Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014

I was telling Tammy that I can't recall a better Thanksgiving weekend that we've enjoyed together than this past one. It was so nice. Rachel came into town on Wednesday afternoon and didn't leave for her dad's until late in the day on Friday which gave us more time than we usually get with her. She got busy right away in the kitchen baking an apple pie for the next day's feast. She's become quite the chef over the last couple of years.

Rachel was up early Thursday to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while working on a jigsaw puzzle that she and Tammy had started the night before. It wasn't quite the same as last Thanksgiving when she was in NYC and at the parade.

In the last several years we've celebrated Thanksgiving with either Jackie or Keith's family. It's rare that Tammy actually prepares a full dinner like that and I know she's a little intimidated by it but she shouldn't be. She did great! Everything was perfect! Well, almost everything. Just as we were sitting down and giving thanks, our smoke alarms went nuts! "BEEP! BEEP!! WARNING! BEEP! BEEP! CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED! BEEP! BEEP! WARNING! BEEP! BEEP! CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED! BEEP! BEEP!" It was so annoying and couldn't have come at a worse time. We opened some windows and doors to try and clear the air (which seemed totally fine already) but it wasn't helping. I ran to the garage and got a ladder to try and fan some fresh air into the detector near the kitchen but that wasn't helping either. This went on for at least 10 minutes which seemed so much longer at the time. Tammy took it all in stride but I felt bad that her perfect timing was being ruined. She passed it off as a memory we can look back and laugh about many Thanksgivings from now. I like that.

We recovered from our turkey dinner tiredness then ventured out to Paragon Odyssey 15 in Burnsville to see Mockingjay, part of The Hunger Games series. Good show! It's only been a couple of years since I read the books but I'd pretty much forgotten much of the plotline for this part of the story which was just as well. Surprise me.

I spent some time over the weekend getting Tammy's Etsy storefront stocked and functioning. She's been steadily working on making her Sami bracelets for the last month or more and now they're available to the masses for purchase, just in time for your holiday shopping! Check them out. I need to do a better job with the photos but this is a start.

I was out Friday morning for a few hours on the mountain bike trails at Lebanon park in Eagan with Hynek. What a fun time! I hadn't ridden them in the snow and was actually pretty much avoiding them thinking they'd be more technical than I'd want. I was so wrong. They're perfect for the snow with my fat bike. I'll be a regular there. Video from my ride.

Our Christmas spirit has been at low tide the last few years and it's shown in the lack of Christmas decor inside our home. Rachel lit a fire under us yesterday afternoon and together we spent a few hours decking out the house. We didn't go all-in the way we used to but it looks nice.

I was putting up our 'forever' tree in the living room and Charlie soon remembered how much he loves to walk underneath it and let it scratch his back. Nut!

Rachel left for her dad's and Tammy and I left for Mall of America and Black Friday crowds. There were lots of people but the mall absorbs them well. We walked around aimlessly for a while taking in all the sights then had some pizza before leaving for home to catch up on some episodes of Survivor. It was a nice end to a full and enjoyable weekend.

Did I mention that I have much to be thankful for? I try to never lose sight of that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Color Blind!

I woke up to an outside temperature of 50º F (10º C) this morning. How nice! It wiped out what remained of our snow which is both good and bad. I like the snow for riding the trails but that's about all. Not to worry, there's more snow in the forecast along with some cold temps so my fat-bike will be happy.

The Glowing Tree in Bloomington Facebook page I started a couple years ago (only because nobody else had and it needed its own page) is once again seeing its share of activity as we come into the holiday season. I saw a news article from yesterday about the tree and the potential for this to be its final year bathed in lights. Here's the link. It won't seem the same at all anymore driving along that stretch of Cedar Ave at night just south of the Mall of America if the tree does go dark.

I / We will never again attempt to choose wall colors for our home without first consulting Karen who has been there for us throughout so many projects in the last couple of years. We attempted to do that this past weekend when I took on the job of painting the laundry room. How hard can that be? Really hard! I did a great job of painting it but the colors are all wrong. We thought a nice sunny yellow would be bright and cheery in there but as Karen told us, yellow is a difficult color to get right based on the sample chips you have to look at. What I did just doesn't work at all. I sort of knew that when I first started applying the paint but I didn't want to judge it too quickly, wanting instead to see how it looked with the entire room done. I should've gone with my gut instinct. But that's not the really bad part. We got ridiculously creative with the service door to the garage and found a nice retro green that we thought would look fun. The color chips looked nice next to one another but it's much more funny than fun. Go ahead...laugh! I mean, can it get any worse? I did that? I almost wasn't going to mention it here but hey.

Karen came by yesterday to have a look and a laugh. She's going to work with us to make it right. She had lots of ideas as well that we're going to incorporate into the room's new look. More on that in the weeks to come.

Friends of ours are vacationing in Florida for the next week and asked us if we could watch their Sugar Gliders for them while they're away. They're an interesting animal, native to Australia and, where I understand, they're not kept as pets. They're nocturnal so we have no interaction with them during the day but they come alive at night. Charlie and Allie (especially Allie) are fascinated by them while Toby couldn't care less. It was funny the first day we had them because Allie and Charlie were glued to the cage waiting for them to make an appearance. They were so patient. Here's a video of them from last night that I took in 'night vision' mode. Tammy uses a glove to hold them because they'll sometimes nip a little. Other than the occasional nip they're pretty sweet little guys.

I typically have one game on my Droid that I'll occasionally play and for now, that game is Daddy Long Legs. I'm not so good at it yet but I'm working on it. The idea is to tap the legs to cause the spider to put one foot in front of the other. Here's a 21-meter walk mine did. It's a lot more difficult than it looks and usually results in a drunk looking spider. I've kept him upright for just shy of 27 meters.

I had a blast out on my fat-bike on Friday afternoon. I was intending to do a loop from home to the trailhead at Mendota then work my way west to Burnsville and Country Rd 5 to home but because I couldn't say no to an overtime call from work I had to cut it short and have Tammy meet me. It's all good though because there were only two hours of daylight left but those would've been two fun hours!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I've Changed and Picking Up Where We Left Off

I came into work last Tuesday night and Leslee asked me why I hadn't posted a photo of myself from my Navy days to my Facebook page for Veteran's Day the way I usually do. I told her that "I just wasn't feeling it this year". My military service doesn't make me as proud as it once did. It was only a few years ago that you'd usually find a US flag flying out in front of our home for such holidays but I no longer do that either. I've changed.

I remember how the pastor where I used to attend church would honor all of the veterans in attendance one Sunday morning each year by having us stand and be acknowledged. It was always a proud moment for me. So what happened? What changed?

I've never seen my time in the Navy as something I did out of patriotism for our country. Patriotism had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to join and while I can't speak for those I served with, you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that many (if any) of them were serving out of some sense of love-of-country. For the most part, we were young kids just out of high school, not sure of what else to do with our lives. Some of us were losers in society; not focused enough or ambitious enough to have plotted out anything beyond our senior year but we knew we needed to do something with our lives. To me, the Navy seemed as good a port in the storm as any.

I wrote a several part piece about my time in the military and what led up to it a few years ago. I doubt you'll find anything to do with patriotism anywhere in what I wrote.

What changed? For me, it was watching how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were waged and mismanaged. Also, realizing how our military has been and is being used by those who stand to profit from it. Did you know that there are literally tens of billions of dollars unaccounted for on the balance sheets of our defense department for our two ongoing wars? It's disturbing. People are getting rich from sending our sons and daughters to fight these trumped-up wars. I suppose it's been this way for much longer than I want to believe but I'm just now noticing it. Our defense department has become so obscenely bloated that I no longer feel proud to be associated with it the way I once was. That's what's changed. Perhaps there will come a day when I see things differently but likely not in this lifetime.

The military was a good jumping-off point for me into adulthood and it still can be for others. It's the motives behind the missions that leave me feeling disillusioned about it today. But still, I'm grateful for my time in the Navy and the growth I experienced in those years.

I received a subpoena to appear in court to testify about what I witnessed back in June when there was an altercation between a couple of tree trimmers in our neighborhood. I'm hoping a plea-bargain is reached so I can avoid the disruption in my schedule but I'm not counting on it.

Winter arrived this past week in the form of a "polar vortex", picking up right where it left off last spring. I'm not looking forward to another repeat of last winter but if we must, at least I've got my fat-bike to help me cheat this winter a few hours at a time just like last year. I made it down to the river a couple of times last week for several hours of trail riding. Here's Friday's adventure in map form.

I drove to Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis on Thursday to talk with them about getting a front suspension fork for my Mukluk. I'd like the suspension for the increased control it will give me on the trails but also to help reduce the amount of vibration making its way into my videos. Win-win.

I spoke with Tyson, one of Freewheel's mechanics and he told me that there's no quick fix for me because of the diameter of my headtube; it's too small. When I bought my bike nearly 3 years ago there were no fat-bikes with suspension and they've only just recently begun to show up. Tyson cautioned me that although it's assumed that fat-bikes will be ridden in the winter, the technology for the suspension being seen on some of the newer models hasn't really been tested to his liking in frigid conditions and the amount of shock absorption they'll provide in colder temps may not be all that great. That wasn't what I wanted to hear but I appreciated his honesty. I'll be back in the spring to see what others who've ridden the newer breed of suspension bikes throughout the coming winter have to say and then maybe I'll upgrade if there's something out there to my liking.

Until then I'll be just fine...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tammy's Samis and Oh No, Snow!

I'm back at the salt mine after having had two weeks off. Wow...that was so nice! It's been years since I've been away from work for two consecutive weeks. Thoughts of retirement kept taunting don't have to go back, you know. But each time I managed to shoo them away. I'm still intent on sticking around at least until next spring, then after that, I'll be month to month.

Tammy made a quick trip up to Babbitt yesterday to see her mom and Cindy but she came back today, one day early. There's so much I'd like to say here about why she came home early but I'll let it go for now. Tammy is such a good person who goes out of her way for others. She's the most giving and compassionate person I know, yet, there are those in her family who have nothing but disdain for her. I don't get it and I have little time for them, especially when they know better.

Speaking of Tammy—she's been busy making Sami bracelets. She's done quite a few of these already and has given many of them away to friends but her plan is to create an Etsy site where she can market them. Everyone in retirement has to have a plan or two—a side hustle. She's never far removed from her creative side and I love that about her. The photo to the right is a close-up view of one of her bracelets.

She took an acrylic painting class a couple nights ago where the lesson was to more or less copy the instructor's work. I'm still hopeful that she'll dust off her watercolors again one of these days. She has so much untapped ability and I'd love to see what she can do if she took some time to develop her style. I mentioned before the watercolor class she took in college. It's been a while since I've pimped her work from that class here.

I've beefed up the RAM on my Macbook Pro from 4gb to 8gb with hopes of reducing the lag time I've been experiencing, mostly on its PC side through Bootcamp. It appears to have solved my problems. No more walking away in frustrating waiting for programs to load. I can now see getting another couple of years of use out of my nearly 4.5-year-old laptop. A hat-tip to Jim Knoll for the suggestion!

Skip the next few paragraphs if you've had your fill of politics. I just need to make mention of this here for years from now when I look back.

I'm disappointed in the midterm election results but mostly I'm disappointed in the pathetic campaigns run by Democrats. Rather than pointing to and embracing the many achievements of the Obama administration, they chose to run from them while at the same time shunning Obama. Why? Typically during an election season, I'll see Airforce 1 (the president's plane) making its way across the country from big city to big city in full campaign mode but I saw none of that this year. I didn't have to mess with one TFR (temporary flight restriction) airspace. Right-wing media with their constant drip-drip-drip of made up or overblown negative narratives about the man and his administration has been a success; such a success that even people who knew better were afraid to stand up and refute the talking points for fear of being tarred and feathered by the propagandists.

To put things in perspective: Bush presided over the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression and had the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover; there was a complete collapse of the stock market on his watch and he turned a budget surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit. Since Obama was elected, we've seen 65 straight months of economic growth; unemployment falling from 10.1% to 5.8%; the budget deficit reduced by 2/3 and record stock market growth. Oh, and the ACA (ObamaCare) isn't looking nearly as bad as those on the side of disinformation would want you to think. And I'm to believe we should go back to the policies that caused so much distress to our country?

Yes, I get that neither man nor party deserves full fault or credit for all that happens while they're in office but if you look at the unforced errors committed by Bush (the war in Iraq and costly tax cuts mostly for the wealthy) and compare his abysmal 8 years with the rebuilding undertaken by Obama but dragged down by an obstructionist Republican Congress, there's a huge difference between the men. One was as pathetic a president as I've witnessed in my lifetime and the other is someone I admire very much. It amazes me that people bought into the lie machinery to the extent they did and continue to.

Moving on...

I spent most of yesterday stringing outdoor lights for the fast approaching holiday season and just in time! We've got a winter snowstorm working its way toward us that's expected to dump between 8 and 10 inches (20 to 25 cm for my European friends) of snow on us beginning late Sunday night and into Tuesday. Fortunately for me, I spent a few hours this morning making one last sweep of the yard for leaves. I won't say 'bring it on' but I'm about as ready as I can be.

Time to fuel the snowblower!

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Working Vacation and Celebrating 86 Years!

I'm in the middle of a two-week vacation from work but I'm doing very little relaxing. I decided to tackle one of the jobs on my growing inventory of things-around-home-that-are-in-need-of-attention-but-can-wait-until-I'm-retired list: I painted the basement.

It was ten years ago that our Extreme Basement Makeover was in full swing and we've done very little to it since with the exception of some stained-glass work for the cabinetry. We both liked the sage green color we used on the walls down there at the time but I grew tired of it a while ago when I began to notice how there was little warmth to it. So, I put in a text to Karen to see if she could find some time in her schedule to sit down with us to help select some colors that would work well together. And then we (mostly I) got busy!

After the better part of 4 days, we had this to show for our efforts.

It's so nice to have it done. I'm writing this from one of my favorite spots in the house, down in the shop at one of the workstations. I enjoy being down here again! ...and so do the pups!

I was cleaning my bike recently when I noticed a crack developing where the spokes attach to the hub on my rear wheel. That's not good and I knew right away that I wouldn't be riding these wheels again. I put in a call to Adrian at Flanders Bros Cycles in Minneapolis to see if he had something similar he could sell me. He had nothing on hand but could have an even better pair for me in less than a week. They wouldn't come cheaply but hey, I'm still employed.

I was a little disappointed that this would have to happen while I was on break and intending to do lots of riding but this gave me the excuse to do the basement painting project. I'm happy.

The new wheels are the sweetest I've ever ridden! Adrian was telling me all of the selling points of them but most of what he was saying was over my head. I was content to take his word and know that these are more wheel than I'm worthy of and if I can get 33,000 miles from these as I did my last set I'll keep singing their praises.

Junk-mail seldom makes it beyond the trash can in our garage after being retrieved from our mailbox. There was one piece last week though that caught my eye because the name on it looked vaguely familiar. I opened it up to find a check for more than $600. I had to look at it closely to make sure it wasn't some sort of a come-on. It wasn't. It was my payout for a class-action lawsuit I'd entered into several years ago, never expecting to see much more than a few dollars if that. And to think, that piece of mail came so close to ending up in the trash!

Mom turns 86 today! We took her out to brunch at Cracker Barrel then brought her by our home to open some gifts. I think it was a nice start to her birthday. With her frail heart, each year I think it's going to be her last but each year she is happy to celebrate another.

She had already received 6 calls this morning from friends wishing her a happy birthday and she was telling us of more she was expecting to get. I love when she has something to look forward to because it makes her day. With that in mind, we need to take her out more often than we do. She's always so insistent on how she's happy to stay at home but I need to be more insistent that she needs to get out. Simple as that.

The rain has let up and I've got a yard full of leaves that need attention. My practice retirement is going almost too well! I could so easily get used to this! Hmm...let's do Christmas/holiday lights this year or not? Hmm....