Sunday, November 23, 2014

Color Blind!

I woke up to an outside temperature of 50º F (10º C) this morning. How nice! It wiped out what remained of our snow which is both good and bad. I like the snow for riding the trails but that's about all. Not to worry, there's more snow in the forecast along with some cold temps so my fat-bike will be happy.

The Glowing Tree in Bloomington Facebook page I started a couple years ago (only because nobody else had and it needed its own page) is once again seeing its share of activity as we come into the holiday season. I saw a news article from yesterday about the tree and the potential for this to be its final year bathed in lights. Here's the link.  It won't seem the same at all anymore driving along that stretch of Cedar Ave at night just south of Mall of America if the tree does go dark.

I / We will never again attempt to choose wall colors for our home without first consulting Karen who has been there for us throughout so many projects in the last couple years. We attempted to do that this past weekend when I took on the job of painting the laundry room. How hard can that be? Really hard! I did a great job of painting it but the colors are all wrong. We thought a nice sunny yellow would be bright and cheery in there but as Karen told us, yellow is a really difficult color to get right based on the sample chips you have to look at. What I did just doesn't work at all. I sort of knew that when i first started applying the paint but I didn't want to judge it too quickly, wanting instead to see how it looked with the entire room done. I should've gone with my gut instinct. But that's not the really bad part. We got ridiculously creative with the service door to the garage and found a nice retro green that we thought would look fun. The color chips looked nice next to one another but it's much more funny than fun. Go ahead...laugh! I mean, can it get any worse? I did that? I almost wasn't going to mention it here but hey..

Karen came by yesterday to have a look and a laugh. She's going to work with us to make it right. She had lots of ideas as well that we're going to incorporate into the room's new look. More on that in the weeks to come.

Friends of ours are vacationing in Florida for the next week and asked us if we could watch their Sugar Gliders for them while they're away. They're an interesting animal, native to Australia and where I understand they're not kept as pets. They're nocturnal so we have no interaction with them during the day but they come alive at night. Charlie and Allie (especially Allie) are fascinated by them while Toby couldn't care less. It was funny the first day we had them because Allie and Charlie were glued to the cage waiting for them to make an appearance. They were so patient. Here's a video of them from last night shot in 'night vision'. Tammy uses a glove to hold them because they'll sometimes nip a little. Other than the occasional nip they're pretty sweet little guys.

I typically have one game on my Droid that I'll occasionally play and for now that game is Daddy Long Legs. I'm not so good at it yet but I'm working on it. The idea is to tap the legs to cause the spider to put one foot in front of the other. Here's a 21 meter walk mine did. It's a lot more difficult than it looks and usually results in a drunk looking spider. I've kept him upright for just shy of 27 meters.

I had a blast out on my fat-bike Friday afternoon. I was intending to do a loop from home to the trailhead at Mendota then work my way west to Burnsville and Country Rd 5 to home but because I couldn't say no to an overtime call from work I had to cut it short and have Tammy meet me. It's all good though because there were only two hours of daylight left but those would've been two fun hours!

Digging the Trails Until... from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I've Changed and Picking Up Where We Left Off

I came into work last Tuesday night and Leslee asked me why I hadn't posted a photo of myself from my Navy days to my Facebook page for Veteran's Day the way I usually do. I told her that "I just wasn't feeling it this year". My military service doesn't make me as proud as it once did. It was only a few years ago that you'd usually find a US flag flying out in front of our home for such holidays but I no longer do that either. I've changed.

I remember how the pastor where I used to attend church would honor all of the veterans in attendance one Sunday morning each year by having us stand and be acknowledged. It was always a proud moment for me. So what happened? What changed?

I've never seen my time in the Navy as something I did out of patriotism for our country. Patriotism had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to join and while I can't speak for those I served with, you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that many (if any) of them were serving out of some sense of love-of-country. For the most part we were young kids just out of high-school, not sure of what else to do with our lives. Some of us were losers in society; not focused enough or ambitious enough to have plotted out anything beyond our senior year but we knew we needed to do something with our lives. To me, the Navy seemed as good a port in the storm as any.

I wrote a several part piece about my time in the military and what led up to it a few years ago. I doubt you'll find anything to do with patriotism anywhere in what I wrote.

What changed? For me it was watching how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were waged and mismanaged. Also, realizing how our military has been and is being used by those who stand to profit from it. Did you know that there are literally tens of billions of dollars unaccounted for on the balance sheets of our defense department for our two ongoing wars. It's disturbing. People are getting rich from sending our sons and daughters to fight these trumped up wars. I suppose it's been this way for much longer than I want to believe but I'm just now noticing it. Our defense department has become so obscenely bloated that I no longer feel proud to be associated with it the way I once was. That's what's changed. Perhaps there will come a day when I see things differently but likely not in this lifetime.

The military was a good jumping off point for me into adulthood and it still can be for others. It's the motives behind the missions that leave me feeling disillusioned about it today. But still, I'm grateful for my time in the Navy and the growth I experienced in those years.

I received a subpoena to appear in court to testify about what I witnessed back in June when there was an altercation between a couple of tree trimmers in our neighborhood. I'm hoping a plea-bargain is reached so I can avoid the disruption in my schedule but I'm not counting on it.

Winter arrived this past week in the form of a 'polar vortex', picking up right where it left off last spring. I'm not looking forward to another repeat of last winter but if we must at least I've got my fat-bike to help me cheat this winter a few hours at a time just like last year. I made it down to the river a couple of times last week for several hours of trail riding. Here's Friday's adventure in map form.

I drove to Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis on Thursday to talk with them about getting a front suspension fork for my Mukluk. I'd like the suspension for the increased control it will give me on the trails but also to help reduce the amount of vibration making its way into my videos. Win-win.

I spoke with Tyson, one of Freewheel's mechanics and he told me that there's no quick fix for me because of the diameter of my headtube; it's too small. When I bought my bike nearly 3 years ago there were no fat-bikes with suspension and they've only just recently begun to show up. Tyson cautioned me that although it's assumed that fat-bikes will be ridden in the winter, the technology for the suspension being seen on some of the newer models hasn't really been tested to his liking in frigid conditions and the amount of shock absorption they'll provide in colder temps may not be all that great. That wasn't what I wanted to hear but I appreciated his honesty. I'll be back in the spring to see what others who've ridden the newer breed of suspension bikes throughout the coming winter have to say and then maybe I'll upgrade if there's something out there to my liking.

Until then I'll be just fine...

River Trails Riding from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tammy's Samis and Oh No, Snow!

I'm back at the salt mine after having had two weeks off. Wow...that was so nice! It's been years since I've been away from work for two consecutive weeks. Thoughts of retirement kept taunting me...'you don't have to go back, you know'...but each time I managed to shoo them away. I'm still intent on sticking around at least until next spring, then after that I'll be month to month.

Tammy made a quick trip up to Babbitt yesterday to see her mom and Cindy but she came back today, one day early. There's so much I'd like to say here about why she came home early but I'll let it go for now. Tammy is such a good person who goes out of her way for others. She's the most giving and compassionate person I know, yet, there are those in her family who have nothing but disdain for her. I don't get it and I have little time for them, especially when they know better.

Speaking of Tammy...she's been busy making Sami bracelets. She's done quite a few of these already and has given many of them away to friends but the plan is to create an Etsy site where she can market them. Everyone in retirement has to have a plan or two. She's never far removed from her creative side and I love that about her. The photo to the right is a close-up view of one of her bracelets.

She took an acrylic painting class a couple nights ago where the lesson was to more or less copy the instructor's work. I'm still hopeful that she'll dust off her watercolors again one of these days. She has so much untapped ability and I'd love to see what she can do if she really took some time to develop her style. I mentioned before the watercolor class she took in college. It's been a while since I've pimped her work from that class here.

I've beefed up the RAM on my Macbook Pro from 4gb to 8gb with hopes of reducing the lag time I've been experiencing, mostly on its PC side through Bootcamp. It appears to have solved my problems. No more walking away in frustrating waiting for programs to load. I can now see getting another couple of years use out of my nearly 4.5 year old laptop. A hat-tip to Jim Knoll for the suggestion!

Skip the next few paragraphs if you've had your fill of politics. I just need to make mention of this here for years from now when I look back.

I'm disappointed in the midterm election results but mostly I'm disappointed in the pathetic campaigns run by democrats. Rather than pointing to and embracing the many achievements of the Obama administration they chose to run from them while at the same time shunning Obama. Why? Typically during an election season I'll see Airforce 1 (the president's plane) making its way across the country from big city to big city in full campaign mode but I saw none of that this year. I didn't have to mess with one TFR (temporary flight restriction) airspace. Right-wing media with their constant drip-drip-drip of made up or overblown negative narratives about the man and his administration has been a success; such a success that even people who knew better were afraid to stand up and refute the talking points for fear of being tarred and feathered by the propagandists.

To put things in perspective: Bush presided over the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression; he had the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover; there was a complete collapse of the stock market on his watch and he turned a budget surplus into a trillion dollar deficit. Since Obama was elected we've seen 65 straight months of economic growth; unemployment falling from 10.1% to 5.8%; the budget deficit reduced by 2/3 and record stock market growth. Oh, and the ACA (ObamaCare) isn't looking nearly as bad as those on the side of disinformation would want you to think. And I'm to believe we should go back to the policies that caused so much distress to our country?

Yes, I get that neither man nor party deserves full fault or credit for all that happens while they're in office but if you look at the unforced errors committed by Bush (the war in Iraq and costly tax cuts mostly for the wealthy) and compare his abysmal 8 years with the rebuilding undertaken by Obama but dragged down by an obstructionist republican congress, there's a huge difference between the men. One was as pathetic a president as I've witnessed in my lifetime and the other is someone I admire very much. It amazes me that people bought into the lie machinery to the extent they did and continue to.

Moving on...

I spent most of yesterday stringing outdoor lights for the fast approaching holiday season and just in time! We've got a winter snowstorm working its way toward us that's expected to dump between 8 and 10 inches (20 to 25 cm for my European friends) of snow on us beginning late Sunday night and into Tuesday. Fortunately for me I spent a few hours this morning making one last sweep of the yard for leaves. I won't say 'bring it on' but I'm about as ready as I can be.

Time to fuel the snowblower!

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Working Vacation and Celebrating 86 Years!

I'm in the middle of a two week vacation from work but I'm doing very little relaxing. I decided to tackle one of the jobs on my growing inventory of things-around-home-that-are-in-need-of-attention-but-can-wait-until-I'm-retired list: I painted the basement.

It was ten years ago that our Extreme Basement Makeover was in full swing and we've done very little to it since with the exception of some stained-glass work. We both really liked the sage green color we used on the walls down there at the time but I grew tired of it a while ago when I began to notice how there wasn't really any warmth to it. So, I put in a text to Karen to see if she could find some time in her schedule to sit down with us to help select some colors that would work well together. And then we (mostly I) got busy!

After the better part of 4 days we had this to show for our efforts.

Basement Painting Project from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

It's so nice to have it done. I'm writing this from one of my favorite spots in the house, down in the shop at one of the workstations. I enjoy being down here again! ...and so do the pups!

I was cleaning my bike recently when I noticed a crack developing where the spokes attach to the hub on my rear wheel. That's not good and I knew right away that I wouldn't be riding these wheels again. I put in a call to Adrian at Flanders Bros Cycles in Minneapolis to see if he had something similar he could sell me. He had nothing on hand but could have an even better pair for me in less than a week. They wouldn't come cheaply but hey, I'm still employed.

I was a little disappointed that this would have to happen while I was on break and intending to do lots of riding but this gave me the excuse to do the basement painting project. I'm happy.

The new wheels are the sweetest I've ever ridden! Adrian was telling me all of the selling points of them but most of what he was saying was over my head. I was content to take his word and know that these are more wheel than I'm worthy of and if I can get 33,000 miles from these as I did my last set I'll keep singing their praises.

Junk-mail seldom makes it beyond the trash can in our garage after being retrieved from our mailbox. There was one piece last week though that caught my eye because the name on it looked vaguely familiar. I opened it up to find a check for more than $600. I had to look at it closely to make sure it wasn't some sort of a come-on. It wasn't. It was my payout for a class-action lawsuit I'd entered into several years ago, never expecting to see much more than a few dollars if that. And to think, that piece of mail came so close to ending up in the trash!

Mom turns 86 today! We took her out to brunch at Cracker Barrel then brought her by our home to open some gifts. I think it was a nice start to her birthday. With her frail heart, each year I think it's going to be her last but each year she is happy to celebrate another.

She had already received 6 calls this morning from friends wishing her a happy birthday and she was telling us of more she was expecting to get. I love when she has something to look forward to because it really makes her day. With that in mind, we really need to take her out more often than we do. She's always so insistent on how she's happy to stay at home but I need to be more insistent that she needs to get out. Simple as that.

The rain has let up and I've got a yard full of leaves that need attention. My practice retirement is going almost too well! I could so easily get used to this! Hmm...let's do Christmas/holiday lights this year or not? Hmm....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are You a Finished Product?

I was up late the other night trying in vain to fall asleep for an early morning wakeup. Unable to sleep, I sat up and took out my Droid Maxx and began scrolling through the years of accumulated history on my Facebook wall; something I'd never done. I got to one of my earlier posts from October, 2008 where I spoke of seriously considering voting for Obama. I remember that moment well because it was a turning point in how I'd begin to view the players in the political arena. It was also a point in my life where I felt a sense of weight being lifted from me as I finally broke free from a dysfunctional ideology that had had its grips on me for much too long.

It's been 6 years and I haven't looked back.

Reevaluating all that you believe to be true can be a very soul-searching endeavor but one that's a must from time to time. Turning on its head all that you've supported and embraced can get messy but in my case once I began to reassemble the pieces an entirely new picture came into focus for me. That image was one of a party whose unwavering support was for the most successful among us while they offered nothing short of disdain for those in society who hadn't been so fortunate.

Where there was once support from me for all things republican, it had been replaced by questions and concerns and a feeling that I'd been hoodwinked.

We were being told that supply-side (or trickle-down) economics was going to lift all boats but it was becoming apparent that that was a sham. The tax cuts for the wealthy pushed through by George W Bush never created a sense of generosity among those who were benefiting from them. They didn't trickle-down. Our financial sector was in ruins thanks to a lack of regulation on Wall Street (something both parties are to blame for but something much more fully a republican issue today as they attempt to water-down any attempt at regulation through Dodd/Frank legislation). The war in Iraq had also become a fiasco with no easy way out say nothing of the lives lost or scarred and the trillions of dollars added to our national debt.

And yet, republicans today are so quick to criticize Obama for not enough fixes to the problems they in large measure foisted upon us as they now sit on the sidelines and offer absolutely nothing but obstructionism. If you're supporting these people I have to wonder why? What is it about their actions that you agree with? Oh, they're Christians you say? Sorry, but you couldn't be more wrong.

If you're one who believes the Fox News propaganda that Obama is to blame for the obscene-ness of our national debt, do you understand what the drivers of that debt are and who's mostly responsible for them? Here's an article from a year ago that may be of help to you.

Let's say we go all-in and embrace the hard-right agenda that so many are salivating about. Where will that take us? More wars; more tax cuts for the wealthy; less regulation on Wall Street and elsewhere resulting increased potential for more calamity; escalating health-care costs if the Affordable Care Act is repealed in addition to all those who would lose coverage due to preexisting conditions. The list goes on. What is it about this agenda that is at all attractive to any thinking person? I don't get it.

I'm hesitant to get too political here or on other social media lately because talking to walls appeals little to me but occasionally I'll slip up. I got a refresher lesson about why I avoid such discussions earlier this week as I engaged one of my tea-party-republican friends in a discussion about politics. Big mistake. I was attempting to open John's eyes to some of the larger ills that ail us rather than his myopic focus on illegal immigrants, food-stamps, welfare and other social programs that are often the go-to red meat for those who tune in to the likes of Fox News and other right-wing outlets. I asked him a few pointed questions designed to cause him think outside the bubble he's trapped in. I received no response other than a suggestion a few hours later that I go fuck myself before he deleted the thread from his Facebook wall. I tried.

I know I don't have all the answers and that I'm a work in progress but at least I'm a work in progress and not a finished product which is the sense I get from too many with no desire to consider another way of looking at this social experiment we're all immersed in.

How about you, are you a finished product?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Week in Videos and a Few Photos

I had a good week of riding this week. My speed and power are still missing-in-action for the most part but I'm pretty much riding pain free with the exception of my right knee. I've got a couple weeks off from work coming up beginning at the end of this work-week and I hope to get my fill of riding and being outdoors.

I had a fun loop into St Paul on Tuesday. The fall colors were brilliant in spots and it was a gorgeous day! I was feeling like a weight has been lifted off me now that I'm able to get out again; like a junkie must feel when they finally get their fix, they can breath again.

So Nice! from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

We had some tree trimming done Thursday by Caleb and his crew from Vineland Tree Care. This was such a different experience from the one we had last year around this time with the sketchy guys who came through our neighborhood hustling up work for which I paid way too much. Caleb is an arborist and actually knows what he's doing. They'll be back sometime in late November to trim the two Red Oaks on the side of our home. Jim (the owner) was reluctant to do them now for fear that we haven't had a hard enough frost to eliminate the chance for Oak Wilt.

Vineland Tree Care from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

As soon as they were through trimming I headed out on a ride intent on doing the loop I never got to finish the day I crashed. I'd been dreaming of doing this route as soon as I was feeling well enough and Thursday was the day. If this was to be a mentally healing ride of sorts for me it couldn't have played out better. I have over 25 hours of music on my Nano with only a handful of songs that repeat. How coincidental it was that Pink Floyd's Echoes (the song that lulled me to sleep) would be playing in my ears as I approached the crash site. I was determined that there would be no repeat.

Lakeville to Lonsdale to Jordan loop, take 2! from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

The pups are really enjoying this weather for their daily walks. I try and get them out for 30 to 45 minutes each day with Toby leading the way. He can be pretty insistent on which roads we take, not typically wanting to do the same route two days in a row. Allie and Charlie aren't so particular. I don't mind indulging them because it's their time. Tammy took them to the dog park twice last week. That's heaven for them.

On the drive into work this morning I had to stop and pick up a prescription for a steroid spray I use for allergies. I went inside to pay and noticed what looked like the same medication for sale over-the-counter and for only half the price of the prescription I was there to pick up. I asked the pharmacist and she said there's really no difference. How nice!

And that's a wrap!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again and Creepy Zombie Daughter

My recovery from my crash has advanced a long way in the last week, so much so that I was able to get out and ride on Friday afternoon and again Saturday morning. I'm just soft-pedaling for the most part but it's good just to be riding. I can't very easily get out of the saddle and pedal yet because of some lingering pain when I push it but I'm okay if I stay seated. It took me at least a couple of years to be totally comfortable on my bike after my last crash (insert shameless Judge Judy appearance video here) but I don't sense that that's going to be a problem this time. I'm feeling quite fine already.

My main injury was to my sacroiliac joint on my left side. My chiropractor explained how it's a joint with a lot of nerves from the spinal cord in close relation to it. Most of his adjustments have focused on my lower back in addition to a couple of sessions (so far) of acupuncture targeting the area. I wasn't sure what to think after my first experience with the needles because I didn't notice any relief at all from my pain but after the second session I was a believer. I noticed the relief a couple hours later after going home and laying down. There was an obvious lessening of the pain I'd been feeling when I got up off the couch.

This is the time of year I most dread when it comes to yard work. I've got most of our gardens cleared out and our hostas and other perennials cut back but there's still a ton of leaves yet to come down. I set out 23 bags of compost (in addition to our two 60 gallon compost containers) this past week to be taken away by our trash hauler. I'm sure he hates me.

Other than that, I love fall. Did I mention I'm back on my bike again?

Tammy and I were discussing retirement the other day. I'd really like for her to be able to call it quits before I do so she's making plans to be done this coming spring. We sat down on the couch and penciled in some budget numbers the other day. I shouldn't be too far behind her. We're due to lose a good percentage of our controller workforce in the area where I work traffic within the next year with half of us being eligible to retire. It's going to be much more difficult to get time off and yeah, sector time is going to increase substantially. I don't mind working but the lure of being someplace else when I no longer need to be there will eventually win out.

I got a photo text from Rachel yesterday as she was preparing for the Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis. Costuming is one of her strong points! She and friend Maddy went as Viking Zombies. Very convincing I'd say!

I posted this link on my Facebook page a few days ago. I find it fascinating to see how tiny we really are in relation to all that's out there. It's impossible for me to try and comprehend the vastness of the universe and so I really don't ponder it that deeply anymore. I remember as a kid I'd try and imagine how space beyond our atmosphere goes on and on without end as I'd contemplate infinity. It would cause my brain to go into overload so I stopped doing that.

These days I'm much more inclined to think about riding my bike. Did I mention that I'm riding again?

A Return to Riding from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.