Monday, December 31, 2007

Did you miss me?

Those of you (if any) who read this blog regularly (as opposed to those who get referred here by Google Image searches for McDonalds characters or Garth Brooks album covers) probably noticed that I haven't posted for a bit. Well I'm back in town and I'll definitely have another video coming on Wednesday and I'm also working on at least one other post that's long enough to merit being broken up into a couple parts. Anyway, I had a great Christmas and am excited for this next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Watch This Wednesday....or Thursday #13: You Sit on a Throne of Lies

I apologize for not getting this video out yesterday. I thought about posting it last night, but then decided to let this the Christmas Card get a little more time in the limelight. Anyway, here's what may be the last Christmas-themed WTW, a fun clip from the fun Will Ferrell Christmas movie, Elf.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My 2007 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas!

Assembly Hall

Pretty much along the same lines as last year, I'm slacking off on the physical Christmas card front, and giving you this cheaper, electronic version.

As I look back at the year that was 2007, I guess what probably stands out is all the traveling I did. I don't really consider myself a big travel nut, but this year I traveled to San Antonio, Palo Alto, Germany/Austria, and Chicago. Four places I'd never been, and in the case of Germany/Austria, a place I'd never really considered visiting. The trip to San Antonio was a family vacation to visit my brother and his family who live there, and the rest were all for school. If you want to read more about my trips, and/or see the pictures I took on my new digital camera, which I love, you can check out some of these links:

San Antonio (Pictures only)

Palo Alto (Pictures only)

Days 1 & 2 - Exploring Munich
Day 3 - Mass Transit Extravaganza
Day 4 - Stop looking at me, schwan
Day 5 - Austria, eh? Throw another shrimp on the barby!
Day 6- The depths of Hall
Day 7 - I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!
Day 8 - Monday Night Football
Day 9 - In with the Innsbruck Crowd
Days 10 & 11 - The Voyage Home
(Pictures only)

Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 1
Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 2
Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 3
Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 4
(Pictures only)

Here's a small sample of what you might find:

Jake's San Antonio Pics 070


Pool (right)

Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrucke

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When I wasn't busy gallivanting around America and Europe, I spent most of my daytime hours working on my dissertation research. Getting my research project off the ground end up taking much longer than I had anticipated, but alerts are finally going out to doctors, although not quite as often as I'd like. Additionally, I passed my qualifying exams back in the spring, and its nice to have that step out of the way. I also presented a poster at our annual NLM training conference that was at Stanford University this summer. I also was on a panel at the AMIA Fall Symposium. (Luckily the number of people who attended doesn't have to go in my CV.)

My poster

Its my goal to finish by the end of the coming summer, although given my inability to guess how long things would take me so far, that might or might not happen. At the very least, much of what I'm doing now is entirely up to me, and other than one small fix, hopefully I won't be waiting on other people. I've got a lot of writing to do in the coming months and hopefully that will go well. Certainly I would hope to have graduated by this time next year, which seems doable, but at the same time seems like it would still be quite the achievement.

Aside from school, I was released from being the executive secretary for my student ward in May, and was given what seems like a pretty cushy job as the ward communications co-chair, at least in comparison to the busy jobs I had before. Pretty much, I run the ward website, and make sure that people get their pictures taken, and that we have a sacrament program on Sundays. I've got a small, but efficient committee which makes things pretty nice.

Also this year, I moved to a new apartment in February just a few blocks away from my last one. The guys I live with here are nice and relatively clean, and in the brief moments that we're here at the same time we have good times.
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(Picture not taken in February)

And yes, I continue to be single. I've managed to go on 16 dates so far this year, which is a 15% increase over last year, for those of you keeping score at home (mom, dad, I'm looking in your direction). Not as many as I'd like, still, but a lot of times I just don't get excited about dating for dating's sake. If there's someone I'd like to get to know better, or that I'd like to spend time with, then yes, I'm all for that. So, yes, I do look at the numbers, but try not to put too much stock into them.

In the meantime, I still had time for plenty of random fun this past year.

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I went snowshoeing for the first time.

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Back in the spring I won our ward Guitar Hero tournament, and then retired effective immediately so I could go out on top. (Not really, but I haven't played much since then.)

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I did a fair amount of bowling.

Swing batta batta swing

I went to a couple Salt Lake Bees baseball games, and tried out the "Fireworks" preset on my camera.

...Touchdown Darrell Mack!
I once again had tickets in the Muss, and only missed one Utah home game. Beating UCLA 44-6 was of course the highlight of the season.

The (Un)usual Suspects
Halloween was fun.

I have to say that looking back it was a pretty great year, and I have no reason to believe that next year won't be just as great. At times I've wondered if I'm on the right path, and then I have to realize that if I weren't where I am now, I would have missed out on a lot of experiences, and especially on meeting so many great people that I'm lucky to know. I hope that this Christmas finds you all doing well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Watch This Wednesday #12: Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra Ra-ra-ra-ra

That's right...its time for more Christmas themed video fun. This week, its the part of the last scene of the classic film "A Christmas Story", which I can't imagine that you haven't seen, especially now that TNT shows it for 24 hours straight (or is it 48?) at Christmas time. I actually know someone whose family actually likes to go out for Chinese on Christmas, an idea they got from watching this movie. Oh well, I guess when its the season to be 'jorry', everyone has their own traditions.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Thoughts on the English Language #16: Laundry Day

I've got a big pile of laundry that I need to wash when I got home, and that may have resulted in the phrase "laundry list" going through my mind today. As in "I've got a laundry list of things to do in Salt Lake" or "a laundry list of ways to reduce workplace stress", etc.

Anyway, where did this term come from? Have you ever made a list associated with laundry? If you did, what would it consist of? "#1: Wash Laundry"? or perhaps with more detail? "#1: Wash Laundry. #2: Dry Laundry. #3 Fold Laundry.

Grocery lists I have seen. Laundry lists, not so much.

Monday, December 10, 2007

End of Year List HQ

Just like last year, the site is compiling end-of-year lists for 2007, from all over the web. Already a decent-sized list, I'm sure there'll be plenty more to come. You can see them grouped by category, source, or date for your conveniences. Recently lots and lots of lists from Time and New York Magazines.

Some of my favorites so far: Time's top television ads and top viral videos, and New York Times' Year in Ideas.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Watch This Wednesday #11: Five Goooo-ooold Rings, Ba-dum-bum-bum

In keeping with the Christmas theme of the month, I found this Muppet version of the 12 Days of Christmas from the John Denver/Muppets Christmas Special. We had the soundtrack on tape growing up, and its forever influenced the way that I think the song, ought to be sung, especially the Five Gold Rings part.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Thoughts I had while doing a left outer join on severity indices

Warning: These are some pretty random thoughts

1) Obviously mistletoe is a Christmas tradition, and at numerous singles events (and non-singles events) people hang this over the entryway to the house, but more often than not, no kissing actually happens. So I was thinking, we should get some new plants that mean different things that could be hung. You know, like "stalk of wheat = hug", or "sprig of parsley = backscratch". How about "clove of garlic" = "necking", which guarantees that only non-vampires would be biting your neck?

2) As a friend of mine pointed out to me, if Quidditch were a real sport, it would have some of the dumbest rules in the world. Lets review: (From the Wikipedia entry on Quidditch)

"Teams continue using the same goal posts to score throughout the game. Capturing the Snitch earns the Seeker's team 150 points, equivalent to 15 goals scored by Chasers. Since the game ends immediately after the Snitch is caught, the team which captures the Snitch is very likely to win the game."
Lets compare this to a basketball game with some Quidditch rules. 4 players from each team play regular 4-on-4 basketball, while one player from each team has to get the special ball and make a shot from the opposite free throw line (lets call this the "long shot"). The game can't end until someone has made this difficult shot, and whoever makes the shot gets 30 points for their basket.

How many basketball games are won by more than 30 points? Very few. So only in rare cases would the team who made the long shot not win, no matter how bad they were. So why are the other 4 players even playing 4-on-4? Just to give the crowd something to watch while they wait for someone to make the long shot? And if your team was behind, and you were the long-shooter, wouldn't it be in your interest to not only not make the long shot, but to prevent your opponent from doing so? However, if your team was losing by more than 30 points, the odds are that they aren't going to be closing the gap as time progresses.

Or maybe a football game where the kickers tried to make a 60 yard field goal worth 70 points?

Anyway, I didn't hate the Quidditch parts of the HP books like some have, as I thought they were a good excuse to show off some broom-flying, but still the rules leave something to be desired.

Random Thoughts on the English Language #15: Gender Equity

So a man can be a 'womanizer', but for some reason when I used the word 'manizer' no one knew what I meant.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Who Do You Want to Be Today?

If you're one of the rare brave souls who has ventured to scroll way down on this blog, you may have seen in my sidebar some of the books I've been reading lately. Anyway, I was reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury for a minute today (its actually a book that lends itself quite well to brief moments of reading), and came across a real gem of a thought there. An older lady with a penchant for saving ticket stubs and theater programs is upset by the children who refuse to believe that she was young once, but then later that night she has this thought in the form of a rebuke from her deceased husband:
"My dear, you never will understand time, will you? You're always trying to be the things you were, instead of the person you are tonight. Why do you save those ticket stubs and theater programs? They'll only hurt you later. Throw them away my dear....

It won't work...No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you're nine, you think you've always been nine years old and will always be. When you're thirty, it seems you've always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you're seventy, you are always and forever seventy. You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen."
As I read this passage, I thought how true it is. No matter our past, we are only the person we are right now, and we should make the most of today. No sense in beating ourselves up over past failures, or resting on past victories. Who do you want to be today?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Something else I would buy (or at least think about buying) if I could find one

This entry could be considered the 2nd in a series of posts, but given that the first entry was nearly two years ago, the link is perhaps tenuous.

Anyway, I've thought several times lately that I have a car that would comfortably seat four people, and yet usually its just me in there. Like easily 90% of the time. And most of the other people on the road are in the same situation. Shouldn't there be some motor company addressing this issue? What I'm talking about is a one-seater car. Not a motorcycle, because honestly, I don't want to die if I get hit by someone else, and this one-seater car shouldn't have any kind of balance requirements. And because we're still talking about a car here, not a bicycle with an engine.

I mean, honestly, I don't normally need all the space in my car, and it seems like there should be a smaller car that is still roomy for the driver, goes at normal speed, and isn't like a $40,000 sports car. Couldn't somebody come out with something like a "Camry-for-one"? You'd assume that by making the car a little smaller, the gas mileage would be better, and there'd be more space on the road if everyone was commuting in them. Maybe there'd be some kind of Voltron-esque way to have a driver's seat that joins up with the rest of the car when you need to have some passengers, but could separate out into its own vehicle when its just you.

Maybe I'm just being naive and assuming that other people would want something like this. Or maybe the space that my car has right now is no extra cost for the auto makers, so they're just throwing it in for free. I don't know. But if someone was making these, I'd think about getting one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Watch This Wednesday #10: A cowboy who ostritch

I'm a staunch believer in limiting Christmastime to the space between Thanksgiving and New Years. No Christmas songs right after Halloween, no Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, etc. That said, the unseasonably warm weather we'd been having didn't really get my into a Christmas spirit either. Luckily, yesterday a snow storm started here in Salt Lake, and this morning everything is covered in white. And I feel perfectly fine about sharing a Christmas movie with you all today.

This clip is from the stop-motion animated Christmas special "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", which I'm sure everyone is familiar with. This is when our crew of protagonists arrives at the isle of Misfit Toys. I don't love the song, but I've always loved the crazy toys there. "How would you like to be a choo-choo with square wheels on your caboose?" "Or a water pistol that shoots jelly?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 4: Morning at the Museum

On my last morning in Chicago, I headed over to the Field Museum of Natural History to check it out for a couple hours before I had to head to the airport.

Window Washers
Some window washers I saw along my walk to the museum

Looking toward downtown
Click on this image to see an autostitched panorama that I took from the museum steps of downtown.

This Tyrannosaurus is named "Sue" after its finder and stands on the main floor of the museum.

I paid a little extra to check out a traveling exhibit on maps that turned out to be pretty cool, at least to me. There were some super old maps, and some that were newer. The ones that stood out to me included a book containing John Snow's Broad Street pump cholera map; a map of the London tube system that set the precedent for pretty much every other subway train map I've seen since (big circles for the stops, brightly colored lines for the different lines); and some hand-drawn maps by Tolkein, including Thorin's map that appears in the front of the Hobbit; and a map of Napoleon's attack on Russia that I'd studied before in a data presentation class. Sadly, photography was not allowed in this area of the museum, as I quickly learned.

Anyway, after checking out that exhibit, I wandered around through a lot of Native American stuff, taking particular interest in all the stuff they had from the Northwest, and up into Canada and Alaska -- lots of totem poles and ceremonial masks and pipes. They also had a lot of ancient American artifacts.

Totem Poles
Totem Poles

Native American Mask

Aztec Sunstone
Replica of an Aztec Sunstone

Once I finished with the human stuff, I wandered through their animal displays, including quite a few dinosaurs and fossils.

In the basement I came across about 4 of these Mold-a-rama machines that I remembered from the Hogle Zoo as a kid.



Fossilized Pregnant Ray
This amazing fossil is of some kind of ray (manta, sting, other) that is pregnant.

Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth

On my way back to Chris's, I took a few more photos of the downtown skyline.

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Sears Tower

Phew, well that wraps up this Chicago Travelogue. Now I guess I'll have to find something else to blog about.

Chicago Travelogue, Pt 3: John Hancock? Everyone knows its Herbie Hancock

I'm sure by now you're bored to tears of hearing about my trip to Chicago, so I'll keep the chit-chat to a minimum. These next pictures were taken a few hours after our boat tour, when we went up in the Hancock building, which is not quite as tall as the Sears Tower, but is still very tall, and has a nice view of downtown. We timed our visit to allow us to be up there at dusk so we could get some different levels of light. Strangely the observation floor wasn't really set up for great picture taking with lots of lights on behind us to reflect off the glass, and windows that were pretty dirty. I guess there aren't a lot of people who want to be washing windows on the 95th floor. Anyway, here's some pictures:

Its a long way to the top...
The Hancock Building just looks to me like a mean building. Just a big tall black building in the sky. If you jump off the top, there aren't any wider levels to stop you before you hit the ground. Just one long drop.

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See, if you jumped off the Sears Tower, you might not make it all the way to the ground.

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Looking North up the lake shore.

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Looking South down the lake shore.

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Looking North with some lights coming on now.

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Looking south at dusk

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With more lights on

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Looking westward

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chicago Travelogue, Pt. 2: Boat Tour

On my second day with Chris, we headed out for a drive, and swung down south to check out the University of Chicago campus where Chris goes to law school, and then headed up north to see some of northside Chicago, including Wrigley Field.

Driving into town
Driving north into downtown

Its a simple question...
Harry Carey

Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field

After that, we headed back to Chris's place, and then took a walk up Michigan Avenue to the river where we bought our tickets for a boat tour of the architecture along the river. As the boat was about to embark, we only had 4 people signed up for the tour. 4 more showed up at the last minute to bring the group up to a whopping 8. It was cool to be able to wander around the top of the boat looking at whatever we wanted without having to worry about being in people's way.

The tour was perhaps the highlight of my trip. It was just so neat to be able to look up at all the amazing buildings along the river.

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Corncob-looking condo buildings

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Sears Tower on the left

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Our private boat

Scrap Metal Barge
A scrap metal barge that came by

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Me and the City

Summer of George
Great name for a boat, right?

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Looking back into town from the edge of Lake Michigan

Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chicago Travelogue

I realize I haven't been doing much writing on here lately, and I have to think some of thats tied up in the fact that I've got a lot of writing I need to be doing for school, and if I'm writing here instead of there, I feel a little guilty. Kind of like when I have a lot to read for school, its hard for me to read for fun.

Anyway, today, I'm doing laundry and cleaning up my room a bit, and figured I could take a second to show off some of my Chicago photos, for those of you who haven't already seen them on Flickr, and maybe give a bit more information about what I did.

I went to Chicago for the Fall Symposium of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), a conference that ran for parts of 5 days. During the conference, I spent most of my time at the hotel where the conference was held, and the only fun we had was going out to dinner at night. So most of the pictures I took during that time were at night.

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This one I took just outside the hotel on the riverwalk during the day. In the middle is the Trump building going up, which you might remember from the first season of "The Apprentice". The inaugural winner chose to work on the development of this building.

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This is the Wrigley Building (Wrigley gum, Wrigley field), and it was located pretty near to where we were staying.

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I took this one at night on a walk I went for, down by the lake.

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This the old water tower, one of the oldest remaining buildings from this part of town.

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I really like this shot looking out across the river from the Michigan Avenue bridge.

After the conference ended, my buddy Chris picked me up at the hotel and took me to his place, not too far south of downtown, and we headed out to see Millennium Park that night. Here's some of those photos:

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In the summertime these screens have fountains of water placed so that the water appears to come out of the mouths of the faces that rotate across these screens.

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They've got an ice skating rink there, and in the background you can see the "bean" or I think its official name is "Cloud Gate". More of that to come.

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Later that night, Chris and I walked over to a bridge near his place that had a nice view of downtown, including the Sears tower, and Chris showed me how to adjust the exposure settings on my camera so I could get a decent shot.

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I guess I'll leave off here for now, but I've still got a bunch more to show and tell from my trip.