Friday, November 9, 2018

Routines Are Good

My day usually begins anywhere from 5:30 to 7:00 when Toby wakes up and lets me know it's time. His most effective method for waking me is a fake sneeze that sounds like the real deal, but I know it's not. We head downstairs and I let the pups out, standing with them in the front yard while they do their business. The occasional coyote or fox are enough of a threat that I don't like to leave them unattended. We go inside and I turn on the gas fireplace in the sunporch to take the chill out of the air so it's toasty warm when Tammy comes down a half hour later. The pups prance at my feet while I fix their main meal of the day.

I reach over and flip on the TV to Morning Joe to get a recap of the previous day's happenings. I like my news shows to offer a variety of opinions from people across the political spectrum, and Morning Joe does that. During commercial breaks, I'll switch to some of the other competing morning shows to see what they're discussing. Two minutes of Fox and Friends is all it takes to confirm that they're still nothing more than hard-right propaganda (not that I was expecting anything less). Their man-in-the-field from somewhere deep in Mexico this morning was reporting that the caravan of asylum seekers working their way toward the U.S. on foot was traveling at the rate of 200 miles (322 km) per day and will be arriving at our southern border in San Diego in one week to ten days. That's impressive! I couldn't do that on my bike, much less walking while carrying a toddler. I think to myself, how dumb do they think their viewers are?

While the pups devour their mix of dry food and refrigerated food, I'll typically have a bowl of cereal or I'll thaw out a frozen breakfast sandwich (90 seconds on level 3 in the microwave followed by 45 seconds on high) and a glass of OJ or milk to wash down my daily dose of meds and vitamins. I almost always wake up with a song on repeat running through my head: Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears was today's offering. This has been a favorite of mine for the past 10 days or so since posting this video to my Facebook account.

Routines are good and this is my routine.

Usually, I'll have an idea for how I want to fill my day but not always. I like to get my workout done in the morning but since I have no afternoon shift at work to be mindful of, I'm content to take it slow for the first hour and see which way my day wants to unfold on its own. The past few days I've been good about getting down on my indoor trainer and knocking out my workout along with a few thousand others on Zwift before noon. Yesterday's ride was London's Triple Loops course -- a favorite of mine that starts out flat and fast but makes up for it in the last half with a good amount of climbing.

My OCD is such that I typically need to try and get up every last leaf before the snow begins to fall but I seem to have been caught off guard this year. I was going to vacuum up leaves one last time but a covering of snow has descended on us and unless I can get out there before Tuesday (our last compost pickup of the year), the leaves will remain until spring. The long-range forecast has us well below freezing until the middle of next week so it's not looking good.

I took some time to change the oil in my mowers and give them a bath after I finished mowing/vacuuming last week. That simple act will help to assuage any lingering nags about a leaf-free yard. For those scoring at home, my final tally for the year was 63 bags of leaves!

The midterm elections are over and Democrats made some impressive gains across the country. That's a good thing but it's not enough, not when I ponder the fact that there's still half of the country out there that supports this most corrupt administration and is content to put party over country. But the winds are changing and what has been a strong headwind has undeniably diminished some.

Tammy and I attended a protest at the Capitol in St. Paul last night with several hundred others who showed up in a light snow to protest Trump's* firing of Jeff Sessions and the (likely illegal) appointment of Matt Whitaker to take his place and oversee Mueller's investigation. It's estimated that there were 900 such demonstrations across the country last night by people who truly care about our democracy.

That would be us.

Time to get on with my daily routine and see what course I'll be riding on Zwift.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

My Faith Walk, or Stumble

Today would've been Mom's 90th birthday. She died a few years ago, just shy of her 87th birthday, and on the same day that I retired -- 9/3/15. For years, she was so certain that each birthday, Christmas or Mother's Day, etc. would be her last. I would try and assure her that she still had many years left to live but of course she'd eventually be right.

She never found love again after my father died in 1995. I asked her about it once and I got the feeling that she felt a sense of loyalty to him and didn't want to betray their bond. She was only 66 and would live another 20 years, alone. I never mentioned it again to her. Here's thinking of you, Mom.

I think I may be done with organized religion. I won't speak for Tammy. We joined a church in Lakeville two years ago but I've lost my desire to continue on as I question more than ever the faith I've been practicing ever since I can remember. I'm a spiritual person who believes in a higher power and some sort of life after this one but I no longer have any certainty about what that looks like. The idea of sitting around singing praises to God for eternity doesn't appeal to me in the least. It just doesn't. I have no real desire to read through the Bible again because I find it kind of pointless. Each time I slog through it I come away with more questions than answers. And I no longer believe in biblical inerrancy; the belief that every passage within it is the inspired word of God.

I suppose more than anything I'm a casualty of conservative Christians who have opened my eyes to the understanding that if they/man can twist the Bible's meaning and make a mockery of Christianity to fit an agenda (See how they ignore Matthew 25: 35-40 or how they embrace a gun culture or their hurriedness to rush off to war, and yes, their enthusiastic support for Trump*.), how am I to believe that man hasn't so thoroughly corrupted the faith since its inception, rendering it something quite removed from what God intended? (I mention this mostly for my own record, as I have before, for when I maybe look back through my words here years from now to see how my thinking has evolved.)

It's been years since we've carved pumpkins for Halloween but we sorta got into it again this year. Tammy suggested we pick up a few and get creative. It was fun. I only carved one, a sea turtle, but Tammy did several: here, here, and here. We need some better carving tools, though. Perhaps we'll invest in some for next year.

There were no Halloween parties for us. We're content to live our lives vicariously through Rachel and Drew. They went as Joanna and Chip Gaines, from the show Fixer Upper. Rachel only needed to remove her glasses to play the part while Drew simply had to procure a tool belt.

The little trick-or-treaters couldn't have asked for better weather with very mild temps for this time of year, yet we only had 31 come to our door. We were prepared for so many more. Toward the end of the night, we were encouraging kids to grab as much as they could with one hand. "Seriously?!" Tammy brought our leftover candy to the nursing home where her mother lives for the staff to enjoy.

I may have golfed my last round of the year. Mark and I met Lyle and Chuck in Winona at The Bridges on a beautiful day for late autumn golf this week. I'm keeping an eye on Monday's weather. There's a chance I'll get out then if the forecast rain isn't too much, otherwise, I'm content to get back on my bikes and take it to the streets and the trails, or the basement.

That's all I've got.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Leaf Me Alone Already! Please! I'm Done With You! (Almost)

In keeping with my strange obsession with tracking meaningless stuff, I'm up to 50 bags of leaves this year. That's important to know because once I get to 59 (the most I've ever filled), I'm pretty much home free when it comes to yard work, and I could use a break. I typically mow/vacuum up leaves once, maybe twice a week but I was out there 5 times in the last 7 days! I've never done that. It gets a bit overwhelming if I wait too long so I sorta like this new approach.

With the exception of some major trimming of trees in our yard, I've done all of the landscaping work myself over the years, until now. I hired a guy to remove 3 Japanese Yews in front of our home rather than do the work myself. They'd become overgrown from 26 years of growth in spite of my best efforts to keep them trimmed. I was reading online where they're a real pain to remove and I just didn't want the hassle, not with all of the other yard work and such that I was doing. As it turned out, I think it would've been a fairly simple job for me but I'm just happy to have it done and I like the new look, which looks a lot like the old look from the summer of '92.

The yews were home to wildlife, mostly rabbits and some birds that liked to take shelter among them but I suspect we may have had a fox bedding down in them at times. This cat's collar appeared once the shrubs were removed, suggesting that someone's pet may have met its demise there. The address on the collar is from just a few blocks away and I have no intention of telling the homeowner of my find. That's why I always stand outside with our pups when I let them out.

Since the beginning of the month, I've been giving Toby a daily dose of glucosamine/chondroitin to help with arthritis which is most noticeable in his rear legs, especially when he runs. It seems to be helping. If only there was help for his vision and his hearing which are both significantly diminished at 15 years, 2 months. We've also started using a diaper on Toby while he's indoors. He's been piddling in the house lately and this has been a big help. The diaper is restrictive and causes him to wait until we take it off and let him outside but it's there in case it's needed.

I made it out to The Bridges Golf Course in Winona last week. Tammy was going to come with me and bum around the city but she took a pass so I went by myself. I was so impressed with the course. It's a 4-hour round-trip but I enjoyed the drive. I caught up with a threesome and they offered to let me play through or join them. I was happy to have their company and the course knowledge they no doubt had to offer so I joined them. The course is very hilly and offers some beautiful views, especially this time of year with the fall colors, although they're past their peak now. I didn't score well but it was the most fun I'd had golfing all year.

Scott came into town a few days ago from the east coast. Lyle met us out at Crystal Lake this morning for a round of golf. Our tee time was pushed back just a bit while we waited for the frost to dissipate. It was a tad cool but it warmed nicely by the time we finished the front 9.

Scott, Lyle and I go back more than 36 years to when we hired on within a few months of each other with the FAA and worked together at Minneapolis Center. It was nice to do some catching up.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Aussie Floyd Concert and Uncanny Synchronicity

The plan was to spend the day in the yard but a steady snowfall through the morning and into the afternoon kept me indoors. I was in need of a lazy day so I was happy to comply.

Tammy and I went to see Aussie Pink Floyd at The State Theater in Minneapolis Friday night. They're an Australian band who play Pink Floyd covers. Pink Floyd has been a favorite for as long as I can remember and their lead guitarist, David Gilmour, is one of the coolest guys in rock 'n roll.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we sat in our seats. The guy next to me said he'd seen them before and that we should expect an awesome show. He wasn't fooling. He also said the band has been performing together for about 30 years and that they were actually hired by David Gilmour to play at his 50th birthday celebration.

What a fun night! Here are some snippets of video I took of a few of the songs they played. There was so much more.

As we were leaving the theater we were greeted by some buskers drumming for dollars on the sidewalk. Impressive!

Speaking of Pink Floyd -- if you've never seen the synchronicity between Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album and the first 43 minutes of The Wizard of Oz, you're in for a treat; at least I think so. I first learned of it from an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1999. How someone stumbled onto this I have no idea but they did and it's the coolest thing. I should mention that all of the band members, including Alan Parsons who produced The Dark Side of the Moon, deny that there was any attempt by them to intentionally sync up parts of their album with the film.

The album is around 43 minutes long but the person who uploaded the video (embedded below) lets the movie continue while the album repeats. There are some coincidences there, too, but they don't work for me nearly as well as just one run of the album.

See for yourself. I've listed several of the more notable coincidences below.

4:00: “balanced on the biggest wave, you race towards an early grave.” Dorothy balances on the fence railing before falling in time with “an early grave”. Notice the abrupt change in the tempo of the music as Zeke rushes to help Dorothy before experiencing his own distress.

8:00: The song "Time" begins with its alarm bells as Miss Gulch pedals into the scene.

8:45: Notice how well the drums and other instruments fit with the back and forth dialogue playing out between Dorothy, Auntie Em, and Uncle Henry.

11:20: As the song “Time” continues, the camera fixes on the advertising on Professor Marvel’s wagon which advertises psychic readings, “Past - Present and Future”

13:55: Professor Marvel gazes into his crystal ball while he describes images of Dorothy’s home and those waiting for her there as the song "Home" is sung.

14:50: The scene changes as the song "The Great Gig in the Sky" begins. Notice the tornado in the distance.

15:55: The vocals fit perfectly with the growing urgency of the scene.

17:05: The vocals reach a climax as the window behind Dorothy breaks, leaving her unconscious. The vocals and piano continue to provide the perfect musical backdrop for the scene as Dorothy drifts off into the Land of Oz.

19:30: This is where the film changes over from sepia to color. Notice the song "Money" begins right on cue with its cash register sound as Dorothy opens the door to Munchkin Land with the Yellow Brick Road all of the richness there.

27:35: The ballerinas appear as if on cue as the vocals in the song "Us and Them" begin.

29:10: The Wicked Witch arrives in a cloud of smoke just as the word “black” is sung.

29:28: “And who knows which is which and who is who” as the camera pans between the dead witch under the house, the Wicked Witch and Glinda, the good witch.

32:28: Glinda leaves the scene in her orb of light as the words “out … out … out” are sung.

37:20: The song "Brain Damage" begins as Dorothy is talking with the Scarecrow (who lacks a brain) while the lyrics, “The lunatic is on the grass/Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs/Got to keep the loonies on the path” are being sung.

42:35: The song "Eclipse" (the final track on the album) fades out with the sound of a heartbeat as Dorothy and the Scarecrow come upon the Tin Man who tells them he doesn’t have a heart.

That's all I've got.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Reconnecting After 50+ Years, Knock Knock, and Day-Tripping

It's dusk as I sit down to write this, and it's usually around this time that I can look out at our hummingbird feeders and see at least one little flyer feeding at them before darting for the safety of the dense foliage between the neighboring homes. But not tonight. It appears they've all made the trip south. The last sighting I had of one was last Saturday morning. Safe travels, my little friends!

My niece, Erin, and her daughter Anja went to see an astronomy/stargazing class last week put on by Mike Lynch, a meteorologist for WCCO radio. It's something I've been meaning to do for the longest time but hadn't -- until last Thursday night. (Thanks, Erin, for the prompt.)

Our family lived two doors down from Mike and his family in 1965 when I was 8 years old. I'd long since lost touch with Mike, Don, and Steve so it was nice to arrive a little early before Mike's presentation to talk with him. Through Mike, I was able to reconnect with Don. Don and I chatted online a few nights ago and he surprised me by saying he has photos of the airplane we built as kids (story in the link above). I would love to see them! I mentioned that it would be nice if the 4 of us could get together again for lunch and some reminiscing. He agreed. He also said he'd try and locate the airplane photos for me and send me some scans. I can't wait!

Mike is passionate about astronomy and his passion is contagious. It was a cloudy night so I knew there wouldn't be much to see but I figured he had a 'cloudy sky' presentation which would also be worthwhile. He did, and it was. Did you know that the Big Dipper isn't actually a constellation? It's actually just a smaller part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  I plan to attend another of Mike's stargazing sessions in the next few weeks when the skies are clear.

Fall clean-up in our yard has begun. I took out most of the plants from our gardens and also cut back the perennials from 5 of our 6 rock islands. A Before and after example. It's nice to have made a sizeable dent in the job.

I was out Saturday morning and afternoon knocking on doors for Congressional District 2 candidate Angie Craig. I was assigned 33 doors to call on in a neighborhood in the city of Savage. It's targeted door-knocking so volunteers aren't wasting time with people who have shown little to no interest in supporting Democratic candidates, but rather, those who maybe lean Democrat but don't necessarily show up to vote. You've probably noticed strange faces walking through your neighborhood with a binder in one hand and a smart-phone in the other. There's an app we use that shows us some cursory information about the people whose door we're about to knock on. We're also gathering information while we're out there for input into the app for other volunteers in the campaign to process. Did I mention that it wasn't all that many years ago when I was voting a straight Republican ticket? To my fellow conservatives stuck in the bubble -- take a look around. You owe it to yourself and the rest of us trying to right this country of ours.

I only had one unfriendly door in all of those 33 doors. A woman on the other side, her voice shaking with emotion, yelled at me to immediately leave or she'd call the police. "You're poison!" she said. I never let the smile leave my face. I wished her a good day and was on my way. I actually felt bad for her. As I walked toward the next house on my list I wondered if I'd maybe just pulled her away from some Fox programming, and that upset her. "Programming" seems such an appropriate word.

Tammy and I took a drive along the Minnesota River towards Winona yesterday to check out the autumn colors. We didn't see much in the way of fall color but it was still a pretty drive. We stopped for lunch at The Grill at Signatures which is located at The Bridges Golf Course in Winona. I couldn't help but notice the attention to detail of the flowers and shrubbery around the grounds. I wondered if that carried over to the course itself. The golf course looked really nice and I could swear it was calling to me. I went online to see if it was part of the PCC golf program that I'm a member of and sure enough, it is! I'm going to have to try and make my way back there in the next couple weeks. Tammy talked about coming with me and visiting the shops in the city while I'm golfing. We've got a date!

That's all I've got.

Monday, October 1, 2018

I Believe Her, Moving On and Charlie Turns 10!

I was sitting with the pups and my laptop this morning in our sunporch when something in my periphery caught my attention. I hadn't seen a hummingbird at our feeders in more than two days so I assumed they'd all begun their 2-week trip south to more hospitable weather. I was wrong. It's October 1st and we've still got at least one hearty soul staying put. I quickly changed out the nectar in their feeders for one last time. I think.

Tammy and I spent all of Thursday watching the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She claims he sexually assaulted her 36 years ago and that her claim needs to be heard before he's granted a lifetime appointment to our nation's highest court. It was riveting television but it was also exhausting. I was left with a helpless feeling that Kavanaugh's confirmation is pretty much a sure thing. Democrats simply don't have the votes to stop it, and it's doubtful that the limited FBI investigation that's been allowed to proceed through Friday will yield much. If Kavanaugh could sit up there in front of the country and repeatedly lie about his college days and his actions then, it's no stretch to believe that his good friend and alleged accomplice Mark Judge will follow his lead and do the same during his questioning by the FBI.

I have no doubt that Dr. Ford was truthful in every aspect of her testimony. There was nothing in her demeanor that left me uncertain and nothing in her words that caused me to question her motives. The same can't be said for Judge Kavanaugh. Had Dr. Ford acted the way he did, Republicans would be gloating about what a crackpot she was, dismissing her testimony. Yet, they rally behind this man who displayed a total lack of temperament for the position he seeks while lying repeatedly during his testimony. Remember: One of them asked for an FBI investigation. One did not. One of them took and passed a polygraph test. One did not. Strip away all of the emotion and focus on that.

Too funny!

Tammy and I went to Rochester Friday night to watch Rachel's boyfriend's band play a gig at a local bar. Drew plays rhythm guitar for Francis Jennings and the Seisable Johnsons. They've had a number of shows now but this was only the 2nd one we could attend. I recorded the night for them. My favorite song of theirs is embedded below. It's not often I'll hear a song and instantly like it; "Moving On" is one of those. Clay, their lead guitarist wrote it and sings it.

I had Toby on his longest walk in months (probably since last spring, or maybe even last fall) today with Charlie. We walked 1.4 miles (2.25 km) and he did really well in the cooler air. He was even running in the final quarter mile! He hasn't been at all interested in walking lately so I was happy he joined us and did so well.

And this guy turned 10 years old yesterday! Happy birthday, Charlie!

Speaking of birthdays -- I received a late birthday gift in the mail today from Tammy, and it's perfect!

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stormy Weather and a Giant Revolt

It's the 25th of September and we still have hummingbirds at our feeders. I think they're juvenile offspring from the adults that returned in early May. I've read where the adults fly south in early September while the juveniles will stay around a little longer. I usually use a mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water in our feeders but as of a few weeks ago (based on a recommendation I read online) I've been adding just a touch more sugar as a high octane mixture to fuel their flight south. Each day they remain seems like a bonus day especially considering how much cooler our nights have become in the past week since a cold front and an associated line of severe weather came through, leaving in its wake a lot of storm damage a half hour south of us.

The squall line spawned several tornados in addition to straight-line winds ahead of it and wreaked havoc on Northfield and nearby communities. Keith and Tracee lost several trees while many other trees on their property sustained considerable damage. They were really fortunate though because it could've been so much worse for them. Their home was spared any damage. Many others couldn't say the same. Here's a photo I took of a farm less than a half mile north of their home.

I've found my next bike. Tammy and I were bumming around the city of Chaska a couple weeks ago and happened to park on the street in front of the new location of Michael's Cycles. How convenient, I thought. I made a quick stop inside to check their inventory of gravel bikes. (I've been lusting after a gravel bike since last spring.) They didn't have many in stock but Austin was happy to show me what options they had available to them online. One bike in particular really stood out for me. It had the component group I'm desiring and it filled every other square I had on my list of must-haves. It's a Giant Revolt Advanced O, and the charcoal color also works really well for me, especially when it's covered with a layer of gravel road dust! The bike won't be available until mid-December but I'm in no hurry. I've always lived my life with the thought that good things in life are worth waiting for.

Here's a review of the bike.

We spent Sunday at the Renaissance Festival. We weren't there 30 minutes before I had a run-in with a knee-high trash can, leaving a nasty mark on my shin.  We'd just finished watching this attraction and I was looking back over my shoulder as we walked away. The shortish trash can was out in the open but because I wasn't watching where I was walking, I hit the lip of it hard with my left shin, infecting the wound it made with an assortment of nasty germs. Within a matter of seconds, someone on staff was tending to my bloody gash with a first-aid kit while they summoned a human-powered taxi to take us to their main first-aid station where they did a more thorough job of cleaning and dressing my owie. I'm on blood thinners so I tend to bleed quite a lot before it eventually stops. We were back out among the masses in a matter of minutes.

It's been 8 days since I've been on any of my bikes but I'm not suffering any withdrawal. My golf clubs are taking up the slack. The ride below was the last time I was on my bike. I did a longish (for my fat-bike) loop down to the river bottoms and back. What began as a beautiful sunny morning turned nasty by the time I exited the trails. I worked as hard as I could in the last hour of my ride to stay ahead of the storm. Fun stuff!

That's all I've got.