Simplicity.

This is my alarm clock.

After spending time on and off my nightstand for the past weeks and months I’ve decided that it belongs on my nightstand.

This alarm clock, purchased during my senior year of high school, has worked reliably since 1986. It keeps time as well as the power grid will allow it, it can tune in both AM and FM radio stations using the antenna built into the power cable and it’s simple to set and easy to synchronize to an atomic clock.

My mid-1980s vintage General Electric alarm clock doesn’t require updates, doesn’t need to reboot, and uses LED digits that do not blind me in the middle of the night. I can’t talk to it and it doesn’t talk to me, but it does wake me up every morning with the sounds of NewsRadio WBBM.

I have flirted with other alarm clocks, especially over the past year or two. An Alexa Dot that featured a round face, the eerie laugh of Alexa in the middle of the night, and a camera pointed at my slumbering visage. I most recently tried a Lenovo Smart Clock, powered by Google Assistant. Using a miniaturized version of the Google Assistant software found on the Google Nest Home Hub, it likes to update in the middle of the night and shine LED backlighting on my eyes. Sometimes I wake up with a sunburn.

Luckily, I bought it during the holidays for over 50% off. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

After swapping between my old reliable GE and the Lenovo for the past week I’ve settled with sticking with the tried and true. The red digits make no impression in the darkened room when we’re sleeping and the alarm is always on time.

Sometimes you just have to keep it simple.

Everything Changes.

I can’t believe this song is nearly 30 years old. I found myself singing it this morning as I was out for my morning walk.

Originally written for Taylor Dayne, who subsequently turned it down, Kathy Troccoli recorded the song for her debut secular album “Pure Attraction”. Like “I’ll Be Your Shelter” by Taylor Dayne, which Kathy sang backup vocals on, “Everything Changes” was written by Diane Warren. It peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Top 100 and number six on the Adult Contemporary chart.

I played the heck out of this song when I was first on the radio.

Kathy has continued her career as a Christian recording artist. I enjoy this song for what it is, a track full of happy energy.

Belief.

Love where you live. It’s as simple as that. Even though it’s been 2 1/2 years since our relocation to the third largest city in the United States, I can not believe that we are lucky enough to live in such a wonderful place.

Yes, I grew up in the country. I lived on a farm. My high school graduating class was in the double digits. But living in the city is perfect for us and I still can’t believe I have such an honor.

Little Geek.

Bell and Howell 16mm Movie Projector. Not my photo.

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Hayden. Situated in Room 108, Mrs. Hayden and second grade is probably the year I best remember from my elementary school years. Spelling tests included the word “deer”, when used in a sentence. We added and subtracted multiple columns of numbers. I was in the most advanced of the reading groups (there were three) and, if I’m remembering correctly, we went through two books of the Lippincott Early Reader series (maybe C and D?).

We had our desks arranged in rows and I sat in the back corner by the sink. Occasionally Mrs. Hayden would let me turn my desk sideways against the wall as I worked on my “seat work”. I wasn’t in trouble or anything, I think she just knew I needed a change of scenery once in a while. She smiled nicely and chatted with us in a way that made us feel like little adults. I remember one lunch time she told us her first name and that her husband was a barber. She lived in the next town over and drove through the snow to come to school everyday.

Mrs. Hayden knew I was a little geek; I was fascinated with the built-in vacuum system that we’d hold the blackboard erasers against on Friday afternoons to clean out the chalk dust. When the clock stopped (along with all the other clocks in the school), she let me go down to the office to turn in the attendance cards, where I watched the repairman work on the clock hanging behind Mrs. Youngs’ (the principal’s secretary) desk.

But most importantly in my second grade mind, Mrs. Hayden designated me as the person to run the Bell and Howell (or sometimes Singer) movie projector when it was time to watch 16 mm movies. At the beginning of the year she fumbled with the self-loading mechanism of the Bell and Howell projector and then I asked her if I could try loading it. I was successful and from that moment and throughout the year I ran the movie projector. I wore this as a huge badge of honor and only on one or two occasions did another person run the movie projector that year.

Perhaps my disappointment in those one or two occasions is why my desk was turned against the wall next to the sink.

Of all the teachers I had during my elementary years through the end of Grade Six, Mrs. Hayden was the one that really “got” me. I felt comfortable around her, I felt like I learned around her, and I excelled at my studies that year. She never seemed to get angry when someone was misbehaving, in fact, I don’t remember any incidents of anyone misbehaving that year.

Today our home in Chicago is situated near the old Bell and Howell factory complex where they made those movie projectors. During my walks of exercise I often walk by “Bell & Howell Lofts” and I think of Mrs. Hayden. She retired nearly 20 years ago. I found her profile on Facebook a few years ago and she is still as pretty as I remember her to be back in 1975.

I hope when she looks back on her teaching career she smiles about her experiences with all those students as much as I do when remembering how she encouraged me to be a little geek.

Privacy.

Anything I share anywhere online I do so knowing that any shred of this information could be made public at any time. Every document I save, every tweet I type, and of course every blog entry I write will have an infinite shelf life. When I type anything into a network connected computer it is being released to the wild. It may remain locked up on a hard drive or it could appear on the front page of some trashy website, but when I share it, that choice is no longer mine. I know this, and I’ve known this all of my technological life, ever since the first time I typed “Hi!” to my modem connected cousin in a chat room in 1985 using a Commodore 64, a modem, and GEnie (an ‘information sharing’ service from that era).

According to Reuters, Apple dropped plans for full end-to-end encryption of iPhone (and presumably other iOS-based device) backups after receiving complaints from the FBI. The FBI countered fully encrypting backups would harm any investigations.

Apple touts itself as a “privacy first” company and this news greatly disappoints me. However, I’m not completely taken by surprise by this.

Ever since 9/11, when the United States of America became fear-based, paranoid country of citizens, the government has rapidly eroded citizens’ privacy rights, all in the name of patriotism and safety. In the guise of “going after the bad guys”, government agencies, some out in the open and many behind closed doors, want to know anything and everything about every one of its citizens, whether you’re doing anything nefarious or not. Books have been published about this, television documentaries have shared this, movies have been made, there’s plenty of evidence out there. The U.S. Government feels they have a right to anything and everything you’re doing. Encryption prevents them from gathering this information. The Government is fearful of another attack akin to 9/11, not because of casualties or destruction, but rather because it would compromise the motto of “The Greatest Country in the World”. Another attack like that fateful day in 2001 would embarrass the Government and they’re going to do everything they can to prevent it from happening again.

“But I have nothing to hide!”. I hear this often when engaging others in a conversation along about this subject and my counterpoint is always two part: 1. It should be “But I have nothing to hide, yet!” and 2. Why don’t we just get rid of freedom of speech because perhaps “You have nothing to say”.

Aside from building your own cloud and your own ecosystem and your own encryption and the like, I still maintain Apple’s devices and ecosystems are still the safest option out there for Joe Schmoe and friends type users. This is why my family continues to invest in Apple products. Granted, today’s revelations are disappointing, and if it’s indicative of a trend I may consider building my own data fortress (because I can), but I still believe when it comes to privacy, Apple is still the best consumer choice in town.

And if you don’t want anyone accessing it, don’t put it on a computer to begin with.

Martin Luther King Jr Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States. It is a Federal holiday and Federal offices are closed, as well as the associated suspects; banks, etc. I am off from work today as it is a recognized company holiday.

Back when I was working for Frontier Communications I was a bit surprised by the number of employees who elected to not take this day off, as the particular area of the company I worked in delegated the day as an optional holiday. I worked in a 24/7 Network Operations Center. When I first started there I always thought MLK Jr Day would be handled like a weekend day, much like Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. are handled. But the NOC Manager felt MLK Jr wasn’t a super important holiday and therefore it was decided it could be a regular work day and one could take the holiday time elsewhere in the year.

This always bothered me.

Can you imagine if the same suggestion was offered around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, or any of the other traditional U.S. holidays? There would have been voices of objection and people carrying on about a lack of patriotism, etc. if the same approach was used for Independence Day.

As a manager I get that the timing of MLK Jr Day puts a small hiccup in the momentum one is usually trying to build at the beginning of the year. But in reality it’s not that big of a deal. We pause on this day to remember a man who made significant, important contributions to the fabric of our society. Choosing to skip his birthday remembrance as a “really not important holiday” is kind of rude and revealing of why his contributions are important to begin with.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

The full text of MLK Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech can be read here.

Tweet Free Ish.

While here in North Carolina I haven’t done much on Twitter. This is neither good nor bad, it just is. When spending time with friends, even those who are very tech savvy (though they have an awful Internet connection through their only choice for Broadband), it doesn’t make sense to spent time online when you can interact with others in real time so I opted for that.

I did some walking through the woods in a nearby park, putting in about five miles both yesterday and today on the various hiking trails available. I was delighted to see markers like this along the trail, as I would do similar things along trails I forged through the woods behind the house during my childhood. Whatever agency is responsible for the park has done a fantastic job of marking the trails with reference markers, making it easy to navigate from one trail to another and from one entrance to another.

A quick search revealed this website for the park, Little River Regional Park and Natural Area.

It was good to walk through the woods for a while this weekend. The whispering of the wind through the pines and the relative stillness of the surroundings is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the big city.

I could tell a GA airplane was practicing stalls in the area; the unmistakeable sounds of the engine gave it away but I wasn’t able to spot the airplane through the tress.

A good relaxing weekend.

UA 1863.

So I’m aboard United flight 1863 from O’Hare to Raleigh-Durham. I’ve been on this airplane since 5:55 PM; I am writing this at 8:49 PM. We just leveled off at cruising altitude. There’s been a lot of snow blowing through Chicago this evening. It took my husband two hours to get home from O’Hare; even on the busiest days of traffic it will take an hour. He said the expressways and streets were a mess getting home.

O’Hare was closed for departures right after we boarded; they needed to plow the runways. It took some time to do that and then we spent quite a while being de-iced. I am always grateful for de-icing. I know what ice can do to an airplane, big or small.

Conditions at the field were at Low IFR at departure, the lowest I’ve ever experienced as a pilot or a passenger. I was fascinated by the whole procedure. I wish I was sitting up front aboard this Boeing 737-800. I would love to fly at least once up front on a commercial flight. Of course, I would love to be an airline pilot but if I’m going to do that I need to get more lift under my wings, the bank account in better order, and most important, my ass at full throttle.

It’s doable. I can do anything.

I always enjoy this trip to visit friends in Durham. It’s a romping good time for all involved and a great opportunity to break away from the snow and cold we Yankees endure this time of year. I’m not sure I could live in what is traditionally called “the South” but it’s fine to visit once in a while.

A few of the pilots in the flying club have moved up to twin engine or turbo engine airplanes, a couple have moved up to business jets. I find this inspiring. I’m not in the cockpit nearly enough in the winter, so I’m going to have to make up for that this spring and summer.

In the meanwhile I’ll enjoy this flight to RDU. Any seat on an airplane is an awesome seat. And, just for the record, I’m in the premium steerage cabin this trip.

I couldn’t bring myself to explore the double digited rows.