Friday, September 30, 2011

Out of the Old and Into the New II

The week after Lillian was born [1] I was rear-ended by another driver while on my way home from campus. I reached an intersection and was going to turn left. A pedestrian entered the crosswalk [2] and since there was no turn lane, I stopped in the intersection. The driver behind me [3] wasn't looking and slammed into me going 30–35 mph. Thankfully, neither of us were injured. After my car was examined by a commercial appraiser and two independent appraisers (one from my insurance company and one from his) it was declared totaled.[4] So we bought a new car.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Movie Review: Pure Country

On several occasions since we've been married, Leann has mentioned this movie and then expressed surprise that I'd never seen it. It is one of her family's favorite movies, so eventually I was obliged to watch it. In essence it's kind of a long music video for George Strait's country music album of the same name.[1] It's about a country music star, Wyatt Chandler (stage name 'Dusty'), who gets sick of the flash and pizazz of his tour and runs away, hoping to 'find himself'.[2]

Movie Review: The Robe

I first became aware of The Robe because my mom had a VHS copy that she recorded off of television. At some point she explained the gist of it to me, but at the time it didn't capture my interest.[1] Then a few years ago it was our turn to buy Christmas presents for Leann's sister, Sherri. Sherri asked for the book The Robe. We gave it to her, but I, at least, was surprised by her request. Sometime later I spotted a copy of The Robe at Deseret Industries, so I bought myself a copy.[2] After finishing the book, I decided to watch the movie to see how it compared.

Movie Review: The Secret of Moonacre

The cover made me think that this was a rip-off of The Chronicles of Narnia, since it featured a fantasy-type white lion. (It wasn't really.) The movie is based on the book The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Gouge and which Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has acknowledged as her favorite children's book.[1] The star is the same little girl who appeared in The Golden Compass, during which I fell asleep. The setting was supposed to be the 1840s, but I felt like it was the 2000s only with historical costumes. The basic storyline is that of a young orphan caught up in the drama of her extended family—with some fantasy elements.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ambigrams II

The main reason I'm posting again about ambigrams is so that I can show off the design I came up with for Lillian's name (since I've already done my name and Leann's name). But I decided that while I'm at it, I might as well share the others I've designed since my last ambigram post.[1]

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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Family Pictures

Last week Leann's cousin, Megan Dilworth [1], came and took some photographs for us. She is currently student teaching in anticipation of receiving a BS in Technology Education. She will be teaching Technology and Engineering classes in middle school or high school. Concomitant with that, she has taken up photography. Needless to say, she has a nicer camera than we do. A much nicer camera. Given that Lillian is still pretty vulnerable [2], we weren't willing to take her to the mall for her baby pictures. So when Megan offered to come to our house and take some pictures for us, we jumped at the opportunity. (I wasn't thrilled, though, when Leann told me I had to get my hair cut for the ordeal.) We think Megan did an awesome job and recommend you visit her blog ( to see more of her work.[3] Without further ado, here are the baby pictures:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

One New Year's Day as the Knights of the Round Table are celebrating, a man who is green from head to toe bursts into the hall, mounted on his green horse, and issues a challenge. He will give anyone the chance to strike off his head with his axe, but if they fail, then on the next New Year's Day they must surrender to him the same opportunity. King Arthur accepts but Sir Gawain, his nephew, convinces Arthur to let him be the one to do it, instead. With one blow of the axe he strikes off the Green Knight's head. Much to everyone's astonishment, the Green Knight scoops his head back up, reminds Gawain of the terms of the challenge, and then rides away on his green horse. The rest of the poem is about Gawain's efforts to find the Chapel of the Green Knight and more importantly the temptations he is confronted with prior to the next New Year's Day.

Book Review: Aku-Aku

One evening I finished working on the computer and I started reading this book to help my eyes reset after looking at the computer screen for so long.[1] While reading, I came across a word I didn't recognize: vahine.[2] So I picked up the computer, again, so I could look up the meaning. Several hours later I woke up to this screen:

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Whenver I go back and read a book, I'm often surprised both at the things I remember and at the things I forget. For example, I first read A Wizard of Earthsea when I was in grade school. When I returned from my mission [1], I read the series again because I couldn't remember much about them. This time around, reading it with Leann, there were still things I didn't remember. For example, I had forgotten the trip to Osskill and confrontation with the Stone of the Terrenon and its minions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review: Monday Mourning

I probably wouldn't have bothered reading this on my own, but Leann was looking for something to read. When I spotted this book at DI (along with several other books by Kathy Reichs), I called her to see if she was interested, since we've been watching the television show Bones lately [1] and that series is based on these books by Kathy Reichs. Ultimately Leann didn't read it for reasons discussed below. Most of Reichs' books have the word bones in the title, but this one inexplicably didn't—I say inexplicably because the title had absolutely nothing (as far as I could tell) to do with the plot. It seems it was chosen willy-nilly.

Book Review: The City of Ember

I first learned about this book by watching the movie. This is not unusual. I generally learn about children's books either from my family members or from the film adaptations. The City of Ember seems to be one of many young adult fantasy works that rode its way to fame on the coattails of the Harry Potter series.[1] It deals with an underground city that is dying. And no one seems to be doing anything about it. And for some reason no one is aware that they're underground.

Book Review: The Merchant of Venice

I can get the gist of the Shakespearean plays, but the clever word plays, etc., are often lost on me without good annotation. The version I read (Penguin Popular Classics [1]) had notes in the back, which is inconvenient. On top of that, it had a glossary behind the notes. So if I was unfamiliar with something in the text, I had to check two places to see if I could figure it out. Editions with footnotes instead of endnotes are vastly superior. Even then, I'm hard pressed to understand why Shakespeare's plays were so wildly popular in his day. The play generally has an anti-Semitic tone to it, and perhaps this was appealing to the audiences of Shakespeare's day. However, the play's most famous character, Shylock the Jew, is sometimes portrayed in a sympathetic light.[2]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Butter vs. Margarine

For several months at work I had been claiming to be able to taste the difference between a baked good made with margarine and one made with butter. This claim was based on two instances: when I had a cookie that I knew was made with margarine and when I had brownies that I knew were made with margarine. More specifically, when I tasted the brownie batter. Being the scientist that I am, I knew that this was not good scientific method because it was not a blind study.[1] So I decided to put my taste buds to the test.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lactococcus lactis

Chances are that almost anyone who reads this post has eaten Lactococcus lactis. And they almost certainly did it willingly. What, you may ask, would possess someone to willingly eat bacteria? Cheese. Lactococcus lactis is involved in the production of cheese. When inoculated into milk it ferments lactose to produce lactic acid.[1] The lactic acid curdles the milk, eventually producing cheese. Lactococcus lactis is involved in the production of Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Colby, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Roquefort, and many other cheeses, as well as buttermilk and sour cream.[2] There are two subspecies: lactis and cremoris. Lactobacillus lactis subsp. lactis is used for making soft cheeses while Lactobacillus lactis subsp. cremoris is used for making hard cheeses.[3] All this has led to it being named the state microbe of Wisconsin.[4]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recipe: Pozole

Pozole (pronounced poh-SOH-lay; mouse over for IPA) is a traditional Mexican dish eaten on the Mexican Independence Day (at least, that's the only time I ever had it). A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Mexican Independence Day is May 5th, "Cinco de Mayo". In fact, Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican Independence Day and is only celebrated in two places: the United States of America and the Mexican state of Puebla.[1] In 1861 Napoleon III sent French armies to invade México. On May 5th, in the city of Puebla, the French Army was met by a poorly-equipped Mexican force half their size, but the Mexicans won decisively.[2] Thus, in the State of Puebla, they celebrate El Día de la Batalla de Puebla ("The Day of the Battle of Puebla"). The Mexican Independence Day [3], on the other hand, is celebrated all over México. It commemorates the day that México declared its independence from the Spanish colonial government on September 16, 1810—over fifty years earlier than the Battle of Puebla. So, since the true Mexican Independence Day is coming up, I'm sharing this recipe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Product Review: Kerrygold Blarney Castle Cheese

Many cheeses are named after the city or county where they were originally developed, such as Roquefort (named after a village in France), Asiago (named after a village in Italy), Cheddar (named after a village in England), Colby (named after a town in Wisconsin), etc. The name of Blarney Castle cheese is apparently intended to invoke this system for naming cheeses. But even though this cheese is manufactured in Ireland, I can promise you that they don't actually make it inside the Blarney Castle (it's produced in the same county as the castle, though—County Cork [1]).

Product Review: Kerrygold Red Leicester Cheese

Red Leicester is the only Leicester cheese made today, which makes the "Red" descriptor a bit redundant. It is called Red Leicester to distinguish it from White Leicester, which was only produced during World War II when the use of food coloring agents was banned in England.[1] It was originally colored with carrot juice or beet juice, but now cheese makers use annatto.[2] This gives it a characteristic orange (not red) appearance.

Product Review: Ponce de León Trading Company Manchego Cheese

In perusing the internet [1] I'd arrived at the conclusion that Manchego cheese from Spain (not the American variety I've already reviewed [2]) is a rather powerful cheese which is notably 'sheepy' in its character. So I was a little surprised to find that I could by a wedge of it at none other than Target. Since I'd had a good experience with P'tit Basque [3], which is touted as being milder and more accessible than Manchego, I decided to take a leap and try this stronger cheese.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zeezrom's Bribe

One of the events recounted in the Book of Mormon [1] concerns a visit by the prophet Alma to the city of Ammonihah. The people reject him, so he starts to leave, mourning for the wickedness of those people. But he is stopped by an angel and sent back to the city. This time he runs into a man named Amulek, who has also been visited by an angel. Amulek takes care of Alma for several days [2] and then they go out preaching. The people of Ammonihah are fairly unhappy to see that Alma is back and that he's brought company.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Product Review: McCadam Horseradish Cheddar Cheese

Leann has repeatedly expressed her disgust with goat cheese (owing to living next to a rather pungent billy goat which she avers smelled exactly like goat cheese tastes). That fact has made her equally distrustful of sheep cheeses. So after recently purchasing a sheep cheese (P'tit Basque [1]), I bought this one so that Leann would have something to try. Along with it we bought an Italian dry salami. (On a side note, it wasn't until I was about to publish this post that I noticed that the brand name is McCadam, not McAdam).

Product Review: Istara P'tit Basque Cheese

When I asked the cheesemongers at Harmons what a good cheese would be to try as an introduction to sheep cheeses [1], they both tripped over each other trying to recommend the P'tit Basque. Based on the name, I would've guessed that it was made in the Basque Country of Spain. But this cheese is produced in the Pyrenees Mountains of France.[2] So I did a little digging and learned that Basque Country actually includes parts of both Spain and France.[3] And the Pyrenees run right through it, so that must be where this cheese is made.

Product Review: Tine Jarlsberg Cheese

Jarlsberg is a Norwegian cheese that first began to be developed in the counties of Jarlsberg (surprise!) and Laurvig after coming into contact with Emmental (Swiss) cheese in the mid 1800s. Then in 1956 researchers at the Agricultural University of Norway got a hold of the recipe and adapted it to modern cheese making techniques.[1] Like Emmental, Jarlsberg uses the bacterium Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii to produce the characteristic holes (or 'eyes') in the cheese, but also contains cultures of Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis [2], and Leuconostoc mesenteroides.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Product Review: Point Reyes Toma Cheese

As I've mentioned, I bought this cheese so that Leann would have something to try since she wouldn't be interested in eating the Shropshire blue cheese.[1] It's an Italian cheese, but this brand is produced in California (though the company is owned and operated by the Giacomini family, who, I presume, are of Italian descent). Since they started out making a Gouda, then flirted with the idea of calling it a Havarti [2] before calling it a Toma cheese [3], I'm unsure how similar it is to a genuine Piedmontese Toma cheese.

Product Review: Colston Bassett Shropshire Cheese

To be honest, I bought this cheese because it looked kind of scary and I was feeling a little adventurous. Before this point the only blue cheeses I'd tasted were Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and the unidentified "blue cheese" found in salad dressings. As far as I've been able to determine, they're all made with the same mold: Penicillium roqueforti. Since Leann couldn't (Lillian still hadn't been born at this point [1]) and wouldn't (because of her taste preferences) eat blue cheese, I also bought another cheese that she could eat with me.[2]

Product Review: Mitica Mahón Cheese

Mahón cheese is a Spanish cheese produced on the Balearic island of Menorca, which is also the birthplace of mayonnaise.[1] It is the second most popular cheese in Spain, after Manchego.[2] Because the cheese is produced on an island, the cows often eat grass that is briny from the sea spray blowing up from the ocean.[3] This, in part, has been credited with giving this cheese its unique flavor.

Product Review: Ukiekaas Maasdam cheese

Maasdam cheese (presumably named after the Dutch town of Maasdam) is a Dutch cheese that's made in a similar manner to Emmental cheese (which we call Swiss cheese here in the U.S.). In fact, it's intended to be a cheaper alternative to Emmental.[1] I was a little disappointed to learn that it was first developed in the early 1990s [2], since I generally prefer to sample cheeses that have a little more history to them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recipe: Homemade French Fries

French fries are one of the greatest culinary inventions ever and are the key to the success of McDonald's restaurants.[1] But I don't usually feel like getting my french fries at a fast food joint, so I usually buy them frozen at the supermarket. But on the rare occasion that I don't have frozen french fries in the freezer, but I do have some potatoes, I resort to making my own. And it's fairly simple to do.