Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let it Snow part 2

This is a continuation of the post I made earlier today. Don't forget to scroll down and read that one as well!
So, I just got done making snowflakes with the kids. Here are the ones they made.

I made a couple as directed by the kids. Xander wanted Iron Man and Spiderman.

I know! Spidey looks like a Roswell alien. Leave me alone already! You try making a snowflake while a 4 year old tries to clime on your lap and put his head in your line of sight! Jeeez!

CJ requested a Ballerina, and Mia really wanted a spider. I didn't have the energy to make two more - so I only made one.

I must say, this one is fun! Even the spiders are doing ballet!

Now on to sweeping up the confetti we left behind.

Let it Snow!

Yesterday I came across a site where someone had made some cool Star Wars themed snowflakes. They were pretty cool and I really wanted to give it a try. The site had patterns for their snowflakes, but I thought I could throw my own spin on it.

Here is one from that site.

I really like Darth Vader, and I especially like how she was able to put the Galactic Empire logo in the center. I added detail to my Darth Vader and threw in a storm trooper.

Here is mine. It's hanging up so I couldn't get a good flat picture, but you get the idea.

I wanted to do a Rebel Alliance snowflake as well, so i designed my own from scratch.

You can see, Yoda, The Rebel Alliance symbol, the Millenium Falcon, and an x-wing fighter. Awesome!

My friend challenged me to make one more that would be so unique that no one would ever duplicate it. He even gave me the subject matter.

Yes, Jar Jar Binks. Why would anyone spend the energy to make a Jar Jar snowflake? Well, in my case, it was a dare. I'm sure no one else will ever bother, so this will remain a one of a kind forever. I'm going to make some more with the kids today. If we come up with any good ones, I'll post 'em for all to see.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Be Mario?

When I was a kid, I would go over to my friend Andy's house and be amazed at all his trophies. He had a bunch for baseball and football and soccer. When I was a bit older, I was in awe of my friend Chris's trophies for football, basketball and bowling - yes he bowls. Really, most of my friends have had collections of trophies that they won in everything from soccer to ballroom dancing. I never got a trophy. Or rather, I never got a "First Place" trophy.

I did have a few successes though. I won second place in a regional science fair. That was awesome! My little league team came in second place in the championship game that I didn't even play in because it was on a Sunday. They brought me my tiny trophy at the end-of-the-season picnic. More recently, I helped with a student film that won second place at the Emmys (which still means that we won an Emmy). I'm comfortable with second place.

If you think about it though, who is the better athlete in the Olympics? The guy who wins one gold medal in one event (and no other medals), or the guy who wins 5 silver medals in 5 events? I say second place!

Remember Super Mario Brothers 2? That was the first one where you could choose between Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess Peach. They each had special talents; Princess Peach could jump further than any of the others, Mario jumped further than everyone else. Luigi jumped higher than the others, Mario jumped higher than everyone else. Toad was the fastest, Mario was second fastest. Mario was second best at everything - which made him the best overall. It's not called Super Luigi Brothers.

So, like I said, I feel comfortable with second place. Well at least I used to be comfortable with second place.

Things have changed.

This past Saturday, the day before Halloween, My daughter Mia ran her first race. It was a 1k, which is just over half a mile. It was a race for kids ages 6-12. Mia is 6.

Let me pause for a moment to explain Mia for those who don't know her. She is stubborn. She hates to lose. We have been working with her to understand that it's not important whether you win or lose, but only that you have fun. It's the Playing of the game that's fun. Winning is just a bit of frosting on top. She's been trying hard to remember to have fun with the playing, but losing is still hard for her. Even when it's just for herself. A classic illustration of her stubborn personality is when she was trying to learn to jumprope. She was standing in the driveway crying so hard, growling in frustration that she couldn't get it right. I offered to help, and she yelled at me to leave her alone. Rather than give up - or even take a break - she just kept trying and trying until she finally got it - tears and all!

With that in mind, Valerie and I prepared her for her upcoming race. We gave her the wonderful parental encouragement that she might not win. We prepared her as much as we could so she could handle her loss well and have fun anyway. She seemed prepared to handle her inevitable loss against kids who were bigger than her. But then she saw them handing out the trophies for the race before hers. She was mezmorized by them. She said to me, "Dad, I want one of those." Oh Great. It broke my heart a bit. I told her that if she ran her hardest, she might get one, but that she shouldn't be sad if she didn't.

She ran her race. She took off like lightning, weaving through all the bigger boys to try to get out front. Then the trail went down a hill and Xander and I waited for the racers to get half way, turn around and race back. We waited for the sign of all the bobbing heads of the bigger boys to signal that Mia would be showing up soon.

Finally, I saw one. A 10 year old boy was racing toward us. I looked behind him but saw no sign of other bobbing heads. I looked down to tell Xander that Mia would be coming in a few minutes. When I looked up, I saw Mia come up over the hill! She was so small I didn't see her bobbing head earlier. The next thing I noticed was that there was no other kinds anywhere near her.

I yelled for her to run as fast as she could. She sprinted across the finish line in 4:57. Not only had she come in FIRST PLACE among the girls, but she had only been beaten by ONE boy who was several years older than her.

I was so proud of her when she got her FIRST PLACE trophy! She was in heaven! She asked Valerie if this was just a dream. She was so happy all day. She carried her trophy everywhere with her.

This is when I changed my mind about second place. I realized that even though I never won a first place trophy before, I could do it now - through my kids! All I have to do is wake Mia up every morning at 4am to run drills. I'll get a whistle and a stop watch and time her at everything she does. I'll never prepare her to handle losing gracefully, but to handle it shamefully. I'll constantly remind her that she isn't fast enough yet. She'll win every race she enters if she doesn't want to be grounded from going to school or having friends. We'll have to buy a huge trophy case to hold all her gold! When she's old enough, I'll arrange her marriage to a lean African man - probably a world record holder. The genetics will surely produce inhumanly fast offspring. That's the way it works with horses anyway.

I bet my other kids are good a something too. I should decide now what I want them to be good at so I can start their training. I bet Zoey is old enough to start learning competitive archery! I'll start Xander in the weight room tomorrow so we can get him in shape for the NFL, NHL and MLB. Maybe I can get him genetically modified to make him taller for the NBA! I'm sure I have some contacts that will get CJ into hollywood! I expect to see her face on the cover of "Bop!" by next year. I will get furious at every little league game and yell at the umpires! I'll throw chairs onto the field during pee-wee football games if a bad call is made against my kid! I will be - I mean - my kids will be so famous that we will get our own reality TV show!

Bahh! Whoever thought having fun was the most important thing obviously never won anything! And as for Mario - just wait until they come out with a "Mario's Offspring" game in which all his kids dominate everyone else!

So I'm taking applications now for prospective mates for my children who are guaranteed to have earned lot's of first place trophies by marrying age. Fun will have been torn out of them, so you can count on highly competitive automatons. Second place or below need not apply.

Monday, August 9, 2010

An Apology To, And In Behalf Of, All Married Men

Some of you may be aware of a set of rules which governs how men interact with other men. It is known most commonly as the "Bro Code". Most of the rules are written only in the DNA on the "Y" chromosome, but there have been compilations recorded in a few places on the internet.

For any female readers out there who may be curious about what kind of rules are in the Bro Code, I'll share a few examples. But before I do, I must state that no man expects you to understand these rules, and you should not expect him to explain - or defend them. Right or wrong, they are in his DNA. He can no more explain/defend the Bro Code, than he can explain/defend the color of his eyes or his naturally masculine physique.

"Bros Before Hoes". I know some find the verbology of this ruel to be crude, but remember, this is translated directly from our DNA with no "politically correct" filter involved. This is the number one rule on which most other rules depend. This rule basically means that if a man's girlfriend (or her interests) conflict with those of his best friend's, he should always go with his friend's. (The reasoning being that girfriends come and go, but you have your bros forever).

"Buffer Urinal". Also known as ICUP, or International Choice of Urinal Protocol. There is a pretty deep and entertaining examination of this here. The quick explanation is simply that there should always be a buffer urinal between two guys going to the bathroom. There is no reason for two guys to pee next to each other if there are empty urinals to separate them.

Other rules govern when it's OK to cheat in a game (if there is no money involved), when it's OK to smack talk or badmouth a friends favorite sports team, etc.

The reason I bring up the Bro Code, it that things change once you get married. As I said before, Most of the Bro Code governs the interaction of male friends, with the number one guiding principle being "bros before hoes". Obviously marriage changes this. Now that rule - the base rule- get overruled by the new rule: "Whatever makes your wife Happy".

We love our wives, and we want them to be happy for two reasons: We just want them to be happy because we love them, and when they are happy, we are happy.

Among married men, this new rule is understood. Gone are the days when you would go hang out with the guys rather than sit at home watching a romantic comedy with your girl. None of your married friends will tease you (much) when you have to watch the kids while your wife has a "girls night out".

We live with it. We accept it. We take it like men. After all, most of the stuff we do to make our wives happy is kept private, so none of the guys know the girly details. At least, thats how it was until recently, which brings me to my apology.

With the growing popularity of blogging, nothing is kept private anymore. Everything a man does for his wife is shared with the world. Every man can see how far his friend has been emasculated. It is not for this humiliating exposure that I apologize. After all, we all know to what extent we go to make our wives happy, and can infer that other men are doing likewise.

The apology is for the fact that other men's wives see what we have done.

One man has flowers delivered each hour to his wife on the day of their anniversary, the number of flowers increasing incrementally until the number of flowers equals the number of years they have been married.

Another man surprises his wife randomly by watching the kids while he sends her to the spa.

Another throws a huge surprise party for her birthday.

In each case, somewhere, another man's wife reads about it on a blog and says to her husband,

"Why don't you ever do things like that for me?"

For this I apologize to all married men, on behalf of all married men. I also accept the apology on behalf of all men. We know it's not your fault.

I should tell you that this apology comes about from something a friend said to me. To protect him, I will keep his identity a secret. He did a grand thing for the sake of his wife's happiness. When My wife complimented him for it, he stated to me - in front of my wife - that I don't need to do what he did, just because he did it. Even though he was doing it because some other guy had done it before him.

With that in mind, I suggest that we men continue with our lives knowing that we may have to do things for our wife simply because other men have done it first. And to help each other out, try not to "one-up" the other guy. And occasionally, within earshot of your buddy's wife, excuse him from having to match your feats.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Me vs. Nature

Mother Nature and I have been in battle lately. She generally kicks my butt then laughs at me, but sometimes I get to laugh back.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some mounds of dirt appearing in my back yard. I examined a couple and couldn't see any holes nearby, so I spread the dirt out and ignored them. A few days later there were half a dozen new mounds. After a bit of internetting, I concluded that we had a gopher. No big deal. I came across the best method of ridding my yard. The Macabee Gopher trap! Mia and I watch a video on youtube about how to set it. You have to stick a long screwdriver down in the ground near a mound until you find a hollow - this is the main tunnel. Then you dig a hole down to the tunnel and place 2 traps - one facing each direction - inside. Next you push an irrigation flag into the ground to mark the location and secure the trap - just in case. Lastly you cover the hole back up and wait.

A Macabee Gopher trap is a nasty device. Imagine those jaw-like bear traps you see in cartoons. Th ones where you pry the jaws open and then when you sniff around on the ground trying to find Bugs Bunny, the jaw slams shut on your nose. Well this is like that - but miniature. Instead of jaws of teeth, you have a couple of sharpened spikes that pierce the chest cavity of the gopher.

The morning after I set the trap. I went out to check it. To my surprise, I found one tripped trap four feet from the hole on the surface of the ground with the irrigation flag still connected to it. The hole where it had been set was now completely packed closed by the gopher. I had thoughts of the Cadyshack gopher laughing at me as I pondered the need of C-4 to finish this guy off.

All I could do was wait for a new mound to appear and try the process all over again.

Nature: win Me: lose

But more than 2 weeks has passed and no new mounds. On closer inspection of the trap, I found some fur on the spikes, so the trap must have got him to some degree. i figure either he died back in his hole, or I scared him off.

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

The next thing is birds. I like birds. Not as pets, but I like pretty birds flying around my yard. I like it when there is a nest in my tree. The kids like that too. I thought it would be fun if we encouraged the birds, so we built a birdhouse and put it on our tree in the back yard. We also bought a hummingbird feeder.

Months have gone by and no bird is interested in our birdhouse or bird feeder.

I walked out the front door this week to go to work, and noticed a dozen beautiful birds flitting around near our entrance. They were chirping pretty songs as they flew up under the eaves then out again. I could tell they were building a nest. How exciting! The kids will love this!

Nature: win Me: win

I told Val about it a few days later (the birds were there every time I went outside), because she uses the garage rather than the front door. I took her out to see the birds and the nests. To my surprise, the nest wasn't your regular, round, made-out-of-grass, nest. It was made of mud.

No big deal. It is hidden up under the eaves, so you can't see it. And the birds are really neat to watch and listen too. We left for our camping trip for a couple of days. When we came home, we were greeted by not one nest, but six. And the beginnings of new nests all along the eaves in front of the garage.

Nature: win Me: lose (revised)

I did some internetting again to find that the birds are cliff swallows. Some more digging turned up that they are migratory birds and therefore, protected. It is illegal to knock down their nests once they are built - until they fly south for the winter. The best we can doo is be vigilant about instantly cleaning off the first bits of mud to prevent new nests from forming.

Nature: win x 2 Me: lose (revised again)

Most recently we went camping. What a trip. You can read more about the trip at our family blog, but I want to highlight a couple of things.


It's easy to light a fire. Accidental fires happen all the time. We were planning on having a camp fire, so when we had our tree removed (a fruitless mulberry), we asked to keep a couple of logs for firewood. He left us 3 half-logs that were about a foot in radius and 18" tall. I had to cut into firewood sized pieces. I let the logs dry for about a month and then I used my tiny electric chainsaw - meant for cutting limbs no larger than 4" diameter. After an hour I cut most of it apart - and completely dulled my blade.

We packed the firewood (and a couple of scrap 2x4s for kindling) and headed off on our trip. At camp, I struggled for a hour to light the fire. The newspaper burned, the 2x4s burned, I burned my hand, but the firewood wouldn't burn.

Nature: win Me: lose

Good thing we also brought some charcoal and a charcoal chimney. I set that up and within minutes had some nice coals going. I dumped them into the fire and and the persistent heat finally caught the firewood on fire - kind of. It really just smoldered without flames, but the shape made for a great oven and we were able to cook our foil dinners.

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

The next night. I tried to start the fire again. After some struggle, I gave up.

Nature: win Me: forfeit (revised again)

The last thing is a hammock. Joe gave me a hammock when he came home from his mission. I take it camping every time I go. At our site, I just needed to find 2 suitable trees.

Nature: win Me: lose

This wouldn't do. If only I could find some bigger trees.

Hah! I got it!

Next time I camp in a redwood forest, i need to remember to bring a lot more rope!

Nature: lose Me: win (revised)

Final Score:
Nature: 3 Me: 2

But it ain't over yet!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Moon

Beware. There are spoilers in this, so don't read it if you to want it to be spoiled!

I saw "New Moon" last night on blue ray. I decided to summarize it for anyone who might be curious, but unwilling to spend time watching it. My commentary is under the image.

To avoid to much ranting, I will say only this:
Why would you want your main character to be so unappealing!? I'm not talking about Kirsten Stewart, I'm talking about Bella. She hates herself, wines, cries, and acts crazy. There is NOTHING appealing about her. I read all 4 books and prayed through 3 1/2 of them that Edward (or any other vampire or werewolf for that matter), would just eat her. I did, I admit, like Bella after she died. Finally she was appealing and so was the story.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A buncha projects.

Yesterday, I ate a (couple) Maple Glazed Bacon Apple Donuts.


I haven't posted for awhile, but I've been busy. Here are a few projects I've tackled recently.

First, we bought an HDTV in February. I wanted one because IT'S AN HDTV! Val wanted one because she thought that if we could hang it on the wall, it would free up a bunch of space in the living room. Our old TV was in a giant armoire that took up a lot of space.

When we got the new TV, I immediately hung it on the wall. It totally opened up the room - tons of space now. Except there was a problem. Where do we put or Tivo, Dvd player, Playstation3, Surround sound receiver, subwoofer,& Wii? Temporarily, while were were deciding on a solution, we moved our console table under the TV to hold things.

After a few days, Val got used to the idea of having a small shelf-like thing under the TV - as long as it didn't stick out too far into the room - and as long as it was wood and NOT glass. I looked online and saw some cool shelves, but they were almost always glass. Also, whether they were glass or wood, they were over $200 - way more than we wanted to spend.

So I designed and built my own. The requirements were these:
It should be as small as possible.
It should be wood.
It should prevent overheating.
That last point is important. Most cabinet-type entertainment centers have nice wooden shelves, but don't leave room for the heat to move or escape. Excess heat destroys electronic equipment. I've had a number of DVD players die because of overheating, and video game systems run very hot and their built-in fans get very loud as they try to cool themselves.

After taking a bunch of measurements I set to work. I already had most of a sheet of 1/2" MDF left over from making some utility shelves in the laundry nook. I would have preferred 5/8", but what's 1/8", right?
So I cut all the pieces. I had calculated the optimal shelf heights, so rather than making it with adjustable shelves, I decided to make them fixed. I got to use my new router for this. I made dados for the first time! Awesome!

I did a few things to help control the heat; First was optimally placed shelves, second, I left a space behind the shelves to create a chimney for the hot air, and third I installed a fan.

The fan I used is just an old computer fan. They run on 12v DC, so I scavenged an old 12vDC converter and wired them together. Then I cut a circle (almost) on one side wall, near the top. Next I traced the fan on the inside and, using my router, shaved out a 1/4" to inset the fan.

You can see how the shelves don't come all the way flush against (what will be) the back wall. This lets all the hot air move up the back to get blown out by the fan.

To help minimize the cable mess, I installed a powerstrip inside one wall. Now all the power cords remain inside the cabinet and just a single power cord goes out to the wall. Through the small hole at the bottom. The bigger hole is for all the connector cables to use.

So with that done, the next problem is the ugly cables connecting everything to the TV. I wanted to put them in the wall, but I wanted a solution that made it easy to add/remove new cables, but also looked nice. I worked up a plan to install a pvc (ABS actually) pipe in the wall to send the cables through.

First off, I had to install an electric plug behind the TV for it to plug into. I just piggy-backed off of a plug near the floor and extended it up.

Now it's time to tackle the pvc set-up. Here are the parts I used. 2 deep electrical boxes, a 2' length of 2" PVC, and a couple of ends that had a screw ring on them. I started by cutting a hole in the side of each electrical box. Then I slid the threaded end through the hole and screwed on the ring.

Next, I had to cut a HUGE hole in the wall in order to slide the pipe in.

Then I just had to patch up the holes (Thank goodness for textured walls!). I used a couple of solid plate covers and cut large holes in them to cover the boxes.

After a little paint on the wall - TADA! The finished product!
- Well almost finished. I've decided to add a small trim around the front edges and Val has plans to paint it, but outher than that - TADA!

In other news, I have been growing my hair out since Zoey was born (July) - just for fun.

Finally I decided to get a hair cut - just for fun.

One of those pictures is actually me upsidedown which is why the red face.

Val wouldn't let me keep that so I got my hair all-the-way cut.

In other other news. I designed and built my own workbench for the garage. I also hung a pegboard on the wall to hold my tools. I built the workbench to be a height that would help out with my table saw. The top is 2 pieces of 3/4" mdf for a total of 1 1/2" of sturdiness. The legs and frame are made of 2x4s. In all, this cost me around $50 to build - Chaaa--eeep! All the kids - except Zoey, of course, helped me build it. They each drilled some holes and screwed some screws.

My garage is starting to feel like a real garage!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's a long distance call to my nextdoor neighbor.

I've lived in California for 2 1/2 years now and still haven't updated my cellphone number (or is it 'cell phonenumber', or maybe 'cell phone number'?).
My argument has always been that there are several people in the world that I know through school, etc who have my UT number and occasionally call me. It would be a pain to make sure everyone would get my new number and I'm sure I would forget someone.

Anyway, the last 6 months or so I have been getting a lot of wrong number calls from Utah. By 'a lot', I mean like one or two a week. It's usually teenagers (or maybe collage-age kids) looking for Tiffany. They seem to be genuine mistakes rather than ongoing prank calls, because once I say something like "This isn't Tiffany's phone", they simply reply:

"Uh... Sorry wrong number" and hang up.

My guess is either that Tiffany has a number similar to mine and has terrible penmanship so people misread her number (or possibly she quotes it wrong - I always find myself dylexifying the 6 and 7), or mine is a random number Tiffany gives as her own to people who she really doesn't want to hear from again.

What ever the reason, I've decided to start having fun with it.

This weekend I got a text from a UT number I didn't recognize. I could have ignored it, but I couldn't resist. Here's how the conversation went:

THEM: "Whats up?"
ME: "They found us out"
THEM: "What?"
ME: "I'm serious! U know what I mean!"

At this point they called me. I let it go to voice mail so they found out that they had a wrong number. Immediately afterward they texted back.

THEM: "Think u have a wrong number"
ME: "U texted me first. U must have a wrong number"
THEM: "Ya I do. But thats funny u sound like ur in trouble"
ME: "Ya, don't tell anyone k?"
THEM: "Uh dont even know you dude"

That was last I heard from them but a couple of hours later I got another text from a different number. I assume it was the first texter's friend texting me after hearing about the previous conversation.

THEM: "I Think they are on to us. What should we do?"
ME: "The chip is enroute. Stay away from the lab." - at this point It occured to me that if the government were secretly spying on text messages, this would look kinda suspicious. So to avoid any unnecessary homeland security involvement, I ended the message with "Beware the wildabeests."
THEM: "You are @%?! crazy"

That was the end of that.

This morning, however, I got a call from a completely different UT number. I answered the phone:

"Utah County Coroner's Office."

To which the caller replied: "Uh... Sorry wrong number" and hung up.

Way more satisfying!

So until (and if) I finally make the effort to change my phone number, if you call or text me and get an unusual response. I appologize. You apparently aren't important enough to be programed into my phone and therefore appear to be one of Tiffany's friends. Might I suggest contacting me via facebook (if I haven't "ignored" you there), maybe email. Or even via my blog.

On another note. Check out this link. If you type in your zipcode it will tell you which Star Wars planet your current weather most resembles.