Thursday, February 23, 2017

She's Been Activated and I've Been a Bad Boy

I attended my first ever protest last week in front of the Burnsville office of 2nd district Congressman Jason Lewis to draw attention to his reluctance to hold a town hall meeting with his constituents so people can voice their concerns and yes, vent some anger. Between protesting Wells Fargo's support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline itself, and the Woman's March in January, Tammy has been walking the walk and showing up at these protests with her signs, not content to only voice her concerns on social media and leave it at that. She's been activated. I went along with her to get a feel for what's happening at the grassroots level. I see more of this in my future as well.

We also attended a meeting at a friend's home last week to view 13th, a documentary on Netflix about the history of mass incarceration of African Americans in the US. The documentary delves into post Civil War racist legislation that in effect kept many African Americans from truly living as free men and instead, still enslaved but to the states through our prisons where they were stripped of their right to vote and have a voice. It's an eye-opening film that I encourage everyone to watch, especially if you're someone who's inclined to roll your eyes at the mention of white privilege.

I've been a bad boy. I had some videos on my Vimeo channel of an Adele concert I attended with Rachel more than 5 years ago. I think I had maybe 3 or 4 of her songs on there and it was enough to get my account terminated. That was a big blow to me. There's no fighting it because I was in the wrong but still, it kinda hurts. I'll typically look to see if there are other videos of the artist present before uploading any of my own because some artists are much more strict about that sort of thing than others. Anyway, I just looked and there are no more Adele concert videos by her fans on Vimeo and I'm sure there are many fewer accounts just like mine. This whole ordeal leaves me with a bunch of dead links on my blog to videos I'd posted on Vimeo—my preferred online video host. Fortunately, I've got most of my videos backed up to my YouTube channel and I'm in the process of redirecting the links.

For the past few years I've been using a free music archive of songs from various artists as background music for my ride videos so as to color within the lines of copyright rules and that works pretty well. It's odd though because today a friend posted a song hosted on YouTube to his Facebook account by a fan of George Harrison. How is it that something like that isn't taken down? I don't get it.

I took Tammy's 2006 Subaru Forrester with only 128,000 miles on it into the shop to have a problem looked at. When making sharp turns at slow speeds there's an uncomfortable binding feeling in the front wheels. It turns out the front differential which is tied into the transmission is beginning to fail and the fix is a new transmission to the tune of $4500—about the value of the car if it was in good shape. That's a fix that won't be happening. We decided to kick the tires on some new cars in the Subaru showroom and ended up putting money down on a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek just like the one in the photo to the right. We won't be able to take delivery for another few weeks as it's still in transit.

We've had a tease of spring weather for the past 10 days here in Minnesota with record-breaking temperatures often in the mid-50s to lower 60s (12 to 16Âșc for my metric friends). It's been nice but also concerning to many who worry about the larger picture and what's happening with climate change which is only becoming more difficult to turn a blind eye to.

We took the pups for a walk around Lake of the Isles last Sunday. They loved it but they were so filthy by the time we got back to our car.

I've been getting in some nice walks and I was out on my road bike yesterday. It's been nice to feel the sun on my face again. Our snow is gone but more is on the way beginning sometime tonight. I came so close to going out this afternoon and putting down the fall fertilizer application I missed in November but I don't want my neighbors to think I'm any crazier than they already suspect.

And yes, for those of you who are wondering—that's Pat Elster!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Zwift, A Slippery Solution and Reaching Out

I've pretty much given up hope for getting back on my fat-bike for the rest of the snow season due to the amount of ice on the trails. I can't recall a winter anything like this in the 5 years I've been trail riding. I'm disappointed because I had hoped for getting in lots of snowy miles this winter but such is life. All is not lost though because I'm actually getting in some excellent workouts on my CompuTrainer and enjoying the thrashing I receive on it more than ever now that I'm using the online program Zwift. It's both fun and effective at improving my performance.

Check this out—this is from a recent ride I did.

The video looks a little sparse of riders but there were actually about one thousand others on the course with me. Typically, there's never any lack of other riders to try and keep up with or ride off your wheel if that's what you're looking for, and I do enjoy that. There are also some structured "workout mode" features that push me in ways I don't typically push myself. The improvements in my fitness are beginning to show after a month of regular use.

As I was saying, we've had much more ice than usual to contend with this winter. I took a spill on our driveway last month and fell flat on my back. I was hobbling around for the better part of the next two weeks afterward. I purchased some Yaktrax for a pair of shoes I keep by the front door for when I need to go out with the dogs or check the mail. I could've saved myself a lot of pain had I bought them weeks ago and used them. I'm very pleased with the traction they give me on glare ice.

I posted the following to my Facebook page a few days ago. I'd like to post it here as well.

A beautiful moment just now. Tammy and I were sitting at a table in a common area among restaurants at Mall of America. At a table near us were 3 Muslim women—they looked to be a daughter, mother, and grandmother. Tammy went over to their table, knelt down and told each of them individually "you are beautiful in America". Their faces lit up. The younger one translated for the older woman and she was overjoyed to hear what Tammy had said. She put her hands to her chest and said: "thank you". I love that about Tammy. As we were leaving she went back over to them to tell them goodbye and they each gave her a hug.

There's simply so much anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in our world right now and it's wrong. Those of us so inclined need to push back and take the lead.

What I tried to convey in my words but not overly so was the way the women appeared to be so hungry for what Tammy told them. Minnesota is a friendly place for the most part but I can only imagine that the women Tammy reached out to must feel at least some amount of uncomfortableness when in public knowing there are many who oppose them being here in the USA. I would not want to live my life like that and neither should they have to. An approving smile or a friendly word can do so much and it costs you nothing.

And yes, Americans are likely looked down on in some parts of the Middle East. What does that have to do with anything?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

There Will Be No Step 5 For Me

For a few weeks after Trump's* election, I'd have fleeting moments where it felt like I was about to wake up from a disturbing dream and all would be well—he wouldn't actually be poised to be our next president. Whew! What a relief! We really dodged a bullet there!

But I'm still here and this really bad dream continues.

It's one thing for me to grasp that Trump* is our president and that many of you voted for him but it's a whole other thing to come to terms with so many among us who are still not flinching or voicing any reservations about his opening foreign policy blunder with his ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. and in particular his ban on refugees. I can't get my head around that and I won't even try because to do that would be to admit that there could be a valid reason to the hyped-up fear that so many are too willing to accept. John Fugelsang said it best in the meme to the left.

When I think about Syrian refugees I try and imagine those who are elderly or very young or ill—people who are just barely hanging on without even the most basic necessities of life, and with little to no hope. What if I was among them? Or you? How in god's name are Christians of all people okay with turning their backs on these people? And so I continue to struggle, to come to terms with what just happened to this country and continues to happen to this country—and all the while republicans and their supporters stand by and not only watch but applaud as Trump* continues his assault on our democracy and on our good name.

The Statue of Liberty is no longer worthy of the inscription at its base which reads:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There will be no step 5 for me.

A friend is deactivating his Facebook account in a few days and it caused me to wonder if maybe I shouldn't pack up my tent and do the same. It's just become more depressing for me than I care to admit when I see some of the things that friends of mine are in support of; most disturbing of all being the refugee ban. (Call us crazy but Tammy and I have actually talked about how we would be happy to open our home to a refugee family to help get them back on their feet.) I've decided, though, to continue to keep my Facebook account active and continue to selectively speak out against nonsense when I see it because neither do I want to look back at this time in our country's history and see that I was silent. I don't think I could respect myself, but that's just me.

It's been a few years since we've been to the Lake Harriet Kite Festival but we made it back this year. Conditions were nearly ideal but I think some of the larger kites could've used more wind. Still, there was lots of colors to take in and we enjoyed our time on the lake.

The blog continues after the video.

There were two CDs Tammy and I would listen to over and over again when we were dating in 1999: Marc Cohn's Burning the Daze and Collective Soul's Dosage. We never get tired of either CD and we always try and catch either act when they're in town. Last Friday night Collective Soul was here at Treasure Island Casino and we were there! It was such a fun show!

Here are two of my favorite songs from the night. Enjoy! We did.