Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reminiscing, Flying the Flag Again and Smooth Streets

The leaves have been piling up fast in our yard and rather than wait a week between mowings to vacuum them up, I've been out there every 2 to 3 days. They're a lot more manageable that way. I love fall but not this aspect of it.

Two more metro area courses were added to the PCC membership I have for golfing, bringing the total number of courses I have available to me to 57. The two newest additions are courses I'm familiar with from when I was a boy: Hyland Greens and Dwan Golf Club, both in Bloomington. Dwan is an 18 hole course but not particularly long while Hyland has gone from an 18 hole par 3 course to 9 holes, all still par 3. They removed the inside 9 holes and turned them into a driving range. I went out to Hyland Thursday afternoon to play it for old time's sake. I remember the last time I played there -- it was 22 years ago and I was with my former stepson, Dave. I returned home to a message from my sister on my answering machine that our dad had died. It's one of those memories that stays with you.

I had to pause when I got to the 4th hole because that's where, as a boy, for a few summers I'd spend my days in the field off to the right of the hole hunting for golf balls that had been hit out of bounds into the tall prairie grass. I'd ride my bike there and bring along an egg carton to display my finds along the fence for the golfers who were teeing off. I'd earn maybe $5 for a few hours of work. It was good money for a kid of around 12 years old, plus, it was fun. I still remember the first ball I found -- it was a Dynaflyte. I'd never seen one before or since but it was a beauty -- new, shiny and with no cuts in it. I probably sold it for .75c.

I was in a discussion yesterday on Facebook about flying the flag. Two people in the thread touched on why they stopped flying theirs and affirmed for me that I wasn't alone in my feelings that there's a strain of patriotism out there that some of us would rather not be associated with -- a hardline crowd that's co-opted what it means to be patriotic. I find it very off-putting. So, about 5 years ago I quietly packed up our flag and in an unpatriotic moment I tossed it in the trash. That's not something I'm proud of because I used to love to fly our flag from our front porch. It's very much the same way I feel about the Christian fish tattoos that Tammy, Rachel and I had tattooed on our ankles 10 years ago to signify our walk with Christ.

Hardline Christians are changing the face of the religion I used to be proud of into something I at times want to run from. I'm considering having my tattoo removed. Tammy would like to have some other design tattooed over hers to hide it. I hate that we're even thinking like this but it's where we're at. I have to wonder -- if we're feeling this way about this faith of ours, what does that bode for anyone on the outside looking in who may be considering becoming a Christian?

But all is not lost. I'm happy to say that I'm flying the flag again, although the flag I have now is slightly different than the standard stars and stripes I used to fly. The focus of our new flag is on peace. I simply want to fly the flag while at the same time differentiating myself from those I feel have given the practice a distasteful meaning, at least to me.

The city of Lakeville replaces about 7 to 10 miles of road each year. It's quite an undertaking from all I've learned watching them working in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods this summer as they replaced our streets. McNamara Contracting wrapped up the project a few days ago. It's nice to have smooth roads for a change. We got 30 years out of the original roads so I suppose that's not bad. I was out there with my video camera at several points along the way collecting video to splice into an upload for YouTube. I sat down last night and assembled it, hoping to keep it to something less than 5 minutes. I failed miserably!

Each homeowner was assessed around $3000 for the cost of repairs, a price I think was well worth it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lacking the Will and Some Full Days

It's been more than a week since the largest modern day mass killing in the United States. Republicans were all on point in the days after the shooting, stating that now was not the time to talk about any sort of meaningful gun control legislation. They were apparently too busy organizing their thoughts and prayers. People of all political stripes were posting their favorite memes on Facebook -- memes which best aligned with their convictions about what to do, or not to do.

The meme to the left is a good example of what conservatives were posting. I couldn't help but notice that the examples used in that particular meme all resulted in stricter controls for each of the methods listed. Timothy McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb to kill hundreds, and the government responded with much tighter controls on the sale of the kind of fertilizer he used to make a bomb. The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to commandeer aircraft and fly them into buildings, and the government responded with tighter controls on what's allowed onboard an aircraft. Richard Reid tried to blow up a passenger jet with a shoe bomb, and the government responded by requiring people to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding an airplane.

Do you see a pattern?

Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in a mass shooting in 2012. Republicans responded that it wasn't appropriate to use the tragedy as a reason to discuss gun control legislation because it would only be politicizing it. And nothing was done in the months and years that followed to try and minimize the risk for such a tragedy ever happening again. And these sort of senseless tragedies continue to happen again and again and again and again without even a discussion among our politicians about the problem because republicans won't partake in the discussion.

I don't have any delusions that we'll ever come to some reasonable laws to drastically reduce the amount of gun violence in our country. As others have said, if we couldn't find the will to do it after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, it's not likely to happen. We spend trillions of dollars chasing a bogeyman in the Middle East while for every life lost at home or abroad to terrorism we lose 1049 lives here due to gun violence. And yet republicans won't even have a discussion about it. Where is the sense in that? And where is the sense in continuing to spend trillions on wars we'll never win? But that's for another discussion that republicans won't partake in.

Here's a link to a Wiki page detailing what other countries have done in their efforts to control gun violence. Why do we in this country have to stand in such stark contrast to every other developed nation in our number of mass shootings and deaths? My god -- can't we do better?

Switching gears...

I was at a gathering of fellow Jefferson high school alum on Saturday night where I learned that Amy Ebner passed away last March from lung cancer. She had also been suffering from MS. So sad. I always thought she was the prettiest girl in school. She lived just a couple blocks from us in Bloomington. I didn't have any contact with her from middle school on as our paths diverged. I have two lasting memories of her from some 50 years ago. I recall us chatting in front of Hubert Olson Elementary where she was on her bike and I was asking her who her teacher was for the upcoming year. We were going into 6th grade. The other memory I have of her from all those years ago was of Amy beating everyone in our class in a running race. She was taller and faster than all of the boys. Those memories have always remained with me.

I woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful blue sky and light winds. We had a full day planned but my Serotta was begging me to go riding first. And so we did. I needed that, and I felt so refreshed when I was done. I've not been spending enough time on my bikes lately because golf seems to be winning out for my attention. I can ride throughout the winter but I can't say the same for golfing so I'm trying to get my fill while I can with just a few weeks remaining in the golfing season.

Tammy and I stopped by to see Steve where he was displaying his blown glass at an art fair in Sogn Valley, about 45 minutes away. The fair had lots of talented artists but it also had lots of biting beetles. We spent most of our time there chatting with Steve before leaving to meet Rachel, Drew and Drew's mother Jenny at Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings for a wine tasting -- and to meet Jenny. We had such a nice time! We spent a couple hours there sipping the various wines and munching on an assortment of cheeses, crackers and olives while chatting our time away.

I hadn't planned to do yardwork today but I did and I'm glad because I got lots done! All of our gardens are cleared of both healthy and dying flowers and all of our hostas have been cut back. And I mowed the lawn again to vacuum up the leaves after having just done it on Saturday. It was a full day of work; I finished in the dark and the drizzle.

I think I hear my golf clubs calling me for tomorrow -- or is it my bike? I'm quite sure it's my clubs I'm hearing. Can you hear them?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I've Moved On

I've completed tapering off prednisone and I'm steadily seeing glimpses of my old self. There were a few difficult days last week where I had to force myself to get out of bed but I can tell that my adrenal gland has awoken from its prednisone induced slumber as color slowly returns to my world. I'm still struggling to push hard on my rides but that will come. The headaches have been done for more than a month but I'm reluctant to send my oxygen bottles back for fear that another phase is just around the bend.

I've been absent here for more than a couple weeks. I tried to sit down several times to tap out an update but every time I did it felt like I was forcing it and I never like to approach this hobby of mine with that mindset. And where do I even begin with so much of what's happening in our world with Trump* behind the wheel; threatening to destroy North Korea and its population of 25,000,000 while his evangelical followers cheer him on; his continual comments about crowd size at his rallies -- crowds that are becoming ever smaller despite his assurances otherwise; his continual blatant lies about anything and everything; his disparaging, juvenile Twitter rants and just about anything else he involves himself with. I'll go to my grave shaking my head in disbelief that this guy conned and continues to con as many people as he has.

But conservatives got a United States Supreme Court pick out of the deal in Neil Gorsuch and he's going to give them the firepower they need to finally put a stop to abortions in this country! Keep dreaming. The United States Supreme Court has been controlled by conservatives for nearly 50 years and it was a strong conservative majority that gave us Roe v Wade in the first place, legalizing abortions -- a decision that saw 5 conservatives casting 7 of the votes which made abortion the law of the land. So there is that.

Historians will look back on this period and point to the stranglehold of conservative media upon so many unwitting followers of theirs who were duped into believing the bigoted, hate and fear filled propaganda they were selling while they divided our country in ways I never imagined were possible. I've lost a sister to this madness.

As for me, I've moved on. I'm no longer the pro-birth (disguised as pro-life) guy I once was. I see how Democratic administrations foster an environment that reduces the need for abortions and I see how Democrats are the party much more likely to come alongside mothers in need, giving them the help they're lacking to raise their children which encourages them to keep, rather than abort their babies. That's what being pro-life should be about. It stands it stark contrast to those who are merely pro-birth, like I used to be.

I've been occupying my time with biking and golfing. I've even managed a couple of indoor rides to check out the new updates to Zwift. They've added new routes to the London course and an overhead map view to show you where you're at on either of the 3 courses. I get such a good workout riding indoors.

And speaking of riding -- Rachel and I rode the St Paul Classic a couple weeks ago. A fun time was had by all!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tapering, Midnight Oil and Seeking Refuge

I'm in a bit of a funk as I complete my taper from prednisone, a drug I use as a prophylactic to minimize the disruption of my life from cluster headaches that I recently wrote about here. Prednisone is both a godsend and a curse. I'd be lost without it for those weeks and months when I'm desperate for relief from severe headache pain but it comes at a price: irritableness, aggression, mood swings, shakiness, sleeplessness, and lethargy bordering on depression. Those are just some of the more obvious side effects for me. There are other, less noticeable but more adverse reactions that come with the prolonged use of prednisone. But still, I readily take it for the relief it provides.

Prednisone suppresses the body's adrenal gland and its ability to manufacture natural corticosteroids (especially cortisol). It shuts it down completely. Weaning off the drug is important to allow time for the adrenal gland to once again begin its own cortisol production, and that takes time. I hope to be back to normal in a few weeks to a month provided I don't relapse into another phase of the headaches as has been my experience all too often over the past 10 years or more.

I got a call this morning from a representative for a drug trials company called Science 37. They would like me to participate in a trial for a drug called SOM230 which works to both abort a cluster headache and to prevent them. I told her I was interested. She would like me to contact her when I'm next in a cluster headache phase and they will fly me out to Los Angeles for 1 to 2 weeks to take part in the trial. It's always been my hunch that there's not enough research being done to understand and treat cluster headaches so I'm happy to do my part to help.

On a whim, I went to see Midnight Oil at First Avenue last week. Ed in Seattle highly recommended not passing them up so I took his advice. It was a nice whim! I got there an hour before the doors opened and found my place in line next to Phil, a friend from work. We passed the time catching up with one another.

Phil and I both found spots on the rail, stage left from which to watch the show. It was an excellent time even if it meant being on my feet for 5 hours to secure my place. I won't hesitate to go and see them again should they find their way back here.

For many in the States, their world is being rocked by hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) in the southeast and forest fires out west. I find myself somewhat amused by those on the political right who rail against democratic socialism until they need help, and then they've got their hands out. I'm left to wonder where their free-market spirit and pulling-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps mentality escapes to in times like this. Sure, these are tragic events and we should all step up and help those who are suffering, but how is this any different than a family who is stricken with cancer or some other catastrophe? There is no difference.

And for a few, perhaps, as they abandon their homes to flee the fires and storms seeking refuge, this will give them the inkling they need to better understand just a little of what desperate families fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries are feeling as they too leave their lives behind seeking safety, looking to us for help while we slam the door in their faces. This travesty continues to haunt my thoughts. I'm not expecting many conservatives to make that connection because it's not a sentiment that would ever be expressed on right-wing media -- the place that has so warped their minds and is the primary source for the divide we're experiencing here.

I'm frustrated.

I see a country that is becoming more and more unrecognizable with each passing day. Just 2 days ago Trump* proposed deporting 800,000 young people, people who were brought here illegally as children but people that have only ever known this country and its language, and yet he's prepared to send them back to where they came from -- many with no connection to their past. And these are good, decent people who are in school or working or both while contributing to the fabric of our country, serving in our military and giving everything they have for the betterment of us all. What purpose does it serve to threaten them in this way? What purpose does Trump* serve?

What a fucking dope!

On a happier note, Keith McKay was in town over the Labor Day weekend and we were able to get together and ride the river bottoms with some friends; always a nice time!



Monday, August 28, 2017

Me? 60? It Can't be! But It is And I Am!

And just like that, another decade races past! I struggled more than ever when faced with turning 50. There was something about that number that was unsettling to me and it took me awhile to come to terms with it. Funnily enough I'm not feeling the same sort of concern about having just turned 60. I'm embracing this new decade! After all, 60 is the new 40, right?

Rachel bought me a fun gift for the garage -- my own parking spot saver! It's perfect! A closer look. The USS Fresno was the ship I served on when I was in the Navy in the mid to late '70s.

And Rachel celebrated another birthday as well. She turned 26 on Thursday. Drew hosted a party for her at his home in Rochester and it was such a nice time! Well done, Drew!

I attended my 2nd annual Red Eye Open golf tournament this past week at Fountain Valley Golf Course in Farmington. It's a tournament for retired controllers. I didn't play as well as I'd hoped to but I had a lot of fun. I'd like to have hung around and visited with the group of guys but I had to head out as soon as we finished to get ready to drive into St. Paul with Tammy, Bob and Karen to see a Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center. It was a busy but fun filled day. The Lynx easily won! I only wish we could've said the same about our group investment in lottery tickets after the game. We were big losers!

After close to two months of torn up roads in our neighborhood we've got asphalt down on the streets again, but some of it is going to have to be torn out and redone. They're having a difficult time getting the road to pass the compression test across the street in front of our home. They laid asphalt down and I could tell right away that there was no way it was going to hold. The road was squishy underneath it. There were cracks and lumps in the pavement the next morning. I spoke with the project manager and she said they're going to try and install some drain-tile to minimize the deleterious effect moisture is having on the area. She was quite certain the new asphalt would fail but the forecast was calling for a significant amount of rain and they wanted to cap off the road with tar to minimize any additional moisture issues, and so that's why they proceeded even with the understanding that the road wasn't quite ready.

Hate speech has reared its ugly head in Lakeville -- at Crystal Lake Golf Course where I do most of my golfing. Someone carved a swastika into the #2 green a few nights ago. The grounds crew quickly repaired the damage. I would guess it was the work of some misguided youth but it's still troubling. There's a segment of our population that has been emboldened recently to act out in this way and there's no doubt in my mind where the fuel for this is coming from. Trump*, and his embracing of the "alt-right".  You're free to disagree but then I'm curious to know what you think the catalyst for this sort of thing is? Here's a related article.

We made it out to the fair for my birthday. We didn't get there until around 2:00 in the afternoon and parking was about impossible to find. We ended up driving 5 miles north of the fairgrounds to a park-and-ride to catch a bus to the fair. We had such a nice time walking the grounds and hitting the spots that we enjoy most. I'm tempted to go again but I think once is probably enough. It's nice to leave there wanting for a little more. We'll be back next year!

I'm such a geek. Here's a link to our travels at the fair. Take your cursor along the bottom elevation view and move it from left to right to see how we navigated the crowds. We got out of there for less than $100. I'd say we did pretty well!

Edit: Thanks, Erin for pointing out that my math was wrong. We actually spent $108.50.

I was mildly ammused by this painting in the Fine Arts Center. It can be yours for the low price of $37,000.00!



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tammy and Kevin's Big Adventure

Bucket List: view a total solar eclipse.

Check!

What a fun adventure and experience that was! I first made mention in my blog of wanting to view the eclipse from a position of totality back in March and then proceeded to cement our plans to make it happen by booking a room in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We left late Sunday morning and joined the steady flow of traffic on 35W as we made our way south. Traffic was heavy but it was moving along at a good clip. Eclipse fever was building!

We chose Lincoln for its proximity to where totality would be occurring, knowing that we'd likely be viewing it from some other city nearer to totality based on cloud cover. All of the forecasts indicated we'd need to drive west in the morning to improve our chances of a cloud free sky. We didn't mind. The extra hours spent on the road to make it happen were all worth it to us. We chose to drive toward Grand Island, Nebraska and possibly a little beyond. We eventually settled on Ravenna, Nebraska, about 33 miles west of Grand Island.

Tammy noticed a hillside off to our left as we arrived in Raveena with people gathering on it to view the eclipse. She wondered if it would maybe be a good spot for us. We drove into town, refueled then went back and navigated the field in Tammy's Crosstrek, finding the ideal setting for what I'd had in my mind's eye for setting up my video camera. My intention was not to video the eclipse, or even photograph it for that matter. I merely wanted to have a shot of the horizon or of a field of sorts and watch how the light changed during the eclipse from daylight to darkness and back to daylight. This was that spot.

We mingled with the others there, exchanging where we had traveled from and how we decided on Raveena, and other small talk. It was a fun crowd, united in our common focus at a time when unity is in short supply here.

We would occasionally don our glasses and watch as the eclipse slowly devoured the sun over the next 45 minutes or so while taking note of a steadily falling temperature and a shifting tint to the ambient light that was moving toward an aqua-amber hue.

Excitement was in the air.

As I was saying, my intent wasn't to photograph the eclipse. I was more focused on living in the moment and taking it in. And what a sight it was! I get a little excited as I write this just thinking back to it and the thought of that breathtakingly unreal image in my head that is indelibly imprinted in my brain. A light, wispy cloud moved in as the moon fully enveloped the sun but it didn't effect our view of the sun's corona. Tammy became choked up by the experience. It was profound. But that moment when the sun's light broke through the darkness is what really stands out for me -- what's referred to as the diamond ring effect. That was such an awe-inspiring and dramatic moment. Here's a video I found of it.

I have to see it again!

When the orbs in the sky had resumed normalcy and after daylight had fully returned we packed up our things for the drive home. Before leaving we thanked the family that was gracious enough to welcome us onto their land and share the experience with them.

The ride home was a long one but we didn't mind. We spent our time together listening to satellite radio and the bevy of music on my Nano while chatting our time away. The only hurry we had was in getting home before the pups were unattended for too long. Rachel and Drew had stayed with them the night before and into the late afternoon. What should've been an 8 hour drive turned into 10.5 hours as we found ourselves in stop-and-go traffic many times along the way where we were crawling along at less than 5 mph for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. My friend Lenny was about 2 hours ahead of us on the way to his home in Prior Lake and he gave me some suggestions to consider to help us avoid some growing congestion due to recent crashes that were slowing his progress. So with that we took the road less traveled through parts of Iowa which gave me a chance to drive through some small cities that I used to work air traffic into and out of during my career; cities like Dennison, Sac City and Fort Dodge. Familiar cities on one level but not at all on another.

We arrived home a few minutes past midnight after more than 700 miles (1125 km) since leaving our hotel that morning, tired but happy for having made the trek to totality. And we plan to do it again in another 7 years. You should plan to, too!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Sweet Boy Turned 14 on Thursday

Donald Trump* is an idiot. A racist idiot. If his words of this past week didn't convince you of that then I'm not sure there's anything he can do to dissuade you from your misplaced belief in him. If, when faced with questions about Trump's* stability and his fitness to serve as president you turn to the propagandists of right-wing media to quell your fears, what good have you done toward really understanding the danger he presents to us all. If you find yourself accepting of the idea that it's okay for Trump's* campaign to have been in collusion with Russia to subvert our election process or if you find yourself equating the Nazis who marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with those who rose up to stop them, your mind has been corrupted and it's more important than ever that you take a step back and come to terms with that.

The assertion that anything other than Fox News or other far right media outlets friendly to Trump* are "fake news" is disturbing to hear, especially coming from Trump's* mouth. There's a willful ignorance that comes with tuning into Fox and other similar voices to shape one's opinion. People have to know that, and yet many continue to. I worry for the direction of our country.

My sweet boy turned 14 on Thursday. Toby doesn't see or hear so well anymore but his happy feet dance the floor when I'm preparing his food in the morning, and he still loves to go out walking. He's such a love and such an important part of my life. 

We're still waiting on a newly paved Jalisco Terrace but they continue to tear out large sections of road and replace them with a different consistency of dirt due to a softness in the soil as one of the workers explained to me. It didn't help that we've received 5" (13cm) of rain this past week. It was a muddy, rutted mess out there for a few days but the end of the project is in sight. To give you a better idea of what we're still dealing with you can more easily see it in my most recent ride video I put together -- especially the last 30 seconds or so.

Our main-floor remodel is nearing completion. Tim was here this week to install the glass tile backsplash. It looks very nice. Keith will be here early next week to put the finishing touches on his work which will allow for others to come in and wrap up their parts of the project.

I spent much of yesterday cleaning the leaded windows that go in the front room. I made them back in 1995 and I've never taken them down for cleaning in all that time. I had them in a safe place in the basement for the past two months but now it's time to get them back in place. And they are. I do like the way the colors pop even more now with the white woodwork to set them off.

We'll be leaving tomorrow morning for Lincoln, Nebraska where we'll be positioned to observe the solar eclipse on Monday. Lincoln puts us in the area of totality and should give us a good shot at driving to wherever it appears we'll need to be to minimize the chances for clouds obscuring our view. I'm getting excited about this especially after watching the video below and the description of totality the speaker gives. I plan to have my video camera rolling for the half hour before and after the eclipse to capture a time-lapse from wherever we are. I don't plan to be trying to capture many photos of the event -- others will do that. I think it's more important to just stand back in awe and wonder while taking it all in.