Senseless.

Every time I see the photos of the nine people murdered in South Carolina I feel a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. When I saw the expressionless face of the young man who fired the shots, I get angry. My naive mind can not comprehend the thought processes involved in making the willful decisions to commit such a heinous act. I just can’t understand it.

When I first heard the voices of family members of the victims telling the accused that they forgive him, I cried, right there in front of the television set.

None of this makes sense to me. The fact that there are Confederate flags flying over government buildings in South Carolina pisses me off. I’d like to think that there will be change in our country, but my gut tells me there won’t be. 

It’s time for change. We need to be a citizenry of good people. We need to be good to one another. I know that I will be more vocal if people make insensitive remarks or jokes based on the differences in another. It’s a small thing, but maybe a million small things can help a big thing.

Rest in peace, innocent people. 

  

DCA National Airport. 

I’m at DCA in Washington, D.C. on my way to Greenville, S.C. for my first day at my new job. This is my first time flying through this airport.  The approach was quite nifty; I’m surprised the FAA allows low approaches that pass so close to government buildings.  The low turn from base to final reminded me of the sight picture when flying the Cherokee. 

I am passing from gate 31 to gate 43. They are nowhere near each other but rather in separate terminals. At every other airport I’ve ever been to, it’s a matter of walking a bit to get to your next gate. I always shun the shuttles because I’m trying to be a healthy American and all that.

At DCA you need to pass through security again to go to another terminal. Because I’m getting more cantankerous in my Middle Age, this irked me a bit. I tolerate the security theatre when getting on a commercial flight, it keeps the sheep feeling safe and employees thousands of people, so it isn’t all bad, but I do not enjoy having to stand in line, disrobe, decloak, show my documents and then get dowsed with radiation again just to pass between gates. 

This whole farce had been around for over a decade; one would think that the TSA would figure out something better for this airport.  Like Kansas City’s security setup farce, this is a fail in my book.

Commuted.

 

 Many were surprised when I arrived at the office today. I knew that it was going to be a snowy day, being a pilot at all I tend to be hypersensitive about the weather forecast, and it’s snowy days like today that put me in the mood for a challenge. While folks are standing in line at the local supermarket, ready to hoard bread and milk like they’re stockpiling for an invasion of lactose and gluten free aliens, I confidently drive the roads of Upstate New York, knowing my vehicle, the realistic capabilities of four-wheel drive and my personal limits when it comes to driving said Jeep.
 
 Folks on the Thruway were maddening during the commute this morning; out of state drivers and downstaters tend to drive faster than conditions really warrant. I’m not surprised when I see a car off in the ditch. If there’s no sign of motion around the vehicle sitting in a snowbank, I’ll stop and make sure the driver is alright. I haven’t been shot yet. There were a couple of cars off the road along the commute, which I find odd because the Thruway is clearly (pun intended) the best maintained road in the state. If you can’t drive on the Thruway in this weather, you’re definitely not going to be able to travel on the side roads on the state-maintained Interstates.
 
 I’ve never understood why out-of-staters would want to visit this area in the middle of January, anyway. Are they going snowmobiling in their stylish North Face jacket or something? I doubt that they are, but then again, I don’t really mind this weather even though I bitch about it a lot and I don’t have a North Face jacket. This year’s winter jacket of choice has been a barn hoodie underneath my old and worn Carhartt jacket. I love my Carhartt. It’s something I earned, being a boy from these parts.
 
 It’s suppose to turn wicked cold this evening, with temperatures falling nearly 40 degrees to around 10 below zero. That’s when I’ll want to stay home because I don’t really mind playing in the snow but I don’t like playing in the freezing cold. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take freezing cold over sweltering hot, at least one can bundle up to warm up, but that doesn’t make the wicked cold that much more appealing to me.
 
 
 
 

Cinematic Frustration.

Going to the movies is a consistent source of frustration for me. Because I can be somewhat judgmental at times, I believe that adults should conduct themselves in a certain socially acceptable manner whilst taking part in a cinematic experience. As expected, no less than four people continued to use their phones throughout the entire showing of “Into The Woods” this evening, including a pair of women that I dubbed “Aqua Net and The Frizz” who were sitting directly in front of me. The Frizz had her text size cranked up to the largest setting possible on an iPhone 5s. The words “Hello there” took up two lines in iMessage. The woman to her right, a young woman with a strapping young man accompanying her, exchanged messages with a man named Justin. They were having a conversation regarding the New Year’s Eve party they apparently both attended. The young woman doesn’t remember much.

Our local cinema, which shall remain nameless because I don’t want to give them advertising, but they are chain with just one location in New York State, has been around for about 15 years. They no longer use the preview screen in the lobby area because the workers find it too loud. Tonight the popcorn machine was broken, which resulted in reduced popcorn output.

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One will note that it takes three people having a good time to make one batch of popcorn per 30 minute cycle.

The only reason I still bear the cinematic experience in general is because I enjoy a nice bag of movie theatre popcorn, but we weren’t about to wait 30 minutes for a bag of popcorn so I settled for M&Ms. It wasn’t the same.

The movie was enjoyable. That was the bright spot of the evening.

Odd.

Earl asked me to pick him up a quick supper as I was heading home from a pilot’s club meeting tonight. I stopped in at the drive thru. There were a couple of cars ahead of me, one at the pick up window and another at the speaker where you order. I put my window down because I figured the person in front of me knew how an ordering window worked and I would be up to place my order momentarily.

This is where it gets a little odd.

Even in the darkness of night I could see that there were three people on the car ahead of me. The driver was yelling into the speaker with what I assumed to be her natural voice, which was really shrieky, kind of like a mix of Fran Drescher and Rosie Perez over the racket made by your standard vacuum cleaner while it was running and someone was scraping the handheld vacuum wand across a chalkboard while alley cats yowled in heat at a nearby corner.

She was asking for separate checks for each person in the drive thru. Basically, she was placing three separate orders and the attendant was getting them all confused.

The hassle continued for 126 seconds. Then the shrieky woman went in another direction with the dialog, asking for assurances that she would have fresh fries, pickles on two of the three burgers, etc.

I jumped out of line, parked the a Jeep and went inside. I placed my order at the counter, paid and got everything to go in your standard amount of fast food time. I was headed back to the Jeep when I noticed that the same car had progressed from the speaker to the window but no farther. There was shrieking in progress. A line of vehicles has stacked up behind the car. I waved to no one in particular.

Who in their right mind creates such havoc at a drive thru window? It has never even crossed my mind to place separate orders under those circumstances, let alone place special orders.

Some people need to get out and walk.

Sync’d.

So, here in New York State we are back on Standard Time. At 2:00 a.m. this morning, Daylight Saving Time came to an end for the season and for approximately the next four months, the clocks will match what the sun is doing in that noon will be approximately when the sun is at the highest point in the sky for the day.

That’s the way it’s suppose to be.

I have wretched about Daylight Saving Time every year since the birth of this blog back in 2001. With the Energy Something Act of 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended by three weeks, all in the name of “saving daylight” and “saving energy”. I really don’t know anyone that enjoys whipping the clocks around but in the circles I hang in I tend to be the most vocal about it.

No one really knows why we change the clocks twice a year but we still do it, much like the stoning of that pleasant woman in the short story, “The Lottery”. Something about the corn is high when the stones are thrown or something like that.

I’m just happy that things are back the way they should be for the next four months. I feel awake, I feel alive and I feel quite happy.

Seasonal.

On the drive to work this morning I heard a mention on the radio of the fact that the “holiday season” is getting ready to be in full swing next week. Retailers are very excited because there’s 4% more disposable income this year versus last year. Consumers are ready to spend, spend, spend all in the name of myrrh.

Since when does the holiday season start October 1? If I start hearing “Jingle Bells” or, even more horrifying, “My Favorite Things”, on tinny little PA speakers next week, I am going to be very, very hostile in any given retail environment.

I’m actually a little surprised that folks are thinking about the holiday season already, what with Halloween a little over a month away. Three abandoned stores within a five mile radius of our house have been converted to Halloween warehouses. These establishments have names like “Spirit of Halloween”, “Halloween City” and “Boo, You and A Buck”.

One of the stores have moved into an abandoned Circuit City, which is slated to become a Buffalo Wild Wings, but we have to wait until the Halloween store pilfers way too much money from the sheep before we can get Buffalo Wild Wings. Like an early Christmas, this makes me hostile.

Personally I think Halloween has become completely out of control. People spend hundreds of dollars decorating their house for the holiday. Ridiculously sized gatherings are assembled where people can run around in store-bought costumes and create chaos. Retailers are clamping down on the sale of shaving cream, requiring a license and a credit card dragged across your cheek to prove that you need the stuff. Pumpkins are being hurled from Thruway overpasses and honestly, people are now using Halloween as an excuse to lose their mind before going completely nuts for the holiday season in general.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy Halloween; quite the contrary, I relish the pass I get that for one day I get to go out in some outrageous getup, act all weird and claim that it’s all in the name of Halloween. I mean, when else could a 46 year old man go walking around the mall in a superhero costume? But the mass commercialism and intensity in which people wildly spend money for this holiday is getting a bit out of control. Gone are the days when someone tossed a Tootsie Roll and maybe a pack of Sweet Tarts in your decorated shopping bag. Children have $100 costumes, designer bags and a plan. Throw less than $10 worth of candy into that bag and you’re in big trouble. You’ve let down the Halloween gods.

Earl and I are quite lucky; we have had only one trick-or-treater come to our house in the 18 years that we have been married, and that was the kid of one of Earl’s employees who was afraid he’d be fired if he didn’t cozy up to the boss. Earl and I celebrate the most reasonable way we know how; we turn off the porch lights, lock down the house, throw on some ridiculous clothes and go out for dinner. We then circle around the house and see if there’s any hint of activity in our neighborhood. When we determine it’s all clear, we sneak in the back door and make ourselves at home. We then promptly eat the candy we knew we’d never give out.

That’s the way Halloween should be celebrated. It’s a shame that we can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night, what with “Boo You and a Buck” taking up the store front and all.

Foursquare Four Squares Back.

One of the cool things about being active in the various social media platforms is that one is usually able to go back and see what they’ve done over the years. I often use this blog as a memory repository of sorts; just yesterday I asked Earl if he remembered an event that we had enjoyed together back in 2008. When I mentioned this his face lit up with the recollection of the memory, as if he hadn’t thought about that happy occasion since. It was a moment of joy.

One of the social media platforms that I have been very involved with since nearly it’s beginning is Foursquare. If you’re unfamiliar with the app/network, up until recently Foursquare allowed you to check in at a location, for example, “I’m at Dunkin’ Donuts at 123 Main Street in Anytown, USA”. You would see whom from Foursquare was also currently at the location and you could read tips and such from other users that had checked in at the same location. I was big on leaving tips and suggestions for others. If you were a frequent visitor of a location, you became “Mayor”. Some establishments would give you a little goody or discount for being the mayor. It was a loyal customer perk.

Foursquare recently announced that they were going to take the country into a new, exciting direction and focus more on location discovery. Check ins would still be part of the experience, but the whole check in process would be moved to a new app called “Swarm”. Swarm allowed you to check in and it would allow you the opportunity to see whom was at the same location, but only if that person was on your friends list. There’s no longer an opportunity to meet strangers or vie for the title of mayor with a person you don’t know. The whole mayor thing was put on hold, instead you earn stickers.

When you check into a location on Swarm and you decide to leave a tip, you get moved over to the “new and improved” Foursquare, which gives you the details of the location and the opportunity to leave a suggestion. The experience of having to move between two applications, especially when everything used to be a cohesive experience, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s clunky, it’s slow and more importantly, two apps take twice as much room on your iPhone and they seem to drain your battery faster. (Location monitoring is now done by two applications instead of one).

Users have been complaining about it like crazy on Facebook and Twitter, but Foursquare has been nearly silent on the issue. The CEO, Dennis Crowley, simply tweeted that “change is hard”, which pretty much meant that users are SOL. The user experience and input, which has been an integral part of the crowd sourcing and data mining that powers Foursquare in the first place, has been pushed aside because the company “knows better”. The fact that both applications are now averaging a satisfaction rating of 1 out of 5 stars on both the iOS App Store and Google Play apparently means little to Foursquare, they know best.

Now, it’s stuff like this that makes me absolutely insane. As a fairly rational human being, this stuff shouldn’t bother me at all; I simply delete both apps and wipe my hands clean of this social network. That has been my intent and that’s what I did. The issue is, I used to get a kick out of seeing when the last time I had been to, say, Culver’s in Michigan City, Indiana. It would spark a conversation with Earl about the last time we had been there. I liked trying to spot the mayor at Pat’s Steaks in Philly. I didn’t have the nerve to say anything to him, but seeing him there was kind of cool.

I know I’m not alone in this assessment of the “new” Foursquare. There’s been plenty of complaints on Twitter and the like. The one thing that I wonder about is why Foursquare decided to shun the input of their users and go forward with some nebulous vision that few seem to have a handle on.

Granted, there are plenty of bigger issues in the world today, but it’s kind of weird to see a company commit what appears to be commercial suicide. I had higher hopes for the 21st century.

News.

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.

That Was Easy?

I am just back from Staples, where I picked up some shipping supplies. It was your standard trip to Staples, the store that touts itself with the slogan “That Was Easy”.

It is 2014. Technology is bounding ahead in enormous leaps. Everything is connected to everything else and everyone wants to know your business. Like every other retailer in the U.S., Staples wants you to be part of their rewards program so they track your spending habits and give you a carrot once in a while for buying three tons of paper clips.

When it was my turn at the checkout I was asked the question, “Are you a rewards club member?”. I can never remember if I am or not, because after all, Staples wants you to carry a card and quite frankly I’m not that invested in the program. But then some sort of ding happened in my head and I decided to rejoin the rewards program. Maybe I can use a carrot after all.

“I’m not a member, but I’ll sign up.”

The cashier pulled out a pamphlet the resembled something you fill out to sign up for a credit card, pulled off a flimsy piece of paper that was glued to the pamphlet and scanned the number.

“If you could please take a moment to fill this form out, I’ll enter it into the system and you’ll be all set.”

This is where I took pause. There was a considerable line of people behind me. After all, it’s 2014 and retailers are cutting back wherever possible. Theoretically they could probably save a chunk of change by not buying expensive point of sale computer systems that they are never going to use, but I digress. One checkout, long line.

The cashier started fumbling around for a pen. Or a pencil. Or a crayon. He couldn’t find a pen but if I’d wait for a few moments he could probably grab one off the display, because after all, I am at Staples. That Was Easy.

“Can I just register online later?”, I ask.

“No, we have to enter the information into the system”, was his response.

It’s 2014. This should be simple. There shouldn’t even be a card. Sign up online, get an app for your iPhone or Android device and they scan it. It works for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and lots and lots of other retailers. But Staples, where they say “That Was Easy”, can’t get with the program. They’re still thinking along old-school lines, where customers like paper-based engagement and carrying lots of cards that feel like coupons.

“That Was Easy” couldn’t be further from the truth.

I finally convinced the cashier that I would take the paper home, complete the exam at my leisure and bring it back when I ship the items that I was buying the shipping supplies for. He approved my taking the exam out of the store.

It’s sitting here on the dining room table. It’ll probably be burned for warmth.

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