Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It's 3:16 AM right now and I'm still working on my English paper. We've had all semester to work on it, but I chose to wait until the last moment to really buckle down and start.

You'd think I would know better by now, after 16 years of school...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Katie's Riddles

Katie was having fun making up riddles for me while we were sitting on the couch the other day. See if you can figure them out. Since the background to my blog is no longer white, I can't just white them out. Check the comments to see the answers!

1. What's green at noon
    And blue in the morn'
    But was black as night
    When it was born?

2. Things hold this when they're at rest
    And display it at their best.

3. What goes "tick"
    But doesn't talk?

Monday, March 29, 2010

13th Line of Defense?

I heard a rumor a long time ago that the Boy Scouts of America served as the 13th line of defense. I tried to research this, but I couldn't find anything anywhere online that confirmed this.

I then went to the website of the Department of Defense to see if they had anything on the Boy Scouts and THIS is what I found. Section 4.4 says: "Scouting organizations are not considered part of the military [...]." This doesn't totally disprove the rumor--after all, normal civilians probably are the 14th line of defense or something.

If anyone could shed some light on the subject, I will be very happy. I would really like to be able to confirm or deny this rumor.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Swiss Psalm

The Swiss Psalm is the national anthem of Switzerland. It replaced Rufst Du, Mein Vaterland in 1961. The Psalm, as you might expect, is quite religious. One of the church members that I visited a lot while I was in Switzerland gave me a copy of the lyrics. Here is the unofficial English translation. I think it's quite appropriate for a Sunday.

When the morning skies grow red
And o'er us their radiance shed,
Thou, O Lord, appearest in their light.
When the Alps glow bright with splendour,
Pray to God, to Him surrender,
For you feel and understand,
That He dwelleth in this land.
In the sunset Thou art night
And beyond the starry sky,
Thou, O loving Father, ever near.
When to Heaven we are departing,
Joy and bliss Thou'lt be imparting,
For we feel and understand
That Thou dwellest in this land.
When dark clouds enshroud the hills
And gray mist the valley fills,
Yet Thou art not hidden from Thy sons.
Pierce the gloom in which we cover
With Thy sunshine's cleansing power
Then we'll feel and understand
That God dwelleth in this land.
Towards us in the wild storm coming,
You yourself give us resistance and stronghold,
You, almighty ruling, rescuing!
During horror and nights of thunderstorms
Let us childlike trust Him!
Yes, we feel and understand;
Yes, we feel and understand
That God dwelleth in this land.
 Isn't is neat that they made it rhyme in English? Click HERE to read the lyrics in German, French, Italian, and Romansh (the four official languages of Switzerland). I tried learning Romansh while I was there. It's closest equivalent is Latin, actually.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Late Post

Katie and I went on a date last night to the dollar theater.  It was fun to be able to leave Olivia with friends and enjoy the night together. We saw "Invictus" and I thought it was really good. I actually heard the story before on an episode of This American Life. It's all about how Nelson Mandela helped unite the whites and blacks after apartheid.

I thought This American Life did a good job at explaining how Mandela and his actions helped the people. The movie did a pretty good job, too. Basically, Mandela was able to help people see that something that symbolizes fear, hatred, and oppression can change meaning over time.

It's kind of like the confederate flag. To a lot of people, the confederate flag is a symbol of the south and slavery. In order for the flag's offensive connotation to be diffused, a contributor to This American Life (I think it was Jack Hitt) said that southern blacks should adopt the confederate flag themselves. It's kind of weird imagining an African American wearing the confederate flag on a t-shirt, isn't it? By adopting the symbol of your former enemy, you change it's entire meaning. However, if you just ban the symbol, it's meaning becomes even more potent and extremists will use it even more.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Waiting Room Books

I'm writing an analytical report for my English class on different types of practices that an optometrist can go into (such as a solo private practice, shared private practice, commercial, working with ophthalmologist, etc.). I checked out a few books from the library on the subject and scanned through them the other day. One of the sections in one of the books caught my eye. It discussed how your waiting room should look and feel. Apparently, patients should feel comfortable waiting for you in your waiting room for at least 30 minutes. They recommended having good reading material to occupy the patients, and then went on to describe what the good reading material should include. I'm not making any of this up. Here's the list:
  1. Yearbooks, especially if you live in a small community
  2. Cookbooks (with 3x5 note cards and pens for patients to copy recipes that "tickle their fancy")
  3. Rare magazines that the public doesn't have easy access to (like some scientific journals)
  4. Scrapbooks and comics on eye care and surgeries (like LASIK and new types of contacts)
  5. Large-type books (you are dealing with people who can't see too well, after all)
  6. Daily newspaper, also in large print, if available
I can understand the newspaper and some health magazines, but cookbooks?

All I know is that I'm going to stock my office with awesome books--I just haven't decided yet what those books with be yet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Random things

I have a great plan to earn the big bucks.

While working at the library I get to purchase books. I've learned that if the author is LDS we usually buy a second copy to go in special collections. When it's a kid's book and the author is from Utah and LDS, we buy three books: one for JUV, one for JUV-Utah, and one for JUV-Special Collections. Now, in order for a library to buy your book, you have to have an ISBN. A real, no-kidding ISBN and barcode costs $100. If I publish a great little book and pay $100 to get an ISBN, the library would buy three copies of it (I am, after all, a Utah citizen). My great plan is to sell my book for $100! Then I would get $200 for each little book I write. I could pump these books out weekly--maybe even twice or three times a week! That would be so great. I could probably live off of that...

Just kidding. That would probably be dishonest and I would get sick of it pretty quickly. It kind of reminds me of that story from Sideways Stories from Wayside School where the girl tries to draw as many pictures as she can during art class and she ends up drawing a picture every three seconds or something. But then she learns that her pictures were pretty much worthless. Probably BYU would wise up after the second or third book and stop buying them. Hmmm...maybe by idea wasn't the best one ever.

In other news, I found the most awesome website ever. It's You can see that I've added a link to it on my sidebar of most favorite websites. The comic is made by five-year-old. That's all that needs to be said about it.

Also, I think this book looks funny. Check it out. It reminds me of the things we would tell each other to draw when we were younger.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Bryan by any other name...

When I was walking to class yesterday I overheard the following conversation:

Person 1: "Man, Bryan is such a nice guy."
Person 2: "Yeah, I know. I like Bryan a lot, too."

I didn't know these people at all and I'm 100% sure that they were talking about a different Bryan, but it still made me feel good. It's weird that I can be complemented by something that I know for sure wasn't meant to be a compliment.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Delicious Antifreeze

Have you ever looked at the antifreeze in your car? It's usually some florescent color like blue or green. I've heard of some antifreeze being pink. They companies that produce antifreeze actually add the color to it because it is clear without it. They are worried that if the car had a leak, people would not know that it was antifreeze and if a pet slurped it up off of the driveway we would think they were just getting a drink of water.

"Why would a dog drink antifreeze?" you say? The answer it simple.

Antifreeze is sweet.

Weird, huh? Apparently it has a very sweet taste that goes well in wines. Don't actually try it--it's poisonous. The manufacturers add the color to give it the tree frog effect: bright colors mean a tasty but deadly treat.

I mentioned that it goes well in wines. A while ago there was a wine competition (is that what they're called?) in Austria and one wine was spiked with ethylene glycol. The flavor of the wine was so enhanced that they won. Once discovered, that wine company went out of business.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Staying Up Late

Katie and I have fallen into a bad habit: we stay up too late. At the beginning of this semester we had to goal to be getting ready for bed by 10:30 and then have the lights out by 11:00. Now we are usually getting to bed by 12:00, 12:30, sometimes 1:00. I don't know why. And it just makes it harder to get up in the mornings.

Sometimes we play 20 Questions. Maybe that's why we don't fall asleep on time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Did you think I forgot to post today?

Because I did.

That was close.

Today was a nice Sunday, though. It got up to 60 something degrees outside, so we ate dinner on the balcony. Very pleasant. Now I will spend the rest of the evening with Katie.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monster Nerd

It was a privilege to eat it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

Do you remember how awesome Choose Your Own Adventure books are? They were my favorite type of book when I was in elementary school. The library in my elementary school had a program called R.I.F., which stood for Reading Is Fundamental. We all got to pick out a book for free from the books laid out on specific tables. After walking through the books I would always approach the librarian and ask if any Choose Your Own Adventure books were available. The answer was always no. So I ended up getting a Power Rangers puzzle book. I thought Tommy, the Red Ranger, was the coolest. I was him for Halloween once.

I tried to check out every CYOA book I could from the library when I was little. Sometimes I would get really depressed while reading them because I could never win. I would always seem to find the horrible, grisly deaths.

I was thinking about CYOA books because I saw THIS flowchart that someone made of all the paths available in one of the books he read. Isn't that just awesome? I heard that one book, Inside UFO 54-40 didn't even have a happy ending that you could reach. The whole plot of the story is to find the Utopian civilization but you can only find it if you flip through the pages and just happen to find the happy ending. It claims to be very symbolic.

If you're interested, HERE is a list of the Top 20 Classic CYOA books. The BYU Library doesn't have any of them, so I entered a suggest-a-book form to the Juvenile Librarian. I recommended that we buy the first 33 books of the CYOA series. It would only cost about $180, which isn't bad considering that you're getting the coolest books on the planet. Other books that I submitted through suggest-a-book where ordered (the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and all of Atul Gawande's books--can you believe they didn't have any of his stuff?)
so I have high hopes.

It kind of makes me want to write my own Choose Your Own Adventure book...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Link and the Drinking Fountain of Wonder

For those of you who are interested, I've included a link HERE to the full electronic copy of Nathaniel Gets Scurvy. Once it's loaded, be sure to click on the little button with four rectangles in it so that you can view multiple pages at once. It makes the reading experience more authentic.

I thought I would continue in the spirit of photographs and talk about my favorite drinking fountain. When I was working for BYU Vending, my partner and I would rate the drinking fountains on campus. We had this whole rating system worked out: height, chill factor, diameter of stream, flow velocity, and location. After evaluating hundreds of drinking fountains (well, maybe not hundreds...perhaps tens), we narrowed it down to the top two: the drinking fountain located on the east side of the law building and the drinking fountain near the elevators on the 4th floor of the Harold B. Lee Library. Seriously, these fountains are amazing.

The drinking fountain on the 4th floor of the library wins in my book because I walk past it every day. And I drink from it every day. It's an amazing experience. The button is raised and it's easy to press down, so you don't have to jam your thumb into the machine while you drink. The temperature is always nice and cool, but not too cold. If it's too cold my teeth start to hurt. The thing I like most about it is how thick the flow of water it. One slurp and you have an entire mouthful! So efficient! So satisfying! The strange thing about this fountain is that the drinking fountains on the other floors are a different type: the not-cool type.

I've included a few pictures of the Drinking Fountain of Wonder for your worship.

Doesn't that look satisfying?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Nathaniel Gets Scurvy"

I just had my book published! I think I spent maybe 20 to 30 hours working on it. I'm glad it's done, though. Here are some pictures of the book that I took. What do you think?

Here's just a random page. See the drawings? Those are what took the longest.

My brother, Nathan, was the inspiration for this story. I'll be sending him a copy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Any good books?

I'm in between books now, deciding on what to read next. The last book I read was Arkham Asylum, a Batman comic book. It was pretty intense. Have you ever listen to a comic book on CD? It's quite the experience. I listened to an audio version of a Batman comic book at work last summer. It was really hard to concentrate on my work. I just wanted to sit and listen to the amazing action going on between my two ears.

Does anyone have any good recommendations for a book to read? I like non-fiction stuff and some novels. I want to read some classics, but those are tough to get into sometimes. Any recommendations on a classic literature book that isn't tough to get into? I liked Frankenstein. The writing in that book was so satisfyingly beautiful to read, and it helped that I knew the plot already, too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Guest Post

I wrote a guest post on my wife's weight loss blog today. Check it out here. Or not. It's up to you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Childhood Games

I remember playing a lot of fun games as a kid. One that I liked was called "rope." We would pretend that the floor of the living room is hot lava and we had to stand on the couches and chairs so that we wouldn't burn up. One person (the rope) would walk slowly around the room and we would jump onto the person and they would carry us to the next couch. Why do most kid games involve hot lava? It seemed like the coolest fluid in the world. I mean, what's cooler than fire water?

Sometimes we would play American Gladiators and would turn our living room into an arena. My older brother, Chris, would use his Nerf Bow-and-Arrow and try to shoot us as we ran around, hiding behind the mini forts we set up, throwing tennis balls at Chris.

When it was nice outside, we would play Town. We would use leafs as money. There would be the police officer, the teacher, the baker, and the bus driver. Sometimes there would be a mayor, but we weren't really sure what the mayor did, so the mayor just basically sat around. The problem with Town was that we all just wanted to do our own jobs. We needed to have some "normal" people, meaning people without jobs, to actually go around and enjoy the Town.

The most dangerous game that I can remember playing involves some knives. Chris said it would be fun. We stood face to face, butter knives in hand, and took turn throwing the knives near the other person's feet. If we hit the other person, we lost--but the closest knife to the foot wins. The knife had to stick into the ground because, hey, it's really cool when the knife sticks in the ground. With each round we took one step back. I think we only made it to the third round before my mom saw what was happening.

I remember once we got into a loud-talking contest. My dad was taking a nap in the room next to where Chris and I were playing and we would take turns singing the Bill Nye theme song, but we had to get louder each time we sang it. The person to wake up dad lost.

I had a water drinking contest with Nathan, my older younger brother. We each took turns drinking a cup of water from the faucet. I think I won that contest with 5 cups (these were full glasses, not a measured cup). I felt so, so, so sick after that. But at least I won. Ha!

Can you remember any original games you played as a kid?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Licking Lids

Do you have the impulse to do this, too? Every time I take the lid off of a yogurt I have to lick the lid. I feel really cheated when someone else opens the yogurt for me and then takes the lid and throws it away, or worse: they lick it themselves. I feel like sometimes the best part of eating a yogurt is licking the lid.

I find myself licking the lids from other food products, too. Just today, when I was feeding the baby, I found myself using my pinkie to to take the little bit of food off of the lid. It was surprisingly delicious (it was the apple flavor). I tried to lick the aluminum lid that seals the peanut butter inside the container, but that didn't work too well. The peanut butter was too thick so I had to lick it about 10 times to make a dent. Then I got frustrated and threw the lid away. I made a mistake once of licking the lid from sour cream. I wasn't thinking too clearly when I did it--it was just a habit. I definitely won't be making that mistake again any time soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Freezing Up

I used to hate talking in front of people. I would get so nervous and my face would immediately flush. My hands would be cold and clammy, and I could feel beads of sweat run down my lower back. It was gross and uncomfortable. I don't have much of a problem now, but I still always get a little anxious when I have to speak. I think my public speaking class helped me, as did serving a mission.

I can remember the worst public speaking experience I've had. It may not seem bad in comparison to others I have heard other people tell me. This was in 10th grade, back when I was living in Berlin. Our school was selecting a 10th grader to represent the school in some leadership conference in New York. I think Steve Jobs was going to be the keynote speaker. We first had to write an essay on leadership and they selected 5 or 6 people to interview. The essay wasn't any real problem for me, and I made it to the interview stage. This is when I started to have problems.

I forgot about the whole interview until that morning, and so I naturally didn't dress up for it. When I arrived at the conference room where they were holding the interviews I saw that everyone else was dressed very professionally. I was in a t-shirt and jeans. They took us in the conference room one at a time and asked us questions. I approached each student after they came out and asked them what questions they were asked, and they told me they asked who your favorite leader was and why, and also why you think you would be the best representative for the school. I scrambled to think of something that I could say. I thought if Ghandi, but that is what everyone is saying. I just read H. Norman Schwartzkopf's biography, but I couldn't think of any specifics about his life. Maybe Brigham Young? But then I would have to talk about my faith and that would be uncomfortable...

When I was brought in the room, they sat me down at the head of a big conference table with all of the head administrators sitting around, looking at me. I felt totally unprepared. They asked me who my favorite leader was and I said something like "Um, General H. Norman Schwartzkopf, because he's really good at ... um ... leading people. He did a lot of good things in the Army, I think."

Then they asked my why I would be a good representative of the school. I had totally forgot about that question! I was so busy trying to think of a good leader. So I said, " .... ummm ... I think ... I think that, um, I would be good ... because ... ummm ... well ...." And then I just sat there. Literally. I didn't say anything else. It was a nightmare. People were just staring at me, waiting for me to respond. I fully expected to wake up sweaty in my bed, but instead I just sat there, sweating, in that chair. 10 seconds of silence. 15 seconds. Finally, the vice principle coughed and asked me another question, but I didn't hear it. I just said ,"Hmmm? I don't know..." I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was so embarrassed about how horrible it went that whenever I go in for interviews at a new job, I always think of that situation. I always prepare really well for interviews now.

As you can probably guess, I wasn't selected to go to New York. But I did learn first hand what a really mortifying public speaking experience can be like.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reflecting Phantom Limbs

I heard about phantom limbs a while ago. When I was in middle school I was on a sort of army/navy SEAL kick and I read a lot about guys who lost limbs in combat or other circumstances. A phantom limb is when someone can still feel the lost limb. Sometimes their toe itches (even though they lost their foot), or it feels like his arm fell asleep (even though they lost their arm years before). Pretty wild stuff.

We talked about phantom limbs in physics today. We're on the section about optics and my professor talked about how a therapist used optics to help an amputee overcome his phantom limb syndrome. This guy had lost his left hand but it still hurt him months after everything had healed. He told the therapist that it felt like his left hand was clenched in a fist with the fingernails digging viciously into his palms. The pain he felt was constant. He was having trouble sleeping at night and concentrating during the day. His life was consumed with the pain he felt in his left hand ... which he didn't even have. It's important to note that the pain he felt was real. The nerves coming from his wrist were sending signals to the brain and the brain interpreted the signals as pain from his missing hand. The signals received by the brain were no different than any other pain signal that our nerves send.

The therapist tried mental exercises, coaching the guy to try to imagine opening his hand. It was too hard. No matter what he did, the man couldn't imagine his hand opening and relaxing. The therapist thought for a while and came up with the following solution.

He had the guy sit like this with the mirror in between his good arm and his phantom arm. Now when he looked at his missing hand, it looked as if a real hand was there. The therapist had the man open and close his hand over and over again. Over time, the pain went away and the man could move on with his life.

Pretty amazing, no? If you want to read more about it, just Google "phantom limb mirror therapy" and it will pull up some scholarly papers written on the subject.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's next in this sequence: o t t f f s _ _ _?

I really like the game Mindtrap, but Katie doesn't. I don't know how anyone COULDN'T like that game! In honor of Mindtrap, I bring you a couple of fun riddles. To see the answer, just highlight the area between the parentheses.

1) I am heavy forwards, but backwards I am not. What am I? ( ton )

2) The more I dry, the wetter I get. What am I? ( towel )

3) Add punctuation to this sentence so that it makes sense: "That that is is that that is not is not is not that it it is." ( "That that is, is; that that is not, is not. Is not that it? It is." )

4) What do you keep when you give it to someone else? ( your word )

5) I do not breathe, but I run and jump.
I do not eat, but I swim and stretch.
I do not drink, but I sleep and stand.
I do not think, but I grow and play.
I do not see, but you see me every day. ( your leg )

6) Which number is missing? 3 ? 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5
( 1. This is the sequence of pi. Don't forget about pi day this Sunday! )

7) And finally, how many times can you subtract 5 from 25? ( Once. After that, it's not 25 anymore. )

How did you do? Solve the riddle in the title and you'll win all the money.

Credits: I got the white-out idea from Bridget's blog. I got some of the riddles from this, this, and this website. Some of them I just heard before but I don't remember from whom.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Book

I was trying out some new backgrounds, but I couldn't get it to work right. This one is kind of weird. It's probably not permanent.

I am writing a book now for my microbiology class. I have mentioned before the book machine that the BYU Bookstore has now. I'm going to try it out. My microbiology professor is requiring us to complete a final project. We can make a video, a comic book, write a sci-fi story, or make a brochure. I asked my professor after class if I could write a children's book, and she said that would be great. I finished writing the story a few weeks ago (it still needs some "tweaking," though) and I'm almost done with the pictures. The pictures always take the longest. Once I'm done drawing the pictures, I'll scan them into a Word document, convert that to a PDF, scale it done to the right size, and then BAM! I have a book. Since the book is going to be about 40 pages long, each copy will cost about $2.40. Not bad for printing your own book, eh? I'll post a link to a Google Docs version of the book once it's done, and then you can get your own copy if you want. I'm not sure this children's book would be very appropriate for children, though. It involves disobedient children, pirates, semi-scary pictures of a boy losing his teeth, and tons and tons of swear words (just kidding about the swearing). Think of it a modern version of Struwwelpeter. If you don't know the Stuwwelpeter stories, you are definitely in for a treat. I'll be reading my copy to my daughter every night just to scare her into being good. Heh heh...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Most Popular Baby Names in 2015

Have you seen this list? The authors of Freakonomics (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner) compiled this list using data from previous years. Apparently rich and popular people set the trends and the unique names that jump the gap between the elite and the average trickle down and become popular.

Here's the list. See what you think.



Emma, Ava, Grace, and Ella are the only names listed here that are in the top 23 already. A few haven't even broken the top 1000 yet (Flannery, Ansel, Waverly, Clementine).

I found this website that has tracked the progress of the popularity of these names. It's really interesting to see. So if you're having a child in the near future and what to be a trend setter, name the baby one of these names. They would be the coolest kid in kindergarten.

I really like the name Ansel. Like Ansel Adams. I also like Ansley. But I would rather have it spelled "Ainsley."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Making Bad Choices

A while ago I mentioned a lecture that I heard from Dr. Cherrington, an Organizational Behavior professor here at BYU. Something that he talked about keeps coming back to my mind. He talked about the three things in our lives that influence our decision in deciding whether we do something bad:
  1. Our moral character
  2. Outside pressure
  3. The ease of committing the crime
Some people may say "I will never commit a crime. I will never rob or break the law. I have impeccable moral integrity," but that just isn't true. These three points can be imagined to be on a scale. If two of these things far outweigh the other one, your decision will most likely tip that way.

Here's an example: a hardened criminal who hardly has any scrap of moral character has just found out that his life long friend owes thousands of dollars to a mob boss. If his friend's debt is not paid off in 24 hours, he will be killed. Those weigh in pretty heavily on the criminal, so no matter how hard it is to commit the crime, he will try with all of his might to do so and will most likely succeed. Points one and two far outweigh number three, so he will tip in the direction of crime.

Another example: A clean-cut Mormon guy who majored in accounting at BYU got an excellent job working with a up-and-coming technology company. His wife just got diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Since he is the accountant of this successful company, he can easily move some money around and help pay the medical bills. The outside pressure of his wife's ailment and the easiness of committing the crime will most likely push him beyond the bounds of his moral character.

This is also why we are urged to not put ourselves in situations where it is very easy to do something bad: parties with alcohol, staying out past curfew, addiction to pornography. Just think about Joseph and Potiphar's wife. He ran from the situation that made it very easy to commit sin.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Seeing Seven

I finished listening to The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell today. It was one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. Here is something that he talked about that was pretty amazing.

Have you ever wondered how many items you can see without counting? I mean, when you look at three apples, you know there are three apples without having to count, "One--two--three!" But if you have fifteen apples, you probably would have to count the apples to know how many there are (unless you're an autistic savant or something like that). It turns out that the average person can see six or seven things without having to count. That's why dice are so effective. We can see the six dots without having to count each dot. That's why 12 or 20 sided die use numerals instead of dots. Imagine if we had to count each dot to figure out if we rolled a 17 or an 18. This is also why phone numbers are seven digits long. Alexander Graham Bell wanted to have a phone numbers long enough to have as many phone numbers as possible, but after about 9 or 10 numbers people began making more mistakes.

This idea of our brain having a limit for processing information also applies to our emotions. If you think about how many people you are really close to (meaning how many people you feel close enough to that you would be truly devastated if they passed away), the number is roughly 12. We usually have about 150 acquaintances. Crazy, huh? We have these natural groups that we are wired for.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Malaria: how you can help

If you haven't read yesterday's post, I would recommend reading it before reading this one. Since malaria is such a big killer, it is important that everyone participates in the relief effort. Dr. Greg Wilson, the guest speaker, told us a story of how one girl decided to help. Dr. Wilson was asked by a Young Women's group to talk about diseases and he told them about malaria. He asked the group what they thought they could do to help. The girl's first response was "Pray for them."

"Sure, prayer is important," he said, "but is your prayer tonight going to prevent a child from dying tomorrow?" Sometimes we have to be the tools in God's hands to bring about the good we want to see in the world. He told them about the campaign for nets in countries that are affected by malaria and that girl had an idea. She organized a 5K run and had the participants in the run pay a $5 sign-up donation. She raised well over $5000, all of which she donated to a charity to provide nets to those who need it.

I found three websites for non-profit organizations where you can donate you money directly online and they will use 100% of the money to provide the nets to those in need. I recommend checking them out and seeing which organization appeals to you the most.
  1. Nothing But Nets.
  2. Malaria No More.
  3. Netting Nations.
All of these organizations are non-profit and your contributions would count as a 501(c)(3) public charity, for tax purposes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Last week in my microbiology class we had a guest speaker, Dr. Greg Wilson, come in and lecture on malaria. I learned a lot of things about this disease. Did you know that it is the 8th most common cause of death in the world? You can see the entire list here of the most common ways to die. Roughly 40% of the world population is at risk of contracting malaria. About 800 million people per year actually get malaria (that's 800 millions NEW cases per year, not just how many people have it). From all of those with malaria, about 2 million people die a year. The vast majority of those who die are little children.

Those numbers are so big that it's hard to imagine they widespread catastrophe that malaria causes. Dr. Wilson quoted Stalin, who said, "One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic." I know I don't have any real emotional ties to 2 millions deaths. I figure I would have the same emotional reaction if one million people died, or three million. This is the wrong way to look at these numbers. Dr. Wilson then pulled up a picture of a preschool classroom with about 15 kids in it, kind of like this one, and said, "Imagine every kid in this picture died of malaria. Now imagine that 100,000 classes just like this died, too. That's what happens every year."

He went on the describe the pathogenic mechanisms of malaria (how the mosquito gets it, how it is passed to people, how is makes red blood cell explode every 48 hours, and so on). There really is no cure for malaria. Once you contract it you basically will always have it. It hides in your red blood cells and your body doesn't want to destroy them. So instead of eradicating it, your immune system slows down it's growth until you don't really feel sick anymore. There are treatments that help, though. They used to issue a medication called mefloquine to missionaries serving in areas where malaria was common, but that had some very undesirable side effects (extremely vivid nightmares--they had problems with depression and suicide), so they now issue a different medication, doxycycline, that has some better (meaning less bad) side effects.

The big problem with malaria is that it's something like a Teufelskreis. People in undeveloped countries get sick because they don't have the medication or social infrastructure to eradicate malaria. Because they are sick and feel crummy all the time, they are unable to work and earn money. Because they don't have money, they can't afford to get the treatment they need. The problem with malaria is really an issue of poverty. Malaria shouldn't be on that top ten list of most common ways to die. It is within our power as a people to stem the tide of malaria. Dr. Wilson asked us what we can do to help. That's where it gets hard. How can we help?

It turns out that the mosquitoes that carry malaria only bite at night. There are many different types of mosquitoes, but only a certain type can carry malaria, and they only bite ate night time. Up to 30% of deaths can be prevented if people would sleep under a bed net. They are fairly inexpensive (only $10), and with one net a mother and a child can sleep peacefully. He challenged us to raise awareness and donate of our means so that malaria's effects will be lessened.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mad Skillz

In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, "Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills." I don't want to learn these skills to get a girlfriend, but its always good to impress your wife. Here are some awesome skills that I would like to learn someday:
  • Sailing. I don't know anything about it. I want to know how you use the wind to steer, what difference the direction of the wind makes in what direction you can travel, how to tie the knots you need, how you use the sun to find latitude, and how to use the stars for direction.
  • Killing, skinning, and cooking wild animals. I've never been hunting or fishing before. I think I would enjoy it, but I don't know. I think it could be useful to know. Maybe we'll have to live off the land someday. I want to know know the right way how to kill different animals and how to cure the hide. I want to know what cuts of meat to use and how to divide it up.
  • Riding. I think I would like to learn how to ride a horse. I know it sounds kind of dumb, but I figure I will have the upper hand in a situation involving me, my enemy, and a horse. I've only been riding once, and it was for about 2 minutes. It was fun.
  • Speed reading. Imagine you could read so fast that you could get all of your homework done in a matter of minutes. I found Howard Stephen Berg's blog, who is the world's fastest reader. Maybe I can get some tips from him. I heard that John F. Kennedy was a really fast reader and that he read 4 entire newspapers every morning.
  • Speaking Spanish. This will actually be a useful skill to have nowadays. The Hispanic population continues to rise and I could be helpful to that whole demographic as an optometrist if I could speak Spanish. Maybe I'll enroll in Spanish 101 before I graduate. I probably wont because it's a four credit class and I'm kind of strapped for time, but someday I'll try to learn it.
That's all I can think of right now. What are some things you want to learn?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Poet Laureate

I learned about Poets Laureate (yes, that is the correct pluralization of "poet laureate") while watching West Wing. Robert Frost was the most famous one. It dates back to the time of Charles II. Basically, they are the country's official poet and compose poems from time to time for state affairs. Billy Collins, who was the Poet Laureate for the US during the September 11th attacks, wrote a poem after 9/11 and read it before Congress. The current one is named Kay Ryan. I thought she was a man at first. It's funny how you read someone's poetry differently when you realize what gender they are...I would recommend checking out her poetry.