Monday, December 08, 2008

Hot Water - An underappreciated utility

We added to the list of things we are thankful for last week. Hot water came to the top of the list after a few days of delay getting the gas hooked up to the water heater.

I found there are a few reasons why hot water is important:

1) Your dishwasher runs only from the hot water tap. Carol found it too much trouble to unload after all the dishes were already in there, so they just had to wait for hot water. Besides, washing dishes in the sink with cold water is not exactly easy either. Would be easy to heat a pot of water on the stove to make the sink water warm, right? Unless, of course, your stove is a gas stove like ours.

2) Hygiene. Showers and baths just aren't quite as needed when you know the water is cold. Lindsey decided to go to school early and shower to maintain her hygiene. I still wonder what the teachers must think about the girl who comes to school 30 minutes early just to shower. The authorities may be here to visit us soon, but at least we didn't post evidence like Nicole.

3) Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - After maintaining my minimal hygeine by showering at work after sham workouts, I decided to brave the shower on Thursday morning. As I splashed in the frigid water I had vivid flashbacks to mornings in Santo Tome, Argentina where I would pull a disc of ice off the top of an outdoor water basin to get a bucket of water to "shower" with in the little outhouse like enclosure in the backyard. The key was to get all the key areas just wet enough to soap, lather up good, then rinse with urgency and race back inside to the small space heater and blanket. If you were really fast you could do it with only mild hypothermia. This experience explains why we later rigged up 220 volt shower heads in our next apartment which regularly shocked us, but we found it an acceptable alternative.

4) The Ward Relief Society Progressive Dinner was at our house on Thursday night. You might, like me, think there are a lot of homes in the ward which are not under threat of having walls knocked in at any moment that might serve to host the Progressive Dinner this year. But apparently the Lord works in mysterious ways. Fortunately, we were the last stop and we only needed to fit 50 chairs in the living area (no small feat) and serve desert. Carol plead with David and the other workers and managed to get them to delay knocking in the wall from the garage until Friday morning. So aside from the 30 yard dumpster everyone had to shuffle around to get in the front door, it was like there was no construction at all. Plus all those people managed to create quite a bit of heat over the hour they were here--a free benefit that is appreciated when your furnace is also not operable. See-- didn't even need the hot water. . . .

5) Compassion - It must be an awful thing to have to work for the gas company and shut people's gas off in the middle of winter. It must really take a toll on the workers. When Carol called on Friday to make sure they were coming to hook up the gas, they told her they couldn't make it out until Monday or Tuesday. Carol says she told them, "that's just not going to work." (Add a persistent and persuasive wife to the list of things I'm grateful for.) Somehow she persuaded the gas workers and they found a way to squeeze hooking a gas meter up for a pregnant woman and her now slightly stinky family.

When Lindsey got home from school on Friday and found out the hot water was working she had the same reaction as if we said her homework was cancelled for a week and we were going on vacation to a waterpark. Maybe next November we'll turn off the water or power for a week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shoes--not just an accessory

Perhaps it was spending two years on Guam that got our girls in the habit of not wearing shoes. Our Salt Lake neighbors always gave us puzzled looks as our girls continued to venture outside in the chilly weather without shoes on. The habit has continued even into Arizona, despite the fact that it is like walking on a frying pan in the summer and there are a few other hazards here. Yesterday Lindsey "went for a walk down the street" and came whimpering home for this picture.
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I remember my Mom painting my fingernails with some kind of putrid material to get me to stop biting them. Maybe cactus can have a similar function--

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Challenges, t-shirts and a turtle

Some of you may have heard about the race that Mark and I ran last week. To set the stage for the race, you must understand the idea for running the race came from my brother Robert, who along with Mark, decided that we should enter a marathon and try to qualify for Boston. Our lack of planning eliminated the St.George marathon as a possibility, since it had filled up long before. So Mark looked around for another Boston qualifying marathon and stumbled onto the Ridge to Bridge Marathon in Morgantown, NC. It seemed to be pretty, on Saturday, and at least somewhat downhill.

Robert emailed us:

"Man and boys (in other words, Daniel and Mark/Bryce), The time to decide is now- are we going to do this marathon or not. I’m in! They cap the race at 150 runners. Rob"

Apparently, what he meant to say was "I'm in for now." Robert was all about training and seemed to be in great shape. He showed us a book on marathon training recommended to him by Ed Eyestone who was teaching his running class at BYU. We all began training. About 8 weeks before the marathon, the race has a final deadline for backing out. Robert decides that his "knee hurts" (he tried running and it hurt so he just stopped). He announced that he was backing out of the race.

About a week later, I got sick (probably influenza) and spent 3 weeks coughing and not running much at all. I did try two long runs toward the end of my training. The first was 16 miles, and while I kept a really good pace the first 8 miles of this run, I became really tired and ended up really slowing down the last two miles. It was during this time that my mind became semi-delirious (Carol would argue that delirium is the only thing that makes people run) that I came up with an idea to wear T-shirts and dedicate the race to Robert in a sort of mockery.

Mark helped me fine tune the wording, and they were ordered and turned out great. Here they are at the finish.

The best part of the race was seeing the transition people would make from the "how wonderful that they are remembering their dead brother" stage to yelling "Tell Bob he's a wuss" as they read the back of the shirts.

Of course the race wasn't all fun. Maybe if I'd done more of those 16 or 18 mile runs before hand it would have been better. But running in Tucson in July and August is not really fun at any time of the day. So qualifying for Boston did not happen.

During the race, Carol would wait for me every few miles, hand me Gatorade and say, "You know, you don't ever have to do this again."

Of course she doesn't know the power my brothers have. . . .


This last picture is when Nicole mistakenly thought Bryce (my brother-in-law) had entered the race.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Teenagers---anyone want to go to Nebraska?

Lindsey is a really great 12 year old, but it never hurts to have a backup plan if things go south. . . . I found this on CNN today.

updated 33 minutes ago
Frustrated parents dump teens at hospitals
Frustrated parents are dumping their teenagers at Nebraska hospitals -- even crossing state lines to do it -- and the state Legislature has scheduled a special hearing to try to stem the tide. Nebraska's "safe haven" law, intended to allow parents to anonymously hand over an infant to a hospital without being prosecuted, isn't working out as planned. full story

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strawberry Jam

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I saw Nicole made some strawberry jam and I was a little bit jealous. So here's my collection of strawberry jam I made this afternoon. It's pretty amazing that you put in 2 cups of fruit and 4 cups of sugar to make the stuff. It's got to be good!

Monday, July 07, 2008

My Solar Powered Yard Lighting

It's been a long time since I've posted, but I've got a little project I'm excited about.

About a year ago we went to see our good friends the Poppes who are now living in New Jersey. Besides being a great doctor and helping me out a lot in Guam, Matt has talked me through a lot of projects and love to tinker with new ideas. While we were in New Jersey he showed me how he was using a solar panel and a deep cycle battery to provide all the power he needed in his tool shed for lights and his electric tools. I was pretty impressed.

After we got home, I started looking into different solar projects we could do around the house. I'm not the hard-core environmentalist type, but I have to admit I covet using less gasoline and someday hope to put a solar array up on our house. The big solar project is $20,000 before tax incentives and not very feasible on our tile roof (maybe after we add on a new garage we could put it out there). Anyhow, the big project was out of reach, so I came up with a smaller project to test out the idea of using solar energy: power our backyard lights with a solar panel.

I know you can buy solar powered lights now, but all of the ones our neighbors have are pathetic little underpowered things that end up looking like runway markers on the sides of the driveway and don't illuminate anything. There are more expensive lights that will put out more light, but they each need a separate solar panel, so the backyard would end up looking like a solar farm and at $50-120 each it quickly adds up to more than I thought yard lighting was worth. And by the way--I think even what I spent is a lot more than yard lighting is probably worth, but this is about the experience too.

I did some rough planning and ended up calling Matt for a little help. He reviewed Ohms Law with me (Volts x Amps = Watts) as well as the idea of watt hours. I figured I would be running about 200 watts of lighting when all is said and done. I looked into using LED lights instead of standard bulbs to try to decrease this output. You could power about 10 LEDs of equal brightness with the same amount as 1 standard light. Only hangup is that the LEDs cost at least $30 each (closer to $40 with shipping). Maybe I'll covert someday, but I went with the $7 standard lamps from Lowes. If you figure that I need the 15 10 watt lights to be on 3 hours each day, that ends up being about 450 watt hours of electricity a day. I had to get a solar array that would be able to put that much power back in the battery each day. I figured at least 10% would get lost as inefficiency (probably it's a little worse??).

I looked around the internet and found a couple of sites to help you figure out your array size. One of the factors that goes into it is how much sun your panel will see every day. This takes into account average weather and day length. Here's an insolation map of north america:

Tucson has an average insolation number of 6.57. That's among the most sunny spots in anywhere in North America, which means whatever panel I got will make more electricity per day than the same panel that you buy. Sorry. But it also means that I will have to suffer through the summer heat here.

So if I get an 80 watt panel and it works for 6.5 hours a day, that will give me about 500 watt hours of power a day. Now to find a panel.

There are several stores in town here that offered me a 80W panel for about $500. They would come with service and a warranty. I looked on Craigslist for a month for a used panel but never found one at a decent price or the right size. But I found a used panel on eBay for $350 that came with a 10 amp charge controller which I was going to need anyway, so I bought it.

The fun was just beginning--now I had to put it in and hook it up. Maybe that's a story for another day. . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Last week's progress

Another week has passed, and the yard is starting to get closer to the "finishing frenzy" weekend we have planned.

Last Tuesday we got our first two truckloads of rock (18 tons). This rock will go around the main part of the yard. Tomorrow, another 12 tons of rock for the pool area, 10 tons of sand for the center of the yard, and 6 tons of river rock for the drainage will be delivered.

Then while we were in Mexico, our wrought iron fence was installed around the pool. Tomorrow the county inspector will come check it over, and if we pass the PebbleFina interior finish will be installed on Tuesday and they'll start filling the pool.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Priceless Modern Art

Many of you may know about the tragedy of our minivan's engine giving out on the way back from Island Park. Thankfully, we were just outside of St George when it happened. We were even more grateful that Mom and Dad let us take their Suburban and continue our trip home with minor interruption. The van has now received a new engine (Did you know you can get a new engine for just slightly less than a new used minivan?).

While the van was being fixed we were out working in the yard and Carol pointed out some obvious scratches on the passenger side door of the Suburban. "Were those there?" she asked. We looked closer and discovered they looked like deep keymarks in varied directions on the door. The car is a few years old, but it's been well cared for and had enough minor damage (trailer into the back doors ring a bell Robert?) repaired that the paint is in good shape. The gouges were only in the one door, and on closer inspection seemed to be letters, in handwriting that was just like our 5 year old Rachel's writing.

I looked around the yard a little and soon discovered a hacksaw blade the pool builders had discarded aimlessly that had some tan paint residue on one end. The guilt on Rachel's face when I approached her about it was more telling than her stuttering admission of what happened.

I called Mom and Dad shortly after and asked if they liked Rachel's artwork. They both hesitated before answering "Yes. Why?" I told the story and went out to look at it better. That's when I noticed there was a method to the inscription's madness. The vandal had not scratched random letters and designs in the car but had written "RA", then run out of room on the door so she moved back left and wrote "C", then further left and "H", "E", then "L". The resultant inscription was "LEHCRA".

We're still deciding exactly how much to bill Mom and Dad for the autograph--the artist isn't that well known, but considering the cost of the canvas, it has got to be worth a lot of money.

This tale reminds me of others. Any of you who doubt my father's sainthood can be told of the story of the family's first brand new Suburban and how the snow was miraculously cleared from the windows one snowy morning. Turns out my three younger brothers used their show and tell rocks to tap the snow off, breaking every window but the windshield in the process. Dad just kindly interviewed the boys after he got home from work and got the windows replaced.

Remind any of you of anything?

The end of the Suburban story shows one of the "tender mercies" we received. We took it in to the auto body store and the scratches were buffed away in about 10 minutes for only $40. Unfortunately the van engine could not be fixed with the same process.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hairless Potter

We made this video at the cabin as part of the video competition. You have to admit that the footstep special effects are pretty cool.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snowmobiling - The Art of Getting Stuck

Snowmobiles have come a long way since I was a kid. There were no such thing as handwarmers, electric start, or fuel injection. Reverse meant you turned around and went the other way, not that the snowmobile engine ran backwards. Now the machines have 155 inch tracks with 3 inch paddles and flotation skiis. They are practically unsinkable.

Mark demonstrates that man can overcome an unsinkable machine in this episode of 'The Art of Getting Stuck on a 3 Foot Tall "Hill"'.

Snow sculpture contest

Here are the three creations from our annual snow sculpture contest at Island Park. Awards were as follows:

Most Honorable

Idaho Falls Temple - Christy, Lisa, Justin, Matt and Cubby

Most Original

Snowmo Beetle - Mark, Brian, Lindsey, Carol, Amanda

Most Massive

Great Wall of China - Daniel M., Kimberly, Joshua, Rachel Sabey, Elaina