Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Awesome Weekend

My wife and I ran away this weekend. We went a whole whoppin' 45 minutes south to a hotel near Universal Studios where we went to the park on Friday. That night, we went another hour and a half south (driving time) to Redondo Beach, where we rode bikes up and down the "strand" for three hours on Saturday.

Thursday night, our stay at the hotel began with a wonderful trip to the hotel's hot tub. We spent about the same amount of time in the hot tub on Friday night. Seeing as my wife hasn't had the chance to enjoy hot tubs that much because we usually have little kids with us on the rare occasions we travel and stay in hotels, it was quite a treat. We basically did absolutely nothing and just enjoyed each others company.

Friday's trip to Universal Studios was great. We've lived in California for over ten years now, and this was the first time we have gone. It was really fun, though in hindsight, it was far too active for us. Our leisurely day at the beach was more our speed for the "run away" trip we hoped to have. Nevertheless, the park was fun, and we enjoyed it slowly. The park was quite empty, in fact, during most of the morning; we were able to ride the Mummy ride four times in a row without waiting. Totally cool -- trips like that to amusement parks are awesome.

We went to Rubio's for lunch, and the burritos we had were divine. (The "Healthmex" ones ... totally worth it.)

We went to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner, and had a wonderful meal there, too.

Saturday we returned and I had the best hamburger I believe I have ever had in my entire life. It was so big it wouldn't even fit in my mouth. I mentioned to my wife that I think all those fancy restaurants that serve itty-bitty dishes of hoity-toity food are for the birds. For pure, manly, decadent satisfaction, a good, juicy burger with well-done fries beats that kind of stuff any day of the week. And this burger, with little onion rings and deep fried shrimp was simply astonishing. I think I've got a picture around here somewhere ...

Our trip down the "strand" was great. My wife isn't a big believer in bike riding, but I think she's now a believer in riding along the coast. With no hills to speak of (the true source of her bicycle fear), it was a casual trip where we didn't worry about a thing. We spent some time at a little aquarium on a pier, and just enjoyed the casual ride.

We dreamed of buying a little condo there, but saw the sales price for one condo at $4.6 million and decided it really wasn't that important to us. We are now planning to bring the kids and do it again sometime soon.

Some friends of ours watched the kids (thank you, thank you, thank you, all!), and it was funny to come back and see how exhausted they are. My oldest actually fell asleep during sacrament meeting this morning, and my youngest has been whiny every second of the day.

We are so glad we went on this trip, but are kind of dreading having to be grown-ups again.

Editor's Note: Apologies if bad English this entry has, I'm so mellow right now, I don't really care. All your base are belong to us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Busy Busy Not So Busy Few Weeks

After my wife finished with the play, we have pretty much been rebelling against doing anything that takes us away from home. This means that we haven't done very much. Even so, I feel like I've been busy. A really quick run-down of my life the past few weeks:

-- 16 May: Went to the play that evening. It was great, but it went long and I was tired.
-- 17 May: Went to the Stake Priesthood Leadership Meeting early Sunday morning, then went to church and was there for a while, helping the bishop do interviews in the afternoon. Came home and then went home teaching. Then we watched the Survivor finale.
-- 18 May: Worked from home all day. It was a good, productive day.
-- 19 May: Went to a class for work all day -- it wasn't until lunch time that I realized I'd already taken it ... The Elders came over for dinner that night, then we watched American Idol in realtime for the first time this season.
-- 20 May: Went to work, then did ... something that night ...
-- 21 May: Went to work and had lunch with a good friend of mine. Then came home and skipped out on a church training meeting I was supposed to attend. I just needed to be home, and to watch the American Idol finale ...
-- 22 May: Went to the temple in the morning, then to the Fathers and Sons campout in the afternoon. We were the first ones there, and me and my two boys had a great time. My oldest is a true fire bug.
-- 23 May: Went home, washed the kids, put stuff away, then vegetated the rest of the day. We finally got around to watching the Lost finale (way cool, by the way).
-- 24 May: Wasn't feeling very well, so I didn't go to church (*gasp*). Stayed home and watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon episodes. Pathetic, I know. We watched old Stargate Atlantis episodes that night.
-- 25 May: Still wasn't feeling well, but it was Memorial Day, so we did have a barbecue and played some games. Not a bad day. My wife bought "Boom Blox" for the Wii, and our arms are sore.

Okay, so reading this, you'd think my life revolves around TV. You'd be totally wrong. This has just been a rebellion week. And one where both my wife and I just really needed to chill. Tonight we intend to veg some more, and the next night, too. Then on Thursday, my wife and I are going on a two-night excursion, just the two of us. It'll be awesome to just get away. Summer is here, and I ain't mindin'.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beautiful Thing

This video is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Watch it in HD ... and wait for it. Wow.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garage Sale

We're doing a garage sale tomorrow. We have so much stuff to get rid of, it's ridiculous. Our dryer gave up on us two weeks ago, so last week we bought a new washer and dryer, so we've got to get rid of the old ones. We're dumping piles of baby stuff we've been hanging on to for a long time. The kids all went through their toys and picked out stuff to save. My wife and I have a ton of clothes to sell, too, due to our recent weight loss. We even have not-terribly-old computer stuff to sell: an old CRT monitor, a scanner, even a SCSI card. It'll basically be a bonanza for people, if they show up. Hopefully we have good crowds, because we do have good stuff. We'll see!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Just Saw Star Trek

Spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

I absolutely loved it. It was a really good "reboot" to the series, which it most certainly, clearly will be. I understand they're already in negotiations for two more movies ...

One thing I'm a little unhappy about, though, is that they ignored one of the most "sacred" things about Vulcans and their culture that is actually quite central to the reason they are the way they are. Vulcans don't, under any circumstances, like to be touched. This is because of the whole mind-meld thing -- touching is a very intimate and personal thing for them, and yet in this movie, it was flagrantly violated.

Another thing I was kind of unhappy about is that the whole thing basically wipes out all that we know and love from the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation, DS-9, and Voyager. (Enterprise, arguably the weakest series of the bunch, should be considered "untouched".) ALL of the storylines effectively don't exist now ... kind of a bummer.

I loved, loved, loved all the "Easter eggs" in the movie. I regularly saw (and heard) things that made me giggle.

I also loved that they spent a little bit of time with each of the major characters. Each one of them played a key role in the resolution of the story, and I thought it was wonderful that it worked out that way. Even Chekov, who was often just a wall-flower in the original series, had a key role in this film. I was very pleased to see them being true to who the characters were (except maybe Uhura ... what gives?!), even though the circumstances of the story were intentionally different than what we've been used to.

And two Spocks! How cool is that ...

Normally, time travel stories end with the original, "correct" timeline being reinstated. Not so this time, which makes me sad because of all the emotional involvement I have with the other series, but it does make me very curious to see things happen "again" with the new timeline. It'd be fascinating to see a re-introduction of the Dominion, the Ferengi, Q, and (wow!) the Borg, etc.

We're in for interesting times ...

In Less Than 2 Hours ...

... I will be sitting in a movie theater watching the new "Star Trek"! How awesome is that! I couldn't call myself a red-blooded, American nerd and NOT go see Star Trek on opening day ...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take Your Child to Work Day

A few weeks back I took my oldest son to work with me. It was the first time I could because my work doesn't let you bring them unless they're 9 years old. He had been there before for the yearly open house my work puts on, so very little of what we did was a surprise to him. Nevertheless, there was something special about him getting his own name badge and walking through security like he was a real employee.

There were booths with activities for the kids, but they mostly seemed aimed at a younger crowd, which was odd since my son was among the youngest ones there, and the activities were a little too young for him. Even so, there were plenty of people who were interested, and the lines were long.

Instead of waiting in the long lines, we went to an auditorium where a fellow was giving a presentation on what it takes to build a spacecraft. It was quite funny. He asked for about two dozen volunteers (only one adult went, and my son was being shy for some bizarre reason), and then he divided them into different tasks.

Five of them he had walk in a tight circle, as if they were the planet "popcorn" spinning on its axis. He took eight of them and had them line up as if they were a launch vehicle (pointed sideways). The rest he identified as different components on the spacecraft, such as the spacecraft bus, the solar arrays, the computer, and most importantly the science instruments, such as the salt-ometer, the butter-ometer, and the caramel-ometer. What better sensors are there to explore a popcorn planet?

It was a kick, especially when the rocket "launched" and all the kids bunched up on their way to the "planet", which by then was composed of the five really bored kids who had been dutifully walking in circles for about twenty minutes like so many zombies.

Afterwards, we went over to a grassy area where we could roll up some paper to make a "rocket" that we could then launch by stomping on a 2-liter bottle. His rocket had three fins and was pretty good, though when it was his turn, he didn't stomp very hard, so it didn't go as far as we both thought it could have. He chased it down, and decided he didn't want to wait in line again to launch it again. (Since his science fair project last month was on model rockets, and he had launched real model rockets before, this wasn't exactly compelling stuff ...)

Instead, we headed down to the clean rooms where we went to the observation room. There we saw the components of the Mars Surface Laboratory. He was very impressed by that, and loved the fact that he was looking at stuff that was going to Mars, never to be seen by human eyes again (possibly). Pretty cool stuff. There was a man there who had his older teenage son (eyes rolling, looking bored) who was more than delighted to fill my younger and more eager son's ears with information about the spacecraft; the man, apparently, was part of the group developing the flight software. My son was in heaven.

We went to lunch (we had awesome pizza), walked around the laboratory (he was impressed by the machine shop), and I showed him my office (which he loved, though it's just a cubicle with a bunch of computer screens). I had a dentist appointment that afternoon (two cavities ...) so we called it an early day. On the way out, I realized we hadn't taken a picture of the two of us together, so as we were walking out, I took a self-portrait of us. Check out our nerdy engineer shirts. You can see he had a smile on his face, and that made it a very good day indeed.

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