Saturday, August 1, 2020

Dreams of Old Men?

   I have lived over 85 years and accumulated a lot of memories.   Many of them come forth during my waking hours and sometimes I like to relate them to anyone who is close by.  Especially if it relates to an ongoing conversation.  My wife is often the recipient of my musings and often suggests I heard that one before.
    In the wee hours this morning a memory intruded into my sleep in the form of a dream.   In summary I dreamt of interviewing for a job with Deere and Company for an engineering job.   Hey, I am long retired and in reality I have no interest in going to work again.  Also I had a long stint as an academic doing teaching and research in agricultural engineering.  Not an industrial person.
    Here is my interpretation of the dream.   It relates to an experience that dates back to 1956.   The summer before my senior year at Cornell I was looking for a summer job in the agricultural equipment industry.  There were two leads on jobs.  One with Avco-New Idea in Ohio via a Cornell alum and the the other with Deere  and Company in Moline, Illinois.     I interviewed for both jobs and was immediately offered a position with the first.  Deere was late in getting back to me with an offer so in I decided to go ahead and grab the first opportunity.   However, shortly after accepting the first offer, Deere came through with a much better offer.  What a dilemma!   Being honorable won out and I declined the Deere offer.   (Here is another irony in this story.   My son Colin during his time at Cornell University spent two summers working for Deere in Moline, Illinois!  And if the equipment business has not gone in the tank in the 1980's he would likely have spent a career there.   More irony.  He has ended a 30 year career with IBM with early retirement. )
         Now returning to the dream story.   The experience at Avco-New Idea was less than satisfactory.   The upshot is that I left behind any thoughts of going into industry and so pursued academia.  Perhaps the dream today is returning to a this question.  What if I had taken the Deere job?  Would I have been a career engineer designing agricultural machinery?  Would it have been satisfying?    I guess dreams do arise from unresolved understanding of twists of fate.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Iron Men (And Women)

      I just received my Summer 2020 70+ Ski Club Newsletter.  The front page featured comments about 90 and over skiers with special recognition to ones just turning 90.  The oldest of the group is 103 and still hitting the slopes.  We should label them Iron Men.   They just keep on going and going.  True, there are ladies over 90 skiing as well and I  admire them too.  Would it be an insult to call them Energizer Bunnies?   Perhaps so, since snow bunny has sometimes been a derogatory  appellation.    From what I read of these gentlemen and ladies, many are still ripping up the expert trails rather than seeking the greens.
    The inside story entitled In Memoriam is a bit sobering.  The deceased group ranges in age from 84 to 100.  They all had wonderful years dedicated to skiing after retirement as well as before retirement.    Fortunately almost all avoided a prolonged decline in health and expired as peacefully as possible in the companionship of spouses and/or family.   However, what a tragedy the 100 year old succumbed to the Covid-19 virus.  Damn! 
     So here we are geezer skiers, looking forward to another season on the ski slopes with the hope the pandemic will not take it's toll of the senior skiers.   The 70+ Ski Club has a number of excursions planned starting in January 2021.   Will it be safe to engage in group activities?   I am inclined to think it will be safe to be outdoors and use the lifts while using masks.   However, I wonder if it will be safe to gather in the lodge to boot up and have a coffee break?    I have a few months shy of five years to survive and ski at 90.   At this time our Tough Old Geezer Skiers group at Greek Peak has no active 90 plus skiers.    With the power of positive thinking I trust that this will not last. 
     On this 94 degree day in late July, thinking snow gives me hope and energy.   Stay well everyone.   Keep up following the best scientifically recommended practices to protect your health.   The world will be better with more Iron Men and Women out there!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Acceptable Risk

     I think life is dominated by making decisions about acceptable risks.  And as a society our government, economists, engineers, physicians and on and on are all engaged in managing risks that they deem acceptable.   We have an opportunity at the individual level to make our own assessment of an activity's risk and act accordingly.  However, at the greater society level, risk management can be beyond our control.
   Here is an example of my thinking about acceptable risk in this pandemic.    This thinking  was triggered today by a New York Times article  about a 80 year old man and his 74 year old wife struggling with whether  it would be safe to gather the family at Lake Placid, New York for an 80th birthday party.   They would have to travel from Maryland and some of the family would have to fly to the event.    The elders are vulnerable folks and would likely suffer mightily from a Corona virus infection.  After struggling with this dilemma they finally concluded it wasn't worth the risk.    Note that their decision included both their personal risk assessment and the environmental risk factors that are controlled by the society around them.  It is a challenge to navigate a society where the high level of risk acceptable many of the population has drastic consequences for others that are trying to mitigate their vulnerability.   
     I am not averse to taking risks.  However, I like to think I make a careful assessment of the rewards of that risk as well work hard to engage any safeguards that will reduce my risk.   As a geezer skier, I wear my helmet, assess the difficulty of the slope and conditions and tamp down my more adventurous nature when it seems appropriate.    Applying that approach to dealing with a potentially deadly virus,  I have decided to practice maximum social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and only hobnobbing with  groups a few minutes at a time.   I hope that I will have the patience minimize my risk until a vaccine is available.
     In conclusion we all have the freedom to make our individual decisions about acceptable risk.  However, we are at the mercy of risks generated by leaders and society.
     

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Beneath The Surface

    Saturday my son Colin made a visit and he advised me to get the App Strava to  record my bike rides.   He is an avid bike rider during the off season from skiing.   We both enjoy biking and skiing and clearly bond over those activities. 
    Since Saturday I have taken a couple of recorded bike rides using the App.  The App gets my results via e-mail and responds with a comment on the ride.  Here is today's comment.

"Amazing rideGerald Rehkugler. You just took the top spot on the leaderboard on Congdon Ln Climb by 26s. Take a closer look on Strava or share your achievement on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter."

    What an ego boosting comment!   However, let's look beneath the surface.   The App is really for bikers without power assist.   My e-bike gives me a big advantage for.the climb described in the comment.  My ethical framework precludes me from taking advantage of this anomaly so forget it about positing anything.
    All this reminds me that whenever we hear or observed something, it is a good thing to look beneath the surface to find what we might be missing.   Not doing so can lead us to wrong conclusions and dangerous actions.    One for instance comes to mind regarding skiing.  I frequently watch the Weather Channel and was blown away by a piece showing a trio of skiers caught in an avalanche.   They were off trail skiing and reached what looked like a beautiful run on fresh snow.   Everything seemed all right as the entered the run.  However a short distance into the run the top several feet of snow fractured from the mountainside and a roaring avalanche engulfed them.  Two of them managed to stay on top of the flow, while the third was quickly buried.   The third survived when dug out and air lifted to a hospital for recovery.   Only the quick thinking search of the two other skiers enabled  uncovering their companion.   They were unaware that there was a fragile layer under the new fallen snow.
     Beyond the physical illustration above, I dare venture into a comment about our current  political and pandemic chaos.   We are bombarded by news, comments, opinions and sometimes so-called facts.  Without taking any sides, I will only comment that when we hear read or see something, one would be wise to look beneath the surface to find true meaning.   The old adage to "check and verify" seems appropriate.
    Stay safe and healthy !

Monday, July 20, 2020

Pockets

  The other morning as I slipped my smart phone into my pajama bottoms pocket, it occurred to me that pockets in pajamas seemed unnecessary.  Who is going to put something in their pajama pockets to sleep with?   But I guess clothing manufacturers understood we still wear our pajamas when we are vertical and sometimes want to carry something around for a while.  For me they are useful to carry my phone until I have finished my morning exercise routing.
    The above piqued my curiosity about pockets.   A little research showed there are over 40 idioms regarding pockets.   My long gone dad had one that I am still trying to figure out.  "It fits like a pocket on a shirt".     He would bring this up when we were particularly successful in putting something together on the farm.  If a repair went well or another task went off real I would hear that.   In the list of idioms I found on line the only one that seemed to be close to his was, "handy as a pocket on a shirt".   That idiom apparently came from the South.
      Pockets clearly are handy!   As a skier, when I am purchasing a new coat or pants, I pay serious attention to the structure and location of the pockets.   In these days of smart phones you want an external pocket that is easily accessed when necessary.   Pockets for snacks,  extra gloves and wallet storage are also essential.   However, as I reflect on the use of pockets of my present gear, I surely have more pockets than necessary.   Probably the manufacturers provide redundancy for the wide range of preferences of the public.
      There is no doubt that the right pockets in type and location makes tasks much easier.  I still use bib overalls for handy man projects.  Very useful gear for carrying a folding rule, hammer, pencil, etc.   I notice that trades people each have their special pockets specific their calling.    Beyond skiing other recreational pursuits have specially pocketed gear.   I have never been a fly fisherman but I do admire the unique set of pockets adorning the fisherman's vest.    I have not been in the military, but from afar I am intrigued by the apparent multiplicity of special pockets in a combat uniform.   
     One last observation.   I occasionally wear a pair of cargo shorts.   They have a multitude of pockets up and down each leg.    Even before I recently lost some weight, each time I wore them, if I loaded the pockets I had a hard time keeping them up.   Maybe the answer is suspenders?   Is suspenders the next topic?   Probably not!  I think the back pack will be the better solution for carrying cargo.
     
   

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Recon!

    My wife and I are planning  a short hike/walk tomorrow on the Virgil Mountain Loop Trail in the Kennedy State Forest of New York.  In view of some recent fiascos of trouble finding the parking and trail heads for some of our past hikes,  I thought a bit of recon would be in order for today.
    In preparation I  looked at maps of the area and read information from cnyhiking.com.    Since the area is within e-biking distance I set off on my adventure early afternoon with a fully charged battery on my bike.  It was a beautiful day and the ride to the trailhead was exceptionally scenic.   Lush fields of green and great vistas of the hills of central New York.  God's great gift of nature to warm a person's soul.
    My directions were spot on for finding the trailhead and the location of the car parking area nearby.  The cool shade of the trees made the ride to the trailhead on a gravel road a welcome relief from the sun.  Mission accomplished for tomorrow's adventure.
    The Kennedy State Forest consists of more than 4400 acres to explore.   Not wanting to retrace my roads to the area, I decided to explore an alternative route that would take me through the Forest.  As I headed East on VanDonsel Road there was a significant change in the road from gravel to more primitive shale rock and rutted dirt.  I was thankful for my fat tire e-bike with front suspension that handled the rough terrain and ruts with ease.    As I passed through the forest I enjoyed the greenery and variations in tree types from saplings to more old growth trees.   After several miles traveling East, I expected to encounter a road to the North to start my return home.   The road I expected to find just didn't appear or maybe I missed it because it was more primitive than I imagined.  Finally I did encounter a road that I expected to return me to the main route 392.  Nope!  It was a dead end.   Continuing on East eventually I came to a paved road that took me to an intersection that I failed to recognize.  Fortunately across the intersection with Valentine Hill Road a kind gentleman gave me directions to get to Virgil via Rte. 392 and thus home. 
    My afternoon recon adventure took me many miles further than I expected to travel.   My e-bike has a 745 Watt battery but since I am a geezer I don't pedal as much as I used to.  Needless to say, during my trip home I began to have battery life anxiety.  I was still several miles from home when the battery was down to two and then one bar of charge.   Eventually about three miles from home the one bar began flashing to signal soon to be a dead battery.   With some astute pedaling  I managed to arrive home with about 100 watts of power remaining.   That is a little bit of assist, but not much for the hills.  Twenty nine miles travelled in a lot of hilly terrain. 
   Great adventure!  We'll see what the hike brings tomorrow.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Disruptions and Diversions

    This current pandemic surely has been disruptive.   My routine has been so disrupted that I have neglected to make some observations on this blog.  Thankfully, Tim as one of my followers,  has jolted me out of my malaise.
     As a geezer I have been especially careful about social distancing and staying sterile if at all possible in this chaotic time.   Although I am mostly in good health, I do have some underlying conditions that would really complicate my recovery from a Covid-19 infection.   I have vivid memories of my 22 year old self fighting the flue infection that I suffered in the 1957-58 pandemic that killed an estimated 116,000 Americans and perhaps over a million world wide.   I was a graduate student at Cornell University in the Fall of 1957 when one afternoon during the completion of a Materials Engineering lab I was struck with a raging headache, fever and bone crushing weariness.  I managed to get to my car and my apartment only by gritting my teeth and toughing it out.   I don't remember much about the next week or so except I was bed ridden only to get to the bathroom.   I think the only treatment was aspirin.   The health clinic at Cornell was overwhelmed as was the infirmary.   Care centers were set up in the dormitory lounges  for the overflows.  Needless to say I did recover, but as I write this,  I still sense the pain of that illness.
      Fast forward to 2020 63 years later and another even more tragic pandemic has struck in my lifetime.   As all skiers know, our season came to an abrupt halt in March!   I was immediately mourning the loss of the remaining days of spring skiing.  From then on the days became filled with finding ways to cope with the disruption of our normal life and seeking safe diversions.
       On keeping safe, I was an immediate user of a mask.   My engineering senses informed me that if aerosols could be the source of infection my mitigation would be a regimen of physical distancing from the infectious agent and when possibly in the presence of the agent, I would have a physical barrier in place.    Fortunately my protocol seems to be working.  However,  I have continued to avoid enclosed spaces with many people.     And if there is a necessity to be in the enclosed spaces, I severely limit my time of exposure.
       Given my dedication to keeping safe, one might ask how to I make social contacts and find appropriate diversions?   ZOOM and Facetime have been regular applications for interaction with family and friends and also professional contacts at Cornell.     Our Tough Old Geezer Skiers group has had a monthly virtual lunch meeting on Zoom a couple of times.
       As I reflect on the pandemic disruption, I am reminded that some doors to our activities have been closed and we miss many things that we took for granted.   However, as an optimist we can look to find doors that we can open to new activities and routines.   Each person has to find their own opportunities.  This should bring out a our creative side to enrich our lives.   Here are a few things I found useful over that last few months.
1.   I have stepped up my volunteer work with the Red Cross as a Transport Specialist hauling blood from the blood drives the processing center.
2.   Reading a lot more books and newspapers.
3.  Going on a disciplined weight loss program coupled with  a daily exercise routine.
4.  Going a bit overboard on solving crossword puzzles.
5.  Riding my e-bike on country roads in the ares to explore sights  I have rushed by in my car.
6.   Hiking in local and other parks in the area.
7.   Engaging in a photographic history of the defunct tower silos in Cortland County.
     I  am really excited about Number 7.   It is a fascinating bit of history how the number of dairy farms in Cortland County New York have declined over that last100 years.   Literally hundred of silos remain standing as monuments to the past glory of dairying in the county.   With the expansion of cow numbers on dairies, the tower silos have become obsolete and have been replaced by bunker silos.
A Lonely Silo from a Long Past Dairy Farm

     Yes, our lives have been seriously disrupted by the 2020 pandemic.  We hope and pray that a vaccine  and other treatment protocols will be developed soon and we will be ready for a new normal.  Let's hope we can make the new normal better the past.   Meanwhile geezer skiers, as we move towards another ski season, keep well, stay fit and hope that we can continue to enjoying skiing with the same passion of the past.