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.