Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Stomach Flu

Let's just get it out of the way right here at the beginning. There is no such thing as the stomach flu. The flu (short for influenza [1]) is caused by a virus which infects the respiratory tract. The most common symptoms of the disease are catarrh [2], chills, coughing, fatigue, fever, headache, malaise [3], muscle aches, and a sore throat.[4] Only very rarely is the flu accompanied by vomiting and never by diarrhea. So if what you have isn't called the stomach flu, then what should it be called? Gastroenteritis.

Monday, November 29, 2010

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

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Leann and I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. I can remember when the book came out. We went to Smith's around 11 pm and stood in line until midnight. I bought the book and we immediately went home. I read for a while and then I prudently went to bed—even though I wasn't tired, yet. The next day (a Saturday), I got up and read until I finished the book sometime in the afternoon.[1]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book Review: Towers of Midnight

Well, I finally got Towers of Midnight (Book 13 of The Wheel of Time series) for my birthday. And since I've had the flu for the last two weeks, I've had plenty of time to read it (it clocks in at nearly 900 pages). It's unclear how much of The Gathering Storm (the previous book) was written by Robert Jordan [1] before his death, but I think we see more of Sanderson's hand on this one than we did in that one. For one thing, the chapters are more likely to have multiple POVs than I recall Robert Jordan doing. And Sanderson was more willing to stick to the POVs of the major characters and only use sparingly POVs from secondary characters.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some Typographical Considerations

I'm a little bit particular about formatting. When I edit someone else's document (or even, sometimes, when I'm just supposed to read it) I will go through and vigorously attack sloppy formatting. Here are some of the things that I just can't help fixing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Movie Review: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

When I watched the first Madagascar, I had low expectations. Some of those low expectations were met: the animation was unimpressive and the moral was derivative and predictable. And yet I liked it. The penguins and Mort (the lemur with unnaturally big eyes) stole the show.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Emo Pants

It seems that every generation has to have a uniquely awful style of pants to wear. We've seen bell-bottoms in the 1960s and 1970s, acid-wash jeans in the 1980s, and baggy jeans in the 1990s. Now we're in the age of 'emo pants'. These unfortunate pants are extremely tight on the legs, yet saggy in the butt.

Is there really anyone out there who objectively thinks that emo pants are fashionable? Actually, yes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lehi's Family

Last night for family scripture study, Leann and I read in First Nephi, Chapter 18.[1] In this chapter Lehi's family boards the ship that Nephi and his brothers have built and begin their journey across the Indian and Pacific Oceans in order to reach the Promised Land on the American Continent.[2] Along the way they got into trouble when Laman, Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael, and possibly Sam began causing trouble and incurred the displeasure of the Lord. Here are some of my thoughts about this chapter.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Falling Food, Part II: The Five-Second Rule

Earlier this week my little sister, Ashley, asked me some questions about falling food. In yesterday's post I addressed the phenomenon of bread falling buttered-side down. Her other question concerned the colloquial rule about when food dropped on the floor becomes unsafe to consume.[1] The actual time span varies, depending on who you talk to, ranging from a two-second rule to a thirty-second rule. So is this a good rule of thumb, or are we setting ourselves up for multiple rounds of food poisoning?

Friday, November 19, 2010

On Falling Food, Part I: Buttered-Side Down

Earlier this week my little sister, Ashley, asked me to explain why a dropped piece of bread usually lands buttered-side down. I assume that she was referring to an example of Murphy's Law (or Sod's Law) in action. Namely: "the probability that a piece of buttered [1] bread will land buttered-side down is proportional to how expensive the carpet is."[2] But Ashley didn't include the correlation with the price of the carpet, so I'll just address the question, "why does a dropped piece of bread usually land buttered-side down?" The short answer is: it doesn't.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: Along Came a Spider

Last summer I flew out to Colombia, Missouri for the 21st North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference.[1] It was hosted by Gary Stacey at the University of Missouri. While on the plane, I glanced through the magazine that was stuffed into the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me, along side a Sky Mall and a barf bag. One of the articles caught my eye. It was about an author, named James Patterson, who holds the World Record for most hardback bestselling novels.[2] This intrigued me since I'd never even heard of him. So I made a note to read his first novel, Along Came a Spider.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Just after Leann and I got married, I started trying to germinate an avocado seed. My first several attempts met with dismal failure. The only one that even managed to put out a root radical was immediately attacked by damping off fungus. Then one of Leann's coworkers suggested that I try using distilled water instead of tap water. I did so. I also changed the water every day to reduce the likelihood of damping off. It worked.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hershey's Kisses

First of all, I don't think they're really all that good. At least not the plain ones. If they have an almond, or swirls of white chocolate, or a caramel center, then they're a little more tolerable. But a plain dollop of waxy milk chocolate isn't really that spectacular. And sticking them on top of a plain cookie doesn't make them any better. Or the cookie.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Humor U

Saturday night Leann and I went to see Humor U, BYU's stand-up comedian troupe [1], at the Varsity Theater in the Wilkinson Center. We showed up half an hour early, but the line to get in already stretched nearly to the other end of the building and people were still coming. I didn't remember the Varsity Theater being that large, so I started to suspect that they'd overbooked the event. However, my doubts proved to be unfounded since they squeezed us all in with a few seats to spare.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Movie Review: Life in Cold Blood

We recently watched Life in Cold Blood, hosted by the naturalist, David Attenborough (brother of Richard Attenborough). It is a BBC nature documentary about reptiles and amphibians and is the last installment in The Life Collection. We have previously watched and enjoyed The Life of Birds, The Life of Mammals, and Life in the Undergrowth (which is about insects).

Friday, November 12, 2010


There are lots of yummy cheeses in the world, like cheddar, gouda, muenster, mozzarella, pepper jack, etc.

There are also some that most people don't enjoy, like:

Roquefort (which tastes like a goat) or Gorgonzola (which tastes like turpentine).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brain Damage

For the last few weeks I keep getting a song stuck in my head that I haven't heard since the mid-1990s. The song is "All Cried Out" by Allure, featuring the band 112 (both are R&B groups). It's an okay song [1], but I really have no idea why it's suddenly stuck in my head. So I can only conclude that the part of my brain where the memory of that song was stored has been recently damaged [2], causing that song to replay in my mind. Thing is, I can't remember anything happening recently that would cause brain damage. But then, that's good evidence that brain damage has occurred, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Colors of the Rainbow

Before I began public school, my mom had tapes that we would listen to that taught us many of the great folk songs like "Yankee Doodle Dandy", "Shoo, Fly, Don't Bother Me", and "Momma's Little Baby Loves Shortnin' Bread". One of the songs on these tapes was called "I Can Sing a Rainbow", by Arthur Hamilton. The lyrics are:
Red, and yellow, and pink, and green; purple, and orange, and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, too.
So this is the rainbow that I learned. Imagine my horror when, in first grade, we were given an assignment to draw and color a rainbow—and I did what the song said! That fiendish cassette tape had led me astray![1] In vain I tried to convince my sneering peers that mine was right and theirs was wrong, but to no avail. Finally my Deeping Wall was breached when the teacher, Mrs. Point, sided with the class: the proper order of colors was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. This proved the perfect opportunity for her to introduce us to that unfortunate mnemonic: Roy G. Biv.[2]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Music Review: Love Never Dies

Last weekend I went up to Brigham City to see Box Elder High School's production of The Phantom of the Opera, which my little brother, Nathan, had a part in. Overall it was a pretty good performance, though the wireless mics kept going out.[1] Truth be told, though, I don't think anyone—not even Gerard Butler—can top Michael Crawford as the Phantom.[2]

Monday, November 8, 2010


Many of us are pleased when Daylight Savings Time (hereafter DST) ends because we "fall back" an hour and so get to sleep in a little longer.[1] On the same note, we dread when DST begins because we "spring forward" an hour and so we lose an hour of sleep (because, let's face it, no one goes to sleep an hour early on the night before). However, my sister Rachel recently pointed out (here) that having young children can reverse the effects of DST. All in all, it is rather a hassle having to remember when DST begins and ends. And its especially bothersome to change all of your clocks—especially if you miss one and, seeing it, you're sent into a panic. So is DST really worth it? Or is Arizona the only sane state in the Union?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dress Shoelaces

Simply put: they're awful. You tie them and within roughly three minutes they're untied again. There's no stopping it! I suspect that dress shoe laces have a coefficient of friction even lower than that of BAM.[1]

We can put a man on the moon and fling a satellite out of the solar system, so why can't we make dress shoelaces that stay tied?


[1] Its friction coefficient is 0.02, half that of Teflon. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BAM_(material).

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Is It That Matt Does, Anyway?

I am currently a graduate student at BYU, in the Microbiology and Molecular Biology Department. I work in Dr. Griffitts' lab studying the symbiosis between rhizobia and legumes. Read on to find out what that means.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's in a Name?

Ever since grade school I've been teased to a greater or lesser degree about my last name. When people ask how to spell it, my Dad likes to tell them, "Crook, just like a politician" or "Crook, just like Nixon". And I have jokingly considered the possibility of finding someone with the last name Connor to start a law firm with me (we would be 'Crook and Connor, Attorneys at Law').

Anyway, turns out it's a bad rap. Before the late 1870s no one ever used the word crook to mean "thief" or "robber" [1] (which is, I believe, before my Crook ancestors came West as pioneers). As such, that particular usage of the word crook began as slang in Chicago and has slowly spread to the rest of the English-speaking world.[2] Even so, the origins of the last name Crook [3] aren't entirely clear. Here are some of the possibilities I've been able to uncover.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Recipe: Asian Orange Pork

While I was serving my mission [1] in Monterrey, México, I was often served mole (pronounced MOH-lay, mouse over for IPA) with rice and chicken. Mole is from the Náhuatl [2] word molli, which means "sauce".[3] Usually we were served mole poblano, which was a sauce that included chocolate and dark red mulato chili peppers. Less frequently we were given mole verde, which replaced the chocolate with pumpkin seeds and tomatillos and was typically spicier due to the use of serrano and poblano chili peppers. On one occasion, however, I was given an orange-flavored mole (which included choclate) served over pork. It was spectacular. Since then I've searched in vain for an orange mole recipe.[4]

Even though they don't include chocolate, the orange sauces offered at Chinese restaurants have satisfied my yearning. However, every Chinese restaurant I've ever been to has orange sauce served over chicken or beef, but never pork. Never pork! So last week I formulated my own recipe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Wheel of Time Chapter Art

Sometime in the early 1990s I discovered The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It is a fantasy series which rivals The Lord of the Rings in its sheer scope. It is replete with interesting characters [1] and is much deserving of the moniker 'epic'. One interesting idea that the author introduced was to include an icon at the beginning of each chapter that served as a clue to the contents of that chapter.

Robert Jordan unfortunately died in 2007 of cardiac amyloidosis [2], before finishing the series. Recognizing what this series means to his fans, Mr. Jordan feverishly wrote out copious notes so that the series could be finished by another author after his death. That lot fell to Brandon Sanderson, an adjunct faculty member of the English Department at BYU.