Monday, November 11, 2019

No Thanks Needed and Changing Lanes

I was telling a friend today that I'm somewhat self-conscience when anyone thanks me for my military service (not that it happens very often) because I didn't enlist out of a sense of patriotism. I enlisted because I was a kid who had no plan but knew enough that I couldn't continue working dead-end jobs. I don't think I should be thanked for that. Enlisting in the Navy was simply a card I played from a hand that made little sense at the time. But it was a good card to play and I'm grateful I did.

I wrote about my decision to commit to a 4-year enlistment six months out of high school in a series of blog posts beginning with this link. It was an enjoyable series of posts to write as I recalled so many memories (aided by a journal I'd kept) from my time in the Navy.

I'm not much for expressions of patriotism but that's just me. I respect those who feel otherwise. Still, thanks to all who have served and thanks to their families for keeping the home fires lit in their absence.

My brother Keith and his business partner are in the process of closing their cabinet business after some 30 years together. They sold the building they work out of last week and will continue making cabinets in their same location for another 6 months while they look for a buyer for the business. I'm happy for them both. Keith is the hardest working guy I've ever known and I'm glad that he's going to be able to move over into a slower lane for a change. He's earned it.

I took part in Random Relay 2.0 last Saturday morning at the West Lake Marion single-track MTB trails with the guys from Silver Cycling and others. It was a relay race put on for the purpose of raising money for trail grooming equipment for the WLM trails. It was a lot of fun—so much fun that I have no idea what place our team finished in.

That's all I've got









Sunday, November 3, 2019

Halloween Cuteness and Cutting the Cable


We had 44 little ones ring our doorbell Halloween night. That's up quite a lot from last year when we only had 33. I find them all to be so adorable. The highlight of our night was a group of 4 girls (3-4 years old) who paused in front of our inflatable Dracula to wait for him to show his face. They screamed and laughed when he did then waited for him to make another appearance. It was so cute to watch. (Thanks for the photo, Natalie.)

We received our bill from Spectrum Cable (formerly Charter) in the mail this week. Our monthly rates had risen from $248 to $262 for our not very extravagant cable package. This most recent increase was the one that finally put us over the edge and prompted us to call and cancel our cable service (we'll remain with Spectrum for the internet). We've been toying with the idea of leaving Spectrum for more than a year but the inconvenience of switching over to some other form of service or provider seemed daunting.

It wasn't at all.

I disconnected all 6 of our cable boxes and Tammy and I brought them over to Spectrum's outlet on Friday morning. We then went to Best Buy and purchased a bunch of Roku Streaming Sticks for $45 each that allow us to stream to all but one of our TV sets. It's a much simpler process than I was expecting it to be. We couldn't be happier having made the switch.

If you're considering cutting the cable, take a look at YouTube TV. It's a little more than $50 per month and it provides us with pretty much all of the programs we were enjoying before with Spectrum—plus, the service provides unlimited storage for recording shows. Our bill is now closer to $113 per month than the $262 it would've cost us to remain with Spectrum (not including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Now which we already had. This is just an apples to apples comparison using YouTube TV in place of Spectrum Cable.)

I was going to spend the afternoon working in the yard vacuuming up leaves but an invitation to golf proved too strong to turn down. I met Steve at Oneka Ridge Golf Course late this morning for 21 holes of golf. We extended our stay by 3 holes because it was too nice out to call it quits. That will likely be Steve's last time on the links this year but I'm hoping to get out one last time tomorrow at Crystal Lake. I called and they said they'd be open tomorrow but that it's anybody's guess after Monday. My rider works fine in the dark.

I finally made it back to the trails at Murphy Hanrehan Park earlier in the week. I was so overdue for some time there. If I wasn't into golfing I'd likely spend more time there but the increased chance for an injury (I have some history in that regard) to sideline me from golfing is always a looming thought when I'm riding singletrack. Golf is winding down now so it's time to take advantage of this remarkable mountain bike playground 6 miles (10 km) from home.

That's all I've got.




Sunday, October 27, 2019

Gone Too Soon and an Impressively Frightening Makeover

My dad would've turned 94 today had he not passed away so soon, 6 weeks shy of his 70th birthday due to emphysema.

There was a side to him that he was never comfortable opening-up about—mostly related to his childhood and losing both of his parents at an early age. I respect that decision of his to keep that to himself. I do wish, though, that I had been closer to him. I didn't need to know the details of his past but I would've liked to have had a more meaningful relationship with him.

I can't recall the two of us ever sitting down and talking about how I was doing; what were my interests or plans for my future. I was so in need of his guidance and assurance but that need seemed lost on him. With 5 other siblings contending for his time in addition to his frequent business trips away for days on end, I suppose we all just accepted what little he could give us in the way of attention. But having said all that, he did offer sage advice to me when I needed it most after I was offered my job with the FAA. It was my dad who suggested I take the job offer when I was unsure about what to do—that I could always quit the FAA and return to college if that's what I really wanted. It was some of the best advice he ever gave me as well as some of the only advice he'd ever offered me and for that, I am grateful.

The last 5 years of his life were especially difficult for him, tethered to an oxygen tank where even the most basic tasks had become arduous. He had occasionally tried to shake his smoking habit over the years but I don't think he ever managed more than a few days smoke-free. He tried to substitute a pipe for his Winston cigarettes in the late '60s but that too was shortlived. I saw his passing as more of a relief than a time of sadness, especially for my mother who was there to tend to his every need in his final years. She loved him dearly.

Rachel and Drew's Halloween costumes were quite sick, as in, I think they need a doctor! It's not the first time she's pulled off this effect. She's getting quite good at it. It's a combination of latex, toilet paper, and fake blood along with some of her own makeup, she said. It's all layered until the desired look is achieved. She told me that her makeover took about 45 minutes and Drew's took a half-hour. As an added bonus, their contacts glowed in blacklight. Impressive!

I'm up to 64 leaf bags this year. Yes, I actually track that meaningless stuff. I'll have a few more to add to the total after tomorrow's yard work.

Charlie isn't too happy about a Halloween display along one of the routes we walk. He always has to stop and voice his displeasure.

Our Tuesday night and Saturday morning gravel rides are drawing to a close with the colder temps and lack of daylight. I have enjoyed these rides so much these past several months since diving into the world of gravel riding. It's everything and more than I was expecting. I've also made several new friends along the way. Win-win!

That's all I've got.










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.

That's all I've got.










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...

That's all I've got.



* 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