Friday, December 30, 2011

Dress Up

Since we don't take Lillian to Church, yet, we never put her in the dresses we've been given by friends and family. But she's growing out of them. So last week Leann played dress up with Lilli and took some pictures. Here are the highlights.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

When the original Miracle on 34th Street [1] was made, the movie producers weren't allowed to use the names of Macy's or Gimbels until both companies had seen and approved of the final cut of the film.[2] This time around Macy's refused to be involved in the film and Gimbels had gone out of business. So two fictional stores were invented to take their places: Cole's was invented (similar-sounding to the modern store Kohl's) and Shopper's Express (which I can't help think was modeled after Wal-Mart). They also take the theme of belief in Santa one step further and add a subtext about religious belief.[3]

Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The funny thing about the original version of Miracle on 34th Street is that it was released in the month of May because Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, wanted to catch the summer crowds rather than capitalize on the Christmas theme.[1][2] So that moviegoers wouldn't be turned off about seeing a Christmas movie in May, they kept the Christmas aspect under wraps. So much so that the trailers for the movie are notoriously lacking in footage from the movie or saying anything about the plot.[3] I dare say that now very few people—if any—watch this film in May.

Movie Review: The Bishop's Wife

There is one scene from The Bishop's Wife that I've seen dozens of times (when Dudley, the angel, helps Mrs. Brogham's daughter, Debby, join a snowball fight [1]). But until this year I've never actually watched the movie all the way through. As it turns out, it is not, for the most part, about snowball fights.[2] It's about an Episcopalian bishop (played by David Niven [3]) who has too much on his plate. When he pleads with God for some help, that help arrives in the form of an angel (played by Cary Grant) who manages to charm everyone. Everyone, that is, except the bishop—the man he's sent to help.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lillian's First Christmas

We celebrated Lillian's first Christmas this year. Because of her vulnerable immune system, we couldn't go spend the holiday with our extended family, like we usually do. But even by ourselves at home we had a pretty good time. We have been truly blessed by the Lord this year.[1]

Monday, December 26, 2011


One morning, last week, when Lillian woke up a little early, I got up and played with her so Leann could go back to sleep after feeding her. While I was holding her, I decided to eat some pumpkin bread that our neighbors gave us for Christmas. At one point I looked down and saw that Lilli was grabbing both of her ears [1], which she's never done before. It must be life-altering the day you discover you have strange growths on both sides of your head (and that that's what your parents have been nibbling on all this time).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Time to Give…

I wrote this a few years ago, originally intending to hand the idea off to one of my friends to write. My motives were twofold: 1. that friend had expressed difficulty in finding something to write for Christmas and 2. I didn't have an answer for the premise that the story is built around: what would Santa Claus ask for Christmas? I cannot recall which friend it was, but they turned down the story idea saying that I should write it.[1] I had no intention of doing so, but then an idea struck me—something Santa might actually want—and so I began writing. The title alludes to Ecclesiastes 3:1–8. Merry Christmas, dear readers.

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Bulwer-Lyttons

Thanks to Charles Schulz' comic strip, Peanuts, many of us are familiar with the line, "It was a dark and stormy night…"[1] That line was originally penned by Edward Bulwer-Lytton [2] in his novel Paul Clifford. The full quote is: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." This line is widely recognized as "purple prose", that is, writing that is overly descriptive, florid, and rambling. Over a year ago my old roommate Ryan introduced me and a few friends to the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest—a contest where the winner is the one who comes up with the worst opening line.[3] We've had fun writing our own bad Bulwer-Lyttons, and this year we wrote some about Christmas.[4] Here are a few I came up with this year:

Friday, December 23, 2011


In addition to discovering how to blow raspberries [1], Lillian also discovered her toes last week. I'd guess we see her actually doing it about half to three-quarters of the time. The rest of the time we only know she's been playing with her feet because we catch her with a sock in her mouth. She's also growing increasingly adept at kicking off her socks. However, the kicked-off socks usually land out of her reach, so that isn't sufficient to explain how she gets her socks in her mouth.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Polar Express

My first experience with The Polar Express was the song "Believe", by Josh Groban, which plays during the final credits. It's not a bad song (though not as stirring as Josh Groban's rendition of "O Holy Night"). Belief is the central theme of the movie—should the main character believe in Santa Claus, or not? Paul Lauer, who marketed the film, took this one step further. There are 70–80 million Evangelical Christians in the United States (that's roughly 1/3 of the population).[1] To get as many of them as possible out to see The Polar Express, Lauer's firm, Motive Entertainment [2], tried to give the movie a Christian spin.[3] Can this be true? After all, one of the common complaints about modern Christmas media is that Christ himself is distinctly lacking.

Movie Review: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

It's bizarre that anyone ever first conceived of Rudolph [1] the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's hard not to think that the original author, Robert L. May, might've had a little chemical in his bloodstream that inclined him to this unusual story. Ironically, it was a Jewish man, Johnny Marks, who took this story and turned it into a song.[2] It was offered to Bing Crosby but he turned it down.[3] Eventually it ended up in the hands (or, rather, vocal chords) of Gene Autry and from there it went down in history (like Columbus).

Movie Review: Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the Snowman is one of those Christmas movies I grew up with, along with How the Grinch Stole Christmas [1], Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer [2], The Smurf Christmas Special [3], A Chipmunk Christmas [4], and Mickey's Christmas Carol.[5] But I believe it's been five years or more since I last watched it. This is mainly because I usually don't watch much television and it's a television special. But we recently got cable television so Leann would have something to watch [6] while she's home watching the baby.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Last week I started teaching Lillian to say la by getting her to stick out her tongue and then talk without retracting it. She's tried to do it, but to little success. In the process, however, she figured out how to blow raspberries.[1] Even more surprising, though, is that I managed to get it on video within minutes of her figuring it out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas on Sunday

Christmas this year falls on Sunday, which means one of us [1] will be spending part of the day at Church. Leann and I both commented to each other that it seems that Christmas falls on Sunday unusually often. While this is no problem for us, it is often disappointing for children since the Lord encourages us to avoid entertainment on the Sabbath Day—i.e. the kids don't get to ride their new bike, watch their new movie, or play their new video game.[2] I decided to check and see if this was really the case, or if we were imagining it.

Monday, December 19, 2011


For about a month now [1] Lillian has been trying to figure out this weird ritual that takes place half an hour to an hour after I get home from work. I hold her while Leann goes in the kitchen and makes lots of noise. Then we stick her in her rocker, turn off the dining room light [2], and sit down at the table. (Sometimes she insists on sitting on my lap instead of sitting in her rocker.) Then Leann and I close our eyes while one of us talks.[3] If all that isn't weird enough, then we start putting stuff in our mouths and moving our chins up and down. But if Mommy and Daddy do it, it must be important. So Lilli tries to do it, too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crookusai War Flags

Previously [1], I designed a kamon (家紋 "family crest") for my family—even though we're not Japanese. However, kamon-ka weren't the only heraldic banners used by Medieval Japanese clans. There were also small flags, called sashimono (指物 "pointer thing" or "indicator thing") that were attached to the backs of foot soldiers [2]; medium flags, called nobori (幟 "banner"), that indicated separate units of the army [3]; and uma-jirushi (馬印 "horse symbol" or "horse insignia") that identified the military commander.[4] I figured that since my family now has a kamon, we need some war banners, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Product Review: Bawls guaraná soda

If you've ever known someone from Brazil, or at least someone who's spent a significant amount of time there, you've probably heard them praise guaraná as the paragon of all fruits. Guaraná is the Guaraní [1] word for "[fruit like] the eyes of the people".[2] And if you check out what guaraná fruit look like (see image to the right), that's no surprise at all. One notable aspect of the guaraná fruit is that it has twice as much caffeine as a coffee bean.[3] When I bought this drink, I was aware that guaraná had caffeine, but I was unaware it was so much. And then, to my surprise, Leann pointed out in the ingredient list that the manufacturers added even more caffeine. And then they put a warning on the bottle that said, "This product contains high levels of caffeine."

Product Review: Boar's Head Italian Dry Salami

I wasn't aware of the practice of eating salamis with cheese until an undergraduate in my lab, named Daniel [1], brought some to a lab meeting with several cheeses. (This is when I learned that the time I ate Brie [2] I went about it completely the wrong way—we dipped grapes in the soft part of the cheese and avoided the rind altogether.) Some salamis have a Penicillium mold inoculated onto the casing, but there was no evidence of such on this one. It is called an 'Italian salami' to indicate that it was prepared using traditional methods [3] and to distinguish it from mass-produced salamis.

Product Review: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter

I wondered why this butter was in the special cheese island at the grocery store instead of with all the other butters in the dairy section. As far as I could determine there weren't any unusual additives and there wasn't a special culture of microorganisms added. My best guess is that it's simply intended to be viewed as an artisanal butter rather than a brand-name butter (despite the Kerrygold brand emblazoned on the package). The package didn't indicate such, but the Kerrygold website touts this butter as coming from grass-fed cows.[1]

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crookusai kamon

Feudal Japanese clans developed a system of family crests, nominally similar to the European system of heraldry. These family crests, called kamon (家紋 "family crest" [1]) were first invented to mark the clothing of soldiers fighting for a particular nobleman. Later they were added to flags, tents, and other equipment. They made it easy for the soldiers (who were usually illiterate) to quickly identify friend or foe. Many (if not all) kamon are encircled by a roundel (disc) and usually depict abstract designs, often of plants or animals.[2] Even though we're not Japanese, I thought it would be fun to create a kamon for my family.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie Review: The Gleaners and I

This is an essay I wrote for my Intro to Film class at BYU, so its structure and style will differ from my other reviews. Each week we focused on a particular aspect of film (e.g. lighting, sound, mise en scène, etc.). In conjunction with this, we had to watch an assigned film which was offered at three different times during that week. The week that we talked about film editing we were assigned to watch The Gleaners and I (French: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse), by Agnès Varda. She is considered one of the major players in a film movement called the Rive Gauche [1], itself a faction of the French New Wave.[2]

Movie Review: The Sum of All Fears

The title of this movie (and the book it's loosely based on) refers to the threat of mutually assured destruction of the United States and Russia by nuclear holocaust. In the book the two superpowers face off after a nuclear device is set off in Denver, Colorado by PFLP terrorists; in the movie the bomb is set off in Baltimore by Neo-Nazi terrorists. It's interesting (and disappointing) to see that even before the September 11 attacks that it wasn't politically correct to depict an Arab as a terrorist.[1]

Movie Review: Source Code

The movie Source Code is definitely science fiction. It posits a technology that currently does not exist and explores the ramifications of that technology. Unfortunately Source Code delves deep into the ways such a technology can be used, but carefully skirts many of the moral decisions that are generated in conjunction with that technology. In the movie the new technology is called "source code" [1] and it allows researchers to send someone's mind back in time—but the traveling mind must meet some very strict prerequisites and must inhabit the body of someone else, in the past, eight minutes before they die.[2] The researchers use the machine to investigate an act of terrorism, hoping to catch the terrorist before he strikes again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Growling, Grabbing, and Gnats

Earlier this month I was playing with Lillian and noticed something black in her mouth. I fished it out. What was it? A fungus gnat. Leann and I were quite astonished. These little buggers are hard to catch. We chase them all over the house trying to kill them. How did she get one in her mouth? And even more pressing: did I get lucky and spot the first or does she have a long and hidden history of eating minute dipterans? [1]

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Autumn Leaves

A few years ago I went through a period where I was noticing a lot of neat-looking autumn leaves while walking to BYU campus from the parking lot. They were fascinating enough that I collected them, took them to a computer lab, and scanned them. Since Leann was taking a plant identification course at the time (or had recently finished one—I can't remember which), she was able to help me identify the trees that they came from. I then chose some of my favorites and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons. This year I added a few more to the collection.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Over a decade after the release of Toy Story 2 Pixar Animation Studios released Toy Story 3.[1] But the road to get there was rocky. In 2004 Pixar was threatening to split from Disney (in large part due to personality clashes between Steve Jobs and Michael Eisner), but Disney retained the rights to all Pixar movies and characters produced up to that time.[2] In response to the threatened split, Michael Eisner fast-tracked Toy Story 3, to be produced by a new Disney studio, Circle 7 Animation. The script had Buzz Lightyear being recalled due to safety concerns.[3] When Disney bought Pixar in 2006, that version of Toy Story 3 was scrapped and production returned to the Pixar team.

Movie Review: MST3K: Pod People

While we were scanning through the episodes of MST3K available for instant streaming from Netflix, so we could watch something intended to be horror for Hallowe'en [1], we spotted Pod People. Leann immediately perked up because she could recall an episode of the TV show Hey Dude where they're eating potato chips and they start talking about this movie. So we decided to watch it and find out why. We were not disappointed. Or, rather, we were.

Movie Review: The Brothers Bloom

The Brothers Bloom is the story of two brothers who were shuffled about by the foster system because they were too prone to misbehavior. Eventually they embrace their mischievous [1] behavior and begin going about it more methodically. Adulthood, for them, is not a chance to go straight—it's a chance to hone their skills. Actually, one of them does want to go straight, but his brother never lets him get away with it—there's always "just one more" con to pull.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Truth and Revolutions

Revolutionism will ultimately fail. By revolutionism I mean the belief that the current social and/or political order will always need to be overthrown.[1] This is not simply a belief in the need for any given revolution. Rather it is a belief in the constant need for overthrowing the status quo—regardless of what that status quo is. I envision three possible outcomes of serial revolutions:
  1. Total or near-total annihilation
  2. Endless revolutions with no net progress
  3. A culminating revolution that eliminates the need for further revolutions
Let's discuss each one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Product Review: El Sabroso Spicy Salsa Salsitas

I first saw these in a vending machine at Brent Brown Toyota while waiting for them to put together the papers I needed to sign so they'd sell me our new car.[1] It was taking longer than I expected, and I hadn't eaten dinner, yet, so I considered what the vending machine had to offer. These chips were the only thing that looked remotely appetizing. When I went back to the dealership to pick up the license plates, I went back to the vending machine, but these were no longer stocked. Worse, when I visited El Sabroso's website [2], they didn't even list this flavor as one of their products. However, I recently found a regular-sized bag at a little grocery store that

Product Review: Marinela Submarinos (Fresa)

The name Submarinos, which means "submarines" in Spanish [1], doesn't really reveal anything about the nature of the snack that you're buying. But, then, neither does the name "Twinkie", which has no meaning at all. And that's all these really are—a Mexican knockoff of the Twinkie.

Product Review: Ricolino Candies Bubu Lubu

During my time as a missionary [1] in Monterrey, I came across a variety of foods that are unique to México. That is, they used to be unique. As immigration from México to the United States increases, so does the number of Mexican products imported into the U.S. Bubu Lubu is one of those products I've recently rediscovered here in the U.S. If I remember correctly [2], it was common to eat them frozen, so I broke this one in two and stuck half in the freezer.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Movie Review: Mysterious Island (1961)

I first saw this film during grade school at Willard Elementary. By that time I had already seen 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in its entirety.[1] So it was a delightful surprise when Captain Nemo and the Nautilus make an appearance. My fascination with Ray Harryhausen's special effects (giant crabs, giant bees, a giant flightless bird, a giant ammonite, and the lost continent of Atlantis) induced me to read the book—which was conspicuously lacking in all those things.[2]

Movie Review: Limitless

I think we've all experienced times when it seemed we were doing more than we thought possible and yet, paradoxically, we didn't feel overstretched, exhausted, or burned out. Weren't those times amazing? What if you could always be like that? What if there were a drug that made you smarter, that helped you focus your energies, that unlocked your potential? [1] That is the basic plot of Limitless. NZT is a drug that enhances cognitive abilities and the main character, Eddie Morra, gets his hands on a pretty sizable stash. But as with any drug, there are complications: downers that are worse than the highs, "flashbacks", withdrawal symptoms, other addicts, etc.

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

The movie Fantastic Mr. Fox takes on a lot of heavy themes—how to deal with a child that doesn't live up to expectations, how to cope with giving up your dreams in favor of having a family, whether you should try to live beyond your means, whether criminal behavior is okay if you don't get caught and punished, whether it's okay to steal (and distribute the stolen goods), etc.—and gets every one of them wrong. Mr. Fox ridicules his child and favors his more adept cousin instead; puts his family in danger while in the pursuit of his dreams (and even then he refuses to desist); buys a house he can't afford, placing a financial burden on his family; steals for thrills and to improve his lifestyle [1] without ever getting caught or expressing remorse (and even goes so far as to involve his family and community in his criminal activity); etc.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Responsible Environmentalism

A little over a year ago I finished reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail by Jared Diamond.[1] In the introduction Diamond admits that he set out writing the novel with the intent to show that environmental damage was the only major factor contributing to the collapse of ancient societies such as the Maya and Angkor Wat.[2] However, his research [3] forced him to conclude that there were other variables which could not be ignored: climate change (such as El Niño or the Little Ice Age [4]), hostile neighbors, friendly neighbors/trade partners, and how a given society responds to environmental damage.[5] His tone throughout the book is generally panicked, though ends by claiming "cautious optimism" about the future of global society. At the end of the book he encourages everyone to engage in efforts to improve the environment, both globally and locally.[6]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Movie Review: Edward Scissorhands

In essence, Edward Scissorhands is a unique take on the tale of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of Beauty going to the castle to be a prisoner, the Beast (who is very meek despite his dangerous hands) comes down from his castle to live in the village. His complete isolation up to this point, and his nonstandard origins, give the filmmakers a vehicle to put middle class suburbia under their microscope (and under their own "scissorhands"). But eventually the film comes back to its fairytale roots and by the end the villagers are storming the castle, looking to destroy the Beast.

Movie Review: Inkheart

The so-called Inkworld trilogy (which I have not read, yet) was originally written in German, by Cornelia Funke. Her first novel to be translated into English was Herr der Diebe [1], which I also have not yet read. She was discovered by Barry Cunningham (the same fellow that discovered J. K. Rowling) after an 11-year-old bilingual girl wrote to him to ask why her favorite author wasn't available in English.[2] Inkheart kicked off her second series to be translated into English.

Movie Review: Ramona and Beezus

I can remember reading some, if not all, of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary when I was in grade school. However, when this movie came out in theaters, I would've been hard pressed to tell you what they were about—except that Ramona was a trouble-prone little girl, her older sister Beezus [1] was obnoxious, and at some point Ramona emptied a tube of toothpaste into the sink. It's too bad that Ramona often gets in trouble for things that aren't her fault.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rolling, Grasping, and Giggling

Lilli has been rolling front-to-back and giggling for weeks, now. But catching it on film has proven surprisingly difficult. As soon as the camera comes out, she stops performing. She seems to have an uncanny knack for knowing when to play coy. In fact, she seems to tolerate tummy time for a lot longer if there's a camera turned on.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our Little Thanksgiving

Because of Lillian's vulnerable immune system [1], we've been encouraged by her various pediatricians [2] to avoid taking her into settings where there are likely to be sick people (e.g. Church, the grocery store, family gatherings, etc.) So for the first time we've spent Thanksgiving by ourselves instead of going to spend it with extended family. Despite our isolation we had a good time and ate plenty of delicious food.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo

While Lillian was still in the hospital, we attended the Spanish Fork Fiesta Days rodeo. Under the circumstances, we wouldn't have chosen to do this, but we had already purchased the tickets since we didn't anticipate her early birth.[1] Much to our surprise, one of Lillian's nurses (in fact we had her as a nurse for most of that week) turned out to be the wife of one of the organizers of the rodeo.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Television Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 2 (Earth)

In the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the character of the Avatar is the only person in the world capable of manipulating all four of the Classical elements (Air, Earth, Fire, and Water). He (or she) is born into one of those disciplines and then must learn the other three in a particular order. In the case of the current Avatar they are: Air→Water→Earth→Fire. Each of the three seasons of the show focus on one of those remaining three disciplines. In this season Aang and his friends travel across the Earth Kingdom so he can learn earth bending (the power to move and manipulate the element Earth). This proves difficult for him since Air is the opposite of Earth in the compass of the Classical Elements (i.e. it is furthest away from his natural aptitude and original training). He is also preparing the Earth Kingdom for a decisive battle with the Fire Nation.

Television Review: EUReKA, Season 4

In the season finale of Season 1 ("Once in a Lifetime") [1], Henry Deacon, distraught over the untimely death of his girlfriend, Kim, travels back in time and saves her. The episode takes place four years in the future when everyone's lives seem to be idyllic. But then the fabric of time and space begin to unravel because of what Henry did. Eventually Sheriff Carter figures out what Henry did and has to go back in time himself to stop Henry from saving Kim. The verdict? You cannot change the past (at least in the fictional EUReKA universe) without destroying everything in existence.[2] The season premier of Season 4 ("Founder's Day") takes several of the main characters, sends them back in time (where they change a few things), and then brings them back again (along with a stowaway). Does the universe collapse? No. Are they even worried about it? No. Thus season four gives the creators of the show the chance to rewrite all of the characters that didn't travel back in time.[3]

Television Review: Prison Break, Season 2

One of the things depicted in the first season of Prison Break, which I didn't mention in my original review [1], was that the worst thing about prison is the other prisoners. Most of the violence depicted is between prisoners. However, the show also portrays the prison guards as having the same quality of character—they're merely on the other side of the bars. In fact, several of the prisoners are portrayed as the heroes and the guards are portrayed as the villains (many of the prisoners are villains in their own rights, though). This theme continues after the breakout. Several of the prison guards who have been fired for misconduct become bounty hunters who are chasing the escaped prisoners. And they engage in all sorts of criminal behavior to try to achieve their goals. Fortunately the justice system eventually takes notice of their misdeeds.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Summer Walks

Before Lillian was born Leann and I often went on walks around Provo.[1] After she was born [2], we still went on walks, but I had less time to post pictures from our walks. Now its getting too cold to go on regular walks—especially with the baby. So, here are some highlights of the walks we've been taking for the last few months.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Product Review: Isigny Ste. Mère: Mimolette Cheese

If you've been following this blog from the beginning, you may recall that I've mentioned mimolette cheese once before.[1] It is a hard cheese that has an appearance similar to a cantaloupe. What makes it unique is its rind. The cheesemakers will actually put a special variety of mites, called cheese mites [2], onto the outside of the cheese. The mites eat the exterior of the cheese as it ripens, to a depth of about a centimeter. Aficionados claim that this endows the cheese with a unique flavor. Several websites I checked assured me that by the time the cheese is sold, the cheese mites are no longer alive (and you're not supposed to eat the rind where they're found anyway). Some even claimed that it is illegal to sell the cheese in the U.S. if the mites are still alive (I haven't been able to verify that claim.) But, being an amateur entomologist, I just had to check. So I popped a suspicious-looking section of the rind under a confocal microscope and took a look.

This is what I found:

Product Review: Istara: Ossau-Iraty Cheese

Ossau-Iraty is a French cheese made using sheep's milk. Most websites I've looked at refer to it as ewe's milk, but then don't say that goat cheese comes from nanny's milk. So I'll defy convention and call it sheep's milk. Ossau-Iraty can only be made in the French Pyrénées Mountains, just like the P'tit Basque I tried a while back.[1] In fact, it's name comes from the two regions it is produced: the Ossau Valley (which is in the French province of Béarn) and the Iraty Valley (which is in the French province of Iparralde), where it has been made for at least a thousand years.[2] It also requires the milk of specific breeds of sheep: Manech and Basco-Bearnaise.[3]

Product Review: Mitica: Sottocenere al Tartufo cheese

The name of this Italian cheese actually tells you something about it instead of telling you where it was first made (Venice [1]). The word sottocenere means "under ash". This refers to the gray rind which is made of ash with a blend of spices, including anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, and nutmeg.[2] The second part, al tartufo, means "with truffles". Throughout the cheese are little shavings of black truffle and the ash rind also has white truffle oil in it.[3]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dirty Dash 2011

Ever since my brother-in-law, Gavin, did the mud run called the Jailbreak [1], several years ago, I have wanted to participate in a mud run. At the beginning of this year my friend April pointed out that the Dirty Dash [2] would be in Salt Lake City, Utah, in September and asked if I wanted to do it. Since I had not yet divulged that I was pregnant (and due three weeks before the race [3]), I made up some lame excuse for why I couldn't. Fast forward several months to August, when Matt brought home a newspaper with an advertisement for the Dirty Dash. I had forgotten all about it and since Lillian came early [4], I could now enter the race. So with only three weeks before the big day, my trusty companion, Jordan, and I signed up for the 5K and started training. Now, you may recall that I did my last 5K in just over 28 minutes.[5] Our first training run took us over 40 minutes. It was my first time running since May (when I was 24 weeks pregnant). After three weeks of training, my best time was 32 minutes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Halomonas titanicae

I'm just going to get it out of the way right here at the start: what makes Halomonas titanicae interesting is that it is the bacterium that is slowly eating the wreck of the RMS Titanic.[1] Yes, you read that right. A bacterium at the bottom of the ocean is munching on that ill-fated passenger liner (which never had a passenger named Rose Dawson). As bacteria oxidize the wrought iron hull, it forms stalactite-like formations called rusticles.[2] This consumption is proceeding at such a rate (exacerbated by frequent visits by tourists in submersibles [3]) that it is predicted that the RMS Titanic wreck will completely disintegrate in the next 30–50 years.[4]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Product Review: Cheez-It Colby Crackers

A while back (I've been unable to determine exactly when) Cheez-It crackers held a promotional on Facebook [1], where they let consumers decide what new flavor of Cheez-It cracker they wanted to try. At the end of the contest the winner was Colby cheese.[2] I can't say I've ever had straight Colby cheese (only Colby-Jack), so I wanted to try these out.

Product Review: Cheez-It Asiago Crackers

A while back (I've been unable to determine exactly when) Cheez-It crackers held a promotional on Facebook [1], where they let consumers decide what new flavor of Cheez-It cracker they wanted to try. At the end of the contest the winner was Colby cheese.[2] However, they also produced (for a limited time) Asiago crackers exclusively for Wal-Mart (apparently because Wal-Mart shoppers as a sub-group desired the Asiago crackers).

Product Review: T.G.I. Friday's Cheeze Pizza Chips

I haven't had a lot of success with pizza-flavored snacks. Doritos Pizza Supreme [1] tasted like olives (which I hate) and Pizzeria Pretzel Combos [2] were okay, but not good enough to capture my attention. And I'm sure there are pizza-flavored snacks out there that are really just basil-flavored snacks.[3] But pizza itself is great. So I keep holding out that there is a snack out there that actually tastes like the pizza it claims to emulate.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musical Similarities

Back when Lillian was still in the NICU [1] I heard the song "New Soul" by Yael Naïm (יעל נעים) on the radio in my car.[2] I'd heard it before (most notably on the commercial for the Apple MacBook Air), but never bothered to listen to the whole thing. When it reached the end, I was surprised to hear the music switch to a choral strain that sounded eerily familiar. I immediately turned off the radio before another song could come on and interfere with my ability to analyze what I'd just heard. After batting it around in my head for a while, I decided that it reminded me of "It Was Always You, Helen", which Philip Glass wrote for the movie Candyman.[3] See if you agree.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: Moving Mars

Many months ago I bought some books at a sale at Pioneer Books in Orem. They put restrictions on which books could be bought as part of the sale, so a lot of the authors I regularly read weren't to be found or were off-limits. But the pricing on the books was irresistible, so I decided to try a few new authors. One of them was Greg Bear. From looking over the Hugo [1] and Nebula [2] award winners, I knew that this book caught some attention. I decided to find out why.

Book Review: The Masks of Time

In an introduction he wrote for his own book, Robert Silverberg lauds himself for deviating from his "past transgressions" of writing sci-fi pulp and foraying bravely into the new frontier of literary sci-fi. What makes it literary? I can't tell. But I have some candidate details: it's quite accepting (and possibly even encouraging) of all forms of sexual behavior [1]; it treats Christianity (all religion, for that matter) as nothing more than a pernicious variety of mass insanity; it's anti-capitalist [2]; it doesn't really have a plot; and because, in his words, the main character is Jamesian.[3] It details the life of one man assigned to accompany a time traveler (named Vornan-19 [4]) as he explores the world of (his) past (which is roughly our present). They keep thinking Vornan-19 has some other purpose, but his pure hedonism and unwillingness to discuss anything about the future eventually convinces them that he's just a tourist.[5]

Book Review: We Are Not the First

Andrew Thomas starts out by dredging up a series of pseudo-historical, pseudo-scientific claims about 'out-of-place' artifacts [1] and events that suggest that ancient civilizations were once at least as advanced as we are, if not more. For him the rise and fall of civilizations isn't just that, it's evidence that aliens once visited the Earth and imparted their wisdom and technology (which we've since lost and are only now rediscovering). I'll give him this, he did a lot of research. But he's wholly unable to approach anything with any skepticism. Anything and everything is potential evidence for him. And if it's evidence against, he happily discards it.[2] He also often fails to reason through his ideas.[3]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Recipe: Chiles en Nogada

We got a lot of Poblano Peppers from our garden this year [1] and I needed something to do with them. While I was an LDS missionary [2] in Monterrey, México, I frequently ate peppers stuffed with picadillo. Picadillo is essentially "mincemeat" in the sense of finely chopped meat. In the case of chiles en nogada ("[stuffed] peppers in walnut sauce") it is mincemeat in the fullest sense: finely chopped meat and fruits with spices. Poblano peppers that have been cleaned out and stuffed usually have just a little heat left to them, but not a lot. The one time I had a chile en nogada in México, I had the misfortune of picking a pepper that was still very spicy. So until I made this recipe, I had no idea what a chile en nogada actually tastes like. (Be warned: this took me 3–4 hours to make.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Product Review: La Michoacana Mamey Popsicle

I only tried the fruit called mamey (or sometimes mamey sapote) once while I was in México.[1] And that time didn't go very well. My companion wanted to make a mamey smoothie. Unfortunately the mamey that we bought was still unripe. So it was flavorless and didn't blend into a smoothie—the blender just chopped it into slivers. So I never really got to know the taste of mamey while I was down there. That makes my current fondness for them all the more puzzling. I first spotted these paletas (Spanish for "fruit bars" or "ice cream bars") a little over a year ago at one of the stands at Provo's Fourth of July Freedom Festival. I bought one and shared it with Leann. Now we can't stop (except during the winter when the Mexican tiendas stop stocking them).

Product Review: La Michoacana Vainilla con Membrillo Popsicle

The Spanish word membrillo stands for 'quince'. In Central and South America it is common to make a paste out of the quince and eat it as candy, which they call dulce de membrillo. As it is dried down into a paste, it takes on some of those unique flavors common to many dried fruits.[1] This popsicle has little chunks of dulce de membrillo embedded throughout.

Product Review: La Michoacana Eskimal de Fresa Popsicle

By deduction I've determined that the word esquimal (stylized here as eskimal), besides meaning "Eskimo", means "covered in chocolate". Or, at least it does when referring to popsicles. This is probably derived from the Nestlé Eskimo Pie [1], which is a vanilla-flavored popsicle covered in chocolate. This particular popsicle is a strawberry (fresa) ice cream bar covered in chocolate.

Product Review: La Michoacana Arroz con Leche Popsicle

Arroz con leche is Spanish for "rice with milk". It's basically a rice pudding eaten in Latin America. There are several regional varieties [1], but I've only had the Mexican sort. I had arroz con leche a few times in Spanish classes during Junior High and High School. But the majority of my experience with the dessert was during my time as an LDS missionary in México.[2] When I went looking for mamey-flavored popsicles [3] earlier this summer, I discovered that no one was carrying them—much to my dismay. Thus I decided to give this flavor a try.

Product Review: La Michoacana Mango Popsicle

I can't recall ever having a mango before I went to México on a mission for the LDS Church.[1] Down there all the mangoes I saw were long and yellow (like these). Upon returning to the US I was surprised to see that mangoes are available in most grocery stores, but the mangoes I've found here in the US are usually round and green with a red tinge (like this one). Most of the mangoes I had in México, however, I was able to pick right off the tree. Alas, they don't grow around here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lillian's First Hallowe'en

Since we live in an area that's mostly inhabited by college students, there aren't that many trick-or-treaters to begin with. That coupled with the growing popularity of 'trunk-or-treats' [1] meant that we had two trick-or-treaters show up at our door—and they were actually delivering treats to us! One was a friend of Leann's (who came as Justin Bieber) and the other was a neighbor in the same apartment complex as us. Since she's not old enough to eat candy, and she can't go to parties, Lillian was skeptical about the whole holiday. But she decided to give costumes a try.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Movie Review: Bringing Up Baby

The title (Bringing Up Baby) refers to a trip taken by the main characters (played by Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant) to deliver a tame leopard, named Baby, to Connecticut. I read on Wikipedia that this movie was the inspiration for What's Up, Doc? (which is one of Leann's family's favorite movies). So I ordered this from Netflix so we could compare. Several scenes (particularly the scenes involving torn coats) were obviously duplicated in What's Up Doc? One difference is that Katherine Hepburn's character in Bringing Up Baby comes across as a complete nitwit, while Barbara Streisand's character in What's Up, Doc? comes across as intelligent, though unable to control the events she intentionally sets in motion.

Movie Review: Bedtime Stories

I thought that Leann would want to watch this movie with me since she is stricter about what she views. This movie is rated PG, which means very little offensive content. So I thought it was going to be an easy sell. But a week or so before it arrived from Netflix Leann announced that she'd seen a snippet of it at the doctor's office and hated it (mainly because it has Adam Sandler in it). Well, so much for that. I was surprised that Adam Sandler would ever appear in a movie that wasn't PG-13. Some of the other actors were surprises. The love-interest from The Sorceror's Apprentice reappears as a ditzy, rich socialite.[1] I was shocked to realize that the woman at the main desk of the hotel was played by Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. "Xena, Warrior Princess" and "Cylon Number Three").

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

This movie is a remake of a 1981 film of the same name. And just like that movie, neither features any of the mythical Titans. In Greek mythology the very first deities were the Prôtogenoi.[1] Two of them, Gaia and Uranus, produced twelve offspring.[2] These twelve and some of their offspring [3] were considered the Titans. They were overthrown by some of their descendents, now known as the Younger Gods or Olympians.[4] This is called the Titanomachy. The word Titanomachy has been variously interpreted as "war of the gods", "war in heaven", "battle of the Titans", "battle of the gods", "the Titan war", etc.[5] In other words "clash of the Titans". However, this film, like its predecessor, is a loose (and sometimes fanciful) interpretation of the life of Perseus, who waged war against the Olympians, not the Titans.

Monday, October 31, 2011


While an undergraduate at BYU, I was involved with a book club. As October rolled around the book club president, Jonathan, solicited us to write some horror fiction for Hallowe'en. I've never been one to get into reading or watching horror, but I decided to see if I could come up with something. That month I wrote not one, but six horror stories. But this one was the first. It was inspired by a book my roommate, Michael, had me read.[1] It was written by an LDS man who was claiming that aliens were actually artificial bodies created by evil men for Satan's angels to inhabit. (Let me say right now that this is not mainstream LDS theology.[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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Summer Garden

Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons [1]) are encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible. This is broken down into an unofficial hierarchy where the individual should try to provide for their own needs (and the needs of spouse and children) as much as possible. When their own efforts are insufficient they should turn to friends and family for help. Only when those resources have been exhausted should they seek financial help from the Church.[2] One of the things that many LDS families do to be self-sufficient is to grow a garden. Since Leann and I were married we've had a garden every summer.[3]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Product Review: Doritos Tapatío chips

While I was in México as an LDS missionary [1] I had, on a few occasions, a hot sauce called Valentina. When I got back to the States I spotted some at the grocer store and bought it. Even though I don't like tuna or macaroni [2], I was able to eat tuna casserole for a while by putting Valentina hot sauce on it. That eventually ceased to be the case, I stopped using the Valentina, and eventually I (or my mom) threw it out. Tapatío is pretty similar in appearance to Valentina. According to Wikipedia [3] Valentina has been produced in Guadalajara since the 1850s. Tapatío has been produced in California since the 1970s [4], but the recipe comes from natives of Guadalajara. So I suspect that Tapatío is a modified recipe of Valentina.

Product Review: Doritos Flamas

With a name like Flamas (the Spanish word for "flames") and a picture of the product wreathed in fire, this bag of chips is almost insisting that you are too wimpy to handle it. Well, I picked up that gauntlet and it was a rough duel indeed. But at the end it was I, not the bag of chips, who was still standing.

Product Review: Barcel Takis Crunchy Fajita

I seem to have gone about this all backwards. Rather than review the original flavor first and then the variety flavors [1], I've saved the original flavor of Takis for last: Crunch Fajita. Takis are rolled up corn chips which are covered with a flavoring powder with a distinctly south-of-the-border taste.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Afternoon Drive

Last Friday, when I got home from school/work, I picked up my girls (wife and daughter) and we went for a drive up Provo Canyon to see the fall leaves. I didn't really plan it this way, but we made two stops: Bridal Veil Falls and Squaw Peak. I'd never been to Bridal Veil Falls and Leann had never been to Squaw Peak (every time she's tried before now the road was still snowed in).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Product Review: Les 3 Comtois Morbier Cheese

Morbier cheese (pronounced MORB-yay [1]) was first developed in Franche-Comté, a region of France near the Swiss border.[2] Farmers there made Comté cheese (the French equivalent of Gruyère [3]), which is pressed into large molds. In the evening, if they didn't have enough curd to fill another mold, the farmers would sprinkle some ash over the top to prevent the curd from forming a rind.[4] The next day, after the morning milking, the rest of the mold would be filled up, trapping the layer of ash in the center. This layer of ash through the middle of the cheese is one of the distinctive characteristics of Morbier cheese.

Product Review: Mitica Juni Cheese

This cheese is actually a Toma Brusca [1] from the northern part of Italy.[2] However, during the cheese making process, they added juniper berries (which is the inspiration for the name Juni). Some comments I read online said this cheese reminded them of a gin and tonic.[3] I presume this is because juniper berries are the main flavoring agent in gin, but I wouldn't know for sure since I've never tasted gin or any other alcoholic drink.[4]

Product Review: Appleby's Cheshire Cheese

Cheshire cheese is one of the oldest recorded cheeses in England [1] and at one time was the most popular English cheese on the market.[2] In fact, both William the Conqueror [3] and Queen Elizabeth I [4] proclaimed it their favorite cheese and in the 1800s it became a staple in the diet of English navy.[5] Some varieties of Cheshire cheese have annatto added to them to give them a redder, more cheddar-like appearance. The wedge that I bought was a red Cheshire.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Social Interaction

In the last week or two Lillian has started interacting with us socially, as they say. All that means is that she's starting to smile, giggle, talk, and stick her tongue out when we stick our tongues out at her. I don't have any videos of her giggling [1], but a few days ago I pulled some childish slapstick on Leann while holding Lilli, who immediately laughed. Now, I'm quite sure that Lilli didn't know what I'd done—the timing of her giggle was simply serendipitous. However, Leann's having a hard time living down the idea that Lilli laughed at what I did. Even though I don't have any videos of Lillian laughing, I do have some videos of Lillian sticking out her tongue and talking.[2]

Friday, October 21, 2011

Product Review: Postobón manzana soda

Postobón is a soft drink company based in the South American country of Colombia.[1] I found some of their soft drinks for sale in a South American tienda in Orem, Utah. I went in hoping to find Nestlé Sublime chocolate bars (which I did [2]), which my Dad grew fond of while he was serving an LDS mission [3] in Peru. The store was small and I was about to leave because I hadn't spotted the Sublime bars, yet. I felt bad leaving without buying something, so I grabbed a can of manzana-flavored (apple-flavored) soda. At the register I finally spotted the Sublime bars but by then I was committed to try the Postobón soda.

Product Review: Martinelli's Prickly Passion Lemonade

I'm not really fond of passion fruit because it tastes too much like guava fruit.[1] But I was surprised to see that this lemonade also had juice from prickly pear fruit. In México the name for prickly pear fruit is tunas. While I was a missionary in the city of Matehuala, San Luis Potosí [2][3], I ate a lot of tunas. In fact, on one P-Day [4] we visited the ghost town of Real de Catorce.[5] The hillside up there was covered with fruiting prickly pear cacti, both the red and yellow-green varieties. I ate until my lips and fingers were too full of the tiny little spines to go on.[6] Since returning to the United States, I've found tunas in a few Mexican stores, but only rarely. So naturally I was intrigued to see them as an ingredient in a lemonade.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lillian's First Birding Trip

With Lillian's early arrival [1] Leann and I haven't been out birding, lately. But since the fall migration is almost over, we thought we should get out before the number of species bottoms out. So we put Lilli in her car seat, gave her a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America [2] and some binoculars, and set off. (For some reason her hair looked reddish in this photograph and turned out even more so when I manipulated it in the GIMP.[3] In reality her hair is light brown or blondish.) We went out to the Provo Airport Dike since it's close but it still offers a variety of water and shore birds. That way if Lillian started getting fussy, it wouldn't take us very long to get back home. Things were pretty quiet when we reached the dike—most of the birds had already flown to warmer climes. As we got out to the edge of Provo Bay we started to see and hear some fowl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Product Review: pitaya

The pitaya is usually sold at the grocery store under the more exotic name dragon fruit. Indeed, the name for this fruit in most Eastern languages incorporates the word dragon in some way or another.[1] This fruit is native to Central and South America and grows on a cactus. However, they're so popular that the cultivated variety (Hylocereus undatus) is now grown commercially in Hawaii, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. You will often see them touted for their health benefits.[2]

Product Review: Horned Melon

This fruit (Cucumis metuliferus) has many names: blowfish fruit, cherie, English tomato, gaka, gakachika, hedged gourd, horned melon, horned cucumber, jelly melon, Kiwano, Melano, and métulon.[1] It is native to Africa and is related to several more familiar fruits: honeydew, cantaloupe, and cucumber (and, to a lesser extent, watermelon, squashes, and loofah). In 1982 cultivation of this fruit began in New Zealand and from there has spread to several other locations around the world, including Israel and California.[2] It's no wonder this fruit generates curiosity—it looks like something you'd find growing on an alien world.

Product Review: marañón

We're all familiar with the cashew nut. But until recently (i.e. within the last few years) I didn't know that the cashew nut grows at the end of a fruit—the marañón or cashew apple. You only get one cashew per marañón, which is part of why it's more expensive than other nuts. The cashew tree is related to the mango, but because the marañón has a delicate skin it's mostly unsuitable for international trade (I had to buy them frozen).[1] The marañón can be yellow (like the ones I bought) or red.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Unlikelihood of Peter Wiggin

It has been one year exactly since I started blogging.[1] Including this one, I've made 433 posts. Some of them have been silly, some have been banal, and some may even have a hint of intelligence to them. As of this posting, my most popular post is my review of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4, with 1,670 views (as of writing), all from people searching for a map of Hogwarts. And while the stats compiler tells me I've had visitors from Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, México, Russia, and the UK, my dedicated readership hasn't really increased that much.[2] So while it's true that your voice can be heard on the internet regardless of who you are, that doesn't guarantee that very many people will hear it.[3]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Review: Secretariat

I can't say that I've ever really gotten into any movie or television series that features a horse as one of the main characters. But most (if not all) of my sisters went through a period in their childhood that can only be described as a "horse crush".[1] Leann felt good about watching this movie since 1. she had a "horse crush" of her own as a child and 2. due to the many horse books she read during her "horse crush", she already knew that Secretariat won the triple crown (i.e. she knew it had a happy ending). The movie is about a race horse, named Secretariat, and the woman who managed him, named Penny Chenery.

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice has a long history. It was first conceived as a ballad by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1797 (the German title is Der Zauberlehrling).[1] One hundred years later the French composer Paul Dukas composed a scherzo based on the poem (the French title is L'apprenti sorcier).[2] In 1940 Walt Disney Studios released the animated film Fantasia which featured Mickey Mouse in the role of the apprentice, set to Dukas' music. The most recent incarnation of The Sorcerer's Apprentice (and the subject of this review) is an adventure film directed by Jon Turteltaub (who also directed the National Treasure films) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer's involvement, in particular, makes me suspect that Disney was trying to duplicate the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.[3]

Movie Review: Ball of Fire

I added this movie to my Netflix queue because it was labeled as a screwball comedy and I've sampled very little of the genre (e.g. Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith [1]). Some of the tropes commonly found in screwball comedies are: eccentric secondary characters, reverse class snobbery, barbed and witty dialogue, farcical situations, and plots involving courtship and marriage—especially where one character is uptight and the other is carefree.[2] Ball of Fire manages to hit all of these points. It is about a philologist who is writing an encyclopedia article about American slang who has the shock of his life when he meets a woman of the streets only to discover that he knows nothing at all about the current state of American slang, thus rendering his article obsolete. In this case the eccentric secondary characters, his fellow professors/encyclopedia article writers are based on the seven dwarfs of Snow White fame.[3]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Movie Review: Funny Girl

I was surprised to learn that there was actually once a real Fanny Brice and that this movie was loosely based on her life. I guess it was inevitable that Barbra Streisand played the lead since both women were Jewish and both were popular singers in their day. A significant story arch in this movie is the turbulent relationship Fanny has with the dashing Nicky Arnstein (played by the Egyptian, Omar Sharif [1]), who she meets as a result of her rising stardom. As it turns out, though, the real Nicky Arnstein was a rascal from the get-go, but they whitewashed him for the film to avoid a lawsuit since he was still alive.[2]

Movie Review: Samurai Spy

The Japanese movie Samurai Spy (異聞猿飛佐助 Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke [1]) is actually about many spies. The movie takes place during a simmering rivalry between the ascending Tokugawa Shogunate [2] and the recently deposed Toyotomi clan. Both clans have infiltrated each other with spies. Thus both clans are overwhelmed with paranoia. Who can be trusted? Who is an impostor? What is the other clan planning? Given that the film was released in 1965, during rising tensions between the USA and the USSR, there's probably some allegory to be had here.

Movie Review: Hancock

One thing that makes Hancock different from a lot of other superhero movies is that the destruction caused by his powers come back to haunt him. In chasing a van of bank robbers during the opening scene he causes millions of dollars in damages to the city of Los Angeles. But that's all just setting. The story really starts when he saves the life of Ray, who is trying (with no success) to convince several large corporations to get involved in a scheme he calls the 'All-Heart'.[1] Ray decides to become a PR consultant for Hancock, which throws Hancock's life into a spiral.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Product Review: Rye Street Kettle Cooked Parmesan and Garlic

One afternoon at work I didn't feel like making and eating the lunch I'd brought (Maruchan Instant Lunch) but I needed to eat something since it was getting late in the day. So I popped down to the vending machines on the 4th floor of the WIDB. I decided to get these since they came in a one-serving bag and if I didn't like them, I wouldn't be committed to a full-size bag.

Product Review: Dalmatia Orange Fig Spread

I originally bought this hoping that it would offset the flavor of Limburger cheese.[1] It did not. Fortunately I was not limited to that one purpose. Before going to México on an LDS mission [2], the only experience I had with figs was Fig Newtons. But the part of México I served in (the states of Coahuila and Nuevo León) had the right climate for figs, so at some point in history they were introduced. There really is nothing like eating fresh figs right off the tree, the wasp eggs notwithstanding.[3]

Product Review: Cadbury Wunderbar

In the United Kingdom and Ireland the Wunderbar is called the Star Bar and the Moro Peanut Bar, respectively.[1] But in Germany and Canada it is marketed as the Wunderbar. I think this is rather clever since it's a play on the German word wunderbar ("wonderful") and the bar in candy bar. They don't actively market these in the United States, so you'll usually only find them in specialty stores.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Movie Review: Under the Greenwood Tree

Under the Greenwood Tree is based on a book by Thomas Hardy. I haven't read it, yet, but I have thoroughly enjoyed two of his novels (Far from the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native).[1] The title comes from Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act II, scene v. It is a snippet of a song sung by the character Amiens. As nearly as I could tell, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the novel. In reference to the title, the film features several extended shots of a tree with its limbs blowing in the wind. But nothing ever happens under it. It was just filler material. So I was very careful in choosing the picture I would display with this post. I wanted it to capture the relative importance of that oft-overlooked character, the greenwood tree.

Movie Review: Julie and Julia

In 1961 Julia Child defied many boundaries placed on her by the culture she grew up in and published a book called Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It presented 524 haute cuisine [1] recipes in such a way that they could be understood and carried out by the average American housewife. She struggled to get the manuscript published. This is portrayed in the movie in parallel with the efforts of a New York blogger, Julie Powell, to make all 524 recipes within one year (and blog about it) and the strain this puts on her and her marriage.

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

When I got back from my LDS mission to Monterrey, México [1], the first Harry Potter movie was already out. And everyone was ecstatic about it. So, for whatever reason, I was stubborn and refused to read the books or watch the movie. (But my family watched it so many times that I eventually saw enough excerpts to reconstruct the entire movie.) When the second movie came out, my roommate Ryan (a.k.a. "Dirty Ryan" [2]) asked if I wanted to go to the midnight showing with him. On a whim (and perhaps with a mild glee that I might be able to tease my sisters that I got to see it before them) I said yes. I liked it. After that I raided the Harold B. Lee Library on BYU campus and read all of the extant Harry Potter books. So I think it's fitting that this was the last movie that Leann and I went to see in the movie theater before we brought Lillian home and began restricting our public outings.[3]

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Official

One of the ways our Church (the LDS Church, often called the Mormon Church [1]) differs from some other Christian faiths is that we don't practice infant baptism. We do, however, perform a ceremony where we give babies a special blessing. In our Church all worthy adult males are given the Priesthood, which we define as the power and authority given by God to men to perform his work on the Earth. Men who hold the Priesthood form a circle, hold up the baby in the center, and one of the men (usually the father or grandfather of the baby) pronounces a blessing over the baby. At this time the baby is also given a name so it can be recorded on the records of the Church.[2] This ceremony is not required for the baby to be saved in the Kingdom of God.[3] Yesterday we gave Lillian her name and a blessing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: Fitzcarraldo

This movie is about a white man, the eponymous Fitzcarraldo [1], who is obsessed with the famous tenor, Enrico Caruso, and frequently plays a record of his singing on a phonograph.[2] As the movie starts Fitzcarraldo arrives in a motor boat, quite exhausted from his trip down the river, only to learn that the doors of the opera house where Caruso is singing have already been closed. He manages to finagle his way in, but he decides that it would be easier to be on time if he builds his own opera house in the town where he lives: Iquitos, a Peruvian town deep in the Amazon. But to do so, he needs money. So he decides to become a rubber baron. But the only tract of land still available is crammed between impassable mountain ranges, a treacherous set of rapids called Pongo das Mortes [3], and the territory of the Jivaro Indians who are headhunters. The solution he comes up with is to drag a steamboat over a low section of one of the mountain ranges into the river upstream of the rapids.

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (1944)

Carew Castle
I have yet to read anything written by a woman of the name Brontë, so I really had little idea what to expect. My best guess was that this would be in the same vein as the works of Jane Austen. (I haven't read any Jane Austen, either, but most of the film productions of her work are distasteful to me.[1]) So I was surprised to discover that this was a Gothic novel, rather than the "comedies of manners" of Jane Austen. By the time this film was released, color film had made its appearance. Given the Gothic themes, I find the use of black-and-white film stock to be the right choice. Orson Welles, who played Edward Rochester, was the one to suggest the use of long shadows and ambient fog [2], both of which add to the eerie and sometimes menacing atmosphere of the story.

Movie Review: Catfish

The movie Catfish is supposedly based on real events (though this is disputed [1]). It starts with a New York photographer, Nev Schulman, who receives a painting in the mail based on a photograph he recently published. The painting was done by an eight-year-old girl, named Abby. Astonished by the artistry of her painting, he strikes up a friendship with her through Facebook. Eventually he becomes friends with her Mom, Angela, and her older sister, Megan. Nev is quite taken with how beautiful Megan is and begins an online courtship. But then strange things start happening and Nev starts noticing inconsistencies in their stories.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Movie Review: Unknown (2011)

The premise of this movie is that a man wakes up after four days in a coma (due to a near-fatal car accident in Berlin, Germany) only to discover that someone else has seamlessly assumed his identity. Not even his wife will acknowledge that he is who he says he is. Even though many people are independently able to convince him that he is confused, he is persistent in trying to establish the veracity of his claims. Eventually they start getting to him. He's almost convinced of his mistake when an assassin comes after him at the hospital. He escapes the assassin, but now he's more sure than ever that his identity is being stolen.

Movie Review: Tron: Legacy

If you read my review of the original Tron [1], you know that my primary motive for watching it was to see if it overlapped significantly with a story idea I have. I had seen fragments of it before on TV and the special effects looked downright disastrous. (We've come a long way since then.) The first movie didn't really match the story idea I have, but there was still the possibility that this one did. And it looked like it had higher production value.

Movie Review: Australia (2008)

For some reason I was expecting this movie to be a musical. Perhaps this was because it's by the same director who made Moulin Rouge.[1] Or perhaps I conflated it with a vague memory I have of seeing a television spot about a new musical that was going to star David Moscow (think: Newsies) and was set in Australia.[2] Either way, this isn't a musical. Sure, there's some aboriginal singing, but there aren't any dance-and-song numbers. Instead, it's a drama/romance set against the backdrop of Australia during World War II (particularly the Bombing of Darwin).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mr. Yates

When I arrived in High School, my Freshman English Teacher was Mr. David Yates. He was a rather avuncular fellow who liked to stroke his chin and grin when he was about to say something that he thought was clever. It was a source of endless frustration to him that I could talk to my neighbors, distracting them, but still pay attention to his lectures.[1] He also lived in the same LDS ward [2] as several of my friends, which meant we knew where he lived. Thus we put this information to good use: we toilet-papered his house.[3]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Samurai Sudoku

I was recently rear-ended by another driver.[1] Even though I had an easy time finding my registration and proof of insurance, I decided that it was time to clean out the glove box. There were coupon books from 2007 and 2008, registration and safety inspection certificates dating back to 2006 (when I bought my car), and over a dozen old proof of insurance cards, a menu from Pier 49 Pizza, and a printout of an incomplete samurai sudoku [2], all of which no longer needed to be in the glove box. But I couldn't help myself—before throwing away the sudoku, I had to finish it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Television Review: Prison Break, Season 1

It surprises me that this series, Prison Break, made it through four seasons. I was originally under the impression that each season had a new cast of characters and featured a new prison break. But I've since been disabused of that idea. I'm curious to see how the subsequent seasons maintain the theme of prison breaking. The main actor, Dominic Purcell, seems to do a lot of his acting by squinting his eyebrows, but then opening his eyes as wide as possible.[1] Leann and I couldn't help but make the comparison with Robert Pattinson of the Twilight movies. (We've never seen any of those movies, but we like to characterize Robert Pattinson's acting as consisting entirely of moving his unusually bushy eyebrows around for dramatic effect.[2])