Truth.

In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. — Barack Obama

This is another reason as to why I love our neighborhood.

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.

Pride.

For the past couple of years I have marched in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade (is it officially called LGBTQ+ Parade now?) with the NGPA, or National Gay Pilots Association. Even though I don’t fly for the airlines, the NGPA is welcoming of us pilots that like to fly “low and slow” and marching with this group has been very empowering for me.

Earlier today I remarked on Twitter that when I was a young gay lad I felt being gay was something that was not compatible with being a pilot. This was mostly due to my internal homophobia, as while I was out of the closet at a relatively young age for the time (the mid 1980s), I still saw being gay as a “less than”. I figured you couldn’t be a “less than” to become a pilot.

Clearly I was wrong.

I started seeking out the NGPA in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I first started thinking seriously of becoming an airline pilot, but I was still get a solid foothold on my career and finances and all that, so it wasn’t until the early 2010s that I was able to take to the skies. I became a member of the NGPA as soon as I passed my student pilot medical.

Since traditional Pride Celebrations have been cancelled all over the country, the NGPA decided to have a virtual Pride celebration on Zoom, and the festivities took place today. It was really well done; Ongina from RuPaul’s Drag Race is an honorary member of the NGPA Family and she performed, as well as a couple of other members doing the same, interspersed with videos made for the event, contributions from a few airlines, and commentary and information from the President and Vice-President of the organization. We also raised $20K during the event, furthering the coffers that fund the multitude of NGPA Scholarships that are awarded annually.

Aside from the pandemic, this year’s Pride festivities have focused on activism, with focus on and all of the other struggles our society faces today. I am proud to be a member of the National Gay Pilots Association. And with the timber and tone of this year’s Pride, I feel more compelled than ever to do my part in getting the country back on course and recognize the value ALL of us bring to the equation. Not since the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s have I felt the urge to contribute to the activism needed to make things better.

After the NGPA event wrapped up, Earl and I watched the Pride Celebration on Chicago’s ABC 7. The news media here in The Windy City usually gives live coverage of the Pride Parade and associated events; ABC 7 broadcasted a special today, and it was very well done.

I’m happy to see technology used in such a positive way.

Happy Pride, everyone! Let’s keep using this momentum to make the world a better place for all!

Flat.

Earl and I had a nice ride out on the prairie today. The corn is coming along and looks a little higher than the knee, which is where it should be come the beginning of July.

We started our ride in southern Wisconsin. It’s a nice area of the country as well but not as flat as the prairies of Illinois, which isn’t as flat as the plains on the other side of the Mississippi.

I took this photo because of the storm in the distance. It was to our east as we made our way south on Illinois 251. When we finally turned to head back home in Chicago we drove through some wet spots on US Route 30 but never hit any rain.

Perhaps I need to spend time at night on the prairie in July. Enjoying the landscape at night during a thunderstorm would be optimal.

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.

Cheaters.

I haven’t been able to get in for an eye exam due to pandemic concerns. My eyes must be changing a bit as I get older so I’m now wearing cheaters while I work. Thankfully I don’t consider this an awful look.

I do need to get an eye exam, though.

WWDC 2020.

I cleared my work calendar yesterday so I could watch the Apple keynote at WWDC 2020 in its entirety. WWDC, or World Wide Developers Conference, is Apple’s annual gathering geared toward developers. This year the event is virtual. From what I’m hearing online it’s being well received. I’m happy Apple is able to maintain their momentum.

I’m not going to get into a complete rundown of thoughts and opinions on the keynote, fellow blogger Dave at Blogography does a fantastic job here. H/T to Dave.

However, I will touch on a couple of thoughts around the keynote. First of all, I LOVED the production of the entire thing. Obviously pre-recorded, the pacing was fantastic, the presentation was concise, and there were no time filling demos of games or other things just to, well, fill time. There were drone shots, zoom shots, and we were afforded the opportunity to see parts of the Apple campus not usually available to the general public. I hope this type of keynote is used as a model for future Apple endeavors, because I enjoyed this keynote more than any I’ve seen in at least the past five years. No pauses for applause and accolades, let’s show and go. It was fantastic.

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened up with a statement on the company’s stance on Black Lives Matter and I commend them for the $100 million dollars they are pledging to make this world a better place in this regard. It may be just a drop in Apple’s financial bucket, but it’s a heck of a lot of money and a bigger effort than their technological contemporaries. I have always loved Apple for their societal stances and the way they back up these stances with action and this is no different.

As the presenters moved through the new features of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS, and the other operating systems, I couldn’t help but notice how much attention is focused on user privacy. As more and more of our lives move to digital platforms, user privacy is probably the most important element of our experience. While many like to crow about how great Google’s Android ecosystem is, I’m always concerned with the amount of information Google is scraping from user data for ad revenue generating purposes. And what happens if that user data ends up in the wrong hands? Bad things can happen.

Apple focuses on doing as much as they can in the way of processing user information locally, on the user’s own device, and as anonymously as practical. Does this hamper some of their efforts when compared to companies that do this processing in the “cloud”? Yes, it does. But I believe the trade off is worth it. Unless you’re running your own cloud, with all of the administrative tasks that come along with that endeavor, the closest thing you’re going to get to solid user privacy and have a digital presence is to do it through Apple’s ecosystem. I appreciate that focus and that’s why I always recommend Apple’s iPhone and iPad to friends and family looking for a routine, casual digital experience.

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS, as well as the other things announced during the keynote, look rock solid and very compelling. I’m excited about the releases coming out later this year.

While I explore Linux and my Raspberry Pis and the like, I’m always happy that I still have my Apple devices as well. Apple helps me look forward to the future.

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.