Friday, December 22, 2017

My 2017 Christmas Card


Merry Christmas!

Well, it's Christmas time again, and time again to write up a little summary of my year.  One constant of 2017 was that work was busy from start to finish, and that's why I'm only getting around to writing this on the 22nd.  The nice thing about doing it digitally is that I don't have to worry about getting anything to a printer and then to the post office. Then again, no one is going to hang this blog post on their mantle or fridge either. Without further ado, let's look at the year that was 2017.

Presidents Day weekend, I was invited by some friends to join them down in Hatch, Utah, and while some heavy snow got in the way of some of what we had planned, we still had a great time and were to able to get some neat snowy shots at Bryce Canyon.





In March, I was lucky to be able to return to my birthplace, New Orleans, for the first time since we moved away shortly before I turned 3. My parents were going for a conference my dad was attending, and they suggested that we go a few days early and see some of the sights.





The few faint memories I have of New Orleans are from this house. That's the mailbox we used to put lizards in. 

Later in March, we had a great time attending the March Madness games here in Salt Lake, rooting for no one in particular, but we did see a lot of good basketball and had some fun celebrity sightings with Northwestern playing their first tournament games ever.






As I mentioned above, work was pretty hectic this year. I was once again helping to train users on the new software we were rolling out across all of our hospitals and clinics, so two days a week I was away from my computer, out working in the surgical departments.  This year, I got to work at Alta View Hospital (January-March), Riverton Hospital (February), LDS Hospital (April-May), Intermountain Medical Center (June-July), and Primary Childrens Hospital (September-October). At times it was pretty tiring, especially on the days that I had to be there by 6 am, but it was a very rewarding experience and I got to work with a bunch of great people, both fellow trainers as well as our clinical staff.


Some of the other trainers I worked with this year

Halloween at Primary Childrens
In July, I took another weekend trip down south with friends. This time to Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument.  We got up early one morning to enjoy the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike before it got TOO hot.  I always think that's an interesting hike and the falls are beautiful as well. We also make a little stop at Bryce Canyon on our way back home.




At the beginning of August, we took a little family vacation down to Brianhead, and had a great time hanging out as a family. We saw a play at the Shakespearean festival, did a little hiking (Kanarraville and Cedar Breaks), went swimming and generally enjoyed each other's company for a few days.




While I didn't drive north to experience the total solar eclipse in August, I was able to walk outside at work and see some interesting shadows and look at the sun through my special glasses.  I think the highlight was my buddy Norbu's special glasses that he made himself.
Yes those are onion rings wrapped in saran wrap
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Let's take a little break to mention some of my favorite media from this year.

  • Favorite book (fiction): The Three-Body Problem. This sci-fi novel from China was quite interesting and taught me quite a bit about the history of physics and 20th century China as well.
  • Favorite book (non-fiction): Revelations in Context. The church put out this book that gives background for nearly all the sections of the Doctrine & Covenants and reading them both in tandem this year was a great experience.  Definitely helped give the D&C more of a narrative flow, and helped me realize a few things about the order of events that I hadn't realized before, especially about the church having simultaneous gathering places in Kirtland and Independence for quite a while.


  • Favorite movie (drama): Dunkirk (IMAX)
  • Favorite movie (drama) - Runner-up: Arrival
  • Favorite movie (musical): La La Land
  • Favorite movie (animated): Lego Batman - So great!
  • Favorite movie (comedy): Lego Batman - Funniest movie I saw all year
  • Favorite movie (superhero): Spider-Man: Homecoming (Haven't see Thor yet, I hear that's a good one, too)
  • Favorite movie (superhero) - Runner-up: Wonder Woman - A Gadot worth waiting for! (Zing!)


  • Favorite TV show (drama): Halt and Catch Fire (Season 4). This show about people working in computer fields rambled at times, but pulled together for this final season with some real drama about relationships. Not sure if it was sad or I was sad when I was watching it, but the last few episodes were quite touching.
  • Favorite TV show (comedy): Not my favorite year for comedy. I'm not sure if The Good Place qualifies as comedy or not. Ghosted is a new show with some favorite actors (Craig Robinson and Adam Scott) that I think could potentially be good.
  • Favorite TV show (superhero): I guess this is a thing now, too. Not that I watch most of them. But wanted to make mention of Legion (FX) whose Season 1 was really intriguing and was also an interesting look at mental illness. Hope that Season 2 will keep up the good work, whenever it shows up.


  • Favorite song: Something Just Like This - Chainsmokers & Coldplay
  • Favorite song (runner-up): All Night - Big Boi
  • Favorite album: Do people make albums anymore?
  • Favorite concert: Didn't get to a ton this year. Lower Lights Christmas concert is always a seasonal favorite. Aside from that, Imagine Dragons, I guess?

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At the end of August, spilling over into September, I was lucky enough to take a whirlwind trip to Spain.  Some friends who were already headed there gave us a heads up about cheap airfare from Oakland to Barcelona, and my roommate and I decided to jump on it.  It was just a weeklong trip - we left Sunday and got home the following Sunday, with 2 days traveling and about 5 days on the ground in Spain.  And we really packed those 5 days with stuff. We flew to Barcelona and caught a connecting flight there to Seville, where we stayed for our first 3 nights (not counting the one on the airplane).  In addition to spending time in Seville (which I thought was quite charming), we also took day trips to Grenada (to see the Al-Hambra), and to Cordoba (to see La Mezquita).

Then we flew back to Barcelona and spent two days there.  Looking back through the photos, it's amazing to see how many different places we went and things we saw in the short amount of time. It's hard to just pick a few photos to share here, but I'll do my best.
Supposedly Columbus is buried in Seville. This is his tomb.

There was an abundance of neat geometric tile work throughout southern Spain - a remnant of the time when the Moors came up from Africa and took over for a while.


This cool view was at the royal palace in Seville. Some baths in the basement

Reppin' the U with the Al-Hambra over my shoulder
La Mezquita (The Mosque) is a catholic cathedral built around what was originally a Muslim mosque. Most famous for these double horseshoe arches that fill the interior and were part of the mosque originally.
La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. A modern cathedral designed by the architect Gaudi and very different from the other much older cathedrals we saw. Under construction for over 100 years now.


Some interesting detail of the towers

Strolling through a park that Gaudi also designed (Parc Guell)

La Rambla

With Fall comes football season, and while it wasn't the winning-est season ever, it's always fun to get out and enjoy the fall weather, friends and family, and some Utah traditions.


In November, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for an informatics conference. I didn't really get out much, just to eat mostly.  Here's pretty much the only photos I took: a picture from my hotel room, and one from the convenience store across the street where I like to get breakfast sandwiches.



And finally, just last week, my little brother Ben got married! I don't have a ton of photos, because there were professionals around for that, but here's one of the happy couple exiting the temple:


And that pretty much wraps up my year. It was definitely a busy and somewhat challenging year, but I also have been reminded of the many blessings that I have to be grateful for.  I hope that this Christmas finds you all healthy and happy. Here's to a great 2018!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My 2016 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas!

Once again, we've made another loop around the sun, and I'm back here at my desk working on a recap of the year that was. In this case, the year that was 2016. As always I find myself a little surprised in looking back at what I did and didn't accomplish this year.

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Work was definitely different/busier/for the most part better this year. I'm still at Intermountain Healthcare, going on 8 years now, and let me tell you 8 years ain't what it used to be. Crazy how times flies.  Anyway... this year I got added to another team (Clinical Decision Support) and got a new boss, and also got involved in training our surgical teams (nurses mostly) as we transition them over to a new computer system.  So I spent a fair amount of time from April to August in 3 of our hospitals helping out with that.  Definitely learned a lot and felt like it was pretty rewarding to be so close to patient care after several years of mostly just being in an office all day.  I also spent 2 weeks working with OR nurses (aka circulators), and as a result got to be in the room for a variety of surgical procedures, so that was pretty neat. 2017 will bring more of that as we finish transition our remaining hospitals and clinics.

Bidding farewell to the OR suites at UVOC
I also presented a poster on some of the programming we've done in the new system, to automate the ordering of isolation precautions for infectious patients, where possible.

The ribbon only means that I was a finalist for the poster awards, not a winner, unfortunately.
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Perhaps as a result of being busier at work, or maybe just coincidence, I didn't really travel nearly as much this year as I did last year.  I can only think of one purely vacation trip that took me out of Utah this year -- but it was definitely a fun one. I went to New York City (for the second time ever) in March and spent parts of 4 days there, graciously hosted by my friend Liz who lives there.

We went to a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert (in the same theater where I went to a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman last time I was there).  I spent a day at the American Museum of Natural History. We saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and saw a fun (and interactive!) Off-Broadway show called Sheer Madness.

After the show

The prehistoric skeletons are always one of my favorite parts of a Natural History museum

Caught this fountain in some warm light


Visiting the 9/11 Memorial was something I really enjoyed

Shining like the top of the Chrysler Building

The library was closed, so unfortunately I could only take pictures outside
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Other fun trips I went on this year included:

A family trip to Bear Lake:

A fun day at the lake
The Juanito Bandito show was honestly very fun and very funny.
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A week at Lake Powell on an amazing houseboat, where I actually somewhat successfully participated in a non-tubing water sport:





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A trip to Chicago for work (where I presented the poster mentioned above):


We were there the week after the Cubs won the World Series, and for the first couple days the lions in front of the Art Institute were decked out in Cubs hats



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Last year, I didn't get around to listing some of my favorites for the year, and some of you complained, so they're back by popular demand:
  • Favorite Book (Fiction): Speaker for the Dead - I read this in high school and mainly though, "Hmm... that was different than Ender's Game. This year I was really touched by it.
  • Favorite Book (Non-Fiction): Unbroken - To be honest, I didn't read a lot of non-fiction this year, but this one was pretty good and much more interesting than the depressing movie they made out of it.
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  • Favorite Movie (Indie): Sing Street - Fun show about high school kids and music. It's on Netflix now!)
  • Favorite Movie (Superhero): Captain America: Civil War - Not that it was amazing or anything, but it was the best of the ones I saw.
  • Favorite Movie (Animated): Zootopia - Thought this was pretty good when I saw it in the theater. Haven't seen it since then.
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  • Favorite TV Show (Drama): American Crime Story - The People vs. OJ Simpson - Partly for the fun of seeing B-list celebrities playing people from this story, and partly because I was surprised at some of the details that I missed back in the 90s. I feel like mostly I learned about the OJ trail by watching SNL.  Still crazy that he wasn't convicted.
  • Favorite TV Show (Comedy): If you can get past the swearing (lots and lots of swearing), Veep on HBO is really funny. If you want something a little more family-friendly Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still fun, and I'm trying to give "The Good Place" a chance.
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  • Favorite Video Game (Xbox): the new Kings Quest - I only played Chapter 1 so far, but it was really fun!
  • Favorite Video Game (iOS): Marvel Puzzle Quest - still can't quit this game. It's a little unhealthy.
  • Favorite Video Game (Old School): Super Mario Bros 3 - A friend brought over his NES on my birthday and box of games that would have blown my 10 year old mind.  Some of them brought back a lot of memories (how did I ever beat Battletoads?), some were weird (Exodus, Ghostbusters), and one of them stood out above the rest. SMB 3 is still super fun. Definitely a classic!
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  • Favorite Song: Closer (ft. Jennie A.) - Lemaitre - You know, the song from the Google Pixel phone ad.  Honorable mentions: "Girls Chase Boys" - Ingrid Michaelson, "Libray Magic" - The Head and The Heart



  • Favorite Album: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) - I bought this on Google Play for $2 last December, and it was definitely the album I listened to the most this year. So many great songs, and a great variety of styles. If you're looking to buy it, please not that there is a bit of swearing, but there's also a clean version available.
  • Favorite Concert:  Jukebox the Ghost. Kind of a tough call here. Weezer was really fun and played nearly all my favorite songs, which was delightful.  Ingrid Michaelson was a first time for me, but very fun, too.  But Jukebox the Ghost was so much more fun seeing them this year after having had a year to discover and appreciate their music. 
Jukebox the Ghost
  • The Lower Lights Christmas Concert was also once again a special treat.

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  • Favorite small change to my grocery purchases: Getting my sandwich meat from the grocery story deli instead of getting Oscar Meyer meat. Shout out to Boar's Head!

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Other miscellaneous highlights from this year:

Didn't get in nearly as much hiking this year as last (I think partly because my summer was busier with working up at Park City), but I did get a few hikes in.

Willow Heights

At the Church's Heber Valley Camp

Twin Lakes (at Brighton)
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Continued going to trivia night from time and time and sometimes we maybe take first place
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Still have football tickets at the U, and even though we don't always win, we almost always have fun. (And usually we win, too).  Funnest games this year: BYU, USC
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Went up to Mountain Green to go trick-or-treating with my nieces and nephews
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    The day after Halloween, my sister Natalie got married at the Provo City Center temple
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    Church-wise, I continue to attend a mid-singles ward (age 31-45). Halfway through the year, there was some shuffling of boundaries and my roommate and I ended up in a ward in Holladay, after a couple years in the Parleys 7th ward.  It's taken some getting used to the change, but they've put me to work and that's helped in meeting new people and making new friends.  I started out as a home teaching district leader and as of about a month ago, I'm now serving as ward activities co-chair.

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    As I've been reflecting back on the year, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a minute to express how blessed I feel to have my parents still around.  I have a lot of friends who've lost a parent this year or recently, and it makes me not want to take my parents for granted.  My dad had a major surgery a few years ago, and this year my mom had a diagnosis that was pretty scary. Thankfully, her treatment went about as well as could be expected. So well, that I forget how scared I was when I first got the news.  I know that they won't be around forever, but I'm glad that they're still around.



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    While 2016 wasn't a perfect year, and my life is far from perfect, I definitely do feel blessed to have great friends and family in my life.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
    -Jake
    I always love a good collage of group photos :)