hearted attempt at a relationship after that, but until my commitment ceremony with Earl it was just an unspoken assumption, I suppose. I just went out and did my thing and everyone worried about me. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Earl and I began wearing our wedding bands after our commitment ceremony. Then it was like the closet doors just blew off their hinges, even though no words were spoken. I was in love and I was happy. And am even more so to this day.

I wish everyone had an easy path with their homosexuality, coming out and acceptance. I cringe when people say that being gay is a choice. It’s not. It’s part of who I am. Without the “gay”, I would not be the man I am today. It is just as inherent to us as eye color or left- or right-handedness.

So on this National Coming Out Day, whether you’re contemplating, talking or listening, know that there are others in similar situations. You are not alone.

The Politician.

We’ve started watching the Netflix series “The Politician”. It’s a little dark, oddly humorous, and slightly intense. Ben Platt is cute and seemingly perfect for the role. The allusions to the Trump family and their type makes me smile.

We are on episode two. I’m looking forward to following the series.