Monday, January 2, 2017

The Annual Odometer Reset

Happy New Year Everybody!!

I hope y'all had a safe and happy celebration. I spent New Year's Eve mostly working on setting up a new server for my websites. Midnight came and went in the midst of a lengthy tutorial from CatMan on Secure Socket Layer and https Security Certificates - he's a hopeless romantic, that one.

Over the past few years I've developed a little ritual on New Year's Day of resetting the odometers on both my bike and car. (Well, for the car you don't actually reset the odometer, just the little "trip tracker" thing, which I use to track my annual mileage - but you know what I mean.)

Anyhow, resetting the bike odometer generally involves a somewhat lengthy and drawn out battle with the bike computer.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the smaller the device is, the more complicated the instructions are?

Truth be told, I'm not really very goal oriented when it comes to tracking things like mileage, but I do find it fun to look back and see how many miles I rode and compare it to the number I drove.

So, without further ado... I present my miles for 2016:

I logged 2,645.4 miles on my bike last year... that's about a hundred more than 2015 and not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

Meanwhile, I drove only 537.9 miles... which is about 100 less than the year before. Yay!

And yes, that's the total mileage on my 1990 Honda Civic. I can't decide if that's evidence of great frugality and environmentalism, or simply a person who has no life! Either way, I think it fits nicely with my goal of keeping my little car alive until such time as the internal combustion engine becomes obsolete.

As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that resetting the odometer is a good metaphor for the new beginning that this time of year offers. While I certainly didn't accomplish everything I wanted to, I did make great progress on many fronts, and now it's time to start anew with a clean slate.

And since it's a gorgeous day out there, I'm hoping to start writing on that slate right away with a nice bike ride before the cold weather returns tomorrow! Maybe this will be the year that we'll finally work our way up to the big 65 mile loop!

So I'm curious, do you have any metrics that you track from year to year? And what do you hope to write on your slate this year?

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Transcendent Christmas Experience

I hope that everyone has been enjoying a peaceful holiday season. All of my celebratory gatherings took place before the actual holiday, so I spent the weekend enjoying quiet time - mostly cooking, and eating, and watching silly Christmas movies into oblivion.

I wonder... exactly how many times can a person watch White Christmas before they'd have to admit that they had a problem? 😉

I can't help myself. I just melt when Bing sings the "Blessings" song to Rosemary.
And you know, somewhere between the mashed potatoes, the Brussels sprouts and Danny Kaye's antics, I had a realization. This is the first Christmas in 7 years that I haven't been either grieving a recent loss (family, friend or feline) or anticipating one in the very near future.

Just writing those words down is like heaving an enormous sigh of relief. I dunno... it almost feels like years of tension melting away or something.

Of course, it's not like everything is nice and rosy. I mean American democracy is hovering on the brink, the climate situation in the Arctic is getting really alarming, and honestly, the renewed talk of nuclear tensions has me reliving fears that I haven't felt since childhood, when I was quite convinced that nuclear Armageddon would arrive long before I ever got the chance to grow up.

But somehow, I seem to have turned a corner, and I'm feeling much more at peace with it all.

In a funny way it started at the solstice dinner with my parents.

We had a quiet celebration this year - and at one point the conversation got quite introspective. We're all very concerned about the political situation, but my dad has made a decision to disengage from the news and stop filling his psyche with a daily dose of doom when there's nothing he can do about it.

Instead, he's immersed himself in a book about the Permian extinction - that's Dad's version of light reading. Anyhow, he's found great comfort in the fact that even though the majority of species died out, some survived, including a few "proto-mammals" which eventually evolved into humans. Apparently they survived by living largely underground... hunkered down as it were, and that seems to be Dad's plan for surviving the next four years.

That got my stepmom to talking about her childhood in Nazi Germany. She was quite young during the war, but the memories of both her own experiences and her family stories seem very fresh. She basically said that even when your country gets taken over by a fascist, and horrors are unfolding all around you, life still goes on.

Even when they had to run to the basement several times a day because of the bombings, and when you had to be extremely careful because expressing the "wrong" political opinion could end up being a death sentence... they still had to get up every morning, wash the dishes, do the laundry, put dinner on the table and basically go on with life.

She talked about how a lot of people found solace through gardening. I think it was partly a survival thing since food shortages were common, but she said there was also something very life-affirming about it. Even when the world is falling apart around you, spring still comes, seeds still sprout, and life continues.

Maybe it was the wine, but somewhere between the proto-mammals and the gardens of Nazi Germany, I had an amazing experience. I was suddenly overcome by the sense that all of these problems are temporary, and that we (meaning we as spiritual beings, not necessarily human beings) have existed long before all of this, and that we will continue to exist long after it's all been forgotten.

Honestly, I'm not really sure how to explain it, it was almost an out of body sort of a feeling - like I was floating through the cosmos or something.

It was incredibly comforting - like a sudden insight that even if the worst happens, I mean even if human beings were to completely destroy themselves and/or the planet, everything will be still be OK.

I know this sounds corny, especially coming from a person who isn't a Christian, but maybe that's what Christmas celebrations (or solstice celebrations in general) are really all about. It's not necessarily a celebration of today, but a promise of light and life to come.

Anyhow, that's my little transcendent Christmas experience... and boy, did I need it! I have to say that I'm feeling much better than I have in a very long time.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and may the returning of the light fill each and every one of you with love, peace, and joy for the year to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cold Turkey

Well folks, it's been an interesting past week or so.

First of all, it's been crazy weather. Thursday was gorgeous with temperatures in the mid-60s (around 18C). So CatMan and I went for a nice long bike ride.

Usually, in these parts, warm days in the winter are caused by a down-slope wind off of the mountains, which generally means a big storm is a brewin'. Here's a photo from that ride showing the cool "mountain wave clouds" that typically form under such circumstances.

I did my best to soak up the warmth and enjoy every minute on the bike because I knew that this was coming...

And don't let that blue sky and sunshine fool you, it's only about 7 degrees (-14C) out there!

Anyhow, at least I got some exercise shoveling, because since we got more like 8 inches, rather than the 1-2 that were predicted, I'm thinkin' it might be a while before I'm back on the bike again.

But... when I do, I hope to be prepared. I finally bit the bullet and bought something called Bar Mitts. They're basically these neoprene sleeves that go over your handlebars creating a "pocket" for your hands where you can work the breaks and shifters without having to expose your hands to the cold temps.

CatMan has been teasing me incessantly about my "Bar Mitts Fa" and I have to admit that they do sorta look ridiculous, but it's made a world of difference for my freezing fingers. The best part is that you can toss one of those little hand warmers into each one and the whole thing warms up nicely. You still have to wear gloves under them because air comes in from the top, but they do keep your hands out of the wind and infinitely warmer than they would be otherwise.

But aside from the weather, there's been another little challenge in my life lately.

I think my tendency to take things to heart a tad bit too much has gotten to me since the election. Seriously, I can't escape the feeling that doom is upon us and life as we know it is about to cease.

Anyhow, on election night I got a terrible headache, and while it waxed and waned a bit, I just couldn't shake the thing.

Normally, a bit of caffeine and some ibuprofen will take care of it in a few days, but it seems I got myself into a cycle of rebound headaches and my misery factor was getting quite high. To top it off, I was suffering from horrible heartburn pretty much every day which made it almost impossible to sleep at night, and the cycle was sorta spinning out of control.

Anyhow, a bit of web research indicated that both ibuprofen and caffeine are bad for heartburn, and while both can ease a headache in the short term, they also leave one vulnerable to the dreaded rebound headache. So about a week ago I decided to go cold turkey on both.
Let me tell you, the first few days were complete misery. I seriously worried that my head might explode or something.

But it's been steadily getting better, and while neither the headaches nor the heartburn are completely gone, I am feeling much better. Hopefully I can keep this up without succumbing to the siren song of morning coffee. I do miss it, but I'm thinking that au naturale is probably better in the long run.

Anyhow, that's the news from chez kitty. Anybody out there ever gone cold turkey on caffeine? I'd love to hear how you did it. Hope you're all stayin' warm out there!