Exercise.

I had my annual physical this morning with my primary care physician. I’ve been seeing the same doctor for nearly 20 years and he’s a good guy. He’s moved his practice a few times but I follow along like the good patient. One of the reasons that I like my doctor is that he is always punctual. If my appointment is scheduled for 9:20 a.m., he is in the room at 9:20 a.m. There’s no waiting around. He doesn’t like to keep his patients waiting.

To comply with FAA medical expectations, I had to resort to taking medicine to control my blood pressure. Happily, my blood pressure has been staying where it belongs, it was good this morning. I don’t like being dependent on medicine but if it’s going to keep my alive longer, and it allows me to fly an airplane, I won’t complain about it. My doctor didn’t pressure me to start taking medicine, we just discussed the pros and cons. We had the same discussion about cholesterol medicine today. I’m waiting for my blood test results before deciding if I want to do go down that path or not. He said it was up to me.

I’ve been wanting to exercise more now that the spring-like weather has arrived, but Mother Nature is still living on the wild side a bit. I started a 20 minute mid-morning walk in the sunshine this morning, but a fast approaching storm had me being pelted with hail for the last five minutes of the walk.

It made for a pretty sky, though.

IMG_0984

Sears.

Sears Holdings Corp. recently announced that they will be closing the Sears store in our local mall in June. This particular location opened with the mall in 1980. It is one of four anchor stores. The mall has been struggling a bit over the past decade or so; I’m not surprised to see the Sears store has been slated for closing.

I am surprised that the nearby Kmart, also owned by Sears Holdings Corp. is not going to be closed. The store has not been updated since the mid 1980s and shares a building with an abandoned grocery store. It seems to never be busy and is often in disarray.

I’m sad to see that our Sears is closing. I don’t like to see any establishment closed down, even a national chain in a nondescript mall, and especially an establishment that’s part of a company that’s been around for a century or so. Sears is as American as the Brady Bunch.

Hard times have fallen onto the Sears Holding Corporation; I don’t know that the folks of K-mart really knew what they were getting into when they bought Sears. There’s been a whole bunch of missteps since the acquisition; Sears Grand, Sears Essentials, the continuance of “Big K” (when we all know the damn thing is just a Kmart). However, a few years ago Sears tried a new concept in Duluth, Minn, and from the outside it looks like an upscale version of your typical Sears store. I think the return to the original script Sears logo adds a touch of elegance.

gwinnett-place-mall-20-1024x767
photo courtesy of Labelscar.com

Personally I think Sears should completely abandon the Kmart name and focus on two things: upscale Sears stores with a boutique approach, located in malls and revitalized downtown areas, and Sears Essentials, the Sears name going after the Kmart crowd. With names like Kenmore and Craftsman behind them, I think Sears Essentials can carve out a niche outside of the Walmart/Target mindset. Get rid of all the other variants and stop trying to be everything to everyone everywhere.

Outside.

For the first time in 2015, I am able to sit on our front steps and write a blog entry without fear of frost bite, sleet, snow, hail or other weather calamity. It’s a good feeling.

With the weather being less than stellar over the past month or so, I’ve been walking every morning in an effort to get ready for cycling season. The snow banks are slowly receding and we see a little more of our lawn every day.

IMG_0808

They’re predicting that tonight’s low is going to be relatively sane for this time of the year (in the low 40s), so I’m determined to go on my first bike ride of the year tomorrow morning before work. My bike is in great shape, I’ll have my clothes readied before bed tonight so I will have very little in the way of excuses not to ride.

I’m looking forward to getting this spring thing in motion.

Escape.

I took Earl on his first ride in the Cherokee 180 yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Central New York, the temperature was thinking about reaching 40ºF and there was lots of sunshine. The winds kept me on my toes during take-off and landing, but all in all we had a great flight together. We flew to Elmira-Corning Regional Airport and back; it’s a little over an hour’s flight in each direction. This made it qualify as a cross-country flight in my logbook. This is good, I need cross-country time for my Instrument rating, which I just started studying for. 

Flying with Earl is just like riding in the Jeep with him. We talk, we enjoy the scenery around us and most importantly, we enjoy the time we are spending together.

  

Flying is also an escape for me. As a pilot, my focus all comes to one place: flying the airplane safely. In my life it’s rare that I can focus on one thing. At work I am part of several disconnected software projects. I can be intently working on Project A when I’ll get hammered with instant messages on Projects B, C or D at any given moment. This pulls me away from my focus on Project A and my thoughts scatter. I used to think that I was a good multitasker. I’m not. I work best when I’m focused on a task and I allow myself to become completely engrossed in that task. I do my best work by focusing intently on what I’m trying to achieve. That’s why I twitch a bit when I get instant messages or text messages on my phone. They distract me and honestly, I’m easy to distract.

I continue to find the news outlets to be distracting. “Aviation experts” showing pictures of the airplane in the Germanwings crash. According to the photos I’ve seen, the airplane could have had one or two floors in the main cabin, two, three or four engines at any given moment and it was made by either Airbus, Boeing, Bombadier or some other company. These experts have no right to call themselves an expert. So much speculation and so many wild opinions. To me it’s sad to see the 24 hour news channels barely hide their delight that they have a tragedy to go on and on and on about. I feel sad for the families left behind after the crash of the Airbus. I feel even sadder that their images are being paraded around on the tube during their time of mourning.

So I turned the news off. 

I guess getting super focused on something affords me the escape I feel my brain needs. I need to better myself at removing distractions, and finding that happy place, even when I’m on the ground.

Respect.

While I’ve been trying to steer away from getting too emotional about politics lately, two recent developments in the arena have caught my attention. 

The first news item is Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server housed at her home in downstate New York during her tenure as Secretary of State. Apparently she had a server somewhere handling to @clintonemail.com domain and according to her explanation yesterday, it was because she wanted to carry only one device with her (like an iPhone or Blackberry or whatever) and she didn’t want to deal with multiple devices. She has her own server but her IT people can’t figure out how to put two email accounts on the same device, apparently. This revelation (the server, not the two accounts on the device thing) has created a media frenzy. Apparently Mrs. Clinton deleted everything she deemed personal and considers all her correspondence to @state.gov and other government addresses as the matter of record. 

OK, so there’s quite a few holes in the logic. The fact that no one brought up red flags during the time that she was using her own server is disturbing enough. Of course, many are weighing in on the matter, including Sarah Palin, who condemned the practice. Because apparently, using your own server is a no-no but using a Yahoo email address as the Governor of Alaska is, you betcha, okie-dokie.

Now see, that last sentence there makes me sound disrespectful of the Governor of Alaska, when indeed, I just don’t like Sarah Palin. In fact, I believe that whoever brought Sarah Palin into the spotlight in the first place should be tried as a terrorist. As far as the Governor of Alaska, well, I don’t know who that is right now but whomever it is probably did their best to get there and hopefully they’ll ignore precedent and stay the course until the end of their term. They are the elected leader of the people of Alaska, and I respect that. Respect is important.

The second news item that has caught my attention is the letter signed by 47 members of the GOP to the Iranian government, essentially circumventing the negotiations that President Obama is trying to, well, negotiate. This unprecedented act is completely disrespectful of the spirit of our country and the role of the President of the United States.



Look, I’m not the biggest fan of President Obama. I think he’s done an adequate job and honestly, my life as an American right now is in good shape because of the work he has done as President. I voted for him because I believe he was the best choice at the time, but I don’t think he was ever the ideal choice. I might not agree with everything President Obama does as Commander-In-Chief, but I certainly respect the position he holds. I respect the office of the President. I will voice my praise and my opposition of policy, as a U.S. Citizen I have the right to do that, but I will never go out of my way to make the office look bad. I don’t believe that anyone, especially elected officials, should be going out of their way to make our country look bad, disorganized or unresolved. I wasn’t a fan of President George W. Bush at all; I thought that he took many missteps along the way and I didn’t agree with much of his policy, but when push came to shove, he was the Commander-In-Chief and I still respected that. 

I think there’s a current of disrespect in our society these days that is damaging for the long term. I wonder if some of it stems from the outspokenness one can have on the Internet under a guise of anonymity. People think nothing of being disrespectful in comments on a political story or in the stream underneath a YouTube video. Users type without thinking; they spew their venom, completely disrespect their target and then move on. As people become more brazen on the Internet, I think this behavior starts to carry into real-life. How many videos have you seen where a customer has completely trashed a McDonalds because they couldn’t get Chicken Nuggets when they wanted them? It’s a lack of respect; respect for property, respect for people and respect for fellow human beings.

Smashing out a drive-thru window in a fit of rage is basically what happens when Congressional members write letters to Iran saying that they can easily undo anything that our Commander-In-Chief does. Why would you go out of your way to make your leader look weak? Just because you don’t like him? Well, you may not like him but you have to respect the position that he holds. You can disagree, you can voice opposition, but dont’ be disrespectful and don’t undermine him.  That’s good for no one.

I think we need to start respecting one another again. Smile at the drive thru window, don’t rage. Be kind to the person behind the airline counter, don’t have some hellacious hissy fit. Be respectful.

Inspiration.

Earl, Jamie and I spent our evening watching “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” this evening. Simply stated, the movie is about a group of British retirees who decided to outsource their retirement and relocate to India. There are several familiar faces amongst the cast, include Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and others.

baae1b7dd9ec8f5205a0de76dc10bae4

I found this movie delightful in many ways, mostly because I found the circumstances of the plot to be most inspiring. Granted, I’m more than a decade away from any sort of retirement, but the idea of relocating and immersing myself into new surroundings and a new culture is very appealing to me.

Lsat week I remarked to Earl that I was in the mood for a change of scenery, a new adventure. It’s probably residual effects from my annual bout with Cabin Fever. But seeing the characters of that movie navigate through their new surroundings made me wonder what it would be like to travel somewhere outside of our comfort zone.

Archives.

I am fascinated by the New York State Historic Newspapers archive (nyshistoricnewspapers.org). The archive has scans of numerous newspapers dating back to the early 1800s. Every issue of the two newspapers that were in my hometown, The Pulaski Democrat and The Salmon River News, are available in this archive. Full text searches are available. The interface is quite nice and easy to use.

I have been using this archive to research the airports in the area of my hometown, as well as the building of Interstate 81 and the reconstruction of many roadways in the area. For example, I always wondered why “Confusion Corners” was named as such; it turns out that the intersection of (then) US Route 104 and NY Route 104B was poorly marked, contained a lot of medians in the middle of the roadway and generally created havoc for motorists when it was opened in 1950. There were also several car related fatalities in the area. I had always thought that the roadway was built in the 1960s, but it turns out Confusion Corners was born in 1950. It had a similarly designed, but not as busy sibling at the other end of NY Route 104B, where it intersected with NY Route 3. Both of these intersections have been reconfigured to a standard intersection as of sometime in the 1990s.

After searching around about airplanes and roads, I started looking up the history of various family members over the years. I found an interesting article about my paternal grandfather’s poultry farm, which was awarded by Niagara-Mohawk (the local power company at the time) a mercury vapor light to illuminate the yard. Apparently the farm had a lot of electric equipment and the power company was quite grateful for this consumption, so they award the farm a light.

farm

A smaller farm down the street also received a light for their yard. My grandfather is quoted in the article that accompanied the photo as having a friendly competition with the other farm and that first and foremost they were neighbors and friends.

The photo and article have such a technology-progress vibe so typical of the 1950s and early 1960s to it. I get a kick from the “looking forward” ambiance of the photograph. It reminds me of another photo I found in an archive years ago, where two women, in their 1950s dresses and high heels, are standing under high tension wires in the Finger Lakes, gazing up at the towers carrying the electricity overhead.

It was such a different time back then.

NiagaraTowers1
Photo courtesy of Niagara Mohawk Corporation

Supper.

I am sitting in our local Panera enjoying a nice little supper whilst surfing the Internet on my iPad. I’ve mentioned before that this isn’t one of those nice, cuddly Panera locations with a fireplace and the like. This one is loud, crowded and has the atmosphere of a hospital cafeteria. The space is way too small for the traffic that it tries to accommodate, so they’ve expanded the store a couple of times. I’m sitting in what used to be a bathroom. The self-serve drink station is separated from the lids, napkins and lemons by a hallway. People often spill their drinks in transit.

Because of all the additions to this location, it’s getting more difficult to people watch while enjoying a meal here at this Panera. One of the reasons I mingle in public spaces is because I like to people watch. I don’t necessarily want to interact with people, but I get a kick out of watching people. It’s kind of fun to watch people eat, especially the late teens to mid twenties crowd. They rarely have panache as they like to eat with the mouth full of food. The dot com crowd has no time for table manners.

My bout with the sniffles is coming to a close on schedule. I don’t feel as nearly congested as I did yesterday. That heavy feeling is subsiding. My coughing frequency has been reduced and I’m not feeling as irritable as I did before.

The woman at the cash register, which is dubbed “Tap To Pay”, tried to grab my iPhone out of my hands so she could enter my credit card number by hand instead of letting me do the ApplePay thing. I nearly broke her hand because no one, and I mean no one, touches my iPhone without my permission and I don’t know what she thought she was going to do, because there are no numbers on the screen when it comes to ApplePay. That’s one of the many security features. The slight snag in the payment workflow turned out to be that the cashier hadn’t bothered to press “TOTAL”, which would have told the cash register to start accepting payments. I pointed this out to her and she gave me a blank stare and did some mouth breathing. I refrained from lecturing her on how ApplePay works.

Watching these young ladies talk with their mouths full, whilst they peck at their phones at the same time, makes me wonder if me and my contemporaries were that annoying when we were in high school. Perhaps I’m old and I’m starting to show my age in general old-man-like crankiness.

Eh, I’ve earned this point in my life. I enjoy what I have and what I get to do.

Fresh Air.

As I continue the battle against SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I decided that I had to go for a walk this morning during my work break.

Untitled

The weather station was showing 15ºF, so I put on my barn hoodie and then put my ski jacket on over that. I donned my trusty hat and then realized I couldn’t find my gloves, so I put my hands in my pocket and I sucked it up and went for the walk.

I took my normal springtime walk route, which is a little over a mile. I passed by the open meadows that I really love in the springtime and visualized what they would look like three months from now. I wondered what happened to the birds that always go on guard when I walk through there. I hope they are enjoying their vacation somewhere where it is warmer.

The walk improved my mood. Walking outside versus walking on a treadmill and watching television or listening to music makes a world of difference. My mind can’t relax and reset with multimedia artificial input. Sometimes I need to put down the electronic gadgets and just enjoy the moment outside, no matter what Mother Nature is bringing to the area at the moment.

I think I shall do the same again this afternoon.

Rut.

I’ve been finding myself in a bit of a rut for the past couple of weeks. Getting out of bed in the morning takes more effort than usual. It’s taking me a while to find the motivation to get through the workday. The only thing that really perks me up is seeing my name on the club airplane reservation list and looking forward to the opportunity to fly.
 
 I think it’s the January blahs. I’m reminded of a comment my teacher made in my fifth grade report card, where she said I suffered from the holiday slump. I guess today we call it SAD or Seasonal Affectation Disorder.
 
 Every year I try new things to not feel the seasonal blahs. This year I’ve installed several natural daylight LED bulbs, especially in my office. I have focused on sitting in the sun when it’s available. If the weather is cooperative, I bundle up, brave the reckless drivers on our road and go for a walk, even if my breath does freeze to my face. I do everything I can to drink in whatever natural light I can to feel energized.
 
 I still feel blah.
 
 Luckily, the days are starting to get longer and there’s less than one week left in January. Getting beyond January is a hurdle and once we are in February, spring feels like it’s attainable again. This helps a bit.
 
 To try to cheer myself up this afternoon, I dialed up one of Donna Summer’s last singles. From 2008, it’s “Stamp Your Feet”. Great track, especially if you pay attention to the lyrics.