Friday, December 21, 2012

My 2012 Christmas Card

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(Yes, that's my very first Christmas tree and all 4 of my ornaments)
Merry Christmas!

Once again it's time for me to put up some pictures and talk about the year that was 2012. I was surprised to find out that this is the 7th such blog post I've made.  Seems like a lot for some reason. Has it really been that long since I lived at Turnberry?  But I'm sure it's at least as much fun for me as it is for anyone else to look back on the year that was and take inventory of my life. Always, as I look back each year and remember what all I did, I'm surprised at how many things I did manage to fit into a year, and more importantly of how blessed I am to have good friends and a loving family. More than any specific thing that I've done, what I enjoy most is spending time with good company. 

I was not as good at blogging this year as I have been in some years past, in part because things have been busier at work (I guess that's good, right?) -- still with Intermountain Healthcare -- and also because, at least in the 2nd half of the year, things have been busier outside of work as well, for reasons I'll get to momentarily (Spoiler Alert!: It's not because I'm getting married). I also thought I'd sprinkle in some personal favorite "Bests of 2012" along the way.

Best Book of 2012 (Non-fiction): "What the Dog Saw", a collection of essays by Malcolm Gladwell. Runner-up: Popular Crime by Bill James.

What the Dog Saw was a really interesting collection of shorter takes from Gladwell, and Popular Crime was a book covering the history of popular crimes in American history and attempting to build some theories and methods for categorizing and evaluating them. But my favorite parts were when the author would go over the known evidence and try to opine on whodunit.

One of the highlights of the early part of the year was a quick weekend trip I took down to Arizona to visit my friend Julie in Phoenix. And let me tell you, Phoenix is a fantastic place to fly in February. Or visit. But if you say "fly" you get an extra 'f'. :)  Nice and warm.  We had a great time exploring abandoned baseball stadiums, the Phoenix Zoo, and a Mexican restaurant called On the Border. (Have you ever heard of all-you-can-eat enchiladas?)

Tempe Diablo Stadium - Press Box

Tempe Diablo Stadium

Best Movie of 2012 (Action):  The Avengers
Runner-up: The Hobbit
Best Movie of 2012 (Comedy): Pitch Perfect 

To be honest, I don't really remember seeing anything this year that I was blown away by, but the Avengers put on quite a show and was pretty entertaining along the way. The Hobbit was long, but I enjoyed all the time given to a book that I've read numerous times.  Pitch Perfect had good music and made me laugh, and Anna Kendrick wasn't too hard on the eyes either.

Also in April, as a family, we had the pleasure of a visit from George's family, all the way from Hawaii, and my parents found a great place to rent up on Traverse Mountain for a couple days. It was lots of fun to have them here and to just do some stuff together for a few days.  They won't be in Hawaii too much longer, and despite losing a free place to stay there, I'm much more excited about the prospect of having them much closer.

Grandpa Tom watching the kids

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Best TV Show of 2012 (Comedy): Parks & Recreation
Best TV Show of 2012 (Drama): Breaking Bad
Runner-up (Drama): Sherlock

Parks & Rec just hits the sweet spot in terms of making me laugh but also making me care about its characters. The end of Season 4 of Breaking Bad (which probably aired on TV last year, but I saw it this year) had not one, but two jaw-dropping, me-staring-at-the-TV moments.  Not a show for the faint of heart (it gets a little rough at times), but if that doesn't bug you, its worth checking out.  And BBC's Sherlock has been fun to watch, and even more so now that Watson is The Hobbit and Sherlock is...the bad guy in the next Star Trek movie.

In Jeopardy! winner/author Ken Jennings came to do a book reading/signing here in Salt Lake, and my friend Kathryn was kind enough to humor me and come along to see what he had to say.  He started his reading with a brief trivia quiz and it was cool to meet him and ask a Jeopardy!-related question that came up at work one day. ("Do you have to use question words to phrase your answer in the form of a question, or can you just use voice inflection?")

Photo w/ Ken

Best Album of 2012: Camp [Edited] by Childish Gambino
Runner-up: Underwater Sunshine by Counting Crows

I don't listen to many complete albums these days and this rap record by Community's Donald Glover was probably the only one that I listened to all of.  Counting Crow's album of covers was also pretty good.

This summer was quite a bit different from those I've had in recent years in that I don't think I left town at all until the end of August. No road trips. No camping trips (minus a fathers & sons campout that my ward did). No St. George, no Lava Hot Springs.  The main reason for this was that at the end of June I decided I was ready to buy a home.  So I called my friend Caleb who happens to be a realtor and we got to work visiting pretty much every home that was for sale in the greater Salt Lake area. Ok, maybe not ALL of them, but it felt that way sometimes.  One Saturday we looked at 20 houses (or maybe it was 21, I forget).  In any case, doing that nearly every Saturday, and often a day or two during the week as well, kept me in town and kept me busy for all of July and most of August and even a little of September. I made offers on a couple places along the way that didn't work out for one reason or another, but finally near the end of September I found a place I liked that I was able to get for a price I thought was reasonable. 

It's a 3 bedroom-2 bathroom townhouse in Millcreek, with a family room in the basement.  I closed at the end of October and moved in the first week of November, and I feel like I've barely had a day to relax since. :) I've got a medium-length list of things to work on on it, and I suspect that as a home owner that list never really goes away.  In any case, its been nice to finally buy my own place, and I've been working on getting it furnished/decorated, though so far the only new things that have actually arrived are a washer & dryer, and a dining table. I've got a couple couches coming at the end of the month, and have started thinking about what I might like to put on the walls, but there's not much up so far.

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Best Video Game of 2012 (Xbox): Batman Arkham City
Best Video Game of 2012 (Free Online):  Kingdom Rush 

To be honest, I didn't love Arkham City the way I loved Arkham Asylum, but it was still pretty fun to play through.  The only other game I really played extensively this year was Halo: Reach, and I like that one, but that one was more of a time killer than being really engaging. As for Kingdom Rush, I may have started playing it last year. I don't recall. But either way it's fantastic and its free and you'll probably like it a lot. :)

Backtracking a bit, as I mentioned, I DID leave town at the end of August, going to Hawaii for a week with a few friends. We had a great time and played pretty hard the whole week.  Always fun to be there, and especially so because it means spending time with George and Kimi and the kids, though we spent less time doing family stuff than in on other trips since I was there with friends. I did manage to blog about that trip, and if you look down further on the blog, you can read all about it.

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Best Song of 2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Runner-Up: "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida
Runner-Runner-Up: "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men
Also Really Liked: "What's My Noise" by The Hood Internet

Choosing a best song of 2012 was maybe one of the hardest categories to decide. There were quite a few songs I really enjoyed this year across many genres. I haven't put together my Best of 2012 playlist yet, but I suspect it'll be pretty long. Since I had to choose one song to be the very best, I went with "Call Me Maybe". It was really catchy when I first heard it and then when I hadn't heard it for a while, I'd hear it again somewhere and just really enjoy it. Also it is one of the best songs for just throwing it into casual conversation. :)  Flo Rida has been putting out a lot of fun upbeat songs and chances are you've heard "Good Feeling" and "What's My Noise" was a fantastic dub-step style remix of Snoop Dogg's classic "What's My Name?" that I just really enjoy. "Little Talks" should win an award for being the song that sounds most like it was recorded by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros but actually wasn't. :)

Another highlight of August was getting to see Counting Crows in concert for the first time in several years. They've skipped Utah on their most recent tours, but they were finally back in town.  I went early enough to see all of the opening bands and get a pretty good spot in the first few rows, and eventually my friend Emily showed up to keep me company.  My good spot led to some great photos, which were definitely a highlight of the year for me.

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In September, I got to go see The Head and the Heart again, and I really do love their music.  Last time was a little more intimate, in the garage that is Kilby Court, but this time they were at The Depot, and had a little more room to rock out. I also enjoyed Blitzen Trapper who opened for them.

Best Book of 2012 (Fiction): 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Runner-up: The Wind Through the Keyhole, also by Stephen King

These two were both by the same author, but totally different in subject matter. The first was a story of a man who travels back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination, and the other was a story shoehorned into the midst of the Dark Tower series, and it was fun to have some old friends back.

My last trip of the year came in November, just a few days after I had moved into my new place.  My good friend Jon is wrapping up his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Washington, and will be leaving Seattle shortly, so I thought it would be good to get up there one last time to see him and Seattle, and when his brother bought some tickets to the Utah-Washington football game, he suggested that would be a good time for me to come. And it was. :)  Utah didn't end up winning the game, but it was a great weekend nonetheless.  Highlights included dinner at Red Mill, seeing the Kurt Cobain bench (Why?!!!), and taking the ferry across to Bainbridge.

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Speaking of Utah football, we (my mom and dad and I and whoever I could convince to come with me) did have tickets again this year. Not Utah's best year of late, but we DID beat BYU (3 times!) and had some other fun late seasons wins over Cal and Washington State. And I've been a Utah fan long enough to know that some years it just doesn't go as well as others.

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And for those who care to know (including and possibly limited to my parents), I am still out there in the exciting world of being single and dating.  As best as I can tell, I went on 47 dates this past year. If I can get in one more before the year ends that would be 4 a month. Bro. Poll would be so proud. :) 24 of those were first dates, and 7 of those were blind dates.  And yes, I'm still currently available. Ladies. ;)

It seems like I should write something here in closing to sum up my year.  Obviously the biggest change of the year came toward the end, with buying my own place and moving out of Brandon's place after 3.5 fun years.  I didn't travel as much as I sometimes have in the past (Can you believe I only went to Hawaii once this year?!).  But on the whole things don't seem to have changed too much.  And to be honest, that's kind of the way I like it. :) Thanks to everyone who shared this year with me. I hope this Christmas season finds you all in good spirits. Remember that it's a lot easier to find happiness by wanting what you have than by having what you want.

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Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

August of Awesomeness: Hawaii Day 7

Our very last day in Hawaii turned out to be one of my favorite of the trip.  Pretty much the only thing we had on our agenda was Waimea. Waimea Valley and Waimea Bay. So once we were ready for the day we headed up north, making a brief stop a Kualoa Beach Park to take some photos of Chinaman's Hat.

Chinaman's Hat
Chinaman's Hat (Kualoa Beach)

From there it was on up to Waimea.  There was a brief rainstorm that provided us with a beautiful rainbow for some great photos right as we got there. We found a parking spot at the beach parking, took a few photos and then hiked across the road to the entrance of Waimea Valley.

Rainbow @ Waimea Bay
Rainbow at Waimea

Rainbow @ Waimea Bay
Rainbow at Waimea

Waimea Valley wasn't quite open yet when we got there, but we were the first ones in that morning and we quickly made our way up to the Waimea Falls swimming pool, arriving there before any but the lifeguards. Which meant we got the whole place to ourselves for at least 10 or 15 minutes and only a few other people had showed up by the time we were ready to be done. Swimming in the pool there was definitely one of the neater things I've done in Hawaii.  Just to be there in a tropical jungle, hanging out in a pool under a waterfall.  Very cool.

Waimea Valley
The park around this beautiful tree was just so lush and green

Waimea Falls
Nearing the waterfall

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Swimming over to the falls

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Group picture :)

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Sitting in the falls.  It was so loud there that you had to shout to hear each other, and it was sometimes funny to listen to other people shouting at each other because you could usually hear them from all around the pool.

Waimea Falls
This one is my iPad login background

Eventually we decided we were done there and leisurely made our way back down through the valley checking out the interesting plants and other exhibits that have been put together there as part of the park.

We got back to the beach and ate our lunches we'd packed, and then found a spot to park our chairs and stuff for the day, over at the top of the hill where we could get some shade under some palm trees.  We spent the rest of the day sunbathing, snorkeling, jumping off the rock, and just soaking in the gorgeous view that is Waimea Bay.  Liz, Cara, and I snorkeled out pretty much to the end of the bay, and the water was nice and clear, and I was able to see lots of cool fish, include a few barracuda, though I kept my distance from the rocks near the cliff where I tend to get nervous about getting scraped up.

Waimea Bay
I just think Waimea might be the prettiest beach I've been to on Oahu.

Jumping off the rock was fun, though I was a little surprised by how shallow the water is where you jump. I didn't get hurt, but I did touch the bottom almost immediately after entering the water.

Waimea Bay
Brandon doing some relaxing

Eventually it was time to call it a day, and we headed back down to Kaneohe and grabbed some late lunch at Quiznos.  Then we went back to George's and packed up our stuff and said our goodbyes and got our farewell waves from everyone at the front fence (I always love that part, even though it's sad to leave.)

We swung past Costco on our way to the airport to gas up our SUV. Amazingly, had we opted for the "bring it back empty" plan we would have almost hit it perfectly, but how can you plan for that.  In any case, it was nice that we could spent a whole week there on one tank of gas.  We got our car back to the rental agency, got through security and everything, boarded our flight and headed home. 

And that would have been the end of the story, if not for my apparent need to not have uneventful flights home from Hawaii.  This time instead of someone having a medical emergency or wanting to be up all night studying property tax notices, it was me who decided to make things exciting.  After dozing for a bit, I woke up feeling nauseous, and after failing to find a vomit bag in the seatback pocket, decided I could probably make it to the restroom, though I was pretty disappointed/embarrassed to have to throw up on a plane, having never done that before.  I remember unbuckling my seatbelt and that's pretty much the last thing I remember before waking up with several members of the Delta flight crew hovering over me wanting to make sure I was ok.  Apparently I fainted a step or two into my journey to the bathroom, and somewhat miraculously managed to avoid suffering any major injury.  Pretty amazing when you consider the width of those airplane aisles.  In any case, they brought me some oxygen and let me lie there in the aisle for a while (much more comfortable than my seat, by the way), and eventually they figured it was safe for me to get back into my seat.  They brought me some water, and then a few minutes later, some more water, in the process spilling the first cup of water they'd brought me down my leg.  They were understandably concerned, though apparently its not uncommon for people to faint on that flight (dehydration, too much sun, alcohol?).  I had one spot on the back of my head that was mildly tender, but even then only by feeling around was it noticeable. They offered to have medical staff evaluate me on our arrival in Salt Lake, but I decided to pass since I was feeling pretty good, and haven't suffered any apparent consequences since.  But yeah, my flights home from Hawaii always seem to be eventful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

August of Awesomeness: Hawaii Day 6, Part 2

After we were finished up with the skydiving portion of our day, we still had plenty of time for doing stuff up around the north end of the island.

We made a quick stop at the Dole plantation, and stayed just long enough for anyone who wanted to get a Dole whip.

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Whip it good!

From there, we headed up around the North Shore and over to Fumi's shrimp truck near Kahuku for lunch.  A freak rain storm cruised through while we ate under the protection of the tarps, and was gone by the time we were finished eating.

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The shrimp banner seems to have been torn even more than last time I ate there.

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Evidence of the storm

Our evening plans included a luau dinner at the Polynesian Culture Center, (having done the full package I was fine to do all or none of the PCC and the luau was what everyone decided they wanted to do) so from there we went to Laie and checked out the temple for a bit, then drove out to the point, and then finally spent a few lazy hours at the beach just down the road, before finally heading to the PCC for dinner.

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Laie Temple

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This statue of Lehi blessing his youngest son Joseph seems pretty unique

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Out on the point at Laie

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Kind of a scary spot for cliff jumping if you ask me

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Really liked this tree out there all alone

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Cool spot for a picture

 I didn't take any pictures at the PCC, but dinner was decent and a chance to try some poi and long rice for those who hadn't. After dinner we headed home. Brandon wasn't feeling too well, so we left him at the house and swung by Longs Drugs for some macadamia nuts and other Hawaii goodies to take home with us the next night.

Friday, December 07, 2012

August of Awesomeness: Hawaii Day 6, Part 1

The big event for Day 6 (Monday) was that Liz, Brandon, and Cara were going skydiving.  Why not me? I guess I felt like I would probably not enjoy it all that much, and would probably make myself sick with nervousness and in the end my favorite part would be when I was back on the ground, and I'd only be doing it to prove I could do it, when really there's not really any skill involved, just paying some money and letting someone strap themselves to you and push you out of an airplane. :)

That said, I was glad that they all had fun, and it was nice that I could be there and hang out with them the whole time except for the 15 minutes or so when they were gone to fly up in the plane and jump out.

So I took pictures and videos instead.

Waiting to go -- obviously some of them are more excited than others
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Heading out
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Coming back down
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Back on the ground
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Way to go guys!

Confusing sign on the restroom door
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Since this was so long, I decided to break Day 6 into 2 parts.