Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zoorassic Park

This Memorial Day weekend our friends Ben and Carolyn, and their daughter Elsie, were up from Las Vegas. Saturday morning we met them at the Hogle Zoo. This summer they have a dinosaur theme, which they've entitled Zoorassic Park [1]. Scattered around the zoo are 10 animatronic dinosaurs next to plaques telling you a little more about them. I thought that was pretty exciting. Since Leann interned at the Hogle Zoo two summers ago, she was excited to see some of the animals she worked with and some of her friends who are animal keepers at the zoo.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Evening Walk

Last night after dinner it felt just right outside, so Leann and I went for a walk. On other walks we've been on in our new neighborhood [1], I've spotted some interesting things. So this time I took along the camera and snapped a few pictures. This time I ended up mostly taking pictures of trees. But there was one interesting thing…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Movie Review: Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures

When I queued this up in Netflix I didn't think I had seen it. But after watching it I realized that I'd watched them before, probably with my former roommate, Luther. The "Three Amazing Adventures" are three short films: A Grand Day Out, A Close Shave, and The Wrong Trousers. They feature Wallace, a cheese-loving window washer who moonlights as an inventor, and Gromit, his dog who has above-average intelligence. Wallace often gets himself into trouble and Gromit gets him out of it. All three shorts were produced using stop-motion animation and plasticine modeling clay molded around metal armatures.

Movie Review: Poseidon (2006)

When I was in grade school or junior high, I read the book The Poseidon Adventure, about a cruise liner that is knocked over by a tidal wave following an undersea earthquake.[1] Some time after I finished the book, my parents rented The Poseidon Adventure, a film based on the movie made in 1972, during the era of the disaster flick.[2] This film is simply named Poseidon, but is still based on the same source material.

Movie Review: Tangled

I hadn't really heard much about Tangled until Leann saw it with her family when she went to Texas last Christmas. After she got back, she had no motivation to watch it again in the theater since she'd already seen it. (That and we rarely watch movies in the theater anyway, mostly because of Netflix, I think.) Thus I decided to wait until it came out on DVD before watching it. It was released on home video at the end of March [1], but I still didn't get around to seeing it. It wasn't until I bought it for my mom for Mother's Day that I took the opportunity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Matt Gets Published! I

As you will recall [1], I am doing original research on symbiotic nitrogen fixation as a major component of my Ph.D. studies. Specifically, in my lab we are investigating how the bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti and the plant Medicago sativa (alfalfa) recognize each other. We know that the plants and the bacteria secrete specific chemicals that allow them to identify themselves to each other, but not all of those chemicals have been elucidated, yet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Product Review: Salt and Vinegar Chips III

A few weeks ago we went to a nearby dollar store, called HonK's (mouseover for IPA [1]), to get some things for our new apartment.[2] While we were wandering around I spotted two different bags of salt and vinegar chips. (You've probably guessed by now that I have a thing for them.) A little later we went to Smiths and I spotted a third. So today you get three reviews in one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cleaning House II

In my ongoing effort to remove things from my parents' house I brought a few more loads back with me to Provo.[1] The first load, which I'll present here, came back with me in March, after we went up to visit for the birthday week.[2] The second load, which we picked up after our visit to Lucin [3], was just a lot of my books that I've been storing in their basement. They're not worth detailing. It took me a while to get around to this post because there were some things that took a little planning (as you'll see) and our recent move [4] kind of disrupted the flow of those events (i.e. I hadn't unpacked them, yet).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

(Partially) Lost Treasures, Part IV

At last we've come to the last list. In previous posts [1], I've explained how I found some lists of photographs that I took while serving an LDS mission in Monterrey, México.[2] Some of those photographs were lost, in one way or another. As with the previous list, I have most of the photographs described herein, but not all of them. Some were either damaged or given away. I'm no longer sure which. So, without further ado, here is the last (annotated) list of photographs:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Movie Review: Penelope (2008)

In the late 1630s, rumors arose in England, France, and Holland of a rich woman who turned away a beggar, referring to the beggar's children as piglets. The beggar subsequently cursed the rich woman. As a result of the curse, the rich woman later gave birth to a baby girl with the head of a pig. Belief in pig-faced women waxed and waned over the years until it finally dissipated in the early 1900s.[1] The film Penelope draws on this urban legend but in a more modern setting, which allowed them some room for satire.

Movie Review: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Mr. and Mrs. Smith is one of Alfred Hitchcock's rare forays into the comedy genre.[1][2] It details the turmoil a couple goes through in the aftermath of learning that their marriage license (issued in Idaho, no less) wasn't valid. The description at Netflix says:
After three years of highs and lows in a mercurial nuptial, the two discover they aren't truly married after all. David hesitates sealing the deal for real, which drives Ann to the arms of the straight-laced Jeff. Is a happily-ever-after not meant to be?[3]
Thus it was with some surprise that the movie turned out to be quite the opposite: Ann hesitates to seal the deal, hoping, instead to "trade in for a better model". The remainder of the film is about David trying to get back into Ann's good graces.

Movie Review: Life in the Freezer

Life in the Freezer is the fifth film in David Attenborough's Life series that we've watched.[1] It documents the life cycles of many of the creatures that inhabit Antarctica and its surrounding waters, the Southern Sea. The filmmakers went to great lengths to capture some of their footage, including braving heaving waves that were 60 feet high and diving into undersea tunnels in the ice, following Weddell Seals. Though the majority of the series was spent observing penguins, seals, whales, skuas, petrels, isopods, ribbon worms, krill, etc., the last episode of the series focused on human exploration of the Antarctic continent.[2]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

(Partially) Lost Treasures, Part III

In previous posts, I mentioned that I found two pieces of paper which contained lists of photographs that I took while serving an LDS mission in México.[1] In the last two installments [2] I went over the two lists on the first piece of paper. Now I'll go over the first list on the second piece of paper. At first I thought that these represented more lost photos.[3] However, upon looking through my photo album, I discovered that I had at least managed to develop the rolls of film described in the lists. However, I don't have every photograph mentioned in the lists. I don't remember now, but I suspect that the film was damaged and not all of the photographs turned out. Here's the list (with some of the photos):

Monday, May 16, 2011

(Not) Lost Treasures, Part II

Last time [1], I shared a list of photographs that I took while in Monterrey, México, serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[2] That part of the list has been lost, but for the second half I still have the photographs. So I scanned a few of the more interesting ones and uploaded them for your enjoyment. Here is the second list, again with notes:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost Treasures, Part I

While unpacking last week [1], I found my old analog camera and a few rolls of 35mm film. In the pouch on the camera case, stuffed underneath a spare battery and the empty case for the roll of film still in the camera, were two pieces of paper. One of them was a record of the photographs I took in February and March of the year 2000, the first two months I was serving my mission in Monterrey, México.[2] This occupied two rolls of film. I ran into a man who was traveling to the U.S. for a mission reunion, who offered to take some things back to Utah for me. I made a package and dropped the first roll of film into it. He called my parents from Provo, Utah, to let them know that he had the package that I'd sent. But he never got back in touch with them. And I never saw him again back in México. My parents never received the package. So that roll of film is undoubtedly lost forever. But here, with some notes, is the list I kept:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Product Review: Durian

One of the undergraduates in my lab, James, who served his mission in Thailand [1], informed me that his father had bought him a durian and asked if I wanted to try some. The durian is a fruit that grows in southeast Asia. The outer rind is covered with short spines that are sharp enough to draw blood. Inside the fruit is divided into five compartments, each of which contains three fleshy blobs surrounding one seed each. I thought these looked like nothing so much as giant slugs. The durian is known for it's potent and awful smell.[2][3]

Opinions are divided over the flavor of the fruit. Rather than try to explain it, I'll just give you an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Product Review: Olé Quesadilla Cheese

A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to move [1], Leann decided to make quesadillas for dinner since they're quick and simple (which meant they wouldn't get in the way of packing). As part of my ongoing curiosity about cheeses [2], particularly Mexican cheeses, I decided to buy a brick of Quesadilla Cheese, since it's specifically intended for use in quesadillas.

Product Review: Doritos Taco Flavor Tortilla Chips

Let's be honest. There's something a little scary about a taco-flavored anything that isn't actually a taco. It's almost certainly going to taste like cumin and chili powder.[1] And at first glance (or, first nibble, if you prefer), that seems like it would be a little unpleasant. However, I'm fairly adventurous, so I gave these chips a try.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lucin, Utah

As part of our Fourth Anniversary celebration [1], we went this weekend to Lucin, Utah. We've considered going in the past, but it's a three-hour drive from Willard (where my parents live), so until now that has been a deterrent. Lucin was originally founded as a railroad stop. The railroad piped water into an artificial pond, for the steam engines to replenish with.[2] Eventually the town was abandoned. The pond is the only water for miles around, so migrating birds (especially warblers) are attracted to it.[3]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Create Your Own Font

Sometimes when a class or a lab meeting isn't very captivating, I'll divert some of my attention to doodling.[1] Sometimes my doodles are abstract, sometimes they're of creatures (real or imagined), sometimes they're of faces or facial features, and sometimes I try to draw fancy scripts. It's this last I want to talk about. A few times, after writing a word with fancy or unusual letters, I'll think, "Man, this is pretty good!" It's certainly better than Comic Sans or Cooper Black or (dare I say it?) Helvetica.[2] Not only did I want to save these, but I actually wanted to try creating a computer font out of them. My earliest attempts were simply drawing the letters, pixel by pixel, using Microsoft Paint. This was tedious, inexact, and produced bitmap fonts instead of vector fonts.[3] So eventually I began searching for superior alternatives.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two Special Days

May 3rd and May 4th hold special places in my heart, though for different reasons. Four years ago on May 3rd I married my sweetheart in the San Antonio temple, for time and eternity.[1] She bought me Portal 2 [2] as a present and I took her to eat at The Chef's Table in Orem.[3] It was surprisingly empty on Tuesday night, so we got excellent seating, with a view of the Wasatch Mountains. We started off with the Wild Mushrooms in Puff Pastry for an appetizer. For the main course, Leann had the House Specialty Tenderloin and I had the Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breast. Then we went to Applebee's [4] for some dessert that wasn't quite so pricey.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Music Review: Independence Day

If you asked me to hum the theme to Independence Day, I probably couldn't do it. So I didn't expect the soundtrack to be that eventful. But when I started listening to it, I immediately remembered several of the motifs. In fact, several of the guys in my lab recognized it, too, before I told them what it was.[1]

Book Review: The Robe

The premise of The Robe is intriguing: it purports to tell the story of the Roman soldier who cast lots and won Christ's robe after crucifying him (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; and esp. John 19:23–24). The Holy Scriptures have nothing more to say about the men who were commanded to perpetrate that heinous deed, but the author, Lloyd C. Douglas, supposes that at least one of them, whom he gives the name Marcellus Gallio, knew that what they were doing was wrong.

Movie Review: Invictus

This is an astonishing movie made all the more astonishing by the fact that it's based on true events.  Just a year after the end of apartheid in South Africa, newly elected President, Nelson Mandela, asked the South African rugby team, the Springboks, to win the World Cup (which was set to be hosted in Africa that year). Going into the tournament, the South African team was an underdog. The New Zealand team, the All Blacks, led by the unstoppable Jonah Lomu, were dominating their bracket and were expected to easily win the World Cup.[1]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pseudomonas syringae

The bacterium Pseudomonas syringae [1] impacts human existence in many ways. It gets its species name from the lilac tree (Syringa vulgaris), which it was first isolated from.[2] It is now known to cause disease on a variety of agricultural and ornamental plants, including maples, beets, wheat, barley, crabapples, peas, the genus Prunus (which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums), beans, horse chestnuts, and kiwifruit.[3]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Out of the Old, and Into the New

On Saturday, in anticipation of needing another bedroom [1], we moved into a new (and larger) apartment. My parents, my little brother [2], and two of my brothers-in-law came down to help.[3] We started around 9 am and had essentially everything moved by noon. While my Dad stayed to till a patch of ground for our new garden and while my brother and brother, Nathan, and my brother-in-law, Luke [4], went back to the old apartment to help with cleaning, I swung by The Brick Oven and picked up some eats for us all.