Monday, April 16, 2018

Waiting on Spring and a Meet and Greet at Our Home

It's mid-April and I'm sitting by the fireplace with my feet up, feeling like it's the dead of winter. We just dug out from a major snowstorm that blanketed us with between 15-18" (38-46 cm for my metric friends) of snow. We've broken the record for snowfall total for the month so at least we earned bragging rights for that. Our snowbanks are as high as they've been all winter it seems but I'm hopeful that some milder temps in the offing will make quick work of them.

The snow is pretty but so are flowers, bone dry single-track trails, and freshly mown fairways. I'm ready for a change.

I completed another larger stained glass panel over the weekend. Of all of the pieces I've made since taking up residence down in the glass shop last November, I think this is my favorite. There's something about the flow of the lines and the minimal touches of color that works for me. I listed it on my Etsy site but I'm in no hurry to see it go. I added a few extra dollars to the price to take the sting out of selling it should someone want it.

Here's a link to it with additional photos on my Etsy site.

I tried sitting down last night to come up with my next stained glass design but I came away empty. Often times a fresh pair of eyes the next day makes all the difference. I hope to find time tomorrow to come up with something because I need a project to work on.

We're hosting a meet-and-greet/fundraiser for Maggie Williams this coming Saturday afternoon from 2-4 at our home. Maggie is running for the Minnesota State Legislature in district 58A. We don't technically live in the district (we're a block away) but what's important is supporting candidates who share our views no matter where they reside; plus, I'm her treasurer. Feel free to come out and ask Maggie whatever questions you may have for her. We'll have some snacks and drinks as well. I hope to see some of you here. Contact me for our address if you're interested.

That's all I've got. Carry on!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Toby, A Winter Without End, Glass Projects and Alpe du Zwift!

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. I was 10 years old and too young to appreciate then what his short time on earth meant for our country, but I knew his murder was a significant tragedy. I have a distinct memory of being with my parents in our front room that night and looking up King's name in our World Book Encyclopedia. I checked with them first before penning in the date of his death.

Toby has entered that phase of his life that as a pet owner I dread. His vision is very diminished as is his hearing, and his rear legs appear to be losing some strength -- I'm guessing he has arthritis. I have to mix in some easier days on our walks so he doesn't overdo it because he still wants to run when we're out there. I have to be his eyes while we're on our walks but he seems to do well especially if we're on an open road that's free of traffic. A little nudge from the leash works well to correct his course.

He struggles with steps now so I find myself carrying him around inside our home more and more to help him out. He fell down the steps leading to our main level a couple weeks ago and hit his head. He moaned for a while afterword and I felt so bad for him. Last week I found him stopped halfway up the steps as he tried to follow me but couldn't. That's never happened before. I'm much more attentive to his needs than ever. He used to love being held but that's no longer the case but he's content to sit by my side where he is now. Like any dog, he sleeps most of the day but his naps are much more than naps, they're a very deep sleep. I love that sweet boy so much. We'll be taking both Toby and Charlie with us when we drive out to Oregon to see my brother and his family next month. The thought of leaving him in a kennel or in an unfamiliar environment at his age would be too big of a worry for us.

It's April 5th but you'd never know it by glancing outside. It looks like the dead of winter out there. I have no idea how the early arriving Robins are faring with all of this snow covering their main food source: worms.

My Timehop app is a daily reminder of how far behind we are in terms of snowmelt from previous years. Yesterday's feed was of photos I'd taken on a round of golf at Boulder Pointe Golf Course last year. Looking at the extended forecast, we're still at least a few weeks away from the courses being ready to play. Even that sounds optimistic at this point.

I've been keeping myself busy down in the glass shop, still working on larger panels to hang in the windows of our sun-porch. I've completed 4 of 7 so far and hope to sit down and spend some time tomorrow coming up with a design for the next one. My favorite TV viewing of the year is happening now so I'll be multitasking while watching coverage of The Masters golf tournament. My pick is Rickie Fowler at -9.

It's been a productive five months for me.

My workouts are still taking a backseat to my time spent working on glass projects but I've been making time when I can to get on my CompuTrainer and trash myself for an hour or two at a time. There's a new route on Zwift's Watopia course that closely resembles one of the most epic climbs of Le Tour de France: the climb up Alpe d'Huez. It's called Alpe du Zwift, and it's a blast! My first attempt at climbing it I managed a time of 1:01:15. I improved some on my 2nd attempt with a time of 1:00:33. Obviously, my goal is to break an hour. I'll get there soon enough. It's a fun climb that has an average gradient of 9%. And there's nowhere to hide on it -- no downhills or easy sections. Fun stuff!



Friday, March 23, 2018

A Window To Another World

In the spring of 1992, in the middle of having my home built, I began to wonder what I would do with the transom windows I was having installed in several places in the home. Should I just leave them bare? What do other people do with them? That's when I had the idea to fit them with stained glass but I wasn't keen on the idea of paying someone to do the work. A co-worker, Shannon Madery, suggested I check out a stained glass shop in Eagan called Creations in Glass to see what they offered for instruction. I took their beginner's class in the art of stained glass, having no idea if I'd have either the aptitude or the desire to take it beyond the 6 session course. I would be one of their last students before they went out of business.

I finished my first project, and like a proud little schoolboy bringing his artwork home, I gave it to my mother. She kindly displayed it in her home the rest of her life, as she did with my 2nd project as well. I had no way of knowing then how this passing curiosity with an art I'd never expressed an interest in up until then would become a part of my life, of my identity.

In the 26 years of working with stained glass, I can't think of a time when I've enjoyed it more than I am now. I think what I like most is the creative aspect of what I'm doing; to be able to draw a design and then the process of bringing it to life. It's a rewarding feeling. I would imagine that my brother Keith feels the same satisfaction when he installs kitchen cabinets in a client's home.

I've been content to focus on my little sun-catchers for the past few months but I recently got out of my orbit to entertain a request. I received the following message on my Etsy account two weeks ago:

"Hi Kevin,

Fellow Minnesotan here. I love the geometric nature of your work. Very cool pieces! I have been looking for something like this for a large vertical window I have in my entryway, though I was hoping to find something more in the 10” x 40” range. Do you have anything with that dimension by chance?

Thanks so much and keep up the great work!

— Kyle"

He was referencing this small sun-catcher.

I opened my DeltaCad program and found the archived design of the sun-catcher Kyle liked. I fiddled with it for awhile, eventually coming up with something more in line with Kyle's 10" x 40" (25 x 100 cm) request. I did some simple calculations to put me in the ballpark for what I thought it would cost and sent him the estimate along with the design.

I never heard back from him.

I decided to do the project anyway to see how long something like that would actually take me. I'm fearful of taking on a project and finding that I've committed to something that isn't worth my time and then becoming resentful that I ever took it on. That's too much like a crummy job, and I want to avoid that. Doing this project would give me a good idea of whether or not my estimate was fair for both Kyle and me.

I walked into Glass Endeavors a couple days later with a full-size drawing of the 10" x 40" design, intent on purchasing glass and whatever else I'd need in order to do the project. Zoi, one of the owners asked me if I was going to use H-channel lead considering all of the straight lines involved in it. I told her it had been 26 years since I'd last used that method (The 2nd project mentioned above was the last time I'd used it.) and I wasn't sure I wanted to re-learn it again on a project the size of the one I was undertaking. But the seed was planted. All the while I was choosing glass I kept going back to what Zoi had said, and I knew she was right. I went over to where they stock the long lengths of H-channel lead (also referred to as lead came) and contemplated the steps involved in assembling a window in this way. I can do this I thought to myself. There was a real possibility that I wouldn't be happy with the result but it would be a good learning experience.

I approached Zoi and told her she was right and that I needed to abandon my thoughts of using the trusted copper foil method for this one project and use lead came instead. I gathered up the tools I'd need along with the glass and lead, paid for them, then headed for home.

There was some trial-and-error for me as I worked to find my footing using the lead came method but it didn't take long before I was feeling comfortable. Still, I was working slowly and reworking sections as I tried to be more precise. All the while I was keeping track of the number of hours I was spending on the project via my phone's stopwatch.

I finished the panel in 34 hours knowing that I could've easily shaved several hours off the overall time had I been more experienced and known more fully the problem areas to avoid. I was very pleased with the results, though.

I was surprised to find how much I was enjoying working larger. It's been fun doing the small sun-catchers this winter but the satisfaction I received working on this much larger scale was every bit as rewarding.

And so I did another!

In keeping with my love of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, I designed a window based on the Balloons and Confetti series he did. This was a fun project and I was able to complete it in 21 hours. That's considerably faster than my previous effort but there was also less difficulty involved.

My next project is off the drawing board and ready to be worked on.

Although I have the two larger panels for sale on my Etsy site, I'm actually content if nobody buys them. They serve a useful purpose where I've hung them, preventing birds from flying into the windows of our sun-porch; an occasional problem we've had.

Most years around this time I start cleaning up the glass shop in preparation for my outdoor activities. I'll often think to myself that maybe this will be the year I manage to work on a glass project or two throughout the warmer months, but I never do. This year seems different than all those other years, though, and I'd kinda like to see if I can keep it up. If history is any clue I won't be able to but I intend to try.

Who could've known the path that those curious looking transom windows would set me on those many years ago? I love how small, seemingly meaningless things in our lives can grow to be so much more than we could ever imagine.

Of all the music that's come across my Pandora app while I've been down in the shop lately, none has caused me to hit replay more than this one. It's good music to do glasswork by!




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

Grassroots

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.