Mission vs Salish

As we were driving home tonight, we came down into the Flathead Valley near St Ignatius, and wow was the sunset amazing.

Here’s the view of the Mission Mountains, on the east side of the valley:

And here are the Salish Mountains, on the west side:


Happy birthday to us

So it’s time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of my 25th birthday. About a week from now, Pepper will hit another prime-number milestone birthday. Both of us struggle with gifts to give one another (and what to ask each other for), so we decided to celebrate this milestone with a slightly bigger gift than usual.

We bought a house.

Well, okay, technically it’s a townhouse, meaning we don’t have to do anything outside. With all three kids living in the same city in Utah while they attend college, we agree it’s important we visit them as often as we can, before they graduate and scatter wherever their jobs and families take them. It’s tricky to spend a lot of time in their apartments, since they’re cramped and have roommates everywhere. Staying at short-term rentals for Thanksgiving and Christmas worked well, but it’s a hassle and frankly kind of expensive for what you get. Why not just buy a little townhouse where we can stay when we visit, and have the kids come over and join us?

Unfortunately, the housing market is kind of nightmarish right now, so “little townhouse” doesn’t really work. We were hoping for something with a bedroom or two and a nice family room where we could all gather. From what I can tell, such a thing doesn’t exist. In this area, you can either buy a dumpy college apartment (complete with student tenants locked into contracts that don’t expire for another six months), or a huge single-family home on a postage-stamp lawn. I finally tracked down a few townhouses, and although they were all larger than we’d intended, we felt like we had to take what was on offer. After a few failed attempts to buy something, we landed this one. The whole process was lightning-quick– at least by real-estate standards– and we went from offer to closing in about three weeks.

Now we have a nice “little” place near the kids! There’s a decent kitchen…

… and Alex has already settled into the front room.

We celebrated my birthday by driving from Montana to Utah, then hung out with the gang. For Pepper’s birthday, we’re going to drive back up to Montana. Fair’s fair… if we had to drive on my birthday, we should certainly drive on hers as well.

All in all, it’s been kind of a crazy few weeks, and I admit there were a couple of times I said to myself, are we really doing this? But I think The Villa (as we call it, because it’s part of a development called Tuscan Villas) is going to prove to be a lot of fun and a great way to spend some quality family time together.

Good times in the snow

Thom, Katie, and their two kiddos stopped in for a visit this weekend. We had a great time with them. The weather was absolutely gorgeous– unseasonably warm and sunny for early February, which made for some nice days out in the snow.

We went skiing (of course).

Sefton, who just turned five, strapped on his cute little skis and managed to take a run down the mountain. This particular run is called “Widowmaker”, although that’s not really an apt name since it’s pretty gentle. Still, this was Sefton’s third time on skis ever and he did great.

We also went hiking (of course). We grabbed snowshoes and headed up north of Whitefish (near the Canadian border) but when we arrived we found that the trail had been packed down pretty well by previous snowshoers, so we just needed crampons. It was a beautiful hike to a lake, and Sefton was a champ. He made it a full five miles, chattering and laughing the entire way.

As always, it felt like their visit was over too quickly. We’re hoping to get out to their place in a few months, and then have them back for a summer visit so we can play on the water…

Pet peeve

As someone who knows a lot about computer networks, it bothers me when I watch movies where they show people “hacking” computers and– to add to the realism, I guess– there’s a bunch of gibberish text on a green screen. Often when I look closely (yes, I do that) I see impossible IP addresses.

A proper IPv4 address will have four numbers, separated by periods, where each number is between 0 and 255. Full stop. So when I see things like

# ssh 510.72.614.12

Access granted!

it just… makes me cringe.

Anyway, I can give a pass to the movie folks, but today I was doing some research about static addresses and I came across this helpful banner on an IP provider’s web page:


While the movie folks are excused, a company whose actual business model is selling dedicated IP addresses should absolutely not have an impossible address in their example.

Of course it’s ridiculous that I was so upset by this that I took the time to write this blog post. But pet peeves are a funny thing…

Not Hot Tub

It’s been pretty chilly for about a month now, with temperatures hovering in the teens most days. We figured it was a waste of electricity to keep our hot tub simmering at 104 degrees, so I unplugged it. Now, with Thom and Katie coming to visit, and the temperatures climbing into the 30’s, it seemed like a good idea to fire it up again.

I shoveled all the snow and ice out of the way and opened it up. Hmm.

That’s a half-inch of ice across the surface of the tub. I punched through it and managed to break it into chunks, but the water is kind of “stale”– meaning it’s been in the tub for a few months now– and there’s some sediment I’d like to clear out. That means draining all the water, vacuuming and drying the interior, and then refilling it. Oh, and then cranking the heat again. All in 30-something-degree weather.

Sorry, Thom and Katie, no hot tub this time around.


I feel like I post a lot of sunset photos here, because the western view from our house over the lake is so amazing. But this morning I caught a brilliant sunrise as Pepper and I were leaving seminary. Here’s what it looked like from the church building:

Six minutes later, as I was driving to Kalispell:

It was barely past 7:30… a reminder that the days are getting longer. Soon enough the sun will be coming up at 6am!

Shoveling vs plowing

Another 8 inches of snow fell last night. Fortunately we’d parked our car at the bottom of the driveway, so we hiked down and headed off to seminary. When we came back home, we both agreed we needed to shovel the really treacherous parts so they wouldn’t get a chance to add another layer of ice atop the one already there. There are three particularly dangerous areas where the slope is steep and there are drop-offs… and naturally those are areas that build up a lot of ice which doesn’t seem to melt much.

We went to work. Looking up the hill, it’s pretty impressive to behold:

It was funny to think how we used to gripe about all 60 feet of our driveway in Longmont. Shoveling that seemed like such a chore. Now here we are, working on a driveway that’s almost half a mile long.

Fortunately the snow is pretty powdery today, so we made (relatively) quick work of it. Once we reached the bottom, we hoisted our shovels and trekked back up.

About an hour later, I heard a truck outside. Todd, our “plow guy”, was climbing the hill in his big pickup. We had no idea he was coming, or even that he would– the last time he was here, he said our driveway is “the worst I’ve ever seen” and seemed pretty hesitant to even tackle it. But I guess he felt like he could make it. He must’ve been a little surprised to see it already cleared! Fortunately he had a load of sand in the back, so I asked him to spread the sand as he went back down. Combined with our shoveling efforts, the sand should at least make the driveway navigable again.

It’s crazy how much I obsess about this dang driveway. Knowing I can get down to the highway without (1) hiking and (2) crampons is actually kind of a relief. Here’s hoping some warm weather in the next few days will whittle away at that bottom layer of ice, and we won’t have to keep spending mental– and physical– energy on this!

Bigger is, indeed, better

Costco was having a killer sale on 32″ QHD monitors, so I picked up a few. I swapped out my trusty fifteen-year-old Hanns-G monitors (a mere 28″ each) for these bad boys:

Holy pixels, Batman! They’re awesome. Not only do I have almost seven linear feet of monitors from left to right, they’re much higher resolution than my old ones. That means there’s more crisp detail, and my browser windows and editors and emails and documents all have substantially more space. I’m lovin’ this.

Ice: 3, us: 1

It’s been a few weeks since our driveway turned into a hillside ice rink, and in those weeks we’ve been defeated twice. One morning we were heading to seminary (in the dark, as usual) and completely lost control of our car. We slid around 30 feet before coming to an uncertain stop, and immediately decided we weren’t going to keep going down. We texted all of the kids in our class right there to tell them not to show up that morning.

Yesterday things were good in the morning; a few warm(ish) days had melted some snow and shrunk the icy patches. We could even see gravel along stretches of the driveway! But it started to snow, and six hours later the driveway was covered in white. Now we couldn’t distinguish the “good areas” with traction on the gravel from the bad ones where there were still sheets of ice. This time, going downhill led to us sliding and spinning, eventually ending up stopped perpendicular to the driveway! Yikes. We pre-emptively cancelled seminary this morning.

So the ice beat us thrice, but we weren’t done fighting. We can’t keep cancelling things and hunker down in our house all winter. Last week we’d ordered some v-bar chains, which are specialized tire chains equipped with v-shaped spikes. They look like this:

Regular chains would just slide on the ice, but these things bite into it. Naturally they’re a pain to install, and since we only need them for the driveway (the roads are clear), it’s quite a chore to put them on at the house, drive down, and then take them off before heading out. Then again, it’s not like we have a lot of options. Today we slipped on the chains and headed down to pick up some packages that had been delivered.

Speaking of the packages, they were kind of funny:

I found a killer deal on monitors at Costco, so I ordered four of them. Of course we have a little mailbox (on the left in the photo) but any time we have packages, they’re placed in the blue bin we have a little off the highway. There’s no way UPS is going to come up the driveway to even the first switchback. I didn’t want all that equipment sitting in plain view of the road, so we had to go down to get them.

Anyway, after bringing the monitors up to the house, we turned around and went back down again and parked the car at the bottom. We took off the chains, and now it’s ready to drive out in the morning for seminary. We hiked back up wearing our crampons.

These things are amazing on the ice. They bite right in, and we don’t slip at all. I guess the v-bars are sort of like crampons for tires.

So, tomorrow we’ll get up extra early so we can don crampons and hike down in the black morning, climb into our cold car, and head out. This driveway sure doesn’t make things easy for us. But at least we have a way to defeat it now.