Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Week, 2016

I'm sitting by the fire on a rainy Christmas Day afternoon with Toby and Charlie to keep me company. Tammy and Cindy are visiting their mom at Trinity Care Center in Farmington. We're so pleased with the level of care she's receiving there. I remember how we were hesitant to have her placed in a nursing home environment but it's turned out to be an excellent decision.

We had a nice Christmas Eve service last night at Family of Christ—our new church home. We like everything about FoC but we especially like its down-to-earth feel. It's not the megachurch we're accustomed to and that's a good thing. As an aside—we attended a Hymn Tap sing-along last Monday night at The Dubliner Pub in St Paul where some of the local faithful gathers once each month to sing hymns of praise and enjoy a drink or two with dinner. We even bumped into the pastor from FoC and chatted for a while. Like I said—down-to-earth.

Rachel left for her dad's a few hours ago but not before making some nice progress on a puzzle we started last night. I think it's far enough along that Tammy and I can put the finishing touches on it.

I spent several hours this week getting my new MacBook Pro up to speed. Rather than create a partition with VMware as I did with my last laptop for some Windows programs I still use, I decided to simply use the Boot Camp option on my Mac. The only drawback is that I can only run one operating system at a time. VMware allowed both to be running simultaneously but it was a strain on the computer's resources and it's not necessary for my purposes.

The biggest challenge for me was in resurrecting our website on my laptop. It's a large site that I built with Microsoft's Expression Web 2 and I don't keep a copy of the actual site, opting instead to allow GoDaddy to keep it backed up for me. For whatever reason, I wasn't able to simply drag and drop folders of photos where they belonged as I rebuilt the site. Instead, I had to take chunks of photos and drop them into the proper folders. It was very labor-intensive but it's done for now until the next hard-drive crash.

I sent my failing MacBook Pro to my brother Bryan in Oregon and he was able to resuscitate it with a new hard-drive. I considered that option too but I'm happy for him to have it, knowing it's in good hands and has a nice new home.

We visited Rachel at her new digs in Rochester. She and RaeNelle moved from the outskirts of the city into a home nearer to downtown—her 10th move since leaving our nest. They're happy. It was nice to spend the afternoon with her. We drove to Winona, an hour away for lunch then kicked around the city checking out the various shops.

I found the perfect shirt in a local bike shop!

I've been getting in lots of miles at Mall of America as I work to win this week's Garmin step challenge. I dug a hole for myself early on in the week but I came back strong, walking 14.5 miles on Thursday, 12 miles on Friday and 8 miles yesterday. And I did that among the crush of Christmas shoppers! I know I'm not supposed to say this (as a guy) but I love the mall. I just do.

I'm retired so what else do I have to do with my time, right? I probably shouldn't say this either (because then you'll certainly know I'm not right) but I preceded each of those walks with 2 hours on the elliptical.

With 6 hours left in the challenge, I think I can add this one to the "win" column.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

InFIT Sim and It's Been a Good Run

I loaded my clubs into the back of my Subaru Forester Tuesday afternoon for a round of golf at Pebble Beach—one of the more distinguished courses in the country (except I really didn't know I'd be playing Pebble Beach). I had an hour of golf simulator time scheduled at InFIT in Albertville, about a 50 minute drive northwest of Lakeville. InFIT was looking for people willing to play a round of golf on their simulator in exchange for writing an online review to help get the word out about their facility. I was only too happy to help.

Here's my review:

This was my first time playing on a golf simulator with the exception of when I was fitted for my clubs last spring.

Colton spent 15 minutes with me to make certain I knew how to get the most out of the simulator experience — how to aim my shot, read the green and understand the graphics on the HD display as well as some basic computer inputs to the software. He then left me on my own to enjoy a round of golf in a comfortable 70º environment while it was only 8º outside.

Playing a round of golf on the InFIT simulator is fairly straightforward. There were at least 20 actual courses to choose from. I chose Pebble Beach.

The experience gives you very real feedback. It shows the flight of the ball; ball speed; distance and some other data related to each swing and shot. Every time I felt I’d hit a bad shot the simulator was right there to confirm it. You know the feeling you have when you’ve pulled a shot, hit a ball pure or pushed it — the simulator confirmed all that my club head was telling me at impact. I could look at the HD display and watch as my ball went just where it felt like I’d hit it. I was very impressed.

The greens are fast and once you get used to their speed they’re quite realistic. They run between 10.5 and 11.5 on the stimpmeter. The display will show you the contour of the green as well as your ball’s height above or below the hole and distance to the hole. You line up your putt toward the hole on the screen after factoring in the breaks and let the overhead optical sensors show your result on the HD display. It’s actually quite cool and works much better than I imagined it would.

After holing out, you’re advanced to the next tee.

A feature I found helpful was the “mulligan” button on the computer. I was able to play a shot more than once in a variety of ways.

The only drawback I could find with the simulation was that there didn’t appear to be a way to factor wind into the simulation. I would imagine it’s only a matter of time before you can do that. Possibly it’s already there but I didn’t see it and played my round with no wind.

I played just fine using running shoes. You can wear your regular golf shoes but I don't feel it's necessary.

I found the experience very fun and beneficial and although it’s a bit of a hike for me to play there — I’ll be back. It was that good.

I think I'd like to try and get there once each month during the winter. That's my plan.

I fired up my 6.5-year-old MacBook Pro yesterday morning to make a quick lap around the patch before stepping onto the treadmill for a two-hour walk—but there was a problem. My trusty laptop was so painfully slow. It was unusable. I rebooted it twice more without any improvement. I tried running an antivirus program but closed out of it when I realized it would take all day to run. I decided the best thing I could do would be to take it to the Apple Store at Mall of America and let the folks behind the Genius Bar run some diagnostics on it.

And they did.

It took less than 5 minutes for the technician to find that my laptop had suffered a hard drive failure. He said the hard drive could be replaced but I would either have to do it myself or have someone other than the Apple Store do it because my laptop was deemed "vintage" and they no longer provide parts or service for something of its age. I could probably have it resuscitated for a around $100 but I figured we'd had a good run together and maybe it was time to move on.

And so I did.

I'm now blogging and tapping through the net with a 15" MacBook Pro with a retina LED backlit display, 16 GB of SDRAM, 512 GB SSD with Touch Bar Technology. Funny thing though—there are no USB ports on it but it does come with 4 USB-C ports. I had to go back and get an adaptor so I can plug in my devices.

So far, so good. The Touch Bar Technology is kinda cool stuff and I think I'll enjoy using it. Maybe I'll expand on what it's about in another entry here.

Time to go and write out some Christmas cards! We considered taking a pass on them this year but we've relented and will have them in the mail soon to some of you.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Missing My Little Girl and Winter Arrives

I'm missing my little girl. Our home doesn't seem the same since she left. I went to let Toby and Charlie out the morning after she died and I found myself waiting for Allie to bring up the rear the way she always would as the pups filed out the front door. It took me just a moment to realize she was no longer with us. There have been many more similarly small instances of our changed routine that remind me she's gone and each one leaves me with a wave of sadness that washes over me and settles in my heart. This all happened so quickly. I just didn't imagine her leaving us so soon.

I'm reminded of the way she was always content to be the last in line to get her treat of a dog biscuit or baby carrot. She would take it and scamper off to the front room where she would eat it in peace, away from Charlie's attempts to steal it from her. I'd sometimes go out of my way to give her her treat first and make the boys wait. Or the way she would lay in front of their water bowl waiting for me to change the water. She became finicky in the last few years about drinking from the dregs of a dish.

I got to thinking about how she was such a trooper in these past few months to do some of the walks we all did together considering how ill she had to have been. How I wish she could've told me she wasn't up to it. There were several walks where I did leave her home, sensing she was fine with not going. I wasn't totally ignorant of her needs.

Tammy had gone out and bought new Christmas stockings for all of us and decorated them just two days before she died. Allie's is appropriately white. She's our little angel now. Waiting.

I went out to get the mail yesterday and found a card from the Farmington Veterinary Clinic. I opened it when I got back inside and a wave of emotion overcame me. The card was signed by all of the staff. Someone had taken paw prints from her lifeless body and included them. It was so touching and my tears flowed freely as I stood there in our laundry room with Toby and Allie watching me. I'm missing her so much.

Charlie seems to sense that she's gone. He's not been himself the past day or so. Toby is a mellow fellow as it is so it's difficult to tell if he's troubled by her absence.

This is going to take some time.

I made it out to Murphy Hanrehan this afternoon for the first time in months. The temp was in single digits but the winds had calmed from what they'd been the past several days so it was actually quite nice. I've swapped out my 3" Maxxis tires for my 4" 45NRTH Dillingers and I've got my pogies on my bar ends to keep my hands warm. I'm ready for snow. And it's snowing. We're expecting 4 to 6 inches by the time it stops tomorrow. I hope to make it to either the river bottoms or back to Murphy tomorrow afternoon.

Winter has finally arrived and I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Goodbye Sweet Girl

This is a very sad post for me to write and one I feared I was going to be making sooner than I wanted. Allie died this morning at 8:58. Tammy and I are grieving her loss with lots of tears interrupted by memories of her as we recall those special things about her that made her who she was.

She was a fierce protector of us and our home and she was as loyal as a dog could be. She never had pups of her own but we always felt she would've been the best mom—always nurturing and so quick to see what was the matter if ever she sensed distress. And she loved to lick! We've been tempted more than once to buy one of those signs that say "Our dogs can't hold their licker"—mostly because of Allie.

I had hoped that the health issues she'd been experiencing lately were going to be something she could overcome but sadly, they weren't. She continued to have very little appetite and was becoming noticeably unsteady when standing.

In the middle of the night last night she let out a loud and long wail as she arched her back in pain. I thought she was leaving us then. Her breathing was labored and she was shaking. We tried to comfort her as best we could. I prayed that she would pass in the comfort of our bed but that wasn't to be.

She wasn't whimpering so I was hopeful that she wasn't in continued pain. There was no question between Tammy and me that we needed to end her suffering. I took the photo to the left as I held her in our home just before leaving. I just needed one last memory of her even though it saddens me to see it now.

We made a tearful drive into Farmington this morning to the vet we've been seeing since Allie and Toby were pups. We had no appointment. She wailed again as we made our way into the vet's office and the woman behind the counter quickly took her from us and brought her back to the doctor. The doctor came out and could see that we knew the seriousness of Allie's condition. She offered to do blood tests to try and determine what was the matter but we felt it was time to let her go. She agreed and assured us we were making the right decision based on what she could see.

This is so sad and so hard. I loved that little girl so much. I promised her we'd be together again someday because I believe in heaven and the only heaven I can imagine is one where our pets are waiting there for us.

Goodbye, sweet girl. Thank you for your unconditional love and for all of the joy you've given us. You are so very loved and we will all miss you forever.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Allie, Christmas Decor, Protests and a Virtual Stroll

We had a bit of a scare with Allie last week. She wasn't eating and she was restless at night and whimpering a little. We've also noticed that she's been losing weight. I took her in to the vet and found that her weight is down from 12.1 lbs in August to 11.2 lbs. That's no small amount for a pup he size.

The doctor noticed a slight heart murmur which she said is not at all uncommon for a dog her age. More importantly, though, she felt around and determined she had a backed up digestive tract. She suggested fish oil caplets or something similar added daily to her diet to aid in moving things along. It seems to be working. At 13 years old we were both worried that something more serious was the matter. She's still not quite her normal self but we're hopeful that she'll continue to improve.

I've been leaving Allie at home when I take Toby and Charlie out walking. Toby loves these cooler temps in the 30s and 40s. He wants to run between all of their stops which is really impressive for an older guy. Toby is fully extended on his leash ahead of us as I'm running to keep up while Charlie is fully extended on his leash and lagging behind. We did a 2.3-mile walk a few days ago and he had us all running nearly the entire way.

We've saved ourselves a lot of work this year with our minimalist approach to Christmas. This is the extent of our outdoor decor which is quite a departure from our usual display. Typically we've got a large tree in front of our living room window but the past two years we've been content to use our smaller tree to the right. Tammy set out Rachel's nutcrackers we've collected for her over the years and that's about it. This works for me!

Tammy was in the uptown area of downtown Minneapolis yesterday morning protesting Wells Fargo Bank for their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. She's convinced me that we need to close out our accounts with Wells Fargo and move our money over to the credit union where we already have accounts. She's right and I actually should've done this a while back when we learned that our accounts were among those that had been tampered with by bank employees looking to generate additional fees for the bank. The only real hassle is in setting up electronic transfers for paying bills and a couple of other automatic withdrawals. If you're also considering breaking up with your bank, check out this link.

I was looking through some boxes of my mom's photos yesterday when a manila envelop spilled its contents out. Inside was my dad's naturalization certificate. I noticed an address on it from when our young family lived on Turner St. in Detroit before I was born. I believe we were actually there for the first few weeks of my life. I don't recall ever seeing any photos of the house so I entered the address from my dad's certificate into Google Maps and took a look around the neighborhood. There are still some well-kept homes but lots of very rundown homes as well. Here's a street view of the home. I wish I had my mom here to tell me stories about their time spent there. I suppose I was too busy to hear them when she was still with us.

Edit: My brother just informed me that I was actually born in a different home at 18676 Lennane St. in Detroit and that the home on Turner appears to have been razed. Our home would've been in the empty lot to the right in the link above for Turner. I'll leave both links in my blog.

I was on a walk last week and heard a large flock of geese overhead coming up from behind me (video below). I turned to look and saw the largest flock I'd ever seen heading east. It was quite a sight.

It's time to go and see what my next walk has to offer but first I need to go and "run" with Toby and Charlie.