Thursday, January 27, 2011


Plato: I think what you think should be what I think. And I think you should think for yourself.

Aristotle: I think I do think for myself.

Plato: Ah, but do you think for yourself because you do think for yourself, or do you think for yourself because I think you should and therefore you let me think for you?

Aristotle: I don't think so.

Plato: Because I think you should?

Aristotle: I think you think too much.

Plato: You think so?

Aristotle: I think, therefore I am.

Plato. No, you don’t think. I think and you’re just a coincidence.

Aristotle: You should try not to think at all. If you don’t think, but I still can think, then I think I think for myself.

Plato: No. Think, silly. If you think what I think and I think you should think for yourself, then inevitably you think what I think when you think for yourself because I think you should. No matter what you think, you think it because I think you should think it. Even if I don’t think, I still think it.

Aristotle: But then I don't think for myself because I think what you think. But you think I should think for myself. Since I don't, I don't think what you think and therefore think for myself. Which I don't think means what you think.

Plato: I think you think in circles and I think you know what I mean.

Aristotle: I think so. Let me think. You think I should think for myself. So I do, I think. But you think I think for myself because you think I should. Which means I don’t really think for myself at all—I just think I do.

Plato: I think you’ve finally got it.

Aristotle: Thank you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Product Review: Denali Mint Moose Tracks

It all started with the original Moose Tracks flavor of ice cream: vanilla with veins and ribbons of chocolate, punctuated with mini peanut butter cups. Then came the derivatives: Caramel Caribou (with caramel ribbons and cups), Bear Foot Brownie (with chunks of brownie), etc. As the popularity of their ice creams continued to grow, Denali introduced new flavors but left off coming up with creative new names and simply added the flavor to the moniker "Moose Tracks". Thus we now have Cherry Moose Tracks, Fudge Moose Tracks, Malted Moose Tracks, and Mint Moose Tracks.[1] I'd previously tried Denali's Glacier Mint (mint ice cream with chocolate ribbons and mini mint cups), but not Mint Moose Tracks. Since it's hard to find Glacier Mint, I gave this one a shot.

Product Review: Boing! Guanábana Juice

I never heard of a soursop (guanábana in Spanish) while I was on my mission in Monterrey, México.[1] I was completely unaware of their existence until I started noticing fruit juice boxes at Mexican tiendas that were guanábana flavored. A few months ago I actually found a soursop in one of those tiendas and bought it since I was in charge of treats for lab meeting that week.[2] More recently those fruit juice boxes have started showing up at regular grocery stores. So I finally bought one and tried it.

Product Review: Hostess Cherry Pie

School lunch was generally a monotonous affair in elementary school, though there were a few highlights.[1] One such delight were the cherry pies we were infrequently given. I had a friend, Adam Witt, who always gave me his. Not because he didn't like them, but because on two separate occasions he choked on one and Donna, the head custodian (?), had to give him the Heimlich Maneuver. Thus those days were doubly good to me. For a while now every time I walk past the Hostess fruit pies at the grocery store I've considered whether they're as good as I remember. I finally gave in and bought one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recipe: Italian Cream Soda

Leann and I first experienced Italian sodas at a wedding reception held at Thanksgiving Point. Leann was curious, but timid, so she made me go get one first. It was really good. We went back for more. My favorite was the pomegranate-flavored soda while hers was the blackberry. Since there aren't that many places that offer Italian sodas, I decided to figure out whether I could make my own. As it turns out, it wasn't that hard.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Custom Halo: Reach Map Variant: Spiral

As I've mentioned earlier, Halo 3 and Halo: Reach include a feature where you can edit the maps that you play on.[1] Some maps are very flexible, like Forge World [2]; others are not. One of the maps included in Halo: Reach is called Spire. It is one of the less tractable maps, but I felt that it needed a few modifications.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Most Beautiful

The Most Beautiful (一番美しく) is a Japanese film released by Akira Kurosawa in 1944 in support of Japan's war effort during World War II.[1] This was the second film he ever directed. It depicts a group of women who are employed at an optics factory. In response to gains made by the United States in the Pacific theater, the factory is forced to increase the daily production quotas. The women respond by striving to surpass their already strenuous quotas.

Movie Review: Monster-in-Law

Monster-in-Law, as the title suggests, chronicles the troubled relationship between a young bride-to-be and her future mother-in-law. The only reason Leann and I were interested in watching this film was because we enjoyed Michael Vartan in Alias.

Movie Review: Moulin Rouge

I'm not really sure what inspired me to watch Moulin Rouge. Maybe Netflix recommended it to me. I didn't know anything about it except that it was a musical and I don't really care for musicals. But I watched it anyway. Besides the much singing, the movie was tragi-comic.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Wednesday night Leann and I went to a little fast food place just a block away from the Colony apartments, called Stan's. The owner is a small man with swarthy skin [1], a thin mustache, and salt-and-pepper hair. They are probably best known for their spicy fries, which is why we first went there while we were dating. Since then we've been back a few times and sampled some of the other items on their menu.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You Lost the Game

The way you play the game is by not knowing about it. Once you know about it, you've lost. Some people assert that you can rejoin the game by not thinking about it. But let's face it: there are tribal people in Borneo who will never lose the game. So even if you admit the possibility of starting the game over, you'll never catch up to them. In effect, the game is over for you. They haven't won, but you certainly have lost. I lost the game several years ago when I stumbled across the Wikipedia article about it. And since I'm a poor loser, I help others to lose the game, too. That's where you come in, dear reader. If you haven't already, you just lost the game.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Music Review: Tender Mercies

I first became aware of Steven Sharp Nelson as the cellist in John Schmidt's YouTube video, Love Story Meets Viva la Vida.[1] I didn't really make note of him. Later, while driving around one Sunday, I was listening to a local radio station, 98.3, which plays LDS music on the Sabbath.[2] A rousing version of "Come, Come Ye Saints" came on and when it was over, I made Leann (who was in the passenger seat) write down the name of the artist.  (It was Steven Sharp Nelson.) When Christmas rolled around, I looked it up and found the CD, entitled Tender Mercies, so that I could add it to my Christmas wish list.

Book Review: Phantom

Phantom is the 10th book in the fantasy series [1], The Sword of Truth, by Terry Goodkind. Goodkind is a starry-eyed acolyte of Ayn Rand and he uses his books as a thinly-veiled proselyting tract  for her philosophy, Objectivism (though if you understand the principles of Objectivism, you'll realize that Goodkind's books don't always exemplify them very well). At the beginning of the series the plot moved along at an enjoyable pace, though much of his worldbuilding was plagiarized from The Wheel of Time (which is a much better series). But the later books became increasingly bogged down with Goodkind's preaching.

Reverse Psych-ology

I don't watch a terrible lot of television, but I have noticed a trend in several of the shows I've watched. I've actually noticed two trends [1], but for this post I'll just be addressing the juxtaposition of a metrosexual guy with a beautiful girl who is tougher than him. Examples:
  • Alias: Jennifer Garner plays a tough girl (spy) with Michael Vartan as her wimpy counterpart
  • Battlestar Galactica: Katee Sackhoff plays a tough girl (pilot) with Jamie Bamber as her wimpy counterpart [2]
  • Battlestar Galactica: Grace Park plays a tough girl (pilot/cylon) with Tahmoh Penikett as her wimpy counterpart
  • Battlestar Galactica: Tricia Helfer plays a tough girl (cylon) with James Callis as her wimpy counterpart
  • Dark Angel: Jessica Alba plays a tough girl (an escaped, genetically-enhanced super-soldier) with Michael Weatherly as her wimpy counterpart
  • Dollhouse: Eliza Dushku plays a tough girl (an 'active') with Tahmoh Penikett as her wimpy counterpart
  • Firefly: Jewel Staite plays a tough girl (mechanic) with Sean Maher as her wimpy counterpart
  • Fringe: Anna Torv plays a tough girl (FBI agent) with Joshua Jackson as her wimpy counterpart
Now I'll grant that most of these shows have something in common: they're sci-fi shows and most have a female as the principal character.[3] However, I think that Psych also fits the trend (or is headed that way).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deinococcus radiodurans

This organism was first noticed in 1956 when it spoiled a can of meat that had been irradiated.[1] It was subsequently determined that it can withstand 15,000 Grays of radiation. To put that in perspective, 10 Grays of radiation will kill a human being and a little over 60 will kill a cockroach.[2] It is able to do this through two adaptations not normally seen in bacteria.[3] First, it has four copies of its genome (mouse over for definition), rather than one. So if any gene is mutated by the radiation, it still has several good copies to keep it alive until it has time to repair the damaged gene. Second, it repairs DNA damage more quickly than other bacteria. Because it is such a tough organism (it can also withstand extreme cold, dehydration, vacuum, and acid), it has been nicknamed 'Conan the Bacterium'.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Woes of Packaging, Part I

I understand that companies need to make modifications to the packaging that they ship their product(s) in. Sometimes it's to make shipping and/or display easier. Sometimes it's to make shoplifting more difficult. Sometimes it's to ensure the health and safety of the consumer. But sometimes the packaging that they design is downright aggravating![1]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Movie Review: Aliens in the Attic

I couldn't say why, but when I put this disc on to watch it, I expected the whole thing to be CGI, not just the aliens. So when a host of live actors showed up (including the kid from Surface [1]), I was a little surprised. The aliens, which are CGI, show up later. I'm not sure this movie was accurately named since the aliens seemed to spend more time in the ventilation ducts than they did in the attic.

Movie Review: 9

9 takes place following an apocalypse which has wiped out all or nearly all of humanity. The narration at the beginning seems to imply that it was due to environmental damage, but later on the film clarifies that a war had broken out between human beings and a sentient robot—a war which the robot, for all intents and purposes, had won. In this landscape we encounter nine dolls which are also sentient. They struggle to survive in a lifeless, barren world, where they are hunted by other robots.

Movie Review: MST3K: Time Chasers

I used to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 (abbreviated as MST3K) on the weekends with my former roommate, Ryan, and my friend (who at the time was also the BYU 38th Ward Book Club president), Jonathan.[1] We would often eat chocolate pudding, Fritos scoops, and Tostitos Salsa con Queso (not all at once). This episode of MST3K, Time Chasers, was my favorite.

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I was pretty excited when I saw the teaser trailer for the first Transformers movie. I remember watching the cartoon series in my childhood (though, to be honest, I don't remember many actual details of the series). With computer graphics the movie promised to be a visual spectacle and it was. All the reports I'd read about the sequel said that they'd tried to outdo themselves in every aspect and that the final product simply collapsed under its own weight. After watching the film I'm inclined to say that their criticisms were more overblown than the movie was. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

On Tenterhooks

Within the last few weeks I've been both to the mechanic and to the dentist. I don't fear either of these people [1], but neither do I like visiting them. I'm always slightly anxious until they come back with the verdict. Did I pass my safety inspection or do I have to replace the radiator? Do I get off with just a cleaning or do I have 8 cavities? I didn't think that getting a double root canal was all that bad…until I had to pay for it. So really it's waiting for the results, the anxiety of not knowing how hard my finances are going to be hit this time around, that make visits to the dentist or the auto mechanic so unpleasant for me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cheese Tasting

Despite my bad experience with Brie [1], I decided that there are still a lot of cheeses that I'm curious about. So I decided to try some more. I even convinced Leann, who's generally less adventurous than I am, to give them a try. So I bought a few cheeses at the grocery store and ate them with some sesame seed crackers, some summer sausage, toasted semolina bread with dipping oil and balsamic vinegar (not shown), and quinces. I also tried a few Mexican cheeses that I bought for making enchiladas Potosinas.[2] Fortunately for me, this round of cheese experimentation went better.

Product Review: Kettle-Cooked Salt and Vinegar Chips

It took me a long time to come around to salt-and-vinegar-flavored potato chips. The first time I had them I was still in grade school and we were at my grandparents' house for Christmas. I didn't like them. At all. Then, while I was on my mission [1] in Monterrey, México, I developed a taste for salt-and-lime-flavored Fritos.[2] Not long after I'd started college at BYU, I discovered some lime-flavored potato chips (Lay's Limón) at the grocery store. But they only kept them stocked for a few weeks and then stopped.[3]

Product Review: TGI Friday's Potato Skins: Jalapeño Cheddar

I rather like TGI Friday's cheddar-and-bacon-flavored potato skins. Whenever the vending machine is out of Snyder's cheddar-flavored pretzel pieces [1], that's what I buy. When Leann and I went to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2], I bought a bag of the jalapeño-and-cheddar-flavored potato skins and sneaked them into the theater. Well, actually, I put them into Leann's purse and she sneaked them in.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Fine Eye for Garbage

BYU has a student publication called Inscape. Students are encouraged to submit fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and/or art to a competition. The winners are published in Inscape and given some sort of cash prize. In 2001 I tried submitting poetry, fiction, and art. My submissions were all returned to me within weeks and without comment. In 2002 I tried again with fiction and poetry, to identical results. During this time I had acquired my own copies of the 2001 and 2002 editions of Inscape.[1] It was drivel, down to the last word. Disgusted, I made a single submission in 2003. Rather than carefully craft a poem with a message or even artistic merit, I spent several weeks writing down random phrases that occurred to me. Then I strung them together, more or less at random, into stanzas. I added a few lines which hinted at my opinion of their magazine and judges (as did the title I chose), then I submitted it. Unlike previous attempts, months went by before I heard back from them. I still didn't win, but this time I'd actually made it to the last round of judging before being eliminated. Well, the joke's on them. Here is the text of that poem, A Fine Eye for Garbage.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

King of the Hill

While I was in grade school in Star Valley, Wyoming, we got a lot of snow during the winter. The snowplows would clear out the parking lots of the elementary school, pushing up huge banks of snow. We boys would play king of the hill on these snowbanks. It didn't take long for the top of the snowbank to become smooth from the scuffling feet of kings and would-be kings. And there were myriad furrows leading to the bottom of the snowbank, made slippery by the backs of deposed monarchs and failed usurpers. Many a time my very own back helped to polish those furrows; it seemed to take forever to slide to the bottom, and longer to climb back to the top. But it was worth it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Recipe: Enchiladas Potosinas

The word enchilada in Spanish literally means "infused with chili peppers".[1] So unlike their American or Tex-Mex counterparts, which just have a sauce on top, enchiladas in México are either made by soaking the tortillas in a chili sauce or by including the chili peppers in the tortilla dough.[2] Enchiladas Potosinas are a regional variety of enchilada made in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, which includes Matehuala, a city I served in during my mission.[3] Ironically, the only time I ever had enchiladas Potosinas was in the city of Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León. With a little help from this blog, I've recreated the recipe.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Product Review: Président Brie

After the Yanni grilling cheese that I bought turned out to be so tasty [1], I felt emboldened. So I decided to try another cheese I'd never had before: Brie. I found some on sale at Smith's so I bought a stick of it. The label said it was "creamy and delicious".

Product Review: Snyder's Pretzel Pieces

Around a year ago one of the undergraduates in my lab, named Divyesh Choudhri (he was from India), offered me some Snyder's cheddar cheese-flavored pretzel pieces. They were really good. Since then I've spent more money than I should at the vending machine so that I can have more.

Product Review: Barcel Takis: Nitro

Many of you are familiar with Takis, a Mexican corn chip rolled like a taco. There are now several flavors, but when I first had them as an LDS missionary in México [1], there was only one flavor: fajita. Recently I discovered a new flavor while visiting a Mexican tienda: Nitro. The label on the bag touts them as a "Habanero and lime flavored corn snack".

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part IV

For parts I, II, and III in this series of posts about Mayan hieroglyphs, I've played around creating fanciful and highly inauthentic translations of my name, my wife's name, and my family name (surname).[1] But I also want to introduce a thought concerning the Book of Mormon that occurred to me while I was watching Breaking the Maya Code, the NOVA documentary that initially inspired me to start all of this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Movie Review: Fred Claus

I don't think I ever would've decided watched this film. Comedies starring former members of Saturday Night Live or the "Frat Pack" [1] usually don't impress me. But my brother-in-law, Luke, put it on over the Christmas Break and so I witnessed it. It tells the story of Santa Claus' bitter older brother who is eventually forced to call upon St. Nick for a favor.

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Before I watched this movie, the only experience I'd had with it was seeing a Hitchcock-like silhouette of the main character.[1] I expected the main character to be, well, despicable. After the montage at the beginning, the main character doesn't do much that's very morally reprehensible. He's not that villainous; just petty and uncaring. I also expected him to look sinister, but he actually just looks kind of goofy.[2]

Movie Review: My Super Ex-Girlfriend

The commercials that I saw for this movie made it look like a quirky, but fairly innocuous comedy. It's about a man who first dates, then breaks up with, a superheroine. And apparently she doesn't handle it very well. The premise has a lot of comedic potential, so even though I don't usually watch comedies, I decided to give this one a chance.

Movie Review: Zathura

The makers of this movie tried to dissociate it from its prequel, Jumanji, but to no avail. Instead of bringing a dangerous jungle to life, this time the game transports the players into space where they're confronted with astronomical objects, astronauts, aliens, robots, etc. I was skeptical that they could pull off the same basic idea without it being painfully derivative.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution Run 2011

In August of 2010 I decided that I wanted a forced exercise program. So I decided it would be fun to train for a 5K, since I've never run a race before. I tried to get Matt to commit to 30 minute workouts 3 days a week, but after a month or so of him "declining to answer the question" of whether or not he would train with me, I decided to go ahead without him. I did the Couch to 5K 9 week program. I had a running partner who practiced with me about once a week, and I did the other 2 workouts on my own. I started out running 14.5 minute miles. Our initial goal was to run the 5K in 36 minutes, but as I got faster I changed my goal to 32 minutes. In the last few weeks prior to the race my fastest time was something like 31:07; my average 32:10.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Serratia marcescens

If you've ever seen a red film growing in your bathtub or in your toilet, you haven't been visited by the Cat in the Hat and his pink cake; you're seeing Serratia marcescens. That also means you should scrub your bathtub/toilet right away, because Serratia marcescens can cause urinary tract infections, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and respiratory tract infections.[1] Since it actually lives off soap and shampoo residues, your best chances of eliminating the bacteria from your bathroom is to use bleach; otherwise it will just keep coming back.

Monday, January 3, 2011


One day I was sitting in my Physics 106 class at BYU, learning about Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity. The teacher was explaining the effects of near-light travel and giving us equations to define each. When he mentioned time dilation [1]:
ΔTmoving = ΔT­rest √(1 – v2/c2)
I wondered: could I use this to figure out how fast God is moving?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Music Review: We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Joy to the World

John Williams is assuredly best known for the lush and grandiose scores that he composes for feature films. However, he has also composed several strictly classical pieces, the theme music for several Olympic Games, and music for television shows. He also did a stint from 1980–1993 as the lead conductor for the Boston Pops Orchestra. It was in this capacity that he recorded these Christmas albums: We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Joy to the World.

Music Review: Il Divo

The group Il Divo (which is Italian for "the divine male singer") was recommended to me by a family that I home teach.[1] The band was organized by Simon Cowell (of American Idol infamy) after noticing the positive reception to operatic pop singers like Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban, as well as the perennial success of The Phantom of the Opera. He gathered together four singers from France, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States with the intent to create a group with a sound like that of the Three Tenors. They sing in English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.[2] It took two years to put the group together. Since then, Il Divo has put five albums out: Il Divo (2004), Ancora (2005), The Christmas Collection (2005), Siempre (2006), and The Promise (2008).