Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Fearless Daughters

The performing arts can be daunting and just getting in front of people is scary for most people. I tell you this because last month Jr and George performed in their dance recital, and this month Fred performed in her voice recital. They all did extraordinary, and I am extremely proud of them. To be blunt, they were fearless.

Below are some videos of Fred's performance from tonight (she sang "I Know It's Today" from Shrek the Musical and "When You're Alone" from Hook):

Below are some pictures from Jr and George's dance recital and a video of Jr doing the Can Can (George is a flower in the Alice in Wonderland dance):

I look forward to them continuing to develop their talents.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We've Got Movement...

I had been trying to figure out how to get some bolts off the bottom of my Miata for some time now and finally had a break through this week. My gear head friend came over and showed me how to interlock two wrenches or a socket wrench and a wrench to get leverage; couldn't have been easier. We were able to take off the power plant frame, some bolts off the differential, and the transmission. I then worked on my own and took out the front sway bar, the radiator, the condenser, and the heat shield by the catalytic converter. Here are some pictures of the adventure:

Here's some stuff that came off my car!

This is what it looks like under the car...

I've got a hole in the front of my Miata...

Here are the missing pieces!

I'm almost to the point where the engine will be coming out; should be out by two weeks from today! Then I get to start tearing into the Ford Mustang that's park to the side of my house!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This Car is Under Construction

Here are some pictures of the work I'm doing on my Miata. I know these photos are a bit graining; maybe Scoonie will show me all that knowledge she gained at the Bloggers conference on lighting and cameras, and help me adjust my phone's camera to get better pictures one of these days. Until then, you're stuck with these sort of pictures.

Yep, that's the hood from my car and the other is a picture of the Miata's engine minus a MAS airflow sensor, its box, and some tubing. I also took out the clutch master cylinder.

Here are some of the parts lying around in my garage - a tail light that I'm going to install and the MAS airflow sensor, its box, and the clutch master cylinder. Oh, yeah and the Miata's computer - I had to have help to locate that; it was under a metal plate on the floor of the passenger's side. The other picture is of where the center console of my car used to be - yes, I removed the stick shift too.

I found out the hard way that the plug running into the MAS airflow sensor has a little metal band that needs to be removed prior to unplugging it. Apparently if you unscrew where the plug goes into the MAS airflow sensor and then pull the plug you rip out the guts of the MAS airflow sensor - oops there goes my Ebay resell value. Oh well, at least I won't make that mistake again.

I'm tempted to go buy a soldering iron and some rosin core solder to see if I still have the skills I honed in eigth grade in shop class, and see if I can fix the innards of the MAS airflow sensor. At least it can't hurt, right?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monkey Tour Brought to You by Casual Blogger Conference 2010

My Monkeys and I had the chance to tour SLC and Provo for two days while Scoonie attended the 2010 Casual Blogger Conference held in Sandy, Utah. Below is a pictorial recap of the Monkey Tour. I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. I encountered two problems (a) Me and (b) My Camera Phone. Also, these are only part of the pictures that were taken of the Tour; many more can be found on my Facebook page (for those of you who haven't befriended me on Facebook, this is my evil plot to finally reach 200 friends).

Yep, first stop after dropping Scoonie off at her bloggers' conference - Target. The Monkeys and I picked up some ice for the cooler and took a potty break.

After target, we made our way to Temple Square. We parked around 200 N 200 W and hiked the rest of the way. Here are the Monkeys with the SLC Temple in the background (I'm sure I didn't need to point that out, but whatever...) No, you aren't seeing double, George is just very photogenic.

They loved climbing the steps at the front of the Temple and...

putting their hands in this fountain in front of the Temple (sorry Scoonie, it happened so fast there was nothing I could do...honest!)

We also saw the inside of the Tabernacle and the Visitors' Center. A bearded dad by himself with three daughters must have been a novelty for the sister missionaries as I was approached by at least three different sets of them. One of the sister missionaries was shocked that I had attended BYU and hadn't gone through a live session at the SLC Temple - after all, I had lived so close. Oops, I guess one day Scoonie and I ought to do a session at the SLC Temple.

Here they are in front of the Conference Center. When we entered the CC the greeters asked if we wanted a tour, I asked how long the tour was and they told me "45 minutes". Since it was lunch time and the Monkeys were running low on patience, I negotiated a "15 minute" tour. Yes, we missed the gardens on the roof and the busts of the prophets, but we did get to see the 20,000 seat interior, a fountain, and the original BOM paintings that hang inside. I'll have to negotiate the remaining tour next time we're in town.

After Temple Square and lunch at Mc-ee-d's, we headed over to the Clark Planetarium (formerly Hansen Planetarium) and watched the movie "Attack of the Space Pirates". The Monkeys loved the movie and its goofy plot, and we learned about space and quantum physics or something like that.

We stopped next at my sister M and her husband - Legal Man - 's house. M made a wonderful dinner and The Monkeys played with their cousin on M's playground out back.

After visiting with M and Legal Man we turned around and headed back to SLC to visit my cousin The Artist. The Artist happily had milk shakes with us and entertained my Monkeys. They loved every moment and even spent some time swinging on The Artist's front porch. Just after 10pm we picked up Scoonie at her conference.

The second day saw us visiting BYU. We visited the Bean Museum and...

saw Brigham Young himself; surprisingly enough, he had found his way back in front of the Administration Building; though he no longer does the funky chicken since there is now a hedge between him and the court yard that sits on top of the biggest library in the world (or at least the biggest library my Monkeys have ever seen. Jr pointed out that the biggest library is in Washington DC thank you very much - I'll take her word for it.)

I went over budget at the bookstore, but it wasn't my fault - George couldn't find a $5 book that had cool pictures; besides have you seen those "eyes"?

After splurging at the bookstore, we headed out to see Scoonie's friend from college and his family.

Scoonie caught up with us and then we all head to Chuck-A-Rama for some good food and laughs.

We ended day 2 by going to the Provo temple and taking pictures out by what I'm pretty sure is a fountain that wasn't in existence when I lived in Provo.

Many thanks to all who helped us have so much fun on the Monkey Tour especially Zanne and her husband for letting us stay with them while we were there!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Taekwondo Experiment Ends

One year ago Fred and Jr decided they wanted to attend a promotional Taekwondo class to get free pizza. They asked Scoonie if she would take them, but she told them "no" because she was working on a sewing project (she told me afterwards that she didn't want to take them so she wouldn't be sucked into Taekwondo classes); Jr then asked me with her big brown eyes to take them and said "Mom was too busy." I thought it would be a good idea to get the kids out of the house while Scoonie worked and also that it would be fun to spend some time with the kids. So I drove Fred, Jr, and George to the free class.

While at the free class, I could tell the main instructor worked well with my kids and that they responded well to him. Afterwards, the instructors gave a sales pitch and Fred and Jr were eager to sign-up for classes (George didn't participate as she was playing the shy, scared "I want to cling to my Daddy's leg" part). The sales pitch by the instructors was "Normally there is a $225 initial down payment and eleven monthly installments of $125 for lessons per student" (a total of $1,600 per child for one year or $3,200), but if I put $49 down, I could evaluate them for two weeks risk free and I could enroll both Fred and Jr for the price of one student; on top of that, they would discount the remaining tuition for the year to $999; uniforms were included in the price. Both Fred and Jr could attend twice a week.

This sounded good to me; think about it, if you do the math, there are 52 weeks in a year. If you take $1,048 ($999 plus $49) and divide it by 52, you get about $20 and if you divide that by 2 (the number of classes per week), you get approximately $10 per class, and if you divide that again by 2 (the number of kids I was enrolling), you get about $5 per kid per class for one year. On top of that, it was something that I could do with my kids a couple of times a week.

So I put the $49 down, went home and talked it over with Scoonie. First, Scoonie told me that the reason she had not taken the kids herself was she didn't want to get sucked in to Taekwondo classes. I discussed the cost with her and explained that I thought this was something that I could do with them. Scoonie agreed to go along as long as this was my thing; I was in charge of taking the kids.

Thus, I started taking Fred and Jr to Taekwondo classes twice a week and George tagged along. After the two week evaluation period, Fred and Jr still were enjoying their classes and I paid the additional $999.

In July, the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles graced the girls' dojo and everything seemed great in the Taekwondo world. Then August rolled around and Fred shocked me with the news she wanted to quit prompting a Dr. Phil moment at my house. Ultimately, Scoonie and I agreed that Fred didn't have to participate in classes, but she still had to go and watch Jr with George and myself. Fred watched once and then started the lessons again. Fred's instructor didn't pressure her and made sure to let her know how well she was doing and pointed this out during class; eventually, Fred started liking classes again and everything was fine until March 2010. Scoonie even made a tax season concession to take Fred and Jr one day a week to their class.

In late February, Scoonie and I decided it was time to get equipment for Fred and Jr as they had progressed to a level beyond the basic classes. I did some looking into equipment prices at the Taekwondo school, but couldn't get straight answers on equipment pricing, and noticed some of the students in class were using dowel rods for sticks. I took this as a sign that we could buy equipment from other sources and looked up pricing on Ebay; after looking around, I found some very nice affordable equipment and made purchases for both Fred and Jr. The equipment quickly arrived and we surprised both Fred and Jr the morning of March 4th - it was just like Christmas! The girls tried on their equipment and started sparring. Class had moved from 6:15pm to 4:30pm as the girls had moved from the lower ranked class to the higher ranked class; so I left work early and picked the girls up and took them to Taekwondo.

Unfortunately, an instructor in training was teaching the first high rank class for Fred and Jr and was more physical/business like than what Fred and Jr were used to; so when it came time for Fred and Jr to put on their equipment, Fred decided to sit out the rest of the class. On top of that, Jr started putting on her equipment, but was told by one of the regular instructors that she could not wear it. His reasoning was this was "due to insurance purposes". I explained I would happily sign a waiver, but then found out the real reason; it was not their brand of equipment and it was nice equipment to boot. In talking with the main instructor, he said that the reason the dowel rods were allowed was that they couldn't brand sticks and so any type of stick was allowed (yes, that really was his answer; my thought was, "yeah, I couldn't tell those dowel rods weren't really martial art standard sticks.")

Over the next couple of weeks, I worked things out with the Taekwondo school. I bought a minimum amount of the school's brand equipment (helmet, hand guards, and chest protector) from them; the main instructor provided an equipment bag, a couple of short sticks, and a nun-chuck (I'm sure he provided them from his own pocket as it didn't sound like the school was willing to negotiate); and the girls were able to use the re-breakable boards Scoonie and I had purchased as the boards were the "correct" brand.

Yes, the equipment experience left a bitter taste in Scoonie's and my mouth (here's Scoonie's recount of the experience), but I talked with Scoonie and we decided to let the kids finish what they started. The instructors continued to instruct Fred and Jr, and I did not see animosity between the instructors and our kids.

Over the last couple of months, George made a friend with another little girl at the Taekwondo school who was watching her sibling, and now wants to start Taekwondo lessons in a year (that's when the other little girl is supposed to begin lessons).

On April 30th, both Fred and Jr were awarded purple belts! I'm very proud of my girls for sticking with Taekwondo and fulfilling their commitment for the whole year!

Here are pictures of my girls with the main instructor (we did return to him the equipment he provided us):

Sunday, April 25, 2010

If Writing is Your Thing...

These days, anybody with access to a computer and an internet connection can start writing and become published on a whim. Making money writing, however, is still as challenging as it has ever been, though the internet offers unique opportunities. Anyone who has tried out Google's Adsense and pay per click arrangement should understand what I'm talking about.

What alternatives are available? I did some web-surfing and found that compensation arrangements ranged from pay per article to lifetime royalties to pyramid-like referral fees. Below is a list of sites that I found and a general description of what they provide:

1) This site will pay you per article you write and claims that their average writer earns $20 an hour. You need to apply to be a writer for them; the application process includes a submission of writing sample.

2) This site will pay you lifelong royalties based on the income your articles generate. You are required to apply, which includes submit writing samples. Once approved to be a writer, you need to produce 10 articles every three months to keep your "writer" status.

3) You receive royalties based on the income your articles generate; you are required to apply for a specific writing topic for your locale; and your application requires samples of your writing.

4) You can be paid up front writing fees or based on page views; the up front writing fees range from $2-$15 per article, while the page view fees start at $1.50 for every one-thousand page views (the page view fees max out at $2.00 per one-thousand page views.) There is no application process; rather, there is a registration process.

5) You name your price on this site; the site works like a consignment shop for writers. You can specify a price for usage rights, unique rights, and/or full rights. Usage rights gives a publisher the right to use an article once (other publishers may buy the article too); unique rights gives a publisher exclusive rights to an article, though original writer needs to be credited; and full rights gives a publisher the right to modify the content and to resell the content under his/her name. Writers register to begin consigning their articles.

6) Xomba uses Google Adsense revenue sharing with it's writers. Writers receive a 50% split on from Adsense revenue earned on their articles and a 10% revenue share on writers who were referred to Xomba by them. No application is needed; writers sign-up as members of Xomba.

7) Mylot pays writers per post they create (either as an originator or for making discussion contributions) and also pays writers 25% of what their referrals are paid. Sign-up is required.

8) Peoplestring is a social networking site bragging it gives 70% of its revenues to its members. Free members get paid 5% of their direct referrals earnings and 2% of earnings from referrals levels 2 through 6. Entrepreneur members get paid 20% of their direct referrals earnings and 6% of earnings from referrals levels 2 through 6. Members receive a share of all memberships, ads, search and paid placements. Each members share of revenue is determined based on the number of times they login to Peoplestring. Sign-up is required; membership is free; the Entrepreneur package is $200.

So, if writing is your thing, maybe this information will help you start your own online writing empire.

None dare call it conspiracy


Monster Miata


Flying in a squirrel suit