We skydove

Kyra told me today that she’s wanted to go skydiving since she was ten years old. Well, now that she’s eighteen, she can officially do it. We headed across town to the local airport for the big event.

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This being our first time, we had to do a tandem jump, which means we’re strapped to the front of an expert jumper. Kyra’s buddy for the day was a guy named Cody. According to her and Laralee, Cody was very cute. Here he is, getting Kyra into her gear:

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My tandem partner was Shawn, who was a nice guy.

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Ready to jump!

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Laralee kept asking both of us if we were nervous. Nope. It really didn’t seem scary or anything. In fact, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, so Kyra’s 18th birthday just gave me a good excuse to finally take the plunge, so to speak.

And away we go! We squeezed a dozen people into a little twin turboprop.

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When we hit a little over 12,000 feet, they opened the door on the plane and we made the jump. It was actually really easy– you sort of roll forward out the doorway, and then after a few seconds you spread your arms to level out. We were in free-fall for almost a minute. I asked my partner how long it takes to hit terminal velocity, and he said around ten seconds. At this altitude, terminal velocity is around 120 miles per hour. It was amazing to spin slowly and take in the surrounding landscape, plummeting down at that speed. Although the wind was howling in my ears, it was strangely calm up there.

Shawn pulled the chute, which was a pretty hard jolt, and we floated easily to the drop zone. We missed the “target” in the center by about two feet. Nice!

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Kyra came down after me. Apparently Cody gave her the lines and let her steer for part of the trip down. I wondered aloud why I didn’t get to do that, and Laralee quipped that I’m not a cute 18-year-old girl. True, that.

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Mission accomplished!

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Oh, and Kyra reminded me that we had to take an obligatory selfie at the end of the journey.

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Alex emailed Kyra from Peru and told her to punch me because I didn’t wait for him to go skydiving. I suspect he’ll want to do it in a couple of years when he’s back. And Zack is already planning it for his 18th birthday as well. I’m looking forward to it! (The big question is whether Laralee will take the jump… stay tuned.)

Zaque’s Dating Tips

It’s a long story, but Zack (who writes his name “Zaque” now) wrote a series of dating tips. They’re hilarious. Here’s a sample:

Q: How should you start your date?
A: Using cheesy pick-up lines.

Q: What should you do to keep your date’s attention?
A: Constantly switch accents as you talk.

Q: What’s a good way to ask someone out?
A: Hide a chicken wing in her shoe with your phone number on it.

Q: What should you give your date as a gift?
A: A rock that says “From my first date with _____”.

Q: What is the ultimate girl magnet?
A: A horse mask.

He insists that he is actually planning to (1) ask out a girl with a chicken wing in her shoe, (2) give her a rock, and (3) wear a horse mask. Fortunately we’re still a few years away from this… I’m interested to see how it plays out.

Caught!

I think both Mom and I take secret pleasure in finding grammatical errors in one another’s blog posts, so I couldn’t help but grin when I caught one in her latest post, about her European tour. She said this:

The four paired wines (none with the bellini) were perfectly matched to each course and complimented the flavors of the food.

(emphasis mine)

It would be impressive to see wine speak kindly about the food; I suspect Mom really meant the wine complemented the food, meaning it went well alongside it.

It’s pretty rare to catch Mom like this, so I have to revel in my moment. (Sorry, Mom!)

Worth it

Today at Walmart, Laralee and I were wandering and bumped into a friend. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then she mentioned that she’d been thinking a lot about the upcoming seminary year. Seminary runs concurrently with the school year– for every day of high school, the kids attend seminary beforehand. Now that we’re a few weeks away from the start of the school year, things are gearing up for seminary as well.

Anyway, she’s been thinking about her daughter, who’s been struggling with a few things of late. She told me that she’s really been hoping her daughter will be in my class. (I don’t have any control over my class– the students are assigned more or less randomly, with some minor adjustments by the people overseeing the seminary program.) Well, the class list had just been released a few days ago, and although it’s not official yet, I knew that her daughter was on my roster. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to tell her, so I did.

She almost broke down. After giving me a huge hug, she explained that she was so grateful for this, and excited that I could teach her daughter. I was completely taken aback, since I don’t think I’m all that great a teacher, and moreover the two other seminary teachers with whom I share a building are both better teachers than me. Still, it was pretty cool for a friend to trust me with her daughter and feel like I could somehow reach her in a way that the other awesome teachers perhaps couldn’t.

Teaching seminary is an amazing privilege, and little unexpected things like this remind me that all those long hours and early mornings are absolutely worth it.

Wearin’ the smock

Kyra was working another shift as a Walmart cashier, and it happened that Laralee and I needed to pick up a few things. So we headed over and found her lane.

Here’s a shot of her hard at work:

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Notice the woman on the far right– she seemed a little suspicious of Laralee taking a picture of a cashier. She leaned in close to Kyra and whispered, “Do you know them?” Kyra laughed. “They’re my parents.” Because of course that explains the weirdness of taking a picture of a cashier.

Walmart is so much fun!

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It’s funny to think that I also worked at Walmart, as did Alex. The question: will Zack carry on the family tradition?

Dig Dug

Last week Zack and I headed over to Lyons Pinball, which is a little house up the road in Lyons where a guy has a collection of classic pinball and video games which he lets people play (for 50 cents a game, of course). They’re a lot of fun, and Zack’s been wanting to go for a while.

He found a video game cabinet that had a collection of classic arcade games: things like Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and so on. For some reason he went straight to Dig Dug. Of course I remember it from my younger days, but I always thought it was kind of lame… you run around digging through the dirt and inflating weird bad guys until they explode. But hey, it’s not like many video games have a deep plot or something.

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After a handful of games he proudly entered his initials in the leaderboard. It looks like he needed to do a bit better to hit the high score, though…

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XVIII

Happy birthday to the most beautiful, talented, smart, funny eighteen-year-old girl in my life!

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Sad car

This afternoon I was in the parking lot of Jimmy John’s after grabbing a sandwich, and a guy backed right into the side of my car. I saw him coming, and my window was down, so I shouted “Hey, whoa!” but he didn’t hear me. Luckily the damage was pretty minor:

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The rear bumper of his SUV was barely scratched, so he asked two or three times, “Are you sure you didn’t already have damage there?” As if I had a big dent exactly where his bumper hit me or something, and was lying about the damage.

So begins the drudgery of working with his insurance company to get this fixed. Whee!

Zack’s new toy

Zack’s friend Bryce built a “gaming computer” a few weeks ago, and Zack decided he really needed one too. I guess his little iMac laptop isn’t breathtaking for gaming (although it seems to work okay from what I’ve seen) and it’s all the rage to have a custom rig running Windows and Steam. Bryce’s system cost upward of $300, but I sat down with Zack and we worked together to figure out the parts we already have– there are shelves upon shelves of parts in my basement office– and what he really needs for a reasonable gaming computer. We ended up with $165 in parts.

Well, everything arrived yesterday and Zack was excited to get it going. Today we sat down, unpacked all of the boxes, and I showed him how to build a computer.

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The one thing he’s missing is an operating system; we don’t have Windows anywhere at home, so I guess he’s going to borrow an installation CD from a friend. Then he’ll be ready to game with the best.

Happy birthday hat

I was just meeting with a lawyer and he had a sweet “happy birthday” cake hat on his shelf. Since today is Dirk’s birthday, I figured I had no choice– I asked the lawyer to take a few pictures of me wearing it.

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Yeah, this is the sort of guy I have as a lawyer: the sort of guy who has a hat shaped like a cake.

Another one!

Astronomers have found another “dwarf” planet deep in the solar system. It’s temporarily been designated 2015RR245, which isn’t a very exciting name, but presumably they’ll give it an official name soon.

Here’s a cool diagram showing the currently-known distant planets:

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Everyone knows Pluto, and many years ago when I taught science class, I talked about Sedna, Makemake, Haumea, Quaoar, and Eris. But now I see we’ve added Varuna, Varda, Ixion, and a handful of other yet-to-be-named guys. I’m not sure if someone has yet come up with a song or mnemonic (remember “My very fine mother just served us nine pizzas”?)…

It’s exciting that our local neighborhood is much busier and more complicated than we’ve imagined!

Juno, meet Jupiter

After a multi-year journey, the Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter on July 4. NASA just released its first photo of the big guy:

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The Not-so-great Red Spot is clearly visible– it continues to shrink, which of course is a source of continuing scientific speculation. To the right are Io, Europa, and Ganymede.

Awesome stuff.

Shakespeare action figure

I’m lifting this straight from Mom’s blog, but I thought it was awesome.

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For some reason, the “Removable quill pen and book!” part really cracks me up. You just don’t see that kind of thing in Star Wars action figures, for example.

Steamboat Springs

Last summer we had a great time taking a road trip out to Utah, Nevada, and California. It was the first time we’d gone on a trip like that with friends, and it proved to be such fun that we decided to do it again this year. We invited Kurt and Megan, as well as Jason and Jerilyn, and all decided that Steamboat Springs would be a good destination. Most of them didn’t want to do something quite as epic as we’d done last year, so staying in Colorado was a good compromise.

We drove up there on Thursday; normally it’s about three and a half hours on the road but some construction projects delayed us quite a bit and it ended up being more like four hours. But we made it and checked into our fancy big condo– since Steamboat is a ski resort, there are tons of fancy big condos scattered around the base of the mountain. There were fifteen of us in all, and it had plenty of space for everyone. We arrived first and claimed the big master bedroom (hah!), leaving the other bedrooms for the two other couples and their gaggle of kids. Kyra and Zack grabbed couches so they didn’t have to share bunks with the younger kids.

On Friday we decided to take a hike to a couple of waterfalls called Lower Fish Creek Falls and (wait for it) Upper Fish Creek Falls. The lower falls were about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and they were pretty cool:

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We wanted to press on to the upper falls, although they were two and a half miles uphill. But heck, these are kids; they should have boundless energy, right? Well, as we continued to climb, the day warmed up and the sun was beating down on the trail for much of the way. The complaints started mounting. We found a nice shady lunch spot on the side of the trail and stopped to eat, which did wonders for everyone’s attitudes. A particularly brave chipmunk kept coming up to us, obviously looking for food. He actually climbed on Laralee’s leg! The kids thought it was a riot, and Zack (being Zack) tricked him into climbing into his backpack. The chipmunk realized what was going on and popped out, then ran off.

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Personally, I thought the hike was relatively easy, and enjoyed taking some photos along the way.

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A few people coming down the trail told us we were close to the upper falls– maybe 20 minutes of hiking to go. Of course, at the pace we were going (the youngest kid was four) that was more like 30 minutes. We were able to convince the tired kids to continue the climb. Sure enough, within about half an hour we found the falls. Suddenly everyone’s fatigue was forgotten, and we all took off our shoes and jumped in the water, climbed on the rocks, and generally had a great time.

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After a while we had to head back down, so we gathered our shoes and started the long hike. I ended up carrying a couple of the younger girls on my shoulders most of the way because they were pretty tired (understandably so). When we arrived at the cars, everyone was pretty beat. But still, we all agreed it was a great trail.

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Saturday we set our alarms for 5:30am and woke up to catch a 6am shuttle to the “balloon rodeo”, a big annual event in Steamboat that starts with a hot-air balloon launch at sunrise and then a day of festivals, food, and parties. Just before the sun peeked over the mountains, it was fun to see mist on a nearby lake from the cool air.

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The early hour didn’t prevent Zack from being a ham, though.

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The first two balloons that were inflated and took off had the American and Colorado flags, respectively. We stood for the national anthem, and then they floated overhead and touched down on the lake just as the sun came up. Nice.

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As we watched for an hour or more, there were probably twenty other balloons that took off and coasted overhead. Almost all of them attempted to touch the water– apparently it’s a tricky maneuver, so there’s some measure of pride involved for the balloonists. It makes for a nice photo-op, though.

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A few more shots:

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Then there was the woman who was dressed as a horse:

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After the last balloons had coasted overhead and scattered over the town (the wind was light and unpredictable, apparently) we headed back to the condo. That afternoon about half of us decided to rent some inner tubes and coast down the river, which was a blast. The other half rode an alpine slide down the mountain. We had dinner at a nice Italian place in town, where Kurt found a hundred-dollar bill under his chair– better than a coupon!

It was a nice evening so we stopped in a few shops. One was the coolest rock and gem shop I’ve ever seen. Check out this mammoth quartz crystal:

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Or an amethyst big enough for Zack to stick his head through:

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Everything was breathtaking. I glanced at a few price tags; the quartz crystal above was $12,000. There was a flat rock, probably four by four feet, with a palm fossil and some fish, for $45,000. But the most expensive rock I could find was a massive fully-intact ichthyosaur fossil which was about six feet long. It cost a staggering $195,000. I guess if you have a multi-million-dollar ski house on the hill in Steamboat, you can afford wall hangings that cost more than a suburban house.

We also stopped in at a t-shirt shop that had some sweet hats.

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On Sunday morning we stopped in for church at the local chapel (just a couple of blocks from our condo) and then headed back home. We took a much more scenic route across the northern part of the state, avoiding all of the construction.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip, and hopefully the start of an annual tradition (now that we’ve done it twice with the same friends).

McRadpants

Zack: Dad, you can name your kids whatever you want, right?
Me: Yeah…
Zack: So I can give my son the middle name of McRadpants?
Me: Umm, I guess so.
Zack: Cool! (runs off)

I guess this would’ve been a cute conversation if Zack was, say, five years old. But he asked me this today. He’s almost fifteen.

I can’t wait to see what happens when he becomes a dad.

God creating animals

Seen on the internet…

[God creating kittens]
God: Make them really fluffy and adorable, like little furry hugs.
Angel: That’s so swee–
God: And put razor blades on their feet.

[God creating pandas]
God: Cow bears.
Angel: What?
God: Did I stutter?
Angel: …
God: Take a cow and make it a bear.

[God creating spiders]
God: Make it have 8 legs.
Angel: Seems excessive, but okay…
God: And 8 eyes.
Angel: You need to calm dow–
God: And a butt rope.

[God creating bees]
God: Put a needle on its butt.
Angel: Come on, wha–
God: And make its puke delicious.

[God creating alligators]
God: See that log?
Angel: Yeah.
God: Fill it with teeth.
Angel: Umm, what?
God: FILL IT!

[God creating a praying mantis]
God: Make an insect that does karate.
Angel: Okay.
God: Now make it bite her husband’s head off.
Angel: Dude, we need to talk.

[God creating parrots]
God: How about a tye-dye chicken who screams actual words at you?

[God creating bats]
God: I want a hairy black potato with wings.
Angel: Umm…
God: …
Angel: God?
God: Also, it should sleep upside down.

[God creating hippos]
God: How about a big fat horse that’s always trying to sneak up on you in a pool?

[God creating octopi]
God: Give it 8 super strong arms and hands.
Angel: Uhh, we’re out of bones.
God: Okay, 8 weird floppy arms with suction cup things.

[God creating hyenas]
God: So, it’s a cat dog with jaws of steel.
Angel: Sweet!
God: But it laughs like Fran Drescher.

[God creating chimps]
God: Shrink a gorilla and make it smart.
Angel: Okay. And what sound should it make?
God: Just have it scream all the time.

[God creating ducks]
God: I’m out of ideas. Just put a big surfboard mouth on a pigeon and make it sound like a loud idiot. I don’t know.

A big change in my life

After more than a decade, my old Timex watch finally gave out. I banged it pretty hard and although the digital part of it continued working fine, the analog dial was dead. Rest in peace, old friend.

After a bit of poking around, I found another Timex that I like, and I can continue looking sophisticated.

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Groupon = spam

A couple of weeks ago, I used Groupon for the first time in my life. They offered a good deal on tickets to an amusement park, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Since then, I’ve become the victim of Groupon spam. They send me multiple messages every day, mostly advertising deals on things I care nothing about. Here’s what Gmail looks like right now:

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Seriously, guys?

$10 billion should be enough

Some guy named Thomas S. Ross has decided to sue Apple because he claims he invented the iPhone first. Specifically, in 1992 he sketched something he called an “electronic reading device” that allowed a person to “communicate, write notes, … and store reading and writing material”.

In his lawsuit, he points out how similar the two devices are:

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Yep, clearly he was thinking the same thing as Apple, fifteen years earlier. Never mind that technology in 1992 wasn’t anywhere close to making this thing a reality… I mean, I could have drawn some cool little device that did awesome impossible-at-the-time stuff then too!

His technical detail drawing is kind of funny:

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Notice the floppy disk drive on the left-hand side, and the comment that it will use a 16MHz 386 processor. Oh, and tiny solar cells on the sides that will presumably power all of this.

Although his patent was declared “abandoned” by the USPTO in 1995 because he didn’t pay application fees, he says he has suffered “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money”. So he decided that ten billion dollars should be enough to put his anguished mind at ease. Oh, and royalties on all ongoing iPhone sales.

Apple’s lawyers are probably enjoying this.