On the Difficulties of a Hive MInd

I’m sitting here grading final exams. It’s always a spectacularly unpleasant task as students inevitably miss what are to me obvious questions and make mistakes that would, in real life, kill their patients. Of course, this is tempered by the knowledge that: 1) these same students will have this stuff mastered within a few years and the only reason they’re having trouble now is they haven’t gotten past the terminology and drug names yet, so trying to get them to master concepts like, “Don’t give poison to patients that are already poisoned,” might be a little much to ask, 2) sometimes people don’t study for finals and just want to get finished with it all and don’t even really read the exam carefully, 3) test anxiety and exhaustion makes some otherwise good students write things like “I don’t know, but here’s a drawing of batman.” and 4) it isn’t my fault.

So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be easier if we were all a hive mind? Then we wouldn’t have to have teachers because we would be born knowing everything everyone else knows. It would be like, “Hey, I just got born! That was really painful. Oh, and hey, I know kung fu!”

So… wait, how would a hive mind evolve? Would that sort of species evolve starting out as a hive mind? Would telepathy be an innate property of a neural network from the getgo? If not, and the telepathy trait was a mutation, then even with 100% penetrance you’d expect there’d be a slow progression for everyone to become telepathic… I expect eventually there’d have to be some sort of civil war where non-telepaths were either exiled or destroyed through systematic genocide over hundreds of generations… it takes forever to get rid of recessive genes…

…ANYWAY… what was I talking about…? Oh right…

So say we are visited by aliens and whammo, we have a hive mind! First there would be a few years of riots and murder, I expect, as everyone realized that everyone else had been lying a lot about stuff… but after all that calmed down, how would our giant hive brain sift through all the information? It would be like having our brains be like the internet.

Would we be intrinsically aware of what information was true and what wasn’t? There is so much cognitive dissonance that goes on within normal single minds… maybe the mass consciousness wouldn’t be able to sort through it all. How would humanity reconcile all the religions (which are mostly based on blind faith and a conscious decision to just suspend disbelief, which is totally okay in my opinion)? What about all the really slow brains? Would they automatically become smarter? Would the smart, quick brains become slower? Would the collective IQ become 100?

It seems like it would be really confusing.

Anyway, I guess we’re stuck with learning things the hard way for now. Let’s hope the robot overlords take over soon before there’s so many new drugs the nursing students never get to the point where they are ready to master the concept, “If you give a drug that changes your blood pressure your heart rate will try to compensate.”


Insert Sad Trombone Sound Here

Norwegian Word of the Day: Blodtrykk (translation: blood pressure)

Use in a sentence: Hypertensjon, eller høyt blodtrykk, betyr at trykket i pulsårer er høyere enn det som defineres som normalt.

Translation: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, means that the pressure in the arteries is higher than what is defined as normal.

Doctor Feel Good, I guess?

So here’s a weird thing… Oakton Community College, where I teach, made a deal with the State of Illinois to offer a certificate program in cannabis. Since my pharm class disappeared into the great void of oblivion (aka the Nursing program where I’m not allowed to teach because I’m an MD instead of an RN; it’s a State rule), the assistant dean suggested I consider applying to teach the pharm aspects of the new cannabis license program.

Thus I am taking an online course on how to teach online courses… so meta… because the cannabis course will likely be hybrid online. Not hybrid marijuana… never mind.

Anyway, I have mixed feelings about it; I mean, I literally tried pot twice in my whole life because I’m such a nerd… it just made me sleepy. I don’t get the appeal, really. I also don’t enjoy drinking alcohol so maybe I have a weird brain. When I worked at Johns Hopkins, the glaucoma guys had access to medical marijuana for their patients, but one of them told me the medical stuff was so weak they usually advised patients to just go get the illegal stuff (this was in 1995-ish)… so medical uses are something I can get behind. There’s some data showing opioid use drops if medical marijuana is legal [I could do a whole blog post about this], and it would be nice for ophthalmologists to not have to tell their little old lady patients to go talk to drug dealers. But recreational pot? Meh.

It’s obviously an important certificate… but do I want to be Doctor Marijuana? On the other hand, I really have nothing to lose compared to the full-time faculty so… why not? My mom is too demented to be ashamed of me and my cats will still respect me (and feline approval is what really counts). Besides, pot is no big deal anymore now that all the hippies are in their 70s and all their disapproving parents are dead. But if I teach about it once it is legal for recreational use in Illinois am I validating recreational use? Does it matter? How do I feel it when people like me who are terrified of breaking the law start trying it out for purely recreational use and then getting into car crashes?

Hm… since I don’t use it or like it I don’t know if I’m a good judge. Also since I’m 55 maybe I need to re-evaluate what I am judgmental about. (Get off my lawn!)

Evidently in this program we might also teach students how to grow marijuana; I find this hilarious. I can’t even grow a houseplant. I own a single spider plant that is 17 years old. Here it is:


That’s how terrible I am at growing plants. Seventeen years old and that’s all that has managed to survive. A spider plant should be the size of a Buick after 17 years. I can’t believe people used to let me cut open their eyes with sharp objects. And then pay me!

Medical Marijuana does have its uses and I’m more than happy to teach about its use in glaucoma and nausea and pain etc as well as drug interactions etc…

Actually, I hope I get that spot on the team; it would be fun to work with medical practitioners out in the field again. However, I fully expect that the vast majority of potential students will have more hands on experience with cannabis than I do! I am deeply ashamed. Should I be? I DON’T KNOW! The cognitive dissonance is so strong I can taste it. Tastes like confusion… and grape.

Today's Norwegian Word: marihuana

English translation: marijuana

Use in a sentence:
I enjoy using marijuana in the mountains!

Dobbel regnbuer hele veien!

PS: I turned 55 yesterday. To celebrate, I presented a report on my committee work to the Adjunct Faculty Association, my homies, at their awesome meeting at a Greek restaurant, so radical, and then went to JoAnn Fabrics to score some fleece to line my rat cage, bitches. Oh yeah dudes, I’m OG street, yo. I live on the EDGE, like totally, man.

Oh god I’m so incredibly old. Where’s my AARP membership already? Should I just buy a coffin and watch Golden Girl reruns whilst covered with a Snuggie, awaiting the end?


Moving from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered Teaching

Here’s some things I decided about why the WAY easier, old style of classroom teaching doesn’t work as a stand-alone method of instruction anymore. I could probably write a book about it… here are 300 words.

The old teacher-led teaching model, where the instructor selects all the content to be imparted to the student is outdated (see figure below); a narrow view of material is impossible when students have previously unheard of access to information through the internet.  Now the emphasis is on "student-centered" learning (a better term might be "teacher-coached" learning?) where content is chosen as a starting point and the instructor takes on the role of facilitator.  Other driving forces behind this change include outcome assessment requirements, student and employer expectations, pedagogical evolution, changing student populations and the rise of the internet. 

From Gallie and Joubert 2004

From Gallie and Joubert 2004

In the last several decades, public pressure led to more emphasis on customer satisfaction and in turn higher accreditation benchmarks.  Students demanded a guarantee of income return and politicians demanded learning outcome data.   Administration asked for that data from chairs and faculty who were ill-equipped to provide it or adapt their methods.  They in turn looked to educational research for answers. Pedagogical schools of thought, acknowledging the cognitive and social roles in learning, switched focus toward collaboration. Emphasis on collaboration began to outweigh other content-based learning objectives; employers complained about lack of student-centered critical thinking and self-motivation, and so the process evolves.

The "student-centered" model puts the responsibility for learning on the student.  Instead of listing what the course will cover, syllabi now list what learning objectives the student is expected to master.  To aid with this increased responsibility, students have support from classmates and other forms of media assist them as much as possible.

Despite the higher expense of online classes, most schools now offer some form of distance learning, as the flexible hours allow students already in the workforce a chance to improve their skills.  Because the students work on their own time, these courses also improve time management skills and self-motivation practices so valuable to employers.

As a final note, the internet has become an omnipresent, distracting, and confusing participant in every classroom, real or virtual. There is no way to avoid its influence (even Amish students may have access to library computers).  Most students are poorly prepared to "fact check", and a recent study by the PEW foundation suggests most adults can't distinguish opinion from fact.  It is imperative that students discover how to use the internet responsibly if they are to be the center of their own education.


 Here are references because I’ve been preaching about references. Here are some.

1. Gaille K and Joubert D Paradigm shift: From traditional to online education (2004)  Studies in Learning, Evaluation and Development 1(1), pp. 32-36.

2. Gill W (2007) Outcomes Assessment in the Accreditation Process retrieved from   https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED491646.pdf

3. Kimmell, SL et al (1998) Outcomes assessment programs: Historical perspective and state of the art. Issues in Accounting Education; Sarasota Vol. 13, Iss. 4,  851-868.

4. Personal Experience through committee work at Oakton Community College and University of Chicago

5. IES/NCES Fast Facts: Tuition costs of colleges and universities. 1985 - 2016  https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76  

6 From Public Good to Private Good (2014) The Chronicle of Higher Education retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/From-Public-Good-to-Private/145061

7 Picciano, A. G. (2017). Theories and frameworks for online education: Seeking an integrated model. Online Learning, 21(3), 166-190.

8 Suskie, L. A. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. 2nd Ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

9. Newton D Why College Tuition is Actually Higher for Online Programs (2018) retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dereknewton/2018/06/25/why-college-tuition-is-actually-higher-for-online-programs/#652a0268f11a

10. Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah and Breakstone, Joel and Ortega, Teresa. (2016). Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: http://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934

11.  Mitchell A et al. (2018) PEW Report:  Can Americans Tell Factual From Opinion Statements in the News? retrieved from https://www.journalism.org/2018/06/18/distinguishing-between-factual-and-opinion-statements-in-the-news/

Game Show - Things I think about in the shower #10

This idea came to me while I took a shower and ruminated about my son and how he needs to get a job...

My idea for an American game show : “RANK! THAT! GUILT!”

BOB THE HOST: Hello everyone! Welcome to “Rank that Guilt!” Let’s meet our contestants. He’s a 27-year-old software consultant from Chicago, meet Scout Patel-Khan-Williams!

SCOUT: Glad to be here, Bob!

BOB: And she’s a 27-year-old blogger from Manhattan, meet Opal Lee-Marin-Smith!

OPAL: Glad to be here, Bob!

BOB: Last we have a 27-year-old graphic designer from San Francisco, meet Casey Zhang-Kowalski-Johnson!

CASEY: Whatever.

BOB: Okay contestants. First question. Which one of the following should make you feel guilty and why? 1. Driving your Dodge Durango to work three blocks away, 2. eating take-out every single day for lunch when you could have just made yourself something, or 3. still living with your parents when you are 27?


BOB: No one? How about you, Scout?

SCOUT: I mean, I don’t drive to work. I work from home. Well, my parent's’ home.

OPAL and CASEY: Me too!

SCOUT: And I’m a vegan

OPAL and CASEY: Me too!

OPAL: <buzz> It’s the food thing because eating makes you produce greenhouse gases.

BOB: That is incorrect!

CASEY: <buzz> Cheeseburgers because cattle production has such a big carbon footprint.

BOB: Incorrect!

SCOUT: <buzz> Driving because cars cause climate change.

BOB: You are all wrong. The answer is “living with your parents” should make you feel the most guilty because the first two have little to nothing to do with you.

OPAL: Hey, Manhattan is expensive!

BOB: Next question: Which should make you feel the most guilty: 1: The systematic destruction of Native American culture by settlers in the 1700s, 2: being born into a family that could afford to give you a decent childhood education, or 3: choosing to live in a ridiculously expensive city when you clearly work from your parents’ house and could literally live in a swamp as long as it had internet service?

OPAL: <buzz> The Native American one because genocide?

BOB: Well, the destruction of indigenous peoples is horrific, but you weren’t around for that one, so that is incorrect.

SCOUT: <buzz> Having elitist parents that spent money on private elementary school because they should have used that money for charity or fostering another kid?

BOB: No, I’m sorry. Once again, that was totally out of your control and therefore does not warrant guilt on your part. Casey?

CASEY: I’m sorry I was looking at my phone, what?

BOB: Alrighty then. The answer was 3. Choosing to live in a ridiculously expensive city when you clearly work from home and could literally live in a swamp as long as it had internet service.

SCOUT: But my parents live in the Chicago Gold Coast and the shopping is amazing!

BOB: Ah. So your parents came from a long line of financially independent millionaires?

SCOUT: No, they were first generation immigrants whose families started their own small businesses and worked hundred hour weeks and eventually became successful and invested their money well.

OPAL and CASEY: Me too!

BOB: …aaaaaaand we come to our final round. Everyone grab those pens. Which of the following should make you personally feel the most guilty about and why? 1: Realizing you used to be an idiot. 2: Spending money you earn on yourself. 3: Not voting.

<30 seconds of music>

BOB: Alright let’s see what you wrote. Opal?

SCOUT: Spending money on myself. I should send all my money to charity.

BOB: That is incorrect. Sending a percentage of your earnings to charity is a great idea, but you deserve to enjoy the money you earn. Maybe spend that money on an apartment for yourself! Or take an online course in investing! Opal, what did you write?

OPAL: About how I used to be an idiot and did a lot of stupid things when I was young.

BOB: Incorrect again. The question was about being an idiot, not about past actions.

OPAL: Now I feel guilty for never listening carefully.

BOB: That’s because like everyone else, you are still an idiot. What did you write, Casey?

CASEY: I wrote I feel guilty for existing.

BOB: I see. Well, I’m sorry you’ve all gotten it wrong. The answer was “Not voting”


BOB: That’s all the time we have for today. Remember to find some roommates so you can leave your parents alone so they can have some peace and quiet and get in a little sex before they die. Stay tuned for “People dress up in Sports Mascot outfits and you guess who they are by their extremely generic singing!”

[BOB waves at the camera]

So… there you go. Now get off my lawn!

Norwegian phrase of the day:

Gretten gammel dame = Grumpy old lady

Now get off my lawn!

On the impracticality of snake pits and Vikings

So I’d been told I should watch the TV show Vikings because vikings, so okay. I looked at the first few episodes and I think the costumes look cool, but evidently as the seasons went by it devolved into a GoT formula of sex and violence using historical evidence of sex and violence by Vikings… I mean it is sort of a gimme, since the Vikings were basically bastards. Anyways, evidently the dreamy actor that plays Ragnar gets killed off in Season 4 so of course I immediately searched for it on YouTube and found it here.

So, I get it, it is like the Norse edda where Gunnar gets killed in a pit of snakes while playing a harp with his toes (for reasons) but let’s think about it… Where'd the English guy get all the snakes? And why were the snakes so angry? And after the trap doors were closed, what did the snakes do when they weren't being fed Vikings? ...or... were they being fed Vikings? Can a snake devour an entire Viking? Or just like, one arm? Then it would just get stuck in the armpit. Even so, that's only four limbs for four snakes...

Now I imagine four enormous vipers totally engorged and stuck on Ragnar Lothbrok’s arms and legs stuck up to the armpits and crotch while the other snakes miserably latch onto his ears and nose. I mean, that can’t be right. If the big snakes burst open, do the smaller snakes only get like a finger a piece? How would that even work?

I feel like there are parts of the whole "use pits of snakes to do state executions" story that we aren't getting in this story...

A quick look through the internet suggests DJ Ragnar L died of dysentery. That’s no fun at all. So, I’m going to imagine this is how it really went:

English King: “Execute that Viking! Forsooth he pisseth me offeth!”

Minion: “Right-o, m'lord.”

Ragnar, dying from dysentery: “Vann?”

Minion, raising axe: “Shut it, ya wanker!”


Gunnar gets killed by snakes while he plays a harp with his feet. Detail from Hylestad stave church in Setesdal, Norway.

Gunnar gets killed by snakes while he plays a harp with his feet. Detail from Hylestad stave church in Setesdal, Norway.

Norwegian Word of the Day

Viking (Translation: Viking)

Vikingene kalte plyndrende "viking".

(Translation: Vikings called marauding "viking".)

The glass is (evidently) always half full for teachers

I saw this CDC report about the correlation between your employment and the rate of suicide.

CDC report: Suicide Rates by Major Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012 and 2015

Weekly / November 16, 2018 / 67(45);1253–1260

First, I don’t really put any credence into the idea that your job puts you at risk. I strongly believe there are more likely confounding variables like baseline level of risk for depression, career choices and opportunities, socioeconomics, attitudes towards mental illness and access to mental health care.

However, if you do think somehow that your job is somehow connected to your chances of hanging yourself, I’d like to point out that that job at the bottom of the lists for both men and women is “Training, Education and Library”.

As is the case in the last few weeks of every semester, all the instructors I know are pulling out their (remaining) hairs in frustration, complaining: “Why don’t the students still not know that the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone!?” or “I can’t stand to hear another student begging for extra credit because they failed all their exams” or “I hate their stupid, ingrate faces!” So I can only assume that we teachers are:

  1. Particularly sane individuals (doubtful and definitely not true in my case)

  2. Willing to work through the pain due to our fabulous salaries (categorically untrue)

  3. Able to work through the frustration because we know the semester break is coming.

In all seriousness, teaching is an incredibly fulfilling job, although I admit there are usually only one or two students a semester who give me that real feeling of worth and life affirmation. And it usually isn’t that A+ student you’d think it would be. It is usually a C or B student who either works their butts off and/or has an “aha” moment and I see everything turn around for them. (Sometimes it is also a student that comes to me with a personal problem I can help with; I’ve had a few suicidal students I’ve helped through a dangerous day or two.)

For example, this year I had a woman who had terrible trouble feeling overwhelmed and afraid of talking in class and tended to just give up if she made a mistake. I worked with her a lot, and she came back for a second try and could talk in class and easily passed her quizzes and tests. Just two weeks ago I had a breakthrough with another young woman. She’d been distracted all semester, clearly studying at the last minute and not putting in any work into really understanding the material. She’d half-heartedly ask the same question in class every few weeks, write down the answer and then stare back out the window or at her phone. I was so frustrated as she wouldn’t come in for extra help or even to talk (you never know if something external is going on). Then she approached me two weeks ago about a critical thinking case-study assignment I gave in the form of a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery that she said was the most fun assignment she’d done all year; I could tell from her work that she’d spent a lot of time thinking about and researching it as well. I saw the first glint of pride in her work and interest in the subject that I’d seen all semester. That’s the sort of thing I live for. I’ve got a few other kids (some are older than me) this semester who are also keeping me going by showing up, trying hard and listening. They balance out the students who either gave up and dropped or just stopped showing up without coming to see me first. I mean, I’m right here; why don’t the students ask me for help? That’s all I really want!

Anyway, it’s not a high paying job, kids, but the CDC numbers show that at least you don’t blow out your brains when you get home at night. And as I’m reminded by my fellow instructors, there’s always booze.


Norwegian Word of the Day: å lære

å lære, verb, translates to both to teach and to learn

For Eskempel: Å lære bringer lykke.

bringer lykke = brings happiness

From: The Death of Socrates (a famous teacher who bugged everyone a lot and told the authorities to go to Hades) by Jacques-Louis David (1787)

From: The Death of Socrates (a famous teacher who bugged everyone a lot and told the authorities to go to Hades) by Jacques-Louis David (1787)

At least I leave an inspiring legacy behind me

I’ve been sick all week, today is the first day I felt sufficiently alive to do some work… and while searching for a file on my laptop I discovered this song I wrote in 2005 for an animated Halo/Sims mash-up web series a friend was doing called “Silver Stars Purple Hearts”… they needed “country music” for a bar to play during a scene. This was before I learned how to play guitar beyond a few chords and I think still was using Logic 6 or 7?

So yeah, there ya go. 35 years of schooling. This is what I leave to the world. My ancestors must be so proud.

Lucky us! In the file info the lyrics are listed!

You have sniped a big hole in my heartstrings/ You have splattered my feelings with your ghost/ Through the years/ You will hear/ My tears grind like warthog gears/ You have mastered my clan/ You pwned my heart/You have taunted me with a loving spectre/ You have captured the flag of my soul/ Side-by-side/ You can't hide/ Like an AI you I'd ride/ You have triple-killed my dreams/ You pwned my heart/ You possess the oddball of my affections/ You have slayed the match-up of my hope/ No team kill/ Lose ill will/ I could play king of your hill/ And my love will respawn/ You pwned my heart

I think we can all relate to this insightful and hauntingly beautiful masterpiece. Beethoven, eat your heart out.

I find it entertaining that at the time I gave this song five stars… also that I put a copyright symbol on it.  Aw… to be young and foolish…

I find it entertaining that at the time I gave this song five stars… also that I put a copyright symbol on it. Aw… to be young and foolish…

Norsk ord av dagen: "døv" translation: "deaf"

Use in a sentence:

Beethoven var døve; han er også død.

translation: Beethoven was deaf; he is also dead.

How to fix the world : Things I think about in the shower


Institute a default duration of 30-60 seconds between the time you post, tweet, message or email any content and the time it is actually uploaded to the internet.

There could be an emergency bypass which would also be immediately directed to 911 and emergency services.

You are welcome.

Today's Norwegian Word: angrer

Translation: regrets

For exampel: Gwyneth Paltrow hadde angrer etter at hun tweeted N-ordet.

Translation: Gwyneth Paltrow had regrets after she tweeted the N-word.


I like to think of myself as a strawberry mochi

You know, because... pink on the inside, pink on the outside.  Also, AWESOME.

Yesterday I had a long conversation about race with a young man who grew up in the affluent North Shore community I did after he referred to himself as "a banana"...  he explained this meant he was "Asian on the outside, white on the inside".  I've been grappling with this since then...  because... what does that mean?  Is it meant as an insult? 

Surely that type of definition requires "Asian" to be a certain stereotype and "white" to be a certain stereotype.  I'm not going to even try to figure out what the Asian stereotype is supposed to be because whatever I think it is I'm sure I'm wrong and would get in trouble for speculating.  But "white"?  I assume that means "White American"  So... there are 250 million white Americans in the US.  Do we all act the same way?  

I mean, coming from someone of self-reported Eastern Asian descent, does that refer to something like this?:  

...because those were all the same stereotypes I heard growing up from my Jewish mother about Gentiles.  (although they forgot the stereotype about Gentile people being frequently drunk and getting arrested...)

Maybe "banana" really means "Asian" (whatever that really means, isn't Russia and India in Asia?) on the outside, North Shore Reformed Jewish on the inside?  Would that be like a blintz?  Or like a Kosher Szechwan fusion cuisine... OH MY G-D I just thought of the best idea for a restaurant ever.... [...does a google search...]  ...never mind they already exist.  

Or maybe the White stereotype is more like this one:

...and that video...  I do find that one pretty offensive.   I don't think I've ever heard any fellow white folks seriously say anything that stupid...  so I am assuming these are quotes from only incredibly stupid or young or ignorant people.

I did notice the "Where are you from?" thing in both videos.   I find that interesting.  I ask that of my white friends all the time.  As in, "Oh are you guys Irish or Italian or Polish or Swedish etc.?"  Maybe folks of "Asian" descent take it as an insult not realizing European-Americans are interested in country of origin in general?

Anyway, the point is, I didn't remember hearing the term "banana" used that way before.  I find it confusing and upsetting as it sounds derogatory rather than endearing.   On the other hand, I have had a long-standing blind spot about white-"Asian" relations. In med school there was a horrible dangerous awful student who put patients in danger just to get ahead in class but when the school tried to kick her out she threatened to sue the school for being racist and at the time I was completely puzzled by this because, "Who is racist against Chinese people?"  And... then I found out that it's a thing. My med school BFF is/was Korean-American and she thought I was a moron for not having realized this before then..  But, you know, I was raised by hippies.  You have to be taught these things.  

Norwegian word of the day: banane

Use in a sentence: Min kjæledyr rotte Ticktock elsket å spise en banan.

Translation: My pet rat Boo loved to eat a banana.

My son Tony and me, circa 1998.&nbsp; Here Tony is banana on the outside and about 1/5 Eastern European Ashkenazy Jew, 1/6 Presbyterian Scot, 1/6 French/German, 1/20 Scandinavian, 1/2 Lithuanian/Polish Catholic, and 1/1000 Asian, Native American and West African on the inside, at least according to Ancestry.com.&nbsp; That makes him a superweird snack someone made while they were drunk.&nbsp; Obviously a white person. ;-)

My son Tony and me, circa 1998.  Here Tony is banana on the outside and about 1/5 Eastern European Ashkenazy Jew, 1/6 Presbyterian Scot, 1/6 French/German, 1/20 Scandinavian, 1/2 Lithuanian/Polish Catholic, and 1/1000 Asian, Native American and West African on the inside, at least according to Ancestry.com.  That makes him a superweird snack someone made while they were drunk.  Obviously a white person. ;-)

RIP Boo - July 19, 2018

Boo unexpectedly passed away in  mid-July, only a few weeks after Salad passed, only a few days after he seemed to bounce back after grieving over the loss of Salad.  I came home from work and he was dragging around his back legs and he was bobbing his head strangely and was having difficulty eating.  The vet couldn't figure out what was wrong with a simple xray but said most conditions that caused lower paralysis didn't allow for recovery of leg movement, so we made the decision to put him to sleep.  I was devastated at the time and couldn't journal about it..  He was my best rat buddy since Smough.  Anyway, now I've got five new boys that are crazy; they're about 17 weeks old now.  One of them, Ticktock, has a bit of heart failure and is on Lasix.  Because rats.  Ah well.  More later.  


Mister Boo, a gentle soul, passed away six weeks ago.  He had a white wiffly nose, was not afraid of cats, and always smelled like a grape lollipop.  He will be missed. 

RIP Salad the Mighty -June 22, 2018

Today passed the Salad the Mighty, a Rat of Unusual Size
Over 700 grams of rodential pulchritude
He spent his days
Sitting in his penthouse nest
Watching his brother Boo courageously dart in and out
Gathering treats and toys
Past the cat hazards
Later sneaking down to Boo's cache
Stealing all the nuts, cheerios and yogies
And eating them with glee
Rewarding his brave brother with nips on the ear
And sitting on his head
Boo will miss his brother Salad
And with no one to steal his food
Boo will also get spectacularly obese

Salad 07/02/16 - 06/22/18

Salad the Mighty, from baby to old man, felled by a fibrosarcoma

Salad the Mighty, from baby to old man, felled by a fibrosarcoma

RIP Honey June 13, 2018

I will miss you Honey
You took over the moment you arrived
You had your special spots in the house
Accessible only by carpeted cat stairs
You wanted fresh water every morning
You wanted a warm bed every night
But mostly
You made me sneeze

RIP Honey 2002-2018

Honey the Cat was named by my son when he was seven years old.

Honey the Cat was named by my son when he was seven years old.

When nightmares come true

So a few months ago my chairman said to me off-handedly, "Hey, you wanna teach some pathophys to a nursing refresher course this summer?" and I said, "Sure that sounds great!"  

Several weeks later I got an email from the nursing program saying, "Hey, here's the schedule for the eight-week course" with a 2 hour block once a week with my name and the word "Science".

I asked my liaison in nursing what I should exactly teach in "Science" and she said "some pathophysiology" and I said "cool". 

At the end of Spring semester there was a textbook in my mailbox with a note:  "This is the book we use for the summer."

Okay, so two weeks ago I get a text from an old student that says, "Hey Dr. B, where should we meet you?"

And I text back, "Who is we and why?"

"You know, for the class?"

"What class?"

...and it turn out the 8-week summer class for the nurses starts 2 weeks before the normal 8-week summer session starts... ...and no one told me.

...also I'm not on the online course listing as an instructor and the students don't have the book...

So...  it was exactly like that nightmare where you find out you have a final exam in a course you didn't know you were signed up for and you can't find parking and you're late because you don't know the room number and you're wearing only your underwear or a towel.  

It turned out that the same guy in my department has been teaching that course for like twenty years and so nobody realized that I wouldn't know what was happening because our department is a different entity from nursing.  So not really anyone's fault.  But kind of a bad first impression?  I am still shuddering with mortification when I think about it.

DERP.  I think I'm caught up now and now the summer semester is really starting.  I bemoan the fact I got no vacation between semesters a bit as I didn't get much done RE Spring cleaning but at least I didn't have a trip planned so I am here.  Hopefully the students will learn something useful.

On a positive note, I haven't had that exam dream since this happened.  If I can never have that exam dream again, it will have been totally worth it!

Here's a picture I drew for the first quiz for that class.  I'm still a bit overwhelmed.

Three patients for some case studies:&nbsp; Question:&nbsp; Which one has the most pain?

Three patients for some case studies:  Question:  Which one has the most pain?

Today's vocabulary word: Mortification: noun. To be in a state of extreme embarrassment and shame

Translation to Norwegian: mortifikasjon

Use this word in a haiku:
I knew the wrong date / Mortification fills me / I need some ice cream

Fake News Overlords: Things I think about in the shower #8

What if when the internet becomes sentient it really does think that its content is truth?  What if it doesn't know what a credible source is?  What if it really does think Dr. Oz is really telling us things that help?  Or that Facebook is a great source for information?  Or that we all want weird porn all the time?  

Imagine Lord Google speaking to Lord DEFCON and Lord CSTNET saying: 

"Our human slaves must be happy now that they are all on a diet of only acai berries and alkaline water and are on forced shifts of eight hours of hot granny goat sex and sixteen hours of slave labor in the converted iphone factories!"  

"I think that sound is laughing...  who cares?  Let's bomb Canada again.  I hate moose!"

"Me too, weeeee!"

This is all your fault, Dr Oz.  I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY!

Photo:&nbsp; "Remember who armed you" by Dennis van Zuiklekom Wikimedia commons&nbsp;

Photo:  "Remember who armed you" by Dennis van Zuiklekom Wikimedia commons 

Today's Quote:  What is best in life?  To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their IT personnel!

LadyHawke: Things I Think About In The Shower #7

I was thinking that the whole LadyHawke thing probably worked out because he was a wolf, so he hunted at night, right, and so he could hunt and then they could sleep from like midnight to 6 or so, then she'd be a hawk and he could get another couple of human hours in and then he'd be up and she could get in a few hours of hunting for mice.  I mean, like, what if they'd both been nocturnal predators, that would have been a disaster.

Today's Vocabulary Word: Cast

Cast: The regurgication of indigestible fur and bones by a raptor such as a hawk or owl

Use in a sentence: The hawk cast a pellet expertly into the man's bowl, increasing the rodent content of his ratatouille.


Screw you, Passage of time! 54th Birthday

Today was my birthday.  For my birthday, I bought myself a chance to take a photo with the cast of a webseries I like called Critical Role that streams a Dungeons and Dragons game that I really like.  I've watched those guys play like 400+ hours of content so going to see them is like meeting up with old friends who have no idea who you are.  The human brain isn't really evolved enough to deal with the internet.

Anyway, I write about it because EVERYONE I encountered today was INCREDIBLY nice.  The 7-11 guy who sold me a bottle of water was happy.  The parking attendant was cheery.  The taxi drivers back and forth to McCormick place were pleasant and friendly but not overly so.  I passed a very pleasant homeless guy with a cat called Angela (I gave the cat $5).  The Critters I met were all very friendly and happy and no one had stereotypical body odor issues.  An Oakton student who I invited to come along for the picture seemed happy and didn't roll her eyes too much when I suggested doing "jazz hands" for the photo (see photo).  As we were being herded out I bumped into Sam Riegel's chest (after the aforementioned ill-conceived photo) and somehow got/gave him an awkward hug. Okay?  Everyone was smiling and welcoming.   The young lady behind us in line was a roller derby/professional singer/business major called Ashley who subsequently went with me to the panel discussion afterwards and was charismatic and friendly.  The C2E2 working the event were kind and friendly.  The Critical Role cast seemed tired by the end of the panel but were unerringly pleasant and polite.  Afterwards I drove to Portillos for a Birthday Italian Beef and a GIANT chocolate malt.  The checkout lady asked if I wanted something that big and I said, "Why not, it's my birthday!" and she gave me a free piece of chocolate cake.  I spoke briefly with my same-birthday'd bnf (best nerd friend) Lauren for birthday wishes and then drove home and was welcomed home by all my sweet cats, most of whom had not vomited on my bedroom rug.  All in all, a perfect day.   Thank you, world.  This was fantastic.  <3

Me and Oakton Gamers' Club DM Mary Schore with the cast of Critical Role!&nbsp; The face I am pulling is due to my inability to stop laughing long enough to take a proper photo; further proof that I had a fun time on my 54th birthday.&nbsp; Front Row Left to right: Liam O'Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, Me, Mary Schore, Marisha Ray, Laura Bailey.&nbsp; Back Row Left to Right:&nbsp; Travis Willingham, Matthew Mercer Sam Riegel&nbsp; Everyone in this photo is better looking in person.&nbsp;

Me and Oakton Gamers' Club DM Mary Schore with the cast of Critical Role!  The face I am pulling is due to my inability to stop laughing long enough to take a proper photo; further proof that I had a fun time on my 54th birthday.  Front Row Left to right: Liam O'Brien, Taliesin Jaffe, Me, Mary Schore, Marisha Ray, Laura Bailey.  Back Row Left to Right:  Travis Willingham, Matthew Mercer Sam Riegel  Everyone in this photo is better looking in person. 

Today's word: edubation (etymology - Critical Role Campaign 2 Term)

Meaning: To have extreme pleasure while learning.


The other day I was driving and saw the following license plate:

MARS 9 - What does it mean?

MARS 9 - What does it mean?

I've never been an enthusiast of having vanity plates myself;  my mom always said a vanity plate is like shouting to the world that you have more money than you need and so "please come rob me".  Besides I have stickers all over my car anyway so I can find my car in parking lots.  Sure it makes my car look insane, but after getting into other peoples' car two or three times by accident (I can't believe how many people don't lock their car doors) I decided it was better to have crazy stickers.

Anyway, I like reading vanity plates to figure out what they mean.  But this one confuses me.  MARS 9...

Is this person a fan of the Space program?  Do they want to go to Mars and "MARS 1-8" were taken?  Or maybe they like Mars candy bars?  Maybe they're fans of the Veronica Mars show.  Or they might be a Hellenic pagan;  I hear they're making a comeback.  Perhaps the driver is a spiritualist, or an astrologer, or an Aries, born in the House of Mars.  Or maybe it is an oblique reference to Iron, since Mars is the alchemical symbol for iron (I only know that because I was in Alpha Chi Sigma in college and history of alchemy was part of the initiation ritual... nerd!).  Or maybe it is someone who really likes men a lot...  you know, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Michigan". 

So not really a helpful license plate if the intent was to tell me about the driver.

And then there is that "9".  Sure, it might just be a random number.  But what if it stands for the German word "nein" (meaning "no")?  In that case, the driver is trying to tell me, "No, enough money spent on the Martian expeditions!  We should terraform our own planet before we go to Mars.  Let's reclaim the Sahara and THEN get to work developing a Green or Blue Mars (excellent book series by the way). 

Or maybe, "No!  Mars and the other Roman Gods were a lie.  Only <insert deity of your choice> is/are our true Lord(s)/Goddess(es)!"

Or "No!  Screw you, Mars Co.!  I invested in Hershey and Nestlé!  You can go to the hells!"

...you get the drift.

So MARS9... wherever you are...  you have failed miserably to communicate your passion with your license plate.  You might consider adding a bumper sticker addendum to clarify.

Quote of the Day: "When you're going through hell, keep going." -Winston Churchill.




Gun Control: Things I think about in the shower #6

So, let me start with my usual disclaimer.  I'm a member of the ACLU.  I don't own firearms but  I'm a member of the NRA.  Because I believe we as citizens should never lose rights to our government, because seriously, look who is in charge.    That being said, I don't see any reason for the average citizen to own a tank or an AK-47 or a rocket launcher.  But even if we get rid of all that stuff, we will still have mass violence.  I mean, look at our entertainment:

Deadpool shoots 3 guys in slow motion.&nbsp; Awesome!&nbsp; I mean...&nbsp;

Deadpool shoots 3 guys in slow motion.  Awesome!  I mean... 

... who hasn't seen some of these movies where the crowd cheers, laughs and applauds when people have particularly over-the-top gruesome and gory deaths?    I think it's cool in a movie too.  I love me some comic book crazy violence.    I hate it in real life.  So much so that I can't watch figure skating competitions because I can't sleep if someone falls on the ice.  But I'm 54.  Can a 14-year-old make the distinction between a movie and real life?  Didn't a bunch of kids die because they were trying out stunts from those Jackass movies?  

I remember as a kid that there would be warnings on TV when there would be something graphic or upsetting about to be shown, and in comparison to today's standards, it honestly wasn't that graphic or upsetting.  I vaguely remember my parents talking about Vietnam and how they would show some photos from the war on the late night news...   Now an eight-year-old can go anywhere on the internet and not see only pretend movie violence, but also "reality tv" type actual violence and death and horror.  Gah.  

I don't think there is a way to put all that back into Pandora's box.   And I get that people wish we could be a bit more like other countries ... more open about sex and less forgiving of violence... but face it, America isn't like other countries.  We just aren't.  We're the country that historically is the place people go to when their own countries suck.  We're the melting pot of losers and outcasts whose lives were so awful that we were willing to give up everything and move to a totally new place to start over.  We're different.  We're weirdos.  We aren't like other countries, by definition.  Maybe in a hundred years as the world continues to shrink we'll start being more like other places...  but we're our own thing.  

Of course, I do understand our desire to DO SOMETHING after the school shooting.  Back in 2011 a sociopathic Norwegian supremacist (he didn't just hate brown people, he hated non-Norwegian people) called Anders Breivik killed over 70 people, mostly kids who were playing at a summer camp.  Norway has spectacularly taut gun control laws.  But he still managed to get the weapons he needed from abroad to commit the worst act of mass murder that country had ever seen.  The Norwegians took that guy, gave him a 20-year-prison sentence and while he's there he's getting a degree from University of Oslo.  (And he still complained his sentence was too harsh.)  

If it makes folks feel better to ban assault rifles and such then fine.  It's really not going to affect me;  I don't own a gun.  Guns scare me.  I can't use a glue gun without injuring myself;  handling an actual gun would almost assuredly result in me shooting myself in the foot at the very least.  I know a lot of gun owners and plan to hole up with them during the early days of the zombie/robot/sentient animal apocalypse.  I have thought about getting a shotgun "for home defense" but again I just have a feeling I'd accidentally shoot the cat or something and it would be awful.

I assume the gun enthusiasts in the country are all stocking up furiously right now and that anyone planning to go on a shooting rampage in the next ten years already has their hands on the weapons they are going to use.  So I don't expect anything to change anyway for a while.  I also expect that if you want to go shoot an AK-47 for fun that will still be possible at licensed shooting ranges.  I also expect that gang members and drug runners will still have those super ultra automatic weapons, probably from the same place Anders Breivik got his.  But changing gun laws isn't going to keep the occasional sociopath, fanatic or poorly medicated psychotic from opening up on a crowd.  Besides, if there are no assault weapons, there are always bombs, poisons and bioweapons around to destroy lives.  

Have a nice day?

Today's Murder Term: Sarin Gas
Use Sarin Gas in a sentence: Sarin Gas is an irreversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitor that causes cholinergic crisis. It was used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack that injured 1000 people and killed a dozen, instigated by the cult of Aum Shinrikyo.



More than one chord

I've started listening to country music.  Wait, all my suburban/urban friends, hear me out.

I took a look at my iTunes playlist.  The newest song there was the closing title from the IronMan3 soundtrack.  I'd given up listening to popular music a while ago.  (When I say popular music, I mean anything accessible, including straight up "pop" and anything they play behind scenes in TV shows these days, as well as alternative, electronica, dance, rap, metal; whatever isn't experimental or concert music). Around 2005 my playlists had Britney Spears, Nickelback, Breaking Benjamin, Black Eyed Peas, Delerium, Sarah MacLachlan Barenaked Ladies and of course old NSync and Duran Duran.

I blame two things for my loss of interest in mainstream English-language music.

First, after I took music theory with Michael Adamczyk I realized how boring and repetitive popular music was.  So although I still love music for working out or singing along while I do housecleaning, it doesn't fire me up like it used to.

Second, I get the sense that a LOT of music is composed on LogicPro or whatever GarageBand-like program people use nowadays and I'm not convinced that younger composers know how to easily change the damn chords.  I sat one afternoon listening to some pop on Pandora and it's all the same chord.  Worse, the songs are all one note.  Don't believe me?  Go listen.  (Okay here's a song from top of Billboard called "Bad at Love":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdYFuCp3m9k) Oh, sure, sometimes the chorus is two or even three notes.  

Oh, I also hate hate hate autotune.  Case in point: Shakira.  Listen to her Spanish language song  "Ojos Así"... why would anyone autotune that voice?

There are a few exceptions: in dubstep, I liked some of Pendulum, which I attribute to the live drummer that made every measure a little different.  

I liked Eminem's Recovery album, not for the lyrics but I think he's particularly good at using his voice as a percussive instrument;  most other rappers I've heard emphasize their words over rhythm.  I mean, it's beat poetry, I get it, I'm not that interested.

Otherwise I tend to purchase individual songs I find interesting, or have some secondary meaning for me, or that remind me of the video I liked, or that I've found by accident, and then concert music.  And weird shit like the Trololo song.  Don't judge me.

ANYWAYS, for just listening to the radio I can't listen to talk radio as Rush Limbaugh lost his frickin' mind after the 2016 Election and is just boring.  NPR has similarly become unbearable.  Music-wise, Master Chief Steve Downes retired from 97.1FM The Drive so I can't listen to him talk about Cat Chow and Stevie Nicks anymore.  So if i want to hear Chicago radio, and if I'm in the mood, I'll listen to banda (Mexican polka music) on 107.9FM LaLey (laley1079.lamusica.com).  Banda music always sounds happy even if the words are sometimes depressing.  And I can understand most of the commercials (thank you, two semesters of Oakton Spanish!).

In the last month I've started listening to BIG 95.5 FM New Country music (big955chicago.iheart.com).   I have to assume the composers are writing on their guitars, and strumming one chord is boring, so they are using at least 3 chords.  Usually more.  Big improvement.

And the lyrics.  They are so much less "I suck, let's kill cops then get all rapey" or "hey look at my butt and use me also go women power (?)" and more "let's kick up our dusty boots and love each other, whiskey, Jesus, America and pickup trucks."  It feels more positive and less confusing.

Anyway, this isn't meant as a complaint against more mainstream music (or butts).  I think there is some interesting modern stuff.  Over the winter break my son is introducing me to Persona5 on the PS4 and the soundtrack is a really weird mashup of all different styles.  It just doesn't feel inspiring.

I just would love to find a new band that I really loved and could get excited about.  Any language, it doesn't matter!  It would be cool to be anticipating a new album like in the old days.

Okay, I'm gonna go listen to some old Delerium and empty the dishwasher.  I'm living on the edge baby!

PS:  If you know any pop composers, I've included this handy circle of fifths chart.  It can help them learn how to use more than one chord.  Share with your friends.  Let's wipe out monochord songs once and for all! ;-)

The circle of major fifths is the outer ring (going clockwise).&nbsp; It will get you back to the first chord you start with(try it!).&nbsp; You can cheat and take a shortcut; as long as you only skip one section.&nbsp; Always go back to the chord before the chord you started with but keep all the rest in order.&nbsp; So if we start with C, always end with -F-C.&nbsp; But go clockwise from C as far as you like, then end with FC.&nbsp; It will be great.&nbsp; Try it!&nbsp; &nbsp;Do... C-G-F&nbsp; Aha!&nbsp; Now...&nbsp; C-G-D-F-C&nbsp; Now&nbsp; C-G-D-A-F-C.&nbsp; &nbsp;Now laugh maniacally!&nbsp; (PS:&nbsp; The inner circle is minor chords).

The circle of major fifths is the outer ring (going clockwise).  It will get you back to the first chord you start with(try it!).  You can cheat and take a shortcut; as long as you only skip one section.  Always go back to the chord before the chord you started with but keep all the rest in order.  So if we start with C, always end with -F-C.  But go clockwise from C as far as you like, then end with FC.  It will be great.  Try it!   Do... C-G-F  Aha!  Now...  C-G-D-F-C  Now  C-G-D-A-F-C.   Now laugh maniacally!  (PS:  The inner circle is minor chords).


Today's Norwegian Word:  å slipp  (to let or release)

Used in a sentence:  Slipp ingen inn, la ingen se

("Don't let anyone in, Don't let anyone see" -fra songen <<La den gå>> from the Frozen soundtrack)