I was in Provo this weekend picking up my sister and her husband for their Christmas vacation. The weather was fine for travel as far as weather in December goes and the trip was easy and quick. However, two things I saw during my trip have left me dismayed and angered.

The 1st Thing: The Provo Tabernacle burned down. It had apparently started very early Friday morning and by that evening when I arrived it was still burning. Not only was this one of the oldest building in the state of Utah, it was one of the few tabernacles that the Church had not demolished. My college convocation was held there. I had gone and supported a number of my friends' senior concerts held in that building. A number of stake conferences that I was a part of were also held there. I'm sure there are many people who have connections to this building similar to mine. The buildings and architecture where the moments of our lives take place come to define those memories for us; just like a building can come to define a neighborhood, a city and even a nation. Watching flames bursting out of the stained glass windows of the Provo Tabernacle was a painful site.

The 2nd Thing:  Friday evening I was wandering through the Provo Towne Centre Mall picking up some gift certificates my mom had asked me to get. I had just finished picking up some movie gift certificates and as I turned around I saw one of largest, most petty displays of nationalistic narrow mindedness I had ever seen. There were so many of them in all different sizes all under a store sign reading,"McNaughton Fine Art". The picture to which I am referring is apparently the brainchild of this McNaughton, self proclaimed purveyor of "fine art", called The Forgotten Man.  It is a panoramic painting that includes all of the presidents of the United States past and present. You can tell this McNaughton has apparently depicted each president based on what Fox News has told him right down to President Obama standing smugly with the US Constitution under his feet and all recent Democratic presidents applauding him.

  People, just because some one or some group of people have a different political philosophy than you doesn't mean that they are communist/terrorist/rat bastards out to ruin your life. GROW UP! I did not vote for the current president or his direct opponent. I voted for some odd third party candidate with a mustache because I couldn't stand the empty rhetoric coming out of either of them. However, just because my candidate didn't win doesn't mean that I need to sit in my Mc-Mansion worrying about the evil Democrats hiding out in my wood pile waiting to ruin my life. In case anyone else has been paying attention, most politicians- no matter what side of the isle they sit on- have anything but the greater good or the public interest at heart.

  Further more, give the president some respect. Yes, in our nation you do have the freedom to say whatever you want (most of the time), but that doesn't mean that you need to act like badly raised 4 year olds who just lost the game of marbles. It is my conclusions that more level headed people need to be writing their President, Senators and Congressmen because if the honest, level headed American doesn't speak up all we are going to get are the extremisms. And as Ferris Beuller said, "isms, in my opinion, are not good."

P.S.- To Jon McNaughton, and anyone who buys the 10'x20', $3000 print of his over priced political cartoon, please catch the next boat to communist China. They have more need of extremists over there than we do.


More Christmas Than YOU!

Every now and then a great idea comes to you like a bolt of lightning. While the jury may still be out on whether or not this qualifies as one of those lightning bolts of brilliance, I still can't keep from grinning every time I walk out the front door in the morning.

I present to you the first annual Yule-wagen, the Bah Hum-Bug.

   Some might be inclined to point out that the house is already encircled by 150 empty milk carton/luminaries and that a rotting VW carcass might just be going a little to far, but I beg to differ. Some months ago I noticed a about six Volkswagens sitting in the equipment yard of one of the contractors that I use. When I pitched the idea of him loaning me one for the holidays he didn't even think twice. His eyes just widened as he exclaimed,"that is the best idea ever!" Not a week later he showed up one evening with a flatbed trailer carrying my Christmas lawn ornament and some heavy machinery to place it. (My parents are just hoping he remembers to come pick it back up after the holidays)

   My father graffiti-ed  the side, some garland and wreaths were graciously donated and a  friend helped string the lights. This much Christmas magic is hard to pass up.

Nugget of Joy

Anybody can do a music video with a bunch of hot girls and dancing (yeah, you know who you are Taio Cruz)--and not to say that those music videos don't have their place-- but these guys take the cake on creativity.  


This Morning's Weather Report

614 AM PST THU NOV 25 2010





Let the Magic Begin

This has arguably been the best fall in the whole of collective White Pine County memory. The weather was mild and the leaves stayed on the trees well past Halloween. We even managed to stave off any major snow storms until.........just recently. However, mother nature's calm temper is gone and Winter in the high desert of Nevada is here with a vengeance. This past weekend we got a good 5-6 inches of snow. The forecast for the week has generously given us daytime high temperatures of around 15 degrees and night time lows of near -19 (all temperatures not including the wind chill).

But all is not lost. My new electric shop heater arrived just the other day. The block heater on the Blazer seems to be working. Plus, thanks to the season, I can fetch out my Bob Dylan Christmas album (see the 1st song on the play-list in the side bar). This week will be the vaunted week of pies (turkey is really just the appetizer). What more could anyone want.

Thanksgiving Pie Tip: ditch the Crisco, butter is where it's at. Thanks Jenn!

In other news: The Blazer engine project is finished! Granted, my expectations were pretty low, but it runs pretty well. So far I've driven about 200 miles and things have worked out fine. It's ugly, and driving it is something between herding a pig down the road and a cardiovascular work out. It's been a great snow vehicle so far though.

Just call me the Marlboro Man


Happy Nevada Day!

Some fun Nevada facts:

Nevada is the most mountainous state in the Union.
Samuel Clemens started using the pseudonym "Mark Twain" while writing for a paper in Virgina City, Nevada.
Richard Nixon's wife Pat was born in White Pine County Nevada.
Nevada's official state flower is sagebrush.
Nevada was one of only two states to enter the union during the Civil War.
Nevada is the only state to celebrate the day it became a state annually.


The Unannounced Transvestite

One of the most recent projects I've been working on is getting a set of construction drawings completed for the restoration of a railway station in a town about 13 miles North of where I live.

My client had an architect that he wanted to use so a few months ago I began calling and e-mailing this architect. From our conversations I had imagined a smaller, very professional and intelligent man. The work I had seen was great and he seemed sympathetic to historical projects.

This week he came down with his office staff to meet face to face, walk the site, and hash out some details. He called when he reached my office so I left the other project I was working on and drove over. I went upstairs and as I reached the door to my office I noticed what appeared to be two women sitting at the table. One stood up and introduced himself and then his wife. Luckily I still had my sunglasses on so I hope some of my shocked expression was covered.

Come to find out he is not only a licensed architect, he is also a bar owner, caterer, and publicly practicing transvestite, all out of the same building.

Of course.


The Unicorn

Do I blame it for ruining my life one year?
Does it change the fact that these are gorgeous cars?
Should I quit test driving them?



What's this for? (Blazer Report #3)

All the major parts are back, and this coming week re-assembly of the block should begin. The heads are still with Wally, and a few of the parts I need have not appeared yet. However, I think I can still see the beginning of the end of this project. As I have found out I might not have marked my bags of bolts as well as I thought I had. Wally told me to just put all the parts in a box and shake it until it is all put together. It might be my best bet at this point.

Now, I have known Wally for a long time and he has always given me good work at a more than fair price, but he has yet to tell me what it's going to cost me for all the work he's done on my engine block and heads. On top of this project I have been doing the regular things on my other cars. Currently, I'm in the middle of a brake and A/C project on the wagon along with an oil, filter, and valve adjustment job on the ever faithful bug (not to mention registration and insurance premiums). With the parts boxes arriving daily and the impending bill on the Blazer my dreams seem to be frequented more and more by this guy.

Wish me luck....


When I feel rich

On a late summer evening, laying in the back yard

The last remnants of a passing storm gently rock my hammock

The mountain-like clouds of the eastward retreating storm reflect the last rays of the westward traveling Sun

The reflected light from the thunderhead falls calmly over my right shoulder and instead of turning to gaze at the towering storm clouds or the golden sunset I pick up my book

The distant thunder softly calls for my attention, but I don't listen

This is when I feel rich


I better vet this

I've succumbed!

When I arrived at BYU one of the first things I noticed was that at least 3/4 of the guys -and a number the girls- wore polo shirts. Case and point, this BYU Library commercial. (Just count them, I saw
10!) I thought it was ridiculous! I mean where did these people think they were going, an up-scale badminton garden party or -in the case of the striped variety- a rugby match? So with few exceptions I wore a t-shirt to class 'til the day I graduated.

However, I discovered (or re-discovered) something during an internship in California: apart from Old Navy commercial models nobody in the rest of world seems to wear polo shirts unless they are playing polo, going to an up-scale badminton garden party, or trying to look dressy casual at work (or fighting terrorism and leading the free world, apparently).

Trying to find what you wear to work when you are your own boss has had me perplexed for the last little while.

Am I sitting in the office? Yes.

Am I traipsing around dirty job sites? Yes.

Am I meeting with clients? Yes.

(Am I still stuck at a dentist office part of the day? Also yes.)

Due to the dirt and conditions, I really need to have a pair of jeans on. My button up shirts generally ended up looking pretty shabby by lunch with
all of the walking and dirt.

I still don't condone wearing a polo shirt just for fun, and that's my story and I'm sticking to it!


Something to Remember

Where was yours truly last Tuesday night?: try some great seats at the Paul McCartney concert in Utah! That's right, the Sir Paul McCartney. The weather was nice, the crowd was good, and it was all topped off with three great hours of non-stop Paul. The 68 year old played the whole three hours without a break or drink as near as I could tell, only pausing to tell some great stories and to make us laugh. It was a fantastic concert.

I was a little skeptical that Sir McCartney would just be old and that the concert wouldn't be very good, but I couldn't have been more wrong. What a performer! It was thrilling to be in the presence of this amazing musician.

Years from now I will be able to tell my children that I saw Paul McCartney live in concert.

This clip is from his Liverpool concert, but it was the same bit he did for us (best version I could find).


Why is this here?

The answer to the question in the title is, "Who really cares where this is, it's FANTASTIC!"

I am, of course, speaking of a store called "Bonners Books". Now I have been to my fair share of bookstores, and this one is one of my favorites. Bonners Books is located in an innocuous enough town known as Bonners Ferry in northern Idaho. Some of you may recall that I journey up to the 49th parallel to visit the parents of the goddaughter. There are usually two things that I always make a point to do while visiting in the North (besides eat and nap), go to the Mennonite store and buy whatever it is that Mennonites make and go to Bonners Books.

Bonners Books is located in an old building in downtown Bonners Ferry. As you walk in the store you notice all the community announcements in the entryway. If it's a rainy day there may be a black cat lounging near the entrance. The store is well organized and decorated with mostly books both old and new. The wood floor is not level. There is an old grad piano in the middle of the store with books arranged on the lid.

One of the best things about this store is that there is usually no one else there. The books are arranged by categories that make me smile: Too Good for General Fiction, Sort of Metaphysical, True Biographies, Probably Less Than True Biographies, etc.... The selection of books is great. I usually come out of the store with at least five books if not more. I credit Bonners Books with finding me one of the best Volkswagen history books that I've read. In fact, I haven't bought a bad book there yet.

If you ever find yourself 30 miles South of Canada in the Idaho Panhandle then you are close. Stop in, it's worth it!


Blazer Report #2

Why I love working on cars:

I love the smell of old oil and the dingy sheen of old engines. I love how the rubbing of a slightly oily rag can clean the time and miles off dirty parts. I love being pleasantly surprised at the ingenuity of engineers and designers of times gone by.

This Blazer project has been none of that. I'm convinced that this engine is more dirt than oil. There is no smell of old oil. The smell you encounter is the smell of oil soak soil; like what you will encounter in a farmer's barn where he parks his tractor. The engine has no dingy sheen. I had to start scrapping away with a screw driver before I even found out that my engine had originally been orange.

I have taken the engine apart down to the block, scraped as much dirt off the outside as possible, and loaded everything up to be taken down and acid cleaned tomorrow.

In the aftermath I'm sitting in the biggest mess I've ever made and I'm not sure if I know how this whole thing goes back together (or if this garage floor will ever come clean). I will be relaying on the expertise of the friend that is helping me for assembly.

Within a week I hope to be putting things back together, but only time will tell....


Blazer Report #1

So to recap: I'm in the middle of an engine rebuild (currently just a tear-down).

I would love to report that it is going well, but during the engine removal a plasma cutter had to be employed. Currently the engine is in as many pieces as it is possible for an engine to be in, and I am slightly panicked.

As it stands, the crank shaft is toast. On the plus side, now I have a crank shaft to make a mailbox stand out of.

Now I'm trying to decide whether to rebuild the engine or..........


Where No Robet Bentley Manual Has Gone Before

(FYI: Robert Bentley publishes the factory repair manuals for my VW's. They are phenomenal.)

In a quick laps of mental consciousness on a Friday morning I purchased a 1975 Chevrolet Blazer. I'll pause while you pick yourself up off the floor........

I'd post a picture of the actual truck, but it is just too ugly. Why have I done such a thing you ask? I'm still not sure. This K5 Blazer comes with the 350 V8, conventional four wheel drive, and a 3 speed manual tranny with a compound low range 1st gear. As a bonus my new Blazer also comes with a fair amount of rust and a prodigious knock from the engine. Within minutes of arriving home I discovered that I own a grand total of 3 standard gauge tools, not to mention the fact that this square behemoth doesn't actually fit in my Volkswagen sized shop. Not an inspiring situation.

With much persuasion from my neighbor and another Chevrolet fan that he knows I was talked into rebuilding the engine. A repair manual came with my purchase, but I find the fact that every paragraph begins with the phrase "remove the rust and dirt from the...." to be disconcerting. As I work on the engine removal I routinely become incensed at the backwards engineering and pot-metal construction and then conversely pleased with the fact that I can climb into the spacious engine compartment with the part I'm working on without having to be a body contortionist.

I don't know what else to say about this. It cost $350 and it has an 8000lb winch, which is honestly what I'm most excited about. I plan on using it to drag other cars out of the parking spot I want.

More later....


What people in Vermont call "The West"

I am slowly and tentatively exploring the eastern side of the United States. So far I've only seen Chicago and now Missouri. Now, I am well aware that any geographer would be quick to point out both of those aforementioned locations are technically considered the Mid-West, but when you are as far West as Nevada most of the country is "technically" East of you. Hopefully, I will also be in Florida this July for the second to last Shuttle launch, but I digress.

I flew into St. Louis and then drove out to Ft. Leonard Wood to spend the weekend with my Aunt and Uncle and their five kids. (I almost had myself talked into renting a new Camero but I chickened out. At least they finally gave me the new Chevy Malibu that I'd been asking for.) It was exciting and entertaining to say the least. The kids were great, and Missouri was generally flat.

My dynamic duo cousins

For my benefit Clark and Cal are reenacting the time when Cal got his finger stuck in a battle tank.

On the trip back I stopped in St. Louis to go see the Arch and got unknowingly caught up in some of the pre-game crowds of the first Cardinals game of the year.

It was really a great trip in all. I only got mildly lost once. All of my flights were a few minutes early. I got in some golf and was able to reinstate myself as the favorite cousin.


It was a lot like.....

Last Thursday I was meeting with an industrial door repair contractor who was driving up from Las Vegas to look at some of our large, locomotive sized doors. I arrived at my office and waited, but the guy didn't show up. I called down to the engine house and discovered that he was already down there inspecting the doors. It was a quiet and sunny day at the rail yard so I went walking down to the engine house, trudging through new snow that fell the night before.

Passing the freight barn I noticed that one of our diesel locomotives was parked outside in the yard. As I was walking it almost looked like the locomotive was moving (you know how it can look if you're moving and you're looking at an object that isn't). After not being able to convince myself that the locomotive wasn't moving, even though it was quiet and there wasn't anyone around, I stopped walking. By the time I had stopped walking the "not moving" locomotive had really picked up some speed. I could see that it was heading down Machine Shop Track #2 towards the engine house. I began to panic, wondering if I should shout or try to stop it (this thought was tossed out almost as soon as it entered my thoughts). In another instance the locomotive went crashing through the closed roll-up door.

As it turned out the door contractor had been standing on the other side of the door just seconds before the locomotive came crashing through. No one was hurt, but the door had been ripped down and now had the face imprint of a large locomotive on it.

Later that day as I sat down to write a narrative to the insurance company all I could think to write was,"Well, it was a lot like watching a train wreck."

On the upside, we really couldn't have chosen a better day to have the door contractor on site. I thought the door was un-salvageable, but they worked a miracle.


Southwest Extravaganza

Being faced with one week of paid vacation I decided to head South. The initial plan was much grander; however, shortly before the trip plans changed for the person who was going with me. I contemplated several other trip options but the siren song of the sunny South wouldn't relent so I went anyway. (and I wasn't disappointed)

Leg one: I dropped the wagon off at the mechanics in Salt Lake for him to fix some of the things that I had "fixed" myself. I then picked up a rental car and headed for Green River, UT. It was a cold drive and I found where all the Subaru owners hang out. I had no idea that this place actually existed.

After my night in Green River I was going to take the ferry across Lake Powell but it was closed until April. Consulting my road atlas I planned a route around the lake. It was a beautiful drive and then 100 miles from anything the pavement ended on top of a bluff.

There was a dirt road leading down the face of the bluff and it looked like the highway might continue at the bottom. Plus, I was in a rental car so I figured why not. This was about as wide as the road got. It was pretty narrow and really steep.

I made it on to the Grand Canyon National Park that day where I hiked around a bit and looked at..........stuff. (F.Y.I.- The Grand Canyon Skywalk is not in the park. It's on some indian reservation at the other end) Finally I made it to Phoenix. This one picture sums up why I want to be snowbird next winter.

The weather was warm. The grass was green. The flowers were in bloom and there was fruit on the trees. I spent the time sight seeing and visiting friends and family. 74 degrees feels amazing after a long, cold winter. I even went out and took the tour at Taliesin West in Scottsdale.

After Phoenix I headed back to Salt Lake to visit more friends and family and to pick up the wagon. All in all it was nice break. As with any good vacation I came back exhausted and only too happy to return to my normal routine.


You Can Drive?

I was picking up one of my friend's sick kids from school because they were busy. I pass this kid walking to the bus stop as I walk to work most mornings. As she walked up to me so that I could take her home she looked at me a little incredulously and asked,"You know how to drive?" I just shrugged my shoulders and said,"I guess we'll find out." It never occurred to me that she only ever saw me walking.

This isn't the first time that I've had someone concerned over my walking. I've had ward members offer me cars for cheap and people stop and ask me if I need a ride. I find it funny that people can't believe that someone has a car (or three) and chooses to walk anyway.

I wish I had some altruistic reason for walking like saving the planet or becoming healthy, but the truth is that I just hate driving to run errands or for commuting. It just isn't fun.

My work is only a 12 minute walk away and it keeps me from having to scrape windows or agonized that in the 2 minute drive to work the engine oil never got up to temperature. Whatever fringe benefits I get are just icing on the cake.


On the Uphill Swing

The holidays are finally over; as is the shortest day of the year and the family wedding. As you may have already heard, the wedding was magical and December 21st was, well, short. Christmas was nice and quiet. Turns out it was to be the only quiet part of the last few weeks.

December in Nevada was cold and snowy. Temperatures frequently dropped blow zero and by the time all was said and done we had a foot and half or more snow with drifts that were much deeper. I got out my snow boots, but snow shoes would have served me better on the walk to work. This last week we've seen temperatures in the high 30's to mid 40's with sunny skies. The snow melted enough that I was even able to walk to work sans boots! (as long as I was careful where I stepped) I still end up in snow up to my knees when I try to walk across the rail yard. However, the days are getting a little longer. It's now barely still light outside when I leave the dental office instead of pitch dark. Nonetheless, I am still aware that February is generally miserably cold, but the muddy days of April and May are just around the corner. I can feel it coming and I can't wait.

To pass the winter months I'm planning road trip to the Southwest. It is astounding how great 50 degrees feels after -15.
Happy New Year!