Monday, September 27, 2010

Keith's 50th and More

The elections are coming, the elections are coming! And once again I find myself on the opposite end of the political spectrum from where I previously found shelter and comfort. I was a modern-day-right-wing-latte-sipping-SUV-driving-Christian-crusader, and I was right. I seldom if ever questioned the words of Limbaugh or Hannity and I fully bought into the left-wing media bias theory. Tax breaks for wealthy investors and growth of big-business was all that mattered because as Rush was often fond of saying, "no cab driver ever offered anybody a job".  I'm sure I too would be up in arms at the thought of a mosque anywhere near "ground zero" had I not changed.

It's been four years since I put aside my blinders. I have the previous (Bush) administration and FAA management to thank for bringing me out of the darkness.

I'm still very much pro-life but I'm no longer held hostage over that lone issue—I now understand that it's not always so simple a decision. I'm also very much pro-labor because I understand that without a strong middle-class there can be no flourishing economy; there can be no overcompensated executives at the top without the sacrifices of the much lower paid masses to prop them up. A symbiotic relationship? It would be nice if it really was. Yeah, I know, my thinking is very simplistic. Sometimes there's no need to complicate an issue.

A part of me hopes that Republicans actually do take back control of Congress as the polls appear to indicate will happen. Rather than simply sitting on the sidelines heckling the quarterback (Obama) just brought into the game trying as he might to make something of the 63-3 deficit he was handed, they can lace up their cleats and get some skin in the game. (insert additional comments here about how it was Republicans at the helm when this ship ran aground) But only a very small part of me wishes for that.

Keith and Tracee put on a nice get-together Saturday night to celebrate Keith's 50th orbit around the sun. I remember how he and I used to be at odds so much when we were younger.  I resented him. The familiar admonishment from Mom and Dad, "you're older and should know better" trumped any defense I may have had when we fought. Taking my Slinky and seeing how far he and a friend could wrap it around our house had nothing to do with me being older and wiser but really, I'm over that now. Really, I am. A nicer guy you're not likely to find.

The plan was for me to take Mom home around 7:00 before it got too late but she was enjoying herself too much to leave. She and Tammy got to spend some nice time together talking the night away. She managed to hang in there until 10:30 when we left and brought her home.

A few minutes of party video.

Before Rachel left for college she spent some time working with Charlie trying to teach him to roll-over. He was always so focused on the treat that it made training him difficult. Plus, Toby and Allie were there to show their skills and distract him or maybe he was actually learning from them. Anyway, he's finally got it.

I went over 5000 road miles for 2010 with Sunday morning's ride, the Hampton Loop. It's been a much better year of riding than I expected it would be. I began the year slowly with lots of knee pain but found my stride in early July with the help of a new pedal stroke and I haven't let up much since then. From 2004-2007 my yearly mileage ranged from 7500 to 9000 miles. I'm shy of that pace this year but when I compare those years with this year from July forward, I'm ahead. The past few months have been some of the most fun I've had on my bike in years.

Speaking of fun on a bike—we roadies can often be seen doing what's called a track-stand at stoplights while waiting for the light to change. Rather than unclip from our pedals and putting a foot down to steady ourselves we'll balance with little to no forward movement. I'm getting bored with track-stands lately and I've found something a little more showy to incorporate into my act.

Check it out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

In a Nutshell

I began my blog with the idea that years from now I'd be able to look back on my life and relive experiences through photos and written details that maybe dropped from my internal hard-drive over the years. I want to be able to understand the road my life has traveled by observing how my thoughts have evolved over time. There's actually meaning and importance to me in those small details I muse about.

I haven't done much contemplative writing for a while. It seems my main focus has been on stuff we've been doing as a family—activities and such. My blog gets a fair number of people perusing it now and I wonder if maybe I'm being less candid because of that. I don't want it to be that way. If I ever do begin writing from a what-will-people-think perspective, I'll have to stop.

I've written nothing about the oil spill in the Gulf or the proposed Mosque near the site of the terror attacks on the Twin Towers in NYC. I've talked little if any about healthcare reform or the massive amount of debt we're accumulating as a country. To be honest, I think I invested too much of myself in all of that during the last election and I don't want to do that again anytime soon.

In a nutshell...

The Mosque? Let them build it. Defining all of Islam by the actions of a few people (yes, a few hundred out of 1.6 billion is significantly less than a drop in the bucket) is disingenuous at best. We're either a country of free people or we're not. I tried to understand those who send me emails denouncing all of Islam and with those who post links ridiculing the proposed mosque but I can't.  I'm a Christian but I in no way want my faith associated with that of the minister in Florida who set aside a day last week to burn the Qur'an. I don't believe that peace-loving Muslims feel any different when they're lumped in with radicals who've co-opted their religion.

Healthcare reform? Republicans had 8 years of dominance to begin to fix the problem but were too busy instilling fear in the masses and chose to do nothing. I was glad when Obama took it on but disappointed when his call for town-hall meetings was met with nothing but angry shouts from the right that made any reasonable discussion impossible. What harm could come from actually debating the problem? Everybody keeps saying that we can't continue on the road we've been on. Let's do something.

The budget? What a mess. Too few of us can comprehend the numbers being bandied about. The interest to service the debt of the stimulus will cripple any hoped for recovery and likely have the opposite effect than the one that's intended. Both parties share in this debacle as do we all. We keep hearing that we can't raise taxes or let the Bush tax cuts expire because of the negative impact it will have on the economy. Is there any proof of this? If one listens to Rush or Hannity you'll hear over and over again how lower taxes only help to put more money in the hands of those who will invest it and create jobs for all. It sounds reasonable enough and I bought into it for years never once questioning the logic. During the Clinton years the individual tax rates for the highest earners was 39.6% while the number of private sector jobs increased by 21,844,000. During George W. Bush's administration tax rates on the highest earners were cut significantly but there were 673,000 fewer Americans employed in the private sector. How can that be?

I went from being 'hard right' just a few years ago to 'anything but republican' which is where I remain today, still skeptical of anybody in a position of authority who pretends to know better than others and more skeptical than ever of those who have theirs and fight to keep it that way at the expense of all else. There was a lot of self reflection that led up to that change.

I got up after the all-night shift Thursday morning and spent a couple of hours playing catch-up with the day while considering soft-pedaling my way through 35-40 miles in the afternoon. As I was preparing my water bottles Tammy suggested I enjoy the day and stay out for a long ride. I hadn't considered that option. The temp was in the mid 50s with light winds. I told her I'd maybe take her up on that depending on how I felt once I got into my ride. I didn't get away until after 1:00 but quickly found my rhythm and liked how I was feeling. I began doing some computing to see how far I could stretch the ride to get the most from it and chose a route that I could shorten up if need be or one that I could easily extend if I was riding well enough. I arrived home 101 miles later with 5 minutes of daylight to spare but I had to make a strong push the last two hours to beat sundown. It was a very good day on my bike.

I'm so blessed to have a partner who encourages me as Tammy does because I get a sense from a lot of guys on some of the cycling forums I frequent that they have significantly less time for their bikes.

My neighbor and coworker, Mark, has been slowly catching on to the cycling bug. We've ridden together a few times in the past month even though I'm typically one who prefers to ride solo. I'm happy to help Mark get started. We went out early Saturday morning and he managed his first ride over 60 miles which is quite good considering how little he's ridden. I spent part of the ride encouraging him to consider the Minnesota Ironman ride in April for his first century (100 miles).

Mom went in last week to have her heart shocked into a more normal rhythm. The procedure took only a few minutes and was successful. Her heart has been operating so inefficiently the last few months but we're hopeful now that it's pumping as it should that her energy levels will become more normal. She's still very tired much of the time.

Tammy and I made it out to both the Lakeville Art Festival and the Renaissance Festival on Saturday. We couldn't believe the amount of cars parked outside the Renaissance Festival. For as many as there were, the grounds inside absorb the people well. I don't see me as ever being the type to dress up for the festival as so many others do but Tammy would like to. She wants to make costumes for us both and possibly Charlie too for next year. Charlie gets no say. I do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Road Woes and Joys

I was walking the pups several weeks ago when I stopped and chatted with a neighbor, Dave. We got to talking about the condition of the streets not only around our homes but of other nearby neighborhoods as well. A few years ago when Dave was president of our neighborhood association he phoned a city administrator to find out when we might see resurfacing begin in our area. Our streets are over 20 years old and in some areas they're full of patches. He was told then that we can expect our roads to be resurfaced in the next few years, which would be about now.

I phoned Chris Petree who works for the city to express my concerns about the condition of our roads and inquire about the timeline for repairs. He said what we're seeing is a flaking off of layers of a topcoating of small stones (chip-seal). He explained that as the chip-seal fails it begins to flake off and the streets erode from the top down rather than the bottom up. While there's certainly some of that going on, the issues are bigger than a flaking top layer. He mentioned that the chip-seal doesn't extend the life of the road which caused me to wonder why they do it at all?

Chris went on to say that the roads in his neighborhood are even worse and that there were no plans whatsoever for resurfacing work in our neighborhood for at least the next 5 years. He said that there are 250 miles of roads in the city and at best they can resurface only 4 to 5 miles of them per year.

I'll stop rousing the rabble now.

We've been using Netflix for several years and I have to applaud them for picking up on a mistake I made last week. I returned the wrong DVD (one of our own) in the return mailer and they caught it. They sent me an email explaining the mixup and that they'd be returning our disc to us. And they did. For an outfit that processes as many discs as they do it's impressive to know that they're able to pick up on this sort of error and fix it.

I went to bed Friday night intent on going long on the bike Saturday with a goal of 150 miles. I didn't quite make it. I got a later start than I wanted while waiting for the temp to climb enough to where I could get out without anything more than my typical warm weather stuff. It was worth the wait. A strong west wind made it tough going though as I fought to hold a 14 mph average into the steady 20+ mph invisible force.  I couldn't make a stoplight. My Edge 705 tallied 8:51 seconds of paused time in the first 31 miles of the ride. Ridiculous!  I made it as far as Winsted before turning for home via a scenic route all the while keeping an eye on the remaining daylight and trying to squeeze as much from the day as I could.

It was a good day on my bike at 140 miles.

Rachel is loving Rochester. She Skyped with us Saturday night and used the camera on her laptop to show us around her apartment. We had to laugh at the sight of 3 guys sitting in her living room with laptops on their laps. Rachel and her roommates are the only females on a floor of guys and they lack little in the way of attention from them. Rachel has always been comfortable hanging out with guys and considering that the school is 75% females she and her roommates are doing well to have more than their share of them around.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Digs and an Army of Sorts

We're officially empty-nesters.

I was certain we were going to need both vehicles to get all of Rachel's stuff moved but we managed to get everything in Tammy's Forester; barely. We said goodbye to the pups and got on the road just after 10:00 AM Thursday with coffees in hand and The Beatles Anthology to accompany us.

We arrived in Rochester with a half-hour to spare before Rachel's noon appointment with her freshman class and a scavenger hunt mixer they had planned. After checking in at the front desk we were shown to her apartment and went inside to have a look at her new digs. What a dump but I'm sure she'll manage: study area; living room left; living room right; kitchen; bedroom and a view of the city.

While Rachel was off getting acquainted with her class, Tammy and I got busy moving her things up to her room on the 6th floor.

The University of Minnesota at Rochester (UMR) is unlike any other campus I'm familiar with (that's not saying much) in that it's situated on the top two floors of a mall a block from Mayo Clinic. The students and staff will tell you that once you've taken the escalator up to the campus you forget that there's people shopping beneath you and it becomes just like any other learning facility.

After we finished unloading her things we headed down to the mall and out into the city for lunch. I'm not sure if it's an every-afternoon occurrence but there were vendors lining the streets outside with an eclectic mix of food. We paid for our lunch then tucked in close to a building to hide from some passing showers.

Back inside the mall we came across Rachel and a group of kids in search of scavenger hunt items designed to help them become familiar with the city. Rachel passed right by laughing and carrying on with her new friends oblivious to our presence.

We kept ourselves busy checking out some of the many shops in the downtown area before one last rendezvous with Rachel for dinner and a trip to Target for some items for her apartment and groceries. We helped carry her things up to her apartment and with that it was time to say goodbye. I was a little worried about how Tammy would handle this part but she did well. We'll miss having her around but it's more an acknowledgement of a passing of this phase of life that is the source of sadness. She'll be only 75 miles away.

Rachel had a few tears that she wiped away while asking us if we could pray together before we left. It seemed a very fitting way to send her off and so we did.

Photos from the day.

Tammy and I made it back to the State Fair for a second time Saturday to try and fill in some of the gaps from our first visit opening day. I learned yesterday while on the drive into work and listening to the radio that we were part of a record setting one day attendance crowd of 234,000 strong on Saturday. I actually don't mind the crowds and if we were part of a record, then all the better. My wait for a pork-chop-on-a-stick was no more than 3 minutes and that for me is the real measure.

KISS was headlining the main stage and there were members of the KISS Army throughout the masses waiting for the night's show.  Some in full KISS dress and others, not so much. I can honestly say that I never served in the KISS Army nor do I have any of their music but I will confess to occasionally watching Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

While in the University of Minnesota shop we spied a sweatshirt for Tammy to wear to overcome the chill she was feeling after the sun went down. We'd no sooner finished paying when Garrison Keillor accompanied by two other people walked up and asked to see some hats. I backed up just a little to try and discreetly get his photo. He wasn't what I expected—he was very tall and lanky.

We got a couple of beers and walked aimlessly taking in the night and lights and a less crowded fair while sharing thoughts about being empty-nesters. We'd received some encouraging texts from Rachel since leaving her behind and we read on her Facebook page how she's absolutely loving her new home and the very early experiences of college life (16 people crammed into an elevator). It's difficult for us to feel much sadness when she's so happy and so we don't. In fact, we couldn't be happier for her.

And another phase of our lives begins.

Photos from our day in addition to some from opening day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I'm leaving soon with Tammy to take Rachel to college at UMR. I am forever grateful for having been blessed to be in her life.

Fly little birdie, fly!