Friday, November 23, 2012

Map Projection of Blue Jeans

I was sitting in Elder's Quorum [1] last week watching the fellow in front of me playing with his infant. The little baby boy was wearing a tiny pair of jeans. Just for fun, I began sketching in my notebook the pattern of yellow stitching. Since I was drawing in only two dimensions, I flattened everything. Rather than simulate three dimensions through the use of shading, I sought to capture the entire surface. As with rendering a two-dimensional map of a three-dimensional Earth, I was forced to introduce distortions in order to capture the details I wanted and present them in a particular way.[2] So, I present to you my map projection of blue jeans.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Autumn Photos

This post is just a smattering of photos I've taken this last autumn since it's pretty much over. Two nights ago we got so much snow that fallen tree branches (and even a few fallen trees) now litter the streets of Provo. So winter has unequivocally begun. All but the first three of the photographs are from a walk Leann and I went on to scout out a place to take some pictures of Lilli. Our neighbor, who has a nicer camera than we do, was willing to take photos of Lilli with her cousin Lizzie in their Hallowe'en outfits.[1]

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hallowe'en 2012



Last Saturday Leann ran in the Provo Zombie Chase.[1] She was joined by her friend, Jordan, and my sister, Ashley. To do so they had to sign a waiver saying that they understood that they would not be allowed to jump headfirst into any of the mud pits and that the water they would be running through had not been tested for chemicals or pathogens. Based on this I expected them to have to run through the swamp and brush around Utah lake trying to get away from 'zombies' who were chasing them. If the 'zombies' caught them they were either out of the race or they became 'zombies', too. No such luck. They just ran around a dirt track which had a few obstacles like a pile of gravel, a cargo net stretched across two shipping containers, etc. They didn't have to run through swamps or mud pits. Furthermore, the 'zombies' hissed and snarled at them, and sometimes lunged at them, but they didn't actually chase the runners. I was rather let down, but I guess it wasn't really my race anyway. But at one point they did get to shoot at some 'zombies' with paintball guns.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maeser Hill

This is the last horror story I wrote for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club in its inaugural year.[1] As with the other stories I wrote that year, I drew heavily from other sources. In this case, I based the story on something that happened to my mother when she was an undergraduate at BYU. She had to stay in Provo by herself during Christmas and she was nervous because they had a peeping Tom. They could see his footprints in the snow outside of one of her roommate's windows. Fortunately nothing happened…to my mom, that is. Her fictional counterpart might not be so lucky… Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ghost of the AXMB

During my time as a BYU custodian I worked mostly in the Auxiliary Services Maintenance Building (AXMB).[1] One evening the other student custodian for the AXMB had to go home early, so after the 7 pm break I was finishing up by myself. I heard a loud crash out in the automotive repair shop, so I went out there to investigate. The lights were all off except one and it was a little spooky in there.  One of the other custodians, a girl named Janelle, finished the University Press Building early, so our boss sent her over to help me finish. She came into the repair shop behind me without me hearing, so when she started talking to me I was quiet startled. I used that experience to write another horror story for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[2] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Found Treasures VII: Custodial Photographs

For several years as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU), I worked as a custodian in the evenings. I spend most of my time taking care of the Auxiliary Services Maintenance Building (AXMB), but sometimes I was assigned instead to the Auxiliary Services Laundry Building (AXLB), the University Press Building (UPB), or the Student Auxiliary Services Building (SASB).[1] Now, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, etc., while necessary isn't very mentally stimulating. So I sometimes came up with crazy ideas to occupy my mind. And sometimes I even followed through with some of those crazy ideas. Like…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hograss Forest

My first year at scout camp was at Camp Loll, which is near the southern edge of Yellowstone National Park. The camp director that year was Delose Conner [1], who has acquired some local fame for his storytelling. One evening we scouts were to do a compass course. But before letting us wander out into the dark, Delose gathered us all together and told us some bear stories—the kind that make you wet your pants. Then he cheerfully sent us out into the dark armed with nothing more than our flashlights and our compasses. Not long into the course one of the staff showed up to tell us that a bear had been spotted at the other end of the valley with her two cubs. A little while later another staff member showed up and told us that the bear and her cubs were wandering our way, so we should carefully make our way back to camp. As we were all trudging nervously down the hill back to camp, a horrible growl sounded right in front of us at the bottom of the hill. We abandoned all of our training and ran away…until we noticed that our scout leaders were laughing at us. It was all a big joke. I wrote this story for Hallowe'en for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[2] It is inspired by one of the stories Delose told us.[3] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Agent of Chaos

One of Lillian's favorite things to do is take something that is neat and orderly and destroy it. This makes it difficult to fold the laundry [1] or make towers out of her blocks.[2] If she sees a pile of papers and/or magazines on the coffee table [3], she thrusts them all to the floor (and will even start tearing them apart).[4] And she likes to help unload the dishwasher (but she doesn't care about putting anything away). We've even resorted to creating things that are appropriate for her to destroy, like filling an old tissue box with shreds of paper so she can pull them all out and scatter them. But every once in a while she still has a bonanza.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blowing Bubbles

For the last few months Lillian has evolved a particular whine when she's fussy. It goes something like mmmwah! mmmwah! mmmwah!… (mouse over for IPA). A few weeks I ago I noticed that she wasn't simply doing this for the linguistic quality of the sound, or to maximize parental annoyance, she was blowing a spit bubble with each mmmwah! This isn't the first time she's blown spit bubbles [1], but in the past the bubbles have never been so big! After several weeks of attempting to document this phenomenon, Leann finally caught it on video. And now I present it to you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dr. Doomuch

When I was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU) I worked several years as volunteer research assistant in a cancer lab on the eighth floor of the Widtsoe Building (WIDB). I was working on a death curve (treat the cancer cells with a chemical and then count them every two hours for twenty-four hours to determine how quickly they're dying) and I was in the lab around 2 am. The building was empty and kind of spooky. When I was working in the laminar flow hood, a BYU security guard came into the lab. I didn't hear her because the hood was kind of noisy. She got right up behind me and asked, loudly, "May I see your ID?" She scared me half to death with that little stunt. I used that as inspiration for writing a horror story for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[1][2] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boo

This is another of the stories I wrote for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club's first Hallowe'en.[1] Back then I didn't have a lot of experience writing fiction—especially horror fiction. So I drew heavily from my experience rather than from my imagination (as you will see here and in some of the stories I'll post later on). The idea for this story came from To Kill a Mockingbird, as I acknowledge in the first paragraph. But this one takes a darker turn. Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cleaning House III

This last weekend we went up to my parents' house so we could watch General Conference [1] with them. Leann's family likes to eat treats while watching General Conference, so she made caramel popcorn for everybody to share. And I made a fresh salsa using the hot peppers from my chile pequín plant.[2] I tried to use few enough that it wouldn't overwhelm my weak-tongued siblings, but my sister Ashley managed to fish out a spicy bite and had to bow out to look for some peanut butter. For the last session of General Conference, on Sunday, we drove down to my Grandma's house. Before we left, I decided to remove a few more of my things from my old room. This time it was mainly wooden model dinosaur skeletons that I'd been collecting since my childhood. In high school I glued them together and spray painted them black. But I haven't done anything with them in a long time (as evidenced by how much dust you can see on them in the photographs below). I don't have anywhere to keep them (or a good reason to keep them), so I gave them up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Television Review: Once Upon a Time…, Season 1

Once Upon a Time… was created by two former writers for the television series LOST.[1] Thus there are several homages to LOST, including use of the numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, as well as their sum, 108). The way the story plays out is similar to LOST, too, where episodes deal with one character and their moral or personal struggles in two different timelines. What makes this show different is that the flashbacks show you to their lives as fairy tale characters. But since the show airs on ABC (which is owned by Disney), several of the fairy tales reference the Disney version of those tales rather than the historical ones (e.g. in character names, dress, etc.).[2]

Television Review: No Ordinary Family, Season 1.5

As was the case with THE EVƎNT [1], I was moderately loyal about watching this show during the first half of the season.[2] I was enjoying where No Ordinary Family was going, but my life got busy and it took me a while to get around to finishing the series. By the time I did, I just barely managed to catch all the episodes before they were taken down from Hulu.[3] Like THE EVƎNT, this show was cancelled after its first season due to poor ratings.[4]

Television Review: THE EVƎNT, Season 1.5

I felt like NBC's THE EVƎNT had pretty good momentum through the first half of the season.[1] But then the show took a three month hiatus. I suspected that this, more than any flaws in characterization, plot, or dramatic tension, would result in the cancellation of the show. Since I wasn't a die-hard fan, I lost track of it and didn't realize when it resumed airing the rest of the season. One day I saw it advertised on Hulu and realized that the season was already over. And, sure enough, by then the show had been cancelled due to poor ratings.[2] THE EVƎNT started out with flashbacks and mysterious happenings—obviously an attempt to duplicate the LOST phenomenon. But viewers complained about this aspect making the show too confusing, so they jettisoned it from the second half of the season.[3] However, unlike LOST, they promised that they wouldn't take forever to answer questions posed. They did a pretty good job of this, answering questions within a few episodes but still managed to maintain dramatic tension.

Television Review: Warehouse 13, Season 1

I was surprised to learn that this show is the most-viewed program on the SyFy station. I had assumed it would be Battlestar Galactica [1], which garnered a lot of critical praise, or EUReKA.[2] My guess is that it's popular because it is reminiscent of The X-Files, because it has a strong female protagonist (which attracts female viewers), and because there is sexual tension between two of the main characters (which also attracts female viewers). It is about members of the Secret Service (why that agency, I have no idea) who comb the world looking for artifacts which possess special powers. These artifacts invariably cause problems, so they are removed from general circulation and stored indefinitely in the eponymous Warehouse 13. Why they don't just destroy all these artifacts hasn't been addressed (at least, not in this season).

Television Review: EUReKA, Season 5

Even though EUReKA is one of their most popular shows, SyFy decided to cancel the series after this season because their special effects budget was too large.[1] Now SyFy is being overrun by a swarm of low-budget reality-television schlock like America's Smartest Kids, Change the Day You Die, Collection Intervention, Destination Truth, Dinner With Deepak [2], Dream Machines, Face Off, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Haunted Collector, Haunted Highway, Hi Tech Hoaxes, Hollywood Treasure, Hot Set, Insane or Inspired?, Monster Man, Overthunk, Paranormal Witness, Scare Tactics, School Spirits, Stunts Unlimited, Tyler Shields, and Viral Video Showdown.[3] Pretty soon there won't even be any science fiction on the SyFy channel (just like there aren't music videos on MTV anymore).

Television Review: Sherlock, Season 2

Spurred on by how much we enjoyed the first season of Sherlock [1], Leann and I immediately proceeded to the second season. The season finale left us wanting more and we were anxious to see how it could be resolved. (We were planning on suspending our Netflix account at the end of that month, so we had that as an additional incentive.) We were also warned that the first episode of season two had some risqué content (see below), so we had to proceed with caution.

Television Review: Sherlock, Season 1

One of the undergraduates in my lab suggested I watch the BBC show, Sherlock, and within a few days Leann independently queued it up in our Netflix service. I agreed to watch the first episode with her, one morning, when I didn't need to be to work right away. I thought it would be a typical 40-minute episode and I was a little confused why Neflix only had three episodes. Well, it was an hour and a half long, so I was a little later to work than I thought I'd be. And that also explains why there are only three episodes per season, or series, as they call them in Britain: each one is practically a feature-length film. Each episode is based on one of the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but they have been updated to take place in the present (e.g. Dr. Watson is a veteran of the War in Afghanistan which began in 2001, not the Second Anglo–Afghan War as in the book).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hogle Zoo


This last weekend we took Lillian to the Hogle Zoo.[1] We've been waiting for her to be old enough to enjoy it. A few months ago we took her to a pet store to see if she'd be interested. She had a good time but didn't give any video-worthy performances. And her attention span ran out pretty quickly. So we waited a little longer before taking her to the zoo. We were accompanied (to the zoo) by Leann's sister, Jennie, and her family, and Leann's old roommate, Maggie, and her family.[2] This year there was a new attraction, called Rocky Shores. Here are some of the animals we saw:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Custom Munchkin Treasure Cards

Last time I introduced you to some door cards I designed for the RPG-spoofing card game, Munchkin.[1] The game is similar to D&D in that you're walking around a dungeon, kicking open doors (e.g. the door cards I designed in my last post) and confronting whatever's inside the next room—monsters, curses, or character cards. But there's another pile of cards—the treasure cards. In most cases you earn treasure cards by defeating monsters. The more powerful the monster(s), the more treasures it's carrying. Treasure cards can be weapons, powerups, enhancers, etc. Here are the ones I designed:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Custom Munchkin Door Cards

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at BYU I was a member of a book club. The president of that book club, my friend Jonathan, discovered the game Munchkin and introduced the rest of us to it. It is a spoof of role-playing games (RPGs), particularly Dungeons and Dragons, and to a lesser extent collectible card games, like Magic: The Gathering. In RPGs a Munchkin is a player that plays competitively, even though RPGs are inherently noncompetitive.[1] Thus the game Munchkin encourages you to play in that fashion—in fact, it's tagline is "Kill the Monsters. Steal the Treasure. Stab Your Buddy." In addition to the original games, there are also several expansion packs. This last Christmas [2] I got the sixth expansion pack, Demented Dungeons. It came with a few blank cards with the implication that I create my own custom cards. So I came up with a few.[3]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Movie Review: New Moon (with RiffTrax)

In 2005 I enrolled in a creative writing class at BYU. I didn't need to take it for credit, I took it because I wanted some motivation to write the many story ideas I have.[1] We had three major writing assignments. The first had to be a short story or a chapter of a novel. The second had to be three poems.[2] For the third we could choose whether to write another short story/chapter or three more poems. The majority of the students in the class (there were only about twenty of us) were girls who were Freshmen or Sophomores and were English majors. I was a bit alarmed that for the first assignment three of them wrote a chapter of a book that dealt with a normal girl in high school who unknowingly started dating a vampire.[3] I didn't know it then, but one year before the novel Twilight had premiered and these impressionable young girls, fresh out of high school, were caught up in the frenzy of it to the point that they were essentially writing knock-offs or fan fiction.[4] That experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that the only way I could bring myself to watch the Twilight movies was with the "spoonful of sugar" that is RiffTrax.[5]

Movie Review: Eclipse (with RiffTrax)

There are a few people in this world that I feel a profound pity for. Among them are the 335 men named Edward Cullen [1], the 360 men named Jacob Black [2], and the 24 women named Bella Swan.[3] That pity is due to their unfortunate and un-sought-for association with the Twilight series of books and films. I cannot bring myself to read the books, but thanks to RiffTrax [4], I can experience the movies buffered from their full effect.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Picnic on the South Fork of the Provo River

This Friday I took Leann and Lillian up Provo Canyon to do some picnicking.[1] At Vivian Park we went up into the mountains, following the South Fork of the Provo River. There are two parks up that way and when I've been up there before I haven't seen very many people, so I thought we'd have the place relatively to ourselves. But both parks were full (and both had weddings being set up). We went to the park farther up (Big Springs Park) and had our picnic anyway—we just had to watch out for flying footballs.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Brother of Amaleki1

In the Book of Mormon [1] there are two men named Amaleki.[2] Amaleki1 was one of the Nephite record keepers who inscribed on the small plates of Nephi (Omni 1:12–30; WoM 1:10).[3] Amaleki2 is mentioned only once as part of an expedition headed by Ammon1 (Mosiah 7:26).[4] Despite the brevity of his record (just 19 verses) Amaleki1 introduces some interesting developments in the history of the Nephites. Up to this point the Nephites dwelt in a place they called the Land of Nephi. Amaleki1 records that a man named Mosiah1 was warned by the Lord that he should leave with as many as would follow him (Omni 1:12). So he and his followers journeyed into the wilderness and eventually came upon a city called Zarahemla (Omni 1:13–18). The followers of Mosiah1 and the people of Zarahemla joined together and were thence considered Nephites (Omni 1:19).[5] Amaleki1 never says why Mosiah1 was commanded to flee the Land of Nephi, but Mormon2, writing several hundred years later, lets us know that the Land of Nephi has been overrun by the Lamanites (WoM 1:13). Thus it is likely that the people who did not flee with Mosiah1 at that time were destroyed or enslaved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recipe: Flautas

This last Sunday was the Mexican Independence Day (September 16th). As you may recall, last year I made pozole for the occasion.[1] This year I made one of my favorite Mexican dishes: flautas. Flauta is the Spanish word for "flute", which these superficially resemble. Flautas are small rolled tacos that are fried. In the United States they are sometimes referred to as taquitos ("little tacos") instead of flautas (but I never heard the term taquito in México). But regardless of what name you call them by, they're absolutely delicious when prepared right.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pseudomonas putida

Pseudomonas putida was the first patented organism in the world. A researcher at General Electric, Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, genetically engineered a strain of Pseudomonas putida to enhance its ability to biodegrade crude oil. His patent application was turned down because the bacterium was a living thing, which is excluded from patent protection. Chakrabarty appealed his case, which eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980. In a 5–4 ruling it was decided that the genetic engineering qualified as "manufacturing" and "a product of human ingenuity" and thus qualified for patent.[1]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Peach Days 2012

I grew up near Brigham City, Utah, but I only made it to the city festival, Peach Days, a couple of times. This last weekend was Peach Days, and Leann has wanted to see it for the last several years, so we drove up on Saturday. We also wanted to go through the open house for the new Brigham City Temple, which is going on from August 18th to September 15th of this year.[1]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Make Your Own Miniplanet

After I'd been playing around with using the Hugin software to make panoramas [1], I discovered another way it can be used: to make miniplanets. Despite the name, this has nothing to do with real astronomy and everything to do with computer trickery. A miniplanet takes photographs from a complete 360° panorama and stitches them together so that they look like a tiny planet.[2] I've scoured the internet and found three different methods for making miniplanets. The first two require Hugin to make a regular panorama and then GIMP to make them miniplanets. The third method is all done in Hugin. For each method you'll need to shoot photographs all the way around you. To have enough ground that the whole planet isn't outrageously distorted, you'll need to aim your camera down a little and go all the way around again at least once (but the more the better).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trip to Texas

After my trip to Cold Spring Harbor, New York, to attend a research conference [1], we decided to make a trip to Texas to visit Leann's side of the family. This is convenient for me because whenever I go on a trip that's longer than a few days, my bacteria die out and I have to retrieve them from the –80°C freezer. It takes them about 3 days to come up so a 5-day vacation is essentially an 8-day vacation. Thus two separate trips represent more lost time than two sequential trips.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trip to New York

While I was attending the 2012 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Meeting on Bacteria, Archaea, & Phages [1] with my professor and the other two graduate students in the lab, we wanted to see New York City. So the day I presented, after that session was over, we cut out and caught a train to New York to see the sights. (As I wrote that I realized that I could've put sites and still had the sentence be grammatically and informationally correct.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Meeting on Bacteria, Archaea, & Phages

This last week I haven't posted anything because I've been at the 2012 Meeting on Bacteria, Archaea, & Phages.[1] It started on the 21st and ended on the 25th. I submitted two abstracts, one about the work I've done on the effect of certain accessory plasmids on host range in Sinorhizobium meliloti [2] and another about the work I've done on identifying a phage receptor in Sinorhizobium meliloti. I was asked by the organizers to give an oral presentation about the former and to present a poster about the latter.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Like Mommy

A while back I posted some of the ways that Lillian tries to be like her Daddy.[1] But she spends most of her waking hours with Leann. So while Lillian has picked up a few of my interests and behaviors, she's more likely to pick up Leann's. Since Leann's birthday was last week, I thought it would be nice to share some of the ways that Lilli tries to be just like her Mommy. (Note that I've been preparing this post for a while, so Lilli is going to look young in some of the pictures.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Birding at the Lower Hobble Creek Wildlife Management Area


Last weekend (August 4th) we went down to the new Lower Hobble Creek wildlife management area looking for an Indigo Bunting. There were reports [1] of several being seen along the trail (at "a tree with a fallen tree at the base and a sign nearby") and Leann wanted to add that bird to her life list. There were at least three spots on the trail that fit the description of "a tree with a fallen tree at the base and a sign nearby." But we didn't find the Indigo Buntings at any of these spots.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reed Family Vacation 2012

From July 26th to July 30th we traveled to southern Utah for what may be the last Reed family reunion.[1] Out of 107 descendents 90 were in attendance, which was pretty respectable. We stayed in a cabin at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort [2], just west of Mount Carmel, Utah. Lilli was particularly fond of the ceiling fans (she'd point at them and wave her hand around and say fuh! fuh! [3]) and climbing up and down and up and down and up and down the carpeted stairs to the second story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Walking By Herself

By this point I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but I'll say it anyway. Lillian has been walking by herself for several weeks now [1], it's just taken me a while to take a video and write a post. In times past this has been because Lilli was unwilling to perform when the camera was on. But in this case I haven't taken the video because I haven't wanted to stop playing with her to go grab the camera. So as time has gone by she's gone from taking one or two hesitating steps and then sitting down to chasing me all the way from the living room into the back bedroom without stopping.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Movie Review: Ondine

The Irish film Ondine invokes two similar mythological sea creatures: the titular undine (a water sprite or nymph which sings beautifully and which can only gain a soul if she marries a man and bears him a child [1]) and the Irish selkie (a seal turned human who must remain on land if their lover finds and hides their shed skin [2]). The film opens with a down-on-his-luck fisherman, Syracuse, finding a woman in his nets. She gives her name as Ondine. Her name and her subsequent strange behavior leads Syracuse to suspect (and his daughter, Annie, to accept) that she is a selkie.

Movie Review: Taking Lives

The title of the film Taking Lives (loosely based on the novel of the same name) is a play on words. The antagonist is a Canadian who finds a victim who resembles him physically, kills him (i.e. takes his life), and then assumes his identity (again, takes his life). Once that new life becomes boring (or when he's at risk of detection), he searches out a new victim. Several decades later, an FBI profiler (played by Angelina Jolie) travels to Montreal so she can help the Canadian law enforcement apprehend him.

Movie Review: Bridget Jones's Diary

The author of the book this movie is derived from, admitted to using the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice as an inspiration for her book.[1] So Mark Darcy is based on Mr. Darcy. And just to make things fun, they picked Collin Firth for the role precisely because he played Mr. Darcy in the BBC production.[2] They also cast Hugh Grant as a scoundrel, much like Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. But the connections don't stop there: both had the same screenwriter (Andrew Davies) and two other actors (Crispin Bonham-Carter and Lucy Robinson [3]).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sun Spots

You might think, from the title of this post, that it has to do with temporary areas of reduced temperature in the photosphere of the sun which are visibly darker than the rest of that celestial body.[1] But there you would be wrong. In the title I am referring to instances where most of the light from the sun is filtered away, leaving only one or two bright spots. The other day Lilli found some of these and was having the darnedest time figuring out what they were. Even more confusing, they would disappear every time she moved in for a closer look.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Little Musician

Lilli's first introduction to music was in the NICU.[1] A nearby infant, named Gavin, had been there for several months and so he'd been upgraded from an incubator to a crib. He had a mobile that the nurses would sometimes turn on.[2] A few weeks after she came home, she became colicky, so we started playing music [3] to signal to her when it was bedtime. As she's become more alert, we've introduced more music. Her first attempt at making her own music came when she tried to imitate me making a Sprite bottle whistle.[4] But now she's expanded her repertoire of instruments.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipe: Sopes de Carnitas

Sopes are one of the Mexican foods I'd never heard of before I went to México as an LDS missionary.[1] They are often served as antojitos (literally "little whims" but technically best translated as "appetizers") but I often had them as a meal by themselves. They are thick tortillas that are slightly cup-shaped. The cup is filled with toppings. I didn't want to make my own sope tortillas, so I just bought some pre-formed ones and fried them. So, instead, I made a popular topping: carnitas. Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Besides in sopes, carnitas can be served with tacos, tortas, etc.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Product Review: Clawson: Cotswold Cheese

In the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, there is a range of hills called the Cotswolds which has been designated an Area of Natural Beauty.[1] The -wold element of the name is derived from the Old English word wald or weald which meant "woodland" [2]; the meaning of the cost- element is debated. There is a common yellow limestone, called Cotswold stone, which is quarried in the Cotswolds.[3] This cheese gets its name from the fact that it resembles the yellow Cotswold limestone. Cotswold is actually a Double Gloucester cheese with chives and green onions added to it.

Product Review: Boar's Head: Genoa Salame

The original Genoa salame was produced in the commune of Sant'Olcese in the Province of Genoa.[1] Part of its terroir [2] was due to raising the pigs on acorns, hazelnuts, and chestnuts that they could forage in the nearby hills and woodlands. The Genoa salami that is sold in the United States may or may not actually derived from its Italian counterpart. For one thing, in the United States it can be made using beef and contain little or no pork. But unlike other American salamis it will be fermented. Sources I've consulted [3] claim that it should have white peppercorns in it, but I didn't detect any. I have previously reviewed an Italian dry salami made by the same company.[4]

Product Review: La Panzanella: Mini Croccantini Garlic

Since I quite enjoyed the regular-flavored Mini-Croccantini from La Panzenella [1], I decided to branch out and try some of their other flavors. I'm not a fan of black pepper in general (which is mildly frustrating for Leann), so I've passed on that one for now. And the rosemary-flavored Mini-Croccantini were just a little intimidating. So I'm waiting a little longer before trying those, too. I decided to start with the Garlic-flavored Mini-Croccantini.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All Important Words Start With the Letter B

Ever since Lillian's first word, bus, buh has been her favorite syllable. Luckily for her, almost all important words start with the letter b. Here's a list of all the b-words she says, pronounced buh unless otherwise noted. Getting videos of her saying something is so difficult and she's picking up new words so quickly that we've decided not to try to get a video of everything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Movie Review: Father of the Bride (1991)

Leann was a little bit astonished when I told her I'd never seen Father of the Bride. Since I enjoy watching movies more than she does, she tends to assume that I've seen all the movies she has plus some. But that isn't always the case. I can remember seeing the television commercials for Father of the Bride when it came out in 1991. But at the time I was only ten years old, so it wasn't really the type of movie I'd beg my parents to let me go see (which was the case two years later when Jurassic Park came out). And as time went on, it never really found its way into my "to-watch" list. But Leann insisted that I watch it. So I did.

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer starts out with two characters who have extreme and warped ideas about love, due to pathological childhoods.[1] Summer believes there's no such thing as love—it's a fantasy. Tom believes in love at first sight and "the One". Summer tries to be rational and explain away her behavior when anyone else would say they were in love. And when things start looking too serious, she jumps ship. Tom will put up with just about anything because he stubbornly believes that it must all work out in the end. He is also clingy almost from the get-go. Eventually they find each other and the resulting collision is pretty much inevitable. The more Tom tries to solidify their relationship, the more Summer squirms to get away.[2]

Movie Review: Mars Needs Moms

When I added this to my Netflix queue (and even after I'd watched it), I had no idea that it was the biggest box office bomb of all time, unadjusted for inflation.[1] It was also the biggest critical and financial failure of any film attached to the Disney company.[2] It's based on a book by Berkeley Breathed (whose comic strips, Bloom County and Opus, I've never enjoyed) and was directed by Simon Wells (some of whose other films I have enjoyed, including An American Tail: Fivel Goes West, The Prince of Egypt, and The Time Machine). It was released the same week as Battle: Los Angeles [3], which may have contributed to its financial demise.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Matt Gets Published! II

Over a year ago I was part of a paper that was published [1] about a genetic tool developed in my lab that can delete a bacterial gene at the time of my choosing. That paper didn't count towards the two publications I need for my Ph.D. because I wasn't the first author (i.e. I wasn't the one who did most of the work). Well, about a year ago I had enough data to publish an article as the first author. But the editors of the first journal we submitted it to didn't feel like it was important enough to appear their publication, so we had to resubmit to another journal. This time the editors thought it was worth their while, so they accepted it after requesting a few more experiments. It appeared in the most recent issue of Molecular Plant–Microbe Interactions.[2] In fact, they liked the article so much that they asked us to submit some images for the cover of the issue.[3]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Finish a Bag of Chips

Sometimes a bag of chips is so delicious that you want to eat every last morsel. But you eventually reach the point where there are only crumbs left in the bottom. Getting those crumbs out can be a hassle. Sometimes you tip the bag up only to have the crumbs cascade out and land in your hair, in your ears, in your eyes, in your clothes—everywhere except in your mouth. Other times you hear the crumbs coming down, but they never come out of the bag. You try to straighten out the lip of the bag [1], but to no avail. Reaching in and grabbing the crumbs is messy and time consuming. But despair not, I can show you a quick and easy way to get at those tasty little devils.[2]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Solipsist

You may recall that about a year and a half ago I participated in an online fiction contest, held on the website Writers on the Loose, that was held by the President Emeritus of the BYU 38th Ward Book Club. My submission was called Quaver.[1] Since then Jonathan, tired of the squabbling on the site, has ended his membership. But the biannual contest lives on, now overseen by another member of the site, who goes by the handle 'deep water'.[2] I haven't participated in the last few contests, but the theme this year actually incited me to write not one but three stories.[3] The suggested them was "…something fictional on the 2012 world-ending scenario; it could be in the realm of science fiction, crime, comedy, etc." When I first approached the prompt I wanted to have the world end, but not in a way that has been done before (e.g. nuclear holocaust, devastating disease, alien invasion, zombies, asteroid, the Rapture, etc.). This is what I came up with.

Retail Hell

A few weeks before the deadline of the Writers on the Loose short story contest [1], I was talking with my friend, Jonathan, on a website, called the Pedestrian, where former members of the BYU 38th Ward Book Club get together. He works at a Stein Mart in the men's clothing department and sometimes has less-than-savory interactions with the customers.[2] He'd just been through one such trying event and he wrote, "I was an inch from knocking over a rack, throwing clothes around, and quitting. No one should have to put up with retail hell." I responded, "Except…GENGHIS KHAN!"[3] This then inspired me to write a story about just that: Genghis Khan ending up in retail hell—all for Jonathan. And while I was at it, I decided to give it a 2012 twist so that I could submit it to the contest.

The Really Real Clowns

For my last entry to the Writers on the Loose short story contest [1], I wanted to go with something that was surreal. Enter the clowns. The really real clowns, that is. I started out by simply writing down every random thing that occurred to me.[2] Then I weaved them together and turned some of them into recurring motifs. I wanted the idea to be that something happened to drive everyone mad. But due to that very same madness they wouldn't be able to communicate effectively what had happened.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

By Small Things Shall Great Things Pass Away

Like countless children before her, Lillian is discvering that she has a penchant for destruction. I, as an impartial narrator, have been gathering evidence for a month, or so, now. Some of it may shock you, but I give you my word that none of it has been staged or doctored in any way. What you're about to see is footage as raw as it gets. VDIA. As I've been pursuing coverage of these events, I've struggled to find words adequate to describe the horror of the things I've witnessed. In particular, I've had a hard time deciding what word to use to describe Lilli's role in all this.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: Kull the Conqueror

This movie is Conan the Barbarian, but by a different name. In fact, it was originally intended to be a Conan the Barbarian installment but Arnold Schwarzenegger backed out. When they cast Kevin Sorbo he refused to play a character already defined by someone else, so they had to rename the character for his benefit.[1] It may seem like a little thing to replace all the instances of Conan with Kull, but after watching this you'll realize that even that small task wasn't worth the effort—much less the task of finding horses willing to appear in the film or forcing Styrofoam to help with the special effects.

Movie Review: Dragon Hunters

When I watched this movie I had no idea that it was originally a French-language film called Chasseurs de dragons. Even looking back I can't say that there was anything inherently 'Frenchy' about it. It's based on a television series, also called Chasseurs de dragons/Dragon Hunters. Both the film and the television series are set in a world where innumerable chunks of earth float around. It is never explained why the world is like that nor what it's exact nature is. Are there infinite floating planetoids in all directions? Or are they all floating over a larger, Earth-like planet. And if so, why does no one go down to it? I wish these questions had been addressed by the film. (Maybe they are in the television series.)

Movie Review: Constantine

When the trailers for this movie came out [1], I thought it looked like it was going to be pretty much the same movie as The Matrix, just with different characters. This was probably mainly due to the fact Keanu Reeves stars in both films as a 'chosen' man who fights demons (or demon-like entities) with unnatural skill; both feature dark, gritty camerawork; and because Keanu Reeves' acting is the same as ever. I'm sure more comparisons could be made, but I think there are more differences than similarities. For example, Neo, in The Matrix, is a reluctant hero while Constantine, in this film, is an antihero.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

For the last year we've been avoiding family functions in order to avoid Lilli getting sick. Given her low birth weight [1] and the fact that she hasn't been gaining weight very well (due, in large part, to the fact that she's very active), we didn't want her losing weight because she was sick. But our main concern was RSV. Since RSV season is over, we decided to go to my extended family's Independence Day festivities. They were all thrilled to meet her. And, since she's quite the people person (she'll crawl into the laps of strangers at church), she was thrilled to meet them, too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spinning in Circles

One of Lillian's favorite things to do is spin in circles. She does it when she's having fun; she does it when she's not. She even does it sometimes when she's upset. She spins in circles when she's in the living room, when she's in the kitchen, when she's in the bathroom [1], when she's in her bedroom. She even does it in her crib sometimes when she's supposed to be taking a nap. But she always seems to spin clockwise. Never counterclockwise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Birthday Party!

It's kind of hard to believe, but one year ago yesterday Lillian came into the world. We didn't expect her so soon (she was two months early [1]), but we're so glad to have her. On Saturday she had a birthday party with the Crook side of the family (her party with the Martin side is coming up later). Most of her aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with her grandparents came down from the north end of Utah for the party. (Not shown: her Aunt Melissa and her cousin Katie were sitting behind me when I shot this picture.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Boing! Boing!

We generally try to keep Lillian out of the bathroom. There are lots of hazards in there. There are chemicals and medicines in the cabinet under the sink that could poison her or that she could choke on. The toilet, despite being cleaned regularly, is still an infection risk—as is the brush we clean it with. If she gets into the bathtub she could slip and injure herself on the faucet or just hit her head on the bottom. To be sure, there are safe things for her to do in the bathroom—as long as she's supervised. We give her her baths in there, now. She can visit Rillian, the Reptilian Lillian.[1] And a few weeks ago she discovered…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Peekaboo!

There are multiple stages of playing peekaboo with a baby. At first you do the hiding and the baby's job is to giggle. Other names for peekaboo include keek-bo, peep-bo, bo-peep.[1] We never managed to get any good videos of Lillian when we were playing this stage of peekaboo with her—she always stopped to stare at (or even try to grab) the camera. The next stage involves the baby doing the hiding. And this time we've got some videos to showcase.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

English–Greek Ambigrams

The third batch of multi-lingual ambigrams I made are in Greek. As in the previous cases [1], I was left to deal with both another language and another alphabet. Fortunately, as with the English–Old Irish ambigrams, I was working with an alphabet that was generally similar to the Roman alphabet we use in English. In fact, the Greek alphabet gave rise to it! For this batch I consulted two fonts: a blackletter font called Spanish Main [2] for my name and a font called Fleischmann Gotisch PT [3] for Leann's and Lillian's names.

NOTE: to pause the animated .gif images, simply hit the ESC key on your keyboard. To resume, hit the refresh button on your browser.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: A Princess of Mars

My main interest in reading this book was because of the movie which recently came out. I haven't seen it, yet, but I was intrigued by the trailer.[1] which I first saw when I went to see The Phantom Menace in 3D.[2] I can recall seeing this book on the shelves of the public library I attended growing up. That particular edition had a painting of an unclad woman on the cover, so I could never bring myself to check it out.[3] But I did read the summary on the back cover and I was intrigued by the descriptions of the adventures of John Carter.

Book Review: The Gods of Mars

When Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars [1] he was very nervous that people would look down on him for writing such silly things. So he published it under a pseudonym in a serial, called The All-Story (originally with the title "Under the Moons of Mars"). He intended his pseudonym to be "Normal Bean" suggesting that despite the childish and outlandish nature of the work, he really was just a normal guy. But someone in the editing department thought there'd been a typo and changed it to "Norman Bean".[2] Burroughs promised the publisher that he could produce at least two sequels, so at the end of A Princess of Mars he leaves himself just such an opening. Following the success of his book Tarzan of the Apes, there was renewed interest in the "Barsoom" series and sequels were requested. Burroughs was only too happy to oblige.

Book Review: The Warlord of Mars


There are several different races on Barsoom (Burroughs's name for Mars): white Martians, black Martians, yellow Martians, green Martians, red Martians.[1] They are all humanoid, but the green Martians are least similar in appearance to the Homo sapiens of Earth. In the first book [2], John Carter encounters the red Martians and the green Martians. In the second book [3], he encounters the white Martians and the black Martians. Now there is only one race left (the yellow Martians), so it's inevitable that he'll meet them during this travelogue.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon

After Leann and I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, someone (I can't remember if it was Leann's brother or one of her co-workers) told her that it had pretty much the same plot as How to Train Your Dragon. This is actually superficial—the only similarity between the two that I found was that they both deal with boys who have trouble connecting with their fathers for one reason or another but eventually manage to forge that bond. But, erroneous as it was, that declaration had a dampening effect on my enthusiasm to see this film. It's too bad, too, since…

Movie Review: Big

Big is the story of a twelve-year-old boy, Josh [1], who asks a wishing machine at the county fair to make him bigger. He wakes up the next day to discover that he's now a man in his thirties (and played by Tom Hanks). When his mom finds him in the house she chases him away, believing him to be an intruder. He is then forced to rapidly adjust to life as an adult, including renting his own apartment and getting a job. While being an adult opens up new opportunities for him, he's ultimately not ready to abandon his childhood so he starts trying to find the wishing machine so he can wish himself back.

Movie Review: The Ladykillers (2004)

From 1947 to 1957 a British film company, Ealing Studios, released 17 comedy films, many of which featured the actor Sir Alec Guinness. These movies have since come to be known as the Ealing Comedies. In 1956 the company was bought by the BBC, marking the end of the Ealing Comedies era.[1] One of the last Ealing Comedies to be made was called The Ladykillers and it involved a gang of criminals renting a room from an old lady so they can stage a robbery. She eventually gets in the way, so they start devising ways to get rid of her. This is a modern remake of that film by the Coen brothers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Product Review: Kraft Vegemite

The first time I ever heard of Vegemite was from the song "Down Under" by the band Men at Work. However, I was somehow embedded with the erroneous notion that Vegemite was processed seaweed. When a graduate student from Australia rotated through my lab, he corrected me on that point: Vegemite is concentrated yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. In much of the British Commonwealth a similar product, Marmite, is sold. This originally came up because we use yeast extract to make LB [1], a common growth medium for culturing bacteria and he speculated whether we could use Vegemite to make LB.

Product Review: Doritos Salsa Río

Doritos has certainly embraced the fact that tortilla chips have their origin in Mesoamerican culture, particularly Mexican culture. Two of the flavors they always keep on the shelf, acknowledge this: Spicy Nacho and Salsa Verde. They've also had other impermanent flavors in the same theme: Taco flavor [1], Tapatío flavor [2], and even one named Flamas (which isn't a real Spanish word, but is meant to look like one).[3] Besides the nods in the names, tortilla chips are prepared via a process known as nixtamalization [4], which was developed in what is now Guatemala before 1000 BC. It involves boiling the corn (maize) with lime (the chemical, not the fruit) and ash and then hulling it.[5] At this point the processed corn can be consumed (e.g. the hominy in pozole [6]), or it can be ground into cornmeal to be used for dough. Unlike many processing methods, nixtamalization actually improves nutrient availability.

Product Review: Doritos Sour Cream & Onion

I've found two classes of sour-cream-and-onion flavoring for chips. I can't find exact words to describe them, but I'll try. Some chips, typified by Lay's Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, taste sharp and tangy, almost to the point of seeming rancid. I dislike this class of sour-cream-and-onion potato chips. Other chips, typified by Pringles Sour Cream and Onion potato crisps [1], are smooth and creamy. These are the sour-cream-and-onion chips that I like. Regrettably, most sour-cream-and-onion-flavored chips fall into the class I dislike, so I generally avoid them. But when Doritos brought back this flavor [2], I decided to give them a chance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Little Monkey

Leann is quite fond of baby monkeys [1], particularly the smaller ones and the ones with 'funny headgear', as she puts it. Examples of small monkeys: a baby François' Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus francoisi; see here), a baby Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti; see here), baby Golden Lion Tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia; see here), baby Pygmy Marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea; see here), etc. Examples of monkeys with 'funny headgear': a baby Common Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri sciureus; see here), a Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus; see here), an Emperor Tamarin (Saguinus imperator; see here and a baby here), etc. So when Lilli started acting like a monkey [2], needless to say Leann was thrilled.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

I approached this film with mixed feelings. The director, Catherine Hardwicke, directed a movie I enjoyed very much (The Nativity Story) and also a movie that I could only watch with an accompanying RiffTrax Commentary (Twilight [1]). In fact, it has a lot in common with the Twilight series besides the director: there is a mythological creature (with a penchant for eating humans) that plays a key role in the ploy, there is a love triangle, and it all takes place in a heavily-forested location.

Movie Review: Enemy of the State

The term enemy of the state is usually reserved for who has acted, is acting, or intends to act against the nation they are a member of and thus is a synonym of traitor. This is in contrast to an enemy combatant who is understood to be a member of some other nation. An enemy of the state is usually understood to be engaging in treason, but the term is sometimes extended to include social and/or political dissidents.[1] This film, which is kind of a modern take on The Man Who Knew Too Much, considers multiple scenarios where someone acts as or is treated as an enemy of the state (in this case, the United States of America [2]). I'll leave it up to you to figure out which character the title refers to.

Movie Review: Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon

As a youth a lot of my creative fiction was derivative of books or movies that I enjoyed. Sometimes I simply borrowed whole concepts (e.g. I once drew a fantasy map that included Shannara, Mordor, and Narnia along with several imaginary countries of my own design) while others fell squarely into the realm of fan fiction (e.g. I once started writing a "spec script" for a Jurassic Park sequel which involved all of the embryos in the canister dropped by Dennis Nedry combining together to form a giant mutant dinosaur which then wreaked havoc à la Godzilla [1][2][3]). I also came up with several adventures for the Indiana Jones franchise, one of which involved the discovery of El Dorado in the Grand Canyon. So when I saw the title of this movie I was curious to see how much it overlapped with my story even though it had really poor reviews.[4]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Fill in Transparency in a Hugin Panorama

After I started using Hugin [1] to create panoramas, I quickly ran into a problem where I wanted to keep certain parts of the original photographs in the panorama, but because of the way everything lined up, they either had to be cropped or empty (transparent) areas had to be created in the image. The other graduate student in my lab, Ryan, showed me a video that showed a new feature in the latest version of Photoshop, called Content Aware Fill.[2] Basically it analyzes the surrounding pixels and creates similar content to fill in the target area. I didn't feel like forking out hundreds of dollars for Photoshop CS5, so I went looking for a way to do the same thing using the GIMP.[3] I found a plugin for the GIMP called Resynthesizer.[4] As it turns out, this feature has existed for GIMP longer than it has for Photoshop—and the Photoshop tool is derived from the GIMP tool! Now, let me show you the magic:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: Cheaper by the Dozen

One summer I was hanging around my high school with my friend Ben waiting for my mom to pick me up from football practice. Near the offices we found stacks and stacks of boxes filled with books. One of our old teachers saw us poking around and told us that everything in the boxes was being discarded, so we could have anything we wanted. We each availed ourselves of a 1988 edition of the Merriam–Webster Dictionary. I also picked out a copy of The Virginian and a copy of this book. That was around 1995, so it's been over fifteen years since this book came into my possession and I only just now got around to reading it.[1]

Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Science fiction is often seen as a spectrum ranging from hard science fiction to soft science fiction. Material at the hard science fiction end of the spectrum often adheres to the real laws of the universe and when it doesn't it defines technologies that make it possible to overcome those laws. This technology is usually an essential plot point without which the story would fall apart.[1] Examples would include the television series Star Trek [2], the novel Ender's Game, or most of the writings of Isaac Asimov. Soft science fiction, on the other hand, is more character-driven, considers the impact of technology rather than making it a plot point, and can incorporate patently unscientific elements.[3] Examples would include the Star Wars movies, just about everything else written by Orson Scott Card, or most of the writings of Ray Bradbury. Brandon Sanderson, the author of the Mistborn trilogy, has made the case that a similar spectrum exists in fantasy.[4] Hard fantasy has a magic system with definite (and inviolate) rules, consequences, and limitations while soft fantasy has a magic system that is poorly defined and seemingly limitless (even to the point of being used as a deus ex machina). Examples of hard fantasy would be Sanderson's own Mistborn series or David Farland's Runelords series; examples of soft fantasy would be Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series [5], Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series [6], or Terry Brooks' Shannara series [7].

Book Review: The Tale of the Nutcracker

E. T. A. Hoffman, the original author of the Nutcracker story [1], intended this tale to be a departure from the immaculate bourgeoisie fairy tales so prevalent during his lifetime. Thus he incorporated many darker elements, including graphic descriptions of injuries, terrifying images, and ill treatment of children. These elements were watered down by  in his embellished translation (originally called Histoire d'un casse-noisette). And it was further bowdlerized by Tchaikovsky for the libretto to his ballet. So, by the time the story reached a Twenty-first Century audience (us), it had become almost as innocuous as the fairy tales Hoffman meant it to defy.[2]

Book Review: Nutcracker and Mouse King

This book (originally called Nußknacker und Mausekönig [1]), by E. T. A. Hoffman, along with a retelling by Alexandre Dumas, père [2], was a Christmas present [3] from my friend and former roommate, Markham.[4] It is the inspiration for the better-known Tchaikovsky ballet, The Nutcracker. While I'm familiar with Tchaikovsky's music, I've never watched the ballet all the way through or read the libretto. So this was my first time experiencing the actual story.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Free Fishing Day

This last weekend I went up to Idaho for free fishing day with my dad, my brother, Nathan, and my brothers-in-law, Mike and Luke. In years past we've gone up for Wyoming's free fishing day or stayed here for Utah's free fishing day. This year Utah and Wyoming had their free fishing days on June 3rd, but several of us were busy.[1] So we went to Idaho's instead, which was on the 10th. We went up Friday evening and stayed with my aunt in Star Valley, Wyoming. The next morning, after helping her out with a few things, we headed over to Tin Cup Creek in Idaho. I forgot to bring a camera, so I had to use the dinky camera in my phone—which means all the photos are really tiny.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thiomargarita namibiensis

The word microbe or microorganism technically circumscribes all living things which can only be seen with the aid of a microscope.[1] It includes bacteria and protozoa as well as certain fungi (e.g. bread yeast), plants (e.g. green algae), and animals (e.g. dust mites) and sometimes viruses. But in rare cases organisms which are considered microbes aren't actually microscopic. Enter Thiomargarita namibiensis.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: On Becoming Babywise

On Becoming Babywise [1] was originally written by Gary Ezzo, an Evangelical Christian who has no pediatric experience except for raising his own two children with the help of his wife, Anne Marie Ezzo. In fact, the only formal education he has is a few semesters of study at a community college and a Master's Degree from the Talbot School of Theology.[2] After that he and his wife began teaching parenting classes at a megachurch in Los Angeles, California, where they eventually published the first edition of Babywise.[3] Even at this early stage it met with resistance and engendered controversy, eventually leading to their exit from that church. Rather than treat the book as a whole, I'm going to address each chapter separately, listing things that were good, things that were bad, and things that would've been bad in our situation because of Lillian's health problems.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dirty Dash 2012

After 3.2 miles of fantastic muddy fun last September [1], Jordan and I knew we wanted more. So in December when I finally removed the last bit of mud from around my nails, we signed up for the 5.5- mile June Dirty Dash. We trained about four months for the race (last year we trained three weeks). And this time we coordinated outfits courtesy of D.I. (see below).[2] The Dirty Dash was held at Soldier Hollow, again, but they did have a few new obstacles like monkey bars, an artificial waterfall, A-frame walls with knotted ropes, cargo net walls, and wooden arches. Matt and Lilli came along to watch and to cheer us on.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just Like Daddy

Every once in a while Lillian gets to meet and play with other people, but for the most part her social interactions are limited to playing with Leann and me. So she can't help but start to mimic us. Lucky kid, right? Sometimes…maybe…we teach her, but sometimes she just picks things up by watching us. Here are some of the ways she is or is trying to be like her Daddy.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Skills

This last weekend Lillian got sick for the first time. It was just a little cold. She was a little more mellow, a little fussier, less hungry, and discovered that she really hates having her nose wiped. But other than that she did okay. In spite of that, Lillian has picked up several new skills in the last week or so. That means that you should not only be impressed with Lillian, but also with me for posting about them in a timely manner.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Noises

There are certain sounds Lillian says all the time these days. She's experimenting with her ability to produce something that sounds like the words Mommy and Daddy are using. And she's even starting to associate some of those sounds with real-world objects (which really deserves its own post). But there are also sounds that she makes which aren't phonemes in any language I'm aware of. I've already mentioned two of these (blowing raspberries [1] and spitting [2]). Here are a couple more recent acquisitions to her "vocabulary":

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scandinavian Toe Rhymes

I'm sure most of use have played "This little piggy…" with a baby's toes or had it done to us. But this isn't the only game to play with babies' toes. When parents in Scandinavian countries play with their babies' toes, they give them silly names. To be sure, the different countries have different names for the toes—in fact, the names can vary widely from family to family.[1] But most of these have some common elements:
  • As you name each toe, you give it a wiggle
  • You start with the smallest toe and work your way to the big toe
  • The name of each successive toe draws something from the name of the previous toe [2]
  • The names of the four small toes are said with a normal voice or a 'baby voice'
  • The name of the big toe is longer
  • The name of the big toe is said with a big, growling voice [3]
These Scandinavian toe rhymes have found their way to the U.S. So if your parents did this with your toes, chances are you have some Scandinavian ancestors. That or one of your ancestors saw someone else doing it, liked it, and adopted it as one of their own customs. Lilli will definitely be learning ours.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Movie Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

As you can guess from the title, this film is based on Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. In fact, the bard himself (voiced by Patrick Stewart) makes an appearance as a statue. The twist is that all of the characters are garden gnomes. There's even one hidden in the title of the movie.[1] In this scenario the garden gnomes are owned by Mrs. Montague and Mr. Capulet, who live in Stratford-Upon-Avon, one in apartment "2B" and the other in house "Not 2B", who have a long-standing feud. This feud is carried out in parallel by their garden gnomes. Mrs. Montague's gnomes are blue while Mr. Capulet's are red.

Movie Review: D.O.A.: Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive was a video game long before it attempted the transition to the silver screen. There is also a nod to the spin-off game, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Films based on video games can fare pretty well at the box office (e.g. Resident Evil, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, etc. [1]), though they're generally panned by movie critics. But there have also been some movies that bombed at the box office despite the popularity of the video game they were based on (e.g. Super Mario Bros., Doom, Double Dragon, Tekken, etc. [2]).

Movie Review: Robin Hood (2010)

I think most of us are familiar with the Robin Hood story because of the Disney movie of the same name, though there are several other portrayals of the legend that I have experienced, including Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, T. H. White's novel The Sword in the Stone, and Errol Flynn's film The Adventures of Robin Hood.[1] This is more like a prequel to the Robin Hood story. But it's also kind of a remake of Gladiator: it has Russell Crowe in the lead, it was directed by Ridley Scott, the actor who plays Prince John is quite similar to Joaquin Phoenix, and I suspect that if Richard Harris hadn't died, he would've been cast as Richard the Lionheart.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hindu Chalk Art I: kolam, rangoli, etc.

Hindu chalk art has many regional names: alpana, aripana, chowkpurana, kolam, madana, muggu, muggulu, pookalam, poovidal, rangoli, rangavalli, etc. Women often draw the pattern using rice powder, chalk, etc. in front of a home, especially during Hindu holidays.[1] There are different types of design.[2] For this round, I'll be focusing on two similar types. Read on.