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Ben Is Here!


On February 2nd, 2009 Amy gave birth to Benjamin, our new baby boy! He was 7lbs, 5.8oz and 20 inches long when he was born. Just an inch shorter, but a good 2lbs heavier than his dad when he was born 38 long years ago. 🙂 Ben was in a hurry to get here and didn’t give the doctor time to arrive, so the nurses delivered him. But, Ben didn’t seem to mind 🙂

Ben and Amy are in great health. Ben has already had his first pediatrician visit where he was pronounced extremely healthy (and always hungry 🙂 )

Amy did the birth completely naturally, with no epidural or pain medicine of any sort. She was amazingly strong and tough and rarely let out a peep (until the very end). Our delivery nurses were excellent and very supportive with Amy’s decision to go natural, which seems to be a rare occurence.

Our wonderful doula Jennifer was incredibly supportive, and together she and I helped support Amy while she labored. It was a team effort, but Amy did all the hard work and did it amazingly well.

So, now a few days off while we learn how to keep Ben fed and taken care of. It is amazing how much you find you love your new child the second they are here. It’s instantaneous and incredible.

But anyway, Ben is here and safe and healthy and happy! Thanks for all the well wishes and support! More later!

Final Baby Name Poll Results!

Ok, I am about to post an official announcement about the baby, but before I do that, I thought I would post the final results of the baby name poll.

Thanks to everyone who voted. Amy and I both appreciated your help in choosing the baby’s name.

I am not saying that we wouldn’t have chosen Ben as the baby’s name if it hadn’t won the poll, but it certainly helped us pick that name. Ethan was a strong 2nd, followed by the rest. Very interesting that Benjamin and Ethan were the two very strong front runners.

Anyway, thanks again!

Amy’s Blog

For those who don’t know (which at this point pretty much has to be everyone other than me), Amy started a blog a while ago here. She has written a little bit about the baby coming and I think she is a good writer, so please visit and encourage her.

Cool Poem/Quote

Yeah, I haven’t posted in a long while, and I shouldn’t be posting now, but I’d rather do this than write the journal paper I am working on and this will only take a minute or two.

There is a show that comes on here on Monday mornings on the History Channel called the Real West. It is a fairly cool show about the Old West and it starts with this very cool poem or quote or whatever it is that I thought I would share with whoever still reads this blog. After googling around, it appears that it is a Lakota poem and in the show a native american reads it as the images switch to match the poem. Anyway, it never fails to get to me so here it is.

In the past that is now lost forever
There was a time when the land was sacred
And the Ancient Ones were as one with it
A time when only the children of the Great Spirit were here
To light their fires in these places with no boundaries
When the forests were as thick
As the fur of a winter bear
When a warrior could walk from horizon to horizon
On the backs of the buffalo
When the deserts were in bloom
And the streams pure as freshly fallen snow
In that time, when there were only simple ways
I saw in my heart the conflicts to come
And whether it was to be for good or bad
What was certain was, that there would be change

Nippon Again

Once again I am in Nippon. This time however, there is a very special difference. Amy is with me and has been for the whole time. In fact, we are spending an extra week over here just doing a vacation after all my work was done. So far we have gone to Zenkoji in Nagano, Asakusa in Tokyo, Akihabara (less than a week after stabby guy went nuts there, I have a photo of the makeshift shrine for the victims), Ueno Park and Zoo, and spent some quality time with Amy’s friend Russ and his wife Faith. In addition we got to meet their new daughter Sloane (yes, I also think of Ferris Bueller every time I hear the name Sloane, so it’s ok). 🙂 Russ and Faith have a very nice apartment in the Akasaka area of Tokyo with a heck of view.

The morning of the day we met Faith and Russ, Amy got to experience her first high rise earthquake when there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake a few hundred miles north of Tokyo in Iwate Prefecture. It felt like about a 5. something in Tokyo where we were staying, and the Imperial Hotel swayed for about 2 or 3 minutes before the quake ended and the mass dampeners stopped us. Luckily it wasn’t any higher magnitude in Tokyo as I have no desire to see a large earthquake up close.

After we hung out in Tokyo for a few days, we moved on to Kyoto. Lots of great photos and HDR from Kyoto, most of which I haven’t finished processing. However, this is one of the many HDR images of Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) that I took with Amy’s camera.

More updates later as it is 11pm here and I am getting tired. That Ozeki Sake Cup has taken it’s toll 🙂

South Mountain Sunset

Foothills Golf Course Sunset
South Mountain Sunset

Recently Amy got a new camera for her birthday. It is a DSLR, which for those who are acronymly challenged means Digital Single Lens Reflex. It’s a nice way of saying that you look through the viewfinder and it uses a mirror to direct your view directly through the lens of the camera, so you see exactly what the camera will shoot. When you press the button, voila, the mirror moves out of the way and the image falls directly onto the film (or in the case of a DSLR the CCD or other imaging circuitry). A more complete description of this process is here on Wikipedia.

But I digress. The point is that Amy’s birthday present is way cool and since it is a real DSLR it has allowed me to try something I’ve always wanted to do (ever since I’ve heard of it), which is HDR.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. A good explanation of what it is is here and here, but basically it allows you to shoot multiple shots of the same image at different exposure levels and combine them all using the computer to show a lot more of the color and detail of an image than what you could get with just one image.

The image attached to this post is from 3 photos I took while standing on the path near our house that overlooks the golf course. It turned out pretty well I think. It looks unreal even, but a lot of HDR images typically do since it is often fun to crank up the color saturation to get incredible colors in the HDR image.
Some more HDR images from the same session are here.

Anyway, much, much fun. Can’t wait to do this at Kinkakuji next month.

Wedding in Las Vegas

Yes, I know this may come as a shock to some folks, but I am now married again! Amy and I met on e-Harmony in mid 2006 and we hit it off really, really well. Our personalities match up so nicely, it almost seems like magic how easily we get along. I hope it stays like that forever. Incidentally, for those of you who might be single, I heartily and completely recommend e-Harmony. My only criticism is that the web interface could be better sometimes, but that is a nit. Their personality matching really, really works. It makes your relationship so much easier if you and your partner match up.

Enough of my unpaid e-Harmony ad… Amy and I got married in Las Vegas at the beginning of February. I know, I know, saying you got married in Las Vegas brings up thoughts of tacky little wedding chapels with Elvis running the ceremony, or (God forbid), even drive through wedding chapels (at least I remember an episode of Coach that had one..).

But our wedding wasn’t like that. It was tastefully done at THE wedding chapel at Mandalay Bay and we had many, many wonderful friends and family members attend. After the ceremony we all had dinner at Rumjungle, also at Mandalay Bay. It was a great time and I really enjoyed it, so I hope everyone else did too.

My brothers were my best men, and Jay gave the best man speech and he did a heck of a job. I have to admit that I was a bit choked up by the time he got done. I have to say thanks to both of my brothers for their friendship, love and support. Amy’s sisters were her maids of honor and Amy also feels very blessed to have had them there for her.

After the wedding and some late night libations at Red Square, Amy and I ran off to Sedona for a few nights of honeymoon.

For those who may be interested, our wedding video can be seen here, at least until ~3/9/08. The wedding photos are up on Flickr as well.

Thanks again to all our friends and family who made the trip to Las Vegas to be there for our wedding and thanks to everyone who couldn’t be there but sent their best wishes. Thank yous are in progress and should go out soon! 🙂 Best wishes for everyone for a happy 2008.

A Year (Almost) Worth Of Photos

Not even gonna mention that I haven’t written to this thing in a long time. That’s what happens when you are reasonably happy and very busy.However, despite not having posted in a while, I HAVE been doing all sorts of things this year.

One of the bigger things is that JC got his pilots license, so I have been flying around with him a bit. Lots of photos from those various flights are on Flickr.

In addition, before it got too hot here in the Valley of the Sun to do any hiking, I did several hikes, mostly in the Superstitions. Lets see, there was Hackberry, Siphon Draw, South Mountain and recently Peralta Trail.

In the spring my parents came out and we went to the Botanical Gardens and Las Vegas.

In addition, we had a LAN Party, I went to Japan for the 20th(ish) time, Vegas again, Kitt Peak, and Grand Cayman.

On top of that, I have flown to Sedona and had lunch at the Sedona Airport and generally been working around the new house.

I should really write more text, but this should be enough photos to keep folks busy for a while 🙂

Hilarious Stuff from Around the Web

Ok, I am working on a post to sort of bring things up to date, but haven’t finished writing it yet. Everytime I sit down to do it, I get tired and start playing BF2 or CMSF or Civ4 or Black Hawk Down or Medieval II or… well, you get the idea.

However, I did finally fix the rotating Kubrick problem, even though it took me TWO HOURS!!!! Blah! It doesn’t look quite right either because of some weird backgroundness in the header, but I can’t figure out what got hosed, and it is 12:40am, so I am gonna give up. A couple links that I have run across that are pretty hilarious though, for your browsing pleasure.

The second is the I Has a Bucket Walrus. I like to do this voice with a vaguely Caribbean accent but no matter what the voice in your head sounds like, you have to admit that you feel for the poor walrus.

The last is the Cat Cam of Mr. Lee, which shows what cats that are left free to run around the neighborhood get up to. Poor Mr. Lee has a cat cam around his neck, so he rats out all his kitty friends, but pretty cool nonetheless. Ok, gotta go to bed….


Once again it has been a really long time since I have written. I can only attribute this to being incredibly, incredibly busy and probably to being relatively happy. I don’t feel the need to blog like I used to when I was full of sadness, despair and angst. They say that the best writers are people who are very unhappy, and I think that is probably true. If you are unhappy, you write about it. If you are happy, you just live your life. And I have been mostly happy (or at least not sad) of late.

There has been one thing of late that has made me sad though. My thoughts and sympathies have been with the victims of this massacre since it happened. Given the almost inconceivable violence that occurred in Norris Hall, it is hard to believe that I once sat in those same rooms where people were horribly, violently killed. It’s very hard to come to grips with. I mean, I took Statics and Dynamics and Composite Materials and several other courses in those very same classrooms. Heck, my grad school office was in the building connected to Norris Hall, Holden Hall. I know it’s selfish, but I thank God this didn’t happen in Holden.

I still wonder why Seung-Hui Cho picked Norris to do his rampage. I mean, he was an english major. Norris is an engineering building. I guess he had a class in Norris this semester, and I guess if I had to think about it objectively, Norris would be a good building to trap people in. There are really only about 3 main ways in or out and the building is built like a fortress out of hokie stone. Still, like everything else about this horrible thing, it doesn’t make much sense. It leaves questions I would like to know the answers to. Did he have a grudge against engineers or something?

I never thought that my university would become synonymous with the word massacre. Frankly, I figured the worst we would have to live down would be having the words “Home of the Fighting Gobblers” on the side of Lane Stadium (it looks like those words were removed in 2005 – wow, too bad).

Anyway, please give a thought for my fellow Hokies as they try to deal with this horrific thing. And those of you who are spiritual, please say a prayer for the victims of the massacre in Norris Hall.

Where Have I Been?

Ok, I know it has been a long time since I’ve posted. I can only plead incredible busyness. Of course, those who accept the busy excuse will have to ignore all the time I’ve spent playing Company of Heros.

Assuming you accept the busyness (or perhaps I mean business) excuse, here’s what I’ve been up to. First and foremost, I finally got out of my apartment and bought a house . I might not have done that quite so soon (even though I really wanted to), but my little brother has moved out here to Phoenix after finishing up grad school in the last month or so, and I figured it would be cool if I had a house and he could stay with me. The house is in Ahwatukee (or as Brent and Barry call it, the “Shire”), in a pretty nice neighborhood. There is a golf course close to our new house (can’t afford to live ON the golf course though, not that I would after hearing other people’s horror stories), and we back up to a preserve area (which is a nice way of saying an undeveloped hill). The hill has a great variety of desert wildlife, including quail, jackrabbits and little squirrel things. The rabbits and quail just come right into the backyard like they own the place. Needless to say, Zachary (the cat) is enthralled. He can’t wait to get out and “play” with the quail and rabbits. Not sure the desire is mutual though…

Other than the house (which has sucked up most of my spare time for the last 2+ months), there was also Christmas, which we spent back in Florida with the family. Amy got to meet the gang and flee screaming in terror… ok just kiddding, she actually got along quite well 🙂 It was beautiful in Florida for much of the time, although New Years was kind of gray (but still fun). Check out the photos from Christmas and New Year’s in Florida.

Lastly, the other blog thing I’ve done recently was go flying with my little bro. Now that he is out of school and making some dough, he has decided to get his private pilots license. He is supposedly doing very well and his instructors are taking bets on whether or not he will be a 40 hour pilot (for those who do not know, the bare minimum number of flying hours necessary to get your VFR private pilots license is 40 hours). Judging from my flying with him at hour #6, I’d say he could do it. I only felt like I was gonna die once or twice in the flight, which isn’t much different from a commercial aircraft 🙂

We went up one overcast weekend day and flew all over the far south Valley. We spent a lot of time over or near Maricopa, Arizona and I got a lot of photos, including some of my buddies houses from the air. I bet they love that their houses are right underneath the SouthEast Practice Area…not!

Anyway, we did 3 touch and gos and the airport we were landing at got bombed by a B-17 while we were trying to land. I kid you not. Well, it was a simulated run, but it’s still very whacked out to be bombed by a B-17 (they aren’t exactly ubiquitous). However, there is one at Falcon Field, and I think that this was the plane that bombed us.

Photos of our flight are here. Little bro’s account of our flying is here.

I will close with the obligatory comment about how I will try to post more, etc…. But by now you know better 🙂

Cloud Has Left Us

My parents dog, Cloud, has passed away. She was a great dog. She will be missed. Good-bye Cloud. 🙁

Thank you for the all the love you gave us in your far too short time with us.
We love you and miss you terribly.

Schmap Guide Photos

I know it has been a LOOONG time since I posted, but I have a big backlog of things to post. One of those things is the fact that two of my photos have been selected for inclusion in Schmap Guide Books. One is this Flamingo picture from Las Vegas which is in the Schmap Las Vegas Guide. The other is this picture, which is in the Schmap Flagstaff Guide. This is exactly what Creative Commons Licenses are for, so way cool. Incidentally, Schmap guides are free if you want to download one. Check it out!

This is the Swamp

Last weekend the family and I went to the Florida vs. Alabama game in Gainesville, Florida. We tailgated across from the stadium and got to see the players show up and the Gator Walk. Florida is celebrating 100 years of football and as such was playing in their “throwback” uniforms (uniforms from “back in the day”, with just an F on the helmet). The game was in the Swamp, as always, and was a great game. The game was in doubt until well into the 4th quarter, when Florida finally broke the back of the Crimson Tide. My little brother is still attending Florida (until he graduates in December with his Masters in Comp Sci), and our cousin Jennifer is also in school there. She is a very big Florida fan and attends every home game.

We wound up on the East side of the stadium, near the student section, and as such had to stand up on the bleachers for about 95% of the game. The only time you got to sit down was when there was a timeout or halftime. It was a great game and I was very happy to have been there. Much fun was had by all.

Diamondbacks Game

I apologize for the long, long time between posts, but my boss has been on sabbatical and work has been hellaciously busy of late.

So, without further ado, I will post the story of our visit to watch the Diamondbacks on August 6th.

So, a while back a good chunk of the gang all got together and got
tickets to the Diamondbacks game. I had never been to a major league baseball game, so I was definitely up for going. The Diamondbacks were playing the Astros. Apparently this is Roger Clements last year, and so a lot of folks were interested in seeing him play in Phoenix for the last time. Not me frankly, but some people.

We decided to all meet at Cooperstown before the game. Since Amy lives down near there, we got there a bit early and had some early dinner before the rest of the gang showed up.

Barry had brought his Irish friend Terrance and a date named Kendra, while I brought Amy and Brent got Bahar to go at the last minute.

We sat in the upper deck and watched the game. It was eerily quiet watching a baseball game indoors at Chase Field (for those who don’t know, Chase Field – formerly Bank One Ballpark aka BOB, has a retractable roof). However since it was well over 110F outside, we were all quite happy to have the roof closed.

We got to the game at the beginning of the 2nd inning, just in time to see a Grand Slam Home Run, which I duly captured here as I was playing around with my camera (you can even see the ball coming off the bat – booyah!)

Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks lost, but it was a fun outing all the same. As always, the photos are up on flickr.

The Truth Hurts

“The world is a hard and lonely place and no one gets anything for free and you know what else? One day you and everyone you know is going to die.” – Huey Freeman

Well, my host provider was down for the last three days so I finally got fed up and switched. They claimed they were hacked and all the backups are hosed, so I am having to reinstall the blog with a backup from May, hence the missing entries. I will fix it soon.

BTW, if you’ve sent me any email in the last few days, please resend it, because it probably went into electronic never-never-land. More tomorrow as I am dead tired (it is 12:08am).

Roller Derby Queen

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. A couple of weekends ago, I took Amy to the Arizona Roller Derby semi-finals. It wasn’t quite what I expected. To start with, it was in
a gym, which is not your normal sporting event venue. However, this gym had a roller hockey rink of pretty decent size, so it worked pretty
well. The only thing that didn’t work that well was the airconditioning, which was probably because even in their worst nightmare the building engineers for this gym never expected there to be 200-300 people in the roller hockey rink at the height of the Arizona summer. But although hot, it was mostly bearable. Since I had somewhat underestimated the likely appeal of Arizona Roller Derby, Amy and I didn’t get a seat right away. In fact, the parking lot of this gym was PACKED. We had to park a fair ways away too… so, let that be a lesson to all of you who want to see the roller derby… come EARLY. We were only 1/2 hour early and we were too late to get seats.

So, we sat on the floor and watched the Surly Girlies play the Bad News Beaters. It was relatively interesting to watch, although I was disappointed to find out that according to the rules, elbows and such are not allowed. Not only that, but fighting is against the rules! :) I was somewhat molified by the fact there were 2 fights, but the lack of elbows was rather a let down. You may remember Sis Boom Barbie from the Punk Rock Beach Party update. She is a member of the Surly Girlies. So is Bootleg Bonnie.
Unfortunately for them though, they lost to the Bad News Beaters, who
go on to take on the Bruisers on August 12. Not sure if I am interested
enough to the final. With all this record breaking heat, I think that
gym will be an oven.

Most hilarious part of the derby:

“I Beat Anorexia” guy. I laughed for 5 minutes after I saw this shirt on this guy.

Honorable Mention:

Bottom Spanking Time… yes… it is what it sounds like.

Humphreys Peak Hike

The weekend before last, Brent and Barry and I went on our third hike in a row. This time was the real charm. We hiked to the top of Humphreys Peak, whose summit is the tallest point in Arizona at 12,633ft (or 12,643 ft
if you include the man-made rock cairn at the top). We once again left Phoenix well before dawn and drove north to Flagstaff.
We got to the trailhead near Snowbowl, at about 8am or so. I bought a book of hikes near Flagstaff. There are in excess of 100 hikes in that book and I made sure to read this hike description to Brent and Barry. Especially the last line “This is the hardest hike in this book”.
According to my book, this hike is a 3800+ft elevation gain and is 9 miles roundtrip. Surprisingly, I had much less difficulty with the
first half of this hike than I did with Kendrick. We made it to the
saddle (at about 11,900ft) with little trouble by 11 or so. After a quick snacky lunch, we started the climb to the peak. Brent and I were sucking wind pretty quickly on the hike to the summit. We would both go about 50 feet and then be huffing and puffing. Barry on the other hand was magically turned into a mountain goat who never had to stop :) . Interesting note, there are 3 “false” summits on this hike. Just when you think you have made it to the top, you realize, nope, the REAL summit is up the trail further. THREE TIMES! Anyway, it was a fun hike, if very demanding. My legs really wanted to give out on the last mile of the return trip… Now maybe I can try the Flatiron again (when it cools off). Photos are up on Flickr.

Kendrick Hike

This weekend was once again a hiking weekend, as Brent continues his drive to prep for Mt. Whitney and Barry and I come along for the ride… Or in this case hike.
So Saturday we hopped in Brent’s Jimmy and drove up north of Flagstaff to Kendrick Peak. Relevant info from the Wikipedia article on Kendrick Peak (which I had to write, dammit!) is as follows.  “Kendrick Peak (35.4081°N, 111.8507°W) is one of the highest peaks in  the San Francisco volcanic field north of the city of Flagstaff in the
U.S. State of Arizona and is located on the Coconino Plateau in Coconino County. Kendrick Peak rises to a height of 10,418 feet above sea level, which makes it the 11th or 12th tallest mountain in Arizona.”

Yeah, the 12th tallest! I thought for sure it would be higher… Oh well. Humphreys Peak, shown in this photo taken from Kendrick, IS the
highest peak in Arizona, at 12,633 feet.

In any case, we left really early again, this time about 5:30am or so and got to the peak and were ready to hike by 8:45 or so. The trail was quite nice. Much softer on the feet than the Mt. Wilson trail. Relatively fewer rocks, which mean that my feet were only crying by the time we got done and not screaming, like they were last weekend. :)

The trail, while being easy on the feet, is hard on the legs. It is pretty much completely an uphill climb the entire way. We pushed hard and got to the top about 11:30 or so. On the way up we had lots of butterflies, which were pretty, but also lots of bees, which were not. However, at least it kept us moving.

At the top we met the fire watcher, who on the weekends are apparently volunteers, not Forest Service personnel. The guy was fairly nice, although I think he didn’t like us hanging about on his tower, but hey, there weren’t any signs and he didn’t kick us off. :)

After a brief lunch at the top and a bunch of photos (on Flickr for your viewing as usual), we headed back down. Going down was much, much, much easier than going
up, but I was still very glad to get back to the trailhead.

For post hiking celebrations we headed to Flag and hit Flagstaff Brewing for a beer and some lunch before heading back to Phoenix. All in all a lot of good clean, healthy living fun :)

Sedona Hike

On Sunday, a couple of friends of mine and I drove up to Sedona to hike. One of my friends (Brent) is trying to get in shape to hike Mt. Whitney, in California in July, so he is slowly building up tougher and tougher hikes. Earlier this month they hiked to the top of Superstition Mountain, commonly called The Flatiron. Having tried the Flatiron before (and barely making it down), I was a bit worried about whether I could do this hike in Sedona, but I knew the scenery would be more than worth it, so I agreed to go.

The hike was to the summit of Mt. Wilson, a 6900ft peak outside of Sedona. The round trip distance is listed as being (depending on the
apparently very unreliable sources) either 5.2, 5.6, 7, 9 or 11 miles. After careful calculation, I tend to believe the 9 mile number. The elevation climb is about 2400ft up from the trailhead. We left at 5am
and got to Sedona a little after 7. After various time wasting activities, we hit the trail to Mt. Wilson at about 7:45. We got to the top of the summit at about 10:30am with only a couple of brief breaks. After several photos and lunch on top of the mountain, we headed back down and made it in time to go find some good beer at the Oak Creek Brewery and Grill.
It being Memorial weekend, Sedona was PACKED. Literally, there were cars backed up for a couple of miles trying to get into town. However, we managed to escape relatively easily and get back home to Phoenix around 5pm or so. Good fun all around. As usual, photos are up on Flickr.

A proposed hike for this weekend is Kendrick Peak, which is a 10,400ft mountain near Flagstaff. The elevation gain there is about 3000 ft, but the trail sounds easier, so I may go.
Post Script to this: I have heard this trail and the mountain were badly damaged in the Brins Wildfire. I am thankful that we got to take this trip before it was destroyed.