Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old Book, New Book #20: A Wind in the Door -> A Swiftly Tilting Planet


As expected, A Wind in the Door was a pretty quick read and I knocked it out in about a week. (I just haven't gotten around to blogging it until now.) To be honest, I don't entirely know if I liked it that much or not. It has some interesting ideas about space and size, but there are a lot of things that are left vague or unexplained. Like what the title of the book has to do with anything for example. I guess the take home message from the book was that even very small things are connected to very large things and can have a huge impact.

Finally, though, I've arrived at the real reason I started re-reading these books again in the first place: A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which I also remembered very little about, other than that it had some time traveling and the protagonist stepping into people's lives a la Quantum Leap, really. And that I thought it was a pretty cool book when I read it all those years ago. I guess we'll see if it lives up to my memories of it.

Swiftly Tilting Planet

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Big Digital acquires a new HQ

And by Big Digital, I mean the blog, not me. And by new HQ, I mean a new desktop PC to replace my current home machine.

After a long time of thinking about it and watching deals come and go, last night I finally decided to purchase a new computer. I've had my current desktop for just over 5 years and it's served me well, but I was starting to run low on hard drive space, and coveting the fancy new widescreen monitors that I was starting to see frequently. So I figured I might as well just spend a little extra and get a brand new machine. It's a Dell (XPS 7100), because I've had very few problems with the other Dells I've had (2 desktops and a laptop, oh and my work laptop), and I'm still not feeling like I want to be a Mac. Maybe if I wanted to edit graphics and pay twice as much. Oh, and because I wanted to be able to right-click things. :) However, even this new Dell will bring with it some new ground. It's coming with Windows 7. After a solid 10 years with XP, I'm not even sure how excited I am about a new OS. In all the news about it, I've yet to figure out why I needed to upgrade my OS. Guess we'll see. Hopefully the learning curve isn't too steep and it's not too hard to find compatible software.

In any case, I also thought it was interesting when I realized that I've had my old computer since right around the time I started this blog. Probably got it just before. Which means I've had that computer, and this blog, for quite a while.

Also, this morning, for a few minutes, I drove behind a car with New Mexico license plates, but which had an "801" sticker in the back window. I thought it was funny that someone who wasn't even from around here, wanted to represent for the 801. I tried to picture with my phone, but its zoom functionality is pretty limited.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Old Book, New Book #19: Traffic -> A Wind in the Door


Well...it's done. I finally finished reading "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)". It took me over two months (and granted I've had other things occupying more of my time lately), in great part, because it just wasn't THAT interesting of a read. Yes, some of the ideas were interesting. In fact the opening section on whether or not to merge early or late was really quite interesting. Sadly, the rest of the book failed to live up to the introduction. I started reading it in the hopes of finding some secrets about how to improve my commute, and ended up learning over and over again that making roads safer often makes them more dangerous.

And that gets to my biggest issue with the book. It was just so overwritten. I felt like this book would have been better as a series of articles, or at the very least with more judicious editing. It felt like the author would present an idea, and then present every possible relevant study or factoid or possible cultural belief that could be related to support that idea. I appreciated learning more about traffic safety and the way that roads that are inherently safer often lead to more reckless driving and a subsequently lower reduction in accidents and fatalities than expected. I appreciated the discussion of ideas like congestion pricing, and why roundabouts really are safer than traditional intersections. I just didn't appreciate them 300 pages worth.

In any case, I'm kind of looking forward to some lighter fare, with a return to the Wrinkle in Time series. Next up is "A Wind in the Door", which I've of course read before, but so long ago that I really don't recall anything. From looking at the back of the book, I know/remember that there's something to do with microscopic organisms (bacteria?). In any case, I hope that this next book won't take me another two and a half months to read.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Way to go Ben!

This past Thursday I headed out to Granstville after work, because my younger brother Ben was graduating from high school. He's the last of us left at home, and he'll be coming to the U this fall, which breaks the three-way tie between Utah, USU, and BYU in terms of how many of the kids in our family went there.

The commencement was held in the high school gym because there was something like a 20% chance of rain. It was a gorgeous day outside. But whatever. It didn't get nearly as hot in the gym as I had feared it would. The seats were pretty hard, but that probably would have been the case outside, too.

At least one graduate arrived in a limousine, prompting our neighbor to say, "If high school graduate is the pinnacle achievement of your life then...well, I'm just not going to say anything more about that."

As far as graduation ceremonies go, it was fairly ho-hum. Some people gave speeches. Some were longer than others. Some invited their husbands to join them (??) and may or may not have gotten prematurely applauded off the stage. I mean I think she was wrapping things up, but it wasn't 100% clear. The "headliner" was my older brother's prom date who now works as a television news reporter. Eventually, Ben got to go up and get his diploma.

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Ben coming in. He wasn't all alone. It just looks that way.

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The fact that they didn't set up enough chairs for all the graduates made me a little nervous about the quality of education they're providing.

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Finally all seated.

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Just in case you want to sing along with me next time.

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Getting a little bored by the time the 3rd musical number rolled around.

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I want to hope that if we just could have heard better, I would have understood why her husband was up there, too, but somehow I'm not confident that would have helped.

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Mr. Green trying to keep the graduates from rioting during the 2nd hour of speeches.

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Waiting his turn

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The big moment

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He did it!

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Changing the Tassels

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Go Utes!

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They did it!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A memorable memorial migration

I got back last night from a road trip to St. George, feeling sorta tired, sorta sore, and definitely grimy. But I had a lot of fun, too. :)

We (Brandon, Becca, Meili, and I) hit the road Saturday morning around 8, and made great time going south. I think the majority of the holiday traffic probably happened on Friday after work, and I really didn't have too many sarcastic comments to direct at my fellow drivers, at least not on Saturday. We took my Altima, and it performed admirably, getting between 26 and 27 miles per gallon, and making the whole trip down without our needing to stop and fill up. I made it to Cedar City before I had to stop and de-fill up.

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Back seat society

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Front seat society

We got to St. George around noon, and hit In-n-Out on our way into town, since our hotel rooms weren't guaranteed to be ready until 3:00. We got to the hotel and were told we might have to wait an hour or so, but then as we were walking away, one of the janitorial staff arrived and we were told that our rooms had just been readied. After a brief rest, we hit up the pool for some swimming and sunbathing. Which was a nice change from getting snowed on earlier that week in Salt Lake.

After getting our fill of pool time, it was back inside for more resting and then we headed out for dinner and fun. We ate at a Mexican place I've been to before called Pancho & Lefty's that is fairly decent.

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After dinner, we went to a place called Fiesta Fun. One of those mini-golf, go-karts type places, where we played a round of putt-putt and then did a turn on the go-karts. I managed to tie for 2nd place in the golfing (Brandon beat us all by a good 10 strokes) and then got stuck with a two-seater go-kart that pretty much guaranteed my finishing last of our group, since they all got the apparently faster single-rider versions. We got ice cream at McDonalds afterward and then called it a night.

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Apparently this is the secret to winning at miniature golf

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I was very happy with my "2" on this hole.

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Excited for Go-Kart action!

Sunday, we got up bright and early (at least for a vacation) and ate a decent hot breakfast at the hotel, and then headed over to the Bloomington area for church with my old roommate Ray and his family. After church, they invited us over for burgers at their place. I was really impressed with their place. It was really nice to catch up, as it's been a couple years since I saw them last. We ate and then played with their kids for a bit and then played scum for a little while.

The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and swimming some more, then Sunday night we ate at Texas Roadhouse, which I always love. I didn't get the kabobs that I love so much, but the smothered chicken was pretty good, too.

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Brandon's such a deep thinker

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But he likes dinner, too.

Monday morning it was up and at 'em relatively early again, as we planned to head up to Zion National Park and do some hiking before making our drive home to Salt Lake. We got away from the hotel a little after 9, and were searching for parking at Zion around 10:15 or so. After not finding a spot at the visitor's center, we felt lucky to find one up the road a bit at the museum. Then we boarded the shuttle and made our way to "The Grotto", where the trailhead to Angel's Landing is located.

I've hiked Angel's Landing once before, about 7 years ago, and remembered being nervous that time because "there are sections with chains to save you from falling to your death!", but then discovering that it really wasn't too bad. There was one section that had sheer drop offs on both sides without chains but it was only 6 or 8 feet long and the rest of the chained section really didn't bother me too much. Well, in the past 7 years, it has remained at its same level of unscariness. (For me, at least. I know some people do have real problems with heights, so I don't want to make light of that) The section I remembered being the scariest now had a chain on one side of it, so it's not nearly as bad. Going up I figured that coming down might be a little more scary, but really even that wasn't so bad.

In any case, we made decent time on the hike and enjoyed the spectacular views along the way and from the top, and were able to feel good about ourselves for conquering the hike. Becca and I had both done that hike before, but Brandon and Meili were first-timers. Brandon and Becca made a little bit quicker time than Meili and I, but I think we had a lot of fun and paced ourselves pretty well and didn't get too exhausted. My knees got a little sore from the crouching coming down, and then just the impact of walking down the fairly steep slope of the trail. My feet were also pretty sore by the end, but I managed to avoid any blisters. I didn't take the best hiking shoes, just some older sneakers that I thought would be versatile enough to use throughout the weekend. Maybe not the best choice, but I guess I dodged a bullet there. They didn't really have any tread on the bottom and a couple times made some scary slidy noises that spooked a fellow hiker, but I really was never in any trouble of sliding to my death.

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The view partway up the trail

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Taking a break along the way

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Walter's Wiggles

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At the summit

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This looked a lot steeper as I was looking up to take a picture than it felt coming down. So I guess that's good, right? :)

By the time we got to the bottom, we were pretty worn out and ready to eat lunch (it was around 3 or 3:30 at this point), so we caught the next shuttle back to our car and hit the road. We stopped for lunch in La Verkin and then got back on the road. I was worried I might get a little sleepy on the drive back and told everyone else to sleep if they needed to, so they could spell me later on. Fortunately, I never really felt that tired and was able to drive the whole way home. Everyone else stayed awake for most of the ride as well (I think Becca might have slept a bit) and did a great job of keeping me entertained, DJ-ing the ipod and listening to my sarcastic grumbling about my fellow drivers, e.g. "I'm the fastest RV in the world!" We made it back home around 8, and after dropping everyone off, I got unpacked, showered, ate a late dinner around 10, and got to bed before 11.

All in all, a nice road trip with a nice mix of doing stuff and not doing stuff.