Sayonara, 5:15

Last night it was kind of a special moment when I turned off my daily 5:15am alarm…

And that’s a wrap

There are four more days of high school this semester, so I was planning on four more days of seminary (we have class every day there’s school). But to my surprise– and the surprise of all the other seminary teachers– last night there was an announcement by the program leaders that today would be the final day.

Although I was happy not to have to wake up at 5am for three more days, I also had to scramble a bit because I had to combine some lessons I’d planned, and then figure out how to throw the end-of-year party I’d been planning. So I spent some time re-planning my lesson last night, gathering some party supplies, and even stopped off at the grocery store around 5:45 this morning to pick up doughnuts and drinks (doughnuts are always popular in seminary).

When I arrived in my classroom, I was treated to an impressive display of table-stacking, Jenga chairs, and a breathtaking amount of toilet paper.

We all laughed a lot, then cleaned up surprisingly quickly, dug into the food, and I taught a 15-minute rush lesson. We ended with a hilarious award ceremony and some class photos.

And of course the “Oscar selfie”…

Man, I love these yahoos. It’s been a privilege and a blessing to spend 165 of my mornings with them this school year. They’re amazing kids.

Now, I can look forward to staying up late and sleeping in again…

Good vs evil

Yesterday in seminary we were talking about good and evil, and I gave the class a quick “pop quiz” (I do that a lot) where they had 2-3 seconds to see a photo of a fictional character and write down whether they were a good guy or a bad guy.

Some were easy:

Some were a little more complicated (he was good, then bad, and then good again?)

I was surprised how many of the kids didn’t know a classic bad guy like Prince Humperdinck:

But the best was when I flashed up Khan and they had no idea who he was. In fact, several of them thought he was a somewhat unattractive older woman.

Really? Khan? What’s this world coming to when the rising generation doesn’t know the classics?

Watch Squirrels Become Magical

Kyra just sent me this photo, from a store she and Sister Williams are currently shopping. I can’t even imagine what else is on the shelves…

… Oh, wait, my imagination need not run amok. She followed up with another photo a few minutes later.

Wow. Just wow.

Oh, the excitement

In our conversation with Kyra yesterday she mentioned that she loves receiving photos. We told her there really isn’t all that much to photograph in our daily lives, and any pictures we send would be kind of boring. But she insisted, so now it’s my goal to capture all the mundane activities we do.

To wit…

Zaque plays video games with friends:

Alex reads a comic book:

I work on my seminary lesson:

And who would want to miss the thrill of Laralee drying dishes?

Yep, I’m pretty sure Kyra will be excited about all of this.

Mother’s Day

Of course it’s nice to celebrate moms on Mother’s Day, but for the parents of missionaries, it’s a special day because it’s one of two days each year we get to talk with them. So, yesterday evening we connected with Kyra over Google Hangouts (yay bigscreen TV!) and had a great chat for almost two hours.

We traded jokes and stories, and had a great time. It’s always a little sad to say goodbye, but in her weekly email today she mentioned that it wasn’t as hard for her to hang up as it had been at Christmas (our other day to talk). She’s working hard and making us proud.


Proving that they’re not the intellectual kings of the animal world, once again we found a baby bunny had fallen into our window well. This seems to happen often, and it’s always an opportunity for Zaque to climb down and rescue the little guys.

Afterward he usually sits on the couch with the traumatized bunny, and quietly pets him. It’s kind of touching how gentle he is with the critters.


As of today, I have a new mantra.

You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

(from Inception)


For over fifteen years, I’ve shopped at various times at B&H Photo and Video, which is a family-owned camera and electronics business in New York. They have good prices on everything, and I always prefer the mom-and-pop stores over the behemoth corporations.

Now that I’m getting more serious about my photography, I find myself poking around for better lenses, and that journey often takes me over to B&H. Today I was looking at a few lenses, and although I wasn’t ready to click “buy” on any of them, I noticed this message at the top of every page on the web site:

Clearly the B&H owners are Jewish, and since it’s Saturday, they’re observing Shabbat. I think it’s really cool that they actually close their online store during their holy day. I have a deep respect for people who don’t let “the world” interfere with their faith.


Last night, Zaque headed out to prom with his good friend Ma’ata. They had a great time, of course, and it’s always nice to know she’s just as goofy as he is.

Scammers, scammers, everywhere

After the disastrous attempt to sell my camera on Craigstlist, I thought maybe eBay would be a better forum. Sure, I’d have to pay shipping costs and a selling fee, but at least buyers on eBay are legitimate people. Right? Right?

Alas, no.

So far I’ve had two people “buy” the camera, but each of them had new accounts on eBay that were created literally minutes before they claimed the gear. One of them immediately closed the account, and the other started texting me to tell me his Paypal payment had cleared (it hadn’t), and he was ready for me to ship the gear to his son as a birthday gift. And his son just happens to live in– wait for it– Nigeria! In the American embassy, no less. Color me shocked.

I’ll re-list the gear again, but my hopes of a legitimate sale are fading. Apparently if you want to sell any electronic gear for more than $500, you have to deal with the bots. Sigh.


With my new camera in hand, but no time during my work day to read the manual about how to use it, I went to my ultimate league games last night and snapped about a hundred photos of our game. The results were amazing. I’m not saying I’m an amazing photographer, or even that the photos themselves were amazing, but rather that the improvement over my previous cameras was noticeable and astounding. The photos were so much sharper, and even in the fading daylight I was able to capture action in high-speed pictures.

Thom was right: a full-frame sensor makes a world of difference. Of course, I’d expect that when you buy a camera that costs more than a car, it darn well better take good pictures! I’m using low-end lenses now, so Thom’s next piece of advice is to get some better glass… but that’s another car’s worth of dough, so I’m going to have to hold off on it for a while.

When Laralee and I went on a walk in today’s gorgeous 70-degree sunny weather, I brought along my new toy and took a few photos along the path. They’re nothing breathtaking, but again, I was deeply impressed with the quality of the shots when I pulled them up in Darktable. Here are a few, with only slight editing.

Now I’ll spend the weekend reading the 404-page manual (!) and hopefully learn how to use some of the really nifty features of this camera. I’m excited for this.

Fun with cameras

So, I bought a new camera. This thing is serious, and even meets with Thom’s approval. I decided it was time to take the next step on my photography journey, and that meant stepping up from the 12-year-old DSLR I’ve been using.

Problem: The camera cost more than my first car. Yeah.

Solution: Sell my old gear! Even though it’s fairly old, it’s probably worth $600-800. Hello, Craigslist!

Next problem: Craigslist is apparently a “hive of scum and villany”, to quote Obi-Wan, because all of the text messages I’ve received about the ad so far have been scammers who want me to ship the camera to their “friend” in Florida or wherever, and they’ll pay me with Paypal. Ha, I’m not new around here, Mr. Scammer! I just start asking them questions and saying dumb stuff until they finally give up on me.

Brownies must be healthy

Laralee just had some eggs for breakfast, and they apparently weren’t “sitting well” with her, so she walked into my office eating a huge brownie. I asked about it, and she said:

“… I had a brownie to make my stomach feel better.”

My wife, who’s into organic free-range non-GMO non-pesticide low-fat low-carb healthy foods, just said that. It seemed blog-worthy.

Well, this blows

Tomorrow evening is ultimate league, and NOAA doesn’t have good news for us:

Windy, with a northwest wind 21 to 26 mph decreasing to 11 to 16 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 37 mph.

I can’t think of many sports that are so heavily affected by wind… I guess competitive kite-flying depends on a good stiff breeze, but otherwise, wind just isn’t good. It should make for interesting games. I expect the scores to be things like 1-2.

The ‘fro had to go

Zaque’s hair is unlike anyone else’s in the family– it has a lot of body, and when he just lets it grow unfettered, it turns into a curly mass on the top of his head. The other day he admitted that it might be getting a little long.

Yeah, almost 2 inches… and that’s with it sort of matted down.

I offered to cut it for him, but he decided Mom would be best. So Laralee took the trimmers and shaved off at least an inch all around. The result actually looks pretty similar, but trust me when I say it’s half the hair he used to have:

The next day, it was funny to hear several of the girls in my seminary class commenting about how they liked his “new hairstyle”. Of course there was nothing new about it– it was just shorter. He pretends not to care about the opinions of the girls, but come on, he’s a sixteen-year-old boy…

Proud dad

It’s fun to see people commenting about all the good things Kyra is doing on her mission…

What an awesome girl. This must be one of those “proud dad” moments…

Ow my eye

On Saturday I was doing some demolition work in a friend’s basement, banging away at some carpet tack strips, and a little piece of the tack strip (or something) shot up and hit me in the eyeball. It didn’t hurt, but it left a nice bloody mark on my left eye. This is a day later, when it was already looking better:

… And that’s why we wear eye protection, kids.

I love this sport

Yesterday I went to my usual game of lunchtime pickup ultimate, but remained on the sidelines due to a neck injury that I didn’t want to aggravate. I brought my camera, along with a telephoto lens, and had some fun taking pictures of the action.

A new Yoda-ism

I’m a fan of much of what Yoda says. From The Last Jedi comes another good one:

Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. Hmph. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all.

The greatest teacher, failure is.