Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Which We Find Ourselves Homeowners

It started out as a game.  Home ownership seemed like something “old” people do.  We just wanted to pretend.  We’d sit at the sun-drenched table on cold Saturday mornings looking at the real estate listings in the paper while sipping steaming coffee.  The newspaper would be excitedly passed back and forth as one found something to be shared, be it of interest or just comical.  Thus we began to learn the attributes we both like.

The game progressed to a new level when some friends of ours, who were seriously house hunting, shared a website with us their realtor used.  Suddenly, we were able to see myriad high resolution photos of a given home instead of just one tiny picture of the outside with a cheesy description.  The site also had a monthly payment estimator which, optimistic as it was, helped us realize that even us kids were capable of buying a home.

We started a list of “requirements” for our future home.  Many of the items were heavily inspired by our rental house:

  • No wood paneling
  • No carpet in the kitchen
  • No pet stains/odors
  • Windows that actually keep out the cold
  • Basement I could actually stand up straight in
  • Newer than 1930

Then there were some wish-list items as well:

  • Window in the master bath
  • Master on the same level as other bedrooms (I was hoping to locate screaming babies as far from us as possible, but Tara reminded me that we’d be responsible for caring for the screaming babies and it would make sense to have them closer to us)
  • Open floor plan
  • Good sized kitchen with plenty of counter space
  • Garage
  • Reasonably sized yard
  • Granite counters
  • Anything that wasn’t build in 1995
  • Close the the university and downtown
  • Good interstate access
  • Close to the mountains
  • Ready to go as is (Not a fixer-upper)

Towards the end of March, we found ourselves with a Saturday with nothing planned.  I suggested we go out and hit a couple open houses.  Tara was suspicious of the idea, worried that it would be awkward, but I coaxed her into it.  We looked at 4 homes that day.  None of the houses were that appealing to us, but at the third house we met Gordon, who would become our realtor.  

Within a matter of days, Gordon had us in touch with a mortgage company submitting materials to get pre-approved for a home loan.  The second he learned we were approved, he began sending us tons of real estate listings which we were to go through and select a few to go see.  This process took hours and was both exciting and trying at times.  One of us would find something we really liked and then the other would point out a practical reason why that wouldn’t work.

We went on home tours with Gordon on 2 separate occasions.  It was the 2nd time out, the 2nd house we saw that evening, that we found ourselves in a house that singlehandedly met every single wish list item.  Not a single compromise would be made on mine or Tara’s part on that house.  2 days later we put in an offer.  It was the 9th house we set foot in during our search that had only officially began a couple weeks prior.

The seller accepted the offer less than 24 hours later, before noon on Saturday and we found ourselves under contract.  Throughout the 4 week process of due diligence, we kept telling ourselves that something would fall through and we’d be back on the hunt, but nothing did, and before we knew it, they were telling us that we could pick a date to come in and close.

 

We’ve lived in our house for nearly 5 months now.  We are mostly settled in.  The summer was so incredibly busy, I wasn’t able to find time to sit down and write this until now.  The house continues to be amazing, although I think we’ve finally gotten used to it enough to not feel like we’re just living in someone’s vacation home.  My brother, Ben has taken residence in the basement while he attends the University of Utah.  A portion of his GI bill helps pay the mortgage.

Many consider buying a house a fairly major life accomplishment.  I personally am not sure taking on the biggest liability of one’s life is grounds for a “Congratulations”.  Yes, we did plan, work hard, and save up for a downpayment, but the rest was just luck and our uncanny ability to combine tastes and find big purchases that we fully agree on.  Congratulate us once we’ve got it paid off!

 

There is wine tasting in the pantry

The Kitchen

 

Tara thinks she is out of the photo

From the Living Room.  Can you find Tara?


She's just so cute

Tara tries to stay out of the pictures


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Master Bedroom


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Master Bath with our IKEA spa bench

15% More Time

Tonight I complain about time, or the lack thereof.  I spent the last couple years of college looking forward to all the time I would have once I graduated.  8 hours a day, 5 days a week, no homework, weekends free.  Sounded like vacation at the time.  Now I look back and laugh.  I totally had it tough in college.  Chilling out at the Coffee House for a couple hours every morning.  Hitting the gym for an hour in between classes.  Lazy, hung-over saturday afternoons.  I was such a workaholic back then.

Perhaps Tara’s and my problem now is having jobs that we care about too much.  8 hour days gradually turned into 9 hour days.  This is saying something because I remember when an 8 hour day actually only constituted about 5 hours of real work.  So now we find ourselves wishing we could have even 15% more time.  Funny how we humans always need 15% more.  15% more money, 15% more time, or in the case of Warren Jeffs, 15% more teenage wives.

I’ve tried to talk Tara into hiring a butler/maid that takes care of all our chores for us so we can just play when we get home from work.  That will probably never happen, but it’s fun to dream.  Then again, maybe I could put that time spent dreaming towards something useful…

A Tribute to My Mother

It is Mother’s Day, and in an effort to honor mothers everywhere, I have decided to put off all chores and relax all day.

I actually have quite the list of things to accomplish today, but topping the list is writing this post about why my mom is awesome.  And don’t worry, Mom, you will be getting a real gift and a phone call in addition to this.

One of the more interesting things about leaving home and becoming a real “adult” is you are constantly reminded how much your mother was right about.  I can remember when I was 16, had just gotten my drivers license, and was so eager to get behind the wheel and explore.  Having been restricted to a radius about the house accessible by bike for all my life, the possibilities of having a 4-cylinder engine at my disposal was teenage boy heaven.  My mother, avid reader of Bottom Line, a conservative, everything kills you, publication, was slow to increase my freedom.  She cited my underdeveloped Prefrontal Lobe and claimed my judgement not what it should be to operate a 1000 lb. automobile.  Erroneous! I told her, although I didn’t know that word yet.  I tried to convince her that I was not like the statistics and that I had it together.  But my mother held firm.  She did however, slowly increase the radius in which I was allowed to drive.  First just incredibly short joy rides and to and from school, and then longer distances for my paper route.

Years later, something would click in my mind and I would fully realize the dangers of vehicles, and the whole Prefrontal Lobe argument would suddenly make sense.  Although I still refuse to trust anything that is printed on Bottom Line, I have to concede that my mom was, in fact, correct.

I have utmost respect for my mom for letting me take risks in spite of her greatest fears.  And I now understand how hard it must have been for her to hand over those keys back then.  But those risks and that freedom helped me grow into the person I am today.  

  • Engineering:  When climbing trees, ensure the branch is strong enough to support your weight or you WILL fall.
  • Probability:  Hitting golf balls in the vicinity of windows WILL result in a broken window.
  • Finances:  Broken windows cost money to fix.
  • Chivalry:  Staring at hot joggers for too long while driving is never a good idea.
  • Physics:  Driving too fast on icy roads will likely put you in a snow drift due to reduced friction.  Having your friends sit on the hood while you spin the wheels increases friction and aids in getting out.
I, of course, am biased, but I’d say she did a pretty good job.  To this day, she is one of the first people I call for advice on big life decisions.  She can play devil’s advocate like none other, and I value her knowledge and experience (although sometimes I wish she would just tell me what to do).
 
Thanks for everything, Mom!  I love you!
 
P.S. You’ll get your gift when I see you next week.  That is because I want to give it to you in person, not because I haven’t gotten one yet…
 
 
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This picture has nothing to do with this post, but it is all sorts of awesome.  What the frig is Garin doing?  And Benjamin’s wind  suit is more epic than I know how to say.

AbsolutelyAndrew Categories Explained

It has come to my attention lately that my categories might be slightly less than intuitive.  I have therefore decided to share the inspiration for each one such that you won’t be scratching your head next time you see “Is your wife interested in photography?” at the end of a post.

A Day in the Life: This one is obviously stolen from the Beatles song.  Do you get shivers hearing John’s eerie wail?  I still do.  This category typically contains narratives about things we’ve been up to.

Crooked Crowbar: This is for DIY projects.  I just like the way it sounds–an eloquent alliteration, if you will.

Here’s What I think of That: No fun backstory here–just a category for my opinionated ramblings.

Is your wife interested in Photography?: Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink–do you get it now?  One of my most favorite Monty Python sketches.  This is, of course, the photography category.

Little Nuggets of Wisdom: This is a posh category reserved for when I write something that I think is smart.

LMFAO!!!: Seeing this written in response to something has always greatly amused me.  For times when a simple “LOL” just doesn’t quite express it.  These are my attempts at being funny.

The Great Outdoors: This one is obvious

 

New Stuff

For some time, I’ve been intending to add a page of my old poetry, and I finally did so!  It was an incredibly frustrating process trying to copy and past all these weird-ass fonts into a single document (Evidently I used to think it was cool to write sonnets in gradually increasing text size).  And for some reason, MarsEdit doesn’t like to go from Times New Roman to Helvetica.  So it’s a little kludgy still, but I was so fed up, I just posted it.

I’ve made a couple exciting new additions to the AbsolutelyAndrew Endorsed Blogs list. Be sure to check these out.

Lastly, there is now a history drop down.  This way, if you’re racking your brain trying to figure out what that AbsolutelyAndrew post was that you want to pull a quote from for that important business proposal you’re working on, you can jump to the month you think it was posted in!  Can you say innovative?

Lastly, Dooce is getting divorced.  WTF?  Your readers got you through postpartum depression, but they couldn’t help with this?  Come on, Heather.

Blog Dares 2012!!!

Its a new year which means it’s time for another round of AbsolutelyAndrew blog dares!!  If you’re new to the blogroll, this is how it works: I give you a dare, and you post it to your blog sometime this year.  It’s that simple.  Those who choose not to participate will be publicly humiliated on January 1st 2013.  That’s right–I will be posting your bared html for all to see!

Gavin’s Stuff: Write an informative post entitled “How I ____” or “Why I ____”.  Examples: “Why I got a cat” or “How I Seduced Pat Benatar”

Reynolds Tribe: Write a humerus Sloan Crosley/David Sedaris-Style essay about a life experience.

Amanda: Create a new marriage blog, and, for the love of God, title it something other than “Amanda&Chris”.

Easily Inspired: Marriage Advice!! Make it funny–no chain letter crap.

Officially Different: Newlywed Habits–take whatever direction you want.

Laura K Peters: You didn’t do last year’s dare, but you comment regularly, so you get a 2nd chance.  Find the craziest old-school camera you can get your hands on and do a series of candid portraits.  Extra points if it is a pinhole camera.  Extra Extra points if it’s medium format.

Get musing! Only 360 days left!!

 

Ben Visits Utah

Fall is a busy time of year for Tara and me.  Taking full advantage of the nice weather just before winter, we tend to jam pack our weekends.  This year, we were also fortunate enough to have a few visitors from out-of-state, one of which was my brother, Ben, who stayed with us for a few days at the end of August.  He was loving the temperatures here, which were hot for Utah standards in the high 90s, but much cooler than Yuma where he is currently stationed with the Marines.  As we showed Ben some of our favorite spots around Salt Lake City, we ended up having a few firsts of our own.

  • Salt Lake City bar crawl, complete with drunk-dialing Garin, whom we mistook for being drunk as well, but was actually just having a mellow evening with a few friends in the Neihardt lobby.
  • Camping in a massive thunderstorm.  It was such an incredible experience and we stayed nice and dry in our new tent.
  • Swimming in the Salt Lake.  I am convinced that this is one of the most tranquil and relaxing things you can do in Utah—as long as you can ignore the smell and the shrimp that is.  The increased buoyancy of the salty water allows one to float easily and the lake is so perfectly peaceful.

 

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Catherine’s Pass after a rainy hike.  Ben’s not actually that sweaty.

 

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The Marine proudly surveys the waterfall he discovered.

 

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Antelope Island

 

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Framing credits go to Ben on this one.

Awkward CPU

Learning that one has “The Knack” is not unlike Luke Skywalker being told by Obi Wan that he is a Jedi, or Harry Potter learning that he is a wizard.  Let me be clear: by no means do I suggest that engineers are in any way superior to anyone else.  After all, Han Solo is just as bad ass as Yoda, and I’m pretty sure his midi-chlorian count is NaN.  This writing simply seeks to make light of the awkward journey all engineers must travel on the path to adulthood.

Part of me wishes that someone would have sat me down at a young age and explained to me exactly what it means to be math/science oriented.  Sure, I had the title—at the age of 7, I improved an origami design in Sunday school and was declared an engineer on the spot by the teacher.  Years later, sick of burning my tongue on hot food, I fashioned a device from an old CPU fan from a 386 and my erector set over which I could hold a fork-full of scalding dinner thus cooling it to a more manageable temperature.  My mother embraced this, and only advised that I clean the dust off the fan prior to testing the device with real food.  She did, however, put the kibosh on my cutting into the kitchen table such that the food cooler could be completely recessed in the surface.

The fact of the matter is I liked being what I understood to be an “engineer”, but I had absolutely no idea what was included in this package: Fear of the opposite sex, poorly assuming that girls are impressed with electronics, and general ridicule from the other kids who actually excel at sports, to name a few.  When I would come home from elementary school, upset because I had been made fun of for having a jeans penis, or something of the sort, my mother would sit me down, and as lovingly as she could, explain to me that it was my smarts that were truly important and nothing else mattered.  Looking back, she was in fact correct, but do you think those words were of any comfort to a 4th grader?  I wonder if she had put it more blatantly it would have helped.  “Andrew,” She could have said, gesturing to the food cooler cluttering her kitchen table, “You are an engineer.  You will only be understood by other engineers.  As far as girls go, you’d best just plan on waiting until you’re getting a pay check.”  But she didn’t, and I was left thinking that my only real “gift” in life was something that would only get me further ridicule.

In the eighth grade I took a computer applications class.  This was back before children learned to type and use Facebook prior to developing speech skills.  The focus of the class was to teach students computer skills, namely proper typing technique.  On the first day of class, the teacher attempted to explain the different parts of the computer system to us.  She showed us a mouse, a keyboard, a monitor, and then held up a hard drive and proclaimed in a CD-ROM.  I LQTM before that acronym even existed.  But then it got really messy.  She pointed to the tower and announced to the class that this was the CPU.  I was fed up.  Any idiot knows that the CPU is not the entire friggin’ computer, but rather a single IC on the motherboard.  I raised my frustrations to my friends after class, but much to my surprise, they all sided with the teacher!  They told me I was full of crap. 

And so, as one does more often than not in middle school, I went home that afternoon dejected.  My mother hoping to remedy the situation, did what any non-technical parent would do—she called Best Buy.  And the friendly computer salesperson (That doesn’t know JACK SHIT!!) also agreed with the teacher.  I was crushed.  I thought I had been wrong all this time.  Worse, I thought my father was wrong as he had taught me.

When my father got home that evening, I’m sure my mother had the joy of telling him that his oldest son was currently holed up in his room thinking that his father is a fraud.  I very much hope that they had a good laugh over this before putting their solemn consoling faces back on to see me.  As vividly as I remember the entire affair, it pains me that  I have no recollection whatsoever of what my father said to me or if he even spoke to me about it.  He could have reminded me that computers are his profession so he probably knows what he’s talking about.  He could have also tried to explain that both answers are in fact correct depending on how technical a person is.  But I think he thought it best to let this one lie knowing that soon I would find the answer myself and stand by it, even in the face of opposition and ridicule.  He may have also predicted that in the not-so-distant future, I would find myself surrounded by like-minded people with whom I would share this story and they would all completely empathize.

I look back and wonder if any of this had been explained to the younger version of me, life could have been easier, but of course not!  Of course my mother wouldn’t have stomped on my dreams by telling me that “normal” boys don’t make food coolers from CPU fans, or trip the breaker by attempting to power a small DC motor straight from the outlet, or make box fan-powered vehicles whose range does not exceed the length of an extension cord.  And I love her for that.

I think it took getting married to a non-technical woman to realize that engineers truly are an odd bunch.  And it wasn’t until I was long out of high school that I finally found myself proud to be a nerd.  Sure I played along when my girlfriend senior year got a shirt that read “I ♥ Nerds”, but I still didn’t put myself in that category.  The point is, we’re all awkward at one point or another, engineers just tend to get it a little worse than others.  But most of us grow out of it and then look back on these times tenderly.  After all, those are the moments that define us, even if those moments did involve talking a friend into grabbing an electric cattle fence with one hand while placing the other firmly on the ground…

Backpacking Zion’s East Rim

Tara and I went to Kolob Canyons, a lesser known piece of Zion National Park, shortly after we moved to Utah, but we did not make it to Zion proper until this past weekend.  After an excessive amount of rigmarole, we were granted backcountry permits to the East Rim.  It was a quick one-nighter, but it was nice to get out.

 

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We hiked in 6 miles on an old wagon trail which begins by following a stream through the desert flanked on either side by massive sandstone cliffs, and then transitions to pine trees as you gain altitude.  2.5 miles in is an incredible waterfall that careens a solid 1000 ft. into the canyon far below.  Legend has it that a pioneer family settled there in May when it was all lush and green.  When things dried up later in the summer, the man went crazy and shoved his wife and children off the falls before throwing himself off.  If you stand at the top and look down the canyon, if the wind blows at your face, it is said to be the wife pushing you back, but if it blows at your back, it is the man trying to push you off.

 

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6 miles in is a small spring.  We hiked just beyond this and found another waterfall, much smaller than the first.  We sat on the lush green grass by the stream and made dinner.  Later on, we set up camp and refilled water at the spring.

 

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18mm  F/3.8  1/80 sec.  ISO-100

 

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26mm  f/11  1/25 sec  ISO-100

 

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28mm  f/6.3  6 sec.  ISO-100

 

There are no fires allowed on the East Rim, so we went to bed early and then got up at 5:30 the next morning in order to make the canyon rim by dawn.  It was an easy 3 miles, and with only the breakfast supplies and my camera gear in our packs, we were standing at the edge of a 2000 ft. cliff, looking down into Zion Canyon in under an hour, the sun just starting to peak out.  Far below, we could see the shuttles starting their daily schedules of transporting thousands of visitors from around the world throughout the park, but up here, not another soul.

 

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18mm  f/6.3  1/50 sec.  ISO-100

 

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18mm f/6.3 1/8 sec. ISO-100

 

After our traditional backpacker breakfast: Instant Breakfast made with powdered milk, organic oatmeal (not because it’s organic, but because it’s far more hearty than the regular stuff), and coffee made with our Aeropress (thanks Robert!), we packed up and returned to camp where we further laden our packs with sleeping bags and tent, and started the return trek back to the car.  We made impeccable time, even managing a 3 mile stretch with no breaks.  With a 50+ lb. pack (thanks to all my photography stuff), that marked a personal best for me.

We got back in time for a quick ride on the shuttle ourselves to see the main part of Zion, but it was nothing compared to looking down from the rim.

 

I’m thinking I may not drag all the camera gear next time.  It’s pretty hard to justify when you’re not paid for it…