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Parent/child boxing gloves (3) Thu, May 29, 2008
I saw this interesting product in a sporting goods store the other day: 

[Image: parent-child-boxing-gloves.png]

It's a Parent/Child Boxing Glove Set, which consists of a pair of 14-oz boxing gloves for adults along with a pair of teeny tiny 6-oz boxing gloves for children.  I'm no marketing genius, but the following sales pitches immediately came to mind: 
  1. "It's not child abuse if you give them gloves too."
  2. "Now parents and children can fight nicely."
  3. "Won't leave embarrassing bruises!"
  4. "Time to fight back!"
  5. "Teach a skill while teaching a lesson."
I understand the idea behind it:  Create a little quality time, albeit with a somewhat violent pastime.  And even though it's not explicitly stated, the punching isn't intended to be directed at one another, but instead at a punching bag.  Of course.  But the entire thing just shouts child abuse and dysfunction.  I love it.  Someday, I hope to punch my child with these gloves, all the while getting punched by his/her tiny hands in return. #products

Permit and insurance (2) Wed, May 28, 2008
Two words often mispronounced (according to Dave's Most Excellent and Perfect Guide to English Pronunciation™): 
  1. Permit.  A year before you get your driver's license, you get your learner's permit, as in permit, not permit.  You can permit something (used as a verb), while a permit allows you to do something (used as a noun).
  2. Insurance.  In order to drive a car, you need to have car insurance, as in insurance, not insurance.  This is largely a southern problem.
Please comply. #language

Southwest trip review (1) Wed, May 28, 2008
The previous post was more of a summary.  This is more of a commentary. 

I was told by more than one person that the Grand Canyon can be experienced in just a few short hours.  You can see the whole thing in an afternoon and move onto your next destination.  While that's true, I sort of disagree.  I'm more of an experiential kind of person than a look-at-pretty-scenery kind of person, so I'm thoroughly glad to have spent a solid day and a half walking around the park, taking pictures of lizards, bugs, and flowers, and getting dirty and sweaty hiking around.  I almost didn't want to leave the park because I knew I'd never see anything like it again.  The view is literally one of a kind and absolutely awe-inspiring.  It's completely worth the expense and the time it takes to get there. 

Bryce was my (and Wendy's) favorite park of the trip.  I'm not sure if it was because of the weather (beautiful, deep blue skies; sunny and warm) or the fact that the park felt relatively small and accessible.  To hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you need to get a permit and do an overnight hike with tons of gear (mostly water).  To get to the bottom of Bryce, you start walking and you're there in under an hour.  There's plenty of walking around to be done once you're in the canyon, but the size of the place isn't at all overwhelming.  Walk around for a few hours, and you pretty much see the whole thing.  But again, we spent a solid day and half walking around, driving to different spots in the park, and just taking it all in.  The sheer oddness of it all, with the red rock and the strangely-formed hoodoos, makes it a completely unique experience, entirely unlike anything I've ever seen. 

I heard from several different people that Zion is awesome.  My experience there wasn't all that great, and I have a feeling it was largely weather-related.  It sucks that something so simple and temporal as weather can have such a huge impact, but if the plan is to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature, cold wet weather can get in the way.  Zion was different from the Grand Canyon and Bryce because the park exists inside the canyon instead of on top of it.  So instead of hiking down into a canyon, all the trails travel up.  Also, since it was at a lower elevation, there was much more "green" scenery, i.e. plants and trees, and that was a nice change from desert shrubs and sparse evergreens.  Thankfully, the second day at the park was a lot nicer and allowed us to experience a great hike up a steep narrow cliff, guided by metal chains and the people ahead of and behind us.  That was easily the scariest experience of my life, but once I realized what I was getting myself into, we had already hiked 2 miles uphill and I knew I'd forever regret turning back like a pansy.  Also, the old, out-of-shape people and the young children that so easily ascended and descended would have made me feel even worse.  So despite the cold, wet weather, Zion was pretty cool.  But its orange-red mountains and gorgeous scenery weren't completely new to me, so it wasn't the best park of the trip. 

Death Valley, as expected, was unusual.  I originally wanted to go there to experience its almost painfully high temperatures and its dry, desert climate.  I'm not really sure why; maybe some sort of masochistic experiment to test my own physical limits.  Thankfully, it was unseasonably cool the day we were there, and it even rained.  Besides the weather, the park was ... in a word, weird.  If I ever travel to the moon, I imagine it'll look a lot like Death Valley:  Dry, barren, rocky, dusky, and gray.  But as seen from some of my pictures, there was actually a good amount of color (from minerals in the soil), greenery, wildlife, large mountains, picturesque scenery, and history.  It's probably good the park wasn't hot like normal, and I'm happy to say I've been to the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere. 

The logistics of the trip actually worked out pretty well.  We rented a car and camped everywhere, which makes us sound cool and edgy, but it's really just that we're cheap.  We rented an economy car, so we got a good 35 miles per gallon.  We camped in national forests, which were unexpectedly free.  Lugging huge bags, full of sleeping bags and a tent, through the airport was a bit of a hassle, but it got a lot easier once we checked them.  We originally thought about renting an RV, but I'm glad we didn't because the expense would've been pretty painful, not to mention the gas mileage and cost, and the fact that several sites (specifically in Death Valley) prohibit larger vehicles that can't handle dirt roads.  We learned from a previous trip that many national parks and campsites have coin-operated showers, and these parks were no exception.  Every other day or so, we'd get nice and clean and then start the dirtying process all over again.  Staying in a hotel the last night was a given, largely to take a nice long, hot shower, but also to pack up our bags for the flight home.  The mid-week hotel stay was partially planned and partially weather-based (it was on the rainy day in Zion) because it's always nice to sleep in a real bed and use a real toilet after doing quite the opposite for several days in a row. #travel

Southwest trip recap Tue, May 27, 2008
Wendy and I just got back from our vacation to the Southwest US.  In a sentence, we went to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Death Valley National Park, slept in a tent 6 out of 8 nights, drove 1500 miles, took lots of pictures, and had a great time. 

Summary
Day 1 - Clear and in the 90s; flew into Las Vegas; stocked up on food and supplies; grabbed dinner at Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner in Kingman, AZ; camped in the Kaibab National Forest outside Grand Canyon National Park, where the temperature got down in the 40s at night.

Day 2 - Clear and in the 80s; drove into Grand Canyon very early; hiked to Cedar Ridge along the South Kaibab Trail with an informative park ranger (3 miles); strolled along the Rim Trail; got a prickly pear margarita at El Tovar Hotel (too alcohol-y); showered at Mather Campground; watched the sunset at Powell Point; camped in the Kaibab National Forest again.

Day 3 - Clear and in the 90s; climbed the Desert View Watchtower on the way out of the park; stopped off at the Little Colorado River Gorge; briefly walked around in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park; arrived at Bryce and looked around a bit; camped in Dixie National Forest, where the temperature got down in the 50s at night.

Day 4 - Perfectly clear and in the 80s; got up to see the sunrise in Bryce (wasn't that good); hiked the Navajo/Peekaboo/Queens Garden Trails (6.4 miles); got lunch at the Bryce Canyon Lodge; drove to nearby Mossy Cave and walked around in the river; hiked the Bristlecone Loop Trail (9100 feet elevation) and played in the snow; showered at the general store; stopped at a few more spots on the way out of the park; camped in Dixie National Forest again, where it was windy and a little wet.

Day 5 - Cloudy and in the 60s; drove to Zion; got lunch at Zion Lodge; hiked to the Lower Emerald Pool in the rain; rode Fuzzy the horse and Moses the mule; hiked the Riverside Walk just up to the Narrows (water was too high); stopped off at Big Bend; hiked to the Weeping Rock after going a half mile in the wrong direction (uphill); spent the night in Terrace Brook Lodge.

Day 6 - Pretty clear and in the 60s; hiked to Angels Landing (5 miles, 1488-foot climb); stopped at the excellent Springdale Fruit Company for lunch on the way out of the park; drove to Death Valley; stopped at Zabriskie Point for some desert views; camped at Furnace Creek (196 feet below sea level), where the temperature stayed in the 70s all night.

Day 7 - Hazy and in the 80s; drove to Badwater Basin (282 feet below sea level); hiked to Natural Bridge; saw weird salt crystal formations at the Devil's Golf Course; looked at colorful desert minerals on Artists Drive; hiked up Mosaic Canyon; walked around the Mesquite Sand Dunes in the rain (yes it rained in the driest place in the country); stopped at Dantes View on the way out of the park; drove to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just outside Las Vegas and camped, where it was cold and rainy.

Day 8 - Cloudy and in the 70s; drove into Las Vegas; checked into the hotel early (yay!); packed our bags.

Quick facts
Miles driven:  About 1500
Highest elevation reached:  About 9300 feet
Lowest elevation reached:  -282 feet
Highest temperature experienced:  90s
Lowest temperature experienced:  40s
States visited:  4 (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, California)
Showers taken:  6
Pennies pressed:  4
Miles hiked:  About 25
Times coyotes were heard at night:  2
Times we wished we were doing something else:  0

Thoughts
Two important things for the trip were health and weather.  It occurred to me about a week before we left that our trip would change significantly if either one of us was injured or hurt with something as simple as a twisted ankle.  Thankfully we were both in great health before we left so it wasn't an issue.  Weather was also pretty important, but I didn't expect much bad weather considering the fact that the areas we were visiting were deserts with very little rainfall.  However, it rained for roughly half the trip, which turned out to be a pretty big downer, especially since so much of the trip was about enjoying an outdoor experience.  But as long as you have a poncho and some relatively warm clothes, rain doesn't stop much.  It definitely would've stopped our harrowing ascent up the slippery rocks and steep cliffs of Angels Landing in Zion, but most other things would have and did happen as planned. 

If I was gonna do the whole thing over again, one small thing I would change would be water storage.  We thankfully packed more than we needed to with bottles and a huge collapsible container.  It might've been slightly easier to just buy several 1-gallon jugs of water when we got there and filled up smaller bottles of water for use when hiking.  But that's a small thing.  No harm, no foul. 

Pictures: more »

Pirates and eye patches Fri, May 16, 2008
The reason pirates wear eye patches isn't because of injury, disease, protection, or because it looks cool.  It's so they could easily use one eye for the brightly-lit area above deck and the other eye for the dimly-lit area below deck, without having to wait for both eyes to adjust to either condition.  This changes my entire life. #sociology

Authorized personnel Fri, May 16, 2008
I see a lot of signs at work and in public places that say something like "This area is off limits to unauthorized personnel".  This is an examples of a rhetorical tautology, i.e. "an unnecessary (and usually unintentional) repetition of meaning, using different words that effectively say the same thing twice".  The area is off limits because the personnel aren't authorized to be there.  The personnel aren't authorized to be there because it's off limits to them.  And so on. #language

Who cares, I'm graduating (1) Fri, May 16, 2008
Quite possibly on the first day of my senior year of high school, I heard a phrase I'd hear many more times:  "I'm not doing that / going there / staying here / listening to this.  I'm graduating!"  This became known as the "Who cares, I'm graduating" excuse.  It can be conveniently applied to pretty much any situation, as long as the user is graduating from something in the somewhat near future.  It was used for skipping class ("I'm not going to class.  Who cares, I'm graduating."), slacking off ("I'm not doing that homework.  Who cares, I'm graduating."), and eating cookies for lunch ("I'm totally eating 7 cookies for lunch.  Who cares, I'm graduating."). 

It was actually a really stupid excuse because it often had very little to do with the situation at hand.  Plus, most users of the phrase were planning on attending college the following year, so many of the responsibilities they were trying to avoid were actually unavoidable and even detrimental.  "I'm not filling out these stupid applications.  Who cares, I'm graduating.  Oh wait..." 

This is also known as senior-itis, and it popped up again during my senior year of college.  The usage wasn't quite as widespread, presumably because people are more mature in college (ha!), and also because the next phase of life wasn't as attractive as college was to a high school student.  "I'm not taking this stupid final.  Who cares, I'm graduating.  But I could always stick around for another degree."

It turns out this excuse pops up yet again later in life in the workplace.  It seems to happen near holidays or before long vacations.  Instead of finishing a project or doing any type of meaningful work, you think, "Who cares, I'm gradua-- not gonna be here next week."  Depending on your level of importance, it can be very effective.  Honestly, what can your employer really do?  Call you while you're on vacation?  They could, but they might get a return call while they're on vacation.  It's a lose-lose, which is why I'm writing this very thing at this very time. #education

Somewheres Fri, May 16, 2008
I sit near a guy at work who's a friggin genius.  He's literally incredibly smart and could literally be considered a rocket scientist because of the nature of his work. 

But he has one very major flaw:  He uses the word "somewheres" instead of the correct word "somewhere". 

Linguists politely say "somewheres" is a nonstandard or "common" form of the word.  I say it's wrong.  It's completely and utterly wrong, and yes, it makes you sound dumb. 

The thing is, I hardly know anyone who uses this word.  There was my 3rd and 4th grade little league coach, but that was the least of his problems.  My 4th grade football coach might've also used the word (uh oh ... am I seeing a parallel between sports and stupidity?), but again, that wasn't his greatest fault.  Intelligent and uneducated people alike generally don't use the word "somewheres". 

The other thing is that this smart guy uses this word probably 60 to 70 times a day.  "That paper is around here somewheres."  "You take a right somewheres around the bend in the road."  "My son goes to school somewheres near New York."  If I counted the number of times I say the word "somewhere", it would be around 4 or 5 times a week.  Maybe.  This guy not only says the wrong word, he says it a lot.  It's irritating to say the least, especially for a nerd like me. #language

Charity shwag (2) Fri, May 16, 2008
It's interesting how things like charity walks and service projects often involve quite a bit of shwag (t-shirts, consumer products, bags, toys, etc.) freely given out by corporate sponsors.  I'm all about free stuff, but it seems to me that charities could generate more money by encouraging their corporate sponsors to donate money to the cause instead of providing semi-worthless products to the participants.  I guess it might have something to do with the idea of making people feel like they made a difference by providing them with some sort of material reward, but I personally could do without that kind of stuff.  Instead of giving $10 t-shirts to 40,000 people, give that $400,000 to the charity. #business

Heighth Thu, May 15, 2008
Even though "heighth" is technically an acceptable variation of the word "height", and even though it actually makes more sense than "height" because it matches the other words corresponding to measurement (length, width, depth), I still don't like it.  I think it makes the user sound less intelligent.  Sorry, heighth users. #language

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