Friday, April 29, 2011

Amazing Talent

I don't get it—was the Royal Wedding really that big of a deal? If it was, the importance of it was lost on me, but I can't speak for Tammy. She, like (I would guess) the vast majority of females on the planet, was captivated by it. Even Rachel had a Royal Wedding all-night party at her apartment to watch both the build-up and the ceremony. I suppose I have no room to talk. I watch bicycle racing.

We were in the glassblowing studio both Thursday and Friday this week. I'd like to say that we continued to raise the bar on our abilities but we didn't, at least not that I could tell. We both found ourselves struggling more than anything but through our trials, we're finding more and more determination to learn this art. We've all got our talents and I hope that someday I can say that glassblowing is one of mine. Someday. But for now, I find it every bit as challenging as learning air traffic control—maybe even more so. I was mentioning to Tammy last week how I'm glad that this isn't easy. I'm glad it isn't something that can be mastered without a whole lot of time, sweat and mistakes. It will be that much more rewarding when we do finally arrive at a place where we're reasonably proficient. We're nowhere near that yet but we're both determined to get there.

Here's another video from Adele.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday, 2011

We had our final small group meeting for church last Thursday night. We've been getting together since last fall and going through the book of Acts as have been the other small groups at church. I hadn't realized we'd been meeting for that long. We took a group photo but we're two people shy as Marilyn and Phil couldn't be with us. It's been one of the better small groups we've been involved with. Tammy led our group and did a nice job developing discussion questions each week along with occasional input from Tom and me.

We'll throw our hat in the ring again next year when they put out the call to organize. It's a nice way to make some more personal connections in a church so large.

Tammy had what I would consider a breakthrough day glassblowing this week. She'd been discouraged because she felt she was stagnating and not keeping up with whatever small successes I was having. I disagreed with her but it was how she felt. Steve worked with us and showed us another method of color application before doing a demonstration for us. Tammy followed Steve and did a really nice job of incorporating many of his suggestions. I couldn't have been happier for her.

We're both excited to get back in the studio on Thursday.

We went over to Mom's on Friday night and spent a couple of hours with her. Rachel came into town and met us there. Mom made for us the best turkey sandwiches I've had in a long, long time. She had a scare at her hairdresser's a couple days earlier when she was left under the dryer too long. It was very hot and her stylist apologized for forgetting about her. Later when she got home she became very confused and had a difficult time forming a sentence while talking with Tim. She didn't feel right until the next day. For the most part, she's maintaining her health from where she was a few months ago. The improvements we were all praying for that would have her out walking regularly again with improved stamina really haven't come about but she seems content so I suppose I have no choice but to be ok with that.

I spent a few hours this weekend drawing a self-portrait. I kept putting off sitting down to do it and my reasons weren't entirely for a lack of time. I think I've been stalling because I've been away from drawing for so long that I'm afraid to try again for fear that my new attempts will be lacking. But I did take some time to try. So-far-so-good but I've got several more hours of work to do on it before it's done. It's possible I'll have a scanned image of it for my next blog. Maybe. No promises.

We woke up today to a beautiful spring morning. Being it's Easter Sunday it couldn't have been a more appropriate day for spring to show itself again. I hope it's a long time before we face another winter/spring combination like the one we've just come through.

The three of us went to the early service at Hosanna. It was quite a choreography of parking lot attendants as they worked to expedite traffic between the hourly services which began at 8:00. Lakeville police were stationed at each entrance/exit to help. I refer to it as fast-food church because the service is abbreviated from the norm to accommodate the additional people but it was very well done. They finished the service with cardboard testimonials (similar to these I found online) which are always powerful.

My riding has been so sporadic lately and although I'm feeling a little anxious about that, I've been staying active indoors so as not to be a total sloth and lose all of my fitness. I'm enjoying not being so one dimensional in my workouts for a change. I did manage to get out yesterday afternoon under overcast skies and a steady northwest wind with temps in the mid-40s for 67 miles. All that was lacking was sun and heat but at least I was dry.

I'm liking very much the new fork, stem and handlebar configuration on my red Serotta.

Video from yesterday's ride.

I'm also still liking very much the music of Adele. My new favorite of hers...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Caught Napping

Tammy continues her daily watch of the Decorah Eagles. She was concerned for them this past weekend when some nasty weather rolled in. She was continually checking to see how they were managing. I have to laugh. I can't think of anything online that has captivated her more than these little guys have. Well, possibly me when we first met online 12 years ago. (insert smiley face here)

Yes, winter made another appearance this past weekend with a few inches of snow along with some cold, blustery winds. I had to wonder what the pups were thinking when I let them out Saturday morning. I know what I was thinking. I'm sick of this! But, thankfully this time of year any snow we get is usually very short-lived as was this. Tammy and I were on a walk this morning under a bright blue sky with the snow all but gone.

Hosanna is gearing up for between 15,000-18,000 guests this coming Easter weekend. It places a huge demand on the church as well as the main roads which lead there. I went solo to Palm Sunday services last night as Tammy was busy. She went this morning instead but turned back because it was gridlock trying to get into the parking lot. That sounds like a good problem for the church to have.

It's been a while since air traffic controllers have been so prominent in the national news. Unfortunately, it's for all the wrong reasons this time. A few have been caught napping. It's one thing to close your eyes while on break; that sort of thing happens all the time and isn't an issue. But falling asleep while on position is a whole other matter and it's happened several times in the last few weeks. I've been doing this job for 29 years and have never heard of sleeping on position being an issue. Why now?

I can't speak for other facilities where these incidents are occurring but my guess is they've been left understaffed by a mass exodus of controllers during the "imposed work-rule" days of a few years ago where we lacked a contract. Except for that, I don't see anything in the makeup of the job that has changed recently that would account for the increase in the number of instances of controllers asleep while planes circle overhead waiting for clearance to land. Apparently, the schedules we've been working are not conducive to being well-rested and I get that.

The schedule I work is exactly what they're referring to when they speak of schedules that tax a person's body. Apparently, it's called a "rattler" because it will come back to bite you. I'd never heard it described that way in all my years of working it. I begin my week with two afternoon shifts followed by two day shifts with the last day of the week being a double-shift day where after working the day shift I return again at night to work the all-night shift. It gives me a longer stretch of time off during my weekend and I prefer that. Nobody is forcing me to work these hours; they're what works for me but I do have to be careful to manage my time so I'll be able to sleep when I need to. I really don't consider it a big issue but maybe that's because I've been doing it for so long that I've forgotten how normal people live.

But now it appears we're going to see some changes to our schedules to allow for more time between shifts. I suppose this may help but if a person isn't responsible enough or for whatever reason, unable to sleep prior to returning, there isn't much that can be done. It's the nature of the beast and what we all signed up for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Enemies Are Men Like Me

I got a book in the mail today. A book that I'd read 30 years ago which opened my eyes to how to better visualize things to be able to draw them. The lasting impression it left on me was how to view negative space and focus on it in order to bring out the positive. I'd never considered that before. It's not available on Amazon for my Kindle so I ordered the hard copy and it was in today's mail. I've been spending some time tonight reacquainting myself with it. It may take a miracle given the time of year and the beautifully warm weather we're experiencing for me to actually find time to put pencil to sketch pad but I'm going to try.

It's Tuesday night so what am I doing here? It seems my posts have either been on Saturday or Sunday nights for so long now that it's unusual for me to color outside those lines. But here I am. And why is that?

Derek Webb.

I was listening to his music tonight while I read. One of his songs really hit me. I'd mentioned him in a recent blog post and I felt it was time to mention him just once more. You see, there was a time when I cheered our military as they waged war on all that we as a nation disagree with. I was a patriotic American. I not only listened to the hate speech of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity—I also embraced it. I thank God for opening my eyes.

It's late and I have to be up at 3:45. There's really not much else for me to say. I'll let Derek do that for me.

Derek Webb, My Enemies Are Men Like Me

I have come to give you life
And to show you how to live it
I have come to make things right
To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

Because I would rather die
I would rather die
I would rather die
Than to take your life

How can I kill the ones I'm supposed to love
My enemies are men like me
I will protest the sword if it's not wielded well
My enemies are men like me

Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
It's like telling someone murder is wrong
And then showing them by way of execution

When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
The ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Glasses for Rachel and The Catch

Have you seen the Eagle-cam? Tammy has been watching this a lot over the last few days while she's at work in her office. The eggs were laid in late February and hatched in the last week or so. It's especially fascinating watching them feed. There are a lot of people tuning in.

Just one day at Foci this week for us. I can't recall offhand what or how many of my attempts made it into the annealer but I do know it was a better week for me than last week. We're both feeling more comfortable each day we rent time there and are hoping that our increasing comfort soon allows us to step up our results.

We're still doing glasses, for the most part, just trying to get those right as no two seem to be the same yet. We've been hesitant to try other things but Steve and Jackson have both given us demos on bowls so we finally gave those a shot on Thursday. We each managed to get one in the annealer.

We were laughing about how Rachel will have quite a collection of glasses for her dorm next year at school. Glasses for Rachel—that's what we're calling this phase of our glassblowing.

I kept my bike stabled this weekend until I got a ton of work done outside. Our Christmas lights were still up and needed to come down. This weekend was the first chance I had to get up on the roof because of all of the snow we'd had. This was easily the longest into the new year it's taken me to get them down.

Speaking of snow—it's nearly all gone. All that's left in our yard is one small patch in front that will probably be no more by morning. Before and after. I don't know that I've ever complained about a winter more than this one. Good riddance!

But with that thought in mind, one might think that I would be spending time indoors only when necessary during the coming warm months. Not so fast. I was telling Tammy last night that I may be doing less riding this year because I want for us to keep our focus on glassblowing and not allow it to get lost to our other activities like it did last summer. She was fine with that. We've got a fair amount of time and money invested to get us to where we are and I don't want to have to begin anew again. Plus, I'm seriously thinking of getting back into my drawing. I went out the other night and got a bunch of supplies to begin doing some more sketching. We've got a photo of Rachel hanging in our family room that I'd like to draw. The lure of my bikes is awful strong though.

Speaking of riding, I did eventually make it out this afternoon for the Hampton Loop. A 41 mile/66 km ride into a southeast wind in mid-50s temps. I felt so good that even two flats couldn't discourage me. Yes...two of them. I fixed the first one then surprisingly got another just a few miles later. That left no doubt in my mind that my best effort to find the offending debris in the tire on the initial flat came up short. I pulled over and after looking more closely found a white piece of something that looked like glass lodged in the tire. I felt the inside of the tire to see if I could feel it there but I couldn't. I pried it out and was certain it was the culprit. Back on the road, I began to wonder if I had my patch kit with me or was it in the saddlebag of my blue Serotta? I was out of spare tubes and I hoped I didn't have to find out. I wouldn't have to.

I picked up the tailwind at county road 46 and made some nice tracks for home managing anywhere from 24-30 mph. It wasn't long before I noticed another rider well ahead of me and the chase was on. It's a game we roadies play. You're either the hunter or the hunted out there. Get used to it. I'm still able to say that I'm much more often the hunter but I expect that will gradually change over the next few years.

I look back in my minds-eye and think of the rides I've done over the years. Wouldn't it be cool to have video from those days to look at now, I think to myself? Yeah, it would be. So, with that thought in mind, I'm going to be occasionally taking some video of my rides and uploading them to the net to archive them there.

Today's ride.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Secret No More and Lotsa Curves, You Bet

The cat is out of the bag at work. About two years ago I learned that the FAA's requirement for mandatory retirement at age 56 doesn't apply to me because of the time I spent working in the Flight Service option back in the early '80s. I have no idea why such a rule would exist but a friend at worked tipped me off to the little-known loophole. He respected my wish not to tell anybody about my situation. My plan has always been to work until forced to retire but with this new option available to me, I've been considering staying at least another year to age 57. I thought it would be good fun to show up after my 56th birthday to see what sort of reaction I'd get from the guys I work with. But this past week I had someone come up to me and ask if it was true that I qualified to keep working beyond the mandatory retirement age. I knew it would be futile to try and deny it so I confirmed it for him. I really don't have any idea how much longer I'll hang around but I'm quite sure retirement will be in a window of from two to four years with very little heads-up given from me when I do decide to pull the plug.

I've mentioned here before how terrible a student I was in school, especially high school. I learned to type there but little else. Seriously. I always gravitated toward the easy grades in art class but that really seemed to be where at least some of my talents were. That all changed when I got to college after the Navy and I actually applied myself but still, I couldn't help but take one drawing class while at Inver Hills. That was nearly 30 years ago. I've been hanging on to the drawings from that course and a few others I did around that time ever since. They've sat tucked away in a closet in our den and even Tammy hadn't ever seen them until this week when I brought them out to look at them. They're all pencil drawings and unfortunately, they've faded over the years. I photographed them and did my best to resurrect them in Photoshop. Some rendered better than others.

I think maybe it's time I try and get back to my drawing but not just yet. Biking season is here and I'm pretty much owned by my rides for the foreseeable future. Especially after this past winter. I think I'd like to resume sketching again next winter.

No April Fools jokes from me but as usual, Rachel had something up her sleeve. She changed her birthday in her Facebook profile to April 1st then sat back and watched as more than 100 friends wished her a happy one. I used to love how she'd try and come up with something to fool Tammy and me when she was much younger. From toothpaste on doorknobs to covering the toilet with cellophane to making it so the spray attachment for the kitchen sink would spray one of us when the water was turned on, it was all good fun. I'm glad to see she's still at it.

Tammy and I were on our way to Minneapolis recently when I asked her if she used to watch Petticoat Junction when she was younger. "Sure" she replied. I then asked her if she ever gave much thought to the name of the town, Hooterville. She hadn't. I told her that it dawned on me a couple of years ago that the town's name was a little adult humor that went right over our heads at the time. She was certain I was wrong. I said, "think about it...3 busty young women that the show is centered around?" She still disagreed. Then I began to recite the lyrics the best I could from over 40 years ago. When I came to the part about "lotsa curves you bet and even more, when you get to the junction" she finally agreed. "Alright come you guys always think like that?" I could only smile. Chalk up another one for me.