The Safe Way.

My husband and I will be officially fully vaccinated at the beginning of next week. The entire family in our Desert Compound will be fully vaccinated effective the 19th of this month. I am happy that we’re all getting our shots. It was not an easy feat to accomplish in Chicago; it was easy to accomplish here in Tucson. Apparently we got here at just the right time. There are people here in the city that we look forward to meeting in person.

We stopped at the supermarket after dinner this evening to pick up a few things for meals scheduled for the rest of this week. The Safeway wasn’t particularly busy, but most everyone was wearing a mask, whether they were a shopper or an employee. There was one man flinging packages of hot dogs around the display case that wasn’t wearing a mask. To be honest, he didn’t look too happy to be rearranging packages of hot dogs. I can only assume he leads a miserable life (judging by his expression) and isn’t really concerned about his longevity, therefore no mask. I wouldn’t expect him to have any regard for his neighbors or other people in the stores.

It’s not that hard to wear a mask. I mean, it’s a piece of cloth across your mouth and nose anchored to your face by straps around your ears or head. At no time do I feel deprived of my life, liberty, or my pursuit of happiness. I can still recite the Pledge of Allegiance through the cloth that is providing some protection for those around me. I can still sing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” if I so desire.

With so many people opting to not get vaccinated or wear a mask in public the burden of common sense falls onto the folks that care about the society, themselves, and the longevity of the species. Like the folks that completed the group project on time while everyone else in the group goofed off and made fun of the smart people, we’re left with the chore of dragging the idiots through their miserable lives.

I sound cranky about this. I’m frustrated but not cranky. I just figure I’ll out live them and will ultimately have the last laugh.

Right?

There are many things I will never understand about Illinois. This No Right Turn is one of them.

Technology.

I am all for advancing technology. I’m excited about the technological future and I want to do any and everything I can to help bring our technological musings into fruition. Our new home in Tucson will probably have a lot of gadgets that seem futuristic, so when I see something out in the world that appears to be advancing technology, I get excited.

This touchscreen fuel pump does not excite me.

You know the drill. You put your credit or debit card in the slot (or tap your smart device against the reader that has a 10% chance of actually being there), type in your zip code, and select your octane.

First of all, what are we accomplishing by converting from buttons to a touchscreen? I’m sure many tests were done, but do we think a touchscreen in the middle of a Chicago winter will be super responsive to user inputs? And let’s talk about that. I could barely get the touchscreen to work on a surprisingly mild March day, I can’t imagine how it would be with gloves on a sub-zero January morning.

Aesthetically, the physical device is pleasing. The interface is a little too modern and simplified for my tastes and I could do without the ads, but it’s not awful.

I just don’t get why we needed it.

Final Leap.

So the month of March would not be complete without a blog entry about my discontent with the United States’ practice of “Daylight Saving Time”. In just a few short hours, we are suppose to move the clocks ahead one hour so folks that are easily duped think they have an “extra” hour of sunlight each day. The reality is we’re just playing mind tricks with those that are easily fooled, and the rest of us suffer.

Noon is traditionally defined as when the sun is nearest its zenith for the day, but we can’t do that because people won’t shift their alarm clocks in the morning and instead want the clock to order them to enjoy more sunlight in the evening.

The really cool thing about 2021, at least for our family, is that this is the last time we will need to go through this barbaric ritual. In ten days we move to Tucson, Arizona, and Arizona doesn’t participate in this outdated practice. The majority of the state of Arizona stays on Mountain Standard Time all year long .

We will choose to enjoy recreation time in the coolness of the evening instead of shoving the sun to a different part of the sky for no reason at all.

Masks.

My husband and I took a brief trip into Indiana yesterday. Rest rooms are scarce in these pandemic times, and we usually stop at a Walmart, Target, or Menards1 to do our business before continuing on with our journey. We always wear our masks, because it’s the responsible thing to do for both our own health and the health of those around us. In Illinois, at least in Chicago, folks are pretty good about wearing masks when they’re suppose to, but there’s too many people that think having a mask covering only their mouth and not their nose is an acceptable way to do this. For the uninformed, it’s not. At our Target stop there was a much higher percentage of folks wearing their masks over their mouth but not covering their nose, and there were too many using their mask as a chinstrap.

I don’t know why I’m surprised that apparently the average American doesn’t understand the purpose or mechanics of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. I mean, a couple of years ago, a hole blew in the side of a Southwest Airlines flight and interestingly, people did two things: take a selfie and put their oxygen masks on incorrectly.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Now, I’m not the smartest guy in the room. I’m not even the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I do know that if something involves feeding oxygen to my body through an artificial means, or if I’m trying prevent something from being inhaled or exhaled, I’m going to need to cover both my mouth and my nose with whatever implement I am trying to use at this time.

It’s common sense.

Every flight has a demonstration of the correct use of an oxygen mask. Every flight attendant on every flight is going to show you how to use the oxygen mask before the airplane is even cleared for departure. That’s the way it works. Yet, look at these fools on the Southwest flight.

Back to the folks that don’t know how to wear a mask. I choose to believe they’re not that stupid. Perhaps they are, who knows in 2020. But I do choose to believe that they just don’t care about the people around them. They’re selfish, uncaring, unsympathetic, and devoid of compassion. They don’t care if grandma dies, they don’t care if their kids die, they just want to be able to stand in line at Starbucks or throw back a White Claw in their favorite pub without having to worry about this bothersome pandemic, but please give me a $2000 check.

If you don’t care about your own health I’m not going to try to save you. It’s not my place. But I’m going to do everything I can to keep me and my family safe. I love my family. I love my friends.

And the mask that doesn’t cover your nose or is around your chin pisses me off. I hope karma gives you what you deserve.

1 Save Big Money at Menards!

Shifting Searches.

Has anyone noticed the shift in Google over the past year or so? Back in the day of an informative Internet, one could search on a subject and get results back from fellow users on that subject. For example, a search for a Netgear network card would return results on reviews and blog entries from geeks who wanted to tell you how to get the Netgear network card in question working properly.

Today, a Google search on that same Netgear network card will return a Pinterest page to show you what network cards looks like when collected by someone using Pinterest, followed by a bunch of links as to where to buy the network card in question. Three or four pages deep into the search results you might find a blog entry or something describing a geek’s experience with said network card, but Google is going to do its best to hide that information from you. Google wants you to view an ad and buy, not read about other geek experiences with this particular piece of hardware.

This is what keeps the United States of America running, right? Buying things. Think you have COVID-19? Buy an oximeter. How effective are the proposed COVID-19 vaccines? You can get them at your CVS Minute Clinic when they become available. Do you want a review on “The Mandalorian”? Subscribe to Disney+ to see what all the hype about “baby Yoda” is. The biggest concern with the pandemic has been the blocking of the ability to buy things and keep the economy moving. Dead Americans? They don’t count; they’re closing down restaurants.

I actually tried to do a search on AltaVista tonight just to bring back the good old days. AltaVista is long gone and the replacement site wants to buy Christmas gifts.

We’re not doing Christmas gifts this year.

If you’re wondering what I’m blathering on about around this “AltaVista”, it’s one of the original search engines from the late 1990s. Originally released by my old alma mater, Digital Equipment Corporation (or DEC), AltaVista allowed you to search the web without telling you what to buy. There were others; Excite comes to mind as well. Like AltaVista, Excite is long gone. They didn’t tell us what to buy. They didn’t encourage us to keep the economy moving. So they’re gone. It’s the American way. Buy something. Buy your health insurance. Not working? Die.

You know what I miss? The free exchange of information by reputable geeks that weren’t out to make a fast buck and more important, reputable geeks that wouldn’t think of populating the Internet with falsehoods, lies, and other forms of misinformation. Google doesn’t like the old ways, Twitter doesn’t like the old way, Facebook doesn’t like the old ways. Spend money, make the investors and shareholders happy, the truth is not important. Commerce is important. The economy is important. Nothing else is important.

Spend. Money.

My husband and family and I were talking about where we’d like to live if we decide to leave Chicago. I mentioned that I dream of leaving the continent, but no one else in the family has an interest in doing so.

I guess I can Google about what it’s like living in Europe or Asia or Antartica. I’ll probably have to buy something to make it worthwhile.

Grooming.

I recently looked up a governmental official on Wikipedia and inadvertently clicked on their photo. With today’s technology, official portraits can be huge in size and the photo in this Wikipedia article blew up to unreasonable proportions.

Because of my eccentric obsession with shaving and with facial hair, I couldn’t help but notice the public official did a really lousy job of shaving for his official portrait. If you look close, he’s missed a bunch of spots around his mouth, and in various areas on his cheeks. He probably just glided over his face really quick with an electric razor before the photo shoot and called it a day. Smile and say cheese.

So then I got to looking at other politicians’ official portraits, all male, and zoomed in to see what their shaving habits appeared to be. When you can zoom in to outlandish dimensions, it’s easy to see who cares about their appearance and who’s in rush.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump? They both shave well. Don Jr.? Before the beard that poor bastard had no idea what he was doing. The best I can ascertain about Eric Trump is he used his mother’s Flicker razor from the 1970s. Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the DHS? He’s a mess. Mike Pence? Like the guy above, he shaves with an electric shaver and he misses a lot of spots. Who knows, maybe Mother shaves him. Mitch McConnell? The dude is mean as hell but his clean shave is well done. Chuck Schumer must go to the same barber because he shaves well as well. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is groomed well. I could go on for a while discussing this but I shan’t bore the reader.

I had a hypothesis that Republican male politicians were careless in their shaving habits but Democrats were more refined. This turned out to be false. The interesting thing is as the men get younger, the lazier they became with their shaving habits, at least for their big photo shoot where they take their official photo and get it plastered on Wikipedia. And then people blog about them.

At one time the White House had a full-functional barbershop but I believe it has since been replaced with a spray tan facility. Trump has been sporting a light mahogany lately.

Cordless.

I consider myself lucky to be a Gen-Xer. When it comes to technology my generation is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll. We were witness to the birth of computers in the mainstream, advances in telecommunications, and the development of the Internet. We saw retail establishments move from handwritten receipts and mechanical computation to scanning and instant lookup to near obsolescence with the rapid development of online shopping.

Growing up we had two phones and three jacks in our four-bedroom house. Our community was not part of the “Bell system”, but rather in a territory maintained by GTE. It wasn’t until I was well into high school that we garnered a private line; prior to that we had a party line that we shared with one or two other people on the street. Once in a while mom would contact that phone company to move us to a different party line because the current members were quite chatty and we could never use the telephone. Secretly, my sister and I had a little game where if she wanted to use the phone and one of the other parties were on the line, we’d flick the hang up switch or I’d take the receiver and run it across the carpet to make scratchy noises. This probably upset the folks trying to have a conversation but what did I know, I rarely talked on the telephone. To this day I don’t really enjoy the exercise.

When we’re out and about in the 21st century I notice lots of people having dire conversations on their telephones. They’re walking, they’re driving, they’re watching a movie in a theatre, they’re at a funeral, they’re at a wedding, they’re in a museum, it doesn’t matter. Folks must talk to other folks immediately and at considerable length and they must do it now.

Imagine Millennials and Gen-Zers being restricted to the confines of a room with a long curly cord connected to a wall mounted telephone.

It was in the mid 1980s when we got our first cordless phone and while I tested the signal by walking to the road and back while talking to my mom at work, I didn’t find much practicality in it. Just because I could talk to my mother while walking to the road and back, I didn’t really see the need to do it. Plus, the degraded voice signal resulted in a lot of “whats” and “huhs”. It was the latter half of the 1990s when I got my first cell phone and while it was nifty, I didn’t feel it was proper to talk to anyone while browsing produce or riding my bike. It’s probably because my Mom worked as a telephone operator when she was young, but we were instilled with a certain amount of manners when it came to using the telephone (scratching the receiver on the rug to bump parties off the party line notwithstanding). This is probably why I find public telephone conversations to be a pet peeve of mine. I find the telephone (and today’s modern equivalents) to be a personal device for a personal experience. Screaming at your kid’s social worker in the middle of a Better Dairy department seems quite rude.

I know I’m starting to sound like a cranky old man when I talk about these things, but we are losing many of the societal pleasantries we once enjoyed. I don’t see us returning to a time when telephone conversations were a personal matter and that’s a bit of a shame.

On the other hand, I no longer have to listen to folks having conversations on a party line, I can easily eavesdrop while walking the neighborhood. Creepy, but available.

Sad.

The saddest thing about having a Facebook account during the Trump administration is now knowing the moral compass and political leanings of family members and friends. Politically, I consider myself slightly left of center. But what is most important to me is all humans, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identification, or country of origin, are worthy of basic human decency and respect. Just because someone has different color skin or speaks a different language or dresses differently doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy of respect. It’s the actions or other displays of intent and morality that show the true colors of a person.

Facebook has given voice to those that normally wouldn’t speak up, even those that remove their last name from their account so they can’t be as easily identified in public. My happy memories of time spent in real life with these friends and family members are forever tarnished. Tainted. Diminished.

It’s easy to blame Facebook because the platform perpetuates the issue. Facebook stokes on the cancer. Like most western medicine, the answer is to solve for the symptom: delete Facebook. But that’s like making a person a little more comfortable as they’re fighting cancer. And the systemic racism and transphobia and homophobia and misogyny and everything else is a cancer eating away at the core of our society. And it’s growing out of control.

I’m incredibly sad about this.

I’m not looking for everyone to think like I do or to be enthralled with the idea of Joe Biden as president. I’m asking for human decency. That’s it.

And too many people lack human decency these days.