12 February, 2017

Of Laziness and Dentistry

I am 35 years old. This is very young, given how long I expect to live, but it is still a rather long time to go on this planet without seeing a dentist.

Now, I can't say for sure that I never saw a dentist before. My memories from seven years old and earlier are pretty hazy. But I certainly don't ever recall going to a dentist.

It's not like you wouldn't think to send someone like me to the dentist. One of my two front teeth is a snaggletooth: it juts out at a nontrivial angle that is quite noticeable. It's the kind of thing that really accentuates the fact that I never had my teeth looked at, even though it's never really bothered me beyond preventing me from whistling loudly.

(In fact, when I dream, my self-image has the same snaggletooth. I also wear glasses, though I'm beardless and am able to travel much, much faster than my real self can manage.)

In Alabama, this wasn't that big a deal. Going without dental care wasn't that uncommon where I grew up. But here in Maryland it's almost unheard of, so it stands out much more than it would if I lived elsewhere.

So I grew up not going to the dentist, and as an adult I just continued not going. I didn't really care about cosmetics, and my teeth never really bothered me, so I just continued not going. Over the years, people have said: you should go to the dentist! Who knows how bad your teeth are at this point! You must have so many cavities! I can't believe you haven't been to a dentist in 35 years! But I've been too lazy to really do anything about it. I guess I figured that at some point I'd buy insurance and then I'd eventually go to a dentist.

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, I bought health insurance for the first time. I didn't bother with dental insurance, though. It just seemed like an extra expense that wouldn't do anything, given that I never went to the dentist. Time passed. I didn't take any new steps.

And then Trump became president.

There are many things I could say about Trump, but the item that is most relevant to me is his insistence on dismantling the Affordable Care Act. All of a sudden I realized I had better take advantage of insurance now, just in case I don't have access to it later.

So last week I went to the dentist.

Note the sideways tooth in the lower left.
They were surprised to learn that I had no teeth pain. Apparently most people who go 35 years without seeing a dentist only come when a problem occurs that has them in intense pain. They took x-rays, examined my mouth, and basically just said how lucky I was to have such good teeth.

My non-wisdom teeth are all fine, with the exception of a small chip in one tooth, which they said they will leave alone and just keep watching as I come in every six months for checkups and cleaning. One of wisdom teeth never came in. Another came in sideways, but is apparently fine in every way and not causing any problems. Another came in normally, and the last is angled poorly. This last tooth is the only one with a cavity, but since it is a wisdom tooth, they said they might just extract it rather than do anything with the cavity.

So: 35 years without a dentist and the only tooth with a problem is a wisdom tooth. I guess that's pretty lucky. Now my only problem is that they made me promise to brush my teeth twice each day and floss daily. I guess this is what everyone does; it's just not something I'm used to yet. We'll see how it turns out when I next see the dentist in six months.

02 February, 2017

Review: Dark Lord's Answer

Dark Lord's Answer Dark Lord's Answer by Eliezer Yudkowsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Dark Lord will answer whatever question you most need answered, but the answer you receive might not appear good in itself. The Dark Lord's Answer will always be instrumentally good, but your conscience may cause you to hesitate before following through with the implementation.

Yudkowsky does an excellent job of setting up a fascinating story here, but he fails at following through. The genre is rational fiction, but good rational fiction should not be as explainy as this is. At times, the text just isn't light enough, and a reader who isn't already familiar with economics might consider the book too preachy. I'm reminded of bad educational video games from the 1990s; it's a lesson wrapped up in a shell of entertainment -- except it's not entertaining if you don't want to learn the material.

If you are already moderately knowledgable about economics, then this is an interesting read. The setting is great; the characters are great; the way the characters solve problems is great. But after finishing the too short text, all I can think about is how I wanted the story to be more about the Dark Lord, and less about the intricacies of the main problem that the Dark Lord solved in the book.

If you like rational fiction, read this book. It's short and it has great ideas that make it worthwhile. If you already know some economics, then you won't get too put out by the explainy sections, which is a bonus.

But if you don't know economics, then this book will feel as preachy as Ayn Rand, but without the length nor inanity. If you haven't read rational fiction before, then this is not a good starting point. Try The Sword of Good by the same author instead.

I give it three stars because I liked it more than most short books, but it's at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to rational fiction.

View all my reviews