Grid.

From time to time I look up some of my history on my blog. This usually leads me to spending some time reading old blog entries, giving me a snapshot of my feelings, thoughts and such for a particular time frame in my life. I’ve treated this blog as an online diary and it’s served me well in that purpose. I like the idea of slowing life down enough to take the time to write more than a quick and witty blurb for posting on a social media site; I’ve never cared about the numbers of views or the number of comments I’ve received here. I do enjoy comments and trading thoughts back and forth with those that choose to read what I have written. There’s never anything wrong with a well-intended debate.

One of the things that strikes me when I read the older blog entries is the degradation of what I call my “quality of personal expression” after I joined Twitter. I still had a flip phone when I joined Twitter and I used to text my updates through a text message. Banging out 140 characters back then was a bit of a chore but I circumvented the problem by keeping that first tweet simple. On 9/24/2007 at 11:09 PM I simply tweeted, “Sleeping”. My evolution(?) from a flip phone to an iPhone improved my tweeting habits. Nowadays I share quick spurts of dialog with others by banging out an abbreviated retort or other piece of frivolity with others without giving it a second thought. This, in turn, has made me more outspoken. And that’s not always an entirely good thing.

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one”, as the saying goes, and sometimes the expression of our opinion turns us into an asshole. I was recently visiting friends down south and as I look back at it, I think I might have been a little more mouthy than usual when it came to discussing politics, the economy and whether or not I, as a gay man, should be eating at Chick-Fil-A. Looking back on the weekend I decided that while I am very firm in my beliefs and I am willing to enjoy a lively debate on a given subject, there’s a certain amount of couth that one can lose when they are expressing themselves, especially when they’re used to belching out their beliefs in 140 characters or less. Sharing my life on social media such as Twitter, and living behind a Twitter handle without the burden of being face to face with whom you are debating, has resulted in me losing a bit of the sophistication that I never really grew up with but that which I long to have as part of my personality.

Perhaps living your life on social media is not as grand as the social media companies would want you to believe it to be. The key to being part of the grid is to find balance in it all. Putting the phone during dinner. Shaking a celebrity’s hand instead of trying to get a selfie. Enjoying a beautiful sunrise without posting a photo of it on Instagram. Enjoy the gift, skill and thrill of flight in an airplane without barraging your Facebook feed with posts about every nuance of the flight.

Lately I’ve been drawn to social media services that are a little more robust in their content. I’m starting to read more and getting away from the “scan for pictures” services. I’m liking Medium and I’m still using RSS feeds to aggregate content from various blogs and such. And as much as I try to step away from the service, I still enjoy Google+ much more than Facebook. With a properly curated contributor’s list on your Google+ feed, the service is wonderful. It’s a shame that it hasn’t caught on more.

The most important thing that I am realizing in 2016 is that while technology is an awesome tool, it’s not the be-all end-all for everything in the 21st century. Perhaps I’m getting a little wiser as I grow older but sometimes I just need to sit down, turn off the bits and bytes and enjoy the moment. And when I am online, I need to find robust, engaging content that feeds me instead of draining me.

I want to be a novel in this tabloid world.

Adele.

I’m not a fan of Adele’s music. I’ve been rather vocal about this (shocker), but honestly, I think part of it stems from the fact that I used to work across the cubicle hallway from a woman that played “Rolling In The Deep” incessantly for two years. She would weep. I didn’t know why and honestly I never asked because I found the whole thing unnerving.

That being said, whenever I see Adele in an interview or doing some other talk show type thing, she seems to be very down-to-Earth and a genuinely nice person. Over the weekend, I saw her “Carpool Karaoke” segment with talk show host James Cordon (didn’t know he existed until this weekend) and Adele again seemed incredibly down-to-Earth and just so damn friendly. For some reason I enjoy the way she waves her hands and such when she’s singing. She believes what she’s doing and she’s incredibly good at doing it.

And that’s what’s important.

DL 1987.

I am aboard Delta flight 1987 from Syracuse to Atlanta on my way to North Carolina. I am visiting friends in the Raleigh-Durham area this weekend; it’s our annual holiday gathering. 

I’m in seat 3D aboard this MD-88. The mood in the cabin is jovial. As the airplane was loading at Syracuse I noted that no one was wearing sweat pants this evening. The flight is not quite full. I was originally scheduled to fly from Syracuse to JFK and then to Raleigh-Durham, but that flight was delayed and I wouldn’t have made my layover, so I rescheduled with some assistance from the Delta app and then speaking with Todd at Delta Customer Service.

Delta Customer Service always impresses me. It’s a nice change of pace in today’s world.

I can see the very last remnants of the sunset off on the horizon from 35,000 feet. That’s just one of the many awesome things about flying. I always feel bad for folks that don’t feel the thrill for flight the way I do. I can understand being a nervous passenger and the like, some people are just not wired to soar above the earth, but I learned the joys of flight at a very young age and I am a better man for it.  Ten years ago or so I would get nervous on airline flights for the simple reason that I didn’t know the pilot. As a kid I always knew the pilot, it was either my father, my grandfather or a friend of the family. Flying on an airline back then felt weird because I couldn’t observe was the pilot was doing, and that made me hesitant about flying the airlines. I have never, ever been nervous in a single engine airplane, even that summer afternoon in 1985 when the engine in my Dad’s 1940 Piper J-5A suddenly stopped while we were on downwind to land and my dad had to do a dead-stick landing. We pushed the airplane from where we stopped on the runway to the hangar. My dad’s reaction to the event was simple. He said “huh”.  We were back in the air the following weekend. 

I’ve practiced many dead stick landings in the Cherokee. I did several as a student and I’ve practiced them from time to time as a licensed pilot. It’s good to keep one’s skills sharp. I figure that airline pilots have to do the same thing, though they probably don’t dead stick a real, live MD88 very often. That’s what simulators are for.

I look out into the dark sky as we skirt the tops of the haze. It is so awesome. If I was 10 years younger I would definitely be changing my career to become a professional pilot. My plan is to become an instructor so that I have something to do when I retire. I love the idea of sharing my joy of aviation.

There are some bumps here and there on this flight, just enough to keep things interesting. I know some folks think airliners bounce all over the sky in turbulence but it’s rare for the airplane to move more than a few feet in the sky at the very, very most. Airplanes are built to withstand much more than they’re ever subjected to. 

Just sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Kick.

In my never-ending quest to be a super smart superhero, or at the very least be as healthy as I can be, I am trying a supplement called CILTEP. A Nootropic, CILTEP is an all natural “smart drug” that should improve focus, long term memory and motivation. It’s goal is to help one reach Optimal Mental Performance.

I tried it for the first time yesterday. tl;dr It really helped me find my “zone” while working yesterday.

I didn’t feel any sort of caffeine rush, the colors around me didn’t get more vivid (like in the television show “Limitless”), but my mind was clearer than it had been in a long while. The noise that my brain usually goes on with was kept at bay. I was able to concentrate and honestly, I wrote some amazing code yesterday. I didn’t feel like I was on a drug or stimulant, I just felt centered and motivated. Interestingly, my tendency to stammer a bit was significantly reduced. I didn’t expect feeling that articulate.

I had a check-up with my primary physician today so I opted to not take another round of CILTEP this morning. The visit with my doctor was to address my high blood pressure which is controlled by medication. I monitor my blood pressure here at home on a routine basis and I did not see any increase in blood pressure yesterday as a result of taking CILTEP, so that was good, but I didn’t want to mess around with being a science experience during this routine checkup. I did tell him about CILTEP and he didn’t seem too worried about it, but my blood pressure still wasn’t where he wanted it to be. While much lower than it was a month ago, he deemed it to be too high and he increased the dosage of my blood pressure medication. I went with the increased dosage this morning and I’m not noticing any weird side effects, just a very slight headache, which could be expected. I’ll probably hold off on trying CILTEP for a day or two so I can identify if I’m suffering from any side effects from the BP med.

All in all, from what I can discern from one experience with this Nootropic, I think CILTEP gave me the kick for motivation and focus that I was looking for. I hold hope of becoming that super smart superhero.

Dialects. 

Every year we get warm tidings from my inlaws. The card or text or email or whatever will say something like “We hope youses have a wonderful Christmas”. Not only is the sentiment much appreciated and well received, I am also fascinated by the pluralization of a word that is not part of my regular vocabulary, and that’s “youse”, Philly speak for “you guys” or “y’all”. 

When I was first acquainted with my in laws, it was pointed out that I have a very distinct accent that places me well above the New York City limits. The similar sounding words in the sentence “Mary was merry when she got married” all sound the same. Mary, Merry and marry are all the same word as far as I’m concerned. Apparently my face is very wide when I say “dollar” or “collar”. “Wallet” sounds similar to “dollar” not “wall”.  A big wide “ah”. 

Having grown up right on the soda/pop line, as I kid I would hear both, especially if we were getting a treat at Westons Department Store, in Oswego (20 miles to the west) the cashier rang up a “pop”, but in Watertown (30 miles to the north), the cashier rang up a “soda”. Living in the Southwestern corner of the state for several years solidified “pop” in my vocabulary and I never bothered to change it. When I was in California a couple of years ago I asked for a diet pop and there was much discussion amongst the counter staff at Chipotle about what I had just said.  They were amused as they sipped their Evian. 

I lived in the greater Boston area for a few years in the late 1980s but I don’t think it affected my accent all that much.  Earl and I were in New England a few years ago and I was talking with some of the natives. I mentioned that at one time I lived right outside of Worcester, which I pronounced “Wooh-steh” like a native and it caused Earl to give me a second glance. The only holdover I really have is the use of “wicked” for emphasis, but that was common where I grew up as well.  “He was wicked angry about the toll about the Thruway”. Just this week at work I said, “she’s wicked smart”. My manager, originally from Maine, agreed that the woman we were referring to was wicked smart. 

Working with folks based in South Carolina finds its share of “y’all”s but I try not to use that phrase because I think I sound like an ignorant Yankee when it comes out of my mouth. It’s easy to pick up, though. We don’t really have a second person “you” word up here in Central New York unless it’s “you guys”. It perfectly normal to hear “what are you guys doing tonight?”  As I’m typing this I’m saying that sentence out loud with different dialects and “you guys” and the Pittsburghese “yunz” feel the most natural to me, though the Philly “youse” feels quite natural to me as well.  “Y’all” brings up the ignorant Yankee bit. I think some “yunz” might have snuck into Southwestern New York, or at least people I knew, maybe because I used to DJ in the thriving metropolis of Erie, Pa.  And by the way, we never went to Erie, we always went to Erie P-A. 

I find the varying dialects and such in the Northeast and Midwest to be quite fascinating. New York (City) and Philadelphia are just a couple of hours apart but the accents are nowhere close to each other.  Boston is in a league of its own (“use yah blinkah”). And Pittsburgh has its own Pittsburghese, which I’m trying to figure out how it influenced my speech patterns because I say “let it alone” instead of “leave it alone”.  I’ve never lived in Pittsburgh. My friend Matt in Williamsport says “slippy”. When asked by Earl how many beers I had after flying with other pilots, I usually say, “I don’t know, two, tree”.  The “tree” is not a drunken slur.

The one term I have always said that catches people off (though I don’t know why) is when you’re at the office gossiping around “the water bubbler”. I was 19 when I first started working in a corporate environment and I remember a glance or two when I asked where the water bubbler was. 

I was thirsty.

LED.

I am making an effort to convert our standard household lighting over to LED bulbs. I can’t stand CFLs, or Compact Fluorescent Lights, because they give off a weird color light, they often need to “warm up” and they can flicker when they’re turned on. This is especially startling when you’re trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you find yourself with a rapidly blinking light breaking the darkness. LEDs are better behaved in this regard. However, if you’ve browsed Lowe’s or The Home Depot lately, you’ll see what LEDs are quite expensive.

Hence, my “effort” to slowly convert to LED lighting.

Like their CFL counterparts, the color (or temperature) of LED lighting can be a little wonky. LEDs tend to be a little more cooler, or blue, in their light, which can be especially harsh in the home environment. Manufacturers are getting better at providing bulbs with a warmer glow but we’re not quite there yet when compared to incandescent lamps or even sunlight.

A couple bulbs in different ceiling fans throughout the house blew out, so I decided to convert one ceiling fan lamp to LEDs and move the working incandescent bulbs to the other ceiling fans. The new LEDs would be in the kitchen over the kitchen table.

The chosen LEDs were marketed as “warm white” and dimmable. The dimming ability was important because the lamp in question has a two-stage switch: low and high. I installed the new bulbs and flipped the switch to the first setting.

No dice.

I flipped the switch to full power and after a fraction of a second the lights came on. I’d love to say that I heard a shriek as Earl and Jamie ran for cover or at the very least in search of a strong pair of sunglasses, but that would just be dramatic. But it would not be inappropriate.

The “warm white” glow I was expecting from these frosted LED bulbs turned out to be a very harsh white and very, very bright. The lamps were suppose to approximate at 60 watt bulb, but it felt like we were standing in the middle of a baseball stadium. No peanuts, no popcorn, no seventh inning stretch, just very white, harsh, bright lighting flooding our kitchen table.

We ate one meal under the new bulbs. Jamie asked for sunscreen. Earl’s photogray glasses darkened. I think I sunburned.

I rearranged the bulbs and moved the incandescents back to the kitchen and the new LEDs into the spare bedroom. The white light will accent the white walls quite nicely. I would really hate to see what the “cool white” light bulbs put out.

I don’t think my Irish skin can handle it.

2016.

It’s a new year and to celebrate, I am getting my yearly cold out of the way by getting it over with right at the beginning of the year. I woke up with the sniffles yesterday morning, but I wasn’t really feeling sluggish until later last night. This morning I woke up with the cold at full tilt; I slept for about 14 hours and haven’t done much throughout the day today. I’m not really complaining as the downtime is just what the doctor ordered.

Earl and I watched quite a bit of television today; we’ve been catching up on the first season of “Mom” via AppleTV. It’s a fun show to watch. This evening we watched “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”. With the advancements in entertainment technology there’s really no reason to go to a movie theater to deal with the buffoonery found amongst the audience in your typical American cineplex. Maybe I’m getting old and cranky.

I don’t really have any resolutions to share for 2016. I have a few goals that I have set: become an instrument rated pilot, lose a few pounds, ride at least 100+ mile bike rides during the warmer weather. The goals will never be reached without milestones, so I have set up some milestones to hit and I feel comfortable that I will do just that.

I’ve been reading up on my family’s genealogy a little bit over the past couple of days. I think one can build a better future if they know the past. I’m definitely a mutt pedigree. It explains a lot of things.

Early Geek.

dts-400
Data Terminal Systems Model 440 cash register

Last night I dreamed about working in a grocery store. In my dream I was my current age, with all the knowledge and such (the such including my Dad-bod) associated with being a middle-aged man but I was working in the Acme grocery store in my hometown. The Acme went out of business in the early 1980s but the building was quickly used as a Super Duper and later a “Big M”. The later incarnations were locally owned supermarkets.

I never worked for any grocery store in my life, though my sister worked at the “Big M” when she was a senior in high school, so I don’t know why I was dreaming about this experience but nonetheless there I was, stocking shelves, pricing items and running the cash register. I was happy, I had few cares and life felt good. Perhaps this was a way for my brain to destress. Maybe I was dreaming about grocery shopping for holiday meals.

The geek in me vividly remembers the part of the dream of me working the cash register; there was no scanning or anything but the cash register was electronic. Upon waking I could still hear the very familiar sound of the printer and I remembered how the cash register worked, since I studied these things as a young lad. I’ve mentioned before that my interest in electronic calculators and cash registers led me into my very strong interest and associated career in computer related fields. The cash register was a Data Terminal Systems Model 440, a very popular cash register found in many, many stores and other retail outlets in the mid 1970s to early 1990s. When I worked for ARC in the early 1990s, the nearby Great American grocery store still used these cash registers, but the dream definitely didn’t take place at Great American. I was definitely at the Acme.

Even though one can find just about anything on the Internet, I can’t find much in the way of Data Terminal Systems, a company that was based in Maynard, Massachusetts. This is kind of odd to me because their systems were everywhere in the 70s and 80s but one doesn’t even find systems on eBay or anything. There must be landfills loaded with these things and that’s a shame. I know that DTS was eventually sold off to National Semiconductor. I did some very brief contractor work for National Semiconductor in 1990 before moving on to my next challenge in life.

I still can’t figure out the purpose of the dream other than apparently enjoying a simpler existence, but the geek in me has enjoyed musing about the DTS cash register system this morning.

I guess I’m first and foremost a geek.

Roundabouts.

rab-guide-oblique01

Photo courtesy of NYSDOT

Last night Earl and I were driving through town when we came to a roundabout. Because I was entering the roundabout, I yielded at the YIELD sign and looked to my left to see if there was traffic coming.

It was then that I observed a woman driving a beat up minivan entering the roundabout at the next leg to my left. She ignored all signs, all traffic in the roundabout, stepped on the gas and drove through the intersection as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, her behavior is quite common.

Many people in this area see roundabouts as scary, dangerous, incomprehensible and most importantly, un-American since they have lots of them in Europe. Because of their ties to socialism, folks ignore all traffic signs and just barrel through the roundabouts as quickly as possible, paying no heed to what’s happening with traffic at the moment. Perhaps it’s that sense of American Entitlement that gives folks “permission” to do what the hell they want at intersections with a roundabout.

As an almost Civil Engineer, I can tell you that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians and cyclists, safer for motorists (when the roundabout is used properly), safer for homes and businesses around a roundabout and better for the environment. Roundabouts keep traffic moving slowly. That’s what they’re designed to do: slow you down and allow you to navigate the intersection without having to stop (unless there’s a pedestrian crossing or conflicting traffic).

They’re brilliant!

So let’s review how a roundabout works:

1. In the United States, roundabout traffic travels counterclockwise. So, if you want to turn left at the intersection, you go around 270 degrees and exit right to make your left hand turn.

2. Traffic inside the roundabout always has the right of way. There’s no “hierarchy” of streets. No vehicle is more important than another. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your vehicle, how big your vehicle is or how big your balls are, if you are entering the roundabout, you yield to traffic already in the roundabout (approaching from your left). Bicycles are included as a vehicle.

3. Bicycles should not be using the crosswalks or the sidewalks at a roundabout. Bicycles should travel just like any other vehicle in a roundabout. Since roundabout design speeds are around 15 MPH, a bicycle should be able to flow just like other traffic in the roundabout. And here’s a quick pro tip: bicycles should never be using sidewalks or crosswalks to begin with. Bicycles are vehicles and should be on the same side of the road as other vehicles and cyclists should be using hand signals to indicate their intentions.

4. When you are exiting a roundabout, use your turn signal to indicate that you’re turning out of the roundabout. This let’s those yielding to you know what you are doing.

5. Roundabouts are not the same as the big traffic circles and rotaries built in the 50s and 60s. They were designed for higher speed traffic. Today’s modern roundabouts are well marked and designed for speed limits around 15 MPH. You shouldn’t whip around one as quickly as possible.

Roundabouts are not hard to navigate if you have common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is a rarity these days and some motorists can’t think on their own. Bring along your common sense and everything will be fine.