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.  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. ;-)

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

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)



No Need For Driving

The eclipse happened today. I ordered some glasses recommended by the NASA website and I'd planned to drive south to get into the path of totality...  but the forecast called for clouds all down route I-57 so... meh.  

That being said, the sun did peek out in and out of the clouds and I had a lot of fun running around the block sharing my glasses with folks I caught outdoors.  I had two pairs and gave one pair to a bunch of guys working on the sewer line on the street.  Only one of them spoke English, but I saw them all taking turns looking through the lenses and they seemed really stoked about the eclipse so that was good.

I also filmed a meh video about drug naming.  Not a super tough topic but it was the eclipse so why not?


Norwegian word of the day:  Sun  =  Sol

Example:  "The sun is hiding."  "Solen gjemmer seg." 

Almost dead, but not

I just woke up, about 4 am, absolutely unable to breathe, choking on something or another (I strongly suspect, despite having zero evidence of this, that a spider crawled down my gullet, as I once read spiders crawl in peoples' mouths when they are sleeping and spiders are my arch-nemeses).  Obviously I lived.  However, I am sad to report that as I struggled to cough out whatever was blocking my trachea my final thoughts were not of how my death would affect my family, or who would take care of my pets, or whether the department would be able to access my gradebook for the semester, or even the most basic thought that I should get up and summon the police with my handy police-summoning Xfinity home security gizmo.  No, my final thoughts were that I wasn't wearing one of my nicer nighties and I was going to be found dead not being very fashionable.

I feel like I should just turn in my Modern Independent Highly-Educated Woman ID badge and join a reality TV show where I complain about my makeup and whether The Bachelor-of-the-moment likes me better than Amber or Sparkles or whatever other empty-headed goofballs are on those shows.  As a proud member of the ACLU, I completely support their right to be empty-headed goofballs.  But that's supposed to not be me.  It's like I don't even know myself anymore.  I'm seriously disappointed.

Also, I hate spiders.

Today's Early Morning Norwegian Word is "Edderkoppen" which means "The spider" as in "Edderkoppen dreper meg." [The spider is killing me.]


Mom's Advice: Things I think about in the shower 5

(Preface:  I'm noticing that I mostly think about upsetting philosophy and modern society in the shower.  That's pretty weird, I think, because knowing me I'd think when my mind drifts I'd think about kittens or space battles.  I have to think about what this means...  anyway...)

When I was a teenager, my mom sat me down and told me, "When you're making out, don't let the boy get too excited.  If boys get too excited they can't control themselves."  I'm sure she got this wisdom from her own mother in the 1950s when all women pretended to be virgins before marriage.    

I was thinking about this in the shower because I've once again heard this argument that"all men are inherently rapists".

It occurred to me that "boys can't control themselves" and the statement "all men are inherently rapists" are basically the same flawed logic.  If it is a biological failing men have, then who are we to oppose it?  Right?  (I'm playing devil's advocate here.)  It's pretty clear that sexual preference for the vast majority of people is anatomically based.  Would the feminists of the world start an ad campaign saying that homosexual men should control themselves from being homosexual?  Of course not.

If "men are all inherently rapists" then it logically follows that men have a biologic imperative to rape women at will.  Which is clearly bullsh*t.   

I've also read in a lot of places, "Okay, well, not ALL men are rapists..."

...to me that's basically the same as saying, "Okay, well not ALL Jews want to steal your money" or "Okay, well, not ALL African-Americans eat watermelon" and so forth.  The implication is that the speaker is obviously prejudicial against the group in question.  Saying "Okay, well, not ALL men are rapists..." is to me the equivalent of "Okay, well, I PERSONALLY hate and fear men" and I think that's a little sad.

Regardless, you could also look at it the other way.  My mother's assertion is also that she expected that I wouldn't lose control, and therefore would be my boyfriend's keeper.  (So it's also the girl's fault if she can't keep the boy in line.)  I mean, I've lost control in my life a few times.  There have been times where I've done stupendously stupid things while drunk (the few times I've been drunk, another reason I don't drink), or while exhausted, or worse, while in love.  

Women do stupid, horrible things too.  We're all humans.  We all do stupid things and every day we have to wake up and make a conscious effort to do something stupid.   Why is it always about women versus men?  Why not everyone versus stupid?

Anyway, it was a short shower so I'm off to go back to thinking about space battles. 

Heartache = heart injury?

I got this question from a former student: 

Hey doc! I have a random medical question and you're the only person I could think of that could possibly explain it in a way I can understand. What is the physiology of heartache? What causes the physical "ache" or "pain" a person feels in their chest/heart area when they're grieving or experiencing heartache?

I'm really interested in this, actually, because the chest pain I get from the depression is the same as the chest pain I had when I broke up after long relationships.

When Carrie Fisher died, and her mother Debbie Reynolds died the next day, I saw a lot of news reports saying Debbie died of "Broken Heart Syndrome" aka Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, which led to a number of as-usual-totally-wrong news reports that heartache you get after a breakup is actually a heart attack and will kill you.

First, let's keep in mind that when she died, Debbie Reynolds was 84.  Also the autopsy showed she'd died of a stroke.  So the heartache idea is totally wrong.  That being said, if you are 84, you probably have some narrowed vessels or cholesterol plaques or areas of weakened artery walls (called aneurysms) in your brain and your daughter dying might stress you out and cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate that might cause one of those weak spots to blow.  Very sad. But not a heart problem.

I spent a little time looking up "Broken Heart Syndrome" at the time and the idea is that stress causes a big surge in norepinephrine and heart rate and blood pressure and this leads to a weird shift in coronary blood flow that can lead to something like a vasospastic angina.  However, EKGs done during a bona fide episode of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy shows signs of reduced oxygenation, like angina or an MI (heart attack).  So yes, severe stress can trigger some coronary blood flow weirdness.  But it's super rare and I challenge you to find someone who has never had heartache.  

But "heartache" doesn't mean "you are dying of a heart attack".  That would be spectacularly counter-evolutionary, for one thing.  The whole point of even having heartache is to encourage you to stay with your mate and clan so they can help raise your (unreasonably helpless human) baby. The emotional pain of losing someone you love is like withdrawal of a drug (love).  Love makes you want to mate, which makes more babies, which eventually leads to your species being in charge and a bunch of crazy weirdos becoming leaders of countries and the planet.

...speaking of chest pain...

Anyway, I've seen some pseudoscience sites say the stress increases norepinephrine (NE) and so of course that causes the broken heart syndrome.  I expect it sounds logical, but then why do I (and others) get that same chest pain when we are depressed?  Surely if constant chest pain for years on end was due to inadequate oxygenation of heart tissue people with depression would eventually get heart failure and die.  (I just coincidentally had a stress test with echo that showed my heart is A-Okay despite years of depression).The monoamine hypothesis suggests depression occurs when there is too little NE, or serotonin or dopamine.  That's why drugs that increase or mimic those neurotransmitters help relieve depression.  So... feeling depressed after a break up is due to levels of NE being too high and being too low?  Doesn't make sense.

Looking around the web and medical websites it looks like no one knows why depression and breakups cause chest pain.  A press release from Emory describes a prospective study of over 5000 adults in North Carolina that showed depressed people have chest pain and it happens in the absence of coronary artery disease. Yeah, duh. 

I've also seen a lot of people quoting a Scientific American "Ask the Experts" article written by Robert Emery and Jim Coan (two PhDs, not medically trained) talking about emotional pain triggering "the anterior cingulate cortex [that] may respond by increasing the activity of the vagus nerve—the nerve that starts in the brain stem and connects to the neck, chest and abdomen. When the vagus nerve is overstimulated, it can cause pain and nausea."

My students know that any reference to the vagus nerve causing angina makes me infuriated.  The vagus nerve slows heart rate.  Any pain or nausea caused by the vagus nerve would have to be referred stomach or esophageal pain.  Not the heart.

So the answer, I think, is that no one knows why heartbreak and depression cause chest pain. 


I expect that folks will keep studying the phenomenon because that chest pain totally sucks, even if you only count the cost of ER visits due to MI false alarm.  And depression is the top reason for disability in America and disability means lost time working and paying taxes.  And our government definitely wants us all to work and pay taxes.  So stop with the chest pain already!

Today's Norwegian Vocabulary Word: hjertesorg
  Pronounced: (yer-tuh-sore).
   (Translation: heart sorrow or heartache)
Exercise: Use "hjertesorg" in a sentence:
Example: Da rotte Smough døde, hadde jeg hjertesorg.
(When my rat Smough died, I had heartache.)




Two legs good, four legs bad (Things I think about in the shower pt. 4)

I have this really cool sweater coat I bought at Lucky about a decade ago.  It's obviously inspired by historical Chinese fashions with wide sleeves and a mandarin collar.  It's gorgeous.  I used to wear it all the time until I heard about "cultural appropriation".  Now I NEVER wear it, and I also never wear in public other clothing or jewelry that someone might claim as their own domain.  This includes some dangling earrings my sister got me in India, or a Mah Jong tile bracelet (although maybe I could argue that they represent my connection with old Jewish ladies, I suppose?), or a Halo T-shirt with the word "Hola" on it, or my Korean-inscribed T-shirt...

I feel really confused by the extent to which "cultural appropriation" is used as an accusation or even a threat in the US now, so much so that I'm afraid to wear anything or do anything someone might see as not of my own heritage (which so far, according to my sister's 23andMe DNA testing includes mostly Scotland, England, Ashkenazi Jew, a dash of Native American and a dash of West African.)  I realize I look like a white Anglo-Saxon (I think I look equally British and Norwegian and would look even more so if only my mother hadn't used all that over-the-counter benzedrine in 1963), so I've been far less likely to buy "ethnic" goods like fair trade fabrics from India. If I wear my African-made earrings of little giraffes is that cultural appropriation?  Will someone call the news about it and get me fired from my pathetic two-hours-a-week job?  

I thought maybe I was taking it too far until an Asian-American colleague at work told me I shouldn't wear mandarin-collar clothing to work because it was insensitive cultural appropriation. So I won't. Similarly I don't want to be on TV getting beaten up because I wore an embroidered blouse for Cinco de Mayo. 

That's the thing I find so sad about it.  I mean, I know in my heart of hearts that I love the fact that in the US we have all different cultures represented, and I know in my heart of hearts that I love my non-white friends and relatives as much as I love my white friends and relatives.  And I know that the majority of people do not give a crap if I wear a mandarin-collared outfit, or a kimono-styled blouse to work.  So I know that I mean utterly no offense by wearing objects I find beautiful.  I know that I will go above and beyond to help my students no matter what their race, religion or sexual identity.  So the only reason I don't wear the giraffe earrings my Korean-American BFF brought me from her two month stint on the African continent is because I don't want to get fired or reported on or beaten up by social justice warriors.  The SJWs of the world seem to think it is absolutely okay to destroy anyone they've decided must be a bad person for the most innocent of acts they've decided are offensive.

I also find utterly baffling the apparent desire by (mostly young) Americans of varying cultural backgrounds to segregate themselves from fellow Americans of different genetic heritage.  That they want to get rid of the white people they live with.  I honest-to-god don't get that at all.   I remember rampant mainstream racism from the 1960s.  My WASP-grandparents belonged to a restricted country club (no blacks or Jews allowed). Didn't my hero Martin Luther King Jr die specifically because he was calling an end to the evil of segregation?  I saw a news story that a college student group in Michigan wanted a place on campus that didn't allow whites. Don't they realize that if they get the legal right to discriminate by skin color that the crazy white supremacists will then have the legal precedent to do the same?   And then we'd see students demanding whites-only days at school.  It would be a disaster that I think would spur terrible violence and tragedy.

Back in the 1970s, the message my parents taught me was that in America we should accept all cultures and races and bring them into our own lives with acceptance and understanding. America was the "great melting pot" and as new waves of immigrants arrived we took those cultural influences and made them part of our greater picture.  Each culture had its own national pride, sure.  And each wave of immigrants sadly had to put up with some fear and bigotry...  the Irish faced it, the Italians faced it, the Jews faced it, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the Muslims...  It sucks but it isn't specific to non-whites by any means.  

Here In Chicago the Irish and Polish were big influences when I was growing up, but there was also Chinatown and Greektown and areas of the city where you could go have a meal where English wasn't on the menu.  Those places are still here;  just in the last year I've gone to restaurants where the staff and customers all spoke Lithuanian,  Korean, Japanese and Bulgarian. Do I have the right to take a selfie while I enjoy a meal at a Korean BBQ?  Should I feel scared to tell people I really like a particular Japanese Ramen shop?  I honestly don't know.  And I hate feeling I've lost the right to free speech.  Especially since everything I think usually comes out of my mouth without a filter.  ACLU all the way, baby.

The vitriol on the news and on social networks make me actually afraid I might be offending someone who cannot control their violence or vindictiveness.  I've been teaching at Oakton for ten years and there is usually someone in every class who thinks I've said something typically sexist or racist or whatever (usually because I talk about pharmacology issues intertwined with genetics or gender).  For example, every year I get someone who says, "I looked up BiDil on the internet and what you were saying about it being only useful to African-American patients was actually true!"  

*Insert Facepalm Here*   Why would I make up stuff in lecture that is easily checkable?  Students have such weird ideas about instructors...

Anyway, I was thinking about this whole issue in the shower after watching this video about some protest because white people were wearing kimonos.  The conclusion I came to is to not wear or talk about anything the young SJWs of the world might decide I shouldn't because it just isn't worth getting publicly scorned or beaten because I wanted to wear my dangly earrings. 

If you really want to bring people together it has to be in a loving, welcoming way.  Educating people is far more likely to change minds than threatening ever will.   Trump is a hot mess but I know intelligent, liberally-minded people who voted for him in part due to fear.  Not fear of people of color or Muslims or LGBTQs, but rather fear of those social justice warriors. Because those people are f*cking terrifying.  

The pigs' slogan "Two legs bad, four legs good!" was a powerful motivator on the farm, but it didn't work out at all for the horse.  Just sayin'...

Today's Norwegian Prhase: koreansk grillrestaurant
  Pronounced: (Core-yi-ahnsk greel-fest).
   (Translation: Korean barbecue restaurant)
Exercise: Use "Koreansk grillfest" in a sentence:
Example: Jeg spiste bulgogi på den koreanske grillrestauranten; det var deilig!
   (I ate bulgogi at the Korean barbecue restaurant; it was delicious!)