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.

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.

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Carey’s Corners.

While I’m out my morning bike ride I allow my mind to wander a little bit. Sometimes I reflect on a dream that I had before waking up, sometimes I think about work, a lot of the time I think about flying. But once in a while I just let my mind go into full geek mode and allow myself the freedom to think about anything that might pop into my head.

One of my favorite places to ride in the morning is along Main Street in the nearby village of Whitesboro. Whitesboro was in the national news earlier this year when the village’s citizens decided to keep the official Village Seal, depicting a settler wrestling a Native American. Some find the depiction to be outside the guide rails of political correctness because it looks like the settler is strangling the Native American. I wasn’t present at the wrestling match that inspired the seal, so I’ll refrain from comment on that.

Main Street used to be NY Route 69 before the building of what is today’s Oriskany Boulevard. The boulevard is the result of the filling in of the original Erie Canal, which passed through the village long ago. With the relocation of Route 69 onto the new roadway, Main Street was bypassed to a certain degree. New bridges were built and other roads were relocated. Today there isn’t much traffic on Main Street. Much of the retail establishments moved to the busier boulevard long ago. The homes along Main Street still have their early 20th century majestic appeal, though I believe some of them have been converted to multi-tenant dwellings.

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At the west end of Main Street, just west of the village boundary, a short bit of roadway was built to connect Main Street to Oriskany Blvd. The remaining portion of Main Street was turned into a No Outlet roadway. In the picture above, I’m standing on that bit of roadway, near what remains of the small hamlet of Carey’s Corners.

I don’t know much about Carey’s Corners outside of the fact that it was prominently listed on old maps up until the late 1950s. I believe there were several buildings demolished for the building of what carries Route 291 over the adjacent railroad to the north. What is currently labeled as “Carey Road” (another dead end roadway) probably made its way onto present-day 291 (what used to be Route 12C until 1972) to take one out of Carey’s Corners to the north.

Little bits of highway history like this make me wonder what today would be like if we as a society didn’t develop such a fondness for automobiles and the building of the modern day Interstate system. Would life be as fast paced as it is today? Would many of us be living in crazy high high-rises while others still lived a rural life out in the country? Would suburbia as we know it be a thing? Shopping Malls? Big Box Retailers?

Many things changed in the mid 20th century with the drive to move out of the cities, follow the freeways and set up life in the suburbs. I really do wonder what life would be like if that mass migration hadn’t taken place. I’m sure the United States would be a markedly different place to live today.

Doorless.

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Last night I declared to anyone within earshot that it was time for me to take the doors off the Jeep. I always look forward to this moment because it means that it’s warm in this neck of the woods, and that doesn’t happen a lot. Luckily Earl was the only person within earshot. I told him to put on his pants and a sweatshirt because we were going to drive to the thriving city with the doors off.

It was a chilly night but off we went and it was a lovely experience. I’m happy that we were smart enough to put on hoodies or something of a similar nature but it’s such an awesome experience to see the road whizz by right beneath your feet.

I’ve co-opted a spot in the garage so I don’t have to put the doors on when it rains. I’m looking forward to exploring the sunshine over the next couple of days.

Three in 30.

Today is the first of June. Folks around me will hear me burst out in song in random intervals today. I will be singing, “June is bustin’ out all over, all over the meadows and the hills.”  Then I’ll hum a bit because I don’t remember the lyrics at this point, and then the words will be back with “Because it’s June. June June June. JuUUST becAUse it’s June, June, JUNE!”  I never appeared in the musical “Carousel” but we sang songs from it a lot back in the day.

With the arrival of a new month I have decided to embark on a “3 for 30 days” challenge. I am trying three things for the next 30 days to see if it improves or detracts from my current lifestyle.

1. I’ve completely given up Facebook for the next 30 days. It has been removed from my mobile devices. I would modify the network at home to block access to Facebook.com but since I’m not the only one that lives here that wouldn’t be fair to my spouse or Jamie.

2. I’ve moved my exercise beyond pedestrian activities for the next 30 days. I am writing this after having just completed a 76 minute bike ride. In tandem with this I am giving up diet potions and elixirs that promise I will shed weight without doing anything. They’re all lies.

3. I am going to do something in my blog on a daily basis. Even if it’s a picture of a particularly adorable cat. 

30 days challenges are always fun for me. This is my first time going for the triple on a 30 day challenge but I’m feeling particularly optimistic this time around. 

Flat Dreams.

Earl and I went for a ride in Northeastern Colorado today. Starting near Denver International Airport, we headed north along U.S. 85 to Greeley, east along U.S. 34 to Brush, south on State Route 71 to Last Chance and then back west on U.S. 36 to Denver. All in all the ride was around five hours, including a stop for dinner in Fort Morgan.

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I love the flat, rural landscape of the High Plains. I love it a lot. My ideal setting would be a ranch house in a bunch of trees, surrounded by plenty of farm land, a dozen or more miles from the closest town. There’d be a storm cellar close by, just in case things go feisty. We’d rearrange our grocery shopping habits to a once-a-month schedule. Whenever I stepped outside there’d be lots of room for me to spread my arms wide, smile and drink it all in.

I’ve contemplated whether I wanted to live in a similar setting somewhere in the desert, but while I love the desert, I like the sights and sounds of the High Plains more.

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I don’t think that I’ll ever convince Earl to live anywhere near a sign that says “No gas for the next 75 miles” or in a town called “Last Chance”, but we can certainly visit the area from time to time and enjoy a ride throughout the awesome area.

Many see a rural setting of nothing. I see a wide expanse of possibilities.

Longmont, Colorado.

While Earl and Jamie are getting ready to attend a wedding this afternoon, I’m spending some free time touring around the back roads of Boulder County Colorado before heading up to visit friends in Cheyenne later this afternoon.

I’ve been driving along U.S. Route 287 when I came across Longmont, Colorado, a charming town that feels quite prosperous, with a very nice “traditional” downtown area.

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Longmont has one of those downtown areas that is still quite pedestrian friendly. U.S. 287 doubles as Main Street and is two lanes in each direction. There’s a median down the center of the street. Traffic is slowed down to 25 MPH and there are plenty of pedestrian crossings both at street corners and midway through blocks. As a Civil Engineer, I can appreciate the “traffic calming” measures in place. There are plenty of trees and other landscaping features. Restaurants, shops and the like line both sides of Main Street. I didn’t see a lot of empty store fronts. There were a few people on the street. The vibe was a friendly one.

I found a barbershop along Main Street and barber Jeff cleaned me up for $20.00. Elite Barber Shop is the oldest business in downtown Longmont, having been around for well over a century. The current owner has had the shop since 1972. Like the vibe of the downtown in general, the folks in the barbershop were quite friendly and chatty; I never felt like an outsider. It was like a step back into time where folks were a little bit friendlier to one another and the pace was just a tad bit slower. I enjoyed the change (and my face feels amazing!)

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My paternal grandparents spent much of their retirement traveling the United States on month-long road trips and both would comment that once you got out of the Northeast one would find that folks are much friendlier. While I do find that we do have friendly folks back home, I have to mostly agree with their observations for I’ve found the exact same thing. Striking up a conversation with a stranger when I’m traveling comes a lot easier to me than when I’m back home.

I look forward to the opportunity to visit this area again. This is my third or fourth time in the Greater Denver Area and I’ve always liked my experiences here.

Future.

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As a bonafide geek I can’t help but be excited about the future. While the Digital Revolution is well underway, it is my suspicion that we’re only see the tip of the iceberg of what technology can do for us. Fairly recent developments in the Amazon Echo, the just announced Google Home and the rumored “Siri2” device coming from Apple indicate that we will be talking to our devices more and more over the next few years. I’ve already integrated some of these early offerings into our setup at The Manor; last week I showed Earl that he could tell his iPhone to turn on the lights in the Great Room and the lights would usually obey his command. The only thing he doesn’t like about the setup is my tendency to yell “Hey Siri” at the top of my voice. I guess I can be shrill.

Talking to our home or our appliances or whatever is just part of the vision I see building for our future. Honestly, I think Google was onto something with their Google Glass implementation a couple of years ago. Heads up displays feeding us information from our “personal knowledge graph” is wicked awesome. I’m hopefully that we will see something as depicted in the film “Her” before the end of the lucid portion of my lifetime. Digital assistants that work for us, tailored to us and are not fueled by scraping our data for ad revenue is the ideal for me. I don’t mind technology knowing where I am and what I’m doing; what I don’t like is that data being sold to companies so they can shove tailored ads in my face. I’ll pay for my play, thank you very much.

One of the concerns I have with these blossoming advances in technology is that social norms are not going to keep up with the tech. There are folks out there that are quite rude with their smartphones, blaring out their conversations, their dubious selections in music or other things that are inherently personal. Back in my youth folks would have had some sort of fit if I walked into a restaurant and started playing The Human League on my boom box. I don’t know why some think that it’s OK to do the same with their music today just because the device is smaller.

And they called the 80s the “me” decade.

But back to the future (ha!), I’m curious as to whether folks are really comfortable with being connected to the rest of the world 24/7, with data streaming to their glasses or even contact lenses. Like in the movie “Her”, would you want a little bug of a device in your ear with a pleasant chime followed by a pleasant voice? I know I would. I would also like such an assistant to help keep my sanity by maintaining “Inbox Zero”. The is a manual process that takes a lot of my organic CPU time, mostly filtering out junk that I will never need.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference is just around the corner and I am quite excited to hear about the plans the company has for the future.  I think our exciting times lie just ahead.

Motivation.

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The sunshine beckons and helps me feel motivated to get on with my work day. I’ve decided to skip my daily walk today; as I needed the time to pack up the hotel room. Looking outside and seeing the calmness of Downtown Greenville engulfed in beautiful weather is ramping up my motivation levels.

Every day can be a good day. Just find a reason to make a great.