Practice What You Preach.

My husband and I watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix last weekend. It’s a documentary about the effects of social media, and more importantly information capitalism, on society and how it’s basically ripping apart our social construct. The focus of “The Social Dilemma” is on Facebook, but it also talks about other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram and addresses the major issues around Google.

After watching “The Social Dilemma”, Earl took Facebook and Facebook Messenger off of his phone. I had done the same months ago, but had recently put it back on, albeit sandboxed to the best of my ability so that it wouldn’t have access to my location or contact data or push notifications or anything.

I need to follow the lead of my husband. He is a very smart man. I removed Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my phone this morning. Again.

I decided to go a step further and remove Facebook from my iPad. Before doing so, I posted the photo above without a caption. I doubt anyone will notice.

Aside from the manipulation and raping of personal information that is inherent to Facebook’s business model, I came to realize that Facebook has pushed too much information about my family and friends in my direction. Last night I had a cousin push a fake video edited to make Joe Biden look like he was barely coherent to her husband and for some reason Facebook felt I needed to see that interaction. Seeing activity like this has caused me to question the moral foundation of too many friends and members of my family. Fake video aside, there have been many comments about Joe Biden’s stuttering. How many of the folks making fun of Joe have made fun of me behind my back? Why would I want to associate with people that take delight in making fun of people? Why would I allow myself to get sucked into that sinking vortex of mockery and find myself doing the same thing?

It’s gross.

I think the main reason for removing Facebook from my devices (again) is it’s battering my soul and damaging the good memories I have of people. Your politics and beliefs shouldn’t be my business, as long as you’re not out to reduce my standing as a citizen based on my sexual orientation. I want people in my life that I know would have my back in a tough situation.

The dialog on Facebook has shown me I can’t trust many of the folks I call “friends”. This makes me sad.

And I don’t want to be sad anymore.

Confusion.

I have an Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity. It’s my second Apple Watch and quite frankly, I’m ready for an upgrade to the new Series 6.

However, during today’s trip to Michigan, I was a little disappointed by the latest version of Watch OS (Watch OS 7) on my Apple Watch Series 3.

When we crossed the imaginary line from Central to Eastern Time (otherwise known as the Indiana-Michigan border), my Apple Watch could no longer give me the local weather. The watch would just display “Retrieving Weather…” and nothing else would happen.

My watch also became unresponsive to touch. I would hit a side button to open an application, usually Activity so I could see how I was doing with my rings for the day, and it wouldn’t do anything. The watch would freeze for two or three minutes and then prompt me for my passcode. In fact, I must have entered my passcode into the watch a dozen times today, even though my watch never left my wrist.

I’m taking this as a sign that although my Series 3 watch supports Watch OS 7 just fine, I’m in that dead zone where it’s going to be a slightly janky experience and I should probably update my watch.

The issue here is Apple is still selling the Series 3 watch. I hope theirs behave better than mine.

I really like my Apple Watch but the platform is always slightly dicey when you get away from your home turf. But today the watch just went a little cuckoo when we got away from Chicago.

I’m hoping the upcoming .1 release to Watch OS fixes many of these bugs. I want to get back to “It Just Works”.

Off Grid.

I took the day off from work. Yesterday I gave Earl a rough idea of what I had in mind for the day off, but I didn’t really know any specifics. I didn’t want to plan the day down to the smallest of detail. And I know that while I love going for drives on the prairie, I didn’t want to go out on the prairie on this day off.

My goal was simple: get away from the city, get off the grid, and get away from the news.

Earl packed us two picnics, one for lunch and one for dinner. We set out for a drive to the east. I decided we should explore a couple of state parks along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Within two hours of departure, we were at Warren Dunes State Park near Bridgman, Michigan. I had my feet in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. There was no cell service.

It was awesome.

My familiarity with sand dunes along the Great Lakes is confined to those near where I grew up, specifically at Southwick State Park near Henderson, New York. The sand dunes at Warren Dunes dwarf those where I grew up by quite a bit.

While Earl enjoyed some time on the beach, I went hiking and climbed the biggest dune. I circled around the back and sort of spiraled my way up.

The sand was not as hard packed as what we have along Lake Ontario back at Southwicks, but that made it slightly easier to climb. I spent some time in the shade of the trees on the dunes. Since my childhood home was about seven miles inland from Lake Ontario, we had plenty of sand and the same kind of trees around the house, though the sand was under the farmed top soil. These trees felt quite familiar.

There were others on top of the dunes. Many climbed straight up the front.

It was wonderful to be closer to nature. We had a nice lunch in the wooded picnic area and then spent some time on the beach enjoying the sound of the waves.

We then decided to continue our journey northward and drove along the Lake Michigan shore, finally ending up at Van Buren State Park. This park was more wooded but with plenty of dunes. The main path to the beach was closed. There was a posted detour through the woods, which took us up and over a dune. We decided not to climb down to the lake, as we’d have to climb back up to get back home.

There was plenty of sand and trees along the path.

We decided to eat an early picnic dinner before making the drive home. Earl went all out with the picnics. A table cloth, placemats, and even an after dinner mint.

It’s important for all of us to step away from technology and remember how beautiful Mother Nature can be. I feel like I’ve hit a ‘reset’ button. The rest of the work week will be a snap.

Spaces.

This is a glimpse of the corner of my desk in my home office. I relocated the stack of masks I had sitting in the corner of the desk because they were just adding to the clutter of the space and I found them distracting.

You’ll see a couple of cases and a pouch for eyeglasses. My regular glasses don’t work as well for writing code as they did three years ago so I have a couple pairs of “cheaters” to use when my eyes are tired. Staring at a computer screen for 10 hours a day can’t be good for the eyes.

Overall I like my workspace. One of the reasons we chose this condo is because it had a separate office, something not found in most of the condos in this building. I’ve been working from home for 10 years and I absolutely love the flexibility of doing so and the space I work in. I need to be vigilant about keeping things tidy or else I start to feel unfocused.

One of the biggest distractions I constantly deal with is the laptop provided by work. The company I work for is all in on Windows 10, even though it’s Linux in the background doing all the heavy lifting. While I used to get excited about Microsoft Windows, I find Windows 10 to be cumbersome and unpredictable. There are too many consumer features that are never used on this work laptop. We do have the option of bringing our own device to work, and I could use a Mac again if I wanted to, but my job is too busy to devote time to the care and feeding of using my personal laptop for work. So I make do.

Truman has a routine of sleeping at my feet for a couple of hours each afternoon. This is in direct contrast of yelling at the top of his lungs each morning during my morning sprint and team calls.

He likes to be helpful.

Autumn.

This is my favorite time of the year. I’m taking tomorrow off from work so we can escape into nature, away from the rest of the world. Things just keep getting louder. It’s time to unplug and unwind.

Stay Safe.

Originally released in June, the message still holds true, even as Americans grow tired of COVID-19 and trying to stay safe during this pandemic.

This is Wang Chung with special guest Valerie Day from Nu Shooz, with a 2020 appropriate reworking of the 80s hit, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, with “Everybody Stay Safe Tonight”.

Scribble.

Scribble, from Office 97

I didn’t think I’d really use Apple’s new scribble feature in iPadOS 14. I’m a really fast typist and I find my words flow really well when I’m plunking away on a traditional QWERTY keyboard.

For those not familiar, the newscribble technology in iPadOS 14 users allows users to handwrite any input into any field in any application on your iPad. For example, in safari I can write duckduckgo.com and go to that webpage without typing anything. The technology isn’t perfect but it’s absolutely amazing. in fact, I’m writing this blog entry by hand and watching it type itself out in my wordpress app. There are still some quirks to get used to, but overall it recognizes my handwriting just fine, in both printed characters and when I use cursive.

I’m still getting used to my Apple Pencil, even though I’ve had it since I bought this iPad Pro in late 2018. When I make a mistake I am able to scribble out the typewritten result and rewrite it. That’s wicked cool.

It’s taking me longer to handwrite this blog entry instead of typing it, but for short passages when I’m doodling on my iPad, it’s a pretty nifty feature.

By the way, the Office 97 assistant up there was my favorite of Microsoft’s offerings back in the day.

Her name was scribble.

Roundabouts.

Indiana.

I will never understand that American motorist aversion to Roundabouts. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Roundabout is an interchange with a circular median. Traffic entering the roundabout yields to the traffic already in the roundabout. Entry points into the roundabout are “channelized” to reduce the risk of someone turning the wrong way into the roundabout. The channelization also provides a safe location for pedestrians and cyclists to move through the intersection. There are no traffic lights.

Community knee-jerk reactions to an accident at a busy intersection is either on or a combination of two things: put up a traffic signal and/or lower the speed limit.

For the most part, motorists will naturally drive at the speed that “feels” appropriate for a roadway. When you design a highway for a 55 MPH design speed and then lower the speed limit to 30 MPH, motorists will still tend to drive 55 MPH. They will then slam on the brakes whenever they see something that resembles an officer of the law, which lends to erratic driving and creates the potential for an accident.

Anytime you stop traffic you are creating the potential for an accident. Traffic signals, especially ones located in relatively rural or semi-suburban areas, catch motorists off guard. And in today’s hurry, hurry, hurry environment, where everything and anything is expected now, drivers are running traffic lights more than ever. They see the light turn yellow and they gun it, trying to beat the light.

A roundabout is a traffic calming measure. Traffic keeps moving, but the design of the intersection moves that traffic at naturally slower, measured pace.

I suspect many American drivers are against the installation of roundabouts for two reasons: 1. they’re different and 2. they’re perceived as “un-American”. Roundabouts are much more prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world. State Departments of Transportation have only been building roundabouts for the past dozen or so years here in the United States. Well, since the beginning of the 21st century.

Some folks mix up Roundabouts with the higher speed Rotaries and Traffic Circle designs from the middle of the 20th century. These older designs are often larger than their modern replacement, have erratic practices for entry and exit, and manage traffic at a higher speed.

An added bonus of roundabouts is they’re more ecologically friendly. Traffic isn’t stopping and starting as much as at signalized intersections and no electricity is required to power the traffic signals. And on a side note, why haven’t we started converting our traffic signals to solar power?

The intersection in question is located in the northwestern corner of Indiana, not too far from the Illinois state line. A traffic light managed traffic at an intersection in the middle of corn fields, but there were several growing housing developments in the neighborhood. As a guy that went to school for Civil Engineering, I can tell you this particular location would probably be perfect for a roundabout.

State and other DOTs need to concentrate on education and other forms of public outreach. There is a decent chance that we could reduce accidents at intersections a bit if we continued to convert our intersections to this modern design.

Autumn.

And so we are moving into my favorite season of the year. I love the crispness of the air in autumn, even if it’s chilly and a sign of another winter on the horizon.

Cycling is a favorite activity of mine for this season. The breezes usually keep the sweat manageable and the lower humidity makes breathing easier for me as I force this 52-year old body to achieve personal cycling goals.

Today I rode around the Loop area downtown. There are signs of tourists visiting the Windy City but it’s still relatively quiet down there. Several storefronts are still boarded up from the protests and riots. There’s a too large selection of businesses that appear to have shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions on attendance and the like.

I am certain Chicago will bounce back from the pandemic, along with the rest of the country, but I wish the recovery was moving at a pace equaling what other countries are doing right now. Perhaps better leadership on a national level is just what this country needed. I feel like the Trump administration failed that test and failed it completely.

We have too many extremes on both the left and right side of the political equation. I like to think many of us are just left of center or right of center, but the media and the Internet zealots want us to be in the fringe areas.

We need to resist this.

In the meanwhile, it’s a beautiful time of year to cycle in the Windy City. I highly recommend the activity.

Gear Up.

So Earl and I intended on flying for about an hour this afternoon. It’d been a few weeks since our last flight and having inherited AvGas for blood from my father, it’d been entirely too long since we were last in the air.

The Cessna 182 RG (retractable gear) I fly had not flown since the third of this month. This is not unusual; the flight school I rent from has a number of training aircraft used by students, and a couple of airplanes with modern avionics that are popular for rental. The Cessna 182 RG is a fun airplane to fly but “Large Marge” requires a complex and high performance endorsement (meaning additional training). “Complex” refers to the fact that she has retractable gear and “high performance” because she has more than 200 horsepower under the engine cowl. I was signed off with these endorsements earlier this year.

My pre-flight activity as well as the run up before take off was all normal. Marge was ready to go and so were we. The take-off was beautiful. I then tapped on the brakes to make sure the wheels stopped turning after leaving the runway and I moved the gear level to “Gear Up”.

Nothing happened. At least I was 98% sure nothing happened. I checked the circuit breaker, moved the lever to gear down and then gear up again and still no joy. There was no familiar whine of the hydraulics that normally bring the gear up. The indicator light showed the gear should be still down and in place.

I had Earl visually check a wheel sticking out under his door as I did the same and I checked the mirrors that are in place on the wings to confirm the front wheel was where it was suppose to be. It’s not routine to fly a retractable gear airplane with the gear extended, so I told the control tower we were heading back to land. We made our way into the pattern.

The front wheel looked to be locked in place and should have been locked in place as per the green light on the instrument panel, but I wanted one more set of eyes to take a look. So I asked the tower to visually check as we passed by on our way to runway 23 for landing. The tower confirmed things look good. This being my first gear-related “emergency”, I was probably being extra paranoid but reaching my goal of being a very old pilot involves being a little extra cautious.

The tower replied that everything was apparently locked in place. I was a little high on the approach for landing; I “slipped” the airplane to lose some altitude and made what was probably the gentlest landing I’ve ever made in an airplane, being extra sure to keep the nose off the ground for as long as possible, “just in case”.

Overall everything was fine, the airplane just didn’t want to retract its gear. I never panicked, my heart probably raced just a bit more than usual when flying an airplane but I believe I did everything I could to make sure we stayed safe. There were no hysterics.

The best part of this story is not only does thinking about the amazing landing bring a smile to my face, I’m also here tonight, enjoying an adult beverage, and sharing my story on this blog. We probably were never in any danger but all of my training to date has become more of an instinct. If anything, Large Marge helped me build more confidence today.