Have a new year….

I wrote this post a few days ago and scheduled it. I’ll most likely be at a party with friends I’d rather not see and do things I would prefer not to do. Any literary motivation would be sufficiently killed if I had sat down and published this on the day it actually was scheduled to post. That being said, I’ve reflected quite a bit on 2016 and the year that seemed to drag slower and slower the farther into it we got. There’s way too much to review in a post, and if I did review everything that impacted me, I would be writing this well into 2017 and probably never actually publish because it would have become too burdensome to proof it.

There were three things that really had an impact to the year that history will most likely judge harshly in the coming decades. Rather, three things that had an impact with me personally. Consider this a top three-year in review for w1nt3l. We all have our own top three, I’m sure, we might even share some, but I am so happy that this year is almost gone and really really hope that it doesn’t carry residuals into 2017. Well, here we go.

Windows 10 for Mobile, titanic shaft to loyal fans

My archives are littered with Windows 10 for Mobile (formerly Windows Phone) going back several years. I was a huge fan of Windows Phone (WP) and had three mobile devices that ran various versions of the mobile operating system. What I failed to realize with my last device is that HTC was going down the same path as Nokia and Blackberry getting complacent that they had their act together and no one could possibly take the top spot. Well, they were wrong, and HTC is in a bad situation right now losing ground to Samsung and Apple. A little known device that ran Windows Phone 8.1 failed to get upgraded by HTC to Windows 10 for Mobile. Multiple excuses were given as to why, there was even some finger-pointing between HTC and Microsoft, but in the end, it came down to the fact that hardly anyone actually purchased one making the user base statistically miniscule compared to the Android version of the same hardware. Windows 10 for Mobile was now a fail whale in my book and I decided to never own another device again. I switched to a cheap-o Android phone that I get frustrated with every time I pick it up; daily reboots, slow, locks up, apps crash, etc. Pure Android is awesome, it starts to suck hard as soon as a manufacturer thinks it can improve it, hence, the previous sentence rings true. 2016 was the death of Windows Mobile in my opinion.

Wasn’t the year of the third-party

I wrote off the Democrats months ago. I was never a Republican. This was the year I went independent and supported a third-party candidate for President. Despite Jill Stein having a really good platform and some ingenious ideas to help fix things, she never captured a lot of support from anywhere in the country. Gary Johnson had a real chance of at least getting to 5% of the popular vote to have a third-party receive national recognition, but one gaffe after another blew all the steam out of his sails. In an election where there was negative news on both Trump and Clinton, unfavorability for both Trump and Clinton and poor performances in debates from Trump and Clinton I would have thought that Americans would have sought an alternative. That was not the case, as Clinton-haters voted from Trump and Trump-haters voted for Clinton. I’m also convinced that a lot of people just didn’t vote because they didn’t like either of them. 2016 was not the year of the third-party candidate unfortunately.

War and terrorism

No one likes any of this. Show me a war or terrorist attack that actually had any positive impact. I made a comment on a post a few weeks back that listed the number of people who died in conflicts from the Civil War to the Vietnam War; ended up being hundreds of millions. Did we really need to let things get that far? Perhaps. Some conflict is just unavoidable when no one on either side is using so much energy for their mouth that they be come deaf and blind. I’m sorry, call me an apologist if you wish, but *I* think there is always a better way that doesn’t involve weapons, death or destruction. In recent weeks, I’ve discovered the true meaning behind “the pen is mightier than the sword” or a more modern version, “the keyboard is mightier than the AR15.” I’d ask when we lost the ability to listen and reason, but I don’t believe we ever had either of those mastered. I’ve chosen to try to make a difference, one person at a time, one reader at a time, until the knowledge pay-it-forward effect is perpetual. 2016 was not the year we chose something other than war.

Have a New Year

I didn’t mean for this to be a downer, but that is what it became. Blame 2016 for being such a year of suck that we’re all better off to have it in the rear-view mirror. The problem is that 2017 looks like a road under construction that is going to continue tearing at the under carriage of the United States and the rest of the world. Buckle your seatbelts, we’re in for some chop.

Rage against the dying of the light

As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, I’m left thinking about all the service men and women that won’t be home to spend time with their families. Our country is on the precipice, a fork in the road, of deciding whether we’re going to be a positive force in the defense of Freedom or be a negative force in the oppression of those that threaten that Freedom. They are polar opposite actions and one has dire consequences that I don’t think most Americans are prepared to handle let alone process.

I’m reminded, again, of a poem that had a fundamental impact on me after reading it the first time. It is an amazing piece that evokes the stong emotional response to what death means. The poem, written by Dylan Thomas, is generally known to have been written for his father. Some of the lines in the poem, now that I’ve read it again, can be used to describe the United States.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“Old age should burn and rave at close of day”, our country is 240 years old.

“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright”, all the men and women that died for our freedoms.

“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight”, the attacks on 9/11, ISIS.

It is worth reading the entire poem and deciding for yourself who or what it can be about. My interpretation of this poem is in the form of a warning to us, the people of this country. We have an opportunity, a choice, to change the direction of our country so we don’t go gently into that good night and rage, rage against the dying of the light that is the United States of America.

dylanthomas

Islamaphobia, the exit is over here

Inspired by The Washington Post article “Muslim couple says they were kicked off Delta flight for using phone, saying ‘Allah’

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with all of us? Why are we all so afraid of each other?

A muslim couple, American citizens for 16 years, were singled out on their return flight from France to Ohio, USA because she was wearing a scarf and using a phone and he was sweating. Others heard them say “Allah” while seated. Trying to put myself into the shoes of the flight crew that reported this to the pilot is an impossible task for me. I can’t even begin to start forming thoughts that could justify the flight crew persons motivation for making this report to the pilot. Then, the fact the pilot forced them off the flight or he wouldn’t take off just added more fuel to the racist and bigoted profiling that had already taken place.

The rhetoric is already at a feverish level causing everyone to revert to thinking “with the crowd” instead of relying on their own, much more logical individual thinking. The article doesn’t indicate it, but I can be sure that most of the flights passengers were siding with the flight crew as they watch the couple being taken off the plane. They were probably thinking things like “Another terrorist is caught”, “I’m glad they’re not on *my* flight”, “They should have stayed in their own country.” What is apalling and absolutely disgusting is that it was their appearance and only their appearance that prompted the crews actions. The pilot didn’t even see the couple, they were going by the report from the flight crew only.

I’ve been on a lot of flights in the last several years. I can honestly say that until the flight takes off, I’m usually quite uncomfortable and sweating because a plane on the ground is warm inside. The difference here is that I’m not sitting with someone in a scarf, using a mobile phone, and saying “Allah”; I’m also not Muslim “looking”. I’ve been on flights where people pray before the plane takes off and pray again before the plane lands, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary. One particular flight I was sitting next to a devout Jewish Rabbi that prayed in the middle of the plane for over an hour during the six hour flight. Although that seemed to be like a bit of overkill, it wasn’t certainly anything I would report him for doing. In fact, I was slightly relieved he was doing this as it gave the flight a better chance of not crashing, every little bit helps for a guy that doesn’t like flying.

Shame on the flight crew and any of the passengers that fed into this fear that this couple were indeed terrorists. Shame on the pilot for blindly taking the flight crews report without first asking a few questions of the couple before dismissing it as ridiculous racism. Yes, I may have a broad “trust first, ask questions later” attitude, but I’m so exhausted with stories like this. People have to choose to not be racist and see the good in people until proven otherwise. The majority of people want to do the right thing but choose to ignore that due to their circumstances. It takes one person, one action, to cause someone to question their actions and be given the choice to do the right thing. If I was in a situation where I tried to accept the other person and offer the opportunity for them to do the right thing and they choose wrong, I won’t be afraid or hate them becuase *I* did the right thing.

I choose to do the right thing, always, regardless of the consequences to myself.

9/11, Never Forget

To all the people who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., I remember.
To all the people who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., I remember.

Already preparing myself to sit and watch “102 Minutes that Changed the World” with my daughter, I’m aware that this is something she will never experience as I had experienced it. The profound loss I felt for all the people that died that day is more than words can describe even 14 years later. I, along with millions of others at that time, was a mess of emotions. I still can’t think about that day without tears welling up in my eyes, which I’ve come to accept as an involuntary reaction not to be suppressed.

My 9/11 story (we all have one)

At work, figuring out what I didn’t want to do that day, my wife called on the phone as she usually does so we could go get coffee (we worked in the same building).  This time it wasn’t to head down.  She almost screamed “A plane just flew into one of the Trade Center buildings in New York.”  I thought it was a joke and laughed.  I told her I would meet her at the steps, as usual, to go get the morning coffee.  I focused on an email that just came in and then received a phone call.  I never got to the steps as around 20 minutes later she called again, crying, and said “Another plane just flew into the second tower.  I saw it, the fireball, what’s happening!?”  This wasn’t a joke anymore.

I told her to meet me down in the conference room with the television as it had cable access.  Surprised to be the first one in the room, I turned on the television to one of the news stations to see both towers on fire.  I literally said out loud “What the fuck?” just before my wife walked in, still crying.  I sat down and just watched.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t feel anything, didn’t talk.  Others had come into the room and there was now a standing crowd in the back as all the seats had been filled.  Some were crying but most were silent.  We were all in a state of disbelief.

As the morning progressed, we learned about the Pentagon attack and the crash in Pennsylvania, however the majority of coverage was obviously on the towers in New York.  We had friends in New York.  Were they okay?  Neither my wife or I could reach them as the island was practically isolated from anything related to technology.  We could see people jumping from 100 stories.  Clearly see people jumping.  I thought to myself how bad is the situation up there that jumping out the window is actually the better choice.  The room started to light up, people were now getting angry as more details about potential theories started to emerge, despite them being fantastical.

Then it happened.  The south tower collapsed.  We were watching ABCNews, I remember because Peter Jennings didn’t say anything.  I’ve been watching him for years, since I was a pre-teen, and never NEVER had he ever been speechless.  He cleared his throat, and said just “I have no words.”  I was numb, couldn’t focus, the room was disturbingly silent to the point all I heard was my own breathing.  I turned to my wife, tears rolling down her face, and took her hand.  It was the only thing I could think of doing at that moment that felt familiar.

The news started talking again and it snapped my focus back to the television.  The helicopters were pushed back to 5 miles so the Airforce jets could patrol over the city.  Would they shoot a plane out of the sky over New York I thought?  Did this have the potential of getting so bad that the President would authorize a plane, with American citizens, out of the sky over a populated city?  Then they said it with certainty, it was a terrorist attack.  The United States of America was attacked on their own soil.  Anger welled up inside me.

I thought what couldn’t get any worse just as sure as hell got worse.  The north tower collapsed.  The news we were watching was trained on the spire at the top of the north tower, it was almost as if they knew it was going to collapse.  My heart stopped when I saw the spire start to tilt and then disappear below the smoke.  Seeing one tower fall was devastating, seeing both of them fall was too much.  I lost control of my emotions and tears started flowing down my face.  I couldn’t take the silence anymore.  I got up and left the room.  My wife followed.  I told her we were leaving and to go get her things.  I went upstairs, sent an email to my manager that I was leaving, logged off then packed up my things.

The drive home was surreal as neither of us said anything the whole ride.  No one was speeding, no one was aggressive, no one did anything but pay attention to their driving.  Everyone was as shocked as we were.  I don’t remember the drive home other than noticing how calm everything had been.  As my wife and I got home, I turned on the television and started my three day obsession with all things related to this tragedy before returning to what would be the new normal.  America was no longer immune to this type of horrible violence.

Never forget

“Never forget” became the single most important statement in recent American history.  It summed up, in two words, the entire event as it unfolded.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know with every fiber of my soul, I will never forget and always use September 11th to reflect and revisit the events and emotions of that day until I die.

I’ve tried several times to explain how I felt and still feel about that day, but my words always fail me.  Words aren’t enough to describe the loss, the pain, the anger, the pure hatred I felt.  All of those emotions have tempered over the years as I’ve learned to accept and express my thoughts.  For those of us that didn’t experience this first hand, its hard.  For the ones who did experience this day, all that is required is a single look and both “just know” how the other feels.  Schools don’t routinely teach or talk about this day.  Perhaps its too soon, who knows.

As we get one, two, three generations away from this tragedy, will we start to forget?  Not if I have anything to do about it.