Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are You a Finished Product?

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

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

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

Where there was once support from me for all things republican, it had been replaced by questions and concerns and a feeling that I'd been hoodwinked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you, are you a finished product?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Week in Videos and a Few Photos

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

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

So Nice! from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

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

Vineland Tree Care from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

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

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

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

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

And that's a wrap!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again and Creepy Zombie Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Return to Riding from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Happy 6th Birthday, Charlie and Still Paddling

I remember in the '70s when Biorhythms were popular for a time. I never took them seriously but perhaps I should as mine most definitely reflect a downturn for me since the 22nd of September when I crashed my bike and was injured. Couple that with a cluster headache phase and I have reason enough for feeling down but I'm seeing an upturn in my graph so I'll press on.

Charlie turned 6 on Tuesday! It's hard to believe, not just because time has passed so quickly but because he doesn't act his age. He's so much more a pup than a 6 year old and that's what's so entertaining about him. I have to do my part to keep him young-like so when he brings me a toy to play with I do my best to engage him and not ignore him. He needs and really enjoys that.

I can't believe that it actually took me a little while (many months) to fully warm up to this little guy. My main concern was Toby and how Charlie's presence was upsetting to him. Toby would eventually come around but not for a few years.

Charlie makes his debut!

It's been 11 days since I crashed my bike but it wasn't until just this afternoon that I can finally move around without some ridiculously debilitating pain in my lower left back contorting my movements and making me to look like someone seemingly decades older. I'm thankful for the relief. There's still a sharp pain that continues but nothing near what it was. I'll call Walgreens tomorrow and cancel my refill of Hydrocodone that I had standing by in case I needed it.

I'm seeing a chiropractor in the morning who also specializes in acupuncture and comes highly recommended from a friend. I don't know that he can do anything more for me than what my body will do for itself as it heals but I'm willing to let him try. I've never had acupuncture but have heard some very good things about it. If it will aid in my healing I'm all-in.

If nothing else, all of this sitting around the house has reinforced in me that a person has to have a game-plan for when they retire; I'll need to have a reason to get myself out of bed in the morning other than to check Facebook or to be online or just hanging out with my Kindle (which has pretty much been the extent of my activity lately). I can see where this routine would grow tiring very quickly, at least for me. Not being able to workout has put a definite crimp in my style but the pups seem to be content with my new-normal.

I got a phone call yesterday morning from a friend who retired from ATC nearly one year ago. Dave is loving his new life as a full-time student learning web design. He talked about how refreshing it is to wake up in the morning excited to take on the day and throw himself into his studies. It's a feeling that was missing for way too long for him.

We spoke at length about our careers and the pressures associated with the work; pressures that I've always been very good at minimizing but lately am more willing to acknowledge. He likened his career to a guy negotiating a raging river of rapids in a canoe, careening from one obstacle to the next while paddling madly to keep his line and stay upright. The raging river eventually opens up into the most serene lake setting where the stresses of what he'd just come through are left behind and he can begin to truly enjoy life at his own pace. What a great description!

I'm still in the rapids of my career but I do sense that quiet lake not too far ahead. I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that this past week off has had me considering tossing in the towel now but I've always told myself that I won't make this decision from a point of weakness if I could avoid it.

I'd like to get my biorhythms back up to normal and survey the landscape once more for that serene lake before deciding to stop paddling.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Down Time and If She Could Speak, The Stories She'd Tell

I'm off from work this next week on vacation and what a beautiful week of weather it looks to be. I'm also still very much sidelined as I recover from my bike crash last Monday night.

I get a little frustrated thinking about the riding or outside yard work I'm missing out on but rather than focus on those two wants I'm choosing to count my blessings instead.

I'm sitting out on the deck with the pups at my feet and feeling no pressures from my to-do list. It's kinda nice.

I tried to come off my pain meds after two days but soon realized they prescribe them for a reason and went back on them. I'm getting around much better now and being mobile is as important as any other part of my healing process because I really don't need another DVT (blood clot) developing in one of my legs from all of this sitting around. My exercise consists of a daily 1.5 mile loop with the pups. This is as sedentary as I get!

I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor on Friday. He went through my ER report with me then asked me for my explanation of what happened. "I fell asleep on my bike and crashed" I replied. I could tell from his sideways look that he wasn't buying it. "You fell asleep while out riding your bike? does that happen?" I went on to explain that had it not happened to me I'd be skeptical as well but I can think of no other explanation. I told him how I don't have any memory of the immediate moments leading up to the crash but that I was very much awake just before the crash and for all points afterward. Had I passed out while riding I can't imagine I'd come to just prior to hitting the deck. He nodded in agreement. He said he was concerned about some kind of seizure but after hearing how conversant I was right away after the crash he ruled that out. Had I experienced a seizure it likely would've taken much longer for me to be as communicative as I was. He would eventually come to agree that falling asleep is the most likely cause, as odd as it sounds.

He had his nurse perform an EKG on me and said that when I heal up he'd like to have me follow-up with a treadmill stress-test.

My Macbook Pro is over 4 years old and showing signs of its age. I spent yesterday going through it and removing some dead weight that's been slowing it down. More importantly though I got the PC side of it humming! That alone was worth all the time I spent putzing with it.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago about the recent sinking (in a training exercise) of the ship I served on while in the Navy. I came across video of its sinking this past week; video that I sort of didn't want to see but at the same time, had to see. She withstood a lot for not putting up a fight before going under.

I would've so much preferred if she'd been turned into a memorial or attraction as is sometimes done with retired ships. They could've used it as a recruiting tool in some port city that could accommodate a ship its size. I would've loved the opportunity to make a trip and go visit it, no matter where and walk its decks again and tap into so many memories that I'm afraid may now be out of reach.

As I watch the video below I can't help but visualize the stark contrast between the vibrant ship I once called home with the one being pummeled. I think back to the barbecues we'd have on the fantail to break up the routine of being out at sea for weeks on end or the rare Shellback initiations that played out on her decks over the decades. I think of all of the ports she visited and the many sailors' memories she's a part of and I think to myself, if she could speak, the stories she'd tell.

But retiring her in a setting where she could speak of an era gone by wasn't to be and I'm saddened by that. This wasn't the ending that either I or any of the tens of thousands of men who served on her ever hoped for.

Valiant Shield 2014 SINKEX from on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Did I Ever Mention That I Have An Incredibly Understanding Wife?

I can't honestly say if I'm a type A or type B personality. The question was asked of me the other night in the ER at Ridges Hospital and Tammy answered that I'm a nice type A (I suppose rather than an obnoxious one). I can't disagree with her assessment but there are things about a type B personality that I very much identify with (see the image to the left) such as being reflective and creative. That's a huge part of who I am but I also see some type A traits in me as well, like being goal oriented and driven to achieve. It's good to have goals in life but I suppose it's in how one goes about achieving them that matters.

I'm kind of type A when I'm on my bike. I want to be as strong a rider as I can be and not just someone who leisurely devotes a few hours here or there to the activity. I was the same way when I was a runner and it's pretty much why I had to stop running in 1992 after years of pounding the pavement to be as fast as I could be. I enjoyed those years and my accomplishments on the road in addition to my fitness but was it worth it? Probably not.

I don't race my bike because I know that I'll push myself harder than I should in training and on race day and that my riding will soon go the way of my running and be no more. My knees are happy with this decision.

But just because I'm not racing doesn't mean I'm not still being competitive on my bike. Strava is a site where people can upload data from tracking devices used in cycling and running plus some other activities. Once your data is uploaded you can analyze it and see how it compares with others who are training over the same routes. It's not ideal because too often you're comparing activities done in varying weather conditions but still it gives you somewhat of an idea about how you measure up against those in your age group or overall. The easiest way to see this is through what are called 'segments'. A segment is where someone will identify a stretch of road (often times a hill but not always) on the Strava site and if you know where that segment begins and ends you can give it your all and see how close to the top of the leaderboard for that section you can get. Do you have what it takes to capture the KOM (King of the Mountain) for a segment?
Strava tracks it all. It's fun and adds some motivation to a ride when I'm feeling up to it.

I went out last Friday, intent on placing my name toward the top of one of the segments I often ride. It's a two mile section of road not far from where I work out in the cornfields of Farmington. It didn't help that I had over 350 miles of riding in my legs from the previous week but it helped that I had a nice breeze to aid me.

Video of my KOM attempt.

How quickly things can change. I couldn't do that ride again tomorrow to save my life because it appears I let the type A part of my personality get the better of me.

I went out Monday after work intent on trying to get in 70 miles before the sun went down. All was going well until 47 miles into my ride when I fell asleep. I actually fell asleep out on the road on my bike and I crashed hard!

I couldn't believe it!

There was a man and his son who witnessed my fall from the oncoming lane and came to my aid. Jeff said it appeared to him that I passed out just before I went down. I thought about what he said while we waited for help to arrive and no, I couldn't recall the moments before my crash although I could distinctly recall sensing that I'd lost my line on the road and I was very much conscious in the moment where I tried unsuccessfully to make a correction just before going down. I think I must've felt my center of gravity shift from possibly slumping from my position which is where I awoke and realized too late what was happening.

It's easy to get into a rhythm out there, in fact, that's what you strive for. Couple that with Pink Floyd's Echoes (I'm guessing I got lulled to sleep somewhere around here in the song) which was playing in my ears and it appears it was too much for my sleep deprived body having only had 4 hours the previous night.

What's really odd for me is that the data collected by my Garmin Edge 705 shows that right up until about 4 seconds before I nodded off I had a really good cadence and was generating no small amount of power. The graph on the left shows my speed, power (measured in watts), heart rate and cadence for the mile before the crash. I would've thought that there would've been a gradual decline in output leading up to the crash but there wasn't; just maybe 4 seconds where I simply stopped pedaling.

Jeff asked if I needed him to call someone and I felt that was a good idea as I sat dazed and hurting on the shoulder of the highway. Deputy Sheriff Duane arrived a few minutes later and asked me some simple questions to determine how best to proceed: what's today's date and who is the president? I passed but he still felt it best to have an ambulance crew look at me. They would eventually arrive from Shakopee 15 or more minutes later and after checking my vital signs and answering some questions for them they gave me the all-clear to proceed home with the recommendation that I go in for X-rays.

I was so grateful for Officer Duane's offer to take me the 25 miles to home. Tammy was working in her office and the last thing I wanted was for her to get a phone call telling her that I'd crashed my bike. One of those calls is enough and I wanted to be there when she found out.

After several hours in the ER at Ridges Monday night they determined that I didn't sustain any fractures, just contusions and soft tissue damage to my tailbone, hip and ribs. Painful stuff though that makes some of the simplest movements nearly impossible. I'm thankful for pain meds! It was all I could do to shuffle my way upstairs and into bed after finally getting home.

But I'm on the mend.

Did I ever mention that I have an incredibly understanding wife?

(The video below begins 60 seconds before my crash)

Crash! from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Goodbye Old Friend

I came across some sad news earlier in the week. Last Monday morning just after midnight CST the ship I was stationed on in the Navy, the USS Fresno, LST 1182 was used in a training exercise and sunk in 18,000 feet of water about 250 miles northeast of Guam, in waters I'd sailed across many times with her. I never envisioned this being the demise of the old girl.

The last I'd heard the ship had been sold to the Peruvian Navy but apparently that deal was never finalized.

She was home to me for more than 3 years in the mid to late '70s and whether I realized it or not then, that gray lady had a place in my heart. How could she not? Together with the other crew members we'd spend countless hours tending to the ship's needs; painting, mopping, waxing, preventive maintenance. It was never ending. She returned the favor by keeping us safe in some difficult seas and carrying us around the globe. So yeah, it's a little sad for me to think that she's now laying at the bottom of the ocean after having been blown apart and sunk. She deserved so much better.

Here's a link to some photo pages I assembled years ago from my time in the Navy and here's a link to a series of blog posts I wrote reminiscing about those days.

During my last Western Pacific deployment I noted each day in my journal our latitude and longitude. My plan was to some day have a large wall map where I could plot out those coordinates and look back on where I'd been. Never did I imagine then such a thing as Google Earth (you'll need to download Google Earth to view the kmz file that follows) and the ability to merge those coordinates with my journal entries as well as photos from those days into one package as I've done with this file. The video below is a tutorial I put together to show you how to work with the file and view the data. It's quite cool actually.

The Flexible Frez is no more but she continues to live on in the hearts of those who served on her. Goodbye old friend.

Edit: I just came across this video of the actual sinking of her. She stood strong!