Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Old Book, New Book #18: A Wrinkle in Time -> Traffic


Well, that went quickly, didn't it? I managed to finish this book in just over a week, so it must have at least been entertaining, right? :) And it was. I remembered this book only vaguely from reading in my younger years, so it was still full of surprises. And still a little weird. But enjoyable. I just felt like a lot of what happened was unexplained. I'm sure that some Children's Literature grad student has broken it all down in a thesis somewhere, but I'm not sure that there really are satisfactory explanations for some of what happened. What's important is that things turned out alright in the end. :)

As I took this one back to the library, I went straight to the shelf where I've seen the sequel "A Wind in the Door" each of the last few times I've been there. And wouldn't you know it? It was gone. So I'm going to have to put a hold request on that one and move on to the other book that I have checked out: "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What Its Says About Us". It was recommended by my friend CJ and looks to be an interesting pop-psychology-esque look at driving. Stay tuned and I'll tell you what I think about it.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Sweet Madness

Last night went downtown to the Energy Solutions Arena (home of the Utah Jazz) to watch NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games with some buddies from high school. A year ago, one of them suggested we all put in for the lottery to buy tickets for this weekend's games that would be in Salt Lake. One of us was lucky enough to win an opportunity to buy, and then we all bought tickets from him. Who would have guessed it would turn out to be such an exciting set of games?

The first game (#1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler) started just after 5, so I left work around 4 and figured it would take me a bit of time to find a parking spot and walk to the arena. However, as I was driving down by the stadium, I lucked into a spectacular free curbside parallel parking spot that I 8-point-turned my way into. Almost took a photo to capture the moment forever. Mr. Mohler, my drivers ed teacher, would have been so proud. I was literally half a block from the arena, right outside a pay lot that was charging $10 a car. In any case, I made it there with plenty of time to spare.

Which meant I got plenty of time to watch Syracuse and Butler warm up.
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And also check out my surroundings. For instance, these Syracuse fans were on the row right in front of me:
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And this old guy came and sat down right next to me:
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We found out later he was in the wrong section, but he was definitely an interesting one. He had a scorebook where he was tracking the game, binoculars, and the radio you can see in the photo. When it turned out he was in one of our seats, he asked if he could please wait for a break in the action before moving, so that he wouldn't have to miss any of the game.

In addition to the interesting people, it was interesting to see the changes they made in the arena for the games. The most obvious was the entirely new floor that was brought in. However, in addition, all Jazz paraphernalia inside the actual arena (as opposed to the concourse area) was taken down or covered up. The division and conference championship banners were gone. Retired jersey, also gone. The plaques commemorating Stockton's assists and steals records were covered up. No "Bear Cave" or "Boozer's Buddies" banners. Nothing. The LED ring at midlevel, that usually shows ads during Jazz games only had some simple NCAA branding. I assume it's all part of what you agree to when you agree to host (and officially this event was hosted by the University of Utah, even though it wasn't in their home arena).

Anyway, then it was time for the National Anthem,
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and then it was time to get things going.
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Butler jumped out to a quick lead, leading by 10 or so for much of the first half, while getting 9 steals and keeping Syracuse from getting anything going. Butler didn't shoot so hot either and probably squandered chances to increase their lead. The half ended with Butler up 10. In the 2nd half, Syracuse battled back and made a game of things, taking the lead a couple times late.
I didn't take a lot of pictures during this game, but here one from early in the 2nd half.

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In the end, Butler made some huge shots down the stretch, including an amazing 3-pointer that was in-and-out-and-way-up-on-the-backboard-and-in-again that pretty much sealed the deal. Final score: Butler 63, Syracuse 59. Down goes another top seed.

We then had 30 minutes until the start of the 2nd half of the night's doubleheader, #2 Kansas State against #6 Xavier.
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This game started out looking like it was going to be a blowout. K-State jumped on Xavier early and was up 19-4 when I decided it would be a fantastic time to go find some Papa John's pizza for dinner.

*Tangent Alert*: At Energy Solutions Arena, among many other concessions, they sell personal-sized Papa John's pizza. And when you buy your pizza for $6.50, they also offer a choice of beverages, including sodas and bottled water, for $3.25 each. But if you want to go for the "Double Team" combo, you can get pizza and a soda for $8.75, saving yourself $1 over the cost of buying them separately. However, if you want pizza and a bottled water, it's still $9.75. Even though soda and bottled water sell for exactly the same price. ($3.25) You can only get the discount if you get a soda. What kind of madness is this? I ran into this at a Jazz game earlier this season and was equally stumped. I was hoping last night that I'd figure out a way to get around it. For instance, could I buy a pizza, soda, and water for $12, then decide I didn't want the soda and get $3.25 refunded? I feel like if the individual retail prices of soda and bottled water are identical there's got to be some way that I could get the $1 discount with bottled water instead of soda. So far, I'm at a loss. I'm sorry that I don't want to drink your Coke Zero, ESA.

*Tangent Over*

Anyway, by the time I returned with my pizza and water, Xavier was starting to turn things around, and managed to close within 1 by halftime. The 2nd half turned out to be spectacularly thrilling, close all the way. Kansas State led most of the time but never by much, and Xavier just kept hanging around. I remembered to take more pictures this time around:

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Of all the teams' fan groups, Kansas State's was the most boisterous, standing for long portions of the game, and doing some loud, coordinated cheers several times
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Even early in the game, it became clear that Xavier's players were not afraid to chuck up 3-pointers from way outside the arc, and though many of them missed, if you take enough eventually some are going to drop.
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Kansas State was not shy about throwing up the treys, either.
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The two teams combined to shoot 47 3's. And make 20 of them. Which wasn't spectacular, but for teams that only managed 65% and 76% from the free throw line, it was pretty impressive.

Coming down the final stretch, Kansas State appeared to have the momentum and had a 3 point lead with 10 seconds left. But Xavier's Terrell Holloway managed to get fouled while shooting a 3 with 5 seconds left and then proceeded to make all 3 free throws to force overtime.
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Overtime was a flurry of excitement with both teams scoring 15 points a piece in only 5 minutes of action. Both teams continued to toss up deep threes with reckless abandon and we were joking that Xavier's coach was telling his players to shoot from further out.
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Again it looked like Kansas State might have it wrapped up, leading by 3 with 19 seconds to play. But then this happened:

Jordan Crawford (who you might remember hearing about from his dunk over LeBron last summer at a Nike camp) pulls up from 35 feet away (practically from the "We Support the Troops" ribbon) and drills a huge 3 to force double overtime. Ridiculous.

Well, the excitement had to end sometime, and in the end Kansas State pulled away (well compared to the rest of the night, a 5 point lead was pretty big), on more strong play from Pullen and Clemente.
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All in all, it was a fantastic night. Saturday's game between Butler and Kansas State will be hard-pressed to provide an encore of equal excitement. But who knows?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Laughing at Illiteracy #3: Take it ease-y

From a (distant) friend's Facebook status:

..favorite past time #2.. Ease dropping on others convo's

From one doctor to another

"I wish all my patients were doing as well as you."

That was my doctor's assessment this morning at my diabetes follow-up appointment. It's been almost exactly a year since I was first diagnosed with Type II diabetes, and, in the short term, it would appear to be one of the best things that's happened to me health-wise. :) Obviously the potential for complications down the road is probably something that I'll always need to be wary of, but for now, things are good. In the last year, I've lost about 45 pounds, lowered my HbA1c (an aggregate measure of average blood sugar over the previous several months) from 7.5 to 5.9 (up a smidge from the 5.8 it was last time, but certainly still very good), and in the last 4 months since starting to take a super-cheap generic statin, my cholesterol has dropped dramatically from 188 to 128, while at the same time my good cholesterol (HDL) has gone up a tad.

Coupled with so many other great things going on in my life, I continue to feel really blessed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Old Book, New Book #17: Shen of the Sea -> A Wrinkle in Time


Finally got "Shen of the Sea" finished. Took about a month. Not to say it wasn't mildly entertaining and enjoyable. But I think because of the nature of what it was -- a bunch of short stories -- it never really gained any momentum to make me want to push through to the end. Just 5-8 pages of a story, the end, the beginning of the next one. Anyway, it was alright. And if you were buying this book in 1926 (the year that it won the Newbery Medal, you'd probably be pleased to get so many stories for the price of one book. You could pace yourself and have enough stories to last you for a good, long while. Now in the age of libraries packed full of books that you can read for free, maybe the quality of the individual stories would need to be a little better. Or maybe it just wasn't my cup of (Oo loong) tea.

In any case, I've moved on to another Newbery book, "A Wrinkle in Time". It wasn't my intention to read another Newbery back-to-back like this, but I've been wanting to re-read the whole series for a while, and I can never find this, the first in the series, at the library when I'm browsing. And then I end up taking home Pet Sematary even though I'm not super excited about it. So when a friend mentioned this book recently, it reminded me to put a hold request in for it.

After a couple weeks of waiting (high demand? low supply? both?) it showed up last week to my local branch. Now that I've got it, I figure I better get through it before it has to go back to the next person who puts a hold on it. Also, because late fines are getting steeper. Used to be 5 cents a day. Now it's 10 or 15.

As I was saying, my original plan was to read at least one non-Newbery book in between each medal winner, but I'm setting that aside for now to focus on this one. As I mentioned, this is actually a book I've read before. At least 2 or 3 times. But I can't seem to remember many of the details. And I always remember that I really liked the 3rd book in the series ("A Swiftly Tilting Planet") a lot, and would like to read it again (which means I'll probably also want to read "A Wind in the Door" again, which I remember approximately nothing about. And now there's a 5th book in the series. I know, right? Since when could authors keep writing more books in a series, after you thought you'd read them all?

Anyway, this series could move to the forefront of my reading list for the next little bit. But maybe I'll still try to mix in some other things. I've got at least one more book that I already checked out and am interested in reading.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Sign Language

I know I don't blog much about my work, and that probably won't change much in the future either, but today I'm going to share with you something that, while unrelated to the actual work that I do, did take place at my place of employment.

My office is in the basement of the hospital, and every day I go up 2 flights of stairs to the 2nd floor to get breakfast and lunch at the cafeteria and then come back down. In the stairwell there are handy signs to mark which floor you've arrived at. Like these:


2nd Floor

But at some point, the sign marking the 1st floor disappeared. Don't know if it was broken, or taken down or what. In any case, every day when I'd be going up, I'd get to the 1st floor where there was no sign, and somedays I'd wonder "Is this the 1st or 2nd floor?" Sometimes I get distracted while I'm going up the stairs, ok? There was just a blank spot on the wall. For a long time. A few months at least.

Finally, one day, I decided that the 1st floor needed a sign, too. So I made one. On a post-it note. And put tape on the sides so that it wouldn't just fall down when the post-it's stickyness wore out. And put it up in the blank space where the sign used to be. And several months later, it's still there. :)

1st Floor (Further)

1st Floor (Closer)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Party like a (Sham)Rock Star!

A year ago, we had planned on having a St. Patrick's Day Party at the amazing new house that my roommate-to-be was buying, but with some delays in the paperwork for closing, we had just barely moved in and the house just wasn't ready. So we moved the party to his parents' house and had a great time there instead (Thanks, Bart and Sue!) Anyway, fast-forward to this year and we decided that the house still needed a good St. Patty's Party. So we had an organizing meeting over pizza, invited friends, and got the double shot set up for the first time since the basement's been finished. Good times ensued!

Some of the few people who ventured up to the Eagle's Landing

Losing to my roommate (who went on to win the tournament) at double shot. Seemed unfair that I had to play him in the first round. He would have been so disappointed if I'd beat him.

Ladies' ping-pong

General sense of fun in the basement

The kitchen squad


Lots of socializing going on on the main floor

Definitely a good time. I'm lucky to live in such an awesome place with awesome roommates and awesome friends.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Follow-up on Yesterday's Visit to Grandma's House

So last night after taco dinner at the Harden's, and lots of fun times with the grandkids, we finally made it up to Grandma and Grandpa's to start looking through what is there. And believe me there was a lot there. Probably a lot of stuff that no one wants, mixed in with some nicer odds and ends. In reality, it's kind of a surreal experience to be looking at someone's stuff and realizing that a) they're gone and not coming back, and b) we can (and in many cases should) take this stuff for ourselves. Weird, I know.

In any case, I went through the games closet and picked out Rummikub (one of at least 3 that we found there), Boggle, Pit, a box of dominos (again, multiple sets were seen), and a backgammon set. I looked for the cuckoo clock but didn't find it. There are still a few more rooms and closets to dig through, so it may still turn up. If it does, apparently I get to have it. Didn't see the Zorba yet either.

I grabbed a couple books that looked interesting (including a 1922 edition of Jesus the Christ that was a little beat up). Oh, and there are a couple sets of luggage that I guess I'll get one of. To be honest, there's nothing that I feel a lot of emotional attachment to now, though I suspect that in time as these things become all that we have left of my grandparents, I'll probably appreciate them more.

I imagine that I might make another trip up there at some point and just take a little more time looking through stuff and see if any of it would be useful in a purely utilitarian sense (kitchen stuff, toolbox stuff, etc). It's just weird to think about it all in this way.

On a less weird note, I had tons of fun with the grandkids and am jealous of everyone who gets to have their nephews and nieces living nearby.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I don't just read books all day, you know?

Lest you think that all I do these days is read award winning children's literature, I figured I better sit down and write some kind of post about something other than what books I've been reading lately.

The question really is, what should I write about? Well one thing I wanted to share was a photo of my grandpa who just passed away, together with my grandma who passed away about a year ago. I had forgotten that I had it, and then was looking through my photos in Picasa the other day and found it.

The Hardens

I'm happy that they are together again without the constraints of illness that hampered them quite a bit over the last 10 years.

Tonight, we're going up to their house with my uncle's family to look through their belongings and decide what things people are going to keep and what things will get sold as part of an estate sale. I've been trying to think what, if any, things I'd want of theirs. If my grandpa's old Zorba computer was still around I might want that, as it is identical to the one he gave us that was the first computer we had at home (not counting our TI home computer). Maybe some games (Rummikub, Funny Bones). I imagine the cuckoo clock on their stairs is already spoken for, but that's something I always liked. Used to make them change the time, so it would chime and the cuckoo would come out. :) I don't know what else. Guess when I get up there I'll see.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Old Book, New Book #16: Pet Sematary -> Shen of the Sea


I finished Pet Sematary in a relatively short amount of time. Of course after reading Atlas Shrugged for 9+ months last year, every book I read seems like a quick read. :) But, honestly, it was kind of nice to get into a book that kept me coming back to see what would happen next. Thinking I need to mix a few more of those in with some of the others I've been reading lately.

On the whole, I thought Pet Sematary was good but not great. A lot of it deal with the idea of death and coping with death, which perhaps struck me a little more deeply since my grandfather passed away last week in the midst of my reading it. In any case, I liked the first two-thirds of it a lot, but thought the ending was a tad week. Would have liked a little more resolution. Not my favorite by King ("It", "The Dark Tower" series), but not my least favorite either.

Up next is Shen of the Sea, Newbery award winner from 1926. I read it in snatches while I was already reading Pet Sematary. It's a collection of mythological-sounding short stories from China. I haven't looked into the background enough to know if they are original stories by the author (Arthur Bowie Chrisman) or if he just collected them. In any case, they tend to be humorous for the most part and easy reading. I suspect I'll have this one finished before too long.