Monday, December 23, 2019 and an Exit Ramp

I've come to appreciate more than ever the beautiful red barns and stately trees I pass on my gravel rides—and I'm not alone, at least when it comes to admiring trees. A friend recently began a challenge in a Facebook cycling group—the challenge being to post photos of lone trees (preferably with a bike in the photo—thank you, Bruce!) to see if others can identify the location of the tree. How one marks the location of the tree is quite unique. It's done using the what3words app.

Check it out.

I'll have to wait until springtime when I'm back on the gravel roads near Northfield before I can play along.

But until then, my current location is:

What 3 words mark your location?

And speaking of mapping: Google Street View made its rounds of our neighborhood again this past year—May 23rd to be exact while our roof was being reshingled.

I can't publish this blog post without making mention of Trump* being impeached along party lines last week. I don't feel Nancy Pelosi had much choice in the matter. When you have a president acting as criminally as he was, there's no way to excuse that without turning one's back on our Constitution although Republicans intend to.

Never have we witnessed an innocent man work so hard to obstruct investigations into his conduct that would prove his innocence. It defies any sort of logic other than to obstruct the public from learning the truth.

I was lying awake in bed last night, restless because of too much prednisone in my body, when I had a thought: the GOP can't afford to have Trump* removed and replaced by Pence. If he's removed, can you imagine what will happen to the Republican Party once Trump* trains his sights on it as the target of his madness for allowing him to be removed? He surely will. And a good percentage of his base will likely stand with him but who will be left to vote for Pence and the down-ballot candidates? The GOP's Frankenstein is poised to do serious damage to their party if they don't defend him, while their ridiculous defense of him poses a serious threat to what's left of their credibility. I don't see where either hand is a winning one.

Christianity Today (a Christian magazine publication) came out with a scathing rebuke of Trump* a few days ago, calling for his removal from office because "The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral." And no, Christianity Today isn't a far-left publication as Trump* claimed/lied about. It's actually right of center according to Media Bias/Fact Check.

Christianity Today's opinion piece wasn't the only Christian publication calling for him to step down. The Christian Post (much further right on the bias spectrum than CT) ran an editorial yesterday calling for his removal from office because, "While Trump has an excellent record of appointing conservative judges and advancing a prolife agenda, his criminal conduct endangers the Constitution. The Constitution is more important than the prolife cause because without the Constitution, prolife advocacy would be meaningless." That to me sounds like an exit ramp for those caught up in the quandary of wanting to hold fast to their prolife convictions but having grown tired of the nonsense.

And those are hardly liberal mouthpieces calling for his removal. But I'm conflicted. I actually want to see him remain because I worry that with Trump* out of the picture next November, there will be many who won't feel the need to show up on election day to cast a vote against not only Trump* but the entire Republican Party. Every vote matters.

Rachel and Drew came by last Friday to spend the afternoon and evening with us. Tammy oversaw lefse making production and we all contributed to a super meal before finishing out the night exchanging gifts and playing Balderdash. It was an excellent time.

Happy Holidays!

That's all I've got.

Monday, December 16, 2019

A 27 Month Break And Opportunity Knocks

It's been more than 6 weeks since we cut the cable and we couldn't be happier that we did. We're left wondering why we didn't do it sooner. It was sorta like when we divested from Wells Fargo two years ago after getting caught up in having them make changes to our accounts which resulted in service fees that were no small hassle to reverse. We had better things to do but we were glad to have taken the time to break free from them. The only glitch in our move away from cable TV was our TV in the kitchen—it has a built-in Roku but it was continually freezing as it buffered the signal. I added an external Roku stick to it and that solved the problem.

One of our local news stations did a report on a pack of coyotes that attacked and killed a family's two dogs that they had let outside for a few minutes. This all happened about a mile from our home. I've seen coyotes outside the window on the side of our house but it's been a few years. Last week I saw a fox walking along the street in front of our home in the early afternoon. I'm careful about keeping an eye on Charlie whenever I let him out but lately, I've taken to standing out there with him while he does his business. I found a cat's collar last year after tearing out the shrubs in front of our house. I can only imagine how it got there.

I've written about cluster headaches in my blog and my struggles with them over the years. It's been 27 months since I've had to deal with them and that's by far the longest period of time I've had relief from them since I first experienced one at 17. But it appears 27 months is my limit. My headaches returned a few nights ago, forcing me to adopt a regimen of a daily dose of Prednisone and Imitrex for the headaches that get past the Prednisone. One other thing in my arsenal to fight them is inhaling 100% oxygen at a rate of 12 liters per minute. It's usually a very effective treatment provided I've got an O2 tank nearby to use. I'm awaiting a delivery of oxygen tanks that I'll keep by my bedside.

They're called cluster headaches because they come in clusters, usually lasting 4-5 weeks (for me, anyway). I can typically expect a period free from them of 12-18 months. The headaches present themselves as an intense pain behind one eye that is very similar to the pain you get when you drink a frozen slushy too quickly—but the pain can last for hours. This is a video of a guy in the throes of an attack. I've been there countless times. When I was younger, they only lasted 15 minutes and I had no idea what was happening. I assumed they were possibly related to some illicit drugs I'd messed with. They would leave after a few weeks and I'd forget about them. It wouldn't be until the mid '90s before I'd receive a proper diagnosis.

I'm curious how I managed to get a reprieve of 27 months. I want to credit occasional cannabis use and it may well be that but I can't be sure. There are studies of the effect of cannabis on cluster headaches but they're not conclusive. It's possible that the drug can help stave off a cycle and that may well be what I've experienced but I wouldn't expect it to be of much use once a headache phase has begun.

I spent much of Friday and Saturday breathing life into my most recent stained glass creation. It's one of the more difficult pieces I do simply because the pieces are so small. Fortunately for me, I don't have fat fingers. A guy from NYC purchased this same suncatcher last week and I wanted to make another for my inventory. Here's a link to it with more photos on my Etsy site.

The FAA will soon be hiring for the position of Air Traffic Controller. I can't say enough good things about the career I had as a controller and the job satisfaction I derived from it. If you know anyone who may be interested (who's 30 years old or less), they may want to throw their name in the hat and take a chance on being hired. You can maybe start by sending them a link to the video below where they can gain an idea for what the job is about and get a feel for whether or not it's something they might be interested in pursuing.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

40 Years and Whatcha Doing This Afternoon?

I was discharged from the Navy 40 years ago today. How did that much time get away so quickly? I need to make an extended trip to San Diego (where I was stationed for most of my enlistment) and retrace some of my steps from all those years ago—preferably on two wheels. I have so many fond memories of my time spent on my bike in the greater San Diego area. I'm curious what sort of memories and emotions I would experience riding on those same roads again—roads that for the most part have changed little since I last rode them. I need to get more serious about making it happen before another 40 years get away from me. I've already got at least one route mapped out to ride.

Tammy and I spent Thursday celebrating her birthday. We drove up to Excelsior to check out the many shops that line the streets while on the lookout for a few gifts for people on our Christmas list. We found the best cafe tucked away inside a small complex of shops. It alone was worth the 35 minute drive up there.

After our time in Excelsior, we drove over to Stillwater for more of the same. We've done this same loop to Excelsior and Stillwater before on Tammy's birthday. It works well for us. We finished out the night at a wine tasting event. It was a full and enjoyable day.

Tammy and I were driving to Costco last Friday morning to pick up my car after having new tires mounted on it when I got a call from my brother Keith. After some small talk, he asked me what we were doing that afternoon. He'd called to invite us to take part in a small gathering of people at a bar in Northfield where he and Tracee were being married in a few hours. Their wedding was to be a private ceremony at Imminent Brewing but Keith was hoping we could join in the celebration after the wedding.

I hated to tell him that we already had plans. Had our plans been for only Tammy and me we would've canceled them but we were meeting our friends Joanie and Rob at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see Mama Mia. We couldn't back out.

We're so happy for Keith and Tracee. They make such a good couple. We need to make plans to meet up with them and have our own mini celebration together.

And speaking of Mama Mia—what a fun and funny show! We laughed a lot and all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It's playing through the 3rd week in February. It was probably our 4th or 5th show we've seen at CDT and we've never come close to being the least bit disappointed by any of their productions. I'm in awe of the talent on the stage and all it must take to put on a production such as that. The dinners they serve are just so-so but the show more than makes up for it. 👍👍

I'm continuing to add to my Etsy shop as Christmas shopping heats up. I had 4 sales last week. I've tried in the past to come up with a simple design that I can produce relatively quickly (in comparison to some of my other pieces) to offer at a more reasonable price but each time I sit down to come up with such a design I get carried away and it becomes more complex than I'd intended. I finally succeeded. This is a design that I can knock out in a reasonable amount of time and sell for a more affordable price. I made 5 of them in the last few days.

Tammy and I were going to skip setting up our Christmas tree this year but Sunday morning she had a change of heart and asked if I wouldn't mind getting it down out of the loft in our garage and setting it up. I was happy to. We've both moved away from showy Chrismas decorations inside and outside of our home but not so much that we don't still enjoy the look of our tree glowing in the corner of our sunporch.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter Has Definitely Arrived!

I was on a gravel ride last Sunday that took me past one of the golf courses I frequent—Boulder Pointe in Elko. I noticed they were still open and was somewhat surprised to see that considering how late in the season it is. I called the clubhouse when I got home to see if they were going to be open the next day. They assured me they would be. I got my clubs out of storage and planned to play one last round the next day in the breezy, cool conditions the forecast had promised. It had been two weeks since I last played.

I got to the course a little after 10:00 on Monday morning and saw only two other cars in the lot. I got my clubs out of my car and made my way up the steps of the clubhouse to present my PCC card to the attendant at the front desk. I tugged on the door to find it was locked before noticing the sign to the left.


I walked back to my car while going through the Rolodex of courses in my head that may still be open so I could get in one last fix for the year. Just as I popped the rear hatch on my Forester, the golf course manager rolled up in his golf cart and told me nobody had called to make a tee-time and that he'd just put up the "closed" sign a few minutes ago and that he'd pulled all of the flags off the greens but if I still wanted to play I could. I didn't hesitate to tell him I'd love to. He said there were only two other golfers on the course and they were just finishing the 16th hole. I would be the last player for the year at Boulder Pointe. I kinda liked that.

I found a nice rhythm to my game and tried as much as I could to live in the moment, reminding myself what a blessing it was to be out there. I have a friend who lives off the 2nd fairway and I texted him to see if he was available to join me. He replied: "Diehard. I like it. Good luck out there. Stay warm and don't hit em thin." By the time I finished the front nine my car was the only one in the lot.

I spent several hours on Tuesday making one last sweep of our yard for leaves ahead of a major snowstorm. Monday's strong west winds had filled our yard with leaves. Again. I love the look of a leaf-free yard and I love before and after photos.

(Blog continues below.)

Winter has definitely arrived! We've had off-and-on snow for the past couple of days.

We made a trip to Rochester last night to help celebrate Jenny's 60th birthday (Drew's mother). It was a very nice time but we had to make tracks for home sooner than we'd like to have because of continued falling snow. I hadn't done that kind of white-knuckle driving in a while. It was extremely slippery conditions. For a drive that typically takes us 1:15, it took us 1:55. It didn't help that my tires have 59,000 miles (95,000 km) on them so they didn't provide the best footing. I went out to Costco today to place an order for a set of 80k Michelins.

I've done so little riding at the river bottoms lately. I avoided them most of last winter due to ice and I wasn't down there at all this past spring, summer and fall due to flooding. I finally made it back yesterday morning and had such a nice time. There's an easy flow to the trails there, making it the perfect place to lose yourself in thought or no thoughts at all. Video embedded below.

Rachel and Drew stopped by tonight on their way back from visiting Rachel's sister Amy. They were rear-ended as they were on the ramp from eastbound Hwy 62 to southbound I-35W. Rachel was traveling at 30 mph in slippery conditions when a white SUV hit them from behind and veered off the shoulder. Rachel pulled over while the SUV backed up, took off and sped past them. Drew was able to get a photo of it as well as its license plate number. It was too slippery for any kind of chase. Rachel's rear bumper suffered some damage but she and Drew are fine. They phoned the incident into the police when they got here.

My Etsy site has been quiet for the past few months but I had two sales yesterday. I was up early filling those orders to get them out in today's mail. One of the panels that sold is a style I've sold the most of—I would guess I've moved at least 5 of them. I think I know what I'll be working on tomorrow. Here's my most recent addition to my Etsy store.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Good Neighbors and a New Wifi Password

I spent the better part of the past two months going through each entry in my blog to ensure that photo links (previously directed at my soon-to-be-defunct websites) now point to my Google Photos where they should live on indefinitely and at no cost to me. I'm glad to have that job behind me because dead links in any blog, especially mine, cause me to frown.

I was sidelined for more than a week recently with some sort of virus that sapped nearly every last bit of energy from me as my body tried to fight it. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often to me. Whatever it was has settled in my chest where it's reluctant to give up the fight but I'm doing much better overall. I was laying in bed last Monday trying to get up the energy to go out and vacuum up leaves one last time to have them out for the compost truck the next morning. I heard the sound of a lawnmower outside my window and figured it was our neighbors. I looked out to see that it was Mark working in our yard. I hurried to get outside to help him but he waved me off and insisted I go back in and rest. I put up no fight. Good neighbors are a blessing.

I was finally able to get out for a walk yesterday afternoon and feel the sun on my face. It was nice. And Charlie is happy that we've resumed our walks so he can check his p-mail.

Our country remains in a state of conflict with people choosing sides as we head down the road to the impeachment of Trump*. Congress spent the last two weeks taking testimony from State Department officials and others about what they observed from their positions on the inside while Republicans and conservative media asked us to not believe what our eyes and ears were telling us and to instead focus on a false narrative that Republicans were pushing on behalf of Vladimir Putin—that it was the Ukranian government that interfered in the 2016 election and nothing else appeared to matter. You couldn't script this and expect people to believe it, yet, here we are.

Trump* has blocked key witnesses to his alleged crimes from testifying, instructing them to defy subpoenas with promises of protection for anyone who fears legal retribution. What I don't understand and have yet to hear any of his defenders explain is why a man would work so hard to discredit an investigation that would surely prove his innocence? But hey, it worked for Mueller's investigation.

I was struck by the irony of so many immigrant State Department officials testifying before Congress, seemingly more concerned with our democracy and Constitution than those who looked down their noses at them from their lofty seats in the chamber and castigated them for daring to speak against the President.

I'm also struck by the fact that this is the same Republican Party who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair—that lying about an affair was where they drew the line then but it's a meer yawner when a President abuses his power by withholding nearly $400,000,000 in promised and approved military assistance to a country in exchange for publically sullying the reputation of his chief rival in the upcoming election. I honestly don't know how one gives a pass to that.

I remind myself that there was only 30% approval for Nixon's impeachment when the Watergate hearings began but that number slowly grew over time as witnesses exposed a more sinister side to the man. It's my hope that Democrats have a plan to ensure that there's public testimony from all of the key players in this mess so that when the Senate gives a pass to Trump*, the voting public will have a full understanding when election day comes around for why he and his entire administration should be turned out.

On a brighter note: I finally made it back down into my glass studio a few days ago to knock out a piece for my Etsy store. It was so nice to be down there again losing myself in the process of bringing a piece to life. Temps are expected to be in the mid-40s tomorrow so I'm feeling torn about spending the day working on a stained glass project or possibly trying to battle the wind to play golf or ride. I suppose I could do both.

That's all I've got, well, except for this. 😁 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 11, 2019

No Thanks Needed and Changing Lanes

I was telling a friend today that I'm somewhat self-conscience when anyone thanks me for my military service (not that it happens very often) because I didn't enlist out of a sense of patriotism. I enlisted because I was a kid who had no plan but knew enough that I couldn't continue working dead-end jobs. I don't think I should be thanked for that. Enlisting in the Navy was simply a card I played from a hand that made little sense at the time. But it was a good card to play and I'm grateful I did.

I wrote about my decision to commit to a 4-year enlistment six months out of high school in a series of blog posts beginning with this link. It was an enjoyable series of posts to write as I recalled so many memories (aided by a journal I'd kept) from my time in the Navy.

I'm not much for expressions of patriotism but that's just me. I respect those who feel otherwise. Still, thanks to all who have served and thanks to their families for keeping the home fires lit in their absence.

My brother Keith and his business partner are in the process of closing their cabinet business after some 30 years together. They sold the building they work out of last week and will continue making cabinets in their same location for another 6 months while they look for a buyer for the business. I'm happy for them both. Keith is the hardest working guy I've ever known and I'm glad that he's going to be able to move over into a slower lane for a change. He's earned it.

I took part in Random Relay 2.0 last Saturday morning at the West Lake Marion single-track MTB trails with the guys from Silver Cycling and others. It was a relay race put on for the purpose of raising money for trail grooming equipment for the WLM trails. It was a lot of fun—so much fun that I have no idea what place our team finished in.

That's all I've got

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Halloween Cuteness and Cutting the Cable

We had 44 little ones ring our doorbell Halloween night. That's up quite a lot from last year when we only had 33. I find them all to be so adorable. The highlight of our night was a group of 4 girls (3-4 years old) who paused in front of our inflatable Dracula to wait for him to show his face. They screamed and laughed when he did then waited for him to make another appearance. It was so cute to watch. (Thanks for the photo, Natalie.)

We received our bill from Spectrum Cable (formerly Charter) in the mail this week. Our monthly rates had risen from $248 to $262 for our not very extravagant cable package. This most recent increase was the one that finally put us over the edge and prompted us to call and cancel our cable service (we'll remain with Spectrum for the internet). We've been toying with the idea of leaving Spectrum for more than a year but the inconvenience of switching over to some other form of service or provider seemed daunting.

It wasn't at all.

I disconnected all 6 of our cable boxes and Tammy and I brought them over to Spectrum's outlet on Friday morning. We then went to Best Buy and purchased a bunch of Roku Streaming Sticks for $45 each that allow us to stream to all but one of our TV sets. It's a much simpler process than I was expecting it to be. We couldn't be happier having made the switch.

If you're considering cutting the cable, take a look at YouTube TV. It's a little more than $50 per month and it provides us with pretty much all of the programs we were enjoying before with Spectrum—plus, the service provides unlimited storage for recording shows. Our bill is now closer to $113 per month than the $262 it would've cost us to remain with Spectrum (not including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Now which we already had. This is just an apples to apples comparison using YouTube TV in place of Spectrum Cable.)

I was going to spend the afternoon working in the yard vacuuming up leaves but an invitation to golf proved too strong to turn down. I met Steve at Oneka Ridge Golf Course late this morning for 21 holes of golf. We extended our stay by 3 holes because it was too nice out to call it quits. That will likely be Steve's last time on the links this year but I'm hoping to get out one last time tomorrow at Crystal Lake. I called and they said they'd be open tomorrow but that it's anybody's guess after Monday. My rider works fine in the dark.

I finally made it back to the trails at Murphy Hanrehan Park earlier in the week. I was so overdue for some time there. If I wasn't into golfing I'd likely spend more time there but the increased chance for an injury (I have some history in that regard) to sideline me from golfing is always a looming thought when I'm riding singletrack. Golf is winding down now so it's time to take advantage of this remarkable mountain bike playground 6 miles (10 km) from home.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Gone Too Soon and an Impressively Frightening Makeover

My dad would've turned 94 today had he not passed away so soon, 6 weeks shy of his 70th birthday due to emphysema.

There was a side to him that he was never comfortable opening-up about—mostly related to his childhood and losing both of his parents at an early age. I respect that decision of his to keep that to himself. I do wish, though, that I had been closer to him. I didn't need to know the details of his past but I would've liked to have had a more meaningful relationship with him.

I can't recall the two of us ever sitting down and talking about how I was doing; what were my interests or plans for my future. I was so in need of his guidance and assurance but that need seemed lost on him. With 5 other siblings contending for his time in addition to his frequent business trips away for days on end, I suppose we all just accepted what little he could give us in the way of attention. But having said all that, he did offer sage advice to me when I needed it most after I was offered my job with the FAA. It was my dad who suggested I take the job offer when I was unsure about what to do—that I could always quit the FAA and return to college if that's what I really wanted. It was some of the best advice he ever gave me as well as some of the only advice he'd ever offered me and for that, I am grateful.

The last 5 years of his life were especially difficult for him, tethered to an oxygen tank where even the most basic tasks had become arduous. He had occasionally tried to shake his smoking habit over the years but I don't think he ever managed more than a few days smoke-free. He tried to substitute a pipe for his Winston cigarettes in the late '60s but that too was shortlived. I saw his passing as more of a relief than a time of sadness, especially for my mother who was there to tend to his every need in his final years. She loved him dearly.

Rachel and Drew's Halloween costumes were quite sick, as in, I think they need a doctor! It's not the first time she's pulled off this effect. She's getting quite good at it. It's a combination of latex, toilet paper, and fake blood along with some of her own makeup, she said. It's all layered until the desired look is achieved. She told me that her makeover took about 45 minutes and Drew's took a half-hour. As an added bonus, their contacts glowed in blacklight. Impressive!

I'm up to 64 leaf bags this year. Yes, I actually track that meaningless stuff. I'll have a few more to add to the total after tomorrow's yard work.

Charlie isn't too happy about a Halloween display along one of the routes we walk. He always has to stop and voice his displeasure.

Our Tuesday night and Saturday morning gravel rides are drawing to a close with the colder temps and lack of daylight. I have enjoyed these rides so much these past several months since diving into the world of gravel riding. It's everything and more than I was expecting. I've also made several new friends along the way. Win-win!

That's all I've got.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Chilling, Protesting, and Riding

I had my day fully planned. I was going to process some video from last night's ride then head off to the links by mid-morning. Charlie would get his walk in the afternoon before Tammy and I left on a dinner date with friends. The golf part of my day has been canceled and I'm sitting here chilling on the couch with Charlie and Dublin—my sister Claudia's cute little Yorkie with a cockeyed ear.

I got the video processed but that's it. I'm content to watch the world pass me by today. I need to allow for more of this in my life. I golfed yesterday so that itch has been scratched.

I was thinking recently how when I was working, I was always checking to see what time it was as I attempted to stay on task to get done whatever needed getting done before I had to leave for work. It's nice not to have that urgency about my days anymore but honestly, a little bit of urgency to jump-start the day can be a good thing.

We made arrangements to meet some friends and take the light rail into Minneapolis to protest Trump's* rally at Target Center a little more than a week ago. Fortunately, the rain held off but we were prepared and determined to make a showing regardless of whether the rain did or not.

As we were boarding the light rail I was tapped on the shoulder from behind. A friend from work, Chet, was traveling into the city for Trump's* visit as well. He would be observing it from inside Target Center. It had been 4 years since I'd last seen Chet. We'd both stopped following one another on Facebook a while back. We spent part of the ride catching up on each other's lives. It was nice to see him again. We got off the light rail and resumed our separate paths. It's a microcosm of what's become of our country.

Tammy wasn't one to stay put once we got to the protest gathering outside of Target Center. She was off and running with her cellphone in hand taking photos. I put together a collection of both hers and mine for the video embedded below.

I'm in full fall cleanup mode now but you'd never know it by looking at our yard. I vacuumed up all of the leaves a few days ago but they're back again, taunting me to rid our yard of them once more but I'm not taking the bait. I've got a blog entry to write. While blowing out our underground irrigation system I noticed that zone 5 had a major leak somewhere but I couldn't locate it without charging the system with water again. I found a guy blowing out lines nearby with an air compressor hooked to his truck. For a quick $20 he was happy to hook his commercial-grade air compressor to my line and easily locate the source of my leak. I fixed it the next day.

I've been doing less riding the past month and it shows. I can feel my form slipping away. I've been missing from the gravel scene in Northfield for the past few weeks but I was able to make it last night, lousy form and all. It was a good workout. We're finishing our rides well after sunset as you'll see in the video below. Always a fun time.

That's all I've got.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Compromised, Little Gems, and it's Definitely Fall

I was riding my indoor trainer last week when I received a text message from our credit union inquiring about a charge on my card. I quickly replied to the text then halted my workout to have a closer look at our account and to speak with a representative from our credit union. Whoever had my card information had also made a purchase at GameStop for something in excess of $300. My card was immediately deactivated and rendered useless. I drove to the credit union and was able to obtain a replacement card with no hassle within an hour of first learning of my card being compromised.

At the suggestion from the rep at the credit union, I've also installed an app on my phone called SecurLOCK Equip which allows me more control over my credit card. I can deactivate my card when I'm not using it or set spending limits in addition to some other options. Plus, the app immediately notifies me whenever there's a transaction on my card. I like the extra layer of protection. I'm curious, tho, how my card data fell into the wrong hands.

Our hummingbirds have flown south for the winter but I still have our feeders up for any stragglers passing through who find themselves in need of a fix. We had one become trapped in our garage the week before last. I was eventually able to coax it out by lowering its feeder closer to the main door opening.

I continue to methodically go through each previous entry in my blog to ensure that any photo links pointing to my website are redirected to the same photo on Google Photos (I'll be letting our website expire at the end of our current contract). It's a lot of work and I don't expect to be done for weeks if not months. I'm also taking time to suss out dead links directed at pages that no longer exist. I'm enjoying reading through my posts from years ago and rediscovering the little gems (for me, anyway) within it.

My early biking videos are cringe-worthy. Here's one of the first videos I recorded while riding (wait for it). I like to think I've stepped up my game in that area.

Early videos of our pups are also fun to look back on.

Lakeville has an intimate concert venue at what used to be All Saints Church in downtown Lakeville. The church was sold in 2001 to the city and has been transformed into the Lakeville Area Arts Center. We've attended several events and concerts there over the years, most recently last Saturday night when we saw Jonny James and the Hall of Fames playing their Led Zeppelin tribute show. We saw them play this same show at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre a couple of years ago. They're good!

I spent all day yesterday doing yardwork—mostly tending to our 6 rock islands and cutting back the hostas and other plants on them. Before and after. It's nice to have it done. Now, it's simply a matter of keeping up with the falling leaves; a job made much easier by vacuuming them up every two days with my John Deer.

I'm looking forward to getting back down in my glass shop and indulging the creative side of me. I've got a project designed and ready to go so I can hit the ground running once the time is right. Tammy suggested that I come up with some less expensive/complicated designs for my Etsy site to appeal to a broader spectrum of people. I've toyed around with this idea before but I've yet to do it. It's worth considering.

That's all I've got.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Alexander Butterfield, SMS Hack and Charlie Turns Eleven!

Nancy Pelosi made her move last week to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into the admitted criminal actions of Donald Trump*. I don't see that she had any choice, not if our Constitution (specifically, Article II, section 4) is still a thing to be upheld and revered.

There was very little public support for Nixon's impeachment when news of Watergate began to appear in the press in the fall of 1972. It wasn't until the Senate Watergate hearings in the summer of '73 that public sentiment toward Nixon began to erode. He may well have finished out his term had it not been for the reluctant testimony of Alexander Butterfield, a Deputy Assistant to Nixon.

It was Butterfield who oversaw the installation of a secret voice-activated tape recording system with its many hidden microphones in Nixon's Oval Office and elsewhere that Nixon used to surreptitiously record his conversations with others. Without the tapes, the case against Nixon may have evaporated, leaving his supporters to assure us that he was an honorable man, in the same way that Trump* still enjoys solid support from his base after effectively obstructing the Special Counsel's investigation of him.

It's no surprise to any of us who are looking at the current administration objectively that Trump* effectively worked with the Russian government to help scuttle Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign just as he again (admittedly) was trying to work with another government, this time the President of Ukraine, to try and foil Joe Biden's presidential campaign. And for this, he will be impeached in the House of Representatives. I don't have any delusions that the Republican-led Senate will muster the 2/3 majority needed to convict him—that's very unlikely unless an Alexander Butterfield type witness takes the stand and provides damning testimony that can't be ignored.

Or unless a whistleblower decides they've seen enough.

And that appears to be what has happened. I hope and I pray that this is the beginning of the end for this most corrupt occupant of the White House, and his enablers—specifically, U.S. Attorney General William Barr. And when this chapter in our country's history is over, it's also my hope that his enablers in conservative media will finally be seen as the propagandists they are.

And it should be noted: this is so much worse than anything Nixon did.

This isn't sour grapes for having watched my candidate lose the 2016 election. It's about ensuring that our candidates, no matter the party they represent, aren't reaching out for help to those who would most like to see us fail as a nation. And it's about not holding fledgling democracies hostage by withholding aid in exchange for dirt on your political opponent. We have to be better than that, and this.

Switching gears.

I received a group text SMS message from a friend last week saying:

Friend 1: Hey, guys you thnk I can Borrow 2k

Friend 2: Need some new wheels...?

Me: Ha! That's a good guess!

Friend 3: Stock? Gambling debt owed to the mob?

Me: Bail?

Friend 1: Bail

Friend 1: I'll explain later

Friend 1: Can somebody zelle it to me? Rbcu is acting weird

Me: I'm worried that Friend 1's phone has fallen into the wrong hands.

Friend 3: His phone is at his house (inserts map image showing the phone's location).

Me: Roger that.

My friend's phone was in his possession but someone else had somehow hacked it and was sending out texts trying to scam others into sending money to an online account. A fraud report has been filed with the Burnsville police. Be careful out there!

And this sweet boy turns 11 today! In the months since losing Toby, Charlie has become my little shadow, not letting me out of his sight for long when I'm around. Tammy would take him to the dog park at Cleary Lake in the weeks after Toby's passing but without Toby along, Charlie would only sit and howl and didn't want to walk the park's trails. That's not like him. Instead, we now take him to the dog park at Alimagnet Park where there's a section for smaller dogs. He loves going there and sniffing the other pups.

The Chimney Rock loop was what was served up last Saturday morning. A fun route indeed! C'mon along...

That's all I've got.

* Denotes an illegitimate president.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

16 Years, and Mark Prairie Has Left the Building

Next month will mark 16 years that I've been journaling in my blog. I suppose that's quite a while. I kept a journal for the last three years of my four-year enlistment in the Navy so when I learned about blogs, it seemed like a natural fit for me. I dove right in.

One of the main reasons I maintain my blog is to someday be able to look back on my life that was and recall more vividly memories that would otherwise likely be forgotten over the years. Something I wasn't expecting when I first began making entries here was the way in which my blog would become a place where I could sort through my thoughts—a form of therapy, actually. I've benefited from writing in it.

I've spent several hours this past week going through my blog and updating links that point to our website where I've uploaded hundreds (maybe thousands) of miscellaneous photos over the years. I'm going to allow our site to go dark when it expires next year so I need to redirect links from my blog to a new host for my photos: Google Photos—it's something I should've done years ago.

Tammy has been busy working on craft projects for the mentally challenged people she works with through her cousin's organization. Her latest project is a gnome head. She prepares the pieces for each gnome and includes a set of instructions so they can be assembled with the help of an aid. This most recent project is so cool. I think it's one of her finest.

Mark Prairie held his retirement party last Wednesday at Celts in Farmington. It's been too many months since I've made a Wednesday afternoon appearance for a beer with the guys, so I couldn't miss this one. It was a very nice time chatting with people and seeing many faces I hadn't seen in a while. Mark turned 56 recently and that's the end of the line for controllers. We're forced into early retirement at that age. He was happy to be done. I look forward to seeing him on the links yet this year. Wishes for much happiness in this next chapter of your life, my friend.

I was intending to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we're experiencing with some gravel riding this weekend but a couple of monkeys on my back got the better of me. I did yard work all day yesterday and followed that up today with 5 hours of power washing our driveway and deck. And I got a coat of sealer on our driveway. I'm glad to have those jobs done and the monkeys off my back.

YouTube is making it easier to safely upload videos with copyrighted background music such as the cycling videos I like to create. Go to this link and type in the name of the artist or song you're considering using. It will tell you what if any restrictions are associated with a particular song. I've had a limited number of artists I could safely use that I've relied on but now I can greatly expand what's available to me.

I'd taken down (from YouTube) some Super 8mm family videos I'd edited years ago for fear they would count as a strike against my account due to their background music. I've uploaded them again now that they've been given the all-clear. One of my favorites is embedded below. It begins with footage of my grandmother dancing in a white sweater and red shoes. At the 1:05 mark of the video my late Aunt Jean appears as the lyrics, "some may come and some may go" are sung. I edited this to make it appear that she's waving goodbye. She left us much too soon from a heart attack in her early 50s. I can be seen with my younger brothers playing in the snow toward the end of the video. This would've been around 1968.

And here are two ride videos since the last time I was here.

That's all I've got

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

4 Years, Mission Accomplished and D2D 2019

Today is the 4th anniversary of my mother's passing and the 4th anniversary of my retirement from the FAA. It's also the 4th anniversary of a hearing exam that showed I'd regained hearing in my left ear; hearing that I'd completely lost for more than a week and was told by one doctor that I'd never recover. It was the single most emotional day I've ever lived, the way those three significant events intersected at once.

It's been 8 months since Tammy's hip replacement surgery. One of her recovery goals was for us to be able to go to the State Fair and for her to be able to walk pain-free. Mission accomplished! We got to the fair earlier than ever, at 7:00am and didn't leave until Herman's Hermits had finished their show at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell 15 hours later. We had such a nice time.

Here's a link to some Instagram photos and videos from our day.

The Red Eye Memorial is no more. The golf tournament for retired air traffic controllers is more than two decades old but interest has waned in the past few years and Ken has decided to shut it down. 24 of us met last Tuesday for the last time at Fountain Valley Golf Course. Storms chased us off the course for 20 minutes but otherwise, it was a great day to be on the links. Our other tournament, The Sick Leave Open, is still going strong.

The annual Dawn to Dusk ride (in its 23rd year) is in the books and we couldn't have penciled in a better day (weather-wise) for it. The temp and humidity were very comfortable with a mostly cloudy sky and a light tailwind to help us home. Perfect! This was my 2nd year riding this event with the guys from Silver Cycling.

Here's a link to our ride on Strava.

I had some hesitation going into the ride, fearing I didn't have enough long rides to my credit the past few months to carry me through the later miles of Saturday's ride. I did so many more long-distance efforts in preparation for last year's D2D and felt I needed a similar training regimen this year. I was wrong. My longest training ride was 146 miles (235 km) and that was plenty. I'll remember that for next year should I decide to toe the line once again. Plus, I think my Tuesday night gravel rides enhanced my training a lot. I push myself for those 2+ hours more than any other time of the week on my bike.

To be honest, tho, preparation for D2D was a bit of a monkey on my back, never feeling like I'd totally committed to the training and having some quiet doubts about being fit enough for it. And what about the weather on the day of the ride? Will we be fighting a strong headwind on the way home, and will it be stormy? Will I be able to get at least a few hours of sleep the night before the ride? A 4:00 in the morning wakeup isn't what I'm used to anymore. But in the end, it all came together nicely. I rode strong and I learned that I can get by on a lot fewer training miles than I thought. That's good to know when I toy with the idea once again of whether or not to add my name to next year's list of riders.

That's all I've got.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Kayaking, Ren Fest, and D to D Talk

I can't recall a more active time for me in the 4 years since my retirement; and where did those 4 years go? It's in my DNA to always be moving or actively doing something even if I'm sitting still. Sometimes I'll pause to consider taking a day off and watching the world go by from our deck or with a book but then my mind begins thinking of a myriad of activities I could be doing instead. I'll occasionally meditate in the morning as a way to slow my mind and give it a timeout. I know that part of what's driving my need to stay active is the realization that my life is racing by so quickly and as much as I can, I want to make the most of it. Golfing, walking, and biking are my main go-to activities.

Thanks to Tammy, I'll be adding kayaking to the list next spring.

We've kayaked together twice and found it to be so much fun. We rented a tandem kayak at Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) last Wednesday and paddled for 7 miles. It was nice to try a tandem but we soon realized that we both prefer individual kayaks—preferably ones that fit us better than the rental. We've been researching kayaks and have a good idea of what we're looking for but we've decided to wait until next spring to buy them. I purchased a roof rack for my Forrester last week and installed it just in case we happen upon a deal we'd rather not pass up. (I still need the J-bars that clamp around the kayak.)

We've got another set of triplet deer in our neighborhood, just as we did last year. They're so cute to watch. I took that video as I was walking out to get the paper a few Sunday mornings ago. They don't seem to frighten easily. It's common to see them venturing out in the early evening well before sunset.  They mostly bed down in our neighbor's yard across the street. This is a video from a few days ago taken through our front window.

We met Rachel, Drew, and Drew's mother, Jennie, at the Renaissance Festival last Saturday. They all dressed the part but we failed to follow through on promises from last year to do likewise. That didn't prevent us from making the same promise for next year. Stay tuned! Tammy was taking notes as we walked along, looking for ideas for us. She's thinking I would look good in a blue and green kilt. I'll be happy to wear whatever she comes up with for me. She's good at that sort of thing.

Drew surprised Tammy and me with his juggling skills. Impressive! As you can see in the video, he was quickly sent to the head of the class for an advanced lesson of juggling with plastic bowling pins.

We met them all later in St. Paul Park for the Heritage Days Festival where Drew's brother, Colton, was playing with his band, Hawk 45. It was all so much fun. Tammy and I have danced more in the past few weeks than we have in our entire 20 years together. And she made up a new dance! Just wave your hands in the air like one of those inflatable air dancers and keep your feet anchored. It's really simple and fun for everyone. Try it!

I've been training for our upcoming Dawn to Dusk ride at the end of the month but I'm worried because I've not trained as hard as I did last year. My two longest rides are 146 miles (235 km) and a ride of 126 miles 9203 km) two days ago. That mileage is considerably less than the long rides I did in preparation for last year's ride. I'm kind of in the window now, though, where I should refrain from any long-distance rides in order to allow my body to recover for the big day. I was going to try and sneak in one last long ride tomorrow but I think I'll take a pass and plan something shorter but with more intensity.

The videos below are from our TNG ride a week ago and from my ride with Steve and Rob, aka Silver and Legs, two days ago.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary, Duluth Style!

We spent the better part of this week vacationing 3 hours to the north in Duluth and along the North Shore as we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We had such a nice time. I've been to Duluth a number of times but I never explored the city the way we just did. It was one of those getaways where I wish we could do it all over again.

We spent our first night in Tammy's hometown of Babbitt where we had dinner with her sister Cindy. We shared some nice conversation before venturing off to check out one of two local bars where we crashed the class of '89's high school reunion. I dare say we were having as much fun as anyone there dancing like it was nobody's business. We had a blast!

Neither of us had ever kayaked so Tammy arranged for us to take a guided kayaking tour on our first full day in Duluth, figuring it would be something fun to try. She was so right! I think I'm hooked. I've already begun searching Craig's List for used kayaks. I can imagine myself getting up early to do a few laps around one of the nearby lakes to start my day. No, I don't think I'll be mounting my GoPro on the front of my kayak but then again...hmmm.

We also took a lampworking class at Lake Superior Art Glass where we made the stem to a wine glass. It's more challenging than it would appear but I thought Tammy was a natural at it. There's a shop in Northeast Minneapolis where we can continue to explore the art medium in more depth. We'd both like to.

I fell in love with the city of Duluth and commented to Tammy more than once that I could easily make it my home. She enjoyed the city as well but not enough to want to uproot our lives and move there—and what about the winters? I get that. It's close enough that I'm certain we'll be back again sooner rather than later.

Here's a link to an album of photos from our getaway.

I love more than anything taking our little road trips, away from the myriad distractions that make up my life. Not that I don't enjoy them all but nothing compares to my time with Tammy when it's just the two of us sharing an experience together.

I can't help but wonder how 20 years got away from us so quickly. It seems not long ago at all that Tammy and I first met and wasted little time making plans for our lives together with Rachel. I wrote this 4-part blog series a while back about how we met and fell in love.

What I wouldn't give to relive these past 20 years all over again! I could live in those days forever.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 Years Ago Tonight and I'm In!

On this night 50 years ago I was 5 weeks shy of my 12th birthday and about to enter 7th grade. Our family was vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where we spent at least two weeks each summer. My parents had recently purchased the farmhouse my mother grew up in and its 200 acres of land—a mix of prairie grass and forest with a small stream and a strawberry field. Our nights were usually spent in the company of aunts, uncles, and cousins at either our farmhouse or Eva and Elvin's home in Winona, about 35 minutes away.

I made a lot of memories during our summers in the U.P. but none more lasting than the night we'd gathered at Eva and Elvin's home (50 years ago tonight) to watch TV coverage of Apollo 11 and man's first step onto the surface of the moon. The actual event of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of the landing module that brought them to the surface isn't what stays with me all these years later, though. Rather, it's the memory I have of stepping outside (after Neil uttered the first words spoken on the lunar surface) and looking up at the moon, trying to comprehend the achievement that had just taken place, knowing there were people up there. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Our quest to put a man on the moon had been something I'd grown up with (President Kennedy proposed the ambitious endeavor eight years earlier). In junior high school, whenever there was a manned rocket launch or re-entry, we'd gather in our school's auditorium to squint at the relatively small TV monitors placed in front of the stage and watch the events unfold. It was exciting to witness and it captured my imagination. The launch of the first Space Shuttle in the early '80s evoked in me those same feelings of awe once again. I'll leave it to others to decide if the cost was worth the risk and the loss of life along the way. I personally feel it was a great achievement and one that helped unify us as a nation, if only briefly.

We have much more pressing needs and likely less discretionary tax dollars today to once again reach for the stars but what an elixir it could be for a divided nation such as ours; or even a way for countries to share the cost and work together for an even more ambitious goal. But that's just me dreaming. It's not lost on me that there's a lot of hurting people on this blue suspended ball we share and that their needs should matter most. Can we do both?

And where did those last 50 years go?

Edit: A friend gave me a link tonight where you can listen to the Apollo astronauts converse with Mission Control throughout their entire flight with the associated video of the events. It's an amazing website with more detailed information than you can imagine all compiled in one place. Check it out.

I golfed Valleywood Golf Course a few days ago with Lyle and Chuck. It's been at least 25 years since I last played there but memories of some of the holes were still stored in my internal hard drive. As I got to my car after the round and looked at my phone for messages, I noticed a data usage notification. The 18Birdies app I use for tracking my score and other details of my round had used a whopping 45.5 GB of data the previous 4 hours and my phone's battery was nearly depleted. Our service provider, Google Project Fi, has a limit of 10 GB of data that we can be charged for, otherwise, at $10 per GB of data, that was going to be one expensive round of golf.

I contacted 18Birdies to tell them what happened and they told me there's an update to the program to prevent it from happening again. Apparently, there are videos in the app's background that were set to play automatically and that's what was using up the data. A recent update has fixed the problem. I responded that this does little to fix my current overage dilemma and they told me to let them know what the additional cost is and that they will cover it. That's more than I expected. I'm pleased.

I've decided to take part again in the annual Dawn to Dusk ride on August 31st with the guys from the Silver Cycling club out of Lakeville. It's actually a bit more than a dawn to dusk effort. Last year I left home on my bike 70 minutes before sunrise and returned in complete darkness 216 miles (348 km) later. I hope the training doesn't take me away from the links all that much but I'll need to seriously increase my weekly mileage in preparation for the ride as I have little time to spare.

Video from last year's Dawn to Dusk ride.

My Tuesday Night Gravel rides will still be a part of my training plan.

Video from last Tuesday night below.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

An Icon's Days Are Few, The 3M PGA Tour Event and Riding Talk

I can handle the heat; it's the humidity I can do without! I wanted to powerwash our concrete driveway today in preparation for sealing it but it's too uncomfortable outside. So here I am, catching up on my blog with plans to go for a walk once the sun inches closer to the horizon.

Workers at the Black Dog power plant along the Minnesota River in Burnsville are in the process of dismantling their tallest smokestack. I'm sad to see it go. It's been a looming presence over hundreds (maybe more than 1000) of my workouts over the years, both cycling and running. I can't explain what it is about it that resonates with me—just that it's been there since I can recall. There were times I would pass by and nonverbally say a few words to it—a greeting of sorts until the next time. The running/bike trails have been flooded over since spring with not much relief in sight, leaving torn up and displaced slabs of asphalt strewn about. There's no telling when the area will be open to the public again. I'm hoping to get down there one last time before the towering stack is gone so I can say a proper goodbye.

With our steadily warming climate and an increase in severe weather, I'm worried that interest will be lost in trying to maintain the area. That will be a sad loss to many of us who frequent it.

I attended my first PGA Tour event last weekend—the 3M Open in Blaine, MN. A friend gave me a ticket for the final round. Kenny was working the "shot link" on the 12th hole, helping to track the players' shots. I got there early before the crowds and the heat and wandered the course, in awe of the lush grounds and seeing players I've only seen on TV walking alongside me. It was almost surreal at times. I followed the pairing of Jason Day and Kyle Jones for a few holes. The galleries were still sparse enough that a spectator could get as close to the players as the ropes would allow. In addition to Kenny, I spoke with several other volunteers working the tournament—they all enjoyed being a part of it. I'd like to sign up next year to offer my time and if possible, I'd love to be the person with the sign walking along with each group displaying the players' names and scores. How fun it would be to walk along with a group for the entire 18 holes, inside the ropes.

Here's a collection of photos I put together from the day.

I got out early yesterday morning for a longish ride (104 miles/167 km) on my road bike. I've spent so little time on it this year but if I'm going to ride in this year's Dawn to Dusk ride on August 31st, I'll need to rachet up my time riding pavement. I'm somewhat lacking the motivation to do the necessary training which will involve several 150-200 mile (240-320 km) rides to condition my legs. So far this year I've been content to push myself on my gravel bike where the scenery is much more serene and appealing. More time training means less time for other interests. I could probably get by with less mileage but I like to come prepared for these events. I don't want to be the guy who's struggling with 4-5 hours still to ride. What to do?

Here are a few ride videos I've put together since the last time I wrote here beginning with yesterday's ride.

It's time for that walk I spoke of.

That's all I've got.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A Close Call and DocStock 2019

After more than 15 years, I'm going to let my domains and expire. I haven't done anything with either site in years and I can't justify the cost to keep them. Plus, I built the sites with Microsoft's Frontpage program which my GoDaddy host no longer supports—meaning, I can no longer use the program to update the sites if I wanted to. The one problem for me, though, is that I've got so many links from my blog directed at my site where I've archived photos. I'm in the process of archiving those photos on my Google Photos site and I'll link to them there. It's going to be dozens of hours of work.

I had a close call on my road bike a little more than a week ago on only my 2nd road ride of the year. It was Saturday mid-morning and I was coming out of St. Paul on a 4-lane divided highway when a driver proceeded through an intersection and appeared to not see me until the last second. I was certain they weren't going to stop in time but they did. (Here's video from the close call) I'm quite sure it was the blinking bright white strobe on the front of my bike that caught their attention and saved me.

I used to say that at the end of the year, it was only ever a handful of drivers out of the hundreds of thousands that passed me that ever posed a problem. I don't say that anymore. It's never been riskier to be a road cyclist than it is now with so many distracted drivers more focused on their phones than their driving. I still love to ride pavement and I'll no doubt do my share of miles on it this year but for the most part, I've transitioned to riding gravel and I'm loving it, especially my Tuesday night gravel rides with the guys out of Northfield. I'm never more alive than when I'm riding with these guys! (See video embedded below for last week's ride). I can ride gravel roads for mile after mile without seeing another vehicle. The occasional loose dog is about my only concern. Another bonus to riding gravel are the many additional options I have of roads to ride—gravel roads I couldn't easily ride on with my road bikes because of their skinny tires now beckon me. I sometimes feel like a kid again when I'm on my gravel bike exploring new places.

We attended DocStock 2019 on Saturday at Drew's parent's home south of Rochester. What a fun time that was! DocStock is a play on the Woodstock name. "Doc" is Drew's father's nickname. Drew's band, Francis Jennings and the Seisable Johnsons led off the show followed by his brother Colton's band, Hawk45. Both bands did a great job of entertaining us. Tammy bought some cowbells just for Hawk45's cover of Mississippi Queen. They were a hit! were the inflatable guitars we brought along for people to take their air-guitar skills to the next level. We're already looking forward to next year's show.

That's all I've got.