Thursday, October 1, 2009


Last night I slept alone, and by "alone"
I mean that you did not appear, despite
My tries to conjure you. My first attempt
Was near the window, when I commented
Aloud that only lonely men should stand
Alone at windows. Proud, I stepped away.

My second try was in the frown I gave –
A disapproving frown minority
Politicians would have traded votes for –
To the anti-marriage poster on the wall.

Then third I fluffed your pillow, and rather than
Taking the whole bed, I kept to my side
Lest I kick you, or you me, from bad dreams.

Then finally, in the morning when the sound
Of morning chimes came from my phone I leapt
To turn them off, lest they disturb you as

You slept.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A hiatus

Dear readers,

This blog has been a lot of fun for me, but it's time that I take a break from "regular" posting. Not that I've been too regular of a blogger, nor have I been at this blogging thing for too long – but things have picked up for me at work and at church, and I don't have time right now to feel an obligation to post.

So rather than let my blog die a slow, painful, protracted death with no final word, I figured I would just say this: I'm taking a break. I'll probably post every now and then (likely after a hike or something), so please keep me on your RSS feeds. But don't expect regular posts for now. I may decide to pick them up again in the future; I may not.

One final word: I'm reading an excellent, refreshingly funny and surprising book right now called The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. I'm sure that none or very few of you (Jason H. and Dave G. excepted) have read it. I think you all should. It will make you laugh inside, and perhaps out loud.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Failed Summit

Of all the great Wasatch peaks, Cascade Mountain is certainly the most ignored. It is so dwarfed (not by size – only by popularity) by nearby Mount Timpanogos, that many long-time residents of Utah County don't even know its name. This is the mountain I mean:

Since I had never hiked it before, I organized a trip to conquer this elusive precipice. Four of us made the attempt: Camber, me, Jason H., and a friend of his named Jackie.

The difficulty in climbing this mountain is that, as you can perhaps tell by looking at the photograph, there is no good way to get to the top (note the cliffs on the north side, nearer the actual summit). There is no trail to the very top, and the nearest trail takes you to a saddle (Lightning Ridge) so far south that it isn't even shown in this picture.

Despite its distance, we decided to take that trail anyway. Once we reached the ridge, which didn't take too long, the summit actually looked close – close enough that Jason naively stated that it would take "90 minutes" to reach the top.

A view of the summit from Lightning Ridge. The summit is the LAST peak you can see on the right. Shrouded in clouds is a large peak (not the summit) that we would have to hike over to get to our destination. Quite a distance.

After two hours of hiking along a very difficult ridge-line with no trail, we hardly seemed any closer to reaching our destination. We were all worn out by the hiking, and extremely tired of such difficult hiking with no trail. We sat down for lunch (always a bad idea) to assess our options, and finally decided to give up on it and go home.

To understand what we did next, you have to know that I have never, to my knowledge, had a failed summit before. Every hike I have ever attempted has ended with my standing triumphantly on top of a mountain. And so I suggested, so long as we were already turning around, that we have a little adventure and bushwhack our way down the backside of the mountain into Big Springs area – an area I'm very familiar with.

The backside of the mountain. Beginning where this picture was taken, we bushwhacked to where you see the black arrow pointing:

For better or for worse, we decided to bushwhack our way down. This time it was my turn to exhibit naivete and hubris, stating that it would take us about 3 hours: it took 5. After hiking through thick foliage for hours we eventually found a real trail, and I literally wanted to kiss the dirt (I didn't). It was heaven just to be out of the scratchy trees and scrub oak.

I hate to say it, but I was beaten by Cascade Mountain. I now know why there is no trail to the top: it is miserable hiking. I'm sure that I'll conquer it someday, but for now I have failed, and it remains to be seen when I will beat back the mountain.

A few more pictures:

Jason, Camber, and Jackie, just after we left the trail for hours of ridge hiking. Doesn't it look just like the Alps?

Jackie and Camber (just her legs, actually), coming down a slope along the ridge. This gives you a feel of what it was like to hike along this steep ridge with no trail.

Jason H. bushwhacking it down.

Jackie and Camber, bushwhacking it down.

Jason and Jackie taking a rest in a meadow. We still had hours to push through the thick trees.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts on journal-writing

Perhaps I've been watching too many action movies, but I really want to be able to control my final messages to those I love. I've had fantasies about getting a safety deposit box in a bank somewhere, hiding that fact from my wife, and then leaving inside of it notes for her to read after my death. I smile to think of her finding the key to it in my drawer, or being given the key by my lawyer (ha! like I'll have my own lawyer), shrouded in mystery. She would go to the bank intensely curious – probably slightly worried that I was involved in some international money laundering scheme – and instead would find my final communications to her.

These wouldn't contain anything shocking – no final confessions, no unresolved missives – I simply want a way to control the last communication she receives from me. Since any life could end at any minute, I shudder to think that our final conversation might involve how to better arrange the house chores, or whether we can afford to buy some new item. And not because those topics would lead us into a fight (we don't fight), but because they are so boring. Who wants their final message, echoing from the grave, to consist of: "I'd be happy to do the dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays"?

As I was contemplating in which bank I should store my letters, a thought occurred to me: instead of going through all this drama, why not just keep a journal? Surely whatever journal I keep, Camber will read it if I die. And there, inside those pages of daily record keeping, will lie my autobiography. There is my final chance to capture, day after day, my feelings about life, and about her.

I had never thought about journals in this way, but over the past few months I have done my best to keep my journal in that spirit. Every night, before I go to bed, I try to record in it the day's events, and my feelings about them. And those feelings inevitably turn to Camber, giving me an opportunity to make my journal what it ought to be: my never-ending final love letter to her.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Accidental Summit

Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona, from a distance.

A few weeks ago Camber and I found ourselves, quite unintentionally, standing on top of Arizona.

How, you may ask, does one accidentally climb to the top of a 12,637-foot high mountain? I shall tell you.

It's true that we went down to Flagstaff, Arizona (Camber's home town) for the express purpose of climbing this mountain. This would have been my highest peak yet (I know, I know, it's humiliating that I've never broken 14,000 feat), so we were very excited. Sadly, on the morning of our hike, the peaks were covered in lightning storms, meaning it would have been too dangerous to climb to the top.

So instead Camber and I settled on a day-hike, on a trail someone recommended to us. It was the most beautiful aspen forest I have ever seen:

Me standing stupidly amongst beautiful aspens.

Camber in the aspens

The weather did turn foul briefly (it hailed on us for about 10 minutes; we took cover under pine trees), but began to clear up, so we just kept hiking. At one point we saw a sign that said we had 4 miles to the saddle. We were feeling good, and figured we could make it there. And we were rewarded:

A view from the saddle

Once we reached the saddle, we went ahead and hiked to the next saddle. Once we reached that, we took a trail to the next saddle. And at that point we figured, "Well, we may as well hike to the top!"

So we kept on going, not unlike our good friend the Energizer Bunny, until we reached the summit. It was a beautiful view, and there was even a nice Canadian man there to take our picture:

Camber and I at the top

So that's how it happened that a 4-hour morning hike turned into a 10-hour all-day hike. It was beautiful and worth it. If you've never been to Flagstaff, you really ought to go. Its beauty will stun you.

Here are a few more pictures:

Aspen trees. Good shot, eh?

Me standing in an aspen grove

A lichen-covered rock field

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An open letter to France

Dear France,france-flag

I am tired of your green beans.

Before you get overly excited - before you barricade L'Avenue des Champs-Élysées and set tires on fire - you need to know how much I have been afflicted by your green beans. What seems like years ago my wife, in a moment of excited weakness, decided to buy enough cans of your beans to feed the Mongol hoard. I have suffered through your insufferable cut of bean for so long that I now bemoan their existence, and yours as well.

Forgive me, France, but why - why - must you do everything your own way? Was the original, natural, normal cut of green bean not good enough for dear Mother France? That regular cut, so straight and smooth it could have been sliced via Madam l'Guillotine, feels so natural and clean in one's mouth; while your cut, that abomination of this green garden vegee, feels stringy and strange to my tongue! You've turned something so yummy into something so . . . French.

This seems to me to be the symptom of a greater problem, a complex of France. Is it that you resent your faded glory? Do you long for those Napoleonic days, when you ruled (oh, so briefly) most of Europe?

Move on, France. Move on. And please stop making your green beans.

Warm regards,

Isaac Hess

P.S. I have a weakness for your fries.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A farewell to the compact disc

IMG_0978A few days ago I decided it was finally time to clean out my old, dirty, yellow CD case I received from my friend Scott W. back in the 8th grade. (I can't recall how I got the case, but it's possible that it was under dubious circumstances. I probably still owe Scott a lot of money.)

That CD case has been well-used and well-loved over the last 10 years, and it has the stains to prove it. That yellow case - once a bright dandelion color, now faded to a dark puke - is likely the least sanitary thing I own. Embedded in its vinyl cover are infectious diseases dating back to the late 90s.

But I love that case. Back in high school I organized the front CDs with all my favorites, and until recently, that organization was still there - my museum exhibit showcasing my previous tastes.

But as I said, it was time to clean it out. I needed to make room for more recent MP3 purchases which I had burned onto a CD to play in my car. While I was flipping through, though, I found an old compilation CD I had made back in high school, which I had called "Ultimate Happy Alternative." I hadn't listened to it in years, and when I popped it in I was transported back to an era when the airwaves were ridden by bands called The Wallflowers, Fastball, Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, and Better than Ezra.

After I had ripped this CD to my computer for eternal preservation, I realized that something had happened to me that many people have been bemoaning over the last few years. You see, I recently made the decision that I would no longer buy physical copies of music. There are just so many advantages to having digital copies, I can't justify spending an extra 50% on my music to get the CD.

But what I had just experienced - that moment of "finding" something by browsing, something I hadn't seen in years - couldn't have happened with a digital music library. That sort of thing only happens with physical copies, something you can put away for a while, perhaps lose, and then find later while cleaning out the junk under your bed. When you have digital copies, you often only find what you're looking for.

And so it is with great sadness that I bid farewell to CDs, perhaps the last physical form our music will take. From here on out in this brave new world, we'll be all iPods, MP3 players, and phones (probably all phones). But I hope in the future, someday when I'm surrounded by life-improving gadgets, that I'll stumble upon that old yellow CD case, pull out an old favorite, and be reminded of earlier times.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'm baaack!

Regular posts begin again on Monday. Sorry for the long dry spell. But there's some good stuff coming that I think you'll like.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eat Mor Chikn

Fast food nation

I just finished reading Fast Food Nation. And somewhere amid descriptions of maimed slaughterhouse workers, greedy fast food tycoons, and disease-riddled beef my stomach started to churn.

What have I been eating all these years? What I thought was ground beef was apparently laced with pesticides, antibiotics, E. coli, dead cows that had been fed to living cows, manure, and particles of some poor Mexican's arm that got mangled in the machinery.


So what now? Buy organic meat? Go vegetarian? Eat only poultry and fish? Buy a herd of cattle and slaughter a few every year to stock my freezers? According to Fast Food Nation, the chicken industry isn't cleaner or safer than their bovine counterparts. And who knows how those poor trout are being treated these days. I heard they suffer a long, tortuous death by suffocation before landing on my fork. My vegetables probably receive fertilizer from the above-mentioned infected cows, in addition to the nasty pesticides and probably some nuclear fall-out leftover in the soil.

tomato (This is a tomato)

In the midst of all these injustices and health hazards, I have to eat. Tonight's menu: triple chocolate brownies. With ice cream to cover up that funny pesticide after-taste.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My real rebuttal

I was tempted beyond that which I was able to bear.

The great electronics war

Today there was a battle in the Hess household.

The topic: Apple's new iPhone 3G S


Just when you thought nothing could be more awesome than the last iPhone, here it is.

Isaac's arguments went something like this:

1) It's awesome. You just don't understand how awesome it is. Now that I know it exists, any awesomeness that previous iPhones may have had is obsolete.

2) Don't think of this as a frivolous personal purchase. This will make me a better employee. Actually, think of this as a business purchase.

3) I have to keep up with Sean

4) Since we're currently DINK (Dual-income, no kids), we can afford anything!

5) I will not be able to think about or talk about anything else until I get one. Every conversation we have will somehow end up with me begging you to let me buy an iPhone.

Isaac didn't actually say #5, but because I know him well, it becomes an inferred argument.

My arguments:

1) It's expensive

2) You already have a phone

3) It's expensive

4) You already have a phone

Isaac's rebuttal:


Isaac won. If you think I'm crazy, please review again Isaac's argument #5 and consider the mental and emotional pain I am sparing myself.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The briefest of delays

byol_elearning_logoDear faithful readers,

(And yes, there are faithful readers. My tracker says I still get about 5 unique visitors to this blog per day, and that's even when I'm posting stupid poems or nothing. IDevCon Source CS3 don't know who you are, but you deserve some kind of medal, or a candy bar. Whichever is less expensive.)

You may have noticed that posting has been scant recently, and that what posts I have made have been rather . . . lame. Well, I have a reason for this. A huge deadline (we're talking Israel Kamakawiwo'ole huge) is coming up for me at work, and it has consumed all but the most necessary parts of my life.

To tell it briefly - if you've ever wondered what it is I do at work - I am in charge of organizing and managing several conferences, at which usually about 300 people attend. One of those conferences began today, and continues all through next Saturday. I'll be out of town, working late, looking important, things like that.

(If you're curious, visit the conference websites: eLearning DevCon and BYOL eLearning are the upcoming ones.)

The good news is, I'll soon be back! After this week my life will resume some semblance of sanity, and regular good blog posts will resume as well.

So keep reading! Don't give up on me!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Automatic Lights

I came to the office on a Saturday,
came to work, and not to be mocked
by loneliness.

But every time I walk into a room,
the building greets me by turning on
automatic lights.

These lights, with all their good intentions,
Are the surest piece of evidence that
I am alone.

They seem to scream as they turn on:
"No one else has been here."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Next stop: Lothlórien

Karen and me at the top
Karen and me at the top of Y Mountain
Last week my younger sister Karen and I conquered Y Mountain together. It was a beautiful May morning, and since I had nothing planned, and Camber was at work, I figured there was nothing better to do than to climb a mountain.

I invited Karen for a few reasons, but perhaps the most important is that I have heard her recently claim that she doesn't like hiking. That was insufferable, so I decided to cure her of that by taking her on an awesome hike.

And it was awesome. (OK, the part up to the Y was steep, hot, and ugly, but everything from there on to the top was wonderful.) It made me think again about why I love hiking myself. I think for me, it boils down to these three reasons:

  1. I love the excitement of conquering something. I love to start at the bottom and reach the top, knowing that my own energy got me there.

  2. I love the conversation with friends. This really ought to be number one, but I'm too lazy to copy and paste it up there. Something strange happens on a hike. Suddenly perfect strangers become fast friends. People open up to you while hiking in the woods. It's almost as if they have no choice but to reveal to you their lives. And old friends become better friends. This is what I enjoy most.

  3. Mix the first two together, then add the wonderful feeling of exercise (you know: leg muscles burning lightly, endorphins, that stuff), and the combination is potent. There's nothing like it in the world.

When we reached the top of Y Mountain, I looked into the bowl in the back and something caught my eye: amidst a huge forest of pines, a large cluster of light-green aspen trees stuck out. I've seen it before, and once again I thought to myself: I must go there! I don't know what to call it, so at the risk of being labeled a complete Lord of the Rings nerd, I've decided to call it Lothlórien. European mythology has many good names for mountains, but it is seriously lacking when it comes to naming forests. So I must turn to Lord of the Rings mythology, and be happy.

You can get a good view of it in the last picture. I'm determined to get there and see what that forest looks like. I don't know if there is a trail or not, but I think there may be. Either way, I'm going. Anyone want to come?

Karen on the big rock, just after the Y
Karen on the big rock, just after the Y

Me in a meadow.
Me in a meadow

Karen in the same meadow
Karen in the same meadow

Karen at the top. Lothlórien is the background, behind her neck.
Karen at the top. Lothlórien is the background, behind her neck.

Me at the top. That's Squaw Peak in the background.
Me at the top. That's Squaw Peak in the background.

Lothlórien. Want to come?
Lothlórien. Want to come?

Friday, May 22, 2009

My soul's mother

IMG_0901Last Friday I went with my wife Camber, Jason H., and Whitney J. to our dear alma mater, Orem High School. The trip was inspired by rumors that they would soon knock our dear school down and pave it over with a parking lot. Those rumors were heavily reinforced by the fact that the old parking lot now has a building under construction that has reached the second floor.

Happily, the new school is behind schedule, so the old school will be used next year as well. That makes me glad. I'll just take another trip there next year.

I'll always be attached to Orem High School, because in many ways, it was in the walls of that building that I became me. There's some moment in everyone's life — and that "moment" typically lasts an entire year — when you exit the amorphous blob that is adolescence and emerge with a distinct personality.

I know, I know, many of you are going to complain and tell me that your 3-year-old has a distinct personality. I say: that's true. The difference is, during childhood and through most of adolescence, our personalities change dramatically and sometimes quickly, as we try to decide who we will be. And at some moment, when we become that person (and this often happens during the course of a year in high school, but sometimes middle school), we are likely going to stay that person for the rest of our lives.

For me this happened my 10th grade year. It's the year that I became me. And it happened within the walls of Orem High School, a place I was happy to spend three years of my life.

And now they're tearing it down! My alma mater, the mother of my soul! I'll have no place to visit in the future, or to take my children, and say: "This is where I survived high school. This is where I became me."

I say, to all the Oremites out there: once the walls come down let's all go steal a brick.

[gallery columns="2"]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zur zur zur

The following (slightly edited) conversation was had between David G. and myself regarding Dave's chat status message, which was: "zur zur zur."

Isaac Hess: What is "zur zur zur"?

David Gravett: More importantly, what isn't zur zur zur?

Isaac Hess: I think you'd be hard pressed to prove that that's more important.

David Gravett: I disagree, because everything is zur zur zur.

Isaac Hess: Stating what something is (as you just did) is almost always easier, and more simple, than stating what it is not.

For example: taking your statement to be true (it isn't, but I'll play along), to state what zur zur zur is not would go like this: "Nothing is not zur zur zur," which is a far more confusing statement than saying what zur zur zur is: namely "zur zur zur is everything."

Thus, it is much more important to state what it is, than what it is not.

David Gravett: You are such a snob! Since I coined the term, I can define it however I want. Further, since human knowledge as expressed through language is entirely relativistic, whether I define zur zur zur in terms of what it is or what it isn't, the set of all things that are zur zur zur will always be defined in terms of what is not in the set.

So there!

Isaac Hess: While I will happily concede the point that I am a snob, I certainly cannot concede the others. First, language is not "entirely" relativistic. To a certain degree I'm sure that it is, but I do believe that language generally does a fine job at communicating understanding; most people find that definitions greatly increase, rather than decrease, their understanding of words and terms.

Secondly, while saying that something is always defined by what is not in its set works well in the abstract, in practicality it becomes extremely problematic; because, again, most things have a definable and statable number of items within the set, and an infinite (i.e. "everything else") number of things outside the set.

Ergo, I maintain again, it is more important to state what zur zur zur is rather than what zur zur zur is not.

David Gravett: Based on improperly deduced conclusions, I cannot tell you, you could not understand.

Isaac Hess: Oh, now we're resorting to ad hominems are we?


Isaac Hess: But seriously... what is zur zur zur? I'm really curious now.

David Gravett: Well, I was typing "yup yup yup" into my instant messenger and it came out "zur zur zur." I thought it was cool.


David Gravett: I bet that disappoints.

Isaac Hess: It does, a little.

David Gravett: What were you hoping for

Isaac Hess: I don't know. Something German.

David Gravett: It's a German pastry that looks like whomever the current prime minister is. How's that?

Isaac Hess: That's much nicer. I want some zur zur zur!

Sounds delicious! Angela Merkel, baby!

David Gravett: Yum yum. Or should I say, zur zur.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My star, Arcturus

I hate the word "favorite" in many ways because it is so superlative.

But I do have a favorite memory (in the non-superlative sense).

Two nights prior to my leaving on a mission for the LDS Church (this was July 2003), I realized to my dismay that I had only one evening — that evening — left to me as a pre-mission young adult. I had a slight moment of panic, during which I decided that I needed to go out with a bang. I jumped into my car and began driving to a friend's house, planning out the largest party of the summer with everyone I had ever known in attendance. Halfway to his house, however, I realized that that was not how I wanted to spend my final evening. I realized that more than anything, I just wanted to spend it with a few close friends, talking and laughing our way late into the night.

So I picked up Jason H. and Abby H. (no relation to each other or to me), and we drove up the canyon to stargaze late into the night. I believe we finally returned home around 2 or 3 in the morning. It was, I dare say, the most perfect way to spend one's final night before a long trip away.

That night was the perfect capstone to a summer of stargazing. Earlier that summer, one night while looking heavenward, I decided that I would pick out a star for me. A star that would be mine. My own home in the night sky. I also decided to choose a bright one; and not to be presumptuous, but so that I could find it again in the future. I looked up, and one immediately caught my eye: Arcturus.

Finding Arcturus is relatively easy, since it is one of the brightest stars in the summer skies. The process is pretty simple: first find the big dipper. Then, continue to follow the "arc" of the handle, past the end of the handle, until you find the next very bright star. That is Arcturus. The maxim goes: "Arc to Arcturus." The picture below will help.

As you can see here: "Arc to Arcturus, then spike to Spica."
As you can see here: "Arc to Arcturus, then spike to Spica."
Ever since that summer, Arcturus has been my friend in the skies. There's something comforting about having your own star, something you can see anywhere in the northern hemisphere and know that you are home. All throughout my mission, whenever I would see Arcturus, I would remember my good friends and family and know that they could see it too.

So the next time a summer evening rolls around and you happen to glance heavenward, find Arcturus for me (you can find it already pretty early in the evening). And when you do, say hello to me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Camping Dilemma

This last weekend I went on a short overnight camping trip with my beautiful wife (Hi wife!) and a few good friends: David G. and his now-fiancée Merry P., Jason H., Jared W. S., and Whitney J. (Isn't the anonymity of surname initials exciting? It's almost like I'm in some sort of crime novel, and these were my accomplices!)

We went to Hope Campground, just off Squaw Peak Road. The road was still closed, but after some initial complaining from my comrades (you know who you are!) we finally made the arduous, painful, 15-minute walk on pavement to the campground. Because the road was still closed, there was only one other group of campers in the entire campground; and they purposely chose a spot on the far side of the campground from us, allowing us to make as much noise as we would like. (They probably realized that we're the kind of people who can make as much noise as drunk campers, even when we're sober.)

Camping in May is pure delight — for the first hour or two. When you first arrive you prance around looking for dry firewood (not an easy task), attempt to get a roaring fire going, set up tents, eat dinner (unless you brought tin-foiled dinners, in which case you will not be eating for another 3 or 4 hours), and settle down for the evening.

Then the sun goes down. And in May, when the sun sets in the mountains the temperature changes faster than the dark side of the moon (100 degrees in the sun, -40 in the shade). The shivering begins. You begin to look at your tent with growing dread, as you realize that even your zero-degree bag may not provide the requisite protection from the cold. You sadly realize that your poor, frozen fingers are too cold to play the guitar you brought.

And then, as you sit around the fire, this train of thought enters your mind: Why do I do this? Why not just pack up everything I brought with me, enjoy the fire for a few more hours, and then drive home to sleep in my own warm, soft bed? Why torture myself? Why not leave now and go hot-tubbing and eat pie?

I'm not sure if I have a good answer to those questions. But we did stay, and I did sleep terribly, and I did have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (it was cold!), and I was insanely tired the rest of the weekend, and I didn't get any pie!

The funniest part of all is, I really want to like camping. Something deep down inside of me, beneath the point of conscious and reasonable thought, wants me to be the type of person who likes to go camping just for the heck of it. Which is why, even as early as when we were walking back to our cars after a cold, terrible night of sleep, I said out loud:

"We should do this again next week!"

Ah, the irrational human mind.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Laughing gas

M~ p17ma01/11p clr/teethAs a practicing Mormon, I am afforded very few opportunities to take mind-altering drugs. Please don't read that sentence as a form of complaint — I'm actually extremely grateful for a religion that has helped me stay away from harmful substances like cocaine, marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, and Cherry Coke (insert smiling emoticon here). However, it does mean that whenever I do take a mind-altering substance (as prescribed by a doctor), the experience is strangely . . . novel. (Is it wrong to say that?)

I love laughing gas. (It's probably wrong to say that.) I try to find some way to justify its use every time I go to the dentist. Since I do try to not be a laughing gas druggie, I typically don't ask for it if the hygienist is cleaning my teeth, or if the doctor is using that weird mirror thing and lecturing me on how I need to do better at flossing.

But, Oh! You're going to use a sharp instrument? Gas me!

For those of you who have never tried laughing gas, allow me to explain how it feels (at least to me). Laughing gas does not prevent pain, or even prevent you from noticing pain: what it does do, and very effectively I might add, is make you not care about pain (or anything, for that matter).

I remember when I had my wisdom teeth (make that my four impacted the-doctor-had-to-break-them-to-get-them-out wisdom teeth) removed, I only had two things to help me: Novocaine and laughing gas. And man, it hurt, but I didn't care. I was so doped up that at one point I thought it would be funny to bite the dentist's drill as he worked. And you know what? To the guy on laughing gas, it was!

I knew I had finally gone too far, though, during a root canal just a few months ago. My new dentist (Scott's dad, good guy) has a television above his root canal chair. When I had my root canal done I was watching a documentary about the United Kingdom. It was painfully bad, but laughing gas apparently has a way of covering up artistic pain as well as physical pain.

The drilling, yanking, cleaning, and pulling lasted about 40 minutes total — but I was happily in another world, joyously flying over various parts of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, admiring the beauty, and thinking to myself, as blood spewed from my mouth, I really ought to go to Britian. It's so lovely there.

About 30 minutes into the procedure, however, I officially took it too far. The dentist seemed to be finishing up, and in my gassed-up stupor I actually thought, Please don't be done! I have to finish this movie! They haven't showed Buckingham Palace yet!

At that moment I turned to the dentist and kindly asked him to bring me back to earth.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We are finally a real family

(The title of this post does not mean that Camber and I are expecting a baby. Sorry friends. Perhaps another time.)

About three or four months ago, NPR began a new series about the recession called "Kitchen Table Conversations."

(For those of you out there who still listen to music on the radio, NPR — which stands for National Public Radio — is a public radio station that features news, in-depth interviews, things like that. You know, the kind of things your dad listened to while you were growing up. White people love it.)

In this new series, NPR features families who have to make difficult decisions because of the economy. ("Should we take Johnny out of the private school?" "Will I be able to pay my massive Harvard Law School loans?" "How will we survive if we sell one of our three SUVs?" "How can I go out in public if I am ever forced to break down and buy a minivan!?")

They interview these families as they sit around their kitchen tables, usually married couples — sometimes along with their kids — trying to make the important adjustments required when dad loses his six-figure salary.

Now, you may think that when I first heard these conversations my thought was: "How sad: I hope these families are able to pull through."


My first thoughts immediately drifted to my kitchen table. This series put me into an instant panic, as I realized that my kitchen table would never do for such a series. And how would I ever achieve my life-long goal of public-radio stardom if NPR came by to interview Camber and me around our kitchen table? If they were to stop by, they would likely take one look at our table and say, "Oh! There's been some sort of mistake. We thought we were interviewing a real family. Real families have real kitchen tables."

Not that Camber and I don't have a kitchen table. Au contraire, we were given a kitchen table before our wedding by my fine brother Sean and his fine wife Catherine. And not that it hasn't served us well, or that we aren't grateful for it. It has, and we are. The table, though, is of that constantly-falling-apart and chairs-that-could-classify-as-torture category. (Case in point: when Sean and Catherine bought the table, there were four chairs. When they gave it to us, there were three. Now there are two. The chairs, like Republicans, are on the rapid path to extinction.)

On Saturday I simply could not take it any more. I needed to be a real family — the kind that has a real table, and real kitchen table conversations. The kind that could have four people over for dinner, and not have two people sitting on the piano bench. The kind that could have six people over for dinner, and not have two people sitting on flour bins.

And so we bought one. (I'll have to lambaste the insanely high prices of all-wood furniture in a future post.) We are finally a family now.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We are all going to die

As many of you may have heard, the world is ending. (If you have not heard, I am sorry. While we're on the subject, you should probably know that Santa isn't real either. Sorry. A nifty map here will give you the appropriate level of panic.)

I know that many people are urging calm. I know that panic could be described as "irrational." But while there is certainly a time and place for rational thought, there is also a time and place for fear-mongering, panic, rioting, and general French-revolution-style pandemonium. THAT TIME IS NOW!

I know, I know, all of you are thinking: Whoa, Isaac! Calm down! It's just a flu virus that kills 6% of the people who get it. That's nothing to worry about. It's not like people are turning into flesh-eating zombies!

My response: REALLY? Have you guys SEEN I Am Legend? The government isn't going to tell you that everyone is turning into man-eaters! They're going to pretend that everything's fine, that Obama will take care of everything and even give you a back-rub, and that if you'll only help them buy bad bank assets the world will return to normal. (I'm onto you, Mr. President.)

But I know better. The end is coming. And since this is Swine Flu, it's probably going to be a lot like this:

See you at the aftermath. It was good to know you all. Let me know when you're dead.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You're not hardcore unless you live hardcore

Wise words from Jack Black...

All growing up my family and I would frequently go to Arches National Park on vacation. I think we picked this spot because it gave us easy access to places where we could toy with death (which, apparently, is my family's favorite pastime). There's nothing more fun or exhilarating than climbing to the top of a 200-foot sandstone fin, walking along the top (which is about 5-10 feet wide), looking out over the edge and thinking, Why did we come up here?

We went down to Arches again last weekend and had a great time. We did the Fiery Furnace (which is by far the best thing in the entire park), Devil's Garden, Sand Dune Arch (where we saw Jeff and Amy Parker of all random people and places), and Delicate Arch. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures (click the thumbnail for a larger version):

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Longing for Easter ritual

I have to admit that I love ritual. When it comes to holidays, it is always cherished ritual that creates the special atmosphere. Take Christmas as an example. The most meaningful Christmas moments always come from the rituals we take care to perform each year: decorating the Christmas tree, acting out Luke 2, singing Christmas songs, etc. We humans use rituals to mark things that are truly important - things that are worth having a ritual for. We don't create rituals for just any old thing, we save them for those things which we feel truly matter. I suppose that's why Christmas means so much to so many of us - it's always packed with ritual.

This year as Easter came and went, it left me wondering where the Easter ritual is, specifically in LDS culture. The LDS Church itself has very little ritual associated with any holidays, so I don't really expect the Church to have official rituals relating to Easter, but I wondered why it is that Christmas seems so packed with ritual amongst those in our culture, while Easter passes by with little notice other than us decorating Easter eggs and hiding them for others to find.

The Catholic church has many Easter rituals (Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, lots of masses) which do appeal to me, but there's just one problem - I'm not Catholic. And I suppose my attraction to their ritual is more an attraction to ritual itself, and not to the specific rituals.

And so I was wondering, as Easter came and went, how to make Easter a more meaningful holiday for me and for my family. And it struck me: give it more ritual! Since ritual is a major part in our recognizing something as significant, if I give more ritual to Easter - and you could, of course, substitute "tradition" for ritual if that helps you understand it better - it will come to mean more to me and to my children.

So I think I will, beginning next year. And of course one of those rituals ("traditions") will be to dye Easter eggs every year. I enjoy it, so why not? We did that this year, had some friends over, and had good success. Below are some images for you to enjoy.
Dave and Merry
Dave Gravett and Merry Packard: aren't they adorable? They win "cutest couple" award.
The Easter-egg gang. From left to right: Marti and Jon Major, Dave Gravett, Merry Packard, and my beautiful wife Camber.
The Easter-egg gang. From left to right: Marti and Jon Major, Dave Gravett, Merry Packard, and my beautiful wife Camber
The best egg of all:
The best egg of all: Mart Major did this one. While cooking the egg I accidentally cracked it, and some of the innards oozed out. Which, of course, if you're an art major immediately means that the egg has rabies and is foaming at the mouth. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

While dying Easter eggs is fun, I really am looking for more spiritual rituals to associate with Easter - which, along with Christmas, celebrates the most important event in our Christian religious history. So the question is, what types of Easter rituals can you add that are as enjoyable (as Christmas rituals often are) as they are meaningful? Any ideas from the crowd? Did/do any of you have any good Easter rituals?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


img_0779Have you ever noticed that there seems to be an entire class of activities that exist solely to give us excuses to be together without feeling awkward? (Man, that sentence is awkward.) What I mean is, there are so many things we do that alone and by themselves are good, but their true potential is only unlocked when they become the passive activity, and when being with and enjoying others becomes the active activity.

Pool, for me, is one of those activities. (When I say pool, I'm referring to billiards, not swimming. I enjoy swimming by itself.) I find pool very relaxing, but what I truly enjoy about pool is the way that the activity provides for me an excuse to be with and talk with others. Somehow sociality seems more easy and natural when our conversations are punctuated by "Who's turn is it?" and "Hey, nice shot!"

Dominoes, again is one of those activities. My friends and I used to go to BYU campus and play "Mexican Train" together for hours; but it wasn't about the game. That was only an afterthought. What we really went for was intense discussion about politics, poetry, school — and of course, women.

Now, I slightly hesitate to place kite-flying in this same category, because for me there is something innately beautiful and visceral about kite-flying. Nothing says "it's spring!" like flying a kite. And yet kite-flying fulfills its purpose during precisely that moment when the kites are high in the air, beyond the point where they need attention; when friends and family can lean back and carelessly and thoughtlessly manage the kite by the periodic pulling in and letting out of string; and when at that moment the conversation begins to flow, punctuated only by the flapping of the kite in the breeze.

Camber and I went kite-flying this evening with Sean and Catherine.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Girls are easy to please

I've been sick with a nasty viral takeover of the upper half of my body.

So Isaac surprised me with these in the middle of the day:


Now I'm sick but very, very happy.

Husbands, take note.

Monday, March 30, 2009

To defer or not to defer? II

The question has finally been answered. And the answer is....

(drum roll please...)

To defer!

This was a very difficult decision for both of us, but in the end we felt that it was the wisest thing for us to do. There are several things that went into the decision. I'll spell out a few of them below:

  1. The most important consideration was padding my resume. When I talked to the admissions guy at BYU, he brought up a good point about this. He said that when I finish my MBA, wherever I go, I will be competing with classmates for jobs. And when recruiters come to campus to interview people, one of the only things that will differentiate candidates will be prior work experience. And it will only make it easier to find a job if I have an extra year to pad my resume.

  2. Another consideration is the economy. Right now the economy is terrible, as we all know, and it's anyone's guess what it will be like in two or three years from now. But, statistically speaking, it's much more likely to be good in three years than two. Of course nobody knows, and it's a small gamble either way, but it's more likely to have recovered three years from now rather than two years from now.

  3. Finally, Rapid Intake (the company I work for) offered me a great new position. I don't really want to go into all the details now, because that would take forever, but they're allowing me to take on a new project and and have full responsibility for it. This basically means that the extra year will pad my resume by giving it some variety, which is really good.

So that's what we're doing. To Jeff, Amy, Dan, and Katja in Ohio—I'm sorry we won't be joining you this year. But we still may next year! And to all of you tired of hearing about our MBA drama, you get a 6-month respite before it starts again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The NeverEnding Crush

neverendingstorydvdcoverjpgHave you ever experienced something that seemed so good at the time, only to revisit that same thing later to find that it just isn't what you remember? I remember having this experience with backpacking food. I mean, when you've starved yourself for hours, walked through miles and miles of Uintah mountains with nothing but banana chips to snack on, and then finally sit down to a satisfying meal of powdered chicken alfredo from the box, of course it's going to taste good. It's going to be the best pasta you've ever had in your life. But then if you try to eat it again two weeks later, it just won't be the same. Sigh. Some good things just can't last.

But some can! Camber and I recently re-watched The Neverending Story. I hadn't seen it since I was very young, so I was naturally worried. I loved it when I was a kid, and the last thing I wanted was to find out that really, in the end, Falcor looks stupid (he's not bad), that Atreyu is a terrible actor (he's not), and that the Empress isn't hot (no comment). I've had some bad experiences lately watching movies I used to like only to realize they're terrible movies.

(Side note: Hoosiers is not as good as you remember. But Rudy is.)

So I was pleased to find that The Neverending Story is about as good as I remember it: a great film for kids that adults will actually enjoy. And of course it was fun to relive the excitement from years past. I leapt for joy when I heard Atreyu agreed to help the Empress; I only cringed slightly as Falcor and Atreyu flew by a bunch of obvious green-screen landscapes; and I of course almost wept when Atreyu's horse, Artax, succumbs to the sadness of the swamp and slowly sinks into it, and dies. (I also almost wept during that sad scene when the Rock Biter keeps saying, "They look like big, strong hands, don't they." Man...)

But nothing was so satisfying as reliving my young crush on the beautiful Empress herself. All you guys out there know what I'm talking about. The Empress was a cultural phenomenon for boys of my generation. That fox stole the hearts of us all. You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about this lovely lady (and check out that head jewelry!):


I think it's safe to say: we had excellent taste back then.