Spring Break 2010, Part 1

I did not succumb to the temptation to title this post “The West of the Story”, since someone already used that. Also note that “West Side Story” is also taken.

A week ago we were in the Boise area, packing our things and getting ready to leave the next morning to fly back home. Now I’ve had time to download all 500 photos from the trip and go through some of them.

Here are some highlights of the first two days of travel:

Snacks on a Plane

photo of our family enjoying snacks on the plane

Here is a rare sighting of Alpha and Gamma. They are not in their native habitat, and they are curiously awaiting to see what we do next.


The first novelty of being out west was the tumbleweeds. The boys found some right away, which was not difficult since they rolled right in front of us at the park (the tumbleweeds, not the boys).

However, the kids’ tumbleweed-gathering skills varied:
Alpha got a decent tumbleweed

photo of a medium tumbleweed

but then his cousin, the resident of Idaho and therefore more familiar with tumbleweeds, showed what a real tumbleweed looks like

photo of a better tumbleweed

Beta joined in the fun, and he succeeded in finding one about his size.

photo of a scraggly tumbleweed

We all climbed the hill there at Camel’s Back park, played on the playground, and then went to dinner (pizza, in case you were wondering). Then there was evening and morning, the first day.

Playing the Slots

photo of setting up a slotcar racetrack

We had thought about going out and seeing some things in Boise that first full day, but, after a long day of travel the day before, we just wanted to stay close to the house. So our hosts broke out the slot-car track, which kept the older boys occupied for a while.

Attack of the Tumbleweeds

photo of tumbleweeds piled against a chain-link fence

After lunch, we set off on a little adventure, just to get the older kids out of the house for a change of scenery. We got to see what happens when someone puts a fence across the tumbleweeds’ migratory route. Hint: they don’t like it. They attack the fence until they break through and can continue on their way.


photo of three children and one adult playing tackle football

Since the weather was still nice when we got back, we took advantage of it. Of course, the children can’t play by themselves in the backyard when there is an able-bodied adult standing around. So I played football with them, as did our host (although he is not in the picture).

A-hunting We Will Go

photo of kids looking around rocks for spiders

The last thing we did before dinner was go on a black-widow hunt. The kids had been asking about black widow spiders, so we figured we’d see if we could satisfy their curiosity. At the end of the block was a drainage ditch that doesn’t get much use in the dry mountain weather there.

There were plenty, plenty, of rocks for the boys to overturn. They found a couple spiders, but no black widows. Some other boys saw them, and they came over to help too. The two packs of boys didn’t quite gel, but I did learn one thing: if you want to get the attention of a group of boys and get them to come to you quickly, simply yell “Hey! I found something!”

On our way back up the block, we ran across a few more neighborhood children. They had collected a hobo and we told them “No thanks, but let us know if you find a black widow.” A little while later, we heard a knock at the door. There were several neighborhood children and one of them had a plastic jug. Sure enough, the jug contained a black widow. I did not have my camera nearby, so I can’t show you the spider. Then all the kids ran into the back yard to play, and they took the black widow too. I’m pretty sure they did not release it in the back yard.

As I see him from the top of the rocks,And I look at him from the hills; Behold, a people who dwells apart,And will not be reckoned among the nations.

Numbers 23:9

Finding Joy Friday, April 2010 Edition

Finding Joy Friday

In cooperation with LaanyKidsMom, here is my entry for this week.

Where did I find joy this week?
In and around Boise, ID

picture of toddler on airplane

We flew to Boise. It was Beta’s and Gamma’s first time on an airplane. Travelling long distances together as a family can be stressful at times, but it does produce memories. That’s Gamma in the photo, of course.

picture of children about to climb a steep hill

The first stop after leaving the Boise airport was Camel’s Back park, where the older two (plus a cousin) climbed the hill. What gave me joy here is that we were out of the airplane and had no particular schedule or deadline. It’s a park – go run around and do whatever you want. When we’re done, we’ll go eat dinner.

picture of mountains

The next item of joy this week was the view in Boise. We don’t get that here in the Midwest. I did miss the trees and general green-ness of the Midwest, but the scenery there was picturesque.

picture of prairie dog display at zoo

The final item for this Finding Joy Friday is the prairie dog exhibit at the Boise Zoo Zoo Boise. Prairie dogs, by themselves, are amusing enough. But when there are several clear domes into which the kids can climb, it becomes even more amusing. That’s Beta in the photo, by the way.

That’s all for today’s entry. Maybe next week I’ll post some more pictures and descriptions of our time out west.

Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the mountain at a distance with a large area between them.

1 Samuel 26:13

Word Your Survey Well

I was just minding my own business on the web, checking my credit card statement, when along popped a survey plea. Normally I just decline offers to participate in surveys, but tonight I felt generous.

Okay, maybe not generous. There is a glaring omission to the website that I wish they would fix, so I volunteered for the survey in the hopes that there would be a question about said glaring omission.

And I was not disappointed.

But there were lots of other questions too. I answered them to the best of my abilities. Those of you who know me know that one of my better abilities is the ability to take things literally. It comes in handy in the engineering profession, but it tends to annoy ordinary civilians.

I did not want to skew their survey results, but I am obligated, nay compelled, to answer the question as written. It’s a two part question, so be sure to read 19.2 and then 19.2.1 and then go back and read 19.2 before reading my answer to 19.2.1 (you can ignore 20).

picture of part of an online survey for credit card website satisfaction

(click on the image for the full-size version, which is only slightly larger)

As usual, the credit card company name has been obscured in order to protect the innocent.

The question asked if I would recommend viewing my statement online to other people. But I don’t want other people to see my statement, so of course I wouldn’t recommend it.

I think they meant to ask “How likely are you to recommend [credit card company]‘s online statement feature to a friend or colleague?” or “How likely are you to recommend the online viewing of statements at [credit card company] to a friend or colleague?”

In case you are wondering: yes, I did leave that text there and submit the form. What you see is how I actually answered the survey. I don’t know if the survey people will appreciate it, but I had fun typing it.

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.

Psalm 19:12

I Can Has Time Back?

One night during the Easter break, I spent about 2 hours on the Cheezburger Network, just flipping through the various sites and discovering interesting things and reading captioned photos.

And reading captioned photos.

And reading captioned photos.

They kind of blend together after a while, but I couldn’t stop clicking on the “Next” button.

After a couple of hours, I snapped out of it. Where had the time gone? What had I done with my life tonight? What else could I have accomplished with those two hours? I could have cleaned off the tops of my dresser and nightstand. I could have finally attached the trim around the closet in the bathroom. I could have done a number of useful things.

The Cheezburger Network is not useful.

I want a refund.

Srsly, can I get those two hours back?

I suppose it was no worse than a bad movie, so I’ll just consider it that. Yeah, like a choose-your-own-adventure movie because I was clicking on links to determine the plot content.

No, wait…that makes it worse. I am complaining about a bad movie that I directed. At least it was free.

Oh well, I suppose that’s what the internet is for.

And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’

Matthew 20:6

American Idol, Season 9, Top 9

Poor Ryan Seacrest. He looked a little lost up there without Didi. Last week during Didi’s interview he never let go of her hand. This week he barely touched the contestants. Apparently he’s not looking for a rebound contestant to take her place.

Now on to the singing for Lennon-McCartney week…

Aaron Kelly: “The Long and Winding Road”

Sings nicely, but predictable. Do ballads sell well these days?

Katie Stevens: “Let It Be”

The song was fine, that’s all. Good job.

Andrew Garcia: “Can’t Buy Me Love”

I was glad to see he did not wear a tan jacket this week. That just makes him look like Kim Jong Il, if you squint a bit while watching. I have no idea what Kim Jong Il sounds like, especially while singing.

Michael Lynch: “Eleanor Rigby”

Not bad, but he has to do better than this if he wants to make it to the final.

Crystal Bowersox: “Come Together”

If this were Survivor or Biggest Loser, Crystal would be the one who won immunity every week. Not that she needs it, since she’s good every week.

Crystal, learn a lesson from Tara Costa – you can win every week’s contest but still not win the grand prize. I don’t know what that means or how that is supposed to help you, but I felt like writing it.

Tim Urban: “All My Loving”

This isn’t a smiling competition – it’s a singing competition. Tim can certainly sing, but not as well or as memorably as the other contestants.

Casey James: “Jealous Guy”

Katie Stevens did a pretty good imitation of Casey’s laugh during the pre-game interview.

Siobhan did not.

I’m sure he’ll go through to next week, even though most of the 30 million people watching had never heard that song before. I know I wouldn’t recognize that song if I heard it again, unless I heard the words “jealous guy” in it.

Siobhan Magnus: “Across the Universe”

It’s like having a new contestant every week! Who is that new girl on AI? The one who looks nothing Siobhan did last week? Oh wait, it’s Siobhan again. But she still sounds good.

If I had to create a Transformers name, I would use “Siobhan Magnus”.

Lee Dewyze: “Hey Jude”

This song gets old quickly, but Lee did his best to move it along and not let it get too boring. But having the audience sing? Singing the song is your job, Lee.

What did the bagpipes have to do with that performance? I’ll tell you what: it was distracting, but it will make people remember Lee’s song.

Who’s going home? Probably either Aaron or Andrew.

Who, besides those two, will make it into the bottom three? Probably either Katie or Tim.

Want a better review of American Idol? Go read Boomama.

It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:5

Easter Breakfast 2010

As I was getting Alpha’s breakfast on Easter Sunday, I asked him what he wanted. He glanced at the piles of chocolate that had been left on the table after the Easter egg hunt the day before, and then he told me he wanted to eat a Hershey bar for breakfast.

What?!” I responded, “You can’t have chocolate for breakfast. How about some cereal? Here, have some, umm, Cocoa Krispies.

Inspired by that transaction, I grabbed the camera and the glass bowl that held most of the chocolate, and I setup a photo shoot.

Here, without further introduction, is my Easter breakfast:

Easter breakfast of a bowl of chocolate with milk

And here is a close-up shot of the contents:

Easter breakfast of a bowl of chocolate with milk

Ideally, the chocolates would be unwrapped. And if I had time I was going to add some milk in the bowl (virtually, using Photo-Paint) as that would make the visual even better (yes, I said Photo-Paint and not Photoshop).

But I didn’t. So you’ll just have to imagine it.

They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.

Exodus 16:21

Preparing for Easter

Easter is like the Superbowl® of chocolate.  Christmas is good and all, but there are too many other things (cheese and sausage, eggnog, candy canes, etc.) that dilute the role that chocolate plays.

Easter, on the other hand, is just chocolate. Sure, some chocolate makers might fill the chocolate eggs with things such as peanut butter, Butterfingers, or cream (creme? crème?), but it’s all centered around chocolate.

Or worse than that – they fill the chocolate with air. “Hollow” is just a marketing term. Because really, who would buy air-filled chocolate? It makes it sound like a tire.

All that chocolate at Easter would be overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. My wife has been buying chocolate so that we’ll be well-stocked when the big day arrives. I have been using the Stash O’ Chocolate to train.

Oh yes, you need to train for that day. Just diving into all that chocolate cold turkey could cause problems. Your body isn’t ready for it. Hmm…maybe “cold turkey” wasn’t the best phrase to pair with “chocolate”.

I have been gearing up. The training starts back in October and peaks on January 1st. Then it’s mostly maintenance through February and March. Now we’re on the home stretch so I’ve been increasing my chocolate intake each day. Saturday will be just a few bits of chocolate – a stretch and warm-up if you will.

I think I’m ready.

On an unrelated note: spring break is next week and I think I’ll start my spring/summer running program then. Run for half the year, eat chocolate for half the year. I think it’s a good balance.

On a related note: yes, I took the headline from Stuff Christians Like.

And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Mark 16:6