People.

Living in a condominium building in the third largest city in the United States has really been an education in the nature of my fellow Americans. Couple this experience with the response to the COVID-19 and it’s easy to see why my sister would always say she was Canadian when living and traveling abroad.

In 2020, the United States and its citizens do not garner a favorable opinion across the rest of the planet.

Sharing a building with other property owners is interesting. It’s disheartening to see how many people don’t care about the “common areas” of our building. Occasionally we find beer cans left in the stairwells, or someone will punch the elevator call buttons in the lobby hard enough to knock the entire assembly off the wall. Dog walkers love to put bags of poop in the mail recycling bin (under the large sign that begs people not to put bags of poop in the mail recycling bin). Folks throw cigarette butts off their balcony.

It’s not all bad. We have a good share of pleasant and responsible neighbors, but there are a few that seem to go out of their way to ruin it for everyone else. It’s kind of like the people that voted for Trump. They’re unhappy so they want everyone to be unhappy.

Walking the streets of Chicago I have seen some of the kindest, heartwarming acts of humanity and I’ve seen some of the most jaw-dropping acts of entitlement I’ve witnessed in my nearly 52 years on this planet. I’m encouraged by the number of people that hand a dollar to the homeless person asking for money on the expressway off-ramp. I’m discouraged by the number of people that just walk by the homeless person sitting on the sidewalk on “The Magnificent Mile”.

Public social media posts give us insight to just how awful Americans can be, all in the name of “freedom”. As a Chicagoan it’s concerning to see how many things we see in our daily business that could end up as one of those awful public social media posts. Naturally, these acts are not confined to The Windy City, but with the size and diversity of our population, we have more opportunities to see it.

I think part of my concern is because the pandemic has confined us for so many months and we’re fed such terrible things when we peruse social media. I remember the days when we had just three or four channels, with an evening newscast and a once, maybe twice, daily newspaper delivery. The constant electronic connection, coupled with the ever present 24 hour “news” channels have not fared well for our country. The sad part is I don’t know if there’s ever a way for us to go back to a less bombarded state. I try from time to time, and it’s a good feeling when I’m successful.

Ultimately we find what we seek and it’s taking a very focused, concerted effort these days for me to find the positivity in the population.

I hope I don’t run out of the necessary bandwidth before the election in November.

Ying-Yang.

I was reading old blog entries the other day and I had to laugh. In 2008 I was writing about how I was never going to buy another iPhone, at least one on AT&T, because iPhone OS 2 was killing my wifi, my battery life, and was generally acting poorly. Of course, this was the first update to my original iPhone. We were still working with whatever came before 3G with cell signal. I forget what it was called.

My how things change yet how they stay the same.

I’m typing this blog entry on my iPad Pro. My iPad Pro works brilliantly, albeit the way Apple wants it to work, because I refuse to jailbreak anything. I have never jail broken my phone before. I don’t really see the need to do this. I even skipping the whole “run the beta!” game on both my iPhone and my iPad Pro because I don’t want to get all depressed when things are acting wonky and I know it’ll be months before the proper release of the software currently being tested comes out.

I’ve been tinkering with Linux a lot. I ran Ubuntu Linux on my MacBook Pro for the month of June and it worked well for what it is, but it has nowhere near the polish that Apple is known for. After living in the Apple ecosystem for many years it’s hard to break out; especially since things feel like they’re lacking a cohesion when you’re off of Apple products. I like the cohesion. I actually rely on the cohesion. I am at my my focused when things are cohesive. Work’s edict of having to use a Windows 10 laptop really threw me for a loop and I haven’t quite recovered. I often break the rules and run my work stuff on my own Mac Mini, but then I get a message from the regional desktop systems manager asking why I haven’t used my laptop in a while and then I get back in line.

But having a Windows 10 laptop in my Apple world really disrupts my cohesive approach to productivity.

Even though we have to use a Windows 10 laptop at work I spend all of my day working on Linux servers. We build and run our applications on Linux because it saves the company money. It’s a good thing Linux is so versatile.

I’m not as versatile as Linux.

It’s odd that I enjoy so much cohesion in my technology experience because I’ve always been fascinated by dissimilar technology doing the same task. When I was very young we would go to a local department store called North Country. The decently sized department store of its time, much like McCrory’s or Woolworths, had four checkouts up front. Two of the checkouts had Victor mechanical cash registers and the other two had Sweda mechanical cash registers. I was fascinated by this. Two different makes of cash register, with different receipt formats and different buttons and different sounds, doing the same thing. I stopped in an old Zellers Department Store in Canada years ago and some of the checkouts had NCR computerized cash registers while others had IBM registers, but they all did the same thing and were apparently running the same software. That was kind of cool to me.

So this makes me wonder why I have to run Microsoft Outlook on a Windows 10 laptop when it runs perfectly fine on my Mac Mini.

As I get older I’m finding I have less and less bandwidth, or perhaps it’s interest, in trying to fit into expectations. Maybe this is what they mean when they say older people get set in their ways.

I just know I want my way to be a certain way.

Roads.

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law.

Wikipedia

Imagine our country today without the expressways, freeways, and tollways that make up the Interstate system. We’d still be getting our kicks on Route 66. We’d be driving through crowded city streets trying to make our way across town. The eastern half of the country would rarely know more than a speed limit higher than 55 MPH.

Without the Interstates there’s a good chance that Main Street of small towns would be thriving. Would the large department store chains be prevalent? Would we have malls?

Someone famous once quipped the Interstate highway system allowed an average American to drive from New York to Los Angeles in record time and not see a thing along the way.

As a certified “road geek” and one that went to school for Civil Engineering specifically to contribute to better roads in the United States, the Interstate highway system has always fascinated me. Some of the expressway I knew as a kid in Syracuse, New York predated the Interstate system. These expressways “grew up” with me; the older, early 1950s designs gave way to modern alignments, more lanes, and faster traffic. Signs became more reflective and more plentiful. Decisions were made as how to standardize the way interchanges were numbered, and restaurants and fuel stops were purposely left off the federally funded Interstate highways to encourage motorists to go into town to grab something to eat and fuel up the car. Of course, capitalism decided to abandon the nearby town center and instead build a truck stop alongside the interchange.

The Interstate system made the country more accessible for us all and it encouraged those with the means to abandon the city centers and develop the suburbs. We drove 55 MPH on roadways designed for 85 MPH in the name of energy conservation. We eschewed riding the rails in favor of the independence associated with owning an automobile. We’re able to get our deliveries in Prime Time, and we’re able to drive from coast to coast in record time.

Follow the Red, White, and Blue Interstate route marker to freedom.

As nifty as the Interstate system is, as I get older I want to take the back roads. Earl and I will be driving along a two-lane road on the Illinois Prairie and I’ll see a small green sign that says “Business District —>”. I say, “let’s go see what’s left in this town”. And we’ll drive off the beaten path and see a bank, a Masonic Lodge, a few small shops, and maybe a laundromat.

Americana at its best.

Yes, you can see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet at a record pace courtesy of the Interstate system. I’m happy it’s there.

But I’ll pull over, stop, and take a look around once in a while.

Horizon.

There is lightning dancing on the horizon. It’s impossible to catch with the camera on my iPad so here’s a shot of the horizon without lightning because that’s what I ended up with.

A very impressive thunderstorm blew right through the neighborhood a couple of hours ago. There’s a long line of thunderstorms still marching across the Midwest. We’ll probably see more lightning and hear more thunder tonight.

As long as it’s cleared up by 10:00 AM Central Daylight Time tomorrow so I can go flying, I’m good. Then the storms can come back and impress me.

For many of us, we’ve been watching the storm of this pandemic come and go, flash on the horizon, and then downpour in our own back yards. Some states that opened early are now retreating and practicing some lockdown measures again. Illinois has moved to stage four of opening up; this means limited attendance at indoor venues and restaurants and folks are still encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Many of the shops in our neighborhood have signs on their windows indicating masks are required inside the walls of their business. The coffee shop next door, an independent venture not associated with any chain from Seattle or Canada, was full of folks not wearing masks today. They were not below capacity. I will not be ordering my coffee, black at their counter any time soon.

Those of us choosing to maintain our distance and wear our masks as if we were in the midst of a global pandemic can still see the lightning lighting up the horizon. The storm is not over. It’s just moved elsewhere; the conditions have changed a little bit. There’s more lightning and thunder and wind and rain on the way. We cautiously watch from afar and hope the folks in the midst of the storm are taking cover.

We don’t want to have to clean up their mess after a tornado has blown through their neighborhood.

Wear your damn mask.

Open.

I’m pretty much not surprised when I read statistics about the United States failing desperately at controlling the spread of COVID-19. I can’t figure out why people were willing to give up their personal freedoms in the name of the “Patriot Act” when the words “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (remember those?) dominated the news cycle but when asked to wear a mask when out in public, “patriots” scream about freedom, clutch their pearls, and proclaim their right to get their nails done.

Everywhere in the world the trend line goes down, except in the United States. Our trend line goes up. Trump wants to stop testing so that we don’t know about any more cases. That’s like taking down the tornado sirens to stop the tornadoes.

The man is such an idiot. I’d rather use another word but I’m trying not to cuss as much.

Members of the Trump administration didn’t know what the “-19” in COVID-19 meant. And it’s all gone downhill from there.

I’ve been pulling back a bit from social media, especially Facebook. I glance at the cesspool once in a while to see what people are complaining about. I see memes that indicate “we can disagree but we can still be friends”. I’m sorry, but if you’re spewing Yankee Doodle Yakky about how great Trump is we can’t be friends. It’s not a matter of disagreement, it’s a matter of moral foundations. And if you’re still supporting the Orange Turd I question your moral foundation.

I’m not better for my beliefs, I’m just have compassion for my fellow human beings.

Dun Dun.

Walter and Maude Findlay’s neighbor Arthur Harmon was a staunch Republican. Now, he didn’t use many of the words that his contemporary Archie Bunker used, though he did use some, but like Archie he had a Republican view on the early and mid 1970s. When discussing municipal laws around the arrival of a gay bar to Tuckahoe, N.Y., Arthur proclaims the Republican Party is the party of Law and Order. There are laws in this country and they must be obeyed.

Trump likes to tweet in all caps. LAW AND ORDER! We’ve never had a president that lived by Twitter before this fiasco began. It seems like a really crude way to communicate to the American people. As if having Twitter becoming a publicly traded company made it any more legitimate. But an illegitimate president tweeting and barking orders makes sense here in this Age of Chaos.

LAW AND ORDER!

Who the hell knows what Trump is talking about with these barks formulated by his tiny little hands. I’d say maybe a third of the American populace really cares what he has to say but the news channels hang on every tweet, every character, every slip, every indication. I gave up trying to understand Donald Trump back when Julia Sugarbaker was telling him off in Prime Time.

Here in the late 2010s and into 2020 the Republican Party is the complete opposite of what they were back in the 1970s. Oh, there’s plenty of them that are trying to Schlafly their way through life, twisting words, spinning sentences, and hating just as hard as they can, but the Republican Party can no longer claim to be the party of Law And Order. That went out the window years ago. Law and Order is complying with subpoenas. Law and Order is not raping American tax dollars for personal gain. Law and Order is respecting the United States Constitution.

So when Trump bangs out LAW AND ORDER in a tweet, we are left to do one thing.

Respond with CAGNEY AND LACEY.

It’s just as ridiculous.

Stormy Weather.

I’m sitting on the sofa in the living room, enjoying the thunder and lightning show outside. This makes me wonder, why do we call it a thunder and lightning show? Thunder and lightning. It’s usually not said “lightning and thunder”. This is strange to me, because the lightning comes before the thunder.

I remember fellow classmates in elementary school talking about thunderstorms and how it was the angels bowling in heaven. One particularly religious girl claimed God was crying for our sins when it rained. I mentioned something about snowstorms and dandruff and there were laughs and I was told I was going to hell.

Instead I was invited to go roller skating with other classmates which turned out to be a big prayer circle in the middle of the rink with our feet sticking out. I just wanted to roller skate; I had my own time to talk to God.

The weather forecast has thunderstorms predicted for a good share of the week. It’s that time of year and quite frankly as long as I’m not flying I’m happy about it. I just hope it clears up by the weekend so I can go flying as scheduled for Saturday morning.

In the meanwhile I’ll enjoy the light and rumble show.

Diversity.

Graphic from a random Google search.

I didn’t know Juneteenth was a thing until well into my adulthood. I don’t know the exact date I became aware of Juneteenth but I do remember thinking it was odd that we didn’t learn about this sort of thing when I was in school. It seems rather important. I know back in elementary school it was extremely important for me to know the history of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers back when dates were in the B.C. range, Marie Antionette did something, and of course George Washington was the first president. Oh! New York was one of the original 13 states. Modern-ish history was always raced through late in the year: there was one World War, then another, then a couple of other wars, and Jane Fonda did something, but now it’s time for your final exam. That’s pretty much how all my civics classes went. My school had an accelerated Social Studies program for sophomores and juniors; college bound students tended to skip World History I to take World History II and American Studies I as a sophomore and American Studies II and Ethics as a junior. I remember Regents students took American Studies while non-Regents students took American History. I don’t know why there was a delineation or what the difference in curriculum was. Maybe they learned about Juneteenth in American History. The accelerated program moved the New York State Regents Exam to January of my junior year, which helped balance exam loads in June, I guess. We didn’t even talk about Juneteenth in Ethics, even as we sat with our desks in circle and discussed the merits of various things in society. Gays? Some would counter not equal. Juneteenth? Never came up.

Over the years I’ve quipped that I came from a town that had no racial diversity. None. We didn’t even have a Chinese or Mexican restaurant until well after I graduated in 1986. Today I got to wondering if I was just not remembering things correctly so I went through all of my yearbooks, grade 8 to my senior year. Among all the smiling faces of classmates of various teenage years, there was one non-white face amongst the smiles two years behind me. Her name is Tammy and I vividly remember her with pleasant memories. She doesn’t appear after her eighth grade photo; I don’t know where she went to. She lived down the road from us in town with her mother, her older brother, and younger sister. I remember kids being mean to Tammy and in my obnoxiously present ignorance I could never figure out why they were being mean. She was nice, had a great laugh, but she could be as tough as nails when she needed to be. I liked that about her.

So out of approximately 1200 students, aside from the occasional AFS Exchange Students that would drop in once in a while, we had three non-white members of the student body. That’s 0.0025% of the student population.

Small wonder I don’t remember them discussing Juneteenth in what I sometimes jokingly call “snowy Alabama”.

Local.

We are trying hard to support local businesses in the neighborhood. While many of the restaurants and other businesses have done their best to weather the quarantines and other challenges associated with COVID-19, some places have been forced to shut down. Jeri’s Grill had been open for over 57 years when they made the decision to close; the big note in the window indicates it’s solely due to lockdown related economics.

While I fully support the quarantines and associates social distancing and mask wearing measures, it is a little disheartening to see legacy businesses such as Jeri’s affected in this way.