Experiments in Micropropagation, Part 0

A while ago, I read about the concept of micropropagation, a fast way of propagating/cloning plants. Since I learned years ago about how readily the jade plant can sprout from a single dropped leaf, I’ve always found the idea of propagating plants interesting. Micropropagation extends that idea, by growing in a sterile medium and using plant growth hormones to get things just right. While traditional propagation lets you take a cutting from a plant and get it to root, micropropagation allows you to take that cutting and induce the formation of many shoots, then moving each of them along to rooting. It’s a perfectly nerdy hobby for me.

I have an orchid whose blooms are fading, meaning it’s time to cut it back. I also have a hydrangea that I’ve failed thus far to root conventionally, though I think that’s more me lacking a green thumb than anything. So I decided to try this. Everything is in my pressure cooker now, so this is Part 0 of a series.

The Secret Sauce

Key to the process is the “media” the plants are grown in. It is traditionally solidified agar to keep pieces in place, with plant growth hormones and sugar to nourish the plant. You might also use, if you hadn’t forgotten to order it on Amazon, a cytokinenin to promote cell division, encouraging the growth of multiple shoots.

Based on what I’d read, I made a solution of the following:

  • Murashige and Skoog medium (“M&S”), 4.3g/L per the bottle. This is the exact product I ordered. Note that it’s a powder, but is sold by the final volume, so the 10 Liter container, at 4.3g/L, must be approximately 43 grams of powder. However, I goofed up the math, and used close to double the desired amount. We’ll see how big of a mistake that was. Also a mistake, I think, is that I ordered the version without vitamins, this is the with-vitamins version.
  • Sucrose, at 30g/L. I used table sugar. Well, I should have used table sugar, but I only had powdered sugar, which I naively assumed was the same. After mixing everything, I realized that powdered sugar is actually sucrose and tapioca, in an unknown blend, so I probably have too little sucrose, and random tapioca in the blend. I would make a horrible scientist.
  • Agar, at 8g/L. I purchased this product.
  • Water. I probably should have used purified/bottled water, but didn’t.

As you can see, I’m already off to a rocky start. But I’m doing so kind of knowingly, somewhat expecting failure my first try.

Procedure

Undaunted by my mis-measurement, use of a vitamin-less medium, and my decision to use powdered sugar to fulfill the “sucrose” requirement, I went about preparing the medium with similar regard for proper scientific precision.

M&S blend

This is the solution I mixed. I conducted this in the sterile lab environment of my dirty kitchen stovetop. Lacking a beaker, I used a mixing bowl. I also used a striped drinking straw as an innovative stirrer / pipette combination. The idea was to blend things in the appropriate concentrations, then place them in test tubes, then put them in an autoclave.

As cool as it would be to have an autoclave at home, I do not. I do, however, have a pressure cooker, and those are recommended as a suitable alternative here. As I understand it, the purpose here is twofold: to sterilize the medium, and to heat the agar in the medium to a temperature sufficient to get it to set.

M&S media in test tubes

I did try to do things right, and sterilized each test tube with bleach, then with rubbing alcohol. I then rinsed them, and used a pipette drinking straw to fill them with around an inch of the solution I mixed. To contain them in the pressure cooker, I used a drinking glass, partly filled with water.

IMG_2798

I covered about 2/3 of them with tinfoil, realizing that perhaps, when heated past the boiling point, the liquid might boil off. (The stoppers are plastic, and would have melted.) I left a few as a control to see how much evaporates. I had only made 4 ounces of solution, but it ended up being way too much for 9 (I broke one of the ten…) test tubes, so I filled a couple ramekins partway as well. Here’s what ended up going into the pressure cooker:

Everything is “cooking” now. In the meantime…

Explant preparation

The portion of the plant that’s cut off to be used in tissue culture / micropropagation is called an explant. Keeping things sterile is described as being very important, though I was quite lax in some of my preparation—partly out of lack of experience or proper equipment yet, and partly because I’m curious if things will work at all when done this way.

I tried to use roughly half-inch to 1-inch bits of the parent plant. Each was rinsed in water, soaked in a dilute bleach mix, rinsed, and then dipped in rubbing alcohol, before being rinsed again. The goal is to then move them into test tubes with sterilized tweezers, seating them in the gel.

I’ll try to post an update tomorrow about whether this ends in complete disaster or not. Assuming all goes well, it will probably be a while before anything starts to grow. The results will be anything between 3 orchids and 2 hydrangeas starting to grow, to nine test tubes that start to grow mold and fungus. Tune in next time!

Praying for Things

I follow “God” on Twitter, @TheGoodGodAbove. (He’s on Facebook, too!) I’m not a religious person these days, but having been raised Christian and sent to a Catholic high school, I did learn a good bit about God. The thing I find interesting is that, as much as “God” on Twitter upsets more strict religious folks as heretical, I actually find his posts to be a better representation of what Jesus taught than I’m used to getting in church. His most recent post is something that strikes a chord with me:

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As a non-religious person, I’m left wondering what praying for the victims in Nepal even means. I guess you could pray that there won’t be more earthquakes to make things worse. You can’t pray that the whole thing will be undone, because if that worked, we wouldn’t have had the Holocaust or 9/11. About the only prayer that makes sense to me is that they’ll get speedy help.

As a religious person, I was irritated by something similar. I believed that God acted through us. Praying that God will wave a magic wand and make things better is cheating. If you’re praying that someone will help: be that someone, and go help. And if it’s not practical for you to fly to Nepal and help (and I’m quite sure we’d just be in the way if we did), donate to an organization that is helping.

But praying that God will have someone else help is cheating. Do it yourself. Put it down as “fulfilling your own prayers” if you’d like.

</religious rant by a non-religious person>

Winter Car Stuff Worth the Money

I think the “hearty New Englander” gene may have skipped a generation with me. Winter is an utterly horrible time to drive. Ice makes driving dangerous. Snow requires you to shovel your car out before you can drive. Salt and sand ensures your car is absolutely filthy all year. And the cold results in gigantic freaking potholes in the road.

My first recommendation is to move somewhere warm. For those of us too foolish to do so, here are a handful of things I’ve found that make driving in the winter slightly less awful. (All links go to Amazon because that’s where I shop, but I have no financial interest in any of these things.)

“Portable Tow Truck” tire traction boards

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This is a pair of plastic polypropylene “boards”, 3′ long and 8″ wide, with spikey nubs on either side. When you get stuck in the snow, you can put these down under your drive wheels for some quick traction. I haven’t needed them on my own car yet, but very shortly after I got them, a coworker couldn’t get out of his spot after a snowstorm. We tried these and he backed right out.

The link is to the product I purchased. There are versions that fold (these take up a good bit of room in your trunk, though you can stand them to the side), and versions that are a bit cheaper, but I haven’t tried either.

Brass Ice Scraper

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For windows only! Brass is a lot more durable than a plastic ice scraper, but still softer than glass so it won’t scratch glass. That makes this brass ice scraper fairly handy for chipping away at a thing layer of ice. (It’s a small handheld scraper, so it’s not well-suited for working on thick ice. For that, see my recommendation on moving much further south.)

Be warned: I’m told that some retail stores have stopped selling these because people use them on plastic side mirrors and they destroy them. Only use these on actual glass windows.

Sno Brum

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I actually have a $20 knock-off version of this, with which I’m perfectly happy. It’s got a soft foam head, so you can don’t have to worry about scratching your car. You can use this to just shovel snow right off your car. Completely clearing my car of snow is perhaps a 2-minute process, tops. Last winter, I rushed out to clean my car because the snow plow was waiting for us to clear out of the lot. I got out after my neighbor had started cleaning their car—much smaller than mine—and finished with time to help do more than half of their car.

Water blade

This doesn’t have a good photo, but it’s basically a 9-12″ “blade” made out of soft silicone.

What they advertise it for is drying off your car when you’re cleaning it. The soft finish makes it safe to use to wipe water off your car, and it’s pretty effective. But I keep this in the front seat of my car and use it many mornings to wipe off the misty dew covering my windows. Not winter-specific, and not useful in the real dead of winter, but great when it’s a little above freezing and your windows are covered in a hard-to-see-through mist in the morning.

The jury’s out: Runflat tires

My new car came with runflat tires. Last week, I hit an enormous pothole and ruptured my tire.

The good: I just kept driving. TPMS told me that the tire pressure was “low” (there was, in fact, a literal hole in my tire) and to proceed cautiously. I drove home, just taking it a little more gently than usual, avoiding the need to stop on the side of a busy road in very windy, 20-degree weather. The tire is designed with heavily reinforced sidewalls that can support the weight of the car, and some sort of bead that’s designed to stay intact even with no pressure.

The bad: Runflats aren’t something you’ll find in every garage, so I had to take it to the dealer, a 25-mile drive. In the rain, when it was mid-30s, so the whole thing was liable to shift over to ice at some point. On a tire that isn’t supposed to exceed 50mph. It was completely fine, but it was pretty scary not knowing. After I got there, they informed me they were out of tires, and I’d have to take a loaner car until they got a spare in the next day. The repair ended up being over $500, and it took two days.

At the time the tire failed, I was absolutely enamored with the runflats. In the end, I have to think it was far more of an ordeal than it should have been. (Note that cars with runflats rarely have a spare time, since it’s “unnecessary.”)

Not tested yet: Jump kit

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The battery in my old car started to lose some of its oomph, and, after seeing one of these used elsewhere, I thought I should buy one to play it safe. I didn’t, but the idea floated around in the back of my head for a long time.

In that old car, I easily went 5+ years without anyone ever asking me for a jump. I’d had my new car for substantially less than 24 hours before I ended up next to someone with a dead battery, who asked for my help.

I probably looked like an idiot looking around my engine compartment, before I had to tell them, “I, umm, can’t find my battery.” BMW keeps them in the trunk, where a spare tire would normally be, apparently.

Less than a week went by before I was at a gas station with a guy whose car wouldn’t start. Eventually he found someone inside who was able to help him. And then, within a month, it happened two more times. People next to me in gas stations couldn’t start their car. I took it as a sign and bought a jump kit.

I’m yet to get a chance to try it. But if I do, it’ll be a lot easier than trying to maneuver my car into place and hooked up some tangled jumper cables.

The one thing so far that I don’t like is that the clamps are always live. Put a multimeter across it, and there’s about 13V there. I worry I’m going to eventually accidentally put a wet snow brush across the top of this thing in my trunk one day, and very quickly discharge its claimed 1,700 “peak” Amps in a fiery surprise. I wish there were a switch on it, or at least that the metal pads on the clips weren’t exposed.

(There are a lot of cheaper, smaller, less-powerful alternatives. This is hardly the ultra-deluxe version, but I decided against getting a tiny $50 one. If I’m going to spend any money at all on this, I want to be confident it will work. If I skimped and bought one that turned out to be too weak, the whole purchase would be a waste of money.)

Why gold is a terrible investment

A while back, I somehow became interested in gold. I’d seen a few references to people investing in gold—physically buying gold coins. The idea is that gold holds its value well, and has been used as currency for millennia. So it sees use as a hedge against the dollar—when people worry about the dollar losing value, they buy gold. Seems pretty reasonable!

But as I started to look into it, my doubts grew. I’m now of the opinion that gold is a terrible investment, especially for the claimed purposes. Here’s why.

First, I’ve seen it said that gold holds its value very well, and is very stable. Here is a graph, from Kitco.com, showing the price of gold from 1995 to today:

If you’d have invested around the turn of the century (I love that “turn of the century” now means 1999-2000), you’d have done very well for yourself. But would you want to invest now? It’s true that past performance doesn’t indicate future performance, but this isn’t exactly the type of graph that makes me see a huge opportunity. But my point isn’t to argue that gold has “peaked,” or anything of the sort. My point is just that if someone tells you that gold is a very stable investment, they are lying through their teeth. In a 10-year period, gold went from below $400/ounce to over $1800/ounce. And since 2011, it’s lost about $500/ounce in value.

Gold also seems to attract some nutty conspiracy theories and strange beliefs. A lot of place sell pre-1933 gold. I spent a while trying to figure out why. And, well, here’s why: back in 1933, the government started seizing gold coins for a brief period of history. Some worry that the government will do this again, but believe that gold coins from before 1933 are exempt. This belief is, of course, wildly inaccurate. The linked article does a good job factually debunking it. (For those less inclined to care about facts, but fond of conspiracy theories, I might argue this—if the government were to overstep its authority and confiscate privately-owned gold in the modern era, what makes you think that they would honor a misinterpreted rule from the 60s and leave your pre-1933 gold untouched?)

I should disclaim that I’m not an investment expert, and that I’m not really trying to argue that savvy investors could never see gold as a good investment. If you’re a financial wizard and want to put some money in gold, by all means give it a try. What I am saying is that, if you’re a senior citizen who saw the commercial I saw on TV about how the dollar is going to lose its value and your safest bet is to buy gold, you are being had.

But when you see ads on TV trying to sell you gold, you might consider their motives. If I believed gold was going to keep climbing in value, I’d be buying up all the gold I could get. But suppose you were sitting on a lot of gold and saw the graph I linked to above. Wouldn’t it seem really tempting to try to convince people that the dollar was going to fall and that they’d better buy all the gold you were selling right away? You’d be rid of your rapidly-depreciating gold, and left with plenty of cash in a time when the stock market is hitting record highs.

In conclusion, please do not buy gold without doing a lot of due diligence. Maybe gold is a good investment in certain situations, and maybe gold was a good investment a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean that gold is a good investment for you, today.

One Weird Trick to Never Run out of Batteries

(No, no, I’m not actually selling anything, and this isn’t spam. But some of us have been parodying the weird “One weird trick” ads that no one understands. I did it in my post about getting NFS working, and my friend and colleague Tomas introduced his Gerrit expand comments bookmarklet as “one weird trick” to make it more usable. This one is about batteries.)

For years, I’ve been plagued by what to do about the things I own that use AA/AAA batteries. On one hand, disposable batteries are really convenient, because they last years in storage, and are always ready. But the idea of throwing away batteries weekly becomes morally objectionable the more you think about it. On the other hand, you have rechargeable batteries. They can be used hundreds of times, solving (or at least exponentially reducing) the disposal issue I have. But I’ll often endure a wait of a few hours when the batteries in something die and I have to go hastily recharge them. So often I’ll charge things when the batteries aren’t really all that low, so that they won’t run out at an inconvenient time, and that’s just a hassle.

So the “one weird trick” is simple: buy a ton of Eneloop batteries, more than you need, and use them first-in, first-out. Throw depleted batteries on the charger as you grab the new ones to ensure you never run out. It’s the best of both worlds. You always have fully-charged batteries on hand, but instead of throwing the depleted ones in the trash, you put them in the charger. Here it is in a diagram:

Sequence diagram

I really can’t begin to describe how incredible this is. It’s like this amazing luxury I have. But there are some things I figured out along the away:

  • You need to get something that’s got a very low self-discharge rate. This is the selling point of the Eneloops. You can charge them and they’ll still be good a year down the road. (They’re not immune to self-discharge, but it’s greatly reduced.) This system just will not work at all with regular batteries. Otherwise when you charge a battery and return it to storage, it will be drained by the time you use it. Seriously, this bullet point is absolutely critical.
  • Get all the same type of battery. Different brands, or maybe even different models of the same brand, discharge at different rates. It becomes a lowest common denominator situation if you mix them. If you must use different brands/models, don’t mix them in the same device.
  • Buy a ton of batteries. I figured I’d need maybe ten AA batteries. I actually have about 25-30 in circulation, four in reserve (charged and ready to go), and four that I just replaced. You think you got everything, and then the batteries in something else die and you realize you need more. Because they last a long time between charges, having a dozen extra batteries is not a problem. Having too few batteries is.
  • You must force yourself to always put the dead batteries on the charger as you grab new ones. Keep the reserve (charged batteries) and the charger next to each other. This is absolutely essential. You will just have a pile of dead batteries otherwise.
  • Go strictly first-in, first-out on batteries. Work left-to-right, front-to-back, or whatever. I’ve often been tempted to take the batteries off the charger and use them, since they’re “fresher” than the ones waiting in reserve. But the whole point of this system is that the ones in reserve are perfectly good. Once you start skipping over batteries, that guarantee starts to break down.
  • If you have new disposable batteries in reserve, use them first. It pains me to use them and then throw them away when I have perfectly-good rechargeable batteries, but the alternative is to not use them and throw them away. Use them while they’re good, knowing that you will never purchase a disposable battery again.

Eneloop batteries are really expensive. $2-3 per battery. But this is absolutely a case of paying for quality. It’s also a wise investment—you’re going to use these hundreds of times, such that the per-use cost of each battery is probably under a cent. I highly, highly recommend the Eneloop brand. There may now be other low-self-discharge batteries, but I haven’t tried them. Whatever you do, be absolutely certain that batteries can last a month or two without losing much of their charge before you buy them. It is a complete waste of your money otherwise.

I highly recommend some specifics, too:
* A good charger. I have, and would recommend, the LaCrosse BC-700. It is not particularly intuitive to use, but it’s not too tough to master. It allows you to discharge and then recharge batteries, which can help extend capacity early on. ([citation needed] on that, but I’ve read it multiple places.) However, this is just the model I bought and that I like; any quality charger should work fine.
* A container for the batteries. I don’t have a specific product recommendation here, though the linked set is good. (Note that some retail-packaged Eneloop batteries come with these, so you might not need to purchase them separately.) I have a container that holds 8 that I use for my main reserve set, spilling over into 4-packs when it fills. I do recommend that you get one that only holds one layer of batteries, to make the first-in, first-out system easy and intuitive. Take batteries from the right, and insert from the left. No worrying about top and bottom rows or anything. Really any container will do, but don’t just leave them lying around or it will just become a mess and you won’t know what’s what.

This all sounds so silly, but it’s incredibly useful. I would never go back to any other system.

Brno

Since people have been asking, I thought I’d share a bit about my journey to the Czech Republic. The Aeolus Project (what I do at work) is having a meeting here, as a substantial number of my colleagues work here.

I haven’t travelled internationally much. Back in 2007, I visited Mmofra Trom in Ghana. The Czech Republic would have been the second country I ever visited, keeping an inadvertent trend of only visiting places less geographically-savvy people couldn’t find on a map, if not for a brief stop in London. (I figured that if I was flying to Europe for the week and had never been, I might as well spend the weekends sight-seeing.)

Here is an obligatory photo from London:

(It’s a HDR composite done with Photomatix — the net result looks a little unrealistic, and yet it’s what it actually looked like.)

London was great, though outrageously expensive. And English accents are even more awesome than you might expect. The Underground, besides having an iconic logo, puts the MBTA to shame. I knew that they drive on the “wrong” side of the road, but I didn’t think it would impact me as a tourist who wouldn’t be driving. What I realized is that it’s terrifying as a pedestrian, especially at multi-way intersections, because you have absolutely no clue where cars will be coming from.

We took a WizzAir flight from London to Brno, a large city in the south-eastern part of the Czech Republic. Yes, “WizzAir” is a real airline, and yes, I was hesitant to book a reservation on it based on the name, but it was a nice enough budget airline.

The hotel has absolutely terrible Internet. Here’s what happens when I ping the wireless router:

--- 192.168.2.250 ping statistics ---
49 packets transmitted, 45 packets received, 8.2% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 4.035/593.420/2627.601/702.471 ms

(Note that 593ms average latency, and the 8.2% packet loss, on a LAN.) This is entirely the fault of the hotel, though — in my company’s office, the Internet is just fine. We’re apparently only about 125ms away from Boston here.

The official language here is Czech, a West Slavic language that sort of seems like Polish to someone generally-ignorant about languages like me. I’ve come to realize that I’m rather afraid of being in a place where I can’t communicate, even though I’m surrounded by bilingual coworkers. It’s rather isolating. The good news is that many people, especially those in customer service venues (and people under perhaps 30) seem to speak some English, so I can get by when I’m at McDonald’s. (More on that soon!) Of course, my coworkers here all speak excellent English, so it’s not as if I’m really stranded not speaking the language. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying about it.

Last night, some friends and coworkers (thanks Tomas and Imre!) took us to a local (indoor) rock-climbing place and gave us training. It’s worth noting that the place served beer, though no one was actually drinking and climbing (or belaying).

I’ve never climbed before, and am deathly afraid of heights. So if someone had told me a few years ago that I’d one day find myself at an indoor climbing facility in the Czech Republic, I’d have thought they were insane.

And indeed, my first time up, I did chicken out after about 6 feet. My second time, I made it up perhaps 10-15 feet before I looked down. But the third time, I had the courage to make it to the top. (I really have no idea how high it was, but I’d guess perhaps 30-50 feet.) The photo of me actually at the top is… not flattering… but here’s a slightly less embarrassing photo of me midway up (exhibiting rather poor form, but hey, it was my first time…):

 

It might be interesting to note that the place had a small bar. This observation did not exactly help calm my nerves, though it ended up being a non-issue — the only people I saw drinking were chatting over a beer when they were done climbing. My fear that drunk people would be falling from the walls turned out to be entirely unfounded.

And speaking of fears of tolerance leading to mass chaos being unfounded, the country apparently has relatively lax (read: sane) drug laws.

None of us were particularly sure what this stuff was (a hemp hand cream was our best guess), but it led to an interesting discussion about drug laws here. Apparently, possession or use of small amounts of drugs (not just Cannabis) is decriminalized, though the general sale is not. (Which leaves me moderately confused about whatever this display case was.)

At first, it seems mildly insane that small amounts of LSD or cocaine (!) are legal. But it reminds me of something I saw on TV once, which was a (real-life) look at a city police department doing a drug sting. They had an agent sell small bags of cocaine to people, and a cadre of heavily-armed police agents would then swarm and tackle the buyer to the ground. As if this wasn’t appalling enough, there was a clear trend among the drug buyers in terms of race and socioeconomic status, and these people can face years in prison. (And time in prison, in turn, significantly reduces their odds of ever getting a decent job, causing what’s probably a vicious cycle.)

But just as there weren’t any drunks falling from the climbing wall when beer was served in the facility, I haven’t seen any drug addicts in the streets of Brno, or even been had reason to think drug use was a problem. Instead, it seems like the police are free to focus on crimes that have victims, and people with addictions are now able to seek treatment with legal impunity.

Apologies for the accidental political rant. Perhaps it is time I closed with a picture of the city, from my hotel balcony the other night:

Dentist, Part II

Astute readers may remember my last trip to the dentist and how it was a less-than-enjoyable experience. I went for another filling today; at my cleaning a few weeks ago, they told me that my usual dentist was out, and asked if I’d mind if some other dentist did the final once-over for the cleaning. I said I didn’t mind (what if I’d said I did?), and when I went to book the fillings, they told me that it’d be a six-month wait for my usual dentist, but only a couple weeks for the random dentist. So I booked an appointment with her.

Today took only two Novacaine shots (delivered about 30 minutes apart in different areas, versus three all in the same place), neither of which was jabbed into any nerves. She tested to make sure I didn’t have feeling in my tooth before drilling, and did not insert metal pipes into my mouth while I had my eyes closed. The most painful part was them pulling on my lips (they needed to drill my back-most tooth), and that wasn’t really painful. She took a minute before starting to tell me that, if I was in pain and needed her to stop, I should raise my left hand, something she and her assistant would watch for. My usual dentist has never discussed what to do when she begins drilling into a non-numb tooth, or when her Novacaine needle impinges veins or nerves. My “scream out in horrible pain” rarely brought a cessation to the activities, just a, “Oh, does that hurt? I’ll just be another minute…”

What did concern me, though, was how the visit started, with the nurse (hygienist?) that brought me in.

Scene the First
[A dentist’s office waiting room. As Matt is seated, two guys in their late teens enter and are seated. Guy 1 fills out paperwork, while Guy 2 reads a magazine.]
Guy 1: “How do you spell ‘tennis?’ T-e-n-n-e-s?”
Guy 2: “I think so.”
[Matt furrows his brow in dismay.]
Guy 1: “I’m going to run out to the car for a minute.”
Guy 2: “Okay.”
[Enter Nurse]
Nurse: “Matt?”
Matt: “Aye!”
[Matt and Nurse exit stage left via doorway.]

Scene the Second
[A hallway, with a room, left, outfitted as a standard dentist’s office, and a room, right, equipped with an X-ray machine.]
Nurse: “I just need to get a couple X-Rays before we begin…”
Matt: “Okay.”
Nurse: “…just before we start your cleaning.”
Matt: “You mean my filling?”
Nurse: “No, you’re just here for a cleaning today.”
Matt: “I was here for a cleaning about two weeks ago. I’m here for a filling.”
Nurse: “Well your chart says it’s just a cleaning.”
[Matt furrows brow, cringing, about to interject, “Well, I really don’t need another one.”]
Nurse: “You are Matt Vincent, right?”
Matt: “No… Actually, I’m not.”
Nurse: “Oh… Let me take you back to the waiting room.”
Matt: “Alright. You may want to find Matt Vincent before they start to drill?”
[End scene.]

Perhaps the worst, though, is that I could have dismissed this as kind of funny, except that my new nurse/hygienist went on at length about how that mistake happens all the time, suggesting that they’ve done nothing to mitigate the risk?

Flip-Flopper

While looking at job postings on Craiglist, I somehow ended up at Craig Newmark’s personal blog. (He founded Craigslist.) He linked to this YouTube video.

For some reason I’m reminded of Hillary’s tall tale of ducking sniper fire. I respect McCain as a decorated soldier and a Senator who understands bipartanship, but after eight years of the Commander in Chief misleading* us about Iraq, I’d really prefer to not elect a president who will do more of the same.

* Whether it was intentional lies or him being fed false information I’m not sure, but either way, we were misled.

Broken Windows

Last night we were unloading a shopping cart. When done, the place to put it away was pretty far away. But there were about ten other shopping carts littering the parking lot nearby, so I said, “Meh, what’s one more?”

As we got in the car, I proclaimed, “Broken Windows in action!” I think people were confused and assumed I was referring to a literal window which was broken. Instead, I was referring to the Broken Windows Theory, which is an interesting read. The basic premise is that researchers watched an abandoned warehouse. For weeks, no one vandalized the building. One day, one of the researchers (deliberately) broke one of the windows. In short order, vandals knocked out the rest of the windows. The theory is used a lot in policing, but I think it has applications in many other places. Such as parking lots: if you’re diligent in bringing in carts, I’d argue that you’d avoid people doing whta I did. (I also felt the same way at the bowling alley: if we frequently picked up candy wrappers and popcorn from the floor, the place seemed pretty clean. If we slacked, it felt like the place was being trashed by everyone in short order.)

The theory does have its detractors, but it also has strange people who see applications of their theory in parking lots. Enjoy the photo of chives, which have nothing to do with anything, but I just took it and I like it.

Chives

Obama Wins!

Ed.: Because the blogs have been slow, and because this is a hot topic, I’ve fudged the date on this to appear to have been published two days later, so it will stay on the main page a bit longer.

Obama LogoIt looks like Obama is the Democratic nominee, while Hillary Clinton, the woman who has twice alluded to Obama being assassinated (okay, the first time was a speaker at her event, not her), has conceded that she’d be open to running as his VP.

I’d be happier with an Obama-Richardson ticket, but people are calling Obama-Clinton the fastest way to try to heal the wounds this election cycle saw. In her defense, if she doesn’t get him assassinated, she’d make an excellent VP.

Needless to say, I’ll be watching the news tonight for what may be two very historic speeches: Obama’s victory speech and Hillary’s concession speech. (It seems like it was just weeks ago that Obama gave his “concession speech” that was anything but a concession speech, in New Hampshire, which led to the Yes We Can Song.)

The AP story is hot off the press, and many MSM outlets aren’t carrying it yet. Whether that’s because the polls don’t close for two hours, because it’s not factual, or just because MSM isn’t as obsessed with checking Google News as I am remains to be seen.

Update: It seems that Hillary hasn’t conceded quite yet. Honestly, I’m not sure how the AP is so sure that Obama’s won yet.

Update 2: USA Today has a good piece suggesting that, while Obama might do it tonight, it’s still about 30 delegates premature. And they also have this good article on exactly how the AP story was put together.

Update 3: You can follow the whole Google News thread.