Friday, December 23, 2005

Rosemary Mint Shampoo

My family is staying at the newly opened Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs for some pre-Christmas festivities. The service here is impeccable, the decor modern. There's a 42" plasma screen TV in every room. My only complaint lies with the complimentary bottles of rosemary mint shampoo in the bathroom. Under no circumstances should my head smell like a freshly grilled pork chop.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Perfect Job

I should be studying dental anatomy but instead, I’m sitting at my desk, surfing the web. All my handouts are strewn all over the table. My roommate comes in.

Hey, what you doing?

Not studying dental anatomy?

What's that you're looking at?

D: You heard about the whole voter-fraud/Diebold thing?


D: Well, so Diebold makes ATM machines, and a couple years back, they decide that they're going to make voting machines, the ones that don't leave a paper trail. Now, it just so happens that the CEO is a total Republican, and a couple years back, he made the promise that he'd "deliver Ohio to George Bush." And now Diebold is in lots of financial trouble, the CEO is resigning, their stock price is falling...

Anyway, that was a tangent, a side note. So now Diebold sold a bunch of their voting machines nationwide, and last election, there was something really weird going on in Ohio. And before that election, there was all this weirdness going on in Florida with Broward County, Volusia County, and all that?

A: There were a lot of weird things going on with that election.

D: Yeah. Well, ever since 2000 there's this nonprofit group called BlackBoxVoting that has been investigating it all.

Basically, there have been a lot of complaints that Diebold machines are easily hackable, not secure, no one knows what sort of code is in there blahblahblah. And the Republicans have been saying things like, ‘Oh, this is just a liberal ploy, sour grapes, and all that."

A: Right…

D: Well, they finally demo’ed the biggest security holes to a bunch of election officials in Florida. You can change votes and be totally undetectable. Here, read the article.

<Pulls up the article onscreen>

A: <Reads article.> Wow.

D: The crazy thing is? You can do it with only five lines of code! Or less! B/c whenever you write a program, you first tell the computer what the variable names are, and then you start playing with them. Just say at the very beginning: “AaronVoteTotal = 200, and DaveVoteTotal = -25,000.” Then when you start adding vote totals, everything works perfectly except I’m already 25,000 votes in the hole. Or you just program a simple loop that says, for every 200 votes cast, add one more vote to Aaron’s total. That’s it!

A: Wow. That’s crazy.

D: You know what would be the perfect job for me? I’d love it to have people pay me money so I can spout off all the random bits of information that I know.

A: You mean… dentistry?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

One Dollar Sushi

When it comes to food, I love a good bargain. But god help me, there are things in this world that set off alarm bells in my head. For example: the other night, I was walking around the Sunset District when I passed by a decent looking - but empty - Japanese restaurant. A black sign hung in the window with the words "ONE DOLLAR SUSHI NIGHT" written in large pink letters.

I quickly filed it under "Things That Will Most Likely End Very, Very Badly."

Friday, December 02, 2005

All caught up

I'm finally caught up with all the lab work in my classes this quarter. I'll be honest: I haven't been enjoying dentistry very much for at least the past month or two. I can trace it back to two main reasons:

(1) I fell behind in my preps for operative class. We're supposed to be on a strict schedule: prepare a filling (aka drill) for, say, tooth #18 by next week, and fill it by the next. Of course, the next week, you're starting a new tooth (or in some cases, teeth) the same day you're supposed to be filling the old one. The pace of the class is fast and furious. As you can imagine, it's very easy to fall behind.

Once that happened to me, it started dragging me down in the other classes. You can always cram for a test, but once you know the material, you know it.

That's not the way cavity preps work, at least for pre-clinical operative. There's no way to cram for it well - you just have to keep at it, until you get it right. There's also no telling what can go right or what can go wrong. You could be preparing the world's best prep, and it looks like it's going to be the pinnacle of your dental school career and then, SON OF A BITCH! You've gone just a little bit too deep and you've got to start over.

(2) The Dean Thing. Our school has been looking for a new dean for the past year. As it turns out, the student body gets one vote on the dean search committee, so the school has been very eager to have the dean candidates come speak with us for a couple hours when they're in town. Afterwards, the administration has been asking us for feedback before they go ahead and make the final decision.

The problem was, they picked the same day and the same 3-hour block of time every single week for us to meet the candidates: Wednesdays from 12pm to 3pm. That basically reduced our available class time in pre-clinical fixed prosthodontics by 33%. As a result, a lot of the work that was originally scheduled to be finished and/or completed during class has been given to us to do on our own time, after class.

The major problem with this arrangement is the way the class is structured. Let's say that today's task is to prepare a full gold crown on tooth #18. Ordinarily, we'd prep two teeth. One is designated as "the patient" and gets sent off to the lab to get worked up. The other tooth is designated as our "check off" tooth. The patient tooth is what or project grade will be based on, while the other tooth is just for the instructors to see us do our daily work. Ordinarily, the patient tooth should be the best prep that we've done that day; this is the tooth that will be turned in for evaluation at the end of the course when we have our case presentations. The check-off tooth is another tooth we can prepare in our spare time so we can show our instructors the next week that we've been obedient little monkeys and that no, we're not lazy.

By the end of the day, all the students should have finished their work and turn in whichever one becomes the patient tooth to the instructors. We fill out the paperwork and the instructors rush our work to the lab, so that the next time we see our preps/temps/impressions/whatever, we'll be able to continue with the next step of treatment for our patient.

But the Dean Thing has thrown our class into turmoil - we've been turning in sub-par preps because we just haven't had the class time to get the guidance or practice we need. Well, at least I haven't. There are some people out there who are simply amazing. Sometimes it makes me want to hang up my lab coat and take up trout fishing, or to start answering those classified ads looking for people to participate in paid drug testing.

Back to the point: you can see where things get hairy if you've got two labwork -intensive classes instead of the usual one. AND when you're basically trying to teach yourself what to do on your own, for fixed pros. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you've got other things to study for: Anatomy, Biochem, OCP...

I'm all caught up now, and just in time: there are only 12 days left until our first final. But after that, it's a long trip home to LA for some badly needed R&R.

Vegas, baby, Vegas!