Monday Miscellany: Dentists, DID, Moon Disasters

  1. Dentist argues that the removal of wisdom teeth is a public health hazard, compares danger of wisdom teeth to danger of having an appendix.

Ten million third molars (wisdom teeth) are extracted from approximately 5 million people in the United States each year at an annual cost of over $3 billion.

In addition, more than 11 million patient days of “standard discomfort or disability”—pain, swelling, bruising, and malaise—result postoperatively, and more than 11000 people suffer permanent paresthesia—numbness of the lip, tongue, and cheek—as a consequence of nerve injury during the surgery. At least two thirds of these extractions, associated costs, and injuries are unnecessary, constituting a silent epidemic of iatrogenic injury that afflicts tens of thousands of people with lifelong discomfort and disability.

Avoidance of prophylactic extraction of third molars can prevent this public health hazard.
Not more than 12% of impacted teeth have associated pathology (Table 1). This incidence is the same as for appendicitis (10%) and cholecystitis (12%), yet prophylactic appendectomies and cholecystectomies are not the standard of care.4 Why then prophylactic third-molar extractions?

2. I knew about Lawrence v. Texas, the case that overturned sodomy laws in the U.S. (plug for a fascinating book on the topic), but I did not know about its precursor, Bowers v. Hardwick:

Hardwick then sued Michael Bowers, the attorney general of Georgia, in federal court for a declaratory judgment that the state’s sodomy law was invalid. He charged that as an active homosexual, he was liable to eventually be prosecuted for his activities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had been searching for a “perfect test case” to challenge anti-sodomy laws, and Hardwick’s cause presented the one they were looking for. They approached Hardwick, who agreed to be represented by ACLU attorneys.


Hardwick was represented before the Supreme Court by Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe. Michael Hobbs, assistant attorney general, argued the case for the State. The legality of the officer’s entry into Hardwick’s home was not contested; only the constitutionality of the sodomy statute was challenged.

A heterosexual married couple was initially named in the suit as plaintiffs John and Mary Doe, alleging that they wished to engage in sodomy but were prevented from doing so by the Georgia anti-sodomy law. However, they failed to obtain standing and were dropped from the suit

3. A common refrain is that language is a left-brained thing. It’s more likely to be something your left hemisphere is doing, but how much more likely depends on handedness!

4. Longform on investigating a rape case.

5. More rape: ignoring sexual violence in juvenile offender facilities.

The Justice Department survey — covering both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, the less restrictive settings into which troubled youngsters are often ordered — involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In all, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted.

Allen Beck, the author of the report, said that the rates of staff-on-inmate abuse among juveniles are “about three times higher than what we find in the adult arena.”

The highest incidence of staff sexual misconduct occurred in Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, while other states like New York, Massachusetts and Delaware, reported no abuse. At the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia and the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, one in three youngsters surveyed said they’d suffered sexual abuse at the hands of staff members.

6. My Mom Is Different,[pdf] a book for children of people with Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder.

7. Presidential statement in case of a moon disaster.


Monday Miscellany: Prison, Phones, Social Position

1. The violent, the mentally ill, and the intersection of the two.

2. Prison psychotherapy, wire mothers.

3. When nobody else wanted to, Ruth Coker cared for and ultimately buried men with HIV/AIDS.

4. This couple has a house, and that house keeps showing up as the location of stolen cell phones. Over and over and over. If they ever do steal anything with a built-in tracking app, they’re probably going to get away with it.

5.  A meta-analysis of Kahneman’s research on blood glucose and System 1 finds that it fails to replicate. [Research behind paywall here.]

6. Breaking down the socio- and economic- components of socioeconomic class:

To use myself as an illustration: I make very little money, so I am heir to the misfortunes that disproportionately impact the impecunious – the almost-certain forthcoming hike in T fares looms large in my anxieties right now – but I am a professional with an advanced degree and possession of the shibboleths of the professional class. I didn’t stop being in the social class I had been in when I dropped to a much lower economic class. The privileges I lost were only those attendant to economic might; I retained the privileges of social position.

So, for instance, if I don’t like the medical care I get from the doctors my state-subsidized health plan (thanks, Mitt!) gives me access to, I can’t just whip out my checkbook and buy myself care from a better reputed specialist. Being poor might yet shorten my lifespan, as it curtails my access to care. But on the other hand, if I present with a serious booboo to just about any doctor, I will have narcotic pain relief offered me with no questions asked, because someone of my social class is not suspected of being one of those naughty “med-seeking” addicts. The decision of whether or not to trust me with a prescription for percoset is not made on the basis of the MassHealth card in my pocket marking me one of the precariat, but my hair style, my sense of fashion, my (lack of) make-up, my accent, my vocabulary, my body language, my (apparent) girth, my profession (which, note, doctors often ask as part of intake), and all the other things which locate me in a social class to observers that know the code. Contrariwise, a patient of mine – who is a white woman of almost my age – who is covered with tattoos, speaks with an Eastie accent, is over 200lbs, and wears spandex and bling and heavy make-up, gets screamed at by an ER nurse for med-seeking when she hadn’t asked for medication at all, and just wanted an x-ray for an old bone-break she was frighted she had reinjured in a fall.


Monday Miscellany: Hamilton, Havens, Harm Reduction

It’s 2016! Time for the yearly commitment to blogging more.
1. Hamilton is an under-appreciated genius. No, not that one, this one.

2. Institutionalization and the burrito test.

3. Relatedly, a photographic memoir of Rockhaven, a kinder kind of institution.

4. How successful is inpatient treatment for the mental experience of anorexia? Not very.
[Note: whether or not inpatient treatment makes people less anorexic is different from whether or not it forces them to gain weight.]

No significant changes in core anorexic thoughts and perceptions as Body dissatisfaction, Drive for thinness, Weight concern and Shape concern were noted. However, a reduction in the general severity of eating disorder symptoms (including Restraint and Eating concern) was observed, mainly related to the treatment structure. Levels of depression significantly decreased but remained within pathological range. We also found a concerning increase in suicidal ideation not correlated with a concomitant increase in depressive symptomatology.

I suspect that the increase in suicidality is related to being frequently (usually daily) weighed, and that some of the other effects come from being cooped up with a bunch of other people with anorexia and feeling competitive.

5. This sounds a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater: psychologists are being removed from Guantanamo:

The new rules bar psychologists from any involvement in national security interrogations, and also bar them from providing mental health services to detainees at sites like Guantánamo that the United Nations has determined do not comply with international human rights law. Currently, no interrogations take place at Guantánamo, Commander Burzynski said, and instead only voluntary interviews are conducted when a detainee asks to speak with American personnel.

As a result of General Kelly’s order, psychologists at Guantánamo no longer observe or are involved with detainee interviews, or provide any feedback to the American military on detainee behavior, according to Commander Burzynski.

The psychologists have also been removed from the prison’s Behavioral Health Unit, which is responsible for detainee mental health programs, and from the prison’s so-called detainee socialization programs.

6. Alliterative author ambles through actions around Oregon shooter language in reporting. 
7. Transitions vs. turning points; an interesting framing for life changes. 

Monday Miscellany: Tickling, Thoreau, Telegraph Chain Mail

1. People with schizophrenia probably can’t tickle themselves, and this explains hallucinations. Maybe. (I asked some friends with schizophrenia and got one “I don’t think this is true” and one “this is true, but only when I’m having an acute episode”)

2. Ben Orlin illustrates probability, as interpreted in various professions.

3. Motivational Interviewing is one kind of therapeutic technique, best used with clients who are unsure they actually want to change. (For instance, people who have an alcohol problem, but aren’t willing to endorse that it’s a concern.). I find it fun and interesting, and this training lets you choose-your-own-adventure while being rated on a variety of good-at-therapy skills. (No need to register, you can launch the session without).

4. The author takes the position that Thoreau should be dismissed as a raging hypocrite, I take the position that he sounds like a person caught up in scrupulosity obsessions.

Relatedly, I recommend Devil in the Details as a memoir of obsessions.

5. “What else could we have discovered if we hadn’t been striving for a ‘normal’ we’d never reach?” Disability camps.

6. I was curious about the origin of chain emails, and the story was better than I could have imagined. Involves Jack the Ripper, Pulitzer, telegraphs.

The “peripatetic contribution box” was seized upon in Britain as a weapon against, of all people, Jack the Ripper. That November, the Bishop of Bedford oversaw a “snowball collection” to fund the Home for Destitute Women in Whitechapel, where crimes against prostitutes were raising an outcry for charitable relief. The Bishop’s snowball worked: Indeed, it worked diabolically well. It snowballed, so that along with 16,000 correctly addressed letters a week burying the hapless originator, garbled variants of the return address also piled upon the Bishop of Bangor—as well as Bradford and Brighton.

Monday Miscellany: Blimps, Boundaries, Bodily Experiences

1. Did you know you can see footage of a glacier from 1937? Did you know you can see footage of a glacier from 1937 filmed from The Hindenburg?  (Yes, that one). h/t Jeff Wagg

2. This article in The Atlantic begins as West Point Professor Who Contemplated a Coup and goes pretty immediately to cloacas, which are helpfully defined as a kind of animal orifice.

3. Lovely Miri is writing at Everyday Feminism with an article on setting boundaries with your therapist.

4. Two religions are having marriage crises, with two single women for every single man.

5. Stephanie rounds up writing on improving the ‘diversity panel’ at conferences.

6. California reduces its use of solitary confinement. More on the use of solitary confinement across the U.S. here.

7. Romantic chess.

8. How does anorexia impact the internal experience of being in your body?

Monday Miscellany: Zeugma & Zoombini

  1. There is a famous and important town in Turkey called Zeugma. Weirdly, both the town and the delightful figure of speech have the same etymology, related to joining.

2. Speaking of weird figures of speech, the mondegreen takes its name from an example of the same:

Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar, and make some kind of sense.[1][2] American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay “The Death of Lady Mondegreen”, published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1954. The term was inspired by “…and Lady Mondegreen”, a misinterpretation of the line “…and laid him on the green” from the Scottish ballad “The Bonnie Earl O’ Moray“.[3]

Sure, Scottish ballads are nice, but obviously the Taylor Swift’s Lonely Starbucks Lovers and Brittney Spear’s “If U Seek Amy” are more fun.


An unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn. If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, that person has committed a mumpsimus.[12]

3. I know I complain about Texas slightly more than strictly fair, but come on, even our weird animals do awful things, like spread leprosy.

4. Oliver Sacks continues to amaze in a meditation about rituals and honesty.

“In December 2014, I completed my memoir, “On the Move,” and gave the manuscript to my publisher, not dreaming that days later I would learn I had metastatic cancer, coming from the melanoma I had in my eye nine years earlier. I am glad I was able to complete my memoir without knowing this, and that I had been able, for the first time in my life, to make a full and frank declaration of my sexuality, facing the world openly, with no more guilty secrets locked up inside me.”

5. It has come to my attention recently that people believe I like Tolkien. I do not! I actually forced myself to read the Lord of the Rings books, complained about them loudly, and have avoided any further contact with his fiction for adults. But! Most others I know love it, so I should tell you about the availability (for the first time?) of his first novel. Additionally, these letters from Father Christmas from Tolkien to his children are incredible.

6. Why does the schizophrenia label persist?

7. THE ZOOMBINIS’ LOGICAL JOURNEY EXISTS FOR iOS AND ANDROID THIS IS NOT A DRILL. (This game taught me about important skills like “test only one variable at a time!” and “design useful experiments!” and also let me save creatures that were cute and somewhat helpless.)

Monday Miscellany: Lipstick, Lifeguards, Lesbians

1. Examining American culture from a distance is hard to do. Enter, Nacirema. Gawk at their strange rituals.

2. Anger management curriculum for prisoners.

3. Reducing cheating in science—better alternatives than trying to change all of the incentives.

4. Lifeguard Would Save Drowning Man, But Maybe The Man’s Death Will Inspire A Proletariat Revolution. Making Things Better Just Delays The Destruction of Capitalism.

5. The ‘glass closet‘:

Queer women are simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible. We’re invisible, though increasingly less so, in the sense that we are almost always presumed straight until proven otherwise, that our girlfriends become our “gal pals,” that our sexual experiences become “just college girls experimenting” or “just girls trying to get guys’ attention.” We’re invisible in the sense that you almost never see queer female relationships in shows or movies or books that aren’t About Gay People (such as Glee and The L Word). (Even with shows like Glee, though, queer female fans often had to fight for that representation, to fight for characters like them to be treated seriously.) […]

Yet at the same time, in some contexts, queer women are hyper-visible. I think of the glass toilet stall from my dream again when I remember how I’ve felt out in public with my female partners. Queerness is a “marked” identity, which means that sometimes it’s way more obvious and noticed and remarked-upon than straightness. When I’m out with a boyfriend, nobody pays us any particular mind. Sure, sometimes people might notice us and think, “What a cute couple!” (or maybe I’m just flattering myself, but really, people have this thought about straight couples sometimes), but certainly nobody’s going to stare, let alone point fingers or giggle or glare disapprovingly.

6. I wrote about the distinction between global and local validity of feelings, and Miri responded with a piece on the idea of rationality and validity of feelings.

Irrational and invalid aren’t the same thing. We can go wrong when we believe that any emotion that’s irrational must therefore be invalid, but we also go wrong when we believe that any emotion that’s valid must also be rational. (I think the latter error is made less often, but it’s true that some people feel that because emotions are “valid,” they must simply accept them as they are.)

In social circles where rationality is very highly valued, it can become difficult to tell others about how you’re feeling when you think that your feelings are irrational. Sometimes we fear judgmental responses from others (“But that makes no sense! Of course I don’t hate you! How could you possibly believe something like that?”). Other times, we may trust that people will be supportive, but we still don’t want to come across as someone who has a lot of “silly” or “irrational” feelings.

7. Lipstick advice is so much better when it’s framed as adult crayons.

8. This book recommendation is going up here, rather than in the Stuff I Read section: The Power of a Positive No is one of the most useful social/work/life advice books I’ve read in a while. The focus is setting boundaries effectively, while both making yourself feel okay with your decisions and nurturing relationships with people. I particularly liked that it focused on specific questions I could ask myself to figure out what to say, and concrete formats for saying no.

9. This is good.

Do you want to impress me with your moral backbone?  Then go and find a group that almost all of your Facebook friends still consider it okay, even praiseworthy, to despise and mock, for moral failings that either aren’t failings at all or are no worse than the rest of humanity’s.  (I promise: once you start looking, it shouldn’t be hard to find.)  Then take a public stand for that group.


Thank You For Arguing, Jay Heinrichs
A classic, a little Dark Arts.

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship, Joshua Harris
Look, I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a kid, I had to read the second one.

Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
Early 19th century lesbians in England and on the stage. Slightly fantastical.

The Magicians, Lev Grossman
Well, that was whimsy that got horrifyingly dark. (In the best way.)