Sunday, April 29, 2007

Putting Things into Context

I'm sure you've all heard that tired cliche that goes something like this (my apologies in advance for butchering it): "I feel like just a speck of dust in the universe." Well, I've just stumbled upon a cool picture in a fascinating Discover blog posting that lends credence to this thought, at least in terms of the wider blogosphere (i.e. all the blogs in existence).

The post cites studies that suggest that approximately 60 million blogs are now online and that about 175,000 more are created every day (or, in other words, 2 every second). Now keep in mind that most of these new blogs are, in the words of the blogger, "either abandoned or isolated," so the sheer number doesn't necessarily signify much (yours truly is a case in point). The blogger then ventures into some of the more popular blogs (both by number of links and page views), including Daily Kos and Boing Boing (two of my absolute favorites, one for the politics, the other for the eclectic mix of postings), and provides a nice concise explanation of how some blogs hit the big time while others fade into obscurity.

I believe my blog falls into the latter category.

The blogosphere is the most explosive social network you’ll never see. Recent studies suggest that nearly 60 million blogs exist online, and about 175,000 more crop up daily (that’s about 2 every second). Even though the vast majority of blogs are either abandoned or isolated, many bloggers like to link to other Web sites. These links allow analysts to track trends in blogs and identify the most popular topics of data exchange. Social media expert Matthew Hurst recently collected link data for six weeks and produced this plot of the most active and interconnected parts of the blogosphere.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eclectic Music Selection

Wow, two posts within the same hour? I apparently have WAY too much time on my hands.

It's been a little while since my last MP3 batch upload so I thought I'd indulge you this week with some choice cuts from my past few weeks' playlist. There's a little bit of everything here so this should (hopefully) appease even the more demanding musical palates out there:

- Battles: Atlas (excellent New York-based electronic/techno indie rock)
- Patrick Wolf: Overture (amazing violin-laced indie/electronic rock, peep the cover art above; scandalous, no?)
- The Apples in Stereo: Energy (just makes you want to grin from ear to ear, it's that infectious)

Time Flies...

It's funny how every time I write a post I tell myself that I'll be up and writing the next one within the next day or, at most, next two days. It's funny because it never actually happens (as I'm sure you've all already noticed). So yes, another week almost done and gone (thankfully) and another midterm under the belt means I can finally return to more "entertaining" activities (at least in my book), such as blogging (duh), reading and catching up on all those delightful Daily Show and Colbert Report episodes I've been missing out on.

Of course this is only a minor reprieve as I'll once again be plunging into midterms galore next week with two test cases (basically pre-clinical lab exams), one midterm and a Powerpoint project. Joy.

On a different note, I'm happy to say that last Friday was a blast and that I really enjoyed listening to and meeting with Assemblyman Mark Leno and interacting with the pharmacy students for their first ever "leg" (short for legislation) day. It didn't hurt that I got a fancy dinner that night free of charge at the Alumni House (a sweet pad, if I do say so myself) and enjoyed a lively discussion with some faculty members and other students. For a recap of Leno's speech, feel free to read my article on it, which will be out in tomorrow's edition of Synapse (another shameless plug, I know).

Friday, April 20, 2007

And Life Goes On...

Has it really already been five days since the last time I posted? Notwithstanding the amount of work I have (and keep on being given), it's always amazing to me how much dental school just seems to sap all my free energy/time (however little remains after classes, that is). As much as I'd like to post more regularly, I am constantly confronted by the realities of "life" as a dental student (particularly its limits) and am thus forced to relinquish all pretentions to having enough leisure time to update the blog on a regular basis.

Having said that, however, I am NOW posting so I thought I'd clue you in on the latest developments in my so-called life. The first item that's been occupying most of my time: I have another midterm coming up this Monday on metabolism/biochemistry (in other words, LOADS of fun).

That's the ugly part.

On a brighter note, today I will have the pleasure of meeting Assemblyman Mark Leno who is running for the State Senate this year (SD-03 to be more specific) and is a great supporter of SB840, a bill that would help institute a universal healthcare system in California. I'm looking forward to picking his brain about this and other critical issues facing the state and can genuinely say, as a devoted politico/current events nerd, that he is one of the "good" politicians.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In the Lab

So I'm sure some of you have been burning to see WHAT exactly it is I do when I venture into the preclinical lab (or, as I like to call it, the dungeon). While most of my experiences there are too disturbing to share (OK, I'm exaggerating), I thought I'd share two pictures of the before and after process of cutting a "prep" (short for preparation) before placing a composite filling.

Here's the before (you're looking at tooth #7, i.e. the right lateral incisor):

(NOTE: the green tissue-looking thing is a "rubber dam," used to prevent water from getting into the patient's mouth, NOTE #2: and no, I'm not doing this in an ACTUAL patient's mouth)

And here's the after (after having cut two preparations):


Too Good to Pass Up

I promised myself that I would try to keep my politics out of this blog (my columns serve that function effectively enough), but I couldn't bear to not share this hilarious picture with you:

Nothing better than an unintended juxtaposition to create some hilarity...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Forward and Onward

Well, another week and another midterm are now officially history and although I won't be able to enjoy the weekend as much as I would've liked (trying to take care of some extra preclinical work and getting a head start on a research project), it will still be NICE to have a few days off without having to contemplate the looming specter of another exam. I'm exaggerating here a bit, of course: the first midterm really wasn't all THAT bad though I'm sure I still made a fair number of honest (and careless) mistakes, a problem that has increasingly dogged me since I started at UCSF.

On a more pleasant note, an art show I helped coordinate with a first-year pharmacy student (and fellow Synapse blogger), Tina Lee, went very smoothly and attracted a respectable amount of critical attention. Above all it was a great diversion from my studying (it took place the evening before my midterm) and allowed me to blow off some steam while admiring some of my UCSF colleagues' stunning work (photography, paintings and poetry all included). Let me also use this forum to congratulate Tina (check out her personal blog here) again for a job very well done and for winning first place in the painting rubric (a well-deserved recognition).

Finally, the keen observers amongst you (in other words, those with a lot of time on their hands) will notice that I just updated my blogroll with one more, Creek Running North, an excellent nature and science blog (sprinkled in with the occasional political/social commentary) written by the illustrious Chris Clarke. I've long been a follower of this blog and similar ones written by a variety of scientists and journalists, but the reason why I chose to highlight this one is because Chris Clarke will be coming to work for Synapse beginning next week. Tim Neagle, the managing editor of Synapse, met Chris Clarke during the dot-com boom when they worked on an online environmental/nature news site known as verde (which, along with many other internet start-ups, flopped soon after its unveiling) and was key in bringing him onto the staff. I am very much looking forward to picking his brain and talking to him about his considerable experience working as a science writer and journalist.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shameless Plug

As much as I hate doing these (well, OK, maybe not all that much), I thought I'd point you towards some of my journalistic work online. Many of your probably already know that I write weekly columns/articles for UCSF's paper, Synapse, but you might NOT know that I also write for OhmyNews International, an independent online news website based in Seoul, South Korea. Granted, I submit a lot of the same articles I write for Synapse to this website, but I also sometimes write up articles there based on the feedback I get from the many talented editors.

Most of my stories have a political/news bent, but I've also written a few stories on more tech-oriented material (my being a HUGE technology whore and all), such as the Web 2.0 movement and the Apple iPhone. So go indulge your journalistic hunger (and indulge me at the same time) by directing your browser to and looking around for one of my articles (or more depending on how much time you have). You (hopefully) won't regret it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Even More Music: British Edition

Those of you who know me well will probably not be too surprised by my next choice of MP3 selections. Now for those of you who DON'T know me and my musical preferences well, you'll soon realize that I adore, simply ADORE, British music (Britpop, Britrock, whatever you want to call it). Indeed, I count several of these groups, including the inimitable Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads and Bloc Party, amongst my favorite bands.

As I've already told some of you, I have felt equal parts elated and distressed about the fact that several of said bands have all released their second albums within the period of the last few weeks. While the reason behind my elatedness is pretty obvious (lots of good music = happy Jeremy), the reason why I have felt some measure of distress is harder to see. In essence, it boils down to this simple formula: more time spent listening to good music = less time spent on studying/working. Ah well, so it goes.

So without further ado, here are some choice cuts from some of the albums I've been spending most of my waking hours listening to:

- Maximo Park: Girls Who Play Guitars
- Good Shoes: We Are Not the Same
- The Maccabees: About Your Dress

Enjoy (or not)!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different...

OK, so this next post doesn't really fit in well with either the whole "new features" pledge I made to you a few days back or my habitual d-school banter. In fact, it doesn't really impart any meaningful information at all. Which is why I decided to write it anyways.

So, to cut to the chase, I just wanted to use this post to showcase this awesome tie I saw while trolling my list of blogs the other day:

It's called the 8-bit tie (did I mention how absurdly awesome it is?) and I want it. Originally conceptualized as an April Fool's Joke by the clever folks at Think Geek, the response by readers/buyers was so overwhelming that they decided to actually make and sell it. In short, I am now eagerly awaiting the release of this sweet, sweet tie (clip-on too, take that you snobby tie-knotters!) and, to ensure that my wait is minimal, have put my name on the waiting list to get it. That's all. You may now return to your usual chores.

Experience So Far

Well, I’m near the end of my first week of courses for the spring quarter, and so far I have to say that my experience has been mixed. First, the good news: although it seems that the subject material will be much more rigorous and challenging (physiology isn’t rocket science but it’s damn close in my book), the lectures on it have been very interesting so far and, between you and me, I’d much rather spend time studying this than sitting in the preclinical lab. Also, because one of my ISOs (Independent Study Option for those of you not in the know) still falls on Friday afternoons, I get to enjoy a somewhat prolonged weekend though I have a feeling I’ll be spending most of those afternoons in the lab catching up on my work.

Now for the bad news (which I’m sure you’re much more interested in hearing about): the preclinical work, though there is less of it, will most likely be as difficult as this past quarter’s, if not worse. Some might say, with just reason, that one SHOULD expect the coursework to become more difficult as the year progresses and, assuming the school is intent on producing skilled, capable clinicians, that the faculty therefore should have the responsibility of appropriately ratcheting up the pressure. All valid reasons, of course, but allow me to issue my own counter-argument.

While I won’t deny that increasing the complexity and quantity of preclinical lab work will, in the short run, cause a proportional increase in the quality of work produced, I believe that in the long run we’d be better served by reinforcing the techniques we’ve learned by repeating them at intervals instead of cramming them all into a short window of time and then hoping we can recall them once we return to them a few years later in the clinic. Furthermore, because we have so much other coursework to worry about (primarily the biomedical sciences coursework I discussed above), it makes more sense to me that we should lower the expectations a bit in other difficult courses to allow the students to feel less concerned and have the flexibility of focusing their efforts more effectively on mastering it.

That’s my shpiel. No doubt I’ve left my arguments open to all sorts of attacks (to which I would say: bring it on!), and I’m sure that reasonable individuals will vehemently disagree with the premise of my rationale and its tenets. This is simply my personal opinion and it should therefore be read as such.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

For Real, Yo

There's something to be said about the Joys of Losing Weight. And, no, before some of you start jumping to conclusions (perhaps assuming I've been attempting to shed some weight over the past few days, perish the thought), let me just clarify that "The Joys of Losing Weight" is actually the name of an (sadly, unreleased) album. Crafted by a younger Zach Condon, of Beirut fame (at least to me, most of you probably haven't heard of him or his recent debut, Gulag Orkestrar), this sublime collection of tracks encompasses what I love most about this artist: beautiful, melodic tunes and inspired lyrics sung in his inimitable voice. Going by the stage name The Real People, Condon and his able troupe of musicians composed this work a few years ago but never released it as an LP.

For those of you familiar with Condon's brand of (what I like to call) gypsy rock, this is certainly a departure, but a welcome one that only underlies his tremendous talent and versatility. Since you're not likely to hear of this band anywhere else, I thought I'd indulge you with two of my favorite tracks:

- Track 3
- Track 8
(yes, both tracks lack titles so bear with me)

I'm sure many of you are probably wondering what this has to do with dentistry (or, really, anything in particular). Well, in an effort to broaden the appeal of this blog (past the two or three of you who "regularly" read it), I've decided to implement some new features (this is but one of them) to give it some more "pizzazz". Featuring music I've recently discovered will (hopefully) become a regular feature since it's one of the few things in life I enjoy as much as reading/blogging, and I'll even let you in on some of the fun by giving you the opportunity to download said music (only within the period of a few days however, lest the RIAA or some other body come knocking at my door) if you so desire.

Feel free to give me some input if you're interested in one particular feature or another (such as my "currently reading" list or random music videos I've recently discovered as well). Enjoy!