Friday, April 29, 2011

The Undiscovered Country

I found my Freshman English class at BYU to be a complete waste of time. I didn't need to take it because I'd passed the AP English Literature and AP English Composition exams, but it was "strongly recommended". So I took it (in fact, I took Honors Freshman English). Almost everyone else in the class was under the age of twenty and some of them got on my nerves. On top of that, I didn't really get along with the teacher, Mrs. Jorgensen.[1] One of our assignments was to write a personal essay. I decided to write mine about the way that I respond to the deaths of others. I really liked how it was developing, but eventually I hit a dead end (no pun intended). Rather than write a lame ending, I embellished things a little.[2] When I met with Mrs. Jorgensen to discuss my first draft, she remarked about the tragedy at the end. At this point I confessed that I had fabricated those events and she became quite upset with me and required me to rewrite the ending. I complied, but the original is still, I think, superior to the final draft. Here it is.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yay for Camille and Luke!

On Tuesday of this week, my sister, Camille, and her husband, Luke, were sealed in the Salt Lake City temple.[1] Alas, Leann and I were already on our way to the temple before I realized that I forgot to grab the camera. So I only have two pictures of the bride and groom, which I procured from my mom. More on that later.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Product Review: Jell-O Mousse Temptations: Dark Chocolate Decadence

This is going to sound funny coming from a man, but the first thing about these pudding cups that caught my attention was that they were only 60 calories each. I personally don't care. But Leann has trouble finding snacks that are yummy but also low in calories. Jell-O certainly used a lot of buzzwords: mousse, dark chocolate, decadence, temptations. I showed them to Leann and she consciously or subconsciously responded to the buzzwords. So I bought them for her. Even though they were for her, she let me try one.

Product Review: Barcel Takis: Fuego and Barcel Takis: Guacamole

Even though you can usually buy them in any grocery store, I went to a Mexican tienda to buy the ingredients for the capirotada that I made a few weeks ago.[1] While I was there, I picked up a few different bags of Takis.[2] Takis are corn chips that have been rolled up to look like little tacos. I first had them while serving as a missionary in Monterrey, México [3] and I've since introduced them to family and friends.

Product Review: Ski Queen Gjetost Cheese

I was a bit shocked when I opened up this cheese and it looked like a big block of caramel. The Norwegian word gjetost means "goat cheese". A more proper name for this cheese would be brunost or mesost (Swedish), mussmør (Norwegian), mysuostur (Icelandic) or myseost (Danish).[1] The cheese has a characteristic brown color because it is caramelized before being aged as cheese. The manufacturers recommend that you eat it in thin slices with fruit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

(Another) Invasion!

On the 14th of this month, when I came into my lab, I found this little critter crawling around on the shelf next to all of our chemicals that we use for research. I'd never seen one before. So I did what any rational human being would: I caught it in a plastic test tube and stuck it in the freezer. With the help of the key at [1], I was able to determine that it is a firebrat (Thermobia domestica), a type of silverfish. They are called firebrats because they are often found in warm places, like under heaters and ovens.[2]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend

This weekend we celebrated Easter, the holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that He was the literal Son of God, that He established his Church on the Earth, that He was and is the Savior of Mankind, that He has paid the price of our sins and will save us if we repent, that He was crucified, and that three days later He returned to life. Since that time some pagan aspects have entered into the Easter holiday—particularly Easter eggs. and the Easter bunny. However, we feel that these customs do not detract from our worship of the Savior.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Seminar Images

Every Thursday in my department we have a seminar speaker. Sometimes they are BYU professors and sometimes they are scientists invited from other universities, government labs, nonprofit labs, or biotech firms. The seminars are generally informative and give students the opportunity to learn about science as it is practiced in the world. Sometimes they put up information that I think should be publicly available. So I recreate it and put it up on Wikimedia.[1] Since the semester is over, there are no more seminars to be had until next September. Thus I'm introducing you to the two files I created this semester.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recipe: Capirotada

During Holy Week in México, where the majority of the people are Catholic, the people make a dish called capirotada. The traditional recipe is a bread pudding. The bread contains piloncillo (a Mexican brown sugar), syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, coconut, raisins, carrots, potatoes, strings of cheese, and pan mojado (bits of bread soaked in milk). The first time I saw it, I thought it was roast beef. Talk about disappointing! It's the only food I ever had while on my mission [1] that was so gross that I rolled it up in my napkin and stuck it in my pocket when the cook wasn't looking.[2] However, I was also introduced to a version of capirotada that was quite tasty and pleasant to eat. Last week my lab had a party. We were asked to bring a dessert. Leann usually takes charge because she doesn't want me to bring a package of Double-Stuf Oreos. Leann was out of town for work, so I was in charge of the dessert. I decided to make this instead of buying those Oreos. Boy was she surprised!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Product Review: Reese's Pastel Eggs

There was a time when I believed that there were two things eaten in heaven: Junior Mints and Reese's Pieces. Then a few years ago I discovered that heaven had been holding out on me: Reese's Pieces came in a "king size": Reese's Pieces Pastel Eggs.[1]

Product Review: Combos 2

That's right, it's time again to revisit the delectable snacks of my childhood.[1] This time around we're considering two pretzel flavors: Pizzeria Pretzel and Cheddar Cheese Pretzel. Just to be clear, these aren't actual pretzels; the outside shell of the snack is just made the same way as pretzels are. Other Combos are made with a cracker shell or a tortilla shell.[2]

Product Review: Cady Creek Farms Farmer's Cheese

I'm not really sure what I actually bought when I purchased Cady Creek Farms Farmer's Cheese. As it turns out, farmer's cheese is a class of cheese, rather than a particular variety.[1][2] It is typically unripened, dry, and crumbly. However this Farmer's cheese wasn't dry or crumbly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Make Your Own Panorama

On Sunday we had Stake Conference [1], so we got out of Church at noon instead of at two. With all that extra time on our hands, Leann and I decided to go for a drive. We ended up driving around Utah Lake since neither of us had been on the west side of it. I took some photographs while we were driving around that I wanted to stitch together into a panorama. I found some free software called Hugin.[2] It's really quite easy to use.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The End of Procrastination III

Last year I noticed that there is a paucity of information about nitrogen-fixing rhizobia [1] on Wikipedia. Since I had a lot of rhizobial strains available to me, I decided to photograph them and upload the photographs to Wikimedia Commons. As with the Siberian peashrub photographs [2], I wanted to clean up the background before actually submitting them. I also wanted to center them and rotate them so they didn't look crooked. They sat on the desktop of my lab computer until February of this year. Then I moved them to my jump drive and procrastinated again until now. This week when I had a little free time between experiments at work, I used the GIMP to touch them up.[3] Without further ado, here they are.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's a Girl!

For some of you, this is the first you're hearing about it, but Leann and I are expecting a baby girl on the 26th of August. When we left to go see the doctor, we had seven guesses for a baby boy (including Leann) and six guesses for a baby girl (including me). Despite being outnumbered, the girl guessers were in the right.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Television Review: EUReKA, Season 2

The episodes of the second season of EUReKA follow the same formula as those of the first: something weird happens, the sheriff investigates, one or more cutting-edge technologies being developed by the citizens of Eureka is implicated, and just as things come to a head the sheriff has a moment of lucidity and figures out how to avert the disaster. Often the developments in the town are mirrored in the relationships between the residences, allowing the presentation of a moral (or at least a feel-good moment) at the end. Along the way we learn about the mysterious Artifact.

Movie Review: Deep Impact

The first wave of disaster films occurred in the 1970s. It was kicked off by Airport, which was followed by The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Earthquake.[1][2] Eventually the craze died out in the late 1970s. Starting in the mid-1990s, with the release of Independence Day, the second wave of disaster films has used computer graphics to improve the special effects of the films. This has resulted in disasters on a much larger scale.[3] Deep Impact was released in May of 1998. The similar-themed Armageddon was released 2 months later. Both feature a (comet/asteroid) about to collide with the earth, a crew sent with nukes to destroy the threat, a self-sacrificing grizzled old man, etc.

Music Review: Alice in Wonderland

Back around Valentine's Day one of my uncles asked on Facebook if there was a way to rip some music off the Disney website for the new Alice in Wonderland movie.[1] He said the music playing on the website wasn't from the movie or from any of Danny Elfman's other soundtracks. I tried several different ways to isolate the music, but failed on all accounts (and my uncle doesn't even know I tried). In the process, though, I listened to the music on the webpage countless times and eventually became curious about the soundtrack for the movie. I've refrained from reviewing the soundtrack until after I watched the movie.[2]

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hunting and Wildlife Management Maps

Apparently my obsession with drawing maps for Wikipedia hasn't quite cooled, yet. When I went to see Leann in her lab a few weeks ago, I spotted a map on the wall detailing the wildlife management units for Utah. Rather than tear it down and scan it so that I could make an .svg map out of it [1], I searched online for the same information. I found a version by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources [2] and a version put together by Utah State University.[3] At the USU site, I also spotted a map showing the regional hunt units for Utah. I made maps of both. So that county lines could still be visualized, I made the units semi-transparent. Then I went ahead and made maps for several other states.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Puzzle: A Mother's Joy

Leann got out this puzzle, the second one given to us by our friends, Ben and Carolyn [1], and suggested we put it together. After it was out, though, Leann got tired and didn't help. I tinkered with it on my own over the next few weeks. As it started nearing completion she finally consented to help. Voilà!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Product Review: Lindt Excellence: Black Currant

There are a lot of fruits and berries that I've never tried. One of them is currants. So when I spotted a new flavor of Lindt Excellence bar, blackcurrant, I was intrigued.[1] According to Wikipedia, blackcurrant is as popular a flavor for candies in Europe as grape is in North America.[2]

Product Review: Salt and Vinegar Chips 2

I've already confessed my fondness for salt and vinegar chips.[1] So whenever I spot a new brand, you're sure to get a new review. This time you get two: Block & Barrel Classic Salt & Vinegar Kettle Style Potato Chips and Boulder Canyon Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.

Product Review: Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese

While browsing the cheeses available at the grocery store, I'd noticed Dubliner cheese, but didn't think much about it until they changed the packaging to pink (in support of breast cancer awareness).[1] Before buying it, I looked for information about it online. Surprisingly, there was no entry for it at but there was an entry at Wikipedia.[2]

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


After watching Angels and Demons [1], I began to wonder if I could create ambigrams without too much trouble. An ambigram is a word written in such a way that if you rotate it 180°, it still reads the same thing. For example, the word pod is naturally an ambigram. So is the word mow (depending on the font face used). After doing some brief research, I concluded that the German font faces Fraktur and Textura [2] were most conducive to creating ambigrams, though eventually I expanded to include other fonts. I did the actual drawings in Inkscape. Once I had them drawn the way I wanted them, I exported them as .png files which I converted to animated .gif files using the GIMP.[3]

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Find It: SnowY

Last Saturday it was balmy enough to walk around in short sleeves and without a jacket. Overnight it snowed 2–3 inches. That came as a bit of a shock. So once again there was snow on Y Mountain—so much that it was almost impossible for me to spot the Y. Can you? [1]

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mental Lacunae

Over the weekend, I went through a stack of data CDs that I never use anymore to see if they had anything valuable on them before sending them to the local landfill. One thing that I found was a letter that I wrote to my sister while she was in the Missionary Training Center.[1] I was in my third semester as an undergraduate at BYU. The crazy thing is that I don't remember either of the events I mentioned in my letter. Not even a little bit! Here are the relevant parts of the letter:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Global Warming: An Unfortunate Misnomer

Amid all the global warming controversy, it's not hard not to notice when it's colder and there's more snow than in previous years. So imagine my mother-in-law's surprise a year or two back when a cashier informed her that people misunderstand the term "global warming": it doesn't mean the planet is getting warmer, it means the planet is getting colder.[1][2] In honor of that confusing statement, I took many of the graphs and images produced by global warming proponents and doctored them to show global cooling. Since it's April Fools' Day, I'm providing them for your enjoyment.