Monday, February 28, 2011

People Run Funny

Since the weather turned cold in November, I've been running at the indoor BYU track. My running partner is often too busy to join me at the track. Therefore I run alone, which leaves me time for contemplation. One day, while running, I composed this blog post in my head in order to entertain myself. The following are types of runners which I have noticed at the track.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Converting PowerPoint Shapes to Vector Graphics

I guess you could say that my first experience with vector graphics [1] was drawing shapes in Microsoft PowerPoint. I used PowerPoint to draw a few things, but I was often frustrated by the limitations of that program. Then I discovered Inkscape and now I use that for all my shape drawing. However, some of the pictures I created are still in PowerPoint. I wanted to convert them over to Inkscape files but for a long time I was unsure how. I've finally learned.[2]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cleaning House I

…my parents' house, that is. Our apartment in Provo is pretty small (~550 square feet), so I keep some of my things at my parents' house, including books and Star Wars action figures. For President's Day we went up to see my family since we weren't able to go for my sister's birthday in January (I was sick).[1] While we were there, I decided to go through my things and dispose of some so I wouldn't be so much of a space hog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Product Review: Lindt Excellence: Chili

Be honest, if you've walked past any of the chili pepper-flavored chocolate bars at the store, you've probably thought, What? Chili peppers? Seriously? Why would anyone think that was a good idea? And then you walked away. I doubt you bought one so you could test whether or not it could be good.[1] So, I'll do it for you.

Product Review: Dreyer's Samoas Cookie Ice Cream

Under normal circumstances you only see Girl Scout Cookies once a year. Dedicated mothers camp out in front of grocery stores and on busy street corners in order to sell these cookies for their daughters.[1] The Samoas are simply the best cookie that the Girl Scouts have to offer.[2] Well, even though it's not currently Girl Scout Cookie season, Dreyer's has, for a limited time, Girl Scout Cookie-flavored ice cream—including a Samoas-flavored ice cream.

Product Review: Doritos Pizza Supreme

Over the last few years Doritos has come out with several limited-time specialty flavors, including wasabi, taco, cheeseburger, habanero, jalapeño poppers, buffalo wings, chili, dill, guacamole, etc.[1] I've tried many of them, but not all (I refuse to try the dill-flavored Doritos—I already know I don't like them). The most recent flavor I've seen pop up at the grocery store is Pizza Supreme. I was a little skeptical about these given my less-than-stellar experience with cheeseburger-flavored Combos [2], but I decided to be intrepid.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Castle Adventure

In my younger years [1] I played a computer game called Golden Wombat. As it turns out, Golden Wombat was a renamed and illegal distribution of a game called Castle Adventure.[2] The graphics are simple white ASCII characters on a black background. You're never told why you're in this castle nor why you're trying to escape—you just have to figure out how. Along the way you pick up treasures and confront a variety of monsters.[3]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Music Review: 9

As I finished watching the movie 9 [1], I was impressed with the soundtrack just before the movie cut to the credits. The soundtrack is credited to Danny Elfman and Deborah Lurie, though it was actually Lurie who did the brunt of the work. Danny Elfman was probably involved since Tim Burton produced the film. According to Wikipedia, Lurie has done work on several other films, though she usually works as a string arranger or orchestrator rather than the primary composer.[2]

Movie Review: P.S. I Love You

P.S. I Love You starts out with the two main characters having a lover's spat. Which quickly degenerates into lovers doing…other things. Then, without any warning, one of the characters is replaced by a big black box which, you eventually figure out, is filled with his ashes. Even later than that you learn that he died of a brain tumor. The rest of the film is about posthumous letters that the woman receives from her deceased husband [1] that are designed to help her move on.

Book Reviews: Pat McManus

Patrick F. McManus is an outdoors humorist who publishes short stories in magazines such as Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and Reader's Digest. He then compiles these into book form and publishes them again. The stories often detail the escapades of his youth out in the great outdoors; others recount his more recent experiences as a sportsman. He injects all of these stories with humor—sometimes wry, sometimes ridiculous.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Threatening

I wrote this in my Freshman English class at Box Elder High School. I had two goals in writing it (not necessarily the goals imposed on me my the teacher, Mr. Yates): 1. to write a story that would fit on one page (i.e. "flash fiction") and 2. to write a story that was entirely dialogue.[1] This is the final result. If I recall correctly, it was published in the student publication for creative works (I forget the name), along with some of my art.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The End of Procrastination II

At the end of last summer I noticed a Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) growing on the south end of BYU campus. It was near the stairs that lead up from the botany pond [1] to the Benson Building (chemistry building). Since legumes have become a recent fascination of mine [2], I decided to photograph the plant and upload the pictures to Wikimedia Commons (the media repository for Wikipedia). It was at this point that I discovered something unique about the seed pods. Every time I tried to pick one of the seed pods, it would explode in my hand, scattering its seeds everywhere. Then I noticed that some of the seed pods burst open while still on the tree.[3] Only by being very careful was I able to collect some for the photographs. The photos then took up residence on the desktop of my lab computer until last week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Television Review: White Collar, Season 1

White Collar seems to be inspired by real-life criminal-turned-federal-agent Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose story is chronicled in Stephen Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. Neal Caffrey is a white-collar criminal [1] who cuts a deal with the FBI in order to avoid going back to jail. He'll help them solve white collar crimes in exchange for work-release. But there's a catch: Neal is trying to figure out why his girlfriend suddenly disappeared. But his handler, Agent Peter Burke, knows he's up to something and tries to curb Neal's 'extracurricular' activities.

Television Review: Caprica, Season 1

Caprica is a television series set 58 years before the events in the television series Battlestar Galactica (the 2004–2009 series, not the 1978 series). The pilot starts out with a terrorist attack (a bombing) in which several characters lose family members. I imagine that this was intended to invoke the zeitgeist of post-9/11 America. The show explores the ramifications—both good and bad—of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. It also explores the origins of the Cylons, their religion, and their need for intimacy with human beings as well as their paradoxical desire to exterminate them. It was canceled midway through the season.[1]

Television Review: Psych, Season 5

My favorite episode of this season, and probably of the whole series, was "Dual Spires", which pays homage to the canceled television show Twin Peaks.[1] I didn't figure it out until I recognized the actor that played Bobby in Twin Peaks. Then it became quite delightful to see each new cameo [2] or reference show up. Besides that…



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine's actually started for us last Friday. When Leann got done with work I called her and asked her if she wanted to go to Carrabba's for dinner (her favorite Italian restaurant). She said yes. I called them to get on the wait list but they said they weren't keeping one, yet, since there was currently no wait. When we arrived half an hour later, the wait was one hour. Grrr. We'll try again this weekend —when the Valentine's rush is over.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Organic" Food, Part III

In previous posts I've addressed whether "organic" foods contain more nutrients or fewer toxins  than conventionally-grown foods.[1] The only claim made by "organic" farming left to consider is its impact on the environment versus conventional farming methods. This can be broken down into four sub-claims: that "organic" farming is better for the soil, produces less pollution,  increases biodiversity, and is sustainable. Let's see if it's true.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Organic" Food, Part II

Last time I discussed whether "organic" foods contain more nutrients than conventionally-grown foods. When reports started coming out that there was no reliable scientific evidence that "organic" foods were more nutritious, "organic" food proponents immediately fell back on their other two claims: "organic" foods contain fewer toxins and "organic" farming methods are better for the environment. The primary argument for fewer toxins is centered around the use of pesticides. Let's look at this in more detail.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Organic" Food, Part I

The sales of "organic" food have been growing by about 20% every year for nearly two decades.[1] This is bolstered by claims that "organic" food has more nutrients, fewer toxins (including synthetic pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides), and is better for the environment. That's a pretty bold set of claims. Now consider that the word organic originally meant: "Having organs, or an organized physical structure; of, relating to, or derived from a living organism or organisms; having the characteristics of a living organism."[2] Well, all plants and animals fit that definition, so technically all food is organic. Labeling a certain type of food as "organic" is just a clever marketing ploy to make you think it's better than other types of food.[3] (And now you know why I put it in quotes.) So if the very name is dishonest, what about their claims? Can they be trusted? Or is it just more hype? Let's investigate.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Movie Review: Naqoyqatsi

Director Godfrey Reggio has directed a trilogy of documentary films with Hopi titles: Koyaanisqatsi (1983; lit. "life out of balance"), Powaqqatsi (1988; lit. "life in transformation"), and Naqoyqatsi (2002; lit. "life as war"). The first film, Koyaanisqatsi, focuses on the effects that the industrialized world is having on the environment and relies primarily on time-lapse and slow-motion photography.[1] The second film, Powaqqatsi, focuses on the effects of industrialization on third-world countries and focuses more on people.[2] The final film, Naqoyqatsi, focuses on the effects that technology has on people and relies more heavily on computer-generated imagery and special effects than the previous two films.

Movie Review: Murder!

According to Wikipedia, Murder! was Alfred Hitchcock's third 'talkie' film and his twelfth film overall.[1] It tells the story of a woman who is discovered at the scene of a murder. At first glance the evidence suggests that she was responsible for the heinous act. However, she has no memory of what happened and so cannot put up a plausible defense. One of the jurors in her murder trial takes it upon himself to ferret out the truth. In execution the film was a combination of Hamlet and The Ox-Bow Incident (even though the latter film was written later).

Movie Review: Hamlet (1990)

I'd heard good things about Zeffirelli's production of Hamlet in my Freshman English class at BYU. But (as you can see), it took me a long time to get around to watching it. It is quite a bit shorter than Kenneth Branagh's 4-hour version, but suffers for it. Whereas that one seemed to be set in the 1800s, this one was given a more Medieval setting.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The End of Procrastination I

Back in late 2009 I finished a book called Servant of the Dragon, by David Drake. It is the third book in a series, The Lord of the Isles, that eventually capped out at nine books. When I finally got around to reading the second book, Queen of Demons, it had been so long since I'd read the first book that I couldn't remember what was going on (though I slowly picked it back up as I went along). So that wouldn't happen again, I created a page at Wikipedia for Queen of Demons.[1] Thus when I started Servant of the Dragon it only took me a few minutes to remember where everyone was and what was going on. When I finished Servant of the Dragon (back in 2009), I started writing a Wikipedia article for it. I finally finished that article yesterday.[2]

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sushi

On Saturday my friends Ben and Carolyn Andersen had a baby shower and then afterwards we went out for dinner. Leann couldn't come because she had to work.[1] But when she found out that we had sushi, she didn't feel quite so bad. We went to Tepanyaki Grill, a Utah-based Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar. They are known for cooking the food at your table and putting on a show.[2] Leann and I have gone once before and enjoyed it, though we didn't try the sushi. This time I did.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Music Review: Legend of the Seeker

Legend of the Seeker was a television series that ran for two seasons. It was based on the book series The Sword of Truth.[1] It was produced by Sam Raimi, the same guy who brought us the campy syndicated series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Unlike those two series, though, Legend of the Seeker generally avoided being cheesy (except for the character of Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander [2]). In fact, the television series was infinitely more watchable than the source material was readable.

Music Review: Halo: Reach

Many of you may be surprised to learn that a first-person shooter game, like the Halo series, has a symphonic score that is actually pleasant to listen to even when you're not playing the game. The soundtrack for Halo: Reach, the fifth Halo video game to be scored by Michael Salvatori [1], was released around the same time as the game.[2] It gives us plenty of familiar Halo motifs adapted to the new story. It also presents us with new musical motifs developed for the new characters and plot. However, one of the motifs is only a few notes off from being identical to the track "Fairytale" from Shrek.[3]

Music Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

I was disappointed when I learned that John Williams wouldn't be composing the score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (or any of the subsequent films [1]). However, Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper did pretty well during their respective stints as Harry Potter composers. This time around the composer of the film music was the Frenchman, Alexandre Desplat, who will also be composing for Part II.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where Was State Farm?

Last night one of our neighbors, a single lady from Chile, came over, complaining that: "Agua está saliendo del techo y tengo miedo de que vaya a caer."[1] I went over to check it out. Her pipes had frozen and then burst. There was water gushing out of the ceiling into the cupboards of her kitchen and from there onto the counter and then the floor. When I arrived there was already two inches of water in the kitchen and it was seeping into the living room. I called the manager and informed her of the problem.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Product Review: Dofino Havarti

Havarti cheese is a creamy white cheese originally produced in Denmark in the mid-1800s.[1] I spotted some at Wal-Mart on sale and was tempted to buy it, but hesitated since I'd recently spent a fair bit of change on cheeses.[2] But then Leann told me that she wanted to have some nice bread for sandwiches that week and proceeded to toss a bag of ciabatta bread into the cart. So I went back and grabbed the Havarti cheese. I also bought some prosciutto to put on the sandwiches.[3]

Product Review: Fiorucci Prosciutto

Prosciutto is a thinly sliced cured pork originating in Italy. I first tried it when I went on a road trip to Los Angeles or Las Vegas (I don't remember which) with my friend Ben Andersen. He served his mission [1] in Italy where he got to eat the real deal. He brought some on the trip and we ate it on dinner rolls.

Product Review: Combos Cheeseburger Cracker

Combos were one of my favorite snacks when I was a kid. For a long time I thought they'd stopped making them, but then I started discovering them here and there. Last summer, when I went to Colombia, Missouri for the 21st North American Nitrogen Fixation Conference [1], I found a store that was selling Combos flavors I'd never even heard of. I bought them all and brought them home to try with Leann. I don't even remember what those flavors were, now, but when I spotted cheeseburger-flavored Combos at Wal-Mart, I decided to buy them, since I couldn't remember whether I'd already had them or not.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame

Many of us have heard the quote, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Not many know, though, that this was first uttered by Andy Warhol [1], that odd painter of Campbell's soup cans and a psychedelic grid of Marilyn Monroes.[2] Why do I mention this? Go to the BYU homepage (here) and perhaps you'll see why.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Debilität!

Because of the way IQ tests are designed, half of the people evaluated will score at or below 100, which is average.[1] It's a sobering thought that nearly half of the people driving out there with you on the freeway have less-than-average intelligence (though you've probably suspected it long before now). However, this statement I just made is slightly misleading. You see, in 1910 the psychologist Henry H. Goddard applied the term "idiot" to someone who had an IQ below 25, the term "imbecile" to someone who had an IQ between 26 and 50, and coined the term "moron" for someone who had an IQ between 51 and 75.[2] Currently anyone with an IQ score below ~70 is not issued a driver's license…in the U.S.[3]