Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I don't know why doing things that are good for you is hard. I have no trouble reading all the books I get from the library in one sitting or watching too much TV or eating that one last piece of cake.

But no more! This year I am determined to do all of those things that I haven't been doing that I want to do. That is the odd thing. I want to have done them, I just don't like doing them. Or I do like doing them, but it is easier to do nothing instead.

To commemorate my determination here is a poem by Ogden Nash:

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
By Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter in Iowa

While Leila was gone at her sister's wedding, I was bored. Sometimes I complain that I don't get much done, but the truth is that I enjoy not getting anything done with Leila around. Much better than productivity while alone.

So, as part of my grand plan to keep myself busy, I searched the internet for plans for a workbench. I have pretensions of doing woodwork. There are a few things I learned again about myself in the process:

1. I cannot cut a straight line. No really. I measure twice, cut once, sand, cut again, sometimes with a new board.

2. I don't really like power tools. I much prefer hand tools. The kids can be in there playing while I work that way, and I cut crooked lines slower and have a better chance of correcting it before finishing.

3. I am an overacheiving perfectionist. If I could cut straight lines, I would dovetail every joint. But, I don't have a lot of patience with myself. I remember making pinewood derby cars when I was a kid. In my head I had a vision of this sleek, shiny car that would speed down the track. Instead in my awkward hands I usually had a rather blocky thing whose wheels fell off halfway down. When I start a project now I still have a platonic ideal of what I want in my head and when it begins to fall short I get frustrated with myself rather quickly.

4. I enjoy planning as much or more than the execution. I spent hours looking at pictures of peoples benches and plans on the internet. We looked through plans and designs and I tried to force myself to simplify my designs to something I could actually make.

5. I may not have all of the skills developed yet, but I can sure make stuff sturdy.

6. Working with Aleah is great for the ego. She continually says things like, "That looks gooood, Brian. That is a goooood cut." - As a side note, she still continually calls me Brian, instead of Dad.

The design I settled on was a simplified version of this bench:

I took the dimensions, put in butt joints instead of dovetails, designed a frame for the top instead of joined maple, removed the tool hollow, left room to add a bench vise, and planned to build it out of cheap lumber I could find at Menards. I decided to build the top out of 2.5" hardwood plywood. This is pricey stuff, but they make thick plywood planks for using as floor or roof joints. They are thick, heavy, full of resin, and seemed to be made of mostly hardwoods, and much much cheaper than even the 3/4" plywood. So I got a 10"x 12' board and cut it in half for the top.

I also found Spax lag screws. They are supposed to hold up to 5000 lbs of force and have serrated edges that are supposed to help drive them in and grip without splitting the wood. I was concerned and so still drilled guide holes. But, they sure hold tight.

So this is the finished bench:

From from phone

Here are the girls trying it out. Note, Emily in the future is likely to be embarrased by her hair here. In my defense, I did make her brush her hair while Leila was gone, and I did bathe them. She wears this hooded sweater nonstop and it kinda makes her head a static magnet.

From from phone

From from phone

Me with the fam, not getting work done while Leila was back:

From from phone

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Broken computer, broken camera, busy = few posts

I am afraid Leila and I both have posted very little over the last month. Part of that is I have been busier than expected at work. The other part is our computer hard drive started making strange sounds and then sometimes wouldn't spool up. The operating system wouldn't boot and it just sat at the Compaq startup screen for as long as you sat there.

I took it to Best Buy and they said if the hard drive was dead it would cost 1500 dollars to recover our pictures and files from my dissertation that we desperately wanted to keep. The guy at the desk said that if I put the hard drive in the fridge and hit it on the corner with a hammer just right it would start working again, for a little while. So I put it outside in the cold and then hit it on the side of the desk. I got it to start up and then took it back to Best buy for them to transfer it to a new external hard drive. I am still amazed at how advanced computer storage has become. The smallest one they had was 320 gb! I still have my laptop I bought in college that has less than 200 mbytes of total memory.

The camera is broken also. So no pictures and only a computer if I bring my work laptop home. We are still here and we will try to post more often. Heaven knows I have opinions and stories about my kids.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fall Gardening

When my mom was here visiting this August she helped us plant a small garden by the kids playground. She planted a circle of lettuces, a mix of greens, two lines of carrots, two lines of spinach, some onions, and a pumpkin plant. I planted some cabbages and collard greens later. It is now November and we are still harvesting lettuce and small carrots. It has been particularly easy since most of the weeds are done for the year.

We also are trying to grow greens and herbs in our sunroom this winter. So far the lettuce and the cilantro are thriving but the basil is weak and spindly.

So the plan right now for next year is to replace some bushes in the flower beds with berry bushes, finish the raised beds, replant our fall garden space, and put peppers and strawberries in the flowerbeds. I think kale and cabbages look great in flower beds also.

It is odd not having the little farm in Indiana. I still miss it. I miss the idea of it maybe even more than the actuality of it. The simplicity of a smaller yard with established landscaping is so much easier. And I do so love our house here in Iowa. No pig to root up the yard, or cows to round up, or worrying about raccoons and the chickens. But at the same time, I was very proud of dealing with all of our farm problems.

Maybe I will get bees. Or try to farm chickens under our porch or out of our shed. Or buy a cow and put it in a rented pasture.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why parents are always tired:

I read stats blogs like Leila reads quilt blogs - looking for good graphing techniques so I can make my stuff look good.

One of them had a link to a hilarious article from the New York Times

Here is just a few of Christoph Niemann's explanations for why it is hard to get a good night's sleep:

Perception vs reality of ease of sleeping and being awake.

Why sleeping with a child in bed = not sleeping and no procreation.

Summary of nightime distractions

The summer is coming to an end

But I wish it wouldn't.

Chris complains that photos without captions are mostly meaningless. Too true, but here are a few of what we were up to the last month in a slideshow, without captions.

To appease Chris, the corn is a white sweetcorn from Seminis that is my new favorite called "Devotion." And I now am a devoted fan. The hands are Aleah's with her collection of caterpillars from the sweet corn. I think she had 10 or so at one time. The rest speak for themselves.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Remembering Norman Borlaug

I just learned that Norman Borlaug has died. He was at Texas A&M while I was there, although he didn't teach classes and was constantly travelling, speaking at conferences or to politicians. He was in his late 80s and early 90s when I met him, yet he still worked harder than most of the professors.

He had a yearly discussion with the plant breeding students where he would reflect on his past and tell us stories about starting CIMMyT, travelling through India, his efforts to establish farm to market roads in Africa, and his ideas about what we need to do to continue to feed the world.

He was one of the greatest men of our age. Most people don't know who he is, even though he won the Nobel prize, the world food prize, the congressional and presidential medal of honor.

Norman Borlaug developed semidwarf wheat, which shortened the plants while increasing yields. Simultaneously introducing disease resistance and eliminating photoperiod response helped make his varieties adaptable around the world. Using his ideas semidwarf rice and sorghum are also grown worldwide. He wasn't alone in this effort, but because of that worldwide yields have more than doubled. I read once that yields in parts of India and Central America have increased 5 times because of Norman's work. He also was an unwavering advocate for mechanization, chemical fertilizer, development of genetic pest resistance, and use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Modern agriculture reflects his views. The modern world exists because his ideas worked.

My 2005 post after meeting him at A&M.

The Wikipedia entry on Norman Borlaug.

Friday, August 21, 2009

GM corn

Anti GM mural from Mexico taken by one of my BYU profs.

The bigger fear should be the loss of diversity, not because of genetically modified grain, but from hybrids and improved varieties.

The complicating factor is that hybrids can outyield old landraces by so much that as a farmer I would want the elite hybrid, even though the old landrace has more genetic diversity, because farming is a business. And more yields = more money. Genetically modified corn is also much less work to grow. Roundup is easy to spray. It breaks down quickly in the soil and sun and has a low toxicity. Weeding mechanically takes a lot more time and labor. BT and other disease resistance genes make it easier to get reliable yields without having to spray for borers and other caterpillars that eat corn. You still have to spray for other bugs. That equates to more time not taking care of corn.

I worry about the loss of genetic diversity. I worry about the loss of small farmers.

Yet still I am a corn breeder. I don't think we should go back to landraces that yield less than 100 bushels per acre on the very best ground. The question to me is how do we continue to increase past 200 bushel an acre corn yields and not decrease genetic diversity. How to do that and support local and small farmers. How to do that and make farming profitable and sustainable as a lifestyle and a part of our environment.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Research related

With all of the changes at my new job I am spending way more time thinking and reading scientific literature than I have in a long time. (I am typing this with one hand because I am bouncing a fussy baby with the other, impressive, no?)

Web and book finds:

Analysis of messy data
by George A Milliken, PH.D., Dallas E Johnson, Milliken A Milliken

I will quote the insightful reviewer from Alibris, Drpopcorn (That is me by the way!):
"Johnsen and Milliken have assembled in these three volumes clear advice on how to handle real world data. No other statistical textbooks come close to the practicality of these three volumes. The others sit on the shelf after the statistical coursework is over; you might as well sell them back and take the few bucks and go out to eat. These though should be carted around from job to job long after college courses are done. They cost a fortune, but they are worth it."


Facebook for real nerds. None of the stupid quizzes or constant updates, just what research papers people are reading. They have desktop software that organizes your pdfs and keeps track of bibliographies like endnote, but it is free as long as you realize they are gathering info on your reading habits and presumably selling it to someone that cares. The software lets you annotate pdf files with questions, highlights, and comments. It also will insert bibliographies into Word for you. I love it. I wish I had it years ago.

my new prescription safety glasses. I have looked at every glasses store in the greater Des Moines area and these were the best that I could find.

Leila and the baby.

Emily wearing my work hat.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So many places to go

Leila and I have been looking at our calendar and thinking about when and who we can go visit. The problem is that we would like to go so many places and see so many people. Besides the limiting factor of money time just isn't going to let us go and do all that we would like. Maybe we will try and escape this winter from the Iowa winter winds and cold.

Leila's = Gig Harbor, Washington and Provo, UT. Leila and the girls went to Gig harbor this summer and Leila's mom came here to visit just a few weeks ago. But I still would like to go. I love Seattle.

Mine = Boise, Idaho, Pocatello, ID, Washington DC, Florida, Texas, not to forget my cousins that live "close" in Nebraska. My dad even lives in Hawaii - not that I have plans to visit him, but Hawaii would be fun and I would stop and say hi if I was there. I need to go visit Anna sometime in Florida. I never have been and Mike has all of the cool toys. I would like to go to visit Aunt Sandra again and see all the changes around her farm, especially now that we don't have ours. I haven't been to Boise in ages and would like be at Mom's house and see grandma and Bob. I have a quite a few cousins there that I haven't seen really since highschool that I would like to catch up with. Marc lives near all the museums and excitement of DC and I would like to see him there also.

New York City
Lafayette, IN
Bryan, TX
Soda Springs, ID

Places we just want to go for no other reason than it's cool:
Anywhere in Europe - especially Belgium, France, Hungary, Stockholm.
Iceland - I have always wanted to go there. I see pictures and for some reason it seems like one of the most interesting places to me.
Cairo - one of the towns like London that need no designation of Country of Origin. The pyramids are there. Any questions?

If I forgot you and you want us to add you to our list of places to visit, please let us know. Or come and visit us in Iowa! I know it does not have the pyramids or culture of Europe, but we are here and we have a spare bedroom! We will feed you well and keep you up late talking. The kids will play. We can look at some corn. Just come.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Aleah's recipe

From Junejuly 2009

Food is important at our house. This is a recipe that I copied down for Aleah as we were making it. I told her we would make whatever she wanted for dessert and this was her idea for cookies. It really wasn't a good cookie batter so we cooked it in the muffin tins and it was quite good.

Note: The two small cups of cocoa were about a third of a cup. I added a teaspoon and a half of baking powder also.

From Junejuly 2009

This is Emily's recipe she made at the same time. We will let you know how it is.

From Junejuly 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Musings on life, death, and the meaning of it all.

June 22nd has come and gone again.

I am not sure why I am writing about this here or now. We don't do anything to mark this date, but the day passes and I catch myself thinking, Brian would have had his birthday today. Baby Kate came close to being born on the same day as her stillborn brother. He would have been 6 years old this year.

When he died, people tried to comfort me, but inside I seethed. No words about how he was in a better place or how children that die early were too pure for this mortal realm made me feel any better. It all rang hollow. I have always believed that there was a plan and a purpose to life, and this seemed to scream that life was full of pain and pointlessness and any plan that involved this was not one I wanted. I just couldn't see why God would do this to us, to me.

I read Connie Willis' book "To Say Nothing of the Dog" over and over again in the months after Brian was born. It is not a philosophy book, or a spiritual guide. It is pulp science fiction, but it is full of randomness and debate about the nature of "The Grand Design." while the main characters try to find the bishop's bird stump, a particularly ugly vase missing from Coventry Cathedral from World War II. They travel through time and change the past by saving a cat from drowning and bringing to the future. The main character falls in love with another time traveller as they try to repair the changes they have made in the 1800's before the future is changed irrevocably. The problem they find is that the solution is not what they thought it was, nor was the problem. They didn't have all the information and were wrong about what was needed to fix it.

I don't know if I can really say this how I mean to. On the page it seems preachy and incomplete. I want to say how I see this as a chaotic network, not clockworks, or a plot in the book. The things that are important to directing history may be small, they may involve death and pain, they may not make any sense to us on the ground at the time that it is happening and why. But, if we could understand the whole pattern we would see what really mattered. There was a story in the Ensign soon after his death where a couple faced a similar situation and they prayed, had a blessing and the baby was born alive. Why their's and not ours? I asked myself. The problem is I don't have all the information. Maybe there was a reason their's was saved and mine not. but maybe there is randomness in the equation.

Oddly, it is comforting to realize that I was wrong about world. I still think there is a plan, but I had a very simple view of it before. God's plan for the world includes randomness, pain, free will, temptation, sin, suffering, chaos, death, destruction, evolution, sex, growth, punishment, reward, and unjustness; all that we look around us and see. It includes beauty, success, love, mosquitoes, cholera, first kisses, camp outs, war, computers, fleas, mites, elephants. All of it matters. I just don't know how.

There is a plan he is in control, but it isn't like I envisioned. I can't see it like god is the grand puppetteer writing a script to a play where my son dies and I learn my lesson. He is the creator. It is like being a parent to the universe. You create it and it grows and exists. People die in this world. Even good people.

I even think that God is directing the outcome of this huge creation, but I don't see his control as heavy handed as I once did. I think it is interesting that according to chaos theory there is a pattern in randomness. That chaotic systems can develop order. Sometimes that order is hard to see though. How do you change and control a chaotic system? Sometimes small and indirect actions have a large effect on the system. Sometimes large ones have no effect because the interactions are self sustaining. Somehow that makes not understanding feel better.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Katherine Alma Gardunia - that is what we wrote down on the form, but now we are having name regrets. We were about to leave with "Baby Girl" Gardunia, but the nurse pressured us into writing something. So we did. I think we may knickname her Becca.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Girl" Gardunia

9 lbs 10 ounces - length - I am not sure.

Leila came in to be induced at 6 this morning. By the time we got everything filled out and questions answered it was after 8. They started her on a pitocin drip and by 11 she was having regular contractions. The doctor broke her water around noon and then leila had an epidural. She was born just after 1 PM. The epidural only numbed one side so Leila was not very happy for a little while, but it went fast.

She was big enough that her shoulders almost got stuck.

She already has double chins and chubby cheeks.

The biggest problem is that we don't have a name at all!

That and I left the digital camera sitting on my desk. Hey, it was 5 AM. I thought it was in the bag. I bought a disposable camera at the lobby, so none of the pictures will probably turn out.

For names we have considered:
Katherine - Kate? Marie
Rebecca - Becca
Sara Jane
Ann (Marie)
Chubbs {Double Bs for double the chins}
Evangeline (Evie)

Going to the Hospital

Leila and I are off to the hospital to have this baby.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The rest of the story

Leila wrote about some of the move, and I agree the move itself went smooth, but it was a stressful couple of days.

My last day at work was the 15th. After that I was at home trying to get some things done, but I found I could spend my whole day just hanging out and get not much done. But, I cleaned out the barns, picked up tools, organized the garage, the basement, washed the windows, replaced the broken pane in the living room, worked my way through the relocation company checklist, mowed, cleaned out the flower beds, and when the movers came felt like we were ready to go.

The movers were great. The two of them moved our piano like it was no big deal. They packed everything Thursday. Then Friday morning they loaded the truck. They parked on the street and wheeled everything from the house all the way out to the road, about half a block. I was impressed.

Friday afternoon Felicia Trembath came over to help clean and we cleaned the house from top to bottom. But, we still hadn't mopped the floors when it was time for us to go eat and so we decided to come back on Saturday morning and mop one last time. We ate with the new Merrills, and spent the night with the Cooks. All was going pretty well. Saturday we had a load of stuff in the trailer that I took to goodwill while Doug helped one of the Elders put up a swing set. Then we went and cleaned the floors in the house.

By the time we were done, it was really too late to hit the road Saturday so the Cooks offered us another night at their place and we would leave first thing Sunday. That afternoon I asked Tara if I could borrow their laptop so I could check email, blogs, etc. I sat down and opened my gmail account and the relocation company had sent me the results of the foundation inspection and had decided that in order for them to assist us in selling the house we needed to:

1. Replace one of the support beams in the basement

2. Install window wells with drainage for each basement window

3. Regrade the dirt around the house.

If we didn't do these things they would not assist us in selling our house, which we needed since we are committed to buying our new house in Iowa. I was so mad. I called and complained, I stomped around for about an hour trying to figure out what to do. The relocation company had an estimate for them to take care of it at 4300 dollars. I was about to scream.

Then I started calling around and got help from Aaron Trembath, Doug Cook, Kyle Merrill, Marriner Merrill, Marshal Winder, Cory Hansen, and Dwayne Harris. Aaron went with me to get fill dirt in his truck. Doug went to get supplies at Lowes. Everybody else brough shovels and rakes. We met at our house just as the rain hit. In the rain we filled the best we could with the dirt we could fit in the Trembath's truck and went to work digging the window wells. I made everyone stop because it was pouring hard for a while with lightning and thunder, but we were soon back at it. We stopped as it was getting dark and still raining, but we had a large part of the grading done, the window wells installed, and the post replaced.

I don't know what I would have done without their help. Aaron Trembath went back after we left and added gravel to the window wells and cleaned up the landscaping even. I owe them a lot.

I think I called in all of my favors that last night.

In the morning we left the Cooks and came to find the cat. we couldn't see her anywhere and Emily was frantic. I told her we could wait until 12:00 and then we needed to be on the road. we looked everywhere, but that cat was hiding out somewhere and of course didn't come when we called. We waited and looked until 1:00. (I have a weak spot for weepy girls. ) We said one last prayer and I walked all around our property and down the fence rows on either side. Just as I had given up and was on my way back to the car, I heard her in the bushes. When I emerged from the brush with her in my arms, the girls were nearly apoplectic with gratitude.

By then it was nearly 2:00 and we had a long ways still to go. We stuffed the cat in the travel box and drove away. The cat hyperventilated for the first few hours of the car ride, but then settled down and slept in the cat carrier. The girls were great in the car and slept most of the way. We made one stop for gas and got in time for bed at the new house.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dance Extravaganza

I will see if this works. I haven't uploaded a video before and I hope that I picked the right one. Emily and the Cooks put on a show last night for us. They had five different dances: "Fireworks", "Fireworks exploding", "Flowers Blooming", "Fish", and "Cinderella."

They each had different choreography and were even funnier with Colleen and Kenna following behind trying to imitate the bigger kids. Before their show, they were in the pasture rolling in mud and throwing mud at each other. We hosed them off and all of the kids wore Emily's clothes.

Cinderella's Dance
Staring: Harry (Prince), Ellie (Cinderella),
Emily (Music Director) and Aleah, Zoe and Kenna (the Orchestra).

We are really going to miss the Cooks. They have come over for dinner almost every Sunday for two years. They are moving also though, but it breaks our hearts to go and leave such good friends behind.

Friday, May 08, 2009

City mice

Now that the city/country mice debate has been settled temporarily I need some new city hobbies.

Community Gardening

We have discussed maybe trying to make a community garden/farm just outside of Huxley and then we could have the best of both worlds: neighbors, community, and fresh produce, dirt between my nails, and animals to pat.

Home gardening

Our house has a big city lot, but with a lot of shade. We are going to put up raised beds and maybe plant in the front yard where there is more sun. There is also a greenhouse off of the kitchen where I can grow tomatoes and starts for the summer.

from UC Davis tomato collection


There is a woodshop off of the garage. I have two cabinets I have been "making" for Leila for the last two years. They are still not done. Now I will not have an excuse. Except I would love a table saw. . .

I have wanted to try my hand at violin repair or construction for a long time. Maybe now is the time. I need:

1. A glue pot
2. A bending iron
3. Carving Chisels
4. Knowledge
5. Skills
6. Wood

There are two rivers nearby and a reservoir nearby. I have always like canoeing.

From Wikipedia

I have also wanted to:

Fiddle like

Recumbent bikes


This is actually happening!!!

The movers are coming. The house agreements are signed. The cows and pigs are gone. We don't even have a garden planted. The time of the move is coming fast!

I can't even write long sentences. Aaagh.

View Huxley, IA in a larger map

Thursday, April 23, 2009

10 yrs ago

It has been 10 years since Leila and I decided to get married. I don't say engaged, because it wasn't as formal as that yet. (Also, the word "engaged" makes me think of learning to drive, as in, "Engage the clutch, shift, disengage, and let out the gas. . . One more time")

The reports about Columbine reminded me. It isn't a date that we really have celebrated as an anniversary, but I remember riding in my ride to Boise's car and talking about how I had decided to marry Leila while the news tried to make sense out of the Columbine massacre.

It really was Anna's fault. That is how it all started.

Leila and I had been friends/study partners/in the same ward/dating since I had come back to BYU. I had been dating someone else early in the year and Leila and I weren't dating seriously. We studied genetics together, met for devotionals, ate sunday dinner together sometimes, and went country western dancing on Saturdays.

Right at the of the semester, Leila and I started to admit that we liked each other. I had an internship in Florida that summer and was going to be gone and I remember asking her near the Wilk one night if she would go on a date with me when I got back. She said maybe, we'll see.

Then, just as finals ended Anna got engaged. My best friend was planning on getting married August 13th and I had warned Anna not to get married that weekend because I wanted to go to Craig's wedding. She assured me she wouldn't, then changed her mind and set everything up for August 13th.

While I was walking Leila home that night, I joked that I should bring Leila home with me and tell my family that Anna can't have that day because we were secretly engaged to be married on that date already. Leila cocked her head, thought briefly, and said, "No, the 13th won't work for me."

Suddenly, it wasn't a joke. The funny thing is that it was such an easy decision to make. I agonize over everything, but not this. I said, when should we get married, and we were up most of the night discussing it. Not if, when.

Leila came over the next morning as I was packing and told me that she had talked to her family and the 20th would be a good time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Someone actually read my paper and used my algorithm

The Genetics of Domestication of the Azuki Bean (Vigna angularis)

Akito Kaga1, Takehisa Isemura1, Norihiko Tomooka and Duncan A. Vaughan2

National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences Genebank, Tsukuba 305-8602, Ibaraki, Japan

2 Corresponding author: National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences Genebank, 2-1-2 Kannondai, Tsukuba 305-8602, Ibaraki, Japan.

Genetic differences between azuki bean (Vigna angularis var. angularis) and its presumed wild ancestor (V. angularis var. nipponensis) were resolved into QTL for traits associated with adaptation to their respective distinct habits. A genetic linkage map constructed using progenies from a cross between Japanese cultivated and wild azuki beans covers 92.8% of the standard azuki bean linkage map. A reciprocal translocation between cultivated and wild azuki bean parents was identified on the basis of the linkage map having a pseudolinkage group and clustering of seed productivity-related QTL with large effect near the presumed breakpoints. In total, 162 QTL were identified for 46 domestication-related traits. Domestication of azuki bean has involved a trade-off between seed number and seed size: fewer but longer pods and fewer but larger seeds on plants with shorter stature in cultivated azuki bean being at the expense of overall seed yield. Genes found related to germination and flowering time in cultivated azuki bean may confer a selective advantage to the hybrid derivatives under some ecological conditions and may explain why azuki bean has evolved as a crop complex in Japan.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Two's a herd

Little cow has learned how to jump fences or squeeze between the wires. The little pig started it by squeezing under so it could follow me and the kids around hoping for handouts. Then Little cow had to be with her friend and started getting out too. Mama cow is then very disturbed and moos frantically because she is alone. The problem is that I can't find a hole in the fence or a low spot. I have repaired and strengthened and tightened almost every part. We are going to change pastures today and see if that helps.

About the move, I have decided I must have been insane@#*&^! We are committed now on both ends. My job knows I am leaving and I have given notice. The new job knows we are coming and I have signed a stack of papers committing to it, but I just can't see how it is going to happen. We have a list a mile long of stuff to do around the house while the dishes pile up and we are behind on basic household chores.

I think part of me wants my life to be hard and difficult.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Moving to Iowa, swimming upstream

I am afraid that Leila scooped me. She has written about our new job already!

Monsanto's recruiters have talked to me since I started at Ag Alumni. I know one of them well enough that I was cc'd on his email to friends and family about the birth of his daughter last year. This year they called me about a discovery breeder position. The coolest thing about this job is it lets me try all the newest technology and be creative in how to breed corn. The downside is that we are going to have to move to Iowa.

View Larger Map

Not that Iowa is bad, but I love our place here. I love the pastures, the run down barns, the grass growing out of control, the old trees I need to cut down, the chicken coop in the corn crib, the cows in the side pasture. My grape vines. The little orchard we planted. The spot we were going to put the above ground swimming pool. The strawberry patch. Did I mention we have woodcock's that live in the pasture where the field tile drains? There are owls and hawks, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, possums,doves outside the livingroom window, rats, mink, moles, and us. It is a little wild and feels always just out of our control and most of the time I really love it. There are times when the cows are at the neighbors and the pig is rooting up the backyard that I have wanted to load the kids in the car and move to town though.

I didn't want to say anything here because this is such a public forum and we hadn't decided yet. (I really didn't want my boss coming in to my office and wanting to know why I put it on the web before telling him.) Now we have to get our house ready to sell and find somewhere to live in Iowa. Again we need to decide if we want to be city mice or country mice again. Well, OK small town Iowa mice or country mice.

In these uncertain economic times it feels strange to even think about changing jobs. The housing market is crashed here and the big employers in town are laying people off. I feel like we may be trying to swim against the tide. I hope we will be able to sell our place and get settled again. My boss chided me a little on being a bit of a wanderer and we hope to be really settled this time. (Unless there is a cool job in Oregon or Idaho or Washington).

Wish us luck

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

google april fools 2009

Google has a tradition of silliness at April Fools. This year they have announced an artificial intelligence computer named CADIE that has its own blog and assists with a mobile application to search your brain when needed. It also will answer your email for you.

They also have an australian rugby ball that is mated to a cell phone and GPS. I need one just because I am hard on telephones and i think a rugby ball would be able to withstand dropping it in the mud and on the rocks and the street in Argentina.

They had better watch out though. Sarah Conners is likely to come after them. She doesn't joke about AI's.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aleah and Emily Stories

I used to tell the girls stories every night. Now they get one once and a while, but its hard to fit in with the three or four books Aleah picks, a picture book or two for Colleen, and a chapter book for Emily.

Rich asked me a long time ago to send him some of the stories that I tell them, and I have finally got around to putting some of them on paper.


Itsy Bitsy Emily was new to the neighborhood. She lives with frog near the mouse's hole. There are swallows in the morning chirping the morning news as they dip and dive. The beetles burrow busily. Garter snakes in the grass, rats, dogs, cats, and raccoons seem like distant threats spoken in whispers but the danger never felt, except to Mama mouse. Her husband had been out on a long explore and not return and she felt the potential for danger like a knife in her bosom.

There was a puddle beneath the downspout with a large chunk of cement where Frog and Emily lived. Flowers grew in the weeds arond the puddle. The frogs, toads, and lizards called, hissed, grumped, and lived in friendly competition around the small pond.

Everything should have been full of joy and discovery for Emily, but she was lonely and sad. No one knew quite what she was and Mama mouse wouldn't let her many children out of the hole until she was sure that Emily was not a threat. She was sure that mice would be more fun to play with and talk to than salamanders that loved to lay in the warm mud when the sun was high.

After moping about for a few days, Frog said, "enough, we need a party!" Emily nodded and Frog continued, "Yes, that is just the thing, a proper party with fried minnows, fly soup, roast grasshopper, and mosquito tea. We'll invite everyone in the neighborhood!"

Ohh, thought Emily. She wasn't picky in her own way, but Frog food always seemed to maker her feel green. She liked seeds, nuts, fruits, and nectar. She thought minnows were fine, but any soup with wings floating in it was blecch. The sparrows were proud to say that she ate more like a bird than anything else. The swallows disagreed, but hey, they liked bugs.

"Let's make seed cakes, with monkey button squares, and lemonade to drink too." Emily added. She was starting to be excited.

"Alas," said Frog,"We don't have any lemons or enough sugar for lemonade."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Argentina and Brazil take two

I wrote the text to this at home and then got distracted and forgot to actually press one of the buttons to save it. I hate it when I do stuff like that.

From Feb 2009
The Argentine Capital Building

Argentina makes me tired. Every year since I started at my job I have went to see the popcorn production fields and experiments in Argentina and Brazil. It is a fast paced 10-14 days filled with long flights, popcorn, and good food. The flight takes all night and I do sleep on the plane, but it's like sleeping on the couch with a newborn infant. Sleeping is interrupted constantly and there is a lot of shifting, uncomfortable positions, holding my eyes closed waiting to fall back asleep, and dreaming about holding my eyes closed waiting to fall back asleep. Sometimes I wake up to realize that the night is over, but I am not sure if I actually slept or just held really still with my eyes closed. I am pretty sure that I slept the whole time, it just doesn't feel like it.

When we get there we always head directly for the fields. After lunch, and bouts of driving, we walk through the fields until it is dark. Then we eat wonderful steak dinners or barbecued lamb until midnight. The next day starts early, we drive, we look at popcorn, we drive, we eat steak, we drive, eat, drive, eat some more, and then get to the hotel at midnight. I usually see nothing of Argentina but the popcorn fields and steak houses.

It is a great country for good eating. Lots of times we are in a hurry driving between fields and stop at gas stations to eat. Usually a waiter with a towel over one arm brings us the menu and we get steak, salad, rolls, and dessert. One time I got lasagna with homemade pasta, olives, proscuitto, italian sausage, and layers of cheese and fresh tomato sauce. At a gas station!

The landscape looks a lot like Illinois. There are rolling hills covered with fields of soybeans and corn. Sometimes there are farm houses surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees and manicured lawns. Other times there are unplowed fields of pampas grass and cattle.

From Feb 2009

This year, we had the weekend free in Buenos Aires. We stayed at Feir's Park hotel, which is right downtown, near Recoleta, the shopping district, and the wharf. There is a large park with huge flowering trees and street performers.

I took the subway one day until I was completely lost and came out blinking in the sun in a strange part of town. I wandered for most of the day. I felt so lost I bought a map and found out I was a mile or two from the hotel, but in the process saw the casa rosada - like the white house in Argentina, the capital building, wandered through two streets lined entirely with small jewelry shops, bought some tango music at a sheet music publishing shop, looked through used book stores, ate a steak sandwich, drew pictures in the park, and then finally came back to the hotel.

From Feb 2009

From Feb 2009

From Feb 2009 part two

From Feb 2009 part two

Monday, February 23, 2009

What happened to riverbend?

Sometime after the Iraq war started I read on the BBC website about these Iraqi bloggers that were telling their experiences during the invasion. I clicked on some of the links, and read a few of the blogs mentioned in the article. There was only one that I kept going back to as the war went on and on. It became such a part of my daily routine that it is bookmarked in the same folder as yahoomail, gmail, my blog, and a few friends/family's blogs.

It was written by a very literate Iraqi girl. I can't imagine her being older than me and probably is younger. She cited Emily Dickinson once in a while and wrote with painful clarity about the descent of Iraq after the invasion. She was very well educated.

She hasn't posted now for over a year.

Her last posts were about her family's escape to Syria. In her words:
Leaving Home...

Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.

. . . .

The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk- the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away- but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over- the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away.

I knew then as I know now that these were all just items- people are so much more important. Still, a house is like a museum in that it tells a certain history. You look at a cup or stuffed toy and a chapter of memories opens up before your very eyes. It suddenly hit me that I wanted to leave so much less than I thought I did.

. . .

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?

In her last post they are in Syria, refugees in a building with other Iraqi's. Unified by their exile.

Sometimes I click on her blog to see if anything has changed. I wonder if they are still there in Syria, if they returned to Iraq. If she died.

The internet has made the world a small place. Because with a click I can check on how my family is doing, see pictures of my nephews playing in Florida, and peek into the computers of someone a world away. But it is still an anonymous world in many ways. I don't know the girl's name that wrote as riverbend. She doesn't know me at all, but I felt like I knew her and E.

As she said, How is it that all of this lies just a mouse click away?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

We have new internet

For the last two years we have had the slowest internet on the planet. It was PeoplePC and if you sign up they were willing to give me one month free, but I beg you not to. I think they called it People PC because it was run like a Soviet Cooperative with rusting equipment and none of the right parts. It could have been run by the Company from the Hearts of Darkness. Mr. Kurtz probably heads the phone bank in the depths of the jungle somewhere.

We have new internet that is more like a sports car in comparison. Leila is now online and has started her own blog. She will steal all my readers no doubt, but since she is my wife I felt like I should give her free ad space here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Sam and Snow

From Drop Box

Saturday was like a kidney punch.

Emily and I went to the store to buy wood and parts for my eternal cabinet project, no it's still not done. While we were gone the wind picked up and the snow began to drift. We didn't get any new snow, but the old snow assaulted the roads and pushed cars into the ditches. It was easy to see the snow was winning. As we turned onto 1200 South we got stuck in a drift in the middle of the road. I got out to see how bad it was and if we could push it out. Emily jumped out too and somehow the car keys were locked inside. So there were were, now above knee deep in snow with the car running, locked. Stuck.

A guy in a truck stopped and offered to help us get out. It turns out he is a plant breeder too, what a wierd coincidence. He just moved back to town and is opening a new research center for Monsanto just miles from my house. He drove us home over the field - which was free of snow now that it was piled against my car. We drove around looking for chains and ended up at my neighbor's house, his second or third cousin (everyone from Indiana is related to all the other Hoosiers somehow, the ward pedigree is like that too). My neighbor got his bobcat and we all set out, loaded with chains, tow straps, and snow shovels to counterattack.

As we were driving over there, the bobcat got stuck. Then we were going around in the field and got stuck trying to get out on the road. A police officer in another 4 wheel drive pulled the good samaritan that was helping me. Then we dug out the bobcat, then we dug out my car. Just as we finished and I pulled my car back onto the blacktop, the snowplow came through, followed by a white truck going way too fast.

The white truck had just come from my house where he had run over my dog and killed Sam. Sam had chased something into the road and right in front of the truck. Leila watched it from the window and remembered thinking, "He is going to get killed if he runs in the road like that someday." Then the truck appeared, and Sam died pretty much on impact.

When I got home, Leila said something about Sam and I thought he had gotten into the neighbors garbage cans or something. But no, he was on the side of the road and she needed help to move him. We got him into the car and then wrapped him in a sheet in the garage.

The ground is frozen solid. We haven't been able to bury him yet so there he still is. I still can't believe it.

Then Sunday, my cows got out and I spent the whole morning at the same neighbor whose Bobcat got stuck trying to get my cows away from his cows and back in our pasture. What a weekend.

I had a dream that I was feeding the pig and Sam kept chasing it round and around the barn. I chased them, always just out of sight. When I turned around to yell at him, I realized that he wasn't there and then I was alone in the field with the snow swirling around me in the dark.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guantanamo Bay Closing!

Will write more later, I am at work, but I have to say that this is some of the best news I have heard:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In love with Pandora Radio

My brother Jon mentioned this site to me a while back but my boss showed it too me a few weeks ago and I have become obsessed with Pandora radio.

It allows you to pick songs or artists and make a "channel" based around them. Then it searches its database for similar songs.

Bands I am listening to:

Mana - a great Mexican rock band. NOT Rancheros that you hear on Mexican Radio Stations.

Ricardo Arjona - A Guatemalan ballad singer. He has two songs that I heard all the time on my mission that are classics like "Jesus Verbo no Sustantivo" (Jesus verb not noun) and "Si el norte fuera el Sur" (If the North was South).

Rasputina - A punk rock cello band. They are a little odd, especially with the goth look and strange songs, but really layered sound.

Gabriel Montero
- a jazzy classical pianist.

Kate Nash - I especially like the song "Merry Happy." Kind of pop music with piano and no guitars.

Nelly Mckay - She was on A prairie home companion and I sat in the cold and listened to her sing at the gas station till I had to rescrape the windows.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tragedy with pigs and dogs

Yesterday I got home from church and let Sam and Boss - a dog that we have been watching for a friend while they were out of town, out of the garage. We were having Suzie from work and her husband over for dinner and I was in a hurry to make Lemon Sponge Custard and clean up before they came. A few minutes after I came in Emily came inside and yelled, "Dad, I hear barking and a pig squealing!"

I ran outside, no coat, Colleen still in the backpack carrier, jumped the fence, and saw Sam and Boss gnawing on the back leg of the big pig. The pigs had gotten out of their pen. Sam and Boss were barking at it and circling it. Sometimes they nipped at its injured leg. Sometimes the pig nipped at them. I kicked Sam hard and yelled at both of them to go to the garage.

The pig's leg was mangled horribly. I could see the bones and tendons and it hung limply. The pig's ears and neck had small nicks. It was breathing heavy and could barely walk.

The other pig was hiding in the barn during all of this. I went to lock up the dogs and when I came back the injured pig had drug itself into the barn also. The little pig kept licking it and nudging it. It would not leave the injured pig's side. It pushed hay around it and lay next to it moaning as if it would die too.

I asked the vet that lives next door to come check on it and see if we could save it. She thought it was too far gone. My other neighbor thought we should wait and see. He said pigs were tough and he might make it. I just couldn't bear to see it hurt so much so I called Byron and he brought a gun.

I shot it, cleaned it, and will butcher it tonight. What a horrible situation. Now what do I do with the dog? I can't trust it. But I hate to get rid of him. I am afraid my pig farming is as hard on my heart as chicken ranching. I can live with butchering them, but it just makes me ill to have to kill them when they are hurt and suffering.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Christmas, pearls, swine, and news

This is really a conglomeration of posts pressed by time into one. Sorry about that.


From December 2008

I thought the camera was fixed, but when I tried to use it for real it is still broken. Thus, all of my pictures of Christmas were taken with my cell phone camera, which works OK as long as everyone, including the photographer, holds very still. I was able to take passable pictures of inanimate objects if I held my breath and braced my camera hand. Anything that breathes looks like it is in fast forward.

From December 2008

The girls spend most of their free time dressing up and pretending so for christmas they both got dress up cloths. If you squint at the following picture you can see Emily is a pirate and Aleah is a witch - now we are set for Halloween too. We had a lovely day. The Cooks came over for dinner and we all played on the frozen ice in the corn field. Even falling down and getting a concussion couldn't take away from glory of the day.

From December 2008


I got Leila pearls from Carol Simmons, our friend that lives in China. I will post pictures as soon as I fix our camera because they really look good and the blurry pictures I have don't do them justice. She loves them and tells me I need to get her invited to the Inaugural Ball.

Leila gave me books! The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, which are fun zombie adventure stories. Yeah, I know, it sounds dark and horrorish, but they aren't and are well written with good characters and mythology that stands on their own.

She also formatted and bound the first couple years of this blog into a book by me. Which isn't a novel, but its got pictures and I know all about the characters and I like being able to hold what I have written here in my hands.


I also took Emily to the Hoover's to slaughter a pig. They sold me my pigs and were going to start slaughtering their own since they decided not to register their farm with the state. The law as I understand it is the first part in a national plan to keep a database of livestock, meat, and food so that if there were a disease issue the government could track it and take care of it. They worry that the government will take care of problems like England did with Hoof and mouth disease. That and its the sign of the beast.

Anyway, they invited us to help. I wish I had taken pictures, but my camera was broken and I felt a little uncomfortable taking pictures. They are kind of like Amish. When we got there they had this huge pig penned in a horse trailer. One of his many sons got his gun and he shot it in the head with a .22. Then another son cut the back hocks and slipped a chain around the back leg while another son lifted it all up with the front end loader on a tractor. Another son appeared with knives and we skinned the pig, saving the back fat for lard. The oldest son gutted it and then after we pulled all of the skin off cut with a handsaw down the backbone.

While the sides were cooling outside we ate dinner and I tried to learn all of the boy's names. They live very simply, but with technological compromises: telephone, but no TV; electricity, but apparantly only for lights and tools; running water, but no hot water except that heated over the large pioneer stove, hardly any books, except the bible, animal and plant identification guides, school books, and a stack of seed catalogues and Ranger Rick animal magazines for the kids, no decoration on the walls, but a chalkboard for homeschooling the kids; homemade clothes except gloves and mittens; a car and a tractor, but most work done by hand. Emily then left with the younger boys to climb around the hayloft and try to catch all 14 cats and innumerable chickens. We cut the meet into roasts, hams, bacon, meat for sausage, pork loin, and more fat for lard. Esther, the three year old girl, put diapers on her stuffed cow and chatted with us while we worked.

I am not sure that I will slaughter my own animals. I think I will register my farm and go to the butcher, but it wasn't as bad as I feared. It was an education.

And finally, news.

Some know and some do not, but Leila is expecting this June. We are a bit stunned as usual, but excited. I have forgotten who I have told and who I haven't. So there it is.

Aleah thinks we should name her "Diamond Pearl Ann Gardunia" Any thoughts?