Friday, January 30, 2009

Turnstile Travels

I attempted to go to "the strip" one night, but it didn't work out so well. Basically, I walked the wrong direction and ended up walking briskly for two hours. Dodging ashes from Grannys' cigarettes wasn't exactly my idea of fun.

I really didn't have much of a desire to go back down there, but I decided I had to ride the roller coasters, at least. Plus, I hear there's some servo-controlled fountains down there, so I must see those as well. (Yeah, yeah... Make fun of me. But hey, when was the last time you saw a robotic garden hose? Yeah... See???... No, you don't see... Ok, I'll go back to my corner.)

After discovering I could be walking for hours, I decided to buy a day pass for the monorail. The monorail basically travels the length of the strip and is completely automated, as far as I could tell. To get to the monorail loading platform, you have to put your ticket in an automated turnstile. Once you do that, it opens up and you're free to pass.

George was curious, but Ben was even more curious. "What keeps people from getting through without a pass?" thought Ben. There were no attendants. Ben walked up to the turnstile gate and nothing happened. Discouraged, Ben put his pass in the big machine and the gates opened. Suddenly, an alarm started up, and Ben realized he had tricked the machine into thinking that two people had gone through with one pass. After a few seconds, the alarm stopped, and Ben jumped up and down for joy. "I'm SO cleaver!" thought Ben. "I tricked the big, nasty machine!"

On his way out, Ben discovered he had to go through a different set of turnstiles. Unlike those he used to get in, Ben found that these turnstiles didn't require a ticket to open. Ben walked up to the gate, and it opened. Ben walked through, but he was curious. "What keeps people from walking the wrong way?" Ben reached over to the adjacent turnstile and put his arm in the exit gate. Suddenly, the alarm started going off again! "I'm SO cleaver!" though Ben. "I tricked the big, nasty machine into thinking I was going in instead of out!" Ben became so excited that he started setting off the alarm over and over, but he suddenly discovered something strange. If he set the alarm off before it stopped, the alarm sound would play on top of itself... "This can only mean one thing," Ben scowled defiantly. "Some idiots put single-board computers running Windows XP in every turnstile!"

Ok, so it wasn't that dramatic and I'm not cleaver. It was just surprising to me that someone would install a single-board computer in each turnstile when a simple Rabbit microcontroller would have sufficed.

And, yeah... I did feel a little embarrassed. The first alarm incident was accidental. The second... well, I didn't think anyone was around until I saw an employee staring at me and giving me a look that seemed to be indicative of his low esteem for my mental constitution (well, at least he got that right!) while I danced around the turnstiles like a monkey. I looked the employee straight in the face and exclaimed, "Don't take candy from babies!" and walked off. To tell you the truth, I was in a shady area of town and being alone and in a deserted area, I wanted an escort, so getting the police to trail me really was my goal.

Ok, ok... So the story got a little embellished. Gotta keep it interesting! Most of that was made up, and all I discovered was they're probably using Single Board Computers (SBC's) in their turnstiles. :-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grocery Stores in Nevada

Requirements to owning a grocery store close to Las Vegas:

1) You must place slot machines near the front entrance.
2) You must have a good speaker system.
3) You must blare heavy metal over the speakers.
4) You must have a very grumpy clientele.
5) You must charge $4/lb for ground beef.
6) You may not put up a store directory.
7) You must have at least one isle for beer and wine.

Other than that, the only funny thing is that the grocery store next to me (equivalent of King Snoopers) has a recorded "mooing" sound that comes from the little room with windows where they cut up meat behind the meat freezers. Seems a little graphic since the recording stops abruptly. (Mooh! Mooh. Mooh? Mooooooo\) :-)

“You’re right! How dare he use up my “Me” time talking about God!”

I love that comment. Nathan made it in response to someone complaining to him about how long the sermon was. It's kind of a convicting response, but at the same time, it’s absurdly funny.

Wow… at this rate, I won’t ever have time to post on my blog. It took me three and a half hours to make/eat dinner, make lunch and breakfast for tomorrow, and catch up on my email and blog comments.

I’m debating about what to talk about tonight. I have the following topics upcoming: the church I visited, Vegas, the rides in Vegas, more rides at Knott's Berry farm, work, and random rants.

I think I’ll pick “church” for tonight.

When I learned I was going to be down here in Henderson, Nevada for three months, I decided to look for a church to visit. After some looking around on the Internet, I found that there are a myriad of churches down here. A good number of them seem to be LDS (Mormon), but there were still quite a few candidates. I didn’t really have any interest in going to a church where you are reminded of morals you knew at the age of three every week, so it took me a while to sort though everything. I finally found one that looked promising and headed out to Sunday school.

When I got there, I parked in a Visitor place (after all, I was a visitor :-) and got out of my car. I don’t know how much “church shopping” you all have done, but the first fifteen minutes are always really awkward. You don’t know where to go, you don’t know anyone, everyone stares at you, etc. I decided to bite the bullet, so I walked up to a guy and asked him where to go. He directed me to the adult Sunday school class, so I headed into the building and sat down.

I gathered that a lot of the people were there as part of the “outreach ministry,” so I kind of expected the standard health and wealth gospel of “be good and you will be blessed, have a full life, etc., etc.” My initial hypothesis was quickly discarded when I received the notes for the class and read the title: “The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689; Of Adoption – Chapter 12.” “Oookay,” I thought to myself. “I shall learn something.”

Throughout the lesson, I was kind of surprised to hear some of the same phrases Pastor Culver frequently uses. Although the lesson wasn’t as in depth as I was used to, I still learned a lot and was glad I went.

After Sunday school, I headed over to the sanctuary for the morning service. On the way from Sunday school to the sanctuary, the congregation more than quadrupled in size. As it turned out, a lot of the people in the Sunday school class had a rather large family to go with them, so there were quite a few people in the church service. I also quickly realized that most, if not all, of the families were home schooled.

The sermon was, surprisingly enough, a week out of their Sermon on the Mount series. They had just started the beatitudes and were studying verse 4 that week. My first thought was, “Ok, now I get the light, “Here’s how to be good” treatment.” I was surprised when some of the first words out of the pastor’s mouth were, “Now as you remember, the beatitudes are characteristics of those who are of the kingdom of God -- a description of those who are of the kingdom.” His treatment of the Sermon on the Mount wasn’t quite as in-depth as Pastor Culver’s “light treatment,” but it was still really good.

After church, they had a potluck to which I was invited. Some new members were joining the church that week, thus the special occasion. I stayed and enjoyed spending some time with the kids. There were times I had a really hard time not laughing. Hearing kids comparing their food allergies and helping each other figure out what desserts they could eat based on their allergies was really funny. Another thing that cracked me up was the response I got when I asked a young girl if they had a big family. “Well… no… There’re only six of us including my mom and my dad.” You don’t expect to hear young kids talking about their diet, schoolwork, etc, but after being quizzed by my youngest brother, Jacob, on how church was, what the sermon was about, and what the overall thesis of the study was, I’m beginning to think kids can think on a lot higher level than most people give them credit for. Jacob can interact with Pastor Culver’s sermons at a deep enough level to ask meaningful questions about another pastor’s sermon that most adults would call, “too deep” and “too long.”

It was quite a pleasant day for me. The people of this church body, much like SGCC, seemed to be united in Christ, not in externals. Consequently, they were a close-knit body, and they all served to build each other up into Him who is the Head. It's always cool to see the body function as it should, and I felt quite blessed to be with the body of Christ even at such a great distance from home.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ice Cream

Ben is eating ice cream with a fork since all of this other utinsels are in the dish washer.
-- Ben's Immaginary Friend


Told you I had a TV AND DVD player!

Not bad for $40/night, eh? (Government rate over 20 nights)


The land of Foodaround. Made for one guest and his/her immaginary friend.

(And no, I'm not that tall.)


The land of Sitdown. I'm guessing the hotel designer intended this suite to be used as a stage for a sitcom.


The land of Snoredom... brought to you by a king-sized bed and a computer.


Here's my mini "kitchen" :-)

I have two dinner plates, to salad plates, to bowls, two forks, two spoons, one butter knife one coffee cup, one serving spoon, about three frying pans, and about four sauce pans. I think they intend for you to eat out of the pans in your hands.

Since the time this picture was taken, I put things away, and someone stole my trash.


See? No snow.


Dinner was a little humorous tonight as you can well imagine. Not only did I use bagged salad in place of lettuce, but my imaginary friend came up with a new joke! (He's posing in the adjacent chair.)
I'm not sure why I keep posting pictures like this...

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who wish to envy my current location, it's like 64 out right now... No snow.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Knott’s Berry Farm

After visiting the NAAM convention, I decided it was time to discover myself, so I went to Knott’s Berry Farm. (Ok, so I went to ride rides, not discover myself. :-) The rides I went on was really amazing… I had been told that the reason Colorado doesn’t have the big rides other places do is because Colorado has a lot thinner atmosphere and therefore people black out a lot easier. I’m leaning more for Denver can’t support multi-million dollar coasters, but who knows.

After eating a Burger King lunch, I headed over to the park… or, rather, I followed my GPS to the park. Anaheim is weird because it's setup for its amusement parks. Disneyland has its own short highway. Knott’s… well, it just has its own road.

Once I finally found a parking place, I started looking for the main gate while staring in awe at their huge wooden rollercoaster. The atmosphere is not at all like Elitches. The parking lot and front entrance actually feel like White Fence Farm. There’re tons of little restaurants and shops outside the park… so many that I couldn’t find the park entrance, so I finally asked an employee. Turns out I was on the wrong side of the park but whatever. I’m starting to get used to being lost.

I bought a ticket… I felt kind of dumb paying tourist prices for an amusement park, but… I guess I was a tourist. I felt really dumb when Abb easily found a $10 off coupon online. On top of that, I got there late, so it was $50 for 6 hours of rides... Ouch. Turns out the lines were really short, so even though I got there late, I was ready to leave an hour before the park closed. I basically didn’t have to wait in a line for more than a few minutes.

I walked into the park and started wondering if I had actually paid for an amusement park… as in a park in which you watch skits, go shop, and be amused. Knott’s is very, very themed, and it was kind of a shock to find that most the operators had to wear costumes. The ride operators sat in a glass-enclosed room while two or more employees loaded and unloaded rides. Contrary to the way Elitches operates, the employee’s goal was to move people through, not make you wait forever while they slowly shuffle back and forth, doing their absurd safety checks, and waiting to go home. In a way, Knott's Berry Farm felt like I was at Disney Land as they spent money on stuff that really mattered. It was amazingly clean, and instead of spending money on dumb things like blasting stock-music everywhere in the park (Elitches), they spent their money improving the park… even things as simple as using exhaust mufflers on air brakes can go a long ways for improving the experience.

The first ride I went on was called “Silver Bullet.”

It’s a suspended rollercoaster with two trains, each containing 8 rows x 4 people. No wonder the lines were short. Moving 64 people through for each complete ride makes a big difference. I decided to wait for the front car since it was the first big roller coaster of my life. I was amazed how silent and smooth the coaster moved. It didn’t rattle your brain to pieces, and the breaks didn’t make your eyeballs fall out of their sockets or blow out your eardrums. Turns out the coaster tracks and supports are filled with sand. The breaks are all magnetic. Check out the video for proof: ( See? You can hear the people above the noise of the coaster and there are no groans when the breaks are applied. I think I’m getting too old for rides like these because I could only take it a few times.

Next, I had to try out the big wooden roller coaster.
Someone on the Silver Bullet told me they thought it was the longest wooden roller coaster in the western U.S. Wow… Talk about FUN and SMOOTH. I don’t know how Knott’s did it, but their big coasters are extremely smooth. ( The ride was just really fun and I think I rode it about five times. The hill right after 1:50 in the video forced me to laugh every time… just too fun. (I’m normally silent and relaxed on rides.) After my first ride, I decided to try the back of the coaster. WOW! Talk about intense. You know the effect people refer to as “the back goes faster than the front?” Well… The trains on this coaster are so long that they whip you down hills at incredible speeds. REALLY fun!

Time for another coaster. The Xcelerator is AMAZING.

This movie doesn’t do it justice, but it’s hard to find "point-of-view" videos of this coaster… ( I don’t know how you’d hold a camera while riding this. The first hill is 205ft tall… You go up that at 82mph at 2.3 seconds into the ride. Then you go straight down at 90 degrees. It was SO much fun and the first coaster I’ve been scared on for a long time. Getting on that thing is as scary as getting on the tower of doom. A $13 million coaster is really fun :-)

Anyway, those were the highlights. I may post about some of the other rides if there’s enough interest.

Knott’s was really fun, but I kind of felt guilty the whole time… I was doing stuff that a lot of people I know (mainly my family) would love to do. I had a blast, but it would have been even more fun to have been there with someone.

Next up: Comments on the church I’ve visiting tomorrow, my trip to “the strip” (not all that fun and mainly just sad), and riding the “Tower of Doom” that forms the “needle” of the Stratosphere:


Grilled roast beef and pepper jack, a pear, salad, and grapefruit juice... (The picture was taken before I swapped out the water for grapefruit juice.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More on NAAM

After seeing a lot in the main convention center, I headed over to Yamaha’s display… it filled up an entire convention hall in the nearby Marriot. I met Mr. and Mrs. Downs. They showed me around the place and told me which demos to make sure and see.

First, I saw the Downs' presentation of the new Disclavier. I was amazed with their presentation. It was so smooth and intresting while at the same time it maintained a wonderful scope. It was really cool to see and was the first presentation I didn't get bored through. Mrs. Downs is a very talented musician and I always thoroughly enjoy hearing her play. Here’s a sample from a show she did:

Next, Mrs. Downs told me I had to see the demo of the new Tyros3 keyboard. It was played by the very talented stylist from England who modeled the voices. You can see his demonstration online at (Once you get past the long introduction, he explains some of the features.)

The last show I saw was presenting the AvantGrand. It’s a digital piano that’s supposed to have the look, feel, and sound of a concert grand. I was quite impressed with it. I don’t play piano, so I don’t know how it felt, but it sounded just like a real piano… well… there were a couple places it almost sounded like a sythasizer, but for the most part, it was quite impressive. I believe it contains 12 speakers and 2 transducers. The transducers are used to vibrate the piano so it “feels” just the same. It sounded a whole lot better in person than it does on their demo video. (

Mrs. Downs talked to some people and let me try a stick-cello! (,,CNTID%25253D5014337%252526CTID%25253D232400,00.html) It was kind of weird. To me, it sounded like a cheap cello, but it didn’t have any wolf notes. The entire G-string seemed to be a sweet spot, so that was kind of annoying. It was fun and would be great for practicing, but unless you were playing something like a quartet version of Coldplay, I doubt you’d want one.

I saw a ton of other things including the new LED stage lighting, green laser shows, cool connectors, really expensive microphones, some famous pop-stars, some famous bands, etc. but unless you want to read five pages of text, I think I should stop here. And, no, I didn't want to wait in the line to get autographs of people I only recognized the name of... Now, if I could sell it on eBay, that might be a different story :-)

After the show, the Downs very kindly offered to bring me out to dinner. It was a blast, and not having eaten with anyone but myself in a week, it was a very welcome reprieve. I was going to drive everyone to the restaurant… but… well… it’s a long story.

First, Mr. Downs asked me where I was parked. I didn’t know the name of the lot, but I knew which bus went to it. Well… the bus wasn’t there, so I told them I thought it was basically on the other side of the block. Mr. Downs said he knew of a short-cut, so we started walking there… Well… we walked to the other side of the block and there was no parking garage in sight. After humming and hawing for a long while, I got the brilliant idea of calling home to ask someone to look it up. Kellie kindly told me where to go, so we walked another city block and saw it… on the other side of a busy rode. That meant a long jog to an intersection and back. When we got to the garage, I was sure I knew where my car was, but when we got to the 3rd level, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I then realized the parking garage was divided into two, sub-garages and we were in the wrong half, so we all walked to the other end of the rather large parking garage. No car there, either. I then realized we had gone up a level while walking to the other end, so we had to go back down a level. STILL no car. The fact that I was embarrassed wasn’t allowing me to think clearly, either :-) I finally told the Downs to wait there and I’d go look for it. After running all the way across the parking garage and back, I found my car… right where I left the Downs standing. It was a rather embarrassing half hour of walking, but the Downs were really nice about it :-) Mr. Downs seems to know the city inside-out, so he was able to get us away from traffic and to our restaurant. (See? I know how to spell it! THANKS!) Anyway, the dinner was really good and I really enjoyed spending some time with the Downs. They’re an extremely nice couple and it was nice to be with someone, let alone someone from our church, for once :-) (I didn’t think I’d get tired of being by myself after the first week!) After dropping the Downs off at their hotel, I went to my hotel room, fat and happy.

Oh, I learned something new tonight – wash your new dishcloths before you use them and they work a whole lot better. I think Mom’s told me that before, but I’d never really been in the market for dishcloths until now.

I got more GRAPEFUIT JUICE tonight! YUM! No artichokes, though. It’s sad how such a great food has such a small corner of the store freezer. It should be the center of the store! The pinnacle of food! The icon of grocery stores! Ok, I'll go back to my padded cell.

Stay tuned for Knott’s Berry Farm!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


After work, I drove out to California and arrived at my hotel room later than I expected. As it turns out, it’s a five-hour drive from Henderson to Anaheim… a little longer than I had anticipated. I was tired when I got there… really tired. Having finished The Talisman, an hour before arriving at my destination, I was a mess. A WHOLE HOUR without entertainment is a horrid thing. :-)

I crawled into bed and went to sleep…. and slept… and slept… At about 10am, my sister called me on my cell phone to make sure I was up... Ooops! Somehow, the alarm clock didn’t work. I got up, took a shower, and… oh… I forgot to bring any information about the convention to California. The only thing I new was that it was at the Anaheim Convention Center and that my pass was at will-call. Fortunately, the hotel lobby was equip with a public computer and I was able to find a place to park online. My GPS knew where the Anaheim Convention Center was, so I was set.

I ate breakfast at McDonalds. I had never tried one of their breakfast combos and was pleasantly surprised when it was actually descent. I walked out of the restaurant and surveyed the landscape. It was kind of warm out and… WOW! I saw roller coasters in the distance! Right then and there I vowed I would not leave the city of California until I had ridden the ridge of at least one of those towering precipices.

I followed my GPS’ directions for a while and found a parking place. (In one mile, turn right on CA-15. In point nine miles, turn right on CA-15, then keep left. Turn right on CA-15 then keep left. Yeah… it can get annoying at times.)

I took a free electric bus to the Convention Center and was amazed at the size of the place… Everything around there is huge. After I finally got my pass, I headed into the convention hall.

Every manufacturer who could be remotely connected with music was there. Every company brought in their own carpet, brought in huge store displays complete with lights and demo rooms, had several sales-reps, and some displays were even multi-level. From Guitar manufacturers (Man, there are a TON of guitar manufacturers), to DJ speaker systems, to stringed instruments, to pianos, to night club lighting, to software, it was all there.

I saw TONS of stuff. Oh, and BTW, in case you’re interested, the market for electric guitars and guitar amps is overrun.

I was really amazed by some of the software that was there. Every aspect of recording was represented by some expensive software package. I found two particular products quite interesting:

First, I was paid another visit by Taylor Swift. No matter where I go, I can’t get away from her. Whether it’s a coworker who loves Country or a demo, she’s always there singing Love Story… Which brings me to a rabbit-trail. I wonder if very many people understand the lyrics of a lot of pops songs. In my travels with Country co-workers, I’ve heard so much symbolism and references to less-popular classics... classics you'd have to read in order to understand the lyrics. Love Story doesn’t really elude to much, but it’s still surprising for pop-culture. Then again, I will have to say the student pops composers I’ve run into seem to be very intellectual and possess a great knowledge of the liberal arts in general.

Anyway, I seem to hear that dumb song all the time. I guess vocalists tend to go flat a lot during recording sessions. Turns out there’s a lot software to fix intonation without distorting vibrato. I was amazed by the demonstrations. NOW I know why certain recording studios are so famous and expensive. With money and time, you can fix practically anything. (Not to mention quality. :-)

I have more to say, but for now, I’ll stop. It’s almost my bed time and even though I have another page written, I’ll save it for later. Meanwhile, you can see the weird guys that were at the NAAM convention: Most of the convention was pretty normal (pianos, software, guitars, drums, etc), but there were those funny things and "knock-off" musicians, as Mrs. Downs calls them…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Me, Me, and Me.

I'm getting tired of talking about me. Why don't you all talk about me for a while?

Ok, ok... So the joke isn't funny at all anymore... like it ever was.

Having eaten the rest of my hamburgers on Tuesday night, it was time to make something new for dinner -- Sloppy Joes. It's really weird making food for just myself. Instead of going to the store and trying to buy everything in the biggest quantity they sell, I have to look for things that come in small enough quantities I can eat it before it rots. It's a new experience for me. Oh, and do you know what's really weird? When I'm done eating, I can put all my dishes in the dish washer and start it. That's all. 30 seconds and dinner is all cleaned up. It was a shock to me the first night. I got up to clean up the dishes and finished about 30 seconds later.

I decided it was time for ice cream. After all, isn’t it ice cream that makes the world go ‘round? I popped the Ben&Jerry’s out of my… *cough* “freezer” and enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, my “freezer” is more like a fridge, so the ice cream was more like a milk-shake when everything good sinks to the bottom. I’m used to being endlessly amused by ice cream. You never know when you’ll get a good bite. You put a spoon-full into your mouth while chanting something like, “Big money, big money, big money! SCORE!” (Hey, I’m in “Vegas,” what can I say?) Anyway, back to the ice cream… It wasn't amusing, and I drank it. Convenient that ice-cream comes in a waxed cup, wouldn’t you say?

After becoming rather bored, the red box looked tempting on the way out of the grocery store, so I picked up the first thing I recognized. I was too tired to finish it, though, so I’ll assume bat-boy beat Mr. evil clown and lived happily ever after.

I got ready to go to California. The Downs, a really nice couple from our church, got me a pass for the NAMM convention. It's a huge music convention in California... HUGE. I heard that right around 100,000 people registered last year.

I washed my clothes for the first time. (My co-worker thanked me almost as much as when I took a shower for the first time last night. J/K.) Not much to say besides the fact it costs $4.50 and even more if I decide I want to use fabric-softener at some point. (Fabric softener is supposedly a type of wax. Doesn't help the fire-resistant clothing :-)

I went to work. I came home. I drove to California.

My new GPS plays books on tape and came with a coupon for three free audio books. Before I left, I downloaded The Talisman, and two G.K. Chesterton books. I finished the Talisman on the way to California and would highly recommend it as would I with regards to Sir Walter Scott in general. Although The Talisman is less of an action novel, it is still worthy of it's categorization as "a classic novel," in my estimation.

The city of California is huge. Yes, I call it a city because once you cross the border, it's city from thereon out. Sure, the weather was nice… almost ran my air conditioner… but having to use a 5-lane highway to get anywhere isn’t my idea of fun :-)

I'm getting tired of writing yet again, so I'll hopefully post more tomorrow. I have so much to tell about the enormous NAMM convention and Knott's Berry Farm with all the amazing roller coasters. (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V :-)

Until then, um… Have a great day!

And, do remember to wish Steve a happy birthday on this very special occasion of his birthday :-)

My First Dinner

I'm starting to feel like I'm writing a baby book about myself.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My First Week

I'm not sure how long to make my posts, but since it's been a whole week, I figured it could be a little long.

Getting Ready to Leave
I always leave things to the last minute, so I had a lot of stuff to do Friday night. With the help of my family, though, I don’t think I forgot anything.

Before I left on my trip, I got a GPS. Although you wouldn't need it much for normal, everyday driving, I'm so happy I got it. Driving around Henderson and Las Vegas isn't always that straightforward. California? Again, I'm glad I have it. It's so nice to say, "I want to go buy a present for Steve's birthday tomorrow," (*hint, hint* for those of you who may have forgotten) and to ask the GPS where the nearest stores are in a specific category. You need gas? The GPS knows where to go. You want food? Good luck. Ok, ok... so the 2009 map update will be nice for the city of Henderson since it seems to have changed so much in the last few months.

I left home... And drove... and drove... and drove. I figured driving 8 hours would be torture, but when you know it's going to be a really long time, it's not bad at all. I am really happy with my new 4runner and would highly recommend one at this point in my rank as car-owner, a privileged position where one can spend lots of money. On Saturday, I drove to Beaver, Utah, a little cow-town at about the 2/3 mark. It turned out to be a really nice hotel. The rooms were huge with a king-sized bed, full bathroom, 3-person couch, and Jacuzzi. The neighboring Burger King/Shell gas station/Peerless Tire turned out to be really nice, too. The beef was obviously fresh as the beautiful aroma of cattle filled the town.

I got up, ate some of the hotel's "free," deluxe continental breakfast and continued on my way. The scenery got progressively dryer and dryer. Death Valley was really weird looking. In ugly areas of Colorado, we have acres of sage brush. In Death Valley, they have these weird cactus-bush-tree thingies. (Joshua Trees, I think.)

Driving into Nevada was a strange experience. I stopped at a gas station-combination-Arbys right over the border of Nevada and was surprised by the fact that there were slot machines in the gas station.

Las Vegas surprised me. I had always pictured a small town out in the middle of a flat desert with some big casinos and enough houses to house the employees. Well... It feels almost as big as Denver, and it's just an ordinary city. Aside from the fact that every grocery store and gas station has slot machines, you wouldn't know it was Vegas. (Unless you’re on "the strip," of course)

I arrived at my hotel in Henderson, a "city" that's grown into Vegas. My hotel is pretty much on the edge of the city, so it's kind of a nice location. The hotel room is fairly large and contains a bathroom (Well, I’d hope so!), king bed, large, flat-screen TV with a VGA input, desk for my computer, a small table I use for holding soon-to-be-consumed food, a 2-person couch (love seat?), a table in front of the 2-person couch, and a mini-kitchen. Not bad considering the government is only paying $40/night for it :-)

Once I unpacked, the truth started settling in. I had been excited up to that point, but the fact that I'd be sitting in this hotel room for three months started to sink in. I quickly started feeling like I was in prison, so I headed out to get some groceries. I bought enough food for dinner and that week’s lunches. $41. Beef out here is $4.12-$5.00/lb, and everything else seems to be proportionally higher, too.

I decided to eat hamburgers (I know, I know) that night, so I made them... with minimal kitchen utensils. Since then, I've bought a knife, a turner, soap, dish cloths, etc.

My co-worker and I drove out to Hoover Dam and got our badges. Nothing too exciting. If you want to see it, they filmed part of "Transformers" out there. The only unique thing I noticed about this dam right away is the fact that Hoover is somewhat decorated... A lot of the tunnels have inlays in the floor, a lot of doors are brass-plated, and there are some statues, monuments, etc. sitting around for the tourists. Basically, we spent our first day meeting people and touring.

More of the same. I started to find out why we were there and what we would be doing.

The goal of our trip is to teach Matt (the co-worker I'm here with) and me as much about Hoover Dam as the employees know.

Somewhere in the week, we got our schedule:
First 2.5 weeks -- Learn AutoCAD. Update wiring diagrams as there's a big control-modernization project going on.
Second 2.5 weeks -- Be an electrician apprentice and work on the control-modernization.
Third 2.5 weeks -- Work with the test team and test the new installations.

After those 7.5 weeks, I have no clue what we'll do.

Even though we're electrical engineers, they're teaching us as much as possible about the mechanical side of the generators so we can understand the big picture. I, personally, really enjoy this aspect. It's cool to see how they re-build a generator, how the thrust bearing is assembled, how the generator breaks work, how they cool things, how the valves work, etc.

Well… That’s enough for now. I’m tired of writing and want to go eat dinner. Stay tuned for more details and my trip out to California where I visited the NAAM convention (enormous music convention) and Knott's Berry Farm (COOL roller coasters)

"XCELERATOR hydraulically launches you off the line at an electrifying top speed of 82 mph in 2.3 seconds through an exhilarating 205-foot ascent and immediate descent at a 90-degree angle..."

Um... It's... really.... reaaaallllllyyyyy intense, but EXTREMELY fun. There's no anticipation, so it's way more fun than the "Tower of Doom" equivalent.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mr. Langemann

Being in a small home church, a visitor was big news. We didn't get visitors often, so when Mr. and Mrs. Langemann came to visit, we were all excited. As we found out, Mr. Langemann was assigned by his company to come to Colorado and start a U.S. division of Computronix. Mr. Langemann had come to scope things out, and one of his priorities while in the states was to find a suitable church for his family. During church, Mr. Langemann seemed so calm and reserved -- so much so that I started to wonder if he really had nine kids like he claimed or if I had misunderstood him.

The truth was soon unveiled when all eleven of them moved down from Canada. It was quite exciting to have so many people join the church from somewhere as far away as Canada. All the Langemanns were quite fascinating. It was fun learning their culture and becoming familiar with their interesting terminology, or Lange-a-lingo as I called it. All the Langemanns had their own personality, and Mr. Langemann, to me, always seemed so quiet and reserved... well, until the Johnsons invited the church down to Trinidad for a weekend.

Around the campfire, Mr. Langemann changed into quite another character. Unexpectedly, and very much to the surprise of us all, his jolly attitude displayed itself with great acuity while he introduced us all for the first time to "Dum Dum Dada," a song I find myself whistling quite frequently. After that, I started to get to know him better and found that, although he can be a good-natured gentleman, his cheerful, good-natured attitude can be quite humorous at times.

Back in the business side of things, I found Mr. Langemann to be a very patient employer. Although I mainly worked with his son, Josh, I was one of the first employed by Computronix and therefore had an opportunity to discover just what kind of an employer Mr. L. was. Instead of trying to get everyone to fit into one mold, he seemed to have a knack for discovering people's strengths and was good at putting people into positions they could perform well in. He was very patient and would give people a chance to become a valuable employee.

Throughout the years, we all got to know Mr. Langemann better and I consider it a privilege to have known him. I shall always remember him as one who was jolly in social situations but could still be serious and command respect. Whether it was a sunrise Easter service, a dramatic quoting of Scripture, or an admonition, his memory will live on. He was a dear brother and one who will be greatly missed by us all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Adventure Begins!

So sad. I have to leave... for another 3 months... Maybe someday I can eat artichokes in peace...

Yup, tomorrow's the big day. I have a very unique opportunity to work at Hoover Dam for 3 months. My boss is hoping this will be a very beneficial experience in which I can learn all sorts of things about how hydroelectric power plants work. I'm staying in Henderson, Nevada which is about 15-20 mi mutes from Las Vegas.

I'm driving to Beaver, Utah tomorrow and arriving at Henderson on Sunday afternoon. I'll probably be really bored, so there may be a lot of blog posts coming :-)

On a positive note, some of the top-rated roller-coasters in the world are within driving distance of Henderson. :-)

I'm also really excited for my first weekend in Vegas... well... Ok, so I'll be in Anaheim, California. The Downs, some really nice people from our church, are presenting Yamaha's new Disklavier at a huge music trades show in California. (NAMM) When they heard I'd be in the area, they got me an unlimited pass to the convention, so I'll hopefully get to see all sorts of things. Sounds pretty fun, in my opinion. Plus, I'll be staying right next to Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park with some great roller-coasters :-) I'm also planning to scope out Anaheim for a future visit to Disneyland. (I'm going through amusement-park-withdrawal right now since Elitches is closed, so this ought to be a good experience. :-) (yeah, it's rough... No side-winder, no Ship-wreck Falls. No standing in lines...)