Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Hi, Kevin"

I was in Fleet Farm last week when the guy running the register for the line I was checking out in said "Hi, Kevin" before it was even my turn to pay for my things. I know him? I wondered as I studied his face. A quick but obvious glance at his name tag followed. Hey, Doug, how are you? He looked familiar but I was thinking he was someone other than who he was. Then he mentioned my x-wife and it dawned on me who he actually was. It had been probably close to 25 years since I had last seen Doug. Both his wife and my former wife are Thai and we'd occasionally get together. I'm not sure I'd have recognized him if he hadn't made the connection first. We chatted just a bit before he had to resume his work and I walked out to my car.

I was back in Fleet Farm a few days ago (it's my most frequented store) and made a point of checking out in Doug's line again. He asked if I had time for a rather "funny request". I said sure. His wife and Noy talk regularly and he wanted to know if it would be okay if he took my photo to send to her. I looked at the lady behind me in line and smiled and said it's okay with me if she doesn't mind. She assured us it would be okay. I took off my hat, tried to quickly fix my hair and that was that. Smile. Click!

I haven't seen Noy since the spring of 2006 when her son Joe was in town to move her out to the San Francisco area. I believe she's still out there. For a long time it was my hope that both her sons would come into town one day with her and we would get together for lunch. We shared a lot of memories and our parting should've been on better terms than it was. I would've liked that but I no longer feel the need. Perhaps I gave up on it.

I've lost touch with both Dave and Joe. No doubt they're on Facebook but with the last name of Smith it's next to impossible to find them. I think it's safe to say that they can find me if they desire to. I wish them all the best that this world has to give. They're good people deserving of that.

I'm sitting here listening to Adele's new CD, 25. It's nice to hear her voice again. I can't say the new stuff did much for me when I first heard it but it's growing on me nicely as I listen to it for the 3rd time.  "I Miss You" and "River Lea" stand out for me the most.

I finally got back on my Shaman fat-bike after having been off of it for a month. It was at Freewheel Bikes waiting on parts (rims) to arrive for a conversion to tubeless wheels. I also had the RockShox front suspension upgraded so it will still function when the temps drop to where normal (read: sane) people don't ride.

I was told that I'd definitely notice a difference between tubed and tubeless tires but honestly, I can't say I do. I think that has more to do with the amount of pressure I'm running in the front suspension. The mechanic set it up to be less stiff than I'm used to but I'm actually liking the new feel so I haven't changed it. Tubeless tires will lessen my risk of flatting due to a sealant (mine is rated for sub zero temps) added through the valve stem. The sealant is there to fill any punctures that might happen.

I made it down to the river twice in the last week and can feel that I've lost some of my form but that's okay; getting it back gives me something to do over the winter months.

I've recently begun working out on my Concept 2 rowing machine again. It's sat idle the past couple of years with promises from me of becoming a part of my routine once I'm retired. It's time. I love the workout it gives but it's so punishing. Getting my rowing form back is gonna hurt but hurt I must!

Here's some video from yesterday's ride with Hynek.

Minnesota River Bottoms, again from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Redefining Jesus

I knew I'd eventually come around to thinking what I've heard from so many retirees before me: how did I ever accomplish all that stuff I did and still work a 40 hour week? I look back on all I used to do in the course of a week and I can't help but be impressed. But I do not want to go back to those days. This new routine is much more reasonable and appealing although it does at times lack in its ability to leave me with a sense of accomplishment. I'll manage.

The sun sets so early now that there's little time to waste even in the morning putzing online or whatever because the afternoon soon arrives followed by darkness all too quickly.

I spent the weekend working outside putting up holiday lights and mowing the lawn one last time to vacuum up leaves.  I'm pretty happy with the progress I made. The mowers have been washed and put away and I've got the snowblower positioned in its winter spot in the garage ready for use. Bring on the snow!

I posted this question to my Facebook wall Sunday morning on the heels of the terrorist attack by ISIS in Paris, France: "If we're unapologetically ready to go and wage war on ISIS, to answer violence with violence, can we truly say we're followers of Jesus?"

I asked it because I'm uncomfortably perplexed when I listen to our conservative politicians as they wave their bibles around for us all to see (literally and figuratively) while at the same time talking about how we need to get boots on the ground in Syria to kill and defeat ISIS. Perhaps they're just holding up the Old Testament but I don't think so.

What happened to the words of Jesus imploring us to love our enemies, not kill them? Were those just words that made for a good soundbite back in the day but were never intended to be taken seriously in today's world? I'm actually fine with people saying they disagree with what Jesus said. It's a free world. Jesus also taught that what we do to the least of these we do to him.

It's pretty simple stuff, really.

Yet, republican presidential candidates and republican state governors are making clear their intentions to seal our borders to any Syrian refugees who are trying to flee the terrors of Islamic State out of fear that a terrorist may slip through and inflict suffering on us. I get that but in our country which sees a similar amount of loss of life as was seen in Paris last Friday every two days due to gun violence, their concerns of terrorism fail to move my "scared" needle one iota. If I have any fear at all it's fear of a "good guy with a gun",  not fear of a terrorist.

It's disturbing to watch pretty much every republican presidential candidate declare their allegiance to Jesus and then in the next breath say something totally antithetical to his teachings while being applauded by a roomful of (most likely) Christians.

We've redefined what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I own no moral high-ground in this but if you're going to oppose same-sex marriage based on one verse in the Old Testament while totally ignoring the many teachings of Jesus to love your enemies and care for the least among us, I trust you'll understand why I'm bewildered.

We either follow his words or we leave Jesus out of the discussion. That's what I'm really trying to say.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Brief Scare, A YouTube Encounter and Veteran's Day Thoughts

That little fall I took off my bike in the video I posted last week proved to be more problematic than it may have looked. I suffered bruised ribs and the pain I experienced only worsened over the next few days to the point where I went to the ER at Ridges Hospital Sunday night out of concern that I had developed a clot and was experiencing another PE (pulmonary embolism). I wasn't. 

The nurse practitioner didn't think I had anything to worry about with respect to another PE because I'm anticoagulated so she ordered an x-ray to check for a punctured lung. The results were negative and as we were discussing the findings I mentioned my Factor V condition as being the reason for my increased concern. She said she didn't realize I was Factor V (I mentioned it to the person checking me in) and ordered a CT scan. She said a Factor V situation changes her protocol. The CT scan was clear and I was relieved. I texted Tammy to put her mind at ease. A little after midnight and 4 hours later I was on my way home with some quality meds to give me some relief from the pain so I could get through that night and a few more if needed.

I'd never experienced a bruised rib that got worse a few days later but it dawned on me that all of the sneezing and coughing I'd been doing from my head-cold was stressing the injury. It makes sense but I needed to eliminate a PE as the cause. I just can't afford to be too careful when it comes to this sort of thing.

I received the following comment on a YouTube video I had posted in September which showed me getting a shot of steroid in my inner ear for my hearing loss:

"I'm having this procedure done tomorrow and then two other times. Thank you for sharing this video as I was very nervous about having this done. However at this point, with little to no hearing in my left ear I'm ready to try anything! Friday morning I woke up with a ringing in my ear and then within 4 hours I have no hearing in the ear. Was able to get into an ENT that day and he started me on antibiotics that very day. Time is very important when it comes to SSHL."

I love this sort of thing about the net; how we can connect with people in ways we never could before. I left her a reply to help allay any fears she may have about the procedure and to also offer some encouragement.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. I'm no longer the patriotic guy I once was but I do look back on those 4 years with fondness as they were some of the most carefree and enjoyable years of my life. I grew up a lot through that experience and learned more than ever that for all of the similarities I shared with my shipmates, I had just as many differences. It was quietly, internally, focusing on the differences that allowed me to get in touch with the real me and experience some self respect that I had been lacking to that point. No doubt the many hours I spent in the saddle in the Southern California sun in the hills east of San Diego was a great backdrop for those reflective moments.

I'm still winding my way through this life and learning about myself. I never want to get to the point where I feel I'm so set in my ways that any additional searching is a waste of time.  That's the beauty of this life. Hopefully we never stop evolving and learning and being curious. I promise not to stop. Ever.

I'll leave you with this from David Baerwald: Stranger

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Mini Reunion, LG G4 it is and an Embarrassing Fall

I hate colds! Tammy has been dealing with one for the past week so I knew I too would soon be. It always plays out the same for me; one minute I'm fine and the next I can feel a sore throat coming on. After a day the sore throat is gone and the sneezing, coughing and congestion take over. They're such a waste of time.

I got together with some retired controllers a few days ago. I met Jeff Ofthsun, Ed Whitman and Dan Abbene at Red Cross in St Paul where they were donating blood. They get together once every couple of months, donate blood then go out to lunch together. Jeff has a list of restaurants on a folded piece of paper that he's crossing off as they try them. They offered up a few choices to consider and had me choose. I picked Burger Moe's. It was a nice enough day that we could comfortably sit outside on the patio. Not bad for November! No photo of us all. Perhaps next time.

Time passes so quickly. Jeff has been retired over 8 years, Ed for about 6 and Dan for more than 3 years. They kept referring to me as "rookie". It fits.

Rachel and I went out and finally pulled the trigger on some new phones. Her Motorola Maxx had become more frustrating than it was worth because it kept shutting off unless it was plugged in or nearly fully charged. Mine wasn't nearly that bad but had a strange habit of rebooting itself throughout the day with no prompt from me.

We settled on LG G4 phones with 32 GB of storage but with the ability to add up to (I think) 200 GB of additional storage. The battery is also accessible so it can be replaced on the go with a fresh one if needed. But the real reason we decided on this brand and model was for its camera and the ability to use the camera in manual mode, something none of the others offered. All of the reviews on the phone's camera I could find spoke very highly of it. My first priority of any cellphone has become its camera. Any previous phones I've owned have all been lacking in their ability to take photos in low light conditions. I took the photo to the right of Rachel in manual mode without any additional edits. No, it's not as nice as what my Panasonic Lumix can do but it's so much better than any of my previous phones.

The only drawback I can see in the few days I've had the phone is its battery. It's no better or worse than the other phones I was considering (based on reviews I'd read) but it's noticeably not as long-lasting as I'm used to. I suppose that's maybe a tradeoff for having a stronger processor doing its thing inside.

The hacktivist group Anonymous released the names of 500 KKK members and their Facebook and Googleprofiles. I spent some time this morning looking at some of the people on the list and their social media pages. There's not much shame in a lot of these people in what they put out there for others to see although many of the Facebook accounts on the list have been deactivated. Here's the list.

Yesterday morning's ride didn't start out so well. I didn't notice a layer of condensation on our newly sealed driveway and a lean onto the street that I've done at least a 1000 times had me on my butt so fast but up again just as fast in case anybody was watching. I'm sporting a nice abrasion below my right hip and a bruised rib but other than that I'm fine, with the exception of this annoying head-cold!

South Loop to Farmington from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Wheels and 5 Broken Cameras

It's rainy, windy and cool outside. A perfect day to put my feet up and sit by the fireplace in the sunporch and do very little. I'm taking care of Elaine while Tammy is out running errands. There's so much activity at our bird feeder forcing some go-arounds as there's no place to land. Elaine enjoys watching them.

I walked a little more than 11 miles yesterday beginning with a 1.5 mile walk with the pups. I can't think of any other activity I do that is more relaxing. I've got nearly 60 Frontline episodes stored on my Nano which will often times accompany me when I'm out there but sometimes I'll opt for quieting my mind instead and try and think of nothing at all, which is actually much harder than you might imagine. It takes practice.

I've got my Shaman in the shop at Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis having some work done so it's ready for cold weather riding. There's an upgrade kit for the RockShox front suspension that allows them to continue to function when it gets too cold for normal use. I'm also ditching my carbon-fiber rims because of concerns I have over them failing when I need them the most in sub-zero weather.

Jason at Freewheel was talking to me about failed carbon-fiber rims and the reason they fail so frequently, which he said has to do with the uneven nature of force placed on them during use. I dunno. I wouldn't think that would matter but he's seen enough of them and showed me one that was bad. So, when I get my bike back it'll be sporting new aluminum rims built up tubeless with 45NRTH 4" Dillingers. Because the new wheels will be lacking the weight of a heavy innertube I think the new wheels may actually be lighter than what I'm using now.

Still with me?

I had a Facebook friend unfriend me last night (he actually went so far as to block me) over a conversation we had about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. I've seen him unfriend others over this topic so it wasn't unexpected. Up until now I've mostly not discussed this with him but his repeated posts on the subject and insults toward anyone who disagrees finally had their desired effect I suppose and so I responded.

Eugene is Jewish and insists that all of the unrest between the two peoples is the fault of Palestinians. I asked him a few times to put himself in the shoes of an oppressed Palestinian youth who had little hope for any kind of a bright future and if he would possibly be hurling rocks at his oppressor along with other Palestinian youth? I repeated my question a few times but he would never give me an answer. I told him that if I was that boy or an adult and I was facing the kind of oppression they are I would want to see my oppressor defeated. And so would he.

I do not support Hamas or any terrorism whatsoever but I have to wonder: if I'm a Palestinian, who are the real terrorists? I'm sorry if that sounds offensive but watch the video below and see if you don't agree. It's filmed by a man who has lived his life trying to make change in a non violent way. This is a rare glimpse into what life is like for innocent Palestinian people just trying to eke out an existence. What they're facing is so wrong.

5 Broken Cameras

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Moir Park Revisited, Games People Play and Manoj Bhargava

I got up Saturday morning and drove to Bloomington to take some photos at Moir Park. It's a park a little more than 2 miles from where I grew up and one that I'd only been to one other time that I can recall and that was probably 45 years ago. I was talking with a friend about it on Facebook and it piqued my interest to go back and have another look.

The one memory I have from that visit all those years ago was descending some concrete steps and how they led to a park that was so unlike the world above. The park was and still is a tranquil setting with a creek (Nine Mile Creek) running through it. I'm surprised we'd never gone there as a family for an afternoon picnic when I was a boy.

When we finished our basement 11 years ago we purchased a Simpson's Pinball Party pinball machine with the idea that Rachel and her friends would have a blast with it. It didn't quite turn out that way though because pinball seems to be something that's of little interest to her generation or at least to her group of friends. They used it some but it mostly sat quiet for months at a time. I would go down and fire it up occasionally but I almost always seemed to have things I'd rather do on my days off. I would tell myself again and again that once I was retired I'd be finally making use of it. And I'm happy to say that I am. I've been hanging out in our basement during the evenings playing pinball, darts and sharpening my bumper pool skills.

I had John from Pinball Plus out to tune it up a few days ago. One of the flippers was sticking and a few small lights had burned out. I thought it was something I could maybe service on my own but after seeing the game opened up I realized that it wasn't anything I'd want to mess with. John was telling me that it's one of the best games out there but one that's difficult to learn. The game is so deep in terms of strategy. I found a 45 minute video online of a guy playing the game while describing his strategy and making sense of it. I'd need another lifetime to get this good.

The worst of the fall cleanup is behind me and I'm relieved about that! So far my tally of compost bags used this year is up to 48 but I'm not done yet. Last year I used 53 and there are still leaves that haven't fallen. Yes, I actually count how many compost bags I use. Don't you?

The biggest difference in doing the year's yard work was a nifty device I picked up at Home Depot that works to keep the compost bag open while filling it with leaves. It makes much quicker work out of the job and spares you a bunch of frustration in the way of less collapsed and ripped bags while trying to fill them. Easily worth the $8 I spent for it.

I meant to post this here last week but it slipped my mind. It's a video from the maker of the small bottles of 5 Hour Energy that you've no doubt seen in the checkout aisle wherever you do your shopping. I've always looked at that stuff as the wares of a huckster and not something that would ever interest me but perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge. Manoj Bhargava (as I wrote on Facebook) is either the slickest snake oil salesman or one of the most forward thinking people alive today. Watch the video below to see what I mean.

I've got some pinball to shoot while I contemplate solutions to our world's problems!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Routines But Not Structure

Tammy's cousin Barb runs a non-profit that helps disabled adults plug into society in various ways. One of the ways is through a program of socializing with others while making crafts. Tammy took on the role of leading that group a few months ago and I've recently joined her. There's a fair amount of preparation involved but working with the people and seeing the satisfaction they get from being creative makes it all worthwhile. The group consists of people in Barb's program and adults at an assisted living facility where we set up shop once each week.

Yesterday's project brought out a lot of smiles when people saw what they'd be making: a scarecrow and a Frankenstein on a stick. Trying to get everyone through the project can get a little hectic because not everyone arrives at noon when we start. Some straggle in as late as a half hour after we begin and we just work with them and fit them in as best we can.

I'm getting more sleep now than at any point ever in my adult life and it's nice. When I was working I averaged less than 6 hours a night and it left me in a perpetual state of tiredness. That can't be good for a person but I managed. I think about all of the miles I used to ride and walk and all of the jobs I'd do around the house in between my hours at work and I can see how I had to be so conscious of what time it was all the time. I seldom look at my watch anymore and sometimes wonder why I even wear it.

I was telling Tammy that I'm floundering a little as I try and find my footing in my new life because I'm still somewhat of the mindset that I have to budget my time and have something to show for my day at the end of it. This lack of structure is so unfamiliar to me. Ever since leaving home at 18 to join the Navy I've lived a life of structure and purpose and now pretty much all of that has become unnecessary with the exception of some daily routines.

My typical day now consists of getting up and walking the pups then coming home and killing an hour online while waiting for the outside temp to climb a little before going out on one of my bikes or walking. I've been alternating my days of walking and riding and I like that because it keeps me excited to do each of them. I'll usually have some downtime in the afternoon of hanging out or running errands then I settle in to be with Elaine while Tammy goes to the club for a couple hours to workout and get some time away from home. She needs that.

Elaine is very content here but we can see her slipping away from us due to her Alzheimer's. She loves to sit in front of her little mirror and primp her hair and apply small stickers to her face. She will do this for hours at a time. Tammy had to take away her makeup recently because it was becoming too much of a mess. The stickers seem to work well to keep her occupied. It's what she enjoys doing and keeps her happy.

Lately she's begun talking to her friend in the mirror and trying to feed her. I'll be sitting in the next room listening to her and it sounds like she's on the phone talking with a friend. There are pauses where the other person is speaking and then she picks up her part of the conversation again.

Most of her memories are from weekends of her youth and the dances she would attend. They always end with her talking about her brother Adolph and how he would driver her and her friends to and from the dances and wait for them. She has a very special fondness for Adolph. Tammy says he was a farmer and a very sweet man who never married.

Elaine is a soft touch or an easy mark for Charlie whenever she has food in front of her. She can't say no to him and so she feeds him, even if it's soup. Our scolding words to him to not beg all went unheeded so we started tying him up to a short leash we have connected to the leg of a chair at the kitchen table when Elaine is eating.

We've recently noticed that Toby and Allie have learned the art of begging by watching Charlie. I'm considering a quick trip to Fleet Farm for two more leashes.