Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Day of 2008

Here it is -- the last day of 2008. It's been a good year, though one that went entirely too fast. Work seemed to absorb most of my attention (with Phoenix landing and all), and my children seem so old now. I'd love to snapshot this time right now, and hold on to it for a long, long time -- we're in a very happy place. Life is quite good -- my family is healthy, we're financially holding our own, our home is in good order, and everybody seems happy. It's been a good time. May 2009 be just as good!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frangible

Frangible?! Huh?! Once again, I was reading my National Geographic magazine and this was in a headline. I thought this was a made-up word, but one that I could decode -- a cross between fragile and tangible. But still a made-up word, right? Well, one look at the dictionary proves it is not made-up. Something that is frangible is readily or easily broken. Nice.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Being Burned

Today is Christmas Eve, and it's been filled with all of the usual kind of stuff. Mostly, we've just stayed home and played with the kids. My wife did brave the grocery store -- and I do mean brave -- to get some last minute things, but aside from that it's been a day of play.

We've played on the Wii, I played two abbreviated games of Monopoly with my oldest son, we've read books, we painted a few ceramic Christmas ornaments (my snowman turned out great!), and mostly we've just generally been lazy. It's been a great day.

This evening we held a "Family Home Evening" about the birth of Jesus Christ. We discussed both the New Testament story from Luke 2, and also The Book of Mormon account of Samuel the Lamanite's prophecy of the coming of Jesus and the subsequent fulfillment of the given signs. It was crazy and fun, but the kids just couldn't really focus on anything. Strangely enough, my oldest, whom you would think would be the most mature of the bunch, and is in the know, was the most out of control. He just would not focus on the message, which, of course, keyed up his siblings. All told, though, it was typical of our Christmas Eve experiences ...

My youngest, however, finally understood that tonight is the night that Santa comes. It didn't really sink in until late this evening. After it did, though, he came to me with a really concerned look on his face and said, "I don't want Santa to be burned."

"Burned?!" I asked, somewhat in alarm. "What do you mean by burned?"

"I don't want Santa to be burned!" he repeated.

At that moment, it occurred to me that he had finally connected all the Santa details together. Santa comes down the chimney! Santa delivers toys! Our fireplace has been burning all day long! Santa is going to be burned to a crisp! Clearly, he had connected the dots and was a little upset by it all.

I assured him, "Don't worry, we'll turn off the fire before Santa comes."

"Okay, Daddy!" he said, and bounded off happy.

Fun times!

Fun With Ice

I ran across an article the other day about a man up in Alaska who, with his family (seven kids!), builds a giant snowman in his front yard. In years past, the snowman has reached in excess of 15 feet tall. I think it's nothing short of awesome, but apparently his neighbors disagree and he received a cease-and-desist order from the city when he started building the base of the one for this year. Here's the news article about it:

Giant snowman rises again in Alaska — mysteriously

Somehow, a giant 25 (!) foot snowman appeared in his yard last night. Totally awesome. I stumbled upon the following video, which really shows the sheer magnitude of this beautiful creation. Well worth watching.


After showing this to my wife, she remembered that when she was a kid her mother told her about ice sculptures that were made in Wyoming when she was a kid by people who just used a garden hose. I went searching online for this, and finally found one that took my breath away. Check it out:

Just the sheer size of this thing is astounding. I've spent a little time in Wyoming, and it can be cold like you wouldn't believe. Nevertheless, while I supposed making sculptures in this way was feasible, I'd never seen it done on such a grand scale. This particular one dwarves the truck in the foreground, and even the house in the background. Truly remarkable!

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Weight Loss: The End of One Road

I have concluded that I have finally reached the end of my weight loss journey. If you look at the chart, you'll see the slow and steady path that I followed -- click on it for a larger version.


You can see that I lost about a quarter pound each day while I was doing this "Phantom Weight Watcher" thing. I totally have to give credit to my wife, who made it possible. She cooked for me, encouraged me, participated with me (well, I participated with her, technically), and always reminded me to behave myself. I wouldn't call what she did nagging, just gentle reminding; which I was free to ignore (and sometimes did). She is a wonderful, glorious woman, and I am greatly in love with her.

I am now comfortably down in the middle of the "normal" BMI range, and am feeling pretty happy about how I look. I feel good, too, with good energy levels; and even though I get the same amount of sleep I did when I started this little journey, I don't feel quite as exhausted. It really is true that the extra weight doesn't help at all.

When I tell people that I lost 35 pounds, most people wonder where I had kept it all. I was never really "obese" before, I don't think, but I was "pleasantly" rounded -- I was well within the upper half of the "overweight" BMI range. Now, I latch my watch one notch further in, my belt three notches in, and my wedding ring has literally fallen off my finger.

Anyway, a few musings on this whole weight loss thing:

-- I believe that sustainable weight loss is not a matter of self-denial, but rather self-control. Following the "Weight Watchers" approach has worked really well for me. I'm a numbers guy by nature, so keeping track of things wasn't so difficult, but any diet that prevented me from eating what I love (ice cream! meat! peanut butter!) would not have worked for me. Instead of denying myself of these things, I just have to plan for it now.
-- Despite my great success, I wouldn't say that I'm happier now that I'm skinny than I was before. I was pretty happy before. I would say, however, that it is easier for me to do things than it was before and my stamina has increased. I can climb stairs easier, I sprint more readily, I walk faster than I used to, chasing my kids around doesn't seem like a chore, and I can now crouch or get on the ground (and back up again) a lot easier than I could before -- a very important thing when you have small children.
-- It really is flattering when people comment on my weight loss. Nearly everyone I know has asked me about it, and it always makes me smile. (Why, yes, I have lost weight! Thank you for noticing!)
-- My confidence level has gone up. No longer do I worry about what people think about my appearances, because I know I look good. Yep, I do, just ask me.

Everything I own is really baggy on me. My church suits are really bad, and I desperately need a new one. This whole buying a new wardrobe thing really stinks, but it is, in its own way, sort of fun, too. My wife, on the other hand, absolutely hates shopping for clothes. For men, buying a pair of pants is as easy as finding the right waist and length (okay, okay, if you really gotta make it hard, you might want to care about the style -- loose-fitting or regular fit), whereas for women, it's a far more complicated challenge. For her, though, she's been very surprised and pleased to try on sizes that she couldn't fit into even as a high school student.

Now my challenge is to learn how to stabilize my weight. It is a different task than losing weight, and I hope to maintain my weight between 140 and 145. It should be an interesting experience, too, and maybe I'll post some of the long-term results of that effort.

As it is, this particular experience is now at an end. When I find the right pictures that illustrate the story, I'll post a "before and after" entry. It's been good.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why My Three-Year-Old Makes Me So Happy

Most people think that three-year-olds can be holy terrors. Mine can be like that, but generally he's nothing short of delightful. Before he gets too old and I forget about it all (which is what everybody keeps telling me is going to happen, and I'm afraid they might be right), I wanted to itemize some of the things about my little man that make me happy.

-- He's not too big to sit on my lap when I read him a story.
-- He wants me to read him a story. Lots of them. All the time.
-- He holds my hand when we cross the street. Well, usually he holds just my pinky or my forefinger.
-- He is mostly potty-trained. We're still working on that ...
-- Whenever I'm doing something "boring" (i.e. grown up), he wants me to stop and play a game with him.
-- When he does something wrong, he gets upset because I'm unhappy, not because he got in trouble (not like his older siblings, who get upset because they got caught).
-- He learns things at an amazing rate, and surprises me all the time with things he knows that I didn't know he knows.
-- He expresses things using words that grown-ups wouldn't normally put together.
-- He doesn't know how to intentionally smile for the camera, which cracks me up.
-- His natural smile is simply heart-warming.
-- He's so cute and awkward when he walks or runs around. How he can stay upright with such a big head and such short legs, I don't know.
-- When he gets scared during movies, the only thing that makes him comfortable is to cuddle up nice and close next to me. Daddy is safe.
-- Give him a toy car and he can be entertained for hours.
-- His imagination is kicking into high gear, which means he can be downright incomprehensible during play time.
-- He needs me to help him button up his pants, tie his shoelaces, and zip up his coat.
-- Yesterday, he actually said, "See you later, alligator!" when I told him goodbye as I was off to work.

And finally:

-- Sometimes, out of the blue, he tells me he loves me, and I know he means it.

I love my little boy, too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Testimony Meeting and Tears

Today was fast and testimony meeting at church. It was a time for people to get up to the podium and share their feelings about Jesus Christ, among other things, and their love for God and other people. It was a very nice meeting, with many tears shed (mostly, but not exclusively) by the women.

At one point, in the middle of one particularly tearful testimony, my three-year-old turned to my wife and asked, "Why is everybody sad?"

It was a cute and touching moment. My wife answered, "They're so happy, they're crying."

Hmm. He seemed confused. I don't get it, either, kid.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eye Pain - Part 2

I finally made it to the doctor yesterday, who told me that I have what's known as a "marginal corneal ulcer." This link clearly and concisely talks about it. The doctor gave me two different medications to take. He indicated that I secondarily also have "blepharitis", which has exacerbated the problem, though I seem to have a very mild form of it.

Interestingly, the doctor said that I have a high pain tolerance as most people, when afflicted with these ailments, are typically in to see the doctor immediately and are largely incapacitated. When I told my wife this, she nearly snorted in derision. She knows me much better -- I'm a total wimp when it comes to pain, who will take a sick day if I feel even slightly sniffly.

After taking the medication, my eye is now looking quite normal with the redness nearly all gone. I am supposed to take these two eye-drop medicines four times a day, which is something I really don't like doing. My eye still feels a little "warm", and I have a little bit of light sensitivity, but I'm in pretty good shape now. Unfortunately, the doctor wants to see me in a week (instead of saying, "Come back if you have any further troubles!"), which means I may be in for a long treatment.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Impecunious

I read this in National Geographic today. Thought it was a good word:

Impecunious : having very little or no money usually habitually : penniless

Good stuff.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

600 Pound Gorilla

We have an expression at work when we refer to the "600 Pound Gorilla". You can probably imagine the answer to the question: "What do you give a 600 pound gorilla? Anything it wants."

Generally, at work, there are at times missions or projects that are, for whatever reason, the most powerful, politically and economically. These projects tend to consume the resources of less-politically important projects, and I mean both money and people. Also, whenever a key technical trade-off needs to occur, they typically will win any tug-of-war.

Well, I was reading the news today, and I stumbled on this article:

Barbie beats back Bratz

When I read it, the thought that came to my mind was this expression. So, let it be known that Barbie has a new career now, and one that I'm sure will be on the shelves of your local toy store very soon: "600 Pound Gorilla Barbie."

Eye Pain

Yesterday I woke up with some severe pain in my right eye. It felt like there was a piece of dirt in it that I couldn't get out. My eye was blood shot and I found myself blinking constantly or keeping my eyes closed when I could. I had a lot of work to do, so actually got ready in the morning normally and headed out, but before I got to the freeway I realized I was driving with my eyes closed half the time, and it just wasn't safe to go any further. I turned around and came home and spent the balance of the day trying to stay out of bright light, blinking, and doing my best to keep the pain down. The weirdest part was that the eye wasn't dilating the same as my other eye, largely remaining closed up.

Mid-day, things seemed to be a lot better, but by the evening, it got worse again. Right before bed, I finally put on a warm compress on my eye, which seemed to sooth it a little, and I finally went to sleep.

This morning, I woke up with my eye slightly less red, and the pain is largely gone. I am now blinking a little more normally, but there was a bit of puss in the eye, and I still have great sensitivity to bright light. Right now my computer monitor is turned down to about half brightness, because it hurts to keep it brighter than that.

I'll be keeping warm compresses on my eye roughly hourly and trying to feel more normal. I just hope it continues to improve. Yesterday, I decided NOT to go to the doctor because I was feeling better, but in hindsight, I wish I would've gone. I don't have a name for what ails me, and now the ophthalmologist isn't available until Monday. That's life, though. Luckily, I have sick time available at work, and I'm finding myself needing it right now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interesting Article About Prop 8

Sore losers won't let go in California

By Lee Benson
Deseret News
Published: Monday, Dec. 1, 2008 12:08 a.m. MST


Here's what I don't get about California and the recent Proposition 8 vote: Why all the commotion over yet another passage of yet another marriage amendment?

This was the 30th time a state has placed either a constitutional amendment proposal or its equivalent on its ballot, and the 30th time the amendment has passed.

Thirty straight wins is formidable. It's downright Globetrotter-esque. The New England Patriots didn't even go 30-0.

In twenty-nine of those statewide votes, nobody threw a tantrum.

Granted, early polls predicted California would be the first state to buck the trend, and it did come fairly close with just a 52 percent passage, which tied South Dakota for the narrowest margin of victory among the 30 votes.

But in the end, half a million more Californians voted for the amendment that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman than voted against it. The final tally was 5,387,939 to 4,883,460.

Statistics intrigue the old sports writer in me, and I find the numbers that make up the 30-time winning streak very intriguing.

The great marriage election debate, and the streak, began with Alaska and Hawaii in 1998, continued with Nebraska in 2000, then Nevada in 2002, followed by 13 more states in 2004 (Montana, Oregon, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan and Utah), another two in 2005 (Kansas and Texas), eight more in 2006 (Virginia, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee), and finally Florida, Arizona and California in 2008.

In all, 58,911,741 Americans over the past decade have cast votes on the issue.

The overall score is 37,662,846 to 21,248.894.

If it were a football game, you'd change the channel in the third quarter and watch something else.

Some states have passed their amendments by huge margins, led by Mississippi at 86 percent and South Carolina and Tennessee at 81 percent each. Six states came in below 60 percent — California and South Dakota at 52 percent, Arizona and Colorado at 56 percent each and Oregon and Virginia at 57 percent apiece. Most margins of victory have been in the 60s — Utah was at 66 percent, which made us pretty close to normal.

Overall, 64 percent of Americans who have voted on the matter are in favor of defining marriage as a one man-one woman exclusive.

That's more than 11 percentage points higher than the 52.7 percent mandate for Barack Obama.

And no one's protesting in the streets over that one.

But California won't let it go. The whining is enough to make a soccer player envious. Lawyers are headed to court to block the proposition. Others are demanding that the vote go back on the ballot in 2010. Proponents of Prop. 8 are being singled out for abuse by opponents.

Sore losing is having a field day.

Evan Wolfson, a California-based gay-rights lawyer who heads a group called Freedom to Marry, said, "There's something deeply wrong with putting the rights of a minority up to a majority vote. If this were being done to almost any other minority, people would see how un-American this is."

Polygamists of the 19th century might have something to say about that. And a thousand other minorities you could name who have had to fall in step with the majority.

How are you supposed to decide stuff? Rock-paper-scissors? Duel at dawn?

Wolfson sees the amendment(s) in terms of discrimination against gays who want to be married while not seeing that the absence of such marriage amendments would be discrimination against not only those who prefer marriage to be defined between one man and one woman, but against untold numbers of children whose world would be greatly changed as a result.

And that's a minority that can't even vote.

You can't have it both ways. Those voters in favor of the amendments aren't voting against gay rights, they're voting for a marriage tradition as America, and America's children, have long known it.

Voting for it in huge numbers, in fact.

Everyone seems to get that but California.

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