Odds and Ends

Taking a page from the Book of Jen, I've also got a lot of unfinished blog posts. Maybe none of them is individually enough for a whole post, but together they make something. Or nothing. Whatever. Here we go.

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04/14/17

I don't have time for a lot of hobbies. I figure that once you have kids you place most of your focus on them, and just try to have maybe one thing for yourself. Most of the time I consider running as my single hobby. But there are a couple other things I enjoy that could be considered a hobby. And I just realized that I don't always have someone close to me who shares in my interests. But let's see what I discover as I write this.

Running: I started this hobby because of a friend who wanted to do a triathlon. In the end I just wanted to run. I didn't care about the cycling or swimming. I haven't kept in touch with him much the last few years, and he hadn't been running too much because of some injuries. I do have one other friend who runs that I can talk to about it.

Jazz basketball: I grew up watching the Jazz, and got especially into basketball during their Finals years, then lost interest for about a decade.

Sci-fi/fantasy reading

I'm really not sure where I was going with this, except maybe wanting to have "not having anything in common with people" in common with someone.

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05/11/17

I feel like I've posted on this before, but I don't want to go search.

I think I tend to like the underdog in a lot of ways.

The Addams Family instead of The Munsters
Pepsi instead of Coke
Aerosmith instead of The Rolling Stones


Also, I was thinking of the ways we are all unique when you look at the statistical improbability of your exact self existing. You just multiply the frequency of some factors in your life. Here are mine.

Born in 1980. Out of 108 billion total humans estimated to have ever lived, the odds of being born that year were 0.07%. The odds of being born in the US further reduce that to .0028%.

Other odds
Being left-handed: 10%
Green eyes: 2%
A- blood type: 7%
LDS family: 0.9%

So if we just count those few factors, there are 0.7 people out of the 108 billion who have ever been born who meet those criteria. Round that up to 1, and that's me I guess.

I've always liked this idea. When you take everything that sums us up, even mathematically, we are pretty unique.
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06/27/17

Fashion designers are the cause of everything that is wrong with the world.

Okay, hear me out.

Women's clothing doesn't have pockets, because for sexist reasons we feel they have to meet some kind of aesthetic standard.

Because women's clothing doesn't have pockets, there is no convenient way for them to

Carry things, I guess. Something about female powerlessness in society. I still hate what women's clothing does to them, and how it plays into the sexism still so rampant in the world.
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07/05/17

I've often said that Halloween is my favorite holiday, because it's just about having fun. There's no reason to feel guilty about not keeping the true spirit (Ha!) of Halloween.

But now I officially have a least favorite holiday: July 4th.

In a way it's the ultimate American holiday. Not because it's literally THE American holiday, but because it embodies so much of the stereotypical character of Americans. We aren't known for subtlety or consideration of others. I'm okay with fireworks shows, and setting off my own fireworks for the kids, but what frustrates me is the way people set them off until 2 in the morning with no regard for anyone else.

Ha! Just look at the date there and you'll see the genesis of this post.
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07/24/17

Almost every morning when I drive to work I see this older gentleman out running. He's tall but a little hunched over with age, with a little weight on him, but his large frame carries it well. He always has a look of intense concentration on his face. I

I haven't seen that guy for a while. But I get to work a little later now that I have to get the kids off to school. I imagine he's still getting out there. I was going to talk about how I love seeing people out exercising when they are heavy, or older, or otherwise afflicted in a way such that their effort means more than it does for the young and fit. It's inspirational.
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08/08/17

Another number-themed title. As another birthday has passed, I suppose I should reflect on the year that has been. Moving from 36 to 37 isn't much of a psychological impact, so I don't really have much to say about that. It was also on a Sunday, which if you are LDS means you'll go to church and probably steer clear of most recreational activities. And as my birthday is early in the month, that means it was what we call fast Sunday, which usually means you skip breakfast and lunch while focusing on a spiritual purpose such as a need for yourself or a loved one, and make a donation to the poor with the money you saved on those meals.

This year we were trying to be financially responsible, so I got myself a little something with money from my parents, but otherwise we didn't do gifts. Katie baked me a cake using a secret family recipe

Ginger crumb cake is the best.
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Rules of the Road

It's been a long time since I've posted anything about running, so I figure I can indulge myself a bit. It's been a difficult summer, with one illness or injury after another, and I feel like I'm barely maintaining basic conditioning, let alone improving. This year marks a decade since I started, though, and I've learned a few things over that time that might have been nice to know earlier. Here are a few random tidbits I've figured out over the last ten years that may be of interest to anyone just getting started.


  • The single most crucial aspect of running is consistency. If you don't set a schedule you won't be consistent. If you're not consistent, you will never progress.
  • You can do more than you think you can. It's all about incremental improvement. When I first started, a 10k seemed intimidating, never mind a half marathon or more. Now half marathons are routine, and I just need to conquer the idea of marathons being routine. I've run a couple but haven't made that stride yet.
  • Injuries will happen. You have to persist. It took me 4 years to conquer shin splints, but I did it. I ended up going to a physical therapist earlier this year, who was able to identify some things I could improve on.
  • If a dog comes after you, the best thing to do is stop and talk to it soothingly. They almost all turn into friendly puppies. The other day after running out and barking at me a dog ran along with me for about half a mile.
  • If you have been running consistently and don't like it, maybe you should try cycling or another form of exercise. As much as I advocate it, it's probably not for everyone. It should make you happy to get out, rather than being a source of stress.
  • Don't let weather stop you. You can run in rain, snow, wind, and sun. You can run when it's below zero or over 100 degrees (maybe not 100 degrees Celsius, though). If you allow yourself to get uncomfortable sometimes, you can deal with other inconveniences in life better. 
  • Related to the weather thing, a tip for running in the winter. You should be cold when you start, so you probably need less warm clothing than you think. You don't want to overheat and have to shed clothes later. It takes me maybe 10 minutes to warm up, and then I'm perfectly comfortable in short sleeves and shorts down to about 20 degrees. Below that, or with serious wind, I will wear running gloves or at least long sleeves. Only when it's down to about zero do I want an extra layer.
  • You can also run when you're sick, most of the time. I don't usually run if I have a fever, but if I just have a cold or whatever, I still get out. I might reduce my mileage a bit if it's bad.
  • I used to hate hills, because they mess up my time, but I've had to get used to them since moving to Idaho. They are your friend, and make you faster as you learn to deal with them. I've now been able to do as much as 1200 feet of climb over the course of 13 to 15 miles, something I couldn't have imagined before. And for all that uphill you do, you get to enjoy sweet downhill as well on the way home.
  • Explore your area. Don't always run the same route. You can get to know neighborhoods that you might not see otherwise.

I'll probably think of more later.

Totality

So I happened to move to a place in the totality of the 2017 eclipse. It was certainly not a factor in the decision to move, but when I learned about it I was excited. I don't know nearly as much about astronomy as I would like, but I still enjoy it. I imagined myself driving slightly farther north to Rexburg, where it would be the best possible viewing.

Then I started hearing about how crazy other people were about this event. Phrases like "once in a century" were thrown around, and hotel rooms were supposedly going for $1,000 per night or more. Rumors started circulating that the city was expecting 500,000 people and hospitals were preparing for an influx of more patients. The city was even bringing in 5 life flight helicopters from Utah. Expectations were that driving up to Idaho the weekend before the eclipse would be awful.

Then I learned that I would be traveling to Las Vegas the week before, and would get home the night before the eclipse. Moreover, I would actually be flying into Pocatello and would have to somehow get home in crazy traffic Sunday night.

I kept an eye on the traffic while I was in Vegas, but it never seemed to get bad. And when we flew in on Sunday night, the freeway back to Idaho Falls was perfectly passable, if reasonably busy. So the doom predictions were a little off.

I live a few miles outside of town, and we were advised to work from home on eclipse day, so I don't really know what it was like in the downtown area on Monday. After the eclipse I know the freeway was backed up for the rest of the day, as those who arrived over the course of several days all left at the same time. But it was another Y2k situation in which the predicted apocalypse failed to materialize.

As for my experience with the eclipse itself, well, I expected it would be cool but not life altering. There was a lot I didn't understand. I knew that in Salt Lake they were supposed to have 92% coverage or something, so I didn't really understand how that compared to 100% coverage is like the difference between 0 and infinity. I also didn't really understand that it was a 2-hour event of the moon slowly covering and uncovering the sun; I was only thinking of the 2 minutes of totality. I heard things about the temperature cooling and animals going weird, but didn't see how 2 minutes would cause that.

Once it started we went outside every few minutes with eclipse glasses to monitor the progress of the moon covering the sun. I slowly started to notice a difference in the lighting outside, as it took on a dusky appearance. Several families gathered in a neighbor's yard with lawn chairs and children running around. As totality approached the air got surprisingly cool and breezy. Shadows began to appear sharply defined, and then to take on weird crescent shapes, particularly leaves.


There was a radio on, counting down the seconds to totality. And then it hit.

I can honestly say I have never seen any natural phenomenon that can compare to this. I'm not a world traveler by any means, but I've seen some awesome things in southern Utah, Hawaii, and even Korea. This was on such a large scale that it blew away anything I had seen.

I hadn't planned on taking photos, not having a "real" camera, but I couldn't help but see what my phone would capture. It failed to really represent anything, but here is the best shot I got.



Katie and I were trying to enjoy it while dealing with Clara being a little bit scared, and James also wanting to be held, so I wouldn't say I was able to enjoy it quite as much as I would otherwise, but it was an astonishing experience. I thought it was ridiculous of people to travel around "chasing" eclipses, but now I get it. They say when people travel to space and see the entirety of the Earth in front of them, it changes them and creates a bond between them and the rest of humanity that defies political, racial, and religious barriers. I feel like this experience gave me just a taste of that sensation. It really was incredible.




50

A couple of weeks ago we went to Bear Lake with my family to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary. It was an interesting weekend for several reasons. We had never stayed under one roof before with my family. My only sibling who is a parent is my sister, who has a two-year-old. So we were a little anxious about kids being loud and keeping people up. Katie doesn't care to spend too much time in the company of extended family, preferring the comfort of our own home. And there were just the usual stresses of fitting everything in the van that we needed for a long weekend, and the three-hour drive with them.

My parents rented a very nice cabin with three floors, up on the hillside overlooking the lake.

We got to catch up with everyone, as my sister and one brother had never even met James, and my other brother had only seen him once in passing when we visited Salt Lake overnight. We also spent time talking with my parents about their personal history, asking questions about their early lives. I wrote down as much as I could for safe keeping.

We played in the lake. I was busy wrangling kids, so this is the only photographic evidence I have.


Then Sam punched a pinata and decapitated it with one stroke.

I can't believe this kid is going to be 12 in a couple months. Anyway, I thought it was a nice trip, and it helped us overcome a little of the hesitation we have at the prospect of traveling anywhere with 4 kids in tow. Now that James is starting to walk, we'll be a little more easily mobile. I enjoy having little kids; from about 18 months to age 5 is my favorite. But at the same time it will be nice to move into an age of more independence soon and be and ready to start having some more family adventures.


Is Ignorance Bliss?

Katie just informed me that she watched a documentary on 9/11, which made me think. I often hear people talk about shows they watched that hold no interest for me. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but I feel there isn't much to be gained from certain subjects. They may hold some perspective as to the triumph of the human spirit, but I feel like the negatives outweigh the positives. Here are a few things I don't really want to get into detail about.

The Holocaust
Climate change
Crimes against children
True crime in general
The dangers of [x common thing in your life that will kill you]

When it comes to man's inhumanity to man, I feel like I get it. I know people can be horrible; I don't need to know all the details about specific Nazi war crimes to understand the depths to which people can sink. I feel like maybe this leaves me ignorant, but I don't know. If I see a headline about another Catholic priest involved in a child abuse scandal I don't think I need to know anything about the specifics. I know it's horrifying, and that seems like enough.

Curiously, as one example Katie won't watch The Dark Knight with me, which is fictional, but she thinks it's "evil." And it is pretty intense, but for me the triumph of the human spirit is worth the slog through the rough stuff. There's a distinct difference in my mind between this and some real events that are hard to watch. Maybe because I don't necessarily know how it will end. But there are also plenty of bad fictional things I'm not interested in either.

So is there something wrong with not wanting to know every detail about some of the horrible things that happen in the world? Again, I am aware of the things that happen; I see the headlines. I just want limited information.

The Most Interesting Baby in the World

Yesterday was James's birthday, and it seems like a good time to reflect on the experience of having him join the family, and this crazy parenthood thing in general.

James is a really happy baby most of the time. He's super smiley and has some rather suave looks.



He's just started saying a couple words. As with many babies, he started saying "Uh-oh" quite a while ago, but I never know if it counts. From a linguistic perspective, he's communicating an idea verbally, so yes. He also says "Cat," or "gah" and uses the term for dogs too. And it seems like he is constantly asking, "What's that?"

He started off doing the same monkey crawl Clara did, using one knee and the other foot, but he might be settling into more of a regular crawl. He's been standing for a while now, and the other day he took one tiny little step while free standing. Our kids don't generally walk for another month or two after hitting the year mark, so he's more or less on schedule.

As far as the family stuff in general, we decided this is it for us. We're too old and mentally fractured to try going through this again. So we're trying to enjoy this time knowing that we will miss it soon. When James is 10 Sam will be 20, so we could have a kid in college, one in high school, one going into middle school, and one in elementary school. Way to drag things out, I guess. It's still hard to think of myself as a father, and a supposedly responsible adult. These changes come upon us gradually, but incremental growth is what life is all about. Right?

Van Ambition

My summer has consisted of two intense colds bridged by an ongoing sinus infection, and now I seem to be developing bronchitis. This is very odd for me; I don't recall so much summer illness ever before. But with illness comes the opportunity for interesting dreams. And while I was half asleep for the last portion of the night between coughing fits, I had another one.


My family went to University Mall in Orem, Utah. I ended up dropping off Katie and the kids and parking the van somewhere. I think we were looking for some Sunday dresses for Allison, but the store manager had boxed up all the dresses her size and donated them to charity. So we went out to try to find the van. It was night, and we couldn't find the van. I ran all around the mall looking, and finally found where I had parked it, but it was gone. 

We called the police but had a hard time getting through. We found someone we knew who helped us go to the police station. The police eventually found some surveillance footage of the parking lot. There was some dog doo in the area where we had ended up parking, and it had something to do with some antibiotics and a rich old lady who lived on the other side of the mall property and her business. For some reason this old lady had apparently stolen our van.

I was demanding a new van in payment, as well as a second car as a penalty for the old lady. She loved the theater, so apparently we put on some kind of big production to make known our demands. I woke up before we knew exactly how things turned out, but it seemed like we would probably get what we wanted.