Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday Night Outreach and a Lesson Learned

Tammy and Rachel have been volunteering time at Hosanna on Tuesday nights. It seemed to start out primarily as a night devoted for outreach to Hispanics in the community but it's grown into much more than that. Earlier in the day, a time is set aside for people to drop off items no longer needed but still of value. The goods are set up in the gymnasium for the hundreds of people who will be attending the evening service and those in need are encouraged to take whatever they can use. There is also a meal served in addition to free hair cuts and nail painting. Painting nails is what Tammy and Rachel have been doing. They've got a table set up with hundreds of bottles of nail polish and people both young and old line up to have their nails done. It's quite a sight...especially the little ones as they're so excited to have somebody do their nails. Last night I offered to be the tattoo artist. The boys aren't so interested in having their nails polished but they do appreciate a stick-on tattoo. That's my job...and removing old nail polish from little fingernails.

An older man approached Tammy as we were there and asked if she did toenails. We sort of thought he was joking but he wasn't. He had shoulder surgery and finds it difficult to clip his toenails. We didn't have a clipper so Tammy offered to take him into a back room and file down his nails. He was so appreciative. It's a very good thing that Hosanna does this outreach. Lakeville is a thriving community and for most of us in our busy lives, we too easily forget those who are struggling to get by. I've been wanting to give more of myself and I think this is an area where I can put myself out there and make inroads to other areas where I can be used.

Leaving church I asked Rachel if she wanted to drive the truck home as she'd recently gotten her learner's permit. Tammy said she'd follow us home so I backed the truck out and let Rachel take over. Rachel got in and without thinking put the truck in reverse and stepped on the gas with Tammy no more than a car length behind us. I was able to reach down and slam the gear to drive reversing our direction with no more than 18" to spare. A tense moment but one which gave a good lesson in how quickly things can go wrong. I told her to shake it off and learn from it. Like I said in a previous post, I don't think she's going to be a natural at this but she'll get it eventually.

I took Rachel to the Mall of America one night last week so she could take some photographs for a class she's in. She's becoming quite the budding photographer. She's been developing her own film and working with different styles of photography. Their next unit will be pinhole photography. I've heard of it before but I'm not sure what it is. I'll know soon enough once she begins working with it.

I came home from work yesterday with a very strong desire to lay down for an hour but I resisted because I really needed to get out and ride...more snow is on the way. I'm glad I did. On the return leg, I was able to hammer along averaging 25 mph over an 11 mile stretch with a nice tailwind to aid me. My bike's a filthy mess and we're expecting 12-20 inches of snow before it stops snowing tomorrow night so I figured now was as good a time as any to take my bike in and have it overhauled. The folks at Flanders told me it's a 2-3 day turn-around.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Snowed In and It's a Moral Issue

For weeks the upper winds were unchanging in their direction driving frigid air out of Canada into the Midwest so it was nice to come into work last week and see that they'd become more zonal and were bringing more moderate temps our way. Biking in zero degree weather is doable but not nearly as fun as something, oh, say 20 degrees warmer. But you know what? I'll trade the warmer temps for the cold stuff again if it means fewer snowstorms. We got hammered this weekend and they say there's another storm developing and due to hit us later in the week. I'm not much for long-range forecasts but they were all over this last storm. I woke up yesterday morning to 8-10" of heavy wet stuff to dig out from. It was pretty, no doubt but unless you're a kid out playing in it there isn't much use for it...but that's just me. Anyway, I got out my video camera and caught some footage to add to my YouTube account—here you go.

I was driving into work this morning and the news at the top of the hour came on. They mentioned Al Gore's humorous attempt at the Oscars last night to appear to be making an announcement of his intention to run again for president in the next election only to be drowned out by the orchestra. Funny stuff for sure. The newscast continued with talk of his movie and its award for best documentary. Al went on to say that the issue of global warming isn't a political issue but a moral issue. Maybe so. The thought occurred to me that the same could be said of the abortion issue—it's a moral thing. The researchers, for the most part, will tell you that they are in nearly complete agreement that man is causing an increase in the earth's temperature. Can these same scientists possibly weigh in on whether or not we're actually killing a human life when we stab at it and burn it in a saline solution as it quietly develops?

I was on my bike a couple months ago and came alongside a woman roadie. She was hardcore. We got to talking about the cold weather and she asked me how I was able to keep my toes warm for some of the longer distances I was doing when it was too cold for most. I told her that I use an adhesive-backed chem pad which heats up when exposed to air. I place one in each of my shoes beneath my toes and they allow me to stay out longer. She said she would never use something like that because they're bad for the environment. Maybe so but I couldn't help but wonder if she had any particular problem with killing unborn children. It sucks that I would think that because she may be just as opposed to abortion as I am but how often is it the case that environmentalists actually share that concern? I don't think I'll ever understand this issue and how people can be so accepting of something so wrong.

Rachel passed her written driver's permit test today. I'd like to get her out in the next few days...maybe take her to some country roads where there isn't much traffic to let her get a feel for being behind the wheel. I've got a hunch that she's no natural when it comes to driving but she may surprise me. I've had her in the church parking lot a few times...let's just say she does a lot better in the go-karts at Valley Fair.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mosaics, Aleah, 24 and GIGO

Tammy and I had a date-day last Friday. She mapped out a tour of the parade of homes which runs for the next few weeks and we spent the afternoon touring homes we'll never be able to afford. We were mostly just looking for ideas for flooring as we're planning to do wood floors where we currently have linoleum. I've got most of the month of August off so we'll be looking to take the project on then. We're also planning to replace the carpet on the main level. I can't say that we found a wood floor that stood out for us but we saw several which were very bleah. I think we'll know the right floor when we see it. It was a fun way to get out and spend some time together.

One thing I found which I thought was pretty cool was a mosaic inlaid in some flooring. It looked to be a combination of glass, ceramic and resin. I could see myself being good at doing something like that but there really isn't any place in our home for it. Tammy and I have been talking about replacing our asphalt driveway in a few years with cobblestones. She mentioned that she'd like to do some sort of mosaic design within the stones. We'll pay someone to come in and prep the surface and lay the stone ourselves. I don't think there's anything too difficult about it—sort of an extension of what we already do with stained glass.

My niece and her family are going through a difficult time. As a teenager, Aleah began to suffer seizures and was put on medication to control them. She's been fine for the last 7 years but that all changed one morning last week when she had another episode. It will be 6 months before she's able to drive again and regain her independence. Not only that but I have to believe there is a nagging component associated with the whys. There is no warning for her at the onset so there's no chance for her to get herself into a safe position when they occur. Aleah is a go-getter and not one to sit on the sidelines for very long. My mother (Aleah's grandmother) has been staying with them for the last few days to help out.

Okay, I finally finished watching the last episode of 24, season 4. I've been using most of my break time at work to watch them and I'll say that they certainly suck you in. For me, the 4th season has been the best. I have to laugh at anything ATC related though as they take a lot of liberties with the script in that area and others. Okay, the entire show is unrealistic but it's still fun to watch. I wonder how many write-in votes David Palmer got for president in the last election?

Speaking of elections—man, it seems way too soon to be gearing up for another. I don't think I have to the stomach for much of it this time around. What a shock it is that Bush's poll numbers are at record lows. jk. I got an email this week which most will dismiss but has a certain degree of truth and agrees with what I've been saying all along...

Tokyo Rose During World War II -- the Japanese developed a way to demoralize the American forces. Psychological warfare experts developed a message they felt would work. They gave the script to their famous broadcaster "Tokyo Rose" and every day she would broadcast this same message packaged in different ways, hoping it would have a negative impact on American GI's morale.

What was that demoralizing message? It had three main points:

1. Your President is lying to you.

2. This war is illegal.

3. You cannot win the war.

Does this sound familiar?

Is it because Tokyo Hillary, Tokyo Harry, Tokyo John, Tokyo Teddy, Tokyo Nancy, etc. have picked up the same message and are broadcasting it on Tokyo CNN, Tokyo ABC, Tokyo CBS, Tokyo NBC, etc., to our troops?

The only difference is that they claim to support our troops before they demoralize them. Come to think of it, Tokyo Rose told the troops she was on their side, too!

I find it difficult to disagree with the writer. The news media is sometimes referred to as the 4th branch of government, there to inform the people. That's all good until there is an imbalance in what they're broadcasting. GIGO, the computer acronym comes to mind—garbage in garbage out. I know it's an unrealistic expectation but what do you suppose would be the poll numbers with respect to Bush and the war if there was balanced coverage, both the good and the bad? Do you suppose there would be a significant difference from what we're seeing? Absolutely.

Toby has a new toy—the vacuum cleaner nozzle. Actually, it's not all that new as he's been carrying the thing around for the last few months. He's got other toys but none as prized as this one. It must be the long bristles on it. I can't figure it out. I snapped this photo today as I was on the couch with Allie and he came and sat down next to us. He's such a nut.

Driving home from work today I saw a sign flashing 41 degrees. I wanted to get out and ride but I've been out the past 3 days and figured I'd put my feet up and plan to get out tomorrow when I'll have more daylight to work with. The silver lining in all those below zero days we had is that anything above 30 degrees seems a beautiful day to ride. Perspective changes everything.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jim & Luan and Gideon

Tammy and I went out for dinner Friday night with some friends from a neighborhood I lived in until 1992. Jim and Luan were the kind of neighbors you come to appreciate more and more over the years. I've had other neighbors who were as nice but none that were better. How it became that we lost touch with each other save for the yearly Christmas card I don't understand. Jim and Luan stayed in the old neighborhood until '98 when Jim was diagnosed with MS and had to opt for a townhome with less demand on matters about upkeep. I remember before I moved how they had just purchased a boat and were really enjoying their time out on the lakes during the weekend. Jim had also built a model railroad set up in his basement for something he and his son, Frank could do together. They truly knew how to relax and I always admired that about them. I'm the type who has a hard time staying still for very long. I'm getting better but I'm still not there.

Anyway, this past summer I was at Coles salon waiting for Rachel to get her hair done when Luan recognized me and came over and chatted. Our talk was interrupted as she was called away by her stylist and that was that. Again, a few weeks ago she recognized me at Chipoltle...this time with Tammy. It was nice to be able to introduce her to Tammy as I'd told her about Jim and Luan. We agreed that we should finally get together, so, the past few weeks we've been attempting to do just that. We were finally able to make it happen last Friday when we met them for dinner at Houlihan's. It was good to see them again. I wish we had longer to talk. I think we were mostly just scratching the surface but that was fine. To me, they've hardly changed since we used to be neighbors but no doubt the years do show just a bit for us all.

I spent my weekend tweaking the photo pages on my website. When I put them together I was concerned that anyone trying to access them with a dial-up connection needed to have photos which weren't too large. That's still true but I'm finding that I've compromised the photos too much to the point that they're not nearly as good as they could be. So, I'm redoing them all and making them larger in terms of dimension and file size. I've got the first six pages done and I'll keep pressing on with the others with hopes I can get them all done before I burn out on the project.

I was finally able to get out on my bike yesterday after being off for 10 days. The break was nice but so was getting back out riding. It was cold though...1-3 degrees but the roads were dry for the most part and that was my main concern.

I nearly skipped church this morning to go out riding but I'm glad I didn't. We had a guest speaker and he was fantastic to listen to. His message was about how God wants to remove fear from our lives and free us up to be all that we can. He's not about removing those things which we fear, whatever that may be but about eliminating the fear associated with them. He preached from Judges 6 and the story of Gideon. I'd read it a few times before but some of the finer points which give it so much meaning were lost on me. Gideon wasn't a brave man just as Moses was a reluctant leader who stammered when he spoke. God chose these men who appeared to be nothing more than common men and used them to show His people that great things can be achieved by trusting in Him. Heroes don't typically come from those we hold in high esteem but rather from the humble people we tend to often overlook day to day.

Friday, February 2, 2007

No Monkeys on My Back

I came really close to shooting our new washer this week...not really...but I wanted to. We replaced our old washer and dryer about a month ago and lately, I've developed a strong dissatisfaction with the washer. When it's in the spin cycle it shakes a lot and moves around to where I have to relocate it after every load. That's not right. I called the folks at Whirlpool and they were quick about getting a tech out to look at it. He decided that the tub was out of round and ordered a new one. A different repairman came by yesterday morning to install far so good. We've done three loads and each time the washer stayed put. I can't tell you how much that made my weekend. The last thing I wanted to do on my days off was mess with it any more than I already have.

I've got no monkeys on my back and it's nice. Usually, I've got at least one or two projects which need my attention but not at the moment. I spent my weekend laying around and being as lazy as I've been in years. I couldn't even ride as the roads are too icy and snow-covered. I did manage to get out last Tuesday in 9 degree weather for a 25-mile ride. Once I get moving I'm fact, I'm quite sweaty when the ride is done. I really do need to take some time away from my bike though. The high temp for the next 5 days is at or below zero. I don't see where the roads will get any better in those temps so until they do I'm side-lined. No, I'm not even thinking about setting up my indoor trainer. I'll enjoy my time off. I've earned it.

Rachel is very excited about going to Tanzania this summer with a mission group from Prince of Peace. Her dad came by tonight to pick her up and he let us know that he doesn't support her going there as he has concerns for her safety. I can't blame him as both Tammy and I also have concerns but after looking into it we realize she's probably safer in Tanzania than she will be when she goes with the same group to Hollywood in April. She got the green light from her dad but is fully aware that he's not happy about her going. She was bouncing off the walls yesterday when we began filling out paperwork to get her signed up. She has such a heart for helping others and spending time with people from a third world country would play to her strengths as well as give her a perspective of this world that Tammy and I never could. She's experiencing so much in her life. We're doing our best not to get in the way but at the same time, we have to make sure she's not taking on too much.

Life as a controller has become a bit of a joke the past couple of months. We're no longer a service-oriented profession—we're now a business with customers, so we're told. I'm not sure what we produce but apparently, it's heavily tied into our time on position according to management. My typical day for the past 25 years has been one where I spend half my day in the sector and the other half on break. We could get by with fewer controllers on many days but the nature of the beast is that you have to staff for heavy traffic, regardless of whether or not the traffic shows up. The airlines frown on being directed off their intended routs away from areas which aren't fully staffed and can't handle the demand. So, in an effort to make us more productive they're plugging us into sectors which don't need our help and opening up sectors which don't need to be opened. That's not good for a couple reasons. First, if they've got us doubling up on sectors where we're not needed, we'll no doubt spend a good deal of our time talking together and not focusing on what we're really there for; that's just the way it is. Second, you'll be left with controllers who aren't as sharp as they would normally be when it gets down and dirty had they been away from the sector and are fresher.

Another negative to splitting up the sectors is that management is dumbing down the workforce by not allowing controllers to work busy. They can get away with what they're doing while the traffic is light during the winter months but when it gets busy this summer and thunderstorms are thrown into the mix along with reduced staffing due to vacations, we'll be in a much less desirable position. The most disconcerting aspect to all of this is that we're training new controllers in this environment which doesn't allow them to work busy. We're checking them out on limited traffic and that's not the way it's supposed to be done. Sooner or later the newly certified controller is going to find themselves all alone in a busy sector with limited help available and they're going to be expected to swim with the rest of us who have been doing this for years. I don't like that we're painting ourselves into that corner, but what do I know? Those who can't or aren't comfortable in the trenches find management jobs and sit in judgment of those who can.

Do you know anyone in management in the FAA? I'll bet they've got a ton of stories about their days in front of the scope. Don't believe them.

An update. Rachel came back from her dad's tonight (Sunday) and told us that her trip to Tanzania is off. Her dad doesn't want her to go. There isn't any use arguing with him when he's made up his mind and she knows that. She's disappointed but already making plans to go next year. Ever the optimist.