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.

Search.

Google really loves it when you use their Google Chrome browser as the default across your devices. When you tie your devices together in this fashion it is much easier for ad revenue dependent companies to glean and scrape every scrap of information they can about your life. When I mention this to people, particularly Android users, I’m reminded they have nothing to hide and besides the other options are too expensive, slow, and don’t provide the same convenience.

Back in the 80s and 90s a certain segment of the population would become surly when asked for their phone number when making a purchase at Radio Shack. Heck, back in the day department stores would do some rudimentary marketing by asking for your five-digit zip code at the checkout. I remember more than one occasion where a person in line ahead of me would refer to give it because apparently they didn’t want the department store to know they were from the village with a population of 2500.

Look, I know what I do online leaves traces for others to query. Consumer tracking is an unfortunate reality of using the Internet, especially in the United States. Using the same (non-Gmail) email address for over two decades has tied my information together in ways I can’t even imagine. But what happens when the ad companies start talking to one another and your email address is tied to your Google searches? What if, and this is not outside the realm of possibility at all, a cashier were to enter your email address at a Point of Sale terminal in your neighborhood market and then suddenly recommend an ointment for the skin rash you had last week? Would that make you comfortable?

We like to think Google gives the best search results to our queries because it skews the results to our tailored interests. If Google thinks you’re a conservative, if you might see results for “climate change” that point you to a right-leaning beliefs or even conspiracy sites. Lean the other way and your results could lead you to a protest in your community.

This is why I try to use DuckDuckGo for all of my searches and why I have also defaulted to the service as my preferred search engine on all my devices. A quick side bar: it’s interesting to me that Apple touts its privacy practices front and center on the majority of their marketing but they elect to set Google as the default search engine on both iOS and MacOS. How’s the cooperative revenue opportunity working for the two tech giants?

In iOS and iPadOS, if you want to change your search engine, go to the Settings Panel, find Safari, and then you’ll see an option for “Search” near the top of the parameter list. There you can select a different default search engine for your web browser. In Mac OS this is available under “Settings” in Safari. In Windows 10 it’s specific to the browser you’re using, likewise for alternate browsers on iOS and Mac. Linux users already know how to change it.

We can all co-exist on the Internet without giving companies, and perhaps other bad actors, the entirety of our lives. As human beings we have a right to privacy.

In the Digital Age we have to work a little harder for it.

Messaging.

Yard signs are common in our neighborhood. The majority of them favor Black Lives Matter. Others talk about the diversity of the people of our country and how all are welcome.

The Presidential Campaigning efforts are displayed on large banners hanging off of balcony or large flags hanging off of buildings.

I haven’t seen any pro-Trump campaigning within at least a three mile radius of our home. When we got for rides out on the prairie there’s plenty of Trump signs. But in the city? Nope. Not even really in the suburbs.

I am anxious to get this election over with. It is causing my stress that I am desperately trying to shake off. It is my hope that America tries to save itself in November. Our future depends on it.

Intelligent Life.

Image courtesy of The Pulaski Democrat/NYS Historic Newspapers, May 1979.

I have always been interested in space, the stars, and the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy. My first entry in the Elementary School Science Fair was in grade five. I made a presentation on UFOs. I’m seen here pictured next to a model I built out of paper plates and construction paper, based on a report I read about a sighting in Minnesota in 1976.

As an avid “Star Trek” fan, I have hopes that someday humanity will be be able to reach other solar systems at warp speed and that we’ll eventually make contact with our sentient species. I’ve always felt like the movie “Contact” probably came closest to what first contact will be like. I am hopeful that I will live long enough to see humans make contact with other intelligent species. We have a few more decades to accomplish this task.

So many science fiction novels and space operas are fueled by the concept of Earth being invaded by aliens, as if the only reason they’d cross many light years in incredibly advanced ships is to steal about F-16s and hover over our nuclear power plants. I’m often perplexed by these UFO sighting reports where witnesses say a craft came from a very far away destination to our planet just to blink its lights in the atmosphere. The visitors must want something other than to blink their lights at us, but I don’t believe they’d come all this way for purely hostile intentions.

I recently article that randomly popped up in my Apple News feed suggested that extraterrestrial visitors must be following some version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive, which boils down to this: “No human (or member of Starfleet) shall interfere with the natural progression and evolution of an alien species”.

This makes sense to me.

Can you imagine if aliens did arrive here? Many Americans can’t even handle folks coming into the country from Mexico, how in the world would they be able to handle the idea of beings coming from another world? For many it would instantly invalidate their religious beliefs. It would be an incredibly humbling experience, as it would turn out that humans are the latest and greatest of “God’s” inventions after all. I’ve read more than one story that suggested there would be an incredible increase in suicide, because of the negation of these deeply rooted beliefs of humans being the most supreme creatures in the universe. If alien visitors can get to us but we can’t get to them then we’ve still got a lot of growing and evolving to do.

Perhaps aliens keeping their visits completely secret is their way of keeping our society intact.

Those that have reported contact with extraterrestrial visitors in relation to UFO sightings talk about being shown or taught things like devastating weather events, oceans taking over the land masses, and other ecological decay. Could it be the visitors are warning us of the dangers of man made climate change? Are they trying to nudge us in a better direction without causing the chaos of scaring the natives with the knowledge of their existence?

So many questions.

It is my hope that when we make contact with another intelligent species, that it’s done in an amicable, cooperative way. As mentioned in the Star Trek movie “First Contact”, learning we’re not alone in the Universe humanity hope to better itself because it learns we’re not alone.

What a glorious thing that would be.

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Mobile.

This is not my mother and father. This photo is from an archived ad for the Great Lakes Mobile Home Company, and the photo shows the kitchen layout of a late 1950s Great Lakes mobile home.

We lived in a 1959 Great Lakes mobile home until I was nine years old. My dad built a two-story colonial-style house in the hayfield across the street and we moved there the day before I started in the fourth grade.

The mobile home was not big. I believe the official dimensions were 10’x50′. The stove in the photo is white, our stove and refrigerator were turquoise. When my sister was on the way, my Dad built an addition, adding a living room, small laundry room (with only room for the dryer, the washing machine was in the bathroom), and another additional bedroom. The addition was 8’x40′. The old living room became the dining room, because if you look at the kitchen in the photo above, there wasn’t really room for four people at a kitchen table for dinner, though I remember us doing just that. The table would be pulled out into the middle of the kitchen.

Apparently the clothes dryer was in the kitchen prior to Dad building the addition but I don’t really remember that. I have no idea where they would have put it.

When I was little the trailer seemed decently sized. I had the former master bedroom and my sister’s crib was in the little bedroom behind the living room. When she outgrew the crib my bed was replaced by bunk beds because the little bedroom didn’t even have enough room for a single bunk bed.

I remember riding out a couple of pretty intense winters in the mobile home before moving across the street. I remember the sound of rain on the metal roof and the windows between the new living room and the former living room. When the addition was built, the common wall with the mobile home was the original exterior wall. I didn’t find this odd.

The structure that defines your house does not define your home. It’s the people inside that make the home, and I remember a very happy home in our trailer.

Great.

Last night I took a selfie while taking a walk through the adjacent neighborhood. It was about 9:45 PM on a Saturday night. The pre-autumn winds were blowing nicely but not too strongly. There wasn’t a chill in the air. There was a very slight rustle to the leaves, but nothing to indicate the leaves were reaching the end of their life in 2020.

I propped my iPhone in the window sill of an old factory-turned office complex and set the timer to take the photo. I stood under the glow of an LED streetlight and next to a sign post. The photo was very simple and captured my mood and moment. I hope it conveyed how good I was feeling.

I posted this photo on Facebook. It was my first post of the week. I have calmed down on posting to Facebook but I still continue to do so, because love it or hate it, there are still a good number of friends and family that use Facebook as their primary form of digital communication. I think the caption said something like, “taken on a Saturday night in the greatest city in the United States”. 

I truly feel this way about Chicago, Illinois. We have been fortunate to be able to travel all over the United States. My husband and I have experienced most of the major cities that U.S.A. has to offer. We’ve spent a decent amount of time in each of the cities and I can say without hesitation, I am the most comfortable in Chicago.

It’s the mix of the Midwestern vibe with the pace of being the third largest city in the country. I know some media outlets like to paint Chicago into a spooky, destructive, heinous war zone, but the truth of the matter is, you’re going to find that in any city in the country.  The images of Chicago looking and acting like an apocalyptic war zone sells ads, fear, and propaganda. 

The truth of the matter is, Chicago is probably one of the cleanest cities we’ve encountered. Unlike New York, we don’t pile our garbage on the streets. We have alleys and our garbage and recycleable bins go back there. It also feels like people just care more here; trash bins are used with regularity. While no city would pass a “white glove test”, Chicago is a lot cleaner than anything I’ve experienced on the East Coast.

Chicago has beautiful architecture, wonderful food, and eclectic neighborhoods. We have the Lakefront, and one of the largest cycling programs in the country. Each of the neighborhoods that make up Chicago bring their own ingredients to a very diverse mix of experiences. As a lad that grew up in relatively rural Upstate New York, I have gained so much more in the way of cultural experiences since moving to Chicago a little over three years ago. Are there bad neighborhoods? Unfortunately, yes, too many of them. But there’s also plenty of beautiful neighborhoods in the Windy City.

And lastly, one of the other things I love about Chicago is the weather. You won’t hear that a lot, because Chicago is cold in the winter. Very cold. It’s common to hear how brutal Chicago winters are, but when you compare snowfall here to what we used to experience in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt in Upstate New York, it’s no contest; it’s easier to deal with the cold in Chicago instead of being buried in snow elsewhere. And when it does snow, Chicago seems to handle it just fine.

The summers are awesome. There’s plenty of sunshine. Our proximity to Lake Michigan keeps us from being completely roasted under the summer sun. And as a storm chaser, the thunderstorms can be impressive. Mother Nature keeps me in awe here in Chicago.

Additionally, in an hour we can be completely out of the city and driving across the beautiful prairies of Illinois. On the occasions I need to step away from city life, I can be near Green Acres in no time. It’s a win-win.

And lastly, I mentioned the neighborhoods. I love walking in the neighborhoods. I love discovering what makes each piece of Chicago unique.

When folks elsewhere in the country find we live in Chicago, I often here the comment, “I love that city”. I’ve heard from folks in Florida, people on the west coast,  desert dwellers, and people that grew up in the south.

The Second City? It’s second to none, just as our tourism ad campaigns proclaim. 

Chicago will always have a special place in my heart.

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.

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.

Changes.

Even though it’s been 19 years, I still remember the events of 9/11 as if it was yesterday. I remember standing in the video editing room of the advertising agency watching the events unfold on a television monitor. I remember scrambling to get the radio station to full time news coverage. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as the buildings came down.

Most of all, I remember thinking, life will never be the same again.

Those thoughts have been proven to be true. It’s felt the country has been completely off the rails since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the results of those attacks have snowballed into a country that is barely recognizable 19 years later.

Much has changed since 2001. Some of it good, too much of it bad. There is now an entire generation that has never known a United States that wasn’t at war.

I still get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I think of the brave people that last their lives on that day, and their families and friends that had to carry on without them. I feel the same way about the country I once knew.

We all lost that day.