May 2011 Archives

Memorial Day 2011

Inspired by my Mom's visit to decorate the graves of her parents and sister, I felt the desire to visit our local cemetery and take some pictures early Monday morning.


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Daytrip to Palouse Falls

Today we drove to Palouse Falls State Park. We took the exciting route through Colfax, Dusty, Hooper, and Washtucna. It was a popular destination -- cars were parked a ways up the road outside the gate.

Colin wasn't able to go fishing with his friend yesterday, so I promised him that we'd go fishing today. Being that Palouse Falls is in Washington, and we live in Idaho, I had to buy an out-of-state fishing license. For some reason, I opted for the full-season--mucho dinero!

Arriving at the park, it was clear that it wasn't really the kind of place where people came to fish. Lots of cameras, binoculars, and backpacks. But we were the only ones with fishing poles. Determined to fish anyway, we packed our stuff down to the river.

Getting there was challenging due to the dusty trails and loose rocks. Anne was sure that we'd roll down the hill to our deaths, but we made it mostly in tact. As we suspected, the river was too high and fast and brown to catch any fish, but we gave it a try. Colin is great at casting, but there were so many bushes and sticks in the water that his lure got snagged every time.

Fishing at Palouse Falls

After our hike back up to the car, I grabbed my tripod and walked around by myself for a while.

Palouse Falls

Only after I got back did I look on Flickr and see that all the best pictures of the falls are taken from the high point to the left. Oh, and at sunrise too. Maybe next time.

Goodbye, Blue

Today is a very sad day. We said "goodbye" to our faithful dog, Blue.

Chewy Bluey

Blue came to us through a Blue Heeler Rescue group in Colorado. We initially signed up to be "foster owners" but we both knew very quickly that we wanted to keep Blue.

We didn't know his history, but it was clear that he was anxious when left alone. We tried a crate for a while, but that was no good. He barked all day while we were gone, annoying our condo neighbors. We set up a "dogwatch" digital camera to take a picture every 5 minutes so we could monitor him from work. Sometimes the camera caught him in an amusing pose.

Due to his anxiety, we couldn't leave him at home alone very long. He spent a lot of time in our car. Anne would leave him in her car at work with the windows open. On shopping trips and such, he'd hop in the front seat and wait for our return. You can imagine how nice the car smelled. A little moisture adds an extra aroma.

Blue loved to go to the hardware store with us, especially McGuckin's. He knew that the employees wearing the green vests had doggie treats in their pockets. He's sit in front of them and drool. In his younger days he loved chewing on rawhide bones and, especially, pigs ears. yuck!

Food was never safe around Blue. Numerous times we'd get groceries and leave them in the car, only to find that a loaf of bread had been devoured in our absence. He didn't like vegetables though. At home he would reach up on the counter and take whatever he could. He once helped himself to a box of fancy chocolates from Holland.

The highlight of every one of his days was going for his walks. He would pace and follow one of us around until we went outside for the walk. In Colorado he got many long walks, sometimes at night. As a youngster, Blue was often eager to chase critters, such as squirrels and racoons. On one occasion I (mistakenly) encouraged him to go after a racoon, not realizing the strength of his determination. He yanked the leash out of my hand and I got a rope burn on the other for my misdeed. He tussled with the racoon and Anne was sure that he was immediately infected with rabies.

Somehow, he never really learned to "do his business" by himself. We couldn't just let him out the back door. It had to be on a walk, and often, in my experience, in front of a neighbor's house. As he aged his walks became shorter and fewer.

Blue especially enjoyed walks in the snow. He'd run and frolic more, and also enjoyed eating the snow for some reason.

From the start we heard that Heelers like to be close to their owners and this was certainly true of Blue. He especially followed Anne throughout the house wherever she went. He had some sort of internal Anne-proximity detector that would go off and wake him from a deep sleep whenever she moved to a different room.

In recent weeks we noticed his walk became even stiffer, and his carpet vomits even more frequent. On some occasions he was in too much pain to walk into the house. We tried drugs for a while, but it was clear that he was not really improving. So the difficult decision was made.

We love you Blue, and we hope that you enjoyed being in our family as much as we enjoyed having you.

Pheasant Portrait


I've been pretending that I'm a wildlife photographer, except I just hang out in the house until Beauregard the Pheasant wanders into the yard. I have to sneak by (or underneath) the windows so he doesn't run off. I think he's getting used to his frequent camera shoots.

First Piano Recital

Last week Colin completed his second year of "keyboarding" class with his wonderful teacher, Miss Linda. She had her students give a recital at her home. Here's Colin playing All the Little Ducklings. I think he did a fantastic job keeping a steady tempo.

He also played Hop Up My Ladies, another complicated two-hand song.

Office Tremors

So, a few months ago I began noticing that my office desk was vibrating. It would sort of come and go, usually lasting for a few minutes at a time. I tried, but failed, to ignore it. I assumed it was related to the eternal construction next door. I told my landlord, but I'm not sure she believed me.

I wondered if I could get a desktop-sized seismograph to record it and convince people that I'm not imagining it. Then I thought, there must be an app for that.


The three images above are from the (free) iSeismometer app with an iPhone sitting flat on my desk. On the left is the normal (non-vibrating) state. The middle shows the display during the vibrations. Notice the wavy Z-axis line. The right picture shows the spectral analysis feature of the app. It calculates the vibrational frequency (sharp peak in the blue line) as about 14.4 Hz.

I'm still not sure what the cause is. I'm pretty sure its not cars or trucks rumbling down the street. It sort of feels like an unbalanced washing machine, except more bursty. Here's a video of it happening:

Doubles Ping-Pong for Five

Once a week I get to play ping-pong over at my neighbor's house. Often there are five of us, which means someone has to sit out each game.

Even though we're all college graduates, we had a tough time remembering whose turn it was to sit out and who hadn't been on the same team for a while. Even keeping track of the score is a test of our mental abilities at times.

It doesn't work to just rotate people in a circular fashion. It doesn't mix up the teams sufficiently. I kept thinking, "this shouldn't be so hard." It should be possible to make list of five games, such that:

  1. Each person sits out once.
  2. Each player teams up once with every other player.
  3. Each player plays twice on each side of the table.
  4. A player never serves to another player more than once.

About a month ago, while it was my turn to sit out, I jotted down some diagrams showing where each player stands (or sits out) for each of five games. The others were quite happy to have the diagrams. However, I only managed to satisfy the first two rules. Even though we knew something was wrong, the consensus was that the diagrams were good enough and we shouldn't try to mess with it.

After last week's game I thought I could write a program to find a perfect round. It turned out to be harder than I thought. My lame brute-force approaches didn't work very well.

There are 5!, or 120, ways for 5 people to play one game of doubles ping-pong. Its the same as how many ways to arrange the numbers 1 through 5.  For example:

and so on...

Thats just combinations for a single game. The trick is to find 5 games, which makes up a round, that meets the above rules. There are "120 choose 5" possible rounds. This is a pretty big number. It is, in fact:

-----------  =  119 * 118 * 117 * 116  = 190,578,024
5! (120-5)!               

Of course, most of these potential rounds are invalid because they have the same person sitting out, or the same players teamed up. A more realistic way to enumerate the possibilities is to fix the first digit in every game (representing the person sitting out) and then count permutations of the other spots. It should be:

4!^5 = 7,962,624

Even with this more manageable number, I didn't accomplish my goal of writing a program that spat out a solution before the heat death of the universe.

During tonight's game the imperfections bugged me. I took another stab at doing it manually, with the help of a spreadsheet, and I believe this is a perfect round of doubles ping-pong for five people. Note, the person sitting out is shown below the table:

2 4
3 5
5 3
1 4
1 5
4 2
3 2
5 1
4 1
2 3

I think I'm becoming a better ping-pong player, but worse at math and programming.

Now with glasses!

Continuing my journey into old-man-hood, I now own eyeglasses:



The glasses aren't particularly strong (1.00/1.25). Like my friend Matt says, "hah! a little girl's prescription!"

Renaissance Fair 2011

This weekend was Moscow's 38th Renaissance Fair. It's really a great mix of art vendors, food, music, kids activities, and people in strange clothes.


We went both days. Colin's first stop is always at the face painting booth. It's just not proper to be at the fair with an unpainted face. Saturday was a butterfly. Sunday was a rainbow.


Saturday he spent most of the time at the volleyball court at the sandbox. But on sunday his school pals Zachary and Hannah were there. Zachary wanted to do the Power Jump, but Colin passed. Here they are waiting in line together:


Although we couldn't get Colin on the power jump, he did do the zip line and obstacle course ate Adventure Learning Camps area.

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