Since Summer 2016, troop 73 has known that we would have an opportunity to go to the Philmont Ranch in New Mexico. We had won the lottery, and had 24 spots available to our troop. This means that we had the potential to take 20 kids and 4 adults in two crews out to New Mexico in 2017. And from the moment I found out that we would have the opportunity to travel, I knew that I would go. As one of the Assistant Scout Masters in our troop, I knew that I had the certifications that would be needed to attend…but more importantly, I have a son that would be just the right age to make the trip. At 15, going on 16, my oldest would be the perfect age to really enjoy what this experience had to offer.
Now, I should note, as excited as my son was to make this trip (and he was – he fund-raised nearly all of the $800 camp registration), I was probably more so. Since leaving Oregon, I think I’ve had the hardest time out of my family adjusting to Ohio. I love being outdoors, and while Ohio does have some very nice areas to camp and hike (really, it does), they aren’t the same. I miss the mountains, I miss the forest, I miss the towering fir trees that keep the forests green year round. That was my childhood…it represents some of my favorite memories with my family, with my father. And these were some of the memories that I hoped to build with my son…and hoped to relive a little bit while I spent some time in the mountains.
Preparation for the trip
Over the year, there was a lot of preparation that had to be undertaken. Equipment to be purchased, plans to be made. Some of the preparation was getting the kids ready to carry a backpack for eleven days. Some of the preparation was getting ready to hike for 5 hours every day. Some of the preparation was learning skills that would be required when camping in the back country for eleven days. Lots of preparations.
Then there was personal preparation. I turned 40 this year, and one of the things that I got into my head was that for Philmont, I was going to grow out my beard and hair. Why? Well, it was fun. I haven’t grown a beard in close to 20-25 years, so it would be something different. But it was also somewhat practical. With my hair long, and my beard full, I wouldn’t have to worry about the sun burns that everyone else in my Crew would end up worrying about. So how did it go? Quite nicely. I kept a photo record from Feb. 2017 when I started.
The last picture is in the Chicago Union Station with my son. I was quite pleased with my final Philmont beard.
The trip to and from Philmont ended up taking about 15 days. We travelled to Philmont via the train, travelling by bus from Columbus, OH to Toledo, and then from Toledo, OH to Raton, NM. For many of the kids, this represented the first time that they’d been on a train, crossed the Mississippi River, seen the plains of Kansas….it’s a great way to see the country…particularly the fly over country. On the train, we saw fields of corn, a tremendous lightening storm near Topeka, the snow covered mountains in Colorado, and a bear as we neared Raton. The kids spent a lot of time going to and from the observation train car, and generally enjoying the ride. I took a few pictures of the train trip across the country.
For us, the trip officially started in Raton, NM. This is where the Philmont buses picked us up. When you get to Philmont, everything is crazy. To start with, you have to get registered, there is equipment to pick up…lots of things to get done, including a shakedown with the ranger to make sure that everyone has everything that they will need for the trip. For the kids, this part of the trip is probably the most boring. We spend a lot of time sitting, a lot of time talking to the ranger about bears, bear protocols, snakes, water purification, etc. The ranger spends their time telling us all the terrible things that could happen out in the woods (which is fun, because some of the kids are already worried about bears and snakes) and the adults spend our time trying to keep them from going crazy.
You spend one day in base camp, and then you are on the bus.
For our Philmont trip, we hiked itinerary 9 (http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/filestore/philmont/camping/2017Itinerary/Itinerary/itin_2017_9.jpg). This would take us through Old Abreu, Crags, Beaubien, Black Mountain, the Red Hills, Cyphers Mine, Cimarroncito, Upper Clarks Fork, and then over the Tooth of Time to Base Camp. In all, it was a 61 mile itinerary, though my Fitbit with GPS clocked us way over that mileage. I actually journalled the trip, in part, because I wanted to remember what it was like, and in part, because I wanted to be able to give the parents of the kids in my Crew a taste of what the trip was like for the kids. And it was glorious. We climbed multiple peaks, including Red Hill and Mt. Philips. For almost all the kids, every day represented a new tallest mountain. We camped over 9,000 ft 4 times, over 10,000 ft once. We danced on the Tooth of Time. For many of the kids, it was the first time that they rode a horse, or had an opportunity to rock climb, or walk through an old gold mine. For eleven days, we watched the boys grow, mature, and wonder at the beauty of the New Mexico country-side. And I got to do this with my son – to make stories that only the two of us share through this very unique experience and bond. I know that I’ve been told by every kid in our troop that has done Philmont, that it’s a life changing event. It almost has to be…you are forced to push yourself in ways that you might not have thought possible, and bond with your Crew through this shared experience. But I think that as adults, we get just as much. You can’t help but be transported back to your youth. For me, it took me back to camping with my family, hunting with my dad…it let me slow down and appreciate how lucky I was to be spending this time with my own son.
We took a lot of pictures throughout the trip (hundreds). I pulled a few of our time at the ranch.
Probably my two favorite pictures though happened off the trail. The first is of my crew…
We’d just come off the Tooth of Time, down the Ridge Trail, and into basecamp. We were tired, dehydrated, and excited to be home. We were also a little sad that it was all over. While the kids couldn’t talk enough about what they wanted to eat (trail food definitely gets old and hard to stomach), there was also a realization that we were done and would be going home in a couple of days. It was bittersweet for me as well. While it was nice to have a cot to sleep in, and some real coffee to drink…I really wasn’t ready to be done. Even today, as I write this, I wish more than anything that I could get back out on the trail and just walk in the woods.
The other photo is this one:
This is a picture of me and my son, as soon as we got off the trail. We sent it to my wife…our picture as 2017 Philmont finishers. I’m incredibly proud of him, and what he’s accomplished.
And that pretty much wrapped up our trip. Of course, I’m leaving a lot of things out. I didn’t talk about the poison oak that I got into, and the rash the covered almost my entire body (that was fun), or the numerous trips our crews had to the trail doctors (I did mention, this trip is hard), or the logistics of digging cat holes, or eating trail food and sketchy water for days. No doubt – it’s a challenging trip. I’ve done this kind of hiking before (in the Pacific Northwest), and while Philmont is easier (more controlled), it’s still no joke. But if anyone asks – it is so very worth it. And I’ll be back. I have a date with Philmont in 2020, when I’ll take my youngest son, when he’s 15. And I’m sure the experience will be just as challenging, just as enjoyable, and completely different. And you know what, I can’t wait.
If you haven’t heard by now, I’m leaving Oregon State University. After 13 years at the Oregon State University Libraries, my family and I are pulling up stakes and heading to Columbus, Ohio to take the position of Head, Digital Initiatives at The Ohio State University Libraries.
It has been a fantastic 13 years, filled with great friends, interesting stories and lots of opportunities. These last few days have been hard saying my goodbyes and cleaning my office for the last time.
But I am moving on. As of April 1st, I’ll be in Columbus for my first day at The Ohio State University. Its a big move, a little scary move – but an exciting move. And more importantly, it’s probably the right time to make this move. So if you try and contact me and it takes me a little longer to get back to you – I apologize as things are a bit hectic right now.
One of the hats I wear is as a member of the Independence Library Board. I love it because I don’t work with public libraries as often as I’d like to in my real job, and honestly, the Independence Public Library is the center of the community. The Library is a center for adults looking for education opportunities, kids looking for resources, and home to a number of talented librarians that are dedicated to encouraging a love of reading to our community. It’s one of the few libraries I’ve ever known to have both a children’s and adult reading programs and takes advantage of that in the summer – by having the adults and kids compete against each other to see who logs the most pages (the kids always win).
Each board meeting is interesting, because as the economy became more difficult for people, more people turned to the library. Every month, the library sees more circulations, more bodies in the building, more kids, more adults – just more. And they do it on a budget that doesn’t accurately reflect the impact that they have on the community.
Anyway, one of the things that the Library has going for it is a very active friends program – and through that group (and some grant funds), the library was able to purchase a number of Laptop computers for circulation within the Library. The Library currently has some, 8-10 terminals that are always being used and the laptops would provide additional seats, and allow people to work anywhere within the library using the wifi.
The Library setup the laptops using the usual software – DeepFreeze, etc. to provide a fairly locked down environment. However, what was missing was a customizable timer on the machines. Essentially, the staff was looking for a way to make it easier for patrons checking out the laptops to avoid fines. The Laptops circulate for a finite period of time within the building. Once that time is over, the clock starts ticking for fines. To avoid confusion, and help make it easier for patrons to know when the clock was running out – I’d offered to work on building a simplified timer/kiosk program.
The impetus for this work comes from Access 2007 I think. I had attended the hackfest before the conference and one of the project ideas was an open source timing program. I had worked on and developed a proof of concept that I passed on. And while I never worked on the code since – I kept a copy myself. When we were talking about things that would be helpful, I was reminded of this work.
Now, unfortunately, I couldn’t use much of the old project at all. The needs were slightly different – but it helped me have a place to start so that I wasn’t just looking at a blank screen. So, with idea in hand, I decided to see how much time it would take to whip together an application that could meet the needs.
I’ll admit, nights like tonight make me happy that I still do more than write code in scripting languages like python and ruby. Taking about 3 hours, I put together a feature complete application that meets our specific needs. I’ll be at the Oregon Library Association meeting this week, and if folks find this kind of work interesting, I’ll make it a bit more generic and post the source for anyone that wants to tinker with it.
So what does it do? It’s pretty simple. Basically, it’s an application that keeps time for the user and provides some built-in kiosk functionality to prevent the application was being disabled.
Here are a few of the screen shots:
When the program is running, you see the clock situated in the task tray
Click on the icon, and see the program menu
Preferences – password protected
Because we have a large Hispanic population, all the strings will need be able to be translated. This was essentially is just the locked message. I’ll ensure the others are customizable as well – maybe with an option to just use Google Translate (even though it far, far from perfect) if a need to just get the gist across is the most important.
Run an action (both functions require a password)
Place your cursor over the icon to get the minutes
Information box letting you know you are running out of time
Sample lockout screen
In order to run any of the functions, you must authenticate yourself. In order to disable the lockout screen, you must authenticate yourself. What’s more, while the program is running, it creates a low-level keyboard hook to capture and pre-process all keystrokes, disabling things like escape keys, the windows key, ctrl+alt+del so that once this screen comes up – a user can not break out of it without shutting off the computer (which would result in needing to log in). Coupled with DeepFreeze and some group policy settings, my guess is that this will suffice.
The source code itself is a few thousand lines of code, with maybe a 1000 or 1500 lines of actual business logic and the remainder around the UI/threading components. Short and simple.
Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do a little testing and get some feedback later this week – but for now – I’m just happy that maybe I can give a little bit back to the community library that gives so much to my family. And if I hear from anyone that this might be of interest outside my library – I’ll certainly post the code up to github.
For those of you that don’t have kids dragging you to most cartoons released in the theatre, this is a picture of Toothless, from the movie How to train your dragon. Toothless is what they call, a NightFury. Anyway – here’s a picture of the dragon from the movie:
And here is our recreation on the pumpkin:
So, that’s two pumpkins down – three to go. Though, the last three get really complicated, so I likely won’t be carving them until Friday or Saturday so that they will last till Halloween.
Around Halloween, the pumpkin carving usually begins in earnest. Today, I completed the first of our 5 pumpkins. This one is mine – and I decided to go with the OSU Beaver in honor of the whooping the football team put on Washington State this last weekend. Hopefully it will display proudly through next weekend when we play Utah.
While my team didn’t win the civil war, I’ve had a good time this year dyeing my hair various shades of orange. For the civil war, I decided to go with more of an ‘80’s style. This was after the game with the family.
As usual, I set aside 4-5 hours to work on the family pumpkins. This year, I think that we came up with a good crop. Nathan and Kenny decided they wanted Mario characters, I decided to take Puss from Shrek 2 and Alyce picked David Tennant, our favorite Dr. from the new Dr. Who series. So here were go:
Nathan’s pumpkin (Bowser from Super Mario):
Kenny’s pumpkin (Boo from Super Mario):
Here’s My pumpkin, Puss from Shrek 2:
And my wife’s pumpkin, Dr. Who and the Tardis. I’m really proud of this one. The picture really doesn’t do it justice.
As you might be able to tell, we love the Halloween festivities here at my house. But I guess that’s because at heart, I’m just a big kid.
So, with the summer winding down, I decided to take the family for a bit of a vacation – and then took a vacation day on my own with my dad. Here’s a few pictures of the adventures.
Travelling with the family
Because of my injury this summer, my wife and I have been taking the kids all over Oregon to do a little hiking and exploring some of the real treasures in the state. This week, we decided to go an look at a few things that you cannot find anywhere but in Oregon – the John Day Fossil Beds and the Painted Hills.
The John Day Fossil Beds are an incredible treasure in the state. Its is one of the few places in the world (maybe the only place in the world) that contains fossils from 4 continues eras from around 65 MA – 5 MA. Because of this, the research done at John Day is often used to check and correlate research done elsewhere in the world. Aside from being unique – it is incredibly beautiful. The layers in the rocks represent different eras of lava flow or ash flows. This creates incredible blues, reds, yellows and greens. What’s more, fossils basically are just laying on the ground. Scratch the surface of the ground and you’ll find fossils of plants that haven’t existed in Oregon for millions of years.
Within the Fossil beds are what are called the painted hills. These represent some of the oldest geographic layers and are simply brilliant. Here’s a few pictures:
Picture in the Blue Basin
Research office in the Visitors Center where you can watch them studying collected fossils.
Clarno Unit Palisades (Petrified Forest)
Boys finding fossils in Fossil, OR
My mini Vacation – Climbing South Sister
After driving all over eastern Oregon, my wife dropped me off in Bend, Oregon, so I could hitch a ride with my dad to South Sister. The South Sister is the 3rd highest peak in Oregon at 10,300+ ft. The trail to the top is non-technical, but difficult. From the trail head, climbers gain nearly 6000 ft climbing up sharp, and loose volcanic rock.
Leaving at a little after 7 am this morning, my Dad and I managed to grind our way up the hill in about 4-4 1/2 hours. And our reward for all the work – nearly 60 mph winds at the top of the mountain that literately nearly blew me off the peak. So, we decided not to spend much time at the top of the mountain, but did manage to get some great pictures before retreating to a safer area.
The way down the hill was tricky. While we were climbing, we didn’t think anything of the loose rocks. But on the way down, they made coming down a bit more difficult. Even more so for me since my right arm isn’t anywhere close to 100%. Fortunately, we made it through the loose stuff, then ran down the rest of the hill. So coming off the mountain only took about 2 hours, jogging at a brisk pace. Here are a few of the pictures from the top:
Devils Lake (I think)
We were actually really fortunate that we got up and down the mountain when we did. After getting to the bottom of the trail, we looked up and the top of the mountain was completely covered with clouds. On Sisters, that’s not a good thing. Even though the freezing level was likely around 14,000 ft today, it was very likely that anyone still on the mountain had to deal with higher winds, freezing rain and some real nasty weather. So we really lucked out.
As the habit here at my house, the boys and I finally got our jack-o-lanterns finished for this year. Well, mostly finished. I still need to make one for work – but I got the important ones finished.
The boys really look forward to our pumpkin carving nights. We spend a good deal of time planning and picking out just the right pumpkins. This year, we picked our pumpkins from a local Pumpkin Patch – a wheelbarrel full. Kenny picked the biggest, a 45 lb beast of a pumpkin, while Nathan picked 3 white pumpkins. We had one more at home – so that’s what we were carving tonight.
At the pumpkin patch, they had a lot of the fun stuff. A corn maze, hay rides, some hay pyramids, etc. When we were in the corn maze, I tried to convince them that we had to hurry because of the corn zombies – but I don’t think anyone believed me. They were too cool for that. Of course, there are some scary corn mazes around our area that I’ve taken people too while in college that reduced many a man to tears (which is funny) – but I doubt the boys are ready for that (or me ready for spending time up because of the nightmares.)
Anyway, our new pumpkins. We carved 3 from 5 pumpkins. One is the Jolly Rogers, one Aang, from Avatar the Last Air Bender and 3 to make up our jack-o-lantern pumpkin (this was what Nathan wanted). So here they are:
On Aug. 1st, 2001 at 11:29 pm, my wife and I welcomed Kenneth Terry Reese to the world,
and from that day forward, he’s added nothing but joy to our lives. And from the moment I saw him, I fell in love with him.
The funny thing about kids, especially your first child, is that they open up an entire new world to you. We go through life at such a fast pace, living life and missing many of the little things that are going on around us. However, with kids, that can all change. Kenny has brought a number of things into our lives, but the thing that I am always surprised by is the excitement that comes from seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
From a first trip to the beach to play in the surf (this is one of my favorite pictures)
having his first birthday cake
or riding your first bike
the world is full of amazing things happening around us all the time – but as we get older, they lose their luster. When people tell you that having children will make you young again, this is what they mean. Having Kenny come into our lives brought with it a number of changes – some expected, some unexpected. Suddenly, you go from being a young married couple with no responsibilities but to those of your spouse to having a tiny little person who depends on you for everything. Everything changes…your marriage changes, relationships with friends change, how I drove certainly changed and if you are lucky, how you see the world changes. It’s both an amazing and terrifying experience all at the same time. And to those that would ask, I wouldn’t change a thing.
(He still has his black kitty)
I have had the extraordinary privilege to watch my baby growing into a young boy
and have seen him become more confident, adventurous and outgoing every year. He flourishes in school, is naturally curious and has always accepted that Nathan (his younger brother) idolizes him, and that there is a responsibility that comes with that.
It’s been an amazing eight years…eight years that have come and gone way too quickly. But no matter how big he gets, I’ll always be able to remember him as my little boy.