Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Building Bookshelves

Some of you might remember that I built a window seat earlier this year. Yesterday it was time to build some bookshelves in the same room. Here's how the finished product turned out.

The right side:

And the left side:

So here is the step by step process for completing the bookshelves:

1. Go to Home Depot and get the side panels cut and the brace boards
2. Put up the panels that go against the wall and tack them in
3. Measure the width of the shelves
4. Go to Home Depot and get the shelves cut
5. Put in bottom shelf and first shelf braces
6. Tack other side panel to bottom shelf and first shelf braces
7. Go to Home Depot and get Liquid Nails for the outside panel braces
8. Put the top shelf braces on and tack the outside panel to it
9. Put the top shelf on
10. Put the rest of the braces on and tack the outside panel to them
11. Put the shelves in
12. Go to Home Depot and get finish nails for the nail gun to tack the shelves to the braces
13. Make comments about having your own personal parking space at Home Depot as their most frequent shopper.
14. Blog about it so all your friends can make fun of all the trips to Home Depot

So there you have bookshelves in 14 easy steps. I estimate that our study is now 70% complete. Next up? Another shelf, more lights and endless trips to Home Depot (I think I get a free round trip ticket to the Home Depot Center in California if I make 50 more round trips).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The True Meaning of Christmas

Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? - Charlie Brown

One of the greatest questions of all time was asked by Charlie Brown in the animated special "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown". Over the years it seems that we have lost our ability to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Linus answers Charlie Brown's question:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. - Linus

Today is the Christmas Eve. The celebration of that night when the angel proclaimed tidings of great joy. The Earth had been waiting for the time of the Messiah and at last it was to happen. The Savior of the world would be born and he would live a perfect life. At the end he would sacrifice Himself so that all mankind might live with Him and His Father again. An unparalleled 33 years would follow where the world changed.

The teachings of the Savior and the gospel set forth inspire millions of people today. As we look around this Christmas my hope is that we can find our Christianity and display it. It can be something simple such as smiling at someone. It can be donating time and/or money to a worthy cause. It can be refraining from yelling at the guy who just cut you off in traffic.

My family will take time tonight to read the story of the birth of Jesus. We will reflect on His life. We will comment on what we can do to lead our lives better. We will talk about what it means to be Christian and how we can be examples of the life Jesus led.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that as you celebrate this time that His life will touch you and that you may find some measure of peace on Earth.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lest We Forget

On that day when you need your brothers and sisters to care,
I'll be right here.
Citizen soldiers holding the light for the ones that we guide from the dark of despair.
Standing on guard for the ones that we sheltered,
We'll always be ready because we will always be there.

Citizen Soldiers - 3 Doors Down

I was in the airport yesterday returning home from a business trip. Ahead of me was a young man dressed in fatigues, on his way to California. I don't know if he was on his way to a base or home for the holidays. Frankly that doesn't matter. What hit me though was the man in front of him walking with his daughter. As we got off the moving walkway the man turned extended his hand and thanked the young man for serving. This caused a bunch of thoughts to go through my head during this holiday season.

As you've probably guessed I'm a Christian. Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who Christians believe is the Savior of the world. His birth started a life of sacrifice where He ultimately gave His life for all of us so we could live.

At this time of year however I feel it is important to recognize those who also serve by giving their lives for us so that we can live our lives. We are extremely blessed in this country and it's in great part due to those men and women who served and are serving their country. My family has a history of service in the military. Currently one of Cheryl's cousins is serving. We also have a neighbor whose son is serving.

One of the things we have taught our children is that it is important to recognize these individuals and do what we can for them. Every prayer offered by our children remembers Steve and Brady. The prayers ask that they be watched over as they serve in dangerous areas. Hopefully, my children will always remember the men and women who serve. I love the cartoons that appear around Veterans and Memorial day that state "Lest we Forget". Forgetting would be a way of diminishing the greatness of our nation.

The sacrifice offered on our behalf by our soldiers is something to celebrate along with everything else this holiday season. I ask each of you to take some time this season to remember those who have sacrificed for us and who are giving their time now to ensure that we may live our lives in freedom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Song for a Winter's Night

Back on the wagon again. Today's song is one by a favorite of mine Sarah McLachlan. Here are the lyrics:

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin'
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

Sarah usually writes sad songs and this one is no exception. The song tugs at me as I think of family that are far away. There are times "I would be happy just to hold the hands I love" that live distant from me.

Make no mistake though how happy I am to be with my family and hold them in my arms. I know that one day the kids will be grown and move away. Then this song will have more meaning to me. Right now though I will enjoy the time I have with them and be happy that I get to hold the hands I love on every winter night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I missed yesterday, but today I'm back. I'm not a big fan of the BCS in case you didn't know. And the announcement on Sunday of the Fiesta Bowl matchup between TCU and Boise State didn't help matters.

This will be the first time where a BCS bowl game will not include a team that is in a BCS conference. It sounds like the ultimate buster until you realize that no BCS conference champion will take on a non-BCS conference champion in a BCS or any other bowl game. For this I'm calling out the BCS as a bunch of chickens.

You see if TCU or Boise State were matched up against Cincinnati, or Ohio State, or Oregon you could get a real test to see if the non-BCS schools belong. But why would any of those schools want to play and risk losing to a highly ranked non-BCS school? Why would they take a chance that people would start to talk about including these other conferences (like the Mountain West or WAC) in the BCS picture? I mean it's only money that they would be losing. Oh yeah I forgot, the BCS is ALL about money. Silly me.

I hope that the TCU - Boise State game gets better ratings than the National Championship game. I doubt it, but I can revise my Christmas wish right? Could you imagine if the numbers come back and a game between two non-BCS schools got better ratings than the BCS National Championship? How cool would that be?

Alright enough dreaming. But still the BCS is a bunch of chickens for taking the easy way out of this. Let TCU play Cincinnati, and after the Big East champs get routed, let's talk about including all FBS Division I schools into the national championship picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Today's carol (OK maybe it's not technically a carol) is "I'll Be Home for Christmas". The lyrics are:

I am dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find you
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

If only in my dreams

Being so far from my home, this song gets to me. When I hear it I can smell home. The wood burning furnace, the snow, the fields, the trees, everything I grew up with. I can smell what Granny's place was. The food, pies, roast, ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes. The joy of us cousins, the noise of the adults. The late nights where the kids played whatever and the adults played a modified version of Pinochle. Eggnog, Shrimp and a thousand other foods.

Today home is here in AZ. I love this time of year for the lights and the new smells. The joy of my kids and times of quiet that we get after about 8:30 at night. I love the excitement, the build-up to the big day. I love playing games, especially now that the kids are getting old enough to play better ones. Of course I love the food. There are new traditions and old. I'll be home for Christmas, and not only in my dreams because I'm with my family.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Little Drummer Boy

OK, I'm back on track. Today's carol is "The Little Drummer Boy". The lyrics are:

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

This is one of my favorite songs at this time of year. It tells the tale of a young man who was told a marvelous thing. A newborn king was close by and he was invited to see. This young man by all accounts was poor and probably had never seen anything regal in his life. Now he was invited to come and see this miracle. One problem though, everyone was bringing gifts and he had none. But that did not stop this lad from giving a gift. He had a drum with him and humbly asked if he might play a song for the king. The mother of this King gave her permission and so he began to play. What he played we are not told, but we are told he played his best for the King. At the end of the song the King smiled at him and his drum.

This tale is typical of all of us in this life. We have been invited to "come and see" the King. We have also been asked to bring a gift for Him.

As for myself, I am a poor boy too. I have no great gift that I can give my King. I do however have my time and talents. These I can give him. I can give him the best of my time and "play" my talents to there best. In this way I can give a gift that will cause Him to smile at me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Luck of the Draw

I am deviating from my plan again today. Maybe I should bail on the plan and just blog. Anyways, today the FIFA World Cup draw was announced. 32 National teams will vie for the coveted World Cup trophy starting next June in South Africa. Here are the first round groups:

A:South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

B:Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

C:England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia

D:Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

E:Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

F:Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

G:Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

H:Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

Overall it looks like a good draw. But let me comment on each group.

Group A

The host nation always gets in the first group and a guarantee to play in the first game. Unfortunately this year's host doesn't have a very strong team (World wise). This should mean that the other three teams will be battling to get to the second round. That is until you realize that no host nation has EVER failed to advance. If that holds true then this is a "Group of Death". Les Bleus (France for those that don't know) recent string of luck (can you say no call handball Thierry Henry?) continued by being drawn into this group. Any other group and it would be almost certain they would not move on. As it stands they have a chance. Prediction: Mexico and South Africa to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group B

Argentina should advance fairly easily in this group. The tricky part is picking the runner-up. Nigeria has always played well at the WC. South Korea made a great run in 2002. Greece won the European championship not too long ago. Prediction: Argentina and South Korea to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group C

The most intriguing group if you are a US fan. The first group game pits the Brits against the Yanks. It should be a great game. I would give a slight edge to the US because they are familiar with the South African environment. However, this game could go either way, so I'm predicting a draw. The other two teams in the group had to win playoffs to get to the WC. I don't see them as being too tough, but you can't overlook them either. Prediction: US and England to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group D

Germany advances easily in this group. Let's not count out the Aussies and the Ghanians however. Both have shown strength and could put up resistance. Serbia is done before the first whistle. Prediction: Germany and Ghana (sorry Aussies) to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group E

This one could be a toss-up. I think the Netherlands will be too strong for any of the other teams, however this one isn't as easy to call. Of the other teams Japan and Cameroon should be the strongest, yet the Danes played well in qualifying and won their group. Prediction: Netherlands and Cameroon to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group F

This should be a no-brainer for Italy to advance. Paraguay should take second, but it's hard to count out Slovakia. New Zealand might be a spoiler, but I doubt it. Prediction: Italy and Paraguay to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group G

Brazil and Portugal need I say more? OK, I will. It's North Korea's first WC since 1966 when they stunned the Portuguese. Won't happen this time. The Ivory Coast with Drogba could pose problems and will likely get a win and a draw but it won't be enough. Prediction: Brazil and Portugal to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Group H

Spain looks like a shoe-in for this group. Picking a second place team is a toss-up. To me (and I admit I'm biased) I see Chile advancing. The Swiss play well so it could be that they take second. Honduras are tenacious and could produce a surprise 3rd CONCACAF team in the second round, but I doubt it. Prediction: Spain and Chile to advance as Winner and Runner-Up

Groups of Death

I don't think there is a classic "Group of Death" in the tournament. Groups A, E, and H could become such after the first games are played. Historically one can look at groups and determine a Group of Death (meaning a good team will not advance to the second round). This yea the draw seems to have played out so that no group can be automatically classified as such.

Finals Prediction

My final four for this WC are Brazil, Italy, Spain and England. I have Brazil beating Italy and Spain beating England (on penalties of course). Brazil will lose to Spain and the Spaniards will lift the cup at the end of the day. Fernando Torres will be crowned player of the tournament although he will finish second to Kaka for the golden boot.

There you have it. In six months all of this will be wrong and if not can someone please pick me up off the floor?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Christmas Sports Wish

NOTE: I am deviating from my blog plan today

I have a Christmas wish. Unfortunately I need the wish to come true before Christmas. You see I have a specific wish just to piss off the BCS. Here is my wish:

I wish that Texas loses to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game

You see we already know that either Florida or Alabama will lose in the SEC title game. I'm hoping it's Alabama because I think they are the weaker of the two teams. TCU is ranked 4th currently in the BCS standings even though they are a non-BCS school. Don't ask me to explain how some schools in the FBS are BCS schools and some are not. It is in all reality STUPID! However money talks and this is what we have. Anyways, I digress.

Now if Texas loses to Nebraska then Texas should drop below TCU in the BCS standings. The loser of Florida and Alabama should also drop below TCU. This would mean that TCU would be ranked #2 in the BCS and automatically play in the BCS championship game (the winner of Florida vs Alabama would be #1).

Now, I'm not above a conspiracy theory here. So here's a scenario that could change this. If Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh in the Big East championship game there is a possibility it could vault TCU. It shouldn't happen, but hey we are talking about significant money here. Also, it is entirely possible that a one-loss Alabama or Texas could still remain above TCU. Again money talks and formulas can be "tweaked" to get a "satisfactory" result. So here the best scenario is that both Texas and Cincinnati lose this week.

If TCU were to play in the National Championship game it would be the ultimate BCS buster. It would of necessity drive the BCS to revamp their formula because now someone has busted their championship game. I think it would take them about all of a month to come up with new rules that would prevent a non-BCS team from playing for a national championship.

So Santa if you're listening, be good to the non-BCS schools and bring us a Texas loss this week.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

Today I’m going to discuss the carol “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”. The Lyrics are:
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heaven and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace, their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The carol is about the visit of the angels to the shepherds in the field. The angels were sent to declare tidings of great joy unto all people. The shepherds were then instructed to go to the City of David (Bethlehem). They went in haste to see this thing that was declared unto them and were able to praise the name of God for seeing the Messiah.

The third verse invites all of us to stop for a moment no matter where we are in life and listen. When we listen we can hear the angels sing. The tidings of great joy are there for us to hear and follow if we will but listen.

The fourth verse talks about the whole world sending back the song the angels sing. The song? It is this:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men

May we all learn to sing the song the angels sung of Christ’s birth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Starting the Holiday Season

It's the holiday season and I've decided to blog every day until Christmas (and then see where it goes). Now these blog entries are going to deal with Christmas. I know there are a lot of Holidays right now and that each religion has their Holy days. However, I'm going to focus on Christmas and the carols that come with it. Up today is "O Little Town of Bethlehem". Here are the lyrics:

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Bethlehem was prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah. As we read in Matthew 2:3-6:

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Now if we examine the lyrics we see why this is a favorite carol. The first verse discusses the quiet solitude of Bethlehem. It was not (as far as I can tell) a major city in Judea. However it is here that Jesus was born. The second verse talks about how the angels kept watch and the morning stars proclaimed His birth. The third verse talks about the gift given to man by the birth of the Savior. In John 3:16 we read:

16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The ending of the third verse is poignant. "Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in." This is the gift given to us, that He may enter our lives and bring us out of sin if we will follow Him and keep His commandments.

The fourth verse is probably not as well known. At least I can't recall hearing it in the recordings of this song. However, I feel that this is a prayer each of us who believe that Jesus is the Christ should have in our hearts. To willingly invite Him in to change us and become like him is our goal in life.

My plan is to each day take a Christmas carol and do a similar analysis.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm Feeling a Little Cryptic

Moroni 10
November 18

So I just finished reading an interesting book called Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. It deals with World War II and a big chunk of the book deals with encrypting and decrypting messages. Above you see an encrypted message. The message is encrypted with an algorithm of my making (see below to get the decrypted message). Anyways, the book obviously got me thinking about encryption and the importance of secrecy.

It seems today that we let our secrets out more and more. With the proliferation of social networks, blogs, discussion forums, comments on articles, etc we have the opportunity to share our lives in ways our parents never did. Does it seem odd that the more we crave privacy, the more we share on the web? Everywhere you turn you see ads that claim to "protect your identity". However, if we didn't share so much on the web would we need said protection? I get it that buying things online exposes us to ID theft. However most (if not all) reputable sites take the appropriate protections to ensure safety.

Anyways, back to the book. It's an interesting piece of fiction with a view on the war that involves not so much the gory details of a battlefield as it does the battle of minds. The book moves along at a good pace. It has several twists and yet has several parts that are "foreseeable". There were times where I figured out what was going to happen and then there were times where I was surprised.

The only downside to the book was the ending. It felt rushed. Of course after 1100+ pages I guess the ending had to occur this way. I did enjoy the book and am tempted to get another Neal Stephenson novel.

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering here is the decrypted message:

If you can read this before getting to the bottom of the blog entry you have broken my code

Everything you need to break my encryption code is contained in the original message. If you are geeky (and brave enough) give it a try with this one:

Jacob 7
November 18

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So I Turned 40

Hey glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future
- Brad Paisley

Yesterday was a milestone birthday for me. Yes I turned the big 4-0. There was screaming in the aisles, panic in the streets and even some crying. As I look back on the 40 years of my existence I realize that this world has come a long way. So here are the things that stick out in my memory of the last 40 years:


The world of entertainment has come a long way. Some ways have been good, other ways not so good. For instance, the first TV I remember was Black and White and didn't have a remote control. We then moved to a color TV. Then it wasn't good enough to just get over the air television. A little something called Satellite TV started (even though we didn't have it). The next move was cable TV. How many channels? How could we possibly watch them all? We've gone from Analog to Digital signals to High Definition and who knows what they will think of next. Video games went from huge machines in an arcade to little handheld devices. Computers went from mainframes to PCs. I could go on and on and on, what with the web and email, video conferencing, blogging, social media, etc.


Communications have evolved as well. Growing up we had what was called a party line. That's where two houses share the same physical connection but have different phone numbers. So you had to be careful when you picked up the phone so that you didn't hear the neighbors conversations. Of course the phones started as Rotary dials (how many of you have even seen a rotary dial phone?). Now they are moved to push button and are no longer required to be tethered to a wall outlet. But that wasn't good enough. Satellite phones and cellular phones became prominent and now we have Smart Phones that let us combine computer and communications.


Do I even have to mention any of this? Let's just think about it. The 70's. Enough said. The 80's. Enough said. The 90's? Not too bad. The 00's? Well if the 70's and 80's have made comebacks in this decade you can imagine what my children will say when they write their blog entry (if it's even called that) when they turn 40.

Science Fiction

Ok, I admit it, I'm a geek. No surprise there. If you look at the Science Fiction that has been written there have been some great things put out. Four TV sequels to Star Trek (1 at least that was popular). Stargate, Dune (in movie form), Sanctuary, Farscape, V, and we could go on and on. I've read a ton of books, some better than others. Overall I think that Science Fiction has come a long way.

Sesame Street

Yes Sesame Street and I are the same age. Of course if you ask anyone there are times when I'm just like some of the characters. I mean how can I not be goofy like Bert and Ernie? Or try to convince others that I have a big friend like Big Bird (Mr Snufalafogus for those who don't know) that no one else has seen? I've been hungry like Cookie Monster, as grouchy as Oscar, and as zany as Grover.


From an historical perspective there was a lot that has gone on. A man on the moon happened the year I was born. The Iran Hostage situation. The Gas shortage in the 70's. The Cold War coming to a close and the Berlin Wall being brought down. The fall of Apartheid in South Africa. The First Gulf War. 9/11 a day that changed our thinking. The first African American president of the United States was elected. Democracy has been given to peoples who never thought they would have it. For example, I was there when Chile held their first elections after Pinochet decided to step down.

The Big Question

No one has asked me but I think it has to be addressed. "Am I where I thought I would be at 40?". I don't think I can answer this one as I never put down on paper (electronic or otherwise) where I wanted to be when I turned 40. Let's just take a look at where I'm at. One: I have the most wonderful wife in the whole world (and I'm not just saying that because I got an iPod Touch for my birthday). Two: I have five wonderful (although sometimes challenging) children who love me as fiercely as I love them. Three: I live in a wonderful area (except in July and August when it feels like we live in Hades) with a beautiful home and great neighbors. Four: I have a stable job that provides for my family and allows me to keep life in balance. Five: I'm healthy (even if today I'm coughing and feverish). So overall I would have to say that I am exactly where I want to be and have no regrets.

Finally, if the next 40 years are like the previous 40 years I'm going to be one happy 80 year old man.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Game in US

The people who are trying to win the bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup are holding a contest. They have asked for people to write in and share how the game is in each of us. I thought I would share my entry with everyone. Here it is:

I coach a team of 5 and 6 year olds in their second year of soccer. The game is just barely becoming part of them. They are learning the basics; dribbling, shooting and being part of the team. Most importantly they are learning to have fun while playing soccer. The World cup is a way for these children (who will be 14 -16 in 2018) to increase the game that is in them, the game I am putting in them through coaching.

The kids I coach are taught that the first rule of soccer is to have fun. If you’re not having fun while playing, the game can’t be in you. To see the kids smiling and enjoying the game shows me that it is in them. Soccer is also in me. I have played it since I was seven. I have always been enamored with the game. I’m one of the few who espoused soccer when there wasn’t a professional league here.

I had the opportunity to take my Father and my oldest son to the USA – Mexico match a couple of years ago in Phoenix. My son was 6 at that time. We were sitting in what most would call hostile territory. It didn’t matter. My son was into the game. He was chanting with the fans. The game was in him that night. Now as my second son begins his playing career of soccer, the beautiful game is growing in him. This is how the game grows in them. I have no idea where my son’s playing career will end up, but this much I know; the game is in him now and will be for life.

The World Cup in 1994 changed the view of soccer in the states. It can do it again in 2018.

You see I'm a little bit passionate about soccer. But I know that just like other sports, the only way the next generation can gain a love of the game is by helping them to learn it. That's the reason I'm coaching my 2nd son's team. They are playing U6 (5 and 6 year olds to those of you who don't know). It is at this age that kids begin to learn to love or not to love certain sports. So I have entered the contest. Do I think I will win it? Of course not. But hey at least they can read what I feel to be the most important part of getting the game in us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Concert of a Lifetime

And you know its time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance U2 A Sort of Homecoming

Last night was the U2 concert here in Phoenix. My wife surprised me on Monday night as so:

U2 has been my favorite band since, well since I was old enough to have a favorite band. I guess you could say that their music has clicked with me. And even though I have been a fan forever, I haven't (until last night) attended a concert. I should warn you that if you are going to the concert there are spoilers ahead so be aware that you might get information you would rather see first.

First off, traffic and parking were HORRENDOUS! Traffic I can understand, it's not very smooth on the West side of Phoenix and it took us 2 hours to get to the exit where the stadium was. It took us another 45 minutes to go the last 3/4 mile and then to get in and park. I swear they hired the local elementary school crossing guards to do parking. Several sections of the lot were closed off making the parking even more troublesome. Definitely not worth the $20 fee to park. It also meant that we missed the opening act which was Black Eyed Peas. Now I wasn't that bothered with missing them, but it would have been nice to feed on the energy they have before U2 took the stage.

The stage cost $40 Million (yes Million) to create. Worth every penny if you ask me. There is a screen that shows the band playing and other effects throughout the concert. The coolest thing about the screen is that it is really multiple screens that can be separated and re-integrated. Our eyes are such good integrators that at one point I did a double take because I hadn't realized that the screen had come back together again.

Here is a (not so good) picture of the screen separated:

As for the music, well it IS U2. Granted I didn't know all the lyrics to all the songs (something about having a family and being really busy) but I did remember most of them. The funniest looks I got at the concert is when I knew the lyrics to The Unforgettable Fire. I was surprised that this song would be chosen, but I was very happy as I love that song.

Overall it was a good mix of old and new songs. Many favorites with only a couple of albums not being represented. Probably my favorite songs of the night were:

  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
  • One
  • Sunday Bloody Sunday

Now of course it wouldn't be a U2 concert if there weren't a few messages in it. Tonight's message was one of Peace and MLK was dedicated to the Burmese opposition political leader Aung San Suu Kyi. MLK is another of my favorites and a song I sang to my children while rocking them at night. A fitting tribute to someone who is a political prisoner.

There were 2 "encores". The first started with the Reverend Desmond Tutu giving a message about all of us being one. Of course the band came back and played One. A great rendition. The second encore began with an Alien cartoon character delivering a similar One message. The band returned with a "space-like" microphone.

The ending of the concert was weird. I mean it didn't have the same kind of "good-night" ending I am used to at concerts. However, there was nothing wrong with the ending. I left the concert moved which is why U2 is my favorite band. The music has a message and can be applied to several life situations. Matter of fact it was the music of U2 that helped me during a time of depression when I was a teenager. So check one off the bucket list. Hard to beat this birthday gift. I had the best time and will definitely remember this concert.

Here are some more pictures I took during the concert. They're not great quality, but hey that's not the point :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hockey In the Desert

You may have seen the news that Wayne Gretzky resigned as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes this week. It was the end of an experiment. Now I'm not as much of an avid follower of the Coyotes as AZJazzyJ is of the Diamondbacks, however I follow them close enough to understand that this was probably a good thing.

In case you are unaware, the Coyotes are going through bankruptcy proceedings. There are two bidders to buy the club, The NHL and Jim Balsillie (you know the Blackberry guy). The NHL wants the Coyotes to stay in Phoenix. Balsillie favors moving the team to Hamilton Ontario. This has produced a long drawn out battle that has yet to be decided. Anyways back to Gretzky.

If you have heard of hockey at all you have heard of "The Great One". Gretzky is the best player to have ever laced them up. The debate (as some would say) is settled. He is the all-time leading goal scorer and produced several Stanley Cup championships. He had a feel for the game that others could only hope to attain. Herein is why I believe that Gretzky failed as a coach.

You see in every athlete there are two parts to the game. The talents you are born with and the things that you learn. You have to have both in order to become great. Gretzky was one of those rare athletes (similar to Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer) that could combine his natural talent with his learning to produce greatness.

As a coach it is your responsibility to teach your players to perform; to create as it were a system by which they can play. A lot of that teaching is from what you have learned either as a player or through experience as coaching. This is your job. However the one thing that you can't (at least that I have seen) teach is your instincts and natural talent. It just can't be done.

Wayne Gretzky, I believe, tried to teach what came naturally to him and couldn't do it. There could be several reasons for this. Among them:

  • The talent wasn't there to execute
  • Gretzky's instincts are still light years beyond today's player
  • His team did not grasp that by playing the way he taught it would make them better

This makes it difficult to produce a winning team. Gretzky's coaching record bares this out. It doesn't help also that the team is losing money and can't afford to bring in more talent to help the core group. Shane Doan is a great player, but without a supporting cast (as Gretzky had with Messier for example) teams can neutralize him.

I'm not making an excuse for Gretzky. His system did not work with the Coyotes. It was time for a change. Hopefully Wayne will get the chance to teach again and hopefully he has learned that some things cannot be taught. If so, then he stands a good chance for success. The Coyotes will move along without him.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tax the Wealthy

Yes I said it, tax the wealthy! But it's not what you think. You see I got to thinking after BYU got trounced by Florida State that Florida State could still play for the BCS championship if they get a little help. BYU on the other hand has no chance at the championship game or even a BCS game because of this one loss.

My proposal is to borrow the philosophy of the Obama administration for the FBS. You see not every team that is in the FBS is in the BCS and therefore they don't have a chance to play in a BCS bowl unless a ton of things go right (that's why they call them BCS busters). So the plan is to "tax the wealthy". In this system the BCS schools make the most and need to pay their fair share, while the other schools belong to the middle-class and need help to get up to the level of the BCS schools.

My plan is to have the NCAA tax the BCS schools at 30% at the end of the college football season. The tax is on every dollar that the BCS football program brings in (notice NOT profit). The money is put into a pool that will be evenly distributed to the non-BCS FBS schools. This way the non-BCS schools will have more money and will be able to compete better with the BCS. Eventually everyone will be equal and all schools in the FBS will be eligible for the BCS championship without having to jump through (over, around, etc) the major hoops that now stand in their way.

I mean if the President of the US believes that distributing the wealth will bring everyone up why should we not apply that to college football? So I say it's time to tax the wealthy and compensate those middle-class FBS teams that are put down by the elite BCS teams.

Of course a football playoff might actually be less expensive and allow teams to settle the issues on the field, but hey that's capitalism and I think that's a four letter word now.

Monday, September 14, 2009


So the other day on Plurk there was an entry called "Lame Bumper Sticker: Shai-Hulud is my co-pilot". Of course being an avid fan of Dune I wanted one. Well I started thinking and have come up with a few Dune Bumper Stickers for our time. . .

On Global Warming

Don't blame me! I'm wearing a Stillsuit!

On Honor Students

My Fremen son just beat up your Imperial Sardaukar

On Alternate Vehicles

My other car is a 40 meter Sandworm

And finally:

On the 2012 Election

Atreides - Stilgar 2012

I think it's safe to say that my Geek card will not be revoked.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Father-Son Conversation

Last night I had the opportunity to take my oldest son out and get a Halloween decoration he wanted. Being high-functioning autistic he was obsessed with this decoration. I didn't imagine that we would have the conversation that we did when we set out.

After we had bought the decoration we started out at home. Levi started discussing about when we die how we will come back to life. So we got into the whole discussion about resurrection. I explained to Levi that Jesus was resurrected and because He was resurrected we all get to be resurrected. It's a free gift given to us by Him. I then went on to explain how that after we are resurrected we get to sit down with Jesus and review our life. If we have done good and repented for the things that we did wrong and lived our lives as Jesus wants us to then we get to live with Him and God. Now in my religion that place is called the Celestial Kingdom. If you didn't quite live up to Jesus teachings (remember I'm explaining this to an eight year old) then you would live in the Terrestrial Kingdom. If you decided not to follow Jesus (you are always given a chance to accept Him) then you would be assigned to the Telestial Kingdom.

After my explanation, my son looks at me and says "I believe in Jesus Dad." That made me happy. You see we have always taught Levi what we believe but we haven't forced anything on him. We have always told him that he needs to make up his own mind when it comes to the church. So to hear him say he believes in Jesus is a good thing to me.

This time has taught me as well. That the kids are listening even when it seems that they are not. It gave me hope that as a parent I'm doing the right things to bring up my child correctly. It also reminded me that sometimes you need to turn everything else off and just talk with your child.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

One Great Man

On Wednesday September 2nd 2009 one of the greatest men I've ever known passed away. My maternal Grandfather taught me much in this life and I was privileged to have almost 40 years of life with him in it.

My first memories of Grandpa Sam are of his house with Grandma. His house was clean and we were always asked to behave and be as quiet as possible. I would sit at my father's feet while the adults discussed things I couldn't grasp. Later I would understand that they were talking about family and life in general.

When I was a little older, Grandpa had a cabin on Chautauqua Lake in Upstate NY. We would visit him on weekends in the summer and the highlight of the visit was always fishing. There were two places to fish, the dock and from the boat. Here Grandpa could teach us important life lessons. The first was patience (you can't fish if you don't have patience). Here also we learned about how to catch fish. We were introduced to some of Grandpa's greatest one liners. For example we couldn't catch a thing unless we started out by reciting Grandpa's fishing call. "HERE FISHIE, FISHIE, FISHIE!" The trick to this call was to go as deep as possible with your voice. The deeper your voice the larger the fish we would catch. The second lesson learned was how to properly bait a hook with a worm. Grandpa would always remind us to bite the head off the worm before putting it on the hook. You were guaranteed to catch a fish if you bit the head off.

On a more serious note, there is one experience with my Grandpa that taught me the importance of respecting women and my mom more importantly. We were at my Grandpa's house. He had a miniature pool table and I was always playing on it. Well my mom decided it was time to go and called us to get in the car. I was probably 9 or 10 and told my mom I would be out when I finished my game. Quick as lightening my Grandpa's hand seized my wrist and in his sternest voice told me "When your mother says it's time to go, you go." I learned that day how important respect for mothers and women was and have tried to live my life in the same way.

Grandpa loved to golf. When I was a teenager I spent several rounds on the links with him. We would talk about life and golf. It was a great time. I got to know not only my Grandpa, but also his friends and family because of the stories he would tell me. I learned how important family is during this time. I also learned some secrets to golf. Like Grandpa's famous "Ancient Chinese Secret" to golf: "He who play peekie-peekie, play lousy golf."

Grandpa loved to laugh. He would laugh at life, jokes and the ironic. His laugh was contagious. I enjoyed hearing it and it will be one of the things I miss. To me Grandpa will always be swinging a golf club or taking a fish off a hook.

I said before that Grandpa is one of the greatest men I know. Really he is one of the two men who have greatly influenced my life (the other being my father). I hope that I am living up to the example he set for me.

My Grandfather will be greatly missed by me. I will never fish or golf without thinking about him. I will not look at my family without thinking if I am living up to the example he has set. I hope that I can impart the stories of my Grandpa to my children and grandchildren and that they will be able to learn as much from him as I have. Hit 'em straight Grandpa, I will see you again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tiger's Prowling

So the last two Sundays I have watched an amazing performance. Tiger Woods has won the last two weeks on the PGA tour. Sound easy? Not so fast my friends (hey a Lee Corso reference means college football must be starting soon, but I digress). First you have to consider what it takes to walk a golf course for four days straight in the summer. Second you have to factor in travel. Third there are charity events and practice rounds and media interviews. It's no wonder these guys don't play every week.

Now consider that Tiger didn't do enough to outpace the field in each of the first three rounds of the last two tournaments. He was in the hunt on Sunday meaning the red shirt would be on, but still he had to execute his game in order to win. The poor guys that play with him. It has to be one of the most stressful times in golf. It's probably akin to guarding Michael Jordan in his prime during the NBA finals. It's intimidating to say the least.

However, yesterday it looked as if Tiger had flinched. On 14 Tiger hit his second shot right of the green and tried to flop the ball over a sand trap to get an up-and-down par. He miss-hit it and landed in the sand. The result a bogey. Had Tiger flinched? Harrington made par on the 14th and both golfers parred the 15th. That lead to the 16th where both players tee shots left something to be desired. Woods hit his second shot to within 181 yards in the middle of the fairway. Harrington hit his further but it was in the rough just outside a fairway bunker. This is where it all changed and Harrington ended up flinching.

Tiger pulled out his 8-iron. I don't know about you but I would have been hitting a 6 or a 5 depending on the wind. An 8-IRON! The announcers were talking about him hitting left of the hole about 25 feet. That's not Tiger's game. Instead Tiger hits the shot about 183 yards (again with an 8-IRON) that landed about 6 to 8 feet left of the hole and spun back to within a foot. I don't know about you but if I'm Harrington seeing that shot I know I have to get it close enough to save par.

Harrington hit his shot to the back right of the green (did I mention the right front of the green was guarded by water?). He had an impossible lie to try and get it close for par. He tried a flop shot, but unfortunately it looked like me out there and came out way too hot. The shot rolled off the green and into the water. Padraig had to walk back down the fairway to the drop zone and ended up making triple bogey. A four shot swing that sealed the tournament for Tiger.

This week the PGA Championship is being played. It is the season's last major. It is also Tiger's last chance to win a major this year. The way he is playing right now I think the field should be thinking of what to do with the second place money. Although it is hard to win on Tour three weeks in a row, Tiger is on his game and may just run away with it to prove the point that he is the best golfer in the world. I will be watching and yes rooting for Tiger to pull this off.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Family Vacation Part I

OK, so two weeks away from the Arizona heat to spend time with family sounds like a lot of fun right? You bet it was! And now for a little recap of the vacation:

Day 1: Traveling to Utah. 10+ hours in the car with 5 kids. Not getting into an accident when some idiot forgot to tie down his empty blue water barrel? Priceless. As a side note, the spin created on the blue barrel was quite a site and the reactions of the motorists to not only avoid the barrel but a 10 car pile up was amazing. Of course the driver who lost the barrel had no idea the panic he caused and deserved every gesture every driver gave him passing by.

Day 2: Sunday meant baby blessing. The newest addition to the extended family was blessed by his father and was a great day for all family involved. A short luncheon was held afterward and it was good to see everyone. Later that day we had another family reunion where we visited the birth-father of our 5 year old. It was great because we didn't get to spend a lot of time with him when the adoption occurred. We got to visit with him and his mother and got some great stories. We also got to see where some of the traits of our 5 year old originated.

Day 3: Hiking Mount Timpanogos. My Brother-in-Law gets full marks for carrying the one year old up the mountain in the backpack. She fell asleep at least twice. The caves were amazing. I think the kids were in awe of what this world can create. Of course there had to be some excitement and using the emergency potty pouches qualifies for that. For some reason boys have to go when they get cold. Who would have thunk it?

Day 4: Golf and the Ropes Course. Doing team building exercises was a lot of fun. Everyone had ideas and nobody chickened out. Super high marks go to our 6 year old who had to do the rope swing twice. The first time the catchers missed her and she swung back to the pack. But leave it up to her to get right back on that rope and swing again. The most thrilling part of the ropes course? The 40 to 50 foot swing. You get harnessed in and then pulled up to the top where you have to let go of a rope to free fall about 10 feet and then begin to swing. All the kids did it at least once (so did the adults) and most of them did it twice. The rock wall was more of a challenge and not all of us made it to the top.

Day 5: Lagoon. Roller coasters, Blast Off and Reentry, Scramblers, and various other rides. What more needs to be said? The kids and adults had a blast. A lot of sun was gotten as well. Best ride? Reentry (even if I did close my eyes for the first drop).

Day 6: Up. Movie day. I stayed with the toddlers so they could get a nap (and not waste money on a ticket to a movie I wouldn't have seen). According to all who saw it "Up" is as good as it gets.

Day 7: Down time and reunion with 6 year old's birth mother. It was good to have a day of resting after the first few jam-packed days. We met up with our daughter's birth mother at a park where she was able to meet her half-siblings as well as her birth grandparents and uncle.

Day 8: Extended Family Picnic and Date Night. So we had an extended family picnic where we met up with my in-laws families. They're a good bunch and fun was had by all (even if volley ball wasn't up to our usual Olympic standards). Later that day the adults went out to dinner. Our first choice had a 90 minute wait and so we went to Red Fish. As usual the food was good and the conversation as well. Best line? Mother-in-Law: "If I looked like you I would be able to eat like that as well." You can imagine the jokes and other lines that this sparked.

Day 9: Church and Reunion with Oldest's Birth Mother. Going to church with five kids is always an adventure. Somehow we survived without interrupting the reverence too much. Later in the afternoon we met up with the 8 year old's birth mother at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. He was able to meet his half-siblings and talk about what they liked to do (his is swim, his half-brother's is run). At the end of the meeting it started to rain and was quite refreshing as the heat and humidity were starting to get annoying.

Days 10 and 11: Mostly down time. We did go to the Farm and Dinosaur Museum at Thanksgiving Point. The kids got to touch different animals, ride a horse-drawn wagon and look for gnomes amongst the dinosaurs. The best part of the Dinosaur museum is the erosion table. Here the kids can see what water can do to soil and how it can bury animals to create fossils. Golf was also played at the Rances. The low score was 103 for 18 holes, not bad, but we could have done better.

Day 12: Reunion with Youngest's Birth-mother and Girls get away. We were able to meet in West Jordan with our youngest's birth mother. It's amazing to see how similar the two of them are. Again there were half-siblings there and all the kids played on the play sets. It's great to get caught up on the lives of these incredible birth parents and find out how well they are doing. Later that day the "Girls" went shopping and I watched the kids (yes all 10 of them). Grandpa did come over to enjoy the site of cousins playing together. There was very little (if any) fighting that occurred. A lot of sun was gotten by the kids (not enough sunscreen duh!).

Day 13: Another Movie Day. We went and saw Ice Age 3. Well that is all but Cheryl and my Sister-in-law. See we didn't get a babysitter for the toddlers and so all four of them sat outside while the rest of us were in 3-D heaven. Later that night a different group of us went and saw "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". I was very impressed by the film even though it did have some omissions I thought were critical to the story. The movie ended at midnight which meant a short night's sleep.

Day 14: Friends and Dinner. This was our last day and we had made arrangements to have lunch with friends who were also in town. We hadn't seen Jared in about 4 years so it was good to meet them at Ruby River and catch up on old times. They are moving to Virginia so who knows how long it will be until we get to see them in person again. The adults were able to get out one more time sans children for dinner at Famous Dave's. Trash Can Lid Feasts for everyone! Literally you can order the Feast and it comes out served on a garbage can lid. Ribs, Brisket, Chicken, Pork, Corn on the cob, French Fries, Coleslaw and Beans. Did I mention we had to be wheelbarrowed out of the place? Well worth it.

Day 15: Time to head home. The trip back is the hardest part. Everyone is tired and traveling 10 hours in a car and returning to 110 degree heat is not something people look forward to. However my wife, (did I mention she is the best mother in the world?) had a brilliant idea. . . Cooperation Dollars. It works like this. If you behave, you get a quarter for every 15 minutes we are in the car. At the end of the trip you get the money earned. If you misbehave a quarter or more is taken away. We didn't have any negative balances so I don't know what would have happened. Personally I think it would be great if my kids would pay me. All of the kids made good money which means we didn't have very many incidents on the way home. Also there were no signs of Blue water barrels joy-spinning on the highway so we didn't have to worry about that.

All in all a great vacation. Next up? All of us on an airplane to Buffalo for my Brother's Wedding. We may need a lot of cooperation dollars. . .

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's the Climb

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna want to make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

-- Miley Cyrus The Climb

If you've read some of my previous blog entries you know that music has a way of inspiring me to think about life. The song quoted above has done this to me once again. In this case it has sparked an introspection on what life is really about.

I believe that there was a pre-mortal life. A life before we were born where in we made choices that led to us coming to this Earth. That pre-mortal life was a time spent with God learning about the ways in which we could be assured to live with Him forever. We made a conscious choice to follow the plan created by Him. Part of that plan was to come to this Earth.

So here we are in mortality. This is our climb. This is the time where we will prove ourselves worthy to return to God's presence. This is our chance to follow the plan and earn our spot in Heaven. "The Climb" has reminded me of this. We are climbing a mountain that will lead us back home. With that said, how do the lyrics of the song apply? I'm just taking the chorus although the verses are also good to explore.

"There's always gonna be another mountain. I'm always gonna want to make it move" - How many times have I seen this in my life. Another challenge. Another test of my faith. Another way for me to prove myself in God's eyes. I kind of like a challenge. A challenge inspires me to better myself and prove to myself that I have the ability to do things no matter what others might think or say.

"Always gonna be an uphill battle. Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose." - Nobody is perfect. We fail; it's part of being human. It's part of learning. It's part of growing. If battles were all downhill we wouldn't have to do much to achieve victory.

"Ain't about how fast I get there" - This reminds me of Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare fable. The moral of the story is "Slow and Steady Wins the Race". If we try to rush this life we will miss things that could be important. Also we may not complete that which is necessary to achieve our goal.

"Ain't about what's waiting on the other side" - This one I have to disagree with a little. What's waiting on the other side is the whole point of the climb. That said, the focus has to be on what we are doing in order to get there. This means that we need to put the proper priority on things and ensure that we are climbing and not just gazing at the end goal.

"It's the climb" - This is what this life is all about. Climbing the mountain of mortality in order to return to God's presence. What's waiting on the other side makes the climb worth it. However, enjoying and learning from the climb enriches our souls and makes us the best of God's children.

Each of us has our own mountains to climb. Mine are different than yours. No matter how many times I may fall down, I will get back up. Quitting is not an option and the climb is worth it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Things I learned at Cub Scout Camp

This week I had the opportunity to accompany my 8 year old son to Cub Scout Camp. The Camp runs 3 afternoons and is filled with many activities. This year the camp had a Pirate theme. We were assigned to Den 11 and here was our cheer:

Pirates don't go to heaven! We're Den 11! Aaargh!

There were 10 boys in our den and they did remarkably well. There were 6 areas where activities occurred. These areas were Pool, Crafts, Pirate Adventure, Games, BB Gun Range and Archery (I bet you can guess which ones were the boys favorites). There were some great life lessons taught and the boys had tons of fun while learning. Of course as a leader I learned a lot too. Here are the things I learned at Cub Scout Camp:

  1. 8 and 9 year old boys have energy no matter what time of day
  2. Webelos are the ultimate water balloon target
  3. Boys can eat when hungry (Pizza and Burgers at least)
  4. Listening is a skill they have acquired, no matter what you think about your child
  5. Competition is inborn to 95% of them, the other 5% learn it at camp
  6. I should be shooting a gun left handed (explains why I could never hit a target growing up)
  7. Popping balloons with arrows should be a part of every boys life
  8. Contrary to "A Christmas Story" boys don't necessarily shoot their eyes out when handling a BB Gun
  9. Boys fight and get over it, there is no grudge held (adults could learn a lot from this)
  10. Webelos are the best (except when a leader is pitching kick-ball to them then they think things are unfair)

I could go on, but needless to say the camp was great! The staff was great! The boys were . . . well GREAT! Me? I'm tired and ready to sleep.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Of Glee and Regret

Fox has come out with a new show called Glee. I don't know if I can watch it. It hits a little too close to home for me. At least the previews I've seen lead me to this conclusion. The basic premise is a teacher returns to High School to take over the Glee club. The previews show the politics of High School and the so called hierarchy of students (Jocks and such at the top, others down the ladder).

To me this hits home because growing up and through my Sophomore year I always sang in Chorus. I had a few solos in Elementary school and sung decently. I never was great (but I was pretty good I think). Even today I have a decent voice. I was also athletic and played soccer, basketball and baseball.

My Freshman year in High School I tried out for the yearly musical and got a backup singer's role. People told me to stick with it and I might get a more prominent role in the future. My Sophomore year I was invited to sing in the school's Show Choir.

It was this year that I made some decisions that I regret now. You see the politics mentioned above existed in my school (or at least in my perception they did). I felt as though my abilities to sing were a hindrance not a talent. I was embarrassed to be in Chorus, Show Choir and Musicals. In fact the first time I let this affect me was when Yearbook pictures were to be taken for the Show Choir group. The announcement came across the PA system and I just sat in my class instead of getting up and going to have the picture taken. Two more times the announcement came and twice more I slunk deeper into my chair to avoid going. It was one of the dumbest decisions I had ever made.

Needless to say the next year and my Senior year I did not participate in Chorus, Show Choir or Musicals. I moved away from friendships that could have blossomed. I now realize how much I missed out on and for what? It was stupid to be swayed by people's perception. I don't think I made that many more friends with the Jocks. In fact I lost a lot more than I ever gained because of that decision my Sophomore year.

Hopefully those who knew me at that time will understand that I gave in to a perception. I made a poor choice and missed out on what could have been a lot of fun. I missed out on building relationships with people and also blossoming a talent I have. I hope I didn't offend anyone (including the Chorus and Show Choir instructor Mrs. Dennis).

I have learned from this experience. I know that it is important to develop all the talents we have. I will strive to teach my children that a talent is to be cherished and shared. Hopefully they will learn from my mistake and not have the same feeling of regret I experience.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today is the 14th anniversary when I married the most wonderful (and beautiful) woman in the world. It's hard to describe exactly how I feel about her. She is my companion and best friend. I cannot think of a scenario where I would be able to live without her. She is a most wonderful Mom, friend and person.

I feel very inadequate of having such a wonderful person in my life. I don't know how in the world I got so lucky as to have her with me. The things I have learned from her and with her have enriched my life in ways that I never thought were possible. So as is usual with me and emotional things I have to express some of my thoughts through songs that I know. One that comes to mind is this:

She stares through my shadow
She sees something more
Believes there's a light in me
She is sure
And her truth makes me stronger
Does she realize
I awake every morning
With her strength by my side

I am not a hero
I am not an angel
I am just a man
Man who's trying to love her
Unlike any other
In her eyes I am

In Her Eyes - Josh Groban

In her eyes I see love and that makes me feel joyous and filled. That love completes me and makes me strive to better myself. They say life is a journey. If so, then I've found my perfect traveling companion.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Priceless Victory

"Oh Crap! I duffed it! Quick shield the ball and hope my teammate gets it first. There's Evan, phew, ok, move to get a pass. Dribble. There's Scott open in the middle but with four guys near, not good. Hold, dribble. Scott is making a run to the wall, pass it now. Run to goal. Scott's at the wall with a defender, wait here comes the ball off the wall, quick one-time it with the right foot. . . GOAL! YES! GAME OVER!"

That pretty much describes the 15 seconds of overtime as it played out in my head last Monday night. See for the last couple of months I have been playing with some friends in the neighborhood. Monday night was the first night of the playoffs. We had battled hard for 44 minutes (yes 22 minutes a half) and did not have a winner. 3-3 going into a five minute sudden death overtime. We won the toss and I had the kickoff. The rest is described above.

I cannot properly express the adrenaline rush I have felt since that moment. To score the game winning goal in overtime of a playoff game really has no description. You play the game you make choices and hope you get the chance on your foot to end the game. It happened to me and let me tell you I was sky-high afterward.

Now we wouldn't have been in that situation if we hadn't come together as a team and played our best game of the year. A couple of weeks ago this same team gave us an 8-3 drubbing. A couple of weeks before that we had beaten them 3-2. This was a matchup of similar teams. However we had to play our best in order to beat them. We played team defense and team offense. We built each other up, communicated and did the things that good teams do. It was a night to remember.

We also had our largest cheering section of the year and my three oldest children were able to attend (even though Cheryl and I had a long discussion on whether or not to let them). I'm glad they were there. It is rare that they get to see me play the game I love. I'm happy that they also enjoyed the game and understood what my goal meant. A couple days later my oldest said to me "Dad, I'm so glad I got to see you play soccer." I can't tell you all the emotions that brought out in me.

A great game with a great end and witnessed by my children, now that's priceless.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I Just Don't Get It

Ok, so I work with a diverse group of people. There are people from the right, left and center of the political spectrum. There are people from diverse nationalities, ethnicities and lifestyles. In my neighborhood we have different views on religion, politics, family upbringing, etc. These differences are known, however we all work together to solve issues and propose solutions that make the most sense.

So in the real world all these people work together and express their ideas. At the end of the day we all come together and the best ideas are chosen and work moves forward. It is amazing to see the willingness of all to come to a common solution.

So what I don't get is when these same people get into government this process of working together to come up with the best solution goes out the window. If you're on the left the right is always wrong and doesn't have any good ideas and vice versa. It's really confusing why in the day-to-day world of citizenry we can work together and come to a common consensus while in government it doesn't happen.

I think that both sides of the aisle have good ideas. I think that if they wanted to they could work together and move things forward. I think there are enough bright people in government to put aside the stupidity of party lines and work together to solve our problems.

So my question is, WHY DON'T THEY DO IT? I know I'm asking a lot of them. I mean really my business would get along fine if we had one side in power over another and all their ideas went forward without getting input from the other. I'm sure that my company would meet shareholder expectations by not finding the best ideas and implementing them. I mean after all the people in power always know what's best right?

The silliness that happens in our government reminds me of the kids on a playground. "My team's better than your team. You're team is stupid. You guys are losers!" I mean really why can't they grow up and get along?

I just don't get it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Autism Awareness Day

Today is Autism Awareness day. This day is particularly important to my family. Our oldest son Levi has been diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. So today is a day where I can help others understand what Autism is and what it is not.

Autism is defined as:

Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also include related conditions such as Asperger syndrome that have milder signs and symptoms.

- Wikipedia Autism

Autism is not easily defined. It is a spectrum. This means that there are varying degrees of autism. There are those that are severely affected by this disorder to where they cannot function in society. There are others who are "minimally" affected by the disorder and can function in society. This in no way diminishes the severity of the disorder because there are episodes that occur in high-functioning autistic people that can be problematic.

The following sentence was my way of trying to explain what it feels like to be autistic. It was pointed out that this might not be the best way to do this and I agree. I am constantly learning and will try to express my thoughts better as I grow. The biggest problem for the autistic person is the feeling of being trapped in their body.

They have a difficult time communicating what they feel. They have a hard time putting things together that most of us don't even think about. They can obsess about things and become a one-track mind.

A source for the disorder has not been found. It is one of the great mysteries in medical science. There have been theories, but none of them have proven to be the source for Autism. There are medicines that can help autistic people remain in control. There are diets that have shown promise to some autistic people.

As I said above our oldest son Levi (above) is high-functioning autistic. This is a blessing as well as a challenge. High-functioning means that he has the capacity to function as any other child. He can go to school with others his age and only have to receive help as needed. He does take some medication to help him be able to communicate better without getting so frustrated that he loses his temper.

Levi does obsess about things. It's usually the worst during the birthday/Christmas season (all of our birthdays fall between September and January). Right now he is obsessed with owning and caring for a hamster. It takes time to work with him to help him understand what it takes to care for a hamster. It takes time to help him understand the costs for having a hamster.

It takes patience to work with him on doing chores, explaining why he can or can't do certain things, understanding what he wants to do. It takes patience to know that when he says "I hate you! You're stupid!" that it's his frustration coming out and that deep down inside he does love you.

There are times though when the true Levi comes out. When he tells you that you are the best dad ever. When he does things on his own without being asked. When he plays with his siblings and shares and gives them help. The times when the light of discovery hits and he has wonder and awe in his eyes.

I hope that this has helped you understand autism better. I hope that if you see me with Levi and he seems to be on the attack you will understand that this is part of his disorder and not his real self. I hope that you will be able to ask what you can do to help in these situations. I hope you know that we as his parents are doing our best to ensure that his life is fulfilling and that he can function in society. And most importantly I hope you understand that autism is a challenge and that like any other challenge there are ways to overcome and that sometimes patience is the key. I hope you also know that I wouldn't change anything that has happened over the past 8+ years that Levi has been in my life. I have grown and learned and am a better man for having dealt with an autistic child.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What the frak?

What the frak? That pretty sums up how I felt about the end of the Battlestar Galactica series. At least at the end of the show. I've had a couple of days to think over the finale and decided that it makes some sense and takes a bold stab at certain perceptions here on Earth. So this is my review of the finale.

First the main character resolution was well done. It was real life in that people who deserved to die lived and people who deserved to live died. That said the one that blew me away was Kara Thrace (Starbuck). For the last few episodes she had been trying to figure out what/who she was. I have to admit I didn't catch the reference to Kara in Baltar's monologue about Angels. It didn't click until She up and disappeared when talking to Lee Adama. Then it clicked. She was the only "Angel" that was able to be seen and touched by everyone involved. The other two "Angels" (Baltar and Caprica 6 only seen by the real Baltar and Caprica 6) did not have that "privilege".

Now for the part that left my head scratching until I thought about it. At the end of the show it flash forwards to our time on the planet where the human and Cylon alliance members land and start without technology. This was a bold maneuver because it gave a theory of human advancement that I have not heard. It is basically this:

  1. Humans were created on Earth by a being who doesn't like to be called God
  2. In order to help their evolution "God" led the Humans and Cylons to this Earth in order to "breed" with them
  3. Humans are therefore a mix of evolution and "alien" DNA

Now whether or not this is correct is up to the Ronald Moore and David Eick, but this is my understanding.

There was one more theme that was put into this season that is a message to all of us. "This has all happened before and will all happen again." Basically stating that if we aren't careful we will destroy ourselves. The cycle has happened before (even in our own history, Rome, Mayans, etc). The point of the Human and Cylon alliance was to give a chance to the humans on Earth the opportunity to break the cycle.

Lastly it was interesting to see the take on God. That there is someone in charge of things, yet he only does enough to show that he is there and watching. That sometimes he guides man's destiny in order to ensure that mankind survives.

All in all I thought it was a good ending to a great show and that it will be one people look to as a benchmark in Sci-fi TV.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Value of Hard Work

Saturday I had to get some yard work done. I was mowing the yard when my 8 year came up and asked if he could do it. I had two choices: 1. Tell him it was too dangerous and have him go play or 2. Take the time to teach him and show confidence in his abilities to learn new things. I went with option number two.

The first thing we did was empty the current bag so that he had an empty bag to start with. I then showed him how to start the mower (it's a push mower). Now starting a mower with a pull rope is not easy, especially when you also have to hold down a bar. He tried a couple of times with no luck. I asked him if he wanted me to help him. He said no and so I let him continue. He was able to start the mower in two more pulls.

I then showed him how to engage the drive with another bar to make the mower move easier. I then showed him the line I was cutting to and had him begin. Now being 8 and not having any experience he didn't exactly follow the line. No big deal! When he got to the end of the line I showed him how to turn the mower and continue on. He ended up finishing the rest of the yard with a few missed spots. Once done I asked him to show me what he missed and we went back over those areas to finish up.

I have to admit that a part of me didn't want to take this time to show him as I knew it would take longer. But the other part of me remembered that it is important for children to learn how to work and that there is tremendous value in being able to perform some tasks.

I remember growing up in Western New York on 8 1/2 acres. I remember my Dad showing me how to work our lawn mower and being responsible for the lawn from an early age. I learned other things as well from my Dad including how to split and stack wood, how to start the fire in the furnace and keep it going, and myriad other "chores". This instilled in me the need to be able to perform tasks that would benefit me later in life when I had my own family.

Now I get the chance to do what my Dad did. Teach my children the value of hard work and the value in learning various tasks. I told my son that when we go to visit my Dad this fall that we might be able to split wood and stack it together. It would give me the opportunity to teach him as I was taught.

I truly think that in today's environment there are a lot of people who don't get to learn some of the tasks that teach the value of hard work. Too often the tasks that are asked of children are too easy and then they are allowed to go and watch TV or play video games. I look forward to helping my children understand the value of hard work and hope they would take the time to teach their children as well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Three Ring Circus

So Levi has been learning about migrations and as part of that he has learned about the migration west in the USA. He learned the Schoolhouse Rock song "Elbow Room". As a reward for learning this and performing it at school we bought the two DVD set of Schoolhouse Rock. It was something I'd been wanting to get as I was addicted to Schoolhouse Rock every Saturday morning. There is one song about the government that seems to ring loudly today. It's called Three Ring Government. Here are the lyrics:

Gonna have a three-ring circus someday,
People will say it's a fine one, son.
Gonna have a three-ring circus someday,
People will come from miles around.
Lions, tigers, acrobats, and jugglers and clowns galore,
Tightrope walkers, pony riders, elephants, and so much more...

Guess I got the idea right here at school.
Felt like a fool when they called my name,
Talkin' about the government and how it's arranged,
Divided in three like a circus.
Ring one, Executive,
Two is Legislative, that's Congress.
Ring three, Judiciary.
See it's kind of like my circus, circus.

Step right up and visit ring number one.
The show's just begun. Meet the President.
I am here to see that the laws get done.
The ringmaster of the government.

On with the show!

Hurry, hurry, hurry to ring number two.
See what they do in the Congress.
Passin' laws and juggling bills,
Oh, it's quite a thrill in the Congress.
Focus your attention on ring number three.
The Judiciary's in the spotlight.
The courts take the law and they tame the crimes
Balancing the wrongs with your rights.

No one part can be
more powerful than any other is.
Each controls the other you see,
and that's what we call checks and balances.

Well, everybody's act is part of the show.
And no one's job is more important.
The audience is kinda like the country you know,
Keeping an eye on their performance.

Ring one, Executive,
Two is Legislative, that's Congress.
Ring three, Judiciary.
See it's kind of like my circus, circus.

Gonna have a three-ring circus someday.
People will say it's a fine one son,
But until I get it, I'll do my thing
With government. It's got three rings.

Watching what's going on in Washington today seems like a three-ring circus to me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Racing Day

Levi participated in his first Pinewood Derby this past Saturday. For those who don't know this is an activity participated in by Cub Scouts. Now the rules state that the Cub Scout is to do as much of the work as possible. So this provided a great opportunity for Levi to learn a couple of things. The first was to design the car.

As you can see he went for a modern looking police car. He drew the design himself and so the next step was to carve the design out of the block of wood. I drew the design on the car and using a handsaw carved out the design. Now you are asking yourself how is it that Levi didn't carve out the car? Well I figured an 8 year old carving a desing with a handsaw was a bad idea. So instead I taught him how to cut wood with a saw without ruining his car. He thought it was cool to be able to cut wood with a saw.

The next step was to sand the car smooth so it could be painted. Levi did 95% of the sanding on the car. I did the remaining 5%. He learned that by smoothing the car it would run better on the track and be more aerodynamic.

Levi wanted to paint the car himself and do the painting design himself. This he did. Now was it a perfect paint job? No, but it was a good job for the first time an 8 year old was painting. After the first coat had dried, Levi went to sanding off again to get the drips and rough spots. A second coat was added and the car was ready to go.

The big day came and we went to the racing site where the car had to be checked in and weighed. The car could weigh up to 5 ounces. When we got there the car weighed about 3 ounces. So we added weights to get the car up to 4.9 ounces. As you can see it wasn't and elegant job so next time we will work on the weights better.

The above picture shows the start of Levi's first race with his car. He had four races total coming in 2nd, 4th, 4th, and 1st. He was very happy with his performance. Levi got the award for "Excellent Performance" as part of the activity.

Overall his first Pinewood Derby was a huge success. I can't wait to see what he thinks up for next year's car and how much more he will do to work on it. I left the activity feeling very proud of Levi as well as knowing that he learned several life lessons that will serve him well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Effects of the Economy

Usually I would be writing about one of my Pet Peeves, but today I need to write about something else. This week was a difficult one for us because of the economy. Now I didn't lose my job, but we did lose something vital to our family. As you know we have a couple of special needs children. Our fourth child Grace was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She has been receiving help from the State with 4 therapists coming into our home each week. This week we found out that because of budget cuts her therapies would be "suspended". Basically they are saying that she will receive no more therapy.

I had the opportunity to talk with Grace's support coordinator about the situation. Basically she explained that she didn't know when the services would be suspended but that they definitely would be. Grace's authorization comes due in March and we figure that is when the suspension will begin. She will still have a "support coordinator" (BTW, doesn't that seem strange that she gets a support coordinator but no services to support?), however she will not get the services she needs. The person I talked to said that they have a "book of ideas" that we can have to help us ensure Grace can progress.

Gratefully my wife is a stay-at-home mom. This means that she can work with Grace during the day and hopefully implement the "ideas" from the book. We will be OK (I think) but I can't help but wonder about other families that aren't as blessed as we are to have a parent in the home during the day to work with their children.

I completely understand that in this economy there have to be budget cuts. I get that everyone needs to sacrifice. This doesn't mean I have to like it. I can only hope that we will all look at how things are done in government and how the money is spent and impress on our leaders that there are programs and services that should have a higher priority than others. I also can only hope that others in our situation can find a way to help their children when the services stop. I know we are going to do everything we can so Grace can progress.