A Year In A Week.

During my team meeting today I mentioned that it was Wednesday but it definitely felt like Friday. With all the news and the Olympics and Mother Nature whipping her hair back and forth like something sounds like a Nay Nay, this week has felt like a solid year. And it’s only Wednesday.

I’ve blocked Trump from appearing in my Twitter feed, so all I know is that he needs crib notes to remember to be compassionate. Other than that I don’t know what that idiot is doing. I did see that the House representative from our old stomping grounds made some idiotic comments but that woman is a psycho anyway so I’m not surprised. She likes to grandstand because she has absolutely no idea as to what she’s doing, what she’s suppose to be doing, or how she got elected in the first place. I hope the people of NY22 smarten up in November and elect her out of office because she’s a blathering idiot. And no, I won’t dignify her asinine comments by mentioning them here.

I’m energized by the students speaking out about the Parkland High School shooting. It looks like Gen-Z may pick up the mantel where Gen-X and the Millenials have completed failed. More power to them.

Presidents’ Day.

Today is Presidents’ Day in some states of the United States. In some states it’s President’s Day, in others it’s Washington’s Birthday. Ironically, even though we live in the Land of Lincoln, today is Washington’s Birthday. The TV ads tell us we should buy a mattress because it’s Presidents Day.

What to do with that apostrophe?

When this holiday, whatever it’s called, rolls around in February I always fall out of step with the world around me. I don’t feel compelled to buy a car or a mattress. Today Facebook told me I should be buying Rosetta Stone language software so I can “speak like a President”.

In this day and age no one should aspire to speak like that idiot.

Today I took a moment to remember the Presidents I have experienced in 49 years on this planet. I remember everyone from Nixon onward, though my strongest Presidential memories start with Carter. We were served lots of peanuts in elementary school during his administration.

Remember when the President was presidential? Don’t let that memory fade and do something about it.

Olé!

Identifying Advertising: A Proposal.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about Facebook ads and Twitter ads and Russian bots and every other complication you can think of plaguing today’s U.S. society. So I’m proposing a solution to try to get a handle on this.

I still need a snappy name, but basically it’s a “U.S. Real Advertising Identification Law” (RAIL doesn’t really get headlines though).

Basically, it’d work like this:

  • All advertising or promotion must be identified as an advertisement. The media in which the advertisement is delivered doesn’t matter. All advertisements must be “bordered” in some way: visual ads must be bordered with a red, unobstructed border around the entire ad and audio ads must be prefaced with “This is an advertisement” presented in a natural, non-time-compressed, unobscured, standard reading. The visual borders would be standardized regardless of advertiser. One standard shade of red. Black and white ads would used a “hashed” pattern border. The audio “borders” would use standardized language. It doesn’t matter if it’s a political ad, an ad for snack food, or an ad for the latest rage in pharmaceuticals. All ads: red border for visuals and an introductory line for audio ads.
  • All advertising must identify the name of advertiser and the country of origin. These would be similar to the “Paid for by ..” tags on all political ads, but would be a requirement for EVERY ad appearing on ALL media. Any ad with an audio component would require this to be part of the spoken copy.
  • All media outlets presenting advertising content must keep a record of every ad generated including the content, the company that purchased or requested the ad space, the country of origin for the party making the request, and the method of funding for the ad, including any barter or trade efforts and what was exchanged in these instances.
  • These regulations would apply to every type of advertising found in the United States and any future type of advertising: television, radio, billboards, newspaper, and any ad found on the Internet. There would be no exemptions. Any content designed to promote anything would fall under these regulations.
  • Any digital advertising intended for a U.S. audience, even if generated on servers on foreign soil, must adhere to these regulations.

These efforts would help curb this trend of online content providers trying to embed ads in their social media streams like just another post, much like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook do today. Any advertisement being disguised as a news source would be immediately identified.

I understand that much of what we see on the Internet is fueled by ad revenue. I’m not trying to impede these efforts, instead I’m trying to make sure there’s a very clear delineation between content and advertising.

Perfection.


Earl bought me flowers for Valentine’s Day. I find this simple arrangement quite beautiful; I think it looks great on the dining room buffet, but Earl is a little disappointed because it’s not the arrangement he ordered. He strives for his definition of perfection and when expectations are not met, he let’s the folks responsible for his displeasure know his feelings. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact, I love him for it.

I still love this simple arrangement. I am going to enjoy watching it bloom and grow in front of our balcony windows this spring.

It’s the simple things that help me see fireworks on a daily basis. In my eyes there’s not much that happens outside of the realm of perfection in my life; I’m pretty easy to please and even though I’m quite opinionated and vocal on Twitter, I tend to find contentment fairly easily, at least when I’m not in a contemplative mood.

Tonight we met up with Jamie and Chris for Indian Food as a Valentine’s Day celebration. It was a lovely experience and I was very happy to be with the men I love. Blood relatives and chosen family: I have been lucky in all regards.

Now that is perfection.

Dressed.

Earl snapped a photo of me this morning

There’s a popular misconception that people working from home are lounging around in their pajamas, feet propped up on a cat, with Sally Jesse Rafael blaring on the television playing Solitaire on their over-powered company laptop. They answer an email or two just to look productive. They then join a conference call on a sketchy VoIP connection, asking repeatedly if they’re on mute or not and then proclaiming that they have a hard stop at a random time that ends in 2.

As a full-time telecommuter I can safely say this is not how it works. At least in the circles in which I travel.

When it’s time to start my workday, I am up, showered, dressed and ready to tackle my career responsibilities at the beginning of the workday. Admittedly, it takes a good amount of discipline to maintain this structure on the darkest of winter days, but the rewards of telecommuting force me to stay focused. I don’t want to lose this gig because of bad work practices. That would be such a petty reason to lose a job.

The key to productive, at least for me, is being properly dressed and more importantly, not working barefoot. Back in my 20s I would work barefoot in the office. I worked at a radio station at the time; the office was in the basement of the owner’s house and I would pad around from studio to workstation in my bare feet like some hippy wannabe. That worked for my 20s, it does not work for a man at the very end of his 40s. I write lots of code, I lead a team of seven, and I am often part of video conference calls, after all, they’re all the rage now. I need to look my best but more importantly, I need to feel like I look my best to be productive. It’s the leader to a great state of mind.

Now, having Virtual Office IL1.02 (my official designation) has its perks. Earl makes me breakfast and lunch 95% of the time. My schedule allows me a little bit of flexibility; I am able to work my most productive hours of the day. I know I need to get my meetings out of the way in the morning because I write better code in the afternoon. I’ve worked from the car on more than one occasion as Earl and I have made our way back east for the holidays or something. Conversely, when I solve a coding problem in my dreams, I can get up, fire up the computer, and write the winning code and then sleep a few extra minutes the following morning. Personally I am most productive working from home. I don’t need the socialization of an office environment. I actually find it very distracting, though when I have worked in the office those around me mean well.

Ideally I want to do a little more of the Digital Nomad thing during the summer months but work replaced my beautiful MacBook Pro with a Dell Ultrabook with a horrible screen resolution (1366×768). I don’t mind Windows 10, but the screen resolution is like trying to write code on an Etch-A-Sketch. This can be frustrating. I hope to have that rectified before the nice weather rolls around.

They say we need to dress for success; dress for the position you want, not the position you have. Working in my PJs would run contrary to this. I might even slip on a tie before the end of the week.

It feels good to look good.

Snow.

The forecast says we’ve received the last of the snow that was predicted for Chicagoland this weekend. The skies are starting to clear a little bit. Forecasters are saying we’ll see temperatures above freezing in a day or two.

This photo was taken yesterday morning after the plows made their first pass early in the morning. The wall runs along the embankment of the nearby METRA tracks.

Another 6 to 8 inches fell last night. Folks are cleaning out again today. With three separate bands of snow passing through since Friday, some folks waited until today to start cleaning off their cars.

The heavily traveled streets have all been cleared by the city, but the side streets haven’t really been cleared yet. There’s a lot of street with just the tracks of multiple cars passing through.

Some folks have cleared out their traditional parking spot on the street, and in the tradition of Chicagoans, they call “dibs” after cleaning out their area. Dibs are marked with lawn furniture, shovels, children, and in the case, blue tubs.

One never takes a spot that someone has called dibs on. In some parts of the city that might result with a brick on your front seat or something. Don’t take the spot when someone calls dibs.

I’ve been enjoying walking around the surrounding neighborhoods. As people clean their sidewalks, shovel out their cars, or sweep their stoop, they seem pleasant enough. A lot of people have still wished me a good afternoon. That’s nice.

I have to admit that while winter is not my favorite season by any stretch of the imagination (it comes in at number three on the survey), the snow this winter isn’t really bothering me. It’s not a lot, at least by the standards set by my hometown (eastern Lake Ontario snowbelt) and more importantly, Earl and I have a condo and our Jeeps are parked in a heated parking garage.

I don’t mind snow, I just don’t like shoveling and plowing out driveways that are a couple of hundred feet long.

We are approaching mid-February. Spring is not a horrible amount of time away. We’ll be loving the sun soon enough.

In the meantime, say hello to a neighbor.

Skate.

Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, photo from ESPN.

The family room in the house my dad built for us had a hardwood floor. The room wasn’t particularly big, but building a house and relocating from a 10’x50′ mobile home (with an 8’x35′ addition) into a two-story Colonial house left my parents with little resources for furnishing the new house. We had furniture, but there wasn’t a lot of it and much of it was second-hand. We had a lot of room to move in that family room.

When the 1980 Winter Olympics rolled around, they took place in Lake Placid, N.Y., about 175 miles from where we lived. My sister and I watched the Olympics on the small 17-inch Zenith color television that sat on the bookcases that flanked the fireplace, the centerpiece of the living room. After watching various skating events on the small Zenith on WIXT-TV 9 (ABC), my sister and I would put on our socks and “skate” around the hardwood floor. We were trying to be like Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia. We’d put a now forgotten 45 on the record player and slide around, pretending it was ice. My mother would, um, speak loudly, as she cautioned us about banging into the wall, falling into the fireplace, or do something else that was equally ridiculous. Since the room was probably no larger than 12’x10′, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to get our speed up, until I discovered if I ran down the adjacent hallway and then slid, I could get a little bit of speed before banging into a lamp that hung from the ceiling in front of the fireplace. It was the beginning of my growth spurt so I had enough height to hit that horribly placed lamp. Occasionally I’d scare a cat. My mother would yell.

Ever since those Olympics and our “skating”, I think of Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia whenever the latest round of the Winter Olympics are starting up. Earl and I sitting here as I type, watching the Opening Ceremonies.

Before the end of the night I’m going to run down our hallway and “skate” across the wood floor in our dining room.

Good Day.

Sometimes you just wake up one morning and you know it’s going to be a great day. You might have to work at it to keep it a great day, but you feel up to the challenge. You do what you do to keep it a great day.

Today was a great day.

My meetings at work went well. An issue with an application came to an end as a fix magically occurred to me while I was out taking a breather, walking in the snow. I went flying with an instructor today, challenged myself a little bit and now have the blessing to fly the club’s Piper Archer III, with all its electronic goodies. Earl and I had a nice walk tonight and my pants are feeling kind of loose.

It takes a little bit of work but even in the dead of winter, one can have a great day.

Winter.

It’s winter. There’s snow on the ground. It’s quite chilly. On the bright side, there’s not nearly as much snow on the ground here in Chicago as when we lived in Central New York, but as I’ve been telling people today: I’m ready for warm breezes, pubs having their entire front facade open, sidewalk cafes and enjoying life outside.

Hopefully it’s not too far off.

Critical.

In a recent conversation I mentioned that I was not a fan of Aretha Franklin. I referenced a blog entry I wrote about the subject a while back and I was a little surprised to hear that my friend had read the blog entry furthermore, he thought that my reasoning for sort of bashing ‘Re ‘Re was a little weak.

Look, I’m not a fan of the woman or the way she sings. But do I have to broadcast this to the world? Sometimes I do it for humor, if only to crack myself up.

The fact of the matter is, if there’s something that I’m good at and also somewhat ashamed of is that I can be a hyper-critical guy. My thought processes, moving at Warp 8 (insert early Star Trek ‘disco warp’ special effects here), tends to notice a typo or a badly sung note or a poorly dressed person or a fart faster than many people and for some bizarre reason, 70% of the time I feel compelled to comment on this.

Of what value is this?

Who knows. At nearly 50 years old (you’re hearing that phrase a lot for the first half of 2018), my observations are probably unnecessary. As a woman once said when I was younger, “don’t stare at people, they know where their problem is located.” Does making such a comment make me feel superior in some way? Probably, but looking at myself in the mirror as I type this, any critical comment is probably a defense mechanism coming from a sense of inadequacy that I have felt for most of my adult life.

I swear I’m not lying on an analyst’s couch at this moment.

I’ve had a couple of flight instructors say to me, “You are a very skilled pilot. When are you going to realize that”?

Honestly, there’s little value to being hyper-critical in today’s chaotic environment. This is something I’ve been trying to be more aware of since the beginning of the year. Am I succeeding at not thinking negatively or making critical comments? I’d like to think I am but the person that could probably answer that best is my husband.

When you read these little snapshots of my life in this, by Internet standards, ancient blog, I sometimes paint myself as a guy that is mean and snarky all the time. I probably don’t give myself credit because I’m critical of my own actions and ways of thinking. I don’t see the world with gray, cloudy glasses on all the time. Quite the opposite.

I just need to articulate the brightness a little more.