Friday, March 9, 2018

It's Really Pointless It Seems But I Try

I was going through the inner workings of my blog this morning and came across this unpublished piece I'd written a couple years ago.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

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

Here's the previously unpublished entry.

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

My friend is a very conservative, fundamentalist Christian.

My most recent reply to my friend:

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

Is that correct?

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever questioned your faith?

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

Is that correct?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And speaking of boring cycling videos with cool music!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Our Country Has Lost Its Mind!

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

Our country has lost its mind!

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

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

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

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

Some additional thoughts...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 9, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Life Well Lived and Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

And he was an author.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Switching gears.

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

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

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

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

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

Visualize This! Challenge

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goals, Then and Now

Excuse me while I reminisce a little.

42 years ago tonight I was in my first few days of boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago. I remember sitting in my barracks on New Years Eve 1975 and thinking how a mere three weeks earlier enlisting in the Navy was in no way one of the options I was considering. I had watched nearly all of my friends leave for or enroll in college that fall while I remained behind working factory jobs with no real future plans.

I acted on my sister's suggestion and went to speak with a Navy recruiter in Brooklyn Park. Chuck Wilson would shepherd me through the process. Everything happened so quickly after our initial meeting where I took an exam to see if I qualified for any schooling after boot camp. Chuck then scheduled me for a physical examination at a facility in Minneapolis. I remember asking him about how late in the recruiting process could I still back out. He replied that once a person has had their physical he likes to think they've made a commitment. And so it was at that point that I accepted this new road I was on and vanquished any remaining doubts.

It was a pivotal point in my life but not one that I recall seeking advice from either of my parents about. They had left for Pottstown, Pennsylvania one year earlier with my two younger brothers while I was in my senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Bloomington. My dad supported me while I was still in school but probably not much after that. I can't recall for certain. It was mostly my brother and brother-in-law who encouraged me to sign up.

I've always been goal oriented in my adult life but not so much yet at the age of 18. I do think though that I realized I had to do something with my life other than what I had been doing and that was motivation enough for me to enlist. Honestly, as I look back I can't think of any goals I set for myself other than maybe trying to move up from bagboy to stockboy at Penny's Grocery in Lohman's Plaza a mile from home. My world was still quite small then as were my ambitions.

The first real goals I recall setting for myself were ones I made that involved my bike, such as riding from San Diego to Campo and back or up to Oceanside and back. Those early days on my bike were some of my first experiences where I challenged myself and pushed myself to find my limits on roads like this. The endurance athlete in me took root and gave me a confidence and belief in myself that hadn't existed before. I wasn't out there to prove anything to anyone but myself. My bike became my focus as did my fitness. In a lot of ways, I'm still the same person I was all those years ago.

I wasn't getting the book-smarts my friends were getting in college but I was progressing in my own way, and I had to be content in that. My goals would expand to saving enough money to buy a new frame and parts to go with it in addition to finishing my enlistment and finding my way to college while supporting myself. There was a lot on my horizon and I was chomping-at-the-bit to begin my next phase of life.

But that's enough of my past for this blog entry.

I enjoy reminiscing like this but it's also kinda sad when I see how fast my life is moving. I would give anything to relive the previous 42 years or at least slow time down. I love the zest and curiosity for life that I've been given and I'm thankful for it but lately, I can see where my time here is finite and that's not something I'm ready to think too much about just yet. And so I keep moving and keep challenging myself.

I'm not much for making life-altering resolutions to begin the new year, instead, I'll just put some milestones out there to try and work toward and see how I do. I'd like to bike 6000 miles (9600 km) and walk 2000 miles (3200 km) in the coming year. I think both are very doable. I'd also like to achieve a golf handicap of 8 by this time next year. And I'd like to see if I can establish my niche and gain a following at my Etsy store by steadily building my inventory and occasionally promoting my work. I've been enjoying dabbling with stained glass again and I find a lot of satisfaction in producing my art. Also, rather than volunteering time working on mountain bike trails I think I'd like to find a more meaningful volunteer opportunity. I have a friend who drives elderly people to appointments. That appeals to me.

Here's wishing you all the best in 2018.

I'll leave you with a video from this past week. We've been invaded by Star Wars characters!