Friday, March 31, 2017

Love Your Neighbor and New Wheels

I stumbled onto a kinda cool website recently where you can search out a myriad of streaming radio stations around the globe while brushing up on your knowledge of geography at the same time. Here's a link.

There's a house a few blocks away that has a sign in the front yard that encourages people to "Love your neighbor". I first noticed it about the same time a Muslim family moved in a few doors down from the home with the sign. Someone vandalized the sign recently by wrecking the metal frame supporting it. I hesitate to read too much into that. I was walking Toby and Charlie Sunday morning when I noticed the homeowner out front—I commented to him that I liked his sign while expressing disappointment that someone apparently thought differently. He quickly went to his car's trunk and gave me an extra one he had, minus the metal support. He said a church in St Paul was giving them out.

I've been taking the pups on some extra long walks lately—walks in excess of 3 miles. Our typical daily walks are around 2 miles. Toby loves the cooler weather and this is all about him. He'll be 14 years old in August and I don't know how much longer he'll be able to do these sorts of distances so I'm keying off him, and lately, that means we're doing a lot of running on our walks—even well into our 3rd mile. Once the heat of summer arrives we won't be able to do this so we're taking advantage of it while we still can.

Tammy has new wheels. We said goodbye to her 2006 Subaru Forrester with 126.000 miles (203,000 km). It was in need of a new transmission to the tune of $4500, essentially totaling her car and prompting us to do some tire kicking of what they had in the showroom at Walser Subaru in Burnsville. We decided to place our order for a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek. That was 5 weeks ago and it arrived on Tuesday. Tammy is really happy with it and that makes me happy. It has some very cool safety features that make texting and driving so much easier. Of course I'm joking but seriously, that's pretty much what some of these enhancements do.

Eyesight is a feature that takes over your braking if the car's external cameras feel it necessary to avoid a crash. Where I find the feature especially useful though is when you're operating with cruise control and the speed of the car in front of you is varying. Eyesight keeps you at a specific distance from the vehicle you're following. I tried it on a stretch of highway with stoplights. Eyesight applied the brakes and brought us to a stop when the traffic in front of us slowed and stopped for a red light. I, of course, kept my right foot hovering over the brake the entire time. Another useful feature is Blindspot Detection where your side mirrors alert you with a flashing light when someone is in your blindspot. I would love to have this feature on my Forrester. All of this technology is more than 2 years old but it's new to us.

Crystal Lake Golf Course opened on Wednesday and I was there, not scoring all that well but hitting some nice shots along the way. I feel it's going to take an intervention from my bikes, my clubs and my walks to get us back in the glassblowing studio but I hope not. We really need to get back there.

This just in (for my air traffic control friends) as I go to publish this. LP has left the building!

Here's some video from Monday's ride. C'mon along.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Far Would You Go? And Meet the Folks

I'm not vain and neither am I considering flying my Learjet to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun but I'm pondering the question: how far would I drive to see a total solar eclipse? I may be about to find out. This very rare event in a city near me is going to happen on August 21st, 2017 and it will put Lakeville in an area about 80% eclipsed. To get to where there will be a total eclipse I'd need to drive to Lincoln, NE., a little more than a 6 hour drive. I think I'm off that day, and I think I'm in!

I checked this site for future total solar eclipses for the rest of my life and it appears the one in August will in all likelihood be my last (and first) chance to experience one. Missing out on it would be even more upsetting than not realizing The Paper Kites were in town last Saturday night at First Avenue!

Our Google Pixel phones are on their way after a wait of a few weeks while they were sold out. Rachel dropped her LG G4 in the tub last month and has since been relying on some outdated LG phone she picked up on Craig's List for $40 that struggles to do the most basic functions. Tammy's iPhone 6's ringer no longer works and it's become very slow so she's looking forward to something new as well. As for me, my LG G4 is okay but is still continually disconnecting itself from our wifi. I could continue to use it but with Tammy and Rachel's need for new phones, I'm willing to sacrifice it for the sake of a clean break from Verizon. I'm a giver. After doing some research and with an excellent review from a friend in hand we've decided to go all-in with Google's Project Fi and leave Verizon behind.

Verizon tried to make a last-ditch effort to get us a lower plan cost but I told the rep we had already committed to Google and their very reasonable rates and decent coverage. We'll pay $20 a month for each line and then just $10 per GB of data. If I use 2.45 gigs of data in a month the cost will be charged at just the portion of data used; in this case $20.00 (line cost) + $24.50 (data usage) = $44.50 + whatever additional fees are normally applied. No costly overage fees because there are no limits -- you just pay for what you use. That seems reasonable to me.

We drove down to Rochester to see Rachel on Saturday afternoon to deliver her bike and see Beauty and the Beast. I took some time to walk her through the steps of repairing a flat using CO2 while assuring her that a few choice swear words may be helpful during the process of trying to get the tire back on the rim. I was right.

We went for dinner to Grand Rounds Brew Pub where we were happy to be joined by a new male friend in Rachel's life—Drew. I'm being careful not to say "boyfriend" although that may well be appropriate. We had a nice time at our formal "meet the folks" get together.

A friend sent a link yesterday to a list of mountain bike races this summer and one in particular caught my eye. This one. I'm giving some serious consideration to at least the 77-mile ride. The 122-mile ride would be a lot to chew off on my fat-bike but it's not out of the question. Tammy has given me her blessing to pack up the car and go for it. Hmmm..

I allowed my mild OCD to take the lead on Sunday's ride. It's actually something I've been wanting to do for a while. A nice leisurely pace while checking out some local streets I've never gone down and a way to get some exercise on a day when I wasn't up for working out. Win-win.

Seriously, my OCD is under control.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

23andMe and Our Growing Family Tree

My nephew Dan recently sent in a sample of his DNA to 23andMe to have it analyzed. The results showed that he had a close match (of the 1st or 2nd cousins variety) with Emily, a woman in Montreal, Canada. How could that be? They exchanged emails. It turned out that Emily's mother, Cynthia, was born to a single woman named Erie in 1947. Erie never married but took the last name of her daughter's father even though she'd lost contact with him and I assume never heard from him again. Emily told me that they were always told the name of Cynthia's father was John Gilmore. My father's brother Jack also went by John.

From what Emily has told me about her grandmother, Erie was a strong, independent woman having served in the Women's Army Corp during WW2. She taught veterans job skills at a vocational school after the war in Brockville, Ontario, a city some 2+ hours southeast of where my father and his brother Jack grew up in Douglas, Ontario. I've learned that my father also took office management vocational classes in Brockville around the same time Erie taught there.

It's not known if John/Jack knew of Cynthia. Erie left Brockville in 1947 and moved to Kingston when the school closed. Within a few years of Cynthia's birth, John would move to California, raise a family and retire there years later. John passed away many years ago as did his wife more recently. I know so little about Jack and his family because my father was reluctant to ever want to talk about his family. His childhood was difficult and none of us siblings ever pushed him for details.

Erie raised Cynthia to be a strong woman, forbidding her to learn to type for fear those skills would lead to a job with her "working for a man". Cynthia would marry, become a successful attorney and raise two children.

When I was first shown the photos of Cynthia I was stunned! In some of the photos of her I saw my sister Claudia but in one, in particular, the photo to the left, I saw my father. It was a "wow" moment for me. There is no question that there's a family resemblance. Her smile and her eyes I've seen before, more times than I can count in my father's own face. The photos I have of my dad at a similar age as Cynthia in the photo show some resemblance but probably not so much to someone who didn't know him: here, here and here.

Before I learned that Emily always knew her grandfather's name to be John, I was contemplating the idea that Cynthia's father was actually my father especially when I learned that he was in Brockville at the same time as Erie. But then I dismissed the idea.

This is where it gets interesting. I received an email from Emily tonight where she explained the breakdown of DNA for me. I'll use her words because it's somewhat technical and I'll lose something in the translation otherwise. Emily wrote:

"I’m attaching a histogram which shows how close the DNA match is for a large group of people who are known second cousins (which Dan and I should be if Jack was my grandfather). The numbers along the horizontal axis express the DNA match in units of centiMorgan (cM)… the higher the number, the closer the match. My match with Dan of 9.56% can be equivalently expressed in units of cM as 650 cM, which is way higher than the upper limit of 522.9 on the horizontal axis. Our match is “off the charts”, so to speak, for second cousins."

Credit to The Shared cM Project for the histogram data.

So, I'm sorta-kinda back to thinking that there's a real possibility or probability that Emily and Dan are indeed 1st cousins and if they are then that can only mean one thing—that my father was actually Cynthia's father. I'd like to have my DNA tested to see how closely it aligns with Emily's. It would also be helpful if one of my cousins on my father's side could submit their DNA for testing to see whose aligns more closely with Emily's family. Whichever side matches more closely would tell us with some certainty (I would think) whether Cynthia's father was Jack, as was believed or my father.

I find this all so fascinating.

Some additional information: Erie Medora Boyd was born Jan. 19, 1921, in Elgin County, Ontario (on the north shore of Lake Erie). Erie was one of eleven children, and all except for possibly one have passed away. Her parents died when she was around fourteen, and five of the younger children, which included Erie, were taken into foster care by the same family. She died June 9, 1982, in Hamilton, Ontario of lung cancer from smoking.

Cynthia passed away at the much too young age of 66 on May 20th, 2014 from Multiple System Atrophy. The photo to the right is Emily and her mother, Cynthia.

I'll close with a beautiful tribute to Cynthia written by her friend:

A Reflection by Gloria Nardi-Bell

Friday, March 10, 2017

Another Branch to Our Family So Says 23andMe!

The thought of having my DNA analyzed for a more precise understanding of what sort of mutt I am has been mildly intriguing to me. I considered doing it a while ago but I was told that the results are quite vague and to not expect any sort of real definition that can point one in a specific direction to see where their ancestors came from, so I took a pass.

But now I'm not so sure it's all that useless.

A family member recently sent his DNA off to 23andMe to see what he could find. He found a lot! I won't go into detail but what I can say is that there's another branch to our family on my father's side that none of us knew existed. It's quite cool and the photos I've seen leave little doubt that there's a connection. I hope to be able to be more specific in the near future but now is not yet the time.

My go-to road bike is a 2006 Serotta Legend Ti with 48,000 miles (77,000 km), and it continues to serve my needs well. We've been through a lot together. I'm on my 2nd set of wheels, I've worn out numerous rear clusters, chainrings, and chains and I've upgraded the cranks to add a power meter, plus I've swapped out the saddle a few times. But one thing I hadn't replaced until a few days ago are the pedals. I was going into this season with some very worn pedals and I started worrying about coming unclipped due to wear. Adrian at Flanders Bros in Minneapolis was happy to get me fixed up with something more dependable for the next 48,000 miles. I've also got some new shoes on order to replace my Sidi shoes that Adrian estimates are from the early 2000s. They too have served me well. It will be nice to have my feet more firmly anchored to my bike.

I recently got a text from Rachel asking "Will you help me find a new bike? I'm thinking $250 budget". I got back on the phone with Adrian to see if he could help us out—and he could but it was going to cost considerably more than her budget allowed. I met Rachel in Bloomington where she'd had a meeting with a prospective UMR student at my former high school, Bloomington Jefferson. We drove together to see Adrian at Flanders Bros. He was expecting us and had the bike setting out for her to take a test ride. It was love at first sight! No kidding. He had to swap out the stem for a better fit to accommodate her longer torso but he had us on our way in time to beat most of the rush-hour traffic.

We parted ways at her car and I took her bike home and set it up inside. She posted a photo of it on Facebook and I commented that I was "giving it the VIB treatment". She's excited to have her new ride and I'm excited for her. Tammy was even mentioning how she'd like to start riding her bike to the health club once the weather warms. It looks like I'll have one more bike to service but I don't mind because that's what retirement is for.

The Paper Kites have been around for several years already but their music is new to my ears and I'm loving them, especially this song...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Glass Talk and River Trails Church

I've done zero stained glass work this winter and I'm a little disappointed in myself for not making time for it. It's not something I want to force to happen so I'm content to know the craft is waiting for me when I'm ready to dive back in again. I seem to have so many other things that vie for my attention—bikes and walking, mostly. Too often I find there's not enough hours in a day for me but that's a good problem to have in retirement I figure.

We were at Grace Lutheran Church in St Paul last Saturday and I absolutely fell in love with their faceted stained glass windows that were assembled in the early '60s. Of all of the stained glass styles I like, faceted is the one that does the most for me with its bold, abstract renderings. I've never tried my hand at the style but I'd like to someday.

Here's a series of videos about faceted stained glass construction if you're interested. (I have autoplay enabled so one video plays right after the other for me; it's possible your settings aren't the same.)

This winter seems about done even though we're only in the first days of March. The long-range forecast is for daytime temps mostly well above freezing. I've been fat-biking for 5 years and this is the worst of all of those years as far as snow-covered trails are concerned—lots of ice but very little snow cover. I took to the trails along the Minnesota River bottoms last Sunday morning for a very enjoyable experience on mostly dried out trails. I skipped church and spent some time talking with God out among his creation. That works just as well for me. Video below.

For my fellow Zwifting friends, in case you hadn't noticed, there's a new volcano route on the Watopia course for your enjoyment and pain. I stumbled onto it this morning. It's a nice addition. Zwiftblog talks about it and gives instructions for how best to find it here.

Time to go make a dent in a growler of coconut stout that my lovely stepdaughter acquired for me today! Have a nice weekend.