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Archive for September, 2012

For most of my entire life, I haven’t consumed coffee. Why not? I didn’t like the taste. I tried drinking it for a while in 2005 but I found that I had to add too much sugar in it to make it palatable.  Eventually I decided to just go back to not drinking it. Sugar isn’t good for you and I didn’t like the taste, ergo no coffee.

Well, it’s been many years since that time and I now drink coffee regularly. What happened since then?

I think the big shift was this past April when we were in Bali. We went to a coffee plantation and they offered us an assortment of coffees. I had several of them and liked many of them! After that, I changed my tune.

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But these coffees have sugar in them, and I am determined not to drink a lot of sugar. And I like drinking Trader Joe’s coffee without sugar, only a little cream.

What gives?

I think that my lack of sugar drinking is what has enabled me to drink coffee. For you see, for years I drank Coke and Pepsi regularly, having it at most meals. But in 2006 or so, I stopped drinking them except on rare occasions. But I continued to drink fruit juices.

Last year, I stopped drinking even those, include orange juice for breakfast. That was a big change for me. I did it because those drinks are also loaded in sugar, almost as bad as Coke and Pepsi.

Since then, I usually just drink water and tea. What’s common to both of those? Neither of them are sugary. This means that my palate has gotten used to drinking beverages that are not sweet.

And coffee is not sweet. On the contrary, it’s a little bitter. But if I put a little bit of milk or cream in it, I can drink a cup of coffee no problem. I could probably even drink it black although I haven’t tried. The point is that because I have now reset my tastes to drinking beverages that aren’t sweet, I don’t dislike the taste of coffee so much.

This was confirmed to me this past week when I went out to eat with some colleagues at a conference. I skipped dessert but instead had a cup of coffee that I think was an espresso (or like an espresso, which is an intense coffee that is strong and bitter). My first inclination was “Yikes! This is bitter!”

My neighbor next to me offered me some of his dessert which was chocolate and caramel and cake. I had a couple of spoonful’s and then tried the coffee – lo and behold, the sugar in my mouth made the coffee taste okay.

This leads me to believe that when I was drinking sweet drinks, I expected everything sweet. But now that I’ve reset to “plain” drinks, something that’s bitter is not so far away from what I will consume. But it can’t be too bitter.

I’m still picky about the coffee I drink. I don’t like any of the blends from Starbucks. Not everything from Trader Joe’s is that great. I won’t order restaurant coffee.

But my lifelong ban on coffee has been lifted. Hopefully I won’t lose that bet I made with my friend a couple of years ago…

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken more than my fair share of holidays from work (the wife has dragged me around to various places). Yet I still seem to have days left over. How did I do it?

I started going through my head of all the time off I’ve taken from work. I thought back to a strategy I implemented years ago – carrying time over from the previous year.

You see, when I first moved to the US in September 2007, I never took any holidays during the next one year. That way, whenever I took a day off, I was using the previous year’s vacation so I could build up days in reserve, just in case I needed them.

And as it turns out, I have needed them – in 2011 and in 2012. But because I’ve been at Microsoft so so long, I now earn an extra week. So, I’m able to creatively schedule days off and use up my reserves.

Turns out that my build-up-in-reserve strategy paid off, just like I thought it would.  I thought ahead even when I didn’t have a particular plan.

Not bad, I’d say.

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The past few days, the wife dragged me down to central Oregon to do some hiking. We were last here two years ago and she made me hike back then, too, but not nearly as much as now; the hikes were easier back then. In other words, the preview version (dating) was different than the release version (marriage).

On the other hand, my body is growing accustomed to these hikes. I used to lag way behind the wife and at the end, I was nearly dead. But now, I have no problems keeping up with the wife and she lags behind me! I’ve also noticed that my upper legs have gotten larger and pants fit more awkwardly now than they used to.

Yesterday, we did a hike around the South Sister mountain in Central Oregon. There are three mountains known as the Sisters, and we did the southern most once (hence the name). This was one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done this year due to the elevation gained, as well as the altitude. Indeed, it was the highest I have ever ascended this year.

Name: Moraine Lake/South Sister
Distance: 12.7 miles
Starting elevation: 5466 feet
Max elevation: 8622 feet (2012 record!)
Elevation gained: 3450 feet

This hike is down in Oregon and as I said, it was a tough hike. Below is an outline of the path we took:

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The hike starts off fairly flat and we made great time – moving at 2.8 miles per hour which is much faster than our typical ending speed of 2.0 miles per hour (that is, we start off fast and end slow). I was thinking “Gee, this is easy!”

But after the 4.5 mile mark, I started to get tired. The altitude started getting higher making it a lot more difficult and not only that, I was hungry. I didn’t realize how much the lack of food got to me. Only 30 minutes earlier I felt great, but suddenly on the steeper incline I could barely lift my legs. I could walk for about 45 seconds and had to take a short rest. This occurred over and over again. Finally, we stopped so I could eat something and I felt much better.

I couldn’t believe how the lack of food affected me (I was fine for water). I had a decent breakfast, but obviously I had digested it all.

This hike is one where it gets more difficult the higher you ascend. Some hikes are steep at first and level off (such as Mt. Baker in Washington), this one starts off shallow and gets steeper:

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The climb just gets higher and higher!

During the first 3.5 miles, I was all like “Man, I’m so going to the top!” Then, about 30 minutes later when it got steeper and I was out of food, I was like “Oh, I am so not going to the top!” We ended up not going all the way up for two reasons:

  1. It was too far and we were too tired (well, I was).

    It was still another 1+ mile and 1600 foot elevation gain to get there.  That is a very steep elevation gain for that distance. For reference, 500 feet per mile is the border of where it starts to become a difficult. This is triple that.

  2. The sun sets at 7:00 pm. We had to make the return trip before it got dark. We didn’t have enough time to make it to the top and then back to the car before the sun went down.

So we made due with sticking to 8600 feet which is what you see above. Below is where we went up to:

 

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Believe me when I say it was a tough slog getting up there. I took a picture from up there at what I thought was the top:

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But that little red bit peeking out is not the top. There’s still a lot more to go after that. Even from up there, you can still see some pretty good views:

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From the start of trail to the lake you can see there near the center of the picture is 3.5 miles, and then to where I am standing it is another 3.2 miles.

The climb down from here is not too bad except for one part where there are steep rocks and loose footing. It took a while to come down this part:

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One thing about central Oregon that I haven’t noticed in Washington or B.C. are the colors of the rocks. As you saw in one photo above, the ground is red. I don’t know what type of rocks these are, but the type of material they are is colored red which makes is distinct from nearly every other place I have been.

Finally, speaking of rocks, when I was at the top resting after a long ascent, I picked up a small rock and for some reason banged it against another one. I expected to hear a “click” – the sound you would hear if you bang two pieces of rock against each other.

But it’s not what I heard.

Instead, I heard a “clank,” as if two pieces of metal were clanking against each other. It was a very clear, distinct metallic clank. “What the—?” I said. I clanked it again and it kept making the same noise.

“That’s weird,” I said.

I then banged the little rock against another rock, as if to test it. This one made a wooden clicking noise, as if you were banging two wooden sticks against each other.

“What the—!” I said again. Two rocks located right next to each other making different noises?

The only explanation I have for this is that both rocks were different types of rocks, or maybe they were positioned in such a way so as to echo differently. I wished I had paid more attention in science class in seventh or eighth grade where we probably learned this stuff.

Here’s where they were located:

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The one on the left made the wooden sound, the one on the right made the metallic sound. The small one on top of the wooden one is the “banging” rock. Finally, I tested the small rock on yet another rock off-screen and it made the typical rock-and-rock clicking sound.

Whoever knew science could be fun?

Anyhow, we made it back to the car with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare. I was done, though. Even though I would have liked to have made it to the 10,200 peak of the mountain, my body would have protested vehemently.

And that’s the story of the time we climbed partway up the South Sister peak in central Oregon.

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If you’ve been following the news recently, you may have heard about a new discovery – the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.

This discovery is fragment of a papyrus fragment of a Coptic (Egyptian) text that dates to somewhere between 150-200 AD. It is only visible on one side, there are three letters on the other side and the rest are so faint that they can’t make it out. The big brou-ha-ha is that it refers to a wife of Jesus.

The text is fragmented and there is very little content, here it is:

Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012

Papyrus text: front. Karen L. King 2012

As you can read from the translation, there’s not much to go on. The disciples say something to Jesus (about Mary?). Jesus says Mary is worthy of something and then in the next line, Jesus refers to his wife. He continues to say something and that Mary will be his disciple.

Does this prove that Jesus had a wife?

In my view, no. There are several reasons for this:

  1. On the one hand, some believe that Jesus must have been married because he was Jewish, and all Jewish men got married. The gospels are silent on this, but there may have been oral traditions preserved, but not written down, that didn’t make it into the gospel. However, they made it into this fragment. This increases the likelihood that Jesus was married.

  2. However, it proves nothing of the thing. For you see, this is a second century fragment of what appears to be a Gnostic text. There are many Gnostic texts (and pseudo-orthodox texts) that have characters from the bible that say and do things they almost definitely didn’t do. For example, in the Gospel of Judas, Judas (Iscariot) sees a spirit of the body of Jesus laughing at the people who crucified him. In the Gospel of Peter, the resurrection story has a giant Jesus standing on the shoulders of two giant angels as he emerges from the tomb.

    It was common to forge gospels in the names of the apostles, even Jesus and his brothers, having them say and do things they didn’t actually do.

  3. There is another forged text (the Gospel of Mary?), that shows Jesus and Mary being very close, and Mary is even closer than the rest of his disciples and the disciples are disturbed by this. This seems to be a Gnostic text elevating the status of Mary in order to elevate the status of women.

  4. There are no early traditions of Jesus being married in our earliest texts – Mark, Luke, John, Matthew and Paul’s letters. We don’t even have any forgeries from later centuries from Jesus’s wife or any of his children (to my knowledge). If Jesus were married, and it were well known, I’d have thought that someone, somewhere, would have referred to it. This is an argument from silence, I admit.

Given these, the fact that it dates from so late and sounds similar to an existing Gnostic text (she will be able to be my disciple, Mary is worthy of it), it’s just another forgery.

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In contrast to my previous post about dividing up household tasks, the wife and I fight about money all the time. It can get pretty heated.

Just kidding.

I put that title in the subject line of this post in order to draw your attention because people are drawn to conflict, not to harmony.

The wife and I don’t really fight about money that much, either. Do we even fight about it at all?

When it comes to money, I’m pretty boring. In my younger days I used to trade a lot but eventually I stopped doing that because I kept making the wrong decision and I got tired of losing money. It was annoying. Now I just do boring passive investing; I’m probably making more and it’s less stressful.

With that out of the way, there isn’t that much that I splurge on. I’m actually kind of a cheap person. My feeling is that couples fight about money when one partner splurges on stuff without having the funds to pay for it. Whenever I make a large purchase, it’s usually because I’ve either:

  1. Thought long and hard about it beforehand before coming to the decision, or

  2. It falls into a pattern of pre-established spending, such as giving xx dollars to charity each month, or moving money into my retirement account. Because both of those things are things I have been doing for years, and need to do, I don’t clear them with the wife before I do it. They are on auto-pilot.

    Category 1 and 2 have different levels of clearance.  #1 requires discussion ahead of time with the wife.

The wife has different spending patterns than I do. While I question some of the assignments of value she puts on things, so long as we’re not running up debt, paying down bills, not acquiring useless junk in our residence, I don’t say too much. It’s just not that big a deal.

On the other hand, right now we are two people both earning an income without kids at home.  It’d be bad if we were in our position and always unable to make ends meet.

Fortunately, at the moment, we’re not there.

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The wife and I have now been married almost a year. Sometimes my married friends ask me “So how has it been?” and I’ve shrugged and said “Fine.” He then replies with an exclamation of surprise, because during he and his wife’s first three months of marriage, that was where there was the most arguments and disagreements.

The wife and I don’t argue much. I wouldn’t say it’s been a cake walk the entire time, but there hasn’t been a lot of big things. The only thing that comes to mind immediately is the time the wife kept asking me to go to some place in Wyoming (or maybe it was some other place that begins with a  ‘W’) and take a day off of work. I was under a lot of pressure at work, and working hard on my app, and finally I firmly said “No, I can’t go!” That’s not all I said, but that’s the jist.

Oh yeah, there was also the time at the Columbia Gorge when we were on a hike and it was very cold and the wife kept changing her mind which direction we were going to go down. I finally snapped and said “Make up your mind!” In my defense, I was really cold and I just wanted to get down and get warm.

But when it comes to household chores there really isn’t much disagreement between the two of us:

  • We don’t really keep track of who does what. This goes for dishes, cooking and laundry. The one exception is vacuuming, I do all of that.

  • When it comes to doing dishes, we use the dishwasher for about 2/3 of all dishes. Sometimes in the morning I leave stuff in the sink. Sometimes the wife washes it. Sometimes I do it when I come home, including the dishes the wife used. Whenever I cook anything, I almost always wash the dishes.

    The same goes for unloading the dishwasher. Neither one of us keeps track of who does it when, we do it whenever we have time.

  • The wife cooks more than I do. Cooking usually consists of making food for the next day’s lunch (typically two days). However, I think that the equivalent food I make is of higher quality – that is, between the two of us, we both make stir fry. Vegetables, rice and meat. The version I make is better because I put a few more spices in.

    It took me a while to get a noticeable difference. For the longest time it made no difference who did it, we cooked it the same way. Not anymore. I also learned to use the rice cooker so now I can do everything with the stir fry.

  • We both do laundry and put it away. Usually it’s me putting it into the washer and loading the dryer because I get home first and that’s usually when we do it (not in the morning because we frequently run the dishwasher then). The wife frequently puts clothes away.

    But sometimes the tasks are reversed. I don’t really keep track. I think I have an advantage because I have better hour (advantage = I load laundry and put it away).

  • We both sweep the floor of the place.

  • Only I vacuum. The wife doesn’t like doing it. I’ve been saying for a year that I want to get a self-working vacuum, but still haven’t.

  • We both clean the bathroom, although I think the wife probably does it more often than I do.

  • The wife brews coffee more regularly than I do. I don’t know why this is; I get up earlier and I should just go into the kitchen and start it up while I go shower. I never have.

  • Oh yeah, sometimes the wife scolds me when I let dishes dry in the dishes rack next to the sink. I just rinse ‘em and put them in the rack, and then all the water drips into the rubber thingie into the sink. This annoys the wife (the water builds up) although I never notice because my brain says “It’s angled into the sink; therefore no big deal.”

So that’s how household tasks are divided up. It’s pretty ad hoc, but so far it’s worked out fine.

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Nosebleeds?

When I was younger, I used to get a lot of nosebleeds. I didn’t get them because I was hit in the nose, instead, I would get them for no reason in particular. I’d reach up to my nose and notice that blood was coming out.  Occasionally, blood would come out of it like my nose was running.

Those became a little less frequent as I got older, although I don’t recall what it was like during the first few years of the 21st century. However, after I moved to Seattle, they became very infrequent.

This past year I have had a couple of them. In February, I went down to San Francisco for a conference and the wife came on the weekend. On the Friday after the conference, she dragged me out for a hike somewhere in the country.

At the time, I was suffering from a cold that I caught from a guy on the plane so my nose was stuffed. But on this hike, I noticed that the environment was really dry. Northern California is not wet like Seattle, and on the hike I got a nosebleed. Getting a nosebleed when your nose is stuff is really unpleasant. I thought it strange it occurred since I hadn’t had one in a long time. I figured it might be the dry climate.

Fast forward to this past week, and the wife and I were driving back from the Canadian Rockies yesterday. Driving through eastern Washington is like driving through a mini-desert. The climate there is totally different than western Washington because it’s in between the Cascade mountains and the Rocky Mountains. But the climate is also dry, a lot like California.

Well, this morning, I got up. In the bathroom I noticed that I had a bit of dried blood on the inside of my nose.

What the—?

I didn’t have a nosebleed yesterday to my knowledge, but yet I had dried blood in my nose.

What did (a) California, (b) yesterday going through eastern Washington, and (c) growing up in Manitoba have in common?

They are all dry climates.

It’s weird because I don’t have problems in airplanes, and when I have been at high altitudes I’ve also been fine. Yet as the Internet says, dry climates can cause nosebleeds. All these years when I was younger, I must have been getting them because of the climate; I suppose I have a natural susceptibility to them because other members of my family didn’t suffer from the same problems.

I guess that limits where I can live.

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I’m currently traveling in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada.  When I was a kid, my parents frequently took us west to Kelowna, BC, and we would drive through the Rockies.

At the time, I didn’t really understand the significance of the geography of the drive west. I knew three things:

  1. It was a long drive.

  2. There were waterslides in Kelowna.

  3. The relatives we stayed with in Kelowna were vegetarians and they all lived a long time. Seriously, many of them lived to be 100 years old! The fact that they were so long lived did not convince me to give up meat, though.

My father always liked driving through the mountains, but as a kid the scenery was lost on me. I didn’t like driving through them because heights bothered me. Peering out over the railway made me think of us losing control of the car and crashing down into the cliffs below.  Now that I’m older… I still have that fear (I dislike heights even more since my accident in Fiji) but the roads in BC are not like I remember. There are railings on the side of the road and the drops don’t seem so steep.

Anyhow, today the wife and I visited Grotto Canyon near the city of Canmore, Alberta. Grotto Canyon is significant because:

  1. The hike up the canyon is relatively short and flat, which is perfect for the wife since she’s injured (a year ago this would have been fine for me but now it’s too easy).

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  2. There are pictographs drawn on the side of the wall down in the canyon.

Pictographs are drawings done by the native Aboriginal people several hundred years ago. This distinguishes them from petroglyphs which are carvings in the rock – examples include the carvings that the Mayans did. To differentiate these terms quickly, I think of pictographs as graphics – you draw graphics on a piece of paper (or similar). The point is that they are drawn. This means that glyphs are carved.

Anyhow, Grotto Canyon has interesting rock formations, formed over millions of years but carved out by rivers.  You can see the little slots in the side, but also the varying colors of the sides of the canyon:

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While walking through it, we wondered if the place ever got flash floods? If so, we’d have no where to go:

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We got near the end of the canyon and saw even more interesting rock formations. You can see the limestone (I think) and silt. These rocks are squished down over millions of years, and then uplifted as the earth’s crust shifts and heaves.

You can clearly see the layers in the picture below.

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But while we saw the layers of rock, we also wondered where the pictographs were. Another couple of guys informed us of where they were and apparently we walked right by them. There was a large overhanging tree, and there were rock piles that clearly marked where they were:

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Below are not natural rock formations, someone put it there like that to alert people to where the glyphs are:

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We found these on the way back, but for the life of us we could not figure out where these pictographs were. We looked on the rocks and saw little doodles, but those just turns out to be cracks in the wall.

The wife and I looked and looked and looked… and finally gave up.  The wife was starting to walk back and I figured I would just take a random picture of the wall where those drawings were supposed to be.  Maybe when I got back and looked at the pictures I might be able to “Where’s Waldo” them.

And that’s when it happened.

I looked in the viewfinder and saw the wall. I then saw red smudges on the wall:

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“What the—?” I said. I squinted. Those were the pictographs! They were right in front of us the entire time!!  I must have looked at that spot on the wall five times. It was only when I was about to give up and take my last-ditch effort picture that I saw them (kind of like a magic eye puzzle). I excitedly called to the wife “I found them! I found them!”

You could be forgiven for walking right by them, they just look like smudges unless you know what you are looking for.  Unfortunately the red pictographs are fading and they are difficult to see, but you can still make it out.

Below are three figures with their arms extended to the side:

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I think this next one is a bison:

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This next one is the clearest, it’s clearly half a man (?) with his right arm extended. Unfortunately, his left arm has faded away.

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Below is another pictograph, unfortunately I have no idea what it is supposed to be.

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Seeing this now as an adult, I think these are really cool. As a kid, I’m not sure what I would have thought but I probably would have been unimpressed. I would have thought “Well, I guess it’s neat but compared to the computer graphics of today, what’s the big deal? Why do I care about the past?”

Fast forward to today, I care a great deal about the past. I have an amateur interest in archaeology and I enjoy visiting monuments. These drawings are a big deal because they teach us about how people used to live. As a kid, I learned about it in school in my textbook. I didn’t realize that someone had to write those textbooks and they relied upon clues like this in order to create those textbooks.

Now that I understand technology, I have a much greater appreciation of how people lived before modern technology existed (I’m not as impressed by computer technology as I was a decade ago). Creating these drawings was a big deal for these people. We take for granted things like books and Kindles. People back then didn’t have them, they instead spent a lot of time foraging for food. Why should people leave cave drawings at all?

I guess now I just like learning about cultures other than my own, especially ancient cultures.

And that’s the story of the time the wife and I went to Grotto Canyon and saw the pictographs.

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