Renewed.

I flew my biennial Flight Review yesterday. A requirement for private pilots, every two years we must fly with an instructor to make sure we still know what we’re doing, we know the latest changes in regs, and we can still handle the aircraft in a safe manner.

I took the opportunity to fly with my friend Chuck in 32J at KRME while we were in town for the holidays. I hadn’t flown the ’66 Cherokee since July 2017. It felt very comfortable as soon as I started the prop.

I was a little rusty on a couple of maneuvers but I figured things out. I had three great landings and I was smiling the entire time.

Flying in the Chicago area brings different challenges versus flying in Upstate New York but it is still very much enjoyable for me. We’ve been talking about pilots becoming “av-gry” when we don’t fly enough. I hold that belief to be quite true. If I don’t fly as much as I’d like to I can be quite cranky.

Let’s hope Mother Nature shows mercy for us private pilots this winter.

Here’s a photo from my flight as I was practicing an engine out emergency decent.

OCD.

The numbering scheme of the checkouts at this Best Buy really makes my eye twitch. Behind register 10 is register 3. Behind register 2 and to the left of register 12 is register 9.

Indiana Toll Road.

The Indiana Toll Road has a split speed limit for cars and trucks. The limit for cars is 70, the limit for trucks is 65. This encourages unnecessary weaving, creates backups behind trucks driving slower than the flow of traffic in the left lane, and subsequently increases tendencies of road rage.

The Indiana Toll Road is also a fan of bunching up construction areas so that vehicles are pushed into one lane at a reduced speed for dozens of miles. This even happens outside of “construction season”.

As a traffic engineer I can not determine a valid reason for the split speed limits. It does not increase safety and it does not improve traffic flow.

It generates revenue.

Women of the House.

We were flipping through Amazon Prime Video when a curious suggestion came up on the screen. Amazon’s algorithm thinks we should be watching “Women Of The House”, the 1995 follow-up series to “Designing Women”. This show follows the adventures of Suzanne Sugarbaker as she takes her fifth husband’s seat in Congress until Georgia can elect a new representative. Naturally, one would think hilarity ensues.

Let me assure you, it does not.

It made it 13 episodes before it was cancelled. The last four episodes were broadcast on Lifetime, the show having been cancelled by CBS.

Earl and I watched the two-part pilot. We barely made it through the 42 minutes.

The character of Suzanne Sugarbaker has always been written a little over the top, but in this thing she’s way, way out there. She shrieked “Excuse Me!”, try to get someone’s attention, a few times during the first five seasons of “Designing Women”. In the pilot she does it at least half a dozen times and it doesn’t garner any laughs. There’s also some glaring inconsistencies in her timeline: her maid is now named Sapphire instead of Consuela, and she suddenly has a younger brother she calls “retarded”. He is played solely for laughs in the pilot. Suzanne now also has an adopted daughter because like “Golden Palace”, all spin-offs from popular sitcoms in the mid 1990s apparently needed to have a cheeky kid.

Teri Garr plays a spin on Patsy Stone from “Absolutely Fabulous”, under the guise of being a press secretary, Patricia Heaton is some sort of whacked out, super aggressive, yet completely devoid of class and charm version of Dixie Carter’s Julia Sugarbaker and the third actress plays an administrative assistant that must have been inspired by Julie Haggerty’s flight attendant on “Airplane”, minus the chuckles. And in some unexplained twist, they CGIed Jimmy Stewart’s “Mr. Smith” into the Congressional Chambers and since it was 1995, it wasn’t very convincing.

While “Designing Women” was fairly topical, especially in it’s early years, I have no idea what this show was trying to do. Delta wasn’t handed a very good script but she screams her way through every line and admittedly, it was very tough trying to get through the pilot.

If Amazon suggests “Women Of The House” for your viewing pleasure, don’t bother. Take the time to look at one of the early topical episodes from “Designing Women” instead. You’ll have a much better viewing experience.

Cost.

My nephew wants a MacBook Pro for Christmas. He’s 10 years old, lives 1,000 miles from us, and like many of his peers has an iPod and iPad, so I don’t know what his usage case for a MacBook Pro is. I suspect it has something to do with his wanting a GoPro as well. Perhaps he’s a future Steven Spielberg that skates and plays hockey or something.

My sister asked where she could get a reasonably priced MacBook Pro. Being the geek of the family, it’s that most wonderful time of the year when folks come out of the woodwork to ask for my opinion on all things technological. In all honesty, if Grandma City was still alive she’d probably still ask me about that blinking 12:00 on her new fangled microwave.

But I digress.

I took a look at the various refurbished Apple product sites and told my sister the best price she could expect for a decent MacBook Pro was at least $1K. This was not the answer she wanted to hear. A year or two ago my sister bought my nephew a Lenovo ThinkPad of some sort and paid around $500, but it’s not a Mac. And before any uses an accusatory tone, I have not been proclaiming the virtues of Apple around my nephew. He picked up this desire for an MBP on his own.

I’m a believer that the price of technology should be coming down. Technology should be attainable, at some level, to anyone that is curious. I recently revived an older Lenovo ThinkPad and made it into a very serviceable machine. At first I put Linux on it, but then after realizing that Linux does not have a desktop experience geared for the masses, as much as they try to say that it does, I decided to put Neverware’s CloudReady on it, essentially turning it into a Chromebook. It works beautifully, runs much faster than any version of Linux I had running on the thing, and has basically turned the computer into a nice setup. If you have an older computer lying around, I highly suggest trying CloudReady on it.

One of the things I find frustrating about Apple these days is their pricing. Despite the fact that the product line is starting to get “muddy” again, one must admit that the product line is starting to get very pricey. A decent iPhone Xr starts at nearly $800. The iPhone Xs starts at nearly $1000 and the larger iPhone Xs Max starts at nearly $1100. And before I go any further, what is up with the naming conventions. “Xs Max”? In my head I hear “X-ess”, er, “10-ess Max”. My eyes see “Tampax” or “Xanax”. None of this lends itself to a phone priced at nearly $1100.

More digression.

As technology permeates every facet of our life, and as a result we become completely reliant on these doodads, prices should be coming down, not going up. While I mostly appreciate Apple’s build quality, I don’t believe they are giving the public so awesome a technological experience that the cost of buying a phone should exceed the price of a month’s rent in large portions of the country. I know people will counter there’s cheaper options out there, even from Apple. They still offer the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 and I think I read somewhere that they’re starting up production of the iPhone X again. But there’s a nagging in the back of mind as to expected longevity and the quality of support for a decent amount of time for these cheaper, yet older, designs.

This is another reason I’ve been looking at Google’s offerings lately. A couple of years ago we bought my Mom a Chromebook. It’s my understanding that she’s still using it. Her computing needs are pretty much web driven. There’s very little worry about viruses and malware on a Chromebook, and it updated itself. Plus, she could easily reach her data using her outdated iPhone 5, her Kindle, or her Chromebook, because it lived in an open ecosystem. While Apple has been better about sharing data outside of the walled garden, it’s still not super easy to integrate your iCloud calendar with a non-Apple device. I get the security concerns, but as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, if we are going to move forward in a sane direction with technology, we need to be able to share data across devices and platforms while maintaining reasonable precautions. “You can watch our keynote but only using our web browser” is not a reasonable precaution. That’s ecosystem lock in.

I’m a little bummed that I can’t find a MacBook Pro solution to tell my sister so she can tell Santa what to get my nephew. Hopefully I’ll find an answer over the next week. But more importantly, I think it’s time for a little disruption in the “let’s make our tech expensive” arena.

Connected.

The thought of a connected world is pretty cool. As long as the data is not abused (ahem, Facebook), we can achieve some great things in this 21st century if we have data the cooperates across competing platforms.

I’ve mentioned “A Day Made of Glass”, Corning Glass’ vision of such a connected world. Data is accessed pretty much along every surface that has been coated in Corning’s high-tech glass. Touch surfaces are everywhere. Corning focuses on the idea that everyone’s primary computing device is the tablet, and it’s powerful enough to drive larger displays and other peripherals. Used properly, these devices could really make our lives richer.

I’ve always loved the touchscreen mirror shown in the screen cap from the Corning video. There are prototypes and homemade versions available today, but in the real consumer market, the closest thing we have today are the smarthubs that are popping up on the market. Amazon has a couple with their Echo Show and Echo Spot. Google recently unveiled their Google Home Hub.

We picked up one yesterday.

Our new Hub is living on the kitchen counter and I’m finding it pretty cool. Not only can we control our lights and connected sockets throughout the house, but Earl can also watch news updates, I can watch videos from YouTube, we can tell things to jump up on our television from the device, and we can take a look at our calendars and the like.

You’ll notice we are using Google devices again, more on that in a later blog entry.

The key to these technological advances is the open (with appropriate security standards) exchange of data. I strongly believe we should be able to access our data from our devices, regardless of the manufacturer. While “walled gardens” worked in the past, they’re not allowing us to move forward.

We need to make the vision in “A Day Made of Glass” come true. That’s where our future needs to be.

Rest.

I appreciate that Starbucks is open on key holidays in the United States to serve those who don’t celebrate that holiday, but I really hope they don’t force any of their employees to work, and instead ask for volunteers.

4 Comments

Abcde.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES APOLOGIZES FOR EMPLOYEE WHO MOCKED NAME OF 5-YEAR-OLD GIRL CALLED ABCDE (link to Newsweek)

The Southwest agent was wrong for what she did, but the Mom’s outrage has be questioned. Did she not think her daughter would suffer ridicule her entire life when she named her daughter Abcde? In an even more shocking twist, 373 children in the United States have been named “Abcde” since 1990. I wonder if the family dog is named Lmnop.

And I thought the woman screaming at her kid a few years ago in a Utica Wal*mart was nuts when she called the kid by his name: Ampersand.