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    Monday, April 28, 2008

    My Church in the News

    Today many people from the congregation ("ward" as Mormons call it) I grew up attending were interviewed about the polygamous sect in North Texas. Unfortunately, many people today still believe many misconceptions about Mormons, including that we have many wives. FALSE! Trust me, one is enough!

    I don't always understand why these misconceptions persist, since polygamy in my church ended over 100 years ago -- I think it's similar to assuming that everyone from England still dressed like they do in "Pride and Prejudice" and shipped convicts off to Australia. With the past president of our church, Gordon B. Hinckley, appearing regularly on Larry King Live, and two prominent Mormon politicians (Mitt Romney and Harry Reid), you'd think people would have ample opportunity to be educated out of their flat-earth beliefs.

    Some of it stems from overtly harmful and false remarks made by evangelical preachers to lead their flocks astray, but I firmly believe that's the exception (small exception) not the rule. Mostly, I think people hear it through the grapevine, and don't care enough to invalidate the absurdity of it all.

    Nevertheless, with the circus in North Texas regarding the polygamous sect, my church has once again started clarifying the misconceptions and for that I'm glad. Any opportunity to build good will and educate people is a blessing. It's a short video from a local Houston television station, but I think the point is good for everyone.

    I was going to embed the video here, but channel 39 has poor code, and it wouldn't load. I tried for too long, getting Youtube to work easily, but never this video. So, you'll have to click the link and see it for yourself in it's native webpage.

    I know many of my close friends at medical school have had lots of questions for me over the last month, so don't be shy to ask any in the comments section. I will respond, albeit possibly slow since I'm in the middle of finals.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    I am a Mole

    There's a lot people don't know about medical school. I once tried to blog specifically about it, but two blogs and school took way to much time, and it had to go. I've determined I should post more about my experiences here.

    Medical students are moles. Yes, many of us are hairy and most of us have four appendages.

    Moles live below the surface of the earth. They have full lairs and networks of tunnels connecting one hole to another. They can pop their head up in one yard, only to dive down again and surface far away in another yard.

    Medical school forces even the most intelligent student to study. People tell you medical school is hard, but you never really get it until you're in the fire. Here at my school, we have exams every six to eight weeks. This produces a predictable pattern.

    The first week after an exam you can see medical students all over town. They go clubbing, out to movies, and date. They may even spend time with family. If married, a spouse may remember that he/she is married when the medical student walks in all of a sudden.

    "Oh you. Yeah, a couple years back, we did that thingie with the tuxedo and the white dress and church...you remember don't you?"

    The second week medical students get back to the grind. They start attending classes again, catch up on lectures missed by streaming them online, and go out only during the evenings or on weekends (and usually to do planned activities). This routine extends through weeks three and four, if you're on the six-week schedule, or three through five if you have the eight week version (I'm the latter).

    On the eight week course, things start to get serious in week six. Exams are coming up, and the medical student spends most of the day studying. You can find him or her at school or the library late into the evening. If lucky, you might pull him/her away for a couple hours on the weekend for a big event.

    The seventh week is when the mole fully enters his chambers. The exams are palpable, and stress is everywhere. Men lose hair and women go gray just standing near medical students. If you ask how they're doing, you're liable to get a stare saying "what do you think?" and a verbal "you know ... surviving..." Medical students this week don't exist. They move like wraiths through the house; you notice they're around only because books and piles of papers are moved and food is conspicuously missing from the fridge.

    The eighth week is exam week at my school. One exam a day. Medical students are ineligible to give blood during this week, as they have no blood -- pure coffee courses through their veins. For those whom caffeinated beverages aren't enough, there's caffeinated gum and amphetamines. This week medical students are nowhere to be found -- they get home long after you've gone to bed and arise before you wake up. You notice the sheets are rumpled, but that's about it. If you do run into one during the day, they'll probably mumble something about Tinel's sign, metacarpophalangeal joints, or lupus (the answer's always lupus).

    Friday night, after the last test, the mole pokes his head out of his hole again, and realizes there is life outside of medical school. Time to party; we've got more exams in eight weeks.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    TBE Play For A Cause Final Results

    March Madness is over, and so is the first annual "Play For A Cause" pool here at The Bleeding Ear.

    Congratulations Heifer International (SI)!

    Sara, from Raising My Ebenezer, beat out yours truly and everyone else to win the inaugural prize. She rode to victory on strong first and second rounds and Memphis in the finals. MoJo took second place, after living at the bottom of the ranks all tournament long. MoJo struck out in the middle rounds, but rode Kansas to the title, proving how important it is to get the later rounds correct.

    I have not received the money from many players yet. Please let me know when I can receive the money so I can make the donation. MoJo and National Ovarian Cancer Alliance -- I know where you live! Please send it my way, or I'll be knocking on your door!

    The winning cause is Heifer International. It is a charity that uses donations to buy animals, trees, and honeybees to support sustainable growth projects in developing countries around the world. It acts very similar to other microenterprise organizations -- conducting projects around the globe that give people tools (in this case animals/bees) to make money via selling milk, herding cattle, plowing fields, collecting honey, etc.

    Heifer International has many projects throughout the world, and it is Sara's prize to choose where she'd like the money donated. My suggestion -- after looking yesterday -- might be to donate to the East Africa Dairy Development Project because the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match our donation. However, any project's good, and it's Sara's call.

    Thank you to everyone who played this year. We've raised $50 for a worth cause, and I have already heard from people who want to play next year. I think this experiment was a great success, and I'm totally open to suggestions for improving it.

    Once again, congratulations Sara and Heifer International!

    Monday, April 07, 2008

    My Elite Eight Experience

    In honor of Memphis making the Championship game, here's a little bit from Memphis v. Texas.

    The day before the Elite Eight in Houston, my neighbor, John, called me.

    "Hey, what're you doing tomorrow?

    I dunno. Why?

    My work got me tickets to the Texas game tomorrow. Wanna go?"

    After thinking about it, I called him back.

    "Thanks for the ticket. What time's the game?"

    Not only did I get a ticket, but I got a ticket on the seventh row. This was a great thing, because the arena was cavernous. The University of Houston and Rice University worked together to host the Elite Eight at Reliant Arena in Houston. The problem is, Reliant was built for football, and basketball is played in a much smaller area.

    The result was a built court in the middle of the stadium, that allowed lots of people to see the game, but really took away any kind of home court advantage Texas may have had. The ceiling was so high, and the whole place so spacious, that even I, on the seventh row, felt my cheers were going up, not out towards the court.

    At first, I thought this might be a mistake from Houston, but after paying attention to other games, I think this is standard at these large games in the tournament. I just don't understand why they didn't use the Toyota Center -- it was built for basketball and would hold a lot of people. Perhaps it was booked?

    That said, it was great to see a game up so close. I could shake hands with the Memphis players as they walked out of the tunnel. Although I've been around basketball players before, it's always a wakeup call when you stand next to one and realize again that he isn't really the two inches tall you see on tv, and oh yeah -- that super short guard is actually over six feet.

    John's coworkers were all great guys, some brought their families, and in general we all enjoyed ourselves even though Texas got shellacked. I do believe that one of the referees was swallowing his whistle a little too much, and giving Memphis a little too much leeway on the offensive boards, but even if that had been normalized, Texas killed themselves the first half, and Memphis shot the lights out -- they were definitely the better team.

    So, here's some pics I took at the game. The atmosphere was electric, and it's definitely an experience I recommend.

    Quote of the Day

    "The face of sin today often wears the [Halloween] mask of tolerance. Do not be deceived; behind that facade is heartache, unhappiness, and pain."
    -- Pres. Thomas S. Monson, Examples of Righteousness, 5 April 2008
    *words in brackets [] were in the oration but not the transcript*

    Saturday, April 05, 2008

    Magic 8 Review 4 (Final Four)

    How quickly things change. Within the space of one evening, I went from having a good chance to win it all in both pools I entered, to having absolutely ZERO shot at any more points -- zilch, nada, số không.

    However, unfortunately, I was entirely correct about the basketball state of affairs. Earlier, I said this:

    The Final Four ... number 1's. Booooorrrrringggggg. Hopefully, it will make for good basketball. That's what everyone on TV and in the papers keep saying.

    "Oh, the first time in 25 years all four #1 seeds make the final four! What great games we'll have!"

    I'm sorry if I don't believe. I want to believe, but they were saying the same things with the Elite Eight, and what happened? The ONLY good game was the one with the double digit seed -- #10 Davidson botches their last possession and loses by two to Kansas.

    All other supposedly close games ended up with margins of 19 (UCLA), 18 (Memphis), and 10 (UNC).

    Well, I was right and they were wrong. This gives me solace since I was totally wrong on who would actually be playing FOR the national championship, but I did pick those teams far before news peoples said this. If I had to guess after the Elite Eight, i would have chosen Memphis v UNC, and I would have been 50% correct.

    That, however, would be only half of Mr. Grant Wahl. Yet again, he is 100% correct that one of his Magic 8 (picked in JANUARY) will win the whole thing. Quite amazing in my book. Especially because he had the likes of Georgetown, Indiana, and Xavier on there.

    Here's looking at them:


    1. Georgetown -- WRONG. One 7' Goliath felled by Davidson (couldn't bring myself to change my quote ... I liked it).

    2. Indiana -- WRONG. They pretended all season long.

    3. Kansas -- CORRECT. Kansas beat UNC by 18 but only beat Davidson by 2 - and b/c of a botched last play. What does this tell us? Could Davidson have been the FOURTH best team in the tournament?

    4. Louisville -- WRONG. If I had been a selector, I would have made Louisville a #2 in the same region of Stanford. The Cardinals against the Cardinal -- who would win?

    5. Memphis -- CORRECT. When I read that only Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated picked Memphis to beat UCLA -- yes, 4 of 5 writers picked UCLA to not only beat Memphis, but win the whole thing -- I about fell out of my chair. Did they watch the same tourney I did? Did they see the utterly suspect UCLA team when playing a physical, athletic team like Texas A&M (and Memphis)? Did they not watch Memphis destroy a very good Texas team playing in Houston? Yet they get paid for this...

    6. Tennessee -- WRONG. Good song by Arrested Development.

    7. UCLA -- WRONG. I can't tell you how hard I rooted for them to lose, knowing it would screw my bracket. Goodbye Backstreet Boy.

    8. Xavier -- WRONG. How come, if you had someone like Professor Xavier with your namesake, you didn't call on his powers to help you win it all? I would have.

    Predicting the Pool

    As the 2008 March Madness winds down (or develops into a maelstrom, depending on your outlook), so too does the first annual TBE Play For A Cause Pool. I think it has been a qualified success.

    The only part that hasn't worked great is the money (and that is key!). People didn't use the Paypal link I set up, so I need to collect the $10 check from everyone (and I know where you all live!). Hopefully, next time, with more time to prepare, Paypal will work better, BUT, I am definitely open to suggestions on how to securely collect money from people living all over the world.

    That said, the competition has been as fierce as the tournament it mirrors. Almost everyone has had a lead at the end of some day in the tourney. Here's looking at the eight possible remaining results:

    UNC def. Memphis -- Students For A Free Tibet (1210pts)
    UNC def. UCLA -- Students For A Free Tibet (1330pts)

    Kansas def. Memphis -- Heifer International (SI) (1070pts)
    Kansas def. UCLA -- National Ovarian Cancer Alliance (1060pts)

    Memphis def. UNC -- Heifer International (SI) (1350pts)
    Memphis def. Kansas -- Heifer International (SI) (1230pts)

    UCLA def. UNC -- Students For A Free Tibet (1170pts)
    UCLA def. Kansas -- National Ovarian Cancer Alliance (1220pts)

    So, get rooting for your brackets. The outcome is still definitely up in the air!

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    New Recent Comments JSON Widget

    Since upgrading to TBE 3.0, The Bleeding Ear has sported a Recent Comments widget in the sidebar. I hope you find it useful, or at least not annoying.

    A couple days ago, my comments feed was down. Currently, my Recent Comments widget is just a feed widget, pulling the comments feed from blogger and using the native support to show date and author.

    Well, because the feed went down, I started to look into what other people had done for comment widgets, and I realized that blogger puts the feeds out via JSON now. Well, I didn't know heads from tails about JSON, except that it can be used in javascript (something else I know little about), but I read that it would make the comments widget more customizable.

    So, I found the url for the JSON comments feed, and pulled it so I could read through it. Then, with the help of a javascript from Tips For New Bloggers, I set about creating a new widget. That javascript wasn't good enough, so I found a script at Beautiful Beta that addressed my date problems. A quick mishmash of both scripts, plus some style changes, and voila!

    So, I hope you like the new widget. Tell me what you think. If you want the code, I have it for you below (but all credit should go to the two blogs I referenced above):

    <ul><script style="text/javascript">
    function showrecentcomments(json) {
    for (var i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
    var entry = json.feed.entry[i];
    var ctlink;
    var commentdate = entry.published.$t;
    var cdyear = commentdate.substring(0,4);
    var cdmonth = commentdate.substring(5,7);
    var cdday = commentdate.substring(8,10);
    var monthnames = new Array();
    monthnames[1] = "Jan";
    monthnames[2] = "Feb";
    monthnames[3] = "Mar";
    monthnames[4] = "Apr";
    monthnames[5] = "May";
    monthnames[6] = "Jun";
    monthnames[7] = "Jul";
    monthnames[8] = "Aug";
    monthnames[9] = "Sep";
    monthnames[10] = "Oct";
    monthnames[11] = "Nov";
    monthnames[12] = "Dec";

    if (i == json.feed.entry.length) break;
    for (var k = 0; k < entry.link.length; k++) {
    if (entry.link[k].rel == 'alternate') {
    ctlink = entry.link[k].href;
    ctlink = ctlink.replace("#", "#comment-");
    var ptlink = ctlink.split("#");
    ptlink = ptlink[0];
    var txtlink = ptlink.split("/");
    txtlink = txtlink[5];
    txtlink = txtlink.split(".html");
    txtlink = txtlink[0];
    var pttitle = txtlink.replace(/-/g," ");
    pttitle = pttitle.link(ptlink);
    if ("content" in entry) {
    var comment = entry.content.$t;}
    if ("summary" in entry) {
    var comment = entry.summary.$t;}
    else var comment = "";
    var re = /<\S[^>]*>/g;
    comment = comment.replace(re, "");

    if (comment.length < 50) {
    document.write('<div style="font-size:90%;background-color: #E8EEFA;border: #C3D9FF 1px dashed;margin-right:5px">' + monthnames[parseInt(cdmonth,10)] + ' ' + cdday);
    document.write(' - ' + entry.author[0].name.$t + ' commented on');
    document.write(' ' + pttitle + ':</div>');
    comment = comment.substring(0, 50);
    var quoteEnd = comment.lastIndexOf(" ");
    comment = comment.substring(0, quoteEnd);
    document.write('<div style="font-size:90%;background-color: #E8EEFA;border: #C3D9FF 1px dashed;margin-right:5px">' + monthnames[parseInt(cdmonth,10)] + ' ' + cdday);
    document.write(' - ' + entry.author[0].name.$t + ' commented on');
    document.write(' ' + pttitle + ':</div>');
    document.write(comment + '...<a href="' + ctlink + '">(more)</a>');
    <script src="http://thebleedingear.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default?alt=json-in-script&callback=showrecentcomments">
    <noscript>You need to enable JavaScript to read this.</noscript>

    [+/-] Click here for code

    April Fool's Day

    April Fool's Day is perhaps my second favorite day of the year (anyone who knows #1 gets a prize).

    Why, you ask? Well, a couple reasons.

    First, it's my birthday, but nobody ever believes me. I remember one year, in high school, sitting at lunch with some friends of mine. High school lunch was awesome, because we had those incredibly long tables with the little stools attached, so we all just sat in big rows and stared at each other while we ate. Of course, this year I was hanging out with the swimmers, because I was friends with a family of three sisters who were on the swim team -- one was in choir with me, another in some AP classes, and the third in my Computer Science class.

    So, of course I tell everyone it's my birthday, and everyone starts laughing except the sister in my AP classes, whom I'll call "R." She says, "well happy birthday!" Immediately everyone starts making fun of her -- the typical, "ha ha! You got fooled!" stuff. "How could you fall for that on April Fool's Day."

    After she had been severely beaten down by the others at the table, I smiled wryly and pulled out my driver's license, proving the truthfulness of my assertion. It was quite the site to see "R" dish back times 10, everything she had just received.

    The second reason I like April Fool's Day is that Google does a great job of playing tricks. People that don't play tricks on April Fool's Day are boring. Dumb. It's like saying "bah humbug!" on Christmas. There's a reason why people who laugh a lot live longer ... but I digress.

    So, today, I log into Blogger and see Blogger Buzz's post about Google Weblogs. Of course I know it's fake. In fact, it's not as believable as Gmail's time change one, but it's still good. I start to click the links to see if there's more to their joke, and I got a Youtube video. It's awesome. Definitely the best joke yet from Google. You MUST go there. However, don't say I didn't warn you.