Wednesday, July 30, 2014


This past weekend we had the opportunity to go backpacking into Havasupai.  It was our first real backpacking trip (I say it was real.  I was informed by one of the hardcore backpackers on the trip that hiking ten miles and staying somewhere for several days is not actually real backpacking.  Real backpacking entails ten or more miles per day.  Nevertheless, it was real enough for me.)

If you're unfamiliar with Havasupai, it's a beautiful area located in Havasu canyon which is a subsidiary to the Grand Canyon.  It's located inside a native american reservation, and is maintained by the natives.  To get there you have to hike in 10 miles, but once you are there, there is a campground with waterfalls, a freshwater spring, a beautiful river, plenty of hiking and swimming opportunities, and just general awesomeness.  I'll share a few of the most memorable experiences from the trip, in chronological order.

Hiking In
We arrived at the parking lot about 9:00 at night.  One thing you do not want to do is make this hike during the day, because the heat will kill you.  It took us 20-30 minutes or so to get all the backpacks out, get changed into hiking clothing, and get ourselves ready for the hike, so we started hiking around 9:30 in the evening.

The campground is about ten miles from the parking lot.  It's 8 miles to the village of Supai, and an additional 2 to the campground itself.  Hiking in is primarily downhill, but between hiking in the dark and hiking through sand, I was having a hard time of it.  I was so tired, I was pretty sure I would die.  (I suppose it also didn't help that we were making the long trek after a long day of driving.)  Despite being exhausted, look what a cute hiker I was.

The ten miles get way longer when you get caught in a repeating gif image.

Sleeping in The horse's bathroom
You aren't supposed to camp on the trail.  You're only supposed to camp in the campground.  So we're not going to call it camping.  Let's just say that we stopped to take a nap after about 7 miles.  The place where we stopped had an abundance of horse droppings.  We didn't think much of it.  We each just made sure that we weren't laying on top of any of the droppings.  In the middle of the night, several wild horses wandered into our little napping space (not a camp).  They neighed at us in a very cranky manner.  We should have realized that we were in their bathroom.  I would be cranky too if I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and there were 12 people sleeping there.

The bats
The bats were one of my favorite things on this trip.  I've never seen them in such numbers.  At night you could catch a glimpse of one or two, and you could definitely hear their little chirps, but first thing in the morning you could lay and look at the sky and see dozens of them flying around catching bugs.  I figure as long as they don't turn into vampires, and they eat the bugs that eat me, I will always be friends with the bats.  Especially since they're so cool to watch.

My first view of the river
I'd been told that the water in Havasupai is beautiful, but nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful it actually was.  The water has a deep turquoise color.  It honestly looks like ocean water.  The word on the street is that it's caused by the high limestone content.  All I know is that my first glimpse of the river took my breath away.

Picnics in the river
I ate as many meals as I possibly could in the river.  Why would you eat (or do anything) in the heat of the area known as "not the river" when you could be doing things in the river.
This is the proper way to have a picnic.

Havasu Falls
As we were hiking into the campground, I had several views of the river and of waterfalls.  But that didn't stop Havasu Falls from taking my breath away.  It's absolutely stunning, and pictures don't do it justice.

The Ladder of Death
One of the prettiest waterfalls is called Mooney Falls.  (Apparently, it's named for a guy named Mooney who tried to climb down it and died, kind of like Clayton ravine from Back to the Future.)  To get down to it, they have built a descending stair of death.  It involves ladders, going through caves, and mostly just trying to avoid death as you descend a couple hundred feet almost vertically.

The sign warns you beforehand that you might die.
You go through tunnels where it's likely you'll be eaten by Shelob.

Some areas have chains you need to hold onto.
This is looking up at the bottom third of it, which is the most treacherous part.

Mooney Falls
Once we got down to Mooney Falls we spent the whole day there, because I was not going up and down the ladder of death twice.
Look how precious we were.

It's important to lay in the water and take pictures of my feet.

Rope swing
From Mooney falls we headed down the river, to see what we could see.  The first thing we encountered was a rope swing.
Robyn grabs the rope

And she releases it gracefully

My dismount was less graceful.

Trekking Down the River
From there we just hiked down the river.  We jumped off cascades when we encountered them.  We waded through shallow parts.  We swam through deep parts.  It was super fun.
Look at my adventurous wife!

The Shower
We found a little outcropping that totally functioned like a shower.
I told Dave to do a Maybelline pose.  He should be a model.

But Robyn is still cuter, even without the Maybelline pose.

Jumping off the falls
Robyn and I both jumped off of lower Navajo Falls.  It took me a while to get the courage but I did it.

Here's me.

Here's Robyn

How cute is it that she screamed on the way down and then screamed when she came up because she wasn't done screaming?

Upper Navajo Falls
I had tons of fun playing in the upper falls.  When we first walked up to it, I figured it was too hardcore to play in.  It turned out that it was one of my favorites.  We swam under a little ourcropping that made a little cave.  We showered in it, we swam against the current.  It was great.

About to head into the mayhem.

Sometimes I hide from waterfalls with the safety of rock
I was important to do a He Man pose in the maelstrom.

Erin and Robyn making the waterfall cuter.

Robyn had to make the waterfall more precious than you can possibly imagine.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip. There were a few negatives. One girl spilled boiling water on herself and burned herself super bad. Some squirrels got into the same girl's food, ate some of it and pooped on what they didn't eat. One girl said she didn't like bacon. (It broke my heart. I told her I would turn the car around and end her precious trip real soon.) But other than that, I'd say it was amazing.

There are way too many cool pictures for a blog post, so watch Facebook for the rest of them.  (I'll get them posted soon.  Don't rush me.)  And if you're really lucky, I might even blog about how we got out of the canyon.  (You think we walked?  Who would do that?)

Friday, July 25, 2014

My 1939 Retro Hugo Votes

As you may or may not know, one thing I enjoy doing every year is reading all of the Hugo nominated works, and of course, voting on my favorites.  The fun thing about the Hugo award is that anyone can join the World Science Fiction Society and be a part of choosing the winners.  (If you're not familiar with the Hugo Awards you can read last year's post about my votes where I explained what they are in a little more detail.)

This year is special because, in addition to awarding the 2014 works, they are also doing Retro Hugos for the year 1939.  I'm still working on seeing how many of the categories I can read for 2014, but I've officially decided my votes for 1939.  For the ones that are on Goodreads, I've included links to my reviews.  (A few of my reviews aren't written yet, but I still linked to where they will be.)

Edit: Now that the awards have been announced, I have highlighted the actual winners in red.  Of course, my votes still remain in their original order.

Best Novel

This was a fun category.  Sword in the Stone was one of my favorite movies as a child, and despite the novel being totally different, I loved it just as much.

1 The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Collins)
2 Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Argosy, February 1938)
3 Galactic Patrol by E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938)
4 Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (The Bodley Head)
5 The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)

Best Novella

When I was fifteen years old, I bought Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrails.  When I see the above picture of The Thing, I really wanted to read the story where it came from.  For some reason, I never got around to it, until  I read these nominees.  Did my excitement to read it tip the odds in that story's favor?  Possibly.  But it's a really scary story, and a fun concept.

1 Who Goes There? by Don A Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Science-Fiction, August 1938)
2 A Matter of Form by H. L. Gold (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
3 Sleepers of Mars by John Beynon [John Wyndham] (Tales of Wonder, March 1938)
4 The Time Trap by Henry Kuttner (Marvel Science Stories, November 1938)
5 Anthem by Ayn Rand (Cassell)

Best Novelette

Dead Knowledge is a really fun story.  It's a mystery.  Why has this civilization died?  But when you find out the answer, it turns into a (mild) horry story as well.  Good stuff.

1 Dead Knowledge by Don A. Stuart [John W. Campbell] (Astounding Stories, January 1938)
2 Rule 18 by Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938)
3 Hollywood on the Moon by Henry Kuttner (Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1938)
4 Pigeons From Hell by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, May 1938)
5 Werewoman C. L. Moore (Leaves #2, Winter 1938)

Best Short Story

I love dogs.  Naturally, I was going to love a story about what  man's best friend does after mankind has ceased to exist.  Don't worry, our best friends remain faithful to us even in our absence.

1 The Faithful by Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
2 Helen O'Loy by Lester del Rey (Astounding Science-Fiction, December 1938)
3 Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp (Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938)
4 How We Went to Mars by Arthur C. Clarke (Amateur Science Stories, March 1938)
5 Hollerbochen's Dilemma by Ray Bradbury (Imagination!, January 1938)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

This category normally refers to TV shows, at least in the modern age.  In 1939, it is dominated by radio plays.  I think I enjoyed War of the Worlds and A Christmas Carol equally, but the famous panic that War of the World caused when they thought it was real tipped the scale for me.  I had to vote for a panic inducing play.

I feel a little bit bad because I didn't actually watch R.U.R.  It turns out they didn't actually preserve a copy, so you can't find it anywhere.  It is famous for inventing the word "robot" but Isaac Asimov said, "Capek's play is, in my own opinion, a terribly bad one, but it is immortal for that one word. It contributed the word 'robot' not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written."  I figure I can trust the Grand Master of science fiction and vote it last on his word.

1 The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch &; Anne Froelick, directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)
2 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Written & directed by Orson Welles (The Campbell Playhouse, CBS)
3 Dracula Bram Stoker Written by Orson Welles and John Houseman, directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)
4 Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Written & directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater on the Air, CBS)
5 R. U. R. by Karel ńĆapek Produced by Jan Bussell ( BBC)

Best Professional Artist

I wasn't familiar with any of these artists, so I voted based solely on the voter's packet.  I don't know what is going on in the picture below, I just know it's awesome and deserves my vote.

1 Alex Schomburg
2 Frank R. Paul
3 Virgil Finlay
4 H. W. Wesso
5 Margaret Brundage

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eight Year Old Me Would be So Proud

Have you ever had one of those things that you yearned for your entire life?  I sort of had something like that.  You see, 25 years ago I yearned for something, and then I completely forgot about it, until a few days ago.

When I was eight years old, my favorite toys were battle beasts.  If you're not familiar with them, they are little action figures that look like animals wearing armor.  (Basically, they are the best thing that could possibly happen to an eight year old boy.)  My brothers and I would have battles with them.  My brother had the spider battle beast who would always attack the castle filled with all mine.  Even though I had a good collection, there was one in particular I yearned for.  It was a gorilla that had a robotic arm.  A gorilla with a robotic arm!!  How cool is that?

I told my mom that's what I wanted for my birthday.  I laid awake at night thinking how great my life would be, if I could just have a gorilla with a robotic arm.  My birthday came around.  I waited excitedly to open my presents.  I just knew I would get the battle beast I wanted.  Then my mom gave me the bad news.  They stopped making battle beasts.  I was never going to have my gorilla with a robotic arm.

Fast forward 25 years.  My mom was cleaning her basement, and she found a few of my battle beasts.  She asked me if I wanted them.  Of course I did!
These are the 5 that my mom retrieved from the ancient past.
I took them home.  I thought of the many happy moments we had together.  

Then I started thinking about how I was missing so many that I used to have.  I thought it would be fun to restore my former collection.  I did a little search on ebay for battle beasts.

While I was browsing the listings, I found this.

The very beast that I dreamed of as a child.

It turns out it's actually an orangutan.  But it was only $7.00.  How could I not buy it?

So, though I didn't remember that I had this dream, it was eventually realized anyway.  Someone should tell eight year old me that dreams do come true.

Also, special thanks to my wife for being okay with the fact that I suddenly have a hunger to own all of them.
My collection is growing, and they've claimed the cube as their territory.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Week of Bachelorhood

Last week, I was without a wife for the entire week.

Robyn's family had been in town the previous week, and so Robyn took the opportunity to ride back with her Dad to California so that she could visit friends and family back there, and most importantly to spend some quality time with her aging grandmother.

I didn't really have any plans to do anything while she was gone.  I mostly figured I'd read a whole bunch of books.  (That's what I do when she's home, so I figured I'd do it even more when she's gone.)
Naturally, I read an issue of Astounding Science Fiction from 1938.  It nearly disintegrated in my hands.

In addition to reading, it turned out there were lots of people willing to spend quality time with me, and keep me busy.

So here are a few of the things I spent time doing.

I went on a super sweet hike to Stewart Falls with Jen and Todd.

Look how precious we were

It was a super fun hike.  I've done that hike at least 3 or 4 times before, but it's the first time I've done it since losing lots of weight.  It turns out it's a way easier hike than I remember.  (I should have worn a 70 pound backpack to simulate what it would be like to hike it back then.) Here are a few bonus pictures from the hike:
I loved the thick vegetation.  It almost felt like we were in Hawaii or somewhere not Utah.

I told Jen and Todd to look precious.

This spider was weird.  It looked like a black widow but it was white.  I shall give it the highly scientific name of white widow.

This butterfly was just taking a sip from the flowers.

The trees provided a nice window to get a first glimpse of the falls.

It's important to take a selfie at the falls.
What up Stewart Falls!
It turns out I like hiking, so I take lots of pictures.  Who would have thought?

On a different night, I had a very special man date.  Matt and I saw The Edge of Tomorrow.  I really liked it.  It turns out our last man date was to see Oblivion.  We just like to see Tom Cruise Sci-fi movies together.
Look how precious we were in the theater.

I spent a whole afternoon organizing my books.  They're almost 90% organized now.  All authors are together within themselves and there are even genres together.  It's amazing.

I even got to see my little Bro and my future nephew.  Don't they totally look alike?

Of course, the most time consuming thing all week was that my Mom put me to work on several different nights scanning pictures of my grandparents.  It was actually really cool.  It was a lot of work, though, because most of them were glued into albums and so I had to scan whole pages and then use Photoshop to separate them into multiple images.  I'm still not actually finished with that task.  But, I did already write about my favorite pictures here.

I'd say it was a successful week of bachelorhood, but I'm glad to have my wife back.  Being married is way better.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa Falling In Love

This past week my Mom has had me hard at work scanning lots of pictures for her.  She found a photo album from when my maternal Grandma (Grandma Houtz) was a missionary in Arkansas in 1950.  My little sister has dubbed me the family historian because I've embarked on an ongoing project to digitize every picture we have and make them searchable.  I thought I was pretty much done until this new set of pictures was unearthed.

It can be a lot of work, but it's actually pretty fun, especially when I get to discover hidden treasures.  I'll warn you right now that while I think what I discovered is pretty dang cool, I can't guarantee that you'll find it interesting if you're not related to me.  With that disclaimer, I will now proceed to share some of the fantastic finds from my scanning experiences this week.

This first one is of my Grandma and her parents, presumably right before she left on her mission.  So those are my great grandparents.  Pretty cool, eh?

I had to work with my Mom on terminology while we were doing the scanning.  We were trying to take note of all the pictures that actually had my Grandma in them, so that I could tag them and make then searchable later.  But my Mom kept saying, "This one has Mom in it."  I tried to explain to her that her name is Mom, and since she was not in the picture, it was more correct to say, "This one has Grandma in it."  But she insisted on calling Grandma, "Mom".  When we saw the picture above, she said, "There's Grandma!"  I thought she finally understood, until I realized she was referring to Great Grandma.  Poor confused Madre.

Here are a few other gems.
Grandma playing the ukulele

Is she sad?  Is she mad?  Will the world ever know?
Fun fact about my grandparents:  They actually met as missionaries.  This was 20 years before Spencer W. Kimball's "Lock Your Heart" talk so they didn't have quite the same restrictions as they do today as far as getting to know the missionaries of the opposite sex.

Since I knew they had met on their missions, I had hoped to see pictures of my Grandpa among the set as well.  I fully expected to find pictures like this:
Can you find them?
For your convenience, I circled them.  Click to enlarge.
That was super fun, to see the two of them in the same picture.  But, what I didn't expect was some of the other fantastic pictures.  And while the pictures themselves are fun, it's really the captions that my Grandma put on them that make them awesome.

Look at that stud!  I like her caption at the top, "Hmmmmmmm!!"  What does that even mean?

This one is even better:  "golllleeee!!!"

"Prophet" Houtz.  My Grandpa was a very spiritual man.  But I never realized he was a prophet.
 This next one is probably my favorite.
"Wow!"  That's the best caption ever.  Look at Grandma and Grandpa getting all cray-cray on that bench!
I wish I knew when the captions were added.  Did she do it at the time, which would reveal that she had a thing for him right from the start?  Or did she add those later after they were married?  It's hard to say, but I like to think that  I just showed you pictures of the process of them falling in love.  Either way, what I can definitely say is that all of the chemistry that is going on on that bench clearly worked out, because it resulted in the preciousness that is me:
I know it's an old picture, but Grandma and Grandpa haven't been around for a while now.  And it turns out this is the only picture I have of just me and my Grandpa.
The moral of the story is that family history is pretty cool.  Or maybe the moral is that my Grandma has awesome captions.  Or maybe just that my Grandma is pretty cool.

Let's just go with Grandmas are cool.  I would say I'm pro-Grandma.
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