Friday, August 29, 2008

Alive and Kicking...

...but kind of just barely.

This week has been okay. Good students (as far as I can tell). No real emergencies. Some promising ideas coming out of mythology and my comp classes. Online lit is still a pain. No, I mean "online lit is still developing and... and..." (sigh).

I got news that my request for a new laptop has been funded (hurray!), but I can't get a 17" screen (sniff).

I gotta run. Keri is waiting for me to go to the fair. More soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"On this day of joy and gladness..."

Those are the first words of the song we sang to open the cornerstone ceremony at the Twin Falls temple dedication today. It was, truly, a day of joy and gladness. A long-awaited day which fully lived up to our expectations.

I hardly dare try to describe yesterday and today for fear that I'll simply lapse into journal-speak and generic superlatives. In fact, the most important impact that this day has had on me and on my family cannot really be described at all; we have tasted salt--spiritually speaking.

Perhaps it will suffice to say that we have been amply compensated for the trials and worries of the summer. I'm sure many of my readers will be familiar with the witness that comes after the trial of one's faith. We had that witness today.

We were triply privileged:

Keri and I attended the YCC at the Filer fairgrounds last evening and saw Jacob and 3200 other youths from the Magic Valley perform "Living Water." It was a spectacle and an inspiration (generic superlatives, I know). Perhaps some pictures will better show what I mean. I hope that it has a lasting impact on Jacob and the other youth.

I was privileged to sing in the cornerstone choir this morning. Keri and the older boys (Jake, Josh, & Cam) were able to be there as well and saw the prophet conduct that ceremony. The boys were among those President Monson referred to when he said,

"I have never seen more boys so close together, evenly matched, on one rail," said President Monson, looking at a group of a half-dozen boys sitting on a nearby cement retaining wall. (Deseret News article)

The local paper, the Times-News made mention of the boys too:

"As an estimated 700 Mormons and others waited for Monson to emerge from the temple for the outside, public portion of the dedication, children gathered near the steps of the platform where the leader spoke.

"Most waited quietly, fidgeting a bit in the hot summer heat, and a few boys curbed their impatience with rounds of rock-paper-scissors."

Our boys were the ones playing rock-paper-scissors.

Finally, Keri and I and the oldest boys (Jake and Josh) were in the temple for the 11:30 dedicatory session. After the session, which was moving and inspirational in its own way, the boys had a close, personal encounter with President Monson. He stopped and spoke to them and patted their heads as he exited the temple. I hope they will not soon forget being close to the man that we consider a prophet of God.

Because today is my birthday I have joked with friends that I appreciated President Monson arranging a temple dedication to celebrate. In truth, I can hardly express my appreciation to God for allowing me to celebrate the things I believe in such high style and with such deeply felt conviction. I shall not soon forget this birthday. It is truly one to remember.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Any CSS geniuses out there?

I used to think I was a "go to" guy where computers are concerned. For most of the last 20 years (yikes, has it been that long), I've been able to figure out most of what I've wanted to do with DOS, Windows, html, and even a little database programming. You hang in there long enough (and look at enough examples of what other people have done) and you usually get it-- or get it good enough to accomplish what you set out to.

I guess I need to "hang in there" longer with CSS because I'm not getting it. Anyone out there willing to answer my inane, obtuse questions?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School

Well... I went back to work yesterday after the first summer off in quite a few years. It was a good summer, and in some ways I'm sad that it's over, but overall I'm glad to be back at work. As I have said so many times, I really do love what I do for a living.

The kids will go back next week, so Keri has then by herself for a few days. She's a wonderful mom-- taking care of 5 kids with differing needs and making differing demands on her every minute. I love her for it.

I've got course web sites to build and a reading schedule to work out for the mythology course. I guess I'd better get to it.

[On a related note (kind of), I went to a store today and the cashier, who knows me from other settings, said, “I’m in your mythology class.” I said, “Great.” She said, “What are we reading first?” I said, “Odyssey.” “The whole thing?!” she said.

I sighed, just a little.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

10 things I love about the end of summer

  1. That butterfly feeling you get when school is about to start. New faces, new friends, new opportunities– not to mention new pens/pencils/notebooks/etc.
  2. Cooler weather. I love summer, but I get a bit tired of being hot, sweaty, dehydrated, and of dragging the hose around the yard to keep things green(ish). Sleeping with the windows open is a breath of fresh air (sorry, bad pun, I know).
  3. Draney Camp. This is the annual family reunion of my brothers and sisters. We camp together for three days and my brothers and I welt each other with paintballs on the second day. Actually, we didn’t get to go this year, for various reasons, but I still love the tradition. (The brothers are probably welting each other as I write this.)
  4. Fall colors. I know we’re not there yet, but the reds and yellows and oranges of turning aspens are just around the corner.
  5. Sending kids back to school. Is this a cruel one? Most kids (mine included, mostly) are dreading August 25th, but Keri and I are looking forward to the end of “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
  6. Garden-fresh produce. I delivered some pictures to one of my clients the other day and he dragged me (okay, not dragged– I was willing) out in to his garden and gave me: potatoes, carrots, onions (two kinds), garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, and some of the most delicious cucumbers I have ever eaten. Local vine-ripened tomatoes put those cardboard things you get in the supermarket to shame.
  7. Crisp mornings.
  8. The Olympics. Okay… this isn’t one we get to do every summer, but this year we do. Who isn’t at least a little bit excited by the amazing things that Michael Phelps is doing. All the amazing athletics are just plain fun to watch.
  9. Planning fall classes. This one is probably too closely tied to #1 to qualify as a separate item, but one of my favorite parts of my job is imagining the ways that my students and I can work together towards something good and right and meaningful.
  10. Knowing that I don’t have to stop reading when I go back to work. I’ve spent the summer reading all kinds of things– professional articles, SF stories, mythology, graphic novels, British literature, and even some philosophy. My job allows me (in fact, requires me) to continue to read broadly and deeply. What other kinds of job would a bibliophile want?

So.. what do you love about summer (or its end)? Post your reply as a comment on this posting.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Clark Draney, Simpsonized

So this is me, Simpsonized. Kind of looks like an English professor, don't you think?

The question is, if they were to give my persona a spot on The Simpsons who would do the voice?

Monday, August 11, 2008

a second Dark Knight

Keri and I escaped the house for a little while the other night and saw The Dark Knight for a second time. The first time we saw it the experience was a little . . . annoying. That first time there were some 200 people in the theater... and 215 cell phones--every one of which was on and blazing away. The theater inexplicably had a freakin' INTERMISSION halfway through the movie. It was also quite hot in the theater--too many bodies hopped up on energy drinks (how do they smuggle those immense cans in to the theater?) and not enough A/C.

Anyway, we tucked the kiddies in to bed, told Jake (our 12 year old) that we had the cell phone, and snuck off to Burley to try out the stadium theater. On the way over I kept thinking that it was crazy to drive all the way to Burley to see a movie we've already seen. Happily, I was wrong.

The theater is nicer than any of the theaters in Twin Falls. Stadium seating, nicer seats (with cup holders and movable arm rests), really magnificent sound, etc. The price was right, too-- a couple of bucks less than the plain jane theaters in Twin. Even the concessions were less expensive. A combo-- popcorn, drink, and candy-- was less than a drink and popcorn here at home, and they were refillable (not the candy, I guess ;-) ). If we were to car pool with another couple, it'd turn out to be a wash on $$. In other words, I think we may make the trip more often.

Anyway, I was glad to see the movie in a more comfortable setting-- without the inexcusable intermission.It's been reviewed to death by those much more qualified than me, but I found it powerful and symbolic and one that I can probably rewatch a few times. The stuff about anarchy and chaos is quite thought-provoking. Sounds a bit familiar, in fact.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Too bad summer's almost over

I guess I'm still pretty much a kid at heart (actually, I'm sure of it). On Christmas morning you'll likely find me on the floor with the kids, helping them put together whatever cool thing Santa brought along. Such floor time is, in fact, one of the definitions of a Christmas well spent, if you ask me. Legos are the quintessential "put it together" toy.

So, I stumbled across this video of a guy who designed and built a computer case out of Legos. If I had a couple more weeks of summer and a couple hundred bucks laying around, I think it'd be cool to tackle this little project. Props Luke Anderson.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tip of the Day - Clark Draney Photography

Tips of the Day so far:

1. Rule of Thirds
2. Aperture (in two parts)
3. Shutter Speed

More to come. Stay tuned.

3200 kids and a rodeo arena

That's what it takes to do a 14 stake rehearsal for the YCC (Youth Cultural Celebration).

As you may have heard, President Monson is (probably) coming to Twin Falls for this temple dedication thing. The night before, as has become the tradition (soon to be doctrine?), the youth of our temple district will WOW him with a celebration of what it means to live and love and learn the gospel in Idaho. President Ward (of our stake presidency) asked me to drop over and take a few pictures (I took 350+) to commemorate tonight's rehearsal.

I can't imagine having the responsibility for pulling off such a thing. 14 freaking stakes! FOURTEEN! It was, at times, a genuine madhouse.

There was also plenty of standing around, waiting our turn to use the "stage" while some other thing was being resolved. Amazingly, no one lost their temper, and the kids stayed pretty focused and gave a pretty good showing. There are a few rough edges yet, but it's coming along. The final number promises to be quite a thrill, with all the kids on "stage" at the same time, with flags galore.

I keep saying "stage," because it is, in fact, a rodeo arena. I guess they're planning to put in some wooden flooring and a bunch of donated sod, but tonight it was all dust (cough). My camera will never be the same.

After the rehearsal there was a concert for the kids. Rich Crowley arranged for a member of MoTab (who was, in a former life, a member of a European boy band) to play. It was a bit of raucous fun. By the time they got around to that the light was gone, so I didn't really get any good pictures of that.

The MoTab guy (Alex Boye) prodded the kids in the right direction. He made a nice comparison between the Book of Mormon and cell phones, and he asked the guys to go on missions and the girls to promise to 1) not date losers, and 2) marry an RM.

Jacob and I skipped out of there just as they began the final number (RUDE, I know), and saved ourselves 45 minutes getting out of the packed parking lot.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Whose temple is it?

This image is the wallpaper for my computer desktop right now. I like this picture because it represents something that I didn't even realize I was feeling until I took the picture.

The closest you could get to the temple during its construction was to drive by on Eastland Drive or to stand outside the fence. That's understandable, of course. The contractors don't need a bunch of silly, curious civilians mucking up the site. The net effect, however, has been to leave me (at least) feeling like the temple wasn't yet mine.

When I stood on the spot where I took that photograph I realized that I was taking ownership of the temple. It was becoming my temple-- the one where I will worship and draw close to God. Standing on that spot, where I couldn't stand before, looking at the beautiful landscaping and the inspiring architecture, I realized how much I am looking forward to using this temple as I have never quite used a temple before--regularly, often, with devotion and dedication.

Now it remains for me to live up to that idea.

Free Lunch

I know that those free lunches at the park aren't really free. After all, we pay for them through various kinds of taxes. But since taking advantage of them doesn't add to our monthly budget (we're already paying those taxes), it sure seems nice to run over to the park and sit in a shady spot while the kids eat PB&J and drink chocolate milk. Then, after they've taken a token swipe at the healthy stuff in that sack, they run around for 30 or 40 minutes, and Jacob & I play catch. All in all, not a bad way to start the afternoon.

It's also kind of fun to see who shows up from the ward. Some days it's a regular 1st ward reunion. Plenty of dads show up, too. Some, like Ron Withers and Mark Wasden, are off for the summer like I am. Others, like Matt Thompson and Paul Arrington, show up on their lunch hour break. It's a good gig.

And... don't tell anyone... ;-) if the kids don't eat all their sliced cucumbers or diced pineapple, I get a little snack too. Strictly their leavings, of course, but a nice little budget booster there too.

Tip of the Day

Trying to make my blogs informative if not interesting or witty, I've posted a "tip of the day" over on my photography blog.

Read it, link to it, comment on it, disagree with it, prove it wrong. Just get over there and look at it.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Avoiding work

I'm pretty sure that I could really keep an excellent blog (in terms of posting every day) if I used the excuse of avoiding some other thing I don't want to be doing to get to the blogging. You know what I mean?

Here I sit, in my office at the college, staring at a stack of papers 564 sheets high. That stack is the manuscript of a textbook that I agreed to review for a national publisher. The review was due last Thursday. I've read most of the manuscript (scanned, skimmed, read chunks in detail, whatever), and what I have left to do is write the review. What am I doing instead? Updating my blog, of course.

To be fair, the manuscript is really to blame. I'm rereading part of chapter 7 which has ideas for students about how to create and use a blog as an academic writing aid. One of the items on that list is "keep it current," so naturally I thought of how inconsistently I've been posting here (though I've been doing better of late, I think).

Another item on the list is "be informative." That begs the question of what I might post that is informative. Let's see... what do I know anything about....

How about photography? What do you want to know about photography? Everybody is a digital photographer these days. Even if you don't own a stand-alone digital camera, your phone likely has a camera built in. So how do you use it?

In fact, maybe that'd be a good survey. How do you use the camera on your phone? How is that use different that how you use your dedicated digital camera (if you have one)?

Keri and I saw a cute bookcase the other day, and she said "Dad could build that. Take a picture so we can ask him to built it." So I snapped a picture.

I saw the most outrageously dressed woman in Fred Meyer a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't resist the impulse to take her picture (on the sly, of course).

When we visited the Twin Falls temple grounds recently the sunset cast such a beautiful glow across the sky that I wished for my camera. I had my phone, so I made do with that. Not a picture I could print or anything, but good enough to post here (see my July 14 post).

So... while I get back to work on that review, tell me how you use your phone/camera/MP3 player/whatever?

Friday, August 1, 2008

temple dedication

The title of this post is all lower case because I'm not talking about the event coming up in 23 days (which happens to be my birthday-- did I tell you?) where Pres. Monson (presumably) will dedicate the temple for ordinance work. No, I mean the dedication that individual saints have shown in working at the various kinds of jobs there are to do for the open house.

Keri and I worked in the hosting center (the cultural hall of the new stake center) where invitees come after they've completed their tours of the temple. Keri placed cookies on trays, and I filled and filled and filled ice water containers. Before we started, one of the sister who coordinates the hosting volunteers said that we would feel a spirit of unity and love in serving cookies and ice water. I was just a tiny bit doubtful that such simple service could lead to such feelings. But, of course, I was wrong. I think that even the simplest acts of service to others can lead to our feeling closer to that God who created us all-- especially in conjunction with the opening and dedication of His house.

I've posted elsewhere that there is a spirit of missionary work brooding over the Magic Valley during this eventful time. What I think I mean by that is that members of the church, and others, who have been anticipating the opening of the temple have focused their prayers, their faith, and their efforts on making this occasion special and spiritual for themselves, their families, and--importantly--their friends and neighbors. Heavenly Father has heard those prayers and is pouring out a blessing upon the heads of the saints and on his children in all walks.

The temple, with its upwardly-jutting spire, leads us symbolically and literally towards heaven. In this temple, for example, the crowning ordinance room--the sealing room--is located under--within, really--the main spire of the temple. In making ourselves ready for the temple, we focus on the principles and ordinances that we believe are essential to unreserved happiness in this life and salvation in the next.

Anyway, enough theology for a minute. What I started out to post about is the dedication of the volunteers in the open house. After filling ice water for a couple of hours, I served a shift as a tour guide. In going from the stake center to the temple and back again I passed dozens of friends and neighbors--some members of the church and some not--who served as ushers, support staff (who clean up during the day), hosts, hostesses, security people, parking attendants, and missionaries. Every one of them was giving his/her very best effort to making the open house experience on this day peaceful, meaningful, and spirit-filled for the invitees. In every meeting that I attended there were prayers offered asking the Lord to bless those who attend with a portion of His spirit.

I conducted 5 tours through the evening and felt the spirit in each one. In each case I made eye contact with one or two or three members of the tour group and saw that they felt the spirit of the place. I did not have any particularly unusual experiences to speak of, but in each tour I felt as those simple truths were made evident in the minds of those who attended.

What is the spirit of the temple, then? That may be the subject of another post, another day.