12/12/13

Winter....force....

Old man winter officially arrives in 9 days on December 21st.  Like the awkward invited guest who shows up at 6:30 for a 7:00 dinner as you are hastily trying to get the final touches done - so too has old man winter arrived before the appointed time.

The 5+" snow we got on Sunday has hung around thanks to temperatures remaining cold.  And the wind keeps blowing the light and dry snow around so it seems like the walks need cleaning up on a daily basis.

Oh well, at least Max and Zoey are excited with the arrival of "let's hunt for poopsicles" season...

Max & Zoey after shoveling

MaxDigging
Zoeydigging

Winter force has led to my decision of having at least one of our cars equipped with dedicated snow tires for the first time ever here in the Midwest.  We had them in Austria where we needed them for skiing, the Alps, and the Vienna Woods where we lived. 

I had narrowed my choice town to the Bridgestone Blizzaks to put on my Honda Element.  However, the local tire shop's computer only showed one - that's right 1 tire - in my size as being available in the US.  They said that Bridgestone only makes a certain number per year and at least at this point, the stock has dwindled to one tire.  Actually, I found a sweet deal of 4 Blizzaks mounted up on black steel rims from a Honda Element owner in the state of New York for an incredible price.  However, he is not willing to ship even if I secured the shipping.  Odd, but go figure.  Back to my local tire store (which is a great local business by the way).... 

So he suggested another tire that was on my short shopping list of 3 candidates - the Firestone Winterforce as there were 57 of those in stock in warehouses throughout the US in my size.  It's the lower cost brethren from the same company Bridgestone/Firestone and gets rave reviews at the Honda Element Owners website, so I was fine with that.  I'll get free storage for my Bridgestone all-season tires at this shop and will be good to go without having to buy a 2nd set of rims.

They should arrive in a couple of days to be mounted up.  I think my Element - which is a rough riding machine anyway - will improve the driver/passenger feel with the softer rubber compound of a winter tire over the harsh feel of all-season tires rubber compound with the cold temperatures.  And I'll be good to go for the conditions I face here in Iowa during the winter.

FirestoneWinterforce

Yesterday was a productive day to get a couple of things done around the house before work.  I had smelled a gas leak outside between our house and our neighbors last Saturday and again on Tuesday evening.  So I called the gas company and they came out Wednesday morning.  Sure enough, there was a leak (bad O-ring) at the meter which they fixed.  I also swapped out one of our cable televesion station packages with Mediacom for no cost so we can watch more sports that we like to watch instead of a variety package that is no longer being used enough to make it worthwhile.

School:  Our semester at Simpson College has wound down to final exams finishing up today.  Our last voice jury session was last night from 5:30 - 9:30, so that part of the voice faculty's exams are completed.  Grading today and finishing things up in the office today and tomorrow before the semester break begins in earnest.  Our 2nd semester kicks off on January 13th, so it's quite a lengthy break we have with the usual list of projects, singing, and work to be done.  I'm sure it will all go by so fast that I'll be left with not having completed my list of chores, to do items, and projects.  The cold weather will hamper some of it, but I will try...

Training:  My ATP hours (annual training) have accrued to 410 hours as of yesterday.  It looks like I will hit the 420 hour mark for sure by the end of the year as I will be firing up the base phase during this holiday break.  I have actually managed to keep my weight in check much better this year than last year at this time.  I have gained about 4-5 pounds (as opposed to last year's 10-12), but most of that seems to be from the weight lifting in November/December.  I think a lot of things had atrophied in spite of the once per week maintenance lifting throughout the warm months.  Regardless, it feels good to be working those muscles on a more consistent basis and see some growth.  Posture has improved, strength and stamina have improved, but I am fighting a lower back issue.  I am trying to address with good stretching, exercises and proper lifting form.  But something is tweaked down there in the lower back - or needs to be diagnosed... .  I thought it was solved, but when I drug the snow blower from the shed to the garage last Saturday to get ready for winter - I yanked something down there that reared its ugly head on Sunday morning when I tried to get out of bed.  Wowsa! 

In the meantime, winter is here in full force and in spite of the invited guest arriving early, I am now just about ready for old man winter.

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