Monday, October 31, 2005

Vacation at Bear Lake

That's Bear Lake Utah / Idaho, not Big Bear, California.
I'm sure Big Bear in California is nice, but I've never been there, off-season or on.
So, I'm writing about Bear Lake, UT.

We discovered that our son doesn't have as much Christmas vacation as we had expected and were disappointed that we probably wouldn't be able to take the kids to see relatives in California this year. We just moved from California, and our kids would like to see Grammy and some of their friends. However, since we have less time than we thought, and we just can't bring ourselves to not be home on Christmas day, we decided to stay home this year and go somewhere else instead that is much closer.

Our son got Halloween day out of school for 'Quality Teaching Day'. I think that means that the district administrators figured out that most teachers didn't get any quality teaching done on Halloween. I wonder if there is another Quality Teaching Day on Valentines Day. So, the teachers and the school moved all of the extra activities that used to be on Halloween to the Friday before Halloween. That saves them from worrying about letting kids where costumes to school and stopping kids from wearing masks, and all the other distractions related to costumes, and chose to load the kids up on sugar before Halloween instead. My son had no less than three cup-cakes, one sugar cookie and a bunch of candy at school. Most of the treats were brought by parents who were over-anxious that their child wouldn't have any of the wonderful experiences they had when they were kids of having too much sugar so they took it upon themselves to make sure that the whole class had some. Also, as far as I know, the teacher didn't ask parents not to bring treats.

With no school on Halloween, we scheduled a family vacation to Bear Lake. TrendWest has a nice location there with a great view and nice rooms. We were suprised when we got there that everything was so nice. I had thought that it would be buildings that were built in the 70s that were simply remodeled. Instead, the buildings are only about five years old, and came with all the amenities that WorldMark TrendWest usually offers to owners... a full kitchen, a separate bedroom plus a queen-sized Murphy bed (the kind that swing down out of the wall). A washer and dryer, a separate furnace, thermostat and water heater for each unit, ironing board and iron, hair dryer, gas fireplace and a outdoor gas grill. All that plus an indoor heated pool made it really nice for a two-hour drive getaway.

Since the days are getting shorter, and since we've already switched into Daylight Savings Time, by the time we were ready to go Friday night, it was already dark and our drive up to Bear Lake through sardine and Logan canyons were fairly uneventful. We couldn't see any of the beautiful scenery going up Logan canyon, but were aware that we must be in some hill country with a stream because the road winded back and forth and would be great for a road-hugging car commercial. As we made it to the top of the mountains and could see the lights from the Bear Lake valley, we were glad that our drive was almost over. We checked in and went to bed.

In the morning we discovered it was raining off and on. That dampened our plans to take the kids to the beach sand, but it still left plenty of room for us to go swimming, play games and watch movies. I definitely don't get much time to do any of those things at home. The best experience of the whole vacation was an excellent dinner that night at a restaurant right across the parking lot from our room. There is a hotel with a large light-house building attached to it. That hotel is home to the new (and hopefully to stay) restaurant Aromas. Michelle ordered some excellent steak with crab garnish (perfectly cooked), and I had maybe the best thing I've ever had at a restaurant: Maple Pork Loin with candied walnuts. (I don't remember the actual name of the dish, but I know it was pork, and the maple with it was amazing. The yams, sweet potatoes and other vegetables with the dish were really good as well, but the maple pork... Oh wow! We were full enough to not want dessert, but I was glad that we tried their creme brulee. If you are within a few hours drive of Bear Lake, I suggest you go to Aromas restaurant to try it for yourself. During the off-season (fall and winter) the restaurant appeared to only be open for dinner. It would be worth a three hour drive if you haven't been there to try their food yourself. However, it only took two hours from Layton. We might steal away up there again sometime.

Sunday was nice. We went to the church building about a half mile down the road and had a nice meeting. Snow fell at night up on the mountains, which added to the beauty of the view around the lake. We took our kids' pumpkins with us and got to carve them just how they wanted them. We also saw a sign marking the historic Oregon trail. We got to swim again Monday morning before checking out by noon.

On our way home we saw some excellent Christmas postcard photo opportunities. We snapped a few pictures. Take a look and I think you'll agree:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Breakfast at school

My son's Elementary school is undergoing a test to see how much better kids do if they are given breakfast at school. I hope the test fails miserably.

Ethan wakes up every morning at a certain time and we give him a healthy breakfast before school. It is easy to get him out the door by 8:30 if he is awake by 7:30 without any problems. He doesn't complain about the fare, and we are really giving him some healthy stuff.

Now, here is what some of the breakfasts at school consist of:
doughnuts, bagels, muffins, and some things that are probably slightly better.

Those things aren't so bad if you have them once in a while, but to have something packed with high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated soybean oil every day is definitely not what I think the nation's kids should be forced to have for breakfast.

In most people's mind, the two common ingredients I just mentioned (corn syrup, and something hydrogenated) don't mean a lot, and they even sound somewhat healthy, right? I mean, it is corn and soybeans! Those must be good for you, right? NOT!
Most people don't know that partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the source of Trans Fat in their food.

The next time you go to the grocery store, you can again pretend like you don't know better, but once you are home putting the food in the cupboards and fridge, take a look at the labels what you bought and see if you can find one without corn syrup or something hydrogenated. Then say to yourself: "I always thought that too much of anything is a bad thing?" Well, that is what you are getting, every day.

And that is what my son's school wants to feed our kids every day. Sure, what they get there at school are probably better than what many kids might want for breakfast. Pop-tarts, cardboard waffles, orange juice, etc. They all sound fine from the surface. Only when you realize that they are usually all the same processed sugar and fat do you start to think differently.

How about some real world proof to back up my ranting: my wife lost 60 pounds just by looking at labels and cutting the amount of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil. That was pretty much all she did. She changed her mind to eat more healthy, and suddenly the exercise she was already doing started to make a difference.

Don't believe me? That's fine, but try researching it a little yourself. Also, you may not want to immediately buy in to statements the corn growers associations might say regarding the healthfulness of corn syrup (especially not high-fructose corn syrup).

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Glimpsing into the window well of my soul

What do you do when you want a professional job done right? Just check off that you have all of the following:
  1. The right tools for the job
  2. A clean work area
  3. Professional help
So, of course, if I want to make sure that my window well won't leak water anymore, I should get the job done by following those three tenets of quality work.

The right tools:

A clean work area:

Professional help:

So since, I had all of those important aspects of the project covered, I couldn't fail right? That depends on what you expected as the outcome.

I had two goals when I dug the window well 18 inches down next to the foundation:
  1. Stop the leak into the basement by giving the window well deeper drainage. (Thus the 18 inches of additional dirt taken out.
  2. Stop the leak into the basement by allowing me to pump out the water if I have to, or even stick a bucket down and heave it out if it comes to that!
As you can see, my main goal is to stop the leak:

So I dug the window down (with a lot of help from my Dad):

Dug it out a lot more (sorry no photo at this stage.
Started the base of my pump hole with cinder blocks and filled around it with gravel instead of dirt There are two more cinder blocks hidden from view under the pile at this stage, so that is about 2 ft down next to the foundation line:

Tested for leaks for about an hour before filling it up more:

Then I laid bricks down in a way that I hoped would allow good drainage down below the foundation:

After waiting another while to see if any water would leak in, I added more cinder blocks and more gravel:

The total height of the cinder blocks is 4 feet. I need to add some more gravel, but I'll have to buy some since that's all I have! The dirt I took out of the bottom made it quite a bit deeper.

Well, after all that, the lawn man came and fertilized the lawn. He asked me to water in the application, so I turned the water on the next morning even though I had decided not to waste any more water on our lawn this year.

So what was the result? It leaked some more.

At least I have option B still. I can pump, siphon or draw water out whenever I want. I've built my own well! That's a side benefit I didn't even think about. Wow, man.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ain't got time to die. What is more Insectane?

I would ask, "What is more humane?", but I'm not speaking of a human. Since when is everyone expected to treat all animals the same as humans? Never, in my opinion. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't honor and respect all of God's creations.

So that brings me to my question. If we are talking about a grasshopper, which is more insectane? Or in other words, which would be nicer to the poor creature: kill it quickly to prevent it from eating mine and my neighbor's plants and garden, or another alternative?

Here is the alternative I was faced with for the last few days.

My office is in a basement room with a window that lets in the sun. Since I'm in front of the computer for 8 hours a day, it is nice to stretch my eye muscles from time to time looking out the window. Still, I think my cat actually enjoys the sun more than I do. She lays in its warmth, and especially likes to chase reflections around the room.

The window is just at my eye level. One day last week, I heard something hit my window. I didn't know what it was and was a bit startled. At first I thought that one of the kids might have been playing outside and threw something in. Then I saw movement again out of the corner of my eye and realized that a grasshopper had jumped down and was trying to jump out. Did I get up immediately and go rescue the poor creature? Are you kidding? I'm in the middle of a large project and that would really break my train of thought. I watched the grasshopper a couple of times try to jump and hit the side of the window-well. Then my attention was focused back to my lines of code.

I didn't think of the grasshopper again that day. After a cold night where there had been frost on the lawn, I figured the grasshopper had went the way of all the world (well except for the citizens of the city of Enoch, probably Moses and Alma, Elijah, John the Revelator, and the Three Nephites to name those we know of). I looked around the rocks at the bottom of the window well and couldn't see the little guy, so I figured he might have made it. After the morning warmed somewhat, I was suprised again when the grasshopper again jumped against my windowpane. Still too busy to go outside, I kept programming, but felt a little sorry for the creature. I figured it would probably be better if I went out and stepped on it to stop the pain. Again, the insect was forgotten, and the next night again frosted the lawn. (For those of you who don't know, that means it was below 32 degrees Farenheit, or 0 degrees Celcius... it froze water, OK?) Again I searched among the stones for something green, to no avail. Again my thoughts were lost in a different world and code flowed from my brain through my fingertips onto the flashing screen in front of me. (Actually, it had to go to California where the server is, and back before it would flash on the screen, so it is pretty amazing that it all happens so fast.) When to my wondering eyes did appear but a miniature bug was hopping near. I really saw it struggling this time. It didn't seem to have much strength.

So what should I have done? I could have thought more about the little guy and put it out of its misery. Whenever it would have been time to do something about it though, I had my mind in more important things... like working when I'm supposed to be working, or spending time with my family, etc. I really don't get much time on my own to think of other things... unless I wake up early. So here I am.

So, I'll put on some shoes and do a more thorough search right now! Well, can you find the missing picture? Once again, I can't.

The moral of the story? It's not easy being green.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Potatoes in the disposal

If you are like me, you may have been raised to help peel the potatoes at dinner time. If that is true, the same concept was probably applied to snapping beans, shucking corn and de-bunching grapes. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, well, you missed out on a big part of childhood.

Although I could go into more detail now about those experiences, I merely brought up peeling potatoes because whenever I was young and peeled potatoes, I always peeled them into the sink disposal, and then turned it on and pushed them down. I never had a problem with a clogged sink in my life because of potato peels.

Apparently, it is a de facto standard known to plummers everywhere and common knowledge that you should NOT put potatoes peels into the disposal. They can easily clog the drain. Is this some kind of new development because of the evolution of sink drains now-a-days? The peels hit a wall in the connector that directs the water downward instead of up, which is where they clogged against - maybe that is the technology that has changed over the years. Or maybe I was just lucky all those years (and I think my parents still put the potato peels down the disposal at home) to never have a single clog. In fact, I don't remember my dad ever having to unplug the kitchen sink. I definitely remember unplugging toilets, bathroom sinks and showers (I have 5 sisters whose hair is the culprit,) so maybe I just wasn't involved to remember the kitchen sink ordeals, if there ever was one.

I've had the kitchen sink clog on me twice because of big potato peels. I don't think the problem was normal potatoes. Maybe that is why my parents' sink never clogged. Little potatoes have smaller peels, and small doesn't get stuck. But big potatoes, like yams or sweet potatoes - I've had them clog up two different kitchen sinks.

So what is the trick if you want to remember something? Write it down. Or type it. I'm hoping I'm around whenever my wife wants to peel potatoes into the sink, because after this, and after having to use the plunger to no avail, and then unscrewing all the pipes under the sink and finding the pipe going from the disposal to the u-bend full of peels, and having to put it all back together again - I should remember next time. DO NOT PUT POTATO PEELS IN YOUR DISPOSAL!

The unclogging took me long enough that by the time we put the kids to bed I was too tired to try and rehang my bedroom mirror. It is about 6 feet wide and weighs 35 pounds. Nothing a toggle bolt on one side and a stud on the other shouldn't be able to handle, but I was tired out. Really, I sure staying up last night 'til midnight did that. I was helping program a shopping cart for someone.

So I'll probably hang the mirror tonight and finish the window well on Saturday. At least I haven't had any water in the basement since I dug the hole down a foot and a half next to the foundation. More exciting projects to come!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Layton Soccer

I've been the soccer coach this year for Ethan's team. Ethan and all the other players have grown a lot so I'm glad that I was dragged into this! Soon after our move, Michelle called to sign Ethan up for AYSO soccer. The person she talked to asked her if she would like to be the coach. Apparently our region has a lot of players, and so they doubled the number of teams this year to keep a maximum 7 players per team. Michelle volunteered - me. I was suprised by quite a lot of things with Soccer in Layton, UT. First of all I was suprised by a number of things required to be a soccer coach. Secondly, I was suprised once we started practices and games at the difference between AYSO here and where we just came from in Lakewood, CA.

To be a soccer coach for AYSO, you need to go to orientation each year, new coaches need to take a coarse on technique and rules. Also, every coach is required to take a Safe Haven course, which ensures safety and emergency preparedness practices that help protect the kids as well as the coaches. Everything from safe play and first aid to insurance and preventing law suits are covered. AYSO also checks professional and personal references not from your family. I wasn't overly suprised by these requirements, but I wasn't aware of them before I volunteered.

The biggest things that surpised me between my son's team last year in Lakewood (where I assume he was playing U-6 or under-age-six soccer) to the changes here where he has moved up to U-8 since he was 6 before the season started. The surpise is that it was a step backwards!
Instead of playing 6 players including a goalie in California, we only play 5 people total and no-one is allowed to be goalie. The biggest difference between UT soccer and California soccer was the level of participation by the parents. Parents here aren't as excited to volunteer to help out as a Team Parent, Assistant Coach or Referee. The level of support at the games is a lot less as well. I would have thought it the opposite, but the more I think of it, I can understand why. People here are so much more busy in other areas of their lives, with most parents volunteering in their church and raising more kids than in California. The fact that there are so many kids in Layton that are in soccer (21 teams just from our city at my age level) tells me that parents really want to give their kids a good experience, but when they are doing the same thing for their other kids as well, plus volunteering in other things, you get wary of signing up for anything extra. I have had one Dad who is great at being a referee.

Asking for donations gets you just as far. The AYSO coaches manual suggests getting a Team Banner. So I brought that up and asked for someone to take care of making one. In CA, a team mom would have been super excited to make a really cool flag or else all the parents would donate to have a really nice one made. I soon found out that our team was the only one that got a banner, and I've only had half of my parents donate $7 to pay for it, so I've had to cover half the cost myself. I hope the same thing doesn't happen if I have to pay extra for trophies or something.

That said, there are some things that are better in Layton soccer, the teams seem to abide more by the AYSO standards of playing to have fun, rather than yelling at your kids to try and guilt them into doing well. It seems that the coaches here are more apt to follow the five AYSO philosophies, or maybe people here are more likely to follow them, not just the coach.
Everyone Plays
Our program’s goal is for kids to play soccer—so we mandate that every player on every team must play at least half of every game.

Balanced Teams
Each year we form new teams as evenly balanced as possible—because it is fair and more fun when teams of equal ability play.

Open Registration
Our program is open to all children between 4 and 19 years of age who want to register and play soccer. Interest and enthusiasm are the only criteria for playing.

Positive Coaching
Encouragement of player effort provides for greater enjoyment by the players and ultimately leads to better-skilled and better-motivated players.

Good Sportsmanship
We strive to create a positive environment based on mutual respect rather than a win-at-all-costs attitude, and our program is designed to instill good sportsmanship in every facet of AYSO.
Only three more soccer games until the end of the season!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

No Scratch doesn't prevent sitting on a Network Hub

We have a little kitten. Jaron "got her" for his 2nd birthday about a month and a half ago. We went to the shelter and let our kids look at all the cats, and we picked out "Cookie". She looks like she is some kind of suger cookie with butterscotch and chocolate, so I guess it is a good name.

Working out of a home office is nice! I really love the commute, and I find I have less distractions here. The only main distraction the last week or two has been Cookie. She scratches at the carpet outside my door to come in. It got to the point that the carpet is starting to look bad in the corner. I tried spraying her with water, which apparently is the way you are supposed to discipline cats now-days. I tried putting citrus by the spot and she seemed to ignore it. We bought a scratching toy and some other play toys for her, but really the issue is just that she wants to come in with me.

I enjoy it when she behaves. She can sit on my lap and sleep while I program. No problems there. I also got her to realize that she can sleep in her bed in my office as well, occasionally even with sun pouring through the window. She must love it.

The problem comes because I have two areas behind and between my desk that is covered with power cords and cables. I've got three networked computers and all of the accompanying cords. I don't have good cable management yet because I haven't found a desk that will work with how tall I am that will support two retractable keyboards. I want my two monitors positioned in certain places, and the keyboards to be directly in front of them. I want the keyboards to be a certain height from the ground and at a certain angle to each other so that I can swivel my chair a tiny bit and be directly in front of one or the other. I could probably use a keyboard switch for this, but that would mean that I would need to have a moveable keyboard to allow it to be directly in front of both monitors. I have drawn up precide desk plans to make my own, and can get the materials for around $100, but I'll have to spend the time to build it. As if I have Time!

So anyway, I haven't finalized my desk arrangement. That leaves me with at least two spots that I cannot allow a cat to go in my office: she can't go and play with my network hub or network cables, and she cannot go behind my tower where all the connections and power are.
I don't want her to get hurt or my computer.

So my wife went and bought "No Scratch". I think it is working for not scratching, but that doesn't do anything about wanting to sit on a network hub. (I suppose that it is warm and confortable.) I'm going to have to reorganize my office cords soon if I don't want to be driven crazy by one Crazy Cookie! Maybe I'll spend 15 minutes on it this morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Proud to be a Dad

Every week, and usually every day even, I find a reason that I'm proud to be a Dad.

Last night, as he often wants to do, my oldest child Ethan wanted to come into my youngest son Jaron's room to say goodnight. They are 6 and 2 respectively. Ethan acts like a father in many ways, and last night he wanted to come sing a good-night song and give Jaron a kiss. Jaron insists that he get no less than two songs, and usually the same three: Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam, I am A Child of God, and Jesus Loves Me (this I know, for the Bible tells me so). Lately Jaron has wanted at least one or two of these songs to be sang in the voice of one of his stuffed animals. He has an Elmo, a cow and a snake. Once I sang something in Elmo's voice he was hooked, and I only get away with just singing in a normal voice if Jaron forgets, or maybe he actually likes it normal sometimes.

Anyway, last night Jaron wanted Elmo to sing, so Ethan was very patient and found out what Jaron wanted, and then changed his voice to sound more like Elmo. (Thank goodness he didn't say the word 'Elmo' whenever the words are supposed to be 'I' or 'me'. I always thought that characteristic about Elmo was annoying and bad for kids. Plus that would ruin the song: "Jesus loves Elmo, this Elmo knows, for the Bible tells Elmo so" just ain't powerful.)

Ethan got done with the song, and Jaron seemed happy about it. Then they gave each other a kiss on the cheek and Ethan went off to his room. I talked to Ethan about it before he went to sleep and I could tell that he is happy I noticed and complimented him on wanting to be a good Dad. I guess I must be doing something right!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blogging in my blood, already?

I woke up before my alarm clock this morning, by 15 minutes!

I really must have an inner desire to get things done, and morning is the only time I can do some of them. It is funny, and my wife pointed it out to me, that the day before I started to blog, I was just complaining about how companies and investors who are snatching on to blogs are misled if they pay millions of dollars for a blog network. I don't think they learned their lesson from the dotcom boom and bust. Of course, maybe I'm the fool, because I suppose there are some people who made money in the dotcom boom, as long as they sold out before the bust. However, I think those people are few and far between.

On the TODO today:
  • Write in my journal (this blog).
  • Finish what I contracted to do for a contract job.
  • Authorize website postings
  • Reply to LDSMN email and do anything that comes out of them
  • Work on getting out the first release of the SIB digest
  • If I get that far, I'll be amazed!
Well, at least I got the first one done!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Working is work, Sunday is for rest!

Sunday, wonderful Sunday!
Well, that and actually getting up when the alarm goes off. If I were to sleep until the kids woke up on any day of the week, you wouldn't be seeing a journal entry here at all!

But yes, Sunday is wonderful... a truly needed day of rest. I rarely have time to volunteer for things, but I guess I do volunteer quite a number of hours every week. For one, I am a volunteer administrator for the LDS Mission Network (LDSMN), which is made up entirely of volunteers. I've been helping out in that regard since shortly after I moved to Bellflower, CA which came as a result of being laid off just before September 11, 2001 and just after the dotcom boom was coming to an end. I hope I never need to work for a company that doesn't make money again! We still lived in UT when September 11 happened, and any job leads I had at that time became very unsure. So, I spent my birthday that year packing up our house. I was given a great job lead where a position was to be created for me with Experian in Orange, CA. We were sick of no job for three months and felt inspired to move to California, where my wife grew up. We moved in temporarily with my wife's grandma as I went to two interviews and drug testing with Experian, but then they laid people off, and the department couldn't create any jobs.

With the free time I had (besides looking for a job), I turned up the heat on the development of the Mission Alumni/ae Site that I had been handling since just after my return home from a 2 year church mission to Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. As usual, I had grand schemes, and finally a chance to actually do what I had planned with the free time. My website was already listed on but it was sorely outdated. I soon discovered that had some tools to help me out as a Web Developer of a mission alumni website, and their Site-In-a-Box (SIB) product looked like it would save me a lot of work. Before I discovered SIB, one of my grand schemes was to allow people who came to my site to be able to vote in polls. I thought it would be extremely useful. I asked the developer of SIB what it would take to get a poll feature added, and he said something like: "Go right ahead". Well, I hadn't any experience with php. Until that time I had been a Java/JSP developer with some Perl experience. They didn't teach you PHP as part of the Bachelors Computer Science at Weber State University I taught myself PHP at the same time that I developed the Poll Module for SIB based on the open source phpPolls written by Till Gerken.

Soon, I was recruited to be part of the SIB development team, which led to volunteering as a Administrator. I continued interviewing for another three months around Los Angeles until I was hired by eDirect Publishing, where I've been ever since. So, given a little free time, I slated off portions of my time for the next 4 years to date and unseen years into the future.

By the way, regarding eDirect Publishing. Don't judge the company by the website. We are a small (but profitable!!!) company and we've never had the chance to update it in the time that I've worked there. I completed a new look for the site, but the content is yet to come, so we haven't converted over to the new look yet. We've got numerous great products and services under development, and it doesn't look like we'll have free time anytime soon.

Time is the great evader, the giver and robber of opportunity, and the promised land waiting to be conquered.

-- Daniel Gibby
(I just made that up, so don't forget to quote me.)

So you can now partially understand why I say "As if I have Time". Stay tuned to find out more.
For now, I need to do some volunteer Sunday "work" helping transfer a mission website to a new maintainer. Then I'll continue work developing the SIB Mailer digest.

Next Sunday I'll tell you what is so restful about a different kind of work.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I should be doing something else

You may know what I mean... I really ought to be doing something else. But technology calls!

With so many competing tasks and time takers, I really don't have the time to blog. Still, maybe this blog will allow me the opportunity to keep a regular journal, which is something I really would like to do.

So, let the blogs begin! Then, I'll have time to go make lunch for the kids, dig out my window well so that we aren't flooded or frozen this fall or winter. The joys of owning a home are wonderful, but the responsibilities are great as well. I wouldn't have either opportunity if we hadn't been able to move from Los Angeles back to my home town of Layton, UT.

Gotta go! Home Depot calls, and I gotta figure out what is the best foundation sealer and haul some cinder blocks.