Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter Formal

I have a ton of pictures to share and a lot to tell. I'll try and keep it interesting but if I get boring feel free to move on. Friday morning I slept in. I felt I deserved it. I then took the morning to work on a job for another client who was paying a lot more money than Hi-Z was plus I made arrangements to get my cell phone switched over to a private account before Kyocera disconnected it. I then ran into Hi-Z to start working there. We have a big potential investor coming in next week so there is a lot to get done. We didn't have a chance to talk about any details of my employment so I guess that will have to wait. I then had to rush home from Hi-Z to go to see Mackenzie's dance recital. She did a wonderful job of course. I also learned that she is in the Miss Valley Center competition. That will be an exciting competition to go and watch. I think they said it is in March.

I was hoping to sleep in Saturday morning but I had to drive Sarah to a wrestling tournament. Sarah in a wrestling tournament you ask? As exciting as it would be to watch her wrestle she is only the team's statistition. She loves doing it and I'm sure they're glad to have her. The problem is that today is Winter Formal and Alex and his date were taking pictures at 4:30 but Sarah needed a ride home from the tournament. That is why I got the early shift. We still wanted to be home for when her ride came so we were just a bit concerned about the schedules. Alex's date lives in Rancho Santa Fe. Just in case you've never heard of Rancho Santa Fe, that community is known as the most expensive community in the United States. As we drove into one of their many gated communities it wasn't hard to believe. Their house is literally on the top of a mountain and the view is unbelievable. If you look in the picture taken from their back yard the hill on the horizon is Mt Soledad in La Jolla and to the left of that if you look closely is Coronado Island. You can see the ocean off to the right. It truly is stunning. I didn't dare ask what his house cost but he told me that the house down the road burned in the brush fire and it was worth twelve million dollars. Right across the valley was a huge house that he figured cost thirty million dollars and it looks like a castle. It even has a moat around it. The thing that makes me sick is that the owner of the house is only thirty years old. He made his bucks in the .com boom doing something on the internet. That just doesn't seem right. It was funny as he was telling us the story. He said that when they were building the house they were digging a huge hole. He and Bree (his daughter, Alex's date) went over to see what the hole was all about. He said it looked like they were putting in a bomb shelter or something, he thought maybe they were Mormons or something. We just smiled and listened to the story but Alex almost burst out laughing and had to walk away. Little did he know that his little girl was going to the dance with a Mormon. We took a ton of pictures and I will share some of them with you here. I threw in a picture of one of the other couples that was there because I thought you might find it interesting. The girl in this picture is Arianna and she was on American Idol. She passed the first round and is headed for Hollywood. Alex had no idea and we were watching American idol a couple of weeks back and she came on. Alex burst out, "I know that girl!!! I go to school with her." I guess this is proof that he does know her. After everyone was totally sick of getting their pictures taken we sent them off to the restaurant and then we got a tour of the house. They are very nice people and really down to earth. I think Bree is an only child, at least she is the only one home right now. We were invited to stay for some drinks but we had to pass and rush home to get some pictures of cute little Sarah before she left. We arrived not long after she did so we rushed around getting her ready to go. Sarah's ride showed up and I got some pictures of them together but they were rushed and it was already dark so I don't have too many pictures. That's a bit of a rip off for Sarah but hey, she's only fifteen and she is the one who wanted to do wrestling. It know this looks like a date but it really is more of a ride to the dance. It's a long story and I won't bore you with it. I figured that Lisa and I should go on a date but instead she dragged me out to do some shopping. Yay... and then we came back to the house and finished cleaning it up while Peter and Maren watched a movie. The movie seemed interesting and I'm thinking I want to watch it before they return it. When Sarah came home we sat and watched an episode of Monk that had been recorded. I should say I slept on the couch while an episode of Monk played on the TV. So that is my weekend so far. From all accounts it seems like it was a great evening for everyone. I'll hear more about Alex's night tomorrow. I'm going to bed.

Once you reach 80 years of age the probability of dying in the following year doesn't change. It remains at about 25% for the rest of your life no matter how old you get. After the age of 80, when you do die it is usually quick, relatively painless and low cost. The probability of dying in the next year is lowest at age 14 (0.02%) and increases exponentially after that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A New Beginning

I got laid off at work today. One of my greatest fears in life is the fear of being unemployed. I have survived dozens of layoffs in my career but until today I've never been the victim of one. Today I'm technically unemployed. I can't say it was a surprise and in many ways I consider it a blessing.

As you may know, I have been consulting for quite a while and the company I have consulted for the most is Hi-Z Technology. I worked for Hi-Z before I went to Qualcomm (now Kyocera) and I absolutely loved working there. The only problem was that they couldn't afford to give me a raise and with kids approaching college age I needed more money. Hi-Z has been wanting me to come back for quite a while and starting last fall I've been seriously considering it. I felt good about going and when I would pray about it I felt it was the right thing to do but I could never build up the nerve to make the move. It is hard leaving the security of a very large corporation for the high risk of a small start up.

Back in November we were told that Kyocera would be restructuring to try and save some money. They've never had a profitable year since they bought us in 2001 so I can't say that I blame them. It is easy to be the armchair quarter-back but it seems to me they've made some pretty bone-headed decisions along the way but they never asked me. Last year Kyocera bought Sanyo's mobile phone division and the announcement last fall was that they were going to consolidate the two companies. Consolidating always means getting rid of duplicate people but I wasn't too worried because Sanyo didn't have any battery people so I figured I would continue to develop batteries. Shortly after Christmas however it became apparent that Kyocera's group in Japan wanted to do the batteries for Sanyo so I became a little concerned. This week on Monday I heard a rumor that the batteries were going to Japan so I started making preparations. I talked to Hi-Z on Monday and they were thrilled to take me back so when I got the news this morning it was almost a relief. I am excited to go back to Hi-Z but it is still a bit scary. Hi-Z isn't a big company but it has huge potential and I guess it is partly up to me to make sure they realize their potential. I almost feel like I left Hi-Z ten years ago to receive the training preparation that I needed to go back and help them grow. I certainly have experience in high volume manufacturing and how a large corporation should be run so I have no excuse.

It was very strange this morning walking into Kyocera. It was like a morgue with the walking dead. Luckily I was one of the first to go so I didn't have to suffer. I sat at my computer and saw that I didn't have any meetings and for a while there I was almost afraid they wouldn't let me go. I couldn't bear the thought of being forced to stay and help them transition my work over to Japan. I pulled up my emails to start going through those and no sooner had I started when my boss came by and asked me to go with him. We went to a small office with a temporary HR guy (they must have had dozens of them) and the three of us went through what was being offered. Without going through the details I was offered a very generous severance package. It is tempting to take a very long vacation but that wouldn't be the responsible thing to do. They then told me that I needed to attend an informational meeting where the details would be explained to me. The information session was being offered all day long every hour starting on the hour.

I had time before the next meeting started so I went to pick up some boxes in the HR department and in several of the offices I could hear women crying. What a swarm of emotions. I was torn between being sad that my job that had given me so much was over and being excited about going to a job that although it was risky it was a job that I loved. All around me was sadness and misery but in my heart was excitement and joy. I started packing up my office and then went to the information meeting. The poor girl who was giving the presentation was crying because she too had been given notice. She had to give her presentation to all of us and then she two was packing up. How cruel.

I then finished packing up and before I took my laptop back I pulled all of the addresses out of my address book and I fired off a change of address to everyone I know. Handing in my laptop was much harder than I thought it would be. My entire life was in that thing. I did download all of my personal stuff (pictures, letters and financial records) but I didn't want to let it go. When I got to HR to hand it in I had to stand in line to get laid off. Somehow that doesn't seem right. Several people in the line were also crying. Kyocera's head legal council was there and since we've worked so closely together she gave me a big hug and told me how sorry she was for me. I held up my laptop and reminded her that there was a lot of legal stuff in there. She immediately turned to the guy taking laptops and told him that she wanted my laptop. I then went to say good bye to old friends and I have never hugged so many people in my life. It was weird, I felt like I was at a funeral. I didn't get a final count but I think that more than two thirds of the engineers were let go today. I think they are just keeping a few to support the Japanese. Many of them were told that they will be staying for sixty days and then they too are out.I then pulled out of the parking lot and headed to Hi-Z where I worked until after eight o'clock tonight. I guess I may be unemployed but I'm still working. I'll go in tomorrow and we'll negotiate a job but I am quite excited. Wish me luck on a new beginning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Aqua Plane

Skiing on Waterton Lakes is nothing like skiing anywhere else. The water is so cold that you very quickly learn to take off from the dock and end either on the dock or you simply beach the ski's. You do NOT want to fall in the water since that water has only moments earlier melted off some glacier somewhere. The traditional skiing place is on the lower lake tucked in behind a ridge that comes off of Vimy mountain. The water is perhaps one or two degree's warmer than the upper lake (38 instead of 36) and the mountain ridge protects that part of the lake from the hurricane force winds that are typical in Waterton. If you were a really good skier you would leave about ten feet of slack in the rope and tell the boat to "hit it" so that by the time the rope went tight the boat was up to full speed. You would then jump from the dock on a single ski and take off without ever getting wet. I never was that good. I would sit on the edge of the dock with two ski's and then come around and drop a ski near the dock where someone could pick it up. No one would take off out of the water. To land you could either ski right up to the dock and let go of rope timing things just right so you could merely sit on the dock or you could head for the beach and ski right up onto the gravel. You'd want old ski's for that method. The dock was a floating dock so it was pretty level with the water. That is a good thing because one time I figured I was good enough to sit on the dock but unfortunately, without my glasses I'm pretty much blind and when I came towards the dock I never saw it in time and I skied right across the dock and sank in the water on the other side. After that I figured I'd stay with the beach approach.

One year Greg got the bright idea of making an aqua plane. This was essentially an airplane that you would tow behind a boat and "fly" underwater. It was made of wood and you would lay on top of the contraption and use your hands to push or pull the ailerons up or down. It was made out of 2 x 4's and the wings were plywood and the ailerons were attached with hinges. With the water being as cold as it was no one was too anxious to actually try it out but I was actually quite excited. The thing worked surprisingly well. I went straight to the bottom of the lake and I "flew" across the bottom as long as I could hold my breath. It was a toss up whether I ran out of air first or if I got too cold first. I really wish that we'd had wet suits back in those days. It would have made the plane a lot more fun.

NASA has successfully tested an unmanned airplane with a scramjet engine that reached mach 9.6. That is nearly 7,000 miles per hour. They launched it from Edwards air force base and let it crash into the pacific. At this speed it could fly from LA to New York in twenty minutes. It could go around the world in three and a half hours. I can't wait for a commercial jet with a scram jet engine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

She's Home, Yay!!

Saturday was a very odd day for me. I was home alone all day long. That almost never happens. Sure, I'm alone often when I travel but not ever in my own house, at least not for the entire day. Sarah is the statistician for the school's wrestling team and they had a tournament today. I was planning on driving her but when I learned that she needed to leave before six in the morning I suggested that she find a ride. I am so grateful that she did. Her ride picked her up at 5:45 and I promptly went right back to sleep.

Alex is in basketball season. I may have mentioned earlier that he is coaching a fifth grade team, he plays on a team and he is a referee. He headed out the door at around 8:30 and so when I finally dragged myself out of bed at nine the house was empty. I honestly can not remember when that has ever happened before. I'm sure it has but I can't remember it. I spent the day puttering around and cleaning up preparing for Lisa's return. I've managed to get the kids to keep the house "relatively" clean for the last ten days so there wasn't too much to do but like every Saturday, I have a ton of work to catch up on. I can't do anything during the week so Saturday is it. Sarah showed up a little before six and Alex finished his day around eight. All day long I've known that Lisa's flight lands at 10:05 but for some reason when the time came to go get her I had 10:35 in my mind. I timed my shower and all based on that. I climbed in the car at 10:00 to head for the airport and I thought I'd better check that her flight was on time. When I looked at my Treo there it was. Her flight was scheduled to land in five minutes. As I'm navigating San Diego's freeways at 80+ mph I'm calling American Airlines only to learn that her flight is early. She'd landed at 10:01. Now all I could do is hope that her bag is the last one off the plane but no such luck, hers was one of the first. I did make it remarkably far however before I got a call. Did I get a soft "honey, I'm home" from the one I've missed so dearly? Nope, instead I get a, "if you haven't parked the car yet don't bother, I'm waiting out front". I had to sheepish tell her that I'm still on the I-5 but I'll be there in 10 minutes. I was there in 15.

Today was a wonderful (and pretty much normal) sabbath day. Alex is on the stake youth council. In case you don't know, our stake is a group of seven wards and four branches and consists of a few thousand people. The youth council represents all of the youth in the Stake and they plan all of their activities. Tonight there was a Stake Youth Fireside and Alex had been asked to give a talk on the "word of wisdom". Also, in case you didn't know, the word of wisdom is the revelation given to Joseph Smith where we are advised not to partake of alcohol, tobacco, coffee or tea. Less well known is that the word of wisdom gives us much advice on what is good for man to eat including advice to use moderation in all things. We had a bit of a concern however, in Alex's last game (he actually played two) a kid put an elbow in his face driving a couple of teeth most of the way through his lip. The lip was chewed up pretty badly and he's been ripping pieces of flesh off of the wound all day. Not long before he was to go and give his talk his speech was quite slurred and the pain was driving him nuts. I gave him a blessing however and by the time he gave his talk his fat lip was not nearly as swollen and as he gave his talk the pain subsided quite a bit. He did point out that as soon as he sat down it started hurting again. The chapel was filled to capacity and had some where around 200 people there and Alex gave a wonderful talk. He was loud, very natural and spoke from the heart. He spoke for ten minutes and related some personal stories from his own life. That always makes a talk much more interesting. He also wrote the talk mostly himself with very little help from me.

Did you know that scientists have successfully put a dog into suspended animation? It had no heart beat and was not breathing for over a day and its body temperature fell to 2°C above room temperature. They then revived it and it was perfectly healthy. Apparently all animals have this ability and it is triggered by low oxygen levels. The problem is that in animals like humans, low oxygen levels kill us before we can go into suspended animation but if you can get low oxygen levels (<0.01%) fast enough then you will go into suspended animation with no damage to your cells. They are quite confident that humans can do this as well but so far they haven't had any volunteers. They will probably try it first on transplanted organs to lengthen the time they can survive with no damage before they are used. They then plan to try it on trauma victims who will die before they can get medical attention. Can you imagine that they could have several days to repair severe arterial and nerve damage?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cross-Country Skiing

One thing I really admire about Greg is that he wasn't scared to try anything. I also loved that he would involve me in many of his wild schemes. I don't know how he got into it but one day he called me up and told me that he needed me to help him teach a cross-country ski class. I didn't even know what cross-country skiing was and I don't think he really did either. Some how he had taught himself all about it and had signed up to teach this class. Lester and I were his assistants. What a great time that was. We held the classes out in the wilderness somewhere between Fort McCleod and Pincher Creek and we had many big classes. It was on one of those classes that I met an Eden girl. I don't remember her first name but years later I actually became friends with her brother Bob who ended up marrying Lisa's good friend Ruth. What a small world. I did a lot of cross-country skiing after that and the whole family got into it. On one of these ski trips we stayed in a motel somewhere and I had to sleep in the same bed as Greg's oldest son Michael. I was quite concerned about that because I knew that Michael was still a bit "iffy" on the potty training thing. Gaylia assured me that he would be fine. Sure enough, in the middle of the night I had this wonderful warm feeling come over me. It felt great until I woke up and realized that Michael had wet the bed. BIG TIME. I was drenched.

I have many very fond memories of Ross screaming down the hills in deep powder among the trees shouting at the top of his lungs, "your mother wears army boots". We had great times but my absolute favorite memory was a trip we made to Waterton.

Waterton used to get a LOT of snow during the winter. I have a picture (somewhere) of me sitting on top of a telephone pole the snow drifts were that deep. One year we decided to open up a room at the motel and go skiing. We had a sauna at the motel and we fired that baby up too. I soaked in the sauna until I was so hot I couldn't stand it and then, after carefully checking the surroundings, I dove naked into a very deep and very cold snow drift. Steam billowed up all around me. What a wonderful shock to the system.

One that trip we skiid along a trail that somewhat followed the highway that led up to Cameron lake. Coming down was pretty much all down hill so we just glided along the trail in completely virgin snow. I don't remember who all was there but I do know that Greg and Gaylia and Jackie and Ross were there along with Lester and I. As we came down the path we entered this small meadow and there in the middle of the meadow were a heard of deer. Because our skiis were so quiet we skiied right on by those deer and they never even flinched. I'm sure we were within 20 feet of them and all they did was lift there heads and look at us and then they went back to digging in the snow for some food. What an amazing sight that was. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of me skiing or of the deer so these are pictures I just pulled off the internet. They do show the kind of places that we skiid though. I'm almost missing Alberta and the snow right now. It truly is a beautiful country.

Did you know that they have proven genetically that every single human being alive today descended from one lone woman (does that sound like Noahs wife?). They also believe that she lived in the middle east somewhere (perhaps Mt Ararat?). Even more unusual is that the genetic migration of mankind seems to indicate that from this point (the middle east) the human population migrated in three directions, towards Africa (Ham?), towards India and Asia (Japeth?) and towards Europe (Shem?)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crandell Mountain

Every time I would climb Bears Hump I would look up to the peak of Crandell Mountain and long to keep on hiking up to it. This picture was taken by Kira. It shows Crandell Mountain from Bears Hump. Doesn't it look like you could just walk on up the ridge to the peak? We never did have time but finally the desire was strong enough that we actually planned the hike. My memory is a bit foggy in this area but I seem to remember that we learned that simply climbing up from Bears hump was not the best way to go. I also remember that we talked my brother-in-law, Ross Foote into coming with us. We drove around by the buffalo paddock and climbed up the mountain from there. The second picture is of the buffalo paddock. I'm not sure but I think this picture is taken from the foot of Crandell Mountain. We climbed up to the crest of the mountain and started heading for the peak but if I remember clearly, we ran out of time before we got to the peak and we had to come back down short of our goal. It was a beautiful view from where we were and still A wonderful hike any way.

I was enjoying my physics class in high school at this point in my life and as we came upon a very high and very sheer cliff I remembered x = gt2/2. One of us threw a massive boulder over the cliff while I timed the fall. Quickly making the calculation in my head I remember the cliff being about 400 feet high. It was a long way down. I was very excited and proud of myself because that was the first time I remember using physics to solve a practical problem.

Coming down was quite exciting. There was a huge glacier on the side of the mountain and we simply sat in the snow and slid. The snow would build up under our rear ends and we ended up sliding on a big mound of snow. The glacier seemed like it went down half the mountain and even though it was long I'm sure it wasn't that long. Something I hadn't really thought of before I started but I clearly thought about after we were underway was "how do I stop?" This glacier (as glaciers often do) ended up on the edge of a cliff and I knew that I didn't want to wait until too close to the end to stop. As we were heading down the slope I figured out that I had pretty good control over my speed with my feet so we just enjoyed the ride and stopped well clear of the end of the glacier. It was a very fun hike. The last picture shows Crandell Mountain with Bears Hump out in the front. It is a very big mountain.

If you squeezed the entire world to the size of a ping pong ball it would become a black hole. If you squeezed the sun until it was four miles in diameter it would become a black hole. You wouldn't have to squeeze our galaxy very much for it to become a black hole. Our universe already is a black hole. The mass of the universe is large enough that light cannot escape it. If you were outside our universe you wouldn't be able to see it because no light can leave it. I have always wondered what it would be like to be inside a black hole and now I know. I always assumed that if you fell into a black hole you would be torn to shreds and that is true for smaller black holes but if it were large enough then entire planets and galaxies can exist inside the black hole and we wouldn't know the difference.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's Inaugeral Speech

As expected, President Obama delivered a great speech yesterday. I actually stood on this very platform where Obama is speaking when I was in Washington in the fall.

I didn't see all of the speech but what I did see sounded great. The funny thing is that while Obama differs greatly from Bush on many domestic "big government" policies, his comments on foreign policy sounded very much like George W Bush. So much so that a couple of liberal comedians couldn't help but take a shot at him. It is really very funny. They took excerpts from Obama's speech and compared them to Bush. Some examples are:

Bush - Freedom is the universal gift of the almighty God
Obama - A God given promise that all are equal, all are free.

Bush - We will work with our friends and allies all across the world to defend our way of life.
Obama - We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waiver in its defense.

Bush - We can usher in a new era of enhanced prosperity and peace.
Obama - America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Bush - Our generation advanced the cause of freedom.
Obama - We carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

They recently announced that regular use of mouthwash containing alcohol can cause oral cancer. If you smoke it is much worse, the alcohol helps the nicotine diffuse into your skin and you are twenty times more likely to get cancer than smokers that don't use mouthwash.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Downside of Being a Single Parent

Other than never having a moment to breath and missing Lisa, I generally enjoy being a single parent. I get a lot more time with the kids and leaving work early has it's upside as well. Yesterday however, I had an experience that convinced me that teenage daughters really should have mothers. Sarah decided that she wants to go to Winter Formal next week. I'm not sure why but all of my daughters have some how gotten the idea that every formal dance requires a new formal dress. It would just be social suicide to use a dress that has been worn before. While she could probably wait until Lisa got back to go dress shopping, Sarah was worried about Mom having time and besides, there was no school yesterday (Martin Luther King day) and I did come home from work early so why not go looking for a dress? I think I would rather go for a root canal than to go shopping for a dress. Sarah had picked out a couple of dresses on-line at "Macy's" and the original deal was to just go and quickly check out those dresses but some time between when I agreed to the shopping trip and when I got home Sarah had talked to Lisa who added a list of four more stores that we should go and see while we were out.


Do you know that they don't make formal dresses that go higher than the arm pits or lower than the crotch? What an exercise in futility. To make it all more painful, most of the dresses are well over a hundred dollars and some are several hundred dollars. Who would pay that kind of money for a high school dance? This is crazy. We checked out the four or five stores in the mall and then encouraged by Lisa, Sarah convinced me to go to her "favorite" dress store, "Styles for Less". It is now perhaps my favorite dress store as well. We walked in the front door and there on a mannequin was a very cute dress that actually had sleeves. She tried it on and I thought it looked darling on her but it really is too short. She flashed her beautiful eyes at me and I finally relented to buy it on the condition that I can return it next week after I talk to mom and she can't whine. It does look beautiful and the best part is it was $20.

I hate shopping and worse than shopping is shopping for clothes and worse than that is shopping for girls clothes. It was fun spending time with Sarah though. I'm not sure if Lisa is going to be mad that I bought a short dress or grateful that I took Sarah shopping. I guess we'll see.

We then bought $100 worth of frozen food that we can just throw in the oven or microwave. Yummy things like pizza's, jalapeno poppers, rice bowls and such. Last night we let Alex rent a movie and we all watched that. Five days to go.

did you know that too much caffeine causes hallucinations?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunsets, Butter, Camping, Dancing, Planes & Toilets

Once again, you can tell that it has been a busy week since I haven't posted a blog since Lisa left. It is tough being a single parent but the kids haven't missed any meals yet (although they've complained about the meals they did get) and I don't think they've missed any commitments. Last night we had one of our famous sunsets so I ran out onto the street to take a picture for you. This is from our front yard. Lovely isn't it? Sarah came out to add to the beauty of an already beautiful view. I have a funny story to tell. Earlier this week Alex was bouncing a little rubber "8 ball" around. No one knows where this ball came from but I stuck it in the chain of a light that hangs over the dinner table. Alex was studying for a statistics final and I put the ball in the chain - loosely - hoping that it would randomly fall out of the chain and land on his head. It was intended to be some sort of booby trap. After the ball was long forgotten I walked into the kitchen and saw this. Alex and Sarah both swear that they knew nothing about it and had no involvement. They did seem just as surprised as I was. In order for this to happen the ball would have had to make several seemingly impossible bounces but there it is. I think I'll have to try more of those booby traps.

Looking back on the week it has been another wonderful week in my wonderful life (other than the fact that I'm a single parent). Friday night I had a scout camp and that was great. The boys decided that they wanted to try primitive cooking so we arranged a menu where we cooked with no utensils of any kind. It worked out surprisingly well. For dinner we cooked pizza (yes, I know it isn't quite primitive). The scoutmaster had brought large pieces of tile to cook the pizza on. The plan was to improvise a dutch oven. We used rocks as spacers and put a piece of tile under the pizza and another one on top. We then put coals on top of the top tile. I was skeptical because I knew the thermal expansion of tile is quite high and so I was not surprised when the tile exploded into many small pieces. The second pizza was simply heated over the fire on the broken pieces of tile. It was very well done on the bottom and somewhat cool on top but good. For breakfast we cooked sausages wrapped with onion on a stick and then wrapped that with dough and toasted that. It was extremely good. We cooked corn bread in orange peels, very good. We cooked eggs in a hollowed out onion - very good - and to top it all off we baked a pumpkin pie. I wanted to make a rock oven for the pie but no one else was up to that so we covered it with tin foil (I admit that is kind of cheating) and just sat it on pieces of tile over the coals. It actually turned out quite well.

While I was off in the mountains, Sarah slept at a friends house and Alex probably had a party at the house while I was gone (I'm just joking - I hope). I love camping. God has created such a beautiful world. Saturday night a friend of mine (the guy who hired me inspiring my move to the States) had his 50th wedding anniversary. Since Lisa was gone I took Sarah as her stand in. I think some of the old farts there (I was one of the youngest people there) figured I had a pretty young wife. Sarah and I tore up the floor swing dancing. It was a lot of fun. To end the week off, Alex and I spent the entire Sunday afternoon working on his Eagle Project. He turns 18 in March so the clock is ticking. He's been a "Life" scout since he was thirteen years old. Pretty pathetic. This is cutting it even closer than Ben did.

Isn't that amazing about that pilot who safely crash landed his plane on Thursday? Those people are pretty darn lucky. I know planes are made to be able to do a water landing but I don't think I've ever heard of one where the plane didn't break up and sink. Certainly I don't know of any commercial airliner that made a water landing with no loss of life. Click here for more on that.

I often hear little pieces of trivia here and there that I find fascinating. I think I will pass some of the more interesting pieces on to you when I hear them. Here is my trivia for today.

The inauguration of Barrack Obama will have the largest bathroom facilities ever in the history of America.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mountain Bikes

After you've hiked the trails for a few years it is only natural to want to be able to do them much faster. Of course no motorized vehicle is allowed on the trails but we figured no one would mind if we rode our bikes. Remember, this was decades before trail bikes became popular. I'd had never seen a bike on a hiking trail and after we left town I don't think I saw another one until here in San Diego more than thirty years later.

If I remember correctly, Lester and I were riding down the back alley above Cameron falls one day and we saw the trail head to Bertha Falls. It was a nice gentle slope for several miles so we figured why not? That was the beginning of many breath taking rides. We never did go up Bears Hump because that trail is just too steep but I believe we rode most every other trail that came anywhere near the town site. Two of my most memorable rides were riding down into Linnet Lake and a side trail off the bears hump trail. The trail from the highway (right by the start of the road up to the Prince of Wales) down into Linnet Lake is very steep with several sharp switch backs. I hit one of the switch backs way too fast and launched off the side of the trail. Normally that wouldn't have been such a big deal but the side of the mountain dropped off so fast that I must have dropped twenty feet (well that's what it seemed like to me) before I hit ground. The good thing is that when I did hit ground it was at such a sharp angle and there was so much underbrush that my fall was cushioned and I rolled for some distance.

In the picture you have a very good view of Linnet Lake in the foreground and Bertha Mountain in the back ground. The profile of Bears Hump is in front of Bertha Mountain. The water tower you see is up by the Prince of Wales. I have no idea if it is true or not but growing up in Waterton I was always told that Lake Linnet (a very tiny lake) was so deep that no one had ever found the bottom of it. I did notice that it is connected to the lower waterton lake because the water level in Linnet lake always matched that of the lower lake. That makes sense since the two lakes are only separated by a couple hundred feet.

My other exciting bike event was when we were riding along a trail that parallels the main road that drops down into the townsite. If you start on the trail going up to bears hump a trail forks off to the left, right near the start of the trail. This trail is forty or fifty feet above the road and the edge of the trail is a sheer drop down to the road below. The cliff is so high that you are well above the tops of the telephone poles. The trail is nice and wide though so there is no real fear of going over the cliff. The trail is fairly level and straight so you can go quite fast. One day we were boogying down that trail very fast when my pedal caught a tree stump on the side of the trail. My bike was immediatly whipped around and plummetted over the cliff falling to the road below. I had the sense of mind to grab some brush on the side of the trail and hung on. I have to admit that it did get my heart pumping a bit.

There are two bike stories that I think are worthy of mention. One I've already told but I will repeat it here so that it is included. We had headed up the road one day to Cameron Lake. I think it was me and Lester and our cousin David Lybbert was with us. Coming down was very exciting of course because after all, we are coming off a mountain. David took one of the corners too fast and lost control of his bike. It was real freaky because there he was laying in the middle of the road unconcious. Luckily a good samaritan stopped and gave him a ride to the motel while Lester and I rode hard to see how he was doing.

Probably the worst I've ever been hurt in my life happened one day when I was riding my bike down from Cameron Falls to the swimming pool. I don't remember who was with me but we turned into the swimming pool parking lot and I took the entrance so fast that my bike was launched into the air. Because I was air bound I couldn't steer (obviously) and I landed right before the curb. I can see it all now in my mind as clear as the day it happened. It was like I was flying in slow motion. I even remember thinking, "this is going to really hurt". The bike hit the curb and my body went flying. There was a grass median separating different sections of the parking lot. I flew entirely over the grass and landed on the asphalt on the other side. I was wearing my dads shirt and tore it to shreds. I peeled the skin off most of my shoulder, large sections of my arm was missing skin and most of one side of my face. I was very ugly (well uglier than normal) for a long time. Me and that bike had some very good times. It was a yellow ten speed that I had bought with my own money from the sears mail order catalogue. Thinking back, I'm quite surprised that no one ever said anything about riding bikes on the trails. I always thought it wasn't allowed but maybe there was no rule about it. It sure was fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bears Hump

Anyone who has ever been to Waterton will be very familiar with Bears Hump. Bears Hump is actually one end of Crandell Mountain and overlooks the town site. It is a short but very steep hike. I believe it is only three quarters of a mile long so you can be at the top in less than half an hour. Kira hiked bears hump this summer with some of my brothers and sisters at a reunion that I never made it to. She took a bunch of pictures so I will share some of them with you. The other pictures I just pulled off the internet. The picture above is of Kira with Evan standing on Bears Hump. Vimy Mountain is in the background. The upper lake is on the the right and the lower lake is on the left. As kids, Lester and I hiked bears hump so many times that I wouldn't even try to count them. Eventually it became so mundane that we had to spice things up a bit so one day when Lester and I were on top of bears hump we decided to heck with the trail and we climbed down the face of it.
If you look at the pictures on the left Crandell Mountain is to the right and the hump on the very left of the mountain is "Bears Hump". The normal trail comes up from the more gentle right side but we decided to head down the left side. Looking at bears hump from the town site it looks pretty darned steep. Let me tell you, when you're climbing down the face it looks even steeper. I remember we were walking along a ledge that was no more than a foot wide and the ledge suddenly came to an end. It started up again just a foot or two further along but when you're looking straight down for fifty to a hundred feet taking a step across an empty gap even just a foot or two away is pretty daunting. We did make it down just fine and came out of the tree's near the highway heading up to Cameron Lake.

If you expand the picture of the townsite by double clicking on it you can see our motels. They are the ones with the red roofs. Kira zoomed in closer in the next picture to help you see the motels better.

After we go hiking Lester and I learned early on to always check for wood ticks. They were so common that we would get vaccinated for Lyme disease every year. It was normal to find a wood tick or sometimes a couple but I remember after this hike I had some where around fifteen wood ticks on me. It was kind of freaky. Have you heard all the old wives tales about how to get a wood tick to come out of your skin once they've burrowed in? Well I've tried them all and none of them work. One theory said that if you hold a lit match near their rear end they will come out. Didn't work. Another theory was that if you cover them with vegetable oil they can't breath and they will back out. Didn't work, it just died. The only thing we were able to do was to play with them until their head popped off and then we had to dig out the head like it was a splinter.

This view is looking south from Bears Hump at the upper Waterton Lake. About half of the lake is in Montana.

Kira took this picture of Crandell Mountain from Bears Hump.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm a Single Parent

The only thing worse than when I have to leave home and go on my frequent trips is when I stay home and Lisa leaves and goes on a trip. I just dropped her off at the airport. She's going up to stay with Kira for a couple of weeks. I guess it is mostly for moral support but she's hoping that she can be useful as they figure out a new schedule for Evan with his physiotherapy and other appointments. I'm now in charge of the kids and their schedules. We'll see how that goes. I hope they get to school when they're supposed to and they had better not be forgetting anything at home because I won't be running forgotten lunches and home work assignments to school like Lisa does. I have to admit that I'm bit jealous. I really wish it were me going to Calgary. In spite of our 80° days and Calgary's high of 35° I'd really like to see Kira and Justin and my little Evan.

Tiffany sent me an email with this really cool video in it. I thought I would share it with you. I guess we always need to keep things in perspective, no matter how big our trials are in this life it is up to us if we're going to be happy and productive or miserable and a burden on others.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back to School

Today we went to church and then had a big dinner before we said goodbye to Brandon and Serene and my cute little grand daughter Sydney. It was sad to see them leave because a) they were only here for two days and b) I don't know when I'll get to see them again. As soon as Brandon left with his family we all piled into the car and took Alycia to the airport. Brandon and Alycia both start school tomorrow so it's back to studying.

It was so hard to drag myself out of bed this morning because it was another late night playing settlers. The women all watched a dumb chick flick (Two Weeks Notice) while us boys played the game. They all fell asleep as soon as the movie started but we played until after 1:00. My body is rebelling today and I can scarcely keep my eyes open.

As we were heading out the door to church someone noticed that Alycia, Alex and Sarah all matched with brown and white pocka dots. I don't know if you've happened to notice the little temperature gauge on my side bar but it reached into the 80's today. It is supposed to be in the 80's all week long. Lisa is heading up to visit Kira for a few days on Tuesday. She's quite apprehensive about the weather. Can't say as I blame her. I've become quite soft over the last sixteen years.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What a Week!

Wow, what a week. You can tell that I've been busy since I haven't posted once this week. One my first day of my vacation before Christmas I received a text from one of the guys who work for me telling me that he was going to give notice. Of course, since I was out for two weeks his last day was the day before I came back to work. I did go in and talk to him once before he left but I now have all of his work plus my own. He assured me that he was only quitting because it was a good career opportunity for him and not because of anything I did. I am going to be playing major catch up now as I take on his work. Kyocera is going to have a reorganization (ie. layoff) in the next month so there is zero chance of getting him replaced for a while. It has been a very busy week.

Thursday Brandon and Serene flew home from Texas and Friday they came down for the weekend. It was so good to see them. Last night they opened their presents from us. It was a lot of fun watching Sydney open her presents. After being told so often not to rip things apart she was a bit reluctant to open them up but she eventually got into it.

Brandon, Alex and I then played Settlers until about 2:30 AM. I do love that game. This morning the youth had baptisms at the temple. We met at the church at 6:30AM. That was pretty tough after going to bed at 2:30 but hey, tomorrow they all leave and it is going to be very quiet around here. I actually feel pretty good but I sat down for five minutes to read my magazine and I fell right asleep. I think I am going on adrenaline.

Today Alex had a very busy day. Him and a friend of his decided they wanted to coach a youth basketball team in the community league. That game was at 8:00 this morning. After that he refereed some more basketball games until six o'clock when he had his own game.

Alex has always played on the high school basketball team and he could have made the varsity team this year also but he knew if he played on varsity he would spend a lot of time on the bench but if he played on the rec team he would be a star. So Alex coaches a rec team, ref's the rec teams and he plays on a rec team. It keeps him out of trouble on Saturdays. Brandon and I played several songs on Guitar Hero and then Alex came home between games and we played a couple more rounds of Settlers before we all went and watched him play his game of basketball. He is definitely the hero on his team. They won by one basket in the last ten seconds of the game. It was a nail biter. After the game we barbecued some sirloin steaks and they were very good. Now we're going to go watch a movie and we haven't decided yet if we're going to play more settlers afterwards. Church is at 9:00 in the morning this year so we might just go to bed early.