Monday, March 30, 2009

Elton John and Billy Joel

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Wow, what a great weekend. Actually, it was a great week. First let me tell you about Sarah's hurdles meet. Unfortunately, most of her meets are going to be on Thursdays so I will miss them because of the temple. I think I will have to look at the schedule a pick a couple to go to. Anyway, this week they competed against Valley Center. At the gun they were off and a Valley Center girls was ahead of Sarah. As they came into the finish line Sarah was gaining and as they went over the last hurdle they were neck and neck. Unfortunately because Sarah was pushing so hard she lost her rhythm and hit the last hurdle with her trailing knee. Down she went but being the athlete that she is she was immediately on her feet but because of her momentum she went down again. She immediately tried to get up again but down she went a third time. At this point she totally gave up on trying to get to her feet and she literally crawled across the finish line for a second place finish. The amazing thing is that she got 52.0 seconds and her PR is 51.9 seconds. I think it is safe to say that she would have beat her PR and she is convinced that she would have won if she'd only been able to stay on her feet.

Friday night Ben surprised his mother. Sharley had to come out to San Diego for a shower for her friend so Ben decided to come also. He showed up at the door with a rose and then he proceeded to make dinner for all of us. It was great. He made us Chili Relleno's. He learned how to make them on his mission and boy were they good. Yum.

So this weekend was the Elton John / Billy Joel concert that I got Lisa tickets for at Christmas. We decided to make it a weekend and go and visit Brandon and Serene. To make the weekend even better, we found out that this weekend Brandon had his Moot Appellate Court. That is a fancy way of saying that they pretended to defend an appeal in court. We got to watch him and he did a wonderful job. I can really see him in a trial room. We met one of his professors and she told us that all of the professors think Brandon will be a great trial lawyer. I think I agree. I could tell that she really likes him.

So it was time to head for our concert. Because we know LA traffic can be brutal we left two hours early. It wasn't enough. It took us a full hour to go the first twenty miles and it took us over half an hour to go the last two miles. We were a half hour late. Even after we got to the Honda Center I could tell that parking was going to be a long way off so I dropped Lisa off in the middle of the road and she ran between traffic and went to her seat. Don't worry, she was in no danger since traffic was not moving. I finally got parked about a mile away and the parking attendant told me not to worry, they concert was late getting started. We don't know how much we missed but I don't think it was too much. So packing my camera and a pair of binoculars I made my way to the center.

While I was still a long way off I could hear the band playing and it was loud even from where I was. I knew then I was in trouble, I don't like loud music. I finally got to the ticket booth and as they searched my camera case they told me that I couldn't take my camera in. I said "what?!?". They told me that camera's with detachable lenses aren't allowed. I was ticked. I could have had same very spectacular pictures but I guess that is the very reason it wasn't allowed. Darn. I didn't really want to go all the way back to my car so the guy took pity on me and told me where I could check the camera. I then made my way to our seats which were literal as far away from the stage as you could get but boy was it a spectacular view. The isle was the exact dead center of the building and if the stage was above the net on one end of the arena we were the very back row above the opposite net and Lisa was the 11th seat in. We had a great view of the entire building and with the binoculars we could see the people very clearly. Once I was inside of the building the atmosphere of the whole thing kind of took over and the loud music didn't bother me.

I don't know what I was expecting but Elton John is a fat old man and Billy Joel is a fat old bald man. They were both great to listen to however and listening to them took me back many years. I really do like a lot of their songs. Some of my favorites I put in the play list at the beginning of this blog. All in all it was a very fun evening and I think Lisa enjoyed it. I'm sure she would have more fun with someone who is into the music as much as she is but I had fun and it is just good to go out with my wife. I did take some pictures with my treo. You can't see much in them but I hope you can get a bit of an idea of the atmosphere that was present.

Studies show that your brain function drops off significantly when you are even just a little bit dehydrated.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I can run again.... soon

Today I saw the doctor for a followup to my surgery. It made me feel read good. After waiting for an hour in the waiting room I finally got in to see him. He looked at my incisions and asked how I was doing. I told him that I was doing great. He asked if I was still using pain killers and I told him that I hadn't taken any pain killers. He then said that everything looked great and was about to leave. I said to myself, not a chance buddy. I asked him how it looked and if he took out much stuff. He told me that he took out all kinds of garbage. I asked him how the knee itself looked, if there was much damage to the face of the bone etc. He said there was minor damage but that it wouldn't give me a problem. He assured me that it was the shredded pieces of meniscus that had been hurting me. I then asked how the knee looked over all and if I would be able to run a marathon with my daughter. He said, I don't really remember, let me go look. He came back a bit later and said it all looked very clean and he didn't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to run a marathon. He said with my quick recovery and healthy knee it must be our clean living, healthy families lifestyle that must be doing it (this is the same doctor that worked with Alex's torn AC joint and broken thumb). I thanked him very much and he said come back in six weeks. OK, Kira, get ready, we're going to do a marathon. Sorry Peter, I won't be ready to go with you. Maybe we should start with a half marathon.

The picture is from Wednesday when I took the bandage off of my leg.

As teenage drivers mature their driving skills improve and the probability of them getting in an accident decreases. The probability of getting into an accident is lowest at age 55. An 80 year old driver has the same probability of getting in an accident as does a 16 year old.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

President Obama

Shortly after the election in November I said that I would give President Obama a chance to prove himself. He had made a lot of promises and before I condemned the man I would let him show that he would do what he promised. Well I think it is safe to say now that he is on a course that will destroy this wonderful nation and our freedoms and opportunities may be hurt for generations. He is printing money like it is going out of style and that can't help but lead to unprecedented inflation (at least unprecedented for the US). He promised he would only raise taxes on the "rich" (who ever they are) and now he is talking about eliminating the mortgage tax and reducing the charitable donation deduction for all of us. In a time of 10% unemployment he is also raising taxes on small businesses who happen to create the vast majority of all the new jobs.

He even threatened to charge the veterans for their health care. Can you imagine that? The odd thing is that after he saw the reaction he changed his mind and then took credit for saving the veterans. How does he get away with it? And then did you hear what he said to the Prime Minister of England? The prime minister came to America to see Obama and he turned him away. He told him that the Prime Minister of England shouldn't have any more special privileges than the leaders of the other countries do.

And then there is the whole economic melt down. They want to blame everything on the republicans (who certainly have a lot to account for) but then he continuously talks about how horrible the economy is and amidst all of his gloom and doom he wonders how the stock market can crash like it did. Every time he opened his mouth the market would go down even further.

I really like how he hires a tax dodger to head up the IRS. I only hope that he can't do too much damage in one term because I can't imagine that he will win a second term.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Surgery part II

I think today went well. I have a big fat knee and I can barely limp along but I'm not using crutches and so far I haven't taken any pain killers so I'll take that as a good sign. As we were leaving to go to the surgery center Lisa asked me why I was wearing pants. What kind of question is that? I don't really want to walk around in my underwear. She explained that she figured my knee would be so swollen and with the bandages and all I wouldn't be able to get my pants on so she figured I should wear a pair of sweats or something. I assured her that all they were doing were pocking two holes in my knee and all it would take is two band-aids to cover those up. Well after waiting for an hour the nurse finally called us in and the first thing he said was, "you wore pants?" I told him the same thing that I told Lisa about the band-aids and he informed me that my knee would be wrapped with so many bandages that I would never get my pants on. Oops. No one said anything to me about wearing sweats. I then had to go through the humiliating process of shaving my leg. I now have a naked leg. He then wrote all over my knee with a felt marker and then while wearing my gown with no back I kissed my wife good bye and went and crawled onto the most comfortable bed I've ever laid on. Actually the bed wasn't what was comfortable but they had a blanket on this bed that was hooked up to a machine that filled the blanket full of warm air. It was divine. The anesthesiologist then stuck this gross looking white stuff in my IV and I went to sleep. That bandage on my arm next to the ID band is from the IV. When I woke up the IV hurt worse than my knew did. While I was under Lisa headed to the nearby mall and bought me a pair of shorts to wear home. The doctor actually offered to let me wear a pair of the paper shorts that they use but I didn't really want to wear paper shorts.

The next thing I knew I was sort of semi-conscious and try as I might I couldn't clear my mind. I stretched and someone told me to put my arms down and I wanted to talk to him but I couldn't figure out how to speak. I formed the words in my mind and very carefully said something to the nurse. I don't remember what I said but I was really worried about saying something stupid so I wouldn't talk until I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I remember thinking this must be what it is like for stroke victims who's minds work fine but they can't get the words out. I then leaned over to check on the machine reading my vitals and I saw that my heart rate was 72, my blood pressure was 120/82 and my oxygen level was 96% so I figured I was still alive and ready to go home. When I told the nurse that he called Lisa in and lifted up the back of my bed and suddenly I was very light headed. That gradually passed and I got dressed and here I am. They insisted on giving me crutches but I refused to use them. On the way home we stopped for an In-n-out hamburger. It was very good and I was very hungary since I hadn't eaten breakfast. I was in no pain but my leg is very stiff. It is now time to go to bed and the pain killers have worn off and while my knee does hurt I don't think I will be using the Vicoden that they wanted me to get. I'm sure that tomorrow my knee will be even more stiff than it is today but I don't think it will hurt any more than it does now. I'm planning on going to work.

The coolest part about the whole thing are these neat pictures that he took. I haven't talked to the doctor yet (I have an appointment for Friday) but I think that shredded looking stuff is the torn part of the meniscus that he took out. I know I'll feel better about this whole operation if he actually found something wrong. I'll feel real stupid if he tells me that everything was fine.

I'm going to take a glass of water and a Vicoden to sit by my bed just in case I wake up in excruciating pain but I'm going to try going to bed tonight without anything. I really don't want to put that stuff in my body if I don't have to.

More babies were born in 2007 than in any year in the history of the United States. Good news, abortions are down, bad news, nearly half of the babies were born to single mothers, many of them teenagers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I am now pretty much recovered from the crazy and hectic last few days and I have enjoyed a wonderful relaxing sabbath day. My back is starting to relax after hauling that 300 pound astro jump to the front of the house and lifting it into the truck. Today was our ward conference and it was very good. Our former bishop is now our stake president and it was good to hear from him. He actually talked about Kira and Justin. The topic was "True to the Faith" and it was about not losing faith during hard times. President Ellsworth actually told Kira's story and mentioned how through it all she was able to see the good that came from it and how she recognized Gods hand in the events that took place. I've always been very proud of her but I was even more proud as I sat there crying. I also had another surprise in Sacrament Meeting. An old missionary buddy was in church visiting and I saw him for the first time in thirty years. We both look just a little heavier and a little older than last time we were together.

Tonight I'm going to get a good nights sleep because tomorrow I have finally broken down and I will get my knee surgery. I'm not expecting it to be a big deal since it is only a meniscectomy. Wish me luck, I'll let you know tomorrow how it went.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Alex

Today is the end of another very busy but very exciting week. So many things happened this week that I scarcely know where to begin. This week was spring break for most of the Universities. Alycia came down but had to go back early because she is coaching a High School Lacrosse team in Salt Lake. That was a bummer but that is what you do when you have a job. She went back Wednesday. Brandon had spring break also but apparently in law school, spring break is just and opportunity to assign a major project. He knew he was going to very busy all week long so we figured there was no reason Serene and Sydney couldn't have a break so we invited them down and left Brandon to work with no distractions.

Alex had a birthday a little while back but between sports and other activities we were only able to celebrate this week. Over the years some of our kids have developed some unusual requests for birthday cakes. Do you like Alex's cake? He got some very nice presents too. We had the family dinner and presents on Monday while Alycia, Serene and Sydney were here but we decided to throw him a party for his friends. In the spring of 1999 Lisa volunteered to be on the "Grad Night" committee at Kira's high school. She figured she would learn what she could so she'd be ready for the next year when Kira graduated. Most of the years since then she has been the grad night committee and every time she has been the entertainment chair. She has a budget of well over $10,000 that she uses to hire all kinds of entertainment for the night. Over the years she has developed a very good relationship with some of the companies so when she called them up and asked what they would charge us for an Astro Jump for Alex's party they were quite willing to give it to her for free. Not only did they give it to her for free but they gave us the "Jumbo" sized one. I was afraid it wouldn't fit in our yard. They told me that it was the largest Astro Jump in California. I believe it. We spent some time to figure the best place to put it in our yard and then when I turned on the blower it nearly dwarfed our house. I'm sure this thing was bigger than most of the houses in some countries. It just got larger and larger and larger. In addition to the jump we also had the X-Box (couple of kids played the "Lips" game), Alex's basket ball toss game and the ping pong table we got for Christmas. We then built a fire to go along with it all. We didn't have as many kids show up as we thought we might but we still probably had more than thirty all told. It was a bit of a strange party though. On the invites we had said that it would go until midnight but by 11:00 most of them were gone and the last straggler left at 11:15. Most of Alex's friends are into sports and there were a lot of things going on the next day so they all left in time to get a good nights sleep. The other funny thing is that Sarah is good friends with about half of Alex's friends. It really weirded Alex out at first when his friends all started saying hi to Sarah as they pass in the halls at school. He's used to it now and they all call her "Little Leavitt".

Heather Wilcox and Caitlan McConnell playing the basketball toss game.

Everybody singing Happy Birthday to Alex.

Alex blowing out his candles. Lisa put an illegal sparkler on it. The sparkler was smuggled in from Canada since they are illegal in California.

Sarah and some friends around the fire.

Alex pretty much dominates in Ping Pong.

Some of the guys just hanging out on the deck that looks out over our canyon.

Alex figured the jump was big enough it could be his dance floor. It looks like they all just tuckered out and layed down.

The next mornning I had to put that darned jump back in the truck. They used a fork lift to get it in and Alex and I managed to get it on a little dolly and maneuver it into the back yard. Getting back in the truck wasn't as easy. Between Alex, Sarah and myself we did finally manage but my back is killing me and Alex's groin is hurting. Hopefully we'll heal. Before we packed up the jump however I dragged Lisa, Serene and Sydney into it. Alex and Sarah required no coaxing. Sydney is not so sure she likes the jump.

Sarah looks like a bug splattered onto the wall.

Alex doing a somersault.

Sarah can looks like she can fly.

This is about the only trick I could manage.

After we got the jump all packed up Alex headed off to do his reffing for the day and the rest of us head for Sarah's track meet. This was an invitational meet where you had to actually qualify to go. Sarah really surprised herself this year. She had about given up on being good at anything. Last year she did the 300m hurdles and the mile (or was it the 2 mile?) but as you may know, if you know, if you try and be good at too many things you end up not being good at anything. This year she decided to focus on the 300m hurdles. Much to her surprise she ended up making the varsity team (and she is still a Sophomore). In her very first race she came in third but she was the first Westview girl to come in. She won her second race and then they had her run the 100m hurdles and she came in third on that one. Based on her time she qualified for this invitational meet and so she was competing with the best. She didn't quite make her personal best but she did end up getting third place and so you see her here showing off her medal. She is quite happy and I guess if I were to be honest, so am I.

We then rushed home from the meet and quickly got ready to head to Valley Center and watch Mackenzie compete for Miss Valley Center. She did beautifully and in my mind it came down to two girls. I still figured Mackenzie was better than the other girl but I admitted that I may be somewhat biased so I conceded that the other girl had a chance. You can imagine my excitement when in the end the other girl got first runner up. At this point I knew that Mackenzie had it. Much to my dismay they gave it to this other girl who wasn't as pretty as Mackenzie, she didn't have th grace and poise that Mackenzie had, her dress was ugly and her answer to the impromptu question was dumb. I figure the other girl won the simpathy vote because she was a fetal alcohol syndrome baby. Oh well, we all know who should have won.

Doesn't Mackenzie look absolutely beautiful? She definitely should have won.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This will have to be the abridged version of my mission. I actually kept a daily journal during my mission but I'm not going to copy it over here.

My first companion was Elder Dale Tracy. We were assigned to Turnhout and lived on Kwakkel Straat. Don't you just love that name? We spent a lot of our time in Aarendonk which is about a 10 kilometer bike ride right near the Dutch border. It was no time at all before my legs became very huge. People in Belgium ride their bikes everywhere and have massive thighs. I really wish I could remember everyone's names but we became very good friends with the members in Turnhout. They met in a large house that was rented specifically to be the church.

I was very gung-ho and ready to get to work but I was quite surprised that every time I spoke to Elder Tracy in Dutch he always answered in English. It was very frustrating because I really wanted to learn the language but that made it much harder. He never did speak to me in Dutch, only in English. Elder Tracy was from Roy Utah and was going to school at Weber State.

I had several firsts in Turnhout. I had my first friets and boy were they good. I don't know what the difference is but the French fries in Belgium are so much better than here. They first deep fry them at a fairly low temperature until they are cooked completely but not browned and then they pull them out of the fat and let them drain. When you order them they throw them in very hot fat for just a minute and let them brown. They serve them in paper cones (sometimes made from newspapers) and you dollop a glob of mayonnaise on top. My mouth is watering as I write. Every apartment I was in had a deep fryer and we made them often. I think the main difference is that they always used animal fat to cook them in but no one in America does that anymore.

Another first was my first door. We were knocking on doors and all of the sudden Elder Tracy said, "OK, this one is yours." I was terrified but I managed to say, "Hello, I'm Elder Leavitt and my companion is Elder Tracy." It was about that time that they shut the door on me. I don't know if I was relieved or disappointed. I might have wet my pants if they'd asked me a question. For the rest of my mission we alternated doors.

I also saw my first windmill in Turnhout. I have hundreds of slides from my mission but they are all in a box and I haven't scanned them yet. Some day I will get to that. I even bought a slide scanner to do it with but I haven't managed to find the time. I have a much better picture of this windmill in my slides but this one from the internet will have to do. This windmill is in Arendonk.

The Flemish people are very interesting. They are the kindest and friendliest people you'll ever meet. They loved to visit with us and we taught an average of about ten hours a week and sometimes much more than that. It made it a lot of fun to tract which is a good thing because that is mostly what we did. They loved to visit with us and they loved to feed us. Unfortunately their religion is more of a tradition than a belief system. Few of them actually believe everything that the Catholic church teaches but I must have heard a hundred times, "I was born a Catholic and I will die a Catholic". They have big celebrations when their kids have their communion and they are very reluctant to change. It is also very difficult for those who do get baptized because they are so different from everyone else. We taught a lot in Turnhout and I thoroughly enjoyed it but alas, no one chose to be baptized.

If you look at the second map carefully you can see in the central square something that looks like a castle with a moat around it. That is what it was. It was strange seeing a castle right there in down town Turnhout but it was only the first of many.

One day we decided to ride our bikes to a town called Molen and buy some wooden shoes from a wooden shoe shop. That was a very long ride but well worth it. I still have the shoes today and sometimes I even wear them. They are surprisingly comfortable but you can't run very fast in them. In Belgium they don't paint their shoes like they do in Holland. Most people just wear them unpainted. I have actually seen old farmers out in their fields working with their wooden shoes on.

Another P day we went into Antwerpen to see some of the sights. The main thing I remember is we toured Reubens house. Reuben also had a castle elsewhere in Belgium that I saw later in my mission but this time I saw his house. He lived well.

Finally transfers came and I got a new companion. I don't remember his name but he showed up at the apartment and before he even had a chance to unpack we got a phone call and he was transferred again. My new companion was Max Davis from Las Vegas. I had been warned about Elder Davis. He wore a toupee. Elder Davis was obviously very popular in high school and very self confident. He showed up and as we were getting ready for bed he said. "Fred (he always called me Fred, never Elder Leavitt) have you heard about me?" I told him I had so he pulled off his hair and stuck it on a styrofoam head. It was really quite funny. With Elder Davis my Dutch progressed rapidly. He spoke it well and he spoke it all the time. I have three favorite stories from Turnhout.

We were teaching this young couple and we often began our lessons describing how after the crucifixion of Christ the Lords teachings were distorted and other religions spun off until today we have over a thousand different Christian churchs. The young mother commented how she had her own beliefs and her husband very calmly said, "a thousand and one". It was very funny and we all laughed.

As we worked together Elder Davis and I talked a lot. We also talked about his toupee. He told me that during high school he went away one summer to work and his hair all fell out that summer. He decided to buy a toupee before he went back to school and when he went back no one even knew. He also told me that the hair used in his hair piece came from Europe. One day we were visiting with a couple and they commented on how nice his hair looked. They told him that it looked very European. It was all I could do to not burst out laughing.

Another night we were visiting some members. Someone had told the sister that Elder Davis had a hairpiece so she thought she would find out for sure. We were sitting there and she quickly reached out and grabbed his hair. Fortunately for him he had just put some new tape on that morning and when she grabbed his hair it held. He grabbed his hair and yelled as if he was in pain. She felt very bad and was apologizing all night.

Another story was a the eating contest. The same family that pulled Elder Davis's hair hosted an eating contest. There were two districts in Turnhout and they had a contest to see which district could eat the most plates of friets with stoofvlees. I'll explain stoofvlees later. Just know that it is absolutely delicious. Most Elders dropped out after 3 or 4 plates but me and one other guy went on to 9 or 10. What I didn't know was that my competition had gone out for a run around the block. I was barely able to put the fries down my throat one at a time when I finally had to give up. The other guy ate one more plate than I did. Personally I think he should have been disqualified. I do believe that our district won though.

Finally after about six months in Turnhout I got the phone call telling me that I was to be transferred to Vilvoorde which was a suburb of Brussels. It was very difficult to say goodbye to Turnhout. Much harder than leaving home. I knew I would someday return home but I was possibly saying goodbye to my friends in Turnhout for the rest of my life. It was a bit exciting to head to a new place.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

LTM (Language Training Mission)

I loved every minute at the LTM (Language Training Mission). Just prior to my mission all English speaking missionaries spent a few days in Salt Lake City somewhere and the foreign speakers spent two months somewhere on BYU campus. I went to the new training center but it was still under construction when I arrived and they had barely started bringing the English speakers there for three weeks. They still didn't have enough sister missionaries to fill an entire building so I'm sure I was one of the few missionaries who stayed in a co-ed building in the LTM (or future MTC). I'm not sure when the name changed but I don't believe it was too long after I was there that the LTM became the MTC (Mission Training Center).

I don't remember my schedule all that well but I clearly remember that the cafeteria was "all you can eat" and that alone made the place great as far as I was concerned. I know we had physical education every day and we ran a lot. I also remember they measured my body fat at 8% and they measured your strength by having you grip these hand grips. I'd just finished a summer building houses so my hand strength was off the charts. We got up at 5:30 every morning and were in bed by 10:00 every night. We had several hours where all we did was read the scriptures (I loved that) and the rest of the time was split between Dutch and studying the discussions. We always used to joke that the only difference between the LTM and prison was that in prison they have visitors hours. My companion was Elder Jenkins from up state New York. We got along well.

While I was in the LTM they were receiving many visitors from the US government and many other institutions trying to figure out how the church could teach new languages to so many people in such a short time. They would come and observe how we lived and studied and then they would go an try and replicate it at their own facilities but they could never make it work. They could copy our hours and our curriculum but they just couldn't copy the spirit that was there. We lived in large brick dormitories with tiny windows or no windows at all but the spirit was ever present and I could have easily spent the rest of my life there. It was a beautiful place. Once a week we got to go to the temple and I think once during my time there I made a trip to the barber but other than that we never left. The only exception was when we went to a BYU football game. One end of the stadium was filled with missionaries. It was a great experience but I have no idea who played or who won.

All too soon my time at the LTM came to an end and I was on a bus to the airport. This was the first time in my life that I'd ever been on an airplane. I was quite excited. We flew from Salt Lake City to JFK in New York and from there to Brussels Belgium. The AP's (assistants to the president) picked us up in a little bus and we were off to Antwerpen. I thought I was pretty smart at this point. I could say a lot of little phrases in Dutch and I was quite excited for the opportunity to use it. My first opportunity came when we went to get food at the little hotel (more like a bread and breakfast) where we were staying. The guy serving the food handed me my plate and said, "alstublieft". I knew that the word meant "please" but I couldn't figure out what he was saying please for. Did he want money? I didn't have any. I panicked for a moment but eventually he kind of waved me off in frustration and probably figured I was an idiot which is pretty much how I felt. I eventually figured out that in Dutch they just say "alstublieft" more like we say thank you. It is just a polite way of saying, "there you go". Things didn't get better after my first exposure to real Dutch. I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I was beginning to wonder if I'd been taught the right language. It sounds so much different when a Dutch man speaks Dutch than when an American speaks it.

I was now in Belgium and I was very excited to meet my new companion and get to work.

Asthma is worse in children today because they don't contract Hepatitis A anymore. Hepatitis A was a comparatively mild disease but it made people who were genetically susceptible to asthma immune to it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mud Caves

When I worked at Kyocera I received five weeks of vacation a year. That was wonderful and gave me a great deal of freedoms. That was when I decided to start building up some clients for a consulting business on the side. I did a lot of my work in the evening but if there was an emergency or something I would just take a vacation day and take care of it. That worked out real well. Now that I no longer work at Kyocera and I'm at Hi-Z I have no vacation days but I still have my clients. Unfortunately, this week one of my clients has an emergency and needed a good deal of help before next week Wednesday. Now I had a dilemma. Alycia was arriving Thursday, Serene and Sydney are coming down on Sunday and I had a camping trip planned on the weekend so that was out too. I decided to just pull some all nighters and get it taken care of. After work on Tuesday I headed over to the clients house and worked until 3:00 AM. I crawled into bed but I had a conference call with Germany the next morning at 8:00 AM so I was up at 6:45 and headed off to work. Wednesday night I had scouts and after scouts I headed back into my clients lab to finish off the job. Unfortunately, my client hadn't done all the work that needed to be done so I had to do that as well and I pulled into my driveway at 6:45 the next morning. I still had a lot of work I needed to do at Hi-Z so I slept for two out and headed for my day job. I was really dragging and could hardly get out of bed. As you may remember, Thursday is the day I work at the Temple so it was nearly 11:00 before I got home Thursday night. If I add it up correctly, that made it sixty six hours with five hours of sleep. I thought I was going to die. I needed to get up at my normal time because I was leaving work early for camping and I wanted to get a good days work in but Lisa refused to wake me up and let me sleep in. I was concerned but somewhat grateful for the extra sleep.

My camping trip was to the mud caves. I've wanted to go there for some time but this weekend I finally got to go. I love camping and what a wonderful way to relax after a very stressful week. The stars are so beautiful out there. In the city you can see very few stars but out in the desert they are so beautiful. I tried to take a time exposure of Orion but the picture doesn't do it justice. I was so relaxing to just lay there and look at the sky.

And then the moon came out. I had to grab this picture. It was very dark but this time exposure of the moon came out very nicely.

And of course you always have to have the campfire. How relaxing.

I woke up to the beautiful desert. This place is so desolate I can't imagine how anyone could scrape out a living here. On a trip like this one you have to make sure to bring a lot of water. It is very different than when I camped in Canada. We never took water anywhere because you always came across the random stream and we would drink straight from the stream. You never tasted better water.

The desert was covered with these pretty little flowers. We had some rain a few weeks ago and it has caused all of the flowers to bloom. How pretty.

There is a story about a prospector who got caught in a flash flood in one of the canyons up here. They say he was buried in the mud. It looks like he was found in canyon behind our tent.

This range of hills stretches on for about five miles or so. The hills are made of something between dried mud and shale but it is very easily erroded by a good rain. From what I can tell, the top of these hills are filled with holes, cracks and crevices where the rain can flow into the hills and washes out tunnels. We saw about a dozen tunnels and hiked through five of them. Some were quite large but some you had to crawl on your belly to get through. I am a bit claustrophobic and totally not up to the belly crawl but there was one that was plenty high enough but very narrow. I was quite surprised to find that I was getting claustrophibic. I sent Brett Havertz ahead. Brett is about four feet tall so when he started complaining about how tight it was getting I said to myself, "I'm out of here". I am shuddering now as I think about it.

I wanted to take our little point and shoot camera up to the camp but it recently broke so I took up my nice camera. The camera was way too nice to take into the caves but I did run into the mouth of one of the caves just so I could have a picture of me in the tunnel. This picture was taken about a hundred yards into one of the tunnels and the tunnel continues on for about half a mile. We hiked all the way through it. They are really quite cool. We saw bats and everything including a pile of guanno.

On our way home I thought I would snap a picture of the desert. I have come to realize that all regions have their own sort of beauty. I used to think that after growing up in the Rockies everything else was just boring and in some cases "ugly". I don't believe that anymore. Brandon taught me to see the beauty in the prairies and I've come to think of the desert and beautiful as well. Very harsh but also very beautiful.