Practice What You Preach.

My husband and I watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix last weekend. It’s a documentary about the effects of social media, and more importantly information capitalism, on society and how it’s basically ripping apart our social construct. The focus of “The Social Dilemma” is on Facebook, but it also talks about other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram and addresses the major issues around Google.

After watching “The Social Dilemma”, Earl took Facebook and Facebook Messenger off of his phone. I had done the same months ago, but had recently put it back on, albeit sandboxed to the best of my ability so that it wouldn’t have access to my location or contact data or push notifications or anything.

I need to follow the lead of my husband. He is a very smart man. I removed Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my phone this morning. Again.

I decided to go a step further and remove Facebook from my iPad. Before doing so, I posted the photo above without a caption. I doubt anyone will notice.

Aside from the manipulation and raping of personal information that is inherent to Facebook’s business model, I came to realize that Facebook has pushed too much information about my family and friends in my direction. Last night I had a cousin push a fake video edited to make Joe Biden look like he was barely coherent to her husband and for some reason Facebook felt I needed to see that interaction. Seeing activity like this has caused me to question the moral foundation of too many friends and members of my family. Fake video aside, there have been many comments about Joe Biden’s stuttering. How many of the folks making fun of Joe have made fun of me behind my back? Why would I want to associate with people that take delight in making fun of people? Why would I allow myself to get sucked into that sinking vortex of mockery and find myself doing the same thing?

It’s gross.

I think the main reason for removing Facebook from my devices (again) is it’s battering my soul and damaging the good memories I have of people. Your politics and beliefs shouldn’t be my business, as long as you’re not out to reduce my standing as a citizen based on my sexual orientation. I want people in my life that I know would have my back in a tough situation.

The dialog on Facebook has shown me I can’t trust many of the folks I call “friends”. This makes me sad.

And I don’t want to be sad anymore.

Spaces.

This is a glimpse of the corner of my desk in my home office. I relocated the stack of masks I had sitting in the corner of the desk because they were just adding to the clutter of the space and I found them distracting.

You’ll see a couple of cases and a pouch for eyeglasses. My regular glasses don’t work as well for writing code as they did three years ago so I have a couple pairs of “cheaters” to use when my eyes are tired. Staring at a computer screen for 10 hours a day can’t be good for the eyes.

Overall I like my workspace. One of the reasons we chose this condo is because it had a separate office, something not found in most of the condos in this building. I’ve been working from home for 10 years and I absolutely love the flexibility of doing so and the space I work in. I need to be vigilant about keeping things tidy or else I start to feel unfocused.

One of the biggest distractions I constantly deal with is the laptop provided by work. The company I work for is all in on Windows 10, even though it’s Linux in the background doing all the heavy lifting. While I used to get excited about Microsoft Windows, I find Windows 10 to be cumbersome and unpredictable. There are too many consumer features that are never used on this work laptop. We do have the option of bringing our own device to work, and I could use a Mac again if I wanted to, but my job is too busy to devote time to the care and feeding of using my personal laptop for work. So I make do.

Truman has a routine of sleeping at my feet for a couple of hours each afternoon. This is in direct contrast of yelling at the top of his lungs each morning during my morning sprint and team calls.

He likes to be helpful.

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.

Intelligent Life.

Image courtesy of The Pulaski Democrat/NYS Historic Newspapers, May 1979.

I have always been interested in space, the stars, and the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy. My first entry in the Elementary School Science Fair was in grade five. I made a presentation on UFOs. I’m seen here pictured next to a model I built out of paper plates and construction paper, based on a report I read about a sighting in Minnesota in 1976.

As an avid “Star Trek” fan, I have hopes that someday humanity will be be able to reach other solar systems at warp speed and that we’ll eventually make contact with our sentient species. I’ve always felt like the movie “Contact” probably came closest to what first contact will be like. I am hopeful that I will live long enough to see humans make contact with other intelligent species. We have a few more decades to accomplish this task.

So many science fiction novels and space operas are fueled by the concept of Earth being invaded by aliens, as if the only reason they’d cross many light years in incredibly advanced ships is to steal about F-16s and hover over our nuclear power plants. I’m often perplexed by these UFO sighting reports where witnesses say a craft came from a very far away destination to our planet just to blink its lights in the atmosphere. The visitors must want something other than to blink their lights at us, but I don’t believe they’d come all this way for purely hostile intentions.

I recently article that randomly popped up in my Apple News feed suggested that extraterrestrial visitors must be following some version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive, which boils down to this: “No human (or member of Starfleet) shall interfere with the natural progression and evolution of an alien species”.

This makes sense to me.

Can you imagine if aliens did arrive here? Many Americans can’t even handle folks coming into the country from Mexico, how in the world would they be able to handle the idea of beings coming from another world? For many it would instantly invalidate their religious beliefs. It would be an incredibly humbling experience, as it would turn out that humans aren’t the latest and greatest of “God’s” inventions after all. I’ve read more than one story that suggested there would be an incredible increase in suicide, because of the negation of these deeply rooted beliefs of humans being the most supreme creatures in the universe. If alien visitors can get to us but we can’t get to them then we’ve still got a lot of growing and evolving to do.

Perhaps aliens keeping their visits completely secret is their way of keeping our society intact.

Those that have reported contact with extraterrestrial visitors in relation to UFO sightings talk about being shown or taught things like devastating weather events, oceans taking over the land masses, and other ecological decay. Could it be the visitors are warning us of the dangers of man made climate change? Are they trying to nudge us in a better direction without causing the chaos of scaring the natives with the knowledge of their existence?

So many questions.

It is my hope that when we make contact with another intelligent species, that it’s done in an amicable, cooperative way. As mentioned in the Star Trek movie “First Contact”, learning we’re not alone in the Universe humanity hope to better itself because it learns we’re not alone.

What a glorious thing that would be.

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Mobile.

This is not my mother and father. This photo is from an archived ad for the Great Lakes Mobile Home Company, and the photo shows the kitchen layout of a late 1950s Great Lakes mobile home.

We lived in a 1959 Great Lakes mobile home until I was nine years old. My dad built a two-story colonial-style house in the hayfield across the street and we moved there the day before I started in the fourth grade.

The mobile home was not big. I believe the official dimensions were 10’x50′. The stove in the photo is white, our stove and refrigerator were turquoise. When my sister was on the way, my Dad built an addition, adding a living room, small laundry room (with only room for the dryer, the washing machine was in the bathroom), and another additional bedroom. The addition was 8’x40′. The old living room became the dining room, because if you look at the kitchen in the photo above, there wasn’t really room for four people at a kitchen table for dinner, though I remember us doing just that. The table would be pulled out into the middle of the kitchen.

Apparently the clothes dryer was in the kitchen prior to Dad building the addition but I don’t really remember that. I have no idea where they would have put it.

When I was little the trailer seemed decently sized. I had the former master bedroom and my sister’s crib was in the little bedroom behind the living room. When she outgrew the crib my bed was replaced by bunk beds because the little bedroom didn’t even have enough room for a single bunk bed.

I remember riding out a couple of pretty intense winters in the mobile home before moving across the street. I remember the sound of rain on the metal roof and the windows between the new living room and the former living room. When the addition was built, the common wall with the mobile home was the original exterior wall. I didn’t find this odd.

The structure that defines your house does not define your home. It’s the people inside that make the home, and I remember a very happy home in our trailer.

Great.

Last night I took a selfie while taking a walk through the adjacent neighborhood. It was about 9:45 PM on a Saturday night. The pre-autumn winds were blowing nicely but not too strongly. There wasn’t a chill in the air. There was a very slight rustle to the leaves, but nothing to indicate the leaves were reaching the end of their life in 2020.

I propped my iPhone in the window sill of an old factory-turned office complex and set the timer to take the photo. I stood under the glow of an LED streetlight and next to a sign post. The photo was very simple and captured my mood and moment. I hope it conveyed how good I was feeling.

I posted this photo on Facebook. It was my first post of the week. I have calmed down on posting to Facebook but I still continue to do so, because love it or hate it, there are still a good number of friends and family that use Facebook as their primary form of digital communication. I think the caption said something like, “taken on a Saturday night in the greatest city in the United States”. 

I truly feel this way about Chicago, Illinois. We have been fortunate to be able to travel all over the United States. My husband and I have experienced most of the major cities that U.S.A. has to offer. We’ve spent a decent amount of time in each of the cities and I can say without hesitation, I am the most comfortable in Chicago.

It’s the mix of the Midwestern vibe with the pace of being the third largest city in the country. I know some media outlets like to paint Chicago into a spooky, destructive, heinous war zone, but the truth of the matter is, you’re going to find that in any city in the country.  The images of Chicago looking and acting like an apocalyptic war zone sells ads, fear, and propaganda. 

The truth of the matter is, Chicago is probably one of the cleanest cities we’ve encountered. Unlike New York, we don’t pile our garbage on the streets. We have alleys and our garbage and recycleable bins go back there. It also feels like people just care more here; trash bins are used with regularity. While no city would pass a “white glove test”, Chicago is a lot cleaner than anything I’ve experienced on the East Coast.

Chicago has beautiful architecture, wonderful food, and eclectic neighborhoods. We have the Lakefront, and one of the largest cycling programs in the country. Each of the neighborhoods that make up Chicago bring their own ingredients to a very diverse mix of experiences. As a lad that grew up in relatively rural Upstate New York, I have gained so much more in the way of cultural experiences since moving to Chicago a little over three years ago. Are there bad neighborhoods? Unfortunately, yes, too many of them. But there’s also plenty of beautiful neighborhoods in the Windy City.

And lastly, one of the other things I love about Chicago is the weather. You won’t hear that a lot, because Chicago is cold in the winter. Very cold. It’s common to hear how brutal Chicago winters are, but when you compare snowfall here to what we used to experience in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt in Upstate New York, it’s no contest; it’s easier to deal with the cold in Chicago instead of being buried in snow elsewhere. And when it does snow, Chicago seems to handle it just fine.

The summers are awesome. There’s plenty of sunshine. Our proximity to Lake Michigan keeps us from being completely roasted under the summer sun. And as a storm chaser, the thunderstorms can be impressive. Mother Nature keeps me in awe here in Chicago.

Additionally, in an hour we can be completely out of the city and driving across the beautiful prairies of Illinois. On the occasions I need to step away from city life, I can be near Green Acres in no time. It’s a win-win.

And lastly, I mentioned the neighborhoods. I love walking in the neighborhoods. I love discovering what makes each piece of Chicago unique.

When folks elsewhere in the country find we live in Chicago, I often here the comment, “I love that city”. I’ve heard from folks in Florida, people on the west coast,  desert dwellers, and people that grew up in the south.

The Second City? It’s second to none, just as our tourism ad campaigns proclaim. 

Chicago will always have a special place in my heart.

Changes.

Even though it’s been 19 years, I still remember the events of 9/11 as if it was yesterday. I remember standing in the video editing room of the advertising agency watching the events unfold on a television monitor. I remember scrambling to get the radio station to full time news coverage. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as the buildings came down.

Most of all, I remember thinking, life will never be the same again.

Those thoughts have been proven to be true. It’s felt the country has been completely off the rails since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the results of those attacks have snowballed into a country that is barely recognizable 19 years later.

Much has changed since 2001. Some of it good, too much of it bad. There is now an entire generation that has never known a United States that wasn’t at war.

I still get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I think of the brave people that last their lives on that day, and their families and friends that had to carry on without them. I feel the same way about the country I once knew.

We all lost that day.

Doomscrolling.

I’ve never been hip on the latest terms or slang. I recently asked Jamie if he “dipped” when he did some gesture that involved bending and throwing his arms and shoulders to one side. He laughed at me because apparently it’s called “dabbing”. Wait, did he “dab”? “Daub”? Now I’m thinking about playing BINGO.

I subscribe to a couple of motivational newsletters that come out on a regular basis, and one of the newsletters talked about the concept of “Doomscrolling”. During these American times of the pandemic, the crap politics, and the planet falling apart, among many other things, the Internet has provided humans a way to infinitely scroll through their smart devices and search for bad news. We get a certain amount of a dopamine hit from social media in general, and this bad news gives us the same type of hit as good news. As long we’re getting that dopamine hit, we continue to scroll.

The issue is, all of this bad news is stressing us out. Because the bad news generates more clicks and swipes, which in turn increases ad revenue streams for the social media companies, said companies continue to algorithmically fling this type of news in our direction, basically turning social media into an “Outrage Industrial Complex”. We combat this Doomscrolling by adding to the noise, countering or repeating this bad news with our own digital screaming, hoping that we’ll change someone’s mind or make things better by yelling into the chamber of the Outrage Industrial Complex.

This is not the way the Internet was suppose to work.

Some time back I took all “infinite scrolling” apps off my smartphone. If I couldn’t get to the bottom of a web page, or the end of a social media stream, the app didn’t belong on my phone. About 10 years ago Apple took away the ability to directly send a tweet or a Facebook update without using the actual respective application away from iOS. Today, if you want to update your Facebook status or tweet something, you pretty much have to go into an application designed to suck you in with their Doomscrolling algorithms.

This is not nice.

For my 30 day self challenge in September I have resolved to look at Facebook for no longer than three minutes per day. I basically see what the blood relatives are up to, wish my the appropriate friends a happy birthday, and then I shut down my Facebook connection. And I do this from my computer, no mobile devices allowed. I still want to get rid of Facebook completely by the end of the year, but so many of my family and friends rely on the platform as their only interaction method I feel like I’m missing out on important milestones in their lives. I really miss the days of when folks maintained blog like this one right here, but those days are apparently long gone. I am grateful for those continuing to do this old fashioned blog thing.

Twitter is a little trickier for me. I use Twitter as a way to stay in touch with those I share a common interest, namely aviation, tech, and Star Trek. I’ve tried using a third party Twitter application like Tweetbot or Twitterrific but there’s two issues with these apps; like Twitter, they encourage infinite scrolling and Twitter has neutered their third party API to the point that you can barely glean what’s going on in the twitterverse if you’re not using the official application. My primary use of Twitter, aside from my dorky interactions with others, is to see breaking news and use that information as a catalyst to look elsewhere for more reliable sources. It kills me that users think anything of actual news comes across Twitter or Facebook. These streams may provide a hint as to what’s happening in the world, but it’s up to us to find a reliable source to confirm what we’re seeing on the streams as we’re doomscrolling through the latest round of woes.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on improving myself through some professional and other motivational newsletters and other mailings. These things inspire me. They’re not recipes, they’re seeds of ideas that we nurture to grow in ways we want them to grow.

I need to focus more on this and less of the doomscrolling through the “Outrage Industrial Complex”.

Happy scrolling!

The Chase, Why.

It was either the summer of 1974 or the summer of 1975. I can’t remember if I had just completed Kindergarten or the first grade. However, I can vividly remember the day I became really interested in Mother Nature’s severe weather tendencies.

I grew up along Lake Ontario’s Eastern Shore. Famous for its record breaking snowfall, the area also features beautiful sand dunes, and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. On this day in ’74 or ’75 it was a hot, summer day. At the time, my Dad’s cousin and his family lived down the street from us. During the summer vacation days my mom would pal around with the cousin’s wife, resulting in five kids being blended together for summer day activities. Our ages interspersed nicely and because we were so young at the time, four kids could fit in the backseat and the youngest would go up front between my mom and the wife.

My mom had not yes taught herself to drive my Dad’s muscle car, which doubled as the family car. It was a snazzy green 1971 Chevelle Heavy Chevy. Three speed on the floor. I loved riding in the back seat of that car, especially driving home from visiting my grandparents in Syracuse. The 45 minute drive home on a Sunday night was magical to me. The family together. The darkness of the car. Everyone sitting where they should be: dad driving, mom in the passenger seat, my sister sitting behind my dad. It’s where we sat. I loved it. I still love being in a car on a dark night, the lights of the dash down to their lowest setting. Today’s 21st century cars have too much interior lighting. I miss the days of incandescent.

Back to the summer day. The five kids and two adults were in the wife’s 1968 Chevy Impala. If anyone offered me a brand new car of my choice, no matter the year, it would be a 1968 Chevy Impala two door coupe with either the 350 or the bigger 427 under the hood. Lead in the gas, vent windows up front, and only three speeds on the floor. Pull down the license plate to fuel it up.

The wife didn’t know how awesome her car was, but the lot of us had been “downtown” at the Department Store in the small town I grew up in. No chain stores had arrived yet, the “Department STore” was literally called just that and it was locally owned. Fun fact, there is no Main Street in the village. The business district was bisected by a river and the businesses flanked two streets, “Jefferson Street” and “Salina Street”. There is no Main Street.

Lake Ontario is three miles to the west of the village, but we could see the skies getting very dark as all of us piled into the Impala. The sky had been flashing and rumbling. It was just lunch time. We’d be going home to the trailer for peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches.

The wife (it’s weird that I’m referring to her as that) needed to put gas in the car; we stopped at a Seaway Gas Station on Rome Street. The sky was menacing. As I looked around, it was as dark as night. The street lights were coming on. The Rexall Kinney’s Drugs neon sign had just lit up like it was after sunset, even though we still hadn’t had lunch. The sky was loud, the clouds were flashing on and off and I thought it was one of the most awesome things I had ever seen.

We had just pulled out of the Seaway Gas Station when the skies let loose. The wife couldn’t see to navigate Rome Road. She pulled over as the wind rocked the 1968 Chevy Impala back and forth in front of a florist shop opened by a man named Jay.

The others were scared. The wife and my mother were just watching it rain. I was wide eyed, looking at the buckets of water falling everywhere. Mother Nature was incredibly feisty that day and I was lving every minute of it. I knew I wanted to see all Mother Nature had to offer, whenever and wherever Mother Nature wanted to offer it.

Eventually the storm passed and we went home and had peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. Had it been the 21st century instead of 1974 or 1975, I would have photos to share.

I hoped I painted you a picture instead.

Deficiency.

If the Trump administration has showed me anything it’s that I am apparently a terrible judge of character. A few family and friends, that I may not see eye to eye on a few subjects on, have turned out to be rabid, heels dug in Trump supporters. If I was a smart person I would have seen that coming. But I look for the good in people. I really try to find the positive.

Sometimes there’s just not that much positivity to find.

A sly joke here, a remark there, these are things I would let roll off my back. Shame on me.

I’m reminded of Maya Angelou. “When a person shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”