Hiawatha, Iowa.

I’m in Hiawatha, Iowa tonight and tomorrow night for work. I’ve been here before but it’s been a couple of years; this was the first time driving here for work since moving to Chicago. The drive was pleasant.

I enjoy work trips and getting to meet with fellow team members face to face. A night in the hotel room can be a little boring, especially when the Internet connection won’t allow me to VPN into the office, but I have enough bandwidth to waste time writing blog entries and watching the various versions of “The Bob Newhart Show” theme song. I enjoy trying to figure out where Bob is walking through Chicago back in the day.

Telecommuting is wonderful, even working with team members over video conferencing is great, but nothing replaces face to face time.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s day at the office.

Videos.

I’m watching old private pilot videos from the 60s and 70s on YouTube. I need to go flying. Very soon.

Screams.

After taking our weekend visitors Jeff and Mark to O’Hare for their flight back to Raleigh-Durham, I decided to take some time to go on one of my little urban adventures in the city. I decided to head out to the western neighborhoods, and I began my journey on the Red Line so I could transfer to the Blue Line and head out to the Northwest. That’s how the Loop-oriented CTA lines work in Chicago.

As I made my transfer from the Red Line to the Blue Line at Lake, I followed the trail of folks with luggage looking to make the transfer so they could head to O’Hare. In the CTA stations there are plenty of posters and other reminders to “walk left, stand right” on the escalators, and during the week daily commuters do an excellent job at observing this rule. It’s rare to see someone clog up the escalator.

On the weekend it’s a completely different story.

A young woman was standing next to her luggage on the escalator, staring at her phone, clogging up the folks trying to pass on the left. Just as I was perfecting my glare (along with others), the escalator came to a abrupt halt.

Not a big deal. For the uniformed, when an escalator comes to a stop, it simply becomes a staircase. The escalator stops, so you walk up the stairs and you easily reach your destination. It’s not a difficult concept.

Except below me on the escalator some woman started screaming as if the station had been plunged into darkness, a portal to Hades had opened, and the compartment was being filled with some sort of noxious gas. (I promise I wasn’t “crop dusting” the escalator on my way up).

Bewildered by this screaming, other patrons on the now stopped escalator took this as some sort of wailing cue and started hustling up the escalator rapidly.

I believe my response to all of this was, “Settle down, Loretta”. I then proceeded up the escalator in a calm fashion, threading my way around the woman blocking the path because she hadn’t figured out what was happening yet, and I made my way to the Blue Line.

People need to calm down.

Design.

Our friends Jeff and Mark from North Carolina were in town for a visit over the weekend. While Earl worked the Cubs game, we took the opportunity to drive out to Oak Park to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio. He left the complex in 1909.

I’ve always been a fan of Wright’s architecture and I wasn’t disappointed with the visit to the Home and Studio in Oak Park. While this particular group of buildings was not in his well known “Prairie Style”, the design of his home and studio were definitely his work. Moving from room to room, one is “compressed” into a small space along the hallway and then “decompressed” for a grand entrance into the next room. His office was three stacked octagons, and the work studio has chain used to suspend the roof and ceiling out in plain view, instead of hidden in walls like you’d find elsewhere.

The Preservation Trust has done a magnificent job in bringing the site back to its 1909 glory. When the Trust took over the property in 1976 it had been an apartment building and a dormitory, among other things. One stairwell is still in its 1976 condition and it’s evidence of what good willed people can do when they put their mind to it.

I’ve never understood this American trend of ripping down beautiful downtown areas in the interest of “Urban Renewal”, and I will never understand how someone can take a gorgeous, historic, and obviously unique building and carve it up into a bunch of apartments.

The visit was a pleasant one; I look forward to taking Earl out there to experience it as well before the snow flies.

Attempt.

I’m sitting on our balcony enjoying a glass of wine and recovering from watching much of the latest Democratic debate. This time it was hosted by ABC and then packed 3500 people into an arena to cheer and yell and get that whole “make it a sport” vibe going. If you liked candidate one the best, call 1-866-HELPUS1 from your Cingular Wireless phone. Winners to be announced next week after a concert by Dave Matthews with Hootie and the Blowfish.

I’m typing a blog entry using the virtual keyboard on my iPad Pro. Apple was quick to show off a miniature keyboard on the iPad Pro during their event on Monday, but even with iPadOS on this device I can’t figure out what gesture shrinks the keyboard. I’m still mixing up undo and redo as well and I haven’t mastered “cut and paste” with the grab and drop gesture. Perhaps I need to be facing east or something.

There are thunderstorms moving into area and even though it’s mid September it feels as stifling hot as a hot summer night in July. This weekends suppose to calm down a little bit unless someone grabs a Sharpie and changes the weather.

I’ve been pondering spirituality a little bit over past couple of days, and how spiritual beliefs can enhance one’s life instead of dictating it. I haven’t quite figured this out in my head, but I’m being a geek about it and trying to marry my love of science and reason with a spirituality around energy and love. I do not think these concepts run in opposition of one another and I do believe certain spiritual beliefs can be intertwined into one’s life intelligently. Perhaps I was moved by last night’s viewing of the fan film from the Star Trek Universe called “The Holy Core’. I also had an amazing conversation with a monk a couple weeks ago, perhaps the effects from that are still weighing on my mind.

The Holy Core.

Today I discovered a new Star Trek fan film; this one takes place in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” timeframe. CBS Paramount has chosen to limit fan films to a specific length and set of guidelines, so the fact these folks were able to tell a cohesive story in such restrictive standards is quite impressive.

The visuals were very well done, the story made sense and flowed well, and the acting was better than expected. If you feel so inclined, please take 30 minutes to watch “The Holy Core“.

Hooked.

So ten days or so ago I proclaimed I was done with Twitter and had deactivated my account. Here’s where Twitter hooks you in; if you deactivate your account you have 30 days to reactivate your account. And that’s what I did.

However, I have not installed the app on my iPhone and I’ve opted to go with Tweetbot on my iPad Pro.

Here’s the thing. Cutting myself off from Twitter completely made me realize how many things I monitor through the service: CTA Train alerts, the National Weather Service (as long as it’s not compromised by the Trump Administration), and most importantly, the aviation adventures of pilot friends I’ve made over the years. In addition, I’ve been on Twitter since its early days and I have a good number of people I’ve met via the service over the years and unfortunately I don’t have any other way to get a hold of them.

Twitter has me hooked.

I’m still culling my followers list to make sure I’m not getting depressed the service and I’m not following it on the phone, so I think I can keep the chaos at bay.

I wish myself luck.

Truth.

If you’re gonna bathe in the muck, it’s a lot easier to avoid idiotic memes on Twitter than it is Facebook. Also, it’s better to endure stupidity from a stranger instead of your blood(y) relatives.

Routines.

I think Truman is starting to get used to the concept of the weekend. During the work week he’s usually stationed outside the bedroom door, ready to stretch against my waist and then demanding a couple of treats before I go for a walk. On the weekend he makes a bit of a ruckus for a few moments around the same time and then settles down; he starts to complain about the schedule change around 8:00 a.m. As long as he gets his treats, he’s fine.

I know most of my feline friends over the years have enjoyed a predictable schedule, but Truman is the closest adherent to the clock I’ve met thus far.

His automatic feeder gives him a light midnight snack at 10:00 p.m. He stations himself next to the feeder at 9:30 p.m. every night. On the dot.

I wonder what he would have been like with the audible sounds of the old school clock system we had in the old house. Earl says he’s just tuned like Pavlov’s dog, but I’m thinking he’s just a wise cat.

Digital Rights Are Human Rights.

Donald Trump’s 2016 digital campaign director claimed to have run 5.9 million visual ads on Facebook, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000.

When I was in Junior High School we had a “lifestyle” class the rotated each quarter, or 10-week marking period. One of the lifestyle classes in the rotation was General Art. Taught by a passionate Mr. Tassone, one of our exercises included taking turns standing on a desk and modeling in front of the class while our peers sketched our pose. I’m horrible at drawing; I’m lucky if I can sketch a stick figure and remember all the appendages, but one thing stuck out during this lesson: “no two people will sketch the exact same thing because no two people can have the exact same perspective.”

While this certainly applied to the stick figure I was drawing at the time, it really is something that applied to life. Who knew that Mr. Tassone would offer such a nugget of wisdom in a required class?

The differing perspective of an art subject is very much like what we experience on services like Facebook today. Because of the careful curation, regurgitation, and thousands of other data points in the Great Algorithm of Facebook, no two experiences on the social media platform are alike. What I see on my Facebook feed is nothing like what a straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, Red State is going to see. True, we might both see the same Gillette ad, or the latest rage in a snack chip, but when it comes to pushing ads tailored to our respective demographics, there’s going to be little overlap.

Now, imagine one of us has been identified as a “Persuadable”. Let’s say the straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, R.S. has been on the fence when it comes to voting for Clinton or Trump in the 2016 Election. He knows Clinton is a Democrat but she’s rather middle of the road on a lot of the things he believes in. He also knows Trump is a blowhard from Manhattan who’s lost a lot of money in casinos and god knows what else. Our friend in R.S. really doesn’t feel like he has a great choice for President and he’s trying to make a good decision at the polls. His vote is a secret, after all, so he might just vote for Hillary after all and not just talk about it. He partakes in a few political discussions on Facebook and is subsequently identified as a Persuadable.

Cambridge Analytica then uses that data to flood his timeline with a crazy amount of propaganda swaying him in the direction of their client. There are no guard rails to guarantee the ads being pushed at him are based in any sort of truth, but the FCC doesn’t apply here, so the spin on television is a walk through a poppy field compared to the ridiculous vitriol spun through Facebook ads.

Our friend’s family back East can’t figure out why he’s solidly flipped to Trump because they don’t see the ads he’s being subjected to on his timeline. Everyone’s Facebook feed is different and unless you pose as a Persuadable, you’re not going to see an ad targeted to at them. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg don’t care; they’re worried about rolling in as much money as possible because in the United States, money is power. Status is power. Fame is power. Mark and Sheryl want to be rich and famous, and they have set aside any resemblance of a moral compass to feed that demon they have inside. I’m sure I’ll chat about my disgust of them in many future blog entries.

Folks like to screech about Cambridge Analytica and their scandal and quite frankly, they deserve to be screeched about because they’re a company devoid of any sort of moral foundation. Like Mark and Sheryl, they want money, and some folks at Cambridge Analytica would probably get elementary school kids addicted to Meth if it increased their bottom line and pleased a top paying client. But the truth of the matter is Facebook does whatever they want, paying token fines for their behavior, because they are unregulated.

Personally, I believe if you can’t make that claim on the Evening News on traditional television, you shouldn’t be able to advertise it on Facebook.

Are things going to change? Not under this administration, it benefits them too much. Right now the only way to change Facebook is to abandon the platform. Hard to do? Absolutely. Hell, I have an account on Facebook and I’m still active on there, mostly sharing photos and talking about stupid crap. One day I’ll get an ad for MAGA hats and the next day I have Kamala Harris begging me for money. The Gillette ads still coming along with regularity.

But I do my very best to eliminate Facebook from any other of my online interactions. I don’t “Sign In With Facebook”, I don’t allow cookies, and I use “Private Browsing” mode in both Safari and Firefox. Google Chrome? Oh hell no. Using Google Chrome for web browsing is like walking through town naked while screaming your personal business at the top of your lungs.

As I said in an earlier blog entry, technology has vastly outpaced society’s grasp of what we have at our disposal these days.

Digital rights are human rights. Interestingly enough, personal data is now more valuable than oil.

It’s time to take our digital rights back.

A little more about the documentary “The Great Hack”.