Saturday, July 21, 2018

Again, What It's Like Being Me

Spent nearly five hours weeding the garden this morning*. Dogs protected me from the following:

1. Conner Turpin mowing the lawn next door.
2. Other dogs barking in the distance.
3. Evil presence left by the big dogs next door who occasionally stick their noses through knotholes in the fence.
4. The weeds I was weeding.
5. The weeds I had already weeded.
6. Bees in the raspberries.
7. Raspberries.
8. Random oxygen molecules.
9. Raindrops.
10. The absence of raindrops.
11. The sudden explosion of a soft dirt clod on the fence near where they were barking at the aforementioned evil presence.
12. Random car door slams.
13. Imaginary random car door slams.

And so on. I felt *so* protected.

*Yes, five hours weeding. Never said I was a good gardener.

Also shot myself in the hinders with a stream of cold water as I was trying to fix a garden sprinkler line.

But this is what you do when the string of 15 days with temperatures above 90 degrees is suddenly broken by light rain and temperatures in only the mid 70s.

And I was off on the temperatures . . .  No wonder it felt so pleasant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Making Prime Work, Part IX

Part One: An Unpopular Opinion.

Yes, there is this:

If you've seen this 28-second scene, you've seen the best, and pretty much only the best, in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles."

And I love Mel Brooks' films. And I'd heard of this moron scene, and the farting around the campfire scene. So I thought I was ready.

But the rest of the film. Good grief.

Underulilized talents: Harvey Korman. Madeline Kahn. Gene Wilder. GENE WILDER! How do you underutilize Gene Wilder? All three of these actors have real manic qualities that come out in other Brooks films. Not in this one. The Waco Kid may as well have been played by anybody. And all Madeline Kahn got to do was sing that sad, sad song.

Part Two: Mixed Results from Mike Judge.

First of all, I watch TV nowadays in weird ways. What usually happens is that I spend most of my time watching clips from shows (notably The Office and Parks and Recreation. Then I get to watching the episodes and I get bored until the "best of" comes up.

Kinda so with "The Goode Family" from Mike Judge. This week marked the first time I watched all of season one's episodes. And while I liked the universal lessons on listening to others' desires, not judging others because they don't exactly fit the carefully-curated stereotypes we have of their particular little pigeon-hole, and the coach mispronouncing Ubuntu's name as "Umbumchew, or something," the show, well I know now why it was cancelled after one season.

And maybe they should have given it more time. More time to find their feet with the characters and the message. But as they were skewering progressives, time was not on their side.

This is probably my favorite episode, because of its skewering of classism. Both the left and the right suffer from classism, but the progressive left likes to think they don't. So to see them squirm is delicious.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Nuclear Doesn’t Need More Black Eyes

At the bottom of it, it doesn’t matter that the amount of radioactive material lost in this particular instance is small.

Nor that it’s not enough to fashion a bomb.

Nor that it could be coated with candy and eaten by unicorns, who would then poop more exciting rainbows.

The fact that it was treated carelessly and then stolen and remains unaccounted for is a black eye on nuclear anything, period.

To sum up from the story:

Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there.

Their task was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others.

To ensure they got the right items, the specialists from Idaho brought radiation detectors and small samples of dangerous materials to calibrate them: specifically, a plastic-covered disk of plutonium, a material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons, and another of cesium, a highly radioactive isotope that could potentially be used in a so-called “dirty” radioactive bomb.

But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.

Idiot instances like this will be another nail in the coffin of bringing any waste from Washington state or California to Idaho for treatment – even if doing so makes sense financially, as treatment facilities and crews that know how to work them already exist in Idaho. If the Department of Energy can’t keep track of a few samples of the bad stuff, who is to say the can handle transporting thousands of gallons of the stuff.

Particularly when the mishandling of such material by lab contractors appears to go unpunished.

And I know there are wagonloads of differences between the loss of this material and the safety precautions and checks and double checks and triple checks that would have to take place for any waste to come to Idaho for treatment. What matters is the perception, on a one-to-one ratio, for regulators and alarmists and Joe Six-Pack and Betty Housecoat to scuttle any deal that has the word “nuclear” in it.

Without a drop of waste coming – and still without knowing where the missing radioactive material has ended up – jobs are at stake and could likely be lost. Not those of the folks who lost the stuff, but those who could keep working safety and economically to treat waste from outside the state.

So what’s gotta happen?

Accountability. The Department of Energy, per this article, is pretty good at keeping non-Department folks in line with fines for losing or mishandling this bad stuff. Seems like the same rules ought to apply, and publicly.

Horse Sense. Nobody but nobody – even the noob writing this – should leave ANYTHING resembling a suitcase in a locked car overnight in a hotel parking lot. This is elementary security, folks.

NOTE: I’m saying this as a private citizen, and am not in any way speaking for the company I work for. I do work in the nuclear industry, but on the waste cleanup side.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Helaman and Weird Al

Dear Liam,

There came a time when Jesus asked his disciples to sail with him across the Sea of Galilee, as told in the fourth chapter of Mark:

And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Rightly, his disciples marveled. Who is this man, they asked – and what is his power, that even the wind and sea obey him?

That power is the priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood, which you are soon to receive.

What, then, do we need to exercise the power of the priesthood in our lives? We cannot hope, of course, to equal the power of Jesus, as he is our Savior. We can, however, be worthy of the power of the priesthood, study how it is used, practice using it, and demonstrate faith in our Father in Heaven that as we keep his commandments, we can use his power in our lives and in the lives of others for tremendous good.

I have seen you faithfully exercise the power of the Aaronic Priesthood many times. A few weeks ago, it was my honor to sit at the sacrament table with you and bless the sacrament at your side. As I listened to you say the prayer, and as I recited it myself, I tried to imagine the both of us sitting at the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples.

I also saw you in a moment of frustration not too long ago exercise your priesthood power when you were asked to teach a lesson in Priests Quorum, and also to serve at the Gables. I know you were frustrated at having to do so much in one day, but I was proud of you as I watched you take on that responsibility. As we exercise our faith and study what the priesthood can do, we will see many blessings come, blessings that far surpass the time we invest in fulfilling our duties.

“We know that the power of the holy priesthood does not work independently of faith, the Holy Ghost, and spiritual gifts,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The scriptures caution ‘Deny not the gifts of God, for they are many. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh [them] all.”

As a missionary, I saw this man – my first mission president – urge his missionaries to do what he urges members of the church as a whole to do now. We need to have faith first, and Alma tells us how to do that by comparing faith to the growing of a seed:

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say, I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth fruit unto its own likeness.

President Andersen – and Jesus Christ – encourage us to find ways to plant those seeds of faith: By teaching lessons at church, by administering in priesthood ordinances, by listening to our leaders, but most fervently by studying the gospel and by praying to know whether it is true.

As we gain testimonies, we feel that seed growing inside us.

Elder Andersen also mentions the Holy Ghost – that wonderful personage, as real as the Father and as Jesus – who helps us feel and know when things are right. I hope you have felt the presence of the Holy Ghost; for me it is a feeling of lightheartedness and joy. I have heard the Holy Ghost whisper to me.

Once, when I was feeling down about myself and some sins I had committed, I heard His voice. I was at work, cutting bricks for Uncle Albert, and humming in my head a Weird Al song. At one point in the song, Weird Al sings the lyric, “You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow.” When I got to that point in the song, I felt my burden lifted, and felt that lightheartedness and joy as I knew, despite my faults, that the Holy Ghost was speaking to me, letting me know that though I was not perfect, Heavenly Father loved me anyway.

And yes, sometimes the Holy Ghost will speak to you through a Weird Al lyric.

Strive to be worthy to have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.

Elder Andersen also speaks of spiritual gifts. They are many, and I see some of them manifest in you. The gift you have with music is a valuable spiritual gift, as Heavenly Father uses music to help convey the Holy Ghost to our hearts. As we develop our talents and use them to help others, we come closer to God.

Here is something my Dad – your Opa – wrote to me about the priesthood:

“The priesthood is the greatest power on earth. It has the power to heal the sick and take away sorrow. It makes life bearable. It makes everything grow. It makes the sun shine and the rain fall. It is the power of our Father in Heaven given to man to use. Never use it for selfish reasons. It is a great responsibility. The blessings are great.”

I saw my father use the priesthood as he led our family. He had his struggles with faith like many of us do, but he had a deeply-rooted love of his Father and Heaven and of Jesus Christ, a love that he always managed to communicate to his children. He used his gifts – the ability to get along with all sorts of different people, the ability to see the humor in life – to see him through many difficult times.

And I know he felt the influence of the Holy Ghost.

I am not always the best example of a priesthood holder. I know I can do better. And I know as you grow in faith, in testimony, in spiritual gifts, and in listening to the Holy Ghost, you will become a greater holder of the priesthood than you are already.

I love you.

Love, Dad

Dear Maverik

Dear Maverik,

At this point I just want to say this: Let my Maverik Trail Points expire.

I have 106.2 of them. In what amounts they're doled out is mysterious, given I have two tenths of a point in my little Maverik piggy bank.

Another great mystery: How to redeem them.

This is a good facsimile of the emails I get from y'all on a regular basis:

Every time I get one of these emails, I'm snookered.

Snookered into going to to check out the cool things I can buy or win when I spend my Trail Points.

I'm an old-fashioned guy, who grew up on Boys Life and comic books with the "Sell Crap for Crappy Prizes" adverts in them, so that's kinda what I envision when I go to your website. I'm always disappointed. Because what I always see are the deals on Monster drinks or your iffy sandwiches. So by going to I get to see the same stuff I see advertised in your store.

I typically don't want those deals.

And when I use my Maverik card to buy gas, I like that. Sometimes y'all offer me a free fountain drink. I like that too.

But if you want me to go to to check out these awesome bargains, can you maybe have a little category on your website that says, a la Sell Crap to Win Crappy Prizes, that shows exactly what I can spend these valuable points on?

And if you want to flog your app, maybe you ought to make one for Android. Cause I ain't seein' one.

So let my Trail Points expire. I only use the card to get discounted gasoline anyway.

And your spokesbeing, I still think he's a reptilian.

Friday, July 13, 2018

No Disintegrations -- A Further Follow-Up

So over the past few weeks, I've been able to make some progress that I actually feel good about. Here goes:

MAIN FLOOR TILE. Need to tile bathroom and foyer closet, and grout laundry room. Fix soft spots in the kitchen.

UPDATE: The bathroom is tiled and grouted, and the grouting is done in the laundry room. I had to fix one tile in the bathroom that came up soft when a screw backed out of the floor. Tomorrow the goal is to finish cleaning the floor, paint the walls, and re-install the toilet, thus finishing the bathroom. I'm not sure I'll be able to get all of that done, but I'll sure give it a shot.

ROOF. Finish ridge cap on the upper portion of the roof and replace shingles on the porch and kitchen window pop-out. Also haul off the discarded shingles. Yesterday’s gullywasher also reminded me I need to clean those gutters out. Maybe if it’s not raining this evening . . .

UPDATE: The only bit of roof left to do is gutter cleaning on the lower portion of the house and the kitchen pop-out. I'm going to try to recruit kids when they get home from camp tomorrow to at least help me get the extra shingles and ladder off the roof. Any cleaning of the gutters tomorrow will be a bonus, but I don't have high hopes that'll get done.

It's a relief to have the shingles done -- well, almost. But we're to the point now if I couldn't get the pop-out done, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Getting the shingles done this summer is a significant achievement.

So too is finishing the laundry room and bathroom. Finishing that up will be top priority tomorrow. Getting the grouting done today is a significant step.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Making Prime Work VIII

Part One: Saints and Soldiers

Call me silly, but I love a good war movie. And Saints and Soldiers is a good war movie. Because it’s not a war movie – the big one with the generals and the tanks and battles. It’s five guys – sometimes six – and, toward the end, a lot fewer. They don’t get the big picture. They’re just trying to stay alive. And mostly, they don’t. Because this is a war movie.

What we witness is a little tragedy which is part of a larger tragedy which was part of what’s now been called The Good War.

It does not glory in war. It makes war look intimate, personal, and ugly.

And, yes, it is one of those films made by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But it doesn’t drip Mormon.

It does drip with themes of love, and camaraderie, and a little bit of redemption.

Most underrated thing about this movie? The musical score. There are times the score mixes choral arrangements with an eerie chirping, like out-of-tune crickets, which adds to the overall atmosphere of dread. And there’s plenty of dread here. It’s not an overall feel-good movie in that Private Ryan is saved. There are bigger themes here, which always make a good movie great.

The film feels a little off only in one spot -- Kirby Heyborne's British accent. He's not Dick van Dyke level, but it hurts a bit.

Part Two: West and Ward, No!

I don’t know what I expected out of “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.” Maybe Adam West and Burt Ward didn’t know either.

Well, I do know I expected better.

First of all, the baddies tied up a band in a broom closet and took their place on a TV show. And tied up some idiot teenagers in confetti. That’s all they did and Commissioner Gordon ACTIVATES THE BAT-SIGNAL and the Caped Crusaders go into full Bat-Mode to go after the baddies, after introducing each one of them to the viewing audience.

I guess it’s a nod to folks who liked the ‘60s Batman TV show, but that’s about it.

And an atomic energy laboratory opens a new wing dedicated to  . . . lunar eclipses? Maybe they explain the significance. . .

No, they really don't. They went on from plot device to plot device, starting things and not really ending them. Until the movie itself ended.