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 a while 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 by 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 that regulation is, 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 hard he was working. I could see his heart rate, cadence, and his age. It's mostly interesting info to know but I was going deep and I wondered if he was too. He was. At one point on Leith Hill, my heart rate spiked at 178 bpm! I hadn't seen that number for a while. 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