Monday, March 24, 2008


I've got a bunch to say, but it will have to come later. Alison and I just put a few weeks of photos on our space and there were a few that I wanted everybody to see (feel free to view and comment on the photos on our space as well).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Phone Call

Today I was sitting at work when my cell phone rang. I answered it and the person on the other end introduced himself, "This is Russell M. Nelson..." I had called his office a while before trying to track down the owner of a journal that was left on the stand after our stake conference a couple of weeks ago. I expected his secretary to check with him and his wife sometime and then to call me back. It was pretty cool to have an apostle calling me (and I wasn't worried about some overwhelming calling). I described the journal to him and his wife on speakerphone and they let me know that it wasn't theirs - so now into the lost and found it goes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bring it On!

Everybody knows that I love this time of year (I've been looking forward to it for the past 49 weeks!). Now that the brackets are out, BYU fans are complaining about their seeding..., everybody is arguing over whether the great Bulldogs of Gonzaga can take down the Davidson Wildcats and it's time again to fill out your brackets. Just follow these simple instructions and you'll be all set:

1. Go to ESPN's tournament challenge page.

2. Login or create an account

3. Click on create or join a group

4. Search for the group "2H2H" (without the quotation marks)

5. Type in the supersecret password "utah"

6. Fill out your bracket and prepare to be embarrassed (probably by Alison)

There's no fee for joining, and in return the most that you win is pride (unless Alison decides to ante up for a prize). If I inadvertently offended anybody with my short anti-BYU rant, then please accept my apologies. I'll be in Anaheim watching them in person and they better represent (I'll be the guy in all the Aggie gear). Best of luck everybody!

This shouldn't be happening...

C'mon weather, don't you know it's Spring Break?

Friday, March 14, 2008

So You're Saying There's a Chance...

Utah just beat New Mexico in the late night game at the Mountain West Conference Tournament. What I love about college basketball is that almost* every team has a chance to win out and take the title. Granted, the odds are slim (next to impossible?) for crummy teams like the Utes, but it gives players and fans something to dream about. 8 more wins to the championship!

* The Ivy League Conference doesn't hold a conference tournament, therefore, the only teams entering next season with a win streak are the National Champion and a few teams from the Ivy Leagues...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Real Life Nears

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I quit my job at Rocky Mountain Power and decided not to accept the offer that they had extended to me for a job in field engineering. Instead, I took a job with Spectrum Engineers in downtown Salt Lake City. I had planned on trying this job out for the next couple of months, but I knew that this was the job for me after being there just a couple of hours on my first day.

Our offices are located in the Walker Center on 2nd South and Main. Spectrum leases 4 floors of the building, and I am located on the 10th floor. When I got there my first day, I expected to work in one of the cubicles on the floor, but instead I get this big office overlooking Main Street (a nice perk). By my estimations the office is almost 200 square feet - about the size of our family/living room.

I really like what I am doing. Spectrum is a consulting engineering firm that specializes in the electrical/mechanical/acoustical/lighting/etc. design of large building projects. They have done everything from the airport redesign, to the capitol building, to the new Intermountain Medical Center. A few of the projects that I have been working on are the new district courthouse in St. George, the Farmington commuter rail station and mall and an office building near the University of Utah. Maybe someday we'll land a contract for buildings like these in Dubai.

I never expected the decision of where to work to be so difficult. I guess that I always envisioned it to be cut and dry and that I would "know" when I had found the right place. Calling Rocky Mountain Power and turning down their offer was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. It's not easy to turn down a guaranteed salary that more than triples what we currently make.

Most of the things that I loved about Rocky Mountain Power were duplicated at Spectrum Engineers. Both companies have great benefits plans (Spectrum's is better). Both companies have plenty of room for advancement. Spectrum offers the possibility of making more money in the long run, but working for the power utility is obviously a more stable job. I would have gotten an office and a car at Rocky Mountain Power but the office would have been on the first floor overlooking the parking lot and Spectrum has told me that they will "more than compensate" for having to use my own car... Most importantly, the Walker Center has a see-through mail chute. How cool is that?

So far I have loved going to work, I am enjoying what I'm doing and I'm looking forward to doing this every day. One of the biggest things that turned me on to Spectrum Engineers was that there is so much to learn. I can literally envision myself learning new things every day for the rest of my life in this job - and that excites me to no end. Right now everything that I'm having to learn is a bit overwhelming, but I expect to get my feet under myself before too long.

Here are a couple pictures of my new digs (the photos don't do the place justice):

Monday, March 10, 2008

On my mind

Here are a few things that have been on my mind lately:

  • While the Shaq trade hasn't worked out as well as the Phoenix Suns had hoped (unless their sole purpose in acquiring him was to allow them to beat the Spurs), here's what the Onion had to report about the Shaq trade (read the whole article, it's great):
"Claiming he was initially excited at the prospect of playing for a legitimate championship contender, new Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal admitted Monday that, upon reading about the phenomenon of massive stellar explosions popularly known as supernovas, he is now terrified of the entire organization."
  • There have been two performances on American Idol that I loved. One is by a 17 year-old boy from Murray, David Archuleta who is incredible singing "Imagine" and the second is David Cook singing Lionel Richie's "Hello":

  • I don't think that I've shared this video here before either, but it's a good one. Presenting Charlie (not the unicorn again):

Sunday, March 09, 2008

From Braggart to Begger

It's already apparent that I've become a weekend blogger. While this semester isn't killing me with difficulty, I've had a bunch of homework and time-consuming hud that I've had to do for my classes.

You remember how I was boasting about how nice our tax return is going to be this year? Well, I was asking for it but we had to take dear little Lurp (our '95 teal Geo Prism) into the shop and get the clutch replaced. I was a little disappointed with this because it wasn't too long ago that we had our clutch replaced. The last time was over Labor Day weekend 3 1/2 years ago. Alison, Rachelle and I were driving to Spokane, Washington to visit my sister Alysia and her husband. We had been driving for almost 12 hours and had just gotten off the interstate at their exit when the clutch went out. While we were disappointed that we had to pay for the expensive repairs we were extremely grateful that we didn't get stuck somewhere in remote Montana - not that there's anything wrong with Montana, but...

This time the car had been losing power in the lower gears for a couple of weeks. It was getting bad enough that I was trying to find alternate routes of going up the hill towards our apartment (because I would be driving at a crawl). We finally took it in and were once again met with the bad news. $875 later 'ol Lurp is good as new. Nonetheless, that cuts 12" off what plasma TV we can afford with our tax returns. Darn.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Money and Taxes

I prepared our taxes over the weekend.  I had planned on purchasing TurboTax (that's what I've used the last few years), but our income was low enough that we could free-file with both the federal government and the state of Utah.  I ended up using an online version of H&R Block's Tax Cut that went very well. 

Our income in 2006 was $15,000 more than we made in 2007.  Sometimes we look back and wonder how we made it...  Last year our adjusted gross income was just a couple of hundred dollars higher than it could be to claim the earned income credit (which is usually $1600-$1800).  If I had not gone to work the last couple days of the year, then we would have made $1400 more than we did...

This wasn't a problem this year.  We easily qualified for the earned income credit as well as other education credits and the basic deduction.  The good news (ok, great news) is that between the state and federal tax refunds we will be getting more than $4,000 back!  This will make a nice dent in a down payment (or school loans...).  And maybe I will finally buy my Wii :). 

Next year will definitely be different.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Job Status

This last week has been a wild one for me. Along with the two tests that I had I got a job offer from my current job. I guess I should rewind even a bit farther to explain myself. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed with Spectrum Engineers. They are an engineering firm here in downtown Salt Lake City that specializes in the electrical system design for large building projects. They are set up a lot like a law firm and once you get your PE (professional engineering license - which you can't get before being in industry for 5-7 years) then you can become a partner in the business. They pay extremely well (they've told me numerous times that nobody has ever left over money - they've even got engineers making up into the $300,000s, but of course they are workaholics). I think that their average salaries for PEs are in the low to upper 100s. In short, the way that I see it right now I have 4 options with where to work.

1. The first option is with Rocky Mountain Power. Like I mentioned, they gave me an incredibly generous offer earlier this week. The offer is for a field engineering position in the Salt Lake City Metro - the job that I would probably most enjoy doing there. They have an incentive (i.e. bonus) plan that pays up to 12% a year, I would get a car and work in an office with guys whom I get along with extremely well. The problem is, power engineering is nothing like the other three types of jobs I am considering (If you want to know what my offer was, just ask. I've got no shame and don't really care if others know what I'm making - as long as that information isn't used directly as a bargaining chip. Just know that if you ask me what I'm making, then I'll probably ask you!).

2. The next option is with Spectrum Engineering. As I mentioned above, I interviewed with them a couple of weeks ago - and I was actually offered an internship - that I ultimately accepted. This internship only lasts through the end of the school year - but obviously I'll have the opportunity to sign on with them once school ends if I so desire. I don't see accepting this internship as turning down the power company in any way. It's a chance to try something else and see if I like it. Working for the power company or Spectrum Engineering mainly requires on the job training - none of this stuff is taught at the U (they don't have a power engineering program (or even a class); the closest ones are Idaho State University or New Mexico State University). The stuff that Spectrum Engineering does as well is also quite unique for EEs. Very few EEs go onto being professional engineers because it is required in so few jobs.

3. The next type of job that I have been pursuing (although not as actively as I could be) is with defense contractors. These companies (such as L3, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc.) have stable, interesting jobs and pay very well. They would give me the opportunity to easily work all throughout the United States because they are all located in the majority of the 50 states and some have divisions in all 50. I've also had a couple of interviews with Hill Air Force Base. This wouldn't be my dream job, but they do a lot of really cool stuff up there. I would not sign on making nearly as much at the other jobs but the opportunity for speedy advancement is available. They would offer me a 25% signing bonus and write off up to $20,000 of student loans (I don't have nearly that much, so I would have them pay off my credit card - and then go buy a $10,000 plasma tv...).

4. The last type of job that I am most seriously considering (I once again haven't been too actively seeking) is with semiconductor design and/or manufacturing companies. These are jobs that I am most qualified for because of my schoolwork. I have designed numerous chips, had a couple of semesters of lab in the University's microfab cleanroom and feel very comfortable with this type of work. My adviser has been trying to recruit me for a couple of these companies. This is the type of work that I feel most passionate about - but I haven't had the chance to do any of the jobs mentioned above.

As you can tell, I've got a lot going through my head. All throughout the day I'll decide to seriously commit to any one of the mentioned areas but I'm all over the place throughout the day (and Rocky Mountain Power wants to know by the end of the week - they may have to wait). I feel a little bit of extra pressure with these decisions because they are difficult industries to move between. Moving from the power company to a fab engineer at IMFlash (flash RAM semiconductor company) would be very difficult because there are almost no similarities between the two types of work - and the same goes for Spectrum Engineering and the defense contractors. Anyone that made it through this long post deserves to be commended - but instead why don't you just share with me your thoughts?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Temple Runaround

Our stake conference is this weekend and earlier in the week there was a coinciding temple night. Alison and I made some last minute plans to go to the chapel session and then the temple session afterwards. We got to the temple and went into the chapel and were surprised by how many people were there. We took our seats and waited for the meeting to start when we were told that the temple had made a scheduling mistake and scheduled two stakes for the same night. They informed us that we would hold our session in the baptistery chapel.

There were more of us than usual because our stake presidency is being released this weekend and we made quite the scene traipsing through the tunnels. Rather than walk straight through the temple to the baptistery we went down into the tunnels on the east and south sides of the temple. It was quickly apparent that the room was nowhere near big enough (it probably seats 25 people comfortably, we had more than 100). Eventually a decision was made that we would have to meet elsewhere.

The second counselor's wife in our stake presidency is the first counselor in the young women's general presidency (and our stake president's wife is on the general board) and they were able to work something out which allowed us to have our wonderful chapel session in the Church Relief Society Building. This led to another adventure because anybody that was dressed in white had to change and then we all walked through the tunnels once again from the temple to the Relief Society Building.

The original plans were to attend the 8:00 PM temple session but that's about what time the chapel session finally started at (and I had decided earlier that there was no way I would be able to stay awake for a whole session). It was fun to see parts of the temple/tunnels that we wouldn't normally see and it made the simple chapel session especially special. We're now looking forward to our stake conference with Elder Nelson.