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.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pretty in Pink

My first post today only covered the first half of the day. I came home from the TT win and found the princess in fine form. Soulmate and I have been shopping for Katie clothes lately, and we've found a boatload of cute outfits. Here's what I came home to today:

Pink shirt, pink hoodie sweater, pink corduroy pants, pink socks, and pink shoes (they may look white, but trust me, they're pink).

Oh, and she's still carrying the Arizona Ice Tea bottle cap from dinner Thursday night. I honestly don't know why we buy all the toys and books; her all-time favorite toys are (in order): my blue Pilot G-2 gel pen, the orange lid from a Tetra goldfish food cannister, Soulmate's pastry mixing tool, a scratched up DVD, and the bottle cap. Her least favorites, for the time being, are the assortment of Fisher-Price toys, games, and puzzles.

Just for fun, here's a photo from yesterday. I've been taking photos and short videos of the DeSoto bridge demolition going on this month, and Katie has accompanied me on our treks to look at the bridge. Most of the decking and rails are gone, and I think they'll be floating a crane barge on the river soon, to take down the steel trusses. I'll try to post photos and/or videos soon.

My First Win!

Charles and I scored a big "W" in the Henderson Two-Man Time Trial this morning. I'll spare you all the details--here are the highlights: Charles, Julie, and their intrepid Welsh terrier Dublin rode down with me in the Pathfinder to Henderson, a delightful little town on the Minnesota River. We registered, warmed up on the trainer (literally, since it was about 55 degrees at 8am), and got to the start line. An assistant held us upright so we could clip both feet in, the starter counted down, and we were off:

Charles led off for the first 3 minutes or so, to set a good pace at about 28mph, then he "hupped" me (see last Saturday's post on Sparky the seal) and I took a pull. I have no idea how long each of his pulls were after that, but I know mine were almost exactly a minute. I tried to hold whatever speed he was going for as long as I could after each switch, and it was usually about 45 seconds. Then my speed would slow a little despite my best effort to keep it up. Then it was time for "hup" and Charles was in front again.

We went out 7.5 miles, bombed a gentle descent at 35mph, and had to almost stop at the bottom to make a U-turn around an orange cone. Then it was back up the hill and back to the start/finish line. I skipped one pull right after a particularly hard effort (a hill or something), because I was just barely holding his pace even though I was the one drafting. I was never more happy to take the final curve and see the finish line. I thought I was spent, but as any self-respecting sprinter knows, there's always 20 seconds of power left for the end of the race. I surged past Charles and sprinted us over the line:

We cooled down for a few minutes on the bikes, then coasted back to the car and some badly needed Gatorade. Unfortunately, my stomach punishes me for hard TT efforts like this one, so I couldn't eat anything for a couple of hours afterwards.

We ran into Linda Sone who said she thought we had won our category, so we walked over to the posted results, and sure enough, there we were at the top of the Masters 35+ list. Granted, the field was small, but we we beat them by a good margin.

This was the first bike race I've won since 1977. True, it was a small field, and true, my partner is one of the top Masters time trial riders in MN. Also true that I've had very good results over the past several years with a number of top 10 finishes. Still, the first win is sweet, and it doesn't hurt that we got to split the $40 prize money. Thanks to Julie and Dublin for the swell pictures.

I would love to see a Wednesday night time trial in the Saint Cloud area next year. It's too far to drive down to Black Dog for a 16 minute race every week, but it would be cool to ride to a local course as a warm-up and blast off on a 7 mile out and back time trial once a week. Bragging rights to the winner. Maybe I'll try to pull something together. All of a sudden I like to ride my rocket bike. I guess winning does that to you. Thanks Charles!

I've decided to try some cyclocross races this fall, starting 4 weeks from today in Orono. In an effort to be green, I'm only doing races close to home (or close to my in-laws). Here's my tentative line-up: Orono on Oct 4; Flanders on Oct 11 (near my sister-in-law's); Ham Lake Oct 18; Roseville Oct 25 (near my parents-in-law); Rum River Nov 2; either NCS on Nov 8 or Lake Rebecca on Nov 9; and the State CX in Crystal on Nov 15 (maybe).

I'm going to line up at the back of the 45+ race for safety's sake, and see who I can pass on the course. I don't feel like rehabbing my shoulder again...