Saturday, November 29, 2008

Riding Notes and Thanksgiving 2008

It's been a mild week in the Midwest and I took advantage of it by getting out for a couple of nice rides. I took Wednesday off from the salt mine and finished hanging the remaining Christmas lights on the outside of our house then rode into St Paul. I caught a couple of guys climbing highway 13 into Lilydale and they asked me if I wanted to tag along. They were both in their early 30's, from St Paul and working the hills. They knew where to find them and St Paul has several worth seeking out. I accepted their offer. We spent the next 45 minutes riding from one climb to the next. I'm always game for hills. Both the ups and downs. I'd have stayed with Brad and Caleb longer but I had to get home so I could catch a few hour's sleep before the all-night shift. I got back with just under 55 miles on the day.

Today was another gorgeous day. I got out at 1:00 and headed west into a light southwesterly breeze. The plan was to do the Jordan loop. I got a bit further south than I'd intended but it was all good as it had been years since I'd taken Hwy 8 to the west of Hwy 13 and I was overdue. I picked up Hwy 21 and came into Jordan from the south. I jumped on Hwy 169 and took that north into Shakopee periodically checking the time and doing the math so as to maximize the daylight but being careful not to be too ambitious about what I could squeeze out of the ride. I don't like getting caught out after sunset as I've got no lights. There are a couple of reflective spots on my clothing but that's all. I got into Prior Lake a little past 4:00 and knew I'd have to work hard to finish my ride before the sun went down at 4:35. With the low overcast, it was actually getting quite dark a few miles east of Prior Lake. I made it home at 4:38 and was glad I didn't try to maximize my daylight any more than I did. A nice ride at a little over 63 miles.

We spent Thanksgiving 250 miles to the north at Tammy's parent's home in Babbitt. Tammy and Rachel headed out 3 hours ahead of me as I needed to get a few hours of sleep after the all-nighter. I was on the road by 11:00. The first 3 hours of the trip were fine but the last 60 miles took 90 minutes to negotiate.

Babbitt is a slowly dying mining town. There's little fresh blood coming in but there are plenty of the older folks moving on and I'm not referring to warmer climes such as Florida. It's sad to see. I never saw the city in its hay-day of the mid to late '70s when there was opportunity for anybody who wanted work. It's been in a slow fade since those days. I don't think the town ever marketed itself to the outdoorsman as Ely has 15 miles to the north. That may have been a crucial lack of foresight. The Iron Range of which Babbitt is a part of relies on the four T's for survival: timber, taconite, technology, and tourism. There's little of either of those four T's occurring in Babbitt from what I can see.

It can't be an easy life for those who choose to live their lives there. There's very little in the way of work and as the town dies little by little, what shops remain have fewer people to service.

It won't be long before the temps will be dipping toward -30f or colder at night. It goes without saying that the residents of Babbitt and the rest of the Iron Range are a hardy people.

Rachel and I headed out late afternoon yesterday and dropped Grandpa off at the retirement home where he stays 45 miles to the southwest in Virginia. Each time we say goodbye to him we think it will be our last goodbye. He'll be 82 in February. It's hard to carry on a conversation with him with his hearing as bad as it is. Too many years in the mines working next to big diesel trucks, the blasting and all the other noise associated with that difficult work have taken their toll. We hope to see him again at Christmas.

Tammy will be back tomorrow night. Here's a bit of video I shot just before leaving.

It was a nice drive back for the two of us. With Rachel's schedule as full as it is we don't get to talk nearly as much as we used to. She read for a while until we got to Cloquet but then turned off her book light and we chatted the final two and half hours home. I don't think there were ten seconds of silence between the two of us. I enjoyed that.

We got up this morning and Rachel and I got busy trimming the tree. It's a tradition we started our first Christmas together 9 years ago. It becomes more and more a time for reminiscing as the years go by. Some of the ornaments have a small story behind them and we laugh about them each time we unwrap one and recall the significance of the ornament.

There's the glass bell with the moose inside that Rachel accidentally cracked her 1st or 2nd Christmas here. She was worried that her mom or I would be upset with her so she didn't say anything. She hid it toward the back of the tree and waited for the truth to come out the following year. There's also the starfish snowman that Toby took a bite out of when he was just a pup.

 Oh, and then there's the Pickle ornament. Rachel and I were in Fleet Farm a few years ago when we saw it on the shelf. She thought it would be a great addition to our tree so we bought it not fully realizing the importance of it until we took it to the checkout counter. Once there the cashier told us that his family also has a pickle ornament. He said that the custom is for the parents to hide it on the tree Christmas Eve and the child who finds it Christmas morning gets a special gift. We had no idea. We don't do that. We even keep it in its plastic box because it looks even more tacky that way. 

Speaking of tacky; we also have a picture frame ornament with the photo it came with still in it. Do you know these people because we sure don't? Regardless, they're a part of our Christmas celebration each year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Welcome Anja, Wii, Wii People, Christmas Lights and To Catch a Thief

I want to congratulate Erin (my niece) and Clayton on the birth of their daughter, Anja, this past Friday night. She's a tiny one. Welcome to the world, Anja. I can't even begin to imagine what the world has in store for you. Erin and Clayton, she looks like a little sweetheart. I'm so happy for you. Congratulations!

My trainee, Kristie, came into work last week talking about the fun she'd had over the weekend playing Wii at her parent's home. It sounded like a blast. I'd tried to find a Wii game console last Christmas as a family gift for the three of us but there were none to be found. Some of the guys at work were saying that they weren't too hard to find now so I went to Target on Tuesday night and sure enough they had a bunch of them. I asked the guy working in the electronics department to load me down with whatever he figured I'd need in addition to the game. I walked away with Mario Cart, two steering wheels and a charging platform for the controllers.

I hid the game away with the intention of giving it to Tammy for her birthday in two weeks. I wouldn't have normally thought to give her a Wii for her birthday but I needed an excuse to not have to wait until Christmas to open it. As it turned out, she mentioned to me on Thursday that she knew what she wanted for her birthday: A Wii. How convenient. She found the game online and wondered if we should order it now in case they once again become difficult to find. I smiled then told her that I had it covered. She pressed a bit further and I admitted that I'd already bought the game. I tempted her by saying that if she begged just a little I would give it to her early. She hesitated but an hour later she gave in and said: "let's do it".

Before you begin playing the game you have to make your Wii, referred to as Mii, character. While Tammy and Rachel set up the game I made a quick run to the store. When I returned they were putting the finishing touches on our Wii-Mii players. I think I'm going to take it one step further and construct my own Wii people in addition to ourselves. I want Jesus on my baseball team.

Wii is unlike any video game I've ever played. Maybe there are others that are better but I think this will work for us. The boxing game is especially fun. I woke up the next morning with a sore right upper arm from all the punches I was throwing. I didn't take any video of us boxing but I did shoot some of Tammy and Rachel playing tennis and bowling.

I was kicking around the idea of taking a pass on outdoor Christmas lights for our house this year but Rachel said she'd like to have them up. That's all I needed to hear. We've only got her with us another couple years. I'll be lazy about putting up the lights once she's off to school.

I was hoping to get them up yesterday but we had an inch of snow overnight making it impossible to get up on the roof. I was able to get most of the job done this morning with maybe another two hours worth of work that I can do sometime this week. I'm glad I took the time to do the lights. It wouldn't seem the same without them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CRM and Change Is Coming

I attended Crew Resource Management (CRM) class yesterday at work. It's an all-day required class designed to promote the concept of teamwork. I can't imagine that any federal agency needs this training more than the FAA—the agency I work for. But until there's any sort of moderation from management with respect to their heavy-handed approach to dealing with disputes in the workplace, a class such as this is meaningless.

One of the first segments of the class was a video about the Blue Angels and how they utilize CRM to get the most out of each training session and aerobatic show they perform. Every member of the team enters the debrief room by first checking their rank at the door. Open and honest discussion is a must or the entire endeavor is futile as they work to perfect their skills. I sat there and watched the video and my mind began to wander back to the disciplinary action taken against me by management this past April.

Most of the rest of the facility had already gone through the class last spring with our group being comprised of newer employees and some stragglers such as myself who missed out on the first go-round.

I'm usually one of the more quiet ones in settings like this but there came a point in our discussion where I had to tell the story of what I'd gone through back in April when the CRM course was in full swing at our facility. I think we were talking about how pointless a class such as this was unless management actually embraces what they're teaching.

I spoke up and told how I'd had a disagreement with a supervisor who was overstepping his bounds while I was providing instruction to my trainee in the sector. Voicing disagreement is a part of the CRM process. I went on to say that I went to look for the supervisor when I got out of the sector to discuss what had happened but I couldn't find him. The next morning I came into work intent on sitting down with my area manager, my supervisor and the supervisor who I'd had the disagreement with. I told the class how without even knowing it, I was practicing the lessons of CRM we were leaning that day. It was all for naught, though, as I would learn upon asking for the meeting that it was too late because I'd already been written up and the wheels of 'FAA justice' were in motion. You shouldn't confuse FAA justice with the justice most regular folks know and understand. FAA justice is a one-sided affair that gives little or no credence to those in the ranks of labor.

Change is coming.

So, there I sat in our good-intentioned class, checking a box in my training records for future reference which would prove I'd had the necessary training; training that would never be put into action because that's not the FAA way. The FAA is all about lip service to things of this sort and nothing more.

The part which irritated me most as I pondered what was being taught was that when I was being abused by management, management was pushing people through the CRM class at our facility. The disagreement I'd had with the supervisor was an ideal situation to utilize what they were promoting in the class but they chose not to. They chose to take out the big hammer instead and beat me into submission. And they succeeded.

When I tried to close out this chapter several months ago, I requested a meeting with the supervisor I'd had the disagreement with as well as any other management type who wanted to attend. I wasn't even asking for union representation. What could be the harm in sitting down like adults and working through how the entire situation was handled, including the disciplinary action? Every move I was making was textbook CRM stuff but management would have none of it. Why was management so concerned with getting everybody through their silly little class when they were proving beyond any reasonable doubt that they didn't intend to use it?

I came into work this morning and passed by the watch-desk as I made my way across the control room. I saw Pat Sullivan (my area manager) sitting there but my reawakened disdain for him didn't allow me to utter a hello until he offered one. I responded in kind. I put my stuff away with ten minutes left before the beginning of my shift. I thought to myself that I could just let this go and continue on like all is well (knowing it's not) or I could approach Pat and let him know how I really felt. My feelings won out.

I told Pat that I had high hopes for him when he came to our area last year but that now I'm disappointed in how he's embraced upper management's divisive culture of heavy-handedness coupled with fear and that he helped to promote it in the workplace and that it needs to stop if we're ever going to truly have a culture where CRM can thrive. I gave him a lot of heat and while I'd like to think I got through to him I'm not that naive.

Did I mention that change is coming?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One Worded, Designing, the Rule of Thirds and Corey's Coming

I was in the middle of something the other night while carrying on a text conversation with Rachel. My preoccupation with whatever I was involved in was winning out over our text conversation and so to her last reply to my previous response I commented with one word, "cool". I didn't realize that with my one-word response I'd committed a texting sin. I'd one-worded her. I suppose I knew on some level that there was a chance my one-word reply to her may have been a hint that I didn't really feel much like texting but I had no idea I was doing something well known among the texting crowd. Later that night when she came home she said, " one-worded me". I knew exactly what she was referring to. Smile. She said not to worry and that Trina was one-worded three times in a row by three different people the day before. Wow, I don't know how or if I'd ever recover from that if the same thing was to happened to me.

Tammy and I have been procrastinating big time on designs for the stained glass panels (similar to these panels in our basement kitchenette) we'd like to place above our entertainment center in the basement. Each time I sit down to design something my mind wants to go in several different directions and each designing session leaves me no closer to anything concrete. For me, designing is a process that evolves over a few nights, days or possibly weeks. If it goes on any longer than that (such as now) I have to begin again. The table in our shop is littered with starts of drawings that never lived up to the hype I'd imagined for them.

Yesterday was a new start. Tammy spent most of the day working on some ideas for the panels and I like where she's headed with her thoughts. It's been my hope that we'd be able to use her glass painting skills in these windows and she wants that as well. It's time for me to roll up my sleeves and get busy with her. We both need a project to throw ourselves into and we're both itching to get these panels done. There's something relaxing about working on a project that allows me to lose myself within it and I enjoy that.

My older brother is a photographer. He's got a gift for being able to spot a good photo opportunity; a gift I don't have. When he and Sue were here a couple of weeks ago I asked him a bit about photography and what it is he looks for when trying to set up a shot. He gave me a simple place to start; the Rule of Thirds. I'd never looked at it like that before but once armed with that bit of knowledge I began to notice its use in photos from many other people. I've even managed to incorporate it a time or two in my own work recently. I don't imagine I'll ever develop the eye for a photo that Bryan has but it's nice to have something to strive for.

Rachel took part in a video to promote the youth group she's involved in at church. Edit: the video has since been removed due to relevancy.

I go through music phases and currently I'm in a Harry Chapin phase. It's nice background music but there's a lot of storytelling going on too if you take the time to listen. I remember when he died in July 1981. Our family was gathering for a family reunion in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and I was using that as an opportunity to make my first long bike ride. He was killed in a traffic accident while driving his VW Rabbit on the Long Island Expressway. They speculate that he suffered a heart attack behind the wheel which caused him to veer in front of a semi.

My favorite song of his is one call Corey's Coming. I was going to upload the song file to my blog but I found a live version of it which I'd never seen before. Give it a listen but not just as background music; there's an interesting story that unfolds.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Crafts, Burglars and Internet Friends

Tammy and I made it out to the craft fair at Canterbury yesterday. Hey, it's one of those things a guy does for his wife because he knows how much she enjoys going. To be truthful, I actually don't mind tagging along as I'm always interested in seeing what sort of ideas people are crafting together to sell. We came away with a few items; a suet feeder for birds that I've got hanging among our feeders outside the den window, a beautiful hand-beaded small purse for Rachel which we'll give her at Christmas and a few other forgettable things that I can't recall.

As we strolled through the fair we repeated the conversation we always have when we go to this kind of thing. We imagine what sort of booth we could have. Tammy mentioned an idea for birdhouses with real stained glass lit from within. Hmmm...that's an interesting idea. I'm not only looking at the crafts for sale but I also spend some time looking at how people construct their stands/booths. It never hurts to pay attention to the small details.

I have a friend at work who owns a dog grooming business in Savage with his wife: Pampered Paws. Tim had his shop broken into last week and while they didn't catch who it was that broke in they did capture the burglar's actions with a security camera. We like to think we take the necessary precautions to protect our property but unless you think like a thief it's hard to imagine how vulnerable we actually are. Here's the video of the break-in that Tim uploaded to his YouTube site.

I came back from today's ride and walked down to the mailbox to find an 8 x 10 cardboard envelope from 5842 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028 and the fine folks at Judge Judy studios.

Let me back up just a bit. Back in 2001, I was in a pretty serious crash on my bike after an unleashed dog ran out in front of me and took me out. It wasn't your every-day crash at 15-20 mph. I was full out at something in excess of 35 mph. I was fortunate to come away with as few scrapes and bruises as I did. I tried unsuccessfully to come to terms with the owners of the dog for my out of pocket expenses but they weren't very cooperative. I filed suit in our local county court. One week before we were to appear we were contacted by the folks at Big Ticket Productions, the producers of the Judge Judy show. Long story short; we appeared on the show.

I had only one request for the producers and that was an autographed photo of Judge Judy for our daughter, Rachel. Our request must have fallen through the cracks and after a while we all sort of forgot about it—until a month ago when somebody saw our video on YouTube and asked about the autographed photo. Steve read in the comments section where I had this exchange with somebody:

Imnotjarry11 "Wow, my lifelong dream is to meet Judge Judy. I want her autograph so bad.
You're the plaintiff right? The guy with the glasses? I want to know if you're good or bad. "

My reply:

onekgguy "I was the plaintiff along with my wife.

We actually asked the producer for an autographed photo of JJ for our daughter and they said they'd get us one but they never did. :( "

Steve mentioned how he knew some people on the inside of the show and that he would like to get us the autographed photo. Steve and I exchanged some information and he went about doing his thing. He contacted me a few times along the way wondering if we'd received anything but each time I'd have to tell him that, no, nothing had arrived yet.

I briefly mentioned to Tammy and Rachel this past week that we may soon be receiving our Judge Judy photo and they laughed at me. "You're still trying to get that?" they wondered out loud. I told them about the contact I'd had with Steve and they sort of said something along the lines of 'good luck with that'.

So, today, the Judge Judy show finally came through for us. Tammy was talking with Rachel on the phone from her dad's house and I handed her the envelope. A surprised smile lit up her face as she read the front of the envelop. She handed it back to me to open it up. I pulled out the photo and gave it to her to read to Rachel:

To Rachel
My best
Judge Judy

"Now do you believe me?" I asked. I set the photo down on the table to take a picture with my cellphone to send to Rachel. As I was picking it back up to place in the envelope I noticed that there wasn't just one photo; there were two. The other was for me.

I've said it before in my blog that this is the sort of thing that I love about the internet. The ability to make connections with people we'd otherwise have no way of making. It makes our oh-so-big-world just a bit smaller.

Steve ~ thank you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Change is Coming

I came back to work Sunday afternoon after having been off the past week. Sitting at the sector it began to set in that the FAA would soon be under new leadership and what that may mean for those of us who have been so disrespected the past two-plus years by an anti-labor administration. I don't think I'd allowed myself to imagine an FAA led by another Republican president's appointee until the election was over. The thought of coming to work after a McCain win was a very depressing one. I remember telling Tammy a few days before the election that if Obama lost I could see myself slipping into a mild depression. I'd work my way out of it but it would take some time.

If you're not sure what I'm referring to, here are a couple links to help you understand: here and here.

There are some within FAA management who are sympathetic to our situation but I have to wonder how many of them wrote to those above them and expressed that sentiment? Not very many I'd guess.

Most of us are cautiously optimistic that we'll see some changes sooner rather than later. I couldn't care less about the dress code or time-on-position policy which changed with the imposed work rules. I'm preparing to retire and a five-year pay cap the last years of my career hurts my retirement plans significantly. Righting this wrong is my main concern.

Change is coming.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stuck in Kadoka and Rockin' it With David Crowder

Bryan and Sue are still stuck in Kadoka, South Dakota as they try to make their way back to Portland. I was thinking of sitting down and penning some blues lyrics for them but that should be their job. You have to experience the blues to write about them.

I-90 is still closed across the western part of the state but Bryan said they're being told it will be open early tomorrow morning. I heard one news report that there had been people stranded in their cars until recently. I loaned Bryan and Sue our Garmin Nuvi to play with on the way home. It came in handy when they were in search of a place to exit the freeway where they could find accommodations.

Bryan's plan was to avoid the north route home as it looked like that was going to be where they'd encounter the most snow. When I talked with him tonight he felt that a more southerly route, I-80 across Nebraska would've been the best choice. They'd be home by now had they gone either way other than I-90.

We went to Grace Church in Eden Prairie last night to see the David Crowder Band. They're a Christian rock band whose music I often post along with my blog. Their sound is an interesting blend of guitars, keyboards, drums and some other unusual gadgets for producing sound. Compared with some of the secular stuff I listen to, this is every bit as good as any of that.

We were psyched because we had front row tickets just to the right of center stage and I had my trusty Sony Handycam with me. The opening act only played a short set and we were liking our view very much. That all changed during the intermission when kids flooded out of their seats to stand in front of the stage totally blocking our view. Oh well, we couldn't be too upset about it—they were kids and they were rocking for Christ. We still managed to enjoy the show even if it meant standing the entire time. Hey, it was a concert. Fortunately for Tammy, there was a monitor on wheels parked in front of our seats and Tammy was able to stand on it and get a few more inches of height. At 5'3" she needs any help she can get at a concert.

I managed to video several songs but my arms got a bit tired trying to hold the camera above my head and the heads of those in front of us. Trying to keep the camera from shaking as my arms grew tired was nearly impossible. I believe the Handycam has a built-in anti-shake feature but I was asking more of it than it was built for.

Here's one of the songs I taped. I put together a playlist of songs from the night on YouTube.

We stopped at Sonic Burger on the way home. Rachel goes there with her friends on the weekend. She said they usually take two or three cars to get there but once there they all pile into one car to get the full experience of being in a car full of kids at the drive-up. If you're not familiar with Sonic Burger, it's similar to the old A&W Root Beer drive-ups they had 30-40 years ago.

I had the Bacon Burger while Rachel had an M&M Sonic Freeze or something like that. Tammy took a pass. Rachel said our food would be served by some young woman on roller skates. That didn't happen. She was a woman in her 50's with a warm smile on a chilly night. I was okay with that.

I'd really hoped to get out and mow up the rest of the leaves in the yard today but winter arrived overnight and we woke up to two inches of snow. It nearly killed me to have to sit on my butt most of the day and do next to nothing. I managed a 90 minute ride but I can't claim to have accomplished much more than that today. There's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day View From My Bike and Treacherous Travel

Tammy and I got to the polls at 9:00 yesterday morning. We figured we'd let the crush of people trying to vote before work wind down before we got there. We were in and out in less than five minutes. So much for having to make a sacrifice to vote by waiting in line for hours as many people across the country had to.

Tammy had a lunch date with her friend Jonie in St Paul and Bryan and Sue were heading into Minneapolis to try and hook up with a friend of Sue's. That left me with no other choice than to get on my bike and take advantage of what will most likely be the last warm day of the year. And so I did.

I went south on Cedar and biked past Greenvale Township town hall north of Northfield with several cars out front. I circled back to take a photo. It looked to be an older crowd of people coming and going. I imagined small town halls similar to this one all across the country buzzing with people finally getting a chance to have their say.

I pressed on south into a 15-25 mph wind and considered turning back once I got to Northfield. The lure of the hills out on Cannon City Blvd was too strong to resist so I veered off Hwy 3 and found a bit of shelter from the wind among the tall trees which line the road. I thought to myself that it had been a while since I'd taken this route and this would likely be my last chance until next spring so I continued on with Fairbault as my new goal for a turn-around point.

Just north of Fairbault is Cannon City, a small community of about 100 people. It too has its own little town hall which had its share of activity as I cycled past.

I descended into Fairbault and was looking forward to being able to turn out of the wind soon. I took a short break at the Qwik Trip to refuel and sat on the curb out front. My thoughts kept turning to the election and wondering if America would be able to elect a black man as president. I wanted to believe that we could but I was having doubts.

I got back on the road and went north out of Fairbault with a nice push from the wind making sustained speeds of 25-30 not too tough to manage. Going directly home would bring me in at just over 70 miles and that seemed fine but the road to Millersburg caught my eye and it was all the excuse I needed. I'd been by this road a hundred times but had never taken it before today.

Just west of Millersburg was the Forest Town Hall. In keeping with my theme of the day I pulled over to grab one last shot of small-town America on election day, 2008.

My phone vibrated to life 12 miles from home. I pressed the button on my mp3 player to silence it and spoke into the phone to tell whoever it was to give me a few seconds because I was pulling over. It was Tammy telling me that I'd never guess whose hand she shook today. She was at Cafe Latte on Grand Avenue in St Paul with Jonie eating lunch when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up and it was Al Franken. He asked her if she had voted yet. When she told him she had he then asked her if she'd voted for him. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she didn't so she lied. As I write this the vote is razor-thin and still undecided. Following behind Al was one of his handlers passing out Al Franken buttons. It made the perfect gift for Bryan as he was hoping to leave for home today with some sort of Al Franken memorabilia from the election.

I got back from my ride at just over 90 miles and walked in the door to hear Tammy tell me that the results were coming in and it wasn't looking good for Obama. There was a conservative commentator on the TV who was saying that voter turnout was very high all across the country and that it was playing well toward McCain. My heart sank. It turns out that Tammy was only joking with me and the guy on the TV was editorializing his own wishful thinking.

A little later we headed over to Mom's house for dinner and to watch the election returns come in. It didn't take long to see which way the wind was really blowing on the results. We'd planned a late night in case it was close but it became apparent early on that that wasn't going to be necessary.

I admired John McCain's concession speech. I thought he showed all the poise that had been missing from his campaign.

Tammy and Sue put together a feast for breakfast this morning while Bryan and I went out to buy some dry ice and a cooler to preserve some pasties Mom made for them to take home. They weren't in a hurry to get on the road but they were a bit concerned with the weather out west. Mom came over and we enjoyed our last hour together eating a late breakfast and taking some photos outside after the car was loaded.

Not only was Mom's 80th birthday a fun celebration for us all but having Bryan and Sue here for a few days was such a bonus. What was odd was that I had scheduled this week off from work over a year ago not knowing that they would be in town and it would work out as well as it did. It was sad to see them go.

We texted each other throughout the day and I checked the weather radar for them a few times to give them updates. There's a strong low pressure spinning over western South Dakota and it doesn't appear to be going anywhere very quickly. I texted them back that it looked like they'd be fine until around Kadoka. Sure enough, Bryan called to tell me that they had to get off the freeway in Kadoka because of treacherous road conditions. Winds were gusting to 50 mph and snow was falling at the rate of 2" per hour. Nearly blizzard conditions. They were fortunate to make it safely to Kadoka and find a hotel room for tonight and possibly tomorrow night if necessary. The good news is they have a Wifi connection!

It's been a busy and satisfying few days around here. I went to bed content last night that Barack would be our next president. I listened to a bit of talk radio today and wasn't surprised by what I heard. People such as Rush and Hannity are becoming so irrelevant (at least to me) that I can't understand how they can keep an audience. I'm ready to move forward without them.

Edit...I spoke with Bryan on the phone this morning (Thursday) and he said there's two feet of snow in places with winds gusting over 60 mph. They aren't going anywhere soon. He said they can't even get out of the door of their motel room. The good news is that the pasties in the trunk of their car won't be thawing out. The bad news is that they can't get to them.

Bryan sent me this photo taken from inside their motel room.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Celebrating 80 and I've Been Punked!

We celebrated my mother's 80th birthday yesterday at Jax Cafe' in northeast Minneapolis. It was a lot of fun to get so many of us together to mark the occasion. Mom isn't comfortable being the center of attention but she handled it well. Here's a video I put together from the brunch and some photos I uploaded to my Flickr account.

If you made it to the end of the video link above you would've seen all of us siblings together with our mom. This would've been us from a much earlier time, circa 1970-71.

In my last blog post, I talked about some unknown person who didn't like my Obama sign. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings I went out to get the paper and found that my Obama sign had been covered with a black plastic bag. I thought that maybe it was my neighbors across the street, Mark and Becky, playing a joke on me but I couldn't be sure.

Last night I came home from the late shift at work and as I got out of my truck I noticed two McCain/Palin yard signs in the back of Tammy's car. Hmmm. I had no idea what she was doing with them. Was she being unfaithful to me? I had no idea that she was actually harboring affection for that ticket.

Everybody was asleep when I got in the door. I poured myself a glass of Merlot, watched the Amazing Race then went to bed after what had been a long day.

I got up this morning and went straight for the shower. Tammy was awake when I got out and I quizzed her about the signs in her car. She was trying to hold back a smile as I pressed her to fill me in as to what was going on. She said that I'd stumbled on to their plan and now the gig was up. I still didn't know what she was talking about.

She went on to say that She and Bryan were the ones who'd been covering our Obama sign with black plastic. She said they laughed so hard when I went out there the first morning and found the covered sign. It got even funnier as I crouched down and took a photo of the disgraced sign and then came in and wrote on Facebook about it. I had no clue I was being had. I'd come in in the morning and talk about our Obama sign while they fought back a strong urge to laugh.

So, the plan this morning was to place one McCain/Palin sign among the two signs I have out there. The real joke would be that they would replace the Obama sign with a McCain sign covered with black plastic. I'd remove the plastic thinking my Obama sign would be there only to find another McCain sign. Funny—and clever.

But somebody forgot to cover the signs in the back of her car and I saw them.

I said to Tammy that I should turn the joke on Bryan and tell him that I confronted my neighbor about covering my signs. I could tell him that we almost got in a fight about it just to see Bryan's reaction. She said that the last time we pulled a joke on somebody the cops got involved so maybe I shouldn't. She was right. Sometimes we get carried away with our quirky humor.

So I don't leave anybody hanging as to what we did that got the police involved in our joke I'll give a brief explanation.

It was April 1st, 2000. Tammy and I had been married less than a year and we'd had little contact with Jonie and Rob, the couple who stood up for us at our wedding. Tammy called Jonie and left a message on their answering machine in a hushed voice saying that she was calling from inside the closet and could Jonie please send her $5. She ended the call by saying that she had to go because "he's coming".

We didn't think much of it. We got in the car and drove to my sister's home in Shakopee. We weren't there long and when we got home we arrived to find two police cars parked out front. The officers separated Tammy and I and asked us questions about our relationship. They were concerned because Jonie had called them fearful for Tammy's well-being not realizing that Tammy was only joking in her message.

Before we got there they'd gained access to our house from a key provided to them by one of our neighbors. They went throughout our home looking for Tammy or evidence that she was a 'kept woman'. They didn't find any and I'm pretty sure they went into it with a heavy dose of skepticism knowing it was April 1st. They were just doing their job.

April Fools has been a much milder event around our house since those days. We learned a lesson. We felt bad for putting Jonie in that position but like any good joke, it seemed fine at the time.