Sunday, October 31, 2010

Witchy Voice

My favorite Halloween memory is when my siblings and myself where all pretty little and we were all going to eat dinner before a Halloween party. Alison, my little sister, was dressed up as a witch. I think she must have been four or five at the time. My mom asked Alison to offer the prayer over the food. Alison started to pray by saying "Deeear Heavenly Fatherrrr!" She was saying her prayer in a witch voice. Everyone started laughing and my mom told her that it she should pray in her normal voice. But it was too late. And we've been quoting Alison's witchy prayer voice for the past decade.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lottery Tickets

I dedicate this post to Anna. May you never actually begin gambling.

This is kind of a continuation from yesterday's post. Another thing that guy brought up in his talk was the absurdity of gambling. Many people gamble because of the hope or wish they will actually win. But you won't win. People think they'll win because they only see winners of the lottery on TV. No TV channel interviews all the losers. In fact, if they did interview all the losers and showed a 30 second clip about each one, it would take over 9 CONTINUOUS YEARS to play all those clips. Imagine listening to "Yeah, I lost. I thought I would win didn't happen," over and over again. And then at the very end there would be one clip of one person saying, "And I won!" That would be pretty disheartening, right?

Not convinced yet? OK, think about this: let's say you gathered up a gazillion pennies and drew a little dot on the back of one one of them with a Sharpie marker, and then lined them up along the highway from Los Angeles to New York. You are more likely to drive along the highway, stop at a random point, and pick up the penny with the dot on it than win the lottery.

Still not convinced? OK, think about this. Let's say that there are only ten lottery tickets. You have a 1-in-10 chance of winning. You have to pay $1 to play, and if you win, you get $10. Pretty good odds, right? OK, now imagine a really fat, rich man owned all the tickets already and was willing to sell you one of his tickets. You might be less likely to buy one now because you are pretty sure he's going to win anyway. After all, he has a 9-in-10 chance of winning and you only have a 1-in-10 chance of winning. The problem is that we still have a 1-in-10 chance of winning in each circumstance! It shouldn't matter to us if one guy owned all the tickets or if a million people owned the other tickets. But it does matter to us. I guess you should think of the world as just one big rich person. If the odds are 1-in-1,000,000 that you would win the lottery, the odds that the fat, rich person will win is 999,999 in a 1,000,000.

But all of this doesn't matter to people who gamble. Gambling is an addiction. When you gamble, you brain releases serotonin to make you happy because you are thinking about winning. That drug in your brain makes you happy. You don't need to win for you to feel happy. The problem is that you get sad when you find put that you've lost. And how to you get happy again? Buy another ticket, get another hit of serotonin, get sad when you lose, and on and on.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bad Decisions

I listened to this TED talk today while I was at work. Or maybe it was this one. I can't remember now which one it was. They're both good. Actually, they were pretty much mind-blowing. I recommend listening to them while you wash dishes, fold the laundry, or do homework. Or if you just want to sit there and listen to it; that's OK too.

One part of his talk was about the irrationality we find ourselves in when we make a decision. We tend to make decisions based on comparisons, not values. He gave this example:

Say you are walking down the street, heading to the theater to watch a play or listen to a concert or something. In your wallet you have the ticket to the event, which you paid $20 for, and you have a $20 bill. When you arrive at the theater you realize that you lost the ticket. Will you pay $20 more to buy another ticket?

The majority of people say "no." They're not going to pay $40 for something that was supposed to just cost $20! That's absurd!

Now take this situation. You're headed over to the theater and now all you have in your wallet are two $20 bills. When you arrive at the theater you realize you lost one $20 bill. Are you still going to pay $20 to buy your ticket?

Most people would respond "of course!" They walked all the way here to the theater and they're not just going to go home because they lost some money along the way. The two events aren't even connected!

And that's an area that's flawed in our thinking. In both cases, we are out $40. The ticket it worth $20. If we were completely and mechanically logical, the decision we make should be the same in both circumstances. The money doesn't care where it comes from or where it's going. It's just money.

A Better Keyboard

As you might know, the Qwerty keyboard we all used it not known for its efficiency. In fact, it was designed to be inefficient, so that typist would quit jamming the old typewriters when they first came back. It has been only tradition that we have kept this awkward keyboard. There are better designs out there.

Introducing the Dvorak Keyboard:

There are many advantages to using the Dvorak keyboard, such as increasing word speed, accuracy, and comfort, while limiting the distance traveled by a typist's fingers (16-20 miles per day for a Qwerty keyboard, 1 mile for a Dvorak keyboard).

Apparently, it's pretty easy to learn. It took one group of people 52 hours to get up to the same speed that took 3 years of typing with a Qwerty keyboard. Then again, perhaps those 3 years with a Qwerty keyboard where when they were 5, 6, and 7 years old.

Anyway, you can learn more about the Dvorak keyboard here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Human Bed Warmers

I promise that I'm not making this up.

There's a Holiday Inn in Great Britain that's taking customer service to the next level. Management has hired some people to dress in a large jump suit and warm up the guests bed just prior to sleeping. I guess you call down to the front desk 5 minutes or so before you want to go to bed and in a few moments a friendly human electric blanket suit knocks on your door. They come in and climb under your covers and start rolling around with their arms flailing to and fro, all the while trying to avoid eye contact. After they have built up a nice sweat they crawl out and leave you to wonder when the last time was they washed their hair.


See? I'm not making it up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christmas Came Early

Katie got me the best Christmas present ever.

She told me that it was too big to take to Virginia with us, so I could choose to open it right before Christmas, right after Christmas, or right then.

Naturally, I chose right then to open my present.

It's an anatomically correct model of human internal organs! And it all comes apart, too!

I have literally looked at it and have taken it apart over and over again. I love how precise it is.

Monday, October 25, 2010


This looks pretty cool. I like the idea of being able to smash your garbage without actually  having to touch anything.

Check it out here.

Alison's Thumb

Here's a story I wrote Alison while she was on her "Facebook Fast." She lasted 3 days. Good job.


"ok i'll tell you a story. once upon of time there was a girl who liked having fun but hated doing homework. she also sucked her thumb at night. her fairy god mother visited her at night and told her that if she sucked her thumb, a big scary man with scissors was going to chop it off. she woke up and thought "wow, that was weird." and then she sucked her thumb. just at that moment a big scary man jumped into her room and chopped off her thumb."

Thanks to Struwwelpeter for this lovely image. 
This is payback for the "Lewis Family Tragedy." Hope you sleep well tonight. Ha ha ha ha.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Duck Hunt

I learned something amazing.

When you're playing Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo, the second controller controls the ducks.

It makes me really want to play Duck Hunt now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why is "Colonel" pronounced "Kernel"

This is actually a little complicated, but it has annoyed me enough that I have been motivated to find the answer. This is what I found from this website:
1540s, coronell, from M.Fr. coronel (16c.), modified by dissimilation from It. colonnella "commander of a column of soldiers at the head of a regiment," from compagna colonella "little column company," from L. columna "pillar" (see hill). English spelling modified 1580s in learned writing to conform with the Italian form (via translations of Italian military manuals), and pronunciations with "r" and "l" coexisted 17c.-18c., but the earlier pronunciation prevailed. Sp. coronel, from Italian, shows a similar evolution by dissimilation.
This is how I understand it: we used to to spell colonel as "coronell." It comes from the French word "coronel." The French got the word from the Italian word "colonnella," but they messed it up and changed it to "coronell." Years later, the English spelling changed the "r" to the "l", but people kept pronouncing it the old way.

And there you go.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Iron and Bananas

I learned today that the market prices of bananas and raw iron have been the same for years and years. I think it's been around 60 cents per pound, and they have matched each other over the years. Isn't that crazy? I tried looking it up, but I couldn't find any documentation or explanation of the connection.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A SkyMall Necessity

Come to think of it, saying "SkyMall" and "necessity" in the same sentence is pretty redundant. Here is something I found today that I need more than air:

It's a Cast Iron Giraffe Toilet Paper Holder. It looks as if someone had a giraffe statue lying around the house and then they were trying to figure out how to put it to some practical use. And to think that it can be mine for just $26.95 (+$9.25 for shipping)!

Cast Iron Giraffe Paper Holder

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Lewis Family Tragedy

This is a story written by Alison many years ago. The story is best when it is read to you by a computer voice. Enjoy! Hope you sleep well tonight! Thank you very, very much, David, for getting me this literary classic.

(All original spelling has been left intact)

once upon a time there was a family named "the lewis family". all the people in the lewis family were very mean to eachother. one day, the dad decided that they should all go on a vacation. they did not know
where to go though. they went around town asking people if they knew where they should go on their vacation. when they asked a lady named jennifer she said that the lewis family should go to an island name lasamaego island. so they went to a travel store and got some bbro-shures about lasamaego island. the bbro-shure had very pretty pictures so they decided that they would go there for their vacation. they took a plane there. when they got there, david was very sick. he was so sick that he died. at the funeral they had the casket open. now when david died he died with his eyes open, so when the casket was open you could see that his eyes were open. the lewis family was not very sad that david died because he was a bayer 63 boy. a few hours later after they got to their hotel, bryan died. they did not know it until they went into his hotel room and found him laying side ways on his bed with a knife in his chest. the window was open so they figured that the murderer jumped out the window. so the rest of the family went out to eat. because there was blood in bryans room, nathan had to sleep in dad and moms room. the next morning, when alison woke up, she went into moms and dads and nathans room to find that nathan had been shot in his nostrils. mom was laughing and dad was watching cartoons. because alison was the only child left, they went out to eat breakfast at dunkin donuts. a few days later, they decided to leave lasamaego island and buy a little cottage on the top of a mountain. alison got anything she wanted because mom and dad were so glad that everyone else was dead. the end. hope you sleep well tonight! ha ha ha ha ha

2 minutes 16 seconds

That's how long I can hold my breath. I set that personal record many years ago when I was 16. I've tried to break it since, but I don't have the patience to get that far.

You can watch a video of David Blaine, the magician, hold his breath for 17 minutes here. It's really amazing because he explains how he was able to do it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back in Provo

We finally finished our trips! All the interviews are finished, and I can happily say that I've been accepted at all the schools I had interviews with. We got back from Columbus, OH this afternoon. I have never seen a town so obsessed with a college football team. EVERYONE in the entire state of Ohio is a Buckeye fan.

Now comes the difficult choice: where to go to school? The three schools are:
  • Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN
  • University of Houston in (of course) Houston TX
  • Ohio State University in Columbus, OH
There are some definite pros and cons to each site, and we luckily have a few weeks to choose. I'll let you all know what the final choice is. For now, it's nice to be home and not have to worry about missing any more classes, tests, or work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I was out of town, OK? I thought I wrote a post to show up automatically on Saturday, but I guess it didn't work.

I didn't do it on purpose. And I was sick. Having food poisoning at someone else's house is not so fun.

Friday, October 15, 2010


When you have one a game of chess, you declare "checkmate." Do you know where we get this word?

It comes from the Persian phrase "Shāh Māt", which means the King is ambushed.

Pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of the origin of the word assassin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cleopatra and the Moon Landing

I think most people underestimate the time frame the Egyptians occupied.

Did you know that the lifetime of Cleopatra is closer in time to the moon landing than the construction of the Great Pyramids?

Yeah, I know. My head exploded when I heard that, too.

It's true:
Cleopatra was born 2501 years after the pyramids were built, but only 2000 years before the moon landing. So even though most people associate both Cleopatra and the Pyramids with Ancient Egypt, more time passed between when the pyramids were build and when she was born than between when she was born and the moon landing.

Rolling the pencil

I seem to bring up pencils a lot (not alot) on my blog. I took a drafting class a few years ago and I learned that when you draw a straight line with a pencil, you are supposed to rotate the pencil in your hand. This is crazy hard. Try it.

It keeps the tip of the pencil nice and pointy, and some drafters argue that you lines are more straight and even. It is definitely is a skill you need to practice. Practice it all the time. And when people ask you why you're doing it, you can tell them that old-time architects, drafters, and you are the only ones left on the planet that do this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Did you know there are more plastic flamingos in existence than real ones? (Probably. Unreliable source)

Sad pen[cil]

Remember how excited I was about this liquid pencil? I'm not so excited about it anymore. I was looking at the reviews on Amazon the other day and they're terrible. Here are some bitter headlines from the reviews:
  • The worst features of pens and pencils, combined
  • Not a good pencil and permanence is a lie
  • This is NOT a liquid Pencil...
  • Great in theory, poor in reality
  • Worse than the sum of it's failures 
  • believe the negative's another...
  • I'm Sure This Sounded Like a Great Idea . . .
  • Good if it worked
  • Worthless 
Sad day for Sharpie. :(           

Monday, October 11, 2010

Writing a story can be embarrasing

Katie and I watched "A More Perfect Union" this evening. It's one of our few Sunday appropo movies that we have (along with "Mountain of the Lord" and "Finding Faith in Christ"). While we were watching, Katie was embroidering something so I pulled out a piece of paper ad started doodling. Then I started to write a story that I've had in my head for a while. The problem with writing stories like that is that I have the whole story in my head, not a linear story, and I don't know where to start it. So I just started writing it and it sounded like a teenager drama love story. And it shouldn't. Because it isn't. Is it too much to ask for something to sound perfect the first time I write it?

I was going to throw the whole piece of paper away, but Katie got mad because I drew a piece of broccoli that she liked. So I just ripped out the story portion of the paper and soaked in the sink so that no person alive could read that abomination any more, and Katie kept the now-wrinkled doodles of food, plants, and celestial bodies.

Perhaps, in a few days, I will try again, but taking a different angle. Maybe you all will see the story when I get it sounding right.

Or maybe not. It could just be too embarrassing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Homemade video from space

Thanks to Kathy for finding this for me! Quoted from this site:
"Like many youngsters, and those young at heart, seven-year-old Max Geissbuhler and his dad dreamed of visiting space -- and armed with just a weather balloon, a video camera, and an iPhone, in a way they did just that.

The father-and-son team from Brooklyn managed to send their homemade spacecraft up nearly 19 miles, high into the stratosphere, bringing back perhaps the most impressive amateur space footage ever. The amazing footage starts at 2:35 minutes in the video below."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Serial Theft at BYU

If you have been to BYU, you know that the best thing about the Daily Universe is the Police Beat. Every Wednesday a new column is published, detailing the past week's list of crimes, reckless behavior, and suspicious activity. It really is the best thing about the Daily Universe. It's one of the main things I look forward to on Wednesdays.

It looks like we have a serial thief on our hands now. Not just any thief--a thief that specializes in sanitary napkin dispensers located in women's bathrooms across campus. It looks like her(?) main motive is the money, though. (Thank goodness...) Check out her trail of destruction:

Sept. 8: A sanitary napkin dispenser in a women’s restroom in the FOB was broken into and all of the cash was stolen.
Sept. 9: Another sanitary napkin dispenser was broken into.  All cash was reported missing.
Sept. 10: Another sanitary napkin dispenser was broken into, this time in a Smith Fieldhouse women’s restroom.  All the money from the dispenser was reported missing.
If you notice any girl walking around with a screwdriver, cash, and some sanitary napkins falling out of her pockets, give the BYU police a call.

(Don't you hate the term "sanitary napkin"? It's almost as bad as saying "facial tissue" or "adhesive bandage." Dang trademarks...)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Most Dangerous Creature

Sharpion (shark and scorpion)
Actually, I just thought of a more dangerous one:

the Sharpiongun! (Shark, scorpion, and guns)

Maybe it should be on fire...
and then it would be called the Pyrosharpiongun!
 That's pretty cool. And the only way it could be any cooler is if it could fly. But not with normal feathery wings. It needs something more...dangerous than that.
Fighter jet wings!
I now present you the most dangerous creature in existence: the F-pyrosharpiongun! (The F- is for fighter jet, like F-16. But this is way cooler than an F-16.)

Now I need to get back to doing homework.


On Monday I saw a flier at the entrance to the part of the library where I worked. It said something like:
TUTOR WANTED: Must be proficient with AP Biology, Pre-calculus, English Literature, and US Government. Being fluent in German is a plus. $$$ Call me at (555) 123-4567
I looked at that for a while and then I realized that I was pretty proficient in all those areas. Maybe not so much with US Government, but, hey, I've watched a lot of West Wing, so how hard can it be?

I contacted the guy and he told me that he has a German foreign exchange student who is struggling with all her classes. So tonight was my first night being a tutor. It was pretty easy. I just had to explain the different organelles in a cell and what y=mx+b meant. And it was cool to be able to speak a little German again. And it was cool to be able to make some sweet moolah doing it, too. It wasn't as awkward as I was expecting it to be. So that's a plus.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rubber Subs

I heard from one of my professors that submarines aren't detected my radar because they have a coating of rubber around them. Not sure if it's true, but it makes kind of sense.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First Breath and Heart Holes

When babies take their first breath, a hole in their heart slams shut. I learned about this in my anatomy class, and I thought it was one of the most interesting things I had ever heard.

An unborn baby's circulation isn't like ours. The oxygen rich blood comes in through the umbilical cord and bypasses the lungs to supply their body with oxygen, and then the de-oxygenated blood leaves their body through the umbilical cord. Since they aren't using their lungs, they don't need all of the different chambers in the heart. There is a hole that connects the right and left atria called the foramen ovale.

You can see that the walls are overlapping, leaving a little space for the blood to pass through. The blood passes through that hole until the baby is born and something cold--usually air--hits the baby's face. Once that happens, the two flaps slam together, thereby creating a seal and directing the blood flow to the lungs. If a baby is born in warm water, the infant can stay under water for 10 or 15 minutes with the little hole still open. Once they're brought up, the hole closes and the baby uses their lungs oxygenate their blood. Crazy!

This is also what people refer to when they say they have a "hole in their heart." What that means is that the foramen ovale didn't seal completely. There is still a little gap and the blood can pass back and forth between those two chambers, mixing the oxygen rich and oxygen poor blood, making the whole circulatory system less efficient. It can be fixed with a simple surgery, so no worries there.

Death Ray Hotel

I heard about this in the news today. The Vdara Hotel, owned my MGM in Las Vegas, is equipped with a Death Ray. No no, not like the Death Star. This hotel uses sunlight to scorch its victims.

You see the concave surface of the hotel? There is a pool in front of the hotel and if someone sits just right, the sunlight gets focused and lights their hair on fire--no joke. In addition to burning hair, the Vdara Death Ray has been known to melt plastic cups and plastic bags. It makes me want to see it. I think I would try to put things in front of it to see if it would melt or not. Perhaps I would take part in a contest to see how long one could stand in the path of the Death Ray.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Katie sometimes enjoys listening to country music. I enjoy it less. One phrase that has continued to intrigue me is "honky-tonk." Is it a noun? A flavor? A derogatory remark? A color? I had no idea.

I looked it up on the almighty Wikipedia, and I found out that it is a bar.

How anti-climatic.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rocks on roof

Have you ever wondered why rocks are placed on a large flat roof? I learned this earlier this week in my Structures class. I thought they were there to help drain water or something. Their purpose is actually to keep the tar paper from blowing off. With the wind blowing over the roof, the wind movement creates a negative pressure, making the entire roof want to rise. The tar paper isn't hooked as well to the structure as the huge roof, so a simple, cheap, and effective solution is to add rocks to act as ballast.

And I think the simple, cheap, and effective solutions are always the best.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stamps as legal tender

 I heard a while ago that you can use stamps as legal tender to purchase things at the store. This kind of made sense to me--they are government issued pieces of paper with a value printed on them, after all. I did some research, and I think that it's totally bogus now. I found sources that said you could use them, but only if the other guy was OK with it. And you can do that with pretty much anything. I could give you my school notebook in exchange for groceries, and if both parties are happy, then everything's OK.

And what about "forever" stamps. Those could be considered a type of investment, with their value increasing every year.