Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Apps and Making a Murderer

Today feels like a Saturday. I stopped caring about what day of the week it is sometime in the last month as I continue to find my retirement stride. The day of the month has come to mean more to me because retirement bank deposits find their way into my account once each month on the 1st. I'm being more careful about my purchases than I used to be when I was employed and surprisingly, I don't mind the added discipline. It's not the hardship I imagined it would be.

I stumbled onto a new photo editing app the other day called Super Photo. (Android or iPhone download links) The "painting" filter renders some very cool images. Here's a collection of photos I've edited with the app. There's a free version and most of the photos in the collection I linked to were edited using it. The only drawback is that you're limited by the file size rendered. I purchased the app for $4.00 and in addition to getting larger file sizes, I also have access to all of the (over 1600) filters.

I was having some serious connectivity issues with my LG G4 phone I bought a couple months ago. It was continually dropping the wifi signal in our home whereas none of our other wifi-enabled devices were having a similar problem. It was frustrating to me so I went online looking for posts from others experiencing the same thing and to see if there was a fix from LG. Maybe all phones have a bevy of people with connectivity issues but I only did a search for LG G4.

I did some research and found that the "HappyGilmore guest network" I'd set up (only because I could) with our Belkin router had a dedicated amount of bandwidth set aside for it; bandwidth that was ultimately taking away from our "HappyGilmore" connection. I deleted the guest network and noticed a marked signal improvement all throughout our home, including the basement where I'm now getting a signal within the normal range where I was getting none before the fix. And best of all, my connectivity issues are no more.

I downloaded a free app called Wifi Analyzer and among its features is a signal strength indicator. Start the app on your smartphone and walk around your home to get a feel for where your strong and weak areas are. There are several other features of the app that are worth checking out. Sorry, iPhone users but the IOS counterpart app called WiFi Explorer will cost you $14.99. It comes with some glowing reviews if that helps.

Rachel texted us a few nights ago with a suggestion to watch Making a Murderer on Netflix. It's the true story of a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. There's much about his prosecution that points to a corrupt local sheriff's department for his imprisonment and he eventually files a lawsuit for damages. In the middle of the lawsuit, he's suspected of the murder of a woman whose body is found on his property. Is he actually guilty this time of a horrible crime or has he once again been set up?  It's compelling. Watch it.

I was out with a group of fat-bikers last Sunday along the Minnesota River bottoms. Lots of fun! (video below). 18 of us got together last night for Fat Tuesday at the same location to try and trudge our way through 6 inches (18 cm) of fresh snow. We did 5 miles but it felt like 20. I fell a number of times as the snow grabbed my front wheel and took it in a direction other than where I wanted to go. I wasn't going fast enough to hurt much and all of my falls had me laughing. The entire ride was a lot of work but it was fun!

A pub-crawl with other fat-bikers is in the works for New Year's day beginning in Hopkins and riding to Surly Brewing Co. From there we'll go to Steel Toe Brewing before returning to Hopkins and a stop at LTD Brewing. It promises to be a good time.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Quiet Christmas, 2015 Style

It's Christmas, 2015 and Tammy and I are quietly enjoying the day at home with her mother and our pups. Rachel is still in the Dominican Republic with Tony and some friends. I think she'll be back in Rochester on Sunday and we'll get together with her the following weekend. From the limited contact we've had with her, it sounds like they're all enjoying themselves.

This was our first Christmas without my mom and more than once I caught myself wanting to reach for the phone to call her. For years she would sometimes suggest that this would be her last Christmas or birthday or last whatever-the-occasion-may-be because she didn't expect to live much longer.

She was finally right.

Tammy and I have moved away from lavishing one another with Christmas gifts but we did exchange a few. I prefer it this way. She surprised me with a metal John Deere sign for our my garage because somewhere along the way I became a proud John Deere guy when it comes to my mowers.

I've been missing our trips to the Mall of America to kill a winter evening especially while they've got their holiday decorations out. Yeah, I know, I'm weird but then I'm happy to be different. I drove out there earlier in the week and strolled around but it wasn't the same without Tammy by my side. I put in two laps before leaving for home.

We took Elaine to Burnsville Center the next night, not quite sure how she'd respond to being out that late in her day. She did really well, watching all of the people and taking in all there was to see. Our time away satisfied the fix I was unable to achieve the previous night on my own.

We brought her with us to Hosanna and their Christmas Eve services yesterday afternoon. We seem to be having more success with her in public places lately and I think part of that is because she doesn't have as much anxiety being around strangers the way she did when she first came to live with us last spring. I think it's all part of the progression of her Alzheimer's.

We attended an early (1:30) service hoping to beat the crowds. So much for that idea. Hosanna was as crowded as I've ever seen it. It was nice to be back again as it's been more than 3 years since I was there apart from my mom's funeral and memorial service last month. The lead pastor I'd had a falling out with retired in November and I'm warming up to the idea of going back. I don't suppose their opposition toward same-sex couples has changed much but I'm happy to be that fish that swims in a different direction. Plus, at yesterday's service, I was seated next to one of the camera operators and it reminded me that that's still a desire of mine—to help out with the audiovisual staff.

I don't sense that I'll ever be all in again when it comes to organized religion and I'm more than fine with that.

Time to publish this and see if Tammy is up for some Mario Kart. We gave a Wii U to each other for Christmas and opened it last week. It's a lot of fun and just the sort of winter's night pastime we need. Plus, it's especially fun because I'm faster than she is. :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Has Anybody Seen December?

This is a December to remember as far as our weather goes. Our temps have been in the upper 30's to well into the 40s (2º - 9º C) most of the month which is quite a departure from normal. One of my neighbors was out doing yard work last week. Had our temps been cold enough for snow we'd be buried deep now because of all of the precipitation we've had. While the weather has been great for getting out and walking (50 miles in the past week), it's not so good for fat-biking. Our lakes haven't even iced over yet.

Because it's important to limit damage to mountain bike trails when they're wet, all of the trails have been closed for the past few weeks and I'm itching to be out there riding them. I wouldn't mind seeing some snow as well because it is winter after all and I've been looking forward to this—being retired, waking up and getting out on the snowy trails. There's still a lot of winter left so it's not quite time to panic.

I met up with a group of riders last Saturday for the Faturday group ride. They typically ride the Minnesota River bottoms but opted for the crushed limestone of the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail. This was my first time with the group so I wasn't sure what to expect. They're a fun crowd. We turned the ride into a pub crawl, stopping at 3 pubs along our 34-mile route. I intend to tag along with them again throughout the winter.

I only captured the first hour of our ride on video because I forgot my GoPro's batteries in my car but the video below will give you an idea of what a Faturday group ride looks like.

Rachel and Tony leave tomorrow for a friend's wedding in Georgia and she just came down with a head-cold yesterday. This is a trip they've been planning and looking forward to for several months so I hope she's able to get healthy again soon. From Georgia, their group will all leave for the Dominican Republic for (I think) a week. This will be our first Christmas without her. So, between my mom no longer being with us and Rachel being away it's not going to seem the same this holiday season. We only put up our small tree and opted for a minimalist approach to Christmas decorations. I prefer it this way.

At Rachel's suggestion, I bought a GoPro harness/mount for Charlie to wear to see if we could get some fun video from his point of view. He's not as excited about it as we are. See the "GoPro Fail" video below.

There's a small get-together this afternoon for John Otto and Barry Vig who will both be retiring at the end of the month. Yes, I'm a little melancholy about it because that would've been my retirement party as well. I need to get my butt moving because I've got a date with both the elliptical and rowing machine first.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Go Ahead. I'll Wait.

At least a few nights each week I'm back at work. In my dreams. Sometimes I'm at a sector working traffic but usually I'm visiting with friends in the hallway or saying my goodbyes on my last day of work. In my more than 33 years of being an air traffic controller, I only ever dreamt about the job a handful of times. It happened so seldom, so why now?

I occasionally think about where I'd be in my countdown to my last day had I not retired when I did. A part of me still would like very much to have gone the distance to January 2nd but it's a fleeting thought. Being home for Tammy to give her relief from caring for her mother is more important. Also, getting my hearing back as a tradeoff makes any other desires of mine pale in comparison.

As a point of note for years from now when I revisit this page or when my future grandchildren discover my blog long after I'm gone: Gas prices have been steadily declining for the last 6 months to somewhere well under $2.00 per gallon as OPEC continues to flood the world oil market with cheap crude in an effort to put the hurt on the North American fracking industry. Historically, fracking is only profitable when crude is selling for around $60-70 per barrel because of the expense of extraction. Crude oil is currently selling for $37 a barrel. From what I'm reading, the fracking industry is becoming more efficient and in some cases cutting the normal cost of extraction in half. It will be interesting to see what happens as OPEC continues to put the squeeze on the frackers. Enjoy the low prices while they last.

I went in for my biannual CT scan of my Common Iliac arteries yesterday morning to check for any changes. Most of the focus was on the aneurysms they discovered in those arteries when I was in the hospital last January for blood clots. Everything looks good. I'll go back again in 6 months for another scan.

I'm so blessed to have the health care coverage I have. It's doubtful that I'd be alive today without it. I think about the cluster headaches I get and wonder how I'd manage if I couldn't receive the help for them that I get. How awful that would be. Watching the refugee crisis has me mentally trading places with one of them and wondering how I'd ever manage to press on? All I can say is there but by the grace of God go I. Imagine being on the run as they are with no earthly possessions but what you can carry and best of luck if a serious illness afflicts you along the way.

As I was driving home from my doctor's appointment I tuned into Rush Limbaugh's program. He was speaking with a woman from Mississippi who was talking about how Donald Trump should've been Time Magazine's Person of the Year and that it was wrong to give it to Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. According to the caller, all Merkel did was allow a bunch of refugees into her country against the people's wishes and that they're only going to destroy it. The way she and Limbaugh spoke of the Syrian refugees was so calloused and uncaring. There's a disconnect with Limbaugh and it worries me that so many people are listening to his reassuring words and finding themselves agreeing with his warped sense of what is right.

And I was one of them once.

I've talked about my road to Damascus here before so I won't go into that now but I do understand the spell one can fall under and the lack of feeling a need to do any critical thinking for oneself when you've got the huge megaphone of right-wing media doing that thinking for you. I know my words fall pathetically short and will never convince anyone who believes otherwise but please read on.

Humans of New York is my favorite site on the net. Brandon has been doing some incredible work bringing the stories of so many (from not only New York but around the globe) to life for the rest of us to see and maybe begin to understand what life is like outside of our own little spheres. He just finished a series of interviews with Syrian refugees who were recently granted admission into the US. Their stories are so incredibly sad and at times difficult to read. I was reading some for Tammy this morning and she was in tears. You owe it to yourself to ignore the voices of fear for just long enough to hear what it is that some would rather ignore.

Click on the photos. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Would any of us want to trade places with them? I'll take my chances that a minuscule amount of those making it into our country will turn to terrorism. Helping them is the right thing to do in my opinion.

On a lighter note, check out the video below. It was buried at the end of the 10-minute video of Elaine's 90th birthday party from a couple weeks ago. Unless you're family you probably didn't see this. It's quite cute...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Will Caribou off 175th & Hwy 50 at 10:00 work?

I went to several stores over the past few days to check out the 3 game consoles I've been considering and after much thought, Wii U is the one. PlayStation 4 wasn't going to work because one of the things we enjoy most about video games is being able to compete at the same time. The only racing games for PS4 were single-player. Xbox has two-player racing games but after trying the demo at BestBuy I walked away a little disappointed with the feel of it because (get this) it was almost too serious/realistic looking. We both like the Mario Kart cartoon look and feel. Plus, Wii is cheaper. I'll be going back to the Target store in Apple Valley in the next few days to make the purchase. There was a young guy there who spent at least 20 minutes with me, helping me to understand the pluses and minuses of each console. I left the electronics department so impressed with him that I dialed the store from my car on the way home to tell the manager of my experience.

I had a friend from work (can I still say that?) contact me last week to see if I'd be interested in meeting him at a coffee shop to chat for a while. We had been discussing things in private messages on Facebook, things both political and religious in nature and he felt it would be best if we sat across from one another to continue our discussion. I could not have agreed more.

We met last Friday morning for 2.5 hours at a Caribou Coffee shop 5 minutes from home. We covered a lot of territory beginning with some small talk about work but eventually got around to some of what we'd been discussing in our PMs. He expressed to me his concern about the things I'd been posting both here in my blog and on Facebook. I pressed him for specifics but he couldn't come up with any. I was sort of putting him on the spot and I didn't really mean to but I was curious about what it was I was sharing that had him so frustrated with me. The last thing I want to do is contribute in any way to the heap of bogus and misleading information. There's so much of that out there as it is. (See the image to the left that a friend posted this morning.)

We talked calmly about those things we disagree on and I did my best to give him some insight into why I'm where I am with my beliefs; that I'm not some knee-jerk liberal who doesn't think before speaking. I stressed that I choose my words carefully and that I don't write things to infuriate people although I realize that that's going to occasionally happen. If I really want to reach people I need to be less abrasive but as I've always maintained: I do this blog for me. If others like what I write here, great—if not, that's okay, too.

My friend also has some beliefs that I don't consider mainstream conservative Christian beliefs that impressed me.

I much prefer meeting as we did rather than battling it out with our keyboards. There's a human quality that becomes a victim to our need to make a point without being able to look one another in the eye and that's never good. I hope we can meet again and continue our discussion.

I took the pups to the vet today for their way overdue annual checkup. Toby and Allie were 12 years old last August and they're beginning to show their age. They both have cloudy eyes and Toby is nearly deaf. They also struggle with joint pain, especially in the morning. That was my main concern today along with finding them some relief. The doctor gave me a month's supply of 25 mg of Carprofen pills for them. I gave them their first dose a couple hours ago and noticed when I just let them outside that Allie didn't hesitate as she usually does at the top of the steps leading off our front porch. She bolted down the way she used to without hesitation or the nagging pain. It was nice to see.

I'll close this blog post with a video that seems very appropriate for the times and for those who are so quick to discount the Qu'ran as a book of hate and lump all or lots of Muslims in with that warped belief. When I hear people criticize the Qu'ran for its passages about killing the infidels or whatever, I have to wonder if they've ever read the Old Testament of the bible that many of them claim to follow. I'm pretty sure they haven't and the video below illustrates so clearly why I feel that way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The End Of A Tradition and A Party To Remember

Our fall weather has come to an abrupt end. It was nice while it lasted. But wait! Do my eyes deceive me? Are those 40º temps in the long-range forecast?

After looking at the Weatherbug app on my phone last week and seeing that snow and blustery conditions were in our near future, I decided to take to the walking paths for one of few remaining chances at a longish walk in the still mild temps. I did a 12-mile loop (a little less than 2 of those miles were spent walking with the pups) that has become one of my preferred routes. For as much as I enjoy my time on my bikes, I look forward to my walks every bit as much.

Tammy did an amazing job with Thanksgiving! Cindy came into town and Rachel was also with us. There was so much to prepare so rather than getting in the way I simply told her to tell me what she needed. I carved the turkey and helped with the cleanup—that was about all. Trying to fit all of the leftovers in our refrigerator was a puzzle but we like puzzles.

I got into trouble with Tammy a few weeks ago when I went up on the roof to string our outdoor holiday/Christmas lights. She had made it clear to me not long before that she didn't want me putting them up anymore out of concern for me being injured. (I've put her through enough worries with my health already.) I explained to her that it's only ever one spot toward the peak of our roofline that worries me but I promised her I wouldn't do them this year or ever again. I suppose I either lied then or I went back on my promise because when she went to her aunt's house a few Saturdays ago to make Lefse, I took the opportunity to get the lights hung. What is it they say about it being easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission? I had another friend ask me if suffering a severe injury was worth having lights on our house? She's right, too. It's not worth it.

Anyway, this will in all likelihood be the last year I put up our outdoor lights to the extent I've done them this year and in years past. I sorta feel like I'm the last one in the neighborhood making much of an effort anyway so maybe it's just as well. I will miss this tradition.

Not only was Tammy busy with Thanksgiving last week but she also managed to put together a 90th birthday party for her mother. I think Elaine was at times a little overwhelmed by it all but at other times she maybe didn't even realize that this was all for her. She continues to steadily slip away from us. It was a very nice party. Here are some photos from the day. See the video below.

She's typically up a few times each night to use the bathroom and that requires Tammy to get out of bed to help her. A couple nights ago it was 6 trips to the bathroom. It's becoming too much. We've decided that we're going to find a long-term care facility or possibly a group home for her in the spring. We've got a couple of nearby facilities in mind where we'll be able to visit her daily. Nothing is for certain except the fact that she's going to require more and more hands-on care as the disease progresses and we'd rather have a plan in place ahead of time rather than finding ourselves in-over-our-heads and scrambling to keep up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Hi, Kevin"

I was in Fleet Farm last week when the guy running the register for the line I was checking out in said "Hi, Kevin" before it was even my turn to pay for my things. I know him? I wondered as I studied his face. A quick but obvious glance at his name tag followed. Hey, Doug, how are you? He looked familiar but I was thinking he was someone other than who he was. Then he mentioned my x-wife and it dawned on me who he actually was. It had been probably close to 25 years since I had last seen Doug. Both his wife and my former wife are Thai and we'd occasionally get together. I'm not sure I'd have recognized him if he hadn't made the connection first. We chatted just a bit before he had to resume his work and I walked out to my car.

I was back in Fleet Farm a few days ago (it's my most frequented store) and made a point of checking out in Doug's line again. He asked if I had time for a rather "funny request". I said sure. His wife and Noy talk regularly and he wanted to know if it would be okay if he took my photo to send to her. I looked at the lady behind me in line and smiled and said it's okay with me if she doesn't mind. She assured us it would be okay. I took off my hat, tried to quickly fix my hair and that was that. Smile. Click!

I haven't seen Noy since the spring of 2006 when her son Joe was in town to move her out to the San Francisco area. I believe she's still out there. For a long time, it was my hope that both her sons would come into town one day with her and we would get together for lunch. We shared a lot of memories and our parting should've been on better terms than it was. I would've liked that but I no longer feel the need. Perhaps I gave up on it.

I've lost touch with both Dave and Joe. No doubt they're on Facebook but with the last name of Smith, it's next to impossible to find them. I think it's safe to say that they can find me if they desire to. I wish them all the best that this world has to give. They're good people deserving of that.

I'm sitting here listening to Adele's new CD, 25. It's nice to hear her voice again. I can't say the new stuff did much for me when I first heard it but it's growing on me nicely as I listen to it for the 3rd time.  "I Miss You" and "River Lea" stand out for me the most.

I finally got back on my Shaman fat-bike after having been off of it for a month. It was at Freewheel Bikes waiting on parts (rims) to arrive for conversion to tubeless wheels. I also had the RockShox front suspension upgraded so it will still function when the temps drop to where normal (read: sane) people don't ride.

I was told that I'd definitely notice a difference between tubed and tubeless tires but honestly, I can't say I do. I think that has more to do with the amount of pressure I'm running in the front suspension. The mechanic set it up to be less stiff than I'm used to but I'm actually liking the new feel so I haven't changed it. Tubeless tires will lessen my risk of flatting due to a sealant (mine is rated for sub-zero temps) added through the valve stem. The sealant is there to fill any punctures that might happen.

I made it down to the river twice in the last week and can feel that I've lost some of my form but that's okay; getting it back gives me something to do over the winter months.

I've recently begun working out on my Concept 2 rowing machine again. It's sat idle the past couple of years with promises from me of becoming a part of my routine once I'm retired. It's time. I love the workout it gives but it's so punishing. Getting my rowing form back is gonna hurt but hurt I must!

Here's some video from yesterday's ride with Hynek.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Redefining Jesus

I knew I'd eventually come around to thinking what I've heard from so many retirees before me: how did I ever accomplish all that stuff I did and still work a 40 hour week? I look back on all I used to do in the course of a week and I can't help but be impressed. But I do not want to go back to those days. This new routine is much more reasonable and appealing although it does at times lack in its ability to leave me with a sense of accomplishment. I'll manage.

The sun sets so early now that there's little time to waste even in the morning putzing online or whatever because the afternoon soon arrives followed by darkness all too quickly.

I spent the weekend working outside putting up holiday lights and mowing the lawn one last time to vacuum up leaves.  I'm pretty happy with the progress I made. The mowers have been washed and put away and I've got the snowblower positioned in its winter spot in the garage ready for use. Bring on the snow!

I posted this question to my Facebook wall Sunday morning on the heels of the terrorist attack by ISIS in Paris, France: "If we're unapologetically ready to go and wage war on ISIS, to answer violence with violence, can we truly say we're followers of Jesus?"

I asked it because I'm uncomfortably perplexed when I listen to our conservative politicians as they wave their bibles around for us all to see (literally and figuratively) while at the same time talking about how we need to get boots on the ground in Syria to kill and defeat ISIS. Perhaps they're just holding up the Old Testament but I don't think so.

What happened to the words of Jesus imploring us to love our enemies, not kill them? Were those just words that made for a good soundbite back in the day but were never intended to be taken seriously in today's world? I'm actually fine with people saying they disagree with what Jesus said. It's a free world. Jesus also taught that what we do to the least of these we do to him.

It's pretty simple stuff, really.

Yet, republican presidential candidates and republican state governors are making clear their intentions to seal our borders to any Syrian refugees who are trying to flee the terrors of Islamic State out of fear that a terrorist may slip through and inflict suffering on us. I get that but in our country, which sees a similar amount of loss of life as was seen in Paris last Friday every two days due to gun violence, their concerns of terrorism fail to move my "scared" needle one iota. If I have any fear at all it's fear of a "good guy with a gun",  not fear of a terrorist.

It's disturbing to watch pretty much every republican presidential candidate declare their allegiance to Jesus and then in the next breath say something totally antithetical to his teachings while being applauded by a roomful of (most likely) Christians.

We've redefined what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I own no moral high-ground in this but if you're going to oppose same-sex marriage based on one verse in the Old Testament while totally ignoring the many teachings of Jesus to love your enemies and care for the least among us, I trust you'll understand why I'm bewildered.

We either follow his words or we leave Jesus out of the discussion. That's what I'm really trying to say.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Brief Scare, A YouTube Encounter and Veteran's Day Thoughts

That little fall I took off my bike in the video I posted last week proved to be more problematic than it may have looked. I suffered bruised ribs and the pain I experienced only worsened over the next few days to the point where I went to the ER at Ridges Hospital Sunday night out of concern that I had developed a clot and was experiencing another PE (pulmonary embolism). I wasn't. 

The nurse practitioner didn't think I had anything to worry about with respect to another PE because I'm anticoagulated so she ordered an x-ray to check for a punctured lung. The results were negative and as we were discussing the findings I mentioned my Factor V condition as being the reason for my increased concern. She said she didn't realize I was Factor V (I mentioned it to the person checking me in) and ordered a CT scan. She said a Factor V situation changes her protocol. The CT scan was clear and I was relieved. I texted Tammy to put her mind at ease. A little after midnight (4 hours later) I was on my way home with some quality meds to give me some relief from the pain so I could get through that night and a few more if needed.

I'd never experienced a bruised rib that got worse a few days later but it dawned on me that all of the sneezing and coughing I'd been doing from my head cold was stressing the injury. It makes sense but I needed to eliminate a PE as the cause. I just can't afford to be too careful when it comes to this sort of thing.

I received the following comment on a YouTube video I had posted in September which showed me getting a shot of steroid in my inner ear for my hearing loss:

"I'm having this procedure done tomorrow and then two other times. Thank you for sharing this video as I was very nervous about having this done. However at this point, with little to no hearing in my left ear I'm ready to try anything! Friday morning I woke up with a ringing in my ear and then within 4 hours I have no hearing in the ear. Was able to get into an ENT that day and he started me on antibiotics that very day. Time is very important when it comes to SSHL."

I love this sort of thing about the net—how we can connect with people in ways we never could before. I left her a reply to help allay any fears she may have about the procedure and also offer some encouragement.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. I'm no longer the patriotic guy I once was but I do look back on those 4 years with fondness as they were some of the most carefree and enjoyable years of my life. I grew up a lot through that experience and learned more than ever that for all of the similarities I shared with my shipmates, I had just as many differences. It was quietly, internally focusing on the differences that allowed me to get in touch with the real me and experience some self-respect that I had been lacking to that point. No doubt the many hours I spent in the saddle in the Southern California sun in the hills east of San Diego was a great backdrop for those reflective moments.

I'm still winding my way through this life and learning about myself. I never want to get to the point where I feel I'm so set in my ways that any additional searching is a waste of time.  That's the beauty of this life. Hopefully, we never stop evolving and learning and being curious. I promise not to stop. Ever.

I'll leave you with this from David Baerwald: Stranger

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Mini Reunion, LG G4 it is and an Embarrassing Fall

I hate colds! Tammy has been dealing with one for the past week so I knew I too would soon be. It always plays out the same for me—one minute I'm fine and the next I can feel a sore throat coming on. After a day the sore throat is gone and the sneezing, coughing, and congestion take over. They're such a waste of time.

I got together with some retired controllers a few days ago. I met Jeff Ofthsun, Ed Whitman, and Dan Abbene at Red Cross in St Paul where they were donating blood. They get together once every couple of months, donate blood then go out to lunch together. Jeff has a list of restaurants on a folded piece of paper that he's crossing off as they visit them. They offered up a few choices to consider and had me choose. I picked Burger Moe's. It was a nice enough day that we could comfortably sit outside on the patio. Not bad for November! No photo of us all. Perhaps next time.

Time passes so quickly. Jeff has been retired for over 8 years, Ed for about 6 and Dan for more than 3 years. They kept referring to me as "rookie". It fits.

Rachel and I went out and finally pulled the trigger on some new phones. Her Motorola Maxx had become more frustrating than it was worth because it kept shutting off unless it was plugged in or nearly fully charged. Mine wasn't nearly that bad but had a strange habit of rebooting itself throughout the day with no prompt from me.

We settled on LG G4 phones with 32 GB of storage but with the ability to add up to (I think) 200 GB of additional storage. The battery is also accessible so it can be replaced on the go with a fresh one if needed. But the real reason we decided on this brand and model was for its camera and the ability to use the camera in manual mode, something none of the others offered. All of the reviews on the phone's camera I could find spoke very highly of it. My first priority for any cellphone has become its ability to take photos. Any previous phones I've owned have all been lacking in their ability to take photos in low light conditions. I took the photo to the right of Rachel in manual mode without any additional edits. No, it's not as nice as what my Panasonic Lumix can do but it's so much better than any of my previous phones.

The only drawback I can see in the few days I've had the phone is its battery. It's no better or worse than the other phones I was considering (based on reviews I'd read) but it's noticeably not as long-lasting as I'm used to. I suppose that's maybe a tradeoff for having a stronger processor doing its thing inside.

The hacktivist group Anonymous released the names of 500 KKK members and their Facebook and Googleprofiles. I spent some time this morning looking at some of the people on the list and their social media pages. There's not much shame in a lot of these people in what they put out there for others to see although many of the Facebook accounts on the list have been deactivated. Here's the list.

Yesterday morning's ride didn't start out so well. I didn't notice a layer of condensation on our newly sealed driveway and a lean onto the street that I've done at least a 1000 times had me on my butt so fast but up again just as fast in case anybody was watching. I'm sporting a nice abrasion below my right hip and a bruised rib but other than that I'm fine, with the exception of this annoying head-cold!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Wheels and 5 Broken Cameras

It's rainy, windy and cool outside. A perfect day to put my feet up and sit by the fireplace in the sunporch and do very little. I'm taking care of Elaine while Tammy is out running errands. There's so much activity at our bird feeder forcing some go-arounds as there's no place to land. Elaine enjoys watching them.

I walked a little more than 11 miles yesterday beginning with a 1.5-mile walk with the pups. I can't think of any other activity I do that is more relaxing. I've got nearly 60 Frontline episodes stored on my Nano which will oftentimes accompany me when I'm out there but sometimes I'll opt for quieting my mind instead and try and think of nothing at all, which is actually much harder than you might imagine. It takes practice.

I've got my Shaman in the shop at Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis having some work done so it's ready for cold weather riding. There's an upgrade kit for the RockShox front suspension that allows them to continue to function when it gets too cold for normal use. I'm also ditching my carbon-fiber rims because of concerns I have over them failing when I need them the most in sub-zero weather.

Jason at Freewheel was talking to me about failed carbon-fiber rims and the reason they fail so frequently. He said has to do with the uneven nature of force placed on them during use. I dunno. I wouldn't think that would matter but he's seen enough of them and showed me one that was bad. So, when I get my bike back it'll be sporting new aluminum rims built up tubeless with 45NRTH 4" Dillingers. Because the new wheels will be lacking the weight of a heavy innertube I think the new wheels may actually be lighter than what I'm using now.

Still with me?

I had a Facebook friend unfriend me last night (he actually went so far as to block me) over a conversation we had about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. I've seen him unfriend others over this topic so it wasn't unexpected. Up until now, I've mostly not discussed this with him but his repeated posts on the subject and insults toward anyone who disagrees finally had their desired effect I suppose and so I responded.

Eugene is Jewish and insists that all of the unrest between the two peoples is the fault of Palestinians. I asked him a few times to put himself in the shoes of an oppressed Palestinian youth who had little hope for any kind of a bright future and if he would possibly be hurling rocks at his oppressor along with other Palestinian youth? I repeated my question a few times but he would never give me an answer. I told him that if I was that boy or an adult and I was facing the kind of oppression they are, I would want to see my oppressor defeated. And so would he.

I do not support Hamas or any terrorism whatsoever but I have to wonder: if I'm a Palestinian, who are the real terrorists? I'm sorry if that sounds offensive but watch the video below and see if you don't agree. It's filmed by a man who has lived his life trying to make changes in a non-violent way. This is a rare glimpse into what life is like for innocent Palestinian people just trying to eke out an existence. What they're facing is so wrong.

5 Broken Cameras

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Moir Park Revisited, Games People Play and Manoj Bhargava

I got up Saturday morning and drove to Bloomington to take some photos at Moir Park. It's a park a little more than 2 miles from where I grew up and one that I'd only been to one other time that I can recall and that was probably 45 years ago. I was talking with a friend about it on Facebook and it piqued my interest to go back and have another look.

The one memory I have from that visit all those years ago was descending some concrete steps and how they led to a park that was so unlike the world above. The park was and still is a tranquil setting with a creek (Nine Mile Creek) running through it. I'm surprised we'd never gone there as a family for an afternoon picnic when I was a boy.

When we finished our basement 11 years ago we purchased a Simpson's Pinball Party pinball machine with the idea that Rachel and her friends would have a blast with it. It didn't quite turn out that way though because pinball seems to be something that's of little interest to her generation or at least to her group of friends. They used it some but it mostly sat quietly for months at a time. I would go down and fire it up occasionally but I almost always seemed to have things I'd rather do on my days off. I would tell myself again and again that once I was retired, I'd be finally making use of it. And I'm happy to say that I am. I've been hanging out in our basement during the evenings playing pinball, darts and sharpening my bumper pool skills.

I had John from Pinball Plus out to tune it up a few days ago. One of the flippers was sticking and a few small lights had burned out. I thought it was something I could maybe service on my own but after seeing the game opened up, I realized that it wasn't anything I'd want to mess with. John was telling me that it's one of the best games out there but one that's difficult to learn. The game is so deep in terms of strategy. I found a 45-minute video online of a guy playing the game while describing his strategy and making sense of it. I'd need another lifetime to get this good.

The worst of the fall cleanup is behind me and I'm relieved about that! So far my tally of compost bags used this year is up to 48 but I'm not done yet. Last year I used 53 and there are still leaves that haven't fallen. Yes, I actually count how many compost bags I use. Don't you?

The biggest difference in doing the year's yard work was a nifty device I picked up at Home Depot that works to keep the compost bag open while filling it with leaves. It makes much quicker work out of the job and spares the user a bunch of frustration in the way of less collapsed and ripped bags while trying to fill them. Easily worth the $8 I spent for it.

I meant to post this here last week but it slipped my mind. It's a video from the maker of the small bottles of 5 Hour Energy that you've no doubt seen in the checkout aisle wherever you do your shopping. I've always looked at that stuff as the wares of a huckster and not something that would ever interest me but perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge. Manoj Bhargava (as I wrote on Facebook) is either the slickest snake oil salesman or one of the most forward-thinking people alive today. Watch the video below to see what I mean.

I've got some pinball to shoot while I contemplate solutions to our world's problems!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Routines But Not Structure

Tammy's cousin Barb runs a non-profit that helps disabled adults plug into society in various ways. One of the ways is through a program of socializing with others while making crafts. Tammy took on the role of leading that group a few months ago and I've recently joined her. There's a fair amount of preparation involved but working with the people and seeing the satisfaction they get from being creative makes it all worthwhile. The group consists of people in Barb's program and adults at an assisted living facility where we set up shop once each week.

Yesterday's project brought out a lot of smiles when people saw what they'd be making: a scarecrow and a Frankenstein on a stick. Trying to get everyone through the project can get a little hectic because not everyone arrives at noon when we start. Some straggle in as late as a half-hour after we begin and we just work with them and fit them in as best we can.

I'm getting more sleep now than at any point ever in my adult life and it's nice. When I was working I averaged less than 6 hours a night and it left me in a perpetual state of tiredness. That can't be good for a person but I managed. I think about all of the miles I used to ride and walk and all of the jobs I'd do around the house in between my hours at work and I can see how I had to be so conscious of what time it was all the time. I seldom look at my watch anymore and sometimes wonder why I even wear it.

I was telling Tammy that I'm floundering a little as I try and find my footing in my new life because I'm still somewhat of the mindset that I have to budget my time and have something to show for my day at the end of it. This lack of structure is so unfamiliar to me. Ever since leaving home at 18 to join the Navy I've lived a life of structure and purpose and now, pretty much all of that has become unnecessary with the exception of some daily routines.

My typical day now consists of getting up and walking the pups then coming home and killing an hour online while waiting for the outside temp to climb a little before going out on one of my bikes or walking. I've been alternating my days of walking and riding and I like that because it keeps me excited to do each of them. I'll usually have some downtime in the afternoon of hanging out or running errands then I settle in to be with Elaine while Tammy goes to the club for a couple hours to workout and get some time away from home. She needs that.

Elaine is very content here but we can see her slipping away from us due to her Alzheimer's. She loves to sit in front of her little mirror and primp her hair and apply small stickers to her face. She will do this for hours at a time. Tammy had to take away her makeup recently because it was becoming too much of a mess. The stickers seem to work well to keep her occupied. It's what she enjoys doing and it keeps her happy.

Lately, she's begun talking to her friend in the mirror and trying to feed her. I'll be sitting in the next room listening to her and it sounds like she's on the phone talking with a friend. There are pauses where the other person is speaking and then she picks up her part of the conversation again.

Most of her memories are from the weekends of her youth and the dances she would attend. They always end with her talking about her brother Adolph and how he would drive her and her friends to and from the dances and wait for them. She has a very special fondness for Adolph. Tammy says he was a farmer and a very sweet man who never married.

Elaine is a soft touch or an easy mark for Charlie whenever she has food in front of her. She can't say no to him and so she feeds him, even if it's soup. Our scolding words to him to not beg all went unheeded so we started tying him up to a short leash we have connected to the leg of a chair at the kitchen table when Elaine is eating.

We've recently noticed that Toby and Allie have learned the art of begging by watching Charlie. I'm considering a quick trip to Fleet Farm for two more leashes.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Costly Oops, The Face of UMR and Lending a Hand

My life sorta-kinda feels like it's back to boring and I'm happy about that. I could do with an extended period of this.

Facebook got very heavy and contentious last week after the school shooting in Oregon. So much so that it felt like the place to not be. Everywhere I looked there were heated arguments for and against gun control. I have my opinions but I got a strong sense that I wouldn't be changing anybody else's.

The only gun I've ever owned was a Winchester 30-30 Model 94 that I got when I was around 15 years old. I purchased it so I could go deer hunting with my brother-in-law, Jerry. Truth be told, I never wanted to kill a deer. I only wanted to spend time with Jerry.

I used to enjoy shooting it at the gun range the few times we went there. I can still recall the feeling I got pulling the trigger: the sound, the kick, and the smell of gunpowder. It was fun and I wouldn't want to deny that enjoyment to others. Nor do I think most reasonable people (including Obama) want to take that away, either. We're only hoping for some reasonable measures to be taken so that there's more accountability for gun sales and background checks. As the argument has been made, there's so much worry about terrorism in this country but it's not terrorism that ails us. See the graphic to the right.

I messed up the rear rim on my Shaman, and this one's gonna hurt. The tires I'm using allow for 36 psi but typically I'm down in the 8-10 psi range. For the St Paul Bike Classic a few weeks ago I inflated them to 30 psi knowing I'd be on pavement the entire way and the higher pressure would give me less rolling resistance. It was shortly after I did this that I noticed what appeared to be a flaw in about a 3-inch area of the outer rim. I took my bike into the shop a few days ago to have it looked at. Shawn asked how much pressure I was running and I told him. He showed me in small letters where it states on the rim not to exceed 15 psi. Oops! Like I said, this one's gonna hurt, to the tune of around $500. And that photo in the last link is zoomed in on the valve stem. I honestly never saw that writing as it's actually quite tiny.

Sarma is out of stock of the rim I need but expects to have them within a couple weeks. Shawn has given me the go-ahead to ride it as is but to keep an eye on it.

Rachel is enjoying her new job working for the University of Minnesota at Rochester as an Admissions Representative. She started a couple weeks ago and just finished her first road trip which took her to St Cloud, Alexandria, Morris, Monticello and some other cities in the area.

She visited high schools that were having college informational fairs and set up her table with assorted UMR info. Her job was to answer questions and promote the university. It took just a short while to find her stride as she got her talking points down and connected with the students. She said she had fun getting to know the other college reps working alongside her. And, she got to use UMR's car!

She'll be on the road quite a lot in the months to come. "Per diem" is now a part of her vocabulary.

I went with Tammy and her mother on my first volunteering experience since retiring. This will be a weekly thing for me as I tag along and help with the craft projects Tammy puts together. (I'll blog in more detail about what she's been up to in a future piece.) Today's project involved helping residents of an assisted living facility make a pumpkin out of materials we provided. It was a lot of fun helping out and chatting with the ladies. We had a few tables of residents to work with totaling close to 15 in all.

Tammy is busy upstairs as I write this, working on next week's project. I'm looking forward to it!

I had planned to load my Shaman onto my car last Sunday and drive to the Lyndale Ave trailhead to begin my ride but decided instead to make an afternoon of it and leave my car garaged.

It was a great afternoon to be out riding!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Much Needed Break and Holding My Own

Our hummingbird feeders have gone quiet as of a few days ago. In the days leading up to our little guys flying south, our feeders were as busy as I'd ever seen them. I couldn't look out there without seeing some activity. I'll miss them and I hope for their safe return next spring.

Tammy and I had our first extended time away together since her mother came to live with us 4 months ago. (Elaine has Alzheimer's and needs 24/7 care and monitoring.) Tammy's good friend Brenda offered to stay with her overnight in our home to give Tammy a break. That was so incredibly nice of her but then that's who Brenda is. She's the most selfless person I know besides Tammy.

We left home around 5:00 on Friday afternoon and worked our way toward Winona and our room at the Holiday Inn Express. We stopped in Cannon Falls to visit a winery and taste their assortment of wines while enjoying our temporary independence and freedom. It was nice.

Yelp directed us to a restaurant across the street for dinner but their waiting time for a table was longer than we wanted so we got back in our car and continued southeast.

I mentioned that we could easily drive through Rochester if Rachel would be around. Tammy called and she was available. We picked her up for dinner then went out into the city and let her lead us to one of her haunts where a friend from college waited on us. The east wind was stinking up the town; it smelled like dirty feet. Not to worry because the alcohol and our conversation took our minds off of it.

We spent the next day beginning in Winona working our way from river town to river town as we ever so slowly made our way toward home, stopping in each city to see the sights. I of course had my camera in hand and occasionally played around with a tilt-shift setting to try and capture some photos that lent themselves to that feel. Here's a collection of them that I assembled.

Rather than go directly home from Redwing we decided to venture into Wisconsin and a winery/restaurant I'd heard about that I've been wanting to check out: Vino in the Valley. It opened at 3:00 and we arrived at 3:15 to a 90-minute wait for a table. Not to worry because we weren't in any hurry and there was enough to keep us occupied.

We had an excellent time there and made the most of it, not wanting to hurry home. I should add that Rachel relieved Brenda for us at noon. Tammy really needed this break but it was good for both of us to have this time together.

Here's some video from our time at Vino in the Valley.

Rachel has joined the ranks of the fully employed. (Not that she hasn't been working full-time hours already but it's been spotty.) She began her job on Monday at the University of Minnesota, Rochester as an Admissions Representative. Her work will involve a considerable amount of travel as she visits high schools throughout the midwest generating interest in UMR. She already has 3 hotel reservations for the coming month. This is only a year-long position. Her focus is still on trying to gain acceptance to a Physician Assistant (PA) school.

Sunday night I drove out to Keith and Tracee's in Northfield, away from the lights of the 'big city' to try and get the best view I could of the lunar eclipse. I've seen many of these eclipses over the last few decades but none of them have come anywhere close to the one I witnessed in 1975 on the front lawn of the Stagecoach apartments where I was living. I remember that night how the moon just seemed to hang in the night sky, looking so eerie and unlike anything I'd ever seen.

Sunday night's lunar eclipse came as close as any I've seen since of equaling that sight from 40 years earlier. It was probably every bit as good but I was looking at it with eyes that aren't as young as they once were. Glasses can only do so much.

This week has been so much quieter than any of the last several and I'm thankful for that. I still have moments where I want to reach in my pocket for my phone to give my mom a call. I don't expect that to continue for long but it still happens.

I got a text from Reid (he was one of my trainees years ago and is now at the tower at MSP) to see if I was up for a ride on Monday afternoon. I've been waiting for the chance to ride with him. Rain nearly trashed our plans but we still made it out.

I was happy to show him that this old man can still hold his own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Return to Normal

I met with Rachel a week ago yesterday in Rochester. We went for lunch at 5 Guys and then she accompanied me to a couple of appointments at Mayo Clinic. The first was for an audiology exam to see if the hearing in my left ear had continued to improve since the previous exam 12 days earlier. (If you've just stumbled onto my blog, I suffered Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) in my left ear one month ago.) I'm very relieved to say that the hearing in my left ear is now back in normal range. It's not quite as good as my right ear but it's wonderfully good and it may still get even better. For comparison, here's the exam from September 3rd and here are the results from the 15th. In both audiograms, the red plot line is for my right ear and the blue is for my left.

There's still some tinnitus when I stop and think about it but otherwise, it mostly goes unnoticed.

While we were waiting for the doctor to come in and see me, I was joking with Rachel about how my medical problems are becoming quite a source of experience for her to draw from in the future as she works toward her degree as a Physician Assistant and beyond. From my Cluster Headaches to my Factor V condition and associated blood clots and now my experience with SSHL, I've given her a firsthand look at some rather rare conditions. Lucky her! I would be perfectly happy to not personally give her any additional maladies from which to learn from.

I'm so grateful and thankful for my healing and I would like to thank everyone who offered their prayers, well-wishes or suggestions. Thank you all so much!

Several relatives came into town this past week for my mother's funeral service. Bryan drove in from Portland with his son Tristan and granddaughter Cambria. Tristan's girlfriend Karen flew in a day later on Friday. They all stayed with us. Keith and Tracee had a full house as well, as did Erin.

Having never met Karen or Cambria before, they definitely won us over!

Keith and Tracee opened up their home to all of us for a family get-together this past Sunday. It was a super time. I enjoyed the lengthier conversations I was able to have with several of my relatives that I haven't been able to talk with for quite a while. One of those conversations was with my uncle Martin. He's suffered more than his share of loss during his life yet through it all, he's always kept a positive attitude and is quick with a smile or a laugh. I admire him very much. He'll be 86 in February.

A few photos and some video from the day.

We gathered again the next morning at Hosanna in Lakeville for Mom's Celebration of Life service. It was a culmination of so much that has transpired within our families over the past few months. The service was very nice and there was music provided by my aunt Maria, my cousin Deborah, and Rachel.

I have one rather big regret in all of it though. I was recording the service and noticed that my camera was still in standby mode after Maria had finished singing Borning Cry with Rachel accompanying her with her violin. They did so well with it and I missed it. I don't know how I messed that up but I did. I was able to record the rest of the service though for those who couldn't be there.

I have this thing and it may sound nutty but I believe we all get to attend our funerals before departing to the great beyond. And I'm certain Mom was pleased with how we came together on her behalf to give her a beautiful send-off. She deserved it.

Before the service began I was up in the tech booth overlooking the chapel making small talk with Fred the technician who was running the audio-visual console. We were coordinating when to start the video I'd stitched together so that it would end just as the service began. He put it on to have a look and he saw Mom and said, "Oh no, that was your mother?" "I'm so sorry...she was such a sweet woman. I'd see her here all the time with the other women and she'd always give me a smile and oftentimes we'd talk".

It's been a couple of years since Mom has been well enough to volunteer with the other ladies the way she used to but Fred had very fond memories of her and it was so nice to hear him talk about her the way he did.

She will be missed by many.

Some photos from the day.

And now it feels like I can try and resume my life where I left off. Or can I? I'm not really sure what normal is supposed to feel like at this point since retiring nearly 3 weeks ago but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

I think I'll go for a walk.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

20 Years Gone

Twenty years ago today I went golfing at Highland Hills Golf Course with my then stepson Dave. I returned home to a message on the answering machine from Jackie informing me that Dad had died. He was a little more than a month away from his 70th birthday and much too young. But it was expected news as I'd just been up to visit him in Michigan's Upper Peninsula a few days earlier, quite certain that it would be the last time I'd see him. He hadn't been well for years with most of his health problems related to emphysema brought on by years of smoking both unfiltered and filtered cigarettes: Lucky Strike and then Winston.

He was happiest when he was either out in the garage or down in the basement tinkering on whatever project he had in front of him. I can still recall the days before Super Glue when he'd heat a fork or knife over a flame on the stove and use it to melt/weld broken plastic parts together for us.

Of all of us six siblings, I think it was Jackie who was closest to him. Although he and I were a lot alike we never had much of a relationship. When I was growing up he never seemed to make an effort to try and get inside my head. I wish he had been able to because I had so much going on in there but I never felt comfortable approaching him about any of it. He was on the road too much for having six kids at home but I had no way of realizing then what I was missing out on. He wasn't all that different than a lot of other dads in that regard. There were key times in my life, though, when in his own way he would come alongside me and convey a message I needed to hear.

There was the time when my older sister was in the hospital recovering from surgery for melanoma. I was standing on the stairs leading up from the basement while he was sitting in a chair, cigarette in hand watching TV. He asked if I knew anything about the girl sharing a room in the hospital with Claudia. I told him I didn't. He proceeded to tell me that she'd been abusing amphetamines for years and now she was having severe issues with her spine. I don't know if what he told me was true or if it even made medical sense but it was abundantly clear to me that he was wise to my own abuse of the same drug that I'd been dabbling with way too much for the past several months. He wasn't accusing me of anything but I got the message. I remember feeling disappointed with myself for having let him down.

His was a difficult childhood. He had very few memories of his father because he died when my dad was only 3 or 4. His mother took in roomers to make ends meet and would later marry a man named Sid. Tragically, Sid took his own life and my father was the one who found his body in a shed adjacent to their duplex. My dad's mother would die from a botched hysterectomy when he was nine. He was then raised by his older sister and her alcoholic husband. An unimaginable childhood to me for someone so young and impressionable as my father was.

He was raised catholic and although he had mostly uncomplimentary things to say about the catholic school he attended (most of his scorn was for the nuns who were unnecessarily harsh), he carried a photograph of a man named Father Quility (from the school) in his wallet the rest of his life.

In spite of all that my dad endured before leaving home, he was able to do very well for himself once he was out on his own. He joined the Canadian Navy and worked as a radarman, the same job I would do when I joined the Navy although I had no idea that it was also his job until it became mine, too.

He was a financial manager for Control Data for most of his career and was apparently good at what he did based on the many awards he received over the years. For years, I had the impression that he was conservative in his politics but I honestly don't know. I tuned in the Rush Limbaugh show for him once when we were driving but I got a sense very quickly that he wasn't impressed. He had much disdain for all politicians and religious leaders. I can't say I blame him.

He would say that meeting my mom was the best thing that ever happened to him and I'm sure it was. I can think of only one time in my youth when I knew they were in a disagreement about something and for a day or two there was tension between them. One time. I'm sure there were others but they hid them well from us if there were. (That harmony, though, suffered greatly in later years as alcohol took over and made a mess of things.)

They had a routine where after my dad got home from work and before dinner, he and my mom would sit with a drink in the front room and talk about the day. For maybe an hour my dad would fill her in on all of the office politics or whatever it was they talked about and we kids knew to not bother them. After dinner he would retreat to the seclusion of his basement work area or out in the garage and his workbench there. Compared to his childhood, I'm sure he felt that he had created a safe and comfortable place for my siblings and me to flourish, and for the most part he had.

His job took him out east to Pennsylvania when I was a senior in high school during Christmas break, 1974. I was given the option to stay behind in an apartment with my older sister and finish school. It was a gutsy decision on his part because I'd given him no reason to believe I wouldn't soon fall flat on my face. I remember walking out of the apartment with my parents and Keith and Tim as they were leaving. My dad in a somewhat loud voice telling me as he was walking down the stairs with me standing above, that I was a man now and to not let him down.

I don't think I have.