Archive for the 'Family' Category

Enlightening Encounter with E.T.

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Today I attended a seminar held by Edward Tufte. Edward Tufte, or E.T. as he refers to himself, is the foremost authority on representing data and charting information. He practices what he preaches in his presentation. I enjoyed every minute of the lecture. I was seated to the far right in the very front which made it difficult to see everything he was doing, but his engaging teaching style worked even for people who couldn’t see him very well from their seats.

He used examples from his books extensively to illustrate points and to introduce topics. Four books written and published by Edward Tufte were distributed at the entrance before the talk began. These four books were worth the entire price of admission alone! I can hardly wait to take the time to study them and incorporate their ideas into my own designs.

In one portion of his lecture E.T. focuses on eliminating “chartjunk” and useless clutter from data representations. He is not too keen on the use of PowerPoint with its heavy reliance on hierarchical outlines and the interface’s encouragement to use “bullet grunts” to describe things.

One recent innovation he presents is Sparklines, or small word-sized graphs that can be used any place in a document to quickly convey a lot of data. They are meant to be used just like words. He even suggested that a Sparkline could make a great headline in a news story, especially in the sports section.

This was an all-day event, and afterwards I met up with my wife and some friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix; a satisfying end to an enlightening day.

I Got Mail! Yea!

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

I finally broke down and bought the Wii. I thought I would be able to buy one in the stores by now, but it looks like demand is still outstripping Nintendo’s supply, and stores are immediately selling the few Wiis that are trickling in on their delivery trucks. I ended up bidding on eBay until I accidentally won one of the auctions. After all was said and done I had paid about $400 on it. I was a little upset at first, but as soon as I got it set up and started playing with friends and family I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. My only regret so far is having waited so long to buy it.

When I got home from work today I was feeling really sick. I had a pretty bad head cold and a cough, and I am pretty sure that I had a fever, too. I arrived home just 15 minutes before the post office closed and there was a slip of paper indicating that a package that required a signature upon delivery was waiting for me at the post office about two miles away. I grabbed the paper from the mailbox and went right back to the car without even going inside the house. I wanted to get the Wii ASAP!

After I got out of the post office with the package, I opened it up in the car. The way it was packed made it impossible to remove without getting packing peanuts everywhere, but I wanted to open up the package completely in the car before I got it home. If this had turned out to be an eBay scam, then I wanted to be alone when I found out. I was fearing a Wii box filled with rocks or some other heavy substance instead of the game system I was expecting. Everything checked out, and the system seemed as brand new as it comes!

Krissy was really excited for the new Wii. She wasn’t quite as excited as I was, but that’s understandable, I guess. My coworkers were amazed to hear that my wife actually approved of the purchase and looked forward to playing video games with me on a regular basis. I love my wife!

I can hardly wait to get more friends and family involved when I can get more than just two controllers. You see, the Wii becomes more fun the more people you can get playing it together at the same time. Wii remotes are sold out almost everywhere, just like the Wii. It’s a good thing I bought that Wii remote at Toys R Us back on November 20th of last year!

Krissy and Shawn’s Belated Christmas Festivities

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Tonight we had our little Christmas at home. My Grandparents couldn’t be with us when we opened the gifts we got from them, so they asked that we video tape it to get Krissy’s reaction. Please excuse the poor production values in the following presentation, as they were all 100% intentional and are all a part of my artistic genius.

The Three Mostly-working Laptops

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

My father-in-law works at a great place for finding abandoned computers. Organizations for higher learning are constantly ditching old computers and things that have only minor problems with individual components. He got me three Dell laptops that have only minor problems. I only have a single hard drive for the three of them, so that’s obviously a problem. One of the laptops is missing the connector for the hard drive as well as the hard drive itself. One of them has a problem with the keyboard where the “8” key only works if you twist the display a little bit. That’s obviously a contact problem somewhere. My hope is to get at least one of them working so that Krissy and I can each have our own laptops instead of sharing one.

Olive Garden and Neverending Pasta Bowls

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Olive Garden LogoKrissy and I went out with Kevin and Vicki to take advantage of Olive Garden’s Neverending Pasta Bowls. It’s not a bad deal at $7.95 per person. I was looking forward to it all day, so I made a point not to snack at all after lunch. I still couldn’t finish my first bowl. I think part of it is because they give you soup and bread sticks before the pasta ever comes. On top of that I got two sausages for an extra two dollars. No one at the table finished all of their first bowl of pasta. I figure that their secret must be that no one can eat more than two servings anyway, so we’ll call it “neverending” and people will get all excited about all you can eat pasta. I bet they make a lot of money even though they don’t charge very much. I mean, how much does pasta really cost anyway?

I would do it again, though. It’s good food. I’d rather have neverending soup bowls, though. Their Zuppa Toscana is amazing!

General Conference Weekend Thrills: Part 2

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

This was the first time I’ve been able to watch General Conference live over the Internet. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Linux player available yet for their stream. I had to install Microsoft Internet Explorer and their plugin and run the with Wine. I found a great utility to automate the process. It’s called IEs4Linux. It only cut out a few times and the picture quality was amazing. It also had controls allowing one to pause, fast-forward, and rewind. Really great stuff!

A new Seventy was called, Erich Kopischke. He was the stake president while I was serving in Erlangen in the Nuremberg Stake in Germany. I didn’t know this until I looked him up upon hearing his name in Conference, but he was also the Mission President of the Berlin Mission from 2003 until 2006. That means he was released as a mission president three months before he was sustained as a Seventy.

All in all this Conference has been really good. I can’t think of any one talk that really stuck out more than the others. All of the Apostles’ talks were great!

Bartering With Family

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

I am a big fan of bartering. I know nothing about cars. I know how to dig dirt, though. My father-in-law is really good with cars but can’t do as much manual labor as he used to. Today Krissy and I went to their place and dig some dirt out of a flowerbed that hadn’t seen the light of day for over forty years and he tuned up our car. It was hard work, but my in-laws do so much for Krissy and me that I’m glad to help out when I can.

Krissy digging in the ditch.

Bill with his new high-powered watergun.

Going Home Even Though You Can’t

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

My grandparents were down for the weekend and we decided to attend the ward in which I grew up. It was a lot of fun seeing acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a few years. Grandmother and Grandfather seemed to have an especially enjoyable experience catching up with longtime friends. Here we are in front of the building together.

Grandfather, Grandmother, and Me in front of the Stake Center.

Mission Statements Not Just For Corporations

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

It has been at least a year since Krissy and I first decided that we wanted to draft a mission statement for ourselves and for our future family members. It’s amazing how quickly time passes when something difficult has no deadline. We worked on this for a long time. We must have written a total of ten pages worth of things that were good and that we wanted. We then condensed all of those ideas down to the principles upon which they rested. We found it difficult to achieve a balance between the specific and the general. I was thinking too much about rules at the beginning, making up a long list of dos and don’ts. I don’t know how we did it, but we eventually settled on this wording. What made it easier to call it finished was our realization that this is only a first draft. Version 1.0 is bound to have a few bugs and I’m confident that there will be a version 1.1 in the not too distant future.

We were reluctant to hang this up when we were finished. This document represents the ideal, and once it was on the wall it somehow gained a greater place of importance for us. We couldn’t do certain things anymore because we had agreed to the mission of the Family now. Scripture reading needed to come before television. That’s what the document on the wall said should happen. What we always knew we should do is now there in black and white reminding us. We still aren’t perfect and I don’t plan on getting there any time soon, but at least I have a better idea of how to get closer to that goal.

Mission statements aren’t for everyone and they are certainly going to be different from family to family based on individual strengths and weaknesses. If you are interested in creating one with your family there are several resources available. If you decide to do this or if you have done this already let me know how it went in the comments.

Dowler Family Mission Statement

Watertight (GCPPQG)

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

Outside a tall black metal fence surrounding Taylorsville Park there lies a stagnant drainage canal overgrown with brush. In amongst all of this there is a large lone sprinkler head that almost no one would give a second thought to. We walked past it three times until Dawn voiced some concern over it being there and how out of place it seemed. She opened it up and found it to be the cache we were looking for.

Alas, it was not watertight, and everything inside was damp from the previous day’s rain. This was the most creative way to hide a cache that I’ve seen thus far. No one would suspect it unless they knew it was there and what it was.

The Stagnant Drainage Canal at Watertight