i had three teeth extracted today.

i know this is more of a life thing than a thought thing so it really belongs on oscillate, but it’s been a while since i’ve written on resonate, and my brain is still in this state of analysis about everything that happened, so i thought i’d mix it up a bit.

so yeah. i got three teeth extracted today. it needs to be documented.

the first thing that i did after the dentist’s assistant (darlene) put me in the chair was to read and sign a form that stated that i understood what was being done to me, that i had had a discussion about the potential side effects and complications and yadeyade. It’s the second time i’ve signed something like that in which one of the potential complications listed on the form was “death”, the first being when i went skydiving in 2004. Other than that, the form was pretty straightforward with those typical “things could go wrong, you could get infections” nonsense that to me has the sort of odds like the nut flush against the straight flush. Sure, it’s *possible*, but the odds just aren’t there, and even if by some stretch something were to happen, it’s not unfixable.

So okay. i signed the paper, the oral surgeon guy then went over what he was going to do, and discussed options for one of the teeth to be extracted, as in two of the teeth were my wisdom teeth on the right side which was fine, but one tooth on my left hand side was my second molar which would leave a gap between my left wisdom tooth and my first molar. He said that if i wanted to i could just leave it alone and then over years the two teeth would likely push closer together which isn’t a big deal, or i could get a replacement fake tooth to go in there instead which would cost a bunch of money, but is an option. He didn’t want to sway me one way or the other, but he did say after i essentially decided that it was unnecessary that he probably would have done the same thing and just left it alone. I also have the option of changing my mind if i want down the road. He mentioned some potential low-risk dangers and some low-to-moderate numb-like side effects that could go on for days or weeks or months, but that that would only happen if he was sloppy. He had an accent that i couldn’t quite place because it was fairly light; it was definitely either european or eastern bloc. He said his last name, but it wasn’t something that i caught because it was somewhat complicated or else i wasn’t listening properly.

They put a thing over my nose that was supposed to introduce nitrous oxide into my system. Darlene told me that it was just supposed to relax me, make me feel like “i had just had a couple of cocktails.” After a while i started to feel a tingle in my legs, but other than that my sense of awareness didn’t seem to dull at all. I said as such, so she let it run some more, and after a few more minutes, she applied some topical novocaine to the areas of my teeth. After a few minutes, the oral surgeon stuck needles into my mouth to put the more Heavy Stuff into my mouth, and then we waited to allow the numbness to go into effect.

While we waited for the heavy novocaine to settle in, Darlene asked me where i was from and all that and i gave a basic answer, and when i said that i marched in the Saints Victory parade, she said that she was there and that brought more of her background into the light, that she had lived here all of her life, her parents got married in the big chapel downtown in the quarter. So i asked the question that’s been on my mind ever since the saints won the super bowl and we did the parade, “so the saints winning the super bowl was a very personal thing fro you, then?” and her face kind of lit up (over her facemask) and said, “absolutely.” and it spurned a small conversation about how the super bowl was such a unifying thing for the city, a topic of a separate entry in my head.

She asked me how i was doing with the numbness and with the nitrous, and i said that i was feeling pretty numb from the novocaine, but i wasn’t sure about the whole nitrous thing. i mean, more of my body was feeling numb, but my brain still felt very alert. She left me for a few minutes after that, which i think was an effort to distract me less so i could breathe the nitrous more completely.

After a while, the oral surgeon came back and said, “i’m going to do some stuff and all you should feel is pressure. if you feel pain, let me know and we’ll give you more anaesthetic.” So he did some stuff, saying out loud, “some pressure, some pressure, a little pressure, a lot of pressure…” and i didn’t feel any pain at all, so he got to work.

and i would have loved to see a video of what he did. not because i was particularly interested in the process, but because i felt like what he was doing would have really really hurt if it weren’t for the numbing stuff. i know it must have been pretty bloody since i’m still bleeding a lot (have to replace gauze in my mouth every half hour or so), but whatever. i’m normally squeamish about blood, but this is different, maybe because it’s mine, or because i knew what it felt like which wasn’t much at all; i don’t know. But it was just interesting to feel tugs of pressure without pain for something that feels like i should have been screaming in agony.

Two of the teeth were difficult to extract apparently; one because it just had a long root, the other because that tooth has been broken for a while and so it was more fussy to get out. He did a bunch of a drilling and then pulling and then drilling and then pulling. When the teeth actually came out, i only felt one of them. The other two i was only aware that they came out because i could tell that what the assistant was doing was dealing with gauzing up the bleeding as opposed to assisting him with the process. With the tooth on my left side, he put in a stitch, which marks the first stitch i’ve ever had in my life.

The whole thing took about an hour to do (starting with the topical novocaine – the actual extraction was maybe ten minutes each?). After it was done, Darlene switched the nitrous to a concentrated oxygen to “clear my head so i can drive”, and honestly, i thikn i got gipped out of the nitrous experience because when i went back and evaluated the way my head felt and my body felt overall, i don’t think i felt any effects of the nitrous other than the initial tingly feeling in my limbs. My head still felt pretty alert but relaxed, but not in a way that was moreso than normal. maybe i was just that unaware of whether or not it had any effect, but if i had known that it would go like that, i might have asked to not have it, especially since it was an additional $95 charge that didn’t get covered by my insurance.

After i was taken off of the oxygen, Darlene gave me a brief overview of what i needed to do post-extraction, which strangely includes not rinsing or drinking through a straw for twenty-four hours. Apparently rinsing and suction of any sort can complicate the whole healing process, so until 14:00 tomorrow i can’t really brush my teeth. I can eat soft foods, but i’m probably going to stick with yogurt and liquids, maybe throw in some sliced meats. i’m not supposed to eat rice or strawberries or anything that could potentially lodge itself into the areas where the teeth used to be.

I have three prescriptions: one for amoxacillan which takes me back to my younger asthmatic years, one for percoset which i can take as needed, and one “oral rinse” deal that i need to start to do tomorrow after i’m actually allowed to rinse. i’m not sure if i’m going to take the percoset since it’s just a pain killer as opposed to anything that prevents infection, and i generally shy away from that sort of stuff. i figure that if i could march an entire week of 8+ hour rehearsals at 160-200 BPM with a pulled groin muscle (Crossmen 1995 finals week), i can deal with some stupid pain in my mouth for a week or two. i have a followup appointment a week from now so they can make sure that i’m all healing properly.

it’s now 16:15 and the bottom half of my mouth is starting to finally get feeling back, which is a good thing. i hate having to talk or eat or do anything with that feeling of numbness. when i was younger and still went to the dentist, i eventually started having my cavities drilled without novocaine because i preferred the short term pain over the long term numbness. my attitude is less strong than it used to be which means that i’ll take the novocaine with a shrug, but the numbness and how long it lasts is still pretty annoying.

there’s one other part of the whole visit that’s worthy of mentioning, but that part will actually go into an oscillate entry instead of here, and also be picture number twelve of my 40 day lent scheme.

TMI in our digital age

i think most people would agree that i am generally an embracer of technology and the use of technology to enrich work, lives, arts, &c. in middle school and high school i was the geek who was addicted to video games, excited to learn how to use computers, and spent hours logging on to BBS’s everywhere in the Pennsylvania area to chat, play online games, and the like. I’m an advocate of technology in classical music, having composed several works of music for live performer and an ‘intelligent’ computer that reacts to what’s being played or reacts to the performer breaking an infrared beam. In my job prior to my current one, I was part of a team of reporting and reporting system analysts who were very tech-saavy, and we were always enthusiastic about (as my boss liked to put it) “moving reporting into 21st century”, streamlining as many data points as we could so that the company could receive relevant data quickly, accurately, and with as little human intervention or manipulation as possible.

But there’s a distinction i make between technology that i feel serves as positive enrichment versus progress-hindering. A while back i wrote a reaction to the Robotic Drumstick Haptic Guidance System, and i still stand by its thesis that such a device is poorly conceived as a pedagogical tool and that anyone who uses this as the basis for their musical knowledge and understanding could become an excellent “note player” but would become a poor musician.

i’ve also gone off on why i further disliked iPods when they could start playing movies and i still find value in that stance, although i think it needs to be refined somewhat. There’s no doubt that sometimes kids need attention and sometimes a parent needs to focus on other things. Distractions are a good answer to that, but i think that distractions need to be approached cautiously, first in the kind of distraction involved (i like to think that some degree of cognitive distraction is better than nonsense distraction), and secondly in the mindset that distractions of that sort of nature should never be an excessive or complete answer to everything (like if the iPod runs out of battery during a long car ride, the parents have no idea what to do beacause they’ve never actually talked to their kid in the car before). In that sense, the use and/or abuse of technology has to do with degrees and where to define the threshold of something moving from enriching/harmless distraction to harmful and potential long-term negative effects.

And now there’s a new technology trend that i feel is teetering dangerously away from its initial positive enrichment to progress hindering and backwards thinking: too much accesible information.

In the decades in which the World Wide Web continued to develop and grow, there were various stages of mindsets. In the early days, it was a “i can find useful academic information” mindset. As the internet became more mainstream and information outside of academics started to gain presence on the web, the mindset evolved into, “I might be able to find some of the answers i need on the web.” And then in what i consider the post-Google era, the mindset evolved into, “I can find anything on the web!”, or slightly more sinister, “Why can’t i find everything on the web?”

in a lot of ways, i think the easy access to any sort of information or opinions and the ability for so many people to connect in ways that weren’t possible before is fantastic and has a lot of potential to be more on the positive enrichment side of things. the problem is that there’s as much useless information as there is useful information out on the internet, and the ability to pull up any information at any point can make it too easy for people to transfix themselves on trivial information that ultimately serves no real purpose, and with the recent surge of mobile internet trend set by Apple and the iPhone, people can now increase their habit of merrily finding out whatever they want whenever they want whether they need to or not.

Let’s take a hypothetical example and compare mentalities:

You’re walking in the park or in a long car ride or whatever with a friend and you’re discussing the three live action x-men movies. In trying to compare the three movies, you remember that in the last movie, Kitty Pryde has more of a spotlight role than the previous two movies and that triggers a question, “wasn’t Kitty Pryde played by a different actress in the second movie? maybe even the first?”

in today’s Mobile internet world, finding the answer to that is a snap. pull out your smartphone, go to IMDB or wikipedia, find the answer you’re looking for instantly.

in yesterday’s world of internet-houses-all-information, you have to wait until you’re in front of a computer to find the answer. So one of two things happens: a) after the long car ride, you remember that this was information you wanted to know, so you find a computer, find your answer, and receive satisfaction for having answered an unanswered question, or b) you completely forget that you were curious about this tidbit of trivia and the question never gets answered which is fine because you didn’t remember that you asked the question in the first place.

in the pre-internet era, finding the answer would be damned difficult. likely it would involve more thought than the information really warrants; trying to trigger a memory, calling up someone else who has seen the movies on the offchance that they know the answer, or something similar. And eventually in your head you discover the answer (or what you think is the answer) or else you let it go or shelve it for later and move on with your life.

What’s striking to me about all of these scenarios is that i feel that the end result doesn’t actually change anything or fulfill any sort of enrichment. Whether you discover the answer to that question or *any* trivia question or not, the path that your life is taking remains the same. You could say that now you know something that you didn’t, but that doesn’t say much about how well you will retain that information (and in a world where the information is readily at your fingertips, there is less incentive to retain it on your own) nor does it speak to the value of the information.

So then you may argue, “if the end result is the same, then why does it matter? If immediate access to the information is a different means to the same sort of end, then i don’t see the problem.”

The problem is two-fold:

First, the easier it is to discover useless information, the more useless information people will fill their lives with. In the above example, particularly with IMDB and wikipedia, it becomes too easy to start link-hopping to tangenting articles, statistics, and other random findings. Oh, that’s right, Kitty was played by Ellen Page in the last x-men movie. I wonder what else she was in? Ooooh, she was the one that was the lead role in Juno! I loved that movie! When did that come out again? oh, i didn’t know that John Malcovich produced it! That “Being John Malcovich” movie was so cool. Didn’t that have John Cusack in it?… and on and on and on, so that now a harmless curiosity with a simple ten second answer turns into a thirty-minute tangent filled with information that is likely forgotten a month later, and that thirty minutes could have been used in a different way. And sometimes that thirty minutes can turn into hours of wasted time.

Secondly, becoming used to a paradigm in which information is expected to be so accessible can resultingly cause a new kind of psychological anxiety when that information is no longer accessible or if a partiuclar piece of information is not easy to find. this is well parodied in the South Park episode Over Logging, and it’s also reminiscent of the reason why i decided a long time ago to never wear a wristwatch which i blogged about on oscillate in 2004:

many many years ago i wore a watch around my wrist and… I reached a point where i would look at the time every two minutes out of habit, and that evolved into a *need* to know what time it was every second. I remember distinctly the first time i forgot my watch or lost my watch and there was no time piece nearby. i was in a state of total panic. I felt so afraid and insecure and alone and kept on looking around everywhere for something or someone to tell me what time it was. After that i… vowed never to ever wear a wristwatch on a regular basis ever again, opting for some sort of pocket timekeeper instead. because of this, a) i’m a much more relaxed individual, and b) i’ve developed the skill of knowing pretty accurately what time it is when asked even if the last time i checked a watch was hours before.

While not exactly analagous, i think it’s a close enough resemblance: we’ve reached a point in our culture where the expectation of information is so great that any information gaps regardless of its value can cause stress.

Again, the issue i have isn’t really with the technology itself, it’s with how it’s being applied. And it’s something that i have to be particularly careful about because of my own addicition to information. i love absorbing a wide variety of information whether important or not, and it’s for this reason that i’ve determined that mobile internet and smartphones are something i need to keep out of my life or give myself strict restrictions on how and when it is used. i’ve developed enough bad internet habits as it is.

Originally posted on darkblog resonate. I prefer any thoughts or comments there.