Friday, February 29, 2008

$1000 Oil Change and a Mystery No More

I got up this morning with plans to get the oil changed in our cars. I did that. I didn't plan on having to sink a bunch of money into one of them. I'm doing that.

Justin, at the oil change place, showed me where my truck was losing coolant from a connection near the throttle assembly. There was a bunch of corrosion near the spot and you could see where it had been leaking down the side of the engine. I'd noticed lately when idling that I wasn't getting any warm air. That was due to a low coolant level. Anyway, he assured me he could get the $152 part and have it good as new this afternoon. I told him to go ahead and fix it and left my cellphone number with him.

I headed over to Wendy's for lunch then walked about a mile and half home in the face of stiff wind and waited for Justin to call. It wasn't a good-news-bad-news call I received. It was bad news and more bad news. When he removed the part from where the antifreeze was leaking, an intake to the throttle assembly broke off and would also need to be replaced. This part is somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 but includes the part he was initially intending to replace. The other bad news was that nobody in the cities had the part and Justin has to have it rushed in from Chicago with hopes that it will arrive by Monday. Before attempting the repair the other choice was to top off the coolant levels and keep driving the truck as I was but I didn't really consider that much of an option. Its ultimate demise out on the road would be much more costly and considerably more of a hassle.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated in the title to this post when I called it a $1000 oil change. I believe it's going to set me back something just this side of $800.

There actually was some good news in all of this. The Taurus we bought for Rachel a couple days ago will work just fine as a backup for me until I get my truck back. I'm happy about that.

I was hoping to get out and ride today but that didn't happen. It's probably just as well as there were plenty of dicey stretches out there with the strong winds blowing snow across the road in many spots. I was able to get out yesterday for 41 miles just ahead of the snow. I'm glad I didn't wait any later in the day. It began to snow just as I got home and once it started falling the roads got slick in a hurry. I don't mind riding when it's a dry snow coming down and slow to accumulate but that stuff was slippery wet. Not good.

Along county road 46 in Rosemount, there are a few dozen cement walls, the remnants of something from an old military outpost I think. I have no idea what they are. They've been there forever as far as I know. I stopped to take this photo of them and thought I'd post it here with hopes that somebody can tell me what they are. There are other structures of a different shape on the other side of the road. Within the past couple of years, somebody came in and cut down all the trees growing up around them so now they really stand out.

I suppose I could do an online search and find the answer. Maybe I will.

Here's a link that talks about the structures.

What Condition my Condition Was In

Hopefully, this post won't appear for many years. I'm writing it on 2-29-2008 but intend to save it as a draft and not publish it until my days with the FAA are done. My intention all along was to keep working until the spring of 2013. We shall see. If you're reading this prior to then it means that my days with the FAA have come to a premature end.

I can't speak in real-time on my blog about what I'm going through as it would be the end of my career. I don't think I'm overreacting.

As an air traffic controller, I'm required to maintain a class 2 medical certificate. I get a yearly physical from a Flight Surgeon who determines my status. The past few years I've had a waiver for the occasional Cluster headache bouts I suffer from. The headaches attack me on average every 15 months or so and typically last four weeks before they're gone. They come in clusters, hence the name. They're nasty. I recently read a description online which stated that they're likely the most painful condition a medical doctor will come across in their practice. I don't doubt it. Migraines don't come close to these in terms of pain intensity.

My last bout with the headaches finished this past November. I stayed out of work for four weeks while I took higher than acceptable (to the FAA) doses of Prednisone to diminish the number of headaches I experience. For the breakthrough headaches, I use Imitrex nasal spray which is a God-send. These medications work wonders for me and I'm able to function as I normally would.

Five weeks ago I began using a new drug, Flomax, to help with some prostate issues I've been having. That drug along with another, Uroxatrol, caused me to begin experiencing some smaller scale cluster headaches again. I had no idea this would happen. I came off the medication as soon as I noticed a correlation but not before I found myself in a full-blown cluster headache cycle, which is where I remain. I'm so disappointed about it all. I just want my health back.

As I write this my concern is that my headache condition is morphing into something less manageable and that this could ultimately result in me having to take early retirement. I'd rather not. I don't feel I'm able to approach management so soon after having just had my medical reinstated so I'm going through this phase 'underground'. It's really my only option as I see it. Hopefully, I'll come out the other end of this soon but I'm not seeing much in the way of relief. I had to up my dosage of Prednisone from a typical burst of 50mg to 70mg to get the headaches under control. I don't understand it. I'm down to 60mg now and hoping to drop further tomorrow.

It's stressful being in this situation. I have very little confidence that I could plead my case to the Flight Surgeon and expect a favorable outcome. It's a fact that the FAA would like to see as many controllers at my wage taken off the doles and replaced by people making half as much.

Hopefully, this phase of headaches will be over soon.

Tammy is concerned for me with the amount of Prednisone I'm having to use. It can be a harsh drug to be on over an extended period of time. I have to have it. I was standing in line at Walgreens today getting a prescription filled and my nose began to bleed. Prednisone? I don't know but I haven't had a nose bleed in 30 years.

There are possibly other drugs I could use to take the place of Prednisone. From the research, I've done none of them are nearly as effective. I've got an appointment scheduled for next week with a neurologist who specializes in headaches. I'm hoping for some direction from him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Independence Day, Almost

I've spent the past few days in search of a car for Rachel. She turned 16 back in August but Tammy and I felt we'd rather have her wait until this spring before allowing her to get her license. She's not a natural when it comes to driving and we wanted to give her more time practicing with us before cutting her loose. She's nearly there.

I did some searching online looking through the database of local cars trying to get a feel for how much we could expect to spend. I was mostly looking at Toyotas and Hondas, in the beginning, figuring they would hold up much better than most of the others. I was a bit disappointed with the selection. I headed over to Apple Valley Ford a couple of nights ago and worked with one of the salesmen going through their inventory.

They had a 2001 Ford Taurus with 82K miles, very clean which I liked a lot. I took it for a drive and was impressed with how solid and true the handling was. New brakes, new battery, and new tires were a bonus. We went back inside out of the cold and wind to discuss the car. Gary, the salesman told me that they offer their best price up front and don't haggle off that number. We'll see. I gave my brother Keith a call to run the numbers by him to see if he had any strong feelings one way or the other. He's bought a bunch more cars over the years than I ever will. Buying cars isn't something I do often enough to be any better at it than the next pretender walking on the lot.

Keith thought it might not be a bad idea to go home and look at some comparables on and see if the price was in the ballpark. I mentioned carsoup to the salesman and he was fine with looking at the site with me. We came across a similar car in Prior Lake with 12,000 fewer miles and $1500 cheaper. I told Gary that he may want to reconsider the price he had on the car as I didn't think there was much chance of me accepting it when this other car was out there and looked to be a considerably better price. I gave him my cellphone number and told him to call me if his price changed.

My phone was ringing 10 minutes later. Gary's manager agreed they were overpriced on the car and moved the number closer to where I needed it to be.

The quandary I found myself in was deciding between a smaller, more fuel-efficient car vs a bit larger, less efficient but safer car. I found the Taurus to be the right compromise. Not large but not a small piece of tin getting great mileage but offering little protection. Plus, the Taurus has very good crash ratings and that was the most important consideration.

The next day (yesterday) I went out to the dealer in Prior Lake to look at their Taurus. I wasn't impressed. It may have had fewer miles than the other Taurus but you couldn't tell by looking at it. I drove a half dozen other cars trying to find something which would be safe and that Rachel would like but I came up empty. By far the best car of all I'd tried was back at Apple Valley Ford.

I drove Tammy and Rachel by the dealership last night to get a look at the car without meeting with the salesman. It was dark but they could see it well enough under the parking lot lights. Rachel was very happy with how it looked but then this was the same girl who was telling me a few months earlier that she didn't care if the car she got was full of hail damage. She just needed some transportation she could call her own. We appreciated that she was approaching this the way she was and not being particular.

I talked with Gary last night and told him I'd be in today to look at the car again. He said he'd have it ready. I told Rachel before going to bed that it looked like we'd have her a car tomorrow (today). I told her it wasn't a sure thing but it was looking good. She was excited.

I took off work early today to have it ready before Rachel got home from school. I backed it into the driveway and put her Jack Johnson CD in the player then sent her this text message just as she was getting out of school...

do u want 2 go look 4 cars?

She replied...

i thought we already knew what im getting

To which I responded...

its gone...sold this morning...when will u be home?

So yeah, I had her thinking that the car was gone and we'd have to keep looking. She didn't catch on. I had my video camera all set to role as she got home but in the bright sunlight, I didn't notice that I wasn't taping when I should've been. Oh well.

You can see from the photos that she's a happy kid. We made an appointment for her to take her road test in two weeks. We've still got a couple of things to work on (parallel parking and parking lot practice) but two weeks should give us enough time.

I'm happy to see her gain this new independence but I'll worry about her out there during her first heavy rainstorm, foggy night and snowfall. Heck, I'll worry about her anytime she's out there. It's my job to worry about her.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Where We're Heading?

As a family, we do some volunteer work at our church on Tuesday evenings. Tammy and Rachel paint nails and I tattoo little arms and hands while parents visit the Clothes Closet in search of some needed items. It's a great program where needy families can come for dinner, haircuts and other services all brought together in one place at no cost to them. We've been involved for a little over two years and have seen demand continue to grow.

I have no way of knowing but I'd guess that many of the people we work with on Tuesday nights are illegal immigrants. They're hard-working people trying to make a better life for themselves and looking for whatever advantage they can get in a world where they're too often looked down on and considered by many to be an inconvenience upon the system when they're not providing some needed service. They're humble if nothing else and I've grown to admire them.

We live in a complex world.

A part of me understands the need to secure our borders to stop the rush of illegal immigrants who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The touchy-feely side of me thinks we should work with those who are here and do what we can to assimilate them into the system.

There is a video on YouTube which puts our immigration woes into perspective. The speaker talks about the U.S. population and how it's grown over the past few decades and is expected to grow during the next few decades. I understand that numbers can be deceiving depending upon how they're presented. I trust that the numbers used by the man in the video are correct. It's possible they're not. Watch the video...especially the part where he uses gumballs to symbolize the number of people immigrating to the U.S. and the demand which remains. It's a sobering display of need.

My simple mind wants to compare our situation to a life raft with those inside the raft representing whatever country is currently sustaining its populace while the people clamoring to climb aboard would be those we're attempting to take in. How many can we reasonably assimilate before we sink the vessel we're on? Once that happens how can we expect to continue to help anybody including ourselves?

The touchy-feely side of me couldn't turn to those we help on Tuesday nights and say 'I've got mine...good luck getting yours'. I'd be doing the same thing they're doing if I were in their shoes.

Why do I have to learn about the dire situation we're in from a video on YouTube? Why isn't a talk of this sort aired before the American people in some form of a town hall meeting or a State of the Union address by the president? This shouldn't be something which sneaks upon us as a nation.

I'm conflicted. I want to preserve our way of life for myself and others while at the same time trying to help others reach their goals for a better life. I like the part in the video about helping people in those struggling countries to flower where they are but how do we go about doing that? I was a supporter of the war in Iraq and I still am although to a lesser degree—that's a whole other post. Imagine how much good that money could have done had we used it to help so many needy people to flower where they are?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 4 (finale)

I hadn't intended to write all this about my life when I began this 'Brave New World' topic a few nights ago. It just sort of happened. This is part 4 of what began with me reminiscing about changes in my life which occurred nine years ago. Here's the initial post if you haven't read it. From there you'll find the others in the order they were written.

I'm sure that there were some concerns from members of our families who may have felt we were moving too quickly by getting married after only knowing each other such a short time. I'd likely have had the same concerns if I were in their shoes. Tammy and I felt early on that God was in the middle of our relationship and that it was He who brought us together. I don't know how I can explain it any simpler.

It was nice that Rachel knew Kelsey and Cole (her cousins to be) from riding the bus to school. There were several things Tammy and I had in common which were encouraging to our relationship and each in their own small way gave us an assurance that we were right for each other. Some silly, some not. Each one by themselves means little but when you begin to add them up it becomes difficult not to notice. You have to ask yourself; is God really in the small details or are these just coincidences? A few of those details to consider:

*Our faith. We both attended similar churches on opposite ends of the metro area. The type of church Tammy attended was important to her as mine was to me. She'd told herself that she wouldn't leave North Heights Lutheran Church unless she found something comparable. We went to a Saturday night service at my church, Hosanna, and she said that it was very much like the church she belonged to and that she would be very happy at Hosanna. Hosanna is just over a mile away from where we live.

*I'd been married to a woman from Thailand and Tammy had been married to a man from Vietnam. Having been exposed to the Asian culture in my previous marriage would help me in understanding better that side of Rachel which her dad would bring to her life.

*We're nearly the same age as Tammy is just a few months younger than me.

*We both drove Nissan pickup trucks. That's a bit odd because unlike other parts of the country where Nissan trucks are plentiful the same can't be said for this area.

*We had the same bedroom furniture. You would think that it must be some common sort of style or manufacturer but it's not. When Noy and I divorced she took the dresser and a nightstand from the set as part of our agreement. Tammy had those same pieces. It couldn't have been a better fit.

*We both spent just one day in the Girl/Boy Scouts when we were younger. Each of us not interested in continuing on.

*We each had a sibling who lived within a few miles of the other.

*We're both artistic.

*We're both conservatives.

*We both bought Collective Soul's Dosage and Marc Cohn's Burning the Daze a couple weeks before meeting each other. We actually have a lot of the same music.

*We both shared an interest in stained glass.

*Working out and staying fit is important to both of us.

*We were both on Digital Cities at the same time looking for a partner.

Some people may say that those are interesting coincidences but nothing more. We'd disagree.

After our wedding, we had a few weeks for Rachel to adjust to her new surroundings before she'd begin 2nd grade. She had no problem making friends in her new neighborhood and there were plenty to choose from. She took to her new environment better than I'd expected with just one small glitch her first night here. We have a home alarm and when I set it that night she took it to mean that we had an alarm because we must live in an unsafe area. There were a few tears born of fear. I explained to her that we lived in a very safe neighborhood and that the alarm was mostly there because my brother used to work for the company who sold it to me and that Bryan installed it. No more tears.

There was contentment to my life with Tammy and Rachel that I'd never known. I found myself wanting to freeze time and live in the moment forever. Why would I want to wish these years away? While the guys at work couldn't seem to get through the years before retirement fast enough I was trying to do just the opposite. My view of wanting to slow my time to retirement has certainly changed in the past 18 months but it has nothing to do with my family. Read further into my blog to understand why.

Regardless of how fast or slow, we'd like the years to pass by, they'll be here and gone too soon.

Fast forward to today. We've been together for nearly nine years but it seems like so much less. Rachel has grown from a little girl to a young woman and will be off to college in a little more than two years. I'm eligible to retire but hope to keep doing what I'm doing for another five years. Tammy intends to keep working several more years as well.

I think of Tammy and Rachel and I thank God daily for them being in my life. I don't speak of Rachel as being my stepdaughter. She's my daughter. I know it's not intended to be but the 'step' part seems to put a negative connotation on our relationship and I don't like that. I couldn't love Rachel any more than I do if she were my own child. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her.

I couldn't have found a better partner in life than Tammy. Besides being the love of my life we're also best friends. I know that's cliche but it's true. I love spending time with her more than anybody else I can think of.

So let's hear it for a few guilty pleasures, for technology and silly romantic movies as well as following your heart. I couldn't have planned my life the way it's turned out nor can I tell you what tomorrow will hold. I'm not in control.

He is.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 3

This is the 3rd part in a series of posts about a turning point in my life which took place nine years ago. If you've already read parts 1 and 2, press on with this post. Otherwise, you'll want to read these in sequence. Part 1 and part 2.

Tammy and I were on the phone daily with each other after our date. Whereas she had a cellphone, my hesitancy to embrace newer technology left me with a simple little pager. I would need to do something about that. We made plans for me to come up and visit her one night during the next week so I could meet her daughter, Rachel. I had shared with Tammy a bit about my previous marriage and that I'd been a stepfather to my former wife's two sons. What I didn't share with her was that my role in their lives was a bit of a thankless one and not the shoes I was looking forward to filling again any time soon. It wasn't for a lack of trying to be close to David and Joe because we all did what we could. There were other dynamics too complex to write about here.

As an aside, I don't have any contact with Dave or Joe today. I'd hoped to stay in touch with them but it hasn't really happened. They both moved to California to be closer to their father after serving in the military. Joe drove out in May of 2006 to help his mother move out west and Noy called to see if I'd like to stop by. It was so nice to see him again and I was sure that we would stay in touch. We haven't.

Back to the Spring of 1999. A few nights after our date I drove up to Maple Grove to see Tammy and meet Rachel for the first time. Earlier in the day, I took a trip to Target to find a gift for Rachel. I bought her a Betty Spaghetti doll with accessories. I couldn't go up there empty-handed.

I'll never forget as I drove into the driveway of Tammy's townhome. Rachel was outside playing with her best friend Camille when she saw me coming. She ran alongside the truck all the while looking back over her left shoulder with the biggest smile on her face. I pulled my truck into the driveway, got out and walked to where she was standing by the side door in the garage yelling to her mom that I was there. She looked at me all out of breath and asked if I was Kevin. She was the cutest kid, all 7 1/2 years of her.

Tammy asked me in and Rachel led the way. Tammy had told me about a guy she'd dated for six months who paid little attention to Rachel. I couldn't imagine not wanting to get inside this little one's head. She was full of questions and I had answers. A little later Rachel stepped outside only to return in a few minutes with some of her friends to introduce them to me. Tammy later told me that that was a good sign. Oh, and Betty Spaghetti was a hit.

As the night wound down Rachel got a bit testy and Tammy had to scold her. She went to her room and was crying. I felt bad for her because I knew she didn't want our first meeting to end that way. Tammy told me that there was very little chance she would come out of her room but that if I wanted to go in and say goodbye that would be fine. I sat on the edge of her bed and made small talk with her. The next thing I knew she was showing me some of her drawings and the tears were gone. She came back out of her room and Tammy was impressed that I was able to get her to do that. I'd never met a more precious child. From the moment I first laid eyes on her I felt a connection with her.

Over the next few weeks, the bonds between the three of us would grow very quickly. I'd found what I was looking for in Tammy and the feeling was mutual. By the time summer arrived we'd begun speaking of a life together and getting married. Tammy likes to tell of the time she was putting Rachel to bed and saying her prayers with her. As they were saying a prayer for me Rachel chimed in with "Thanks for letting us get him before anybody else did". How sweet is that? It was all happening so quickly but neither of us had any 'red flags' whatsoever which may have held us back. My fear of being a step-parent was no longer a concern with the exception of one small speed-bump along the way.

Rachel had grown attached to me and no doubt was telling her father about me. Tammy and I had begun to talk about a late summer wedding by this time. We could wait until after the coming school year or we could take the leap before school started and that was what we decided to do. I'm not sure who told Rachel's father of our plans for marriage but when he learned of them he wasn't happy...for a couple of reasons. His daughter would be living 40 miles south and there would be some other father figure in her life. He most likely felt threatened by that and I sympathized with his position. I understood as best I could how he was feeling but I didn't agree with his response.

Rachel's dad would call her one night to tell her that if she was going to be moving away he wouldn't be able to see her anymore and that he'd bring her toys by the house. She was in tears pleading with her father on the phone trying to convince him that they could work it out and that it would be okay. He wasn't making our situation any easier. Tammy had some harsh words with him later when Rachel wasn't around and did her best to assure Rachel that everything would be okay just as she told her dad it would be.

Over the next couple weeks, Rachel withdrew from me and was no longer the affectionate, happy kid she had been. Her father had apparently had an influence on her attitude toward me but Tammy and I took it in stride knowing that the truth would win out and that she'd warm up to me again before too long. About that time we were driving in the car and from the back seat Rachel piped up with "why don't you date Brittney Spears?" Tammy and I did our best not to smile and I remained quiet while Tammy had a talk with Rachel.

Shortly after that incident Tammy and Rachel were over at my house and Rachel was watching me as I used a Have-a-heart trap to catch some chipmunks making a home in my woodpile out-back. I didn't think much of it. We wanted to slowly ease Rachel into the neighborhood and allow her to meet some of the neighbor kids. A little later that day Tammy sat Rachel down to explain to her that she loved me and that we would be married soon and that it wasn't okay for her to treat me disrespectfully. Tammy said the talk lasted maybe five minutes while Rachel quietly listened. When Tammy was through speaking she asked Rachel if she had any questions. Rachel thought for a moment and said "I just have one question...I want to know how Kevin got that chipmunk in that trap?" Tammy told me when she came back with that response she knew everything was going to be just fine.

And it was and it is.

We were married on July 30th, 1999. Four and a half months after our first date.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 2

This is part two of a post where I'm reminiscing about my life changes from nine years ago. Read part one here.

My disappointing date with Christie didn't deter me at all from putting myself out there again. As I said, this was just practice. It was early March 1999 and I came across an ad on Digital Cities from a 41-year-old Christian woman on the north end of the cities. She described a bit about herself and the sort of things she liked to do. I spent some time putting together a letter in response to her ad. Looking back you would think I would have had a letter to spam out to any ads which caught my attention but I didn't work that way. I wanted something less impersonal. Along with the letter I sent a couple of photos as well.

A few nights later I was online when I got an instant message from her. We chatted for a bit and were having a fun conversation when (as it often happened) I got booted offline. That's the one lasting impression I have of AOL from all those years ago—getting booted off and being unable to get back on in addition to a lousy dial-up speed. I tried over the next ten minutes to reestablish my connection but I couldn't. I had to leave for the all-night shift and I was worried that she would think I wasn't interested and had ditched her when that wasn't the case at all. Before we'd lost our connection she'd told me her first name, Tammy, and that she had been married to a Vietnamese man. She didn't care for her last name as it was such a common Vietnamese last name but she didn't tell me what it was.

I left home for work and felt just a bit desperate to try and reach her to explain what happened. My worry was that she would move along to the next name on her list. When I got to work I dialed directory assistance and asked if they had a listing for a Tammy or Tamara Nguyen in Maple Grove. I just took a stab at one of the only common Vietnamese last names I knew. To my surprise, I got her number. I quickly gave her a call and she answered. I told her who I was and I could tell she was a bit alarmed. "How did you get my number?" I didn't want to frighten her or come off as the stalker sort. After all, this was the internet. I explained what had happened and she said she figured as much. We agreed that I would call her the next day to talk about arranging a date.

We both felt it would be best if we met sooner rather than later so we set our date for that Friday, the 19th of March. We spent several hours on the phone during the next few days and exchanged emails. This time I actually had some nice photos to work with too. I was excited about our date but I was trying to keep it real recalling what had happened on my last date.

We learned in our conversation that she had a sister who lived not far from me and I had a sister who lived within a couple of miles of her. There was more to that than met the eye. My sister's kids rode the bus with Rachel, Tammy's daughter and my sister Jackie knew Rachel. There was something which seemed to be falling into place here and before too long we'd both begin to see it.

I negotiated the 40-mile drive and rush hour traffic listening to the New Radicals and arrived at her townhome at 5:00 pm. She met me at the door with the most beautiful smile. It's one of those memories which will forever be with me.

We drove into Minneapolis for dinner at Sawatdee's and were seated in a quiet area toward the back of the restaurant. It was so easy to talk to her and I was feeling very good about our date. I know we spent a good deal of time there being lost in our conversation. We left the restaurant and got in my truck. I put Mark Cohn's new CD on and Tammy commented that she'd just bought the same one and was liking it very much. Burning the Daze would become one of our favorites in addition to Collective Soul's, Dosage. Music of the time. The New Radicals? Not so much but I still like it.

Part of our conversation was about my stained glass hobby and she mentioned that she had taken a stained glass class years earlier. I told her about several pieces I had for sale in the window of a shop not far from where we were if she would like to see them. We drove a few miles south to Jim's shop where she could view the small sampling of what I had there. She'd been busy getting her degree and raising Rachel and couldn't pursue her own interest in the hobby but said she'd like to one day. She'd recently done several watercolor paintings for a college class she took and enjoyed taking time for her artistic side when she could.

Tammy's sister, Theresa, who lived near me did a drive-by of my home earlier in the week. She reported back to Tammy that I lived in a rundown trailer park. Was Tammy scared off? Not in the least. I did confess to her that I had in fact lived in a trailer home for one year after getting out of the Navy. She assured me that it wouldn't have mattered. Not that she needed proof but after stopping by the stained glass shop I drove her by my home so she could see where I lived. Once inside I introduced her to Snickers and gave her a quick tour. We sat on the couch together and Snickers got between us as if to say, 'hey, this is my guy—just so you know.'

We never once lacked for conversation. I don't recommend this for a first date but it worked for us: I had an article from the Pioneer Press sitting on my coffee table describing the eerie coincidences between the Wizard of Oz movie when played while listening to the Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I'd just found out about it and watched it the other night and suggested that she may find it interesting too as she told me she liked Pink Floyd.

Hey, she was impressed. That's all you need to know.

Our date couldn't have gone better. I drove her home and we both agreed that we were looking forward to seeing each other again, soon. I'm not one to play the game where you wait until the following Wednesday or whatever day is deemed appropriate to touch base with your date so as not to seem too interested. Tammy wasn't either. We both from the beginning said we weren't interested in dating others and that we were looking for an exclusive relationship.

We never looked back.

I hadn't intended for this to be a 3 part series but I think it's going to need to be.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Brave New World, Part 1

I've got a few guilty pleasures in my life with my bike no doubt topping that list. All work and no play makes me no fun to be around. Actually, my bike plays second fiddle to my computer this time of year—another guilty pleasure.

I remember twenty years ago when I first began hearing about the benefits of home computers and how they were going to revolutionize our lives and free up all sorts of time. Yeah, right. I can't think of a larger time-sink. Not that I'd want to live without mine because I wouldn't. There's just too much information available from whatever cozy, wireless spot you happen to find yourself in the comfort of your home to dismiss or ignore this technology. I love it and I don't want to be without it!

I didn't use to feel that way. I used to say that I was going to be the last guy in Lakeville to get online. That was ten years ago. I didn't know a browser from a jpg and I wasn't interested in learning the difference. My older brother Bryan used to talk to me about getting a computer and how we could email each other and stuff. Bryan's days with computers went back to the late '70s or early '80s and his Radio Shack TRS80 computer. The idea of sending emails to each other didn't do much for me but as time went on it was apparent that computers were increasingly infecting our daily lives and I began to wonder if maybe I was being left behind. I was in danger of being labeled a Luddite.

It's not that I didn't appreciate technology because I did. My new (at the time) custom made Serotta being a prime example. I know that a big reason for my hesitation in joining the wired world was that I was worried I'd spend more time than I wanted to with a computer and have little to show for it. A valid concern then and now.

Somewhere along the way, I warmed up to the idea of plugging into this technology that many of the guys at work were already into and my neighbors as well. "Kevin—what's your email address?" "I'm not online, should I be?" Stunned look.

It was December 1998 and although my divorce had only been finalized nine months earlier for all intents and purposes I'd been living life as a single guy for three years. I used to occasionally go see a movie by myself. Pathetic I know but that was my existence. On a night in December of '98, I would go to see You've Got Mail.

That movie changed my life. It really did.

It was a turning point because I watched how a computer could connect me with a whole other world, and I'd be lying if I said that finding love in my life wasn't on my mind. That romantic comedy was all it took. Those sort of movies aren't meant to leave lasting impressions on you, are they?

Within a couple weeks, I'd be placing an AOL disc (the internet on training wheels) into my own new desktop computer and trying to make sense of what was before me. It didn't take long before I found the chat rooms and I was having a blast in them. Going from room to room making connections with people and joking nights away with Snickers curled up by my feet. I wasn't much for the club scene so this was a good way for me to make some connections outside my home. I needed that.

Within a couple months the chat room fascination ran its course and I grew tired of them. I sometimes used to wonder what it would be like to answer a personals ad in the weekly paper but I never tried. I noticed one of the links on AOL's homepage was to a site called "Digital Cities", a site for personals ads just like what I used to occasionally peruse in the paper. I started checking out the ads and answering a few. I never gave much thought about placing my own. I was content to work with whatever was out there.

It didn't take long; I got a response from a woman named Christie in Eagan. We made arrangements to meet that Saturday night to see the Titanic exhibit in St. Paul and then go to dinner at Dakota Bar and Grill. I sent her my photo and awaited hers. It never came. I inquired about it and she said she'd get it to me but it became apparent that this was going to be a blind date in every sense of the least from my end. We spent some time on the phone together over the next few days as well as some time instant messaging each other. She seemed nice enough.

I drove to her townhome to pick her up and when she opened the door I could instantly tell that we weren't a match. She simply wasn't my type. I was a bit let down but probably more disappointed in myself for not being more assertive in getting her photo before our date. Not that looks are everything but they obviously matter.

I did my best to put on a good face and make the most of our date. It would be a practice date and God knows I was out of practice. The night ended in a hug and I loaned her a couple CDs I'd had in my truck which she liked. I don't know why I did that because I knew there was no hope for a second date but there's that 'too nice' side of me which sometimes can't say what needs to be said. I emailed her when I got home to thank her for the date but also to tell her that I didn't feel a connection and didn't want to lead her on. She said she was fine with that and I made arrangements to stop by her home in a few days to retrieve my CDs.

I'd go back to Digital Cities and pick up where I'd left off. This time the results would be entirely different.

To be continued...

Monday, February 18, 2008

You Gotta Love It!

This video begins a little slowly but stay with it and you'll be smiling real soon.

I want some of that where I work—a bit of free spirit, put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care attitude.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Some Random Musings on a Friday Night

Keith's ladyfriend, Tracee, lost her job two days ago. She'd been managing The Afternoon stores in the metro area for the past 15 years. She came into work and they gave her 10 minutes to clean out her desk. No notice and I'm guessing no thank you either. It's a family thing where somebody from within will take over Tracee's job. I'm sad for her because she really loved her job; you could tell whenever she'd mention the store and how it's doing. It was a part of her and they took it away. Keith is quite certain that the person who will attempt to do what Tracee's been doing won't be nearly as successful.

Tracee has also been trying to sell her home for the past year but is caught up in the dismal real estate market. I've got a "for sale" flyer of her home up on the bulletin board at work. Keith called yesterday to ask me if I could slash the price on it by 40k. They're quite determined to get it sold now that Tracee has no income and that's a rather large expense to cover each month. It's such a beautiful home. I hate to see her drop the price any more than she already has but such is the market.

There's a woman in D.C., Raelyn Campbell, who is suing BestBuy for $54,000,000 for the loss of her laptop after she took it in for servicing by the Geek Squad and it turned up missing. She knows the amount is excessive but it was her intent to make it a large number so as to draw publicity to her plight. It appears to be working. Here's one of many articles about the suit I found online and here's her blog she dedicated to the lawsuit. I made a comment there and linked to my own problems with the evil company. Some other news source quoted a few posts from her blog and used mine as one of them. I'm subsequently getting a ton of hits on my own blog from people reading about my problems with the company. Boycotting them has been much easier than I anticipated it would be. You should try it.

Maybe, in the end, this will only amount to a case of 'any publicity is good publicity' for BestBuy rather than leaving people with a negative connotation of the company which the woman in D.C. would hope for as I would too.

I was perusing some blogs last night looking for writings of fellow air traffic controllers in particular. I came across one from an 18.5-year veteran controller out east who was recently let go because of a medical condition for which they'd previously had a waiver. Rather than try and see this person through to retirement in the form of some non-ATC position the FAA instead chose to cut them loose. It would be an expensive legal battle to wage to try and recover some sort of medical retirement so this controller is reluctant to do that as it's not a sure thing. See ya. They spoke of another controller in a similar position who's had a waiver his entire career but now with 20 years in, they're giving him the heave-ho as well. At least he'll qualify for his retirement but he wanted to work several more years.

The part about this which is most disturbing to me is that it's going to force people with medical issues underground rather than being upfront with management for fear of losing their job. That's not a good scenario. If they're going to be terminated for coming forward what incentive is there for them to be honest? A controller with over 18 years of experience and dedication being put out with that much time invested in a career doesn't encourage people to want to do the right thing.

Hmmm, seems my blog tonight is a bit of a rant. Sorry. Let me change direction.

Tammy's mother and sister came into town a few days ago. Cindy flew to Texas yesterday to visit a friend while her mother will remain behind and visit with us as well as some other relatives in the area. You won't find a sweeter woman than Elaine.

Tammy and I took our moms out to dinner tonight at a Valentine's dinner being held at Hosanna. We were sitting with some people we'd never met before exchanging small talk. Steve, the guy next to me mentioned that he grew up in Bloomington and I told him I did too. He asked me what year I graduated high school and I told him 1975. The look on his face was priceless as he asked me twice more to repeat the year I graduated. He said he would've guessed 1995 but no way '75. I looked over at Tammy and she was rolling her eyes talking about how she's never going to hear the end of this.

Steve is my new friend.

Sara Renner and The Elements put on a concert after dinner which we stayed for. Although both our parents are hard of hearing I think they enjoyed the show. Here's a clip from it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Beginning, Finding Time and Mark Cahill

Today was Tammy's first day at her new job with United Health Group. She was a bit anxious to get this day behind her but now that it's over, her anxiousness has turned to excitement. She had a good day. I'm happy for her. She's paid her dues for many years as an RN out on the floor and it will be nice to see her get into something less physically demanding.

They started out orientation by having each person write on a white-board 3 things about themselves. One of those things had to be a lie. The group would then question the claims made by the person making them and try to decide which was the lie. Sort of like the TV show from the '60s, To Tell the Truth.

Tammy's 3 things about herself?

I am a stained glass artist.

I like to perform as a clown in my spare time and do face painting.

I have been on a TV show.

For those of you who know Tammy, you know she's never been a clown. They all guessed that she'd never been on a TV show. She said it made for a fun way of getting to know one another.

She'll also have an opportunity to work from home on occasion and that they will install a dedicated phone line for her calls and provide her with a laptop and internet access. Nice. She's got the perfect spot for a workstation in our den. We've been considering adding another desk in there so this may be a good time to have Keith come out and size up the room for it.

Rachel finally picked up a pencil and began drawing again this past school year. I was glad to see that because for too many years she hasn't made time for her sketching. She used to love to draw and even took an occasional art class outside of school. She's a busy kid and I suppose the drawing must have taken a back seat to stringing beads, photography or whatever other interest she had going. Her artistic talents come from Tammy's side of the family there's no doubt.

We've talked in the past about getting Rachel involved in one of our stained glass projects. She's got a keen sense for color, much more so than Tammy or me. I've bounced ideas for color combinations off her a number of times while working on a project. I could easily see her thriving as part of a team in an ad agency as she's so creative but I don't really see that being her calling. But who knows?

I just finished reading a book by Mark Cahill titled One Heartbeat Away. It's about sharing your faith with others. People who know me may or may not know about my faith as I'm not much of an evangelist when it comes to telling people about Christ. I'll make an occasional reference on my blog or post some Christian music such as the song you're listening to if you clicked on the link at the top. I'm fine with like-minded people but I'd starve if I had to earn a living telling others about Jesus.

Anyway, the author of this book has no problem approaching people and asking personal questions about their beliefs. He gives some strong reasons for doing what he does. Probably the most compelling was an email he included written by an atheist to a Christian friend:

You are really convinced that you've got all the answers. You've really got yourself tricked into believing that you are 100 percent right. Well, let me tell you just one thing. Do you consider yourself to be compassionate toward other humans? If you're right about God, as you say you are, and you believe that, then how can you sleep at night?

When you speak with me, you are speaking with someone who you believe is walking directly into eternal damnation, into an endless onslaught of horrendous pain which your loving God created, yet you stand by and do nothing.

If you believed one bit that thousands every day were falling into an eternal and unchangeable fate, you should be running the streets mad with rage at their blindness. That's the equivalent to standing on a street corner and watching every person that passes you walk blindly directly into the path of a bus and die, yet you stand idly by and do nothing. You're just twiddling your thumbs, happy in the knowledge that one day that Walk signal will shine your way across the road.

Think about it. Imagine the horrors hell must have in store if the Bible is true. You're just going to allow that to happen and not care about saving anyone but yourself? If you're right, then you're an uncaring, unemotional and purely selfish (expletive) that has no right to talk about subjects such as loving and caring.

I'm guilty. There's no good answer for that argument and it should cause anyone who calls themselves a Christian to pause.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Becomming the Old Guy at 27

This song has some significance in more than one way to the following post.

We were sitting around the control room at work last week when somebody mentioned that I was the oldest guy in our area. Me? I may be the most senior guy but I don't think I'm the oldest. :) I had to think for a moment—yeah, they're right. I may mentally feel like I'm still 27 years old in terms of my approach to life but my body would beg to differ.

I think I first noticed the negative aspects of aging when I was 42 and my vision began to suffer. Where I was once able to easily focus on reading a newspaper I now had to have glasses if I wanted to make something out of the blurry letters. The period from not needing glasses to needing them was a window of just a few months. I was surprised at how quickly it happened. Whereas most guys I work with seem to fight the transition to wearing glasses, I didn't mind at all. Not if it meant seeing clearly again.

There have been other less noticeable changes along the way such as a lower overall heart rate when I'm working out and some assorted aches and pains. But, the biggest change of late has been a condition I was recently diagnosed with called BPH, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.

Yeah, I'm actually blogging about this.

I had all the symptoms and Tammy suggested I make an appointment with my physician to be sure there wasn't anything more serious at work.

My PSA results were negative and the doctor suggested that he could put me on some meds to help ease the symptoms. I don't like meds unless they're absolutely necessary and at the time I didn't feel they were, so I thanked him but took a pass.

What was I thinking?

I'd seen the commercials about 'going and going and going' a hundred times but never paid attention to them as they didn't apply to me. Now they did and I began to take notice about the claims the ads were making.

The condition grew even worse in a relatively short amount of time, most noticeably the interruption of my sleep. A few weeks ago I cried 'uncle' and made an appointment with my doctor to talk about my options. He put me on Flomax and I left his office confident that I'd soon be back to normal.

All seemed fine for the first couple days but then I noticed that I was having some issues with what I'd call mini headaches similar to what I experience during a cluster headache cycle but nowhere near the same pain level. They weren't intense enough that I needed to medicate them but they were there. Not a good thing. I phoned my doctor again last week and asked if there was a different med he could put me on where I'd maybe have fewer side effects. He gave me a prescription for Uroxatral. I felt good about this because my brother-in-law was using the same drug without any trouble whereas he too had problems with Flomax.

I cleared the change with the Flight Surgeon at work and began the new prescription when I got home from work on Wednesday.

All seemed well until I went out for a ride on Thursday afternoon. Halfway into the ride, I could feel a cluster headache coming on. I wasn't all that concerned as I felt it was going to be just another of the mini variety caused by the meds and I could easily deal with it. Ten minutes after I first noticed it I was feeling uneasy about my situation. It was 20 degrees, I was 15 miles from home and wearing only a couple thin layers so as not to overheat. Being dressed with so little is fine as long as my heart rate is somewhere on the other side of 140 but I was having to slow due to the pain behind my left eye and my heart rate was now hovering at around 100.

If this was going to be a full-blown cluster headache I'd need to get off the road soon. I still had hope that the pain would subside but it was continuing to intensify. I pulled over and gave Tammy a call. Before I could even finish my sentence she was asking me where I was and assuring me that she was on the way. My angel of mercy.

I continued to press on knowing that my headache was the real deal and wondering if Tammy thought to bring some Imitrex to abort the headache. It was all I could do just to explain my situation and position to her. If I could keep pedaling I'd be somewhat better off than if I were to stop altogether. There's something about succumbing to the pain which causes it to reach another level and I didn't want to do that. Riding would be difficult but it was my best option.

It was my only option.

I was feeling chilled but not shivering. I was thankful for cellphones and that Tammy was on the way. She caught up with me about 10 miles south of home. I loaded my bike into the back of the truck and got in. She handed me an Imitrex and I inhaled it like some crackhead in desperate need of a fix.

She got me home and I crawled into bed with all my gear still on sans helmet and shoes waiting for the pain to leave but it would be a while. Unless you take the abortive meds early on they have a difficult time turning back the pain.

While I was recovering, Tammy got online and did some research. She found that the drugs used to treat BPH could cause headaches in some people. In my case, they brought about the worst kind. I immediately swore off any further use of meds to treat my condition. I spent all the next day and most of Saturday in recovery mode with two additional headaches as I waited for the effects of the Uroxatral to leave my system.

My biggest concern was that the use of these meds had put me back into another cluster cycle and seeing as I'd just ended a cycle a couple months ago I didn't need that.

It's Sunday morning now and I believe the half-life of the Uroxatral has run its course. I feel back to normal with that full bladder feeling once again. I thank God that the headaches appear to be done.

I've got an appointment with a Urologist in a couple weeks to discuss what I think is my only other I was hoping to avoid the knife at this early stage of my condition but unless there's an entirely different regimen of meds out there and unless I want to keep having my sleep interrupted I don't see that I have a choice.

Tammy found this video on YouTube of a typical procedure to reduce the size of an ever-increasing prostate and restore bladder function. Sign me up!

I wonder if it would be in poor taste to bring my video camera with me for my surgery and see if the doc can capture my procedure for my YouTube account? Nah.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Caucuses and Smells Like Reefer Madness

I took Rachel out for an hour of behind-the-wheel time tonight. We drove into Bloomington past my old high school where we noticed a steady stream of traffic headed to the schools for caucus night. She mentioned that she could get extra credit for one of her classes if she attended so we headed home, picked up Tammy and headed off to Lakeville North...Republican territory.

We were a few minutes late getting there and the parking lot was in overflow mode so we grabbed a spot along the yellow curb with a bunch of others. We got inside and found a crowd of people straining to see a small map taped to a wall with the different precinct numbers for the city. You needed to have your precinct number to know which room to go to. We finally shuffled our way close enough to make out that we're in precinct 4 and headed off to room 308.

When we got there it was standing-room-only. We opened the door and managed to barely squeeze our way inside. There was a guy in his mid twenties up front trying to explain the procedure but it seemed pretty clear that he was a bit unprepared for the amount of people who showed up. Somebody from the crowd yelled that all they wanted to do was cast a vote and leave. That was a bit rude but it did make sense. Most people weren't interested in sticking around for the election of delegates or offering resolutions.

They handed out two yellow post-it notes to each person and asked us to write our name and address on one note and our vote on the other. Voting integrity wasn't the concern tonight and honestly, I didn't really care. I'm a registered Republican who will be more or less abandoning his party this time around. Tammy and I intend to write in Huckabee's name. He won't be the party's nomination; we know that.

If tonight was any indication of voter interest in the coming election it looks as though we can expect high voter turnout. I'd say that both sides will be getting out the vote unlike any time we've seen in a generation.

I got a call this afternoon from a friend who works with Lockheed Martin, Flight Service. If there was ever a honeymoon since LM took over that entity of Air Traffic Control from the FAA it's now over. He told me how he was recently called in for two hours of overtime to sit and watch an anti union video in preparation for an upcoming vote to determine if they will form a union. It made for some good humor. Sort of reminds me of the movie Reefer Madness from all those years ago.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sheldon Brown is Gone and Geek Speak

The cycling world lost one of the biggest names you've never heard of last night. Sheldon Brown died of a massive heart attack. Sheldon had quite a presence on the web with a huge base of knowledge which he took the time to document and categorize for others to access and learn from. He will be missed by many.

I'm not much of a football fan but I did manage to watch the last 90 seconds of the Super Bowl...good stuff. Rachel taped the game for the halftime show which Tammy and I watched when I got home from work last night. Yawn. Anyway, we fast-forwarded through the football action to watch some of the commercials. Like I said, I'm not much of a football fan.

I went through my blog tonight looking for dead links. I found a few; mostly video links I've since converted to my YouTube account where I store them at no cost and save myself the storage capacity on my website. I'm currently using 1.2gb of a total 1.5gb available on my site. My blog is getting rather large to do maintenance on the entire thing in one evening. Needless to say, I didn't do that but I did make a dent in it.

Sometimes I'll go along and not realize that there's a better way to do something. I sort of get locked into doing something a particular way and don't think about how I could make it better. I recently noticed that with the links to mp3 files I'll occasionally post. The WMA (windows media audio) files open in a player all their own but not the mp3 files. They were opening in the current window and taking people away from the blog. Not what I'd intended. I found a simple bit of code (target="_blank") to insert in the link which opens the file in its own window. Yeah, I know...real geeky stuff which maybe 3% of people out there might possibly care about.

I actually had a bit of good news with respect to work a few days ago. The 2.5 years I spent working at Flight Service will now count toward my seniority. Woohoo! There will no doubt be a challenge to allowing Flight Service time to count but I'll take what I can get for as long as I can; hopefully another 5 years. I'm now numero-uno in my area of nearly 50 controllers. Tim d has some nickname for me but I can't for the life of me remember what it was—NewYork somethingorother. Tim?

I'm not much into ringtones but my daughter is. She's good about not downloading them and running up the bill but occasionally she'll ask if she can buy one. Usually, it's a song she already has but not something she can upload to her phone. I figured there had to be an easy way to do that and I found a site online (Myxer) which does exactly that. You upload the song file to the site where they have tools which allow you to splice a section of a song and have it converted to a ringtone which is then sent back to your phone where you can save it and use it—plus it's free.

You have to do the typical registration with the site first and I always have a concern that I'm opening myself up to more spam at the email address I use but so far I haven't noticed any increase. The ringtones we get from them are actually better quality than the downloads Rachel has paid for.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Road Time, 2 Less Votes and Rachel Is Nearly Ready

I put some new skins and tubes on my red Serotta and headed out for a much needed outdoor
ride this afternoon. I don't mind hammering away on my rollers but there's something wrong about staying indoors when it's so beautiful out and the roads are dry. Nothing fast about today's ride but I could tell my heart, lungs, and quads were feeling it. It's so nice to be back on the road again.

It always feels like I'm cheating winter a few hours at a time when I can knock out some miles when a few years earlier I wouldn't have considered it. The last hour my toes were getting a bit numb. That's the one thing that keeps me from staying out longer in these temps. I think I'll invest in a pair of Lake shoes next year. From what I hear there's not a better winter riding shoe.

I brought it in with a little over 50 miles.

I'll be breaking ranks with the Republican party this coming election. No, I won't be voting for any Democrat candidates either as my pro-life position won't allow it. This just simply means that Republicans who normally get the nod from Tammy and I will be receiving two fewer votes this time around. Tammy is disappointed with the Republican party as well. It's the best we can do. I've thought a lot about this and it's taken me a good while to get to where I am. We'd vote Democrat but there's something about supporting a person who embraces the belief that ripping full-term children from their mother's womb is acceptable and civilized. There's nothing to understand with respect to that thinking.

I honestly believe there would be a Democrat in the White House now had it not been for the fringe Left having co-opted the party on this one issue. The last two presidential elections were so close that I have little doubt they would have swung in the direction of the Left if people such as Tammy and I could have voted for them—but we can't.

Reid, a friend from work, told me about a program PBS did titled Cheney's Law. Yeah, I know, PBS tilts to the left—that's not lost on me. Once you get beyond that and listen to some of the people they interview you'll understand why this is a very important program to watch. It details the way Cheney went about establishing the Bush administration's overreaching approach to power. Some of the people they interview for the show were people on the inside, former staff members who felt that the administration was heavy-handed in their wielding of power. The program can be found at this link .

For the longest time, I've given Bush a pass when it came to the war in Iraq. My belief was that the president and his advisers had much more knowledge than the rest of us and I trusted them to do the right thing. After all, what would Democrats (or whomever) have said had he not acted on whatever intelligence he had and terrorism which could have been stopped wasn't? There would be no forgiving the man.

I began to question this administration when it came time for our union (Natca) to negotiate a contract a little over two years ago. It wasn't just the contract negotiations or 'lack' of negotiations which caused me to pause. It was their approach to dismantling the air traffic system as we know it, beginning with the people at Flight Service where I used to work back in the mid-'80s.

Flight Service was always an inherently governmental job as has been air traffic control in general. Flight Service was put up for bids a few years back and sold off to Lockheed Martin. In the process, many Flight Service specialists lost their government pensions. Many were within a few months of retirement.

Too bad.

See ya.

That was the Bush administration's attitude toward them. The government could easily have absorbed hundreds of those they left stranded but chose not to. I know many of them personally as I worked with them.

Flight Service is a shell of what it once was. Pilots try and avoid their services as much as possible these days.

If there's any parallel between the way this administration handled contracting out Flight Service and the way they're running the war in Iraq, then I think there's no end to the incompetence at work.

Bush's entire time in office has been punctuated by anti-labor positions. When Northwest Airline mechanics were set to strike back in his first term, he intervened. The mechanics had been without a contract for nearly five years. Bush banned any strike for 60 days and became the 2nd president in 35 years to tell workers they couldn't exercise their right to strike for a fair contract. In the process, he set up a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) which could recommend a settlement and ask Congress to impose it. The airline continued to operate with little incentive to negotiate with its workers.

No doubt the PEB was made up of a hand-picked group of Bush's choosing and would not be labor-friendly.

There were other times with other airlines when the administration promised management that it would step in to avert a strike if necessary: Delta Airlines and their pilot's union in 2001, and the 23,000 flight attendants at American Airlines in the same year.

Read further into my blog to see how he dealt with those of us in my profession.

Rachel isn't too far off from getting her license. I think she'll probably have it later this month or sometime next month. She said she's looking forward to it but that she can wait. She drove 35 miles to Maple Grove tonight on the heels of rush-hour traffic and did a nice job. We're in search of some used wheels for her. Two things are a must: anti-lock breaks and an airbag. I'm hoping to find something in the range of $7000-8000—something dependable and economical.