Category Archives: Uncategorized

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…

Outdoor Post #2: Geocaching!

Post #2 in the grand outdoor series comes to us from family friend Kara.  Having just written a novel in a month, she’s right on track to become the next Stephanie Meyer, although probably with less vampire love triangle, and more quality writing.  She also maintains what you might call a “mommy blog”, that definitely hasn’t made me paternal a single time…

***

 

Hello out there, faithful followers of Absolutely Andrew (and Tara too!). Back in November, I asked Andrew to write a post for my blog on Thanksgiving memories. I agreed to write a post for his blog in return, and he has finally gotten around to collecting.

I am a former classmate of Tara’s from grad school, and happen to be one of those Mormons Andrew warned you all about last month- I fit numbers 4, 6, and 8. I’m not a number 1 though- I happen to be a transplant to Utah. I am not a native “Utard”. Actually, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, which is just as cool as it sounds. A lot of people from Alaska are really into outdoor sports, including snowboarding, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. You may actually be wondering if Andrew and Tara are from Alaska, based on the number of outdoor sports they participate in. I, however, am a terrible snowboarder, and have never caught a fish in my life. (I did, however, manage to snag my sister’s hair with my hook the one and only time my dad took us fishing.)
My poor dad. No one to hang out with outside. No one to go cross-country skiing with. No one to go on long walks with during the endless summer days that Alaska is so famous for.
Until the summer of 2006, that is. That year, my parents bought a GPS unit, and, puzzled as to how they could use their new toy, took a beginner GPS course at REI. That’s how my family learned about geocaching.
Now, to get really in-depth in to what geocaching “is”, and to appreciate the scope of how popular it is, you really need to check out www.geocaching.com and read the how-to/what is it pages. Basically, people (MANY people) have hidden small containers all around the world, and have posted the latitude and longitude of these containers on the Internet so that other geeks people can go find them. The Huelin family was officially hooked.
 
This is me and my mom with the first geocache ever found by our family. Check out the wind!
 

My dad and my sister
 
One of the great things about geocaching is that it gets people like me outside and moving around. I always hated hiking as a teenager because there was no point- it was just walking! (Adult Kara cringes sometimes when she listens to Teenage Kara whine) Geocaching, however, is walking with a purpose- you’re out in nature trying to find something. The “something” can vary in size from an ammo can to a film canister (remember those?). It can be totally wacky like this cache we found recently near the University of Utah:
 

It had a zombie theme, and the box was decorated on the inside with plastic zombie figurines. Now that’s going above and beyond.
 
 

I found this geocache hiding in plain sight in the woods across the street from the middle school I attended. The bottom of the plastic owl was a cap that popped off to reveal the contents.
 
A geocache is usually big enough to hold a “logbook” for visitors to sign. This could be anything from a small notebook to a strip of paper wound around a pin (no lie). Signing the log is the ultimate proof that you found the cache. You can also record your finds on geocaching.com, but signing the physical log makes your find legit.
Later that fateful summer, my mom’s family came to visit. Her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and my five cousins were all excited to learn about our new fun activity. My dad and I planned out an epic geocache race through Kincaid Park. We split into three teams, and had to find three geocaches in the park in a specific order, then be first back to the cars.
 

The members of my team- cousins Matthew, Steven, and Brian, and Grandpa.
 
I don’t remember who won, but I remember we got locked in the park and had to call someone to let us out. I also remember sprinting through the woods, GPS unit in hand, laughing and shrieking with my cousins.
When I went back to school that fall, I tried to infect all my friends with the geocaching bug. My parents bought a fancy GPS unit, and I got to take the old one with me back to Colorado.
Less than six months later, I started dating my husband. He was excited to give geocaching a try, and we went on our first geocache trip together on St. Patrick’s Day, 2007.
 

Ryan’s first geocache. Ignore his hair, please.
 
Thirteen months later, Ryan and I went geocaching together in Denver, where he had moved for a job. Our third geocache that day was right in front of the Denver temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unsuspecting me was soooo excited that someone had hid a geocache in front of the temple!
The “someone” who hid it was Ryan. Yep, my husband asked me to marry him by hiding the ring in a geocache. How could I not say yes?
 

The inside of Ryan’s proposal geocache.
 
Okay, who just said “Awww!” inside their head? I know, right? He’s pretty much amazing. My parents bought us our own fancy GPS unit for our first anniversary. They are pretty much amazing, too.
Anyone woman who has ever been pregnant and gone past her due date knows that you will do ANYTHING to get that baby to come out. My mom came to Utah for the delivery, and she was a big proponent of long walks to inspire labor. And you know my attitude towards walking… there better be a point to it.
 

This is me, six days before my son was born, out geocaching.
 
After my son was born, we flew up to Alaska to stay with my parents for a while. When my grandparents came out to meet Sammy, we took them (and baby Sam) out geocaching!
 

Ryan, Sammy, and Grandma
 
Now that my son is old enough to walk, he loves geocaching. Running around outside, getting to hold the GPS unit… toddler heaven.
 

 
I guess what I’m trying to say is, geocaching is an important part of my life. Being from Alaska, I’ve always wanted to be an outdoorsy type of person, but never really found my niche until my family discovered geocaching. It’s great for people of all ages and physical capabilities, and guarantees that you’ll have something to do no matter where you go. Give it a shot. You can borrow my GPS unit. Use it to create your own fun family memories.
Like it says on the geocaching.com website: The world is our playing field.

The Respect of a Moose

I’ve decided with warm weather nearly upon us, now would be a great time to do a series of outdoor-themed posts.  You might be thinking: “But Andrew, aren’t like all of your posts outdoor posts?”.  Yeah, I guess they are, but this time I’ll be featuring guest writers sharing their favorite outdoor experiences.  It’s going to be EPIC!  My first contributor is Andrew.  You might know him from his other posts on this blog.

***

 

Two years ago, when Tara was living out here and I was still in Nebraska, I came out to visit for a weekend in mid February.  One of the highlights of the weekend was our run on Antelope Island.  I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Antelope Island is one of our favorite places out here.  As the name implies, it is an island out in the Great Salt Lake that you can drive out to.  It has an abundance of hiking trails and wildlife, including bison that roam free throughout the island.

Since we were both training for a half marathon at the time, we endeavored to tackle an eight mile loop trail run on the island.  The run started off amazing.  Not too cold, spectacular views, and some really challenging hill climbs.  However, probably a little more than halfway around the loop, we encountered a herd of bison right on the trail.  Still quite hopeful to complete the loop, and not be forced to turn back the way we came, we attempted to leave the trail, and take a wide detour around the bison.  However, as we came even with them, they began to amble towards us.  Thoughts of all the horror stories of people getting charged by bison in Yellowstone rushing through our heads, we quickly retreated the way we came and the bison promptly stopped their approach.

 

That vest I'm wearing actually used to belong to Tara's mother.

Antelope Island, shortly after the run with the bison.

 

Discouraged, but still determined, we tried to cut an even wider swath on the other side of the bison, this time down the ridge out of sight from them.  But again, as we came even with them, we saw their heads appear over the ridge, this time coming at us at an alarming jaunt.  Nothing short of terrified, we again retreated the way we came, relieved to see the bison stop their charge the second we crossed some invisible boundary known only to the beasts.  With that, we recognized defeat, bowed our heads, and took the run of shame back the way we came.

It was not until we had put some distance between us and the territorial creatures, and my pride had some time to recover, that I came to fully appreciate that experience in the wild.  We had encountered these remarkable beasts in their habitat, ourselves basically naked, nothing to protect us.  And we said: “Screw you, bison, this is our run, and we will tread on your turf!”.  And they said: “No!  You will not”.  With our civilization and our technology, it is easy for we humans to cheat nature.  This is fine.  This is what makes us the dominant species.  But we can’t fully appreciate our roots unless we venture out and take risks from time to time, and walk with the beasts.  It’s in experiences like these that the primordial part our our brains comes to life, and we find we don’t need to learn the rules of nature—we’ve actually known them all along.

Last summer, Tara and I were on a backpacking trip in the High Uintas here in Utah.  Our first night out, we set up camp on the edge of a large meadow with a stream meandering through it.  After dinner was finished, and the tent was pitched, we spent the last part of the day sitting down by the stream watching the stars begin to appear in the darkening sky.  Presently, a large moose emerged from the trees no more than 100 yards from us, ambled down to the stream, and began to drink.  That, to me, is respect.  That an animal that huge and that powerful can basically say: “I trust you enough to come have a drink with you”, is an incredible thing.  You might counter that the Moose is simply tamed, and unafraid of humans due to the large volume of hikers that travel that trail each summer, and you’d be exactly right, but that’s not the point here.  The point is that feeling just as vulnerable as that moose does, and developing a mutual respect for one another is a soul-changing experience that everyone should enjoy from time to time.  Get outside!

 

Bloody mosquitos...Christmas Meadows 

 

And yes, Robert Redford, Jon Krakauer, and Jack London are my heroes, but so is the moose.

What to do if You Encounter a Mormon

Time for my little disclaimer that this is a satire of common, REAL, misconceptions about the LDS church that I have either observed or have been guilty of.  It is NOT an accurate depiction of Mormons. 

 

If you live somewhere in the United States other than Utah and maybe Idaho, you may have had rumors about a mysterious group of people living in those states that practice polygamy.  You may know these people to be called Mormons.  If you see a Mormon, you must be very careful.  In some cases, the Mormon is easily identified.  He/She is dressed up, men in black slacks and a white, short-sleeve dress shirt with tie, women in a black skirt and blouse.  Each wear a name tag, but you won’t be able to spot this until it is already too late.  If you see a Mormon in this attire, He/She will most likely approach you if He/She hasn’t already.  These Mormons are called Missionaries, and they will attempt to convince you to join their church.  They are aggressive, and should be avoided at all costs.

In other cases, it may not be obvious that the individual in question is indeed Mormon.  He/She could be dressed in ordinary clothes and could be encountered just about anywhere.  Be on the lookout if any of the following is true:

1.  He/She mentions being from Utah
2.  He/She likes BYU (this stands for Brigham Young University—Mormons can be excommunicated for not being BYU fans)
3.  He sports a comb-over and is clean-shaven
4.  He/She is married at a young age
5.  He/She has more than 3 kids
6.  He/She likes Mitt Romney
7.  She wears clothing from modbod
8.  She has an advanced degree, but doesn’t work
9.  He has multiple wives—ALL Mormons practice polygamy.  The number of wives a man has is a measurement of how Godly he is.

In the event that you do encounter a Mormon, there is a set of guidelines that you MUST follow.  If you do not follow any one of these guidelines, the Mormom will first be incredibly offended and then try to convert you.  If the offense is too great, the Mormon may flee only to return with companions to subdue and then convert you.

1.  Do not curse.  If you happen to let a word slip, apologize immediately by saying something like: “Pardon my French”—Mormons hate French.
2.  Do not consume or even mention alcohol.  Mormons do not drink, and they find this act incredibly offensive. 
3.  Avoid caffeine.  Mormons find this almost more offensive that alcohol.  Be sure to remove all paraphernalia, such as coffee makers from the Mormon’s sight.
4.  Do not smoke.
5.  All illegal drugs are obviously very  much off limits, but anti-depressants are fair game.
6.  Do not mention Barack Obama, or any Muslim for that matter.
7.  Do not refer to America as a “Democracy”, only a “Republic”.
8.  Stay away from hot words such as “Health care”, “Regulation”, “Homosexuality”, and “Global Warming”.
9.  Don’t be visibly doing something that the Mormon could offer to help with—this will just open the door for a conversion attempt.
10.  Mormons deny the existence of boobs.

Even following these guidelines probably won’t save you.  Most Mormons can tell almost immediately if a person is Mormon or not.  They have a very keen sense of smell.  Just remember that all Mormons are exactly the same.  If you’ve met one, you’ve met them all.

We are NOT Pregnant!

This past Christmas, we chose to tackle Christmas letters for the first time.  Since the bulk of my written correspondence occurs over email and this blog, the act of blowing an entire ink cartridge printing, and then spending hours gathering addresses, stuffing envelopes, etc. seems asinine.  However, I know how much we enjoy getting “real” letters in the mail, and how much more meaningful it is than an email, so, now that it’s done, I can definitely say I’m glad we did it.

In the weeks that followed, Tara and I relished the comments that trickled in: “We got your Christmas letter, thank you!”, “It was so funny!”, “Loved the letter!”, an so forth.  It was not until a few days ago that it was brought to our attention that, due to some joking about my sperm in the letter, some recipients may now be under the impression that we are either: a.)Pregnant, b.)Trying to get pregnant, or c.)Having trouble getting pregnant.  The misunderstanding stems from the opening paragraph:

In an effort to make my first Christmas letter unique, I was brainstorming all the things people do to make these letters more fun. Some write in the perspective of a beloved pet, others in the perspective of the baby. Since we have no pets, and certainly no kids, I wanted to write in the perspective of my sperm, but Tara was having none of that.

And the salutation at the end:

Sincerely Yours,

Andrew, Tara, Andrew’s Sperm

I was taken aback to hear this news.  I had thought the joke had been completely clear, but it seemed people had forgotten about the joke in the opener by the time they got to the closing, and my little “tie-it-all-together” trick had failed, leaving the reader interpreting the closing as an abstract way of suggesting that we are attempting to procreate.

Admittedly, I can see where the misunderstanding comes from, and being directly descended from a man who one year had virtually everyone on his mailing list fearing that he an my mother were getting a divorce due to a small, passing joke, I’m not at all surprised that I made a similar blunder.  Ever since my poetry and literature classes of freshman year of college, searching for metaphors and symbolism in written works and movies has been one of my pastimes.  Therefore, I find it particularly amusing and ironic that I tend to miss some of my own metaphors that I inadvertently create.

Therefore, hoping that most of those that came away from our Christmas Letter with this interpretation have been trolling this blog ever since seeking updates, I’m going to attempt to straighten things out.  We are not pregnant, not trying, and therefore, not having trouble.  If, in a FEW YEARS, we do have that news to share in our Christmas Letter, look for the following code words:

Pregnant
New member of the family
Exciting News
Baby Clothes
Preparing a room in the house
Ultrasound
It’s a boy!!
It’s a girl!!

In the mean time, we’ll just be practicing.

AbsolutelyAndrew Turns 1!

This sight launched 1 year ago today.  Happy birthday to me.  In honor of the occasion, I compiled a list of my top 5 most popular posts by number of views.  As if that wasn’t self-absorbed enough, I also did my top 5 favorite.

Thank you so much for reading.  You guys all rock.  Listen to me thanking readers like I get paid for this or something!  Not the case.  Yet…

Top Posts by Numbers:
5.  Graph Jam Fun
4.  Photography Meets Engineering
3.  Top Quotes of Xanga
2.  Support Group for Amanda Schultz Blogs
1.  How to Stay Productive

My Favorite:
5.  Backpacking Capitol Reef
4.  Imagine All the People
3.  Ignorance is Flirting
2.  Support Group for Amanda Schultz Blogs
1.  Loving Advice for Married Men Vol II

Reader participation time!  Tell me which one was your favorite!  Free plugs for everyone that does!

Distracted

Today is Saturday, but I have to go to work.  This is the very first time in my career that I have had to mandatorily go in on a weekend, so I won’t complain too much.  I don’t have to be in until 1, so I had grand intentions of churning out a quality post this morning.  However, I managed to run out of time.  I blame Gavin, in part, as he posted the most awesome bike trials video on my facebook wall.