Zack’s Halloween

Zack put together a pretty sweet costume this year! I’m not sure about the conversation that led to this– heck, I’m not even sure who the lovely lady is– but I’m impressed.

For a kid who typically put the absolute minimum effort into his costumes, he outdid himself. Naturally I couldn’t resist a little photo editing:


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.

The new rig

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…

5,346 miles, 6 states, and 114 people

So we took another road trip.

It’s been a while since we visited Mom and Dad in St Louis, and since fall is such an incredible time of year, we decided to drive the 1,700-mile route. Along the way we made stops in Colorado to visit friends we haven’t seen since moving to Montana three years ago, more friends in Kansas and Missouri, and finally some time with friends and our kids in Utah. Four weeks later, we’d traveled through 6 states (multiple times) and put 5,346 miles on our car.

More importantly, though, we saw so many amazing people. It was awesome to have places to stay wherever we went, hang out with old friends, enjoy favorite restaurants, and marvel at the perfect fall weather. Out of curiosity, I counted the people we spent time with, and came up with 114 of them. Take a deep breath…

Thanks for hanging out with us Lizzy, Talise, Chelsea, Shelli, Alyssa, Alek, Dave, Chan, Steve, James, Larry, Roger, Rhys, Deb, Judy, Malcolm, Kyra, Ryan, Shyrl, Sheree, Craig, Jeremy, Tom, Damon, Steve, Larry, Paco, Nick, Alex, Cathy, Vanessa, Kathy, Mariah, Hannah, DJ, Arianna, Alex, Brian, Matt, Tim, Alex, Jensen, Kari, Karen, Anne, Cindy, Katie, John, Dylan, Jon, Carolyn, Jason, Zack, Kohl, Faith, Mike, Sky, Suzanne, Louise, Greg, Marlene, Annie, Hugh, Scott, Sam, Johnna, Bryce, Dick, Kat, Zane, Lexi, Ollie, Mom, Mitch, Jodi, Chiarlo, Matt, Rocio, Thom, Sawyer, Del, Brendan, Matt, Fly, Mel, Murren, Mattheus, Kaden, Dad, Touk, Mark, Jeremiah, Travis, Brooke, Judy, Doug, Guy, Kaitlyn, Nick, Rick, Annette, Gavin, Brooke, Sybrina, Chad, Greg, Ben, Lacey, Dave, Neil, Sean, Storm, Jer, and Theo!


As I scroll through this blog now and then, I can’t help but notice how many photos of sunsets I post. I guess I just like them.

To wit, here’s another one we saw as we were driving through Montana on our way home…

Branching out

We’ve had our Tesla for a little over a year, and taken it on several epic road trips. We’ve had great success charging at Tesla’s so-called Superchargers; they seem to be spaced just far enough apart that we can make it from one to the next. Montana is a little sketchy because there’s one particular stretch that’s tricky in the winter (when battery efficiency is lower). But so far, no troubles.

Despite that, it seemed prudent to have more options than just Tesla’s charging network, so we procured a CCS adapter which will allow us to use any CCS charging station (that’s one of several “standards” in the electric vehicle industry, J-1772 and CHAdeMO being others). Just for kicks, we figured we’d give it a whirl today. We pulled up to an Electrify America station and plugged in.

It worked great, and we enjoyed lunch an easy hundred-yard walk away while the car charged.

With more options, charging has become slightly less stressful, and as America builds out a nationwide charging network (using CCS) it’ll be even more of a breeze than it already is. Sweet!

It actually happened…

… I finished a house project that went completely according to plan. Most of the time I get halfway into a project only to discover it’s more complicated than I thought, I don’t have the right tools, I’m missing a part, or it’s just going to require a professional.

Today I replaced several light switches, and every one of them worked perfectly after being swapped out. Whoa.

I won’t let it go to my head, though. I’m sure the next house project will be an unmitigated disaster.


Continuing our annual tradition, Thom and I talked about a “fall trip” and spitballed some ideas for destinations in Utah. I suggested a few ambitious trails up in the Uintas, and he kind of shrugged it off and said we should hit the desert. We often go to the mountains, so it makes sense to take advantage of all that amazing red rock in the Beehive State. We agreed on the Canyonlands.

As always, it was a great opportunity for me to practice my photography. It’s probably interesting for people to watch the two of us hop out of the car to snap a shot from the side of the road, simply because it’s a cool view!

After picking up Thom at the airport, we trucked south and pitched our first camp near Goblin Valley. We’ve been there before, but it’s always breathtaking to be reminded of the sheer vastness of the desert. You can gaze out over mile after mile of scrub brush, across a seemingly unending landscape littered with red rocks jutting from the earth.

The “golden hour” is more like the “orangish-red hour” in the sandstone desert. Sunsets are spectacular.

At my insistence, we hiked a slot canyon called Little Wild Horse. Slot canyons are fascinating places, with painted rocks and curvy walls that feel like something out of an artist’s sketchbook.

We navigated the canyon, at times barely able to squeeze between the sheer walls. I noticed a little guy scurry up the sandstone by my shoulder.

As Little Wild Horse Canyon tapers off, the trail leads into Bell Canyon. It has a completely different feel, with the enormous imposing rock walls that seem to dominate southern Utah.

This area is part of the San Rafael Swells, and is filled with massive rock strata that’s been uplifted over eons. The photo below isn’t crooked; the rocks are angled that way as they’ve been pushed up from below. So cool!

After a day in the Swells, we headed over to Canyonlands. I’ve been there before but somehow I’d forgotten how absolutely huge the landscape is when you’re staring out across miles of canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers.

It’s October, so the weather is cooler, but still in the mid-70’s. Interestingly, when you’re out hiking (or even driving) in this desert, somehow it feels like it’s in the 90’s. The sun is relentless, and a few wispy clouds add interest to the sky but little shade.

The following day we explored the outskirts of Moab, including the incredible drive along the Colorado River near Arches.

Our final destination that evening was Fisher Towers. We got to talking with a woman in Moab who was asking about my Tesla, and she mentioned that the name was supposed to be Fissure Towers, because of the formations there, but there must’ve been some kind of clerical error by a mapmaker. Regardless of the name, they’re imposing even from afar.

As we came closer, the rock was even more impressive in the fading sunlight. (No, I didn’t ramp up the saturation in these photos– the rocks are really this color!)

With the sun sinking toward the horizon, we started on a hike to a viewpoint somewhere in these tumbled rocks. The trail was fascinating, winding its way around and into a network of small canyons and gullies.

Finally our time was up, and the sun dropped beneath the distant mesas. Thom snapped a few last shots.

Once again, I really enjoyed the time out in nature, and the time with my favorite brother. Until next fall…