Wednesday, January 30, 2008


On June 5, 1976 the walls of the Teton Dam in southeast Idaho burst, sending a maelstrom of muddy, churning water toward Rexburg, and other adjacent communities. Miraculously only 11 people perished as the tidal wave of destruction pummeled the valley. Eight hours after the initial break the dam had completely vented it's entire contents.

Toward the end of the summer, anxious to return to Ricks College, my father approached me with an epiphany. Having followed the story, he elaborated on the extent of the destruction and recognized a great opportunity. He explained that thousands of homes had been destroyed and that there would probably be a demand for plumbers.

My Dad has always had a keen mind and sharp intellect. He had obviously been thinking three-dimensionally. Me on the other hand, well I was pre-occupied with other important things, like how to improve the structural stability to the motor connector, for the 10" aluminum wind up key fastened to the rear of my 1962 Volkswagen Bug. I was also concerned with how I was going to reattach the hose to my water pressure fire extinguisher, a device crucial to my academic success.

Dad, a Master Plumber by credential, took me aside and gave me with a shiny new red toolbox. He also gave me a new set of important plumbing tools. Supply tubing cutters, adjustable end wrench, waste tube cutters, channel lock pliers, screw drivers, sink wrench, etc., you get the drift. He told me how to land a job with a Rexburg plumbing company, and how to do get double, the then, minimum wage of about $2.50 an hour. I was initially reluctant to execute his instructions largely due to fear, but after generous amounts of assurance and encouragement, I caught the vision, embarked on my 12 hour journey to college and sought employment.

I had spent hours working with my Dad in high school and was pretty confident in my ability to “set” plumbing fixtures; sinks, toilets, dishwashers, disposals and such. But there were many things I didn't understand, mainly because I was a lazy idiot whom didn't pay attention. I didn't pay attention because I hated doing the work. Much of my motivation for completing college was so I wouldn't have to: climb in hot attics with itch producing fiberglass, crawl through freezing spider infested crawl spaces, and engage in contortion rituals under someone's midget sized lavatory cabinet. Dad also taught me that there are only three things you need to know to be a plumber. 1. Stuff runs downhill, payday is on Tuesday and the boss is a dirty SOB (whatever that means).

After arriving, unpacking my belongings in my room at the Cedars apartments, I drove through the streets of Rexburg anxious to be noticed for the spinning spectacle attached to the back of my car.

I drove to the first plumbing company I conveniently found in the US West Direct yellow pages directory, practiced my speech and confronted the proprietor. I explained a proposition, told him I wouldn't work for less than $5.50 cents an hour. He offered me $5.00, I said no and he showed me the door with a very demeaning look.

I reassessed my speech and my strategy, and soon sauntered into Hill's Plumbing. Here I met the owner Ted Hill. I rehashed the obvious events of the flood, explained my belief that his plumbers were probably swamped and outlined my formidable experience. I suggested that it might be a better use of his resources to let them do the rough plumbing and let me go behind and set the fixtures. I told him I had my own tools and transportation and could work on Tuesday's, Thursday's and Saturday's. I offered to complete job for free and that he could check my work before giving me permanent employment. I also told him by paying me $5.50 an hour this would be a great bargain for him because he would be paying much less than for a licensed plumber. He offered my 5 bucks. I took it.

Well the arrangement worked out great. Within two weeks he gave me a company truck so I could haul my own stuff told me I could use it for personal trips on his dime if I wanted. Wow. I was in starving-college-student-heaven. My Dad had once again proved his genius and I was able to keep flush on cash. Ted would constantly try to talk me into quitting college and work full time for him, but the job just served to remind me daily of why I was going to school. He was a great boss and I felt blessed to have the employment.

One day he was short handed and started sending me on service calls, something I hated because of my lack of experience. One time he told me that an old lady’s furnace was not working and that I had to go fix it. I protested that I didn't know anything about electricity, but he just smiled, handed me an Electronic Tester and told me she was a very important customer and to "just act like you know what you're doing". “Great”, I thought!

When I got there she quickly sized me up, saw that I looked maybe 17 (I was actually 22) and showed me where the furnace was located in the basement. She then established a solid foot stance suitable for enduring the millennium, clinched her jaw like a Rock-&-Sock Robot, and proceed to watch my every move. "Great!!! I don't know what I'm doing, she doesn’t think I know what I’m doing, and she's going to watch me like a hawk to prove herself right", I muttered to myself.

I was desperately afraid of killing myself and more importantly, being embarrassed. Then, a miracle happened. The wonderful words my father had spoken to me so many times before came to me like a freight train bearing down in the black of the night. "Do something, even if it's wrong". I had heard these words so many times before, but this time the words had meaning, they had depth and alacrity. It was as if the windows of plumbing heaven had been opened unto me. Grateful for the revelation, I did what any buffoon with a half a brain would do, and the only thing I could do, I faked it.

Inspired my the echos of my father's words, what happened next was frankly brilliant on my part. I became a mechanical thespian. The grace and confidence by which I carefully, slowly and confidently unsnapped the cover to the tester was inspirational. The precision by which I inserted the leads of the test wires into the tester was sensual. After carefully selecting the AC setting on the tester (to insure that it wouldn't explode if I accidently touched some high voltage) I smiled an assured grin and placed the tips of the wires across two random terminals on the furnace controls. I had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing and was praying that if sparks erupted that I would be able to close my eyes before my retinas were burned through. I didn’t know what Checking Continuity was, but I did know that that was what I was faking.

I also knew that I was faking it brilliantly. I had seen my Dad, Terry and Trevor do it a dozen times and for my performance I knew I could be nominated for a furnace Oscar. After repeating this protocol about eight times, I swear I could hear a squeak as the hinges of her jaw started to release. “Perfect”, I thought, my ruse is working. I was certain she knew less about electricity than I did. I was also pretty confident that she hadn't stuck a butter knife in an electrical socket like I had when I was five years old.

Soon the locks restricting movement to her knees we're released, her feet shuffled a few steps and she disappeared to the tunnel of light cascading from the top of the stairwell. "Alone at last", I laughed to myself as I shook my head in haughty celebration, for I had won the battle of wits. I had conquered my formidable and skeptical adversary. Sure she was probably 90 years old. Sure she was probably in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease but I, yes I, sat on the cold, porous floor, tall and proud and victorious. I was now alone, I was completely ignorant, but I was alone.

Still not, however, having any clue as to how to get the heat back on, I sought desperately for another sign. (I know the scripture about a wicked and adulterous generous generation seeking for a sign, but cut me some slack) Imagine my glorious delight when I found it. It was in the form of a small red button about the size of my index finger. Strategically hidden from the ready view of ignorant home owners, it sat, innocuous and yet so promise filled, on the dark upper portion of the cavernous mechanical monolith. I prayed. If I had been Catholic I would have genuflected and rubbed my rosary, but I only prayed. I shined the rays of hope from my flashlight onto the button, willing the light to somehow give the button magical powers. Then with the care of a Swiss watchmaker I gently, slowly, held my breath and depressed the button with my chilly finger until it would move no further, and then, I waited.

The 5 seconds that actually transpired seemed like an eon, but imagine the rapture that filled my heart when I saw the glorious amber glow of the igniter. It projected a warm and beautiful gleaming light like the sun does over a mountain crest at dawn. The vent fan started whirring like the spokes of a bicycle on a whisper quiet day. Soon the snakelike hiss of natural gas joined the chorus as the gas valve opened.

3-2-1 Ignition. I could hear a voice in my head, "Houston, we have ignition". I had done it, I had mastered the metal beast, I had outwitted the old lady, "Fire, I made fire". A comforting heat seemed to engulf the room immediately. I was ecstatic but my glee was not surpassed by the joy Tom Hanks had replicated in the movie Castaway. I celebrated deeply, fully, but briefly. As the house warmed in temperature, the emissions vented through the double walled duct work, past the roof and disapated into the sky. Yes, I contributed to global warming that day, my carbon footprint forever etched in the atmosphere, but I was few and I was proud.

Sprinting to the to the top of the stairs having already written a work order for the obligatory 1 hour minimum service charge, I approached the sinister and skeptical woman that had doubted me before. Teeth gleaming in smile, I muttered an implausible explanation, which included the words franistan, escutcheon and zimmer pin, and bid her adieu, hoping the heat would stay on at least until I had successfully escaped to my next job.

The boss later reported the woman had called to report her satisfaction, that her heat was working beautifully and to express her appreciation to him for sending help so quickly.

The years passed, gently like the subtle shifting of mercury in a thermostat switch, and I am grateful for the wonderful lessons of life. My ability to learn new things and overcome fears was instilled by my father. That suggestion and toolbox that he gave me that day wonderful day so many years ago provided a catalyst for insight that has served me well in myriad ways.


Yesterday I received email notification of my 4th Quarter Bonus Payout. This is the Big One. This is the bonus with the greatest payout potential for the year. This is the bonus with ¾ of your potential earnings for the year.

We close our big Salt Lake City book in July and then we get to wait until February to get it paid out. It’s a brilliant corporate strategy. Its part of an inspired rewards program to make you feel good for a job well done. It has something to do with Pavlov's Dog and Flashing lights. But not being a lead team member, I'm not smart enough to understand all of the subtle nuances and philosophy.

Anyway, I opened the email and I got a big surprise.
Several years ago, Brad, who is six years older than Heidi decided it, would be clever to give her a really small Christmas present, but wrap it in mega-layers of paper, encapsulated inside an enormous box. (I'm sure he must have learned this cleverness from me) This is kind of the opposite of the way Becky wrapped Amy's birthday present in a blanket (When you care enough to wrap the very best).

So, Heidi is pretty excited to get a present from her brother, ‘cause as you all know, girls just adore their older brothers. Brothers usually are not deserving of this adoration, but little sisters insist on giving it. My sisters were the same to me. So Heidi figuratively turns on pomp and circumstance while un-wrapping the box. She spends a good couple of minutes getting to the heart of the package and soon all of the newspaper in on the floor and the box is empty, no present.

I'm no psychologist, but we could all see the wheels of her brain spinning in unison. There was this healthy pause, like the pause you experience after a baby bumps its head really hard, prior to the screaming.

Heidi then stood up, and with her highest level voice, indignantly shouted to Brad these immortal words. "Nothing? Fine!" and she stormed off.

We of course were just cracking up internally because we knew there really was a gift inside that relative ream of paper scattered across the carpet. Soon Heidi discovered her mistaken assumption, and got all lovey dovey with Brad again. This was a fond and precious moment for all of us.

So yesterday was a precious moment like that for me. I opened my bonus email for work I did in July. Did I mention that already? I quickly scanned to the total bonus field and spied the rewards for months of vigorous and emotionally draining labor.

"Congratulations Doug, your bonus is $0."

I did what any self respecting management professional in the corporate world would do. I stood up, shouted "Nothing?...Fine!", and I stormed out of my office.

I'm feeling much better today. Venting is so therapeutic.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Trevor Rescues Doug

When I was in college, I wasn't very mechanically inclined. Every time I would come home from school Trevor and Dad were always there to help me out. It was just like taking your car to the dealer, but they always did the work for free. They rebuilt a couple of Volkswagen engines and beetles for me, and spent hours helping me keep my transportation going. This photo is of Trevor replacing the wheel bearings on my 1968 Ford Galaxy 500 - named Ernest. This is only one example of hundreds. Of all the kids in the Family, Trevor has always been the most giving. Siblings, don't be offended it's just a fact. Following the example of Mom and Dad, he is always there to help others.

He really is a mechanical genius. When he was a kid he'd find screw drivers, butter knifes and pliers and would take apart anything he could find, clocks and radios, anything.

He always loved to drive. Even when he could barely walk. He'd open the door to the car, climb in and put the car in reverse. Some how he figured out how, released the emergency brake and push the starter button, (I think Terry probably taught him) and that would roll the car out in the street. He did this more than once. He was never good about getting it back into the driveway, but then again he was only about two.

He has always had a gift to see anything mechanical or electrical and know what it looks like under the case and understand how it works. He studied and worked hard to develop his skills and expand his knowledge. He's basically our own little in-house walking wikipedia.

Whenever the furnace, washer, dryer or other goes out, we call him and he is always able to listen to my explanation of what is wrong and then diagnose how to fix it. Did I mention he's a genius. He spent hundreds of hours helping us when we built our house in Grand Junction. He also wore out our couch sleeping on it.

Anyway we love Trevor and I truly appreciate his countless hours of service in our behalf.

The Smoking Chevy

Dad had a 1953 Chevy Bellaire that was also a pretty cool car. It was not as cool as a '57 but still cool. Our driveway had a slight incline that sloped up toward the garage door. Dad would always park that car on the left side of the driveway. In southern California the weather is nice much of the time, so we had loads of time to play outdoors. We went barefoot a lot of the time.

You probably know by now that I loved, love, playing in the water. The ocean wasn't too far away and I loved to go there. When we would get close enough to the ocean we would always sing "We're almost to the beach, we're almost to the beach, high ho the merry o, we're almost to the beach.

It's funny what you remember over the years, and I can vividly see the Coppertone billboard with the dog pulling down the little girls’ swimsuit bottom enough to show her tan. We usually went to Huntington Beach. We would spend hours watching the waves come in, spot little bubbles in the sand and then dig furiously to catch these little sand crabs that would ride in an disappear into the sand. We would race the waves and always be amazed at how far down the coast we would end up away from our beach blankets.

When the sky was overcast we wouldn't pay attention to the amount of sun we we're getting and would end up with these killer sunburns, especially on our backs. I can still remember how sore my back would feel.

We would spend hours burying each other in the sand, building rudimentary sand castles and eating wonderful meals Mom had prepared for us. Sometimes we would stay after dark and have a fire and roast corn on the cob in the fire.

The tides intrigued me. It was and still is difficult for me to understand how the position of the moon could affect how far or close from the shore the waves would come in. Sometimes there would be undercurrents that were very dangerous and could pull you down and carry you away if not really careful. We would body surf a lot and when the waves were especially rough, we would get spun, twisted, dragged against the sand and thrown mercilessly to the ground. But we never seem to be deterred for long.

I remember the day Dad told us to go with him into the deeper water. I was kind of scared, but he took us by the hand, and I know we would be safe. Pretty soon my feet weren't touching the ground anymore and I was getting anxious. I soon realized that the buoyancy of the ocean water was much greater than that in a swimming pool. That was the day I learned how to tread water. It was very fun, but I still had some anxiety about sharks, big fish or other unknown creatures from the deep.

The sand would get so hot on our feet sometimes that we would run as fast as we could to get to our towels, a veritable Island of refuge. There were lots of couples that would lie on their towels, many who seemed to really enjoy kissing. I tried not to stare too much. When the day was done, we would got to the public showers and rinse off as much as we could, but it was amazing how much was left to make us uncomfortable on the ride home and still on us when we'd bathe at home. The rides home we're always a little too cool and I would sometimes shiver. Having sunburn probably didn't help. I still miss the beach and wish I could be closer to the ocean. But the fond memories with my family will always last.

We'll back to the Chevy. One summer day we we're playing with the hose. I'm sure we must have made some muddy mess somewhere already, as we usually did.

For some reason on this particular day, my eye spotted the exhaust pipe on Dad's car. I had always been a pretty impulsive boy. It wasn't like I was looking to create mischief and grief, but rather, I just enjoyed discovering things. This day was no different and after spotting that exhaust pipe my nature just took over. So I did what any 8 or 9 year old moron would do and stuck the hose into it. Soon I pulled it out and watched the water spill out.

I was surprised by what I saw next. As the water poured out onto the concrete, I noticed that the water was colored. It was a kaleidoscope of colors: reds, blues, greens, yellows. The colors reminded me of the vibrant rainbow colors you would see with blowing bubbles from the plastic jar. They were similar colors we would make when spraying the sprinkler just right into the sun, when we would make our own rainbows.

Wow, what a discovery this was. Soon the water dispersed and the colors were gone. I reasoned that it must have been created by oil built up in the exhaust pipe. This was a brilliant deduction on my part no doubt. Soon the hose was back into its logical residence inside the exhaust pipe. More colorful water cascaded out creating a childlike euphoria only to be matched by awe one would experience at great falls named Niagara or Victoria. We watched with fascination once again as the swirling, vibrant, oily fluid filled the gutter.

Being the naturally brilliant provocateur that I was, it'd also seemed logical for me to instruct my brother to turn the hose on full blast, which of course he was anxious to do. This time as the hose entered the black tunnel of smoke, I felt compelled to hold my hand over the hold to insure the filthy chamber would retain as much water as possible. I reasoned that the discharge would be much more spectacular for my willing audience. Sure enough the display was even more gratifying in terms of volume, but less abundant was the illumination of greasy color.

As I rack the recesses of my memory it seems like I may have enjoyed a prompting that what I was doing may have been harmful to the engine in some way, but I dismissed with pediatric logic. Exhaust smoke only exits the car when the engine is on, therefore if the engine is off, there must surely be some mechanical barrier that would prevent any kind of damage. Besides the water, quickly and readily voided it self. Being somewhat ignorant as to the process of oxidation, I felt safe and exonerated from any long term consequences. The out come could never be as uncomfortable as when we reached substrata when drilling the ground before.

Of course we soon became bored with this whole routine and dispersed like the wind to wreak havoc elsewhere.

It is said that ignorance is bliss. Over the months and years this process was repeated too many times. I of course was totally and completely unconscious to the fact that the reason Dad spent so many hours working on that car, replacing rings on the pistons and trying to imagine why the engine valves would be rusted.

I do remember being annoyed that our car always burned oil and stunk like crazy, similar to the stench of Trevor’s gaseous discharges. Why did we have to have a car that stunk?

Dad didn't know the truth regarding his mechanical frustrations for decades. Neither did I for that matter either, but by the time I did and finally confessed the statute of limitations had run out. How my Dad could laugh about this boneheaded thing I never know, but he did and I suppose he forgave me.

For years I had nightmares that my children would repeat this calamity on my BMW, at the coaching of my father or through innocent experimentation. But he took the high road and let me worry about, always careful not to step out of line.

Dad I am truly sorry and hope you will forgive me. Thank you for not killing or dismembering me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Secure Arrival

As the fluffy, gently falling flakes of snow quietly towered upward, I slept peacefully under my down comforter. I awoke hours early to insure enough time for a leisurely commute to the Salt Lake International Airport. A quick glance outside persuaded me to quickly modify my plans. After a monthly series of snowstorms, this new eight inches of the soft and fluffy flakes and single digit temperature convinced me of the effects of Global Warming. It also became acutely apparent that the the '92 Bimmer, with intermittent heater blower and high performance tires, was destined to remain tucked snugly in the garage, blooming salt crystals and all.

Becky who also needed transportation for the week quickly ascertained that driving me to the airport was unwise and devised a plan to carpool with a neighbor so I could enjoy the benefits of warmth and visibility as I started my journey to Phoenix.

The easy one and 1/2 hour commute was accomplished after making an amused and judgmental observations at a few unaccomplished drivers. It seemed logical to a few drivers, that although their vehicles we're slowly slipping out of control, to exit the interstate and allow the other hundreds of vehicles behind them to pass, at a more efficient speed, would have been inconvenient for them personally. Although the drive would normally take 30 minutes to accomplish, this delay afforded me the opportunity to reflect upon the many ways my fellow travelers were trying to accelerate their arrival to that final destination in the sky.

After parking in the aptly named economy lot, I was able to check my bag filled with containers containing slightly more than three ounces of liquids, with the Sky Cap. I wonder why they are called sky caps. I suppose it must have something to do with those snappy caps they wear. Boarding pass in hand I quickly made my way to the TSA security check.

I quickly discovered that I would have at least twenty minutes to meander a Disney Style serpentine line. I, an experienced traveler conducted a five point security check of my own person. I searched for pens and pennies, watches and rings, electronic devices and belt buckles. I explored my carry-on for liquids and weapons, quarantined fruit and computers. Finding no weapons was easy as seven of my customer provided mini pocket knife keychains had already been confiscated on previous journeys. I snickered, slightly audibly, as I realized I had patted my self down three times to insure I could pass through "the machine" without delay.

Thanks to the people mover I was able to insure a speedy passage to my gate, a good forty minutes early. I glanced to the big brother style arrival/departure boards and to my delight saw my flight was still 'on time'.

At the gate I noticed no attendant occupied the gate desk and the red L.E.D. was not illuminated, so I consulted at an adjacent gate to inquire regarding my flight. She smiled, checked and informed me that my flight had been cancelled. It was so gratifying when she explained that if I had been there 10 minutes earlier, I would have been boarded on the 8:25 flight which had just left the gate for de-icing.

Choosing to be helpful she changed my ticket to standby for the next flight. She also assured me that because my bag was already checked I would be the recipient of special security screening on the next leg of my trip.

To my wife's delight, my standby number was something like 369, so I elected to go home and remove the remainder of the 24" of snow that had now accumulated in the driveway. We enjoyed a nice lunch together at Iggy's, finished the snow removal and relished a quiet evening at home.

The next day I had the fortune to arise early and repeat the same process, this time sans fresh snowfall. At the beginning of the security line I completed my self-frisking ritual complete with a now even more audible and amused laugh. I approached the smartly dressed and identical TSA agents as the day before, however I noticed a subtle, yet discernible hand signal.

Soon a smiling, but clearly sinister looking woman beaconed me to follow her to the furthest checking station—yes the one with the PUFFER machine. If you've never been through the Puffer machine you've really missed out. It's easy to describe though. You know how when you go to the optometrist and he smirks, tells you to put your chin in that special holster, cranks a spherical object millimeters from your eyeball, and then blows 80 lbs of compressed air right on it. Do you remember how you jumped and then the guy that went to eight years of schooling so he'd be allowed to do it to you, cranks it over to your left eye and does it again? Do you remember that? Well that is basically what the Puffer Machine does, except, it gives you a full body experience.

I'm pretty sure that the senior TSA agent, the one with the most seniority gets to watch you through a hidden camera. He reads all you vital stats, respiration rate and pulse. When he is pretty sure you are the most suceptible, he hits the button and laughs.

They take videos of all the people nationwide, that go through the Puffer and look for the most dramatic reactions. The very best ones are judged by a panel of TSA executives, in the central office located in an annex at Langley, and then they are posted on YouTube. The State Patrol likes to make similar videos with tasers.

I forgot to mention something. Before I got to the Puffer, I was escorted to a long line of stainless steel tables. I have it on good authority that the TSA got a great deal on them when the county coroner's office was moved to their new location. At every other security line the tubs are grey. At the autopsy tables I was now standing, the tubs were RED. What's up with that? Generally, I'm not all that paranoid, but I put all my stuff in the red tubs and glanced around. I swear that two thirds of the 800 people standing in the Disney line were then staring at me.

You know how you can read lips at sporting events when a player or coach launches a profanity? Well, I could swear I saw a dark skinned man with loads of facial hair and a turbine, turn to his companion and lip the words, "look at the tall, skinny white guy. I'll bet he has a one inch pocket knife attached to his car keys." He saw me look at him and quickly averted his eyes. I thought to myself, maybe they should just turn on some flashing marquee that says LOSER.

I was anxious to take my medicine and get through the puffer. I figured less people could see me then. I stepped in and tried my best not to flinch and practically threw my back out when it went off. I'm pretty sure they up the pressure to 120 psi when you're in the red tub line. I passed through, and then another nefarious looking agent, escorted me into a long glass booth with a locked glass door on the other end. Talk about deja vu, I had this full color rewind of the man in the glass house joke. Feeling conspicuous I peered over the top of the transparent hallway and giggle to myself, while holding me pants up. I am a tall, skinny, white guy with no belt after all. Since everyone else was laughing at me, I figured giggling at myself was the best thing to do.

After about 15 minutes they finally let me out, so to speak, took me to the swab station (don't get me started) and eventually let me pass into the terminal. Poised, I step into my shoes, sauntered off and dropped my cell phone on the floor. I picked it up, dropped my boarding pass, laughed again and proceeded to my flight.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Orange Desoto

1005 E. Galatea Street was our second house in Azusa. One day Dad came home with a 1949 Desoto (I think that was the model year). It was faded grey in color and the upholstery on the ceiling was pretty battered. Well actually I should say it was torn and battered by the time we got done with it.

This car quickly became my favorite. It was very roomy and I loved going for rides in it.

Dad and mom took us for automobile rides quite often. It seems like we would often go for rides on Sunday afternoons. There were a lot beautiful places to see in southern California. Orange groves, avocado trees and beautiful subdivisions, were some of the sights we would see.

I loved sitting in the large and tall backed seat. There was a great space above the seat where the back window was, that was the perfect size for lying down on. I don't think it had seat belts, but that was before I had heard of Ralph Nader and OSHA. I remember hot smoggy days when the pollution seemed really thick. It must have been really bad because my eyes would water and sting.

Before we would go for the rides, Dad would ask us if we needed to go to the bathroom. Then we were off for another adventure. I'm not sure what kind of teasing nonsense that the three of us older kids were up to, but it seemed like it was pretty often that Dad would tell us to "knock it off". We of course would totally ignore his counsel and continue our nefarious behavior. I suppose we were touching each other in some annoying manner and simultaneously yelling at each other "stop touching me".

At some point Dad would get fed up and start yelling in earnest. After continuing to disregard his instructions he would then execute a multitasking maneuver which included: steering the car with his left hand, swinging his knuckle clad fist at out legs, and swivel his head to the front of the car and then back to our wildly flailing lower limbs, as we tried to avoid his violent assault.

In our family the most dangerous seat in the car was the middle part of the back, bench seat. Of course we fought to sit by the door, especially the one behind the drivers seat, as it was rare that he could inflict much pain to the person sitting directly behind him. I'm pretty sure Trevor sat in the middle the most of the time.

Speaking of Trevor, I'm not sure but I think he may have been the most strategic of the brothers when it came car ride theatrics. After he was certain that we were a significantly safe distance from home he would quietly but efficiently launch one of his infamous SBD stink bombs. I'm not talking about your basic garden-variety flatulence. These were world class, somebody died, eye stinging, nausea invoking, stinkers. Now that I think about it, the eye stinging pollution may have come from him.

If you think my Dad would get mad when we would fight, you should have seen how the fast the fuse would burn when Trevor would launch one of these scud missiles. The first words out of my Dad's mouth were always the same; "I thought I told you to go to the bathroom before we left!" I'm no doctor, but I swear a stench this bad could only be produced by dead people or by holding it for at least a week. Wow! Did I mention Terry and I always fought for the window seats? Wow!

Anyway, I loved the Desoto. Honestly, and I can say this without any reservation, my parents are the most giving people I know. Throughout my entire life they have always been extremely generous with their possessions. No matter what their situation was, they always thought others first.

One day I noticed the Desoto was gone! I asked my parents where it was. They explained that they had given it to someone else that needed it more. I remember being disappointed. There was a family of Samoans that lived in the ward and I found out they had given it to them. I remember this made an important impression on me as a young boy. I was impressed with my parent’s compassion and generosity.

Another day I was at church and I saw the Desoto and the recipient family. I must admit I was surprised. Instead of seeing the dingy grey car I missed it was now a shiny bright orange color.

On Sunday afternoons there wasn't much on TV. Most days there would be stock car races and the advertising sponsor was often Earl Scheib. "We'll paint any car for $49.00" they would brag. I remember doing the math and being very judgmental in my assessment of this good family. "We gave you the car. We couldn't afford to get it painted. How can you afford to paint it?" Such were my immature thoughts. I'm pretty sure I even mentioned this to my parents. I remember their reply to me was kind and compassionate.

I will always be grateful to my kind, generous and humble parents and for the wonderful example they have set for me for over half a century. But I still miss that old grey Desoto and the wonderful memories we made in that car.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Breaking News

So is it just me, or am I the only moron in the world that gets nauseous with broadcast news.  Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy some classic forms of torture.  When I was in 6th grade, in Mr. Oldroyd's class, I knew this guy who would occasionally scratch his fingers down the blackboard.  I don't think he really enjoyed doing it, but it created such a strong reaction with the girls he just couldn't stop.  I only did it...uh I mean, he only did it several times.

I may be wrong but I always thought the purpose of the news was to, like report the news.  Isn't news like stuff and things that have already happened?   It's not like I majored in Journalism or anything.  Oh wait, I just remembered, I majored in communications.  Just because I don't know how or where to use commas, don't mean I don't know how.

Ok, so here's my point, generally speaking news is the reporting of events that have already happened.  If you agree read on.  If you don't you're an idiot.  

So why then does the media insist on reporting news in the present tense?  If it's already happened it's in the past.  Hello—It should be reported as past tense.  The present tense reporting of past tense events happens every day.  It's really bad on TV, but it's even worse on the radio.

You know what I talking about.  "Man robs bank and leads police on high speed chase.  Details at ten."  I could give you a dozen examples but I won't waste your time.
There was a time when the report would have been.  "A man robbed the bank and led the police on a high speed chase".  Sergeant Friday obviously went to J school.  He understood the concept of "just the facts Ma'am".  Come on, report the news.  It's happened already.  Stop trying to make it sound more exciting than it really is.   Stop trying to make it sound like it is happening right now.  I know you are tying to boost your ratings.  I know you can't help yourself.  I understand that impulse control thing.  But c'mon average citizens aren't complete imbeciles.  Oh wait, scratch that.

Before I quit,  why do they insist on blaming the weather for accidents.  "Snow storm causes dozens of accidents".  Now really—did the snow storm really cause the accidents?  I'm sorry but I've seen the way people in Utah drive.  A snow storm has never caused me to have an accident.  
Being a moron has.  Saying "Hey, watch this" has caused me to have an accident.  But a snowstorm, nope!   Is it just a coincidence or do snow storms only cause morons to crash.  Well, either way I'm sure the newscasters know better than me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

No Soup For You!

Our house on Factor Street was cool in both senses of the word. Dad had installed a swamp cooler in the master bedroom window that was right over their bed. I used to enjoy going into my parents room because Mom had painted this beautiful mural that spanned an entire wall. I'm pretty sure it was of a Cherry Tree that was in full blossom. It was a kaleidoscope of pinks and whites and I love looking at it. I was amazed at how talented my Mom was.

I also like to stand on the bed next to the swamp cooler and feel the cool breeze waft over me. Dad used to get pneumonia on occasion and I remember them speculating it may have had something to do with sleeping under that swamp cooler. I vividly remember him taking great swabs of Vicks Vapor Rub on his finger and sticking it down his throat and swallowing.


When I was a little lad of about 5 or 6 years old, I was playing in my bedroom one day and I heard Mom call Terry and I to lunch. We went into the kitchen and I asked what we were having. Mom said toasted cheese sandwiches.

I must have been a little brat because I started whining and told her I didn't want that. I asked what else I could have and she firmly told me that was my choice. I obviously thought if I pushed the issue I could get my way. Mom kindly but firmly told me that was my only choice. I kept pushing and she finally said "OK if you don't want that, you can have nothing".

I was shocked and felt foolish because I was really hungry. But she stood her ground. I know I was pretty stubborn as a kid. I don't remember if I apologized or not, but I do remember I didn't get lunch. I fantasized most of the day about how good that sandwich would have tasted. When dinner came around though I was really hungry and was not going to say anything stupid that would prevent me from consuming it.

I learned a great lesson that day that I never forgot and was always to Mom for teaching me limits in my life.

Ironically toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is one of my favorite meals.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Come Here Doug

My Mom is awesome.  I learned so much from her and awe at her wisdom and insight.  I suspect most of her lessons were deliberate, but some like the one I learned this day, I suspect were unintentional.

I was pretty small when we lived on Factor Street.  One day I was playing in the backyard.  There was a ton of vegetation and a banana tree.  I loved that backyard.  I have no idea what I was doing but I remember hearing my Mom call.  "Doug...Doug".

I know some of our character traits develop quickly.  Obvious my character was flawed because I totally ignored her.  I really didn't want my important activities to be interrupted, especially if I was going to be required to complete a chore.  

It was probably 5 minutes later when I heard her call again.  "Doug, Doug, Come Here."  Once again  I ignored the request.  This time I did feel a considerable measure of guilt and fear.
Soon, the inevitable petition came again and this time with more urgency but kindness in her voice.  "DOUG, COME HERE".  I reluctantly complied.  

Imagine the surprise, delight and guilt I enjoyed when I realized the summons was simply to delight me with some freshly baked Chocalate Chip Toll House cookies and a tall glass of milk.

It was a lesson well learned and a precious moment with my precious Mother.

Hey, Watch This!

The freeway took our house on Factor Street in Azusa in the early 1960's. This photo shows the family at that house in 1957. We moved to 1005 E. Galatea Street, which wasn't all that far from the previous house. Dad was the Bishop of the Azusa ward.
It was a great time to be alive. The war was over, the economy was booming and we had a 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air.

The ward had a plot of land to raise strawberries. It was a southern California version of a church farm. It was great fun to go as a family to pick strawberries. Eating our fill was part of the assignment as I recall. At some point a portion of the farm, which was adjacent to a shopping area was converted to a trampoline center. People could come, pay a fee and jump on the trampolines. I think a drunk driver drove his car through the fence and that was pretty much the end of that. I'm not sure if the details are accurate, but that is my memory.

One of the consequences of the drunk driver was that we acquired a trampoline for our family. Dad dug a great pit in the northwest corner of the back yard. Soon the day for the installation came and we had a ground level trampoline.

We spent hours jumping on the trampoline. I remember having seat wars that lasted forever. We got pretty good at back drops, swivels, knee flips and jumping high. For some reason the thought of doing a standing flip was scary for me. But after a period of time I summoned up the courage to make the attempt.

This was forty some years ago and I have to confess I'm not sure if I said the words but I'm pretty sure I did think "Hey, Watch This!" Having an audience is critical for stunts of this proportion. I wasn't sure exactly what kind of body action was required to complete the flip but I went for it. Somewhere between the vertical axis and a complete rotation, my head made contact with the springs of the trampoline. Clearly my arial acrobatics had been miscalculated.

After the bleeding stopped and the healing was completed I was the proud owner of a perfectly positioned scar in the middle of my forehead. Certainly a badge of honor for someone my age. I remember being enamored with the flexibility and skill-sets of monkeys. I always loved speed.

Some time later on Christmas Eve my Dad spent the good part of a Saturday working on fixing up this mondo-clunker bike for me. I couldn't wait to ride this steel steed that was slightly smaller than the german motorcycle Steve McQueen rode in the The Great Escape. Soon the time for the maiden flight arrived. I remember mounting the bike and thinking "Hey, Watch This!" I pedaled with all my might as I left the driveway and drove strait into the front wheel of the older paper boy whom lived next door. It completely ruined his wheel and jacked-up the my newly restored bike. Bummer. (This created a sort of road rage with the paper boy and the catalyst for a future story involving a bicycle built for two.)

Well the years passed and as I got older, I became convinced of my immortality. Under the careful tutelage of my Father I learned how to spin donuts on snowy roads. I won't mention that I was only 14.

One day when I was in College in Rexburg, Idaho I discovered this really sweet dip in the road by Becky's apartment. I learned, by trial, that if you got your speed up just right you could get some pretty awesome 4 wheel air. One day my roommate "foul" Al Wynn was with me and I said "Hey, Watch This!". I successfully competed the maneuver to the delight and thrill of my friend. Little did I know that I had inspired him to his own acts of stupidity.

One evening I was riding with him in his father's pickup truck about dusk. As we were approaching the dip, I noticed that a car was approaching in the opposite direction. I start to say this is probably not a good time to execute the move. But Al decided at the same exact time to shift down and punch the accelerator. As we hit the dip the approaching car signaled for a left turn —in front of us.

Now airborne the only thing I can think to say is "we're going to die!" Of course the driver of the opposing car saw us and then hesitated. This insured there was just enough time for us to make contact with the pavement at the precise instant necessary to insure a spectacular skid, before we impaled the side of their car. I couldn't help but feel responsibility for the whole affair. But I did my best to feign ignorance.

We were working with Dad one time in Denver. Blair and I took Trevor's chopped VW Beetle to run an errand. Now the truth is, Trevor basically drove like a complete maniac back then. I'd like to have a dollar for each time he had his car on two wheels. So he is primarily responsible for my actions.

Blair seemed to be pretty bored and inattentive as we approached the business park on the way back from the errand. I remember thinking, here's a great opportunity to wake Blair up. So I said, "Hey, Watch This!" and immediately cranked the wheel very hard to the left to enter the business park.

My intent was to get a slight amount of air on two wheels to increase his heart rate. There was only one problem, after I had started my maneuver, to my horror I realized that I hadn't paid attention to the position of the curb-cut. I instantly realized that I had to make a split second decision. Either continue the path directly into the curb, which I knew would insure the need for a complete front end overhaul, or over rotate even farther.

I chose the later. This insured completion of my two wheel acrobatics plus 2 more wheels. Soon we were sliding on the pavement inches from Blair's head. We came to a stop. I quickly jumped out, primarily to see who had seen us. I peered back in the car and yelled to my brother who was clearly in shock and said, "don't just sit there get out and help me push the car back over".

It was only after he exited the car that I realized the engine was still running, the transmission in gear, and the back wheel was rotating at a high rate of speed. Well, our adrenaline must have been really pumping because we went to the roof side of the car, lifted with all our might and push the car back over. We drove to Trevor, confessed our sins and took our medicine.

I'm not sure if Trevor ever really forgave me for that.

You'd think by now I would have learned the "Hey, Watch this!" was sure to result in undesirable outcomes.

Audible or not saying the words causes certain doom. I think the experience that finally taught me to remove the words from my vernacular was when I rolled the go-cart in front of the family, in the school parking lot, after saying those infamous words to my self.

I would never have believed it would have been possible to do so, but I'm convinced "Hey, Watch this!" is inexplicably tied to Newton's laws of physics.

I am happy to report that now years later and with the help of my family and a competent therapist, I am almost completely cured of this syndrome. The words come to me on occasion but my impulse control prevents me from uttering it audibly or otherwise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Confessions of a Computer Liberal

My attitude of the past:

Political hoopla has invaded us lately much as Japanese beetles in a fruit tree orchard. Speaking of orchards, is it just me or does seeing Hilary Clinton's hideous images strike fear in your heart too.

I've seen some photos of her that paralyze me. Like in that dream I had when a peach orchard boar was charging at me and my legs felt like they were made out of Swedish memory foam.

I guess what frustrates me in the political arena the most is the lack of courage and leadership that most candidates demonstrate. "Tell me what the polls say, and I'll tell you what I believe. And I won't change my mind until I address the next special interests group".

I thought about this for a few nanoseconds once and came to the conclusion that I may actually have more respect for politicians who are clearly liberal-socialist-commies or scary right-wing-radicals more than the minions of so called moderates. When I say respect, don't misunderstand me. Respect does not equal agreement. But I reserve the right to disagree agreeably.

Moderates on the other hand in my book are basically cowardly liars who are really liberals, but don't have the courage to take, and stand by a position, any position. It's always easy to tell when they are lying because they always begin their sound bites by saying: "The American People want...".

Moderates are both democrat and republican, but they are all liberals. They have mastered intellectual laziness. The depth of their thinking is limited to buying votes by selling dependency. Their mantra is peaches and cream, world peace, free health care, money for nothing and the sky is falling. They are usually wealthy elites, addicted to power, whom work tirelessly to convince you that your money is really the government’s money and rely upon creating gallons of fear so you will go along.

It occurred to me a long time ago that computer operating systems are kind of like politics.

You basically have two kinds of people: Thinking people and Computer Liberals.

I remember becoming enamored by the Mac OS in the prior millennium. There were some brilliant nit wits out there that were plotting to overthrow the world economically while I was focused on atomic wedgies and engineering a wind up key for my '62 VW bug.

I thought it was so cool that I could sit down at my Mac and build a word processing document, create a spreadsheet, or design a logo without having to read a 400 page Windows thesis. I spent 15 minutes trying to get through one once. It reminded of me trying to master the definitions of FIFO and LIFO in my 8:00 a.m. accounting class after swabbing toilets in the auto-cad building at 4:00 a.m. My comprehension would have probably been ok if there had been more color photos. (Wow, I just had a major flashback.)

Any who, seriously, you practically had to have a masters in nerdology to understand what these geekdorks were talking about. All I know is that I could sit down and whip out some pretty impressive stuff. My kids got some pretty good grades on my projects too.

As these Mac Attacks would be launched, I would laugh when these factotums around me would espouse the virtues of Windows. While I was building complex graphics for the BugZapper Invitational, these guys would be giddy because they had just set a new endurance record for the amount of time it took to calculate a time-phase analysis for a system crash/update contingency schedule for an entire decade.

Now it wasn't the fact that they were wasting mega-time trying to keep their PC's working, it was the apparent addictive glee they seem to derive because of the sheer complexity involved in completing the most simple of tasks. I remember seeing the steely smirks when these guys were running a stack of punch cards through the univac in the 50's.

I remember taking all sorts of grief from these Computer Liberals. "Mac's aren't real computers, they’re more like toys" they would say. "I hear they're pretty good for the 300 people in the country that do graphics." "You can't get any real software for them." Meanwhile I learned how to do some pretty cool stuff without ever reading a manual. They were also curiously arrogant about their superiority, spending hours reading about how to do essentially nothing. Don't even get me started on Vista, Wow.

Why, you may ask, am I wasting my time writing this blog then? (Why are you wasting your time reading it?) Simply put, because my company decided they could save 500$ on a piece of hardware, they made the brilliant decision to force us to use Windows PC’s. I guess the justification was that the pen tabs we got were much slower, and there was an exponential increase in time wasted in figuring out how to use them, multiplied by about 3000 employees. The brilliant bean counters have a formula that actually shows an increased cost/benefit analysis.

My Conversion:

So the other night I was at home, on my MacBook Pro, and needed to print a PDF. I wanted to print it at 150%. Easy. File, Page Set up, type 150, click ok. Command P, ok. Done.

The next day. at work, using my snappy but clunky brand new Dell laptop with Windows, I open the same PDF. I go to File, Print Setup. No scaling option. So I intuitively think I'll look in the Print dialogue box. Nothing. So I do what any respectable Windows user would do with the most simple of tasks, I start looking around to try to figure it out.

Eventually I stumble upon an obscure button back in the Print Setup, located where you would choose the printer you want to use called PROPERTIES. Aha, say I, "It's like monopoly". In Properties I have 5 choices: layout, paper quality, output options, tec color and troubleshooting. I choose Layout and see several choices, but no scaling option. So I move on to output options, again no scaling. I repeat the process with the other three tabs. Nothing (but I did discover 2 to the 3 power number of options I could but, never in a million years would use).

So I go back to the Print dialogue box and search through again. Nothing. I try Print Set up again, repeat steps above for each tab. This in the tab I find another obscure button called "ADVANCED". Before clicking it I shout audibly, "Of course, scaling a document is a very sophisticated and complex process. How could I have been so stupid as to have not looked for the Advanced Button to start with. I'm an idiot".

Now I click the Advanced button and wonder of wonders, nestled in the middle of 14 additional, but very advanced choices is the Scaling option. I type 150, print and look at the clock to see it only took me 1/2 hour to perform this ADVANCED task.

I am giddy, I have mastered the complexity of simplicity. It if because I had to stuggle so hard to understand the complextity of simpicity, I finally understand what I have been missing all these years. I feel like I have had an epiphany equal to any spiritual manifestation rendered to man in the last 100 years. I can't resist from singing Handel's Amen chorus.

After pondering this for another hour I finally began to understand the enlightenment that my Windows nemeses were trying to sharing with me all these many decades. Euphoria set in. I swear I actually had an adrenalin rush. I felt ashamed for judging harshly, for I was blind and now I have come to the light. The sensation I felt was much like the rush I get in Dr. Reber’s office as he slides the lever to maximum on the Nitrous Oxide tank. How could I have been so wrong? How could I have been misled all of these years? How could I have been so harsh and judgmental of my PC brethren? I felt so ashamed.

I still use my Mac mind you. When I am forced to be productive and deadlines loom, I will close the curtains, dim the lights and complete my tasks. But my days are only truly complete when I can luxuriate is the security of the light and bask in the euphoria of complexity. “Simplicity manifest as complexity”. It is so obvious now. I only wish I had known sooner.

No longer will I weld the sword of scorn and spout harsh monikers. Proudly and with justified elitism I declare. I tuly am a computer moderate. I have pangs to let this new found insight flood over my political persuasions as well, for I perceive I am blinded by the obvious simplicity and consequences of social conservatism. The truth must really lie in the velocity of the inconsistency of political liberalism.

I am happy to confess that in order to write this blog today I had to replicate the Print Scaling process again. It was incredible frustrating. It was so incredibly fulfilling. After completely forgetting the process from last week, and replicating it again today, the tingles of joy flooded my senses with complete ecstatic fervor.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Wii be Boxing from Doug Roper on Vimeo.

We got a Wii for Christmas. It really does burn more energy than traditional video games and it's great fun. Everyone enjoyed playing various virtual games including golf, bowling, tennis, baseball and boxing. Carnival games, racing and Mario Party 8 were also favorites.

Grandma Aanerud was content to watch us all participate in our newfound adventures. Before she departed for home we convinced her to join us in bowling. After explaining the buttons and control action needed to serve the ball she got her first strike. Imagine her delight and our admiration when she hit 3 strikes in a row for a "turkey". Soon the game was over and she finished with a 180, a family record. Well of course we had to challenge her to a rematch. We did and she smoked us again with a 178.

Today, Heidi beat me soundly in boxing. Boxing is clearly the most vigorous of all the games we've played. After knocking me out twice in rapid succession she quickly reminded me of her UNDEFEATED record for boxing.

I convinced Becky to challenge the champ. Did the champion reign supreme? Oh the drama. Oh the stamina. Oh the outcome.