Thanksgiving.

I am thankful to have all kinds of family. I hope anyone reading this in the United States has a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re elsewhere, happy Thursday!

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Cher.

We scored some tickets to Cher’s “Here We Go Again” show tonight at the United Center. We were delighted to find we were in row six.

Cher waving hello to us in section 121 before the show began.

The show was very enjoyable. I was very impressed by her stamina and performance. Her voice is still top notch, both with and without electronic augmentation. She auto-tunes for effect, not to mask a lack of talent.

She performed several ABBA numbers, including “Watertloo”, “S.O.S.”, and “Fernando”.

All in all a great show. A wonderful experience.

During “Believe”.
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Platform.

In 2009 I hosted a Windows 7 Launch Party. It was a fully sanctioned, fully supplied by Microsoft Windows 7 Launch Party. I received two copies of Windows 7 Ultimate Edition: one for a giveaway and one for myself. I had party favors and a list of suggested games and feature demonstrations. I watched the Pre-Launch Video designed to prep us for the merriment, and which has also been parodied all over the Internet over the past decade. I played honest and true geek.

In 2009 I was all in on Windows 7, and that was even after being part of the testing team for the preceding Windows Vista fiasco. I had Windows 7 installed on my MacBook Pro at the time. For the most part I really liked the platform and user experience.

When the iPhone, and later the iPad, came out I went all in on Apple products; the integration was just easier to manage. After writing code and doing network things all day long (and through long hours of on-call nights), I wanted a home setup that just worked. Microsoft products still needed fiddling, Linux required a LOT of time and energy that I just did not have, and Apple made promises of It Just Works. For the most part, it did.

As a geek I’m happiest when I’m all in on one computing platform. The OCD side of my brain has a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of using Microsoft Word on Mac OS or the Google Chrome browser on my iPad. Storing my files on Dropbox and then working to sync everything together to work with dissimilar operating systems just runs contrary to the way my brain thinks.

But being all in on one platform in 2019 is really not feasible.

Over the past several months I’ve tried to make all of our home automation magic run on Apple’s HomeKit. We can yell into the air, “Hey Siri, turn on the lights in the dining room”, and Siri will do it around 65% of the time.

“Hey Siri, turn on the lights in the dining room”. Three of the four lights come on.

“Hey Siri, turn off the lights in the dining room”. All the lights go out.

“Hey Siri, turn on the dining room lights”. All the lights come on. We then enjoy a nice meal.

“Hey Siri, turn off the dining room lights”. Siri replies, “I don’t know how to help you with that.”

“Hey Siri, turn off the dining room lights”. One light goes off.

“Hey Siri, turn off the lights in the dining room”. The lights in my office come on and then a HomePod starts playing profanity-laden rap music. I suppose it’s Siri’s way of tell me to f*&k off.

Needless to say, Siri and her HomeKit are not reliable. Not even close. Luckily, I still have a couple of Google Home Minis so I fired them up, waved to KellyAnne Conway through her microwave, and asked Google to do some home automation magic.

Google Home did everything it was told to do and probably told the NSA, CIA, and the FBI about it, but by God the lights in the dining room were finally off.

In 2019 I can’t be all in on Apple. It doesn’t “just work” anymore and iOS 13’s release has been a disaster. I remarked on Twitter today that the IMAP protocol used to handle email has been around for a couple of decades but Apple has somehow figured out a way to break it for the iPhone and iPad. I can no longer reliably fetch email on my iPhone, even though it’s been fine on this exact phone for two years prior to iOS 13. Folks online suggest wiping the phone out and starting over.

That hearkens back to the days of reinstalling Windows 98 every other week. It’s like iOS 13 is the Millennium Edition of Apple software.

Because my mind works best in “computing canisters”, I’m making a private list to define what constitutes my computing ecosystem. I’m still working out the particulars. The family is all on iMessage and FaceTime, so that’s not going anywhere. Over the past year I’ve paid for subscriptions to iCloud Drive (again with the 80% reliability rate), Dropbox (plenty o’ security holes, enough to resemble Swiss cheese), and Google Drive (works natively on everything but Linux and will prolly guarantee my pictures ending up on a billboard someday). These three will be narrowed down to one by the end of the year. I’m leaning toward the billboard risk. I’m using my existing hardware, tying it together with some of the Google sauce (still waving to KellyAnne through the microwave!), and hoping for the best. Once I have my methods documented I’ll feel more comfortable about this whole arrangement and I guess I’ll just have to apologize to Steve during my next prayer session.

As the 21st century progressed technology was suppose to become more reliable, safer, and cheaper. Yet mediocrity is the name of the software game, people are losing millions to scams, everyone lives their life on horrid social media platforms, and it’s becoming common place to spend over $1K on a cell phone. Expectations are so low that folks are pleased when their phone lasts for a year. Imagine swapping out your rotary wall phone in avocado green every year.

Madness? You betcha.

I’d love to hear where others are living in the computing ecosystem game. Are you all in on one platform? Do you mix and match? Are you a little Jamesway and a little bit Bradlees?

There’s a McDonalds at nearby Woodfield Mall that has a mix of cash registers made by Panasonic, NCR, PAR, and IBM. The dated, dissimilar systems work together in harmony. As a retail computer geek this absolutely fascinates me.

Perhaps they have the right idea.

Six.

IDS Center in 2013.

I’ve been reading old blog posts this evening. My husband has patiently listened as I read him prose I find particularly witty; he has the patience of a saint.

While going through old blog posts I found a bunch of entries from 2013 when I went on a solo long-weekend vacation in Minneapolis. The trip marked a couple of firsts; it was my first time in Minneapolis, it was my first time flying in first class, and the trip marked the first time I would stop in a random town in Minnesota and cheer a homecoming parade along with natives I didn’t know.

The folks in the midwest are very friendly. I’ve always known that.

The blog entries from the aforementioned trip can be found starting here.

When I read blog entries from a few years ago I always find myself remarking about how I used to write longer blog entries instead of just belching out a few paragraphs. Things have decidedly change with the full-tilt ramp up of Social Media; I guess I should be happy that I’m still writing in a blog at all. 95% of the bloggers I used to follow gave up long ago. The few that still write in their blogs on a regular basis are always a welcome relief from the bits and burps of 280 characters.

My biggest takeaway from the trip to Minneapolis was the flight back home to Syracuse (our home airport at the time). The Delta Connection flight had to do go-arounds in high winds to land on runway 15, which is one of the crosswind runways. As others were tense and nervous during the go around procedures I was loving every minute of it and it was at that moment I decided that I had waited long enough to become a private pilot. I contacted the local flight school within a week and before the end of that month I had my first lesson in a 1966 Piper Cherokee 140.

I’ll probably blog about that experience again on the anniversary of the actual lesson.

I’ve been in a particularly pensive and introspective mood over the past couple of days; feeling much like I did in the days leading up to that solo vacation in 2013. Earl and I have a vacation planned for next week and I’m feeling like it’s going to be a great little adventure for us.

We’re never too old to seek new experiences, push our boundaries, and try something new. And we’re never too old to stop writing about it.

Here’s the blog entry where I talk about the landing. 

Pause.

Today’s line at the world’s largest Starbucks

Even during the ramping up of the holiday season I enjoy walking along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Michigan Ave is a hotspot for tourists looking for a midwest “Fifth Avenue” experience and the Mag Mile fills this need well. As I make my way through the crowded sidewalks I’m always interested to hear the various accents and non-English languages being spoken. I love living in a prominent destination for people across the world.

An eastward view along the Riverwalk.

A part of me has a hard time walking along the Mag Mile as there too many homeless people taking shelter and (usually) quietly asking for money. A veteran by the name of Cliff was bundled up with only one hand holding a McDonalds cup exposed to the outside world. The tattered sign contained the aforementioned details and indicated he was homeless and looking for bus money to get to a shelter. I had no reason to doubt the authenticity of his sign so I stopped and put some money in his cup. The bills made no noise against the plastic of the cup so I decided to speak.

“Thank you for your service, Cliff. This will help you can get to a warm place this evening.”

A surprisingly young looking man came out from under the blankets and looked in the cup. His looked up and his eyes said thank you as he removed the money I had placed there. My eyes teared up as I walked away and resumed my way to catch the Brown Line to my warm place for the evening. I couldn’t help but think about the fact that we send our citizens off to war or other military activity, they do their part, they keep up their end of the bargain, and then we fail at supporting them when they come back home.

Our country is better than this. We as a society need to fix the homeless epidemic.

I hope Cliff is warm tonight.

Twinkle.

Picture from etsy.com

When I was a kid I was in charge of the outside holiday decorating. I was excited when we moved into the new house in 1977 because we had more space for more Christmas decorations. It would be a couple of years before Dad would arrange for landscaping on the property, but I managed to get a couple of strands of Christmas lights wrapped around the poles on the front porch and two sets of lights around two of the panes of the living room window.

I was always excited by the twinkling of Christmas lights; before moving to the new house we lived in a 10’x50′ mobile home with an 8’x40′ addition my dad built in 1970. The first bedroom wasn’t even big enough for a single bed (it was designed to be a nursery, with room for a crib and that was about it) so that room became a storage room with a space for a litter box. I knew my mom stored the Christmas lights in the closet in that room and it would far from Christmas when I would drag the lights out and enjoy them on a Sunday morning when mom and dad were still sleeping. That was when we had the traditional glass C5 type lights; it wouldn’t be until we moved to the new house in ’77 that we had the smaller “midget” Christmas lights that became popular. They were $1.99 for a set of 35 lights at the local Rite Aid. I don’t remember the manufacturer. The reflector and the base for the bulb were all one piece, versus the version you could buy at Sears or Montgomery Ward where the bulb was separate from the reflector. The “petal” type, shown in the photo above, were the most common, though there were other styles made by different manufacturers, some looked like crowns, and others looked like star points. Even though they were made by different manufacturers, they all had a common base, so you could mix and match between the different types of reflectors, though sometimes the voltage was off. My interest in electricity helped; I figured out how to switch bulbs by unbending the two small wires and moving them to a different reflector.

When the landscaping was installed in 1979 or 1980, I went crazy that year, begging my mother to purchase another set of lights every time she ran into town. She acquiesced as much as the budget would allow and for a few years we had lots of lights out front. The power meter would probably shake itself off the pole but I thought it was beautiful.

I’d spend two weeks up to Thanksgiving setting up the lights with the hard and fast rule that I was not allowed to light anything up until the night of Thanksgiving. We celebrated Thanksgiving and then we celebrated Christmas. There was no encroaching on the Thanksgiving holiday with twinkling lights. I respected that and I still sort of have that rule today.

We were recently in our local Walgreens and I took a peek at the Christmas lights display. One word immediately came to mind: BORING. There are hardly any lights with reflectors. The old $1.99/35 sets from days past had two circuits so you could make every other light blink in tandem or have two different sets of blinking lights in the same strand. From what I could tell through my quick perusal through Walgreens, the cheap lights simply just blink on and off in unison. One circuit.

I still find wonder in any Christmas lights display, but as I get older I find I prefer the older incandescent lights, whether the big C5 or C7 bulbs or the smaller lights. The new LED lights just have this cold look to them that don’t convey a Christmas warmth. Hopefully technology will improve in that regard.

My husband is anxious to put up Christmas lights. I remind him he can but he has to wait until Thanksgiving night to let them up.

We’ll see if that rule holds true this week.

Dance.

Such a lively audience. Here’s Silver Convention from 1975 with “Get Up and Boogie”.

The “that’s right” has been sampled a LOT.

Bliss.

Even though I’m an Apple guy, I’m not afraid to admit that one of my favorite desktop backgrounds, or wallpapers, of all time is the “Bliss” wallpaper from Windows XP. A couple years after the release of that iconic version of Windows, an updated version of the Bliss wallpaper was released with some of the newer themes that were available at the time. This wallpaper then took top spot of my favorites.

Bill Gates once said “Bliss” was inspired by that feeling you get lying in the grass watching the clouds go by. I totally feel that when I see this wallpaper.

Another multimedia feature I’ve always enjoyed was the startup sounds from the pre-release version of Windows Vista, called Longhorn. It’s a shame this sound never made it to the finished product; I always thought it had a wonderful, soothing sound to it instead of the tinkles they settled on for the official release.

I use Windows 10 at work and it makes more bonks and boings than I care to think about. I keep the sound turned down on my speakers because the various warning noises break my concentration.

I guess I need more bliss.

Politics.

We had the impeachment hearings on all day today. Earl was sending text messages from the living room to my home office when the big stuff happened and if I wasn’t in a meeting I would run out to see what was going on, shake my head a bit, wonder why Trump is still in the White House, and then I’d go back to my office and do some more work while I had Twitter scrolling by on my iPad.

We now have the Democratic Debates running this evening. I’m getting pretty burned out on politics today. However, I can’t help but feel that I need to be tuned into what’s going on to make sensible choices in the upcoming votes coming along in the next year.

Look, I’ll admit that I don’t have a lot of confidence in the American people doing the right thing in 2020. The Democrats have to have such a incredibly solid candidate to beat Trump in 2020 and right now there’s so much uncertainty and ‘pie in the sky’ chatter. That is, of course, assuming Trump is the GOP candidate come next November.

I’m not a political strategist. Last time I voted I scanned my ballot into the wrong machine (we have two precincts voting in the same location here in the neighborhood). But I floated this idea around the thinking of the GOP: they admit Trump/Pence really are criminals and convince resignations. Pence resigns, Nikki Haley goes in as VP with a promise to pardon Trump, who resigns due to health issues (see the visit to Walter Reed last weekend), and boom, the GOP has given the United States of America their first female president by way of Nikki Haley.

Hey, at least it’s not Sarah Palin.

I believe this would energize the GOP base, even the middle of the road folks who feel disenfranchised by the current administration and it could swing some middle of the road Democrats who are not enjoying the promises of higher taxes and forced medical insurance plans. Likely to happen? Probably not. Plausible? Yes. But ultimate I don’t believe the GOP is that smart.

It’s going to be a very long year to the 2020 Presidential Election. As painful as it is, I feel a duty to pay attention to what’s going on.

Fasten your seat belts.