Guest Post About Religious Authority

I wrote a guest post over at the Wheat and Tares blog on the subject of how to properly exercise authority within religion. You can read the article here: Ecclesiolatry, or Lessons from the Vatican

Chlamydia Cases in Utah 2000-2009

I’ve been exploring some communicable disease data for Utah (sourced from Utah’s Open Data Portal which, unfortunately, only has data up through 2009) and created the chart below to illustrate something that completely surprised me: the most prevelant communicable disease in Utah over that ten-year period was Chlamydia, which was nearly nine times more prevalent than Chickenpox!

To give you an idea of the difference, there were 43,832 cases of Chlamydia over that time period compared to 5,208 cases of Chickenpox.

Here is a table showing the top five communicable diseases and, below that, a chart showing the growth of Chlamydia cases per year.

Disease Total Cases
Chlamydia 43,832
MRSA 10,434
Chicken Pox 5,208
Gonorrhea 5,057
Giardiasis 3,694

Utah Chlamydia cases 2000-2009

Utah Energy Production 1990 to 2013

When I read so many articles about Utah’s coal industry and the lack of real concern about coal-plant pollution in Utah, I reflect on this little chart I’ve had sitting around for some time now.

I grabbed the data from Utah’s Open Data Portal which, unfortunately, only has data up through 2013.

Utah energy production by source, 1990-2013

Lending Club Machine Learning Model and API

For a couple of months now I’ve been working on a loan default predictor for Lending Club loans. I finished it the other day and posted it to GitHub. The idea of the project is for someone to upload a JSON file of loans from Lending Club and have a machine learning model return (in JSON) the probability the loan will default.

The machine learning model is a random forest classifier written in Python using scikit-learn and trained on loans from 2008-2015. The API is written in Flask-Restful and the whole thing should be able to run on a Raspberry Pi.

You can find it at my Github repository

General Conference Word Frequency Estimator

I recently updated a simple word frequency estimator for LDS General Conference talks that I have on GitHub. I had originally hacked it together but figured I’d update it to use the Python Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK) and a count vectorizor for word counts.

You can find it at my GitHub account

Figure Eight in Big Cottonwood Canyon

I’ve been intending to phtograph this spot for some time now but my schedule and the weather haven’t cooperated - either I’m busy on a clear night or, when I’ve been free, it’s been snowing. Well, last night the two converged so I headed up to the canyon.

I got to the canyon at about 4:00 because I didn’t know at what time it would get dark enough in the canyon for me to take this photograph, nor did I know where the best vantage point would be, so I arrived a bit early and hiked around until I found a spot with which I was happy. Once there, I framed the shot, setup the tripod, and waited, enjoying a hot cup of my wife’s carmel apple spice drink (an imitation of the same drink at Starbucks) and taking in the sunset on the surrounding mountains. I absolutely love the outdoors.

I had initially tried using my polarizing filter to increase my camera’s shutter speed but I didn’t like the overall look. Instead, I just waited for nature to do its work. It finally got dark enough to get good light trails at about 6:20 PM so I experimented with timing both directions of traffic below me. This exposure is approximately 40 seconds long and consisted of two lines of cars traveling both directions in the figure eight mostly simultaneously.

Figure eight in the road in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Bonneville Salt Flats Sunset

This is an image I took last winter on a quick trip out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. I hadn’t processed it until now because I wasn’t quite happy with how it turned out, but I’ve tweaked it a bit here and there and finally feel pretty good about it.

My two oldest children went with me on the trip and had a blast running around out on the salt flats. Following the sunset, which was probably most beautiful to the east (right of the image, which is looking north), we drove into Wendover to grab something to eat. While in Wendover, we went into a casino, which was a first for my children. They were scandalized that an old lady with an oxygen tank was sitting at a slot machine, cigarette and beer in hand. My kids exclaimed, “Grandmas don’t do that!”

Sunset at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

Old Town Montreal, Canada

I recently went on a trip to Montreal, Canada and spent time in Old Town. I walked the entire Old Town and enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere. The area can be a bit of a tourist trap with the shops and stuff, but the vibe of the place, along with the historic buildings, was wonderful. Prior to going I had read some online reviews stating that the people there were unfriendly, but I didn’t experience that at all. In fact, people were very helpful to us, including being patient with my daughter’s broken French (she has been learning French in school).

Bustling Old Town Montreal

Bustling Old Town Montreal

Notre Dame Cathedral in Old Town Montreal

Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal

Photography Funk

It has been a while since I have posted to my site, and even longer since I have discussed or shared photography (other than the link I included earlier today). I have been in a bit of a funk, photographically speaking, for some time now. I have lacked much inspiration to take photographs, other than of family, and I’d like to mention why. I am finding my way out of the funk so there will be photographs to be shared, as well as more information shared on the site altogether, but for now I’m going to address my photography funk.

I’ve been doing photography as a serious hobby for many years now, beginning with film and moving into digital. I remember buying my first digital SLR, the original Canon Digital Rebel, and being so excited. I’ve seen how, as photography has been democratized, the Internet is now awash in photographs, many of which are stellar. Don’t get be wrong, I think the ubiquity of photography, especially with the advent of the very capable camera phone, is a great thing, however, spend some time reviewing the portfolios of the many, many talented photographers on Flickr or Instagram, and it can become daunting. It certainly became that way for me as I began to wonder, “Why even bother? The world is awash in spectacular images from people with far more time to spend on photography than I do, who are far more talented than I am. Why toss my drop in the ocean?” As a result, I began to spend less time on the hobby and to feel like I have nothing really unique to contribute.

Well, I think that has changed. My family spent some time in the eastern United States this summer and, while in Montreal, I took some time to focus on creative, non-family photography. I spent a couple of nights shooting in Montreal’s Old Town (I’ll share the photographs here in the next couple of days) and really was reinvigorated. It was great to be out planning, imagining the image, and then patiently waiting for the pieces to come together for an image I could enjoy. First problem solved. I had rekindled my inspiration, but how to keep it from being snuffed out again by the feelings of inadequacy as I try to share my images?

I thought about that for some time. Why did I enjoy taking the images and reviewing them myself? If I enjoyed the process, and was happy with my photos, why do I care about sharing them? Isn’t that satisfaction enough? You know what? It is. In fact, it definitely is. I steadily came to the conclusion that I really enjoy the process of photography, as well as the result of that process. I enjoy looking at my photographs, recalling the experience of being there - the smells, sounds, etc. - and decided that is enough for me.

So, should I share my photographs? Yes, I think so. The process of sharing and writing about my photography helps me take the hobby more seriously than I otherwise would. It helps me to improve, and that is a good thing, even if my drops are swallowed up in the waves of the Internet’s ocean of photographs.

Thanks for reading.

Luminous Landscapes - Good Enough

Luminous Landscapes has an excellent video discussion regarding modern photography equipment being “good enough”, the importance of prints to experiencing photography, and the need to enjoy the image itself. I enjoyed it very much.

Luminous Landscape: “Is Good, Good Enough?”