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.