Off Grid.

I took the day off from work. Yesterday I gave Earl a rough idea of what I had in mind for the day off, but I didn’t really know any specifics. I didn’t want to plan the day down to the smallest of detail. And I know that while I love going for drives on the prairie, I didn’t want to go out on the prairie on this day off.

My goal was simple: get away from the city, get off the grid, and get away from the news.

Earl packed us two picnics, one for lunch and one for dinner. We set out for a drive to the east. I decided we should explore a couple of state parks along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Within two hours of departure, we were at Warren Dunes State Park near Bridgman, Michigan. I had my feet in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. There was no cell service.

It was awesome.

My familiarity with sand dunes along the Great Lakes is confined to those near where I grew up, specifically at Southwick State Park near Henderson, New York. The sand dunes at Warren Dunes dwarf those where I grew up by quite a bit.

While Earl enjoyed some time on the beach, I went hiking and climbed the biggest dune. I circled around the back and sort of spiraled my way up.

The sand was not as hard packed as what we have along Lake Ontario back at Southwicks, but that made it slightly easier to climb. I spent some time in the shade of the trees on the dunes. Since my childhood home was about seven miles inland from Lake Ontario, we had plenty of sand and the same kind of trees around the house, though the sand was under the farmed top soil. These trees felt quite familiar.

There were others on top of the dunes. Many climbed straight up the front.

It was wonderful to be closer to nature. We had a nice lunch in the wooded picnic area and then spent some time on the beach enjoying the sound of the waves.

We then decided to continue our journey northward and drove along the Lake Michigan shore, finally ending up at Van Buren State Park. This park was more wooded but with plenty of dunes. The main path to the beach was closed. There was a posted detour through the woods, which took us up and over a dune. We decided not to climb down to the lake, as we’d have to climb back up to get back home.

There was plenty of sand and trees along the path.

We decided to eat an early picnic dinner before making the drive home. Earl went all out with the picnics. A table cloth, placemats, and even an after dinner mint.

It’s important for all of us to step away from technology and remember how beautiful Mother Nature can be. I feel like I’ve hit a ‘reset’ button. The rest of the work week will be a snap.

Autumn.

This is my favorite time of the year. I’m taking tomorrow off from work so we can escape into nature, away from the rest of the world. Things just keep getting louder. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

Scribble.

Scribble, from Office 97

I didn’t think I’d really use Apple’s new scribble feature in iPadOS 14. I’m a really fast typist and I find my words flow really well when I’m plunking away on a traditional QWERTY keyboard.

For those not familiar, the newscribble technology in iPadOS 14 users allows users to handwrite any input into any field in any application on your iPad. For example, in safari I can write duckduckgo.com and go to that webpage without typing anything. The technology isn’t perfect but it’s absolutely amazing. in fact, I’m writing this blog entry by hand and watching it type itself out in my wordpress app. There are still some quirks to get used to, but overall it recognizes my handwriting just fine, in both printed characters and when I use cursive.

I’m still getting used to my Apple Pencil, even though I’ve had it since I bought this iPad Pro in late 2018. When I make a mistake I am able to scribble out the typewritten result and rewrite it. That’s wicked cool.

It’s taking me longer to handwrite this blog entry instead of typing it, but for short passages when I’m doodling on my iPad, it’s a pretty nifty feature.

By the way, the Office 97 assistant up there was my favorite of Microsoft’s offerings back in the day.

Her name was scribble.

Autumn.

And so we are moving into my favorite season of the year. I love the crispness of the air in autumn, even if it’s chilly and a sign of another winter on the horizon.

Cycling is a favorite activity of mine for this season. The breezes usually keep the sweat manageable and the lower humidity makes breathing easier for me as I force this 52-year old body to achieve personal cycling goals.

Today I rode around the Loop area downtown. There are signs of tourists visiting the Windy City but it’s still relatively quiet down there. Several storefronts are still boarded up from the protests and riots. There’s a too large selection of businesses that appear to have shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions on attendance and the like.

I am certain Chicago will bounce back from the pandemic, along with the rest of the country, but I wish the recovery was moving at a pace equaling what other countries are doing right now. Perhaps better leadership on a national level is just what this country needed. I feel like the Trump administration failed that test and failed it completely.

We have too many extremes on both the left and right side of the political equation. I like to think many of us are just left of center or right of center, but the media and the Internet zealots want us to be in the fringe areas.

We need to resist this.

In the meanwhile, it’s a beautiful time of year to cycle in the Windy City. I highly recommend the activity.

Creativity.

It’s become popular to close off streets in the City of Chicago for responsible, weekend entertainment during this pandemic. I’m sure “Dine Out West Lakeview” has become a welcomed addition to the Southport Corridor. The restaurants appeared to be quite popular tonight.

Doing Things.

With the weekend upon us we have nothing in our plans. My scheduled flight for the weekend has been cancelled due to inclement weather in the forecast. We’ll probably watch our weekly Star Trek movie on Sunday night. And on Saturday we’ll go for a ride somewhere.

I like going for rides in the car. I’ve always liked going for rides in the car. But we’ve gone on so many rides this year, mostly because there hasn’t been much else to do with the current COVID-19 situation, I know the northern half of Illinois like the back of my hand.

I’m hesitant to spend too much time in adjacent states, though we do dip into Indiana or Wisconsin once in a while. With such an uneven approach to pandemic precautions across the country, upon entering Chicago we’re reminded that we’re suppose to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival if we’ve been in a “COVID-19 Hot Spot”. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa occasionally make that list and with Big Brother watching us the way it does in 2020, I don’t want our license plate reader showing up on an Indiana camera and then someone wondering why we didn’t quarantine when we got back home.

My husband and I are always extra cautious. We always wear masks, we wipe down everything with sanitary wipes, we have buckets of hand sanitizer in the car, and we don’t eat in restaurants. I’m sure there’s more than one french fry under the seats of our Jeep Cherokee.

I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be bored of going for a ride in the car, and I’m not really bored of the practice, but there’s only so many times one can drive across the prairie on Illinois 47.

Privacy.

From John Gruber at Daring Fireball.

>This new ad from Apple touting iPhone privacy protection is good, and genuinely funny. But what makes it funny — the premise is a series of people loudly sharing in the real world the sort of information that gets unknowingly tracked online — is actually the perfect analogy to help explain how the tracking industry — what ought to be considered the privacy theft industry — has grown into existence.

Consider the new ad-tracking privacy protection feature in iOS 14. The tracking industry, led by Facebook, is up in arms about it — apparently such that Apple might delay enforcing it for a few more months, according to this report today by Alex Heath for The Information (paywalled, alas — here’s MacRumors’s summary). Heath’s report closes thus:

Branch CEO Alex Austin, whose company specializes in measuring the effectiveness of ads in mobile apps, called Apple’s proposed change to IDFA “unworkable for the app ecosystem.”

“Apple’s move has gone too far, disproportionately disrupting a vibrant app ecosystem by throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he told The Information.

The entitlement of these fuckers is just off the charts. They have zero right, none, to the tracking they’ve been getting away with. We, as a society, have implicitly accepted it because we never really noticed it. You, the user, have no way of seeing it happen. Our brains are naturally attuned to detect and viscerally reject, with outrage and alarm, real-world intrusions into our privacy. Real-world marketers could never get away with tracking us like online marketers do.

Imagine if you were out shopping, went into a drug store, examined a few bottles of sunscreen, but left the store without purchasing anything. And then immediately a stranger approaches you with an offer for sunscreen. Such an encounter would trigger a fight or flight reaction — the needle on your innate creepometer would shoot right into the red. (Not to mention that if real-world tracking were like online tracking, you’d get the same creepy offer to buy sunscreen even if you just bought some. Tracking-based offers are both creepy, and, at times, annoyingly stupid.)

Or imagine if you found out that public billboards were taking photos of people who glance at them, logging those photos to a database, and using facial recognition to match them with photos taken at point-of-sale terminals in retail stores. That way, if, say, you were photographed looking at an ad for a soft drink, and later — hours, days, weeks — purchased that same soft drink, the billboard advertisement you glanced at hours, days, or weeks before could get “credit” for your purchase.

We wouldn’t tolerate it. But that’s basically how online ad tracking works.

The tracking industry is correct that iOS 14 users are going to overwhelmingly deny permission to track them. That’s not because Apple’s permission dialog is unnecessary scaring them — it’s because Apple’s permission dialog is accurately explaining what is going on in plain language, and it is repulsive. Apple’s dialog describes something no sane person would agree to because it is something no sane person would agree to.

Just because there is now a multi-billion dollar industry based on the abject betrayal of our privacy doesn’t mean the sociopaths who built it have any right whatsoever to continue getting away with it. They talk in circles but their argument boils down to entitlement: they think our privacy is theirs for the taking because they’ve been getting away with taking it without our knowledge, and it is valuable. No action Apple can take against the tracking industry is too strong.

Determination.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. As I stared at the ceiling, occasionally turning over to see what time it was, I wondered how many other Americans are not sleeping well these days with all the stuff going on in the world. I could almost here a collective chaos.

When the alarm finally startled me awake; I must have fallen asleep at some point; I made a decision to try to make it a great day. Even though I was blurry eyed and trying to focus on the beginning of a Monday morning, I could make the best of it.

I was about 3/4 of the way along my morning walking route when a wasp stung me in the back of the head. It was loud and it was menacing and once it stung me and I swatted at it, it became angry and landed on my hand and made an attempt to sting me again. I yelled and danced around like a maniac before getting it away from me. The woman down street looked my way like the was some sort of maniac screaming and dancing in the middle of the street.

I was still determined to have a good day.

My work calendar was jammed with meetings today. They weren’t particularly intense meetings but there was more on my calendar than I like to have on a Monday.

The determination maintained, even after a quick cat nap during my lunch time.

Servers crashed shortly before the end of the day, luckily they were not servers under my direct care but quite a few people pinged me about the outage. It was handled. It was resolved.

I still had a good day.

Earl dialed up an LGBTQ+ themed indy movie called “Daddy” this evening, and we sat together in the living room watching this piece of art. There was a twist or two that I didn’t expect and it had that whole “we used a camcorder!” vibe to it, but I recognized some of the actors and it was well done.

It has been a good day.

Losing My Religion.

It was the summer of 1976 that we first attended “Vacation Bible School” at the local church. My sister and I, to the best of my knowledge, were baptized as Methodists, just like my mom and dad. I believe I was baptized in the village, and not at the small church in town where my grandmother played the organ. I have no idea why this is the case, other than maybe the fact that my grandmother’s brother-in-law was the minister in the church where she didn’t play the organ.

My sister is two years younger than me, almost to the day. Her kindergarten teacher was also the wife of a minister, at the “Church of Christ’ in town. The church is flanked by the cemetery on two sides; there’s a decently sized house to the east of the church where the minister and his wife lived. They adopted two children. Even though the whole church and school thing was kind of a taboo mingling back in the 1970s, somehow my sister’s kindergarten teacher convinced my mother that we should give that church a try. They weren’t Methodist, the church where my grandmother played the organ had closed, and my grandmother’s brother-in-law had retired from ministering. So, why not.

The church was kinda big on youth stuff. There’d be Vacation Bible School and then there’d be youth group and we were all promised our very own Bible once we were able to recite all the books of the Old and New Testament in order without hesitation.

The youth group segregated the boys from the girls in activities a lot of the time. It’d usually end up that four of us boys would participate in activities that involved sports, field trips, and worksheets where Jesus was depicted being pious in ditto purple. It was the summer of 1976 that the church took the four of us boys to Marineland, a fun filled family place in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The four of us piled into the backseat of the minister’s Mercury with burgundy Landau roof. He had an FM radio that displayed a “STEREO” indicator in amber when tuned to the beautiful music station out of Syracuse. The night before the trip to “Marineland”, the four of us, me, Billy, Milt, and one other boy that I think was named Mike, spent the night at the minister’s house so we could get an early start on the three hour trip the next morning. After washing my face and hands while the minister shaved and make sure I cleaned up, I went downstairs. They had a big grand piano that he let me play around with while he got the other boys ready for the trip.

I vividly remember praying a lot during the trip. We prayed before getting in the car. We prayed at lunch. We prayed for snack .We prayed at Carrols Restaurant on the way home. The minister’s wife was originally from Alaska and she was what I would call a “husky nice”. I also remember Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. One of the “killer whales” was named Shamu and I bought my Mom a souvenir which was a squirrel holding salt and pepper shakers. I also remember the drive and how the other boys were playing a game in the car where we closed our eyes and guessed the next kind of car passing us on the Thruway. Milt would always say it was “a rig”. I felt like a normal little boy at that moment, a feeling I never really felt all that much growing up.

We suddenly stopped going to that church and we didn’t go to any church for a long time. Turns out someone in the church told us we’d be burning with the Devil because we weren’t “dunked” when we were baptized. I never learned all the books of the Old and New Testament well enough to recite them. My Bible is from Kmart.

But I still remember the trip to Marineland with a smile. It would be when I was in eighth grade that my dad would declare I needed to be a member of the church choir. I obediently joined and enjoyed the experience where my grandmother’s brother-in-law was no longer a minister. I’ve always loved making music. Right before confirmation, the minister told me the Methodist church had no issues with the homosexual, just in case I wanted to know. I was a junior in high school at the time. Happy to hear this, I still lost my interest in organized religion.

While many have the best of intentions, the human spirit can not capture , comprehend, or relay the secrets of the Universe. It’s all a part of our experience.

It’s when we think of our time with “God”, and we subsequently smile, is when we know our true connection.