Saturday, April 30, 2016

Preparing For..."The Big One"

A few weeks ago we participated in an emergency preparedness drill. We were to act as if our area suffered a major earthquake. Like many areas where major fault lines run underneath us, it's good to be prepared, but unlike other quake-prone areas, we don't get a lot of small earthquakes, a la California or Japan. It seems we're living in a place where we either have no earthquakes, or a really really big one.

We began by hearing a recording play over the speakers. We heard a rumbling sound with a message telling us that we were not experiencing an earthquake. Our job--get under our desks. 

From there we took the stairs and then exited the building. We gathered across the street and waited for the "all clear" so we could return to work. The last time we did this I took out my good camera and snapped a lot of pictures. I was pleased with those shots. It was a lot of fun. This time I just took my phone.

The state spent a lot of money to put on this exercise. I believe all state buildings along the Wasatch Front took part as well as many non-government organizations. How effective was the drill? It's hard to say. I suppose practicing what you'll do in an emergency is helpful. I just don't know--if the damage is as bad as some say it will be when "the big one" hits--it might not make any difference.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Goodbye New Job...Hello Old Job

Yesterday I cleared out my cubicle so I could move my stuff to my new cubicle. I'm leaving a new job to one I did a couple of years ago. It's strange to be going back to my old job, but that's how things have worked out.

For the past twenty-two months I've been working an assignment with a different department at work. Where I work they have options when it comes to some positions. For these temporary situations the person chosen to work these jobs will return to the job they were doing once the assignment ends, if it ever does. A few years ago I was part of a computer rebuild team. I left my job for fifteen months and when the computer program was up and running, I went back.

It's happened again. I will go back to the same job, albeit at a new location. It's always hard leaving a job where you work with great people, and where your job impacts people's lives. The work is rewarding. The quality of the co-workers is icing on the cake.

We had a potluck lunch on Tuesday to formally say goodbye. The excellent food was only surpassed by the company in the room. I received notes and cards, and many many well-wishes. I had asked to use a couple of hours of annual time off this week so I could go to lunch with friends, and leave early yesterday. I had to get my stuff home so I could get to my other job on time.

Monday I'll load up the car and drive to the new building. I'll unload and move in and not recognize many. It will take some time to "remember" how to do my new/old job. And on those days when the work will bog down, I'll think back with fond memories of the time when I had one of the best views in our building right in front of me.

And I will smile.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Up On The Roof...

Last weekend I did something I don't do much...I climbed out on our roof so I could clean the rain gutters. Now, is it the climbing out on the roof that I don't do much or cleaning the gutters?

Both, actually. 

I'm not one for heights. When I was a child I was high up on a ladder. The support that held it up slipped and I fell straight down. It was the only time I've ever had a broken bone. I can't remember if the height thing resulted from that or if I had it before. So when I climb out on the west side roof on our house, it's a bit unnerving. 

We used to climb up on the roof of my parent's house all the time. It's not as steep as ours and it's a lot bigger. I never got close to the west side of the house on that one either.

People write about being up on roofs. I can imagine they are writing about the flat kind, where they can see an incredible sights. And even though I don't like being up on roofs, I can't deny the views almost make it whole experience worth it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How To Make A Drum...Or, How To Make A Cub Scout Make A Drum?

Do you remember those days of your youth when even the simplest things could bring such wonder and joy? Maybe it's easy for me to remember because when I was a cub scout, there were no such things as video games, cellphones, computers, or even VCRs (or Batamax machines...). No, we had skateboards, bicycles, friends, open roads, and public parks.

But I think the wonder of a child care be reached even in our electronic age. Case in point, tonight we helped a bunch of eight to ten-year old boys build drums. These drums were rudimentary, and the finish product produced sounds that sounded a little like what you hear when you bang a proper drum. Still, the scouts didn't care. They were excited for the opportunity.

And that tells me something. We took some large cans, some faux leather fabric, some rubber bands, and some paint and let them loose. The only complaints I heard was there wasn't enough red paint. Apparently, the kids liked red (a good sign for the next generation, if you ask me...).

So, how do you get a young boy to make a drum? Basically, you provide the materials and let them go for it. Like I said, I doubt these things will be effective drums, but those kids didn't care. They had a blast putting them together anyway, and there's something important to be learned in that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dave Butler's "Crow Jane"...A Book Review


I've known about Dave Butler's Rock Band Fights Evil series for some time. It's only recently I got around to reading it.

Now I'm asking myself, what took me so long?

The books in this series are fun. They're not too gory or gratuitous. The stories are quick reads, not simple, but singularly focused. Book 3 is called Crow Jane and it's a little different from the previous installments, Hellhound On My Trail, and Snake Handlin' Man. Those stories focus mostly on the band, a group of cursed musicians (some think all musicians are "cursed"...) destined to roam the land playing gigs in seedy bars and fighting the forces of evil.

This one, however, focuses on someone else, a marked woman who has lived since the dawn of humanity, or the Biblical timeline of humanity. I loved it! I loved getting to know Jane, or Qayne, as she was once known. Butler weaves her story masterfully into the modern-day tale. We travel back in time to find out more about Jane, how she became "marked," and how those decisions made millennia ago still reverberate today. She's also an anti-hero we can root for. When Jane and the band meet, each side fights for what they need to survive, and the epic battle is full of twists, magic, and even fire sword-wielding giants. It's quite a ride! And the cover art is killer, too, done by the very talented Carter Reid.

There's monsters and devils, angels and faeries, magical spells and flesh-eating horses. It's the kind of story that could be made into a weekly television series where we enter a world full of imaginative characters and situations. In Crow Jane, we get a better glimpse into one of the evil beings the band has been fighting.

There are more books in the series. I've got one on my Kindle right now. I'll let you know how that one turns out, too.

* Photo used without permission from:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dorene Smith...A Fine Lady


I think one of the saddest things we humans do is deny ourselves the opportunity to get to know more people. I know this because I'm so guilty of doing this. I pass up opportunities that are open to me for a myriad of reasons, but every time--almost without exception--I've taken that chance, gone outside my comfort zone and gotten to know people better, it's been a positive experience.

Yesterday I noticed a flower arrangement on the podium at church. In our culture (and our church...), that usually means the building was used for a memorial service. It means someone in the neighborhood died. When I found out who it was, it made me sad.

I doubt many people had the pleasure of knowing Dorene Smith. I had lived a few houses down from her for over a decade before I met her, and had I not applied for a job on the grounds crew at Lagoon Amusement Park as a teenager, I might not have ever spoken to the lady. I don't know if she knew who I was. I don't know if she knew that my father had passed away twelve years earlier. Maybe I made her laugh, but for some reason, she hired me.

And I think in many ways, that changed my life. She gave me a chance to work hard, get to know some wonderful people, and create lasting memories.

I had never worked at Lagoon before, but I had many friends who had. They, of course, did not work in the grounds department. Everyone who worked there knew of Dorene, but I don't think many knew her. A lot of kids feared her. She was ex-military and she was in charge of getting that placed cleaned on a daily basis. That is no small task, especially when 90% of your workforce is too young to vote. She had to be tough. If she wasn't, well, you know how kids can be. They'd take advantage and the work would not get done.

But, if they had known her--really gotten to know her--they wouldn't have feared her. Sure, she drove a pick-up around the park before it opened and smoked. She had a somewhat gravelly voice and had to yell sometimes to get our attention. Still, if you got to know her you knew she was a funny, funny lady. She'd tell jokes and stories that were hilarious. And she had a heart as big as the amusement park itself.

Dorene retired many years ago and I ran into a handful of times since my teenage years. Every time she would smile (unless she was discussing some stupid thing the city counsel was considering...). I didn't know she had passed on until the services were over. Whenever I think of Dorene, I'll be forever grateful that I knew her and that she was my friend. Yes, Dorene was a fine lady.

* Photo used without permission from:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

To Our Daughter...Happy Sixteenth Birthday

Some birthdays mean more than others. It's kind of silly, when you think about it. But, it's a custom and humans embrace customs. Today our daughter had one of those "big birthdays." She turned sixteen.

There was a party last night for friends. Today was for us.  And because it was for us, I did a little reminiscing by looking at my journal from the day sixteen years ago and by looking at old photos. What is it about looking at photos? It so vividly reminds us how we felt; it makes us recall the memories. We're transported back to those times.

I remember bringing her home. We were living in my mom's basement apartment--only two bedrooms. The boys had one bedroom and we had the other. We put up the crib in our room and that's how we lived for three years. Of course, she didn't care--she just looked at us with those beautiful eyes and smiled, mostly. I remember singing her to sleep, my song of choice, When Somebody Loved Me, from Toy Story 2. I still adore that song. Maybe that's why she loves to sing.

A family is a team. To be successful we all have parts to play, responsibilities to shoulder. Our daughter has always played her part as the light, that special spirit that can shine so bright you have to sometimes shield your eyes. Happy birthday, you wonderful daughter of ours!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Dichotomy Of A University Spring Football Game...

For the die-hard college football fans, there was football to watch on TV today. I must not be die-hard because I forgot the University of Utah Utes were playing their spring Red/White game this afternoon. I did, however, catch the last quarter.

And it made me think, am I supposed to be happy or sad about what I saw?

I know there are those who watch every play, study every scheme and they saw a completely different thing as the watched the red and white teams scrimmage. Hopefully they saw improvement at the various positions, individual performances where players shined. Also, I'm sure the coaches have specific things they want to see, how offensive and defensive plays develop.

But what I saw was a dichotomy of a team. When there was a great play offense, doesn't that mean that someone on defense missed an assignment? If the defense stopped the other side from scoring, that's great for the defense, but that means things might not look good for the offense next season.

As I watched each play, those thoughts kept going through my mind. It was like I couldn't enjoy a great catch because a great defense would (and should...) have stopped it. And will the defense stop a great run up the middle when it's game time? I guess we'll find out.

Maybe it's a good thing I forgot the game was on. I would have just spent the entire time over thinking the whole thing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Everyone's A Comedian...Even In The Stairwells

What happens when you begin a campaign to improve the health of your workforce and permission to express yourself through memes?

You get what's currently happening in my building.

Someone came up with the idea of decorating the stairs with humorous sayings and pictures, obviously to lure the employees to the stairs so they can enjoy the comedy. I have no idea how effective the campaign has been--many of the memes are in both stairwells. But I thought I'd take some pictures of some of the better humorous moments and share them here. I know some of the pictures are hard to read--just click on them to get the full effect.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

NHL Play-Offs...Good Times

Growing up, I can't really remember watching a lot of hockey on TV.

But I remember watching almost every other sport on TV. That's because when I was a kid, there was only three channels and when sports came on those three channels we watched it. I remember watching alpine skiing (and it wasn't even the Olympics...), auto racing, golf, tennis, and even bowling. Yes, we watched competitive bowling.

And we liked it.

But I don't remember watching hockey. Maybe there wasn't a lot of hockey on TV back then. I don't know. Fast forward four decades and I still don't watch a lot of hockey, but there's something that happens during the play-offs that make the games so much fun to watch. I can't bring myself to watch during the regular season. Play-offs are a different story.

I don't know any of the players. I don't have any favorite teams. I don't really care who wins it all, but if I'm home at night and a game is on, I'll probably check it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our Cars...As Seen Through Our Youngest's Eyes

Last night my youngest child was sitting in our room watching TV as I did some editing. A commercial for a new car came on and I watched it without really watching it.

My son, however, he paid attention.

"Dad, why do people always want to get new cars?"

It's an extremely honest question coming from a child who wants nothing but understanding.

"Well," I said thinking about new cars. "People get and want new cars for many different reasons. Sometimes they want a safe car, or their cars are old and worn out. Sometimes they want something really nice because they like how they feel driving a really nice car, or to have something nicer than what other people drive."

The comment was sort of a throw away one for me. I mean, I just said it without thinking too much about it. That's when my son said, "Our cars are good. I like our cars."

That made me stop and think. We have two vehicles, a van that seats everyone and my little compact that does not. My car is three years older than the van and neither car is driven very much--taking the bus to and from work everyday and homeschooling helps with that. They're both built by Toyota and both have years and miles still left in them.

But are they "good?" In his eyes, yes, they are.

I try to not do things that can bring me down. I've found that comparing myself to others is one of the quickest ways to ruin my day. And when I slip and do it, I get mad at myself because when it's all said and done, comparing myself to others is basically a huge waste of time. I could look at my cars and see all the faults, all the problems. My car has no hubcaps--one by one they fell off. And one door is not like the others and the desire to fix this issues hasn't been worth the cost for me to do it. 

The van's got issues too, though minor, we can always find reasons for wanting something better, something newer, something flashier. Humans--especially adults--are great at doing that. But to a child, he doesn't care what color the doors are, or that there's a small ding in a side panel that occurred when we drove it into the garage. To him, the cars have always started and taken him where he wants to go. We do have good cars and the best part, they're paid for.

My little comment turned out to be a learning experience after all. Except, it was me that did the learning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

For Years I Try And Try To Reach People...My Son Gets 25K Views In One Day

"Your son posted that video he said he was working on," my wife told me after I got home from work yesterday. It was late and I made a mental note to check it out today.

And I did.

And so did twenty-five thousand others.

I took a screenshot on my iPad showing the number of views his little video achieved in just one day. Not bad--not bad at all!

Now, I've been doing the social media thing for several years. As an author I've tried to get my name and stories out there to the masses. Of course, there's a fine line between self-promotion and down-right annoyance. I have a lot of author friends who I follow on social media. Some--not all, but some--do so much self-promotion, it's almost embarrassing. I try not to overdue it. I could probably do more, but I'm okay with how much I do.

Then my teenage son makes a video comprised of clips from a video game series between two guys. He sends it to one of the guys, a guy named Shady Penguinn who then links it to his YouTube account. And one day later, 25K views were generated from my son's creative effort. It's pretty mind-blowing. It does help that Shady has over 300K subscribers to his YouTube account.

But still!

We asked our son, "Did you know the video you posted yesterday has over twenty-five thousand views?"

"Yeah," he said. "The last one I did had over forty thousand."

I'm a minor-leaguer compared to him, which I'm totally cool with!

If you want to watch it (and, it's something specifically geared toward fans of Shady...), you can check out my son's YouTube account: HERE

Good job son!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lunch With Friends...Good Times!

I got the I/M the day before. "Clif's in town. We should do lunch tomorrow."

I'm not one to pass up a chance to get together, especially when an out-of-state friend is in town. I responded as soon as I got the message.

"I'm in!"

The next day noon arrived and we gathered at a small eatery on the corner of State and Main where I live. The original three became five and for the first time in decades five of us sat together and spent time eating and catching up.

You know (and I'm talking to you youngsters out there...) when you go to a restaurant and a group of old geezers take the table next to you and they all begin talking and laughing and chatting about the good ol' days?

Yeah, that was basically us, but without any youngsters to annoy.

It's hard to explain just how wonderful it was to sit and hear how the lives of each one of us have turned out so far. Those many years ago I leaned on these men, relied on them to help get me through my high school years and all that that entails. We talked about our families, children, and in one case, grandchildren. We shared and enjoyed each other's company.

I looked at each one as they spoke and remembered high school and post-high school life. One-by-one we found spouses (we're skewing the statistics--no divorces...), had children, earned degrees, began careers. Two live near where we grew up, two live in-state but away from home, and one lives in the Northwest. Yet, there's a connection that will forever bind us like brothers. We could have talked about the past, but we didn't. We focused on what we're doing now.

Time came to go and we each went our separate ways. I'd like to think we'll make this an annual thing. And we might. Promises made after a great meal and conversation fade when life returns and envelopes our schedules. I had an amazing time catching up and I'm so blessed to call these great men friends. Until next time.