Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My 2015 Christmas Card


Merry Christmas!

As has been my tradition these last several years, I wanted to put together a bit of a digital Christmas card detailing some of the happenings of the past year. Obviously I don't use this blog for much of anything besides this these days, but it still seems like a reasonable way to write up my year for you all to peruse.

It feels like this year started off sort of slowly, at least in terms of fun stuff. I was involved in a pretty big project at work in January and February and that really did suck up a lot of my energy.

A few fun things I did do during this time were:

Going up to Deer Valley for the Aerial Moguls competition



A fun concert featuring Twin Forks who I'd seen before, and a band named Jukebox the Ghost that really grew on me.



In February, I got another niece (Clara), amazingly, the first of all my nieces and nephews to be born in Utah, so that made it fun to go see her the day she was born.

For whatever reason, nothing really stands out from March....but don't worry things really picked up in April.

In April, I decided to go on a one-man tour of the southern half of Idaho and up in Oregon and Washington. I guess I felt like I needed a week away from work, and I'd wanted to visit a few friends who lived up that way so I decided to do it all in one go.

In addition to seeing my good friends Julie, Shelly, Tenille, and Jon, I ended up seeing some amazing things like:

Mesa Falls

Craters of the Moon National Monument

The Boise Greenbelt

Shoshone Falls

The Snake River Gorge

People base jumping into said gorge off the Perrine Bridge

Avengers: Age of Ultron

All told I ended up driving almost 1900 miles over the course of 9 days. If I had it to do over again, I might not drive to Tri-Cities, since they DO have an airport.  But all in all it was quite the adventure, one that I quite enjoyed.

In May, it was time for yet another trip to Hawaii. You'd think that since I no longer have family there I'd fine somewhere else to vacation, but somehow I keep ending up there. This time, though, I managed to get off of Oahu and see some of the other islands. We spent half our time on the Big Island (Hawaii), and the other half on Molokai, places where Ben had served on his mission. Some highlights included taking a helicopter flight over the active volcano on the Big Island, and seeing a zebra moray eel while snorkeling in Molokai.







Almost right after getting back from Hawaii, I took a quick trip to DC to talk about the death certificate stuff I've worked on jointly with the state health department for the last several years.  We presented to a meeting of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS).  I literally got there one afternoon and flew home the next. I did have a couple hours to kill before my flight home, and checked out a few nearby things on the National Mall that I hadn't been to before: The United States Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

I really liked this statue of George Washington with Oneida Chief Oskanondohna and another Oneida woman.

On thing I really enjoyed doing this summer was getting out and doing a fair amount of hiking around the Salt Lake area.  It seems like there are so many beautiful things not that far away, and hiking is a much more enjoyable way for me to get some exercise than just walking on a treadmill or around my neighborhood (though I do enjoy that as well).

Some of my favorite hikes around the valley included:

Red Pine Lake

Brighton Lakes trail

Hiking to Germania Pass in Albion Basin while the wildflowers were in bloom

Lake Blanche

In addition to hiking around town, I also went a few fun road trips that involved a bit of hiking as well.

In July, I had a lot of fun going down to southern Utah and doing some hiking at Bryce Canyon (really my first time spending any real time there), and in Grand Staircase National Monument.

We did a nice loop across a few of the major trails at Bryce which was great, but nothing really topped the view from the rim. So picturesque!




In Grand Staircase we did the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike and I thought that one was totally worth the drive to get out there.  The trail had a nice educational brochure and wayposts along the way to help you see cool stuff like some native american pictograms and other ruins.  And the waterfall at the end was really great, too.


 These pictograms are actually on the rock formation in the photo above, but that's a panorama and this is zoomed in a bunch.


Definitely a really fun weekend trip.

In August, I went back down south to hike Kanarraville Falls with some friends. It had just rained the day before so the water was a little muddier than last time, but thankfully still relatively safe.  I'm always impressed by the beautiful colors in that canyon, especially as the sun comes down into the slot canyons in the middle of the day.




Toward the end of the summer, we had a family staycation spread across two separate weekends. My parents rented a place up in Cottonwood Heights and we hung out there for a day or two, and also drove down to American Fork canyon and went through Timpanogos Cave, something I hadn't done in a loooong time.



Then a couple weeks later we went to Lagoon. I thought that going with the kids was a good mix.  I spent some time riding "big kid" rides (really though Cannibal was great, and it made the line for Wicked shorter too), and then when I was starting to get a bit queasy I could spend some time shepherding little kids through that part of the park.

Managed to squeeze myself into this jeep ride with Erik.

Once again for Labor Day we went down to the Wintch ancestral mansion, aka the ranch at Spring Canyon.  We all got our share of excitement riding horses and 4-wheelers.

Sometimes Natalie struggles to stay in the frame

4-wheeling with Elise

With fall, comes football season. I had season tickets at the U again this year, and while we didn't always win pretty, we almost always won, finishing 10-3.


This was my 7th year having season tickets, and my 6th sitting next to these two characters.

My birthday also comes in the fall, and I was able to convince a bunch of friends to join me for birthday dinner at the Sizzler next to Sugarhouse Park.  Turns out they don't have a ton of large group seating, but thankfully it wasn't TOO cold to eat out on their "Party Patio" (Ok, I made that name up).




Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a steak and malibu combo. :)

Work got busier again in the fall, after a slow-ish summer, and I ended up working in Ogden for the better part of two weeks in October and November.  For some of the days, Intermountain even put me up at a motel. Not just a good Western, but the Best Western! One of the highlights was going up to George's house to hang out some of the evenings I was staying up there.  This video of Erik and Cole singing the Batman song still makes me laugh:



Also in November, I traveled to San Francisco for a conference where I presented a research paper looking at some of the data around the death certificate tool.  I don't have any photos of me presenting, but I did make it out into the city (barely) for a couple hours, and here's a photo from that afternoon:

If you look closely you can see the Golden Gate Bridge

In December, I've been plenty busy with the usual hustle and bustle of the season, but have managed to make it downtown to see the lights a bunch of times, which has been nice.  Always a good reminder of the spiritual nature of Christmas.

As I look back on this year, I'm reminded of how blessed I am. Blessed with a wonderful loving family, with so many great friends, with a good job, and a roof over my head. Its always easy to focus on what I lack as I like to be looking for things to improve, but its also good to remember how good I have it already.  I hope that you all are having a happy holiday season, and as always I love to hear from you, wherever you may be, or how long its been since last we spoke.


Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!



Monday, December 22, 2014

My 2014 Christmas Card

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Merry Christmas!

and hello again to anyone out there who only hears about my life through this blog. Anyone checking this site for news about me obviously knows that this is my first, and very likely only blog post for the year 2014. In part I blame that on my life being a little busier this year, both professionally and residentially (see last year's notes on our HOA situation).

In any case, I always enjoy having these Christmas posts to look back on, so unfortunately that means that I have to actually sit down and write them at some point.

One highlight from January was a gorgeous snowshoe day, where we hiked from the Spruces campground through the woods over to the Donut Falls trailhead and up to the falls.

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Also in January, I went up to Midway to see the Ice Castles. Very picturesque, but also very crowded on the night I was there.

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A highlight of February was the night that I took my nieces, Lucy & Elise, to a gymnastics meet at the U, and then the spent the night here at the house.

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Best Book (Non-fiction): Creativity, Inc
Best Book (Fiction): The Passage

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In March, Ben and I took a little road trip down to Moab during his spring break at the U. We hit some classic hikes (Delicate Arch, Corona Arch, and Landscape Arch), checked out some other classic sights (Balanced Rock, the North & South Window Arches, and Double Arch), watched Utah basketball games via the internet, and ate at pretty much every place that looked semi-decent.

Delicate Arch
That's Ben down there under Delicate Arch

Turret Arch through North Window Arch
It was interesting to see where I had to get to, in order to recreate this shot I'd seen in promotional materials.

Double Arch

March also brought spring and the beautiful buds on the trees outside my windows.
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Best TV Show (Drama): Sherlock
Best TV Show (Comedy): Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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In April, I stayed up way too late watching the lunar eclipse and taking photos from my deck
Lunar Eclipse Montage

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This year in Work Involvement

I'm continuing to work at Intermountain Healthcare as a Medical Informaticist (it'll be 6 years in a couple weeks).  Things have been busier and more stressful due to a complete overhaul of our computerized medical record systems, and working to ensure that the project areas I am responsible for make it into the new system.  I feel very grateful to be able to work for a great boss, and to have co-workers that I enjoy spending time with.

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A couple highlights from May were a pair of concerts I went to.  The first was Augustana with Twin Forks.  I was pretty excited to see Augustana again, given how great the acoustic show was that I'd seen last year, but was pleasantly surprised by Twin Forks, a new project from Chris Carrabba, previously the guy behind Dashboard Confessional.

2014-05-07 Augustana & Twin Forks

The second fun concert of the month was a trio of rocking sisters going by the name of Haim (that's their last name).  Loved their debut album, and it was fun to see them live.

2014-05-22 Haim & Tennis

In June, I started dating a great girl named April, who I'd briefly dated a bit earlier in the year. We dated for most of the summer, and while ultimately things between us didn't work out, we definitely  had a lot of fun.

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At Strawberry Days rodeo in Pleasant Grove

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Best Movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Runner-up: Guardians of the Galaxy
Runner-up: Edge of Tomorrow
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In July, I went with some friends to a little spot outside of Cedar City called Kanarraville and did a hike up a little slot canyon there called Kanarraville Falls. It was beautiful scenery and a fun, quick weekend trip with friends.  Definitely worth checking out if you haven't been there before.

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Also in July, we had a family vacation at a place in the Uintas called Spirit Lake.  They had some cabins and restrooms, but no electricity, so kind of like camping but with a little nicer accommodations. We had fun fishing, playing, and hiking for a few days.

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This year in Church Service

I started out the year serving in the Elders Quorum presidency in the ward that my home is in, and that kept me pretty busy until June when I decided to move my records to a "mid-singles" ward (ages 31-45) that meets over in Sugarhouse.  It's definitely a big change, as my new ward has just over 800 members, and has 6 Relief Societies and 6 Elders Quorums.  I've been pleasantly surprised to run into lots of old friends there, and make some new friends along the way. For most of my time there I was serving on the Sealings committee, doing proxy work for deceased persons once a week. I was recently called to organize some sports activities for my Elders Quorum, so that will definitely be a change of pace. Its been many years since I last played church basketball.

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In August, surprisingly, I found myself back in Hawaii. On Oahu, even.  Some of April's family lives there, and she invited me to come visit for a bit while she was out there visiting them for a couple weeks.  I rented a little apartment right on the beach in Laie, not far from where she was staying with family.  Having done most of what there is to do in Oahu, there weren't too many surprises, but it was really fun to be right there on the beach. I also tried paddleboarding for the first time, and caught several good waves while boogie boarding.  Oh, and I even got to be part of the Tongan village show at the Polynesian Culture Center.

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The view from the entrance to my apartment

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Best Song: "I Wanna Get Better" by Bleachers
Best Album: Strange Desire by Bleachers

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One highlight of September was going down to the Spring Canyon ranch for Labor Day, something that's become a bit of a tradition the last few years.

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Utah football is another fun fall tradition. I think this was my 6th year of having season tickets (5th year sitting next to my mom and dad). It was fun to see the team do a bit better this year, after missing out on bowl games for a couple seasons.  One of the highlights of the home games this year was a last second win over USC.

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In October, I took a quick weekend trip out to Washington, D.C. with my roommate Brandon and a couple friends. We rented a basement apartment in Maryland and took the train into town every day.  And walked about 50 miles in 5 days.  Always fun to see the monuments, and also got to see a few things I'd never seen before, like Mount Vernon.

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On the Speaker's balcony of the Capitol Building

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I'm always humbled by the sheer number of grave markers at Arlington Cemetery

Another fun time in October was carving pumpkins in Mountain Green with George & Kimi, and the kids, with grandma Liz joining us as well.

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Best Concert: Augustana & Twin Forks
Runner-up: Haim

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In November, I headed back to D.C., for work this time, which meant not much time for sight-seeing, but I did manage to take a hike out to the National Cathedral on a Saturday morning when I had some free time, as I'd heard it was worth checking out.  Unfortunately there were church services going on when I was there, so I couldn't see much of the interior, but I did get to go up to a viewing area, and found out where to look for the Darth Vader gargoyle on he exterior.


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This year in Home Ownership

If you remember last year's Christmas post, you might recall that I'd recently been through a crazy December dealing with a big embezzlement and mismanagement mess in my Home Owners Association.  Well that certainly didn't clear itself up overnight, and in some ways continues to keep me busy from time to time, but thankfully nothing like last December.  We were able to round up some money from our insurance company, and some more by asking people to pay monthly dues that they had missed in the past, and by doing that we were able to get some breathing room, and also do a few bits of needed maintenance, like repairing our fence that was falling down in a few place, and doing some paving work on our road.  We also hired a management company, with the hope that it would alleviate some of the work that the board was doing.  In some ways it has, and in some ways it hasn't, but for the long-term good of the community, I think it's best that a third-party is now managing our funds.

Personally, I acquired the aforementioned roommate (Brandon), and while it's taken some getting used to (the smell of fresh produce isn't one that was common before), it's been nice to have someone around, and probably healthy to be in the habit of accommodating someone else living in the house with me. And the rent money's not bad either. :)

I don't recall making any major purchases, but I did get a rusty hot water valve replaced, and added some pre-lit garland to my collection of Christmas decor. I keep thinking if I ever get the HOA straightened out, I can get around to doing a few odd jobs around my own place. Guess we'll see.
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December has been probably the craziest month of the year between busy times at work and lots of fun things going on with friends and family.

I made it downtown to check out the lights (it was lacking a little something without any snow, but it was nice that it was a little warmer than usual)
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I went with Ben to the Utah-BYU basketball game
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We had an Advent Sunday Christmas program with friends
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I went to a fun Christmas concert performance by The Lower Lights
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All in all, it's been quite a year. Each month seems to fly by, but looking back there was certainly more than enough time to fit a lot into the year. I'm grateful to have a good job, and great friends, and to have all of my family just a short drive away.  When I'm tempted to be frustrated or discouraged with any of the challenges or struggles that arise, it's easy to find reminders of the many ways that I've been blessed all around me.  I'm looking forward to another year of excitement and growth in 2015. Hope to see you there!