Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Little Moab" with Logan

We (Logan and I) dropped in to "Little Moab" on the West side of Utah Lake this evening. It was the first time either of us had been out there, and it was the first offroad adventure in the "new" (1990) red Wrangler Jeep. It was a great evening for it and though there was some snow on a few spots, we managed to keep the rubber side down and had some good fun. Logan even learned (a bit of) how to drive a stickshift.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What to do with the Specialist?

This is a Specialist:

I LOVE this bike. I love to ride it and I love the way it rides. I love the tires, I love the story of where we got it, I love the seatpost, everything. There is one tiny problem. It is really a bike that is designed with a razor-sharp focus on dual slalom racing. The problem with that is that when you don't feel like dual slalom racing or at least going down hill (which in my case is quite often) it is not really the right bike to be riding. Since the frame is so very small, the geometry for riding long distances over relatively flatter ground (which I often do) is not right. The result of that is sore knees.

Anyway, I have thought of selling it before, but never could bring myself to do it. I think now I have fogured out the solution. Here she is:
This way, the bike stays in the family and Winter gets a new bike to ride (and I''ll just buy myself a new one too). What do you think?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Recap of RSM / Vacation in Austria

I’ve not been a big blogger lately.
Thus, I guess I have to run through one of those long recaps of what has been going on over the past 6 months.
Holland is great. We all love the weather. It has been such a great break from the heat of Texas. Spring this year in Holland was unusually warm and sunny and I was almost starting to fear that it was going to be too warm when Holland lived up to its reputation and shifted the weather for the next 3 months or so back to the expected overcast/drizzly. But really, the weather has been pretty much a non-issue for me. I hear my friends at school complaining about it, but it just hasn’t bothered me at all. I have a nice plastic rainsuit that I don when the weather looks bad and it keeps me dry during the 40 minute scooter-ride to school (and back). I still love to see all the Dutch scenery and last week we had our friends from TX come out to visit and we took them to some classic Dutch tourist locations which was great because we haven’t really done a lot of touristy type things since we came this time. It has been great to live so near Jessica’s family and we are really happy that our kids are both having the opportunity to learn their mother’s native tongue and to really get to know the Dutch side of their family. While my own Dutch language ability still lacks quite a bit, the level the kids have achieved in the last 6 months is really amazing. The kids still miss things (family, the farm, friends) from Texas, but they are having great experiences here that I know they will miss when we leave too. We really struggle with the fact that we wish we could roll up all the good things from all the places we have ever lived and bring them together in a single place. Unfortunately, we know that we will soon be leaving Holland and our friends and family here.
In calendar terms, I am just over half finished with school. In reality, I’m mostly done. We just finished the third term so I’ll be starting up the fourth term as soon as we get back from our Austrian vacation. The thing is that while the fourth term is spread out from August to November, the actual time spent in class during those months is nothing like it was for the previous 3 terms. There is a lot of dead time (days off, half days, etc.) built into the schedule and I wonder if the intention isn’t to provide us with more time to be able to attend job interviews and the like as we all prepare to reenter the workforce. Regardless of the intention, I am treating the time as exactly that – time to polish up my resume, apply to jobs and hopefully to land the perfect job. Some very interesting possibilities have already been opened up for us – it is a pretty exciting time for us since we have no idea what we will be doing next year (or where!) But I digress - about school – it has really been great. I don’t think I will ever really be able to put into words how great it has been and what a great learning experience it has been for me. I really do feel like I’ve made some great progress in my ability to work in a team with others and to be more empathetic to others and whatnot. Aside from all that “soft” stuff, the knowledge has been great and I’ve been “awakened” to some new interests (like strategy and consulting). The real challenge for the future will be to balance new learning with continual review of the material I have learned here. For example, when I was taking my Organizational Behavior (OB) class, I thought to myself that it would be great to review my OB notes or read a chapter from the OB book every day to keep fresh on the topic. (That is actually ironic because I remember feeling like my OB class at BYU was a waste of time – I think the lens of experience has changed the color of the subject).
One of the highlights of the program so far was our “Living Management Consultancy Project” where the group I was assigned to received a business case from Eneco (a European energy provider) and we were tasked with generating and presenting a solution to the Eneco executives. We worked (more than) full-time for a week in our group, experienced the whole range of emotions as we struggled to understand the problem, frame it and research it, come up with a innovative solution and figure out how to present it. There were times when we were totally lost as a team and it seemed like we were not going to be able to come up with anything, but we kept at it and eventually came up with a solution that we felt confident about. When we presented it, our hard work was validated and they were very enthusiastic about our solution. We received very positive feedback and it felt really good to have our hard work validated.
We’re right now in Austria on vacation. Wow! As we drove through Germany (stopping at several lovely little towns for the night along the way) things just kept on getting more and more scenic. We are now staying at a beautiful lodge that is perched on one side of a little valley amidst the mountains with views of all the other beautiful “Swiss chalet” style lodges, green meadows, thick forest and mountain peaks on the other side. Last night I sat out on the balcony of our little suite and just enjoyed the mountain air and the view in total relaxation – it has been a while since I have had the luxury of having nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. Today we walked up into the mountains and spent the better part of the day just picking mountain berries and looking for antlers (the kids saw some shed elk antlers at the entrance to the lodge and when they discovered that you could find them just laying around in the mountains, they were all about looking for them – the problem is that they think I am holding out on them and that if I would just tell them what area to look in, they would be able to find some – I imagine there are some out there, but I am not sure we are going to be able to find them this time of year). This is pretty much the first vacation I have had in a long time where I have had the luxury of no cell phone, no internet and no responsibilities. It feels strange (to be honest) but I am hoping that since we are just now at the beginning of the vacation, it will start to feel a bit more normal as we get further into it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The kids learn Dutch

This is a letter that we received from the kids school:

Dear parents of Sterling Winter and Ginger A.,
We would like to inform you of the results of the Dutch lessons. Over the past months we have done five modules with the children in which a large number of words were presented.
They have been working hard both at home and at school.
On Monday, May 9, the children took a vocabulary test. This test was about recognizing the pictures when a word was read out loud. The words came from the following modules:
  • School
  • Home
  • Body
  • Nature
  • Work and free time
  • Jobs
Sterling scored 96%
Winter scored 96%
Ginger scored 94%

This is a great result for all the children.
In the next course speaking the Dutch language will be emphasized. We will also be raising the tempo.
I hope you have been sufficiently informed.

Mrs. de Bruine

Quite a nice compliment and it goes to show that the kids are doing well (and maybe that they need to increase the pace a bit - which the teacher noted will be done)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Update

We moved Jessica's father Max a week or so ago. When I first came to Holland, I saw these trailers on the road and fell in love. Max rented one (which he pulled with his Volvo - a very normal thing around here) and it was cool to finally be able to use one.

The girls received a package from Grandma with new Easter dresses and swimsuits. Obviously, it was a big hit:

Ginger has also been insisting that she be allowed to sleep in her new swimsuit...

That night, the kids had a church play that they had been practicing for (Note Ginger in her new pink dress)
Ginger sang in the angels choir:

Winter had a speaking role as one of the main angels

That night Winter went over to her Aunt Marjolien's house for a sleepover. The next morning the remaining kids wanted to go swimming - I said "sure"...this is the canal that is right outside our front windows - within spitting distance of the house almost. Nice that kids have such low standards huh?

While they were swimming, I pulled the foam roof thing out of the car (the fabric had started falling off it). It was an incredible pain in the rear end. Reattaching the existing plastic fabric turned out to be completely not doable (due to shrinkage) but now that I am looking at this photo, I am wondering if there is some sort of rubberized texture I could just spray onto it as is (without trying to re-fabric-ize it) since the surface is so smooth. Might be something to think about...
Later we decided to run over to the local windmill in the neighboring town - it is called "the hare." If you use Google Chrome as your webrowser, you will be given the option to translate the page when you get to the website - this might be helpful to you if you care to learn a bit about the history of this particular mill...
I thought the pictures of Ginger riding down Benthuizen main street on a Holiday Saturday afternoon with virtually no traffic was fun for several reasons:
  1. No cars/traffic
  2. Ginger is an awesome bike rider
  3. Fun views of an "antique" city
Unfortunately, as we got closer to the mill, the pavestones give way to pavement...

We made it! It was a windy day, so this thing was literally humming along at a very fast pace. The sound was really cool/old school.

This is the field where the wind is grown - note the shadows of the "sails" of the mill...

Ginger ascends the "stairs" that are actually more like a ladder up to the top of the mill...they were covered in grain dust :)

Halfway up we stepped out side. The kids are just a few feet away from certain death from those sails. Like I said, they were REALLY moving fast. Ginger checks behind her to make sure she is safe...
We did eventually make it all the way up to the very top where the big wooden gears are that transfer the horizontal rotation of the sails into the vertical rotation that is used for turning the grinding wheels. I was a bit dissapointed to see that they had the gears disengaged and were just running the mill for show (rather than to actually grind anything). I guess it makes sense though since they just have a small gift shop in the bottom and they probably don't really sell that much milled grain - so it probably isn't necessary to run the mill once a week (like they do). Anyway, it was a bummer to see the gears disengaged, so I didn't take any pictures or anything. In retrospect I wish I had - however, it is close enough I can drop by again anytime.

On the way home from the mill, the kids saw this spot and wanted to go fishing/swimming here - so for the second time in a day....apparently the water is not quite "warm" (judging by the look on Sterling's face)

Tomorrow Winter comes home mid-day, Jessica comes home in the evening and then Tuesday, I go back to school (Monday is some sort of national holiday) and Jessica gets to hang with the kids (they have two weeks off from school).
In the meantime, I need to get all the bike parts and car parts out of the living room so that Jessica doesn't have a heart attack when she arrives...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dutch Hinges

Not sure why, but sometimes the Dutch like to have their hinges on the wrong side of the door (ie, the hinges to an entry door are mounted on the outside of the house - creating a situation where a thief could simply pop the pin out of the hinge and remove the door to gain entry). So, with elegant ingenuity, the dutch have created a simple mechanism to prevent such thievery:

Exhibit A

They've simply installed a pin/socket setup on the inside of the hinges. Now, when you pull the pins, you still can't get into the house.

Now here's the part I'm still not sold on...what happens when some prankster pulls the pins and you don't notice? Well, I'm guessing you wake up, open the door to get some fresh air, and are promptly quite surprised to find that the door falls off and smashes your Chihuahua. Not a great way to start the morning.

Rottemeren Fort

Since I had the week off, and since the kids have a 1/2 day each Wednesday, I took them out to build a fort in the forest between here and Rotterdam.

There were dead branches ALL over the place so it was no problem and with some teamwork, we had this nifty little fort built.

There was some old tarp laying around that we cut a few squares off to get us off the wet ground.
We built a little tiny comfort fire and had some snacks.
Not sure what this pose is all about...
Sterling had packed his marbles along, so we set up a circle and the kids had fun playing for the first time.
This is the lake that is basically the start of the river that Rotterdam was named after. Sterling and Winter were pretty proud of themselves for getting the courage up to cross this gaping chasm of death over a raging whitewater river...
And of course, when they saw this little dam, they had to show off on it too - this time Ginger got involved.