Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Now that I've learned how to embed Youtube videos in my blog posts, I decided to upload the entire 4.5 minute featurette that Brent Peterson produced about my caving in 2004. This video gives a good idea of what it's like to go through the "Birth Canal" in Alabaster Cave -- and why it's crucial, if you're my size, to go through in the proper orientation, with the left arm "up" and the right arm "down." As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have since gone through the "Birth Canal" in the proper orientation, again, and had zero problems with it.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Here I am playing the guitar solo from Ace's 1975 hit song "How Long." I'm using my MIM (made in Mexico) "Classic 60s" Fender Stratocaster and my "new" Line 6 Spider II 112 amplifier. I'm not very good at playing other people's solos note-for-note, but for some reason I felt inspired a number of years ago to learn this one.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The decline of the 'Shoe -- which coincided with Benny Binion's daughter Becky Behnen's wresting control of the property from her brother Jack -- was a tragedy to those who knew and had come to love the joint. It wasn't a good sign when the new management immediately did away with the free photos and sold all the ten-thousand-dollar bills (I'm informed they fetched three or four times their face value at auction) and then changed a lot of the games to raise the table minimums and to give the house a bigger advantage. Finally, after the daughter and her husband bled the property completely dry, they sold it off to people who were even more greedy and less knowledgeable about how to operate a casino.
Thus, "Binions" (minus the genitive apostrophe and the "Horseshoe" trademark, which was sold to a different concern) sits there on Fremont Street to this day, a sad shell of what it used to be. I haven't been to Las Vegas in over two years and have little idea what's happening there now, but I do know that practically nothing in downtown Vegas is as it used to be. I guess I've changed, too, pretty much having grown out of whatever penny-ante gambling "jones" I once may have had, but I still miss the old days.
[Update: I've now become aware that "Binions" has new owners who reportedly are interested in trying to restore the property to something approximating its former greatness. I doubt that will translate into $2.00 single-deck blackjack, $0.25 craps with 100x odds, and easy meal "comps," but maybe it will mean $5.00 single-deck "3:2" blackjack, $3.00 craps with 10x odds, and a few meal specials. That would be a start -- and if Vegas in general continues to tank along with the overall economy, the downtown properties may start targeting low-rollers again in earnest.]
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Darren is still working in Jesús de Otoro, Honduras with his missionary companion Elder Capiona, and they've even had a few baptisms in between all their work with the members of the branch. Devery is still hard at work on finishing her degree this semester and finding a job so that she can help support the family while Easton continues to work on his degree. Easton was selected for a team representing BYU in the construction-management area, which will be going to Las Vegas for a competition. Heidi and Dion continue to work, and Kayla will have her second birthday in a few weeks. Kristy and Chris are busy with their kids' sports and other activities, and the twins are now seven months old. Chris is a little tired of the up-and-down nature of the auto-mechanic trade and has talked about going into law enforcement, probably with the county sheriff's department.
Monday, October 13, 2008
If one injects the foregoing into the instructor's "basketball" analogy, it seems the following is true. One, that no one attains "NBA all-star" status based wholly on his own natural gifts or even his long years of practicing his "spin move." Two, that one may not require great natural gifts to tie into that great "$100 million contract with the Lakers" in the sky. And three, that it's conceivable that a relatively small contribution on the part of the lowliest of church members may well secure that person a spot in God's "starting lineup," ahead of people whose gaudy "scoring averages" bespeak much-greater abilities in an absolute sense -- it may all depend on circumstances and what's in the person's heart.
I have to believe all this is true, for otherwise I'm wasting my time, my substance, and what little remains of my self-esteem after a lifetime of attending church, and otherwise associating, with other LDS church members who seem all too eager to deny the efficacy of the Atonement and the scope of its effect on the poor in spirit (who, after all, are supposed to be the ones inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven at some point). Does a person have a chance who pays his tithes and offerings, obeys the Word of Wisdom, lives the Law of Chastity, attends the temple once in a while, helps out on the occasional service project, sings in the ward choir, and loves his wife and family so much that he continues to attend church, week in and week out, with people whom he doesn't particularly care for (and vice versa)? Does it matter that he simply doesn't have the emotional resources to do much more than that?
I can't say, except that I'm glad God's ways are not man's ways and that, presumably, his judgments are wiser than those of most people I know.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Today I was finally able to take the third of three hikes in the Sandia Mountains that I wanted to do this year. This time I went by myself, starting at the top of Menaul Blvd. and taking what Mike Coltrin's Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide calls the "Whitewash Trail." The top photo, taken from Google Earth (double-click for detail), shows my approximate route, which traces a more-or-less clockwise path from the starting point on the left. I first wandered my way up to the first little promontory at the head of Whitewash Canyon. From there, I was able to locate the main "ridge" trail, which skirts around the north side of the ridge, along the head of what the topo map calls "Long Canyon," before following the rest of the ridge, up and down, to Oso Pass. (I'd never been on the "ridge" route before, which is surprisingly well-defined most of the way up, even if it seems to meander its way past every boulder or rock outcrop en route.) At Oso Pass, I got on the upper part of the Embudito Trail, which is unrelentingly steep until it finally curves around to the east shortly before its terminus at the South Crest Trail, and then I took the little spur trail that leads directly to South Sandia Peak, which trail, judging from its well-worn condition, must receive a lot of traffic these days. (The photo on the right shows the approach to South Peak on the spur trail -- guess I needed to clean the lens on my camera.) I felt pretty crappy on most of the ascent, so I was surprised that I made it all the way to the top in three hours, fifty minutes -- pretty good time for me, given the difficult route.
I ate lunch at South Peak, snapped a few photos (see the photo on the left, which looks down on the ridge that I came up), and wrote in my journal for a few minutes. Then I went down off the back of the peak to find the enchanting little canyon we'd found in 2001 while backpacking with the scouts, which is notable for both its thick stand of aspens and a number of limestone pillars that resemble statuary. From there, I made my way east to the South Crest Trail, then took a swing past Deer Pass (one of my five favorite camping spots in the world) on my way back down the Embudito Trail. I'd already decided not to take the ridge back down, so at Oso Pass I took the Three Gun Spring Trail down to the Embudo Trail (the upper part of which is only barely recognizable as a "trail"), and followed Embudo Canyon all the way back down to where my truck was parked. (It was definitely the long way down!)
I was almost totally spent at the end, having been gone for nearly eight hours and hiking most of that time. It was a pretty ambitious hike, one that I'm not sure I'll ever care to repeat at this stage of my life. However, South Peak is perhaps the most-enchanting area of the Sandias -- in large part because there's no easy way to get there -- and I'm sure I'll see it again soon.