Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Favorite Hinckley article

We've enjoyed having the opportunity to reflect on President Gordon B. Hinckley's life and ministry. President Hinckley was the Mormon prophet who passed away this week.

Of the many articles we've read about his life in recent days, this was one of our favorites: a reprint of an interview with President Hinckley and his late wife Marjorie in 2003. It offers an interesting glimpse into their private lives when he was the prophet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

plant update

The plant has been saved (please see "plant education" entry). Instead of taking up entomology, I took into consideration the future of my other plants and took action. I cut off two branches that had crazily infested leaves and left the last one as a survivor. It is spider-mite free (thanks to a serious wipe-down) and looks happy next to the piano where it gets large chunks of afternoon sunshine.


Today's winter storm warning was evidenced by blustery, blizzard-like conditions. The wind swirled freshly-fallen snow off of our roof into smoke-like whisps. I tried to catch it on the camera:

As I was doing my teacherly duties downstairs, I looked outside to find a little bird taking refuge from the storm by standing in our carport. Here are some views looking outside the window:

Alas, after about 10 minutes of continuing to feel the blasts of blown-around wind, the bird (a robin) left. And I was left to continue working--safely inside my cozy apartment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

proud of my surname

When I was a missionary in Argentina, many people would ask if I was related to Paul Newman, the famous actor. I usually responded with a quip about how if I were related to him, I would have a lot more money.

Even though I'm not related to the movie star, I am proud of his company's accomplishments. His company, Newman's Own, makes good food products (admittedly expensive) that help various charities. Essentially, all the profit from sales (or any money beyond what needs to be used for continuing to run the company) goes to a nonprofit organization that distributes the money to various charities. I can't always afford Newman's products, but I like the social responsibility behind them.

Last weekend, Matt and I encountered a branch of Newman's Own called Newman's Own Organics. Below is the picture that accompanies their products:

Apparently, Nell, Paul's daughter, spearheaded the formation of this new company. We found a line of their cookies on sale at Ream's. ("On sale" means $4.19 a package. Not so cheap.) We decided to be socially conscious and contribute to Paul's charities by buying one of the packages--the Ginger-O Cremes. Yummy and "healthy." All the ingredients are organic, so you don't have to worry about saturated fats or trans fats. Or high fructose corn syrup.

However, I did a bit of research on this new subsidiary company and found evidence that the profits for Newman's Own Organics do not necessarily go toward charity. *Sad face* However, I am consoled by the fact that the cream-filled ginger snaps I've been snacking on for the last few days contain ingredients that can be broken down and used responsibly by my body. And hopefully, just maybe, 14 cents of the $4.19 may make their way to a little orphan in Africa. At least that's what I'd like to think, anyway.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Searching for...

...Bobby Fischer, who passed away this week in Iceland. Fischer was once called the Mozart of chess because he began drubbing opponents as a child prodigy at age 6, and is widely considered the best American-born chess player of all time.

Here is Reuters's writeup. I really hope the Economist does an obituary on Fischer next week, (the obituaries are always exceedingly well written there), and I'll post a link here if that happens. UPDATE: Here's the obituary in the Economist. Frankly, they've done better.

I've always been interested in chess, though my casual interest pales in comparison to Fischer's. When I went to Russia with my dad in 1997, we purchased a Russia v. United States wooden chess board for me that was just small enough when folded up as to fit neatly in my backpack. I would take this chess board with me to debate tournements when I was in high school, and my friend Nephi and I would fill the inevitiable hours of downtime by playing game after game.

When I returned to Russia in 2004, I tracked down and visited a local chess club, just to see what they were like. This was one of the most masculine (defined as: not feminine) places I have ever been. The place reeked of urine, beer, and unbathed men. The competition was intense but memorable; I decided to just watch on the sidelines.

Of course, Bobby Fischer is indelibly connected in most of our minds with the Soviet era and his epic battle against Boris Spassky in the 1970s in which he became the first American world chess champion. His games with Spassky became a microcosm of the Cold War, and for some, Fischer's victory was a foreshadowing of an inevitable American triumph on the larger world stage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

plant education

This all started a few months back when I bought the ivy plant pictured below. I bought it for a few dollars at WalMart when it was just a little guy. When my mom found out, she warned that I needed to watch for spider mites because every ivy plant she has ever had has succombed to those invasive little guys. Well, with her warnings, I kept a watch out and, sure enough, a month or so later, after my little ivy had been doing so well, little webs emerged. I did some research and found out that you can successfully rid your plants of the mites if you rinse the leaves thoroughly once or twice a week. So, I "showered" this guy and the other plants around it dutifully for a month and haven't found evidence of any small creatures for the last three weeks.

Fast forward to today. Well, let me back up just a bit. For Christmas, we got a colorful, Christmasy plant from my sister- and brother-in-law. It is a large plant that likes the sun so it got placed right next to our south window. However, ever since we've had it, it has dropped one or two leaves each week, which has--since last week--turned into one or two leaves a day. I could not figure out what was wrong with it.

Until I was on the phone today.

And I happened to notice some activity on the plant while I was chatting away. See if you notice anything in this picture.

If you noticed a spider web with tiny dots, you are seeing what I saw. I looked closer and found that there was a pattern of many webs around one section of the plant, and all those little dots are actually spider mites crawling around. I was fascinated to see them covering about five big leaves, and my eyes stayed glued to the little mites' movement. Here's another view of the action:

I have a whole COLONY of spider mites on this plant! And now I am left with ambiguous feelings: I feel like the morally responsible thing to do would be to try and save the plant (ie: shower the plant until all the little mites are washed down the drain), but I cannot tell you how fascinating it was to watch the little mites do their work. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Matt finally eats tuna

I am an exotic eater--when asked what my favorite food is, I always say, "something new." However, the one food I would never touch was tuna fish.

Tricia and I have joked about this for over a year, and she finally summoned up the courage to make me a tuna sandwich today (tuna is one of the staples of her food storage). I had warned her that I may not want to try it again soon if I didn't like it, so she went all out, getting the expensive tuna (solid white), and disguising the taste as much as possible by adding pickles, garlic, onion, and mustard.

My response? Well, go ahead and guess which quote best fits my reaction based on the pictures below:

a. I'm freakin' starving! I didn't get to eat anything today. (Napoleon Dynamite)
b. Life goes on. (the Beatles)
c. I have a bad feeling about this... (sorry, we just watched Star Wars)
d. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! (last line of Casablanca, my favorite movie)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

catching up

Here is a hit-and-miss review of the holidays and last week:

New camera!
We got a new camera for Christmas! (Thanks, Dave.) It is a Canon SD750 ELPH. Small and powerful. Now all our blog readers get to enjoy visual representations of our activities.

Matt and I cleaned out and organized his parents' kitchen as part of our Christmas to them. The project took a little over 11 hours (over two days) and resulted in about three empty cabinets.

Whole wheat what?
Crepes. That's right, whole-wheat crepes. I surprised Matt one Sunday morning with these tasty (and healthy) little guys.

Bountiful...er, Springville
We have gotten so much snow lately, we are confused where we live. I thought it was places like Bountiful (where I grew up) that got dumped on. Yesterday, snow fell steadily for about 6 hours, creating 6 inches of the fluffy stuff to be shoveled off the driveway. It does look beautiful, though.

Pizza, Pizza
I tried out a pizza recipe book I got for my birthday (in November) and made home-made pizza. I've never "proofed" yeast, so I wasn't sure how long I had to wait for the sugar-yeast-warm-water mixture to get foamy. I was getting worried it wasn't working, so I proofed more yeast. And then some more. They all--in due time--got foamy, so I made three batches of pizza dough. We have yet to make a pizza out of the last batch. How long does pizza dough last in the refrigerator?
What new shoes can do for you
Last Saturday, Matt and I braved the ugly weather to get Matt some new basketball shoes. ($55 from Famous Footwear) That night he had a double-header to start off the church basketball season. Of the 40 points scored in the first game by his team, Matt scored 20. He said that although the b-ball shoes were heavier than cross-trainers, they gave him the needed support to "stop, turn, and shoot." (I'll have to work on finding the "action' function on the camera so the pictures aren't fuzzy.)