Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts during my commute this morning

How is it that on perhaps the best non-freeway thoroughfare in the valley (700 East), there are three separate school zones? 3 times during my commute all the cars have to slow down from 45+ to 20-. Can't they make 7th East the boundary or something so that kids don't have to cross it to get to school?

Also, this morning while driving in one of these school zones, an ambulance showed up going the opposite direction. My question is: Does the ambulance have to slow down in the school zone? Which takes precendence?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Musical Favorites from 2008

I realize it's nearly February, but I just barely took time to mull over my favorite music from 2008. By the way, here are some links to previous years' lists:

2007, Part 1: Albums
2007, Part 2: Hip-Hop
2007, Part 3: Rock
2007, Part 4: Miscellaneous



Turns out that 12 months is a long time. Thankfully I was able to see through iTunes what music I added to my library last year, and was able to show me what I listened to the most last year. Looking over those lists I was able to come up with 4 albums I listened to a lot last year, and 22 songs to share.

It turns out that I didn't listen to as much music last year as perhaps in years past. Partly, I've been filling my commute time with talk-radio-ish podcasts, and partly since I gave up file sharing, I just don't get around to checking out as much new music. However, with great things like Pandora and YouTube, there is tons of free music that you can stream over the internet totally legally. You'd be hard pressed to not be able to find somewhere to listen to music for free online. Sure, you can't save it to your iPod, but you can at least check something out and decide if it's worth purchasing. For my birthday, I got a $25 iTunes gift card and I still have about $6 left, just because I like to listen to a song quite a few times before I go ahead and buy a song to keep.

Anyway, this looks to be a three-part series. Today I'm starting with the best albums and then I'll get into the best songs over the next couple posts.

My favorite albums of 2008 (in no particular order):

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings - Counting Crows

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Originally scheduled for release in 2007, this album's release got pushed back to early 2008. As with most Counting Crows albums, it took me a few listens to get a feel for which songs I liked the most. It's always interesting to see how their albums resonate, or don't resonate with me. So far...I'm not loving this album, but I do like it, and probably with time I'll come to like more as I have with the rest of their albums. If I had to rank their albums (original content only, not counting live albums or repacked best ofs), I'd probably go in this order:

1-August & Everything After
2-This Desert Life
3-Hard Candy
4-Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
5-Recovering the Satellites

Not to say I don't love songs on each album and can enjoy listening to just about anything Adam Duritz is willing to sing.

Feed the Animals - Girl Talk (Warning: Explicit Lyrics)

Feed the Animals

If you don't know who Girl Talk is, it's high time you found out. Basically he's a guy who puts lots of song clips together on his computer and then plays them. At his concerts, he covers his laptop in saran wrap and people dance all around him. Here's a clip:

Anyway, Feed the Animals is his new album that came out this fall -- available at a cost of your choosing, including free. Part of the fun for me is trying to pick out all the samples he uses, you can use Wikipedia to check your answers. Lots of great samples on this album. One word of warning, all the samples are unedited, and he does seem to pick a lot of stuff with explicit lyrics, so if you get offended by that, you'll want to skip this one.

Metro Station - Metro Station

Metro Station

I realize that this band is probably just the latest band to come around singing emo love songs with a peppy beat, but I can't help but like so many of their songs. From "Shake It" to "Kelsey" to "I Wish We were Older". I fell in love with Shake It before I knew the name of the band, and Pandora was happy to mix most of the rest of the album in with other stuff I was listening to.

Alive - Daft Punk


Now, this album actually came out sometime in 2007, but it was something I found on my buddy's computer and decided to check it. It's a recording of a live Daft Punk show in Japan. And it's awesome. If you like Daft Punk, you should definitely check it out. I think all, or most, of the tracks are 2 or 3 of their songs mashed up together and it's a great, high-energy album. I can't really pick any tracks that stand out especially, but the vibe is great from start to finish.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Word Nerd!

Over Christmas break we had fun calling my sister "Bird Nerd" because of her new-found love for bird-watching and her new job as a biology TA for a professor who teaches a Gen Ed Biology course that, rather than teach about Biology, only teaches about birds, and requires students to go out and try to find as many local species of birds as they can.

Why do I bring this up? Just for fun, mostly, but also as an introduction to a story about my own nerdiness. When I was a kid, I had cereal most mornings for breakfast. And while I ate my cereal, I used to entertain myself by counting the number of times that certain letters appeared in the text on the box. Usually I would just do the vowels, but occasionally I'd also branch out and count some of the more prevalent consonants. Some sides of the box obviously were more word-rich environments. The front usually doesn't (didn't? I hardly ever eat cereal any more) have a lot of writing, and when it does it's usually large font, low word count. The side with the nutrition information was always a good source of words, in both the count of essential vitamins and minerals (niacin, potassium, etc.) as well as in the list of ingredients (enriched wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Obviously the vowels were generally more common than the consonants, although 's' sometimes could be close to the big boys. Of the vowels, 'e' was by far the most common. Because I'm sure you were dying to know. Anyone else spend their breakfast hours counting vowels on their cereal boxes? No? Anyone?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little bit of catchup

Between starting my new job and dealing with a weird, undiagnosed illness I've been kind of busy. Also, I need to get back to finishing up my dissertation edits, because the longer I wait the harder that's going to be.

Aside from vague left flank pressure/discomfort/pain and a cough that refuses to go away, I'm doing pretty well. Learning a lot about my company and about some specific projects that I'm going to be working on. Stuff like that.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Big Digital Has an Eventful Friday Night

Not that I don't otherwise have them, but last night had at least one incident too many. Let me explain. Yesterday morning as I was arriving at work, the battery light and the emergency brake light on my dashboard came on. I thought it was odd that they would both come on and figured it might be something to do with whatever electrical system controls the lights, because the brake wasn't on or anything, and after work, my car still started up just fine. I made it home without any incidents and proceeded on with my Friday night plans.

A friend (Tandy) and I had organized a sledding activity last night and invited a large number of people. We'd be meeting at her place in Sandy and then heading out from there. I tracked down all my snow clothes and my tube and left with what I thought would give me enough to get to her house on time. The directions I'd looked up on Google maps (True Dat! Double True!) told me to head east on Sego Lily, but I forgot to look at exactly how far south Sego Lily was. And it turned out that on 7th East, the street sign didn't call it Sego Lily, and I drove right past it. A few blocks later, I realized I'd gone to far and decided to head east on 10600 South, thinking I could just backtrack to where I needed to be. Unfortunately it turns out that 10600 South is on the south side of a huge gorge with no roads crossing it, and while I kept hoping to find one, it looked like in the end I was going to have to go all the way up to Wasatch to backtrack toward the north.

Now, as I'd been driving, with my battery and brake light still on, I started to wonder if maybe my headlights weren't as bright as they ought to be, and if my heater wasn't blowing as strong as normal. And as I headed east on my long detour, suddenly my radio turned off, and wouldn't turn back on. A few moments later, the airbag light started flashing, and then just after that, my car slowly died.

I pulled off the road as best I could, but my detour had taken me in to a less traveled part of the valley and I was on a two-lane highway with no street lights. The lack of electrical power also meant I couldn't even turn on my emergency flashers. After a brief debate I decided I should probably stand at the rear of the car and encourage oncoming cars to not hit it or myself. Not sure if it was the wisest decision or not, but I'm still alive to write this post, right? :)

I called Tandy, explained my situation and tried to figure out about where I was. She said as soon as someone else got there, she could leave and come look for me. Just after that another friend, Dave, called for directions and I explained my situation. He offered to come help find me as well. After these phone calls I got my trusty jumper cables out of the trunk for future use, and put them in the front of the car, and opened my hood. While I was in the car, I decided to try the emergency flashers again and lo! and behold! they worked. Which made me figure I ought to try starting the car. It started and I quickly closed the hood and resumed my journey.

I was able to make it up and around the east end of the gully and start back down toward my destination before the airbag light started flashing again and I figured I better find a good spot to pull off the road quickly. I did so, and ended up only being a few blocks away from the final destination. My friend came and picked me up and I figured I'd come up with a way to get my car to the shop after sledding.

Here's a map you can look at to get an idea of where this all happened, and to encourage you to not use 10600 South to go east:

If you made it this far, I commend you, but let me just say that this story is just getting started.

For sledding, Tandy recommended a little park with hills on all sides and a bowl in the middle not far from her place. After everyone arriving, we loaded up and headed over there. It ended up being a pretty fun spot, with one main hill that had a couple small dips where you could get some excitement, but nothing too crazy. A few minor spills and what not. At one point, people were talking about putting three people on my double tube and Dave came up and said "Now just let me say that every time I go sledding, someone gets hurts, and usually it's when they try to put three people on a tube." That was enough to discourage them from that.

Across the park from that main hill was another hill that had a bit of a steeper drop off, and a couple people had gone over to try that and then come back. A bit later I was looking around and didn't see Dave and figured he must have gone to his car for something. A few minutes after that we heard someone yelling from the bottom of that other hill, asking for someone with a phone to call 911. I looked around again, and not seeing Dave, started to get a little worried. Someone started calling 911 and we hustled over to the bottom of the hill.

They'd seen something at the bottom of the hill and, when they got over there, found Dave face-down in the snow on a sled, unconscious and bleeding from his face. Thankfully he was at least breathing, and everyone took precaution to not move him. I observed his feet moving a little, which was encouraging. After a couple minutes, he slowly started to come to, mostly moaning, but not responsive to our comments. We tried to keep him from moving his head around, and got someone's sweater under his head to keep it out of the snow. The paramedics soon arrived and about that point he was starting to respond to their inquiries. Not real well at first, and he kept trying to push himself up on his arms and they kept holding him down. They put a neck brace on him and loaded him onto a backboard and carefully took him up the hill and to the street and loaded him into the ambulance.

Someone suggested that I go with him to the hospital, and since I probably knew him as well as anyone, I figured that was probably a good idea, although I was still thinking I was going to have to go back and get my broken down car at some point. Other friends were kind enough to find his phone and wallet and call his parents, stop by his house and pick up some clean, dry clothes for him, and then come down the hospital as well. Halfway through the ambulance ride, they decided he was well enough that they could turn off the siren.

Upon arriving at the ER, they sent me to the waiting room and did some tests on him for a while. After a while, they told us we could go see him. He was doing pretty good at that point, although he was clearly still a little loopy and complaining of double vision. Originally they wanted to admit him to the hospital overnight for observation, but eventually decided he could go home that night as long as he wasn't going to be home alone. We gave him his clean clothes to change into and loaded him in someone's car. (FYI: apparently, if you go to the ER with some kind of trauma, you're likely to have all of your clothes cut off of you, even if things are terribly urgent. Dave was kind of pissed about having his favorite sweatshirt cut in half. Also, if you don't have friends who will bring you clean clothes, they are perfectly happy to send you home with just your hospital gown and a blanket.) We got him home and handed him off to his roommate.

Then Brandon was kind enough to drive me back to Sandy (we'd gone to the new hospital in Murray), jump start my car, and follow me back to the shop near my house. Driving home, we had to jump start the car 2 more times, once in pretty tricky circumstances that required him to make a U-turn going the wrong way on Fort Union to pull in in front of me. We almost had to jump it a 3rd time, as I had to coast into a parking spot at the shop after the car dying again. I took my valuables out of the car and left the key under the mat. Brandon drove me home and even helped carry my boxes of work stuff up to the house. Quite a night.

I felt lucky to have such good friends, and that Dave was relatively alright, and that I was able to get my car to a shop. Turns out it's the alternator, which is what I would have guessed after thinking through the problem.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Big Digital Sells Out

Yes, I'm still alive. My holidays were great. Loved spending time with the fam, and then being lazy for a week afterward (wait...wasn't I supposed to be finishing up my dissertation edits?...hmmm) and now that the holidays have come and gone, I've gone and started a full-time real job for the first time in about 4 and a half years.

Today is just day 2, and already I've run out of things to work on for now (guess I could think about my dissertation for a minute). I mean, I'm sure things will be picking up shortly, as I've been in touch with several people to talk about several projects, but for now it's just been setting up meetings and getting ready to move my stuff from one location to another. Yesterday was corporate orientation and it wasn't too awful, but I certainly wouldn't categorize it as "efficient". This morning I met with the guy who is my advisor and also the head informatics guy at my company, and he let me know about moving, and also that I have a meeting to go to tomorrow morning at 8 (and every Wednesday morning for the foreseeable future. And while the whole getting up early like working people thing isn't my favorite, having some structure in my life again is nice.