Thursday, December 30, 2010

science for dummies

Ld put Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything on my new Ipad. Finished it up this afternoon. A fascinating read and very accessible. Seriously, I could not put it down.
Did you know that:
It isn’t easy to become a fossil,
there is more life under the earth than on top of it,
men will never reach the edge of our solar system,
there is no point trying to hide from your bacteria,
there is nothing we can do about asteroids,
we are energy,…

I love a book that shakes up my thinking. The world doesn’t look quite the same after reading this. Even ld. He is such a fine specimen of superbly arranged atoms, a thing I never ever fully supposed.

In a bit of synchronicity perhaps now I am ready to tackle the final list.

VI. Science & Technology
Physical Science, Mathematics, Technology, and Life Science

Life Sciences
Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals
Pliny the Elder, Natural History*
Theophrastus, De Causis Plantarum
Roger Bacon, Philosophy of Nature
William Harvey, Circulation of the Blood
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Orlando Beccari, Wanderings in the Great Forest of Borneo
Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s 9th Symphony; Lives of a Cell
James D. Watson, The Double Helix
Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractile Geometry of Nature

Physical Sciences
Alhazen, Optics
Apollonius of Perga, On Conic Sections
Archimedes, Works
Euclid, Elements
Nicomachus of Gerasa, Introduction to Arithmetic
Ptolemy, Almagest
Copernicus, On the Revolutions
Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina;
John McPhee, Basin and Range
Jacques Monod, The Origins of Molecular Biology
George Gaylord Simpson, Splendid Isolation: The Curious History of the South American Mammal
John Gribbin, The Scientists (aka Science, A History)
Alfred Crosby, The Columbian Exchange; Ecological Imperialism
Yann Martel, The Life of Pi
Margaret Talladge May, Galen on Usefulness of the Parts of the Body
Natalie Angier, The Canon: A Whirligig tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science
Leonard Euler, Introduction to Analysis of the Infinite
William Harvey, Circulation of the Blood
Christian Huygens, Treatise on Light
Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica*
Charles Saunders Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”; “The Fixation of Belief”; Mathematical Philosophy
Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and General Theory ; The Meaning of Starry Messenger; Assayer; Dialogue Concerning the Two World Systems
Johannes Kepler, Harmonies of the World; Epitome of Copernican Astronomy
René Descartes, Discourse on Method
Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s 9th Symphony; Lives of a Cell
William Dunham, Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe; Infinite in All Directions
Paul Erdos, The Art of Counting
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law; QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
G. H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
Madison Smartt Ball, Lavoisier in the Year One: The Birth of a New Science in an Age of Revolution
Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers
Douglas Hofstadter, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Richard Bellman, Eye of the Hurricane: An Autobiography
Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Robert Kanigel, The Man Who knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan
Constance Reed, Hilbert
Simon Singh, Fermat’s Last Theorem
Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos, The Elegant Universe Relativity ; The World as I See It
Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science
David Hilbert, The Foundations of Geometry
Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine
Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origins of Algebra
Jacques Monod, The Origins of Molecular Biology
Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Stephen M. Stigler, The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900
John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior
Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes
John Gribbin, The Scientists (aka Science, A History)
E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful
James Gleick, Chaos – Making a New Science
Claude Shannon, The Mathematical Theory of Communication
Robert March, Physics for Poets
Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

Scientific Venues
Suggestions of places to visit in Physical and Life Sciences categories:
• Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum (L)
• BYU Planetarium (P)
• Eyring Science Building Pendulum Court (P)
• Crandall Printing Museum (P)
• Technological Exhibits at the BYU Museum of Art (P/L)
• BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures (L)
• Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point (L)
• Thanksgiving Point Botanical Gardens (L)
• Hogle Zoo (L)
But really the sky is the limit...
• NASA rocket launch.
• Microchip Factories
• Textile Factories
• Museums of Natural History
• Quality zoos and aquaria
• Huntington Botanical Gardens—San Marino, California
• Pasteur Museum – Paris
• Nature Centers at National Parks
• Fossil Digs
• National Museum of Natural History – Washington D.C.
• National Air and Space Museum – Washington D.C.
• Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza – Florence, Italy

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

chef cate

Had a sleepover last night. Cate stirring and mixing.

Make them a costume and you get free slave labor.

Monday, December 27, 2010

lifestyle of a princess

Despite all best efforts this child is princess obsessed. For Christmas ld and I caved and gave her a dress up trunk full of princess dresses, shoes, crowns, jewels and sceptors. She was overjoyed, thrilled.

But I couldn't go down without a fight. I also put in other career options. I made some dress up cowgirl stuff (in honor of her heritage), a chef's hat and apron, and a nurse outfit. She finally consented to try on the nurse outfit after I showed her there were real bandaids in the pocket and a life-like but harmless syringe (left over from my teeth bleaching:). Then suddenly everyone had Owies and it was cool to be a nurse.

Tucked in the trunk was also this little gem:

I remember this book from when I was a child. I loved it then and found it online. It's dated, but such a sweet book. I get the attraction of the pink princess world, I really do. And maybe, (a big maybe) it has it's value. But being smart, brave and resourceful (as opposed to passive, dependent and air-heady pretty) is such a cooler thing to grow up to be. Even when pretending.

Oh. Did I tell you we also gave her a princess sleeping bag and back pack and some princess dolls? Shut up.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

gifting from the heart

Around 3 am I ran out of wrapping paper. Bummer. Used it all up on the grandkids presents (don't go there, ld). Resorted to using newspaper and leftover scraps. So notice on the right ld's pile of gifts for me - the unwrapped boxes, next to my white trash wrapped gifts. Made for each other, eh?

But! in one of those unwrapped boxes from ld was this:

Yup. An Ipad for me. Inscribed, no less.
Oh, and ld gave me some cool tighty spandex biker pants along with other thoughtful gifts (like the new Mark Twain) Is he the best, or what?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

oh fudge

I'm resolved today to not give in to the neighbor holiday goodies gracing my kitchen counter. Yesterday I wiped out the toffee bars and some fudge remnants. And before the day was out I had polished off the peanut brittle. Today I am reciting all the resist temptation mantras I can think of.

Temptation passes after 10 minutes, just wait it out.

or this one:

It's easier to avoid than it is to resist. Whatev. More like resistance is futile. Seriously, my cravings and attraction to Christmas sugar is Borg-like.

CS weighs in. The other CS. The one with all the wisdom.

"No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist."

- C.S. Lewis 'Mere Christianity'

Yet again more wise words from CS Lewis:

It is restraint that gives pleasure all it's meaning.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

long post.

Our little ward has been hard hit. One of our students was diagnosed with leukemia during the holidays. She has a long, long road ahead of her. The ward has rallied around her but the news is sobering. Some excerpts then, from ld's Sacrament meeting talk, given December 19, 2010 to our BYU 65th ward:

I’m reminded today of that wonderful line in the carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’: ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’

Christmas, especially this Christmas, speaks to our hopes and fears in a way that nothing else can.

Nativity cast of characters

You have no doubt participated in years past in an acting out of the nativity. One of my favorite memories of Christmas Eve is being in the audience for our annual living room Christmas play. You know what I’m speaking of, right? You find the baby Jesus played by a flashlight wrapped in a blanket, Joseph defined by his bathrobe and mop handle staff, Mary looking solemn with a sheet draped head, the angel of the Lord with a tinsel halo and a wiseman with his towel turbaned head bearing oddly wrapped gifts. And depending on how big the family gathering, maybe you were fortunate to have a bleating lamb or a mooing cow.

However thrown together and amateurish the acting, there really is something sweet and special about acting out the nativity story that touches our hearts. It pulls at our heartstrings because it is a tender and deeply profound story. And besides the obvious and most important truth of our Heavenly Father sending his Son to a fallen world, the cast of characters surrounding this story offer some important examples in living life as well. These faithful people in their supporting roles in the Christmas narrative have much to teach us about wisely dealing with ‘hopes and fears’.

Life’s Fears

For all of us, there are always those times in our lives when fear and worry get the best of us. Our little ward is no exception. To the rest of the world they may seem totally unfounded and even ridiculous, but to those who live in the midst of them, they can be very real and totally overwhelming. Fear of the unknown, loss of health and fear of the outcome, fear of losing a job or in this economy fear of ever finding one. Fear of ever finding a mate. Fear of failure. And on and on. Every one of these powerful fears can send a stab through our hearts.

Thankfully for all of us, we have this wonderful season of Christmas that comes again and again each and every year to remind us and to renew within us the realization of the wonderful gift to us from a loving Father in Heaven—one who sent His son into the world to take those very fears upon himself and replace them with the Christmas message of light and love and hope.

Angels message: Do not be afraid

In the Christmas story we read from Scripture, we hear of the Lord’s messengers, the angels, delivering this very message. Do not be afraid. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce that his wife Elizabeth would become the mother of John the Baptist, even in her old age, Gabriel’s first words to him were, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard”.
Not long after, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Mary, to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus. And again his first words were, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”.
And an angel appeared to Joseph, too. He was betrothed to Mary and it would have been understandable in those days if he had sent her away, but the angel said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”.
And finally, in splendor and light, an angel appeared to the shepherds on a hillside while they were tending their sheep and said to them, “Fear not, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord”.
All of these people were just ordinary folk who, each in their own way, were asked to overcome their fears and, in faith and obedience to a loving God, do improbable and difficult things.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were elderly and I’m sure many of their friends and neighbors had much to say as Elizabeth became obviously pregnant in her old age.

Example of Mary and Joseph
Mary, on the other hand, was just a child, a young teenager. She was unmarried and so a seeming disgrace to her family and to Joseph, her betrothed. Everyone would have understood if Joseph had put her away, but he did not. Because of the angel’s words, (Matthew 1:20) he stood by her and held his head, and Mary’s, high.
This man Joseph, stands out as a real hero, because of the lessons he teaches us about obedience to God and surrender to God. Dealing with the unexpected, or when life throws you a curve ball, this pretty much describes Joseph’s experience.

Like Mary, we too can offer in humble submission our lives to the Lord. He had a plan for Mary and he has a plan for us. As we make our way along our own spiritual journeys, may Mary’s example of willing commitment inspire us to take similar steps of faith, many times over. No matter what God has in store for us, no matter what life throws at us, may we trust our Heavenly Father enough to be willing to say like she did: Be it unto me according to thy word
And like Joseph of old we, too, must cope with unexpected events. When they occur and our faith is tested, may we show the courage, persistence, and valiance of Joseph. With such faith and determination we, too, can do all that God expects of us and conquer the unexpected problems of life.

Example of Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
There are more great examples found in the Christmas story.
As for the shepherds, they were the lowliest of the low. Humble folk who lived simple lives and cared for sheep. Possibly smelly and dirty from herding their sheep, they lived apart from the other townspeople. They were not high on the social ladder. However, social status has never been a requirement for revelation. They were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth, and they went quickly to see the babe in the manger.
These shepherds would become sincere, life long witnesses of Christ. They would eagerly proclaim what they had heard, and seen, and felt that night. In fact, they would do so with such simplicity and power and conviction, that the scriptures record that, “all that heard them would wonder at those things that were told them.”
The shepherd’s experience and testimony is still as relevant today as over 2000 years ago. It is now our opportunity to hear the shepherds story, and follow...

Examples of Courage
In all these characters of Christmas we find people of courage.
All of these people were asked to do difficult things, in some cases things that might have been totally out of character for them, and things we can be sure they never would have chosen for themselves. It is obvious that they were afraid. But Scripture tells us, too, that they were faithful people. Not only did they believe in God, but they trusted in Him. They knew deep down in their hearts that if the Lord asked something of them, He would also provide the strength and the courage and everything they needed to get the job done.

Now, not only do we laud the contributions of Joseph and Mary, the Shepherds and Angels in the Christmas story and their great examples of courage in overcoming fear but we also remember the example of the Wise men, who came of course, later in the narrative. Because it takes wisdom, brothers and sisters to overcome our fears.


And as we think about the Wisemen, we have to ask the question: What did they know that made them so wise? And the question for us all: What do truly wise people know that other people don’t? I want to suggest two things, if I may.

1) First Anciently, the wise men knew and Wise people today know that this life doesn’t last.
This life is temporary. We would be very wise to embrace this truth ourselves-especially in this season of the year when we are smothered in materialism. If we are not very careful all the things of this world will make us love the things of the world too much. Earthly pleasures can tempt us to forget why we are here. Wise people know that fancy cars and clothes, a life that constantly seeks for entertainment, ease and popularity, these are not the things that count. Riches and fame, the things of this world will not help us on judgment day. Only righteousness counts then. ( see Proverbs 11:4)
And this leads us to the second thing wise people know, just as the wise men knew.

2) They know they need a Savior. They know that their fallen state separates them from our Heavenly Father, and that the only way home is through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wise people know that after all we have done we still can't be good enough or smart enough to earn our way to heaven when this life ends. They know they need a Savior. They know the only One qualified to save them was born that first Christmas night.
The fact is, the wisest decision anyone can make is to repent of their sins and follow and rely on the Savior. This decision gives you and I a peace that passes understanding, a life of fulfillment and meaning, and the knowledge from the plan of salvation that when this life ends, we have hope of a resurrection and eternal life.

President Hinckley taught:
And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, what must we do this Christmas season and always? Why, we must do the same as the Wise Men of old. They sought out the Christ and found Him. And so must we. Those who are wise still seek him today.

Now Christmas is here again for each and every one of us. Soon most of you will be going home to celebrate with your families.
May you remember that the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Savior Jesus Christ. For as we have talked a bit today about facing life’s fears let’s remember the hope the Savior brings to this life. It’s really that hope that makes the season so festive and joyous.

Because in spite of all the suffering or adversity you and I may experience, in spite of the bad and somewhat scary economic times we live in, in spite of some giving into despair and fears, the Savior says to have hope, please have hope, to hang on. The real message of that first Christmas is that Heavenly Father loves us –so much that He sent us His son. The Savior came to walk with us, to show us a better way, to redeem us if we will let Him. He never leaves us alone. We don’t have to be afraid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

we are welsh, you know

C'mon, do your research. The family tree traces back to Wales. On Mother's side, of course. Fitting to read a fellow Welshman, then.

from A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas:

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

"Were there postmen then, too?"

"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."

This version is the one I'm hoping for: The text (Dylan Thomas) and the illustrations (Chris Raschka).

Listen to Dylan himself do a reading. Mesmerizing. Part 1,

Lot's of places to read it online, too:

There's a movie, too. Haven't seen it yet. Maybe the library has a copy.

Monday, December 20, 2010

s. claus

I know this guy personally. And it's true what they say, he is a jolly sort. Sometimes. And he does work hard at making everyone's dreams come true. Nice fellow, that Santa.

We all took a turn. jlw reports he's been a regular GB.

Megs reports she's been extra good. What with pulling off a new baby and graduating Santa promises an extra candy cane in her stocking.

And this little lady. We heard her sing in church today. Still sings like a bird and a good mom. She gets an extra wink from the jolly one.

Santa took good notes. This gal is hoping for lots and lots of toys. Santa says not to worry, no problemo. He's got it covered.

Santa. Really. You are so hip and cool.

As always, more pics over at the Grandparentals.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

angel carol

I have been listening to Pandora all morning. John Rutter's music is so beautiful, especially at Christmas.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Hear the angels singing, 'Christ is born'.

a book is a gift you can open again and again. -Garrison Keillor

The books for the grandkids Christmas have finally all arrived. Except for the A Very Hungry Caterpillar which showed up here in Hindu (ld you will never live this down:) I am happy with the stack. Frog and Toad are Friends, A Little Fur Family, Rainbow Fish, Black and White, Pat the Bunny, The Animal Boogie (Cate's fav and mine, too) The Paper Bag Princess, some Dr. Seuss and some Sandra Boynton (Pajama Time and Barnyard Dance). I'll add some Curious George, purchased earlier this summer, to the stack, too.

But I'm noticing a book I wish I had added. For a birthday, then. Yeah, when she's older. Yellow and Pink by William Steig (The Amazing Bone, that William Steig ) This book I re-visited at a serendipitous time, right after I finished Life of Pi by Yann Martel this summer. What? You haven't read either? Go read Life of Pi. You must, because we all have a Bengal tiger in our lives. Go read Yellow and Pink with a child in your lap. Because where there is creation, there is a creator, and this is the perfect book to explain those ideas to your children.

Both of these books, Yellow and Pink and Life of Pi, speak powerfully and beautifully about God, belief, faith, creation, and the Why Am I here? theme.

From Life of Pi:

"If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the cross 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation." (p. 28)

"'If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for? Isn't love hard to believe? ... Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer.'" (p. 297)

Much to think and talk about.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Delight in excellence is easily confused with snobbery by the ignorant.

I refuse to eat at McDonalds and I pronounce ld’s musical selections as crapola. M&M’s are so plebian (notwithstanding the handfuls I snarfed yesterday) and don’t get me started on the Twilight books. Modern/creative dance is infinitely better than highly sexualized dance or drill team routines. I refuse to decorate my house with vinyl lettering or anything purchased from Rod Works or Deseret Book (cough, cough). Pop culture is for the masses, the uneducated proles. Blah, blah, I could go on and on about my hoity toity superior likes and dislikes.

Ugh. I hate that I am a snob. Sometimes (okay, most times) a pretentious one at that. I don’t know what to make of this. I dislike elitism in others.

Remember this article, by William Deresiewicz, a couple of years back?

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you.

While there's truth to the article, there's more to think about.

Here comes Joseph Epstein* to work my thoughts. He says there's a distinction to be made between snobbery and elitism.

"High standards generally — about workmanship in the creation of objects, about what is owed in friendship, about the quality of art, and much else — far from being snobbish, are required to maintain decency in life. When the people who value these things are called snobs, the word is usually being used in a purely sour-grapes way. 'Elitist,' a politically super-charged word, is almost invariably another sour-grapes word, at least when used to denigrate people who insist on a high standard... Delight in excellence is easily confused with snobbery by the ignorant."

Like everything, it's a fine line, isn't it? We all pick and choose what to be elitist about. And is there such a thing as being a shallow elitist versus a cultured one? Can you be a snob as to what to be a snob about?

*Yeah, that Joseph Epstein. The one who wrote profoundly about Envy.