Random snippets of my life

Watching the auroras during a night of skywatching in Wisconsin while visiting my in-laws. Beautiful, green/white slowly undulating waves of electromagnetism in the sky.

Watching the sun set next to the lake while camping up Provo canyon with Luann and some of her clients (from the developmental center). There was a large oncoming storm and a shimmering yellow/orange wall – droplets of fire – rapidly approaching us from the west.

Driving home late one night on State Street in Orem when a storm rolled in and gobbled up the mountains. One moment you could see them, the next moment a giant “nothing” quickly engulfed them in a rolling, boiling mass of dark stormclouds.

Walking down a street in Florida on my mission. Dry as a bone, hot, humid. 3 feet in front of me – the sidewalk is soaked and the rain is pouring down. I stay where i am and remain dry for a few minutes before whipping out the umbrella and braving the storm.

Seeing the rings of Saturn and the cloud bands of Jupiter for the first time in my telescope.

Watching flames dance in the air 30+ feet high as they engulf the trees on the mountain-side a few miles to the east of our house.

The mesmerizingly deep blue and perfectly crystal clear pools next to the big lake in Yellowstone.

Seeing a tuft of curly red hair as my 3rd is born.

Taking a tour of a “proper castle ruin” (Rhaglan) in the UK countryside while taking a break from a business trip.

Driving in and out of a thick fogbank that goes on for hours as we’re driving home from St. George. Trees covered in ice crystals. Ghostly shapes fleeting by just out of sight.

On a family road trip, stopping off at Mt. Rushmore. On the self-guided walkway there’s a small offshoot which leads to a rock with a hole in it. Looking up through the hole the sky is clear and blue and all you see, framed by a rough-hewn black oval of the rock, is the face of George Washington, hundreds of feet up and larger than life.

Looking out the window of an airplane while the family is flying out to Washington/Oregan (job interview with HP i think?). Seeing the wind blowing across the top of Mt. Hood leaving a billowing snow trail thousands of feet long.

Wandering the mountainsides in Northern Utah with my dad on a deer hunting trip when we hear something big moving in the trees nearby. Being startled at just how huge a full grown moose really is when you’re standing 10 feet away.

Thanking God for the extra protection affording a hard working missionary as he’s walking along a muddy road in rural Florida when a 6 foot gator suddenly rushes out of the bushes right by your feet and slithers into the swampy stream next to the road.

A birthday party at our old condo with lots of family and friends around (is it Alex’s 1st?). Walking into the kitchen to grab something, looking up and being stunned by the beautiful girl who’s profile i’m seeing. Her name is Luann.

Scrabble rocks

Just a word of caution: This post may contain slightly vulgar material for the properly initiated.  Be warned.
Ok, best scrabble game ever!  We’ve had a scrabble game for years, but almost never played it.  It was one of those uber cheap cardboard boards.  And half the pieces were missing thanks to little kids not understanding the concept of putting pieces away after chewing on the box (obviously they weren’t actually playing the game!).  So my wife and i (and my son too, although he didn’t play any part in this tale other than approve of the selection and then haul the game around the store) picked up a “deluxe” edition of scrabble the other day.  The board is one these pivoting wheels so that you can rotate it around to face you when it’s your turn.  It also had indentations on each square so the tiles don’t get bumped around (very handy).  Oh, and it had all the tiles.  Nothing was missing.  Yay.
Sunday night rolls around and the time has come to break out the game.  The kids have been begging for days.  We split up into teams and have at it.  After the first game is over and the older kids are figuring out how to play, we start game #2.  This is where things get fun. :)  First, let’s talk about the winner and just get that out of the way.  I won.  By 28 points.  Don’t let Luann tell you any differently down in the comments.  She claims that she should have had an extra 30 points that i “robbed” her of.  You see, i put down the word “icy”.  Except that i said “icky”.  My son got a funny look and then said “challenge!”.  I couldn’t help but bust up laughing at this point, and then my daughter blurts in with “it’s icy, not icky”.  So he withdraws his challenge.  And herein lies the dispute, because on his next turn (which came before my wife’s), he “stole” her spot.  She claims it would have given her 30 points, and instead she was relegated to a much lesser word elsewhere.  This assumes she’s telling the truth, and that the rest of the game would have played out the same. . . :)
Anyway, after that we got into the habit of making funny sounding words that didn’t really match their spelling.  “sos” spelling “sauce” for example.   In fact, this gave us an idea for a fun variant: phonetic spellings allowed.  Not this game, but perhaps another day.  Who knows – could be a new fad!  So, onward the game rolls, and it gets down to the end where there’s not a lot of options left.  I have “man” in my hand and can’t find a good place for it.
But wait, what’s this?   A perfect fit.  And in go the tiles.
Luann and i bust up, the kids give us a funny look, and i quickly place the tiles elsewhere before we have to answer a bunch of sticky questions.  The game ends, i win again (by 28 points), and all is well with the world.
Scrabble – i highly recommend it!

A tale of carwashes, waiters, tips, and wedding rings

A few weeks ago my wife and i drove past an old carwash near BYU where we both went to college.  We shared a look and a smile.  We both remembered the story of the wedding ring.

Flash back to early 1994.  Poor starving college student Scott has just recently purchased a wedding ring and is getting ready to officially propose (the unofficial proposal during a cold winter evening in SLC at temple square, and the subsequent laser light show at the planetarium, and then the broken down car and freezing cold wait for my grandpa’s tow truck is another story entirely).

I’d purchased the wedding ring.  It took all the money i had.  There were two parts to the ring – the wedding ring itself, and a wedding band.  Why there are two pieces is a mystery to me, but hey whatever.  In order to keep the wedding band safe, i “put it in a safe place”.  More on this later.  That night, i took Luann out to the Olive Garden on University Avenue.  Big spender i know!  But hey – it was expensive at the time.  When we got there, i feigned a bathroom break and tracked down our waiter.  I slipped him the wedding ring and asked him to bring it out a few minutes after our dinner arrived.  He was pretty excited.  I’m just glad he didn’t take the ring and run off with it!

Unbeknownst to Luann (or to me at the time [i guess is shouldn’t have told them where i was going]), her roommates had followed us and were lurking about the restaurant, waiting for the big moment.  Our food arrived and we began to eat.  A few minutes later, 3 or 4 waiters/waitresses came out with this big silver platter.  There was a beautifully arranged veggie tray and in the center was a little grey box.

As you can imagine, she was quite surprised.  Thank god she said yes!  Her roommates came over and congratulated us.  Luann completely lost her appetite (unrelated to the roommates).  Which was too bad, because it was a really good meal.

But here’s the part that nobody knows.  (Even Luann only found out about this a week or two ago).  I’ve felt really bad about it ever since then.  But after the meal, i left this poor waiter a five dollar tip.  Serious.  It was all i could afford at the time.  I wish i could go back and give they guy $50 or something.  He really went all out in the veggie tray presentation.  So wonderful waiter – if you ever read this, contact me! :)

Our story doesn’t end here.  Remember the poor wedding band?  Well, i had to put it somewhere.  What better place for it than wrapped in a piece of tissue and placed in my car’s ash tray, next to the spare change?  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, i’ll tell you what went wrong.  Early one morning I took my roommate and good friend Kevin to the carwash (yes, the one mentioned above) and he proceeded to help me clean out my car.  Good friend that he is, he even cleaned out the tissue wadded up in my ash tray.  Later that evening (probably around 10pm or so), i broke into a cold sweat and ran out to my car, a sinking feeling washing over me.  Sure enough – no wedding band.  Begin heart attack.

I run back in, grab Kevin and tell him to come with me.  We fly over to the car wash in record time (yay for no cops on the road right then) and i make Kevin start digging through the trash can we had used earlier that day.  I guess the hasty prayers muttered on the way over worked, because we found the tissue and the wedding band safe and sound in the trash can (buried under a bunch of other icky gunk).  Disaster averted, heart attack over.  What a day.

Bathroom advice

We were traveling the other day on our way to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner.  We stopped at a gas station for one of the many obligatory potty breaks.  When my wife got back into the car with the little ones, she told me a story.

After the two little kids had gone to the bathroom, she was helping them wash their hands.  She turned on the faucet, got their hands lathered up, and they rinsed off.  Somehow during all this, an old lady in the bathroom was watching them and made the comment: “You should turn off the water while they’re lathering up.  We do live in a desert, you know”.

Wow.  I have no response to that.  How annoying.  Do you even have kids?

After thinking about it a bit more, i tried to imagine what i’d have said.  And all i could come up with was “this would never happen in the mens room”.  Men don’t sit around watching other guys wash their hands.  They don’t talk to each other.  They go in, do their business, and get out.  The only quote i can find that would apply would be from Office Space.

Does anyone ever say “looks like someone has a case of the Monday’s?”

No.  No man.  I believe you’d get your *** kicked if you said that.

Tech Support

I haven’t done a lot of blogging lately. … Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been doing plenty of micro-blogging (facebook and twitter). In the meantime, all sorts of interesting things have happened.

  • The first rocky exoplanet has been discovered. It circles closer to its parent star than Mercury (meaning it’s more like a hellish prison planet than a gardeon of eden), but has roughly the same density as the Earth. Good signs for better discoveries in the future.
  • Google has been doing a number of “unexplained phenomenon doodles“, leading many people to believe that we’ve made first contact with Aliens (because, hey – of course Google would know first, right?)
  • Apple just released something blah blah ipod whoever cares…
  • I just released a new version of Shisensho and actually got a really nice comment from someone! score.
  • My son, Alex just turned 13! Holy crap, i’m the parent of a teenager now. For his birthday, we built him a greenhouse.

But the best thing was this xkcd comic i ran across a while back:

Alex’s Dish Collection

I went to turn off the light in Alex’s bedroom this morning after he left for school, and couldn’t help but notice the large amount of dishes scattered around his room. Some were on the floor, some were in his bed, and i suspect there’s a few more hidden underneath all those piles of .. whatever .. that he’s got all over his room.

It’s a lovely collection though. And what’s even better: right after i snapped this picture so i could preserve his wonderful collection for future generations, i heard this “crunch, crunch”, and looked over to see my 2yo daughter eating the rest of the lucky charms left over in the bowl. EWWWW.

Nanowrimo, Harry Potter, Android G1

It’s been a busy week and lots of interesting things have happened. Here are a few highlights:

First, with halloween and then Gwyneth’s birthday back to back, and my mom visiting, and going to some plays, and parties, etc.., i haven’t had time to breath for a bit and at about 11pm last night (Nov. 1), my wife asks, “weren’t you going to do NANOWRIMO?” … oops. Oh well – i’m screwed now. First day is done and i’m already behind. I even had several chapters outlined and everything. I might still do it a bit for fun, but i’m not going to try to get 50,000 words in the month. I’ll focus instead on getting the first few chapters written and fleshed out really well. See if i can’t describe my setting so vividly that it would make Dicken’s proud.

Another thing that’s been eating up a huge portion of my time is my new Android G1 phone. That’s right folks. I couldn’t resist. I ran over to the T-Mobile store on Oct. 22 and ordered myself a new phone. It arrived 2 days later in the mail and i’ve been playing with it ever since. If you’re not sure what the G1 is, you probably don’t really care about cool phones all that much and so no amount of description would really do it justice. You’ll just have to see one in action for yourself. But this is in my opinion the best phone on the planet right now. Totally amazing. I’ve been nothing but happy with it since the moment i turned it on. Oh, and yes – i’ve been spending 1 or 2 or .. 4 hours a day learning the Android SDK and writing programs for it. I’m working on a game right now (you may recall my post from 2-3 weeks back talking about pathfinding algorithms … well, here’s the tie-in) :)

So, one last thing. And for those of you who haven’t read the Harry Potter novels yet, but might some day … just skip the rest of this blog entry. I’ll even put it in black text on a black div so you can’t see it unless you highlight the text. If you want to know what i’m writing about … read on!

I just finished Harry Potter 6 last night. When the books first came out, i read book 1 and thought that it was ok, but nothing all that great. The movies started coming out and again, pretty good, but nothing to really grab my attention.

Well, don’t freak out all your Harry Potter lovers. My wife finally convinced me to read the whole series. And i must say, once you get into book 5 things start to heat up and get interesting. By the time book 6 ended i was just stunned. Dumbledore dead? Snape really was a bad guy all along? It can’t be. I must be missing something …

So, after sitting there thinking about it for a while, i have a few theories about what really happened, and what’s going to happen. If you’ve already read the book, that’s fine – i don’t want to know what happens next. I’ll start book 7 today and find out for myself soon enough!

My theory: Dumbledore isn’t really dead, and Snape actually is a good guy and killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s orders. Let’s see why. All throughout the last chapter (or two even) after Dumbledore died, the phoenix Fawkes kept singing and going on. There’s always been hints of some type of connection between Dumbledore and his bird (the chamber of secrets comes to mind when the bird responded to Harry when he didn’t give up on Dumbledore. Also in movie #5 Dumbledore uses the phoenix to disappear somehow when the ministry attempts to arrest him [even though that’s not in the books]). And what happens when Dumbledore is at his funeral? Suddenly there’s a big fire , everyone’s surprised (they obviously didn’t plan for this), and then his body is gone, replaced by a sarcophagus. They hint that the centaurs did it, but i think that it was Dumbledore actually emerging, being reborn if you will, just like a phoenix (maybe he is a phoenix in some way, just like Lupin is a werewolf). Remember that he’s been severely crippled – his hand by that curse, and then drinking that potion to get the next Horcrux. On the balcony when Snape arrives, Dumbledore looks at him and says “Snape … please”. I don’t think he’s begging for his life. He’s pleading with Snape to kill him, knowing that he’ll be stronger afterwards. Snape does as Dumbledore asks, and then of course has no choice but to flee with the death eaters. But on the way out when Harry is chasing him, Snape continues to prevent him from killing anyone going “Harry, NO!” … like he’s still trying to help Harry in what little way he can as he makes his escape. I really REALLY don’t think that Dumbledore would have been so fooled and taken in by Snape. He just wants everyone to think he was. Now he’s alive, nobody knows it, he’s regenerated to full strength, and can hunt for Voldemort without being tied down or hampered in any way. Voldemort thinks his most powerful foe is gone. At some point in the next book Dumbledore will secretly hook up with Harry and help him finish his quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcrux’s. And of course once Voldemort is vanquished, Dumbledore will come back to Hogwarts and everyone will live happily ever after.

Our fun college date

Last night Luann and i decided to have a cheap college-type date. We went bowling. At BYU. First off, i almost got hit twice pulling into the parking lot. What’s up with student drivers? Once we got parked and wandered into the building where the bowling alley is, there was a big sign: “Closed until 7:15”. Well, it seemed odd – considering it was full of people. Must be some special event.

No worries – off to the food court for some dinner. What – almost every single place is closed. I guess it is the end of summer and what student wants to be working at a fast food restaurant right before school starts back up, right? There were a few places open, so we grabbed some grub and had a little conversation with our dinner in the food court.

It wasn’t 7:15 yet so we headed over to the bookstore to do some shopping. Oooh – it’s closed too. Go figure. Well, if you can believe it, I haven’t actually seen the new library or science buildings since they were renovated years and years ago (a decade maybe?)

I must say – the library is not the place i remember. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s comfortable, it’s quiet. It’s the kind of place i would have actually gone to study had i still been at school. I remember the library as dim, cold, noisy, and “cold”.. hard … anyway – not very comfortable or inviting at all. Maybe that’s why i didn’t go there very often. :)

After a stroll through the library, we headed off to the science building. It was weird wandering campus – it was virtually a ghost town. Rather nice, actually. The science building looked the same – except for the back where they’d updated the planetarium. Ooh – that reminds me – planetarium.byu.edu – check it out. They have great events going on, including an astrophotography course next month.

Back to the bowling. They finally opened. We got a lane and setup for 3 games. … I must say, my arm is SORE … and my scores weren’t nearly as high as in Wii bowling! Guess i need more practice. I’ll blame it on the shoes.