In preparation for our annual White Elephant Christmas party, I wanted to come up with a goofy gift that topped last year’s sexy fireman puzzle of my friend Kim. (That’s a bit of a story.) With help from Doug’s wife Chelsey, and a bit of graphic editing, I came up with this. I’m pretty pleased, and I’m looking forward to the moment when some unwitting soul opens the gift and Doug sees it…
When you have married kids, they have to perform the annual “holiday juggle”, splitting time between families. This year happens to be an in-laws Christmas, meaning Alex and Kaitlyn will be with her family. Since we can lay claim to Thanksgiving, we invited all the kids to come up to Montana for the week. Julian came out as well, and we had a full house.
There were, naturally, a lot of board games. Zack’s wearing a scarf because he had a head cold and felt like his mouth kept getting dry. Apparently wearing a scarf kept his lips and mouth moist?
There were some intense games of Mario Kart. We talked about having a family tournament, but let’s be honest: Zack and Kyra are the undisputed champions, and leave the rest of us in the dust.
Ollie loved having all the space in our house. It’s a nice change from the somewhat cramped quarters he’s used to in the college apartment. He also decided he liked his noodle bowl better as a hat than a bowl.
On Thanksgiving Day, it was all hands on deck as we prepared the meal. Everyone chose a favorite dish and was responsible for making it. But now that I think about it, I don’t remember Alex actually choosing or making anything. Instead, he kind of hung around the kitchen and sampled everything else…
Although they were here for almost a week, the time flew past and before we knew it, everyone was heading back to Utah and Washington. We snapped one last photo before the group split up.
As always, I’m eternally grateful for these good folks in my life. It’s nice to be reminded to be thankful.
It’s cold today. After a week of 30-degree-ish weather (and a lot of snow), the mercury dropped into the teens. Today I was driving along Flathead Lake and saw water condensing on the water. As I write that, it sounds weird, but maybe this picture will help:
A few miles to the south is a great outlook over the lake, and I was able to capture a shot showing all the wisps of cloud sliding across the lake:
My cell phone camera doesn’t really do justice to it, but it was cool to watch this evanescent fog moving with the wind.
When we returned from our road trip, we were surprised to see very few trees had turned color. Of course, the majority of this area is blanketed in fir and pine, so it’s green year-round. But the larch are typically a spectacular yellow, and we didn’t see much sign of that.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and the trees are in full fiery color. Here’s one at my friend Doug’s house:
On the highway along the lakeshore, there’s a stretch that’s simply astonishing. I took these photos from a speeding car on a mostly cloudy day, so they don’t really do justice to the incredible yellows.
Back home, we have splashes of color all around us. Here’s a bush alongside our driveway:
And the national forest behind the house:
I’ve been hoping for a sunny day so I can go out and take some amazing photos, but it’s not in the cards. The forecast has been basically clouds, rain, and cold for a few weeks. Still, it’s been fun driving along the highway admiring these colors.
It’s that time of year again… my favorite holiday. Mostly it’s because I can dress up and act like a child, but I admit the abundant sugar plays into it a little too.
I decided to throw a Halloween party, and managed to talk enough people into it that it grew into a massive event involving around 200 people. Costumes are always paramount at such an event, and I spent some time considering what to wear. I blew the dust off my old costume box and looked at what I had on hand. There was Doc Brown from a few years back, and an old Waldo costume. I found the components of my Dread Pirate Roberts outfit (probably my favorite costume to date). There were also the makings of a good pirate costume.
Looking through the box reminded me of all those times I wore costumes to work (and again), to seminary (again), and even to the grocery store. I may not be considered a kid, but I can sure act like one.
In the end, I pulled out my trusty old Jedi robe. Although I was wearing a sweet chunky plastic lightsaber I dug up from our storage closet (my boys’ old toy stash), my friend Matthew happened to have a more realistic lightsaber at the party. It glowed, hummed, and even changed color! The result worked out nicely:
Okay, fine, it’s possible I changed the background after Pepper took the photo. But the costume overall was a hit. I kept getting harrassed by some six-year-old dressed as Optimus Prime, asking me to show him my Jedi powers. It was a great time.
On a related note, I happened to stumble across an article by Faith Hill, entitled “Adult Halloween Is Stupid, Embarrassing, and Very Important”. In it, she writes:
When I was a kid, fun felt really fun. Reading a book was completely immersive; chasing the dog around the yard was transcendent; running a fake restaurant with rocks as potatoes was the honor of a lifetime. The absolute peak, though, was Halloween. I can still recall bounding down the sidewalk in the cool October air, chuffed to be out late, drunk on the maniacal power that comes from knocking on strangers’ doors and demanding candy.
It’s not that, as an adult, I don’t do anything that could be called fun; it’s just that fun doesn’t feel quite the same as it used to. Getting dinner with friends is lovely. My little neighborhood stroll is nice. Standing around at a party and shouting over music to catch up with acquaintances is… fine. I just no longer experience the deep, whimsical joy that a rock potato could once bring. Still, I believe in chasing the ghost of my former lighthearted self. And if there’s one day when I might almost catch up, it’s Halloween: the most ridiculous, inherently childish holiday, and perhaps the one grown-ups need most.
I feel the same way! She continues in a more serious tone:
Adults really do require fun. Studies have shown that play– something done purely for enjoyment– is linked to higher life satisfaction, boosted creativity, and improved cognitive health. It can help people cope with stress and facilitate learning, bonding, and communication. Some researchers warn of “play deprivation”, which can leave you tense and grumpy. Human adults have the baggage of grief, of responsibility, of higher priorities, like paying taxes or finding your life’s purpose.
The Halloween holiday presents a fleeting chance to stop taking ourselves so seriously. In order to shed our formal facade, we might need to humble ourselves by putting on a new facade, just for one night.
Preach, sister! I’ll continue looking forward to Halloween every year, and telling myself it’s an important part of my mental health routine.
For a while I’ve been toying with building a new computer, to take advantage of advances in GPUs and disks. I finally sat down and picked out all the parts I needed. I laid them all out on my desk and went to work.
These mini-ATX motherboards are so incredibly compact. They squeeze a lot of stuff in about 64 square inches.
It took a while to plug everything in and route the various wires around the chassis. When it was ready, I plugged it in and hit the power button. Fans whirred and LEDs glowed green. I was in business!
After installing the operating system and copying all my data across, I was ready to roll. Wow, everything is snappier! With my fancy new GPU, my photo processing in DarkTable is 10x faster and I’m able to play around with Stable Diffusion. My new machine-learning hobby is about to begin…