June 25, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

Katie has an unusual talent for memorizing and reciting dialog from movies. I'm always amazed at what she can remember after seeing a movie just once. She and her sister could probably carry on an entire conversation on almost any topic using only lines from movies. (I'll have to have them test this out at the next family gathering.) I, on the other hand, can't remember dialog or lyrics to save my life. Katie loves to make fun of me when I sing the wrong lyrics to a song (which is often). However, my talent is that I can tell you what year a pop song was popular, and I can usually link the song to what I was doing at that point in my life.

Well, today came the announcement that Michael Jackson died. His album, Thriller, was number one the year I graduated high school, and if there were a soundtrack to my senior year, several songs from the album would be on it. My favorite songs were Billy Jean and Beat It. The videos to these two songs were the first ones on MTV that weren't boring to watch after the first couple of times. Since MTV was still fairly new and they stilled showed music videos, Michael's videos were shown a lot.

Here are some of my memories connected to Michael Jackson songs:
  • I remember gathering at a friend's house for the video debut of the song Thriller. That was probably one of the coolest things I'd seen up to that point in my life, and the next day at school, everyone was talking about it. By today's standards, it's pretty tame, but back then, it was a bit scary, especially the part where he transforms into the werewolf.
  • At the school dances, everyone tried to incorporate Michael Jackson's moves. I tried learning the moonwalk. In my mind, I remember being pretty successful at it, but I'm glad there is no video to prove me wrong. If I tried it today, Chloe would die of embarrassment. (I just can't wait till she has a teenager.)
  • During my senior year, I was a teacher's assistant for the art teacher at a junior high nearby. I drove to the school in my 1965 Ford Mercury Comet, nicknamed the Big Blue Bomb. In the car, I played a mixtape a friend gave me. When Beat It came on, I would blast it and sing at the top of my lungs. However, I never could understand what Michael was singing, and we didn't have internet to look up the lyrics. It wasn't until many years later when I finally read the lyrics. I also totally didn't get the meaning of the song Billy Jean. I just couldn't figure out what he was singing--plus, I was very naive. I wish I could remember the lyrics I substituted for both these songs.
Those are my memories. I'm sure many more will come back to me in the coming weeks since I'm sure Michael Jackson will dominate the media. Not only will his songs be played more, but I'm sure Michael's bizarre life will be discussed and analyzed ad nauseum. And then, there will be tributes galore. I wouldn't be surprised if his funeral is broadcast on all the networks, and it will be one of those events you never forget like 911, the space shuttle crash or Princess Diana's death.

Michael Jackson was the Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, or Beatles of my generation. It's just interesting that I never actually purchased any of his music. Maybe to pay tribute, I'll download a couple songs from iTunes.

June 23, 2009

Saving the Environment Is Killing Me

I have been participating in the Clear the Air Utah Challenge. I committed to eliminate at least four car trips a week. For the most part, I've been doing this by riding my bike. One thing I've noticed is that Provo and Orem are in need of more bike lanes. On my way home from work today, I nearly got killed multiple times. I'm seriously considering buying the Threadless T-shirt below (click to enlarge). I have never written a letter to a politician before, but I think the mayors of Provo and Orem will be hearing from me soon . I say throw some of the economic stimulus money at the project. It will give people work, promote healthy living, and help the environment.

Also on the way home, I was stopped at the light at the intersection of Canyon Rd. and Bulldog Ave. As I was waiting, a student with a loaded backpack on his back walked up and stood next to me. When the light turned green, I took off, but it wasn't long before I noticed the student running along side me. He then passed me. Well, I wasn't having any of that! I've got my pride. I peddled faster to catch up and pass him. Each time I stopped at a red light, the student caught up.

A little over a half mile later, I began the dreaded ascent up Columbia Lane. This hill nearly kills me each day. I keep hoping the time will come when I will reach the top of the hill and not feel like hurling my lunch. To add to the fun on this particular day, it was hot. The way I tackle the hill is to put my bike in the easiest gear and go until I can't go no more. And so far, each time I've wanted to give up, I looked up and saw I was almost there. However, today as I was halfway up the hill, I heard the dreaded footsteps behind me. The student ran past me and just continued to zip on up the hill. That just took any wind I had out of my sails. I completely lost sight of the student by the time I made it up the hill.

Here I am trying to get some exercise and do my part for the environment. Well, by the time, I got home, all I could think of was a phrase we don't use in our family.

So, I will just say, "This isn't fun!"

June 22, 2009

On a Clear Day...

I need to vent, and here's why.

Before the whole switch-to-digital thing, we thought our 2 year-old TV was new enough that we would be OK. There were, of course, the letters "DTV" on the front of the television which we naturally assumed stood for "digital television." Another clue was that we also received most of the digital channels. We figured the ones not coming in would come in after the switchover. Well, here's what happened.
  • The big day came. I turned on the TV to watch the news--and nothing but a bouncing box saying "no signal."
  • I go to Best Buy to see if someone they could help me. The employee told me that most likely all I needed was this power strip thing with two connectors for the cables. I fork over $20 and go home to hook it up.
  • It's all hooked up. I turn on the TV. Zilch!
  • I go back to Best Buy and was then told I needed the converter box after all. Ugh! Had I known that, I would have sent off for the government coupon. It's now too late, so I pay $46 plus tax.
  • I connect the converter box. I turn on the TV. "Oh look! We now get two channels. Are they in Spanish?" I head up to the roof to fiddle with the antennae.
  • Using a cell phone, I'm up on the roof talking to Chloe as she goes through channels. It's as annoying as trying to figure out which Christmas light is bad and causing the entire string of lights to go out. I adjust the antennae, and Chloe tells me channels 2, 4 and 5 are coming in clear but nothing else. I move the antennae a millimeter and Chloe says that 7, 9 and 13 are now coming in. I think "Problem solved," until she informs that 2, 4, and 5 have disappeared. I keep fiddling with the stupid thing until I feel the urge to rip it off the roof and chuck it in our neighbor's back yard.
  • As I'm coming down off the roof, I see Tomas' little friends who yell up to me, "Hey, you're not allowed on the roof!" (see previous post "Tomas' Initiation) I'm not amused.
  • Katie now goes to Best Buy and is sold an amplifier. We hook it up, and voila, we have reception. All the channels are coming it. Finally!
  • Later that evening, I turn on the TV. "What the heck?! Not again!" It seems that if there is more than one cloud in the sky, no TV for us.
  • In the immortal words of Yosemite Sam, "Rassa-frassa-frickin-frackin!"

I have a funny suspicion there's some sort of conspiracy behind all this. I think the government was lobbied pretty hard by the cable and satellite companies because they knew many people would have problems, get fed up, and order their services.

Well, I don't want cable or satellite TV! I probably watch more TV than I should already. And to continue my rant, why can't people just order and pay for the channels they want, sort of a la carte? I'm not interested in 90% of the channels offered. If someone wants a channel dedicated to nomadic tribal sports of Mongolia, they should be able to choose it, but I don't want it. And does anyone need ten shopping channels? I might be interested, however, if I could choose HGTV, Food Network, A&E, Discovery, Disney, Nickelodeon, and BBC America.

So until then, I guess we'll just hope for clear skies. Or better yet, I catch up on some reading.

June 20, 2009

Hello, Mudda! Hello, Fadda!

This past week, Liam attended Camp Big Springs. This is a camp run by the Provo School District for kids going into the sixth grade. It is located up Provo Canyon. Throughout the week, we worried a little about how Liam was doing mainly because it rained most of the time. However, Shauna and Dallin provided a good distraction, especially for Katie. Liam came home Friday full of stories about the fun time he had. I took some notes, and here are the highlights.

Favorite Things about Camp Big Springs
  1. The Zip Line--It takes 14 seconds to reach the bottom where a large net awaits you. Liam says it's really fun to bounce off the net. He got to ride the zip line four times.
  2. The Monkey Bridge--This is a bridge crossing a stream consisting of one rope you walk across on and two ropes you use for balance. Each kid also wears a belt which is attached to the ropes. What makes it so fun is that one of the counselors shakes the bridge and tries to make the kids fall off and end up hanging midair.
  3. The Water Games--There were three games that pitted the boys against the girls. The girls won the tug-of-war in which the line in the middle was made by a blast of water from a fire hose. The boys won the next contest where each team had to see how many of its members were daring, or stupid, enough to go into the ice cold pond and dunk themselves. All the boys did it. The boys also won the final game where everyone went into the pond and had a big splash fight. The team with the most members still in the pond when time was up won. I actually think the girls are the overall winners.
  4. The Tent Counselor--Liam said he told lots of great stories. Most had an element of gore, like chopping off a finger, so Liam loved them.
  5. Camping with Friends--All of Liam's best friends from school were there and most were assigned to his tent.

Favorite Science Activities
  1. Going on a walk and learning about edible plants and then trying them.
  2. Dissecting owl pellets and finding a mouse skeleton. He brought the skeleton home, and stashed it somewhere. Liam is a pack rat, and I'm sure I'm going to find this thing several years from now in the back of a drawer.

Favorite Food
  1. sloppy joes
  2. egg, bacon and toast sandwich

Least Favorite Part of the Experience
  1. Being wet most of the time--it rained a lot!
  2. Walking down from the hike because of a hail storm
  3. Rainy days when everyone had to stay in the tents (there's a definite theme here)
Some of Liam's photos (click to enlarge):

Liam with his camp buddies.

His tent won "best tent" on three days for having a clean tent and not being noisy after lights-out. Hmmm...Maybe we should award "best bedroom."

One of the sunny days

There was too much snow, so they couldn't finish their hike. However, they made snow cones.

and the zip line

June 19, 2009

Slidin' in Park City

On the last day of their stay, we had planned to take Shauna and Dallin to Seven Peaks Water Park. However, the weather didn't want to cooperate. There was light rain on and off, and it was somewhat cold. We still wanted to do something fun, so we went to Park City. We wanted to ride on the alpine slide. When we arrived, the slide was closed due to rain. We were told that it might open up again if the rain stopped and the track dried off. So, we decided to go find some dinner and come back later. We went to Main Street and ate at the Main Street Deli. I had the vegetarian burger, which was pretty good, and I think everyone else liked their food. After dinner, the sun finally decided to come out. We went back to the slide, and it was open. The ride up on the ski lift was beautiful. Everything was so green. As we prepared to go down the slide, the worker told us to be careful because cooler temperatures and possible water on the track make the sleds go faster. I have been down this track several times before, but I was unprepared for how much faster the track was. There were times when I seriously thought I was going to fly off the track. I actually caught some air going over a couple of the bumps. Here are some pictures from the outing. We miss our friends from up north already.

Riding up on the ski lift. I couldn't get it so that everyone's face wasn't covered by a shadow.

Our "self portrait" shots. I have to admit my picture was actually a second try. I had a huge double-chin in the first picture. Click to enlarge.

Getting ready to go down the hill.

Dallin, followed by Chloe, then comes Shauna, and finally, Katie and Tomas

June 17, 2009

House Guests and the House of the Lord

"No guest is so welcome in a friend's house that he will not become a nuisance after three days."

I remember hearing this quote once and just looked it up on the internet to discover it was said by the Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Pautus. I would say this quote is very true about most people, but we know of a big exception. We have some very good friends in Canada--Russel and Shauna and their five boys. We have been friends with them since our college days. If they asked to move in with us, we wouldn't even hesitate to say, "Yes!" Shauna and Dallin stayed with us this past week while Dallin attended a football camp at BYU. We were sad to see them go this morning.

On Tuesday, we went to the open house of the new Oquirrh Mountain Temple. Of course, all LDS temples are beautiful, but here are some things that really stood out to me. The hanging light fixtures in one of the ordinance rooms were really cool, sort of Frank Lloyd Wright-ish. I also loved the upholstery in this room. It was an interesting sort of plaid--very different for a temple. Finally, they had these large topiaries throughout the temple, and if I ever have more money than I know what to do with, I just might have a bunch throughout my house. And then, I finally learned that "oquirrh" is a Goshute Indian word for "wooded mountain."

Before arriving at the temple, we drove around the
surrounding neighborhood. It's way cool. It's very well planned out and the architecture it beautiful. I especially liked that each home is different, which is very unlike the "Elephant Homes" neighborhoods, which we have too many of in Utah, full of cookie cutter McMansions. It's the kind of neighborhood that makes it very difficult for me not to covet. Once again, if I had more money...

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. The only thing that could have made it better was if Russel and the rest of the boys could have been there. We always say we need to take a trip to Canada to visit them. I think once we're back from Vienna, fund raising efforts for the "Great White North Vacation" will commence at full speed.

The Oquirrh Mountain Temple. I forgot to charge the camera battery, so this was taken with my cell phone. Before our tour, it was still daylight, and you could see the black on the Angel Moroni where the lightning hit on Saturday.

Obviously these are professional photos. On the left is the ordinance room with the cool hanging lights and the plaid upholstery, which you can't really see.
On the right is the Celestial Room with the topiaries.

Dallin & Shauna (the perfect house guests) with Katie, Chloe and Tomas.

June 11, 2009

Tomas' Initiation

I remember getting spanked as a child. I don't recall the reasons, but I'm sure I totally deserved every one. In second grade, my dad spanked me, and as he left my room, I stuck my tongue out at him. Unfortunately for me, he turned back around at that moment, and I got a bonus spanking.

Katie and I, for the most part, do not believe in spanking our children. But sometimes, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. (And by spanking, I mean a little swat on the rear, lest anyone think about calling Child Protective Services.)

Chloe and Liam have both only been spanked once and I was the administrator thereof. Chloe was about three years old, and we were in Blockbuster looking at videos. Chloe decided to run up and down the aisles knocking off all the videos from the shelves. She was a quick, and when I caught up to her and picked her up, she went into to a total screaming and kicking tantrum. I exorcised whatever little demon had possessed her with a couple of good swats. Also as a three-year-old, Liam had a similar outburst when I grabbed him after darting out into the street. The only difference was that I ended up getting whacked in the face. I returned the favor to his backside.

I bring all this up because Tomas was inducted into the club this week.

On Tuesday, Katie got a phone call from a neighbor a few houses down who asked, "Is Tomas allowed on your roof?" Katie said, "What?!" The neighbor told Katie that Tomas and one of his little friends were on the roof of our two-story home. Katie ran to the upstairs window that leads out to the patio roof and saw that it was open. She yelled Tomas' name, and immediately heard little scampering feet. She yanked Tomas inside, and after seeing the look on Katie's face, the other kid frighteningly said he could climb in himself, and then he repeated the phrase, "I didn't want to, but Tomas made me." Katie promptly sent the kid home, and that's when it happened. Katie paddled his little bum. Tomas then got a good lecture and was sent to his room for time out. Katie asked Tomas if it was his idea, and he innocently said, "Yes." He also fessed up to having been on the roof before.

I was at work at the time, but Chloe called and excitedly filled me in on all the details. I believe Chloe and Liam are secretly thrilled that Tomas actually got in trouble. They often accuse Katie and I of being more lenient with Tomas. Being the oldest children in our families, Katie and I can actually understand where they're coming from, but it's just so hard. We're older, more tired, and Tomas is so dang cute.

According to Katie, she never got spanked. From what I've gathered from her parents, she was, unlike me, the perfect child. Therefore, I must conclude the kids' wild streaks are from me. The flip side is, however, they have lot of their mother's good traits. And if Tomas takes after his brother and sister, that one spank will do the trick, and he'll continue to be a great kid.