Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Intelligent Foods

Suddenly we have way too many intelligent foods. Surely someone did a market research study and revealed, again, that people are gullible. Specifically, that people like it when their foods have the word “Smart” in the name. (I am totally making this up, by the way.)

Over the last few months I’ve been compiling an informal list of these irritating products.

1. SmartWater
I thought I would start with the absolute worst one and get it out of the way. There are so many reasons to hate bottled water (http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/) as it is, and the Coca-cola company has given us yet another. Is there anything that you can do that is more smug than pulling a bottled water out of your backpack? Yes, there is. Pulling out a bottle of SmartWater. I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: if you pay a couple of bucks every day for something that comes out of a tap in your house, almost for free, and flows from fountains in every public building, how smart are you, really?

Alternative names for SmartWater:
1. SmugWater (probably the most appropriate)
2. SuckWater (harsh, but fun)
3. DumbWater (yeah, I went there)
4. ToiletWater (not really)
5. AssWater (sorry)

2. Smart Links

Veggie Links, maybe. But if you want to get nit-picky, real sausage comes from a vertebrate with a central nervous system while this stuff comes from comparatively stupid soybean plants.

3. Smart Balance

This is a brand of various fatty condiments (margarine, peanut butter, etc.), the idea being that you can make them out of healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats. While this is probably not a bad idea, you’re still eatin’ grease. Full disclosure: I have Smart Balance mayonnaise in my fridge right now.

4. Smart Chicken

No, it’s not.

5. Smartfood

Smartfood I can almost forgive because they were doing this before it was cool. That is, before it was common. I remember Smartfood from the 80’s so maybe they shouldn’t be lumped together with these bandwagoneers. Still, though. Eating a bag of white cheddar flavored popcorn is rarely a "smart" idea. Perhaps only in times of winter or famine.

Douglas Adams had some thoughts on this as well:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Because We've All Had Nightmares About Sabre-fights With Skeletons

For Halloween last year I posted that great skeleton fight scene from Jason and the Argonauts, which I hope you watched. I just found this on youtube. A video that shows every movie creature Ray Harryhausen ever made, in about four and half minutes, to the music of Tito Puente!

Harryhausen on CGI: "I've always believed that stopmotion adds something to the nightmare quality... If you make it too real, like CGI, it loses that fantasy quality."

Friday, September 03, 2010

Honors & Horrors

I don't know where they get their email lists from, but the U of U sent me this flier today.

I can't tell if this is to help me get oriented or to help me get murdered.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Harry Potter's Butterbeer Recipe (Old Fashioned Carbonation Method)

There are lots of butterbeer recipes on the internet, but this one is better than all of them, I promise! Here's why: While all of them taste like butterscotch, this is the only one that has a yeasty brewed flavor as well. I haven't tried adding hops yet (which would make it taste even more like beer), but that is probably worth trying. I've included it in the recipe as an optional ingredient. This recipe should make a soda that has a great rich yellow color and foams like beer. Optional ingredients are in parentheses.

Harry Potter's Butter Beer

4 qts. water
3/4 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
1 T vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring OR butterscotch flavoring
(dash nutmeg)
(1/2 oz. fresh grated ginger OR dash ginger powder)
(1 t. molasses)
(1/4 C apple cider vinegar)
(1/4 oz. mild hops pellets)
(1 t root beer extract)
1/8 t ale yeast or bread yeast

1. Heat 2 of the 4 quarts of water while adding the sugars, flavoring extracts, and optional ingredients (but not the yeast). Dissolve the sugars and let the other ingredients simmer for about 20 minutes.

2. Cover and let the mixture cool until you can comfortably hold your clean finger in it for more than a few seconds. Strain the grater ginger, hops, fresh grated nutmeg, etc. out of the liquid. If you didn't use any fresh herbs, you don't need to strain it.

3. Add the remaining water. By now the mixture should be at about room temperature. If it is warmer than 90° F, wait until it cools before adding the yeast.

4. Dissolve the yeast in a little water or some of the butterbeer mixture (about 1/4 cup) for a couple minutes. Pour the liquid into the rest of the mixture and stir or agitate.

5. Bottle the liquid in any sanitized plastic soda bottle with a resealable cap. You can use a two-liter bottle, or a single serving bottle as long as it previously contained soda and you can seal the cap tightly. Even better, use a sanitized bail-top beer bottle (such as Grolsch or Lorina) or any sanitized beer bottle if you have a capper. Leave 1 or two inches of air space at the top so that the yeast has some oxygen to consume while it carbonates your butterbeer. You neen enough bottles to equal about one gallon or 4 liters.

6. After capping the bottles, store them in a warmish place for 2-4 days, then refrigerate.


1. While the ingredients in parentheses are optional, you should try to use at least two or three of them. Otherwise your butterbeer will taste kind of boring and unsubstantial.

2. Plastic bottles are nice because they're easy to get and you don't need any expensive equipment. You can also squeeze plastic bottles to see if they are carbonating (if they become hard, then they are carbonating). Glass bottles are nice because they are classier and seem more "wizardy". They are also less likely to burst. If you have both, it is probably worth doing one plastic bottle as a "tester" bottle and the rest glass.

3. Speaking of bursting, don't leave your sodas out of the fridge for very long after they're carbonating, otherwise they can overcarbonate and/or explode. Storing them in the fridge slows the yeast growth almost to a standstill, but not completely. You should drink your butterbeer within one month in order to keep them from bursting in your fridge.

4. Open the butterbeer SLOWLY or over the sink, since it can be very foamy depending on which ingredients you used.

5. I haven't tried butterbeer as a "float", but I bet its very good.

6. If you can't find butterscotch flavoring or vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring, you can try using Hershey's butterscotch syrup (but omit some of the white sugar from the recipe) or you can try 1 t vanilla, 1 t butter flavoring, and 1 t almond flavoring.

7. If anyone uses hops, post a comment here and tell me how it turned out!

8. Some people prefer a sweeter soda than others. For me it depends on how much I'm drinking. If you're using 8 oz. or smaller bottles, make it sweeter. If you're using 12 oz. or larger, make it less sweet. If you make a large bottle of soda too sweet, most people will get sick of it by the end! That's why Pepsi beats Coke in a one-sip taste test, but people prefer to buy entire cans of Coke. The recipe is a good in-between amount of sweetness that will work for smaller or larger bottles.

9. While natural carbonation does produce some alcohol, the alcohol content for this soda should be less than 0.5%. I would compare it to O'Douls or Fentiman's botanical sodas, both of which can be purchased by minors. If it helps, I'm Mormon and I drink homebrew soda all the time and even bring it to church activities. Nobody seems to mind.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Two races

In 2005 (I believe) eped and I swore off paying other people for the privilege of running. Aid stations are nice, but its easy enough to hide some bottles of water yourself if its going to save you anywhere from $20 to $70. I've only broken that vow twice since then, once for the Blue Mountain Triathlon last year and once for the Splash and Dash Biathlon.

We've organized our own free races since then, including the Wasatch Plateau Marathon, the 4.01k, and the Masquerade Parade 5k. So its with some minor discomfort that I'll be paying for two events this fall.

The Dirty Dash 10k, from the looks of it, will be a messy steeplechase-type deal. I'm looking forward to it mostly for the "Surprise obstacle" in mile 5.
Sept. 25th. at Soldier Hollow. $35

The second one I'm doing it partly because my friend is the race director, and mostly because it is just a great idea: At The Night of the Running Dead 5k you show up and run from zombies, or register as a zombie, wait an extra minute at the starting line, and chase the normals. I don't know which one I'll be yet.
Oct. 9th at Pioneer Park. $15

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I just saw Inception, which of course, is part II in Christopher Nolan's Cillian Murphy Wears a Bag Over His Head saga.

Edit: I forgot that Scarecrow also appears in The Dark Knight. I guess its a trilogy after all!

Friday, July 23, 2010

That Swirly Pattern

Every time I check google analytics, I see that about half of my blog traffic comes from people looking for actual swirly patterns. It makes me feel bad, kind of like a spammer, and its also thrilling, kind of like rick-rolling someone.

Last month two different people wandered in here with the question "What do you call that one swirly pattern with all of the swirly things?" or something like that, and all my blog did was delay their answer. Well never again! For all of you, it's called the Paisley pattern if this is what you're talking about.

It's the pattern of bandannas, cowboy shirts, and old suitcases and its named after Paisley, Scotland even though it is Indian in origin. If you want more info than that, I'll let you continue your google-based research.

While were at it, my current background pattern is known as a Florentine.

PS, eped was right. I liked the paisley pattern way before it was cool.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

43 things. (Buckets, etc. part 2)

43 things is far less self-indulgent than Esquire's 75 things.

1. Jump out of an airplane.
2. Live in Alaska.
3.See a wolf in the wild.
4. See a wolverine in the wild.
5. Have a Bigfoot, ghost, alien, chupacabras, skinwalker, or other mythical being encounter.
6. Get knocked out cold.
7. Publish a book.
8. Visit Asia.
9. Visit the Southern Hemisphere.
10. Be interviewed on TV or Radio as some sort of expert or witness.
11. Live abroad.
12. Have kids.
13. Get a graduate degree.
14. Bungee jump.
15. Do one or more years of humanitarian service abroad.
16. Raise llamas.
17. Keep Bees.
18. Find a meteorite.
19. Find a dinosaur fossil.
20. Skinny dip in the ocean.
21. Fast for 72 hours (drink only water).
22. Complete a summer triathlon.
23. Read a thick piece of Russian literature.
24. Read an entire non-children's book in Spanish.
25. Do a perfect flip and dive off a diving board.
26. Break 200 in bowling.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Win first place in a 5k for my age group.
29. Read an entire novel in a day.
30. Solo bear encounter.
31. Spend an entire day naked.
32. Save a drowning person.
33. Be on the news.
34. Win an eating contest.
35. Sell a piece of art or handicraft to a stranger.
36. Give something anonymously.
37. Be an extra in a movie shown in theaters.
38. Give a piece of life-changing advice.
39. Barefoot competitive 5k.
40. Write a letter to the editor that is published.
41. Go 24 hours without speaking.
42. Go to Burning Man.
43. Discover a new species.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Buckets, Lists, and Quarter-life Crises, Part 1.

For people not creative enough to come up with their own bucket list, Esquire has made one for you. 75 seems a bit ambitious though. I mean, I have to do like one or two every year to complete that kind of list.
Red = I've done it.
Green = I plan to do it or am in the process of doing it.
Black or white = Haven't done it, don't plan on it, or its too vague for me to know whether I've done it or not. Sorry that it switches back and forth; I ran into some trouble that had to do with my blog template. Black and white are the same.

1. Play Rugby
2. Repair an appliance 
3. Fly the red-eye from Vegas.
4. Fly a Cessna 
5. Make your own list of 75 things to do before you die. Its hard.
6. Fast for three days. Just drink water. 
7. Drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Or the Pacific Coast Highway.
8. Make a perfect Omelet.
9. Drive by yourself from coast to coast.
10. Recognize the accomplishments of others.
11. Do a flip off a diving board. Nail it.
12. Leave a letter for yourself in a library book. Look for it 20 years later.
13. Watch a bad movie so many times that you can quote it word for word.
14. Toboggan, aggressively.
15. Scuba Dive.
16. Drink Mescal in Mexico.
17. Cultivate a reputation.
18. Learn four chords on a guitar and play a song.
19. Live in a hotel suite for a week.
20. Milk a cow. Drink it.
21. Build a fence.
22. Carry a totem in your pocket.
23. Help someone dig out.
24. Pick an animal. Something cool like a wolverine. Go see it in the wild.
25. Shoplift.
26. Throw a real party.
27. Live outside the homeland.
28. Start something that scares you.
29. Choose a word or phrase and actively never use it again.
30. Eat mussels in Bruges.
31. Break a sheet of plate glass with a ball-peen hammer.
32. Cook the same thing over and over until you are known for it.
33. Overspend.
34. Have a threesome.
35. Quit something you love.
36. Take care of someone else's three-year-old for the day.
37. Get very good at a sport that isn't a sport.
38. Listen to war stories.
39. Tell war stories.
40. Write someone else's life story without mentioning yourself.
41. Sing in public.
42. Sell everything you don't need. Once.
43. Play golf at Carnoustie.
44. Play chess until you beat someone you shouldn't, then quit forever.
45. Give up your seat.
46. Kill, dress, cook, and eat wild game.
47. Attend the funeral of someone you didn't know that well.
48. Take a vow. Keep it.
49. Eat a six-course meal that you prepared.
50. Live at a high altitude.
51. Spend some time working for tips.
52. Overeat for a week.
53. Make a movie, even a short one.
54. Give a panhandler all your money.
55. Make beer, wine, or moonshine.
56. Read Lolita.
57. Have sex in a body of water.
58. Ride a horse.
59. Eat Congee. Eat Haggis. Eat Tongue. Eat Kidneys. Eat Brain. Eat Testicles.
60. Walk Twenty Miles. Bring Water.
61-63. Go to the desert. Take long-lasting drugs. Drink water.
64. Watch television for 24 hours uninterrupted.
65. Save something from the dump.
66. Climb something that you're afraid of.
67. Get a manicure.
68. Eat a two-course meal that you grew.
69. Get a deep-tissue massage.
70. Sleep outside for a week.
71. Put a hundred bucks on a long shot. To win.
72. Go to Paris. Tell no one where you are. Stay for two weeks.
73. Raise a dog.
74. Peg the speedometer.
75. Bungee jump.

Disclaimers: I flew a Navajo, not a Cessna. I milked and drank the milk of a goat, not a cow. I played golf in Paisley, not Carnoustie.

I've done 36 out of 75, or 48%. How did you do?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Best Crepe Recipe Ever

First of all, its fun to call them "Creeps" or to fake a french accent and pronounce it "Kweps". Having said that, here's how to make them:

1 Cup Flour
4 Eggs
1 and 1/2 Cups Milk
3 Tbsp. Melted Butter
3 Tbsp. Honey
1 tsp. Vanilla
Pinch Salt

1. Beat the eggs, then mix in the flour.
2. Blend in everything else.
3. Spread the batter very thinly onto a non-stick cooking surface of about 350°. When the crepe has solidified, flip it over and brown the other side. Makes about 10 eight-inch crepes.

Some things to remember:

Crepes are way better than pancakes. In every way. They are easier to make, they taste better, they're fancier, and they don't soak up syrup like a sponge.

Unlike pancakes, the batter makes even better crepes if you let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. I have no idea why this is.

This recipe is a SECRET recipe, according to the guy who gave it to me. That's why I'm publishing it on my unpopular personal blog rather than on my internationally acclaimed award-winning professional blog which I write under a pseudonym.

These crepes are also good with savory foods. Make an extra large one into a sandwich wrap, using the crepe like you would a tortilla.

This is the best pop-culture crepe reference in recent years.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Biophobia II

The earth is our enemy, I was taught. Does it not bring forth noxious weeds to afflict and torment man?
-Hugh Nibley

I really hate this animal. The first time I saw it was in an otherwise spotless public restroom at the U of U. It sped into my stall as I sat helpless, my legs immobilized by the jeans crumpled around my ankles. Thinking quickly, I tapped one foot which scared it into changing its course. It headed toward a drain in the floor and disappeared.

That was at least three years ago. Then just last January I turned on the sink to wash some dishes and another one (or the same one?) raced out of my garbage disposal toward the plate I was holding. I turned on the faucet, then the garbage disposal.

A quick google search of things like "legs drain insect fast" and "scary sink bug" revealed that I was being terrorized by a scutigera coleoptrata, also known by its overly-endearing common name, the house centipede. One message board described it as a the Satan spawn of a spider and a centipede.

Not to be presumptuous or anything, but I really think that the creation of such an animal was a bit over-the-top.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biophobia: More compelling than I once thought.

"Nature and I are two," filmaker Woody Allen once said, and apparently the two have not gotten together yet. Allen is known to take extraordinary measures to limit bodily and mental contact with rural flora and fauna. He does not go in natural lakes, for example, because "there are living things in there."

-David W. Orr, Earth in Mind

Last month I and another guide led a group of five teen girls to Welcome Springs in the Southwest corner of Utah, Near Ivins, Arizona, and Nevada. One night I found nine scorpions and the next day one girl almost stepped on a 4-foot rattlesnake.

The weirdest thing we found was definitely the horsehair worm. I was filling up my water bottle from a natural spring and one of the grass stems just didn't look right. I don't think there is any species with a better common name than the horsehair worm. Hearing the name is almost the equivalent of seeing it, although this one could have been called a spaghetti noodle worm. It was tan-colored and about 18 inches long.

Another of our girls (who described it as "beautiful") tried to cut it in half with the sharp edge of a rock, but couldn't even damage it.

I could kick myself for forgetting my pocket camcorder. So in case you're into nightmares, vomiting, etc. Here is a video of cricket, which is normally averse to water, following its own horsehair worm's advice to drown itself.

Its a shame (especially for Woody) that this is happening in someone's swimming pool; I guess after 100 million years of existence, they've gotten pretty good at wriggling into crickets, swimming pools, carpeted living rooms, or anywhere else they feel like going.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

April is the Coolest Month

This year you might have noticed Swirly Patterns' glaring omission of a post about how terrible Spring is. Sorry if you've come to rely on it, but things have been going quite well for me lately.

Monday, May 10, 2010

From Wikipedia:
Scorpions are also known to glow when exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light such as that produced by a blacklight, due to the presence of fluorescent chemicals in the cuticle. One fluorescent component is now known to be beta-Carboline.[18] A hand-held UV lamp has long been a standard tool for nocturnal field surveys of these animals. Fluorescence occurs as a result of sclerotization and increases in intensity with each successive instar.

 So naturally I had no choice but to purchase an ultraviolet flashlight from Amazon for my trip to Leprechaun Canyon. We found four scorpions around our camp the first night and five the second. This one was the largest we found, but was only about half the length of my thumb including the tail.

Here's how to sound like an expert next time you're talking about scorpions:
1. Don't call them "claws", but rather pedipalps.
2. Refer to the telson, not the "stingy-thingy".
3. Dogs shed but scorpions molt. (Their old exoskeletons also fluoresce under UV light).
4. When mentioning that scorpions have been around for more than 400 million years, say it very casually as though that is no big deal.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Recreation for the Time-Savvy

In these troubled economic times, we are working longer hours for less money. Who has time to go boating anymore? Well, thanks to Stonehaven Dental, who needs time for boating? Suckers, that's who.

Maybe you've seen their billboards on I-15 in Utah County, probably the only place for 100 miles where there are other equally strange billboards on either side. I don't typically pull over on freeways to take photos, so I'll describe them.

Billboard #1 depicts a gaping toothy mouth, into which a dentist's mirror is beginning to enter. Instead of the typical reflection of molar #2's backside, we see palm trees on a white sand beach with a cloudless sky over emerald-clear water. The headline reads: "Sedation...It's a Dream!"

Billboard #2, while not explicitly promoting nitrous oxide as a recreational drug, has subtler connotations. A Utah license plate reads "SED8ME". Maybe I'm alone here, but the first drug that makes me think of is Flunitrazepam. (That's a "roofie" for those of you without Wikipedia.)

Their website might further appeal to your hedonistic tendencies. Just look at this list of perks which, grammatical errors aside, sounds more like my sixth birthday party than an unpleasant medical exam:

The dental office can be scary, but at Stonehaven we know you will have a great visit, just look at all the cool stuff you get:
  • Fresh baked cookies
  • Personal Advocate
  • Guided Tour
  • Free Exam and X-rays
  • Laughing Gas
  • Free Gift
  • Toothbrush bag (with cleaning)
  • 0% interest"
Now I really wish I had dental insurance!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I saw a billboard for a business in Provo called "The Jerk Shack". I bet if I went there, they would offer me a job on the spot.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No frills

While looking into soap making, I found this website which has the simplest instructions for soap making I have ever seen, including this advice: "I know the trend right now is to add wonderful smelling scents and beautiful tints to homemade soaps. I have given up doing this because both the scents and the colors fade after a very short time, and to me it isn't worth the extra expense and effort."

It also has instructions for toothpaste, laundry detergent, and then a list of apocryphal-sounding cures for warts, arthritis, etc.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

They will let any idiot in a costume be on TV these days.

Park City TV, none the less. Their editing made me look even more inept, if that's possible.

Watch for me at the 2 minute mark. Then I'm in the background at about 2:17.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Soda, Sap, Snails, Soap

Some more for what might become an "obscure DIY project" label for this blog.

1. As we saw on the post before, soda making.

2. Today I tapped the silverleaf maple in my mom's backyard. It turns out you can tap any kind of maple, not just sugar maple. But silverleaf tend to require a 60:1 sap-to-syrup ratio as opposed to the sugar maple's slightly less towering 40:1 ratio. Good thing this sap is being used for soda and not for syrup. If you want in on this, now is the time. Tapping season in Northern Utah only lasts until mid-April or so. Sorry there's no photos; I didn't have my camera. I used PVC pipe and a milk jug.

3. Heliciculture is this idea I got from my friend Jed. My mom isn't totally sold on turning our old sandbox into a snail colony, but its not quite spring yet and I think I piqued her interest. As part of research and development, Jed and I will naturally need to prepare several batches of escargot at home using various species of snails.

4. Soap making. I did this at Birch Creek Ranch where I worked last summer and it was great fun. Plus I need something to do with all of the organic cracked wheat left over from work. I don't like eating it, but it makes for a nice abrasive surface in a bar of soap.

5. Paper making. According to my friend Andrew, this is harder than the internet makes it sound.

I hope to get this out of my system this summer since I will likely be returning to school in the fall. If you want to sample any of the results of these projects, you should invite me to your birthday party or bring me some of your homemade suckers or something.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Welcome to the Medicine Show

Working for a wilderness therapy program exposes one to various people in transitional periods of their lives, to put it lightly. They are pleasant, peace-loving folk for the most part, who probably should have been alive for the 60s but missed out for some meaningless (or perhaps cosmic) purpose.

One of my coworkers has learned to make kombucha, an indian cultured tea which I find to be bitter and oddly appealing. He said that he is working on an instructional booklet about how to make it, and he knows that I would like a copy when its finished. The selling point of kombucha is that it contains an active symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Who wouldn't be interested? I'm also told that kombucha balances out your energies. Well its about time!

He's not the alone. The Summums produce "nectar publications", alcoholic drinks that are infused with truths which are absorbed into your subconscious when the nectar is drunk before a meditation session. They make "seven of an expected twenty-seven" different flavors! I am not eligible to drink them though--only those who have been through an initiation ceremony are allowed. But if I were, I know which flavor I would choose: Sexual Ecstasy.

I think I am basically on the same page here. I've been making sodas these past few months. I haven't worked out a Sexual Ecstasy flavor yet, but I've perfected a killer ginger beer, a caffeinated cola with real coca extract, a fizzy spiced grape, one that tastes like a ginger snap, root beer, birch beer, blueberry, and licorice soda, which really is like drinking a bottle of liquid good and plentys. They might even balance your energies or impart truths to your subconscious, but so far the FDA has ignored all of my letters asking for them to evaluate those statements. I guess you'll have to try one and then get back to me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Headline: Cool Costume No Sub For Skill

In my defense, it was a choppy ride, and the rope jerked me in midair and pulled me off balance. Seriously! Watch it frame by frame if you don't believe me! My favorite part is the weird voice that says "Oh, No!" right after I roll.

Click the video twice to watch it at Youtube. That way the side doesn't get cut off.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ideas for Names for When I Found My Own Country

1. Brooksylvania
2. New Brookston
3. TR-akistan
4. Brooksfoundland
5. Brooksitania
6. Remingtonton

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I didn't make any resolutions this year.