Sunday, September 14, 2008

Prison Break
So I was sitting there in molecular biology, and I was struck by an odd thought: three years ago I was planning to be an English major. WTF? Why am I sitting in a classroom filled with homicidal-looking Asian pre-meds trying to memorize 20 arbitrarily-chosen letter codes for amino acids?

I was once told a story about a boy who had been called out by his father for getting a C in a pre-med class at Yale. The boy's response? He started telling his dad about one of his classmates, a girl who had taken 40 classes (32 are required to graduate at Yale) and had achieved an A in every single one of them except one (an A-). Because of that one class, her father had refused to speak to her for the past two years.

Those are the kinds of driven, motivated kids who will one day become driven, motivated doctors, and then eventually, driven, motivated corpses. I, unfortunately, will never be one of them. I'm going to be one of the 90% that don't make it through pre-med, so why am I trying?

Because I don't want to be a quitter. Because I don't want everyone back home to think I'm a failure. Because doctors make lots of money and get lots of women (see: Anatomy, Grey's). Because the only other option is to be a waiter.

So I thought to myself, how can I make this experience less painful? I realized the answer: to cheat my way through the system! Most of you have guessed my solution from the title of the post: tattoo the answers to all the questions that I might be asked on a test onto various parts of my body. All I have to do is register a new religion in the UK that requires me to have various chemical formulas tattooed onto my body as an expression of worship, along with a few other memory-enhancing diagrams meant to invoke useful memories:

-Forehead: A sign that says, "Today is Shave Day" backwards so I can read it in the mirror.
-Knee: A scar that is actually an exact map of the London Underground.
-Left eye: Scary-looking scar that I can put an eyepatch over.
-Feet: funny quotes from Woody Hayes that I can read while showering.
-Left hand: Of course, "Remember Leroy Jenkins" (huh, that was funny)

That Girl Guest Column #5
So I was sitting there in molecular biology, and I was struck by an odd thought: why is it so hard for me to remember these arbitrary 20 letter codes for amino acids?

What I realized is that the modern world has, in fact, stolen our memory from us. Because technology enables us to be lazy, we become so. Nobody remembers phone numbers anymore (an excellent example of something that requires arbitrary, semantic memory); all you do is punch them into your phone and you're done.

Firefox has a fill-in-the-blank option so as you type a web address possible completions come up and you can select the one you want instead of having to type the entire domain name. After a little while using it, you even remember the order of the possible completions so you don't have to look at them, just hit the down arrow enough to select the right one and go. When you delete your history and have to go restore all the settings, it doesn't work properly and you have to type in the exact address, which is more difficult than it might seem.

Maybe the Luddites had something right after all.

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