Friday, October 18, 2019

Chilling, Protesting, and Riding

I had my day fully planned. I was going to process some video from last night's ride then head off to the links by mid-morning. Charlie would get his walk in the afternoon before Tammy and I left on a dinner date with friends. The golf part of my day has been canceled and I'm sitting here chilling on the couch with Charlie and Dublin—my sister Claudia's cute little Yorkie with a cockeyed ear.

I got the video processed but that's it. I'm content to watch the world pass me by today. I need to allow for more of this in my life. I golfed yesterday so that itch has been scratched.

I was thinking recently how when I was working, I was always checking to see what time it was as I attempted to stay on task to get done whatever needed getting done before I had to leave for work. It's nice not to have that urgency about my days anymore but honestly, a little bit of urgency to jump-start the day can be a good thing.

We made arrangements to meet some friends and take the light rail into Minneapolis to protest Trump's* rally at Target Center a little more than a week ago. Fortunately, the rain held off but we were prepared and determined to make a showing regardless of whether the rain did or not.

As we were boarding the light rail I was tapped on the shoulder from behind. A friend from work, Chet, was traveling into the city for Trump's* visit as well. He would be observing it from inside Target Center. It had been 4 years since I'd last seen Chet. We'd both stopped following one another on Facebook a while back. We spent part of the ride catching up on each other's lives. It was nice to see him again. We got off the light rail and resumed our separate paths. It's a microcosm of what's become of our country.

Tammy wasn't one to stay put once we got to the protest gathering outside of Target Center. She was off and running with her cellphone in hand taking photos. I put together a collection of both hers and mine for the video embedded below.

I'm in full fall cleanup mode now but you'd never know it by looking at our yard. I vacuumed up all of the leaves a few days ago but they're back again, taunting me to rid our yard of them once more but I'm not taking the bait. I've got a blog entry to write. While blowing out our underground irrigation system I noticed that zone 5 had a major leak somewhere but I couldn't locate it without charging the system with water again. I found a guy blowing out lines nearby with an air compressor hooked to his truck. For a quick $20 he was happy to hook his commercial-grade air compressor to my line and easily locate the source of my leak. I fixed it the next day.

I've been doing less riding the past month and it shows. I can feel my form slipping away. I've been missing from the gravel scene in Northfield for the past few weeks but I was able to make it last night, lousy form and all. It was a good workout. We're finishing our rides well after sunset as you'll see in the video below. Always a fun time.










Thursday, October 10, 2019

Compromised, Little Gems, and it's Definitely Fall

I was riding my indoor trainer last week when I received a text message from our credit union inquiring about a charge on my card. I quickly replied to the text then halted my workout to have a closer look at our account and to speak with a representative from our credit union. Whoever had my card information had also made a purchase at GameStop for something in excess of $300. My card was immediately deactivated and rendered useless. I drove to the credit union and was able to obtain a replacement card with no hassle within an hour of first learning of my card being compromised.

At the suggestion from the rep at the credit union, I've also installed an app on my phone called SecurLOCK Equip which allows me more control over my credit card. I can deactivate my card when I'm not using it or set spending limits in addition to some other options. Plus, the app immediately notifies me whenever there's a transaction on my card. I like the extra layer of protection. I'm curious, tho, how my card data fell into the wrong hands.

Our hummingbirds have flown south for the winter but I still have our feeders up for any stragglers passing through who find themselves in need of a fix. We had one become trapped in our garage the week before last. I was eventually able to coax it out by lowering its feeder closer to the main door opening.

I continue to methodically go through each previous entry in my blog to ensure that any photo links pointing to my website are redirected to the same photo on Google Photos (I'll be letting our website expire at the end of our current contract). It's a lot of work and I don't expect to be done for weeks if not months. I'm also taking time to suss out dead links directed at pages that no longer exist. I'm enjoying reading through my posts from years ago and rediscovering the little gems (for me, anyway) within it.

My early biking videos are cringe-worthy. Here's one of the first videos I recorded while riding (wait for it). I like to think I've stepped up my game in that area.

Early videos of our pups are also fun to look back on.

Lakeville has an intimate concert venue at what used to be All Saints Church in downtown Lakeville. The church was sold in 2001 to the city and has been transformed into the Lakeville Area Arts Center. We've attended several events and concerts there over the years, most recently last Saturday night when we saw Jonny James and the Hall of Fames playing their Led Zeppelin tribute show. We saw them play this same show at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre a couple of years ago. They're good!

I spent all day yesterday doing yardwork—mostly tending to our 6 rock islands and cutting back the hostas and other plants on them. Before and after. It's nice to have it done. Now, it's simply a matter of keeping up with the falling leaves; a job made much easier by vacuuming them up every two days with my John Deer.

I'm looking forward to getting back down in my glass shop and indulging the creative side of me. I've got a project designed and ready to go so I can hit the ground running once the time is right. Tammy suggested that I come up with some less expensive/complicated designs for my Etsy site to appeal to a broader spectrum of people. I've toyed around with this idea before but I've yet to do it. It's worth considering.

That's all I've got.








Monday, September 30, 2019

Alexander Butterfield, SMS Hack and Charlie Turns Eleven!

Nancy Pelosi made her move last week to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into the admitted criminal actions of Donald Trump*. I don't see that she had any choice, not if our Constitution (specifically, Article II, section 4) is still a thing to be upheld and revered.

There was very little public support for Nixon's impeachment when news of Watergate began to appear in the press in the fall of 1972. It wasn't until the Senate Watergate hearings in the summer of '73 that public sentiment toward Nixon began to erode. He may well have finished out his term had it not been for the reluctant testimony of Alexander Butterfield, a Deputy Assistant to Nixon.

It was Butterfield who oversaw the installation of a secret voice-activated tape recording system with its many hidden microphones in Nixon's Oval Office and elsewhere that Nixon used to surreptitiously record his conversations with others. Without the tapes, the case against Nixon may have evaporated, leaving his supporters to assure us that he was an honorable man, in the same way that Trump* still enjoys solid support from his base after effectively obstructing the Special Counsel's investigation of him.

It's no surprise to any of us who are looking at the current administration objectively that Trump* effectively worked with the Russian government to help scuttle Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign just as he again (admittedly) was trying to work with another government, this time the President of Ukraine, to try and foil Joe Biden's presidential campaign. And for this, he will be impeached in the House of Representatives. I don't have any delusions that the Republican-led Senate will muster the 2/3 majority needed to convict him—that's very unlikely unless an Alexander Butterfield type witness takes the stand and provides damning testimony that can't be ignored.

Or unless a whistleblower decides they've seen enough.

And that appears to be what has happened. I hope and I pray that this is the beginning of the end for this most corrupt occupant of the White House, and his enablers—specifically, U.S. Attorney General William Barr. And when this chapter in our country's history is over, it's also my hope that his enablers in conservative media will finally be seen as the propagandists they are.

And it should be noted: this is so much worse than anything Nixon did.

This isn't sour grapes for having watched my candidate lose the 2016 election. It's about ensuring that our candidates, no matter the party they represent, aren't reaching out for help to those who would most like to see us fail as a nation. And it's about not holding fledgling democracies hostage by withholding aid in exchange for dirt on your political opponent. We have to be better than that, and this.

Switching gears.

I received a group text SMS message from a friend last week saying:

Friend 1: Hey, guys you thnk I can Borrow 2k

Friend 2: Need some new wheels...?

Me: Ha! That's a good guess!

Friend 3: Stock? Gambling debt owed to the mob?

Me: Bail?

Friend 1: Bail

Friend 1: I'll explain later

Friend 1: Can somebody zelle it to me? Rbcu is acting weird

Me: I'm worried that Friend 1's phone has fallen into the wrong hands.

Friend 3: His phone is at his house (inserts map image showing the phone's location).

Me: Roger that.

My friend's phone was in his possession but someone else had somehow hacked it and was sending out texts trying to scam others into sending money to an online account. A fraud report has been filed with the Burnsville police. Be careful out there!

And this sweet boy turns 11 today! In the months since losing Toby, Charlie has become my little shadow, not letting me out of his sight for long when I'm around. Tammy would take him to the dog park at Cleary Lake in the weeks after Toby's passing but without Toby along, Charlie would only sit and howl and didn't want to walk the park's trails. That's not like him. Instead, we now take him to the dog park at Alimagnet Park where there's a section for smaller dogs. He loves going there and sniffing the other pups.

The Chimney Rock loop was what was served up last Saturday morning. A fun route indeed! C'mon along...



* Denotes an illegitimate president.




Sunday, September 15, 2019

16 Years, and Mark Prairie Has Left the Building

Next month will mark 16 years that I've been journaling in my blog. I suppose that's quite a while. I kept a journal for the last three years of my four-year enlistment in the Navy so when I learned about blogs, it seemed like a natural fit for me. I dove right in.

One of the main reasons I maintain my blog is to someday be able to look back on my life that was and recall more vividly memories that would otherwise likely be forgotten over the years. Something I wasn't expecting when I first began making entries here was the way in which my blog would become a place where I could sort through my thoughts—a form of therapy, actually. I've benefited from writing in it.

I've spent several hours this past week going through my blog and updating links that point to our website where I've uploaded hundreds (maybe thousands) of miscellaneous photos over the years. I'm going to allow our site to go dark when it expires next year so I need to redirect links from my blog to a new host for my photos: Google Photos—it's something I should've done years ago.

Tammy has been busy working on craft projects for the mentally challenged people she works with through her cousin's organization. Her latest project is a gnome head. She prepares the pieces for each gnome and includes a set of instructions so they can be assembled with the help of an aid. This most recent project is so cool. I think it's one of her finest.

Mark Prairie held his retirement party last Wednesday at Celts in Farmington. It's been too many months since I've made a Wednesday afternoon appearance for a beer with the guys, so I couldn't miss this one. It was a very nice time chatting with people and seeing many faces I hadn't seen in a while. Mark turned 56 recently and that's the end of the line for controllers. We're forced into early retirement at that age. He was happy to be done. I look forward to seeing him on the links yet this year. Wishes for much happiness in this next chapter of your life, my friend.

I was intending to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we're experiencing with some gravel riding this weekend but a couple of monkeys on my back got the better of me. I did yard work all day yesterday and followed that up today with 5 hours of power washing our driveway and deck. And I got a coat of sealer on our driveway. I'm glad to have those jobs done and the monkeys off my back.

YouTube is making it easier to safely upload videos with copyrighted background music such as the cycling videos I like to create. Go to this link and type in the name of the artist or song you're considering using. It will tell you what if any restrictions are associated with a particular song. I've had a limited number of artists I could safely use that I've relied on but now I can greatly expand what's available to me.

I'd taken down (from YouTube) some Super 8mm family videos I'd edited years ago for fear they would count as a strike against my account due to their background music. I've uploaded them again now that they've been given the all-clear. One of my favorites is embedded below. It begins with footage of my grandmother dancing in a white sweater and red shoes. At the 1:05 mark of the video my late Aunt Jean appears as the lyrics, "some may come and some may go" are sung. I edited this to make it appear that she's waving goodbye. She left us much too soon from a heart attack in her early 50s. I can be seen with my younger brothers playing in the snow toward the end of the video. This would've been around 1968.



And here are two ride videos since the last time I was here.

That's all I've got



Tuesday, September 3, 2019

4 Years, Mission Accomplished and D2D 2019

Today is the 4th anniversary of my mother's passing and the 4th anniversary of my retirement from the FAA. It's also the 4th anniversary of a hearing exam that showed I'd regained hearing in my left ear; hearing that I'd completely lost for more than a week and was told by one doctor that I'd never recover. It was the single most emotional day I've ever lived, the way those three significant events intersected at once.

It's been 8 months since Tammy's hip replacement surgery. One of her recovery goals was for us to be able to go to the State Fair and for her to be able to walk pain-free. Mission accomplished! We got to the fair earlier than ever, at 7:00am and didn't leave until Herman's Hermits had finished their show at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell 15 hours later. We had such a nice time.

Here's a link to some Instagram photos and videos from our day.

The Red Eye Memorial is no more. The golf tournament for retired air traffic controllers is more than two decades old but interest has waned in the past few years and Ken has decided to shut it down. 24 of us met last Tuesday for the last time at Fountain Valley Golf Course. Storms chased us off the course for 20 minutes but otherwise, it was a great day to be on the links. Our other tournament, The Sick Leave Open, is still going strong.

The annual Dawn to Dusk ride (in its 23rd year) is in the books and we couldn't have penciled in a better day (weather-wise) for it. The temp and humidity were very comfortable with a mostly cloudy sky and a light tailwind to help us home. Perfect! This was my 2nd year riding this event with the guys from Silver Cycling.

Here's a link to our ride on Strava.

I had some hesitation going into the ride, fearing I didn't have enough long rides to my credit the past few months to carry me through the later miles of Saturday's ride. I did so many more long-distance efforts in preparation for last year's D2D and felt I needed a similar training regimen this year. I was wrong. My longest training ride was 146 miles (235 km) and that was plenty. I'll remember that for next year should I decide to toe the line once again. Plus, I think my Tuesday night gravel rides enhanced my training a lot. I push myself for those 2+ hours more than any other time of the week on my bike.

To be honest, tho, preparation for D2D was a bit of a monkey on my back, never feeling like I'd totally committed to the training and having some quiet doubts about being fit enough for it. And what about the weather on the day of the ride? Will we be fighting a strong headwind on the way home, and will it be stormy? Will I be able to get at least a few hours of sleep the night before the ride? A 4:00 in the morning wakeup isn't what I'm used to anymore. But in the end, it all came together nicely. I rode strong and I learned that I can get by on a lot fewer training miles than I thought. That's good to know when I toy with the idea once again of whether or not to add my name to next year's list of riders.

That's all I've got.



Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Kayaking, Ren Fest, and D to D Talk

I can't recall a more active time for me in the 4 years since my retirement; and where did those 4 years go? It's in my DNA to always be moving or actively doing something even if I'm sitting still. Sometimes I'll pause to consider taking a day off and watching the world go by from our deck or with a book but then my mind begins thinking of a myriad of activities I could be doing instead. I'll occasionally meditate in the morning as a way to slow my mind and give it a timeout. I know that part of what's driving my need to stay active is the realization that my life is racing by so quickly and as much as I can, I want to make the most of it. Golfing, walking, and biking are my main go-to activities.

Thanks to Tammy, I'll be adding kayaking to the list next spring.

We've kayaked together twice and found it to be so much fun. We rented a tandem kayak at Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) last Wednesday and paddled for 7 miles. It was nice to try a tandem but we soon realized that we both prefer individual kayaks—preferably ones that fit us better than the rental. We've been researching kayaks and have a good idea of what we're looking for but we've decided to wait until next spring to buy them. I purchased a roof rack for my Forrester last week and installed it just in case we happen upon a deal we'd rather not pass up. (I still need the J-bars that clamp around the kayak.)

We've got another set of triplet deer in our neighborhood, just as we did last year. They're so cute to watch. I took that video as I was walking out to get the paper a few Sunday mornings ago. They don't seem to frighten easily. It's common to see them venturing out in the early evening well before sunset.  They mostly bed down in our neighbor's yard across the street. This is a video from a few days ago taken through our front window.

We met Rachel, Drew, and Drew's mother, Jennie, at the Renaissance Festival last Saturday. They all dressed the part but we failed to follow through on promises from last year to do likewise. That didn't prevent us from making the same promise for next year. Stay tuned! Tammy was taking notes as we walked along, looking for ideas for us. She's thinking I would look good in a blue and green kilt. I'll be happy to wear whatever she comes up with for me. She's good at that sort of thing.

Drew surprised Tammy and me with his juggling skills. Impressive! As you can see in the video, he was quickly sent to the head of the class for an advanced lesson of juggling with plastic bowling pins.

We met them all later in St. Paul Park for the Heritage Days Festival where Drew's brother, Colton, was playing with his band, Hawk 45. It was all so much fun. Tammy and I have danced more in the past few weeks than we have in our entire 20 years together. And she made up a new dance! Just wave your hands in the air like one of those inflatable air dancers and keep your feet anchored. It's really simple and fun for everyone. Try it!

I've been training for our upcoming Dawn to Dusk ride at the end of the month but I'm worried because I've not trained as hard as I did last year. My two longest rides are 146 miles (235 km) and a ride of 126 miles 9203 km) two days ago. That mileage is considerably less than the long rides I did in preparation for last year's ride. I'm kind of in the window now, though, where I should refrain from any long-distance rides in order to allow my body to recover for the big day. I was going to try and sneak in one last long ride tomorrow but I think I'll take a pass and plan something shorter but with more intensity.

The videos below are from our TNG ride a week ago and from my ride with Steve and Rob, aka Silver and Legs, two days ago.

That's all I've got.



Sunday, August 4, 2019

Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary, Duluth Style!

We spent the better part of this week vacationing 3 hours to the north in Duluth and along the North Shore as we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We had such a nice time. I've been to Duluth a number of times but I never explored the city the way we just did. It was one of those getaways where I wish we could do it all over again.

We spent our first night in Tammy's hometown of Babbitt where we had dinner with her sister Cindy. We shared some nice conversartion before venturing off to check out one of two local bars where we crashed the class of '89's high school reunion. I dare say we were having as much fun as anyone there dancing like it was nobody's business. We had a blast!

Neither of us had ever kayaked so Tammy arranged for us to take a guided kayaking tour on our first full day in Duluth, figuring it would be something fun to try. She was so right! I think I'm hooked. I've already begun searching Craig's List for used kayaks. I can imagine myself getting up early to do a few laps around one of the nearby lakes to start my day. No, I don't think I'll be mounting my GoPro on the front of my kayak but then again...hmmm.

We also took a lampworking class at Lake Superior Art Glass where we made the stem to a wine glass. It's more challenging than it would appear but I thought Tammy was a natural at it. There's a shop in Northeast Minneapolis where we can continue to explore the art medium in more depth. We'd both like to.

I fell in love with the city of Duluth and commented to Tammy more than once that I could easily make it my home. She enjoyed the city as well but not enough to want to uproot our lives and move there—and what about the winters? I get that. It's close enough that I'm certain we'll be back again sooner rather than later.

Here's a link to an album of photos from our getaway.

I love more than anything taking our little road trips, away from the myriad distractions that make up my life. Not that I don't enjoy them all but nothing compares to my time with Tammy when it's just the two of us sharing an experience together.

I can't help but wonder how 20 years got away from us so quickly. It seems not long ago at all that Tammy and I first met and wasted little time making plans for our lives together with Rachel. I wrote this 4-part blog series a while back about how we met and fell in love.

What I wouldn't give to relive these past 20 years all over again! I could live in those days forever.

That's all I've got.