Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm the One Who Doesn't

It's been a relaxing week off from work for me but not necessarily by choice. The weather was so hot and humid that it made being outside a little much at times so I cooled my heels inside for much of the week and practiced life as a retired air traffic controller.  I did really well, too.

Speaking of heat, we actually did make it to the studio two days this week but found very few others willing to stand in front of 2200 degree glory holes. Tammy is quite the trooper I have to say. I don't think most hot-flash-experiencing-menopausal-women would put up with that kind of heat in an un-airconditioned space. It gets a little warm.

Michael, the founder of Foci, stopped by our bench and asked us if we'd be willing to consider putting in some time at the Renaissance Festival this fall at the glassblowing exhibit Foci will be hosting. I told him that the only way we could consider something like that would maybe be in a supporting role but not as the actual people doing the glassblowing. I'm sure that's what he had in mind. Tammy and I both agree we're not ready for primetime. He understood our concerns but seemed to imply that it's a good thing for people to see varying skill levels. The idea certainly intrigues me. Tammy is already thinking up ideas for our costumes. Dressing up in tights is no problem for me as that's usual attire 5-6 months out of the year on my bike anyway.

Rachel spent some time this summer studying to be a Certified Nursing Assistant and will soon have that qualification to add to her resume'. She hopes to find work at one of the hospitals in Rochester when she goes back to begin her sophomore year in a few weeks. It will benefit her to have the experience when she ultimately decides which path she will follow toward either a degree as a Physician's Assistant or some other yet to be determined profession.

She wears her scrubs well don't you think?

Al, a friend from high school, hosted a small 36-year high school reunion at his home in Bloomington Friday night. I was never very outgoing in high school. I've written here before how I did just the minimum to get by as far as academics were concerned (finishing in the bottom 10% of my class I believe). I never even attended my graduation ceremony. Sad, really. I simply never applied myself for whatever reason(s). When it came to reunions I hadn't even attended one until our 25th and that was only because my neighbor was on the organizing committee and convinced me that I should go. So, even all these years later for me to attend one of these functions, I'm stepping well out of my comfort zone.

I think that for many of us those feelings we left high school with, inadequacy in my case, aren't very deep beneath the surface but hopefully, we're able to ignore them and just go and be ourselves. That's what I did. It was a nice time with my only regret being that I didn't get to talk to more people, people I didn't ever talk with back in the day but would like to have now. I look at my daughter and see how she's the polar opposite of me and wish I'd have come away with the experiences she has from those years. One of us has much to reminisce about and one of us doesn't.

I'm the one who doesn't.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Solo Double and Then Some

We spent a few hours at Foci Thursday afternoon working with some larger diameter pipes than we're used to. The biggest difference other than the size of the gathers is the amount of heat radiating off the glass onto your arm. Kevlar arm sleeves for protection become a must at this point.

My focus is still on bowls and tumblers with the occasional vase that results from a tumbler gone bad. I could easily spend the next couple of months working on just these forms striving for consistency but I suspect Steve will encourage me to push myself and try other stuff. I'm thankful for his promptings.

A couple days of heavy rain recently have left us with some nearly unbearable humidity levels the likes of which fog up your glasses when leaving the comfort of whatever airconditioned space you've sought shelter in. I was running an errand Friday afternoon and had to double-back to catch this video of some rain runoff.

It never seems to fail that the week of the Sonshine Music Festival in Willmar is plagued with hot, humid, stormy weather. Rachel and her friends met there on Tuesday afternoon to set up camp for the concerts that would run from Wednesday through Saturday night. It didn't take long for the storms to find them.

She had loads of fun but with the bugs, the rain, the heat, and humidity, by Sunday she was ready for home. She texted me yesterday morning: "On our way home. Been on the road for about 45 minutes." I replied, "Cool...we have no hot water or air conditioning...both hot and miserable is so mad...sitting with ice packs :( " To which she responded "that sucks". I let her mull it over for a couple minutes before texting her back, "yeah, if it were true! ;-) " Her reply isn't suitable for this G rated blog. I couldn't resist.

I got an early start to my ride Saturday morning, not really sure how far I'd go. I've been putting in some longer efforts with intentions of doing a double century ride (200 miles) in the next few weeks. I felt there was an outside chance that I'd go for it on this ride but with temps forecast to be near 90f (30c) and dewpoints in the upper 70s, I was trying not to be overly optimistic. But still, there's that determined side of me that tends to take over and throws caution to the wind. And that's pretty much what I did. I headed south and didn't look back until I got to the Iowa border.

Typically on a long ride like this I'll try and remain within 50-60 miles of home knowing that if things go wrong it's much easier to bale-out on the ride from that distance rather than putting myself 100 miles or more away from home where I've got no choice but to either finish or call for help. Did I say "call for help"? Sorry, that's not an option.

Within the first ten miles I knew I was going for it and that if I kept home within reach (considering the heat and humidity) there was a good chance I'd pack it in early and I needed to remove that option—so I got busy.

I was 104 miles into the ride before turning back north but I was feeling fine. It wasn't until somewhere just west of Owatonna on the return that I found myself really having to dig deep, out of water in the 90-degree heat. I'd actually been doing a good job of staying hydrated but I skipped a chance to refill in Waseca and paid the price. I recovered nicely once I got to Owatonna.

Tammy was able to follow my progress on Google Latitude. I'd told her before I left (while she was mostly asleep) that I may be gone a while but I gave her no idea just how long. This way I could ease her into it. I don't like her to worry.

I finished with just over 208 miles/335 kilometers and averaged 17 mph for the distance, which given the conditions and the fact that I was out there solo (not drafting), was alright by me. I'm sure I could've improved on that speed had it been cooler and less humid.

Sometimes a lack of common sense and good dose of determination are what's needed but I can't discount the prayers said along the way either. There were many.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

End of an Era?

Rachel's Facebook status recently was "Tragus time. Ahhhhhhh...." I had no idea what she was referring to until I got a text from her with a photo saying "LOOK AT MY EAR!!!!!!!"  I liked it but Tammy didn't appear to share in her excitement. I think it was simply her motherly default mode kicking in as she poo-pooed Rachel for having it done. But truth be told, I think she was actually suppressing thoughts of liking it.

She'll be 20 next month so there isn't much we can say about these sorts of things. Plus, she used her own money from her job at the flower shop. Had it been a piercing that left a gaping hole in her earlobe I'm quite sure we'd have had more to say.

Lakeville's Pan-o-Prog (Panorama of Progress) is over for another year. As usual, we made it into town Friday night for Cruise Night. It's always a good time. The show kicked off with a fly-over by Miss Mitchell, a WW2 B25 bomber. (That experience seems very tempting to me and although the $400 price won't get you a round-trip ticket to either coast it still seems reasonable)

It's impossible to spend any amount of time at Cruise Night and not run into neighbors or people from work. We bumped into Mark and Becky (from across the street and also from work) and spent most of our time chatting with them. It became apparent early on that Mark knows a whole lot more about vintage cars that I ever will.

Cruise Night video

I was online yesterday morning trying to score some tickets to see Adele later next month. They went on sale at 10:00 so I was signed in several minutes ahead of time with hopes of actually getting something decent. My best guess is that it was a sold-out show by 10:00:01. I was too slow.

I figured demand would be high but I had no idea it was this high. Good for her but bad for me and I'm guessing a whole lot of others.

The space shuttle program is in its final run now as the last of its shuttles orbits the earth. Space exploration has been going on my entire life but it's not the same as it once was. It used to be that I and most everyone else would stop what we were doing to observe a liftoff or reentry.  I remember being in elementary and junior high school during the Apollo missions and how we'd all gather in the auditorium with eyes riveted to the too-small TV monitors set up in front. I don't think anybody had to tell us to be quiet; we were all so fascinated by it.

One of my earliest memories is of being a young boy and looking up into the night sky with my parents as we searched for and eventually saw the satellite Sputnik pass by. Not many years later on a July night in 1969, we would all gather around the TV set at my aunt and uncle's home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to watch as we put the first man on the moon. I remember peering through their living room window later that night, looking at the moon and being lost in wonder at the thought of people actually being up there.

But somewhere along the way, and I'm ashamed to admit this, space exploration became somewhat ho-hum to I think most of us and it shouldn't have. Maybe it's because the missions became less about exploring and more about routine maintenance to the space station or Hubble telescope. Still, we were putting people into outer-space and there's never anything routine about that.

People will sometimes ask who your heroes were when you were growing up and I'm always at a loss to think of any. I just never looked up to people that way. But in the short time I've spent writing this blog piece, I realize that maybe I really did have some heroes but just never knew it until now.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's a Different Day

I seldom mention politics in my blog because I don't like going negative here. There's enough of that out there already. I will admit to being a recovering conservative, vowing never to touch that stuff again! There was a time not long ago when the Republican party owned me for my pro-life vote but I got tired of being a pawn for them and voted for Obama in 2008. I make no apologies. I know I turned a few heads in our neighborhood at the time. Has Obama been a disappoint to me? Yes, sometimes, like when he caved to Republican pressure and sent an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. But still, he was the only logical choice for me in 2008 and he looks to be again in 2012.

We've got some serious money problems here in the U.S. and we can no longer afford the role of top-cop for the world. It's way past time to reign in our military and focus on our own shores and the problems we face here and now. And that takes money.

I penned a letter to my congressman this morning and also left a voicemail for him. The district I live in is overflowing with like-minded, white, middle to upper-class people and I'm afraid John Kline doesn't hear enough dissenting opinion from the norm. I don't mind occasionally being that voice.

We've spoken before and I found him receptive to what I had to say, or at least I hoped he was. I'm sure he's a good man but my concern is that he's so beholden to his party and ideology that any sort of compromise that involves a reduction in our country's defense to ease our budget burdens will simply be unacceptable to him. It seems it's difficult enough getting even President Obama to agree on that.

But it's a different day.

Mr. Kline,

You've made mention time and again about your concern over earmarks. Certainly, they play a role in our overall debt but they're the wrong focus at this time and I think you know that. There are much bigger fish to fry!

I'm curious to know how much you're willing to cut military spending in an effort to reduce our expenditures and help our country to become more fiscally sound? Or are you in favor of increased military spending and at what rate and why?

I remember how the previous administration told us that the war in Iraq would be paid for with oil revenues from that country. How is that working out? How much is this ill-conceived war costing us and how long will it continue? Imagine the good that could've been done here at home with that amount of money? How do our expenses in Iraq compare with the cost of earmarks?

How about Afghanistan?

What does the story of Gideon mean for you?

A passenger preflight briefing aboard an aircraft always includes mention of cabin depressurization and what to do if the oxygen masks deploy. You're instructed to put your mask on first before helping those around you. The oxygen masks of our economy have deployed! It seems to me it's time to take care of ourselves before spending more of my daughter's future on an impossible effort to rid the world of every person who wishes us harm.

Sadly, as long as there are no term limits for the Congress and the Senate, little will change. It's no secret that bought-and-paid-for elected officials are at the heart of our nation's problems. Doing what's right for our country's benefit and doing what's most advantageous to being reelected are too often at odds and we know who loses.

Thank you for your time.


Kevin Gilmore

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Excuse Me, But...

I went through the drive-thru at McDonald's on my way to work last week and ordered two cheeseburgers and a large light lemonade. I paid at the first window then proceeded to the next window for my order. The woman there handed me a bag and wished me a good day. I asked her about the lemonade I'd ordered and she responded, "oh, we're out of lemonade".  "Okay, then do I get a refund?" I asked. She replied, "Yes, I can do that." I drove away wondering why it was that I needed to say anything at all?

A few days ago Tammy, Rachel, and I were at Mall of America kicking around. We settled on Ruby Tuesday's for dinner and placed our orders. When the food arrived Tammy mentioned that the order she and Rachel were sharing didn't come with the cheesy breadsticks it was supposed to. The waiter apologized and said they were out of them but he made no offer of a discounted price or a substitution.

Okay—so what's changed? Am I expecting too much? It takes a lot for the wait staff not to get a 20% tip from us. It was all I could do to manage 5% for our waiter.

Our neighbors Bob and Karen are the best party hosts I know. They hosted our 2nd annual 4th of July party on Friday night at their home. Even an ominous shelf cloud (best viewed in full screen) and a torrential downpour that it preceded couldn't put a damper on the evening. Karen's Lemon-drop Martinis were a hit! least with me.

The funniest story at the party had to be of Tim telling us (the abbreviated version here) about the time in 1965 as a 12-year-old in Chicago and faced with the first big decision of his life. He had an option to see either the Monkees or the Beatles in concert. He chose the Monkees.

Photos from the party

I needed a long ride this weekend if I have any hopes of pulling off a double century (200 miles) ride in the next two weeks. I got it done yesterday with a 151-mile loop out to Hutchinson under a gorgeous blue sky with temps in the mid-80s. My quads were a concern of mine as they showed signs of fatigue (due to a lack of serious riding this year) toward the end of last Sunday's 103-mile ride but they were just fine. I'm good to go for the 'double' if I can find the right day to do it.

Ride video from Saturday.

Google Latitude has been around a couple of years and allows you to see where your friends are. It's a great program for Tammy to see where I'm at out on the road if she's ever curious about my progress or wondering where I'm at. It's the ultimate in an electronic leash! ...or for showing your friends how much you get around.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Little of This and a Little of That

I've been enjoying some much needed time off from work this week; always a somewhat dangerous thing for me to do at this stage of my career because I keep finding myself considering ways to actually retire and make this vacation permanent. But if I left now I'd likely have to restructure some debt and I'd rather not do that. In two years, I can walk away and not have to worry so it would be foolish to quit now when the finish line is just ahead.

I began the first few hours of my vacation on my bike working on a Lakeville to Fairbault to Kenyon loop with the possibility of a Wanamingo kicker depending on how I felt. There's something extra sweet about being on my bike during a time of the week when I'm normally at work. I allowed myself to imagine for just a brief moment what I was missing out on. I was back to focusing on the ride in less than 5 seconds.

It was a beautiful day with temps in the mid-70s and a manageable breeze. I had no worries and I was thinking to myself how blessed I was to be healthy and riding. At just that moment, Vega 4 came around on my iPod Nano and it fit my mood perfectly. I thought—I need to upload the video I took of them to my blog. And so I am. We saw them at Fine Line Music Cafe a few years ago fronting for Augustana. Vega 4 was okay but I wasn't familiar with any of their music. Still, I decided to video one of their songs—their last. It turned out to be the hit of the night!

Video from my ride.

Tammy and I spent three mornings this week at Foci. A lot of what I've been patiently struggling to learn is finally beginning to come together. I was having a difficult time getting the glass papered into the shape I needed before blowing the piece out. Steve was continually telling me to work slower, which equates to smoother, but for whatever reason, that bit of advice didn't seem to want to sink in. Now that I see the wisdom in his words I'm having much better success. Having the blob of molten glass in the correct shape for the piece you're attempting to make is an absolute must for the rest of the process.

We continued to make bowls our focus this week but we also made a few tumblers as well. I left there Wednesday on a high. There's a certain satisfaction you experience when you make some something with your hands and for me, it's never stronger with glassblowing than when I'm at the bench opening a piece up and giving it shape. It's so satisfying when it works the way you'd like it to.

Our routine each morning is to stop at Starbucks on the way to Foci for coffees for the drive. Two days this week we had people in front of us in the drive-thru pay for our order. We passed the favor back to the car behind us. The idea for doing this is promoted by a local Christian radio station but it's not unique to them or to the Twin Cities. It's a nice surprise when it happens to you but like anything else, it's always more fun to give than to receive.

The drive into Minneapolis can be hectic as we come in on the heels of morning traffic but being able to use the carpool lane is a huge help in getting us to the studio before our coffees run out. I can't imagine this commute inching along in one of the other lanes—I think I'd get there faster on my bike!