November 2015


I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Christmas Holiday season until after Thanksgiving has passed. I believe that as Americans we have a lot to be thankful for and that we should set aside time to think and reflect about how thankful we should be to be where we are today. So I’m big on making sure Thanksgiving gets its due.

On Friday we went to “Lights On The Lake” outside of Syracuse at Onondaga Lake Park. We have enjoyed “Lights On The Lake” for many years and this year was no different; Christmas music playing on the radio, holiday motifs and twinkling lights stirred up an excitement I haven’t felt for the holidays in a number of years.

I was so inspired that I put up all of our outdoor decorations on the house yesterday. I’m inspired to do more decorating outside, it’s just a matter of figuring out where to put the lights I have in the collection and how to get power to them. It’s amazing what one can do with these new LED lights; the directions on the box say you can hook up to 18 sets of 100 lights together. It was just a few years ago that you couldn’t hook up more than three sets of incandescent lights together without risking setting fire to something.

I have to admit that while I do love stringing lights all over the lawn and such, I have no interest in making them dance or blink in tune to music or compete in some sort of reality show called “Candelabra Showdown Sweepstakes” or something of that sort. Competitive holiday decorating is a symptom of everything that disappoints me about today’s modern society.

Despite enjoying modern technology and the ability to plug in 1,800 lights into one plug, I still like to keep it traditional.


A couple of weeks ago, when Earl and I were at the Hollywood Casino in Tunica Resorts, Mississippi, I hit the jackpot on a slot machine. As I mentioned in that blog entry, I was quite happy about the whole ordeal and I instantly knew what I was going to do with my winnings.

I bought Earl a new computer. He’s been using the same MacBook Pro for a few years and it’s getting tired. It works but it’s slow. We’ve copied the data from previous computers over and over again to the point that his 2010 MacBook Pro still has settings for Sprint Dial-Up Internet service. This has made his fast computer very slow.

Talking it over, he decided that he’d like a desktop computer, since he doesn’t take his laptop with him anymore, he travels with his personal iPad. We went to the Apple Store and looked over the options and decided on a 21.5-inch iMac with Retina Display. It arrived today.

This thing is gorgeous.

One thing that we decided on was that we were not going to copy over the data from his old computer, but start from scratch. Apple still makes this quite easy; you sign in with your iCloud credentials and the stuff you have backed up to iCloud fills in the blanks on your new computer. It doesn’t carry over all the old sludge, just the pertinent information you need to get up and running: passwords, mail account information, web browser bookmarks, etc. In less than an hour Earl was up and running at full speed on his new computer.

Buying this computer was important to me. In 2002 I hit the jackpot on a slot machine at the local casino and promptly bought myself a computer, without even considering our financial needs at the time. Earl and I had a pretty good fight about it (it’s called the “That Time I Was A Dick in 2002 Incident”, not to be confused with “The Great American Incident of 1999” which involved flying potato chips) and that decision has haunted me every time I’ve walked into a casino for the past 13 years.

Earl would never buy himself a computer; he won’t admit that his laptop is hideously slow, but it is and I can see the frustration in his face when he’s using it. It meant a lot to him that we decided to buy this new computer together and he’s already enjoying it very much.

And now I’m ready for the next jackpot opportunity!

Fuck Cancer.

My mom called me yesterday morning to let me know that my aunt and godmother had passed over to the other side after falling asleep on Sunday evening. This was not unexpected as she had been living with cancer for the last couple of years. A breast cancer survivor of several years ago, cancer had returned to other parts of her body. An expectation doesn’t make the news any easier to process. I’ve been musing over some pleasant memories and smiling. It’s funny in that it’s odd for me and my usually rock-solid memory for these things, but I don’t know how old she was. I know she was older than my mom by at least four years but I don’t know the specifics. You would think that a godson would know that about his godmother. The services are this coming weekend.

Hence the reason for my tweet yesterday morning, “Fuck Cancer”.

Over the past six months or so it seems like a lot of people in my life are affected by cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy, it all seems like such a shitty way to live but that’s part of surviving cancer, I guess. In a similar situation I don’t know if I would make the decision to go through all that, I don’t know if I’m strong enough. I know that people that live with cancer don’t deserve to do go through all those treatments but they’re very strong people to do so. That takes a lot of courage. The tin foil hat guy in me briefly wonders if there is a better solution out there but it wouldn’t benefit the pharmaceutical et. al. companies as much as the treatments for cancer, so that’s what’s available in Western medicine. I leave those thoughts for fleeting moments because they shouldn’t be focused on. Celebrating the lives of those that live with and pass on from cancer should be the focus, so that’s where I focus my energy.

I just know that my godmother was a pretty nifty lady. She was fairly soft spoken, had a wonderful smile and such a positive energy about her. A heart of gold. She was a strong woman, even before the cancer. I’m going to miss her.

Fuck Cancer.

Apple Geeks.

Earl and I are now situated in our local Panera enjoying a small pastry snack and being Apple geeks on our iPads.  The cashier was amused with the fact that I paid for our purchase using ApplePay on my Apple Watch.  She exclaimed, “that’s so cool!”

Honestly, it is quite cool.

Holiday Season.

With U.S. Thanksgiving just a few days away, one can safely say that the holidays are upon us. I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; it hasn’t been infested by crass commercialism and it makes me think about what I’m thankful for, all the blessings I have and all of the love that I am surrounded with. Thanksgiving is a beautiful thing and it makes me smile.

Jamie and our friend phil will be enjoying us for our annual Thanksgiving feast this year. Earl did the grocery shopping yesterday while I was flying around. This was very kind of him because I am not a fan of going to the grocery store unless it’s Wegmans. And unfortunately, we don’t have Wegmans in these parts.

Today we began cleaning the house in preparation for the holidays, tackling various drawers of junk and other accumulations that were scattered about. I spruced up my office this afternoon, adding a few accoutrements to the walls.  I also organized my pilot equipment. Because of my geeky/techy approach to being a pilot, I have a lot of things to charge and stow for my next flight.

Earl announced to me that he is going to start the Thanksgiving cooking on Tuesday night. I can’t wait for the house to be filled with the aromas of his culinary skills.

It’s just one of many things that I am thankful for.

Tunica Resorts, Mississippi.

Earl and I are in Memphis for the weekend. He has been working here this week and I flew own on Thursday night to join him for a weekend together before heading back on Sunday evening. Yesterday I was a Digital Nomad in full effect, working from our hotel room, a Starbucks and a hotel lobby. I got a lot done yesterday. Travel is inspiring to me.

We’ve been steadily working on our “visit all the states” to do item for the past twenty years. We have a rule about this in that airport layovers don’t count, we have to drive at least 50 miles in the states and spend at least two hours there. Last night we added Mississippi to the list, as we drove from Memphis to Tunica Resorts to see what the casinos were like.

While there is no “strip”, the casinos have brightly colored, flashing lights, cheap buffets and plenty of opportunities to do some decent gambling. Earl learned a new card game (High Card Flush). I was going to play my usual roulette, but the energy around the roulette table didn’t seem to be inviting so I decided to play a slot machine.

Over the past few months I’ve settled into some personal rules for slot machines. Wheels have to actually spin (no CGI wheels). There needs to be a handle on the side. I stay away from the penny machines with their 40 lines and multiple bets per line; I’m most comfortable in front of a dollar machine with one line. Last night I settled on a dollar machine with a maximum bet of $2. I put in $60. I pulled the handle once, nothing. The second time I won $12. On the third pull, lights started flashing, bells started ringing and all eyes in the immediate area were on me.

Red White and Blue 7 single star, Double stars, Triple stars, all lined up on that single line. I had hit the $1,800 jackpot.

A woman promptly came over on her scooter and rubbed my shaved head for luck and wished me well. Another woman congratulated me.

“Call Attendant” was flashing on the panel so I pressed the Service button. A short, very pleasant woman dressed in a casino uniform came over and congratulated me and said “now we need to get to business.” She advised that Mississippi takes state taxes right off the top but I could wait until the end of the year to pay “the Feds” or have it taken out. I told her I’d deal with “the Feds” at the end of the year. She smiles. I provided my driver’s license and social security number. She punched a bunch of buttons to verify the win on the machine and said she’d be back shortly.

While she was gone I snuck this.


The casino attendant returned with a big smile, gave me back my credentials and a larger casino attendant. They counted my winnings back to me, congratulated me again and silenced the machine. Business in the area returned to normal. I had a huge smile.

I went over and visited Earl at his card game. He asked how I was doing and I went, “eh, I’m up.”. He asked how much and I told him. His eyes widened and he shared my big smile. It was a very enjoyable evening.

DL 696. 

I am on Delta flight 696 from Syracuse to Atlanta.  I am on my way to Memphis to meet Earl who has been working down there all week. I will be working remotely tomorrow doing the Digital Nomad thing and I am very excited about it.

This flight has been uneventful thus far.  We are flying at 26000 feet due to strong head winds. Apparently coming into Syracuse they had to do two go-arounds due to wind; I thought it would be bumpy during take-off but it wasn’t bad at all.

The flight attendants are amusing me a little bit with their apathy. Delta flight attendants are usually a little more attentive than this crew seems to be; they’re starting the beverage service over 45 minutes into a two hour flight. Usually they jump up and start serving as soon as they can. The attendant doing the same briefing read the cue cards as quickly as possible and without any inflection or emotion.  I am happy that I already know the layout of an MD-90. I did note that she didn’t know what kind of airplane this was until she looked at her sheet. That was comforting.

Terminal B at Syracuse Airport was jammed packed with people. The flight to Detroit was delayed because the baggage door was jammed shut and no one could get it open.

There is a woman sitting in the aisle across from me who apparently just plopped down in any seat she wanted to because the guy that was suppose to be in 12C had a conversation with her and then just moved to what could presumably be her seat. She said she didn’t know how the row numbering worked. Perhaps she should have flown on Southwest where she could have battled her way to a seat after sitting on the floor of the terminal in her section of some sort of holding pen based on when she printed her boarding ticket. 

I really miss the luxury days of airline travel. I’m probably one of those snobby businessmen travelers, that I have yet to join the Mile High Club. 

I am enjoying my complimentary Sam Adams Boston Lager right now. The FA smiled as I asked for both peanuts and pretzels. I’m not usually high maintenance, just medium range.  I like to simmer. 


I don’t always listen to music while I’m working. Working at home alone, I usually need some sort of noise in my home office as too much silence bothers me because when it’s too quiet all I can hear is the ringing in my ears. My number one choice for sound is ambient music of some sort; words can distract me when I’m deep in a project.  But around mid-week I might change it up a bit and have a television show playing in the background or something. After being alone in the house for a couple of days, hearing any sort of conversation going on is a good thing.

Today I dialed up YouTube on my iPad and started looking around for something to play in the background when a familiar face caught my eye. The thing that was odd about the suggestion from YouTube was that the familiar face wasn’t paired with an appropriate name. I expected to see “Maude”, “The Golden Girls” or even “The Stars Wars Holiday Special” but next to a picture of Bea Arthur was a different title, “Amanda’s By The Sea”.

The suggestion was a playlist containing 13 episodes of this series, “Amanda’s By The Sea”, or as it was shortened to, “Amanda’s”.

What was this?

A brief search on the Internet filled me in.  In 1983, Bea Arthur starred in the aforementioned “Amanda’s” as Amanda Cartwright, widow and the owner of a small hotel in California appropriately named “Amanda’s By The Sea”. The show was loosely based on the UK’s “Fawlty Towers”. The series lasted just half a season on ABC before cancellation; 13 episodes were filmed by only 10 made it to the air. The other three were later shown in some obscure syndication run.

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I decided to watch an episode at lunch time. While not awful by any means, I can see why the show didn’t make it. The cast is a little unbalanced. Watching “Amanda’s” made me realize that while Beatrice Arthur was a magnificent actor, she needed someone strong to play off and the supporting cast didn’t quite fit the bill. Fred McCarren plays her son (and the hotel manager) Marty, his wife is played the same actress that played Stan’s second wife Chrissy on “The Golden Girls”. The cook is played by the actor that played Boss Hogg’s nephew or something on “The Dukes of Hazzard”. Another character, I think his name is Alto, played much comic relief being short and speaking with very broken English. The show is a little more slapstick than “The Golden Girls”.

And here’s where it gets a little odd. MANY of the guest stars on “Amanda’s” later appear on “The Golden Girls”. Since the series was filmed in 1983, Bea Arthur looks a lot like Dorothy on “The Golden Girls”. Some of the sight gags used on “The Golden Girls” are seen here, for example, “would you hand me that loaf of bread. No, the other one” and then Amanda proceeds to slam it over the head of the person she is annoyed with, much like Dorothy hitting Rose over the head with a newspaper. In one scene, Amanda is arguing with a customer about a restaurant bill and she argues with the exact same customer, in practically the same set, during her guest appearance on “The Golden Palace” only there her name is Dorothy.

It’s a little like watching Pert Kelton play Alice in the original version of “The Honeymooners”.

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Of course, Bea is Bea. While there are some similarities between mannerisms and the like between her portrayals of Maude and Dorothy, since there was eight years between the two series, there are obvious differences, whereas, since “Amanda’s” came only two years before the premiere of “The Golden Girls”, it’s easy to spot the much closer similarities between Amanda and Dorothy. Heck, Bea is even wearing the same type of wardrobe as what was found later on “The Golden Girls” complete with the boots and the long skirts. I can’t help but think that some of the storyline ideas also made it over to “The Golden Girls”.  It’s weird watching the show because it feels familiar but out of place at the same time. Kind of like when you walk into a Kmart in a different city, it’s a Kmart, it feels like Kmart but everything is in a different place.

As I wound up my workday I played a couple more episodes while I tidied up email and such. I definitely believe that Bea can be Bea when she plays off other strong actors. Both the casts of “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” balanced Bea out brilliantly, but like “The Golden Palace” after Bea left “The Golden Girls”, when an element is missing, it can be OK, even quite good, but it feels very out of balance. And that’s the way “Amanda’s” feels, out of balance.

I’ll probably finish watching the series over the next couple of days because I have always adored Bea and it’s fun seeing her in something else that feels comfortable yet I can’t recite line by line. It’s available on YouTube if you’re interested in checking it out.

Amanda’s By The Sea (Starring Beatrice Arthur)

Software Updates.

Google announced today that they are discontinuing support for their web browser, Google Chrome, in April 2016 for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8. Current versions of the mentioned operating systems (Windows 7, 8, 10, Mac OS X 10.9, 10.10, etc.) will continue to receive updates to the popular web browser.

I’m surprised that people are still running these older operating systems, especially Windows XP and Windows Vista.  Windows XP has been around for 15 years and Windows Vista was, well Windows Vista, and Microsoft did their best to get people off of that software as quickly as possible because Windows Vista was basically a mess.

Many folks use Google Chrome as their primary browser. I used to, but Apple beefed up Safari in their latest version of OS X (El Capitan) to the point that I feel comfortable using Safari my primary browser now. I still do development work on Firefox, a popular free and open-source browser available on many operating systems, including the ones mentioned in the Google blog entry I referenced. If you’re dead set on staying on Windows XP, you can switch to Firefox and still do what you need to do.

But I wouldn’t really recommend it.

As a young geek I was always thrilled with the release of a new or updated operating system. I wanted to see the new graphics, the different approaches, the changes in paradigm. What new goodies would be lurking at every point and click as I moved around after a fresh update. Often times I would join into beta programs so I could help with the testing. I was even a pre-beta tester on Windows Vista (after that statement I always say, “I’m sorry”), but as I grow older and my expectations of how a computer should work become more solidified, I am cautious about upgrades today. I didn’t upgrade my work MacBook Pro to El Capitan until I was absolutely sure that everything would work. I take the same approach with my home computers and with Earl’s MacBook. I still upgrade, primarily for the security benefits and because it’s the most supported way to go, but I’m cautious about it. We have about six different ways to backup computers and mobile devices in this house. It’d be great if I could get all participants to participate.

While there are usually many bells and whistles associated with a software upgrade, there are also security upgrades that should be strongly considered. These security upgrades help keep the bad folks out of your hard drive. Yesterday I was disheartened to see that my medical records at the doctor’s office are still being maintained on computers running Windows XP. Windows XP is not really supported by Microsoft anymore, leaving these things open to new viruses and other types of nasty attacks. Ransomware is quite popular; your files are remotely encrypted by a nasty organizationthey send you a message that you have to contact a phone number some place and demand that you pay a ransom to decrypt your files. By the way, don’t ever respond to that sort of thing, just consider your files lost and go to your latest backup because you are backing up your files on a regular basis, correct? I’ve had relatives get caught with this sort of thing; they are now running Linux on their rebuilt laptops because Linux is much more impervious to that type of attack.

Part of the driving force of software upgrades is marketing. New software usually requires a faster computer and if you’re starting to fall behind the computer hardware curve, it may prompt you to get a new computer so you have the latest and the greatest. Earl’s MacBook Pro is about there, I don’t know how he chugs along on his six year old laptop with degraded trackpad quality. I don’t particularly like the idea of tossing a computer because the software has become outdated on it; we have a computer built in 1996 running the clock system wired through the house and it is working perfectly fine.

However, if you’re running Windows XP or Vista, you should really consider moving on to a better computing experience. At the very least you’ll still be able to securely run Google Chrome on your desktop.