Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Utah Odyssey of the Mind 2016 Pins, Shirt, and Crazy Hats

 A week and a half ago was the Utah Odyssey of the Mind competition, and as tradition we got a whole new set of pins and shirts for our theme, keeping with the blue monsters and going western.  Every year each participating State and Country create new pins and shirts to trade.  Trading at the World's competition is a huge deal, and after closing ceremonies is when the shirt trading starts.  I've gotten some cool shirts these last two years.

 I love Western Omer!

 Creativity Outlaws: Our theme.  BTW, Idaho was on all our pins, but an Idaho team didn't end up competing at our competition (they wouldn't compete against Utah teams, only against other Idaho teams) .  There isn't an OotM program in Idaho, so we let them come to our competition.  There were originally three ID teams, but they all dropped out, but by the time the last team dropped out our pins had all ready been ordered.

 The three blue monsters showing all 5 problems

Problem 1, Vehicle: No-Cycle Recycle
Problem 2, technical: Something Fishy
Problem 3, classics: Aesop Gone Viral
Problem 4, structure: Stack Attack!
Problem 5, performance: Furs, Fins, Feathers & Friends

 An Omer pin that's sold on the main website, not tied to a State.

 This years bobble pin.

 The Utah shirt.  Purple is for Officials.  The judges shirt was brown.  The participants/spectactors shirt was like a black, dark navy blue.  The officials/judges shirts were SO much better this year!!  Last year our shirt was based on the box problem set pin.  I really like this years shirt.

 My crazy hat!  So I didn't make one this year.  I wore my Steampunk western style Minnie Mouse ears that I got at Disneyland two years ago. I love this hat!  And it fits both our State theme and Problem 5 theme, which I'm problem captain over.

 My Dad was my announcer/timekeeper this year, and he had a lot of fun creating this Olaf crazy hat.  All the kids loved it.  And my Dad had a lot of fun.  He said he would help again; I'm totally holding him to it!!!  We were super short on volunteers.  I was P.5 problem captain/head judge, P.3 long-term judge, and was supposed to also be the P.5 timekeeper/announcer, but there was no way I could get scores out and later meet with couches with their scores, at the same time keeping our problem site on schedule, if I was timekeeper/announcer, so my Dad stepped in last minute to help me out.  Which was a huge, huge help.

My brother is Problem 2 problem captain, and he created a Raspberry Pi (mini computer), which he uploaded Super Mario Brothers, completely playable, and attached it to his hat.  It was really cool.

So there you have it!  Another year down.

I'm not going to Worlds this year, due to going to France and finances, so I'm sad about that.  I even had a dream about pin trading, and woke up realizing I don't get to pin trade this year!!  Kinda silly.  I hope everyone has fun at Worlds :0)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Which I Stay The Night In A Hotel Room With No Electricity

It was Sunday night, March 6, 2016.  My family, namely my Mom, Grandmother, and Grandfather, had just pulled into Mesquite Nevada to meet up with my Uncle and Aunt who came up from Riverside CA.

We had already had a rather exciting drive down, exciting if you love driving through snow, ice, rain and sleet.  The weather around Parowan can be treacherous, and just as we left that city one of those road condition light up boards flashed, "standing water, next 30 miles."  Sure enough, 15 miles in, cars were slipping off the road, and as we came up to one such stranded vehicle a mini SUV whipped around us, swerved vertically right in front of us (in which it came within a foot of the stranded vehicle and was within perfect head-on-collision with us), then miraculously strengthened ahead again, swerving to the other side of the road, and back and forth five times to make an elegant wavy line in the slushy standing water.  So many things could have gone wrong.  It was a terrifying event to behold.  It's amazing how everything slows down in times of panic. 

So by the time we drove into Mesquite, by nightfall, we were all still talking about it.  And then we noticed cops at the main intersections, all street lights black.  Lights at the two casino's, McDonald's, and Chevron out as well.  Everywhere was dark.

Then I noticed my phone wasn't connecting to anything.  When we go through Virgin River Gorge service is never available, but now in Mesquite my cell wasn't connecting to the internet.  The 4G lines completely gone.

We were soon informed that all electricity was out throughout the city.  And that electricity was out all the way down to Laughlin Nevada, including Las Vegas.  One person said electricity was completely out in Las Vegas, whereas another person said only parts of Las Vegas was out.  It was a strange hearing different reports and rumors, and not being able to access information on my phone to confirm anything.  And the radio stations we could get in the car weren't talking about the situation.

Apparently a storm came through and blew a transformer.  According to another person a transformer exploded and caught fire.

(I just found an article on Las Vegas Review Journal with some basic information. 2,800 homes out of power in Clark County by 5pm.  Overton, Moapa and Mesquite power grids completely down. "Outages in Las Vegas began clearing up after 5 p.m., and as of 7 p.m. NV Energy’s website reported that fewer than 300 homes were still without power."  All thanks to "a power pole at a substation [catching] fire.")

All the gas stations were down with no ability to pump gas.  All the restaurants shut down.  And the pass going through the canyon backed up and clogged for miles.

Add to all this, a NASCAR race just finished in LV, and the Virgin River hotel was booked to capacity.  A bunch of people stranded.

People were hanging out in the open air, hotel doors and windows open to let as much light in as possible.  Thankfully the key cards were working.  We got my Grandpa settled in his pet friendly room with his dog Ginger, while we were scrambling through the van for flashlights.  Thankfully my Grandpa had a couple LED flashlights.  And my Mom found another in the 72 hour pack along with a tube of glow sticks.

It's funny, I think the glow sticks turned out to be the most useful items in the pack, along with the flashlight, because we set them up around the hotel room.  Around my Grandpa's room, creating bracelets to place on door handles and next to the sink, and then My Grandma, Mom, and I placed the glow sticks around our room.

Virgin River Hotel and Casino was running off generators, mainly keeping the gambling machines operating along with one restaurant serving sandwiches and salad.  The line for the restaurant took about 45 minutes, much quicker then thought, and I was relieved to have a turkey sandwich.  It seemed they used prime rib for the beef sandwich, because that's one of Virgin Rivers main deals, Prime Rib dinner for $6.99.  Since they couldn't serve the dinner and had all this prime rib cooking throughout the day, it seems it went into the sandwich.  Thankfully my Mom let me have a couple pieces.

The generators also lit up the parking lot lights, and thankfully our room was next to the parking lot.  My Aunt and Uncle were not as fortunate as their room was in one of the back buildings on a third floor, and since my aunt has disabilities and the elevators weren't working, she didn't join us for dinner, so my Uncle brought her a sandwich.

It was all an eerie situation.  I've been in power outage situations before, but always at home or close to home, never in a traveling situation, especially one so wide spread.

It was interesting not having gas stations open, restaurants closed, and so forth, all over.  Thankfully we stayed in a place with a generator and a running make-shift restaurant.  And thankfully we had plumbing working and running water.

We were told electricity would come on around midnight, and around 11:30 P.M. the fire alarm went off.  The most piercing, terrible sound, everyone running out of their hotel rooms to save their ears.  I'm glad I travel with ear plugs.

The electricity didn't come on until around 8 a.m. the next morning.

It was an eye opening situation.  I'm now going to go through my car and closet 72 hour packs and update them.  Make sure everything is still good, add glow sticks, and some nuts, beef jerky, and protein bars.  Those high in carbs/sugar emergency bars that typically come in 72 hour packs are not enough.

It's always good to be prepared.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Zootopia mini movie review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

First of all, before I get into this review, I just took a look over at Rotten Tomatoes and saw that Zootopia, the latest animated offering from Disney Animation, is at a 99% fresh tomato rating.  99%!!!!!!  I don't even know if I've ever seen a fresh rating that high.  It's so high that these fresh tomatoes are still green!  And now I want fried green tomatoes, dang it.

Ever since Judy Hopps, played by , was a little bunny she dreamed of becoming a police officer.  But in her family and community nobody has never left, always giving up dreams to grow carrots.  It's expected.  In fact, no bunny, female or male, has ever become a police officer, as that job has always been performed by larger animals: polar bears, bison, elephants, etc.  Intimidating creatures.  Judy Hopps is an optimistic little animal with a big dream, proving along each step that nothing is impossible.  All dreams are possible.

Along her journey of acceptance she stumbles upon Nick Wilde, a sly fox played by , who oozes charm and sarcasm.  While she struggles with her acceptance of him, Judy always keeps fox spray strapped to her belt just in case, they find themselves spending a lot of time together.  Can two previous foes ever become friends? 

There is a huge social political underlying theme, which is why I believe the fresh tomato rating is so high.  Zootopia has it's own set of politics based on their unique culture of prey verses predator.  Although society has evolved to where they all live together, there's fear of a return to the primeval instinct.  Can foxes and bunny's ever get along?

In terms of some of the underlying messages that only adults will read into, I will not comment.  My mind did start spinning into possible implied implications and so forth, "what are they saying?" and so forth.  In this day and age, with so many opinions, current racial climate, and Disney's liberal slant, it's hard to say, so I'm not going there.  Read into it as much or as little as you wish.  The social-political climate works within Zootopia.

With what is happening currently in American world events, the degrading and attacks on police officers, I appreciate the positive image created in Zootopia in regards to cops.  It's nice seeing those who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our lives portrayed in a positive light.

Overall I love the positive message in the film, and I love Judy's incredible optimism and drive.  And I love Nick's one liners and attitude.  The chemistry these two characters have compliment Zootopia.

And, oh my goodness, the animation and world building in Zootopia!  One of the early shots when Judy rides a train is really breathtaking.  So much thought and brilliant artistry has been put into this movie.  And seeing how the different animals  live together is really fun.  The town of little rodents that we get to see later on is so cute!  Creatively Zootopia is a fun film.

And I love the music.  The soundtrack is rich.  And the theme song "Try Everything" by Shakira is catchy.

A good movie with an intriguing plot, vibrant world, and strong characters.

MPAA: Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action

Animal nudist colony. -_-;;  Definitely humor aimed at adults.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

In Which I Finally Discover Pho and The Easter Bunny at the Mall

 I feel like a child wandering around life, only to learn at age 10 that Santa Clause isn't real.  (True story: I found out about Santa in the first grade.  My classmates spoiled it for me. -_-;;) 

I've heard about Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, but never managed to give it a try.

Last November I took the plunge at the Fashion Place mall food court.

The booth is called Lua, next to Panda Express, and it's a small business, which is why I want to share this on my blog, in case any of my friends find themselves in Murray UT at the mall.  I love supporting small businesses.

Even though I've never tried any other Pho, so there isn't anything to base their soup on, it's still an incredible tasting soup.  The broth is so fragrant.  And I love the ability to add fresh mint and sprouts to the soup.  Mint smells so good.  But it's an aromatic experience.  I don't know what's all in the broth, but it awakens my soul every time I have some.  (And I know that sounds all corny poetic, but that's what it feels like.)

So if you ever find yourself at the Fashion Place mall, Lua's Pho is worth a try.

P.S. At the Fashion Place Mall you can get your photo taken with the Easter Bunny.

I'm losing faith in humanity.

P.P.S  I think the Easter Bunny is wearing a bath robe.  Or maybe that's a sleeping robe, but still, what message is this trying to send?

(In all honestly, I'm just amused by it.  The Easter Bunny.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

The 5th Wave, Mini Movie Review

Rating: 3.25 out 5 stars

The 5th Wave, directed by and based on the books by Rick Yancey, is an interesting movie.  Interesting enough that I didn't read spoilers for the next book on wikipedia, which I did for Maze Runner (I've lost all interest reading those Maze books).  But I've already purchased Book 1 and 2 (The Infinite Sea) in The 5th Wave series.  Target had them at a very good price.  I have zero discipline when it comes to books.  (Though I won't be reading them until the end of May, when the third book The Last Star is released, the final book in the trilogy.  It's nice reading a book series all the way through without brakes and no lingering thoughts.)

Back to the movie!

The movie means well, it really does, and I know this movie had the best of intentions, which is why I'll give it a pat on the back for effort.  But this alien invasion movie mixed with good ol' YA romance is a mess.  First of all, as intense as the opening scene is, I didn't like jumping immediately to the middle of the story to find us then suddenly at the beginning, explaining each of the first four waves of alien attack in vivid detail.  The first part of the movie feels like a giant flashback, which caused me to feel disconnected, slowing down and extending the story's exposition, instead of it all feeling fresh.

It's not until we get to the early stages of the 5th wave that the movie begins to pick up, well, pick up at the military base before slowing down during the interjected YA scenes featuring our main heroine, .

The pace is all over the place.

The acting had moments of strength and weakness.

And yet I had moments where I felt my spine crawl, my breath being held, the pit in my stomach expanding as I realized what the 5th wave of alien invasion meant.  I figured it out really quick, but the figuring out actually added to the horror.

The 5th Wave had so much potential.  The plot actually seems quite intriguing, despite the recycled alien/dystopian theme.  Intriguing enough that I must find out what happens.

Thanks to this movie being based on the first book in a trilogy, the movie ends on a cliff hanger with unresolved conflict.  There's an ending of sorts, but not enough to satisfy, and unfortunately it's at the end of the movie when the plot and action gets really interesting.  It's the second movie I want to see, not the first, but since the movie grossed unto 100 million I'd be surprised if there was a sequel.

Thankfully I can read how it all ends.

Rated PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Why I Choose To Be Obedient To God

"Obedience to God can be the highest expression of independence.  Just think of giving to him the one thing, the one gift, that he would never take.  Think of giving him that one thing that he would never wrest from you . . . obedience - that which God will never take by force - he will accept when freely given.  And he will then return to you freedom that you can hardly dream of - the freedom to feel and to know.  The freedom to do, and the freedom to be, at least a thousandfold more than we offer him.  Strangely enough, the key to freedom is obedience."  ~ Boyd K. Packer

I glued this quote into my scriptures many, many years ago, and I reflect on it often.

All of our material wealth, our health, our talents, our life positions, etc, God owns.  At any moment any of these things can be taken away from us.  But our agency is the one thing, the only thing, we own.

It's the one main thing Men will try to take from us, our right to agency, to force obedience, but it is the one thing God will never take from us.  He holds agency in such a high regard.  And God's regard for agency explains so much.  Even the most obedient suffer at the agency and choices of others, and yet agency is still protected.  The righteous suffer at the hands of evil men, and though evil may seem to claim victory, we are protected eternally.

But because I know this great gift of agency is the only thing I own, it's the only gift I can offer God: using my agency to obey God's commandments.

I'm constantly messing up, and yet God loves me despite my imperfections.

And so I will always strive to be obedient to God.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Risen: Mini Movie Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

At the end of this month, March 27th, Easter will be celebrated.  Most people will think about bunnies.  Chocolate and Peeps.  When I was a kid I couldn't wait to get out the dies and dip eggs to create different patterns.  The true meaning of Easter, the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, was celebrated, but my mind was on pastels and baskets.  Now when I walk the aisles at the supermarket and see bunny merchandise I smile, but look away.  Maybe it's an age thing. Or maybe it's because I love thinking about our Savior and his great sacrifice.  For his love and great gift to us all.

But along with Easter toys there always seems to be Christian movies that are released this time of year. There are so many movies and television shows about the crucifixion of Christ, and most of them are from a singular perspective.

Risen, a new movie by , is a movie that begins with the crucifixion, only we see it from the other side.  We see the events from the New Testament unfold through the eyes of a Roman, sent to oversee the death and burial within a tomb of Yeshua, Jehovah.

We follow Clavius, played by , as he watches and investigates the claims and prophesies of the Messiah.  Claims that Yeshua will actually rise from the dead.  But if he doesn't actually rise from the dead, who then is behind this deception?  Mary Magdalene?  His disciples?

We watch Clavius practice his own faith as he guides a young Roman named Lucius, played by .  And we watch Clavius question the faith of the remaining deciples of Christ.  Can a man really rise from the dead?  Can a God really walk among and associate with man?  Are miracles possible?

I really appropriate this new take on the crucifixion story.  The Romans were gentiles; are we not gentiles?  They truly did not know what they were doing when Christ/Yeshua/Jehovah was crucified.

And what does that mean for us?  We who are not watchers of Christ's miracles.  Can we not see, and yet believe?  There's a blessing in believing without seeing.  It does take great faith, but the Holy Ghost bears witness to Christ's divinity, and for me that is enough.  I know and believe Christ is risen.

But even the disciples were amazed and awed, being first witnesses to Christ's resurrection, and I love how gently this was portrayed in Risen.

Risen is a beautiful movie.  A beautiful movie that I can easily watch any time of the year.

Rated PG-13 for Biblical violence including some disturbing images.