Sunday, October 27, 2013

Note to Self: Do Not Screw This Up!

"I got a text from Rachel a few days ago: "Soooo the amazing race...are we gonna make it happen?"

The Amazing Race is a program on CBS that we've been following since it first aired in 2001. It's a 'reality tv' show where contestants complete challenges as they race around the world. We've been talking about trying out for the show for at least the last six years. They're taking applications now for the cast/participants of the next race which is planned for this coming spring and summer. It would work for Rachel's schedule but not mine...unless I retire. Hmmm.

The show is as much about relationships as it is about a race and they've never had a stepfather/stepdaughter combination. We've always thought that could work to our advantage. Rachel said she'd compile a storyboard of our lives together for a video submission from us. We'll see.

I finally made it out to the mountain bike trails at Murphy Hanrehan Park about 6 miles west of us. What a blast! It's such a departure from the road biking I'm used to but it's so much riskier for me, or is it? At least I'm not contending with distracted drivers in vehicles out on the road but I simply can't be throwing myself around out there and taking falls. Two separate days on the trails this past weekend and two falls. The last one came just after I'd reminded myself to go easier and that it wasn't a race and to simply enjoy the beauty of the trail. I was splayed out in the fallen leaves before I had any idea I was going down. It's so hard to back off though because the kid inside me wants to push-push-push while the older, more mature me is advocating for a reserved approach. You can guess which voice usually wins out.

The park consists of about 10 miles (16 kilometers) of trails carved out through the woods. I'm so in awe of the work that's gone into planning and making this system of trails happen. I'd been in there for 30 minutes when I briefly glanced down at the breadcrumb trail on my Garmin Edge 705 to see the many switchbacks and turns I'd maneuvered through as depicted in the photo to the left. It's just so impressive to me and it's so close to home. I really need to not screw this up and make sure I stay safe because I want this kind of riding to continue to be part of what I do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Politics Now and Then

Politics. I sometimes enjoy kicking around political topics on forums and Facebook but I'm growing weary of it. Maybe it was all of the venomous political back-and-forth associated with the government shutdown the previous two weeks that sapped my desire for it. I was in one conversation where a woman was ranting about 260 billion Muslims and how 10% of them are terrorists and blah blah blah. I had to ask her several times to please explain what she was referring to because she wasn't making sense and did she have a link? She condescendingly told me that the information is online and that all I had to do was Google it. I replied that there are only just a little over 7 billion people on the planet and her 260 billion number was confusing me to which she replied: "my bad, lol". It's that sort of thing that has me questioning why I bother to try. I doubt I'll throw in the towel but I think I'll be more selective about who I engage with. Politics 'now'.

The pups and I are in a nice routine lately with me taking them for a half-hour to an hour walk nearly every day. I usually let Toby lead the way because he often pulls me in another direction when I turn for home sooner than he'd like; he knows which roads lead back there. He had us all running this afternoon in the cool air.

I was talking with Jackie (my sister) last night and she was telling me how Toby and Allie's father, Tucker, is beginning to show his age. He's got doggie dementia which is similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans and it sometimes causes him to roam the house in the middle of the night. Tucker is only two years older than Toby and Allie. The thought of our little guys getting older is a sad one but they're already clearly slowing down.

I was planning on going out for a few hours on my road bike Friday morning but I got a sudden urge to get on my Mukluk instead and head down to the Minnesota River, about 11 miles from home, and ride the trails along the river between Cedar Ave and Mendota. It was west of Cedar where I got into trouble a couple years ago and suffered numerous spills that caused my clotting issues. The terrain is more forgiving east of Cedar and I was careful to keep myself upright. I'd love to be so much more aggressive out there but I simply can't risk it.

I approached the making of the video below a little differently than others I've done in the past. Typically I'll splice together the video scenes and then find some music that fits both the length and the mood I'm looking for. This time I chose the music first and then edited the scenes to fit the music. I think it flows better.

The artist is David Baerwald and his music has been so much a part of the soundtrack to my life the past 25+ years. You'll likely recall his song Welcome to the Boomtown from 1986 when he and David Ricketts recorded as David & David. We used to be on opposing sides of political arguments on a forum I used to frequent years ago when I was staunchly conservative. Politics 'then'. I messaged him last week to see if he was okay with me using his music in one of my videos, to which he responded, "Kevin, I'm honored". He may have been overstating things a little but I still thought it was quite cool.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Changing of the Guard

My life is one that is sometimes conflicted because my actions don't always reflect what's in my heart. I'm an animal lover but yet I eat meat. I confess that I'm a hypocrite in that regard. Maybe you saw the video a few weeks ago of some NRA lobbyist killing an elephant. I was troubled by it as were many others. Elephants are being illegally killed for their ivory at an unsustainable rate yet this is allowed to happen. How does someone justify that? I can only guess that the big-game hunter is seriously lacking in some other area of his life.

With that video fresh in my mind I saw this and it brought the previous video into an even more sobering perspective. It really touched me. To think that their bond had survived all those years is just so moving.

We've had a changing of the guard. The guy who delivered our new mower took one look at the mower I was trading in and said: "we get maybe 1 in 50 that look that nice!" That was nice to hear because I did take good care of it. Am I weird for saying that I actually felt an attachment to my old mower and it was just a little difficult saying goodbye to it? I guess I'm weird.

I was able to get out on my new workhorse twice this past week as I try and keep up with the ever-increasing rate of falling leaves. I'm really liking its tight turning radius which is the main reason I bought it.

Some out-of-town door-to-door tree trimmers came by a few days ago knocking on doors trying to drum up business. These guys have come through our neighborhood regularly for the last several years and I've always taken a pass on their services but now we find ourselves with some trees in serious need of attention so I took them up on their offer. I'm not sure I'll use them again. For what I paid and the amount of time they spent doing the job, I'd say they definitely got the better of me. I suppose I was expecting some climbing and a more thorough job. They trimmed a good amount but they also left a lot too.

I nearly gave up my Candy Crush semi-addiction. Level 197 just about did me in but I finally persevered after more than two weeks of trying.

Rachel and some friends from her ballroom dance team took a ferry across Long Island Sound to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut yesterday for a ballroom dance competition. I think she's probably dancing now more than she ever has in her life with many hours spent practicing each week in preparation for their competitions. I'm happy for her that she has this outlet and that she's really being challenged by it. She'll return to UMR an even more experienced dancer.

I'm finding more time to go for my long walks again which is nice. For most of the outdoor months this year I've been opting for time on my bike over time spent walking which is understandable considering I missed out last year. But now I'm finding more of a balance between the two and I'm happy about that.

Last Friday's ride was crazy windy! It was a struggle at times to keep my bike where I wanted it on the shoulder with semi-trucks buffeting me in the wind. Still, it was nice to be out enjoying some of the last warm weather of the year. I wanted to make it to Kenyon and go west toward Faribault from there but light sprinkles and threatening skies had me heading for home sooner than I wanted. I didn't need wet roads to go along with the winds.

Here's a link to my route and a link to my ride data on Strava.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Was I The One Who Lost My Way?

This was the year of the Cicadas as they emerged above ground as adults from their 17 years of life underground as nymphs where they fed on sap from plant roots. I'd seen them often this summer but wasn't sure what they were until Rachel saw a video I'd posted and clued me in. I found this one crawling across our garage floor looking like it was nearing the end of its life. I found a flower in our garden for it to drift away on.

My MacBook Pro is beginning to show its age at a little over 3 years old. It hesitates now in a way it never used to and the PC side of it that I power with VMware has become painfully slow. I upgraded to the latest OS (Mountain Lion) in hopes that it would help but it doesn't really appear to have. I also updated my VMware from version 3 to version 6 but no change there either. I brought my Mac into the Apple Store at Mall of America and the guy at the Genius Bar ran some diagnostics on it but could find nothing wrong with the hard-drive other than some files that were cluttering it up. So, I'll just make do for a while longer and use it as a way of making me an even more patient guy.

Speaking of being a patient guy, I'm losing my patience with our government and by government, I'm referring mostly to Republicans. I don't talk politics very often here but I do need to make mention of what's happening today to jog my memory when I revisit this entry years from now.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare is such a divisive issue and Republicans are pulling out all of the stops to try and abolish it, including shutting down much of the government until they get their way (we're in day 3 of the shutdown). They're doing all they can to try and make it more difficult for those who can't afford health care to continue to be unable to afford it. The party of Christian conservatives isn't acting very Christian-like at all with too many outspoken Christian leaders leading the way. What do you suppose Jesus would say? I'm quite sure he wouldn't give your efforts his blessing nor would he approve of your obsession with guns for that matter. Yours was the party I once felt so at home in not all that long ago and yours was the faith I embraced for so long but am falling away from at a disturbing speed because of how it's been hijacked.

Was I the one who lost my way?

President Obama continues to hold firm to his 'no negotiating' away the ACA and I applaud him. The Republican party is in serious jeopardy of losing so much of their credibility and hopefully, some of their base should ObamaCare prove to be just what our country needed to try and reign in health care costs. Maybe that will be what it takes to get at least some of the masses of people in our country who have turned their critical thinking skills over to the fake news people on Fox News and the hate-filled radio hacks who spread their poison over the airwaves to question what it is they've been lapping up for too long. That's my dream. That's my prayer.

Moving on.

With our new addition, I'm finding it much more difficult to get my John Deere LX255 lawn tractor turned around in the yard without a lot of stops and starts because of its not so tight turning radius. It's served me well for 13 years and I have no doubt there are many more years left in it but I've decided to trade it in on a model with all-wheel steering. It'll allow me to much more easily maneuver my way around our yard with its much tighter turning radius. I take delivery tomorrow.

We've been furniture shopping for our sun-porch. Our first pieces arrived last Saturday and now all that's left to find are some end-tables and a medium to larger size ottoman for between the sofa and loveseat. We were out today with our dimension specs in hand trying to find something that appealed to us. We got some good ideas but we need to look more.

As much as we'd like to have the entire project completed, we're still a few months away from that considering the ottoman will likely have to be custom ordered which will take at least a month or two to arrive and we still need to decide on blinds for the room and order them. Karen is advising us to go slowly during this last phase and maybe just do a piece at a time and build off each one to get it right. I like the way she thinks.

I got home from the all-night shift yesterday morning and laid down before getting up and walking the pups. I soon found myself back in bed in search of my mojo. I didn't find it but I was eventually able to stumble my way outside to mow the lawn because there were two days of rain in the forecast. All the while I'm trying to psych myself up to go for a ride once my work was done but I just wasn't feeling motivated. I sat out on the deck in the warm sun playing Candy Crush on my Droid watching the sun get lower in the sky and thinking how there won't be many warm afternoons like this left for riding this year. That's all it took and with that, I was off.

It's odd how so often when I'm feeling tired like that, I'll somehow find it in me to put in a surprisingly decent effort. And that's what I did. Here's some video from the last half of the ride.