Friday, December 25, 2009

My Christmas Post

Here's wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Rather than share a bunch of words or recapping how we celebrated Christmas here today, I leave you with my favorite Christmas musical presentation ever posted on YouTube:

Keep It Real and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Atomic City

Well here we are in Los Alamos, NM!

I recently visited a delightful free museum in town that focuses on this area and especially the place that put it on the map, Los Alamos National Lab. I could write forever about the extremely interesting things we learned but let me just give you the bare minimum...if I'm capable...probably not....sorry!

The area was settled in 1917 by a gentleman who wanted to run a school for boys with an emphasis on outdoor pursuits and responsibilities. It was called the Los Alamos Ranch School and operated for 25 years.

In the early 1940's, after the Manhattan Project had been in full force, the government needed an isolated place for the people working on the project to come together and really get some secret stuff done (until this point, they had operated from many universities throughout the country but had no one meeting place). The property was quickly appropriated by the government and in just 27 months, the Los Alamos National Lab was constructed and the bomb had been designed, built, and tested. I wish the government moved that quickly these days. I guess it makes a difference when there is the pressure of a huge war. Oh wait......nevermind.

The lab still is in full force operation today yet with a different focus. As far as
weapons defense goes, the name of the game is stockpile stewardship. Basically,
the United States stopped making, as well as testing, nuclear weapons
back in 1992 (thank you, President George Bush...never thought I'd say that!). Even though they don't get detonated, they still need to be checked to be sure that they still work properly in the event that they are ever again called upon as a last resort (let's hope not!). Seeing how they can test the small parts to be sure that the larger whole is still in working order was pretty cool.

There is, of course, a lot of controversy surrounding all things nuclear. My favorite part of the museum was a public forum book where people are free to write down their opinions, thoughts, and apparently their political rants. I probably read this book for 25-30 minutes while commenting on other people's writings as I went along, and adding my own characteristic and expected sarcasm when needed. Because let's face's always needed.

All that weaponry stuff is pretty classified and Leni is happy that his job at the lab will have nothing to do with classified information. He'll be working in the solid waste facility dealing with how to properly dispose of the solid nuclear waste that is produced at the lab. When I understand more about what that means, I'll let you know.

The lab employs a few more than 8,000 people. The town of Los Alamos has about 12,000. Let me share with you some interesting comparisons between Los Alamos and our previous place of residence, Big Sandy, TX.

In Big Sandy, 76% of residents over the age of 25 (the age of all the other following statistics as well) were high school graduates. Sadly, only 11% held Bachelor's degrees (or higher). Here in Los Alamos, 96% have high school diplomas and 61% hold Bachelor's degrees if not graduate and doctorate degrees. This 61% is three times that the New Mexico statewide average. They've got some smarties up here. In fact, while I was among the most educated in Big Sandy, I'm willing to bet that I am among the least educated up here. I wish those statistics were broken down more to include the higher degrees but I know that there are tons of people with PhDs around here....many with two!

Geographically, the city of Los Alamos is built on a series of mesas divided by canyons. As a result, there will be several neighborhoods separated by canyons of National Forest land. You can loosely see the basic layout in this city map:

Our property, as a matter of fact, backs right up to one of these canyons! One moment you are in our backyard and the next, you're in a canyon filled with all sorts of hiking trails. I'm excited to explore the area soon!

If you're still reading, I extend many congratulations to you. I know this has been long. Now that you've got the city under your belt, you'll probably be ready to see house pictures which I plan to post tomorrow.

Keep It Real!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adieu, you and you and you!

Tons has gone down since I last posted. No internet in my house just yet and I'm working right now from a quaint coffee shop which has free wi-fi however I'm running on low battery so I'll make this short with promises of a better one later this week.

First, Leni graduated this past Saturday!

It was great having his folks, mine, and his grandparents and aunt to be part of the special day. Leni is pictured above with his good friend, Josh.

After a couple days of packing and loading a 16' moving van (of course dragging a trailer with Leni's 4-Runner), we got up very early on Monday morning and made the long trek to Albuquerque where we would stay with my brother Nick and his wife Claire. Excellent hosts I might add. The drive is usually about 12 hours by car but with a large truck hauling a trailer, it became more like 14 and a half hours. I drove our car behind Leni in the moving van the whole time and this was my view for that entire time:

I think the drive was hardest on our dogs, Lucy and Sierra. Check out how uncomfortable they look:

We were at our final destination, Los Alamos, NM by 11 am on Tuesday morning. The landlord is a great guy and has put a lot of time into the house over the years. The house is perfect for a married couple with a couple dogs like us. It has 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a beautifully redone kitchen, a big porch with a HOT TUB, and a work shop out back for Leni.

It snowed in the last week so we've got that to deal with. Leni had to scrape ice off the car this morning!

Watch for house pictures in the next couple days. I want to wait until we have everything unpacked. It isn't a pretty sight right now! To whet your appetite, here's a picture of our dogs in the house; this time much more comfortable!

That's all for now.

Keep It Real!

Monday, December 7, 2009

And the Award Goes To....(part 2)

I know you've been waiting with baited breath. I'll protect you from anymore suspense:

The Poor Customer Service of the Month Award goes to Bank of America!

I'll spare everyone the gory details but essentially, Bank of America is receiving this award due to its poor communication with my parents regarding an investment CD that they had opened. The CD was coming to its maturity and my father had called the bank to arrange details related to how it would be handled. The representative they spoke gave them some gross misinformation which, needless to say, complicated the entire matter. It may seem inconsequential but consider that this misinformation created some ridiculous inconveniences for my parents, quasi elderly folks who have given DECADES of business to this financial institution only to have their precious financial savings treated as if they were unimportant.

Shame on you, Bank of America.

5 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Friday, December 4, 2009

And the Award Goes To....(part 1)

It was a toss up actually.

At first, I was pretty sure I was going to give the "Poor Customer Service of the Month" award to the United Postal Service (USPS). Let me be clear about something: I think the USPS is great. For all the grief they take from the American public, I think the amount of mail they move in such a short amount of time is impressive, especially as compared with other countries. But I was super irritated when I went to my local post office this week. I went in just before 10am on Wednesday with the intention of overnighting something to New Mexico. As the postal worker punched the zip code into the computer, she informed me that the package would get to New Mexico on Friday. The following exchange ensued:

Me: "It's Wednesday today, don't you mean Thursday?"
Her: "No, it won't make the plane so it will be guaranteed by 2pm on Friday"
Me: "So the word 'overnight' means nothing?"

At that point, I just paid for it, said "Thank you" and left.

What the heck? I could have driven it there faster! All I wanted was to send something across 1 state line overnight. It's not like I was asking them to send something to Alaska or Hawaii or even a state as far away as Maine. I could not understand why the delay.

Luckily, I think this was a case of the USPS using one of my own mottos: under promise, over-perform. Through tracking, the package did in fact get there on Thursday and not Friday as they said.

I still say that they shouldn't call it "Overnight" if they won't promise that up front.

Due to the timely delivery of said package, the United States Postal Service will not, in fact, receive the Poor Customer Service of the Month Award. Congratulations, USPS!

Stay tuned to find out who will!

8 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who Doesn't Love a 4 Day Weekend?

Truly, I think everyone should be able to take advantage of the 4 day weekend more often. It is so refreshing and I think America's work force would be for the better if its laborers were as rested as I felt at the end of my Thanksgiving 2009 break. I'm not saying anything crazy like once a month or anything, but perhaps every 2 or 3 months wouldn't hurt. I suppose that is what vacation time is for. I digress.

Thanksgiving Day was nice and lazy. We slept in, watched the parade in the background as we slowly cleaned the house a little, nothing too demanding at all. We then headed over to a friend's house to chill as we waited for the arrival of a few other friends as well as Leni's parents with which we would be eating dinner. There were ten of us...not too few and not too many...just right if you ask me.

On Friday morning, Leni and his father got up before dawn for a little hunting. I was going to post a picture of the gutting process but I'll spare you :)

On Friday afternoon, we loaded up the truck with camping gear and the dogs and headed up to Barnwell Mountain where we like to go 4-wheeling and camping. Also in attendance were Leni's parents and their 2 hawks and 3 dogs as well as 3 other friends and their puppy. That's right...2 hawks, 6 dogs and 7 people. That's right...animals out-numbered the people!

The 4-wheeling portion of the trip was quite successful! We'd been hoping to take out a landcruiser that the guys have been building to send to Liberia for a missionary family but it just wasn't quite ready. We did, however, take out our 4-runner as well our friend Josh's 4-runner. Our 4-runner is gray one on the right and Josh's is the blue one on the left.

It was a first trip (aka "shakedown"...see post with shakedown discussion) for Josh's 4-runner and since it is a stock vehicle with no performance modifications like Leni's, no one quite knew what its limits would be. In the end, we were very impressed! Josh has graciously fixed up this truck for his brother-in-law, Brett, who obviously has yet to receive it. Doesn't it look great?

Josh's 4-runner did require some tows and some winching here and there but on the whole, I think its performance surprised everyone!

The other cool thing about the wheeling trip was the opportunity to share this recreational hobby in our life with Leni's parents. We got to take them out and it was wonderful to see them having so much fun. I could see the wheels turning (so to speak) in Leni's dad's head as he started asking questions about what it would take to get his own truck to perform similarly.

Check out this video of Leni's truck doing it's thing:

When we returned home on Saturday night, we were definitely (and happily!) exhausted. I think I was passed out by 8:30 PM. It was nice to get up, go to church, and then come home and rest for the afternoon and evening before returning to work on Monday.

Now, it is on to my final few work days before Leni's graduation weekend. My replacement started work this week. Meet Bri:

I originally hired Bri back in 2008 to work on our Ministry Staff here at The Pines. She helped facilitate the various programs that we offer that spring. Knowing her skills, we asked her to apply for my job back in the late summer/early fall when we started advertising for it. Probably close to 25-30 resumes were submitted and the camp director interviewed 10 or 12 people and through it all, Bri was offered the position and gladly accepted. It is great to have her here to overlap with me for 2 weeks because it is allowing me to work closely with her and orient her to her new role.

Other things to be excited about this week include a visit from The Pines' former Executive Director, Linda, whom I adore and cannot wait to see on Thursday! Visiting for the weekend will be another former Ministry Staff member, Stacy, who worked the same year as Bri 2 years ago. Should be another weekend for the books!

11 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!