Free Speech.

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While I do not support the burning of the American flag in any way, I will always defend a person’s right to the First Amendment and freedom of speech. President-elect Trump wants to either jail or strip citizenship from those that are exercising freedom of speech. Imagine what he would want to do to a woman that exercises her right to choose. Again, I do not support flag burning and I personally believe that abortion is the wrong choice 99% of the time, but I will fully defend the right to freedom of speech and a woman’s right to choose. Thank god he wasn’t running things at the American Revolution. All of the patriots and Founding Fathers would have been in jail, or worse.

This tweet from the President-elect is very telling. It tells of a leader who believes in more of a dictatorial role. It tells of a man who has a very narrow view of what American citizens should do, how they should act, what they should say. It shows a line of binary thought, everything is black or white, there’s no room for gray, no room for color, no room for compromise.

When people defend their vote for Trump and say, “but he’s going to drain the swamp and clean up Washington!”, were you willing to give up freedoms to accomplish this? Were you willing to change the very fabric of what makes this country great just because you didn’t like her, her pantsuits and her sense of entitlement? If you’re willing to give up freedom of speech, if the speech doesn’t fit what you define as proper, then this country is in more serious trouble than I realized.

In 1783, George Washington proclaimed: “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

Lies.

I’ve stretched the truth countless times throughout my life. When I was younger I would embellish a tale a bit to mask an otherwise mundane existence. I found myself to be very uninteresting and therefore I compensated by making the story bigger. Honestly, I considered the habit to be a pretty significant personality fault and for the past couple of decades I’ve made a very conscious effort to break the trend. I feel I’ve been very successful and recognizing and correcting this trait has made me a better person. We should all strive to be better people. It’s part of the human equation.

The fact of the matter is, you can’t lie about facts. When the numbers are printed in black and white or multiple folks tell one story while one person is saying something completely different, it’s pretty hard to deny the truth.  And I have a really hard time accepting anything but the truth, especially from our elected officials. We don’t have a lot left in Washington, I’d like to think that we have at least some truth coming from our highest offices. Unfortunately, the truth is that I’m completely naive about that.

President-elect Trump (and I’m sticking to my promise to respect the office, regardless of what I think of the man) erupted with some sort of Twitter rant again yesterday, this time about the election results audits getting underway in key states across the country. His tweet talked about his winning of the popular vote, if it wasn’t for the “millions of illegal votes” for Secretary Clinton. I’m always amazed that the next person to hold the highest office in the world has the communication skills of a junior high school student and the temperament of a five year old. But this is what we are saddled with.

There is absolutely no evidence of dozens of illegal votes for Clinton, let alone millions of votes. His words are not an embellishment, they are an outright lie. There is absolutely no truth to his claims of illegal votes for Clinton. There is no evidence to be found. Unfortunately, Trump the presidential candidate is acting no different as President-elect. While his bombastic screaming of lies wooed millions of people to vote for him in the election, his distortion of the truth has no place in his role as President. He keeps repeating his lies until he believes them and then he expects the American public to do the same. Unfortunately, too many folks buy into this and start repeating the same lie, trying to solidify these falsehoods as truth. 

Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted today about “a mandate” for a Trump presidency. The people have spoken with this “landslide” victory. She called it a historic win. Again, more lies, more distortions trumpeted loudly. The louder the more like it’s the truth, right? I have no idea how that woman sleeps at night.

Whatever.

The true historical value of this election is the fact that there has never been such a wide disparity between the popular vote and the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over two million votes. And the absolute final results are still being tabulated. There is no mandate. There’s little hope for unity. I fear there’s little hope at all.

The truth of the matter is I’m already beyond tired of this presidency and it hasn’t even officially begun. It’s hard to respect the highest office in the land when you can’t believe a word that he says. Trust in government? No one in their right mind would trust anything from a Trump Administration.

But then again, a lot of people trust reality television as being real. And that’s what we have now, right? Reality television trying to be a real Presidential administration.

God help us all.

Meandering.


Earl and I have been meandering out in the Jeep today. At this time of year I enjoy the challenge of following roads that say “Seasonal Use Only / Road Not Maintained Nov. 1 through April 1”.  These roads are fun to drive in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.


We found ourselves at Selkirk Shores State Park along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. This state park is about 10 miles or so from the house I grew up in. We drove by the old house. It’s not really that old; my dad built it and we moved in for my first day of Fourth Grade in 1977. The new owners of the property are being very kind to it. I’m happy to see life thriving in what I used to call home.

Having grown up pretty close to the Great Lakes, I find myself longing to hear the crashing of the waves, even when it’s 40ºF. Earl is a good sport; we walked out on the pier and took some photos. In the distance you can see Nine Mile Point, home to three nuclear power plants. Two of those plants have been active for nearly my entire life and I don’t glow in the dark. Nuclear power doesn’t scare me.


We are now meandering around in the outskirts of the city of Syracuse. We have stopped for a Starbucks break, as we don’t have Starbucks at home and we like to indulge once in a while. After this blog entry and the completion of our treat, we shall continue our meandering with a target of getting home some time tonight. We are only 45 miles from home but it might take us several hours to get there.

Meandering is good for the soul.

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Sharing.

I’ve been using my Facebook account on a regular basis for the past couple of weeks, since shortly before the travesty we amusingly call “Election Day”. I started out by going back to read a couple of geek and flight oriented groups that are housed within the confines of the Facebook platform. I smile every time I see a pilot share photos of their first solo flight. I read about the experiences of other pilots. I talk with folks that also own a Piper Cherokee. I also keep up with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a long while. Unfortunately I fell into the pits of Facebook hell and got caught up in the whirlwind of disinformation, fake news and the like the Facebook is becoming quite famous for.

The truth of the matter is that I know better. As a fairly well-educated tech guy, I know that Facebook tracks every movement I make on the web. Facebook knows every time I search for something and adds that information to my profile. The paranoid side of me believes that Facebook is somehow _hearing_ my conversations because I’ve had a couple of suggestions come up in the FB sidebar after Earl and I have had a conversation about a product, but I’m still trying to figure out if that’s possible or not. Facebook is a very dangerous platform for many reasons, yet I still wade in the acidic waters, clinging onto some shred of hope that it doesn’t rot me away completely.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that Facebook has significantly pared down the posts that I see from friends and family. The number of people showing up on my timeline has been whittled down considerably. On more than one occasion, while scanning through my Facebook timeline, I’ve thought to myself, “It’s funny I haven’t seen a post from X in the past few days.”  I’ll then search up their name and see that they’ve been posting right along like they always have, Facebook just didn’t feel it was necessary to share that information with me. Instead, I’ve been barraged with posts from people that I’ve shared a hearty banter with (usually about the “election”), as if to magnify that particular person’s point of view in lieu of just presenting me with a timeline.

When a timeline is skewed with algorithms, it’s not a timeline. It’s propaganda.  Instagram, owned by Facebook, is notorious for this. I keep seeing the same photos from the same six people instead of the 300 or so that I follow on Instagram. It makes me crazy. It’s not genuine. There’s nothing genuine about anything owned by Facebook. It’s not information, it’s manipulation.

I keep saying, and blogging, that I’m just going to share more right here on my blog and less in the Facebook arena, but the issue with that approach is that when I want to get an important point across, such as the fallout from the recent “election” (yes, I’m annoying with the rabbit gestures around the word election, which should give you an indication as to how much I believe it was truly an election reflecting the will of the people), the people I want to reach are comfortable inside the Facebook echo chamber and the folks I want to target with my voice aren’t going to hear what I want to share. 

Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for this. I’m concerned that Facebook isn’t going to go the way of MySpace. A reader on Medium suggested that Facebook be treated like a public utility and subject to the same governmental oversight as the other utilities (power, water, telecom) in the United States. While it’s questionable that any utility will still be subjected to any oversight after we somehow survive the next four years as a cohesive country, the idea of Facebook being considered a “utility” is horrifying to me.

It is really my hope that the country will wake up from some drug induced trip and come back to its senses: in the way we think, the way we act, the way we use tech, the way we think our society should be going, all of it. My gut tells me that this is the new normal. I didn’t think it was possible for us to head in the direction of “Idiocracy” but I’ve been a wrong about a lot of things over the years and I’m afraid this is one of them. To mix movie metaphors, (I was going to paste a quote from “Angels in America” here but Apple’s iOS 10 won’t let me do that, so I’ll paraphrase), “Before life becomes merely impossible, it will be, for a long time, completely unbearable.”

I think Facebook is leading the charge into the unbearable realm.

Time.

In 1939, as part of the Federal Works Administration projects that were going on at the time, a new school was built in my hometown. The school housed grades Kindergarten through 12, with a student population of under 1,000. The facility was state of the art, built with art deco touches and made use of some amazing architectural decisions, including marble in the lobby, an impressive staircase and gorgeous wood work in common areas such as the library, principal’s office and the like. The building was annexed in 1956 with every effort to maintain the architectural integrity of the original building in the addition. Aside from slight changes in then pattern in the terrazzo floor in the hallways, the annex is a natural extension of the building.

I’ve mentioned before that my interest in synchronized time, which is part of a keen interest in “systems” (roads, airports, power lines, computer networks, telephones, etc.), was started in that art deco building built in 1939 when I discovered that all the clocks were connected together, despite the fact that while most were square and part of a wooden case with a speaker, others were round and some were more modern looking (in the annex). The clock system collection in our home marches on today, despite the fact that all of the clocks were discarded by school districts as being outdated and based on old technology.

img_2701Master bathroom clock from 1940

Having these clocks wired through the house, all advancing on the minute with a tick-tick in unison, can be a little odd for folks that visit and aren’t used to the noise. The clocks in the bedroom areas are the quietest ones we own but they are still quite audible. When I mention that I might swap out the clock in the master bedroom with a quieter one Earl talks me out of it, stating the he can’t sleep with the minute impulse sound. When guests visit for an overnight stay I usually disconnect the clock in the spare bedroom.

img_2702Master bedroom clock from the early 1920s

The simple but persistent technology in these clocks, technology dating back the 1880s, reminds me of a time when the United States took pride in its manufacturing prowess. “Back in the day” we had a lot of quality goods made right here at home. Solid, well-crafted, reliable things that would last a long time. Shiny and new didn’t matter; sturdy and long-lasting were the goals in the early to mid 20th century. We made things to last. We took pride in our work.

img_2703Guest bedroom clock from 1939

In 1969, the student population out grew the school building and its annex and a new high school was built on the other side of town. The new high school was built to modern specifications. There was no marble, no grand staircase. Classroom walls were painted over cinderblocks. Large embossed numerals denoting room number were nowhere to be found; numbers were painted on molding around the door. The clocks, while tick-ticking once a minute, were made by a different company, oddly placed in some rooms and not as reliable. The clocks in the 1969 building failed before the clocks in the 1939 building did. There was no pattern on the hallway floor as there was no terrazzo to be found. The school was adequate and met the expectations of the populace in the 1960s. When I went to that high school 20 years later there were leaks in the ceiling on the second floor. The stage lighting panel in the auditorium caught fire during a production of “South Pacific” but it was quickly extinguished. The auditorium chairs were replaced not long after I graduated in 1986. The whole building just felt more “plastic”.

img_2704Jamie’s bedroom clock from 1941

When these clocks wired throughout the house tick-tick to indicate the passage of another minute, I’m occasionally reminded of the days of old when the country seemed to be a little more solid. Admittedly, societal norms were not kind to society as whole but forward progress was inching ahead. Presidents acted presidential, there seemed to be a general sense of local community and our country made things. Solid things. Things that would stand the test of time.

I’ve lain awake at night for the majority of this month, the tick-tick of time moving on in the background, wondering what lies ahead for the country. I’ve tried to muster up a positive outlook. I look for the brightness but my dreams when I sleep are plagued with darkness. The future feels plastic. The foundation feels crumbled. Past changes in presidents have felt like that change in the pattern in the hallway terrazzo. The hallway is still there and the pattern is similar but familiar. I feel like the hallway has come to an end and no one has built a staircase to go to another level.

But time continues to march on.

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Disappointing.

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I just committed the ultimate sin against Apple by opening my three-month old MacBook Pro Retina and expecting the screen to come to life so I could be productive. To accomplish my objective of using the computer, I wiggled my fingers on the trackpad, I stabbed at a few keys and waited a few moments. I then closed the lid and opened it back up, hoping something in my computer would awake so I could use my computer because, after all, “It Just Works”.

After about 60 seconds of desperation, I held down the power key to force the computer to shut down and then powered up from scratch. Once logged in, I was reminded that I turned the computer off in an inappropriate manner and was asked if I wanted to restore my session. Historically, an answer to the affirmative has led to a round-robin of reboot gaiety, so I opted to just start from scratch.

I know this is First World Problem, but I have to say that I am rather disappointed in my latest MacBook Pro. This computer has been plagued with many quirks. For example, something prevents my name from rendering properly at log in (as seen in the screenshot above). Is it a cosmetic issue? Possibly, but cosmetic issues in the world of Mac are usually a symptom of an issue lingering under the covers.

My computer reliably wakes up from Power Nap or Super Slumber or whatever it’s called these days about 50% of the time that I try to use my computer. The close cousin of Unix that powers macOS is known for its long stretches of computer uptime, the amount of time that a computer can go without needing to reboot, restart, power cycle, etc. I’m lucky if my MBPr goes from sunrise to sunset.

The primary reason that I find this all disappointing is because when I purchased this computer, as a replacement to my three-year old MacBook Pro Retina that was stolen from my hotel room during a work trip, I purchased the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro Retina that was available at the time. I have the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, the fastest processor, etc. that was available in a laptop from Apple as of July 2016. The fact that I sank all this money into a computer and that “It Just Works” is a complete fallacy with this machine is very disheartening to me.

It’s not like I’m asking the computer to do things outside of the Walled Garden. I use iCloud services. I surf on Safari. I use the Apple-provided applications whenever possible because I like the idea of “It Just Works”.

When I fire up Apple’s “Photos” app my laptop takes on the persona of an Airbus A380 ready for departure. The fans blast so loud that I’m sure it can be heard by the neighbors, and remember, this is the maxed out laptop of its time.

The little gimmick of your Apple Watch unlocking your computer works about 45% of the time. When it does work I’m left staring at a “Please wait…” message on my screen when in reality I could have typed my password in half the amount of time that my watch and my computer had a conversation.

Now that I’ve typed that last paragraph I’ve decided to just turn off that feature and see what that does.

While out in the world I’ve noticed more Microsoft Surface Pro ultrabooks being used by folks. I have to admit that I’m very intrigued by the Surface Pro but moving to a Microsoft environment scares the beejeesus out of me. I’ve tried Windows 10 and it seems to be sort of cobbled together and I’ve read enough about the security implications of key logging, traffic monitoring, etc. that I really don’t want to go down that road. These are the same reasons I don’t want to switch to a Chromebook and I’m too tired to provide the care and feeding that a Linux laptop requires.

The truth of the matter is, the amount of mediocrity that passes as “It Just Works” from Apple today is still probably the best experience a computer user can get, we’ve just come to accept mediocrity as a new gold standard. When marketing runs the show the results can be disastrous. I’m sure that will be proven once again in 2017 in the political arena, but that’s a whole other blog entry unto itself.

So here I am trying to be my best in a world of low expectations. God help us all.