Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Skills

This last weekend Lillian got sick for the first time. It was just a little cold. She was a little more mellow, a little fussier, less hungry, and discovered that she really hates having her nose wiped. But other than that she did okay. In spite of that, Lillian has picked up several new skills in the last week or so. That means that you should not only be impressed with Lillian, but also with me for posting about them in a timely manner.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Noises

There are certain sounds Lillian says all the time these days. She's experimenting with her ability to produce something that sounds like the words Mommy and Daddy are using. And she's even starting to associate some of those sounds with real-world objects (which really deserves its own post). But there are also sounds that she makes which aren't phonemes in any language I'm aware of. I've already mentioned two of these (blowing raspberries [1] and spitting [2]). Here are a couple more recent acquisitions to her "vocabulary":

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scandinavian Toe Rhymes

I'm sure most of use have played "This little piggy…" with a baby's toes or had it done to us. But this isn't the only game to play with babies' toes. When parents in Scandinavian countries play with their babies' toes, they give them silly names. To be sure, the different countries have different names for the toes—in fact, the names can vary widely from family to family.[1] But most of these have some common elements:
  • As you name each toe, you give it a wiggle
  • You start with the smallest toe and work your way to the big toe
  • The name of each successive toe draws something from the name of the previous toe [2]
  • The names of the four small toes are said with a normal voice or a 'baby voice'
  • The name of the big toe is longer
  • The name of the big toe is said with a big, growling voice [3]
These Scandinavian toe rhymes have found their way to the U.S. So if your parents did this with your toes, chances are you have some Scandinavian ancestors. That or one of your ancestors saw someone else doing it, liked it, and adopted it as one of their own customs. Lilli will definitely be learning ours.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Movie Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

As you can guess from the title, this film is based on Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. In fact, the bard himself (voiced by Patrick Stewart) makes an appearance as a statue. The twist is that all of the characters are garden gnomes. There's even one hidden in the title of the movie.[1] In this scenario the garden gnomes are owned by Mrs. Montague and Mr. Capulet, who live in Stratford-Upon-Avon, one in apartment "2B" and the other in house "Not 2B", who have a long-standing feud. This feud is carried out in parallel by their garden gnomes. Mrs. Montague's gnomes are blue while Mr. Capulet's are red.

Movie Review: D.O.A.: Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive was a video game long before it attempted the transition to the silver screen. There is also a nod to the spin-off game, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Films based on video games can fare pretty well at the box office (e.g. Resident Evil, Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat, etc. [1]), though they're generally panned by movie critics. But there have also been some movies that bombed at the box office despite the popularity of the video game they were based on (e.g. Super Mario Bros., Doom, Double Dragon, Tekken, etc. [2]).

Movie Review: Robin Hood (2010)

I think most of us are familiar with the Robin Hood story because of the Disney movie of the same name, though there are several other portrayals of the legend that I have experienced, including Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, T. H. White's novel The Sword in the Stone, and Errol Flynn's film The Adventures of Robin Hood.[1] This is more like a prequel to the Robin Hood story. But it's also kind of a remake of Gladiator: it has Russell Crowe in the lead, it was directed by Ridley Scott, the actor who plays Prince John is quite similar to Joaquin Phoenix, and I suspect that if Richard Harris hadn't died, he would've been cast as Richard the Lionheart.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hindu Chalk Art I: kolam, rangoli, etc.

Hindu chalk art has many regional names: alpana, aripana, chowkpurana, kolam, madana, muggu, muggulu, pookalam, poovidal, rangoli, rangavalli, etc. Women often draw the pattern using rice powder, chalk, etc. in front of a home, especially during Hindu holidays.[1] There are different types of design.[2] For this round, I'll be focusing on two similar types. Read on.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie Review: Howl's Moving Castle

I first saw this film at the BYU International Cinema with my friends from the BYU 38th Ward Book Club. Given that it was originally produced by Studio Ghibli in Japan, I'm surprised that the decision makers for the BYU International Cinema chose to show the English-dubbed version rather than the Japanese version with English subtitles.[1] But since that's how they chose to show the film, that's how I first experienced it. And it may be the only film where I prefer the English-dubbed version over the original language. The movie is based on the 1986 book, Howl's Moving Castle, by British author, Diana Wynne Jones. That is, I should say, loosely based on the book. There are quite a few differences between the movie and the book, several of which are significant.

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

This movie started being advertised around the same time as The Green Lantern. Since I am not a comic book aficionado, it was easy for me to confuse the two. This one is based on what began as a radio drama and eventually evolved into a television series, several movies (including this one), a comic book series, and several novels.[1] It is about a newspaper magnate who doubles as a masked vigilante with the help of his valet (and martial arts expert), Kato.[2] As a bonus, he always knows where to send his reporters for breaking crime news.

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles

The movie Battle: Los Angeles is almost a hybrid of Cloverfield and Saving Private Ryan. It depicts an alien invasion of the U.S. coastal city of Los Angeles (much like the Cloverfield creature ravaged the U.S. coastal city of New York). The camera work is intended to make you feel like a part of the action (much like Saving Private Ryan [1]) and you're treated to the horrors of war—whether the opposing combatants be human beings or extraterrestrials.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eventful Weekend

Besides all of the things we normally have to do on the weekends (play with Lilli, clean the house, water the garden, feed Lilli (and ourselves), wonder where all the time went, etc.), we had some unique and exciting activities this last weekend. Let's start out with Lillian's NICU graduate party on Saturday. Every year there is a party to celebrate all of the lives that the staff at the Provo IHC NICU have helped to preserve.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


To help Lillian transition from walking while holding on to our fingers [1] to walking by herself, we've started having her pull herself up onto the couch. It's a little tall for her, so we take the cushions off. Then we try to get her to walk along the couch by herself—an activity called cruising. So far the best incentive I've found to get her to climb up and cruise on the couch are some dinosaur toys (Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus) I bought for her around the same time she started practicing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Woes of Packaging, Part III

I have already ranted online about the deplorable state of some packaging. Previous entries [1] have dealt with poor packaging associated with food. But it isn't limited to food. Today's entry consists entirely of terrible packaging associated with non-food items. Now, when it comes to food I can understand the need for proper packaging—you don't want the food spoiling before the consumer uses it.[2] But why do it for non-food items? Perhaps the manufacturers will tell you that they're trying to make the product easy to display on those pegs they hang on at the store. Or perhaps they'll tell you that they're trying to prevent theft or copyright infringement. But let's face it. It's really just schadenfreude.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Movie Review: Salt (2010)

At the height of the Cold War the concept of sleeper agents was a prevalent concern. A sleeper agent is essentially a spy sent to live for an extended period in a foreign country. They may live there for dozens of years before being activated to engage in espionage. By this time they are wholly integrated into the society of the target country and are usually considered to be above suspicion. This film takes the concept one step further—having the sleeper agents trained (and brainwashed) as children and then sent to the United States so that they could be activated after they had reached adulthood. Ironically, the film was released within a few months of the discovery of real Russian sleeper agents in the U.S., the so-called Illegals Program.

Movie Review: The Troll Hunter

I first learned about this film when I read somewhere [1] that Chris Columbus (probably best known for directing Home Alone and the first two Harry Potter movies) had acquired the rights to remake the movie in English.[2] The title sounded intriguing, so I watched the trailer [3], added it to my Netflix queue, and then forgot about it. Fast forward several months. Some of my friends from the former BYU 38th Ward Book Club started discussing and I couldn't remember why it seemed so familiar to me—especially after watching the trailer (again). I went to add it to my Netflix queue and then it all came flooding back. This wasn't just déjà vu! I really had seen that movie trailer before! I decided not to put it off any longer.

Movie Review: Mobsters and Mormons

The film Mobsters and Mormons starts out with the following 'what if': what if a hardened member of the Mafia was sent to the heart of Utah as part of the witness protection program? Carmine Pasquale is vying to become a caporegime (a position roughly equivalent to captain) in his crime family but gets caught by the FBI. He turns evidence in return for witness protection for himself and his family. Much to their chagrin, they're sent to the Jell-O Belt.[1] All of their neighbors are Latter-day Saints (popularly known as Mormons). Various moments of comedy ensue as the two cultures clash.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Banging Things

You've probably figured out by now that if you're reading on this blog about something Lillian is doing, she's probably been doing it for a while already—I just haven't gotten around to posting about it.[1] Such is the case with this post. Lilli has been banging toys for months now. But I only recently got the videos I wanted. Why do babies bang things? My perusal of the internet didn't turn up any hard facts. But, for one thing, it seems to be because they realize that they're responsible for the noise it makes. So they're entertaining themselves by making noise. It also helps with hand-eye coordination. Even though she's been doing it for months, she still likes to do it occasionally. (But now there are more interesting activities, like walking [2]).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Product Review: carambola

The carambola, more popularly known as starfruit because of its distinctive shape, grows throughout Southeast Asia and is a popular food in that region.[1] It has also been introduced to tropical regions of the Americas. When the fruit is ripe it will turn a golden orange color and the ridges (or points of the star, which can vary from five to seven in number) will start to turn brown. Most (but not all) of the rind, which is somewhat waxy, can be eaten. If you decide to try a carambola, I suggest you prepare it according to the same directions I consulted.[2]

Product Review: hachiya persimmons

My first encounter with persimmons [1] was so positive, that I went looking for more. I found some at the Sunflower Market in Orem. But this variety was hachiya. I originally bought three. When I tried the first one it felt like cottonmouth. Turns out this is because hachiya persimmons are chock full of tannins. So I looked up how to eat hachiya persimmons and learned that they must feel "like a water balloon" before you eat them. It took forever for the hachiya persimmons to ripen. This is unfortunate since every time since that I've found hachiya persimmons since then, they've been as hard as apples.

Product Review: fuyu persimmons

A few months ago, I found some fuyu persimmons at a nearby Mexican tienda. I'd had persimmons once before, but didn't remember much about them.[1] So I bought a few and took them home to try. My main reason for doing this, though, is that I wanted to try a persimmon pudding recipe I found online.[2]  Most commercially available persimmons are varieties of the Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki Thunb.), but there are also varieties that are native to Europe (Date-plum; Diospyros lotus L.), India (Indian Persimmon; Diospyros peregrina (Gaertn.) Gürke), México (Sapote Prieto; (Diospyros digyna Jacq.), the Philippines (Mabolo; Diospyros blancoi A. DC.), and the United States (American Persimmon; Diospyros virginiana L.) which are fit for human consumption.[3] In fact, the American Persimmon is properly the fruit that should be used for making the pudding. But I had no way of acquiring any.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

English–Old Irish Ambigrams

The second batch of multilingual ambigrams I tried my hand at [1] was English with Old Irish. Old Irish technically has its own alphabet [2], like Thai does, but it is usually written using an uncial font. Most of the Irish/Gaelic/Celtic fonts that I found were pretty similar to uncial fonts, so I decided to go with that rather than continue searching for a malleable font for the Old Irish alphabet. So, for this round of multilingual ambigrams I consulted a font called Inversion.[3]

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Product Review: Miss Vickie's Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips

I've seen Miss Vickie's brand chips all the time at shops that sell sandwiches, subs [1], and/or soups. But they always have a limited selection, usually consisting of "Simple Sea Salt", "Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper", "Jalapeño", and "Smokehouse BBQ". The funny thing is, Miss Vickie's has five flavors, but I only ever see these four.[2] What about the salt-and-vinegar-flavored chips? Why don't eateries ever carry them? (Or if most do, why am I unlucky enough to only patronize the ones that don't?) This is a mystery that I still haven't gotten to the bottom of. But that doesn't matter now. Because I found a bag of the tangy salty goodness at the grocery store. And as a bonus, the bags they sell at the grocery store are significantly [3] larger than the ones they sell in sandwich shops.

Product Review: Doritos Spicy Sweet CHILI Chips

I was intimidated by these chips for a long time. I would walk past them in the chips aisle at the grocery store. Even though I generally consider myself adventurous (at least when it comes to trying new foods), I always bypassed Doritos Spicy Sweet CHILI Chips in favor of something safer (at least on some level): Nacho Cheese, Salsa Verde, Spicy Nacho, or one of the many promotional flavors that I've already reviewed.[1][2] I imagined that these chips would taste mostly like cumin, but sweet—a mental concept which was somewhat abhorrent (hence my reaction each time I considered buying them). But then Leann pointed out to me that there are chili-flavored chips that I'm quite fond of (Chili Cheese Fritos) and they don't taste like cumin. So then I was emboldened. But there was still a lingering doubt: would they taste like cumin or like Chili Cheese Fritos?

Product Review: Bundaberg Blood Orange Soda

I got this for me and bought Leann a guava-flavored soda, also by Bundaberg. Owing to a bad experience with guava fruit while I was serving an LDS mission in Monterrey, México [1], I don't like guava fruit. One of my first days in the country we ate lunch with an LDS family. They gave us agua de guayaba ("guava fruit juice") to drink. I thought it tasted a little weird—particularly the aftertaste—but I didn't mind it. But then, like happens with cucumbers [2], I was burping it up all day. Tasting it for half an hour at lunch was one thing. Tasting it all day was quite another. I've detested guava fruit from that day forth. So I won't be reviewing Leann's soda—I didn't even try it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Earlier this week, leading up to our anniversary [1], Leann made spaghetti for dinner because it's one of my favorite foods. We took advantage of this to introduce Lillian to spaghetti and take pictures of the inevitable mess. For our dinner, Leann used regular spaghetti pasta.[2] But for Lillian she made ditalini [3] since they would be easier for Lilli to pick up. She also got to try some homemade grape juice, courtesy of her Crook grandparents.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five Years

Yesterday [1] Leann and I celebrated our five year anniversary. According to Wikipedia [2], the traditional gift in both the U.S. and the U.K. is wood. The modern gift is silverware. On our first anniversary, which was paper, I took Leann to a park with a stream in it. We made paper boats and raced them. Mine won (hers kept up pretty well…until it sank). I didn't exactly come up with a wood- or silverware-themed activity this year, but both items did keep cropping up throughout the day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

English–Thai Ambigrams

This time around I tried my hand at some multilingual ambigrams. (In the past I've worked solely with the English language.[1]) For the first batch (yes, that means there are more to come) I turned to Thai. Since Thai is written in a different alphabet, this was doubly challenging. I originally wanted a Thai Blackletter font, since Blackletters are conducive to ambigrams in English, but I wasn't satisfied with any of the ones that I found.[2] Eventually I settled for a Thai font called DSN Orchid.[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.