Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009

This will be my last post in the year 2009, and in the oughts decade for that matter. It's been a pretty good year as far as blogging goes, and by that I mean I've actually done it fairly consistently. There were a few dry patches here and there when school and med school stuff became too overwhelming. It's been a whirlwind of a year, and I'm looking forward to the good intentions and failed executions of 2010.

How have I spent the last week of the decade? It hasn't been that exciting, to be honest. My job in the nematode lab ends on January 3rd, so I've been working as many hours as I can find things to do in there. I'm trying to wrap up experiments to get my last morsels of data, and I've been working on the manuscript that my professor wants to publish. I really like writing, but for some reason it's been difficult to find motivation to write about plant-parasitic nematodes. One nice thing about working in the lab is I can blare my music through the loud speakers. 2009 has brought a lot of good tunes into the world, and it's been very relaxing to give them all a listen. Ashton wants me to stop downloading music as a New Year's Resolution. Anticipating the major withdrawals I will likely encounter, I have downloaded about 50 albums in the last few days. It's like when I was getting ready to leave for Ukraine. Rather than wean myself off Babylonian music, I binged till the last drop.

It's been a good week otherwise. We watched Fantastic Mr. Fox with Alpha on Sunday. Incredible! Best kids movie of the year. Best movie of the year, for that matter. I was in love with every minute of it. It had all the wonder and charm of any Wes Anderson movie, plus the whimsical imagination of Roald Dahl and the dry delivery of Daniel Ocean. Zinger after zinger. Pure bliss. I've been reading the book to Samuel every night before bedtime, and the movie follows the novel reasonably well.

On Monday we partied with the Thompson's in Payson. Good food, good family and Christmas chimes with Grandma. Tuesday night we busted out the paper making kit Sarah gave to Ashton and turned our kitchen into a recycling factory. Who knew a pile of newspapers and a kitchen blender could lead to so much creative energy? Wednesday Ashton, Samuel and I went snowshoeing. There's something about snowshoes that makes you feel invincible. We headed up Rock Canyon Park because it had been snowing all day, and we were able to enjoy some relatively untouched snow. Samuel was a pretty good sport, and despite the cold, he actually fell asleep. To cap the night we watched Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman's finest.

And tonight we'll celebrate New Year's. Part of that celebration will be reminiscing about the good times of the last twelve months. Here are some of the highlights, in chronological order:

1. Finding out we were having a boy
2. Seth getting his mission call to Auckland.
3. Some amazing summer rock climbing
4. Finishing the MCAT
5. Getting a road bike
6. Seeing Bon Iver live
7. Playing at Burraston Ponds
8. THE BIRTH OF SAMUEL
9. Saying goodbye to Seth
10. Presenting research in Park City
11. Finishing at the nursing home
12. Camping at Silver Lake
13. Going berry picking
14. Laying Galya to rest. Sniffle.
15. Graduating

Yeah, it's been a good year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas

Christmas was great this year. Exhausting, but really fun. We went up to Bountiful on the 23rd to spend time with my family. The house is pretty chaotic with all the family in town, but it was awesome to spend time with them, especially since Sarah had come out from Chicago. We went out to eat that night at Buca’s in Salt Lake to celebrate my graduation and afterward went to Temple Square to see the lights. It was bitter icy cold, however, and it didn't take very long before we were back in the car headed home. I tried to put on Christmas Vacation but no one was interested in watching it. I guess Chevy Chase just doesn’t have the same effect anymore.

On Christmas Eve we went and visited the Fishers and their new townhome in Farmington. Samuel spit up all over their nice micro suede couch and they treated us to some delicious caramel wassail. They sent us home with a ziplock bag of Amish Friendship Bread starter, but we’ve seemed to misplace it. We got home in time to do "Chuck’s Deli" with Sarah. Bacon makes every sandwich better. And muenster cheese is amazing. I actually begged for a second because the first was so delectable.

After lunch we hit the back hill for some dangerous sledding. We tried to smoothing out a mound of snow in front of the railroad ties to save our tailbones, but it ended up making the wipeouts more brutal at the bottom of the hill. I almost killed Sophie on one run. After a while people became wary of the treacherous slope and decided to go to the old stake center for better sledding. I stayed at the house with Ashton and Samuel and made some delectable wassail using a Lion House recipe from Alpha. It was super potent stuff. It burned in the throat and boiled in the belly.

In the evening we had potato soup in breadbowls, always a good time and very filling. I think I’ve become accustomed to eating small portions of food at our place because I have a hard time stuffing much in my stomach anymore. We finished the evening by exchanging sibling presents. Sarah totally spoiled us this year. She gave me the book "Caps for Sale" and a box filled with amazing caps for me and Samuel to wear. She also gave Samuel a super charming vest. My folks gave us all pajamas and photo calendars, both of which have become favorite traditions, and they gave Samuel a sweet “shutterfly” photo album. Ashton and I gave my folks this brilliant clock with a goofy photo of everyone in our family in place of each of the numbers. It just happened that there are twelve us of right now, including the dog.

Samuel had a rough night Christmas Eve, so we were ready for everyone to wake up the next morning. We started opening presents around eight o’clock and didn’t really finish until noon. It was quite the marathon. My parents have a hard time keeping track of how many presents they’ve bought. I guess that’s what happens when you start Christmas shopping in February! We were very spoiled, and I got a lot of awesome stuff. My favorite gifts were books, my gray Vans, my bike pump, a framed photograph by my cousin Daniel and this ridiculously awesome remote control helicopter called the Silver Bullet. It’s about the size of a hummingbird and it is a hoot. It’s pretty much impossible to fly without crashing. Samuel got a lot of sweet loot as well, and Ashton made off like a bandit. I almost feel guilty when Santa brings me so much Christmas booty. I’ll just have to remember to pay it forward.

After the present party we had a nice salmon dinner and then took off back to Provo to spend time with Ashton’s family. Ashton’s poor siblings waited all day to open presents with us, and by the time we got there our nephews (who hadn’t napped all day) were pretty wired and nutso and we kind of rushed through the opening of presents in a frenetic whirlwind. We got some great presents there too and doubled our carload. I got the essential Roald Dahl set, which I’m very excited to read with Samuel later, and some base liners for biking and climbing. I felt spoiled last year, but this year was even more outrageous. We hung around for a while after and played Scattergories. I forgot how stressed out that game makes me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Graduate

I am officially a college graduate. Friday the 18th was the last day I could call myself a BYU student. Now I'm a BYU alumnus. The reality of that distinction hasn't hit me yet, probably since it's still the weekend. But after Christmas, when the cold, dark days of unemployment arrive, I'll know what it's like to be a grownup.

Final went all right, all things considered. Two of my classes wrapped up before finals week, so I didn't have to worry about them. Conservation Biology, about which I was the most excited, ended up being kind of a drag. It was really for all the wildlife range management and environmental science kids. We still learned some cool things, but as a pre-med student I was definitely out of place. I took the class to learn more about climate change and sustainability, but we barely glanced over that at the end, and by then I had lost a lot of interest.

Cell Biology, which ended up being the biggest thorn in my side, ended on Monday, when I turned in a nasty take home final in which I had to dissect three scientific papers about obscure cellular processes like clathrin coated pit formation and epithelial mesenchymal transition . . . a real snooze let me tell you. The teacher was pretty cool and I learned a lot of interesting stuff, but the weekly problem sets caused me a lot of unnecessary stress. It was nice to get that class over with.

Biochemistry, which is by far the lamest class I've had at BYU (and that includes Humanities 201) was a joke. The professor never taught us anything in class, and I hardly ever did the reading. I took the last midterm for the class before finals week and got a 100 on it. It would've been more impressive if I hadn't figured out how my teacher writes his tests. He basically uses a big question bank because he's too lazy to write new questions, so if you memorize all the homework, quiz and sample test questions, you'll know 80% of the answers on the tests. His final was the same way. I took it in 15 minutes and got a 93 with minimal studying.

My organic chemistry lab, which was supposed to be the bane of my existence, according to most students, ended up being a delightful breeze. Sure the lab write-ups were tedious and the quizzes annoying, but the professor liked me and I pretty much rocked in that class. It ended with a scheduled final on Thursday morning.

Evolutionary Biology, which was supposed to be one of my favorite classes, ended up being a disappointment. I learned a lot, and it was interesting, but my professor's style started to grate on me and my classmates. He was always soapboxing about how lame anyone is who doesn't believe in evolution. He often got carried away with tangential diatribes that really killed the mood in the class. The real kicker is that his exams didn't really reflect an understanding of the material we covered. In order to make them difficult my professor would include lots of obscure and esoteric questions, and if a question was poorly worded or there were multiple possible answers, he refused to admit he'd made a mistake. The man is awesome outside of the classroom, but his class was really irritating. It was by far the hardest final to study for because there was so much material and we had lost our motivation to care. Walking out that final was definitely a satisfying feeling. It not only marked the end to an obnoxious class, it marked the end of an exhausting and challenging semester.

So now that I'm a graduate and have some time on my hands, I think I want to catch up on every book I've wanted to read but haven't had the time to. In that regard, it feels like my education is just beginning.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gargle

video

Friday, December 4, 2009

Manhood

This morning I completed my last rite of passage into manhood. I changed a flat tire.

The tire actually went flat on Tuesday night, but because I've been so swamped with homework, final projects and exams, I wasn't able to get to it till this morning. Knowing the icy cold that awaited me, I bundled up with a coat, scarf and fur hat, and I downed a mug of hot chocolate to super heat my core. I was sweating by the time I got my shoes tied, and I stepped out the front door to meet my challenger.

I'd watched my dad and friends change flat tires a number of times, but I've always had a defeatist mentality toward any kind of repairs. I'm clumsy with tools and every time I take something apart to fix it, that something inevitably remains in pieces in a box because I can't remember how to reassemble it. I'm the kind of guy that gets taken advantage of in auto shops.

It turned out to be simpler that I thought it would be. Remove spare from trunk. Place jack under car. Crank jack with cool twisty rod. Pop off hub cap with crow bar. Unscrew the lug nuts . . . this is where things got messy. All the nuts were rusted and stuck, and I couldn't for the life of me get them to budge. I tried every angle, every position and every curse word until I had to just give up. There was no humanly possible way I was going to get those lug nuts off without slipping a disc.

I called Quinn. Quinn seems manly enough, the kind of guy who can fix things. I don't know what I was expecting him to tell me, but he actually imparted some brilliant wisdom, and it came from our physics class, of all things. Quinn was a physics TA, so I guess it's second nature to him. To increase torsional force you just have to increase the distance from the center of rotation. Basically making the level longer makes it require less effort to move it. I needed a longer crow bar.

I went into our backyard, cautiously tiptoeing around the overripe plums from our neighbor's tree, looking for a long metal pipe. I found such a pipe buried in the leaves along the back fence. I slid the pipe over the crow bar and pulled it toward me. I was amazed at how easily the nut came unscrewed. Chalk that up as an important life lesson.

Once the nuts were off it was no problem to pull the flat tire off and slide the spare tire on. As I tightened the last nut and lowered the jack, I felt a strong sense of manly pride. I no longer felt like a vulnerable school girl who just got her license. At this point my toes were totally frozen, as was my snot, so I went inside to gloat over my victory.

Monday, November 30, 2009

U

I'm back on the U of U medical campus, but this time it's not for Samuel. I'm currently sitting in a second year medical school class learning about angina pectoris. I've already had one interview this morning at 8:30, and I'll be having another this afternoon at 1:30.

I've wanted to go to the U of U medical school since I decided to be a doctor. Everything I've done to prepare to be a physician was based on the high requirements of the U of U admissions committee. I've worked in a nursing home, volunteered at the hospital, shadowed physicians, worked as a writing fellow, mentored abuse victims and spent way too many hours studying for classes I didn't care about because I need to have good grades. And it all comes down to today. Based on the scores I get in my interview, my packet will move on to the selection committee, who will debate my acceptance and give me the stamp of death or propel me into the magical world of medicine. No pressure, right?

Although I've always wanted to go to the U, I can't say I've ever really had much confidence or hope that I'd get in. I'm a white Mormon male from BYU, a demographic not super high on the admissions committee's priority list. Now that I'm here and I've seen the gorgeous campus and beautiful facilities, I'm praying for a miracle.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bladder Better

So a while back we were concerned with Samuel because he was pretty much always crying and never sleeping. We took him in to the doctor and they suggested avoiding wheat and dairy, and they took a urine sample. Ashton stopped eating breads and milk and pretty much anything that tastes good, and Samuel started sleeping more and having less gas. Two days after the doctor's appointment the health center called and informed us that Samuel had a bladder infection and that was probably responsible for his discomfort. He was on antibiotics for ten days and everything seemed fine. The doctors were concerned, however, because it is exceptionally rare for a little boy to get a UTI. Something about all that internal tubing. Apparently there's an anatomical condition typically associated with infant male UTIs, so they wanted to do a bunch of tests.

Keep in mind, Samuel's urine was sampled by putting a plastic bag on his male part. Not super sterile. I work with bacteria in a laboratory and all it takes is looking at it the wrong way to get contamination. So I didn't have much faith in his initial diagnosis to begin with. Samuel had to go up to the health center and get an ultrasound of his kidneys. He handled that like a champ, and the tech said she didn't see anything wrong.

Then we had to go to UVRMC to have a VCUG test run, where they run a catheter up to his bladder and inject a bunch of dye to take a contrast photo. That was last week. His appointment was at noon and he couldn't eat anything after 8, which is pretty much impossible for him. We got there at eleven to check in and get everything set up. The nurses were cool (except the nurse practitioner, who spent most of the time texting her family because her kid stuck some corn up her nose). They took us back to the overflow of the ER to get his IV and EKG tabs set up. He didn't even mind when they stuck the needle in above his wrist. They gave him some versed, which made him a little loopy. From there they wheeled him back to the scanner room. They had to strip him down for scan, and when they tried to hold his legs down he got mad. He pretty much screamed through the whole procedure. I can't say I blamed him. It was all really ludricous. My favorite part was when he peed on the nurses and techs. They got all the pictures they needed and informed us that they didn't see anything unusual.

The scans and ultrasound were sent to the doctor at the health center who called to let us know Samuel has a mild trabeculation in the wall of his bladder. Random. They were looking for reflux into the ureters and kidneys or a shortened urethra, which they didn't find. He urged us to go see a pediatric urologist to make sure everything was okay. So yesterday we drove up to Salt Lake to Primary Children's Medical Center to meet with a specialist. She informed us that everything looked perfectly normal (surprise) and that she wasn't worried about him. Then, as a reward for his visit, she gave him a cheap plastic hippo made in China, saying he could suck on its head. What kind of pediatrician gives an infant cheap plastic made in China? Honestly.

So Samuel's bladder is better, although I'm not convinced there was ever anything wrong with it. We're glad we made sure, but we're not looking forward to the medical bills on the horizon. Just another example of unnecessary care and procedures to save a physician from a malpractice lawsuit.

Friday, November 13, 2009

RNAi

When I explain what I do in the Nematode Evolution Lab, it either goes over people's heads or makes their eyes glaze over with boredom. I've posted about my research before, but this last week I got to do some really cool gene knockout experiments. All of my research has been on nematodes who are immune to the effects of RNAi, but before I can submit my data for publication, I have to validate that they really all are resistant. That means I get to feed all of them special bacteria that express double stranded RNA to see if it knocks out any genes in their offspring. To make sure the bacteria is still viable, we have to try it out on the wildtype strain, which is not resistant to RNAi. That's what I did this last week. In most cases I couldn't see a crazy phenotype, but one of the strains had a gene knocked out that affects growth, and I ended up with a plate covered in little tiny nematodes. At first I thought they were just in the larval stage, but a few days later, they were still super small. I felt like I had accomplished something significant. I manipulated the gene expression of an organism and created midget nematodes!

Lumberjack

Last Saturday I fulfilled a major dream of mine. I got to ride in one of those cherry picker/bucket trucks. We went up to Lehi for my grandpa's 88th birthday to help clean up the yard and garage. I thought we were going to be clipping rosebushes and raking leaves, but then my uncle drove up in an enormous bucket truck. He drove right onto the sidewalk and parked next to a lone tree in the lot next to my grandpa's house. My grandpa informed us that Keith intended to finish what he started a couple years ago and chop down that final tree. My grandpa doesn't even own the lot, but the guy who does is a crotchedy ornery old guy who lives in Bountiful and never comes down to look after it. It had become a high school kegger kind of gathering place, and my uncle decided he was going to clear the lot. For some reason one tree had survived the holocaust, and my uncle had come to finish the job. My dad and I were wondering where the heck Keith got a bucket truck from. Apparently he bought one.

My grandpa walked over with me to greet Keith when he got out of the truck, and he told Keith he had promised me a ride in the bucket. Keith pulled out a chainsaw and asked me if I wanted to cut or drive. We climbed into the bucket, which had a few inches of water from a previous night's rain, and he showed me where the joystick was for maneuvering the gargantuan robotic arm. It took a bit to get the hang of, but in no time we were at the top of the tree, hacking it down limb by limb. With the exception of almost getting tangled in the phone lines, we made it back down to the ground without incident, and I climbed out with my soggy shoes and pockets full of sawdust, and I decided I could do this lumberjack thing for a living.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

I haven't posted in quite a while. I'd like to say it's because I was so traumatized by Galya's untimely passing and have been in mourning for the last month. The truth is I've been so busy with school and midterms and life that when I have a free moment I prefer to lounge, chat and otherwise veg rather than exert myself mentally. While blogging is therapeutic most of the time, it can sometimes be downright draining. And a lot of things I would've liked to write were better left private. All right, I'm done apologizing.

I love Halloween. It's not because I have any attachment to pagan festivals of the dead, but because it is a holiday and is an excuse to celebrate.

On Friday night we went over to Byron's place for his annual lab Halloween party. I was amazed that we found his place since we didn't bring directions and Quinn's GPS wasn't working. Ashton was dressed as a fairy and Samuel was a jack-o-lantern. I was Richie Tenenbaum, but no one recognized me or appreciated my amazing costume. We participated in some non-traditional party games, including archery and splitting wood. There was also bobbing for apples, but I abstained to protect myself from the swine flu. Snowball fights periodically erupted as well, and we thoroughly enjoyed Byron's chili and wassail.

Last night we invited some couples over for a Halloween party at our place. We got back from a stake conference meeting just in time to set up our porch for trick-or-treaters. We had little bag lanterns, big piles of leaves and a strobe light going for spooky effect. We got way more trick-or-treaters than last year, and actually gave away all our goodies. Our friends started rolling in around 8. The Platers brought some incredibly ornate Halloween cupcakes, the Drapers brought enough snacks for a super bowl game, and the Martins brought Costco-size load of sugar cookies. We provided some "home-made" root beer with dry ice and juice slushies. It was quite the spread, and I think everyone was afraid to dig in. Around 8:30 a wave of freeloaders rolled in and took care of a lot of the treats, and then they left as abruptly as they had dropped by, presumably to haunt another venue with free food. Don't get me wrong, I love those guys, but we were trying to scale down the chaos a little bit last night. At 9 we watched Silence of the Lambs, which is a pretty fantastic movie, although not very Halloween oriented. Our clearplay machine chopped out of a lot of the interesting parts and sometimes we were left a little confused. No one was scared, but I guess that just shows how numb we are to the dangers of transvestite serial killers who sew clothing out their victims' skins.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Murder

This morning I started to open the front door to leave for school, and through the opaque glass I saw a brown form on the porch. I smiled, realizing that Galya was probably standing out there leaving her characteristic droppings on the green astroturf. I opened the door to a startling and horrific scene of murder. There lay Galya in a mangled heap, surrounded by scattered feathers. Her neck was bloodied and her face disfigured. Her shoulders were skinned of their feathers, revealing pink muscle tissue and bone. I stared at her for a straight minute, shocked and outraged and devastated. I walked away from the door and back to the bedroom, where Ashton was still sleeping.

"Ashton."

"Are you leaving for school?"

"Galya's dead."

We walked back to the living room and I opened the front door to survey the scene. Over by the porch swing was a puddle and smear of blood which extended to the astroturf. Ashton got a garbage bag and I grabbed a shovel. The tears I'd been choking back began to flow pretty steadily when I picked up her corpse and placed it in the bag.

There's a dog wandering this neighborhood who better watch its back.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Crayfish

Yesterday I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. We drove up to Strawberry Reservoir and caught crawdads. It was a riot. We brought a rotisserie chicken and a bag of rolls along for a little beachside picnic. Craig, Meg and Greg (sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, right?) and Yo Hey (that's a phonetic spelling of our new friend's name) accompanied us on our outing.

After devouring the savory greasy chicken, we took chunks of the carcass and tied them to the ends of string. Greg went out into the water first and launched his line. He didn't catch anything for a while, but we didn't get discouraged. Yo Hey took a dip in the frigid water while I continued preparing lines with bait. We moved over a ways to a rockier area and continued tossing out lines and waiting. Nothing. Then Yo Hey, crayfish ninja master, spotted a crawdad right where we were standing. We had no idea they'd be so close. We started luring it with the chicken, and it slowly emerged from its rocky lair. The crawdad circled the chicken and then decided he wasn't interested, but Greg had already positioned himself to lunge for the unlucky crustacean. Greg snatched it out of the water with his bare hand and tossed it in a five gallon bucket.

Then the frenzy began. Yo Hey and Greg continued spotting them all over, and one after another we baited the crawdads and scooped them up. Yo Hey found a badminton racket on the shore which he and Greg used to capture them. In the end we only caught eight crayfish, but that was more than enough for a sampling. We left a little early to get Samuel back, and Greg and Yo Hey met us at our place to cook them up, along with Luke. Greg and Yo Hey pulled them out of the cooler and stabbed them all in the head (Greg read that this is the quickest, most painless death, although they continued to move around long after the lobotomy was inflicted). Then we threw them in a big pot of boiling water until they turned bright red. We savagely ripped off their tails and cracked them open. Armed with butter, garlic and salt we carefully extracted the meat and scarfed it down. Yo Hey figured out you could get meat out of the claws too, and we pretty much dissected every part of the animal to get every morsel. It's a good thing we hadn't planned on them for dinner, because we would've needed about thirty times as much. But it was a glorious experience, and definitely something I'll want to try again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Berries


We decided we wanted to hit up one of those "pick-your-own-berry-farms." We didn't have any buckets to put our loot in, so we bought a gallon of cookies and cream ice cream and had an impromptu party on Monday night. Fifteen people responded to the free ice cream text message and showed up for some sweet sweet mooching. It was a really good time and a nice way to start the week.

On Tuesday night we went out with Alpha to the McBride Briar Patch in Mapleton. It was impressive. They had row after row of blackberry and raspberry bushes, with ripe fruit just dangling, waiting for us. We ate and picked simultaneously until our buckets were satisfactorily filled.

As I made my way down one row of bushes and approached the end of the farm, I saw a bunch of deer in the neighboring field. As I got closer to the fence I noticed that they weren't your ordinary mule deer. Some had speckles and the bucks had huge reindeer-like racks. It turned out the place was an exotic deer farm, and they had some cool animals. There were some miniature caribou, white deer, curly horned rams and little antelope dik dik looking things bouncing around. The speckled caribou came up to the fence for some berries. They had geese and ducks and chickens running around in there too. The place had me pretty jealous. I can't wait till I can get my own farm!






We liked berry picking so much we decided to go back with our friends on Friday night. Greg, Luke, Ryan, Stephen, Amelia, Quinn and Violet joined us for round two. This time we got a chance to talk to the owners of the farm and they gave us free corn.



Later that night we had a Dune party. A few weeks ago we borrowed Dune from Brinton and thought it was amazing. We invited a bunch of friends over to watch it and had some great laughs. That movie doesn't even need Mystery Science Theater dialogue; every line is amazing on its own. Here are some favorites:

What do you call the mouse shadow on the second moon? Muad'Dib!
Not in the mood? Mood is a thing for cattle and love play, not fighting!
Fear is the mind-killer.
My name is a killing word.
And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!
Bring in that floating fat man!
We have wormsign the likes of which God has never seen!

And it doesn't hurt that Sting dons a winged speedo for a complete non sequitur scene.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spring City



Yesterday I went down to Spring City with Ashton, Samuel, Maryn and my parents. Spring City is a little Podunk city down by Moroni, a little over an hour away from Provo. It's a colony for artists, potters, sculptors and photographers, sort of like the art Mecca of small towns. They were having an art festival down there where all the artists opened up their shops, studios and galleries for the public to walk through and check out.

Highlights included a woman who makes violins AND stain glass windows. Her little shop is called the Crystal Fiddle. There was also a hippie out in front of the potter's shop who was carving sandstone by "subtraction." Some of his designs were pretty incredible, and it made me want to pick up a hammer and nail and give it a go. I really enjoyed walking through the main art gallery where a Plein Air contest was displayed. There were some very beautiful scenic pictures in all different styles. My favorites were Doug Braithwaite and Steve Pugh.




What I enjoyed most was walking around the small town and seeing all the historic homes. In a way it was reminiscent of old Nauvoo, although on a much smaller scale. I think it would be really cool to live in a community like that, but there would definitely be drawbacks. Like no cell phone reception. And no nearby shopping. And girls with braided mullets.




Samuel was a gentleman and gave us no trouble all day. He just sat in his stroller or car seat and slept, except when I teased him for a smile.



Other trip highlights included an alpaca farm right before Moroni. I've never seen so many alpacas in my life! It was like the entire credited cast for Monty Python and the Holy Grail!



On Friday night we had Quinn and Violet over to make bread. They brought Kurt with them because his wife is in Canada (something about her being pregnant and the mounties offering free health care.) We made a special recipe Violet learned at enrichment, a fool proof wheat bread. It only had 5 ingredients, and it turned out incredible! It was just as good as the 4 dollar loaves you can buy in the store. One day I want to get a wheat grinder and go totally free of store-bought bread. Samuel was a good helper in the kitchen.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Silver Lake



So I survived the first week of fall semester. It's going to be brutal, but I also think it will be the most enjoyable semester. I'm finally done with all the lame-o general ed classes, so I can immerse myself in some upper level biology classes. I'm especially excited about my evolutionary biology class (I'm sure I'll post something separately for that) which is taught by my lab boss Byron, and I'm stoked out of my mind for my conservation biology class, which is taught by Rick Gill, the man who persuaded me that climate change is fo real. Con bio is a capstone class and we have to do a conservation assessment for our grade. No exams! My classmates and I decided to get a leg up on the assignment and go camping this weekend. We chose the picturesque and surprisingly accessible Silver Lake for our "geographically bounded region."

Cooper, Quinn and I headed up American Fork Canyon in the late afternoon. We passed Tibble Fork Reservoir, which gave me a heavy dose of deja vu (I went camping there when I was eight with my dad and little brother), and we continued up to a sign that read Silver Flat Lake, 3 miles. We then cruised up a dirt road, which was filled with holes and big rocks. Good thing we had Coop's truck. We got to Silver Flat Lake, which looked like a huge puddle, and parked at the Silver Lake trailhead. The scenery was beautiful, with mostly scrub oak, aspen and pine.

We headed up the trail and made it to the lake no problem in about an hour. The panorama was breathtaking, and I was stunned at how beautiful and untouched the lake looked for being so close to civilization. The lake is surrounded by high mountainous cliffs, formed by a glacier, and the granite crags make for an incredible picture. Fish were leaping out of the lake like mad, and we sent Cooper to catch some while Quinn and I hiked up a little higher to set up camp.


I busted out the sweet tent I bought at a garage sale earlier this summer for the first time. Quinn got to work setting up his hammock, and when we'd put on warmer clothes we ran down to the lake to see what we'd be eating for dinner. Coop had caught a couple brook trout, but he had let one go because it was so tiny. So we set about making a fire away from our campsite (to avoid bear problems) to cook our manly meal, which also included some instant Betty Crocker mashed potatoes, made with water boiled by Quinn's Jet Boil. In lieu of s'mores we had mate, an Argentine tea which got me fairly wired. We saw flashlights near our campsite and hurriedly killed our fire (we technically weren't supposed to light one) and Quinn went down to inspect our company. Cooper and I watched with terror, fearing the rangers had come up to slap a big fine on us. Finally Quinn came back up the mountain and let us know we just had some neighbors camping nearby. We cleaned up our dinner mess and hung in the bags on a tree, then headed back to our campsite.

Cooper set up his hammock around eleven thirty, and we decided to head out under the full moon to see if we could find some wildlife. We took a spotlight with us, and we walked around the lake and perched on a few rocky protuberances to sit and wait. We got pretty spooked talking about cougar attacks, and around 12:30 we decided to head back to camp. As we were walking above the lake, however, we heard a loud splashing noise and we ran to the edge of the trail to check it out. We could just barely make out a silhouette out in the water, and guessed that it was probably a moose. As our eyes adjusted and we continued watching, we became positive that it was a female moose. We decided to get a little closer to try to get a photo. We perched on a big rock and shined the flashlight on her. We could see her eyes glowing and confirmed that it was a moose, but we weren't close enough to take a photo.

We continued watching her for about fifteen minutes, when suddenly she bolted from the lake and started making circles on the muddy shore. She bucked and snorted and grunted and scared the crap out of us. It was super erratic behavior, and we could tell she was really agitated. At one point she started galloping toward us at a surprisingly fast gait. Moose look like such awkward gangly animals, but that she-moose could move! We stood up on the rock yelling and Cooper started clapping at her. She broke left about 25 paces from us and ran out into the lake. She did a few laps and then came back to the shore to repeat the ritual. She must've been just as spooked as we were. We moved to a bigger rock and gathered ammunition to hurl at her should she charge us again. We waited until she swam back across the lake and we couldn't see her anymore, and we made a mad dash for our campsite.

We were all wired on adrenaline and a pretty jumpy. As I laid down in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, a chorus of coyotes started howling. They sounded really close, like they were down on the lake shore. The cacophony continued for several minutes, and my heart was racing like a hummingbird. I tried to convince myself that coyotes were harmless, but images of a pack of thirty coyotes ravaging our campsite kept flashing through my mind. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night.

We woke up the next morning around 7:00 and went down to the lake to inspect the panoply of tracks left behind by all the nocturnal wildlife. We saw a lot of tracks from our crazed moose friend, as well the pack of coyotes. We also saw a lot of deer tracks and something that looked like Sasquatch.


We spent the morning fishing on the other side of the lake from a rocky outcropping. Each of us took turns with the fishing rod while the others worked on breakfast. Thanks to Quinn's Jet Boil we had some fantastic mashed potatoes, instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. It was perfect for the light drizzle of rain that persisted most of the morning.

I've never been much for fishing, but I had a blast throwing that line out there and reeling in those brook trout. I caught four total (Cooper cast the line on one of those, but I still brought him in). Quinn and Cooper caught some more too, but we only brought three home with us.

Around noon we decided to head home. On our way out we saw our moose friend again, this time munching on some willows down in a gulley. We watched her from a much safer distance on the trail and snapped some half decent photos of her. The whole experience made me want to get out and camp a lot more often. It was a blast. And it didn't hurt that we were doing it for a class assignment.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feculent

Wednesday marked my last day at the nursing home. I went out in burning glory too. I was scheduled to work on west, which is the coveted unit, but when I arrived at six a.m. my coworker cheerfully informed me that I'd been bumped on the schedule to the north unit, because she needed hours but couldn't work on north because "it drives [her] crazy." I responded that north drives everyone crazy and walked away. North was nuts, but not anymore nuts than normal. I had section 3, which was 10 people and two showers, but I was magically able to get everything done, and at a fairly high level of quality (just getting stuff done quickly doesn't mean you're doing a good job).

I don't think I've really written that much about the nursing home, which is probably a good thing as far as HIPAA goes, but it really has been an influential job in my life. It has opened my eyes to the unpleasant crevices of healthcare (no pun intended) and made me have a lot more respect for the infantry of aides and nurses that keep so many sick people alive. I learned a lot about compassion and kindness and back-breaking work (rolling a 400 pound person on their side really can break your back, especially if you're tall like me). I definitely will miss some of the residents there, like Marilyn from south, whose Elvis Presley and "Give Said the Little Stream" serenades will always make me chuckle, or the time she stuck a cup of blue jello down her pants. "Can I have a banana? Banana pudding? Dr. Pepper?" I'll miss Ellis, who passed away a while ago. He sung to me in the shower and cracked dirty sailor jokes. I'll miss my more recent friend Bernice, a loving grandmother with an addiction to Rush Limbaugh.

I won't miss the poop. Or the showers. I won't miss the frantic running around, the chaotic stress of answering call lights while trying to remember the growing mental list of tasks and requests. Did I mention I won't miss the poop? Being a nursing aide is hands down the most feculent job I can imagine. I look forward to only changing my baby's diapers from now on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nematodes

A lot of crazy crap happened this last week, and I'm just now getting a second to write about it.

Early Monday morning (like 5:45 a.m.) I took off to Park City for the Society of Invertebrate Pathology annual conference. Last year it was in England, next year it's in Turkey. Lucky me, I got the year it was in Utah. Actually, that's probably the main reason I got to go.

We arrived at the Canyons Grand Summit resort in time for breakfast, a wonderful buffet. The week would be filled with such buffets. I was a basketcase because my presentation wasn't done and I had to present my research at 3:30.

My research. Last September I started working in Dr. Byron Adam's lab. The Nematode Evolution Lab. We study worms. It sounds really lame put that way, but it turns out nematodes are one of the most important and abundant lifeforms on the planet. Back in October I started on an RNAi resistance project. We ordered a bunch of mutant C. elegans strains that are deficient in the RNAi pathway, and therefore immune to the effects of RNA interference. I've been culturing these strains since then and trying to determine how fit the mutants are compared to the wildtype. I've been able to show that there seems to be a fitness cost to the mutants, more or less. This is good because it will keep the mutant alleles very rare in the natural populations . . . ya da ya da ya da. What a snooze, right? This might all be over your heads, but it was pretty elementary at this research conference. I sat through countless lectures of bigwig professors, doctoral students and postdocs with super impressive powerpoints and years of extensive research (and hundreds of incomprehensible bar graphs). When it finally came time to give my presentation I felt like I was giving a science fair project.

I was the only undergrad to present that day, and one of two total undergrads at the conference. So even if my research wasn't earth-shattering, it was still a feather in my cap. I can now put "presented original research at an international conference" on my resume. So that's pretty cool.

Tuesday was a bunch of lectures and a 5k in the afternoon. Byron was in charge of the 5k so we got the privilege of setting up the trail and directing traffic so people didn't get lost on the mountain. After a brief barbecue Ashton picked me up and we headed to Bountiful to participate in Seth's setting apart as a missionary. That was neat.

Wednesday morning we went out to eat at Mimi's cafe for breakfast before shipping off Seth. That place is good! Even though he was in his suit and tie and all packed up, it still didn't hit me that he was really leaving until he stood at the door of our house and we both started tearing up. I just wanted to keep giving him hugs, to talk a little bit more about his novel, to go for another run on the river together. Two years is a long time. I've managed to get married and have a kid in two years. The next two years will be really exciting for us, I'm sure, as we head off to medical school. But for the most part it's business as usual, only now there's a void that Seth left behind. At least he gets the benefit a completely different life for the next two years. That definitely makes it exciting. I'll be chronicling his mission on a blog for him: eldersethjenkins.blogspot.com

I felt guilty leaving the research conference early, since Byron had paid so much money for me to be up there, so I left early Thursday morning to head back up. I got there just as breakfast was ending, and my fellow labsters were surprised to see me there. They informed me that they weren't going to the morning lectures because they were boring and about fungi. Instead they were going to take the morning off and go mountain biking. This made me feel even more guilty, since I had left Ashton with Samuel, who had been pretty colicky lately, with the intention of getting more out of the conference. Byron rented me a really nice Trek mountain bike and we got gondola passes and spent the morning on the mountain. This was my first time mountain biking, and it was pretty intense on some of the trails, but after a couple hours I got the hang of it and was cruising down the mountain pretty confidently. It's definitely something I would like to do again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seth

Yesterday Seth gave his farewell address before he takes off to New Zealand. It was really bizarre to see my little brother talking from the pulpit like some experienced evangelist. I pictured him when he was a lot shorter, and cuter, and blonder, and we went fishing for my birthday. I thought about my awkward early pre-teen years when he and I would spend hours setting up armies of action figures or lego fortresses, only to never start a battle. I remembered sharing a room and laying in bed at night listening to scripture stories on tape, because he insisted we do it, but secretly I wanted it too. That's how we became such accomplished scriptorians. I saw us playing basketball on the driveway, when I could still drive past him and make a decent layup. I remember before my mission getting him started on the guitar, and playing beautiful Shins duets for my grandparents. I came home from my mission to a punk kid who was better on the guitar and better at basketball and a raving success with the ladies. He didn't need his big brother to show him what was cool anymore (although I can still teach him a thing or two about quality music), and he had become his own man. I wonder if he realizes how much more manliness he's going to acquire over the next two years. And how much hair he's going to lose.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Moving




I'm not sure what to title this photo. I thought "Summer Reading List" would be funny. I wish. "Bibliophile?" How about "Moving Day?"

Today Lauren and Jesse came down to swap spaces. They are being very gracious and letting us take the upstairs, so we can have a separate bedroom for Samuel. We personally think they're insane, but we're not about to talk them out of it! We'll have triple the space and a lot more windows, so we're pretty stoked.

A lot of other things of note happened this last week. Ashton got her gall bladder out. Yuck. She went under the knife early Tuesday morning, and she was out of the clinic three hours later, walking around and ready to take on the world, or at least the growing mess our house has become since Samuel joined us. Everyone kept telling her to sit down and take it easy, but she can't stand a dirty house. The Percocet definitely helped, but she went off that the next day, no problem. The doctor sent home some sweet pictures of her gall bladder, before and after the cholecystectomy. They cut it open to see how many stones were inside. It was pretty packed! Ashton thought it was beautiful enough to hang on the fridge.

On Thursday I floated the Provo River with the boy I mentor. It was pretty hysterical. Pretty much every great activity I come up with blows up in my face, but I barely scraped by on this one. Right off the bat we hit trouble when we got to a point where the river narrows between some concrete slabs. The increased velocity of the river sucked us right into some low hanging branches (and these weren't twigs, mind you) and although I tried to push off them with an oar, the impact flipped our raft over. I frantically grabbed for Marc before the river washed him downstream and held on to his flailing body by his wrist. I finally got him to stop panicking and stand up (the water was only about 3 feet). He continued screaming and sobbing with tears and snot pouring down his face, while I righted the raft and tried to calm him down. I finally got him to climb back in the raft and we continued down the river. We hit some pretty fun little rapids, and ticked off just about every fisherman we passed. Marc kept calling out to them, "Isn't the water too cold?" "I wish I had caught all those fish!" "We don't want to run into you!" He has the social graces of a walnut. I had my cell phone on me in a ziplock bag so I could call Ashton when I was done. Unfortunately some moisture still managed to leak inside, and my phone stopped working. Curses.

Friday was Fisher's wedding. I got to go up to the sealing, which was performed by Vaughn J. Featherstone. He's a friend of Drew's grandmother, apparently. The sealing was lovely, and afterward I headed across the street to visit my dad at work. I picked a good day, Bagel Friday. We had a nice chat over Dr. Pepper and then I headed back to the temple to see if they were done with photos. I got there just as they were taking the last group shot, and they yelled at me to hop up the stairs. Following the photos was a wonderful luncheon at the Lion House. I sat at the "friends" table, which had seats for six people. Three of them were friends of the bride, a bunch of giggly airhead barbie dolls, and one of them had her husband with her. The other seat was occupied by Mike Polkington, an old friend of Drew's. He's a super nice guy, very fun to talk to, but he acts like a five year old most of the time. Drew's other friends Kelly, Branson and Branson's girlfriend J-Shawn showed up later, and to the dismay of the plastics, we insisted that they sit at our table. The Lion House staff wasn't thrilled, but they relented under Mike's authoritative demands. Our nine person table became a little rowdy, and we missed most of the program, including an epic poem read by Drew's brother about the Andee/Drew saga. Ashton came up later that night with Samuel for the reception, which was in a very nice backyard. There were peacocks caged up near the wedding line, and peacock feathers everywhere.

And Saturday we moved. We're still moving. It might take a while.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anniversary

I think it's amazing how life can so dull and ordinary, with nothing exceptional happening for months, and then out of nowhere a million crazy things happen on one day. How do they converge like that? Friday was my one year anniversary, but that's definitely not the only thing of note that happened that day.

The morning started with me being really sneaky and leaving some beautiful flowers and a child's craft table (which Ashton has been talking about for months) at the kitchen table before leaving at 6:30 for work. Naturally that went over well.

After work we took Samuel to the doctor (or mohel, if you're Jewish) to snip off his Gentileness. He handled it like a champ. He didn't even start crying until after the surgery when the nurse unwrapped him. He really doesn't like being naked. The doctor was really great and answered all of our questions really well. On a whim I asked him about Samuel's jaundice, since his last reading had been a little high, but not over the line of danger. He recommended we check his blood again, and we were a little dismayed to find that his bilirubin had actually gone up, instead of down. They immediately sent over a bilibed for him to sleep on. Apparently the blue light modifies the bilirubin in a way that's easier for him to metabolize it. He had to sleep on it for three straight days, and he was not fond of it. It was pretty lousy.

Friday night my mom watched Samuel so Ashton and I could go do some errands and "celebrate" our anniversary. We just went to Target to buy more diapers and stopped at Sonic for some Oreo Shakes. We didn't want to be away too long; strange how becoming a parent does that to you.

Around 11:00 p.m. Ashton had a super painful gallbladder attack, and we didn't hesitate to get to the ER. She'd seen a specialist on Wednesday and he'd indicated that she should get it out as soon as possible, because an ultrasound showed that her bile duct was distended. At the ER we had to wait a bit in the waiting room, which is why I hate the ER anyway. We finally got back to a room and had to wait even longer for the doctor. As we sat in the room we could hear all the techs and nurses outside our door laughing and chatting like they were at some social event. I peeked outside through a crack in the door and saw a stumpy figure with its back to me in teal scrubs participating in the revelry. I hope that's not our doctor, I thought to myself. It was.

He finally came in and very candidly assessed the situation. As soon as Ashton told him she'd have pizza, he immediately pinned that as the culprit and in an almost condescending way chided us for being so careless. He didn't seem concerned about the gallstones themselves. His one mission was to "stop the pain cycle." All he wanted to do was flush some narcotics through her and send her home. We weren't there to stop the pain, however. We wanted to make sure this wasn't a more-dangerous-than-normal attack. Besides, we'd waited to see a doctor so long, the pain was already subsided. He ordered some bloodwork to make sure the hepatic and pancreatic ducts weren't plugged by a stone in the common bile duct, and sent a nurse in to administer the pain killers. When the nurse came in, Ashton told her she didn't want the pain killers, because then she'd have to wait a day to nurse Samuel. The nurse wasn't convinced, apparently, because she hooked her IV up anyway and started a saline drip. We waited for over an hour to have the doctor come back in, tell us the test results were fine, and try to get her to take the narcotics. She still didn't want to, and she insisted she wanted to go home. The doctor acted like we were crazy, but finally consented to her discharge. We went home more than a little irritated.

I know this is my second negative post about physicians. Don't worry, I still want to be one. I'm just learning what kind I DON'T want to be.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Samuel

He's here! Samuel Martin Jenkins has finally come! And on pioneer day, nonetheless.





Where did I leave off? Ashton and I were chilling in the delivery room. Well, I was chilling, and she was enduring waves of contractions. Around 5:30 a.m. she got an epidural, and at 8:00 a.m. she was fully dilated. The doctor had her start pushing at 8:30. That's where the labor really became laborious. The nurse had me hold Ashton's right leg and count off the breaths, 1 to 10, three times every contraction. Deep breaths, lots of pushing. I was a good doula and Ashton got lots of stylie points for superb face contortions and occasional grunting sighs.

Progress was slow, but finally, around 10:20, we got a good look at Samuel's crown, or at least the small tip of his conical head. The doctor came in and got down to business, and by 10:30 Samuel had emerged completely from the womb, and what a charming devil he was!

The nurses cleaned him up and gave me a good photo op. I'm not a crying man (I think Ukraine replaced my tear ducts with scar tissue), but my eyes were wet and my lip was quivering. I watched this amazing little infant, the pinnacle of God's creations, and felt an overwhelming sensation of love and joy and hope. I watched his vulnerable, innocent body squirm on the bassinet while the nurse suctioned out fluids, and was struck by his unadulterated purity. This baby is pure intelligence, and he came straight down the cosmic pipeline.

Family and friends flooded the room, anxious to see the sparkling new addition to our family. Everyone commented on his beautiful blonde hair, his long fingers, and the little cleft in his chin. He has perfectly shaped lips that Meg Ryan would kill for, and I think he has a strong resemblance to my brother Seth when he was a baby. He definitely has the Thompson nose. And although I may be biased, he is not an ugly baby. Even with the slightly swollen head and the old-man-bitter-beer face, he is not hard to look at. He takes after his mother, I guess.

I am thoroughly exhausted. I can only imagine how Ashton feels. I think a good way to end the day will be to read Samuel his first story: Where the Wild Things Are.

Waiting

Yesterday around one o'clock Ashton had her first contraction. She described it as having the urge to use the restroom; a lot of pressure down there. I was up on campus in the lab, and then from 4 to 6:30 I was in the bowels of the JFSB in a humanities class.

When I ascended from the dungeon, I got a phonecall from Ashton saying she was at her sister's. I drove over there to pick her up and we stayed for burritos. It was then that she informed me that she'd been having contractions about every half hour. A little frightening. We went home around eight o'clock and I bummed around, waiting.

At about 8:30 she started timing her contractions. They were about five to ten minutes apart, and lasted around twenty seconds. They weren't painful or anything, but there was definite spasming. Allie dropped by and we talked with her till eleven. The contractions seemed to be getting longer and a little more frequent. I was pretty wasted from a long day, so I decided to hit the sack.

She woke me up around one o'clock, saying they were still getting stronger. I was pretty out of it, but nervous excitement started to set in. I lay on the bed for another hour, while Ashton started packing her essential belongings. At two o'clock she told me she was ready to head to the hospital, and I swung my legs over the side of the bed. Fifteen minutes later we were in a room at Utah Valley Regional.

Our nurse, Heather, informs us that everything looks great. Ashton is dilated to a 4.5, and the baby's heart rate is good. She's 99 percent sure they won't be sending us home, but we have to wait an hour to see if Ashton keep dilating. So now we're in the strangely homey hospital room, waiting.

Oh wait, an exciting turn of events. Heather is back, and she stays we're staying. She's going to put in Ashton's IV. I guess Dr. Thorpe (a doctor who wears a gold chain) is already here doing a C-section, and he says she's staying. So that's a relief. She probably wouldn't want to gown up again. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ponds

This last weekend we saw a lot of pond action. On Friday we went back to Burraston Ponds. We didn't get enough on the 3rd. This time our crew was a little smaller, but no less amusing: Greg, Ethan, Meg, Dan Baird and Ashton. I was also more prepared; I brought my inflatable raft that I bought last fall to replace mine and Ashton's old one. It was the Sea Wench II's maiden voyage, and she's definitely sea worthy.

We brought a picnic basket with chips and homemade salsa and a bottle of Peach Italian Soda, which we drank from plastic champagne glasses. Nothing better than elitist snobs in hick central Mona!

We had a great time swinging out of the trees into the pond. Some kids were wearing inner tubes and doing backflips. They were also trying to swing from the platform and drop right through the tube. When I got up on the platform they held it out in the water for me to aim for, and I passed through on my first try. Pure luck or totally lurpy. Apparently I was the only one who made it through. I'm not sure if that's something I should necessarily be proud of, but I am anyway.

The kids left after a while and we had the swing to ourselves. That thing is a hoot. You get quite the rush swinging out over the water, dropping about 15 feet at the other end of the arc. We spent a while convincing Meg to jump off the platform, but she eventually made the plunge. (She did let go at the bottom of the swing, the point of greatest acceleration. She's still cool, though.)

Greg decided he was going to swim across the pond, and he asked me to follow him in the raft in case he started to drown. When we got to the other side we switched places and I swam back. It didn't look that far, but I was exhausted when we got to the other side. Another reminder of how out of shape I am.

On the way back from the ponds we got stuck in major traffic, but we had a lot of laughs and good music.

Saturday night we went out to Salem Pond with Quinn, Violet and a bunch of their crew. Ethan and Greg showed up as well, and we had a good time eating watermelon and chilling on the grass. That place is packed on the weekends! I was shocked how many people were out swimming in the mucky pond filth, but it's a pretty hotspot in Salem. I went out in the Sea Wench again, mostly making a fool of myself, but it was fun. This is what summer is all about.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bat

Today I went in to the control room of library security to get some books for a paper I was writing. As I was copying down some information for the Works Cited page, the officer in control got a call from the fifth floor Humanities desk. Apparently there was a bat flying around the desk, terrorizing patrons. A freaking bat! I called dispatch while the control officer ran upstairs to see if he could get a positive sighting. Dispatch said they'd send over one of the head custodians. I ran upstairs after I got off the phone and found the security officer gloating triumphantly over a library stool. Apparently he saw it fly back into the stacks and he was able to trap it on the floor under the stool. Shortly after I got there, the custodian showed up with a glorified butterfly net. He was able to get the bat in the net, and I got a pretty good look at it. I was surprised how small it was. Now I'm convinced there's a bat cave under the library. Maybe the head librarian is really a crime fighting vigilante.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Apples

So Ashton's doctor decided maybe she doesn't have heartburn after all. Rather, he thinks she has gall stones. This is kind of a lame revelation 8 1/2 months into the pregnancy, but it goes well with the general theme of lameness we've been seeing with this OB group. Anyone reading this who wants to make a baby, DON'T GO TO THE PROVO OB/GYN CLINIC. Unless you like being treated like a pair of gym socks.

I guess she told him the list of meds she's been taking and expressed her frustration that nothing was working. A week before we found out that the Enablex they'd put her on, to combat the heartburn, is actually for pregnancy incontinence. That's a big oops. Good thing they didn't accidentally put her on some tetragenic drug. Think we have a malpractice lawsuit?

She explained to the doctor that sometimes the pain radiated all the way to her back and up her arm. He then asked her (with a little condescension in his voice), "Well you know what that is, don't you?"

Gee, doc, maybe I do. I guess I don't need your medical expertise. . . No you blockhead! I don't know what it is!

He answered his own question,"It's your gall bladder," as if to say, "C'mon you moron, everyone knows that's a symptom of gall stones." If I'd been there I'd have socked him in the jaw.

He very candidly told her there was nothing they could do until junior came out, and that she should avoid greasy foods.

Well we're not content to wait, so we're trying a little alternative remedy. Ashton's mom told us about this special flush you can do that supposedly will clean out the stones. You simply juice ten apples a day with one lemon, and there's something with olive oil too. So we went to Buy Low for the first time to see if we could get a half decent deal on apples. We bought seventy of them! Pink Ladies, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji and Braeburns. It was kind of strange going through the checkout line with that many apples, made more strange by our odd checker. He did know his varieties of apple, however.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bon Iver



Bon Iver. For free. Wow.

He was hands down my favorite artist/album of 2008. For Emma, Forever Ago is a haunting and beautiful piece of work -- one of the few albums I can listen to on repeat and never get tired of. Justin Vernon's falsetto has an intimate quality that leaves its listener spellbound. One review of his album said it was like reading some guy's diary.

Through much coaxing and begging I got Ashton to drive up to Salt Lake with me, along with Ethan, where we met the rest of the crew at the Gallivan Center. Greg had been saving seats for about an hour and had a nice little perch under the pavilion on the left side. The crowds were much larger than previous years, and the place was packed with every demographic, from infant to elderly. Most the people were college age, and by their appearance you could tell they were proud U students. Tattoos, piercings and cleavage abounded.

Jenny Lewis opened the show, and I must say she was a lot better than I expected. I usually can't take more than a couple songs when I listen to her albums, but she's a really great performer. I'd say her voice is just as good if not better live than in her recordings. She played stuff from Rilo Kiley and her solo work with the Watson Twins. My favorite number was "Handle with Care." During Lewis's set Ashton went shopping at Trolley Square. While she was gone Andrew and Drew arrived, followed by Allyson and Drew Tack. There were a lot of Drews around.

Ashton got back right before Bon Iver's set started, and I left our spot to go meet her. We had to cross through quite the gauntlet to get back to our crew, dodging endless cups of beer overflowing with foam. Justin Vernon came out a little before nine, accompanied by three backup musicians who bounced from guitar to drums. He opened the concert with "Flume," a favorite of mine, to set the tone. We were all bursting with excitement.

It was one of the few shows I've gone to where the artist played every single song I wanted to hear. That's largely because Bon Iver is still so new; he's only got one major album. From For Emma he played "Lump Sum," "Creature Fear," "Wolves" and "Skinny Love." All four of those songs gave me the goosebumps. I really liked the additional beats provided by the three drummers, especially during "Skinny Love." "Creature Fear" probably got me going the most, with its building climax at the end. He also favored us with the new single he contributed to the Dark Was the Night compilation, "Bracket, WI." That song freaking rocks. It has a really heavy baseline and a sweet beat. He also played some songs from his Blood Bank EP, like the less crowd-pleasing "Babys," which he claimed is about "reproduction." When he finished that song he gave a shoutout to all the pregnant people in the audience, and everyone around us looked right at Ashton, our friends congratulating her.

As expected, his encore was the title track from the Blood Bank EP, and we all just melted into the music, ignoring the hosts of obnoxious chatterers on the fringes. It was a beautiful song, and the perfect way to end the show. I left thinking I would definitely pay to see that guy play again. It was just such an impressive production -- the perfect first concert for the baby.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth

My favorite part was when Bob Bennett came through on the parade. We were sitting in front of the Smoot home (primo spots) and the tall senator walked past with his wife and a couple younger looking people. He was waving at everyone and wearing a cowboy hat. Because he wasn't in an old-fashioned convertible with a sign on it, no one knew who he was. I heard several people remark, "Who's that guy? If he was important, he'd be in a car." I'm pretty sure that's Senator Bennett, I thought to myself. But even I wasn't positive. About 3 marching bands, 2 beauty pageant floats and a firetruck later, a tow truck drove by, pulling an old-fashioned convertible with a sign on it that read, "Senator Bob Bennett." I almost died.

The night of the fourth sucked. I had to work traffic security for the Stadium of Fire. I got there at 3:30 and it was sweltering outside. Luckily I didn't have to wear my uniform shirt and I brought my CamelBak. From four to six we filled up the parking lot, row by row. People were pretty rude about it, because they all wanted to park near the exit. They had all sorts of excuses too. "Oh my family's parking down there, and we want to walk back together," or "We just want to park in the shade." I asked the latter if she was keeping a dog in the car, and she sheepishly said no, and I informed her that the sun would be going down long before they returned from the concert. It's not polite to make a parent look dumb in front of their kids, but it's probably worse for a parent to teach their kids that they're entitled to special treatment, or that they can lie to get it.

Once the lot filled up, we had to close the gate. This didn't change the traffic situation on University Avenue, however, and cars were still lining up to enter the lot. We had to form a barricade of cones out in front and only let in people with a special lot pass or a handicap pass. You wouldn't believe how many people abuse those handicapped passes. We'd have SUV's roll through packed with teenagers decked out for the concert, not a wheelchair in sight. It was really irritating, but we had to let them in. When handicap spots ran out, we had to let them park in the special pass area, which meant a lot of people who paid for these special passes got hosed. What was I supposed to tell them? It was a nightmare. So many people were mad at us, and I lost my temper a few times too. Eventually even the special lot filled up, and we had to start turning away people with handicap passes, some who legitimately needed them. It seemed like all the cripples of Utah were lining up, and we had to turn them away. Boy did they take it personally. They made us feel like villains, as if we were intentionally discriminated against the disabled. One particularly bellicose lady screamed a lot of unintelligible nonsense at my coworker, and the man accompanying her called us "amateurs." I don't know whether that's an insult, because I don't think I'm shooting for professional traffic guy, but I was amazed at how rude people were.

Finally we got wise and left the gate area so we wouldn't have to deal with any more hostile patrons. During the performance we had to take down the barricades and load them up on a truck. While the truck was leaving the parking lot the fireworks started, and I hopped off the back of the truck and melted into the crowd to watch. I was dead tired and my feet hurt, and I wanted to watch the awesome fireworks. After that was over, I got to sit in the parking lot for an hour and a half, waiting for the cars to get out. It was pure chaos, and watching it with my i-Pod was pretty satisfying.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

23

You know those boring play-by-play entries? This is one of those.

I can't remember the last time I officially celebrated my birthday on my actual birthday. A lot of times we just do it the weekend closest to Seth's birthday and mine and Lauren's, because that's most convenient for everyone. This round my family came down to Provo on July 1st, since Seth had a performance on July 2nd. Sarah flew out from Chicago because she had the week off, so that was a brilliant surprise. We ate Cafe Rio takeout and opened presents. I made off like a bandit! I got some cycling attire, some sweet books, clothes, movies and a miniature bowling set from my unborn child. And I got some Kinder Surprise eggs.

My actual birthday was pretty uneventful. I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and I was on campus till 6:30 in the evening. Greg invited us over to make goat cheese with him and Alpha. The cheese ended up tasting pretty good, kind of like mozzarella, and we had a nice evening discussing (sometimes yelling) politics, movies and how to properly run a communal farm.

On Friday, July 3rd, nine of us (Alpha, Ethan, Steve, Meg, Greg, Joey, Jessica, Ashton and I) drove down to Burraston Ponds, near Mona, for some picnicking and swimming. Someone has built some pretty high platforms in some of the trees that surround the pond, with a killer rope swing. We set up our beach chairs on the "shore" and munched on blueberry muffins and baguettes. The weather was fantastic, and it attracted a lot of the country folk from around Mona and Santequin to the rope swing. My favorite was this punk kid who vowed to swing from the highest platform and do a back flip over the pond. He swung down all right, but didn't rotate properly and ended up flailing around upside down until he hit the water. Everyone had a good laugh.

On Friday night we went to Ottavio's with Ashton's family. Before we even ordered, however, Ashton had a crippling attack of heartburn, worse than any previous episode, and mid-meal we had to jet to Smith's to buy some maximum strength Mylanta. The heartburn eventually subsided, and Ashton's family came over to check on her. They brought our food from the restaurant and birthday presents. Whitney and Brinton gave me a hilarious book - the Encyclopedia of Immaturity, and Leesa gave me some biking gloves and a bunch of other loot. It's nice to be spoiled by two families. After they left we watched When Harry Met Sally, which I thought was pretty dang funny.

So now I'm 23.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Baffled

I finally got my MCAT scores. I got a 33. If you would've asked me a year ago if I expected to get a 33 I would've laughed at you nervously. I wasn't even sure I could swing a 30 back then. After taking lots of practice tests, however, I feel that 33 is at the lower limit of acceptable. That being said, I accept a 33 gladly. It doesn't guarantee me a spot in a medical school, but it's not too shabby. I got a 10 in Physical Sciences, an 11 in Verbal Reasoning, and a 12 in Biology.

What I found baffling was my writing sample score: M. For whatever reason, AMCAS grades your writing on a scale of J to T, J being an illiterate foreigner and T being a Pulitzer Prize winner. I can't figure out how in heck I got an M. That's like 35th percentile. NOT GOOD! I might not be the best writer who ever lived, but I certainly feel capable of expressing myself in English. I was expecting something closer to a P or Q. An M is like a piece of poo in an otherwise scrumptious chocolate pie. Supposedly the writing sample doesn't really matter when schools evaluate your score, unless it comes down to a tie breaker. Let's hope and pray it doesn't come to that.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Idiot

I'm pretty furious. After centrifuging a test tube filled with bleach, sodium hydroxide and nematode eggs, I was sucking the liquid out of the tube and squirting it into the sink (a procedure I've done a million times) and the pipette tip fell off as I depressed the plunger, splashing bleach all over my favorite shirt. My FAVORITE shirt. The most beautiful shirt I have ever purchased -- a light-blue short-sleeve button-down that makes me feel like a billion bucks every time I wear it. Andrew and I bought them at H&M the day we saw Beirut last summer in Los Angeles. I watched in terror as the water marks slowly turned from light blue to purple to pernicious white. Out, out damned spot! You can't wash bleach out. I guess that's why people wear lab coats. Idiot!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reform

The last week was nice. Busy, but nice. I started up classes for summer semester and I picked up extra hours at work. Waking up at 6:00 every morning is exhausting, but I need to become a grownup sooner or later.

Working at the library has afforded me a lot of reading time. Last week I picked up Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. He's a journalist and a little full of himself, and his writing is really really repetitive, but he has a lot of interesting things to say. He preaches the Code Green doctrine, and expounds on the many benefits that will come if we can find alternative energy sources. He argues that with the limited amount of resources in the world, not everyone can live like a middle-class American. But with the globalized economy, it's getting pretty crowded. Going green will help us avoid energy shortages, liberate us from our dependence on petrodictators (and thus improve our national security situation), ameliorate the affects of climate change, and stop the Holocene mass extinction of our biodiversity. Despite his obnoxious writing style, I'm definitely converted to the green religion.

I've also been reading a lot about health care reform and world events, as I try to prepare for upcoming medical school interviews. I've read a lot of opinions on how we can fix health care, and I haven't come to my own concensus yet. There's a lot of information to process. What I do know is that we have the greatest potential to do amazing medicine, but our country finishes last among all the industrialized countries in executing it.

I like the idea of passing a law that requires health insurance companies to accept anyone, regardless of pre-exiting conditions, but I'm not too keen on the idea of having a law that requires everyone to have insurance. And I'm also not sure I'm down with a public health care plan. Even if it can drive down insurance premiums by competing with other insurance companies, it would give the government too much power. I do like the idea of evidence-based medicine and patient-centered homes, but we've got to find a way to pay for them, preferably without bumping taxes any higher.

I'm excited about the discourse on preventive health care, where the emphasis is on keeping people healthy instead of treating sick people. If we could halt the heart disease, obesity and diabetes epidemics, we could save a lot of money, since that's sucking up about 75% of all medical expenses. Of course, Americans don't want to change their lifestyles, and not even a 3 cent "sin" tax on soda will do much to curb the Western diet.

Yesterday we went up to Bountiful for Seth's nineteenth birthday celebration. We ate massive burgers and then put on special-made T-shirts for a family basketball tournament. I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and my team narrowly lost the first game. The second game ended abruptly when I rolled my ankle. I felt like an invalid hopping over to the stage, but I was proud of myself for not cursing. Vitamin I made the pain go away, along with Brian Regan's ER sketch, and we finished the night with some more star gazing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Last night we went up to Bountiful to celebrate Father's Day. I went up with a pretty loaded agenda. Right when we rolled in we headed down to the church for some basketball. Seth and I played Jesse and my dad. I have very few basketball skills, but I am tall, so I just lurped out with a pseudo-hook shot that magically went in two thirds of the time. I also had about a million rebounds. After Seth and I won by two, we had a stellar Father's Day feast, with salmon, steak, pilaf and a wonderful salad. After dinner Ashton helped me clean out a bunch of junk in my old bedroom, where Lauren and Jesse are currently staying. We probably saved more of it than we should have. Everyone protested when I tried to toss a junior high yearbook (I wasn't overly fond of junior high). Sheesh. It was fun though to reminisce and try to figure out why there were so many lanyards in the top drawer. By eleven o'clock the stormy skies had cleared up (quite miraculously) and we took out Big Bertha (a nickname I just coined for my dad's midlife crisis -- an enormous telescope) for some stargazing. We had a little dance party to a Canadian band called Metric while my dad got the laser scope working, and then we practiced sighting stars and finding them in the scope. Did you know that the second star in the handle of the Big Dipper is actually two stars? We also had a good time spotting airplanes and watching them fly by upside down.

Today we visited Grandpa Jenkins on our way back from Bountiful. He's such a great guy. Every time I visit him I wish I had a tape recorder for some of the stuff he says. He always tells at least twenty stories and swears at least four times. He's 87 years old, almost 88, and he recently went to the doctor for a checkup. The doctor asked what was wrong with him, and my grandpa replied that he had come to the doctor to find out just that. The doctor looked at him and said, "Lars, you got out of the car by yourself, you walked into the office by yourself, and you still knew who you were when you got here. I'd say, for your age, that's pretty good!"

My grandpa showed us some navy pictures and shared some stories from his youth. He told a funny story about working the night shift as a radar repairman on the U.S.S. Independence in World War II. All the men had to shower in salt water, to preserve the fresh water for drinking, but after they showered they were covered in salt, which "just about killed you because you'd itch so bad." Since it was two in the morning and no one else was around, my grandpa grabbed some pliers from his tools and switched the valve so that freshwater came out of the shower. He said he was taking a shower, having a great time, when he was busted by "one of those ninety-day wonders" (a derogatory term for dumb officers). He was informed that he would have to meet with the ship's captain and marshal, and that he would likely be demoted. He replied that he would love a demotion, because then he wouldn't have to work the night shift anymore. I guess there weren't any other first class repairman that could work the shift. Needless to say, he never got demoted.

Grandpa took us downstairs to get me a copy of the short histories he'd written for his parents. While he was digging around in the cabinets he found a copy of a short document entitled "Memories of Larry." Here are some excerpts:

"To record my memories of Larry, [in] whom I am well pleased, would take a volume or more. The times since he was five years old and could beat me hands down with concessions in the concentration game. The thousands of knocks on the bedroom wall when he needed help and the hundreds of nights we looked at the stars through the upstairs bathroom.

"I have chosen to tell of his work that few know of. When he graduated from high school and was looking for a job, I was considering building some sort of garage and at the time there was a building boom so no one was interested in a small job. So I asked Larry if I paid him the minimum wage would he build a garage.

"Larry took to learning and planning what he would build. I obtained a building loan from the bank so he could buy what he needed. No one could have worked harder and longer than Larry did as he broke up the two small concrete strips that had been the driveway for many years . . . Each strip was over 40 feet long so there was a lot of concrete to haul away. When we loaded the blocks I was amazed at how even they were. Larry had hit each square in the center and broken them into almost the same size . . . He built the frames for the driveway and we poured 28 yards of cement before we were done.

"Larry's skills of planning became obvious when he designed the position of the garage. Larry planned the garage so that we could have the breeze way covered and tie the old carport onto the back side of the garage. When we got the rafters I marveled at how accurate he had them measure so the roof of the garage and the breeze way and the roof of the old carport came together in a flowing manner and they became one roof.

"When we finished the cost of the garage was only two thirds of what a smaller garage would have been. . . I seldom spend time in the garage without thinking of the summer Larry built the garage. We did have fun and enjoyed doing something that neither had done before. The memory of his love for the gospel and for our family is always a constant as we think of the past."

As Ashton gets closer and closer to having our first baby, I think of my grandpa and dad, and hope I can be the kind of father they've been to their kids. They're both solid, faithful and selfless men, and I am proud to carry on their legacy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fuji

I just submitted my primary application for medical school. That's a nice burden to have lifted from the tired shoulders. I don't think I've ever been so meticulous or anal about anything in my life. I went through each piece of the application over and over, making sure everything was in order and entered in correctly. The worst part was punching in information from my transcript. All my AP, CE, and Foreign Language credits really made it painful. But it's done!

In other news, I got a road bike. That was technically last Wednesday, the 10th. It was a day of guilty pleasure. I ditched a training meeting at work to go up to Bountiful to celebrate the end of the MCAT with Andrew and Drew, and get a bunch of new music. We stopped at Pedersen's to see how much their bikes were. I'd been shopping for a bike for months, checking KSL and craigslist everyday, and I was tired of not finding what I wanted. Pedersens was selling the Fuji model I'd looked at for 120 bucks cheaper than anywhere else. Ashton gave me the go ahead, and I became the proud owner of a brand spankin' new Fuji road bike.

Tuesday was the first day I was able go out for a ride. Quinn, my cycling fanatic friend, had been wanting to go for a ride for the last week. I was a little hesitant to go with him, since he's a seasoned cyclist and I'm a wuss, but I really didn't have an excuse better than that. He rode down to my house, decked out in a Lance Armstrong racing suit that made my t-shirt and gym shorts getup look totally homemade. We headed up Canyon Road, and it wasn't long before Quinn and his grapefruit-sized gastrocnemii were leaving me in the dust.

Thanks to a couple red lights I caught up to Quinn, but the emasculation wasn't over. Quinn decided it would be fun to ride up Foothill Drive, an insanely steep road that wraps around to where Ashton's mom lives. After about a third the way up my legs turned to goo and I pulled into a random driveway in shame. Quinn raced up the hill at a solid pace, not even realizing I was still at the bottom. Following that thorough castration, Quinn had to head home, and I decided to go to Ashton's mom's a different way, since Ashton was waiting there. I road back down Canyon Road until I hit Quail and started heading east up the mountain. It turned out Quail was worse than Foothill, but I just had to make it to the top. Somehow I made it to the top, but I think I burned my entire glycogen storage getting there.

The following day I decided to take a shorter, less strenuous ride. I headed down the Provo River Parkway toward Utah Lake. Things were going great until I cruised through a swarm of swamp flies and took one in the eye. I thought I got it out, but two hours later I was enjoying "Obama's Rescue Plan,"an exceptionally delicious and cheap Mexican plate, and as I rubbed my irritated eye, the bug finally came out on the tip of my finger. No one else seemed as impressed as I was.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lazarus

I know you're probably tired of reading about miraculous fish survivals, but when I find myself telling the same story to multiple people, I realize it's probably blog worthy.

A couple of weeks ago we had a barbecue at my biology professor's place. As part of the evening we were asked to share talents, for which we were awarded a betta fish. Byron had been keeping 38 bettas in his laboratory for his evolutionary biology class for some experiment with male dominance. I personally think they were having cock fights on the weekends. With the experiment completed, Byron had a lot of fish to dispose of, and one by one guests at the barbecue got up and performed lame-o talents to receive their gilled prize. I played an Avril Lavigne pop song on Byron's guitar and picked out a nice purple fish. As the guests dwindled and the box of fish remained relatively full, I felt it my duty to pick out a couple more fish, to ensure that they made it to a good home. I chose a healthy red looking fish and a feisty little guy named Franky Valentino, who apparently had proved his fighting skills earlier.

The fish sat in our kitchen for about a week before we had time to set up new homes for them. Each fish needs its own container, and we didn't have enough fish bowls for all of them. We went to DI and I picked out some plain looking vases, despite Ashton's protests (they weren't aesthetically pleasing). We only got two vases, so the red fish remained in the Petsco cup he was purchased in.

During our awesome baby shower on Saturday, Ashton arranged the vases and cup on the window sill above the sink, and she left the lid off the red fish's cup. A couple hours later we were scurrying around getting ready to attend a cousin's baptism, and we noticed that the cup above the sink had only water in it. We were very perplexed, and we looked all around the window sill and sink to see where the red fish might've plunged to. I sniffed around the drain and detected a definite fishy smell. I shined a flash light down the drain, and saw the unlucky pet, obviously dead. We have no idea how long he'd been there, but the aroma indicated it might've been a while. I sprayed water down the drain to dislodge his body and reached down with a glove to retrieve him. I dropped him in the sink and confirmed that he was dead. Not knowing what to do with him, I threw him back in the cup of water so we could take off for the baptism. As I washed the gloves off in the sink, Ashton noticed that the fish's gills were starting to move. The fish gradually began moving its fins, but it was tipped on its side. We left for the baptism, and when we got back, the fish was still alive, and looking pretty normal and healthy. We were completely amazed at his recovery, and I named him Lazarus. Those bettas are invincible.

Unfortunately Lazarus's tail fin has slowly deteriorated and fallen off in chunks. I think that while he lay in the disposal his circulatory system pumped all the blood to the core, keeping all his vitals okay but causing his extremities to die. It's definitely affected his ability to swim. He kind of looks like he's nodding.