Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Slip slidin' away"

Paul Simon's song of remorse and longing could apply to tonight's weather. My location dodged the freezing rain, but sleet covered the roadways with a few billion icy ball bearings. Braking on nearly frictionless spheres is not conducive to optimal stopping distances. There are a few drivers in large four wheel drive vehicles who seem impaired in logic and feel that blasting down the roads at 10+ mph over the posted speed limit will not affect their vehicle's braking power. The tow truck companies will have a profitable day today.

The weather put a damper on my plans today. I had planned on going to the orchid show at the Como Conservatory today. I couldn't find anyone to go with me and did not want to attend it alone. By the time Annette told me about the brunch at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the weather was starting to become a factor here in Bloomington.

Lucy really enjoyed attending the orchid show the years we attended. She was fascinated by the beauty of the flowers coming from exotic and tropical locations, and I was happy tagging along and spending quality time with her. Our next orchid viewing would come in June at the Arboretum when the lady's slippers would bloom. Believe it or not the Minnesota state flower, the showy lady's slipper, is an orchid and several types of lady's slippers are native flora. Lucy's parents had lady's slippers growing in the bog. Embarrass, MN gets extremely cold during the winter. Their home was close to a peat bog near a river, so the cold air stayed concentrated. I could count on Bob letting us know several times during the winter that it was colder than -50°F before wind chill. Summers were short and muggy and yet orchids survived in those conditions. Orchids in the northeast corner of the state and prickly pear cactus in the southwestern corner always cause disbelief in people from outside the area. Beauty is not always frail. Lucy's battle taught us all that lesson.

The electrical work Lucy and I wanted done is completed. I could not have it done during her battle because of the dust. Her immune system was working hard enough the way it was without introducing particulates. Midwest Electric and Generator did a great job despite working in sub-zero temperatures for part of the work. I think she would be happy with the ceiling fan in the living room.

It has been fun getting caught up with some of my friends. Mary and I had breakfast a couple days ago and I got to hear about her new business venture and what she wants done for her website. It was a fun couple hours and I enjoyed her witty banter. It knocked some of the rust out of my brain. Patty was kind enough to make a fabulous meal for my help with her iPhone. My cousin Julie and I worked ona craft project together (OK, she did the majority of the work). Suzy and I had lunch about a week ago, so I am getting out occasionally.

Ken and I will be getting together after the weather warms up and I hope to meet up with Gerry sometime soon. We may not get above zero from Wednesday night through Friday afternoon. Monday and Tuesday potentially can drop more sleet and ice on the area. Groundhog's Day is about a week away and it marks the halfway point of winter. Getting a later start on snowfall has help make the winter more bearable and seem a little shorter.

One of the nice things about blogging is not being constrained to a subject or a deadline. Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" has a verse that could describe blogging despite being written in 1872:

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

OK, the oysters did not fare well after the walrus uttered his soliloquy, and I hope that reading this does not make you long for boiling water. I do thank you for reading sticking though the blog's transition and I hope I've provided a modicum of entertainment along with my ramblings and philosophical pontificating.

Spend some time with someone special to you and give that person a hug. For those of you in a cold clime, cuddle if you have someone. It will keep your life from slip slidin' away.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The warmth of a hug

Minnesota in the winter can get cold. Cold weather can induce a variety of creaks, pops, groans and other unusual noises which will rouse me from a deep slumber. Those are usually from my knees, shoulders, back and neck. The house will also have some peculiar noises from the uneven contraction of building materials. With the wind shifting to predominately northwest, the airport is using their alternate runways which occasionally cause an international flight or cargo flight more laden with fuel than other planes (called "heavies" by air traffic controllers) to fly lower over Interstate 35W a mile east of me. Cold air is more dense so the planes have more resistance to overcome. That density also causes the sound to be louder and carry farther.

Today was the first day in just shy of four years where a midnight to midnight maximum temperature did not exceed 0°F (-18°C for my metric friends) at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where the official National Weather Service readings are acquired. There were several days during that span where the temperature was one or two degrees above zero at midnight, but slipped below zero by the 1:00 am reading. For those who heard it is the coldest weather in the past four years, the talking head on TV is wrong unless it drops down colder than -33°F tonight. The forecast low is -12°F.

The wind was steady today with some surprising gusts. Cold weather can be lethal. One increases survival chances by preparing. Utility workers are often times called out to do an emergency repair in weather most foul or frigid. When I went out today, I knew the battery in my car is good, I keep it maintained, the heater works, and the OnStar, heated seats and remote starter are nice.  I also dressed in layers in case I needed to wait in the car if something unexpected happened, like a flat tire or getting run off the road by a drunk driver.

I had not planned on venturing out today. The original plan was to help a friend with iPhone ringtones sync issues, but that was done yesterday and everyone had a great meal and a lot of fun (thanks, Patty!). Today I got to spend time with my cousin Julie. Her work schedule is really crazy so we don't get much time together anymore. I had two days in a row where I got to laugh a lot and enjoy good meals. I am so happy my schedule was flexible enough for me to enjoy those opportunities.

Tomorrow could get interesting. I have Midwest Electric coming over to replace my breaker panel and do a couple other wiring jobs. That means no electricity and no furnace for at least four hours. It could get a bit nippy during that time. I'm not worried about the pipes freezing because the house temperature will not get that low. I think the cold will motivate the poor person doing the outdoor wiring and attic wiring to work quickly. These are tasks Lucy and I wanted to get done. Now I have the time.

Today was also National Hug Day. I hope all of you participated at some point. Give your loved ones a meaningful hug tonight, cuddle if you have someone, and thank you for your time!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Melancholy Man"

The bad part about having a music player on shuffle while getting housework done is sometimes a song hits one right between the eyes. Today's song was "Melancholy Man" by the Moody Blues from 1970. Today marks nine months since Lucy left this life. I had not heard the some in quite some time, so it added to an already emotional day.

A few days ago I was at the VA hospital in Minneapolis saying goodbye to an old acquaintance. I met Marty in 1979 when we worked together. He flew helicopters during the Viet Nam war and sometimes I could pry a story out of him. He didn't like talking about the war; I found out later that is typical of combat veterans that saw too many of their unit come home in flag covered coffins. He was also a bit of a loner, an only child who never married. Through the years we would occasionally bump into each other on a contract job or at a restaurant. Marty's had ALS and severe dementia. I think he just turned 70 in September. I had heard from a mutual colleague that it was time to say goodbye to him. I'm quite certain Marty didn't recognize me and he seemed to be mostly unaware of his surroundings. I don't know if that was a blessing or curse for him. Afterwards, I went to Minnehaha Falls which is really close to the hospital. It was nice getting some fresh air and seeing how wonderful the falls look even though they are completely frozen right now. He died Friday afternoon.

I did squeeze in a quick trip to visit Mom and Dad. By quick, I mean getting there Thursday afternoon and leaving early Friday afternoon due to impending freezing rain. There were a couple things I wanted to do for them while I still had time. I hadn't counted on a trip into Sioux Falls to pick up some stuff at Home Depot that the local Ace Hardware didn't carry.

Julie, Suzy and Brady came over to visit today. I was very happy having visitors, especially people I love deeply and those who aren't soliciting donations for a charity. We had lunch at the new (in the past six months) El Loro's restaurant on 84th and Lyndale. I was surprised at how many different items were on the menu. Lucy wanted to take me to the El Loro's in Savage, but we never quite got to it. It was very emotional for me when they left, and Julie saw me starting to break down. Poor Julie, I feel bad for doing that to her.

I was lucky that in the past couple days I got to spend time with loved ones. It helped get the new year on the right track and it was very good for the soul.

Let your loved ones know you care. That has helped brighten many a sad day for me, including today. Enjoy some time with someone you want to spend time with, and give that person a meaningful hug if your relationship permits. In the meantime, I have to start separating my songs into playlists so I don't get hit hard while driving.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

So what will the New Year bring?

The Mayan calendar began a new epoch without incident. Some people are now trying to figure out how to reset their credit cards after maxing them out because the world was going to end. They would have bought my oceanfront property in Nebraska sight unseen had I been devious, er, foresiteful enough to advertise it. You can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

While the Lunar New Year won't occur until February 10th, the Julian calendar year 2013 A.D. began a few days ago. We have transitioned from the holiday season. I've disconnected the outdoor Christmas lights and taken the ornaments and garland off the tree; the tree will be put away tomorrow. Christmas decorations are finding their way back to boxes and storage bins. It's beginning to look a lot like an ordinary time of the year.

We have not had any fresh snow in several days and have had some days near freezing. Our snow has a grayish patina of dust and sand and nearly all the cars are the same drab gray color from road salt. There are some bursts of color. Some people wash their cars almost daily, and the two-tone winter beaters, rust and some other color, are commonplace. There are several pair of cardinals riding out the winter, their colors muted by their winter plumage with an occasional blue jay making a noisy appearance. Discarded Christmas trees are showing up curbside throughout the neighborhood.

This week is supposed to harken above average temperatures and a chance of rain. After next weekend the temperature begins a slide to a few sub-zero evenings and below average days. It all averages out in the end, assuming the forecasts are correct. We are about four weeks from Groundhog's Day which is the halfway point of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is coming. Hope springs eternal.

People have tried to foretell the future accurately for centuries. The Oracle at Delphi, seers, soothsayers, magicians, wizards, Nostradamus, mathematicians, meteorologists, bookies, pollsters: all have had varing degrees of prognostication success. Here are a few predictions I recall reading though the years:
  • The Vikings this year would have a 5 - 11 season and Adrian Peterson would have an off year recovering from ACL surgery.
  • The Twins would finish in third place and have a winning season.
  • The period after 1973 was supposed to usher in a new ice age with rampant global cooling.
  • Romney was going to be elected by a three percentage points margin according to polls in August.
  • We were to be a paperless society in the 1990's and the United States would be using the metric system exclusively by 1976.
  • A manned mission to Mars would occur by 1999.
  • Jesse Ventura had no chance getting elected governor of Minnesota.
  • The world's population in 2010 was to exceed 11 billion people.
  • Dow Jones 30,000.
It is not for wont of trying that these predictions were wrong. In ancient times, the tea leaves, animal entrails or natural signs would provide guidance. In modern times, we perform exhaustive analysis on empirical data. Sometimes a crucial piece of data is missing or goes unnoticed. Sometimes randomness completely changes everything. Sometimes we change the event by taking action and thus introducing unpredicted consequences. Sometimes we bias the data by seeing what we want to see rather than what is happening. Try as we might to predict the future, we are not perfect. Rock, paper, scissors. Flip a coin.

Humans like order and control. The universe is multidimensional chaos and disorder (entropy). Going with the flow is not easy. We all will experience times when everything is out of kilter and nothing seems to make sense anymore. That is when we are fortunate to have our friends and loved ones helping us. Rebuilding the shattered ruins of a life after a tragedy is damned tough. Having people take the time to help while they, too, are rebuilding is priceless. Not only are you helping rebuild someone's life, you are rebuilding that person's hope. Since we can't accurately predict the future, we rely on hope to get us through our day-to-day lives. Tomorrow will be a better day. It only gets better from here. We hope things get better and that hope give us the strength and incentive to try again tomorrow.

For those of you who endured a suboptimal (OK, lousy) 2012, I hope you are finding solace and hope in the new year. If 2012 was a good year for you, I hope 2013 is an even better year for you. Let your loved ones know you care and give them a meaningful hug!