Career Change

I’ve had some time to think while home recuperating. I was going to title this post “Back in the Saddle Again” to commemorate being able to ride a bike again after a month. I already used that title over a year ago, including a link to Gene Autry singing the song.

No, this calls for much more. I’ve had a great deal of difficulty working with Worker’s Compensation insurance and with my employer’s Human Resources department. They may be trying to make life difficult for me in hopes I will leave, or they may be incompetent. I’m not sure which is worse. Or, maybe:

Okay, benefit of the doubt is over. It is not merely a failure to communicate. The Worker’s Comp insurance company’s doctor has determined that my work injury has nothing to do with my work; that it is a congenital condition that took 66 years to show up and the fact that the symptoms appeared right after an encounter with 425# is totally irrelevant – not just not causal, but not even an exacerbation of my “pre-existing condition”. Then there’s the fact that HR canceled my family health insurance plan and gave me an individual plan. After I (and my boss and her boss) raised a stink, they reinstated the family plan and canceled my dental insurance.

At any rate, I was excited to read about our President’s new Space Force, and I signed up! If I can’t count on having Worker’s Compensation insurance and I can’t count on having health insurance, it’s time to change careers! I know I’ll get good healthcare in the military! Here is my new uniform patch:

SPACE CADET

I report for basic training April 1. I will be proud to represent my country in space.

Not Gene Autry.

Have you noticed how much the current Republican Party resembles the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter series? The very people Lord Voldemort Donald Trump insults (e.g. Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz) fall all over themselves and each other to praise him, even if they previously called him “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” [Graham], or said “Donald Trump’s consistently disgraceful behavior is beneath the office” [Cruz]. Everyone lives in such fear of him that no one is willing to say the emperor has no clothes. I tried rearranging the letters to “Donald John Trump”. I didn’t come up with “I am Lord Voldemort”, but that doesn’t prove anything. Let me know in the comments if you come up with anything interesting. If you see weird tattoos on their forearms, let me know.

Does anyone else out there wake up some mornings and wonder if this is really the world we are living in? Where “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be a kind of quid pro quo which results in impeachment”? Where the argument can go from “it didn’t happen”, to “it might have happened”, to “it happened and that’s OK”, to “it happened and that’s a good thing.” In another bit of surrealism, Sen Lisa Murkowski announced, “I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate” as she announced that she was voting against allowing any witnesses or written evidence, thereby assuring that there will be no fair trial. As the Red Queen said, “sentence first, then verdict”. In this case it’s “acquittal first, then evidence.”

Tailwinds Across America

Thanks to richardtirith4919 for alerting me to the book “Tailwinds Across America” by RJ Kinderman. Kinderman and his then SO of 10 months embarked on a cross country bike trip in 1981. They followed a northern tier route similar to that of Cycle America, leaving Vancouver with $475 ($1400 in today’s dollars, per USDL BLS* calculator) and arriving in Maine broke. The book came out in honor of their 30th wedding anniversary, so clearly the trip strengthened their relationship. That much togetherness under those conditions could make or break a new relationship, so I honor their trip and their commitment. The book brought tears to my eyes more than once. You could think of it as this coast-to-coast blog after 30 years of reflection. Since Bob and Diane were self-contained, they had some very different experiences than ours in a supported tour, but it was a way for me to travel vicariously when I couldn’t even get on a trainer. I highly recommend it as a fun and quick read!

Back in the saddle; really

On January 31, I put on the bike shoes, set the resistance to its lowest level, shifted into my lowest gear, and got on my trainer. I planned a 10 minute easy spin. I checked the clock to see how close I was to being done – 3 minutes had passed. This wasn’t going to be easy. It did get better. When I set a stopwatch so I could count my cadence, the minutes went by more quickly and I did manage 10 minutes in my lowest gear at 90 RPM. On day 2 I managed to shift up, though still with low resistance, and ride twice, for a total of 25 minutes.

Karl Harter

This post was waiting for the official announcement of the 2020 Death Ride. I’m not waiting any longer. Registration was to open in December, then January. Now it’s February. Maybe this will cause them to spring into action so I can make my summer plans. [Ed note: The groundhog was declared officially to have seen his shadow this morning. I suspect he was basking in the sun, wearing shades due to the reflected brightness from the snow, and didn’t really notice the shadow. The temperature is headed for 50 degrees F (10 C). I’m heating my house with passive solar today – the door to the front porch is open. Shorts and t-shirt weather!]

Instead, the post is going up due to the death of Karl Harter. I met Karl about 45 years ago. He was cooking at the Main Course, a down-home restaurant with home-cooked meals at reasonable prices; the sort of food I would normally cook myself but I was either feeling lazy that day or I was on campus and hungry. I sold raw food (working at a grocery co-op) and Karl sold cooked food. That was our initial connection.

Karl was also a runner, weightlifter, yoga practitioner, and writer. He started and ran Movin’ Shoes, a shoe store and gathering place for runners. I went to the release party for his first novel, In the Skin, about a young weightlifter in Trenton, NJ. It was released as a mass market paperback, with a rather lurid cover illustration. Karl had just learned that he was expected to market the book himself if he wanted a contract for his next book. He was pretty clear that he was a writer and not a promotor. While the book never made the best sellers list, he continued to write and publish.

Years later he autographed that book for me when he was in the hospital for the first of many surgeries. A tumor had been removed from his head and a free tissue transfer performed to cover the defect. That means that muscle and skin from somewhere else is used to fill the space. Since the muscle will later atrophy, it is initially oversized. This gives a rather lumpy appearance for a while. When the surgeon came in and asked Karl how he was doing, Karl said, “Fine – but you didn’t tell me I was going to look like Mr. Potato Head!” (As you can see below, he no longer looked like Mr. Potato Head.)

Karl also wrote the true crime novel Winter of Frozen Dreams (subtitle: “The shocking true story of seduction, suspicion and murder in Madison”). A film adaptation followed. More on Karl can be found at The Ride website. This is the group for which I was going to ride last fall. The ride was canceled due to thunderstorms with a flash flood watch.

Karl Harter; Image from Theridewi.org

One of Karl’s obituaries said, “He used words like macadam and ephemeral.” Maybe that’s another reason I liked him. In a 1999 essay about my life in community radio, I wrote, “part of the reason I enjoyed live radio was its ephemeral quality. What I did went out over the airwaves and was gone”. [Now, if you want real weirdness, the next excerpt is from an essay written by my brother for the same anthology. He had worked for a previous radio station in the same studio. We each read the other’s words only when the book was published. “It was the ultimate in ephemerae, leaving a trace only in the minds of those who did it or those who heard it .”] **

Feel free to join me in making a gift in Karl’s memory at: https://www.supportuw.org/how-to-give/school-college/medicine-and-public-health/karl-harter-scholarship/. Normally I’m not a fan of the phrase “courageous battle with cancer” (to which my daughter will attest), but Karl lived with cancer for over 20 years, losing parts of his body over that span. In the past few years I occasionally ran into him at a favorite breakfast spot and he never lost the zest that I loved in him 45 years ago. For most of us, life is ephemeral and we die “leaving a trace only in the minds of those” we touched. Karl will also live on in the books and the store he left behind.

* USDL BLS = United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

**WORT-Madison; 25 years of Community Radio Copyright January 2000 by Back Porch Radio Broadcasting, Inc.

Back in the saddle again

Tonight was my first Wednesday night ride since the tour ended. My bike arrived back from Massachusetts last week and I cleaned and rebuilt it Monday (except for the new chain, which I installed Tuesday).

After riding my city bikes, it felt great to be back on this bike again. Ten miles into the ride I felt my rear tire losing pressure. A prior patch had failed. A woman walking her dog to the mailbox offered assistance. After 4400 miles and double digit punctures, this felt pretty routine. I changed the tube and went on my way.

Thirty two miles felt like a warm up. I think I’ll be able to handle a century in a week and a half. The post-ride pizza felt like a snack. I think I’ll need to adjust my eating to keep from regaining the weight I lost. While riding your bike 80 miles/day for 9 weeks seems like a pretty effective weight loss program, I doubt it will catch on.

Flood

My basement windows are sandbagged. The river is out of its banks and we are currently ½ block outside of the high risk area for flooding. I live on an isthmus between two lakes separated by a lock and dam. They are releasing water from the dam today so the river should rise again. I live on 100 year old landfill. What was once a meandering creek through marshland is now a straight cut from lake to lake. It is dry today so we’ll see what happens.

TNS

You may have noticed that old people tend to reminisce. Truth be told, that doesn’t seem to be limited to old people.

Since I am officially old (Emery, you didn’t see that here), allow me to reminisce.

I was thinking about war the other day, which reminded me of my old friend Francis Hole. He was an agronomist (soil scientist in plain English) and always signed his name “Francis Hole, TNS”, which stood for “temporarily not soil”. Alas, Professor Hole is now PS (“permanently soil”). Aside: It is due to Professor Hole that Wisconsin has a State Soil (Antigo Silt Loam, if you wanted to know).

He was also my draft counselor. Professor Hole was a Conscientious Objector during WW II. I was a CO during the Vietnam War (the American War to the folks whose country we invaded).

from the Francis Hole Memorial webpage

Dr. Hole taught me about the process of applying for CO status and we also talked about our views toward war. He let me know that CO status was very hard to get without the backing of a church. Personal morals didn’t carry much weight with the US government. Dr. Hole was a Quaker, one of few religions with a firm anti-war stance. He asked about my church.

Having the backing of a church seemed like a Catch-22. Since many (if not most) wars arise from religious conflicts (especially if said religion has an imperialistic bent), since the dominant religion in the US is Christianity, and since Christianity is among the more imperialistic religions (imperialism and evangelism seem pretty closely linked, both historically and philosophically), it seemed pretty hard to convince the government that I was firmly opposed to war and a Christian (remember the Crusades?).

Dr Hole sent me to the minister of the church in which I was raised, and of which I was a member (that’s another story). The minister asked me what I knew of the church’s position. Not much, I said. He asked me about my convictions. About that, I knew more.

After we talked for awhile, he let me know that our church (Congregational, now part of the United Church of Christ), taught that each member has a personal relationship with God; that he as a minister was not a go-between, and that he as a minister could not tell me what to believe. (Another aside: you may have noticed that religions, and other belief systems, tend to fragment over time. New sects arise and folks bicker over smaller and smaller differences. UCC is unusual, in that it arose from sects actually joining together.)

He followed that by telling me that he would testify on my behalf before the draft board. My lottery number was high enough that that never came to pass.