Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend 2010

Rachel rolled into town Tuesday night after classes ahead of what was looking to be some nasty weather for Wednesday that never materialized. She and her roommates along with some friends had their own Thanksgiving dinner at their place before saying goodbye for the long weekend. She was excited to be home because many of her friends were also going to be in town and it would be the first time they'd be back together since leaving for college. Plus, she was going to be able to see Amy, her 4 year old sister. Amy thinks the world of Rachel and it must seem like ages to a little kid that age to be apart for even a couple months.

"Rachel...look at me when I'm talking to you!" Hmm...Rachel is pretty sure she knows where she got that from. Too funny.

I've been hearing for years about Keith's deep-fried turkey and finally got a chance to experience it this Thanksgiving.  I was told that it's not greasy and I had no reason to doubt it but still I had to try it for myself.  It's very good. Besides not being greasy, it's cooked in a fraction of the time it would've taken in an oven.

Tracee and Keith did their usual great job of hosting. Thanks, guys.

We spent some time before and after dinner Thursday putting up Christmas decorations. It was nice to have Rachel home for that as it's become a fun tradition that we all do together and I wasn't ready to let go of that after she left for college. Have I ever mentioned that we're a bit nuts for nutcrackers? Tammy started a collection for Rachel years ago and she adds at least a couple to it each year. I manage the Dept 56 village scene. Maybe it goes back to me always wanting to have a big toy train set as a kid and knowing this is the closest I'll get to that dream.

We had our own Thanksgiving celebration the following day with just the three of us. Tammy baked the turkey in a brine solution after a friend raved about her results doing this. We too were quite pleased with how it turned out and no, it wasn't salty at all.

Usually (I say 'usually' because we missed 2009) each year we do a family photo for our Christmas cards with one of us coming up with a theme for the pic rather than just a plain ordinary photo. More recently we did our Wii characters for 2008 and our last pre-Charlie year had all of us in our glasses for 2007. This year it's a 'snuggie' year. I think maybe snuggies are a bit 2009 but it's the best we've got and once we committed to the idea Tammy went through the effort to make all but Rachel's on her own.

They're toasty!

Tammy and I ventured out to the Mall of America Black Friday night. I love the mall, especially at Christmas. I'm strange that way. On the way back home we detoured to check out the lighted tree west of Cedar Ave just north of the river. It's covered in an awesome display of lights. There were a few other cars pulled over in front of the house doing what we were, getting a better look.

There's an article from a couple years ago in the StarTribune that tells the story of the tree owners who put the display together and at what cost. Here's a link.

I've created a Facebook page for the tree. Feel free to 'like' it. Glowing Tree in Bloomington

And here's a little bit of video I took.

I started putting out feed once again on the side of our house for the birds and squirrels. They're back but not in the numbers we had last year due to the deforestation I had done last spring.

I'm off work for a couple weeks while I've got some meds coursing through me. I hope to indulge myself in a bunch of stained glass work during that time.

Be well. I hope to be.

Monday, November 22, 2010

And So It Goes

As I came into work yesterday the guard at the gate asked me if anybody had ever told me that I look like Bryan Cranston from Malcolm in the Middle? "I've heard of the show" I told him but "no, I've never been told that." I made a point as I found a parking spot to remember the actor's name so I could look him up later. Years ago my sister used to say that I reminded her of Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains. There was a time when Rachel thought I looked like Brian Littrell from Backstreet Boys. I'm not sure what to think? A few days ago one of my coworkers suggested I change my Facebook profile picture to Dale Gribble from King of the Hill. And so I amused Leslee and the few people who 'liked' her post on my wall and did as she asked.

I'm glad they weren't making comparisons to Howdy Doody or Alfred E. Neuman.

I only managed one ride on my bike this past week; the Hampton loop. My riding has slowed to a near halt but I'm fine with that as I was ready for some time off.

I spent a couple hours in the garage Saturday night breaking down my blue Serotta and cleaning it for use indoors on my rollers. While wiping down the rear wheel I noticed a good size crack in the rim of my rear wheel on the drive-side. I looked a little closer and found another. Needless to say I won't be taking this wheel out on the road again. I figure it's fine for use on my rollers and will likely see if it'll get me through the winter but I'll have to watch those cracks closely.

My red Serotta has been in the shop for a few weeks waiting on parts for a front end overhaul. I'm having the fork, stem and handlebars replaced. I'm also switching out the saddle to another Turnex Pro to match my other ride. The setups on both bikes should be a little more similar now and that's what I'm after. So, until I get my bike back from the shop I'm stuck inside.

Among the nicknames we've got for Charlie the one I'm using the most lately is Poo Peter.  We can't seem to break him of that nasty thing he does.

My Congressman, John Kline, has been on a crusade to eliminate earmarks.  While I think they too need to be looked at I think his time would be better spent on things more important such as the ridiculous amount of money we're spending on our military or other budget busters such as Medicare.

Earmarks amount to 2% at most of our budget but you would think with all the attention they get that figure would be much higher. Why such concern about earmarks when there are other areas with considerable more waste that dwarf whatever savings could be realized from cutting all earmarks? In trying to get our deficit under control a preoccupation with earmarks is akin to trying to bail out a flooding/sinking rowboat with a spoon rather than a bucket.

Seriously...how much spending on our military is enough? In a sense, aren't the terrorist states winning when they've got us wrecking our economy and seeing boogeymen under every bed, behind every closet door or zipper as we attempt to defend ourselves against any possible threat they may pose? Not that there haven't been successes but at what cost?

We can throw all the money in the world at it but in the end it's still an impossible task. But maybe that's the key here...throwing more money around.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Really Shouldn't Care But I Do

I'm steadily making the move from YouTube over to Vimeo. I received some inquiries from subscribers to my page as to why I took down the Harry Chapin concert videos from my YouTube account. There are no copyright claims on either the video itself or the packaging but I didn't want to take any chances with the evermore aggressive copyright police at YouTube. I took some time over the weekend to upload the videos to my Vimeo account then posted a comment on my YouTube page directing people where they can find them. They were seeing a lot of activity when I pulled them; upwards of 100,000 hits on some so it's nice to have them back out there again albiet not nearly as mainstream as they'd been.

Harry Chapin you ask...really? Yeah, check out this if nothing else...Mr Tanner.

I've often said that I wouldn't mind paying a site to host my videos and wondered why YouTube didn't go that route considering the losses Google has been experiencing since acquiring the site in 2006. I'm happy to pay Flickr to host my photos and now I'm happy to pay Vimeo to host my videos. Whether or not Vimeo one day becomes as aggressive as YouTube in policing what people upload remains to be seen.

Winter arrived Saturday in a rather big way with 8" of wet, heavy, heart-attack snow. My 1986 Simplicity snowblower takes the 'heart-attack' out of the equation. Tammy and I had plans to spend a few hours perusing a craft fair at Canterbury but bad roads changed all that.

I'd been watching the forecast and spent most of Friday outside putting up our Christmas lights and finishing what little yard work I had left. I suppose it's possible the snow will all be gone by this time next week and I'd have another shot at getting it all done but it's nice to have all my outdoor jobs finished for the year. I also appreciated being able to get the lights hung while it was still warm enough to do it without gloves.

We're entering a new collaborative period at work between labor and management called WE; an acronym for Workforce Engagement. It's a program designed to give each and every worker a voice in the direction we're headed as an organization; at least that's my understanding. We've had similar programs in the past and while I'm not necessarily opposed to them, I am highly skeptical about management's true intentions. Had this been something they wanted to do on their own out of an honest heartfelt need to rebuild a relationship with the workforce that too many of them took glee in destroying I'd be more inclined to get onboard. But that's not what's happening here.

What we're actually seeing is the influence of a labor friendly White House administration; the same administration that got us a contract last year after 3 years of imposed work-rules. I'd love to believe otherwise but any controller will tell you that had McCain been elected we'd all be looking at our 5th year of frozen wages while watching management and staff receive their raises as they always have. And to be clear in this age of overwhelming budget deficits; I was actually fine with frozen wages for 5 years as long as everybody FAA-wide was sharing in the pain. But it was only controllers who were called on to make that sacrifice; 15,000 people out of 1,800,000 federal workers.

The troubling thing is that we're only an administration change away from a return to where we were.

I have a relatively short time left in my career and I really shouldn't care but I do.

Now that Republicans have regained control of Congress with a fiscally conservative (I won't be fooled again) agenda there's been no lack of discussion in the news about what programs to cut to solve the massive budget deficit facing us. Last Saturday's NYT had a Budget Puzzle where you take charge of our nation's finances and see how whatever programs you choose to cut effect the deficit.

Give it a try.

Here's my solution. What's yours?

Tammy thinks I should be President but she doesn't want to be the First Lady. What's a guy to do?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

25 or 6 to 4...

...did you ever wonder what the lyrics meant? Wonder no more.

Mom celebrated her 82nd birthday last week and I don't think the significance of that day was lost on anyone close to her. With the deteriorating trend of her heart's health I think there's little chance that she'll live to see another. I'd love to be wrong.

Jackie and Jerry invited the family over to their home last Sunday to celebrate with Mom. It was an especially nice time and the weather couldn't have been better. Not everyone chose to be there for her and that to me was unfortunate.

Some day I'll expand here on the dynamics of my family; but not now.

I brought our pups with me and they had a free-for-all in the backyard with Gracie, Tucker, Nell and Diesel.

Whenever there's a get-together at Jerry and Jackie's you can be sure that you're in for some fantastic eats and this day was no exception. Jackie is without question the Martha Stewart of our family and I mean that in the nicest of ways. I'll typically starve myself as preparation for a visit to see them. I actually invited Rachel and I to their home last Thanksgiving because Tammy had to work and Rachel and I were left to fend for ourselves. With their help I thought we fended quite well.

I catch my share of grief when I pull out my camera(s) at these events but I do it with an eye to the future so myself and others can look back on these days and remember more clearly what they were like.

Photos on Flickr

Video (abbreviated)

Video (extended)

While uploading photos of the party to Facebook I noticed that Facebook now allows for high resolution photos. They're not actually high res but they're better than their default/standard option. Additionally, YouTube recently lifted their 10 minute video limit and now accepts videos up to 15 minutes long.

Our warm weather streak continues with the temp likely pushing beyond 70f today. I'm going to leave my bike sidelined this afternoon and spend a few hours putting up our outdoor Christmas lights. I could actually use a break from riding as I've been hitting it pretty hard for so late in the season. I'd love to be out riding today but I want to make sure that my appetite for riding is always wanting. There was a time not long ago when I'd lost some of my desire and I don't want that to happen again. Burning out on something so important to me isn't good.

The guys at work will no doubt agree that I've been practicing moderation in the workplace for a while.

Getting back to song lyrics; what about the Pompatus of Love as sung about by Steve Miller in The Joker?  There's an answer for that too.

Tammy just phoned me. She's at the park with the pups and telling me how beautiful a day it is outside. She couldn't understand why I wasn't intending to ride after work and encouraged me to get out and enjoy what daylight I could. Maybe I shouldn't disappoint her.