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!