Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I wasn't ready for college when I graduated high school in 1975. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. High school felt safe and I knew what was (or wasn't) expected of me but I was glad that it was over because I was getting nothing out of it. Thomas Jefferson HS was a lab experiment of sorts and we students were the lab rats. Modular scheduling was the latest improvement and for students who loved to screw off, this new structure, or lack of it was our friend. Modular scheduling divided the school day into 24 'mods' of 20 minutes each. You would schedule your classes and where you didn't have classes you would have free mods to do with what you wanted. I remember on Wednesdays and Fridays having a class for the first 3 mods of each day and no classes the rest of the day. I learned early on that in a family of 6 siblings all I really needed to do was to maintain good enough grades to keep the folks from having to get involved. There was very little incentive to do any more than what was necessary. I chose the path of least resistance and found myself ill prepared for college in the fall of 1975. Paying for college would've been a whole other issue and I never got that far in my thinking.

Since January of 1975 I'd been living with my sister, Claudia at the Stagecoach apartments in Bloomington. My dad's job had relocated him to Pottstown and I was given the opportunity to remain behind and finish high school. I suppose I gave it some serious thought for all of 2 seconds before deciding that it would be in my best interest to stay behind and finish the education I wasn't getting at Jefferson HS.

Dad took me out and got me a green, 1970 For Maverick with 3 on the tree shifting and plaid seats. It was a great little car with 50k on it. AM radio was about all I knew of back then and it suited me just fine.

After high school I moved 30 miles north to live with my sister, Jackie and her husband Jerry in their apartment in New Hope. I'm not sure where I would've gone had they not offered me a place to live. Possibly out east to PA.

I worked a job for the first month or so out of school at a place called, Minter Brothers in Golden Valley. We put state government licensing stamps on packages of cigarettes. I couldn't have lasted long there because I remember working most of the summer at Northland Aluminum in St. Louis Park. If you've got a bundt pan in your cupboard there's a good chance it came from Northland. In their break room was the place where I first experienced the joys of microwave cooking. I remember heating a poptart with the foil wrapper still on and having it catch fire. I didn't do that again. I worked the late night shift and while on break I used to sit in my car and listen to Radio Mystery Theater on wcco. I used to wear a pair of large, bulky headphones while working the line and listen to Hobbs House on WCCO, anything to pass the time.

In the fall I took a job at the Holiday gas station west of county road 18 on highway 55. That was back in the day when gas was priced around 60c per gallon and kids not yet sure what they wanted to do with their lives pumped it into your car for you, in addition to cleaning your windshield and checking your oil. I also enrolled at Hennepin County Vocational school in Plymouth to study drafting. Drafting was about the only job I could think of which held any interest for me as a possible career. I went through the motions at school for a couple months but I never really threw myself into my studies. I wasn’t necessarily striking out but I wasn’t getting any hits either.

It was around this time that Jackie suggested I go and talk with the Navy recruiter. I’d never before given much if any thought to enlisting in the service but I figured a talk with the recruiter couldn’t hurt.

I went to the recruiter's office in I think Robbinsdale and talked with a guy named Chuck Wilson. We talked for a bit and he scheduled me to come back and take an exam which if I decided to enlist would help determine what sort of job and schooling I would qualify for. I took the exam and scored well enough to get a seat at the Radarman school near Chicago after Bootcamp. I still wasn’t convinced that I would enlist and then the time came for me to go in for the physical. I remember asking Chuck how far into the process I could go and still back out. It was then that he told me I could go until I signed my name and raised my right hand but that when a guy goes for the physical they like to think a prospective recruit has made a commitment at that time. I remember thinking about that as he drove me downtown for my physical. I think it was in his car on the drive that morning that I decided I would enlist.

Three weeks later was New Years 1976 and I remember being in bootcamp thinking how just three weeks earlier, joining the Navy was the furthest thing from my mind, but there I was, no hair and quickly leaving my old world behind.

I don’t know that I ever talked with Mom and Dad about my decision to enlist or if I sought out their advice—I suppose I did, I just don’t remember. Bryan and Jerry were encouraging to me at the time. I’d learn later that Dad was also a radarman while he was in the Canadian Navy. Being a radarman I suppose paved the way for me getting into air traffic control because I doubt I would’ve shown much interest in the field had I not had some previous radar experience.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts from 1975.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

50+ Degrees, Trail of Terror and Christmas

Just when I think I've seen the last of the 50 degree days for the year, or even 40 degree days, another one happens. I got up yesterday thinking that maybe it was time to set up my indoor trainer for my bike but I didn't want to. I never before disliked the thought of riding in the basement on my trainer but this year I do. If there is any chance that I can ride outside that's where I'll be. I figure I'm okay to about 10 above zero for an hour anyway before my toes go completely numb. I was out for a couple hours Thanksgiving day in 18-degree weather with winds gusting close to 30 mph. Yesterday it was rain which had me sidelined but only until about 10:00 am. There was a break in the rain and I got in a quick ride before I had to go to work.

Turning off Jalisco on to 170th st I noticed the car in front of me slowing. He'd slowed to watch a beautiful majestic buck standing beside the road. At first glance, I thought it wasn't real. I quickly pulled over and took out my camera but not before the deer ran from us and stopped to look back from between the houses. I wish I could've been 5 seconds quicker with my camera.

The roads looked like the roads you see in the movies or car commercials; they were wet with a blue sky. Not something you commonly see unless you're watching TV. So why do they wet down the roads in movies and commercials? I think it's supposed to give the scene a tranquil affect; sort of like the calm after a storm—I dunno.

I headed south on Cedar ave which is my usual way out of town when the winds are blowing from the south. I continued south for 10 miles and headed east on 235th st, the same way I used to take to get to my parent's home in Farmington over 20 years ago. This road was dirt then but it's a nicely paved road now with very little traffic. Just up on the right across from the house was where you'd take a right turn on to Essex to go to their home.

I had to make a short ride of it and hurry home so I could have time to spray the mud off my bike and get a shower before work. Sorry Toby and time for licking the sweat off me today...I've gotta run.

I got to work and while on break I plugged an external hard drive into my computer which I hadn't checked in a while. I'd sort of forgotten what was on it. I knew there were some photos and a few shows I'd taped from A&E but I'd forgotten about the 4gb of video from our vacation two years ago in Orlando. I spent some time sifting through it and had to laugh at our adventures through the Trail of Terror at Universal Studios. This is like no other spook show you've ever been to. The park is full of people in full costume who do their best to keep you on your toes. We debated about going as we knew it would be toward the limits of what Rachel would be comfortable with. In the end, she wanted to go but she stuck close by us as you can see in this video.

At one point we went into a house of horrors which Rachel opted out of and it's probably a good thing that she did. Tammy took it like a trooper as it's obvious that the women are the focus of the spook's attention.

I came home last night to Rachel playing Christmas songs on her violin. She's playing at her grandparent's church in Babbitt in a few weeks. I think the plan is for her to play for 15 minutes before the service as people are taking their seats. She's reading music very well now and can take the songbook and play any of the music from it. Sometimes it takes a few times before she gets a feel for it but I thought it sounded great.

Our Christmas decorations go up today—Department 56 villages and all. Has your home been taken over yet?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Powers of 10 and God of Wonders

I was in a discussion this past week talking about infinity and the universe. I mentioned how as a kid I used to try and grasp the idea of infinity and I'd feel like my brain was going to throw a circuit breaker as I couldn't get my mind around it. In church today our pastor talked about this very thing and made reference to a website called The Powers of 10. The website not only reaches out into space by a power of 10 but it also goes inward by the same multiple until you're looking at the trails of Quarks. Here's another site I found...begin at this page and travel outward from there. Read the instructions and explanation provided.

This whole thing is a bit intimidating. To imagine that our sun and solar system are just a speck among other similar specs making up larger clouds of combined galaxies appearing again as specks from points more distant. Pretty amazing stuff to ponder for sure.

God of Wonders by Third Day.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

Did Friday seem like a Saturday to you? It did to me. Rachel and I went out and shoveled a few inches of snow off the driveway this morning then proceeded to see who could slide the furthest after a running start. She won. It's all in the shoes I think.

My truck never left...oops...I was about to say that my truck never left the garage today but that would be wrong. I did make a very early morning trip to Circuit City with Tammy before retreating to the safety of our home empty-handed. Internet shopping is still the way to go if you know what you need; heck, even if you don't know what you need. What could be better than having a delivery guy bring your item directly to your front door for a nominal fee? One problem with that though—we were trying to get on Circuit City's website tonight and it was overloaded to the point where they weren't accepting any online orders at the time. So much for the dismal news about the economy.

I spent some time down in the shop working on some stained glass crosses we're doing for a guy who works with Keith. He gives them to his nieces and nephews as baptism and confirmation gifts. He wanted 5 of them and we've got them and we got them all done. We did a few extras with the idea that we'd maybe put them up on eBay and see what sort of attention they get but I think we may not even bother. Tammy was looking at the stained glass market on eBay tonight and it is very pathetic. Why bother, was the feeling we had after looking at some of the offerings and what they were getting for bids—very disappointing.

I had to go out today and fix some of the Christmas lights on the front bushes which didn't light last night. They didn't light tonight either but that was just something stupid on my part. They're looking good now. I went out and got some of the newer LED lights this year from Target. They use a lot less electricity and they burn brighter and longer than standard bulbs...but they're more expensive. I hope that by getting more than one year's use out of them they'll be saving me money in the long run. It's gotten to the point with the regular bulbs that I've been throwing them away after one or two years because of their failure rate. I thought if one bulb burnt out that the rest of the string would still light?

We've got a guest coming to stay with us this week and although I'm looking forward to their arrival I know that I'll also be looking forward to when they leave. Who is our guest you may be wondering? Our Christmas decorations...tree and all. Don't you feel that after a few weeks it's time for the stuff to go? Yes, it looks nice and warm and festive but after a couple weeks I'll come down in the morning and it's almost as if I want to tell it to've been here long's time to go back where you came from. I really shouldn't say that because we've made a lot of memories surrounded by our Christmas decorations. They're a part of us and a part of our tradition. Some of the ornaments we put on our tree have been purchased when we were on vacation and they hold a significant memory or meaning for us. There's the glass bell with the moose inside which Rachel accidentally broke some 4 years ago or so and every time we unwrap it we have to give Rachel a hard time for causing a crack in the ornament...we smile and move on to unwrapping the next ornament.

We're moving into the heart of winter now and if you're not careful the blues can take hold. Between the short daylight hours and the demands of the holidays, it can be a bit taxing on any sane person. I'm going to try and do my best to not get caught up in the material aspect of Christmas any more than I have to and just enjoy the season. The culmination of the focus of our Christmas celebration is about Christmas Eve service, celebrating the birth of Christ and being together with family.

When you greet your friends don't be afraid to tell them 'Merry Christmas' and eschew the 'Happy Holidays' greeting. Fly in the face of political correctness and put up a 'Christmas tree' and not a 'Holiday tree'. In case you hadn't noticed, the holiday period we're beginning to celebrate is about to be neutered and made virtually meaningless...if we let it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Great Show!

We saw the David Crowder Band along with The Robbie Seay Band and Shane and Shane last night at Maranatha Hall at Northwestern University. Great show! For anybody who is into rock, they're missing so much great music if they haven't heard Christian rock—it's really that good.

It was an ugly weather day here with snow in the forecast and winds gusting to 40mph. We left early so we were sure to get there in time as we had to go through Minneapolis during rush hour and we had all of 40 miles to travel. Surprisingly the traffic wasn't a problem at all and we got there with plenty of time to spare. We checked out the T-shirts and other stuff being sold then took our seats.

The Robbie Seay Band took the stage first and did about a 30-minute set. They didn't get the applause I'd like to have seen them get. We thought they were very good and only disappointed that they didn't play longer.

Shane and Shane took the stage next and got quite a loud and warm welcome from the crowd. They obviously knew something we didn't as we weren't familiar with their music at all. Theirs is an acoustic sound with some rich harmonies. They played a song toward the end of their show which totally blew me away. I can't remember the name of it but it left me in awe. After they were done playing I walked out front to where the T-shirts and CDs were being sold and bought 3 of their Cds. I can't find the song on them so maybe there's another CD I'll need to find.

The David Crowder Band took the stage and right away they made sure to not disappoint me by playing my favorite song from them—Do Not Move. What a great's quickly become my favorite tune to ride to on my bike. They put on a very fun and at times moving show. Their songs were every bit as powerful live. David Crowder mentioned that all three bands on the stage that night were made up of friends from Texas who go back many years. The Robbie Seay Band and David's band attend the same church in Waco. David mentioned that they were all hit hard a few weeks ago when one of the ministers from their church was preparing for a baptism when he came in contact with a microphone while standing in water. I remembered hearing about that when it happened. The tour continued and he spoke about how his Pastor's death wasn't an end at all but a beginning.

Toward the end of the show, they were playing some bluegrass music and had the crowd on their feet. I looked behind me to see a guy dancing in the aisle with a woman on his arm doing a sort of ho-down-spin-yer-partner move. He looked at me and put out his arm for me to dance with him. How could I say no? I did a couple spins with him and then he saw Rachel and said, "Hey, I know you!" Rachel's eyes lit up when she recognized that it was Dan, her favorite counselor from Bible camp this past summer. She got out of her seat and danced with him too. She later told me that seeing him there was a 'God thing'. I'd say she was right. She had a very good time. I asked her later how it compared to the Backstreet Boys concert I took her to for her birthday. She thought tonight's show was much better. These are fun times we're sharing together.

We got home a bit late for a school night...11:15. I told Rachel I'd take her to school in the morning if she'd like to skip the bus and sleep in a little later but she said she really wanted to take the bus so she could tell her friends that she saw Dan at the show. I got up in the morning before she left and I was singing a tune from the night before. She smiled at me and said she was doing the same thing.

Tammy and I spent a few hours down in the shop today officially marking the start of Grapevine Art Glass—well, sort of. We're working on a project for a guy who works out of Keith's shop. He wants 5 crosses as gifts for relatives. I've done 2 or 3 for him in the past. These are pretty detailed multi-colored stained glass crosses. We're thinking of making some more and putting them on eBay to see what happens.