Thursday, December 25, 2008

Katie's First Christmas

We drove to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas eve and day. It was a quiet affair, with Christmas eve supper and early bed to wait for Santa's arrival, and plenty of sleep-in time Christmas morning. Beth's aunt Ardelle joined us from the nursing home for Christmas dinner, then we finally sat down to open presents. Katie got the lion's share, as befits a princess. She especially likes her doll and stroller, as you can see from the videos and pictures.

Just before we started opening Christmas presents, Grandpa read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 in the Bible, when God gave the greatest Christmas gift of all.

The Gift of the Magi

Merry Christmas, everyone! Most of you have read this, one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. For those of you who measure Christmas spirit by Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", here's my entry: "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry:

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.
In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."
The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.
Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.
There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.
Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.
Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.
So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.
On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."
"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.
"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."
Down rippled the brown cascade.
"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.
"Give it to me quick," said Della.
Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.
She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.
When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.
Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.
"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"
At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.
Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."
The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.
Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.
Della wriggled off the table and went for him."
Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."
"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.
"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"
Jim looked about the room curiously.
"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.
"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"
Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.
Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.
"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.
"White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"
And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.
"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."
The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho ho ho...

Katie met Santa last week, and she apparently wasn't all that impressed. We managed a picture, but only after I snuck up to Santa backwards and plopped Katie on his lap before she could figure out what was happening. OK, so report me to Child Protection Services, but at least we got a decent picture of her first visit from Santa.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May God's peace rest on each of you as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the source of true peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I haven't actually seen my driveway for several weeks now. I can never get the snow off the driveway before people use it to make a U-turn after ignoring the "Dead End" sign a block earlier. Some vehicles with wider tires (envision a red pickup with loud pipes) prefer to use my yard to make their U-turn. Sometimes I can't push away the recurrent dreams of land mines & IEDs that come with these tire tracks.

Then I remember that my best friend and fellow cyclist Big Jim drives a pickup. I guess they're not all driven by hoodlums and deadbeats.

Anyway, your dreams might run more towards a white Christmas, so here's to all of you having a brown one:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat...

...put some money in the old man's hat. Food and charity--I guess that really is a big part of Christmas spirit, when you get down to it.

Yes, my training year started December 1st, and it's going very well as far as that goes--I'm back on the bike, and after getting the TT bike dialed in by my new coach, Larry Foss of The Fix Studio, I am riding it a little bit each week. I'm also riding the spin bike and arc trainer, lifting twice a week, and today (after 6 inches of snow yesterday) I'm fixing to glide around the frozen tundra on XC skis.

I pulled Katie around the neighborhood on her saucer sled during the heaviest snowfall yesterday as well. Here she is before sledding. I call this her "Randy" suit after Ralphie's kid brother in "A Christmas Story" since she is just as immobilized in this snowsuit as Randy was in the movie. I would give a very gentle tug on the rope, and Katie would pitch over backwards, head dragging in the snowy wake of the saucer. Next time we'll try the kneeboard position, I think.

None of this frenetic activity has even begun to make a dent in my weight at this point, though. Maybe it's because we keep getting delicious treats from our friends as Christmas presents. Here I'm drinking some decidedly un-lowfat hot chocolate, into which I added some espresso powder and some Newman's Own Sweet Dark Espresso chocolate (thus the almost black appearance of the Chocolat Chaud). Add to that a box of Fannie May "Chicago Collection" bonbons and my laptop computer, and you have a fattening afternoon activity.

Fortunately, my solution is close at hand: Katie is getting very mobile, and I now spend most of the weekend chasing her around and listening to her chatter on. She has discovered how to use her Fisher-Price pushcart as a battering ram to run Buddy the troll out of her path. He's getting more exercise than he's used to lately as well. Here's a video account for you Katie groupies:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Party Weekend

Last Saturday we had my office Christmas party in the evening, and a party for the kids (and grandkids) of the clinic employees in the morning. Katie loves parties, and this one was no exception. The U of M raptor center staff visited us, and brought some owls, hawks, and the biggest bald eagle I've ever seen.

Katie was appreciative, but kept her distance from the "birdies".

She was less appreciative when the old bearded elf himself made an appearance. St. Nick showed up all red and bewhiskered, jingling bells and crying "Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!". Katie took one look, gave a blood-curdling scream, and buried her head in my leg. No amount of coaxing or cooing brought her out of her nightmare. I had to back up to Santa's lap without her seeing him, and then I plopped her on his lap and the photographer snapped the quickest picture on earth.

Once she looked over and saw who it was, the blood-curdling started all over again. Poor Santa, our clinic will probably have to donate some hearing aids to correct his noise-related hearing loss. Those photos aren't available yet, but when they are, I'll post them.

The picture at the top is Katie in Grandma's snow suit, getting ready to go out in the -30 degree weather. This one is of Katie in her party clothes from the morning (she loves her red outfit!) and me dressed to the nines for our evening soiree. Mommy was still doing her hair, so she missed the photo op.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

She's Walking! Really!

Katie has taken one small step for girl and one giant step for girlkind today. This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee with Soulmate and our friend Pastor Andy, and lo and behold, Katie started walking!

True, she has been taking a few steps and falling on her diaper side, but it really isn't walking when you stand swaying in the breeze and accidentally put one foot in front of the other twice while you're toppling over. Today, everything changed--and I mean everything. Nothing will be safe from the peripatetic pre-schooler bent on mayhem.

Look out Buddy--you are not getting any faster at age 16 (112 in dog years), and keeping your canine carcass away from the little pedestrian will get harder and harder.

She is also getting more and more independent and willing to go to friends and family. Sorry clan, she wasn't quite ready during the reunion in Houston over Thanksgiving week, but now she's busting out all over in extroverted exuberance.

This is all good, since she's also eating like a horse and growing like a weed. My old beat-up shoulders can't take too much more full-time baby portage. Anyway, enjoy the videos of Katie impersonating a drunken sailor minus the bad breath:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Houston, We Have No Problem

Katie, Soulmate and I headed to Houston for the holiday week to have a big family reunion. Nobody on my side of the family has seen Katie until yesterday when we arrived. Two of my three brothers are here with their families (one lives here, so they didn't have to travel), and the last one is coming later this week with his wife and son.

My Houston brother just bought a new, beautiful house in Missouri City south of Houston, and they've been in it less than a month. I think they're nuts to host a reunion so soon after moving--maybe their real intent is to enlist the whole gang to paint or install doorknobs or whatever.

Anyway, Katie has figured out how to use a spoon to eat her yogurt. I knew you'd like to see it, so here's a video.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where I'm Headed

This is where I'm at right now as far as TT form--it's not all bad, since Charles Jacobs and I won the 2-man TT at Henderson in September. Riding with Charles was a bit of an epiphany, since I had never TT'd above 25mph, let alone averaged 27.4mph for 15 miles. I caught the bug then and there, and I plan to use the winter to really dial in my aero position and develop the fitness to ride a fast TT next year. I also upgraded to the newest Gyro TT helmet.

Here's my reference point: my teammate Ian Stanford, the reigning MN State TT champ for at least 2 years running, who just missed the podium for the Elite Nats TT this year. He drills a 40K TT in 52 minutes or less--25 miles at 29mph. He is a certified rocket. I realize that a lot of it is genes, but not all. I've bumped up the technology piece, and saw good results from that at Henderson, but just compare the photos: Ian looks wicked fast; I don't.

Now I'm going to try to dial in a more aggressive aero position over the winter, and do more TT specific work in the early spring. I might risk taking the edge off my sprint, but the years are doing that anyway. My fast twitchers just don't twitch quite as fast as when I ran the 220 in 1979. The only thing I can do better now than I did when I was 18 is suffer. So there.

Ian, no matter what I do, you've got nothing to fear from me, so thanks for the tips and the image of sheer speed. I'm dreaming every night of FAST.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm Feeling a Little Lonely...

Gentle reader, this is the time of year when we all tend to return to our blogging, the weather being too unpleasant or at least unpredictable to spend a lot of time out of doors. So, if you are just now catching up on all my posts for the last few months, or even if you've already read yesterday's post, you'll notice a new widget on the sidebar to the left called "followers". All you have to do is click on the link and follow the directions, and you too will be a follower of Doc's Advice Blog. C'mon, don't be shy, you know you love to get your cool picture posted on other peoples' blogs.

You'd make me feel ever so much better to know that someone out there is actually reading my humble posts, or at least hoping to catch a glimpse of Katie's newest cute trick, or maybe just fishing for more readers for your own blog. Whatever your reason for joining, you get your own place on the sidebar to proudly proclaim your support of Doc, Soulmate, Katie, and the rest of the cast of characters that populates this part of the blogosphere.

And most importantly, you'll ease my loneliness just a little bit.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Breaking News

Jimmer C is moving to Flanders. Now he'll be even easier to pick out in Red. Not that you could miss him in Loon Blue. Or Camoflage. He's that big. Kudos and good luck with the big boys next season. It's always a treat when you're in the race, and you're in almost all of them.

Not to be Indelicate, but...

I had a colonoscopy today, so be nice to me, OK? I'm not the type to trot out all my ailments and drag complete strangers through a grand tour, so don't expect a blow-by-blow account (I guess I forgot about the rotator cuff thing--maybe I am a bit of a hypochondriac). Anyway, you don't need to hear about mine, since Dave Barry has already described my procedure in one of his books, which I've taken the liberty to completely plaigerize and publish below.

Suffice it to say that I sit on a bike seat for a fair number of hours each week, and while I've never been afflicted with--ahem--numbness, I have experienced other untoward effects of prolonged sitting. The thing is, bike seats don't allow the use of those little donut shaped pillows to ease the pain. Bike racers are addicted to pain, so that part has never been an issue for me, I just live with it.

But bike racers are also very concerned about keeping as much oxygen around as possible, and I have less of it available than many of my beanpole comrades, so when I started noticing what seemed to be large amounts of my red cells floating in the commode, I was galvanized into action.
Fortunately, Dr. Gut tells me after the fact that I have a few innocuous vessels up in there that should respond to more fiber in my diet. Of course, I didn't tell him that I had already diagnosed my colon tumor and was drafting my deathbed speech, so I didn't catch right away that my digestive organs actually passed with flying colors.

It was sort of disconcerting, in a good way. I am elated to find out that everything is A-OK back there, and I don't have to think about it again for a number of years. Still, it was a sobering reminder of my mortality (I've had several this year), and if you're my age but possess the body of a 25 year old, your innards are still 50ish and you need to let Dr. Gut have a go at them.
Anyway, because I couldn't have said it better, here is Dave Barry describing my procedure (I got this from an email claiming Barry wrote it, but caveat emptor since email is the most efficient rumor mill and source of urban legends ever known to mankind):


I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America 's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground. MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,'I said.

And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Thanks for the email, Pat. Sorry for not asking permission to publish this, Dave. Tell you what, I'll share half of all the revenue generated by this post. 50% of zero is...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the Road Again & Way Hip

Big Jim and I celebrated his State CX Championship by going out for an easy 2 hour spin on our fixies. We had the best time, especially since I haven't ridden outside for 2 months except to commute to work and back about 4 days a week. The weather behaved just enough, with temps hovering at the freezing mark and intermittent snow flurries that reminded us of what's to come.

Anyway, true to form it was a typical "easy" spin for us: Big Jim cruised along just barely in his recovery heart rate, and I averaged 148bpm for the entire ride, just below my tempo pace. I didn't feel it a bit, though--riding a fixie you tend to forget that you're pedaling at all, and you just feel yourself floating over the road. We've decided to make fixed-gear riding a staple of our winter training program. No deraileur to dirty, and lots of strength training going up the hills at 50rpms. And total hipness to boot.
BTW, I updated Saturday's post with new pictures and more accurate info. Fair and Balanced, as always...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Epic Mac

Here's Katie's most recent food adventure. She loves mac & cheese, but I'm not exactly sure what she loves to do with it most. I think the winner at the end of the day is Buddy the dog.

Breaking News

Item #1: Nooksack 39, Forks 14. Nephew Caleb's Pioneers got behind 14 zip in the first half, allowing Forks' 1,700 yard rusher a 63 yard gallop for a touchdown. Then they allowed him 11 more yards for the entire second half, almost keeping him under 100 yards for the only time this season. Oh, and they scored 39 unanswered points to win their opening round at the state tournament. Here, Caleb has just finished putting the big hurt on the Forks' kick returner, a hit so savage it got the crowd and his teammates in a frenzy.

Item #2: Big Jim took the State CX title for the 45+ category in cyclocross in Crystal this morning. He bridged up to 2 star single-speeders (they combined the all-ages single speed CX race with the 45+ race and the 55+ race as well) and stayed away from the rest of the field for the second half of the race. It's a well-deserved win for a selfless racer with an engine that just won't quit. This picture is copped of off Robbie Halvorson's Flickr site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's in the Genes I Guess...

My nephew Caleb is a sophomore starting at safety for Nooksack Valley, WA varsity football. The Pioneers are 8-1, won their conference championship, and are headed to the state tournament. It's only fitting, since Grandpa was an old footballer in eastern PA, Uncle Dave and the Hudson Pirates won the 1975 Iowa 2A title, I went to state with the same school in 1978, and Uncle Scott made the final game of the 1979 and 1980 state tourney with the Pirates as well.

Caleb's dad, Jon, was more of a basketball sort, being 5 inches taller than the other 3 of us, so he didn't see much action his junior year (even though they made state that year too). It's true in this case that the apple didn't fall far from the family tree. Here's a link to clips from every game they played this year. Caleb is #26 in the white jersey, and #22 in the purple.

Turns out their defensive front is so spectacular, he rarely gets to make tackles, but he's snared some INTs. They begin their run to the state title this weekend, I believe, or maybe next weekend. I'll post more as I hear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keeping the Mother-In-Law Happy

One of the most important marital activities a husband can participate in is to placate his Mother-In-Law. They say that the big three challenges in marriage are money, sex, and in-laws; your wife's thinking about all three are usually shaped at least in part by her mother. So, as I said, it's important to keep your mother-in-law happy.

One sure-fire way to do this is to publish a picture of the cutest princess in the world wearing something new that M-I-L bought. Here it is:
Way to go, mom!
BTW, to Katie, purple is the new black.

Back in Print

I shot my rave on the recent hit-and-run to the op/ed editor at our local paper, and he must have liked what he wrote, because it ran Sunday morning bottom center of the Op/Ed page of the Sunday Times. He only took out a couple of colorful words like "stinking" coward and "cowards are always losers".

Here's the link:

BTW, take the time to read the online comments--I'm always amazed and amused by the obtuseness of some readers, and the acuteness of others. The best non-sequiturs are always in the comments. It's a little discouraging to realize that these folk are the ones who are actually reading the newspaper. I shudder to think about the ones who don't read at all. Mr. (or Ms.) Hit-And-Run is most likely the latter, so my rant probably didn't reach them. It's possible it will reach their co-worker, spouse, friend, or neighbor, so maybe it'll root them out after all.

Me? I'll keep wearing my rear-view mirror.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Antivenom

My last few posts have been uncharacteristically venomous, and I feel a need to rebalance things a little. It's not that I am retracting anything I wrote previously, it's just that I don't want to become an angry young man. Never mind that I'm not particularly young anyway.

One character trait of angry young men that I've never been at all fond of is taking oneself too seriously. This reached epidemic proportions over the last few months as the election approached, around the water cooler, in attack ads, on Fox News and CNN, and especially in the blogosphere. I don't care if you ARE right, you have no right to be a self-satisfied bore in public.

So, to counteract any tendency in myself to become boorish or boring, I submit a nosegay of a video of little Katie perambulating around the kitchen with the help of Fisher-Price. I just got home from work to find Jazlyn (our faithful babysitter) playing with Katie, and I grabbed the camcorder when she started reaching for this toy:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Official

Pinch Flat News has officially been removed from my list of blogs I read.

What started as light, agreeable, off-kilter cycling fluff has death-spiraled into a suffocating political diatribe full of ad hominem attacks, sycophantic fawning megaditto comments, and endless tedious stream-of-consciousness writing.

Oh, and did I mention that Pinchie accused me of being "a goddamn racist"? All because I commented on the 1999 NYT article about the Clinton administration and Fannie Mae, noting that the Clinton administration pushed FNMA to begin guaranteeing the riskier sub-prime loans that they had heretofor avoided with good reason, all because Clinton wanted to see more low-income households achieve the American Dream of homeownership.

My father-in-law corrected me though: the Clinton administration wasn't the first to pressure FNMA to take on riskier loans. It was actually the Carter administration that started that push. Clinton managed to succeed to a much greater level.

I'm not exactly sure how it's "racist" to point out poor judgment and failed policies in a series of administrations. Guaranteeing loans to poor risk households is bad business as we've found out recently. It doesn't matter what color the households are, if they're saddled with more debt than they can afford, the house of cards will fall.

There's plenty of blame to go around, as I mentioned in a previous post. Probably least to blame are the homeowners who were sweet-talked into abysmally bad loan structures to take on more debt than they could handle. Probably most to blame are a series of presidential administrations, including the current one, who interfered with the mortgage and banking industry to advance political aims that were ill-conceived with tragic consequences for the very citizens they were trying to better.

Jimmy Carter had a better plan to create affordable housing for lower income families, and fortunately he pursued Habitat for Humanity instead of manipulating taxpayer-funded juggernauts that have contributed to our beached economy. I've probably donated more money to Carter's Habitat for Humanity this year alone than Pinchie has in his entire sorry life, but in his universe faith-based organizations can never measure up to a really good governmental pork project like forcing FNMA to guarantee sub-prime loans.

Or you can read Pinchie's version in which it's all Bush's fault from start to finish. Pinchie seems pretty ignorant of politics and economics, but he's really handy with ad hominem and strawman arguments, if you like that sort of stuff. As for me, to paraphrase Bethoven's dismissal of Napoleon in the inscription on his Eroica Symphony: "to the memory of a great blog".


My clinic partner has made an amazing recovery, owing half to pure luck and the other half to being in excellent shape (luck favors the prepared, as the old saw goes). His wrist is sprained but not broken, and he's able to hobble around despite considerable road rash and a broken lower rib (near where it attaches to the vertebra).

One little anecdote that completely captures my partner's personality: he was hospitalized overnight for observation, and when he got up Saturday morning he was bored, so he wheeled his IV down the hall (in his hospital gown, with an extra one on backwards so as not to scare the staff with his rump road rash) to the room of one of his patients, and proceeded to examine them and dictate a progress note on them. When I saw the patient on rounds the next day, he was very impressed by his dedication. I wish the nurses had snapped a cellphone picture of the two of them, doctor and patient, in their gowns and IVs.

The police have narrowed down the hit and run vehicle to a minivan from 1996 to 2000 model years, obviously with a broken off right side-view mirror and missing antenna. As my partner was starting to fly through the air on impact, he thinks he remembers seeing a recessed door handle in dark green, blue, or grey. It's likely they live somewhere between St. Joseph and Sartell, so if anyone spots such a vehicle somewhere in Stearns county, call the cops and report on them. See Ian's comments on my previous post for what can happen if we all keep our eyes open.

As a completely unrelated aside, if you get bored with HBO as the winter indoor training season arrives, check out this list of films with spiritual themes as rated by

Almost all of the films, even the foreign ones, are available on Netflix. The breadth of films and genre represented is amazing, with something for everyone. I doubt you'll find any Tarantino films here, and you'll be reading a fair amount of English subtitles, but I doubt you'll be disappointed. Some straight-laced folk may be scandalized by "mature elements" from many of these movies (think the bedroom scene from Schindler's List), but all the films on the list that I've actually seen (Babette's Feast, Elephant Man, The Apostle, Dead Man Walking, and a surprising number of others) have gotten me thinking about eternal matters or my own personal spirituality.

Even so, sometimes I still need Bruce Willis to gun down a room full of bad guys just to re-balance the universe. Or at least to offset the effects of a hit and run.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You Stinking Coward

One of my partners at the clinic was struck by a motorist and seriously injured last night while biking near his house. He was hit from behind by a vehicle at highway speeds on county road 133, which has a wide shoulder and good pavement. The vehicle had to have drifted most of the way onto the shoulder in order to hit him. It was 6pm, with good light and visibility, and my partner had front and rear lights, the bright red blinking kind.

It was a hit-and-run.

My friend was shot through the air still attached to his bike, rolled 2 or 3 times, and slid on the asphalt, finally rolling to a stop in the ditch. He had to crawl out of the ditch and flag down another motorist to get help. He suffered a rib fracture, a possible wrist bone fracture, and lots of road rash. He came close to requiring abdominal surgery. He is 50 but has the body of a 25 year old, and that had to help. His helmet almost certainly saved his life.

The rest of you can go back to reading your gmail or whatever now--I need to have a word with the motorist: you stinking coward, you selfish narcissistic piece of crap. Why didn't you stop? The impact broke your right side mirror into pieces, which the cops have scooped up. Every body shop, parts store, and salvage yard has a description of the make and model of your vehicle, and will turn you in as soon as you show up to buy a replacement. Every cop in the county is looking for your vehicle with a broken mirror, just waiting to slap your fat backside into jail--hit and run is a felony, baby.

Maybe you were drinking at 6pm on Halloween night. Maybe you were texting. Maybe you just finished lighting up a joint. Maybe you were arguing with your girlfriend or boyfriend or ex. Maybe you've had 3 DUIs and thought you were looking at doing time. Maybe your parents didn't raise you right, to admit your faults and take responsibility for your actions. Maybe you're just a lousy excuse for a human being because all you can think about is your own fear, even when another human being lies bleeding and battered in the ditch because of your actions.

Maybe you'll get away with it. OJ did, and he's spent the rest of his life paying for it privately, trying to forget or to medicate the pain or to cut his losses. C'mon, confession is good for the soul. Turn yourself in, take responsibility for your actions for once, and be a man. Or a woman. Thank your lucky stars you're not looking at hit-and-run manslaughter or worse.

I bet it won't happen, because you're a coward, and cowards are always losers. In that case, I hope you are caught, and rot in prison.

I'm glad I got that off my chest, but I'll never be able to stop looking over my shoulder, waiting for you to come up behind me and run me over too. Have a nice life, you stinking coward.

Friday, October 31, 2008

First Trick or Treating in 30 years

Soulmate and I took Katie out for Trick or Treating tonight. It's the first time ever for little Katie, and the first time in at least 30 years for her parents. Being a little rusty, our neighbors' girls, Maddie and Grace, volunteered to show us the ropes. We got Katie dressed in her blanket sleeper for warmth (it is Minnesota after all) and put her little "lion cub" costume on. Soulmate painted on the "Wizard of Oz" lion face, and we were set to go.

We went around to all the neighbors with lights on in the 2 or 3 blocks directly to our west and south. Most were home, and were delighted to meet the princess cum lion cub, many for the first time. We were equally delighted to see them, many of whom we haven't seen for most of the year or longer, and some of whom are new to the neighborhood.

Everyone seemed to think Katie was so cute that she deserved 3 or 4 pieces of candy. Daddy didn't protest at all, knowing that precious little of what we collected tonight will ever make it into Katie's mouth, and almost all the rest will end up being metabolized by Daddy on the bicycle. I tried to help Katie pick the "best" kinds of candy (i.e. the kinds Daddy likes best), but she ended up choosing her own and putting them into her bag.

Soulmate has already raided the loot and taken all the Sweetarts and other sour candy, which is just fine with me since my tastes run to chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. I've spent precious little time on the bike the past several weeks, and my jeans are getting that uncomfortable feeling in the waist and seat. Hopefully I'll be able to get out tomorrow and burn off some serious calories with Big Jim.

Katie was quite gleeful about the whole experience of Trick or Treating, especially with older friends Maddie and Grace to show her the ropes. She even deigned to allow their Mom, Tami, to hold her for a little while as we trudged around the neighborhood:

Here's a video from today starting with a little breakfast and ending with a tired lion cub about to fall asleep on her feet after a really fun day:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sweater Weather

Soulmate's good friend Judy brought a package to church for Katie last Sunday. It contained two sweaters hand-knit by Judy's 95 year old mother. You could only hope to be half as witty and delightful as she if you make it to 95. Anyway, I wanted to immortalize her in my small way by showing off little Katie in one of the sweaters.

Other than that, it was a beautiful Saturday which I idled away with the girls, without accomplishing a single thing. So there.

Oh yeah, and I spun for 2 hours tonight while watching Bruce Willis Die Hard the second time. Did you ever notice that everybody in that movie either misses wildly with 1000 rounds from their Uzzi or Gloc, or else they score about 100 splatter rounds per body. Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Throwin' y'all a bone

I realize I haven't updated much lately; I really have no excuse whatsoever, except maybe that we're having such a good time being a family that I haven't had any time to document us being a real family. Hey, give me a break--Ozzie has an entire film crew hanging around his crib to document his family's dysfunction.

Anyway, here's a bone for you Katie junkies out there. Our friend Donna, who took the pictures of Katie at the church picnic this past summer, took pictures at Katie's dedication service last week. Here are some highlights:

As for you poor slobs who are still looking for scraps of bike blogging, I got nothing. Well almost nothing: I spun for 2 hours tonight (after putting Katie to bed, naturally) while watching Will Smith pulverize mutants (again). No, it wasn't "Independence Day" (one of my all-time favorites), but rather "I Am Legend". Whoa, there's some serious suspense in that one. And some mutants with a very high ick factor. Forget the cure, dude, just keep that M16 handy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Whaddaya want for nuthin?

At least it's not a rrrrrrrubber biscuit. Katie demonstrates the proper technique for eating a teething biscuit, and not just any type: a genuine Italian Biscotti Plasmon. Ray from Mi Famiglia restaurant gave them to Katie a while back, but she has shown no interest whatsoever in anything remotely crunchy--until now.

Katie and mommy have been attending a toddler class every Tuesday morning (where the object is for the children to learn how to be toddlers, evidently). The power of peer pressure starts very early, and Katie has been looking around during snack time and figuring out that cheerios and other crunchy things aren't just for feeding to the dogs after all. Though when all is said and done, the leftovers still end up going to the dogs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We had Katie dedicated at church yesterday. It's kind of like a baptism for Catholics or Lutherans, except the baby stays dry. It's patterned after Samuel in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament, both of which were brought to the temple at a young age, and dedicated to God's service. I don't recall any babies being dunked or sprinkled like some churches do now, but that's up to the theologians to debate. We just go along with the traditions as we understand them.

Anyway, Katie was a little angel during the dedication ceremony, except that she really wanted to take the microphone away from whoever had it, and she really didn't want to wear the cute but useless red headband that matched her little velvet dress/tights outfit. Here are some pictures from the ceremony, and the whole 9 minute video. Warning: there is nothing about bikes or bridges in this entire video.

Friday, October 3, 2008


An alert reader recently sent me a link to a 1999 NYT article that explains why we're in the financial crisis we're trying so hard to legislate away. This article was written 9 years ago to the day that the current administration's fix-it plan was voted down.

NYT September 30, 1999: Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Who is to blame: the Clinton administration for forcing Fannie Mae to buy riskier mortgages in an effort to increase minority home ownership? The Bush administration for failing to foresee the unintended consequences and rein it in? The big banks who followed one another like lemmings into ever riskier sub-prime markets? Greedy and shady mortgage brokers and house appraisers who arm-twisted unsuspecting homeowners into ARMs and interest-only mortgages that could only succeed if housing prices continued to climb year after year? Gullible and covetous consumers who knew they couldn't afford that McMansion but bought it anyway because the bank said they could?

My two nearest neighbors have been foreclosed, and their houses sit empty and bedraggled because they got sucked into sub-prime mortgages. We tried to bail them out, but their financial situations were almost cartoonishly impossible. There was no way out for them but to sit idly by and let the bank evict them.

Shame on all of you who let this happen, or made this happen, or could have put a stop to it and didn't. Shame on all of us for wanting more than we can afford, and living above our means just because the credit card company or bank says we can. Shame on you politicians currently making political hay over the heartache and loss of millions of us enmeshed in this travesty. Shame on all you Wall Street types standing hat in hand waiting for the government to bail you out so you can start anew bilking small-time investors out of their hard-earned retirement funds.

I don't know anything about ING Direct, since I don't have any money invested in their company, but they published a full page ad in a bunch of newspapers yesterday (shame on them for trying to get more customers by referring to this crisis!). They have published a declaration of financial independence with 10 points that I have always lived by, and recommend that you do as well.

BTW, don't be fooled by the pols who promise that this $700B bailout will be cheaper than that because some of the toxic investments will actually bring some income back to the taxpayer "investors". The government's accounting system is a giant shell game, and any taxes we pay in whatever form (including those we'll have to pay to make up the $700B bailout) are already spent by our elected officials. Any "payoff" from this cash infusion will inevitably cycle back to somebody's porkbarrel project.

I'm bracing for higher taxes, less services, and no real breakthrough in the credit crunch with this bailout. I no longer look to the government to look out for me and my interests; heck, I've stopped including estimates from social security and medicare when I calculate my retirement needs, because I just don't have faith in those programs or the system that backs them.

Audacious hope? Sorry Barack, I don't think so. If you think a new administration is going to fix any of this, you're worse than Don Quixote: you're tilting at phantom windmills. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Once upon a time I believed that a man or a party could change the world for the better, but I don't anymore. One man's utopia is everybody else's dystopia. Live and let live. Down with government. Long live gridlock. Remember the law of unintended consequences, it works best when the plan is big and complicated. Like the bailout plan.

And I'm usually an optimist...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Progress on the DeSoto

I haven't had time to upload any more videos of the progress they're making on demolishing the DeSoto Bridge just up river from us. I've taken a few more clips over the past couple weeks, and as you can see, there's been some progress:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Updates from the Princess

I was in Chicago last week for my specialty's annual meeting and expo, so Soulmate took Katie up north. They hung out at her uncle's dairy farm for the weekend, and Grandpa and Grandma's log "cabin" for the rest of the week. Here is a video of Katie hanging out with her dogs, meeting some baby cows, petting a cat, boating, and eating. She tries her socks out for dessert...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Passin' the Time

I've been off on sabbatical for a couple of weeks, which sounds pretty exotic but it's not. I took September off because my partners are all back from their summer vacations (while I was working my butt off), and the office is a little slow in September, what with kids in school, parents preoccupied with fall activities, and nobody has any tonsil, sinus, or ear infections.

Based on this picture taken by my father-in-law a couple of weeks ago, sabbatical seems to be treating the family pretty well. Soulmate has me home to do stuff and to pick up after myself more than usual; I don't have to go off to work every day (though I love what I do); and Katie gets me 24/7. To say she's a daddy's girl would be the understatement of the year.

I usually use sabbatical to catch up on CME, do projects that I've put off for too long, and get back out on the bike in preparation for cyclocross season in the fall. This one has been a little different, with Katie pretty much dictating most of what I do all day, and Soulmate dictating the rest. It's pretty easy to take, though, since it's all easy stuff except when Katie is crabby and teething. To take some liberty with the old saying: if Katie ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

One thing I knew was coming but had delayed until last week: I give Katie kisses, and she gives me viruses. The first big one hit last week, with both of us out of commission, and Soulmate spared. I'm still nursing a very tender stomach, but the head cold and sore throat are gone.

It's a good thing, since I'm heading for Chicago tomorrow for my national ENT meeting. It should be a good meeting, and I'll catch up on quite a bit of CME because I've signed up for the maximum number of courses and seminars. Now if I can just drink enough coffee to stay awake in those afternoon sessions, it'll all work out.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Brother Dave was able to get a text message that everything is OK with them in Houston. 2 big trees down, parts of the privacy fence destroyed, debris everywhere, but nobody hurt in the entire neighborhood. The nursing home has a backup generator, so Mom can head back there tonight and get back on her schedule again. God is good.

Shwammy update: as I predicted, the rain from a couple days ago mixed with rain at race time to make for a muddy Fat Tire Festival. To no one's surprise, Jonathan Page (picture copped off of pulled away at the end after catching a breakaway Jeff Hall. Our own Doug Swanson got 7th and Ian Stanford 13th.

Big Jim almost pulled off a top 20 (again!) with 25th, and 1st in his age group. Matty got 37th, but got beat by a girl (Lea Davison from VT who rode an amazing 2:19:26 and beat last year's womens' champ Jenna Zander by almost 3 minutes). Couldn't resist, Matt. All in all, GrandStay Hotels had an excellent showing.

Bang! Lights Out...

I've been calling my brother in Houston all morning, but the cell network is overloaded or down. I texted my nephew since he's the most tech savvy (my brother being a dinosaur and all), but no answer. reports 92mph winds in Houston right now, and up to 6" of rainfall. Some highrises have had most of their windows blown out.

We're praying for you guys.
Oh, and it's raining in Hayward, WI. Hope Big Jim remembered his mudders for Shwammy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yikes! It's Ike!

When we Northerners talk about "the big one" we mean 20 inches of snowfall and white-out blizzard conditions. My brother in Houston called me just now, and he's staring down Hurricane Ike, a 250 mile diameter category 2/3 behemoth with 110mph winds, an eye with a 60 mile diameter (the eye alone is 10 times bigger than our biggest thunderstorms), and a 30 foot high wall of water in the storm surge.

He called to assure me that he picked Mom up from the nursing home and took her to his house, where they've bought out Lowe's or Home Depot to be ready for the fury. He bought a Honda generator that would easily power a modest rambler indefinitely, and they've charged up their cell phones (pray that Ike doesn't knock over all the cell towers), and they've headed for the basement...oh that's right, that's what WE do in a storm. In Houston, first of all the basement is the first thing to be flooded since they're about 10 feet above sea level, and second, nobody there has a basement (see #1).

Anyway, they are battened down for the big one.

Katie, on the other hand, is getting ready for a different kind of big event: our church is hosting a baby shower for Katie and Soulmate tomorrow morning. I've been invited too, and I can tell you, I can hardly wait. (Anybody out there who desperately needs to go for a training ride at exactly 11am tomorrow? Call me ASAP!) Seriously, I am one who believes it is possible to tap into the feminine side and actually enjoy 3 hours playing games and opening presents. Possible--unexpected, but possible.

I go on record, however, to reserve the right to decline to participate in any and all diaper games, especially the one where the hostess melts various chocolate candy bars into disposable diapers, and participants try to guess which warm brown pile belongs with which candy wrapper. This is an almost sacrilege to a lover of sweets. What a waste of a perfectly good candy bar.

Katie is trying to figure out what in the world to wear to the shower, a problem she shares almost daily with Soulmate. Here's one possibility:

For a while there, Soulmate let me pick Katie's outfits because I usually get her up when she wakes up in the morning (Katie I mean; I stopped trying to get Soulmate up many years ago after she bought a nightgown that had a picture of a sleeping bear and said "Caution: may bite if awakened early" or something like that). More recently, for reasons undisclosed to me, she has started laying out clothes for Katie the night before. Is it me?

If you've made it this far looking for something bike related, congratulations! I cleaned up my TT bike and road bike and hung them up on the top racks, and installed Maxxis MiMos on my Ksyriums and put them on my Scott Team CX in advance of CX season. Big Jim invited me to plan for an MEA weekend excursion to Maah Daah Hey (Medora) in October, so I am grudgingly starting to pry the mud off of my Giant Anthem Advanced (it's still in the doghouse for bucking me off and precipitating my rotator cuff surgery in February). The trail looks pretty benign, and Big Jim assures me that there's nothing technical about it, just lots of fun MTB riding. Soulmate has given me the tentative thumbs up, but we'll see how I feel on the CX bike first, then decide if I'm going to push my luck on the MTB.

BTW, good luck to all the Fat Tire Racers tomorrow at Shwammy, especially Big Jim, Jeffro, Matt, Ray, and Doug and Ian. Don't let that kid with one gear beat you this time...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays

Katie is very generous: she kisses the phone when Grandma calls, kisses photos of herself and her loved ones, gives toys to other children in her playgroup, and gives her cute little cold viruses to daddy. As is the case in the movie "Gremlins", the cute little cuddlies turn into sharp-toothed nasties. Her cute little case of the sniffles has laid me low with a gigantic head cold.

That's OK, since it's been raining all day here, so I'm not tempted to go out in the cold and worsen my malady. It's been a good day to catch up on things. Here's Soulmate reading the paper, and Katie about to make a call on her Ariel "cellphone".
Soulmate was going to host a playgroup event here this morning, but it was cancelled due to rain. My task before the event was to clean up the very messy pile of stuff I stash by my place at the kitchen table. Ouch. I found some stuff in there I didn't expect.

The earliest addition to the pile was from May, and is a request for a charitable donation. We do a lot of that, and probably receive 20 mailings a week from charitables asking for more.

The most important is the packet of post-placement adoption papers that need to be filled out and sent in to the state to "register" our adoption. While Katie could only be taken from us over my dead body, still the wonks in St. Paul need to exert their authority (and extract yet another pound of flesh).

The next most important, I'm embarrassed to say, is a rather sizeable bonus check from my office dated July 21, 2008. I feel a little like Albert Einstein (in behavior, not intelligence), who apparently used paychecks from the government as bookmarks in his many books. He was the original absent-minded professor, much to the chagrin of his heirs, who found the checks much later when going through his estate.

Anyway, with a lot of prodding I have levelled the pile, thrown out a goodly number of outdated papers, and filed away a bunch more. Now my pile is only 2" thick but contains quite a bit of work yet. So why am I blogging instead of beavering away at the pile? Because I'm SICK! Give me a break.

Here's a compilation of the bridge videos I've taken so far. They end with yesterday's update, but with the rain today there hasn't been any sign of the demo crew, and won't be at this rate. It's pouring right now.

Oooo--I think I'll use my camcorder from now on. My cellphone cam is pretty bad at this distance. I'll post better videos whenever it seems like they've made some progress.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DeSoto Bridge Deconstruction

The DeSoto bridge is the same make and model as the I-35 bridge that collapsed last year in Minneapolis. This spring during "routine" inspection, the DeSoto was condemned and closed due to bent gusset plates, the same condition that has been implicated in the I-35 bridge collapse. I bet they looked closer this time than usual.

I live down the Mississippi from the bridge, and demolition began in earnest in late August. I started keeping video logs every morning as part of my morning routines with Katie. You know, make baby formula for her and daddy formula for me (I prefer a 2 shot hazelnut latte, shaken not stirred), feed the goldfish in the pond, water the deck flowers, swing on the swing, and take pictures of the bridge demolition. Pretty routine.

Here's one clip for your viewing pleasure. Go ahead, it's short. And there's lots of heavy equipment busting stuff up.

Meanwhile, in a post this spring I highlighted my cousin Mark's son Jim Grabowski, a 6'7" 225lb senior forward for Southwest Baptist University. Now he'll be sayin' Erin Go Bragh in the land of leprachans, because he just signed with Dart Killester, a pro B-ball team in Dublin, Ireland. Don't swing those elbows too much when you pull down a rebound, Jim--you don't want to pick a fight with an Irishman on his home turf. Oh, and if you happen to run into Bono and the boys, say hi for me. U2 Go Bragh!

Oh, and Lance has decided to win the Tour de France again next year. Seriously. I might call and see if he needs another geriatric rider to fill out his team. Grey Power!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Couple of Things

It got chilly last Tuesday, the day school started. I guess that's appropriate: the last day of summer, Labor Day, was 89 and muggy hot; the next day, the first day of school, cool and dry. Anyway, Katie and I were preparing to go out on our morning ritual of feeding the fish, watering the flowers, and watching the DeSoto bridge demolition. I opened the door to the deck and got chilled by a northwesterly breeze with a real kick, and I realized that Katie didn't have any real cool weather clothes.

See my previous post Feelin' Groovy Fashion Show for some of her summer outfits, but these are a little bit skimpy when the mercury dips below 50 in the morning. So off we went to the local department store where they had lots of fleece pullovers in camo for boys, but absolutely nothing fallish for girls. So then we went to T.J.Maxx where they always have cool stuff, and sure enough, we found some:

Then we headed to a couple of boutiques downtown where we found even more hip pint-sized fall fashions. So Katie is ready for action, and that's what we had today.
Soulmate went to aerobics this morning and Katie power-slept for a 2 plus hour nap. After a quick lunch, we headed to Lake Wobegon itself, Freeport, MN where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all of the children are above average.

Just north of town you take a right on county road 39 and go a half mile, passing cornfields on the right and left, and suddenly you spot Reindeer and assorted exotic creatures on the right. You have arrived at Hemker Park & Zoo, the best-kept secret in Stearns County. The Hemker family has collected and cared for exotic animals for 35 years, and opened to the public in 1996.

Katie was delighted to pet the rabbits, kudu, Thompson's gazelles, baby Reindeer, red deer, sheep, a little donkey, and a yearling Holstein. She laughed at the capuchin monkeys, the ring-tailed lemurs, and 6 cute raccoons, as well as tropical birds, butterflies, a dromedary camel, a zebra, a wildebeest, kangaroos, and musk ox. The penguins and the ostrich were on loan to another zoo apparently. Here's a slide show of what we saw:

After re-visiting the monkeys and little rabbits (for one final petting of the bunnies), we headed back into Freeport to take in another well-kept secret: Charlie's Cafe. OK, if you've ever driven west of Saint Cloud toward Alexandria, Charlie's is no secret, with a giant billboard and the entire side of a barn painted with their sign.

Word is that Garrison Keillor, host of Prairie Home Companion radio show, lived for a short time in Freeport while getting started as a writer. He used to hang around Charlie's drinking coffee and watching the people. The Chatterbox Cafe is the radio incarnation of Charlie's, and many of the characters in and around Freeport are immortalized in the show's cast of characters.

Anyway, a guy can get a pretty good burger there, and some pretty good pie too. At least we did. Katie charmed everyone, and seemed to enjoy the booster seat like it was an amusement park ride or her blue swing at home.

I promise I'll upload my videos of the DeSoto bridge demolition tomorrow. I know you're breathless.