Enthusiasm.

Earl and I went to our local “Movie Tavern” over the weekend to see “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”.  The movie was enjoyable and we are looking forward to the next Guardians of the Galaxy cinematic adventure.

Movie Tavern is one of those newfangled movie theaters where everyone has a BarcaLounger, a full service menu is offered and service staff can come and go at any time during the movie, all by request of a low-lit blue button mounted on the tray on the BarcaLounger. The tickets cost a little more and we often make reservations online so that we know where we are going to sit before we get there. For this particular outing we were in the middle of the theatre, three rows from top. Earl sat to my right.

As we were getting settled into the BarcaLoungers and perusing over the menus, we noticed a family coming in to sit to our right. They were dressed in what I would call “grubby Gypsy” clothes. Mom had a lot of afghans and shawls over her skirt. An older gentleman had a scruffy beard, thick glasses and a very dirty baseball cap to go with his grubby clothes. There were a few others in mismatched attire from the mid 1970s Sears Wishbook. Immediately to Earl’s right was a younger girl with long hair who played on her phone every moment prior to any action on the screen. The aforementioned mother was content knitting.

During the previews Earl moved his cup of soda from the cup holder and put it on my tray. Wild movement caught my eye; it seemed that the woman next to him was whipping her hair all over the place. She wasn’t in time with any sort of music. It took me a few moments to realize that she was having a seizure of some sort.

I asked Earl if she was alright. He answered to the affirmative but then answered to the negative when I asked if he wanted to switch seats. The mother in afghans just continued to knit and the man with the ball cap slurped on his drink. Apparently this young lady’s seizure was no big deal.

The thing is, every time there was a bright flash during the movie she went into another seizure. When you’re watching “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”, there’s a few space battle scenes and every time a laser was fired or a torpedo was launched with great cinematic fanfare, this young woman started flailing in a seizure. Her hair whipped back and forth, her hands went in the air and she thrashed about like she was dancing some she-nay-nay. I didn’t feel bad for her as she clearly wanted to be there, but I felt bad for Earl because he was getting whipped with her long hair from time to time. I was worried that she was going to flip the BarcaLounger, or the food on her table and it was going to end up on Earl’s lap or something.

I firmly believe that anyone, regardless of mental, emotional or medical capability, has the right to enjoy the entertainment of their choice as long as it’s not hurting anyone and aside from Earl getting hair in his cup and his “space” from time to time, this young lady wasn’t hurting anyone during her seizures. However, I couldn’t help but wonder why the rest of the family didn’t locate her in the middle of their entourage, for her safety and for the safety of the other patrons around her. What if the intensity of her seizure had increased during the movie? What if she fell out of her chair?

I shared my BarcaLounger tray with Earl and we survived the ordeal. The seizures continued right up until the last space battle scene. When the credits rolled, the customer in question screamed “I am Groot!” every time the words were seen in the credits. Maybe she thought she was Groot.

I guess I was a little stunned by the family’s lack of consideration for others but again, I’ve never been in their shoes so maybe I would have had the same nonchalant attitude that they had.

I know that I wouldn’t have been knitting.

Liberty.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In case you don’t recognize it, the quote above is taken from the Declaration of Independence, unanimously signed on July 4, 1776 by the thirteen United States of America.

I bring this up because that first sentence of the quote, “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, has always resonated loudly with me.

First of all, the Declaration of Independence talks about “their Creator”, not “God”. The use of “their Creator” is religiously ambiguous. And while folks like to translate the Bible, written thousands of years ago, six ways from Sunday, the Declaration of Independence was written only 241 years ago, and we know that these words were written by men, on the North American continent, and they purposely used “their Creator”. Not “God”. There was no religious bias in the Declaration of Independence. Christianity does not have priority over any other religion in this context.

Secondly, the Declaration of Independence recognizes certain unalienable Rights, mainly Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That one is pretty self-explanatory; everyone deserves these rights regardless of who they are. All men are created equal. Again, there’s no bias to religion here, there’s nothing that says “Christian Men”. All men.

It is reported that on Thursday of this week, the National Day of Prayer in the United States (everyday should be a National Day of Prayer with this administration, but I digress), Trump will sign an executive order. This Religious Freedom Executive Order will allow anyone to not serve someone if it runs contrary to their personal religious beliefs. So if you want to buy bacon and the clerk’s religious beliefs hold pork sacred, they can refuse to sell you bacon. If you are on a birth control prescription and the pharmacist is against birth control, they can sell it to you. If you are a gay couple checking into a hotel and the front desk clerk is dead set against gay marriage, they can turn you away and refuse you a room. If your wife is dying from AIDS and the doctor believes, just believes that she contracted AIDS through unsafe sexual practices, which is a sign of the devil in their eyes, that doctor can refuse treatment. If an emergency room attendant believes gay men should be stoned to death, he can turn Earl and I away from seeking treatment for a medical catastrophe because we are a married gay couple.

Shall I continue with all the examples of this Executive Order is dangerous, why it runs contrary to The foundation of the United States of America for nearly 241 years?

Right-wing jackals on the Internet are fond of calling anyone with progressive views a “snowflake”, yet here they are pushing this idiot in the Oval Office for an Executive Order that protects them from being offended by diversity in the world. This is not representative of the Republican Party I know, this is not representative of the centrists I know and it’s certainly not representative of the United States of America I know.

Over the past several months I have seen countless video examples of people losing their minds over some sort of disagreement in public and they’re always screaming “I voted for Trump!” and “This is the United States of America!”, as if it makes them superior in some way over the people around them, or that being an American citizen gives them special privileges over other citizens of the world. It doesn’t. There’s nothing particularly special about the United States, other than the populace seems to have gone batshit crazy over the past year or so, but folks go around spewing their Yankee Doodle Yacking as of it’s the third act of their holy gospel.

This Executive Order is wrong. I’m really hoping that some judiciary influence will rule that like many of Trump’s other Executive Orders, it’s completely unconstitutional, rendering it null and void. The problem is that it will stir up the fringe right-wing lunatics. I fear that at the very least we will continue to see a rise in all the hate action that has been occurring since Trump took office. The last thing we need in this country right now is more hate.

Trump is signing this order for one reason: to keep the Far Right happy so they continue to give him support. Honestly, I don’t think he still possesses the cognitive skills to even know what he’s signing. I think he lost it long ago and that scares me a lot.

Hang on folks, the ride is just going to get bumpier. Let’s hope things don’t completely rattle apart in the process.

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It Just Works.

I’ve just spent the last 15 minutes trying to wake up my MacBook Pro so I could write a blog entry before going to bed. After forcing the computer to power down, turning it back on and going through two black screens of nothingness, I’m here at my blog entry point.

As Steve Jobs always said, “It Just Works”.

Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that is stuck in my mind right now and I have no idea what I was going to blog about.

Why am I reminded of this Apple ad from 2002?

I should not have to restart my computer three times in order to wake it up. Especially since this MacBook Pro is less than a year old and I barely have any third party software installed on it.

I know there are other options out there but they suck worse than Apple. And if they’re not sucking, they’re sucking my data and I don’t want my data sucked for ad opportunities any more than it absolutely have to be, em, sucked.

God, I miss Steve.

Patriotic?

Trump supporters are always hootin’ and hollarin’ about how patriotic they are. They are Making America Great Again. They are bringing ‘Merica back to her core values, embracing the Heartland, draining swamps.

In actuality, Trump supporters are doing their best to rid the United States of any sort of decency, education, intellect or quite frankly, class.

If you find any part of this picture appropriate for the White House, please cut off any and all ties you have to me. I don’t want to know you.

Hillary Clinton has done some amazing things for the people of this country, but by God we’ve done everything we can to make sure the small percentage of bad choices she has made are first and foremost discussed constantly.

Mama always taught me to take my hat off whenever I’m in the house. I guess these two didn’t get the memo.

I wore a sport coat and slacks to tour the Washington Monument. I’d probably wear a tie if I knew I was going to visit the White House. The White House is worthy of the respect of all citizens of the United States and should be treated as such. I wouldn’t let a man walk in with a hat and I certainly wouldn’t let a woman walk in Monster Truck Rally attire. The afghans and whore heels would stay home.

There are a lot of people in this country, in this world, that I don’t agree with, but I would still treat them with respect. What I see in that photo is unbelievable to me.

My God, how far this country has fallen in less than six months. Horrible.

We are better than this.

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Sane. Rational. Logical.

Now that the fun meds are about out of my system (aside from one nightly pill for the next two weeks) I feel the need to say this. It’s long, but not too ranty, so be patient.

Whether it comes to the weather, politics or any other hot topic of the day, we should have three expectations: sanity, logic and rationality. Be sane, logical and rational and we can have a discussion. Add some predictability along the way and we can negotiate. Hype things way beyond proportion (for ad ratings, to get noticed, to be demonstrative, to wave your arms, whatever) and the conversation falls apart. No one can negotiate with a raving lunatic. Don’t be a lunatic. Be the calming force in the room.

Look, I’ve had as much fun as the next hacker talking to Kellyanne Conway through her microwave for the past 24 hours. Unfortunately I often got a busy signal. But the fact of the matter is, she knows her microwave isn’t talking to her, we know that her microwave isn’t talking to her and believe it or not I really think the woman is just trying to do her job trying to bring some sort of logic to a whole bunch of lunacy. Honestly, I think she’s doing it wrong as she’s hyping and exacerbating an already irrational and insane situation. I think all of this could work and there could be some decent discussions if people started acting rationally. Ever since the Inauguration the country has been like Walmart on Black Friday before the cops came. Don’t be like that.

It’s like this “Storm of the Century” for the third time this decade. Don’t buy into the hype. Shun the cute names and the constant alerts. Yes, we are going to get some snow. Yes, the wind will blow. The East Coast (unfortunately earning the name the “crisis corridor”) will get a bunch of snow too. Here’s the deal. Be vigilant. Be prepared. Be smart. Don’t depend on others to bail you out unless you get in a hopeless situation. If you see someone that has lost all hope, be a good neighbor. But first and foremost, be the person that takes responsibility for your own actions. If everyone just owned who they are, what they are capable of and stopped blaming everyone else, we could together, regardless of ideology, make the entire world a better place.

That being said, I need to do this one more time before giving it a rest.

Privacy.

An article from Engadget recently detailed Facebook’s practice of obtaining off-line data about its users from third-party sources. The picture above is from the Engadget article.

From the article:

Currently, Facebook works with six data partners in the US: Acxiom, Epsilon, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud, TransUnion and WPP. For the most part, these providers deal in financial info; ProPublica notes that the categories coming from these sources include things like “total liquid investible assets $1-$24,999,” “People in households that have an estimated household income of between $100K and $125K and “Individuals that are frequent transactor at lower cost department or dollar stores.” Specifically, the report notes that this data is focused on Facebook users’ offline behavior, not just what they do online.

I have a constant on-again, off-again relationship with Facebook. Though I have been trying really hard to dump the service, I have been using it during the holidays because many friends and family members use the service as their only means of communication. This is where they share their pictures, this is how they communicate (with Messenger), this is where they share their interesting news. If I want to know what’s going on with them I need to log in and take a look. Plus, several of the aviation forums I follow are through Facebook. Annoying, I know.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the privacy concerns when using Facebook. I was recently doing some research at work on a new software package and imagine my surprise when I logged into my personal laptop, fired up Facebook and saw that hideous interface populated with ads for the software package I had been researching at work. I know how it happened: I logged into Facebook on my work computer for some reason and then all of a sudden there’s a myriad of cookies in my browser reporting back to Facebook on every move I make on the Internet, providing Facebook with all sorts of data.

Well now Facebook is going outside online methods and gathering data from third party sources that aren’t even online. If you read the list quoted above, you’ll see that Experian is listed, which I believe is one of the credit rating services.

Zuck and friends want to lean in on your financial data.

Every time I log into Facebook to see how my high school friends are doing or to follow along with some flights with some online pilot friends I’ve met over the years I know that I’m giving Facebook data on my recent Amazon purchases, hints and raves about my latest online tirade placed through a commenting section of an article, etc. But frankly, it’s really none of Facebook’s business as to how much money I make or how much our mortgage is worth.

The thing is that I can scream about this until I’m blue in the face. I can share the frustrations of using that very invasive Facebook Messenger program (particularly frustrating for iOS users that should be using the much more secure iMessage app). I can tell people that Facebook is basically data raping them and they couldn’t1 care less. Facebook is easy and free and easy and free is the American way. “They have nothing to hide.”

I have nothing to hide, either, but I still value my privacy. Let’s see what I do with Facebook in 2017. Perhaps I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

1 Just a pet peeve of mine, but it is “couldn’t care less”, not “could care less”. Because, if you could care less, then you should care less if you’re really that disinterested.

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Disappointing.

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I just committed the ultimate sin against Apple by opening my three-month old MacBook Pro Retina and expecting the screen to come to life so I could be productive. To accomplish my objective of using the computer, I wiggled my fingers on the trackpad, I stabbed at a few keys and waited a few moments. I then closed the lid and opened it back up, hoping something in my computer would awake so I could use my computer because, after all, “It Just Works”.

After about 60 seconds of desperation, I held down the power key to force the computer to shut down and then powered up from scratch. Once logged in, I was reminded that I turned the computer off in an inappropriate manner and was asked if I wanted to restore my session. Historically, an answer to the affirmative has led to a round-robin of reboot gaiety, so I opted to just start from scratch.

I know this is First World Problem, but I have to say that I am rather disappointed in my latest MacBook Pro. This computer has been plagued with many quirks. For example, something prevents my name from rendering properly at log in (as seen in the screenshot above). Is it a cosmetic issue? Possibly, but cosmetic issues in the world of Mac are usually a symptom of an issue lingering under the covers.

My computer reliably wakes up from Power Nap or Super Slumber or whatever it’s called these days about 50% of the time that I try to use my computer. The close cousin of Unix that powers macOS is known for its long stretches of computer uptime, the amount of time that a computer can go without needing to reboot, restart, power cycle, etc. I’m lucky if my MBPr goes from sunrise to sunset.

The primary reason that I find this all disappointing is because when I purchased this computer, as a replacement to my three-year old MacBook Pro Retina that was stolen from my hotel room during a work trip, I purchased the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro Retina that was available at the time. I have the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, the fastest processor, etc. that was available in a laptop from Apple as of July 2016. The fact that I sank all this money into a computer and that “It Just Works” is a complete fallacy with this machine is very disheartening to me.

It’s not like I’m asking the computer to do things outside of the Walled Garden. I use iCloud services. I surf on Safari. I use the Apple-provided applications whenever possible because I like the idea of “It Just Works”.

When I fire up Apple’s “Photos” app my laptop takes on the persona of an Airbus A380 ready for departure. The fans blast so loud that I’m sure it can be heard by the neighbors, and remember, this is the maxed out laptop of its time.

The little gimmick of your Apple Watch unlocking your computer works about 45% of the time. When it does work I’m left staring at a “Please wait…” message on my screen when in reality I could have typed my password in half the amount of time that my watch and my computer had a conversation.

Now that I’ve typed that last paragraph I’ve decided to just turn off that feature and see what that does.

While out in the world I’ve noticed more Microsoft Surface Pro ultrabooks being used by folks. I have to admit that I’m very intrigued by the Surface Pro but moving to a Microsoft environment scares the beejeesus out of me. I’ve tried Windows 10 and it seems to be sort of cobbled together and I’ve read enough about the security implications of key logging, traffic monitoring, etc. that I really don’t want to go down that road. These are the same reasons I don’t want to switch to a Chromebook and I’m too tired to provide the care and feeding that a Linux laptop requires.

The truth of the matter is, the amount of mediocrity that passes as “It Just Works” from Apple today is still probably the best experience a computer user can get, we’ve just come to accept mediocrity as a new gold standard. When marketing runs the show the results can be disastrous. I’m sure that will be proven once again in 2017 in the political arena, but that’s a whole other blog entry unto itself.

So here I am trying to be my best in a world of low expectations. God help us all.