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.


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.

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

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.

A week at Lake Powell on an amazing houseboat, where I actually somewhat successfully participated in a non-tubing water sport:


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


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.

  • 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!


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)

Continued going to trivia night from time and time and sometimes we maybe take first place

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
Went up to Mountain Green to go trick-or-treating with my nieces and nephews

    The day after Halloween, my sister Natalie got married at the Provo City Center temple

    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.


    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.


    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.
    I always love a good collage of group photos :)

    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!