Friday, December 22, 2006

Last entry of the year

At least I expect it will be the last entry of the year. Since I normally don't blog on holidays or weekends, and the all the remaining days between now and the end of the year I'll be up at Bear Lake. I'm not even going to bring my laptop, my b-i-l will have his, and we'll have dial-up, but I'm thinking it's not worth the trouble. So unless something particularly note-worthy happens. This is it. So I suppose it's appropriate to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I still have a tiny bit of shopping to do, my wife wants me to buy some Yu-gi-oh and World of Warcraft cards for my boys, and I have to pick up my daughters skis on the way home, but other than that I'm basically done, and two days earlier than normal to boot! Everything is pretty quiet for once and since I can't write unless presented with some kind of controversy I don't know that I have anything else to say.

Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Something Epic

I'd like to do something epic next year. I've sort of narrowed it down to an epic backpacking trip, but it may be an epic something else. There is of course a perverse irony to contemplating an extended back-packing trip at a point when I'm out of shape and unable to go through a full range of motion because of the pain in my shoulder, but as usual at this point I'm convinced that by summertime I'll be in great shape.

One route that seems pretty cool is the John Muir Trail. It runs 211 miles from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. My guess is that with the right preperation it could be done in two weeks which would amount to 10 days off of work, or about half my PTO... So it'd be a big investment not just in money and preparation but of course in time as well. Hard to say whether this is the year for it or not, but it would be nice to do something of note, something I can look back on with some pride.

It goes almost without saying that the window for that sort of thing just continues to get smaller, particularly epic feats of a physical nature. Though many would argue that with my slight build and lack of coordination epic physical feats were never really in the cards for me. In any case I'll let you know how it goes. Perhaps the John Muir Trail will require more than one year of preperation, that this year we'll do something more modest and next year we'll tackle that one.

Fancy plans, with pants to match

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Still Recovering

Well I spent the entire day at home taking it pretty easy, even taking a long nap in the afternoon. As a result I figured I was well enough to go to a play last night. The play was "You Can't Take It with You" (which I guess was also made into a movie by Capra, though I'd never seen it). I enjoyed the play, I had heard it was long and had steeled myself to three hours, but it came in right at two and a half hours so I couldn't complain about that. So I'm glad I went, but I still wasn't feeling 100% and this morning I felt worse than last night, so I'm not sure what's going on. But hopefully whatever it is, it's about over.

Just two more days

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Home sick

I stayed home from work today because I was violently ill last night. I'm having a hard time deciding what it was. My shoulder/neck has been bothering me since the weekend, so when I got home I took an anti-inflammatory. You're suppossed to take them with food or milk, but I wasn't hungry though I did take a swig of milk. A couple hours later I started to feel nauseated, so I thought it was a combination of the anti-inflammatory and not eating yet. So I scarfed down a donut and had a glass of milk. Shortly after that my wife got home from the christmas party (I had stayed home with my son who has strep) with a bunch of food so I ate that. Which didn't seem to help either.

At that point I just decided to go to sleep. An hour later I woke up and it was apparent that I had lost the battle. After that I prayed one more time to the porcelin altar, but then it was over (I still feel pretty crappy however). The shortness and violence makes me think it wasn't a bug, but it seems like it took too long for it to be a reaction to the medicine. The dots don't line up for food poisoning either. So I'm not sure what it is, but I figured if it was contagious I would do my co-workers a favor and not go to work.

Lunch, then nap

Monday, December 18, 2006

Who knew Arizona was cold

The weekend was fun, but tiring. I spent most of the weekend being chilly. Which is fine, given the choice between burning up and freezing, I'll take the latter every time. And with Arizona it's so often the former. The coldest spot was when we went to Kitt Peak, it was quite cold and windy. I didn't mind it that much, but my sisters and my mother didn't enjoy themselves. I didn't know how bad it was until we returned to the visitor's center.

They had an infrared camera there that was hooked up to a TV. My dad and I were admiring the glowing veins of light that represented... well our veins when my youngest sister walked up. not only could you not see her veins on the infrared, but her hands were pitch black. I'm not sure what that was about, because her hands didn't feel that cold, perhaps she just has really poor circulation, or perhaps she has some sinister secret we aren't aware of. If this was a horror film the infrared camera would be our first clue that she was a witch or something like that.

A lot more happened, but I've run out of time in which to chronicle it, perhaps tomorrow. I will say that the commissioning was very cool and the airforce anthem, which I had never heard in its entirety has an amazing amount of panache:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one hell of a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Also I upgraded to the new version of blogger, so if you notice any weirdness, that's probably the source.

Going down in flames

Friday, December 15, 2006


So last night I went to "Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square with special guest Sissel". Now perhaps you are unfamiliar with Sissel, well I'll help you out. Have you seen Titanic? (Liar! I know you cried when Jack slipped into the ocean.) You remember the haunting, ethereal vocals that accompanied much of the soundtrack? Well that was Sissel.

Having enjoyed the Titanic soundtrack I had pretty high hopes for the concert last night, and I was not disappointed in the least. She really did an amazing job. What was most amazing is how effortless it all seemed. She would hit these unbelievable high notes hold them forever and not appear the least bit taxed by the effort. The final number was "Angels, from the Realms of Glory" and she had to sing over the entire choir. Now I'm sure they had the volume set much higher on her mike, but that wasn't how you could pick out her voice, he voice just sounded, purer.

I suppose that's the natural consequence of there being only one of her and there being 100's of choir members, but it seemed more than that. Of course as my co-worker was pointing out (you can read his take on the concert at his blog) there are only a handful of soloist in the world with her talent, so I shouldn't be surprised. Of course in talking about the soloist I don't want to neglect the rest of the pieces. My wife and the bell choir only accompanied on three of the numbers, but they truly did a spectacular job. In general, with the exception of the length (not of the concert itself but how early we had to get there, etc.) it was really a fabulous evening (man, I sound like a girl).

Almost done with my christmas shopping

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not a moment to spare

I have like ten minutes before I have to head for my first meeting. And then it's more or less solid meetings the rest of the day. Then I have to hurry home and pick up my daughter and head downtown for a concert. I'm guessing that by the time I get home from that it will be bedtime. Then tomorrow I'm already leaving work early to catch a plan. As I reviewed this in my mind this morning, I realized that there's really no time for me to pack before my plane. Obviously that's not entirely true I can stay up late tonight, or leave from work even earlier tomorrow, but certainly there's no big block of time for it.

Not sure if I mentioned this already or not, but having finished the "Otherland" series I decided that my next book should be "From Dawn to Decadence" I have a feeling that going from a 3000 page sci-fi/fantasy series to an 800 page cultural/historical book was not the best transition if I want to maintain my reading mojo, but I guess we'll have to see. I'm still in the introduction, but I can already say that the writing is simultaneously very accessible but not dumbed-down in the slightest either.

Things are happening too quickly

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Potato Wedge Story

Since there was an inquiry I thought I would quickly retell the "Potato Wedge Story". We were playing D&D at my house and we had gotten some KFC and my brother-in-law had a bunch of potato wedges, I forget if he had his own order or if he had just grabbed a bunch from the common pool. But before I get too far I should explain what a potato wedge is. Basically it's a wedge cut (rather than a square cut) french fry with the skin still on.

In any case, in the midst of my bil's pile of wedges was the biggest potato wedge I had ever seen, possibly the biggest potato wedge ever (one assumes the gigantic potato that had yielded that wedge would have produced equally impressive brothers, but none were in evidence.) An evil impulse overcame me, one I found impossible to resist, and just like Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit, I did eat. Such was the unforgivable wickedness of the impulse that I had to first make sure I had my bil's attention. And only then did I take the enormous potato wedge and stuff it into my mouth. So there you go...

After an embarrassingly long struggle (in particular with the last book) I finally finished the "Otherland" series of books by Tad Williams. I'm not sure I can recommend it. For every book one has to make an assessment of it's rate of return. A figure which could be most simply expressed as enjoyment (or perhaps "edification" for the weightier tomes) per page. Given that the entire series clocks in at 3000+ pages, the E has to be nearly stratospheric to outway the very sizable P. It's not and that's why I'm loathe to recommend the series. It is enjoyable, but the length is such that your time might be spent better elsewhere.

What's your E to P ratio?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not enough data points

I should have mentioned this as part of the weekend report, but part of the reason for going on on Saturday was that it was the last free day this holiday season until the 21st. In between rehearsals, performances, a trip to Arizona, parties, plays, and dinners we're booked solid. Last night we had the Christmas Piano Recital. My two oldest played. In addition my wife and her brother played a couple of duets as well, that I thought sounded quite good. As usual I regret the fact that I didn't pursue my own piano education with more vigor, and toyed with the idea, as I so often do, of "getting back into it" as it were.

I was mulling over this particular regret and a staggering number of other regrets I have on the way into work this morning. And it occured to me that I need more data points. My study of my own life, what works, and what doesn't; what makes me happy, or what makes me sad; what I'm talented at, and what I'm not; consists of a single subject, a ridiculously small sample size, by any standard. And I was led to imagine how it would be if I had a thousand lifetimes of data to sift through. Surely then I could figure things out, surely then I could optimize my life.

This is not to say that I don't like my life. I have a wife who is far better than I deserve, awesome kids, a job that I don't hate, which pays reasonably well, good friends, etc. etc. I just dislike the omnipresent feeling of flying blind.

Islands, waters, azure, verdure, one glimpse and vanished, endlessly, omit.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weekend Report

Friday was the BoTS (Bells on Temple Square) concert. I ended up driving, which, by common consent, was apparently a good thing. In addition to myself we had my wife, the number 1 daughter and my parents-in-law. There are two ways to get downtown, the main way and then a special HOV (carpools and such) only exit. Initially the main freeway seemed pretty clogged and the carpool lane was wide open so I decided to take it in, and take that exit, by the time we got close to downtown it was the carpool lane that was slow and the rest of the freeway was more open. But the worst was yet to come.

There's a fairly significant curve to the left (the same side as the HOV lane) right before you get to downtown. As I came around the curve I noticed that there were lots of brake lights, and the the people in front of me were veering off onto the shoulder to avoid hitting the cars in front of them. I couldn't use the shoulder myself because then I would hit the people who were veering. So I made a risky decision and decided to veer right. I didn't have time to do a head check, so I tried to stay in my lane as much as possible, but by the time the van screeched to a halt I was about 1/3 into the other lane, and yeah some people did honk at me, but I didn't hit anyone and no one hit me so I called it a success.

Overall the experience rattled me a little bit, but I think it freaked my passangers out even more. I was honored to hear that my 84(?) year old step-father-in-law had expressed his relief that I was driving rather than him. In any case with the exception of some truly awful traffic the rest of the night passed relatively uneventfully.

On Saturday I went and saw Casino Royale with a friend, and then we met up with another friend later for some dinner. Before the movie I had heard that the last 20-25 minutes felt kind of tacked on, and that the initial chase scene (on foot, if you can believe it) will go down as one of the great chases in cinema. Other than that I thought Daniel Craig did very well as the newest Bond, and that despite much of the movie revolving around a poker game (texas hold-em of course), the pacing never flagged.

On Sunday I ended up using the question from Friday's blog about the number of nations who survived from 1911 to the present as my opening monologue for Sunday School. It actually worked quite well, since we were covering Nebechanezzer's dream about the statue (head of gold, upper body of silver, etc.) Later we went up to my parents house in Ogden and had a great meal. The drive back was through a pretty bad snow storm, it wouldn't have been so bad if my youngest daughter hadn't kept kicking the back of my seat...

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December...

Friday, December 08, 2006

An interesting observation

I was reading an article last night where the author mentioned that in his 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica 152 countries are listed. He then poses the following question:

How many of those countries made it from 1911 to today, nearly a century later, with their systems of government and law intact (allowing for minor constitutional adjustments like expansion of the franchise), without having suffered revolution, civil war, major dismemberment, or foreign occupation?

I'll allow you to ponder that for awhile and see what number you come up with. While you're thinking I'll tell you another story...

So today was the annual department christmas party. And one of the games they decided to play was a variation on Clue. They had a list of potential kidnappers (Heat Miser, Scrooge McDuck, Rudolph, etc.), potential locations (Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal, Pyramids, etc.), and potential tools (icicle, sled, tinsel, etc.) So everyone got a certain number of cards which allowed the to elminate things and from what was left you were supposed to come to a solution. Initially the plan was to pass out cards before the party as well as at the party. Well I think they didn't realize that people were going to pool their cards before hand and come up with an answer well in advance of the party (Frosty, Snowman's Carrot Nose, and Rice-Eccles Stadium if you're curious), so at the last minute they changed the answer, but I think their cleverness (or greed) got the better of them.

Now that we're half way through the blog for those of you who want to know the number of countries highlight the rest of this line: According to the columnist only six countries survive in their 1911 form, so now the question is which six?

So on the day of the party we split into teams and each team got a big stack of cards, after going through the cards and eliminating things we were left with three kidnappers, three locations and three tools which couldn't be eliminate. Among this group of nine where the three mentioned above. So using my Sicilian Logic I easily determined that I could not choose the combination that everyone knew about before the party, which left me with only six I couldn't eliminate. Also the combination of Frosty with the Carrot nose told me that the three should be related, the remaining kidnappers consisted of Hermie the Elf and The Abominable Snowman, Locations were Hogwarts, and the Taj Mahal, and Tools were Sled, and Jingle Bells.

Hermie and Hogwarts seemed obvious, and bells seemed a little more elfin than the sled. But then they announced that they were going to have some games where people could get more clues, so we participated in those, we didn't end up getting any more clues, so as soon as those games were over, knowing that we had all the information we were going to get I recommended going for it right then, the team agreed and wouldn't you know I was right, so we all got some movie tickets. Okay yes this story was fairly egomaniacal, but I wanted to give you a chance to think about the initial question.

Now for those who want to know not only the number of countries, but the names, highlight the section below:

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.A. The author admits that this isn't any kind of definitive list, and that there may be some ommissions, but so far everytime someone has mentioned something they thought was an ommission I've looked into it and it hasn't been. For those wanting to read the actual article here's the link.

I guess I should start thinking about christmas shopping

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor

I was speaking with a co-worker earlier today and somehow we got on the subject of Hawaii. I mentioned that of all the stuff I did and saw when I was in Hawaii, I liked the World War II stuff the best (Punchbowl, USS Arizona, etc.) He told me that he had a theory that they kept refilling the Arizona with oil, so that it would continue to leak and thereby create that sense of the Arizona as an active monument. He said, "I mean after 40 years..." I corrected him and said, "65 as of today..."

I don't blame him for getting it wrong as Boortz pointed out in his daily program notes there are certainly a lot of people who don't even know what Pearl Harbor is. Certainly my own children would fall into that category, though hopefully the fact that they're all under 10 is some excuse. Also I find myself doing the same thing, I'll figure the time difference out once and then it becomes stuck that way. This is why it took me forever to get over the feeling that I had graduated from high school not that long ago. Though I still can't come to terms with that fact that as of next year my high school graduation will be half again as long ago as I've been alive.

To continue this theme of feeling that life has gotten away from me. I was reading the (to continue yet another theme) "The Economist" yesterday and they had a review of a new translation of Dante's Inferno. In the course of the review they talked about Dante in general and other translations. One of the points they made was that the Inferno was one of the first books written in Italian (Tuscan) rather than Latin. And that Dante defined Italian for future generations, they then excerpted the first three lines of the Inferno (in Italian) to show how close Dante's Italian was to modern Italian (as opposed to Shakespeare and English). As if to say of course all of our readers know Italian well enough that they can quicky compare the medieval Italian of Dante with their vast knowledge of modern Italian.

Old and brittle

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The stupidest thing ever written

I was reading Slate yesterday evening and I came across an article which claimed to reveal "the single stupidest sentence to appear in that newspaper [The New York Times] since I began reading it more than three decades ago." For those without the time or inclination to follow the link to the article the sentence being referred to was:

Mr. Lloyd Webber is often referred to as the Shakespeare of his time with musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera.

Now I confess that comparing Andrew Lloyd Webber to Shakespeare is pretty stupid (particularly since far from "often", as he goes on to point out, it's never happened). But then I continued reading and in another article on Slate I came across what was truly the stupidest sentence ever written. It was their "Human Nature" feature and they were reporting on a new NASA plan for a permenant moon base. At the end of each little blurb they give a couple of different ways of looking at it, in this case the idealistic and the cynical:

Idealistic prediction: Like our ancestors, we'll use the lure of profit to inspire and fund exploration. Cynical prediction: Like our ancestors, we'll use the rhetoric of exploration to rationalize plunder.

PLUNDER?!?!? How on earth can we plunder the Moon?!? That pun was actually unintended if you can believe that, but it also strikes at the heart of the matter. Normal terrestrial rules do not apply. There are no aboriginal cultures to plunder from, there are no living organisms to be harmed, there is no biosphere to pollute, not even a grandma that has to re-locate. The only possible objections I can see, and these are an enormous stretch, are scenic and gravitational. Essentially that unrestricted strip mining would make the Moon less pretty or that it would be so excessive that it actually changed the moons gravitational pull on the earth. The former is silly and the latter so implausible that I'm embarrassed to even bring it up lest I lend it even the tiniest amount of credibility. But what else is there? What other possible objections can be raised to ANYTHING we do to the moon?

I guess there is some plausible objection that could be made to weaponizing the moon, but that's not what the article was about it was about making a base more attractive by mining the surrounding area. But regardless of the type of objection it would have to outweigh the benefits of a permanent manned base, which are legion.

The irony is strong in this one

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A porsche for $5000

American Express is having a special holiday deal where they sell a few select items for a ridiculously low price. (Including a Porsche Cayman Coupe for $5000.) Today's deal was a 40" Bravia LCD flatscreen with a Blu-Ray player for $1500 (normally $4500). We're planning on buying a new flatscreen TV for christmas, so I decided to go for this one. Unfortunately, as you may imagine with only 20 available, my odds were not great and as usual for me (actually not just me, everyone really) when the odds are against me, things don't work out.

Of course, as is so often the case, now I really want a 40" Bravia LCD. You start imagining how cool something would be particularly if it's cheap, but of course even when it turns out not to be cheap, the coolness remains. I'm sure a stern talking to by the wife will convince me that we really don't need a Bravia, but that won't get rid of the whole in my heart where a BRAVIA™ HDTV with a 40-inch XBR®LCD Flat Panel Screen, a 16:9 1080p HD Resolution Panel (1920 x 1080), a BRAVIA Engine™ PRO Video Processor, Live Color Creation System, ATSC Digital Tuner with QAM capability and HDMI™ (High Definition Multimedia Interface) x3 (1080p) used to be (oh and did I mention it has a compass in the stock?).

Other than that, things proceed. I had a case of "The Mondays" yesterday, exacerbated by a series of onerous meetings, which robbed me of the mojo necessary to blog, but in general I am trying to be more consistant, even if such constancy mainly manifests as ennui-laden entries about my unfufilling quest for an anesthesia which violates neither the law of the land or my religion and doesn't get me into too much trouble with the wife (like spending $3500 on a 40" Bravia).

I wanna be sedated

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Economist

I used to read "The Onion" a lot, not sure why I don't anymore, but that's not the point. One of my favorite features of all time was a sort of he said/she said feature. The first person put forth some position (I honestly have no idea what it was) and in the process referenced The Economist in support of that position. The rebuttal was titled something like, "Oooh! Look at me! I read The Economist!" and was nothing more than an ad hominem on the first writer for being pretentious enough to read The Economist.

Despite how obviously pretentious it is, I also read The Economist in fact my wife managed to finagle a three year subscription to it with some frequent flier miles we weren't using, so presumably I'll be reading it for a long time to come. It's amazing to me how much better it is than Time or Newsweek, so much so that in comparison they seem like just another clone of People or US Weekly without the benefit of the "Fashion Police" column.

In any case that's pretty much it for today. I would urge anyone who hasn't read Ed's comment on yesterday' blog to do so now. Also in answer to aozora's question I had never heard of but I could see where it would be a lot of fun. Reminds me of High School when I did Model UN and Parlimentary Procedure in Debate.

Still amazed by how little snow melts off the driveway during the day