Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Schitt's Creek and Prednisone Blues

I received a message last week through my Etsy account from a couple in Michigan inquiring if I'd be interested in making 4 smallish stained glass panels for them. They gave me some ideas of what they were after based on some examples they found on my Etsy site. I opened my DeltaCad program and proceeded to sketch a design that I thought might appeal to them. It did. We exchanged a few more messages to iron out the details and then I got busy breathing life into their request.

I've had other inquiries for custom work through Etsy but never one that resulted in someone commissioning me to do a project for them. It was a good experience to walk through the process of putting an order together, completing it and sending it off. Honestly, tho, I have to be careful about commission work because it's not the same as when I'm producing work that I'm moved to make. I don't suppose I have much to worry about in that regard.

I can't say enough good things about Etsy. I could never imagine a better way of being able to showcase my artwork and offer it for others to purchase. And the cost to sell on the platform is very reasonable.

I've been binge-watching Schitt's Creek on Netflix. I started watching it a few months ago but didn't get very far into it before moving on. Tammy watched it and loved it so I thought I'd give it another try. The writing is brilliant! Seriously, if you're looking for something funny and lighthearted, this is it. Check it out. My favorite character is Alexis. They're all good but she's so believable in her role.

Is it wrong for a guy in his 60s to love his lava lamp? I've had one for the last 30+ years and while it still works well, the lamp's glass is becoming etched. I purchased a new one recently and I'm really happy with it. I ordered another in a different color scheme from the same manufacturer but it's cloudy and shows no signs of clearing up. This is actually the 2nd one like this that I've bought and they've both been cloudy. It looks like I'll be sending this one back as well. Is the 3rd time a charm?

My headaches have run their course and I'm no longer carrying around a dose of Imitrex in my shirt pocket. It's been 10 days since they left and I've spent the past week weaning myself off prednisone, the drug I use as a prophylactic during a headache cycle. I'm done with the drug as of this morning and am patiently waiting for my adrenal gland to wake from its prednisone-induced slumber and begin to once again produce the cortisol my body needs. Until that time, fatigue has me more or less sidelined—at least for today, anyway.

I'd planned to spend a good part of my day riding the fresh snow on the trails along the river bottoms but it's not happening with my energy levels ebbing as they are. That's okay. I had a good week last week riding the trails at Murphy, Lebanon, and the river bottoms. Between them all, I had 144 miles of fat-bike bliss thanks in part to my newly studded tires.

I've taken a pass on adding studs to my tires until now because of the cost which was typically around $1 per stud. With 320 studs per pair of wheels, it gets a bit spendy and I was content to ride indoors. But they've come down considerably in price and now cost about 1/3 of what they used to. It's nice to be riding outdoors again and I'm so impressed with how my studded tires handle on both the slick trails and icy lakes. I've been enjoying my fatty as much as ever. I hope to be back doing my thing again tomorrow, energy levels willing.

That's all I've got

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2019 By The Numbers And Goodbye Old Friend

I'm on a sardine kick lately. I know, I'm weird. I hadn't had a can of sardines in dozens of years until a few weeks ago. I was strolling the aisles at Cub Foods when I spied the sardine section and for whatever reason, I placed a few cans in my cart. Tammy gave me a sideways glance when she saw my purchase after returning home. Fast-forward to a few days ago when I was back at Cub to replenish my disappeared sardine supply—I think I must've had 20 cans in my cart. I'm at the checkout bagging my groceries when the guy ringing up my order yells down to me, "What's up with all the sardines!?" "I like 'em!" was my quick reply. And I do! I'm glad I wasn't buying 20 packs of condoms.

I continue to add to my inventory of stained glass sun-catchers (my most recent creation) but I think I'm about to focus my attention on the openings above our main-level cabinets and come up with a design for stained glass panels for them. There are 15 panels in total to be done. I've got some ideas kicking around in my head but I've yet to sit down and sketch something out.

There will be no New Year's resolutions for me. There never are.

My riding mileage goal going into 2019 was 5000 miles (8000 km). While I met my goal, a lot of those miles were done on my indoor trainer, and while it gives me a great workout, it gives me credit for going faster than I otherwise would on the road. But even factoring that in, I surpassed my goal. I'll use the same goal of 5000 miles this year. I suppose that's a resolution of sorts.

2019 by the numbers (thanks to my Garmin devices):

road bike: 1200 miles
fatbike: 90 miles
gravel bike: 2097 miles
Kickr Core (indoor trainer): 2346 miles
total: 5733 miles
Elliptical: 74 miles
golfing: 279 miles
walks with Charlie: 198 miles
treadmill: 69 miles
walking: 207 miles

I've been reluctant to do any outdoor riding while I'm still in my cluster headache phase for fear of an attack while I'm out on the trails. I carry an Imitrex nasal spray with me but those don't always work and the last thing I want is to be far removed from a place to comfortably and quietly manage my pain. I've got a portable tank of oxygen that I keep in the car and it's my go-to remedy for these beasts when they appear either at home or away. Thankfully, this phase of headaches isn't as bad as previous cycles and I'm fairing well. Where I'm typically on a daily dose of 50 mg of prednisone as a preventative to the headaches, I've been able to get by only 35 mg so far.

I felt well enough yesterday to take to the trails along the river bottoms. What a beautiful day it was to be out riding. I had such a nice time. One sad reality, though. As I approached Black Dog powerplant I got my first glimpse of it minus its large smokestack. The smokestack (along with two smaller stacks) was dismantled last summer. I've mentioned before how I've been doing workouts in the shadow of that stack for decades—34 years. In the mid-'80s and into the '90s I used to be a runner and would run thousands of miles along Black Dog road. I've also done my share of cycling on that same stretch of what used to be a pothole-strewn surface, abandoned by the city of Burnsville some 10 years ago and since reclaimed and resurfaced by a cooperation between the city and the powerplant. Honestly, I would like to have stood under that familiar, ever-present stack one last time and said a proper goodbye. It was like an old friend.

Embedded below is some video from yesterday's ride.

That's all I've got

Monday, December 23, 2019

economies.music.plot and an Exit Ramp

I've come to appreciate more than ever the beautiful red barns and stately trees I pass on my gravel rides—and I'm not alone, at least when it comes to admiring trees. A friend recently began a challenge in a Facebook cycling group—the challenge being to post photos of lone trees (preferably with a bike in the photo—thank you, Bruce!) to see if others can identify the location of the tree. How one marks the location of the tree is quite unique. It's done using the what3words app.

Check it out.

I'll have to wait until springtime when I'm back on the gravel roads near Northfield before I can play along.

But until then, my current location is: economies.music.plot.

What 3 words mark your location?

And speaking of mapping: Google Street View made its rounds of our neighborhood again this past year—May 23rd to be exact while our roof was being reshingled.

I can't publish this blog post without making mention of Trump* being impeached along party lines last week. I don't feel Nancy Pelosi had much choice in the matter. When you have a president acting as criminally as he was, there's no way to excuse that without turning one's back on our Constitution although Republicans intend to.

Never have we witnessed an innocent man work so hard to obstruct investigations into his conduct that would prove his innocence. It defies any sort of logic other than to obstruct the public from learning the truth.

I was lying awake in bed last night, restless because of too much prednisone in my body, when I had a thought: the GOP can't afford to have Trump* removed and replaced by Pence. If he's removed, can you imagine what will happen to the Republican Party once Trump* trains his sights on it as the target of his madness for allowing him to be removed? He surely will. And a good percentage of his base will likely stand with him but who will be left to vote for Pence and the down-ballot candidates? The GOP's Frankenstein is poised to do serious damage to their party if they don't defend him, while their ridiculous defense of him poses a serious threat to what's left of their credibility. I don't see where either hand is a winning one.

Christianity Today (a Christian magazine publication) came out with a scathing rebuke of Trump* a few days ago, calling for his removal from office because "The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral." And no, Christianity Today isn't a far-left publication as Trump* claimed/lied about. It's actually right of center according to Media Bias/Fact Check.

Christianity Today's opinion piece wasn't the only Christian publication calling for him to step down. The Christian Post (much further right on the bias spectrum than CT) ran an editorial yesterday calling for his removal from office because, "While Trump has an excellent record of appointing conservative judges and advancing a prolife agenda, his criminal conduct endangers the Constitution. The Constitution is more important than the prolife cause because without the Constitution, prolife advocacy would be meaningless." That to me sounds like an exit ramp for those caught up in the quandary of wanting to hold fast to their prolife convictions but having grown tired of the nonsense.

And those are hardly liberal mouthpieces calling for his removal. But I'm conflicted. I actually want to see him remain because I worry that with Trump* out of the picture next November, there will be many who won't feel the need to show up on election day to cast a vote against not only Trump* but the entire Republican Party. Every vote matters.

Rachel and Drew came by last Friday to spend the afternoon and evening with us. Tammy oversaw lefse making production and we all contributed to a super meal before finishing out the night exchanging gifts and playing Balderdash. It was an excellent time.

Happy Holidays!

That's all I've got.

Monday, December 16, 2019

A 27 Month Break And Opportunity Knocks

It's been more than 6 weeks since we cut the cable and we couldn't be happier that we did. We're left wondering why we didn't do it sooner. It was sorta like when we divested from Wells Fargo two years ago after getting caught up in having them make changes to our accounts which resulted in service fees that were no small hassle to reverse. We had better things to do but we were glad to have taken the time to break free from them. The only glitch in our move away from cable TV was our TV in the kitchen—it has a built-in Roku but it was continually freezing as it buffered the signal. I added an external Roku stick to it and that solved the problem.

One of our local news stations did a report on a pack of coyotes that attacked and killed a family's two dogs that they had let outside for a few minutes. This all happened about a mile from our home. I've seen coyotes outside the window on the side of our house but it's been a few years. Last week I saw a fox walking along the street in front of our home in the early afternoon. I'm careful about keeping an eye on Charlie whenever I let him out but lately, I've taken to standing out there with him while he does his business. I found a cat's collar last year after tearing out the shrubs in front of our house. I can only imagine how it got there.

I've written about cluster headaches in my blog and my struggles with them over the years. It's been 27 months since I've had to deal with them and that's by far the longest period of time I've had relief from them since I first experienced one at 17. But it appears 27 months is my limit. My headaches returned a few nights ago, forcing me to adopt a regimen of a daily dose of Prednisone and Imitrex for the headaches that get past the Prednisone. One other thing in my arsenal to fight them is inhaling 100% oxygen at a rate of 12 liters per minute. It's usually a very effective treatment provided I've got an O2 tank nearby to use. I'm awaiting a delivery of oxygen tanks that I'll keep by my bedside.

They're called cluster headaches because they come in clusters, usually lasting 4-5 weeks (for me, anyway). I can typically expect a period free from them of 12-18 months. The headaches present themselves as an intense pain behind one eye that is very similar to the pain you get when you drink a frozen slushy too quickly—but the pain can last for hours. This is a video of a guy in the throes of an attack. I've been there countless times. When I was younger, they only lasted 15 minutes and I had no idea what was happening. I assumed they were possibly related to some illicit drugs I'd messed with. They would leave after a few weeks and I'd forget about them. It wouldn't be until the mid '90s before I'd receive a proper diagnosis.

I'm curious how I managed to get a reprieve of 27 months. I want to credit occasional cannabis use and it may well be that but I can't be sure. There are studies of the effect of cannabis on cluster headaches but they're not conclusive. It's possible that the drug can help stave off a cycle and that may well be what I've experienced but I wouldn't expect it to be of much use once a headache phase has begun.

I spent much of Friday and Saturday breathing life into my most recent stained glass creation. It's one of the more difficult pieces I do simply because the pieces are so small. Fortunately for me, I don't have fat fingers. A guy from NYC purchased this same suncatcher last week and I wanted to make another for my inventory. Here's a link to it with more photos on my Etsy site.

The FAA will soon be hiring for the position of Air Traffic Controller. I can't say enough good things about the career I had as a controller and the job satisfaction I derived from it. If you know anyone who may be interested (who's 30 years old or less), they may want to throw their name in the hat and take a chance on being hired. You can maybe start by sending them a link to the video below where they can gain an idea for what the job is about and get a feel for whether or not it's something they might be interested in pursuing.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

40 Years and Whatcha Doing This Afternoon?

I was discharged from the Navy 40 years ago today. How did that much time get away so quickly? I need to make an extended trip to San Diego (where I was stationed for most of my enlistment) and retrace some of my steps from all those years ago—preferably on two wheels. I have so many fond memories of my time spent on my bike in the greater San Diego area. I'm curious what sort of memories and emotions I would experience riding on those same roads again—roads that for the most part have changed little since I last rode them. I need to get more serious about making it happen before another 40 years get away from me. I've already got at least one route mapped out to ride.

Tammy and I spent Thursday celebrating her birthday. We drove up to Excelsior to check out the many shops that line the streets while on the lookout for a few gifts for people on our Christmas list. We found the best cafe tucked away inside a small complex of shops. It alone was worth the 35 minute drive up there.

After our time in Excelsior, we drove over to Stillwater for more of the same. We've done this same loop to Excelsior and Stillwater before on Tammy's birthday. It works well for us. We finished out the night at a wine tasting event. It was a full and enjoyable day.

Tammy and I were driving to Costco last Friday morning to pick up my car after having new tires mounted on it when I got a call from my brother Keith. After some small talk, he asked me what we were doing that afternoon. He'd called to invite us to take part in a small gathering of people at a bar in Northfield where he and Tracee were being married in a few hours. Their wedding was to be a private ceremony at Imminent Brewing but Keith was hoping we could join in the celebration after the wedding.

I hated to tell him that we already had plans. Had our plans been for only Tammy and me we would've canceled them but we were meeting our friends Joanie and Rob at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see Mama Mia. We couldn't back out.

We're so happy for Keith and Tracee. They make such a good couple. We need to make plans to meet up with them and have our own mini celebration together.

And speaking of Mama Mia—what a fun and funny show! We laughed a lot and all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It's playing through the 3rd week in February. It was probably our 4th or 5th show we've seen at CDT and we've never come close to being the least bit disappointed by any of their productions. I'm in awe of the talent on the stage and all it must take to put on a production such as that. The dinners they serve are just so-so but the show more than makes up for it. 👍👍

I'm continuing to add to my Etsy shop as Christmas shopping heats up. I had 4 sales last week. I've tried in the past to come up with a simple design that I can produce relatively quickly (in comparison to some of my other pieces) to offer at a more reasonable price but each time I sit down to come up with such a design I get carried away and it becomes more complex than I'd intended. I finally succeeded. This is a design that I can knock out in a reasonable amount of time and sell for a more affordable price. I made 5 of them in the last few days.

Tammy and I were going to skip setting up our Christmas tree this year but Sunday morning she had a change of heart and asked if I wouldn't mind getting it down out of the loft in our garage and setting it up. I was happy to. We've both moved away from showy Chrismas decorations inside and outside of our home but not so much that we don't still enjoy the look of our tree glowing in the corner of our sunporch.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter Has Definitely Arrived!

I was on a gravel ride last Sunday that took me past one of the golf courses I frequent—Boulder Pointe in Elko. I noticed they were still open and was somewhat surprised to see that considering how late in the season it is. I called the clubhouse when I got home to see if they were going to be open the next day. They assured me they would be. I got my clubs out of storage and planned to play one last round the next day in the breezy, cool conditions the forecast had promised. It had been two weeks since I last played.

I got to the course a little after 10:00 on Monday morning and saw only two other cars in the lot. I got my clubs out of my car and made my way up the steps of the clubhouse to present my PCC card to the attendant at the front desk. I tugged on the door to find it was locked before noticing the sign to the left.


I walked back to my car while going through the Rolodex of courses in my head that may still be open so I could get in one last fix for the year. Just as I popped the rear hatch on my Forester, the golf course manager rolled up in his golf cart and told me nobody had called to make a tee-time and that he'd just put up the "closed" sign a few minutes ago and that he'd pulled all of the flags off the greens but if I still wanted to play I could. I didn't hesitate to tell him I'd love to. He said there were only two other golfers on the course and they were just finishing the 16th hole. I would be the last player for the year at Boulder Pointe. I kinda liked that.

I found a nice rhythm to my game and tried as much as I could to live in the moment, reminding myself what a blessing it was to be out there. I have a friend who lives off the 2nd fairway and I texted him to see if he was available to join me. He replied: "Diehard. I like it. Good luck out there. Stay warm and don't hit em thin." By the time I finished the front nine my car was the only one in the lot.

I spent several hours on Tuesday making one last sweep of our yard for leaves ahead of a major snowstorm. Monday's strong west winds had filled our yard with leaves. Again. I love the look of a leaf-free yard and I love before and after photos.

(Blog continues below.)

Winter has definitely arrived! We've had off-and-on snow for the past couple of days.

We made a trip to Rochester last night to help celebrate Jenny's 60th birthday (Drew's mother). It was a very nice time but we had to make tracks for home sooner than we'd like to have because of continued falling snow. I hadn't done that kind of white-knuckle driving in a while. It was extremely slippery conditions. For a drive that typically takes us 1:15, it took us 1:55. It didn't help that my tires have 59,000 miles (95,000 km) on them so they didn't provide the best footing. I went out to Costco today to place an order for a set of 80k Michelins.

I've done so little riding at the river bottoms lately. I avoided them most of last winter due to ice and I wasn't down there at all this past spring, summer and fall due to flooding. I finally made it back yesterday morning and had such a nice time. There's an easy flow to the trails there, making it the perfect place to lose yourself in thought or no thoughts at all. Video embedded below.

Rachel and Drew stopped by tonight on their way back from visiting Rachel's sister Amy. They were rear-ended as they were on the ramp from eastbound Hwy 62 to southbound I-35W. Rachel was traveling at 30 mph in slippery conditions when a white SUV hit them from behind and veered off the shoulder. Rachel pulled over while the SUV backed up, took off and sped past them. Drew was able to get a photo of it as well as its license plate number. It was too slippery for any kind of chase. Rachel's rear bumper suffered some damage but she and Drew are fine. They phoned the incident into the police when they got here.

My Etsy site has been quiet for the past few months but I had two sales yesterday. I was up early filling those orders to get them out in today's mail. One of the panels that sold is a style I've sold the most of—I would guess I've moved at least 5 of them. I think I know what I'll be working on tomorrow. Here's my most recent addition to my Etsy store.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Good Neighbors and a New Wifi Password

I spent the better part of the past two months going through each entry in my blog to ensure that photo links (previously directed at my soon-to-be-defunct websites) now point to my Google Photos where they should live on indefinitely and at no cost to me. I'm glad to have that job behind me because dead links in any blog, especially mine, cause me to frown.

I was sidelined for more than a week recently with some sort of virus that sapped nearly every last bit of energy from me as my body tried to fight it. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often to me. Whatever it was has settled in my chest where it's reluctant to give up the fight but I'm doing much better overall. I was laying in bed last Monday trying to get up the energy to go out and vacuum up leaves one last time to have them out for the compost truck the next morning. I heard the sound of a lawnmower outside my window and figured it was our neighbors. I looked out to see that it was Mark working in our yard. I hurried to get outside to help him but he waved me off and insisted I go back in and rest. I put up no fight. Good neighbors are a blessing.

I was finally able to get out for a walk yesterday afternoon and feel the sun on my face. It was nice. And Charlie is happy that we've resumed our walks so he can check his p-mail.

Our country remains in a state of conflict with people choosing sides as we head down the road to the impeachment of Trump*. Congress spent the last two weeks taking testimony from State Department officials and others about what they observed from their positions on the inside while Republicans and conservative media asked us to not believe what our eyes and ears were telling us and to instead focus on a false narrative that Republicans were pushing on behalf of Vladimir Putin—that it was the Ukranian government that interfered in the 2016 election and nothing else appeared to matter. You couldn't script this and expect people to believe it, yet, here we are.

Trump* has blocked key witnesses to his alleged crimes from testifying, instructing them to defy subpoenas with promises of protection for anyone who fears legal retribution. What I don't understand and have yet to hear any of his defenders explain is why a man would work so hard to discredit an investigation that would surely prove his innocence? But hey, it worked for Mueller's investigation.

I was struck by the irony of so many immigrant State Department officials testifying before Congress, seemingly more concerned with our democracy and Constitution than those who looked down their noses at them from their lofty seats in the chamber and castigated them for daring to speak against the President.

I'm also struck by the fact that this is the same Republican Party who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair—that lying about an affair was where they drew the line then but it's a meer yawner when a President abuses his power by withholding nearly $400,000,000 in promised and approved military assistance to a country in exchange for publically sullying the reputation of his chief rival in the upcoming election. I honestly don't know how one gives a pass to that.

I remind myself that there was only 30% approval for Nixon's impeachment when the Watergate hearings began but that number slowly grew over time as witnesses exposed a more sinister side to the man. It's my hope that Democrats have a plan to ensure that there's public testimony from all of the key players in this mess so that when the Senate gives a pass to Trump*, the voting public will have a full understanding when election day comes around for why he and his entire administration should be turned out.

On a brighter note: I finally made it back down into my glass studio a few days ago to knock out a piece for my Etsy store. It was so nice to be down there again losing myself in the process of bringing a piece to life. Temps are expected to be in the mid-40s tomorrow so I'm feeling torn about spending the day working on a stained glass project or possibly trying to battle the wind to play golf or ride. I suppose I could do both.

That's all I've got, well, except for this. 😁 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.