Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are You Spotified?

I have a love/hate relationship with the fall season. I love the cooler temps and the great riding and dog-walking days they provide but more and more (as the trees in our yard and our neighbor's yards get larger and larger) I'm hating the leaf raking that goes with it. I got a head-start on our flowers and perennials today by cutting some of them back a little sooner than usual. Our trees are all still green but they will soon change and when they do I'll be owned by them as I try and keep up with their falling leaves. Wish me luck.

Tammy took a Bonsai plant class last Sunday at Como Park Conservatory. She had her interest piqued when we were at the State Fair a few weeks ago and observed a bonsai plant exhibit. I came home from work Sunday night and she couldn't wait to tell me all that she'd learned in her class from how to water and fertilize them to what to look for when trying to achieve the desired shape and what that should be. It was much more involved than my tired mind was able to absorb.

The next morning I woke her up by telling her that all the leaves on her bonsai plant had fallen off during the night (of course it wasn't true). I wish I'd had my camera to capture the look of shock on her face as she ran to go look. I'm so mean.

I had more fun blowing glass on Thursday than ever. Typically, we've been doing two-gather pieces, meaning we gather glass from the furnace twice for each piece be it a tumbler, bowl or vase. But when we were in the studio on Thursday the glass level was low in the crucible causing my two-gather pieces to be a little smaller than usual. So I took a third gather. Wow! There was so much more glass to work with. It was fun because it challenged me in ways I hadn't yet been challenged. The piece was putting off much more heat than I'm used to and it blew out considerably bigger than I'm accustomed to. Lots of fun! I managed to get a couple of vases "in the box" (the annealer) and will get a chance to see them when we go back on Friday.

Are you using Spotify for your online music yet? Check it out if you're not. I'm still using the free version but I'm considering going premium. What I like most about Spotify is the ability to listen to an entire song at 360 kps rather than an abbreviated preview on iTunes. You can also make playlists to both save and share with others.  Here's a video that explains many of the features and advantages Spotify has over iTunes: Spotify: The iTunes Killer.

I've been kicking around plans for a celebratory bike ride to the Black Hills in South Dakota when I retire. The idea is to spend a week riding there and having Tammy meet me in the car to take me home after spending a few days vacationing together. Hmmm, I just had a thought. Is it still called a vacation if you're both retired?

Anyway, a friend from work (Paul Osika) retired last month and is now on a two-month odyssey traversing the country with his wife and several others on a supported bike tour. Paul lived with me for several months when we were both going through our divorces in 1997. He didn't ride then but he'd watch as I'd head out on my bike and burn through whatever frustrations I had. I like to think I played a part in him developing such a passion for riding. He left San Diego with his group yesterday bound for Florida. I admit it—I'm totally envious. So much so that I suggested to Tammy that I want to do that too but not with a group. Solo. She suggested that she would love to come along and shadow me in the car, meeting up with me at the end of each day. That would be awesome but I wonder if she would get bored with a month-long trip such as that? I'd love to share the ride with her. We'll add her suggestion into the mix and see what develops.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Arrr Bilge Rat, Hand Me My Grog and Pen

We finally made it back to Foci last Thursday after more than three weeks away. We did alright on the bench but we could tell that some rust had begun to settle on our limited skills. The studio has their furnace issues behind them and is open for full use again so we should be able to get back to our weekly time-slots. We're both as eager as ever to continue to push ourselves and develop as glassblowers!

Tammy's mother spent two days with us this week and was able to watch us blow glass. Our concern with her in the studio with us was that she's so quick to move about so we had to be careful to keep her from getting hurt. It's typically not the 2200 degree glass that burns you but the tools that come in contact with it. An object doesn't begin to show that it's hot until it's over 1000 degrees.

Pat Robertson was in the news this week for a remark he made about one spouse leaving another when Alzheimer's descends upon a marriage. I'm not much of a fan of Robertson and most everyone was quick to pounce on him for his remark but there's a part of me that agrees with the point of view he was trying to convey.

Here are the story and the video.

I was talking with Tammy about us and what we would do if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation. She assured me that she would want me to move on with my life but at the same time not leave her behind. I totally get that. But she also said that she could never imagine finding somebody else. How sweet of her but I would absolutely want more for her. Me...what would I do? Hmmm—I'm not so sure. I'm only being honest. I'm not saying that either of us would be out there actively seeking somebody else, but sometimes those things have a way of happening. If I took up with anyone else they would have to know that I'm not fully theirs. I'm guessing I'm on the wrong side of this argument.

It's been a hot period that we just came out of and our pups have seen a lot fewer walks than they'd like but now that cooler temps have returned we're back to our daily routine of either a trip to the park or 45 minutes walking the neighborhood streets. They're happy little guys—see for yourself!

I stumbled onto a fun color-hue test online last night. Check this out. I scored a 4; much better than I thought I would. Maybe it's the graphics of my MacBook Pro. Give it a try. The colors at the end of each row are stationary and can't be moved. Work inward from each of them while trying to align the tiles in the correct color sequence as they fade from one color to the next.

My years seem to be measured by different happenings that Tammy and I routinely do. Fall brings the Renaissance Fair in Shakopee. We don't always make it to this event each year but when we do we never fail to enjoy ourselves. There's really nothing about the period of time depicted here that I embrace or would want to have lived in but still, I find it an interesting few hours.

I don't think the somewhat-slightly-metro-sexual-me would fit in very well in this period but then I probably shouldn't sell myself short. I'm sure I'd have adopted some gruff exterior—possibly a beard and I'd learn to cuss a lot but when I got home to my wife I'd abandon all of that and sip my wine while writing in my, journal (as we guys called them in the days before blogs).

Photos from the day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Need of a Fix

It seemed I couldn't click on a page online yesterday without being reminded of the events of 9/11. I have little to add other than to say that even the strongest military in the world is helpless against people who are determined to blend in with society until they decide to act on their rage. We can spend every last dollar we have trying to protect ourselves but it still won't be enough. 19 individuals with box-cutters slipped onto our shores unnoticed, then proceeded to kill nearly 3000 innocent people and help bring our economy to a grinding halt. What does that say about the strongest military the world has ever seen? I'll say no more.

Rachel is having a blast in Rochester, or at least I assume she is. I thought I saw a recent photo of her on Facebook but I can't be sure. I haven't heard much from you, kiddo—are you out there?

We haven't blown glass in over two weeks. A new furnace was installed at Foci where we blow and because of the install and complications with it, our slot times had to be canceled the past two Thursdays. We're itching to get back. This is the longest we've been away since we returned to the studio in full force last February. I hope it's similar to riding a bike and that we haven't lost too much of our hard-earned skills. I'm in need of a fix!

To tide us over we've been watching a series of videos (The Art of Fire by James McKelvey) that Tammy bought me for my birthday. They're so good. I told her that this may possibly be the best gift she's ever given me. They're so helpful, especially considering the foundation we've built to this point. She also purchased the companion book which goes much more in-depth than the DVDs. It's very good reading.

I finally took some time to dabble with fused glass over the weekend. Tammy bought a kiln several years ago when she took a class in fused glass but for the most part, it's sat idle the last couple of years until recently when she began using it again. I decided it was time for me to try my hand at it as well. She gave me a few pointers then sent me on my way.

A couple of kiln-firing days later and I had my finished product. I'm not thrilled with it but I think it will do for a first attempt. I hope to get into some more complex layers and designs with my next firings.

I've been battling a cold for the last three weeks—the kind of cold that begins in the head but settles in the chest and doesn't want to leave. It's had me off my bike for the most part but Saturday I decided it had taken enough of what few good warm weather riding days I have left this year. I topped off my iPod Nano and Garmin 705 then headed out late Saturday morning for a longish ride into western Wisconsin.

I've been wanting to do my Wisconsin loop for a while but the winds were never where I needed them to be to head that way until Saturday when there was only a light breeze from the east. I like to venture out into a headwind so I have a tailwind on the return home. It's especially important when your legs are fried and that was my concern with the sporadic riding I've done lately.

I noticed too few other cyclists out there but I saw more motorcycles on the road that day than I've ever seen before. Many in packs of a dozen or more looking like they were enjoying themselves.

I've had a couple of motorcycles in my life but I don't miss them. I much more prefer the burn in my legs and the feeling of my heart beating inside my chest reassuring me that I'm alive as I work a climb or settle into a rhythm on the flats. I derive a lot of satisfaction from that and no ride I ever took on a motorcycle comes anywhere close to providing that kind of experience. 116 miles for the day.

But to each their own...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thoughts of Retirement and A Fair Time

Last week was a difficult week for me. Having just finished nearly all of my scheduled vacation time for the year the previous week it was a little depressing knowing that another summer of fun was in the rear-view mirror. Thoughts of the long slog that lay ahead as we work our way toward and through another winter hasn't helped. Please don't let it be a winter like the one we had last year!

My mind couldn't help but wonder what retirement must feel like. It's anybody's guess when that day may finally arrive for me. I think the soonest I'd consider going is 18 months from now but a more realistic guess would be at least 28 months away, at the end of 2013. 18 months gets us out from under our mortgage and a home equity loan we took out when we finished our basement. We can comfortably retire then but there's a part of me that wants to continue working to pay for some large projects around our home that are out on the horizon in addition to Rachel's college tuition. We could probably do it all on our retirement pay but we'd have to take out loans and I'd rather pay as we go. But I do think that once I get to the point where I no longer have to work and can walk away (in 18 months) it will actually make coming to work considerably easier—one month at a time until the day when I quietly tell them I'm done. The plan is for Tammy to leave her job before I do. She does so much volunteer work and this would free her up to do even more.

Yeah, I'll miss summer but for now I'm enjoying the cooler air that arrived a couple days ago. It's refreshing to walk outside with the pups in the morning and feel the chill again. For as much as I love the heat of summer and being outdoors, I think I like fall even more. I know that Toby, Allie, and Charlie appreciate the cooler temps for walking.

Rachel isn't wasting any time picking up where she left off back in Rochester. She's considering a work/study position at the college rather than a nursing assistant job where she would have little to no chance of accomplishing any homework while at work. Still, it's nice that she has her CNA license. I would guess she'll be able to use it next summer.

She's involved with an Assembly of God church in Rochester where they hosted a mud-pit and an event called Tribal Warfare a few days ago (much thanks to Becky Miller for the photograph). She's enjoyed some solid church connections over the last many years and the group of young adults she's involved with now appears to be a good fit as well. I can't remember if I mentioned this last year but when she first attended the church she found out that she already knew some of the youth there from previous summer Bible camps. I don't believe in coincidences.

Tammy and I spent Friday cruising the grounds at the Minnesota State Fair. We caught a bus from the Burnsville transit station and paid $5 for round-trip tickets for us each. We planned to be back around 6 or 7 that night but we were having too nice of a time to pack it in so soon. I called my neighbor Mark to see if he could possibly let the pups out for us and he was kind enough to do that and would accept payment in the form of a pale of Sweet Martha's Cookies. He was only joking but I thought it made for a nice trade-off.

It was a long day but a really nice time.

I woke up Saturday morning and asked Tammy if she wanted to go back and do it again. For a brief moment she looked like she was all-in but then the rush of so many things she needed to do brought her back to her senses.

I came to my senses too. I went for a ride.