27
July
2015
Permalink

Last week I was released from my position as first counselor in our church congregation. I’d served there for almost five years, responsible for helping many of the people and organizations with various things. I worked side-by-side with the bishop, my good friend Matt, who always seemed far busier than me, and my other good friend Jason. Now that the three of us have been replaced by a new group, I have this strange feeling… what do I do with my Sundays?

It reminded me of Inigo at the end of The Princess Bride, when he mentions to Westley, “I’ve been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

inigo-now-what

To which Westley replies, “Have you considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts!”

I no longer have two hours of meetings before church, two hours after church, and several more hours of appointments and other service. Gone are the Sundays where I’d spend 10+ hours on church business, plus hours throughout the week meeting with people, hanging out at youth activities, going to camps, and whatnot. I’ve been in the bishopric so long, now that it’s over I don’t know what to do with the rest of my Sunday.

Heh, maybe piracy.

26
July
2015
Permalink

After about four years with a used HTC Sensation phone, I decided it was time for something new. Something that was fast. Something without a big permanently blacked-out spot on the screen. Something shiny.

So I bought a new Samsung Galaxy S4. Well, although it was technically new in the box, the S4 is several years out of date. I think Samsung is up to the S6 now, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $600 on a phone of any kind. The S4’s run around $200 now, which is much more palatable.

I unboxed it, fired it up, and started installing my usual suite of apps. Unlike many people, I don’t have a hundred apps… I use maybe a dozen regularly, with perhaps another dozen that I find I need occasionally. So it was a pretty quick process to get everything up and running, and even configure it much like my old phone (but faster and more shiny, of course).

It was then that I discovered the latest version of the Android OS doesn’t allow apps to write to an add-on SD card. I use my SD card to store things like books, music, and some other files. Well, no more. Everything has to go on the built-in storage, which rapidly fills up. I’m sure Google had a good security reason for doing this, but apparently a lot of people are unhappy about it. As I read various comments and rants from people, it became clear that the only way around these security measures is to hack (“root”) the phone. There are a few different approaches to this, but in the end the one I chose was to install a custom Android OS called Cyanogen.

The rooting process was actually pretty simple, and after maybe an hour of carefully reading instructions (doing it wrong will ruin the phone) and downloading the right things, I had Cyanogen up and running. Even better than my new ability to save whatever I want on the SD card was the fact that the phone no longer had a bunch of carrier bloatware installed on it. I swear, every cell phone provider has their own family of junk apps that you hate and you can’t uninstall. Well, no more. I had only bare-bones apps, and after installing the Google suite of tools (Maps, Gmail, Calendar, etc.) I was able to re-install my two dozen apps once more.

I found Cyanogen to be pretty sweet. It runs a little faster (less bloat, I suppose) and has a lot of customizations that you don’t get with stock Android. As one of those guys who usually goes to the “Advanced Settings” menu of any software, it was nice to be able to play around with things a bit more than usual.

So my new phone is pretty awesome now, and happily running all the stuff I need.

shiny-new-phone

After using the phone for a day I decided to go ahead and root my Nexus 7 tablet as well. It went a little faster, since I knew what I was doing this time around, and within about 30 minutes I had Cyanogen plus my suite of apps on it. Woot!

26
July
2015
Permalink

Tonight I decided I was a bit peckish, so I whipped up a batch of baked chocolate pudding and made a nighttime snack of it.

late-night-snack

Orange juice in a wine goblet? Oh yeah, baby.

26
July
2015
Permalink

Our epic trip plans didn’t survive the day.

As I started checking out hotel prices in Monterey this afternoon, I noticed a strange thing: they were unbelievably expensive. The Red Roof Inn, for example, wanted $457 per night for a two-queen room! Even places like the Motel 6– where you’re lucky if the sheets are even fitted to the mattress– was asking $160 per night.

Sure, Monterey is a nice area, but I couldn’t believe the prices. Our stay at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was going to be cheaper than the Super 8 in Monterey. But then I figured out that the week we’re planning to be out there is some huge collectible car show called the Concours d’Elegance. Apparently car enthusiasts from the world over converge on Monterey in early August and drool over each others’ wheels. If I was a car enthusiast I might have known that, I suppose.

Anyway, it turns out that hotels in that area literally triple their normal room rates for that week only. Sure enough, as I started adjusting dates on the various reservation tools, I saw the prices fall back to more “normal” rates. Hmm.

After talking to our friends, it became clear that we couldn’t shift the dates of our trip (long story) so instead we had to pick a different destination. We weren’t really all that picky in the first place; Monterey sounded cool and one of our goals for the trip was a beach. So after a bit of thought, we changed our itinerary to take us down to San Diego instead.

epic-map2

This new route shaved off a day of driving and almost 500 miles. And it still includes a beach.

25
July
2015
Permalink

We’re planning an epic summer trip.

It started out simply enough: we invited a couple of friends and their families to join us in Winter Park for a day of fun riding the alpine slide, playing miniature golf, and running the human maze. One of my friends suggested we get a cabin up in the area and stay the night, so I did some poking around and found a few cabins that seemed reasonable. Finding one big enough for fourteen people in all was a little tricky, but it seemed like we’d get a good deal. When our plans were set, I started making the reservations for the cabin. It turned out that one night wasn’t okay– everyone wants two or three nights at minimum. Okay, with a little more conversation amongst our group we decided to go up the night before. More fun together, right?

Then it turned out there was a cleaning fee. And a damage deposit. And taxes. By the time all was said and done, we were looking at about $800 per family for two nights in a cabin, a day at Winter Park, and a couple of restaurant meals. Whoa.

Jokingly, one of my friends suggested we just take a road trip to California instead. I had mentioned that a few weeks earlier– what if our three families trucked out to the beach for a few days? Well, given the expense of our Winter Park adventure, it seemed like we could take a road trip… for a little more cash and have a whole lot more fun.

Today we sat down and started planning. By the time we were finished with our itinerary, we’d mapped a route through Zion National Park, Las Vegas, north Los Angeles, Monterey, and some lonely towns in the desolation of central Nevada.

epic-map

All told, we’re looking at 40 hours of driving across 10 days, covering at least 2,700 miles. We’ll see a bunch of awesome stuff, visit family in Utah, friends in California, and do it all in two vans (one of which is a rental). This is going to be epic.

24
July
2015
Permalink

Kyra turned 17 this week– wow. Yesterday she had a little birthday party for her closest friends. In addition to watching The Princess Bride and eating pizza, it involved some kind of card game that included a lot of slapping each other and screaming.

kyra-bday-1

Yeah, it’s really something to have four teenage girls yelling for an hour.

Then today, to finish celebrating her birthday, she had all four of her wisdom teeth pulled. She was pretty loopy coming back from the oral surgeon, and promptly flopped down on the couch and went to sleep.

kyra-bday-2

Right now she’s not feeling too bad, but I know later today she’ll be pretty unhappy. Fortunately we’ll get this whole thing out of the way before a few more family trips and the start of school…

15
July
2015
Permalink

Last week we headed out to Utah for Laralee’s somewhat-annual family reunion. As long as we were out there, we decided to stop in at BYU to take a look at the campus. Along with Colorado School of Mines, Alex accepted their offer to attend and then immediately deferred his start date for two years. Despite reading about BYU’s engineering program, Alex had never seen the campus.

He was pretty excited about it.

utah-1

Unlike Mines, it’s a big school with over 30,000 students enrolled. We had a student tour guide who was bubbling with energy as she took us around campus and told us how awesome BYU is. We had some great views of the campus from the top of the highest building:

utah-2

utah-3

utah-4

After our tour we dropped in on the mechanical engineering and computer science departments. I enjoyed this sign on one of the computer labs:

utah-5

I don’t know if the university budget is a little tight this year or something, but I was surprised to see the, uhh, outdoor bathroom facilities at the library:

utah-6

Alex found an interesting sculpture of modern art with a head-sized hole in it.

utah-7

After BYU and some lunch at Smashburger, we stopped by Mr. Mac, which is a well-known men’s clothier. It was time to buy Alex a suit for his mission. They had quite a few options in rows and rows:

utah-8

Fortunately he’s occasionally like me– quick and decisive– and was able to pick out a suit he liked after modeling a couple of them. He was measured so everything could be tailored just right. Pretty cool.

utah-9

I found a pretty sweet tweed jacket. Wearing it made me feel like a weird professor in the 1950’s or something.

utah-10

After a little over an hour, we walked out with a suit, two pairs of matching pants, five more pairs of “bucket washable” (!) slacks, eight white shirts, eight ties, two pairs of durable dress shoes, a dozen pairs of socks, two belts, and a nice layered fleece coat. Whew! Alex is ready for the bustling metropolis of Lima or the rugged mountain villages of Peru.

On our way out of the store I couldn’t help but notice this sign for a restaurant in the food court:

utah-11

That’s right: there’s an entire restaurant devoted to grilled cheese. Wow.

All in all, it was a great few days with family.

8
July
2015
Permalink

Amazon sent us a huge box the other day.

big-box-1

What could be in it? The mystery was killing me. I took a peek.

big-box-2

Hmm. Kyra with a towel on her head. I wouldn’t have guessed that…

Boy, I tell you, boxes this big are a dream for little kids. Maybe we should donate it to someone in the neighborhood.

8
July
2015
Permalink

For Independence Day, Kyra painted her nails red and blue and added some silver stars. Pretty cool.

july-4th-nails

She was sure to point out that the colors were “muted”, so they matched Captain America’s outfit. Of course.

7
July
2015
Permalink

I saw a picture of Bech on Facebook and couldn’t resist adding some captions.

shotgun

26
June
2015
Permalink

Alex came home from martial arts the other night, walking in the door and saying to me in an excited voice, “Dad, guess what I did at martial arts tonight?” I couldn’t guess, so he told me: “I got shocked with a stun gun!”

It was funny that he was so excited about it. He’s in a self-defense class where they practice moves intended to break free of attackers. Having joined him for a few of the classes in the past, I know they don’t mess around– they throw each other to the mat and only moderately hold back their kicks and whatnot. Apparently one of the instructors brought a live stun gun to the class and showed it to the students. After class, Alex was talking to him about it and he asked if Alex wanted to see what it felt like. Of course! Alex said he was stunned on the arm, and it was a jolt and some tingling afterward but “not like being tased”. Now I guess I should wonder how Alex knows what tasing feels like…

26
June
2015
Permalink

Last night we went to see Jurassic World. Heck, we enjoyed the original Jurassic Park twenty years ago and despite the lackluster sequels, it seemed like this new movie would be a lot of fun.

After dropping fifty bucks for tickets, we found out that “a lot of fun” meant a ton of impressive special effects wrapped around a story so filled with problems that it was laughable. Although I haven’t seen Pacific Rim, often held up as the pinnacle of movies which are all action and no plot, I imagine it was something like Jurassic World except with more robots.

As the T-Rex roared in the final scene (surprise!) and the credits started to roll, my only comment was “This movie is going to make a billion dollars.” They were halfway after just the first two days on screen, so I imagine this will be one of the highest-grossing movies of all time within a matter of weeks.

We literally spent our thirty-minute drive home picking out all of the plot holes and bad decisions throughout the movie. It was fun (and funny). In the end, I must say the movie was entertaining but only in the way that a slow-motion train wreck is entertaining…

jurassic-world

23
June
2015
Permalink

Today was the day after the solstice, and a perfect evening for the summer ultimate league. We played our usual double-header, winning the first and losing the second, but had a really great time. The weather was absolutely gorgeous: not too hot, not too cool, the slightest of breezes, and a fantastic Colorado sunset over the mountains. We played until 8:30, although we could easily have continued until 8:45 with the light. Afterward I headed over to the Pub to hang out with friends for a few hours.

I think this is my sixteenth summer playing ultimate in GRU. Ahh, good times.

21
June
2015
Permalink

Our thermometer apparently thinks we’re in Tucson or something:

hot-hot-hot

It wasn’t really 116 degrees, although I’m pretty sure it was in the mid-90’s.

Happy summer solstice!

20
June
2015
Permalink

Well, it’s happening. I just received a letter from State Farm informing me about their “In-Drive” program. Like many car insurance companies these days, they’re offering a 5% discount on insurance rates if I submit to 24/7 monitoring of my driving. They’ll send me a device that I install in my car; it’s a combination GPS receiver and transmitter that informs my State Farm overlords where I am at all times.

Obviously the intention is to monitor my habits and find out how often I exceed the speed limit, and so forth. But I have grave concerns about the abuse of this technology. No networked devices are safe from attack, and it’s only a matter of time before malicious players figure out how to access car location data. The most obvious purpose would be to know when I’m not at home so a simple home burglary could be committed, but it seems to be that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And don’t even get me started about how government agencies can use– err, I mean abuse– location data on millions of citizens.

At this point In-Drive is an optional program, but I know that it’s only a matter of time before it’s required by all insurance carriers. Ugh.

big-brother

20
June
2015
Permalink

Ahh, my family. Love ’em.

fam

20
June
2015
Permalink

This year for the Boy Scout “high adventure” trip, Zack’s troop went up to Wyoming for a week-long canoe trip on the North Platte River. I couldn’t go all week, so I joined the crew for two days.

It started Thursday afternoon as I drove a few hundred miles to the campsite where they’d put out for the day. It was like an old-fashioned road trip: windows down, wind blowing, music blasting. Woo hoo!

canoe-trip-1

Wyoming is quite scenic in parts, but most of the southern half is rolling hills. It was a beautiful sunny day.

canoe-trip-2

I arrived at camp, unpacked my stuff, and settled in for the evening. Some of the boys decided to prove their manliness with contests of strength. There were a few arm-wrestling bouts, and then they decided to work on stick pulling. Ahh, just like the good ol’ days of pioneer lads who didn’t have cell phone apps to keep them occupied in the evenings.

canoe-trip-3

Zack and a few others picked up fishing rods and worked on their technique. Zack didn’t catch anything, but one of the boys and one of the men did.

canoe-trip-4

Of course we had a campfire, and sat around playing a few games and talking.

canoe-trip-5

Friday morning we rolled out of our tents at 6am sharp (it had been light since around 4:30). It took some of the boys a while to get ready, mostly because their breakfast was stuff like pancakes and scrambled eggs. I just munched on some dry cereal, of course. We finally hit the river around 7:30 at the start of a crisp, clear day.

canoe-trip-6

Our little flotilla of eight canoes started out strong, but after about half an hour had divided into two groups of four. Zack and I were in the front group, powering down the river for a while. After paddling for a bit we realized we were far ahead and didn’t really need to be, so we ended up just drifting lazily with the current. It was nice.

By late morning the sun was starting to beat down from the cloudless sky. I was glad I’d lathered on sunscreen before setting out. Zack had done so as well, but on the first day he’d burned the tops of his legs a bit (I think most of the boys had) so he was feeling the heat on them. He’d scoop up some water from the river and trickle it across his legs. The water was about 45 degrees, so even though the day was heating up, it wasn’t quite swimming weather.

We saw a lot of wildlife: mule deer, antelope, beavers, ducks, and a lot of different birds. There were four huge owls who took off from the banks and soared over the river. We also saw many bald eagles: I think I counted six, and Zack said he’d seen several each day the previous days. Their nests were typically in tall trees right along the river, and we’d see them circling high above. My camera wasn’t great at capturing them, but here’s a shot of one watching us from a tree:

canoe-trip-9

It was relaxing to just float down the river, paddling occasionally to correct our heading or stay in formation with the other three canoes in our group. All of us talked, joked, and shared riddles– one of the riddles took about an hour to figure out, but as there wasn’t really anything else to do, we all played along.

canoe-trip-7

Here Zack demonstrates the proper technique for being in position to fall off the bow and be run over by the canoe:

canoe-trip-8

Around noon the wind started to pick up (hey, it’s Wyoming) and pushed against us at around 25mph. Since the current was flowing at a leisurely 3-4mph, we basically didn’t make any forward progress without paddling hard. If we stopped paddling, the wind would quickly turn our boat and push us to shore. That started to wear on the boys a bit– we were hungry, hot, and getting tired. We stopped for lunch and sheltered behind some bushes to eat before striking out again.

As we wound around bends in the river, the wind would come at us from different directions, so at times it was nice to have it at our backs, although a little while later it would be gusting in our faces.

We reached our take-out point around 2pm and by then most of the boys (and some of the leaders) were worn out. We’d traveled nearly 30 miles on the river for the day– not too bad!

After stowing our gear, we had a little barbecue at a rest area along I-80 and then drove back to Longmont. It was fun to spend a couple of days with Zack and the boys, and I hadn’t been canoeing since college so I enjoyed a day of poking around the river. Good times all around.

13
June
2015
Permalink

Alex just received a letter from church headquarters about his mission assignment.

mission-call-1

It’s an exciting (and slightly tense) moment as he opens the envelope to find out where he’ll be serving…

mission-call-2

And the winner is… Lima, Peru! He’ll leave October 6 and spend two years there, speaking Spanish and sharing the gospel with the people of Peru. Way to go Alex!

12
June
2015
Permalink

Kyra came back from Girls’ Camp last night, and her hair had been in a braided bun for about two days. She undid the braids today and the result was impressive:

kyra-hair-1

I told her to whip her head around a bit because her hair was so big. The camera couldn’t catch it very well, but these pictures give an idea of just how frizzy and huge her hair was this morning.

kyra-hair-2

kyra-hair-3

Personally, I love her beautiful long blond tresses. When she has them in a braid overnight, it’s funny how big her hair can get the next morning. I keep asking Laralee to let her hair grow out, but she refuses to let it get past her shoulders. Oh well.

12
June
2015
Permalink

Last week we had some crazy weather… well, okay, we’ve been having crazy weather for almost two months now, but last week there was a particularly rough evening when the rain and thunderstorms hit. We were sitting around in the house and heard a terrific flash-BANG where a huge crack of thunder immediately followed the flash of lightning. We all jumped, laughed a bit, and then I headed out with Zack to a Scout activity.

A few minutes later, with the Scouts, I saw a bunch of fire trucks zoom past with their sirens blaring. Curious.

Later, when I returned home, I found out that the trucks rolled onto my street and took a peek at the house across the street from us:

lightning-strike

Laralee took this photo from our front yard as she watched the hook-and-ladder truck lift up a firefighter to inspect the roof. Apparently the lightning we’d heard a little while earlier had struck the top of the house. Nothing was damaged and no one was hurt, but that was a close call…