Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goals, Then and Now

Excuse me while I reminisce a little.

42 years ago tonight I was in my first few days of boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago. I remember sitting in my barracks on New Year's Eve 1975 and thinking how a mere three weeks earlier enlisting in the Navy was in no way one of the options I was considering. I had watched nearly all of my friends leave for or enroll in college that fall while I remained behind working factory jobs with no real future plans.

I acted on my sister's suggestion and went to speak with a Navy recruiter in Brooklyn Park. Chuck Wilson would shepherd me through the process. Everything happened so quickly after our initial meeting where I took an exam to see if I qualified for any schooling after boot camp. Chuck then scheduled me for a physical examination at a facility in Minneapolis. I remember asking him about how late in the recruiting process could I still back out. He replied that once a person has had their physical he likes to think they've made a commitment. And so it was at that point that I accepted this new road I was on and vanquished any remaining doubts.

It was a pivotal point in my life but not one that I recall seeking advice from either of my parents about. They had left for Pottstown, Pennsylvania one year earlier with my two younger brothers while I was in my senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Bloomington. My dad supported me while I was still in school but probably not much after that. I can't recall for certain. It was mostly my brother and brother-in-law who encouraged me to sign up.

I've always been goal-oriented in my adult life but not so much yet at the age of 18. I do think though that I realized I had to do something with my life other than what I had been doing and that was motivation enough for me to enlist. Honestly, as I look back I can't think of any goals I set for myself other than maybe trying to move up from bagboy to stockboy at Penny's Grocery in Lohman's Plaza a mile from home. My world was still quite small then as were my ambitions.

The first real goals I recall setting for myself were ones I made that involved my bike, such as riding from San Diego to Campo and back or up to Oceanside and back. Those early days on my bike were some of my first experiences where I challenged myself and pushed myself to find my limits on roads like this. The endurance athlete in me took root and gave me a confidence and belief in myself that hadn't existed before. I wasn't out there to prove anything to anyone but myself. My bike became my focus as did my fitness. In a lot of ways, I'm still the same person I was all those years ago.

I wasn't getting the book-smarts my friends were getting in college but I was progressing in my own way, and I had to be content in that. My goals would expand to saving enough money to buy a new frame and parts to go with it in addition to finishing my enlistment and finding my way to college while supporting myself. There was a lot on my horizon and I was chomping-at-the-bit to begin my next phase of life.

But that's enough of my past for this blog entry.

I enjoy reminiscing like this but it's also kinda sad when I see how fast my life is moving. I would give anything to relive the previous 42 years or at least slow time down. I love the zest and curiosity for life that I've been given and I'm thankful for it but lately, I can see where my time here is finite and that's not something I'm ready to think too much about just yet. And so I keep moving and keep challenging myself.

I'm not much for making life-altering resolutions to begin the new year, instead, I'll just put some milestones out there to try and work toward and see how I do. I'd like to bike 6000 miles (9600 km) and walk 2000 miles (3200 km) in the coming year. I think both are very doable. I'd also like to achieve a golf handicap of 8 by this time next year. And I'd like to see if I can establish my niche and gain a following at my Etsy store by steadily building my inventory and occasionally promoting my work. I've been enjoying dabbling with stained glass again and I find a lot of satisfaction in producing my art. Also, rather than volunteering time working on mountain bike trails, I think I'd like to find a more meaningful volunteer opportunity. I have a friend who drives elderly people to appointments. That appeals to me.

Here's wishing you all the best in 2018.

I'll leave you with a video from this past week. We've been invaded by Star Wars characters!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I Just Need To Be Me

I'm 22,029 days old; or said another way:  I'm 60. When my father was this same age it was February 18th, 1986. My mother was the same age on February 25th, 1988. (You can make your own calculations with this calculator.) I sometimes find it interesting to see myself from a different perspective—a perspective where my dad and I are on equal footing with respect to age. It's something that causes me to squint my eyes a little and think hard to recall thoughts of my father from back in the day.

My dad and I were alike in a lot of ways but in many more ways we were complete opposites. It wasn't until I was in the Navy and working as a radarman that I learned my dad had held the same position when he was in the Canadian Navy. You would think I would've already known that.

I can count on one hand the number of times we sat down and just chatted about life in a meaningful way. I don't think I was the exception among my siblings in this regard but perhaps I was. It wasn't that he was a quiet man because he wasn't. He and my mother used to talk for at least an hour each evening in our front room after he got home from work. She'd fix them both a drink and he'd tell her about his day while she would occasionally get up and tend to what she was making us for dinner. At least that's how I remember it.

When I was brought home by the police after getting caught drinking underage (I was 16), he made sure I got up for work the next day despite being in no shape to do anything but stay in bed. I finished my 8-hour shift at Penny's Grocery and came home expecting the worst. "Your father wants to talk with you," my mother told me. I went to where he was in the front yard. His head was down as he kneeled on the grass pulling at some weeds. I'm not even sure if we made eye contact. He told me that if I ever wanted a drink I could do it at home. That wasn't my idea of drinking but I promised him there wouldn't be a next time and that was that. The discussion lasted less than 30 seconds, and I resumed my life without changing a thing. Nixon would resign from office the following month.

Still, what I needed from him was a more meaningful relationship; someone who would both challenge and encourage me. It would be years before I'd come to realize that.

He flew into San Diego, CA in April 1978 while I was there serving out my enlistment. We had a day and a half together, swimming in the pool where he was staying at the Sheraton on Harbor Island, playing mini-golf and going out to dinner. It was good, quality one on one time and I will always remember it. I brought him aboard the ship I was serving on and showed him around. And I showed him my bike. He had bought me a white radio that clamped to my bike's seat-tube that I could listen to while I was riding. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd never use it.

I stayed with my parents for a few months when I returned home from the Navy while I figured out what my next steps would be. My dad was still as busy as ever, tinkering with whatever project he had in front of him on his workbench or adding to his woodpile. He was a good provider and had he not encouraged me to take the job offer from the FAA there's no telling where I'd be today because I was determined to remain in school. There's much about him that I have to be thankful for. But as I write this, I can't help but think that it's entirely possible that I live my life the way I do, engaging the boy in me because, on a sub-conscience level, I don't want to be like my father. I don't mean that in a negative way. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I just need to be me, and that leaves little room for the guy I always imagined I'd be at my age.

Thoughts of my dad came and went this morning while I was on a ride with some guys. I was doing something that I never could've imagined him doing at age 60 but how cool would it have been if that was something we could've done together. We weren't the type to go deep in a conversation with each other but I have no doubt we could've connected on a ride where we're pushing each other, testing each other and respecting each other. Two men meeting as boys and letting the trappings of being adults and the walls we build around ourselves fall away.

A bike can do that.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hello Winter and Happy Birthday, Tammy!

I've been staying busy down in our glass shop working on building an inventory of miniature stained glass panels/sun-catchers for my Etsy account. I had one sale right away last week when I went live with my virtual storefront but nothing since then. I plan to add some lesser expensive panels to my inventory to entice people to take a chance on someone like me with no track record or reviews to recommend my work.

Expand the photo to the left to see a collection of some of my pieces. A few in that mix are copies of designs done by Frank Lloyd Wright and are not for sale.

I'm enjoying losing myself in the art form again. I let Pandora supply the background music and can easily spend 6 hours or more at a stretch working on a project. It's relaxing.

I'm officially certified to flip Lefse unsupervised! Tammy gets together with her aunt Joyce each year around this time to make several dozen of the Norwegian flatbread. Joyce was here last week but Tammy needed to make even more for a luncheon and I offered to help. It goes better with two people. It was actually a lot of fun. We're planning to make them again in another couple of weeks.

Until recently I could take them or leave them but then I discovered how good they are with ham and cheese. I'm now a big fan of them.

The pups and I had a really good week of walks but I'm afraid our walking days are going to be much less now that winter seems to have arrived and settled in. I was out walking in shorts and a t-shirt doing my Orchard Lake loop yesterday afternoon just ahead of a cold front. It pushed through last night and on the backside of it we had lots of wind with rain that eventually turned to snow but not before leaving our roads with a thick coating of ice. Our temperature dropped 20ยบ in just a few hours. I don't mind the cold and the snow; it's the ice I can do without. We had more than our fair share of it last year, so much so that I barely made it out to the trails on my fat-bike because I don't have studded tires.

Tammy and I have had a couple of full days. We finished yesterday at The Angry Inch, a brewery in Lakeville where we gathered with the faithful from 3 other local Lutheran churches to sing Christmas songs, munch on snacks and drink beer. It was a lot of fun.

Today was Tammy's 60th (can I say that?) birthday. We spent the day bumming around together. We strolled the Mall of America and made a few purchases. We were going to go out for dinner later but decided to stay put and open a special bottle of wine that I'd had hidden away—a bottle of 2013, Conundrum, a California red blend. It's so smooth and a bit more expensive than we're accustomed to. She's worth it!

Global Fat Bike Day was last Saturday. There were nearly 50 of us in the group I was riding with. I would've preferred to have had snow to ride on but I wasn't about to complain about the mild day we were blessed with.

Until next time!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Francis Jennings and the Seisable Johnsons with RaeNelle Ostberg, and a Side Hustle

Tammy is deep into the series Game of Thrones. Season 5 is sitting on the bench in the laundry room waiting to be returned to the library. She's often up in her craft room watching it while working on projects. Every once in awhile I'll hear her yell out, "Oh noooooooo!!" I know enough about the series to know that many of the favorite characters are killed off when you least expect it. I think I'll pass. Cindy (Tammy's sister) was in town this past weekend and they went to see Daddy's Home 2. Tammy said it was "hilarious!" I think that's more my speed.

We went to Tammy's nephew's home for Thanksgiving and enjoyed ourselves a lot. Brady and Kaylee's 2 little ones provided most of the entertainment. It was nice visiting with everyone (John, Stacy, Rick, Karen, and Eric were also there) while watching the Vikings try and lose a fairly large lead. Kaylee used to be the lead cheerleader for the Vikings until recently and can only cheer them on in spirit now. It must've worked because they held on to win. And what a delicious Thanksgiving meal they put together!

Rachel's boyfriend Drew and his bandmates were playing a gig at a bar in Rochester Friday night so we went down earlier in the afternoon to spend some time with them and Drew's mother before the show. Jenny is so nice and we enjoyed our time getting to know her more. We went out for dinner before arriving at the bar an hour before the show. We thought we were plenty early but we had to scramble to find seats. It was a full house!

Francis Jennings and the Seisable Johnsons with RaeNelle Ostberg didn't disappoint! Here's a playlist of most of the songs from the evening. What a fun time! My favorite song of the night is embedded below. Halfway through recording it, I'm thinking to myself, this is really good!

I was watching WCCO, Channel 4 news a couple weeks ago and they featured a segment about people supplementing their income with what they referred to as "side hustles". And it just so happens that I'm one of those people they were talking about. I recently reactivated an Etsy account I'd set up a while back to feature some of my glasswork. I uploaded some photos of what I'm selling a couple nights ago and already this morning I received an email from Etsy informing me that one of my pieces had sold. How cool is that?! I carefully and hurriedly packaged it and got it off in today's mail with a personalized note of thanks to the buyer for their support.

Here's a link to my Etsy account. I only have 3 pieces there now but I hope to add a few more this week of the lesser expensive variety.

The panel that sold was one I'd made last week and put up on my Facebook page. Here's a link to a photo of it.

I first got the idea for jumping in the Etsy waters when I noticed a woman on my Instagram feed gaining quite a following with her stained glass work. It intrigued me because she's relatively new at the art but this "side hustle" for her has her struggling to keep up with the demand for her work. She has a unique following in that her work is mostly of bats, dragons, spiders, skulls and the like. Not really my thing but she's found her niche. Perhaps there's a niche for people looking for small, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired sun-catchers!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Le Pup Walks, Le Ride and Le Riding

I've been getting in some nice walks with Toby and Charlie in the cooler weather. I use various Garmin devices to track my activities throughout the week and I recently decided to track my walks with the pups separately rather than mix them in with my solo walks or golfing; mostly so I could more easily see how far we're walking together each week. The results are in—here's a typical week for us. That's 13.45 miles (21.65 km). Or viewed another way. I mentioned in a previous blog post how Toby loves to run. He's not at all an alpha-male but when he's leading us in a run and Charlie tries to take the lead, Toby runs even harder to stay in front, sometimes leaning his body into Charlie to keep him from passing him. I think that's so cute!

Tammy and I went to see Le Ride a few nights ago. It played across the country for one night only in select theaters. I was prepared to go alone but Tammy was also interested in seeing it. There was a time when we both used to love to watch coverage of Le Tour de France but that was when Lance Armstrong was winning it. It's not quite the attraction for me now that it once was although I still maintain a passing interest in it.

The movie/documentary chronicled Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race host) and his riding partner's attempt to circumnavigate France along the same route that was ridden in the 1928 Tour de France, and they did it on bikes from that period with very few upgrades! Intertwined in the video shot by Phil's crew were historical accounts and footage from the 1928 tour, focusing on a 4 man team made up of 1 rider from New Zealand and 3 Aussies—a team that wasn't expected to survive the 1st stage. The word "epic" is too often used to describe long-distance cycling efforts but this one is truly worthy of that descriptor. The only thing lacking for me in the film was any discussion about forms of doping that were likely employed by riders back in the day to get them from one stage to the next—but it was legal then so maybe that's why there was no mention of it. I would guess that the movie will be available to download or purchase at some point. We both highly recommend it.

I've dusted off my indoor trainer and fired up my Zwift program once again to enable me to ride throughout the winter in the comfort of our basement. I've been riding indoors for more than 37 years and never in those early days (or even 10 years ago for that matter) could I have imagined indoor training being what it is for me today. It's incredibly motivational. My nephew Brent picked up on my enthusiasm (at least I think he did) and recently purchased a smart-trainer and signed up with Zwift. Brent lives in Texas but we were able to ride together for an hour early Saturday morning on the roads of Watopia. It's quite cool! I kept him working hard for the 3 laps we rode together but he beat me in the sprints. Too fun! I can't say enough good things about this setup for indoor riding.

After my rendezvous with Brent, I had to hurry to get refueled and out the door to meet up with a group ride on some gravel roads south of Lakeville. I'm typically a loner out there but it's nice to occasionally have some company to ride with. I think I see more of this in my future.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

There's No Sweeter Guy In My World

I was hoping to get in at least a few more rounds of golf this year but my golf season has come to an abrupt end. Our temps have cooled considerably to where we're hovering around freezing with no relief in the long-range forecast. But even if the weather were to cooperate I still can't play. I crashed my fat-bike at Murphy last week and landed hard on my chest, injuring my ribs on my right side. I think I may have caught my right pedal on something causing me to crash on a part of the trail that's not at all technical. I was down before I had a chance to react. My left leg was cut up as well as my face just to the right of my right eye. I hurried home and cleaned up before Tammy could see me but there was no hiding from her that I'd crashed.

Crashing goes with the territory, especially on the trails.

And if I'm honest with myself I have to admit that I've avoided trail riding for much of the summer because I know there are risks on the trails and I didn't want to be sidelined and have to sit out much of the golfing season. I tried to hit some balls yesterday at an indoor golf simulator as part of a group lesson but I had to quit early. I could tell I was doing more damage to my injured ribs. Between golfing and riding I seem to injure my ribs quite a lot, and it's always around a 6-week recovery. I rode indoors today but I really need to get back on the trails and sharpen my skills there.

Toby turned 14 last August and he's showing his age. He struggles to see, mostly in dim light, and his hearing is all but gone but when we're out walking he's happy to run and run and run. I have to give an occasional tug on his leash to keep him out of storm drains and to make sure he safely negotiates curbs but for the most part, he does well without my help. He'll sometimes be looking for me in the house and he'll walk right by where I'm sitting and not see me. I'll wave my arms to get his attention and that usually works. There is no sweeter guy in my world. Charlie is a close 2nd but he's such a taunter and a dickens—Charlie Dickens as we sometimes call him. He's a precious guy as well.

Steve came by a couple weeks ago and we were able to get the wisteria stained glass lamp hung above the table in the front room. I find it a nice place to plunk down with my laptop, and Charlie enjoys being able to watch the world go by from his new perch. I made the windows in 1994 and they've been displayed there ever since but they were always somewhat hidden away. Now that we've mostly removed the wall separating the kitchen from the front room, they're much more noticeable and I like that. The wisteria lamp used to be above the kitchen table. This is a new and improved place for it. We're more than happy with the new look and the function of the space.

Rachel and Drew went to a Halloween party last weekend dressed as John and Yoko. I told her I had to have a photo for my blog. I think they nailed it! We're looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks. Drew will be playing with his band at a gig in Rochester and they've invited us down to watch them and shoot some video.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Goodbye, Eva, and Just a Normal Day

Last week was a full week. My aunt Eva passed away on Monday, the 16th; her funeral service was last Friday morning. Eva was just shy of her 92nd birthday and by all accounts was ready to move on from this life, wondering why it's so hard to die and why was she still here. She was a part of every one of our summers growing up as we'd vacation near her and her family in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I can easily hear her voice in my head with her Yooper accent filling her kitchen. I had so little contact with her in the last 45 years but still, she will be missed. Visits to the U.P. won't be the same without her sweet presence there.

My aunt Maria flew in from Florida and kept me company on the 6-hour drive to Winona, near where we stayed. It had been more than 11 years since I was last in the U.P., and being there made me realize how much I miss it. We only stayed 2 nights but I was able to manage to get in 18 holes of golf at the local course where I'd spent many days as a boy. It was so nice to walk the fairways again and reminisce. It's been more than 20 years since I last golfed there. I recalled on the 5th hole how my dad hooked his drive into the woods on the left. He played his 2nd shot from more than 200 yards away, over a small rise in the fairway that blocked us from being able to see it land. We looked and looked for his ball but didn't find it until walking up to the hole and finding it at the bottom of the cup. I'll never forget that. I was maybe 12 years old.

I played two rounds of the 9 hole course and would've stayed longer but I wanted to meet with some cousins at my cousin Bobby and his wife Tina's home for dinner. We had a lot of laughs and good conversation. I was so glad to be able to make the trip for Eva's funeral and connecting with everyone there and for the time spent chatting with Maria in the car.

Today was the sort of day I envisioned my retirement days would look like when I was still employed as an air traffic controller with the FAA. It began with more than 8 hours of sleep, which is a few hours more than I'd typically get when I was a slave to my alarm and the ridiculously early wake-ups that were part of my normal workweek. I made my way downstairs with the pups in tow. I let them outside while I prepared their food, tuning in to the last segment of Morning Joe to break the quiet of the day. I thawed a frozen breakfast sandwich and had it with a bowl of cereal then proceeded to pop the top on my pillbox and wash Tuesday's contents down with a big swallow of orange juice. I take a daily multivitamin; 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin to help minimize knee pain; 10 mg of Claritin for seasonal allergies, and my warfarin dosage (blood thinner) for my Factor V Leiden condition and because I want to keep living.

A check of the weather showed it was going to be too windy for Frisbee golf, an idea I was kicking around last night, so I opted to go for a longish walk after taking Toby and Charlie for a 40-minute walk. I rode yesterday and was fine with giving my riding muscles a break. After completing yesterday's ride, my Garmin 820 told me to give them 40 hours to recover. That sounds about right. I was pushing pretty hard trying to keep my watts and heart-rate up the last half of the ride. My riding has taken a backseat to golf this year and I'm okay with that.

I came home from my walk and chatted with Tammy for a while before laying down for an hour-plus nap. I seldom took naps when I was employed because they nearly always made it too difficult to fall asleep at night when I needed it most. I no longer have that concern. I woke up from my nap and went out and got both my flu and shingles vaccinations. I'm good to go!

And here I sit, by the fire with the pups by my side, listening to Supertramp's Crime of the Century on my Stanton T-92 turntable. It's a vinyl kind of night. Tammy is upstairs plotting out a course for a vacation we're taking this spring to the Pacific Northwest. We'll be traveling with our pups and staying at Airbnb's along the way. We're overdue for a little get-away.

Here's video from possibly my last longish ride of the year from last week to close this entry out.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reminiscing, Flying the Flag Again and Smooth Streets

The leaves have been piling up fast in our yard and rather than wait a week between mowings to vacuum them up, I've been out there every 2 to 3 days. They're a lot more manageable that way. I love fall but not this aspect of it.

Two more metro area courses were added to the PCC membership I have for golfing, bringing the total number of courses I have available to me to 57. The two newest additions are courses I'm familiar with from when I was a boy: Hyland Greens and Dwan Golf Club, both in Bloomington. Dwan is an 18 hole course but not particularly long while Hyland has gone from an 18 hole par 3 course to 9 holes, all still par 3. They removed the inside 9 holes and turned them into a driving range. I went out to Hyland Thursday afternoon to play it for old time's sake. I remember the last time I played there—it was 22 years ago and I was with my former stepson, Dave. I returned home to a message from my sister on my answering machine that our dad had died. It's one of those memories that stays with me.

I had to pause when I got to the 4th hole because that's where, as a boy, for a few summers I'd spend my days in the field off to the right of the hole hunting for golf balls that had been hit out of bounds into the tall prairie grass. I'd ride my bike there and bring along an egg carton to display my finds along the fence for the golfers who were teeing off. I'd earn maybe $5 for a few hours of work. It was good money for a kid of around 12 years old, plus, it was fun. I still remember the first ball I found: it was a Dynaflyte. I'd never seen one before or since but it was a beauty—new, shiny and with no cuts in it. I probably sold it for .75c.

I was in a discussion yesterday on Facebook about flying the flag. Two people in the thread touched on why they stopped flying theirs and affirmed for me that I wasn't alone in my feelings that there's a strain of patriotism out there that some of us would rather not be associated with—a hardline crowd that's co-opted what it means to be patriotic. I find it very off-putting. So, about 5 years ago I quietly packed up our flag and in an unpatriotic moment I tossed it in the trash. That's not something I'm proud of because I used to love to fly our flag from our front porch. It's very much the same way I feel about the Christian fish tattoos that Tammy, Rachel and I had tattooed on our ankles 10 years ago to signify our walk with Christ.

Hardline Christians are changing the face of the religion I used to be proud of into something I at times want to run from. I'm considering having my tattoo removed. Tammy would like to have some other design tattooed over hers to hide it. I hate that we're even thinking like this but it's where we're at. I have to wonder—if we're feeling this way about this faith of ours, what does that bode for anyone on the outside looking in who may be considering becoming a Christian?

But all is not lost. I'm happy to say that I'm flying the flag again, although the flag I have now is slightly different than the standard stars and stripes I used to fly. The focus of our new flag is on peace. I simply want to fly the flag while at the same time differentiating myself from those I feel have given the practice a distasteful meaning, at least to me.

The city of Lakeville replaces about 7 to 10 miles of road each year. It's quite an undertaking from all I've learned watching them working in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods this summer as they replaced our streets. McNamara Contracting wrapped up the project a few days ago. It's nice to have smooth roads for a change. We got 30 years out of the original roads so I suppose that's not bad. I was out there with my video camera at several points along the way collecting video to splice into an upload for YouTube. I sat down last night and assembled it, hoping to keep it to something less than 5 minutes. I failed miserably!

Each homeowner was assessed around $3000 for the cost of repairs, a price I think was well worth it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lacking the Will and Some Full Days

It's been more than a week since the largest modern-day mass killing in the United States. Republicans were all on point in the days after the shooting, stating that now was not the time to talk about any sort of meaningful gun control legislation. They were apparently too busy organizing their thoughts and prayers. People of all political stripes were posting their favorite memes on Facebook -- memes which best aligned with their convictions about what to do, or not to do.

The meme to the left is a good example of what conservatives were posting. I couldn't help but notice that the examples used in that particular meme all resulted in stricter controls for each of the methods listed. Timothy McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb to kill hundreds, and the government responded with much tighter controls on the sale of the kind of fertilizer he used to make a bomb. The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to commandeer aircraft and fly them into buildings, and the government responded with tighter controls on what's allowed onboard an aircraft. Richard Reid tried to blow up a passenger jet with a shoe bomb, and the government responded by requiring people to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding an airplane.

Do you see a pattern?

Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in a mass shooting in 2012. Republicans responded that it wasn't appropriate to use the tragedy as a reason to discuss gun control legislation because it would only be politicizing it. And nothing was done in the months and years that followed to try and minimize the risk for such a tragedy ever happening again. And these sorts of senseless tragedies continue to happen again and again and again and again without even a discussion among our politicians about the problem because republicans won't partake in the discussion.

I don't have any delusions that we'll ever come to some reasonable laws to drastically reduce the amount of gun violence in our country. As others have said, if we couldn't find the will to do it after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, it's not likely to happen. We spend trillions of dollars chasing a bogeyman in the Middle East while for every life lost at home or abroad to terrorism we lose 1049 lives here due to gun violence. And yet republicans won't even have a discussion about it. Where is the sense in that? And where is the sense in continuing to spend trillions on wars we'll never win? But that's for another discussion that republicans won't partake in.

Here's a link to a Wiki page detailing what other countries have done in their efforts to control gun violence. Why do we in this country have to stand in such stark contrast to every other developed nation in our number of mass shootings and deaths? My god—can't we do better?

Switching gears...

I was at a gathering of fellow Jefferson high school alum on Saturday night where I learned that Amy Ebner passed away last March from lung cancer. She had also been suffering from MS. So sad. I always thought she was the prettiest girl in school. She lived just a couple blocks from us in Bloomington. I didn't have any contact with her from middle school on as our paths diverged. I have two lasting memories of her from some 50 years ago. I recall us chatting in front of Hubert Olson Elementary where she was on her bike and I was asking her who her teacher was for the upcoming year. We were going into 6th grade. The other memory I have of her from all those years ago was of Amy beating everyone in our class in a running race. She was taller and faster than all of the boys. Those memories have always remained with me.

I woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful blue sky and light winds. We had a full day planned but my Serotta was begging me to go riding first. And so we did. I needed that, and I felt so refreshed when I was done. I've not been spending enough time on my bikes lately because golf seems to be winning out for my attention. I can ride throughout the winter but I can't say the same for golfing so I'm trying to get my fill while I can with just a few weeks remaining in the golfing season.

Tammy and I stopped by to see Steve where he was displaying his blown glass at an art fair in Sogn Valley, about 45 minutes away. The fair had lots of talented artists but it also had lots of biting beetles. We spent most of our time there chatting with Steve before leaving to meet Rachel, Drew and Drew's mother Jenny at Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings for a wine tasting—and to meet Jenny. We had such a nice time! We spent a couple hours there sipping the various wines and munching on an assortment of cheeses, crackers, and olives while chatting our time away.

I hadn't planned to do yardwork today but I did and I'm glad because I got lots done! All of our gardens are cleared of both healthy and dying flowers and all of our hostas have been cut back. And I mowed the lawn again to vacuum up the leaves after having just done it on Saturday. It was a full day of work; I finished in the dark and in a drizzle.

I think I hear my golf clubs calling me for tomorrow—or is it my bike? I'm quite sure it's my clubs I'm hearing. Can you hear them?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I've Moved On

I've completed tapering off prednisone and I'm steadily seeing glimpses of my old self. There were a few difficult days last week where I had to force myself to get out of bed but I can tell that my adrenal gland has awoken from its prednisone induced slumber as the color slowly returns to my world. I'm still struggling to push hard on my rides but that will come. The headaches have been done for more than a month but I'm reluctant to send my oxygen bottles back for fear that another phase is just around the bend.

I've been absent here for more than a couple weeks. I tried to sit down several times to tap out an update but every time I did it felt like I was forcing it and I never like to approach this hobby of mine with that mindset. And where do I even begin with so much of what's happening in our world with Trump* behind the wheel; threatening to destroy North Korea and its population of 25,000,000 while his evangelical followers cheer him on; his continual comments about crowd size at his rallies—crowds that are becoming ever smaller despite his assurances otherwise; his continual blatant lies about anything and everything; his disparaging, juvenile Twitter rants and just about anything else he involves himself with. I'll go to my grave shaking my head in disbelief that this guy conned and continues to con as many people as he has.

But conservatives got a United States Supreme Court pick out of the deal in Neil Gorsuch and he's going to give them the firepower they need to finally put a stop to abortions in this country! Keep dreaming. The United States Supreme Court has been controlled by conservatives for nearly 50 years and it was a strong conservative majority that gave us Roe v Wade in the first place, legalizing abortions—a decision that saw 5 conservatives casting 7 of the votes which made abortion the law of the land. So there is that.

Historians will look back on this period and point to the stranglehold of conservative media upon so many unwitting followers of theirs who were duped into believing the bigoted, hate and fear-filled propaganda they were selling while they divided our country in ways I never imagined were possible. I've lost a sister to this madness.

As for me, I've moved on. I'm no longer the pro-birth (disguised as pro-life) guy I once was. I see how Democratic administrations foster an environment that reduces the need for abortions and I see how Democrats are the party much more likely to come alongside mothers in need, giving them the help they're lacking to raise their children which encourages them to keep, rather than abort their babies. That's what being pro-life should be about. It stands in stark contrast to those who are merely pro-birth like I used to be.

I've been occupying my time with biking and golfing. I've even managed a couple of indoor rides to check out the new updates to Zwift. They've added new routes to the London course and an overhead map view to show you where you're at on either of the 3 courses. I get such a good workout riding indoors.

And speaking of riding—Rachel and I rode the St Paul Classic a couple weeks ago. A fun time was had by all!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tapering, Midnight Oil and Seeking Refuge

I'm in a bit of a funk as I complete my taper from prednisone, a drug I use as a prophylactic to minimize the disruption of my life from cluster headaches that I recently wrote about here. Prednisone is both a godsend and a curse. I'd be lost without it for those weeks and months when I'm desperate for relief from severe headache pain but it comes at a price: irritableness, aggression, mood swings, shakiness, sleeplessness, and lethargy bordering on depression. Those are just some of the more obvious side effects for me. There are other, less noticeable but more adverse reactions that come with the prolonged use of the drug. But still, I readily take it for the relief it provides.

Prednisone suppresses the body's adrenal gland and its ability to manufacture natural corticosteroids (especially cortisol). It shuts it down completely. Weaning off the drug is important to allow time for the adrenal gland to once again begin its own cortisol production, and that takes time. I hope to be back to normal in a few weeks to a month provided I don't relapse into another phase of the headaches as has been my experience all too often over the past 10 years or more.

I got a call this morning from a representative for a drug trial company called Science 37. They would like me to participate in a trial for a drug called SOM230 which works to both abort a cluster headache and to prevent them. I told her I was interested. She would like me to contact her when I'm next in a cluster headache phase and they will fly me out to Los Angeles for 1 to 2 weeks to take part in the trial. It's always been my hunch that there's not enough research being done to understand and treat cluster headaches so I'm happy to do my part to help.

On a whim, I went to see Midnight Oil at First Avenue last week. A friend of mine, Ed, in Seattle highly recommended not passing them up so I took his advice. It was a nice whim! I got there an hour before the doors opened and found my place in line next to Phil, a friend from work. We passed the time catching up with one another.

Phil and I both found spots on the rail, stage left from which to watch the show. It was an excellent time even if it meant being on my feet for 5 hours to secure my place. I won't hesitate to go and see them again should they find their way back here.

For many in the States, their world is being rocked by hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) in the southeast and forest fires out west. I find myself somewhat amused by those on the political right who rail against democratic socialism until they need help, and then they've got their hands out. I'm left to wonder where their free-market spirit and pulling-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps mentality escapes to in times like this. Sure, these are tragic events and we should all step up and help those who are suffering, but how is this any different than a family who is stricken with cancer or some other catastrophe? There is no difference.

And for a few, perhaps, as they abandon their homes to flee the fires and storms seeking refuge, this will give them the inkling they need to better understand just a little of what desperate families fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries are feeling as they too leave their lives behind seeking safety, looking to us for help while we slam the door in their faces. This travesty continues to haunt my thoughts. I'm not expecting many conservatives to make that connection because it's not a sentiment that would ever be expressed on right-wing media—the place that has so warped their minds and is the primary source for the divide we're experiencing here.

I'm frustrated.

I see a country that is becoming more and more unrecognizable with each passing day. Just 2 days ago, Trump* proposed deporting 800,000 young people, people who were brought here illegally as children but people that have only ever known this country and its language, and yet he's prepared to send them back to where they came from—many with no connection to their past. And these are good, decent people who are in school or working or both while contributing to the fabric of our country, serving in our military and giving everything they have for the betterment of us all. What purpose does it serve to threaten them in this way? What purpose does Trump* serve?

What a fucking dope!

On a happier note, Keith McKay was in town over the Labor Day weekend and we were able to get together and ride the river bottoms with some friends; always a nice time!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Me? 60? It Can't be! But It is And I Am!

And just like that, another decade races past! I struggled more than ever when faced with turning 50. There was something about that number that was unsettling to me and it took me a while to come to terms with it. Funnily enough, I'm not feeling the same sort of concern about having just turned 60. I'm embracing this new decade! After all, 60 is the new 40, right?

Rachel bought me a fun gift for the garage—my own parking spot saver! It's perfect! A closer look. The USS Fresno was the ship I served on when I was in the Navy in the mid to late '70s.

And Rachel celebrated another birthday as well. She turned 26 on Thursday. Drew hosted a party for her at his home in Rochester and it was such a nice time! Well done, Drew!

I attended my 2nd annual Red Eye Open golf tournament this past week at Fountain Valley Golf Course in Farmington. It's a tournament for retired controllers. I didn't play as well as I'd hoped to but I had a lot of fun. I'd like to have hung around and visited with the group of guys but I had to head out as soon as we finished to get ready to drive into St. Paul with Tammy, Bob and Karen to see a Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center. It was a busy but fun-filled day. The Lynx easily won! I only wish we could've said the same about our group investment in lottery tickets after the game. We were big losers!

After close to two months of torn-up roads in our neighborhood, we've got asphalt down on the streets again, but some of it is going to have to be torn out and redone. They're having a difficult time getting the road to pass the compression test across the street in front of our home. They laid asphalt down and I could tell right away that there was no way it was going to hold. The road was squishy underneath it. There were cracks and lumps in the pavement the next morning. I spoke with the project manager and she said they're going to try and install some drain-tile to minimize the deleterious effect moisture is having on the area. She was quite certain the new asphalt would fail but the forecast was calling for a significant amount of rain and they wanted to cap off the road with tar to minimize any additional moisture issues, and so that's why they proceeded even with the understanding that the road wasn't quite ready.

Hate speech has reared its ugly head in Lakeville—at Crystal Lake Golf Course where I do most of my golfing. Someone carved a swastika into the #2 green a few nights ago. The grounds crew quickly repaired the damage. I would guess it was the work of some misguided youth but it's still troubling. There's a segment of our population that has been emboldened recently to act out in this way and there's no doubt in my mind where the fuel for this is coming from. Trump*, and his embracing of the "alt-right".  You're free to disagree but then I'm curious to know what you think the catalyst for this sort of thing is? Here's a related article.

We made it out to the fair for my birthday. We didn't get there until around 2:00 in the afternoon and parking was about impossible to find. We ended up driving 5 miles north of the fairgrounds to a park-and-ride to catch a bus to the fair. We had such a nice time walking the grounds and hitting the spots that we enjoy most. I'm tempted to go again but I think once is probably enough. It's nice to leave there wanting for a little more. We'll be back next year!

I'm such a geek. Here's a link to our travels at the fair. Take your cursor along the bottom elevation view and move it from left to right to see how we navigated the crowds. We got out of there for less than $100. I'd say we did pretty well!

Edit: Thanks, Erin for pointing out that my math was wrong. We actually spent $108.50.

I was mildly amused by this painting in the Fine Arts Center. It can be yours for the low price of $37,000.00!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tammy and Kevin's Big Adventure

Bucket List: view a total solar eclipse.


What a fun adventure and experience that was! I first made mention in my blog of wanting to view the eclipse from a position of totality back in March and then proceeded to cement our plans to make it happen by booking a room in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We left late Sunday morning and joined the steady flow of traffic on I-35W as we made our way south. Traffic was heavy but it was moving along at a good clip. Eclipse fever was building!

We chose Lincoln for its proximity to where totality would be occurring, knowing that we'd likely be viewing it from some other city nearer to totality based on cloud cover. All of the forecasts indicated we'd need to drive west in the morning to improve our chances of a cloud-free sky. We didn't mind. The extra hours spent on the road to make it happen were all worth it to us. We chose to drive toward Grand Island, Nebraska and possibly a little beyond. We eventually settled on Ravenna, Nebraska, about 33 miles west of Grand Island.

Tammy noticed a hillside off to our left as we arrived in Raveena with people gathering on it to view the eclipse. She wondered if it would maybe be a good spot for us. We drove into town, refueled then went back and navigated the field in Tammy's Crosstrek, finding the ideal setting for what I'd had in my mind's eye for setting up my video camera. My intention was not to video the eclipse, or even photograph it for that matter. I merely wanted to have a shot of the horizon or of a field of sorts and watch how the light changed during the eclipse from daylight to darkness and back to daylight. This was that spot.

We mingled with the others there, exchanging where we had traveled from and how we decided on Raveena, and other small talk. It was a fun crowd, united in our common focus at a time when unity is in short supply here.

We would occasionally don our glasses and watch as the eclipse slowly devoured the sun over the next 45 minutes or so while taking note of a steadily falling temperature and a shifting tint to the ambient light that was moving toward an aqua-amber hue.

Excitement was in the air.

As I was saying, my intent wasn't to photograph the eclipse. I was more focused on living in the moment and taking it in. And what a sight it was! I get a little excited as I write this just thinking back to it and the thought of that breathtakingly unreal image in my head that is indelibly imprinted in my brain. A light wispy cloud moved in as the moon fully enveloped the sun but it didn't affect our view of the sun's corona. Tammy became choked up by the experience. It was profound. But that moment when the sun's light broke through the darkness is what stands out the most for me—what's referred to as the diamond ring effect. That was such an awe-inspiring and dramatic moment. Here's a video I found of it.

I have to see it again!

When the orbs in the sky had resumed normalcy and after daylight had fully returned, we packed up our things for the drive home. Before leaving we thanked the family that was gracious enough to welcome us onto their land and share the experience with them.

The ride home was a long one but we didn't mind. We spent our time together listening to satellite radio and the bevy of music on my Nano while chatting our time away. The only hurry we had was in getting home before the pups were unattended for too long. Rachel and Drew had stayed with them the night before and into the late afternoon. What should've been an 8-hour drive turned into 10.5 hours as we found ourselves in stop-and-go traffic many times along the way where we were crawling along at less than 5 mph for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. My friend Lenny was about 2 hours ahead of us on the way to his home in Prior Lake and he gave me some suggestions to consider to help us avoid some growing congestion due to recent crashes that were slowing his progress. So with that, we took the road less traveled through parts of Iowa which gave me a chance to drive through some small cities that I used to work air traffic into and out of during my career; cities like Dennison, Sac City, and Fort Dodge. Familiar cities on one level but not at all on another.

We arrived home a few minutes past midnight after more than 700 miles (1125 km) since leaving our hotel that morning, tired but happy for having made the trek to totality. And we plan to do it again in another 7 years. You should plan to, too!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Sweet Boy Turned 14 on Thursday

Donald Trump* is an idiot. A racist idiot. If his words of this past week didn't convince you of that then I'm not sure there's anything he can do to dissuade you from your misplaced belief in him. If, when faced with questions about Trump's* stability and his fitness to serve as president you turn to the propagandists of right-wing media to quell your fears, what good have you done toward really understanding the danger he presents to us all. If you find yourself accepting of the idea that it's okay for Trump's* campaign to have been in collusion with Russia to subvert our election process or if you find yourself equating the Nazis who marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with those who rose up to stop them, your mind has been corrupted and it's more important than ever that you take a step back and come to terms with that.

The assertion that anything other than Fox News or other far-right media outlets friendly to Trump* is "fake news" is disturbing to hear, especially coming from Trump's* mouth. There's willful ignorance that comes with tuning into Fox and other similar voices to shape one's opinion. People have to know that, and yet many continue to. I worry about the direction of our country.

My sweet boy turned 14 on Thursday. Toby doesn't see or hear so well anymore but his happy feet dance the floor when I'm preparing his food in the morning, and he still loves to go out walking. He's such a love and such an important part of my life. 

We're still waiting on a newly paved Jalisco Terrace but they continue to tear out large sections of road and replace them with a different consistency of dirt due to softness in the soil as one of the workers explained to me. It didn't help that we've received 5" (13cm) of rain this past week. It was a muddy, rutted mess out there for a few days but the end of the project is in sight. To give you a better idea of what we're still dealing with you can more easily see it in my most recent ride video I put together—especially the last 30 seconds or so.

Our main-floor remodel is nearing completion. Tim was here this week to install the glass tile backsplash. It looks very nice. Keith will be here early next week to put the finishing touches on his work which will allow for others to come in and wrap up their parts of the project.

I spent much of yesterday cleaning the leaded windows that go in the front room. I made them back in 1995 and I've never taken them down for cleaning in all that time. I had them in a safe place in the basement for the past two months but now it's time to get them back in place. And they are. I do like the way the colors pop even more now with the white woodwork to set them off.

We'll be leaving tomorrow morning for Lincoln, Nebraska where we'll be positioned to observe the solar eclipse on Monday. Lincoln puts us in the area of totality and should give us a good shot at driving to wherever it appears we'll need to be to minimize the chances for clouds obscuring our view. I'm getting excited about this especially after watching the video below and the description of totality the speaker gives. I plan to have my video camera rolling for the half hour before and after the eclipse to capture a time-lapse from wherever we are. I don't plan to be trying to capture many photos of the event—others will do that. I think it's more important to just stand back in awe and wonder while taking it all in.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An Unwelcome Appearance

I went to the Mall of America last week to do some laps on a rainy afternoon. There's a new yarn art display on the north end that's quite cool to see. Walking laps gave me a chance to try out the Garmin foot pod Tammy got me that more accurately keeps track of my indoor distance when I can't get a GPS signal. It worked well.

My Cluster Headaches made a return 3 weeks ago after having left me alone for the past 30 months. That's the longest reprieve I've had from them since they first began to afflict me when I was a senior in high school. I wrote several entries for my blog during my last phase of the headaches but I've been reluctant to publish those writings. They're a little too personal (even for me) in places. I do intend to publish them all at some point. Here's the first of those entries written in January, 2015. I was at a very dark place then, trying to remain hopeful that the headaches would cease any day but faced with the reality that that wasn't happening.

I went from months of daily and nightly beatings from cluster headaches to the near loss of my left leg due to blood clots and then Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. All the while my mother was living out her last months and the difficulties that presented. That period of my life was easily my most trying ever as I did my best to put one foot in front of the other and press on.

The storms would eventually clear and I was able to resume my normal life again. When the headaches are gone I don't typically think about them, or want to think about them but they're never far from my thinking when I get to the point where they're due to make an appearance again. And now they have. I'm not much for social interaction when I'm dealing with them but I do plan to be at the Redeye Open—a golf tournament next week for retired controllers. It promises to be a fun time!

Tammy and I have been working overtime trying to get our home put back together. We're making good progress. Tim comes tomorrow to do our tile work for us in our kitchen. That should make quite a change in the look as well. Chairs for the kitchen island are on order from Peter's Billards and a small table and chairs are on order from Schneiderman's. Neither will be here for more than another month but in a summer that's flashed by as this one has, another month is nothing.

Time to hit the driving range and see if my swing is still where I left it two weeks ago. I've got a tournament to get ready for.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I'm Going to Finally Learn How to Cook!

We're once again able to park both of our cars together in our garage for the first time in nearly 2 months. Our main-floor remodel is wrapping up and we're very pleased with how it's turned out; we couldn't be happier! There's still more to be done but our home is livable once again and for that we're grateful. A guy can only hang out in his garage for so long.

And I'm going to finally learn how to cook!

I promised Tammy that when we got our kitchen put back together I'd make an effort to learn something more about preparing a meal than how to make a sandwich or using a microwave as my main source of heat. She wants us both to take a cooking class. I think that's a great idea.

Keith and Jason came by yesterday morning to install a final section of cabinets in what used to be our front room. Maybe it's still our front room; I'm just not sure anymore. It's such a different look than what we're used to and we're both liking the change—a lot. It was the open floor-plan concept that first attracted me to our home's design when I had it built in 1992. Our new layout opens it up even more.

We couldn't be happier with the cabinets Keith and his crew have assembled for us. There's so much thought that goes into something such as this and I can't begin to pretend that I can appreciate it all, from the design to the construction and all of the unforeseen things that pop up along the way. We're so impressed!

Steve was here most of the morning and afternoon yesterday installing our pendant lamps over the island in the kitchen and over our dining table. He's been such a godsend to us. Karen was here to lend her eyes and expertise in getting the pendants hung correctly. They're quite cool!

Road construction in the neighborhood continues to move along at a steady pace. They had a huge milling machine on wheels chewing up the old asphalt while both grinding and recycling it into a soft loam that they spent the better part of two days grooming for the first layer of asphalt, which I think they may be doing tomorrow. The cost of $3000 per homeowner seems like a very fair deal to me considering how large of a project this is.

I'll be back in the glassblowing studio at Foci tomorrow for the first time in way too many months. I'll be working with Steve. He's such a talented glassblower and I feel blessed to be able to share some bench time with him. Hopefully, I'll not disappoint him with my limited abilities and we can team up regularly in the weeks and months ahead. I'd like that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Airbnb to the Rescue!

We decided to get out of town while Jeff paints the main level of our home. He's using oil-based paint on the trim and it's not healthful to stay there—plus, paint fumes do a number on my head and are a trigger for my Cluster Headaches.

The Airbnb we're staying in is just a few blocks from Lake Nokomis, under the approach path to runway 12L at MSP. We've been lucky that the air traffic since we've been here has been departing to the south and southeast which leaves us with only arrivals overhead. They're much lighter on the throttles than departures and not at all an issue—we hear them but they don't get in the way of our conversation. I'm kinda curious to hear how loud departure traffic would sound from inside our well-insulated abode but unless things change soon, I'll never know because we're checking out in the morning and heading for home.

It's been nice having different scenery for my walks. I could get used to this area. We've been enjoying trying some different restaurants and getting a more intimate feel for the area. We'll have a much better appreciation for the neighborhood and its surroundings the next time we pass through.

Things are a mess back at home. Our home's main level is steadily coming together but outside on our streets, it's a whole other story. The curbing that was in need of replacing has been torn out leaving large sections missing, just in time for some heavy rains this afternoon. The plan had been for the new concrete to be poured yesterday but storms have left it too wet for that. Hopefully, it'll be done tomorrow so we can begin the 6-day countdown to being able to use our driveway once again after the concrete cures.

Speaking of storms -- I got soaked on my walk today! I was hoping I'd make it back before the heaviest rain caught up with me but I was too slow. I plopped my butt down in an Adirondack chair outside of Patina, a store on the corner of 50th and Bryant Ave So. I waited out the worst of the storm while watching arrivals for runway 12L at MSP fly directly overhead before I ventured back out into the raindrops to complete the last 2 miles of my walk. I must've looked like a drowned rat when I finished but I had a smile on my face and was feeling good. Here's an animation of my walk.

And some photos from the past few days plus a riding video.