Sunday, January 31, 2010


I was thinking about things that probably will never change, despite advancements in technology.  These are things that have stayed the same for hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of years. Here are some things I thought of:
  1. Books. Even with new e-books and the Kindle or iPad, I am positive that we will always have books with us. I can't remember who I heard this from (maybe Kathy?), but someone told me tongue-in-cheek, "Wouldn't it be great to have a completely portable reading device that you would never have to charge, you could leave your own notes in the margin, and you could flip through the pages as fast as you wanted? That would be amazing!"  Sometimes I like to think about all the amazing things we would say about the paperback book if we only had the e-book first.
  2. Steam-powered electricity.  I can still remember my physics class in high school when I learned that even nuclear power plants generate electricity using steam.  The whole purpose of the nuclear power plant is to make enough heat to boil water, and then the steam from the water turns the turbine to generate electricity. Steam engines have been around for about 2000 years.  Granted, we have improved the design and productivity of the engine a lot since then, but the backbone technology is the same.
  3. Coins.  Now here is something ancient.  Humans have been using coins for thousands of years. Many people think that physical money will disappear because of the wide popularity of debit and credit cards.  I really think that people won't want to give up the physical money any time soon
  4. Missionaries. When I was serving my mission, I felt like the whole process of finding people was so inefficient. I remember my dad saying that the Lord doesn't care so much for efficiency. It's all about the individual for him.  If it was about efficiency, we could have one proxy baptism for all the dead and then be done! Missionary work is the same.  Even though it may take a while to physically go to each door on a street and talk to everyone you meet just to find that one person in 100,000 (that's what it feels like) who would be willing to talk to you , that is the way that the Lord has said it should be.
I found this online magazine that talks about all things low-tech.  It's pretty interesting.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

She wanted me to be a Модели

Yesterday, Lisa was so nice and took us out to eat at The Cheesecake Factory.  The food was very, very delicious.  I especially loved the avocado egg rolls.  When we arrived at the restaurant, the entrance was packed full of people waiting to get a table.  We were told that it would be about an hour wait. We walked around the mall a little bit, and the baby started to get a little fussy, so Katie went to the super nice bathroom in Nordstroms to feed her.  I was sitting in a nice armchair outside the bathroom, waiting for them to finish.

While I was waiting in that chair, a girl with a Russian accent walked up to me and said, "Excuse me, but how tall are you?"
I replied, "Huh? Oh, um, around 5 foot 9?"

I was having flashbacks of the girl trying to do my nails.  I wasn't sure what this was all about.

She said, "I'm run a modeling company in the area and you fit the profile of the person we are trying to look for.  Would you be interested in being a model for us?"

I'm not really sure what the profile was they were looking for.  A skinny, pale guy with glasses?  Something seemed a little fishy. Although, I do have some experience as a model.

Pretty good, eh? They've kept me in that header for Independent Study for over two years now and through many different layout design changes.  Must be because I look so sharp.

I told her that I wouldn't have time for that, but thanks anyway for asking. You can't help but be flattered when someone asks you to be a model.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Movie Quiz

Hello there, readers. Please try to think of the answers before looking in the comments! And no looking up the answers!

1.  What were the three gifts that Sabrina brought her father when she returned from Paris?
2.  What was the name of the shell that Johnny Lingo found, and how many did he find?
3.  What kind of drink did Max from the Sound of Music drink while sitting on the patio?
4.  What did Ox, from While You Were Sleeping, get for Christmas?
5.  How many place settings of china did Annie and Walter, from Sleepless in Seatle, order when registering for their wedding gifts?
6.  What is the name of Joe Fox's boat, and what was his "handle"?
7.  What is the name of the TV show that Will and Marcus (from About a Boy) like to watch?
8.  What is the name of the dangerous move that they try to perform in The Cutting Edge?
9.  What does CD stand for in The Santa Clause?
10. What city in Switzerland is the family in Swiss Family Robinson from?

Bonus Question: Is Truman real?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

Sadly, I wasn't able to watch the whole thing yet.  I blame my organic chemistry homework.  I started to read it, but it's close to 11:30 PM, and I should probably go to bed.  I quickly read the synopsis on and it looked interesting.

I think the most controversial thing he mentioned was that President Obama would work with Congress on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  I wish I knew more on the subject to actually have an informed opinion on the topic.  Does it really hurt the military to have gays openly serve in it?  Maybe, maybe not.

I think the thing that affects me the most right now is the section I read concerning university students.  If I understood it right, the plan is to increase the amount of Pell Grants received, and limit student loan payments to 10 percent of your income for 20 years, or 10 years if you do public service.  That sounds pretty good to me.  I am hoping to be able to pay off my student loans faster than 20 years, though.

Now, I'm all for getting free money to assist me in getting through college, but you have to wonder where this money is coming from. I think the deficit here in the United States is around 1.3 trillion dollars. Obama mentioned that he didn't raise taxes at all.  That means that the government is either reducing spending on something else to pay for this, or they are borrowing more money from countries like China and Japan. I hope that bi-partisan task force to come with solutions on reducing the deficit comes up with some awesome plans.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Ah, Sealand.  The smallest nation in the world.  Kind of.  It actually only occupies 550 square meters.  It was constructed in WWII by Great Britain in the international waters between England and France, but it was called Fort Roughs then.  They built it to defend England against German U-Boots.

This principality is actually not actually recognized that it is a sovereign state by any other sovereign state. However, Prince Roy of Sealand (formerly known as Paddy Roy Bates), claims otherwise.  He claims that both Germany and England said it was a sovereign state by default because Germany sent a diplomat and England said they have no jurisdiction over it.

The story of Sealand is quite amazing.  Paddy Roy Bates served in the British army, then became a fisherman, and then moved on to be a part of pirate radio in the 60's. Bates went out to the old platform call Fort Roughs, planning on broadcasting his pirate radio station from it. But Bates wasn't the first one to the platform. Another guy named Jack Moore, who had a pirate radio station, had already claimed the platform as his own.  When Moore sent some people to see what was happening, Bates' son, Michael, shot at them with petrol bombs and gunfire.  Bates was summoned by the English courts, which then ruled that they had no jurisdiction over the incident because it happened in international waters. This was in 1968 and Bates was calling the platform Sealand by now.

Eight or so years later, while Bates was away, a guy names Alexander Achenbach, a German, along with some Dutchmen, tried to take over Sealand. He took Michael Bates, the son, hostage and kept him for 3 days without food or water.  Bates returned with his men and took over the island with helicopter.  No joke, they used helicopters!  He then held them captive as prisoners of war. He soon released the Dutchmen, but because Achenbach had accepted a passport for Sealand, he was guilty of treason and could be executed.  However, Bates did not want to "bloody the reputation of Sealand, [and] eventually released him as well."

Alexander Achenbach considers himself to be the rightful heir of Sealand and distributes illegal passports.  People then use these passports to open false bank accounts any other dubious deeds.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Have you heard of the "brrr" months? You know ... September, October, November, and December.  Have you ever wondered why those months have the same ending?

You can thank the Romans for that.  In the Roman calender, September was the 7th month, October was the 8th, November was the 9th, and December was the 10th.  Now, let's see if you remember your Latin prefixes:
7 = sept
8 = oct
9 = non
10 = dec
  Cool, huh?  I never realized that before.  These are the valuable things I learn from naming organic compounds in chemistry.

We have twelve months now because "January" and "February" were added to the Julian calendar.  The first month of the Roman calendar was March (named after Mars, god of war.)  I propose that we use the following names to refer to the months:

March: Unicember
April: Bicember
May: Tricember
June: Quadrober or Quartcember. Maybe Quadricember? No, Quadrober sounds best
July: Quintober
August: Sectober
then September, October, November, December
January: Undecember
and February: Duodecember

Now we just need to think of better names for the days of the weeks...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Funny Joke

I read this joke a couple of years ago in the Reader's Digest, but I forgot how it went.  I had a few minutes before class started today and was trying to think of it, but to no avail.  In any case, I made up my own version:

A guy calls the vacation resort where he has booked his stay a few weeks in advanced.
He says, "What kind of second-rate institution are you running here?!  I called in twice already because you get my name wrong, but you never change it! My name is Mr. Sawey, not Mr. Cryiu! Can you please change it for me?"
The customer service representative replies, "OK, sir. No problem. Can you spell "Sawey" for me please?"
"Yeah, it's real easy. It spelled s as in 'sea,' a as in 'are,' w as in 'why,' e as in 'eye,' and y as in 'you.' Can you please tell me what is so hard about that?!"

Ba dum dum!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

100 posts

This is my 100th post since I started this blog back in October of 2008. Woo hoo!

In celebration, this one will be very short.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Super powers

If you had a single superpower, what would you want it to be?  I have given this question a lot of thought.  Here are some ideas I had:
  • Flying
  • Invisibility
  • Teleporting
  • Telekinesis
  • Mind reading
  • Stopping time
I think I would choose telekinesis as my superpower. That way I could move myself, making me fly, and I could move other things without touching them (like the light switch, or a pencil so I could write, or so many other things.) What would you chose?  It doesn't have to be one on the list.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friendly Fevers

In my microbiology class we have the "microbe of the day."  It's the part of the class that I look most forward to.  We discuss some influential microbe, which can be a bacteria, arthropod, or virus (basically, something you need a microscope to see), and how it hurts us.  Anyway, we have already discussed sicknesses like scabies, polio, rabies, chickenpox, shingles, and other viruses (I was able to share some information in class that I learned about polio.)  The microbe that my group will be sharing is on the scarlet fever, so that's a topic that you can look forward to in the future.

Anyway, we were talking about rabies in class, and we got onto the topic of fevers and inflammation and why our bodies react in this way to viruses and bacteria. Basically, a fever just heats up the body enough to kill the proteins in the foreign body, but not enough to kill our own.  So fevers are good.

Fevers are good.

Unless, of course, they go out of control (over 104 degrees anytime or 102 for more than a few days).  It is only then that we should take a fever-reducing drug. If we take drugs to lower our fevers when they are, say, only 100 degrees, we will stop our body's defense system and the foreign body will grow faster than it should.  These temperatures apply to adults, of course, and you should consult a doctor when babies or children have fevers.

I have great respect and trust in the body's system for taking care of itself.  The drugs we introduce to our bodies rarely ever heal our bodies directly.  Most of the time they just provide a better environment for the body to heal itself. The less we meddle with the body's natural healing process, the quicker we will heal and the healthier we will feel.

(Reading this over, I realized how "German" this all sounds.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010


You all have heard of Liberia, right?  You know, that country on the west coast of Africa?  Did you know that Liberia was an American colony for free black Americans?  That just blew my mind.

I learned this about a week ago in a book I mentioned already, The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told.  I was reading about James Monroe and some things he did while in office.  Monroe knew that problems were brewing between the North and the South and he tried to come up with a solution to diffuse the conflict. He really wanted to avoid a civil war. So he supported the initiative to send the free blacks back to Africa, where they could have their own colony.  They called that colony Liberia.  And the capital of Liberia?  It's called Monrovia, after James Monroe. Isn't that bizarre?  I had never heard of this before.  And that explains why the flag of Liberia looks a lot like the American flag.

The response was different among many people.  There were both protests and cheers among the black community.  Nobody was forced to go, but many blacks did. Interesting, huh?  And also interesting that I was thinking about all of this on the week of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.  Times have changed a lot in the past 150 years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This post was inspired by my other sister, Lisa.

Have you ever wondered why the letters on the keyboard are in the order they are in?  The order seems illogical...and that's the point!

When the typewriter was first invented, there was a huge problem with the keys jamming when you hit two keys at once or in quick succession.  Notorious culprits of jamming were "th" and "st".  In order to avoid jamming, the inventor, C. L.Shoals, tinkered with the arraignments of the keys until it became unlikely for any jams to occur due to two keys being placed next to each other.
I always assumed that Shoals chose the order that he did because he wanted to slow down the typist.  I guess that's not true according to this website.
There have been people in the past who have tried to design the ideal keyboard, the Blickensderfer keyboard being the most notable.  In this keyboard, all of the vowels and the most common consonants are on the middle row, making is faster to type ... in theory.  Turns out that if you are a slow typist with a qwerty keyboard, you will be slow with any keyboard, regardless of the placement of the vowels.  But it was a nice try, Herr Blickensderfer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Alison has inspired me to write about abbreviations.  A while ago I learned what OK stood for.  You ready for this?

Is stands for Oll Korrect ... as  in "all correct." Those old timey people are so funny! 

But the story doesn't stop there.  In 1840, when Martin Van Buren was running for reelection, these weird spellings and abbreviations were all the rage (like OW for oll wright, SP for small potatoes, and g.t.d.h.d. for "give the devil his due.") His reelection campaign realized that Van Buren was from Kinderhook, New York, so they called him Old Kinderhook, or OK.  People loved the idea and up sprung OK clubs and OK balls across the country.  Everyone started to say it.  This led to everyone across the world to say OK.  Even in Switzerland, where I served my mission, people say OK.  They kind of "Swissify" it by saying "oh-xchey" (it kind of sounds like they're hocking  a loogie). Unfortunately, Van Buren lost the reelection ... but can you imagine how weird it would be if we said "AC" instead of "OK"?

Some people think that we got OK from the Choctaw Indian word okeh, which means "That's what I said."  But that story isn't as cool as the first.

Now, if only someone could tell me where we got "okey-dokey"...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mad as a Hatter

I learned where this phrase came from. First, some chemistry:
In my organic chemistry class we are discussing the different functional groups, memorizing what it's called when a carbon is hooked to a hydrogen or oxygen or nitrogen, or any various combination of them. Very useful stuff to know.  When a carbon is hooked to a sulfur, it's called a thiol.  Thiols are found in the proteins of our nervous system.  The problem with thiols is that they really like hooking to heavy metals, such as mercury or lead.  If we inhale or consume mercury or lead, the thiols attach to them, making the nervous system go kaput.

Now, some history.  Hatters were people who made hats, obviously.  The occupation was at it's peak in the 1800's.  Hatters at that time often used mercury to cure the felt or fur for hats, which inevitably led to them inhaling the fumes, which attached to the thiols in the nervous system.  It was an occupational hazard which made many hatters go insane. (Thanks to Dr. Wood for sharing this information during class).

A notable mad hatter that I read about recently is Boston Corbett.  He was the cavalry sergeant who shot John Wilkes Booth, who shot Abraham Lincoln.  (Interestingly, Corbett shot Booth in the exact same location where Booth shot Lincoln.)  Corbett was a hatter in England before he immigrated to the United States. After shooting Booth, he fled to Kansas because he thought Booth's supporters were stalking him.  He got a job as a door keeper for the Kansas House of Representatives, and one day showed up with a gun, forcing the house to adjourn.  He was admitted to an insane asylum, but escaped a year later and was never found.  Creepy, creepy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


There has been a lot of emphasis on education by the prophets these days.  I remember President Hinckley admonishing the young men to seek out an education, to get as much as you can.  It's one of the few things that we can go in debt in order to obtain it. However, it never really occurred to me until this week that there is a hierarchy in education, meaning that there are some subjects that are better to know about than others.  I guess this makes sense, taking Elder Oaks' talk "Good, Better, Best" into account.  Gospel learning trumps all other type of learning, of course, but what's more important: science, music, art, or English?

What caused me to think about all this is a speech given by David McCullough (the guy who wrote 1776 and John Adams).  His speech is called "The Course of Human Events" and I got it on audio book from the Provo library.  I love listening to audio books while at work.  I feel like I'm using my time so effectively when I do. Anyway, at one point during his speech about the importance of education, David McCullough quotes John Adams saying this:
"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
So, according to John Adams, studying porcelain should be the aspiration of any student.  Wait, I take that back.  Having the freedom to study porcelain should be aspiration of any society. I don't think that any subject is inherently better than another, but I think the freedom to study subjects that aren't crucial for survival is important.  Some subjects enhance the human experience, while others simply provide the framework so that the enhancing can take place.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

First President?

I checked a book out of the library called The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told by Rick Beyer.  I've been reading it on my way to class and on my way home, and some of the stories are pretty interesting.  For instance, did you know that George Washington wasn't the first President of the United States? No no...he was the first President elected after the Constitution was ratified (in 1789). Before the Constitution we had the Articles of the Confederation, which were ratified in 1781.  The President of the United States under the Articles of the Confederation was John Hanson.  His official title was "President of the United States in Congress Assembled."  So there you go. Granted, his job wasn't the same as the President under the Constitution, but he was President nonetheless.  He was only in office for one year and but had some big accomplishments, including 1) establishing the Treasury Department (which was a big debate all in itself), 2) adopting the Great Seal of the United States, and 3) declaring the fourth Thursday of November as a "day of thanksgiving."  Too bad nobody knows who he is.

Another interesting tidbit of information I picked up from that book was that the only person to not use a bible as his inauguration was Franklin Pierce.  He put his hand on a law book and he "affirmed" the oath instead of "swearing" it.  The reason for this was that he was in the middle of a crisis of faith.  On his way to his inauguration, his eleven-year-old son was killed in a train accident. Sad. Maybe this has something to do with why he was ranked as the 3rd least ineffective president.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fried Brain

Well, it's happened: I can't think of anything to write about.  Actually, that's not true; I have a list of 8 topics that I plan on writing about in the future, but I'm too tired to research them right now.  I woke up early this morning and went to 6 hours of school and 3 hours of work, completed a 5 page organic chemistry assignment and a physics assignment, both taking a few hours, so my head is tired now and I want to go to bed.

I feel bad because I didn't get to spend much time with Katie today.  I guess that's why we have the weekends...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Exaggerated Art

I really loved my high school art classes.  I considered myself a fairly decent drawer (someone who draws, not something you put clothes into), and I liked my teacher a lot.  In his class, we spent a lot of time analyzing paintings and photographs, trying to understand the meaning and voice of the artist. It turns out that I was pretty good at it, mainly because I would just take my first impression that I had of the work and totally blow it out of proportion and view the entire meaning of the work in that first, fleeting impression.

For instance, during a Klausur (the German equivalent of a final exam) I remember there was a photograph we were supposed to analyze. It was a photo of some field workers, bent over some spinach, harvesting it (almost like the one above, but not quite).  The photograph was taken from ground level, from the spinach's point of view.  My first impression was that the workers looked like Godzilla or some other huge, dispassionate creature bent on destroying me (I was the spinach) and my kind.  I laughed at this thought and wrote my paper explaining my first impression and then going on and on about the tyranny of the workers and how "we" are just exploited, and then related that to how the artist must have felt towards government or society.  My teacher thought this was a fabulous explanation and gave me a 1 (equivalent of an A+) on the test.  I thought it was funny because I was just making stuff up. Well, I wasn't really making it up--I was just exaggerating my initial feeling to it's fullest extent. It made me wonder if that is how real art critics work.

I have another type of example of this, but in a different medium: reading aloud.  As Katie and most of my family can attest to, I tend to mumble when I speak. When I usually read out loud, I skip over words or misread them, mumbling as I go, making it difficult to understand what I am saying. I don't really notice this myself when I read aloud. I sound just fine to me, but that's probably because I know what I'm saying.  In my English class in high school, my teacher asked someone with a loud voice to read a poem for the class.  I raised my hand and tried to read it as dramatically and obnoxiously as possible, thinking that would be funny, but after I read it my teacher and other students were impressed with my reading.  Some said I should go into radio or do the morning announcements over the loud speaker.  No one thought I was doing it as a joke.  But then I learned the secret to reading poetry out loud: try to be as obnoxious as possible.

I think the main problem that people have with any form of art is that they inhibit themselves, mainly because they are worried about social things. They don't want to stand out. But that is, in effect, the main key for success in the arts: standing out, being distinctive, prominantly striking at obscurity.  That takes a lot of guts and self-confidence.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marriage Statistics

During the first class of my English 316 class, the professor had everyone introduce themselves by saying where they were from, what they are studying, and what they want to do.  There were three others guys in my class studying Construction Management, and I noticed that those other guys were married, too.  Later, the teacher asked if anyone had any kids, and the only ones with kids in my class were those studying Construction Management and and older student coming back to earn her bachelors degree.

This made me wonder if students studying Construction Management were more likely to be married than students from any other major, or if my class just happened to be a coincidence. I was wondering how I could find this out and I decided that I needed to speak with someone in the Administrations Office at BYU.  So in a fifteen minute break I had in between classes, I walked over to the Administration Building and asked where I could find out marriage statistics broken down by majors.  They had no idea, but gave me the number for the Office of University Communications.  I called that office and spoke with the person in charge of compiling the Y Facts pamphlet.  I told him what I was looking for and he emailed me the data.  It was pretty easy.  The only problem is that the data was broken down by college rather than major, but it does shed some interesting light onto the subject.

Here is the data that was sent to me (this data includes both graduate and undergraduate day-continuing students):

Marriage statistics by college, Fall 2009

Engineering & Technology
Family, Home & Social Sciences
Fine Arts & Communications
Graduate Studies
International & Area Studies
Law School
Life Sciences
Physical and Mathematical Sciences
Religious Education
Student Life

Now, to normalize the data, I just found the percentage of those married in each college, and this is what I found (organized from highest percentages to lowest):

Religious Education...........................................95.0 %
Graduate Studies..............................................68.2 %
Law School......................................................60.2 %
Management.....................................................33.6 %
Engineering &Technology..........................32.9 %
Family, Home &Social Sciences................28.5 %
Life Sciences....................................................26.6 %
Humanities.......................................................26.4 %
Physical & Mathematical Sciences............24.9 %
Education........................................................24.5 %
International & Area Studies.....................21.2 %
Fine Arts & Communication.....................19.5 %
Nursing...........................................................17.9 %
Student Life.....................................................5.0 %

There were some surprising results from this study.  For instance, I was expecting Nursing to be higher. I'm not sure why I was expecting that. Law School and Graduate Studies makes sense because those students are usually older than those getting their bachelors degree.  A third of the students in Management and Engineering & Technology are married, but only a fifth are married in Fine Arts & Communication and International & Area Studies. And I have no idea what "Student Life" is.

Do you think there is a difference between colleges because some of these majors have the potential to earn more money than others, and so guys majoring in these subjects attract more girls? Maybe it says something about their personality: people in engineering are problem solvers whereas people in International Studies often have to study and understand conflict.  I really don't know.  But there is a significant difference between these colleges, so much so that you can't dismiss the data.

New Book!

I just found that Atul Gawande just wrote another book!  I'm not sure how I missed it when I looked for his books at Borders.  It was just published on Dec. 22, 2009, so it's brand new.  I'm definitely going to get it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


When I was serving my mission in Switzerland, Elder Hafen of the Seventy came to one of our Zone Conferences and spoke to us. We weren't doing too well as a mission at the time.  A lot of the missionaries were depressed and/or not working very hard, and the quantity and quality of our lessons were dwindling. He spoke about something that is really hard to do, namely, do something that you think wont succeed at as if you think it will. Most of the people we tried to speak to weren't interested in speaking to us. But Elder Hafen challenged us to approach each person as if they were dieing to talk to us. This is a lot harder than it sounds, especially if you have tried to do it for twelve hours a day, seven days a week (minus the few hours on p-day). It was easy to have that mindset at first--right when you're fresh from the MTC, feeling that you can conquer the world--but after a few months, that feeling begins to drain and you feel dread and brace yourself for the coming insult and rejection as you approach someone.  I knew I was in the wrong kind of mindset when I could see the campaign posters for Swiss people running for office and I could imagine exactly what they would say to me if I asked them if I could speak with them, right down to the scoff and impatient tone of voice.

Elder Hafen said that we should be like eager puppies, waiting at the front door for someone to come in. Every time we hear a car approach, we should run barking to the door, fully expecting the owner to come walking through the door.  Dogs can do this all day, apparently (I don't remember our dog well enough to know if she did this or not). They don't get discouraged and stop running to the door when the cars just seem to be going by with no hint of stopping.  I decided to try it out.  And it worked. I would approach people as if they were excited to meet me and they would stop to talk to me.  I'm not sure why this worked--maybe people just like talking to happy, excited people, or maybe I just noticed the nice people more often because I was looking for them.  Or maybe we find what we expect to find.  Either way, I was happier and having more success.

This can also be applied to other things.  For instance, Katie and I got Yahtzee for Christmas and now we play a few games every day.  The game is mostly luck, but there is some skill in knowing what you have a greater probability of rolling and so forth.  Anyway, I decided to put this principle to use and try to roll a Yahtzee every single round. I wouldn't stop rolling, even if I got a full house or a four-of-a-kind, and I would re-roll until I got my Yahtzee.  And it paid off, too.  I got my Yahtzee (worth 50 points) plus 2 bonus Yahtzees (worth 100 points each).  And any time I didn't get a Yahtzee, the dice that I had rolled counted as something else either way. Let me just say that I totally creamed Katie and blew my personal best score out of the water.

So I guess the moral of the story is to expect for the best ... and prepare for the best, too.  If you fully convince yourself that you can succeed and do great things, you will act accordingly and you will succeed and do great things.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Last week I mentioned that I finished reading Better by Dr. Gawande.  I keep thinking about that book, even though I have finished another book since then (Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton).  I guess that's a sign of a good book.

I've been thinking about some medical ethics.  There is one chapter in his book that is devoted to the elimination of the polio virus. I believe that the extinction of polio and other diseases, like smallpox, from most countries in the world is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of mankind. The fight against polio is still going on in less developed countries, such as India. Once a case of polio pops up, a massive immunization of 4 million children surrounding that village takes place within three days. It is hard to imagine how one goes about planning the logistics of that kind of operation.  It takes millions of dollars to pull an operation like this off, and it is hard not to wonder if the money could be better used somewhere else.  It's a tough decision.  I mean, why was polio chosen as the disease that has to be eliminated, no matter the cost?  Granted, it can be lethal, affects mostly children, and leaves many survivors paralyzed for life in its wake.  But many other diseases and conditions exist that kill more people than polio, such as malaria and malnutrition. The money used for polio could be used to change things that would have a greater affect on the death toll, such as building wells for clean water, better nutrition for children, an irrigation system so that crops wont fail as often, improving local hospitals, or developing a better system for disposing waste. A person who is paralyzed from polio will die of hunger just like a person who isn't paralyzed.

I guess you can make that claim for anything for that matter.  Decisions have to be made. What should we focus on?  Eliminating polio from the planet can be a definite success for humanity, a gift for future generations.  Our grandchildren will die of something, but it wont be polio.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Communicating with God

During Christmas break, our friends/distant relatives in our quad went home for the holidays and asked us to check their mail for them.  They also let us use their Netfilx subscription because they weren't there to use it and would have cost the same to them if we used it or not.  One of the movies we got was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This was the first Indiana Jones movie, the one where the find the ark of the covenant in Cairo. It's a pretty great film.

During the movie the French archeologist who worked for the Nazis was talking about how great a find the ark of the covenant would be. He said something like, "It's a transmitter.  It's a radio for speaking to God!"

Too bad they didn't think of prayer.
That's a whole lot easier to use and way more effective.

I think this shows us how much we as a people
  1. like to do things on a grand scale instead of a simple scale 
  2. like to use tools instead of faith
  3. focus on the tangible instead of the intangible.
Prayer is one of the simplest acts we can do.  But sometimes we can make it some of the complicated.

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Head Size

    I got the Boy's Life magazine when I was living at home and I remember they had these comic strips that were very short versions of classic books, like  Frankenstein or The Odyssey. One of the series they ran that I liked a lot were some Sherlock Holmes comics.  There was one comic strip where a burglar nabbed a lady's purse and ran away, but his hat fell off. Watson picked up the hat and gave it to Dr. Holmes, who then analyzed it and concluded all this information about the burglar from the hat.  For instance, Holmes noticed something like wax on one side and that meant something--I forget what--and he found a strand of hair on the inside so he knew he had brown hair or something, but the thing I remember most was that Sherlock Holmes concluded was that the man must have had above average intelligence because the hat was very large, meaning that the owner had a large brain.  I don't know why the burglar would be robbing someone if he was very intelligent, but that was the story.

    Anyway, I liked that reasoning a lot, mainly because I have a big head.  When I ordered my cap for my high school graduation, there was only one other kid who had a bigger head than me (but he didn't seem too smart....hmmm...). I don't actually think there is some sort of correlation, but it would be interesting if there was one.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Hormonal Weight Loss

    Sorry for another post about something that I learned in Physiology, but I liked that class a lot and it was really practical. Anyway, at the end of the semester we spent four or five lectures taking about the female reproductive system and cycle. (In comparison, we only spent half a lecture on the male reproductive system.  It is much, much simpler.)

    When a woman gets pregnant, the little fertilized egg is still in the fallopian tube.  It takes about 24 to 48 hours for the little future baby to travel the foot long tube to reach the uterus. Once it is implanted in the uterine wall, the egg/uterus releases a hormone called HCG.  Maybe you've heard of it.  This hormone's purpose is to tell the cells in the female's ovaries to keep producing estrogen and progesterone so that menstruation doesn't occur and the fetus will continue to grow. However, a more modern use of HCG is to assist in weight loss.

    I saw a big sign at Elase Medical Spa in Orem that they now do HCG weight loss program.  It has been shown that using this hormone actually works in helping people lose weight.  The reason this works is because your body thinks you are pregnant. In fact, if you took a pregnancy test while taking HCG, you will test positive, even men.  This is because all pregnancy tests look for is HCG in the urine or blood.  Anyway, along with taking HCG, you are only supposed to eat maybe 500 or 600 calories a day.  Because your body thinks your pregnant, your body starts ripping apart fats in order to give the little "fetus" the nutrients it needs.

    This seems pretty controversial to me.  Actually, this seems like a bad idea to me. While we were talking about it in class, the TA commented that this seemed like a bad idea to her, too, and maybe people will realize in a few years that it has a lot of negative side effects, just like fen-phen.  But just as she said this, a dozen hands shot up.  There was a person in my class that used this weight loss technique. Another person's roommate was doing it right now.  It seemed that many people knew of people who were doing this, and all of them were losing weight. Others said in class that the whole thing is a scam and a hoax and will disappear in a few months. So I'm not sure now.  Maybe it could be a good idea for some mortally obese people who have to lose weight but are scared of invasive surgery.  But messing around with pregnancy hormones doesn't seem so wise.  Females have to deal with enough hormones as it is...

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Why is pee yellow?

    This is a segment that I like to call Childhood Question.  It's where I take I question that I had as a kid, or that I heard a kid ask, or that I think a kid might ask...or just any question I feel like asking. 

    Today's question: Why is pee yellow?

     Luckily, I took PDBio 305, or Human Physiology, and we discussed this very question.  It turns out that the answer (or part of the answer) has to do with why kids who have jaundice look yellow, or why bruises turn yellow.  The reason is bilirubin (pictured on the right).  Many people have heard of bilirubin , especially parents with children who had jaundice.  Bilirubin is the result of the break down of old red blood cells (pictured on the left).  When the red blood cells break down, the iron (Fe), in the middle of the hemoglobin, which makes the blood red, leaves and the whole thing "unfolds". To get rid of it, all of the bilirubin is delivered to the liver, which is then excreted in the bile, where it is then excreted in poop as stercobilin (which gives it its brown color), or reabsorbed back into the blood and then to the kidneys, and finally excreted in the urine as uroblin.*  Amazing!

    So the reason kids can have jaundice is because they have liver problems, or they're destroying too many red blood cells, or there is something blocking the bile duct. It just makes all the bilirubin backed up in their body and makes their eyes and skin turn yellow.
    Bruises make your skin turn yellow because the blunt force broke millions of red blood cells and the bilirubin pools there until you clear it all out.

    Why are people worried about kids with jaundice and why isn't it a problem for adults?  That could be a question for another day.

    *All of the things I know about the subject I owe to Dr. Reuben Rhees and his lecture note packet.  I have referred to that packet quite a few times since I finished that class.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010


    Three things that I was thinking about today:
    1. I have been trying to remember a quote that I heard that I think George Washington said. Maybe it wasn't George Washington.  It went something like "those who seek power don't deserve it."  I take this to mean that those who actively try to rule over others, even by trying to win an election, should not lead others, solely because they want to lead others. 
    2.  I read a book about Ancient Greece when I was growing up and I remember reading about how they practiced government in Athens.  The people (adult males) elected some 500 representatives and of those, only 50 were serving at a time.  Those 50 were chosen at random by lots 
    3. I was taking a class called "Quantity Takeoffs" here at BYU, and my professor was very adamant in his opposition toward the current state of the government (this was right after President Obama's inauguration, and my professor was a staunch Republican).  I remember him saying that he figures Congress would be a "heck of a lot better off" if everyone was forced to resign and they chose random people from the phone book to be in Congress.
    There are many ways people can come to power: it could be passed on, you win an election, you fight others and force them to obey you, or you are chosen (intentionally or randomly) by someone else.  I would have to say the best situation would be if we had a perfect person select the perfect leader from among us.  I believe other people felt the same way and that is why we have had kings that were "divinely appointed" all throughout history.
    Maybe it would be better to have a committee of sorts search the population for the personality traits, leadership abilities, moral conviction, and the intellectual ability that would make a great leader...but that could lead to societies described in books like The Giver or 1984.  It could become easily corruptible.
    Perhaps we could remove the human element entirely from the election process and impartially choose people at random to lead us, as if from a phone book, or maybe a computer program to systematically run through backgrounds of people to find good candidates and then randomly choose some.

    I think there are some instances where this is already the case.  For instance, random citizens are selected to serve on juries. They are empowered to make life and death decisions. There are of course people who screen them to make sure that they are able to do so without any prejudices, but the jurors are a random mix of people who didn't try to get on the jury.

    I'm not supposing that we disband congress and have 100 random people serve in the Senate and 435 more random people serving in the House.  That would be a total nightmare. I would say that it would be interesting to see how a city government or even a state government would run if there were two houses, one elected and one selected.  Those members of the selected house would be only serve for maybe a year, and then a new group would be selected. The selected house could act as a "jury" for the elected government.  And if some selected representative does an outstanding job, he or she can be elected, thus making sure that money does not need to be required to serve in government, with the added benefit of having an accurate representation of the community serving in at least one house of government.

    Does anyone know if this has been tried in some form, and if so, how it turned out?

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Capital Punishment

    I got a gift card from my parents this Christmas for Borders Bookstore. One of the books I got is called Better by Atul Gawande. I've almost finished itt and it as been a fascinating read. I read his first book, Complications, and I have wanted to read this next book for a while, but none of the libraries in the area had it. I put in a request for the book at the BYU Library, but it hasn't been processed yet. Anyway, I have the book now and it's really, really interesting.

    One of the chapters he discusses is about a doctor's involvement in the execution of inmates on death row. The AMA strictly forbids a doctor to assist in the execution in anyway. The only way they are allowed to be involved is signing the death papers after someone else examines the body. However, there are some doctors who do help with the executions. They assist for a variety of reasons. One of the most interesting reasons that a doctor gave is that he feels it is his role to give comfort to those who are dieing. He had been working in a jail providing primary care to inmates, feeling that he was making a positive influence in their lives. One thing followed another, and he got roped into confirming the deaths of patients after they had received lethal injections, then he helped place the IV lines in difficult veins. He now does basically everything except push the poison into the IV. He feels that these inmates suffer from a "terminal disease," that disease being a legal verdict rather than a cancer. He makes sure that the doses are given in the right amount and that the proper heart rate and unconsciousness is achieved before giving the inmate the bolus of potassium that is lethal. The amazing thing is that this doctor is against capital punishment. It is his hope that the state will make it illegal for a doctor to be involved in executions, thereby making mistakes more likely in lethal injections, thereby making lethal injection a "cruel and unusual punishment," and with that make every form of execution cruel and unusual (hanging can take five to ten minutes before they die, fire squads are notorious for intentionally missing the heart, electric chair victims sometimes undergo two or three rounds of shocks before they die), thus banning capital punishment.

    The vast majority of Americans approve of capital punishment. I'm not sure if I do or not. I don't believe that the threat of death deters murderers. Many of them live with the threat of death every day. I also don't think its cheaper to kill someone than to keep them in prison for the rest of their life--the cost of trials and appeals in court cases is astronomical. The main issue is whether or not there are some crimes that are so bad, so horrific, that that person deserves to die. I have heard of some things that people have done that are so terrible that I cringe every time I think of it. Is death a just punishment for them?

    This is the Church's official statement regarding the death penalty:
    "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment."
    I haven't totally made up my mind yet, and I may never actually make up my mind exactly the way I want, but right now I think I'm leaning toward being against capital punishment. Maybe because I think the government should respect the sanctity of all life, even if individuals don't. Maybe because I think by executing someone, we may be ending their life prematurely and they might have time to change. Maybe by executing someone, we might be trying to make two wrongs a right. I don't know. I'm glad I don't have to be the one making those tough decisions.