1 Comment

One More Week.

As I was out for my morning walk, I couldn’t help but notice the scurrying of children getting to their bus stop in complete darkness. It’s amazing to me that the American populace is content with ripping their pre-school and elementary school children out of bed when it’s pitch black outside so they can be thrust under artificial light, filled up with breakfast and shipped off to school before the sun rises.

img_2517

But that’s what we do today. As folks dance around because they get “extra sunlight” with Daylight Saving Time going on for way too long, they also stagger into the office, get into car accidents and drink extra amounts of coffee trying to stay awake in the morning.

I really think the United States would be a happier place if we tried to live in harmony with the planet instead of raging against it.

This is the last week of Daylight Saving Time for 2016. Back in 2005, George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act which instituted our current Daylight Saving Time requirements beginning in 2007. The timeframe was extended by several weeks, with DST starting the second Sunday of March and ending the first Sunday of November, all under the guise of energy savings. Studies since this law was implemented show that we now burn more energy than we used to, but you’re not suppose to notice that.

I am happy that Daylight Saving Time is coming to an end for the year this coming Sunday. I have been counting down the weeks to a time when I would no longer feel like I’m in a perpetual state of jet lag. I won’t try to force my body to go to bed earlier than I want to nor will I go for my morning exercise in complete darkness, though I will admit that the star filled sky at 6:30 a.m. this morning was quite beautiful.

All of the other countries in the world, save for Canada, because Canada is a copycat, have ended their versions of Daylight Saving Time for the year, but not the United States. Like the metric system, the rest of the world is wrong thinking that a normal day should be between sunrise and sunset and that noon should be around when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. We, the American People, are here to control the world and we’ll say when it’s dark and when it’s light and don’t you worry about what your body is telling you.

My dislike for this foolish practice runs deep.

1 Comment

Walking Dead.

I have no desire to dress up like a dead person for Halloween. I don’t want to be a ghost, I don’t want to be a ghoul, I don’t want to be a zombie. I rather like being me and so on the Halloween Eve, I share a photo of who I used to be, when I had an unreasonable amount of hair on my face.

img_0402

Gifted.

When having difficulty falling asleep, instead of counting sheep I mentally walk the halls of my elementary school, figuratively touching each door, remembering the room number and associating a teacher’s name to the number. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember and honestly, I’ve never shared this information until this blog entry. It’s been nearly two decades since I’ve set foot in the building and it’s been nearly 40 years since I attend a class there, but here I am, at age 48, able to walk the halls of that school and remember the layout, room numbers and names of the teachers that occupied those rooms. I might not remember what someone tells me in response to a question but there’s a lot of things that remain rock solid in my head.

In fourth grade I was selected for the Enrichment Program. The year was 1977 and this Enrichment Program, designed for gifted students, was new to the district. I was the only student selected in Miss Roser’s class (in Room 202) for the Enrichment Program. Three times a week I left my classmates behind and met up with a handful of other students in Room 210 with a very cordial Mr. Hazard, who was quickly replaced by Mr. Rayburn. The fact that I was the only student in my class participating in this program did not escape me. I was interested in electricity at the time and I was encouraged to play with light bulbs, science kits and those little computing Heath kits. On the days I didn’t leave the classroom for Enrichment I could mess around with my little electric experiments in the back of Room 202 while others worked on their seat work at their desks. Miss Roser wasn’t particularly engaged, in fact, I don’t think she really liked me that much and this extra bit of effort for this lone student in her 4th grade class probably rocked her world a little bit.

The singling out of me as a different student established very deep roots in my personality. In fifth grade, in Room 209 with Miss O’Rourke (who had never taught fifth grade prior to that year, she had always taught second grade up until then), I did my best to assimilate by being lazy with my homework, striving for Bs and Cs and the like. I still attended Enrichment across the hall in Room 210, again with the incredibly handsome (to me) Mr. Rayburn, but in fifth grade I was paired with two other students that were also considered gifted and they would go to Room 210 with me. Since Miss O’Rourke rarely had control of the fifth grade classroom, it was a welcomed reprieve from the chaos.

The last grade in our elementary school was sixth grade and I was still in the gifted program. I had long acclimated to the fact that I would be leaving three times a week to go back to Room 210 to work on various projects. That year we went to the nearby Nuclear Plant and we made a video based on Battlestar Galactica. It was the first time I was exposed to a computer, it was an IBM terminal tied to some timesharing network. I was given five or six minutes to type on the screen and the teacher (Mr. Rayburn had been replaced) was amazed at how quickly I could type. Apparently we used up all our time on the timeshare so I was given a typewriter to play with. It was the first time I used an electric typewriter, but at age 12 I was tested for typing speed and I typed just over 60 words per minute. People were amazed by this. For some reason I can’t remember the name of that instructor but I do remember him asking if I knew how to get to the Nuclear Power Plant as the school bus was en route for a field trip. I gave him complete directions from memory. He asked if I had been there before, I told him that I had not, I just knew maps really well. My directions were 100% correct. Looking back, I wonder if my Enrichment teacher that year was stoned.

My sixth grade teacher was supposedly the most popular teacher in the school but I could never figure out what all the hype was about. The girls thought he was cute (I disagreed, still crushed that Mr. Rayburn was nowhere to be found). He liked throwing the football across Room 220, usually bashing a hanging light fixture in the process, and I was always nervous that he would throw the ball at me and I’d miss it and everyone would laugh. That’s what happened on numerous occasions. He said that it would take a little more effort for me to be the man I should be and he’d throw the football at me more. I never improved at catching the football and I was happy when it was time to go to either band to play tuba or to Room 210 for Enrichment.

Earl and I were watching the latest episode of “This Is Us” on the Tivo tonight, and during the previews for next week’s episode, there’s a brief scene of one of the children crying because he just wants to fit in and not be different from the rest of the kids. Admittedly this evoked tears from me, sitting right here on the couch, because it brought up many memories, some of which I’ve shared just now.

In today’s world it seems like every parent thinks their child is a special little snowflake that is gifted and should be treated in a special manner. I never knew what criteria was used to determine if I was gifted; I could never find a correlation between me and some of the other kids in my Enrichment class. There were one or two that felt like they were as far off the beam as I was and I always felt a kinship to them. There’s a line in a song somewhere, “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.” We would have never won a popularity contest.

It was well into my adult years that I decided that it was just too time consuming and exhausting trying to fit into the crowd all the time. Even at age 48 I have to remind myself of this, though not as much as I used to.

I sometimes wonder if there’s Gifted/Enrichment Programs in schools today. I suspect there isn’t because it’s probably considered to be politically incorrect. But still, I wonder if there some young lad or lass pounding away on a computer, purposely underachieving to fit in with the rest of the class, with his or her dreams tucked away to be attained later in life.

1 Comment

Distracted.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. I suppose like many Americans, I feel anticipation, worry and an overall, general uneasy feeling about the election that is taking place 13 days from today. 

I’ve been following the election pretty closely for the past several months.  A couple of weeks ago I solidified my decision as to whom I would vote for and to me, the only sane choice on the 8th of November is to vote for Hillary Clinton. I will be coloring in the dot next to her name when I get my turn in the unsteady, unprivate kiosk that I will share with others from our town.

Gosh how I miss the days when voting was a ritual and you went into a curtained booth, pulled the lever and moved another lever to make the votes count and the curtains make a whooshing sound.  Now we’re thrown into this little makeshift cardtable with all the privacy of the DMV. Standing naked in the DMV. There’s no dignity in the New York State Election Process anymore. I hate the electronic voting machines because I don’t entirely trust them.

I’m digressing.

I’m feeling rather anxious about this election because I feel the country is standing on the brink of complete insanity and that the unexpected may happen and then, quite frankly, all hell will break loose.  To quote someone recently blathering on some talk radio show, “President Clinton may turn out to be a bad president but President Trump would most likely be the last president. Ever.”

And this is what concerns me.

My interest in Facebook is gone. Outside of the gross privacy concerns, it has become increasingly evident that I’ve known some stupid people over the years. I’m apparently related to some god-fearing conspiracy theory nuts (and by the way, I do have my own tinfoil hat, thank you very much) and there are some folks that I can’t believe made it through the same high school that I graduated from. And I wasn’t really that close top of my class. Facebook must bring out the sheer idiocy of the masses and the problem is that many people use Facebook as a source of news.

That’s freakin’ scary to me.

I’m concerned that enough people are going to pull the lever of insanity and push this country over the cliff into chaos. I fear Supreme Court Justices that will take away women’s rights to do what they want with their own bodies. I fear those same, new justices reversing my marriage to Earl. I fear that we could really enter some sort of Civil War, or even worse, enter the Second Dark Ages, where knowledge is eschewed in lieu of sound bites and empty promises.

If you’re an American citizen of legal voting age, reading this blog and have no plans on voting, you completely disappoint me. I care who you vote for, but more importantly, I care that you exercise your right to vote. Many men and women have died in the past 240 years to guarantee your right to vote and if you choose to ignore that right then first and foremost, you have no right to complain but more importantly, you have no voice and you are completely disrespectful of our country. It’s unfathomable to me that people can sit home on voting day. Get out. VOTE.

Gosh, I can’t wait for this election to be over. 

Grids.

I’ve been sort of off the blogging grid for a few days. Now we are headed home. 

1 Comment

iOS 10 Mail

Like millions of other iPhone and iPad users, I recently upgraded to iOS 10 on my various devices. For the most part I’m happy with the upgrade; both my iPhone (6s Plus) and iPad (Pro) feel snappier, though my older iPad Mini 2 that I use solely for airplane use seems to be slower than it used to be.  I actually upgraded my iPhone when the third beta of iOS 10 came out because I like to see how these things are developing and give feedback to Apple as they’re making their final tweaks to their software.

There has been one thing that has been driving me crazy about iOS 10 and that’s the way emails are ordered in the Mail app. I have two accounts for Mail, one through iCloud and the other through the host that supports jpnearl.com.  Mail has worked the same for several generations of iOS; when you have an email chain going with several responses, the latest response is on top.

Until iOS 10. Now the latest response is either at the bottom or buried somewhere in the middle of the message. I don’t know if others have experienced this fun and frivolity but the OCD in me has been getting irked by this.  So I went poking around in Settings and found this new entry


Once I turned on “Most Recent Message On Top”, sanity seemed to be restored in my little email universe.

Whew!

I have no idea why Apple made this change as it seems to run counterintuitive to every email program I’ve used since the year 1996 or so but nevertheless, they rethought something and luckily gave us an out for us curmudgeons that aren’t used to change.

Network Nicely.


This morning, during my routine of watching a TED Talk to get my inspirational juices flowing, I watched a talk by Danny Hillis. The TED Talk was presented in 2013 and addresses the fact that the Internet has become an important, albeit somewhat risky, part of the world’s infrastructure.

It’s interesting that in the beginning of the talk, Danny shows a printed directory of everyone that had an email address in 1982. Aside from the fact that not very many people had email addresses in 1982, he mentions that it was OK to list everyone’s email address, and other details, in this directory because everyone on the Internet trusted one another.
Isn’t that a novel concept?
Folks connected computers to the Internet with the intent to do good. People created sources of information (prior to the idea of a “web page”) with the intent of sharing truthful, correct knowledge. Internet users trusted one another.
Can you imagine automatically trusting everyone you interacted with online today? You’d have an empty checking account in less than a day. All your money would be going to some obscure prince in some obscure country. I have spent countless hours correcting Wikipedia articles that are so inaccurate and so poorly written it’s amazing to me that any college student thinks it would be acceptable to cite Wikipedia as a valid news source. Extreme political pundits are very quick to pull select quotes or edit audio to suit their needs and then present the information as accurate, fair and balanced. I maintain a couple of bogus email addresses to be used solely as “flood boxes”; junk mail receptacles to be filled with advertising, lies and other fun misinformation.
The intent of the Internet has been completely flipped around from an open exchange of knowledge to a chaotic barrage of advertising, personal agenda and willful deception.
It’s disheartening.
The 2016 U.S. Election has flooded the Internet with more misinformation, deception and downright lies than any other political adventure in history. Sometimes it feels like one is throwing cups of water on Nagasaki after the blast, but I can’t watch this glorious mechanism of knowledge exchange be completely consumed by darkness.
Be part of the light today.

View. 

I’m drinking in some sunshine before heading back in to work. 

I’m watching a bird soar in the wind about 500 to 1000′ feet above the surface. So calm and graceful. 

5 Comments

Privacy.

It was reported yesterday that Yahoo! secretly scanned users’ email on behalf of the government. Apparently the action was approved by CEO Marissa Mayer and took place outside of the realm of then Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who left the company and joined Facebook. The full article from Reuters is here.

This morning I wiped out my old Yahoo account. I created it a few years ago for the purpose of accessing Flickr (which was acquired, and subsequently destroyed by Yahoo), but I hadn’t been on Flickr in a long while so it wasn’t a really big deal getting rid of the account. I probably have a couple of other accounts in the Yahoo space that I need to delete. I’ll be taking care of that this weekend.

This latest revelation of an Internet company doing nefarious things on behalf of the government (all to save us from Terrorism, of course), got me thinking about Internet privacy in general. I’ve mentioned before that weird ads have started appearing in my Facebook feed, all based on search engine results, visiting another site or, oddly, having a conversation with Earl in the presence of an apparently eavesdropping device. My friend Jeff and I talked about a similar situation this morning: last night he looked at some flooring at Lowe’s, exchanged a couple of text messages with his husband on the subject, did one Google search and then met his husband at a Zaxby’s for supper. This morning he is getting the exact flooring ads “exclusively available at Lowe’s” and ads for Zaxby’s showing up in his Google search results and other places around the web.

Completely creepy.

I’ve been watching friends slowly drift away over the past couple of months. Either the algorithm is showing me what they think I want to see or friends are posting less in general. A few friends and family have given up Facebook entirely. I removed it from my phone a while back as I was not comfortable with having ads shoved in my face based on random searches I had done on the Internet. This morning I removed Facebook (and that awful cretin, Facebook Messenger) from my iPad as well.

In the past I’ve made it clear that I’m not in favor of an ad-supported Internet. Tailoring ads to my specific desires does not ease my frustration with advertising in general, if anything, it exacerbates the issue because it’s a reminder as to how much information Google or Facebook or Amazon or whatever has accumulated on me. I mention these things to users of all things Google and they always tell me they don’t mind because they have nothing to hide. 

It’s kind of like knowing that you dance to “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” completely naked every morning in front of the mirror as part of your workday routine and that you wouldn’t mind doing that same dance, naked and all, on stage in front, of an audience. Or walking into a post office and seeing everyone’s mail tacked up on the wall for all to read. All of these things are very much possible when you give up your privacy, even if you give up your privacy because after all, you don’t really do anything bad to begin with.

Since there’s nothing to really hide from the government in your email, why don’t we take it a step further? Perhaps legislation requiring that all mail passing through the U.S. Postal Service must be in clear envelopes or clear package wrapping would make people take notice. After all, it’s an identical approach to letting Yahoo go through its users’ email, just a different medium. “Let’s just look the package over to make sure there’s nothing in there we’re interested in.”

I don’t think the American Public wants to be treated that way.  That’s why I get so crazy about Internet Security and fair, legal practices that follow the letter of the law.

I deleted my Yahoo account today. And I’m damn proud of it.