Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adding to My List

I came home from work last week to find our newly ordered glassblowing pipes waiting by our front door. Exciting! We were able to try them out Thursday afternoon and I can happily say that we both really like them. These feel so nice in our hands as they're not quite as heavy as what we're used to using with Foci's shop-pipes. We ordered two but I think ideally we'd like to have three to be able to keep the rotation of pipes going smoothly between us while we're working. This will suffice for now though. I can't wait to get back in the studio and use them later this week.

Foci has a new 800 pound crucible furnace that recently went online. It's being referred to as a new heart for the studio because that's exactly what it is. There hasn't been a steady supply of molten glass to draw from for the past several months because of some breakdowns between the studio's two main furnaces but with this new addition, that should no longer be a problem.

Lakeville, where we live, typically seal-coats the city streets every 7 years with a combination of what looks like a sticky sprayed on tar which is covered over with small stone granules. My curiosity was piqued the other morning by the sound of something outside that was gradually getting closer. It was the occasional loud foghorn moaning sound that mostly had me wondering what it could be. I found this. It was making spot repairs to the street.

I finished the first of two panels that I'm doing for friends of ours who moved to Montana last year. I believe they're going to place them in some double doors that lead to their bedroom. They'll be in town in two weeks so I've been pressing to have them done in time for them to take them back with them.

Tammy came up with the overall design and I added a few tweaks. Paul and Kate gave us some suggested colors to work with and I tried to balance them throughout the piece. I think it will look nice when both panels are side by side in their final setting.

The latest phone game we're playing is Ruzzle. It's fun—give it a try. I'm getting a little burned out on Wordfeud and Draw Something so a change is nice.

A friend at work recently did a project with his son where they launched a weather balloon with an attached camera to photograph its journey. He estimates it reached an altitude of around 90,000 feet or more (27,400 meters) before the balloon burst and floated back to earth with a parachute. He got some incredible images. Ben followed the basic outlines of a plan some students from MIT used. There's so much to consider and they've done a good job of taking in all of those considerations and outlining solutions that can reasonably be duplicated.

I happened to think of Ben's project when I came across a video online a few nights ago. It got me thinking how if I had a boy, I'd love to do the same thing with him or even just to do it for my own amusement. Oh, a daughter would be great to experience this with too but I did try the Estes rocket thing with Rachel and her friend Camille years ago. I'm afraid it never quite lived up to expectations for them.

If nothing else, this project sounds like another thing to add to my to-do list for when I'm retired. That list is growing nicely.

Monday, September 17, 2012

17 Years Gone and a Charlie Horse

We had a nice time at Foci on Friday. We didn't push the limits of our abilities, we just had fun working on the skills we've acquired to this point. Some days it feels like I'm fighting the glass rather than working with it but not last Friday. It was a day of harmony between the glass and me. I like that. While I was there, I was thinking of how the original plan was to wait until we're both retired before we began to dabble in glassblowing. I'm glad we decided to jump in when we did and I'm excited to begin pushing our limits more and getting better.

We ordered our first two glassblowing pipes last week and hope to have them with us when we return to the studio on Thursday. Fun! Foci has shop tools that everybody is welcome to use and they're just fine for where we're at but still, it will be nice to have our own pipes to work with especially during those times of the year when there are more illnesses present. Glassblowing tools don't come cheap so we're acquiring them a tool or two at a time.

Saturday marked the 17 year anniversary of my father's passing. It's not an anniversary I typically remember. My mother will sometimes make mention of it as she did last Saturday when I phoned her. She never forgets and I'm fairly certain she observes the exact time as it comes and goes. I get that.

My dad.

Sometimes I'll calculate what the date would've been when my dad was the same age I am now. That date would've been November 19th, 1980. My father is within a few months of my age in this photo holding his grandson, Tristan. My folks were living on ten acres in the country near Farmington, the city where I work. My dad was less than five years away from being fired from his position as a financial manager with VTC, a company which had recently acquired the division of Control Data where he'd worked for much of his career. It was such a difficult time in our family's lives as my dad didn't handle the termination well at all making mom's life so much less satisfying than it ever should've been by putting their world in a tailspin fueled by alcohol.

I remember how my mom talked about the moment he died in his hospital bed. The monitor alerted that his heart had stopped and an almost youthful appearance came over his face as if all of the stresses of his life had finally been done away with. And they had. My brother Bryan was there with her and closed my father's eyes.

I think about my dad some but not all that often. We were so much alike but we weren't close. It wasn't easy to get close to him although I know I tried to win his approval again and again but at some point, I think I sort of realized that nothing I did was going to change our relationship. I was never going to be that guy who could work on cars or build things the way Keith and Tim could and for the longest time I felt like I didn't measure up in his eyes because of that.

There was a short time in my mid-20s when I felt resentful toward my dad for not being there for me more than he was when I was growing up. I was living in Huron, South Dakota at the time and wrote him a long letter detailing my thoughts. Afterward, I let go of those feelings and never again dwelled on them the way I had. You can't go back.

We made it out to the Renaissance Festival in Chaska on Saturday afternoon. Tammy commented last year when we were there that we should bring Charlie along with us next time. And so we did. She put together the cutest outfit for him to wear the night before. She found a stuffed-animal monkey at the store and applied silver tape to it to turn the little guy into a knight in shining armor complete with a chopstick as a jousting pole and a shield. Charlie was transformed into Charlie Horse with a monkey on his back!

He got so many compliments out there and even had people wanting to take his photo. The heat and lack of clouds eventually took their toll on him so we relieved him of his rider after a couple hours and actually carried him the last 30 minutes. We had hopes of bringing him back with us again next year but I'm fairly certain this was a one-and-done proposition for him. He didn't seem to enjoy it nearly as much as we did. Hmmm.

Hey, Toby...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Experiencing a Total Sea-change

My most recent upload to Instagram. I'm onekgguy, meet me there!

David Baerwald is a singer-songwriter whose music has been a very big part of the soundtrack to my life for the last 25 years. His songs resonate with me in ways that only the music of a few other artists can. The melodies behind the words are always strong and satisfying but it's his lyrics that draw me in and beg to paint a picture in my head each time I hear them. His music runs the gamut from soft acoustic offerings such as Hello Mary to hard-edged, anger-fueled tracks like The Got No Shotgun Hydrahead Octopus Blues.

In the early days of my online experience I stumbled onto a website dedicated to David. The site was put together by a fan and came complete with a message board where others could join in and offer their view on whatever topic was being kicked around. More often than not the subjects were political in nature. Those were the days when I was lost in a world of ill-conceived and not too well thought out republican ideals. I'd argue my points along with a smattering of other conservative voices against a much larger crowd of left-leaning personalities. David was no stranger to the forum and would often chime in with his opinions that were nearly always 180 degrees different from my own. It seemed the only thing I liked about the guy was his music but no matter how much heat I'd take from him and others because of my beliefs, I kept returning, fully intent on steadily chipping away at their (to me) flawed veneers, so sure that I'd eventually reach their cores where I could appeal to that inner-self that had to know I was right.

I'm quite sure I was a total failure in that regard.

Instead, what happened for me through that forum was an in-depth exposure for the first time in my life to another worldview. It was no glancing blow with progressive voices that I experienced there as we would analyze and defend our sides in each argument. I was exposed to a perspective that caused me to have to push back from my computer on many occasions and reconsider what it was I was professing. I was pro-life (still am) and likely inserted that into too many threads where it stood little chance of helping the cause and where it didn't belong. I had my core beliefs that Limbaugh was only too helpful in validating for me on his radio program in addition to enhancing them in seductively acceptable ways, ways that now seem so void of any critical thinking. In Limbaugh's world, there's never talk of a symbiotic relationship between CEO/business owner and their laborers. Laborers should shut-up and be thankful for the opportunity to work. Limbaugh would never mention how there would be no business to own if it weren't for the workers who made it possible. I didn't fully grasp the importance of a robust middle-class nor could I really empathize with those who were struggling because I was doing fine. Our arguments were sport and we used each other to hone our game.

Somewhere along the way, I grew tired of my associations there and my postings became less and less frequent to the point where I stopped visiting the site altogether. Little did I know that my political views were on the verge of a total sea-change that would cause me to question everything I was so sure of.

Changing one's views the way I did doesn't happen overnight if it happens at all. The Baerwald board surely softened me and no doubt made it possible for me to in some way identify with the views I'd only recently argued against. Had it not been for the hundreds of conversations I'd had over the years on that little website dedicated to David and his music, I'm not sure I'd have been able to make that leap. But I did and it's where I remain today. As an aside: I actually returned to the forum years later to express my heartfelt thanks to the many there who were instrumental and patient with me in helping me to see life from another perspective.

I began to think about this transformation of mine only because of a debate I recently had with a co-worker on Facebook. This friend allows no room for questioning his understanding of the intricacies of our society because he's already got it all figured out. It's an act of futility to try and have an exchange of ideas with him or so it seems. But that too was me 8 years ago, afraid to rearrange the box in which I'd so neatly tucked away all of my beliefs and understandings.

But there's hope for him. I'm living proof.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Fun We'll Have

I was on the elliptical the other morning contemplating my struggle with parts of the Old Testament that I can't seem to reconcile from my puny human perspective. I'm not one to give up easily. I understand that we live in a much different time from when Moses penned much of the square peg that I'm trying to fit into the round hole. The part that is troubling to me is that we're taught in the church that God's word is the same then as it is now. Isaiah 40:8 says, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." I want to believe that.

Returning to one of the verses that troubles me so much: Deuteronomy 22, verses 28-29. People are quick to discount the inhumanness of this by saying that God gave these instructions to Moses because of the world in which the people lived at the time. It would be better for the woman in this case to live with her rapist than to fend for herself in a society that looked down upon such victims. But what father would condem his daughter to a life with a rapist for 50 shekels or for any amount of money?

God demanded stoning for much lesser offenses. What I don't understand and will never, ever understand are God's instructions to Moses in this matter. Why didn't he instruct Moses to have the rapist stoned and in the next breath require the people as a community to provide for her? Were people so uncivilized then that they had no compassion for others? If God's word truly is timeless, I'm confused why he chose to instruct Moses as he did.

Enough about that for now.

Mitt Romney's running-mate choice, Paul Ryan, said a few days ago that he's run a sub-3-hour marathon, "I had a two hour and fifty-something" he told the person interviewing him. That's impressive because it takes a big commitment in the form of hours spent training to be abel to do that. It turned out he was lying. In reality, he couldn't even break 4 hours in the one marathon he's run. When called on it he said he was mistaken and that he should've rounded up and not down. Sorry but that's a ridiculous reply. The difference between a 2:50-something time and a 4+ hour marathon is huge.

Should it matter? Yeah, it should. I was in the same race with Paul Ryan that day. I haven't even thought about it much since running it but I can tell you what my running time was, give or take a couple minutes. I've run a 2:50-something myself. I could never imagine taking credit for something such as that without actually having done it.

It matters.

It matters because he's saying lots of things out on the campaign trail that are just as ridiculous. It matters because we have so many problems in our country and we need people working together, not tearing each other down with blatant lies in an effort to win votes.

We made it back out to the Great Minnesota Get-Together Friday afternoon. We hadn't intended to go again but we had nothing planned the rest of the day after our morning slot of glassblowing. But truth be told, I had an ulterior motive—I really wanted the dragonfly art I'd passed on last week.

It was a bit of a hassle getting to the fair because we decided to skip the shuttle bus in favor of having our car with us to transport our much larger than life dragonfly home. Traffic was gridlocked for blocks around the fair as all of the lots were full. We drove around until we came upon a woman with a sign advertising parking for $10. She led us to her driveway behind her house only a few blocks from the entrance to the fair. We happily paid her but then I commented to Tammy after she walked away, "what if this isn't really her driveway?" We both laughed—not to worry.

We went straight to the coliseum where the object of my desire was located. After a quick scan of all of the merchandise that was on display, it was apparent that there'd been a run on dragonfly art. I checked with the woman behind the counter and sure enough, they'd sold out early. But all hope is not lost. She gave me her card and suggested I contact her in a couple weeks after they make their way back to Texas and she'll mail me one. I was happy with the outcome.

We kicked around the fair for the next several hours. We talked about how in maybe ten years we'll bring our grandkids to the fair and the fun we'll have with them. We smiled a lot talking about that.