Suffering from The ‘Tetris Effect’ in Israel helps me see Baltimore

Have you ever heard of the Tetris effect?

After playing the Soviet puzzle game for, say, hours and hours and hours on end, it starts to alter your perceptions of the world around you. You start to see the shapes of the tiles in the game in every group of bricks on the side of a building. Or you see spaces on your desk that could easily be filled by one of the tiles. It happens even if you are living in Israel, studying to be a doctor, like me.

There is, apparently, some research that’s been done on this but I haven’t had time to review it. If I had to make a totally amateur guess as to what causes the Tetris effect, which is the only kind of guess I can make in this situation, I would say our brains get enthralled by the problem presented in the game. And it drops into a rhythm of trying to solve the problem.

That’s the closest thing I could come up with to what’s been happening to me lately. And I’m sure there is a precise word for what’s been happening to me, but brainstorming with my wife didn’t bring anything to mind. What’s been happening? I’ve been in a storm of tests, studying for tests, and taking more tests. In the midst of it I will lie down to sleep and it will occur to me, “You’ve got to write something for the blog.”

And then I’d fall asleep.

I thought about it so often that something strange started happening. Baltimore started showing up everywhere. I was checking into one of my favorite blogs quickly and saw this picture of South Baltimore after the fire of 1904, and I thought, “Hey, I bet those Baltimore Post-Examiner cats would find this interesting.” The blog,, has a handful of pictures of turn-of-the-century Baltimore here.

A few days later I was looking for a radio program to listen to while my wife and I ate dinner. I had never gone to the PRX website to look for something to listen to, but I did that evening and what do you think was the first thing I saw? An episode of the show State of the Re:union about Baltimore. After listening to a few episodes of the show, I am a big fan. I highly recommend it.

Another few days past. Remember that the fact that I hadn’t written anything for my Baltimore Post-Examiner blog is occurring on and off to me this whole time. I was walking to school listening to an interview with the author/philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I won’t get into everything that he was talking about, but at one point he started talking about a school of medicine that existed in the ancient Middle East and Greece. These were physicians who based their practice of medicine completely on experience rather than trying to find the root causes of diseases. The idea was that the systems one is dealing with in a diseased human being are too complex to ever understand causes of pathological processes that are not readily apparent, like a stab wound for example. I’d never heard of this empirical approach and at least part of the reason is that rationalist physicians ended up being the dominant group when it came to medicine and the educating of new physicians. Being curious, I looked it up on the Internet and, strangely, one of the first hits was an article posted on the website for a group called the <a href=””>”Baltimore Homeopathic Study Group.”</a> The article had a short discussion of the concepts surrounding empirical medicine. Since you may have more time than I do, give it a closer read than I did and tell me if it’s any good.

So, that’s a bit of a mixed salad of things to throw out there, but it’s what I got. Oh, and if you want to hear a really interesting interview with the guy who brought Tetris to the USA, take a listen to one of me and my wife’s favorite podcasts, A Life Well Wasted. (If someone with the money to fund a small podcast is reading this right now, can you go ahead and help A Life Well Wasted get back in gear? It’s too good to only have six episodes.)

Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated in advance as tomorrow I will begin the incredibly gruelling process of studying for our first US board exam.

I’ll check back in sooner next time.

(Feature photo of Baltimore from Library of Congress.)