Monday, February 8, 2016

Online Panhandling, a Date Night and Winter Riding

I read a story recently about an overweight guy who is bicycling across the country to both win his wife back and lose weight while paying for his adventure via crowdsourcing. I had no reason to suspect his effort to be anything other than a legitimate endeavor but today Tammy was watching Dr Phil and he was interviewing Eric on his program. Apparently Eric has more than a few skeptics, and for good reason. I was looking at his Strava page (Strava is what a lot of us cyclists use to track our progress) and Eric is spending very little time trying to reach his goal but he still has his hand out looking for whatever money people will throw his way.

Crowdsourcing is one way to generate income online -- making viral videos is another.

A friend posted a video on Facebook today of a guy walking the streets of NYC with dozens of dollar bills taped to his suit while holding a sign that encouraged passers-by in need to take whatever amount of money they wanted off of him. I had no reason to doubt the legitimacy of what I'd just watched but one of the commenters to the video shared a video link describing videos such as this to be nothing more than staged scenarios intended to tug at your heartstrings with hopes of going viral and generating tens of thousands of dollars for the person who uploaded it.

I'm so leary anymore of giving to any charities in general with the amount of scammers that are out there.

I got a text from Karen one morning recently telling me to look out my back windows. There were 4 deer in our backyards that still hadn't bedded down for the day, feeding on whatever it is they feed on. I know they're commonplace but they're also elusive and when I see them I always stop whatever it is I'm doing to have a look. Karen said she usually sees them in a group of 7.

Rachel and her friend Michelle came over Saturday night to give us relief from watching Mom/Grandma and let us get away for a date-night. That was sweet of them.

Tammy is a bit of a sci-fi nerd so I took her to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Mall of America. MoA isn't a favorite venue of ours to see a movie because of their lack of stadium seating but we liked the idea of spending the evening kicking around the mall, seeing a show and having dinner.

This was my first Star Wars movie so I wasn't sure what to expect or if I'd be able to understand any of what was happening after being dropped into the middle of the action but I managed okay. I think Tammy was hoping for more from the show but she still liked it as did I. She says the first Star Wars is still the best in the series.

I gorged on way too much candy during the movie and got dizzy and sweaty as we left the theater for Twin City Grill. The bread tray and beer brought me back around. We put our diets on hold and guiltlessly enjoyed our dinners and conversation which mostly centered around our parents and thoughts about our years growing up. It was a nice night out together and something we've been missing being able to do more of.

I had such a good workout this afternoon on my CompuTrainer. I was racing against two previous efforts I'd done (one from a few days ago and one from two years ago) and that usually causes me to work harder than I otherwise would.

I took a photo to show what I'm looking at while I'm on my CompuTrainer. Today I rode a simulated course of the Diamond in the Rough Triathlon in Perryville, MD. The left view is my current effort while the other two views are from two separate previous performances. The monitor shows me where I'm at on the course in relation to the other two riders. It'll also show my current data as well as the performance data from the other rides. You can see the course profile along the bottom and if you look closely you can see where each rider is at along the profile line.

Riding an indoor trainer can be mind-numbing and most cyclists will do anything to avoid it but with all of this geeky stuff to help take my mind off of the suffering, I actually enjoy the challenge.

But outdoor winter riding in Minnesota can be a lot of fun as well. The foot of snow we received last week was just what the trails were in need of.

Video from our Faturday ride from two days ago...

Faturday at the River Bottoms from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Each morning when I wake up I reach for my phone to check for notifications or emails. One of the things I enjoy seeing most is my "look back" from Facebook that shows me what I was doing on that day's date in previous years. If nothing else it shows me how fast a year or more can get away but it also usually provides for some nice memories. As someone who likes to reminisce about days gone by this works well for me.

Yesterday's look back had a photo of our pups that I'd posted 7 years ago just after Charlie had come to live with us. I had written in the comments section: "Toby is becoming more and more accepting of Charlie all the time. Charlie follows Toby like he's a big bother at the dog park. It's very cute to watch." I remember those days. It would take Toby at least a couple of years to warm up to the little guy but he eventually did. They're not playmates but they can often be found snuggled close together.

I took the photo to the right yesterday afternoon to bookend the photo from 7 years ago.

I got a text the week before last from Rachel inquiring if I was interested in attending the Bernie Sanders rally in St Paul when his campaign rolled through town last Tuesday night. We had last been to a campaign rally together in the fall of 2004 when George W. Bush came to town. It was a time when Tammy and I were part of the Christian Conservative voting bloc. Little did we know then how much our political views would change over the next few years and neither did Rachel realize that the same would happen for her as all 3 of us individually began to question a mindset that had been working for us but a mindset that was about to be questioned by us all.

We'd bought into an ideology based on a pro-life platform which apart from that one thing bared little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus. We cheered alongside our fellow Christians as GWB led us into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, never once stopping to question the words of Jesus to love our enemies. That alone should've been enough to cause me to pause and begin my questioning but it wasn't. It would eventually take the anti-labor actions of the Bush administration toward my workplace and an anti-GLBTQ lead pastor at our beloved church with its abundance of conservative Christians and their vocal support of him to give me that cold slap to my face that said "Wake up! These people are wrong and you're supporting them!"

That was when I began to question everything about this marriage of my faith and politics that the republican party was only too happy to arrange. And it's only gotten worse since leaving both the church and the party as the republican winner of last night's Iowa caucus, Ted Cruz, proclaimed in his victory speech, "To God be the glory"; his own version of "Allahu Akbar". This is the same Ted Cruz who recently shared the stage with Kevin Swanson, a pastor who advocates killing gays. It's the same Ted Cruz who recently stated his promise to carpet-bomb the Middle East in his quest to go after ISIS; a pledge that promises to kill untold thousands of innocent lives. It's the same Ted Cruz who would rather shun refugees who desperately need our compassion. Where for god's sake is Jesus in your thinking, Ted?

And how do Christian conservatives respond? They come out in record numbers to support this man and the skewed Christian ideology he's peddling. This is so troubling to me.

So yes, I was happy to meet up with Rachel and Raenelle at RiverCentre in St Paul to hear Bernie speak before an enthusiastic crowd of mostly younger people but a crowd also made up of many in their 40s to 60s. What Bernie says resonates so much with me and has for many years.

Bernie's candidacy for president is a longshot but if a man peddling a severely warped Christian ideology can get the nod, surely a man telling us the truth about the destructiveness of trickle-down economics, tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy among us paid for by cuts in programs for struggling people and the toll on our country of wars without end, he too has to have a chance.

Bernie Sanders St Paul Rally from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

But there's more. I hate to end this entry on a heavy note so I'll slip in a video from Saturday's ride. Enjoy, because I did!

Le Tour de Minneapolis and St Paul from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shredded Memories, Down Time and Mandolin Orange

One year ago to the hour as I write this I was being ambulanced to Fairview Southdale with a good amount of uncertainty in my future. There would be other challenges to unfold in the months ahead but this was a big one that could've meant a profound change in my ability to do those activities I enjoy most: riding and walking. I try to not let too much time go by before offering a prayer of thanks to God for all of the healing that's happened in my life over the past year. Often times those prayers are said from the saddle of my bike in the solitude of the trail where maybe there's an eagle or two gliding over the river just beside me with a freezing wind in my face that causes my nose to run even more. It's a time when more than ever I'm feeling alive and healthy and grateful for that.

I got a text from Reid last week. He was shredding some documents he no longer needed and among his discards were some reports I'd written about training sessions we'd had together when he was my trainee 8 years ago. He sent me photos of some of the reports, sure that I'd be amused by them. He was right. There was some fun stuff in there that I'd forgotten about. It reminded me of how I used to enjoy being a trainer before an incident in the sector while conducting training permanently soured me on it. (See what you started, Reid!?)

Okay, back to a more happy place...

Le Tour de France trivia training report

A '70s duo trivia training report

A Big Brother trivia training report

A servicing our customers training report (This was an embarrassingly painful time to be a controller.)

I'm taking a rest day from working out. I don't really want to but my quads have been hinting (for a few days now) that it would be a good idea. I've been out on my fat-bike nearly every day this month and enjoying it as much as ever. I've never had a January like this one but then I've never been retired in January before, either.

Temps above freezing will be here toward the end of the week and the trails will be off-limits so as to minimize damage to them. My CompuTrainer will be a good substitute but I'll miss the outdoor aspect that trail riding provides.

Here's some video from Sunday morning's ride on the trails at Elm Creek. What an awesome place! Tyler and I were having some fun riding (or in my case, trying to ride) the narrow sections of logs or planks known in mountain bike vernacular as "skinnies".

Tammy is on her way up north to Fargo with her mother to attend a Celebration of Life service for her aunt Minnie who passed away a few days ago at the age of 96. The pups and I are staying behind to keep the homefires burning.

I've been listening to a lot of Mandolin Orange for the past month or two. I can't seem to get enough of their soothing sound. I first became aware of them a few summers ago when we were visiting Rachel in Rochester and were taking in the sights of the city's Thursdays on First & 3rd event. I only wish I knew then how much I'd fall in love with their music. Here's a minute or so of them that I captured on video that afternoon.

I'm not typically a bluegrass listener but see what you think...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Retirements And A Remedy

Barry Vig had his retirement party yesterday afternoon at Celts Pub in Farmington. It was a nice turnout of both people from the workplace and his friends outside of work. I arrived just as Keith and Tracee were getting there. I apologize for the fuzzy photo. I was using the panoramic feature on my phone in marginal light conditions. You can maybe make out Barry toward the back right of the photo wearing a gray sweater and sipping a drink. I totally forgot about getting a photo with him.

It was interesting talking with some friends I used to work with and to hear how they're managing with the continued exodus of controllers opting to retire. Staffing levels are down considerably from a few years ago and at levels not seen since the days of recovering from the PATCO strike of August, 1981. They expect staffing levels to bottom out sometime in the next 18 months. There's a ton of training to do and Minneapolis Center currently has the highest washout rate of any similar facility in the country. That hurts.

Several other controllers also retired this past month: Jon Otto, Todd Amerman, Kim Bowe and Danny Reinders. Come on in...the water's fine! (Ha! I'm just barely wet myself but I believe I'm qualified to say that.)

I think I may have solved my dilemma of frozen toes that result from riding for 90 minutes in sub-zero temperatures and no, it doesn't involve staying inside. (I can read your minds!)

I went out to Gander Mountain to pick up some toe warmers to go with my Vasque boots and the salesman who was pointing me in the direction of the warmers suggested I consider some heated insoles. Say what? Gander Mountain sells them? I had heard about something similar several years ago for cycling but at around $600 I figured the pain to my wallet would be significantly worse than the pain of frozen toes. He showed me a display of ThermaCELL Heated Insoles that go for around $180 and added that he sells hundreds of them. I took his word for it, found my size and made my way to the checkout.

When I got home I went online to Amazon to see if they had any reviews on what I'd just purchased. They did and unfortunately they weren't all that good plus the price through Amazon was considerably cheaper. I opted to return them before using them, possibly making a return more difficult and instead bought the insoles through Amazon where I think I'd stand a better chance of getting a refund after using them should they not live up to the hype. Did I mention they were considerably cheaper through Amazon? (Yes, I'm somewhat conflicted about deciding to use Amazon and stiff a local store but $45 is $45 to this newly minted pensioner.)

Anyway, I was able to try them over the last few days and while they aren't the game-changer I was hoping they'd be, their benefit is noticeable. I was out this morning in temps ranging from -10ºf to -3ºf (-23ºc to -20ºc for my metric friends) for not quite two hours and between my heated insoles and the disposable toe warmers I had no problems whatsoever with frozen toes. In those temps I'm usually more than ready to pack it in after 90 minutes. I don't think that either the heated insoles or the toe warmers by themselves would've been enough.

Isn't my blog just the most interesting site!?

Surprisingly I didn't have the trails to myself this morning. There was one other fat-biker and his dog as well as two runners taking advantage of a beautiful winter day.

I've been riding a lot lately; 15 of the last 17 days. I remember how before I retired I'd often dream of being able to wake up and get out on my bike in the morning with no reason (such as work) to have to hurry home for; to be able to take the day as it unfolds and shape it the way I want to. This is nice.

Where will tomorrow take me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Moving On (Finally) And The Log Bridge Of Certain Death

It's been at least 2 weeks since I've dreamt about my former work in the trenches as an air traffic controller. Dreams about working traffic or making the rounds to say goodbye to people on my last day were common themes. I've also noticed that since the new year began I've let go of any thoughts about missing my old life and the ridiculous schedule I used to keep. I would say that my mourning period is over and I'm free to mentally move on. Perhaps it was getting beyond my planned retirement date of January 2nd, 2016 that I had been working toward when I had to abruptly retire which has allowed me this new peace of mind. Whatever. It's nice.

Pro tip: don't ever question scripture when conversing with a fundamentalist Christian. Never. Biblical inerrancy is the belief that everything in the bible, all scripture, is as it should be. If you do happen to color outside the lines be prepared to be told that "you have hardened your heart against the Lord so bad that there may be no turning back" and that "I'm afraid the only God you serve is the one you created in your mind". Obviously there's a little more to this but suffice to say that I'm a compassionate New Testament Christian going up against a hardline Old Testament Christian.

Is it too much to think that because throughout history man has corrupted everything he's ever been involved with, including the church at the highest levels, that the bible may in some ways reflect man's intentions rather than God's? I think it's foolish and naive to think otherwise. I'll take my chances with God and rely on Jesus to defend me for being human should I be proven to be wrong.

My GoPro Hero 2 is 4 years old and it's served me well but I've been kicking around the idea of replacing it with something better. What's recently captured my interest is the new generation of 360º video cameras making their way onto the scene. Click on the video and if your browser supports it you can drag and change the direction of the view you're seeing. It's a real treat if you're reading this on your phone. Bring up the video and move your phone around in any direction to change your view.

How cool is that!?

Here's another one.

I'm pretty sure both videos were taken with an array of GoPro cameras all pointed in different directions with the video then being stitched together.

Sports models with single or multiple lenses for the average consumer like me won't be too far behind. There's already a few out there but their resolution is lacking as is the amount of video they can store. Until then I'll have to be content to use my trusty GoPro to create memories to look back on years from now.

Winter finally arrived sometime last week in the way of some very cold air and I couldn't be happier about it. For the first time this winter Nine Mile Creek (about two miles west of the Lyndale trailhead) is frozen over and it's safe for us to ride across it rather than walk the log-bridge-of-certain-death to get across. I wondered if it was just me who didn't care much for the tree crossing or if it was generally considered sketchy by others, too. I've talked to two guys who feel safer riding the tree across rather than walking it. That says something. I had been avoiding the trail west of Lyndale all winter but now I'm enjoying complete access to the river trails and loving it!

Wanna see what you're missing?

Faturday Group Ride from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Silver Linings

2015 was a year full of ups and downs for us. Mostly downs it seems but maybe not. Still, I'm glad to see it gone. It began for me with the worst cluster headache phase I'd ever been through. A phase that had begun the previous September and would stay with me for 5 months. I had never experienced anything like that in the 40 years I've been routinely visited by these beasts. I didn't mention what I was going through here although I did blog extensively about what was happening. I may publish my writings someday but I can't say for sure. They're much more personal than I usually get.

My clotting issues began very soon into the new year and I had no idea what I was in for. I had the wind taken out of my sails for a time but I was continually looking for a silver lining; for something I could take from the experience that would serve to make me stronger. If you were to ask me while I was going through all of that I'd have been hard-pressed to point to a silver lining but looking back I can clearly see how God had me in his care as the doctors were able to save my leg when there was a good chance they weren't going to be successful. That's silver lining enough for me.

My mother's health began its decline in May and would eventually end with her passing in September. It was a very difficult several months for us as a family with some unnecessary inner turmoil that resulted in bitter words being exchanged between siblings as we tried to do what was best for Mom.

Amidst all of this we were dealing with the change in our lives brought about when Tammy's mother Elaine came to live with us in late May. That sort of change in a family's dynamic can't be fully appreciated or anticipated until it happens. We're blessed to have been in a position to take her in but we do miss being able to be more spontaneous in our daily lives. We used to do so much together and that seldom happens anymore. Still, we'd do it all over again if presented with the same circumstances.

August brought about so much change for us when I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. It was change that would cause me to ultimately pull the plug on my career and head for the exit. It wasn't at all the way I wanted to go out but I kept reminding myself that getting my hearing back was all that really mattered. Plus, I was able to be there for Tammy when she really needed me more than ever. There were many more silver linings in that experience than not and I'm grateful for them all.

I have no idea what to expect in 2016 but I'm excited and we'll roll with whatever the year presents to us. Life is good.

I had to run to Keith's shop this morning. On the drive there with Toby and Allie in my lap I was in awe of a beautiful hoar frost that had blanketed us overnight. I hadn't planned to ride my bike today having ridden the previous 3 days but seeing this beauty all around me I decided I had to be out there taking it in from my bike.

A few photos from my ride.

See you in the new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Apps and Making a Murderer

Today feels like a Saturday. I stopped caring much about what day of the week it is sometime in the last month as I continue to find my retirement stride. The day of the month has come to mean more to me because retirement bank deposits find their way into my account once each month on the 1st. I'm being more careful about my purchases than I used to be when I was employed and surprisingly I don't mind the added discipline. It's not the hardship I imagined it would be.

I stumbled onto a new photo editing app the other day called Super Photo. (Android or iPhone download links) The "painting" filter renders some very cool images. Here's a collection of photos I've edited with the app. There's a free version and most of the photos in the collection I linked to were edited using it. The only drawback is that you're limited by the file size rendered. I purchased the app for $4.00 and in addition to getting larger file sizes I also have access to all of the (over 1600) filters.

I was having some serious connectivity issues with my LG G4 phone I bought a couple months ago. It was continually dropping the wifi signal in our home whereas none of our other wifi enabled devices were having a similar problem. It was frustrating me so I went online and found posts from others experiencing the same thing but with no fix from LG. Maybe all phones have a bevy of people with connectivity issues but I only did a search for LG G4.

I did some research and found that the "HappyGilmore guest network" I'd set up (only because I could) with our Belkin router had a dedicated amount of bandwidth set aside for it; bandwidth that was ultimately taking away from our "HappyGilmore" connection. I deleted the guest network and noticed a marked signal improvement all throughout our home, including the basement where I'm now getting a signal within the normal range where I was getting none before the fix. And best of all, my connectivity issues are no more.

I downloaded a free app called Wifi Analyzer and among its features is a signal strength indicator. Start the app in your smartphone and walk around your home to get a feel for where your strong and weak areas are. There are several other features of the app that are worth checking out. Sorry, iPhone users but the IOS counterpart app called WiFi Explorer will cost you $14.99. It comes with some glowing reviews if that helps.

Rachel texted us a few nights ago with a suggestion to watch Making a Murderer on Netflix. It's the true story of a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. There's much about his prosecution that points to a corrupt local sheriff's department for his imprisonment and he eventually files a lawsuit for damages. In the middle of the lawsuit he's suspected of the murder of a woman whose body is found on his property. Is he actually guilty this time of a horrible crime or has he once again been set up?  It's compelling. Watch it.

I was out with a group of fat-bikers last Sunday along the Minnesota River bottoms. Lots of fun! (video below). 18 of us got together last night for Fat Tuesday at the same location to try and trudge our way through 6 inches (18 cm) of fresh snow. We did 5 miles but it felt like 20. I fell a number of times as the snow grabbed my front wheel and took it in a direction other than where I wanted to go. I wasn't going fast enough to hurt much and all of my falls had me laughing. The entire ride was a lot of work but it was fun!

A pub-crawl with other fat-bikers is in the works for New Year's day beginning in Hopkins and riding to Surly Brewing Co. From there we'll go to Steel Toe Brewing before returning to Hopkins and a stop at LTD Brewing. It promises to be a good time.

Snow! Finally! from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.