Chronological.

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Like most folks, I enjoy life most when it happens chronologically. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the sunrise comes before the sunset, that an airplane will take off before it lands and that when a group of people go out for a drink they start out sober and then get drunk. There’s an order that we humans have come to expect and I don’t believe it’s unreasonable that our history get documented in a such a way. Here’s what happened when we went from point A to point B.

Instagram recently brought their algorithmic, curated timeline to my user account. This means that when I open the Instagram app on my iPhone, I am now presented with what Instagram thinks I want to see first instead of a reverse chronological order of posts from the folks I follow. As a person that tries to exist in this chaotic world with just a touch of OCD, I find it incredibly frustrating to wake up in the morning and see posts of sunsets before posts of drunk people from midnight which are coming up before posts of airplanes taking off first thing in the morning. I don’t think it’s unreasonable but I want to see beautiful posts of sunrises in the morning and sunsets in the evening. One of the cool features of a chronological timeline is that you’re seeing life as it happens in Instagram, not as it happened. As a person that tries to live in the present, it’s important to me to see what’s happening now. I’ll review what happened then when I have time to muse back in time a little bit.

Instagram feels that users have been clamoring for this new curated approach, though several searches on different search engines (because life isn’t all about the Google) have turned up very little on anyone outside of Facebook and its Evil Empire touting how great this new curated approach is turning out to be. (Facebook owns Instagram, an incredibly unfortunate reality). A quick Twitter timeline search turned up over 100 tweets in the past two hours (not including mine) about users complaining about the timeline reconfiguration. I didn’t find any praises about it there, either.

Curating the timeline in this fashion encourages user habit learning, strategic placement of ads and ultimately more monetary opportunities for Leaned-In Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, a lad that will eventually become Dr. Sivana in a DC Comics universe somewhere.

I just want to see photos from my friends. Facebook is a steaming pile of privacy hacking bits and bytes that frustrates me beyond no end. Twitter isn’t really photo friendly, though it tries to be (and they dink around with the timeline order from time to time as well). Flickr is, well, it’s owned by Yahoo! and it tries to be pretty but for all intents and purposes, it’s sailed into the sunset to join MySpace and other services destroyed by good intentions. The WordPress app on iOS prevents me from uploading photos my blog with any sort of ease. I’m at a loss on how to easily connect with people, share my photos and experience the experience of others in a chronological order.

If anyone wants to loan my a couple of million dollars, I’d build an Instagram crushing service in a minute. Or two.

Uneven.

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So at the beginning of the month I mentioned my “3 for 30” challenge for the month of June. I was going to write a blog entry every day, give up Facebook for the month of June and eat natural foods instead of concocted diet stuff.

I started signing into Facebook again about 10 days into the month due to the fact that my family has a private group with a ton of great memories and I wanted to share in those. This led to using Facebook again and I revised my challenge to include just not screaming at the screen when I see something stupid in my news feed. With all the political unrest these days, I’ve seen a heck of a lot of stupidity but I have not screamed once. I’m still not comfortable with the Facebook platform, but like AOL from the 1990s, it’s becoming the hub for family communication. I find this both inevitable and disappointing.

Earl and I have been on such a rapidly moving treadmill this month that we have been eating lunch together whenever possible. I love meeting my husband (and Jamie too!) in the middle of the day to catch up, but it takes away from my typical blogging time. So, I haven’t kept up with my blog with as much regularity as I planned. Compound this with some changes at work and, well, I haven’t had time to blog. I’m going to try this one again for the month of July because I really enjoy sharing my thoughts in long form.

I’m doing well with the non-diet food stuff and am pleased with the results with my health. I’ve been drinking much more water and have shunned the energy bars, diet drinks and potions, etc. My weight has dropped a little bit and stayed there. I’m hoping that this part of the 30 day challenge sets a precedent for the foreseeable future.

Earl and I are currently sitting in a Starbucks in suburban Philadelphia on our way to my in laws for a family gathering. The people watching is awesome (green hair seems to be popular in these parts, too much chlorine in the pool?) and the weather is beautiful. The only thing missing is that I wished I was able to fly is down here today but the airplane is at an avionics shop getting all new radios and navigation equipment. I’m looking forward to it coming home soon.

Creativity.

Today the suits at CBS/Paramount announced the official guidelines for fan films made by aspiring fans of the “Star Trek” universe. Star Trek fan films have been around for decades but recent endeavors have caught the attention of the franchise owners and they’re worried about legal and monetary infringement of the official films and the upcoming series.

Judging by the quality of the rebooted films and the trailer I’ve seen for the upcoming “Star Trek: Beyond”, they’ve probably come to the realization that the official product is crap and the fan films are out doing them on several fronts. Bruises to the ego and all that.

The official list of guidelines can be found here: Star Trek Fan Films

Some highlights from these very restrictive guidelines that caught my attention include:

1. The films can be no more than 15 minutes in length and a story arc can be no more than two 15-minute features. 

There are several fan film efforts that feature television episode length films out there, so films like “Star Trek: Phase II” and “Star Trek: Continues” are out. One film that I really enjoyed, “Star Trek: Renegades” is out as well.

2. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services and cannot be currently or previously employed on any “Star Trek” series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees. 

Several of of the fan films featured actors from the various incarnations of the show: George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, Denise Crosby, among many others took part in these fan films because they’re actually fans of their work. Apparently this is no longer allowed.

Fan films set in the “Star Trek” universe have kept the franchise alive for over 50 years, especially when there hasn’t been any commercial offerings of the show. While there has been much hype and advertising over the reboots of the “Star Trek” movies, I firmly believe that some of that enthusiasm can be attributed to the fan base, including those that make fan films.

“Be a part of a ‘Star Trek’ fan film” has been on my bucket list for many years. With these new rules, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to check that item off my bucket list. 

Corporate greed often stifles the more creative and I believe this is part of the issue that CBS/Paramount now has with the fan films. I will admit that some of the latest fan endeavors have really pushed the legal limits of the “Star Trek” universe, but honestly CBS/Paramount should make a better effort to work with the fans that help energize the franchise instead of squashing them like so many bugs. The film length clause and the participant clause really irk me. The film length clause in particular makes it nearly impossible for any sort of imaginative story to be shared with the audience.

I also wonder if some of the big wigs at CBS/Paramount came to the realization that their latest offerings were dumbed down crap and that the fans were doing “Star Trek” better than the official “Star Trek” folks were. I think some egos might have been bruised. Again, working with the fans instead of against them would help in this situation.

“Star Trek: Beyond” is coming to theatres soon and ever since I saw the first trailer, with loud music blaring, motorcycles blaring and a really seemingly obnoxious actress playing an alien that does Karate moves on a planet far, far away, I really couldn’t care less if I see this next movie or not. I have been to many “Star Trek” movies on opening night but this one just doesn’t feel like “Star Trek” to me.

It’s a shame that I won’t be able to watch new fan films to fill the void.

Testing. 1-2-3.

I’m am giving a new (to me) blogging app a whirl on my iPad Pro. To celebrate, here is a picture of Oneida Lake. 

Oneida Lake is the largest inland lake in New York State. When one looks at a map of The Empire State in search of the largest inland lake, your eyes might be drawn to one of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake in particular. But the largest inland lake is Oneida Lake.

Flag Day.

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For my junior and senior year in high school, every morning at 08:00 and four seconds after the bell signaled the beginning of home room, I stood in the high school office and led the school over the PA system in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America
And to the republic for which it stands
One nation, under God, indivisible
With liberty and justice for all.

Safe.

The first time I stepped into gay bar it was November 1986. The bar was called “Doc’s”. It was located in the basement of a pediatrician’s office in Jamestown, N.Y. I was a freshman in college at the time. I had met a guy at the college production of “The Normal Heart” and he thought we could meet up for a drink. He was 21, I was 18. Below drinking age and having never stepped foot in a bar on my own, I made the drive and walked in, ordering a Coca-Cola from the bartender. The bar wasn’t really big; it could probably hold 75 without everyone feeling overly cramped. There were three rooms once you descended the stairs into the basement: a room with a pool table, a room with some couches and chairs and other relaxation areas and the main room which had the bar, a decently sized dance floor and a few tables in chairs at the end opposite the bar.

The bar had about 40 people in it when I walked in and I felt everyone’s eyes on me; I was a new face. Having grown up in a small town where my contact with gay men was very minimal, I was probably quite skittish and didn’t strike up conversation with many folks. I just wanted to meet the guy I had met a few nights before.

I was always uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations because I was always worried that I would be “found out” and subsequently be taunted for being gay. After a few moments of standing by myself, I came to the realization that this wouldn’t be a concern for me at Doc’s, everyone else there was gay. For the first time in my life, I relaxed and let my guard down. In that space at that moment, it was OK to be me. For the next couple of years going to a gay bar would be the only place where I could really be myself. Of course I was still socially awkward, that’s just part of my modus operandi. But I was less socially awkward there. If I was going to be taunted it would be due to my cheesy mustache or my poor fashion choices, not simply because of being gay.

The folks at Pulse in Orlando last weekend were just out for a fun night with friends in a space they considered safe. Now, 2016 is much different than 1986 when it comes to being gay in public, however, I imagine for many the gay bar is where they still felt like they were in a safe space. They could be themselves and let their guard down.

Except a man decided that he wanted to go in and kill as many “perverts” as possible. Whether he was indoctrinated, taught or just came up with the belief that gay folks are perverts is not relevant. The fact of that matter is he made the conscious decision to go into a gay bar and massacre as many gay folks as possible.

They just wanted to dance, have fun and feel safe.

Politicians have been quick to politicize the event. This massacre has been labeled a terrorist attack, presumably due to the assailant’s allegiance to ISIS. The fact of the matter is, this was a hate crime. This was a deliberate attack on individuals that are wired differently than many. People that are still demonized, ostracized and beat over the head with Bible verses for being sick, perverted, etc.

A couple of the victims were friends of a coworker and his family. Reports are showing screenshots of children writing to their parents moments before they were shot dead. This is the biggest mass shooting in the history of “The Greatest Country On Earth”.

I really wish we’d start acting like our grand declaration of “The Greatest Country On Earth”. We hear that a lot, don’t we. “Number One!” “Number One!” “Number One!”. When are going to start living up to our own hype and getting beyond stupid prejudice acts of killing like this? When are we going to start enacting sensible gun control? We all have to take our shoes off at the airport because one idiot decided to hide a bomb in his shoe but how many mass shootings will it take before someone says, “hey, we need to do something about guns.”

Just to be clear, I don’t believe that we should take away everyone’s guns. As I mentioned yesterday, that’s not going to solve the problem. But I do believe that we need to add another layer of security to the process of obtaining a gun.

All these folks wanted yesterday was to be in a safe place to have a great night out with friends.

Words can not express how terrible it is that they had to do die for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Answers?

Earl and I were at the Central New York Tour de Cure bright and early this morning. Earl volunteered to help coordinate the breakfast tent and I was one of many participants in the cycling event. I rode the metric Century, which was actually 65.5 miles (100 km = roughly 62 miles). The ride went well and I completed it in four hours 39 minutes of riding time. There were five rest stops along the route.

It was at the first route that I posted a photo or two on Facebook and that’s when I saw the news of the mass shooting at the gay bar “Pulse” in Orlando. A gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle shot at least 50 people dead and wounded at least 53 others. It’s the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States.

Words cannot describe how much my heart aches as I watch the direction our country is headed. This type of horrific event is becoming entirely too commonplace “from seas to shining sea”. There are reports of the gunman’s possible ties to terrorists groups in the Middle East. Many news outlets are accordingly calling this an act of terrorism.

It was an act of hate.

I have no answers. I have many questions but I have no answers. Yes, stricter gun laws should be in place but I know that’s not going to slow down killers that are intent on killing. I toyed with the idea of making biometric triggers mandatory on firearms but 1. I don’t know what that would really do and 2. Any firearm already out in the wild could easily be looked over for meeting that requirement.

The only answer I can come close to is that we need to stop the American fetishization of firearms and we need to ramp back the depiction of consequence free killing in the media. Honestly, I don’t know that either will help the cause but it’s a start.

I refuse to be afraid. I refuse to be intimidated. The only thing I fear is the direction the U.S. is heading. I read some comments on Twitter from popular politicians and it just increased my desire to vomit. Trump was being Trump, others are touting the virtues of the Second Amendment.

I have no answers. I’m sick and tired of asking the same questions over and over.

Rides.

Tomorrow morning will be my third year riding in the Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association. I’m a little nervous about riding tomorrow because I started riding a little later in the season this year, mostly due to Mother Nature’s increasingly Sybil-like ways. The weather should be cloudy and will probably be windy, so it could be an interesting ride. When all is said and done I hope to ride 100 kilometers, which translates to roughly 62 miles.

I need to be up in 6 1/2 hours to head out for the event. I’m not an early morning guy. Hopefully the ride will wake me up.

Words.

Whenever I start a new programming project at work, the words of my very first computer teacher, way back in high school, stick in my head: “Never start a program with a GOTO statement.” My project, which ran on an Apple //e, was dinged five points by Mr. Kotschevar because I didn’t follow that advice. 

Whenever I’m landing an airplane, something that I can do quite well I might add, I can still hear the voice of my flight instructor and good friend, Chuck as I make my final approach: “whatever you do don’t get flat. Don’t get flat!” The way I approach a runway there’s not much of a chance that I’m going to get flat, but I still hear his words.

Words stick with us. Words make an impact. Words linger for a long time.

Every once in a while an activist in the gay community (I can never keep up with all the letters) will write an editorial stating that the gay community should reclaim the word “queer”. This thought stems from the way that some African-Americans have reclaimed the “N” word. The argument goes that by reclaiming the word queer, the power to hurt with that word dissipates and we own the label.

The truth of the matter for me is that I don’t want to be labeled.

Back in the early 1970s there was an episode of “Match Game 73” that included a question that went something like this: “Did you hear the latest about Batman and Robin? It turns out they’re _blank_”.

The contestant filled in the blank with “queer”. Nanette Fabray wrote “Fairies”. Elaine Joyce and Bobby Van wrote “Queer”. There was some decency on the panel: Charles Nelson Reilly wrote “Divine”. Richard Dawson wrote “Married”. Brett Somers feigned shock at the answers the others wrote and chimed in with “Lovers”.

The Game Show Network doesn’t show that episode anymore.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I was called “queer” when I was in high school. I have to admit that it didn’t sting as much as being called a faggot, which happened quite a bit as well. I still bristle at the word faggot. A friend jokingly said faggot to me not too long ago and I surprisingly reacted rather emotionally to the word even though he meant no harm and I knew that. 

Words linger on for a long time.

I can understand the argument for reclaiming a word and by doing so taking away the negative connotations and power associated with it. The thing is, I don’t really want to be labeled. I’m just me. When I was in college a girl named Tracy (she was from Long Island) asked if I preferred to be called gay or would I prefer homosexual. I replied that I wanted to be called “John” (this was before I was more insistent that I be called J.P.).  Yes, I am a gay man, I have a husband and I have had homosexual relations for 30 years (quit counting on your fingers, Mom). I’m happy with who I am and I’m comfortable with my sexual orientation. But I don’t want people making assumptions of me based on stereotypes that have historically been associated with words like queer or fag or gay or anything of that nature. Self-imposed expectations of being a gay man held me back for too long. The word queer held me back for too long.

As I prefer to say, if you insist on labeling me then remember this:  I’m just a guy with a husband. While being gay is part of who I am, it doesn’t even come close to describing the full view of who or what I am. I don’t need a label, I don’t want a label, I don’t find any sort of empowerment in labels and I don’t really identify with any sense of community that chooses to label themselves with a string of letters or words like queer.  

You can be as queer as you like (and it even pained me to type that sentence) but don’t expect me to get in lock step with your labeling system.

Brain Rest.

So I am seven days into my “Three in 30” challenge and I think things are going well. I’ve made one important discovery: Facebook is (unfortunately) becoming somewhat of a necessity in my life. The social network is becoming as pervasive as AOL was in the late 1990s and this frustrates me. My contributions to Facebook have been minimal, but it’s the way I stay connected to friends scattered throughout the country and the world. I had to compromise that aspect of my three in 30 challenge to minimal interaction instead of complete isolation.

Compromise is occasionally the name of the game.

Yesterday I elected to set aside all computing devices during my lunch hour. My brain needed a rest from the intensity of being a husband, a pilot, a career minded software developer and the like so I took the opportunity to drive to the local Park and Ride and just let the breeze blow through the Jeep as I watched the clouds roll by.

It was quite calming.

I used to practice a similar exercise back in the days when I commuted 55 miles one way to the office; long-time gentle readers will recall my blog entries from a shopping center parking lot where I would see a pleasant cat on a daily basis after securing an iced tea from the local Dunkin’ Donuts. I rode out blizzards, thunderstorms and beautiful days during my lunch hours parked in that parking lot and I found the practice to be calming.

Watching the clouds roll by with all electronics turned off is just what I needed. I recommend folks try unplugging once in a while just to recall what things were like before we became so technology dependent.

Back in the days of Windows 98 through Windows XP, Microsoft used to feature the “Bliss” wallpaper as a standard desktop feature. Legend has it that Bill Gates designed that wallpaper himself as it reminded him of lying in a field as a kid, watching the clouds roll by. It was bliss to him.

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I firmly believe he was onto something.