Sunday, March 29, 2009

Church sponsoring links in Google Maps

Today I typed in a Google Maps search for an address near a Mormon temple. I was excited to see this sponsored link when my search results appeared:

It's nice to see the Church looking to boost its Web traffic in creative, yet effective ways. Who hasn't searched for something in Google Maps? And if someone searches for my temple, I want them to get the official link.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Madness is a part of life...

Tark the Shark (ESPN photo)Last night I flipped on the first round of March Madness, knowing that Big Ten overload notwithstanding, the evening would produce at least one thrilling contest. I was not disappointed, as hot-shooting Siena knocked off Ohio State after 2 barnburner overtimes. Wisconsin also made the evening interesting with their come-from-behind, overtime victory over favored Florida State.

Watching the merry-go-round of games in Round 1 of the Big Dance, along with the ensuing Final Four and Championship game, is a yearly ritual for me. My dad got me into it. He and I are still the only ones at home that really enjoy watching sports on TV. But everyone else in the family knew they had to participate in one Family Home Evening a year where we watched the Championship Round, since it fell on a Monday night.

Early memories of the tournament include Tark the Shark, his towel, and his unstoppable Runnin' Rebels who trounced Duke in the 1990 title game. I also remember Seton Hall being pretty good, which meant I could have started taking interest in the tournament as early as 1989. An exceedingly archaic but useful site helped me reconstruct this important piece of my life's timeline. (Somehow it didn't make the scrapbook.)

Other memorable moments of tournaments past include Christian Laettner's last-second heave against Kentucky in 1992, Michigan's Fab Five in the early 90's, Utah's unlikely run to the finals in 1998, and 14th-seeded Bucknell knocking off Kansas in 2005. Last year saw its own set of thrills with Mario Chalmers' three that saved the Jayhawks and sent the final game into overtime. This game happened during our spring vacation in Washington where the family was once again gathered around the screen.

Do these bring to mind any great tournament moments for you? What's your earliest memory of the Big Dance? Post it here!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What do I do on March 17?

What do I do on March 17 of every year? I bust out U2 and The Cranberries, put on some green item of clothing, and celebrate my Irish heritage! I may even live dangerously this year and bring home a six-pack of 7-Up.

Apparently my forefathers came from the Killybegs area of Donegal County in the north of Ireland. I hope we get to learn more about them this year, especially if my sister's long-dreamed-of trip to the mother country goes through. Thanks to Panoramio, we've been able to find some lovely pictures of the area.

Now that's green!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Route 66 camping at Amboy

For the first time during my two-year tenure as a Scoutmaster, a boy voluntarily suggested a place for our troop to camp: a volcano! Not about to discourage this practice, we packed up the 4-runner a few weeks ago and headed out to Amboy Crater, an extinct cinder cone just a few miles off the old Route 66 in the Mojave Desert.

We found a nice open lot for camping about a quarter of a mile away from the trailhead and went to work pitching our tents in the very black and quiet desert. After about 10 minutes a faint rumble began, slowly growing to a roar that filled the entire valley. Thankfully the volcano hadn't awakened; it was just a freight train passing through just a few hundred yards to the north. As we were reminded all night long, the old Route 66 is still alive and heavily-traveled by rail traffic.

In the morning we took a stroll up into the crater. The trail is well-signed and is about a mile and half one way. A breach on the west side of the crater ensures you don't have to do much climbing to reach the rim.

The views at the top were spectacular. I hadn't seen any pictures on the Internet looking back down inside the crater, so I included one here. Notice the panoramic views of the desert in the background and some small puddles of water at the bottom of the crater, left over from some recent February storms. I imagine this is a rare sight as summer temperatures in the area can reach well over 120 degrees.

Following lunch on the rim and a quick descent, we took a spin over to Amboy, California. Once a thriving stop on Route 66, Amboy became a ghost town with the completion of Interstate 40 in the 1970's. Recently a revival effort began and Roy's, the town cafe, was open for souvenir sales when we passed through. The original hotel sign at Roy's, preserved for movie sets, made us feel like we were stepping back in time 50 years. However, I kept getting a creepy feeling I was going to have to leap into a refrigerator at any moment to weather a nuclear attack...

Just east of Amboy on the old Route 66, there's a tree where people throw old pairs of shoes. Viewing the picture below, start at the bottom of the tree and scan to the top until you find the very highest shoes. Those are my $15 Spauldings that I purchased with my own money after I got home from my mission. Those have served me well these past 6 years and I was thrilled to send them to such a dignified resting place!

If you don't have your own shoes, there are plenty lying around you can chuck in the tree. Some of them represent a stark clash of the cultural and physical geographies of California.