March 2016


2016-03-31 12.29.16

I’ve lost three pounds since our return from vacation at the beginning of the week. This makes me happy because I didn’t really gain any weight while we were on vacation; I guess walking around a lot and trying to make healthy choices does make a difference. Simplicity really is the key, I guess.

I needed to get out of the house today, and since Earl is out of town for work, I decided to eat at a local place that we have frequented only once or twice. The menu here is a little complex, for example, one orders each individual item you want on a salad. The items are grouped by price into groups, “A”, “B”, etc. The counter person was a little startled when I simply ordered spring greens with everything under the “A” group. She urged to look at the menu and see that things are arranged by price, I simply responded that the “A” group had everything one could hope for in a salad. I opted for dressing on the side and then I asked for her to skip the egg, because I do not consider eggs to be part of my “A” game.

It’s all about maintaining a grade-A attitude.

Technological Progress.

2016-03-30 19.12.08

As I type this, Microsoft is having some sort of big event somewhere in the United States. I’m seeing quite a few posts about it on Twitter. Mentions of Microsoft’s Hololens being used on the International Space Station, discussions of the integration of Linux into the Windows platform and partnerships between Microsoft and Linux company, Canonical and being discussed. As a person who has not owned a Windows machine in almost a decade, I’m finding this all quite interesting. Are we finally getting to the age where information is freely exchanged between computer systems, regardless of who’s hardware and software you are using? I certainly hope so.

I recently purchased a new laptop. It arrived just before our trip to Florida last week and I wisely decided not to bring it along because I didn’t want to fiddle with my new toy while I could be dancing in the streets with Mickey and Minnie and spending time with my family. So it wasn’t until this week that I’ve gone full-tilt with the new laptop and I have to say that I am loving it. A lot.

Here’s the kicker: my new laptop is made by Dell. It is not an Apple device.

That’s right, I decided to purchase a Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop. It runs Ubuntu Linux and it was designed to do so, so it has pretty much been a plug ‘n play experience for me. While I’m re-acclimating to living outside of Apple’s wall garden I’m finding that there are some really cool things out in the technological world. Apps that interact with one another. Digital assistants that are a little more intuitive than Siri. Predictive behavior instead of adaptive behavior.

Now, don’t think that I’ve become all anti-Apple, because I haven’t. I still maintain that Apple makes beautiful products that do amazing things and they have definitely pushed technology forward, especially up until a few years ago.

But I don’t know that they’re still pushing the envelope like they used to. Oh, I know that the iPhone 7 is rumored to not have a headphone jack, so you’ll either need an adapter or use a wireless headset with your iDevice, but I don’t find that change to be as revolutionary as getting rid of floppy disks or anything like that.

In today’s world of touch enabled everything, I really like the fact that I am able to touch the screen on my new laptop if I so desire and have the screen respond. I can scroll. I can touch buttons, I can do all of that. It wasn’t a necessity but it’s a nicety that I really enjoy and find that I miss when I use my MacBook Pro (which I still have). Apple refuses to put touchscreens on their laptops because they want you to buy another device, an iPad or an iPad Pro. The thing about that is that you’re then locked into apps instead of having an actual computer at your disposal. I honestly think that Microsoft’s “Windows on everything” and Canonical’s similar approach are both more forward thinking than having users buy, carry and use multiple devices.

In an ideal world, I want my smartphone (whether it be an iPhone or whatever) to be my computer. Set it next to a keyboard and monitor and it works like a regular computer. I want the ability to “fling” things from my smartphone up onto a wall display at a meeting. The accumulated time I have spent futzing with LED Projectors and matching settings and the like with my computer has been maddening. I want to flick, talk and go.

Having a touchscreen on my laptop is definitely a step in that direction.

Dell also makes a Windows 10 version of this awesome XPS 13 laptop. I really like the build quality. I really like the “infinity display” where the screen goes to nearly the edge of the bezel, though I don’t really care for the relocation of the webcam down into the lower part of the screen (because the screen goes all the way to the top edge). The XPS 13 is light, powerful and comes with enough ports and doo-dads to make it quite versatile. I’ve been a Linux guy since the mid 1990s and though I’ve been using Apple products for the past 10 years, I can’t help but be impressed by how far Linux has come along with the desktop experience.

After Apple’s mediocre announcement of the iPhone SE and something else that escapes me at the moment, I knew that looking outside of Apple’s “walled garden” to other ecosystems and manufacturers might lead me to more innovation, larger technological leaps forward. At the very least, having my data free so that’s not tied to Apple devices has opened my eyes up a bit.

I might get to flick a presentation up on a big glass display sooner than I thought.



I had hoped that I would be able to ride my bike this morning. I was eager to get out there and enjoy a nice bike ride as a way to start the day, but Mother Nature had different plans. It’s currently 40 degrees and raining quite hard. The picture doesn’t really capture how hard it’s raining but you get the general vibe in the snapshot.

The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays” is going through my head but I’m determined to not let that deter me nor dictate my mood today.

I feel energized and ready to tackle the weak ahead. I guess I just need to stare into a sunlamp and listen to some feisty music this morning.



It was about this time of year three decades ago that I received a letter from SUNY Fredonia, the college I had applied to and auditioned at with hopes of becoming a Music Teacher. I can still vividly remember the drive to the western New York college campus with my Mom and Dad to see the campus and audition in front of the folks that did that sort of thing at the music school. At the time I felt confident; for the previous five years I had been in every “select” chorus at high school, had solo parts in the school musicals, successfully completed music theory classes, had performed at other civic functions as both part of a group and as a solo vocalist and had been part of All-County and All-State choral concerts. In daily chorus classes I was asked to sit next to those that would struggle with harmony; I could “sight sing” with the best of them. My knack for finding the harmony was strong and though my range was on the low side, I had a decent range to my singing voice (bass, baritone and relatively middle tenor).

I was nervous at the audition. Going into Mason Hall at SUNY Fredonia, I came to the realization that many of the others there had private vocal tutoring as part of their repertoire. I had practiced my three selections with my high school chorus teacher and I felt comfortable, but I had never had formal singing lessons. Going into other auditions as a teenager I felt confident; when I realized that others around me for this college-entry audition had much more training than I did, my confidence was rattled.

I had to sing three songs. One had to be in something other than English. My first song was “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific. I was nervous but felt I nailed it.

“Wow, you have a really pop sound to your voice.”

Next I sang something in Italian and I’m sure it sounded as close to Italian as someone with a nasally Central New York accent can muster. I wasn’t confident with this song. I didn’t know what I was singing so I probably sounded more mechanical than emotional on this song. I could have been singing about unrequited love, a beautiful sunset or a delicious pizza. I had no clue. Phonetics was the name of the game.

I don’t remember what my third song was, but without any response from the audition board to the Italian song, I felt lost.

After my three songs I had to sing by ear. The pianist, a Dr. Hartley, who very much resembled Les Nessman from “WKRP In Cincinnati”, banged out a bunch of random notes and chords and asked me to reproduce the notes. It was like a game of “Simon” but without the lights or colors. Next, I was given a piece of music, this one in French, and asked to sing it by sight. No practice. I muddled through that in a somewhat hesitant fashion.

I was then thanked for my participation. Back then in 1986, one was not given a trophy just for participation. Several weeks later I received a letter in the mail. The letter stated that I was not accepted into the music school at SUNY Fredonia. They then wished me the best of luck in my future endeavors flipping hamburgers at Burger King.

I felt rejected, dejected, hurt and confused. No one would believe that I was not accepted to the music school. My band teacher called SUNY Fredonia and got me a second audition for instrumental performance as a tuba player. It wasn’t what I wanted to really do, playing the tuba was fun but it wasn’t my musical passion, singing was my passion. We went back to Fredonia, I played a couple of songs on my tuba and I was accepted into the tuba program. Getting anywhere with my tuba was easy because there’s not that many tuba players around. By the end of the first semester I was expected to play “Flight Of The Bumble Bee” on the tuba. The tuba professor (he played tuba and was shaped like a tuba) wasn’t really that encouraging. He, like the vocal audition board, really didn’t think I had what it took to be part of the school of music at SUNY Fredonia.

After a brief stint visiting a local school to teach some junior high schoolers, I decided that the cards were stacked too far against me and I dropped out of music. My dream was shattered. My plan to become a music teacher, long enough to get experience and a solid financial footing under me so that I could perform as a vocalist in a semi-professional manner, was crushed.

That year long experience has influenced my confidence, to varying degrees, for the past 30 years. But today, at this moment, right now, I feel the need to say “fuck them”.

I found my way to a technologically based career and I have one of the best gigs imaginable. I love what I do, I love the company I work for and I love the team I work with. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started to become a private pilot that I truly found my confidence. Maybe it has something to do with finally coming to my own in my mid 40s.

The memory of my music school experience has been on my mind and typing out this blog entry has helped me resolve that nagging bit of insecurity that has been lurking in a small little corner of my brain. I don’t know where I would be today had I become a music teacher.

Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m happy right where I am.



As a software engineer by trade with a keen interest in civil engineering, I am always fascinated by the seemingly well-oiled logistics that run behind the scenes at Walt Disney World Resorts and Parks. I’ve been fascinated with the way things run at the House of the Mouse since my first visit in 1997. I’ve tried to find some historical information on how things worked before the Digital Age, but other than references to “E” tickets and the like, there’s not a lot of information on the web.

For those that have not visited the parks and resorts in Orlando, I’ll give you a really brief overview of how it works. When you’re a resort guest (staying at a resort on the property), you wear a “MagicBand” around your wrist. The MagicBand lets you do everything. It’s your key to your room. It’s your admissions ticket to the park. It’s tied to your charge account so that all purchases are paid using your MagicBand. It’s scanned by photographers scattered around the parks taking portraits. And it’s your FastPass+, allowing you to take advantage of the “line hopping” service offered by WDW.

I had the opportunity to see a computer screen as I walked into the Pirates of Caribbean attraction using FastPass+; if the cast member was attentive, he would have been able to say “Welcome back, J.P.” as the screen had my name and the fact that I was a return guest to the attraction. From what I have read online, there are RFID readers scattered throughout the park tracking guests’ movements, so that Disney can move staff appropriately and/or use the data to tweak the magical experience that Disney is trying to offer.

Having this one access point around my wrist is wicked cool. Yeah, there’s a Big Brother concern to it, but anyone that thinks they’re going to be able to wander around such a popular tourist destination without being part of a constant surveillance program is naive. Cameras are everywhere in today’s world. Folks have been able to take a photo of our cat sitting in the driveway of our house long before Google Maps was around. People can take a photo of you from space at their whim, so if giving my touristy habits to Disney through technology is going to make my vacation more enjoyable, I’m all for it.

Not surprisingly, there’s not a huge amount of information available as to the systems that power all of this data integration and interaction, but from my casual observation it looks like a lot of it is running on Linux with Microsoft Windows on the front end in some spots. The point of sale systems are running on NCR terminals but it looks like the same software they were running on the older IBM systems in the early 2000s. The backends are most likely running on a Linux system tied to a giant database.

Disney also offers apps for both iOS and Android devices. These apps show all the photos that are taken by Disney’s photographers and the photos that are snapped on the attractions. They also show what “FastPass+” tickets you have waiting, your dining and other reservations and allow you to do many other things. Wifi blankets all areas of the parks and resorts, so you’re not using your data plan minutes to access any of this information.

Disney has embraced technology and I think the logistics behind it all are well thought out and fascinating.

When technology is used the proper way, the experience for everyone involved can be absolutely magical.



I’m sitting on the balcony of our condo at the Saratoga Springs Vacation Club Resort at Walt Disney World. We have been here a few days, we leave for home tomorrow morning. Abbreviated vacations like this are quite rejuvenating. I feel like I can once again tackle the world until our next big adventure.

Looking out from the balcony over the meticulously manicured grounds of this resort, I can’t help but wonder how some folks can be so cranky in these parts. Honestly, I can’t fully understand how people can go through life with a negative disposition. It’s happiness that should be fueling the world, not negative vibes. Society seems to be embracing all that seems dark and menacing. That’s not the way this experiment called life is suppose to work.

While waiting in line at the Magic Kingdon for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, two women behind us got into a small shoving match over who was suppose to be going first in the line. These two women didn’t know each other. Their heated discussion included phrases such as “I paid good money to be here” and “you need to shut up and mind your own business”. The line wasn’t exceptionally long. Disney Parks does an amazing job of maintaining impartiality in crowd control. This place is billed as The Most Magical Place On Earth.

Why can’t people just sit back, relax and enjoy some magic?

As a rabid people watcher, I’m always delighted for the opportunity to sit in a non intrusive spot watching people go about their vacation, their day, their lives. A teacher I knew long ago said, “People fascinate me. I have never met a person that didn’t impress me.” I totally get that.

Why not strive to make that impression a positive one?

Society is changing. I can’t help but notice that hostility is becoming a little more prevalent amongst the people. This bothers me because a society that becomes increasingly hostile to one another is not a society that can move forward and progress. But we are living in a time where people think nothing of being more aggressive to one another. Staking claim. Trying to get first.

Many people have said that for change to happen you need to be the change you want to see. Walk the walk. Live the life. Be an example.

Smile. Share your smile. Make the world a better place.


I’ve mentioned before that I am a fan of Binaural Beats. If you’re not familiar with the term, binaural beats are audio tracks that you listen to with headphones. The binaural beats are two different frequencies, one in each ear, tuned so that they create a certain “beat” in your brain. Binaural beats are best listened in tandem with a music or other ambient noise kind of track, listening to just the beat can become quite tedious.

Back when I was power napping in the Jeep during my lunch hour (due to the fact that my days were extra long because work was 59 miles from home), I would use the Pzizz app on my iPhone to help guide my body through a 15 minute power nap. Pzizz started out as a Mac application and then when the iPhone and its siblings came around, the app was developed for iOS. A year or two ago the separate nap and sleep apps were merged into one app.

Over the past month I’ve been using Pzizz to fall asleep at night. Pzizz combines binaural beats with very stereophonic music that is very lullaby-esque. There’s also an option to have a voice guide you to sleep. The male voice is pleasant with a slight MidAtlantic accent and his voice becomes more subdued as the experience goes on.

To effectively sleep with Pzizz, I have a cheap pair of very comfortable ear buds. I believe they are called “jellies’ or something like that. The soft rubber is not uncomfortable at all and I wear an extension cord so that I’m not tied tightly to the nightstand. I usually pull the headphones out in my sleep, I’m guessing around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.

My night’s sleeps have become absolutely fantastic and my mood and work productivity have both been positively affected.

If you’re looking for something to try, I believe the Pzizz nap is now free. I recommend giving it a whirl and seeing if it helps you find a better night’s sleep.



Earl and I just finished a flight from Syracuse to LaGuardia. The flight was on Delta, the official airline of our family. Since Syracuse is insignificant in the commercial airline world, we get the express version of Delta whenever we are connecting to a hub. Today’s flight was on a CRJ200. It seats 50 people.

Before takeoff, the lone flight attendant advised that we needed to redistribute some of the weight in the front of the cabin. She needed three volunteers from the first four rows to sit in the back just for takeoff, then we could move back to our seats.

As a good citizen trying to set an example for all, I obliged. I moved to the very last row and sat next to a woman who was quite nervous. She asked why we moved and I told her we needed to meet weight and balance requirements of the airplane for takeoff. I used my pilot voice and everything. I told her I’d be there for just a minute and would be moving back to my seat after takeoff.

It’s been a while since I’ve purposely sat in the very back on a commercial airliner. It was kind of fun, though I missed being up front with Earl. When you’re traveling with your spouse, it’s always good sit with them.

All in all I didn’t mind being ballast for a few moments. I enjoyed walking back through the cabin when the flight attendant gave the all clear signal. People might have whispered about me for a nanosecond. I like the attention. I wore my AOPA cap so they would know that I was involved with aviation.

I’m cocky like that.


Earl and I are currently at a local eatery enjoying a dessert after a delicious homemade supper. The local eatery has a decent reputation in these parts. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, it’s called “Café Florentine”.

We don’t have Starbucks within 50 miles of the house. Actually, that’s not true. There’s a Starbucks on the Thruway Service Area about 15 miles from the house, but you’re suppose to get on the Thruway, stop at the service area and then exit the Thruway, paying the appropriate toll along the way. And since the Thruway Starbucks is a service area, it’s not a “real” Starbucks, but rather just a stand in the middle of traveler amenities such as Burger King, S’barro and a mini mart that sells bottles of water for $4.00 a pop. I’m not sure on the price of actual pop.

The Café Florentine display cases featured many delicious desserts this evening. A peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake caught my eye, it looked like regular cheesecake with graham cracker crust, a peanut butter topping and sprinkles of chocolate nuggety goodness. In the mood for such nuggety goodness, I ordered a slice. Earl ordered a raspberry “pusty”, which in these parts is short for pasticiotti.

Earl’s pusty was delicious, judging by the speed in which he consumed it. In reality he didn’t eat it that fast, I’m just consumed with writing this blog entry and that shifts my perception of time a little bit.

The cheesecake with graham cracker crust, peanut butter topping and sprinkles of chocolate nuggety goodness did not meet my expectations.  The cheesecake itself was quite good. The graham cracker crust has a great sweetness to it.  But the peanut butter topping was not what I expected it at all. In fact, I believe the peanut butter was a large, painted swath of Jif or Skippy, as it had the taste, texture and consistency of that which a choosy mother would put on her six-year old’s sandwich. Now, I do enjoy peanut butter, but sandwich peanut butter and cheesecake peanut butter should be two entirely different things. And to add fuel to the fire, the chocolate nuggety goodness tasted a little stale.

Now, I’m not one to complain (well, I guess I really am), but when you’re in the mood for something like a peanut butter laced piece of cheesecake and you get half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich plopped on top of a piece of cheesecake, your senses feel assaulted in a less than orgasmic way. (Mind you, I refuse to talk about “mouth feel” but I don’t mind describing a taste sensation as orgasmic.)

On a scale of one to ten, I’m giving this cheesecake experience a 4, one for each seat, including the extra kitchen chair we never saw, on “The Golden Girls”. No points for the stool that Sophia always dragged to the table.

Perhaps Café Florentine should stick to Ear Salve on Linguini (now known as Pesto Sauce).