Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Random Thoughts - Part 3

1. I've had to laugh at the recent revelations about the unethical scientific practices of the folks at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK. The hacked/leaked e-mails demonstrate quite amply that the CRU and other, like-minded ideologues have reached certain conclusions about "climate change" and aren't about to let contrary evidence or heretical individuals (scientists or others) dissuade them or interfere with their political agenda. All I can say is: "Yeah -- like we didn't know that was going on!" As good an idea as renewable energy is in the abstract, carbon-based sources of energy are likely to be the only feasible alternative in the real world for some time yet. The good news is that the wind (metaphorically and otherwise) seems to be leaving the sails of those who would use carbon dioxide as a pretext for massive new energy taxes and unaccountable global governance -- as evidenced by the just-finished summit on "climate change" in Copenhagen, whence, predictably, came nothing of import except an excuse to do it again next year.

2. I'm also mildly amused by the Democrats' intense push to pass a health care bill -- any health care bill -- in Barack Obama's first year in office. The idea of government-run health care is extremely unpopular in the US, so why are the Dems doing it, especially on a strict party-line vote that will probably cause them to lose seats in both houses of Congress in the 2010 mid-term elections? Well, I happen to agree with conservative pundits who say that this is the last, best chance for the Left to set in motion what will eventually morph into what they've always wanted -- a single-payer national health service and all the control and bureaucratic bloat that implies -- and they're thinking that taking a short-term electoral hit is a small price to pay to move America's political culture permanently, and terminally, to some point left of center. And Obama can take credit for something, no matter how bad the bill is, and even if neither he nor the public knows what's in it.

3. At least President Obama's administration finally decided to change tack on the situation in Honduras, apparently deciding that Mel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran president, is a nutball who only makes his supporters look stupid by association. (I can only imagine how tired of Zelaya the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa is becoming; one wonders what he'll do after January -- when the newly elected president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, will be sworn in -- and he no longer has any plausible claim on the office.) Recent elections in a few Latin American countries (Honduras, Argentina, and Chile, not to mention Colombia) have provided hope that the spread of el chavismo (i.e., populist neo-communism) has been stemmed in Latin America.

4. In my Sunday School lesson a couple of weeks ago, I discussed Doctrine and Covenants Section 134, which is a declaration of Mormon beliefs (dating to the Kirtland, Ohio era in 1835) on the topic of governments and laws. I found Verse 12 to be particularly intriguing:

We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.

When I first read this verse, I thought, "Well, that wasn't a very enlightened position to take on the institution of slavery, even in 1835." However, owning a copy of the Ken Burns film The Civil War and having watched it several times, I realize what the Civil War cost, in both blood and treasure, to keep the Union together while ridding it of slavery. I also know that legalized slavery in the United States could not have lasted another generation, as more and more light was cast upon it and its inherent evil became progressively apparent to all. Therefore, in hindsight the Civil War was fought, essentially, to cause abolition to occur a few decades earlier than it inevitably would have done otherwise. (I consider it instructive that slavery ended bloodlessly in Brazil in the 1880s.) It's often said that the war was the penance this country had to do for the "original sin" of slavery (and even that wasn't enough if you buy into the idea of reparations for descendants of slaves), but it's occurred to me to wonder just how necessary the war really was, and whether the church's statement on slavery in 1835 wasn't quite as benighted as it seems at first blush now.

5. Dorine and I have now been married for 25 years, which is a genuine milestone for a couple. However, I tend to look at next August as an even bigger milestone in my life, when we will have been married for as long as I was old when we got married. (The exact date will be July 31, 2010 if you go by the number of years [25], months [7] and days [13] of my age on our wedding day, or August 3, 2010 if you simply go by the number of days [9,359].) The passage of time is a funny thing, not that I'd care to slow it down or replay it.

6. Given my prolific journal-keeping, I've begun to wonder just what will come of the dozens of journals I've filled since I first started keeping a diary back in 1973. An awful lot of me is contained in those voluminous writings, and one would be able to come to know me pretty well, warts and all, by reading them after I've shuffled off this mortal coil. The question is just who, exactly, would care to come to know me enough to plow through my journals. Assuming they survive me, will they end up someday in a box in the back room of some university library, waiting for some researcher or historian to decide they are representative of, say, an American "anti-social" Mormon in the latter part of the 20th Century and the first part of the 21st? Or, will one of my descendants transcribe, edit, and publish them? Or, simply, will no one care what I thought and felt? It's difficult for me to guess....

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Women in My Life

I flew up to Utah last Thursday and helped Devery and Easton move out of their apartment in Provo and down to their new apartment in Albuquerque (bringing Darren down, also, for the holidays). Easton has now graduated from BYU in Construction Management and will be working for Bradbury Stamm Corporation in Albuquerque. (He, Devery, and Mason will be living near the intersection of Eagle Ranch Rd. and Paradise Blvd. on the west side.) This photo was taken in our living room on Sunday night and shows most of the women in my life (and the two new grandsons -- Nicole and the twins were there but didn't make it into the picture). L-R: Dorine, Heidi, Kiley, Kayla, Mom, Tyler, Devery, Mason, Kristy, Alexis.)

Christmas - Pieces of My Childhood

When I was a child, the Christmas season always seemed full of wonder and possibilities. Essential to that sense of wonder was a set of Christmas tree ornaments that my mother had, consisting of translucent-plastic animals, which have always brought back vivid, cherished memories of my early years. When I told Mom recently that I hoped she'd someday give me one of the ornaments as a memento of my childhood, of course she insisted on giving me two. Surprisingly, she still had five of the original set of six animals -- lambs, kittens, and pigs -- and I selected one of the pigs and one of the kittens (see photo). Just looking at them summons forth hazy memories of a dozen or more Christmas trees (including one that I remember had a bird's nest in its branches, and another, a piñón, whose seed pods kept bursting open in the warmth of our home), and hours upon hours of staring at the lights and decorations and marveling at the colors. Nowadays, Christmas comes and goes with my hardly anticipating it or noticing its passing, but there was a time when it meant the world to me and more.

[Update 2/2/10: My mother had this photo of Devery, taken at my parents' house on Christmas Day, 1992. You can see one of the ornaments in question, a pig, just to the left of Devery's head (on her right).]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dorine, Then and Now

The photo on the left is Dorine's school picture from ninth grade, which dates to the fall of 1972 (age 14). This is the girl for whom I developed such a mad infatuation, commencing during a youth
temple excursion (to Mesa, AZ) in March 1973 and continuing through that summer and beyond. The photo on the right is her "school picture" from this fall, some 37 years later, with her current hairstyle.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Summer 1973

These pictures were taken in early July 1973, in St. Johns, AZ, on the occasion of the funeral of my great-grandmother Mary Ann (Chapman) Richey, who had passed away a few days earlier at the age of 101 years. The event served as an impromptu family reunion -- I'm certain it was the first time in a number of years that our entire family was together in one place. The photo on the left shows my four brothers and me (L-R): Kelly (19 - two months before he started his church mission to Taiwan), Robin (23 - serving in the Air Force and stationed at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, NM), Jeff (20 - also serving in the Air Force and stationed either at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque or Cannon AFB near Clovis, NM), Roger (23 - going through his "hippie" stage), and me (14 - in between 8th and 9th grades, and, coincidentally, deep in the throes of an unrequited crush on Dorine). I had jettisoned the photo-gray plastic "aviator" glasses by then, although I still used them for basketball. I was already approaching 6'0" in height; I hoped to grow to 6'5", but it wasn't to be. The photo on the right includes Robin's wife Karolyn (in turquoise), their son Todd, Jeff's (first) wife Karen (lavender pants), and their daughter Pam.

Looking back, this would have been only a week or two before the tragedy at Yellowstone National Park that claimed the lives of four members of our ward (who perished from hypothermia after having their canoes swamped during a storm while on Yellowstone Lake -- only one person who actually went into the water survived). I remember going for an exhilarating motorcycle ride with my brother Jeff (with him on his Honda SL-350 and me on my Honda CL-70) out in the Four Hills subdivision, then coming home and having Kelly tell me what had happened. If I hadn't only recently turned 14, I might have gone to Yellowstone with the group of Explorers/Venturers who made the trip; needless to say, I'm still happy I didn't go.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seventh Grade: My Year In Hell

This photo is my school picture from seventh grade at Kennedy Junior High School (1971-72), which still rates as the single worst year of my life. I've experienced many difficult periods at different times of my life -- my freshman year of college, my church mission (still the most difficult thing I've ever done), law school and graduate business school, adjusting to being married, being without work after graduation, nerve-rattling courtroom work, having a rebellious child, having monumental tasks to do at work with almost no management support -- but nothing else has compared with the hell that was seventh grade. The difference between my last year (sixth grade) of elementary school and my first year of junior high was similar to growing up in a zoo and then being set loose in the jungle with no survival skills and no support structure. The kids from my elementary school were generally naive and relatively innocent; however, then we were thrown together with kids from the other "feeder" schools, who were street-wise, prone to ganging up on loners, and seemingly into "adult" vices (sex, drinking, drugs, street-fighting, petty crime, etc.) that I could only imagine. It didn't help that the teachers at Kennedy didn't seem to give a rat's behind about their students in general, never mind an individual who was struggling socially (and, consequently, academically). My brother Kelly was in his senior year at the local high school and was a pretty big man on campus due to his being the starting point guard on the basketball team; I can remember thinking that some of that status should have percolated down to me, but it never did (not that it mattered to Kelly). My best friend at the time was my cousin Randy Baca, who, similarly, wanted nothing to do with me at school despite the fact that he was still at Kennedy that year. I wouldn't have wanted to run with the rough crowd that he hung out with (who really were into all the aforementioned vices), but I could have used a little of their "protection," if nothing else.

I remember that some of the girls in my math class started referring to me as "Goggles" on account of my glasses (the plastic "aviator" frames and photo-gray lenses were way ahead of their time in 1971). Many of those girls were probably at the apex of their lives in terms of physical attractiveness and popularity; I can say with some confidence that most of them ended up (to borrow a line from the Hitchcock film Rear Window) fat, alcoholic, and lonely. As for the guys at the school, well, I'm certain that many of them ended up dead or in prison; I can remember feeling more than a little schadenfreude when I found out some years later that one of my tormentors had committed suicide while still a teenager. I'm not sure how many times I missed school in seventh grade -- every day I was gone only compounded the woe I was feeling -- but I estimate I was absent for fully one-third of the school year. (It drove my parents crazy, especially my father, who used to make me drink Geritol -- nasty stuff! -- in an attempt to cure my ills.) That I was allowed to miss that much school, yet still advance to the eighth grade with passing grades, is a testament to what a sh-- heap the school was. (I ended up attending a private SpEd school in eighth grade after finally deciding I couldn't stand Kennedy anymore, and then I attended another public junior school in ninth grade, which represented a stark contrast to Kennedy, especially in that low-life scum fell pretty low in the social pecking-order there.)

Irony: My good friend Rod Williamson's wife Barbara is currently principal of Kennedy, which has now long been a grade 6-8 middle school, and I think his daughter Jenny teaches English there.

[Update: Another irony is that the only school annual that I still possess -- I threw out all my high school yearbooks shortly after my mission -- is the one from seventh grade. Here are a couple of photos from that yearbook. The first is of the kids who played in the seventh-grade basketball program; we played on cold Wednesday mornings before school, and we had an intramural tournament during the holiday break. I also remember that a select few of us played in two "real" games, against seventh-graders from Hoover Middle School. I'm on the far right of the back row. The second photo is of the seventh-grade boys chorus, a class I didn't really like, in large part because I didn't care for the teacher, Mrs. Coupland. (It didn't help that the class contained several of the creeps of whom I make mention above.) I wasn't as tall as I look in the picture -- Duane Dalby, on the far right of the back row, wasn't much shorter than I was -- and thus I think I must have been standing on some kind of box as well as the top riser.]

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2009 AYS Luminaria Fundraiser

Well, we got through another Albuquerque Youth Symphony luminaria fundraiser. It was a trial for the workhouses this year due to the wet sand that was delivered to us (and all the effort we had to expend to try to dry it out in advance). Luckily, we had another conscientious, hard-working crew, and all our preparations on the front end paid off on "Luminaria Day," December 5. We weren't terribly enthused about being a workhouse again this year, but I felt we owed something to AYS after the organization "ate" a lot of the unanticipated expenses from the Australia trip last June (which expenses resulted from the fact that the kids had to stay extra nights in hotels after being barred from staying with Aussie families due to the "H1N1" flu scare). Given that the group's tour next spring will be "regional" (to Denver and Colorado Springs), it wouldn't have seemed fair for us not to shoulder the same burden we took on last year and thus help to replenish the group's coffers. However, Dorine and I are both relieved that Kiley is in her last year of the AYS program, meaning we won't be a workhouse next year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fam at Thanksgiving

Here are a couple of photos from the Thanksgiving weekend. The top one contains our entire family. (Top, L-R: Nicole, Alexis, Maddison, Kristy, Chris, Hailee, Dorine, me, Darren, Kiley. Bottom, L-R: Zach, Tyler, Dion, Kayla, Heidi, Devery, Mason, Easton. The bottom shows our 3-years-old-and-under grandchildren. (Clockwise, from bottom: Hailee [20 months], Maddison [20 months], Mason [5 weeks], Tyler [6 weeks], Kayla [3 years].) It was very nice to have the entire family here for Thanksgiving; it was sad to see Devery, Easton, Mason, and Darren go back to Provo, although they'll all be back here soon. (Devery and Easton are moving here, after the latter graduates, in order to take a job with Bradbury Stamm Corporation, although they'll be spending Christmas in Tucson with his family.) This week we're scrambling around trying to get ready for another Albuquerque Youth Symphony luminaria fundraiser, for which we'll once again be a "workhouse." At present we're having to try to dry out a pile of damp sand on our driveway, and we don't yet have adequate supplies of folded paper bags, candles, etc.; however, we're hopeful it will all work out by Saturday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"I'll take these axes, Ray"

I recently purchased what I expect to be the last electric guitar I ever buy, a "limited edition" Epiphone Les Paul Standard. (Epiphone, which originally sold a line of U.S.-made guitars, is now Gibson's foreign-made "budget" brand.) It's a pretty cool guitar, having a matte cherry finish, gold-color hardware (including Grover tuners), and supposedly hotter-than-normal humbucking pickups. I'm sure an "expert" could tell the difference between my "Epi" and an honest-to-goodness Gibson Les Paul, but to me it plays and sounds like a "real" one; in any case, I appreciate value, and getting 95% of a Les Paul for 25% of the price is a good deal by any measure.

After I bought the "Epi," I took it and my "Classic 60s" Fender "Mexi-Strat" to a local guitar tech for set-ups. He didn't do much to the "Epi" -- just lowered the action a little at the bridge -- but he went full-bore on the Strat, tweaking the truss rod, lowering the action, tuning the bridge, re-working the nut, trimming the excess wire from the pickups (which were replacements, installed before I bought the guitar), replacing the pickup height-adjustment screws with the correct ones, and finally adjusting the height of the pickups. I'm amazed at what all that did for the guitar's playability and sound!

In conversing with the tech, I learned a few things about buying vintage or vintage-replica guitars. Old Fenders had pickups with non-adjustable pole pieces (i.e., magnets) that were set up for heavy-gauge strings -- in particular, wound 3rd or G strings with small cores -- and using light-gauge strings often causes some notes to sound out-of-tune because the magnetic force is too strong for the core of the string being used. The only way to compensate for it is to lower the entire pickup, which then tends to compromise the overall signal going to the amplifier. Old Fenders also tended to have curved fretboards with small radiuses (radii?), inasmuch as few people in those days incorporated string-bending techniques in their playing. (Bending notes on a fretboard with a lot of curve to it evidently tends to "choke" the note.) At any rate, the tech wasn't real big on vintage Fenders or replicas, although I, not being a pro, am willing to sacrifice a little bit of sound for the coolness of the early-60s look of my "Mexi-Strat." The newer Fender "American Standard" Stratocasters may be better suited to playing modern rock and pop music, but I'll keep what I have!

(The caption to this post, in case anyone didn't know, is a reference to the 1980 Belushi/Aykroyd film The Blues Brothers.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Update

I'm still having great difficulty thinking of new topics about which to write, but a lot has been happening in our family lately. First, as should be obvious from previous posts, both Heidi and Devery have had their babies, and Dorine and I now have eight grandchildren (nine, counting Heidi's stepson Nolan). The two new boys are both adorable and welcome additions to a family composed predominantly of girls! Heidi had a relatively easy labor and delivery, whereas Devery's was anything but easy, given the latter's slight frame, this being her first child, and the fact that Mason weighed 9 lbs. 8 oz. at birth. (Reportedly, she came literally within one push of having to have an emergency c-section.)

After first being with Heidi for Tyler's birth, Dorine flew up to Utah to be with Devery as she had her baby. I drove up to Provo the following week and spent a couple of days there before driving Dorine home. I got to spend time with Devery and Easton (and Mason), and with Darren (see photo), but that was about it. (I've made the round-trip drive to Utah four times this year -- I'd swear it gets longer every time.)

Dorine is still working as a kindergarten EA at the local elementary school, and she now has a calling in the young women. I'm still working at the temple and have been assigned to be the "brother" veil coordinator every other week, which is a fairly nerve-wracking job. My sleep disorder is still having far-reaching effects on my life; I continue to use the VPAP Adapt SV machine, but I've also been taking Temazepam, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, and an antidepressant called Citalopram on a nightly basis. It's wonderful to feel sleepy at bedtime, but the pharmaceuticals take their toll over time in other ways. Darren seems to be doing well at BYU. Kiley is getting ready to apply to college and hopes to be accepted at BYU as well. She tried out for the New Mexico "All State" orchestra and became more than a little exercised when the powers-that-be initially omitted her name from the list of successful auditioners; they later corrected the oversight, menos mal.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crest Trail/10K Trail Hike

Last Friday, October 9, John Brewer and I went hiking again in the Sandias. This time we started at the Crest and did a loop, in a clock-wise direction, hiking north on the Crest Trail, north to south on the (entire) 10K Trail, and back north on the Crest Trail to the Crest. Friday was both an APS holiday and a "balloon fiesta" day, so we passed numerous people out on the trail. I hadn't been on the 10K Trail in some time -- especially the southern half, which I'd only hiked one time previously, over twenty years ago -- and I enjoyed the route, especially our crossing over all the ski runs of the Sandia Peak Ski Area. The photos above show (a) the view of South Peak from the Crest Trail south of the tram, (b) a view of the east side of the Sandias (with a few aspens scattered among the conifers) (c) John at the highway crossing that bisects the 10K Trail, and (d) me at the same place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Change of Gyms - Planet Fitness

In a long-overdue move, Dorine and I have changed gym memberships from Defined Fitness (DF) to Planet Fitness (PF), located on Eubank Blvd. north of Constitution Ave. (PF is in space once occupied by TG&Y, a dimestore in which I spent a good deal of my childhood and adolescence; thus I feel entirely at home there.) We'd been paying $32 each per month to belong to DF, which was the Sandia National Laboratories corporate rate and actually a "good" deal -- except that DF is much more gym than we needed and rather expensive for what we used it for. I'd put off looking into PF, thinking that the $10(+ tax)/month membership fee must mean it had cast-off cardio gear from other gyms; however, several people had informed us that PF's cardio equipment is actually new, of good quality, and plentiful, which convinced me to investigate.

As it turned out, PF had a sign-up deal going, under which it waived almost all of the first-year annual "rate guarantee" fee ($29/person otherwise), which in turn meant Dorine and I only had to pay ~$23 total to join and for the month of October. We've been to PF twice so far (Friday and yesterday afternoon), and the Cybex treadmills there are more than adequate. They don't have individual TV screens like the fancy Precor treadmills at DF, but, since I listen to music on my iPod Shuffle while running, anyway, that's a minor point. I was surprised (notwithstanding the fact that we went at non-peak times) to find so few members there, which tells me (a) that the word about PF hasn't really got out yet, and/or (b) that, for many people, going to the gym is still more about seeing, and being seen by, other people than about simply working out and staying fit. That makes me wonder about the viability of PF's business model (particularly in the Albuquerque area), despite the fact that it is a national concern, locally owned by a franchisee. Not that I want the place to be over-run by members -- I hate waiting in line for a treadmill -- but I do want it to stay in business, and thus I will tell other people about it.

[Update, 10/10/09: Of course, logically, it is easier to convince people to buy a gym membership that they won't use when it costs ~$10/month instead of ~$40/month. It goes without saying that most gyms count on having a certain percentage of their members not show up very often, but PF's business model may take for granted a higher percentage of such members than do other gyms.]

Friday, October 2, 2009


I'm pretty jazzed about recent developments concerning our seven-night Caribbean cruise scheduled for January. My brother-in-law Mike was looking at his reservation on our cruise line's website and saw an option to upgrade his cabin -- for an apparent savings, no less. We agreed we should investigate by calling the reservation line and talking to an actual person. It turned out that we could actually upgrade by two cabin categories, and move up five decks, for less money than we'd originally committed to pay -- needless to say, we jumped at the "opportunity." The attached image shows the class of cabin we upgraded to, which is larger and has both a sitting area and a private veranda -- and Mike and I were able to get cabins that not only adjoin but connect! It seems weird to be able to get a better cruise package later in the game than earlier (other than on some last-minute deal through a broker), but I guess the economy is still pretty weak, which may be forcing the cruise lines to offer more and better specials. I can live with that!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lonely Are the Brave

This image is a still-frame from Lonely Are the Brave, a 1962 film starring Kirk Douglas, which was filmed in and around Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains. (It's set in "Duke City, New Mexico," which of course is a thinly veiled reference to Albuquerque [a/k/a "the Duke City"], and is based on Edward Abbey's novel Brave Cowboy.) The film recently came out on DVD for the first time in the U.S., and of course I had to buy it. Douglas plays Jack Burns, one of the last of a dying breed of loner cowboys, someone who carries no ID, rides his horse cross-country to get from place to place, and has little regard for civil authority. Burns, after visiting with his good friend's wife (played by Gena Rowlands -- see photo), for whom he harbors a mutually felt, but unrealized romantic love, gets himself arrested (following a disturbing, unprovoked fight with a vicious one-armed man in a nearby cantina) so that he can visit with his friend in the county jail, hoping to convince him to escape. The friend has been sentenced to two years in the state pen for assisting and concealing illegal immigrants (whom the script unabashedly refers to as "wetbacks" -- the mere idea of anyone's serving that kind of time for such a mundane offense seems laughable these days); however, the friend, not wishing to jeopardize his freedom (and his family's financial situation) further, refuses to break out with Burns, leaving the latter to flee by himself. The rest of the movie concerns itself with Burns's efforts to escape up and over the Sandia Mountains and down into Mexico. (The geography is a little out of whack, since hiking up and over the Sandias from Albuquerque takes one east, not south -- not to mention the fact that a couple hundred miles of increasingly hot desert would still separate him from Mexico -- but, hey, it's Hollywood.)

Walter Matthau, playing the local sheriff, organizes a pursuit but seems privately to hope Burns escapes. Burns, refusing to abandon his horse as he scrambles up steep, rocky terrain, barely makes it to the rim of the Sandias and into the forest on the other side, receiving a bullet wound to the lower leg in the process. However, the movie ends abruptly and inconclusively when Carroll O'Connor (who later would become famous in his role as Archie Bunker in the 70s sitcom All In the Family), hauling a truckload of toilets to Duke City, hits Burns and his skittish horse as they attempt to cross Route 66. The horse is euthanized and Burns is hauled off to hospital; we don't know whether he survives or dies, but it doesn't seem to matter either way, inasmuch as his way of life dies symbolically with the horse.

The movie was shot in black and white, but the cinematography, with its clarity and wide variety of tones, is outstanding in any case. The camera work in the Sandias is generally limited to (a) the lower part of the mountain in the Juan Tabo Canyon area, and (b) the upper part of the mountain near Sandia Crest (and the upper terminus of the La Luz [i.e., Crest Spur] Trail);
however, the editing creates the effect that the mountain is alternately taller, and shorter, than it really is, which seems a little disorienting for someone who's familiar with the topography. It's fascinating to see what those areas looked like in 1962, when I was two or three years old. I do know that the crew constructed a trail for some of the lower-elevation shots, which is now known as the "Movie Trail" and has been extended up to a rock formation known as the "Prow," although that whole area is closed for much of the year, ostensibly to benefit nesting raptors.

Lonely Are the Brave was perhaps Kirk Douglas's favorite of the films he made, and I have to say that I like it a lot, too, if for slightly different reasons.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Albuquerque Youth Symphony Concert

The 2009-2010 Albuquerque Youth Symphony had its first concert on Sunday, September 20, in Popejoy Hall at the University of New Mexico. The kids played a very difficult program, which included The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas, the Overture to Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky, the world premiere of an orchestral arrangement of Kokopelli: His Flutesong by Michael Mauldin, and Aria in Classic Style by Grandjany. (The latter piece, a harp concerto, featured Bethany Roper, a member of our ward and Kiley's friend, as soloist.) I thought everything sounded great, although the reduced-in-size-but-still-loud orchestra backing Bethany in her concerto tended to drown her harp out a little. (A little amplification might have been in order, anathema though that concept may be to purists.) The photos above show (a) the entire group on stage, (b) Kiley with Bethany in the lobby following the concert, (c) Dorine, and (d) Kiley.

Kiley is in the last stages of selecting a new cello. It's essentially come down to either a Gaetano Colas or a Gunter Von Aue, although I think Kiley will settle on the Colas in the end. (The Von Aue is about 2/3 the price of the Colas -- and, in Kiley's words, it has "an amazing C string," which has kept it in the running -- but, within a certain limitation, price is not our overriding concern.) We've found, surprisingly and dismayingly for me, that the bow plays almost as big a role in the sound a stringed instrument makes as the instrument itself, so we may be upgrading there as well. We'll see.

[Update, October 12: Kiley eventually settled on a Jay Haide cello, which was more expensive than either the Colas or the Von Aue, but still in our price range. Kiley hadn't cared for the sound of the first couple of Haides that she tried out, but Robertson & Sons had two others when we went back down, both of which sounded much better to Kiley's ear. One, however, sounded more balanced in timbre and volume across all the strings, plus it seemed to suit Kiley's playing technique slightly better, so that's the one we bought. After Kiley took it to her first AYS rehearsal, I, perhaps feeling a little "proud" of the fact that we'd gotten her a better instrument, asked her if she'd received any comments from other kids in the orchestra. Instructively, her stand-mate (who, while not quite as accomplished musically as Kiley, obviously comes from a more-moneyed family) said that her 3/4 cello -- i.e., the cello she'd played as a young girl -- had been a Haide. Needless to say, that was a little deflating, but that's what I get for being smug; we simply don't swim in the same ocean as most AYS families.]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tim Pierce, Guitarist Extraordinaire

I only recently became aware of the fact that Tim Pierce, a guitar player who grew up in Albuquerque and later played in Rick Springfield's band back in the 1980s, is still playing out in California and, in fact, is considered a studio legend. Pierce played lead guitar in Traveller, Albuquerque's finest bar band in the mid-to-late 1970s, which played at a lot of our church dances when I was in high school. (Even now, one of my favorite musical memories is Traveller playing Fleetwood Mac's "Tell Me All the Things You Do"; I remember approaching Pierce when he was on stage one time to ask which Mac album -- Kiln House, it turned out -- that song was from.) It really surprises me to know now that he and I are the same age, which means he must only have been 15 or 16 when he started playing with Traveller -- and he was good then. There are various videos on Youtube that show him playing guitar, either on stage or in his home studio (which, in the digital age, is where he does almost all of his session work). He isn't a master technician on the order of a John McLaughlin or an Eric Johnson, but his playing oozes a certain natural melodic genius; it's easy to see why he's known for being able to add the perfect guitar part to round out any tune.

[Update 9/18/09: I bought Pierce's 1994 solo album Guitarland on iTunes and now have it on my iPod. It's pretty amazing music -- understated in the main, flashy in places, and extremely tasteful throughout.]

[Update 2/13/10: I found this video on YouTube, which shows Pierce not only recording a few lead guitar parts but also talking about his career in music. It's very informative (note that he talks about liking Mutemath and Muse) -- and I guess he actually is a year older than I am, if he was twelve in 1970.]

Year-End at Work

Well, Fiscal Year 2009 is almost over at Sandia National Laboratories, and none too soon! I still have to wait until Monday to see what happens this week with the costs vs. recoveries on the "maintenance of capability" holding project that I now administer. I'm hoping to come in slightly over-recovered, so that I don't have to do much to "zero" the project out, but as my supervisor, John Brewer, says, it's like unwrapping a Christmas present and not having any idea what's inside. (Depending on which costs hit this week and who's gone on vacation, I could be $300K under-recovered, $300K over-recovered, or anywhere in between!)

I do look forward to the fall. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year -- spring without the allergies! -- and I look forward to having my "off" Fridays all to myself. (A couple of hikes and a trip to Vegas would be nice.) Dorine and I will have two new grandsons here in six weeks or so, as Heidi and Devery are both about to "undergo fission." We will have made what are, for us, significant purchases: (1) a 2001 Honda Accord, which our son-in-law Chris got for us at auction in July; (2) a new cello for Kiley (an investment that we hope will pay off in the form of a college music scholarship); and (3) passage on a Caribbean cruise in January to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

I'm teaching Sunday School at church, and I've been assigned to be a veil coordinator at the temple on the "odd" weeks. (I'm already almost half-way through my two-year temple calling, although I often wish I hadn't said I'd work every week!) After Darren got home, I arranged for him, Jordan Roper, and Steven Brewer to do some "initiatory" at the temple in Spanish; I don't know how they liked it, but I enjoyed it very much -- I felt like it was the fruition of all the effort I've made to learn the ordinances in Spanish.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Dark Side

Sometimes I can't help having very dark thoughts. I often wonder if I wasn't supposed to have died young (perhaps at my own hand), which in turn would suggest that I've been living on borrowed time for the last 30+ years. When I consider how messed-up I was in some ways as a young man -- lacking confidence or ambition -- it seems almost miraculous that I've achieved any kind of stability as an adult, in either career or marriage. Almost all of the people I knew as a teenager who had similar experiences to mine, growing up Mormon in Albuquerque, didn't stay active in the church, and, truth be told, I would have gone inactive years ago if I hadn't married Dorine. (Even now, due to my early experiences in the church, I feel incapable of achieving anything more than the Terrestrial Kingdom, regardless of my efforts or contributions. So what, really, is the point?) And if I were to choose, from scratch, a church to attend based solely on the people in it and their attitudes toward their fellow men, it's safe to say the LDS Church is possibly the last one I'd consider.

I've been pondering the idea of going to the gym and running on the treadmill to maintain some level of cardiac fitness; it's occurred to me to question just what I have to live, and stay healthy, for. In any case, I sense that my sleep disorder will cause me to die relatively young, probably due to the sort of heart issues that naturally arise from chronic insomnia. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to die while Darren was on his mission, and I think I owe it to my kids to stay alive at least long enough for all of them to find spouses and have means to live on their own. (I can remember thinking how devastating it would be for either of my parents to pass on before I had a wife and kids to live for.) I do love my wife, although I tend to wonder whether she might be happier with my life insurance proceeds and the chance to have a different kind of life. I don't even ponder the idea of retirement, simply because I don't think I'll make it that far.

So what would make life more worth living? It almost seems pointless to speculate, but.... More hiking. More camping. More physical love. More opportunities to go out of town on weekends (as so many other members of our ward do, regularly) and skip the unpleasantness of Sunday church meetings. It really wouldn't take much, but it appears happiness will always be a luxury that I can't afford.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Family Reunion in Colorado

Well, after less than a week at home, Darren had to go back to Provo to move into his apartment for fall semester at BYU, which starts today. He and I drove up on Tuesday, the 25th, and he moved into his apartment (reuniting with his old roommates David and Adam) on Wednesday. We hung out in Provo for the next couple of days, during which time I was able to see all of my brothers at least once -- including Kelly, who was recovering from back surgery and divorce. We saw Devery and Easton the first night, staying with them in their apartment; they got up early the next morning to drive to Albuquerque for a couple of days, and I continued to stay at their place in their absence.

On Friday, Darren and I drove from Provo down to Pagosa Springs, where Dorine and I had planned to have a family reunion of sorts. (Dorine's brother Don and his wife Margarita had the cabin that week, and we booked rooms in town, intending to spend time at the cabin during the day on Saturday.) I experienced a lapse of judgment and chose to drive through Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose, and Ouray, instead of taking the "normal" route through Moab, Monticello, and Cortez. Not only was it longer, distance-wise, but most of the towns we drove through in Colorado had traffic lights out the wazoo, and much of the route was mountainous (and thus slow going), and the climb south out of Ouray -- which is on a narrow, winding road with no shoulder and huge drop-offs -- nearly made me wet my pants. (I'll never make that mistake again!)

Anyway, we finally got to Pagosa at about 7:15 pm and met up with Heidi and Devery and their hubbies/kids, and later Dorine and Kiley showed up with Kristy's kids (Kristy ultimately couldn't come). On Saturday, we went to the cabin and spent some time there with Don, Margarita, and Margarita's sister Adriana. Then we drove to Treasure Falls (see photo), which is on the way to Wolf Creek Pass, and finally ended up back in Pagosa at the malt shoppe and the river. On Sunday, Devery and Easton drove Darren back to Provo -- and now he's gone...again. (Sniff!)

As is evident from the photo, both Devery and Heidi are with child, both at about 31-32 weeks along in their pregnancies, and both expecting boys.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Darren's Back!

Darren has, at long last, returned from Honduras. This video was shot by my brother-in-law Mike, although obviously he couldn't quite remember where Darren had served his mission. Darren's homecoming was an emotional experience for all, especially since his flight from Miami to Dallas was almost two hours late and there was a lot of doubt whether he'd make his connecting flight from DFW to Albuquerque. However, he got here all right, even if his luggage was left stranded in Dallas. I am extremely thankful that he made it out of Honduras without difficulty.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Me as a Senior in High School, Spring 1977

My mother took this photo of me right after I bought my Gibson SG electric guitar, just a few weeks before my high school graduation in 1977. I knew at that point that I was headed to BYU for college, and it was at about that time that I allowed myself to be talked into starting school in the summer, living with my brother Kelly and his wife and infant son at a small apartment complex in Provo called the "Hacienda," which I can't even place now. (It was located, I'd guess, at about 400 North and 200 East.) In retrospect, it was a mistake to leave home that soon after graduation, even though it did help bridge the gap between living at home and being on my own that fall.

This is the quintessential me as a teenager -- skinny as a rail; hair parted in the middle (sort of); wearing Levi's super-bells, Tiger (later ASICS) running shoes, and my favorite knit shirt; hanging out at home; sitting on the third of my dad's four Ford LTDs; and holding a guitar. I can't remember if I liked any particular girl at that time, although I had ongoing crushes on a couple of girls (one a cheerleader, the other a gymnast) at my high school, neither of whom I ever addressed in conversation.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ft. Stanton Cave

Today I was pressed into duty, on two days' notice, to guide our 11-year-old scouts through the upper main passage of Ft. Stanton Cave. (Steve Plimpton, who had secured the permit and was to be the tour leader, had a bicycle accident this week in which he separated a shoulder, and I was at hand.) The route we took was pretty casual, as we went down the main passage, past Crystal Crawl (see photo), to the Lunch Room and then back out. (In the end I decided to steer clear of "Skinner's Squeeze" and what I refer to as the "Big Muddy" passage -- through which very long, beautiful extensions of the cave, including one called "Snowy River," have been discovered in recent years.) However, the kids all seemed to eat it up.

Going on this overnight trip were Andy Greenwood, our scoutmaster (and de facto 11-year-old scout leader, since we currently have no active deacon-age boys in our ward), Adam Greenwood, Ray Mocho, Lucas Smathers, and Onesimo Chavez. The cave is about 170 miles from Albuquerque and lies about five or six miles east of the town of Capitan.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Thoughts, Part 2

1. Menstruation is often referred to as "the curse," something that we men, obviously, don't have to deal with at any time in our lives. On the other hand, I've become convinced that there is a male "curse," which really only manifests itself later in life. It is simply that we retain so much of our youthful libidos way past our "shelf life" as sexual creatures. I wonder how much more agreeable life would be if our hormones diminished at the same rate as those of women in general....

2. I had a conversation recently with my father-in-law in which it became clear to me that membership in the LDS Church used to carry with it a much-stronger "brand" or sense of identity. It lay largely in the various sorts of recreational and social activities that used to be commonplace throughout the church: dance festivals, sports programs (including all-church tournaments), theatrical productions, the annual "Gold and Green" Ball, roadshows, the "Singing Mothers," regular ward and stake socials, etc. Somehow, in the push to strip church membership to its essentials (which is perfectly comprehensible in light of the growth of the church in the last two generations), that sense of identity has gone by the boards in large measure. Moreover, I'm not sure it's something that could be recovered at this juncture -- if, for example, someone in Albuquerque had the idea to stage a Mormon-themed musical like Promised Valley (as happened locally back in the early father had the male lead role for one of the performances), I'm highly doubtful that there would be much interest in it, from either an acting perspective or an audience perspective. Simply put, members like me are now so accustomed to seeking out their own recreational activities that social events at church (to the extent they still happen) tend to seem bothersome and annoying. And yet it was the social and athletic activities that once provided one of the church's primary missionary "hooks," especially for families.

3. I'm still somewhat mystified by the Obama administration's support of ousted Honduran president Mel Zelaya. The Honduran government has three supposedly co-equal branches, and the congress and the supreme court acted in concert to remove Zelaya from office for clear and blatant violations of the Honduran constitution. In fact, that document states that a president who takes any overt action toward changing the presidential term limit stated therein automatically forfeits his office, so by Honduran law Zelaya had, technically, already ceased to be president! So why, precisely, is our government so insistent about restoring him to office -- treating him as though he were the very embodiment of Honduran democracy -- and about not recognizing the new president, Roberto Micheletti? And why have our mainstream media been publishing a stream of stories about supposed agreements to reinstate Zelaya, when the Honduran government has apparently assented to no such thing? Does the rule of law have no meaning for "the big Oh" and his sycophants? The implications are positively scary.... (In the meantime, I keep thinking, "Let the stalemate continue for two-and-a-half more weeks, until Darren comes home!")

4. I've long since concluded that Democrats and others on the left are fundamentally unserious about their twin pet causes of combating "climate change" and "reforming" the country's health-care system (with the supposed aim of driving down costs). How do I know? First, no one thing would serve to lower (or at least limit) man-made CO2 emissions -- while serving the energy needs of the American people -- more than the immediate construction of dozens of nuclear power plants. Yet nobody in Congress would ever suggest such a thing. And second, two of the principal reasons why health care is so expensive in the U.S. are (a) the practice of what some have called "defensive" medicine -- the ordering of multitudinous tests and procedures to attempt to limit exposure to malpractice liability -- and (b) "jackpot" jury verdicts (or the threat thereof) in malpractice cases, the cost of which is generally absorbed by insurance companies and passed on in the form of higher premiums. Yet none of the various health-care bills floating through committee on Capitol Hill mentions anything about tort reform, because it would do damage to trial lawyers, a major Democrat constituency and source of donations. I understand it was H.L. Mencken who said, "The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it," which pretty much sums up my opinion of the Democratic agenda in this Congress.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The BYU 65th Branch, 1977-78

I just received the attached photo from my friend Jeff Aldous, which dates back to roughly September 1977. At first I thought it was a photo of the guys from the 7th Floor of "T" Hall in Deseret Towers at BYU; however, then I realized that some of these guys actually lived on the 6th Floor, so it must have been intended to be a photo of all the males in the BYU 65th Branch. (The 65th Branch encompassed the 6th and 7th Floors of "T" Hall for the guys, and both the 2nd Floor of "Q" Hall [at D.T.] and all of Young Hall [in Heritage Halls] on the girls' side. It held church meetings at Wasatch Elementary School on 900 East in Provo.) There were upwards of ninety guys in the branch, so the turnout obviously wasn't overwhelming for the photo shoot (I suspect I was in class or at the library); however, I still remember a lot of these fellows. My roommate, Bob Maes, is on the far right of the back row. Our buddies (and fellow KNOBs) Jeff Aldous and Galen Kekauoha are at the far right of the front row and third from the right in the middle row, respectively. Scott Hansen, who was Chuck Canfield's roommate (and sort of an "adjunct" KNOB), is on Jeff's right.

At the time, Bob's family lived on the west side in Albuquerque; Jeff was from Metairie, Louisiana; Galen was from Los Angeles; and Scott, like Chuck, was from Magna, Utah. Deseret Towers has now been completely razed (with the exception of the Morris Center [a/k/a the "Morbid Center," or the "Morose Center"], which once served as D.T.'s cafeteria, offices, and all-around gathering place, but which is now sort of a conference center), the thought of which brings a bit of a tear to my eyes. I was much too psycho about school ever to have had much fun during my freshman year; I think I went on two, maybe three, dates all year, one of which was a blind date to a stake dance, also at Wasatch Elementary, with the friend of a friend of Bryan Whatley, the guy on Galen's left in the photo. (If memory serves, Bryan was from somewhere in Oregon, as were his friend and her friend -- cute girl! -- who were just visiting in Provo.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 2009 Utah Trip

Dorine, Kiley, and I took Dorine's dad Lynn Wilson up to Utah on Monday, July 20, and we stayed in Grantsville with Dorine's brother Brian and his wife Dona, until today, Sunday, July 26. (Lynn is staying another week and will fly home.) This was really Dorine and Lynn's trip, and, as it turned out, I didn't really get to visit with my brothers, although we did get to spend quite a lot of time with Devery and Easton. On Tuesday, I got to go out to lunch with my friend (and ex-BYU roommate) Bob Maes, and then I spent a couple of hours with him at his office while Dorine and Lynn went around visiting Dorine's aunts Afton Woffinden and Frances Wilson. Later, we went to see Lynn's brother Bob Wilson (and his wife Marilu) in Holladay before going out to eat at the Marie Callender's restaurant on 3900 South; this was the first time I'd been at that particular Marie Callender's since Dorine and I ate there during our honeymoon in December 1984. Later that night, after we'd returned to Grantsville, it was decided to go down to the Maverik service station at the other end of town to get fountain drinks. I'd already taken an Ambien tablet to go to sleep, but I didn't think it would take effect very soon, so I drove. I was okay on the way out, but I started losing my faculties on the return trip, and I nearly ran over several mailboxes and a fire hydrant when turning around at the end of the cul-de-sac (before parking first on the curb and then out in the street). I think I can say with some assurance that it will be the only time in my life that I'll be "guilty" of DUI! Needless to say, I was the object of quite a bit of twitting after that.

On Wednesday, a bunch of us went to the open house at the new Oquirrh Mountain Temple (located in South Jordan near the intersection of Bangerter Highway and 11400 South -- see photo above). The group included (L-R) me, Devery, Easton, Kiley, Lynn, Dorine, Brian, and Brian's daughters Rhea and Olivia. Dorine happened to see my brother Roger and his wife Lynnea (and Lynnea's daughters Jenna and Andrea) there -- they went through with the group after us, but we were able to communicate by cell phone (not while we were inside the temple) and arrange to meet at a nearby Quizno's after the tour. It turned out to be the only time I actually saw any of my brothers on this trip, although I did talk to Kelly and Robin on the phone. Afterward, we drove Devery and Easton back to Provo, deciding to take the "back" route (through Lehi and past Sarasota Springs and Eagle Mountain) to return to Grantsville. That resulted in our biggest adventure of the trip, as we missed both of the two turns that would have taken us to Grantsville (while bypassing Tooele); consequently, we ended up at the Dugway Proving Ground, having to explain to the guards at the gate how we'd gotten lost, and then having to take the "long" way around, via I-80, to get to Grantsville ninety minutes later than expected.

On Thursday, Dorine and I went and did an endowment session at the Salt Lake Temple, which I believe was the first time I'd been to that temple in upwards of twenty years. (I'd almost forgotten what it was like to do a "live" session!) Kiley was able to do proxy baptisms there at that same time with her cousins Rhea and Linsey, after which they went to the Joseph Smith Building and the Gateway Mall, where we picked them up later.

On Friday, the big event was our going to see a matinee showing of the new Harry Potter movie in Tooele, and yesterday, Saturday, Brian and Dona conscripted their home teacher into providing his collection of kayaks (along with his trailer and his person) for a family outing at a reservoir near Grantsville (see photos). Devery and Easton had Friday (Pioneer Day in Utah) off work, and they came up and spent a couple of nights with us at Brian and Dona's house, so they were there for Harry Potter and the lake. Kiley, who didn't want to go to Utah in the first place (and who complained mightily for much of the time we were there), took along her cello and spent a lot of time practicing her Youth Symphony music in preparation for camp next week at Hummingbird Music Camp in the Jemez.

Now I get to go back to work. Oh joy!

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Dream Guitars

Here they are -- the guitars I would buy if money were no object. One, a shell pink Fender Stratocaster. (The one pictured was made in Japan; perhaps, if I were rich, I'd order a custom-made American Stratocaster, but it would have to be in shell pink -- man, I love that color!) Two, a Gretsch Double Jet. (The one pictured was made in Korea; again, if I were rich, I'd probably buy an American-made model, but I love the silver-flake finish.) Three, a Martin D-45 acoustic guitar. (The D-45 was the Cadillac of mass-produced acoustic guitars in my youth; nowadays, there are other brands that sell for as much or more than Martins, but I still feel partial to the D-45.) And four, a Gibson Les Paul Standard. (I would finally indulge my teenage dream of owning what most people still regard as the ultimate rock 'n' roll guitar. I might waver between a flamed sunburst finish or a gold-top finish [as pictured here], but it would have to have the standard-size humbucking pickups and cream-colored trim.)