Thursday, August 20, 2009

Up on the Hill

I've been waiting for an experience that would be a perfect introduction my "LA" post and I finally came upon it. Yesterday during a break in my 6 hour electrical training, I went to the bathroom. As I unzipped and let it all out, something in the urinal caught my eye. There, next to the urinal cake, right in the path of my stream was a sticker that read: "Security First".

Security is very important here, so I've been procrastinating writing this because employees are supposed to keep a low profile in terms of their employment. As such, to keep myself less googleable, I will refer to the town as LA, or "the hill"- a nickname given with reference to the several mesas that the town sits on, each mesa connected to others by bridges. The largest bridge, going from town to the lab is called "Omega Bridge", which always makes me think doomsday related thoughts. Another bridge whose name escapes me, spans a canyon (ravine?) which borders and runs parallel to our street which we can hike into via a trailhead at the end of the street.

Have you ever watched Eureka? Neither have I, but yes, this is a nerdy science town. On halloween, some physicists carve elaborate jack-o-lanterns with expensive high power lasers. In the lab's bathrooms there is still graffiti but instead of your usual "for a good time" postings there is science graffiti. What is science graffiti? There was a security poster on the stall wall (kind of like a Mormonad, only promoting security) and it was defaced with sciency, nerdy comments. For school science projects, parents are banned (I'm not making this up) from helping their kids. There were too many explosions before the ban. When I sit in restaurants and listen in on conversations, they are mostly about, you guessed it, American Idol. Is a just kidding even necessary here?

The lab is actually 'labs', as there are hundreds of buildings scattered on the 150ish square miles. Even though the entrance to the lab is right in town, I have to drive about 20 minutes to get to my office. Last week there was a bear sighting about 200 yards from the doublewide where my office is. They advised to keep our office doors closed that day. The landscape is actually quite stunning in many places. The whole mountainous area we are in is the remnant of a supervolcano- go look at it in google maps sometime. Its this big splotch of green in the middle of yellow and brown. We're at 7500 feet, which makes it cooler than Salt Lake- it stays around 80 in the middle of summer (except, apparently, when Randy visits and brings his 95 degree Texas weather with him), and in July and August there is a thunderstorm almost every day. In one thunderstorm, we had hail bigger than golfballs that destroyed my garden just a few weeks after I planted it (the 25 tomato plants are just now back to the size they were when I planted them), and caused $4500 damage to our Ford Explorer. I felt kind of left out that Jenny's car got hail damage and mine was left out, but that was remedied the following week when another, smaller storm hit the area where my doublewide is. I only got $500 from that, though.

The stoplights are all horizontal. Whats up with that?

The ward is huge. 400+ active members in town, plus another 400+ down in a smaller bedroom community. I went to a dinner party at some elderly couple's house, and the conversation was not what you usually hear at Mormon dinner parties. One of the people at the table was talking about talking to deputy secretary of state so-and-so about Russia's such-and-such, and there was a conversation about the differences between various nuclear reactor designs, and then the host talked about his visits to North Korea as part of an inspections regime. Jenny was talking to one of the mom's one day and she was complaining about her husband being away at scout camp, but that "at least it wasn't a total waste of time since he solved the problem on his patent one night".

There are enough people who play ultimate here in the summer to form more than 6 or 7 teams. They play Monday through Thursday, and Saturday.

Our house is nice, in the sense that it is perfect for us. Its a few hundred square feet bigger than our last place, but what makes it awesome is the sunroom with the glass walls and ceiling that can house an indoor garden in the winter, and the backyard which has 3 levels: a lower courtyard including a fireplace surrounded by a a stone seating area, a terraced perennial/tree garden, and an upper area with a big lawn, big fruit trees, and a big garden complete with garden boxes. The back fence of the backyard has a gate the opens onto this pathway that snakes along other back fences, is not accessible by car, and ends up at our neighborhood park that is also not accessible by car. I'd be eating all those apples, pears, grapes, and nectarines right now if it wasn't all destroyed in that hailstorm.

The history of the place is really interesting- I won't go into it here, but I just watched a few things on the history channel that were pretty good, and there's a bunch of stuff on the internet which is decent. The science museum in town as a few decommissioned nuclear weapons that you can touch which is pretty cool.

Well my bladder is full and there is a security sticker with my name on it.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Crazy White Man

Amy, her friend Patricia and I went to Natural Bridge Virginia to see some sights in the area. First we went to the Pink Cadillac Café. It came complete with a Pink Cadillac outside,

a King Kong holding an airplane

and Humpty Dumpty.

The inside was just as classy.

We then drove down to Foamhenge. Foamhenge is just like Stonehenge, except it’s made out of Styrofoam, took a lot less time to complete and only required the labor of “4-5 Mexicans and one crazy white man” to get done. Advantage: Foamhenge.

Unlike Stonehenge you could walk around the area. Advantage: Foamhenge.

The Crazy White Man also posited the theory that Merlin anachronistically created Stonehenge using magic and included a fiberglass replica of him. Yet again, Advantage: Foamhenge.

We then went to the Crazy White Man’s other creation: Dinoland.

Don’t let the name fool you, there’s much more than fiberglass dinosaurs in the area.

There’s a story told about some family who found the dinosaurs with their pet monkey Blinky, but so had the North during the Civil War and were going to use the animals as weapons of mass destruction against the south.

Also included (of course) is a cow with a deer on his back with a rabbit on his head with a mouse on his head, surrounded by dinosaurs.

We then went to the actual Natural Bridge. Thomas Jefferson bought it as a tourist place and George Washington surveyed it.

It's a little bit of a drive from DC (about 3 hours) but definitely worth it for a day trip.