Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Couple Pics

On my recent canyoneering trip, I had my camera for a couple hours before the battery died. Here's two General Scenery pictures I got. I love the mountains when the rain makes everything look all misty.

View from Lava Point lookout:

Nice double rainbow, poor picture.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anniversary Gifts

I have the best wife ever. For our second anniversary coming up, she sent me an email listing some anniversary gifts she'd enjoy getting, complete with links straight to the Amazon page selling the item. It's like a husband's dream! All I have to do is point and click, and I know she's happy with what she'll get! Can life get any better?!


In canyoneering circles, there are two "big" canyons: Imlay and Heaps. Last weekend, we finally checked Heaps off our to-do list.

There were five of us on the trip. Left to right in the back: Randall, Josh, Corin, and me. In the front, Corin's brother, Jim. This was at the beginning of the West Rim trail (from the Lava Point side). We had a nice gentleman from Oklahoma take the picture for us. He was visiting with his son, and on one of our chats with him (we leapfrogged each other on the trail as we alternately rested and hiked) he mentioned that couldn't believe how amazing and beautiful Zion National Park was (quite a contrast from Oklahoma, I imagine). I realized that after so many visits, I was starting to take some of the beauty for granted, but it really is an amazing part of the country.

The night before, we camped at Lava Point. It was raining pretty much all day, but by the time night fell, the rain had pretty much tapered off. We decided to see what the weather looked like in the morning, since you don't really want to hike a slot canyon when it's raining because of flash flood danger. The morning was sunny and blue so we decided to go for it.

This is on the West Rim trail. I think the trail is about 12 miles long, and goes from Lava Point on one end to the Grotto in Zion NP. We could have started from either end, since our jumping-off point was somewhere in the middle, but we opted for the longer but less-strenuous choice.

The sunny blue skies quickly vanished, leaving us with light gray skies and the occasional passing sprinkle. It was actually great hiking weather, nice and cool, far from the low-90 degree temperatures that had been predicted. About four hours later, we reached Campsite 4, which was where we left the West Rim Trail and dropped into Phantom Valley. This is the first rappel:

After that rappel, we had to traverse a knife-edge ridge with sheer drop-offs on both sides. It might be a little hard to tell from this picture, but the ridge is about ten feet wide. The directions we were going off overstated the scariness a little though, I think. It talked about people crawling on hands and knees, etc., but it wasn't really that bad, you just had to be careful where you put your feet for a few steps.

The worst part of the trip was the hike to the bottom of Phantom Valley. After the two rappels to get in, we were still quite a ways above the valley floor, and we had to hike down some steep, ankle-twisting slickrock in the sun (which had reappeared). We finally got to the bottom, however, and debated whether to camp where we were for the night, or continue on and do a two-and-a-half hour section of narrows before camping at a place called "The Crossroads." Since we still had a few hours of daylight left and The Crossroads sounded like better camping, we finally decided to continue on.

We suited up in our wetsuits and started in! Heaps was all about the water, and there was plenty. In some sections, we had to swim for a few hundred feet. As usual, the water was frigid in most places, but I was borrowing Randall's 7 mm wetsuit and it kept me pretty warm.

This picture is a little fuzzy, but it gives you a good idea of what a keeper pothole is like. Due to our wet spring, the potholes were mostly full, which was nice. Note how Corin is treading water and trying to pull himself out of the pothole at the same time. Now imagine the water level even a foot lower. In that case, he wouldn't be able to reach over the lip, and would be facing nothing but a wet, mossy, sheer rock wall. There's various techniques for dealing with keeper potholes, but a lot of them involve not getting in in the first place. Fortunately, we came prepared with the neccesary equipment and combined with the high water level, we never had a problem.

Keeper potholes can be deadly for a variety of wildlife, not including canyoneers. One of the occupational hazards of swimming through canyons is running into floaters, a small speciman of which is pictured below. I have yet to run into large things like deer, but I've heard horror stories. You try not to think about what's in the water when you slide into a pool and your head goes under, or when you accidentally swallow some water.

Water, dead animals, and potholes aren't the only obstacles you face. There's often log jams left behind by flash floods. If you're lucky, they're stuck partway up the canyon like this one, allowing you to crawl underneath. If you're not lucky, you have to climb over a shaky mountain of logs, sticks, and other junk.

And of course, rappels are always fun. There were quite a few in Heaps, including the infamous final 300 foot rappel.

To get to the final rappel (actually, a sequence of three rappels, 500 feet in total), you actually have to climb up this little chimney.

Unfortunately, I don't have any nice pictures of the final rappel. All these pictures actually came from Randall's camera, since mine turned out to have an almost-dead battery, and I had left my spare at home. The rappel ends in Upper Emerald Pools, so there were quite a few tourists with cameras filming us coming down, and Corin left his email address with one couple who promised to send us the pictures they took. We'll see if they come through with that.

Here's the best picture we have, looking up at the lip we rappelled over, 300 feet above the ground.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Open Rant

I go the speed limit.

It drives Child crazy at times, but that's who I am. I prefer the casual, relaxed driving and letting people pass me to the tense, high-speed passing of other people.

On the Interstate, that means that I can usually be found in the either the far right lane (the slowest lane) or the far left lane (the carpool lane). Despite it being on the far left and usually having less traffic than the other lanes, that does not mean the carpool is the "fastest" lane.

The upshot and rant portion of this post is that if you come up behind me doing twenty miles-per-hour more than me and starting flashing your headlights, I'm probably not going to move over. If I'm in the far-right/slowest lane, there's nowhere for me to go. If I'm in the far-left/carpool lane, it's usually the same: most of the time there's a double-solid line and I'm not going to cross it, breaking the law so you can get on with your own breaking the law. Sorry. If I was going under the speed limit I might sympathize with your position, but I'm not, so I don't.

And just so you don't think I'm a jerk who loves to irritate people, the other day a truck pulling a trailer came up behind me on a hill while I was in the second lane and flashed his lights at me. I promptly moved over so he could keep his momentum. I'm not out to make your life miserable on purpose, I just have my own pace, I keep to the lane designated for people with my pace, and I don't like you trying to push me to a faster pace.

Enjoy the road!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Slow news day

Popular Media's Third Law of News Reporting:
For every completely pointless, unnewsworthy incident reported in the news, there will be an equal and opposite completely pointless, unnewsworthy incident reported in the news.
Yesterday, Child and I laughed together about CNN reporting how President Obama swatted a fly. "Obama kills fly in interview" the headline (front-page!) screamed. "When a fly bugs President Obama during an interview with CNBC, he kills the pest with one swat."

"Could there be anything less-newsworthy they could possibly report?" we wondered. "Since when is anyone, even a sitting president, killing a fly newsworthy?" There was even a video to go with it!

Apparently, we don't have a very good sense of what is newsworthy and what isn't. Not only is President Obama killing a fly newsworthy, but it's also important enough to inspire YouTube videos, spoofs, and discussion around the web. PETA even responded and CNN reported on THAT: "Fly-killer Obama chastized by PETA".

It just goes to show, as the Popular Media's Third Law of News Reporting indicates, there is nothing so trivial that you can't make a news story out of it, then make a news story about people's response to your news story.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sacrament Meeting Meta-Talk

This Sunday I'm giving a 15 minute talk in church. My topic: Sacrament Meeting.

Obviously the most important part of (and main reason for) sacrament meeting is the sacrament itself, but Child was assigned that specific subject, so I want to look at some other angles.

Any ideas? Anecdotes? Thoughts or opinions on church meetings in general?

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The mystery would not have confounded Sherlock Holmes. It probably wouldn't have confounded a six-year-old, blindfolded child.

The crime scene:

Clues of note: the plant was a catnip plant, recently removed from its enclosed plastic greenhouse and transplanted into an open can. This can was placed on the ground at approximately cat-eye-level.

Relatedly, a cat (a.k.a. "Acouchi") was also recently transplanted, from the vet clinic where she had spent the last week and a half getting radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism, to the home where the crime occurred. The alleged cat was suspected to be harboring intense feelings of hatred towards those responsible for putting her into the vet clinic for a week and half, as well as a love of catnip. She also had no alibi for the night in question.

Motive: Check.

Opportunity: Check.

Perpetrator: "Who's hiding it? And tomorrow night I'm peeing on your beanbag chair with radioactive pee."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Drunk people aren't smart.

Last night, Child and I passed through a Sobriety Checkpoint in southern Utah. Child was driving. As we reached the front of the line, she rolled down the window and the deputy walked up.

Deputy: "How's it going?"
Obviously pregnant woman: "Fine."
D: "Have you been drinking?"
OPW: (Pats stomach) "No."
D: "Can I see your license?"
OPW: "I don't have it with me."
D: "But you have one? And it's not suspended?"
OPW: "No."
D: "Okay. Have a nice day!"

Now that's sexism. And probably pregnancy-ism. If it had been me with my three-day beard growth driving the car, you can bet I would have had to produce my license.

And who would answer "Yes" to that last question? I guess a drunk person might. "No, Offisher, I don't have my linshensh." "Ha! Gotcha!"

Anyway, we were glad they didn't give us any grief, but Child with her pregnant stomach, me with me Gatorade and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" book and our car full of camping gear probably didn't fit the profile they were looking for.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chosen By God...or Not

When you're a missionary, some people take it on themselves to try to convert you to their own religion. Fine, fair enough. Makes for some funny stories. This isn't one of them. Sorry.

Anyway, one person gave me a book titled "Chosen by God," by R. C. Sproul. It's all about predestination; I'm not sure the author's religion, but he's all for it. I remember reading it and not being impressed, so as I was moving books around today and noticed it, I decided to give it another shot, see if it was as bad as I remembered.

It was. It's been...seven or eight years since I read it, but on the first page I immediately encountered a paragraph I still remembered.
"Perhaps no American rule is broken more frequently than the one about not discussing politics or religion...And when the topic turns to religion it often gravitates to the issue of predestination."
My question is: How many times has your discussion of religion with your acquaintances turned to the issue of predestination? Answers could range from never (mine) to often, the point being that if the author's conversations frequently turn to the issue of predestination, it's possibly because it's his favorite topic and he forces the conversation that direction. I'm all for talking about things that interest me and I often do, but I try not to make the mistake of believing that my favorite esoteric subject is of interest to everyone I come in contact with.

Moving on to the definition of "predestination," he gets my hopes up when he says that "our definition is often colored by our doctrine." I agree with that! Perhaps he will take a well-rounded approach to the subject, show us several definitions based on various doctrines, be at least a little unbiased.

No such luck. "What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born." That's it. End of discussion. No alternate definitions. Reading on, apparently he didn't mean the DEFINITION of predestination was colored by our doctrine (because THAT'S set in stone!), but rather the basis that God makes his decision on is open for argument.

Obviously, if you take exception to his definition of predestination, as I do, then the entire rest of the book is pointless since it builds off that.

Two thoughts:
  1. What if "destination" referred to your role, position, or place in life, rather than your physical location after you died?
  2. If, in fact, it refers to our eternal reward, what if God didn't "decide" it, but rather "suggested" it?
Anyway, forced to build from that incorrect foundation stone, the entire book is of necessity full of tortured conclusions and laughable contradictions. The whole time I'm reading it I'm saying to myself, "The answer is so easy! Why do you put yourself through this?"

Pros and Cons

Things I like:
  • Helmets. It only takes one hit to the head to make a helmet worth every penny you paid for it. Especially when you're canyoneering, miles from medical help. They're hot, uncomfortable, and make my hair do weird things so it took me a while to like them, but after that first rock to the helmet, I won't go canyoneering without them.
  • Biking. Last Saturday morning (6:45 AM) I went biking in the hills behind Draper with a couple friends. You could probably call it "mountain biking" but it was more "casual hill biking." Either way, it was a lot of fun.
  • Ultimate Frisbee. Especially fun if you play with people who aren't quite as hardcore as some can be. Incidentally, one of my favorite presents are a set of orange cones that Child got me. They're always a big hit for pick-up games.
  • Gardens. Our most recent set of plants (zucchini, green beans, and squash) have all shot up. Also, our green beans that we sneakily planted across the street in a vacant lot have sprouted, but they're pretty much growing in gravel so I'm not sure how well they'll do.
  • Spiritual insights. I love getting inspirations to questions I've had--especially if they're mathematically-based. :)
Things I don't like:
  • Dying pea plants. Why, my little pea plants, why?! I water you every day!
  • Child being unhappy. Acouchi will be in the hospital for two weeks, and Child is sad because of this.
  • How easily distracted I am. I shouldn't be blogging right now, I should be working on my story. So...goodbye.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Faith, hope and charity...

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the most confusing of these is hope."
-1 Corinthians 13:13, paraphrased.
I've always wondered about Hope.

Faith, I understand. Charity is easy. However, I was never quite sure how hope really differed from faith. It's probably been one of my longest-standing questions, and I've never really heard a satisfactory answer. Some of the confusion is probably due to the fact that faith and hope seem to be used interchangeably at times in the scriptures.

Then, a couple days ago, inspiration struck! A diagram came to mind, and Hope suddenly made sense in a pseudo-mathematical sense:

"Knowledge" is when you have enough evidence that you can say with certainty approaching 100% that something is true.

En route to any knowledge, however, you must pass through a continuum of faith. This holds whether it's scientific or religious knowledge. For many bits of knowledge, you may jump straight from one end to the continuum to the other with a single bit of evidence: your trigonometry teacher tells you that a2 + b2 = c2 and you believe her. For other bits of knowledge it takes much more evidence: your parents tell you that Education Is Good and it takes you through high school, college, graduate school, and finally making 20K a year more than your high-school dropout friends to really believe them.

However, key to this equation (Faith + Hope = Knowledge) is the fact that faith is based on evidence. I've always misunderstood this. I assumed faith was what you relied on when you had no evidence.

But that's hope's domain! Faith is based on evidence, while hope makes up the difference.

Alma's "seed" analogy is a good one:
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

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

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
Alma 32:28-34