Friday, February 17, 2012

The Chemistry of Love

When I was in college I had two things on my mind a lot: dating and chemistry. The reason for the former I assume to be self-evident, and the latter can be simply explained by the fact that I worked as a chemistry TA for my last two years.

That combination of priorities led to an interesting analogy that I often took the opportunity to share. The analogy is what I called "The Chemistry of Love", which I should more accurately call "The Thermochemistry of Love". One person I shared it with was a good friend by the name of Maria Sederberg (because of whom I met Emily for the first time, but that's a story for another day). A while ago, Maria emailed me the following picture, with the request that I re-explain my philosophy on the chemistry of love.
After months of letting it sit in my inbox, I eventually replied as requested, and I include the explanation here for all of you as well.

The aqueous solution represents the dating "pool", and substances in solution are available for reaction. The reaction is for the electron-rich male to find a suitably cationic female with whom to bond and precipitate out of solution, hopefully forming a stable compound. Some males are more more weakly charged than others, and it requires a very strong positive force for the male to notice the positive at all. Others are very highly charged, and nothing but an extremely strong negative presence will repel them from seeking to bind with the cation.

In a process called the DTR reaction, the two soluble ions try to unite. Once they have bound, they first form an aqueous compound that is bonded, but still in solution (dating). If the thermodynamics of the reaction are favorable, the two will eventually form an insoluble solid and the resulting compound will precipitate out of the solution.

Once two substances have met and bonding begins, the ∆G (delta G) of the reaction is what ultimately determines whether the end product is stable. A -∆G (negative delta G) means that the relationship results in beneficial energy being released and creates stable relationships. A +∆G (positive delta G) means that energy is being put into the relationship. As the diagrams demonstrate, this may not be a bad thing.

The diagram on the top left illustrates most successful relationships. They take an initial input of energy, but ultimately gives off more beneficial emotional energy and the reaction has a -∆G. This is good, and contributes to thermodynamic happiness.

The diagram on the top right illustrates that some reactions have only a +∆G, which is bad. The more energy you put into these reactions (relationships), the more energy is released when the compounds have a break up.

The diagram in the middle on the right shows a very dangerous type of relationship. Some reactions may have a stable intermediate, meaning that there is an initial investment of energy and a trend towards a return of investment, but they still ultimately have a +∆G and are unstable. These usually end up as protracted relationships that don't ultimately lead to marriage, and can release a lot of energy when the compounds have a break up.

The last diagram illustrates the thermodynamics of the incredibly rare "love at first sight" reaction.

I admit that it does take some chemistry background to fully appreciate the analogy. However, I don't think it takes any particular expertise to fully appreciate that I can be a real nerd sometimes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I grew up in a family of strong opinions. Family conversations around the dinner table were often debates, and we could even argue with each other on things we agreed about. Still, there were a few absolutes in our home: God is good. BYU > U of U. Country music sucks. These are things that were always assumed in my home, and whose truthfulness was no more to be considered or questioned than that of the existence of earth and air. These truths simply are. Considering this, I said a very interesting thing to Emily this morning: "You know what I like about country music?"

I recognized the gravity of that statement before it was ever said. Emily caught on after a couple hours, as evidenced in the email she sent that said "There. It's in writing. You actually said that you like country music. Hooray!"

Before we get too carried away with the fact that Emily definitely overextended the original meaning of my statement, let me say that she had every reason to be excited and amazed. She grew up in a family, a town, and a state where "country" isn't just "some kind of music". It's the music. It's life. And that's what I said to her: "You know what I like about country music? It's about life."

So what could cause me, a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool country music antagonist to abandon my last defenses and admit to liking something about country music, even if not the genre itself? Let me say that it's been a gradual process that began with forced exposure to it on account of sharing living conditions with Emily. I've had years to listen to country whether I like it or not, and at least intellectually analyze it the same way we consider disagreeable political views or historical religions. After a while, I started noticing that country music, regardless of the subject, it generally easy to follow. Contrast this with many varieties of alternative, punk or pop music whose lyrics, even if intelligible, are completely nonsensical. I think 90% of lyrics by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linkin Park, They Might Be Giants, for example, are not to be understood by mankind.

This morning, Emily came home from swimming and declared "I have found my life's theme song."

"Wow," I said. "This is a big day for you."

"It is," she exclaimed and proceeded to show me the following music video on youtube. I suggest watching it before continuing.

As a bit of background, and to better understand the background behind my new statement on country music, I invite you to read the post that Emily put on our blog today. Since our blog is open to invited readers only, I need to include it here.

"Life has been kind of stressful for me recently. It seems like the ups and downs of motherhood have been mostly pulling me down. I find myself being jealous of people who can get out of the house and go to work. Some of that is probably caused by the fact that I'm tied down to a 4 month old and a 2 year old who never nap at the same time. Between the two of them, we're lucky if we get a 30 minute trip out of the house during the day.

"This has led me to wonder what I'm doing with my life. I worked so hard to graduate and now what I have to show for it is wiping stinky bums and a lack of patience. Having children has tried my patience more than anything else in life. There are no deadlines in motherhood; no tests and no final grade until this life is through. I think that's what makes it sometimes makes it seem like it will never end. There's nothing scheduled to work toward, just the slow trudging forward of the daily tasks of life.

"My friend Christine phrased this stage of motherhood perfectly when she described it as "the perpetually tied down, oh-so-free life of a mother." The life of a mother is the mundane/monotonous and yet unexpected. How is it that I can have so many hours in a day and feel like I accomplish so little? I don't feel like I should be satisfied with my day when the only things I accomplish are nursing a baby and making dinner. What about Ella? What about Steve? To feel productive I need to take care of their needs too.

"I went swimming this morning and on the way home heard this song. Although I could change the lyrics to things like: the baby didn't sleep today, the toddler was disobedient, my house is a mess, but I feel guilty if I clean it while the kids are awake and by the time they're asleep I'm too tired and unmotivated to clean. My husband is leaving for 3 months, I feel insecure about my parenting and disciplining, my closest friend just moved away, I'm out of ideas of how to entertain a two year old. Sounds like life to me.

"In spite of these frustrations though, I know deep inside that what I'm doing at home is the most important thing. It's the little moments: playing with Ella in her pool, getting Ivan up from a nap and seeing his toothless grin, tickling him and listening to his gurgle, watching Steve play "hide and go bonk" with Ella, eating dinner as a family, going on a good run, having family night, listening to Ella sing, watching my babies sleep. Laughing at something silly that Ella said, reminiscing about fun trips we've taken, planning family vacations. Reading books to Ella, rocking Ivan to sleep, cuddling with my babies.

"Each day I'm working on enjoying the small moments, the quiet moments. The day is full of them, but if I get caught up in the responsibilities that aren't getting taken care of, then I miss the magic moments with my kids. Days are not going to be perfect and I know that the ups and downs are still going to come. I just want to be able to look back at this time with my young children and not have regrets. I want them to remember how much I loved them and the fun things that we did together. I want to be remembered as a happy mom. That's my ultimate goal: to be a Happy Mom.

"Yes, this is my new theme song:

Sounds like life to me plain old destiny

Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride
Get used to all this unpredictability
Sounds like life

Man I know its tough but you gotta suck it up

To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
Sounds like life to me
Sounds like life

"And as we like to say in good ol' Wyo, 'Cowboy up!'"

Now, I have seen time and time again how country music has this effect on people. They sing about things like how hard it is to give up your daughter, how families are the best part of life, how nerds get an inflated sense of self online or how you can still have steamy hot lovin' with your wife after years and years of marriage. In short, life. Even the sleeziest and most detestable country songs are still nonetheless easily understood reflections of real thoughts that real people have.
More to the point, when my wife was having real difficulties with her actual life, she didn't feel any comfort or any sense of identification with idealistic songs about social revolution, pithy political ballads or esoteric nerd rock. She latched on to a song about life, made it about her life, and was able to cope with problems just that much better. And really, that's what I like about country music.

Monday, June 13, 2011


 Until recently we were planning on a family trip to Utah. The motivation was an impromptu family reunion. We designed T-shirts before we decided not to go after all. We put it to a family vote.

I won't tell you which won. Which would you pick?

Option 1
Option 2

Option 3

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Day Before Tomorrow

Every year at Alta our apartment made a video. My third and final year there we made this movie. It's the only one that doesn't involve kidnapping, cheesy camera tricks and all-out violence. Too bad.

I just watched this movie again and, wow. That's all I can say. Wow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Writing is one of the ways that we communicate things we truly mean in a way that will truly last. That's not to say all writing fulfills this function; only good writing. A few months ago I was looking at my mom's old iMac. I saw some old documents of papers I'd written.

Of a truth, I've never been a great writer, and the papers I found reminded me that my humble progress in writing skill came from even humbler beginnings. I've always had romantic visions that someday I could make great works of poetry and prose that stir the mind and soul to thought and laughter and communicate great truths in novel ways. The papers I found do none of those things.

One of the papers in particular, however, caught my attention because it reveals so much about my high school self.

1) At the time I was obsessed with nerd culture, and not least among my interests was Warhammer 40,000. This paper describes a game I played with my older brother Matt.

2) People often told me to stop using such "big words", and to be honest I rarely knew which of the words I was using were the "big" ones. They were all just words. After reading this paper I think I now can imagine how terms like perpetual onslaught, barricades and  solidified, when used in casual conversation, may raise some eyebrows. Still, I maintain that those words aren't that out of the ordinary.

3) I never gave my documents logical names. I don't know why I chose the name "Jaterrieck" or what it was supposed to mean, but that's what my document was called. On a side note, I never gave any of my emails logical subject lines. It's a habit I keep to this day.

I think it's a fun read. Matt, you especially should behold its splendor.

Click here to read this most excellent narrative.

ps-I didn't make the image. I stole it. Thief.
pps-The link wasn't working but it should now

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The hard choices of my youth

When I was a lad, my return home from school at the end of the day had as its highlight the weekday afternoon cartoons that I could find on network TV. Upon my arrival I would instantly plop myself in front of the tube, taking off my shoes and socks (which tended to collect in the living room) so that our dog Cinnamon could lick my feet. Over the next hour and a half I would soak up the rays and eat various snacks (my favorite: raisins).

Every day this left me with a hard choice: which channel to watch? This was not an easy decision for a kid growing up in the time where every cartoon was a golden flower of originality and humor that only came but once a day, never to return again.

On the one hand, I had Disney Afternoon. Gummi Bears came on at 3:00, and as I usually got home at about 3:20, I seldom watched that one.

The next cartoon was Duck Tales, which I relished, and would hardly have missed if not for the fact that it faced deadly temporal competition with such a worthy foe.

You see, during that same crucial hour, when all the school kids were glued to the tube to have their heads filled with advertisements of My Buddy, Big Big Loader and all manner of tooth-rotting breakfast desserts they passed off for cereal (you see what an effect it had in that I still remember them), CBS placed the mighty Tiny Toons.

If that weren't bad enough, the next spot on the Disney Afternoon was Rescue Rangers, which surely would have been the unchallenged favorite of my afternoon had it not been for what CBS had to offer.

During that same crucial half hour, CBS broadcast arguably the greatest kids cartoon of all time. Choosing between Rescue Rangers and Animaniacs was surely too much for so frail a mind, young as mine was, to deal with. Its a miracle I survived childhood.

It may be that my young will was too much taxed by that effort of choice because by the next hour, even though the competition was not so fierce, I often didn't have the desire to continue watching TV, and actually went outside sometimes. On the days I decided to keep going, the last one on the agenda was Tale Spin.

All this is to say nothing of the same grief that came up before school and, even worse, on Saturday mornings. All I can say is that it's a good thing I didn't grow up with Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Disney. I'm certain that if I had, the only way I would have known the sky was blue would be to simply trust that the people who made it that color in the shows I was watching knew what they were doing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy birth day to me!

This is The Far Side comic published on the day I was born.

It makes me happy on so many levels.

The Far Side is one of the greatest comics of all time. I'm actually happy the Gary Larson stopped making the comic when he did, when he was at the top of his game and we were all clamoring for more, instead of milking it for all it was worth, leaving us wishing he'd stopped before the cartoons got stale. Like Garfield. I think the last time I laughed at Garfield was 1995.