Monday, July 21, 2014

A Suggestion or Two and Somebody's Got Mail!

I was clicking through channels one day last week when I landed on my all-time favorite movie: Breaking Away. It didn't matter that I have it on DVD, I couldn't pull myself away from it. I remember watching it in a theater by myself in San Diego when it came out in 1979. I loved it and the connection I felt with the lead character, Dave Stoller. I brought a couple friends from my ship the next night to see it again.

It's a coming of age movie about 4 friends from Bloomington, Indiana and a growing competition (born out of their own insecurities) between them and some of the college kids in town. I guarantee you that you won't be disappointed you took the time to watch it.

As of a couple weeks ago Rachel has a set of wheels to get around on. Her dad gave her his 2001 Toyota Camry with about 110,000 miles on it. This should be all she needs to get her through the next few years until she's more able to afford something newer. She's done well the last few years using her bike to get herself most places, even in the winter. She plans to continue using public transportation between Rochester and Minneapolis for her job as a medical scribe though because it's considerably cheaper than driving her car and paying for parking. I'm glad to see that she's got even more independence now.

She drove up Friday and stayed with us through Sunday. Her visit was timely because her diploma came in Saturday's mail. We didn't get to spend very much time together because she was getting together with friends who were also in town. Still, it was nice to see her.

We were in the studio last Wednesday for a few hours. Steve and Craig were putting on an impressive display of glassblowing skill on the far bench. We got a little bit of a late start so we could watch them.

Of my 3 turns at the bench I had two successes. I'm doing an occasional vase, bowl or tumbler but mostly I'm still really enjoying making the candle votives I've playing around with for the past several months. I tried something different and embedded a layer of frit between the 2nd and 3rd gather on the piece to the right. It gives a nice shimmering effect to the candlelight.

I do need to step it up a little though and move on to other forms.

It's been a dream of mine for pretty much all of my adult life to bicycle across the country. The dream hasn't totally died but I put its chances of ever happening at no more than 15%. Keith told me about the daughter of a friend of his who is cycling from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to Seattle, Washington. Megan doesn't appear to be a hardcore cyclist although she did her share of riding in preparation for the trip. Wait a second...isn't someone who bicycles across the country a hardcore cyclist? Yeah, I stand corrected. You can follow along as I am through either her blog or on Facebook at Moon Cycle. She's a recent college graduate and began the cross-country trip with a friend but they decided to part ways somewhere just west of Chicago. She writes very well and has some interesting stories to share.

Speaking of riding; I'm finally getting out much more regularly than I'd been. It feels good and so does my troublesome right knee. I was riding Saturday morning and reconsidering my plans to 'go long' and opt for turning toward home instead. I had pulled over on the side of the highway to shoot off a quick email to a friend when Paul (from work) and his wife Tracy passed me by. Paul had quickly paused to see if I needed help before recognizing me through my helmet and shades. I thanked him and assured him I was fine before finishing my email and putting the chase on them, finally catching up with them a few miles up the road. We spent the next two hours riding together and turned what for all of us had been somewhat mediocre rides into something a lot more enjoyable.

I'm typically a solo cyclist but a departure from the norm was welcome.

Thanks to my friend Eugene Benjamin for the backing music...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Freezers on the Fritz and a Summer Celebration

Tammy noticed our freezer in the basement had stopped working and most of its contents had melted and spilled out onto the floor. At about the same time she was telling me of the mess she'd just finished cleaning I was reaching for a frozen pizza from the upstairs freezer and noticed that it too was struggling to keep the food frozen. Both units had power to them but something was seriously wrong. I had a tech out from Tony's Appliance in Burnsville the next day and he diagnosed the problem as a failed compressor in both the downstairs freezer and our upstairs refrigerator/freezer. I kind of figured as much. Neither one would be worth fixing. We'd had a strong storm come through two days earlier and the tech said it's quite likely that the storm could've caused a power surge that took out both units. We're just thankful it didn't happen while we were away on vacation.

We'll have some new appliances delivered this week and while we wait we're thankful for the mini-fridge in our downstairs kitchenette.

Our next-door neighbors, Karen and Bob, hosted our annual summer get-together Friday night. It's always a fun time when they host a party. Always! We've got a really nice group of neighbors who usually show up. There was a time a dozen years ago when the neighborhood was definitely on the cliquey side and we never felt comfortable with that crowd. Karen and Bob go out of their way to be very inclusive but even so there are many who take a pass and I get that. We can be more than a little loud once the party gets rolling.

I got out this morning for my Jordan loop. It's 43 miles and something I can easily knock out before my late morning shift at the salt mine. Light winds, low humidity and comfortable temps made for ideal riding conditions. I'd take a year of days just like today if I could.

I brought it home in a 19.1 mph (30.7 km) average speed which for where my training is at this year is something I'm happy with.

It's been about 9 weeks since I had my Synvisc injection in my right knee to help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis. The PA who administered the shot told me to allow 3 to 6 weeks for it to get up to speed and begin helping. He was right. It was a couple weeks ago when I noticed that I'm riding virtually pain free. How amazing is that? It feels like I've dialed the clock back 30 years on my knee. It's that good! I have to be careful not to overdo it which is asking a lot some days. Only time will tell how many months of relief the injection brings me. So far so good.

Jalisco Terrace Party from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Wallpaper and New Tenants

There's an interesting read in Kathryn's Report about Mike Blume's crash a few weeks ago. I'll let my ATC friends make of it what you will.

I found the photo of me in the Chaska Herald online last week and emailed the photographer to see if I could purchase a copy of it. He was kind enough to simply send me the file for my personal use. It's now serving as wallpaper on my 4 year old Macbook Pro.

Allie has become more skittish than ever about the sound of fireworks; so much so that it's very difficult to get her to go outside at all once late afternoon to evening rolls around. I have to tell her in my most excited voice that we're going out to see the rabbits and squirrels or she won't follow my lead. Evening walks with her are out of the question for now. Toby and Charlie don't seem to mind the noise.

I hate to see our little guys getting older. Toby has recently become hesitant to try and attempt to jump up on the couch to enjoy his usual spot. I'll often lift him up there knowing it's where he likes to observe his world. The wood floors make it difficult for him to get good footing to make the jump. They've always been a bit of a problem for him but especially now.

Charlie is as playful as ever. I was sitting eating a bowl of cereal this morning when I felt him pawing at my foot. I looked down to see him backing away with one of his stuffed animals in his mouth, wagging his head from side to side taunting me to try and get it from him. He loves to be chased and to chase after whatever I'll throw for him. I sometimes wonder how he'll manage when Toby and Allie are gone. It's a thought I don't like to dwell on.

My riding has not been what it normally is for me this year. Typically I'll be out there 4 to 6 days a week but this year I'm content with half that amount. My walking gets in the way a little for sure because I don't ride on days when I'm out walking but there's something else that's to blame. That 'something else' is an obvious understanding that the roads aren't nearly as safe as they were just a few years ago. I drove alongside a woman in another car on the way home from work last Tuesday and I watched for the 5 miles I was sharing the road with her how she never once put her phone down. She was continually texting someone. I would lag behind and see how she couldn't drive a straight line, drifting around in her lane. It's disturbing to know that she's not the exception. It's so commonplace now and I'm feeling more vulnerable than ever out there. I don't intend to stop riding but knowing that texting and distracted drivers are making up a good percentage of those behind the wheel dampens my excitement for this thing I love to do. I'm thankful for my Dinotte light knowing it definitely helps make me more visible but it's not enough.

In spite of my concerns about safety on the roads I had a nice 4th of July ride doing a loop I hadn't done in years out to Waterville via Faribault. I had one mechanical issue 35 miles into my ride when I broke my front derailleur cable. I could manage without it but it left me stuck in the small chainring in front and I was hoping to take advantage of a tailwind on the way home. I would need my large chainring for that. As I exited the bike path in Waterville that I'd taken from Faribault I was surprised to see a bike shop sitting pretty as could be less than a couple hundred feet off the path. A very nice couple own it and operate it with the help of their grandson, Brady.
Brady showed up a few minutes after I walked through the door and had me back on the road in no time. How fortunate was that? A shout-out to BW's Bikes!

Video from my ride.

Tammy and I walked to see the fireworks at Lakeville High School Friday night. Traffic can be so congested in and out of the area around that section of Lakeville before and after the show that we thought it would be nice to walk it instead. We were right. I think this may be our new routine.

The wren house I put up in our front garden has some new tenants. Tammy noticed a wren sitting on top of the house the other day singing loudly. I set up my video camera the next morning and let it record them for an hour as the female busily worked building their nest while the male mostly sang to impress his lady and let others know that this was their territory. It was interesting to watch.

Best viewed with headphones/earphones on...

Busy Wrens from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Scooter Girl, Cuyuna Trails and a Companion

There was a wake for Mike Blume Tuesday afternoon in Burnsville. It was nice to see so many people turn out. Lots of retired controllers, some I hadn't seen in years were there. Just before 5:30 they had us all gather in the parking lot to observe a Missing Man formation flyover in tribute to Mike. It was very moving. We would all do well to be remembered so fondly.

Rachel posted on Facebook a few days ago: "Someone on the lightrail exclaimed today, ""you're the scooter girl!"" Made my day." Tammy texted her to ask her what she was referring to and she replied: "I'm a 22 year old riding a razor scooter around the sidewalks of mpls. That's what it means!"I love how she's out there doing her thing and leaving impressions on people along the way.

Tammy has been spending time down in the shop working on some fused glass projects. She had an idea for a small wall vase that could hold a few flowers and came up with the design in the photo to the left. Very fun.

I got up way too early Friday morning trying to get a jump on peak traffic for a quick trip up to Cuyuna mountain bike trails near Crosby and Ironton. It's a part of the state I've spent very little time in and I don't know why. It's so beautiful up there.

The 25 miles of trails are relatively new and the mountain bike community is breathing new life into an area that could use a little help pumping some money into the local economy. I saw a few cars loaded with bikes making their way to the area as I drove the 150 miles to the trail entrance.

I knew the minute I stepped out of the car to unload my bike that I'd forgotten one thing: bug spray. As long as I was moving I was fine but if I had to stop for any reason I'd be doing some sort of slap-happy dance so I kept my stops to a minimum.

I spent a little more than two hours playing around on the trails trying to ride as many as I could but all too often finding myself on sections I'd already ridden once or more. Even with my Garmin Edge 705 to show me where I'd been and with trail markers along the way it wasn't always easy to get to where I wanted. I'll do better next time. There will be a next time!

The trip gave me a chance to try out the Garmin NĂ¼vi 2597 that Tammy gave me for Father's Day. It's got some nice features that our previous Garmin didn't have such as Garmin Traffic which warns you of delays ahead while offering alternate routes. I actually got to see this in action on my return when I got a voice message alerting me of a delay 48 miles ahead. It then recalculated my arrival time by adding 7 minutes to my drive-time and telling me that I was on the fastest route. The Garmin continued to count down the miles remaining until the congested area and when I got within a few miles of it a small preview box appeared on the display focused on the area with both red and yellow shading depicting the areas and levels of congestion. Within one mile of the delay it started counting down by tenths of a mile and sure enough when it reached zero so did my speedometer. Quite cool!

I occasionally have a companion with me on my walks now. Tammy made it out with me twice this past week. She's intent on getting in shape for some hikes we have planned for our South Dakota get-away later this summer. We did a couple of 6+ mile walks together and plan to gradually increase the distance. When she's breathing hard up a hill I remind her of Harney Peak and that's motivation enough.

I'm happy to have her out there with me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A 'Mike' Story

We lost one of our former controllers/supervisors Tuesday afternoon. Mike Blume retired eight years ago and the last I'd heard he was flying corporate jets. He had been a pilot for years. I never worked directly with or for Mike but I'd only ever heard good things about him.

The photo to the right is the actual plane Mike was piloting when he died. Photo courtesy of John Meneely.

I do have one 'Mike' story to recount from about 15 years ago. I was working a low altitude sector in Iowa and one of the planes in my sector was a single engine aircraft that had come up from Omaha, Nebraska and was attempting to land at Mason City, Iowa. The low ceiling and poor visibility that had settled in the previous night and was forecast to lift hadn't improved at all. The pilot was qualified to make an instrument approach but if I remember correctly she didn't have the approach plates (diagram of the approach) for Mason City. Controllers in the sector can relay the pertinent information to the pilot to enable them to do the approach but it's seldom ever done that way and when it is there are very few non-pilot controllers who feel all that comfortable doing it.

The weather was at minimums and she'd missed the approach at least a couple of times when she commented to me that she didn't have "an incredible amount of fuel left". Knowing the weather was low IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) throughout the area I asked her how much fuel she had remaining. She replied "20 minutes". I turned to the supervisor at the desk in my area and said "I need a pilot. Now!" 20 minutes of fuel remaining would be enough to execute one more full approach and one last shot at breaking out and getting the aircraft on the runway. Although I didn't convey to the pilot that I was declaring an emergency for her it was being treated as such.

Mike was in another area and was brought in to help. I don't think I could've hand-picked a more competent pilot/controller for the situation. He sat down at the sector and I quickly briefed him on the dilemma. He calmly reassured Lisa that he'd walk her through the approach and get her on the ground. Over the next several minutes he put himself in the seat next to her and talked her through the approach just as he said he would.

At the end of each instrument approach is a point called decision height and it's where the pilot either has the runway in sight and lands or doesn't and has to perform a missed approach where they go to a specified fix and hold while awaiting further instruction. When Lisa got to decision height she still didn't have the runway in sight. Mike and I were certain that she didn't have enough fuel for another approach. He calmly told her that if he was in her situation he'd nudge the nose over and try and lose another 100 to 200 feet of altitude in hopes that the aircraft would break out of the clouds. It wasn't a clearance or instruction Mike could legally give so he had to be careful not to state it that way. There really was no other option. The flight was coming down through the clouds eventually and this would be as controlled a descent as could be hoped for. She did as he suggested and moments later came back over the frequency stating "I can see the airport!" There was a big sigh from all of us.

It was less than a minute when she radioed back that she was on the ground.

I was impressed watching Mike virtually take over the controls of her airplane and both calm the pilot and be there with her for every mile of that approach. It couldn't have been done any better and I was grateful for his presence.

Months later I asked the Quality Assurance people if the incident was ever processed as a save. It wasn't. All in a day's work I suppose.

So long, friend.

Mike's obituary

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hi, I'm Troy McClure and You May Remember Me From...

Wow, half way through June already! The weeks seem to come and go so quickly now without any hesitation at all. I remember as a kid my older brother Bryan explaining why that is. He said that each year is less of a percentage of your life when compared or contrasted against all of your previous years and because of that each subsequent year seems shorter than the previous year. It makes sense. As a 5 year old, a year would seem like such a long time at 20% of your life but at age 56 (where I'm at for another couple months) one year equals only 1.8% of my life. There is no slowing this train down!

We made it to Foci on Wednesday night but only to pick up our work from the previous week. The studio has been very busy lately and slot times can be hard to find if you don't plan well enough ahead of time. This coming week isn't looking so good either.

I was pleased with the one and only piece of mine that made it into the annealer last week...another candle votive. I keep thinking that it's time I moved on to another form but I really enjoy making these. I'm sure I'll tire of them eventually but I'm content to keep playing around with them for now. Here's another view.

I've had a monkey on my back in the way of a driveway that desperately needed seal-coating. I put aside all other plans Thursday morning and got busy. I was told to seal it every two years but that seems to be at least six months too long to wait. I was able to fit the rental pressure washer for preparing the driveway into the back of my Forester but only after disassembling the handle apparatus. I'm still missing my truck.

Before and after.

Rachel came into town Friday around noon to spend the day and evening with us. I got a text to see if I could pick her up at the Apple Valley transit station. Fortunately for both of us I'd gotten out earlier than usual on my bike and was just getting back from a 63 mile ride. I quickly showered and we met at Which Wich for a sandwich and conversation. She's always (and I love this) bubbling over with things to talk about. There's so much going on in her life and we don't get a chance to connect like this often enough. My brain wasn't fully recovered from my ride as I felt like I was lagging behind a little but I did my best to keep up.

I was out working in the yard Thursday afternoon when a man and a woman in a car pulled up and began asking me questions about the altercation between the tree trimmers the previous week. I assumed they were a news team from one of the local stations and I was right. I told them briefly what I observed and mentioned that I took some video on my cellphone. They couldn't get out of their car fast enough to talk with me some more when I told them that.

Within just a couple of minutes of talking they were fitting me with a mic and Joe was training his camera on me while Kate instructed me to look at her and not the camera. It all happened so quickly. Rachel noticed what was happening and positioned herself to take a photo of us knowing I'd of course want to post it here. Nice thinking, Stepdaughter! They posed a few questions out in the yard and then we moved over by the garage where they had me speak some more with the hope that I'd eventually utter a couple of intelligent enough comments that they could stitch together for their news segment.

They were kind enough to pose for a photo before we said our goodbyes. They told me to look for the story on their 10:00 newscast that night. I had no idea it would be the lead story! surely must've been a slow news day in the metro area.

So now when I'm introducing myself I can do as Troy McClure of the Simpsons does and reference all of my TV appearances. Hi, I'm Kevin Gilmore and you may remember me from such shows as Judge Judy's Dog Causes Cyclist to Crash or WCCO's Tree Trimmer Allegedly Threatens Man With Chainsaw. I kinda like that!

I was commenting to Tammy after they left that I could totally see myself being a photojournalist. I know it'll never happen but still I imagine what it would be like. This isn't a new want for me. There's something about capturing video and splicing it together to tell a story that is very intriguing to me. I went back to my yardwork and started day-dreaming about looking into what schooling would be necessary to make that dream a reality and how fun it would be to have a job that you were excited about because it fed a deeper desire.

For now I'll have to feed my photojournalist desire with more stories from the road. I like this most recent one and some of the scenes toward the end. Stay with it and see...

West Loop from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

This Isn't Mayberry Anymore

We had a little action earlier in the week in our quiet little corner of Lakeville. Some workers from a tree trimming service got a little heated with each other on the job and nearly got into a brawl out on the street in front of a bunch of neighborhood kids.I heard the commotion from inside my garage and stepped out to have a look. Mark and Becky were slowly walking in the direction of the altercation while phoning 911. Evidently somebody had already placed a call to the police. By the time I whipped out my cellphone to catch a little of the action (for my blog, of course) it was winding down. One guy had had a running chainsaw that he was waving at the other guy who was brandishing a shovel. A somewhat cooler head prevailed and the chainsaw was traded out for a tree limb and before long even that was set aside. The police arrived within minutes. All the while this was going on there was one other worker up in a tree behind the houses with a chainsaw apparently oblivious to the commotion out front.

We all stood around watching from our comfortably safe distance while Tammy and Becky sang the theme song to Cops. "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you, bad boys bad boys?!"

I had never been to the Edina Art Fair until Friday. I was impressed! It will definitely be on our list of must-do summer activities from now on. Not quite as large as the Uptown Art Fair but still lots to look at. We had a few friends from Foci who were participating in the show that we made a point of seeking out and saying hello to. We came away with a new birdhouse to replace the one that had weathered beyond repair a couple years ago. Wrens would occupy it every year as I'm sure they will this one.

Tammy is up north in Babbitt to visit her mom and sister for the weekend. She brought along her aunt Joyce too. She's so good that way, always thinking of others. We had a laugh on the phone last night when she mentioned how she was taking them to church and then to the casino at Fortune Bay for a few hours of playing the slot machines.

I had a couple of tough rides this past week. Monday's was brutal with winds gusting to around 35 mph! It took a lot out of me and left me feeling demoralized and wondering if I'd ever find my speed again. Thursday's wasn't any better with not as strong of winds but still quite blustery. I could tell after the first 10 miles that I still hadn't fully recovered from Monday's beating. Still, I looked at it as a good workout. I did my best to race home ahead of a line of storms that was approaching the metro area.

Watch the video of my ride and see how the sky changes from a beautiful blue to a threatening gray.

This morning's ride was much better! It was such a gorgeous morning out there with light winds and a right knee that wasn't hurting at all. I loved it! These were the kind of conditions I dream about. I did a loop into St Paul and was out there before the traffic picked up with my "workout 1" mix on my Nano to keep me motivated; not that I needed any motivation.

I raced home and quickly made a lunch and tended to the pups before leaving for work all the while imagining what it will be like when I'm no longer in a hurry because of work.

It's this sort of ride that leaves me so pumped and ready to go again. I never want to lose this desire!

North Loop into St Paul from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.