Friday, April 3, 2020

Giving Thanks

We're doing our best to shelter-in-place here in Minnesota in our collective effort to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential services are still operating but most likely with reduced hours, that includes liquor stores. Plexiglass shields are showing up at grocery store checkout aisles and elsewhere to protect workers from customers who may be infected. Markers on the floor provide recommended spacing for customers waiting in line both inside and out.

My heart goes out to the millions who have been laid off from work and have no income, especially those who were barely scratching out a living to begin with. Many retirees are also hurting as their 401Ks have taken a huge hit over the past six weeks with significant losses in the stock market. The market was due for a correction but I don't think many were imagining one such as this.

I'm so impressed by those who continue to show up for work each day to keep the basic infrastructures and various other services of our communities intact. Where would we be without them? I hate to even imagine. I'm sure to always tell the person ringing up my purchases at the grocery store (or wherever) that I'm appreciative of them being there, especially during this time. How nice it would be if when this is all over and we've had some time to reflect, that we'd come to realize the important role these people play in our lives and pay them an amount that shows our appreciation and how much they're valued by us—how we're so dependent on them. We've not done that to this point.

And healthcare workers: I can't fully appreciate all they're sacrificing for us during this time—none of us truly can unless we're in their shoes. I found this Tweet from a 74-year-old doctor from two days ago to be sobering. He's risking it all to be there for others. There are tens of thousands of healthcare workers in New York alone who have answered the call to help with the crisis. These people are nothing less than heroes.

The Trump administration is failing badly as they continue to show no ability or desire to lead us through this crisis. Daily briefings for the country have turned into mini Trump rallies. People are losing jobs, losing loved ones and losing their lives while Trump stands before the nation and brags about being #1 on Facebook. Unfucking believable! But like everything else the man says, it's not true. Thankfully, some mainstream media sites have stopped covering the daily rallies (disguised as press briefings) and will only break in when there's actually information of substance worthy of coverage. I have little desire to comment any further on the imbecile in the White House. Not tonight.

I thought I had put my bikes away (for purposes of outdoor riding) for the foreseeable future last week while the pandemic plays out, worried about crashing and ending up in the ER. Some friends convinced me that I needn't do that. I reminded them that I'm the guy who actually fell asleep while riding my bike a few years ago. (Truth be told—I was on a heavy dose of prednisone at the time and sleeping very little at night.) I don't think they heard me. Anyway, I'm going to continue to ride outdoors but I won't be riding as hard as I maybe otherwise would and all of my rides will be solo. I'll be on my bike. That's all that matters.

Speaking of rides, below are my two most recent ride videos—the first one from last week and the 2nd one from yesterday.

Stay safe, my friends.

That's all I've got.





Sunday, March 22, 2020

Safely Home and Silver Linings

Rachel and Holly made it home safely from South Africa a few days earlier than planned. With things changing so much with respect to international travel, we were relieved to see they made it home with no problems along the way. Rachel is doing a 14-day self-quarantine to be on the safe side in case she's been infected. That makes good sense. The screen for the COVID-19 virus when they re-entered the country was not much more than a cursory once-over. We spent 45 minutes with her on a video chat yesterday. It was nice to see her and hear a little more about her travels.

Much of our country is sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 virus. Non-essential stores are closed as are restaurants however, most restaurants are open for either carryout or curbside pickup. Paper towels and toilet paper are in short supply as is hand sanitizer. A worker in a store recently told me that manufacturers aren't taking orders from stores for hand sanitizer at this time—it's all being sent to hospitals and other care facilities.

The group of guys I ride with from Northfield has suspended our Tuesday night and Saturday morning gravel rides to lessen the chance for passing along the virus to others. It's a smart move and one I was expecting. The guys out of Lakeville that I ride with are still getting together but I won't be joining them until we're well on the backside of this pandemic. It seems an unnecessary risk.

And speaking of risks—I'm still riding outdoors. I've been toying with the idea of parking my bikes and utilizing my indoor trainer instead to remove the risk for a riding injury that may need medical help. I'd rather not burden our healthcare workers any more than they already are but neither do I want to spend time in a hospital where exposure to the C-19 virus is (I would think) higher than most other places. It's possible that once our situation here turns dier (I'm convinced it will), I'll limit myself to indoor rides. It's not nearly the same as being outdoors but they're an excellent workout.

I try not to fret about the possibility of contracting the C-19 virus but I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally think about it. Would I be one of the lucky ones (one of the 80% who would have relatively mild symptoms) or would I be one of the more extreme cases? I came across this sobering tweet last night. The main takeaway from the video for me is that if we go the way of Italy (I tend to believe we will), only 1 person in 50 who is in need of a ventilator will have access to one. That's a frightening number. Most of us know people in the at-risk category. Take a moment to ponder that 1 in 50 number while being mindful that it's a conservative estimate.

For the longest time, I try and find the silver linings in the curveballs life throws; for many, tho, there are few in this pandemic—especially for those who will lose people close to them or who won't be receiving a paycheck, and those whose businesses won't be able to survive more than a week or two of being shuttered—if that. I truly don't know how we make this work without a good dose of that democratic socialism some of us on the left like to occasionally tout. I'm sure there are silver linings to be found, tho. I've seen lots of families with their pets leading the way walking past our house the last few days and I've noticed a lot less traffic on the road when I'm out biking. I'm noticing more neighbors than ever out chatting in the quiet neighborhood streets, making sure to keep a safe distance from one another in this day of social distancing—a term I'm sure very few of us had ever heard of until recently. Those are all small silver linings. They're a start.

I finally made it back down into my studio to knock out a stained glass project this past week. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The design was something I came up with a while back but I wasn't sure if I'd take the time to breathe life into it. I'm glad I did. Here's a link to it on my Etsy site where you can see additional photos of it.

The video below is from our first (and possibly last) Tuesday Night Gravel ride of the season with the guys from Northfield. I'm hopeful we'll get the green light to begin them once again toward the middle of summer but it's anybody's guess at this point. I'm going to miss those rides!

That's all I've got.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Point of Law, Rachel's Big Adventure, and Thoughts About Covid-19

When I was a boy in the late '60s and early '70s you could always find the AM radio on the countertop in the kitchen of our home in Bloomington, MN tuned to WCCO. It was the first thing turned on in the morning and the last thing turned off at night. The on-air personalities were all very familiar and to some extent, I suppose they felt a little like family. One of my favorite segments to listen to was Point of Law narrated by Charlie Boone in the late afternoon. The few-minute segment involved a brief synopsis of an actual court case followed by a commercial break before revealing the outcome of the case. I always found them fascinating to listen to as I'd try and figure out how I'd decide the case before hearing the outcome. Here's an example. Go to this link and scroll halfway down the page to find more than a couple dozen other Point of Law cases.

In the evenings I'd sometimes listen to Radio Mystery Theater on WCCO. It was simple storytelling entertainment where you allowed your imagination to create the image of the characters as you followed along. Here's a link to years of episodes of RMT.

As I write this Rachel is in the air and on her way to Johannesburg, South Africa with her friend Holly. They left Minneapolis Saturday morning with a several hour layover in NYC before leaving for Paris, France where they just spent the past three days. They'll be arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa at 3:20 CDT where they'll be staying with some friends for about 10 days.

Their trip has been in the works for months so they were reluctant to allow the Coronavirus to thwart their plans. Fortunately, there are very few reported cases of the virus in South Africa at this point. I did the fatherly thing and queried her as to whether she should consider canceling the trip but it's really not my place to say any more than that. I care for her safety but she's no longer my little daughter. As I go to publish this, Trump is giving a broadcast to the nation. He says he's suspending all incoming flights from Europe to the US for the next 30 days beginning on Friday. I'm not sure how this will impact Rachel and Holly as they're returning via Istanbul, Turkey. They may have to find another way home. I'm hopeful that there will be exemptions for Americans who pass a screen for the Covid-19 virus.

Talk of the Covid-19 virus and its potential to sweep across the globe is being covered extensively, much to the dismay of the Trump administration and conservatives who would rather it be downplayed in favor of not upsetting the markets and thereby threatening Trump's chances for reelection. It's a little late for that as the Dow has lost more than 20% of its value in the past few weeks taking it into bear market territory—in large measure because of a lack of leadership on Trump's part, evidenced by mixed messages and a flippant attitude toward the impact the virus poses.

I wouldn't think the Covid-19 virus could be politicized but it has been (in my opinion) by conservatives as they attempt to blame Democrats for hyping news coverage of the global pandemic. I can only assume then that Democrats are also responsible for Italians putting their country on lockdown and a whole host of other measures being taken by other countries as they try and stay ahead of the virus. It's hard to imagine not covering such an event. That would be the height of irresponsibleness.

You can't script this.  From the article: "Meanwhile, critics have noted the irony of prominent officials downplaying the outbreak even as the disease may silently have been spreading among the Trump administration’s own members and supporters."

The virus has the potential to overwhelm our healthcare facilities as people seek treatment and as healthcare workers are infected and forced off the job leaving not enough people to treat those in need. We're in the early stages of the virus here so it's anybody's guess how it will unfold in the coming weeks. My concern mostly lies with the elderly and those whose bodies may not be up for the fight the virus presents. It will be a death sentence for many should they contract it. With no vaccine and asymptomatic people unknowingly spreading the virus, it potentially poses a great risk to many.

If nothing else, I hope we take away from this how ill-prepared we are as a nation to deal with something so threatening to so many. I spoke in my previous blog entry about how the Trump administration has cut dozens of agencies whose job it is to be on the frontlines of detecting and fighting such a threat to not only us but to the entire globe. That's not leadership.

Again, I have to recommend the 6-part Netflix series titled Pandemic. It's a very important documentary for our times about people on the frontlines working to identify and thwart the next pandemic.

I've been on my gravel bike a fair amount lately. It's been nice. The video below is from last Saturday's ride with the Silver Cycling group out of Lakeville.

That's all I've got.






Thursday, February 27, 2020

Gone Vegan, Designer's Block, and Pandemic Talk

Tammy and I have gone vegan—sort of. We've been attempting to go without meat and fish for the past five weeks with good success. I've said from the outset that I would be happy if I was maybe 80% in adherence to the diet but so far I'm closer to 95%. We're still trying to figure out what works for us as we've had our share of failed experiences with some different plant-based meat substitutes. It's important to not let those bad experiences dissuade us from pressing on and finding enough alternatives that work for us. I think we're doing pretty well.

I unexpectedly took an extended break from my glass studio while piddling around with some other alternative style designs, mostly Art Nouveau, but mostly I was experiencing a designer-block of sorts. I was able to come up with several designs (an example) but nothing fully fleshed out. I switched gears and settled on this design instead. I liken it to a modest Japanese style contemporary home. Here's a link to it on my Etsy site. I may try and do another before moving on.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that we have a President who lies as easily as he breathes. And that's especially troubling when we have (what is likely to be) a national emergency unfolding in the form of a pandemic-like flu outbreak that's spreading across the globe and threatens to disrupt/take the lives of many. We need an administration that's more concerned with the health of the public rather than the investments of those playing the markets. It appears we have the latter. It's unconscionable to me that Trump's* administration has spent the past three years making irresponsible cuts to agencies that are tasked with overseeing research vital to the health of not only our country but the world at large. I don't believe a word this administration says about our current situation with respect to the Covid-19 virus—how can anyone? But not only that; they're muzzling those non-partisan voices who would dare to speak candidly about what they know. Sound familiar?

Rachel turned Tammy and me on to a recently released 6-part series on Netflix titled Pandemic. It profiles the work of many on the frontlines who are working tirelessly to identify and thwart the next pandemic that many think we're overdue to face. It's fascinating, disturbing, and timely. Do check it out if you have a way to stream it.



I've had such a good run of outdoor riding this winter—the best I've had since I began fat-biking eight years ago. The trails are an icy, rutted mess now after last weekend's warm weather so I'm avoiding them until we get some fresh snow that I'm confident will come. I've spent so little time on my indoor trainer, and while I do enjoy riding it, I'm happier outdoors.

This is some video from last Friday's ride.

That's all I've got.



Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Winter Wonderland and Cycling Without Age

I've been neglecting my stained glass art for the past 5 weeks as I find myself enjoying our Minnesota winter like maybe never before. It began when I studded the tires on my fat-bike and took to the trails; something I've not been able to do the past few winters because of ice and a promise to my doctor that I wouldn't get too crazy on my bike knowing that head injuries and coumadin don't play well together. It also helps that we've had some very reasonable temps for being outdoors—just a few degrees below freezing for the most part.

I woke up this morning to see that we were living in a snow globe. It was beautiful! This winter finds me looking forward to snow in the forecast, whereas recent winters not so much—even the 8" (20 cm) variety of snowfalls we received overnight and today is perfectly fine with me. I waited for the snow to stop before clearing our drive and walkways then I suited up to snowshoe the river trails.

I arrived to see that several fat-bikes had already begun to reestablish the trail so I did my best to work the outer edges of the track with my snowshoes to add some width to what was already there. I considered bringing some tunes along but music would only disrupt the solitude of the river bottoms on this beautiful late afternoon. My thoughts and my surroundings were the only entertainment I'd need. I may try and make it back tomorrow with my bike.

Some photos from my hike.

I saw a featured segment on a local newscast last spring or summer about a program called Cycling Without Age (CWA) where volunteers (aka pilots) take elderly and disabled people on bicycle rides using a rickshaw, or in this case, a trishaw. There was a new chapter of the program in St. Paul and the news segment featured the man who'd organized it. The program has its roots in Denmark where Ole Kassow began it there in 2012. I'll let Ole explain CWA in detail in the video below.



I tried to contact the man I saw in the video on the local newscast but I never received a reply (I'm guessing my email ended up in his spam folder). CWA is something I think I would love to be a part of and fortunately for me, I have some friends in Northfield that I ride with who are beginning a chapter of the program in their city, about a half-hour drive away for me. And not only that but there's also a chapter being formed in Lakeville (where I live) that I've committed to helping out. From all I can see, it's an excellent volunteering opportunity for me

I attended a CWA presentation in Northfield two nights ago featuring none other than Ole and his partner Pernille from Denmark. They literally travel the globe putting on presentations for cities where people have expressed an interest in opening a chapter, and luckily for my friends in Northfield, they were able to have Ole and Pernille schedule a stop in their city after having done a presentation in Rochester earlier in the day.

They told stories of people living in care facilities who were somewhat reluctant to climb aboard the trishaw but once they were out on the road feeling the wind in their face, they came alive and absolutely loved the experience. But more importantly, Ole and Pernille talked about how the trishaw is actually just a tool, a tool used to create an environment where those, oftentimes living out the twilight of their lives, can feel validated as they chat with the pilot who is providing the ride and recall for them memories from their youth. Their lives have a newfound meaning they might not otherwise have for the time spent with their pilot. Relationships are formed and future rides give them something to look forward to. How awesome is that?!

Ole and Pernille spent most of last week in Minnesota with a trip into Wisconsin yesterday before returning to Copenhagen this afternoon. It's truly an amazing thing they're doing!

After their presentation two nights ago, we went out for beers and a bite to eat while getting to know them better and learning even more about their organization. I'm impressed by all I've seen and heard.

If this is something that interests you, please know that there's no requirement to be a strong cyclist to volunteer as a pilot. The trishaws are actually e-bikes with a motor and powerful battery to aid in propelling the bike. I'm excited about it and am looking forward to being a part of Cycling Without Age!

The video below is from a ride I did a week ago with the guys from Michael's Cycles in Chaska. Check out the pup in the video. She had a blast out there!

That's all I've got.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Goodbye Sweet Sue

Sue, my brother's wife, and life partner passed away in their home with family at her side late this morning at 11:00 Pacific time after a nearly 5-year struggle with cancer. They were married for more than 47 years and together for more than 50.

I was just a boy when she came into our family. I've added two videos at the end of this post from those early years where Sue can be seen in her early 20s.

I admired her for her never-wavering faith and for her kindness toward others. Sue also had a keen eye for design and turned that into her profession. She was always such a sweet and beautiful presence to be around.

Tammy and I took a trip out west to see Sue and Bryan (aka Dave) where they live near Portland in the spring of 2018 while Sue's cancer was in remission. We had such a nice time and are so thankful for having made the trip. We will miss her greatly.











Monday, January 27, 2020

Mark Kooiman, a Mini Reunion and Movin' On

I got word last week that Mark Kooiman passed away just weeks after his 60th birthday. Mark and I worked together in the late '80s to early '90s but our paths then diverged and we saw very little of each other after that. That wasn't uncommon working in the kind of 24-hour facility we worked in. Mark was a quiet type who mostly kept to himself. I didn't know him well but still, it was shocking and sad news to learn. I've looked for Mark's obituary but I haven't been able to find it.

I was out riding on Monday and feeling like I should've stayed home. My adrenal gland was still in its prednisone induced slumber and I had so little energy since coming off the drug 6 days earlier. I tell myself that by forcing my body to workout, I'm encouraging my adrenal gland to re-engage. I doubt it works that way but it's what motivates me to get off the couch. I was back down riding the trails again Wednesday afternoon and I felt so much better. The old me had returned and I was feeling normal again as well as thankful. There's some video of Wednesday's ride embedded below.

Keith McKay and Cindy came into town for a few days last week from where they live in Fort Worth, TX. Keith and I worked together early in our careers before he transferred to a different area and then years later to Albuquerque Center. I'd lost touch with Keith for a number of years until we reconnected 5 or 6 years ago. We tried to get a mini-reunion of friends together but we were mostly unsuccessful. Still, a few of us met at Mall of America for dinner and conversation Monday evening. It was nice to do some catching up. It was fun seeing how none of us has aged at all. It's amazing how that works!

The 3rd time turned out to not be the charm I was hoping it would be when I placed yet another order for a lava lamp. I'd returned the previous two because of cloudiness that wouldn't clear up. I wasn't going to bother ordering another but then I noticed the price of them had dropped to $25 so I figured, why not? I was disappointed to see that this latest one was also cloudy but rather than send it back, I decided to see if I could use a remedy I'd found online from others who had experienced the same problem. It sort of worked but the blue food coloring I used to color the water was nowhere near the original color I was trying to achieve. I ended up adding some other colors to see what would happen and I eventually settled on a reddish/purple color. The video doesn't quite capture the actual color. At least it's clear.

Tammy and I drove down to see Drew's band play at a bar/restaurant in Rochester on Friday night. They've played a number of gigs there but it'll soon be closing so we wanted to be sure and see them play because we're not sure when we'll get the chance again. My favorite song of theirs, Movin' On, written by Clay their lead guitarist is embedded below. It was a song that I instantly liked the first time I heard it a couple years ago.

We try and take in the Lake Harriet Annual Kite Festival each year if it's not too cold. The temperature was ideal this year (for late January) but the winds weren't quite strong enough to get the larger kites aloft. The kids didn't seem to mind as you can see in the video below. If you have little ones and you want to take them to a fun event, put this kite festival on your calendar.

That's all I've got