Sunday, June 5, 2011


In this case I'm not talking about people. I'm actually talking about chemistry. Radicals often get a bad name because they can be destructive in the body. That's because they are highly reactive, and the resultant compounds of a radical reaction are often highly reactive as well.

Here's the idea. Electrons like to be in pairs. When they're not in pairs then they are unhappy. It's like some people I knew who raised a llama. They had to buy a goat to keep the llama company or the llama would go a little crazy. Electrons are like llamas and every llama needs a goat (or another llama). Radicals are compounds with an unpaired electron, and so are usually unstable. What do they do? They take a goat from a different llama to keep them company. But with 2 llamas and one goat, you're still left with a lonely Andean camelid. Do you see where this is going? When a radical reacts with a normal compound it forms a new radical which will likely be very reactive. The only way to stop a radical is to pair it with another radical. In the body this means that radicals just keep breaking whatever they're breaking over and over. Complete llama chaos. But radical reactions are also essential to our society.

Quick fact about radicals that you probably didn't know: Oxygen is (usually) a radical (actually it's a relatively stable diradical). This is what make combustion possible. That's right, things burn because of radicals. Remember how a radical just keeps reacting over and over? That's why a fire is self perpetuating once it gets started.

That same self-perpetuating nature also helps make many of the plastics we use. Because radicals just keep reacting, they can form huge chains of molecules that will harden and become solid. In fact, that's the way (most) paint "dries." When we say paint dries, it's a misnomer. If paint were just drying, then water or oil would wash it off (which it does with water colors). What paint actually does is react with our dear friend oxygen the diradical. It forms a huge polymer which thickens and hardens it. That's why when your kid throws their glass of water around and splashes the wall the paint just stays there.

So basically, I think radicals are amazing. I'm grateful that we live in a world where we've learned to use them. Chemistry is for cool kids. And llamas are for cool kids too.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If your heart is a big as a river, it can absorb any amount of dirt

In "Preach My Gospel" (the LDS Missionary handbook) it says:

"Just as the Christian world was blessed by the courage and vision of the reformers, many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion “that [God] seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). Teachings of other religious leaders have helped many people become more civil and ethical."

First off, I love that we are taught that many leaders who were not Mormons have light and knowledge given to them to help mankind. It goes on to talk about several important religious leaders, including Buddha. The title of this post is a paraphrase of Buddha's teaching of inclusiveness. You'll see variations of it (salt instead of dirt for instance), but the idea is always the same.

If you pour a handful of dirt into a glass of water, it is contaminated. No one can drink it. But if you pour the same handful of dirt into a great river, then the dirt becomes part of the river and the people can still drink from the river. So in life, you will experience injustice or offense. If your heart is small, then the injustice will ruin you. It will gnaw away and contaminate you. But if your heart is large, then you can absorb the injustice (inclusiveness). You will experience it, but your heart will remain pure. I love this idea. If only this teaching were more widely practiced, much of the hatred and disagreements that we have would disappear.

So today I'm grateful for a wise saying from Buddha.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Profs (for basses)

In trying to find something to be grateful for every day, you pretty quickly run out of big things. It's sort of like writing an essay for English class. If you pick a broad topic you don't have much to write about. If you pick a narrow topic then you can write plenty. Today I'm grateful for a vocal exercise. Miss Cuccaro calls it "Profs for basses." I'm not sure what she means by "profs." I think she's mentioned it, but I've forgotten, though I assume it has something to do with the person that she learned it from, since most of her exercises are named that way.

So I've been trying to actually practice regularly since I've been at IU (those of you who know me from my BYU days will understandably be surprised by this development) and I've come to love this exercise. It consists of a quick run from 1-9-1 twice in a row. The trick is that you begin on an Italianate "i" and move through the vowels "e" and "a." Each vowel is used for two of the notes. Once you hit "a," the mouth position remains the same for the rest of the scale until you come back down to the notes that you use "e" and "i" for. Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition and I don't care.

Even though the mouth position for the "a" remains the same, you mentally imagine singing "o" and "u" following the same pattern as you did for "i" and "e." While that may be gibberish if you're not a singer or closely associated with singers, but it's an amazing exercise. If my voice is out of whack, I do profs and everything lines up again. If I'm having trouble on a high note, I do profs and it's fine. I've gained at least 3 or 4 notes on my top range while maintaining my low notes, and much of that I attribute to profs. It's a panacea for vocal problems in my experience. Apparently it also helps higher voices as well, but who cares about that? So that's the thing I'm grateful for today: Profs (for basses).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blackberry Grunt

I'm back. I've realized that blogging, especially topical blogging, is something of a state of mind. You have to be constantly looking for things to put on there or you run out. When school got busy at the end of this semester, I got out of that state of mind. Like I said originally, I'm something of an ingrate. Anyway today I made a blackberry grunt. I had never heard of a grunt before but it's a specific kind of cobbler. Basically imagine chicken and dumplings but instead of chicken and gravy you have blackberries and syrup. It's pretty amazing. Anyway, a small thing to start my return with, but I'm pleased with it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My wonderful wife

Yes, I've been a bit of a slacker this last weekend. That's life. I'll be as consistent as I can, but there will still be days that I miss. Anyway, this post is about my wife. She's the best. It was her birthday yesterday, so I was going to make this post then, but I figured that she'd rather have me help clean the house and make dinner than have me write a blog post. Actions and words and all that...

So, on to Bonnie. I met her when we both worked at the classical music radio station at BYU. It would be great to say that it was love at first sight and all that, but I don't really work that way. When we met, she'd recently broken up with her boyfriend and had lost some weight. She didn't have any extra weight already, and I remember thinking that she was cute but too skinny. Shortly after we met she went off to London for the summer and I stayed in Provo and kept working. I don't think I ever thought of her, and I'm sure she never thought of me.

When she got back from London, we started talking all the time. Our jobs were not exactly difficult or time intensive, so we had a lot of down time that we could sit around. We quickly realized that we had a lot in common, but nothing really happened for a while because I had been dating another girl who had just gone to Japan. So clearly I was off the market.

I really started to like her and we began hanging out and watching British tv shows. Eventually I got up the courage to ask her out. We went to see "The Flying Dutchman" at Utah Opera. We both got free tickets from our work, so we technically had four tickets between the two of us. I had actually asked something like 5 or 6 other girls to go, but they were all busy, so I called and left a message with Bonnie just a few hours before the opera was going to start. Happily she hadn't gotten anyone to go with her either (because she'd been hoping that I'd ask her).

Pretty much once that snowball started rolling down the hill, it didn't stop and it just kept picking up speed. We officially started dating on October 31st, got engaged in March (though we'd been talking about it since December), and got married in June. Best decision ever.

Bonnie is the best thing in my life. She's pretty and funny. She does an amazing job taking care of our daughter. She's one of the smartest people that I know. She's talented and creative, and is the one that makes my our house worth going home to. I don't know how I'd get through life without her, so today (and yesterday...and really every day) I'm grateful for my wife Bonnie.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Making my wife happy

I've mentioned before that Bonnie and I play computer games together as a way to spend time with each other. We like it because we're playing a game, but we're always cooperating so it doesn't cause disagreements. In addition, it's more interactive than television, so it strikes a nice balance for us. Anyway, her birthday is coming up, so I spent a bunch of in-game gold to buy her this rare mount. It's basically a status symbol, since it doesn't confer any benefit that you can't get somewhere else with much less effort, but it looks really cool. Anyway, I'm grateful today that I got to make my wife happy with a small little thing that didn't cost me anything other than some yellow pixels.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Evening Walks

It was warm enough tonight for Bonnie and I to take Lydia out for a walk. The birds were singing, the sun was setting nicely, and the ducks and geese were swimming in the pond near our house. It was a very nice evening. We may have to make a habit of that. I'm grateful for nights when I'm not at rehearsal and I can slow down and spend some time with my family.