March 2010 Archives

God And Monsters

It pains me tremendously to say this, but it needs to be said: I apologize to the state of California for referring to it as "The Land of Fruits and Nuts."  I have used this label, derisively, for several years.  It all started when I was sitting with a buddy of mine at a 24-hour Subway restaurant near UCLA, studying for an organic chemistry exam and stuffing my face with subs.  A hippy-dippy type walked in and ordered a carton of milk.  But she had the following stipulations: she had to be able to pick the carton, she had to be the one to pour the milk, and she was to be free to change her mind after she had made her selection of cartons if she wanted to.  The poor Subway sandwich artist asked her why, and she replied that her psychic had told her that someone was going to poison her milk today.  When the sandwich artist asked her why she would order milk if her psychic had warned her of it being poisoned, she became unruly, accused him of being out to kill her, and stormed out of the store.  My buddy looked at me and said "Welcome to California, the Land of Fruits and Nuts."

I liked the description, and it seemed to fit the sun-fried mentality of California so well that I have repeated the slur many times over the years.  But today, the nuttiness is no longer confined to the Golden State, but has spread throughout the entire country.

Exhibit A: The Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has made a name for itself by protesting at the funeral of slain soldiers.  Brandishing signs reading "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags and God hates you", these people are beneath contempt.  They are equal-opportunity haters, as they picketed the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC,, referring to Jews as "the real Nazis."  They also hate Roman Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, American Idol, and baseball.  Just plain nutty.


Exhibit B: Eight Michigan militia members have been arrested and face charges of plotting to kill a police officer and then kill all the mourners (presumably heavily represented by law enforcement) who attended the funeral.  Calling themselves "Christian warriors" they hoped to spark a revolution.  The group made the following statement on their website: "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword..." and "We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't.  We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming." Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, to be sure.

Exhibit C: Scott Roeder, who walked into a Kansas church during a time of worship and shot to death George Tiller, notorious late-term abortionist.  Roeder said during the sentencing hearing that he was obeying God's law by murdering Tiller.  He was rather vague on which of God's laws he was obeying.  Out in the weeds.

"But, Fat Kid," many good and honest pro-lifers might protest, "Tiller was a murderer.  A monster."  Yes he was.  He was also a child of God, loved by Him as much as you and I.  "But if you had a chance to kill Hitler in his youth, wouldn't you do it to prevent the Holocaust? Tiller needed to be killed before he murdered any more babies."  I have heard this "If you had the chance to kill Hitler, would you?" question many times.  It's always about killing Hitler.  Nobody ever asks "If you had the chance to change Hitler in his youth, would you?"  Changing someone by persuasion and conversion is a lot harder than killing him, isn't it?  One of the greatest murderers of Christians in the early days was Saul of Tarsus.  He was in the killing business and business was good.  If the early Christians has the chance to end his life, they would have prevented a lot of innocent blood from being spilled, wouldn't they?  Perhaps, but they would have also prevented God from revealing himself to Saul, thus preventing him from changing his name to Paul, writing half of the New Testament, and spreading Christianity around the Roman Empire.

These people are all sincere in their beliefs and probably all think that they are following God's orders.  But, in fact, they are not.  None of them is.  God's greatest Law was handed down in the Ten Commandments.  The first five instruct us how to worship God, the second five tell us how to be kind to one another.  None of them tell us how to reject, control, manipulate, or (worst of all) kill one another. The Michigan militia members call themselves the Hutaree, which we are told means "Christian warrior."  They claim that Jesus wants us to take up swords to spread the gospel.  Where they get this is a mystery, as Jesus commanded Peter to put down his sword when he attacked someone who came to arrest Jesus.

These people all claim to be Christian men and women.  They all hold the Bible as the inspired and true Word of God.  If they do, then they also believe that God is powerful -  powerful enough to create an entire universe by speaking it into existence.  Powerful enough that the brightest human minds - the geniuses like Newton and Einstein and Hawking - spend their entire lives in pursuit of understanding just a tiny fraction of one aspect of the knowledge that God possesses.  God knows everything that every human has ever done, thought, dreamed, or desired.  He doesn't need you to kill for him.  He is not the destroyer of humanity.  He is the creator of it.

Jesus gave us the entire essence of God's Law in two simple sentences: Love God with all your might, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  No guns.  No swords.  No killing.  Especially no killing.  The only blood that ever needed to be spilled in the name of Christianity was already spilled - willingly - by Jesus on Good Friday nearly two thousand years ago.

A Day In The Life

People come up to me all the time and say "Is dentistry as glamourous as it's made out to be?  Is it really better being a tooth mechanic than it is a rock star?"  I have to tell these admirers that it isn't all glitz and glam, supermodels and celebrities.  Sometimes we actually have to do real work.  So I thought maybe some folks might like to get a glimpse into what it is that we do all day.

Here is one of my patients from this morning.  The first picture is of a bite wing x-ray, which we take usually every six months at the cleaning visit.  It is a great x ray for detecting decay in between the teeth and under old fillings.  I have circled in white two cavities he has on tooth #4.  The tooth immediately to the right of it on the x ray is tooth #5.  It has an old white filling with some some decay around it.  Today we replaced that old filling on #5 and filled the two cavities on tooth #4.

Here's the photo of tooth #5 with the stain being the part of the filling that was leaking, causing the cavity under and around the filling.


Here's tooth #4, the one with cavities on the x-ray.  We really can't see the decay too well on this photo, which is why we take bite wings.  Some cavities are only detectable by taking bite wings.


Here's #4 with the decay exposed but not yet completely cleaned out.  I use a high speed hand piece (the "dental drill") and a round bur to clean out the mush.


Here's a better shot of #5


The teeth with all the decay cleaned out


The decay is all cleaned out.  The orange/brown color you see is stain left on the dentin by the decay.  It is what we call "affected dentin", while decayed tooth is called "infected dentin." 


Here is tooth #4 with sectional bands in place.  When a cavity involves the in-between surfaces of a tooth, we have to place a matrix band like this to keep the filling contained and to give it proper shape.


An adhesive is applied to the tooth and then is light-cured. 


The first layer of filling material is flowed into  the deepest parts of the cavity and then light cured.  This process is repeated several times, with 1-2 mm increments of filling material being placed, packed, shaped, and then light-cured.


Here's the tooth all filled up, prior to removal of the matrix bands.


The bands are removed and the process is repeated for tooth #5.


After the bands are removed, the fillings are given their rough shape.  Then we check the bite by having the patient bite on carbon paper and slide the teeth all around.  We adjust the places where the fillings are hitting when they shouldn't be.


Tooth #5 after it is all shaped and polished.

final bw.JPG

X ray taken after fillings were done.  Please ignore all the scratches.

Random Thoughts

Last weekend I was at a dental continuing education class in Las Vegas.  After hearing question after question from the attendees posed to the lecturer, I concluded this: people never ask questions because they want the speaker to fill in knowledge gaps.  They ask questions to show everyone else how smart they are.

The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is the largest, nicest mall that people never buy anything from.  There were thousands of people walking through the mall when I was there and none of them was carrying a bag.  And not one window had a sign that said "Sale" or "X% off"

Driving from my house up toward Flagstaff, I pass Pinnacle Peak Rd. and Table Mesa Rd.  I don't know if there is a Repetitive Redundancy Rd. or a Road Street, but it would not surprise me.

I am not African-American, but if I were I might be offended that they chose the shortest month of the calendar for Black History Month.

Is there a faster, more effective way to push someone from agitation to full blown anger than by telling him to "calm down"?  I don't think so.  It's like some sort of magic word.

I don't understand why TV news shows devote so much time telling us about today's weather.  It's the one part of the day that we all can figure out for ourselves by looking out our own windows.  They need to cut the weather portion down to about 30 seconds by just telling us the 5 day forecast, and use the rest of the time talking about sports.

When I was a kid my mother had me convinced that no matter what bad thing I did, she would find out about it and I would be punished.  Now that I have kids of my own I realize that she was bluffing the whole time and there is no possible way she could have found out.  I am kinda mad about it because I passed up a lot of fun out of fear of my mother's discipline.

I don't care how smart you are or whether you are explaining the mysteries of particle physics or string theory, if you have a thick New York accent there is no way for you to sound intelligent.

One thing I have discovered by being married: women have "stuff" while men have "junk."  As in "Move your junk out of the closet so I have more room more my stuff."  It's not a perfect system, but it seems to work out OK.

Whenever I go to continuing education courses, I always meet up with some dentist that I know and the conversation inevitably turns to some highly-involved case that he recently did.  Listening to dentists discuss their cases is like listening to golfers talk about their game or about fishermen telling tales of the one that got away.  Boooooring.

Baked ziti is nature's perfect food.  It has all the food groups represented: pasta, cheese, and spaghetti sauce.  Meat, too, if you use the right sauce.  I don't know if Adam and Eve had baked ziti in the Garden of Eden, but they should have.

The Prince, Revisited

Back when I was an undergraduate student at Arizona State, I was introduced to Machiavelli's "The Prince."  The book was ostensibly a letter of instruction from a Karl Rove/James Carville type of dude to a Prince who was about to ascend to power.  It is a cynical work, full of all sorts of useful advice ("It is better to be loved than hated, but it is even better to be feared") and its primary thesis can be distilled down into this: "The ends justify the means."

I was reminded recently of this book by the troubles of a number of politicians, both at the state and federal levels.  Several have run afoul of the law or have fallen out of favor with the public, and their troubles could easily have been avoided had they stuck to the principles outlined by Machiavelli.  Since a 500 year old Italian tome might be a little inaccessible to our modern public servants, I thought I would help our scandal-plagued leaders out by repackaging and updating the book's tips, and fill in some of the blanks that Machiavelli could not have imagined when he wrote the original.

red uniform.jpg

Tip #1: Remember the Red Uniform

Nearly every episode of Star Trek saw members of the crew beaming down to some hostile planet for an away mission.  Some Random Dude in a Red Uniform always accompanied the main characters, and the Random Dude in a Red Uniform always got munched by whatever hostile monster/alien/disease inhabited the planet.  But it served a purpose: he died so that the important characters might live.

Similarly, when things get hot and you start taking a lot of flak for whatever bad decision you made, crack open a package of Random Dude in a Red Uniform and feed him to the hostile alien life form, which, in your case would be the press.  Fire one of your subordinates and place 100% of the blame for your stupid actions on this one guy.  He must die so that you may live.  If you make another bad decision, the solution is simple.  Fire another subordinate, and another, and another until all the stench of your bad judgement is completely off you.  The beauty of this plan is that there is no shortage of people lining up to fill the Red Uniform!

finger pointing.jpg

Tip #2: It's not you - it's them

If you propose some sort of sweeping, possibly over-reaching plan (like, say, having the government taking over the health care system) and you see your popularity plummet and your proposal universally-scorned, remember this: it's only because other people don't listen. They don't see how smart you are and how great your plan is. Of course, you can't say that publicly.  You have to say "I have not effectively communicated my message."  If, after re-packaging and re-communicating your message (we in the political business call it "polishing the turd") you still find your approval ratings in the toilet, see Tip #1, and start lining up the Random Dudes in Red Uniforms.

Tip 3: Make it worth the risk
Last week, New York governor David Paterson was accused of receiving World Series tickets and not paying for them.  That could be considered a quid pro quo sort of thing and apparently is against some sort of ethical standards.  What makes this all puzzling is that Governor Paterson is blind - as in "I can't see.  What's going on with the game?  Why am I not sitting in front of a TV or radio listening to the game? "  Why risk all the trouble coming your way for something you really can't use?  Pretty lame, and certainly not worth risking your political office over.

But, sadly, it was not the first time a leader has risked so much for so little.  We all remember Bubba, right?  Bill Clinton risked his marriage, his office, his reputation, and his future to have a fling with Monica Lewinski.  And Jennifer Flowers.  And Paula Jones.  James Carville once famously said "If you wave a hundred dollar bill around a trailer park, there's no telling what you're gonna get."  Yes there is: you're gonna get a date for Bill Clinton.  Plus about $80 in change.

"But, Fat Kid," you might protest, "John Kennedy had all sorts of affairs and he was still a great President!"  But the difference is JFK got it.  He understood that if you are going to risk it humiliating yourself in front of the whole world, you need to aim high: Marilyn Monroe.  If you need to have someone explain to you the difference between Marilyn and Monica, you really should not be President.

Monkey See, Monkey Drew

It's a common enough story: a young lad enters show biz, becomes popular, picks up some bad habits along the way, fathers a bunch of kids out of wedlock despite the fact that he is monkey-ugly, becomes angry as his addiction grows while his popularity plummets, lets his temper get the best of him.  He hits rock bottom when he resorts to hassling random passers-by for booze.  His career in the toilet, he enter rehab, cleans himself up, and releases a statement to the press that he is sober and ready to return to work.


If you didn't know any better you'd swear I was talking about someone like Steven Tyler, Vanilla Ice, or any one of a number of Baldwin brothers.

You'd be wrong.

Of course, I am referring to Zhora the Circus Chimp.  It seems Zhora was a prominent circus performer who couldn't control his anger, so was shipped off to a zoo.  While there, he learned how to draw and became quite popular.  With popularity came excess, and he took to the bottle and cigarettes like any good artist would.  Also like any accomplished artist, he let his vices interfere with his art, and was reduced to lying on the ground, semi-conscious, harassing anybody who happened for spare change "so I can get some gas in my car so I can buy diapers for my baby."

Now he's in rehab.

I have seen enough episodes of "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" to know that half of cleaning up is crying while in group therapy and the other half is blaming your parents for a crummy upbringing.  I don't know how Zhora is going to accomplish either of these two because, well, he's a chimp and I don't think Dr. Drew speaks monkey.  The early Vegas line is even on whether Zhora's comeback will be more successful than Tiger's.

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