Monday, June 30, 2008

FSS 8: Stuff White People Really Like

This last weekend felt like a tribute to the red states. Which I feel good about, being that I am from one of those red states, myself. :)

Saturday morning we had an Elders Quorum activity in the which we drove out to the desert and shot lots of guns at stuff, so my Friday night was taken up mainly in making sure that everything was ready to go for Saturday morning. After driving about an hour west of Salt Lake, we pulled off the highway drove a short distance out into the hills to do some shooting. We started off with some trap shooting, shooting shotguns at clay pigeons.

After exhausting our supply of pigeons, we moved down to a different spot and tried out shooting rifles, handguns, and assault rifles. The assortment of weaponry on display was kind of amazing. Not being a gun owner myself, they really aren't on my radar. So I was a bit taken aback to see guys that I know pulling out handguns, AK-47s, and AR-15s. It was certainly an interesting experience to shoot all the different types of guns, although it might have been slightly more entertaining had we done a better job with targets. We brought some cheap soda cans to shoot at, but those were gone pretty quick and then it was kind of difficult to pick things to shoot at.

EQ Shooting Activity 003

EQ Shooting Activity 015

EQ Shooting Activity 013

EQ Shooting Activity 031

EQ Shooting Activity 050

EQ Shooting Activity 059

EQ Shooting Activity 071

EQ Shooting Activity 077

After the shooting activity, I headed back to Salt Lake, making a brief stop by the Tripp ancestral mansion to say hello. In addition to including several hours of shooting, the day also featured a cheap Saturday night rodeo experience. The Riverton rodeo was only $6, so I headed out there with some friends. I was semi-surprised to find that Jerry Hurst, who taught at my high school was the rodeo clown for the evening. I remember being in Elementary School and him coming and doing some magic, so I knew that he was a rodeo clown, but I'd never actually seen him in action, since I never went to a rodeo until after leaving Grantsville behind.

Anyhow the rodeo was fun, albeit the talent level was maybe a tad low and at times the announcer didn't do a very good job of keeping on top of the action. Sometimes riders would come out of the shoots on horses while he was still talking about something else. Also there was no audible timer for the 8 second rides, at least not one that the audience could hear. But given the cost of admission it was tolerable.

With a full Saturday, Friday night and Sunday seemed fairly nondescript. Or maybe I just don't feel like typing anything more today. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

10-Key vs. Telephone

tenkey

phone buttons

Who was the person who decided that a ten key and a telephone should have their numbers in a different order? Strangely enough they actually share two rows in common, 4-5-6 on the 2nd row from the top, and 0 at the bottom. I only notice this when I start doing some 10-key work after a long time of not doing, and I sometimes go up instead of down or vice-versa. There's probably a discussion of this on the internet already. Just seems kind of strange.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Big Digital Learns About the Opera

Apparently there's more to it than what I got from watching Looney Tunes on Saturday morning cartoons.

On Wednesday night, I attended a discussion group that meets monthly for the 2nd time, and this time the topic was the relevance of opera. (Last month's topic was the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty). In preparation for the discussion the guy who would be leading the discussion sought out a bunch of opera clips for us to watch on YouTube and picked a few articles about opera and classical music and their relevance/place in modern society.

Being pretty much a total opera n00b -- I went twice in high school as part of a "take kids to culture and hope it rubs off on them" thing -- and wanting to be able to participate in the discussion I read all the articles and watched all the clips twice, once before reading over his notes on each piece, and once after. And I have to say...there's still a lot about opera that I don't understand. I really don't have any kind of background in music theory and appreciation, so there was a lot that went over my head or just didn't register on my radar. Still, there were a few pieces I enjoyed and after two times through the list of clips I was starting to not be totally put off by opera.

The discussion was quite informative, in part because the guy leading the discussion happens to be a professional opera singer, but also because there were a lot of people at the discussion who knew a lot as well. At the end of the evening, he sang a short piece for us (while playing it on the piano to boot), and I have to say that it was definitely impressive. How a person can sing that loud without yelling is beyond me -- and I imagine he was toning it down a bit since we were just in his living room. I have to say I enjoyed the evening quite a bit, and armed with a newly acquired list of operas that he recommended for first-timers, I'd be a bit more inclined to see one. Not sure I'd go out of my way, but if someone invited me to one, I'd be less inclined to say no.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spin Cycle

One of the most frustrating parts of my PhD research has also been one of the most rewarding, or vice-versa. A significant portion of my research deals with gathering and analyzing medical data. These data have the property of being initially simple, but generally much more complex as you start digging into them. You might start with a simple query trying to gather all the encounters for which an alert was triggered, which sounds fairly straightforward, but then you have to decide do you want the first overall encounter for each patient or do you want the first encounter of each specific type (inpatient vs. ED). And then you find some encounters where a patient went to the ED but was admitted directly to the hospital as part of the same encounter. And you develop a method (hack?) for classifying things the way you want. But then later you discover that for some reason, there are cases where the ED Report for the encounter was actually filed after the discharge summary, meaning your classification hack (method?) only works for most of the encounters.

Finding these subtle distinctions is not generally something that happens on the first pass through the data. Generally its something I find as I reach what I think should be the end of things. And yes, its rewarding to know that I really am starting to fully understand the data, but at the same time, when a subtle change only affects 1% of the encounters, but I still feel like it would be dishonest to not redo the analysis with that change included, it can be frustrating, because while the numbers change, the results almost always stay the same. I mean, really, I'm the only one who would know the difference, and when the results don't change, its almost not worth re-doing the analysis, just to adjust the numbers slightly to reflect reality. And really, given the limitations of the study these numbers really only approximate reality as it is.

I had one of these moments today. Recycling as we speak.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Watch This Wednesday #34: 30 Rock RPG

Sit back and enjoy as Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) does impersonations of Tracy Jordan's (Tracy Morgan) family, in attempt to help him work through some dog-fighting urges. If you haven't seen 30 Rock, I definitely recommend it. I think the entire 2nd season is still available on Hulu.com.

Monday, June 23, 2008

FSS 7: Bumper Cars

This past weekend started a tad bit early, with me taking off a little bit early on Friday to meet up with a girl who invited me to come to Lagoon with her (and two other guys) for her work Lagoon day. I'm not a huge Lagoon fan, but it was free and with fun people, so it was hard to pass up. Its been a couple summers since I last visited Lagoon, so there were a couple new rides for me to try out -- The Bat (such a waste of potential) and Wicked (Very fun, but super short). Given that I didn't have to pay anything to get in, I really didn't feel any pressure to ride a million rides and I felt like I had a pretty good time. One sad moment: finding out the old light-gun shooting gallery is gone. That was one of my favorite memories.

Saturday, I got up early to go do some early morning baptisms at the Salt Lake temple, and after our ward outing was over, I went back to bed until the afternoon. After running a few errands, I got down to the big business of the evening -- a demolition derby in Bluffdale. I've been to several derbies over the last couple years, usually in Tooele, but I figured I'd invite some friends to come to this one that was located within the valley. Turns out there was a lot of unmet demand for demolition derbies among my friends. We ended up with over 20 people who went with us. The derby itself was probably the least well-run of the ones I've been to, but still entertaining. The derby area was very small and lots of cars were getting stuck in the loose dirt. Despite that, we still had lots of fun, and there were even fireworks afterward. We finished off the night with some late night grub from the Cheesecake Factory. I can only stand to go there late at night when there aren't a million people waiting around for a table.

Derby Action



Friends

Friends

Friends

Red Hot Exhaust

Fireworks

Sunday was its usual business with meetings in the morning and then church. After church I made a jaunt out to my parents' house to celebrate a belated Fathers Day and an early birthday for my dad as well. It was a short stay, but still nice to catch up and get some home-cooked dinner. I finished the night off with ward prayer and then a movie (X3: How is this movie so awful?) followed by a nice long chat with E. Harris.

More photos from the demolition derby here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FSS 6: Viva Las Vegas!

Sorry to be a day late with this, but I just had a lot of catching up to do yesterday after having spent Fri-Sun in Las Vegas. We took off Friday morning early, Jon, Ben, Ed, and myself in Jon's just-barely-purchased Mazda 6. We made great time, making it to St. George around 11:30 and stopping for lunch at Utah's very own In-N-Out, which was as good as always, except that like everywhere else right now, tomatoes were off the menu. (How is it possible that every tomato is unsafe? Do they all come from the same location? Whats the deal? If I can't have tomatoes on my sandwiches/hamburgers/etc, the terrorists may have already won.)

Utah's Very Own

Anyway, we cruised the rest of the way to Vegas and were able to check in a little early into our room at the Luxor. After relaxing a bit, we hit the pool for an hour or so trying to beat the heat a bit. Later that afternoon we met up with 3 of the 5 girls who were coming as well and walked most of the length of the strip to get to the Venetian where Jon and Ashley were seeing the Blue Man Group. Since we all wanted to spend time with them, we walked up there with them and found a place for dinner -- The Grand Lux Cafe which is run by the same people as The Cheesecake Factory, and was pretty tasty. We had an Asian Nachos appetizer that was really good, and I had a Kentucky "Hot Brown" sandwich that was an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and gravy. Once again the lack of tomato was a downer.

After dinner, those of us who weren't going to show wandered around the indoor Venetian Canal while we waited for the other two girls to arrive. Once they got there, we started our trek back down the strip toward our hotels (The girls were staying at the MGM Grand). Along the way we enjoyed the fountains at Bellagio, probably my favorite thing in Las Vegas. We also wandered around inside the New York New York hotel/casino for a bit, looking for a mythical ice cream parlor that seems to have disappeared since the girls were there last.

Canal in the Venetian

Bellagio Fountains

Bellagio Fountains

Bellagio Fountains






Finally we ended up back at the MGM Grand and watched some TV in the girls' room for a while until they decided it was time for us to go home.

Saturday morning, we were pretty lazy, eventually ending up at the Luxor brunch buffet around 11:30 or so. Good food, but maybe a bit on the pricey side. After that, we wandered around the Luxor and Mandalay Bay, flirting with the notion of checking out the Shark Reef at Mandalay, but deciding against it. We took a tram over to Excalibur where the guys bought our tickets for the "Tournament of Kings" dinner theater show there for later that night. Then we walked over to New York New York because some people wanted to ride the rollercoaster there. I was still feeling pretty stuffed from buffet brunch and wasn't really in the mood to ride a rollercoaster, but was happy to tag along.

Before we made it to the ride, though, we stopped in the arcade and played a few games (Dragon's Lair, anyone?). Once we got to the rollercoaster, there wasn't enough group enthusiasm for it to convince anyone to actually pay the $15 it cost. At this point, Jon had a genius idea that we ought to go see a movie. And it was a great idea. We got to spend a couple hours out of the heat, and it only cost $7.50 at the matinee price. We saw the new Incredible Hulk movie, and I found it fairly enjoyable. No real complaints. And given that I fell asleep every time I tried to watch the first one, I guess thats an improvement.

The guys

After the movie, it was time for the guys and girls to part ways (they were going to see Phantom of the Opera) and we headed to Excalibur for our dinner show. At the show, each section of seats was assigned to a different "country" and its corresponding "king" to cheer for in the competitions. We were in the Ireland section and our king pretty much sucked at everything he did. He lost every single competition he competed at. At one point he did have a pretty cool hand-to-hand combat scene with another king, unleashing a sweet ninja kick. But then later the opposing king pulled off a sweet rope swing move that was just too much for Ireland to handle. Overall it was a fun show, and the food was decent (although the choice of drinks was just water, Pepsi, or Diet Pepsi), albeit a tad greasy for eating without utensils.

Tournament of Kings

The "kings"

Jousting

After the show, we went back to our room and chilled until the girls were done with their show, and then we drove over to the MGM and then they followed us over to downtown Vegas to the Fremont Street Experience, basically a four block section that has a huge LCD ceiling over it, and its lined with lots of cheap-looking casinos and reeks of cigar smoke. There was a cover band playing a lot of fun songs, and we saw some guys ride around in one of those motorcycle-sphere-of-death things. After seeing two of the on-the-hour shows on the LCD ceiling, we made our way back to our cars and headed back to the hotel. The girls wanted to watch a movie or something somewhere, so I suggested we do it at our room, because I just wanted to go to bed, which I did.

Fremont Street Experience

Thunderdome


Sunday, we slept in again, and filled our daily quota for nourishment at the Bellagio's brunch buffet. A little better food than the Luxor (e.g. prime rib) but our server was pretty slow with the drinks, and the hour long wait to get in was kind of annoying.

Waiting for brunch at the Bellagio

Anyway, after that we drove over to MGM again to meet up with the girls one last time and say good-bye. Well for one of them to say good-bye to one of us (not me). And once that was done, we were ready to hit the road. We made good time getting back to Salt Lake, stopping for gas in St. George, and for a quick potty break in Nephi. I didn't even need to eat again until Monday morning.

More photos from the trip can be found here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Watch This Wednesday #32: Alan and Jerome...Thats Us!

With the NBA Finals in full swing, it seems like an appropriate time to bust out these old school Fox Sports NBA commercials with two white guys shopped in. Good times.

I'm still gonna punish ya--Unn!--punish ya!


Knickerbocker Please!


Watch my Kobe Bryant, no-look-confusion-maker


Alan and Jerome...Thats Us!

Monday, June 09, 2008

FSS 5: A fairly low-key weekend

Hello again,

I'm cranking this post out while waiting for a query to finish running. Just trying to polish up some data for a meeting I have next Monday, quite possibly to get my committee to sign off on everything for the last part of my dissertation. I'd still need to write it of course, but at least I'd now for sure what they expect me to write.

Anyhow, this last weekend felt pretty low key. Friday night a friend from the ward invited us over to his parents' house to swim. In the process of inviting people to join in the fun, I got a counter-offer of a concert and movie from a girl that I'd met last week and was interested in getting to know better. Since I'd already invited a bunch of people to come swim, I would have felt bad not going to swim at all (plus swimming sounded fun), so I made a compromise and agreed to meet up with her and her friends for a late movie after they were done at the concert. So I went swimming and it was fun. We played beachball volleyball in the pool and there was a lot of fun people there. Then it was off to the movie. These girls had chosen to see "You Don't Mess with the Zohan", which from the previews I expected to be pretty silly but maybe funny nonetheless. Sadly, it was pretty silly, and at times funny nonetheless, but mostly the movie was way too raunchy and crass to be enjoyable. I wouldn't recommend seeing it, even if you've enjoyed other Adam Sandler movies. Just too much of the raunchiness in this one.

Saturday, the original plan had been to go boating, but given the cool weather, and the high cost of gas these days, those in charge decided it might be better to wait for a more enjoyable day. I was alright with that, and took advantage of the day to clean up the house a little bit as we were having the ward over for breakfast on Sunday morning. That took up only a little bit of my morning and then I quickly proceeded to run out of things to do. After a day full of odds and ends, in the evening I went to dinner at Red Robin with a group consisting of mostly strangers, but it was alright. After that I got a call from another friend and we ended up driving out to Draper to check out a birthday party for a girl he knew. Again, kind of ho-hum...there were about 20 people there sitting around a firepit getting smoky.

Sunday morning we had the ward fellowshipping committee come over to cook our monthly ward breakfast. I was a little nervous about having enough places to sit for everyone, but it didn't really seem to be a problem in the end. I had my regular church meetings, and spent the late afternoon watching USA-Argentina play to a 0-0 tie, which has to be considered a big coup for America. Team USA's goalie made some great stops in the first half and really saved the game for us. After the game I headed to ward prayer, and then went to a friend's house to watch a movie, "Live Free or Die Hard" which I hadn't seen since seeing it in the dollar movies a year ago. I have to say I enjoyed it again.

Now that I've got this new template, I probably should work on getting my camera out again. Luckily, I'm headed to Vegas this coming weekend with some friends, so that ought to be a good excuse for some photography.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Three Years of The Big Digital

3 candle

Hard to believe, but I've been blogging for 3 years now. 2 years ago I celebrated the one year anniversary of the blog, but last year, the day came and went without notice. If you want some stats, here you go:

Since I started blogging, I've published 302 posts (303 counting this one). I didn't have any kind of visitor tracking for the first 8 months or so, but in the 28 months since I started tracking there have been 41,613 visits to the site, and 61,186 page views. Early this year, I peaked with 4,722 visits to the site in the month of April.

Nearly all of the visits come from referrals from Google Images searches, especially for McDonalds characters, but also for album cover art for Garth Brook's The Hits, Counting Crows' August and Everything After, and Mana's Suenos Liquidos. There are also a few people who I'll call regulars, even though I don't know who they are. I just see their locations show up repeatedly in the visit log. I sometimes wonder if they are people I know or not, but mostly I just think of them as their location and usual time of the day, as in, "oh, there's Franklin Covey's daily visit."

As far as I can tell from Google Reader there are 9 people besides myself who subscribe to the feed of my blog in Google Reader. I just changed the blog template yesterday for the very first time in 3 years, and the only change was to make it fill up the width of the screen which I've wanted to do for some time, but wasn't sure how to do and keep the same color scheme.

As far as the blog goes after 3 years, I would have to say that I enjoy blogging. Having some structure helps me do it more regularly, so I tend to pick things that I want to write about and then do recurring weekly features about those things. I've cycled through a few lists and lately have settled in pretty good to blogging on Mondays about my weekend, and then on Wednesday finding a video to share, and then just whatever else comes to mind. Its nice for me to have somewhere to just type up my thoughts, and since people comment pretty rarely, it mostly just feels like I'm typing them for myself, which is fine. Its always kind of exciting when someone does comment though, so feel free to post a comment. I promise its really easy, and you don't have to set up an account or anything.

In the time I've been blogging, I've finished 3 years of graduate school, and really hope to be graduating in the next 3 months or so, and find a job, and I'll also be turning 30 in the next few months as well, so I may have to change the description of the blog soon. (Can I count 30 as part of the late 20s? I've been counting everything else as mid-20s) I've been on numerous dates, and even briefly seen the relationship threat level meter teeter around orange for a week or two. :) I've had lots of great experiences in my singles ward, serving in two EQ presidencies, and a year as our ward executive secretary. I've lived in 3 different apartments. I've acquired two new nieces, and seen lots of people I know pick up blogging, although some are more faithful than others. And while I've always been a pretty terrible journal writer, and while most of my blog posts aren't really of that nature either, I at least am glad to have some collected thoughts about the trips I've been on, and other random things that I've experienced.

I think the saddest thing about the blog is that I can no longer find the watch style that the blog was named after. I've been making do with an Armitron that I picked up at Walmart that is functional, but not nearly as enjoyable as the original Big Digital.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

More Meta

I'm playing around with my template today. I figured it was finally time I got something that would stretch to fill the width of the window that its viewed in. No more 400 pixel limits on the width of photos and videos. Unfortunately, there was no stretch template with the same color scheme I had before, so I'm working with the colors to get it back looking the way it did before. Bear with me until I get that worked out.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Watch This Wednesday #31: Get some rest Pam. You look tired

I definitely would not say that I am Jason Bourne's biggest fan. Yes, I've seen all of his movies and probably like the last one as well as any of them, but I don't own any of the DVDs or anything thing like that. However, one thing I do like about him is his knack for making phone calls from a place where he can see the people he is talking to. My favorite instance of this comes at the end of the Bourne Supremacy when he's talking to Pamela Landy, and then at the very end of their conversation he says, "Get some rest Pam. You look tired." and then the Bourne theme music kicks in. If there was a way I could get my phone to play that song at the end of all my phone calls, I'd end every call that way. "Get some rest , you look tired." and then have that music kick in. I think that would be awesome.

Anyway, for this week's clip, I've included the only decent clip I could find that includes this part of the movie. Its actually a clip comparing what is supposedly the same phone call from the end of the Bourne Supremacy and near the end of the Bourne Ultimatum and nitpicking the differences. Anyway, if you skip to the 1:50 point you can see the part I'm talking about.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A new friend on the sidebar

Metablogging: I just added a sidebar widget showing the most recent of my "shared items" from my Google Reader feeds. They're just articles or other blog posts or whatever that I liked enough to share with the generic public. If you aren't familiar with the concept of Feed Readers, let me know and I'll set you straight.

Monday, June 02, 2008

FSS 4 featuring BBQs, Drive-Ins, and Other Sundry Events

This last weekend began with an excursion to my hometown of Grantsville for a BBQ with some high school friends. Back in March, we had set some parameters for food assignments based on performance in an NCAA basketball tournament prediction pool. As my picks went horribly awry I was tasked with providing the meat for this BBQ. As such, I would have felt a little bad begging out of the BBQ, even though at times its not the most fun hanging out with a bunch of married people and their children. Anyway, it turned out to be a nice evening and I also spent some time chatting with my parents and siblings at the end of the night. After returning to Salt Lake I ended up swinging by a friend's house to watch a couple episodes of Flight of the Conchords on DVD, and then enjoying a relaxing soak in his hot tub.

Friday's late night was followed by an early-starting Saturday. We had a stake service project at 9, and our ward was meeting up at 8:30 to car pool over to the location. We ended up at a place called Bend-in-the-River along the Jordan River parkway pulling weeds for the most part. They split the large group into smaller groups and my group ended up pulling rye grass from around some rose bushes. Saturday afternoon was used up in resting, grocery shopping, and printing some home teaching assignments at the church.

Saturday night marked my first trip to the Redwood Drive-in of this calendar year. Approximately fifteen of us gathered at my house and then we headed over to see Prince Caspian, which I found to be passably entertaining. It had been long enough since I read the book that I really wasn't sure what was going to happen for most of the movie. The second feature of the traditional drive-in double feature was the Patrick Dempsey-helmed "Made of Honor" which from the trailers I'd seen appeared to be some kind of "My Best Friend's Wedding" retread, and as such I figured I'd call it a night and check out early. Most of our group was of a like mind.

Sunday morning and afternoon were filled with my usual meetings, and then in the evening I was pretty lazy. I finished the night off with ward prayer at Robin's, where I met some cool new girls in the ward, and then headed to Jason's and ended up watching the Bourne Ultimatum, a fitting follow-up to last week's Bourne Supremacy.