Monthly Archives: June 2009

Infinite Summer

Infinite Summer is now underway, and I’m pleased to see that a book I’m reading has spawned its own internet book club for the duration of this summer.

Infinite Jest is a book about a many things.  It’s an epic saga.  It’s really, really long.  It’s by the late David Foster Wallace whose Consider the Lobster essay (commissioned by Gourmet magazine, hailed by PETA in their fight against lobster consumption) I found enlightening, well-written, and plain fun.  His writing is clever and engaging, and his mixing of SAT words with colloquialisms should feel gratifying to all who ever had vocabulary flash cards.
I’m told that Infinite Jest has been read by everyone in UCI‘s English department.

In my case, I’ve not finished the book, though I’m around page 850 or so.  That’s about September in the Infinite Summer syllabus, which allows about 75 pages per week, not including footnotes.  You should know that some of the footnotes are short-story length.  Some footnotes have their own footnotes.

Many of the book’s ideas are literally ridiculous. Yet it treats a number of serious themes on life and humanity, so I usually end up feeling more human after reading its pages.

So, in summary, I think the book is great, and the whole Infinite Summer idea is great too (you will be part of a big effort with a bunch of other people, happening right now).   If you’re interested, check out his lobster essay first, because that’s article-length, rather than Bible-length.

Typing or fretting

It just occurred to me that if you play the guitar and touch-type, you have slightly conflicting demands of your fingertips.  For guitar, you want your left (fretting) hand fingertips to have thickly calloused skin so that you can play longer without worrying about bruising from the strings.  If you play classical or fingerstyle, you probably want to have longer fingernails on your right (plucking) hand so you can get a sharper, clearer tone.

Yet for touch typing, it helps me to feel the keyboard, so I can find the positioning bumps on the home row and feel when I’m hitting keys at their edges so I can reposition.  Good tactile feedback and sense helps me adjust to differently-sized keyboards faster too.  Calloused fingertips don’t feel the keyboard well, and fingernails might even prevent your fingertips from touching keys.

hmpf. 🙂

An article about the costs of US healthcare

It’s easy to bash the American healthcare system and point out instances where it’s lacking.  To me, it seems to be more about billing systems than medicine.  A friend told me about his experience in France, where he, as a foreigner, was seen and treated by a doctor at his hotel, and upon trying to pay was dismissed: “You Americans, always wanting to pay for things.”  Yeah, they pay high taxes and don’t typically have single family homes, cars or enormous flatscreen TVs.  They also seem to generally believe in their government.  Whereas Americans like to euphemise imperfection as “good enough for government purposes.”

Anyway, if you care about the balance of costs versus quality of care, you should check out this article in the New Yorker about how a small town in Texas has one of the highest healthcare costs per person.  I found it a well-written article that’s chock-full of helpful tidbits for your next healthcare debate at a bar, cocktail party, cafe, or late-night dorm room philosophizing session.
Here’s one tidbit from the article:  “In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average. The income per capita is twelve thousand dollars.”

Another: ” Two economists working at Dartmouth, Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, found that the more money Medicare spent per person in a given state the lower that state’s quality ranking tended to be.”