Saturday, February 28, 2009

Basketball in the Spectrum

I learned something recently . . . basketball arenas have reputations. Who knew? Not me? Apparently the Spectrum at USU is a daunting place to play.

My good friend, Jay, took Jacob and I to a game there last week and we saw first hand the coordinated chaos that is the USU student section. What a game!

The Aggies won, of course. 

During the second half, Hawaii's free throw shooters had to stare this guy down.

Thanks, Jay! Go Aggies! The right color of blue! ;-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

100 Things I Have or Have Not Done

Copy and paste the words. Bold the things you have done... [comment if you wish...]

  1. Started your own blog [duh]
  2. Slept under the stars [yup. One time I even thought I skunk crawled in with me. Twasn't so, however]
  3. Played in a band
  4. Visited Hawaii [cain't wait to go back]
  5. Watched a meteor shower 
  6. Given more than you can afford to charity [well... ]
  7. Been to Disneyland [goin' again soon, but don't tell the kids. It's a surprise]
  8. Climbed a mountain [King's Peak. Age 13]
  9. Held a praying mantis [last summer, in fact. Our backyard]
  10. Sang a solo 
  11. Bungee jumped 
  12. Visited Paris 
  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea 
  14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
  15. Adopted a child
  16. Had food poisoning [all too recently, I'm afraid]
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
  18. Grown your own vegetables [gonna do it again soon, too]
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
  20. Slept on an overnight train
  21. Had a pillow fight 
  22. Hitch hiked
  23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill [sheesh. Of course!]
  24. Built a snow fort 
  25. Held a lamb 
  26. Gone skinny dipping 
  27. Run a Marathon 
  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice 
  29. Seen a total eclipse 
  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset 
  31. Hit a home run 
  32. Been on a cruise 
  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
  34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
  35. Seen an Amish community [and bought a courtin' candle]
  36. Taught yourself a new language [does a mission count?]
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfie
  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
  39. Gone rock climbing
  40. Seen Michelangelo's David
  41. Sung karaoke
  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt [you know it ain't so faithful anymore, though]
  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
  44. Visited Africa
  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
  46. Been transported in an ambulance [I was unconscious at the time, however]
  47. Had your portrait painted
  48. Gone deep sea fishing
  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling [got the mother of all sunburns on my back]
  52. Kissed in the rain
  53. Played in the mud [Uncle Eric and me. Knee deep. Often.]
  54. Gone to a drive-in theater [nope.. never]
  55. Been in a movie
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China
  57. Started a business
  58. Taken a martial arts class
  59. Visited Russia
  60. Served at a soup kitchen
  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
  62. Gone whale watching
  63. Got flowers for no reason [Keri is a good reason]
  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma 
  65. Gone sky diving 
  66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp [I stood outside Dachau and peered over the fence]
  67. Bounced a check
  68. Flown in a helicopter
  69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
  70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
  71. Eaten Caviar
  72. Pieced a quilt
  73. Stood in Times Square
  74. Toured the Everglades
  75. Been fired from a job 
  76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London [I don't remember if we saw them change, but we saw them]
  77. Broken a bone [five, in fact, though not all at once]
  78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
  79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
  80. Published a book [still hoping]
  81. Visited the Vatican
  82. Bought a brand new car
  83. Walked in Jerusalem
  84. Had your picture in the newspaper [one OF me, or BY me?]
  85. Read the entire Bible
  86. Visited the White House
  87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating [do fish count?]
  88. Had chickenpox
  89. Saved someone's life
  90. Sat on a jury
  91. Met someone famous [Dick Nourse, at Osco on 2nd South in SLC. I was a dork-- gawking at him.]
  92. Joined a book club
  93. Lost a loved one
  94. Had a baby
  95. Seen the Alamo in person
  96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
  97. Been involved in a law suit
  98. Owned a cell phone
  99. Been stung by a bee
  100. Totally copied a post from someone else's blog to your own

Monday, February 23, 2009

How many days in a row?

What are the things you find yourself needing/wanting to do on a daily basis? I mean, of course, things besides eating & sleeping, which probably come rather naturally enough.

Here's a sampling of stuff I'd like to say I do regularly:

  1. read with the family
  2. build up my family members' self-esteem
  3. exercise
  4. blog (ha!)
  5. read for enrichment
  6. keep in touch with Deity
For many years I've been 30-50% guy in most of those categories (if that good), and I've beaten myself up quite a bit about not doing better. I wonder, though, how much can a person do in any 24 hour period? What is a reasonable goal? How much is too much? 

And yet, aren't all these good things? Laudable things? Essential things?

So... tell me your secrets? How do you get it all done?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Show me your workspace

If you believe the standard formula for how much rest we need, one third of our lives is spent in bed. I know that I don't always get that much, and I suspect that most of you don't get that much regularly either. Sigh. We do the best we can, right?

The other place we often spend huge chunks of our lives is at work. Love it or hate it, we're there A LOT! With any luck, we can make our workspaces into happy spaces. We might as well, right?

So, show me your work space. Where do you spend those long hours of devotion and dedication? 

Here's mine...

My workspace is happier because of pictures of my kids, interesting art, notes from students (the happy ones), and my music (I don't know if you can spot my iPod lurking in this picture). I also got a nice chair this year that helps my aging back. The dual monitor setup is quite new, too, and makes me happy when I'm working with multiple things at once. 

What I'm not showing you, however, is the huge piles of disorganized books and ungraded papers lurking just out of sight. Showing you that would be embarrassing. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coke tower

Okay. I'm having too much fun with this new camera. I'll try to stop before you get "cute" fatigue.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pinewood Panic

I've found that the different seasons of the year give rise to various traditions and the emotions tied to them. Christmas brings thoughts of family, pine boughs, gifts, and all kinds of good food. Summertime is for barbecuing, starry nights, and getting dirt under fingernails trying to coax things to grow.

Without realizing it, I have, of late, begun to dread the season of January/February -- not because it is the post-holiday period, with its dearth of significant festival days, but because sooner or later my Cub Scout age boy is going to show up with that black and gold box. You know which one I mean-- the Pinewood Derby car box. Terror-inducing thing!

The first year Jacob (our oldest) was in Cub Scouts, we labored for days to design, cut out, sand, paint, sand some more, and finally mount the axles and wheels on that infernal contraption. I don't recall how well he did that first year (and I'll tell you why in a moment), but suffice it to say that he didn't win much. I think he was in the middle of the pack. He got a consolation prize (a term which was invented, I think, for the certificates and smaller trophies we give to all the "other" Cub Scouts who labored to produce a speedy car but didn't pull it off. If ever a soul needed consoling, it's those little egos). 

The next year, we looked around for innovative ideas for making the car faster. Realizing that our priorities were a bit out of whack the previous year (spending so much time on the design and paint, and so little time on the wheels and axles), we even went so far as to buy special axles-- pre-made for speed (supposedly). We mounted them carefully, checked for squareness, and lubricated the h#%* out of them. We went to the derby with high, high hopes.

Jacob's car came in last. Dead last. In every heat. He was crushed, and I was ... embarrassed. Dead last. I could just feel the other dad's sorrowful looks. LAST place, man! I don't remember how well he did the previous year because the humiliation of having my boy's car not even finishing a couple of the races overwhelmed my memory banks, replacing any previous Pinewood derby memories with that one. 

Ironically, despite the fact that it got less attention that year, Jacob's paint job was pretty good and he got the "Best Paint" trophy, so he didn't go home empty handed.

This year, Joshua is our Cub Scout age boy. When I heard through the social network that Pinewood Derby was approaching, I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach. I mean, who wants to put their kid through that? I was sure we were in for another humiliating experience. 

I don't recall exactly what brought it up, but I was complaining to a friend, Matt Thompson, about this dilemma and, lo and behold, he volunteers to help me. Come to find out, his son's cars have done very well in Pinewood Derby Land. In fact, he won the district competition a few years ago. Of course I jumped at the chance to have him help me. A few nights later, Josh and I are over at Thompsons' house working away on our... uh... his car.

I shouldn't say working on the car... and I really shouldn't say "we." We were really working on the wheels and axles, and Matt was doing most of the work.  I was watching intently, and Josh was chasing the Thompson girls around the house, making them squeal. Aren't Dads the ones who make these things anyway? I dunno.

You can't believe all the things we did to those axles. I'm pretty sure some of those techniques are military secrets. We sanded, we polished, we buffed, we grooved--- we even had a blow torch going at one point (no kidding-- and Josh actually helped with that part. Give 'em fire and Scouts are THERE!). 

After we turned those dinky little nail axles into weapons of massive destruction, we retired for the night. Matt gave us instructions for "impregnating" the wheels and axles with much graphite, which we dutifully did. 

Larry Wilford, another friend and neighbor, has a band saw and a belt sander, so we begged his help (as we've done in years past, in fact) for a little body shaping. It turns out that the shape of the body is almost irrelevant to how fast these puppies go down that 60 foot track. Heck, stick those weapons-grade axles on the unshaped, unsanded block and you may just have an ugly winner. 

Figuring that Josh should participate at least nominally in the creation of this car, I made him sit down and draw up a plan for the body. "No, Dad," he griped, "You come up with something." "Nothin' doin', mister," I said, "You're doing something on this car, so SIT DOWN!" He grumbles his way to the kitchen table and comes back in about 3 seconds. I roll my eyes when I see two straight lines drawn on the basic block. "What is it?" I asked, with the cool wit of an action hero. "It's a mouse droid," he drawls. More eye rolling, but with my eyes closed.

So, anyway, we went to Wilfords, made two straight cuts, he does a bunch of sanding, we screw some Lego pieces on it, and paint it "satin black." A mouse droid Pinewood car is born.

Because I got food poisoning the weekend before the race, Matt heroically volunteers to finish up the car-- mounting the wheels & axles, checking the weight, performing Pinewood voodoo on it-- everything I should know how to do as a Dad raised in Scouting and all. I buy cheesecake to say thank you. 

Race night comes. I'm all a-twitter. Josh is the one with the coolness of an action hero now. I have my new camera to keep me distracted, so I wander around and poke my 18-105mm lens into people's faces. They mostly ignore me.

Race time comes. Josh's car wins his heat quite nicely. 

Second heat, another win. Same with the third. I go over to Josh and remind him that sportsmanship includes being a good winner as well as a good loser. He nods sagely, obviously trying not to explode with glee. I'm proud of him.

End of story.... He won the whole thing. The big trophy-- the real one-- the one that says "champion" on it-- goes home with us. I, too, am working on not exploding.

Poor Jacob. Why couldn't his Dad learn a thing or two about these puppies when he was a Cub?

Josh is in the brown Scout shirt. 
Notice how calm and collected he is here.
No gloating from this boy.

Okay. Maybe a little gloating. 
Or at least a little excitement about that black car.

And here is the winning boy and his winning car. 
Way to go, Joshua!
Thanks, Matt and Larry!
On to District...

Two more Cub Scouts to come. Maybe Cameron's and Colton's Dad can build one of these on his own.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What else can your camera do, Clark?

In addition to being a great still camera, my D90 is also a pretty good (though limited) video camera. Here's Cameron realizing he has a good move in his checkers game with Joshua.  Watch his face.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A new camera... a new friend...

I posted a few days ago about the fact that I got a new camera. I've been a bit obsessed with it, to be honest-- carrying it everywhere, even when I don't need to. It'd probably be a bit embarrassing to tell you how many frames I've taken since getting the camera just scant weeks ago (though the letter K may give you a hint). 

So I'm walking over to the gym yesterday to get in my regular sweaty time and I decided to 1) plug in to the iPod for a tune or two on the walk, and 2) drag along the D90 to see if any scenes on campus capture my attention. I'm a bit self-conscious, though, you see. I purposefully went when students would be in class and well after the lunch hour. I didn't really want to show my nerdiness to everyone on campus.

Well, there I am, pointing my camera at the bark of a Russian Olive tree, and here comes another faculty member--Colin Randolph. "What you shooting?" he says. Very self-consciously, I stammer, "Uh, just a .. an ... a ... an interesting pattern in this bark here. Uh, nothing much really." He nods sagely. I can feel the heat rising in my face. "Which Nikon do you have there?" he asks. "Oh," I say, "the D90." "Cool," he says.

It turns out that Colin is quite the photographer in his own right. As we walk along (my color ebbing a bit, I hope), he tells me that he has paid for his camera, lenses, and some other equipment (tripods, etc.) by selling his photographs. Of course I'm interested in that, so we make our way to his office where he shows me a few of his pictures and we chat about various things photographic. A pretty cool discovery, I'm thinking. Nice guy, great photos, good company.

He also tells me that Elaine Bryant, director of the North Side Center, and Doug Maughn, Public Relations Director, are also photo bugs, and that they go on photo expeditions from time to time.Colin invited me to go. "Sure," I say. "What a great idea."

I can't wait.