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Mykala dictated letters, and Ess wrote this! We were very pleased.


Well if this isn’t just the most perfect paragraph:

I reserve the right to make up a word if I can’t fromate one that suits the immediate need of a sentence. This is where heroes step in and fix the inadequacies of the English Language.


Writing for Children

From the Paris Review’s famous interview of E. B. White, 1969:

Some writers for children deliberately avoid using words they think a child doesn’t know. This emasculates the prose and, I suspect, bores the reader. Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net. They love words that give them a hard time, provided they are in a context that absorbs their attention. I’m lucky again: my own vocabulary is small, compared to most writers, and I tend to use the short words. So it’s no problem for me to write for children. We have a lot in common.


An excerpt from The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers:

The disrepute into which Formal Logic has fallen is entirely unjustified; and its neglect is the root cause of nearly all those disquieting symptoms which we have noted in the modern intellectual constitution. Logic has been discredited, partly because we have come to suppose that we are conditioned almost entirely by the intuitive and the unconscious. There is no time to argue whether this is true; I will simply observe that to neglect the proper training of the reason is the best possible way to make it true. Another cause for the disfavor into which Logic has fallen is the belief that it is entirely based upon universal assumptions that are either unprovable or tautological. This is not true. Not all universal propositions are of this kind. But even if they were, it would make no difference, since every syllogism whose major premise is in the form “All A is B” can be recast in hypothetical form. Logic is the art of arguing correctly: “If A, then B.” The method is not invalidated by the hypothetical nature of A. Indeed, the practical utility of Formal Logic today lies not so much in the establishment of positive conclusions as in the prompt detection and exposure of invalid inference.


Writing about Dentistry

Instead of wildly speculating, thoughtfully considering, or analogically writing about life as a dentist, I’ve actually been doing it for the past few weeks. Such a disconnect between writing and experience is precisely the reason I’ve tried to make it so easy to post things in this space and exactly why I am troubled when I do not. That is to say: I don’t want to look back and forget what life was like, so I seek to write it out here. And yet, when I seem to be living the most life, I’m not writing… I’m out living. Like coming back with no pictures of your great tour of Europe, because it was too exciting to stop for photos. I guess I’m someone who isn’t confident that memories in one’s head are good enough souvenirs of a life well-lived.



This has been making the rounds today, and I don’t usually post something just to link to it (anymore), so you will understand that this is for future reference. Semicolons; So Tricky by Mary Norris at the New Yorker, quotes from a book called “Punctuation..?”:


Status Updates

So it turns out I’m absolutely atrociously bad at writing Facebook status updates. My writing tends to be long-form, verbose, scientific… delving deeply into topics like dental materials. Fascinating to me, boOOoring to others.


Life Writing

I am worried and frustrated that all I do is write in platitudes, and that the quality of my prose has stagnated at “barely mediocre” for the past 5 years. When ideas are flowing from my brain to the keyboard most naturally, I still seem to lose their essence and elegance during editing. (Or, I lose them completely when the browser crashes. I’ve got to stop composing in the browser.) Although I have done nothing to fight against these concerns, I continue to write here, hoping that I can break through to the next level of writing quality. Focused practice seems to be the only way to advance, and the stagnation in my writing quality has correlated directly with what can only be described as years of literary dilettantism. I will keep practicing, starting here:


tweet - 6 October, 2011

Stephen Fry remembers Steve Jobs:

The use of that last phrase, “style over substance” has always been, as Oscar Wilde observed, a marvellous and instant indicator of a fool. For those who perceive a separation between the two have either not lived, thought, read or experienced the world with any degree of insight, imagination or connective intelligence.



Despite its ungainly title, “Saussure, Predictive Text, Cycling Awake and the word ‘Book’” is an interesting article. Here’s the thesis: two unrelated books on your bookshelf can become associated in your memory, simply because they are next to one another. Similarly, two unrelated words on your phone can become associated in your memory, simply because T9 predictive text puts them next to one another. As a result, language grows in richness, because new associations are made on the bookshelves of our phones. It’s a really neat idea, one that has produced real-world results. For example, the word “Zonino” is “text misprediction” for “WooHoo!”



An experiment in my writing: parsimony of language. I’ll be trying to say more with fewer words because I’ve picked up a bad habit of mid-level writers: upon learning four ways to state an idea, use all four instead of choosing the best! Such writing is a recipe for boring communication.

Mayer on Song Writing

John Mayer 2011 Clinic – Berklee Blogs

I can’t stress enough how important it is to write bad songs. There’s a lot of people who don’t want to finish songs because they don’t think they’re any good. Well they’re not good enough. Write it!  I want you to write me the worst songs you could possible write me because you won’t write bad songs. You’re thinking they’re bad so you don’t have to finish it. That’s what I really think it is. Well it’s all right. Well, how do you know? It’s not done!



Having got that previous post of life-threaten(ed) melodrama out of my system, it’s now time to confront the epidemic of cheating in schools.

Cheating, 2008
I left out an important detail when I told the story of my impossible first semester at dental school. It goes like this: shortly after receiving the news on the 12th of November, 2008 that I was mere points from failing two critical classes, I was in the library cramming for a histology quiz on which I could not afford to lose any points. A classmate of mine approached me.


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Write Like

Using the statistical writing analysis tool, “I Write Like”, I found out that I write like David Foster Wallace. However, Stephen King also showed up when I pasted a different piece of my writing. Interesting.


I’ve recently unlisted this website with Google, so I do feel a bit more confident in expressing some stronger opinions. I’ll use this new opportunity to make a point about a recent situation at the School of Dentistry. You see, we are currently expected to simultaneously care for patients and continue learning in what’s called a pre-clinical lab. So, we have lab work for fake and real patients. If you take an impression of a patient’s mouth on 8th floor, you have to disinfect it, walk down to 4th floor to get your pre-clinical materials (you don’t want to take a patient’s wet impressions in the elevator alongside other patients), and then climb back up to 9th floor to pour the darn thing up in the clinical lab space (using your pre-clinical materials). See, the school hasn’t given us the tools we need to do clinic work for real patients. We’re in a weird in-between phase. Soon, we’ll transition out of pre-clinic lab. Here’s an excerpt from the email we received:


Hegelian dialectic

That I’ve made it 25 years without hearing about the Hegelian dialectic is… I’m lame.

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a three-fold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.


Changing course

Using this website, I can tell you that 7 years, 4 months, 26 days have passed since I got stung by a bee during a power outage at my high school.

These types of posts are not exactly what I had in mind for tumbledry. I’d like to look back on old posts and see how I was feeling, not necessarily what exactly happened. A journal primarily of emotions and secondarily of events is going to be much more fun to look through in 10 years.

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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Asimov and Entropy

The Last Question — Isaac Asimov:

The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way…



When John Gruber linked my piece on unscientific laptop repair numbers just before Thanksgiving, traffic at tumbledry jumped significantly. It was fun to finally, truly test my homebrew website code (when Gruber links a site, the traffic tends to crash the site of interest) — I’m happy that the code I wrote can survive a decently large torrent of traffic. How large? Year over year on November 24, traffic here was up 30,000%.