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[Comments] (6) The Winds of Change: On New Year's Day, I was blessed to see Napoleon Dynamite and actually enjoyed the movie. Though it was not a life-changing movie by any standards, and I often felt I was watching my older brother Nathan's life flash before my eyes, it was different enough to be both quasi-funny and refreshing! Who'd have thought?

Todays was the first day of the rest of my life. The last "first day" of school is over, and I am already exhausted just thinking of what my final semester holds for me. It won't be an easy one by any means, but I attribute most of the pain to the fact that my schedule is all over the place. I prefer blocks of classes, but when you get to the end you take what they offer when they offer it, and that is life. I'll make the best of it and try to learn something on the way.

My grandmother gave us a winter scene puzzle that is mostly all blue pieces, as it is a winter scene at night. It's hard; but I want it done and off my table already.

Last night we got a pleasant surprise: Lisa came to visit, fresh off her mission in Oakland, Ca. I can't believe that 18 months has already come and gone. That means that Susie and I have been married 18 months. Yay for us!

Today we managed to wrack up about $1,200 on our credit cards. I bought books, paid AAA renewals, paid car insurance, and we finally put a down deposit on our cruise, making it official. We are going to Mexico as a late honeymoon/grad school graduation present. It gives me something to look forward to. So anyone who has been to Mexico, send some pointers our way to avoid looking like the tourist gringos we are.

[Comments] (4) Luck of the Gods: Yes, it's true, the accounting Gods have been smiling down on me. For MBA 609 (Graduate business communication) there were like seven sections. I picked section one, because it fit nicely into my schedule. Or did I?...

I went to buy the book last week, but with a sticker price of $105 for a book the width of my pinky finger, I thought to myself, we'll go to class first and see how important this book is before we spend play money on something as frivolous as a texbook on communicating (something I do just fine on most of the time, thank you). Well, in class today, our professor handed out the syllabus, and it said there was no text for the course. Period. Apparently the other six teachers all use the same book, but we don't. We just read articles posted on Blackboard, etc. Wow! I saved $105 just like that. Praise be to the debit God for that one.

The weather Gods are another issue. We awoke to the sound of snowblowers this morning. Not having heard a weather report recently, I was pretty surprised, but figured that, by the time I went to work at 1 pm, my car would be clean and fine.

There was just one problem with such a theory: It never stopped snowing! It still hasn't. It is very pretty, even if cleaning off my car took 10 minutes. When I opened the car door, it looked like a cave in there, so dark from all the snow on it. Maybe this year Utah will break the trend and, though situated in a desert, not be in a drought situation.

So the football Gods, aka the BCS--a highly anticipated event for me each year, as I enjoy college football more than any other televised sporting event. What a letdown. Pitt never showed up to the Utah game, though it was cool to see a local team win big. And OU never showed up, giving USC the big W. Every time I turned around, USC had scored again. Jeepers. How boring for a championship game. Just proves that a playoff system is badly needed. When will they learn?

[Comments] (1) Stupidity in all its glory!: So today I noticed our soy candle has stamped on the side: "I named the candel Mia Nella because that is my daughter's name and it is her generation that will see the soy candle come full swing." News flash to her: This so-called "Soy Revolution" is not as prevalent/existent as she adamantly feels.

Next I encountered the telly. There was an ad for the California Culinary Art Institute--Le Cordon Bleu in San Fran. Who are they kidding?

As I went to wash my face I thought to myself: "Surely I am smarter than all of this." But then it hit me. As the water splashed my face, I realized that I was still wearing my glasses. I guess that takes me back to Square One.

I will be spending the 3-day weekend working. Friday night thru Sunday we are babysitting the redheads. Saturday morning I have to get my brother and sister-in-law to the airport by 5 am. Then Monday I am working. Studying will be performed as time makes itself known. Some break.

But life is generally good. The snow/rain/sun mixture of late has been fun, because it is not same old everyday. And every time something I don't like happens in class, I take a deep breath and remember that my days are finally numbered.

Stargazers: But mostly for Leonard and Susie. I never would have read this article if it weren't for our fun planetarium adventure!

Planned Parenthood: So we played mom and dad this weekend. The kids were well-behaved; the dogs were not. Actually the bigger dog, Nebo, is fine. The smaller dog, Jasmine, has detatchment issues, and was having a hard time coping without Erin around. She finally warmed up to me on Saturday, and that night slept under my blankets, signifying that she accepted me until Erin returned. And now I've left; she must be traumatized. My brother and sister-in-law went to Cancun for their "honeymoon" even though they have been married for 11 1/2 years. Better late than never.

I took them to the airport at 5 am Saturday. Then I came home and studied until about 8, then I showered and made breakfast before everyone woke up. I was proud of myself for studying and not feeling tired the rest of the day. We played Mario Party with the kids, watched The Muppets Take Manhattan. That DVD was a free prize in a cereal box; not bad. All I ever got out of cereal boxes growing up was disappointment at a toy that looked nothing like the toy on TV.

We also went to lunch and for ice cream at ColdStone. Susie and I then realized that those two redheads get more spoiled than our own children ever will. We also went to Logan's basketball game; unfortunately, they lost. Oh, and Ember and Susie played Parcheesi, which is apparently a game of Indian Royalty. At least it was before Parker Brothers got ahold of it.

Draper has some wierd local independent markets. One store is a local bodega called "Pirate-O's," wherein if you buy a parrot, you get a free pegleg. The other is a colorful little taco stand with cacti out front and is called "Guadalhonky's." I guess that's not so wierd; I mostly just like saying Guadalahonky.

Now it's back to work and school. How many days until April?

[Comments] (12) Never Say Never: No matter how impossible I think it is, my schedule each semester becomes more demanding than the last. School is school, but it is my extra-curricular activities that are really doing it to me these days.

I don't know if I ever mentioned that I recently changed jobs. I now work for Q Comm as an accountant in Orem. The downside is the 15 minute commute on a road filled with Utah County drivers. The upside, however, is working with nice people, having freedom and autonomy, the option to get extra hours, working holidays, and NOT working for a beaurocracy such as BYU. I'd rather not get into it more than that, as I am currently am in a good mood and would like to stay in a good mood. That and my soapbox is broken.

Tomorrow I start a community service program for VITA, which is the Volunteer Income Tax Association, run by none other than the IRS!

BYU runs the largest VITA lab in the nation, and for the next three months, I will be helping people file their taxes. Maybe seeing what other students make will remind me to be grateful for what I have. Although this project will require a lot of time, I am really looking forward to do it. It will be good practical experience, and help build confidence for having a side business one day doing personal income taxes for money! Move over, H&R Block!

I have three tax classes this semester, a business communications/HR type class, and advanced business law. A lot of the topics overlap, and I am struggling to keep all the rules straight in each class. The business law class is really boring and taught at 7 at night, but is supposed to be helpful in taking the CPA exam, so I am dealing with it.

But all this running around keeps me thin. It could be worse so I won't complain. This guy weighed more in the sixth grade than I do now! Sheesh.

I guess I should mention that we babysat Lily. It was good times, including watching Finding Nemo, a vibrating chair, cookies and milk (cookies for me, milk for Lily), and drool.

[Comments] (1) Expect the Unexpected: The "Code" identifies a personal casualty loss as one of the few losses an individual may claim on their tax return as a reduction in income, subject to certain monetary reductions.

The technical qualifications include that it must be sudden, unexpected, and unusual. I wonder if my sister's pop in visit qualifies.

Her husband had a sleep-over with his unmarried friends last night, so she called us last night at 8 pm to ask if she could crash on our couch. So I franctically did some dishes, made some juice, and welcomed our unexpected visitor. We stayed up too too late catching up on life, and I got up to make her breakfast this morning, as Susie turned down my offer to make her breakfast. I guess it all went ok, but I prefer more notice when guests are coming, especially if they are family.

I've never understood why a man would leave his wife for the "homeys," especially overnight. But I also got married at the ripe old age of 23, instead of 21. So maybe that phase of my life was already out of my system.

Today Susie and I went to lunch at Red Lobster, and I had the stone soup. It was gumbo with sausage, rice, and every type of fish one can conjure up. It was quite the smorgasbord, with the exception of the ahi. I have never been a fan, and found it an odd addition to this concoction. Afterward, we went to see National Treasure. The storyline was rather reminiscient of Brown's Da Vince Code, except that United States history was substituted for Catholicism. I prided myself on deciphering many clues before Nicholas Cage and Susie did.

This just in: The telly is on. Apparently the movie we are watching is brought to us by Chili's new spicy burger. Since when can a burger sponsor a network premiere?

[Comments] (12) Life's Lessons from the Passenger Seat: Today we had dinner at Grandma June's in Lehi. She made homemade pot pies that were really good. The kids wouldn't eat theirs so she tried to get us to eat the extras. I politely told her that if you shouldn't force children to eat food, then that rule applied to me as well.

My Grandma is obsessed with Coke, so I indulged and had one. It reminded me that I really dislike Coke. I imagine my dislike of Coke is similar to my imagined dislike of beer. It just tastes wierd to me. If it doesn't taste good, why deal with the unpleasant side effects?

My brothers' families and my little sister all came. Family dynamics are rather fun to watch. We had this whole conversation teasing my parents about what we all "claim" when they die; I personally found the conversation to be eerie, ill-timed, and trite. How could my almost 90 year-old Grandma have found any joy in such a conversation? Then the conversation turned to my brother-in-law talking about how my sister has a large bottom. He always says stuff like that and my sister just laughs. I can't help but think such talk causes wounds he can't see, but it's not my place to get involved. Rest assured I never say stuff like that to Susie--I just don't find that brand of "humor" to be funny.

At that point I went downstairs to be with the chilluns. They were playing mock court, and I got to be the judge. When it was my turn to be the plaintiff, I said the defendent, my three year-old niece, had me abducted by aliens. She didn't like that so we instead played hide n seek, one of my favorite games. I am not good at hiding anymore because Ember and Hannah always had to hide with me.

When I tired of the kids I listened to my oldest brother talk about their recent trip to Cancun. Even though my oldest brother is inactive, I have a lot of respect for him and his family. His red head children are very well-behaved, and he treats them strictly but fairly. He also gets down and plays with his kids a lot. He's a good role model for me, though I just have to turn the other cheek when, for instance, I housesit for him and discover the cabinet with every flavor schnopps you can imagine. I have actually confided in Susie that I would like to try some wine just to see what it tastes like, but have no desire to try beer. Susie thinks I should go for it on our cruise, but I am not so sure. What if I liked it? Where would that leave me? But now I am off topic.

Family dynamics. My sister bad-mouths her husband to me sometimes, and while they are newlyweds, I find it unhealthy. My dad does the same thing to my mom. But he has an excuse: Insanity. He gets worse and worse these days. Today some of the stuff he said made no sense at all, but I just smile and nod. Sometimes I try and imagine what he was like when my mom married him, but that depresses me.

My other brother's marriage is better; I never hear him and Ashley fight anymore. And their kids are slowly outgrowing their annoyingness. James, the five year-old, is in kindergarten and has anger management classes on the side because sometimes he honestly loses it. Ashley told me today they are done having children because she feels like her two children are four children, and they kind of are. She has done the math, and noted that when Hannah hits legal age, she'll only be 42 and they can then party. I feel they peaked way to soon in life, but those were their choices.

They are all coming to California for Thanksgiving to go to Disneyland. Susie and I are going to get season passes when we move, go every weekend, basically OD on Disney, and then we'll be so sick of it we won't need to renew our tickets for years. By then we will be ready for kids anyway, so we think. Unless our plans change in this fast-paced world of ours, as Joe noted. It'll give us a built-in date night every week.

The evening was fun. It's just interesting to me to see how people choose to live their lives. I consider myself fortunate to be the youngest; I got to watch all of my older siblings start families. I fully intend to learn from their mistakes. We'll see how well that goes; I'll keep you posted.

[Comments] (8) Things that make me puzzled: Watched Mr. Bush's little speech tonight. I cannot help but find many parallels between a children's playtime sandbox group and the US political arena. What I mean is, one side claps because Mr. Bush pronounced a word right, and the other side adamantly refuses to acknolwedge that they are even alive during such a feat. For all we know, the manequins at that Old Navy in SF that Sumana and her coworkers ransacked could have filled the seats of our donkey neighbors.

But what puzzles me more is Social Security. I for one am a cynic and never expect to see a penny of that money ever again. I become even more cynical when I think of my parents receiving my money when they so openly refused to support me growing up. As an aside, I have suppressed anger to my mother who gets her nails and hair done every Saturday yet had no money to put me through college.

So privitization of Social Security sounds like a nice program to me. It's just another 401(k), basically. Though I haven't fully investigated the idea, I am glad to have a President who recognizes the future calamity and wants to fix it NOW. Why the Democrats oppose this I don't understand. Is it simply because he is their "arch nemesis," like that bully that threw sand in your eyes when you were five, or am I missing something?

Of course, if the major body of Americans could handle saving their own money in the first place, the whole system wouldn't exist, and we would be left to our own designs. Having a bit of the Protestant ethic in me, I naturally save more than I spend, and wish everyone was responsible enough to take care of themselves without "Big Brother." But having spent the summer in LA, I realize the temptations of that new BMW now are way too tempting for many, even if it means living in a smelly rest home when they are eighty.

A final note: Does anyone else beside my wife cry at those silly OnStar commercials? It feels like the first "reality commercial" has made some headway with my wife.

The Early Bird Catches a Chair in the Testing Center: I am so glad that I am a morning person. Even though it's been a long week and today was Saturday, I got up and studied for my test, and dutifully took it at 10:00 when the testing center opened. I had a four hour time limit and technically didn't need to take it until 12 at the latest, but I felt ready and off I went, dragging my feet all the way there.

By noon I was about half-way done with the insanity, and noticed there wasn't a seat unoccupied. Well, by 1:00 I noticed about thirty individuals taking tests standing in the aisles. As my test was open Internal Revenue Code, that would not have been an option. Truly I felt blessed to be a morning person today. I had a test yesterday as well, meaning that so far this weekend I have put in seven hours in that wonderful building.

Every time I open our freezer I see a jar of coconut and I am tempted to use it in some creative way. Today I decided to make fried ice cream with it, but since tomorrow is Fast Sunday, I can't yet. Susie and I always start fasting after lunch on Saturday; that we we sleep through the worst of it and can eat the second we get home from church. So the fried ice cream will have to wait. But I did scoop the ice cream into spheres and place them back in the freezer in tupperwares, so all I have to do tomorrow is crush up cornflakes, boil the sauce, and dip the ice cream in hot oil.

Fried ice cream is one of my favorite desserts, so I really hope this try-at-home experiment works out.

In case I forget later, graduation is April 21 and 22. Anyone is invited (but not obligated) to attend, and while staying in Provo, guests of my convocations may stay at Casa Chadwick free of charge.

[Comments] (4) : Had my parents over for dinner tonight. We had tacos and razzleberry pie. At first I was a little nervous to have them come; I realized that at most family get togethers I spend most of my time with the kids. Thus, even though we frequent my parent's home often, I rarely visit with them. But we had some nice conversations, and Susie even sold my mom a ton of Pampered Chef stuff.

[Comments] (18) A Call to Arms: Disclaimer: This entry has nothing to do with Rachel's masterpiece-in-progress, nor the illustrations associated with such masterpiece.

With that said, I love the show "The Amazing Race." Though I was sad to see a train edge Kris and Jon out of the lead, I find the show fascinating. They are currently taking applications for The Amazing Race 8, which will be filmed during June 2005. The application notes that teams will now be composed of four, instead of two, and should be grouped into family units, more or less.

So, now the call to arms: Who wants to join my family of two? It promises to be nothing but good times, a free trip all over the world is involved, and, like Jonathan (Victoria's scary, abusive husband), it's a chance to learn about yourself, or something.

If we win, we get $1 Million to boot! They are coming to SLC for second round interviews. We just have to make a tape about ourselves. I am really interested in applying, just to say that I applied, since the timing is perfect (post-graduation, pre-job).

My sister-in-law was going to apply for Survivor, which I found odd, however. She won't now because you have to have a passport, and she isn't going to spend $80 just to apply. I reminded my brother that Survivor is pretty rigorous, and she would probably not be able to wear her "covenants" for a month, but it didn't phase him. In The Amazing Race, being scantily-clad is discouraged. But the passport thing was her hang up again.

I am glad to see that crummy has been resurrected from its slumber. We missed him.

: Stupid wireless connection

[Comments] (10) Mid-Semester Blues: Got some midterms back today. All above 90% so I can't complain. Since my last test ended Saturday, I haven't really done a thing. I hit the proverbial wall I suppose.

Voluteering in the tax lab has been quite the experience. Though most people have been amiable and grateful, there have been one or two interesting individuals. One guy wanted to deduct his $35K SUV for business purposes, even though he bought it in December and ceased his S-P in August. Hello! Did he honestly think it was legal? I think he did. hmm.

Then there are the others who enter legal information on their tax returns, but I can't help but think it is inherently wrong nonetheless. Yes, I am talking about EIC and other such credits. Some people are like 30, still in undergrad school, with three kids at home, and they get back like $5,000 that they never even put into the system. How can they honestly feel good about that? Oh well, I suppose I'll leave that one alone now before I get into trouble.

I went in early today and did our taxes. We owe about $1300 through no fault of our own. When Susie was unemployed, she had many jobs that withheld no tax and those added up. That and another job withheld about $500 too little, they have discovered. So through no fault of our own, the fuzz expects us to make timely quarterly pre-payments for the rest of our lives. Grr.

To get around this, we are going to get an IRA, so we can deduct it and get rid of these pre-payments. I don't mind paying the money at all; after all, we owe it and got to keep it for ourselves longer in interest-bearing accounts. But prepayments? We weren't committing tax evasion; heck, we weren't even trying tax avoidance. But substance over form proves otherwise. Oh well, we'll start a nest egg for a home down-payment that actually pays really good returns, so it's a blessing in disguise.

[Comments] (4) People Persons: Traversing the 15 is always an adventure. It rained from Cedar City on. I have honestly never seen it rain that hard in Utah. But luckily there were no accidents and, well, at least it wasn't snow.

Picture it: getting gas in Vegas. A lone French man approaches a Provoite at the pump. In limited English, he explains his dilemma. With no luck, his daughter comes to the aid, but unfortunately, her English is only slightly better than his. I try to explain that I am not from Vegas and don't know where their hotel is, but to no avail. I think the only English word they knew was casino. Nonetheless, I failed them both, and feel terrible about it.

Picture it: We stop off in Barstow around 9 pm at the local DQ. While Susie is in the bathroom, a woman approaches me and asks me where the hennigens is. Do I look like I work in a convenience mart?

Picture it: B-town, Saturday morning, 10 am, raining. A man is walking a dog while his wife is pouring beer in the garden. A woman approaches with a black satchel. She sees the dog, and approaches. She asks the man where the stray animals and children of the neighborhood reside. The man states that he is not from these parts and is pretty sure that there are no "stray children" in the hood. She asks the man about his hometown, and assumes this foreigner from Utah is a minister. She tells him she has no money, but eggs and meat in her satchel for strays. He tries to be polite and brush her aside, and she eventually leaves. Mom, you have weird neighbors.

The moral of these stories is the same: Wierd people naturally gravitate toward me.

A billboard in Vegas goes something like this: " Easier and faster than you ever thought." Who are they kidding?

Lastly, I have been trying to make sense of one of my coworkers. He is a 24 year-old divorcee with a two year-old who met a girl on who is also a 23 year-old divorcee with a two year-old. Their first date was three weeks ago. They got married yesterday afternoon by the justice of the peace, at 4:30, since he works until 4. His ex had a baby two weeks ago that is not his.

Then I stumbled upon this article, which I think partly makes sense of why Mormons can be like this: Divorce rates in red vs. blue states.

I'm not quite sure the cause-effect the author offers rings true to me. But I think his points have some interesting correlations.

[Comments] (5) Always the Guinea Pig; Never the Guinea: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Rachel is going to miss Sadie. She was good in the car; my old dog never behaved that well. But I did leave her leash on her in the cave for convenience, and while I was driving and Susie was sleeping, she chewed it into three pieces.

She also didn't like our pit stop for her in Cedar City. She just shivered; but she is a Utah dog now so I hope she can adjust. She enjoyed our small house for about two hours and then her new owners came. I was hoping to keep her for the week and take her up to SLC on Saturday, but I suppose this was for the best.

Sadie was terrified of the kids (rightly so with one of them) and wouldn't leave me or Susie. After about 30 minutes she warmed up sufficiently to put her back in the cave and ship her off on the last leg of the journey. It made me cry, and I've spent an equivalent of 10 days with the mutt.

I hope they treat her well. Their oldest daughter, Megan, has a tendency to wander off; I would feel so guilty if they let Sadie do that. Megan randomly shows up and my brother's house at all hours of the day, and just invites herself in and goes through stuff. She started coloring in Susie's scripture journal last night as well. And Susie wonders why I am not ready to have kids. I've been told by Ashley (my sis-in-law) that when she takes Megan home, the dad doesn't leave the couch, so Megan invariably comes back over. But the mother was very nice, so I have high hopes for Sadie. And if they mistreat her, well, I know where they live.

Needless to say, I am not going through that ordeal ever again. Now I understand why a mother, only seeing a child for hours before giving it up for adoption, may never get over it. I hope that is one arena that I never have to deal with; so much red tape, and if you adopt, there is no guarantee that some jerk liberal judge won't give the child back to its "mother."

Did Rachel's taxes this weekend. Finished my own as well. I never got to relay the good news: After much deliberation, I reduced our total tax liability from $1300 to $650! Through getting an IRA and finding a Utah state secret deduction, we really showed the IRS who's who and what's what. FYI--In Utah, post-tax insurance premiums are deductible.

I miss Bakersfield already. It is quite pleasant there in February. Here, well, still no sign of the sun in weeks. Is it April yet?

[Comments] (1) Late: Even though Lent has already started, I was thinking of making a goal not to eat out until Easter. Susie and I don't eat out much, but honestly, it adds up quick. I'm interested to see how much the savings would be.

I got my start date: July 27, 2005. Our days here are finally numbered.

[Comments] (12) When Life hands you moldy bread, make dinner: Our Newsweek came today. It's two days late, and isn't stapled together, so it's a looseleaf hodgepodge of colored paper, at best. That's Democrats for ya!

Though right now I rather welcome the liberal bias found therein. On the way home from Califoria last week, I listened to The O'Reilly Factor, Sean Hannity, and Dr. Laura Schlesing-whatever the whole way home, as I am currently fed up with Top 40 Radio, and Susie won't let me listen to country music in my own car.

We went up to see my mum today, as Rachel would say. She sat and talked with us the whole time, took us to Costco, bought us Chinese food (even the yummy shrimp cooked in an unidentified white sauce with walnuts that was amazing), and bought pie for dessert. It was a pleasant surprise. If anyone knows what white sauce I speak of, let me know.

I also got a cool brush from her for my laptop screen. I've been waiting for this to be invented. Today was a great day--two thumbs up. Speaking of thumbs up, tomorrow are the academy awards, and I don't care.

[Comments] (9) This one goes out to all the techies: So what is all the hype with the new Internet browser Firefox? Does anyone out there use it? How do it you get it? Complaints? Compliments? I am curious.

[Comments] (4) Just for the record: The testing center. Have you ever seen the people with their open book/open note tests? If so, you may have seen me. Yes, I am one of those. I have spent over 6 hours in that beloved building this past week. And after every test it's the same: two or three people sitting around me will lean over as I am packing up to leave and say "It sure must be nice not to memorize anything and have it all be open book."

For the record, it's not true. We don't memorize it because the tax and regulatory laws change all the time. So it's more valuable for us to know where to look it up. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

For starters, picking a place to sit is problematic. I need at least two desks, which can be hard if I go to the testing center at the wrong time. Open book means two volumes of code, a textbook, calculator, and piles and piles of notes. And all of it is supposed to fit on one of those small desks? No way Jose.

Then there's the problem of difficulty level. If it's open note, then the test is not going to be mere regurgitation. It will require going well beyond the book, including gasp application of principles learned (something many people can't quite comprehend). So next time you see them, sigh for them and don't say anything.

As an aside, the kid next to me was obviously saying a prayer when he sat down. I must be rather cynical as I prepare to leave this university; I gave up on that practice long ago.

On a completely new tangent, I was thawing chicken for dinner last night. I was going to bread the chicken with bread crumbs (hence the term breading) but instead used coconut. The chicken wasn't very flavorful, but once I melted raspberry preserves to drizzle on top of it and added mango chutney on the side, it was a unique dining experience, as Susie said.

On the food topic, I called my grandma to ask if we could visit her tomorrow afternoon. I said I had a test in the morning, so I couldn't make it before three. She said that was fine, but was put out nonetheless that it was "too late for lunch, and too early for dinner." I promised her we could stay and take her to dinner, and she seemed ok with that. I can't wait until I am a grandma and spoil grandkids. Oh wait....

[Comments] (1) Death and Taxes: Susie and I are currently finalizing our IRA papers. Now Susie's all freaking out about contingent beneficiaries if we both die. My mom is cosigned on my credit union CD and money market, which is where all of our money is anyway.

But a good question has arisen. We now have a $3,000 IRA and another couple thousand dollars of petty cash in our Wells Fargo account. Since we really own nothing of value, we don't have a will. So if we were to die together (Susie's dream), then who gets that money, and how? And if a train leaves Wellington going fifty miles per hour at two o' clock...

Farmer's Daughter: My mom was at Grandma's house when we got there. We went out to Cedar Valley to the old ranchhouse where the Mexicans lived in the summer. The abandoned house has a cellar full of beer cans and shotgun shells, and the interior has paintgun spots all over it. My grandma remembers making sandwiches out there for the workers, and said she slept out there one night, and that was enough. To keep the mice out of bed, the beds were propped up on cans that the mice couldn't climb. We also went to the ranchhouse and surveyed the wheat coming in.

We passed Eagle Mountain on the way out. Whatever possessed people to live out there is beyond me. You might as well be commuting from Mexico as from there, though the air sure is clear out there. We could see the smog covering Provo from there, and I dreaded coming home.

Grandma took us to IHOP for dinner, and she also went there for breakfast with my cousin and her husband. She likes their chocolate malts, so there you have it. It was neat to learn more about my history today.

[Comments] (2) Good News/Bad News: I'm up to my ears in tax returns. And they extended the VITA lab two more weeks until the end of March. The IRS should give me some sort of tax amnesty clause for this "act of charity." Though a lady of Tuesday said "God bless you" to me after she was done e-filing. I hope God will bless me on my Section 318 attribution test this weekend.

On another tangent, my niece told me on Sunday she can't wait until we move. That made me sad, until she explained that she wants to come visit me at Disneyland. We're getting annual passes for our first year out there, so come one, come all, and take advantage of our hospitality of free parking and 15% off Disney stuff with our passes.

On yet another tangent, the pretzel jell-o was a flop.

[Comments] (4) March Madness: A whole week of nice weather is now gone. It's so cold outside. March in Utah is such a tease.

Last weekend I taught my five year-old niece Ember her multiplication tables. Today my sister-in-law said that she does them every day now. Thus begins the makings of a good accountant.

I got a 99 on my individual tax test; it would have been 100, but I didn't know that a back-hoe was five year property, and I classified it as seven year property. Yeah, like I memorized the 70+ depreciation class tables. Oh well; I at least feel more confident in doing VITA with that grade.

Last night was fun. All of Susie's cousins came over for dinner. Susie made brocoli chicken casserole, and I made spinach salad. Dinner conversation included but was not limited to the followinng topics:

Let the good times roll.

[Comments] (5) The Curse of the Leprechaun: Ever since Green Day, life has been full of interesting surprises. For example, I woke up this morning to snow. I thought today was the first day of spring. What a cruel prank.

The Dreamweaver has also been visiting me a lot lately; last Thursday night I had a dream that I was walking Gretel on a Santa Barbara-esque type of ferry pier. Then a policeman stopped me to inform me that I couldn't go to the end of the pier, as Susie had been shot and killed down there. Apparently Leonard did it, because he said Susie was better off dead than with me. I sat down and cried while Gretel licked my face; when I awoke, and reached over in bed and pinched Susie's bum, just to make sure she was there. It was sad.

Last night we went to the adult session of Stake Conference, as we were informed that there would be root beer floats afterward. Well, there wasn't. I'd say the ward should get together and egg the kid's house in charge of the whole thing, but since only about 5 couples from our ward even went to the meeting, it wouldn't be quite the rumble. Flaky people drive me crazy. If you say you'll do something, do it. Who raised these people anyway?

The one shining ray of hope in all of this came as I left the testing center yesterday morning, having frequented the building twice this week. I only have one test left in that building. Period. Wow. Break out the champagne!

[Comments] (3) Legally Blonde: Last night in Business Law, the topic of discussion was employment law. Basically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, otherwise known as Title VII, gives protected class status to seven groups of individuals, including race, color, age, disability, gender, religion, and national origin. As a white male, I am not a protected class, per se. But that's not the most disturbing part. As a blonde, I am discriminated against all the time; where's the protected class in that?

Each day we also have a classmate share an ethical thought. Yesterday's quote was astute and hit me pretty hard: "Is it ethical to do the right thing for the wrong reason?" For example, all of my VITA hours aren't necessarily for the betterment of society, but to further my skill base. So is it unethical to do service (as there is normally an alterior motive to simply serving others)?

And another question: Why do pessimists refuse to accept what they are and always say they are simply realists?

[Comments] (6) The Bottom of the Ninth: Today I filled out an exit survey from the Marriott School, and next Tuesday I have my check-out meeting with one of my professors, Dr. Gardner (otherwise known as "The Silver Fox"). The end is here, and it is finally my turn to vent a few frustrations to a facutly member. For example, I get to pick my worst three classes in the program and say why I think they are a complete waste of time. I am excited; I only had three I didn't like, so the system works well. Incidentally, none of them were accounting classes, but were generic required business classes.

Easter was great. Friday we watched the rain turn to snow as we went up the highway from Heber to Park City. I was nervous that the condo would be cold, but the heat was actually on and running. The only bummer was the dirty hole on the patio where the hot tub used to be. There was also a note on the table that simply said "No hot water." Thank goodness it was only a trick. The Easter beagle visited Susie early and gave her The Incredibles and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.

Jodi and Franco joined us for the night in Park City. Saturday morning the sun came out and, thanks to all the new snow, shone throughout the condo at six am, waking us all up earlier than expected. Now I know how a deer in headlights feels.

Easter Sunday was spent at mom and dad's. We had an egg hunt with the kids. My mom has a rule that everyone who doesn't have kids is still a kid, so Susie and I and Jodi and Franco all participated in the egg hunt as well. As I did most of the hiding, however, it wasn't quite as exciting. But I still had fun. We watched our new Charlie Brown movie with the kids. For some reason, all the kids think that Peppermint Patty is a boy. I don't get it. Sure, Marcy calls her "Sir" all the time, and she does have a deeper voice than the other girls, but why do they think she's a boy? She totally has a crush on Charlie Brown, anyway, but they may be too young to see it. I don't remember thinking Peppermint Patty was a boy as a kid; course, I don't recall being a four year-old either.

Back to the grind today. Went grocery shopping, which I've decided is hard work. For some reason it takes me like an hour to buy twenty things, and takes quite the willpower not to buy so many goodies. But today was successful; instead of half-off Easter candy, I bought kiwis and strawberries.

[Comments] (7) April Fool: My dad turns 63 today. For his party tonight, we are getting him the standard gift: Coconut Joy ice cream from the creams. My family thinks it's unfair that I always get to give him his favorite gift. They probably don't know that, for a gallon of ice cream, I could get a tank of gas for the same price. It's pricey. I don't know how we'll get it to him next year, though.

I've decided that there must be an Irvine, TX. At least four people have come up to me this last week to ask if I am excited to move to Texas. I said I would be if I knew I was moving there. When I explain that I am moving to California, they tell me that I am moving to Texas. Who really knows, maybe I am moving to Orange County, Texas. Surprise!

Been reading Newsweek, which is mostly about Terri Schiavo. So apparently the Catholic church is anti-birth control, death penalty, and ending life. It seems that Catholics have a list of rules longer than my own religion's; so the difference between Mormons and Catholics seems to be that, while the former actually follow such rules, the latter don't take the Vatican seriously at all. Going back to Terri, I think less focus should be on Congress meddling in personal affairs and use her brain damage as a reminder to young girls just how dangerous eating disorders can be. Without revealing my own opinion on the issue, according to typical stereotypes, I suppose I would be classified as an athiest lefty.

VITA has come and gone, leaving me continually amazed at people's inability to mismanage money. For example, my brother-in-law wants my sister to go back to school (she quit last year after acquiring her associates). But it's not so she can get a degree; it's for the tax deduction. They got all of their taxes back, thanks to the LLC, but when I tried to explain to him that a 20% credit is hardly worth the tuition, he zoned out. Then there is the "let's take advantage of college students" mentality. So many people who sold satellites and pest control over the summer were shocked that they owe taxes, because their employer treated them as an independent contractor. So not only did they owe federal and state, but SE tax. In essence, the business owner screwed them at a flat 7.45%. Word to the wise: tell your employer you'll rat him out to the IRS if they treat you this way.

I'm glad to see the sun is finally out today, and the snow will hopefully be confined to the mountains until I no longer reside here. Today is a day of errands: payed the taxes, bought our shore excursions for our cruise (which kicks off in 30 thirty days), reinvested second quarter dividends, and mailed off graduation announcements (which kicks off in 21 days)!

In closing: I can say Susie's phone number with my eyes closed!

[Comments] (2) Frustration: Last Friday I cleaned the house, which for me constitutes a 2-3 hour commitment, even though our apartment is so small. I like to rearrange a lot. I suppose it's because it makes my life seem less dull. But our apartment is so small, I can't really change anything, which is starting to get on my nerves. I'm stuck with the same "look and feel" to this place until July. And I'm not even sure if it's fung shei or not.

On the upside, I got out of my evening class tonight and it was still light outside. And tomorrow's supposed to hit 70! It's about time.

I have a final tomorrow, and then I can wash the testing center right out of my hair.

I was proud of myself for "watching" all 10 hours of conference last weekend (note I didn't say listen). I'm not a visual person so it's usually difficult for me. We spent the weekend at Casa Chadwick, and it was a lot of fun to be there on a weekend when my dad felt well enough to do stuff with me. We went to priesthood together and to the Soup Kitchen as well. We saw Finding Neverland, which, despite its predictability, was really good. The scene where he dances with a bear and clowns creeped me out, but the rest was really neat.

We also spent a lot of time with Jodi and Franco, since they live 5 minutes from mom and dad, and will soon live with them again. I kept teasing them that we were sleeping in their room, as they will be moving back in May. We have all these inside jokes together now, and I'll miss that when we move. As a side note, I also got to witness them fight with my mom about all the money they owe her. I'll have to heavily weigh the pros and cons to lending children money.

[Comments] (7) The Winds of Change: Some winds are favorable; some are not.

Unfavorable: For some reason Provo city has changed their whole auto traffic infrastructure. Now all the left turn green arrows come after the thru traffic has gone, whereas it used to be before. It's taking a while to get used to it, and quite a lot of horn honking, I might add.

Favorable: Today I volunteered at the FBLA state competition, just like I do every year. It always brings back memories of when I competed. My co-judge today was a really neat guy. Normally I get stuck judging with these old ladies and we never see eye to eye. So this was a refreshing change. We agreed on first place after we heard her; we didn't really even need to hear the other kids. My thank you gift for judging this year were official FBLA socks!

I was also thinking about how much fun it is to be a kid. Life is full of validating experiences, ie piano competitions with free dinner afterward, competing in FBLA to go to Nationals, winning at Nationals, etc. No one claps when I vacuum, do the dishes, make dinner, get an A on a test, get a job, etc. I miss those days of yore.

All that being said, we are still waiting for the winds of spring to really kick in.

[Comments] (7) Musings in A: Hmm. Sometimes my religion makes me want to scream.

I got a call from our travel agent about our cruise, which sails in just 18 days!! We have been upgraded from a 4A (interior stateroom) to a 7A (balcony with an obstructed view)!! YAY! I wonder just how obstructed this view is, or if there is enough space on the balcony to catch some rays in privacy. No matter; I'm excited.

Over this past semester, I have noticed in talking with many of my colleagues a repeated theme: Married women know nothing about money matters. To prove this hypothesis, I have purposely brought up the subject in conversations lately, and the findings are bleak. My colleagues (90% male) all pay the bills, invest the funds, do the taxes, even though for many of them, the woman is the breadwinner at the present.

I don't get it. Susie is very involved in our finances. She knows how much money we have, where it is, how to properly fill out a check, pay off a credit card bill, etc. I just don't get it. One friend noted that it's easier to say no to his wife's wants if he's in charge. I refuse to concur. Susie knows our present circumstance and future plans, so she can say no to herself. Incidentally, I never say no to Susie, but probably say no to myself on a daily basis. It must just be one of those toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe things.

In closing, the tax man cometh Friday.

[Comments] (1) Come One, Come All!: Though we don't know where we are living yet in the OC, we are currently taking visitors at Casa Chadwick for the following event.

Susie and I are very excited about this. I have already convinced my Chinese friend (Zhen), who will be in LA for the summer, to come.

[Comments] (7) Techno Geek: I have officially entered the 21st century: I sold an item on! It was a momentous occasion, including lowballing the price and highballing the competition. We'll see if I really get paid or not (I am still rather skeptical of the whole eBay scene myself). But an unneeded textbook on business law that cost as much as it did deserves to live out the remainder of its days in the likes of Detroit, MI. Yeah, right. It will probably see the world before the next edition comes out. Oh that I were a textbook.

It's wierd; I feel as though I should call the buyer and talk to her about the sale, ya know, give it a customer service angle. I am not used to the faceless sale yet. With that said, I don't think I would sell my personalty online.

Took my second to last test this morning, and got a 97! Only one more test covering the basics of liquidations, stock distributions and the oh-so-fun exceptions of 305(b) and 306, and voila, life moves on.

But "school" isn't over yet. I signed up for my first set of CPA review classes, which start in May. Because there are four parts to the exam, it will be at least a year before I can bid adieu to "school" and tests. Oh well, I guess that means I've got another year before I have to grow up, then.

We got a new bishop yesterday. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. I'll probably never know the new one, as we are moving in July. That is, we are moving if we can ever find a friggin place to move in to. And I thought apartment hunting in Provo was difficult.

Sumana: Let me know your innermost hopes and desires for your Utah experience, so I can tailor it to your needs.

[Comments] (3) Woo-Hoo!:

No more classes, no more books

No more teacher's dirty looks!

It's over. Pinch me. It's over.

[Comments] (4) One Moment in Time: It was a very eventful weekend. I enjoy vacations, even if I didn't go anywhere. But it always leaves me wondering how time can go by so fast on such weekends as these and yet so slow during an 8-5 work shift, or during a certain classes at my now alma mater. Highlights of the weekend are as follows:

All in all, it was a weekend of making the impossible possible.

[Comments] (1) The Laughter of God: Watched "The Amazing Race" last night. All was in good form. Rob, who tries to play the game like "Survivor," tried to trick the old couple by asking them if they got on the earlier flight to Istanbul. There was no earlier flight; Rob was just messing with their heads.

Ha! There was an earlier flight, and thanks to him, all the teams moved in front of him except for Ron & Kelly (who I don't like anyway), because he broke his alliance with them.

Though I shouldn't care if they lose, it made me smile to see him get a taste of his own medicine. I guess if he wins the race or not is really irrelevant. According to Sumana, Susie, and Dante, a traitorous, diabolical mind like his is destined for the seventh layer of hell, which is rumored to be the "refried beans" layer anyway.

We leave for California this afternoon. I hope it is smooth sailing (literally) and we can find a place to live. I got my CPA exam CD's for two parts of the exam yesterday, so now I have something to do in the car. Hope I can muster the energy to study on vacation!

We're coming Tyler!

[Comments] (2) Good Times: We found a place to live! It all started by visiting Orange and Tustin. Both places, while very cheap, are run down and slightly scary. Orange especially. We would be in a four plex above two cohabitating mentally challenged individuals. We were told they were in a scary neighborhood. Well, the neighborhood was very very nice. It was the apartment itself that was scary. We opted out.

Next we went to South Coast Plaza so Susie could see my office. We ate there at a soup and bread bowl place. The last apartment complex before I gave up on life was the Avalon in Costa Mesa, two miles from the office, and about 10 miles from Uncle Justin's. Wow. They were cheap AND nice! We didn't think it was possible. We get a garage, and are 30 seconds from the 405 and the 55. We quickly signed, and are locked into an apartment. We both feel good of it.

Now we can relax tomorrow. So far we've gone to my nephew Justin's baseball game, played a bunch of games with Tyler, and studied for the CPA exam. I've done seven of the 50+ lectures on regulations alone. It's going to be a long year studying for this test.

I got a 4.00 on my last semester at BYU. With all my grades in, that means I am officially allowed to graduate now. My final GPA was a 3.91! Could have (and should have) been higher, but oh well. Right now I am watching the angels beat the twins with my nephew Chad. Two more days until our cruise!!!

[Comments] (6) "Back in the Saddle" or "Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place": Hmm. I finally have time to catch up. Here goes:

Our last night in California was pleasant. We went to a restaurant called "Sun-dried Tomatoes" for dinner in San Juan Capistrano. It was quaint. Susie had a really yummy pasta with sun-dried tomato sauce. I wanted that too, but decided I'd taste Susie's and get something different. So I went for the shrimp chipotle pasta salad. After eating about half of it, I realized there was no pasta in it; I think they gave me the shrimp chipotle garden salad by mistake. But I ate it nonetheless.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we watched Hotel Rwanda that night. I really enjoyed the movie. It was an eye-opener into another culture for me. I had never thought about the wants and expectations of the Hutu and Tutsi people before, expecially regarding the UN, foreign intervention, etc. Because of lack of involvement, over 1 million Tutsi people were killed. They waited for someone, anyone, to come, but no one ever did. Why didn't anyone ever come? I'm not quite sure, but I think I blame it on the incompetence of a certain international organization as well as Rwanda's lack of fossil fuels.

The cruise. Susie recapped it nicely; so instead of rehashing it, I'd like to instead write a user's guide to cruising. It could either be called "cruising for a bruising" or "you don't drink?"

  1. If you are a teetotaler, keep it to yourself. Our dinner company was a couple about our age. The husband could not believe that I don't drink. "But you are on a boat" he'd say over and over, as if that had anything to do with it. I would not do it on a boat, I would not do it in the moat. The wife asked if it was because I am Christian. Rather than get into a whole thing, I simply said yes.

  2. If you do drink, be prepared to lose your shirt. It is $6.25 a drink, except from like 7 am to 10 am, when they have the morning special for like $4 or something. It all just goes on your room bill until the end of the trip, like room service. Gambling is done the same way. I would really liked to have seen some people's bills at the end of the trip.

  3. Get an ocean view. Or, take your chances of being upgraded for free, like we were. It was so relaxing to listen to the ocean, be able to wake up to the sun rise, to read my scriptues on the balcony every morning. The only downside was that we had to close the door every time George from next door needed to smoke.

  4. Be prepared to see lots of boobs. The entire boat was done in some sort of Renaissance facade, and everyone was nakie because, well, it's art, or so I'm told. The supper club had a statue of David in it for the ladies I suppose. It got old. They should redo the ship with some sort of ocean motif, in my opinion.

  5. Go to at least one art auction, just for kicks and giggles. The auctioneer is a riot, and he doesn't even know it. He is the Wal-Mart of the art world, but refuses to understand this concept. He sells bulk art for quite cheap to second-rate citizens on a cruise ship. And he loves to brag that his art gallery does more business that Christy's. Well of course he does. Christy's is exclusive. But I am sure nothing goes for under $50K there. This guy's stuff was for a few hundred. It's funny to watch him spend 20 minutes talking about each piece only for no one to bid on it. But there is free champagne at the art shows, and he does give out art tips. For example, Itzchak Tarkay is the next Chaggal, while Peter Max is the next Picasso. So hop on the bandwagon fast if you want some sweet appreciation action. So he says. I didn't care for their stuff. He kept saying his paintings were given away as a steal, but I'm not quite so sure how liquid the art market is, so I chose not to invest. I'll have to investigate.

  6. Don't sit at the late sitting. Otherwise dessert isn't over until 10 pm, which means the entire thing is going straight to your thighs. We switched to the early seating, which is more fun anyway, because that's when all the old people eat, and they are far more entertaining that people our age. Our late seating dinner couple would fight in front of us, which usually ended in the husband leaving halfway through dinner to hit the bar. But the old couples would regale us with stories of Moses and Abraham and all the other plantation workers.

  7. Shore excursions can be fun. Pick ones that last all day. Otherwise you spend the other half of the day wandering around Puerto Villarta being called such things as Amigo, Honeymooner, or Romeo. Everyone wants to take advantage of you. So stick with the shore excursions. All the food is safe on those.

  8. There is no word for price tag in Spanish. So don't bother looking for price tags. Buying something is an art. If you want to inquire into something's cost, don't. Otherwise you'll enter the "I got screwed" zone. If you do decide to purchase something, be prepared to dicker. It's kinda fun to mess with them if you really have no intention to buy; on the other hand, they'll follow you for three blocks trying to seal the deal. Thus, we only bought Mexican vanilla and a bowl with chili peppers painted on it.

  9. Don't make the same mistake that I did about "cruise people." I thought the entire boat would be filled with adonis bodies that are buff and ruddy and don't really exist in nature, that I would feel fat and out of shape, and more or less ashamed to be seen with my shirt off. On the contrary. I was the most physically fit person on the boat. For some reason, cruise people are overweight and covered in tattoos. They don't work out (so I had the gym to myself most days, which was heavenly), and they don't care. So the sun-bathing factor is a Catch 22: you don't need to feel self conscious, because chances are you are the adonis on the boat; however, you may need to burn your eyes by the end of the week.

  10. Wear sunscreen. Neither Susie nor I got burned, meaning that we didn't have to look like lobsters at dinner.

  11. Do breakfast buffet style. They have the same exact food as in the dining room, but you can eat it by yourself while catching some rays. Only use the dining room for lunch and dinner.

  12. The best foods I would suggest to try included: Pumpkin Soup, Strawberry Bisque, Lobster Bisque, Sushi, Pineapple Sherbet, Lobster Tail, Escargots en brochette, anything with berries in it, Tomato Fennel soup, and the lunch time build your own burger with extra guacamole.

  13. Don't get sick. If you think you might (and I am not talking seasick) bring your medicine cabinet with you. The infirmary costs $60 to see a doctor, even with the travel insurance. A bottle of cough syrup cost me $8 while the Sudafed was $6. Sudafed doesn't work on me, so that investment was a complete joke. Also, if you think you might get the flu, as I did, wear pants and a sweatshirt. I got the chills in the Sierra Madres, and the bus was freezing anyway. So everytime we stopped, I would stand out in the sun amidst the mango trees to warm up while the tour did their thing. Bad idea. I gave myself heat exhaustion; I literally couldn't get my body temperature down. So when we finally got back onboard the boat that night, I had to strip and have Susie apply a cold washcloth to my person. So don't get sick; and if you do, come prepared.

  14. If you do get sick, you can always lay in bed with your balcony door open and watch teevee, like I did. It was a blast from the past. Susie and I watched "Rocky and Bullwinkle." Hence why I am giving every title two options, cuz that's how Rocky and Bullwinkle do it. I have decided that show has something to do with the Red Scare, but I haven't linked it all together in my mind yet.

  15. If you get fogged out of Mazatlan for an hour like we did, do NOT go out on deck. I think the boat's foghorn did some serious damage to my ears.

  16. The cruise director will try and be funny. He's not; but you can humor him and be nice anyway. However, if you are into fifth grade potty humor, he might just become your mentor.

  17. There is a new cuss word in my mind: TIPS. We prepaid our tips, but don't be fooled. Such tips do not include the maitre'd, shore excursion guides, taxi drivers, or your next door neighbors on the cruise, for that matter. What a joke. Since when you do have to tip a cab driver if you don't have luggage with you? I think the scriptures forsaw our day and this pathetic attempt to overtip us "Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing...." Be tip smart.

  18. Don't check luggage. You can get off the boat first!

  19. Love Cabo, hate Puerto Villarta. It's ok.

    That's it for now. Hope this helps someone somewhere. Stay tuned until next time for "Moving Mania" or "The Rain in Moab."

[Comments] (8) The Summer of John: It's been a great weekend. Friday night Jodi and Franko came to sleep over so we could leave Saturday morning at 4 am for Moab. We got there about 8 and went straight to hike Delicate Arch, which is an 1.5 mile hike straight up slickrock, which means no shade. So after eating breakfast up there and applying generous amounts of sunscreen to our faces, we began the trek. It's a good hike to do in the morning before it gets too hot, but because it's Moab in May, it already was hot. Delicate Arch is the famous arch that is on the UT license plates, and is really worth the hike.

The whole up, down, and taking pictures there, took about 3 hours. I felt semi-proud of myself on the hike, but not fully satisfied as I watched these large groups of 80 year-women hike to the arch. If they could do it, why was I sweating so much? Maybe I'll just have to go back in 60 years and try it again.

By then it was about 11:00, and since we felt we'd already put in a whole day, we left to go check into our camp site. I think Moad may have invented the campsite; they have the system down pat. For only $24, the four of us got a camp spot for both our tents right next to the showers and toilets. The place also had a pool and three hot tubs for us to drown our heat and sunscreen in. After rejuvenating, we tried the park again.

In the afternoon we hit the Windows section, Double Arch, Skyline Arch, and Sand Dune Arch. Sand Dune Arch is between two sandstone fins, so it is in the shade about 23 hours a day. Jodi, Franko, and I climbed on top of it (about 30 feet high) for some cool pictures. It was hard to get up. There was a wind tunnel that ran up the crevice we climbed up, and it shot sand straight into my face and mouth. So I got a free "sand"wich (pause for laughter from the audience). On the way down Jodi ripped her back pant pocket completely to shreds. Good thing it was only the pocket and not the pants at least. I remember climbing on top of the arch as a boy scout about 10 years ago, and we would jump off into the sand. None of us dared; kids do the darndest things. But since my teenage Superman complex has worn off, we opted to climb back down.

That night we cheated and used a super-log to light the fire for our weenie and Starburst roast. Then, as soon as the sun went down at 9 pm, we hit the hay. I didn't think I'd be able to sleep, because of the heat. But it was actually cooler than our third floor apartment in Happy Valley, so I slept very comfortably. Another nice thing about these campsite places is that you don't have to worry about sleeping over a sagebrush.

We awoke promptly at 6 am the next morning to do it all again. This time we hit Devils Garden, which, if you do the whole 7.2-mile loop, takes you by 8 arches. We hit Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, and eventually made it to Landscape Arch one mile into the hike. That was a really cool arch. A big chunk of it fell off about 15 years ago, so now they won't let you sit under it anymore. The spectators on that fateful day in 1991 heard what they thought was thunder and ran for cover. No one was injured, and one rather foresightful individual took pics.

Then the morning "stroll" turned into a real hike. Up, up, up we went through a narrow canyon and happened upon Wall Arch halfway up. Then it was up some more until we hit both Navajo and Partition Arch. Partition Arch was amazing. It is on the cliff north of Landscape Arch, and through it is an awesome view of the whole valley. The wind whips up there pretty furiously, so it cooled us down after our long upward ascent. I wish words could describe the view and feeling up there. Maybe pics will; they will be developed tomorrow.

Next we got to walk atop the sand fin, while the valley hundreds of feet below was forgotten, or at least mostly. The wind was strong up there, and while the view was breathtaking, I was rather glad when that cliff descended into a higher valley. I would have kissed the sand, but by now it was 10 am and rather hot. By 10:30 we hit Double O Arch and the Dark Angel. Double O Arch was cool. It was one arch on top of another. I tried to climb the first for a pic between the two arches, but halfway up I realized Susie and I would have a hard time coming down, so we settled for pictures under the first arch, instead of above it.

At this point you can either backtrack the whole way home or take the "primitive trail" home. We took the primitive loop, even though it adds a whole mile to the trip and is supposedly not for the faint of heart. It was a nice way home, because we got to see another arch, Private Arch, and the trail wasn't nearly so congested. As we started, we realized Jodi had drank all her water, so it was a good thing I brought extra. As an aside, I am a prepared hiker, even if I just wore a backpack with water bottles, a camera, sunscreen, and food in it. My sister and her sophisticated husband had their fancy-smancy camelbags, but nothing else. Plus they ate sunflower seeds the whole trip, so it's no wonder they were so thirsty. Some people started the trail much later in the day than us with nothing more than a bottle of Dasani in hand. I sincerely hope they survive. I, however, take enough to see me through two days. Sure it's a little heavy at times, but is worth it to me. I guess maybe I am prepared to be a dad--I'll be able to successfully pack a diaper bag because I'll expect all of the "unexpected" events of the day. But I digress....

Back to primitive trail. I have no idea why it is called this. The trail was in no way primitive; maybe it's a direct knock on its trespassers. It's a mystery. But it was awesome. We jumped from slickrock to slickrock over caverns, and basically got to make our own trails sometimes to get to the next rock cairn. I love doing stuff like that. I'd say it's because I'm a nonconformist, but that would be a lie. I guess it's a form of problem solving, and I love that stuff. The trail eventually leveled off and we walked down a wash for a ways, and eventually made our way through very soft, but very hot sand back to the car. The whole journey was 5 hours. In essence, it was 5 of the neatest hours of my life. We never did that loop as scouts (the leaders would have killed over).

We ate at Hogi Yogi and then came home. It's a pleasant 4-hour drive. This adventure has got me all excited to go camping. Too bad we are moving soon. I mean, Cal as places to go, but honestly, Utah is the epitome of camping. Maybe we'll make it to Zions or Bryce another weekend.

I have been studying like crazy for the CPA exam, and still have yet to catch up for not studying on the cruise. Of the four parts, I've opted to study Regulation and Financial Accounting first. Friday was the first day I felt I actually understand and digested all I learned. Hopefully it's a breakthrough, as I must have all parts passed by the time I hit my one year anniversary with EY. Plus, they won't reimburse me the $700 until all parts are passed. Wish me luck!

[Comments] (4) Better Late Than Pregnant: Grandma Richardson sent me a graduation card and gift today. Whoever sees her next, please thank her for me. I'll have to make her a card, but my "scrappy" sense is all but shot right now, as Susie and I scrapped our cruise pictures all night, and I still have Moab to do.

My start date is now July 6, meaning that we plan on leaving the last week of June now. Which also means that we get out of the heat faster--YAY!

For Memorial Day weekend, we are going to SLC to see Brynn Whitney's play tonight, and then tomorrow my niece Hannah and nephew James are dancing in a mall (Ember should be dancing too, but she told her mom she won't). If I have a child that shy Susie will have to deal with him/her, as the trait will be Susie's anyway. Then Monday we are going to open up the cabin for the season. It should be good times!

[Comments] (5) Can't Get No Satisfaction: Tried to study for CPA today. They kicked me out of the computer lab for the devotional (they've never done that the previous Tuesdays). Then they had a fire drill this afternoon. By that point I'd had it, and went to study in the Tanner Building. Well, in there I just run into too many old acquaintances. But I still managed to finish the section of SEC Acts of 1933 and 1934. Tomorrow I start studying liabilities. Will it ever end?

Robots was ok. They were really, really, really, really into the silliness of robots farting, going to the bathroom, and having big, metallic bottoms. But if you strip that 23 minutes out of the movie, the story line (though rather cliche) wasn't too bad. And I did laugh once or twice.

Grandma June also took us to IHOP yesterday. Having had their non-breakfast foods before, I opted to stick with breakfast. I had the chocolate chip pancakes (so more like dessert). Not bad. I have a feeling that after my grandma dies every time I see IHOP I'll think of her. Which raises an interesting point: what restaurant will my children associate with me? with any of us? Discuss amongst yourselves.

[Comments] (8) When enough is enough: Saw a sign on campus today for "Junetoberfest." Come on. Really. Give it a rest.

I finally have been approved by the California State Board of Accountancy to sit for the CPA exam. Now they have to send my stuff to NASBA to have them approve my stuff, then I have to pay $300 more, and then have Prometric contact me to schedule. I am slowly but surely getting there. I hate bureacracy. But I also hate disorganized nonconformists. Why can't the world be more like me?

We got our moving company. We're going with Mayflower. What a racket. They give you an estimate, then they charge you 110% just in case, then they refund the balance (if any, which in our case there will be) 3-5 weeks after they move you. I'm seeing a whole new career path I may not have considered before...NOT.

I still cannot believe June has arrived; where did March go?

[Comments] (4) I Saw The Sign: Does anyone have any clue what the theme song to Frasier is supposed to mean? I have a feeling Sumana may.

Lately Susie and I have had moving on the brain. We have donated half of what we possess to either DI or various friends' yard sales. It truly is a cathartic feeling to de-junk and de-bunk.

My mom is making me consolidate my stuff at her house as well. My old room is now scrapbook central/Franko's room, so my stuff had to go. I boxed it all and put it in the storage room months ago, but I am now consolidating the boxes in storage. I think I can get it down to three boxes: one with all my brand new Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals, one with mission stuff (mostly letters to re-read when I'm 70), and one with yearbooks, Chinese language books, etc.

I got a Winnie-the-Pooh doll every time we went to Disneyland as a kid. I have all of them but Piglet and Pooh. I never played with them as a kid; getting a new toy was a rare ocassion, so everything was kept in mint condition. Except for Tigger. I used to sleep with him with my arm wrapped tight around his neck, and his head's falling off. We're saving them for our future baby room (2007).

My mom's been a Nazi about my stuff left there, even though my sister still has stuff in at least three rooms there. A parent's love and relationship with children is something I'll never understand until I arrive there.

We're going to the cabin this weekend, so let's all please petition the weather God to leave Utah alone for one weekend. It rained this morning and the weather is still unusually cool for this time of year. I'm excited to hike the Ridge Trail up there. After seeing Susie in action in Moab, I know she can hike well and I'm not going to let her wimp out. She's tough!

Susie and I had a fun time at Kristen and Aaron's last night. We got to see Lily walk along the coffee table and sit up on her own. And I finally got to meet David. I'm very happy that we've taken advantage of family while we were in Utah, and hosted get togethers frequently. I especially feel that way about my Grandma June. If/When she passes on, I'll have no regrets because we frequented her home and IHOP much. Hopefully we'll have the time and $$ to see Susie's family frequently as well, as they won't be as close, since California is a big state. I've heard rumors from Susie that Leonard secretly (or not so secretly) wants to relocate back to SoCal.

Time to go to the scrapbook store so Susie can use the last of her credit before we move.

[Comments] (2) Look who's laughing now: I remember sitting in school about a year ago listening to my colleagues and teacher talk about how warranties are a complete waste of money. I told the kid next to me (a loudmouth snot from Bristol, but my friend nonetheless) that I got a 3-year warranty on my laptop. He laughed me to scorn.

Ha! The service expires in 43 days from today, and I believe I have gotten my money's worth. For example, last April I got a virus that would not let me access the Internet, hence I couldn't go to Symantec and download the update. I spent about 10 hours on the phone with Dell, basically rebooting and reformatting my entire computer. Do you know how much that call would have cost otherwise?

Then yesterday. My motherboard decided it no longer wanted to charge my batteries, meaning I was always running on AC power, meaning what's the point of having a laptop? Well. I called Dell. Today a man came to my home, put in a new motherboard that now works, and voila, here I am with a free new motherboard and free service call. Compliments of a so-called useless warranty.

I paid for the CPA exam, meaning there are three steps left in the process: (1) schedule my test dates; (2) take the test; (3) pass the test. Obviously, the third part gives me the most sleepless nights.

Going to the cabin tonight. Joe and Louise are coming up tomorrow. I want to give Joe a memorable enough experience to encourage him to update his blog. Maybe we'll hike Timp Cave....

Just one more week until the Nordstrom sale!!

[Comments] (8) Coupon Capers: We got to the cabin Friday night at 7 pm. After dinner and turning on the cabin heaters, we went for a sunset walk at the lake. Then we snuggled in bed while watching X-Men on the laptop.

Saturday morning we met Joe and Louise at the gate and hiked the ridge trail. Well. Utah truly is blossoming as the rose this year. Thanks to all the rain/snow we are still having, many parts of the trail were completely submerged in mud and water. So the hike required a lot of trailblazing around the muckety-muck. We balanced across many a log, the only casualty being a muddy sneaker from when Louise fell in the mud once.

Toward the top there was still lots of snow, which was hard enough we could walk on it. I felt like Legoals in Fellowship. Joe, Louise, and Susie all fell in the snow at one point or another, I believe. On the way back down we saw a moose! It was neat. I ran ahead of everyone to take a picture, and, well, Mr. Moose didn't like that. He stared me down and eventually left, leaving me in one piece. Meese are very agressive, you know. I did get my picture at least.

Back at the cabin, to my surprise, was my mom and dad. I was surprised to see them there, and didn't get a chance to prep Joe and Louise for the ocassion (my father's a bit loopy). He loved Louise's accent.

It started pouring when we got back to the cabin. We made it home just in the nick of time. Susie reminded me that I had prayed the night before we'd have good weather for our hike; I suppose praying in specifics is far better than praying in generalities if you want your wishes granted (ie, praying for world peace).

Driving Joe and Louise back to the gate, we saw some deer. It was a good weekend for sightseeing. We had fun talking with Joe and Louise, and learning all about them. I even discovered Louise's weakness--Twizzlers. Every time we took a break on the trail she didn't need water, just Twizzlers. Back at the cabin I surprised them with the chocolate flavored ones, and now the bag is empty.

Last night Susie and I got home and discovered that we were too pooped to poop. We are still so sore from hiking yesterday. So we went out for dindin. Susie got a free coupon book at work, as it is for the calendar year 2005, which is now halfway over. What a gimmick. I remember being little and having my parents tell me that toys just weren't made like they were in their day. Well, I am here to tell you that coupons are no longer what they were when I was a lad. Every single coupon is just a ruse to make you spend more money. For example: buy 1 entree and six drinks, get the seventh free; come in for a free suprise; buy two entrees get free banana pudding. Yikes. We finally found a true buy one entree get one free to Thai Chili Garden, so the decision was made for us. I love their peanut curry.

Next weekend we are going to go to the SLC temple since Susie's never been, and then do the cabin thing again for Father's Day. Then the fun ends, as the next weekend we must pack and move. The summer of John is coming to an end.

[Comments] (10) The Heat is On: We went on a date to see Hitch at ye olde $1 theatre last night. I really enjoyed it, except the wine-toast line, which was pure cheese. There is a lot of truth in what that movie presented: guys just need a boost of self-confidence to get themselves in the door. The rest is history.

I'm glad I wasn't on like a third date watching that movie. Otherwise the good night scene would have been akward. That is, unless you have an inhaler. Overall, I liked this movie enough I'd watch it again!

[Comments] (3) Manic Monday: It was another whirlwind of a weekend. Friday night we perused the Nordstrom sale, and said corporation's free-ride, interest-free loan came to an end, as Sumana would say. I got new sneakers for $15! I also finally found my black dress shirt on sale, but it was still $80+ so I passed. I found another one at Dillards for $50. Susie must have felt badly about watching me spend my gift cards, so we got her a little sumpin at The Gap. Happy Father's Day Susie!

Saturday morning we went to the SL temple, as Susie had never done a live endowment session before. My sister and her husband hadn't either, so they came too. It's a lot easier to stay awake in a live session. We saw the sealing room where my parents were married; it's the little one up the stairs in the Celestial Room.

Lunch was celebrated at the soup nazi, as we won't be able to go there anymore. Then we went and saw Madagascar with the kids. They liked it, and I laughed quite a bit, but it was still no Pixar. I've decided I'm a movie snob; I'm hard to please. But usually when people ask me if I liked a movie, I just say yes, so as not to offend everyone else who loved the movie. I'm just not into the Shrek-ness of the Dreamworks world. If it's gonna be a cartoon, then be a cartoon. Please don't be a cartoon/sex innuendo movie to please kids and adults alike. Dreamworks, in my opinion, blows their budget on famous voice actors and skimps on story line. Oh well. It was good, and I'd see it again in a few years, but I'll never buy it.

Then we went to the cabin for the night. Susie and I hiked the lake again. Then, while all the girls watched A Night's Tale (yuck) I studied for the CPA exam. Susie and I both slept in until 9 am on Father's Day, which made my day right there. That is the latest I've slept in since our cruise, if even then.

We hiked to mud springs that morning. It's finally heated up in Utah; all the mudholes we saw with Joe and Louise were mostly gone. I made a treasure hunt for the kids (kind of a tradition) and then I took them all on a walk. We found a zipline on one of our neighbor's cabins and we all went to town. I couldn't believe the two little girls were willing to go on it. I was also afraid they wouldn't be able to hold on the whole way, and would fall on the pointy rock at the bottom. But the net effect: no broken bones and some very happy kids and adults. It was good times.

We found a tick in my niece's hair, which has me all paranoid now. What purpose do ticks serve? Lousy bugs.

Now life is back to boxes. 10 days.

Mormon Mania: I can't believe it; they've only been offering open house tickets to the Newport Beach temple for a week now and every Saturday is booked solid. Luckily we got in for August 20 by the seat of our pants.

My father had an angioplasty today. While we were on our cruise, my uncle had a tumor on his brain, which initially they thought was a stroke. He's still trying to regain some of his memory. Kind of puts my moving woes into perspective.

[Comments] (10) Can't Buy Me Common Sense: Disclaimer: First of all, I am very happy that they found the missing Utah boy. But I can't help myself. His dad taught him two things in life: to stay on the trail if you're lost, and to never talk to strangers. So every time he was on the trail and he heard an ATV coming by, he would hide, because he thought they were going to kidnap him. He's 11, not 4.

I guess it's easy for me to be critical of other people's parenting skills because I'm not one. But that just seemed really odd to me.

I turn 25 in one month from today. A month. I'm nervous--25 seems like it should be a big deal to me. But really, it's not much different from 24 or 26. But numbers are a higharchy; a caste system even. For example, 0's and 5's think they are better than all other numbers. 9's are a niche market, which are loved by women and advertisers (I'm perpetually age 39; it's not $10, it's $9.99).

We had an early b-day party for me last weekend with my family. I got Hidalgo, and am very excited to watch it, since I am told that Viggo is a babe.

[Comments] (3) The government giveth, and the government taketh away: The update is that, after the angiogram, the doctors realized that my dad didn't need to have an angioplasty. Because his body is sick, his heart beats slower; incidentally, it has nothing to do with clogged arteries.

We returned the cabin key to my grandma today, and got to say good-bye to her as well. My Uncle David and Aunt Brigetta were there. My Uncle David had a brain tumor in May, which they thought was a stroke. He didn't seem to have any idea who I was, and looked uncomfortably at me when he left. When I asked my grandma how he was, she started to cry. He had some blood clots in his legs so they put him on medicine to thin the blood, which isn't really good for him after his tumor. I guess its time I remember that doctors don't always have all the answers. So if they aren't almighty, why do they make you wait in the lobby all day? Even if you get the first appointment of the day, they're running behind when you get there.

Speaking of waiting, apparently in Cal you can schedule DMV appointments online, so we are scheduled to get new driver's licenses and car registrations promptly at 8:30. Does the system work? I guess we'll find out. I think I'll play it safe and take some CPA study materials anyhow.

Apparently Cal requires relicensing your out-of-state vehicle within 10 days of moving. Luckily our car registration expires in July anyway, or I'd be mad. What about overlapping policies? What a jip.

I did my homework on the recent Supreme Court decision regarding eminent domain. Then I remembered when Lehi City required my uncles to sell our farm land in Alpine to Micron, because it was going to boost business. Well, we sold, Micron moved in, and life went on as normal. No "boom." Hmm. My uncles were livid. But my mom said the land was becoming arable and bad, so selling out at the price we got was a good thing. My uncles were just to hurt to admit it. As the silver fox used to say, "just because eminent domain is a travesty, doesn't mean it's a trajedy." The tax implications are major. Buyer's remorse will be different for everybody.

Last night we went out to eat with our neighbors. We are really hoping we'll have new neighbors that are as good. We went to Carrabas because everyone says it is so good. Well, I can cook chicken better than that for $25. But we did get to see Shelley at work, so the experience wasn't a total loss. It was a slow night for tips there. Poor Shelley.

[Comments] (4) The government giveth, and the government taketh away: Part 2: My brother won a used 1999 Ford Contour at a Stingers baseball game last night! Well, he says that everyone they told at church today only had one thing to say: Ooooh, you'll owe taxes. Dumbies. No one knows what that means, they just know it's true.

So of course my brother calls me. My family (except my mom) only calls when they want something, so I always get nervous when they call that something is terribly amiss (that includes my in-laws as well). As a quick aside, it sure would be nice to have a call or email from someone just wanting to shoot the breeze, especially with free long distance these days. Anyway, back to the story.

My brother wanted to know what taxes he owed. Here's the scoop: YOU will have to pay to register the car in your name AND pay the taxes on it. YOU will also include the FMV of the car, date of prize, on your next year's tax return, as line 21 other income. But because my brother makes less than Susie does and has two kids (I still don't know how they make ends meet), I think they'll be ok. Now everyone knows. Go win something.

Actually, my old high school friend called me on Saturday to tell me that she is getting married. It was good to talk to her. Susie was ok that we talked because she was never my girlfriend. I liked her all of junior year but she never reciprocated; she liked me all of senior year but by then I had moved on.

I said good-bye to my grandma yesterday. My uncle that had the tumor was there but I am pretty sure he didn't recognize me, as he didn't say Hi or anything. When I asked my grandma about him, she just started crying. I'll miss Grandma June, but now we can visit Grandma Rosie more often. Life is about tradeoffs.

[Comments] (1) My life is in your hands: Waiting for the movers to come and collect my belongings, ie my life. I hardly doubt sticking a red "fragile" sticker on my stuff will amount to any preferential treatment to my boxes. But we'll see.

Last night was a lot of fun with the fam, up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Jon and Sharon always play host so well. I felt bad that they were the first to arrive and last to leave and got stuck with all the hard work. They threw an excellent party. I was hoping to meet Susie's aunt Sandy, cousin Bryan, and soon-to-be cousin-in-law, but that family forgot to show up. David shared with us some intimate moments of his last days with Melea, which was nice to hear as well. But mostly I talked with Sarah about how the world works if you're an eight year-old. Oh, and we also invited Jon and Sharon to our place for Christmas, since they want to go to Disneyland. Good times!

In reading Sumana's recent entry concerning the never-ending discussion of eminent domain, I can't help myself. The adage that this is a mere political party problem strikes me as trying to throw a band-aid and the blame on a real problem. The Supreme Court, in my revered opinion, has not represented my interests as an American citizen in the last twenty years. I have disagreed with their stance on multiple issues. Many of those judges see the world in a way I do not. To yet again blame this problem on the President seems incorrect to me. In fact, I read back in October that some polls estimated over 20% of the population who voted for Bush did so hoping that he would be given the opportunity in these next four years to instill some conservative values back into the judicial balance. Anyway, my point is, yes, the government now has more power than before to seize property. But for most of us, oh well. It will never affect of personally, though perhaps collectively. All we can do is move on and hope that, as we treat our fellow man with respect, others will follow suit, and this power will barely be used. After all, land is just land.

I probably feel the way I do about this issue because of my heritage. My ancestors were repeatedly kicked off of government land, normally receiving less than 10 cents on the dollar to do so. Many were lucky to still be alive to be kicked off the land. But they kept kicking, and so do I. I refuse to live my life in fear.

I am excited to start my new job next Wed. This year, unlike last year, they are putting me up in a hotel over night. So instead of battling the 405, I can lounge in a five-star hotel and study more for the CPA exam.

[Comments] (1) Allergens and Annoyances: I think I am allergic to deep cleaning. Either that or just retarted moving companies. I woke up yesterday with my typical allergic reaction--African American lips. The swelling finally subsided about 5 hours later.

Left the apartment in Utah today. I spent 3 hours checking out with our cleaning lady. 3 hours! 1 bedroom apartment! Geez! All I can say is that we are going to have a self-cleaning oven one day. She made me re-scrub the inside of the oven twice before she was convinced that one of those spots wasn't coming off. Then she made me take out the range coils and scrub the black stuff of the very tips of them. Luckily my neighbor Tasha came over and helped me with that part. Then she made me use steel wool to re-clean the whole house, more or less. Yikes! I suppose I did pick up some cleaning ideas from the whole experience. We had better get a nice chunk of change back on our deposit.

Farewell, fair Provo!

[Comments] (4) The voice of consumerism: So I have officially added Mayflower moving and Lowe's to my "do-not-shop there, even if under extreme duress" list. Both places know nothing about customer service.

We bought a fridge at Lowe's for next day delivery, requiring a four-hour stay-at-home committment. Well, we waited all day for a call, and the fridge showed up at 7:15 pm. Grr. By noon, wouldn't they have known that our shipment was slated for the last spot of the day? Of course they would. Did they call? No. Losers. As God as my witness, I'll never shop there again.

The move is a whole other story. Picked up a day late; delivered two days late. I had to help move in the piano (isn't that why we hired movers in the first place?), and the couch got ripped because they really didn't cover it very well.

But we love our place. It feels so spacious, and we have a piano! Our living room has vaulted ceilings and a skylight and a deck, so we can live off of natural sunlight.

Tomorrow we hit the beach, and then it's off to work I go!

Oh, and we saw the Newport Beach temple yesterday. We live soooo close. I'm lovin' it.

[Comments] (1) My White is Red, so now I'm Blue: The DMV took under 2 hours for me and Susie to each get licenses and register my car. I am now the proud owner of California license plates. I only missed two on my driving test, one being about the allowable alchohol content. Go figure. I don't know the legal drinking limit, since I don't drink.

The fourth was fun. We hit San Clemente beach. I got a little burned on my feet and forehead, since I forgot my hat. That night we watched the fireworks on my sister's deck. From her hill, we could see the fireworks in San Juan Capistrano, Dan Point, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, and Ladera Ranch upclose. It was quite breathtaking and I don't care how cheesy it sounds, yes Mr. Greenwood, I am proud (and blessed) to be an American.

Tomorrow begins the first day of the rest of my life.

[Comments] (3) Not again: I have about 30 passwords at EY. I wanted to complain about it, but to update crummy I have to use a password. Secrets, secrets, secrets.

Everyone at EY is happy I started early. There is so much work to do that I was there until 6:30 on my first day. But I enjoy knowing that there are lots of opportunities waiting for me; it's going to be a learning experience. Plus, with so much work, I can pick and choose more what I want to do. I can get discount movie passes and Disneyland passes too.

I am thoroughly enjoying having a pool, hot tub, valuted ceiling, skylight, deck (cuz the wireless connection is better out here), garage (even though half the time the buzzer doesn't buzz), and weight room. Actually, I haven't enjoyed the weight room yet, but I have enjoyed knowing I can use it.

One more week till the CPA exam. So tomorrow's a study day. If I am good all day, maybe we'll go to the OC Fair tomorrow.

Most of all I have enjoyed having a piano. I play every day to fill the void of TV, since we do not have cable. The trade-off is far superior, I must say.

Happy Birthday to Leonard tomorrow! What with moving, your present hasn't been purchased as of the present, but will presently be purchased and presented to you as soon as is presently possible.

Phew: I've survived my first week in public accounting. I've already adjusted to 12 hour days. I love being busy!

Sunday was an interesting experience. We are in the Newport stake, so the stake center is right next to the temple. But we are on the edge of the ward, so the building is about 5 miles away. Being back in a family ward is a bit of an adjustment. Though our stake is very well-to-do, our ward is the pauper ward of the stake. Lots of young, struggling couples.

But the unbelievable part of Sunday was the couple we sat next to in Sunday School. They are in their 70's at least, and were using a palm pilot for scripture study. I never thought I'd see the day. I talked to the brother during priesthood. He told me he bought his house in Costa Mesa in the 1960's for $36K, and it's now worth $700K. But he can't afford to move! This year for my birthday, I want Real Estate.

[Comments] (2) Heard it through the grapevine: This girl at work told me the reason SoCal has no mass transit system is because in the 1930's or something, the Motown Five bought all the public transportation in LA and dismantled it to make people dependent on cars. They planned to do the same in other cities but lost the capital needed during the Great Depression, or something like that. Anyway, if it's a true story, it worked. Anyone concur?

I had swordfish today and wasabi ice cream. The former was ok; the latter still lingers on the palate.

The good news is Susie found a great job in just one week! For all those looking to for a decent job in a decent market (Sumana), consider the OC. We could be Disney buddies!

Susie read tonight that the Pope has basically put HP on the "list." I told her that can only increase its sales. She asked me what I would do if President Hinckley requested I not read those books. I told her I wouldn't. Big deal; so I don't read a book, or see an R-rated movie. There's more to life. But he would never do that. Josepth Smith said that "I give the Saints principles and they govern themselves." I still govern HP to be good reading.

[Comments] (4) Californian or Bust: I was officially accepted into the ways of SoCal yesterday. My test went well, I feel. It is against the law for me to say anything about it so I'll just leave it with a simple wow. The score could be as late as October, so I'll just move on with my life and assume I passed. Financial is in four weeks; the terror begins.

We got our annual passes to Disneyland last night. We were there from 5-10:30 and did a lot.

In California Adventure, we rode Tower of Terror (Susie was complaining of heart attacks but I think she didn't cross over into the Twilight Zone), Bug's Life Land, Screamin California, Soaring over California, and in the Magic Kindgom hit Pirates of the Carribean, Big Thunder Mountain, and saw Fantasmic! Even though I've seen Fantasmic! 10+ times, I really enjoy watching people watch it for the first time. It's an amazing show.

We also ate pineapple ice cream from the Dole pineapple stand in the Tiki Room. Best ice cream I've had in months. We get free parking and 10% off food/retail there so if we go six times, the tickets are paid for. Susie is still glowing from the experience, so I have a feeling we'll go a lot more than that. And I thought I was the Disney freak in the family.

One California habit I refuse to adopt is coming to church 30 minutes late. If I were going to be that late to Sacrament meeting, I just wouldn't go. You've already missed the ceremony and the only pew space left is right in the middle of the chapel, inconveniencing many people to accomodate your tardiness. I just refuse to go there.

Visited with the Vans tonight, and of course, played Double Dash with Tyler. Since he's only 3, Susie and I do the races and just wait at the finish line so he can win. He's caught on to our little Ponzi scheme, and reminds us to let him win. He's so cute. Chad got HP 6 yesterday (we gave him a gift card and pre-ordered it for his BD back in May). I read 1.5 chapters and am already speculating. I have a feeling I will enjoy this one more than OOTP, which I didn't care for. We'll have to wait and see if I will enjoy it more than GOP, which so far is my favorite. Hopefully I'll get it to ease the pain of being a quarter of a century old come Friday.

[Comments] (1) Definitions: Happiness is coming home to a rent reimbursement check, a rent deposit refund, and my new Charlie Brown checks!

Happiness is NOT going to a client's in Aliso Viejo and not getting home until 7:30 at night because of traffic and because your coworker, with whom you carpooled, won't take the toll road.

Since I live in Costa Mesa but work in Irvine, I drive past the "Welcome to Costa Mesa" sign on the way home each day. Population: 98,500. They need to update their sign to be 98,502! June gloom is over, and the heat is on.

[Comments] (4) Relativity: I think it's hot here, but it's not. It was hot in B-town. Here it is very pleasant.

Rachel and mom think the 405 is bad news. It's only bad news from Santa Monica to LAX. After that, it moves really well (we got home in 2.5 hours, only stopping to enjoy the scenery in Westwood).

I think I'm reading HP 6 too fast because I am half way done with it in 2 days. So I made myself put it down. My in-laws probably think I'm lollygagging. BYW--Thanks for the book Rach (assuming it's still mine).

I enjoyed Gretel this trip more than ever before. She's the same Gretel--or is she? She still sheds too much though.

Jellybean didn't sleep with us; yet Susie wasn't sad because it meant sleeping through the night. I wonder where she slept?

But I had a fun weekend. I studied all the way there, all the way home, and about half of the time in B-town. The other half was spent sleeping in (something I rarely do), reading HP 6, visiting Rachel at work, and visiting with Grandma Rosie. She seemed very lonely and sad when we left. Yet she lives in a retirement castle. She must not find the company to her liking. I think if I were in there, I would take a book to the lobby to read just to be around other people, even if I wasn't interested in talking to them. Susie and I have resolved to visit her more often.

Today is Pioneer Day in Utah, meaning that tomorrow, no one in Utah has to go to work, and they get paid. While I have to go to work to get paid. Oh well. At least it's air conditioned there.

Poor Pumba: I had to work 6-11 this morning so I could have the rest of the day off at Disneyland for my 2nd anniversary. It was pretty hot, but we had fun. We got to go on the new and improved Space Mountain, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We also went on the Sun Ferris Wheel, which is really neat. I don't know how to describe it, but your gondola is on rockers and moves. That part freaks you out so much that you don't even notice how high you are! We also hit such classics as Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, and the newcomer Mullholland Madness.

Instead of parking in the Mickey and Friends parking structure, we got tricked into the Lion King parking structure. It was a joke. We had to walk a good mile to the park (no shuttle) and my car had to sit in the sun all day. The Timon lot has a shuttle, but alas, we were in the Pumba lot. Such is Pumba's lot in life, I suppose.

This week I get to go to an Angels game with a client, and the next CPA exam is looming over me in two weeks. The temple open house is in three weeks, and Disneyland comes whenever we can fit it in.

I read Chapter 26 of HP 6 tonight; no turning point my eye. Sure it's interesting; but a little self-control and life outside of the wizarding world pulled me back out of it. I'll probably finish it this week. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and have some interesting theories. One I told to Susie, and she was impressed I thought of it on my own.

Pet peeve alert: people who don't respond to email questions. Without going into a whole lengthy thing, it is a valid mode of communication that deserves respect. I've had a few people lately decide that my questions/concerns to them are apparently not important enough to require an answer. Why? Beats me. Even an email saying you don't know the answer/don't want to hear from me again would be better than the silence I face in the form of an empty inbox. That said, I'm going to bed.

[Comments] (5) Beginnings, Endings, and Continuations: Finished HP 6 today. Let's just say the jury is still out. I guessed the half-blood prince too. I don't think it's fair that Rowling left this many questions unanswered, especially with Book 7 being so far off. And I kinda feel like the idea of seven books=equalling seven years at school is bunk. This book barely touched school (so much potential, what with the new DADA teacher), and who knows how much Harry will spend at school in Book 7, what with all he has to do. And the whole phoney Horcrux thing being left open is really driving me crazy. But I did like it immensely better than OOTP. Two enthusiastic thumbs up; fine holiday fun.

Today is my second anniversary. We celebrated it with my sister's family. Tyler had the whole day planned out before we even got there. He cried when we left, but I promised him I'd take a break next weekend from studying to visit him.

Sunday night. Work and life continue on tomorrow. It's always there.

[Comments] (9) Work Hard for the Money: I know I have slacked in writing; but unlike others who only sporadically update, I have many valid reasons, none of which can be tied to slothfulness.

First, I work. Usually my day begins at 5 am with a two-hour study session. Then it's off to work (which thankfully only takes 10 minutes) and I work from 7:30-6:30 and then study another hour for the CPA test. Then I finally come home, eat dinner, play the piano for half an hour or go to the hot tub for half an hour, and then go to bed around 9 or 10. Rachel can verify this story. On the days she sleeps over, I study in the closet.

But yesterday I took my second and hardest CPA. So I'm half done. I'm taking the smallest one next, but not until November. So for the next few months, I won't be getting up until 6!

Then there's Saturday. Sometimes I work; sometimes I study; sometimes we go to Disneyland. We've been three times, and we always stay longer than we plan to. Last night we stayed late enough to watch the fireworks and the Electrical Parade. And Susie dared to go on Tower of Terror again. We've hit most of the rides at least once by now, with the exception of a few. We're going again in a month with EY; Rachel's even coming and bringing a friend.

Sunday is spent at the Van's. I always get some sob story from either my sister of Susie that Tyler misses me. When Susie goes over to help with my sister's business, Tyler goes around the house looking for me. So Sunday is not my day either; it belongs to a 3-year old. But it's enough to get me my kid fix for the week.

But I love being busy. I'm in my prime. I'm a doer and a busybody. The one sad thing is I seldom cook anymore. Heck, I don't even know where anything is in our new kitchen yet.

Back on Disneyland. It's so interesting to just watch people there. I swear, some people have no concept that they don't have the park exclusively for themselves. They walk slow and swing their arms wide, taking up the entire sidewalk so that no one with an agenda can pass them. Then there are the strollers. Susie and I think they should be banned once a month. And it's just always fun to look at people's tattoos, hairdos, and Disney junk they've bought and will never wear again outside the park because they would look absolutely ridiculous. As an aside, I think they look ridiculous inside the park as well, but as my role as fashion police is still only a self-appointed title, I keep my mouth shut and smile.

This lady yesterday at Big Thunder Mountain was going off on her husband about, well, who cares anyway? Watching her get so upset with him was entertainment enough. Doesn't she realize what a shrew she looked like? But people will always be people.

What with the temple open house, I've had lots of opportunities to discuss my religion with my coworkers. So if my mom reads this entry, that is why I am no longer in Utah. Well, that, Disneyland, Tyler, and the fact that the weather here is simply amazing.

[Comments] (3) True Life Updates: My tax return can wait a moment. I had an experience last night I need to write about. Since Susie had Enrichment last night, I went to the Angel's game with work. The box suite is a sweet ride; free food, and you can sit inside and talk during the boring moments of the game.

Anyway, I was dropped off at my car around 10:00 and promptly got on the 405 N and then the 55 S, and as I was getting off the exit to our home, I saw black smoke billowing in the sky. Panic struck me: my house is on fire. As I got to the intersection adjacent to our complex, I saw a raging inferno and a van engulfed in flames. I was about 10-15 cars back from it. I called 911 to find they had already been contacted. The fire dept. got there about a minute later, and I was sure I was doomed to be stuck on the off-ramp for hours. Ten minutes later I was home. Very efficient; and since I saw no ambulance at that point, I am hoping that means the driver escaped.

But honestly, the horror. I was convinced my home was on fire. But Susie was home in bed. I can't imagine what the real thing must be like. I am grateful my home is safe, and pleased with the efficiency of the firemen. Kudos to them.

K. Back to state apportionment. Back to my life.

[Comments] (1) Don't Believe Everything You Hear: I don't care what people say, I thought the Newport Beach Temple was breathtaking. People complain about small temples, but having served in a small temple for two years, I have grown accustomed to them. This temple was larger than Hong Kong.

I played hookie from work for about 3 hours today to take one of our interns from last summer to the temple open house. It was a great experience. It was interesting to hear the questions he asked, mostly because I knew that they came from people trying to dissuade his interest in the church. He's a really good friend and I hope he liked what he saw and heard. Having been off my mission for four years, and not experienced in sharing the gospel in english, it was a challenge for me to answer his questions. But afterward I felt very good about being able to take someone of another faith to the temple to learn about my faith.

It felt so good to be back in the temple. Susie and I have already made an appointment for September 16, the day after busy season. Hopefully I'll be alive to go!

So glad tomorrow's Friday, even though I have to work on Saturday. Our friends from Valencia are coming down Saturday to spend the night with us and go to the temple; it should be fun. And that'll be the weekend.

[Comments] (1) Wake me up before you go-go: We were glad to have so many visitors this weekend. Friday night we enjoyed mom and tolerated Gretel. I'm glad Susie got to spend time with her as I had to work 7 hours that day. I actually enjoy working Saturdays--it's quiet, I can wear jeans and flip-flops, and I get free lunch. Yummy CPK Thai pizza!

Less than an hour after mom left, our friends from Utah, Tyler and Tasha, came to see us. We went to the ESPN restaurant in Downtown Disney. The food was good; Susie and I each had the tortilla soup, which was yummy because it had chunks of avocado in it. We also split the cookie and ice cream in a skillet montage. I'm such a sucker for that stuff. And we get 10% off there with our Disney cards. But the big screen was showing NFL, of which I'm not a fan. Rather be watching the Angels and the MLB. I'd recommend the restaurant, though; it was a neat place to eat.

Went to the temple again. Good times.

Head Up: Susie and I are planning on camping in Yosemite next May or June. Anyone in California is welcome to join in the fray. We can make reservations starting in January, which I fully intend to do. Come one, come all.

[Comments] (4) Gym Membership: One of my coworkers never made it to the temple open house, though she is still interested in going. She asked if it is possible for me to take her on my membership card, or get her a guest pass. I had to explain to her that the temple is NOT a gym.

Speaking of the gym, I need to start going. I work so much and eat snacks during my 60+ hour weeks that a workout would do me good. So Susie and I make a point of going to Disneyland every other week (we're going tomorrow night). It's a totally free, strenuous workout.

Susie and I had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. One elder was from Manti and the other from Arkansas. We had a nice conversation with them and learned a lot about how the work fares in paradise. We are volunteer ushering at the temple dedication this Sunday, after which we have been invited to dinner by our neighbors. There's never enough time to get it all done.

[Comments] (4) Update: I got my first CPA exam score last night--passed with a 94. Now just waiting for the second score to come back and studying for the third part.

[Comments] (3) Destiny's Nickname: My current manager (Patti, or Ping, in chinese) calls me John John. No biggie; I've been called worse. Then I realized that my old boss at BYU called me that as well. We didn't part on very good terms (to put it mildly) so we shall never speak of her again. It's just interesting that only my superiors think of such a name.

I've got three weeks to put together 17 state returns, which may drop to 14, thanks to the hurricane in the south right now. Part of the tax relief effort is to delay the tax deadline. Whatever it takes to make the government feel like it's doing its part.

The temple dedication was really interesting yesterday. We ate dinner at a member's home yesterday and learned that each session had a different theme with different talks. Kudos to the prophet and his counsellor for writing four talks! Just when I was starting to feel like general conference talks were being recycled by some apostles, they go and change it up like that. And to think how much I agonize over giving just one talk every few years.

[Comments] (5) Why?: Why are such terrible things happening to those poor people in Louisiana? Our firm announced today that they are matching dollar for dollar what we as employees contribute. This reminds me of what happened 8 months ago in Indonesia. Except something seems to be missing: donations from around the world. Do I read the wrong newspapers, or is it true that the so-called "big brother" of the world has no one to turn to when it's sick?

In other news, KPMG, one of EY's competitors, has settled to pay $456 million to defer tax-fraud charges. Our firm settled for about $20 million. Clearly, the times of creative accounting are over and the government wants its money. It is interesting that only the accountants are in trouble and not the wealthy individuals who signed off on such accounts. One could argue they didn't know what was going on, but I think that's pure hogwash. People that rich know how money works, or else they wouldn't be that rich. Why do they get off the hook while the accountant suffers? Don't get me wrong, the accountant should be held accountable; but he isn't alone in these transactions.

In honor of Labor Day, I'm working. The firm gets a four-day weekend, but not me. Oh well, I get to take my holidays later, and have already planned out such days. So, back to work.

[Comments] (6) Oily Times: Gas is now $2.99 here. I am told it is $2.85 in Youtah. Rather than complain, I'll just accept it for what it is. Consumer demand sets prices, not wars in Iraq and quasi-oligopolies such as OPEC. So it's all our faults for fueling the fire. Nuff said.

I'm not sure how the topic came up, but Susie was talking about writing for her high school pape. She couldn't remember the name, so I helped her remember. Being the drillers and all, I thought "Oily Times" would be a clever name, if accompanied with the following tag line: "It was the best of times, it was Oily Times." We laughed. Will you? I wonder if this is one of those stories where you had to be there, cuz we really laughed.

Work is going well. Thank the Lord for deadlines, otherwise this project would drag on way past September 15. And I am more than ready for 70-hour weeks to come to an end.

Last Friday night Susie and I went to, guess where, California Adventure. Upon disembarking Tower of Terror, there was a boy at the bottom of the stairs crying. Susie took pity on him and volunteered to wait with him until his parents got off the ride--he chickened out at the last minute and was quite disoriented by the emergency exit. I think people are generally willing to help in such situations, but often don't. They are afraid that, instead of being praised for their service, the parent will play the abductor card and, next thing you know, you're on the "list" or something. It's sad to think it's come to that. But this little boy was glad for the comfort he received while waiting for mom and dad.

[Comments] (2) Waiting for dinner: The federal tax return and 17 state returns are due tomorrow. While I wait for the binding process to finish (and wait for dinner), I've been thinking a lot lately about Allison's recent remarks re raising children. I often think about how I will raise my kids, and have more than once said to myself "Regarding blah blah blah, I will not do that how my parents did it." Not that my parents did it wrong; I just plan on doing it differently.

That said, I should hever have married someone with a birthday in September. My parents were wonderful and showed me lots of love. But I never really felt it on my birthday. I guess I was too sentimental cuz on teevee kids always got these cool surprises, etc on their birthdays. I always knew ahead of time the game plan for the day. So I am starting by preparing a multitude of surprises for my wife this year. Which has not been easy. By the time I get off work (including the weekends) stores are closed. That, and Susie is always home. So I've had to make quick little getaways from work to accomplish this mission impossible of mine. I'm exhausted. My credit card is exhausted. My gas tank is empty. My coworkers are wary of my leaving. But I still think this is going to be one of those "teevee birthdays" for my sweet baboo. I hope so. Time will tell. Tax returns still printing. Can I go home yet?

[Comments] (9) H20?: Susie and I had a most relaxing day off. We went to the temple this morning and went to Fashion Island for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Once our waiter found out we wanted water, the service we received changed drastically. This happens to us a lot. We'll drink water and split a meal and then split dessert. The net effect is basically the same as if we had our own meals, especially at CF because we had to get two pieces of cheesecake.

But the waiter was so rude. When Susie asked for a straw for her water she got the glare. Why should only soda and iced tea be enjoyed through a straw? The problem then starts in my head: Should I tell him when I first get seated that we are getting dessert so he knows not to freak out about drinking water? Should I dock his tip because of bad service based upon H20, thus further proliferating the Pygmalion effect that water drinkers are bad tippers? Or do I prove him wrong with my normal tip, even though I'll probably never see him again in my life to ensure decent future service? These are the dilemmas I face as a generous tipper slash water drinker.

I spent the remainder of my day off studying, showering Susie with gifts, wandering around South Coast Plaza, and reading more of Brown's Deception Point. Tomorrow is Disneyland with EY, Rachel, and Chris. I better live it up; Monday comes fast!

[Comments] (5) What Comes of Being Stupid:: Saying stupid things. I've had it up to my knee caps with people blaming the President for not stopping an act of God from attacking our country. Republican or Democrat, no man can sway an act of God. The questions that beg answering include: What about the ignored warnings? The local leader's responsibilities? The taxpayer's refusing hikes to fix an aging levee? All this I can handle.

What I cannot handle is what a liberal reader from Fairway, KS has to say about this trajedy: "The problem with New Orleans is that it "looks French." Since the president and his Republican administration regect anything that's French, the French Quarter should have changed its name to the Freedom Quarter. Maybe federal help would have arrived faster."

Where does one even begin? I guess by giving, and not by blaming.

[Comments] (7) Mixed Emotions: Susie and I were called to be the Nursery leaders in church yesterday. I'm excited cuz I like kids at that age, I get to play with toys at church for two hours, and it may just be that natural birth control Susie needs in here life right now.... I'm also glad cuz it's one of those "sunday only" callings, as I don't have a lot of time during the week to give to other church organizations.

But I'm also a little bummed. We're new to the ward, Susie and I were just making friends, and now we'll never see them anymore. Also, since we are doing this solo, we really need to be there every week, meaning that visiting B-town just got a lot more difficult.

Yesterday I took VeggieTales silly songs to my sister's house to watch with Tyler. But Chad and Justin liked it so much they watched it twice. Then for dinner we had cheeseburgers, so of course we all started singing the cheeseburger song, which led to singing all the other songs. I think my sister is a little worried now about our potential influence on her little ones. Good thing David was out of town.

I'm tired of working on Saturdays.

[Comments] (5) Guzzle a gallon of alcohol and call me in the morning: Susie and I both have fall allergies (well, I've had them since high school but Susie has now developed them). So we dry cough all night long. It's miserable to both be afflicted at the same time. Though I must confess, my symptoms are less severe here than in UT, which is nice. But the cure to sleep is that syrup-based alcohol OTC wonder otherwise known as Nyquil. Whenever I am sick I try only to use it sparingly so as not to create a sleeping crutch. I hope we get better soon.

This weekend is general conference, but I was still expected to work on Saturday. So I got creative and did PA state return at home that morning while listening, went to work between sessions, and finished it up at home during the afternoon session. I got the best of both worlds out of it.

Speaking of the best of both worlds, we still don't have tv, and "The Amazing Race" has started again. So Susie had the brilliant idea that if I come home early on Tuesdays then we can go watch it in the workout room while we run in place for an hour.

We watched the sun set at the beach last night. It was pretty. Susie told me that if we watch closely, we'll see a green light at the exact moment the sun exits our view. She says mom told her that, but I'm afraid that she may have confused it with "The Great Gatsby." Nevertheless, we did not see any green light.

[Comments] (3) Loose the Noose: Instead of subjecting myself to five years of financial pain, I decided to be poor right now and pay off all my student loans at once, as they start becoming due in November. Though writing the check was painful, and did require some financial rearranging, it will be nice to have one less bill a month, not to mention skipping out on the interest.

Of course, it's always more fun to write checks when they are "Peanuts" checks!

When I can finally afford to buy a home, I hope to pay more than the minimum balance at least several times per year. Especially early on, as most loan agencies have caught on and won't let you do it in the last 5 years or so.

[Comments] (12) Tick Tock: I cannot believe it is mid-October. I can't possibly have been in the work field for three months already. It just doesn't seem possible. But I think I may have worked my last Saturday for a while, which is good, since my next CPA exam is coming up in just under four weeks now. People keep telling me that things will slow down at work; I'm not so sure.

Today was our first day in the barracks: Nursery. And, as fate would have it, we also had three new additions to the ward today as well. One of the new kids, Ethan, acclimated fine; he couldn't care less that his parents ditched him for two hours. The other new boy, also Ethan, cried the whole time unless I held him. Good thing he was so darn cute, cuz he droolled all over my tie. I guess I need to buy some cheaper church clothes until this calling comes to an end. The nursery is very excited to have a boy help out, though.

When they gave us the call, they decided to set us apart as Primary workers, so that, in a year or two, we can be moved into Sunbeams or something. Or pianist, since they know we can play the piano.

I started exercising again, and it's been nice. I figure, my head hurts at the end of every day from thinking, I might as well let my body ache as well. I feel so much better when I work out regularly. And the best part is that the gym is free and I can catch up on my show.

My family is coming down in two weeks and I am very excited to take my Labor Day holidays two months late to hang out with them!

[Comments] (3) Calling All Angels: I hope the Angels can pull out a win tonight against the White Sox. If they can beat Chicago, they'll easily clinch the World Series title, as the National league struggles of late.

Feeling in a rut of always going to Disneyland or the Beach, Susie and I got adventurous and went for a walk around UC-Irvine. Beautiful campus. Why do they always build campuses on hilltops? The Y, the U, etc. It's rather annoying, not to mention exhausting. There are a lot of people from Asia at this school, and I heard a fair share of Cantonese at the little Vietnames sandwich shop where we ate dinner. We've toyed with going to the huge IKEA by our house for our next walk. How sad when you only go shopping to get exercise. After all, I'm 25, not 75.

Busy season is over. Back to my normal workload for a while, and am very glad about it, considering that my next CPA test is in just three weeks.

Today in nursery I added a new child to my Pied Piper list--Jake. Because Ethan refuses to leave my lap, Jake was mostly content to just stand next to me and put his head on my shoulder. Jake is nice though because he understands me and can say yes and/or no when I show him various toys to play with.

The Primary music lady was busy today, so we had to do our own circle time. It went ok, though. The lesson was on reverence, so we had two of the three year-olds give little prayers and we all folded our arms. It was a moment.

FYI to all those with nursery age children: please don't check up on them in the middle of nursery. If they see you, it causes all sorts of problems. And don't linger when dropping them off. If possible, have an older sibling drop them off. Give them a chance to learn independence at a young age, and give the poor nursery workers' ears a break. The screaming gets worse if they see you again later.

Tyler made me watch his Wallace & Grommitt DVD today. I don't get it. The penguin was pure evil; that just seems wrong to me.

[Comments] (6) Finally: I can leave work before the sun goes down!

Susie and I had a little shopping spree last night: bought new cell phones with CA area codes, bought book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events, of which Susie has most likely finished reading by now, and went to eat at Boudin. We split the roasted corn soup and a chicken pesto pizza.

What drives me crazy about all of this, is that last night was a Tuesday night. But we still had to scrounge for a parking stall at the South Coast. I guess shopping is always in fashion here in SoCal; I just thought it was only like that on the weekends. Always reminds me why I avoid the mall.

Next week they're shipping me to Cleveland for three days. The only way these trainings could be more boring is if they held them in some really lame place, like Utah....

[Comments] (6) Jerks are People too: I just don't get people. On my flight back home last night, I had the aisle seat and there was a man next to the window. We lucked out in that the seat inbetween us was empty. So I set a small reading book in the seat for a few minutes and this guy plops down thirty pounds of luggage onto the seat. On top of my book. And goes to sleep. And his luggage was really practically falling down on top of me. Why does he get the seat, anyway? Who does he think he is?

Then there's the guy in front of me. This man has all three seats to himself in the row. So where does he sit? In front of me, naturally. And he reclines his chair, even though I am trying to study for my CPA on the little desk. Why couldn't he sit in the middle seat where nobody was behind him? I was going to recline my seat to give me more room, but there was a woman sitting behind me reading and I didn't want to do the same thing to her that was being done to me--bad karma and all.

So it's a dilemma for me. Am I being too nice? Do I look at stuff like that and think it's rude but really it's not, and I'm just overly-cognizant of my world? And who sets the social rules on this? Seinfeld?

But this trip did add two more states to my repertoire, thanks to layovers in Minneapolis and Detroit. While in Detroit, I even had a Philly Cheese Steak that was way yum. But it was my third trip to OH, so that was a bummer. Why have I even been to OH three times? Bizarre.

The training they put me through was hideous. I had to get up at 4 am SoCal time, for starters. And half of the people there were from NY office and started one week ago. Counting my internship, I've been here 6 months now. So, obviously, this training was a complete waste of time to me. And the food sucked too. I will never eat at Dave N Busters again; all that place does is serve stuff straight from Costco's frozen food section.

But, though it was freezing, it was nice to see the fall colors for a few days. Now it's back to sunshine and green.

[Comments] (3) The Train in Spain Stays Mainly on the Track: Had to work in LA three days last week. Took the train and Metro twice (cuz then I was forced to leave work at a certain hour) and carpooled with a co-worker the third time. Taking the train made me realize that a lot of people are gone from home just as much as I am, but instead of working long hours, like I do, they commute their lives away.

I have to go back this week, and the project has to go out, no ifs, ands, or buts. Which means I have to drive, since the last train leaves Union Station at 6:30, meaning I have to leave the office by 5:45. Not an option. So thankfully Uncle Ernie has offered to let me get a hotel room at the Wilshire Grand. I hope I'll actually get to use it, as opposed to sleeping at the office this week.

Last night at Disneyland I ran into Patti, my coworker, who was with her crying five year old. She had just experienced the Tower of Terror and didn't appreciate the experience. And I saw a friend from high school, Liz Boggess, whom I haven't seen in eight years. I didn't recognize her; I recognized her father. And a month ago I ran into a sister missionary from my days in the Kong. So the morale of the story is: if you need to find a lost acquaintance, get annual passes to Disneyland and, chances are, they'll all turn up eventually.

Time is going by way too fast, but that means Thanksgiving is coming. Then Christmas. And I really don't have time to go shopping. Or vote this week. That's why I am planning a different sort of Christmas present this year for Susie.

Today in nursery I didn't have to hold Ethan the whole time. We all evolve on our own timetable I guess.

[Comments] (3) The Epitome of Customer Service: I booked online for myself a night at The Wilshire Grand while in LA. I never was very tech savvy, and apparently put through a reservation through December 8 instead of November 8. I always did hate those little drop down calendars. Anyway, imagine the surprised look on the concierge's face this morning when I announced I was checking out.

He quickly regained his composure, asked why I wasn't staying until December 8, to which I became surprised and told him I didn't think my wife would like that one bit, and that's why. Once we figured out where each other was coming from, I apologized for clicking the wrong button online. To which he apologized for their system not being user friendly enough, and even so, it was probably an internal problem and not my fault in the least.

Bull. I checked my online statement, and sure enough, it said I had booked an extended 31-night stay at The Whilshire Grand. But it sure was nice to have him straight faced take one for the team like that. So nice, in fact, that I think I'll spend three nights there in December and three weeks there in January (thanks to audit training).

FYI--He did tell me that if you ever stay for more than a month, the hotel will pay the tax.

[Comments] (5) Overtime: Last night was a Stake Primary Leadership meeting. Susie and I chose to attend because we are already in a Nursery rut and thought we would pick up some new ideas. We were wrong.

I don't mind so much the first hour of the meeting, even though the Stake Primary Presidency was reading verbatim some script they had written, and between the activities, songs, and "primary woman voice" thing (you know of what I speak) going on, I felt like I was a CTR B again. That I can handle.

What I canNOT handle was the split-off meeting, taught by some member of the Stake Presidency. He went overtime by 20 minutes. And after the closing prayer, he decided to share two more scriptures. That I mind. Who is he to decide that what he has to say is more important than my schedule? I love speaking last in church, or any function, because I get the exciting opportunity to tailor my speech to the remaining time constraint, which, admittedly, I find fun. So naturally, I wouldn't understand how the other half lives. That half that thinks it's ok to throw time, structure, and people out of wack simply because he prepared too much and wants to somehow fit it all in. What he had to say was not so important; I've heard it all growing up my entire life. It must come down to pride (ie, he is so cool that what he has to say is obviously way more important than my own personal obligations). One of these days I'm gonna get the nerve to start walking out when time is up.

The highlight of the night was the donuts, because, well, our stake is rich and they were good kinds (spared no expense). I felt fully justified in taking two. Bottom line: no new ideas, so I guess we'll stick to the old routine of playtime, snack, and playtime.

[Comments] (11) The State of our world: A lot of people I've talked to lately, including a lot of Mormons, have told me that they only want 2 kids. Some already have one and say their reason is that they can barely handle one, but they want one more, hoping it'll be of the other gender.

The others cite cost, difficulty of raising kids, stress, self-fulillment, etc. And a lot of these people share my religious beliefs. I wonder what has happened. When I grew up, everybody had at least four children; many had more. Are kids more expensive? Are parents more selfish? Are kids tougher to raise? Are we not as tough as our parents were? Were they just naive?

I can't figure it all out. I enjoyed having lots of siblings around (and still do--more options to talk to, etc). But I can see the benefits of fewer children, and it's not just financial. I would have felt more special, had more opportunities, had more attention (which I think all kids could use more of, though that's not a given for parents who have less kids).

Or maybe it's just cuz I'm in California now.

In other news, it is my goal to leave work by 6 every day this week, and have succeeded thus far. It's a nice change of pace.

[Comments] (5) Damn I'm Good: I got my latest CPA score back today (in 13 days time, thanks to being strictly multiple choice). 89. I seriously didn't think I passed, and had visions of "73" dancing in my head. Even though it's my lowest score so far and drags down my entire average, so be it. It's over. I am 75% done and on my way to becoming certified and expense-reimbursed. I failed to fail.

Work was nice this week; I even left at 4:30 today. Tonight we have a ward Thanksgiving dinner (we're going for the food), tomorrow we are going to see the reindeer at the "Merriest Place on Earth," and Sunday we celebrate Tyler's 4th & Justin's 11th birthdays. Unfortunately for Justin, we had to order his gift online and it won't be delivered until next Tuesday. Then Monday night we hope to go see GOF.

In completely unrelated news, Susie says that Garfield and Leonard share multiple similar characteristics. I'm not so sure I agree.

[Comments] (1) Mele Kalikimaka: I'm feeling like Christmas will be quite different this year, considering Thanksgiving is next week and it is 80 degrees outside. We went to Disneyland yesterday to see the reindeer and they were panting. I'm not sure they can handle this weather. But they were cool to see. We made it a Christmas day yesterday and also saw the Christmas Parade, and went on the It's a Small World Christmas and Holiday Haunted Mantion rides. The latter is changed at Christmas to reflect Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Pretty neat. Oh, and we also went to Mickey's house in ToonTown and got to take a personal foto with the mouse!

Then that night we put out our Christmas decorations. I know we are a bit premature this year, but it couldn't be helped, since tomorrow we are going to see HP 4, the next day we will be leaving for SF, and the week after Thanksgiving I am in LA. So Santa, consider our halls decked to the max!

As far as a wishlist, here goes (I'm terrible at these things):

1. Any Disney classic DVD, as we are trying to start a collection (ask Susie for details on the few we actually do own).

2. The Rankin-Bass Christmas DVD Collection (totally awesome; I know le Target has it for a mere $30. It includes the Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph shows we all know and love).

3. I know it's a lame cop-out, but a Target gift card would be nice, as we have decided to buy a digital camera for our upcoming Alaska extravaganza.

4. Anything with caramal, marzipan, or eggnog in it!

5. Wise and Otherwise, the board game.

That's about it. Hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving (I know I will)!

Even Steven: Went to HP 4 last night. Pretty good. Disagreed with a few thing the directors did, but I do that in most movies. Overall, they had a lot to fit in, and they did a decent job at it. That said, there is something I really wish could be changed but cannot....I want the old Dumbledore back.

After the movie I found a $5 bill on the ground. I was not a bit ashamed to retrieve it off the cold ground and put it in my warm pocketes.

We made it safe to b-town. It's cold here; I miss my place already. Happy Turkey Day!

I left my cold in San Francisco: I am so happy to be back in the land of sunshine. Man, I'm such a wuss.

But NorCal was alright. Rachel, Susie and I hit Chinatown and FilipinoLand on our own, and Rachel liked the chinese bread! She can be my future travel buddy. The zoo was very nice, and it was neat to see the penguins and felines get fed. And Fisherman's Wharf is always an experience I enjoy. Who wouldn't enjoy yummy fish n chips and free Ghiradelli's chocolate? I like seeing all the people having fun during the holidays. I could have done without the penny cade, though.

Took the train to LA this morning. Here until Wednesday, then it's up to B-town for Grandma's funeral. I am very happy for Grandma; she has seemed very lonely and unfulfilled since Grandpa died. Now she is with him again. But, of course, it is always hard to lose someone special.

My favorite season is finally here-I love the holidays.

[Comments] (5) God Bless Dewar's, every one.: For they had the egg nog ice cream I craved, and it was very yummy. For there was no one there, and we had fast service. For the dead aminals had on santa hats, and it was wierd. Thank you, Dewar's.

Susie and I spent the week in B-town for grandma's funeral. I got to be a casket bearer, which was an honor. Because my grandparents have around 30 grandchildren and/or died while I was little, I will probably never get that opportunity within my own family. I enjoyed the open-endedness of the funeral services. It was a refreshing change to the multiple hour Mormon services I am accustomed to. And Brother John did an excellent job. I don't know if I'll ever see that man again, but I'd like to. I would imagine that a Latino Baptist preacher is a rarity.

Since we were already in Kern County, Susie and I decided to stay put through Saturday to be with family. It was fun. I got plenty of study time in, worked all day Friday waiting for my car at Nature's Car Wash, watched The Music Man, and went to a Boar's Head Festival at the local Lutheran Church. It reminded me of high school choir performances, and was tastefully done. And they had wassail!

At Pat's house after the funeral, it was nice to sit back and talk with Shannon and Brian. Brian and Eric both asked Susie and me why we aren't parents yet. Eric made some off-hand Mormon joke out of it. But Brian's sister-in-law recently converted to Mormonism, so I tried to straighten out that misconception for him. I'm slowly putting the Richardson family puzzle together, and finally understand who belongs to whom, and who is dead.

On the way home Susie and I decided to go to Ikea. It's a pretty fun store, and I think it is very smart to make it so kid friendly, cuz then parents will bring the kids and buy them lunch in the food court they have. Yes, Ikea has its own food court. But I have to wonder. Some of there stuff is so cheap. How can I possbily trust a $50 ottoman I assemble myself not to break? I think it's a great concept for transient college students to shop there. I wish Utah had an Ikea. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't complain. After all, starving kids in China don't have Ikea.

[Comments] (3) Turkish Delight: I now know what it is, and realize that I don't like it. Narnia was done pretty well. And seeing it opening night was not a prob. We got our tickets about an hour ahead of time, then grabbed a bite at Boudin, and went and got seats. It seemed slow moving at times, but I would never have guessed that the movie was 2.5 hours long until I looked at my watch at the end of the show.

I would have expected the audience to be mostly full of people who have actually read the books before, or at least understood their background. But there were a plethora of audible gasps and a shout of "whatthe" when the stone table broke and Aslan returned. Duh! He's Jesus Christ.

In other movie news, I finally saw Star Wars 3 on DVD this week. I actually liked it and wasn't bored with it, like I was in movie 1 and 2. It tied the pieces together, explained well why Yoda couldn't defeat Palpatine, immortality and Qui Gon Jin, etc. I didn't love it, but I liked it. Now the saga is complete in my head, and it's enough. We also watched A Christmas Story, the Grinch, and the Santa Clause this week. It's amazing--you can watch a whole movie at night when you only work until 5:30.

Today we are shopping, cleaning house, and going to Disneyland. We'll probably only get on about three rides the whole time, seeing that it's the holidays, but oh well. I just like being in that kind of atmosphere at Christmas.

[Comments] (5) Happy Hour: Susie and I watched Tim Burton's rendition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night. Why does Mr. Burton have to take the nicest stories and ruin them with a hodgepodge of Goth darkness and unneeded, unexplained mystery? Needless to say, Susie and I did not enjoy it. If Mr. Depp is serious about winning an Emmy, that one won't help.

Christmas Wishes: Dear Santa:

My Christmas list has changed a little bit. The following items are new requests. I sincerely hope you can pull it off in five days.

1. After reading this article about the NYC transit strike, please help all those people be safe, and remind me to be thankful that I am not dependent on unions to get about.

2. Help mom to feel better, have the courage to turn up the heat, and NOT feel the need to overburden herself this Christmas. We can do without a fancy dinner, or all those Christmas cookies we never eat anyway, as long as DeWar's doesn't run out of eggnog ice cream.

3. Help me pass my last CPA exam, even though I've hit the wall, and seem to be slipping in my study habits. I'm so close.

4. Please knock some sense into our Primary President, so that we don't have to go to CTR 6 in January and play the piano, but can instead stay with our army of two year-olds. Or just send us a new member that both plays the piano and attends church on a regular basis. As Susie and I seem to be the only ones that fit this criteria, thus far, I realize this would truly be a miracle on Baker Street.

Yes, I believe that should do it.

Much obliged, and Merry Christmas


[Comments] (3) The Simple Things: I received from Sumana for Christmas a rather neat book entitled "Christmas at the New Yorker." I love it. The cover has Santas all over it, making it a perfect Christmas coffee table decor, but even more than that, the stories and adverts are very funny, and each one is quite unique. I look forward to future winter nights in front of a fire (OK, maybe not in the OC) reading these stories.

Leonard also made homemade truffles, and I am afraid that I ate more than my fair share of them. Maybe it balances out, since I don't care for Christmas pudding.

It was a nice, peaceful Christmas and that makes me happy.

Unfortunately, I always seem to think that Christmas is the end all. I always think, oh that's after Christmas. I'll deal with that later. It's later now (2006 to be exact) and I have to start dealing with the new year, which, in public accounting, can be quite stressful. May it go swift enough to not be stressful, yet slow enough to be enjoyable, is my wish for the new year.

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