Monday, September 15, 2014

Delaying Gratification and Not So Sorry

The Marshmallow Experiment was a series of studies conducted in the late '60s and early '70s that delved into delayed gratification. Children age 4 to 6 were placed in a room with no distractions except for an inviting treat placed on a table in front of them. They were told that they could have the treat now or they could wait (about 15 minutes) and receive two treats. On average only a third of the children were able to hold out for the extra treat.

What was interesting about the experiment was a followup study done years later which suggested that those who were able to wait the 15 minutes were significantly less likely to have behavioral problems or issues with obesity and drug addiction later in life when compared to those children who showed less willpower during the test. Those who successfully passed the marshmallow test also scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT.

I'm not sure how I would've done had I been given the test. I'd like to think I'd have passed but I really don't know. All I do know is that I'm sort of immersed in my own version of the marshmallow test as I try and delay the gratification of retiring now for the easy life and instead continue the trek into the salt-mine each week with hopes that our delaying retirement gratification will be worth the wait. Time will tell.

I think the Synvisc injection I received in my right knee back in the spring is beginning to wear off. I'm noticing that familiar pain out on the road once again but I'm not complaining. The benefits of the shot were amazing to me and I hope to have another next spring before road-riding season spools up.

We've both been struggling with our eyeglass prescriptions lately. I was trying to read the fine print on the back of my insurance card and couldn't discern a 6 from an 8. I knew it was time to get a stronger prescription. We found a place close by (Lakeville Family Eye Care) that did a much more thorough exam on us than what we typically receive at the more common eyeglass shops in the mall. I was a little shocked at the $185 price for the exam but our AARP membership brought it down to $45 and also qualified us for a 30% discount on frames and lenses.

Rachel is back from her camping trip to the Boundary Waters. She and Tony and their friends came out of the woods a few days early which didn't surprise me. Ten days is a lot to bite off for a first time I would think. Still, they made it one week and did really well together. They stopped by the house on Friday on their way back into the cities and spent the night with us. We had such a nice time catching up and hearing about their trip. Tony mentioned how his dad always said that you never really get to know your partner until you've spent some time in a canoe with them. Haha...they had a few trying moments out there but nothing more than just that; moments.

I stopped by Mom's yesterday on the way into work. She met me out in the driveway with her walker. I was a little surprised by how fast she gets around with it. She took a while to warm up to the idea that she should be using one but once she accepted it there's been no looking back for her. She was as happy as I'd seen her in a while and that was nice. She showed me all of her walker's functions which included a storage area under the seat, perfect for storing her mail. She's come a long way in the last year considering the loss of vision in her right eye and the loss of her ability to drive. Having Tim living with her has been such a blessing as he's been able to cushion the blow of these losses for her.

Thanks, Tim!

Sorry Challenge from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Hurdle Too High

This first section is a little heavy. Sorry, but I need to fit this in somewhere because it's been on my mind and that's partly why I have a blog; to occasionally write about such things.

Ours can be such a gruesome world.

The Sunni jihadist group ISIL have beheaded two western journalists in recent weeks and have threatened to do the same to others in their captivity if the U.S. doesn't stop airstrikes against them. Apparently the videos are online but I'm not one that has any desire to see them. It's disturbing to think that any human being could be so ruthless.

But here's what's been troubling me just as much.

As I read and listen to what people say about the horrific nature of what ISIL is doing, about how Islam is such a violent religion, I can't help but think back to the origins of my religion and see some events that make ISIL's barbarism pale in comparison. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to do exactly what ISIL is doing to those who didn't believe as they did. Except in the OT, God didn't give them a chance to convert or be killed as ISIL has.

Samuel 15: 2-3: God commanded Saul and the Israelites, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys'"

Deuteronomy 20: 16-18: However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them-the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

I'm not excusing ISIL in any way. I'm just feeling a sense of lostness and confusion because if I'm honest with myself I see that at its core the origins of my religion very closely mirror what I'm seeing in the actions of ISIL. I'm left wondering how I can possibly be expected to accept and embrace that which was described in the scripture above? That was supposedly my God talking!

Reconciling what happened in the OT with the instruction of Jesus in the New Testament to love our enemies has become a hurdle too tall for me and I simply can't get over it. I have yet to hear anybody put forth any sort of explanation that doesn't require me to set aside my common-sense and just accept that what God did back then was just. I can't do that.

Moving on.

Rachel is in the Boundary Waters with Tony and two other friends for a ten day camping experience. She was a little stressed about it before they left, concerned that she'd covered all the necessary angles to ensure a successful trip. I hope it's going well for them. So far the weather has been great with moderate temps and no rain. I don't think they could ask for better weather this time of year.

I would imagine they're mostly in the throes of cellphone withdrawal now but they should be through that phase before too much longer. Haha!

We've taken a little hiatus from glassblowing as the summer is winding down. I feel a need to be on my bike and just doing outdoorsy stuff as much as I can. There'll be plenty of time for Foci once the weather turns cooler.

Speaking of Foci; they won the People's Choice Award for "Best Attraction" at the Minnesota State Fair! Very cool! They're set up in the newly revamped West End Market area. We spent some time there during our time at the fair and it was buzzing with fairgoers. That was nice to see.

I've been putting out a hummingbird feeder for several years but I never seem to be able to attract any visitors to it other than bees. I moved it to a new location this year from the side of our house to a place on the deck but I still wasn't having any luck. I decided that maybe the problem was with the bottled concoction from Fleet Farm that I'd been using to fill it. I instead decided to try a recipe my mom has been using for years with great success. Hers is a common recipe of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar and it works!

We've now got a pair of 'hummers' frequenting our feeder and I'm really happy about that! I don't think they'll be around much longer before flying south for the winter so I set up my Sony video camera and my GoPro over the weekend to get a better look at them while I still can.

I can totally see myself in retirement being that guy who creates a hummingbird haven so busy with the little guys that I have to refill my feeders every morning or at least every other day. We'll see.

Hummingbird Feeder Closeup from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Climber in Me and a Once in a Lifetime Experience!

The first entry in this series of posts can be found here. The most recent, here.

Our last day in Rapid City was Monday, my 57th birthday. Our plans from a few weeks earlier were to go skydiving in Hot Springs but after talking about it some more we decided to hold off and save the daredevil stuff for someplace closer to home. Yes, we're both having 2nd thoughts but we still want to do it. Tammy found a place in Winsted where jumps are made from 14,000 feet rather than the more common altitude of 10,000. Go big or go home, right?

We decided to drive a couple hours west into Wyoming and see Devil's Tower instead. It was a good choice. We were there once before (in 1999 I think) but I don't remember seeing any climbers. There were several on this day and it was quite cool to watch. So cool in fact that I decided to give it a try myself! Tammy used the super-duper-zoom on my camera to get this photo of me well into the climb. Locate the climber just above the trees and then go up from there to see me again in this photo. All done without the use of equipment. I'm a natural!

Yeah, just kidding.

I was commenting to Tammy that it would be so fascinating to see a time-lapse of how the mountain (and the Badlands as well) were formed. The base of Devil's Tower is littered with pieces of rock/columns that have fallen off over the years. Nobody knows for sure how often a large piece breaks free but they estimate it could be every 10,000 years or more. It's difficult for me to comprehend that given my relative flash-in-the-pan existence.

Heading back to Rapid City we got off the freeway and went out of our way a little to pass through the town of Deadwood. We drove through it a couple days earlier on Saturday but it was so crowded with a classic car show event that we couldn't find a place to park. No such problem on this day but honestly, there was nothing for us there. It's a nice enough looking town but it's not much more than just a lot of small casinos with slot machines and some small gift shops. Tammy made a quick $7 on the slots then we got some waffle cones and headed out.

We let our Yelp app help us choose a dinner destination for that night: Independent Ale House. It was a good choice.

Devil's Tower from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

We were on the road back to Lakeville by mid-morning on Tuesday. We'd only been gone 5 days but it seemed significantly longer, in a good way. This was such a nice break away from our normal lives and routines. I was especially happy for Tammy because her focus wasn't at all on her job where it's been so much lately. 

There was one tense moment on the way back. I missed the exit at Murdo where we were going to refuel. My Forester was telling me I had 30 miles of fuel left but as soon as we passed the exit my Garmin said the next fuel stop was 43 miles away. I didn't want to stop and back up or do any sort of reckless maneuver so I pressed on hoping there would be another exit before too many miles. There was, 9 miles up the road. I got off and turned back toward Murdo but by now my Forester had stopped indicating how many miles of fuel remained, opting instead to simply show a couple of dashed lines. That can't be good. We eventually arrived with fuel to spare but I have no idea how much extra. I pumped 15.51 gallons into the tank.

We had one last detour along the way before putting our stamp of approval on our vacation: the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota! In all of my many times passing through Mitchell over the years I'd never once gone inside this well advertised tourist attraction.

Mitchell Corn Palace. Check.

I'm guessing that for most people it's a once in a lifetime experience.

And that's a wrap!

Remind me not to wait so long before taking another road-trip!

Here's a link to some photos I put on my Flickr account.

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mt Rushmore and Harney Peak Revisited

I thought that one blog entry would be sufficient enough to jot down some memories from our vacation but it just wasn't. The first post in this series can be found here. Part two can be found here. 

We developed a routine early on where we'd feast in the mornings at the breakfast buffet at our hotel and then stop somewhere in the afternoon for a waffle cone. That was usually all we'd need to carry us over until dinner. The breakfast buffet was done really well and came complete with a chef to cook you an omelet or Belgian waffle.

We got in the car Saturday morning and started out toward Mt. Rushmore but with one slight detour along the way. Just before coming into the town of Keystone we saw a sign for Black Hills Glassblowers. "Cool" we thought, "let's go check it out!" We were both impressed with the studio and its location but the owners weren't friendly at all. No photographing allowed and they spoke not one word to the handful of people who filtered in and out to watch them blow glass.

We left after 10 minutes with a boatload of suggestions that we shared with each other as we drove away about what we'd do differently if that was our studio.

We've been to see Mt Rushmore a few other times but a trip to the Black Hills wouldn't be complete without another visit to see it. There's always a bit of excited anticipation as you near the monument, wondering if it's just around the next bend in the road. "There it is! I see it!"

We didn't spend as much time there as we have in the past but enough to get some nice photos and walk around the base of the monument.

Mt Rushmore from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Harney Peak was our main focus for Sunday. It's a 7.3 mile round-trip hike with lots of climbing. I encouraged Tammy to leave her fleece jacket in the car because she'd soon heat up on the climb and wouldn't need it or so I thought. I was wrong! The sign at the trail-head warned of the potential for much cooler and windier conditions at the top. The temp was only in the upper 40s as we were starting out so back to our car I ran to retrieve my jean jacket and was glad I did. It came in very handy when we reached the summit. The hike was fun but by the time we reached the top Tammy was ready for a break. She found a spot to rest on some grass somewhat sheltered from the wind while I climbed around taking photos and video. She found her mojo again on the way down, just where she'd left it.

Just one more entry in the next day or two about our small vacation, I promise, and then it's back to boring bike ride stuff and all that.

To be continued...

Hike to Harney Peak from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Huron to Rapid City Via the Badlands

I didn't plan on this being more than 1 or 2 posts about our trip but I can't seem to condense it down to that. Work with me and I'll keep it interesting. I promise! Part one can be found here.

With Huron in our rear-view mirror we headed west on Highway 14 toward Pierre, the capital of South Dakota and a city I'd never been to. Tammy was in control of the music this entire vacation and I was happy to let her surprise me with her selections. Never once did she disappoint. I could tell that she was cheating a little in my favor, not that there's much of a difference in our likes.

We'd both been dreaming of our time away for a while and the chance to just point our car in the direction of the open road while watching the world pass by and not thinking (especially Tammy) about work.

In another life I could've maybe been a long-haul trucker, but maybe not. There's something very seductive about seeing the world this way but I don't suppose my blood clotting condition (Factor V Leiden) would be a good match for sitting in a truck's cab for extended periods. 

We weren't in any hurry to get to where we were going so when an interesting scene unfolded in front of us we'd pull over to experience it in real-time and not at 70+ mph. Such was the case with the fields of sunflowers that surrounded us somewhere between Huron and Pierre. I'd never seen so many! We enjoyed getting out and photographing them and having a closer look. I remember driving off and thinking how much fun that was and what we'd have missed out on had we just sped past them instead.

The Badlands were our main stop along the way in our travels for Friday. Whenever someone tells me they'll be traveling through western South Dakota I always encourage them to make the Badlands a part of their plans if they aren't already. To miss out on them is a big mistake. Despite the advertising signs beginning hundreds of miles away, take a pass on Wall Drug instead if you're looking to save time.

We stopped a couple times during our drive through this otherworldly place to hike and take photos. One thing you notice is that the dirt/soil/clay that make up the Badlands seems to be very crumbly. Tammy was wondering how it is that it hasn't eroded or washed away yet. I found this quote online from the National Parks Service: "The Badlands erode at the rapid rate of about one inch per year. Evidence suggests that they will erode completely away in another 500,000 years, giving them a life span of just one million years. Not a long period of time from a geologic perspective."

So many times on this trip I found myself dreaming of being on my bike and and how cool it would be to someday ride these roads we were taking. Someday.

We eventually made it to our room at the Holiday Inn in Rapid City, a place we'd liked very much when we stayed there some 13 years or more earlier. It's a smoke-free hotel but it didn't appear that our room was living up to that. More on that later.

We did a pretty good job of saving our appetites for Firehouse Brewing Co in the city. It's not that the food is great because it's really not but we really enjoyed ourselves the last time we were there with Rachel 10 years ago and we sort of wanted to maybe recapture some of that. I think we did.

We kicked around the city after dinner, going in and out of the many shops and bars in downtown Rapid City. I commented to Tammy that if we didn't retire in Lakeville I'd like to give serious consideration to settling down in the Rapid City area. I don't see it as being a choice we'll ever actually make; more of dream than anything else.

But I've always been a dreamer.

(Part 3 can be found here)

Huron to Rapid City via The Badlands from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Friday, August 29, 2014

And I Said Goodbye to Huron, Again

Tammy and I took advantage of a break in our schedules to get away for a 5 day vacation to our neighboring state of South Dakota this past week. It had been 10 years since we were last there but that trip hadn't included a stop in Huron where I used to live in the early to mid '80s when I worked at the Flight Service station there. I made a point of spending one night in the city this time. I just needed to see the town again and to reminisce a little along the way.

We took highway 14 which was the route I used to take when I first moved out there. Passing through small towns I hadn't seen in nearly 30 years would at times evoke some memories that hadn't risen to the surface in so long. Sometimes it was a bend in the road that would jog my memory, a section of highway long ago forgotten about but seeing it again would recall a memory so vividly. Other times it was the topography, coming up over a rise and seeing a city or a building off in the distance just the way I remembered it. I'd get excited and recall for Tammy some of those long ago forgotten memories that for whatever reason still matter to me.

There were a few thoughts along the way of my family life back then, of Noy and her sons whom I've lost all contact with, but for the most part it was just me reminiscing about my life that was and realizing how fast 30 years has gotten away from me and feeling a sense of sadness about that.

We made arrangements to stay at the Crossroads Hotel and Event Center which was just being built when I moved back to the Minneapolis area in August of 1985. Our smoke-free room was comfortable and quite a fair deal at less than $90.

Tammy was happy to accompany me on a trip down memory lane when we arrived in Huron with only a few hours of daylight remaining. I stopped to photograph the "World's Largest Pheasant" that greets you as you come into town from the east. We then drove down by the pool that used to be so alive with kids but was now abandoned having been made obsolete by a new waterpark across town.

We drove to our hotel to check-in and after that I took a short stroll around town to take some photos and compare my memories of the city with what it's become. I stood out by Dakota Ave, the main street in town, hoping that maybe a former co-worker would recognize me but no such luck. None of my friends that I'm still in contact with (thanks to Facebook) still live in the city.  I didn't spend as long walking the city streets as I'd have liked because there were still a few spots I wanted to see in daylight: where I used to live; where I used to work and the Huron mall.

We stopped by my old address at 2121 Ohio Ave SW, Apt 7 and I got out to walk around while Tammy waited in the car. It looks much the same but everything around it has changed considerably with no more vacant lots on either side. I wondered what became of the retired couple, Dale and Ione Kimzey, who lived above us? They would be in their 90s if they're still alive today.

Just down the street is the mall that for the most part has been abandoned. J.C. Penney left years ago leaving Kmart as the only other anchor and the only other store still in business. The main door to the mall was locked but a woman at Kmart told me to try again in the morning and that I should be able to get in and have a look around.

We drove to the north end of the city and to the airport to find that the building I once worked in had been torn down. I tried to imagine where it had been but without access to our old parking lot it was a little difficult to picture where it was that I'd spent all those hours briefing pilots over the phone about the weather and providing airport advisories to traffic in the pattern. Some guy approached me and asked if I needed help. I explained that I used to work at the Flight Service station and was having a look around and did he know if Dan Parrish was still flying in the area? He said that the last he'd heard, Dan was flying an MU2 out of Omaha, Nebraska. I'll have to listen for his voice.

We left the airport and I eventually found my way to the golf course after making a wrong turn, not aware that the entrance to the course and even the parking lot had been moved. I spoke with the guy behind the clubhouse counter and asked him how long ago they reconfigured the first tee, the clubhouse and parking lot. He said it's always been this way. He looked to be in his early 20s.

Huron is where in 1984 I became a runner. There was a gravel road out west of our apartment where I'd run to that was part of a 5 mile loop I'd often do. I had no idea then how important running would one day become to me. What I wouldn't give to be able to engage in that activity again.

We had dinner at Prime Time Tavern on the south end of town just a couple blocks from where my apartment was. It's just the way I remember it with a streamlined menu and very reasonable prices. I was very glad to see it had survived the 3 decades I'd been away.

We left the restaurant and I drove up Ohio Ave which was the north/south avenue just outside our apartment. There used to be a simple blue rambler several blocks up with a large tree in the front yard that I wanted to show Tammy. It was my dream-home back then. If only I could own something like that I thought, I'd be content. (Huron was a tough market to be a seller in the mid '80s, I would guess it still is, and I knew my time there wouldn't be long so we rented.)

I was thinking that maybe I was mistaken because we weren't seeing it and I was running out of streets but then toward the end of the avenue I found it, just the way I remembered it except that it's a lighter blue color now. I got out to have a closer look and to try and imagine myself all those years ago, walking down that same sidewalk and eyeing the simple blue home. And now it's for sale for $84,800. I'll have to take a pass.

We finished out the night stopping in at a few local bars where I'd drop Willy's name to the guy behind the counter to see if anyone could tell me how he's doing. Willie was a co-worker whose wife would sometimes have to come and get him out of the bar to return home. He either gave up the booze or has moved on as nobody I spoke with was familiar with his name.

We got up the next morning and had coffee and a pastry at Don't Spill the Beans before going back to the mall on our way out of town to see if it was open so I could go inside. It was. And that's where it hit me. I came to the end of the hall and stood in front of what used to be the pet shop, the place where I'd bought Coocoo when I first arrived in town. I was a little overcome with emotion. The store was empty as they all were but in my mind I was flashing back and seeing the store's owner behind the counter and hearing the calls from dozens of animals waiting to be taken to new homes. I was seeing it all in my head but then I'd refocus on what was and it was just so, so sad. It was all gone. All of it. Everybody and everything had moved on from this place. It seemed a microcosm of what Huron, the Huron I knew, had become in some ways. My eyes welled up with tears and I turned around to walk back to the car and to Tammy.

And I said goodbye to Huron, again.

(Part 2 can be found here)

Our Roadtrip to Huron from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Dream to Ponder and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I had a dream about my Dad yesterday afternoon while I was catching a couple of hours of sleep before my all-night shift. It was a lengthy dream, or so it seemed, where one thing leads to another and another.

In my dream I was on my bike coming back home from Rosemount. I noticed that my wheels weren't turning over very easily and I thought that maybe it was because of the coarseness of the sidewalk I was on. I got off to look at my wheels and found myself standing in the driveway of some home where a bunch of people had gathered outside. We were all waiting for the owner to return because the only way to continue on our way was through their garage. I know, it makes no sense. While I was standing there a guy approached me and said he noticed my name on my jersey and wondered if my father's name was Peter. I told him it was and that he'd been dead for many years. He said he used to work for him at Control Data and that he remembers him as a really nice man. He opened up his tablet and quickly navigated to a photo he had of my dad. We continued walking down the sidewalk together and I was beginning to feel very emotional about what he was saying. I was fighting back tears. Tammy was now there and a squirrel crawled in between the spokes of my front wheel. She reached in to take him out but he ran away. I asked my dad's friend if he could tell me some stories about my dad and he said he'd be happy to. We took a seat on some grass beside the sidewalk and as he talked I began to cry. I tried to hold it back but couldn't. I felt embarrassed.

I woke up shortly after and felt sad at what I'd just experienced because it seemed so real. I don't typically remember my dreams in such detail but often times when I do I can associate them with something in my life. I have no clue where there might be a connection between my life and this dream but I'll ponder it over the next few days.

We brought the pups up to Jackie and Jerry's tonight where they'll be for the next several days while we head out west. It's been a while since they were there but I think they'll make the adjustment just fine. We're so grateful for them opening up their home to our little guys. They'll have plenty of company, love and a fenced-in backyard to keep them busy while we're away. Haha...they probably won't want to leave!

We won't be able to make it to the studio to blow glass for at least a couple weeks. Such is summer. I drove up to Foci yesterday to pick up our work from last week and came away with two pieces I was pleased with. One other piece missed the mark because of the copper ruby color I used. It's too dense and muddy to allow any light through. I was disappointed because the piece's shape and size were just right. Anyway, here's a photo of the other two pieces to the right.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the net and social media sites. I was really hoping the whole thing would die down before I received a challenge but no such luck. Thanks, Pat! Actually, it's for a very good cause and I'll be making a donation in addition to having done the challenge.

I do think this would've been much more interesting and challenging had we all been doing this 6 months ago when it well below zero here!

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from kevin gilmore on Vimeo.