I don’t know if “kameraspielen” is even a word, but if not then I think I’ll make it one. It means “playing with a camera” in German, and as I continue to work on improving my photography, I’m just playing around to learn the tricks of the trade. Today I popped in the prime lens for my Nikon D90 and took a few shots around the house. I’m working on lighting, f-stops, depth of field, that sort of thing.

Then I download the photos to my computer and mess around with Darktable, which is a fantastic photo-editing package. That’s where I’m learning things about levels and contrast and base curves. Digital photography absolutely relies on good post-processing.

So, at my desk as I was running through different tools in Darktable, I saw my little Lego guys and figured I’d take a few shots. Here’s my favorite minifig, King Arthur with the Holy Grail:


And my second-favorite, the generic pirate, complete with parrot and treasure map:


Longtime readers may remember when these guys first showed up.

Thom gave me a thick book on photography techniques, which I’m going to start reading in hopes of learning more. And then, more kameraspielen.

Kyra and Laralee decided to sit down and play a duet on the piano. It’s not really a duet– they’re each playing one hand of a two-handed piece. But it’s pretty funny to watch them work through it, keeping time so they’re in the same place.



I, of course, am still limited to right-hand-only playing, because I can barely read music. One of these days…

This is an actual conversation between me and Zaque this morning:

Zaque: When I grow up, I’m going to live next door to a dump.

Me: No one wants to live next door to a dump.

Zaque: No, it’ll be great. My house will be cheaper, and I’ll be able to get all kinds of free stuff!

It’s tough to go to work when the rest of the family is sitting around at home enjoying their Christmas break.

I actually threw a party this morning (yes, 9am on a Monday morning) and had to kick everyone out at 11am because I had to go to the office. That ain’t right…

Earlier today, Kyra flew into Denver from Salt Lake City so she can spend a few weeks with us during BYU’s Christmas break. I picked her up at the airport around noon and we went out for a long lunch, then ran some errands. Around 3:00 we were driving home when Laralee texted her to ask where she was.

I joked “You should tell her your flight was delayed and you’re still in Salt Lake City.”

So of course she did. Laralee texted back something like “You’re kidding, right?” to which Kyra replied “I wish. This is so frustrating.”

She and I laughed a bit, then said, “I’ll bet mom will call me now.” A few seconds later, her phone rang. Hah! So she answered, and kept up the story about how her flight had been cancelled due to bad weather over the mountains, and the airline people were looking for other options, and she had been talking with me about what to do. In the midst of this conversation, she was laughing hysterically. Laralee, who was sort of frantic at this point, thought she was sobbing. So she was comforting Kyra and telling her we’d get it sorted out. I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

We were only a few minutes from home, and Kyra kept things going until we pulled into the driveway, when she abruptly told Laralee that she had to go because “Dad’s calling me back with some news”. I pulled into the garage and she ran into the house. I think Laralee didn’t know whether to yell at her for being so mean, or hug her because everything was okay.

It was so awesome. That’s exactly the sort of thing I would do (which is probably why Laralee often distrusts me when I tell her things). It was hilarious to watch Kyra do it so masterfully.

This is my friend Tom, who is one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.


I love this picture because it’s so… him. He actually has a huge whiteboard at his house, and often has cryptic equations like this scattered all over it. He does this sort of thing for fun. I miss the days where I actually understood this kind of math…

A few nights ago we had “make your own dinner” because we were all going different directions and couldn’t eat together. Later in the evening, here’s the actual conversation I had with Zaque:

Z: Dad, can I have some ice cream?
J: I guess, if you had a good dinner.
Z: I did. [Heads to kitchen to get ice cream]
J: What did you have?
Z: A cracker and some milk.


A few months ago, Zack decided to change how he spells his name. Everywhere he uses his name– high school classwork, online forms, video games, etc.— he’s taken to using “Zaque”. Clever? Sure. Weird? Absolutely.

For a long time I resisted using that spelling when I referred to him, but Laralee pointed out that we need to be supportive of his quirks. It reminded me of the scene from The Italian Job where Napster insists on being called Napster (rather than Lyle) and won’t answer to anything else. So okay, if Zaque insists on doing this, I suppose there’s a footnote in a parenting handbook somewhere that says I should support him in it.

Recently a few people have seen this, and remarked to me, “That’s how you spell his name now?” to which I’ve replied, “No, that’s how he spells his name.”

We’ll see if this lasts into adulthood, or if it’s just the passing phase of a quirky (but clever) fifteen-year-old…

I have a habit of buying cool new neckties every few months. Normally it happens when Kohl’s sends me a postcard in the mail with an offer like “get $10 off your $20 purchase”. That’s a pretty good deal, so I’ll head over to Kohl’s and look at their ties (specifically the Jerry Garcia collection). The ties are usually marked at $40 “retail” but always seem to be on sale for about $20. With my discount, I walk out with a $40 (supposedly) tie for $10. Not bad.

Anyway, a few years ago Laralee told me that I had enough ties, and certainly didn’t need to keep buying more. I protested that in fact a man can never have enough ties, and they were good deals. She persisted.

I wear a dress shirt and tie to seminary every day, so I decided to do an experiment to see how many ties I really have. (Yes, I could’ve counted them, but what’s the fun in that?) I explained to my class that I’d be wearing a different tie every day, and we’d see how long I lasted. So, on the first day of the semester, it began.

After 59 days I wore my last tie: a gem that Dad gave me, and which probably dates back to the late 1970’s (carbon dating was inconclusive). That was just two weeks shy of finishing the entire semester without repeating a tie!

So I had to conclude that Laralee is probably, in fact, correct. I do have too many ties. I was even at Kohl’s the other day, coupon in hand, and looked longingly at a few ties but didn’t buy them– I bought some nice winter socks instead.

Just for fun, I took a picture of myself in my tie each day, after I returned home from teaching. The lighting wasn’t all that great (it was still early) and let’s face it: cell phone cameras aren’t stellar. Many of the photos are dark or blurry, although I think they still show off The Collection pretty well.

First, an animated GIF showing all 59:


And for more detail, the full mosaic:


Now it’s back to the beginning of the rotation…

Brent was the hero of the office today when he went out to Walmart to buy space heaters for everyone (except Brian, who was strangely resistant to the idea) to solve our heating problem. Sure, we blew a circuit plugging them all in, but eventually sorted it out by snaking extension cords around the office. Now we’re all warm and toasty.

I’m the guy who can’t stand tags and labels on things, so of course I decided to snip the huge warning label off the cord on my heater.


Yeah, that’s me: living dangerously by removing the tag. Woo!

One doughnut to rule them all, one doughnut to find them…


… one doughnut to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

So we bought a new refrigerator the other day. We were at Lowe’s and noticed they had a killer sale on all of their major appliances. By “killer” I mean most of them were about half-price. Our fridge is at least sixteen years old, and although it’s been running like a champ, you never know when it’ll give up the ghost. And, as Kurt pointed out to me, when your fridge dies, you run to the store and take whatever they can deliver in the next few days.


This one is black, which means for the first time in our twenty years of marriage we’ll have a fridge that actually matches our other appliances. It has side-by-side doors and is a little wider and deeper than the old one, so we have more room for food. Interestingly enough, two kids have moved away and another will be leaving soon, so we actually have less food these days. The freezer is a huge drawer in the bottom (bottom freezers are so much better).

So all’s well, and we expect to be happy with this guy for at least sixteen more years. But now we have a problem: what do we do with an old, but perfectly working, refrigerator?

We just finished stuffing everything into a big box to ship off to Alex, who’s down in Lima Peru for the second Christmas in a row.


We wrapped a bunch of little gifts for him and his companion, added all kinds of food that he can’t buy in Peru, and jammed in a variety of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (I even found one of those huge packages which has two half-pound cups.) Unless he gives some away to his companion and the kids and families he visits, he’ll end up with a sugar rush through mid-April.

It’s kind of a bummer not to be with him for Christmas (again), but we’ll have a chance to talk with him for the third time since he left. I know the stuff he’s doing is important and worth it. Merry Christmas, Elder Schroeder.