One year of goodness

We recently celebrated Oliver's first birthday. This kid is a champ and his first year has been great. I didn't have a large party, just something simple. I'll try next year for that.

I made a chocolate, raspberry, with cream cheese frosting cake. The night before Jess had mentioned that maybe Oliver wouldn't like cream cheese frosting. I love it so much, I was sure Oliver would love it too. Turns out Jess was right.

Oliver didn't even swallow a piece of cake. In fact, he spit it out after we put it into his mouth. But we did get a photo. One baked good that I do know Oliver loves is chocolate chip cookies. If I would have given him that it would have been another story.

And here are two simple observations I've made as a new parent: First, the forming of a little person in 9 months is amazing. And second, the growth of a baby over the first year is astonishing.

Here's to another great one.


bp's science: special relativity (v.1)

Did you know that time slows down at higher speeds?

On Sunday afternoon as we drove home from church, Jess and one of the young men were having a conversation about time and the speed of light and what makes one age. I piped up from the back seat, "Haven't you heard about that experiment where two guys start out the same age. One goes up in a space ship, then comes back years later to find out the other guy on earth is old?" I remembered the experiment, but I didn't remember exactly what it was illustrating. "Do you get it?" I asked, hoping I had made a point without really making one. Jess chimed in, "I get what you are saying, but what is the principle behind it?" After a long pause, an attempt at an answer, "It's got something to do with time see..." I had to say, "I'm not exactly sure. I can't remember."

Well, with a little jog of the memory and a little research, here we go:
The experiment of which I was recalling is called the twin paradox. Two men start out on earth, one (Bob) stays on earth while the other (Jim) gets in a spaceship and flies around for a while. When Jim comes back from his space travels to meet Bob, Bob has aged much more than Jim has, "You've got crows feet!" Jim says to Bob.

picture and more info here

While this experiment seems counterintuitive, it has been supported by atomic clocks taken on airplanes. Atomic clocks brought back to land after a flight are atomically slower (the change is fractions of a millisecond) when compared to an atomic clock that stayed on earth.

This slowing can be explained by special relativity (think E=mc2) and is quite complex (think equation upon equation and a discussion about inertial reference frames). The easiest way I can explain it is that while the twin is in the spaceship he accelerates when traveling, while the twin at home is constantly at rest. This acceleration causes time to slow down and thus, less aging. That is the answer in it's simplest terms. If you are interested in more (and believe me there is quite a bit more, I've been sifting through it for quite some time now) see here.

So, who needs the fountain of youth? Hop on a spaceship!


I must have channeled some four-leaf energy

While on an afternoon walk today, Oliver and I found a four-leaf clover. I can't believe I found a lucky 1 out of 10,000 while just strolling by a bed of clover. Later on we got a photo of our discovery. I was holding a cute little wiggly kid who was ready to get in the bath, so the angle of the clover fools you into thinking there are just three leaves. But look closely, be patient, feel the lucky energy - there are four leaves there.

bp's science: color blindness (v.1)

I was amazed to find out, depending on the source, that 10 to 20 percent of males are color blind. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I know a few color blind fellows myself. But the term color blindness does not refer to just not being able to see color. Color blindness comes in many shapes and sizes, ranging from total color blindness to color deficiency. In fact, of the fellows I know who are color blind, two different types of color blindness are exhibited. Color blindness is usually inherited but can be acquired if an eye injury occurs.

Taking it down to the basics, there are three types of color blindness.

Monochromacy: individual can not see any color but can only distinguish brightness
Dichromacy: individual has a hard time seeing colors like red or green; to them red is very dark and/or green is white, in more specific terms the individual can only see colors using two spectra of light (normal vision uses three lights)
Anomalous Trichomat: individual has a hard time distinguishing between different colors of red or different colors of green, for instance, olive green and tan look like the same color, in more scientific terms the individual can see colors using three spectra of light like normal vision but they require more of a specific light than normal to match the spectra

For the fun of it, here are some color blind Ishihara tests. What numbers do you see?


Left column - Right column
25 - 29
45 - 56
6 - 8

This is where I should mention that of the color blind fellows I know, one is a dichromat and the other an anomalous trichomat. The dichromat can only see the number 25 (and barely, if not at all, the 56), while the trichomat can see four of the six numbers, excluding 45 and 6.

Now my color blind friends claim that being color blind puts them at an advantage in other areas of sight, for instance, they can see better at night. I totally believe it and think they deserve it. Obviously, I was happy to find in my research that the U.S. Army found that "color blind people could spot 'camouflage' colors that fooled those with normal color vision."

Read more about color blindness here and here.


Whoa, Costco!

We should have known that Saturday night, an hour before closing time, was the busiest time to go, for the first time with a new membership, to Costco. To tell you the truth, I wanted to turn around and leave. It was crazy! People everywhere, noise everywhere, and shopping carts nowhere to be found. And I must say that, once we did find a free cart, I was amazed at the size of it! Oliver and I could have ridden up front in the kids' spot together, with Jess pushing.

I think we were all a little overwhelmed with the Costco experience. Our first item in the cart was laundry detergent. This was a simple sell. The product was familiar to me, a size I could buy at Target. Ahh, shopping here is easy. But then we found the dryer sheets. "I'm a fan of dryer sheets," Jess offered. "Let's get some," I agreed. Little did we know we'd have to buy 492. I'll let you know in 2014 when we've used them all.

We passed up the 15 pack paper towels, the 2 gallon Pine-sol bottle, and the 50 inch thinner-than-our-laptop television (although we did look at this last one for quite some time). But there were some items I knew I had to have. The muffins are always a pull, and then there's some meat and cheese my dad had at this house last summer that we loved, and some ravioli my sister bought for a Bear Lake trip that I wanted to get. Milk was on the list, I wanted to check out the produce, and people always rave about the diapers. At one point, I was waiting for Jess to get an item, and I watched as carts of other shoppers passed by. I was amazed by some, shocked by others. When Jess came back I almost said, "Wow, it's troubling how unhealthily people eat," but I caught myself as I took a quick glance at our cart: meat, cheese, cake (disguised as muffins), and some broccoli. Not much of an improvement.

All in all, we were pretty lost in the chaos of it all. I didn't feel like I was really in control of my buying. I kinda felt like I was in the buy-big-stuff twilight zone. I need some assistance in how to shop Costco. How do you guys do it? What do you buy? How do you deal with buying 9 mangos and not knowing if you can finish them all before they go bad? I'm in awe of the possibilities, but I need some guidance.


So, ya know, the cruise?

Two months ago REAL SIMPLE asked that readers respond to the question, "What's Your Worse Travel Mishap?" for the June 2010 issue. As soon as I read that prompt, I instantly knew I had to write about the cruise. But I had to do it in one very short paragraph. How could I accomplish such a feat? I tried and they liked it so much they published it...okay, not in the magazine, but on the web. If you're at all curious, this is how I described the vacation my family still talks about with all of the love and unbelief and gentle aversion in their hearts:

One December my whole family, 20-plus people, set out for a cruise. Unfortunately, the flight to the port was delayed by snow and then mechanical failure. After three days of plane rides and hotel stays, we finally caught up with the ship, where everyone on the boat knew us by name: “Oh, you’re the Johnsons. We’ve heard about you.”

after days, we prepare to enter the ship, circa 2003


bp's science: genetics with Punnett Squares (v.1)

Last week we discussed four leaf clovers and their possible causes. One theory suggested that a recessive gene causes the fourth leaf. Well today, I'm going to talk genes and I'm going to do it with a few Punnett Squares. A Punnett Square is a chart that shows genetic variations of possible offspring that a mother and a father could create based on their genetic make-up.

First, let's take the four leaf clover example in the simplest terms. Say for example the father clover has four leaves, and since it is believed that four leaves are caused by a recessive gene (or a gene that only exhibits itself in the absence of a dominant gene), it's genetic make-up is cc (two little c's to represent recessive genes). So why two cc's? Well, offspring get genes from two parents, the dad gives a leaf gene and the mom gives one, so the offspring has two leaf genes. Now the mother clover has three leaves, but she is a carrier of the recessive gene, so her genetic make-up is Cc (the big C is the dominant three-leaf gene and the little c is the recessive four-leaf gene). When this father and mother get together, their offspring have a 50/50 chance of having four-leaf offspring. How do I know that? Cue the Punnett Square.

There are four combinations that can come from the Cc x cc monohybrid cross. These are Cc, Cc, cc, cc. Out of the four combinations there are two distinct differenct combos (Cc and cc), so there is a 50/50 chance of creating either a three- or four-leaf clover. The Cc combination is going to create a three-leaf clover while the cc combination creates a four-leaf clover.

Now let's relate some clovers to us. The first example, the 50/50 chance, is the same as us humans having a boy or a girl. The father has XY chromosomes and can either give an X or a Y, while a mother has XX chromosomes and can give an X or an X. Place these in a Punnett Square and you see your 50/50 chance.

And that's the Punnett Square in the simplest of terms. Genetics is cool. This is just the beginning. Read on for more Punnett Square combinations if desired.

If we have a father and a mother with three leaves each and a genetic make-up of Cc each, we'd get three different combinations (CC, Cc, cc) and a 25% chance of a four-leaf clover.
If we did a father and a mother with three leaves each and the father with a CC make-up and a mother with a Cc make-up, there is a 0% chance of a four-leaf clover, because there's only one combination Cc, and the dominant gene will always repress the recessive gene.


These is My Words: A Review

My sister suggested this book as a quick read, and it was. Truth be told, it took me a few days to get through the first 20 pages (I find that I just fall asleep if I'm not into a book) but once it got going, I finished it in 2 days. I read any spare moment I had: while Oliver was napping, while the pasta was boiling, while I was waiting for Jess to brush his teeth before retiring. All this reading these days, I guess I'm making up for all of the times I didn't read as a kid.

This book is a first person narrative written in the form of a diary. Sarah Agnes Prine, a woman living in the Arizona Territories around the late 1800s, writes of her experiences traveling across the territory, interacting with Indians, fighting off bandits, dealing with sadness, falling in love, and raising a family. A lot of the story centers around her relationship with Captain Elliot, a man who leads a wagon train where she's a fellow traveler. Nancy Turner, the author, does an excellent job articulating a healthy relationship, making statements about trust and moments of silence that rang very true to me. Does that make you want to read the book? It should. This was a story with a touch of real life, real romance, and real hardship. A combination for success that passed my test.


Mother's Day

"There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman."
Elder M. Russel Ballard

"God could not be everywhere, and so He gave us mothers."



As requested, here's a bit of film of Oliver walking. This was taken about 1.5 weeks ago, so by now he's a little faster and smoother. It's amazing how fast they learn new things, improve upon them, and go onto the next thing. He just loves to walk. And we are totally lovin' too.


bp's science: the "miracle" of the four leaf clover (v.1)

It's warmer these days, and that means lots of walks. Along one of our regular routes there are a lot of clovers. The child in me searches for a four leaf gem among the three leafed plants every time we stroll by. I remember finding one in my yard as a kid. I thought myself quite lucky. Have you found one in your lifetime?

Turns out 1 in 10,000 clovers is a four leaf clover. They happen rarely in nature because they happen by chance. A chance that a gene mutates on its own, or scientists theorize, a chance that the environment causes a gene to mutate, or that a recessive gene causes a fourth leaf to grow. Turns out one company claims they can increase the chance of the four leaf aberration to 1 in 41. Through my internet research (and I certainly understand the downfalls of such research), I wasn't able to find out if they've actually found the specific gene that mutates or how they increase probability of a four leaf clover happening (they claim they add a secret genetic ingredient). What I was able to discover is how much superstition surrounds the four leaf clover. I even found instructions on how to find one (i.e., get relaxed, feel your heart direct you to the clover, be patient, etc.). So, if you've still had no luck and your interested in purchasing a 1 out of every 41, just see here. As for me, I'll stick with just looking and the science. Too bad there isn't much of it on this topic. I need to go to the library.

Come back next week for explanation on this gene stuff and fun with the Punnett Square!

picture found here


Fast weekend

Our weekend was fun and fast and filled with good stuff: an earlier than usual arrival of Jess home from work (always a reason to celebrate), a visit to the Arboretum (very neat hidden gem), a foosball tournament (2nd place ain't too shabby), a successful Primary class (games are key!), a crockpot meal (first Sunday goodness), and a lovely walk to discover a park nearby (yipskip!) all made it superb. Looking at big turtles at the Garden and eating fresh strawberries makes for some good times too.