Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Posts...

...are always harder to write, especially ones that fall on a Sunday. I feel that they should reflect the spirit of a Sunday, somehow. So here we go.

I think it's interesting that we celebrate the Sabbath on the first day of the week. In Europe they have changed the calendar so that Monday's are the first day of the week. That's how it is in my planner, too. When I was serving my mission in Switzerland I spoke to an old man who was a Seventh Day Adventist. He was telling me that it is very important that we worship the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week: Saturday. He made the following analogy: if God was to write you a letter and got the whole address correct except the apartment number, the letter would not arrive. He claimed that if you did everything right but made a simple but critical error, like going to church on the wrong day, you won't be going to heaven.

But if you extend that thought further, every mistake we make distances ourselves from God. If our letter to God asking for salvation requires a perfect address, all the envelopes will be returned to us stamped either "Address Unknown" or "More Postage Required." That's the whole purpose of Christ's grace. He edits our mailing addresses and adds the postage that we lack.

I wish I came up with that kind of answer when I was talking to the Seventh Day Adventist. I can't remember what I told him, but he wasn't interested in hearing what we talked about. He was just trying to convert us. And we were trying to convert him. I still think about him, though. I wonder if we thinks about me. Probably not. He has met with hundreds of missionaries over the years. Well, probably not hundreds. Tens, maybe.

Anyway, I'm rambling now. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ß vs. ss

As some of you may know, ß is not a B. The letter ß is called an eszett, and it's very unique: it is only found in the German language and it has no uppercase form. It represents a "condensed form" of "ss," so it makes a sharp "s" sound. However, the eszett it a dieing species. German and Austrian governments have these groups set up to eliminate the ß from the German language. The Swiss have already eliminated it, replacing it totally with an ß. As you can probably assume, many people are not happy with this. I think the only ones who would be happy with the change are those who write dictionaries and grammar books. Imagine what the reaction would be if the government organized a committee to officially change the English language to make it simpler. No more "ough"es or silent letters. I believe there would be an uprising. People would continue to spell the old way because they were forced to change, rather than just letting the language evolve on its own. I think English has simplified its spelling dramatically since, you know, the days of yore. I mean, just look at the spelling of the poem that I posted yesterday.

Some Germans have revolted against the man. The change of ß to "ss" has been official since 1996, which is when I and my family moved to Berlin. My German teachers complained about the change and how it was totally pointless. They felt they were loosing part of their culture by giving up this letter. How much culture can one letter of the alphabet hold? I guess a lot. The big newspaper of Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung totally rebelled and ignores all of the rule changes. They use the ß every where they want. And I think that's a good thing. I don't think committee's should have to meet to change a language faster than it should. Maybe I'm wrong. What would have been better is if some prominent authors stopped using the ß in their works. Then maybe computer companies would change the German keyboard so you have to type a crazy complicated set of keys to get an ß to show up (maybe ctrl + alt + s + s + enter), so that it's such a pain that everyone wants to leave it out.

I like the eszett. And I like the weird spellings of the English language. I think it's important that people learn the rules about these things. It shows how much we care, or don't care, about the history of how we speak.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I can't think of anything interesting to write about. I've started a few different posts, but either I was boring myself writing them, or I couldn't think straight enough to do a good job.

Oh well. Today you get a lame post. Better luck next time.

Here's a poem that I was thinking about today. 10 points if you can guess where I read it:
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Most Popular Book

A few days ago, while I was working at the library, I was wondering what the most popular book was. Which book at BYU's library gets checked out the most? After work I asked the student at the circulation desk if she knew the answer, and she said she didn't. I then asked her if she knew someone who could tell me, and she said again that she didn't. Hmm. Dead end. I asked my supervisor at work the next day if she knew who to talk to, and she thought about it and said for me to talk to this one guy down the hall from where I work. I walked over to his desk and asked him my question, and he told me that I needed to talk to someone else. I quickly walked down to this other guy's office and he told me he could run a query and get back to me in a few minutes.

Every single person I talked to asked me why I wanted to know. I just told them I was curious. They seemed to either be impressed by this or put off by it. One of the people I spoke to told me, "Well, curiosity killed the cat," and then just stared at me. I kind of chuckled a little a bit and said, "Yeah...heh heh." It was weird.

Can you guess what the most popular book is at BYU? I thought it would be maybe the Book of Mormon, or maybe some textbook on reserve. Then I thought it might be one of the Harry Potter books, maybe the 7th one. Or perhaps it was some popular classic novel, like To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Grapes of Wrath.

It turns out that the most checked out book in the entire history of BYU is ... Twilight. Yes, you read that right. Kind of disappointing, isn't it? BYU received its first copy of Twilight in October 2005, and since then it has been checked out over 5,000 times. The amazing thing is that there have only been about 1,600 days since then.  The library owns over seven copies of the book in its Juvenile section alone, and then on top of that we have copies in Sampler, Literature, and Americana.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The worth of a soul

When I was serving my mission I had my parents sign me up for classes at BYU for me to take when I returned. I guess I could have done it myself, but I didn't want to waste internet time rummaging around on BYU's website, trying to figure out my schedule. I hadn't really declared a major yet, so I figured that anything the signed me up for would be OK.

I was signed up for some funky stuff, but I liked my classes a lot. I still think about them sometimes. That semester I took World Civilization through 1500, Introduction to Ethics, Fitness and Lifestyle Management, a few religion classes, and Natural Hazards. Yes, Natural Hazards. That class was all about flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and, yes, crime. Did you know that crime is considered a natural hazard? We discussed this in detail, and how environmental changes make people more criminal. Also, geography plays a role on what type of crime you are likely to commit. For instance, people in the South are more likely to commit aggravated assault, whereas those in the Northwest and East are more likely to burglarize. Funky stuff.

In that class we also discussed how news is reported disproportionately here in the United States according to race. I don't remember the ratios exactly, but it went something like this: if one person was killed in a natural hazard in the United States, there would be a significant amount of media coverage, especially if she was a young, white female. For the same media coverage to occur for a disaster in Western Europe, three people have to die. In South America, the number is around 20. In Africa and Asia, at least 50 people need to die for it to have the same media coverage as someone here in the United States.  In some cases this makes sense. They're further away, it doesn't affect us as much. But Europe is just as far away as Africa...

Anyway, that was just something that I was thinking about today.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Oh-at", not "oat"

"tyubu yhjk,.yhtv j m    i8iuo6bn ghb h          -..n6jo]iilkjj0kp;kug         d fg5v5"

That quote is brought to you by my five-month old daughter. She likes hitting things like faces and keyboards.

In other news, I took a practice OAT exam on Saturday. It was hard ... really hard. At least is was free. It was a promotional thingy from Kaplan. (Did you know that they are related somehow to the Washington Post? I think the WP owns it or something.) Anyway, despite my poor performance, I actually did pretty well for not studying at all for the test. I got a 280 on it. (300 is in the 50th percentile, 400 is perfect, and the lowest you could get is a 200.) This really encouraged me. I was considering taking an online prep course through Kaplan, but those cost a pretty penny (about $1200). But I'm going to just get one of those books that have some practice exams and worksheets in them. I found a brand new one on Craigslist for $20. My goal is to score around a 320 or 330.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Anti-bacterial Gels

The more everyone uses them, the more resistant bacteria become. It's true that these anti-bacterial gels do kill most of the bacteria on a surface, but the ones they don't kill are the ones that have a resistant to the gel. They are also the bacteria that continue to replicate. These new cultures of bacteria are now resistant to that type of antibiotic. It's a problem now that doctors have to deal with. They are constantly having to develop new antibiotics because the old ones aren't working as well any more.

Just use soap, unless there is a real need.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One of my favorite religious paintings

I saw this painting for the first time on my mission. Katie sent me a postcard from the BYU Museum of Art with this on the front.  The painting is called Exchange No. 8, by Ron Richmond who painted it in 2004. 

On the back of the postcard was the following:

For the Beholding Salvation Exhibition: In the 20th and 21st centuries, conceptual works have supplemented more traditional renderings of the Savior by focusing on ideas, rather than on objects or narrative representations. Often the figure of Christ is not even present in these works; signs and symbols replace the human form as in this painting by Ron Richmond. Conceptual art, such as this, encourages viewers to ponder and explore what meanings may be vested in the work. For instance, as you observe the chairs and cloths in this painting, reflect on the manifold roles of Christ as Advocate, Judge, Intercessor, and Resurrected Savior. Consider the placement of the chairs and their relationship to each other. Contemplate the intense colors of the draped fabric that call to mind the Messianic words: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Po I Know

I don't have a lot of time to do an in depth post that I would like to do, but I thought I would share an interesting story that I remembered today. When I was living in Germany I loved to go to the stores in downtown Berlin. No car was needed; I would take the U-Bahn to get there. I would spend hours looking in stores like Werken Spielen Schenken and Saturn. I hated asking people where stuff was, though. If I had to ask someone where something was, I would practice it over and over in my head or I would write it down.  I hated sounding like an idiot.  Sometimes I would just ask them if they spoke English and if they said no, I would just walk away. I think I felt so traumitized because one Christmas I was buying presents for my siblings and I thought I would get my sister Alison a teletubby because I knew she thought they were creepy.  When I was at the checkout counter the cashier thought he was funny and wouldn't let me buy it unless I could tell him the name of the teletunbby. I knew his name was Po, but was too embarrassed to say it. So instead I said, "Umm, Ich spreche kein Deutsch" and then walked away.
I know... how shameful.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bryan is out of the office (or maybe just out of his mind)

Bryan is too brain dead from doing really hard organic chemistry homework to write a really great post for you right now.  And I am too tired to keep waiting up while he tries to think of something to write.  So you are all just going to have to wait until tomorrow for something amazing to read here.  My apologies.


In the mean time, please enjoy this mad yours truly (Katie).  Please fill in the blanks in your head and then leave your additions for us in the comments.

Last Thursday I was __(verb)___________ down the street when I came across a ___(adjective)__________ alligator.  I was _______(adjective)______ when he opened up his mouth and began to _____(verb)__________.  "Ahhh!" I screamed!  "Why on earth would you _______(verb)______?"  My outburst startled the alligator so much that it ________(verb)________.  I was really _____(adjective)____ to see that the alligator started to ________(verb)_____ with its _______(noun)________ instead.  After a moment, I decided to join the alligator.  After all, if you can't ______(verb)_______ 'em you might as well _______(verb)_______! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Abstract Art: Part 3

OK, this is the final post about abstract art. For now. Maybe I'll do some more in the future.

For this final post I thought I would talk about a piece of minimalist art that I really, really like. Yesterday I wrote about how some artist used minimalism as a means of showing that art can have no meaning--that it's just an object. Today, I'll write about how minimalism can be used to represent some very big ideas. The piece of art de jour:

It's the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Ying Lin.

In case you've never been there before, let me describe it to you. Ahem. It's a huge granite "V" cut into the ground with the names of dead soldiers on it. It doesn't sound like much, but it's the most visited memorial in Washington D.C. People are often moved to tears when they visit it, even those who don't know anyone who fought in the war. I think it's because of what the wall represents. 

The wall is effective because it doesn't try to portray the war. The war is too big of an idea, too emotionally charged to be effectively represented. A sculpture of a soldier wouldn't do it justice. (Interestingly, there is another Vietnam sculpture that was made because this one sparked so much controversy.  It's a depiction of three soldiers standing in their uniforms. I don't think it's nearly as effective.) So Maya Lin chose a different route. She decided that by using minimalist art, she could bypass the usual route and get straight at the symbolism. She thought of the bulldozers ripping into the ground as the war itself, leaving behind a deep scar. The grass would eventually grow back, but the scar will always remain.

Sometimes we want to have something simple represent something bigger. This collection of punctuation marks can represent something: (^.^)! Or think of a wedding ring. That's a great example of some simple object representing a huge concept. I remember when Chris came home from his mission, during his homecoming talk he said he didn't want to share any stories from his mission because it wouldn't do it justice. Maybe he could use a type of minimalist memorial like this one.

So that's it on abstract art! I hope you all have learned a lot and appreciate it a little bit. Sure, you probably could make a lot of modern art yourself in like 5 minutes, but that's not the point.  The point is the ideas behind the idea, and that's a lot harder to think up. There was a big painting that I saw when I went on my class trip to Barcelona which was just a big diagonal line across the canvas. The inscription next to the painting read:
"This painting took a lifetime to prepare for, an instant to create."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Abstract Art: Part 2

Now for round two. Sorry if you think this is boring, but I do not. So there. Ha!

Abstract art comes in all shapes and sizes and each artist is trying to say something different.  Sometimes they are trying to say something completely opposite from another abstract artist. The piece of art that I'll be writing about is this sculpture:

It's called Die and it was made by Tony Smith in 1962.

It's called Die because it's shaped like a die, not because he's telling you to die or something. Just wanted to make that clear. When you look at this I think my first instinct makes me want to say, "Pssh, whatevs. Making that would be so baby cakes." But again, the beauty of abstract art is not the object itself. It's always something deeper.

Artists throughout time have always been in the business of deceiving the viewers. They try to trick us to think that a bunch of pigment smeared on a canvas is a person or a tree or something. They try to make a 2-dimensional object look 3-dimensional.  Is it dishonest? Well, sure, in a way. Minimalist artist were sick of the illusion, the deception. Why not appreciate the art for what it really is? A sculpture made out of metal is really just a twisted hunk of metal. This is the idea the Tony Smith was trying to portray. It lakes any real subject, texture, or symbolism. He wants you to look at his art, and all art for that matter, as an object. This reduces the whole artistic experience down to its most fundamental level. We can't presume anything about its meaning because it has no meaning. The art lies in the idea that you should be completely and literally honest in everything you do.

My only beef with this is that he called it Die, as if it supposed to represent a die. I think it would be a lot more effective if he called it Piece of metal or Cube or something. 

I think a better piece of art that shows this idea is this sculpture called Untitled by Donald Judd:

It's not metaphorical or symbolic in any way. Judd just wanted you to view it as an object. On the top and bottom of each rectangular piece of wood is clear Plexiglas so that you can see the interior of each piece, concealing nothing. Absolute honesty. No illusions. His desire was to banish ambiguity and falseness.

I don't necessarily agree with this type of art. I think great ideas are often more effectively portrayed as symbols. Take letters and words, for example. You are seeing a stream of electrons hitting an electro-sensitive screen, but you are interpreting it in your mind as a sentence. I think having objects symbolize something else is a good thing, but I also think that it's good to get new perspectives and understanding. At least now you know why some people this type of minimalist art is really cool.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Abstract Art: Part 1

I've always liked abstract art, although I don't think I had any good reason to like it. Maybe I liked it because I thought it was cool to like something that I didn't understand.  Maybe because it was so mysterious.  After taking a few art history and humanities classes, I think I can understand why people appreciate it.  I thought I would write about this in three parts, each day taking a different piece of abstract/modern art and describing why I think it's pretty cool.
Today I thought I would talk about Jackson Pollock. Here's one of his most famous paintings:


 It's called Number 1.

I'm not sure if it was his first painting or not.  You see this painting all over the place, usually accompanied by the comment, "Sheesh, I could do that with my eyes closed." Well, maybe, but that's not the point. He wasn't trying to show off his mad skills with this painting. The canvas for this thing is 7 feet tall and 10 feet long.  To paint it, he sat the canvas on the floor and flung paint at it, like this:   

This is the art for Jackson Pollock, not the end result.  It was his movements that were the art form.  The creation of the painting was the beautiful part.  He never let a paintbrush touch the canvas. He created it all on the spot.  It was a completely random yet beautifully choreographed dance, almost.  This is how he described the process in his own words: "I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides, and literally be in the painting."

The art of Jackson Pollock is beautiful because it all hearkens back to the beauty of its creation.  Other painters and sculptors began doing the same thing.  Painters began making brushstrokes more visible, sculptors left thumbprints and tool marks deliberately behind.  The creation of art can be just as meaningful as the end result. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hot Water

Our water heater gave out yesterday.  Luckily, I took a shower first yesterday morning and got to enjoy a nice, warm shower.  Katie, on the other hand, had to cut her shower a little short. It's kind of funny to realize how different life can be without hot water.  It really is a commodity that I took for granted.

I tried to wash the dishes with cold water, but that just didn't work.  This morning I heated up some water in a frying pan (the last one that was clean) to thaw out some frozen milk for the baby.  I felt so old-timey.  Then I washed some dishes in the frying pan. I was tempted to heat up another pot of water to use in a sponge bath, but the thought of it made me feel really cold and I called maintenance instead.  They'll be here in a little bit to fix the heater. Unfortunately, out counter top is full of dirty dishes. Why is it that our apartment is at its dirtiest peak in the "cycle of cleanliness" when people come over?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


We usually have some construction professional come speak to us in our weekly Construction Management seminar, but this past week we had Dr. David Cherrington speak to us. His is a professor of Organizational Behavior here at BYU.  I took his online class last year, so it was weird to see him in person.  When I first saw him I thought he was someone famous because I knew I had seen him on TV or something. I had actually only seen him on the online videos.  He spoke about the science of personality and he said some pretty interesting things.  One of the things he mentioned is that the outcome of any action we take is determined by two things: our personality and our environment.  We tend to overemphasize the influence of one over the over depending on the situation we're in.  For example, if we do something good (win a game, do well on a test, or something like that) we have the tendency to think that we did well because of us, not our environment.  However, if we did something bad (lose a game, fail a test, get in an accident) we tend to think it was because of things out of our control. If a mistake is made by en employee, the employee usually blames the environment, but the employer usually blames the employee. It's like we have this natural defensive wall built into us to protect us from blame.  I wonder if we're born with that or that is a condition that is taught to us by society. Maybe it's just an effect of the Fall.  Anyway, that's just something to think about.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ein Gedicht

Ich kann nur mit meiner rechten Hand schreiben.
Ich will immer mit dir herumtrieben.
Mein Gehirn ist leer.
Es ist unglaublich schwer
Ein Gedicht auf Deutsch zu schreiben.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Harry Potter Nerds

All right, it's time for another quiz!  I think everyone has either read all of the Harry Potter books or has at least seen the movies.  I must warn you that this one is pretty hard. Again, try to answer them before looking it up!

1. What's the difference between a spell, jinx, and a charm?
2. What does Incendio do?
3. What about Avifors?
4. How many Unforgivable Curses are there, and what are their names?
5. What is the name of the Hogwarts professor who teaches the students how to fly their brooms?
6. What is the name of Hagrid's three-headed dog?
7. What's the name of the shop on Diagon Alley where everyone gets their wands?
8. And, finally, what do the Weasley twins name their joke shop?

Good luck!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Punc-tuation; is it impor...tant! Sure?

Here's a funny poster I saw on Boing Boing. It reminds me of some signs that you can see around campus where they use quotation marks to imply emphasis, as in:

"No food or drink in the lobby."

Does that mean we're allowed to or not?

Something else that has bothered me was whether you should include a comma after an "and" in a list.  For instance, I always wondered if you would say "I brought a pencil, a notebook, and a calculator" or "I brought a pencil, a notebook and a calculator."  I'm pretty sure you should have a comma before the "and," but the opposite it true in German. You never have a comma and an "und" next to each other. That has always thrown me off.

A funny example of this is a quote from an acceptance speech: "I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God."

Another weird thing: I say, "sure" a lot now. I don't know who I picked that up from or why, but I say it in response to the most random sentences.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beautiful B.O.

Have you ever thought that sweat was attractive?  Well, it has been proven that it can be!  Scientists have discovered an astonishing correlation between being attracted to a mate and the smell of their sweat.  You can read the 11 page long paper (found here) if you want, but it's pretty technical.  I'll just summarize the interesting parts.

Scientists had 100 of male university students wear the same t-shirt constantly for a couple of days (sleeping, exercising, studying, ... you get the picture). If they wore their champ shirt, they might have won the same t-shirt for a couple of days anyway.  They couldn't eat garlic, use aftershave, use scented soap, or other things. The scientists then collected the t-shirts and put them in a plastic bag.  Then they had 100 girls come and smell the bags and rate them on how attracted they were to the smells.  Sick, no? Then they compared those numbers to how attracted they were to the faces of the participants.  There really wasn't any correlation.

What they found was the scent was determined by how diverse the two immune systems were.  The more diverse, the more attraction there was. I guess that's Mother Nature's way of nudging us in the direction to make the healthiest offspring possible.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Biological Warfare

I really like watching The West Wing.  Sometimes things in real life remind me of episodes that I have seen before.  For instance, the lecture in my microbiology class last week reminded me of an episode from season one. In this episode, Josh Lyman hears that some countries have illegally saved some cultures of the smallpox virus that could be used in biological warfare.  All the terrorists would need to do is have a "little test tube with a disintegrating rubber cap that they drop in Grand Central Station."  Then everyone in the vicinity becomes a carrier. It's nasty stuff.

Well, in my microbiology class we were talking about biological weapons and they are a real threat.  The Federation of American Scientists realizes the threat, too.  My professor pulled up their website in class and gave us a link to an interesting page on their site.  The link is here.  It shows about 20 different viruses that would be potentially dangerous weapons that could be used by terrorists.  The site tells you what they do to you, how they travel, and what treatment, if any, is available.  Some of the viruses they included are the Ebola virus, smallpox, anthrax, and the plague.

It seems so primitive, vulgar, and disgusting to use a virus in war, mainly because you are transforming innocent civilians into weapons of mass destruction.

I guess all war could be seen as primitive, vulgar, and disgusting, though.  Except for those remote control airplanes that the Air Force uses now.  They can control these huge airplanes in halfway around the world from the Air Force base in Nevada.  If we just fought these airplanes against each other, that would be a pretty clean war.  A waste of money, sure, but no one would die.  It would be just a very expensive episode of Battle Bots.  That show was awesome.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I was taking an entrepreneurship class last year when I got the assignment of finding a cool website started by an entrepreneur and then write about it.  I found one of the coolest websites in the world.  The site is, and its motto is "Making Apartment Hunting Suck Less."

Basically, what it does is combine Google Maps and Craigslist onto one website.  It uploads apartment listings from Craigslist (along with pictures, price, amount of bedrooms and bathrooms, whether or not you can have a dog, etc.) and puts it on a map from Google. Super simple, yet super effective.

Here's a screen shot:

Umm, just kidding.  The website is acting really slow right now.  But it's usually awesome!  Katie and I used it to look at apartments here in Provo (we didn't find anything better than what we already have, though) and also to see what apartment prices are like in other cities.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Publish your own book!!!

I saw this machine yesterday in the BYU Bookstore and I couldn't help but talk about it all day yesterday.  I'm sure Katie can attest to that.  They have this machine that can publish your book in a matter of minutes for about 6 cents a page.  Check out their video HERE.

Go to to find out more.  This thing is so cool!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An Ode to Jenga

I stack you in rows of three
And make you square as can be
I pull you apart
It tears at my heart
When you fall it surprises me

It's better when you push at the middle
Instead with the edge piece to fiddle
Keep a good base
Or you'll leave no trace
Of your tower that somebody whittled

You come in a real stupid tube
That I always pack in, then undo
I cram all the blocks
Into that stupid box
And that's why we don't play with you.

-An original poem written in 5 minutes by Bryan and Katie Lewis

Friday, February 5, 2010

Betty White's Teen-age Dance Etiquette

I found this gold mine in the library today.  It was published in 1956, so that should tell you about the kind of advice this book gives to teenagers when they go to a dance.  I took some pictures of the book so that you could have some sort of idea of what kind of book this is.

 The book is filled with great advice like this.
"Before you go ... do you have your tickets? Your house keys? Your car keys?"
"Some of us serve the hostesses and chaperons first, naturally! And someone remembered the band."
 I like reading these old etiquette books.  A lot of the things in the book happen all of the time at stake dances now.  I'm sure Betty White would disapprove.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Betty "Creepy" Crocker

I learned something a little disturbing in my English class today.  Betty Crocker is a made up person.  Yes, it's true.  Marjorie Child Husted was the founder of Betty Crocker way back in the 1930's.  The portait of Betty Crocker has always changed throughout the years, but the creepiest image is the one they use now.
The image above is actually a composition of 75 real women who use the Betty Crocker brand.  The Betty Crocker corporation wanted to have a spokes person who looked like the typical user, so why not have her look like all of the typical users!  It's hard to say what nationality Betty Crocker is.  She's not just Caucasion...maybe a little Hispanic?  I think they tried to make her look as "timeless" as possible.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sewing Machines

You are in for a treat today!  My lovely wife, Katie, has agreed to do a guest post for today, as I have just been doing homework for almost 4 hours straight, after being on campus for a long time, too.  Oh before she writes, I wanted to share some sad news. I learned that they are closing down the Switzerland Zurich Mission (where I served) and they are combining it with the Germany Munich Austria Mission. I wonder what they're going to call it.  The Germany Munich Austria Switzerland Mission?  I hope not.  I also heard that they are combining the Hamburg and Berlin missions, too.  Now there will only be three German speaking missions in the world.  Anyway, without further ado, here's Katie!

Bryan, thanks for that depressing intro.  Anyway...

I really like to make things.  In particular, I do a lot of sewing.  Bryan often remarks how impressed he is with the things I sew and I'm fairly sure that a lot of his fascination is due to the fact that he doesn't really understand how sewing machines work.  I thought that since Bryan likes to tell us all little factoids, an explanation of how sewing machines work would be appropriate for a guest post on his blog.  So, here we go.

The other day I was talking to somebody about sewing (I forget who.  Maybe Lisa?) and Bryan piped up, basically stating that sewing machines worked like this:

By the way, they don't.  The stitch pictured above is called a "running stitch" and requires just one thread to go up and down through a piece of fabric.  Actually, sewing machines use two threads at once.  It looks like this:

To explain this picture, let me start with a spool of thread.

You start by putting your thread on its little spindle at the top of the sewing machine (that little white pointy thing sticking up). 

Next, using your sewing machine (I'm not going to explain this part) you wind some of the thread from your spool onto a bobbin.  There are a variety of bobbins. 

It just depends on what kind your sewing machine uses.  My machine uses some plastic ones that look like these:

But it doesn't really matter because all bobbins work basically the same.  Anyway, so now you have thread on your spool and on your bobbin.  The spool of thread stays up on top where I already showed you and the thread from it gets threaded through a number of levers on the sewing machine, finally ending with the spool thread coming out through the eye of the needle.

Next, the bobbin is placed down in its little home underneath the presser foot.  When the bobbin is threaded, the end of the bobbin thread is pulled up to the surface of the sewing machine base.

Now, you have threads coming down from the top as well as up from underneath.  Are you still with me?  Because now we can finally talk about that picture I showed you at the beginning.

In this picture, the yellow thread is the thread coming from the spool and the green thread is the bobbin thread.  The picture basically speaks for itself now that you can read the images in context, but basically what happens is this: as the needle goes down, the thread from the spool catches the bobbin thread and they form a sort of chain with the bobbin thread always remaining on the bottom side of the fabric and the spool thread always remaining on the top.  Looking at the animation of the above picture HERE will give you a better understanding of what I mean.

Oh!  Now I remember the conversation that started all this.  I was going to sew something and Bryan asked if I used a red bobbin thread and white spool thread if it would result in a candy cane sort of look, with each stitch alternating between white and red.  Now that you understand how a sewing machine works, do you know the answer to Bryan's question?

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this little lesson.  Class dismissed!

And now that you are a pro at using a sewing machine, if your looking for some great projects, you can come check out my blog Notes From A Very Red Kitchen.  See you soon.

Answer: No.  It would just be white thread on top and red thread on the bottom.  And if the machine's tension was a little off (as often happens) then the top of the fabric would likely look like a white line with little red dots in between each stitch, while the bottom would look just the opposite--a red line with little white dots in between each stitch.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nickels on the Moon

I was eating my lunch in the Eyring Science Center yesterday.  About 10 feet away from my table was this new TV they installed that flipped through slides talking about astronomy and NASA and it also showed some pictures from the Hubble Telescope.  It was pretty interesting. There was this one segment of slides that I thought was interesting.  It was about NASA's search for life on other planets.  One of the things NASA looks for when searching for planets like our is a wobble in the stars. This is because if a planet is orbiting the star, the star moves around, too.  (Think of two people spinning in circles with a rope between them.)  This wobble is extremely tiny and you need very, very precise equipment to see it.  The camera that can measure this wobble is on the Hubble telescope, but just to let you know how precise this thing is, if this camera were on Earth, it could see an astronaut standing on a moon and measure the thickness of a nickel is in his hand, if he happened to have a nickle in his pocket. That is amazing.

However, keep in mind that we can only measure the wobble of the closest 250 stars to us. That may seem like a pretty big number, but think about how many stars are in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Ready? 100 billion.  Yes, there are 100 billion stars just in the Milky Way.  And scientists estimate there to be over 500 billion other galaxies in the universe.  These numbers are so mind-bogglingly huge that its impossible to wrap your head around them.

When I was talking to Katie about this, she said, "It's funny to think that we are concerned with finding life on other planets millions of light years away, and yet we still have to decide what to eat for dinner."  I guess it all just depends on your point of view.

Oh yeah, and happy Groundhog's Day.  Six more weeks of winter...
I was thinking about that.  There are six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow.  That means the sun must be shining.  If the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, that means it's overcast, and I guess it means that it's also suddenly Spring?  That doesn't make much sense to me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Soulless Reflections

Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that vampires don't have reflections?  It kind of seems like a pretty random attribute for a monster to have.  And I'm not talking about the sparkly vampires from Twilight, although they might not have a reflection, either.  You'll have to ask Alison about that one.

In ancient times, people thought of their reflection as the physical manifestation of their soul.  Some people even thought it was unlucky to look at your reflection because it makes it easier for an evil spirit to steal it.  It makes sense now why a soulless creature wouldn't have a reflection then.  Also, this is where the superstition came from that makes it unlucky to break a mirror.