Dibs.

The City of Chicago announced today crews will be going through the streets and picking up anything left out for “dibs”.

If you’re not familiar with the practice, here in Chicago, after a big snowfall folks will dig their car out and then leave lawn furniture, old coolers, saw horses, whatever they can get their hands on, to call dibs on their parking spot. We don’t park in the street so I’ve never experienced this first hand, but legend goes, if you call dibs on your spot and someone else parks there, all hell can break loose. I’ve read stories of people smashing out car windows, keying the offending car, etc., because they didn’t respect “dibs”.

I guess the fact that dibs is being called on a public, taxpayer funded street, is besides the point.

Again, I’ve never had to deal with people calling dibs, I just get to play witness, but from I’m not a fan. What happened to helping your neighbor?

After this latest winter storm I can tell you too many Chicagoans are ignoring their civic responsibilities of shoveling the walk in front of their homes. I shudder to think what happens when you get cars into the mix.

Fame.

When I was a kid I envisioned a life of fame. I was going to be a darling of Hollywood, doing something like Bewitched or Star Trek or some comedic shtick and people would fawn over me and want my autograph wherever I went. I wanted to act, I wanted people to like me, and I wanted to be recognized in public. So very gay.

I tinkered with this a little bit with my days in radio; people would recognize my voice and my face from a TV commercial or something and say hello in the mall. I also toyed with the idea of being on a reality show in the early days of the travesty, getting so far as to one of the final rounds of “Big Brother” auditions. But my husband told me he had no interest in standing outside of the Big Brother House when I came out and I didn’t want to be the next Bunky anyways. The producers wanted another Bunky. You don’t remember Bunky? Neither do I.

(pause for Google)

Bunky lives in Arizona and does something with IT now. Good for him.

With TikTok and Twitter and YouTube and the like everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame and most people will do anything to claw their way to the limelight. They’ll say stupid things on television. They’ll run for an elected office. They’ll try to eat a corn of cob connected to an electric drill. They’ll burn their hair off. They’ll make “tech videos” which are thinly disguised audition tapes for a soap opera. They’ll appear on Ellen’s game show and get pushed around with a gigantic plunger. They’ll appear on “Today” for being wonderful and then a month later turn up on “The Wall”. They’ll sing in front of old people.

And they’ll say really stupid and idiotic things on Twitter just to get likes and follows and retweets. The sad part is that the vast majority of these idiotic endeavors don’t end up in fame, but notoriety.

I gleefully gave up the idea of being famous decades ago. The pool has been so diluted with idiocy and too many Americans now applaud asshattery and I definitely don’t want to land in that category.

I’m quite content with being a middle aged guy with a husband and a cat, a wonderful family, and a wonderful group of relatives and friends. Maybe that’s just part of getting old, finding contentment in what we have.

I just really hope I live long enough to see the natural ending of this American desire for notoriety.

Time.

With the arrival of spring-like weather here in Chicago you’d think I’d be all excited about spring being right around the corner. I am excited about this, but I’m more excited about relocating to Tucson at the end of next month.

The real thing is, however, it doesn’t feel like winter to me. It doesn’t feel like spring is just around the corner, though the human construct of time just marches along and tells us that’s what’s happening in the Northern Hemisphere. Ever since COVID-19 became the thing in most everyone’s life, time has felt odd. Routines have become more repetitive, activities have been restricted, and milestones that denote a certain place in the year (picnics, festivals, going outside, etc.) have not happened with their expected regularity.

I know we celebrated the holidays two months ago but it doesn’t feel like we really did it. To me it feels more like we just went through the motions.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling little spats of “the blues” and not really understanding why, but in reality it’s been my usual winter season blahs I feel every year; I just didn’t pin it down to the proper place on the timeframe because it doesn’t feel like we’re in winter. It feels like some odd nebulous season right now. Limbo, I guess, for lack of a better word.

While the temperatures warm up a bit here in The Windy City, I appreciate the sunnier days and the snow melting.

I guess I just want to get outside and enjoy it without restrictions again.

Once You Go Mac…

On Friday I registered for the BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device” program at work. With today’s remote work capabilities, we have the option of using our personal devices for business purposes. When we get back to traveling, I’ll have my Mac in tow instead of lugging around two computers, a work Windows 10 PC, and one of my personal devices.

To separate my personal files from my business files I created a second account on my Mac. This helps keep me focused and it keeps my personal data from mistakenly being shared to work folders or something through an errant mouse click. When we move I’ll probably add a second Mac to the stable to segregate the experience a little more and upgrade to something a little faster than my mid-2015 MacBook Pro. For now, things are working great.

Using one platform across my entire computing experience really kicks up my focus. When I’m on Windows some of the day and Mac or iOS the rest of the day I have to maintain two sets of programs and make sure my workflow (task management, etc) is cross platform and think “in parallel”. Getting back to this arrangement helped my brain get organized again; I was very productive at work today and it was a great start to the work week.

I have been using OmniFocus as my task manager for well over a decade. A year or two ago the OmniGroup added a web version for those that had to use Windows at work. Other than the web experience, all of OmniGroup’s software is Apple (Mac/iOS/iPadOS) only. The web experience was adequate but not as cohesive as I wanted it to be. I’m just not wired to quickly add a task to my ToDo list by clicking on a pinned tab in a web browser and navigating around a web page. It’s much easier for me to use the native experience and being able to do this through muscle memory lends itself to my using my task manager reliably and deliberately.

The consistency across my entire computing experience just works better for me. Everyone has their own way of doing things, my way is the Mac way.

Now remember, I make a living using Linux all day long. It’s much easier for me to do this from a Mac than from a Windows machine. Mac OS is based on Unix, Linux’s older cousin.

Anything that makes my day easier is worth celebrating.

Memories.

There are many things to love about Apple’s Ecosystem, tying the iPhone and iPad, Mac, and iCloud together. When I use my iPad, each morning I see a photo from that day in my history.

Today my iPad presented me with the photo you see above, taken in New York on this date in 2010. We went a show, had a nice dinner, and had a very pleasant time. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday weekend. It seems like we went on that trip just yesterday; it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years.

Technology should make us happy and smile. Whether it’s through a great user experience, a strong sense of security, or a pleasant moment, if we’re going to work in harmony with our technology, it has to be an experience that makes us smile.

This is why I always end up back on the Mac.

I have tens of thousands of photos in iCloud. I also have Time Machine backing up my important data on an external drive. I’m not good at organizing photos; I’m thankful for Apple’s Artificial Intelligence that tries to group things together and index things to make searches easy. The system is not perfect, but it’s more than adequate.

With our relocation to the southwest coming up soon, we’ll have a whole new batch of memories being saved to our devices. I feel secure in knowing they’ll endure and continue to delight me over the years.

Snow.

After a week of bitter cold it’s nice to be able to stand outside in a reasonable layer of cold and enjoy a few moments of winter. My husband and I went for a ride on the prairie while the realtor hosted an Open House at the condo. The Open House proved to be fruitful. There was plenty of interest and we are under contract with the next owners of our current home.

I’ve excited about this. While the purchase of the house in Tucson was not dependent on the sale, it makes things a lot easier for our move. The timeline is coming together nicely. We’ll have plenty of time to get situated in Tucson before the intense summer heat kicks in.

In the meanwhile, I’ll enjoy some snow in the Prairie State.

House!

Found on Twitter. Tinka-tinka-tee.

I won’t go to into depth about “Wandavision”. I can tell you were watching it every week. I’ve enjoyed a good share of the kitsch. I know it’s set solidly in the Marvel Universe and I am familiar with most of the characters.

The show feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace, is mixing universes together, and is a little uneven to follow. Admittedly, I enjoyed the practical magic effects in the first few episodes. It was fun to find the nods to classic TV series. But as far as tying it all together, I have little in the way of a clue of what’s going on.

What I have noticed in the past couple of episodes is that neighbor Agnes lives in Darrin and Samantha’s house from “Bewitched”. Good ol’ 1164 Morning Glory Circle is still standing, has been updated a bit for contemporary times, and is still quite familiar to the class TV aficionado.

Now that is magic.

Geek Beginnings.

Photo from Flickr.

This photo is from 1987 and obtained from Flickr. The cash register is an NCR 255 at a Super Fresh somewhere in New Jersey. In the back office of the Super Fresh is an NCR 726 Minicomputer handling the bulk of computing power for this and the other terminals in the supermarket. I believe the NCR 255 was the first cash register with scanning capabilities.

As a young lad I was always fascinated with cash registers, especially the NCR 255. The grocery store near Grandma City, independently owned Nichols IGA, had NCR 255 registers in the late 1970s and early 1980s and they were quite nifty. They just seemed so high tech, with their glowing little indicator lights, tilted display, and efficient impact printer that quietly typed out the receipt and journal tape. Built to typical 1970s standards, they keyboards were robust, they machine itself weighed nearly 100 pounds, and the mechanics of it all brought structure and organization to the handling of the associated information in a way my geek mind really appreciated.

I briefly used an NCR 255 as a cashier at Hills Department Store. Even though it was tasked with non-grocery functions, the register had the same number of buttons and made the same noises. Within a few short weeks of my starting at Hills the registers were replaced with IBM’s latest and greatest at the time, the IBM 4683. Even though the IBM 4683 was quite capable and did the job well, it felt less robust with a lot more plastic and tepid response on the keyboard. The dot-matrix printer whined.

Once in a great while I’ll find a video or photo about the NCR 255, or its less capable but still quite robust sibling the NCR 250, and ponder about how great it was to be alive during the early days of computing we take for granted today. This is where being a solid Gen Xer is awesome; witnessing how things were and how they became to be.

Long live vintage computing equipment!

Texas.

Photo from an image search about Texas Power on DuckDuckGo.com

Ah, Texas. It’s been just a week or two since my husband and I drove across the panhandle as we made our way from Chicago to Tucson. It was fairly early in the morning when we crossed the Oklahoma State Line along I-40 into Texas. The temperature was well below freezing and the roads were covered with ice. The bridges were particularly fun to navigate. We made our way to Amarillo at a crawl as it seemed that whatever state agency maintains the roads and bridges along Interstate 40 had absolutely no interest in doing anything about the slick roadways. There were at least a dozen tractor trailers off the road in various spots. To be fair, your neighbors in Oklahoma had the same approach. Now I understand why you guys freak out when Mother Nature decides to take the temperatures to the low side. You act surprised (though it happens every year) and you don’t do a damn thing about it.

Apparently that was just a glimpse into the way Texans feel about winter weather.

For most of the state, the Texas power grid is independent from the rest of the continental United States. I’ve known this for a while but I didn’t know why. This week I learned it was to escape federal regulations and oversight on power grid maintenance. By maintaining power independence, Texas doesn’t have to do things like winterize power generators or build in costly redundancies, both required along the rest of the United States power grid. After all, Texas doesn’t see that kind of weather.

Except it does.

Our friends in the Houston area have been without power for tens of hours. Like 30-40 hours. No power. No heat. And probably no running water. In the freezing cold. This is not uncommon for The Lone Star State this week, millions of Texans have been in the same situation since this cold snap began. The Texas power companies have been instituting rolling blackouts to keep up with high demands, except the blackouts don’t roll, they just black out and not come back up. Our friends slept in sub-freezing temperatures in their house Monday night. They honestly didn’t know if they would survive.

What was it Trump said about “third-world shit hole countries”?

There is nothing great about the “greatest nation on Earth” when its citizens, no matter what state they live in, are freezing to death in their homes, especially when the powers that be have willfully decided to privatize and rely on good ol’ American capitalism for essential services such as electricity, water, and heat.

I will never understand why Texans elect representatives who put them in this situation. I feel terrible for the Texans that are having to live through this ordeal, regardless of who they elected. I just pray the folks down there will remember this catastrophic event come Election Day and start voting sensibly and start taking care of one another.

By the way, the power outages are not due to “windmills freezing up”. That’s a lie being propagated by the usual conservative “news” outlets and idiots on social media. All forms of power generation in Texas are freezing up due to a lack of preparedness for this type of weather. Only 5-10% of the wind turbines in The Lone Star State are having an issue right now. So please, let’s put all of that to rest and deal with the real situation.

Texas needs to get its act together.