Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Let the Healing Begin and Well Played, ATC!

It's been 5 days since Tammy's hip replacement surgery. Her doctor told me the surgery went very well. He also commented that she had very little loss of blood during the procedure. He'll often see a loss of 1000cc in patients but Tammy only lost a tenth of that. I'm not sure what that speaks to if anything. He also noted a bone spur in her hip that was causing her a lot of pain.

She stayed overnight in the care facility there at Twin City Orthopedics and I picked her up at 6:00 the next morning, which was a solid 2 days too soon (but apparently, that's how it's done). The narcotics prescribed for pain have left her confused, tired, and confined to a bed we have set up in our den. Rachel came by over the weekend and spent the better part of 2 days with us, giving me some pointers on my duties as a CNA (certified nursing assistant). She was so helpful.

A nurse has stopped by our home a couple of times as well as a physical therapist. The nurse became concerned yesterday when she recorded a blood-oxygen-level in the 70s. A normal reading would've been in the high 90s. It's a result of the narcotics and their effect on her breathing. She instructed us to get to the emergency room at the hospital. I wasn't keen on getting Tammy out of bed and situated in the car due to her recent surgery but her O2 reading concerned us more so we didn't delay.

The doctor felt her condition was within the normal parameters with her O2 levels having risen to a more normal level once we arrived. She was discharged 2 hours later. Better safe than sorry. She's doing much better today and making notable progress every day but she has a long way to go. I'm putting my stained glass projects on hold while I stick close by her side for the next couple of weeks.

The longest U.S. government shutdown (35 days) is over thanks in large measure to air traffic controllers on the east coast who called in sick and forced delays that would ripple throughout the system. That was enough (in addition to Nancy Pelosi's hardline against Trump*) to call Trump's* childish bluff and force him to reopen the government, if only for a few weeks. Well played, ATC and Pelosi—well played.

One concern I have after watching all of that play out is how so many people are living with little to no margin whatsoever in the way of a rainy-day fund. A disturbing number of people are just a paycheck or two away from homelessness.

And still, nothing is being done about the attacks on our elections by Russia. But not only that, Republicans voted last week to lift sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, a major player in Russia's attack on our 2016 election. He was the one that Trump's* campaign manager Paul Manafort gave detailed polling data to in the weeks and months before the election so they could more accurately target their attacks. I know—this is all new to those of you who get your news from conservative media. You may want to poke your head up and have a look around at what's actually happening because it's going to take a lot of us working together to fix this mess. But Trump* is responsible for record unemployment and a robust economy you say? No, not really.

I finished the Tour de Zwift series of rides today with 4 laps around Central Park in NYC. I really enjoyed the challenge of going all-out on those 9 stages over the past 4 weeks. I'm curious to see what it's done for my Functional Threshold Power (FTP), a measure of the number of watts I'm able to maintain for an hour. It's a handy number to know for when you want to do targeted training and develop training plans based on watts.

It's ridiculously cold outside tonight at -22ºf (-30ºc) with a high temp tomorrow of only -16ºf (-27ºc). It gets even colder tomorrow night. That's just nuts. There was a time a few years ago when I took pride in riding in temps this cold but I'm quite sure those days are behind me. Perhaps my Wahoo Kickr Core and Zwift program for riding indoors have made me soft in some ways. I'm okay with that.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Change of Scenery

A friend mentioned that she hadn't seen Reid on Facebook and wondered if he'd deleted his account. I hadn't noticed so I took a look and sure enough, he was gone. I'd sent him a text the day before to show him my new wheels, so when he responded I asked him what's up. He said he was on a 21 day Facebook fast and that he was thinking of making it permanent because he didn't miss it. I had just deleted the app from my phone the previous day and had been toying with the idea of taking an extended break from it as well. In the 10 years I've been on the site, I've never broken from it for more than a few days.

There was a time when I loved the site and the connections I made there but whatever benefits remained were being overshadowed by my frustration with many of my friends/connections who disappoint me with their pro-Trump* nonsense and conservative media talking-points that crumble under the slightest scrutiny. I always believed we were collectively smarter than this. I have no desire to waste any more time trying to convince people that Trump* is a racist, bigoted, thoroughly corrupt man unfit for any leadership role and that the Christian right is neither Christian nor right. This is much more than simply Republican vs. Democrat. This is about allowing a hateful and fearful ideology gain a foothold of acceptance, one that makes a mockery of the words enshrined on our Statue of Liberty where it reads: "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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I'll still be available through email, a cellphone call, text messages, Instagram, my blog, or to enjoy a conversation over a hard cider at Celts if anyone is interested in catching up with me. And I'll still occasionally stop by a few of the cycling and stained glass groups I like to check in on. I've been mostly absent from the site for one week and honestly, I don't miss it. I'll see how it goes.

I had fun working on a different sort of stained glass project a few days ago. For a while now I've been wanting to do a sun-catcher in the vein of Piet Mondrian's artwork with its straight lines and striking contrasts in color. I drafted a few designs before settling on the one to the right.

I was concerned when I began assembling glass for the piece that the transparent colored glass I typically use for my projects wouldn't lend itself well to this style of art so I purchased some opaque glass to use instead. I'm glad I did. I couldn't be happier with how direct sunlight gives such brilliance to the colors in the glass. It's very striking. Here's a link to it on my Etsy site. If you go there, be sure to click on the photos for a higher resolution photo. My camera was struggling to focus in the bright sunlight.

Tammy goes in for hip replacement surgery on Thursday. She's been struggling a lot for the last 9 months or so with continued pain and sleepless nights. We miss our trips to the State Fair, an occasional walk around Lake of the Isles, or even the mall because she's in too much pain to continue after only 30 minutes. She's experienced temporary relief through steroid shots but those aren't the answer. She was loving her Zumba classes at Lifetime Fitness but she had to stop those last spring and confine her workouts to laps in the pool. We've got a bed set up for her on the main level in the den (thanks to Mark and Becky), a walker for her to use and some other gadgets (for picking up things without bending over and for putting on her socks) loaned to us by Alex who had the same procedure on one of his hips 7 years ago. It will be nice to have the surgery over with and working on her recovery. She's so overdue for her pain to be done.

I've been enjoying my indoor bike training more than ever now that I've been participating in group events on Zwift. They're a lot of fun and very motivating. Yesterday's Stage 6 of the Tour de Zwift had us climbing Alpe du Zwift, which is Zwift's version of the iconic Alpe d'Huez climb often featured in Le Tour de France. Zwift has made their version an exact replica of the actual mountain climb with all 21 switchbacks and gradient to match the actual mountain. It's a daunting climb, but fun. It took me 55:07 to climb the 7.8 miles (12.6 km) with an average gradient of 8.1%. Once you begin the climb there's nowhere to hide. It doesn't let up at all until the top.

I've been watching YouTube videos lately while working on glass projects in the shop, and a channel that I've absolutely fallen in love with is GCN, or Global Cycling Network. They put together some excellent videos that I find both entertaining and informative. Have a look (below).

That's all I've got.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Homebrew, A New Addition, and Free Solo

I have a new certification: Homebrewer. I've spent the last few weeks nurturing a glass jug of homebrew in the closet of our den, making sure the temp was just right so as not to shock the contents of the fermenting cider within. Friday was bottling (and tasting) day. My yield was 8 bottles of sweetened hard apple cider, one of which has Rachel's name on it. I honestly didn't have very high hopes that it would be very palatable but it's actually not bad at all. I would like to give it a go again in a few weeks but first I think I want to take a class in homebrewing because I think there's more I need to know than what I was able to glean from the directions in my starter-kit to more fully enjoy the experience and get the most from it.

I've added a new bike to my stable of bikes. I've been wanting a gravel bike since last spring when I noticed how much harder I was having to work on my fat-tire bike to keep up with others on their gravel bikes during the Miesville 56 ride. That it's a more difficult slog on a fatty is a given and I was good with that but something clicked inside me when I began thinking of lengthier rides I could do on gravel roads away from the more traveled highways I'm typically on. Plus, gravel group rides are becoming quite popular, and I occasionally enjoy the company of others out there. Not always, but sometimes.

I began my search last spring at Angry Catfish in Minneapolis but nothing I saw there grabbed hold of me and said, "take me with you!" I continued my search online to see what else was out there. That's when I came across this review and another for Giant's new gravel bike. It was everything I was looking for (and more). I pretty much stopped my search at that point.

I've been working with Todd at Michael's Cycles in Chaska and he phoned me two days ago to tell me that my long wait for the beauty pictured to the right (and in this video) was over and that I could come in and pick it up. They're just now beginning to make it to local bike shops after a bit of a delay in shipping them. I'm waiting on a few accessories—a mount for my Garmin cyclocomputer and a Dinotte LED light for the rear (and for the side roads to lose their ice) before I jump on it for the first time but I anticipate I won't be waiting much longer.

Switching gears.

I was perusing a bike forum (what used to be the Serotta forum) a few months ago when I came across a thread titled, "Climbing Devils Tower". Tammy and I have been to Devils Tower a few times and have watched with amazement the oh-so-tiny people scaling the mountain, so I clicked on the thread to have a look. I was surprised to see that there were several users of the forum who had climbed Devils Tower in addition to some even more difficult climbs. I found the thread to be fascinating reading. It was around the same time that the movie Free Solo was being shown in limited screenings across the country.

The thread on the forum piqued my interest in rock climbing, and I was exposed to a new world of jargon: what are off-width climbs and multi-pitch climbs, and what is the difference between a 5.7 and a 5.1 climb? It all seemed so fascinating to me but I was pretty certain while reading about it that all of it will have to wait until my next lifetime. Or does it have to? I came across this link (edit: the link has been removed) where you can show up as a novice and after two days of instruction be ready to climb Devils Tower on the third day. Seriously? I never would've guessed that but after poking around a little more online I found videos (an example) that seem to make it look somewhat doable.

In my week's long study of rock climbing back in October, the most compelling thing I watched was a 60 Minutes episode about Alex Honnold (embedded below), the man profiled in the film, Free Solo. I'm not sure there are many riskier endeavors than the sort of climbing he does, but to listen to him explain it, he's certain of his ability to the point that the entire climbing experience is one where he's in a calm state of being. I just don't know that I could ever control my nerves to that degree. I'm quite sure I couldn't.

I'd sort of stopped thinking about rock climbing and moved on to other things until talking with Rex a few days ago over a beer at Celts in Farmington. He'd seen the film Free Solo and was telling me how awesome it was. He later sent me a text to let me know that the movie was playing at the IMAX theater in Apple Valley but not for much longer. Tammy and I went to see it that night. It was so well done; at times funny, and at times riveting, and always captivating. We both loved it!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Disturbing Dream and 2018 By The Numbers

I've been having some wild dreams lately. I had a recurring dream last night, a dream I haven't had in several years, and each time I experience it, I'm left wondering if there's something in my life that I'm neglecting. It started out with me standing by the side of our home, looking up at an airplane that had lost its wings. It was using an engine on its tail to thrust it forward in an erratic way. I watched as it flew out of control, certain it would crash at any moment. A helicopter appeared next to the doomed aircraft and hovered overhead. My neighbor, Tom, a pilot for Delta was watching with me.

But then something else caught my attention. I noticed a trap door in our front flower garden that led to a lighted room beneath the garage. I realized then that my dog Sparky was down there and that I had forgotten about him. I last said goodbye to Sparky (in real life) in 1983 when I moved to Huron, SD and I couldn't take him with me. In my dream, it had been months since I'd checked on him and I felt terrible that he'd been neglected for so long. The dream always leaves me feeling profoundly sad that I could do such a thing and that a being so dependent on me was left to suffer.

I took a week off from stained glass work during the holidays but I'm back at it again. I finished this piece last night. It's been a while since I've done a similar panel and I wanted one to add to my inventory. It's a little on the spendy side for a sun-catcher but I'm happy leaving it to sit on my site until the right person comes along. I think I'll work on some lesser expensive pieces over the next week.

I was pleased with my miles both down in our basement and out on the road in 2018. By the numbers:

Cycling: 5138 (8269 km)
Walking: 398 (641 km)
Walking with our pups: 268 (431 km)
Golfing miles: 229 (369 km)
Elliptical: 34 (55)
Rower: 8 (13)

I neglected both my elliptical and my rower but I hope to improve on those numbers in 2019. Strava puts together a nifty year-end summary. Click!

I've been riding indoors during the winter months for nearly 39 years. I never could've imagined when I was riding my first set of rollers after returning home from my enlistment in the Navy what indoor riding would one day become. I love it! And it's great training!

I lined up with 2269 others this morning on the island of Watopia for the first stage of the Tour de Zwift challenge. I gave it all I had for a little over an hour and it left me with an endorphin high that lasted for hours after the race (it's technically just a ride but tell that to the vast majority of us pushing as hard as we can). That was my first experience taking part in any sort of group ride on Zwift. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I also pushed harder than I otherwise would have. Win-win!!

That's all I've got.