Monday, May 31, 2010

Book List

Here are some books that I want to read again. I like these a lot.
  • Catcher in the Rye. Maybe. I don't really remember the story that well. I just remember that it was a much more interesting read than The House on Mango Street, which I was required to read for school. I want to re-read it to see if I still like it.
  • East of Eden. Man, this story is epic. Literally. I read this everyday on the bus on my way to work when I worked at the mill. I still think about timshel when I hear the Ten Commandments.
  • Malcolm Gladwell's books. I think I like his books almost as much as I like Atul Gawande's books. The most interesting one is Outliers, I think. I actually thought Blink was a little bit boring. The Tipping Point was way good, though.
  • Last of the Breed. This was my favorite book when I was a teenager. I don't think I realized it was my favorite book until a couple of years ago. I think I read it three, maybe four times. That book made me want to name my first son Mack. And any mention of scalping reminds me of the package wrapped in bark...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Red sky at night...

I love informational artwork. I got this image from this website.

(Just so you know, I did start writing this before midnight. So this counts for Saturday's post.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Flower Clock

I'm reading a book now called A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths. She writes about lots of different things, but one of the more interesting things I think is how she explains how closely nature and time are tied. She loves clocks that measure time by the happenings of nature. One such clock is called the Flower Clock or the Garden Clock. We all know that certain flowers bloom only at certain parts of the day. Well, the Flower Clock is made up of a bunch of different types of these flowers, where each type of flower blooms at a different time of the day. This way you know what time it is by seeing which flowers are blooming!

A poem by Andrew Marvell describes this type of clock:
How well the skillful gardener drew
Of flow'rs and herbs this dial new;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And, as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flow'rs!
I would love to be able to see one of these gardens in person.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Clever Jewelry

I think the idea of this is really cool, but I don't think it would so cool to wear in public. The site is called Made With Molecules. Check it out.

Here's a sample:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why are "pounds" abbreviated "lbs"?

This is a question that I have had for years. I have always heard that it was Latin, but I decided to check it out. I found this answer, which is pretty interesting. I will *ahem* abbreviate his answer here.

Lb is short for libra, which is short for libra pondo, which is Latin for "pound weight." You may recognize that the zodiac symbol for Libra is a scale, which is a reference to weighing and measuring things.

The British currency of pounds uses an abbreviation of libra pondo, too. Have you ever realized that the symbol for British pounds (£) is actually just an ornate "L"? That's because it is short for libra pondo. The connection between weight and currency is this: back in the day, one pound of silver was worth one pound.

But I didn't stop there. I was hooked. I kept looking up abbreviations that I didn't understand. Why, for instance, was "number" abbreviated "no." even though there isn't an "o" in the word? It turns out that it's from the Latin word nomerei.

Then I wondered why we abbreviate "pages" as "pp." instead of "pgs." or something else that made sense. It turns out that it's just a style convention. I don't think there is any real reason. The article on abbreviations on Wikipedia is kind of interesting. Did you know that P. is the official abbreviation for "pope" and PP. is abbreviated for "popes"? I had know idea that the pope had his own abbreviation.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Uncanny Precision of the Collective Uninformed

You've probably heard the phrase "never underestimate stupid people in large groups." This is actually proven to be true. You can try this experiment yourself. This is what you do:
  1. Get a jar of jelly beans or else something small in a large bowl or bottle
  2. Gather a large group of different kinds of people at varying degrees of math skills
  3. Have everyone guess how many jelly beans are in the jar
  4. Take the average of all the guesses, and, invariably, the average is closer to the correct amount than any one person
Pretty amazing, isn't it? The group as a whole is more accurate than any individual person. I heard of an experiment at a county fair where the group had to guess the weight on an ox. A scientist took the average of the people's guesses and found that they were only 1 pound off. How amazing is that!?

Try it out yourself and you will see that this is true. I guess it just proves my slogan for my college experience: cooperate and graduate.

Slavemaker Ants

Did you know that there are some species of ants that make other ant colonies their slaves? It's quite fascinating, actually. The Slavemaker ants require another colony to do the work for them in order to live. Scientists have done studies that show that if the Slavemaker ants have to fend for themselves, they will die of starvation, even if there is food made available for them. The Slavemaker ants take over a colony and make the workers of the hostage colony do everything for them, like gather food, feed the larvae and queen, and defend the colony from attack. They will even force the hostage ants to carry the Slavemaker ants around.

There are a few ways that the Slavemaker ants actually take over the colony. The most common method is for the Slavemaker ants to raid a colony and steal its eggs. The eggs are brought back to the Slavemaker colony and those eggs are raised to become the next generation of slaves.

Another method is for the existing Slavemaker queen to give birth to a new queen. That new queen follows her soldiers to the colony they are invading. In the heat of the battle, the new queen sneaks in and finds the host colony's queen. The new queen kills the host queen and then eats it. When the new queen eats the host queen, she gives off the host queen's pheromones and tricks the host workers into thinking that she is the old queen. The new queen had previously mated with males from the old colony, so she gives birth to new Slavemaker ants, which overrun the colony and the host ants don't have a chance.

There has been documentation from scientists of ants in slavery actually uprising against their oppressors. The ants in bondage go around killing the pupae of the Slavemaker ants while leaving their own pupae untouched. You can read more about ant slavery uprisings here. It's super interesting.

Who knew that ants could be so complex? It's pretty amazing. You can read some more about Slavemaker ants at this website. I love finding out information like this. It makes biology so interesting.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Create a profile

Hey everyone! I just saw that the Church has made a new website. It's called You can create a profile on the site and answer questions and tell personal stories so that people can search it and hear about the Mormon church from a real legit Mormon. They are trying to have a thousand new profiles set up during the month of May, so go on over and help out!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mixing Up Senses

I heard an amazing thing the other day. Scientists have done comparative brain scans on little kids (meaning 2 or 3 months old) and adults. They showed the subjects photographs or played a sound and saw that different parts of the brain lit up. One part of the brain lit up when they heard a sound, and another part of the brain lit up when they saw a picture and so on. The brain scans were generally the same in the adults and the babies.

However, every once in a while, the babies' brain scans would be a little bit different. For instance, the sound part of the brain would light up when they looked at a picture, or if they heard a sound then the taste part of the brain would light up. Neurologists still aren't entirely sure what this means, but some have proposed that their brains are still trying to interpret the data collected from the world around them and it misreads it.

So it's like the baby could hear certain colors. Or taste the sound of your voice. Or smell a sound.

Wouldn't that be cool if it was still possible to do that? It could help those who are colorblind if they could smell the difference between blue and red.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Olivia Sucks on Hallucinations

Ha ha. Get it? Abraham Lincoln with the body of Big Bird (a.k.a. Roy) is the hallucination...

Thanks for the idea, Lisa.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oliver Sacks on Hallucinations

This is one of my favorite lectures that I have heard recently. It's kind of long, but it is immensely intriguing. I watched it while I was folding laundry about a month ago, and I keep thinking about it. I recommend that you watch it. Oliver Sacks is amazing. If I had a week off of school, I think I would want to read all of his books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Plant in the dark

I think I'm going to try an experiment. Last year I wrote a post about how I thought I could keep a plant alive in a closet by giving it sugar water. The whole point of sunlight and photosynthesis is to change CO2 in the air into glucose. If I give the plant glucose directly, perhaps it would grow just fine. I don't know if sucrose (table sugar) will work, but sucrose is just glucose and fructose bonded together.

So I'm going to try it out. I'll let you know how it works.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Syllabi Make Me Cry

Have you ever looked at a syllabus and interpreted it wrong and ended up doing an assignment on the wrong day?  I seemed to be plagued by this lately. In one of my classes, the assignment listed is the one that is DUE that day. In my other class, the assignment listed is ASSIGNED that day and due the next class period. It can be very confusing sometimes.

I spent two hours last night working on an assignment that I thought was due today, but it turns out my professor was just going to assign today. At least I have a head start now ... except that I had to read the chapter so many times last night to be able to understand what was going on.

Big Bird's Name

In episode 3,863 of Sesame Street, Big Bird chose a new name for himself. He was tired of his old name because it was just a description of what he looked like, not a normal name. He realized that everyone else has a real name, like Burt or Oscar.

Can you guess what name Big Bird chose for himself?

It's Roy.

Isn't that the most random name in the world? He doesn't seem like a Roy to me. He doesn't stick with the name, of course. It was meant to show kids that it doesn't really matter what your name is.  I first heard about this episode from reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. You can read the plot of episode 3863 here if you want. It's kind of interesting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

El muchacho grande

I've been thinking about Dennis and LeRoy lately. Do you remember them? I think about them every time I pass the bus stop across from the Wilkinson Center. It's been about two years since I've seen them last. I love having a schedule and seeing the same people everyday. I love being able to characterize people by the one or two actions I see them do.

There is this one house that we pass when we drive home from grocery shopping. The front step has a homemade ramp; I think it's for a wheelchair. Anyway, we call it the haircut house because we saw a guy getting his hair cut as we drove by there at two different times. He was sitting in front of the living room window, looking out at the traffic going by, getting his hair cut. Twice. Or maybe it was only once. I'm pretty sure it was twice.

I find myself characterizing people by their actions all of the time. Last year, a guy sitting in the stall next to me in the bathroom answered his phone while on the toilet. It was super awkward. He was still talking on the phone when he came out, still talking when he was washing his hands, and still talking when he left the bathroom. I was washing my hands the same time that he was, so I got a good look at him. Now every time I see him I always think of him talking on the phone while going to the bathroom. I'm sure his life is more interesting than that, but I like to imagine that it isn't. It's fun to imagine that what I know about a person is the only thing that everyone knows about that person.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A song that I have stuck in my head

Most Boring Job Ever

I got an email notification from the library with this job offer. Seriously, have you ever heard of a more tedious job?
Physically measure the entire library book collection. This process will have two students working in a tandem team (with a projected four team participation) – one measures the books on each shelf and calls out that measurement; the other types the data into an Excel spreadsheet via a laptop computer. These two students may trade their duties back and forth. The measuring activity has little variation, so students participating will be doing repetitious work several hours at a time.
Remember that there are thousands upon thousands of books in the library. There are five stories to the library. I'm kind of surprised that they think that two students could do it all this summer. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Boy or Girl?

In case you were wondering by the title, Katie is not pregnant. No, no -- this post is dedicated to foreign names and their associated gender. It is really difficult sometimes to know if someone is male or female just by their first name. Some examples of this here in the US include Pat, Taylor, Kelly, Jessie, Kris, Cory, and Riley. Finnish names are really hard to figure out. Here's a quiz to tell how well you know your Finnish names!

Highlight in between the brackets to see if it's a boy's or girl's name!
Oivi    (  girl )

Aamu (  girl  )

Aarre (  boy  )

Eetu   (  boy )

Taru   ( girl  )

Pertti  (  boy )

Nuutti ( boy )

Sani   (  girl  )

How did you do?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Listening to Latin

I heard the most amazing theory yesterday.

Here's the background to this story: nobody knows what a dead language sounds like. Take Latin, for instance. People know the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar of Latin, but nobody knows exactly how the words were pronounced. Sure, we have some excellent guesses, but there are not any native speakers of Latin anymore to ask how to pronounce "sic semper tyrannis" or "veni vidi vici."

A scientist recently came up with a theory to be able to listen to an actual person speaking Latin. His theory involves ancient Roman pottery. The way the Romans made pottery is important to explain here. They would take the wet clay and put it on a turn table. A stylus would then touch the side of the shaped clay to make little grooves around and around the pot to make little decorative markings. If some worker was speaking at the same time that the stylus was working its way around, it would cause teeny-tiny micro-vibrations in the grooves of the pot, similar to an LP record. The trick is now to figure out a way to translate those vibrations into sounds while canceling out the flaws in the ancient clay and the other sounds of the shop to be able to hear the workers.

I wonder what you would hear? Probably some things like "Hey Tiberius! Pass me that rope!" or "Work harder Quintus!" This might also be a good way to learn some Latin swear words.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicken Stinky

When I was in the third grade I wrote a story called "Chicken Stinky." I was really, really proud of that story because 1) it was over one page long (it was the first story that I had written that was over a page) and 2) a girl in my class thought it was really funny. I can't remember the girl's name, though. I would have to look through my old yearbook. All I remember was that I always tried to sit next to her during circle-time.

As far as I can remember, the story goes something like this: Chicken Stinky smells really bad. While walking to school, he finds a magic lamp in a hole in a tree. He rubs the lamp and the genie (spelled "jeenie" in the story) grants Chicken Stinky three wishes. Some punk kids are about to beat Chicken Stinky up, so he says, "Get me out of here!!!!!!!!" (There might have been more exclamation points). He gets teleported to somewhere else, but somehow that's worse so he wishes to go home. And then he wastes his third wish on something else, so nothing changes in his life. He's just alone and stinky. The end.

Isn't that a great story!? Maybe I should find the original and illustrate it and get it published like the other book. That would actually be pretty cool.

Nissionary Nunkey

About 10 years ago I made up a great song. It was an instant hit and was, for a time, banned by my mom. It was about a missionary monkey named Buddy. Buddy went from door to door looking for people to teach, but everyone said that they weren't interested. Finally, in the last verse, Buddy finds someone to teach. I'm not really sure why it switched from "missionary" to "nissionary." Maybe David sang it that way or something.

It was banned by my mom because she said the verses of rejection shouldn't be included. However, popular demand vetoed that ban and all verses were included. Here are the lyrics:

"I'm a nissionary nunkey
My name's Buddy
I'm a nissionary nunkey
My name's Buddy
I'm a nissionary nunkey
My name's Buddy

Hey! Get out of here! We don't wantcha!

REPEAT 3 times

Well, come on in!"

You get the point. It's pretty repetitive.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Things I love about my mom

I thought I had already written something today, but I guess I didn't. Since it's Mother's Day today, I thought it would be good to re-post this entry I made last year. It is all still very true.

1. She is one of the most mannered people I know. For instance, here are some table manners that she tried to drill in our heads: sit up straight at the table, chew with our mouths closed, take little bites of food, stay seated while others are still eating, don't start eating dessert until the server has had the first bite, and so on. And that's just concerning food. We had a whole other section concerning the usage of language (never say stupid; only say things that are true, necessary, and nice; etc.). I always thought that these things were a nuisance when I was younger, but I am grateful for them now. I hope to be as good an influence on my kids.

2. She isn't scared of what other people think of her. She is super outgoing and can speak her mind in a crowd of people, sing a song in a busy place, and then she tries to motivate us to do the same. At times I was really embarrassed, but now I admire it. Sometimes when I want to ask a question and I am too embarrassed to raise my hand, I know that my mom wouldn't be afraid and that motivates me to ask. I remember in Sunday School she could comment on anything and she had to remind herself not to comment so much.

3. She really applies the Gospel in her life. I remember getting up really early some mornings when I was younger and seeing my mom sitting in the armchair in the living room reading her scriptures. She taught us the importance of praying every day and reading the scriptures every day, even if it is just one verse. She is always trying to become a better person and always corrects herself verbally if she did something wrong. She bears her testimony often. She was my Seminary Teacher for one year and I got to hear her teach and bear testimony every morning.

4. She is very adventurous. For example, when we moved to Germany, the only one in my family who could speak German was my dad (from serving a mission there when he was younger). We didn't live on a military base--we had to learn the language. I can't imagine what it would be like to move to a foreign country with six little kids and have to do the shopping and drive around the city and a million other things while everything is in another language. She can speak fluent German now and I can't remember her complaining once about the circumstances. On the contrary, when we visited Berlin after my parents picked me up she said that it was "like returning home."

I could go on and on with literally hundreds of other points (healthy, smart, compassionate, loving, wise, ...) but it would never really suffice. Thank you for raising me so well , Mom. I hope that when my daughter is born in just a few months I will be able to raise her just half as well as you raised all of us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reception Awkwardness

I always feel awkward when I approach the bride and groom in their reception line. I have only been to one wedding where I was the one who knew the person getting married. Every reception I have gone to since then, it has been Katie that has known the happy couple. This leaves me with a dilemma: hug or shake hands? I always shake the groom's hand -- that one is easy. The tricky part is the bride. I try to follow her lead. Sometimes she is so happy that she wants to hug everyone. Other times the bride is a little standoffish and would rather shake hands. One time I tried to shake hands but the bride wanted to hug, so my arm got stuck in between us.

I went to a reception this evening and found a solution to the problem. I just kind of stood behind Katie so that the bride couldn't reach me so the only way I would possibly congratulate them both was to shake hands. I think I'll do that from now on.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Now, which president do you mean?

When I was in the 9th grade, I took a test on World War I.  I studied pretty well for it. I knew all about the assassination of the archduke, the chain reaction of alliances that caused the countries to declare war on each other, Armistice Day, and the League of Nations. I was pretty sure that I was going to get a 1 or at least a 1- on this test.

My only problem was the name of the U.S. President. I kept referring to him as Wilford Woodruff, not Woodrow Wilson. What kind of name is "Woodrow" anyway? His first name was actually "Thomas." He should have just stuck with that -- it would have saved me a lot of trouble later on. On my test my teacher had underlined and put question marks next to every reference to 4th President of the Church. I think he took off a point for every mistake that I made instead of just counting all similar mistakes as one mistake. That brought my grade down to a 2. However, I haven't made that mistake since then.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My mind is [...]

This is the first time when I actually have no idea what to write about. I've kept a running list of topics on pieces of paper in my pocket or saved as an email draft to myself on my gmail account. My pockets are empty and my email is blank.

Here, I'll even show you.

See? Nothing written there. I usually have four or five ideas to write about in that saved email.

I hope inspiration strikes soon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Talking about cool websites, I found this one yesterday. This is a print that they sell. The caption that goes along with it reads:
"Recent neuroscience studies have found that multitasking is a hindrance to completing tasks. In the media-rich landscape of the Internet era, the temptation to multitask has been found to have a negative effect on human happiness. With one notable exception: playing the cello whilst surfing. This appears to have a sublime calming effect on test subjects, enabling extended periods of focus and sustained clarity."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I love neat websites

I found a Japanese website today called

It's really cool. The animations change every time you visit the site. They have some cool products, too. (Click on the square on the website to see the products.)  I especially like the sticky-notes shaped like fruit.

I love how they have the seeds included, too.

O-Chem Lab = death

I'm taking the organic chemistry lab right now. It's only worth one credit but I do the most homework for that class out of the three that I'm taking. We have 12 hours of class time a week, and that's not including homework time or studying before each class period. Luckily this class will be over soon.

It's kind of cool what we're doing in class. We made banana oil (it smells just like ripe bananas and it's what is used in banana flavored things, like Laffy Taffy). It kind of reminds me of potions from Harry Potter. We mix these random things in complicated vials and condensers to get one or two drops of the product. It's kind of fun, but mostly it's stressful. Just one big stress-fest.

On a good note, I didn't fail my organic chemistry class last semester! I really had absolutely no idea where I stood in the class. My raw score was around a 60%, but that was curved up to a B. I guess it helps that nobody is really good at organic chemistry.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crazy picture

Doesn't it look like the picture is rotating? It's not! It's just a static picture! I found it on this website. Be sure to click on it to make it bigger. It's more impressive that way.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Oh Snap

Behold one of the most complicated devices known to man. The crotch area is the worst. I always end up snapping and then re-snapping the whole suit until I finally get everything to line up correctly.

4/3 π r³