Why?

Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)

6.05.2015

So Alone.

Well, I'm all alone for a while.  Yesterday my wife and kids got in the care and headed east...WAY east.  With family spread all the way from Virginia to Boston, she/I decided that rather than try to fly her and the kids east, and then plan rental cars and trains to get from family group to family group, she would just drive.  Our kids are pretty good in the car, and she was actually more excited to drive than she would have been to fly. 

I am terrified. I am terrified of the things that happen to mothers and their cute daughters in Hollywood Movies when they are at isolated rest stops, or staying at the Motel 6 outside of Spearfish South Dakota. 

My wife isn't worried about those things. She is focused on the positives of the cross-country trip, and the opportunities it presents to visit friends, and continue the home schooling process through the summer. 

She already had a chance to do both of those things.  The first day of the trip was a short one...just over 6 hours to stay with some friends in Missoula, Mt.  These are friends that used to live in the Tri-Cities, and we used to do a science co-op with, and so they decided to continue the science theme. When my family rolled into their house yesterday, our friend Jen pulled out a few Mail Order Frog Dissection kits that she had ordered for the kids.


That is a 100% real smile on my daughters face.

I am going to miss them a lot over the next month...at one point I told my wife it would be cool if she was back by the 4th of July since I have a 4-Day weekend...but, I have since changed my story.  As the list of things she wants to stop and see grows I told her not to worry about time.  She is never going to get another chance to do this with the kids...I would rather she comes home a few days later than planned instead of having her come home on time, and then have her talk about things she wished she had been able to see.

5.31.2015

A night at the Symphony.

For their final performance of their 70th Anniversary season, the Mid Columbia Symphony was performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  They also performed it at their 50th and 60th Anniversaries, so...with the assumption that it's an every 10 year event, you should probably go when you get a chance.

To someone who is not into classical music, just calling something Beethoven's 9th Symphony will probably cause them to have a blank face.  Saying 'Ode to Joy' might get more reaction, but in truth, the Ode to Joy is really only 10 minutes or so of an hour-plus 4 movement symphony.  But, it is one of the most recognizable pieces of music out there.



I make it sound like this was a voluntary attendance event, which I guess it technically was, but since the Mid Columbia Master Singers(with some augmentation from the chorus at Columbia Basin College) was providing the vocal support, I kind of had to be there.  My wife, well...she got to decide to go, but I would have pouted mightily if she hadn't gone.  And she would have missed one heck of a show. 

As I said, the Ode To Joy is only a small part of the 9th Symphony, but the 20 minutes of singing we do in the 4th Movement is...quite a rush.  If you listen to whole piece of music above, which is half the 4th movement...the pace is cooking, and for a tenor it's high, loud and long.  There is not much difference in my pulse between doing 20 minutes of this, or 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym. 

The nice thing about singing with the Symphony vs. singing in Cats was that call time for the Symphony is only 30 minutes before we go on, instead of 2.5 hours before we go on, which means I can get dressed and head out the door as the same time as my wife. Heck, it felt very much like a date where I just got to do some fancy-ass karaoke.  It also gave us a chance for a nice dress-up picture.

5.27.2015

Fresh is good.

Yesterday while puttering around in the garden, I noticed a bunch of little white flowers on my peas, and today, when I looked closer, I saw that those flowers must have been there for a few days, because I had a bunch of peas ready to harvest.



All told, I got about half a pound of snow peas from this first little harvest, and man, were they good.  I put my daughters to work helping pick them, and when I told them each to pop one fresh off the plant into their mouths, they looked up me very dubiously, until they took their first bite.  My younger daughter said she didn't know a green vegetable could be so sweet.  The variety is Oregon Sugar Snow Peas.

There was more than enough there for a nice side dish, which I made by just sautéing the peas real quick with some sesame oil, shallots and garlic, before adding a few dashes of lemon juice at the finish.

Really, really good.  I will remember to do this variety again next year(heck, maybe I'll even shoot for a fall crop of them).  My only issue with the snow peas though, is that they are..dumb compared to the runner beans I did last year.  With the runner beans I only had to start on the trellis once, maybe twice.  These peas are all over the place, and I need to go out every three or 4 days to train them onto the twine. 

5.25.2015

Finally Recovered

Big Weekend last weekend, culminated by me reaching the Big 40.  My wife and I headed over to the west side of the state, dropped the kids off at the Worlds Greatest Nana's house, and proceeded to party like it was 2002.  We spent a night in the suburbs, then a day and night in Seattle, before swinging over to visit some of our friends on the Kitsap Peninsula for a  nice group dinner and an evening of karaoke.


It was a pretty great weekend.  I mean, the things we did were fun(and several of those deserve posts of their own, like seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, Seattle Underground Tours, TheatreSports), but more important, the bout of melancholy that I expected never really showed up, and I think that is because, other than 5 years less sand in my hour glass...things are better than they are when I turned 35.

My job, while not 'better', is more family friendly.  The girls, while they were great little girls, are turning into great people.  The house is doing good, and we might actually get some fruit from our trees, and good vegetables from the garden, which I was able to work on improving, after deciding it was big enough and didn't need more expanding.

As for my wife and I...the last 5 years have been good to us both.


That was 5 years ago in Vegas, versus this last month:


Obviously, I still have more progress to make than my wife...but, given my wife as motivation, by my 50th Birthday we might look like this:

picture from the daily mail
 

5.11.2015

Strike that, reverse it.

Instead of getting my wife some flowers that will just die for Mother's Day, we decided to take some time out of the weekend to go look at some flowers, courtesy of the fine folks at Puget Sound Energy, who offered guided wild flower tours of the Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility

I am one of the first people to poke fun of the Eastern Washington landscape, which for 9 months of the year is 50 shades of brown...but, during the spring and early summer, we do get some green, and then beautiful pops and seas of color as the wild flowers of the Shrub Steppe bloom. 

Western Mountain Aster

Bitterroot

It wasn't all just pretty flowers...there was also some education involved.  The Wild Horse Wind Farm occupies over 11,000 acres(with the actual mechanical footprint being just over 150 acres) and PSE tries to do some good outreach on the site.  There is a nice little visitors center, and in addition to the guided wild-flower tours, you can get recreation permits for free hiking, or tours of the actual 350 foot wind turbines.  I'm not always a fan of the wind farms and the way they break up the great outdoors, but after getting a close up look at the facility, I can see that the mule deer and elk don't seem very disturbed by the big white trees. 

The variety of flowers was nice.  We missed the beautiful purple lupine that grows, but we caught the sulfur lupine(more cream/light yellow) in color...but what really surprised me was the variety of buckwheat(not the grain).  There are something like 5-6 different varieties, with thyme buckwheat having the most interesting flowers.


As pretty as the flowers and the view were, the real reward was getting to spend the day with my wife and kids.  At one point, two tour buses full of students from CWU pulled in, and I kept giving my wife grief that she had better go hide before she got mistaken for one of the college girls.

5.08.2015

V-E

70 years ago today, the end of the 3rd Reich was complete, as German forces officially surrendered  to allied forces in Berlin(they wouldn't surrender to the Soviets until the next day due to their not being an appropriate Soviet official available to accept the surrender). 

From stats I can find, they estimate that roughly 183,000 American's died in the North Africa/European Theater(for comparison, the United Kingdom lost roughly 300,000 in Europe). 

As a Navy guy, I tend to think the War in the Pacific when I think WWII, which is reinforced by my Grand Father's experience in B-29's, but...the war in Europe was not all Patton riding to glory. 

Estimates state that there are less than 1,000,000 WWII vets left(855,000 per the National WWII museum web site).

Makes me want to go cruise through the local restaurants today to see if I can find one to buy them breakfast...

5.06.2015

Look at that!

Wow...I actually remembered my password.  It's been like two weeks...sorry.  There just hasn't been anything to post about that has been more important than other stuff I had to do. 

Last weekend, we got to do some fun science related stuff.  My older daughter has been taking a STEAM workshop, and all semester they have been working towards a big project...launching a weather balloon. As part of that, they have been designing and shock proofing 'instrument packages'.  Some kids had cameras, some kids had thermometers to track temperature gradients, and some had barometers. 

The time had come to launch them, which meant being on site at 7AM in a mystery location.  It was a mystery location because the PhD that was selflessly volunteering his time to lead the project had to use a couple of neat atmospheric prediction websites to plot the path we wanted to balloon to take.  It had to be reverse engineered...we were much worried about where it came down than where it went up.  We had to do our best to avoid it coming down in an area criss-crossed by power lines, or into a wind farm.  So...we basically had to wake up Saturday morning and wait for a phone call about where we were going.  Luckily, it was only about a 45 minute drive west of the house, which was going to allow the balloons to hopefully end up East North East of the Tri-Cities, in  some poor farmers field.




I was pretty impressed by the scale and scope of everything.  I had no idea that these balloons were supposed to go up to 85,000 feet plus before they finally popped and started coming down. Likewise, I had no idea that it takes almost 40 minutes for an instrument package on a parachute to fall to earth from 85,000 feet, and that we would have to chase said balloon over 70 miles.  It kind of felt like the movie Twister...running around on back dirt roads trying to find the best path to where the GPS unit was telling us that the balloons were coming down.


Finally, I didn't realize that 85,000 feet was high enough to get a picture like this out of a Go Pro Camera.