Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bring on Summer!

It was 19 years ago yesterday that I moved into our home. That sentence sounds a little odd in that the 'I' is not a 'we' but it refers to a time when I was still back in my former life with my former wife. Tammy and Rachel wouldn't come and bless my presence for another 7 years. (There's a whole other life of mine that I've written very little about or for that matter, discussed much and I'm guessing it will probably remain that way.)

Our home has seen many transitions over the years with Tammy being the inspiration behind the majority of them. We've still got two large projects waiting in the wings and they'll remain on hold until Rachel's education is paid for.

Mom stopped by Thursday morning to check out our gardens. I had her take my arm and walked her to the backyard much more slowly than she would've made that walk just one year ago. It's been a difficult year for her but she's a determined woman and not one to sit back and allow her age to keep her down. But one thing is certain: without my brother Tim living with her, her life would be considerably more difficult. I know I'm not alone in feeling very glad and appreciative that he's there for her. Thanks, Tim.

We had a barbecue at our home on Thursday night for our small group from church. It may be the last time we'll get to all be together as Paul and Kate are moving to Montana in a couple weeks. Paul drove his DeLorean. I apologized to the other guys for not taking any pics of their cars. They understood.

We didn't get a chance to blow glass this week. Between some troubles at the studio with one of the furnaces and a workshop being put on by Tony Cray, an artist from St. Louis, Missouri, we couldn't manage to find a time slot that would work for us. But rather than be without our weekly fix of glassblowing, we decided to spend a few hours there Friday, observing the workshop from the cheap seats. What he was teaching was well beyond where we're at but it's always helpful to see what can be done. Here's some video I took.

I had to laugh yesterday. I came home from a ride and Tammy told me that Rachel had some friends over and that they loved the glasses we've been making. They were really happy when Tammy told them to take some for themselves. I can't think of a better compliment for where we're at in our early stages of learning this art.

Speaking of my ride. It's been a while since I've had to dodge as many thunderstorms as I did yesterday. I went out with a forecast in hand for only a 10% chance of rain but in the first few miles, I found myself questioning that. I was thankful for my Droid and its Weather Channel app which helped me plan a route the best I could to avoid them. But the problem was in how fast they were developing and at one point, I had to bailout for the shelter of a convenience store before continuing on. But still, it was nice to be out, especially when considering that this is my worst start to a cycling year since 2002. Okay, so I'm not going to be setting any distance records this year. I get that.

Even the pups aren't in the shape they should be for this time of year. We took Toby and Charlie out for a walk yesterday morning with a temp in the mid-60s (Allie is recovering from surgery so she stayed behind) and after a mile, Charlie was looking for a lift. He wouldn't budge. I picked him up and carried him for a block before putting him back down. Toby did okay but I could tell that he too was tired so we pulled over and sat with the pups while waiting for Rachel to come and get us.

We had a laugh on the way home. I asked Rachel if she remembered the time when she was learning to drive and how she asked me if my leg ever got tired when I drove. I can't remember how that conversation from a few years ago went exactly but at some point, it became apparent that she wasn't resting her foot on the floor but instead had it elevated so it was totally over the gas pedal. Yeah, I can see how my leg would get tired too. I showed her a better way and it was no doubt a "Doh!" moment for her. Tammy especially enjoyed the story as she'd never heard it.

Thanks for the ride, Rachel, and the laugh!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Say it Ain't So

I was disappointed to see all the press given to the supposed prophet and his ramblings about an impending rapture. Sadly, many will see him as somebody who speaks for Christians everywhere. He doesn't speak for me or any other Christian I know. Hopefully, his legacy will be for the goofball he is and not as some seer acting on direct communications from God or a special ability at divining scripture. My niece Melody's post to her Facebook said for me what I believe:

"This "rapture" thing makes me sad:1. Because of the frenzy, you can tell that people are searching for something, and it makes me sad when people don't take the Bible seriously. 2. Tons of money was given to this organization that claimed a lie as the truth. That money could be better spent helping those in need, which is what Jesus made clear to do, until the day He does return."

I did have to laugh at something somebody posted to our union's message board, wondering if the FAA should have a mix of both good and evil people staffing our shifts in case the good ones are taken from us. We'd hate to be left short-staffed.

But still, the guy who organized this is of such a fringe element that it's a wonder he got anywhere near the media attention he did. Hopefully, people saw it for what it was and don't look to him as any sort of spokesperson for Christianity.

We managed to get our flower gardens planted this week between rainstorms. It's been a very wet stretch and as I write this we're in the middle of a thunderstorm with a real nasty line of weather approaching from the south. Rachel left for church but turned around when it began to hail and that's my concern at the moment. Hail.

Getting the gardens planted is always a much bigger undertaking than it seems it should be but in the end, it's always worth the effort. A typical transformation of one of our flower beds looks like this: phase 1; phase 2 and the finished product. We've got another somewhat large flower bed in front and several other areas in and around some rock islands in the yard where we plant flowers. We do have some perennials but for the most we do annuals.

Here's a nice contrast to look at from a few months ago to now...

Tonight, 60 Minutes is going to have an interview with Tyler Hamilton, a former professional cyclist who raced with Lance Armstrong during his first Tour de France wins in 1999-2001. He'll allege that he observed Lance inject EPO; a claim now made by several from his former inner circle and a claim Lance steadfastly denies. It should be an interesting segment to watch for anybody who follows this sort of thing. My DVR is ready.

Lance is fond of saying that he's been the most tested athlete ever and while that may be true, it's also true that there are proven ways to beat the tests and only those who are careless get caught up in the deceit. That was never Lance. As someone wrote a while back, we're to believe that Lance competed cleanly against a field of juiced racers and he beat them all. That's a tough one to accept.

Cycling isn't alone in its problems with people using performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball and football come to mind. But with all of the focus being placed on cycling, I'm afraid it may one day be marginalized and thrown onto the scrap heap of fake sports such as professional wrestling. Yes, you heard wrestling is fake!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lots to Find

I've been a Mac user since last summer. I have no regrets about making the decision to leave my Toshiba laptop and its frustrating slowness behind. However, I have a few PC based programs that I continue to run on my Mac through the use of VMware Fusion. Macs have a program called Bootcamp that allows you to run PC based programs by dedicating a portion of your hard-drive for that purpose but the only downside is that the Mac and PC platforms can't be run simultaneously. VMware Fusion fixes all that.

One such program that can't be used on my MacBook Pro without VMware is a lava lamp that I like to have on my desktop. It's soothing as a lava lamp should be but best of all, it's very realistic. Here's a link for those of you with PC platform capabilities. Check out this screen-capture. When you get it installed, right-click and go to configure to adjust the size and color. I use 3x and random.

Rachel is back home from college for the summer. Tammy and I took both of our vehicles on the 75-mile drive in the rain Saturday afternoon to get her.

We parked in front of her apartment building (see the campus straight ahead in the photo) and were met by several of her friends all carrying armfuls of her stuff for the move home.

From her class of around 100 students, about 20 won't be continuing on in the school next year which they say is typical.

It's been a full year for her as she's been involved in so many things in addition to the basic requirements of school. From Rochester Student Affairs representative where she sits in on faculty meetings to ballroom dancing and now having recently been elected as a school ambassador, she keeps a very full schedule. A few days ago she posted on her Facebook wall "You know it's been a good year when no one wants to leave!"

Click on the photo if you haven't already. It's a poster board drawing Rachel did during the course of the school year using mostly Crayola markers. There's lots to find. Things to look for: Her roommates' names; her room number, 602; flowers which represent Organic Chemistry; Apples which signify Stats; a tree for Psychology; Jenna's frying pan which got burned; a hookah pipe one of the boys had; Thingamajig dolls; their transsexual beta fish, Scooter; mascaraed party masks; Easter eggs; former roommate; Rochester Raptor mascot and a bunch more other stuff—all of it having some meaning and not just a random doodle. I think it's really well done. She said to comment here if you have any questions about anything in particular that you see and are curious about.

On the way out of town, we stopped by the house (4 blocks from school) that she'll be renting with 4 other girls next year. It won't be as nice as the digs they've been accustomed to during their first year in Rochester but they wanted to make the break from the campus and find a place of their own. And it'll be cheaper.

Rachel and I drove together on the ride home and followed Tammy. I offered to ride solo and let them chat along the way but Tammy said she was getting into her music and that Rachel could ride with me. There was no argument as I love that sort of time with her. I don't think there was more than a 5 second period of silence between us the entire way home with so much to catch up on.

We stopped at the DQ in Cannon Falls for dinner and I noticed that Tammy's voice was hoarse. I asked her what was wrong. She smiled and said she'd been singing too loudly on the drive. Neil Young if I'm not mistaken.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Goodbye, Marilyn

Since my blog is by-and-large a time capsule (that never gets buried) for me to look back on, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the death/killing of Osama bin Laden last Sunday. Tammy said that she doesn't take any satisfaction or glee in his death but that she does find happiness in knowing that he will never do terror again. That's well said. Me? I admit to welcoming the news with an inappropriate Facebook status update which I later removed and replaced with one exclaiming my happiness that sleeping air traffic controllers were no longer going to be front-page news, at least for a while.

We lost a dear member of our small-group last Thursday afternoon when Marilyn finally lost her battle with cancer. It's difficult to come to terms with this as she was just at our home maybe a month ago and was always such an active member of our group. She seemed to be holding steady in her fight and for a while appeared to be making progress toward recovery but the last time she was with us she mentioned some new pains she was having. I had the feeling then that she wanted to share with us some dire news from her doctor that she'd alluded to but in her typical fashion, she remained very private in her struggle.

Marilyn was reluctant to have visitors but Tammy felt a prompting to go see her the night before she died. Tammy said that Marilyn was having a very difficult time but she managed to smile when Tammy came into the room. They spent a short time together in prayer before saying goodbye. She will be very missed by many.

Rachel's first year of college comes to a close this week with finals. She wasn't sure what to expect going to a new campus (in its 2nd year) but I had no doubts that she would thrive there, and she has. She was telling me today how they're having a lot of fun establishing their own traditions such as this week when they organized a (hopefully annual) students vs faculty kickball game. They purchased a $200 trophy that will be updated each year to reflect bragging-rights which the students now claim.

She's also been tapped a number of times to be included in photos for some various brochures and campus advertisements. She called me two days ago to see if I had a particular UMR brochure handy because she wanted to know what shirt she'd worn in that photo. She was being asked to participate in a billboard advertisement for the school and she didn't want to be photographed twice in the same shirt. Understandable.

I joked with her that it was only her minority status they were interested in and had nothing to do with her pretty smile.

Tammy and I are both becoming more and more addicted to glassblowing as we progress in our abilities. We have to give special thanks to both Steve and Jackson for expressing an interest in how we're doing and taking time to give us pointers and demos along the way. Their helpfulness means everything to us. Steve showed us a new color application technique this week that has us both excited to go back and work with it some more.

I surprised Tammy with a trip to the Verizon store where we upgraded her Envy to an iPhone 4. She's been feeling a little left out as both Rachel and I have Droid smartphones. When we got them she wasn't interested in anything more than a regular cellphone but after seeing how much use we get from ours she wanted in. I was hoping to have another WordFeud partner, and she is to a small degree, but she's pretty much stuck on Angry Birds for the most part.

I got out for my first long ride of the season on Friday afternoon. 105 miles (169 kilometers) under sunny skies, light winds and temps in the mid to upper 60s. It's been a lousy spring for riding and I could've used a few more miles in my legs before biting off this one but I did okay. I was ready to pack it in after 80 miles but with 25 miles to go, I had no choice but to put my head down and press on as I was also in a race with sundown. I knew it would be close and it was. I lost the race by 2 minutes.

Video from the ride