Autumn.

This is my favorite time of the year. I’m taking tomorrow off from work so we can escape into nature, away from the rest of the world. Things just keep getting louder. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

Stay Safe.

Originally released in June, the message still holds true, even as Americans grow tired of COVID-19 and trying to stay safe during this pandemic.

This is Wang Chung with special guest Valerie Day from Nu Shooz, with a 2020 appropriate reworking of the 80s hit, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, with “Everybody Stay Safe Tonight”.

Scribble.

Scribble, from Office 97

I didn’t think I’d really use Apple’s new scribble feature in iPadOS 14. I’m a really fast typist and I find my words flow really well when I’m plunking away on a traditional QWERTY keyboard.

For those not familiar, the newscribble technology in iPadOS 14 users allows users to handwrite any input into any field in any application on your iPad. For example, in safari I can write duckduckgo.com and go to that webpage without typing anything. The technology isn’t perfect but it’s absolutely amazing. in fact, I’m writing this blog entry by hand and watching it type itself out in my wordpress app. There are still some quirks to get used to, but overall it recognizes my handwriting just fine, in both printed characters and when I use cursive.

I’m still getting used to my Apple Pencil, even though I’ve had it since I bought this iPad Pro in late 2018. When I make a mistake I am able to scribble out the typewritten result and rewrite it. That’s wicked cool.

It’s taking me longer to handwrite this blog entry instead of typing it, but for short passages when I’m doodling on my iPad, it’s a pretty nifty feature.

By the way, the Office 97 assistant up there was my favorite of Microsoft’s offerings back in the day.

Her name was scribble.

Roundabouts.

Indiana.

I will never understand that American motorist aversion to Roundabouts. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Roundabout is an interchange with a circular median. Traffic entering the roundabout yields to the traffic already in the roundabout. Entry points into the roundabout are “channelized” to reduce the risk of someone turning the wrong way into the roundabout. The channelization also provides a safe location for pedestrians and cyclists to move through the intersection. There are no traffic lights.

Community knee-jerk reactions to an accident at a busy intersection is either on or a combination of two things: put up a traffic signal and/or lower the speed limit.

For the most part, motorists will naturally drive at the speed that “feels” appropriate for a roadway. When you design a highway for a 55 MPH design speed and then lower the speed limit to 30 MPH, motorists will still tend to drive 55 MPH. They will then slam on the brakes whenever they see something that resembles an officer of the law, which lends to erratic driving and creates the potential for an accident.

Anytime you stop traffic you are creating the potential for an accident. Traffic signals, especially ones located in relatively rural or semi-suburban areas, catch motorists off guard. And in today’s hurry, hurry, hurry environment, where everything and anything is expected now, drivers are running traffic lights more than ever. They see the light turn yellow and they gun it, trying to beat the light.

A roundabout is a traffic calming measure. Traffic keeps moving, but the design of the intersection moves that traffic at naturally slower, measured pace.

I suspect many American drivers are against the installation of roundabouts for two reasons: 1. they’re different and 2. they’re perceived as “un-American”. Roundabouts are much more prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world. State Departments of Transportation have only been building roundabouts for the past dozen or so years here in the United States. Well, since the beginning of the 21st century.

Some folks mix up Roundabouts with the higher speed Rotaries and Traffic Circle designs from the middle of the 20th century. These older designs are often larger than their modern replacement, have erratic practices for entry and exit, and manage traffic at a higher speed.

An added bonus of roundabouts is they’re more ecologically friendly. Traffic isn’t stopping and starting as much as at signalized intersections and no electricity is required to power the traffic signals. And on a side note, why haven’t we started converting our traffic signals to solar power?

The intersection in question is located in the northwestern corner of Indiana, not too far from the Illinois state line. A traffic light managed traffic at an intersection in the middle of corn fields, but there were several growing housing developments in the neighborhood. As a guy that went to school for Civil Engineering, I can tell you this particular location would probably be perfect for a roundabout.

State and other DOTs need to concentrate on education and other forms of public outreach. There is a decent chance that we could reduce accidents at intersections a bit if we continued to convert our intersections to this modern design.

Autumn.

And so we are moving into my favorite season of the year. I love the crispness of the air in autumn, even if it’s chilly and a sign of another winter on the horizon.

Cycling is a favorite activity of mine for this season. The breezes usually keep the sweat manageable and the lower humidity makes breathing easier for me as I force this 52-year old body to achieve personal cycling goals.

Today I rode around the Loop area downtown. There are signs of tourists visiting the Windy City but it’s still relatively quiet down there. Several storefronts are still boarded up from the protests and riots. There’s a too large selection of businesses that appear to have shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions on attendance and the like.

I am certain Chicago will bounce back from the pandemic, along with the rest of the country, but I wish the recovery was moving at a pace equaling what other countries are doing right now. Perhaps better leadership on a national level is just what this country needed. I feel like the Trump administration failed that test and failed it completely.

We have too many extremes on both the left and right side of the political equation. I like to think many of us are just left of center or right of center, but the media and the Internet zealots want us to be in the fringe areas.

We need to resist this.

In the meanwhile, it’s a beautiful time of year to cycle in the Windy City. I highly recommend the activity.

Gear Up.

So Earl and I intended on flying for about an hour this afternoon. It’d been a few weeks since our last flight and having inherited AvGas for blood from my father, it’d been entirely too long since we were last in the air.

The Cessna 182 RG (retractable gear) I fly had not flown since the third of this month. This is not unusual; the flight school I rent from has a number of training aircraft used by students, and a couple of airplanes with modern avionics that are popular for rental. The Cessna 182 RG is a fun airplane to fly but “Large Marge” requires a complex and high performance endorsement (meaning additional training). “Complex” refers to the fact that she has retractable gear and “high performance” because she has more than 200 horsepower under the engine cowl. I was signed off with these endorsements earlier this year.

My pre-flight activity as well as the run up before take off was all normal. Marge was ready to go and so were we. The take-off was beautiful. I then tapped on the brakes to make sure the wheels stopped turning after leaving the runway and I moved the gear level to “Gear Up”.

Nothing happened. At least I was 98% sure nothing happened. I checked the circuit breaker, moved the lever to gear down and then gear up again and still no joy. There was no familiar whine of the hydraulics that normally bring the gear up. The indicator light showed the gear should be still down and in place.

I had Earl visually check a wheel sticking out under his door as I did the same and I checked the mirrors that are in place on the wings to confirm the front wheel was where it was suppose to be. It’s not routine to fly a retractable gear airplane with the gear extended, so I told the control tower we were heading back to land. We made our way into the pattern.

The front wheel looked to be locked in place and should have been locked in place as per the green light on the instrument panel, but I wanted one more set of eyes to take a look. So I asked the tower to visually check as we passed by on our way to runway 23 for landing. The tower confirmed things look good. This being my first gear-related “emergency”, I was probably being extra paranoid but reaching my goal of being a very old pilot involves being a little extra cautious.

The tower replied that everything was apparently locked in place. I was a little high on the approach for landing; I “slipped” the airplane to lose some altitude and made what was probably the gentlest landing I’ve ever made in an airplane, being extra sure to keep the nose off the ground for as long as possible, “just in case”.

Overall everything was fine, the airplane just didn’t want to retract its gear. I never panicked, my heart probably raced just a bit more than usual when flying an airplane but I believe I did everything I could to make sure we stayed safe. There were no hysterics.

The best part of this story is not only does thinking about the amazing landing bring a smile to my face, I’m also here tonight, enjoying an adult beverage, and sharing my story on this blog. We probably were never in any danger but all of my training to date has become more of an instinct. If anything, Large Marge helped me build more confidence today.

Creativity.

It’s become popular to close off streets in the City of Chicago for responsible, weekend entertainment during this pandemic. I’m sure “Dine Out West Lakeview” has become a welcomed addition to the Southport Corridor. The restaurants appeared to be quite popular tonight.

RIP RBG.

Photo from SCOTUSBlog

Rest In Peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You were a true warrior for justice. We will do everything we can to carry on your legacy.

Loopy.

During Tuesday’s Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook casually mentioned that the next version of iOS, the operating system that runs the very popular iPhone, would be upgraded to iOS 14 the following day.

This caught me by surprise. And apparently, it caught developers all over the world by surprise as well.

The beta versions of iOS 14 have been available to developers, and later the general public willing to do some testing, for several months. Generally, Apple would release a GM or “Gold Master” to these testers, indicating they were ready to release their latest endeavor to the general population and the GM is the version they’re going to ship. Releasing a GM a week ahead of time gives app developers some time to wrap up the modifications for their apps for the new version of the operating system so that when it releases to the general public, everything should be working properly for all involved.

Tim’s announcement gave developers less than 24 hours to achieve this feat. Marketing beat out practicality. Again. This is how we do it now. It’s just part of our societal regression.

As a software engineer, it’s my goal to make sure there are as few bugs as possible when software is released. This used to be the credo of everyone that worked in the business. However, as time has gone on and computer use has become ubiquitous, the standards for quality software releases seem to have been lowered in favor of marketing hype. “We must keep the masses engaged with shiny new software!”. Instead of having all the bugs squashed for a major release, companies now aim to fix the bugs in an incremental release shortly afterwards. Smart users will probably wait for iOS 14.1.

Since I was already running the public beta, I went ahead and installed the Gold Master on my iPhone and iPad.

I have run across a couple of bugs that were not present in the beta releases leading up to this week’s Gold Master / Public release. For example, when trying to add an app subscription to my account, the Face ID prompt on my iPad Pro does its thing as it scans my face but then the Face ID icon just sits in the middle of the screen. Seemingly, this icon will remain for infinity, or at least until the battery runs out. If I touch the icon it shoots off the screen at a jaunty angle but the subscription request never completes.

This is not how production quality software should be behaving.

Earlier I mentioned the words “societal decline”. Society in general has lowered their expectations to the point where mediocrity gets a standing ovation. Cell phone conversations are of a lower quality than their wired telephone counterparts using equipment from the mid 20th century. People have become accustomed to rebooting their major appliances as timers with relays and cams have given way to delicate circuit boards prone to power spikes. With a decaying power grid, this is an issue.

I’m saddened to see Apple go off into the mediocre weeds with the rest of society. With their premium prices I’ve always held them to the standard associated with higher priced purchases. But when evaluating the quality of what Apple puts out today with the quality of what other tech companies put out today, Apple is still grasping for a higher lowered bar.

I guess I’m getting old. I miss the days when people took pride in their work.

Offerings.

So Apple had their September event, “Time Flies”. Like the WWDC Keynote earlier this year, this was a pre-taped event with very slick presentation values. I’m always genuinely impressed with the way Apple presents their new offerings, whether it’s live or Memorex.

Ironically, I’m typing this blog entry on my MacBook Pro that’s running a portable installation of Linux.

The Apple event included the latest in their Apple Watch line and the newest iPad Air, which ends up being more like an iPad Pro instead of the lighter version of a base-line iPad.

Speaking of the iPad, I fully believe that tablet computing is the wave of the future. Ideally, our smartphones would be our main computer and we would connect them to monitors and keyboards to do our work. A intermediary option could be snapping our smartphone into the back of a “tablet shell”, where the smartphone powers the tablet or the computer. But we’d always have our main computer in our pocket.

But that idea wasn’t part of Apple’s offerings this week. I don’t think it would sell enough hardware to be viable. However, I do think that the majority of average users in the world today could get by with an iPad or, if they’re uncomfortable living in Apple’s ecosystem, a Chromebook or other non-Apple tablet like device.

The biggest takeaway from the presentation for our family’s computing needs was the announcement of “Apple One”, a tiered membership plan that allows users to pay just one price for a group of Apple’s service offerings. The most expensive plan, at $29.95 US per month, includes iCloud Drive, Apple Music, Apple News+, the new Apple Fitness+ service, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade.

This would save us about $10 a month. Not a bad deal.

The only caveat to this is that it’s obviously geared to work best when you’re using Apple hardware and software across all of your computing needs. So, while it could be done with this current MacBook Pro-Linux setup I’m using at this very moment, it wouldn’t be very practical.