Monday, July 9, 2018

Bike Speak and the Geek in Me

Fourteen years ago tonight I was putting the finishing touches on one of the best days of my life; a 266 mile (428 km) bike ride from our home in Lakeville to Tammy's parent's home in Babbitt, Mn. I doubt I'll ever attempt such a distance again but I've learned to never say never.

I received a group email from a friend last Thursday inviting me to take part in a longish ride the next day. It would be a ride with some of the riders from Lakeville's Silver Cycling bike group. I first rode with them in the spring of 2005 when our paths crossed on Hwy 246 south of Northfield. Although I'm mostly a solo rider, I rode with them a few times. Steve and others in the group are experienced, competent cyclists and I enjoy their company. I've been lacking any long rides this year so I scrapped my plans for a round of golf and joined the ride. It was a lot of fun! (See embedded video below.)

I appreciate the way Steve (aka Silver) and others in the group sniff out some more-off-the-beaten-path routes for their rides. Friday's ride was no exception. We worked our way toward Faribault on roads I'd never taken, much less considered taking. I chatted with Steve while we rode and he mentioned their Dawn to Dusk ride, a 200 mile (double century in bike-speak) ride on Saturday, September 1st. Without much hesitation, I committed to the ride. It's been 7 years since I last did a double century but this gives me something to work toward, and I like that. Here's a video from that ride. It's not as slick as my more recent productions but I sorta like the narration aspect of it.

People who know me well won't be surprised to hear that I'm a numbers geek, in that I like to keep stats on all of my workouts, going back to 1984 when I became a runner. My involvement with endurance sports predates 1984 but that's when I started taking notes.

The sort of data I track has changed over the years and varies depending on the activity, but for cycling, I'm currently logging the following: distance; time; average speed; max speed; average heart rate; max heart rate; cadence; wind; temp, and feet climbed. I'll also make notes of how my body felt and any other thing that I think may be noteworthy. It's what I do. Not all of this data makes it onto my online workout platforms (I currently use 3, never knowing when one of them may be axed), I save that for my logbooks of which I'm filling in my 34th this year. I don't expect anyone else to understand why I do this. I just do it.

From my records, I can see where my peak riding years were from 2004 to 2010 (age 47 to 53). After that time is where I began to incorporate walks into my routine along with our elliptical and Concept 2 rower.

2002 -- 1797 miles (2892 km)
2003 -- 3800 (6115)
2004 -- 7552 (12154)
2005 -- 7452 (11993)
2006 -- 9002 (14487)
2007 -- 7529 (12117)
2008 -- 5848 (9411)
2009 -- 5847 (9409)
2010 -- 6884 (11079)
2011 -- 2936 (4725)
2012 -- 2825 (4546)
2013 -- 3896 (6270)
2014 -- 4604 (7409)
2015 -- 3652 (5877)
2016 -- 4975 (8006)
2017 -- 4242 (6827)
2018 so far -- 2363 (3803)

After Friday's ride with Silver and the others, I felt like my desire to crank out more miles again was rejuvenated. I had so much fun out there that I went back for more on my own Sunday morning and finished the week with 310 miles (500 km). A good week of riding.

I was just writing in my blog recently about finding a balance between my outdoor activities but I've got to go with what my heart wants -- with what makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning, and for now it seems that's my road bike. I'll be golfing with some friends tomorrow morning but I'm already looking beyond tomorrow, to Wednesday, when I'd like to spend a good part of the day on my bike doing my homework for Silver Cycling's Dawn to Dusk ride. It's good to have a goal.

Independence Day Ride

Friday, June 29, 2018

Pride Parade and Some Words About Birds

Tammy and I took in our first Pride Parade event last Sunday. Rachel was in the parade, walking along with a friend of hers who is a candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner, Irene Fernando. We drove to Mall of America where we picked up the light rail for a ride into the city. Storms to the west of us threatened to rain on the parade but they fizzled out. It was a fun time. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recent retirement announcement of Justice Kennedy from the Supreme Court of the United States and the likelihood that another conservative pick by Trump* will risk rolling back many of the gains made through the court in recent years, and not so recent years. The protections for same-sex couples affirmed by the court not so long ago are now in jeopardy of being stripped away. But we've got the Citizens United decision that tells us corporations are people too, so you'll have to excuse me for being more than a little confused.

I finally got our cuckoo clock back from Blackstone Manor Clock Repair in Hopkins after having dropped it off 10 weeks ago for repair. They're a busy shop!

The clock is around 23 years old and was something my former stepson Joe picked up for me when he was visiting Germany while in the Army. The little cuckoo bird stopped functioning some time ago, and more recently the clock would simply stop altogether. $100 later and it appears to be as good as new. I was telling Tammy that someday we're gonna have little grandkids and they're going to want me to hold them up and wait for the little bird to come out at the top of the hour. I want to be ready! The clock probably doesn't really fit with our decor anymore but our home feels like it's missing something without it. We're both glad to have it back.

And speaking of little bids, our neighborhood is full of the sounds of little tweets coming from various nests everywhere you go. I was walking Charlie a couple nights ago and he stopped at a mailbox a few doors down from ours. He was intently staring at the mailbox. I backed up to see what he was focused on and I could hear the tweets from a nest inside where the paper is put. Alex told me it's a nest of Great Crested Flycatchers. He saw the mother fly out of it one day and recognized what kind of bird it was. Alex is our go-to guy in the neighborhood for so many of our nature-related questions.

In addition to baby birds, we've also got an abundance of tiny toads hopping all through our yard. I'm as careful as I can be to not mow over them. I'll stop the mower and take them to an area between ours and our neighbor's home where there's a lot of ground cover and where they'll not be in my way. I love those little guys! Is there anything cuter?

I took some time a few days ago to set up my video camera to capture the action at the birdhouse in our front garden where a family of wrens resides. I compressed 30 minutes of video down to just a few minutes of footage (video embedded below). Watch as the adult bird exits the birdhouse with something white in its mouth. That's actually the droppings of the babies in the nest.

Description from Wikipedia:

"A fecal sac (also spelled faecal sac) is a mucous membrane, generally white or clear with a dark end, that surrounds the feces of some species of nestling birds. It allows parent birds to more easily remove fecal material from the nest. The nestling usually produces a fecal sac within seconds of being fed; if not, a waiting adult may prod around the youngster's cloaca to stimulate excretion. Young birds of some species adopt specific postures or engage in specific behaviors to signal that they are producing fecal sacs. For example, nestling curve-billed thrashers raise their posteriors in the air, while young cactus wrens shake their bodies. Other species deposit the sacs on the rim of the nest, where they are likely to be seen (and removed) by parent birds.

Not all species generate fecal sacs. They are most prevalent in passerines and their near relatives, which have young that remain in the nest for longer periods. In some species, the fecal sacs of small nestlings are eaten by their parents. In other species, and when nestlings are older, sacs are typically taken some distance from the nest and discarded. Young birds generally stop producing fecal sacs shortly before they fledge.

Removal of fecal material helps to improve nest sanitation, which in turn helps to increase the likelihood that nestlings will remain healthy. It also helps to reduce the chance that predators will see it or smell it and thereby find the nest. There is evidence that parent birds of some species gain a nutritional benefit from eating the fecal sacs; studies have shown that females — which tend to be more nutritionally stressed than their mates — are far more likely to consume sacs than are males. Even brood parasites such as brown-headed cowbirds, which do not care for their own offspring, have been documented swallowing the fecal sacs of nestlings of their host species.

Scientists can use fecal sacs to learn a number of things about individual birds. Examination of the contents of the sac can reveal details of the nestling's diet, and can indicate what contaminants the young bird has been exposed to. The presence of an adult bird carrying a fecal sac is used in bird censuses as an indication of breeding."

And one last video before I close out this post. This is from my loop to the single track trails at Murphy Hanrehan, a little more than 6 miles from home. Always a fun time, unless I crash and injure myself!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Piqued Curiosity and We're No Longer Deserving

Another rainy day today had me sitting on the couch in our sunporch fixing dead links on my website. I don't add to the site all that much anymore but I've got a lot of time invested in it over the years so I'd like to keep it and its links somewhat relevant. The one area of the site that I'm considering refreshing are the pages devoted to stained glass. Much of what I have there are photos of my early work. I'd like to add photos of some more recent creations. Also, I need to add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) coding to each of the sites I manage (a total of 3). Beginning in July, unless I've got the coding added to the site it will show that it's an unsecured site next to its URL, looking somewhat like the image to the left. A secure site will have a padlock icon next to the URL. GoDaddy wants $60 a year for each site to keep them secured. For that price, I'll figure out the coding on my own.

I received a message via Google Hangouts a couple hours ago: "Hi, Kevin! I am a journalist (freelance, though this piece is for ________) and I am writing about someone you know. Wanted to see about having a quick interview with you."

My curiosity was piqued.

I replied, "sure".

We spoke on the phone for maybe 20 minutes but he asked that I not mention any specifics at this point, so I won't. I can say that he began the conversation by saying he didn't want to mention the person's name that he wanted to ask me about ahead of time because he was looking for an organic response from me. With my permission, he recorded our conversation for possible use on his podcast in addition to the publication he's writing for. Watch this space.

I've been kicking around whether or not I wanted to pile on to the voluminous coverage and outrage that's already out there about the separating of immigrant children from their parents on our southern border, many of whom are seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons, meaning, they hold no hope for their children or themselves if they remain living the lives they're living; meaning, they risked their lives and the lives of their children to make the arduous journey to our border. I have no doubt that I would be among them if I was in their shoes. How about you?

I started writing about it but quit, lacking sufficient words to express how I truly feel. Heartless, was about the best I could do.

We've got $1.5 trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy but we have only a dismissive, hateful reception for those who desperately look to us for help because they remember a time when we were that shining city on a hill. But no more.

We're no longer deserving of either the Statue of Liberty or the words of Emma Lazarus enshrined on her base.

"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-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

What's become of us? I no longer recognize my country!

Like I said, heartless.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Finding a Balance and So Long, Anthony

It's a dreary day outside my den window but I welcome these sorta days. We're between lines of thunderstorms and the birds are using the respite to fill the air with their songs. I've got nowhere that I need to be.

It's taken me nearly a few years of retirement but I've finally reached the point where I'll allow myself to take an afternoon nap. A nap was never something I could indulge in when I was working because it only made more of a mess of my sleep schedule than it already was. It's nice to know I can play that card pretty much whenever I choose to now.

I've been spending more time riding than golfing this year and I'm enjoying the change of pace. I sorta neglected my riding for my love of golf last year and although I have no regrets about my time spent walking the links, I wanted to find more of a balance this year.

While I enjoy the relaxed nature of a round of golf, it can't compare to a hard workout on any of my bikes. My fitness is still lacking on the bike but it's coming around and I find that to be encouraging. I still have issues with knee pain (and likely always will) so I especially enjoy days when they're both feeling good and allow me to go hard to where my quads are feeling the burn and my heart rate's history shows an abundance of time spent in the red zone afterward. A good ride will leave me with a satisfied feeling long after my bike has been put away. I also try and manage at least one to two days of long walks each week.

Toby woke me up before 6:00 AM yesterday as he typically does. I let the pups outside and went back in to turn on the TV and fill their bowls with food. I stood there stunned, hearing talk of the passing of Anthony Bourdain. I was especially saddened when I learned that he'd taken his life, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter. What a tragic loss but just as tragic, what sort of demons must he have been battling?

It's understandable to question how someone who seemed to be blessed in ways unimaginable to the rest of us could throw it all away. But that's not how depression works. I'll get in an occasional funk where I'm feeling blue, but I can typically pull myself out of it by taking a quick inventory of my life's blessings then dutifully banish my pitiful thoughts. But that's me. I have to accept that for some my method isn't an option.

Sometimes I'll hear people say that God won't ever give you more than you can handle. I used to nod my head in agreement but I no longer do.

I loved his show for the way it gave us a glimpse of worlds unfamiliar to our own, and for his commentary. He was a remarkable man in a most down-to-earth way.

I think I'll go catch a quick nap then go for a walk; maybe the rain will be done by then.

(I just noticed that the video below needs to be opened on YouTube's page. Just follow the link. It's worth the extra click.)

Saturday, June 2, 2018


As I sorta figured would happen, my stained glass items on Etsy lost much of their rankings (for search engine queries) while I had my shop on vacation mode while we were away. It'll likely take awhile but I'm hopeful that they'll make their way back up in the rankings to where they were before we left.

I've been able to chip away a little at a stained glass project I'm doing for my brother Bryan and his wife Sue. I was hoping to have it done and mailed to them before they leave for vacation in July but I don't think I'll be able to finish it in time. The lure of being outside is simply too much for me this time of year as it always is. I'm trying to work on it just a couple hours at a time but even that's a big ask for me now. I'd include a photo here of the design but I want it to be a surprise for them.

Tammy and I made a fairy garden for Trinity Care Center where her mother is a resident. We're pleased with how it turned out. It's indoors and in a common area where it's easily seen. We thought it would be fun to occasionally change it up and add to it so it gives the residents a little something to look forward to. We hope little ones coming to visit their elderly relatives will also enjoy it.

I continue to struggle with the dismantling of the world I once knew, or perhaps it was all an illusion and I'm just now catching on. It wasn't that many years ago when Tammy and I were active members of a mega-church, volunteering with their Tuesday night services meant to reach the disadvantaged in the community and even going there to cast our election day ballots for every Republican candidate that was put before us because that's what good Christians do. We accepted the lip-service paid about welcoming all who came through the doors at Hosanna! -- except when it came time to allow "everyone" to participate in the functioning of the church. Those in the GLBT community need not apply. I had ditched my Republican ways long before penning this piece where I was examining and coming to terms with the role of the church in my life.


I'd had enough of the hypocrisy, and so I walked away. It would take Tammy a few more years but she would eventually do the same.

To christians (intentional lower case c), it became sport to bash a man who was working his heart out to try and right our nation after it was left teetering on the brink of economic collapse at the hands of those who claim the mantle of being fiscally conservative. It seemed they would rather see us fail as a country than to work with the man, fearing that their help may actually contribute to his success. Yet, in spite of them, he was successful.

The Affordable Care Act was far from perfect but it was a step in the right direction. What good, god-fearing person wouldn't want others to have access to decent healthcare? Apparently, the vast majority of christians. They had bought into a mob mentality of despicable thinking influenced by the divisive voices of conservative media and they fought side-by-side together to sabotage it. And they were largely successful. Did they never once stop and ask themselves, WWJD?

We're in the midst of a gun-violence epidemic in the U.S. but you'd be hardpressed to find many christian conservatives who care. They appear to have become so deluded by conservative media that they've put their love of guns ahead of any reasonable attempt to try and address the growing problem, say nothing of the thought about WWJD? The cold blue steel in their pocket is the real-deal while the crosses they wear are relegated to good-luck charms status. I long ago stopped wondering why our flags are flying at half-mast. There's one senseless tragedy after another anymore with little to distinguish one mass shooting from another, except the location. And the response is always the same: It's too early to talk about the politics and possible solutions.

The church has shamefully failed to lead in any sort of discussion with respect to immigrants fleeing the most desperate situations, situations that very few of us can even begin to imagine. In this poll by the respected PEW Research Center, only 25% of white evangelical Protestants feel the U.S. has an obligation to help refugees. What a sad reflection of those who most proudly identify as christians.


And then there's Trump*.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Oregon, Here We Come!

We were only away not quite two weeks but it feels like we were gone much longer than that. Each of our days was so full that we were exhausted at night before the sun went down. Bryan and Sue went out of their way to show us around the area and points beyond, driving us several hundred miles to visit family, vineyards and the coast. Tammy and I both fell in love with the area. I used to say that if I didn't live in Lakeville, I wouldn't mind living in western South Dakota. I may have to rethink that #2 spot.

The Pacific Northwest is appealing to me on many levels, one of those being cycling. I found myself daydreaming about being on my bike and exploring all it had to offer. Some of the roads were a little sketchy from a cycling perspective but there were many other roads that were more than fine, especially the shoulder along the Columbia River Gorge drive. And speaking of the gorge -- wow! What an amazing stretch of highway that goes on like that (in the video) for well over an hour. Riding my bike there has been added to my bucket list.

Tammy reserved an Airbnb for us in the town of Sherwood just a couple miles from Bryan and Sue. It was small but it met our needs, plus it had a fenced backyard for the pups.

On Saturday afternoon, Bryan and Sue drove us to Kings Valley to see Scott and Melody and their family which has grown by one since the last time we saw them. I thought I had a photo of them to add here but apparently, I don't. They live out in the country with a river running through their backyard. That would've been heaven to me as a boy growing up.

In addition to being with family I hadn't seen in too long, I had several highlights on the trip; one of those being Sunday afternoon with a friend I met in the Navy. I hadn't seen Jack (aka John, aka Muckly) since December 11th, 1979 when I left our ship at the end of my enlistment. We met at Starbucks in Olympia, Washington and spent a couple hours at a patio table on a mild afternoon catching up on one another's lives. Jack used to skipper many large tall-masted schooners for several years after he left the Navy: the Invader, the Bagheera, and the Red Witch. He was First Mate on the Adventuress. He started out as an ordinary crew member and worked his way up. He's also raced sailboats. Impressive! I remember talking with him in our previous lives about his days of sailing but I had no idea how advanced he'd become.

Jack is a rep for the cannabis industry now. He travels the country setting up large meetings/conferences where those in the field can gather and display/promote their products or services related to the industry. It made for a fascinating discussion. I also learned that there's a nifty app to guide you to the nearest "rec store" as they're commonly referred to.

We consulted the Weedmaps app then left Starbucks to go to a cannabis/rec store so I could satisfy my curiosity.

Here's a photo of us from back in the day.

Another highlight of the trip was spending Monday morning at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum with Bryan. The museum has lots of vintage aircraft on display with the biggest draw being the Spruce Goose that Howard Hughes built in the '40s at considerable cost (considering it only flew once for a few seconds). We paid the extra money to get a tour of the flight deck and a more elaborate description of some of the engineering that went into the plane. It was well worth it. Here's a link to some photos I took at the museum.

Tristan and Cambria met us at Bryan and Sue's Monday afternoon where we were able to spend a few hours with them, enjoying each other's company and some drinks. It was the perfect afternoon to sit out in their backyard and soak in the sun. And speaking of their backyard -- Toby loved it! We let him loose there the 2nd day we were in town and he came to life -- exploring and acting more excited than I'd seen him act in a while. We would leave Toby and Charlie in the backyard while we were away for hours at a time. It was the perfect place for them! Bryan and Sue have done some very nice things with their landscaping. I wouldn't mind having something that's a little easier to get my arms around, just like what they have.

We drove to Cannon Beach on the coast on Tuesday; it's a little less than 2 hours away. It was a cool, windy, and overcast day but not too cool for us to walk the beach and take in the sights. And of course the obligatory touching-the-pacific-ocean photo-op. Again, my thoughts turned to my bikes -- my fat-bike in particular. I couldn't help but wonder how much fun I could have there on my fatty cruising the coastline.

Tammy noticed a family trying to take a group selfie and offered to take their photo for them. They then wanted a photo of her with them. They were an Indian family now living in Sweden and they talked about how much they love it here in America. Tammy will often go out of her way to befriend minorities, feeling a need to reassure them that we welcome them here because let's face it, that's often not the reception they enjoy these days. I admire her for that.

Here's a link to some photos I took of our time at the coast.

Tuesday night was trivia night at Pizza Schmizza. We actually had a shot at finishing in the middle of the pack but we went for broke on the last question of the night and gambled our position away to finish dead last. But we had a lot of fun, and the pizza was excellent!

On our last day before leaving for home, Bryan and Sue took us to the Ponzi winery just a few miles from their home in Sherwood for some wine tasting. I was surprised to learn that they have dozens of wineries within a couple hours of where they live. Another item for the "pros" list if we were to ever make a "pros and cons" list for why we should relocate.

We left for home early Thursday morning but not before one last visit with Bryan and Sue. Sue made us a delicious french toast and ham breakfast that would hold us over until that evening and our date at The Seasons of Coeur d'Alene Restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where they serve the best hard cider I've ever tasted: Wicked D's Granny Apple. Yum!

We drove to Livingston, Montana on the 2nd day of our homeward leg with plans to stay in Bismarck for the 3rd night but we scrapped those plans about 90 minutes east of Livingston and drove straight through from Livingston to home. We both caught a case of get-home-itis. It was nice to be away but it's so nice to be home after being on the road.

We had such a nice time and are so thankful to Bryan and Sue for guilting us into coming out to see them. 🙂 They're wonderful hosts and we can't wait to return! Perhaps we'll fly next time but honestly, we really enjoyed the drive, and Tammy's Crosstrek is a great little car and did well to carry us 4136 carefree miles (6656 km for my metric friends).

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Next Stop, Bismarck!

Our hummingbird feeders are awaiting the return of our tiny friends from their vacation homes well to the south. It's going to be a couple weeks before I can replace the sugary mix they contain because we're leaving town in the morning to visit family and friends in the Pacific Northwest. My brother Bryan and his family left Minnesota nearly 25 years ago and I have yet to make a trip out west to visit them. He's been back here several times as has his wife Sue. We're overdue. Toby and Charlie will be with us so Tammy has reserved rooms at Airbnb's along the way as they seem to be more accommodating for those traveling with pets. We found a cute Airbnb in Sherwood, Oregon to rent where Bryan and Sue live. It turns out that Bryan did the photography for the woman who owns it. How cool! It's been 4 years since our last vacation so we're excited to be hitting the road again. Tammy's Subaru Crosstrek is packed and fueled and waiting. We'll have SiriusXM to keep us company in addition to Pandora.

I put my Etsy shop in vacation mode. It's a nice feature to let people know I'll be away and unable to fill any orders. My only concern is how suspending my site's activity will affect its search rankings. I suppose this is one way to find out.

Up until this last weekend, I've been putting in lots of hours down in my basement studio working on another larger piece. I designed it during our spring blizzard a couple weeks ago. If we couldn't have spring outside I decided I'd create my own indoor spring. Here's a link to some photos on my Instagram site. I'm getting better at estimating how long a piece is going to take me to fabricate. I was telling my brother Keith that I figured the project was going to take me 45 hours. It took 48. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The real test for me is when we get back from vacation and whether or not I'll be able to continue to produce more art during the summer months. I'd bet against me at this point but we'll see. The golf courses are all open now and my bikes are chomping-at-the-bit to be ridden. Oh, and a ton of yard work awaits me when we return.

And speaking of bikes -- I think I may be developing a new love: a love for a gravel bike. Gravel bikes are different than road bikes in that they're designed to take you off the smooth surface of pavement and onto gravel roads where skinnier tires struggle to stay upright, much less hold their line. Their geometry is also different from a road bike in that their wheelbase is typically longer, creating a more stable and comfortable ride. This desire/love for a gravel bike caught hold of me yesterday when I rode the Miesville FiftySix ride with hundreds of others, mostly on their gravel bikes. I was on my fattie and struggling to keep up with those around me even though I was working considerably harder and likely putting out more watts than they were. A nice leisurely ride is nice but I crave speed, especially in the environment I found myself yesterday. It's a big investment for me but knowing how much use and fun I'll get out of it overshadows my concern for cost, as it always does when it comes to bikes.

That's all for now.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Waiting on Spring and a Meet and Greet at Our Home

It's mid-April and I'm sitting by the fireplace with my feet up, feeling like it's the dead of winter. We just dug out from a major snowstorm that blanketed us with between 15-18" (38-46 cm for my metric friends) of snow. We've broken the record for snowfall total for the month so at least we earned bragging rights for that. Our snowbanks are as high as they've been all winter it seems but I'm hopeful that some milder temps in the offing will make quick work of them.

The snow is pretty but so are flowers, bone dry single-track trails, and freshly mown fairways. I'm ready for a change.

I completed another larger stained glass panel over the weekend. Of all of the pieces I've made since taking up residence down in the glass shop last November, I think this is my favorite. There's something about the flow of the lines and the minimal touches of color that works for me. I listed it on my Etsy site but I'm in no hurry to see it go. I added a few extra dollars to the price to take the sting out of selling it should someone want it.

Here's a link to it with additional photos on my Etsy site.

I tried sitting down last night to come up with my next stained glass design but I came away empty. Often times a fresh pair of eyes the next day makes all the difference. I hope to find time tomorrow to come up with something because I need a project to work on.

We're hosting a meet-and-greet/fundraiser for Maggie Williams this coming Saturday afternoon from 2-4 at our home. Maggie is running for the Minnesota State Legislature in district 58A. We don't technically live in the district (we're a block away) but what's important is supporting candidates who share our views no matter where they reside; plus, I'm her treasurer. Feel free to come out and ask Maggie whatever questions you may have for her. We'll have some snacks and drinks as well. I hope to see some of you here. Contact me for our address if you're interested.

That's all I've got. Carry on!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Toby, A Winter Without End, Glass Projects and Alpe du Zwift!

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. I was 10 years old and too young to appreciate then what his short time on earth meant for our country, but I knew his murder was a significant tragedy. I have a distinct memory of being with my parents in our front room that night and looking up King's name in our World Book Encyclopedia. I checked with them first before penning in the date of his death.

Toby has entered that phase of his life that as a pet owner I dread. His vision is very diminished as is his hearing, and his rear legs appear to be losing some strength -- I'm guessing he has arthritis. I have to mix in some easier days on our walks so he doesn't overdo it because he still wants to run when we're out there. I have to be his eyes while we're on our walks but he seems to do well especially if we're on an open road that's free of traffic. A little nudge from the leash works well to correct his course.

He struggles with steps now so I find myself carrying him around inside our home more and more to help him out. He fell down the steps leading to our main level a couple weeks ago and hit his head. He moaned for a while afterword and I felt so bad for him. Last week I found him stopped halfway up the steps as he tried to follow me but couldn't. That's never happened before. I'm much more attentive to his needs than ever. He used to love being held but that's no longer the case but he's content to sit by my side where he is now. Like any dog, he sleeps most of the day but his naps are much more than naps, they're a very deep sleep. I love that sweet boy so much. We'll be taking both Toby and Charlie with us when we drive out to Oregon to see my brother and his family next month. The thought of leaving him in a kennel or in an unfamiliar environment at his age would be too big of a worry for us.

It's April 5th but you'd never know it by glancing outside. It looks like the dead of winter out there. I have no idea how the early arriving Robins are faring with all of this snow covering their main food source: worms.

My Timehop app is a daily reminder of how far behind we are in terms of snowmelt from previous years. Yesterday's feed was of photos I'd taken on a round of golf at Boulder Pointe Golf Course last year. Looking at the extended forecast, we're still at least a few weeks away from the courses being ready to play. Even that sounds optimistic at this point.

I've been keeping myself busy down in the glass shop, still working on larger panels to hang in the windows of our sun-porch. I've completed 4 of 7 so far and hope to sit down and spend some time tomorrow coming up with a design for the next one. My favorite TV viewing of the year is happening now so I'll be multitasking while watching coverage of The Masters golf tournament. My pick is Rickie Fowler at -9.

It's been a productive five months for me.

My workouts are still taking a backseat to my time spent working on glass projects but I've been making time when I can to get on my CompuTrainer and trash myself for an hour or two at a time. There's a new route on Zwift's Watopia course that closely resembles one of the most epic climbs of Le Tour de France: the climb up Alpe d'Huez. It's called Alpe du Zwift, and it's a blast! My first attempt at climbing it I managed a time of 1:01:15. I improved some on my 2nd attempt with a time of 1:00:33. Obviously, my goal is to break an hour. I'll get there soon enough. It's a fun climb that has an average gradient of 9%. And there's nowhere to hide on it -- no downhills or easy sections. Fun stuff!

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Window To Another World

In the spring of 1992, in the middle of having my home built, I began to wonder what I would do with the transom windows I was having installed in several places in the home. Should I just leave them bare? What do other people do with them? That's when I had the idea to fit them with stained glass but I wasn't keen on the idea of paying someone to do the work. A co-worker, Shannon Madery, suggested I check out a stained glass shop in Eagan called Creations in Glass to see what they offered for instruction. I took their beginner's class in the art of stained glass, having no idea if I'd have either the aptitude or the desire to take it beyond the 6 session course. I would be one of their last students before they went out of business.

I finished my first project, and like a proud little schoolboy bringing his artwork home, I gave it to my mother. She kindly displayed it in her home the rest of her life, as she did with my 2nd project as well. I had no way of knowing then how this passing curiosity with an art I'd never expressed an interest in up until then would become a part of my life, of my identity.

In the 26 years of working with stained glass, I can't think of a time when I've enjoyed it more than I am now. I think what I like most is the creative aspect of what I'm doing; to be able to draw a design and then the process of bringing it to life. It's a rewarding feeling. I would imagine that my brother Keith feels the same satisfaction when he installs kitchen cabinets in a client's home.

I've been content to focus on my little sun-catchers for the past few months but I recently got out of my orbit to entertain a request. I received the following message on my Etsy account two weeks ago:

"Hi Kevin,

Fellow Minnesotan here. I love the geometric nature of your work. Very cool pieces! I have been looking for something like this for a large vertical window I have in my entryway, though I was hoping to find something more in the 10” x 40” range. Do you have anything with that dimension by chance?

Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

— Kyle"

He was referencing this small sun-catcher.

I opened my DeltaCad program and found the archived design of the sun-catcher Kyle liked. I fiddled with it for awhile, eventually coming up with something more in line with Kyle's 10" x 40" (25 x 100 cm) request. I did some simple calculations to put me in the ballpark for what I thought it would cost and sent him the estimate along with the design.

I never heard back from him.

I decided to do the project anyway to see how long something like that would actually take me. I'm fearful of taking on a project and finding that I've committed to something that isn't worth my time and then becoming resentful that I ever took it on. That's too much like a crummy job, and I want to avoid that. Doing this project would give me a good idea of whether or not my estimate was fair for both Kyle and me.

I walked into Glass Endeavors a couple days later with a full-size drawing of the 10" x 40" design, intent on purchasing glass and whatever else I'd need in order to do the project. Zoi, one of the owners asked me if I was going to use H-channel lead considering all of the straight lines involved in it. I told her it had been 26 years since I'd last used that method (The 2nd project mentioned above was the last time I'd used it.) and I wasn't sure I wanted to re-learn it again on a project the size of the one I was undertaking. But the seed was planted. All the while I was choosing glass I kept going back to what Zoi had said, and I knew she was right. I went over to where they stock the long lengths of H-channel lead (also referred to as lead came) and contemplated the steps involved in assembling a window in this way. I can do this I thought to myself. There was a real possibility that I wouldn't be happy with the result but it would be a good learning experience.

I approached Zoi and told her she was right and that I needed to abandon my thoughts of using the trusted copper foil method for this one project and use lead came instead. I gathered up the tools I'd need along with the glass and lead, paid for them, then headed for home.

There was some trial-and-error for me as I worked to find my footing using the lead came method but it didn't take long before I was feeling comfortable. Still, I was working slowly and reworking sections as I tried to be more precise. All the while I was keeping track of the number of hours I was spending on the project via my phone's stopwatch.

I finished the panel in 34 hours knowing that I could've easily shaved several hours off the overall time had I been more experienced and known more fully the problem areas to avoid. I was very pleased with the results, though.

I was surprised to find how much I was enjoying working larger. It's been fun doing the small sun-catchers this winter but the satisfaction I received working on this much larger scale was every bit as rewarding.

And so I did another!

In keeping with my love of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, I designed a window based on the Balloons and Confetti series he did. This was a fun project and I was able to complete it in 21 hours. That's considerably faster than my previous effort but there was also less difficulty involved.

My next project is off the drawing board and ready to be worked on.

Although I have the two larger panels for sale on my Etsy site, I'm actually content if nobody buys them. They serve a useful purpose where I've hung them, preventing birds from flying into the windows of our sun-porch; an occasional problem we've had.

Most years around this time I start cleaning up the glass shop in preparation for my outdoor activities. I'll often think to myself that maybe this will be the year I manage to work on a glass project or two throughout the warmer months, but I never do. This year seems different than all those other years, though, and I'd kinda like to see if I can keep it up. If history is any clue I won't be able to but I intend to try.

Who could've known the path that those curious looking transom windows would set me on those many years ago? I love how small, seemingly meaningless things in our lives can grow to be so much more than we could ever imagine.

Of all the music that's come across my Pandora app while I've been down in the shop lately, none has caused me to hit replay more than this one. It's good music to do glasswork by!

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's Really Pointless It Seems But I Try

I was going through the inner workings of my blog this morning and came across this unpublished piece I'd written a couple years ago. It details a conversation I'd had with a former co-worker. It didn't end well, in fact, we haven't spoken since. He left me with this:

"I'm afraid Kevin that you have hardened your heart against the Lord so bad that there may be no turning back. You need to repent my friend. I mean that sincerely. I'm afraid the only God you serve is the one you created in your mind. I'll continue to rely on the Bible, the Word of God."

Here's the previously unpublished entry.

I was going to blog today but I've been involved in a Facebook Messenger discussion and it's sucked up a good deal of the time I was going to use. I got to thinking that maybe my most recent reply to my friend can suffice for an entry because it touches on so many things that are playing out in our world today with the marrying of Christianity and politics.

My friend is a very conservative, fundamentalist Christian.

My most recent reply to my friend:

Let me get this right because I don’t want to make assumptions that I shouldn’t. You’re okay with having our teachers in a public school setting proselytize to students and try and win them over to Jesus but you won’t allow others who may profess a different faith to influence impressionable minds in a similar way?

Is that correct?

I have a real problem with that and yes, I am a Christian and I believe that Christianity is the only way to God but we’re not talking about a parochial school, we’re talking about a state school; a school that is to be devoid of religiously influencing our kids and for good reason. It’s fundamental to our constitution.

Can I not be a good Christian and believe that as a society we need laws that protect all citizens to live their lives freely as they choose?

Let me ask you this: if someone came up to you and said that Christianity is of the devil and that it’s all wrong I’m guessing you would look at the person, shake your head and think to yourself how screwed up they are in their thinking; Right? How do you suppose people of a faith other than Christianity feel when you in so many words say essentially that by your words or by your actions? Do you suppose that endears them to this faith you follow? Would having them tell you that your Jesus was actually satan endear you to their faith? You have to step outside your bubble and realize that not everybody thinks the way you or I do and that in a free society there has to be respect and room for other people to live their lives as they see fit. You don’t own them.

Do you honestly think the gay individual who has suffered ridicule at the hands of religious people or the child who has been abused by church staff is going to feel the same about Christianity as you do? I can’t imagine they would yet you want to go about living your life and expecting others to march right along with you with no consideration whatsoever for their upbringing. That’s shallow thinking.

It’s not enough to simply say to every point I bring up that Christianity is right. End of story. Nothing more to discuss. That doesn’t work for these people who you would sooner write off as lost souls in love with satan because they happen to have been raised with a belief system different than your own.

Have you ever questioned your faith?

Continuing on. Do you also feel it’s okay to have Christian symbols on display exclusively on state and federal property, meaning no other faith shall be allowed to display their religious symbols in a similar way?

Is that correct?

Again, I think you’re wrong here if that is your belief. Yes, I know, you feel that because our religion is the only right one, that it doesn’t matter in the least what others say. Again, if that’s your belief it’s one that bears no resemblance whatsoever to our constitution and unless you’re living in some sort of exclusive, religious, gated community, that sort of thinking is unacceptable in a society with differing views.

I’ll ask again: are you okay with an intolerant society here in America much like you see in the Middle East? Is that the direction you’d like to see us move? It clearly seems that way to me.

You say “Of course these deceived people will be offended. Jesus offends. The gospel offends. The truth offends.” I have to wonder if you’re offended by the words of Jesus to love your enemies? It seems to me that for you those words are such an inconvenient thing for him to have left us with. I see how it bothers you and you would sooner minimize their importance and move on but I cling to those words, especially now in a day when Christians all around me are so filled with hate and not the love of Jesus as they talk of waging war on Islam or turning their backs on refugees who need us. Of course, not all Christians but far too many, especially those in positions of power who are running campaigns on making sure we can all keep our guns, carpet bombing the Middle East and oh yeah, loving Jesus. Don’t you see how absolutely warped that appears to some of us who really care about our faith and how it’s been hijacked by a political party that has nothing in common with Jesus in any way? And it seems to me that you’re falling for it.

When I said your view is an extremely narrow one I was referring to the way you discriminate against others who don’t believe as you and therefore aren’t worthy. At least that’s the sense I’m getting from what you’re saying when you talk about firing or not hiring people of a different faith. And no, Jesus never said a lot of things but he did leave us with some general instruction and I choose to follow that. He was a very inclusive man yet you’ve found a way to disregard that quality of his in your worldview. That’s disappointing.

Another word for “political correctness” is “respectful”. I’d prefer people like Trump gain some political correctness at a time when there’s enough rudeness and bigotry already. We need less, not more. I’m sorry you feel we need more of it and I have to ask, what part of Jesus do you see in Trump’s rudeness that you admire?

You spoke of the many times you’ve stood on principle with your beliefs regarding sin in the church. We’re all in continual sin. It’s fantasy to think that any of us can live a life not immersed in sin and that any of us are righteous enough to stand before others and say that we’re deserving of whatever the position is in the church that we’re desirous of because we don’t sin the way others do.

Let me expand on the one example you spoke of about the woman who you supported kicking out of the choir. Are you certain that she was only leaving her husband because “she just wanted to”? Do you know if her husband was verbally abusive toward her or if he had a pornography addiction or an alcohol addiction or another woman in his life that she was covering up for him in order to protect his reputation? No, of course, you can’t know any of that. People in those circumstances don’t always come across as you would expect. I actually know of a situation where this same sort of thing happened and the people in the church had no clue what they were doing yet they went ahead and meted out their church justice to a woman undeserving of it. Shame on them!

Yes, I realize that I was being judgmental with you when I used that word about you. Sometimes there’s no way around it to get to the point. You know that.

So I’m a “fellow Christian who is not proclaiming a Biblical Christianity”. Yes, I believe differently than you. If you’d like to rely on the OT (Old Testament) for direction, please do so but realize that when you don’t embrace it all you then become the one who is picking and choosing, not me. I can think of many OT instructions that we’d both find extremely abhorrent today: requiring your daughter who was raped to marry her rapist being on the top of that list. Care to wanna embrace that one?

I’m looking at your list of headlines and the first one is of a coach who was given the boot for his prayers at the 50-yard line. Again, you love your constitution when it comes to the 2nd amendment but what about the 1st amendment, the separation of church and state? The coach, acting in a position of authority by a government entity is a devout Christian. What if he’d been a devout Muslim and had players spread out their prayer cloths to pray. You’d be throwing a fit and rightly so. And no, it’s not enough to say that Christianity is the only way and nothing else matters; not in a free society where you don’t own other people's thoughts and you don’t get to decide what they believe. It’s called being respectful and it doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with satan or any number of ways you can twist it to make your point.

You have several headlines about Christmas. Do you really think Jesus likes this thing we do in his name each year? Do you really think he likes the way Christians all over the planet go into a frenzy of materialism to celebrate the birthday (he was actually born in May I believe but hey, that’s a whole other story) of a man who despised materialism? And you want to protect this? I wish the church would disassociate itself from Christmas the way Jehovah Witnesses have done. It’s the right thing to do. But it’s profitable for Fox News to continue this ridiculous “war on christmas” narrative they love to trot out each year.

I do think you mean well but your approach to Christianity (at least in my view) is akin to a bull in a china shop in that you can do a lot more damage than good by the way you approach many of these divisive topics of the day. You don’t get to own people and tell them how to think by insisting that only your religion is right and that theirs is all wrong. They have every right to become defensive when you tell them that only Christians get to do this or get to do that. To bring the OT into play and say that God discriminated there so it’s okay for us to do it today is really a stretch and if your goal is to win hearts and minds for Christ it has about as much chance of succeeding as our ill-conceived foray into Iraq.

I haven't hardened my heart toward God in the least. What I have done though is harden my heart toward a version of Christian that pretends to speak for God in a most pharisaical way, always focused on the law and the sin of others and not their own failings.

You can think what you want about me but you know very little about me, actually. I'm sorry that you're so rigid in your interpretation of scripture that you can't allow for anyone to question a book that has man's hands all over it and with great influence. I think it's foolish to not think that man may have somehow corrupted scripture. Look how man has corrupted the church. Man has corrupted everything he's ever touched. Apparently to you it's a deal-breaker to ever question your faith. I'm sorry you feel that way.

Thanks for your time. I very much appreciate this conversation with you.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Glasswork, Copyright Talk, and Mike Johnson Has Left the Building!

I've been steadily adding to my stained glass inventory in my Etsy store. I've had a few sales along the way but it's been slow, which I expected. Still, I'm enjoying more than ever this hobby of mine and if I make a few sales along the way, all the better. The photo to the left is a collection of my available pieces.

I'm beginning to build a network of other glass artists as well as those who appreciate glass art on an Instagram account where my focus is on my glasswork rather than a mix of that and life in general; I have another account for that. It's interesting to see what others around the globe are doing with their art. I've made quite a few connections with Russian and Chinese artists, which I find interesting. I'm encouraged by the comments I'm receiving there. It's a nice community of people.

I've spent the past couple days going through my blog and reconstituting dozens of broken links to videos that were deleted when I lost my Vimeo account a little more than a year ago due to some Adele concert videos I'd uploaded 5 years earlier. Yes, dumb on my part. Vimeo was my go-to platform to host videos I'd put together of my cycling adventures because they seemed less stringent in their policing of videos with copyrighted background music (the kind I like to upload). I'd mostly relegated myself to using music from sites such as Free Music Archives. Fortunately, I'd kept copies of nearly all of my video creations on a hard-drive so all was not lost when my Vimeo account went dark.

It turns out that while I was content to use Vimeo for years, YouTube was diligently working behind the scenes with artists and their promoters to allow for more copyrighted music to be used in the way I like to use it with no penalty to a user's account. So, rather than a warning against a person's account, what seems to be more common now is that a user will instead receive an email notification that a video they'd recently uploaded contains copyrighted material and that ads may appear with the video, but not to worry and that there's no need to delete it (provided the artist is agreeable to this). Expand the image to the left to see an example. I like this a lot. I'd have been happy to pony up a dollar or two to use a song but this works, too.

So how does one know if a song is acceptable? It's also now possible to upload a video with accompanying copyrighted music and get a good idea to see which way the copyright winds are blowing with respect to its use on YouTube without incurring a dreaded strike against your account, because who doesn't like to have some nice music to listen to while watching a boring cycling video?

In the last few months, Toby has become nearly impossible for Tammy to either bath or groom. He moans like he's got a cat living inside him and he struggles to break free. We called a groomer last week to see if they would be willing to try and work with him but they politely declined. We made an appointment with our veterinarian and she prescribed a sedative to see if that would help. It did. Tammy was able to groom him with no difficulty at all. We've learned that this sort of behavior isn't uncommon with older dogs.

I've been getting them out on their daily walks again now that the temps have moderated and the big melt is underway. A year ago at this time, we had no snow whatsoever. Not so this year.

I made it to Celts Pub in Farmington yesterday to meet up with the guys from the salt mine, both active and retired. They get together each Wednesday at 2:30 but I really suck at making it there more than once every couple months. Yesterday was a sendoff for Mike Johnson who had signed his retirement paperwork earlier in the day. I worked with Mike for the first dozen years of his career and was either his 1st or 2nd radar trainer (we couldn't quite puzzle it together all these years later as we tried to recall). Mike was one of the better storytellers I worked with. He has more funny stories than anyone else I can think of. It was a nice seeing him and the many others who were there. I need to make a reminder prompt on my phone and do a better job of showing up.

I got out Tuesday morning for what may have been my last romp in the snow for the season. I had a blast and by the time I made it back to my car I was one whipped boy! Four hours on a fat-bike will do that to you!

And speaking of boring cycling videos with cool music!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Our Country Has Lost Its Mind!

Emotions are running high here in the Wild West where another mass shooting at a school last week took the lives of 17 students, and where everybody is being encouraged to carry a weapon because who needs their Jesus anymore when we've got that cold, blue steel in our pocket to protect us?

Our country has lost its mind!

Perhaps it truly is time to reconsider this 2nd Amendment thing of ours. I know that's a very unpopular thing to say but it's becoming more and more evident that we're not responsible enough as a society to continue with this failed freedom in its present form. But the cult of conservatism and the cult of the NRA and the cult of Trump won't allow for discussion on the matter. It's guns for everyone, even some suffering from mental illness, with little to no safeguards! Because of the Dickey Amendment (Republican legislation), the Centers for Disease Control isn't even allowed to study the problem of gun violence to help us gain a better understanding for why we're in this mess. To me, it seems obvious: we have a gun culture that has infected us like a cancer and the doctors who could save us are being paid to sit on their hands and do nothing.

The show, 60 Minutes, did a segment a little more than 2 years ago about smart-gun technology and how it could go a long way toward reducing the number of deaths by guns in our society. The smart-guns work in varying ways: they can recognize your palm print; they can recognize the squeeze of your grip, or they can unlock wirelessly through a special ring or watch that the gun owner wears. They're no cure-all but they certainly show promise toward reducing some of the senseless deaths caused by guns that we're seeing. So what's not to like? Apparently, a lot says the NRA. But anybody attempting to make these safer guns available to the public will have hell to pay because of the cult of the NRA.

I'm encouraged by what I'm hearing from several of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where last week's school shooting happened. If these students are any indication of the younger generation, I'm relieved, because my generation is failing us in so many ways.

Students across the country are formulating plans for a march on the 24th of next month. I'm supposed to race my bike that day but I'm considering canceling those plans and attending the march instead.

Some additional thoughts...

I remember how one of Trump's* mantras during his campaign for president was, "We're going to take back America!" I believe he's about to be shown the real meaning of that phrase next November. I'm hopeful that a blue wave of Democrats, spurred on by an energized youth vote will send a clear message that what's happening to our country is not acceptable. That Trump's* abuse of his position for personal gain, the rolling back of regulations designed to protect society and the environment, and the hollowing out of our country's wealth for the enrichment of a few is not okay. And it's destroying our democracy.

We're a country divided in ways I never imagined possible. And it's destroying our democracy.

Just as guns are a cancer on our society, so too is conservative media with their divisive, hate-filled, fear-mongering rhetoric that appeals to many who are only too happy to embrace it because it fits with their prejudices. I'm confident that historians will look back at this time in our country's history and lay the blame for this divide squarely at the feet of right-wing media. It's frustrating to watch so many people who are unable to see it for what it is: propaganda. And it's destroying our democracy.

Don't believe me? Watch Trump* and his constant cry of "fake news!" and his unquestioning followers who believe him. In their world, unless the news is presented from a far-right slant it's labeled "the liberal media" when, no, it's not -- it's the news -- it's what's happening in our world today but because it doesn't conform to their need for hate and fear to pedal it, it's not good enough and so it's discounted as being liberal or fake, or it's critical of Trump* and therefore it must be fake. We've got a large percentage of our population that can't discern right from wrong and they don't care because they've got their conservative media to reassure them that the only truth that matters is what they would have them believe. And it's a lie. And it's destroying our democracy.

All of our intelligence agencies agree that the Russian government meddled in our last election. It's not a stretch at all to say that in an election as close as this last one, their efforts elected Trump*. It's also the reason I will continue to use an asterisk after his name any time I write it. It's concerning that there are no efforts being taken by Trump's* administration to try and thwart another attack on our elections. There's nothing they can point to that they're doing to reassure the public that this won't happen again, and all of our intelligence agencies are telling us that the attacks are ongoing. Sure, our representatives have agreed to a list of sanctions against Russia but Trump* won't enforce them. Can you imagine if it was Obama acting this way and how conservative media would be reacting? Trump* can do little that's wrong in their eyes and we all suffer for their deception and their followers' ignorance. And it's destroying our democracy.

For all of our access to information and ways we can educate ourselves, it's frustrating how collectively dumb we are as a society. As long as people are content to feed off of propaganda that encourages them to scream bloody murder over Hillary Clinton's handling of emails and how that should be disqualifying for her presidential candidacy, but then show no concern when dozens in Trump's* administration are unable to pass background checks to obtain necessary security clearances, and say nothing while they continue to handle the most sensitive data, we have a problem. For that matter, could Trump* himself pass a background check for a security clearance? I seriously doubt it. Unfortunately, there's no such requirement for a president. And he's destroying our democracy.

As for my generation, we're playing into the hands of those who would wish to see us fail. The Russians don't have our best interests at heart -- clearly, their government doesn't. And with the help of conservative media, we have turned on one another with no real meeting of the minds on the horizon.

Like I said, our country has lost its mind! And it's destroying our democracy.

Friday, February 9, 2018


I feel like I'm letting my blog down or that I'm not being true to myself because there's so much that's happening in my/our world today and I'm largely silent about much of it. Sure, I've written a fair amount, but not an amount that's anywhere near proportionate or deserving of the corruption we're witnessing unfold within Trump's* administration. What's happening within our government is of serious concern to me. I would hate to have a grandchild sitting across from me decades from now wondering if I stood up to any of the madness that's happening in our politics today. Clicking on the years 2017-2018 in my blog's right margin to reveal my thoughts would lead one to think my main focus was about riding or stained glass or golfing, with only some passing concern for what Trump's* administration is doing to our country, and that's not enough. I want to be sure there's no mistake as to which side of history I was on when we look back at this mess.

But to do my part it's going to take more than an occasional post in my blog or on Facebook. I've signed on as treasurer with Maggie Williams's campaign for a seat in the Minnesota State Legislature. Maggie and her husband Jeff have two young, smiling, vibrant boys in their fascination-with-all-things-dinosaur-related phase and up until November 2016, they were quietly going about their middle-class, suburban lives. The last election awoke in them a passion and a need to do more. They've been on a path they never intended to walk ever since.

Maggie and Jeff began hosting meetings in their home around this time a year ago for people who wanted to get involved in truly taking back our country, neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district. Tammy got me involved. I've never been involved in any sort of grassroots movement and this is exactly that. It was at one of these small meetings where I first met Jeff Erdmann and his wife Ruth. Jeff is running for Congress in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District to try and unseat Jason Lewis, but he must first win the party's endorsement over Angie Craig, another very good candidate.

There actually is a blue wave out here with lots of people, some quietly motivated, some not so quiet, all intending to make an impact on this next election cycle. It's never been more important in my lifetime.

I'm buoyed by news of wins by Democrats for State House Legislative seats in elections in Missouri this week in districts where the thought of anyone other than a hard-core republican winning was previously unheard of. But then I turn on Fox News and I listen to an alternative reality that still holds sway over far too many among us and I'm back to shaking my head and thoughts of what I consider to be brainwashed masses.

Millennials now make up as large a voting block as do the people of my generation -- the Baby Boomers. They're the ones who will be picking up the tab for our excesses yet many in my generation are quick to mock them for being only interested in themselves. And to add insult to injury, our conservative politicians have shown no interest in trying to lighten their load by providing low-interest loans to finance their college loan debt, instead, the benefactors of conservative politicians continue to be large corporations and their windfall in tax cuts, tax cuts for the already wealthy and increased spending for an obscenely bloated military. We have to do better by those coming behind us before getting up from the table and walking out on the tab we've rung up.

Probably more than anyone, millennials have so much riding on these upcoming election cycles and it's going to be more important than ever to make sure they appreciate that and that they become involved. They hold the key to our country's future and now more than ever is the time for them to make their voices heard.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Life Well Lived and Saying Goodbye

My mother's older brother -- my uncle Don, aka Tauno, passed away last week. He was 98 years old. He retired from the postal service in 1974 and enjoyed his retirement years in Oklahoma City as a luthier specializing in violins. He turned his garage into his workshop and had it so neatly organized. A button suspended on a string from the rafters told him exactly how far forward he could park his car when the button touched the windshield. There was very little wasted space.

He made his first violin at 11. A neighbor had a violin and he took measurements of it by using an arm and a hand to make note of the basic dimensions, then he did what appeared to come naturally to him: he made a violin of his own.

He was the go-to guy for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic orchestra for any repairs musicians may have needed. He was also sought out by people throughout the country for his stringed instruments and for his expertise in repairing damaged instruments. Don would occasionally enter international competitions for luthiers where he would often win the first place prize for tone. That would seem to me to be the award I would most want to walk away with. He also won Grand Champion for violins one year.

And he was an author.

He was very kind to offer to make Rachel a violin many years ago when she was taking lessons. He wouldn't accept any money from us so we made him a reproduction of Tiffany's tulip stained glass lamp. We drove to Oklahoma City with my mother and my sister Claudia and her husband Ron to make the exchange. I think that may have been the last time I saw Don and Dorothy. Rachel has a gift from him that she will cherish forever.

Don's was a life well lived, and I'm proud to say that I see glimpses of him in me.

We had our biggest snowfall in 10 years a few days ago. I know it's fun to take jabs at weather forecasters but I'm more often impressed by what they're able to do than not. I recall hearing of the chance for this most recent storm while it was still out over the Pacific, nearly a week in advance. That's impressive!

Our neighbors of 25 years, Bob, Karen, and Rochelle have moved away. Bob is in town yet for another few weeks until he retires while Karen has loaded up her car, sedated Sam and Boo (her cats) for the drive and is now on her way to Florida where they'll establish new roots. Rochelle will remain in the area for at least the next year. We're going to miss them! We hosted a going-away party for them a couple weeks ago and had a nice turnout and a nice time. It's not a Jalisco Terrace party without Bob taking the mic at least once. I'll miss that, too.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Trickle-Down, Glass Work, Zwifting and Visualize This!

I've been avoiding politics here for awhile because there's already so much talk of it out there but every now and then I feel the need to go on the record with my thoughts about what's happening in our world.

A dozen years ago I was a firm believer in trickle-down economics. It just made good sense. Give corporations a tax break and they'll surely turn around and reinvest those extra dollars in their people. I never factored greed into the equation. But now that we've got a 30-year history of failed trickle-down schemes it stuns me that any reasonable person could possibly think it deserves another shot. But that's what Republicans have done, signing into law a huge tax cut for corporations that will no doubt leave their upper ranks flush with cash. Oh sure, they gave us peasants a sugar-high of a tax cut as well but it's written with vanishing ink and will disappear after a few years. Meanwhile, our national debt will continue to grow unchecked as this latest scam is estimated to add an additional $1.4 trillion of debt over the next 10 years.

I'm not entirely opposed to creating tax incentives for businesses to prosper but I think any tax breaks should be tied to a requirement that any corporation receiving them needs to provide a living wage with benefits to their employees. To not require some sort of commitment on the part of corporations (and the tax bill does not) and to expect that they will do the right thing out of some newfound goodness in their hearts is pure folly. Greed will be the driving force that will once again scuttle this fantasy that's now become law.

But as I said after the last election: maybe it's a good thing that Republicans won it all -- the presidency, and retained control of both houses of Congress. Yes, they're doing a lot of damage to the country (fiscal irresponsibility, a zealousness to roll back as much regulation as possible no matter how necessary, and preparing to deport DACA immigrants to name just a few) with their power but perhaps that's what it's going to take to open the eyes of so many people who are blindly following the voices of right-wing media and a president who is incapable of telling the truth about anything.

Switching gears.

I continue to spend a fair amount of time each week down in our glass shop producing pieces for my Etsy store (shameless plug). It's relaxing work and I'm enjoying engaging the creative side of me again. I'm using a program called DeltaCad to do the design work.

The dashboard to an Etsy account has a fair amount of information but the one thing it provides that's most important to me are the key search words that bring people to my page. I learned today while doing some research about enhancing my site's exposure that it's important to list as much information about each piece in the title and not just the tags portion of the listing. I was under the impression that it was the tags that generated the traffic. I went through and changed all of my titles to make them more descriptive and it seems to have helped. If someone is searching for "frank lloyd wright stained glass" or "frank lloyd wright suncatcher" I'm indexed on the first page. If they just search "stained glass" they'll likely give up before they find my work because there's so much stained glass out there and apparently the algorithms don't know enough about me yet to give me the nod.

I had a fun workout on Zwift tonight using my indoor bike trainer. Zwift is a program where I can ride on a virtual course where other riders are also out there pedaling hard; riders from all around the globe. It's quite cool. I rode with a guy tonight from Brazil. No words were texted between us but we both knew we were pushing each other as we shadowed one another for most of the 26 mile (42 km) route. I would surge and he'd match my effort and then he'd try and shake me while I pedaled hard to stay with him.

What's cool about Zwift is that you can see how hard of an effort people around you are putting out. We were both hovering around 3.5 w/kg (3.5 watts per kilogram of weight) with surges sustained around 4.8 w/kg. It was fun. I did what in the ATC world would be called a "quick look" and looked closer at his data to see how about hard he was working. I could see his heart rate, cadence, and his age. It's mostly interesting info to know but I was curious how hard he was working because I was going deep. At one point on Leith Hill my heart rate spiked at 178 bpm! I hadn't seen that number for awhile. But mostly I would see how well he could keep up when I'd apply more watts. I beat him on both big climbs and I was happy about that considering he was 23 years my junior. After the race, er, workout I received a message informing me that he was now following me on Zwift. I returned the gesture and followed him as well. I can't say enough good things about indoor training on Zwift!

I received an email from my niece Emily a few weeks ago and in it was a video that her husband produced as part of a competition called Visualize This! Challenge. Emily does the voiceover for the video. I found it both informative and impressive. Her husband Jarno won first place in the competition out of 80 submissions. Theirs is the first video of the three. Have a look.

Visualize This! Challenge