Four colors

I looked out the window just now, and saw a cool view of the lake. It’s been snowing all day, and now the lighting really brings out the blue in the distant water. I like how it mixes with the white, green, and brown of the trees.

So many questions

So I stumbled across this picture. Yes, it’s real.

It led to so many questions, like:

  • Where does your wedding ring go?
  • When you’re fingerprinted for a background check, which one gets skipped?
  • Can you ever really give someone “the middle finger”?
  • If you’re getting a manicure, do they charge 20% more for two extra fingers?
  • Can you type faster?
  • Does it feel weird to hold hands with someone?

And of course the obligatory reference to Count Rugin, who needs to have custom gloves made for himself:

Seven trees fewer

After the Thanksgiving wind storm, we’ve been waiting a little nervously for a couple weeks while that huge tree loomed over our house. Today it was cut down, along with six other trees in the yard that were “compromised” and likely to fall on the house in any future storms.

How do you (safely) cut down hundred-foot-tall trees? Well, it’s a pretty cool process to watch. Travis, the arborist, used a bucket truck to slowly ascend this beast, limbing as he went up.

The bucket truck couldn’t quite reach to the very top of the tree– here it is at full extension. But I guess it was enough, because Travis whacked off the top of the tree.

After that, it was a matter of bucking the tree all the way down. He’d cut a foot-long length of trunk and toss it to the ground, where it would make a satisfying thunk.

With maybe forty feet left, he dropped down to the base and toppled the remaining trunk into our driveway. I was a little disappointed he didn’t yell “Timber!

The limbs and leaves went into an industrial chipper (the yellow machine above), and the logs– which are apparently called rounds in lumber lingo– went into a truck. Per our request, they’ll be donated to organizations around the valley who provide firewood for needy families this winter.

Trees near the house weren’t quite so easy; they had to be climbed. Travis put on some boots with massive steel spikes, a safety harness, and up he went. Again, he’d shave off limbs along the way.

It may not look all that impressive, but he’s probably eighty feet above the ground, and acts like it’s nothing. He wields his chainsaw with one hand, using the other to hang onto the branches and toss them to the ground so they don’t land on the roof.

It was sad to see a couple of the trees in a little grove in our backyard come down. They looked perfectly fine, but in his expert opinion, they were compromised and most likely wouldn’t survive another storm.

Here’s a good shot of Travis as he finishes limbing and starts working on taking down the crown of the tree.

I did some quick math. It took him around half an hour to remove one tree, and the bill for that will be a thousand dollars. That’s $2,000 an hour. Clearly I picked the wrong vocation! Even lawyers don’t charge that much. Then again, lawyers don’t come crashing through your roof during a storm…

Anyway, all’s said and done, and our yard is looking a little more bare. It’s a good thing we still have a gazillion (minus seven) trees in the forest all around us!

End of the pumpkins

Every Halloween, I love buying Brach’s mellocreme pumpkins. For some reason they’re vastly better than “regular old” candy corn. Now here we are, mid-December, and I’ve finally reached the end of my bag of pumpkins. I guess I have to wait another ten months before I can have them again.


Pepper and I have slowly been improving at pool. Heck, we inherited a really nice pool table with the house, so we may as well use it, right? We play normal eight-ball, as well as nine-ball (which I prefer). Despite her repeated statements that she’s not very good, I can’t help but notice that Pepper wins at least half the time.

I took a few pictures (my so-called kameraspielen) of the action.

It’s a fun and easy way to spend ten or twenty minutes together. And we can actually tell we’re improving, which is nice.

No more folding chairs

Since we gave away most of our furniture prior to our move, we’ve been improvising a bit while we figure out what we’d like. A couple of weeks ago, Pepper and I found a nice dining set down in Missoula, and a (somewhat) matching coffee- and end-table set. We bought them, hoping to have them in time for Thanksgiving, but no such luck. They had to be shipped from Denver and then scheduled for delivery, and showed up the following week. Thus, we had Thanksgiving dinner at our 23-year-old table, sitting on Walmart folding chairs.

But now that the goods have arrived, they look fabulous. We have a nice table and chairs:

A couple of leaves expand the table to comfortably sit ten. We also have a coffee table for the party room:

And another coffee table and some end tables for the lounge:

I like how these tables incorporate some stone, which (sort of) matches the stone floor in the party room. It almost looks like it was intentional…


Bucking is the term for cutting a tree into manageable chunks, generally firewood-sized. Yesterday we decided to buck the two trees that are laying in our backyard. Here’s the “before” shot of the one that clipped the house:

And here’s what it looks like after I took our chainsaw to it:

Pepper worked on the second tree, first limbing it with our little electric chainsaw and then bucking it with the big saw:

Now we have to take all these firewood-length logs and split them into useable sizes. Luckily we know a guy.

I also sliced a few thin cross-sections of the tree, because Thom and Katie are going to do something with them. Here’s an example of one that’s around 16 inches across:

Maybe I’ll make a few more into cutting boards or coasters or a clock or something. It’s really nice wood, and I hate for it to go to waste.

More trees to come…

Like butter

After the second windstorm, and receiving bids to have our trees felled and bucked (check out my tree lingo), we decided it would be cheaper to buy a chainsaw and do some of the work ourselves. Obviously we’re not about to fell a hundred-foot pine that’s leaning 30 degrees from vertical. But there are several smaller trees in the forest or near our driveway that we could probably take down. And those that are already on the ground just need to be bucked to stock our firewood pile.

So, chainsaw in hand, we headed out today to make some progress on the two trees still partially blocking our driveway. This thing was amazing— it cut through a 16-inch trunk like butter.

After maybe ten minutes of work, we’d cleared the first (big) tree in our driveway, and made short work of the smaller one afterward. Of course, the massive trunks are still laying in the yard, with ten-foot holes where the roots were, but that’s a problem for another day.

The sad thing is both trees were well over a century old, judging by their rings:

It’s a bummer that these giants stood for so long, only to give in right after we moved here. Stupid wind.

Thanksgiving hurricane

In September we had a crazy wind storm that took out three trees in our yard, including one that swiped the side of the house. Everyone told us this was unprecedented, including people who had lived in the area for thirty years or more.

Well, they say lightning strikes twice, but in this case it was the wind. The day before Thanksgiving we had a second wind storm that was just as fierce as the one two months earlier, except it lasted a full day. Winds gusted above 60 mph. We watched as trees in our yard swayed back and forth, tugging at the ground (you could actually see the ground heaving as the trees’ roots pulled at it). We were absolutely convinced that at least two of the trees were going to smash into the house, doing far more damage than the September storm because they were taller and closer to the house.

As it turned out, the enormous tree in our front yard tore loose and toppled. Pepper, Kyra, and I watched it fall (Pepper even caught it on video). It crashed through two trees downwind, clipping the top halves off both of them. The entire mess came crashing down into the driveway, and left a mammoth hole in the yard. Another tree fell across the next switchback in the driveway.

Here’s the tree laying across the yard. Note the huge boulder in the bottom right: that had been up at the roots of the tree (part of the landscaping along our sidewalk) and tumbled down the hill.

The wind howled all day and night. We hoped against hope that the two trees beside the house would hold. They did. When the wind finally abated on Thanksgiving, we surveyed the damage.

A tall pine beside the driveway collapsed. It didn’t damage anything, but it’s sad to lose such a pretty tree.

In our backyard, another tree had fallen (luckily not hitting anything at all). In the national forest behind us, we could see roughly a dozen trees down. Perhaps most precarious of all was the ponderosa pine leaning over our garage and the courtyard:

It’s at least a hundred feet tall. And yes, it’s really 30 degrees off vertical. If it collapsed, it would crush the garage and ruin the courtyard fence and much of the landscaping there. Luckily for us, the tree’s roots were holding and it was leaning slightly against an outcropping of rocks at the end of our driveway. When an arborist came to survey the damage, he told us confidently that the tree will hold for a little while. Taking it down will be a trick, but he should be able to do it with a bucket truck, sawing off the upper portion. That’ll be something to see.

There are five other trees in our yard that are “compromised” (in his words) and endangering the house. If we don’t remove them, the next wind storm will certainly take them down and crunch the house. All told, there’s around six thousand dollars of cutting and dismantling to be done. Atop that, there’s probably four thousand dollars of cleanup as we remove the massive root balls and fill the gaping holes with topsoil. Ouch.

Needless to say, it was a stressful day, but in the end the house wasn’t hit. I have friends who experienced much worse, with dozens of trees down and damage to their houses. The place across the street has a hundred-and-fifty-foot tree laying across its roof, and three others down in the backyard. Power lines up and down the highway were taken out by falling limbs. It looks like a hurricane ripped through the east side of the valley.

So, as I considered what I was thankful for this week, the fact that we escaped relatively unscathed was on top of my list. Yeah, it’s a mess, but it could be worse. Now we’ve bought a chainsaw, and over the next days and weeks we’re going to attack the fallen trees and clear them. On the bright side, we should have enough firewood to last a long, long time.

Buddy Zaque

Zaque just sent me a quick email:

There’s these two old guys in my ward who claim I’m the spitting image of “Buddy Holly”, and I can’t look things up on Google. So a picture of him would be fun, because I’m “Buddy Holly reincarnated for the Lord.”

Since he doesn’t know who Buddy Holly is, or looks like, I figured I’d do some quick photo work. Here’s a classy old photo of Buddy:

And here’s one of Zaque a few months ago:

See the resemblance?

How about now?

Hey I got a story

As Zaque continues serving his mission, he has opportunities every Monday to write emails to people (which I forward on to a larger group), and if he’d like, he can use Google Hangouts to chat with his family. For the past two weeks, he’s attempted to chat with me, but both times Pepper and I were in the middle of something– once in town, and once at a friend’s house– so we couldn’t engage. Last week he chatted with Kyra, and this was one thing he wrote to her:


So basically I came home and decided I wanted grilled cheese. Like realllllllllly wanted grilled cheese. So I made 3 grilled cheeses and drank a big glass of milk. So I’m just like, “Shoot, I won’t be able to poop for a week!” So then I just start eating a bunch of Hot Cheetos, hoping that they will, through black magic, somehow cancel each other out and I can poop regularly.

Not gonna lie. My poopin’s been good.

So I guess it worked. It’s all about the miracles of God.


It’s not often I get annoyed by a box of graham crackers.

But seriously, when I open a new box and find that the top inch of the box is empty space, and there’s around half an inch of gap on the sides as well, it’s annoying. They could easily have fit another 2-3 crackers horizontally, and just shortened the box to the height of the bags inside it. What’s with all the tomfoolery here?

Trivial friends

Pepper and I headed up to Flathead Brewing Co, which is a local brewpub that hosts a trivia night every Wednesday evening. We knew the food was good (we’ve been there before) and we were looking for something social.

When we walked in, we met a small group of friends who invited us to join their team. Although we did horribly (the categories were things like “presidential nicknames” and “birthstones”), we had a good time chatting with our new friends. We stayed well after the game was over, talking about the area, our lives, our kids, and so on. It was a ton of fun.

At the close of the evening we bid farewell to Ashley, Cheryl, and Adam… hopefully we’ll go back some future Wednesday and team up with them again!


Out of the blue, I just got a text from Bech:

So of course I pulled out a piece of scratch paper and did some math. I sent the answer back, and we agreed it was right (he doesn’t actually know the correct answer, so he had done the math as well).

Then Pepper walked into the room and asked why I was doing math on a piece of scratch paper. I showed her the text. She just shook her head and said, “You guys are such nerds.”

Our own street!

All along Highway 35, people have fake road signs posted by their driveways. I think it’s mainly because on the east side, driveways simply meander up into the forest without any clear markings, making it difficult to find houses as you’re flying past at 50mph. Our postman, George, told us that many years ago, the Postal Service allowed some of the people to change their fake streets into real “addressable” roads. For example, our friends the Zavalas were able to create Zavala Lane, and you can find it on Google Maps and write a letter to that address.

Although we can’t have an official USPS street in our name, we needed a way to help people find our house. After deciding against the Easter Island head idea, we opted for a fake road sign. Today we put it up!

Now we won’t have to navigate using the red van (which is no longer there) or even the mailbox with a lawnmower. We can just tell people to turn into Cosmo and Pepper’s Place. Boom.

Cool streets

In Spokane there are streets called Thor and Freya. Cool!

Study in Blue

The other day I had my cell phone in the vest pocket of my blue jacket, and I heard a bunch of beeps. Apparently I bumped the button somehow and took a whole series of pictures. Here’s a compilation of all nine shots, which are basically photos of the inside of my jacket pocket.

Clearly I should be an artist!

RIP neoBox

When I first struck out on my own, I named my new company L5. It was in reference to the Lagrangian Point in astrophysics– I’m a rocket scientist, after all. Within a few months I’d realized that L5 was a horrible name for a company, not only because it doesn’t mean anything to people who aren’t rocket scientists, but because the domain–– had its own set of problems. Is that a lowercase “L” at the beginning? A capital “I”? The number “1”? Is the “5” an “S”? And so on. A new name was in order, and after at least ten minutes of thought I came up with neoBox. If nothing else, the logo was breathtaking.

Umm, yeah. A graphic designer I’m not.

Anyway, neoBox was born and it took a few years before a second renaming landed on Zing Studios (with the help of my partner Lily, who’s much better at marketing than me). But for the past eighteen years, I’ve owned the domain, even though the company has technically been defunct for nearly that entire time.

Now it’s time to renew the domain, and I’m going to have to let it die. There’s no reason to perpetuate it, and the dozens of email addresses I’ve used over the years will just have to bounce.

So, another (small) piece of my business history will be relegated to the trash heap of history. Sayonara, neoBox.


Over the weekend, we trucked out to Wenatchee to visit Thom and Katie. Although they’d already been to our new house twice, we still hadn’t been to their almost-a-year-old “new” house. The architecture of their house is definitely unique: a mix of modern (roughly ten years old) and an old farmhouse (right around a century old).

In true form, Thom and Katie took us on a hike into the hills behind their house. It was a beautiful day– a little chilly, but in mid-November you expect that.

Julian showed off his parkour skills at the trailhead:

We missed the height of the fall colors, but the trees were still pretty.

The hike took us through a gorgeous golden meadow.

Sefton alternated between running up the trail to catch up to Noni (aka Julian), and being carried in a backpack or on shoulders. To a two-year-old, there’s always something to point at in excitement.

At the summit, we had a commanding view of the entire Wenatchee Valley. I can see why Thom loves this area.

Although we couldn’t (quite) see their house behind the ridges, we could see the entire city spread beneath us.

Julian took some great photos. And I took one of him taking one of me.

Julian installed some retro game emulator, and we had a grand time playing Tetris and Mario Bros (the ones from the early 90’s). Katie fired up Mario Kart, which is somewhat of a disappointment after playing the updated Wii version.

On Saturday we went up to Leavenworth, which is a fun little town whose theme is “Bavarian”, to the point where all the businesses are required by statute to use certain German-looking script fonts. Even the Subway has this font, rather than its usual logo. The town was decked out for the holidays, and the lights were pretty cool.

Also, we found a shark hat and a giant bear. What a great city!

We hiked along Icicle Creek, which is a pretty hike that heads up into the Enchantments. It was, in fact, the same trail Thom and Katie came down after their wedding. I managed to get a nice shot of the creek:

And a few fall colors, for good measure.

On Sunday went on a ten-mile bike ride across the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers. It was a ton of fun, and the trail was populated by other bikers and walkers out to enjoy the nice weather. Sefton was in heaven, because not only did we ride (and walk) across bridges…

… but we rode a 10-gauge mini railroad! What two-year-old wouldn’t love that? Thom, on the other hand, appeared to be underwhelmed by the train. (Pepper is having fun in the back with the caboose guy.)

We loved the weekend and can totally understand why Thom and Katie decided to make Wenatchee their new home.