Friday, May 21, 2010

A is for...


A is for America.

A is for Arizona.

A is for Are we really wanting to go there? I mean “Welcome to Arizona, may I see your papers please?” Sounds familiar… “Paper please!” Like a quote from a movie… “Papers!” What was it? Oh! That’s right! EVERY World War 2 movie ever made! It’s a return to 1940’s Germany! How is this OK, when people were so angry about racial profiling?

(Slow exhale.) If only we could recall the inscription on the Statue of Liberty...
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
Seems like lately we've tried to amend that with the disclaimer "unless you have brown skin." We whine about the anti-American sentiment abroad, yet we become increasingly intolerant, racist and xenophobic.

Why can’t we just let them come here and work, legally? Make it easier for those who want it, to get citizenship, resident status, or at least work visas. If they're legal and in the system, paying taxes with the rest of us, what's the problem? They don’t speak English? That is true, unlike all our ancestors who came through Ellis Island. Wait…

Of course, the crazy thing is, we may not want to get rid of illegal immigrants at all... No one wants to step back and look at the danger this kind of hysteria could cause. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm saying that the existing laws are often ignored for a reason. If the big companies that use illegal labor were forced to use legal labor, they would have to pay minimum wage. Way more than they pay the immigrants (who won't complain because they don't want to be deported). Paying more for labor means charging more for the products they produce. Let's look at a big one. Food. Many of the illegal immigrants are migrant workers, harvesting food and processing meat (recent INS raids at the meat plant in Cache Valley). Do we really want the price of food going up in this economy?

So, now Arizona has become a big target. So big that people forget how many illegal aliens float into Florida, or stow-away into coastal port cities. It helps people ignore the fact that the US/Canadian border is much longer than our border with Mexico. Do they honestly think that criminals and terrorists don't know that? Or is it more likely, that while the focus is on the south, they'll use the north? Fact is, we're a big country. We have thousands of miles of border. We can only do so much. The most successful example of what many in this country are now calling for was the Berlin Wall. It wasn't popular either, and it didn't last...

Make it easier to be here legally, and the flow of illegal immigrants dramatically decreases. This makes it harder for the cartels, terrorists, etc. to blend in with the crowd. It means the resources we employ along the borders are more likely to catch criminals, than decent people trying to make a better life for their families.

Finally (yes, I know I'm long-winded) I would just encourage us all to give this some serious thought. Don't get swept up in the hype that is all emotion, with little understanding. If we forward provocative emails, jump on emotional bandwagons, etc. people could easily think we're just racist. The reason this whole issue seems scary, is because fear is the prime emotion that get's people moving. That's why Rush, Hannity, Beck, and the other hate-mongers make millions of dollars! They offer no solutions, they simply breed fear, anger, hate and contention.

Side note: Personally I don't get Glenn Beck. At the very least I find him, in particular, ironic. So many Mormons fawn all over Glenn Beck. They just love him. These same Mormons spend a lot of time talking about how "fear is the opposite of hope," and how Satan is the "father of contention," and how hate and contention are bad. Are they really that blind? I don't get it... K, back to my post.

To conclude, I think nothing but good can come from a little more thought before rash actions. Of course we all (OK, maybe not the atheists) want God to "Bless America," but do we really believe that He can only bless us by not blessing other nations? Can't He bless all nations? If we don't want Him to bless the cruel and corrupt, can we really expect Him to bless our country when the leadership is corrupt, the populace divided, and those most in need are overlooked?

As for me? I’m with tiny Tim. “God bless us, every one.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

In Memoriam...

When I was 15 I was on staff at a Boy Scout camp in southern Idaho. One weekend, I my family came and got me, and we went for a drive. We wound up Ogden canyon, around Pineview Reservoir, and up another canyon I was unfamiliar with. The road was windy, steep, and just kept going. There were no buildings, and I could not imagine why there was a paved road to the top of the mountain! Eventually we arrived at Powder Mountain Ski Resort, and I understood the road. But not the drive.

We kept going. Off the asphalt and up a dirt road along the edge of the mountain. We parked by some large buildings, and got out to look around, and I noticed we were barely below the literal top of this mountain. My dad brazenly walked into one of the building, and I was confused and nervous. Who would live way up here? What would they say when my dad just walked in? He just wanted to look around. When he opened a door and walked into a living room, I was freaking out!

Just come in a take a look. Since it appeared empty, I did. Hesitantly. It was really nice, but isolated. Who would live here?! As we were looking around, my mom informed me that it was ours. Now, I knew they couldn’t afford it, and we certainly wouldn’t move that far from work and school. This is when I was introduced to the concept of timeshare.

For the next 20+ years, we would spend a full week (or two half-weeks) on top of the mountain. We were not skiers, but we never went up in the winter. From spring to fall and mainly when we were out of school in the summer. A week of hiking, swimming, playing games, stargazing, and just being away from the everyday routine. It was wonderful!

It was a place to share with family and friends.

It was a place to share with our growing family.

We actually began our honeymoon there. We spend a couple of nights between the wedding and our honeymoon in San Francisco. My new family, beginning with just me and Meemer have enjoyed it each of the 12 years since. As you can imagine, it is an absolute haven for our 3 boys!





the ski lift,

the pool,

and of course, the crane!

Some complained that it was too remote. That there wasn’t anything to do. There was the pool and TV. Eventually, that expanded to the pool, satellite TV and DVD players. For my family, there was plenty to do. Most days included two trips to the pool, one or two (or more) hikes, a stop at the swingset, climbing on the crane, games and a movie. It was just us. It was relaxed and unhurried. It was a place where we could strip away the frenzy that distract us from us.

My parents are now out of state, and would rather take a cruise than pay maintenance fees on a condo they no longer use. Who can blame them? Still, for my family, this is a big deal. When we couldn’t afford to take a vacation, I would get two or three nights “bonus time” and we would enjoy a few days. My boys have enjoyed our stays there. Long and short. Once a year, or several times. I wish we could afford to buy it, because it has truly become part of our family! We will truly miss it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Technology that can replace a fridge?

I have discovered that a good scanner is way better than a refrigerator. At least for certain things... Sure a fridge will keep food cold, but it's other primary function is losing ground in the digital age. Namely, it's use as an art gallery for elementary students, and an appointment calendar for the family.

Change is hard, but often good. My laptop was in the shop for 2 days, and I felt so vulnerable! It was like losing a good chunk of my mind. If it hadn't been for my phone, I wouldn't have known what day it was, let alone make any of my appointments. That's when I realized that the fridge just doesn't cut it as a calendar for me, because it's rather unportable.

It also limits the amount of art that can be displayed. My laptop (and your computer via this post) on the other hand, can display many treasured works of art! Plus I can save scans of anything I like, and burn a disc for the artist when he marries and moves out, or when his children start bringing art home from school!

This came up because while my 9 year old is very creative in the literary and Lego areas, his simple tips take quick root and rapidly blossom in his 6 year old brother. As a case in point, to draw stars in a night sky, draw the stars, then color the dark sky around them. Not only did he get it, but he improved it by adding what every starry sky needs: The Enterprise!

Then the other day, the lesson was 3D Art 101: How to draw a cube. Maybe not a perfect rendition, but I can prove he got the concept.

In fact, not only did he get it, the concept was so exciting, that he immediately saw practical uses.

Sure I'm a proud dad, but c'mon, for a 6 year old who just learned about drawing a 3D cube minutes before, that's pretty cool! But then he discovered that cubes and other 3D boxes make great building blocks for other objects. Like robots!

Yeah, my 6 year old may not write his own books yet, but he certainly shows his creative side in art and music.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An Epiphany!

A few weeks ago, we read an article at work to help us better understand common elements of any corporate culture that hinder inter-departmental cooperation. The result was literally life-changing for me. It went well beyond my job, and touched on many levels of my life. It rings true with many thoughts and feelings I have had over the years. I had struggled with the concepts, and thought about it at length, but never been able to explain it, or compile it into a logical argument. This article did. It is a remarkably complete, clear, summary of those thoughts and feelings.

I was so moved by the article, that I took a copy home for my wife. Even though I am fortunate to have a job that provides me with a good deal of knowledge and growth, rarely is something so universally applicable that I bring it home. She read it, and though I can't say she was affected to the extent I was, I do know it made a lot of sense to her. She refers to it in her August 13, 2009 blog post.


I am speaking of the timeless advice C.S. Lewis gave students at King's College, University of London in 1944. This speech is known as "The Inner Ring," and is every bit as applicable today as it was when he originally delivered it. I hope you will take a few moments to read it. Here is a link where you can read it without ads and other distractions:


  • I can only say I wish I had read this (and had been mature enough to get it) in Junior High! It would have made life in Jr. High so much easier, and High School that much less frustrating. I would have found more peace and contentment in the years between then and now too. I hope to teach my boys understand the basic concepts now and help them understand the ideas as much as I can. I strongly believe that this will help them have more meaningful teenage years, and be more prepared for college, careers, and young families starting out in life.

    So give it a read. You may already know it. You may think I'm late to the party. I do think it will help you share the ideas with others, and help you teach the principles to those you care about. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts too.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Our Wasatch Back or Father & Sons Campout 2.0

    So last weekend was the big Wasatch Back (Ragnar Relay) Race. 188 miles from Logan to Park City winding over mountains and along backroads in the valleys of the Wasatch Mountains. I'm sure you know my Meemer was running it again this year. Since they start running early Friday morning, and finish Saturday afternoon, I had the weekend with my boys!

    I decided it would be a good chance to take all my boys camping. Harry and Chilly went with me on the Father & Sons campout last month, and had a blast, and I figured Fussy would be happy as a clam in the dirt, rocks and trees too. Meemer thought I was crazy to take our three boys camping (especially as it was the first time for Fuss), but I was sure we'd be fine!

    Thursday, I came home a bit early to help Meemer get packed up, and we dropped her off with some of her teammates to head up to the starting line. Fussy fell asleep in the van, but the other two boys said their goodbyes and we came home. After dinner, we tried to get most of the cleaning done so the house would be basically clean when we came home with mom on Saturday.

    Fussy was really good. He was happy and played pretty well with his brothers. When we were getting ready for bed he kept asking "where's mom?" How do you explain to a two year old? "Mom's running?" "No, she's getting ready to run." "Mom's at church?" "No, she's with her friends getting ready to run." He kept repeating the questions. It was clear, that the only time mom leaves him is when she's running (and even then he's usually with her in the jogger), or when she's at the church for a meeting, or a basketball/footsal game. He never really cried, just snuggled up with me and went to sleep.

    Friday, I got the older boys up and ready for school. This is usually fun, since I'm the back-up parent in this scenario, I usually do things differently than mom, and I hear about it. That said, everybody had breakfast, Harry had his lunch, and we picked up their cousins on time, and everyone was at school fed, fully clothed, and on time. (Not bragging, just showing my basic competence).

    I couldn't talk Fussy into going in the jogger, but that is probably just as well. I spent the morning packing clothes for all four of us, and the camping gear. After Chilly got home from kindergarten, we hit the store to pick up the stuff we were missing. (Marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, etc.) We got home, took care of the food, and then went to pick up Harry and his cousin from school.

    After dropping off his cousin, we got busy. While I finished packing the van, the older two unloaded the dishwasher, then loaded the dirty dishes, made their beds, cleaned their rooms, (basically done last night) and picked up the rest of the toys around the house. At school, Harry had passed out invites for his birthday party, but one of his friends is off-track, so we loaded up in the van hit the post office, then dropped off the invite at his friend's house, and headed for the mountains. Just after 2pm! Not too bad...

    At this point, let me just say that in addition to the Wasatch Back Relay, there was some kind of cycling race too. Plus this is June in Utah. What this all adds up to, is most of the campgrounds I looked at were booked. I ended up looking at a couple that were further from the course than I wanted, but found a couple reasonably close to the finish line, but still a two-hour drive from home. (I mention this, because not reserving a campground in advance comes in to play later).

    Blessings continue, and Fussy crashes 15 minutes into our drive, and sleeps until we have the tent up! We're relegated to a "fee area" on the road to Mirror Lake. This basically means we have to pay $6 just to drive to the campground. Even with that fee, the campground is still $12. What do you do? I didn't book early, so I don't complain. Until I find out that this US Forest Service Campground does NOT have water! Now I've done a good amount of camping in my time, and there are 3 kinds of campgrounds:
    1- Primitive camping. Typically in National Forests, this is, as it's name indicates, primitive. You have to provide everything you need.
    2- Improved campgrounds. Usually State Parks or National Forests. Include a picnic table and firepit in each site as well as permanent outhouses and potable water.
    3- RV campgrounds. Everything from KOA's to Parks, Forests, etc. Sites include picnic tables, firepits, and hook-ups that vary from electric only to electric, water, sewer, WiFi, and cable TV!

    This was not primitive camping. Yet no water. No signs saying there was no water at this campground. I'm sure someone is getting a good laugh over the note wrote on the payment envelope. (We stayed since we had already setup camp before we failed to find water). Luckily, I had filled a water bottle for each of us, and nobody drank all of it, so we had water for making dinner. On the plus side, it was a pretty campsite by a stream with, what Chilly described as "billions of trees!"

    After dinner, more exploring the forest!

    Then we loaded in the van to go cheer mom on during her second leg of the race. (After missing all of the race last year, we were determined to see her and cheer for her this year). We found the course, and watched and waited.

    Meemer came up the hill and took a quick break to greet us, then we cheered as she headed in to her handoff.

    From there, we headed to the small town grocery store, bought four gallons of water, and headed back to camp. It was a bit after 10pm when we finally got there, and Fussy had fallen asleep 30 minutes earlier. We lit the fire that Harry had built before we left, and enjoyed hot chocolate and smores and an amazing canopy of stars!

    I got Fuss out of the van, into his pj's and we piled in the tent and crashed. With the white noise of the stream, and the subtle light of glow sticks, we had a pretty good, if late, night. Fussy slept pretty well, overall, and was one of the first one's up.

    Saturday morning, we had breakfast, and cleaned the dishes. I must point out, that it was Chilly, who helped me do the dishes! There was some more exploring, but then the rain came. And went. And came back. Harder. I between sprinkles I had packed up everything but the tent. (Naively hoping it would clear up long enough to dry out the tent before I had to take it down). Finally around noon, the boys were done playing in the rain, and we took the tent down in record time, packed it in the back of the van, and headed for Park City, and the finish line!

    The worst part of the Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay, is getting to the finish. Sometimes I think the runners have an easier time getting there than any family or friends who just want to watch them cross the finish line! We drive out of the canyon and get on the main road right at the finish line site, then drive into Park City, where we park, wait in line for an hour, and ride a shuttle bus back to the finish line... Yeah, we were not happy. Well once finally on the bus, Fussy was thrilled, and talked animatedly about riding the bus, and all he could see out the windows.

    So as we walk from the bus to the finish line, I call Meemer to see where they are, and when they expect to finish. This is where my Blackberry, aka worst phone ever (another rant for another time), say's the radio is off, do I want to reconnect? Radio? I thought it was a phone. Of course what this really meant, is that when a cell phone is in the middle of nowhere, it switches to analog mode, which eats up the battery. When a Blackberry's battery gets low, it shuts off everything it can to prevent it's immanent death.

    If you read Meemer's race report (, you can probably guess what this phone call sounded like. In my defense, I had checked my phone to see if I'd missed any calls, and when you're tracking 3 boys in a forest and trying to break camp in the rain, you can get a little distracted. That said, I still should have called earlier. Like as soon as we got to a better signal, or at least when we parked the van in Park City. Still I would be punished for this slight later... See, it turns out we were there early. Like by a couple of hours. With the brutal nature of the race, the late changes in the legs, the rainy weather, and the recent substitution of team members, Meemer's team was behind their predicted finish time.

    So the boys played on a playground. Until Fussy started beating other kids up. I left the older two to play, and took Fuss down the hill to watch teams come across the finish line. We stayed low to avoid the wind, and managed to dry out the umbrellas. Watching the sky, I could see we were 5 or 10 minutes from more than a sprinkle, so we grabbed the other two, and headed across the field of tents, opting for the overhang of the only permanent structure, a concession/restroom building. My phone rang as we approached the building, so I knew Meemer was here somewhere. I tried to answer my phone, (back to the Blackberry rant) it ignored my button-pushing. It would do nothing. After missing all her calls this morning, I knew this was bad. After the longest 5 minutes of my life, pulling the battery, waiting, replacing, booting, retrying, repeatedly, until finally, the spinning hourglass of death was gone, and I could make a call!

    It was raining when she got to us, we hung out for a while, as it was raining pretty hard, and was rather cold. The rain came and went. Eventually the rest of her team showed up, and they went to wait for the final runner to come in. (Then the whole team joins in for the last hundred yards or so and crosses the finish line together.) I took the boys over to the finish line, and we waited. It started to rain again. Here they come! We cheer, and in the rain and the rush, I failed to get any really good pictures.

    It started raining harder. Meemer and her team got their medals, had their pictures taken, and then came to find us. It started raining really hard. We started running. Was that hail? Sleet? Who cares, it sucks 'cause it's coming down hard! A Meemer reported, I ran with Fussy screaming, she ran with her backpack and sleeping bag, the older boys froze with their inside out, exploded umbrellas. I get to the line for the bus with Fuss, the other boys come soon after, and I realize they had left the umbrellas to mom, already overloaded. When she gets there, it's pandemonium. She takes fussy and huddle under her blanket, I take her backpack and open the sleeping bag to protect me and the two older boys as we wait for the bus. (The umbrellas didn't make it).

    By the time we get in the van and start heading home, the shock has passed, and though cold and wet, the boys talk about how much fun camping was. (And how much the sleet sucked). We had a late dinner, and went to bed late, but surprisingly happy. Boys like adventure. Even when it wasn't fun to be in the middle of it, it's fun to re-tell the tale! Fortunately, the boys' version of events focuses on the trees, and not the rain.