Sunday, November 10, 2013

Castle in the Grounds

Saturday morning as I was staring absent mindlessly into the middle distance, I noticed an amorphous semblance of an image in the bottom of the coffee cup.

Though trial and error, I found that I was able to create more amorphous semblances of images. The photo above looks a lot like Disney's Cinderella castle.

It's not as awe inspiring as the Virgin de Guadalupe on toast and the only miracle was that I was coherent enough on one cup of coffee to snap the photo. But it was pretty cool and I might have sold it on eBay if I hadn't needed a second cup of coffee. Oh well, maybe on the next cup.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Sewage Canal

Since moving into our current home, it has become apparent that the plumbing is in need of some assistance. The drain from the tub and sink the the sewage line was built with something called a kettle drain, when clogged, the solution is to jackhammer a three foot square in the floor and remove it. We have opted to let that one simmer for a bit. The main sewage line however seems to be infested with roots and the house does not sport one of those handy clean out drains everyone is talking about. So this weekend, after hosting 130 of my New Mexico community college colleagues, I decided to "keep up with the Joneses" and install a clean out drain. It was a lot less work than I had imagined it would be and with the average temperature a good fifty degrees above freezing, I have decided to keep the hole open for a few days to ensure that everything is sealed up properly. 

Anyway, lots of dirt, and a few shots of the hole. Nothing special, but satisfying not to have to call some in to do the work for me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Almost Done Door.

Today was a yard cleanup day and the yard really needed it. I am always hesitant to throw away good wood, even small scraps which might be useful for firewood, or just the right size for this or that project. But today was a day to toss it all! Weeds came up and odds and ends were ended in the mad dash towards fall cleaning. With the exception of a small pile of old sticks, leaves and rocks, the back yard is in much better shape than it was.

I am avoiding a sewage issue that is not going to be fun, and so, I threw my efforts into something totally unrelated and completed the shop door this afternoon. Well, I almost finished it. I still have to put in the moulding to hold in the lower two window panes, but they are essentially attached and barring any strong storm, will stay put until I cut the strips.

It is not top quality and I will need to improve my technique before I start on the doors that will turn our bathroom and bedroom into a master suite. But I am happy with the outcome. Below are a few photos. Total cost - $7.67 for the polycarbonate light cover that serves as the panes.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ponderings: A Door and Motivation

For some reason, the beginning of the fall semester is always a stressful time. It's hard to wake up, hard to get moving and hard to stay moving. It is not an unpleasant time, but it does sap the ol' motivator a bit.

This last weekend, I was pretty wiped as I headed home from work. As I pulled onto the highway, I noticed the smell of burning grass. With the windows down, I started looking for a fire in the fields and Mesa. It is fire season in New Mexico... It it always fire season. I didn't see anything, but the smell intensified and I found myself humming, "the Ballad of little Joe the Wrangler" as I wondered where this growing fire could be. Suddenly, as I passed the hospital, smoke started billowing from the vents in the truck, I realized that I was the fire. I careened to the side of the road, killed the engine and jumped, tucked and rolled clear of the impending explosion! Nothing happened and realizing that nothing was going to happen, I called my wife to come and get me. It turns out that there were leaves in the blower motor that caught fire. It wasn't as big a job as I originally imagined, but on Friday afternoon, it took the last bit of positivity I could muster and smushed it flatter than runny pancake batter.

Saturday began our annual "decorating for fall" day, which seems to move earlier and earlier each year. Pumpkin pie and homemade stew, amidst lots of fall garland helped improve my mood , and on Monday (labor day), I started building a door for the shop. It has been on my list for two years, but I have been afraid to start because doors seem complicated.

It turns out that doors are not that terribly difficult, hanging them took a bit of work and I am still working on creating some sort of a lock to secure my stuff, but all in all, I think it turned out pretty well. the upside is that I built the entire thing out of scraps and materials I had on hand. Today, a week later, I added the paneling (made from strips ripped from scrap 2x10s) and tomorrow I will pick up two sheets of plexiglass  for the windows.

The ol'motivator was at record highs... Until 4:00 o'clock This morning, when I woke early to drive my son to the high school for a science trip. The house was hot, really warm and it seems that we are going to need to schedule a visit from the HVAC folks. Grrrr.

In the midst of all of this, I am struck by how easily my attitude rises and falls. We are (or at least I am) a temperamental being. Keeping things in perspective is a task that I always seem to struggle with. In two weeks, the worries of today will look insignificant to the worries that I have then. In two years, I will struggle to remember when the AC went out. In a decade, it may not even be my air conditioner any more.

This fall, I am going to solve to work on perspective. Major on what's major, minor in what's minor and try to remember which is which.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Sea to Shining Sea

This post comes a but late, but with three children and myself heading back to school in August, the fall season is always a hectic one.
 This summer was a traveling summer. It began in the fall of 1997, in Mill Valley, California, at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. We met and became good friends with an awesome family who had a little boy. Well this June, that little boy graduated from high school. To celebrate, we jumped in the van and drove half way across the continent to see them. While there, we tip toed into the Atlantic ocean and obtained a sampling of the sand and water therein.

After a wonderful visit, followed by a trip up to our nations capital to see my cousin, the Smithsonian and the sights of the city, we headed home for a two week reprieve, before heading out again. This time we pointed the van Westward and drove to the other shore of our nation. While there, I deposited my family in the capable hands of Mickey Mouse and his friends, while I attended the 2013 SigGraph convention. While visiting the left coast, we took the time to dip our toes in the Pacific ocean.

Incidentally, we brought along the bottle of Atlantic water, and...

Before you start screaming warnings of Pacific Rim type creatures and cross contamination, note that the Atlantic water was left in the van, under the boiling New Mexico sun for two weeks before we poured our Atlantic water into the mighty Pacific. We are pretty sure that any East coast microbes that might have interbred with the Pacific microbes were wiped out. But, if you happen to live out on the western edge of the continental United States, and as you sun bathe on the mod riddled beaches near Huntington, if by chance you happen to notice a two hundred foot long moth gliding overhead, or any of a variety of gargantuan beasts set on annihilating the population of earth, contact me post haste and I will delete this post and deny any knowledge of anything. It was the kids idea anyway.

But I digress. We did keep a bottle of water and sand from each ocean as a keep sake. Some time soon, we will turn them into a shadow box for the living room. I thinks that this summer ranks up there as one of the most amazing that our family has ever taken. We drove through: Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Then we traveled back through those states and on through New Mexico, Arizona, California and back again to our humble abode. We toured the Parthenon – in Nashville, Tennessee. At the Smithsonian, we saw the Wright brothers plane and the Space Shuttle. We stopped in front of the White House, walked past the Washington monument, up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and  stood where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. We watched Navy Hornets take off and walked right underneath the Enola Gay, The Concord, The Spirit of Saint Louis  The Apollo space craft. We walked through Space Lab! I stood an arms distance from the Star Spangled Banner and saw George Washington's coat. Dorothy's red slippers were there as was Tony Hawks first skateboard. I met many of the giants of the animation industry at SigGraph and spent five days (evenings for me) in Disneyland.

We logged over 7,000 miles in the car in just under two months and had a wonderful time as a family. And that is just the stuff we did when we weren't at home. Nathan at a peanut butter cookie, Kerri made Minion cupcakes, we began homeschooling the girls, I built a door, from scratch, the kids all learned how to shoot and the girls learned how to drive! Nathan already knew. We painted, mowed, fixed (and broke) sold things, bought things, and did a ton off amazing stuff.

We didn't make it to Yellowstone or Yosemite. We missed Disney World and Mount Rushmore. Chicago and Massachusetts eluded us this summer. In the end, there are more things that we wanted to do that we didn't get done, but there is always next year, or the next, or the next.

What a fun summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Children and Firearms

Kids grow up too fast. A few weeks ago, it was Ruthie's turn to start driving lessons. I was too busy grabbing onto the dash to film the driving lesson, but afterwards, we went out to the range and she tried her hand at the .45. It was pretty fun and Ruthie was able to put a few shots into the target.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Carl Waldo Christensen Jr. 1942-1983

It's hard to believe that thirty years have past since we lost my dad. This year, I am the same age he was in '83 and my youngest child is the same age I was that year. Thirty years apart. I wonder what he would have thought about being a Grandpa?

Time passes in strange ways, hurling one event into the past, while another seems like yesterday. In some ways, a lifetime has transpired since 1983, but some sights, sounds and smells seem less than an arms reach away.

Missing someone close is an odd mix of laughter and pain. At one moment, the thought of my father will make me smile, even giggle, over no event in particular. Another moment will find me tearing up, again, over no particular memory. Memories of a ten year old are foggy and unreliable at the best of times, add in thirty years and most of what I have are more blurry memories than actual events and conversations. I remember some events clearly, odd events, but significant ones.

I remember clearly waiting for a Star Wars Snow speeder or maybe a Tauntaun that we had ordered to come in the mail. I can see the size and shape of the box, I can even see his hands on the box.

I can see him shoveling out the outhouse in the back yard (what an odd memory is that?) but it is a fond one, and I cling to it. I remember hoping that I would grow up to be as strong as him. He seemed to have mastered the use of the same shovel that seemed so big and unwieldy to me.

He spent a lot of time on the screen-porch working clay into tiles and I can still see him clearly through the old warped glass of the big window of the shed out back, working on something or other. Who knows what he was working on, but I am sure that it was important and manly and cool.

I clearly remember getting in trouble for running around without a shirt on, in the chill of late fall or early spring. I was the Hulk and had to have my shirt off when I "hulked out"... dad did not seem to care. That day, the Incredible Hulk had to wear a shirt... how humiliating. I can still hear his voice, though I could not see him, through the trees that covered the front of the house.

I still have his hat, but my head is too big for it, so I bought a new one, black like his. I pluck at his guitar on occasion, but have neither the voice or talent on the strings to make it sound like he did. Songs like Yesterday, Summertime, Amazing Grace still bring a lump to my throat, though most of the time, I don't remember why. He used to walk through the house singing, while playing the guitar.

I remember getting to go to his work and reading Tintin books on the lumpy couches at the Batch. Watching him splice film or the smell of the 8mm projector in the evening. Playing the one Mickey Mouse reel backwards. I remember his film camera in his hand and seeing him dressed up for the AmTrak trip to see Grandma and Grandpa in Chicago. I have a handful of clear memories, not enough, it seems, for a decade worth of living. But good ones. Memories that remind me of who my dad was, at least, who he was to a ten year old boy.

If you are reading this and you knew my dad, you have different memories of the man. You may even have different recollections of the same events. Like the game of telephone, I am sure that my memories have morphed over the years.

My dads hat and guitar are routinely pulled out and the dust removed. The same needs to be done for our memories. And so, here is a moment of dusting for you, dad.

We miss you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Peanut Update

It has been some time since my last post. We have been busy with school events, sicknesses and such.

We started our weekly treks to see Dr. Samuel Foster at the Southwest Asthma and Allergy Clinic ( ) in Denton, Texas back in July 2013. Since then, Nathan has gone from reacting severely when he ingested 1/8000th of a peanut to to today, where he is able to eat a peanut butter sandwich, peanut M&Ms and even a Snickers and Payday candy bar!

1/8000th of a peanut isn't a lot of peanut. It's too much eggplant, but not very much of a peanut. I made a graphic to illustrate it. You can click on it to see it full size.

first, try chopping a peanut in half, (don't do this at home)
and then cutting one of those halves in half,
and then cutting one of those quarters in half,
and then cutting one of those eighths in half,
and then cutting one of those sixteenths in half,
and then cutting one of those thirty seconds in half,
and then cutting one of those sixty fourths in half,
and then cutting one of those one hundred twenty eighths in half,
and then cutting one of those two hundred fifty sixths in half,
and then cutting one of those five hundred and twelfths in half,
and then cutting one of those one thousand and twenty fourths in half,
and then cutting one of those two thousand and forty eighths in half,
and then cutting one of those four thousand and ninety sixths in half... roughly.
There you have the dose that sent our son into a reaction, when we first started this protocol.

The transformation has been amazing. So much so that just today, we sent him out of state for a week to the International Science Fair! While we consider the program to be a success, Nathan was the oldest patient to graduate and the doctor feels that his age may be the reason that he still has some reaction to peanuts. Not anaphylactic, but still a reaction.

With that said, who would have ever imagined that he would be eating ten peanuts a day or that he could take a trip out of the state for a week, and even go to an Major League Baseball game (sing the song... peanuts and cracker jacks... yeah, that used to terrify us) without his mother or I tagging along? This is amazing.

It took twenty six weekly trips and put twenty five thousand miles on the van. We paid enough in hotel bills to warrant a room being named after us. The hotel declined our suggestion, but when we returned for the last check up after four months away, the hotel staff exclaimed, " hey! your back!".

We learned many things unrelated to peanut allergies. The most marked lesson is that teenage boys should not be cooped up in a car every weekend for sixteen hours. We also learned that fathers of teenage boys should not be cooped up in a car with their teenage son, every week for sixteen hours. With cable TV in the hotel, we were introduced to Turtleman, Duck Dynasty, Say No to the Schmoe (AKA Say Yes to the Dress... ugg). We saw the Fortworth Zoo, Seaworld San Antonio, lots of mesquite trees, Cabella's, logged more Maul time than a man should ever have to face (when the girls came with). For those of you in Rio Linda, that is Mall, not Maul... as in a large shopping establishment.

We had fun over the course of the journey and are very grateful to our Church and Employers who allowed us the time off to make this happen.

I know that there are thousands of worried parents out there who have kids with severe peanut allergies. Let me tell you that Nathan's allergy was among the worst. Dr. Foster at the clinic had to step down the normal protocol dosage so that Nathan would not be in danger of having an anaphylactic reaction. If we had heard about the clinic earlier in his life, if it had been available, maybe he would have had more complete results. Some of the children who have gone through the procedure no longer show up as allergic to peanuts on the test. I urge you to get you child in a treatment. Dr. Foster was the best, the outcome is wonderful, and though Nathan will always have to eat ten peanuts a day, and will always have to carry an Epipen, we no longer have to worry that a girl who has peanut oil on her lips will kill him with a kiss or a coworker with peanut dust on his hands will send our son to the E.R.

We are grateful to our God for all of the medical advances and giving us the ability to give our son a normal life. Amen and amen