First Week of School

This week the kids (and Connie) started another year of school. It is significant that this year is Quinn’s senior year of high school. He’s the forerunner of the four kids and the first to finish at “Callahan University”. I sometimes wonder whether he is ready to head to college, but then I think back to my own career and then I feel better about where he is at this point.

It seems as though the kids were resigned to the fact that they had to get back to school and didn’t put up much of a fuss with their early bed time and early start to the day. Yes, the summer is over. It was also a time for me to deal with the installation of new computer software as part of the new year. Yuck! Educational software is a horrible thing to foist upon a good OS. It was a bitter pill to see that antiquated software get installed.

I would say that the long days are starting again for Connie, but that’s the way it always is for her. She’s the hardest working person that I know. If I ever find myself working that hard, I’ll definitely need to slow down a little. Amazing I tell you. It’s not easy homeschooling four children, but I would dare to say it’s been very rewarding for her (and for me).

Windows 10 on the 29th

In 3 days, Microsoft will release the next version of their Windows OS. Windows 10 is their effort to win back the majority of their users after what could only be described as a disastrous Windows 8 (and 8.1) release. Many of those users have already moved on to iPads, Macs or Android Tablets, but a few are still holding on to Windows 7 (or XP unfortunately). I’ve been testing it out for a few months and I think that for most of the people that hate the “metro” interface (desktop users specifically), this version will be a big improvement. For me, it’s a mixed bag.

The good news for many is that the OS works a lot better for people with keyboards and mice. It’s almost like Windows 7.8 really (with a bunch of improvements under the hood, including the new browser Edge). The tablet interface is not as powerful as Windows 8, but it’s much more predictable and I think it will work better in the long run.

So who should upgrade?

  • Those with Windows 8.1 on their desktop (primarily mouse/kb) should upgrade right away. Windows 10 will be much easier to operate.
  • If you like “new” stuff, this is for you.

Who should wait?

  • Windows 8.1 touch users should probably wait until a secondary release of Windows 10. I don’t see a lot of initial problems, but there might be some day 1 “gotchas”. The Fall release will include more things that didn’t make it into this release and will make it more of an upgrade.
  • If you are happy with Windows 7, just keep enjoying it until you get a new computer. 10 is better than 7, but not so much that you need to cause yourself a lot of headaches.

What about those on XP, Vista or other version? For you, start saving up for new hardware and plan to get off those OSs before the end of the year. They are a security threat that you don’t need. Computer hardware gets cheaper every year and a new system will be a breath of fresh air. You could also just jump on one of the competing OSs and see what it’s like there.

From my perspective, Windows 10 offers a lot of new stuff (security, browser, apps, …) yet it doesn’t have a polished feel yet. It seems rushed (especially the Edge browser). It’s a work in progress and I’m sure that by the end of the year will feel much more complete. I do love the new Xbox integration. I would probably love the “Hello” instant login support if I had the hardware. It will be good, even great…. eventually. Grab some popcorn, because this is going to be interesting (and who doesn’t love some popcorn).

 

Wilderness Trek Journey

Me and the BoysLast Friday, the boys and I left for Colorado with the 16 other youth and 2 other adults for a weeklong hiking expedition. It was a 6 day trek with Wilderness Expeditions in Colorado. Not only was it a physical experience, but a spiritual one as we had devotionals, singing and some solo times for reflection. From their website (with some annotations), here’s a description on the trip:

  • Day 1: Arrive at Wilderness Expeditions by 1 PM. Orientation and packing. Overnight at Wilderness Expeditions base camp (in Salida, CO).
  • Day 2: 1/2 Day of Rappelling (close to Twin Lakes on the way to Aspen). Drive to the Mt Arkansas trailhead. Hike to Low Camp.
  • Day 3: Hike to High Camp (about 5 miles)
  • Day 4: Morning solo time and free day.
  • Day 5: Summit Attempt (day pack only)
  • Day 6: Pack up and return to Wilderness Expeditions (about 6 miles). Return all gear and clean up.

The Good

Beautiful Scenery – Hiking in the mountains of Colorado is pretty amazing. With fresh green forests, mountain vistas and a backdrop of a big western sky, what’s not to like. It’s all larger than life and made a big impression on the group. On summit day we made it close to the top (over 13k feet), but had to stop due to bad weather. Lightning strikes above the tree line are a deadly thing and it wasn’t worth the risks. Even so, the view was fantastic and we breathed in the sight.

Weather – With cool temps and dry air, I fell in love with the Colorado weather. I was never cold, but it did get down to freezing at night as well as on the top of the mountain. The kids had a snow ball fight which was pretty neat for them. I think it was a little cold for some of the group and they were looking forward to La. temps (crazy people).

Team Building – Anytime you put that many teenagers together, you can expect some fireworks. In this case, they were all good. I saw a lot, lot, lot of encouragement and very little (if none of the negativity). The Wilderness Expeditions company has a policy of “everyone makes it or no one makes it”, so that was an added motivation to work together as a team. I was impressed. Physically, you had several people consistently at the front (including Hayden who was in great shape) and some that were struggling at times (Quinn was in that group at times). Each segment had to work with the other.

Friendly Guides – The two guides (1 girl and 1 guy) were good at what they did. They could be pushy at times, but that was probably necessary. They carried the most weight and they were the first ones up and had our meals ready for us. On top of that, we just had fun with them. By the end of the week you could tell that they were having as much fun with us as we were with them.

Accomplishment – Rappelling down a 100 ft. mountain face was amazing. Scary, but amazing. This was our (Q, H and I) first time. The boys also proved to themselves (and their dad), that they could handle it (rappelling as well as hiking the mountain). They did and it was awesome. I’m so proud of them.

The Not So Good

Weather – The weather could go from 75 degree sunny skies to 40 degree hail storm in about 20 minutes. This also kept us from reaching the summit. It can be a dangerous place and we were reminded of that.

Bathroom Logistics – There isn’t a toilet on the hike and we were constrained by the requirements of the forest service. That meant cat holes (search for it if you want a more detailed description). We also had to pack out our used toilet paper. This almost caused me to rethink the whole trip. Worst situation for me was needing to do this after the summit attempt. Falling down mid process is bad. Fortunately I “manned up” and finished the job. Holding it wasn’t really a viable option either.

Physical Requirements – This wasn’t a walk in the park and going from 7,000 feet to 13,000 feet is demanding. We had a day at high camp (11,000 feet) to adjust, but the lack of oxygen doesn’t help. The worst days were the two days going to and from high camp. The 40lb pack weighed heavily on my hips. Poor Quinn had it really rough as his shape more closely resembles a No. 2 pencil. One of the girls in the group had a pack so large that you could only see her hiking boots. All in all, both Quinn and Hayden sealed the deal and that’s a huge accomplishment of which they should be proud. I did pretty well and I think the dry air really helped. My cardio was great. My back, not so much.

Sleeping On Ground – This isn’t for me. I’m just too old to spend 6 nights on a 1.5 inch pad. My back and neck were really hurting by the end of the trip and I found myself wishing for daylight every 30 minutes as I flipped to another side of my body.

Boot Camp – No cell phones, watches or other electronics were allowed (only standard cameras). On top of that, the guides had a “hurry up” attitude and were pretty loud about it. Teenagers take that better than adults. I attribute my lousy backpack packing job to being rushed (for no apparent reason). Oh well, I will not make that mistake again. Thankfully, I learned to ignore this and work at my best speed (which was slower than most teenagers apparently).

The Pictures

 

In Summary

On top of the wilderness trek, we also took in a Colorado Rockies game on the day we arrived. After the trek we briefly stopped by the Garden of the Gods Park on the way back to Denver. During both of these stops, we got to visit with Eddie and Karen White. It was a real treat for us to see them. Eddie was also nice enough to feed us breakfast before leaving for Salida (Wilderness Expeditions location).

The best part of the week however was spending time with the boys. I didn’t crowd them as they were also hanging out with their friends, but I did get to suffer with them and see them succeed. We all experienced this together and it’s something that we’ll always have. Yes, there was some struggling and some mishaps (including items lost/damaged). Overall though, it was an amazing trip and it’s not one that I’ll forget or soon repeat.

Weekend in St Louis

This past weekend, we took advantage of an extra day to meet some friends in St. Louis. We arrived (after a long 10 hour drive) to some fantastic weather there. I was also surprised by the beautiful rolling hills (south of the city in Eureka). With highs in the lower 80s, we opted to spend time at Six Flags. It was primarily a chance for us to get some time reconnecting with our friends. The girls enjoyed hanging out with the 9 year old son of one of the couples. The boys stayed back in Baton Rouge opting for a weekend with their own friends (not my first choice, but something they wanted).

I would have thought the park would have been packed, but it was only slightly busy and not bad at all. The park is pretty nice, but is primarily focused on rides and not shows. So I took in as many roller coasters as I could handle (and perhaps 1 too many). The girls loved one ride in particular and so we rode it many, many (many) times. I did not realize that Bugs Bunny and friends were there. Interesting. We finished up the day with a firework display at closing time.

The next day, we took advantage of a summer pass to visit the park again and take in the water rides. We hit all of the big stuff and the rides were fun. The lines were a little longer on Saturday, but that is to be expected. Overall, Six Flags was fun.

The best part of the trip was time spent visiting with our friends. We missed getting together last year. It was great to see the home improvement pictures of Dave and Mel. Some awesome updates to their home. It was great to hear about the exciting travel plans of Don and Dana. It was also good to just spend some time visiting and realizing that we are all transitioning through changes in family life as our kids get older. It was really great to hang out with them a few days.

Will Free Speech Survive?

With the supreme court ruling on Friday, marriage is no longer defined as being between a man and a woman. It has now been generalized to include other options as well. So the historical and traditional meaning of the word is now gone (or will be soon).

This also isn’t the first time that I morally disagree with something that the government deems legal. The list is actually pretty long (ex. abortion). But as the government gets larger and larger, it’s more difficult to find a part of our lives that they don’t have some measure of control. We’ve typically been able to go about our lives without it impacting our daily activities. It’s now becoming clear to me that our free speech (and religious speech) is now the true target and something that we must defend.

I certainly don’t want that speech to be hateful, but many times that’s what people seem to want to project. I can remember the “Bush Hate”. Lots and lots of it. The general hate of republicans or conservatives. The hate of Chik-fil-a. On the other side, we have the hate of Obama or the hate of {insert liberal celebrity with something political to say}. Seems that people just get into that. Anyway, as much as I disagree with that, I still think that we have an obligation to protect each persons right to say what they think. Just as important, I have a right to ignore or block out that opinion. The nightly news was filled with it, so I stopped buying that product (I don’t watch the news).

This sort of gets back around to the confederate battle flag. Would I fly the flag? No. For me, it’s just not appropriate. I don’t want the South back to the way it was then and I also think the flag is racially insensitive. Would I fly the Gadsden? Absolutely. For the government (of all people), I think it is not appropriate to fly the “stars and bars”. For individuals though, it’s about free speech. They can fly whatever flag they want. If you don’t like it, don’t look. I’ve also had multiple US flags (which I displayed on my house and in my yard) broken in half and thrown in my lawn, so I suppose not everyone is so passive.

Before the decade is up, you can expect an attempt to limit “hate speech”. Just wait for it. My advice is to not fall for it.

Stop by for a few words on what is happening with the Callahan's.