Conversation.


Earl and I have always had an open and honest relationship. For the last nearly 21 years we’ve had thousands of discussions. A small minority of them have been heated, the vast majority of them were peppered with laughter and once in a while I’m good from a really good spit take. For example, we were talking about taking a vacation to Disneyland Paris sometime in the future. I mentioned that I needed to brush up on my French and should look into Berlitz or something. He said that I don’t have the attention span to listen to Rosemary’s Baby. 

It took me a few moments and lots of laughter for us to both realize that he meant Rosetta Stone. 

Since the beginning of this surgical journey back at the end of January, my diet has had to hover in the bland zone, especially since the latest surgery at the beginning of the month. With Earl retired, he’s been experimenting in the kitchen a lot more. We’ve started supper in the dining room again instead of eating a fast paced meal at the kitchen table or in front of the television. The meals have been wonderful and I’m lucky man to be married to a man that was able to retire at his age.

The best part of sitting in the dining room eating supper is the after dinner conversation. After we’ve both finished eating we actually sit and talk for a good 10-15 minutes before getting up and clearing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I know it’s a really small thing, but it’s small part of what I’ve always dreamed of having in my perfect world. Growing up we had pleasant enough family meals, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes in the kitchen, but my Dad would hastily depart the table when he was done eating. My mom would ask him to sit down and talk but that wasn’t really his thing. He wasn’t mean about it or anything, it’s just that my Dad would rather be sitting in his chair reading a book or magazine or something. Couple the rule of “no politics, no religion, no sex” discussion at the dinner table with the quick exit by my Dad and it’s small wonder that I didn’t really know how the world worked until I was out on my own.

Since the election fiasco of 2000 I’ve tried really hard to be aware of what’s going on in the world of American politics and the world in general. I know just enough to be loud and not sound like a complete fool when I go on one of my rants and a lot of that can be attributed to conversations that Earl and I enjoy after dinner. When Jamie is home, he sits and chats as well.  The conversation occasionally goes off the rails but it’s good to sit down and have family dinner time, whether it’s the two of us or the three of us.

Perhaps more folks should get back in the habit of sitting down for dinner time and having a conversation. Maybe folks would be more interested in what’s going on around them if they talked to the folks around them.

Memories.


I think it’s been around 10 years since my grandmother’s piano made its way to our home. As a kid I always loved it when she played the piano and would let me (and/or my cousins) play the piano from time to time. Once when my sister and I were staying at my grandparents’ house while my mom and dad were on vacation, I was playing the piano rather loudly. My grandfather came over, put his hands on the piano and said in his typical voice, “Do you know what the word ‘refrain’ means?” He then closed the lid over the keys and that was that for the rest of the evening.

Beyond my love for music and my amateurish abilities at being able to play piano, one of the things I love about having the piano is that it still smells as it did when I was a kid. I don’t know if the piano smells like the 1959 mid-century house it used to live in or if the house smelled like the piano, but the scent lingers on and it makes me smile from time to time. 

The piano is a 1949 Gulbransen, so I’m assuming it was in the original farm house that my grandfather tore down to build the mid-century modern house he had custom designed and then built in 1958-1959. There was a special spot designed for the piano in the living room. As the estate was being settled after his passing, I couldn’t bring myself to go into the house with the piano (and other things) missing. I didn’t want to put dents in my memories of that house and that home. My sister and I were the lucky grandchildren that lived next door; I would visit Grandma Wing every day after elementary school and watch “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” after she watched her stories while baking or cooking or doing other housework. She sometimes saved the ironing so she could iron while watching TV with me.

I tell Earl that if we had the money we would build a mid-century style home based on those custom plans, with a couple of modifications (vault the living room ceiling, make the dining room bigger). To this day I am absolutely in love with the design of that house. 

But in the meanwhile, I’ll make music and revel in the memories.

Late.

For the first time in a long while I am working late tonight. Like, ’til the wee hours of the night. Maybe. I’m hoping things will go well and when I go down to my office in 20 minutes there will be a message that says “the database conversion is complete and everything looks great!”. I’ll check a few things, make sure everything on my end of the equation is in balance and call it a night.

Working from home is awesome. We had a collaborative meeting today and I didn’t miss a beat because of all the collaborative technology we have at work. It’s all Microsoft based but I can deal with that, as long as they don’t shut out my Mac completely. I’m thinking that one of these days I’m going to have to switch to a Windows computer to stay ahead of the game at work but we aren’t to that point of desperation yet.

My Twitter feed, Facebook feed and other social media sources are cranked up on Trump and his demise. I’m hopeful that Trump will be nothing but a short nightmare and be out of here by the end of the month. Who knows if it will happen but one can dream.

Future Technology.

Earl and I had stopped at the local Microsoft store today just to look over their line of Surface products. It was the first time that I had a chance to go hands-on with the Microsoft Surface Studio, which is in all in one computer that can lay down like a drafting table so you can comfortably use a pen on it.

I was beyond impressed.

I know that it was just the other day that I mentioned that I was still solidly an Apple boy, but I have to say that Apple is completely missing the boat when it comes to this type of technology. Having a touchbar in a MacBook Pro does not even come close to being able to lay your computer monitor down and draw all over it. Carrying around multiple devices is tedious: for graphics or programming work I need to carry my MacBook Pro. For quick blogging and such on the go, I can take my iPad Pro. Of course, I always have my phone with me, so at times I could be carrying three different Apple devices all to do nearly similar things. Wouldn’t it be great if I could carry one device to fill this need? I’d be willing to pay a premium price for a device that can handle all of my needs. Having one device would bring us closer to making technology frictionless.

I want the technology that sustains the type of world as demonstrated in this video. I have shared this video, and others like it, before. I believe it’s worth sharing again.

Super.

Sometimes you need to be Clark Kent before you become Superman. I’m getting there.

Frictionless.

I have never made it a secret that I look up to Steve Jobs. Yeah, he was a bit crass and he might have improved on ideas that he got from others, but the man had a vision, more importantly he had a set of standards and expectations but most importantly, he did everything in his power to make all of those things come together.

This is one of the reason that I am an Apple fanboy. In a way I can’t believe that I am saying this, because I’ve toyed with many operating systems over the years. I was a Linux evangelist for a while. At one point I had used every iteration of Windows starting with Windows/286 in the mid 1980s right up until Windows 8.1. (I’ve toyed with Windows 10 a bit, it’s good but it still underwhelms me).

I could never get into Mac OS before Mac OS X (later MacOS came around), but ever since that day I bought Earl one of those pedestal iMacs, I’ve been hooked.

It just works. Notice that I didn’t say “It just works, most of the time” or “It just works some of the time.” Because even though some later iterations of MacOS and iOS have undergone some speed bumps in the quality control department, when you boil out the BS you’ll find that the offerings from Apple are still top in class.

People like to complain about the specs of new computers and how underpowered they are. Since the vast majority of computer users are using a web browser, a mail program, possibly a calendar and maybe a chat program of some sort, how much power do they really need? Do we need to fleece a 65 year old senior of their life savings for a computer with enough specs to render an animated film? No!

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Chromebook and storing all my stuff in the cloud. The NSA, the CIA and probably a whole bunch of other organizational alphabet soups are monitoring my behavior on the Internet at any given moment, why should I encourage them anymore by storing anything and everything I do in a web browser? There’s a certain amount of comfort in using a quality built laptop with a robust operating system to store my files. It’s taken me a little while to warm up to my latest MacBook Pro (which I purchased in July 2016 to replace its stolen older brother) but I love it. It works the way I want it to, it does what I want it to do and most importantly, it doesn’t create friction in my computing experience.

Working on a computer should be frictionless.

Folks at work are often surprised when I add features to the software that I write and maintain because I don’t provide documentation. I design and build software that doesn’t require a manual to operate it. If you need to refer to documentation to run a software program there’s a couple of things happening, namely, the software is poorly written and/or designed or the user is not educated enough to be embarking on the task to begin with. I believe in computer education. I believe in educating people to use computers safely. But more importantly I believe in making that education immersive. People learn best by doing, and a person should learn something every time they use a computer.

For much of his adult life, Steve Jobs asked himself one question on a regular basis: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” If the answer was “no” for too many days in a row, Steve knew that he had to change something about his life. I ask myself that question a lot. Am I happy guy? Am I happy with what I’m doing? Am I happy with where we live, with our opportunities?

My answers are almost always positive. I have the love of my life in my life and I have some extra love on top of that. I have a great group of friends. I fly airplanes, something that I’ve always dreamed of doing. And I love my job. I enjoy what I do, I work for what I believe is a great company and I believe that I am making a great contribution to the company I work for. There’s one sticking point that’s been bothering me but I’ll work through it.

My former manager sought me out for my position. When I accepted the position I insisted that I be able to use a Mac as my work computer. The company is a solid Microsoft shop. Working with Mac, and I’m not the only one in the company doing so, results in occasional shunning from new collaborate features the company is rolling out to its users. I work around them, I work through them, but that’s the part of me that doesn’t always get a positive answer when I ask myself if I’m completely happy. There’s too much friction in my computing experience at work and as I said before, I believe the working with tech should be as frictionless as possible. I know it’s of my own doing, using a Mac in a company that loves Microsoft, but nevertheless, I’m not alone and I believe that the powers that be should broaden their horizons and look at the entire wall, not just one picture.

Ever since my last surgery a couple of weeks ago I’ve decided to keep my blood pressure low by unbottling my feelings. Earl and I have had some lively discussions, mostly about politics. Some of the liveliness has been fueled by the good meds they had me on for a week or so, but it’s been good to feel engaged. Earl teaches me a lot. He’s the smarter man in the room. I learn from him every day. And the learning is frictionless. Except when I’m yelling with passion (not in anger).

I’m focused on living in the moment. Living for today. Unplugging and listening from time to time. Plugging in and sharing. Life is best when we know it’s finite for then when try to do as much as we can in the time that we have.

And we try to do it with as little friction as possible. Don’t be friction. Help the world glide and grow.

Three feet.

When all was said and done with this latest snow storm we received 36″ inches of snow in less than 48 hours. Recovering from surgery, I haven’t been able to help Earl with the clean up and when I tried to help out he let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was to get my butt back inside and that he would handle it. All I was going to wipe off the Jeep but he was adamant. “No!”


We just got back from taking a drive around the area to see how our neighbors were making out with their snow cleanup efforts. Close to home the folks seem to be doing well. There’s a few houses down by the housing development that still have buried cars in their driveways, which are discernible only by a mailbox at the end of the driveway. Driving in the city of Utica was a different story, where many of the side streets barely had a car-width of snow plowed down through them and it looked like those efforts were achieved by well meaning residents of the street. The sidewalks? They were visible here and there but for the most part they were nowhere to be seen. There was a lot of foot traffic to and from the local markets, even though we were out well after dark.

I had to get out of the house a little bit, even if to drive around a few miles, because recovering from this surgery is making me a little stir crazy. I was honestly frustrated with the fact that I was unable to help Earl with the driveway cleanup. I wanted to shovel the stairs and porch so that we would have an alternate means of escape in the event of a fire or something, but he was having none of it. 

The man is a trouper.

The winds are starting to kick up a bit which could make for some interesting driving conditions for the next couple of days, but with spring just around the corner, I’m certain that we will be basking in the sun just as soon my surgery recovery comes to it’s (hopefully) wonderful conclusion.

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Sane. Rational. Logical.

Now that the fun meds are about out of my system (aside from one nightly pill for the next two weeks) I feel the need to say this. It’s long, but not too ranty, so be patient.

Whether it comes to the weather, politics or any other hot topic of the day, we should have three expectations: sanity, logic and rationality. Be sane, logical and rational and we can have a discussion. Add some predictability along the way and we can negotiate. Hype things way beyond proportion (for ad ratings, to get noticed, to be demonstrative, to wave your arms, whatever) and the conversation falls apart. No one can negotiate with a raving lunatic. Don’t be a lunatic. Be the calming force in the room.

Look, I’ve had as much fun as the next hacker talking to Kellyanne Conway through her microwave for the past 24 hours. Unfortunately I often got a busy signal. But the fact of the matter is, she knows her microwave isn’t talking to her, we know that her microwave isn’t talking to her and believe it or not I really think the woman is just trying to do her job trying to bring some sort of logic to a whole bunch of lunacy. Honestly, I think she’s doing it wrong as she’s hyping and exacerbating an already irrational and insane situation. I think all of this could work and there could be some decent discussions if people started acting rationally. Ever since the Inauguration the country has been like Walmart on Black Friday before the cops came. Don’t be like that.

It’s like this “Storm of the Century” for the third time this decade. Don’t buy into the hype. Shun the cute names and the constant alerts. Yes, we are going to get some snow. Yes, the wind will blow. The East Coast (unfortunately earning the name the “crisis corridor”) will get a bunch of snow too. Here’s the deal. Be vigilant. Be prepared. Be smart. Don’t depend on others to bail you out unless you get in a hopeless situation. If you see someone that has lost all hope, be a good neighbor. But first and foremost, be the person that takes responsibility for your own actions. If everyone just owned who they are, what they are capable of and stopped blaming everyone else, we could together, regardless of ideology, make the entire world a better place.

That being said, I need to do this one more time before giving it a rest.

Winter.

Schools all around us are closing for tomorrow even though there hasn’t been a flake of snow in the air yet. Some models show us starting to see some snow around 0345, so the schools may be making a great decision but back in my day (gosh I sound old), they wouldn’t make that call until 5 o’clock in the morning. Oh well, times change, bars are lowered and time moves on.

I’ve had a weather station in the backyard since we moved into this house in 2003. The original one was struck by lightning but this one has survived for at least a decade and is doing quite well. I put a yard stick on the side of the post that supports the weather station and I marked the level from the ground in six inch increments up to four feet. We’ll see how much snow we really get here. I enjoy following the weather, I enjoy chasing weather and I enjoy reporting weather for the area. However, I refuse to buy into the hype that many love to engage in.

Be prepared, be vigilant, be safe.