Stuff from January, 2010

This is the archive of tumbledry happenings that occurred on January, 2010.

Things we did this year

Mykala and I made a quick list of things we did in 2009. Here are my notes from our conversation:


Got married
Went to Hawaii
Survived 5 semesters of school (combined)
Moved in together
First married Christmas
Bought a real tree
Attended a cat funeral


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Sunny reading

Reading the New Yorker (thanks, Katy!) with the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the window may be the single best way to spend an hour of a cold winter afternoon.

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Grammar Challenge

HTMLGIANT’s Grammar Challenge, courtesy of David Foster Wallace, is composed of ten of the most difficult grammar questions I have ever attempted to answer. Mykala and I worked on it together and got… some answers correct. If the sentence “I only spent six weeks in Napa” looks wrong to you, then take a look at the remaining sentences!

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Training Your Brain

Barbara Strauch, in How to Train the Aging Brain:

Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different. In a history class, that might mean reading multiple viewpoints, and then prying open brain networks by reflecting on how what was learned has changed your view of the world.


Costly signaling

I always love these articles about “costly signaling” — the pursuit of real, not-fakable signals of your mating fitness. Take a look at Sex and shopping – it’s a guy thing - New Scientist (emphasis mine):


Smoking ban

Sometimes, you enact a smoking ban, and clubs refuse to abide by the new rules:

Elliott Marcus, an associate commissioner of the health department, said that he knew where the trouble spots were. “It’s these high-end places for people who think that the rules don’t apply to them,” he said.


Placebo Medicine

Steve Silberman, in Wired: “Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.” Here’s the part of the article I found most fascinating:

In one study, Benedetti found that Alzheimer’s patients with impaired cognitive function get less pain relief from analgesic drugs than normal volunteers do. Using advanced methods of EEG analysis, he discovered that the connections between the patients’ prefrontal lobes and their opioid systems had been damaged. Healthy volunteers feel the benefit of medication plus a placebo boost. Patients who are unable to formulate ideas about the future because of cortical deficits, however, feel only the effect of the drug itself. The experiment suggests that because Alzheimer’s patients don’t get the benefits of anticipating the treatment, they require higher doses of painkillers to experience normal levels of relief.

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Athletes and Twitter

Gail Collins is quite funny; more so than I realized. Take a look at her recent column “The Wizard With a Bad Plan

I would like to offer two comments about this. One is that professional athletes should not Twitter. I got this thought from Ashley Mayo, a student at the Columbia Journalism School, who showed me an essay that she had written on the subject, which included a tweet from one of the Indiana Pacers containing the good news that he had begun the day with a triumph over irregularity.

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Late Night Shake Up

Jay Leno wants to move his show to the Tonight Show’s time spot, bumping Conan a half hour into the next day (12:05). In wonderfully well-written letter, Conan O’Brien Says He Won’t Host ‘Tonight Show’ After Leno - NYTimes Media Decoder Blog:


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I always thought it was “threw the rock away”. Mykala corrected me: it’s actually “do the rockaway”. The latter does make more sense.

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Clinic butterflies

This afternoon, I’ll go into clinic for the second time. I’ll observe a student dentist (or hygiene student) go through a full patient appointment. You have to check the patient’s chart, understand underlying medical conditions, scan for drug conflicts, meet the patient, find out why the patient is there, determine recent changes in their medical history, consult with specialists about treatment plans, possibly do some treatment, take radiographs, explain things to the patient, obtain consent, plan the time of the next visit, and on and on.


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Bone Tired

Gomez has a song called “Bone Tired”. Ben Ottewell’s singing makes the lyrics sound much more poetic than they look in print. Anyhow, it’s an interesting song from my perspective of early semester exhaustion.



Industrialization: we’ve lost the ability to grow our own food, build our own shelter, entertain ourselves, and now, walk:

Slightly more than 1,000 pedestrians visited emergency rooms in 2008 because they got distracted and tripped, fell or ran into something while using a cellphone to talk or text. That was twice the number from 2007, which had nearly doubled from 2006, according to a study conducted by Ohio State University, which says it is the first to estimate such accidents.

Kopplin’s Coffee

Kopplin’s Coffee creates some of the most brilliant coffees, tasty teas and delicious hot chocolate in the Midwest.”

Winner of “Best Barista” and “Best Coffee Shop” in the Twin Cities in 2009. We’re going! As soon as I get these boards taken next week.

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In Which Alex Says “And” A Lot

I just took the National Board Dental Examination, Part I. And here’s the thing… the freakin’ thing takes over your mind. I was talking to a few of my classmates who also took it early, and I wondered aloud if they were experiencing what I had been: “In all of our lectures, do you keep picking up random facts and thinking damn, THAT’S what the answer was?!” They said that they too were experiencing this. They agreed: it is an unpleasant side effect of answering so many questions — your brain is constantly searching for the answers.


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Removing the Dividing Screen

At this point in time, in the middle of dental school, I’ve spent many many hours in lecture halls. Here’s what I’ve found: a lot of professors are disorganized, and as a result tend to descend into tangential (yet important for the exam!) monologues that stray far from the ugly PowerPoint slide at hand. During these all-too-frequent digressions, one must be ready to transcribe a lot of information very quickly. To accomplish this, I have slowly adopted the use of a laptop during lectures.


Widgets from China

I don’t fully understand what’s going on in China. I do have some dispiriting facts, though.


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Mykala knows that, every single time I open a bottle of tap water that has been sealed for a while, I’ll comment how “isn’t it interesting that it smells like chlorine, it must have reached equilibrium between the chlorine in the water and the chlorine in the air.” Every single time.