Escape. 

There’s too much bad news on the Internet today. I wish I had the time to go for a flight during my lunch hour but that would irresponsible. Instead, I’m watching a boat go through Lock 20 on the Erie Canal. 

I enjoy our local park. 

   
   

Lines.

Now before I start this rant, I will say that I realize that today’s American society is driven by fear and chaos. People get some sort of thrill by disorganization and living on the edge of some sort of Armageddon. Citizens are ready for that moment when zombies jump up out of a manhole. That would lead to chaos and chaos gives one an adrenaline jump, or something like that.

Why, in the name of all that is holy, is it now no longer socially acceptable to park between two lines in a parking lot? (If you’re following along from the EU, I’m talking about a Car Park, which sounds better than Parking Lot, especially when you say Parking Lot in the very flat, nasally midwestern accent prevalent in this area).

Back in my day (because I’m old), you might find some bonehead defying the directional arrows painted on the pavement in a parking lot once in a while but rarely did you find a car parked outside of the lines. Reagrdless of how they got there, cars would be lined up relatively neatly. It was orderly. It allowed the parking lot to be used to its fullest potential, as one car per space equaled the ability to park to maximum capacity.

Today, it’s become too common to see a vehicle haphazardly thrown into a space in parking lot. Forget following the painted directional arrows on the pavement, they’re completely ignored. But my god, in any given parking lot in this neck of the woods you’ll probably see 20 to 30 percent of the vehicles just left anywhere. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one is completely damned.

I just parked next to a vehicle that was not between the lines painted on the pavement. I chose to keep the Jeep in between the lines that delineated a space, this resulted in my Jeep being so close to the vehicle next to the passenger side that there was absolutely no possible way for the driver to get into her BMW. If she wanted to enter her car before I left, she’d have to crawl in through the passenger’s side and thread herself over the Corinthian Leather.

Am I dick? I don’t think I am. Well, I am, but it made my point because when I came out of Dunkin’ Donuts, she was assessing the situation.  She glared at me but didn’t say a word when I walked up to the Jeep.  

“I parked between the lines”, I said.

She started to say something but I just got into the Jeep, having the ability to easily swing my door open even though there was a car next to me, I started up and backed out.  I waved in her direction as a left.

She flipped me off.

She’s a dick too.

Here’s the thing. If you can’t park between the lines marking out a space in a parking lot, you’re a self entitled ass that probably has very little in the way of a positive contribution to give to the world. You’re most likely married to a jerk that is cheating on you and it’d be a safe wager that your kids are probably hellions that are going to grow up to be self-entitled, whiny babies that will do drugs at age 10 and join a terrorist organization because they have no coping kills nor any amount of common sense.

Don’t mess with me. I will share license plate numbers from now on.

Ads.

As I get older and probably more crotchety, I’m finding that I have a very low tolerance for advertising in general on the Internet. In a way, isn’t it ironic, don’t you think, because I used to make my living by writing ad copy for an advertising agency and a group of radio stations. There’s where my uproariously fantastic knack for humor comes from, from writing ads that were suppose to make people giggle as they listened to the morning show on the local radio station and were allegedly titillated by people that were paid to make people laugh and feel slightly sexy by off-color jokes.

What the hell am I talking about?

Oh, the Internet ads. Now, I don’t believe that I need a tin foil hat because after all, tin foil hasn’t been around in a few decades or six, but I’m really not enjoying the tracking that is done on the Internet for the purposes of targeted advertising. I don’t mind tolerating commercials on the radio and I have been known to sit down once or twice a year for live television and I have tolerated those commercials because after all, that’s what we grew up with. Some shill gets paid to tell us why we should ask our doctor for a pill that gives us oily, gassy excitement in our nether regions (among other things that are probably more productive), but I really don’t like having some shill tell me, specifically me, what I should by based on what I mentioned in an email. For example, I off-handedly mentioned in an email that I was going to hang out with friends and there’d be beer and cigars at the event and now I’m being bombarded with ads for cigar companies. I have mentioned a cigar once via my keyboard but all of a sudden I’m getting all these ads. That’s definitely the product of someone tracking me somehow and I’m not liking it. Now that I think about it, it was an email composed on my Google Chromebook and I wasn’t even using an Google services when I composed that email, it was one of my private email accounts, which can only mean someone is monitoring my keystrokes or watching specific words typed into a form using Google Chrome. I have since wiped Google Chrome off my Mac and I’ve shutdown the Chromebook (it’s for sale if anyone with a higher tolerance for banality than I have is interested).

So I’ve decided to start weaning myself off of ad supported services. I’m already six steps ahead in that game because I use primarily Apple products, which cost a lot more but don’t bombard you with advertising. I’ve had the same Google account for many years (Gmail, Google+, Google Maps, etc) but I deleted that earlier this week and that felt amazingly cathartic. Since Gmail was forwarded to my primary email account, the amount of spam/non-desired mail coming in has decreased to about a 1/3 of what it was in less than three days.

The other thing that is really irking me about ads on the Internet is the click-bait articles, especially those aggregated by the news aggregator apps like Flipboard and Zite. A well known tech blog site had an article entitled, “Why Windows 10 leaps ahead of Mac OS X” and because I’m a die-hard Apple boy, I clicked the link. After getting through an ad that blanked out the entire screen until I found the minuscule ‘X’ in the corner and then the auto-start of a video that blared some really cheesy music that I hastily turned off, the article turned out to be no more than five sentences talking about some inane feature in Windows 10 about network password sharing or something. It was a complete waste of my time and it irked me, so I completely deleted Zite, wiped out Flipboard and pledged to start reading the newspapers that I subscribe to instead of scraping the bottom of the Internet for something to entertain me.

While I’m on a bit of rant, I’m also going to mention that an new app on my iPhone or iPad gets ONE opportunity to ask for a rating in the App Store. If they persist in asking for ratings, I will give them a bad rating and delete the app, finding an alternative that is a little less needy. Asking for a rating is a glorified ad to contribute to a glorified ad for their product and I don’t want to be part of the snowball that this whole thing is starting to resemble.

Another service that I deleted today is Pinterest. Honestly, I’ve never quite figured out what Pinterest is for; I stumbled upon it in an Internet search for clocks to add to my collection and all it was was a bunch of pictures taken from other sites and tagged as interesting. Since Pinterest has since bombarded me with emails that have escaped my spam filters, even after I have filled out forms asking for no more emails, I decided that I can just find the damn photos myself and I yelled “Good Riddance!” to Pinterest.

I understand that most of these services make their living off of advertising revenue, just as I did when I worked for the ad agency and radio stations, but as an old-school consumer of sorts, there are some lines that I have drawn in the sand and I’m not going to tolerate companies crossing those lines.

I’d rather pay for my supper than have someone tell me what to eat.

Laws.

Kathleen Staples of Calais, Me. suffered a terrible loss this past weekend when her 22-year old son lit some fireworks and put them on his head. The predictable explosion killed him immediately. Apparently he thought the explosive was a dud. She is now calling for stricter laws on who can have access to fireworks. Because, of course, the problem was that the fireworks were accessible to her son, not the fact that her son put a live explosive on his head. While he was drunk and “goofing off”. And, let me emphasize one point, he was 22-years old. He was an adult.

On Sunday there were several videos floating around the Internet of young men shoving live firecrackers up their nose and blowing a hole in their face. Another man held a live explosive mimicking his genitalia and then either severely burned or just blew his nuts off. Stupid people do stupid things. Everyone does stupid things. It’s the level of stupidity that determines if you’re going to kill yourself or not in the process of being stupid.

I’m going to say this again. I’m going to sound like a broken record but the fact of the matter is that you can not cure stupidity. You can not legislate common sense. Laws do not make people smarter. You can not introduce enough legislation to protect idiots from being idiotic. Rules and laws are not meant to replace the responsibility of parenting. Dumb people are going to do dumb thing no matter how much red tape is involved to get there and the general public should not be forced to live under legislation that is designed to protect the absolute lowest common denominator of society.

I’m sorry that the Staples family is mourning the loss of their son. It’s heartbreaking. But calling for more legislation is not going to bring her son back from his fatal, incredibly stupid mistake.

Try Again.

So on Monday I dropped our Jeep Wrangler off at the local Jeep dealer to have some work done. It needed an oil change and the tires needed to be rotated, plus there was some hesitation/jumping around if you stepped on the gas too hard. It was obvious that either the spark plugs and/or the plug wires needed to be changed. The check engine light came on during one of the jumps.

$2300 and two days later, the Jeep was declared fixed and it could be picked up. The requested maintenance was completed, the check engine light was out, the spark plugs and wires were changed and a few other goodies added to the bill: it needed tie rods, brakes and a complete transmission flush.

$2300.

This evening, 39 miles after picking up the Jeep yesterday, the ABS warning light and the anti-skid symbol lit up the dash light a Christmas tree. On cue, one of the brakes started making a scraping noise.

I swore. I got angry. We dropped the Jeep off at the dealership without an appointment and I filled out an “early bird” form that simply said: “$2300 in service on Tuesday, 39 miles later, the ABS light is on and the brakes are making a scraping noise intermittently. FIX IT.” I authorized ZERO dollars in repairs without a phone call.

Anyone want to guess how much the dealership is going to fleece us for this next round of repairs. My guess is zero, because the contact information for the Jeep is Earl, and he puts up with nothing.

It’s one of the reasons that I love him so much.

It’s rare that the Jeep can get fixed in one pass, it usually takes two visits to the dealership to get it fixed properly. I don’t know why I’m surprised. Last autumn it was backfiring, again due to bad spark plug wires, and they told me it was because the oil pan was loose. The problem is, when the check engine light comes on, the other garage we use wouldn’t touch the Jeep until the dealership looked at it first.

Tonight’s little disappointment got me thinking about our previous vehicles. The only vehicles that we’ve had issues like this with are when we bought an American vehicle. The Hyundai and the Acura rarely had any trouble. The first Jeep would be fine for a couple of years and like our current Jeep, would require a hefty investment every couple of years.

I am hopeful that the brakes will be fixed properly this time and that the Jeep will last us for a few more years. I like it and I’m enjoying not having a car payment.

Let’s hope there’s no screaming tomorrow.

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.

IMG_0341

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.