All Grown Up!

A milestone in Sarah's life took place this week:  My little girl turned 21 years old!

Something people always seem to say about such an event is usually something like, "It seems like just the other day...", or "I can remember when you were just..." followed by some sort of size or age-related remark.

Well, it's the same for me of course.

Sarah was sort of a miracle baby.  Her mom lost one of her ovaries not long before she was pregnant, and just after Sarah was born the remaining one shut down.  It was a small window of opportunity she fell into for sure.  You know--before I was in such a scenario myself, I remember wondering why anyone would really want to see their child being born.  It just seemed like such a messy and private thing.  Well, when the opportunity presented itself to me as a new father, I didn't question it--I was eager to be there.  We only got one ultrasound during the pregnancy and it really didn't provide us with any information about what sex the new baby was, so as she was born I was the one to make the announcement to her mother as she was born.

When she was tiny we put a bunch of little color Formica samples that we got from one of the hardware stores on a bead chain.  We got them together as sort of a jingly thing for her to play with when we were in the car.  We called them her colors.  When we were ready to go somewhere we'd say, "Sarah, where are your colors?"  She'd start looking around until she found them.  She never went anywhere without her colors.  She knew fuchsia, teal, and all sorts of other colors before she could even walk.  I remember fuchsia was "booshba" to her.  If you tried to fool her with any colors she'd catch it right off the bat.

My favorite times with Sarah were reading stories to her.  Her mom and I were avid garage sale shoppers, and we amassed a huge collection of children's books.  I think I remember counting and we had over 600 of them.  When Sarah was an infant, her mother and I made a pact that we would never deny her if she wanted us to read to her.  Little did we know how much we would have to follow through on that decision.  From even before she could walk she would pull as many books as she possibly could off her bookshelf and head toward the nearest of us that was sitting.  I remember reading  a half a dozen books to her, and the whole time she would be intently focused on every single word and picture on every page.  When the last of the stack of books would be finished, I would breathe a sigh of relief.  Trouble is, she would climb down, toddle over to the shelf, and grab another armload.  We read a lot of stories over the years.  Her love for the books never waned.  I was always on the lookout for books that were a little different--books that offered a little more imagination.  Those were my favorites.  I also chose the ones with the best artwork.

I loved to go on drives with her.  I put some custom seat belts in the center of my pickup truck that were long enough to embrace her booster seat, and she was my copilot.  She chattered away, taking in everything that she saw.

I helped her with school projects a few times over the years, and like many parents probably went a little overboard--like one particular time when she was in maybe second grade.  Her school was named after the astronaut Dick Scobee, and they would occasionally have space-related events.  This time all the kids in her class were to dress up in some kind of special outfit or hat and they would parade in and out of every classroom in the school.  For Sarah, I made a helmet.  It was a motorcycle helmet that was covered in aluminum foil, and was equipped with a custom-made rotating dish antenna on top.  I made the antenna out of the top half of a Dri-Z-Air cage and some kind of battery powered rotating lollipop that was in the stores at the time.  All she had to do was reach up and push a button to start it rotating.  She was a hit!  Another time I made her a tuned xylophone out of electrical conduit for her music class.  I think she still has that one.

She was immersed in all sorts of things as she grew up.  Her mom insisted on exposing her to dance classes.  She did that for a few years.  I hated dance recitals.  I couldn't stand waiting for her to appear on stage and having to endure all those other fledglings, but when she was up there I'd get all teary-eyed and proud.  We also had her in soccer for several years.  I was one of the few parents that actually stood out and watched during practices.  I don't remember how many years she was kicking soccer balls, but it seems like it was like 8 or 9.  I've always liked to see her learning and progressing in the things she did.  Volleyball, art, math... There were so many things she was good at.

As she got older, things started happening faster.  I remember one time when it occurred to me that I was officially unable to help her with her math homework any longer.  She was way over my head in middle school.  It seems like the older she got the less I remember things.  I guess it was just the fact that the older a child gets the less direct parental involvement and supervision is taking place.

Ask almost any father and he will say the same thing:  "She may be an adult now, but she will always be my little girl."

Stormageddon 2012

Because of the events that have transpired this week, we have been without power, phone, or anything else for several days. Because we were without internet I basically used my laptop as a running journal of what was going on, logging events as they happened. Whenever I felt like sitting and typing I would catch up on the events that had unfolded up to that point. To make it easier to follow, I chose to split this blog post up between the individual days.


This has been a weather week here in Washington. I have made it to and from work so far each day this week. It was mildly challenging, but nothing major. Basically, it was everything that comes with snow when it arrives. Tuesday and Wednesday were both okay. Naturally, I would have preferred to stay home and play in the snow, but chose to go earn money instead. Those kind of days are usually good for two reasons: 1) Traffic is light because so many people freak out and stay home, and 2) New snow is easy to drive in. Fun even!

Today was different. Today we still had all the snow, but in addition had freezing rain that started in the wee hours of the morning.

I woke up this morning at 3:30 like always. I made my sandwich for lunch and sat down at the computer with my coffee. I hadn't been sitting there very long when I heard cracking sounds outside. What was that? I didn't hear anything again until I heard a CRASH on the deck in back. I went hurriedly to the back door and shone a flashlight out. There, across the deck and onto the roof, was half of Suzie's prized red-leaf maple tree. As I stood there looking out I kept hearing cracking noises. I went back to the computer and put some blurbs about it up on Facebook, and I would occasionally hear another crack somewhere out there. I went outside and stood on the deck listening for about 15 minutes. It was still dark, and raining steadily. I could just see the silhouettes of the huge fir trees out back that ring our property. It was strangely quiet--no other sounds like cars, airplanes, wind, or anything. The eerie quiet was punctuated by the constant CRACK or SNAP of big branches, followed by a whooshing sound as they fell down and broke off the lower limbs.

At that point I knew I was not going to work. For the first time ever (that I can recall anyway) I decided to use weather as an excuse for a non-scheduled day off and I called in to work to tell them I was not coming in. Anyone that knows the Auburn-Black Diamond Road (which is our link to the rest of the world) knows that the entire stretch of road has a canopy of trees hovering over it. Based on what I had experienced standing out on the deck, trees everywhere were snapping like twigs. The rain still hadn't let up and there was still a constant cracking going on all around us outside. At about 8 o’clock the power went out.

By the time Sue woke up, her tree had suffered immensely. There had been 4 more breaks on it since the first major one that raised the hair on the back of my neck. Rachyl and Tony had just dropped in and seen the damage when she awoke. As I figured, she was devastated. She wasn't even up for 10 minutes when there was another crack and the only remaining part of the tree, the center, broke off. The tree was no more. By the end of the day we had broken trees all over our yards. Front, back, sides—all suffered casualties. It’s amazing how much ice was frozen to everything. When you see a pine needle that is normally the size of a toothpick wearing so much ice that it’s the size of your finger, you can understand how much weight was involved and why the damage was so widespread. Every tree, bush, or whatever was encased in thick ice. Those that could support it did, and the rest gave up and broke.

Our beautiful back yard looks like a war zone.

We spent the morning out and about in the neighborhood. Me, Suz, Dane, Keith, Tony, and Rachyl were all meandering around back and forth, checking things out. We looked, swapped stories, explored, took pictures, and all kinds of things that people do when they're captive by a weather event. We had a couple hours of fun playing here and there on one of Denny’s quads and my 3-wheeler. When we went out yesterday morning we learned from somebody that the Auburn-Black Diamond Road was closed both directions. When we were out on the bikes only the portion of the road to the left was closed. Lots and lots of trees were down. When we got back to the house I took a look around to see what I could get started cleaning up. Quite a few of the things that fell down were so thick with ice that it was physically hard to lug them around. I managed to make a few cuts with my hit-and-miss chain saw, then I spent an hour or so with the 3-wheeler, pulling limbs to the back of the property with a tie-down. It was raining freezing rain the whole morning.

Dinner consisted of chicken patty sandwiches cooked on the grill so we didn't suffer there. We were really enjoying the warm house our wood stove was providing, and because we were without power we made the decision to keep it going all night long every night during the power outage. Suz was having a hard time sleeping so she stayed on the couch all night so she could toss and turn to her heart's content.


I called work yesterday afternoon to tell them I was not coming in today, and I'm glad I did. Shortly after I made that call our cell signals fell to barely a sputter. The land-line phone had already gone away sometime during the day.

We kept the wood fire going all night so we are still toasty warm in here. At one point-maybe 5-ish this morning I got up to put another piece of firewood in and I put a full coffee carafe of water on top of it. By the time I got up a little later we had nice, hot coffee to drink (instant of course) while we enjoyed our warm house. Sue had the radio on for a little while and it was our area that was mentioned over and over. Highway 18 is almost totally closed between Interstate 5 and Interstate 90. Lots of our arterials are closed. If I had decided to go in to work I have no idea how I would have gotten there.

Well, it's a lot nicer looking day than yesterday. There is no drizzle or anything coming down and it's brighter. Time to go outside and clean up some fallen stuff. I spent quite a while clearing away the majority of the tree that had exploded all over our deck and walled us in with branches. After a while of doing that, I was tired and cold and gave up for the day. The rest of the day was spent sitting in my jammies near the wood stove.

Dinner was exceptional, even in its simplicity. It was basically a really great, tender steak cooked on the grill, accompanied by a couple of baked potatoes that were actually cooked inside the wood stove! They came out awesome. Great flavor and done perfectly. I was feeling good.


We were both stir crazy when we got up today. We both had been conserving our water up to this point, but we had finally decided it was shower time. We both enjoyed a nice, warm shower! That’s the beauty of having your water heater in a heated part of a house. It stays warm longer. Almost all of our electronic devices were dead, and we decided to drive around and find a place we could plug our laptops and phones in. I’ll tell you, it’s not easy sometimes! All the King County libraries are open, but none of the wifi is working in any of them. Some kind of a system-wide thing they said. After trying a couple places, we ended up down in the Kent valley. We tried Starbucks in Safeway and a couple other spots. Wifi wasn’t the only issue—there was also the lack of power outlets to plug our laptops into. Finally, we ended up in a Burger King! Haha… I never would have thought of them as a place to hang out during an afternoon.

When we got home most of the family was there. Kevin and his trusty chainsaw (and plenty of help from Dane and Keith) had completely cut up all the fallen trees! We're not talking a small amount of work here either. It had to have been a solid few hours of work to do all they did. That was truly a really great thing that they did.

At around 4pm the signal on our cell phones came alive. We finally had our cell service back! With a full five bars, we were now able to at least converse with the rest of the world. That was a relief.

We finished our evening with pizza. I ran back into civilization and bought me, Dane, and Keith each a pepperoni pizza. It was amazing how fast that entire pizza of Keith's disappeared down his throat!

After we ate, an idea hit me and I went out to the garage. I came back in with the battery that used to reside in my Harley and a couple of wire jumper leads. I hooked my iPhone up to it through the car charger adapter that goes into the cigarette lighter socket. It worked great! Charged both my iPod and my iPhone.


Sue was pretty impressed with my homebrew iPhone charger system that was sitting on my computer desk, and asked me if I was done with it. She wanted to see if she could charge her laptop. We hooked it up and it was working fine! It didn't stay on the charger long though, because shortly afterwards we found ourselves out and about once again. We made the rounds around Covington, all the time I was monitoring my wifi tracking app. I was telling Sue which places we drove past had wifi. Wouldn't you know it--here we are back at Burger King once again! This one is a lot closer to home than yesterday at least.

After we got home I decided to bite the bullet and shave my face. I hadn't done so since Wednesday or so, and if I was going to go to work tomorrow I didn't want to have to do it in the dark. It was no fun but not bad. It was the cold wash afterwards that was almost unbearable. We have COLD cold water at our house.

At about 5:30pm I was outside the back door, tending to fries and burgers I was cooking on the grill (yes, when you have no power you can cook lots of things on the grill--fries included), when I hear a WOOHOO from out in front of the house somewhere. I looked up and it took me a second to realize I was looking at lights shining at me from the garage. The power was back on!

Time to get back to our normal, ordinary, predictable lives.

The Weather Jester

We're in the throes of yet another weather-related media blitz.  In one of my announcer-type voices: "Winter Storm 2012".  It's a big storm--no doubt about that.  The storm? Immense.  The hype?  Even more immense!  I just looked at a weather Doppler of the storm, and it is literally covering the whole western half of Washington State.  Whether or not their predictions of how deep the snow will be remain to be seen.  We are supposed to get somewhere in the 6 or seven inches range here, and some areas are in for over a foot.  As usual, the media underlines, italicizes, and emphasizes the extreme, and after a while the extreme is the only thing sticking in people's heads.  I just looked outside at 4:30am and see about an inch and a half.  And it's not snowing.

We have gotten some snow off and on all week.  I think I saw the first last Saturday morning when I got up. There have been several flurries, but nothing unusual.  Actually, what's unusual is that this week was the first snow we've had this winter.  Usually it seems like there's something in late November or early December.

I would like to stay home from work.  Who wouldn't?  I've yet to spend any fun time on the little Honda 3-wheeler I bought for such occasions yet this year.  I'm sure I will though.  The fact is, I've got obligations to my family and to my job so I go to work if I can.  If I have to turn around and come back in two hours that's fine.  Then I can say I've done what I should have done at both ends of the deal.

My poor little car has fallen victim to the some sort of glitch.  It stopped on the way home from work on Tuesday of last week, acting like someone had just pulled a plug off of the engine to make it stop.  Denny towed me the last few miles home and I've been driving my truck ever since.  It's nice to drive it (it gets neglected), but I miss 30+ mpg.  The truck gets about half that.  Lucky I don't work a long ways away.  Still... I wish I could figure out what's ailing the car.  Sensors, computer, and all sorts of mysterious electronics that all work together in harmony, and all it takes is one thing to break a link in the chain.

Well, today should be interesting.  Like I said on my Facebook page the other day,
You know how jesters supposedly existed to mix things
up a little? They were like the "anti-normal" person. They
kept the mundane from killing you. They kept one from
feeling jaded.
I think snow is the weather jester.

Daydreams and Ponderings

I think about stuff.  I always have.  I used to get in trouble in school for daydreaming.  I guess it is the direct result of my not being able to concentrate on things real well.  When I have those daydreams, ponderings, musings, or whatever you want to call them, I sometimes have some pretty far-fetched things appear to me.  Sometimes something I'm experiencing at a given moment triggers them like a Deja Vu thing, and other times it's like a train of thought where one thought leads to another similar thought.   Other times they just come out of the blue.

Everybody has seen the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life, right?  While the movie has become a staple of Christmas, the meaning of the movie really has nothing to do with Christmas--it just happens to take place during that season.  The movie addresses the 'what if' possibilities of our lives.

Sometimes I wonder about things like that too.  Here are a few of my loose thoughts:

The older we get, the more chances there are that something in our past could have gone differently.  Imagine that in every second of every day, a choice existed.  A 'fork in the road' if you will--a place where any decision you made had at least two possible outcomes.  Something you saw, something you said, something you did, something you smelled--anything you experienced--each had a choice of some kind.  By the time you were 50 years old there would have been (I don't feel like doing the actual math here) millions of directions your life could have gone.  An almost infinite amount of possibilities.  Traumatic memories are things we would have obviously done differently had we been given the choice.  "If I knew then what I know now..."  Things that never took place are another thing entirely, like if you had bought a lotto ticket when you were in that particular store last week.  Because they never happened, you will never know.  But what if?

What would my life be like right now if I had stayed in one of the places I've visited?  If I had planted roots and continued to live in another state that I have visited--whether by being stationed there in the Air Force, or just by passing through.  If I had done one of those things you see in a movie where a guy is sitting in a diner and suddenly says, "I like this town... I think I'll stay here for a while and see what happens."  What if I had decided to stay where I was stationed while in Italy or Turkey?  I doubt staying in Turkey would have actually ever entered my mind, but living in northern Italy did.  What if I had actually stayed there?  There was a hotel/restaurant in the town there that was owned by a guy and his wife.  He was in the Air Force, married a local gal and stayed there.  What if?  I ponder things like that every now and then.

Sometimes I wonder about How many lives I have actually touched in some way.  I wonder how many times someone somewhere in the country (or world even) has--or will--refer to me in an anecdote, saying something like, "this one guy I was stationed with--I can't remember his name--he was the most awesome driver I've ever seen!" that sort of thing.  "I'll never forget this guy I met when I was in Oklahoma--Rick I think his name was..."  "There was this one smartass kid in school that used to sit next to me..."  You get the idea.  Sure, some of the stories or experiences might have portrayed me in a negative light but that's not really the point.  I just wonder.  To take it one step further, I wonder how many people had something in their life actually changed or altered in some way by something I did or said?  Hmm.

Here's another one that has popped into my mind a few times during my life:

Imagine your whole life was recorded and you could go back and watch any part of it at any time.  Imagine being able to study everything and everybody that was within your eyesight at any time.  The cars, the scenery, the people.  Would you see anyone you knew?  What if you saw your future wife riding the same kiddie ride at an amusement park?  Maybe you saw a crime being committed.  Maybe you saw a famous person before they were famous.  Can you imagine the possibilities?  There have been quite a few movies have used various bits and variations of that idea.  Those kinds of movies intrigue me.  If we could watch our life as a rerun, would we want to?  It might have been one of the most interesting movies you ever watched...

Or one of the most disturbing.

The iSaga

Suzie and I each own an iPod Touch and we use them all the time.  I use mine multiple times daily, for contact info, alarm clock, music playing, web surfing, Facebook, email... you name it.  It's my link to the outside world at work.  She doesn't use hers nearly as much as I do but she is pretty attached to it nevertheless.  Both of us thought,  "How cool would it be if we could find a good deal on an iPhone and we could stop carrying both a cell phone and an iPod.  It would be the best of both worlds."  That started me looking.  We didn't want the latest and greatest (no wait--of course we wanted the latest and greatest--just way too expensive), but we wanted good features.  In other words, we wanted the most bang for our buck.

The more I dug, the more I learned.  Because iPhones were only sold for AT&T customers (and recently Verizon as well) we would have to have any iPhone that we buy "jailbroken" and "unlocked" (two completely separate but equally necessary processes) because we are both on T-Mobile.  In other words, we would have to cheat the phones--hack them if you will.  The trouble is iPhones came in so many variations--some of them not unlockable.  I dug and dug on Craigslist.  Because of all the variations, I was hesitant to buy just any iPhone.  A couple of weeks passed by and every time I would email somebody about one they were selling (asking highly technical questions to determine if they were usable to me) they were already sold, there was always something about its configuration that I found not quite desirable, or they would never reply back.

One day a week or two ago I met up with this guy that was selling one with a broken screen.  He wanted $80 for it, but when I saw it and realized how truly hammered (bad shape) it was I declined.  Besides the glass being shattered, there was also a streak going through the LCD portion of the screen just under the glass, the outer part of the volume button was gone (it still worked with your fingernail), and the case was cracked and gouged in multiple places.  He said, "What will you give me for it?"  After thinking about it, I offered him $40 bucks.  In retrospect I should have offered him 20.  It was in bad enough shape and he was eager to take the $40.  To make a long story short, I put that iPhone through the paces.  I hit it with every kind of hacking software I could and tried everything on it.  First it wasn't jailbroken.  I took me quite a while to get through that, but I did and I learned.  I got the phone pretty much fully functional, but could never get it unlocked for T-Mobile.  Basically, I had it functioning as an iPod Touch.  The battery never held a very good charge, I was lucky to get it to sit for half a day without dying.  We were, however, really surprised at how well the camera worked for both stills and video.  The voice recorder worked great, and all the game apps I had put on it (borrowed from my Touch) worked great.  I filled it with songs and they played and sounded great too.  The only thing that didn't work was the wifi portion, which, to me is pretty important.  So me--being the inquisitive fixit guy that I am--opened it up.  The insides of it looked like they had been victim of condensation a few times--possibly being left out in a car overnight too many times or something.  I never did find anything physically wrong inside like something loose, unplugged or broken.  I was able to get it completely apart and back together without any problems.

Or so I thought.

Upon reassembly I had no camera.  Dang.  Well, I wasn't too worried about that part yet.  I was still trying to get the thing unlocked.  It was around this time when it earned its new name: iBrokit.  Like I said before, I had tried all the hacking software apps that were out there (and there are many) to get it unlocked at this point.  Except for one.  The one thing I was holding out from trying had no way to go back to its previous state should it not work out.  What it did was actually (WARNING! Geek Speak Alert!) re-write the modem baseband to another frequency.  It was reported to work on some and not for others.  Well, I made the jump.  Unfortunately, it didn't work.  Luckily, I didn't lose any ground (it was still operational) but I didn't gain either.  At this point I had exhausted all my options.  I gave up and put it up for sale.  I took good pictures, made a nice Craigslist ad, and sold it to a guy for $45 bucks.  He knew what he was getting.  "If nothing else I can use it for parts." he said.

In the meantime I had spotted an ad from a guy in Tacoma selling a pair of iPhones in beautiful shape--a white one and a black one.  Because both of them were already jailbroken and unlocked I was able to put my T-Mobile SIM card in each of them and test them out right there.  He wanted  $235 each for them but I got them both for $400.  They're pristine!  They came in the boxes, complete as the day they were first bought.  We spent all day yesterday putting them up to our operating level.  Lots of contacts, music, applications, ringtones, and everything else that had to be set up the way we like them.  Here's the crappy pictures I stole from his Craiglist ad:

So up to this point, here is the rundown of our devices:

Inez, My iPod Touch
Isaac, Suzie's iPod Touch
iBrokit, the guinea pig
Irene, my new iPhone 3GS
Ivan, Suzie's new iPhone 3GS

Do you see the naming pattern?  Can you say geeks?