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.

RIP RBG.

Photo from SCOTUSBlog

Rest In Peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You were a true warrior for justice. We will do everything we can to carry on your legacy.

Loopy.

During Tuesday’s Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook casually mentioned that the next version of iOS, the operating system that runs the very popular iPhone, would be upgraded to iOS 14 the following day.

This caught me by surprise. And apparently, it caught developers all over the world by surprise as well.

The beta versions of iOS 14 have been available to developers, and later the general public willing to do some testing, for several months. Generally, Apple would release a GM or “Gold Master” to these testers, indicating they were ready to release their latest endeavor to the general population and the GM is the version they’re going to ship. Releasing a GM a week ahead of time gives app developers some time to wrap up the modifications for their apps for the new version of the operating system so that when it releases to the general public, everything should be working properly for all involved.

Tim’s announcement gave developers less than 24 hours to achieve this feat. Marketing beat out practicality. Again. This is how we do it now. It’s just part of our societal regression.

As a software engineer, it’s my goal to make sure there are as few bugs as possible when software is released. This used to be the credo of everyone that worked in the business. However, as time has gone on and computer use has become ubiquitous, the standards for quality software releases seem to have been lowered in favor of marketing hype. “We must keep the masses engaged with shiny new software!”. Instead of having all the bugs squashed for a major release, companies now aim to fix the bugs in an incremental release shortly afterwards. Smart users will probably wait for iOS 14.1.

Since I was already running the public beta, I went ahead and installed the Gold Master on my iPhone and iPad.

I have run across a couple of bugs that were not present in the beta releases leading up to this week’s Gold Master / Public release. For example, when trying to add an app subscription to my account, the Face ID prompt on my iPad Pro does its thing as it scans my face but then the Face ID icon just sits in the middle of the screen. Seemingly, this icon will remain for infinity, or at least until the battery runs out. If I touch the icon it shoots off the screen at a jaunty angle but the subscription request never completes.

This is not how production quality software should be behaving.

Earlier I mentioned the words “societal decline”. Society in general has lowered their expectations to the point where mediocrity gets a standing ovation. Cell phone conversations are of a lower quality than their wired telephone counterparts using equipment from the mid 20th century. People have become accustomed to rebooting their major appliances as timers with relays and cams have given way to delicate circuit boards prone to power spikes. With a decaying power grid, this is an issue.

I’m saddened to see Apple go off into the mediocre weeds with the rest of society. With their premium prices I’ve always held them to the standard associated with higher priced purchases. But when evaluating the quality of what Apple puts out today with the quality of what other tech companies put out today, Apple is still grasping for a higher lowered bar.

I guess I’m getting old. I miss the days when people took pride in their work.

Cults.

I have found that Republicans fit into three categories right now. The first are the die hard Republicans that will vote Republican without regard as to whom they’re voting for. They’re the ones sinking boats with Trump flags, changing their Facebook or Twitter header image to an American flag or an image of the Declaration of Independence, or running around not wearing a mask because of their freedoms. One can not debate this type of Republican. They are part of a cult. If Trump told them to drink the Kool-aid to get on the comet, they’d drink the Kool-aid and bring an overstuffed carry-on for the nearest Hale-Bopp. I know too many of this type of Republican and I’m steering as clear of them as possible. They’re loud, they’re irrational, and they’ll probably turn violent. Think Ted Cruz. Trump could set his wife on fire and he’d still kiss Trump’s ass.

The second type of Republican I’ve encountered voted for Trump in 2016 because after all, “what did they have to lose”? They admit the man is a nut job but they can overlook things like kids in cages and nearly 200K dead people from a controllable pandemic because their 401K is doing just fine. Some of them probably don’t have a 401K but whatever that 401K may be it’s doing just fine and besides, some of them can secretly think their own thoughts about non-white people and not feel too bad about it. One can have a discussion about the merits of Trump and where the Republican party is today but it’s probably still going to be a losing proposition for the non-Trump voter side of the discussion. Think Susan Collins here. She’s making plenty of dough, she gives looks of concern and occasionally furrows her brow. She worries about kids in cages and dead people from COVID but it’ll all be OK because it’s always OK and she’s white and privileged.

Then we have the third type of Republican. They know that Trump is bat shit crazy and the worst leader ever known to this country, and they only voted for him in 2016 because Hillary was just too shrill and seemed like she thought she deserved the post. They see what Trump has done to this country, and the things he’s said about their friends or family in the military, and while they do not like Biden, they’ll probably vote for him in 2020 because nothing can be worse than what we have right now. They’re not for Biden, they can’t stand the Democrats, but they definitely do not want four more years of whatever this mess has been during Trump’s term.

I’ve had to significantly distance myself from the first type of Republican I described. Having these people in my life has contributed to a state of depression and self doubt that I have not known before 2020. I have always strived to maintain relationships with folks I consider “good people”. They don’t have to think like I do nor do they have to vote the way that I vote, but they still have a strong foundation built on basic human decency and a good moral compass. I really doubt these things to be true for the folks that fit into that category. They don’t care about human life, they don’t care about the planet, they don’t care about “the good of the all”. They care about themselves and that’s it. They lack compassion. They lack empathy. And my thinking they had it to begin with really amped up my self-doubt. How bad at am I at judging the character of people as to whether I want them in my life or not?

I struggle with this.

Stepping away from family and friends of this nature has helped me somewhat, but it still makes me sad. When we start having family gathering again or start meeting up with friends somewhere (after this pandemic is at a place where it’s safe to do so), I won’t be able to reconnect with the people from whom I’ve distanced myself. My memory won’t allow me to do this. My doubts will not allow me to do this.

This might be amongst the worst fallout of the Trump administration.

Entitlement.

There’s a lot of chatter on the airline and aircraft forums I follow on a daily basis around a woman who wrote a hateful, profanity laden, degrading note and handed it to the flight attendant as she deplaned after a recent flight. She was upset that she was asked to wear her mask over her nose.

I will not dignify the incident by posting the note here; it’s vile. 

Instead, here’s a photo of a woman in the Ukraine who was too hot sitting on a Boeing 737 and decided to do something about it.

Please note she popped one of the emergency exits open and decided to get a breath of fresh air. Ms. Pink Pants is banned from this airline for the rest of her life.

The tendency to say whatever we want to whomever we want on social media, usually with lessened social graces, has permeated into our normal interactions. Any sort of societal norm or contract seems to have been discarded. Folks are just doing what they want, where they want, and feel they can say whatever they want.

Another example of a society in decline.

When I say this, I’m occasionally reminded that not everyone is like this and this is absolutely true. The issue is one of two things, incidents like these are becoming entirely too commonplace or it’s become too easy to publicize asshattery like this. Either way, it’s still contributing to the decline of our society.

I’m often reminded of the passage from “Angels In America”:

Before life on Earth becomes finally merely impossible, it will, for a long time before, have become completely unbearable.

Observation.

The closing of schools due to COVID-19 are not indicative of a failing society. The closing of schools resulting in unfed children or no one to watch the children is indicative of a failing society.

Fear.

Apparently HairWeave and BadDyeJob, the two lawyers from somewhere in Missouri that pointed guns at protestors in broad daylight, spoke at the Republican National Convention last night to let people know that Joe Biden will abolish suburbs and let the non-whites cross the moat.

I can’t even type that last sentence without vomiting.

What does that even mean? Abolishing suburbs? I’m pretty sure the President of the United States doesn’t have the power to do that anymore than Hillary Clinton as President has the power to come in and personally take your penis substitute gun away from you right in the middle of your living room.

My god I’m really tired of stupid people.

My husband is watching the RNC as “an informed citizen”. I’m sitting out on the balcony weighing my options of pitching myself off the fifth story balcony or going in and sitting next to him on the couch while I strongly ponder Illinois’ legalized pot.

Flicking through the chaos last night, the bright bulb in the photo above spoke passionately about defunded police, death panels, and billions of dollars in new taxes if Biden is elected president. And with Kamala Harris as Vice-President, all the white folks will go to jail while immigrants run free drinking all the milk driving stolen Land Rovers from the suburbs.

Maybe she didn’t say those words, but her babbling was equally ridiculous and since it was Monday night I figured I shouldn’t get blasted drunk with 4/5ths of the work week still ahead of me.

I’m going to walk inside in a few moments and either throw a sledgehammer through the television or convince my husband to watch a rerun of “Sports Night”.

It’s not that I’m an all-in, no holds barred Democrat. I’m a middle of the road kind of guy and like the last several presidential election cycles, the Democrat is the most sane choice who actually has a chance of winning the damn thing. When someone mentions on social media that they’re still undecided it takes all my might not to drive to their location and not kick them squarely in the teeth.

It’s rather doubtful that I’ll be sharing potato salad at a family reunion anytime soon (at least for a couple of parts of my family).

All I ask is that we stop being so scared of those that are different from us, so scared of idiotic conspiracy theories, and so stupid all the time. Please strive to achieve an IQ higher than the speed limit. That’s all I ask.

They say we could have a close fly-by of an asteroid right before Election Day. There’s a part of me that’s hoping the Mayans were just off a few years.

Let’s do the dinosaur.