Strange Things

Last night it was super windy. In the middle of the night I heard the gusts, and it sounded like our garbage cans blew over. This morning they had blown into the neighbors' yard, and some of their contents had blown away. This inadvertently solved a problem, because the can had been full and we had more bags that needed to be taken out...

[caption id="attachment_1610" align="aligncenter" width="574" caption="And these aren't small cans, either."][/caption]

Then when I was out on the parkway this morning, two trees had blown over onto the path that I had to climb around. I had noticed earlier that one of them had been chewed halfway through by beavers and hoped the parks people would cut it down, but I guess the wind saved them the trouble. When I came back that direction an hour or so later, though, they had already cut and removed them. Service!

Then, to top off the strange things, this suddenly plopped onto the pathway in front of me:



[caption id="attachment_1605" align="aligncenter" width="597" caption="Not often seen on land"][/caption]


There were a few seagulls wheeling high above me, so I guess one of them sort of lost its lunch. Anyway, an odd few hours.


A Day in the Life

First, today I finally took the plunge:


Yes, that's a maple bacon doughnut, courtesy of Beyond Glaze. And it was delicious.

Also today, I finally went to my parents' house to clear out the last of my possessions that I had left there. I could have just brought the 10 or so boxes back home, but I really did want to reduce the amount of useless junk I brought back to store at our house, so I went through a bunch of it. And it was really weird. There were lots of arts & crafts, but the really weird things were all the notes.

I threw away a hundred or more old notes and letters from friends in junior high and high school. In a way, it felt like I was amputating a limb, throwing away an old part of my life. I did find a few gems to keep, like some fun poems I did (I threw away all the really terrible angsty ones every teenager seems to write), and some cartoons. I might scan the cartoons sometime and give them their own post.

Anyway, it was strange but probably ultimately healthy.

Discipline: an Opportunity for Christlike Parenting

This is an article I wrote for Your LDS Blog. The whole post  can be seen here.

But It Ups My Adrenaline

Creepy: Being out alone in the woods at night.

Creepier: Being out along in the woods at night, and seeing sets of glowing eyes.

So I hesitate to do another running post so soon, since I know how exciting you all find it, but this is more about the environment than the running itself. For the most part I use the Jordan River Parkway that runs behind our house, but in the winter it’s dark on the weekdays when I go. So most of the time I go around the neighborhood, but last night I decided to brave the creepy darkness of the parkway.

Most of the area where I run has no houses bordering the trail, so it’s trees and wetlands. And, while there aren’t exactly bears and cougars roaming around the area, I still hear plenty of rustling in the bushes. And then there are the eyes, shining out of the darkness where my headlamp lights the way, and it ratchets up the creepiness another notch. Usually they are just cats, but last night I saw several deer walking around a campground. While deer are far from scary, they were still large shapes moving around in the darkness with glowing eyes.

I think I’ll stick to the neighborhood. At least I can enjoy the Christmas lights.

You Know You're a Parent When...

… getting 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep feels like you just spent a week relaxing on the beach.

… you’re content finishing a plate of food that someone else started.

… cleaning up bodily fluids is no worse than wiping up spilled milk.

… silence is your favorite sound.

… going to the store by yourself is a luxury.

… every TV show or movie you enjoy is suddenly full of unacceptable sex, violence, and bad language.

… the shoulders of all your shirts/jackets become permanently dirty.

… your fridge contains an inordinate number of hot dogs.

What else?

Waking Up

I posted not long ago about dreams and the point of diminishing returns. In fact, I mentioned the specific “dream” I am now looking at. I finally decided (again) that I want to run a marathon, specifically the Provo City Marathon next May. I chose it because you can register up to the day of the race, so if I get injured while training I won’t have to waste the registration money.

Anyway, I have been running longer runs in preparation, and last Saturday I did 15 miles for the first time. I’ve always loved running, even though it’s exercise, but now I find myself in the difficult position of not entirely looking forward to these really long runs.

So what is it worth to accomplish my goal? What if it costs me my enjoyment of running? If you get so deeply involved into something that it loses its fun, you are basically going from a hobby to a career. Ha!

I think I will stick with my plan for a few more weeks, at least. Maybe last week was just a fluke, and I’ll be all good to go from here on. But if it starts to become a chore, maybe I’ll have to abandon the dream in favor of a lifetime of enjoyment.

The Progression of Our Relationship with Christmas Ornaments

When you’re in elementary school, you make some in class. They’re charming and hand-made, but not exactly “professional” looking. Your parents hang them on the tree anyway, which makes you proud.

As you get a little older, your parents stop putting your ornaments on the tree. They go with fancy, color-coordinated ones.

You grow up and move out, and you start decorating your own trees. Being poor, you reclaim the ornaments you made from your parents’ basement to use.

You have kids, and they start making ornaments in school. You hang them on the tree, replacing the ones you made.

Your kids get older, and you can now afford nicer decorations. You box up the ornaments they made and put them in the basement.

Repeat.

The Queen's Dress Matches Her Shoes

I've posted before about how much I suck at chess. So I decided to download it onto my phone. Losing to the CPU is at least less publicly embarrassing than losing to a real person. So far I do feel like I’ve learned a couple things, and once I even forced a stalemate. That was a sweet feeling. One of these days, maybe I’ll win a game. Maybe.

No-way-in-el

I'd just like to start off by saying this: What is wrong with you people?

And by "people," I mean, "everyone but you." Relax, I'm sure you're the exception to what I'm about to complain about.

The problem can be summed up by this question commonly asked in December: "Are you all ready for Christmas?" Now, on the surface I know this is just supposed to be small talk, like "How are you?" But unlike that question, which usually prompts a quick "Fine" and then the conversation can progress, the Christmas question inevitably prompts an exasperated groan and a list of things to be done.

Why do we put ourselves through this? You don't have to have a holiday party. You don't have to spend $10,000 on decorations. You don't have to attend 50 functions thrown by other people. All the stress is avoidable.

Here's what my holiday preparations consist of:

1. Put up lights on the house (time required: 2 hours)

2. Put up a few decorations in the house, including the tree (time required: 1.5 hours)

3. Go to Toys R Us and buy whatever seems good for the kids. Maybe order a couple things online (time required: 2 hours)

Boom. Done. Maybe I'll order something online that Katie wants, or let her go shop for herself. The point is, it takes me less than a cumulative day to "get ready for Christmas." And I can enjoy the season, and contemplate its "true meaning" or whatever (don't get me started on that one) without feeling like I get an ulcer every year.

Why do people torture themselves in the name of enjoyment?

In Need of Resolution

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year, to see how I did. Only… I could have sworn I wrote a blog post about it, but now I can’t find it. So, if writing that post was a resolution, I have failed. So let’s take a look at some other hypothetical resolutions that I could have made, and see how I did.


  • Write a book: Nope. Fail on that one. I did make incremental progress on one, but that was months ago.



  • Become financially independent: “Acquire massive debt and decades of responsibility” would be a more accurate description of purchasing a home. But I get a pass on this one if we look at it in the light of gaining the freedom that comes with home “ownership.”



  • Learn a new skill: Well, I did learn how to put in a sprinkler system, so maybe that counts.



  • Read: This is kind of a dumb one, since that’s half of what a writer does. But in my spare time I certainly read a bunch of books too.



  • Get in shape: This is a bit ambiguous, but I should end up running between 700 and 800 miles this year. I do remember that my original goal was 500, so that’s an A+. I’m not exactly Mr. Universe, but at least I am doing something for my health.



  • Spend more time with the family: This one is hard to call. Katie and I always try to minimize activities that keep us from being home. Aside from the time I’m out running, I’m pretty much always home if I’m not at work or in a church meeting I’m supposed to attend.



  • Stop smoking: Ha! I totally win this one, since I’ve never smoked in my life. Although, now that I think about it, I suppose that technically means I failed to “stop”…


How are you doing with your resolutions?

Thing I Would Like to Know # 6,329

Do sales of insulin spike in November and December? There's an awful lot of sugar around that time of year.

Tea Rex

[caption id="attachment_1568" align="aligncenter" width="577" caption="WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MORE EARL GREY?!?!"][/caption]

Just a Gumdrop?

Sometimes when I am tired I say extra strange things. Today I asked a coworker what he was eating, and he said, "Just a gumdrop."

Here is how I replied. "Just a gumdrop? You're talking about one of the great foundational creations of the American confectionary industry, upon whose shoulders stand such giants as Jelly Bellies and gummy worms! So show some respect!"

The funny thing is that I don't even really care about gumdrops one way or the other.

Peaks and Valleys

The other night I dreamed that I was climbing some of the highest mountains in the state. I was especially excited when I got to King's Peak, and I started climbing it with Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters. It was awesome, until a little girl crashed her bike (apparently the first part of the trail was paved, and we were riding) and she changed her mind about making the climb with us. So I had to take her back down the mountain while the other went on. Bummer.

Christmas Me Monster

I put Christmas lights up on the outside of the house the day after Thanksgiving. I was pretty proud of myself for getting it done early.

Then, that weekend I noticed another house in the neighborhood. Somebody had put up a lot of lights all over the house, and about a million lighted lawn decorations. The lights are presumably plugged into one of those control boxes that lets you create patterns of blinking lights. Then, apparently still unsure they would attract enough attention, they set the controls to "induce epileptic seizure." It's unnervingly distracting to drive by and watch the bizarre pattern of lights blinking on and off.

Now, I usually drive with my iPod plugged into an FM transmitter that broadcasts on a frequency unused by local radio stations. It kept getting all fuzzy in this same neighborhood area. One day I just turned it off as I drove down this street, and I started hearing Christmas music on that same frequency. Then I finally noticed that these people had put up a banner in their front yard telling everyone to tune in to 107.1 FM (the same frequency I use for my iPod), and admonishing us to "Enjoy the show!"

I don't even know what to say about this. Christmas decoration are nice. They make me feel like I'm celebrating the season, and cheer up the dark winter nights. But it makes me a little sick when decorations scream, "Look at me! And listen to me! Next year we'll add a reindeer petting zoo!"

*Update: I drove the family by there the other night, and my wife quickly noticed that the lights were blinking in time to the music they had playing. So that solves one mystery of the frenetic pattern. They also had a prerecorded announcement play between songs stating that people could donate to a charity (I think it was for diabetes), so I suppose in the end these people get a pass.... Humbug.

What Do You Say When a Bridge Collapses? Timber? Fore?

When you were in school, did you ever do that project where you build a bridge out of paper and see how many books you can put on it before it breaks? Well, I didn’t. But I understand the concept. And sometimes, when it’s been a hard week or two (or six years), I feel a little bit like that bridge. Once in a while it’s mental, when work or other responsibilities pile up, but for me it’s more often physical.

Usually it’s lack of sleep. I’ve been a parent long enough to be able to shrug off bad nights here and there without trouble, but several nights of five interrupted hours or less starts to add up. And then, due to stubbornness (which is often indistinguishable from stupidity), I keep up with my running schedule, which lately has had me doing 12 to 14 mile runs on Saturdays in addition to a couple shorter weekday runs.

Anyway, lately I feel a bit like I’m watching that paper bridge from a distance with a morbid curiosity, wondering when the whole thing will collapse under the weight of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Brief

Last night as I was trying to get Allison to sleep, this thought came into my head: We really need more products named "pelican."

Giving You the Business

I’ve been thinking lately about businesses that you pay for the service of insulting you, or at least giving you guilt trips. It’s probably been on my mind because I just had the oil changed in both of our cars after about 6,000 miles. I put it off because whenever I do it they remind me that I should really have X service done that is on special today for only $169.99. I’m not talking about fake stuff like “stem lube,” but things like having the tires rotated and the transmission fluid changed, which I probably should do but can’t ever afford it.

It’s a lot like going to the dentist. No matter how faithful you are, the dentist knows you should still be doing better. Ditto for banks—“You couldn’t leave the minimum $25 in there? Were those limited edition Justin Beiber oven mitts really a necessity?”

What are some other examples of businesses/people who earn money by making you unhappy?

Exit Sandman

Okay, someone is playing a joke on me. My adversarial relationship with sleep is familiar to anyone who is a parent. It's just a tradeoff we make for the joy (and frustration, and constant confusion) of raising children. And I’ve come to accept that.

What I can’t come to terms with, however, is what my brain does on the rare occasion when I am able to get to bed at a decent time, as was the case Sunday night. When that happens, and I wish I were kidding here, I get so excited about the potential for 8 hours of sleep that the excitement keeps me awake. It just seems supremely unfair.

Pepe le Pew

When I was on the parkway running this morning, I noticed that there was a skunk caught in a trap on the side of the trail, attached to a fence that marked the boundary of a bunch of farmers' fields. Then I remembered that I had heard someone tell me that he had seen it trapped there last Saturday. So I decided the poor thing had suffered long enough. After my run, I put on my rollerblades, grabbed a couple tools ans some gloves, and headed back down the trail for a couple miles.

I was pretty nervous about approaching a skunk (who wouldn't be?) but I figured that if it had been there for a week it was unlikely to put up much resistance. The trap was something like a snare, with wire wrapped around its neck and one leg. It took me a while, but I finally got the wire cut from around it. The poor thing had gotten it so twisted, and its skin had swollen enough that I couldn't extract the wire from all the way around it, but at least it could breathe easier and escape if it wanted.

I called animal control, although I have my doubts that they will do anything (apparently it's run by the police department, and I doubt they are interested in attending to a skunk on a relatively inaccessible part of the trail). But I left it some food and water, so I figure that's all I could do. I hope it survives.

And, although it made no attempt to spray me, just being around it for a few minutes was enough to leave me with a bit of a smell on my skin and clothes. Our house actually has a bit of a musk right now.

Clodhopper

Last night I was talking to Katie when we noticed Allison trying to shuffle our way wearing her mom's heavy Doc Martens.

On Second Thought

Have you ever had the experience of suddenly realizing you don’t like something that you always thought you did? One example for me is the writings of Orson Scott Card. I enjoy Ender’s Game, and a couple other things he’s done, but eventually I realized that I just don’t care for his writing style.

The same thing can happen with people. Sometimes I will meet someone and think they are great, and then later realize that they’re really annoying (and I’m sure this happens all the time in reverse). It also happens with food. It’s not the same as just getting tired of something; it really is a sudden realization that I don’t care for it.

Do any of you have any examples? Besides my blog, I mean…

Okay, this is a boring running post. But it’s also a confession of my stupid stubbornness that may entertain someone. On Saturday I ended up running on a part of the trail that I hadn’t before, to get the distance that I wanted. The problem is, that particular section of trail climbs at a 20% grade for about 500 feet. And that was after running into surprisingly stiff wind for 6 miles. And I wasn’t going to let myself stop and walk, because (stubbornness again) I refuse to stop for anything when I run. So it exhausted me, and then I had to turn around and run the other 6.5 miles back home.

Twinkle Twinkle

In the last few years I've become interested in astronomy, to the extent I can enjoy it without actually working or studying hard to learn more about it. But I like to watch shows about space, and I sometimes check out the incredible photos on NASA's website.

Sam has been interested too, and we sometimes talk about stars and black holes and such. He has mentioned that he wants a telescope. And then, last time we were at my parents' house my dad asked me if we were interested in taking the telescope he had bought the kids for Christmas a few years ago. Um, yes?

I remember that we were never able to use the telescope to see anything useful, but I was willing to give it another shot, especially because of the Google Sky Map app for my phone. I can point it up at the sky and see the names of everything, making it a lot easier to know what to look for. So Sam and I decided to look for Jupiter, since that's the most visible object to look for, aside from the moon.

So last night was finally less than totally cloudy, and we were able to check it out. And it worked! We were able to see Jupiter, if not super clearly, and a few tiny point of light that were some of its moons.

They say that when you travel to outer space and see the earth below, you get a sense that "All the people of this earth are truly one." While I didn't have that epiphany, it was an amazing feeling to know that I was looking at something nearly 400 million miles away (actually a little more, given its current position).

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it was neat.

Heavyweight

For lack of anything better to do on Saturday, Sam and I went to Cabela's. And I'm sad to say that he got in a little scuffle...

[caption id="attachment_1516" align="aligncenter" width="645" caption="You should see the other guy"][/caption]

Hold Your Breath

The other day I decided to see how long I could hold my breath. So I sat down, took a few deep breaths to get ready, and went for it. I got 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Now it's your turn. What did you get?

Doors Opened

Last weekend we got a nice early Christmas present. My parents came over on Saturday, and my dad helped me clean out the garage. Now our cars actually fit in there! It’s amazing. This is the fourth place we’ve lived in seven years of marriage, and we’ve never had an actual garage that fit a car inside of it. Never knowing what we were missing, we didn’t really think too much of it. But now, it’s fantastic! I loved going out this morning and not having to scrape the frost off of my windows before work.

Sartorial Anachronism

On a whim tonight, I put on some corduroy pants that I've saved from years ago, waiting a decade or so for them to come back. Are we almost there?

Of Halloween and Heaving

Hmm, where to begin? On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk with Katie's brother and sister, who had come to visit. The first signs of illness among us appeared as I picked Allison up out of the stroller, and she immediately started throwing up the pizza we had had for lunch. Meanwhile, I came down with a nasty cold that night, so Allison and I stayed home from church the next day.

Sunday night my cold was in full bloom, but I was determined to make it to work Monday, since it was after all Halloween. So I made it, although it was pretty annoying to have to keep blowing my nose and messing up my makeup. Sam, meanwhile, was dressed as a mummy. The challenge there was keeping his bandages from slipping down his legs, as you can see in our post-trick-or-treat photo.


Meanwhile, Katie had picked up pirate costumes for her and Allison, which was fun because Katie doesn't usually get into Halloween much. I didn't have a decent photo of Allison's costume, but here she is dressed in it watching the old Batman movie, which she has started asking for.




[caption id="attachment_1501" align="aligncenter" width="404" caption="Bat-Pirate Girl?"][/caption]

And here's Katie:




[caption id="attachment_1502" align="aligncenter" width="404" caption="Nice Booty"][/caption]

After trick-or-treating was when the real fun began. I started feeling sick and went to bed after Sam fell asleep. Sam was up about midnight throwing up, and I joined in the fun soon after. A couple hours later, Katie joined the fun.


This seemed like that nasty 24-hour virus that seems to come our way once every year or so, but it hit me harder than it has before. Let me try to describe it euphemistically. Imagine that criminals burst into a crowded concert hall to rob everyone, and people start running for the exit. There are two exits, and people run toward both exits at the exact same time. Yeah, it was like that. Never in my life have I experienced anything so unpleasant.


Anyway, enough of that. Despite the sickness, it was still a fun Halloween. How was yours?

How to Win a 5k without Even Trying

While I was running on Saturday, I noticed a group of people gathered in a parking lot, but I didn't think much of it. Then a few minutes later I passed a guy sitting at a table with water, and a sign identifying the turnaround point for a 5k. So I ran on, figuring the race would happen while I was further down the trail.

A few miles later I turned around and headed back toward the table. When I passed it again, the guy was still sitting there, and it didn't look like any of the water was gone. A couple minutes later I finally started to see the racers coming the other direction, which meant that I was technically in the lead of their race. As I approached the finish line, a teenager quickly whipped out a big timer, showing me that I was finishing the 5k in about 15 minutes. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, there was no tape for me to break.

Measuring Stick

I like assigning objective numbers to things, even when they’re not literally quantifiable. So I think we should create metrics to measure characteristics that are actually subjective. For example, in the show Futurama, someone uses a “funnkometer” to determine how cool someone is, and the coolness units are called “megafonzies.”

I was talking with my buddy Rob (go buy his book) and we came up with a couple. Insanity will be measured in “Kims,” after Kim Jong Il, and stupidity will be measured in “Palins.”

What else can we measure, and what are the units?

Yahtzee!

The other night I rolled a Yahtzee using only my toes. Now, why does it never happen when I roll the dice by hand?

Six

Sam's birthday is today, but we decided to let him open his presents on Saturday so we could all be there to enjoy it. And this year we decided to get him more than we have in the past, for some reason. Or, rather, we got him more expensive presents, including a set of two remote-controlled cars, a child-sized (but real) guitar, and of course this:


In the end we learned what many parents undoubtedly have throughout history: that kids really do care more about numbers of gifts than how nice they are. So for Christmas maybe we'll load up at the dollar store, so he can sit and unwrap all day.

Just a Thought

If we converted every golf course in the United States into something useful, say wheat farms, it would produce enough wheat to feed 34 million people for a year, based on average global wheat consumption per capita. Just something to think about, what with rampant world hunger and all.

October Moon

Last night the moon looked fantastic, either full or very nearly full, with that veil of clouds common in the fall. In short, it was an October moon, slightly eerie and perfect for the Halloween season. So I thought it would be fun to write a poem about it. And then I thought maybe it would be more fun to write a collaborative poem about it.

So here's the deal. If you're reading this, you have been drafted to draft it. This will be a free verse, poem, so everyone leave a couple words, or a line or two in the comments. I will arrange them and add some more content to finish the poem. If everything works out, I'll post it in a separate post.

Aaaaaand... Create!

Ninja Wish

Okay, we need something a little lighter after that last post. Tonight I asked Sam what he would wish for if he found a genie in a lamp.

Wish 1: to be a ninja

Wish 2: to have a group of 100,000 good ninjas to fight the bad ninjas

Wish 3: One of his ninjas would have two swords and a shield, to fight the hardest guys.

I defy you to come up with three more awesome wishes.

Seven

Sometimes when I’m on a run I actually think about something beyond “How many more miles do I have to go?” Saturday was one such day, and for some reason I started thinking about the “seven deadly sins” and how differently we might view them today. So, let’s look at each of the sins, and what we find culturally acceptable today.

Greed

Then: The love of money is evil and leads to all kinds of unpleasant effects. We should moderate our desires for worldly wealth, and use money to help others.

Now: Do whatever you can to make money. If you slip and fall, sue whoever own the property where you did it. Game the system to get whatever government assistance you can. Buy lottery tickets!

Sloth

Then: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Keep yourself busy. Be productive and help others, through the talents you have been given. Improve your time.

Now: Get your work done as quickly as possible, so you can get more TV and video game time in. The more vulgar, crass, and mind-numbing the entertainment, the better. Absorb, rather than create.

Envy

Then: Be content with what you have, rather than wishing for someone else’s lot. Envy leads to contention. You’re not in competition with other people. Don’t be bitter because of another’s good fortune.

Now: This can be summed up nicely through the text of a billboard I saw. “Tired of keeping up with the Joneses? Just move into their foreclosure!” Get yourself into whatever debt you need to in order to get that huge house and shiny new car. If anything goes wrong, the government will bail you out! Do whatever it takes to get a piece of the pie!

Pride

Then: We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, seeking to be more important, attractive, or wealthy than they are. Dante defined it as "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbour." Ezra Taft Benson defined the central feature of pride as enmity between man and God.

Now: You are worth it. You deserve whatever it takes to make you happy, whatever the cost to others. If you can’t build yourself up, just knock others down. Watch reality TV to feel better about yourself.

Lust

Then: Keep yourself pure prior to marriage, and then be entirely faithful to your spouse. “Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.”

Now: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Sex is a beautiful, natural thing, and it’s never wrong. Don’t worry about restraining your appetites. Do what feels good.

Wrath

Then: Rage is bad. Be patient with others, and God will be patient with you. Anger is destructive toward ourselves and others.

Now: Temporary insanity justifies murder. When you get angry, it’s totally the other person’s fault. Revenge is sweet. Do whatever you can get away with.

Gluttony

Then: Eat what you need, and give your excess to the poor. Gluttony shows a lack of self-control and contempt for those who have less than you.

Now: Let’s try to figure out how to lose weight without exercising or eating right, so we can indulge all we want and never face the consequences! Let’s all collectively stuff our faces as much as possible, and not worry about mastering our appetites.

I realize this post comes off a little cynical (Is that really surprising at this point?) and judgmental, but I’m in no way saying I’m not guilty of these things. What I’m decrying is that behaviors that were once considered fundamentally wrong are now pretty universally accepted by mainstream society.

This all hearkens back to a larger theme I’ve been thinking about lately. We all want someone else to fix our problems. We want the government to magically instigate social and economic equality. But in the end it has to start with the individual. We need to teach our children basic moral values, and seek to improve ourselves. We should lift each other up willingly, rather than be taxed into supporting the poor. And we should take upon ourselves the responsibility to, as Ghandi put it, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

*steps off soapbox

One of These Days...

... I'm going to get myself some spats, just to try them out.

Tis the Season

Tonight we decorated the house for Halloween.

[caption id="attachment_1463" align="aligncenter" width="574" caption="It's fun to stay at the..."][/caption]

Sew What

I've always known that Sam was an exceptional child, in the way that all parents somehow know that, despite the logical impossibility that poses. And his interests can seem somewhat esoteric compared to other buys his age. But try to imagine my reaction when, out of the blue last night, he asks Katie to get out her sewing kit so he can practice with a needle and thread.

Remember, he's not yet six years old. I think the first time I touched any sewing-related materials was when I was in seventh grade and had that TLC class (no, it stands for Technology, Life, Career) in which we did sewing during the home economics portion.

So Katie got out the kit and gave him a button and a piece of cloth to sew it onto. He pretty much figured it all out himself. This kid is pretty amazing sometimes.

P-U

As any parent can tell you, disgust is inflationary. After cleaning up a certain amount of bodily fluids, which I will refer to as the “gag bypass threshold” (or GBT), it takes a lot to really gross you out anymore. Change poopy diapers? Yawn. Clean up vomit? Snore. Wiping runny noses? Seriously, I’ll eat a sandwich while I do that. So it’s not often that I find a new disgusting experience that bothers me.

So much for foreshadowing. This week Allison has had some stomach bug that has left her with little appetite and uncharacteristically loose bowels. This morning I was up with her and changed a diaper (actually two) that could only be described as “demonic.” It’s been years since I had to suppress my gag reflex, but I seriously had to hold my breath to keep from losing my breakfast. It was just plain evil. I threw the diapers into the outside garbage can immediately, but the smell still lingered in the house, lingering as though only an exorcism would help. It was truly the stuff nightmares are made of.

Things I Wish I Had Said Louder

When I was on the parkway behind the house the other day with Dortmunder, a group of cyclists rode by. One of them said, "Taking your cat for a walk?" As they rode off, he laughed as though he had said the funniest thing in the world. I responded by saying, "Yep. Taking your mouth for a ride?" But I didn't say it loud enough for them to hear it, and now I regret it.

Meow Today, Gone Tomorrow

You know how people say not to feed stray animals, because they will keep hanging around? Well, I was still trying to catch those kittens, so I kept bringing them food. I decided that I would either keep them or take them to a shelter.

The aphorism proved to be a lie. After Wednesday night, the kittens disappeared. I looked for them for a while yesterday but found nothing. I know that this was the easiest possible solution for me, but it kind of breaks my heart that they are gone. I'm sure Dortmunder is happy not to have to share attention, although he did actually help me look for them.

Meow

Okay, I've got a problem. There are two kittens hanging around out on the side of the parkway near our house. They are tiny, just that really cute fun age where they are pretty irresistible.

I like cats. Part of me wants to take them in, because it's turning cold, and they would not survive the winter outdoors. But another part of me says a), I already have a cat (who was none too friendly when he saw the kittens anyway), and b) I have enough on my plate in general without adding two more pets to the clan.

On the other hand, we kept two stray kittens when I was about 9, and they were our family pets growing up, so there is precedent there.

I actually tried to catch them last night but could only get one, and I figured they'd survive better together, so I left them both for the time being. Anyway, I've been leaving them some food and will see how things go tonight. Any opinions on what I should do? Does anybody want a cat?

And I Would Drive 1,000 Miles...


Last night Sam asked if we could try playing Mille Bornes. He had gotten the cards out a couple days earlier and thought it would be fun. I wasn’t sure he was up to understanding the rules, let alone reading the French on the cards, but I figured we’d give it a shot. I figured I could at least simplify the rules on the fly, like we do when we play Clue. So we started playing, and he totally understood it after a few minutes. In the end I allowed him to win, which was kind of hard because I had an extra 725 miles in my hand and could have slapped down a 200-mile card at any point. But I wanted him to have a positive experience his first time playing the game, and we had a good time. If you've never played it, you totally should.

Empathy

The Panama Canal is amazing. It took ten years to dig and stretches 48 miles. The first attempt to build a canal, in 1880, failed when 21,900 workers all died (mostly from diseases like malaria). Even the successful effort  led by the U.S. resulted in 5,600 deaths. But it was a success and is considered one of the marvels of the modern world.

I guess I never appreciated it enough, before I spent 12 hours yesterday digging in the yard. This morning I feel like I was beaten with a sack of doorknobs all night.

What's in a (Misspelled) Name?

Okay, this bugs me. Here's a banner ad I've seen around a few times, presumably for some show I don't watch.



It's not easy to notice, at least for those of use used to names like John and Sarah, but they spell her name two different ways in the ad, Pavarti and Parvati. Maybe I should "message her" to tell her not to trust CBS if they can't even spell her name right.

Traffic Jam

Last night was one of those nights when Allison decided to be up for several hours, and I was trying to think of a good way to describe the state of my brain. So far the best analogy I can come up with is that if my brain were a city, and the traffic represented my thoughts, all the stoplights would be flashing red and green in unusual combinations, causing accidents everywhere and generally slowing things down to a crawl.

Tough Cookie

Allison is not a girl to be pushed around, even by a shark.

[caption id="attachment_1418" align="aligncenter" width="577" caption="Pants, schmants"][/caption]

Yes, This Is a Spider Post

Sleep is a cruel mistress. Last night I got as close to 8 hours as I have in months (at least on a work night), and I feel as tired as ever. Anyway, on to the post proper.

*disclaimer* I promise I'm not going to turn this into a blog all about spiders (Amanda, you might as well stop reading now) but I thought this was interesting.

First of all, Shelob disappeared with the advent of cool, wet weather last week. But up in her corner above our door yesterday I noticed a giant wolf spider, which I removed because we were just beginning to enjoy full use of the back door again.

And then I was walking with the kids yesterday when we came upon this strange creature:


I've seen a lot of creepy crawlies in my day, but never anything quite like that. I decided to call it a zebra spider, although I think it's another species of orb weaver. Anyway, it seems like just moving a few miles south of Salt Lake has opened up a whole new entomological world.

Smatterday

Wow, I'm tired. I ran 8 miles this morning, then worked on the sprinkler system (with my dad, brothers, and a friend) for 9 hours. It's probably 80% done.

Allison just came over with a couple DVDs in her hand. But instead of her usual, Finding Nemo and Toy Story, she brought Charade and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It's nice that she's branching out.

Embarrassing Experience #2,641

Yesterday we were sitting in church, in sacrament meeting, during the passing of the sacrament (so the most quiet part of the meeting, which in our ward has more than 400 people attending), when someone’s phone began to ring. It went on for several seconds, and I started looking around to see why nobody was silencing it. It sure sounded close. Just to make sure I wasn’t responsible, I put my hand down and covered my pocket. The sound got quieter. I released my hand, and it got louder again. Mortified, I ran for the exit, all the while trying to push buttons while the phone was in my pocket, hoping it would stop.

When I got outside, I saw that the music player itself had somehow started, selecting a random song. That explained why I didn’t recognize what was happening, because it isn’t a ringtone or notification on my phone. And it wasn’t even a song I’m overly familiar with. But there are many reasons why this should never have happened. 1. I have an app which automatically silences my phone during church hours, and it was (supposedly) functioning. 2. The phone was in my pocket, and I wasn’t moving at the time, just sitting quietly. 3. It’s a capacitive touchscreen, meaning it should only react to contact with my skin, not the fabric of clothing. 4. In order for the phone to turn on, I have to push a button on the top of the phone, then swipe my finger across the screen. 5. Even if it were turned on in that manner, the phone was locked and would have required typing in a password to gain access to anything. 6. Finally, even if the phone were turned on and unlocked, it would have had to change screens to where my music app is located to turn it on.

Sorry for the boring description, but I had to show that it really, really should never have happened.

In Case You Were Wondering


Shelob is still doing fine.

You Think You Can

I must say, one of my favorite things about parenthood is the placebo effect. However much your kids may doubt you, they will still believe you when you say, "This will make the pain go away." I use it often when Sam is having some sort of meltdown. My favorite example is when I gave him grape juice in a medicine cup and told him it would help him calm down. And it worked. Seriously, the brain is amazing.

A New Chapter

Sam has always enjoyed a story before bed. I have had less success than I would have hoped when it comes to getting him to practice his own reading, but at least he likes books. But he's at an awkward stage where the books we have been reading for a few years (Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, etc.) are simply too young for him. I've been trying a few of my old chapter books such as various Roald Dahl stories, The Great Brain, and The Indian in the Cupboard, but he's not quite ready for the longer chapter books for the most part.

We did start The Mouse and the Motorcycle a few nights ago, and he seems okay with that one so far. Any suggestions on what we should pick p at the library?

Ear It Comes

Last night I was running when I felt something hit my ear. I reached up to touch it, and it was ...

Any guesses?

When You Can Balance a Tack Hammer on Your Head, You Can Head off Your Foes with a Balanced Attack

This morning on my way to work I was thinking how I really don't mind leaving a few minutes early to beat some of the traffic. And then a funny thought struck me: The key to balancing your work life and your home life is to hate your job.

The idea is that if you love your job you will want to spend more time there than is necessary, at the expense of your family. But on the other hand, if you hate your job you will probably spend too little time there to be effective, so I realized that doesn't really work either. So the amended maxim is this: The key to balancing your work life and your home life is to feel okay about your job but not to love it too much. Then you don't mind going to work, but you're happy to pack up at the end of the day and go home.

Day One

Well, we all survived Sam's first day of kindergarten. Here's a picture of him on our porch, with our lovely dirt yard in the background, and Allison looking cute just for good measure.


When I was a kid, my elementary school was visible from our house, and my mom used to watch us through binoculars from the house to make sure we got home safely. It was embarrassing, and I couldn't understand it at the time.

Now it kind of makes sense, though. My main fear for Sam yesterday was that he wouldn't get on the right bus to come home, or would get off at the wrong stop. I never rode the bus to school, so it was a little outside my experience. But he made it, and even though Katie was a minute late meeting him at the bus stop in the afternoon (Allison was asleep and she didn't want to leave her alone in the house) he started walking the right way to get home.

Overall, he enjoyed his first day and was eager to go back. Now we'll just have to be ready for the first time he has a bad day. But we'll take things one step at a time.

Dream Car

Last night I dreamed that I was involved in a group planning an intricate heist of some sort. We all had our jobs. Mine involved researching the average weight of a variety of dogs so we could correctly dose the sleeping pills in the meat we would give them, because we apparently didn't know the breeds we would be up against.

Eventually we successfully broke into the place the valuable item was stored, which was a high-rise apartment building. We ended up taking the small locked box the item was in (I remember we had to ride the elevator with some cops on the way down), allowing our lock guy to work on it for a couple days. When he eventually got it open, it was some sort of Micro Machine.

We were all a little skeptical about the value of such an item, but it did look like an unusual one, and it came with something labeled a "micro computer." So we decided to check around to see what it was worth, but I woke up too soon to find out.

The Morals of the Story

The other night I was reading Rumplestiltskin to Sam from a fairy tale book. As you all know, at the beginning of the story, the miller is a big fat liar, bragging that his daughter can spin straw into gold. So the king locks her up to make her do it, promising to marry her if she does it. So the creepy guy shows up and does it for her, and the king breaks his promise. But he tells her to do it again and he’ll really marry her this time. And so on.

Anyway, around the second time the king lied to her about marrying her, Sam spoke up. “Why is everyone in this story lying so much?” Sometimes I forget how insightful he really is.

And, on an unrelated note, the other day he didn’t want to put on a particular pair of shorts because he didn’t feel they were modest enough. And yes, he used that word. Maybe we’re doing a better job raising him than we feared.

Trapped

Someone doesn't want us to go outside...

[caption id="attachment_1367" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="If this works, I'm set for life."][/caption]

Back to School

Last night we went to Back to School Night for the first time ever. So I guess we should just call it "to school night."

Semantics aside, it was an odd experience. I still dimly recall my experiences as the student, so it's a strange feeling to be on the other side now as the parent. It's one of those landmark experiences that makes you feel a little bit old. Not as old as having your kids graduate from high school, but still.

Anyway, Sam is excited about school, and his teacher seems to be really nice, so we'll see how everything goes.

The Longest Yard

Imagine you are standing at the base of a mountain, with your climbing gear on, looking up. The top is shrouded in clouds. That’s how I feel as I consider the mammoth undertaking of getting a yard installed.

For several weeks I’ve been trying to plan what needs to be done, in what order, and I’m running out of ways to pretend I am being productive without actually doing anything.

So we have been trying to plan out what we will do. Katie and I love grass, so we never planned anything very ambitious. Frankly, a lot of people seem to try cramming too much stuff into their yard, leaving it looking cluttered. And as our previous landlord can attest to, we are not cut out to take care of a lot of garden area anyway. So the plan is to plant grass everywhere and have one small flower bed in front of the porch, and a couple of trees. We are also going to add a concrete patio in the backyard. So the to-do list looks something like this:

1. Till the soil to loosen it up. (We have already tried this, to little effect due to mechanical problems. I will be renting another one and giving it another shot. Our soil is really hard.)
2. Have a soil analysis done to see what we need to do for a healthy lawn. (I’m waiting for the results. It seems a bit excessive, maybe, but it was a good suggestion by my dad. We do want things to last.) Then we need to add organic matter, or whatever they recommend, and till that into the soil.
3. Pour the concrete patio, and curbing for the flower bed in front.
4. Plan the sprinkler system (I do have the plan, courtesy of a local sprinkler supply store.)
5. Install the sprinklers. This involves renting a trencher and laying all the pipes and all that good stuff.
6. Create a final grade for the lawn, which means raking it until it is all smooth, draining away from the house.
7. Lay the sod and get it established, and then get a lawn mower.

Yeah, climbing the huge mountain seems a lot easier.

Zap

Last night we had the most impressive thunderstorm I have ever seen. It all started a little before midnight, as I was trying to get to sleep. Bright flashes of lightning kept interrupting my descent into slumber, at a rate of several per minute. There was no thunder, though, at least for a while. As the storm crept closer we began to hear low rumblings, and the lightning became even more intense. I should have counted the flashes, but they were often interrupting each other, and the thunder was too. I kept thinking maybe the center of the storm had passed, when a huge peal of thunder would crash overhead. We opened the blinds for a while and just watched the show. The amazing thing was that the kids didn't wake up even though it lasted for an hour, with a few really deafening crashes.

I always wondered how much electricity we could get from lightning, if it were possible to capture safely. According to one random website I just found, "One storm can discharge enough energy to supply the entire U.S. with electricity for 20 minutes." I don't know how much we could get over the course of a year, but it would certainly be awesome to toast your bread indirectly with lightning power.

You Have a Dream

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to dreams. Not the kind you have while asleep, as amusing as those often are. I mean our aspirations for our lives. I suppose dreams seem a little more far-fetched and a little less rational than our goals.

We’re often told that we should pursue our dreams at all costs, for the sake of our happiness. But lately I’ve been thinking that there must be some limit there, or we are more likely to jeopardize our happiness than to find it. If, for example, a man dreamed of being the CEO at his company (don’t worry, I’m not that ambitious), that is a relatively understandable dream, although it’s a bit lofty. But if he works 18-hour days, never sees his family, gets divorced and ruins his relationship with his children in order to achieve that dream, then it’s definitely a Pyrrhic victory.

I’m trying to think about whether or not I have crazy huge aspirations, but all I ever really wanted was a family, a house, and a decent job, all of which I now have. I guess I still dream of running a full marathon, and getting a novel published, but those seem more like things to add to a standard list of goals.

So I guess the question is, at what point do we draw the line and realize that our dreams shouldn’t necessarily be pursued at all costs? What are your dreams, and how far would you go to achieve them?

Dream # Whatever

I dreamed I was on Mars, harvesting beans with something that looked like a hockey stick. Why I couldn't just pick them up is anyone's guess.

Happy Returns

After a few days offline, my site is back! So if anybody actually comes here again, thanks.

Well, my 31st birthday has now come and gone, and it was a good one. A few weeks ago I had decided to run a half marathon for my birthday (not a registered one, just by myself), because for some reason I thought the 13 and 31 would be cool. And then, a couple days before, I decided that in order to prove that I'm not getting old, I decided I had to beat my best time at that distance, set all of three months ago.

I managed to do it in 1:38, taking a little more than a minute off my previous time. Not too much, but I felt good because you generally run slower on your own anyway. I did manage to score some pretty sore toenails, though.

Anyway, enough with the boring running stuff. Now on to the boring family stuff! Katie bought me a bunch of shirts (I think I ended up with 13, so I really mean "a bunch"), and I got to go see Cowboys and Aliens (spoiler: it has cowboys in it, and also aliens). Then we went to my parents' house for dinner and family pictures, because my sister and her husband are moving to San Antonio this week. My dad made some killer beef brisket and barbecued ribs. It was great.

So it was a good day. I'm hoping to have some more frequent posts coming up, detailing the hilarious results of my attempts to install a sprinkler system, lawn, and patio. Stay tuned.

My posts lately have been few and far between lately, so let’s see where my stream of consciousness goes today. It should prove especially entertaining, given that I had about 2.5 hours of sleep last night.

I feel a bit like my blog is dying, which makes me sad. I’m trying to decide if that’s because I have nothing to say, or because I write all day for work and get a little sick of it. I’m not sure what the reason is. But since this is really my only form of a journal (at present, at least) I need to leave something to be remembered by, and I imagine a journal is preferable to my stuffed corpse standing by the fireplace. (Hey, what did you expect from stream of consciousness? At least I’m using punctuation.)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about science fiction. This is partly because I am attempting to write a science fiction novel, having finally received some good advice on developing a proper plot structure. But it’s also because science fiction was once sort of a beacon of hope that humanity would outgrow its stupidity (see: Star Trek). There was something of vast, untapped potential in the stories of the early to mid-twentieth century, and that optimistic attitude has been replaced with a new genre of dystopic, post-apocalyptic works, apparently reflecting what is weighing on our collective consciousness.

Wow, this took a turn for the serious, so let me see if I can lighten things up. We love having our own house, knowing that if we want to knock a hole in a wall or throw a rock through the window, we can (hypothetically speaking, of course).

About Time

1. I like to look at the year in which coins were minted and think about where I was at that time.

2. I like to imagine how my past self would view my current life if they were watching it like a movie. I'll be driving home, for example, and think, "What would the me of x years ago think if he came in on me at this moment and saw my family, job, home, etc?"

Memory

Here's an IM conversation I recently had with my friend Amanda.

me:  I have a question

Amanda:  yes

me:  Why do fancy, memory foam bath mats exist?
Who needs luxurious cushioning on something you step on for 5 seconds a day?

Amanda:  You bought it didn't you? Since when has this society based purchases on actual needs?
Why does that foam need to remember? That's my question.

me:  I think we'd all prefer it if our possessions forgot how much we weigh.

Bumper Battles

Okay, seriously. Enough is enough.

In a couple weeks, I will have had my driver's license for 15 years. In all that time, nobody has ever hit my car. In fact, let's back it up and say I've never been hit by a car even as a passenger.

Until last week.

I was driving home on the freeway, and it was one of those weird days where traffic seems fine, and then you're slamming on your brakes all of a sudden, which I did, just managing to stop before hitting the car in front of me. Then I heard a squeal of burning rubber from behind me, and I got bumped by that guy, who couldn't stop soon enough. We got out any checked things out, and I just had a little paint flaking off my bumper. No big deal, so I said we wouldn't worry about it.

Fast forward to last night. I was on my way to my friend Jer's wedding dinner (who was also in an accident this week). I was stopped at the end of the freeway offramp, when the guy behind me somehow accelerated into me. I got out and found yet more paint flaking off my bumper, but no apparent cracks or dents. Since I was worried about being late, I again decided to be nice and not involve the authorities.

So, I'm getting sick of this. The next person who hits my car is getting sued.

Draft, Mark 2

Here are a few more posts I started but never finished.

____________________

Things that wouldn't make me cry:

If my car was hit... by the Publishers Clearinghouse Prize Patrol van bringing me a check for $10 million.

If Hollywood sank into the ocean.

I really should have thought more about this one. It could be a fun list.

____________________

There's no body text to this one, just a title:

Punch


____________________

Things I Care about More than I Should

En dashes

The amount of peanut butter in my sandwich

Getting all the inner peel off when I peel an orange

That inner peel is bitter, okay?

____________________

Polarizing

Twilight

Coconut

Obama

Cats

This is true. You love them or hate them; there is no middle ground.

____________________

And finally, a long one that I didn't post just because it sounded too whiny.




I submit that life is nothing more than a series of endless problems to be dealt with. Consider the following.

On a basic level:

You’re born, and you need to be fed and clothed.

You’re ignorant, so you need to go to school.

You’re sometimes sick, and you need treatment.

You grow up and need to survive on your own, so you go to more school more (or not) and then you apply for a job to feed and clothe yourself.

You get married because you think you’re supposed to, or you want to (thus solving the problem of the “want” by finding a spouse). Or, you don’t get married, but if you want to it’s a problem that isn’t solved. And if you don’t want to, it’s not a problem and therefore there’s no solution needed.

You have children due to beliefs or lack of sufficient preventive measures, or because you genuinely want them (still a problem, in that you have a desire that can be realized through having children).

Your children need to be fed, clothed, and cared for.

(Skip ahead 30 years.) You have health problems, bills to pay, and the neighbor kids are on your lawn. If you had children, you constantly babysit grandchildren. If not, you are lonely. Your health deteriorates and you die. Your family is left with the problem of disposing of your corpse.

On a daily basis:

You have to go to work, so you need to wake up.

You’re dirty, so you shower.

You’re hungry, so you eat.

You need to get to work, so you drive the car. It needs gas, so you fill it up.

All day long, things need to be done at work.

You come home and need to eat. Your kids (where applicable) need to be fed and put to bed. They need attention, so you play with them.

Your house/condo/yard/pets/clothes need attention in some way, so you spend time fixing thing/mowing the lawn/feeding the dog/washing your clothes.

You’re in a strange mood, so you blog about it.

Everything we do in life is in response to some need either physical, mental, or emotional. Life consists entirely of solving problems.

(Okay, this was intended to be an amusing observation, rather than a pessimistic rant. But maybe I had a need to be a little whiny.)

And there you have it.

Polarizing

Twilight

Coconut

Obama

I submit that life is nothing more than a series of endless problems to be dealt with. Consider the following.

On a basic level:

You’re born, and you need to be fed and clothed.

You’re ignorant, so you need to go to school.

You’re sometimes sick, and you need treatment.

You grow up and need to survive on your own, so you go to more school more (or not) and then you apply for a job to feed and clothe yourself.

You get married because you think you’re supposed to, or you want to (thus solving the problem of the “want” by finding a spouse). Or, you don’t get married, but if you want to it’s a problem that isn’t solved. And if you don’t want to, it’s not a problem and therefore there’s no solution needed.

You have children due to beliefs or lack of sufficient preventive measures, or because you genuinely want them (still a problem, in that you have a desire that can be realized through having children).

Your children need to be fed, clothed, and cared for.

(Skip ahead 30 years.) You have health problems, bills to pay, and the neighbor kids are on your lawn. If you had children, you constantly babysit grandchildren. If not, you are lonely. Your health deteriorates and you die. Your family is left with the problem of disposing of your corpse.

On a daily basis:

You have to go to work, so you need to wake up.

You’re dirty, so you shower.

You’re hungry, so you eat.

You need to get to work, so you drive the car. It needs gas, so you fill it up.

All day long, things need to be done at work.

You come home and need to eat. Your kids (where applicable) need to be fed and put to bed. They need attention, so you play with them.

Your house/condo/yard/pets/clothes need attention in some way, so you spend time fixing thing/mowing the lawn/feeding the dog/washing your clothes.

You’re in a strange mood, so you blog about it.

Everything we do in life is in response to some need either physical, mental, or emotional. Life consists entirely of solving problems.

(Okay, this was intended to be an amusing observation, rather than a pessimistic rant. But maybe I had a need to be a little whiny.)

Surf Dream

Last night's dream was awesome. First, there was not only a river behind our house, but the ocean was just beyond that. Also, I think it was in South Carolina, for some reason.

Anyway, I had this great idea in the dream. I was going to run a line across the river, then attach a rope to it, and learn how to surf in the current. It would have been awesome, had I actually done it before waking up.

Then, I was sitting outside at another house with a friend, watching the ocean waves crash into the river (because there was basically 6 feet of sand separating them) when a man came and sat down by us, and with a cool Spanish accent suavely invited us to dine with his boss the following evening. He was obviously part of some drug cartel, and they liked me for some reason.

The end!

You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore

This morning someone send one of my coworkers flowers, which gave me two thoughts.

1. Is it socially acceptable for men to receive flowers? I'm not sure how I would feel if I received them, but at the very least I would find it a nice gesture.

2. A former coworker and I once made up a cheesy country song about a woman whose husband never brought her flowers. The she got sick and died, or something. I came across it when I was packing. If I find it again, I'll post the lyrics.

It's the Thought That Counts?

In the mail today, we got a package from the builders of our house, which was nice of them. I opened it, and it was a set of cards we could send out to people to let them know we had moved, with our new address printed on them. That's awfully thoughtful of them ...

... except ...

... it's got a big picture of the model home on the front, rather than our house. Well, okay, it's the same plan as ours, aside from the extra garage on the model. And the point is to say, "We've moved," rather than, "We've moved to this exact house."

... it kind of looks like they're really just trying to advertise their houses. The back of the card is about their company, and on the inside there's the actual floor plan of our house printed, as though anyone needs to know where the bathrooms are before visiting. But hey, I guess there's no real harm in hoping the cards generate interest in their business. We all need to make a living, right?

... they sent it to the wrong address, and it looks like the post office had a hard time figuring out where to send it. But hey, anyone could write an address incorrectly.

... The cards themselves have the wrong address printed on them, making them utterly useless to send to anyone!!! Okay, look. How do the people who built the freaking house get your address wrong? First of all, the house number was decided 6 months ago, and they put the wrong house number on the cards. And then they printed "Circle" instead of "Drive," which was a mistake they had made on all their other paperwork that meant we had to sign a bunch of extra papers at closing to correct it.

So 2/3 of the address is wrong. On the other hand, we could always send them to people we don't ever want to hear from, so I guess that's a plus.

Comedy Dream

It's awesome how funny I think I am in my dreams. Last night I dreamed that I was talking to guy #1, and guy #2 came up and was complaining about some doctor's office visit. He said something like, "They just decided to stick a needle wherever I suck," to which I naturally responded, "So, pretty much everywhere then." Then guy #1 and I laughed and laughed until I my alarm woke me up.

Turn Left at the Dead Raccoon


Well, we're all moved in, so you can all stop screening my calls. The move itself went mostly as planned, aside from people who were supposed to be at our house at a certain time (I'm looking at you, Lowe's and Comcast). Our fridge was at least 5 hours late, and our internet will be coming five days late. But we survived, and we'll be able to relax as soon as we get everything organized... and the yard planted... and a million other things done.

At first I thought it was kind of lame to be moving on the weekend of Independence Day. But then I realized that it really is significant that we are becoming more "independent" by taking on the responsibility of home ownership (inasmuch as anyone really owns a home when you're paying the bank for it).

And yes, there was a dead raccoon in the road.

Reindeer Games

Allison has a few videos she likes to watch (yes, we like to start their education early), one of which is the old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.


At first, I thought it had some interesting similarities to Disney's The Lion King, what with Rudolph running away to grow up, then return triumphant. But at any rate, there are some interesting lessons we can learn from the story:

1. If your children are born different, make sure you change them so they fit in.



2. Running away from your problems is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with them.



3. If you don't fit in, you're worthless.


4. If someone bullies you, it's only fair to pull out all their teeth and turn them into a slave.



That's the great thing about older shows. They always have a message to share.

Lub Dub

Beware: This post is double boring, because it is about running and math. Fairly warned be thee, says I.

On average, the human heart can give you about 2.5 billion beats over the course of a lifetime, and then it kind of wears out. So what I always sort of wondered in the back of my mind was, why does exercise allow you to live longer if your heart is just beating more? Isn’t it just wearing out sooner?

(Disclaimer: obviously exercise gives you other health benefits that keep you alive longer.)

This question that I never really consciously considered was inadvertently answered in the doctor’s office last week. My resting heart rate was down to 40 beats per minute. According to the American Heart Association, the average is 60 to 80. So I decided to break out the old calculator. I determined that

At 60 bpm, the average person’s heart beats 31.5 million times per year. Then I added up my year at 40 bpm, then added the extra beats for the number of hours I spend running, when it would be much higher. And it was about 21.5 million, which is kind of crazy. I save 10 million beats per year? If that translated straight into extra years in your life, that would mean in just 3 years I’d add another year onto my life.

Fortunately, I love donuts, pizza and bacon enough that I still don’t have to worry about outliving my children. It’s nice when things even out.

Breakfast Surprise

This morning we went up Millcreek Canyon for breakfast with my family. It was a nice morning, aside from the fact that the entire canyon has apparently been taken over by little caterpillars. They left all these presents on our car:



Enlarge the photo. Go on, do it. Those black dots are all caterpillar poop. There was so much that I'm sure we had a little supplementary nutrition in our food. Yum!

How to Have a Good Day

Step one: Eat chocolate cereal for breakfast.

Pointless Story #437

Well, blog posts have been few and far between lately, as we prepare for closing on the house and moving. So here's a pointless story from my youth.

When I was in elementary school, my dad did some side advertising work with the local grocery chain Dan's. One thing they did was take food around and have kids sample it, and then publish quotes from the kids in the ads.

One day they were coming to my class for the sampling. Proud that my dad worked for them, I wore my Dan's t-shirt that day. At lunch I was playing out in the field, and I fell into some mud. My mom had to bring me new clothes, so when the people from the store came I didn't get to show off my shirt. I was devastated. But I got my quote in the ad.

What's for Lunch Wednesday

I always forget to post the link for What's for Lunch Wednesday over at Rob's blog. This week, we went to the BYU Cougareat.

Mourning Conversation

I leave for work at 7 in the morning. It’s not exactly the middle of the night, but it’s not lunchtime either, and I find it puzzling that I see so many people in their cars talking on the phone that early. First of all, I’m pretty sure that 98% of human conversation could be eliminated with little or no effect on the world, but that’s a discussion for another time. What I wonder is, how much could you have to say to someone first thing in the morning?

Now, I really am more of a morning person than a night person. I will get up early to go running, or fishing, or to take the garbage cans out when I hear the truck coming. So I’m not like some bleary-eyed grump when I wake up. But I don’t really feel like talking a whole lot that early. There’s something about silence in the morning that makes the whole day go more smoothly.

Do you like to talk on the phone early in the morning?

Fort Uosity

Can I just say that Sam and I built the best fort ever tonight?



Yes. Yes, I can. It stretched all along the back of the couch and the recliner next to it.

He's watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on a little DVD player. Luxury!

When I was a kid, I once made a fort by lining the inside of a table's legs with foam mattresses. We had a little old black-and-white TV I brought in there, and I remember sitting in there and eating saltines for some reason. Compared to that, this thing is a palace.

Back from the Brink

Okay, so I assumed it was just a stupid cold. After feeling really sick last Tuesday and Wednesday, I felt a little better on Thursday and Friday. But then I just kept feeling like my throat was being punched, and my head was a pressure cooker full of mucus (sorry about that). By Saturday I could barely speak, and by Monday I realized that I had had a fever for a full week. So, having been miserable the whole Memorial Day weekend, I finally saw a doctor on Tuesday, who confirmed that in addition to the cold I had strep. And a wicked horrible cough.

Anyway, I'm mostly recovered now. And here's something that makes me feel even better:


Four weeks from today we should be moving in, if all goes according to plan. (Does it ever?) You're all invited to totally help us move come visit.

103.3

That was my high temperature yesterday, which is the highest fever I've ever had (as far as I know). I'm pretty sure I could see through time for a while there.

Anybody out there had a higher fever? Other than Boogie, of course.

Smattering

I don't normally do this, but here's a bit of a family update. On Saturday we finally spent some time out in the yard. It's funny that we've been here two years and have hardly spent any time out there, mostly because we've felt guilty for not keeping it up the way we should.

[caption id="attachment_1238" align="aligncenter" width="362" caption="Seriously, girl. Mow the lawn."][/caption]

Sam decided to pull the giant pine tree down with a rope.





[caption id="attachment_1239" align="aligncenter" width="179" caption="It's you or me, tree."][/caption]

But he decided it would be easier to have a tug-o-war with Allison instead.





[caption id="attachment_1240" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="No fair, wrapping it around your waist."][/caption]

Tonight for family home evening, we decided to have a sock fight.




Yes, that is the Benny Hill theme playing while we were throwing socks.


And then Allison decided to enjoy a little seafood.





[caption id="attachment_1242" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="NOW who's the apex predator?"][/caption]

Shark Girl



She's been watching how Sam plays with his carnivorous toys.

Everything Old Is New Again

Okay, I can’t decide if this idea would save the world or ruin it, but I don’t think there’s a middle ground. You know that feeling you have when you get something new, and it’s great, but over time it gradually fades and you want to replace it with something newer? What if we identified that the feeling is caused by a particular chemical secreted by your brain, and we could synthesize it? All of a sudden people wouldn’t buy a new car every couple of years, which would hurt companies but really cut down on how deeply in debt everyone was. We’d probably be slightly less mean toward each other, too.

So, would this idea save us or destroy us?

Don't You Hate It ...

... when you have an idea for a blog post, but then you find out that you've already posted it? So I guess I'll post something different, but equally boring.

When it comes to being up at night with your kids, parents wear those experiences as a badge of honor. The longer you spend awake, and the more kids you're up with, the more you can brag. And last night was a doozy at our house. (Can you believe the spell-checker doesn't recognize "doozy"?) I was going to give a detailed explanation, but I decided that was snoresville. The gist of it is that we were up 10 times during the night, mostly with Allison. She woke up every half hour until 5 a.m., when I finally decided to see if she needed a drink of water. She was really thirsty, and after getting a drink she went to sleep for several hours. So, yeah. I felt stupid, but that night probably made our top ten list of worst nights ever.

On a happier note, and because I don’t feel like putting this in a different post, Katie and I went out to our the new house on Friday. They had only delivered lumber on Tuesday, at which point it was still just the foundation, so we didn’t expect much. But we were pleasantly surprised.



[caption id="attachment_1213" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="We have walls!"][/caption]




[caption id="attachment_1214" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="The view from our bedroom window"][/caption]

Something about Running

Today I ran the Provo Half Marathon, and I'm too tired to come up with a good title. I learned an important lesson about starting off too fast: don't. Still, I managed to finish, and my time wasn't too terrible: 1:39:23 ( 47/667 overall; 7/53 in my age group). As I ran, I couldn't imagine ever doing a full marathon. I suppose it's similar to a woman saying she could never have twins after birthing a single baby through natural childbirth. Or, more likely, it's nothing like that. I'm tired.

Of Age

I was thinking about how we all assume that older people are out of touch with current technology. (“What’s a Twitter?”) We like to laugh a little bit about how we know how to use our smartphones to do our taxes, while our grandparents never could get the hang of using a VCR.

But I think as we grow older we’ll find ourselves in an even worse position than older folks today. I don’t know whether the Singularity will ever happen, but it’s pretty easy to see the accelerated growth of technological development. Whereas they look at a computer and think, “Okay, this is like a television that connects to that internet thingy,” we won’t even have a beginning point of reference to conceptualize the devices like the portable boxes that raise your consciousness to another level, or the floating orbs that are beings of pure thought. We will be totally lost. So they’ll probably just plug our brains into the Matrix, so we old fogeys can pretend it’s still 1999 and party accordingly.

Different Strokes

Okay, I am having another issue with a billboard. Apparently I'm turning into a billboard bigot, and I should change this to the Billboard Blog.

But this complaint is more serious than the others. There is a series of them around, telling us to dial 911 at the first sign of a stroke. That is a great message, because it could save lives. Except for one little detail...

They don't say what that sign is. I'm sure I should know, but my brain is full of more useful facts like quotes from the Simpsons and remembering my favorite order at Wendy's (baconator). I've been seeing the billboards for weeks, and I never think about them when I'm sitting at the computer and can actually look up the symptoms. Until today. So let's see what I can find out.

According to the Mayo Clinic, stroke symptoms can include trouble walking, difficulty speaking and understanding, paralysis or numbness, trouble seeing, and a headache. It sounds a lot like being drunk, except for the headache thing, which would happen after being drunk.

I guess the moral here is, "Don't drink, because if you do you won't be able to tell if you're having a stroke."

Things That Wouldn't Make Me Cry

If my car was hit... by the Publishers Clearinghouse Prize Patrol van bringing me a check for $10 million.

If Hollywood sank into the ocean.

If my

Housekeeping Note

The preceding post is an article I wrote for the e-newsletter sent out by yourldsneighborhood.com. Back when I was on Blogger, I used a separate blog for that, but I'm just combining everything on here. If you don't like that, you're a terrible person.

Be of Good Cheer (but Don’t Overdo It)

By Joel Hiller

Most people who know many latter-day saints would agree that members of the Church are, as a group, happy. In the media we are often portrayed as excessively cheerful and optimistic. Obviously, this mostly stems from the fact that living the gospel naturally brings us happiness—for me, the prospect of exaltation makes up for a lot of rainy days in this life, and the blessings that come through obedience are undeniable. But we are also specifically counseled in the scriptures to “be of good cheer,” and Church leaders have advised us that enduring to the end means more than simple survival.

An eternal perspective also gives us insight into the need for trials, however. Few members of the Church would deny that great blessings can come to us through overcoming the tribulations we all face. None of us will escape trials in this life, and many of our most severe tests can bring about life’s greatest joys. Parenthood, for example, is one of the greatest responsibilities we can be given in this life, and it brings with it both difficult trials and incomparable rewards.

Sometimes, though, it seems we as saints are afraid to show ourselves as human. Remaining optimistic in the face of difficulties is important, but does that mean we can’t ever let on that we’re going through tough times?

Now, I’m not saying we should “disfigure our faces” when facing trials. Nobody wants to be around someone who is always complaining. But there’s a difference between griping and being honest about what we are going through. After all, if we truly are supposed to “mourn with those that mourn,” don’t we need to be aware that other people are mourning?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but sometimes it’s harder for me to develop close friendships with people who can’t seem to relate to me. The people in my ward who never seem anything but perfectly composed (with perfectly obedient children, of course) seem so far above me in progression that it’s harder to develop the unity that we should all enjoy as friends and neighbors. If they truly are that happy at all times, then I greatly admire them and hope that I can someday achieve such a state. In the meantime, however, the people that my wife and I always feel closer to are the ones that might occasionally have bags under their eyes from sleepless nights with a baby, which we can readily relate to. These are faithful members of the Church, fulfilling their responsibilities and serving others, but we can be honest with each other and admit that we’re looking forward to a time when nighttime feedings are a thing of the past. We can draw strength from this solidarity, and find comfort in the support we offer each other.

When we are suffering through trials and it seems as though everyone around us has life all figured out, that can leave us feeling like something of a failure, not righteous enough to merit the constant happiness that others seem to enjoy. Because many people easily feel insecure, even with the comfort the gospel brings, we feel lonely when it seems we’re missing something that those around us seem to enjoy. By building walls around ourselves to keep others from seeing our humanity, we lose out on the closeness that comes from uniting together to endure the challenges of life. By being open with each other, we learn that success in the eternal sense comes from faithfully enduring and overcoming trials, rather than acting as though they didn’t happen.

I am not suggesting that we all stand up in fast and testimony meeting and detail everything that is imperfect in our lives. But in the appropriate circumstances and within reason, we have great opportunities to show empathy and love when we open up and share our tribulations with one another. Ironically, when we all seem a little more human, our goal of eternal perfection can seem a little more attainable.

Coming Soon

Explosive Confession


One day, when I was a teenager, some friends and I had several boxes of those snaps that you throw on the ground during fireworks season. For some reason, we decided to come up with a creative way to use them. In the end, one of us (possibly me; I have largely repressed my memory of the incident) suggested that we unwrap them all and combine their minuscule amounts of gunpowder to make a super snap. So, we got a paper towel and sat on my friend Krista’s porch, unwrapping the snaps and pouring their contents onto the paper towel.

Star formation is very interesting, aside from all the math. It turns out that one way a star ignites is through gravitational collapse, which occurs when the mass of a dust cloud becomes so great that it collapses in on itself, heating up to the point that the fusion reaction begins.

So anyway, there we were, sitting on the semi-enclosed porch, with our heads close together over the ever-growing pile of explosives. And then the pile reached the Jeans mass, and the weight of the gunpowder caused it to explode. In our faces.

Diving from the porch, it took some time for us to recover, especially our hearing. But you know what’s even more valuable than five sense and two eyebrows? Knowledge. G. I. Joe would be proud.

Today

It was a weird Saturday. This morning I decided to take Sam so he and I could get our hair cut. But today was the Salt Lake Marathon, and our house is in the middle of the loop, so we can only go a few blocks east and west. When I explained the delay to Sam, he said, "We'll never get there, and my hair will grow the size of the moon!"

We did eventually get our hair cut, and then I went for a run. It was nice to run 10 miles for the first time in a year. And I managed to get sunburned a bit, which was something I wasn't expecting this early in the year.

After that, I took the kids to Cabela's, because we looked at their website and it looked like just a fun store to hang out at. I'd never been there, and I wanted to give Katie a break. so we went and looked at all the taxidermied animals. Allison wanted to touch all of them, and Sam kept trying to convince me that he needed a giant, stuffed shark pillow (we compromised on a less expensive toy gun).

Then tonight we decided to take a walk, and Dortmunder started to follow us. That was a little weird, but I had a cat growing up that would occasionally follow me around a bit. But Dortmunder went on the entire walk with us, which was about a mile. That crazy cat thinks he's a dog or something.

The end

He's Busting Mad Rhymes with an 80% Success Rate

So if I ever send a song to Katie, she is mainly concerned with the lyrics. She wants to know exactly what it's saying, regardless of how it sounds. A friend at work is the opposite. He doesn't really care what the lyrics are; it's the sound of the song that he cares about.

So my question is, are most people like that? I personally care about the sound at first, and then if it's enjoyable I will look up the lyrics. Both parts have to come together for me.

Is anybody out there primarily a music/lyrics person?

Quote from Sam

[caption id="attachment_1154" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption=""What I really wonder is just how bacteria evolved.""]Sam Pondering[/caption]