Friday, April 24, 2020

A Walk and a Chat

What a beautiful Minnesota day today! I'm out on the deck for the first time this year, enjoying the sounds of Mandolin Orange with Charlie at my side. And there's little to no wind for a change!

We received our stimulus payment of $2400 into our bank account last week. What's happening with the coronavirus pandemic is such a huge hit to our economy. If you trust the science behind this pandemic, this is only the beginning stages of what lies ahead. I'd have rather seen the stimulus money directed at those who were hurt by the downturn in the economy rather than to people who suffered no loss in income. This amount of money will do little to help those whose pay has been drastically cut by businesses that had to close their doors.

There is going to have to be significantly more outlay in the form of monies for those in need to carry us through this. For all of the bluster from Trump about the strength of the economy, we're seeing that much of it was merely a veneer as people are struggling to provide even the basics for their families after less than a month of unemployment. I don't know what the answers are to getting us back on track but I do know a necessary component will be voting this clown of a president and a boatload of Republican representatives out of office this November. From my perspective, they've been far more a hindrance than a help with their lack of leadership.

I golfed for the first time this year on Monday. It was nice to back out on the links again. After a few holes, the single ahead of me waved me through. I was being pushed by a single behind me so we decided to pair-up. Within the first 30 seconds of chatting with Mike (not his real name), it was clear that, by the things he was saying, he's a very conservative man. He told me that he's the lead pastor for a church of 10,000 members here in the south metro. He began the church as a bible study in 1995 with 13 people. I thought to myself, this is going to be an interesting round.

We talked about a lot of stuff and I found myself having to push back on some of what he was telling me—some blatant right-wing propaganda. He was saying it's not right that Muslims are still allowed to worship in their mosques when Christians can't worship in their churches. I said I didn't believe that was the case. He was emphatic that it was. He's wrong. Mike also talked about the Clinton Foundation and how it was nothing more than a way for them to pedal their influence around the world and that it is a sham organization. It's not. I had to remind him that it was Trump's organization that was fined for abuses. It troubled me that he'd fallen for this sort of nonsense. I would expect someone in his position to be more discerning about such things.

We talked about same-sex marriage and I told him how I'm troubled by the way the church chooses to focus on that and not the things that the majority of the people filling their church pews are involved in: namely, idolatry. We all have so many idols in our lives but they're never the deal-breakers for the church that same-sex marriage is. I was trying to mostly give him things to consider rather than getting hard answers from him in that moment—because I don't think there are good answers he could give me although I was open to hearing him out.

I recall at one point stopping Mike in mid-sentence when he was heaping praise on Trump. I said, "You know he's using you, right?" Without missing a beat he said, "But it's mutual". The thought of making a deal with the devil kept playing on a loop in my head after that remark. Somehow, I think he is missing the mark of what it means to be a Christian—as are evangelicals worldwide for that matter (in my opinion). I would love to have an opportunity to pair up with him again someday because I have so much more I'd like to convey to him.

He mentioned the names of a few controllers I worked with; Brad, Doug, and Lee—that they're members of his church. I was actually impressed that he was able to come up with those names out of a flock of 10,000. He's not a dumb man. How he chooses to inform himself in political matters would say otherwise, though. And that's what leaves me troubled—watching in real-time how Mike could be so easily swayed by lies because of a lack of discernment on his part; either that or a willingness to want to believe what he wants to believe—facts be damned! What does that say about how men with an agenda could have and likely did influence church doctrine going back to the time of Christ?

We eventually talked about other stuff and I actually enjoyed my time with Mike. He is a very nice guy and (not that it matters) a decent golfer. We're simply on opposite ends of the political spectrum. I do hope our paths cross again someday.

I was back down in the studio last week working on my most involved sun-catcher yet. I'm happy with how it turned out. It's priced quite a lot higher than other offerings of mine but it's actually a bargain for the amount of labor that went into it. If it fails to sell, I'm fine with keeping it.

We've paused our group rides out of Northfield for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic. Rather than totally lose the sense of community the rides provide, Bruce has begun organizing a Saturday ride on a specified route that we all ride individually, either clockwise or counterclockwise, sharing photos of our journey with others via Facebook. It's such a great idea. I'll have to take a pass on tomorrow's ride due to some issues I'm having with the shifter for my rear derailleur on my gravel bike. I'll take to paved roads tomorrow on my road bike instead with hopes of being back on gravel next week.

The video below is from last Saturday's ride. Here's a link to the route we rode individually along with some photos.

That's all I've got.

Monday, April 13, 2020

It's Clearly Time For Plan B

When learning the art of air traffic control, many trainers like to instill in their trainees the need for a plan B in case their initial plan for separation in a given scenario turns sour. You don't want to be so locked into making a poor decision work that you fail to utilize your alternate plan until it's too late. It's sound advice. And that's where I see us today as a nation, poised to reelect the most incompetent, unfit president in our history because many of you are insisting on making your initial plan work. I get that some of you voted for Trump as a protest vote or that you're a one-issue voter and that's all that matters (I was that guy once as well). I didn't agree with your vote because it was plainly obvious to most that he wasn't presidential material but given the built-in checks and balances of our democracy, I at least expected he would be prevented from acting on his worst inclinations.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Trump has obliterated our time-tested system of checks and balances with a willing Senate and a Republican apparatus that's content to look the other way and give a pass to Trump's criminal actions in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy and for packing our courts with a hard-right judiciary that also appears only too willing to go along with this grab for power. That's not democracy. It's authoritarian rule with a good amount of fascism added to the mix for flavor. It's not something to cozy up to or look upon with pride. You should be running from it.

I'm at a loss to understand what it is about the GOP in its present form that has people so beholden to it. They're not the party of fiscal responsibility they like to claim they are, nor are they the party of family values—not with a man like Trump leading them. They're pro-life you say? No, not when Trump has directed immigrant and refugee children at our southern border not be given vaccines and not when budgets are cut for needy and struggling families to help offset losses in tax revenue caused by irresponsible tax cuts rammed through by Republicans. How is any of that pro-life? It's been ten years that they've been tirelessly working to destroy the Affordable Care Act while offering up nothing in its place. Recall how Trump promised a new plan within a month of taking office. It was a lie. There was never a plan nor are they working on one.

I politely asked a friend recently in a Facebook discussion what it is about the Republican Party that has him in support of it. I was hoping to get him to ponder the question and while doing that, hopefully, maybe see that none of the things he once liked about the GOP still exist, if they ever did. He never responded to my question—I suppose, preferring to stick with his plan A, right into the ground.

It's clearly time for plan B.

That's all I've got.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Giving Thanks

We're doing our best to shelter-in-place here in Minnesota in our collective effort to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential services are still operating but most likely with reduced hours, that includes liquor stores. Plexiglass shields are showing up at grocery store checkout aisles and elsewhere to protect workers from customers who may be infected. Markers on the floor provide recommended spacing for customers waiting in line both inside and out.

My heart goes out to the millions who have been laid off from work and have no income, especially those who were barely scratching out a living to begin with. Many retirees are also hurting as their 401Ks have taken a huge hit over the past six weeks with significant losses in the stock market. The market was due for a correction but I don't think many were imagining one such as this.

I'm so impressed by those who continue to show up for work each day to keep the basic infrastructures and various other services of our communities intact. Where would we be without them? I hate to even imagine. I'm sure to always tell the person ringing up my purchases at the grocery store (or wherever) that I'm appreciative of them being there, especially during this time. How nice it would be if when this is all over and we've had some time to reflect, that we'd come to realize the important role these people play in our lives and pay them an amount that shows our appreciation and how much they're valued by us—how we're so dependent on them. We've not done that to this point.

And healthcare workers: I can't fully appreciate all they're sacrificing for us during this time—none of us truly can unless we're in their shoes. I found this Tweet from a 74-year-old doctor from two days ago to be sobering. He's risking it all to be there for others. There are tens of thousands of healthcare workers in New York alone who have answered the call to help with the crisis. These people are nothing less than heroes.

The Trump administration is failing badly as they continue to show no ability or desire to lead us through this crisis. Daily briefings for the country have turned into mini Trump rallies. People are losing jobs, losing loved ones and losing their lives while Trump stands before the nation and brags about being #1 on Facebook. Unfucking believable! But like everything else the man says, it's not true. Thankfully, some mainstream media sites have stopped covering the daily rallies (disguised as press briefings) and will only break in when there's actually information of substance worthy of coverage. I have little desire to comment any further on the imbecile in the White House. Not tonight.

I thought I had put my bikes away (for purposes of outdoor riding) for the foreseeable future last week while the pandemic plays out, worried about crashing and ending up in the ER. Some friends convinced me that I needn't do that. I reminded them that I'm the guy who actually fell asleep while riding my bike a few years ago. (Truth be told—I was on a heavy dose of prednisone at the time and sleeping very little at night.) I don't think they heard me. Anyway, I'm going to continue to ride outdoors but I won't be riding as hard as I maybe otherwise would and all of my rides will be solo. I'll be on my bike. That's all that matters.

Speaking of rides, below are my two most recent ride videos—the first one from last week and the 2nd one from yesterday.

Stay safe, my friends.

That's all I've got.