Saturday, September 27, 2008

Remembering Cedarvale and Making Memories

I didn't get out on the road until 11:00 this morning. Kind of a slow start but I've got to pace myself as I have to work until midnight tonight. I'll be filling in for Reid in a few weeks but other than that this will be my last Saturday night for a while as I'm changing my days off and not necessarily for the better. I have some misgivings about the change as I like the crew I've been working with and it's only going to become a better crew with some of the newer guys being added to it. I'm going back to the days off I had for years and to an older, less enthusiastic group of guys. I can't complain. At least I have a choice.

I like to think I'm aware of changes to the world around me when I'm out on my bike but apparently, that's not so true. I was riding northeast on highway 13 today just east of Cedar avenue under a low overcast sky. It's an area that usually has a fair amount of traffic moving along at 55 mph or more with the added complications of a cloverleaf and the associated on and off-ramps. When I go through this stretch I'm usually focused on seeing where I'll fit into the traffic flow and safely threading my way through.

I happened to look off in the near distance beyond the traffic merging to my right as I traversed this area and I noticed that the landscape had changed. Where did the Cedarvale mall go? Maybe I'm looking in the wrong area...maybe the mall is a bit further down I thought to myself.'s supposed to be here. I took a right at the light and doubled back.

The mall and several other buildings were no more. Wow...when did this happen? I used to know every nook and cranny of this area when I lived in the Ballantrae apartments a few blocks from here in 1986. I was a member at U.S. Swim and Fitness for years at Cedarvale mall in the late '80s and early '90s. As I slowly pedaled my way past where the mall used to be I imagined where the building was in relation to the parking lot which remained.

It was a thriving place back then with a Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut and Valley Bike next to the mall. Those too are now gone. The parking lot was always full and buzzing with traffic.

Sometime in the '90s, I noticed more and more that the mall was looking tired and worn. The mall's anchor, Ben Franklin, was still there but other stores in the mall seemed to change more frequently. Cedarvale was looking dated when compared to some of the newer shopping centers not far away. I don't suppose the Mall of America, just across the river, or Eagan Town Centre a few miles east helped matters much.

I stopped coming here regularly around 1992 when I let my health club membership lapse after having surgery on my knee. I was a runner. In another life, my wife and I would go to the club together. She would use the equipment and take aerobics classes while I would head out for a run down by the river or any one of several other routes I had.

It was after a 9.5 mile run on a crisp winter afternoon that I came back to the mall and entered through the entrance by the snack bar. I still had my headphones on listening to my music as I walked through the doors to see maybe a couple dozen people looking on as a woman pleaded for anyone to help her. She was standing behind her mother who was seated in a chair in front of her. Her mother was maybe in her 60s and she was obviously in distress. The daughter screamed that her mother was choking and could somebody please help her. Nobody was moving in their direction. It was a surreal moment as I watched this with the music playing in my head. I suppose it helped that just moments earlier I was running hard and was now in a cool-down, endorphin filled state of mind. I didn't hesitate. I moved behind the mother and had her stand. I'd seen an instructional sign in our lunchroom at work showing the correct way to perform the Heimlich maneuver. I placed my fist near her sternum and thrust it toward me once, maybe twice until a piece of sandwich dislodged. I picked up her drink and had her take some sips and seated her back down. It couldn't have been more than two minutes from the time I walked through the mall's entrance until I was headed on my way to the health club at the end of the mall after helping the woman.

I can't remember having ever used that entrance after a run and I'm not sure what reason I had for using it that day rather than the entrance at the other end of the mall by the club which I always used. I can only guess that it was a God moment.

It was sad to see the mall gone as I looked out over the grassy area where it once stood. I'm the sort of person who likes to go back to places that were a part of my life at some point and reminisce. I'd spent a lot of time at this one particular mall and now any chance for reminiscing while walking through it was gone.

I got back out on highway 13 and headed north into St Paul.

I phoned work to see if I could get a couple of hours off the front of my shift as Rachel was having a bunch of kids over before the Homecoming dance to take photos. Tammy was glad that I was able to be there. I took some video while she took photos with the camera on a poor setting for the fault. Oh well. Such is life in the digital world.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Thursday Night

I came home from work yesterday just as Tammy was getting back from having driven herself to the doctor. I figured she must be doing better. She wasn't. Her doctor says she has influenza. It was good to see her getting around but she has no stamina. Along with the flu she has a head-cold and both a sinus and ear infection. She's still feeling quite miserable. She stopped at the store and
bought several bottles of hand sanitizer which she placed around our home.

I had a laugh when I got in the house. I saw on the counter an over-stuffed envelope to the Republican Party of Minnesota. Tammy took the contents of a mailing we received from them and crammed it all back inside the return envelope to let them know what they can do with their future mailings for our address. I'll send it back in tomorrow's mail. And to think, she was working the phones four years ago for Republicans to get out the vote.

It's good to see glimpses of the woman I love while she struggles to get better.

Tammy told me she would be fine and that I should get out on my bike and enjoy the day. There was no arm twisting necessary. I planned to do an out and back to Jordan with the winds out of the west at 10-15 mph but just as I was getting into Jordan I began having those thoughts I get this time of year: I won't be able to do this ride after work in another couple weeks because the sun will be setting too early and I'll be kicking myself when I get home after 45 miles with the sun still up knowing I could have stayed out longer. That's all it took. I descended highway 282 into Jordan and headed north on county road 45 toward Carver and further away from home.

This has become one of my more enjoyable loops. It's got a lot of variety depending on the time of day. From quiet highway stretches with no stoplights to interrupt my rhythm to bumper to bumper traffic through Chaska and Shakopee with people trying to make their way home while passing the time with a cellphone to one ear.

There's been a lot of construction southwest of Chaska on Hwy 41. I saw a sign which said "road closed one mile ahead" before I came upon some road resurfacing. Usually, I can thread my way through this sort of thing and this was no different although for a time I wasn't so sure. It'll be nice to have this section resurfaced as it's been bad for a long time.

I arrived home over 70 miles later with 15 minutes of daylight to spare. I felt good. Toby and Allie greeted me at the back door with looks that said, 'we're ready for our walk'. I grabbed a quick shower and checked to see how Tammy was doing. The pups enjoyed their walk.

I got an application in the mail for membership to AARP. It's not the first time that either Tammy or I have gotten one of these but this time I may actually send it in. Hey, there may be a discount out there to take advantage of. One thing that was curious to me about the application form; nowhere on it does it say what the letters AARP stand for. I figured it was something something Retired People but I wasn't sure. Wiki had the answer.

A shout-out to Craig for stumbling onto my blog. I try and post something here at least once a week. It's mostly just some random stuff that's been a part of my world over the past few days. Sometimes it's meant for others; sometimes it's meant for me to be able to look back on in a few years and reminisce about that time in my life—some particular ride or thing I/we did. Like I said, random stuff.

Craig was curious about Rachel's "moving violation" I made mention of a few days ago. Yup, she got herself a ticket for an improper lane change. Tammy and I were heading out the back door to meet Reid when Rachel, Trina, and Sarah came walking up the garage steps into the laundry room. Rachel had a disgusted look on her face as she handed me some papers. She was saying something about how she didn't do anything wrong and that the guy was a real jerk to her and blah blah blah. We had just had a conversation the night before about how drivers her age are more likely to get pulled over than older drivers. I don't know if that's true but I've heard it several times. Anyway, my point was that she needed to be extra careful and not give the cops a reason to ticket her. That's all.

Apparently, she was trying to make a lane change across three lanes of traffic to get to DSW shoes. The girls have a Homecoming dance to get ready for this weekend. Rachel was in the left lane on Aldrich ave thinking that she needed to turn left at 141st street at the light. Both Trina and Sarah told her she needed to turn right. She looked over her right shoulder, signaled her turn and proceeded to make her right turn. There was a police car behind her and he wasn't too fond of the maneuver. He pulled her over and to hear Rachel tell it, she said that he said she could have caused an accident with a move like that. Hmmm—do you suppose he had a point? She said they "weren't playing the music loud or screwing around" and that she didn't think she deserved to get a ticket.

It's hard to say. If she signaled as she said she did and looked to make sure she wasn't pulling in front of anyone, I can see where she would be upset for being ticketed. I would be, too. She has a court date for one month from now. We'll go there and explain her side of the story to the judge.

Tammy and I aren't the type of parents who think our child can do no wrong. I want to give Rachel the benefit of the doubt but I also don't want to discount what the officer who pulled her over saw. If this ticket (along with her little bumper to bumper action two weeks ago) helps to make her a more careful driver I'm fine with that.

I asked her if it's possible that God was trying to say something to her through these two incidents and if so what might He be saying. She didn't hesitate. "I should be more careful." I agree.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feeling Better

Tammy's fever finally broke this morning but her headache remained for most of the day. It's good to see her getting around again. She did a slow walk on the treadmill this afternoon to try and get the fluids moving through her body as she's kind of swollen all over. She thinks that may be caused by one of the drugs she's taking. She mentioned tonight that she's beginning to feel better. That's great to hear. I'm thankful that so far Rachel and I have escaped this nasty virus.

I've been making a half-hearted attempt to keep up with what's going with the government bailout of the struggling financial giants which apparently have much more influence over us all than they have a right to. Like most people, one of my main concerns is that the executives/CEO's/manager types of these failed companies should not be allowed to continue on at a rate of pay anywhere near what they've been getting if they're allowed to continue on at all. It's not that difficult a concept to grasp. These people drove their companies into the ground and have shown that they are incapable of running a successful business. Why continue to reward them?

But no, the Bush administration not only thinks that these overpayed examples of the Peter Principle should remain in their capacity but that they should also continue to receive their same compensation.

It maddeningly reminds me of the lunacy at work in the FAA. Don't ask anything of management while trying to get costs under control. Excuse me but that is such utter bullshit!

I feel better now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Need of an Anti-Virus and Appreciating Health

The older I get the less I take my health for granted. To have a healthy body is something we should pause to appreciate and of course, give thanks for. Tammy knows all too well. We had a bit of a scare last night as she was taken by ambulance from Urgent Care in Apple Valley to United Hospital in St. Paul.

A few nights ago we had a friend from Tammy's work over to the house to grill steaks. Job is from Kenya and we don't get together often enough. Tammy was in the middle of a five day stretch of time off from work and totally enjoying herself. She had spent the day working on a homecoming dress for Rachel for this weekend's dance.

Friday came and we had plans to go out to dinner with Reid. Late in the afternoon she told me she wasn't feeling well but thought that she was okay enough to follow through with our dinner plans. We did get together and although Tammy wasn't feeling all that well she had a nice time.

Saturday found her in bed most of the day trying to cope with a headache and some serious body aches which kept her down. Sunday was a repeat.

I phoned her only once from work yesterday (Sunday) so as not to bother her. Rachel said she was resting and we both felt we should let her be. I'd see her in a few hours.

When I got home from work she was in tears from the pain she was feeling. I've never seen her like that and it worried me. I took one look at her and said we needed to get to Urgent Care. She agreed. She put on some comfortable athletic gear and a hat to cover her mattress hair and we were on our way. She's not one to cry very often but she couldn't keep back the tears as the pain she'd been dealing with was overwhelming and she was desperately in need of relief.

We got to Urgent Care and were relieved to see that nobody else was waiting ahead of us. I filled out the forms and we waited for them to be processed and for the nurse to call her name. I've never before followed her back for a consultation but she wanted me there.

The irony in all of this is that Tammy is a telephone triage registered nurse who gives advice to people who call in to help decide on the best way to handle their health concerns. Tammy has a 'tough it out' approach which differs from the logic she uses with others as they seek help. She should have sought help sooner. It's like the frog in the pot of ever-increasing hot water. By the time she realized it was serious the pot of water was beginning to boil.

After getting all the vital information the doctor came in and I could tell that she seemed concerned. Tammy's blood pressure was 80 over 50 which is quite low and her heart was beating rapidly at 112 bpm. She also had a fever of 101 and was very dehydrated even though she had been making an effort to take in fluids throughout the day. The doctor stated that she needed to get to the emergency room at either Ridges or United. I asked the doctor which hospital she recommended and she said if it was up to her she would send her to United. United it would be.

All the while they were trying to get an I.V. started for her but she was so dehydrated and her blood pressure was so low that they weren't having much success. One of the nurses pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to ride along. Up to that point, I had figured that I would drive her myself but they said she needed to be taken by ambulance. They got no argument from me. I told them that I'd leave ahead of them and meet them there so we'd have transportation when this was all over.

I phoned Pat at work on my way out to tell them that I wouldn't be in tomorrow. It was going to be a late night.

Heading to the hospital on 35E I kept looking in my rear-view mirror expecting to see the flashing lights of the ambulance behind me but I never did. I parked my truck in the parking ramp at the hospital and waited outside for the ambulance to arrive. It was 11:20pm. One finally came and pulled into the garage and I walked around back to where it was and waited for them to offload their patient. It wasn't Tammy. It was a very large man strapped to a gurney with several police officers following close behind.

I waited for maybe ten minutes then went inside and asked the receptionist if she'd already been admitted thinking I may have missed them while I was parking my truck. She wasn't there and they had nobody arriving by her name that she was aware of. I was sure I was at the right place but some doubts were creeping in.

A few minutes later they finally arrived. I stood there as they opened the doors and wheeled her off the ambulance. It was nice to be by her side again. The paramedics told me to follow them. I asked if they had any idea what was wrong with her but they said they didn't. They were able to get the I.V. in her on the ride over and that her blood pressure was coming up.

I waited outside her room while several of the staff attended to her. Across the hall was the large man I saw being wheeled from the ambulance a half-hour earlier. He didn't know it but he was the life of the ER that night. He'd been tasered by police for I would assume being disorderly and now he was screaming to be untied. "You're torturing me!" "This is my worst nightmare." "I promise I'll be good if you'll just untie me." "I don't want to be here; I want to go to jail!" I think he'd been drinking or whatever else. He was a very big man and I was glad they had him under control.

The doctor finally got to take a look at Tammy and after examining the blood work and going over her symptoms he said the likely cause was some sort of virus. He gave her some drugs and kept us there for a few hours for observation. They began to work nicely on her body aches but they did nothing for her excruciating headache. But it wasn't long before I had her joking. I'm not sure if that was the meds or the fact that she was so glad to be feeling better.

I thought the doctor was going to send her home with some pills for pain but he didn't. He gave us two prescriptions to have filled. I should have done that at the hospital. I got Tammy home by 3:30 then set out in search of an open pharmacy as she would soon be in need of another fix. The first three I tried were closed. I went to Ridges Hospital figuring the pharmacy there would be open and it was but the pharmacist said she didn't have all that we needed. She clued me into Walgreens on Cedar ave and 42 which was also open 24 hours.

They had my order ready in five minutes. As I paid the pharmacist he thanked me and told me "good morning". Somehow that didn't sound right. 'Goodnight' would've been more appropriate.

I finally got to bed at 5:00. The same time I'd have been getting up had this night been more normal. I was glad that Tammy was getting some relief and that she would finally be able to sleep some of the virus away.

All the while Rachel was at home asleep and knew nothing of what her mom had been through. As I type this she's still unaware and that's best as I didn't want to worry her. She'll be home from school soon and I'll fill her in then.

Speaking of Rachel: I was going to blog about her first moving violation in what would have been this entry had I blogged about what I was intending to. Maybe I'll let her slide. Maybe I won't. There's always the next blog.

I've been working on this entry off and on throughout the day. Tammy is still struggling with her headache but she was finally able to get some rest late this afternoon. Her temp is still fluctuating between 101 and 102. The pain meds help but they're not the cure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photos From Jim and Speaking of Choice

A guy walks into a bar wearing nothing but a pair of jumper cables. The bartender looks at him and says, "you can stay as long as you don't start anything".

My Garmin GPS tells me that the sun is setting at 7:21. For a guy who likes to ride after work I always get a bit depressed as the days get shorter. I try to tell myself that the break from riding will be good but I have a hard time convincing myself of that.

I managed to get on the road by 3:30 yesterday afternoon. I didn't intend to ride as far as I did but I kept telling myself that I needed to take advantage of the beautiful day and the daylight I had. In another month, any ride longer than 40 miles after work will be a rarity.

I got a phone call from Jim Barbour on Monday night. I'd written about Jim back in July. He was wondering if I'd received his email but I hadn't. It turned out that he had the wrong address for me but once we got that figured out he had some nice photos for me to add to what I'd written. I'm still hoping to get a recent photo of him and his wife to add to the story.

Anybody who has been reading here pretty much knows my political views. I'm becoming a conservative Democrat if there is such a thing. But I'm having a difficult time finding a person who represents those views who I can vote for. Collin Peterson is one of a few pro-life Democrats but he doesn't represent my district. John Kline does. It's nice to know that they at least exist.

You couldn't pay me to vote for a Republican this time around; not after having lived through the hypocrisy of what the Bush administration has forced on the FAA's Air Traffic Controllers. If you're in management you can do no wrong—but if you're one of the people in the trenches who's not afraid to do the difficult work of separating airplanes then they (management and those they dance for) don't have enough disdain for you. You don't count and your input doesn't matter. It's all a part of the union-busting tactics at play to try and marginalize and demoralize the workers. All they've accomplished to this point is a pissed off workforce, both young and old, who have absolutely no respect for management.

Obama is our guy, or so our union says and I'd love to vote for him but I can't. I could no sooner vote for Obama than I could the most fanatical pro-choice person in a crowd of protesters. Why is it that the lunatic fringe of the Democrat party set the agenda for Democrats? Why is there no room in their big tent for opposing views such as those of mine and so many others like me who would love to pull the lever for a Democrat but this one huge issue is keeping us from being able to do so. Yeah, it really does matter to us. And it should matter to the rest of the country because had there been a pro-life candidate running for president as a Democrat I have no doubt in my mind that a Democrat would've been in the white house the last 8 years. But what about pro-choice people—who will they have to vote for? I don't know and I really don't care.

People shame me because I allow this one issue to trump all others. Couldn't the same be said of Democrats who won't allow this issue to be dropped from their platform? What's in it for the party? More losses?

Once again I'm left with no option for voting Democrat this election. It won't happen. How many others just like me are saying the same thing?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bumper Cars and a Lesson Learned, Warranty Work and Paying it Forward

I was out on the mower this afternoon when Rachel got my attention to tell me that she was going to the mall with Katrina (in separate cars) and that she would leave for her dad's house from there. She gave me a hug and I asked her to text me when she got to her dad's 40 miles north.

A little past 8:00 pm and we hadn't heard from her so I texted her to see if she was there yet. No response. An hour later she called and I could tell right away that something wasn't right. Her voice was shaking and she was crying. She'd been in an accident; a small one. She said she was leaving the Burnsville mall and looking at her GPS when the car in front of her suddenly stopped and she rear-ended it. She said she was fine and so was the driver of the car she hit; in fact, there was no damage to the other person's car. The other driver went so far as to say it wasn't necessary to exchange insurance information because they didn't see any damage to their car. I think I may have handled it differently had I been the other driver and I'll talk to Rachel about that but I'm not complaining.

As the photo shows, Rachel's car sustained very minor damage as well. I'm thankful that the incident rattled her as much as it did and that she wasn't trying to downplay it. I told her that the difference between what happened with her and something much more serious was very small in terms of reaction time. She agreed.

I want to believe that Rachel is telling us the truth, that her GPS distracted her (not that that's okay) but I can't help but have thoughts that it was really her cellphone which caused the problem. Either reading a text message or replying to one. Her phone is constantly beeping with incoming messages. Tammy agreed.

We've both talked to her a number of times about being distracted behind the wheel and how quickly things can go wrong. After hanging up with her the first thing out of our mouths was that this was a good lesson for her. We're relieved as it could have been so much worse. What will be sad is if she doesn't learn from this.

I think we can all recall situations we were in when we were new drivers where we were either in accidents or had close calls which resulted in us becoming more cautious. I know I had a couple of experiences that shook and woke me up to the idea that this was serious stuff.

Just this past week I was contemplating the coming snow season and wondering how Rachel will adapt to slippery conditions. I hope tonight's experience will check her (my perception) over-confidence behind the wheel enough to make a difference.

I don't typically buy extended warranties but when I'm buying a newer technology item I do. Such was the case four years ago when we were finishing our basement. We bought a 60" Sony HDTV to serve as the centerpiece for our entertainment center.

Within six months we had to have it serviced because of two fluorescent green spots about 2" in diameter we were seeing on the screen when the picture was very dark. They weren't obvious but they were there. The warranty company sent some techs out and they diagnosed the problem as 'dirt on the optical engine'. They took care of it with a can of compressed air. Another spot appeared last year but there was just the one spot and it wasn't as big as the others had been so we lived with it.

Our warranty is due to expire in another month so I called the company back to see if they felt the spot needed servicing. They sent a tech out (Tom) to look at it and he said that a more serious problem was that we had some 'burning in' issues with the sides of the screen from too many hours of not using the full screen mode. I hadn't even noticed that. He said he's seen this happen a few other times but for the most part, it's not very common. Most of the main network stations are better viewed in other than widescreen mode so that would be the reason for our problem. Too many hours of Big Brother, Amazing Race, and Survivor. We really do have lives but we also have some guilty pleasures.

Anyway, Tom came back out on Thursday to install a new optical unit which would both eliminate the green spot and the dark stripes on each side of the set. The work took about an hour to complete.

He commented that the set fits perfectly in the entertainment center and I told him that my brother has a cabinet shop in Farmington and that he did the work for us. "Oh, who's your brother?" he asked. "Keith Gilmore" I told him and with that a big smile came across his face. He actually works out of Keith's shop part-time repairing vintage arcade games for a guy who rents space from Keith.

He was helpful to us in another way too. He told me that we could improve the sound we were getting from our system by routing the audio from our DVR directly to the receiver rather than through the TV which is where the guy from Charter Cable had run it. We weren't getting true surround sound the way it was set up.

He wrapped up his work and told us that we made a good investment with the extended warranty as the fix he performed would have cost us $1100. That was one extended warranty I felt good about having.

After he left I got busy rewiring the sound the way he suggested and re-balancing the speaker levels throughout the room with the sound optimizer that came with our Yamaha receiver. It's a cool little gizmo that you place where you usually view the TV from and it takes in an array of sounds from the various speakers at differing decibels and then adjusts the speakers accordingly.

I got an email a few days ago from one of the drivers in this year's demolition derby at the Dakota County Fair. He'd seen the videos I shot and uploaded to my YouTube account and wondered if he could get a copy of them. He drove car #20 in the 4th heat and won the overall Saturday night but I didn't video that final race. I burned for him 45 minutes worth of action on a DVD which will be much better than the compressed files online. I'm always glad to be able to pay it forward in this sort of way. I love that about the internet.

Monday, September 8, 2008

30 Years, Renaissance Festival and &fmt=18

It seems that each day at work a new shipment of goods arrives at our loading dock for distribution throughout the facility. From large flat-panel TVs to computers and office furniture. There's no lack of funds for all things shiny and new. Still, no money however for pay raises for those of us who do the demanding job for which this facility exists but plenty for those who watch from a safe distance. We're about to enter our 3rd year of no such raises while management shrugs their collective shoulders and looks forward to their yearly raise.

Speaking of work; I was given a letter of recognition yesterday to commemorate my 30 years of government service. They were five months late in their recognition of my achievement as I crossed that milestone back in April but management apparently had more important things to do then than to acknowledge my service.

Rachel has a new boyfriend. It's been nearly one year since she and Grant broke up. I'm actually a bit surprised that she waited as long as she has before jumping back in again. Meet Tanner. He's a nice kid. There's a bit of an 'opposites attract' thing going on as Rachel is very studious and Tanner is not but such is life. We're looking forward to getting to know him...I think.

The four of us went to the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee last weekend. It's been 7 or 8 years since we've been there and I don't understand why we've waited so long to go back. We had a great time. I don't remember it being so large but from the people I spoke with it hasn't changed in size since we were last there. I would say that the amount of people in character has grown considerably. That wasn't us. We play the part of nerdy white people very well.

Tanner and Rachel went their way and we went ours. We stayed in touch through text messages throughout the day. There's quite a lot to see and do and although it's a family atmosphere for the most part you need to know that you're bound to hear some (at times) explicit remarks of a sexual nature along the way. I'd like to think that most of it goes right over the heads of the younger ones. Sort of how I didn't realize until years later why on the show Petticote Junction the town was named Hooterville. Speaking of hooters; if that's your thing, the Renaissance Festival is your place.

Tammy and I wandered our way around the outer perimeter of the grounds and then hit the shops along the inside. There were several stained glass shops but just one which we felt had some very unique and well-crafted pieces. A place called Timberwind. If I'm not mistaken I've seen their work before at the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis. Tammy and I like to think that we could do something like this in our retirement, not necessarily at the Renaissance Festival because I think that would be a difficult place to get a foot in the door but possibly something on a smaller scale.

Later in the day we got a call from Rachel telling us that she ran into Brent (my nephew, her cousin) and his girlfriend, Erin. We wandered over to where they were and spent some time together watching some Irish dancers. Erin mentioned that she used to work here a few years ago and that she enjoys coming back.

It's not a trip to the Renaissance Festival without a glass (or two) of Mead. It's a drink made from fermented honey with fruit, herbs, and spices blended in. They tell you ahead of time that it tastes a bit like a cross between beer and wine. It's unlike anything I've ever had. It's okay but I think you have to acquire a taste for it. I prefer either a glass of wine or a beer but I'll certainly try it again the next time we're at the festival. When in Rome...

We spent nearly 8 hours walking the grounds and taking in the scenery and still we didn't see it all. Parking is free but they'll ding you for $20 at the gate to get in. It's well worth it. We thought the food prices were very reasonable at about $5-6 for most things. There's plenty of other stuff to spend your money on as well besides food and drink.

I found a new appreciation for riddles while were were there. We came upon a couple in a small booth shouting out riddles for people to try and answer. I'm not good with riddles but Tammy is. It's still fun to try and think outside the box for the answer. Here's one for you...

I am heavy going forward but backward I am not. What/who am I? Or, name something a man steps into which a dog does? Can't think of the answers? Watch the video.

I nearly left my video camera at home figuring I'd just work on some still photography but I'm glad I thought otherwise.

The video link above is formatted in a way so as to give it a higher resolution when viewed. How I got the better resolution was by adding this code to the end of the video's URL... &fmt=18 Try it. Bring up a video on YouTube and view it with and without the code to see what I mean. I think what's happening is that by adding this code you're tapping into the full file which YouTube also has available rather than just the more compressed default version. They may not code them this way automatically so as to save on bandwidth. I'm not sure. A shout-out to my older and wiser brother Bryan for that tip!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Malicious Intent and Finding a Cure

I woke up yesterday morning, let the pups out and read the front page of the paper while I waited for Toby and Allie to do their thing. It was a beautiful day. I'd be riding within the hour. I fired up my computer to check the prevailing surface winds and as soon as the screen lit up I could see that there was a problem. No more Graham Watson Tour de France cycling background for my wallpaper. Instead, I now had a bright blue screen with a large box declaring that my computer was infected with two viruses (or more specifically, malware). Within the box was a handy tool, "Antivirus XP 2008" with which I could fix the problem. Yeah, right.

I opened my home-page (Google) to type in "Antivirus XP 2008" and noticed that there were a couple million links to this little bugger. It didn't look like it was going to be that difficult to fix. However, clicking on one of the links would do me no good whatsoever. There was a nifty browser hijacker associated with this malware and the only links I was going to have access to were those it allowed and none of them interested me. I was able to navigate to bookmarked pages but once the page opened up the script was oftentimes incomplete of just gibberish. Frustrating is too kind a word.

Norton and AVG were of no help to me.

I used Tammy's laptop to navigate to some of the links associated with the search above but I wasn't having much success. After a few hours, I decided that allowing some sick fuck to rob me of a beautiful day of riding would only make matters worse so I suited up and went out and worked off some frustration.

I was tempted several times to cut my ride short and head for home to fix my laptop but I was steadfast in not allowing whomever caused me this aggravation to totally ruin my day. And they didn't.

As I got out on the main road which would take me out of Lakeville, I could sense it wasn't going to be difficult to get lost in this ride. Not lost in the sense that I wouldn't know where I was but another kind of lost—lost in the moment. And I was doing a good job of that until my cellphone vibrated to life somewhere just north of the road pictured to the right. It was work calling. They were looking for the results of a visit I'd had with my doctor two days earlier. I pulled over for a few minutes and took care of business only to interrupted a few more times in the next half hour by calls from work and the clinic where I was seen. I imagined what it would be like to be retired and not have to jump through their hoops any longer.

I was riding highway 40 out of Chaska with a darkening sky to the west. I seriously considered taking highway 45 to the southeast toward Jordan and then home but by doing that I felt I was still giving in just a bit to the temptation to go home to work on my computer and so I didn't, even if it meant getting wet on the return.

I got home and checked to see if my AVG scan picked up anything of interest on my laptop. It was locked up. I went and showered then sat down pretty much intent on reformatting it. I attempted several fixes first but I was still having some serious issues with the computer freezing up. I'd wasted enough time.

Most of my stuff is backed up but I spent a half-hour going through the motions to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything important. And that was that. I used my last couple hours before going to bed doing the basic reformat knowing that I'd have to finish the rest later.

I can deal with this sort of inconvenience. It's a hassle but nothing I can't take care of myself. I feel bad for people who may not be able to help themselves and have to pay someone to undo the damage.

On a brighter note, my brother's former wife, Kim, loaned me some family video that had been taken in the mid to late 1980s. I spent a couple of nights last week going through it. I uploaded this one to my YouTube account. Check out the news from 9-28-1986 and listen as Lindsay gives an early peek into her singing ability.