Monday, September 29, 2014

Can Ye Feel So Now?

I had a powerful experience in the scriptures this past week.  Robyn and I had gone to the temple to do initiatories.  For those unfamiliar with the temple, there are some ordinances that you can go do together with your spouse, and some that are more solitary in nature.   This particular ordinance happens to be one that you are not together with your spouse.

As always seems to be the case, I finished before Robyn did and so I had about 30 minutes to myself inside the temple.  There are about a billion copies of the scriptures all over, so I decided to sit down and read from The Book of Mormon.

Of course, during normal study I already know where I am at in the book, but since this study was more extracurricular, I had the dilemma of where I should read.  I thought for a moment, and decided I would open up to Alma 5.  I've always thought that Alma's sermon here was particularly powerful.

The entire chapter is filled with questions.  I think the questions are great for helping anyone to take a personal inventory of their own life.  As a missionary, I frequently shared verse 14.  I always thought it was a good verse for asking yourself  if you've truly embraced the teachings of Christ, "[H]ave ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"

I think those are the most poignant questions in the entire chapter, but this time I decided to let Alma interview me all the way through.  I encourage anyone to do this.  To really do it thoroughly, it could take a good chunk of time, but I think it's worth it.  Some of the questions are pretty easy.  When he asks whether you are a murderer, you'll probably be able to answer fairly quickly that you're not.

But when he asks if you've been stripped of pride or stripped of envy those may be more difficult questions, at least they were for me.  I don't think of myself as particularly prideful or envious, but am I completely stripped of those traits?  Well, you can probably guess the answer, but I'll just say that there was some serious introspection there.

But as I read on, I came to a verse that I've read a billion times before, but it struck me in a new way this time.  In verse 26 there is a follow up question to my favorite question from verse 14.  It asks, "[I]f ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?"

Can ye feel so now?

I remember working with people as a missionary who had, for one reason or another, fallen away from the church.  These were people who had served missions and had once been very strong.  At the time I wondered how they could have felt as I did and yet they fell away?  But then, as I truly pondered this question, I realized that there had been moments in my life when I would have to answer "no".

It was an eye opening experience for me.  I've been over this chapter many times before, but this time it just struck me differently.  I would encourage everyone to do a little interview with my good friend Alma.  He's got some great questions.  Have you experienced a change in your heart?   Do you feel the redeeming love of Christ?  Do you feel so now?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When Bikers Learn to Fly

I have some bad news.  It turns out I'm old.  I know this may come as a shock to you, considering my bubbly and youthful personality.  But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  It's all a facade.  I've been faking it for a long time.  But now I'm ready to let the cat out of the bag:  I'm really old.

There are many little stories I could present as evidence of my elderly thesis.  Today I will present only one.  But be warned.  Blood was shed during the making of this story.  Lots and LOTS of blood.

It all started out pretty simple.  I went for a morning bike ride, which is something I do fairly often.  One might even use that fact as a data point to support the idea that I'm not old.  Well, read on to see why that assumption is false.

Like I said, I went for a morning bike ride.  I had a general idea of which direction I wanted to go, but the purpose was the ride more than the destination, so I wasn't paying too much attention to where I was headed.  I came upon a small park, and determined that it would be fun to go through the park.

Here's the part where I thought I was much younger than the reality.  You see, when I was a pre-teen, I rode my bike everywhere.  It was no big deal to ride across the grass.  It was no big deal to hop over a curb.  Then for some reason I stopped riding a bike.  Then 20 years passed.  That brings us to today.  Apparently, I was unaware that 20 years had passed.  Apparently, I thought that jumping a curb would be an easy thing.  (It was 20 years ago.)

So I headed for this park, with full knowledge of the fact that there was a tall curb in the way.  I approached the curb.  I jumped the bike.  And then I learned how to fly.

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong.  Did I jump too early?  Did I not jump high enough?  The specifics are fuzzy, but one thing is clear.  I definitely failed to jump the curb.  My front tire hit that curb and promptly stopped the bike.  However, my body did not stop moving.  (I blame Newton and his stupid, fat, first law of motion.)  And, as I stated before, Isaac Newton made me fly through the air.

You see, twenty years ago, when I tried the same thing it looked more like this:

I still flew, just without leaving the bike behind.  I didn't even need E.T. to make it happen.

So, as you can see, I'm clearly old.   But let's move on with the story.

The problem with flying is the fact that I can't fly.  What I really do is fall with style.

The main problem with falling, no matter how much style you may have, is that you eventually hit the ground.  Most people do fancy things when they hit the ground.  The really good ones do fancy rolls where their momentum continues and they don't get hurt.  Lesser people do such fancy things as catch themselves with their hands.  Me?  Well, I'm the fanciest of all.  I caught myself with my nose.

I do remember trying to put my arms in front of me.  I'm not sure where the failure was.  Perhaps, it was just in the gargantuan size of my nose.  All I know is that my nose absorbed 100% of the impact.  Everything else came out unscathed.

And that's when the blood started.

How is it that so much blood goes through the nose?  If you stabbed me in the heart, it would be more lethal than hitting my nose, but I am convinced it would not be nearly as bloody as a bloody nose.

At this point I had a problem.  Blood was pouring forth, and I didn't know what to do about it.  I hope blood is a good fertilizer because I sure fertilized the grass in that park.  After sitting and bleeding for a few minutes, I devised a strategy.  I figured if I just waited it out, one of two things would happen.  Either, it would clot eventually, or I would bleed to death.  I figured the likelihood of me bleeding to death was slim, so I waited for it to clot.

Fun fact:  I'm still alive, which means it eventually clotted.  Not only that, but despite all the blood that I left in the grass, there was not a single drop on my clothing.  It was all part of my brilliant lean forward and bleed on the grass strategy.

Once it stopped bleeding, I did my best to wipe off my nose and become at least somewhat presentable.  But, I utterly failed at that attempt.

The good news is, I wasn't planning to win a beauty contest on that ride anyway.

I rode home as a bloody mess, took a shower, washed all the blood away and went to work where I sadly reminisced about the days when riding a bike wasn't so gory.  You young whippersnappers don't know how good you have it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Top Secret Anniversary Trip

I like to go places.  I like to see new things.  I also really like surprises.

Each year for our anniversary, we like to go do a small trip and stay overnight somewhere.  It's generally not very far away.  (The furthest was Lake Tahoe, the closest was Salt Lake City.)  It's usually just one or two nights.  Our first anniversary, I was in charge of planning it.  I took Robyn down to Saint George for the weekend, and we saw Aida at the Tuacahn theater.

We talked about how it would be fun to switch off who was in charge of planning it each year.  However, due to the fact that I love planning trips and Robyn really doesn't, instead of switching off between me planning it one year and Robyn planning it the next, it has turned into me planning it one year and both of us planning it the next.  But this year, I told Robyn I wanted nothing to do with planning it, because I wanted to enjoy having a surprise.

The other night she booked the hotel.  I know because she had me log on to so that we could use our rewards membership.

Obviously, if I wanted to, I could figure out where we're going pretty easily.  I could log on to I could look at the credit card statement.  I'm sure there are a number of ways that I could figure it out.

But that would ruin the fun.

It's kind of like Christmas.  There's infinite fun in picking up the presents, in feeling them and shaking them.  But you can't secretly open the presents.  That's cheating, and it ruins the game.

And just like Christmas, the anticipation is often more fun than the actual reveal.  I'm super excited about my surprise trip.  Now it's all about scheming to figure out where we're going.

So here's what I know.  We're staying in a Marriott on a Friday night and Saturday night.  We're not flying anywhere.  I'm taking a full day off of work on Friday.

Alright sleuths of the internet, where do you think I will spend my top secret anniversary trip?  (Asking the internet for speculation is not cheating.  Unless Robyn has told you the answer, in which case it ceases to be speculation and is definitely cheating.)

This is what I will look like when I find out where we're going.  Except for hopefully I will be slightly more masculine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The New Home Office

When Robyn and I were married, I told her that in my line of work I was likely going to need to purchase a new computer every 2-3 years.  My laptop is several years old, so we've been talking for several months about the possibility of me getting a new desktop.

I love my laptop because it's portable, but I really wanted a dual monitor setup.  I also wanted to have a Windows 8 machine because I'm interested in doing some Windows 8 development.

After talking about it for several months, we finally pulled the trigger.  Behold my sweet new setup!

I had an old monitor from a desktop that died a few years ago.  I also had a set of speakers.  I bought a new touchscreen monitor to be the main monitor and used the old ghetto one for the second screen.

I'm totally loving it!  Windows 8 definitely takes some getting used to, but I actually really like the live tiles.  I have it setup to have the weather on my main screen, both locally as well as a few different cities (Clovis, CA where Robyn's parents live, and Minot, ND which is the coldest place I've ever lived.)  I also have facebook on my live tiles.  It's kind of cool because it shows a small stream of recent updates from my friends.

I also figured out how to make Windows boot into normal desktop mode, so I can feel warm and fuzzy in normal windows unless I choose to move to the tiled mode.

This setup will be much better for when I need to work from home.  The small screen of my laptop is painful when I do work on it.  This setup will probably get me writing more code at home.  And if I'm being honest, I should probably admit that this setup might revive some of my gaming that has been lying dormant for a while.

It's also really crazy to think that this computer was one third of the price of the 486 my dad bought when I was a preteen, and it's about 600 times as powerful.

Technology is cool.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Red Pine Lake

I recently wrote about our newly acquired backpacking gear.  Eager to use it in the real world, we asked around for good places to go backpacking.  We got lots of good ideas from friends and family that we will be using in the future.  My BFF Jared volunteered to go with us to one of his favorite places, which meant that the first place we officially went backpacking was Red Pine Lake.

It's a beautiful lake, and the trail head is up Little Cottonwood Canyon, so it's less than 45 minutes from our house which works perfectly for a Friday night hike after work.

The hike is about 3.5 miles and climbs a little over 2000 feet.  I have a few little stories and adventures to share so I've broken them into headings.  (Don't you just feel more comfortable knowing that all of the information falls into an organized structure?)

Cute Little Hikers
The hike starts out fairly easy.  It's not very steep at first.  This is the part where we looked vibrant, cute and precious, because we hadn't got all sweaty yet.
Look at those three precious hikers

Sometimes we pose with a mountain.

So much preciousness!

As we hiked further the sun began to set.  (It turns out it does that every evening, who knew?)  We stopped to snap some pics of the sunset looking down on the valley.

Regretting Squats
As we got further along on the hike, it started to get steeper.  This hike gets progressively steeper until you arrive at the lake where it flattens out.  As the hike got steeper, I began to regret that earlier that day had been leg day at the gym.  I was particularly regretting that I had done squats, so my legs were already sore and tired.  I'm not gonna lie.  I was a sad boy on the last half mile.

"Why is it always my bum?"
By the time we reached the lake, it was pretty late.  The sun had been down for a couple hours, so it was dark and cold.  We cooked our dinner and ate it looking out over the lake with its beautiful reflection of the moon.  (Alas, the iphone camera is pretty good, but it can't capture things like that.)  After dinner we got in our tent and went to bed pretty quickly.  We hadn't been laying in bed very long when suddenly Robyn yelled, "WHY IS IT ALWAYS MY BUM?!?!?".

I actually wasn't aware that it was always about her bum.  Despite that, I actually knew what she was talking about.  Her bum is always the first thing to get cold.  She was warm and snug in her sleeping bag, but her bum was still somehow managing to feel cold.  Naturally, that question became the theme for the rest of the trip.

Walking around the lake
The next morning I woke up early and both Robyn and Jared were still sleeping and looking precious.  I decided to do a little exploring and see what I could see.  I ended up walking all the way around the lake.  I loved how beautiful it was, and how it was such a perfect reflecting pool.

Hanging with the Pika
While I was walking around the lake, I came upon a pika.  I didn't actually know what a pika was before this trip, but I googled the animal I had seen when I got home and was able to figure it out.  They make a really loud chirping noise and they build huge nests with leaves.  I sat and watched this little guy scurry into the bushes and then come back with a branch or a leaf in his mouth, only to deposit it on his mound and repeat the process.  I watched him do this 3 or 4 times before continuing on my way.
Here he is on his mighty mound of leaves.

Fearless Chipmunk
When I got back to camp, we made breakfast and hung out for a while.  There was a chipmunk who must have smelled our food because he kept sneaking up and trying to check out everything.  He tried to crawl into my backpack, then he tried to crawl into my tent.  He also tried to crawl on Jared's face while he was laying in his sleeping bag.  (We don't actually know if he was going for the face.  But he got about 3 inches away before Jared yelled at it, "Hey chipmunk!  I'm right here!")  I didn't get a picture of the chipmunk because I was too busy trying to convince it that I'm so scary that it shouldn't chew through all of my new gear in search of food.

Chilling at a beautiful lake
After breakfast we spent a few hours just enjoying the beautiful nature all around us.
Just a couple of BFFs in nature.

And this is what we look like from the front.

Going home and walking like an old man
Finally it came time to go home.  We took a few precious pics on the way back.
I told her to pose with the changing leaves.

Just hanging out with the trees and the valley.

Once I got home and sat down for a bit, my body realized that I just carried a big backpack up and down a mountain.  My thighs, my calves and my hips all suddenly decided to be sore.  I'm pretty sure I'll be walking like an old man for a few days, but I guess that just means we need to do this more often so that I can handle it better.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reviewer of the Future

I like books.  But one thing that is even better than books is free books!

So I'd like to share the story about how I became the reviewer of the future.  A position that receives infinite books in exchange for reviews.

About a year ago, I discovered the Goodreads First Reads program.  It's basically the greatest thing ever.  The way it works is that there are authors who would like reviews of their works.  These authors are willing to give away a free copy of their work in exchange for an honest review.  (I'm sure they would prefer a good review, but I think the fact that they ask for an honest review lends more value to good reviews.)

They list on Goodreads that they are giving away x number of copies.  People like me sign up saying they are interested in a copy, and then they select who they give the books to.  (I assume there are any number of factors that help them decide, everything from what type of reviews the individuals have written in the past, to complete randomness.)

When I discovered this program, I started signing up for books like a madman.  It took a while to be selected.  But once I got selected for a few and read them and wrote reviews quickly, I think that increased my karma in the eyes of future authors doing giveaways.  I began getting a lot more.  I became so inundated with free books that I completely stopped signing up because I wanted to catch up on all the books I'd received, and I also had other books I was interested in reading.  (I still pay for books, crazy I know.)

But it turns out, there comes a point where you don't have to sign up for giveaways in order to receive giveaways.  Last year, one of the books that I won and reviewed was Writers of the Future Volume 29.  I gave it a rave review, not because I was trying to flatter anyone in response for getting a free book (I have given several one star reviews, even from free books) but because I really thought it was that good.

I had never been exposed to the Writers of the Future contest before, but it's really a great thing.  It is a contest for amateur authors.  If you have never published a novel, and have published less than 2 short stories, you are eligible for this contest.  The contest is ongoing, with winners every 3 months.  The winners get a cash prize and get the opportunity to be published in the annual Writers of the Future collection while still retaining complete ownership of their story with its copyright privileges and control of future publishing.

So I read a great collection, loved it, reviewed it, and discovered an awesome program that helps fledgling writers.  If that was the end of the story, it would be a happy ending.  But it's not.  (I know you're on the edge of your seat waiting to know what happens next.)  (Okay, not really, I recognize I can't make a story about a book review that interesting.  Thanks for sticking around anyway.)

The following year, I was contacted by Galaxy Press, the publisher of the Writers of the Future collections.  They were getting ready to publish Volume 30, and they enjoyed my review so much the previous year that they said they'd like to send me another free copy.

Of course I said yes!

Doesn't it look so fun?  It's even more fun when it's free!

It did take me a while to get to it.  I was busy reading Hugo nominated works.  But, I did finally post a review.  Fun fact:  I loved it just as much as the previous year's collection.  After posting it, I was contacted by Galaxy Press.  They said they appreciated the detail I put into it, and I'm on the list to receive next year's collection.  Booya!

So I have named my new position the Reviewer of the Future.  I don't know if I will retain this position for all eternity, but I'd like to let Galaxy Press know that I am willing to review these collections as long as they are willing to continue to send them.

Also, I'd like everyone else to know that the Reviewer of the Future is also willing to review other things besides the Writers of the Future contest.

I do recommend sending me things that are actually good.  I do have this problem where I'm honest, so I'm more than willing to say that something is garbage if it actually is.  But that honesty means that I will fawn over your work like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, if it actually is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  (Which is difficult, because sliced bread is awesome.)

Do you have anything I need to read?  The Reviewer of the Future is ready.

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Backpackers in Town

Robyn and I have always loved nature.  (Though Robyn doesn't always like nature to touch her.)  We've loved nature but we've primarily only experienced nature that could be reached in a car.  The main reason for this was that we were much too fat to carry ourselves very far into the wilderness, not to mention carrying the gear and food we would need to survive.

Our attempts to be more active and healthy have included such things as biking, hiking and even scuba diving.  With our recent trip to Havasupai, we added backpacking to that list.  We had a great experience on that trip and wanted to do much more backpacking.  My BFF Jared W loaned us all the gear we needed so that we could have a great backpacking adventure.  Unfortunately, Jared is like 15 feet tall and I am like a third of that.  That means that a backpack frame that fits Jared fits me terribly.   Clearly we decided we needed to get our own.  (Not to mention that, while Jared is always willing to loan us his stuff, it's much easier to use it more often if we have our own.)

This past weekend, REI was having a Labor Day sale on all sorts of gear.  Clearly that meant we went shopping.  Let me reiterate, I WENT SHOPPING!  You know that if I was willing to go shopping, I must be excited.  We were shopping for approximately 500 years.  We were trying on backpacks and walking around the store.  I've used up my ability to shop for the next century or so, but it was totally worth it.

Look at that cutie with her cute new backpack.

Robyn was very concerned that she wouldn't be able to buy a backpack that was properly cute.  I honestly didn't know that backpacks could be cute.  But she tells me that hers is, so I'm happy for her.

Neither my backpack nor its wearer are anywhere near as cute.  But I'm excited about my purchase as well.
We selected the backpacks we wanted, and then noticed the tents were on sale as well.  We debated that we might be spending too much money, but we figured that we were going to buy a good backpacking tent at some point anyway, so we may as well get it while it's on sale.

When we got home, it became important to setup the tent in our front room.  Robyn assured me that having a tent in the front room was fun.  I wasn't entirely convinced, but despite my skepticism, this cute girl in a tent in the front room did turn out to be pretty fun.

Tents are like blanket forts, with the added benefit that they don't fall apart.

So now that we have all this gear, we need to go on a backpacking trip before it gets too cold to use our gear.  If you have any good suggestions for places to go let us know.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...