Sunday, April 28, 2013

Furlough? What Furlough?

Spring finally made it to Minnesota this week in a very nice way but not before leaving the returning Robins cut off from their supply of worms with 5 inches of fresh wet snow on Tuesday morning. Mom was telling me that raisins make a good substitute food for them. I looked but we had none.

I noticed outside our laundry room window that tulips were beginning to push their way through the snow in the front flower bed. Finally!

Do I detect a hint of frustration or worse from a co-worker or three because I intend to work beyond age 56? (The mandatory retirement age from which I'm exempt.) I think I do. It's something I began to notice a few months ago and seemed to begin around the time I first talked about staying an additional year beyond my original planned retirement date of January 2014. I can think of no other reason for the changed attitude toward me by a few people. I actually find it amusing while at the same time recalling the clique in high school I was once a part of. I figured the days of that sort of thing were long gone but apparently, I was wrong.

Speaking of work—the furloughing of air traffic controllers across the country began one week ago today. It lasted all of 5 days before being stopped due to the inconveniencing of the flying public from the resulting delays because of reduced staffing. Sure, I'm happy that I'm not being furloughed but I'm troubled that the administration caved so quickly on the issue. Sequestration was meant to be painful for our nation as a whole but if Congress is going to be allowed to soften the effects of it each time it causes a little pain, what's the point? They should have allowed the air traffic control system to continue to limp along and cause so much frustration that they were forced to address all of our budgetary problems, not just ATC.

I haven't made any updates lately to our sun-porch/deck blog because the weather has been keeping Joe from beginning work. He plans to be out tomorrow morning to drill holes for the support posts in spite of the weather. It will be nice to see the project finally get underway. We're excited about it but glad for the delay in getting going because it's given us some additional time to rework the design just a little.

I got out for a fun but tiring ride on Friday afternoon. My first time out this year without full-length tights and knee warmers. Nice!

I'm happy that my riding isn't interfering with my walking. I went a little further than I'd planned to yesterday and I have a blister to show for it but I really enjoyed my time out there. I took the pups out first then spent the next few hours on my own for a 14-mile walk.

We had a fun time last night with friends. Phil and Tracy hosted a Murder Mystery dinner party. Tammy played the role of Torchy, a nightclub singer with a sketchy past while I played the role of Eddie "Socks" R. Gyle, a well connected, wheeler-dealer nightclub owner. Tammy did a nice job on our outfits!

In the game, you act out your role in four separate rounds. You're given a biography of your character and a brief scenario of each round to help guide you along. Each person knows information that the others don't and it's up to the players to try and piece it all together by asking questions throughout the game. There's specific information you're required to divulge to the other players along the way. I think Tammy was the only one among us who figured out who the murderer was. It was a lot of fun.

Look beyond the smiles of this dapper group because one of them is a cold-blooded killer. Who do you think it is?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Nice Send-off Amidst a Wintery Spring Week

It's been a crazy and heavy news week here in the US. Between the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon and the filibuster of the Senate for background checks for gun buyers to the return of winter (if it ever left) in Minnesota, there's been little room for good news this week but there was some. Julie Damico's retirement party was one of the bright spots! Even if it meant braving some pretty slick roads to get there it was one I didn't want to miss.

Julie's last day was 3 weeks ago and already you can see that it looks like she's gained at least 5 years of her youth back by the look on her face. I joked with her that it was the wine that was giving her such a nice glow (and it may have helped) but in all reality, I think it has more to do with getting back to a normal schedule, a thing that air traffic controllers know nothing of. She looked so rested. She's excited about doing things in her own time and not being owned by the chaotic schedule at work. Me too. Someday.

We'll miss your pretty smile, Julie. Enjoy! (and I haven't forgotten about the vase!)

Speaking of work—the furloughs resulting from the government's sequester are about to be realized (beginning tomorrow). The sequester began nearly two months ago but it's taken this long for the actual furloughs to reach our workforce. We'll all be forced off work without pay one day each two week pay period. I'm not about to complain because this career has been such a blessing to me and my family but yeah, I'm hopeful that our government soon turns away from its divisive ways and begins functioning once again.

Nobody I've talked with or listened to seems to have a good handle on how this will play out at work. We're simply going to have to get by with less staffing. We can do that to a point but it remains to be seen how we'll be able to allow people to take time off this summer for vacations that were scheduled months in advance. There's a chance those vacations will have to be canceled. I think all eyes will be on the east coast where they've been using a boatload of overtime to bolster their poor staffing numbers. The overtime supposedly comes to an end once the furloughs kick in. If they can't manage the traffic with their reduced staffing it will be necessary to reduce the number of flights across the country destined for their airspace to a more manageable number. That can only mean flight delays. Lots of them. That's what I think will ultimately get people's attention about this whole sequester. Stay tuned.

I didn't think I'd make it out on my Mukluk anymore this year but when I woke up Friday morning and saw that winter had returned in a big way, I couldn't resist getting back out on it one last time.

The roads had improved quite a lot by the time I made it out in the early afternoon so I did my best to find some slush and muck conditions where my Mukluk thrives. She was filthy by the time I got her home. Always the sign of a good ride!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just So Proud!

Cabin Fever: a condition in which a person feels unhappy or bored because of spending too much time in the house, esp. in winter. Yup. I'd say that pretty much describes just about anybody you talk to who is still looking at snow on the ground with frigid temps, including me. I had to laugh earlier in the week when a friend wrote on her Facebook wall about her 3-year-old daughter waking up and being enthused that it was snowing outside. Someday she too will succumb to the fever.

My daughter loves to dance. It's something she works hard at but it's also something that comes naturally to her. I never tire of watching her dance. A few years ago we thought that we'd enjoyed her last public performance after her spring recital when she left her dance studio behind for college and a change of cities. We were wrong and we couldn't be happier about it.

She's been part of UMR's Ballroom dance team since arriving in Rochester, co-captaining it for two of those years. She's also found a new studio to call home as she continues to explore Ballroom dance.

She was asked to be one of the premier dancers for this year's Dancing for the Arts in the city of Rochester, pairing up with one of the city's more notable persons to compete against 9 other couples. She was excited to tell us about the request a few months ago hoping we could attend the event. Fortunately, we both could. Rubbing shoulders with this crowd meant that we'd have to leave our jeans behind but that's ok. I survived.

I was so glad that Tammy could be there for this night because too often her work schedule gets in the way.

The entire show was entertaining and the dinner wasn't bad, either. We watched as her partner, Ed Hruska, a City Councilman and Executive Director of the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission led her around from table to table introducing her to many of those in attendance, schmoozing the crowd before the competition, hoping to get their votes and take home the top honors of the night.

They weren't due to dance until deep into the program. I got a text from her not long before they took the stage: "Woo! Gettin nervous!" I leaned over and showed Tammy. She assured me that she thrives in this environment. I knew that but I offered up a small prayer anyway. No doubt Tammy did too.

Camera recording? Check.

I can't enjoy her dance skills the way I'd like to while I'm videoing her because my focus is on the small viewing screen of my camera. Still, I snuck a couple of quick looks, enough to tell me that she was really working it out there. Her facial expressions, her body language, her confidence. I actually got a shiver up my spine early on as she took command of the stage knowing every eye was on her. I thought about how fortunate and blessed I am to be a part of her life. Just so proud! I wouldn't trade it for the world!

We spoke with them afterward and Ed commented that he'd never before seen the look in her eyes that she displayed while she was onstage. He knew she meant business. I don't think we could've been more proud of her—and Ed did a nice job too.

On the drive home, we talked about the poise she has and what a blessing she is in our lives and how excited we are for her as we watch her life unfold. I mentioned to Tammy how grateful I am to have been along for the ride and to be a part of both her and Rachel's lives but with just one regret—that we didn't find each other sooner.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Surrounded by Retirees!

Is it possible to have both a relaxing and a full weekend? I think I just did.

We got together with Karen Thursday afternoon to do some needed legwork toward our sunporch/deck project. More about that here.

I've resumed the walking that I unexpectedly fell in love with last year. I need to ease back into these seemingly easy workouts though because they're leaving their mark on me with tender shins and some sore spots on the bottoms of my feet. 10.5 miles a couple times a week is a little much until I'm conditioned. I'll get there.

I made it out Friday afternoon for the Hampton loop. Yes, those were flakes of snow toward the end of the video (for those who watched) as the spring that just can't seem to get going continues to spin its wheels! It had been close to 18 months since I've last done this ride. It's really nice to be back on the road again. There are so many rides ahead of me that I look forward to, places I haven't been since late fall of 2011 because I was forced to sit out all of last year. It's sort of like visiting with old friends again when I'm out there.

In addition to Garmin and TrainingPeaks, I've begun uploading my ride data from my Garmin to Strava. I still use Garmin because that's what I've used for the last 7 years. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm using TrainingPeaks because it does a nice job of breaking down my power meter data. I'm playing around with Strava now because it's got a fun feature where it compares segments of my ride with identical segments of others who have ridden the same section. It then gives me my ranking against the others so I can try and improve on it next time I'm riding that segment.

Between the motivation that my power meter is providing me and these timed sections out on the road, I can see riding myself into a form I haven't seen in several years. I'm looking forward to it. The key now will be in learning where these timed sections are located so I'll know when to go hard and put in my best effort. Fun stuff!

I stopped in at Greg Haupt's retirement party on Friday night at Carbone's in Lakeville. Greg retired with more than 27 years of government service. It was a nice turnout of people with quite a few retired controllers in the mix. I can't be sure but I think the retired controllers may well have outnumbered the active ones.

We've had 5 controllers retire in the last 10 days. I'll list them for those interested who aren't on Facebook and plugged in with the announcements there. In addition to Greg, we also saw Julie Damico, Jeff Daly, Jeff Eggers, and Ralph Fee retire. We'll see so many of us leave in the next couple of years.

Jeff Eggers came to the area I work in to say goodbye to everyone on Wednesday morning. I was in the sector and he tapped me on the shoulder and said: "don't stay too long". He's right. I was speaking with another controller at Greg's party about this. Randy retired 10 months ago and he said that I'll know when the time is right. I'd like to think so.

I was finally able to take down most of our outdoor Christmas lights yesterday. There wasn't much I could do until the snow melted off the roof. This may be the latest in the year that they've been up. I got to wondering while taking them down if this may be the last time I do this? Tammy would rather not see me up on the roof any more than is necessary. Christmas lights aren't necessary.

We watched an excellent documentary last night called Searching for Sugar Man. It's about a guy who makes a couple of albums in the late '60s and early '70s but they never garner any notice here in the US. The artist trades making records for a life of manual labor rehabbing old buildings, all the while he's unaware that his music has found an enthusiastic and loyal following in South Africa.

Check it out, it's quite a story.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Rachel's New Digs and Watts Going On

We had a nice time in the studio on Friday. The work we did was just so-so but we enjoyed the time spent working on our skills. Nate and Rex were there on the far bench. They always have a good vibe around them which we appreciate.

I was pleasantly surprised when we walked back to the cold-shop to pick up our work from the week before. The colors of the pieces I'd done were so rich and deep. I don't typically get that sort of result using frit. Frit is small pieces of colored glass that you roll a gather of glass over to add color to the glass. Usually, it results in a more diluted color than what I achieved with the combination of frit I used on these pieces. It's not often that I walk out of the cold-shop with a smile on my face the way I did with these in hand.

We drove down to Rochester on Friday night to spend some time with Rachel and Tony. Rachel just moved into some new digs a few doors down from where she'd been staying. She showed us around her new place including the view from the roof outside her room. I can see this being a nice place to hang out on a warm summer night but go easy on the wine out there, please—I don't see a railing. Ok, just doing my dad thing. She's got the entire top floor of the home to herself until she leaves for Long Island in late August.

We finished out the night at Osaka's sharing 4 sushi rolls among us. Good stuff!

Spring is finally making itself known in small glimpses. There can be no doubt that warmer weather isn't very far off. I got out on my blue Serotta road bike Saturday afternoon for 49 miles and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'd been out once earlier in the week testing the Quarq power meter I had installed a couple months ago but this was the first ride where I was really able to put it through its paces. It's such a great training tool. I set my Garmin Edge 705 to record data in 5-mile increments and focused on keeping my watts within a range I felt I could sustain without blowing up. I had one of the better rides I've had in a while.

I typically train with a focus toward my overall average speed, trying to bring it home in something of a respectable number. Training with watts is a little different. Rather than trying to achieve some desired average speed which all too often is negatively affected by a strong headwind, my focus is on the number of watts I'm producing. My average speed will take care of itself. And that's what happened. I brought it home at a speed I hadn't seen in nearly 6 years. I have to give a nod to my CompuTrainer, too, however. It's done a great job of pushing me to levels I don't seem to have the discipline to sustain on my own on the road.

Now that I'm training with watts, I've been uploading my data to TrainingPeaks where I can analyze it later. I'm most intrigued by the peak power values I can achieve for specific lengths of time. I see this as being another motivator out there on my rides as I try and improve on my form.

Tammy was at work in the office Saturday night so I went over to Mom's to spend some time with her. I was going to stop at Cub or Rainbow on the way over and pick her up one of those sprouting spring flower arrangements but just as I was leaving I got the idea to give her the vases pictured above instead. She was happy with them. I spent the next hour chatting with Mom and Tim. It was nice.

About the time I was getting ready to head for home, Mom asked if she should call Tammy to see if she was off work yet and if she wanted to come over for a glass of wine. Her timing was perfect. Tammy showed up a few minutes later and the three of us chatted away in her living room with our glasses of wine until after 11:00, way past her usual bedtime. We were in no hurry, you could tell she was enjoying our time together and didn't want the night to end. Who knows how many more visits like that we'll have together?