Friday, September 28, 2012

Custom Munchkin Door Cards

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at BYU I was a member of a book club. The president of that book club, my friend Jonathan, discovered the game Munchkin and introduced the rest of us to it. It is a spoof of role-playing games (RPGs), particularly Dungeons and Dragons, and to a lesser extent collectible card games, like Magic: The Gathering. In RPGs a Munchkin is a player that plays competitively, even though RPGs are inherently noncompetitive.[1] Thus the game Munchkin encourages you to play in that fashion—in fact, it's tagline is "Kill the Monsters. Steal the Treasure. Stab Your Buddy." In addition to the original games, there are also several expansion packs. This last Christmas [2] I got the sixth expansion pack, Demented Dungeons. It came with a few blank cards with the implication that I create my own custom cards. So I came up with a few.[3]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Movie Review: New Moon (with RiffTrax)

In 2005 I enrolled in a creative writing class at BYU. I didn't need to take it for credit, I took it because I wanted some motivation to write the many story ideas I have.[1] We had three major writing assignments. The first had to be a short story or a chapter of a novel. The second had to be three poems.[2] For the third we could choose whether to write another short story/chapter or three more poems. The majority of the students in the class (there were only about twenty of us) were girls who were Freshmen or Sophomores and were English majors. I was a bit alarmed that for the first assignment three of them wrote a chapter of a book that dealt with a normal girl in high school who unknowingly started dating a vampire.[3] I didn't know it then, but one year before the novel Twilight had premiered and these impressionable young girls, fresh out of high school, were caught up in the frenzy of it to the point that they were essentially writing knock-offs or fan fiction.[4] That experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that the only way I could bring myself to watch the Twilight movies was with the "spoonful of sugar" that is RiffTrax.[5]

Movie Review: Eclipse (with RiffTrax)

There are a few people in this world that I feel a profound pity for. Among them are the 335 men named Edward Cullen [1], the 360 men named Jacob Black [2], and the 24 women named Bella Swan.[3] That pity is due to their unfortunate and un-sought-for association with the Twilight series of books and films. I cannot bring myself to read the books, but thanks to RiffTrax [4], I can experience the movies buffered from their full effect.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Picnic on the South Fork of the Provo River

This Friday I took Leann and Lillian up Provo Canyon to do some picnicking.[1] At Vivian Park we went up into the mountains, following the South Fork of the Provo River. There are two parks up that way and when I've been up there before I haven't seen very many people, so I thought we'd have the place relatively to ourselves. But both parks were full (and both had weddings being set up). We went to the park farther up (Big Springs Park) and had our picnic anyway—we just had to watch out for flying footballs.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Brother of Amaleki1

In the Book of Mormon [1] there are two men named Amaleki.[2] Amaleki1 was one of the Nephite record keepers who inscribed on the small plates of Nephi (Omni 1:12–30; WoM 1:10).[3] Amaleki2 is mentioned only once as part of an expedition headed by Ammon1 (Mosiah 7:26).[4] Despite the brevity of his record (just 19 verses) Amaleki1 introduces some interesting developments in the history of the Nephites. Up to this point the Nephites dwelt in a place they called the Land of Nephi. Amaleki1 records that a man named Mosiah1 was warned by the Lord that he should leave with as many as would follow him (Omni 1:12). So he and his followers journeyed into the wilderness and eventually came upon a city called Zarahemla (Omni 1:13–18). The followers of Mosiah1 and the people of Zarahemla joined together and were thence considered Nephites (Omni 1:19).[5] Amaleki1 never says why Mosiah1 was commanded to flee the Land of Nephi, but Mormon2, writing several hundred years later, lets us know that the Land of Nephi has been overrun by the Lamanites (WoM 1:13). Thus it is likely that the people who did not flee with Mosiah1 at that time were destroyed or enslaved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Recipe: Flautas

This last Sunday was the Mexican Independence Day (September 16th). As you may recall, last year I made pozole for the occasion.[1] This year I made one of my favorite Mexican dishes: flautas. Flauta is the Spanish word for "flute", which these superficially resemble. Flautas are small rolled tacos that are fried. In the United States they are sometimes referred to as taquitos ("little tacos") instead of flautas (but I never heard the term taquito in México). But regardless of what name you call them by, they're absolutely delicious when prepared right.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pseudomonas putida

Pseudomonas putida was the first patented organism in the world. A researcher at General Electric, Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, genetically engineered a strain of Pseudomonas putida to enhance its ability to biodegrade crude oil. His patent application was turned down because the bacterium was a living thing, which is excluded from patent protection. Chakrabarty appealed his case, which eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980. In a 5–4 ruling it was decided that the genetic engineering qualified as "manufacturing" and "a product of human ingenuity" and thus qualified for patent.[1]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Peach Days 2012

I grew up near Brigham City, Utah, but I only made it to the city festival, Peach Days, a couple of times. This last weekend was Peach Days, and Leann has wanted to see it for the last several years, so we drove up on Saturday. We also wanted to go through the open house for the new Brigham City Temple, which is going on from August 18th to September 15th of this year.[1]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Make Your Own Miniplanet

After I'd been playing around with using the Hugin software to make panoramas [1], I discovered another way it can be used: to make miniplanets. Despite the name, this has nothing to do with real astronomy and everything to do with computer trickery. A miniplanet takes photographs from a complete 360° panorama and stitches them together so that they look like a tiny planet.[2] I've scoured the internet and found three different methods for making miniplanets. The first two require Hugin to make a regular panorama and then GIMP to make them miniplanets. The third method is all done in Hugin. For each method you'll need to shoot photographs all the way around you. To have enough ground that the whole planet isn't outrageously distorted, you'll need to aim your camera down a little and go all the way around again at least once (but the more the better).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trip to Texas

After my trip to Cold Spring Harbor, New York, to attend a research conference [1], we decided to make a trip to Texas to visit Leann's side of the family. This is convenient for me because whenever I go on a trip that's longer than a few days, my bacteria die out and I have to retrieve them from the –80°C freezer. It takes them about 3 days to come up so a 5-day vacation is essentially an 8-day vacation. Thus two separate trips represent more lost time than two sequential trips.