Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Trip to the Dog Park

Toby is pretty good about letting me know when he's ready to get up in the morning. Usually, it involves laying his head or his entire body on my head which makes it difficult to continue sleeping. I'm usually glad for the wake-up as I don't like to sleep my mornings away.

With Toby's help this morning I got up to beautiful sunshine and more snow melting in the forecast. I've never been gladder to see winter turn to spring.

I scarfed down a bowl of Trix then headed off to the dog park with the pups. (Yes, junk food, I know. I do have a theory about junk food but I'll save that for another time.) This was our first trip to the park this year. I probably should have waited a couple more weeks as it's still too wet and muddy. Toby and Allie didn't seem to mind. I meant to bring a towel with me just in case they got dirty so they wouldn't get the seats in the truck soiled. I forgot the towel so I had to drive with them both in my lap making me a filthy mess by the time we got home.

I had no other choice but to give them both baths in the laundry tub. Allie isn't too fond of getting a bath so I got her done first. Toby, on the other hand, loves a bath and all the while I was bathing Allie he was jumping up wanting to get into the laundry tub with her. He loves to sit there and let the water run over him. Allie doesn't mind having her nails clipped while Toby gets alligator arms and makes it a difficult task.

Speaking of getting dirty and dogs—how's the computer screen you're looking at? Could you use some help cleaning it? Click here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Email Chain Letters for God

I got an email from a friend yesterday asking me to both send the email back to her and to forward it to as many people as possible for maximum effect. What was the email about? The email asked me to pray for her to receive financial blessings. I was also to pray for the same outcome for all those I forwarded the email to. If I followed through with her request I'd have many people praying for financial blessings for me as well. These sort of emails are troubling to me as I think they work to undermine Christianity.

There's a minister in the Twin Cities named Mac Hammond. He has a Sunday morning televised program called The Winner's Way. Week after week his message is all about prosperity. He received some bad press last year but he's still out there raking in the money. The main thrust of his sermons is to tithe to the church and that God will bless you with even more. I don't necessarily disagree with that because it is Bible-based teaching but what about asking people to give back to God because he's given so much to us and not just because we want Him to give us more?

I recently got an email from a cousin telling me that Microsoft would pay me to forward the email he sent me and that within a few weeks I'd have a check for hundreds of dollars. I would have figured that this particular email joke had run its course years ago. I did what I normally do with that sort of thing and sent it back to the person who sent it to me and everyone else who received it with a link to the falsehood of the email as described on

Back to the email I received yesterday from my friend. This woman and her husband are millionaires many times over. I can't imagine how much more blessed they feel they need to be. I have a difficult time understanding how much more blessed most of us in this country can be. Sure, there are some struggling people no doubt and I don't want to discount them.

I would rather have seen an email chain letter asking me to pray for a servant's heart or wisdom for myself and others; maybe a heart to be more grateful for what I have. Not more money. I believe that God wants us to prosper but if I'm not mistaken Jesus spoke more about having us give away that which ties us to this world and follow Him. I admit that I certainly have my faults in this area.

Moving on.

Rachel called tonight. I was under the impression that their mission work was going to be done at Pike Place Fish Market but that's not what's happening. They're actually working at a battered women's shelter about an hour drive from Seattle. She said it's been an incredible experience for her and that she has so much to tell us.

They spent some time at the fish market today but that was just for fun. And...she caught a fish! She was one of only two kids out of a group of 30 who volunteered to try and catch a fish thrown to them. She said that someone got a video and photos of it so I'm really looking forward to seeing that. What a goofball.

I planned a short ride today but I couldn't help myself once I got out there. I ended up doing 72 miles. I needed a longish ride for this time of year as I'm working on getting some base miles in my legs before I work on my speed. It was a nice day but nowhere near the weather we were having last year at this time with temps creeping into the low 80s.

I came home, hosed down my bike then put it on my bike stand and broke it down for cleaning. It's in pieces now and I plan to spend a couple hours working on it before work tomorrow. I promised the pups a long walk in the morning so the bike will have to wait. My legs need a rest from riding so it's all good.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dodging Snow and High Priced Services

Listening to yesterday's forecast I wasn't planning on being able to ride today because it was supposed to be snowing during the evening and most of the day. Usually, you hear people complain that the forecasters can't get it right. In this case, I'm glad they didn't.

Tammy and I are waiting for Rachel to call from Seattle. She called a couple nights ago to say she was having a good time. A few kids had become sick and one of them was heading home early. They had them sleep side by side, head to toe so they wouldn't be breathing on each other and spreading germs. I talked to my brother who lives a few hours away in Portland and he said there was a chance for snow in the forecast. Rachel said she packed four sweatshirts but no jacket. At least she'll have layers.

Keith called to say he had the drawings done for the desk he's making for our office and wanted to know if we could swing by to have a look. Tammy and I met with him this afternoon to give him our approval. He said he'd have it done in a few weeks. That should be just about the time Tammy gets the go-ahead from her employer to occasionally work from home. Frontier was out a couple days ago to install an additional phone line for her use. Now, if I can get a radar scope set up someplace in our home we'll be set. Nah. Scratch that idea.

Our last month's bill from Charter Cable got into the $4.00 per gallon of gasoline range. We have our cable TV, internet, and phone with Charter and had been paying a promotional price for the past year of $142 per month which I actually think is an okay value for all we get out of it. The honeymoon is over; our bill shot up to over $206. Tammy got on the phone with them to see if there was another promotion we could sign up for but they told us there wasn't and to check back in a few months. She told them to expect a call from us cancelling our service after we'd done some looking around. We got a call from them the next day offering us a similar package to the one which had just expired. Funny how that works.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rachel's Trip, Awareness and Giving In

Rachel is in Seattle with the youth group from Prince of Peace. She has the best time on the mission trips she takes with them. She charged the batteries for her camera and is ready to put her photography skills to the test. She took a couple photography classes last year and is developing a good eye for the right shot. They'll be spending their time at Pike Place Fish Market. She wasn't sure what they'll be doing but they'll no doubt make it fun.

Steve Saeedi posted this to the comments section a few posts ago. Watch the video...

We viewed a similar video a few years ago as part of an awareness class at work. I remember counting the passes and figuring I would have the right answer. After watching the video, the instructor asked us what we saw. Brian said he thought he saw a gorilla. That's funny I thought—what have you been smoking? The video was played once again for us and sure enough, there was an even more obvious gorilla than the one in the above video mugging for the camera before walking out of the scene.

Of all the classes and computer-based instruction I've done in my 26 years with the FAA, that one minute video taught me more than all the other stuff combined. I'm not as aware as I'd like to think I am and I'm as able as the next guy to miss something so obvious. The video has been making the rounds of many of the bike forums and blogs of bikers. It's a good lesson for anyone who uses the road. Anybody can be a threat to us roadies out there—not just elderly ladies with blue hair and old men with hats.

I was in the zone yesterday on my ride until a monster snow-woman took me out of it. I actually circled back to take this photo. The size is what caught my attention but the ugliness is what got me to turn around. I do admit that a part of me figured it would make nice window dressing for my blog. Okay, I was wrong.

My new cyclocomputer has a feature that was sorely lacking in my others. It will give me my average speed to the nearest 100th of a mph. It's motivating when you're out on the road and you're better able to see progress being made toward increasing your average speed. Changes to data are slow to take place when they're only recorded to the 10th of a mile after you've been out for a few hours while changes to the 100th of a mph are more noticeable. It's a biker thing.

I finally succumbed to the steady barrage of emails from and signed up for 3 months for $15 to see who's out there. I just got a reply from a friend from back in the day. Kurt Close was an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force for 22 years before retiring a few years ago. This is the first contact we've had since probably Jr hs. I also heard from Laurie Marble (Gregoire) who is married with two children, living in AZ and owns a home accessory store. I don't recall that Laurie and I ever talked in HS but we knew each other—or knew of each other. Anyway, it's still fun to connect to say hello. For a class as large as ours (about 750), I'm surprised there aren't more people signed up. There are a few people from high school I've stayed in touch with over the years. It will be interesting to see if I make connections with any others.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday, Peter and Us

Third Day, I Can't Take the Pain,

No, I didn't see this one coming
It suddenly snuck up on me
I can't say you didn't tell me so
I can't say you didn't warn me
I can't take the pain of knowing that I left You
I can't bear the shame of knowing I was wrong
But I'll take the blame for everything that I've done
I can't take the pain of leaving you alone
Of leaving you alone

I was there when they accused you
but I guess I was too afraid
Not just once and not just twice
But three times I denied your name

I never thought I'd get even a second chance
But you've given that and so much more
And then for every time I ever did deny
You ask me if I love you, You know I do, Lord

So I'm off to follow in your steps
it won't be easy, it's safe to say
There are only two roads I can walk on down
The road less traveled is the one you paved

Lord, You took the pain even though I left You
And You took the shame and You made it all Your own
Why'd you take the blame for everything that I've done?
Lord, You took the pain
You and You alone, You and You alone

Saturday, March 22, 2008

If I Ever...

...get a mountain bike I want some rollers just like these.

It looks like something right out of Bedrock.

Friday, March 21, 2008

She's Ready and Bike Geek Speak

I called my sister, Jackie, yesterday afternoon to see if it would be okay if we stopped by with Toby and Allie for a visit. Jackie and Jerry live 40 miles north in Maple Grove and we don't get out there often enough. Toby and Allie are offspring of their dogs, Tucker and Gracie. Rachel was coming with us but as we were making our plans her best friend, Camille, (also from Maple Grove) asked her if she was interested in going with her and some friends to the Avril Lavigne concert at Target Center. Rachel would still come with us; we'd just part ways in Maple Grove. For Rachel it was more about getting together with Camille than it was seeing Avril in concert. Anyway, it was a good opportunity for Rachel to drive in rush-hour traffic with Tammy, myself and the pups along to serve as distractions. She did very well.

In addition to last night's drive we also got out today on some snow covered roads for possibly one last shot at some winter driving practice. After we got back today I told her that I felt she was ready for her license. We talked about it last night in the car on the way up to Camille's and she said that it was a good thing she didn't pass the first time as she now realizes she wasn't ready. That's a lot for her to admit. She's made a noticeable improvement since last week and I feel a lot better about her abilities. She still has much to learn but that's just going to take time.

I woke up this morning to this. I want this winter to be over. Actually, today is the first day of Spring! Contrary to what I said in the video, I have every intention of getting my bike out on the roads tomorrow. The plows came through the neighborhood a couple times today and I don't think it will be any problem getting out to the main highways. That's the plan anyway. It'll be a sloppy ride but that sort of goes with the territory this time of year in Minnesota.

Speaking of my bike...I bought a new cyclocomputer to mount next to my Garmin Edge 305 which I've been using the past two years. Anybody who has an Edge 305 will no doubt wonder why I have another computer in addition to it. That's a valid question. I love the customizable data fields on the Edge but I don't care for how current speed is displayed. I prefer the larger numbers of the additional computer so that's why I have it.

The extra cyclocomputer I've been using (a Specialized Pro) is wireless and I've never been able to use the cadence of my Edge with it as there's interference between the two units. So, the new Sigma computer promises to eliminate the interference problem with DTS (digital transmission least I think that's what it stands for) technology. I'll know soon enough. I like having the cadence info available to me as it helps keep me from pushing too high of gears and stressing my knees.

A nice feature with the Sigma is that it will know which bike I'm using (bike 1 or 2) based on the transmitter located at the wheel. Both bikes wheel sizes are slightly different and the Sigma will be able to differentiate between the two. I know it's a bunch of overkill but you can never define the collected data enough or have enough of it to look at when you're out for hours at a time.

I do admit that sometimes it's nice to ride without any input at all other than the beauty of nature which surrounds me but I'm an incurable geek at heart.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack, RC Flying and Car Talk

I watched some highlights from Barack Obama's speech today as he tried to distance himself from the words of his minister, Jeremiah Wright. His speech was good but in the end, I'm left thinking that this was nothing more than a politician trying to save his candidacy. I'm still troubled that he would associate himself all these years with a church whose lead minister was prone to saying some of the disturbing things he has. As I mentioned in my last post; if any of our pastors said anything remotely similar to what Wright has we'd be done with the church so fast that there wouldn't be time to give us an explanation. There couldn't be one. Certainly not in a place where people come to hear you speak about Christ's love.

I don't want to see Obama defined by this incident but I'm struggling to disassociate the character of the man from how he was apparently comfortable in that environment. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

A couple months ago I was blogging about RC airplanes and my desire to get involved in the hobby after watching some videos online. I haven't lost that desire. I got a call at work today from a co-worker, Steve. Steve has been flying RC planes for more than 20 years and he was wondering if I'd be interested in meeting him this afternoon to watch him fly. Absolutely!

I have a small trainer Tammy got me for Christmas but it's a bit underpowered and unless there is about zero wind I have a difficult time controlling it. I'm not sure it's possible to put a larger motor in it as the current motor fits very snug. No doubt it's operator error and anybody with just a little skill could show me that it actually works just fine. I'm guessing Steve could.

I met Steve in the parking lot of a school out in the cornfields between Farmington and Lakeville. My guess was that we wouldn't attract much of a crowd where we were but watch the video and you'll see how wrong that thinking was. I was impressed with Steve's flying skills and hope that he'll be able to give me a few lessons along the way. We'll be getting together at an RC flying club meeting tomorrow night in Rosemount.

Rachel and I had a bunch of running around to do last night so I had her do the driving. She did really well and I couldn't have been more pleased. I think that failing her road test last week got her attention. The most difficult part of teaching her to drive is that she doesn't know what she doesn't know and up until failing her test, she was very confident in her abilities and not all that interested in listening to what Tammy and I had to tell her. I just want her to be safe.

Anyway, part of running around last night was a surprise stop at Ultimate Electronics to buy her a CD player for her car. We found a nice Pioneer with a plug-in for her iPod. It will be a couple weeks before they can do the install as they're waiting on some parts for the dash.

After we were home a while I had my hands in my back pockets when I noticed a dollar bill in one of them. I pulled it out and saw that it was a $100 bill. I was trying to figure out where it might have come from when Rachel asked me if I'd checked my pockets. She had snuck it in there without me noticing. She wanted to help pay for the CD player. I couldn't let her do that. Whatever money she earns teaching dance goes toward her studio dance lessons. She usually doesn't have much money to throw around so this was a lot for her to offer up. It's the thought that counts.

Rachel is off school for the week so she and Tammy left for Babbitt this morning and will be back tomorrow. Rachel drove the first 100 miles from home to Hinkley and did well getting them out of the cities. It was nice to talk and text with them along the way to see how they were doing. They've both been too busy lately so it's good that they're able to spend some time together. Sometimes those road trips can be a great thing in that regard.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

1st Sign of Spring, Words and a Riddle

I got up this morning, walked out to get the paper and heard my first sign of spring...a robin singing. I had to wonder what it was feeding on as the ground is still frozen as well as being mostly snow-covered.

I've dumped Sitemeter for StatCounter to track the activity on my blog. Sitemeter was always slow to load when I went to view the stats whereas I don't have that problem with StatCounter. Anyway, I started my counter at a conservative zero ( of Monday morning at 10:00) I've never kept a running total of visits so it will be interesting to watch the number grow. I also coded it into the pages behind the scenes on our website so I can see what sort of activity is happening there.

I got out on my bike for a couple hours this morning. I nearly didn't ride as I was tired but once I was on the road I found some energy and was happy with my decision to put in some miles. I saw two other riders. Not that many for as beautiful a day as it was. A clean bike really does ride nicer...just like a clean car.

I'm not sure what I think about Barak Obama and his apparent hesitancy to distance himself from his minister? I have to say that if Bill Boline began making racist comments we'd leave Hosanna before he had a chance to finish his sermon. No question. It wouldn't be the first time we've disassociated ourselves from a church because we felt that what they were or weren't teaching was wrong. It's possible that Barack disagrees with some of the more disturbing comments that Reverend Wright has made. I don't know. I do recall some discussion about Romney's religion when he was in the running. I suppose it's fair to take a closer look at what Barack is embracing. I'm a bit uncomfortable saying that because I thought it was wrong to bring Romney's faith into the discussion. I simply want a level playing field.

I'm dragging this brain teaser back out again. I posted it to my blog when I first began this back in 2003 but I had no takers then or viewers for that matter. Anybody care to take a crack at it? Watch as the drawing shifts from 12 to 13 figures then back to 12. Can you see where the additional person comes from or goes to? I posted this to our family forum and my nephew Tristan said: "We know what it does, we print screened both positions, put them next to each other, and stared at it for 30 minutes, and it still makes us angry." Hmmm, I'm guessing it's something very simple from that comment but something which is very easy to overlook. Maybe I'll just stare at it some more. Maybe I don't really want to know.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Not Quite There, Riding and 3D Imagery

Rachel had her road test this morning at 8:30. The same time I was due in the dentist chair for a check-up. I was thinking about her as I was having my teeth cleaned and wondering how she was doing. I got out to my truck at 9:15 and gave Tammy a quick call to see how she did. Not so good. I thought that maybe she was joking with me and that she actually passed it but she really did fail. She messed up on a couple of unmarked roads which she should have treated as two lanes on each side but she didn't.

Rachel was disappointed but she took it in stride. She and Tammy are going up to Babbitt next Tuesday for a couple days and Rachel will drive there and back; 250 miles each way. That should be good practice for her. I've got her scheduled for another road test on April 1st.

I took advantage of some warmer temps and spent a good part of the afternoon on my bike. I did a route I really grew to like last year for the beautiful countryside and rolling hills. It was windy though with the winds steady at 15-20 from the west. Notice the flag at the Shakopee Perkins.

My shifting began to hesitate quite a lot with 30 miles to go. That usually means my shifter cable is about to fail although it could just have been accumulated crud. I used it conservatively the rest of the ride as I had a couple steep climbs in front of me. When the cable breaks the chain slips down to the smallest and hardest gear to turn. I went out and got some replacements. I gave my bike a bath and have it on my bike stand downstairs where I intend to break it down tonight and re-lube it. I've taken it through a lot of muck the last few rides.

3D photo fun time. You don't need funny glasses to get this to work but you do need the ability to cross your eyes just a bit. I shot these photos at the Holiday station in Jordan today. Here's how you do it. The photo on the right opens up to 1100px wide after you click on it. Stare at it and slightly cross your eyes until a third image between the other two images appears. Cross your eyes a little more and notice that the third image will begin to move in the direction of one of the other photos. Keep working it until it overlays either the left or right photo. Once this happens it should lock into place and create a composite photo which will be a 3D image. When you're able to see the image in 3D look at the left brake/shifter and see how it stands forward from the rest of the bike. Look at the front wheel and notice the 3D effect from the brick wall behind it.

Maybe it's just me but I find the 3D stuff to be kinda cool. Here's a link to my Flickr account and some other 3D photos I've taken. When you get there you'll need to click on the 'All Sizes' tab just above the photo and use the 'large' size to give you enough to work with. It defaults to the 500px size but that's not enough to see any detail and detail is what you want in 3D.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Night Potpourri

I got to work this morning and set up my laptop. I noticed a new Windows update so I ran the install then went to sign in. I came back intent on finishing some work I've been doing for the past two weeks on some procedural documents we're revamping. I've been doing the editing with a Microsoft Word program which came installed on my laptop. After running the updates I noticed that I could no longer access my Word documents. What gives? I tried the right-click "open with" prompt looking for MS Word but it wasn't showing up. A preinstalled Microsoft Office version was trying to open itself but I didn't have a key for it. My Word shortcut was also taking me to the Office software. A friend suggested I try OpenOffice as it would do all that my MS Word program would and it's a free download. He was right.

I'm not sure why but MS Word is functioning once again. I like the new OpenOffice program and think I'll stay with it for a while.

Rachel will be leaving for Seattle in a couple weeks with the youth group from Prince of Peace in Burnsville and of course, she can't wait. She was hoping to be able to get together with my brother Bryan and his family while she's out there but that's probably not going to happen with her full schedule. Bryan lives in Portland and it would be a three-hour drive for him to get there. I think he'd have a fun time getting photos of the kids doing their thing at Pike Place Fish Market. He's got a gift for photography and it's what he does. Who knows...he may still head that way.

Each year somebody offers to make necklaces for the kids on the trip. Rachel volunteered this year to take the project on. She and Tammy got some 'Pick Jesus' guitar picks at Northwestern Bible Bookstore and went about drilling holes in each of them and stringing them onto some colored ribbon. They turned out nice. I want one.

Rachel is also involved in Hosanna's (our church) youth group and will be going to Guatemala this summer as part of a mission trip. She'll need a passport. She got her passport photos back yesterday but we're quickly running out of time to get her paperwork submitted so she has it back in time.

Speaking of passports...Tammy doesn't have one and mine is expired. Rob, at work, put it in my head that a person has to have a passport just because you never know when an opportunity may present itself and a passport isn't something you can get on short notice. So, I think we'll all do the passport thing this week and we'll all be covered.

You have to admire Dr. Laura for not being afraid to speak her mind no matter how wrong she may be, or do you? Anyway, she made a comment yesterday about how wives are often at fault when their husbands cheat. I personally think a couple should simply divorce if it comes to that. The discussion she was involved in centered around New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and the news that he'd been busted for being with high priced prostitutes. I don't see where any of this is his wife's fault and I don't think Dr. L was saying that but why even bring it up?

In our mail today was a letter from the IRS referencing our 'stimulus payment'. The message I'm getting is that we're supposed to spend our way to prosperity. It's as wrong as thinking we can tax our way to prosperity. Neither approach is worth considering but both Republicans and Democrats came together on this ill-conceived idea. Whatever we get will go into the bank so we can give it back to the government when they come looking for the taxes owed on it.

Spending our way to prosperity doesn't seem to be working so well. The number of homes in foreclosure is a bit of a snapshot in that regard. Still, I'm surprised at how well the economy is doing when you consider the ever increasing cost of fuel. It was just a few weeks ago when people were speculating about how long it would be before oil reached $100 a barrel. Oil was briefly at $110 a barrel today. They've sort of got us over one.

There's a new site called Hulu which plays all sorts of television programs and films from recent to way old stuff. Just browsing it quickly and I see some goodies: Lost in Space, The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. You can see where my head is at with this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Riding, Retirement and a Home Revisited

I skipped out of work a couple hours early today to take advantage of some mild weather. I took the pups for a walk then headed west on my bike putting my heart, lungs, and quads through some paces. It felt so nice to be out there. I'd have stayed out longer but I had to be back to take Rachel to dance class for 5:00. It's possible that today will be the last time I'll have to take her to class if she passes her road test this Thursday.

I'd like to have taken some time to hose down my bike. It's full of road salt and that can't be a good thing. Every large vehicle that went past me had a cloud of salt dust trailing in its wake and settling on me. I'll spend some time cleaning it tomorrow and have it ready for a ride on Wednesday after work.

Speaking of work—I've been kicking around the idea of bidding on a staff job. Believe me, it's not something I want to do. It's about self-preservation. I want to work another five years to get Rachel through college and finish paying off our home so we can go into retirement with those obligations met. I worry about losing my medical and not being allowed to continue working as a controller. Without my medical my career is history. You have to have a medical to bid on a staff job. Once you've got the staff job you can lose your medical and that's not a problem. It doesn't make sense to me either.

I'm at a bit of a crossroads as I really want to just continue doing what I'm doing but I'm not sure that's the most pragmatic approach. I know that some wonder why I don't just pull the plug and retire now. Many newly eligible controllers are retiring much sooner than they'd anticipated in the wake of the imposed work rules and lack of a contract. It would have to get a lot worse around here for me to consider that option. I'm at my peak earning years. Somehow it doesn't make sense to walk away now. My goal has always been to work until I'm forced out at age 56. The question now is do I do that as a controller pushing tin or as a has-been pushing papers?

I turned on the news tonight and the lead story was of prostitution bust at a home on 102nd street and France ave in Bloomington. I grew up just a block from that intersection. It turns out it was Bill Swanstrom's old house. I knew Bill in grade school and used to go over there and play baseball in his backyard.

Bill lived next door to Mike Miner where we used to watch the Monkeys and listen to Snoopy vs the Red Baronthe first 45 I ever bought. Apparently the neighborhood has changed a bit.

Friday, March 7, 2008

You Up? What Cold? Pay Cap?

I went to bed late last night but found myself wide awake at 5:40 this morning. I got up and noticed that Rachel was still sleeping and she's usually up by 5:15. I knocked on her door and she said she'd forgotten to reset her alarm after using it last night for a short power nap. I'm glad I got up when I did. It's never fun waking up late and knowing your routine is shot. I asked her if she'd like a coffee from Starbucks to see if that could maybe add a bright spot to her morning. I had just enough time to run and get one. She liked that. One tall vanilla latte breve coming up. She's becoming her mother in so many ways and coffee is just the latest. If we have anything to say about it though, she won't follow her mother's footsteps into nursing.

I have a confession to make. My mother does our ironing for us. Neither Tammy nor I like to do it and I'm actually very poor at it but my mother loves to iron. Maybe it's the same way I enjoy working in the yard for at least the first couple months of summer. Anyway, as long as she's wanting to do it and she really does I hate to deny her that. So, after getting coffees for us I loaded up the laundry and got it over to Moms. I stopped off at Cub and got her some flowers as I hate not having something for her in return. It's such a huge job she does for us and we're very grateful.

I hung around waiting for the temp to climb a bit before my ride but it wasn't happening. The Weather Channel said -4f when I headed out. I really needed to hit the roads. I'm not against hanging out on my rollers in front of some vintage Tour de France videos when the roads don't cooperate but when I've got dry pavement to work with, I much prefer to be outside.

Done right, riding outdoors in temps most people wouldn't consider being out in can be a lot of fun. The key is wearing the right amount of layers and not over-dressing. You don't want to be toasty warm when you leave home. You'll work into that.

I headed north into what little wind there was with plans to do a 35-mile loop through Eagan, Burnsville, Prior Lake then home. As I worked my way toward Eagan I got to thinking that there was going to be little chance of the bike path along 35W between Hwy 13 and Cliff Rd being plowed. It wasn't. I turned around and headed home the same way I came. I was just happy to be out and feeling fine. I cheated winter to the tune of 31 miles today. I'm so ready for spring!

There has been some good news on the FAA front with respect to pay issues for management. Beginning next year they too will have their pay capped the same as controllers have for the past two years. Why it took them two years to do to themselves what they did to us says all you need to know about FAA management. I really couldn't care less about much of the other bs associated with the imposed work rules (it's not a contract). The main issue for me has been the hypocrisy associated with pay. I do feel bad for my fellow controllers working at facilities with rogue management who truly are working in some very difficult conditions. I don't feel we have it nearly as bad at Minneapolis Center. I still love my job no matter what.

The one question I have is what will happen when we're finally 'allowed' to negotiate an actual contract which benefits us in the way of raises? Will management cool their heels for a couple years and abstain from raises while they watch controllers begin to once again see some extra cash? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Actually, I'll believe management is serious about capping their pay when I see it happen.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Continued Cold, Tammy's Paintings and Choices...or a Lack Of

The continued cold weather has grown tiring with no signs of global warming anywhere and I'd really love to know that it's real. We'll be back down near -10f tonight with a high tomorrow somewhere near +8f. I'm going riding regardless. The problem with winter riding lately is that we've had a few warmer days which have allowed a good bit of melting to occur which I'm happy about but along with that are areas where the melted snow becomes frozen patches of ice and creates a major problem for my skinny tires. Those frozen spots remain persistent with the temps as cold as they've been. I'll get out mid-morning tomorrow when there's less traffic should I need to take the lane to avoid an icy shoulder.

I was going through a stack of CDs tonight; some were labeled and some weren't. I came across one with some scans I'd done of a bunch of watercolor paintings Tammy did when she was in college more than a dozen years ago. I'd already uploaded them to our website a few years back but when I initially did it I was still trying to find a happy medium between uploading content for dial-up users vs content for broadband connections. I've since decided that trying to compress photos so much so as to make them easily downloadable for dial-up users leaves me with an end result which isn't really worth bothering with. I used to try and keep the images under 50k and that small of a file too often left a lot to be desired. Pumping them up to something closer to 120k gives me much better results and that's what I've done with this set. I've also included a couple which weren't previously a part of the set online.

Rachel has her license test one week from today. I got a little frustrated with her when we were out driving a few nights ago. I like that she's a confident person but when it comes to driving that can be a problem. She sees her friends getting their licenses and figures if they're good enough to be on their own then so is she. That may be so. I explained to her that it isn't because we think she's not as good a driver as her friends but that we have high expectations for her and it isn't enough just to have a grasp of the basics. We talked tonight and I think she understands where her mom and I are coming from.

I heard somebody say that McCain's wife, Cindy, is always seen by his side so it leaves people with the impression that McCain is some younger more viral man than he actually is. I disagree with that thinking. I think her standing next to him makes him look a lot older—sorta like he's her dad. I dunno.

Has there ever been a sorrier collection of candidates to choose from? It's safe to say that our political process isn't one designed to put before us the best our country has to offer. Hillary is harping about Barack's lack of experience and I have to wonder why he doesn't counter with something about experience being overrated. If the next 4 to 8 years means more of the same experience we've grown accustomed to, I'd rather take a pass.

I thought it was amusing that McCain received Bush's endorsement yesterday. Did he really want that? As an air traffic controller, we're tasked with handling the president's flight as it makes its rounds. It's usually a hassle due to all of the temporary flight restrictions associated with it. I have to wonder how many republicans out there are looking forward to Bush coming to their town to campaign on their behalf? I'm guessing not many. This should be a quiet campaign season with respect to Airforce One for myself and my fellow controllers.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Need for Speed

Rachel has a lead foot. I don't know that there's anything I can say to get her to slow down. I'm afraid there's a speeding ticket or worse in her future. I hope not. There's a hilly, twisty road a few blocks from home with a posted speed of 30 but for the most part, people drive maybe 25. Rachel brought it right up to 30 tonight on that section and I asked her why she was driving so fast. She said, "the speed limit is 30". "Yes, I know but it doesn't mean you have to go that fast." A mile later she was turning out onto a more traveled road with a posted speed of 40. There was a large spot of ice covering half the lane as she pulled out and she got the car sliding about 30 degrees to the right before backing off the gas and straightening it out. She nearly hit the curb. I know it wasn't a necessary question to ask but I asked it anyway, "what do you suppose happened there?" "I was giving it too much gas." Not more than a mile later she was doing 45 in a 40. I'm at a loss. She wasn't happy with me pointing out her speeding but that's too bad. This is too important.

I mentioned to Tammy how Rachel did tonight and she said she'd have a talk with her as well. She picked her up from dance class and from what I gather the talk didn't go so well. She's not at all open to our criticism and that's not a good thing. Rachel is a self-starter and responsible person in every other aspect of her life so I'm sure it's not easy when we're getting on her the way we are. But we have to.

I don't remember getting much instruction from my parents when it came to driving. My dad would take us kids to the school parking lot for our first taste of behind the wheel. That was maybe a year or two before we got our permit. I suppose it was something to whet our appetite for driving; like I needed that. We did a bit of behind the wheel together once I got my permit but I don't think it amounted to much. Back then there wasn't nearly the amount of traffic we have now. I grew up in Bloomington and if I could go back in time I'm sure it would seem very tame compared to how much traffic is out there today...and it's moving faster than ever.

I remember being a newly licensed driver with a car full of friends on a Friday night driving out on some back road near Eden Prairie. I was having a great time in my folks' Country Squire, 390 station wagon (similar to this one) with room to easily carry the six or seven of us. I don't recall what I was looking at but I remember hearing Nancy Johnson from the back seat yell, "Kevin, are you gonna stop?" I was doing all of 55 when I looked up and saw a stop sign getting closer by the second. I slammed on the brakes and got the car stopped but just barely. It absolutely shook me up and looking back on it I was thankful for the lesson. I think a lot of us can relate to a close call we'll never forget and the lesson learned through it.

I know that Rachel too will have her own experiences out there which she'll learn from. I'd rather that she could simply learn from what I'm trying to convey to her instead but that would be too easy. There is going to be a lot of prayer following her when she gets her license in a couple weeks. Maybe a speeding ticket wouldn't be so bad after all if that's what it takes to slow her down. We'll see.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Coming Forward and a Disturbing Trend

I was getting ready to leave work last night when I got into a conversation with Rob. We were reminiscing about the maneuvering he did for me as my union rep when I came forward with my medical/headache condition a few years ago. Rob was commenting on how it was much better that we took care of that back then than to try and do it now in view of today's environment within the FAA. I agreed. I then told him that the headaches are back and that I was very worried that should I come forward again so soon after having my medical reinstated that I could easily lose it for good. I told him I felt I had no other choice than to say nothing about this latest phase and allow it to run its course. He disagreed.

I came home with all sorts of thoughts to work through. I prayed. In the end, I decided that I really did need to come forward and let whatever happens, happen. My biggest concern is with the Regional Flight Surgeon who would hold my career in his hands. From speaking with Craig, my union president, our Flight Surgeon is fairly new in the position and can be very difficult to work with. This could so easily be the beginning of the end of my career. There's a real possibility that I've issued my last clearance for all I know and that would greatly sadden me. All I want to do is sit in the sector and work traffic. I'm not cut out for a desk job pushing papers, but I will if that's what it takes to remain with the agency until I'm ready to retire in five years.

I went to bed after 2:00am and got up just after 5:00am not able to sleep. When Tammy woke up I told her of my intentions to have them pull my medical. She agreed that that's what I should do. She knows the risks. She's got a beautiful faith and she's fine with giving it to God and knowing that He won't let us down. Maybe it's time I try to stop forcing this square peg into the too-small round opening and follow Tammy's lead. What will be will be. I keep thinking that I'm giving up control but I need to remember that I'm not in control. He is.

I phoned work this morning and told them that my headaches are back and that I was going back on my medication. I also said that I'd be happy to come in and do whatever work they may have for me. My supervisor called me at home and reassured me that there was plenty of work to keep me busy for quite a while and not to worry. That's great news but I'm quite sure I'll continue to worry. Oh, ye of little faith.

There's a trend in my family which doesn't bode well for me. A few years from retirement my father had the rug pulled out from under him. The division he managed for Control Data was bought out by a company called VTC. My father was swallowed up in the acquisition and shortly thereafter was terminated. He never recovered emotionally or financially. My older brother developed some medical issues and had to leave the corporate world before he'd intended to. I'm not sure how his retirement faired but I'd guess that his plans were to continue working longer if he could. And Jerry, a few years shy of his retirement was terminated from his management position at Qwest in addition to seeing his retirement savings diminished in the devaluing of Qwest's stock. He was able to find work again in his field but the transition caused a lot of stress for his family. I'm eligible to retire should I have to but my plans have always been to stay until age 56; another 5 years.

I have a foreboding feeling that I'm following in footsteps all too familiar to my family and I don't like where they lead. I pray that God will allow me to finish out my working days with the FAA.

It will be an interesting couple of weeks as I work to get off the meds and assure the Flight Surgeon that I'm fit to continue in my job as a Controller.

Speaking of jobs—Tammy is on her own today for the first time in her new position as a phone nurse working for United Health Group. She's excited but nervous about being thrown into the deep end with just a few weeks of training. I felt bad as she left today knowing that she had a lot on her mind and that I was adding to her stress level with my situation. I'm looking forward to sitting down with her at the end of today to compare notes.