Monday, April 28, 2014

In Which I Rant About Contractors

Can someone explain something to me?  Why are contractors unable to make appointments?  Is it really that difficult to figure out when you will arrive somewhere and then arrive at that time?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, think about the last time you had a problem with your cable, or you hired someone to do some repairs around your house, or you had furniture delivered.  In all of these cases, they don't tell you when they'll be there, they give you a range of time.  I've had situations where that range of time is as long as six hours.  They expect you to sit there and wait for them for six hours.

Imagine how unacceptable that would be in any other venue.

Let's say you ask a cute girl on a date.

You:  Can I buy you dinner?

Cute Girl:  Sure, what time?

You:  Meet me at the restaurant between 5:00 and 8:00.

Cute Girl:  I don't understand, what time should I be there?

You:  Be there at 5:00, just in case I decide to show up at that time.

Cute Girl:  Are you going to be there at 5?

You:  Probably not.  But you should definitely be there.  I'm more likely to show up at about 7:55.  But definitely be there at 5, just in case.

News flash:  You're not going on a date with that girl.

This morning, I was meeting a contractor at our rental property.  He said he would arrive sometime between 8 and 8:30 AM.   Naturally, he arrived at 9:01.  He got lost and had trouble finding the house.  Never mind that he could have googled it the night before to make sure he knew where he was going.  I understand that people get lost and it makes them late.  But, he was clearly planning on being there at 8:30 and it took him an extra half hour to find it. But he made sure I was there at 8 just in case he decided to get up extra early.  And I got to sit in my car for an hour.

In my own industry, I don't generally have to meet with people in person.  However, I get on conference calls with clients all the time.  Imagine if I treated my clients the way general contractors treat theirs.

Client:  When is a good time to get on the phone with you to discuss an upcoming project?

Me:  I will be available some time between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Client:  I can be available in that time period.  What time should I call in to the conference?

Me:  Definitely call in at 10.  I'll join the conference before 4.

Client:  You want me to sit on the conference call for 6 hours just in case you call in?

Me:  Yes, definitely.  Don't ever get up and leave your desk, either.  If you're not there when I call in we'll have to reschedule for a different day.

Client:  I have other things I need to do.  I can't just sit and wait for you all day.

Me:  Haven't you ever heard that the consultant is always right?  You pay the bills.  That means you should bend to my every need and whim.

Client:  I thought the customer was always right.  Perhaps I'll take my money else where.

That is what any self respecting client would say to something that ridiculous.  Yet, somehow it's totally okay that contractors treat us that way.

I don't see it changing any time soon.  I understand there is come complexity in trying to predict when one job will be complete and how long it takes to get to the next.  (Though that doesn't have any bearing on an 8 AM appointment.)  I mostly just needed to rant, and I have achieved that objective.  Thanks for participating in my ranting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Snowy Wilderness Adventure

Robyn must really love me.  She goes on lots of adventures that always end up being more hardcore than the plan that I present to her in the beginning.

These hardcore adventures are not what Robyn signed up for when she married me.  The guy she married was nearly 300 pounds and lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle.  I loved nature just as much as I do now, but we never experienced nature that was more than a mile from where we could park.

Now that I've lost over 70 pounds, and I enjoy a more active lifestyle, my love of nature is no longer fettered by my girth.  So I take Robyn on various adventures.  Apparently, though, my zeal for adventures is much greater than my ability to accurately plan adventures.  An excellent example of this is our recent hike to Silver Lake Flat.

I have a book called 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles that has 60 different hikes within 60 miles of Salt Lake City. (Nice title, am I right?) It's a really great book because it explains how to get to the destination as well as how difficult it is.  I used it to find a great hike to Silver Lake.  The hike begins at Silver Lake Flat and ends at Silver Lake.  It was 4.5 miles round trip with a 1600 foot climb.  That is the plan that I presented to Robyn.  That's the amount of effort that she was sold on.

We drove into American Fork canyon and made our way to Tibble Fork Reservoir.

Wasn't Robyn so precious?  It was beautiful scenery, with a beautiful girl.
The lake was really pretty, but that's where our driving had to stop.  It turns out the road was closed.  Intellectually, I know that there is lots of snow in the mountains, but I don't stop and think about the fact that snow might cause roads to be closed.  Like I said, I'm inexperienced at this whole going on adventures thing.

But, we decided that a closed road wouldn't stop us.  So, rather than start our hike at Silver Lake Flat like we originally planned, we figured we'd just hike up the road and end at Silver Lake Flat.

There was lots of pretty scenery, and the pretty girl stayed with me the whole time.

As the road climbed, we occasionally got a view back at the reservoir.  Can you see it in the distance?  We climbed quite a bit above it.

Eventually, the road started to have some snow on it, but we persevered.

Robyn is a cute little snow walker.
 We had been walking several miles when a man came by on an ATV.  He had 2 grandkids with him, a boy and a girl both under 6 years old.  He passed us and we said "hello".

A few hundred yards later, we came around a corner, only to discover the man standing, looking at his four wheeler, while the two cute kids asked, "are we stuck?"  They definitely were.  I asked if he needed any help, and he very graciously said yes.  Together, he and I were able to pick his back end up and move it a few feet to be out of the big rut he was in, then I was able to push him out.  I can't imagine how long he would have been stuck there if we hadn't come along.  For that reason alone, I'm really glad that we went hiking that day.
This is not a great picture, but that's the rut his ATV left.  It's evidence that my story is true.
 After we got him out, he continued on his way.  He said they were headed to some cabins up higher.  A half mile later, we passed the ATV again.  It wasn't stuck, but he had wisely decided to park it right before the snow got really deep, and walked on to his cabin on foot.

Eventually, we made it to Silver Lake Flat.  I don't really understand the naming convention, but apparently Silver Lake Flat is another lake that is not to be confused with Silver Lake.
However, just because we found it, didn't mean we reached our destination.  The parking lot for the originally planned hike was on the other side of that lake.  We still needed to hike around it, to end at our originally intended starting point.

There was still plenty of time for selfies.  I was playing the part of the shoulder angel.

We probably should have worn snow shoes.

We made it to the trail head, and found this picnic table. What a perfect place to stop, rest, and eat food.  (These activities together are commonly known as a picnic.)

What a cutie!
So the entire hike turned out to be just over 8 miles with a 2000 foot climb.  It also had several miles through deep snow.  It wasn't exactly the hike that I sold Robyn on in the beginning.  It's a good thing she loves me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Comic Con 2014

This past weekend I had the chance to attend the third largest Comic Con in the nation.  (Apparently, there are a lot of geeks in Utah.)  Though, I've never actually read a comic book, I fit right in at Comic Con.  While there is plenty of celebration of comics, it's really all about whatever stories you love or whatever geeky thing you are passionate about.

Do you love Star Trek?  You can geek out about the TNG cast.

The whole cast rode by on little golf carts.  I was 6 feet from Captain Picard and he totally looked at me.
Do you love Star Wars?  You can meet an AT-ST in person.
This was my favorite costume of the whole Con.
 Or hang out with bounty hunters.
 Or just chill with Lando Calrissian.
It was $40 to get a signed picture, but a creepy stalker picture was free.
 Or hang out with R2D2.
R2D2 was just walking (rolling?) around letting people take his picture.  
Maybe you like Dr. Who.  You could step inside the Tardis.
We were so happy, it didn't even matter that there was a dalek ready to exterminate us.
 Or cower in front of a weeping angel.

Do you like video games?  You could meet the characters from Mortal Kombat.
Maybe you like X-Men.  You could watch Wolverine battle himself.
I think one of them is actually Mystique, but I can't tell which one.
 Or you could hear Professor Xavier speak.
It's amazing how similar he looks to Captain Picard above.
If you just like animals, you could hold 2 snakes at once.
Robyn didn't come with me on Saturday.  Clearly, she would have been too frightened to be in my presence while I did this.
If you like Lord of the Rings, you could meet Thorin Oakenshield.
All in all, it was super fun.  I really enjoyed the broad array of genres that were represented.  As fun as it is to see celebrities, and listen to panels, my favorite part is walking around and seeing all the costumes.  I didn't wear one, but I need to in the future.

I think the funniest part of Comic Con was when it was all over.  I had parked at the Gateway mall, so I walked back to the parking garage.  In the garage, I walked by some high school kids going out to dinner before Prom.  I looked at the tux and the dress and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what their costume was.  Then I realized, I was in the regular world and it wasn't a costume, just fancy clothes for Prom.

It's disappointing to rejoin the real world.

Edit:  After I wrote this, I noticed that the Salt Lake Tribune took a picture of me being paparazzi to Patrick Stewart.  Here is their pic:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Washington Crossing Historic Park

One of the things I had really wanted to visit in New Jersey was the Washington Crossing Historic Park.  I knew the park included the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware to fight the Hessians on Christmas Day 1776.  But I didn't really know what to expect beyond that.  I thought there might be a plaque or something, but I didn't think there'd be much else.  It turns out it's a giant park.  The entire park is about 500 acres.  There are historic buildings, walking trails, and lots of wilderness.

I had come there to see the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware.  So I made a bee line directly there.  It's one of those things that isn't that amazing to see, because it's just a river.  But it's neat to stand there and realize the history that happened in that very spot.

This is what it looked like standing at the spot.  If I were George Washington, I probably would have used that bridge.
 After I spent some time pondering this historic place, I decided to explore the rest of the park.  When I was driving in to the park, the road kept crossing over some sort of a walking trail.  Every time it crossed, there was a sign that said, "Continental Lane."
Every time I saw this sign I was confused.  What is a continental lane?

All I could tell was that the continental lane was clearly a well maintained trail.
 I decided I would investigate the continental lane.  What better way to investigate than to walk along it.  So I did that for a while, until I finally found a more helpful sign.
It must have been very convenient for Washington that there was a groomed trail for him to take his army along.
 Once I knew what the Continental Lane was, I decided I wanted to keep walking along it.  I just wanted to be a continental army man.  I walked for a mile or so, when I discovered that someone else was walking the same trail.  But he was doing it a little slower than I was.
Well hello there Mr. Turtle.

When I first picked him up he decided to retreat into his shell.

Soon he realized that I was safe, and he came out of his shell so that he could pose for a selfie.
 After hanging out with the turtle for a few minutes, I set him down to resume his journey and I resumed mine as well.  I had planned to walk the trail to the edge of the park, but I was just in my flip flops and I stepped in some thick mud and my foot sunk down a few inches.  It made walking less fun after that so I decided to turn around and go back to my car.

The next park has nothing to do with the historic park, but I had to show you how fun my wife is.  When I got back to my hotel that evening I did facetime with Robyn.  Facetime with me is probably pretty frustrating, because I'm not very good at conversation because I'm too busy making funny faces and putting the camera in my mouth or really close to my eyes.

I would probably do that during every conversation, if I had a small screen that I could see how funny I am.

But rather than get frustrated with me, my wife participated in the funny face fest.

Didn't I marry well?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


This is yet another installment about what I did on my business trip to New Jersey.  One of the places I really wanted to check out was Princeton.

I drove to Princeton and parked at the Nassau Inn.  Apparently George Washington stayed there once.  But I was there just because they had parking close to the campus and all the good restaurants.

 I wandered around the campus of Princeton University.  I didn't necessarily have a destination in mind.  (Although, the one thing I wanted to make sure I saw was the chapel.)  I mainly just wanted to get a feel for the campus.  It's crazy to think that Princeton University is older than our nation.

I loved walking around and just looking at the architecture of some of the buildings.  It had such a gothic feel to it.

I finally made my way to the Princeton Chapel.  I read somewhere that it is the largest church on University campus in the United States, so I was excited to see it.  Naturally, I walked right in.

I love churches.  I love to explore the different ways that different faiths honor God.  The Princeton chapel is absolutely stunning.
The view from the back of the chapel.

Standing at the front, looking toward the pulpit.

Some of the pews.
 There were a few people sitting in the pews. (Not pictured)  Some were chatting.  Others doing homework.  Some were just sitting there contemplating.  I love that Princeton has a place where a student can go and quietly commune with Heaven.  Much the same way a BYU student could go to the temple.
A decorative bust

A statue along the wall.
 After exploring the church, I resumed exploring the campus.  I came upon a building that looked like a library.  I could see rows and rows of bookshelves.  I was excited.  Princeton is where smart people go.  I love books, so maybe Princeton books are better than regular books.  I walked in, only to discover that it was the art library.  It was filled with books about art.  I decided I wasn't interested in that.  I'm pretty sure I lost all the culture points I got from going to Grounds For Sculpture earlier.
But on the way out of the art library, I did get to see this paradoxical sign that violates its own rule.
 After exploring campus, I walked Nassau street (the main street of Princeton) to explore downtown.
I discovered this gem.  Unfortunately, I had already eaten.  But I totally want to come back on Pi day.  I bet they have a great party.
I wish I had planned my exploration of the downtown a little better.  By the time I was doing that, all the shops were closed.  I really wanted to explore some of the book stores.  ( I just wanted to buy a book in Princeton.  I know the same books are sold on Amazon, but it just sounds smarter if you say it came from Princeton.)

I didn't get to buy a Princeton book, but I did really enjoy my time in Princeton.  If I ever go back, I'm going early enough to buy a book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grounds For Sculpture

As I've mentioned earlier, I was on a business trip in New Jersey this past week.  I had to work all day, but I had some free time in the evenings to go see some local sites.  I didn't know what their was to see, so I relied heavily on Google.

The first thing I had a chance to see was a little place called Grounds For Sculpture.  It's sort of an outdoor art museum.  There are several acres of green space littered with various kinds of sculptures.   I really enjoyed it.  It's like I'm cultured or something.  Here are a few highlights.
A few of the pieces were 3D realizations of famous paintings.  Here we have The Scream.  Naturally, we screamed together in a selfie.

Lots of the sculptures were just people going about their business.  The main difference between sculpture people and regular people is that sculpture people let me take selfies with them.  (If regular people would let me take selfies with them all the time, you'd better believe I would do it.)
Selfie with the mailman

Selfie with a violinist.
 I should have taken a picture of the violin case full of money.  It totally looked real.  I had to feel the money to make sure it felt like metal.

Another thing that was really strange was that the sculptures looked real from far away.  This close up of this girl drawing is clearly a sculpture.  But from a few hundred feet away, it totally looked like a girl just sitting in the park working on her art.  (Don't worry.  I felt her paper, just like I felt everything else.  It didn't feel like paper.)

It was kind of like a treasure hunt.  There were sculptures that were hidden away behind trees and bushes.  This couple having a picnic were completely hidden behind thick schrubbery.  Naturally, I found them, photographed them, and touched all their food.  Normal people don't let me do that.

I came upon these nice men in the middle of a poker game.

This guy probably thinks his 3 kings is a good hand.  But he should fold.

Nines full of aces is even better.

Remember I mentioned that some of the sculptures were depictions of famous paintings?  Here we have American Gothic.

You'd never guess it from the painting, but they're about 20 feet tall.  That made the selfie more complicated, but I still pulled it off.

Several times I saw a sculpture from far away and wasn't sure if it was real or not.  This little kid was an example.

The strangest thing about the Grounds for Sculpture was that there were tons of sculptures randomly on the street in the surrounding area.  There were sculpture people standing on the sidewalk.  There were sculpture people admiring larger sculptures.  (Totally meta.)  And, naturally, there was a giant tooth.
The random sculptures on the street had me really confused.  I stopped at a stop sign and waited for someone to cross in front of me, only to realize that they were a sculpture.

So I'm like totally cultured, right?
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