Feet on the Ground With My Head in the Clouds

We have been in Kenya for a little less than 24 hours, and I already want to move here. Friendly, beautiful, serene (see, Lori?! WE COULD TOTALLY LIVE HERE! IT’S SERENE!!) … there’s nothing to dislike.
We went shopping for picnic stuff. Their prices here on most food items are insane. And I mean that in a *really* good way. Loaf of freshly baked bread? $1.00. Bottle of Coke? 50 cents. Stuff here just doesn’t cost much.
Tonight, we are going to a concert for a guy named Lemarti. Check him out on Youtube. He’s a seriously big deal here in Kenya. The reason we’re going is because he invited us. So … of course there’s a story. 🙂
One of our partners over here is a guy named David Senchura. He is a Maasai warrior from a tiny area southwest of Narok. He built a house. He had a house warming party. Lamarti put on a concert for the party. He met Heidi Totten. And that, as they say, was that.
Lamarti owns a construction company. He’s going to help us build the cultural center that we’re trying to get funded. He wants to work with 100 Humanitarians as closely as he can. This is basically another miracle that keeps those of us in 100 Humanitarians in constant shock.
I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be a  part of this. It’s an honor and a privilege that still baffles me as to how I managed to become attached to such a great organization.
I’ll have more to say later. Right now, I really need a nap … 🙂

Our Cruising Altitude Will Be 35,000 Feet

Phase One: board plane to JFK.

Status: Complete

It’s still nerve-wrackingly surreal to me that I am going to KENYA. Yes–nerve-wrackingly. For some reason, I have been *so* on edge the last few days. I’ve been looking forward to this since the beginning of May, so … what? 6 months of unfettered, kid-like giddiness. countless hours of exploring west of Nairobi on Google Earth. Reading articles about Kenya.
As my family was dropping me off at the airport, it became increasingly apparent that my younger daughter was *supremely* distressed. And I mean STRESSED. I felt so horrible for abandoning her. I gave her an extra long hug, told her that I *will* come back to her, her sister, and mommy. So God, if You read this, kinda need You to have my back on this one. 🙂
One thing has become painfully apparent: I miss my family already. I miss my one daughter’s random hugs. I miss my other daughter’s awesome singing. I miss my wife’s smile, touch, hugs, kisses …
And weee not even in the air yet.
But I’m off. This experience is going to be jaw-dropping. And I. Cannot. Wait.

Weird happenings before the trip 

So here I sit outside the Farmington Utah Apple store, waiting to get in for a genius bar emergency appointment. The camera all but stopped functioning in its entirety. It would open, but a) I couldn’t take a picture, b) I couldn’t even see what was on the screen. It just froze out of focus. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen my phone do.

So I came to the store in a fit of panic. On my way to the store, I set my phone on the dash rather than my normal hands-free cradle. Some guy cut me off, and then he immediately slammed on his brakes. I, of course, followed suit. My car stopped, but my phone didn’t. It went sailing st about 80MPH into the windshield.

You should see this screen …

Yet somehow, the touch screen is still  usable. No idea how this is happening, but whatever.

So now, instead of possibly getting the phone replaced for free, I may have to pay for a refurb … unless they play it super nice as they are often wont to do at the Apple Store.

Of all the times in the world for the camera to stop working, it would be just before I go to. Kenya.

Interestingly, the camera works now. I restarted the phone a couple different times, and now it keeps taking pictures. Figures …

So I guess I’m just gonna scrap the WordPress app. It doesn’t auto-post anything, so what’s the point?

Speaking of Kenya, I need to start packing! GAAAAH!! SO much to do … so little energy to do any of it.

At least I have the blog posting thing figured out. One check box I can mark. 🙂

Test: Getting ready for Kenya!!

This is just a test to see how the plugin I just added posts to FB.

Talk about blugh … holy crap. I had to update my hosting plan to a whole new server, update .php hosting from 5.2 to 5.4, install the plugin, create a whole new app in FB JUST to allow the plugin to work, and now I’m testing it.

In 3 … 2 … 1 ………

A Family that Rushes Together Stays Together (Time Stand Still)

In 1987, this one idiot named Rick on my school bus mentioned that he was excited for a new album by some band who would be using electronic drums for the first time. I wasn’t the least bit interested.

 

I was also a young, dumb idiot.

 

That band was Rush, and they were on the cusp of releasing “Hold Your Fire,” their quintessential 80s offering. A perfect blend of guitar, bass, drums, and synth, this album was ironically destined to become one of my top 5 albums of all time.

 

I didn’t really join the Rush scene until 1989, with the release of “Presto.” I forgot to send the “Selection of the Month” card back to Columbia, so I ended up with the cassette tape. Gave it a once-through, and set it aside until college, where I met James. James had *everything* Rush had done at that point, plus some bootleg concert tapes. He let me borrow them, and I was *hooked*. After my first year, I came home and hit the local exchange store and bought everything I could find.

 

Tonight, my family will join me at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, where we will witness what could possibly be the last large-scale tour Rush ever performs. My 5th show, my wife’s and older daughter’s 2nd shows, and my younger daughter’s first ever show. I have been waiting for this for longer than I can remember, and tonight, it actually happens. We will inculcate my daughters into the fine ritual of carbing and proteining up before the show (read: dinner beforehand). We will show them how to properly rock out to some of the world’s greatest musicians. Afterward, we will take them out to eat again to re-carb and re-protein (yes, those are now verbs). Or at least get some water.

 

I’m excited. My kids are excited (at least I think they are). My wife is … well, she’s trying (right, honey?). God bless her and her patience with my rabid fan-dom. This is going to be one of those moments that I’m going to want to freeze and remember forever. My kids aren’t getting any younger. They’re getting older, coming into their own with likes, music, and shows. Goodness gracious, they’ve actually discovered *boys* (though that was years ago …).

Hashtag Hell (or, How I Learned to Love the Pound Sign)

So, I hear a lot of people asking, “What is the point of a hashtag?” and saying “They’re so stupid! I hate them!” That’s because most people use them incorrectly. You *can* use a hashtag of #ThisIsTheLamestThingEverAndItSucksMoreThanBroccoliSoup … but no one will ever see it except you and your handful of twitter followers/facebook friends/instagram addicts, depending on where you deploy your tag.

 

Hashtags actually serve a very useful purpose. Think of them as a sort of index for your post. For those of you who have no idea what an index is (read: the under-20 crowd who barely know what a book is), think of your old text books or instruction books. In the back, you have an alphabetical index of key words that are very specific to a functionality or a task. If I’m looking at an HTML book, and I want to know all about “classes,” I can search the index, find “classes,” and it will give me a list of pages where you will find useful information. It’s the same with hashtags. You tag key words that you want to use to help others find your post on whatever social media platform you’re using. Twitter has been great for using hashtags for years and years. Instagram, a little less so, but definitely getting up to speed. Facebook … yah. A work in progress, and we’ll leave it at that.

 

In your post/tweet/pic, you have a point you’re trying to get across. You specifically mentioned something. For example, let’s say that I just took a picture of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. My caption reads, “Hey, check it out–it really *does* go off every 75 minutes or so!” My hashtags, IF I want them to be useful, would be something along the lines of #OldFaithful #Yellowstone #geysers #awesome (because let’s face it … OF is freakin’ insanely cool, as are most other geysers). The first two are specific to Old Faithful. They say where you’ve been specifically. The 3rd is a tad more generic, but it’s still specific to OF because it is a geyser, and Yellowstone houses the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The 4th shows your feelings (not a necessity, but sometimes a nicety), and anyone looking for something #awesome is going to find your picture. Eventually. Probably. I mean, I’m sure a lot of pictures or posts are tagged as “awesome” because most people view their vacation pics as such. “Awesome,” though, is subjective. YOU believe it’s awesome. Others may agree; some may think, “Really? Water blowing out of the ground is ‘awesome’? Whatever …”

 

Now … some people like to use hashtags as a way to rib their friends/followers. That’s definitely one way of using them. The odds of it being useful in a search are pretty close to zero, but it can be done. My friends and I do it all the time. Doesn’t mean we *want* people to find it; we’re just using them as a short-handed form of teasing. #Idiot, #LMGTFY … stuff like that. It’s pretty fun.

 

Another thing to consider when using hashtags is the use of capitalization. In conventional writing, you typically capitalize the first word of a sentence, then the rest of the sentence is lower-case (except for the appropriate pronouns and proper nouns). However, with hashtags, to make them more readable, the smart tagger capitalizes the first letter of EVERY word–regardless of whether it’s a small word, big word, proper noun, gerund, objective prounoun … doesn’t matter.

 

This concludes my primer for tagging. I’m sure there’s a lot I’m leaving out, but these are just the things I’ve observed since using hashtags. They have their place, and they’re definitely a great tool … IF you know what you’re doing with them.

2015: The Year of … Something

Well that went fast. 2014 is in the rear-view mirror, and our road ahead stretches in some as-yet-to-be-determined path. Is it curved? Looped? Straight?

 

Trust me … I’m not trying to wax philosophical; I’m genuinely curious to see what this year brings for me and my family. Personally, I have goals for this blog (“Yes … of course you do. We’ve heard this before.”), and I have a plan in place to make sure I follow through with it.

 

To start off, I’ve mentioned that I’m a huge fan of photography. Lately, I’ve been shooting raw images as opposed to in-camera jpg images. Here’s a very clear demonstration as to why.

IMG_9591a

 

As you can see, this picture looks a little dark. Pretty, kind of haunting … but dark. The image below is what I was able to do in Photoshop with some raw processing.

IMG_9591b

I don’t know about you, but glowing trees? Very cool. Now I just need to go in and get rid of the now-obvious wires that are dangling in the background, but for now, I’m happy with this.

I learn more every time I play with my camera, open Photoshop, and dig around online for tutorials on better post-processing. This is how anyone gets good at whatever it is he or she wants to do. I want to be a better photographer and do better post-processing, so I study, learn, play, try, fail, and eventually succeed.

 

You can do this too. Not necessarily photography, but whatever you want to achieve. Think it, dream it, do it. Just get at it!

 

No, this was not designed to be a motivational speech. It just turned all Tony Robbins-like cuz … well, it is what it is. You can’t become better at something if you don’t try and practice.
Now go forth and conquer.

Things For Which I Am Grateful

Two Sundays ago, I woke up with a fever. I decided to do what everyone with a fever does–warm up. My method of achieving comfort involved standing under a steaming stream of flowing hot water … the exact opposite of what I needed. Instead of feeling better, I felt exponentially worse. As the water cascaded down around me, I could feel myself starting to slip into that very special hell reserved for those stupid enough to take a shower with a fever. My muscles fought tooth and nail against whatever oncoming infection was on the offensive. They lost. Badly. I eventually ran out of hot water and was left standing with a level of convulsions typically exhibited by those having a grand mal seizure. It was all I could do to dry off, get dressed, and crawl back into bed. Somehow, I pulled it off. I slept all day. Ended up in some state of delirium where all I could think of was the bass line from Big Data’s “Dangerous.” Not an entirely austere bass line, but catchy enough that I had it playing in my head throughout the entire psychosis that was my Sunday.

 

Then Monday came. My fever of 102.9 from the day before dropped to 100.1. Manageable, but still a fever. I stood up to go to the bathroom, and I felt an immense pressure building in my lower left leg. A panic and dread filled me with a speed rivaled only by light.

 

A quick trip to the ER revealed what I already strongly suspected: cellulitis. This bacterial disease infects the dermal and sub-dermal layers of the skin, and it creates a pain in every individually infected that is the male equivalent of giving birth. Think I’m kidding? Wait until you go through it. I sincerely hope you don’t have to because it’s horrible, but if you do, you’ll understand what I mean when I say the pain is just that intense.

 

I was admitted to the hospital Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t discharged until Saturday around noon. 8 rounds of IV anti-biotics. More blood samples and tests than I’ve ever seen. Pills galore.

 

And not a penny of health insurance. Oh, this is going to be fun. Lots and lots of fun.

 

Despite the fact that we don’t have health insurance right now, I’m incredibly optimistic about our future, and really life in general. Some things for which I’m grateful:

 

  • My family is amazing. Supportive, loving, awesome.
  • My friends are equally amazing.
  • Aside from the cellulitis, I’m generally healthy.
  • We have essential oils all over the house that help with our physical and psychological health. This cellulitis is definitely the exception and not the rule.
  • I’ve lost over 42 pounds in the last 3 months. Go grab yourself a bag of rock salt for your driveway or water softener. *That* is how much I’ve lost. Tell me that’s not awesome.
  • My new job is so understanding of everything. They know I’m down for the hard count, and we have this massive, looming deadline that is non-negotiable … but we’re working through it. My manager overnighted all the materials sitting on my desk so I can have them at my disposal here at the house, allowing me to work from home as I can.
  • We have food in the cupboards and a good supply of extra in the basement.
  • Both of our vehicles are running just fine. They need oil changes and fluid checks, but other than that, running just fine. AND they’re both paid off.
  • Our house is getting better and better as we make improvements.
  • We have more music and movies than I care to admit. I collect … so … yah.
  • If it comes down to it, I have some very useful talents like tie-dyeing that I could use to help pay off some of the hospital costs. I would include photography in that list of talents, but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. Could I turn a profit? Maybe … but it’d take a lot more studying, practicing, and research before I even attempt to go that route.
  • And above all–most important to me–I know who I am, and that is a son of a God who loves us and watches over us. I know why I’m here, and where I can go when I die. Do bad things happen to me? Sure. Do I blame God for them? Not at all. Sometimes, the only way to grow is to go through the refiner’s fire and see how you come out. I’ve been through challenges exponentially worse than this, and it was only by clinging to that knowledge of God’s love that my family and I made it through the challenges we have.

 

Like I said, my optimism is pretty high. The first sign of medical bills might kill that, but I’m going to work really hard to make sure it doesn’t. I’d much prefer a positive attitude to a crappy one.

 

Oh well. Onward and upward.

App Review: Endomondo–An Exercise Companion

Yup. I’ve actually taken that step: I plan on using an exercise app. SEE? I’m committed to this weight loss and health thing. I downloaded Endomondo, an exercise app for iOS devices. Probably around the same time I downloaded other iBike and MapMyRide+.

 

Except all I’ve done is download it and open it; I haven’t used it to its full capacity yet. I plan on doing that this weekend, when we go to Moab and hike all over the place. We spent a lot of time last night doing laundry for the things we want to pack, like sweats, shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Hey … gotta layer while we’re down there, right? Average morning temps in the 40s, average afternoon highs in the 70s. Again, layering. Yes.

 

Honestly, I’ve had this app for a long time. I don’t know exactly how long, but it’s been a while. I’ve never used it. I’ve opened it and looked at the user interface (UI) some, but nothing exetensive. Now that I have a solid game plan in place, I thought I’d open it up and look at it more closely.

 

When you first open the app, it asks if you’d like to log in or create an account. Obviously, being the exercise buff that I am, I had already created an account couch potato sloth that I am, I needed to create an account. Once I took care of that, it opened to its main page, where the first thing I noticed was the ad at the bottom of the screen. Distracting, right? To be fair, this *is* a free app. There’s an option to upgrade to Endomondo Premium, which has a bunch of extra features (namely, NO ADS), but it’s subscription-based, and it costs $3.99/month or $29.99/year. $30 is not a lot to ask for a digital personal trainer, right? Maybe I’ll explore that later, but not right now.

 

The app defaults to a pre-set screen that has a start button in the bottom left corner and a Duration counter in the top left. Nestled between these two prominent features are, in clockwise order, a distance tracker, heart rate in terms of beats per minute, workout type (defaults to basic), and your chosen sport (defaults to running, ha ha). Now … here’s the great part. ALL of these fields–the prominent and the sandwiched– are customizeable to whatever you’d like within the options. When I tap on Duration, I have options of displaying calories, heart rate, speed, distance, aveerage speed, and hydration. When I tap Sport (cuz, yah … I’m not running), I have close to 60 options, ranging from badminton to yoga. In anticipation of tomorrow, I’ve selected Hiking.

 

My favorite feature on this screen is the GPS function. In the bottom right corner, there’s a little green arrow-looking button. When I tap that, a map slides open to display my current location. As I go for a walk, or hike, or bike ride, my location is constantly updated on the map. Once the workout is done, it displays the path I took. That’s pretty nifty. I know that’s a standard feature for a lot of these kinds of apps, but come on! That’s awesome!

 

In the interst of fairness, the data wasn’t *entirely* accurate. According to the stats on my quick walk, I gained 33 feet in elevation, and lost no elevation. So, I went up the equivalent of 3 floors in a little over .16 miles … according to this. Not possible, since all I did was walk in a circle. At some point, there should have been a descent. Minor quibbling points, but worth mentioning all the same.

 

In the top right corner are three little horizontal lines. Tapping that icon takes you to a series of options. You can upgrade to premium (which I may do just to see what’s offered. Hey, I can use all the help I can get, right?), add Endomondo friends, see your workout history, add a training plan, accept challenges, see workout routes of local users, and update your settings.

 

In all, this looks like a complete app. I’m excited to get down to Moab and test it (and me). Is the $30/year worth it? Dunno yet … but I may soon find out. For now, though, the free version is packed with a bunch of great features.

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