Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lotsa Smiles and the Miesville FiftySix Gravel Road Ride

I put out one of our hummingbird feeders a few days ago in anticipation of the little flyers' return. I'm maybe a little early but not by much. It's my understanding that hummingbirds return to the same place each year so I want to be sure to not do anything to cause them to set up home elsewhere.

For any former controllers visiting here not connected on Facebook, you'll be interested to know that 3 controllers from Minneapolis Center retired this past week: Brian Vance, Kris Henderson, and Scott Goerdt. Brian and Kris's retirements were expected but Scott's, not so much. He told me he woke up a couple of Mondays ago and decided then and there that he was done (I'm somewhat paraphrasing). There were lots of smiles on their faces at Celts Pub in Farmington Wednesday afternoon as a group of us gathered to congratulate them and tip back a beer or two.

There's a new mountain bike trail coming to Lakeville between I-35W and Lake Marion. I showed up Saturday morning with about 15 other guys to help move some dirt around. The vast majority of the work is being done by a professional crew that builds these sorts of trails. The city of Lakeville is providing the majority of the monies for the project but fundraising has also brought in a good amount. They're anticipating a fall opening for the planned 5 miles of trail but from talking with the guys on Saturday, they expect it to be open this summer. I was so impressed by what I saw out there that I brought Tammy back to show her. I plan to be a regular volunteer there as my way of giving back to the sport.

Speaking of biking -- the annual Miesville FiftySix gravel road ride went off without a hitch this morning in the face of a very wet forecast. It was windy and overcast but for the most part, the rain left us alone. I used today's ride as a warmup for the Lutsen 99er race (although I'm doing the 69er route) near the end of June. I've been getting in some decent rides but I needed something to push me on my fat-bike, and this was the ride for that. Today's ride wasn't a race but I'd say a good percentage of the field were giving it their all, including me. I had my bike set up with my 4" Dillinger tires, the same ones I'll be using in Lutsen. Using my slimmer 3" tires would've made the ride easier but I didn't want that. As I sit here at my laptop my quads have an achy feeling that tells me they've been pushed in a way that only a hard workout can cause. I like that. (Photo to the right courtesy of Dennis Kilbride.)

Here's some video from today's ride.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Peaceful Protest and Tammy's 23andMe Results

My 4-month-old MacBook Pro faltered on me a week ago. I noticed it was taking an unusually long time to boot-up and also the Touch ID was no longer working. I worked with Apple support and they determined it was likely a hardware issue. I brought it in to the Apple Store at Mall of America on Friday and got it back Tuesday afternoon. That was quick I thought. They replaced the motherboard and it's functioning fine now but for whatever reason, they reformatted the SSD (Solid State Drive). I spent most of yesterday getting it back up to speed. I still have a ways to go.

We've been with Verizon since before the advent of flip-phones but our relationship with them has come to an end. We've switched cellphone providers and are now with Google's Project Fi. I'm especially liking my Pixel XL phone and its ability to stay connected to wifi—a problem that continued to plague my LG G4 for the nearly 18 months I had it. Rachel is traveling in South Dakota this week so I'll be interested to see how the phone performed in the more remote places along her way. I think I'll continue to use my LG phone as a camera on my rides.

Tammy and I attended the Tax March last Saturday at the state capitol in St. Paul to draw attention to the need for Trump* to show the world his tax returns. Transparency for this sort of thing has never been more important considering the potential for conflicts of interest Trump* has. It was a nice crowd of people (see the video below) and a peaceful protest. I read in the paper that they estimated the crowd size at around 500 but I would've guessed there were considerably more people than that.

I did my first long ride of the year on Monday. I left the house intent on doing somewhere between 40 to 50 miles but didn't arrive home until 98 miles (158 km) later. I needed that. I've got my sights set on the Lutsen 69er race in late June and I was in need of a longish ride.

I enjoy riding outdoors but there's no better way for me to maximize my time in the saddle than when I'm on my CompuTrainer and using Zwift, an interactive program that pushes me like no other. I rode in Zwift's "workout" mode today and felt good about my effort. Workout mode is a structured workout where I plug in my FTP number (Functional Threshold Power—a measure of how strong I am on the bike based on the number of watts I can maintain over a set period of time). My FTP number is then used to assign blocks of time at specific watts over the course of the workout. The image to the right shows just some of the data collected during my workout. The red line across the top is my heart rate and the colored segments beneath my heart rate are the watts I was producing for the two hours and ten minutes I was riding. I love that I'm able to incorporate the geek in me along with my workouts.

Tammy received her 23andMe results a few days ago. I sent my DNA sample in a week ahead of her but their website says my results are still pending. She found out that she's 99.8% Western European with the breakdown being:

58.1% Scandinavian
19.2% British and Irish
0.3% Finnish
22.2% Broadly Northwestern European

The results also show that she has a 25% chance of acquiring late-onset Alzheimer's disease, just as her mother is now experiencing.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


“God of mercy and compassion, you never neglect your children in need. So bless us with your healing presence that we might remain by your side on this road of sorrows. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.”

I was in church last Sunday morning and the above prayer was recited in unison. My mind immediately leaped from where I was standing next to Tammy to the photos I'd seen earlier in the week of starving people in South Sudan—horrific images, many of them children. It made no sense at all that we were saying this prayer with full knowledge of the suffering being endured by some. (And now the Trump* administration is intent on slashing funding to these desperate people so we can grow our already obscenely large military even larger. Trump* supporters—is this what you voted for?)

I can't tell you anything about the rest of Sunday morning's service because I never got beyond the line about God never neglecting his children in need. As we walked out to our car I considered asking Tammy what she thought of it but I didn't. Her faith lately has been teetering on the brink and I didn't want to say anything to push her over the edge. I still have my faith in a higher power but I'm no longer certain that it's at all related to what is described in the Bible. I don't like thinking this way because life was simpler before I began questioning and doubting but it's where I am and I can't pretend otherwise.

I know the world doesn't revolve around the U.S. but there's no denying that we have a disproportionate amount of influence on the rest of the world, or at least we seem to from my view. Christians now have their man in the most influential position in this world of ours as evidenced by the fact that evangelicals loudly and proudly supported Trump* by a margin of 4 to 1. How can any thinking person who has been paying attention to what's been happening, and seeing who's been supporting this clown not also begin to question the faith they've been practicing—a faith that is dependent on man to deliver the message in an honest way without bias? I no longer believe that that's what we have or have ever had.

Tammy and I have both sent off our DNA samples to 23andMe to have them analyzed. We also filled out the online questionnaire that takes about 90 minutes to complete. The questionnaire delves into personal traits as well as personal health condition and maladies, I suppose to see if there are risk factors that can be identified.

In my last blog entry, I posted a video of a ride I'd done earlier in the week. One of the clips in the video (isolated below) was of a large flatbed truck that brushed me back on County Rd 5 in Burnsville. A friend saw the video and encouraged me to file a police report on the driver. I was going to chalk it up to the driver being a dick for whatever reason and not invest any amount of time thinking about it but Steve was right—I needed to report the incident. What if the driver routinely does this sort of thing with his rig when he sees cyclists he doesn't approve of? There was less than 6 inches of space between his rig and my left hand on the top of my brake hood. That's one skilled driver to know the limits of his truck, and if he's not that skilled then he could've just as easily taken me out.

I understand that most will see the video and wonder why I'm out there when I could more safely be on the sidewalk to the right. I get that. Until you're out there riding the sort of distances I ride I don't expect you to understand. Sidewalks and bike paths are all good if you're out for a leisurely ride where maneuvering around vehicles straddling the path is nothing more than a little nuisance. I ride with an incredibly bright blinking LED light on the rear of my bike that can be seen from more than 3 miles away and I have a similar light facing the front. In the video below you'll see that the truck driver had full use of the left lane but chose to send me a message instead. He's now going to get a return response from me.

I received this follow-up reply from Burnsville police.

"Thanks. I tried several possible phone numbers for the vehicle's registered owner without success, so I mailed him a letter. The body of the letter is as follows:

I just received a call from a concerned citizen about an incident on Monday, March 27 at about 3:00 p.m. The caller was riding a bicycle on southbound County Road 5 near 136th Street in Burnsville, which is an area with two southbound traffic lanes. He was on the far right edge of the roadway, essentially on the solid white line. A semi-truck with a flatbed trailer passed the bicyclist and nearly hit him. The left lane was open, so the truck driver had ample room to change lanes or at least give the bicyclist the three feet of space required by law.

The bicyclist was wearing a “Go Pro” style camera and recorded the incident on video. The video also captured the license plate on the trailer, which registers to you. The bicyclist does not want me to take any enforcement action regarding this incident, but he did ask me to contact the truck driver.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if the driving conduct was accidental (i.e. the driver did not notice the bicyclist) or intentionally aggressive. The bicyclist’s impression was that the driving conduct was intentional. If you were the driver, please take care in the future to notice bicyclists and drive safely; bicyclists are entitled to be on the road, and Minnesota law requires that a driver passing a bicyclist give at least three feet of space.

If you were not the driver, please forward this letter to whoever was driving the truck at that time. I do not need any follow-up contact from you. The bicyclist does not have your name or other information because I found it through the vehicle registration records, which are confidential.

(Photo attached)"

I want to be sure that a report of the incident is going to be placed in the file of the driver of the flatbed so I've sent an amended request off to the officer I was in contact with. I'm awaiting his reply.