Sunday, July 25, 2010

Learning New Tricks

About two months ago my wife asked me if I thought I could make a website for her Scentsy business so she could expand beyond the Tucson market. I had never made a website before then. Sure I've done a blog or filled in pre-made templates with a couple pictures and text, but I had never really made a website from scratch. But, what choice did I have? She could spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to have someone else make it, or I could stretch myself to get beyond my basic knowledge of a few html tags for bolding or underlining a text. Since then it has been like drinking out of a fire hose, but it's been fun! I've learned some more html, some css, a little javascript, and a very little about Flash. I've now finished the basic design of my wife's website, but we still have to edit the text and spruce up the appearance some. Here is a page grab of that website.

In the last week and a half or so, I decided I would use the template I had created to update my own website for school. The old one I had was quite atrocious and was made on a very simple template designed for all the new people in the Spanish program at the University of Arizona that had no idea what they were doing. At least I was able to choose the colors on the page.

I replaced that website with this one that uses the same basic template that I used on Deb's Scentsy website. While not perfect, I think it is a marked improvement over my former site.

I have begun to upload image collections and the Richard Tyler plot summary collection that I wrote about in an earlier blog post. The intent of the site is to obviously present myself as I go on the job market this year, but I also hope to provide a number of materials about Golden Age Spain and Latin America including images of playwrights, 15th-17th century maps of a number of the cities, pictures–of cathedrals, stage machinery, tourist attractions, etc.–taken on a 2005 trip with some good friends from my BYU days (when we finished the trip we put all our pictures together, so I'm sure several of them are theirs--if so, and if you don't want me to share them, just let me know which ones you would like removed). I considered using Adobe Flash to show some of the images, but it makes it difficult for people to copy them for use in class, so I decided against it.

The experience has taught me how much work goes into a simple website. It has also taught me that I have a lot to learn to improve the sites and make them function exactly how I want them. If anyone has any suggestion on aesthetic changes or even code problems, I welcome your comments!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Human Kindness

From the evening of June 22nd until the morning of July 1st, I suffered from the longest flu I have ever had. During the last few days I was able to get out of bed and do a few things and feel somewhat productive. By Saturday morning, July 3rd, I was feeling quite well and decided to go play in a weekly game of soccer--an ongoing activity that I have been participating in for almost four years now.

From the very start I realized that I wasn't going to have the normal energy that I have, so I stayed back by the goal and primarily played defense. Even though I was taking it easy, it didn't take long before I was throwing up in the bushes. A little while later I was on my back with my head and shoulders experiencing a tingling sensation much like when you lie on your arm and it "falls asleep." After about fifteen minutes I thought I would have enough energy to drive the twenty-five minutes home. I was wrong--I only made it about ten minutes before my entire upper body started feeling the tingling sensation and seizing up. My hands curled up and became rigid. Very concerned, I managed to pull the car off into a small cul de sac where I stumbled up to the door of the nearest house and pressed the doorbell. A clean-cut, middle age man opened the door, and I explained as well as I could my predicament and then asked if I could use his phone to call my wife so she could take me to the hospital. Barely able to stand and with my hands and arms curled up in front of me, I watched in astonishment as the man said, "Sorry," before closing the door on me. I have read numerous times when people just walk by a stabbing or shooting victim without offering any help, I just never thought I would live to see such calloused behavior myself.

I spent the next four or five minutes stumbling to the nearest house, where a kind lady dialed our phone number and asked my wife to come pick me up. I thanked her and managed to get back to my car where my symptoms became much worse. For the next fifteen to twenty minutes I was unable to move and I was concentrating as hard as I could to maintain consciousness. If I had been physically able, I would have returned to the second house and asked the lady to call 911--something I should have done the first time.

My wife finally arrived and took me to the Emergency Room at TMC. Fortunately, I regained a little of my movement by that time and was able to climb into our other vehicle. Just before getting out of the vehicle I started throwing up again, this time into a grocery bag that my wife handed me. As you may know, however, grocery bags almost always have holes in them, so I was a mess when I walked into the ER. A good friend of ours watched our kids while the doctors did a variety of tests including an EKG, blood tests, etc. After four hours and the first IV I have ever had, they indicated that they thought I was suffering from heat exhaustion. My brother has suffered similar symptoms in much cooler weather, so initially I was skeptical, but I now think he was probably right in my case.

Since this all happened yesterday, I have repeatedly thought back on the behavior of the first man who refused to offer any help. What kind of person is he? How could he simply close his door on someone who was in obvious distress--particularly when that person was asking so little? Did my staggering and my slurred speech make him think I was drunk? If so, couldn't he still have called the police to tell them about a drunk person stumbling around in his front yard? If I had passed out before making it to the second house, I could have been lying on the very hot Tucson pavement. Even if someone had found me in such a state, would they have bothered to call for help? This case and several like it makes me wonder how I or any of my friends would respond in a similar situation. The answer seems so obvious, yet just a couple months ago a homeless man who intervened to help a woman being robbed in Queens, New York was stabbed. Although a number of people passed by him, it took almost an hour before anyone bothered to call for help. Surveillance cameras showed one man take a picture with a cell phone, but he didn't bother to stop and assist the dying man or even press a few more buttons on his phone to call for help. What is going through the minds of people like this?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Opportunity Gained

On June 21st we began our trip home after several weeks of vacation in Utah and Idaho. We have made the trip eight or nine times since moving to Tucson, and we have always made the 850 to 1000 mile trip (depending on whether we stop in Utah or Idaho) in one day. We planned this trip to be the same long, boring drive. However, as we approached Flagstaff, a large forest fire on the surrounding mountains closed Highway 89. Consequently, we were rerouted through the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we drove 33 miles past the detour road and had to drive back to it. We noticed that the detour road had an electronic sign, but it was turned off--so 66 miles later, we drove through the Grand Canyon.

When it was all said and done, we had added nearly two-hundred miles to our trip! Tired and beat, we got a hotel room in Flagstaff, hoping to get a little rest.

The next morning we decided to visit some of the Indian Ruins in the area--Toozigoot (pronounced two-see-whoodt), Montezuma's Castle, and Montezuma's Well. We headed down the scenic Highway 89A through steep mountain valleys until we finally arrived at the Toozigoot ruins, located on a hilltop near Clarkdale with the meandering Verde River running in the fertile valley below.

Mountains along Highway 89A.

Toozigoot from a distance.

The ruins that remain today attest to a bustling culture of the Sinagua (Spanish for 'without water') society. The dwelling had 77 ground-level rooms, some with multiple stories and was constructed between 1150 and 1400, when, for reasons unknown, the Sinaguas left. At its peak, the dwelling housed a couple hundred people.

From there we made a short drive to Montezuma's Castle, where Sinaguas from the same time period build several dwellings on and along a cliff. Montezuma's castle, located near the top of a cliff and once accessed by a series of ladders, is five-stories high with 20 rooms. A larger structure, measuring six stories high with about 45 rooms, was gutted by a fire hundreds of years ago. Little remains of that structure.

Arifacts left at the site show a trade system that brought items such as shells and parakeets from a distance of several hundred miles.

From Montezuma's Castle, we drove a few miles to Montezuma's Well, a depression in the ground with a 55-foot deep pool of water in the bottom of the bowl. One and a half million gallons come from the spring each day. Additional dwellings line the cliffs that surround the bowl.

Cliff dwellings can be seen near the top of the cliff in this picture.This close-up provides a better view of the cliff dwellings at Montezuma's Well.

The water in the bowl that makes Montezuma's Well flows 150 feet underground and comes out here. This escape keeps the bowl from filling up. The park ranger invited our kids to cool off from the near-100° heat by putting their feet in the cool waters.

The Sinaguas made a mile-long-canal where the water comes out to water their crops. The picturesque canal measures three feet deep and was constructed with primitive tools. I think it would be difficult enough using a modern shovel. I can't imagine making and lining a canal of this size with stones using the tools they used. This picture shows the water flowing under a tree. A sycamore near the outlet is 300 years old.

While we hadn't planned this detour in our trip, it turned out being a great experience. We purchased an annual park pass, so if any friends and family are in the area, you're welcome to join us on a visit to some of the nearby ruins.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Different Angle

Since Gabs demonstrated that she was a very capable hiker on our trip to Picacho Peak a while back, I decided to take her to 'M' Mountain in Malad, Idaho—the small town where I used to go to school.

Since I was going to be gone for a week as a grader for Spanish AP exams, we decided that we would go to Idaho so Debs and the kids could enjoy the time with relatives in my absence. A few days before flying out to Cincinnati, Gabs and I started our trip up the relatively small mountain, enjoying what to us seemed like a hike through some hills in Ireland. After four years in Arizona . . . well you can imagine how green it must have seemed to us.

Gabs and I stopped at the top to look over the valley.

We gathered numerous wildflowers for Debs and Grandma during our hike. Perhaps the most interesting flower was one that looked identical to the red Indian Paintbrush flowers, except it was yellow. Unfortunately, I didn't get it in this picture, it's on the other side of the vase. Has anyone heard of yellow Indian Paintbrush?

This is Malad High School viewed from the 'M'.

As we came down the face of the mountain, we took these pictures.

And finally, as we were walking on the frontage road at the base of the mountain, we saw a couple deer.

Although I had a number of grueling training runs through the surrounding mountains for cross-country when I was in high school, I never made the trip up this particular peak. I enjoyed spending the time with my daughter, and it's always nice looking at things from a different angle and doing worthwhile things that you've never done before. Are there things that you would like to do or places you would like to visit that are close to your home? Are you—like me—the kind of person that hasn't visited many of the wonderful places in your neck of the woods? If so, what are you going to do to start changing that . . . if anything!?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rainbow Bridge

In 1909 two exploring parties went in search of a legendary, natural sandstone bridge in the maze of canyons that are now mostly submerged by Lake Powell. The two parties joined their efforts and found the mammoth bridge on August 14th of that year. The following year, President Taft named the arch, with a height of about 275 feet (almost the length of a football field), a national monument. Since then, thousands of people visit the arch each year--most by boat, although visitors can hike to the arch from a couple of trails starting near Navajo Mountain, but permission must be received from the Navajo Nation, since the trails are on the reservation. Loretta and Heber Black, an aunt and uncle of mine who used to work for years in schools on Indian reservations, used to live on Navajo mountain and made the hike on several occasions.

This year the bridge, located on sacred ground for a number of Native American nations, celebrates its centennial year as a national monument. On May 28th, during our trip to Lake Powell, Warren Rustand took our group through the somewhat narrow canyon leading to Rainbow Bridge. As we went he told us about Miami Vice-like races through the canyons that he has had. We had a great time visiting the place and enjoying the majestic surroundings. Some of the young men and leaders on our trip took some of the pictures included here.

These are the young men that went to Lake Powell with us.

As for what Eric Rustand is doing . . .? You'd have to ask him!

As we left we were treated to a tamed-down Miami Vice race out of the canyon. Warren gave his son, Eric, a head start before chasing him down in the speed boat.

In a part of the canyon where it widened out a little, we took the inside track and passed up the other boat.

Here is the demoralizing view from the other boat as we raced past!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lake Powell

This last Thursday the young men in our ward left our local church in Tucson, Arizona a little after 6:30 a.m. to head to Lake Powell. Warren Rustand, a member in our ward graciously let us use his house boat, motorboats, and jet skis that he rented.

John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran whose right arm had been amputated after one of the battles in which he fought, took the first organized expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869. Nearly a century later (1956), construction began on the Glen Canyon Dam, just south of the Utah/Arizona border, to store the water flowing down the river. Seven years later it started storing the water flowing in from the Colorado River, and in 1966 it started producing electricity. It took nearly twenty years after completion to reach its full capacity in the early 1980s, but with the drought spanning several years during the last decade, the water level dropped nearly 140 feet. Since that low point, the water has risen and was only about 70 feet below capacity when we visited it this last weekend.

We had an uneventful drive of almost 400 miles as I worked with Scouts on the Pathfinding merit badge, which is only being offered this year as part of the centennial celebration of Scouting. The last time Scouting offered the merit badge was in 1952, the year it was discontinued.

After taking the house boat, motor boats, and jet skis to a beach several miles from the marina, the Scouts quickly changed into their swim trunks and slid off the slide on the back of the house boat. During the couple days that we spent at Lake Powell, the young men in our ward prepared meals, worked on Lifesaving, Swimming, and Motorboating merit badges, and had a blast going on the jet skis, riding on an inflated floating device behind the ski boat, and jumping off the rocks into the deep water below.

Yep! If one person jumps off a cliff, so does everyone else!

Even me!
Dana Willis and Scott Evans continue their tradition of doing back flips on trips they take.

It wasn't all just play--although I don't think I could convince my wife of that! Here the scouts can be seen working on the Lifesaving merit badge.

On Thursday night I rode on the yellow floating device behind the ski boat with two young men. Warren Rustand takes pride in his ability to make those riding the tube fall off. I managed to stay on for quite a while, but he finally wore me down. After falling off two or three times, I was exhausted from the constant exertion of trying to hold on--one time he even flipped us over. There was no chance to stay on. When I finally went to get on the boat, I could barely pull myself up. Jed Mayfield, one of the leaders jokingly imitated the Tyrannosaurus Rex on Meet the Robinsons, bringing his upper arms close to his body and raising the lower part of his arms into the air while saying, "I've got a big head and little arms!" I couldn't help but laugh because that is exactly how I felt.

Three of the young men who went with us gave it their best shot. The hardest part of the ride is when the boat starts to turn and the outward force begins to pull you in the direction of the turn.

Thanks to the generosity of Warren Rustand and his son, Eric Rustand, we had a great experience on Lake Powell that we otherwise would not have been able to afford, since the houseboat alone would have cost somewhere in the range of $2700 to $4000 just to rent. Thanks to the Rustands, the other leaders, and the great youth that we took up with us, it was a memorable experience for me and, I'm sure, for everyone else.

This evening shot shows the canyon walls to the southeast of where we parked the houseboat.

This panoramic picture taken by James Evans shows where we "camped." We stayed in the houseboat on the right-hand side.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Picacho Peak

A week ago my former bishop kindly took me and three teenage Scouts for a hike up Picacho Peak. For those unfamiliar with the mountain, it is a prominent landmark mentioned in Stephanie Meyers The Host. It is also the location of the westernmost battle between Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. It is located about 40 miles north of Tucson along Interstate-10. While I had wanted to hike the mountain several times since moving to Tucson, Arizona four years ago, I never got around to doing it. The hike was challenging for some of the youth that came with us, but they persevered and we finished the hike up the switchback trail that skirts the eastern side of the mammoth rock outcropping before going over the saddle between two peaks. It then heads down the west side of the mountain for several hundred yards before rising back up with some steep climbs where hikers cling to cable railings in numerous locations to scamper up crevices, climb steep rocks, and walk along the edge of small drop-offs.

Until a day or two ago, the state park was scheduled to close, meaning the trails would be closed to the public. Thanks to fund-raising efforts by nearby residents, the park will be able to stay open beyond the original closure date of June 3rd. Since hiking the trail last week, I decided to take my family up just in case they don't get the chance to hike it again. I wasn't certain my kids would be able to hike that far, but we decided to give it a try. Gabs (6 yrs old) and Bells (4 yrs old) hiked the trail with Debs and I, and I carried Erik (2 yrs old) in a child carrier. Because of the difficulty of some parts of the climb, very few young kids make the hike. Besides our kids, the youngest person we met on the trail was six. Both Debs and I were amazed at how well Gabs, Bells, and Erik did. Just after going over the saddle to the west side we got stuck for about fifteen minutes behind a group of middle-age people who work at Raytheon. One in their group was clearly scared of heights. When he finally got down the steep stretch, our daughters climbed right down and went right past the group resting at the base in preparation of starting their ascent again. That group would occasionally pass us while we were resting and vice versa, but seeing our daughters go fearlessly up and down the climbs seems to have temporarily cured the person of his fear of heights. After that he seemed to do much better on all the the steep climbs and descents.

Gabs had no problem with the hike and led most the way. Our calling her a mountain goat just seems to have motivated her to prove that the hike was easy for her. Bells needed some help on some of the steeper parts and the latter half of the hike back due to fatigue. Debs and I did just fine until we rationed our water toward the end of the hike so the kids would have enough to drink. With about 4.5 to 5 liters of water, we knew we would be cutting it close, but we didn't really have a way of carrying much more. Gabs carried one liter, Debs carried two, and I carried the rest in the pack with Erik. As a result, both Debra and I started to cramp some toward the end of the hike--me in the shoulders because of the weight of the pack, and Debs in the calves. We probably really disappointed the half dozen vultures that were circling the area.

We saw a common chuckwalla (I think--the one we saw was a large, dark lizard with a tan tale.) We saw one last week too and one of the Scouts called it a push-up lizard because it does push-ups, but if I'm not mistaken, there are a variety of lizards that do push-ups for one reason or another. Elizabeth, if you want to add a chuckwalla to the list of lizards you have caught, come on down!

It ended up being a great hike with excellent scenery, a good workout, and a trip to a Dairy Queen located a mile or so from the trailhead. Our former bishop treated me and the Scouts to some ice cream at the Dairy Queen last week, and I decided to make it a tradition every time we do the hike. If any friends or family are in the area, you'll have to hike the trail with us.

Bells, Debs, and Gabs stop for a picture before starting the last climb to the summit.

Don't worry, she's not scared as this picture seems to imply. Bells actually sat here voluntarily and is several feet away from the cliff edge. This picture makes it look like she is much closer than she really was.

Some other hikers were kind enough to take our family picture.

This is the mischievous trio at the top! Erik had the easiest hike of the three, rocking back and forth time after time in his child carrier just to make sure his pack animal ride was balanced.

Debs grudgingly stops for yet another picture on the west side as we go down the mountain.

Debs and Bells come down a particularly steep part of the mountain.

This panoramic looks south from the summit of Picacho Peak.