Friday, October 14, 2011

Trip to White Sands and Ruidoso, October 7-9, 2011

Sam, Zach, and Mason
Kayla, Mason, and Tyler
Tyler and Mason check out the gear
Grandma sledding with Mason
Sam, Zach, and Devery
Me and Zach at Oliver Lee S.P.
Making s'mores at Oliver Lee
Sam, Kiley, and Devery
Tyler and Mason
Sam packing up to go to White Sands
Getting ready to go to White Sands
Maddy guiding Tyler across the road
The girls in front of the Swiss Chalet Inn
Zach with Tyler
At the Swiss Chalet Inn
Kristy, Chris, and Kids at White Sands
In back of the hotel in/near Ruidoso
Toasting marshmallows for s'mores

Mason taking a tumble at White Sands

Grandma doing a little sledding with Mason

Me taking a sled run on "our" dune

Series of videos that Kristy and Chris shot at White Sands

Our extended family (minus Darren and a couple of sons-in-law) took a weekend trip to southern New Mexico on October 7-9, 2011. This was a trip I'd wanted to do for some time, so I looked forward to it with great anticipation. We camped Friday night at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, located south of Alamogordo, NM, then spent several hours on Saturday at White Sands National Monument, which is west of Alamogordo. Finally, we drove up to Ruidoso, NM (a pretty mountain town that was once the playground of many a Texas oil millionaire) and spent Saturday night in the Swiss Chalet Inn, an older hotel north of town.

I love the Oliver Lee campground and always enjoy staying there. It was windy and thus the tents flapped around all night, impeding everyone's sleep; however, I think we all had a great time camping out otherwise. The conditions at White Sands the next day were perfect -- perfect weather, perfect dune, perfect company, and perfect equipment (fast masonite sleds for the adults and slower plastic sleds for the kids).

Ruidoso was a little disappointing. The rooms at the Swiss Chalet Inn were far better than the online reviews I'd read would suggest, but the indoor pool was out of operation, a severe letdown for the grandchildren. And I became very self-conscious about our having five kids under the age of six, all of whom were excited to be with their cousins, in a hotel that wasn't designed for children. I know the desk clerks caught an earful from various guests about the noise, so if we ever take the whole family back to Ruidoso -- which I doubt, since there just isn't that much for kids to do there, anyway -- we'll plan it out better and get a cabin. The highlight of Ruidoso for me was eating at the Circle J Barbecue on Saturday night, and then at Schlotzky's Deli on Sunday before returning back to Albuquerque.

Overall, everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. It was the very sort of trip I'd like to take at least four or five times a year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Random Thoughts, Part 7

1. Next year's presidential election is already weighing heavily on my mind.  Barack Obama has been such a disaster as president -- having no leadership skills and lacking sense enough to surround himself with people who do -- that one would normally think he had no chance whatsoever of being re-elected; however, the Republican field of candidates is something less than reassuring.  I feel like I should be enthused about Mitt Romney's front-runner status, given his being Mormon (and thus probably a very decent individual) and his proven administrative ability, but I can't feel good about his tendency to say and do just about anything that he thinks will help his chances of being elected.  I also know the mainstream media will lay off him until he becomes the nominee -- just because they they think his religion makes him an easy target  -- and then come at him full-bore.  ("Funny underwear!" "Polygamy!" "Men can become gods!" "History of racism and sexism!" "Weird temple ordinances with Masonic origins!" "Homophobic bigots!" "High rates of [fill in the blank]!")  But who else is there?  Apart from being more conservative, Rick Perry seems like the second coming of George W. Bush.  Michele Bachmann appears bright and sufficiently conservative, but the media proved with Sarah Palin that conservative women are easily ripped apart.  Newt Gingrich is smart and experienced, but he simply carries too much baggage.  I'd relish the pitting of a conservative African American like Herman Cain against the liberal ideologue Obama, but I'm just not convinced Cain is prepared to assume the office (reminiscent of Obama himself) -- and, of course, at any rate the media would paint him as a blood traitor to his race.  The election is a long way off, but the Republican train hasn't even made it onto the rails yet.

[Update 11/10/11: Rick Perry has now committed a gaffe in a debate -- forgetting "Department of Energy" as the third of three federal agencies he'd abolish as president -- that seems likely to seal his doom as a candidate.  And, as if anyone couldn't have predicted it, Herman Cain, like Clarence Thomas before him, is being tarred as a serial sexual harasser; it's curious how every conservative African American man seems to be "outed" as an out-of-control horndog at the precise moment he's poised to make an impact on the national political scene.  Barack Obama has an amazing array of dirty operatives at his disposal -- just look at his election as senator from Illinois, when the "sealed" court records from his opponents' divorces magically came to light -- which makes me wonder why it is that no reputable person in the party opposite seems to have the means or the nerve to dig up the goods on Obama.]

2. I really don't know what to make of the recent "Occupy [Wall Street, etc.]" movement, if one can call it a movement.  Their contentions are both incoherent and absurd -- they're blaming banks that they ended up with $100,000 in student-loan debt and a useless college degree in liberal arts? -- but one common thread seems to run through them: the reflexive desire for government to step in and make things "right."  That in itself makes them, for lack of a better term, the "anti-Tea Party," given that the Tea Party movement wants government to intrude less and to allow free enterprise to refuel our terrible economy.  (More than one conservative wag, taking note of the personal-hygiene habits of the "Occupy" people, began referring to them as the "Flea Party.")  There is such an air of unreality these days, on both ends of the political spectrum, that I despair of finding a solution either to the debt crisis, on one hand, or the jobs crisis on the other.  Will our mind-boggling national debt be paid down without tax increases?  No.  But has Congress shown it can raise taxes -- or, for that matter, do anything at all -- without also raising expenditures?  (And are there enough "rich" people to leave holding the bag?)  No...writ large.  It's all too depressing to contemplate.

3. I've thought a lot about the devolution of traffic court in the local Metropolitan Court system.  At one time, smart people always opted to go to court when cited for speeding, simply because there was a better-than-even chance the police officer wouldn't show up for "trial" and the citation would be dismissed.  If the cop did show up, it was certain the person would end up paying something, as one could neither (a) argue the facts, since the officer was per se considered more truthful/credible than the "defendant," nor (b) argue the law, because frankly the law doesn't mean very much in traffic court -- Metro Court not being a court of record and its judges thus not having to fear being reversed or taken to task by a higher court.  (There's a term for a court in which neither the facts nor the law is subject to dispute or interpretation, and it involves a certain marsupial.)  However, the judge typically offered some sort of plea-disposition deal, which involved paying a lower fine and having the citation "dismissed" -- and not having the "offense" reported to the Motor Vehicle Division -- if the person had no subsequent citations for six months.  (The terms of such a deal were often deviously offered, which one would discover only the next time he was ticketed --  which could be many years later -- finding he was now a "repeat offender" and subject to greater sanctions such as driver-improvement school.)  The situation these days, however, is much worse.  First, on the initial trip to court, one meets with a court "negotiator" whose job it is to arrange for plea deals without involving the officer at all.  A person can still insist on having an actual "trial" date, but those dates are carefully aligned with the cop's schedule, and all APD officers are now scheduled to go to court on certain days.  And, second, the person is warned vehemently that if he doesn't accept the plea offer, he will, if (make that when) found "guilty," have to pay both the full fine associated with the citation and court costs.  This new system has made traffic court even more Kafka-esque than ever, something I wouldn't have thought possible; in any case, there's now a tremendous (and assuredly intentional) disincentive to go to court in Bernalilllo County on a traffic citation. Thank goodness I haven't had a speeding ticket now in over six years, but there are times -- particularly when I'm on my way to work and am trying to hit all the lights green -- when I exceed the speed limit by up to 8-9 mph.  In general, I'm fairly careful not to speed...too much...but I remain vulnerable.

4. I sometimes think about my immediate family's (that is, my siblings' and my) record in marriage.  Only two of my parents' six children haven't been divorced, or at least separated, from their first spouses.  One brother has been married four times to three different women, although his current marriage has lasted a number of years now.  Another brother has been married three times to two different women, although his current marriage has lasted about thirty years.  A third brother divorced after 33 years of marriage and is still in some personal disarray over the breakup, despite having been unhappy in his marriage for many years.  And my sister only recently reconciled with her husband after an extended separation.  Thus my remaining brother and I are the only ones who have stayed with our original spouses for the duration.  This record may not be a stellar one, but I attribute it more to basic incompatibility than to the shortcomings of my family members.  The LDS church leadership is on record as saying that any man and woman who are committed to living gospel principles should be able to have a successful marriage, but I think all of my siblings would agree with me that such a blanket statement is, to say the least, overly simplistic.

5. I bought a "magnet therapy" bracelet when we were in Pagosa Springs in July.  I considered it new-age voodoo even at the point of sale, but I've been willing to consider various alternative remedies for my equilibrium problems.  It almost goes without saying that the bracelet has done nothing to alleviate my dizziness, but I continue to wear it: one, I like the way it looks; two, it was Dorine's idea to buy it, so, in a way, it's a second emblem (along with my wedding ring) of my love for her; and three, well, I wear it as a token of both (a) faith that I can be healed from my mal de debarquement and (b) the utter failure of conventional medicine to diagnose or treat my ailment.  I'll probably lose the bracelet eventually, as small magnets don't make the best of clasps (and it's already come off at several inopportune moments) but I'll wear it while I have it.

6. I still feel some odd draw to my singles-ward days in 1981-84, and I wish for more content on Facebook about the old Albuquerque 11th Ward.  Just why I should feel a greater draw to the singles ward than to other times of my pre-marriage life (such as high school, my time at BYU, or my mission), I can't explain.  Do I miss these people?  Not particularly -- I'd like to become friends again with my old buddy Tracy Carroll, whom I haven't seen now in probably 12-13 years, and I'd sort of like to know what happened to Barbara T_____ and see a current photo of her, but that's about it.  I can't even say I'd like to re-live any singles-ward times or events, but perhaps I have a Freudian sense that I've left things undone or should have treated people differently.  Who can tell?

7. It's interesting to me how my diet has changed over time.  I still eat way too much of the wrong things, but I don't eat much ice cream anymore.  I also eat much less cereal, red meat, eggs, and even chocolate and other candy.  Finally, I drink quite a bit less soda pop than I once did.  However, I still eat too much in the way of chips, nuts, and other snack foods -- and even my daily quart of Gatorade packs a lot of sugar.  What I really need to do is eat fewer meals and smaller portions, and also snack less.  My metabolism has slowed so much that I can't say what it would take in the end for me to lose weight, but I've made some progress, anyway, in terms of diet.