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RIP Treebeard

Sometime in the late 1990’s, one of our neighbors decided to get rid of an old ragtag ficus tree they’d had in their house for a while. We offered to take it, thinking it would add to our “recently out of college” decor. I named it Treebeard, aka Fangorn, after the ancient Ent from The Lord of the Rings.

Treebeard moved with us to Longmont and had a place of honor in the corner of our family room, where his leaves “shaded” us on the couch as we watched movies. He added a nice splash of green to the room, and all was good.

Over the years, though, branches died and he became more and more sparse. He was sort of crippled in a way, too– we had to attach a trunk to the wall via fishing wire to keep him from toppling. So I finally decided it was time to bid adieu.

The family room seems a little emptier without him. Farewell, noble Treebeard.

Glamour shots

As part of our missionary paperwork, we have to submit a nice formal photo of ourselves. For some reason we forgot to do that for Kyra, and when she arrived on her mission, someone snapped a terrible cell-phone photo and it became her official photo for the rest of her mission.

So today, Zaque got a haircut and lost the mane he’s been sporting for a few years now. Missionary grooming standards require fairly short hair on the young men (a wise move), and it turns out he cleans up pretty good:

Then it was time for me and La. Ours turned out nicely, although as usual she looks way better than me:

Kyra couldn’t resist getting in on the action, so I gave her a glamour shot as well:

Let’s get physical

The last time I had a physical exam was when I was trying out for the high school baseball team. I was 15. In the intervening years, I haven’t been to a doctor for anything… no checkups, no physicals, no illnesses, no surgeries. It’s been pretty nice.

Now, as I’m preparing to serve a mission, I’m required to have a physical. Apparently the church wants to ensure that I’m not going to go into cardiac arrest or whatever while I’m serving. I didn’t see a way around it, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would, once again, need to visit a doctor.

Zaque and I did that today (he needs a physical for his mission as well). It took about half an hour and wasn’t too bad. In the end, all the tests came back positive. Apparently I’m still a fine specimen of health. Even after 32 years without doctors.

Can I go another thirty years without visiting a doctor? Fingers crossed…

Happy belated birthday to me

I admit I was getting a little worried because I hadn’t received a birthday card from Carolyn Rose. A few weeks had passed after my birthday, and finally there was a card in the mailbox:

As it turned out, her husband Gary has been struggling with some health issues, and she was pretty busy around my birthday. She was very apologetic about not sending a card on time, but honestly, the fact that she was even thinking about it counts.

I don’t generally get birthday cards from anyone these days– including my lovely wife– but Carolyn has never missed a year. The tradition continues, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Thanks, Carolyn!

Best gas station ever

Somewhere in Casper, Wyoming there’s a gas station that has…

Dinosaurs!

Sharks!

And some strange short guy!

Which are you?

On our trip we stopped at Jimmy John’s for lunch, and the men’s bathroom had a bunch of signs on the tile walls. I snapped some photos because I thought they were pretty clever. Which one are you?

Flathead Lake

Retirement continues to creep a little closer, and with it the decision about where to live. Flathead Lake, Montana has been at the top of my list for a few months, and I finally convinced Laralee to drive up there with me to look at some houses and get a feel for the area. Kyra tagged along, which was a lot of fun.

We wanted to go in the dead of winter, to see how things were in the worst part of the year, but our schedules didn’t allow us to head up there until mid-March. As it happens, this year saw some record snowfall during February, so everything was blanketed in snow. After two days of driving, we stopped for our first up-close view of Flathead Lake:

Yeah, it was frozen over… something that’s apparently pretty rare. Parts of the lake were thawed, but large areas were covered in ice. Regardless, the weather was actually quite pleasant: sunny, in the upper 40’s, with beautiful blue skies. We grabbed some lunch and then started looking at houses.

There’s something a little weird (and admittedly deceptive) about calling real-estate agents to set up showings of houses we don’t actually intend to buy. Then again, there’s something a little weird about driving literally a thousand miles to look at houses we don’t actually intend to buy. I called this a “fact-finding trip”, because our real goal was to see what sorts of places are available, and what the area is like.

Kyra enjoyed touring the houses.

At one point, we were driving along the west shore of the lake and I shouted, “Hey, stop! I know that barn!” I jumped out of the car to snap a picture.

Sure enough, when I looked through my photo archives I found my earlier shot of it. This was taken in September 2001.

I remember our trip to the Pacific Northwest back in 2001– it was probably the time when I decided the Flathead/Glacier area was one of the most beautiful places I’d been. And it still is.

I’d poked around Zillow for a few weeks, choosing about 20 houses I really liked. I handed my list to Laralee and Kyra, and they whittled it down to eight. As it turned out, we looked at ten, because two of the realtors wanted to show off some of their other listings. It was fun to go through houses whose main floors are larger than my entire house, or see kitchens the size of most of my downstairs.

Not surprisingly, many of them had fantastic views of the lake. We ended up touring one house way up in the wilderness (many miles from the lake, due to a mistake the realtor made when he listed it). It was on five acres of private forest land, without another house in sight and only the quiet sounds of the woods for company. The woman who owned it explained that she and her husband had custom-built the house fifteen years before, and she had literally hand-picked stones used in the chimney and kitchen, and carefully aligned the grain on the wooden drawers and cabinets. It was absolutely stunning.

One of the houses is literally known as “The Castle” by people who go boating past it.

As it turned out, the interior of The Castle looked more like an Italian ristorante. What would it be like to eat dinner in this little alcove?

Another house was so fancy we couldn’t figure out how the toilets flushed. We suspect it had something to do with the little knob on top.

That same one had a great room that looked like one of those fancy home magazines you’d find in the reception area of a real-estate agency.

Apparently people really live like this! Several had amazing views of the lake, which looked like a frozen wasteland. Still, we were walking around without coats because it was so nice. It only looked cold.

In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed our tours. Throughout the process, I was asking each of the agents about the area, the weather, the town, and all sorts of related things. Although it was helpful to see the houses, it was even more helpful to hear about what the Flathead Lake area is like. As we were driving home today, I apologized to Laralee… before, I’d been sort of considering moving to Montana, but after this visit I’m convinced it’ll be awesome.

Now I have to convince her. Oh, and at some point we need to actually buy a house…

Goals

I have absolutely no context for this photo.

But if I’m reading it right, this guy just finished an Ironman race and is showing off what he used to look like. That’s an amazing transformation.

Set goals. Then accomplish them.

Stereotypes

I saw this the other day, and found it both funny and thought-provoking.

"Hello! Do you have a minute to talk about Dracula?"
"No– wait, Dracula?"
"Yes!"
"You’re vampires?"
"Yes. We have pamphlets."
"Vampires have missionaries?"
"Where else would new vampires come from?"
"I assumed you bit people."
"There are many hurtful stereotypes. May we come in?"

Thanks, Trump

For all the high-falootin’ bragging Trump has done about “his” amazing tax plan, I have to report I’m not seeing any benefit at all. I just finished my 2018 taxes, and my effective tax rate is exactly the same as it was in the past– within 0.1%. I thought this trillion-dollar deficit plan by the geniuses in Congress was supposed to benefit all Americans, and especially the middle class. How shocking that in fact it did nothing, although I can’t help but notice that major corporations are buying back record amounts of their own stock since they’re flush with cash from all this. Funny how that works.

Stupid federal government.

Crazy kingdom

A “normal” game of Dominion includes ten “kingdom” cards. Today Kyra and I played a game with considerably more.

Most of them were cards we hadn’t really experimented with before, so it was kind of an adventure to see how they’d work together. She ended up crushing me, but as always it was fun. Dominion is still my favorite game.

Haircuts

Here are the two most important, beautiful women in my life.

They just got back from a hair salon. I guess both of them felt like it was time for a trim. Kyra wanted to show off her gloriously long locks:

I’m pretty lucky.

I’m a bigger deal than you think

I’m shopping for a new server co-location provider with a datacenter where I can move my hosting business. It’s been kind of funny calling the local companies and starting the conversation with something along the lines of “Hi, I’m Jeff and I own a small hosting business… I was wondering if I could talk to you about server co-location.” I guess many of them only hear the part about a “small hosting business” because they respond with “Ooh, the smallest package we have is for half a rack, and I’m sure that’s much too large for you.”

Then I go on to explain that in fact I’m looking for two or three full cabinets to house my 80+ servers. That definitely gets their attention, and then they start taking me more seriously.

The whole process is going to be a gigantic pain, but it’s necessary and I’m doing my best to have the attitude that it’s an opportunity, not a hassle

Today’s healthcare

Anyone who says our healthcare system works hasn’t had to pay forty bucks to hold their newborn baby in the hospital.

Bakes

Just two short weeks after Kyra finished her mission, she wanted to go back.

So she, Laralee, and I hopped in the car and headed southwest on a crazy road trip to Bakersfield. Kyra thought it would be fun to show us the areas where she served, including old apartments and other haunts, former mission companions, and several of the friends she’d made as she taught the gospel in the area. She also wanted to join her friend, who would be attending the Los Angeles Temple for the first time.

Things didn’t start out well. The forecast for the mountain passes was pretty dire: heavy snow, avalanche warnings, and intermittent closures of I-70. We waited an extra hour before leaving Thursday morning, thinking that would give the road crews some more time to clear the snow. As we hit the highway, we received a text from Megan, in which she casually mentioned that I-70 had been closed (again!) due to avalanche danger near Copper Mountain. I continued driving while Laralee used her phone to check road reports, and after confirming that I-70 was closed for an unknown length of time, we turned back for home.

Back there, we looked at some alternate routes. We could take a wide detour along highway 9, avoiding the closed portion of I-70. It would add a little time, but at least we’d be able to get through the mountains. As we prepared to get back in the car, there was an update from the road crews: highway 9 was closed due to a rockslide. Hmm.

After further consideration, we agreed to take the northern route through Wyoming, along I-80. There were warnings of fog and blowing snow, but at least the interstate was open. We left, and sure enough, for at least fifty miles we drove through thick fog with visibility of only a few hundred feet:

But I-80 remained open, and we made it through Wyoming and into Utah. We learned that an avalanche had indeed closed I-70, covering several cars (no fatalities, fortunately). Since our route had taken a huge bend northward, we were actually in position to cruise through Provo where Alex is living. We called him and asked if he’d like to join us for dinner that night. His girlfriend Kaitlyn came along, as well as our nephew Brandon and his wife Kayla.

It was fun to see all of them again, and to meet Kaitlyn. After some burgers we continued on what was becoming a pretty long day. After a night in a hotel, we passed Baker, California: the home of the gigantic thermometer:

It was only registering in the low 50’s, unlike the last time we’d passed it (a few years ago), when it was near the top at 110 or more.

Eventually we reached Bakersfield, where we stopped at the mission office.

We met Kyra’s former mission president and had a great chat with him. He’s a really busy man, so we were lucky to catch him in the office and have a few minutes together. I’m grateful for the service and sacrifice he gave not only to Kyra, but to some 400 or more missionaries that have come through the mission during his three-year tenure.

We cruised the area, meeting her old companions and friends. Despite being widely known as the “Armpit of California”, both Laralee and I found Bakersfield to be quite nice. Kyra says it probably helped that it had rained the day before, so the smog was gone, and it wasn’t over a hundred degrees. True.

The next morning we picked up a couple of missionaries, crammed them into the back of our car, and headed south to Los Angeles to attend the temple. Sadly, I only had my nifty fifty camera lens, so I couldn’t get a good wide-angle shot of the entire temple.

We took some photos on the temple grounds. Here are Kyra, her (favorite) companion Sister Williams, and an old MTC friend Sister Woodland:

And of course me and my sweetheart.

We drove back from Los Angeles, visited a few more people, saw a few more sights, and decided to get started on our long trip back home. We ended up in Barstow that night.

On Sunday we’d planned to drive about halfway home, stay for a night, and then finish the trip on Monday. But I-70 was once again in dire straits: they were running hourly “avalanche patrols” in helicopters, the road was reported to be icy for about a hundred miles, and we were cautioned about “powder clouds” which are apparently precursors to avalanches. Also, there had been a “record-breaking” avalanche near Aspen. Although it wasn’t directly on our route, clearly there was some concern on the part of the highway department. We decided to take a chance, and bomb it for home in a single day. We girded our loins and headed north.

Along the way we saw gazillions of Joshua trees, and felt like we should stop to see what they felt like. As it turns out, they’re incredibly sharp.

We stopped in St. George to visit Cil and Jim, and had the added bonus of Kenzi and Spencer! All of us enjoyed an awesome two-hour lunch, but then it was time to hit the road again. We took deep breaths and turned east onto I-70, hoping for the best. As it turned out, the interstate was dry almost the entire way. No avalanches, no ice, no powder clouds. We rolled into our driveway at midnight after a one-day drive of almost 950 miles. Total mileage: just over 2,600 in four days, for an average of 650 miles per day. I think that’s a new record for us.

All in all, it was a good time and I’m glad we could support Kyra in visiting everyone. It was fun to see where she’s been hanging out for a year and a half. Now we have to start preparing for another multi-thousand-mile trip to Montana next week…

Phone background

This was the background Kyra managed to set on my phone, without my knowledge.

Yep, that’s my beautiful daughter.

Tiny snowman

Kyra and I saw this miniature snowman at the store. He even has a little snow hat!

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Karma

I’m here to tell you that karma is real.

Going out on a high note

Yesterday was probably my last ski day for at least a few years.

When I first moved to Colorado in 1995, I decided I should probably learn to ski, since everyone around here does. Mel came to visit that winter and was kind enough to show me a few things (she’s a very accomplished skier) and then suggested I pay for a lesson. I didn’t– I just kept practicing until I hit a plateau of mediocrity.

Over the years, I’ve gone skiing every winter, averaging maybe two times each season, and sometimes as many as four or five. Throughout all of it, I’ve maintained that level of mediocrity. I’m not a great skier, but I’m not terrible either. I can hold my own on the blues, and tend to shy away from the blacks (too steep and often too bumpy). It’s been good.

For roughly the past decade, I’ve had a tradition with a group of friends to go out once or twice, and yesterday was our day. We headed up to Copper Mountain and had a fantastic day of skiing. The temperature was perfect: not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not warm enough to turn the snow to slush and ice in the afternoon. It was snowing throughout the day, but not heavily, so there was fresh powder everywhere. I’m used to groomed slopes, so this was a refreshing change and, if I’m honest, a bit of a challenge since I’m not used to navigating powder and carving my own line.

Here’s the gang: Mark, Jer, and Jason.

One of the lifts at Copper has been “renovated”, and has big blue plastic bubbles that lower over the chairs while you’re riding. We laughed at how ridiculous they looked, but after riding the chair, all of us agreed they’re amazing. They’re warm and cozy, you avoid the wind, and they’re quiet so you can have a normal conversation. Maybe in a few years, lifts everywhere will have giant plastic bubbles?

After a great day of powder, we made the traditional stop at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs for some pizza.

I love these guys, and I’m definitely going to miss them (even more than I’ll miss the skiing). But I’ll be back… in a few years.

And probably still mediocre.