Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DOE Thermoelectric Conference

Right now I'm in the middle of a thermoelectric conference that is being held here in San Diego. It is always fun to travel to another city (or country) to attend these conferences but you can't beat just staying right here at home. The conference is being held at the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island and that is one fancy place. The conference is sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and is focusing heavily on putting thermoelectrics on cars to recover energy from their exhaust. Some of the companies that are here that you might know are, General Motors, Ford, JPL, BASF, Bosch, Caterpillar, Kleiner Perkins, UCSD, National Science Foundation, MIT, BMW, Georgetown University, Office of Naval Research, Argonne National Laboratory, Cal Tech, Ohio State University, Boeing, Oak Ridge National Lab, Samsung, Clarkson, DARPA, Hi-Z (of course), Brookhaven, Ford, Corning, US Army Laboratories, Clemson, General Dynamics, BAE, Sandia, Lockheed Martin and a whole lot of other companies and Universities that you probably don't care about. We have worked closely with many of these companies and most of them when they give their little talks mention that they got their modules from us. We're probably the most commonly mentioned company at the conference. I also think that we are way ahead of all of them in our research. I suppose much of what is talked about during the conference is not particularly new but since I've been out of the thermoelectric world for more than ten years it is all facinating to me. I have a lot of catching up to do and I'm glued to every presentation and while there is a lot of new stuff going on it is surprising how some things never change. A lot of the people I used to work with are starting to look very old. After the session today there was a little gathering in the hotel room of the guy from DOE. I was talking to him and I mentioned how Thomas Edison himself wired the electric lights for the hotel. He told me that he could "one up" that one. He told me that Marylin Monroe has stayed in his room and she has even slept in his bed. He said that he had the right bed, he was just forty years too late. The guy had what was probably the best room in the hotel. It was on a corner and his balcony went around two sides of the building. The conference was yesterday and today and tomorrow is the last day. It makes for some very long days but it is great.

If you "sleep" with a person, on the average you are exposing yourself to the sexually transmitted diseases of about 2.8 million people.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our New House

With our new baby life was good and we loved living in San Diego. While money was tight we got by and we always had what we needed. After our first year in our second rented house we decided to see if we could afford to buy a house. As it turned out the market was definitely a buyers market and if we didn’t get too greedy we figured we probably could buy one. In 1994 Lisa’s Granny passed away and left her a chunk of money that would go a long way toward a down payment. One day when we were out with our real estate agent looking at houses Lisa saw a house for sale that she really wanted to look at. I rolled my eyes and asked her why she wanted to look at houses that she knew we couldn’t afford to buy? She simply responded with, “What does it hurt to look? I want to see it.” In my head I’m saying, “because it will get your hopes up” but I learned long ago you can’t argue with her when she gets like that so off we went.

We both fell in love with the house. We had decided on some "must haves" for the house we were to buy. Two of them were, it must have a three car garage and it must be in a cul-de-sac. This house was on a fairly busy street and it only had a two car garage. It was, however, on a beautiful canyon and had a beautiful back yard that opened into the canyon. We decided since the kids were older we could do without the cul-de-sac and we would make do with a two car garage. Three car garages are California's answer to having no basement. All the junk that would normally go in a basement goes into the third car garage.

So as I'm sitting there falling in love with a house I can't afford Lisa wanders over to the kitchen counter and picks up some papers that are sitting there. "What does it mean to have an assumable mortgage?" she asked. As it turned out all the seller was asking was that we pay them enough so they could recoup some of the money they'd put into the house and we take over the payments. The beauty of that was that the mortgage was from the early 90's when the interest rates were the lowest they've been in decades. Lisa's inheritance was enough to make the seller happy and we were the proud owners of a new house. We made out nicely by purchasing a house at the bottom of the market and assuming a mortgage from when the interest rates were at the bottom. We ended up with a much nicer house than we could have otherwise afforded. What a wonderful deal. Thank you Granny.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Penasquitos Third Ward and Good Friends

Just as we had done in Rosemary when we first moved there, we decided that the best way to get settled into our new home would be to go out and meet everyone. That is what we did. Pretty much every Sunday for the longest time we would pile the family into a car and go and visit people. It is a good way to get to know everyone. They also had friendship dinners in our ward during that time and that was helpful as well. Couples were all assigned a family to go and visit and four or five couples would meet at someones house and eat a meal and visit and play games. We have made some life long friends in this ward and as much as I would love to name some of them I know I will forget to mention someone and then I would feel terrible. While I have met many people who I feel very close to there is one person that I will mention who I believe understands me better than anyone else. That is Craig McPhie. Besides, he told me once that he was going to leave his six inch mirror to me in his will.

Besides good friends I have had a few memorable callings in the church over the years as well. Some of these are when I worked with Craig McPhie in scouts just before he was called to be Bishop, I worked with Chuck Cotter in the Stake Mission Presidency, I worked with Rex Bosen in the Elders Quorum Presidency, with Ken Stinchfield in the High Priests Group Leadership and then with Marlin Griffin in the another High Priest Group Leadership. I have also been a "special friend" with a young autistic boy in the primary. I also taught the eleven year old boys in primary. I then worked with Curtis McConnel for more than five years in Scouts and even though Curtis has been released I am still enjoying the calling working with Rick Pettit. I hope I can stay here for another five years. I have loved all of those callings and today one of my highlights every week in when I work the Thursday PM shift at the temple.

Studies have shown that the most important single thing that strengthens a marriage is good cooking.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Bachelor

Today has been an interesting day. I got almost nothing done that I wanted to get done but I feel as if I've accomplished a whole lot of things that I hadn't planned on doing. Once again I am home alone and I'm thinking this is going to become much more common. I've always said that once the kids hit their junior year in High School they are pretty much gone since you see them so little. Also, with so many kids now grown, married and out on their own my wife seems to find more and more opportunities to go and visit/help them out. Yesterday she headed up to Malibu to "help" Serene and Brandon out with their new baby. While I know there is much good she can do to help Serene get a little more sleep and Brandon get some more study time I know that she was just dying to see that baby again. They grow so quickly when they are new born and by the time I get to see her at Sydney's birthday party she will already have lost that "new born" look. I must admit I'm quite jealous. So is just Sarah and I but Sarah was at a beach party last night and this afternoon she headed out with another friend at 3:00 so it has still been mostly just me and this big old house. That is OK though, I have a pot roast in the crock pot for my Sunday dinner tomorrow, I ground my own flour and baked a loaf of whole wheat bread and I made myself some low carb taco's last night (I used lettuce leaves for my tortilla) and mowed the lawns getting the yard ready for Grandpa Shaw who arrives this week. We are all going to the Miramar Air Show next Saturday. I'm really looking forward to that.

So Brandon issued me a challenge. He figures his intense study schedule and lack of exercise has made him soft. To motivate himself he is publicly posting pictures of his semi-naked body on a private blog with weekly updates about his weight etc. Since I beat him two years ago in our weight loss contest I too have gradually reaccumulated my lost body mass and so we are now in another show down to see if we can be in shape for Christmas. I have accepted his challenge but due to my shy nature and because I don't want to horrify anyone who may read this unawares I will be posting my updates with my semi-naked photo's on a private blog. If no one reads the postings there will not be much motivation for me to lose weight so I will be inviting my children to view the blog but I won't subject the rest of you to the horror. If anyone really feels the need to share in my humiliation just let me know and I will invite you to my blog but please don't feel oblidged. Just know that in my first week I have lost four pounds already. Let's see if I can do that again.

Apparently woman soldiers in the Swedish army have been issued bra's that have weak catches. The catches on the more endowed soldiers bra's frequently break during rigorous exercise allowing all sorts of things to come loose. The soldiers are forced to remove all of their equipment and much of their clothing in order to tie everything down again. To make matters worse, the bra's are highly flamable and sometimes burst into flames melting into their skin.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sheba Misses Alex

Sheba really misses Alex. She wanders into his bedroom looking for him and she has now started stalking me because there isn't any other male around for her to stalk. Anyone who knows Sheba knows that she is a bit psycho. She will lay in your lap and serenely purr away and then completely unprovoked and and quite suddenly she will claw you. She does that because of the boys. At first it was Brandon and then it was Ben and for the last several years it has been Alex. They literally play tag with her but for Sheba, catching you is actually slashing you. One day Brandon was walking through the front room and Sheba launched herself through the air off the back of the couch and latched onto Brandon with all of her claws fully extended. Of course they do the same thing to Sheba. I remember one time Alex started screaming from his bedroom (that would be a "fun" screaming). I run up there and Sheba has him trapped on his bed. If he put one foot onto the floor Sheba would attack it. She doesn't do this with me however. She never has. If she tries I just swat her and it is over. Well the other day I was walking down the stairs and out of the blue with no warning I have a cat wrapped around my ankle with her claws embedded into my skin. I knew Sheba was simply missing Alex so I let her get away with that one.

At some point Alex developed the nasty habit of letting Sheba finish off his breakfast cereal. I noticed that when I would get up Alex always left his empty bowl on the table after he left for seminary. I was chastising him out telling him he needed to put it away and he informs me that he can't put it away because Sheba is never done before he has to leave. This morning I was enjoying my bowl of cereal for breakfast when suddenly Sheba jumps up on the table and watches me eat. I kid you not, as soon as I lifted my bowl to drink the last of my milk Sheba walks right over to me and gives me this look. I decided to leave a little bit of milk in the bowl and she promptly proceeded to lap it up. Alex, I think she misses you.

Scientists have now determined that hair loss can be inherited from either parent, not just the mother as used to be believed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Zachary & Sara Lyman

Another exiting and tiring weekend is coming to an end. Friday afternoon Lisa called me at work in a panic. The battery on her van died again. Do you remember when I mentioned that it died the day Hayley was born? Well I didn't replace it then and this time I wasn't there to help Lisa out. Guess what we did Friday night? You guessed it, our date night consisted of buying a new battery for the van and buying a soup and salad while we were out. The good thing is that I called around to price them out and when I opened the hood I saw that it was a "Kirtland" battery. It also said in big letters, "36 month warranty" and right there on top of the battery was 04/07. Well if you do the math, 2007 was not 36 months ago. We took the battery back to Costco and they gave us a full refund on my old battery.

On Saturday a missionary who used to serve in our ward got married. We got quite close to Elder Lymon (Zachary), he is from Lindon but is marrying a girl from Orange County. They were married in the New Port Beach Temple and had a reception at her house in the evening. We would have gone up for the whole thing but Sarah had a meet. She seems to be slowly improving, this time she came just a few positions from medalling.

After the race we got ourselves ready and headed to Orange to the reception. It was fun and to make things even better, after the wedding we stopped and visited Ben and Sharley. It was good to see them in their own little home. They even made us a nice little Peach Cobbler. It was also good to see Blue (the cat) again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Health Care

In the midst of the intense debate here in the US about health care I decided it is time that I offered my own solution. First of all, I am a firm believer in the free market. I believe if people are responsible for their own care and pay their expenses out of their own pocket then I believe they will make better choices than the government ever will. At the same time I think it is unnecessary for anyone in a country as wealthy as the US to ever lose their life savings because they had the misfortune of getting sick. I have had to think long and hard to come up with a solution that would satisfy both requirements. I think the best solution is to have a government funded health savings account. I think it is key that it is government funded because too many people will fail to fund their own accounts. Here is how it would work.

- Every man woman and child who are citizens in the US will receive an account in their name.
- Every month the government will deposit $100 into that account.
- The account owner (or their legal guardian) will receive a debit card that can be used only toward health related purchases or services. This debit card is already used for Health Savings Accounts (HSA's) today.
- 99.9% of all people have very minor health expenses in the first 30 years of their lives.
- By the time people reach 30 years of age they will have more than $80,000 in their accounts
- In the very rare case where a young child has medical expenses that exceeds what they have in their accounts, family and friends can donate a portion of their HSA funds to help them out. Typically I see parents or grand parents who have plenty of money in their accounts helping a young child.
- One of the reasons health care costs are so high is because uninsured people don't get preventative care and then show up in emergency rooms where it often costs ten times the normal costs to get treated. This huge expense is now covered by those who have insurance. With everyone in the nation covered, this expense will be eliminated.
- When you die your money goes back to the government.
- By the age of 75 you will have nearly a million dollars.
- The average person spends about $250,000 on health care during their lives.
- Most of that is spent during your last year of life.
- This system will be much more efficient than the status quo because no one (like the insurance companies) will make a profit - money is only spent on medical expenses
- This system will cost the government about $300 billion a year where as today they spend about one trillion dollars.
- An average health insurance policy today costs about $300 a month compared to my $100 a month.

So there you have it. My solution to the nations health care problems.

On the average, 99% of all your health expenses will happen in the last year of your life.

Monday, September 14, 2009


It all started with my Camry. Last week on Tuesday I picked Sarah up from her Cross Country practice and she wanted to drive. We stopped at the bank on the way home and Sarah waited in the car yacking on her phone while I did my business. As I was making my deposit Sarah runs into the bank with a very worried look on her face. Rather than coming over and talking to me directly she stands at the door so everyone can hear and in a very loud voice says, "Dad, somethings wrong with the car. All this stuff is running out from underneath it and the motor is making some very weird noises. " I look out the window and I can see that the car has overheated (again). I ask her if the engine is running and she says it's not so I tell her to wait until I'm done. Of course one the male tellers see's this cute damsel in distress and just has to help so when I get out to my car they have the hood open and he proceeds to tell me what is wrong with my car. I've had a small leak in the cooling system for a while now so the engine overheating is nothing new to me. I decide to let him go ahead and tell me all about the splash pattern and I realize he's making sense. I decide to take a closer look at how the water has splashed all around my engine compartment and that leads me to a quarter inch hole in the casting that houses the thermostat. I take the gallon jug of water that I keep in the car for this very purpose and when I fill up the radiator and turn on the engine there is a jet of water shooting from the casting. I think I've found my "small" leak.

With Lisa in Utah and my Camry out of commission I'm now down to one vehicle, my pickup. I drive my pickup to work on Wednesday and then Wednesday evening I'm driving Sarah's friend home and suddenly my engine loses power. It runs for a little while but continuously gets' slower and slower. Finally I can tell the poor little truck just isn't going to make it so I coast onto a residential side street and there we sit. We call for a ride and proceed to make plans for how we're going to do seminary, piano lessons, school and work with no vehicles. Thursday morning while Sarah is at seminary I call Marie Riches to let her know why Sarah will be missing her piano lessons and she graciously offers to let me use one of her vehicles. I at first decline but when she insisted I realized that I'm in big trouble with no vehicle so I accept her offer.

Friday Lisa finally arrives home from Utah. She gets home about 3:30 and as soon as I get home from work we're off to Malibu to see the new granddaughter. We stop in Anaheim to pick up Ben and when I pull into the parking lot for his apartment building we turn the car off to call Ben. When I go to start the car again the battery is so dead that it won't even turn over. How can a battery just drive for ten hours and then go dead in a matter of two minutes? Fortunately, a beat up old Volkswagen Van pulls in beside me. I realize that any body with an old beat up vehicle like that must have booster cables. Sure enough he did and once we figured out that his battery is under his front seat we're on our way.

Saterday I head out to figure out how to get my little truck home and low and behold, it was gone! The dirty bounders had towed my truck. I was rather ticked because I'm sure I had parked it legally. I call the police and they tell me the sheriff towed it. I call the sheriff and they tell me the company that did the towing. I call them and they tell me it was towed because it had an expired registration. Darn it, they were right. I had paid the registration on-line so I could avoid a late fee but I never got the smog certificate until after the deadline. I had been waiting for the sticker to come but meanwhile here I was with no truck. The good news is that the part for my Camry came in on Saturday so I replaced that casting and put my Camry back into service. I just may have fixed that confounded leak once and for all.

DMV was closed on the weekend so there was nothing I could do until today, Monday. I don't know what the DMV is like where you live but in California they have the reputation of being a place to avoid. The reputation is justified. I arrived at the DMV around 11:00 and left at 3:30. Like an idiot, I didn't take a book. I could have gotten lots of reading done in there. When my turn finally came to go up to the counter I was told that I hadn't paid my registration. I know for a fact that I have, but in order to get my truck out of hawk I decided to pay the registration and come back later with proof that I did pay. By the time I paid the registation and late fee's for the Camry and the Ranger I was $300 poorer. Ouch, that hurt.

It was now on to "Road One Towing". I hate those people. I have heard from two different people that one of the ways the state is trying to make up for the financial crises they've created for themselves is they are now in cayhoots with the street sweepers. Anytime a street sweeper comes across a vehicle that can be towed they radio into the cops who come out and ticket or tow you. So I get to Road One Towing and the 300 pound woman behind the counter informs me that I need to go to the sheriffs office to get my vehicle released. She had a major attitude also. I point out that she might have mentioned that when I was talking to her on the phone. She then assures me that she does NOT answer the phones. I suggest she might pass the message along to the girl who does answer the phone. She then informed me that she would mention it to the "50" people on the phones. I look at the 10' x 10' office I'm standing in and I say, "you really tow that many vehicles?" In her snide little voice she tells me that they have twenty offices across the city. Right!

I then head for the sheriffs office. I'm the only person in the office and I sit there for over an hour waiting for the cop to do something with my paperwork. I was ready to scream. Finally they stamp my paper and let me go. It took an hour for them to stamp my paper. Luckily I kept my cool and decided not to say what I really wanted to say. The day was already going downhill fast I didn't need to end up in one of the cells in the back room.

Back at Road One Towing I hand over my credit card (no checks or money orders) and another $400 dissappears from my bank account. Three hundred for the tow and $100 for daily impound fees. I hate those guys. Finally they take the huge chain off the gate and I'm looking at my little pickup that doesn't run and I'm quickly trying to figure out just what I thought I was going to do. Just for laughs I decide to try starting it and to my surprise and joy it fires right up. I park next to my Camry and I make sure they both have current registration stickers on them and promising to come back for my Camry I head down the road with the truck. About a hundred yards down the street I start losing power again. I promptly make a U turn and parking the truck I took the Camry back to work. If I add up everything I've spent on registration, late fees, towing, impound fee's and lost wages this day has now cost me close to a thousand dollars.

After dinner tonight I tell Lisa that we need to go and see if we can get that truck running but after driving across town I can tell it isn't anything simple that I can take care of. It sounds alot like plugged fuel injecters or perhaps a bad ignition coil. I can now picture another $300 leaving my bank account. I finally conclude that I'm not going to pay another tow truck any money to hawl my truck around and I call Craig McPhie to see if he will tow me. Craig of course is always up to a challenge and off we go. We get the truck hooked up to a rope behind my Sienna and there we are rushing down Poway road at the breakneck speed of about 5 miles an hour. As I'm sitting there making sure I don't ram into the back of my own car I'm looking at the dash board. I notice that the fuel gauge is very close to empty. With any fuel gauge I've ever seen the tank isn't empty until the needle is below the empty mark but I don't drive the truck very often and I don't really know where "empty" is. When we get to Midland Auto and push the truck into place I ask Craig if he would mind humouring me and letting me put some gas in the truck. What could it hurt, right? We go to Wal-Mart and buy a gas can and then we fill it at a nearby station. I pour the gas into the truck and guess what? It turned over three or four times and then fired right up. Amazing. I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Landon Arlen Malakai Palmer

After I posted my blog about Hayley's entrance into this world I realized (or was made aware of the fact) that I never said anything about the arrival of Hayley's little cousin who was born over a month ago. Now let me explain, this isn't entirely due to my negligence, a lot of things happened all at once. First of all I've wanted to talk about Landon more than you could possible know for a very long time but because it was an adoption and further complicated by some very strange laws they have in Alberta about publicly disclosing a potential adoption I was sworn to secrecy until ten days after Landon was born. Do you remember what happened during those ten days? Crowleys arrived, Grandma Shaw arrived, Grandpa and Nanna arrived, Teirrsa arrived, Kira arrived with Evan, Greg, Gaylia, Kristen and children arrived, we had the family dinner, Alycia got married, we sent Alycia and Trevor on their honeymoon and then finally the ten days were up and I could publicly tell the world that Landon was born. The problem is that it was during this time that we were packing Alex up for college and then Sarah started school and then Peter got married and we were in the middle of visiting with all of his family and Kira; I am so sorry that in all of that Landon kind of got overlooked.

So let me announce it now. Landon Arlen Malakai Palmer entered this world at 8:15 AM on August 4, 2009. He was 8lbs 3oz and he didn't really want to leave his mother so they actually went in with forceps and dragged him out. I would like to draw your attention to his second name. It just happens to be my second name as well and perhaps better than that it was my fathers first name. I hate that they are so far away and we couldn't be up there like we were with Brandon and Serene. Oh well, thank goodness for blogs, at least Kira is good about blogging and we can all see him. If you want to get more details on his birth you should follow this link to Kira's blog. I stole all my pictures from there so you won't get any new pictures.

I can tell you this though. I love being a grandpa and it was so fun to have Evan down her for the wedding even if Kira couldn't bring Landon across the border. She had just better get everything straightened out for Christmas because if I can't see him at Christmas time I will be very sad.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grandpa Leavitt (#4)

This has been a very exciting few days. First of all, my wife came home. She left last week on Thursday and was going to be home Monday. Some time during the weekend it dawned on her that coming home on a Monday evening on a long weekend was just asking for trouble. The traffic between Las Vegas and Los Angeles can turn a five hour trip into a ten hour trip. For hundreds of miles the traffic never exceeds twenty miles an hour. She decided that she'd come home Tuesday. I was talking to her on Monday getting all excited about seeing her when she informs me that there is still so much work that needs to be done so she thinks she'll come home on Wednesday. Bummer. Tuesday she tells me that she is so close to having the apartment all set up that she just wants to get it done so she is now coming home on Thursday. With Alycia and Trevor both in school full time and working part time they would have been living out of boxes for months. As you can imagine, I was a little hesitant to believe that she would actually come home Thursday but once she was on the road at a reasonable hour I allowed myself to hope. Alex is the one who said, "Dad, I'll bet she stays in St George." Guess what? She stayed in St George.

So Friday was the day. The day actually started out with a great deal of excitement. Lisa got a call at 2:40 AM from Brandon. Serene was in labor. How exciting. At 6:45 AM little Hayley Marie Leavitt entered this world. Lisa pulls in to San Diego around 3:30 in the afternoon and then I come home from work and we load Lisa back into the car and head north. We picked Ben up in Anaheim and we went to visit Serene at the Hospital in Woodland Hills.

It had been a grueling and long night for Serene but she looked good. A bit exhausted but still good. Hayley is gorgeous. Grandma got first dibs at holding her but I was right there for my turn. The whole experience was a new one for Sarah. She has never been to see a new baby in the hospital. We took our time enjoying the excitement but eventually Serene was fading out on us and we decided to let her feed her baby and get some sleep.

Poor Brandon had a "Mock Trial" today and he was not well prepared because of the distractions he's had the last couple of days. He was laying in the other bed in Serenes room studying but he was dead tired. He was afraid he was going to look like a total fool in the trials today. I told him he could pull the sympathy card and let them know somehow that he had a baby born yesterday. I haven't heard yet how he did.

One of the reasons we had to come home last night was because Sarah had a Cross Country meet this morning. She did very well. She was the first girl from her JV team to finish. The team didn't win but it was good to see her do so well. After the meet we went to the beach. Today was the ward picnic and we all went to Torrey Pines. The waves were great and the food was good too. I'm very tired.
The most common baby name in England is Mohammad