Thursday, April 10, 2014

Family History

At long last I finally logged in to I've been thinking about doing it for some time now. Of course, as you know, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. You only get credit for action, not intention.

Until recently I was operating under the assumption that there is little work to do in my genealogy. Many years ago my Grandpa Cornwall (my mom's family) gave me a family tree chart that he had made. After his retirement he repurposed his drafting table for this work instead of the building plans that had covered it for decades. The chart he gave me was on a huge architectural sheet. It went back well into the 1700s and stretched across many current families. Of course, I never appreciated the amount of effort that went into that chart.

Like I said, that great chart gave me the impression that genealogical work in my ancestry was essentially complete. It is true that I am very much the beneficiary of generations of faithful people. But it's just like they say, if it looks simple you're probably not looking close enough.

Today I have been introduced to genealogical fan charts. Byron told me about them so I decided to look mine up. Here's what mine looks like:

Unless you click on it, you can't really read it. But, even when you're not zoomed in, you can see that there are no empty slots. Empty slots mean incomplete work.

See, it's all done. Nothing more to do. At all.

Now lets look closer. In this fan chart I'm at the center. What if I place my great grandfather at the center? I Remember the funeal of Julius Edmund Kruger (my dad's family). He died in March of 1985, which means I had just turned five. That is the first funeral to which I can attach actual memories. I remember discussing it with my brother at bedtime. We shared a basement bedroom at the time. I don't remember which brother it was. It's a vague memory.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Here's his fan chart:

It looks more like a wheel of swiss cheese. Suddenly my complacent argument that all my family's work had been done is full of to speak. His wife, Lina Martha Otto, is even worse off.

The work is cut out for us. I'm happy I have started looking into

Sunday, March 30, 2014


So about two years ago I discovered I was bad a painting. Well, painting cabinets.I feel like I can do walls OK, but not cabinets. I suck at cabinets. See for yourself.

Well, I scraped that one off and tried it again. the saving grace is that the bathroom doesn't have any windows so the light's not that good. Anyway, we pressed on through adversity and got the job done.

Then, when some time had passed and allowed me to forget how bad I was at painting, I talked myself into thinking I could do it again. It's one of those things where you get better at it the farther back into history it is. 

I had an ace in the hole though. I was going to use Rustoleum's Cabinet Transformations. Just look at the box! The finish is perfect! Piece of cake! 

See how my mind works? Just like a sixth grader looking at the fantastic ads in the back of Boy's Life magazine. A hovercraft for $5 you say? How can I live without it?

Actually, I don't think that's fair. Cabinet Transformations is not on the same level as a cool hovercraft. It's pretty good system, but the finish isn't really what we had in mind. It's a four part system. Check it out.

1. Deglosser
2. Bond Coat
3. Decorative Glaze
4. Clear Topcoat

(Pro tip: Keep plenty of bath toys around for good luck.)

So that third step, the decorative glaze is kind of the rub. Your skill (or not) with that is a big determining factor about how the finished product turns out. The picture below shows one of the finished doors. So far I've finished 2 out of 19. I already finished it once, didn't like it, repainted it, and tried again. All I'm getting is a big....'meh'. It's not what I had in mind. In the pictures you can't really see the imperfections. I have to admit, the glaze gives it that weathered look that many people are looking for these days. Also, the glaze combines with the prevalent brushstrokes to give it a nice look. The bottom line, however, remains that it's not what I thought it was going to be. 

It's not often that I find myself at a complete loss as to what to do, but with this project I'm there. Chelsea and I discussed it this afternoon. I remembered that I had bought some paint for the closet door in the kiddo's room. Five months later, I have yet to crack open that paint. So we thought, we might as well try painting one of the other cabinets with it and see which we like best.

Well, I got two coats on with a foam roller. So far it looks OK. Of course, the real test is what the doors look like with the paint. I haven't tried those yet. It will probably take three coats all around.

Hopefully, if nothing else, this post will serve as a reminder to me. A reminder that I shall not paint cabinets. Let me say it one more time: "I SHALL NOT paint cabinets!" I'm have more experience doing carpentry. It will be less time and pain to simply replace the cabinets.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Win Points With Your Wife by Sneaking Around With Her Friends

This weekend I learned some things and I thought I would share it with the blogosphere. From the title you may be a little skeptical that this will actually end well. Never fear, what follows is sound advice. This is a step by step guide and I can assure you that following each step verbatim will help you win success. Now down to business.

Step 1: Ensure your wife has excellent friends

Step 2: Be contacted by those excellent friends about your wife's birthday which is still more than 2-1/2 months away.

(At this point, you may be saying to yourself, "Tom, I don't have any control over these two steps. How can this guide apply to me?" I don't really have an answer for you.)

Step 3: Set up the weekend with those friends.

Step 4: Tell your wife you've decided to take her to an undisclosed vacation house for her birthday. Remember, this is only a cover story.

Step 5: Plan some activities that you think everyone will enjoy. I went with snowshoeing, but that will have to depend on the people involved in your group.

Step 6: Decide that the vacation house idea is actually  a great idea and not just as a cover story.

Step 7: Book the vacation house via

Step 8: Wait. (The weekend didn't get here yet.)

Step 9: Maintain the deception by saying "All you need to know is places and things" when asked by your wife about where you're going.

Step 10: Take advantage of your day off (just prior to the weekend) to get the house ready for guests. This must be done on your day off while the wife is at work so that she doesn't know it's happening and become suspicious.

Step 11: On that same day off, while your wife is at work, go get the friends from the airport. Stop at Costco etc. to get the stuff you need for the weekend.

Step 12: Wait quietly in the living room while your wife pulls into the garage.

Step 13: Sit nonchalantly in the living room while your wife comes home after a typical stressful day.

Step 14: Enjoy the surprise.


Step 15: Execute the weekend plan. Have a great time.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Good Old Days

A couple of times last year I heard someone say "I wish I had known that it [whenever they were talking about] was "The Good Old Days". It is human nature to fail to see the good in the current situation as well as look back on history with rose colored glasses. The current moment is filled with all kinds of anxiety and uncertainty, but when the dust settles, you normally don't remember all that. Earlier today a friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook:

"It's almost impossible to underestimate the unimportance of most things."

The quote didn't have an author cited. There are so many little details that seem so important at the moment that it can be difficult to weed through them all. But, looking back on your life you rarely remember all the circumstances that existed around a particular event or day in the past.

Several weeks ago I started thinking about this. What parts of my life do I call The Good Old Days?

There was a short period right before my mission. I had good friends and a good job. I didn't worry much about money and every Saturday night we went midnight bowling at Olympus Hills Lanes. It was a brief time because I knew that missionary service was right around the corner. That was a good period.

Sometimes I really miss school. Believe it or not, I actually miss those late-night cram sessions with my classmates prior to the Mechatronics test that we knew was going to be brutal. I distinctly remember the last such session on my last finals week. I left the Warnock Engineering Building at the university at about 10:30pm and as I walked to the car I could feel the disappointment. School was a good period.

But the time since school has been the longest sustained good period of my life. I'm in that first-job-out-of-college period of life. I have bought a house, I'm building my career, and now I've had the opportunity to become a parent. And through it all, I've had Chelsea to share it.

And Here's the fun outtake:

I think what I'm trying to say is without a doubt, I'm going to look back on THIS time in my life as one of "The Good Old Days".

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bike Tools

Using tools is fun. Any guy know that. But what many guys don't know is that the enjoyment of using that tool is increased if you built or modified that tool for your specific purpose. For my job I work with some guys that have some major skills. They are actually called "the toolmakers". I get to design for them and collaborate with them on some pretty neat stuff. Of course, I don't get to use any of those tools. Sure, I use them when we're developing them in tightly controlled test situations, but I don't actually use them to accomplish anything.

I have to do that in my garage.

Of course, the tools I make or modify in my garage are nowhere near the awesomeness of the tools they make at work, but that's to be expected. Sometimes at work we end up with tools that look shoddy, though. Due to time constraints, mistakes, or inexperience, sometimes the tool looks awful. I've jokingly said at those times that it looks like something an engineer would make in his garage.

Well, here's some more stuff that an engineer made in his garage.

These are two tools I've needed for doing some work on my mountain bike. They are, of course, commercially available, but they are also expensive. Being cost conscious, and willing to try many things at least once, I decided these were good candidates for home construction. They are a 1.5" crown race setting tool and a nipple driver. The crown race is part of the headset of the bike which is the bearing that lets you turn the handlebars. The setting tool is used when you change the headset or the fork. Nipples are those little nubs that connect the spokes of the wheel to the rim. This is used when you want to make bicycle wheels, something I've been considering attempting for some time.

Crown Race Setting Tool (~$65):

Nipple Driver ($30):

So that's $95 for tools. At that rate, I'm not saving much by doing myself rather than having the shop do it. But who am I kidding, I would still probably do it myself. 

For the crown race setting tool I started with a 1.5" piece of schedule 40 PVC pipe. The inside and outside diameters were good, I just needed to shape the end a little so it wouldn't damage the crown race as it was setting it. I set up a jig that would allow me to turn the pipe while holding the Dremel still. Unfortunately, I did not immortalize that with a picture for you all. But this is how it turned out.

You can see how the end was only slightly shaped. It would have turned out better if I had a lathe, which I would have if the government hadn't been so stupid this fall. Whatever. The bottom line is I have my crown race setting tool. Material: 1.5 feet of PVC pipe from Ace Hardware. Cost: ~$3. Savings: ~$62. 

The next one is a little trickier. As you can see the nipple driver can in no way be approximated by a length of pipe. Not to worry, our friends at Klein Tools make a nice little Rapi-Driv (tm) screw driver that looks like this:

Well that's 90% of the work. This little number is had for only $10 on Amazon. Again, I turned to my trusty Dremel. All that was left was to shape the end of the screwdriver to look like the nipple driver, thusly:

I'm sure my brothers and dad would consider this a brutal defilement of a perfectly pristine Klein tool. They would be right, but I think it's worth it. The great thing about Klein tools is you know they are likely to outlive you, so you don't worry about spending a little extra. My dad still uses many of his Klein tools that he bought before I came along. So there you go. Now I have my nipple driver. Material: Klein screwdriver. Cost: ~$10. Savings: ~$20.

So that's $13 payout for $95 worth of tools with an extra helping of satisfaction on the side. But like I said, it looks like something an engineer made in his garage. Because it is.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I've been thinking for a while that I should write this post. My last post about biking in Idaho is long since stale, but that wasn't enough to get be back out here. It's funny that that should be the case, though. The last few months have been pretty eventful. But since November is the month of gratitude, I am finally spurred into a long overdue expression of thanks.

The world today is filled with so much uncertainty and division. Don't get me wrong, those things always exist, but somehow, right now, it seems more acute. Most forget the common ground shared in favor of focusing on the divisive.

Earlier this year it looked as if the divisive issues in the government would render this a lean year. The spring was filled with anxiety for most of the people I know. For whatever reason, however, Chelsea and I were spared. We felt the anxiety and experienced just as much uncertainty as anyone else, but as it played out over the months, we found we were unharmed. Twice this year I was threatened with lost work, but neither time resulted in actual trouble. We were able to weather the normal problems of life. Problems like unexpected car problems and unexpected home repairs,

Of course, that's not to say we're out of the woods. Washington D.C. still hasn't figured out how to pass a budget, so it's still pretty touch and go. The watchword at the Shipyard is to just keep doing a good job and things will work out. That's pretty much right, too, because there's not much that we can do to help matters (since we failed to do so at the last election).

But that's enough about politics and ranting about working for the government.

The next thing I'm immensely grateful for is Chelsea and I have finally received the opportunity to be parents. As the months and years pass, it seems increasingly likely that our calling is to serve only children that are not our own. So far this has been a great opportunity.

We have been blessed by the children themselves but also by so many others who were so generous as we prepared to welcome children into our home. We are literally surrounded by friends. I'm thankful for every one.

Different divisive issues attack another part of my life. I love scouting and the associations formed there, both with other adult leaders, but also with the boys. It is very rewarding and I am grateful to be able to be a part of it. Issues (and the division they bring) at hand today have the power to destroy the scouting movement, but for now it continues to shape the lives of young men the way it shaped my life. I'm grateful for my involvement with it and that it continues to endure.

The list goes on, but that's all I can cram in here for now. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mountain Biking, Boise Style

During the July 4 weekend, we spent several days at a cabin together with Chelsea's family. It was about 20 miles south of Stanley, Idaho. It turns out that area is a mountain biking mecca. That whole Sun Valley/Ketchum/Stanley area is really great for it. Tons of trails.

Saturday morning Dave, Blake, and I went to sample the wares. The first trail was basically a road. There was supposed to be a ghost town at the end. We found the remains of a cabin or two, but that was about it.

Next we tried a hiking trail. It wasn't listed on the map as a biking trail and we soon found out why. It was pretty rocky and steep in places. There was too much hike-a-bike for it to be fun. It was pretty good coming down, though.

Yesterday, on the way home to Washington, we decided to make a quick stop to visit Chelsea's grandma. The quick visit turned into an hour, then dinner, then an overnight stay. It was actually really nice to stay in Boise for the night.

Chelsea was going to spend some quality time with her grandma, so I found myself in Boise with a free evening and my mountain bike. That equation can only go one way. After some quick research on the phone, I found a place with some trails and a bike shop where I could get a map.

Before I go into the trail, I have to say something about Boise itself. Since marrying Chelsea, I've been there easily half a dozen times (not counting blazing by on the way to Utah) and each time I've had some time to explore. This time I spent some time driving through the neighborhoods in northeast Boise as I was on my way to the Camel's Back Reserve.

This area bears a striking resemblance to the Avenues in Salt Lake. Everything is similar except for the hills of the Avenues. In Boise, it's basically flat (maybe that's why so many people were riding bikes around). The main similarities are the feel of the neighborhood, the nature of the people, and proximity to dusty foothills. It's uncanny. I've often said, I could live in Boise, and I still think that. It's a nice town.

Now, the trail. I did a loop that went along three trails: Kestrel, Crestline, and Lower Hulls Gulch. All together, it was about five miles and change.

Kestrel starts out with about a sandy 300 foot climb in a little under a mile. I've done much worse trails, but I had two things working against me. I'm used to my sea level air which is heavy with oxygen. Also, it's been a long time since I went mountain biking with long sustained climbs. When it intersected with Crestline I stopped for a breather. As I stood there, I was surprised to find I suddenly had the impression I was going to be reviewing dinner. That's what I get for going biking after a big dinner.

After a few minutes the feeling passed and I was ready to get after it again.

The Crestline was really a fun trail. It had some gradual climbs and some ups and downs. There was plenty of sand on this one, too. Some areas were a little slippery. Towards the end, it followed to contour pretty close. I got to see some neat vistas of Boise, too. I was too early for a sunset, but that would be cool from up there. With a sharp eye, you can spot the airport in the distance.

At the end of Crestline, the trail turns down and follows the creek bottom as the Lower Hulls Gulch Trail. Now, up to this point in my life, I've found that trails with the work "gulch" in the name can be a little...ummm...tricky. By this point, I had climbed around 625 feet. That's not a lot for Utah and Idaho trails, but it is more than I'm used to. On Lower Hulls Gulch I came back down all this. The trail continued the theme of sandiness. Of course, sandiness with downhill momentum makes for some pucker moments. Add to this a fall-off to the creekbed on the left and a hillside to the right. Oh, and there are tons of rocks. In one spot I lost my line and wrecked on the hillside.

With a few new scratches on my helmet I got back on the trail to notice that my handlebars were crooked. I stopped to straighten them and accidentally touched the brake rotor with my calf. After a nice downhill you can imagine what condition that rotor was in. It was special.

Before starting the trail, I talked with a local who told me the downhill was easy and that there was just a single "potential" hike-a-bike. I can only imagine this the spot he was talking about:

Yeah, I hiked the bike over it. Deride me if you like.

The rest of the ride went great. It was good to get some trail time. Now, it's back to Washington for some shady trails.