Friday, December 31, 2010

Movie Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The day before Christmas Eve, I got off work a little early, so I scooped Leann up and we went to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We went to the new Cinemark theater up by the University Mall. One of the employees there says it's been there for three years, but I could swear it's been less than that. As usual, the bag of popcorn ran out before the previews did.

Movie Review: Joongchun

Joongchun (중천, distributed as The Restless in the United States, though the title is more correctly translated as Midheaven [1]) is a South Korean fantasy film. According to the film, departed souls that haven't achieved nirvana end up in Midheaven. After 49 days have passed, they are reincarnated. The film deals with a man, Yi-gwak, who awakes to find himself in Midheaven—even though he never died.[2] There he discovers the soul of his murdered fiancée, Yon-hwa. But she doesn't remember him because she had her memories destroyed.

Movie Review: Tron

I've been aware of the movie Tron for a while now. As far as I can tell this is the first cyberpunk film.[1] I've seen snippets of it on TV, but until recently I'd never bothered to watch the whole thing. I finally buckled down to watch it for two reasons. First, I saw a trailer for the sequel, Tron: Legacy, and was intrigued. Second, I had an idea for a story but I suspected it might be too similar to the plot of Tron.[2]

Movie Review: Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Interestingly, the iconic image of Around the World in 80 Days, the hot-air balloon, doesn't even appear in the book by Jules Verne—this film was the first to introduce it. But it's become so closely tied to the story that subsequent productions (including The Chipmunk Adventure and the 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days) have incorporated the hot air balloon.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010–2011 Mid-Season Television Reviews

Television series that start a new season in the fall of one year and end in the spring of the next year will usually take a hiatus during the Christmas holiday. They will air a mid-season finale in late November or early December and then pick up again in January or February. So I've written reviews of the series I'm currently watching (with the exception of Psych, Season 3, which I finished a while ago), up to this year's mid-season finale. That is why there are so many posts today.

Television Review: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 3.0

When Revenge of the Sith came out, George Lucas made it clear that he wasn't interested in shooting any more films in the Star Wars franchise. However, he wasn't done with the Star Wars universe, either. Production soon began on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a cartoon series chronicling the events of the Clone Wars that take place between episodes II and III. The series debuted with the release of a feature film which was almost universally lambasted.[1]

Television Review: THE EVƎNT, Season 1.0

The Evɘnt is kind of like a cross between LOST and 24. It features human-looking extraterrestrials [1] who are being kept imprisoned in a secret facility in Alaska. When the new President of the United States learns of their existence, the plans to reveal it to the world. This precipitates an attack on the President which is mysteriously  and fantastically averted. This prompts the President to hold his tongue but also start an investigation into who was responsible for the attack and who was responsible for preventing it.

The Boothification of Bones and the Bonesification of Booth

The television series Bones follows a forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan (a.k.a. 'Bones') [1], as she helps the FBI solve cases (usually murder) where human remains have been recovered. She and her team work at a fictional non-profit organization called the Jeffersonian (modeled after the Smithsonian). Most episodes are stand-alone, but there are a few story arcs that cover multiple episodes—most concerning interpersonal relationships. One of the major relationships that is explored is that between Bones and her FBI counterpart, Agent Seely Booth.

Television Review: Psych, Season 3

A few weeks ago Leann and I finished season 3 of the television series Psych. It features Shawn, a stereotypical 'post-adolescent' [1] who has been taught to be hyper-observant and analytical by his policeman father (with whom he now has a complicated relationship). He, with the help of his best friend, Gus, employs these skills to help the Santa Barbara Police Department solve cases. And along the way we are treated to some of their antics.

Television Review: Fringe, Season 3.0

When J. J. Abrams left LOST to start producing Fringe, I was a little diffident. What right had he to abandon such an awesome show when we didn't have all our answers, yet? The series started out with a format that was largely (but not entirely) stand-alone episodes rather than serial episodes, which further added to my disappointment. Similar to Abrams' first series, Alias, the main protagonist is a tough girl working in intelligentsia. Fortunately the series progressed to a more serial format and things have gotten interesting. And I've come to terms with Abrams leaving LOST.[1]

Television Review: No Ordinary Family, Season 1.0

ABC's new series, No Ordinary Family, features a family quite similar to the family in The Incredibles, only their powers develop suddenly. Thus they are forced to cope with how these new powers affect them personally and in their relationships with those around them. They also have to decide how they're going to use those powers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part III

In previous posts [1] I've 'translated' my name and Leann's name into Mayan hieroglyphs. But we also have a surname, so I next tackled the task of converting Crook into Mayan hieroglyphs. As I've discussed before, the last name Crook could have many meanings.[2] Since we're unsure what the exact origins of our last name really are, I searched the English–Mayan dictionary [3] for all of the possibilities. I was able to find witza (which means "a person from the hills"), ch'at (which means "hunchback"), and eb'et (which means "messenger"). The rest did not appear in the dictionary. Well, I decided that I liked all three, so I did all of them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Find It: Snow

I mentioned previously that a few days before Christmas we received a lot of snow in Provo.[1] Well, here's a picture of the snow covering the pfizter junipers (Juniperus × pfitzeriana or Juniperus × media) on the south side of campus. Can you find Leann hiding? [2]

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day

The youngins dragged us out of bed at 7 am (which was, mercifully, an hour later than the last time we were at my parents' house for Christmas). As we came down the stairs, the tree was lit up and surrounded by mounds of presents. We made out like bandits this year.[1]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Video Game Review: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4

One of the things that I really like about the LEGO brand of games is that you can't defeat the game by playing through each level only once. There are always items that you can't find or collect with the characters you're originally given. So you have to go back and retrieve those things during "free play". For example, in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4, there are places you can't go or actions you can't complete unless you have a goblin character (like Griphook), a strong character (like Hagrid), a Dark Wizard character (like Lucius Malfoy), etc. But you don't just get these characters automatically—you have to find their tokens hidden throughout the levels and then go buy them on Diagon Alley. Then you come back and replay the level with them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Recipe: Milk Toast

A sister in our ward brought us some homemade bread for Christmas. So for the last three days I've been having milk toast for breakfast. It's one of my favorite breakfasts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Product Review: Utah Truffles Mint Truffle Bar

This is another one of those items that I walked past over and over at the grocery store until my curiosity finally got the better of me. Since it has the name 'truffle' on it, that implies that it should be better than your standard chocolate fare. Right? So I finally bought one and Leann and I tried it.

Product Review: Hershey's Candycane Kisses

We first tried these when they showed up on a plate in front of our doorstep, left by our next-door neighbors. They're rather like peppermint bark. We really liked them, so we went to Smith's to buy some more. They were clean out. Then I tried Macey's where I found some. I brought them home as a surprise for Leann. It was a good surprise.

Product Review: Queen Anne Cordial Blueberries

Queen Anne Cordial Cherries are a staple at my parents' house around Christmas. Even when there were 12 cordial cherries in a box (now there are 10), they didn't last very long. I still really like them, but Leann's not very fond of them. Even so, when we saw cordial blueberries at the store, we were both intrigued.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part II

Last time [1] I showed you the hieroglyphs that I designed to represent the meaning of my name. To be honest, it seems rather pretentious and self-centered to do just my name—especially given its meaning. So I decided to design hieroglyphs for Leann's name, too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand

Yesterday for Family Home Evening [1] Leann and I went to see Carl Bloch: The Master's Hand. It's an exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art (MOA) featuring the religious paintings of Carl Bloch.[2] Bloch was a Danish painter during the latter half of the 19th Century. He was very popular during his lifetime [3] but he was largely forgotten after the advent of Impressionism. (This only reinforces my distaste for the Impressionist movement.)

A White Christmas

Just before Thanksgiving BYU campus was shut down early because they anticipated a blizzard worse than anything we'd seen in many years. The storm dropped a lot of snow on Ogden and Salt Lake City but didn't have enough momentum to make it around Point of the Mountain. In Utah Valley we didn't even get an inch of snow. Well, last night we finally got our white stuff. I took pictures:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seminary Doodles

I often doodle when I get bored. Last week I found my seminary [1] folder on the shelf in my closet and decided to clean it out. Most of it went into the recycling bin, but I kept a few things (like my report cards) for sentimental value. I also kept all but a few of the many, many doodles I drew during my four years in the seminary program. Here are some touched-up scans of my favorites that I found:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our Little Christmas Tree

We finally put up our Christmas tree earlier this week.

We were originally planning on buying a tree this year since we're staying in Utah for the holiday. But after Leann went to Texas for her sister Sherri's wedding, her mom decided that she wanted to fly us down to Texas after all. It was too late for me to go because I have things to do in the lab all that week, but Leann is going to fly down on Christmas day and come back after the New Year. With that development we scrapped the idea of buying a real tree and put up our old one. It's only about a foot-and-a-half tall, but it still helps set the mood.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recipe: Mediterranean Kabobs

A few weeks ago my Elders quorum  [1] organized a clothing swap activity for the ward. Almost at the last minute, the Bishop asked that there be light refreshments there. So I ran to the Fresh Market (formerly Albertson's) which is only two blocks away from our meetinghouse to buy some cookies. While I was there, I saw some grilling cheese. Intrigued at the possibility of being able to grill cheese, I bought some. But then I had to figure out a recipe to eat it with. This is what I came up with.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Product Review: TGI Friday's Jalapeño Poppers

I'm generally not a fan of the flavor of jalapeños [1], but one exception is jalapeño poppers. I first had them at IHOP one early morning after staying up all night with some friends. I don't make it to IHOP very often [2], but TGI Friday's has jalapeño poppers available in the frozen section of the grocery store, so I can still eat them on occasion.

Book Review: The Last Juror

John Grisham's The Last Juror starts out with a grisly crime in 1970s Alabama and the subsequent trial of the man arrested. There is plenty of potential for suspense since the accused comes from a powerful family with a long history of organized crime. There are thinly-veiled threats against the prosecution, the jurors, and the narrator, a recent college graduate who just purchased the county newspaper from the ailing previous owner.

Movie Review: The Watcher in the Woods

When I was little, I remember seeing a commercial for Buena Vista Distribution Company (or perhaps it was Disney) that featured snippets from a variety of their films. The snippets from The Watcher in the Woods always featured a ghostly blindfolded girl begging, "Help me!" This was somewhat terrifying to me. This last October Leann and I queued it up so that we could watch it for Hallowe'en. Apparently Netflix doesn't have very many copies of it because we kept getting skipped over; it went from "short wait" to "long wait" a week before Hallowe'en. It finally came just before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part I

I recently watched a NOVA documentary called Cracking the Maya Code, which explains the efforts of archaeologists, linguists, cryptographers, and artists to decipher the hieroglyphs left behind by the ancient Maya. As it turns out, Mayan script is syllabic, which means that they have a separate symbol for each syllable.[1] It took researchers a long time to figure this out because Mayan often has several unrelated symbols for each syllable.[2] Since, disappointingly, I don't have any new chapter art to draw for The Wheel of Time [3], I decided to try my hand at drawing Mayan hieroglyphs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Lights at Temple Square

Last weekend, after Leann came back from her sister Sherri's wedding, we took advantage of being in Salt Lake City and hopped over to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights. It was foggy that night and it turns out that our cameras are really good at taking pictures of the fog. When we tried to take pictures of the lights the flash would illuminate the water droplets in the air and the camera would focus on those water droplets. So we have lots of pictures of sparkly air with fuzzy Christmas lights in the background. We tried taking pictures without the flash on, but that seems to be impossible for digital cameras to do—every picture was blurred. Well, every picture but one:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wedding Flowers

I did the flowers for my sister Sherri's wedding, on December 4th. Her colors were eggplant, white, and black. I used roses, calla lilies, carnations, stock, misty, Easter lilies, snapdragons, myrtle, bear grass, eucalyptus, variegated pittosporum, and other greens. The final product was ten table center pieces, the sign-in table arrangement, the food table arrangement, three boutonnieres, five corsages, and the bridal bouquet.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rhizoctonia solani

Have you ever been scrubbing a potato and there are clumps of dirt that just won't scrub off? Well, I have news for you: that's not actually dirt. That's a fungus, called Rhizoctonia solani. And since it's growing into the potato, no amount of scrubbing will get it off—you're going to have to peel that potato to get rid of it. But if you don't peel the potato, you don't need to worry. The Rhizoctonia solani won't harm you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Video Game Review: Halo: Reach

I find myself in a situation very few men in this world share: my wife likes to play Halo. In fact, she's better at it than I am. So as the release for Halo: Reach approached back in September, I pre-ordered it on Amazon. But I still got in trouble because I selected Free Super-Saver Shipping. Which meant that it came 7–10 days after the release date instead of arriving the day-of. So while the rest of her family were already playing, we had no means to do so. So she went over to her sister Jennie's house to play. I was too busy that week to tag along, so I had to wait until our copy of the game arrived before I could play.

Product Review: Cheetos Mighty Zingers

Before I went on my mission to Monterrey, México [1], I didn't really care much for spicy foods.[2] But while I was down there, I developed a certain taste for it. Admittedly I'm much less immune to the spice as I was while I was down there [3], but I still like a little kick now and then. For a long time now I've seen Cheetos Mighty Zingers on the shelves at the grocery store and been curious about them. Well, I finally bought some and tried them out.

Movie Review: The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (虎の尾を踏む男達) is the fourth film shot by Japan's most famous movie director, Akira Kurosawa.[1] Many of his films are considered among the greatest ever made, including Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Ikiru, Yojimbo, and many others. It tells the story of a war hero, Yoshitsune, and his six retainers who are trying to escape into a country to the north. They are fleeing an execution order issued by the Shogun, Yoritomo, who is also Yoshitsune's brother. But the border guards have been warned of their coming. And along the way they are beset by a nosy peasant.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


A few of my friends, from the days when I lived in the Colony Apartments in Provo, are members of a website called Writers on the Loose. (Despite the name of the website, most of them don't write fiction—they just bicker over politics and post nasty comments to each other.) Last week one of those friends, Jonathan, held a writing contest on the site for the few who actually compose fiction. It's an open contest where anyone can participate, even if they're not a paying member of the website. I forgot about it until the night of the deadline, so I cranked something out in just a few hours. It's still a little unpolished, but I thought I'd share it here. It's entitled Quaver.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fuzzy Wuzzy

Most of us have learned the poem or tongue-twister or whatever it is about Fuzzy Wuzzy.[1] The thing is, most of you have learned the lame version. That's right, your version is probably the mediocre one. And here's how you probably think it goes:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear;
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't very fuzzy, was he?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Recipe: Migajas

Migajas (or sometimes just migas) is the Spanish word for "crumbs". It is also a Mexican dish [1] for getting rid of left-over tortillas. Because it has eggs in it, it's traditionally a breakfast dish, but it can really be eaten for any meal. I never had these while I was on my mission (because we always made our own breakfast) [2], but I've had them since and quite enjoy them. This recipe serves 4–6 people.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Movie Review: Miss Potter

Miss Potter tells the story of Beatrix Potter, the author and illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, as well as many other children's books. In fact, the film claims that she is the best-selling children's author of all time. The story focuses on her efforts to publish her work, her conflicts with her parents, and the men in her life. I understand the limitations imposed by the film medium, but I wish they'd managed to slip in at least a hint that she was also an accomplished mycologist and that she collected fossils.[1]

Music Review: Angels & Airwaves

I love it when songs have long intriguing intros. And nothing is more disappointing than for the intro to end only to discover that the singer is awful. Angels & Airwaves start a lot of their songs with great intros and the singing is only mildly disappointing. They sound a lot like Blink-182 (actually the lead singer of Angels & Airwaves, the weird-looking Tom DeLonge, left Blink-182 to form this band, so that explains why).

Book Review: Next

I recently finished reading Next, by the late Michael Crichton. It is a fictional account of the legal and moral complexities posed by genetic engineering. The biotech industry is booming and Crichton was disturbed by the legal morass that has been growing up around it. And, as is his style, he felt like addressing the issue in a fictional format would be more powerful and have more far-reaching effects than doing so in a non-fictional format would.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tree Trimming

When I used to live in The Colony Apartments in Provo, I would walk past this tree every day on my way to and from BYU campus.

Now, I understand that some trees need to be trimmed to keep them from damaging power lines and telephone lines. But tell me, why didn't they just chop this one down all the way? It's so mutilated that no one would make the argument that it's beautifying the city. It just stands as a testament to human atrocity.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Out with the Old, in with the New

At the beginning of the summer, our computer (a Dell XPS M1710) started giving us the following message: