Friday, October 29, 2010

Blondes and Brunettes

When Sarah was a young child she was very blonde. As she grew older her hair gradually got darker and darker until now she is pretty much a brunette. Incidently, I'm told that when I was a young child I was blonde as well and then as I got older my hair got darker and darker and thinner and thinner until now I'm pretty much bald.

OK, back to Sarah. I've often wondered what she would look like if she'd stayed blonde. Alex and Alycia were also both blonde as kids, Alex got darker (but not as dark as Sarah) but Alycia stayed very blonde. I wondered if Sarah had stayed blonde would look anything like Alycia? Well now I know. She would. This year for Halloween Sarah is Alice in Wonderland. While I think she makes a darn cute blonde I think I like her better as a brunette.

While we're on the topic I've always thought that Kira and Alycia looked very different. I was quite shocked as I was going through pictures of Brandon's wedding when I saw a picture of Kira and Alycia with their heads close together. They look like twins. Yes Kira has very dark hair and Alycia has very light hair but their faces are nearly identical. Alycia has a dimple that Kira doesn't have but other than that they could be twins. We now call this picture Yin and Yang. I guess they've looked alike all along but the stark difference in their hair and complexions has always fooled me.

Well we can debate who looks like who but I think we'll all agree that they're three very gorgeous girls. We're lucky they take after their mother.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Vote for Change

After Obama won the election nearly two years ago I said that I would support him until he gave me a reason not to. Now with the mid term elections one week away it seems like a good time to see just how things have changed. After all, he did campaign on a promise to "change" things. Allow me to review just some of the issues that are important to me.

1) Education - President Obama recognizes that the public school system in many cities (especially Washington) is so bad that no one can hope to get a decent education there. Washington DC had implemented a school voucher system there that allowed families to send their kids to a decent school. Just as the system was beginning to make huge improvements Obama caved in to the unions and killed the voucher program. Of course his kids go to a private school. In DC or the rest of the nation there is no change on the horizon for education.

2) War on Drugs - no change here. Drugs (and terrorists) cross our border with Mexico just as easily as they ever did. We still have an open border.

3) Energy - Obama continues to shut down the coal mines and drilling for oil (off shore and on shore). He talks about a smart grid but is doing nothing about it. The only real option for domestic power is nuclear and he won't even mention that. No change here.

4) Immigration Reform - As I said before, our border is just as open as it ever was. He talks about amnesty once in a while (of course he doesn't call it that) but he isn't even trying to fix immigration. By fix I mean make it easier for good people to come and harder for bad people to come. Right now it's easy for the bad people and hard for the good people.

5) Health Care - Has anyone noticed how expensive health insurance is getting? Since Obama's health care plan was passed health care cost have only accelerated. His plan was doomed to failure. The Cato Institute predicts that Obama Care will cost $2.7 trillion (not the $900 billion that was promised) and there will still be 21 million uninsured. There are many good ways to solve this problem but for Obama it is his way or the high way. There has certainly been a change with respect to Health Care but I don't think this is the change people were voting for.

6) Uniting the country - When Obama took office he promised to unite the country. As bad as Bush was, the Democrats under Obama are even worse. You can't disagree with Obama on anything without being called a racist, a terrorist or a Neanderthal. Not much of a change here.

7) Foreign Policies - Obama promised to improve our image in the eyes of the world. I guess he intended to do this by appeasing everyone but all he's done is snub Great Britain, abandon our allies in Asia and the Middle East, bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia and give credibility and recognition to terrorists who cut off peoples heads and abuse their women. I guess this is a change but not one I like. Before long we have handed our super power status over to China and they will run the world.

8) Obama bailed out all the big banks that had mismanaged their money and bought General Motors to save their Unions. Meanwhile the banks and automobile companies that used good business practices were hung out to dry. How's that right? Is this the change you voted for?

9) Environment - Obama's doing his best to pass "Cap and Trade" which will have no effect on Global Warming but will drive our energy costs so high that even more companies will fail and unemployment will go yet higher.

10) Economy - All I really need to say is that unemployment is now over 10% and in reality it is much higher than that if you count the underemployed and part timers who would like to be full time. Now to encourage growth he's going to let the Bush tax cuts expire and this will result in the largest tax hike in American history. That should help.

It doesn't look to me like Obama has changed much and the few changes he has made seem to be changes for the worse. Apparently a lot of other Americans agree with me and next week at this time we should have a chance for some real change. I just hope that all the new politicians that get voted in learn from their predecessors and are more responsive to the average American who just wants to be left alone.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

12 Pounder Mountain Howitzer

Today has been a very fun day. Today I learned how to shoot a cannon. A good friend of ours heads some group at the Mormon Battalion and he asked if I was interested in becoming a certified cannon shooter. I guess they have the occasional cannon demonstrations and they don't have enough certified cannon shooters. Of course I was very interested. Just in case you're not familiar with the Mormon Battalion they have the distinct honor of having made the longest military march in American history. When the Mormons were ran out of the United States and on their way to Utah they were really hard up for supplies.
There are five men required to fire a cannon. You can actually do it with three but five is preferable. The five positions are 1) Loader 2) Rammer 3) Pricker 4) Gunner and 5) The Powder Monkey.They sent messengers to the US government offering to build cabins along the trail heading west to provide shelter for all of the people heading west. In turn the government would pay them. The government wasn't interested in cabins but they had a war going on with Mexico and they did offer good money if the Mormons could come up with 500 men to form a battalion. Those 500 men marched from somewhere on the Iowa plains to San Diego.
That was a long march. We have a very cool visitors center here in San Diego that you really should go and see if you're ever in the area. Maybe I'll be manning the cannon. I am certified after all.

The loader puts the cartridge (that includes the cannonball along with the powder) in the barrel of the cannon. Here is a video of me loading the cannon. Please excuse the shakiness of the video. I think my photographer was a little distracted.

The rammer shoves the cartridge down the barrel of the cannon and gives it a couple of good thumps to ensure that it is well seated in the chamber so that the fuse can get to it. After the gun is fired the rammer also dips a wool swab into some water and washes out the barrel of the cannon. This does two things, it keep the barrel from fouling but it also puts out any burning embers that might cause the next charge to fire prematurely. Here is a video of me ramming (and swabbing) the cannon.

All the pricker does for the most part is keep his thumb over the vent hole. This sounds like a real dumb job at first but it turns out that when you ram the cartridge into the barrel you can blow ashes and sparks and sludge up the vent hole. By putting your thumb over the vent hole none of this happens. The other thing they worry about is if there is a live ember left in the barrel the rushing air going out the vent could fan it into a hotter ember that might ignite the charge being shoved into the barrel. The pricker is also the guy who shoves a spike (pricking) into the powder cartridge to expose powder to the primer. The powder was held in a cotton bag but because cotton is more likely to leave burning embers we use aluminum foil. Check out the video of my holding my thumb on the vent. You may also notice me pricking the charge.
The gunner is the man in charge. He first calls out "prepare to load" at which point the powder monkey runs a cartridge up to the loader. He then calls out "load the charge" at which point the loader puts the cartridge in the muzzel of the cannon and the rammer rams it home. Note this is done with gloves on your hands and with only one hand. The thumb is also pointed away from the muzzle of the cannon. If that charge goes off while you're ramming it perhaps you might not lose your hand. If you do at least you'll only lose one hand. After the cartridge is rammed into place the gunner calls out "prick and prime". This is when the pricker shoves a spike into the vent hole and tears a hole into the powder bag (or foil) and then the gunner puts a primer into the vent hole. The primer was originally a goose quill filled with gun powder.
A friction sensitive primer is located on the top of the primer much like a match head and when a wire is pulled through this primer it ignites the gun powder that in turn flashes down the goose quill and into the powder in the barrel of the gun. Sounds like fun doesn't it. Here you can watch me calling out all the orders and then yanking on the cord that sets off the igniter.

The final job is the powder monkey. As I mentioned all he has to do is carry the cartridge up to the loader. I didn't think you would find a video of me carrying a cartridge too exciting so I skipped that video. So there you have it. I'm now a certified cannoneer. It was a good day.

This weekend is homecoming for Westview. Our poor little football team got slaughtered last night by Poway. There were pretty dejected. It is a rebuilding year for them and they only have twelve seniors on the team. We're also in a pretty tough league. Tonight is the homecoming dance and Sarah is off with a group of 13 people. Yes, I realize thirteen is an odd number but one brave girl decided that she wanted to join the group even if she didn't have a date. I think that is great. The scary part is that all seven girls came to our house to get ready and word has it that they're all sleeping here too.
The boys are all leaving at midnight so I can go to bed.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I may have mentioned before that I love my job. One of the things that I love most about my job is that being such a small company we get the chance to try all sorts of different things. A large company has many specialists and you become quite confined but with only a dozen employees, if you want something done you pretty much have to do it yourself. As you probably know, I do research and development in thermoelectrics. Since the first half of that name is "thermo" you may have guessed that we do a lot of work at high temperatures.

One of the machines that is key to my work is a large machine called a vacuum hot press. This machine can heat a sample to over 2,000°C (for those of you who haven't made the switch to the metric system that is nearly 3,700°F) and while it is hot it can pull a hard vacuum. The vacuum we use removes 99.99999% of the air, that means that if you have 10 million molecules we remove all but one of them. While hot and in the vacuum we can then press the sample with 23,000 kgs of force (for you non-metric types that is 50,000 pounds). You can do amazing things under those conditions. We actually have two vacuum hot presses, one is heated with graphite heating elements and the other one is inductively heated. Induction coils are very cool things. If you take a coil of wire and pass a high frequency electric current through it, it will create an electromagnetic field. If you expose an electrically conducting material to the electromagnetic field it will generate electric current in that material. The induced electrical currents will then heat the part up. Our induction furnace has water cooled copper tubing wound in a coil and when we put a molybdenum die inside the coil we can heat it to 600°C in about one minute.

An electromagnetic field will try and ionize any gas that is in the area. While the electromagnetic field we use doesn't have a high enough voltage to ionize a normal atmosphere we typically heat our parts up in a reducing atmosphere and then once it is hot we start to pull a vacuum. As the pressure of the gas drops it is easier to ionize it and if you watch the induction coil you will gradually see a plasma form around it. As the pressure drops further the plasma gradually disappears as the gas is all evacuated. A plasma is just another name for an ionized gas. A plasma is actually the forth state of matter. The other states that you're probably more familiar with are solid, liquid and gas. It really is a beautiful sight to behold. Our technician took some pictures and a short video on his I-phone. I begged him to share it with me so I could share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Friday I came home from work planning on just being a bum and watch some movie. To my surprise and joy Lisa told me that we'd been invited to go over to Lexi and Steve Sharps after dinner. We had a fun time. We visited all night long, checked out all the work Steve's done in his yard and then we ate pie and ice cream. We even learned a cool new game played with domino's called Mexican Train. Meanwhile Sarah was out with some friends.

Saturday morning I slept in, puttered around the house a bit and then we were headed out for another one of Sarah's cross country meets. I know you're all groaning and saying,
"just what we want, more pictures of Sarah running." Well I'm sorry, I love to watch her run so it's going to get posted here. She actually had her best race of the season. I think she may have posted a better time last year but for this year it was her best. Her team actually came in first place. It was fun to watch.

For the last several months Sarah has been volunteering with a group fo Mentally challenged kids. I say kids but some of them are in their thirties. The special olympics were cancelled in San Diego for a lack of funding so everyone in San Diego got together and formed sports leagues. Every week they get together and play each other. In the summer it was soccer and now they're playing Boccie Ball. A few weeks ago they had a Harvest Festival and this weekend it was a Halloween party. Sarah goes to nearly all of these events. The Harvest Festival was funny because Sarah went as the Chaperone but when they got there they were serving alcohol and Sarah had to lie to even get in.

The kids were all allowed but the Chaperone wasn't. Funny. We forgave her for that lie, it would have been bad if they hadn't had their Chaperone. Lisa also went to the Halloween party to help serve. While they were there they also met up with Peter and Maron. What a small world.

Sunday was another crazy day. With Choir practice in the morning, the meetings in the afternoon Temple choir in the evening and then a High Priest meeting after that the day was quite full. Good but full.

We were also expecting Serene and the girls Sunday also but they then decided to come on Monday. During October kids can get into the zoo for free so Mom invited Serene to bring the girls down so they could go. Monday when I walked in the house I was greeted by a little girl who wanted an "airplane" ride. As soon as I had Sydney "flying" around the house then Hayley wanted to fly. It wasn't long before I ran out of gas. I then found out that I was babysitting while Lisa, Serene and Sarah went to the seamstress to pick up Sarah's dress. I'm not sure but I think it might have been a Halloween dress.

One of the handicapped boys wanted Sarah be the "Blues Brothers" with her (who ever they are) but Sarah really wanted to be Alice in Wonderland for the party with her friends. While the big girls were out the little girls and I had more airplane rides, had cowboy rides and built castles with blocks. It was fun.

Today was the big day at the zoo. Alas, I had to go to work but that may have been a good thing. As I was working in the back lab we had the big high bay doors open and the rain was just pouring down. I texted Lisa and asked if she was getting wet and she responded, "soaked". From the pictures it looks like they still had fun. They came home and baked cookies.

Right now I'm babysitting again (the kids are in bed) while Lisa and Serene are at a movie. I wasn't invited.

Cities actually attract hurricanes towards them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Sydney

What a busy weekend this has been. So much has happened that I haven't had a chance to post anything. Friday Ben and Sharley and their friends Jose and Chardenay (sp) came down to go to some Halloween Haunted House thing. Sarah had a race Friday after school and Ben, Sharley and friends all went to watch her. Unfortunately I had visitors from Japan and I couldn't make it. Bummer. When Sarah heard they were going to the haunted house she quickly invited herself to go along. She took her friend Nick along with her.
From all reports they had a wonderfully scary time. They then came home and we played games all night. This time we mixed it up a little. We played a game of Settlers, a game of "The Great Dalmudi" and then a few rounds of five handed Rook. It was a ton of fun. Saturday Sharley and her friends headed home and Ben came with us to celebrate Sydney's birthday. Sharley had some school work she had to catch up on. We all had a ton of fun and ate way too much junk food. Sydney has a little childrens book about a dump truck and lately she has been very taken with dump trucks.
Serene made a birthday cake that looks like a dump truck and we actually gave her a dump truck for her present. It was battery powered and made some real cool sounds. It would also drive for a little ways. Sydney loved the dump truck but I think the little boy who was invited it loved it more. I finally had to take it away from the boy because I was afraid he would break it before Sydney even had a chance to play with it.

We stayed and visited with Brandon and Serene for a little while and then we headed home. We dropped Ben off at his new home in Orange.
We took ten minutes or so to check out the new digs (which are actually pretty nice) and then we headed home.

Sunday we had some friends show up just in time for church. When Lisa joined the church as a very young teenager and her young womans advisor was Elaine Cooper. Elaine has since married Doug Streibel and they make a wonderful couple. They were actually on a mission to Nauvoo when we made a trip out there a few years back. They just got off a cruise on Sunday morning in Long Beach and drove down to San Diego just in time for church. Lisa showed them all the sights on Monday and Tuesday and they left the house this morning at 4:00 to catch their plane. I made sure I said good bye to them last night so they were on their own this morning.

So, in a nut shell that has been week in a nutshell. Tomorrow is Thursday and then it will be another action packed weekend. I'm sure we've had at least a dozen visitors over the past few months.
I love it but boy, it doesn't give you much of a chance to breathe.

Small electronics like XBox and Play Stations consume 15% of all household electricity.

Sydney wanted to show us the cheese puff in her mouth.

This little boy was more excited about Sydney's presents than she was.

Sarah was blowing bubbles for the kids.

Hayley was sitting peacefully on my belly when Sydney saw her. Sydney always wants what ever Hayley has so in no time she was on my belly as well.

And then another little girl decided to join.

The lights in this view are part of Pepperdine campus. What a great view.

The same view with Ben and Sarah in it.

Doug & Elane Streibel and Lisa & I eating fish and chips in Seaport Village. Yummy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I remember growing up there was an old man in our neighborhood name “Ten”. I believe he was Ten Pilling. I remember thinking what a strange name that was. One day I asked Mom why he had such a strange name. She told me that he was born at 10:10 on October 10, 1910. It was such a coincidence that his parents decided to name him “Ten”. Well today is 10/10/10 so if anyone was born at 10:10 today perhaps they can name him “Ten”.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


When I first came back to Hi-Z I noticed that across the ally from the back of our company there were always girls out in the alley smoking. Some one eventually told me that they were students at the beauty school. When I heard that, the first thing I thought of was that they probably need to cut peoples hair and I assumed I could get a cheap hair cut. The next time my hair started to look like Bozo the Clown I wandered around to the front of the the beauty school and checked them out. The first thing I learned was that you have to make an appointment first but the second thing I learned was that it only cost $4.99 for a hair cut. I was sold, after all, I'm bald, how much damage could they do? At the time Alex was working at Hi-Z for the summer so he came along as well. Most of these girls look like they come from a different world. They all have tattoo's and they all smell like cigarette smoke. They also have very strange hair doo's. They do a good job though and for $4.99 you also get a free shampooing.

Today I was due for a hair cut and the girl who I got was Abigail. She was very young and I was her first customer. She's actually fresh out of High School (Mira Mesa High) and looked more normal than any girl I've had yet. She was also very scared and acted like she was afraid she was going to hurt me. She had a very light touch. I think she did a good job but I'll find out as soon as I get home. Lisa is very picky.

There are about 100.000 hairs on a healthy scalp (I suppose I'm down to about 10,000). Each of these hairs will, in normal healthy conditions, last for up to six years. People loose about 100 hairs per day, in normal conditions.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Conference Weekend

I love conference weekend. It is so relaxing. I sit on my end of the couch right next to the open door to the backyard and I enjoy the sun, the breeze and the listen to the Lords prophet. It doesn't get much better than that.

It is good the weekend is relaxing because it has been a pretty stressful week this week. I won't get into why but lets just say that right now lawyers are very low on my list of favorite people. We've been working on a contract and finally at the very last minute (literally) we worked things out and all I can say is, all's well that ends well.

Friday Sarah had a cross country meet against Poway. It was a pretty tough race for her. She's been sick this week and actually missed two days of school. She hasn't practiced running with her team since Monday so she knew it was going to be a tough race for her. She finished last place but to her credit she ran the race. There were some members of her team who knew they would do poorly and didn't run at all. The race was at Poway Lake and it was very beautiful. It was tough for the runners though because there were many steep hills, it was hot and it was very humid.

I also went running on Saturday. The blisters on the bottoms of my feet peeled off last week. Remember, I got those when I went running barefoot with Brandon a couple of weeks back? It really does feel good to get back into running. Maybe now I can get rid of this gut of mine. I suppose it would help if I quit eating so much. I'm working on that.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Gun Control

Today I will give my final example of the difference between liberals and conservatives. Gun control. This is one case where I just don't understand the liberal view point.
How can owning a gun possibly be a bad thing? Sure, there is the rare case where some idiot leaves a loaded gun laying around and someone gets hurt and I have no problem requiring someone to take a training course before giving him a gun. After all, we don't let anyone drive a car (far more deadly than a gun) without requiring them to get a license. And there is the argument about some one who owns a gun losing their temper but those people seem to have no problem using other things such as knives, screwdrivers and baseball bats to kill the person they're mad at. We even had a killing here in San Diego not long ago by someone using a frozen fish.

In any case, as you might guess, the liberal wants to take care of everybody and if a gun can kill a person then we should take them away. The problem with that argument is that some how the bad guys manage to keep getting their guns meanwhile the honest guys don't.

The conservative believes that we all have the right to defend ourselves and if there are bad guys out there with guns then we should have that same right. Not long ago in Salt Lake City there was a crazy gun man opened fire in a shopping mall killing several people. Utah has a "right to carry" law meaning that as long as you haven't broken any laws you can carry a concealed weapon. The gun man was taken out by a civilian who happened to be in the mall shopping.

In the year 2003, 12,548 people died from accidental and intentional gun shots, (not including suicide). In the same year more than 100,000 people used a gun in self defense saving themselves (or others) from serious harm or death. The actual number is difficult to determine and may have been as high as three million.