Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nothing is Routine

My former supervisor Otto Pluntz used to say that with respect to sick-leave usage, the lack of a pattern was itself a pattern. I think the same could be said of what used to be my normal routine. I no longer have one and that has become my new routine. We're getting ready for a bunch of dominos to fall in our main level remodel project and Tammy and I are doing our best to stay ahead of the tasks we need to accomplish. Normal routines have been put on hold for the next 6 weeks or more. 

Keith and Jason were here Tuesday morning to remove our kitchen cabinets. Keith has a friend who wanted them for his basement and garage so I gave up my parking space in the garage for a couple nights until Emmett could pick them up. We're happy to know they'll have a fate better than a landfill.

Our kitchen is mostly useless now so we're sorta camping inside, eating off paper plates with plastic utensils. I'm not complaining but I do miss my routine -- and our kitchen sink.

We stopped by Keith's shop to see how our cabinets are coming along. They look like they're ready for their new home!

This coming week will be a busy one with Joe coming tomorrow to begin opening the wall between our kitchen and front room as well as some other construction related jobs on his to-do list for us. Steve will also be coming sometime this week to help with the electrical once Joe is ready for us. I spent a few hours in the attic space above the kitchen yesterday building a catwalk from plywood sheets Keith cut up for me to use. Rachel and Drew spent the day spelunking and I couldn't help but think they could've enjoyed the same experience in our attic and allowed me to relax and enjoy televised coverage of the U.S. Open golf championship.

Tammy leaves with the pups for Babbitt tomorrow to spend time with Cindy for the next two weeks. Not having the pups to worry about will help, especially with Charlie. He loves to sneak out and explore our backyard and Ruth's yard behind us where she has two pups. Jenny (our neighbor across the street) saw a coyote walking across her front lawn with a small animal in it's mouth a few days ago. That's my biggest concern.

Dublin is staying with us again while Claudia is away. This is his 3rd extended stay here in the past year and he's become quite comfortable with us, barking at visitors and protecting our home like it was his own. He's quite the character.

I've spent so little time online lately and I'm finding I like life better that way. I still make a quick lap around the pattern in the morning and at night but for the most part I'm avoiding the touch-and-goes throughout the day the way I used to. The news is too depressing to subject myself to more of it than is necessary. There's enough other things to easily fill my days.

Here's a quick snippet of some video I took from yesterday's attic project. Note the creepy heavy breathing through my face mask. It sorta reminds me of a horror movie scene where the methodically moving, relentless bad guy is seeking his prey.

And speaking of the attic project -- it's time to don my mask and headlamp and get busy again. My work isn't done up there.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kitchen Remodel Project and Bike Path Dangers

Tammy and I went to the Edina Art Fair last Friday morning. The closest parking we could find was a few blocks away and on our walk to the fair we met a man walking an older dog, a Lhasa Apso named Lily. Lily was moving a little slowly. We stopped and chatted with her owner and he commented that Lily is 20 years old. Wow! We were both stunned to learn a dog could live that long.  Lily doesn't hear much anymore and her vision is lacking some; just like Toby -- and like Toby she enjoys her daily walks.

On our drive home from the fair Tammy looked online and found that the oldest living dogs live nearly 30 years. I wouldn't have guessed that.

We're gearing up for a remodeling of the main level of our home and busting out of this oak look that was so common back in the day. We've been busy emptying the contents of our cabinets and cupboards and storing it all downstairs, or in some cases, giving it the heave-ho. I didn't realize we had so much stuff! Tammy was in overdrive yesterday making lots of headway on the project. We spent this morning looking at slabs of granite for our counter tops.

We had planned to do this project last year but we could never settle on a design that got us excited enough to move forward with it. We have that now. Keith came up with an overall idea. We then handed his sketches off to Karen for her to add her touches before going back to Keith for some more tweaks, and then back to Karen. I think we're nearly there but the entire project has us both a little anxious. There are still a few key decisions to be made.

The biggest change will be a large opening we're making between our kitchen and front room where there's currently a full wall. The front room will see the most dramatic change and will no longer be a quiet sitting room. Instead it will be an extension of our kitchen. Here are 3 different views.  View A; view B, and view C. The eyebrow arcs into the front room in the plans have been changed to horizontal lines after a discussion today with Karen. I liked the idea of a slight arc but this makes good design sense. Also, the columns into the front room will be squared and not cylindrical. We're also adding a window to the front room on the west side; something I've always felt was lacking.

We made it out to Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings Saturday afternoon. We try and get there both spring and fall and spend a couple hours listening to the music, tasting the wines and chatting over a tray of olives, cheese and crackers. It's always a nice time.

I texted Tracee to ask if she and Keith had ever been there. They hadn't. I think we'll insist they come with us next time.

We talked about possibly volunteering this fall to help with the harvest. The man pouring our wine told us it's a lot of fun and that they're always looking for extra help.

I don't typically ride bike paths unless they're on a stretch of road where there are few if any crossing streets, and there's a reason for that. I recorded the 9 second video below when I was on a ride last week. I'm riding with the flow of traffic with a bike path off to my right -- a perfectly good bike path but I opt for the road instead. A car abruptly stops for the light and positions itself directly across the bike path. Riding the path would've forced me to yield to the vehicle when I actually had the right of way. I could tiptoe through each intersection but I'd prefer to not have to break my rhythm and the zen feeling I'm likely experiencing. I too have been guilty of being that driver who straddles a crosswalk just like in the video.

Most drivers are happy to share the road with me but as I've shown here on a few occasions lately that's not always the case. I hope this helps to give you a better understanding for why I ride the way I do in case you were wondering.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Golf Speak and Playing the Fool

I'm whipped! I went out for a ride tonight (a 20 mile loop to the trails at Murphy) and my legs were dead. I'm terrible at taking a day off and just putting my feet up to get the rest I need. I suppose that's why I welcome rainy days. I'll typically either ride or walk or golf each day but not a combination of those. I've not been so good about limiting my activity lately, and often times I'm finding myself riding in the morning and golfing in the afternoon.

I'd planned to volunteer for a few hours tomorrow morning working on the new mountain bike trails in Lakeville but I think I may take a pass. There's a chance I'll be golfing in the afternoon and I really need some down time. I'm not complaining. I signed up for this when I retired. I just didn't know it would be so much work!

I'm enjoying my time on the golf course as much as ever and while I'll still play a pitiful round of golf some days, I can see where I'm making noticeable improvement. I played at Legacy Golf in Faribault yesterday (my favorite course of late) and was +1 after 8 holes. I tired on the back 9 and posted an overall score of 85. I had the dreaded 4-putt on the 12th hole. How does that even happen!? Anyway, I'm really enjoying my time out there, especially now that I've got my PCC membership and the variety of courses that it offers. I've yet to break 80 but I sense I'm going to reach that milestone soon.

And speaking of golf -- I've been using the 18Birdies app for tracking my golf stats and for yardage help during a round. I really like the app a lot. Check it out and see if you agree. It's free and free of ads. I believe there are promotions that you can opt into and that's how the developers generate an income but those promotions happen behind the scenes of the app and aren't noticeable while you're out on the course.

Switching gears.

For those of you who feel you're getting your political and world news in a "fair and balanced" way I have something for you to read. This article is from a 14 year veteran at Fox News. In the article he details how nearly every program and discussion on the network is scripted to provide a win for the conservative home team. I fully understand why you believe as you do if this is where you're putting your trust (in addition to the numerous other far-right voices of deception on talk-radio) but I would also tell you that it's not too late to stop playing the fool, and I say that in the kindest of ways. But you have to be the one to make that choice for yourself.

I don't have any illusions that it will happen in my lifetime but I'm hopeful that at some point reasonable people will be able to look back and see this time in our country for what it was -- a massive brainwashing of a large percentage of our populace, too willing to turn over their critical thinking ability to others to manipulate or too comfortable with the message of fear and hate that Fox and other deceptive voices were feeding them while conning them into supporting people that don't have their best interests at heart, nor those of our country or the world.

On what planet is it okay to applaud the rollback of regulations that help protect our sources of fresh water or dismiss regulations that protect our air quality? How can people honestly say that they're in support of those who seek to abolish regulations that are there to protect consumers from those who would prey on them and take advantage of them? Do you really believe that our mainstream news sources are "fake news" as Trump* likes to assert? And how does one get to the point where they listen to a man like Trump* and believe the propagandists that assure them he's not only the right one to lead our country but that he's a godly man?

Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it can also make a fool of you.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

My 23andMe Results, Tinnitus and a Rehab Casualty of Sorts

It's a breezy morning out on the deck but I'm mostly shielded from the west wind. Toby is chilling next to me. We've been getting in some nice walks with Charlie lately. We managed a total of 5.7 miles (9 km) one day recently (split up between two separate walks). That's a lot for a boy of nearly 14 years but he moves right along and sets the pace for us.

I received the results of my 23andMe DNA analysis. I'm half Finn! No surprise there, and also no surprise was the finding that I share 13.4% of my DNA with Emily in Montreal, Canada, which puts us at the higher end of 1st cousin/niece range as seen in this chart. (There's a backstory to what I'm writing about and it can be found here.) Emily and I share 1001 cM of our DNA. If you enlarge the chart to the right (Thanks, Emily, for more fully sussing out these details.) you'll see that we again fall into the upper range for a half-niece relationship.

Unless our findings are some sort of freakish occurrence I'd say that my father is her actual grandfather rather than his brother as had been believed earlier on. Fascinating! The only way to know for sure would be to have one of our cousins' (our father's brother's children) DNA analyzed and we're hopeful that that will happen. Regardless, we welcome Emily and her family into our family with open arms.

A friend recently posted a link to examples of Tinnitus on his Facebook page. Tinnitus has been the one lingering reminder of my bout with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss from August of two years ago. Scroll down in the link above and find example #2 -- this is what I hear in my left ear 24/7. I'm not complaining. I'm thankful to have my hearing back and honestly, I'm able to block out the tinnitus to where it's only apparent if I'm in a very quiet place or if I happen to think about it. I had never seen a link with examples of tinnitus and thought it worthwhile to share here.

I had to call and cancel our room reservation for the race in Lutsen in a few weeks. I'm out. We'll be fully into a main level rehab of our home then and our plans for someone to watch Toby and Charlie just fell through. The timing couldn't be worse and I didn't want to try and force this to make it happen. Being away for 4 days was a big chunk of time during all this and I was stressing about it. There will be no repeat fat-tire class podium finish for me this year. I suppose there's still an outside chance that I'll drive up during the night (a 4+ hour trip) and arrive just before the race, get my race number, compete, and head for home but I'd prefer to be more rested. I'll see.

I had to take a week off my bikes after my fall two weeks ago. I slammed my left knee pretty hard into the trail and couldn't put much stress on it. What can't be appreciated in the video is that I was flat on the ground before the bike ever finished its summersault. What looks like a slow-motion fall happened quicker than it appeared. I'm good-to-go now!

Video from my ride a few days ago. C'mon along!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

All In A Day's Work

What a beautiful morning! I'm sitting out on the deck with the sun partially shining through our pergola. The air is full of birds singing and Coldplay, Parachutes, is on low so as not to drown them out.  Tammy and I have been in overdrive for the past several days checking off things on our to-do list both inside and outside. Our gardens and assorted flower beds are mostly planted so I'm giving myself permission to put my feet up and soak it in. I need to do this more often. Tammy is inside with the Sunday paper, a cup of coffee and a pen working on the sudoku puzzle. And it's Mother's Day. Rachel will be coming by in a couple of hours. We have plans to go out for sushi before visiting Tammy's mother in her nursing home in Farmington. I have a 3:04 tee time to golf with Bob later this afternoon so it's going to be another full day.

I made it out on Tuesday for a longish ride up to Rogers and back. It's been at least a couple of years since I've done this route and with all of the construction along the way it may be awhile before I attempt it again. Still, it was nice to be on some roads I hadn't been on for too long.

We're getting together with Keith, Karen and Joe on Wednesday to finalize plans for our kitchen remodel that we hope to tackle in late July if we can get all of the pieces to fall into place. More on that in later post.

I was back with the crew of guys doing trail work at the new mountain bike trail in Lakeville near Lake Marion yesterday morning. We were doing "rock armoring" of some sections that will likely be prone to remaining wet days after the rains have stopped. I'm happy to finally be able to give back in this small way to this sport that I've fallen in love with over the past 5 years. The one concern I have with doing trail work is the exposure to tics and the Lyme Disease they carry. I prefer to not contract it. The woods we're working in are loaded with tics. I'm careful to wear long pants and spray my shoes and legs with a spray containing nearly 100% DEET.

The new trail will be unlike any of the other trails I ride, with an entirely different flow. What it lacks in length it makes up for in berms and ramps/jumps. The trail isn't quite yet complete but should be open to the public in a month. It's nice to have another option to ride and I've already got plans to make it a regular part of my routine.

I had a mishap out at Murphy late yesterday afternoon. I had just ridden the new trails we were working on earlier in the day and felt good so I rode out to Murphy to do a lap there. About 10 minutes into the trail I let my right bar end get too close to a tree as I was negotiation a rock obstacle in the middle of the trail. Before I knew what was happening I'd done a face-plant into the dirt. I laid there for a few seconds to take a quick inventory of my body beginning with my teeth -- all there -- whew! The crash detection on my Garmin 820 went off and sent a text to Tammy to tell her I'd experienced some sort of sudden stop. I couldn't stop the alert from going out in time so I followed it up with a text to tell her "I'm okay". She received on her end along with the text, a map of my location. It's a nice feature but I'm still not sure how I feel about it. But it didn't matter because she's still figuring out her Google Pixel phone and didn't realized I'd crashed until I told her after I hurriedly gotten into the shower and cleaned up before seeing and telling her.

Post crash me

I tried to complete the loop but my left knee was begging me to quit so I bailed out early and limped home.

All in a day's work!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lotsa Smiles and the Miesville FiftySix Gravel Road Ride

I put out one of our hummingbird feeders a few days ago in anticipation of the little flyers' return. I'm maybe a little early but not by much. It's my understanding that hummingbirds return to the same place each year so I want to be sure to not do anything to cause them to set up home elsewhere.

For any former controllers visiting here not connected on Facebook you'll be interested to know that 3 controllers from Minneapolis Center retired this past week: Brian Vance, Kris Henderson and Scott Goerdt. Brian and Kris's retirements were expected but Scott's, not so much. He told me he woke up a couple of Mondays ago and decided then and there that he was done (I'm somewhat paraphrasing). There were lots of smiles on their faces at Celts Pub in Farmington Wednesday afternoon as a group of us gathered to congratulate them and tip back a beer or two.

There's a new mountain bike trail coming to Lakeville between 35W and Lake Marion. I showed up Saturday morning with about 15 other guys to help move some dirt around. The vast majority of the work is being done by a professional crew that builds these sort of trails. The city of Lakeville is providing the majority of the monies for the project but fund raising has also brought in a good amount. They're anticipating a fall opening for the planned 5 miles of trail but from talking with the guys on Saturday they expect it to be open this summer. I was so impressed by what I saw out there that I brought Tammy back to show her. I plan to be a regular volunteer there as my way of giving back to the sport.

Speaking of biking -- the annual Miesville FiftySix gravel road ride went off without a hitch this morning in the face of a very wet forecast. It was windy and overcast but for the most part the rain left us alone. I used today's ride as a warmup for the Lutsen 99er race (although I'm doing the 69er route) near the end of June. I've been getting in some decent rides but I needed something to push me on my fat-bike, and this was the ride for that. Today's ride wasn't a race but I'd say a good percentage of the field were giving it their all, including me. I had my bike set up with my 4" Dillinger tires, the same ones I'll be using in Lutsen. Using my slimmer 3" tires would've made the ride easier but I didn't want that. As I sit here at my laptop my quads have an achy feeling that tells me they've been pushed in a way that only a hard workout can cause. I like that. (Photo to the right courtesy of Dennis Kilbride.)

Here's some video from today's ride.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Peaceful Protest and Tammy's 23andMe Results

My 4 month old MacBook Pro faltered on me a week ago. I noticed it was taking an unusually long time to boot-up and also the Touch ID was no longer working. I worked with Apple support and they determined it was likely a hardware issue. I brought it into the Apple Store at Mall of America on Friday and got it back Tuesday afternoon. That was quick I thought. They replaced the motherboard and it's functioning fine now but for whatever reason they reformatted the SSD (Solid State Drive). I spent most of yesterday getting it back up to speed. I still have a ways to go.

We've been with Verizon since before the advent of flip-phones but our relationship with them has come to an end. We've switched cellphone providers and are now with Google's Project Fi. I'm especially liking my Pixel XL phone and its ability to stay connected to wifi -- a problem that continued to plague my LG G4 for the nearly 18 months I had it. Rachel is traveling in South Dakota this week so I'll be interested to see how the phone performed in the more remote places along her way. I think I'll continue to use my LG phone as a camera on my rides.

Tammy and I attended the Tax March last Saturday at the state capitol in St. Paul to draw attention to the need for Trump* to show the world his tax returns. Transparency for this sort of thing has never been more important considering the potential for conflicts of interest Trump* has. It was a nice crowd of people (see the video below) and a peaceful protest. I read in the paper that they estimated the crowd size at around 500 but I would've guessed there were considerably more people than that.

I did my first long ride of the year on Monday. I left the house intent on doing somewhere between 40 to 50 miles but didn't arrive home until 98 miles (158 km) later. I needed that. I've got my sights set on the Lutsen 69er race in late June and I was in need of a longish ride.

I enjoy riding outdoors but there's no better way for me to maximize my time in the saddle than when I'm on my CompuTrainer and using Zwift, an interactive program that pushes me like no other. I rode in Zwift's "workout" mode today and felt good about my effort. Workout mode is a structured workout where I plug in my FTP number (Functional Threshold Power -- a measure of how strong I am on the bike based on the amount of watts I can maintain over a set period of time). My FTP number is used to assign blocks of time at specific watts over the course of the workout. The image to the right shows just some of the data collected during my workout. The red line across the top is my heart rate and the colored segments beneath my heart rate are the watts I was producing for the two hours and ten minutes I was riding. I love that I'm able to incorporate the geek in me along with my workouts.

Tammy received her 23andMe results a few days ago. I sent my DNA sample in a week ahead of her but their website says my results are still pending. She found out that she's 99.8% Western European with the breakdown being:

58.1% Scandinavian
19.2% British and Irish
0.3% Finnish
22.2% Broadly Northwestern European

The results also show that she has a 25% chance of acquiring late onset Alzheimer's disease, just as her mother is now experiencing.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


“God of mercy and compassion, you never neglect your children in need. So bless us with your healing presence that we might remain by your side on this road of sorrows. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.”

I was in church last Sunday morning and the above prayer was recited in unison. My mind immediately leapt from where I was standing next to Tammy to the photos I'd seen earlier in the week of starving people in South Sudan -- horrific images, many of them children. It made no sense at all that we were saying this prayer with full knowledge of the suffering being endured by some. (And now the Trump* administration is intent on slashing funding to these desperate people so we can grow our already obscenely large military even larger. Trump* supporters -- is this what you voted for?)

I can't tell you anything about the rest of Sunday morning's service because I never got beyond the line about God never neglecting his children in need. As we walked out to our car I considered asking Tammy what she thought of it but I didn't. Her faith lately has been teetering on the brink and I didn't want to say anything to push her over the edge. I still have my faith in a higher power but I'm no longer certain that it's at all related to what is described in the Bible. I don't like thinking this way because life was simpler before I began questioning and doubting but it's where I am and I can't pretend otherwise.

I know the world doesn't revolve around the U.S. but there's no denying that we have a disproportionate amount of influence on the rest of the world, or at least we seem to from my view. Christians now have their man in the most influential position in this world of ours as evidenced by the fact that evangelicals loudly and proudly supported Trump* by a margin of 4 to 1. How can any thinking person who has been paying attention to what's been happening, and seeing who's been supporting this clown not also begin to question the faith they've been practicing -- a faith that is dependent on man to deliver the message in an honest way without bias. I no longer believe that that's what we have or have ever had.

Tammy and I have both sent off our DNA samples to 23andMe to have them analyzed. We also filled out the online questionnaire that takes about 90 minutes to complete. The questionnaire delves into personal traits as well as personal health condition and maladies, I suppose to see if there are risk factors that can be identified.

In my last blog entry I posted a video of a ride I'd done earlier in the week. One of the clips in the video (isolated below) was of a large flatbed truck that brushed me back on County Rd 5 in Burnsville. A friend saw the video and encouraged me to file a police report on the driver. I was going to chalk it up to the driver being a dick for whatever reason and not invest any amount of time thinking about it but Steve was right -- I needed to report the incident. What if the driver routinely does this sort of thing with his rig when he sees cyclists he doesn't approve of? There was less than 6 inches of space between his rig and my left hand on the top of my brake hood. That's one skilled driver to know the limits of his truck, and if he's not that skilled then he could've just as easily taken me out.

I understand that most will see the video and wonder why I'm out there when I could more safely be on the sidewalk to the right. I get that. Until you're out there riding the sort of distances I ride I don't expect you to understand. Sidewalks and bike paths are all good if you're out for a leisurely ride where maneuvering around vehicles straddling the path are nothing more than a little nuisance. I ride with an incredibly bright blinking LED light on the rear of my bike that can be seen from more than 3 miles away and I have a similar light facing the front. In the video below you'll see that the truck driver had full use of the left lane but chose to send me a message instead. He's now going to get a return response from me.

I received this follow-up reply from Burnsville police.

"Thanks. I tried several possible phone numbers for the vehicle's registered owner without success, so I mailed him a letter. The body of the letter is as follows:

I just received a call from a concerned citizen about an incident on Monday, March 27 at about 3:00 p.m. The caller was riding a bicycle on southbound County Road 5 near 136th Street in Burnsville, which is an area with two southbound traffic lanes. He was on the far right edge of the roadway, essentially on the solid white line. A semi-truck with a flatbed trailer passed the bicyclist and nearly hit him. The left lane was open, so the truck driver had ample room to change lanes or at least give the bicyclist the three feet of space required by law.

The bicyclist was wearing a “Go Pro” style camera and recorded the incident on video. The video also captured the license plate on the trailer, which registers to you. The bicyclist does not want me to take any enforcement action regarding this incident, but he did ask me to contact the truck driver.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if the driving conduct was accidental (i.e. the driver did not notice the bicyclist) or intentionally aggressive. The bicyclist’s impression was that the driving conduct was intentional. If you were the driver, please take care in the future to notice bicyclists and drive safely; bicyclists are entitled to be on the road, and Minnesota law requires that a driver passing a bicyclist give at least three feet of space.

If you were not the driver, please forward this letter to whoever was driving the truck at that time. I do not need any follow-up contact from you. The bicyclist does not have your name or other information because I found it through the vehicle registration records, which are confidential.

(Photo attached)"

I want to be sure that a report of the incident is going to be placed in the file of the driver of the flatbed so I've sent an amended request off to the officer I was in contact with. I'm awaiting his reply.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Love Your Neighbor and New Wheels

I stumbled onto a kinda cool website recently where you can search out a myriad of streaming radio stations around the globe while brushing up on your knowledge of geography at the same time. Here's a link.

There's a house a few blocks away that has a sign in the front yard that encourages people to "Love your neighbor". I first noticed it about the same time a Muslim family moved in a few doors down from the home with the sign. Someone vandalized the sign recently by wrecking the metal frame supporting it. I hesitate to read too much into that. I was walking Toby and Charlie Sunday morning when I noticed the homeowner out front -- I commented to him that I liked his sign while expressing disappointment that someone apparently thought differently. He quickly went to his car's trunk and gave me an extra one he had, minus the metal support. He said a church in St Paul was giving them out.

I've been taking the pups on some extra long walks lately -- walks in excess of 3 miles. Our typical daily walks are around 2 miles. Toby loves the cooler weather and this is all about him. He'll be 14 years old in August and I don't know how much longer he'll be able to do these sort of distances so I'm keying off him, and lately that means we're doing a lot of running on our walks -- even well into our 3rd mile. Once the heat of summer arrives we won't be able to do this so we're taking advantage of it while we still can.

Tammy has new wheels. We said goodbye to her 2006 Subaru Forrester with 126.000 miles (203,000 km). It was in need of a new transmission to the tune of $4500, essentially totaling her car and prompting us to do some tire kicking of what they had in the showroom at Walser Subaru in Burnsville. We decided to place our order for a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek. That was 5 weeks ago and it arrived on Tuesday. Tammy is really happy with it and that makes me happy as well. It has some very cool safety features that make texting and driving so much easier. Of course I'm joking but seriously, that's pretty much what some of these enhancements do.

Eyesight is a feature that takes over your braking if the car's external cameras feel it necessary to avoid a crash. Where I find the feature especially useful though is when you're operating with cruise control and the speed of the car in front of you is varying. Eyesight keeps you at a specific distance from the vehicle you're following. I tried it on a stretch of highway with stoplights. Eyesight applied the brakes and brought us to a stop when the traffic in front of us slowed and stopped for a red light. I of course kept my right foot hovering over the brake the entire time. Another useful feature is Blindspot Detection where your side mirrors alert you with a flashing light when someone is in your blindspot. I would love to have this feature on my Forrester. All of this technology is more than 2 years old but it's new to us.

Crystal Lake Golf Course opened on Wednesday and I was there, not scoring all that well but hitting some nice shots along the way. I feel it's going to take an intervention from my bikes, my clubs and my walks to get us back in the glassblowing studio but I hope not. We really need to get back there.

This just in (for my air traffic control friends) as I go to publish this. LP has left the building!

Here's some video from Monday's ride. C'mon along.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Far Would You Go? And Meet the Folks

I'm not vain and neither am I considering flying my Learjet to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun but I'm pondering the question: how far would I drive to see a total solar eclipse? I may be about to find out. This very rare event in a city near me is going to happen on August 21st, 2017 and it will put Lakeville in an area about 80% eclipsed. To get to where there will be a total eclipse I'd need to drive to Lincoln, NE., a little more than a 6 hour drive. I think I'm off that day, and I think I'm in!

I checked this site for future total solar eclipses for the rest of my life and it appears the one in August will in all likelihood be my last (and first) chance to experience one. Missing out on it would be even more upsetting than not realizing The Paper Kites were in town last Saturday night at First Avenue!

Our Google Pixel phones are on their way after a wait of a few weeks while they were sold out. Rachel dropped her LG G4 in the tub last month and has since been relying on some outdated LG phone she picked up on Craig's List for $40 that struggles to do the most basic functions. Tammy's iPhone 6's ringer no longer works and it's become very slow so she's looking forward to something new as well. As for me, my LG G4 is okay but is still continually disconnecting itself from our wifi. I could continue to use it but with Tammy and Rachel's need for new phones I'm willing to sacrifice it for the sake of a clean break from Verizon. I'm a giver. After doing some research and with an excellent review from a friend in hand we've decided to go all-in with Google's Project Fi and leave Verizon behind.

Verizon tried to make a last ditch effort to get us a lower plan cost but I told the rep we had already committed to Google and their very reasonable rates and decent coverage. We'll pay $20 a month for each line and then just $10 per GB of data. If I use 2.45 gigs of data in a month the cost will be charged at just the portion of data used; in this case $20.00 (line cost) + $24.50 (data usage) = $44.50 + whatever additional fees are normally applied. No costly overage fees because there are no limits -- you just pay for what you use. That seems reasonable to me.

We drove down to Rochester to see Rachel on Saturday afternoon to deliver her bike and see Beauty and the Beast. I took some time to walk her through the steps of repairing a flat using CO2 while assuring her that a few choice swear words may be helpful during the process of trying to get the tire back on the rim. I was right.

We went for dinner to Grand Rounds Brew Pub where we were happy to be joined by a new male friend in Rachel's life -- Drew. I'm being careful not to say "boyfriend" although that may well be appropriate. We had a nice time at our formal "meet the folks" get together.

A friend sent a link yesterday to a list of mountain bike races this summer and one in particular caught my eye. This one. I'm giving some serious consideration to at least the 77 mile ride. The 122 mile ride would be a lot to chew off on my fat-bike but it's not out of the question. Tammy has given me her blessing to pack up the car and go for it. Hmmm..

I allowed my mild OCD to take the lead on Sunday's ride. It's actually something I've been wanting to do for awhile. A nice leisurely pace while checking out some local streets I've never gone down and a way to get some exercise on a day when I wasn't up for working out. Win-win.

Seriously, my OCD is under control.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

23andMe and Our Growing Family Tree

My nephew Dan recently sent in a sample of his DNA to 23andMe to have it analyzed. The results showed that he had a close match (of the 1st or 2nd cousins variety) with Emily, a woman in Montreal, Canada. How could that be? They exchanged emails. It turned out that Emily's mother, Cynthia, was born to a single woman named Erie in 1947. Erie never married but took the last name of her daughter's father even though she'd lost contact with him and I assume never heard from him again. Emily told me that they were always told the name of Cynthia's father was John Gilmore. My father's brother Jack also went by John.

From what Emily has told me about her grandmother, Erie was a strong, independent woman having served in the Women's Army Corp during WW2. She taught veterans job skills at a vocational school after the war in Brockville, Ontario, a city some 2+ hours southeast of where my father and his brother Jack grew up in Douglas, Ontario. I've learned that my father also took office management vocational classes in Brockville around the same time Erie taught there.

It's not known if John/Jack knew of Cynthia. Erie left Brockville in 1947 and moved to Kingston when the school closed. Within a few years of Cynthia's birth John would move to California, raise a family and retire there. John passed away many years ago as did his wife more recently. I know so little about Jack and his family because my father was reluctant to ever want to talk about his family. His childhood was difficult and none of us siblings ever pushed him for details.

Erie raised Cynthia to be a strong woman, forbidding her to learn typing for fear those skills would lead to a job with her "working for a man". Cynthia would marry, become a successful attorney and raise two children.

When I was first shown the photos of Cynthia I was stunned! In some of the photos of her I saw my sister Claudia but in one in particular, the photo to the left, I saw my father. It was a "wow" moment for me. There is no question that there's a family resemblance. Her smile and her eyes I've seen before, more times than I can count in my father's own face. The photos I have of my dad at a similar age as Cynthia in the photo show some resemblance but probably not so much to someone who didn't know him -- here, here and here.

Before I learned that Emily always knew her grandfather's name to be John, I was contemplating the idea that Cynthia's father was actually my father especially when I learned that he was in Brockville at the same time as Erie. But then I dismissed the idea.

This is where it gets interesting. I received an email from Emily tonight where she explained the breakdown of DNA for me. I'll use her words because it's somewhat technical and I'll lose something in the translation otherwise. Emily wrote:

"I’m attaching a histogram which shows how close the DNA match is for a large group of people who are known second cousins (which Dan and I should be if Jack was my grandfather). The numbers along the horizontal axis express the DNA match in units of centiMorgan (cM)… the higher the number, the closer the match. My match with Dan of 9.56% can be equivalently expressed in units of cM as 650 cM, which is way higher than the upper limit of 522.9 on the horizontal axis. Our match is “off the charts”, so to speak, for second cousins."

Credit to The Shared cM Project for the histogram data.

So, I'm sorta-kinda back to thinking that there's a real possibility or probability that Emily and Dan are indeed 1st cousins and if they are then that can only mean one thing -- that my father was actually Cynthia's father as well. I'd like to have my DNA tested to see how closely it aligns with Emily's. It would also be helpful if one of my cousins on my father's side could submit their DNA for testing to see whose aligns more closely with Emily's family. Whichever side matches more closely would tell us with some certainty (I would think) whether Cynthia's father was Jack, as was believed or my father.

I find this all so fascinating.

Some additional information: Erie Medora Boyd was born Jan. 19, 1921, in Elgin County, Ontario (on the north shore of Lake Erie). Erie was one of eleven children, and all except for possibly one have passed away. Her parents died when she was around fourteen, and five of the younger children, which included Erie, were taken into foster care by the same family. She died June 9, 1982 in Hamilton, Ontario of lung cancer from smoking.

Cynthia passed away at the much too young age of 66 on May 20th, 2014 from Multiple System Atrophy. The photo to the right is Emily and her mother, Cynthia.

I'll close with a beautiful tribute to Cynthia written by her friend:

A Reflection by Gloria Nardi-Bell

Friday, March 10, 2017

Another Branch to Our Family So Says 23andMe!

The thought of having my DNA analyzed for a more precise understanding of what sort of mutt I am has been mildly intriguing to me. I considered doing it a while ago but I was told that the results are quite vague and to not expect any sort of real definition that can point one in a specific direction to see where their ancestors came from, so I took a pass.

But now I'm not so sure it's all that useless.

A family member recently sent his DNA off to 23andMe to see what he could find. He found a lot! I won't go into detail but what I can say is that there's another branch to our family on my father's side that none of us knew existed. It's quite cool and the photos I've seen leave little doubt that there's a connection. I hope to be able to be more specific in the near future but now is not yet the time.

My go-to road bike is a 2006 Serotta Legend Ti with 48,000 miles (77,000 km), and it continues to serve my needs well. We've been through a lot together. I'm on my 2nd set of wheels, I've worn out numerous rear clusters, chainrings and chains and I've upgraded the cranks to add a power meter, plus I've swapped out the saddle a few times. But one thing I hadn't replaced until a few days ago are the pedals. I was going into this season with some very worn pedals and I started worrying about coming unclipped due to wear. Adrian at Flanders Bros in Minneapolis was happy to get me fixed up with something more dependable for the next 48,000 miles. I've also got some new shoes on order to replace my Sidi shoes that Adrian estimates are from the early 2000s. They too have served me well. It will be nice to have my feet more firmly anchored to my bike.

I got a text from Rachel a couple days ago asking "Will you help me find a new bike? I'm thinking $250 budget". I got back on the phone with Adrian to see if he could help us out -- and he could but it was going to cost considerably more than her budget allowed. I met Rachel in Bloomington where she'd had a meeting with a prospective UMR student at my former high school, Bloomington Jefferson. We drove together to see Adrian at Flanders Bros. He was expecting us and had the bike setting out for her to take a test ride. It was love at first sight! No kidding. He had to swap out the stem for a better fit to accommodate her longer torso but he had us on our way in time to beat most of rush-hour traffic.

We parted ways at her car and I took her bike home and set it up inside. She posted a photo of it on Facebook and I commented that I was "giving it the VIB treatment". She's really excited to have her new ride and I'm excited for her. Tammy was even mentioning how she'd like to start riding her bike to the health club once the weather warms. It looks like I'll have one more bike to service but I don't mind because that's what retirement is for.

The Paper Kites have been around for several years already but their music is new to my ears, and I'm loving them, especially this song..

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Glass Talk and River Trails Church

I've done zero stained glass work this winter and I'm a little disappointed in myself for not making time for it. But it's not something I want to force to happen so I'm content to know the craft is waiting for me when I'm ready to dive back in again. I seem to have so many other things that vie for my attention -- bikes and walking, mostly. Too often I find there's not enough hours in a day for me but that's a good problem to have in retirement I figure.

We were at Grace Lutheran Church in St Paul last Saturday and I absolutely fell in love with their faceted stained glass windows that were assembled in the early '60s. Of all of the stained glass styles I like, faceted is the one that does the most for me with its bold, abstract renderings. I've never tried my hand at the style but I'd like to someday.

Here's a series of videos about faceted stained glass construction if you're interested. (I have autoplay enabled so one video plays right after the other for me; it's possible your settings aren't the same.)

This winter seems about done even though we're only in the first days of March. The long range forecast is for daytime temps mostly well above freezing. I've been fat-biking for 5 years and this is the worst of all those years as far as snow covered trails are concerned -- lots of ice but very little snow cover. I took to the trails along the Minnesota River bottoms last Sunday morning for a very enjoyable experience on mostly dried out trails. I skipped church and spent some time talking with God out among his creation. That works just as well for me. Video below.

For my fellow Zwifting friends, in case you hadn't noticed there's a new volcano route on the Watopia course for your enjoyment and pain. I stumbled onto it this morning. It's a nice addition. Zwiftblog talks about it and gives instructions for how best to find it here.

Time to go make a dent in a growler of coconut stout that the lovely stepdaughter acquired for me today! Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

She's Been Activated and I've Been a Bad Boy

I attended my first ever protest last week in front of the Burnsville office of 2nd district Congressman Jason Lewis to draw attention to his reluctance to hold a townhall meeting with his constituents so people can voice their concerns and yes, vent some anger. Between protesting Wells Fargo's support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline itself and the Woman's March in January, Tammy has been walking the walk and showing up at these protests with her signs, not content to only voice her concerns on social media and leave it at that. She's been activated. I went along with her to get a feel for what's happening at the grassroots level. I see more of this in my future as well.

We also attended a meeting at a friend's home last week to view 13th, a documentary on Netflix about the history of mass incarceration of African Americans in the U.S.. The documentary delves into post Civil War racist legislation that in effect kept many African Americans from truly living as free men and instead, still enslaved but to the states through our prisons where they were stripped of their right to vote and have a voice. It's an eye-opening film that I encourage everyone to watch, especially if you're someone who's inclined to roll your eyes at the mention of white privilege.

I've been a bad boy. I had some videos on my Vimeo channel of an Adele concert I attended with Rachel more than 5 years ago. I think I had maybe 3 or 4 of her songs on there and it was enough to get my account terminated. That was a big blow to me. There's no fighting it because I was in the wrong but still, it kinda hurts. I'll typically look to see if there are other videos of the artist present before uploading any of my own because some artists are much more strict about that sort of thing than others. Anyway, I just looked and there are no more Adele concert videos by her fans on Vimeo and I'm sure there are many fewer accounts just like mine. This whole ordeal leaves me with a bunch of dead links on my blog to videos I'd posted on Vimeo -- my preferred online video host. Fortunately I've got most of my videos backed up to my YouTube channel and I'm in the process of redirecting the links.

For the past few years I've been using a free music archive of songs from various artists as background music for my ride videos so as to color within the lines of copyright rules and that works pretty well. It's odd though because today a friend posted a song hosted on YouTube to his Facebook account by a fan of George Harrison. How is it that something like that isn't taken down? I don't get it.

I took Tammy's 2006 Subaru Forrester with only 128,000 miles on it into the shop to have a problem looked at. When making sharp turns at slow speeds there's an uncomfortable binding feeling in the front wheels. It turns out the front differential which is tied into the transmission is beginning to fail and the fix is a new transmission to the tune of $4500 -- about the value of the car if it was in good shape. That's a fix that won't be happening. We decided to kick the tires on some new cars in the Subaru showroom and ended up putting money down on a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek just like the one in the photo to the right. We won't be able to take delivery for another few weeks as it's still in transit.

We've had a tease of spring weather for the past 10 days here in Minnesota with record breaking temperatures often in the mid 50s to lower 60s (12 to 16Âșc for my metric friends). It's been nice but also concerning to many who worry about the larger picture and what's happening with climate change which is only becoming more difficult to turn a blind eye to.

We took the pups for a walk around Lake of the Isles last Sunday. They loved it but they were so filthy by the time we got back to our car.

I've been getting in some nice walks and I was out on my road bike yesterday. It's been nice to feel the sun on my face again. Our snow is gone but more is on the way beginning sometime tonight. I came so close to going out this afternoon and putting down the fall fertilizer application I missed in November but I don't want my neighbors to think I'm any more crazy than they already suspect.

And yes, for those of you who are wondering -- that's Pat Elster!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Zwift, A Slippery Solution and Reaching Out

I've pretty much given up hope for getting back on my fat-bike for the rest of the snow season due to the amount of ice on the trails. I can't recall a winter anything like this in the 5 years I've been trail riding.  I'm disappointed because I had high hopes for getting in lots of snowy miles this winter but such is life. All is not lost though because I'm actually getting in some excellent workouts on my CompuTrainer and enjoying the thrashing I receive on it more than ever now that I'm using the online program Zwift. It's both fun and effective at improving my performance.

Check this out -- this is from a recent ride I did.

The video looks a little sparse of riders but there were actually about one thousand others on the course with me. Typically there's never any lack of other riders to try and keep up with or ride off your wheel if that's what you're looking for, and I do enjoy that. There are also some structured "workout mode" features that push me in ways I don't typically push myself. The improvements in my fitness are beginning to show after a month of regular use.

As I was saying -- we've had much more ice than usual to contend with this winter. I took a spill on our driveway last month and fell flat on my back. I was hobbling around for the better part of the next two weeks afterward. I purchased some Yaktrax for a pair of shoes I keep by the front door for when I need to go out with the dogs or check the mail. I could'a saved myself a lot of pain had I bought them weeks ago and used them. I'm very pleased with the traction they give me on glare ice.

I posted the following to my Facebook page a few days ago. I'd like to post it here as well.

A beautiful moment just now. Tammy and I were sitting at a table in a common area among restaurants at Mall of America. At a table near us were 3 Muslim women -- they looked to be a daughter, mother and grandmother. Tammy went over to their table, knelt down and told each of them individually "you are beautiful in America". Their faces lit up. The younger one translated for the older woman and she was overjoyed to hear what Tammy had said. She put her hands to her chest and said "thank you". I love that about Tammy. As we were leaving she went back over to them to tell them goodbye and they each gave her a hug.

There's simply so much anti immigrant and anti Muslim sentiment in our world right now and it's wrong. Those of us so inclined need to push back and take the lead.

What I tried to convey in my words but not overly so was the way the women appeared to be so hungry for what Tammy told them. Minnesota is a friendly place for the most part but I can only imagine that the women Tammy reached out to must feel at least some amount of uncomfortableness when in public knowing there are many who oppose them being here in the U.S.. I would not want to live my life like that and neither should they have to. An approving smile or a friendly word can do so much and it costs you nothing.

And yes, Americans are likely looked down on in some parts of the Middle East. What does that have to do with anything?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

There Will Be No Step 5 For Me

For a few weeks after Trump's* election I'd have fleeting moments where it felt like I was about to wake up from a disturbing dream and all would be well -- he wouldn't actually be poised to be our next president. Whew! What a relief! We really dodged a bullet there!

But I'm still here and this really bad dream continues.

It's one thing for me to grasp that Trump* is our president and that many of you voted for him but it's a whole other thing to come to terms with so many among us who are still not flinching or voicing any reservations about his opening foreign policy blunder with his ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. and in particular his ban on refugees. I can't get my head around that and I won't even try because to do that would be to admit that there could be a valid reason to the hyped up fear that so many are too willing to accept. John Fugelsang said it best in the meme to the left.

When I think about Syrian refugees I try and imagine those who are elderly or very young or ill -- people who are just barely hanging on without even the most basic necessities of life, and with little to no hope. What if I was among them? Or you? How in god's name are Christians of all people okay with turning their backs on these people? And so I continue to struggle, to come to terms with what just happened to this country and continues to happen to this country -- and all the while republicans and their supporters stand by and not only watch but applaud as Trump* continues his assault on our democracy and on our good name.

The Statue of Liberty is no longer worthy of the inscription at its base which reads:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There will be no step 5 for me.

A friend is deactivating his Facebook account in a few days and it caused me to wonder if maybe I shouldn't pack up my tent and do the same. It's just become more depressing for me than I care to admit when I see some of the things that friends of mine are in support of; most disturbing of all being the refugee ban. (Call us crazy but Tammy and I have actually talked about how we would be happy to open our home to a refugee family to help get them back on their feet.) I've decided though to continue to keep my Facebook account active and continue to selectively speak out against nonsense when I see it because neither do I want to look back at this time in our country's history and see that I was silent. I don't think I could respect myself, but that's just me.

It's been a few years since we've been to the Lake Harriet Kite Festival but we made it back this year. Conditions were nearly ideal but I think some of the larger kites could've used more wind. Still, there was lots of color to take in and we enjoyed our time on the lake.

The blog continues after the video.

There were two CDs Tammy and I would listen to over and over again when we were dating in 1999: Marc Cohn's Burning the Daze and Collective Soul's Dosage. We never get tired of either CD and we always try and catch either act when they're in town. Last Friday night Collective Soul was here at Treasure Island Casino and we were there! It was such a fun show!

Here's two of my favorite songs from the night. Enjoy! We did.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And So It Begins

It's been difficult to tune out the news of the first 5 days of Trump's* presidency, mostly because it's concerning to me and so many others the way in which it feels like we're watching the early stages of a dictator, drunk on power and cheered on by his minions who have sold their souls for a U.S. Supreme Court justice to champion their narrow view of the world. That's how I see it. It did not matter what the man said or did along the way to his coronation and I worry that the initial assaults on our basic institutions of government will matter none to these same supporters.

We've already seen a muzzling of governmental departments and a gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency. This is especially worrying when you consider Trump's* and republicans' intent on abolishing regulations wherever they can. This is a vast overreach we're witnessing and although I'd like to think I'm not surprised by it, I am. This won't be good for the country but neither will it be good for the Republican Party. When the party is over and we survey the land that their scorched earth approach to governing has left behind, I can only hope that these same people will humble themselves enough to chip in and help rebuild what they're now in the process of tearing down.

I've never been more concerned for our country.

But all the news isn't bad. Millions of (mostly) women and some men from around the globe marched last Saturday, the day after Trump's* inauguration in protest of his presidency and the fear it is causing for those of us who support diversity, our schools, our environment, healthcare for those who until recently couldn't afford it, regulations to help prevent another economic disaster as well as regulations for a whole host of issues that lose out to man when greed is allowed to flourish unabated. And I proudly stand with them.

Tammy went with some friends. I wish I'd have gone with them but I didn't feel right tagging along. Rachel was also there among the 80,000+ strong at the capital in St Paul.

The asterisk I'm using after Trump's* name is something I decided on after seeing the controversial way in which he won. Record keepers in baseball began using an asterisk years ago to denote a record that is somehow tainted by circumstances. I intend to keep using it to signify his tainted win at the hands of a republican congress and their endless investigations of Hillary Clinton, the FBI and the way they inserted themselves into the election in its final weeks, and Russian intervention in our election. I hope others will follow suit.

I'm getting in some really nice rides on my indoor trainer using my connection with the online program Zwift. In the Watopia course there's a 7 mile climb 3 miles into the ride that increases in elevation 1670 feet for an average grade of 4.5%. I love the challenge! I was riding it two days ago and racing another rider to the top. We were both putting in strong pushes to try and shake each other but I had to finally let him go. I was gassed! Fun stuff!

I still can't get over how cool the graphics are in this program. I hope to splice together some video to show you in a future blog post.

A friend recently posted on Facebook his favorite song by The Replacements. It got me pondering my favorite from them as well. After not a whole lot of thought I remembered this song, Unsatisfied. It's full of raw emotion and I like that. It's been in my head for two straight days. It also reminds me of my brother Tim and how this was his favorite band. I have a memory of the two of us driving up to Cheapo Records on Snelling Ave in St Paul in my green '82 Mazda 626 some 25 years ago listening to their recent release, Don't Tell a Soul. Tim told me how he used to be at their concerts before they ever became well known and how he'd occasionally talk with the band members. He even wondered if their album, Tim was named after him. I told him "no way" but I was actually fine with him hanging onto his belief or dream because why not?

Here's to you, Tim.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Charles "Chic" Williams passed away last Sunday of a heart attack. Chic was a retired controller/supervisor at Minneapolis Center and although our careers overlapped by many years I never really knew Chic while we worked together. Our workplace could be like that. He friended me on Facebook a while back and I've enjoyed getting to know him in the years since. Chic was only 70.

Recently Chic had been posting videos on Facebook of a tame little squirrel he'd befriended when his dogs took off after it in his yard one morning when he let them out. I had been asking him about the settings he was using on his video uploads because I was trying to share them with another friend who had also recently rescued a baby squirrel. Chic preferred to talk so he surprised me with a call instead and we chatted for a half hour.

Chic said the squirrel ran for cover in a fern plant in his backyard after the altercation with his dogs and he went to see if it was okay. As he got up next to the fern, the squirrel jumped from where it was hiding and onto Chic's sleeve before quickly crawling up to his shoulder, a place where it would eventually feel more and more at home. He went on to tell me how he and his wife would enjoy their coffees in the mornings on their patio and how Buddy (Chic's name for his new friend) would always come around and playfully keep them company while taking whatever scraps they had to offer. Chic built a cage for it to sleep in at night inside their home and although it had freedom to run off at any time, it chose to stay. He even talked about taking Buddy on a cross-country trip with them. It was the sweetest thing to watch the videos Chic posted of the two of them playing.

But then about a week ago he posted a comment to say that Buddy was gone. "The call of the wild" as one of his friends commented. It was a sad time for Chic I'm sure but he knew the risk all along of someday losing him -- we'd talked about it. He said he was fine with whatever time they'd have together.

I hung up the phone after our conversation and I was struck by what a genuinely nice man he was -- just so easy going and friendly -- a sentiment that would fit right in with what many were saying about him on his Facebook wall today. He will be missed.

And it appears that Buddy is missing him, too. A friend posted on a thread about Buddy being gone: "Buddy came back yesterday, Charles Chic Williams, he misses you and so do I. Rest in peace, my friend."

Yes, Chic -- rest in peace.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Jericho Mile and My Miles

Rachel has been doing some travel in her position as an admissions representative for the University of Minnesota at their Rochester campus. She visits high schools to meet face to face with students to make them aware of UMR's program and to generate interest in it. Typically her stops are within a few hours of Rochester and they will often include overnight stays but last weekend found her in Tempe, Arizona where she was attending a CIVSA seminar. She enjoys the travel, especially when it takes her to much warmer climes in the dead of winter.

Our Spectrum Cable bill is well over $200 per month and we're not even getting any premium channels. Part of what's driving it is the cost of renting the boxes that serve each television. We currently rent 6 boxes, down from 8. I think we can get by with 6 sets. I know -- embarrassing. There are few other options for us other than Spectrum. I've heard such horrible things about Comcast's support that I won't even consider them. Spectrum has been very attentive to any of our needs especially when it comes to connectivity issues that we'll occasionally experience and so we remain with them.

We still have a VCR but it had been offline for a few years until last week. There's a video I'd been wanting to watch with Tammy for the longest time since buying the tape online several years ago but I lacked motivation to climb behind the cabinetry that surrounds our TV in the basement and do the necessary contortions to get at the wiring -- until now. The movie, Jericho Mile is one of my favorites. It was a 1979 made-for-TV movie starring Peter Strauss who played the part of Larry Murphy, a man serving a life sentence for killing his father in what he felt was a justified act. He serves his time by keeping mostly to himself, running laps on a dirt track around the prison yard in worn out basketball shoes. But he's fast and he catches the eye of one of the staff who recognizes his raw talent. The movie is filmed among the inmates at Folsom State Prison and delves into the dynamics of the prison population.

Here's a trailer for the film and here's a link to the full version on YouTube. I highly recommend it!

I used last week to log more miles on my feet in one week than I ever have, mostly at Mall of America where I walk laps switching between levels with each trip around the mall. In another lifetime when I was a runner I'd typically run 50 to 60 miles each week with occasional peaks of more than 70 miles. Those were no slouch miles as I pounded them out trying to keep my pace at 7 minutes per mile or better. I sucked at holding back and salting my workouts with easy days. I know my knees would've been thankful had I not been so demanding of them.

I couldn't seem to get enough of my time walking last week and before I was done I had amassed 87.81 miles (141 km) of walking at a pace of between 14 and 15 minutes per mile. And my knees never complained. Hey, I'm retired and can guiltlessly engage in such ridiculous endeavors. It was fun.

My fat-bike has been idle for a month but I hope to be on it again soon. For now I'm content to ride my indoor trainer using an online program called Zwift where I ride with others who are also hammering out miles on their indoor trainers. It's very motivational and has some quite cool graphics to add to the experience. I had my first ride with the program this afternoon and had a blast!

Time to head over to the Zwift FAQ page and learn more about the program and what it can do.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Steps, Lava Lamps and My Faith Struggles

My shins are sore from all of the walking I've been doing (64 miles in the past week) as I continue to compete in the weekly Garmin step challenges. I've been doing most of my walks at either Mall of America or on our treadmill but yesterday and today I walked outside. The bike paths and sidewalks are very icy in spots so I was often walking on the shoulder of the road where there was better footing. Heavy rains more than a week ago followed by freezing temps left the mountain bike trails a ribbon of ice and unless you have studded tires, which I don't, the trails are unrideable. It hasn't been a good winter for studless fat-biking and I don't expect to be on mine anytime soon. I'll be firing up my CompuTrainer this week.

We had a low-key New Years Eve. We went out for dinner then came home and were fast asleep well before midnight. I was whipped and had a pounding headache that had been with me off and on for a few days. I was sure the fireworks at Buck Hill would wake me but I slept through them. This retirement gig with the decent sleep I'm getting is more than nice.

I'm in need of a new lava lamp. The one I have is probably 25 years old and there appears to be some etching on the inside of the glass that I can do nothing about. It functions fine otherwise. I also have a lava lamp for my desktop on the Windows side of my Mac. There's an image of it to the left. It's actually quite cool. You can configure it to small, medium or large and choose whatever color you like. I have mine set to random. Here's a link to download it if you're interested. I haven't found a good one for a Mac OS.

I considered buying a new lamp through Amazon but there's nobody in the U.S. that makes a quality lava lamp anymore -- at least according to what I read in the reviews on Amazon. I learned that the original company that came up with the idea for the lamp is located in Britain and for a variety of reasons they won't ship to the U.S.. From all I've read a Mathmos lava lamp is so much better than what can be found here and so I'm content to discontinue my search and look at my etched lava lamp for an occasional mellow vibe as needed.

I was lamenting on Facebook a few days ago about my struggles with my faith. I wrote:

I've been struggling with my faith lately and mostly it has to do with what I've seen from fundamentalist christians (intentional lower case "c") and their embracing of Trump. Faith is a tricky thing -- you have to really trust the people delivering the message -- that they're being straight with you and living the life they profess to believe in. Yet, how can I trust them when I see how they've rallied around this phony man who represents the worst in all of us?

I understand that God used lots of failed people to advance his kingdom and so there is that but this is beyond believable. It leaves me no choice but to question all that I've been led to believe by these same people who hold themselves up as the godly among us (Not all of you, but clearly a large majority of those who identify as evangelical). I can't do that anymore and still respect myself.

And so I struggle because I do believe in a higher power -- I'm just not so sure that the truth is what I've been taught because I can no longer trust that the message of too many of our churches hasn't also been corrupted along the way by those with an agenda similar to what we've just witnessed, and so it throws everything into question for me.

Propaganda is a powerful tool and I can only conclude that many of you have fallen victim to it. When you do finally come to realize that you have in fact been duped (by not only Trump but by the entire republican party and right-wing media) and you summon the courage to admit that to yourself, please know that those of us who have been where you're at welcome you with open arms. We will need your support in the future to fix what will most certainly need fixing before his embarrassing reign is through.

And no, I will not stand with you in support of this buffoon.

Yes -- I know -- very off-putting if you don't agree but it's how I feel. Watching Trump and listening to the ridiculous lies he tells, one after the other (and no, there's no comparison between Hillary Clinton and Trump in terms of lying) and reading the childish messages he tweets all leave me shaking my head that anyone could possibly think he's fit to lead our country; especially evangelical Christians. And let me say -- I don't hold myself out to be some paragon of virtue -- in fact, I'm far from it. But neither am I running for president or using my religion to marginalize others who don't share my beliefs or are different than me.

I also understand that this is about abortion and Trump's choice for at least one justice to that bench. There was a time not long ago when I was an ardent pro-lifer, so much so that I could even be found marching around our state's capitol in the March for Life. But then I realized that the party I was supporting wasn't so much pro-life as they were/are pro-birth. There's a big difference. If all you care about is getting the baby out of the womb with little regard to how it will be supported, your thinking lacks depth. Unplanned pregnancies are going to happen and when they happen to a woman who can ill afford to bring a child into the world or even carry it to term because she lacks a decent paycheck for her labors you're going to have people opting to abort a child rather than allowing it to live.

I used to be a frequent listener of some Christian rock artists but even they have lost favor with me as I recoil from the faith I once embraced. I still have the Christian fish tattoo on my ankle and I'd like to keep it but if this religion of mine keeps going in the direction it's going my tattoo's days are numbered.  But then I ponder -- leaving the tattoo as it is will show others that we're not all a throwback to a much darker time. As I've said here before -- the word "awful" used to mean awe-inspiring. The word "Christian" is currently being redefined and I need to find a way to distinguish myself from those who have hijacked the meaning of Christianity for their own self-serving and harmful political reasons. I won't go quietly because I do believe it's too important to simply give up and walk away.

I'm happy to say that in spite of how conflicted I've been lately about my faith, we're happy with our new church home at Family of Christ in Lakeville. I don't sense any of the judgement I witnessed at Hosanna and neither is there the conservative mob-mentality that was evident there which bared little resemblance to Jesus. It's sorta like I've been thrown a lifeline in an ocean of uncertainty.

There is one Christian rock band I can still listen to. Jars of Clay took it on the chin from conservative Christians two years ago when lead singer Dan Haseltine dared question out loud the harsh stance from many Christians toward same-sex marriage. He only asked the question but it was enough to cause a coordinated effort to have their music removed from rotation at stations around the country, hurting them financially. The love of Christ is too often missing-in-action from those who most loudly claim to be followers of Jesus.

Here's a video I recorded of them from 10 years ago before YouTube allowed for hi-def. They have my respect and continued support.