Snow dance?

When it started snowing one of my roommates called us all into the living room and we watched the wet mess fall past the sodium vapor streetlamp. One of them, prone to dancing, did a little jig in celebration. It occurred to me then that for all the countless rain dances of countless arid cultures, I can’t think of a single snow dance. Even the Eskimos seem to be all set in that department.


The NIH’s database lists 798 different ongoing clinical trials for MS, a good reminder of the scale of global pharma today. I read through a fair number in the wee hours last night for a class assignment, and for a newcomer to the field the variety is amazing to observe. In addition to the expected range of small-molecule finds, designed compounds, monoclonal antibodies, natural products, supplements, surgeries, diet, and exercise, there’s one class of treatments in particular that stands out.

Three trials, in Denmark, Germany, and Wisconsin appear to be testing Trichuris Suis Ova as therapy, i.e. “we’re going to deliberate infest you with a 3-inch parasitic worm”. Results in Crohn’s disease are highly promising, and MS may be susceptible to the same effect because they are both autoimmune-like disorders, and neither is seen in places where parasites are still common.

Parasitic worms do have a bit of an image problem, though. Maybe you could market it as sort of like a pet?


This morning I played my first game of Kubb, in a park just in sight of the Head of the Charles. Kubb is a simple lawn game that is apparently quite popular in Scandinavia and the Midwest, but hasn’t really made it to Massachusetts … until now.

I lost, but there are worse things than losing at Kubb in a park in mid-autumn, hearing an occasional distant clunk from the oarlocks of passing eights.


From this article about the German Pirate Party:

Rick Falkvinge thinks that this week’s poll results are a clear sign that they are on course.

“This isn’t an election result, but it is still something that starts to shift policy making away from neomercantilistic monopolies and toward the free exchange of TICKS (tools, ideas, culture, knowledge, and sentiments) that build the next generation of industries. That’s good for every country and for the youth in particular.”

That’s a very nice sentiment, Herr Falkvinge, but I would prefer not to share any TICKS, having already had one unpleasant brush with LYME DISEASE.

Branding in a foreign language is very dangerous.

Half-Banana Bread Pudding with Currants

My big upcoming experiment, for which I’d been preparing for weeks, was canceled with one day’s notice due to “issues with delivery and sheep transport”. At least it’s a novel excuse.

To console myself I made a whole lot of delicious bread pudding based on these two recipes.


  • 15 slices of smushed store-brand Wonderbread, bag-aged for two weeks
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup “zante currants” (I barely know what a currant is, and I have no idea about zante.)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3/2 cup and a little more white sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 bananas

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Tear up 12 slices of bread into 9×13 baking dish. Drizzle 4 tbsp. melted butter over bread, then pour in the currants evenly. Whip the eggs, then stir in milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Slice bananas in half lengthwise and then into short sections. Melt remaining 2 tbsp. butter in a small frying pan, add a little sugar. Cook bananas and coat evenly with butter/sugar until they become slightly soft. (This may not be necessary for well-ripened bananas.) Place bananas on top of the bread on one side of the dish. The truth is, you should probably use 4 bananas and cover the whole dish unless you have an eater who really doesn’t like bananas, because the banana side is highly tasty.

Pour liquid mix into the dish. Tear up remaining 3 slices of bread and insert chunks into any visible puddles.

Bake for 70 minutes. The pudding will rise to like twice the height of the baking dish, then collapse by a factor of 3 or more when it cools, which is pretty nifty.


Another month, another beautiful, joyous, tasteful wedding. My cousin got married last night on a hillside overlooking the Hudson river at sunset.

I woke up this morning at 5:20 AM, jumped in my car, and drove straight from my parents’ house in Connecticut to the lecture hall in Boston for my 9 AM class (not exactly on time even so).

Harried, underslept, late, trying to catch up to the lecturer who offhandedly mentions that the neuron’s equilibirum transmembrane ionic voltage is well modeled by the Nernst equation and flashes the symbols on the screen for a few seconds before moving on … felt very much like being back in undergrad.


My car has a Tire Pressure Monitoring system that lights an indicator on the dashboard if the tire pressure gets too low. It lit up last week, so naturally I reset it, but it turned on again, so I pulled off to a park-and-ride and investigated.

I took my pump+gauge around to each tire, all of which were within-spec save for the front right tire, which was down to 28 PSI, whereas the owner’s manual recommends 32.

I put my pump to good use and drove off with slightly higher mileage, better safety, and longer tire life, according to the statistics. Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the TPMS, and for the most part so is everyone else.

I only have a TPMS because of a Federal mandate, written into the TREAD Act of 2000 and enforced by the NHTSA starting in 2007, that all cars be equipped with them. This little bit of Federal regulatory meddling in private enterprise was

  • sponsored by a Republican
  • cosponsored by countless Democrats
  • passed by voice vote in a Republican-majority congress
  • passed unanimously in the Senate

not in some distant mythical bipartisan age, but 11 years ago, in response to a Ford-Firestone safety recall that in retrospect seems insignificant.

The important thing about this legislation is how unexceptional it is. The everyday business of democracy entails regulation of industry to maintain a safe and pleasant environment for citizens. Until recently this has been entirely uncontroversial.

It worked!

After my Latitude 13/Vostro V13’s “Internal hard disk drive not found” error last week I scoured the web for others with this problem. As it turns out, it’s an extremely common failure mode, documented in places like this and this.

According to these anonymous strangers on the internet, the solution is to buy a new audio board and ribbon cable, part number DDWP3. Dell doesn’t list this item for sale, but you can buy it from their salespeople via the chat interface (no need to wait on hold for phone support). The total cost was $24.42, including shipping and sales tax. I couldn’t be sure of the exact cause of this system’s failure, but it seemed like a worthwhile gamble.

Dell doesn’t list DDWP3 in any public document, and certainly doesn’t acknowledge that there is a design defect in the Vostro V13. However, I suspect that they have documented the problem internally, based on the exchange:

Agent: “Thank you for contacting Dell Small and Medium Business Hardware Support. My name is Elaine. How may I help you today?”
Me: “I would like to purchase replacement part number DDWP3, audio board with cable”

Agent: “by the way Benjamin, can you tell me your issue with your system?”
Agent: “is this a no boot issue?”

I just installed the new board and cable, and also swapped back the hard drive. The system booted up like a charm on the first try.

Many thanks to anonymous strangers on the internet.


In preparation for a cadre of visiting dignitaries on Thursday, I spent an hour or so this afternoon pacing out the route with the professor who’s organizing the tour. The hospital is a bit of a maze, and there are enough visitors that we must divide them into many smaller groups just to fit into the small spaces we are showing. By the time they’re done with our circuitous route, I’m confident they’ll be highly impressed with our institution, and totally disoriented by its physical plant.

My favorite part is standing on a footbridge over a busy 4-lane street and pointing out that perhaps the world’s most sophisticated (and expensive) operating theater is underneath it.