Yet More Things I Learned This Semester

Yes, the semester is almost over and that means it’s time to share a few choice thoughts.

In General:

  • There are people who are willing to wait for a spot 100 feet closer to the building, even in nice weather. In the meantime, I’ve parked in the next lot over, locked my car, walked to the building, and made it to the 3rd floor while That Guy is still waiting for an ever-so-slightly closer parking spot.
  • You’d be surprised how many people don’t show up to class regularly and still expect to do well in that class.
  • Sorry, I already knew that time management is important.
  • Cleaning staff never notice graffiti on the back of a bathroom stall door.

In Spanish:

  • Spanish has two verbs that translate “to be.” Use one to ask “What kind of person is Juan” and the other to ask “How is Juan”. Use one to ask “Where is Maria” and the other to ask “Where is Maria from”. Use the wrong one, and you may well say “Teresa is boring” instead of “Teresa is bored.” Teresa would be understandably upset.
  • It’s alarmingly easy to mix up the verbs “to go” and “to see“.
  • You can do a lot with cognates. The one thing you can’t do is be sure you understand the correct thing.

In Microbiology:

  • Not only can viruses infect bacteria, they can accidentally take bacterial genetic material to the next bacterium when they leave.
  • The entire family of Penicillin related drugs works by pulling out the “molecular nails” that bacteria use to build cell walls. Resistant bacteria have an enzyme that breaks up the “nail-puller.” Viruses don’t have cell walls, and that’s why these drugs don’t effect them.
  • Look, you’re never ever going to wash every single germ off your hands. What’s more, you wouldn’t want to. The germs that normally live there help keep “opportunists” — that’s bad-guy germs — from setting up shop. So for pity sake, stop using that damned anti-bacterial soap.

In Anatomy:

  • If you are trying to remember a whole bunch of acronyms (say, hormone names), you are better off memorizing the long version. Otherwise the “alphabet soup” will drive you mad. Besides, often the long version tells you what the darn thing does!
  • How much carbon dioxide you have in your body determines a lot more things than the amount of oxygen. It effects your respiration rate, the pH of your blood, and more.
  • The first thing your body does with any carbohydrate you eat is turn it into a simple sugar. So, should a diabetic be eating a lot of pasta?

There you go. Now let’s have some In Closing: GOP is upset that their Nevada organization doesn’t want to keep fighting a lost battle; on debt; it does at least put a roof over head; I wish I could refute this; even Mitt “Rmoney” thinks that the minimum wage is too low!; death penalty follow up; Subway CEO tosses owner operators under the bus; the ACLU on NSA reform and letting cops hack your computer.

Outpost: Shorties Sun

Hints of Sanity: Newt says something’s got to change.

Yesterday this was the funniest thing on the Internet: Review of Guy Fieri’s restaurant.

UN Believable: UN says “increasing funding for family planning by a further $4.1 billion could save $11.3 billion annually in health bills for mothers and newborns in poor countries.”

Pro-Life My @$$: Woman suffers for days in excruciating pain and eventually dies because her miscarrying fetus still had a heartbeat, despite the actually born mother’s pleas to terminate the doomed pregnancy. I have some very harsh words for the so-called pro-life people — mostly men who will never get pregnant —  who think there is never a reason to abort. Those words are probably not safe for work.

Interesting consequence: Hurricane Sandy caused a rise in used car prices.

I bet there’s a simpler reason: Romney believes that he lost because of Obama’s “gifts” to minorities? What? Seriously? Couldn’t have anything to do with unemployment and real wages, could it? At least Ryan was smart enough to dogwhistle the issue by blaming “urban voters” rather than by flat out saying “brown and black people.”

Poverty might be worse than we think:  Depending how you measure it, poverty might be over 16%. And worse yet, over 3% of Americans are in poverty simply because of medical bills.

Less popular than Vietnam: 82% think we are losing the War on Drugs. Only 23% think we should keep shouldering on.

Can’t tell what’s going on without a chart: The Petraeus mess is so weird that you couldn’t make it into an episode of a TV crime drama. Nobody would believe it. I can barely wrap my head around it without laughing. Shouldn’t a General know better than to stick his **** in crazy? And what is with the socialite that she thinks a few emails are worth calling in a favor from an FBI agent? For those of you who are having trouble keeping up USA Today has you covered with a chart. I love the image for “Shirtless Guy.” You know some intern had to sort through dozens of stock photos. At least Holly Petraeus will still have a job at the end of this mess. Supports the International T-Pain Autotune Treaty

Be it resolved that henceforth, only T-Pain will be allowed to use autotune in recorded music. Other uses shall be considered a crime against humanity.

It is further resolved that quotations of Rapper’s Delight may only be made with the express consent and permission of the United Nations Security Council.*

Please, join me in support of this desperately needed performing arts issue. If I had a little more HTML talent, I’d put together a little ad for the sidebar.

In Closing: Mongols; he’s got a point; Rolling Jubilee; delayed; I guess it’s hard to win elections when you piss off 50% of the population; but they’re already part of the United States!; we’re all suspicious; belly buttons; new health plan?; politics and religion; filibuster all you like, but you gotta talk!; and oops! Somebody was very sure he’d win.

* Yeah, I’m talking to you too, Pitbull.

Silly Snake!

Submitted for your approval:

Though it became a well-known pop culture joke after Samuel L. Jackson’s 2006 fictional movie, snakes can sometimes be found on a plane.

That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday when a cabin crew was checking an airplane that landed in Glasgow, Scotland, according to The Scotsman newspaperin Edinburgh. The flight had come in from Cancun, Mexico when staff found a 18-inch long, juvenile snake under a row of seats in the passenger cabin, the newspaper reported.

A Scottish animal welfare charity was called in to recover the snake, The Scotsman reported.

Ok, not exactly a new story. I delayed commenting due to travel. Anyone want to guess where I was?

My first thought was: “Silly snake! Why would you leave Cancun to go to Scotland?

My second thought was that I could completely understand how the little fellow got on board. His home was mere yards from the tarmac.

Cancun — the “nest of the snakes” — was carved out of the jungle. The airport itself is testament to that, and it is even more obvious if you travel South towards Playa Del Carmen. Outside the Hotel Zone, there are clear and constant efforts to keep the jungle from reclaiming territory. Even within the Hotel Zone, sun and salty air mean an ongoing battle against modern human-built structures. A bright coat of paint appears to be shorthand for “recently maintained.” You’ll see at least one person with a paint brush on a regular basis at any resort.

In Closing: about time!; I’ll skip the Winter Garden Loaf, thanks; what’s wrong with Lime Squeeze?; hmm; escaping poverty; security theatre; Nevada Supreme Court quietly wades into serious issues with national implications; and truth in numbers.

Beneath the Shorties

LOL: Enjoy this meme while you can, I figure it’s dead in 3 weeks.

They just keep coming: Remember, the plot to kill Big Bird is still in play. There’s a Million Muppet March planned.

Twelve! Meeeeelion! Jobs!!!: Yeah, so?

Get it off me! Get it get it get it….: Is it just me, or does Mr. Romney look uncomfortable in this picture? You don’t suppose it could be that he’s being touched by a black man, do you?

Beating the dead dressage horse: What Romney’s tax “plan” could do to housing.

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it: Scientists found a planet twice the size of Earth, largely made of diamond. Good thing it’s far enough away that DeBeers can’t get hold of it!

Like you needed an economist to tell you that: Your paycheck is being outstripped by inflation. So if low interest rates are supposedly the cure for inflation, what the heck is the Fed going to do now??

But apparently some people do need an economist to tell you this: Here’s why cutting taxes never has and never will create jobs.

Gee, maybe saying “no” wasn’t such a good strategy: Failing to pass a Big Agriculture Giveaway  Farm Bill before leaving Washington gave some Democrats an upper hand.

Judges judge things: An Appeals Court has ruled part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Unexpected Excitement: Passengers on a Canadian airliner helped save a boater’s life. That beats most in-flight movies.

Wheat Ain’t What It Was: On modern wheat.

Not sure how to get out of this mess: Two out of three new college grads has college loan debt, and the average amount is $26,600. The scary part is that many of them won’t be getting jobs anytime soon. Just a reminder, it would take 3668 hours at minimum wage to pay that off. That’s 152 days of nonstop 24/7 labor. And it won’t be wiped out by bankruptcy.

Newsweek: will stop printing a paper edition.

But what about the economy?: Here’s an outline of the risks.

“The other 1%”: 2/3 of the bottom 1% of Americans are in prison.

Turns out it won’t turn good girls into sluts: Girls who get the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex.

Carbs: “People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the danger also rises with a diet heavy in sugar, Mayo Clinic researchers have found. Those who consume a lot of protein and fat relative to carbohydrates are less likely to become cognitively impaired, the study found.”

And it turns out that Doing Good might Make More Money: At least that’s Coca-Cola’s theory.

What did I tell you?

Back in July, I talked about turkey sandwiches being dressed up in Thanksgiving condiments. I figured the trend would percolate around the high end dining scene for a while before hitting casual dining. Well, I was a little off. It is returning to the carry out restaurant world from which it came first.

Einstein Bros is now offering a seasonal menu that includes a “roasted turkey breast sandwich… spiced with cranberry ginger chutney and offered on an artisan wheat bread.” Sure, it’s seasonal. But I bet if they sell well they could jump to the regular menu. Regrettably, it’s hard to get nutrition info on the seasonal items.

So, where do we see the “Thanksgiving sandwich” pop up next? A quick web search suggests that it’s the item to have on seasonal menus everywhere. I miss La Madeleine more now.

In Closing: this is what parental consent laws do; I see what you did there; killing Big Bird will cut 0.01% from the national budget; not only dumbed down, but deliberately made unreadably dull; stamps; debunking; let them be responsible but remember that we’re checking up on your oversight; and a new mom.

Music Monday: Life Pro Tip


If you ever find yourself asking “Should I Drink Another Drink,” the answer is almost certainly NO! At least this song is conscious of that fact.

In Closing: sigh our “liberal” administration that is “lax on terror” sure loves them some warrantless surveillance (and how many arrests have there been as a result? Yeah that’s what I thought); maybe if you paid enough that somebody could take the job?; Missouri shows me the common sense; the fiscal cliff and you; Penny Marshall; “Sure, increase the number of chickens you have to inspect in a minute by a factor of 5! What could possibly happen?”; because every kid who scores less than 3 out of 5 is a waste of $80 (yes, I see what the pressure cooker does to kids that actually belong in those classes); where does “work ethic” meet “unrealistic job expectations”? Are workers entitled to a life?; zingers; private equity; on polling bias; Pediatric concern trolls strike again; no wonder they never get ahead.


Today’s BlogHer Book Club selection is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. As usual, this is a paid review but the opinions are my own. For more, be sure to start here. The first discussion item is here.

Dr. Brown is a researcher in “shame and empathy.” The central idea of this book is that we all experience shame — a lot of shame, most of the time — and that our shame causes us to develop mostly unhealthy coping mechanisms that are meant reduce our perceived vulnerability to others, but in actuality cause us to not connect well with others. Rejecting this cycle, embracing our vulnerability, and developing “shame resilience” allows us to live “Wholehearted” lives (her capitalization, not mine). We can only do this by “daring greatly.” This last is a reference to one of Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches, which you can hear here.

So here’s the problem: in Dr. Brown’s eyes, I am either ludicrously well adjusted, or I am a sociopath. I don’t fear people laughing at me. I don’t spend all day worrying that my child will have an accident a school and I won’t have been there to stop it. I don’t feel guilty about not looking perfect at all times. Do I occasionally screw up and have to say to myself “Well that was dumb and I shouldn’t have done that”? Of course I do! But I don’t dwell on it and I don’t let fear or guilt control my life!

Dr. Brown tries very hard to write an accessible book: references to pop culture such as Harry Potter and Hotel California; pseudo-catchy phrases like Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training; admissions that she has been known to use colorful language. She does occasionally neglect to footnote when “research says”. She has done TED talks, seminars, written multiple books, talked to oodles of CEOs, and even given a lecture for Navy SEALs — and she will mention “examples” from any of the above as often as she can think to do so. Perhaps the researcher is too close to her subject matter and needs to work on self-esteem.

However, the book is not without merit. Dr. Brown is correct that love and connection is a basic human need. It’s useful to know that all most some men are driven by the fear that somebody will think they are “pussies.” All of us benefit from understanding that there are people out there who will use guilt to manipulate others, including bosses, significant others, and even teachers. The first time somebody thought to say “there are no stupid questions” was almost certainly in response to shame. There is a nice list of questions for gauging an office’s culture in chapter 5.

Dr. Brown is also the author of I Thought It Was Just Me. Well maybe it’s not just her, but it certainly isn’t me.

In Closing: math; disappearing; rivalry; human rights; Fred spread; predator; that’s why; long memories.

Let the Spin Begin

Ok, the good news first. Poverty is down ever so slightly. The number of people without health insurance is down, despite the fact that health insurance premiums went up 4% (far exceeding the official inflation rate).  The bad news is that  typical American income is down for the 4th year in a row. Adjusted for inflation, we’re back to the Clinton Administration.

Sit back and watch the two parties fight about what this means and who is to blame.

In Closing: converted RINO; crass; type 3 diabetes; turns out that training makes for better employees, who knew?!?!?; apples and oranges; voter suppression works too well; and the rules.

Music Monday: PSA

Hi there, dance music songwriters! Did you know that the saxophone can do more than honk like an injured Canadian goose?

First notable orchestral sax solo in the literature begins about 6 minutes in:

Ok, maybe that’s not your thing. How about this?

I think you get the idea. Don’t make me get Bill Clinton out here.

In closing: rejecting science; desperate times; the food pyramid made us fat; I’ve got no idea where JP found this; brilliant headline; um, Nevada has fixed the rich-district/poor-district problem and we still have struggling schools in poor neighborhoods; the problem isn’t only anti-vax nuts, but anti-vax nuts should have to sign a school document saying “I realize that I am putting my child and my community at risk, and furthermore I am an idiot”; inheritance.