License to Dream

Last night I dreamed that a neighbor of mine with whom I had worked on church assignments had a book store. It was part of some sort of big bazaar-like series of shops that was situated in a large open building like a high-school gym. I found out (it was as if I were thrown into the dream in the middle of it) that he had somehow stolen my driver’s license, so I went to his shop and yelled at him a bunch and got it back. Also, another friend I used to work with apparently worked in the book store.

Then it somehow happened again. I had to go get my license back from him a second time. Someone I knew who ran another shop (not sure if it’s a real person) lent me one of his goons because I guess the bazaar was all mobbed up or something. The goon was 6’3” and had red hair, so he kind of stood out. I instructed him to follow me at a distance because if we spooked the book store owner he would run. So I confronted this neighbor again, and he was very apologetic but somehow infuriating. For some reason I grabbed a book and went to the cash register. The owner shooed the girl away from the register, and I said the book cost $50, meaning he had to pay me $50 to keep my mouth shut because I guess this wasn’t an isolated incident. He didn’t want to pay me, so I said he was committing identity theft and got out my phone to call the police. Then my alarm went off.


So, yeah. No explanation for this one.

Huntsville

A few general observations before I begin:
  • Huntsville is a gorgeous little town. I would totally live there.
  • I'm glad I grew the beard before the race instead of after, given the cold and rainy conditions.
  • This guy was apparently trying to draft behind other runners, getting right behind them uncomfortably close. Not sure that did anything besides make people feel awkward. Run your own race, dude.

I left home at 5 to get there in time to board the bus. It was dark and rainy, and there was thunder and lightning at home. I worried that if that continued up in Huntsville the race would possibly by cancelled, but there was no way to know without showing up. So I make the hour and a half drive without incident. (It helped that I had done it the day before to pick up my race packet.)

I arrived at about 6:30, and it was raining in Huntsville as well. They had staff members directing us where to park. So I got my stuff together, which consisted of my belt with water and energy gels, and a bag with warmer clothes in case it was cold up the canyon where the race would begin. I wandered around for a bit until I overheard where the buses would load, then talked with some other people until the buses showed up.

We loaded up and made the hour-ish drive up the canyon to the starting line.It was foggy and rainy and cold up there at 9,000 ft. We were greeted by the long line of portable toilets that grace the starting line of every race.


They had put up a large tent for people to go in and stay warm until it was time to start, so I stood around in there for a bit and watched everyone's strange pre-race rituals. People were putting on clothing, taking off clothing, stretching, putting on some lotion that is supposed to prevent blisters, and just generally chatting. There's an interesting feeling of camaraderie among people before a race. You're about to have a shared experience, and everyone is at a different level of experience. It's friendly rather than competitive.

A few minutes before starting time we put our bags of extra clothing and such into a big trailer that would take them down and have them at the finish line for us. Then we walked to the starting line and waited for the last couple minutes. It was a small group, something like 350 people. The big races have thousands, which is a little much for me.

Then it was time to begin. It was raining a bit, but it wasn't too bad, and I enjoyed the first couple miles as it was all downhill. One of the organizers had said it was a 3,700-foot drop over the course of the race, so I was looking forward to a fast time. After about 3 miles I started to feel the downhill speed taking a toll on my legs, and I got a little worried that I would injure myself. But I kept going.

At the halfway point I was on pace to make it to the end in about 3 hours, although I figured I would slow down for the last few miles once we hit the bottom of the canyon. Every few miles was an aid station staffed by local volunteers, with gatorade and water and other snacks.

At about 16 miles I was starting to get tired. the rain had stopped for a while, and I was drying out. The constant downhill gave way to gentle ups and downs, and by mile 20 we were at the bottom of the canyon. 

It was at this point that I allowed myself to give in psychologically. I had probably "run faster than [I had] strength" early in the race, which is something I have done the first time I race at other distances. I stopped and walked for a minute or so, then pushed on to mile 21. Then I walked again for a bit. That continued for the rest of the race, with the running periods getting shorted and the walking periods getting longer. Around mile 22 or 23 it started pouring rain, enough that my shoes got all soggy. There were a lot of people around, because they had started the half marathon, 10k and 5k a while after our race had started. Usually that motivates me to keep going, but I was pretty spend. As I came around the final corner and saw the finish line I started running again, determined to at least cross it while running. My parents had come, and my mom was cheering for me in front of the finish line.

I crossed the line, collected my finisher's medal, and grabbed a drink. Then I got the most wonderful surprise that I could have hoped for – Katie had brought the kids. It was pretty awesome, and I may or may not have shed a few tears due to emotional exhaustion. 



We met back up with my parents, and my dad made me put on a warm jacket before I got hypothermia. It was still miserably wet, and there was nowhere to get dry. I sat in the cars for a while with the heat on, to warm back up. Then we discovered something fantastic. There was a barbecue restaurant right across the street from the park. So we had lunch, and then it was time to go.

My time was about 3:26, which is not objectively a bad time (about 7:52 a mile), but I felt like I should have done better. I was 5th out of 26 men in my age group, and overall #40 out of 335 finishers. 

So I'll take some time to recover (I can still barely walk), and decide if I want to go through all this again one of these days. If so, I'll figure out what I can do to train better, and see if I can make a better showing of myself next time. It's not so much where I finish, but whether I can feel I gave it my best effort. And I don't want to leave anything out there on the course like I feel I did this time.

Room for One More



Impulse buying is never a good idea. And when that involves acquiring a living creature, that makes things even more interesting.

A couple weeks ago we got the whole family into the van and went off to look at mattresses. Katie and I had been feeling that it was time for a new one, and Sam had been complaining for months about his. On our way home I decided to have us stop at the pet store to buy some frozen rats to feed Monty. While there, I played with a cat they had found abandoned outside the store with a litter of kittens. They were taking care of them and were selling the kittens, but the mom needed a home too. So we decided to bring her home.

I had been considering getting a companion for Dortmunder for a while. He’s pretty good with other cats and has made friends with a couple, so I figured he would adjust. When we brought the new cat home, we named her Vin. Vin is the main character in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. She’s a small girl who was orphaned, but she becomes a powerful assassin. This cat is little but a prolific hunter, so it seemed to fit. And she likes being around us, but she’s not a lap cat, which also fits the way her namesake isn’t big on physical touch.

We mostly kept Vin and Dortumunder apart for a week, but when they met… it was not good. There was much hissing and chasing. As it turns out, Vin is actually the aggressor, which seems odd with her being the one coming into unfamiliar territory. The first night that I locked them in the garage together I sat out there for a while with the spray bottle to keep them separate. Poor Vin got pretty wet. Now every night Dortmunder just hides under the steps, and they still hiss at each other when they get close. I’m hopeful that eventually they will at least tolerate each other. But for now we’re at least happy to have Vin with us. As with any family member, you have to take the good with the bad.


It’s interesting that Dortmunder is good at catching mice (and birds), and Vin is an insect killer. So between the two of them, we should be free of pests. Even neighbor children, as it turns out—one of them tried to bring something back to our house and said Vin wouldn’t let him up onto the porch. That could come in handy during school fundraiser season…

A Star Is Bored

I had an interesting experience a couple weeks ago, and as my de facto journal this is probably the best place to record it.

I enjoy the sketch comedy show Studio C that airs on BYU Television. It’s family-friendly, fun, and probably some other nice word beginning with F. Fuchsia? Anyway, a couple months back they put out a call for extras, and I signed up without really expecting anything. Then I got an email saying I was in.

So on Thursday evening I went down to Provo for the dress rehearsal. Mostly I hung out in the green room with the other extras. We talked about the instructions we had been given for the different sketches, and there was a TV in there where we could watch what was happening on stage until it was time for us to go on. It took a couple hours to get to our sketch, but finally we went backstage. Someone from makeup powdered our faces a bit (any excuse to wear makeup!), and then we were on.

From what I had seen before, the extras usually hung around in the background acting like nothing much was going on. But we were actually seated at tables with cast members, which was fun. We talked for a minute before the skit started, then we ran through it once and were done. It was a little anticlimactic to be there for three hours to spend five minutes on stage, but that’s what we signed on for. Apparently they were running behind and expected to be there rehearsing until 2 a.m.

Friday night was a little more lively. For one thing, there was an audience there. We were still stuck in the green room, but we could see them having fun with the audience between sketches, and things moved a little more quickly. We managed to corral the director before going on and ask the big question we had: were we supposed to act like nothing was going on, or react normally to something happening in the vicinity? He said to act natural. I have no idea if I succeeded, and won’t until it airs sometime in October or November.


I’ll try to post an update later when it airs. In the meantime, let’s do lunch. Have your people call my people.

You say potato, I say poooooooooooootaaaaaaaaaaaaatoooooooooooo

I have a theory about how men and women communicate. As with all such topics, this is probably just something that might apply in general across a population, and may not necessarily be true for one individual man or woman (assuming there’s any truth her at all). But here goes.

As we go throughout our days and weeks, we build up a reservoir of things that we would like to share with other people. This builds up like a balloon inflating, with the pressure increasing. For women there is no escape from the pressure except to share it with someone. If they are able to share more frequently, less has built up; if it’s been a while since they have talked with someone, there’s a lot more to deal with.

Men, on the other hand, are leaky balloons. If time goes on and they don’t share something, it leaks out and is eventually replaced with other things. So there’s a constant influx of incoming and outgoing things as with women, but the balloon stays more or less the same size. The pressure doesn’t build up as much, so there’s less actual need to talk.


As with any analogy, there will be flaws here, but I think it’s interesting. What do you think?

A Tangled Web


It’s time for a moral conundrum! As if we need any more of them in our lives. But here we go.

The first summer after we moved in, we noticed these huge crazy orb weaver spiders that loved to build webs on and around our house. I found it quite charming and did what I could to avoid disturbing them. We were unable to use the back door for a month, unless we ducked under a spider web with a behemoth the size of Shelob sitting in the middle of it. I don’t have any particular fear of spiders, but crouching underneath one that could arbitrarily decide to jump onto the back of my neck can still be a little unnerving.

The next year they were not only building on and around the back door, but on the side of the house around the air conditioner. I’m fairly certain they didn’t actually rupture the copper tubing that was the cause of the Hot Mess that last summer became, but who knows. I decided to clear away the webs in the doorway, hoping they would get the hint and stop building there.

And that brings us to this year. Having taken over the back and side of our house, the spiders also began building on and around our front porch. Every surface became covered with webbing and tens of thousands of tiny corpses—the insects attracted by the porch lights. It was starting to look like the Addams Family lived in our house. And while I love them, I can’t rock a mustache like John Astin, so I finally decided it’s time to stop letting the spiders control my life.

Sam and I began clearing the webs off the house, and I used a large stick to transport spiders through the backyard and onto the other side of the parkway trail, where I hoped they would find someplace else to hang out. But there were SO MANY, I realized it would take hours. And the population would probably continue to grow every year. So here’s where the moral dilemma kicks in.

I’ve tried hard to help Sam develop a reverence for life. We try not to kill things, even when they annoy us (an important lesson for anyone with siblings). But I decided that I had to kill at least some of these spiders, or someday archaeologists would use lasers to cut through the massive petrified web surrounding the house, uncover our desiccated corpses, and try to reconstruct our lives. Seriously, one night we were out at 10:30 trying to gently clear away spiders from the garbage can to take it to the street.

So… last night while Sam was otherwise occupied, I cleaned all the webs off the house and killed the spiders I could. The house looks much better, and I slept just fine. I’ll just hope he doesn’t ask me where they all went.


Zombies vs. Aliens

Last night I dreamed up a movie plot that combines two popular genres into a surefire smash hit. Picture it:

Humankind is on the cusp of interstellar travel, about to begin in earnest the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Suddenly, an advanced alien race arrives and attacks the Earth, apparently intent upon destroying all life. There are no negotiations, only destruction. A rag-tag band of humans is fighting back, sacrificing their lives to give humanity a chance to survive. As the battle for the planet rages on, we discover that the aliens have a weakness. If only we can exploit it in time!

Our little group begins preparations to execute a devastating counter attack against the aliens, to ensure mankind’s survival and ensure his rightful place in the cosmos. As the time draws near, however, a new surge of panic spreads throughout the world. A new virus is spreading like wildfire, devastating the remnants of humanity. And not just humans. It affects plants, animals—every form of multi-cellular life. Even the aliens exposed to it in the course of the fighting succumb. This disease turns every form of life into a zombie!

Now the leader of our desperate band realizes why the aliens are attacking. They’re trying to prevent this devastating disease from spreading throughout the cosmos. This war is a merciful culling, destroying one planet to save countless others. Suddenly, our leader is faced with a choice, on which rests the fate of the galaxy. Does he execute his plan to defeat the attackers, at the risk that humanity’s survival will doom the rest of creation?


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Zombies vs. Aliens! Or, Sophie's Choice in Space.

Ten

*I wrote this a couple weeks ago, but never hit publish. Our anniversary was 6/24.

Let’s say for a moment that there was a terrible accident on the freeway between Provo and Salt Lake. The hypothetical accident is so bad that the freeway is actually shut down for a period in the morning. Naturally, this would be a nightmare for people traveling. Say you were expected somewhere that morning, like oh, I don’t know, the Salt Lake Temple. And let’s get even crazier and say that you’re a bride who was supposed to be getting married that morning, and now you’re incredibly late. That would potentially be pretty stressful for your husband, who might be sitting there anxiously, wondering if he had been left at the altar. I mean, it would be pretty funny, right?

Ten years ago yesterday, I was that husband, a nervous wreck waiting for Katie to arrive. I finally got a phone call letting me know that they were trying to find another way to get up to Salt Lake. Eventually, instead of arriving 90 minutes before the ceremony, as the bride is told, she arrived ten minutes before our scheduled time. Fortunately, Katie was not at all a high-maintenance bride, so she just got her dress on and everything went forward mostly on time.

It’s interesting to think about how much has changed in the last ten years. Four different homes, the arrival of three kids, a bunch of job changes, illnesses, and a lot of fun times. But the thing that helps me deal with uncertainties is knowing that she’s always there to rejoice—and even suffer—right by my side. Happy anniversary, Katie. Let's see where this crazy ride takes us in the years to come.

A Flood of Evidence

Okay, I tried telling this to a few people, but nobody really cared. So I'm using my blog to talk about it. Caveat qui legit.

First of all, the subject of the Flood has always fascinated me. Where did all the water come from? How many animals were on the ark, and how did eight people clean up after all of them?
Well, I don't know about the poop scooping, but we might be a little closer to answering the first question.

I had a geology teacher at BYU who was LDS and accepted the Flood as a historical event. But he didn't think that the whole Earth was covered at once. Personally, I've felt that it was all covered, but wondered at the mechanism. I think God is the master scientist and created the laws of the universe, and obeys those laws, even though we don't yet have a full understanding. (And if you think mankind understands everything about the natural world, try googling "grand unified theory." That's why I've never had a problem reconciling science and religion.

So, here's the biblical verse describing where the water came from:
https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/gen/7.11?lang=eng

And today I came across this article:
I don't always take the verbiage of the Bible to be literal, but this is a fascinating idea. In the end our faith shouldn't be dependent on physical evidence, but that evidence can strengthen our belief. So it's fun to think about.

Bit O Crummy

For years a question has been lingering at the back of my mind, periodically brought to the surface when I see a particular object. This is a food product—a candy, in fact—first made available in 1924. Since it’s been on the market for 90 years, I imagine that it must be well-liked, and yet the very thought of eating one has never crossed my mind.

What is this candy? Bit-O-Honey.



My impression of this candy is that it’s something like a rock with harder rocks embedded in it. Or alternatively, that it would be like eating nuts and gum.


But maybe there’s a reason it’s been around so long. Aside from the maker obviously forging a deal with the Devil, I mean. So, in the interest of gastronomic fairness, I think it’s time I give one a try.

Okay, let’s open the wrapper and have a look.



Yup, that’s what I remember. The color seems to be exactly that of baby diarrhea I remember an infant cousin having once when my mom babysat her. And inside are hints of some sort of chunks that are surely even less pleasant.

Well, no sense in putting this off even longer. It’s time to take a bite.



Hmm. It’s not as hard as I imagined it would be. The flavor is mildly pleasant, and the alleged nuts are less overt than I expected, although they become more noticeable the longer I chew.

Okay, let’s finish this thing off.



Well, in a way it’s disappointing that it was less disappointing than I expected. Overall I rate the experience as "meh."But my stomach did feel a little weird a few minutes later, so perhaps my wariness was justified. I guess in the end I’ll take it over green apple skittles, but that’s a bitter, bitter story for another day.

Putting Your Hand and Foot in Your Mouth?


A couple weeks ago Sam came down with a fever. (Wait, shouldn’t it be “came up” with a fever?) We assumed he had a cold coming on, so we tried to continue with life as usual. But a couple days later he woke up covered with what looked like hives. Then, from the dim recesses of my brain, an old file was dragged up.

*Flashback*

It was 2008 or 2009, and I noticed a few odd little sores on my hands and feet. I did some research and found that it was hand, foot and mouth disease, which is an unpleasant but relatively harmless viral infection that normally affects children. It went away after a few days.

*Flash forward*

I looked it up again, and it seemed pretty certain that this was the culprit. But with a newborn in the house, I decided to take Sam to the doctor, who confirmed that this was the case, and that this disease was going around. There was nothing to do but treat the discomfort, and he assured me that it would get worse before it got better. Sam also had to be kept from school, so he would miss the last week.

For the next couple days it got worse, until the poor boy looked like he had leprosy. We kept him away from Clara as much as possible, but soon Allison developed a fever as well. Fortunately, however, she ended up with relatively few sores, and they both got better at about the same time. 

Then one day we noticed some tiny spots on Clara’s feet, and braced ourselves for the worst (the worst case being the development of sores in the mouth that keep children from wanting to eat, resulting in dehydration). At the same time, Katie developed sores. Clara’s never got any worse, fortunately, but Katie ended up having a worse case like Sam.

Everyone is getting over it now, but it’s been a strange couple of weeks. I never got it, having had it a few years before. That didn’t stop my coworkers from treating me as though I were carrying the plague, which did have its advantages. “Oops, I touched all these donuts. Guess nobody else will want them now…”

The Kids Are There Alright

Sitcoms are funny.

What? That's what they're for? Sure, smart guy/gal, but I'm not talking about anything intentional. What I mean is the way they portray children.

Children in a lot of TV shows only exist to move the plot forward on occasion. Babies and toddlers in particular very very little screen time. Otherwise they're always mysteriously sleeping, in the crib, or just not mentioned at all. Meanwhile, the adult characters are free to have whatever adventures they would have even with no children in the picture.

This to me is the most unreal aspect of entertainment. It's not the giant monsters in movies or the impossibly good-looking people who abound. It's perfectly obedient children. We're all about gritty realism these days, so why doesn't anybody have to change a diaper blowout in the middle of a terrorist attack?

As in, "You had to Clara out her lungs"

Now that the dust has settled a bit, and before the memories are lost in a haze of sleepless nights, it’s time to walk you all through the birth of our latest child.

Blue Steel

On Wednesday, May 14, Katie went to pick up Sam from cub scouts, and stopped by a neighbor’s house for a minute. While on her porch talking, Katie noticed that her pants seemed to be getting wet. She came back home and reported that she had felt her first contraction. She didn’t want to have another false alarm, but I insisted we call my parents, send the kids to our friends’ house to wait for grandma and grandpa, and get to the hospital immediately.

We got in the car within ten minutes or so, and by the time we were on our way the contractions were about 2 ½ minutes apart. We got into the hospital and up to the delivery unit, and by the time they got an epidural going she was close to being completely dilated. Then we finally got her to the delivery room and waited a bit for the doctor. The epidural was more effective this time in that it duller her pain but she could still feel when the contractions were coming, making the pushing a little better (relatively speaking, of course). I think she only ended up pushing for about half an hour.

Clara Ann Hiller was born at 11:18 p.m. She was 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 19.5 inches. She had gotten a little mecomium in her lungs (which is a nice way of saying she pooped and inhaled a bit during the birth process), so they put her on a CPAP machine for a little while (it made her look like Bane), but then everything was fine.

When your lungs are cleared out, then you have my permission to breathe.

As the largest of our babies, Clara has seemed bigger and stronger than her siblings were. She seems pretty mobile, and eats pretty well. Being better fed, she has also turned out to be a vastly better sleeper than the other kids were. For several nights in a row now she has slept for about 8 hours in a row, and if that doesn’t start until 12 or 1 it’s still pretty darn amazing. Let’s hope I’m not jinxing anything by mentioning it here.

I could get used to this sleeping thing
New toy!
Just chillin with my mommy



Family Time

Unsurprisingly to anyone who has given birth, or had a spouse who has given birth, or has watched a show about people giving birth, or heard about someone giving birth, it’s pretty danged stressful for everyone involved. And one of the most stressful parts can be knowing when to go to the hospital. If you go too soon, they send you home. If you go too late, you end up with a baby named Backseat or Parking Lot.

Baby #1
Katie and I went to the hospital as soon as she started having contractions. It was a lovely, scenic drive from Provo to Payson, with me not at all being a wreck while trying not to cause one. Once there, they told us to turn around and go home because she wasn’t far enough along. Well, her body didn’t have a nice, gradual increase in frequency of contractions. She basically went from 0 to 60 very quickly, and by the time we got back to the hospital she was ready to go. They did manage to get an epidural going, but I guess they had to dose her more than normal for it to have any effect, and it was the better part of a day after Sam was born before she could move her legs.

Baby #2
This time we wanted to be a little smarter, so as soon as the contractions started we called my parents to come watch Sam while we went. In the end we had to have our friend/landlord there to cover the gap, because once again her body went into overdrive. Allison was born 15 minutes after we got to the hospital. No epidural.

Baby #3
Last Friday Katie felt a couple weak contractions, so rather than tempt fate again we woke the kids up and headed straight for the hospital. We figured my parents could come pick them up from there. But in the end nothing happened. It’s the first time she had gotten and false signals, so it was frustrating to be all ready for once and have it not happen. I guess fate likes to keep us on our toes.

To be continued…

And I Ran... Not So Far Away

All of a sudden last week I decided to run the Provo City Half Marathon. I had been a little tired lately of running the same places every week and wanted a little variety. I also felt like I had improved my time a lot since 2011 when I ran that distance for the first time, and I wanted to see if a race would improve it more.

It started when I awoke at 4 a.m. and headed down to Provo, where the organizers shuttled us up Provo Canyon to the starting line. We got there by about 5:30, which means we had 90 minutes to hang around in the freezing cold before we started. They had some raffles and such, and there were some bonfires for warmth, but that wait was definitely my least favorite part.

And then at 7:00 we were off. I could immediately tell this was going to be interesting, because I was just flying down the canyon. My GPS later told me that I ran one of the miles at a 5:59 pace, which is insane for me.

Eventually we got out of the canyon and things more or less leveled out. I was still doing okay, and I had gotten ahead of the main crowd. But I could tell that the speedy start was beginning to catch up with me. I noticed that my GPS claimed I was about a quarter mile ahead of where the race markers were, so I was having to run extra distance. The last mile was pretty tough, but I did make it.

In the end my chip time was 1:26:28, which was by far my best time ever (by my measure I ran that extra quarter mile and could probably knock a minute or two off the half marathon time). I also set new personal 5k and 10k records, which was very cool too. Overall I placed 44 out of 921 runners, and 9 out of 69 in my age bracket.

Of course, when I woke up Sunday I could hardly walk. It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely sore after a run, but the pace combined with all the downhill took its toll. Still, it was a good experience, and now I’m trying to decide whether to attempt a full marathon later in the summer. We’ll see.

Not a place to bathe your baby

 Society today is a conglomeration of weird rituals that have little practical use in our lives. And yet we cling to these traditions like a toddler when his mom decides he doesn’t need that sucker anymore. And one of the most baffling instances of this is the modern baby shower.

In my mind, the baby shower is a way for friends and family to give the mother-to-be gifts that will be useful for them in raising the baby. Simple, right? And it was with this intent that Katie and I perused the registry of a friend who is expecting soon. On it we found a temporal scanner thermometer that is identical to one that has been great for us, so we got it for her. The next day Katie attended the baby shower, and when she told me about it later we both realized something odd. Perhaps it should have been obvious, but baby showers aren’t about getting something useful for the mom. They’re about gathering around to coo “Awww” at cute tiny clothing, because that’s what most people bring to these things. Never mind that diapers and wipes are far more practical (and we have given those many times for that reason), it seems that the social aspect of the ritual is more important than the original reason for these gatherings.

So, this is one of those things that does actually make a kind of sense once you understand what it really is, kind of like that movie The Happening. If you think about it as a B movie, it’s… well, it’s still pretty terrible. But it makes more sense that way. Every time I have a realization like this it feels kind of like breaking a secret code, as though one more little piece of the universe just fell into place.

How about you? What have you learned lately?

Hot (like the fires of Hell) Tamale




One of my coworkers brought a small vending machine to work, and uses the proceeds to fund continued purchases of candy. But shortly after I started working there, we discovered that the current stock of candy was more or less fossilized. So she replaced it, and we began to notice that different people were receiving different amounts of candy for their quarter.

Eventually we decided that the amount of candy you receive is proportional to your righteousness. So I thought I'd give it a go...



Well, I can't say I'm totally surprised.



Four

A couple of weeks ago, Allison turned four.

The dress says, "Let's play!" And the hook says, "With your entrails!"
It's interesting to see the different personalities of our children as they grow. Allison loves the stereotypical girl things like princesses, but she's also not afraid to have a sword fight with you or hunt for bugs. A lot of that is the influence of an older brother, but it's nice to see she's well rounded so far.

She is a different person from Sam, though. She is generally well-behaved and obedient in preschool and primary (not that Sam is bad, but he does get a little mouthy). She loves to play mom with her toys and help around the house. I think she'll be a great big sister to Buttercup (what she wants us to name the baby), and we feel lucky to have her in our family.





Biddy and the Beast

Imagine that one stormy night, you hear a knock at your mansion door. You answer the door only to see a hideous old woman standing in the rain. She demands that you allow her to spend the night in your home. She's a stranger, and you have many valuable things that you are reluctant to entrust to her presence. In the end you decide not to risk yourself, your servants and your property and tell her to be on her way. Maybe you even offer her some money to find a hotel room.

Refusing to take no for an answer, she again insists that you not turn her away just because she's an ugly old woman. You stick to your decision and tell her no. Then she removes her mask and reveals that she's a beautiful young woman. She decrees that because you didn't want a potentially dangerous stranger spending the night in your home that means you have no love in your heart.

The woman then waves some magic wand and turns you into some kind of huge animal thing. Not satisfied with that crime, for good measure she then changes all your servants (who are all completely innocent bystanders) into various pieces of furniture and other household items, making sure they retain their consciousness and memories so they can experience every moment of this living hell in perfect lucidity.

She imposes an arbitrary date by which you have to fall in love and have it returned, a subjective experience in any event, and made much more difficult because of your new and grotesque appearance. If you fail, these changes will be permanent, and your entire household will be trapped permanently in this nightmarish existence.

Seriously, Gaston should have just married the "enchantress" from the beginning of the movie. The two jerks would have gotten along just great. And if the prince would have let her in to begin with, what would she have done? Married him? Is she not being just as judgmental as he supposedly was?  The crazy witch is really the bad guy in Beauty and the Beast. If there were any justice we would have learned that she was subsequently hunted down and burned at the stake.

Goal Tending

I think I've mentioned this a couple dozen times before, but I've never really liked setting goals. They generally conflict with the "Let's live from day to day and not try to worry about self improvement and ooh look there's something shiny" mentality I've worked hard to cultivate.

But since I started running I have found myself not only feeling better physically, but somehow my brain has betrayed me into trying to improve as well. So far these are mostly just goals related to running, but if I'm not careful I could actually wind up on the path to becoming a better person.

One good thing about some goals, at least, is that once they are accomplished you never have to try for them again. So with that in mind, I'm happy to say that this last week I met two running goals I've had in mind for quite a while. The first was to run a sub-1:30 half marathon, which I achieved thanks to an anonymous woman, who was running at an incredible pace that I tried keep up with for a few miles. Thanks, stranger, for reminding me that as long as we compete pridefully, we can achieve our goals (a lesson I first learned when setting goals as a missionary).

Anyway, I set the second goal a couple days later when, due to lack of time, I shortened a five-mile run to 5k. I decided to go for another personal best, and finally did it in under 20 minutes.

Fortunately, these are completely meaningless achievements, and aren't likely to lead to a run for the presidency or a vow of poverty (which would be redundant in any case). But I still get the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something much harder.

What about you? What pointless goals have you met lately?

Wax On

Remember the short-lived infatuation of Americans with karate in the 1980s, largely due to the influence of The Karate Kid? Well, I don't recall ever begging my parents for karate lessons, but maybe it just skips a generation. Or maybe it's because I was an incredible sissy as a kid. Anyway, for several years Sam has been interested in (read: obsessed with) Japan and martial arts, and he begged and begged to be able to take karate. But for a while we didn't think he was old enough (read: it was too expensive).

Once we got to Lehi, however, we noticed that the local rec center had a martial arts class that was reasonably priced. Not only that, but it was hapkido, a Korean martial art that I had been interested in learning. And so, we were eventually able to banish thoughts of "Put him in a body bag, Johnny!" and signed him up in January.

It's been interesting so far, and I think it will be good for Sam to learn some discipline and get good exercise. I've been thinking of joining the class too, as long as it doesn't interfere with my running. I should probably do it, though, because otherwise I'm pretty sure that within two years Sam will be able to break boards—using my head.

The Rebloggening

That's totally a word, right? Anyway, over the last few years as I've spent the majority of my day writing, I rarely want to stare at a computer screen on my own time. But for some reason I don't feel that way about mobile devices, so I finally decided to try blogging on my tablet. It's more ponderous, but maybe I'll just be concise. And I have something deadly serious to discuss today.

Let me begin by mentioning that I don't care what a tool looks like as long as it does the job. A hammer is a hammer, whether it's scarred and scratched or shiny and new. And a number of years ago I decided that was my official opinion on cars. If I could get a car that had the right features, I would be fine regardless of looks.

So, with child #3 preparing to rocket her way out of her poor mother's body (we'll be sure to get to the hospital more quickly next time), it seemed like the right time to upgrade our vehicle. Not to mention that both our current vehicles are nearly old enough to obtain driver's licenses for themselves. And so, at the intersection of safety and roominess is the minivan.

I grew up riding in a 1985 GMC 8-passenger beast, and largely learned to drive in it, so it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. The kids love what we got, and it's actually pretty fun to drive. So, even though we now fit in more than ever into Utah stereotypes, I think we ended up with the right tool. Not that I want to be driving over any nails...