Monday, July 23, 2012

Little Musician

Lilli's first introduction to music was in the NICU.[1] A nearby infant, named Gavin, had been there for several months and so he'd been upgraded from an incubator to a crib. He had a mobile that the nurses would sometimes turn on.[2] A few weeks after she came home, she became colicky, so we started playing music [3] to signal to her when it was bedtime. As she's become more alert, we've introduced more music. Her first attempt at making her own music came when she tried to imitate me making a Sprite bottle whistle.[4] But now she's expanded her repertoire of instruments.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipe: Sopes de Carnitas

Sopes are one of the Mexican foods I'd never heard of before I went to México as an LDS missionary.[1] They are often served as antojitos (literally "little whims" but technically best translated as "appetizers") but I often had them as a meal by themselves. They are thick tortillas that are slightly cup-shaped. The cup is filled with toppings. I didn't want to make my own sope tortillas, so I just bought some pre-formed ones and fried them. So, instead, I made a popular topping: carnitas. Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Besides in sopes, carnitas can be served with tacos, tortas, etc.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Product Review: Clawson: Cotswold Cheese

In the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, there is a range of hills called the Cotswolds which has been designated an Area of Natural Beauty.[1] The -wold element of the name is derived from the Old English word wald or weald which meant "woodland" [2]; the meaning of the cost- element is debated. There is a common yellow limestone, called Cotswold stone, which is quarried in the Cotswolds.[3] This cheese gets its name from the fact that it resembles the yellow Cotswold limestone. Cotswold is actually a Double Gloucester cheese with chives and green onions added to it.

Product Review: Boar's Head: Genoa Salame

The original Genoa salame was produced in the commune of Sant'Olcese in the Province of Genoa.[1] Part of its terroir [2] was due to raising the pigs on acorns, hazelnuts, and chestnuts that they could forage in the nearby hills and woodlands. The Genoa salami that is sold in the United States may or may not actually derived from its Italian counterpart. For one thing, in the United States it can be made using beef and contain little or no pork. But unlike other American salamis it will be fermented. Sources I've consulted [3] claim that it should have white peppercorns in it, but I didn't detect any. I have previously reviewed an Italian dry salami made by the same company.[4]

Product Review: La Panzanella: Garlic Mini Croccantini

Since I quite enjoyed the regular-flavored Mini-Croccantini from La Panzenella [1], I decided to branch out and try some of their other flavors. I'm not a fan of black pepper in general (which is mildly frustrating for Leann), so I've passed on that one for now. And the rosemary-flavored Mini-Croccantini were just a little intimidating. So I'm waiting a little longer before trying those, too. I decided to start with the Garlic-flavored Mini-Croccantini.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All Important Words Start With the Letter B

Ever since Lillian's first word, bus, buh has been her favorite syllable. Luckily for her, almost all important words start with the letter b. Here's a list of all the b-words she says, pronounced buh unless otherwise noted. Getting videos of her saying something is so difficult and she's picking up new words so quickly that we've decided not to try to get a video of everything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Movie Review: Father of the Bride (1991)

Leann was a little bit astonished when I told her I'd never seen Father of the Bride. Since I enjoy watching movies more than she does, she tends to assume that I've seen all the movies she has plus some. But that isn't always the case. I can remember seeing the television commercials for Father of the Bride when it came out in 1991. But at the time I was only ten years old, so it wasn't really the type of movie I'd beg my parents to let me go see (which was the case two years later when Jurassic Park came out). And as time went on, it never really found its way into my "to-watch" list. But Leann insisted that I watch it. So I did.

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer starts out with two characters who have extreme and warped ideas about love, due to pathological childhoods.[1] Summer believes there's no such thing as love—it's a fantasy. Tom believes in love at first sight and "the One". Summer tries to be rational and explain away her behavior when anyone else would say they were in love. And when things start looking too serious, she jumps ship. Tom will put up with just about anything because he stubbornly believes that it must all work out in the end. He is also clingy almost from the get-go. Eventually they find each other and the resulting collision is pretty much inevitable. The more Tom tries to solidify their relationship, the more Summer squirms to get away.[2]

Movie Review: Mars Needs Moms

When I added this to my Netflix queue (and even after I'd watched it), I had no idea that it was the biggest box office bomb of all time, unadjusted for inflation.[1] It was also the biggest critical and financial failure of any film attached to the Disney company.[2] It's based on a book by Berkeley Breathed (whose comic strips, Bloom County and Opus, I've never enjoyed) and was directed by Simon Wells (some of whose other films I have enjoyed, including An American Tail: Fivel Goes West, The Prince of Egypt, and The Time Machine). It was released the same week as Battle: Los Angeles [3], which may have contributed to its financial demise.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Matt Gets Published! II

Over a year ago I was part of a paper that was published [1] about a genetic tool developed in my lab that can delete a bacterial gene at the time of my choosing. That paper didn't count towards the two publications I need for my Ph.D. because I wasn't the first author (i.e. I wasn't the one who did most of the work). Well, about a year ago I had enough data to publish an article as the first author. But the editors of the first journal we submitted it to didn't feel like it was important enough to appear their publication, so we had to resubmit to another journal. This time the editors thought it was worth their while, so they accepted it after requesting a few more experiments. It appeared in the most recent issue of Molecular Plant–Microbe Interactions.[2] In fact, they liked the article so much that they asked us to submit some images for the cover of the issue.[3]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Finish a Bag of Chips

Sometimes a bag of chips is so delicious that you want to eat every last morsel. But you eventually reach the point where there are only crumbs left in the bottom. Getting those crumbs out can be a hassle. Sometimes you tip the bag up only to have the crumbs cascade out and land in your hair, in your ears, in your eyes, in your clothes—everywhere except in your mouth. Other times you hear the crumbs coming down, but they never come out of the bag. You try to straighten out the lip of the bag [1], but to no avail. Reaching in and grabbing the crumbs is messy and time consuming. But despair not, I can show you a quick and easy way to get at those tasty little devils.[2]

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Solipsist

You may recall that about a year and a half ago I participated in an online fiction contest, held on the website Writers on the Loose, that was held by the President Emeritus of the BYU 38th Ward Book Club. My submission was called Quaver.[1] Since then Jonathan, tired of the squabbling on the site, has ended his membership. But the biannual contest lives on, now overseen by another member of the site, who goes by the handle 'deep water'.[2] I haven't participated in the last few contests, but the theme this year actually incited me to write not one but three stories.[3] The suggested them was "…something fictional on the 2012 world-ending scenario; it could be in the realm of science fiction, crime, comedy, etc." When I first approached the prompt I wanted to have the world end, but not in a way that has been done before (e.g., nuclear holocaust, devastating disease, alien invasion, zombies, asteroid, the Rapture, etc.). This is what I came up with.

Retail Hell

A few weeks before the deadline of the Writers on the Loose short story contest [1], I was talking with my friend, Jonathan, on a website, called the Pedestrian, where former members of the BYU 38th Ward Book Club get together. He works at a Stein Mart in the men's clothing department and sometimes has less-than-savory interactions with the customers.[2] He'd just been through one such trying event and he wrote, "I was an inch from knocking over a rack, throwing clothes around, and quitting. No one should have to put up with retail hell." I responded, "Except…GENGHIS KHAN!"[3] This then inspired me to write a story about just that: Genghis Khan ending up in retail hell—all for Jonathan. And while I was at it, I decided to give it a 2012 twist so that I could submit it to the contest.

The Really Real Clowns

For my last entry to the Writers on the Loose short story contest [1], I wanted to go with something that was surreal. Enter the clowns. The really real clowns, that is. I started out by simply writing down every random thing that occurred to me.[2] Then I weaved them together and turned some of them into recurring motifs. I wanted the idea to be that something happened to drive everyone mad. But due to that very same madness they wouldn't be able to communicate effectively what had happened.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

By Small Things Shall Great Things Pass Away

Like countless children before her, Lillian is discvering that she has a penchant for destruction. I, as an impartial narrator, have been gathering evidence for a month, or so, now. Some of it may shock you, but I give you my word that none of it has been staged or doctored in any way. What you're about to see is footage as raw as it gets. VDIA. As I've been pursuing coverage of these events, I've struggled to find words adequate to describe the horror of the things I've witnessed. In particular, I've had a hard time deciding what word to use to describe Lilli's role in all this.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: Kull the Conqueror

This movie is Conan the Barbarian, but by a different name. In fact, it was originally intended to be a Conan the Barbarian installment but Arnold Schwarzenegger backed out. When they cast Kevin Sorbo he refused to play a character already defined by someone else, so they had to rename the character for his benefit.[1] It may seem like a little thing to replace all the instances of Conan with Kull, but after watching this you'll realize that even that small task wasn't worth the effort—much less the task of finding horses willing to appear in the film or forcing Styrofoam to help with the special effects.

Movie Review: Dragon Hunters

When I watched this movie I had no idea that it was originally a French-language film called Chasseurs de dragons. Even looking back I can't say that there was anything inherently 'Frenchy' about it. It's based on a television series, also called Chasseurs de dragons/Dragon Hunters. Both the film and the television series are set in a world where innumerable chunks of earth float around. It is never explained why the world is like that nor what it's exact nature is. Are there infinite floating planetoids in all directions? Or are they all floating over a larger, Earth-like planet. And if so, why does no one go down to it? I wish these questions had been addressed by the film. (Maybe they are in the television series.)

Movie Review: Constantine

When the trailers for this movie came out [1], I thought it looked like it was going to be pretty much the same movie as The Matrix, just with different characters. This was probably mainly due to the fact Keanu Reeves stars in both films as a 'chosen' man who fights demons (or demon-like entities) with unnatural skill; both feature dark, gritty camerawork; and because Keanu Reeves' acting is the same as ever. I'm sure more comparisons could be made, but I think there are more differences than similarities. For example, Neo, in The Matrix, is a reluctant hero while Constantine, in this film, is an antihero.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Independence Day

For the last year we've been avoiding family functions in order to avoid Lilli getting sick. Given her low birth weight [1] and the fact that she hasn't been gaining weight very well (due, in large part, to the fact that she's very active), we didn't want her losing weight because she was sick. But our main concern was RSV. Since RSV season is over, we decided to go to my extended family's Independence Day festivities. They were all thrilled to meet her. And, since she's quite the people person (she'll crawl into the laps of strangers at church), she was thrilled to meet them, too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Spinning in Circles

One of Lillian's favorite things to do is spin in circles. She does it when she's having fun; she does it when she's not. She even does it sometimes when she's upset. She spins in circles when she's in the living room, when she's in the kitchen, when she's in the bathroom [1], when she's in her bedroom. She even does it in her crib sometimes when she's supposed to be taking a nap. But she always seems to spin clockwise. Never counterclockwise.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Birthday Party!

It's kind of hard to believe, but one year ago yesterday Lillian came into the world. We didn't expect her so soon (she was two months early [1]), but we're so glad to have her. On Saturday she had a birthday party with the Crook side of the family (her party with the Martin side is coming up later). Most of her aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with her grandparents came down from the north end of Utah for the party. (Not shown: her Aunt Melissa and her cousin Katie were sitting behind me when I shot this picture.)