Truth.

When society didn’t listen and/or instead clutched their pearls because football players took a knee during the National Anthem, I totally get why people would be pushed to the point of outrage that we’re seeing this weekend. Now, this doesn’t mean I think everyone should go out and start smashing windows and grabbing anything they can get their hands on, but it does mean that I hear them, I get it, and most importantly things need to change.

Perhaps if we stopped judging and started listening we could start moving in a positive direction again.

Again, No Words.

I don’t want to live here anymore. Take your pick: Chicago or United States or Earth. My heart weeps for our country. My heart weeps for our planet.

Not my photo

Shore Leave.

So I took the day off to get a breath of fresh air. My husband and I are back from a nearly 12-hour road trip across the prairies of eastern and central Illinois. For the record, we did not choose LSD for this trip.

Now, we went for a much shorter ride last weekend, and it was a nice taste of what I was needing to clear my head, but the going out for 12 hours today was just what the doctor ordered. The sky was blue with puffy clouds, the roads were relatively clear of traffic, and the winds brought us a pleasant breeze as we drove south on Illinois 1 in our Jeep Cherokee.

Along the way I stopped for some Starfleet photos; it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a day of shore leave, so I thought it was prudent to take some photos of me in my Starfleet Shore Leave uniform.

No Words.

I wish I could write something profound today about everything that’s going on in the world right now but I’m overwhelmed. My heart breaks when I see photos from Minneapolis, my heart breaks even more when I read the number of people that have passed during this pandemic, and my heart screams when I see what the U.S. government is choosing to focus on right now, mainly the labeling of one tweet from Trump as being factual inaccurate.

I managed a paragraph. That’s all I got.

Launch?

Photo courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel

I’ve been excited about today’s schedule launch of the SpaceX Dragon since they announced today was going to be the day. Not only did this mark the first time astronauts would be sent to the International Space Station via equipment designed and manufactured by SpaceX, it would also be the first time American astronauts would head to the ISS via U.S. soil instead of hitching a ride with the Russians.

Not that cooperative international efforts are bad.

It’s been too long since the Space Shuttle was decommissioned in 2011 and quite frankly I was almost convinced that would be the end of the manned American space program. Luckily I was just being a cynic and through amazing technology and the efforts of thousands of people smarter than me, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken were aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on countdown ready to head to the ISS. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to get in on the act and the countdown was stopped at -16 minutes and 54 seconds due to weather.

I had cleared my schedule at work and was watching the proceedings all afternoon when two things happened: a meeting popped up on my calendar scheduled for launch time and then the weather call was made and the launch was rescheduled for Saturday.

I will be on the ground ready to watch the proceedings during Saturday’s launch. I’m giddy like a young boy with the thought of these two men going into space from American soil.

Space exploration is a major reason why we have all this amazing technology at our fingertips. It’s our quest to get to the stars that has compelled us to push forward on technological advancements. Today’s crew will be using touchscreens, I believe a first, to navigate a commercially developed and built rocket to orbit. The open source operating system Linux has played a key component both with SpaceX and with the International Space Station.

I always enjoyed the math teacher that wrote in my yearbook way back in 1982, “Reach for the stars!”.

Though many will disagree, our country needs to get its people back in space under our own power. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era of discovery, wonder, and exploration.

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Delete.

I went ahead and deleted my primary Twitter account today. I have more than one Twitter account, but the one I call the primary account is the one that’s been around since 2007 when I used to tweet by text message on a flip phone. I wasn’t a superstar in anyway; I had only a little over 1200 followers. I had tweeted approximately 46,000 times.

My Twitter feed has become incredibly noisy. A lot of the noise was due to my own actions; when motivated I can belch out some pretty nasty tweets in response to what I perceive to be idiocy. I’m perceiving a lot of idiocy these days, and have been since the election season of 2016, but that’s no excuse for me spewing out some of the stuff I’ve put in tweets since Trump took office.

I started out by deleting my tweets, but that’s not an easy thing to do. Twitter makes it a tedious experience at best. There are third party services that can bulk delete tweets but I’m not shelling out money to a company just to undo my doings so I decided to just go ahead and delete the whole damn account.

It was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had in a while.

I’ve had my “quiet” account for a little over a year and I intend on keeping it quiet. The focus is extremely narrow. I’m being very selective as to who I’m following. I don’t have Twitter on my phone at all.

Another reason for my nuking my account was because of recent actions of Twitter around censorship. Trump can spout out the craziest things, many of them damaging and/or simply completely untrue, but Trump is the gravy train for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and friends, so they’ll never treat Trump like the other users on the platform. It’s a burning bin of hypocrisy that’s pretty much destroying democracy, but hey, Jack and friends have enough money to travel the world ten times over while enjoying a bath in a bucket of ice.

There are such better ways to do eccentricity.

So don’t go looking for me on Twitter. I’m not there in a meaningful way anymore.

And that’s what I call progress.

Priorities.

This COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to slow down and reflect on our own priorities. I know I’ve been much more reflective and there are some aspects of pandemic life that I’m actually enjoying. We eat at home more, we’re spending more time together, I cherish family time, and I’ve been in more consistent contact with my family back East.

This readjustment of life has also given me a better perspective of life in Chicago. Is The Windy City as appealing when everything is closed down? Are summers as memorable when there’s no street fairs, no block parties, or no rides on a boat on the Lake?

Life is what you make of it.

I’m not willing to risk my health or the health of my family just to sit in a corner pub to eat some grub and have some drinks. I value my life, and the life of those I love, more than that. Yes, I would be happy if my husband would finally get a haircut, but I don’t want him to contract Coronavirus just to have shorter hair. We’ll get through and maybe one of these days he’ll actually let me near his head with my Oster 76 clippers.

I don’t like seeing my airline pilots friend out of work. It breaks my heart. But I have to admit I’m not sad about less pollution in the air. Does everyone need to fly everywhere? It’s nice to travel to far off places but in most cases it’s not necessary.

Maybe if we start seeing this pandemic as an opportunity to slow down and take stock of our priorities we’ll find some good and learn something along the way.

I know this experience has changed me. If anything, I hope it’s made me a better person.

The Power of Wonder.

I’ve always had a small fascination with power lines. More specifically, the larger transmission lines that criss-cross the country side in hundreds of multiples of kilovolts. Years ago, searching the Internet on the history of a specific design of transmission tower, I stumbled across this photo from the 1950s. It was a publicity photo for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.

Through some clever deduction via Google Maps. I was able to find this location and I wrote about that experience here. On that blog entry you’ll see a photo I took approximating the vibe of the two ladies shown in the photo above. My husband snapped this photo with my iPhone back in early 2016.

I always liked this photo of me, as I feel like it conveys a certain type of energy I see within myself.

The design of the transmission towers shown in both photos seems to be confined to Upstate New York, mostly in the footprint of the former Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. I haven’t come across that exact design in any of the other 50 states.

Since moving to Illinois in 2017 I’ve wanted to capture the same type of energy I see in my photo above but on the Illinois landscape. Today on our road trip, my husband used my iPhone to take this photo.

I kept a small amount of color in this 2020 photograph because I liked the look of the hint of green in the field. The transmission towers seen here are similar to others found throughout the United States, except they have “cat ears” on top instead of the typical smaller supports for the ground wires elsewhere in the country.

As I was standing under these lines (which I believe are carrying 345kV) I could hear them crackling where the spacers are doing their thing between the towers.

I call this new photograph, “The Power of Wonder”.

Too Much Weather.

As a private pilot I have a stronger than normal obsession with weather. While I’ve always had a great interest in Mother Nature’s more intense moments, when I’m up there in an airplane I don’t want to be sharing those experiences with her.

When we lived in Upstate New York it was a 10 minute drive to the airport. Because of the relative ease I had in scheduling an airplane, I could simply decide to fly, make sure the airplane is available, and drive to airport. I could see what the weather was doing and fly accordingly. If Mother Nature was thinking about spinning up a tornado, I’d stay on the ground.

When it came to planning long flights I’d start looking at the forecast a couple of days ahead of my planned flight time and make the appropriate go/no-go decisions. It’s what private pilots do.

Living in the busier Chicago area, with my airplane rental opportunities an hour or more away, I have to be more structured with flight plans. In order to get on the schedule I often have to block out my flight time a week or more in advance. Because of this I’m finding that I’m watching the weather patterns every day between the day I schedule the flight and the date of the actual flight.

I’m noticing I am now overthinking my weather decisions. Watching the forecast obsessively, and noticing how much it changes during that time, is probably making me a little more conservative than I need to be.

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start flying a four-seat airplane aimed at a thunderstorm, but I need to allow myself the flexibility to change my flight plans as necessary. For example, yesterday I was planning on going up in the Cessna 182 with an instructor to continue my checkout and work on the endorsement for high performance and complex aircraft. The plans involved going to a small strip to the west of the airport and the forecast was calling for thunderstorms and heavy rain. At first I decided I wouldn’t fly but after talking with the instructor for a bit, we decided to simply cancel that flight plan and just stay local to our home airport, working on landings in the pattern. If the weather turned south, we’d be close enough to home to get safely on the ground before any storm moved in.

Contrary to my daily work as a software developer, where things are often if…then, flying isn’t as black and white. It’s the if…then…else that I need to remember to consider.

Yesterday’s flight turned out to be a good one; I’m making progress, the repetition of take-off/landing/take-off/landing/etc is honing in the extra details of flying with a retractable gear airplane, and I’m starting to feel more solid with what I’m doing with the increased horsepower of the bigger engine.

I’ve been reflecting on this while working on my post-flight analysis and I think yesterday was a good lesson for me, both in the air and on the ground. I’m still not going to be one to try to thread an airplane between thunderstorms, but I can dance in the sky for a bit before Mother Nature decides to bring her creativity to home.