Brain Power.

I live by the philosophy that I should be always striving to improve myself in some way. Whether it’s listening to political radio or reading up on some random topic or even try adjusting my eating and exercise habits to find what works best for me at the particular moment, I always try to better myself.

Some of this is inspired by a secret desire to become some sort of superhero, I suppose. There’s always that kid in me that hopes that someday I’ll be struck by a lightning bolt and be turned into something beyond the ordinary. Other inspirations include movies such as “Limitless” or the movie coming out this weekend, “Lucy”. While I have no desire to be a ScarJo, the idea of unlocking secrets of the universe with an enhanced mind is compelling to me. And yes, I know that the “humans use only 10% of their brain” thing is an urban myth (as opposed to a rural myth?) but nevertheless the concepts in these two movies are, well, thought provoking.

Enter Lumosity. Now I routinely listen to Binaural Beats to relax or to nap or to better focus my attention while working, and these exercises work for me, but I haven’t found a way to improve my short term memory and the like. Lumosity is designed to help one exercise their brain. The brain is basically thought of as a muscle and with the proper workouts, it’ll function better, and Lumosity helps one reach that goal.

Now, usually I would jump into the full-blown, paid up plan offered by software such as this, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use the free version of Lumosity starting today and through the end of August. If I find that I’m satisfied with my progress using the software, I may invest in the paid version, which helps exercise your brain in more ways.

I’m interested to see how this experiment goes.


So yesterday I was passing through one of the large aircraft hangers to make my way to the bathroom when I casually remarked to a fully uniformed soldier, whom I had never met, “the sound of AVgas flowing always makes me have to take a piss.” He looked at me with a slightly surprised look and said, “enjoy, buddy.”

I have always lived on the assumption that if people knew what I was really thinking that it would ultimately end up with me in an orange jumpsuit, sitting in a padded room, making rag rugs with blunt scissors for the rest of my life. As a kid that was a recurring nightmare of mine, getting locked up for being “different” which was translated to “crazy”.

Many people don’t care about these things, especially after age 40. I decided to join that line of thinking at age 46 and honestly, I don’t care anymore. And frankly, not caring what other people thinking about me, crazy or not, is a refreshing feeling.

The world is much more screwed up than I will ever be.


I’ve mentioned before that I make a living by writing software for one of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States. I enjoy writing code, and the software that I work on the most is an application that I first inherited from my predecessor five years ago that has grown into an important part of the foundation of the company keeping track of what’s going on in the network. I’m not boasting but it’s good to know that I’m making an important contribution to the well-being of the millions of customers that the company has.

One of the best parts of this gig is the fact that I get to do my work from a MacBook Pro. Years ago, my at-the-time future supervisor asked what he could do to make my job more enjoyable and I told him, “let me work from a Mac.”  Within 48 hours I had a brand-new 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro and my productivity soared. It was a win, win for all involved. Unfortunately, my this particular MacBook Pro was part of a batch of machines that might have a video card glitch in them. I didn’t know that this possibility existed, so for years I put up with a rare, random freeze up or lock up that I attributed to a bad application. Apparently there was a warranty fix, but I didn’t realize this until after the opportunity time frame had expired.

Over the past couple of months my work MacBook Pro has been rebooting and freezing up more. This has made my normally most excellent, premium Apple experience a little more frustrating. We all know that work can be frustrating enough; having more frustration is something that we should avoid. The thing is, I wasn’t sure that I could get another Mac from work, because 99% of the employees have Windows computers and there was a rumor on the grapevine that stated that the company wasn’t buying any more Macs.

I put in a request for a new Mac, spouting my justification as to why I needed a Mac in lieu of a snappy new Windows machine, and my supervisor approved the request right away. Tech support responded within a couple of hours and asked me for the serial number of my current laptop; perhaps the company would get it fixed if it’s under warranty. I already knew that it wasn’t under warranty.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my email Monday morning and saw that I was getting a brand new MacBook to replacing my aging machine. On Thursday I will have a new brand-new, 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina for work. I have already designated Friday as the day for me to copy everything over from my old computer to my new one.

Now, I know it’s a little weird for a 46 year old man to get giddy over a new goody, especially a new work computer, but I’m a little beside myself with excitement. 

It’s little things like this that make me realize that in the big scheme of things, I have a pretty good gig at work.


As I write this, my Twitter feed is scrolling at a rapid pace with news about Malaysian Flight #17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed somewhere near the Ukraine-Russian border this morning. As of this writing, unconfirmed reports say that it was shot down. Photos of wreckage are already starting to appear.

My Facebook feed is scrolling by with a selection of surveys I should be doing, including which character of “AbFab” I am, which season of “The Love Boat” I would be sailing on and what kind of car I should buy.

Guess which social network I’m focusing on today?

While I mourn the loss of human life, I find it oddly comforting that my Twitter feed is showing some actual news stories, instead of drivel such as the Breaking News that the former Miss Delaware was suing her state because she didn’t realize she was too old to compete for Miss America and was subsequently dethroned by someone in Delaware that does that sort of dethroning thing. I don’t know if there’s some sort of maniacal cackling when they rip the crown off the head held up with Aqua-Net, but nevertheless, this was national headline fodder up until just a little while ago. And honestly, I found the fact that a beauty pageant contestant crying on the “Today” show about how awful her life is to be quite insulting to my intelligence. This put my on a rampage to clean up my Twitter feed and remove such superficial drivel. I was following Debra Messing, but her tweet announcing the arrival of her “glam team” sent me over the edge and I had to unfollow her. I’m sure she’s lovely and all but I don’t really need to know that she has a glam team, I don’t want to meet her glam team and I don’t want to know what the glam team is doing to her.

I guess I’m feeling all serious today.

There are so many distractions, courtesy of technology, in our world today and over the past couple of days I’ve been starting to feel quite rebellious towards these distractions. Glam teams, crying beauty queens and technological commentators that barrage me with ads and self promotion have no spot in my agenda today.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers and crew of flight MH17 today.

As for the former Miss Delaware, read a book, get a clue, get a life.


As I fly toward my goal of becoming a licensed Private Pilot, I have to admit that I don’t find myself enjoying driving as much as I used to. One of the most important things about being a pilot is that you do what is expected of you. For example, when we fly around the airport in the pattern, we always enter the pattern at the same place, fly at a pre-determined altitude and do what we are suppose to do.

Driving should be approached the same way.

Now, everyday I go for a walk in the morning and afternoon during the work day. This gives me the opportunity to stretch my legs and theoretically, clear my head. When one is constantly working out logic through software programming, it’s amazing what a few minutes away from the desk can do to bring a new perspective to a problem.

Except when you’re trying not to get hit by folks flying down the road at speeds way above the posted speed limit.


If you look close in this cockeyed photo, you’ll notice that the woman (confirmed as she flew by me), is creeping onto my side of the white line. This is because she was driving so fast that she was unable to maintain control of her vehicle while talking on her cell phone and smoke a cigarette. Technically, her behavior as a driver is rather unexpected, but the truth of the matter is, in today’s world her behavior should be totally expected. Because this is what people do today.

I find this disheartening.

Because of my passion for all things transportation, idiocy on the road really rubs me the wrong way. I have wondered if I should become a drivers’ license examiner when I retire from my current job (it’d supplement my Certified Flight Instructor certification that I’m going for nicely). When I think about this I realize that I’d probably garner a bad reputation among the learner’s permit crowd rather quickly because I’d make sure that the lad or lass going for their license would be driving in an expected manner.

I don’t think that’s a priority anymore.

Maybe I should just keep it in the sky and watch the chaos from above.



So today I turned 46 years old. In a way I can’t believe that I have reached this age, because I can easily recall being an adult and remembering my parents at this age. Even odder, the character Maude, played by Bea Arthur, was this age when the series started and for goodness sakes she just seemed old. I don’t feel old. For the most part I feel great. Earl says my life is still revving up for the crescendo. I think young.

I’ve had this blog for nearly 13 years and I don’t think that on this blog I’ve ever discussed the origins of using a derivative of “Machias” as my screen name in various places. I’ve had some locked down blogs over the years where I talked about it, but never here in my wide-open view blog. Since at age 46 I don’t really give a crap as to what people think anymore, I thought I’d tell the story.

It was January 1991. I lived in the southwestern corner of New York state in the small city of Jamestown. I was single at the time, though I lived near the boyfriend I had from ’87 to ’89. I was dating a guy at the time who I thought was way out of my league, because I didn’t think I was attractive and he was pretty good looking. (I’ve stalked him on Facebook and he didn’t hold up well). I was flat broke and barely making ends meet by working part time at the local Hills Department Store and also working for The Resource Center, one of the county chapters of the Association for Retarded Citizens that could be found all over the Empire State. I thought things with the guy I was dating was going fairly well though I felt unsettled and like I was drifting through life in general. I didn’t feel that I could ever be what I really wanted to be, mostly because the gay thing, and I bought into the stereotypes of the times of what gay men should do with their lives. I had also attended the funerals of too many of my friends back in Boston (due to the AIDS epidemic) and frankly I was retreating back into my shell.

I had $20 to my name. Pay day was a day away, but I could float a check if I had to. It was my day off and I couldn’t find the guy I was dating to see what he was up to. My car was running like crap but I decided to go of a drive and grab some lunch at McDonalds because my cupboard was bare.

I was sitting in the drive-thru at Big Foote McDonalds (named after the street it was on) when there was apparently some hassle in the drive-thru, the woman at the register was mixing up orders. When I got to the window, she told me the guy in the car in front of me had my order.

Now, I had noticed this guy because he was making out with another guy in the car back between the speaker and the window and I thought that was rather racy for the little city we lived in. I could see the driver, a very attractive redhead but I couldn’t see the details of the other guy other than I could tell that he was a guy (no boobs).

The guys in the car in front of me figured out they had the wrong order and both got out of the car, one to the window where I was parked, the other headed inside. The one with my order was the attractive redhead; the other going into the restaurant was the guy I was dating. Both realized who I was and kind of frozen.

I was crushed.

I stammered a thanks for giving me my food and told them I didn’t want to talk. I don’t know if the woman at the window realized that she was watching the Gay Peyton Place or not, but I got my food, stammered like I usually do and headed out. I gobbled down my food as I drove and decided to go for a ride. With probably $15 in my pocket and maybe a 1/2 tank of gas, I’d drive to Buffalo and back. The long way. In January. Little did I know that the forecast was calling for heavy snow.

I wound my way through the hills of the Southern Tier, still cranky and very unfocused by finding out that I wasn’t good enough for this guy after all and was heading up Route 16 near Arcade when the snow as becoming way too much for me to handle. I decided to head home after putting $10 of gas in my car; hopefully I’d make it from the middle of nowhere to the middle of barely somewhere.

I could barely see and was moving at around 15 MPH, snow swirling all around and the roadway very slippery, when all of a sudden there was a cow standing in the middle of the road. I jerked the car to the right and was thankful to find there wasn’t a ditch but there was a snow bank and some soft ground. The cow ran off laughing; I sat there spinning my tires. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Completely unprepared for inclement weather, I got out and looked the situation over. The nearby house had no sign of life. The snowbank was piled high and the road was no longer visible. Trying to decide what to do, I noticed a pickup truck coming down the road. He slowed his crawl down even further when he got to me. I looked in and could see what appeared to be a big guy wearing a black leather jacket. He had a gun rack in the back with one gun.

“I’m dead”, was my first thought. A few months earlier, while working as a programmer at a manufacturing plant, I had been told by a co-worker that if we ever met outside of work that he’d derive great delight by shooting me between the eyes. This scared me to the point of quitting the job without any notice to the company at all; I just abandoned the gig.

He jumped out of the truck and walked over. He was 6’1″ or so, black leather jacket and gloves. He was wearing jeans and he had a baseball cap on. He had one of the most magnificent black beards I had ever seen.

“Havin’ trouble?”, he asked. He seemed friendly enough and thankfully the gun had stayed in the truck.

“Yeah, there was a cow and I tried to avoid it…”, I went on about my predicament.

“I have a chain, let’s see if we can’t yank ‘er out.”

His demeanor made me very comfortable, though I couldn’t explain why. I had a feeling that he might be gay but he didn’t fit any of that which I expected from gay men, and besides he had a gun, so I just thought my mind was falling out of my head.

He hooked up the chain and spun his truck around. He told me to gun it in reverse when I felt the tug. It was just a few minutes and the car was out and back on the snow covered road.

He came back to the car and we unhooked the chain. I thanked him and offered him the $5 or so I had left in my pocket. He declined and said, “No problem. Watch out for the cows! You’re lucky you didn’t hit that!”

He gestured to where the car had gone off the road and while doing so he said, “You’ll never forget Machias!”.

When he said that word, “Machias”, a gong went off in my head in a way that I just can’t describe. I still get chills when I hear that word. I don’t know if I was called Machias in a previous life, I don’t know if some angel or spirit guide is named Machias or what, but I know that it’s a word the resonates with my soul in a very, very positive way and by him saying that word, I no longer felt afraid of this man.

“Well thanks for your help.”, I shook his hand.

He said, “it’s Larry. Now you be safe, lad.”

“I’m John, thanks again”. And off he went back to his truck with the gun.

A few months later I was DJing at one of the gay bars in the sleepy little city. I looked out over the bar and saw a tall man with a magnificent black beard walk in. It was warmer; the leather jacket was open. He grabbed a beer and was looking around when he spotted me up in the DJ booth. I looked down quickly, he walked up to the booth.

He pointed at me, grinned and said, “Machias.”

The soul resonating gong went off in my being again, and I said, “it’s John, but yes, Machias.”

We made small talk that started off with him asking if I found anymore cows in a snowstorm. During our conversation and a few romantic gestures of kissing and the like the DJ booth, I realized that Larry was just being himself and wasn’t trying to conform to any sort of preconceived notion of what it was like to be gay. I admired that greatly about him and though I didn’t know him at all and never saw him again after that night at the bar, he really changed my path. It wasn’t long after that that I found a new job and started getting my life back on track again. I know that he was a strong man, I know that he was great kisser and I know that he wasn’t afraid to go after what he wanted. Other than that, for all I know he disappeared into the ether.

So when I hear the word Machias, it’s a reminder to just be myself and not be afraid of my place in the world. And it still resonates with my soul in incredible ways.


So I haven’t shaved my head clean in a few weeks. For the most part I have had a clean shaven head since age 30 or so, but now that I’m in my mid 40s I’m kind of getting bored with the look. This is unfortunate, because I’m naturally bald and when you’re naturally bald with the fringe around the sides you don’t have a lot of options, unless you want to look like Donald Trump and honestly, that’s not my gig.

Folks are starting to notice that I have gray hair on the sides and back and subsequently they’re asking if I’m growing my hair out. This gets into a discussion about the maintenance required to maintain a shaved head, which is more maintenance than most expect. When I have a shaved head I shave it everyday in the shower. I use shaving cream and a Mach 3, pretty much like most guys use on their face on a day to day basis. This evening, at ground school, the subject came up and I ended up telling the story about the time I had a barber shave my head who then followed up the shave with a wax, buff and shine. The barber was in New York at Hell’s Kitchen. I looked like a well waxed terrazzo floor when all was said and done. It was an experience I shall never forget. People laugh when they find out that my head was waxed and buffed. I found it slightly disconcerting at the time.

The discussion at ground school ended up talking about the shaving methods of many of the men there; most still use the traditional shaving cream and razor method, though not all do. One guy uses an electric razor. I don’t understand why men that shave choose to use an electric razor; they’re never a close shave and it seems like an unnecessary application of electricity. It’s not really old school.

If I had my way I’d still be rocking the flattop I had in my mid 20s. But those days are long gone. And while I rather enjoy shaving my face using implements that were traditionally used by men in the 1950s, I don’t really derive any pleasure whatsoever from shaving my head. It’s a chore that I don’t particularly enjoy. This is why I haven’t shaved my head in a few weeks.

Maybe I’ll go get a real haircut over the weekend. At the very least the barber can fake it.


As I grow older I am naturally becoming more set in my ways. I’m a little more rigid with the routine, I like to think that I have a little more focus. I suppose this is part of the aging process.

One habit that I developed many years ago that I continue to this day is making the bed in the morning. Now making the bed wasn’t a high priority when I was growing up; my Mom didn’t really focus on having a neat and orderly house. We were comfortable, aside from the occasional cat on the breakfast table, but there was clutter and things were in disarray at times. But after striking out on my own at age 18 I discovered the wonderful feeling of having a well made bed when it was time to retire from a long day. So the one of the first things I do in the morning is make the bed. Earl was happy to discover that I did this when we first moved in together and he has remarked on many occasions that he enjoys hopping into a neat and orderly bed at night.

The way I figure it is by making the bed first thing in the morning, I have accomplished something at the beginning of the day, which will hopefully set the tempo for the rest of the day. However, if the day turns out to be a disaster and I accomplish absolutely nothing for the remainder of the day, I will retire for the evening in a comfortable bed and will be able to revel in that first accomplishment of the day.

It’s kind of zen in a way, but it’s often the little things that make the world better. And one of my little things is making sure the bed is made.


So I checked my blood pressure the other day and it was at 118/81. This is a heck of a lot better than the beginning of the year when I was 156/98. I think there’s quite a few contributing factors to the lowering of my blood pressure, including the new position at work I started in April, my love of flying, my increase in exercise and probably the blood pressure medicine. I have been prescribed Norvasc 5 mg daily.

The Norvasc makes me feel like crap. I have a constant headache, I feel heavy and my neck and shoulder muscles constantly feel tight. I took Norvasc in the early ’00s for a year and while it did lower my blood pressure, I also gained 20 pounds. I’ve gained 8 lbs since starting Norvasc again. Last time I stopped taking the medicine and my weight went back to where it should be and the headaches stopped. I’m going to check with my physician about stopping the medicine again.

I hate the idea of being dependent on a medication. Some will tell me that it comes with the territory when we age, but there’s a part of me that hopes that’s not completely true, because I really don’t want to have my body chemistry altered if it doesn’t really need to be. There’s a hippy-dippy granola type in me at times that believes that if we eat right, maintain regular exercise and live a reasonable lifestyle, our body will find the balance that it strives to obtain. I’m not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals anyway, they lost me when they started advertising on television.

I’m going to carefully monitor my blood pressure for the next few weeks and see if I can maintain these lower numbers and then see about getting off the medicine. I know that once I’m prescription free I’ll feel much better.