Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've Let Harold Down, A Celebration and an Addiction

Congressman John Kline came out to visit our facility on Tuesday. I'm not sure if my conversation with him this past Saturday had anything to do with his decision to contact our union and set up the visit. It doesn't really matter—just that he made the effort. I heard from our local union President, Craig, that John committed to sitting down with our political liaison, Steve, the next time we have legislation important to our cause and going through that legislation line by line so there can be no misunderstanding about our issues. A commitment of that sort would make for a successful visit if Natca is able to follow through on those plans.

I've let down one of my friends at work with my decision to vote for Obama. Harold came up to me on Thursday with a bewildered look on his face as he asked me if it was true. I gave him a brief explanation for how I came to my decision then I gave him the URL of my blog. He asked if it was really necessary that I put an Obama sign in my yard. I told him I did that more so to get a rise out of the neighbors.

Harold also talked about a mouse problem he's having at home. I think he said they've killed 6 of them so far. I told him that he too should vote for Obama because I know that he can fix that problem.

Only a few more days until the election and what is it Republicans are pedaling other than fear? Nothing from all that I've heard, and I've been listening.

Speaking of pedaling, I took off two hours early from work today. The temps were rising into the upper 60's and the wind machine was cranked up. It made for slow going on the way out but gave me a nice push coming home.

Fast forward to Saturday night—I've let my blog get away while we've got company. My older brother Bryan and his wife Sue came into town from Portland on Friday. They're here for our mother's 80th birthday celebration tomorrow at Jax restaurant in northeast Minneapolis.

We've been having a nice time together. After the trick-or-treaters were done ringing our bell last night we took them out to Cosetta's in St. Paul for a late dinner. Their coming into town was a surprise for our mom and they let her in on it tonight. They were going to wait until tomorrow to surprise her but we talked about it and decided that much of the fun for Mom is in knowing that they too will be there. They knocked on her door tonight to let her know they were here.

I woke up this morning to find that somebody wasn't too happy about our support of Obama. I suppose they could've trashed our sign but they chose a peaceful protest. I can respect that.

Confession time.

My name is Kevin and I'm an Assos addict. Tammy is an enabler and I blame my addiction on her. She bought me two pairs of bib shorts for Christmas two years ago and I haven't been the same since. Assos is a Swiss manufacturer of cycling apparel. Of all the cycling clothing I've worn over the years, there is nothing that comes close to this stuff. I've been waiting a couple of months for a new order to arrive at World Cycling Productions in St. Paul and it finally came in. I took some time out of my morning to go down and pick it up rather than waiting for the brown truck to deliver it. That makes no sense at all as it would be here by Wednesday but when you're an addict you do what you have to when you're in need.

I'll save Tammy's 3 hours spent with the Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman and Rachel's moving violation court appearance for another blog because it's time to run—we've got company!

Monday, October 27, 2008

They Said What?

I had a feeling of guilt come over me while I was on my Monday morning loop this morning (one of my favorite rides of the week btw). I was down along the river by Black Dog power plant doing battle with a stiff 20mph northwest wind in 30 degree temps when it dawned on me that neither Tammy nor I had contributed to John Kline's campaign lately. We'd made a conscious decision that we wouldn't be contributing to any campaigns this year. Not even the $100 refundable contribution you can make to the party of your choice. It's all a part of our disillusionment with the politics of our times.

But it didn't seem right. Money sent. Guilt satisfied.

I came back from my ride and sat down with the paper for a few minutes before getting ready for work. I don't usually find myself in agreement with the editorial board of the Star Tribune but I was this morning.

Second District: John Kline

Republican Rep. John Kline has significant differences with the Editorial Board on some important issues. His absolutist position on earmarks is a concern, likely making it more difficult to complete transportation projects in his district. There's also room for improvement on veterans' issues and the environment. The moderate Republicans for Environmental Protection gave Kline a zero on its most recent congressional vote scorecard.

But recently, the three-term congressman faced a tough and revealing test of leadership. He passed, a key reason he merits endorsement. The test? Voting on the Wall Street bailout bill.

The anguish of that decision still could be seen on Kline's face during a recent interview, when he recounted the tense days on Capitol Hill as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned of economic Armageddon. At the same time, angry voters swamped his office demanding a no vote. Kline began working the phones, listening to bankers, business owners and economists in the Twin Cities and elsewhere. When it came time to vote, he did what he thought was right for the country instead of what was politically expedient. He voted yes. That's leadership.

Kline is a thoughtful conservative -- one who has become far less of an ideologue during his three terms in office. When the retired Marine colonel first ran for his House seat, he hewed too closely to talking points and his ramrod image as the guy who carried the "nuclear football" briefcase for President Ronald Reagan. Over the years, he's become a multidimensional politician, displaying easy fluency on a wide range of issues. He's also developed a reputation for collegiality on Capitol Hill and in his district, suggesting openness to new ideas and a willingness to listen. That's a valuable quality in an era where partisanship has blocked much-needed progress.

With Democrats expected to pick up House seats this election, Kline will provide needed balance in the House. His calls for fiscal responsibility will be particularly welcome. Also valuable is Kline's level-headed approach to foreign policy. Throughout this election, Kline has stressed the role of diplomacy and the power of economic sanctions. Kline's support for turning a pioneering Minnesota soldier reintegration project into a national program is also praiseworthy and garnered him an award from the National Guard.

Kline's challenger, Democrat Steve Sarvi, easily is one of the most outstanding political newcomers this year. A former mayor of Watertown and an Iraq veteran, Sarvi is a fresh face on the political scene. His service in Iraq gives him considerable depth as a candidate. In a televised debate with Kline, Sarvi held his own on foreign policy. He's also passionate and well-informed on veterans' issues.

If this were an open seat, Sarvi may well have garnered the Editorial Board's endorsement. But Kline's expertise, seniority, and growing clout -- he's the ranking member on an influential Education and Labor subcommittee -- make him the strongest contender.

They also endorsed Norm Coleman. Hmmm, are they serious or simply trying to improve their sales?

My neighborhood is full of John Kline yard signs and a fair amount of McCain/Palin signs. Obama signs are few but I'm not sure if that speaks more to a shortage of them or a lack of support for the man. My guess is it's a lack of signs. A friend from work is bringing one in for me tomorrow but it's going to cost me $11. I figure that's a cheap price to pay to rattle the neighbors but I hope to allay their fears with a John Kline sign to place beside it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A 2nd Chance at a Missed Opportunity

I waited for the temps to warm up a bit before heading out on my bike today. I didn't want to wear any more than was necessary because I knew I'd be out there a while and I hate being over-dressed when I ride. The temp was just under 50 when I got away at 11:45.

I started down the hill just off Jalisco with my cellphone camera in my hand to grab a photo of the police car which has been sitting across the street from Congressman John Kline's home. He and several other members of Congress and the Senate had their homes vandalized with spray paint a few nights ago. It's a slow day in my blog world so I'd intended to write about the police presence.

Just after shooting the photo I noticed that John was out painting over the graffiti on his garage door. We'd corresponded a few times last winter and we closed with him inviting me to stop by and introduce myself the next time I saw him out and about. Today was that day. I doubled back and cycled up his driveway. I introduced myself as "Kevin, the air traffic controller who lives up the street". I wasn't sure if he connected me with the guy he'd talked with on the phone or the guy who'd left a manila envelope in his front door asking if he'd kindly do what he could to get the words I'd written to the President's desk. He no doubt talks to a lot of people with a ton of requests and I don't expect that he's able to remember the specifics of any more than a small percentage of those of us who seek his help.

We spoke about what sort of person would do something like this to a person's home. I mentioned that it's the world we live in and fortunately it's a very small percentage of people who would ever act out in such a way. True, he said but then he turned the conversation to the 1 to 2 percent of Muslims who are Islamic radicals and how even though it seems a small percentage, when you're talking 1 to 2 percent of billions of people you're talking about a lot of people who wish us harm to have to contend with. He went on to say that the only real answer is to work with countries where these people reside and ensure that they have no safe haven from which to operate. I couldn't disagree.

We don't condone acts of violence in our cities/country but yet violence still happens. Vandalism to John's home comes to mind. That's probably a weak argument though as I'd say John was referring to countries turning a blind eye toward organized terrorism.

I recounted for John a television show I'd seen on A&E, Justice Files or some such program where there was a search for a serial killer. They were able to catch him by finding the IP address of the computer which had queried the address of one of the killer's victims. I wondered if it was possible to do the same thing to catch whoever it was that defaced his and the other homes? I can't believe there would be too many people out there who would do a search for the six whose homes were vandalized. He thought it was a good idea and said he was going to suggest it to those doing the investigation.

He put the finishing touches on his garage door as we spoke then said he was off to Gander Mountain to do some shopping. I told him it was nice to finally get to meet him and we shook hands. I wished him luck in the coming election and pedaled away. I was less than a quarter-mile down the road when I thought to myself that I should have gotten a photo of him painting his door. It would've been a nice touch for my blog. I also thought about how I'd love to have bent his ear just a bit about the goings-on in the FAA but it didn't seem appropriate at the time. My issues barely register on his radar with all the other more important matters facing our country.

My legs felt good and I could tell this was going to be a good day on my bike but I couldn't get out of my head the fact that I'd missed a good photo op and how I'd have to learn to be a bit more forceful in getting my thoughts out there when the opportunity presented itself. But do I want to be just another person who is a drain on his time? I know that's what he signed up for when he was elected but there's a part of me that's hesitant to be one of so many others.

As I biked I thought about some points I'd maybe make with him if I ever got the chance again. The last time we spoke he'd called me on the phone while I was in the shower. I was totally unprepared as Tammy handed me the phone while I tried to towel off and listen to what he was saying. I needed to do a better job than I was of getting my points across.

I took the back way to Belle Plaine (county road 40) and struggled into a headwind which was gusting to 30mph at times. It would be a fun ride home as I turned out of the wind after finally getting there. My legs were feeling good and I was toying with the idea of doing 100 miles but the thought of getting back in time for the 5:00 service at Hosanna was winning out. So was the idea of possibly catching John out in his yard on my way back.

I was still feeling strong as I left Jordan but my two water bottles of Cytomax would soon be empty and I wasn't sure if I could make it home without having to stop to refuel. I blew past my last chance to do anything about my energy needs when I passed the Holiday gas station in Prior Lake. It wasn't long after that when I could feel the bonk wasn't far off. I'd gone 70 miles at this point without stopping. Only 10 miles to go so I'd have to tough it out.

My thoughts continued to turn to my few minutes with John Kline at the start of my ride and I said a small prayer that he'd be out there when I came home. God answers prayer—not that it's always the answer we're looking for.

John was in his garage when I came by and I pedaled back up his drive once more. I asked him if he had any extra lawn signs. He said he was all out but would likely have more tomorrow. I told him that I wasn't sure if he made the connection that I was the one who'd dropped the manila envelope in his front door last winter asking for his help in getting my letter some attention and that I wanted to thank him for doing that for me. I said I'd heard back from the powers-that-be in the FAA but it wasn't what I was hoping for.

I went on to say that I'm being put down for simply wanting to remain a controller and not seek a management position. I said that I love what I do and I do it well. Why would the FAA not see value in that?

I mentioned that the workforce in the FAA was told that we needed to get costs under control. I was fine with that I said but I'm going on my third year of a pay freeze while management continues to receive raises and making no sacrifice whatsoever toward reigning in costs.

We walked out to the street and chatted while he screwed some screws into his mailbox to secure it to its post as it looks like it's been beaten with a baseball bat.

He replied that Controllers are getting "hosed" in the current situation. I couldn't agree more. He said that he's taken some heat from those in his party for supporting legislation to try and work toward a fix of our problems. I thanked him and assured him that he'd have my vote in the coming election and I was certain that Tammy would be voting for him as well. I told him that I admired that he didn't always do what was politically expedient for himself with respect to winning over his constituents; i.e., his unwillingness to try and secure earmarks for his district as a way of winning votes and the above-mentioned vote to work with our union, Natca.

I told him that I'm forced to retire at age 56 and that it's important for me to do what I can to pay off my debts before being forced into early retirement. It's not as though I can take my air traffic control skills and market them to many places once my career is over. I mentioned that while my pay is capped, I do receive a small bonus each year but I'm not allowed to count that toward my base pay which would help my retirement. The FAA doesn't pay my retirement so why should it matter to them if it goes toward my base pay? It didn't appear that he was aware of that. I stressed that all the while management has been receiving their raises which will enhance their retirement.

I told him that while I'll be voting for him I won't be voting for John McCain and that I'd be supporting Obama. I said that there are many people I work with who hold conservative values but it makes no sense for us to support those who are working against our interests in such a mean-spirited, nonsensical way. I mentioned that I'd recently decided I was no longer going to be used by the party for my pro-life vote. The message I was trying to send was that the Republican party needs to retool their focus and not have such a tin ear toward those who support them. He responded that "tin ear" were the exact words he's been using to describe the Bush administration. He said he understood the reasons for my decisions to vote for Obama. He didn't try to sway me and I respected him for that.

I said to John that whatever help he could give us in helping others to understand what's happening within the FAA would be appreciated.

I thanked him again for his time. He headed back into his garage and I stopped next door to chat with Dan. I've recently gotten to know Dan since he's been walking his dog by our house while I've been out there with Toby and Allie. He retired a couple years ago as a Biologist working for (I think) the federal government. He's enjoying his retirement as is his wife who recently retired from her career as a Registered Nurse.

While we were talking I noticed a bike in his garage. It's an old Peugeot that he bought in 1973 and still uses on occasion when he and his wife hit the Cannon Valley Trail. I mentioned that I got my start in biking over 30 years ago on the same make and model bike. Mine was white.

He said that John is a good guy and a great neighbor to have. He said they go hunting together and seldom if ever do they discuss politics. They were going to get together a little later for a beer. Isn't that the way our political process is supposed to work? You take a common man from the community and he gets elected to represent the people he lives among. He gets elected not because he comes from money but because he listens and has struggled the same struggles many of us have.

I said goodbye to Dan and finished my ride feeling complete knowing that I had a good day on the bike and that my prayer to be able to have just a bit more time with John was answered.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Mind is Made Up

We brought Toby and Allie home to live with us 5 years ago yesterday. They're still the little rascals they were when we first brought them home. We kept them in separate kennels for the first few months before we gave them full roam of the house. I thought of the kennels as battery chargers. We'd put the pups in them, all drained of energy. When we'd take them out they'd be fully charged.

Maybe you've seen this video of them from 5 years ago. If not, enjoy.

Rachel came home from her dad's this morning so she could go to church with her friends. She attends a service with kids her age and it's an important part of her week. She said that on the way home, a car full of kids pulled alongside her and showed her a paper with the words "show us your tits" written on it. She smiled and did her best to ignore them while they went on ahead of her. A few miles later she saw that a police car had somebody pulled over. Any guesses who?

Speaking of Rachel: she brought home from Camille's a DVD of their ride on the Slingshot at the State Fair back in August. I, of course, got it uploaded to YouTube for all to see. Here you go.

I was reading online last night that Colin Powell was going to be on Meet the Press this morning and the expectation was that he would endorse Barack Obama for President. I had to see this for myself.

I got up a little after 8:00 and took the pups for a walk. I made it back just in time for the beginning of the program. As expected he did endorse Obama and he did it in words which couldn't have described better my reasons for my distaste with the McCain/Palin ticket and my disappointment with the Republican party and what it's become. I don't know that there can be a much stronger endorsement for Obama.

I got suited up to go out and ride. It was a beautiful morning and I had some thinking to do. There's no better place for me to do that than on my bike. I was wrestling with how to get my head around my strong pro-life convictions and casting a vote for Obama. How could I justify that? I kept thinking about Colin Powell and what he'd said.

Maybe a better approach for me would be to fight the fight from the inside rather than from being on the outside. Is it really possible to be a prolife Democrat? It's an approach I hadn't given any serious consideration until being forced to abandon my support for Republicans. But this is where I find myself.

I'd like to say thanks to John for helping me sort some of this out.

Is it right for me to be owned by the Republican party over this one issue? Do I ignore all that is dysfunctional about them because they say they're on the side of the unborn? Is that all just lip service to keep people like me in their corner? Have I had enough of being used? No, no, likely and yes.

For those concerned that Obama will lead our society toward a more socialistic one I have to wonder: what part of obscene executive pay packages are you willing to defend in the face of pay cuts for workers who provide the labor? If that's socialism, where do I sign up?

This decision has been a difficult one for me. I've spent more time thinking about this than I ever imagined I could. What has put me over the edge has been the negative advertising coming from the McCain campaign, especially the assertions that Obama "pals around with terrorists". How ridiculous. The "hate Obama" emails I'm getting are having an opposite effect on me than the intended one.

I've had some Republican friends tell me that by voting for Huckabee (as I've stated was my intention) I'd be throwing my vote away. I've not had one Democrat friend tell me this. Maybe they're right. I should make a decision: McCain or Obama.

I've taken their advice and will do exactly that.

I'll be voting for Obama this election.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Turning 5 and Stuff to Reminisce By...Later

'Say What?' turned 5 years old this month. Of all the things I do online, writing in my blog is the one I value most. There is something therapeutic about putting my thoughts down in print. Actually, it's the act of working through my thoughts and understanding them which is therapeutic. I do this for me but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the company of those who follow along because they find some interest in it as well.

Indulge me while I lay down some tracks to reminisce by with a glass of California red on a cold and snowy winter night twenty years from now.

Hello Self.

I headed out Thursday at noon for what I figured would be a 40-mile ride. The temp was in the lower 50s and not forecast to get much warmer. I normally work a day shift on Thursdays but Reid needed a shift swap so he worked my Thursday shift and I'll work for him on Saturday.

I'd intended to do the loop into Eagan then southwest to Prior Lake and back home but by the time I got to Eagan I'd begun to have thoughts of going a bit longer. How much longer I wasn't yet sure. My new plans were to bike across the river via the bike path along I-494 then head west through Bloomington from there.

I decided to use the mobile upload feature of my Facebook account to upload photos of the day as I went. Sort of a journal-on-the-go approach to tracking my progress. Once crossing the river, the path dumps me out not far from Mall of America and near where my father used to work 25 years ago (the gold building) when he worked for Control Data as a financial manager.

I picked up Old Shakopee Road and began to notice an increase in traffic as the early-shift people were heading home. Still, nowhere near what it would be in another couple of hours. I veered off onto 98th street and continued west.

On the corner of France Ave and 98th street, just a couple miles from where I grew up is Bloomington Ice Garden where Herb Brooks coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal hockey team. I can still remember how upset my dad was when they delayed televising the game until primetime that evening. He was on the phone complaining to the ABC network as were thousands of other angry viewers. I took this photo of him later as he watched the game. He was Canadian and the sport was in his blood. I last played here in March of 1998 for the international Air Traffic Control hockey tournament.

A couple miles west of the rink was where I worked my last two years in high school. It used to be called Penny's Grocery. It's now an upscale grocery store for the well-to-do people of west Bloomington. I worked there from 1974-75 and eventually worked my way up to stockboy. Applause. I think my pay back then was something around $2.00 an hour. A pack of smokes was .50c from the cigarette machine next to the door.

Seeing as how I was stopping by some of my old haunts and uploading to Facebook, I took a few minutes to take a couple of photos of the apartment I stayed in the last half of my senior year of high school with my sister. We stayed in unit #208 from January '75 until July of that year. There was a game room and John Bodger used to come by and we'd play pinball. The maintenance guy was named Frank and for whatever reason, he didn't like us. As I think back on him he reminded me of Ottoman from the Simpsons.

Anyway, John and I decided to have the last laugh with Frank. Before a new tenant would move into an apartment it was Frank's job to paint each unit. In very small lettering John and I penciled messages to Frank near the baseboards where he'd have to get down real close with his brush to paint. We wrote the sort of stuff we wouldn't say to his face but would have no problem having him read once we were gone. 'Eff-ewe Frank' and 'you missed a spot' or 'you're a _____'. You get the idea.

I went around to the front of the unit and took this photo. The small hill just beyond the near railing is where I tore cartilage and ligaments in my right knee for the 2nd time in a matter of six weeks in the spring of '75. A couple of weeks earlier I had gotten out of my full-length cast after having torn the cartilage and ligaments in a softball game. It's an ugly feeling when that happens and it hurts really bad. I was recovering nicely after the first incident until the morning I walked out to my car with my arms full of stuff as I was in the process of moving to my sister's apartment in New Hope. There was dew on the grass and I slipped and came crashing down in such a way that I injured the other side of my weakened knee.

I was back into another full-length cast but this time the recovery would take much longer. In fact, I'm still working on that recovery. I remember being concerned about having a gimp knee when I went to join the Navy. The doctor who conducted my physical asked me to jump up and down on it five times and do a duck-walk for him. That was it. Sign me up!

Heading out of Bloomington I worked my way back to Old Shakopee Road and took that west past Hwy 169 and toward Flying Cloud airport. My legs were feeling good and I was really enjoying the ride so I decided to press on toward Carver with plans to head to Jordan from there but first I'd need to stop and refuel at the Holiday gas station in Chaska. All the while I'm keeping my eye on how much daylight was left as my Edge305 was telling me the sun would set at 6:27.

Heading out of Carver I went in the direction of Jordan while doing some computing about what time that would bring me home. Hmmm...I could easily make it back with an hour of daylight. Totally unacceptable. I'd need to use it all, or most of it anyway. I decided to pick up highway 50 and take that west and head toward Belle Plaine. I now brought the possibility of finishing my ride after sunset into play. I was doing the math and figured the ride would be on the other side of 90 miles. I was using up valuable time taking and uploading photos along the way. I'd need to cut back.

Back on highway 40 and leaving East Union I picked up a hitchhiker

I made it to Belle Plaine in good time and quickly jumped on highway 169 to take that northeast; next stop, Jordan. This is a new interchange in Belle Plaine finished in the last couple years.

I made quick time to Jordan and still felt pretty good with 66 miles behind me. This is actually the first long distance test I've given the new saddle I got a couple months ago. It passed.

Climbing out of Jordan I could feel the bonk creeping up on me. The Chuckwagon sandwich I'd had nearly 30 miles earlier had done all it could for me. Yeah, I know...not the best carbs for a ride but it's what my body was craving. I decided to alter my course in the direction of Prior Lake where I could find anything Hostess along with some Gatorade G2 at the Holiday gas station. The window washing guy was in my way when I was out there trying to down my stuff, or maybe I was in his way. Anyway, I made quick work of my chocolate cupcakes and took the drink with me. I like the G2 as it's got half the calories of the regular stuff (which isn't bad either) and so it gets absorbed quicker. Water is boring.

Back on the road after just a few minutes. I was certain I wouldn't have any trouble making it home before sunset. I toyed with the idea of trying to squeeze in a few more miles and make it a full century ride but the ambition wasn't there.

I brought it home after 91 miles with 15 minutes of daylight to spare. I looked at my paused time recorded on my GPS and it totaled 60 minutes thanks to my desire to take and upload photos along the way. I didn't mind as it added another dimension to the ride. I love this wired world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Invitation, a Celebration and a Decided Nation

My neighbor, Mark, has been kicking around the idea of getting a rode bike for a few months. He's got a hybrid bike which he's been trying to lighten with new parts but I think he's squeezed as much weight out of it as he's going to. I asked him if he'd like to accompany me on a ride and use one of my bikes to get a feel for a real rode bike. He jumped at the chance.

His longest ride so far is 29 miles so I figured a 27 mile loop on a nicer bike would be a good distance for him. We road side by side along the shoulder of Cedar avenue as we headed south into a 10mph. I let him set the pace. He was riding harder/faster than I expected him to and before long the pace began to take its toll. I asked him what his heart rate was and he replied, "169". I was worried that he was pushing himself too hard as I was hovering at 102 bpm. I could tell he was caught up in the feel of a light, responsive bike under him. Any half-serious road cyclist can relate to that.

My hope was that he was able to whet his appetite for rode cycling on a bike unlike any he's ridden. I think that happened.

Some newly minted air traffic controllers I work with threw a party last night to celebrate their recent certifications. A good time was had by all and in a few cases maybe too good a time. It was nice to see my co-workers outside of our work environment where we enjoyed some drinks and spirited conversation. Here's a link to a set of photos from the night that I uploaded to my Flickr account.

I'm no fan of John McCain. I simply don't like the man. There's an article in a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine which describes McCain's life of privilege and the double standard he enjoyed while serving in the military. He's an ego-driven man who in my opinion lacks the intellect and composure to lead our country.

Yes, I know that Rolling Stone is a liberal magazine but the author makes some good points that cannot be ignored.

Both Democrats and Republicans have their base voters who will vote for them no matter what. I had an email exchange with a friend this week who is a strong McCain supporter. It was a disappointing exchange because he would only speak to me with Republican talking points rather than direct his responses to specific questions I posed. It appears that his mind is made up and he's reluctant to engage in any discussion which would cause him to rethink his beliefs. To me that is sad.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday Mornings and Facebook Friending Leads to Reminiscing

With my new schedule change I'm back to doing a ride on Monday mornings just as I used to a couple years ago. Of all the riding I do throughout the week my Monday morning ride has always been my favorite. I suppose it's because I can't beat myself up too badly on it as I have to work in the afternoon. It's an early morning ride with less traffic than I'm used to so that too no doubt plays a part.

This past Monday's ride put me over 5000 road miles for 2008. That's significantly less miles than at the same point the past several years but that's all a part of the plan to moderate my mileage. So far, so good. Anything over 6000 miles this year will be just fine.

I have a Facebook account but I'm not really sure why. I think my brother may have sent me an invite this past spring and I signed up then. Until recently I've done very little with it. I was 'friended' last month by Steve, a person I only know through my blog. We share the same passion for cycling. His prompt caused me to take another look at the site and since then I've been slowly wading into the waters of Facebook.

A lot of people my age aren't into the internet the same way I am. They'll surf, shop online, email and do the usual but when it comes to blogging or setting up accounts such as Facebook they're much less likely to do that sort of thing. I say that to justify why I have so few friends on my Facebook account. Or could it be that I don't have a ton of friends to begin with?

Anyway, FB has a 'friend finder' which will help you locate others who may also have a FB account. From there you can begin to build your network of friends who also have an account. I turned it loose on my Gmail list and it hit on a friend from my days in the Navy; Jack McGuire, or Muckly as we affectionately referred to him. Jack was a Quartermaster in the Navy, responsible for navigation. I was a radar operator and our bunks were in the same compartment. Bunk...the place where you that just Navy speak or does the average person know what I'm referring to?

I'd been in touch with Jack a few years ago when I was trying to start a forum for the ship we were on, the USS Fresno, LST1182. The forum fizzled as did my contact with Jack. We'd exchanged a few emails but that was all. Maybe too many years had gone by.

Maybe not.

It made my day yesterday when I checked my email and found a response from Jack along with his phone number and a link to his MySpace. I didn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call him. We talked for half an hour about all sorts of stuff; our careers (he recently left the mortgage industry), family, the coming election and such. All the while during the call I was having thoughts of trying to form a mini reunion of a core group of us who were pretty tight back in the day. We've kicked this idea around before but it's never gotten off the ground. The soonest I would imagine that we'd put anything together would be this coming summer and that would be around 30 years since we all went our separate ways.

Some of the group in addition to Muckly were:

John Winton (top back in the photo to the left) was also a radarman who now lives in Los Angeles. I flew out to see John in 1997. Supertramp was playing the Greek Theatre and we took in the show together. It was too quick of a turn around for me as I had to be back at work the next day. I caught the red-eye home after the concert. I've stayed in touch with John more than I have anyone else from those days. He did a couple of enlistments before finally getting out after 10 years. He's currently working as an engineer for Fox Sports Network in Los Angeles.

Mike McGregor, aka Speedy, another radarman, lives in Las Vegas and is working as a superintendent overseeing commercial building for a General Contractor. He's a golf fanatic and if we do get together I may have to dust off my clubs so we can play a round. We've been in contact with each other off and on over the last 10 years. I would very much like to see Mike again. Funny...I have a vivid memory of being in Speedy's van going off base for lunch and hearing Blue Oyster Cult's Godzilla for the first time.

Stan Whitmarsh, aka Stauch, was a Quartermaster. Upstate New York. One thing I admired about Stan was his ability to pick up on new music before anybody else did. He turned me on the Cheap Trick, In Color before any of us had heard of them. I can still hear him talking about Crabby Appleton's, Rotten to the Core. One of his favorites.
He started in the Navy as a SEAL but broke his leg in training and had to join the rest of us normal guys to finish out his enlistment. I haven't had any contact with Stan for quite a while. The last I heard he was working in the mines in

There's many others who I'd also like to see again. Jim Minton and Mike Maughan. Jim moved from Iowa back to San Diego a few years ago to take a job with the power company. Mike is now a Major in the Army. He left the Navy for college and then signed on with the Army. I don't think any of us saw that coming. Wally Corey, Mike Dugan, Paul Smurawski (Paul would make a career of the Navy), Troy (Teeroy) Montgomery, Steve Cohan, Pete Alford, Derrick Suehs, and Eddie Mathis, Tony Medeiros, Pedro Garcia, Jim Twomey (aka Flash) Mike Ogonowski, and Dave Isaaks (I'd heard that Dave also became an air traffic controller) among others. I knew many of these guys better than I knew my own family.

I should probably take some time to blog about some of my memories from those days as they were very special to me. Four years out of high school and most of my friends were getting their degrees while I was leaving the Navy and feeling somewhat left behind by comparison. Looking back, though, there's nothing I'd do differently if I could. I never got my degree nor will I but I have memories and experiences which in my world add up to more than a diploma at the end of the day.

Jack used to play a song on his guitar called The Whale Song; a song he wrote and I loved it. A couple nights before I left the Navy in early December 1979 I recorded Jack down in our living quarters as he played the song one last time for me. It's a beauty.

 I'll let Jack close out this blog post. Enjoy: The Whale Song

Monday, October 6, 2008

Uncertainty and Charlie Bit Me!

It's quite easy to get caught up in all that's wrong with our world and the uncertainty that the near future holds for us. Our once-invincible economy is showing signs of age and some deep-rooted​ problems. How much pruning and dead-wood need to be cut away to make it healthy again is anybody's guess as is how much pain we'll experience during the process. Maybe we'd all feel more comfortable if this were a cyclical thing where we could go into it knowing what to expect but that's not the case. We're in uncharted waters.

It doesn't help that we've been weakened by hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq with little to show for our efforts and no end in sight. I want to trust that minds much smarter than mine have an understanding of what needs to be done but I no longer give this president and his administration the benefit of that trust.

I took the pups out this morning while I retrieved the paper from under the mailbox. I scanned it while walking slowly up the driveway and a quote from Al Franken caught my eye. "There is an urgency here, but we have to be careful. We have to learn our lesson from the rush to war and the blank check that the president was given there." I don't normally listen to much of what Franken has to say but he couldn't be more right this time. Maybe I should listen to him more often.

We in the government sector have for the most part been insulated from the ebb and flow of the economy felt by others; that is, until recently. Sacrifices will be made by many while hypocritical FAA management continues to feather their nests for retirement while finding no extras for those of us who provide the labor to get the job done. Do you suppose this economic crisis will cause them to forego their yearly pay raise this coming January as we controllers have for the past two years and will be for the next three years? Don't count on it. Where is that act of congress when you need it?

Okay, it's obvious I don't have much to blog about tonight so I'll leave you with this and hope to return with something of more interest in a day or two. More than 54 million views can't be all wrong...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Phone Help, a Type of Learning and You're Breaking Up

I got a call yesterday from somebody inquiring if either Tammy or I would be interested in working the phones for a "get out the vote" campaign for John McCain. She said she got our name from something we filled out at the neighborhood caucus last year. I told her I wasn't too interested in seeing McCain elected. I mentioned that four years ago we were listed as "hard republican" in the database they use. Tammy worked the phones for a similar campaign last election and she looked us up.

I went on to say that Bush had beaten the Republican out of me. I told her that I wouldn't be voting for Obama either and that I'd most likely be writing in Huckabee's name knowing it would be a vote thrown away. Or would it? She asked me if I was concerned that we'd become a more socialist society if Obama were to be elected and I told her that I wasn't too worried about that possibility. I said that my 'throw-away' vote for Huckabee would be my way of sending a message to the Republican party that they needed to re-think their approach to those of us out here who represent working America. Huckabee won endorsements from unions across the country during his campaign. I'm not sure any other Republican can say that.

I watched the debate last night between Palin and Biden. I was irritated that Palin chose to ignore some pertinent questions by the moderator and Biden and instead went on to recite her talking points. But wasn't she cute? I'm not interested in a cute VP any more than I'm interested in another folksy, down to earth president.

This is becoming a political post and I'm not sure that's what I intended for it to be.

Anyway...the bailout. A big part of me wants this whole mess to collapse under its own weight for that is the only way it stands a chance of being rebuilt correctly. A smaller part of me agrees with the approach we've taken in an attempt to minimize hardship we'd most certainly feel if we allowed the larger part of me to win out. I have so little confidence that anything will change foundationally. Sure, banks will fail but won't the loans they're holding be worth something to somebody? I thought that's how capitalism was supposed to work.

The efforts of our elected officials in DC will likely be seen as just so much enabling in years to come but what do I know?

Moving on.

What if anything did you take away from high school? I learned how to type and absolutely nothing more. I relied on my art classes and other no-brainer courses to get me through to graduation but I actually applied myself in typing class. I sat next to Steve Ganske and we'd race against each other during the speed tests we'd take. I can't remember which of us was the fastest.

We learned on state-of-the-art IBM Selectric typewriters. You'd turn the on/off switch to on and the machine would hum. I was fascinated by the little ball with all the letters, numbers and symbols on it as it threw itself against the paper with each push of a key. Sometimes I'd type a bunch of hldjfk;laehr;oahde;lajdf just to see if I could overload it. I couldn't. It kept up and I was all the more fascinated. How cool is that?

We'd finish class and walk past the students who took the typing class which learned on manual typewriters. Why would you take that class I'd wonder. There's no way they knew something I didn't.

I'm glad that Rachel is making the most of her time in high school. She pushes herself in ways I'd never imagined when I was her age. Tammy and I can take so little credit for her accomplishments as she's self-driven. If anything, we have to reign her in at times as she has a tendency to take on more than she should.

She broke up with her boyfriend after last week's Homecoming dance. I felt bad for her. I didn't think that she and Tanner would last all too long as he was much more like I was when I was his age; a bit of a screw-off. The break-up took her by surprise though as she wasn't expecting it.

She was at her aunt's house for a baby shower and had just finished telling some of those in attendance about the Homecoming dance the night before and telling them about her boyfriend. And then Tanner texted her. He said he just wanted to be friends. Tammy said she recalled Rachel being happy and talkative one minute then all of a sudden she got real quiet. Tammy figured she was preoccupied with thoughts of schoolwork she needed to get done. She'd learn later the real reason.

It didn't take her long to find herself again. She had some kids from her Film Analysis class over a few hours later to work on a project and from what I can see she was putting it behind her.