Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fuckface Von Clownstick i.e. The Great White Dope aka Sir Sissypants alias Cheeto Benito

I'm watching over a patient until someone else arrives. If something goes wrong, I can't do much for the poor child . . . that is,  unless something goes really, really wrong. I can, God forbid, defibrillate, intubate, or otherwise perform life-saving measures. It shouldn't get to that point, however. Let us hope not, anyway.

I've been watching news programs with one eye and listening to them with one ear as I stay with the child. Inside sources  quote Trump as having said to his chief of security, "I hate everyone in the White House."  The circumstances surrounding Trump having been called "a fucking moron" by his secretary of state have been clarified, making the original assertions of Tillerson having referred to Trump as such seem all the more credible.  Discussion of the U.S. Constitution's Twenty-Fifth Amendment is reaching the forefront (and, as much as I fear a Pence presidency, invocation of the twenty-fifth amendment is sounding like a good thing.) The president reportedly asked, when Bannon mentioned the Twenty-Fifth Amendment "What's the twenty-fifth Amendment?" Trump reportedly asked. Republican legislators have speculated [only partially in jest] concerning Kelly and other Cabinet members  restraining Trump in the event that he lunges for the nuclear football in a fit of rage.

What are the possible outcomes? These immediate crises could blow over, and as likely as not, will, though the next set of crises could be every bit as serious if not more so. The cabinet could decide Trump isn't fit to hold office and could invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment in removing him from office. Trump could quit in a fit of anger. Trump could have a stroke or heart attack in a fit of anger. Congress could impeach Trump, and he could quit before he is tried in the impeachment proceedings. Or Trump could be tried and removed from office by the senate in impeachment proceedings (I have no idea what the charges against Trump might be, and this option wouldn't be a quick solution.) 

Things are not looking great for us here in the U.S. A residency in Canada is looking like a better option with each passing day, not that North Korea wouldn't accidentally hit Canada with one of their nukes after Trump nukes them first and if they had the distance but not the accuracy to get their nuke here.

My Role In Facilitating My Brother's Sex Life and other musings . . .

It's probably foolish for me to use the little time I have to blog rather than to sleep, eat, have a long shower or soak in the tub, or study. I arrived home at just after 9:00 p.m. following a seventeen-hour shift. My brother was entertaining his latest paramour when I walked in, but I was too tired  to make it upstairs to my bedroom and too tired even to care. I fell asleep on the living room sofa within seconds of entering the condo. The two of them either called it a night or relocated to the privacy of Matthew's bedroom. If they had any major action going on, they were at least polite enough to keep their moans quiet enough not to disturb my sleep. Unless one of them has to be at work early, I'll probably never know whether I put the kibosh on their night of passion or actually accelerated it. C'est la vie.

In any event, I awoke five hours later feeling as though I'd gotten a full night's sleep. I'm probably awake for good now. There's still ample time to bathe, eat, and even to get in a bit of study before returning to work in another three hours or so.

After completing a period of travel and interviews in preparation for my residency, I'm now fulfilling a four-week subinternship in the area of pediatric surgery.  Following two years of formal classroom education in the parts and functions of the  human body and in  various maladies and injuries interfering with said functions, and following more than a year of required and optional clinical training in multiple areas, my medical school career is winding down. I've completed all units of study required of every student.  Now I need only to get through this  subinternship, complete another subinternship in pediatric medicine (I've chosen to complete a second subinternship, this one in pediatric medicine,  rather than to fulfill an additional clerkship rotation), and to complete three additional elective clerkships.  Besides Christmas break, I will have one additional (and much-needed) block of  time off. Even more important to me, that light of the end of the tunnel that has for so long eluded me is finally beginning to come into view.

A subinternship is a sort of trial internship in a selected field of medicine. A sub-intern is given a greater patient volume and greater responsibility than a regular medical school student would be given in a rotation and is treated much as an intern would be treated except that legality doesn't permit a sub-intern to enter patient orders. (A senior resident handles that duty.)  It's a time to show one's skills, ideally in a positive light. It's also a time to confirm one's interest in a particular field of medicine. Realistically, it's a time to show off ever so slightly.

It's still very early in my subinternship. I haven't yet had any opportunity to show off, which is to be expected. Early in one's subinternship, the goal is more along the lines of not exposing any glaring weaknesses, not committing any professional breaches or faux pas,  and of not making a total fool of oneself. The opportunities to strut one's stuff will come later.

My cast has been removed. I limped noticeably for several days, but the limp grew less noticeable with each day of freedom from the cast.  If you've never had a cast on your leg or foot, it's probably difficult for you to imagine regaining the skill of walking following removal of a cast. Even if there were no injury involved, with one's leg in a cast  -- even a walking cast, which my cast was not --  the cast is doing much of the work involved in supporting the leg and the entire body.  When the cast is removed, the leg has temporarily forgotten how to function. I'm now walking relatively limp-free and am eagerly awaiting my doctor's OK to run once again.  Today I scrubbed in for a nearly four-hour surgery. My leg barely held out. Had it gone another twenty minutes, I would have needed to excuse myself, which, though probably understandable, wouldn't have done much in the way of creating a favorable impression on my second day on the job in this sub-internship. I'm really glad things ended when they did.

I believe I touched upon my technological ineptitude in a recent blog post.  A friend was curious as to how I got to the point at which I now am with so few cell phone skills. I think I detailed the explanation both to him and on the blog,  I thought about it a bit more as I was waiting around for the senior resident to make her appearance. (Though I cannot enter the orders, I draft them and then wait around for a senior resident to look them over, make necessary changes, and enter them.)  

I will complete medical school at roughly the age most people start. If you're into statistics, my age of  twenty-three years in June would probably be the mode, or most frequently appearing age, for students entering med school. Those with outlying ages have far greater variance in ages above the mode than in ages below it  It's not uncommon to have a forty-year-old entering a med school program (the mode age + 17 years) but we don't have, at least here in the U.S., students 17 years below the mode age, or six years of age, beginning medical school. Thus, both the mean and median ages for entering medical school students are above what my age will be in June, but twenty-three is single the most common age of students upon entry to medical school, with twenty-two being second (and first in some years; it's getting slightly older with kindergarten entrance ages of various states gradually getting higher). 

I started and will finish early because a) I have a late birthdate relative to the kindergarten entrance age; I turned five on December 2 of my kindergarten year, which was at the  time in California was the very latest birthdate allowed for a student entering kindergarten; b)  I skipped one grade of middle school by completing just one semester of seventh grade and one semester of eight grade; c) I completed two university courses in each year of high school  and took a heavy load of academic placement courses, which allow university credit with passage of associated exams in conjunction with the course work  Had I not completed both music performance and microbiology majors, I could have completed my undergraduate degree program in just two years rather than the three  that it took me.

My academic accomplishments from the ages of four to nineteen were in excess of what the average student accomplishes in those years.  My level of intelligence, while certainly adequate, is not highly unusual, nor would I be considered even an unusually high achiever by most standards.   The only way for me to achieve what I did achieve in the interval of time in which I achieved it was for me to have forsaken some pursuits or activities in favor of those I chose.  Looking at the person I am now, it seems clear that I neglected social and technological areas in favor of academic pursuits. I am by no means suggesting or recommending the same course for anyone else. I'm not even sure that it was the wisest path for me to have followed.  Rather, I am acknowledging that a person cannot accomplish one thing without sacrificing something else; what I gave up was a large portion of a social life and much of the technological experience typical for a person of my age.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Technological Nerds Vs. Any Other Kinds of Nerds

I lack the technological savvy that is characteristic of most nerdy people of my generation.  For safety reasons into which I would prefer not to delve right now, my parents limited and closely monitored my access to the Internet when I was in middle school and high school. For both security and financial reasons I would prefer not to discuss at this time, my parents limited my cell phone privileges to a device that had no texting or Internet capacity and limited my calling capacity to the seven numbers they programmed into the phone. I could have purchased a decent phone sooner than I did, but I was sufficiently busy with the ordeal of completing my two-and-one-half major [including pre-med] undergraduate studies that I neither needed nor wanted the hassle even of going to the trouble of purchasing a new phone, much less the headaches associated with learning to use the more complicated phone. Consequently, it wasn't until I was in medical school that I got my cell phone that didn't look like a toy. That first "real" phone was soon upgraded not much later to the iPhone 7 plus that I now have.

My computer skills are on the low end of functional for someone in my position as a medical school student. I can accomplish everything I need to do as a medical school student on a computer with relative ease. Some things I do not do just because I don't want to do them, but all things considered, my delayed exposure to technology has not significantly gotten in the way of my doing anything work-related that I need to do. I can operate technologically-based surgical equipment including various scopes (endoscopes, laparoscopes, etc.). I  must ensure that I am wearing corrective lenses of some sort in order to be able to see what I need to see with regard to these devices, but I am otherwise not technologically impaired with regard to my current educational endeavors and my future profession.

I am, however,  still somewhat limited with regard to my cell phone usage. I was communicating with a friend of mine via a particular application when the application displayed on my screen a promotion of some sort. There wasn't an arrow or cursor to exit the page. When I exited the application, the same display came up whenever I again clicked on the link for the application. My friend tried to talk me through exiting the application's rather aggressive attempt to sell me an upgraded version of the free application I was using.  I clicked on my standard text-messaging application and text my friend that I would fix the app issue later.  My friend told me to hit my home button (He even told me, "The home button is the round white button at the bottom of your phone." I concede to not being the sharpest Crayola in a 64-pack, but, dotard though I am,  even I know what the home button is.) He immediately called me to berate me for my ineptitude and for my temperament, saying that I give up too easily. He asked me what I would do if I were operating and had difficulty removing a patient's appendix. Would I just give up and walk away, my friend wondered aloud, leaving the patient on the operating table with an inflamed appendix and an open abdominal cavity?

Of course I would do no such thing, I told my friend . . .  unless the appendix really was all that difficult to get out and I genuinely had more important things to be doing with my time.  I went on to detail my prowess as a surgeon-in-training, including [but not limited to] my strength with regard to the skill of suturing. I went on to somewhat boast of the aesthetic properties of my suturing ability. I'm not sure my friend believed anything I told him, and I can't entirely say that I blame him, as there may have been an element of bullshit in what I said.  (I do have a flair for stitching, though, if I may say so myself without being accused of the sin of narcissism).

Later, I clicked the app on my phone again, again got the display trying to sell me a vastly superior version of the app I was using for free. Through trial and error i determined that the easiest way out of the sales pitch was to click on an option that read "Demo Message," which then gave the user the option of sending a text as usual, or of returning to the app's home page. The following day, when I returned to my home area, I was able to relocate on the application that very same sales pitch message. I handed my phone with that message on the screen to one of my colleagues whose undergraduate major had been computer engineering. He clicked a few things, then was successful at exiting. I asked him how he had gotten free of the sales pitch page. He told me that the easiest way to exit that page while staying in the app was to click on "Demo Message." I found it odd that a person with all of the iPhone expertise of my colleague recommended the same solution I found for myself.

While it is humbling to be as challenged in using my iPhone as I am, I'm allowed to have a weakness or two, or maybe even three, four, or five. I cannot draw. I'm sometimes irrational if my temperature is above 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have a minor processing disorder that delays my ability to access information from my brain so that, when I am asked a question, I sometimes have  to pretend to cough or use another delaying tactic for the five to ten seconds that I need for data retrieval. I have difficulty accessing many of the features of my  iPhone. I don't deal effectively with extremely stupid people. Those (in addition to a possible lack of humility) are what I would perceive to be my five greatest weaknesses. I'm not particularly proud of my weaknesses, but I own them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

As If One Person Named Kellyanne Were Not Already One Too Many

the love child of Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump

My most recent post prior to this one was about neonates.  I'm presently up to my eyeballs in my neonatal rotation. It's probably fair to say that I have newborn babies on my brain in a serious way right now. Hence, it is altogether fitting that I should share this next bit of news with my readers.

The wife of my cousin Franklin, who is the eldest son of one of my father's sisters, gave birth to her fourth child over three weeks ago. Somehow this news blurb temporarily escaped my radar. For that matter, I hadn't even been aware that Skayleen (pronounce like the triangle), the new mother, was knocked up again, though in retrospect the news shouldn't come as much of a shock. Skayleen has given birth every eleven months since she and Franklin made things permanent -- as in eternal -- in the St. George Temple just a week shy of forty-five months ago. 

In the case of this particular birth, it isn't so much the baby herself who is newsworthy. While I admit to, in my previous blog,  having waxed philosophical about the miraculous nature of childbirth, particularly when the outcome is a healthy child, it isn't the wonder associated with the miracle of birth that has motivated me to share with you the news of my family's newest member. still, I would assume that this latest addition to the family of Franklin and Skayleen is without noticeable defect, as the baby's grandmother is the rather acquisitive Aunt Elyse, who is known more for the degree to which she is motivated by any possibility of financial gain than for any other quality she possesses, and she is the possessor of one green eye and one blue one.  Aunt Elyse almost certainly would have organized and held a telethon for the benefit of the kid and herself by now had there been any sign of congenital anomaly as significant as a broken toenail. 

What is most significant about the birth of my newest first-cousin-once-removed is the rather unfortunate name with which her parents chose to afflict her. The poor kid has been named Kellyanne. To the best of the knowledge of my Uncle Michael, Franklin and Skayleen aren't especially rabid fans of Kellyanne Conway, although Skayleen told my uncle that she thinks Ms. Conway is "really smart," and hopes that some intelligence by association might coincidentally rub off on the baby.  God help us all if it does. God help the baby regardless.

I cannot fucking believe it. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Miracles Both Ordinary and Not So Ordinary

In my current rotation in the neonatal unit, I'm spending a considerable amount of time observing premature babies and babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as well as, for the purpose of perspective,  with newborns not presenting any particular health challenges. The birth of any baby seems nothing short of miraculous to me. When a newborn is healthy, it's a cause for wonderment.

So many things can [and too often do] go wrong between a baby's conception and birth.  When everything goes as it should, which happens, auspiciously, far more often than not, it's a cause for celebration. It's sort of an unspoken acknowledgement with every birth of a healthy child, in the face of everything that might possibly have gone wrong for this new little creation, that once again all the worst-case scenarios have failed to come to fruition and the way life should be has triumphed once again over all the more problematic possibilities. It's the sort of thing that gives a person the faith to continue with such work in the face of what, all too often, feels like sheer futility. 

Seeing the preemies in their respective states of struggle gives me empathy for my own parents, who lost preemie twins a couple of years before the births of my brother and me, and who dealt with uncertainty concerning my own outlook. A newborn girl was delivered yesterday at my precise birth size of two pounds, two ounces and fifteen and-one-half inches in length. Though the outcome cannot be guaranteed to be perfect for any baby, now is a  great time to be born in terms of all that can be done for premature babies. While the child faces increased risks for all sort of complications ranging from but not limited to breathing problems, cardiac issues, gastrointestinal problems, brain and developmental problems, and far too many potential hazards to list here, odds are that she will bypass all the potentially disabling conditions and will emerge as a healthy child. The child's prognosis is, because of this time in which she was born, if anything, brighter than mine was.

I told a neonatologist standing nearby, who served his residency here at this facility while my dad was serving an oncology residency at the same time here and is a friend of my dad, that the tiny girl I observed was the precise size I was at birth. This is the hospital where I was born. The neonatologist was actually on duty during the interval in which I was treated at the NICU here. He carefully took the baby from her incubator and handed her to me. I was as sterile as I'll ever be, as I had scrubbed and gowned but hadn't yet handled any of the babies in the unit. We don't touch any babies, much less the preemies, without being freshly and thoroughly scrubbed. As I held her, I tried to compare her weight and mass to objects I have held. The closest approximation I could reach was that she felt to me about like a dense loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. How do medical personnel go about the act of reassuring parents of a baby who weighs roughly as much as a denser-than-average loaf of bread that the child's future looks anything but bleak?

About two minutes after handing me the baby, the neonatalogist took her from me and placed her back into her incubator. He then put his arm around me and steered me, crutches and all,  down a corridor, through two set of double doors, and into the room of a patient. The neonatologist introduced me to the patient and to her husband, who was seated in a recliner next to his wife's bed. I shook their hands. The neonatologist then told the new parents that less than twenty-three years ago, when he was completing his residency at this hospital, I was born here weighing two pounds, two ounces and measuring fifteen-and-one-half inches in length -- exactly the weight and length of their own newborn daughter. He told the new parents that I would graduate from medical school in the spring at the age of twenty-three. 

The young couple's new baby may someday attend medical school as I am doing, or perhaps will not. We cannot know what direction her abilities and interests will lead her. It  was, nevertheless,  gratifying to see the countenances of the young parents  transform from worried expressions to ones that looked perhaps calmer and more filled with hope.  I was most honored to have been even small a part of it.

I don't own this video. I hope the owner doesn't object to my use of it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

APGARS, Unusual Surgeries, and Unfortunate Reactions to Vaccines

My rotation in the neonatal unit began on Friday. The attending physician adjusted my weeks in this rotation to begin on Fridays and end on the following Thursdays so that I could start the new rotation right away. I scrubbed in for an INCREDIBLY interesting surgical procedure performed on a child only a few hours old. I really wish I could describe it more, but I do not wish to have have a new parent google his child's condition only to find his own child's surgery described in detail in my blog.  

I didn't assist beyond helping to position the baby. He was under general anesthesia and as such, didn't need to be restrained or anything of the sort, but even an unconscious body doesn't necessarily remain exactly as positioned. It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to incise or to suture in this procedure because a newborn should not be under general anesthesia for ten seconds longer than is absolutely necessary, and students don't incise or suture as proficiently or as efficiently as real surgeons do. We, the rookies, must perfect our technique on larger humans before we advance to the newbies.

For the record, despite requiring surgery at such an insanely young age, the odds are that this baby will be fine. The condition necessitating the surgery was all that was wrong as far as anyone could tell. If nothing tragic happens during the procedure, the prognosis is typically quite good. I certainly hope everything turns out great for this little guy.

I've dealt with healthy babies to abstinence syndrome babies to babies with conditions requiring almost immediate surgery. I'm rapidly moving toward proficiency in APGAR scoring. APGAR scores are the rating scales applied to newborns (except possibly to some of the Duggars, who may not have anyone qualified to accurately rate them on hand when they were born) at one minute after birth, then again at five minutes. as you might have guessed, APGAR is an acronym, in this case standing for "Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration." What you might not have guessed is that the term APGAR actually was the surname of Dr. Virginia Apgar, the New York  anesthesiologist who developed the scale, originally to be used as a method of quantifying the effects of anesthesia on infants. Ranking from one to ten by assigning from zero to two points for each criterion, a typical score for a thriving baby might be 8-9.  (My brother's score  was 9.10, which was at the time of his birth tied for the highest APGAR for any baby under seven pounds at the hospital where we were born. The record probably still holds, not that anyone other than my mother would be keeping track, as the odds of a kid under seven pounds knocking out consecutive tens is practically nonexistent.)

My weekly maximum hours were reached earlier in the week. I told the resident in charge of tracking our hours that I don't object to exceeding limits but that I won't falsify time sheets. It would be my luck that, were I to falsify times that I worked,  something significant, resulting in noting all personnel present,  would end up happening during one of my shifts, thereby calling attention to the false documentation on my time sheet. The residents are cut a certain amount of slack in exceeding students' duty hours. It is understood that some shifts need to be covered and that available personnel to cover shifts can be limited. The on-the-record reason for our presence is so that we may be adequately trained, but the practical purpose is sometimes for coverage of shifts. The scope of our duties is limited by our inexperience, but we can provide long stints of patient-monitoring when needed.

Because the attending physicians' and residents' primary concern is the well-being of their patients, as it should be. educating us is a secondary responsibility for them. It's one they signed up for when they accepted positions at a teaching hospital, but still they're wearing at least two hats most of the time that they work. My current attending physician and resident, as well as the ones I most recently worked with at the end of my gastroenterology rotation (This is going to make me sound like more of an airhead than I actually am, but I drew a complete blank when I attempted to recall what was my most recent rotation before the present one; I had to look back into my notes in order to remember what it was. This is like honest-to-God early-onset Alzheimers. So much for avoiding neurology at all costs because neurological conditions freak me out) have been awesome about trying hard to ensure that the med students' hours of duty were scheduled for times that would be most beneficial and would provide the best learning experiences. Many supervising residents tell students to show up at whatever times that make it easiest for the actual MDs. I've been most fortunate throughout most of my clerkship experience to have supervising residents who were considerate in that regard.

Flu shots were given today. Medical students need to take advantage of them in the absence of any compelling medical reasons to avoid them. I would have liked to ask to delay mine for a couple of months until my orthopedic situation has improved, but having a thoroughly messed up leg didn't legitimately disqualify me from receiving an injection in my upper arm. I now wish I had wimped out. I'm not actually ill, but my arm is swollen and painful to the extent that it's beyond the normal post-injection soreness and is considered a genuine reaction to the vaccine. My body doesn't handle injections all that well in general. Intramuscular shots in particular give me problems because my muscles are small. Often  the needles used are more suitable for arms larger than mine. If I'm being treated for an accident or injury with an injection, and if the serum has to be drawn or the syringe filled specifically for me, the nurse or whoever is filling it will most often look at my arm, then decide to use a syringe with a smaller needle. When vaccinations are being given in mass, whoever is giving the shot only rarely will bother. In the future I will be more insistent that such is indeed done. If I'm to be de facto forced into immunization, it will be with a needle that is the appropriate size for my puny body.

My upper arm is discolored and swollen. It feels worse than it looks. The discomfort is such that using my crutches is quite painful, but I don't yet have the option of walking without crutches. The current vaccine isn't a live virus, so actual flu symptoms following the vaccine are extremely unlikely though still possible. I'd rather be dealing with a sore arm than with even the most minor version of the flu, though, so all things considered, I'm probably lucky that my reaction is in the form of a sore arm. 

I've already put in seventy-one hours for the week, and I haven't had a day off since something like August 24. Because of my hours and because of my shot reaction, I've been kicked out of the hospital for the rest of this week (with my week ending on Thursday). Under more ordinary circumstances I might be hurt or insulted by the exclusion, but in my present situation I'm considering myself lucky. I've already dragged body up the stairs of the condo, so it's just a matter of putting my laptop on the floor, after which I will be ready for a deep state of unconsciousness and REM sleep.

Good night, all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cheater, Cheater, Pants on Fire!: Plagiarism Rears Its Ugly Head

A dean from a university contacted me via email because a student borrowed liberally from the writings of at least three of my entries and submitted the results as her own original work.  I'm unsure as to what my reaction should be. On one hand, someone stole from me! On the other hand, someone considered something I wrote to be worthy of plagiarism! I'm simultaneously both angered and honored, but not very grievously angered, as I have too many real problems in my own life to devote much energy to this non-issue that really doesn't concern me to a very great degree.

The dean who contacted me requested that I submit phone records, bank records,  and passwords for email accounts and social media accounts so that he can determine that I am not actively involved in aiding and abetting students in plagiarism. My guess is that he or someone else suspects that I'm selling compositions or at least wishes to rule out the possibility that I am doing so. I understand why someone would suspect this or desire to rule out the possibility or likelihood. On the other hand, if I intended to operate such a business and expected to make any sort of profit by doing so (And why would I operate such an enterprise if I did not expect to make a profit?), one of the stupider things I could ever do would be to post on my blog the compositions I had sold.  

I have mixed feelings about the degree to which I desire to assist this administrator of this educational institution in his investigation of plagiarism, which now includes an investigation of me. First and foremost, I have nothing whatsoever to hide.  Part of me says that, because I have nothing to hide, it makes perfect sense to hand over everything that is requested. Then again, perhaps I should consider the words of Edward Snowden of Wikileaks infamy, who either said or wrote, "Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say."  

The bottom line for me, I suppose, is that I made it through my undergraduate studies without resorting to plagiarism, and I'm not especially appreciative of anyone else taking shortcuts to the fulfillment of a degree by using my work. Had someone in some way gained access to any of the work I produced by the sweat of my brow for university or even high school credit, I would be outraged.(This did happen to me once, and I was more than outraged.) That someone was either lazy enough or desperate enough to lift writing off this silly blog, antithetically, is more a source of amusement to me than of outrage. Really, I want to ask the person who borrowed my work, with everything now available on the Internet, you couldn't find anything better than this to steal? Moreover, I truly hope that the person who borrowed my work took the time and trouble to edit for typographical errors, as the entries of this blog are, more often than not, written between the hours of midnight and four o'clock a.m., and, also more often than not, I don't return to the site to fix my typos.

Note: Some universities come down very heavily against the idea of re-using one's own work, sometimes going so far as to refer to the practice as "plagiarism." While an institution has every right to create and enforce policies against the re-use of one-own work, the re-use of one's own work does not constitute plagiarism, and saying it does will not make it so. Institutions do not have the privilege of re-inventing the definition of plagiarism.

I have two legal sources I have relied upon in the past. At some point I'll consult at least one of my attorney friends for advice as to what are my rights and responsibilities in this matter. My instincts tell me that no harm would be done in allowing the administrator to have my password to my blogspot site. Nothing here, whether published yet or not, is either private or personal. I'm more reluctant to hand over email and social media passwords, and more reluctant still to turn over banking information. As far as I know, the administrator with whom I have corresponded has no security clearance. I have no reason to trust him. Suppose I give him the information he has requested, and suppose I am the victim of identity theft five weeks later.  Who is going to help me remedy the damage done? Probably no one. 

Furthermore, giving the university dean my online information would clear me of nothing. All he could conclude after reviewing it would be that nothing incriminating had been found in the accounts I had given him. He would have no way of knowing if I had given him an only  partial listing of my accounts and sites. That conclusion could be reached only after reviewing any and all computers I had used in whatever time period is being investigated. I'm not about to turn over my personal computer or my cell phone to this guy. My medical school is even less apt to grant the man or the university he represents access to their devices.

If, after hearing from the university in question, the F.B.I. were to choose to involve itself in this matter, I would cooperate fully. It would be massively inconvenient for me, but I would suck up the inconvenience in the interest of the common good. I probably wouldn't even ask for warrants, though my educational institution would require them before granting access to any of its devices I might have used. I would not exactly relish the invasion of my privacy, mainly because I would have to change all my passwords once the investigation were concluded, but I would certainly survive it.

I don't know what specific entries were purloined. I hope to have that information at some point just for the purposes of my own entertainment and to satisfy my own curiosity.

To any potential plagiarists who may be reading: If you, for some reason, have spent the last several years in a cave and don't already know this,  when your professor asks you to submit your work to or whatever anti-plagiarism site or program used, it will detect any unlikely similarities between your work and this blog or almost anything else you may have located on the Internet. You have been forewarned. If you insist upon proceeding in your efforts to use work that is not your own, please plagiarize from someone else other than I. It's not so much that I am especially possessive of anything I have written here, because it's not worthy of any particular possessiveness,  but I don't need the inconvenience of having to deal with your school's dean or whomever else they sic on me. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Out of the Frying Pan of a Closet and Into the Fire: Bobby Flay Made My Cousin Gay!*

Without naming him, I wrote of my cousin Richard few years ago. He's a cousin on my dad's side -- the side of the family with whom I do not have especially close ties. Actually, that's not entirely true. I do have especially close ties with by dad's brother Steve and with his family, and I have, at the very least, close ties to my Uncle Michael's and his family, and to my Aunt Cristelle and her family. It can even be said that I at least have ties to my aunts Marie-Therese, Elyse, and Claudine, and to their families. To my dad's remaining three siblings and their spouses and offspring, however, I am persona non grata, which is more than OK with me.  I am perfectly happy to have my very existence denied by these people. 

I hold a very special place of antipathy in the hearts of my  Aunt Angelie and her spouse and progeny for good reasons which have been discussed elsewhere in my blog without giving names. In an infamous incident, my well-being was placed in jeopardy, which resulted in the unity of their nuclear family being likewise placed in jeopardy. Alas, all's well that ends well, at least for me. I cannot speak to the wellness of the unity or of anything else pertaining to their family.

When Aunt Angelie's son Richard returned from his  mission a couple of years ago,  the transition from living the uber-regimented life  of an LDS missionary to the life of relative freedom of civilian life was fraught with peril. One would need to qualify the term freedom as it pertains to the lives of the offspring of my Aunt Angelie and her husband, as the only child of their to have experienced bona fide freedom was their son Josh, who was literally disowned by them for having failed to remain on his LDS mission when he suffered a life-threatening intestinal ailment. 

Still, the metamorphosis from life as a twin automaton salesman for LDS, Inc., to  life as a soldier in God's army serving under my drill sergeant aunt was jarring to Richard even by the most conservative of estimates. Family members did not, at the time, grasp the magnitude of the issues with which Richard was wrestling. We were led to believe that he suffered with a mere lack of direction in his life which compelled him to spend hours at a time in front of the family's living room television, thoroughly engaged with Food Network programming. Richard's fascination with all things related to Bobby Flay did not escape the attention of his mother, who honestly believed she could change her son's true nature to what it should have been according to LDS teachings by the simple act of cancelling her family's cable TV connection.

Alas, in real life, true love, even when unrequited, is not so easily circumnavigated. Richard enrolled in one of the church's universities, where, once again, he had access to cable television and to the Food Network. Not only did he reconnect (albeit with a one-way connection) with Bobby Flay;  he found a kindred spirit in his Food Network addiction: one whose connection was not limited to mutual passion for food, but to mutual passion for each other.  The close encounter was, to the consternation of his parents, not of the heterosexual kind.

Richard is no longer enrolled in The Lord's University, nor is he, at least as far as she is concerned, enrolled in Aunt Angelie's family. Of course my parents (meaning, of course, my mother; even my dad would have had the common sense not to have touched this situation with the proverbial ten-foot pole) almost immediate involved themselves in the drama. They have offered to fund Richard's education on the condition that he take the remainder of this academic year off and work at any job he can find (they will supplement his earnings to help him meet his living expenses if necessary and will fund his health insurance for the remainder of this academic year) and give himself the better part of a year to get his head on straight (with straight not equating with heterosexual in this sense) so that he will be prepared to focus on his education when he returns to university.  Richard essentially tanked a year's education, so this request from my parents was not an altogether unreasonable one.

If the family rumor mill is to be taken seriously,  my aunt plans to sue the Food Network and the celebrity chef himself on the grounds that Bobby Flay made her son gay. Good luck with that one, Aunt Angelie.

Any way I look at it, it would seem to be a step in the direction of mental health that the current object of my cousin's affection is a person with whom he interacts in the flesh as opposed to one whose daily TV appearances dictated the schedule of his life.

* I'm being ironic. i'm not REALLY accusing you of causing my cousin to have become gay. Please don't sue me, Bobby Flay.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Is it luck, or do we make our own luck? (I AM an adult, dammit!)

I recently read a tweet, which I tried to copy as an image, but was unsuccessful. The tweet stated, "It is never too late to become what you want to be when you grow up."  I'm not sure I agree with that sentiment if only because there comes a point by which a person probably should have grown up. If the statement were tweaked a bit to say instead something like "it is never too late to learn," or "It is never too late to achieve a dream," I could get behind it. While this seems to be a bit non sequitur, it actually relates to the bulk of this post.

Last week I attended three educational meetings in my capacity as a medical professional. I was privileged and honored to have done so. Attending educational program meetings on behalf of students with medical needs that potentially impact the educational process for them is valuable experience for me. I'm not certain how often I will be called upon to attend similar meetings once I have gained expertise and am practicing in my field of expertise, but if the need for doing such arises, I will be better equipped to do so because of the guided practice opportunities that have been extended to me. For that I am most grateful.

On the other hand, unexpected challenges sometimes present themselves in such real-life situations. I shall share with readers a particular challenge that presented itself at all three meetings last week. Because essentially the identical circumstance presented itself at three of three meetings last week, I'm not at all convinced it should be considered a coincidence. Allow me to describe the sequence of events as it unfolded at just one of the three meetings I attended, as it happened so similarly at all three meetings that to share all three interchanges would be redundant. The offense was most egregious at this particular meeting, but the essence was the same.

At educational program meetings, participants  introduce themselves and state their titles and roles. When I did so, my title of "medical school student in clerkship phase of education, acting on behalf of XXX Medical Practice under the direction of XXXXX XXXXXXXX, M.D.," it wasn't taken at face value. Other participants felt the need to suggest that I was possibly a student in a paramedical program, or perhaps a nursing school student, though even that, to one questioner,  seemed to stretch the bounds of credulity. One member of the individualized educational program team wasn't shy about directly stating that I was embellishing my credentials for the purpose of making myself appear more 
credible, educated, successful, professional, and a few other adjectives I won't bother repeating.  

Once my role and qualifications were clarified  --  once the more skeptical members of the team were convinced that I was as I represented myself  --  I was treated to lengthy dissertations from other team members as to how very lucky I am to be going through the education that will lead to my professional certification at such a young age. First and foremost, such discussion has no place whatsoever in any child's Individual Educational Program meeting. The meeting is about the child, and not about me. I'm more than willing to provide whatever documentation is necessary in order to assure a child's parents that I possess adequate knowledge in the areas of which I have been called upon to report. I'm even willing to humor the members of the team other than the parents with regard to their skepticism concerning my expertise. That, however, is where it should end. Individualized Educational Program meetings are not an appropriate venue for venting as to how very arduous was the task of returning to college to complete one's education after having become a parent. If a parent of the child for whom the meeting is held needs for some reason to share difficulties in his or her own life, which may included the difficulties of having returned to higher education, as they impact the child or the family, such is entirely appropriate. Where the rest of the team is concerned, on the other hand, their personal lives have no bearing on the subject matter at hand except as it is an attempt to demonstrate empathy for the parent. Otherwise, our personal lives are just that -- personal and therefore not pertinent in a professional setting.

So the director of special services and I stared at each other with wild-eyed What the fuck? expressions as an administrator and a special education specialist blathered about the experience of having returned to the university setting with few college units that were transferable, with spouses or ex-spouses who were virtually useless as co-parents, and with several children for whom they were almost solely responsible. The administrator and special education specialist went on to tell me how very lucky I am to be completing my education without the difficulties that they faced. They told me how very easy it is to get through any level of schooling if one has merely schooling on which to focus, and one isn't up to one's neck in domestic responsibilities. They complained that I came from a more privileged background than did either of them, and that [for the record: untrue] my parents had paid for my education, while they had to secure their own grants and loans. "I even had to run my own
household!" one of them practically hollered. "Where would you be if you had that responsibility? Not very far, I can tell you!"  I sat silently while shrugging my shoulders. There was nothing I could have said that would not have compounded the level of un-professionalism of the supposed professionals in attendance at that meeting.

My detractors added insult to injury by saying that they had finished school as adults. What in hell do they think i am, a two-year-old?

I won't address the obvious begging of the question as to why these women would feel that it was safe to assume that I had never been on the receiving end of adversity. I didn't feel the need or obligation to share my personal history at a meeting for which the purpose was to detail an individualized education program for a child. Moreover, how would these women who, by their own admissions, had struggled to complete their teacher credentialing programs (the administrator in the charter school held merely a teaching credential and not an administrative credential, which would have been mandatory to serve as an administrator in a standard public school). Why would they presume to have any knowledge of the relative rigors of a teacher credentialing programs as opposed to those encountered in medical school?

While the lack of professionalism at the meeting was baffling, that is not my primary complaint at this time. While the circumstances under which these educational professionals chose to air their grievances with the system and with me were deplorable, my grievance is not the platform they chose in which to complain. Instead, I take exception to what it was that they said.

I've been blessed with a few advantages that not everyone can claim. My mother stayed away from booze and drugs while she was expecting me. My parents were college-educated. They talked to me when I was a child. They exposed me to books. I had parents who, in my earliest days of schooling, fed and groomed me before sending me to school, and, in the later years of my schooling, would have noticed had I failed to do the same for myself. Most of my schooling took place in a school district that demonstrated high rates of success with students in numerous measures. My parents ensured that I attended school all but five days of my entire kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade career unless I was too sick to be at school. My parents accepted nothing but my best efforts in school.  My brother and I were able to skip one grade of elementary school, and my parents provided the support that was needed to make that early promotion successful. 

Beyond that, I had no particular advantages that the two professionals who lamented the lack of a level playing field would likely have had. Furthermore, odds are that they had some of the very same advantages I did have. Most people who are reading this had parents who expected them to do their work and to stay out of trouble at school. Some parents were more involved than others were, but one can have too much of a good thing. A parental expectation of a child maintaining a certain degree of independence in school is not necessarily a negative. In the days before video games acted as babysitters, most parents, regardless of their levels of education, interacted with and talked to their children to some degree. Neither professional presented any compelling evidence that she had clawed her way up from the very direst of the projects or the barrios to solid middle-class status.

The primary difference in how life unfolded for me as opposed to how it happened for the two ladies who essentially derided me for my level of privilege was in the choices we made. As hard as it may seem to believe, I could have gotten married at the age of eighteen or nineteen. While the pickings for me might have been slim, surely someone out there would have married me had that been my goal. I'm not sure about my state of fertility, as I haven't yet attempted to conceive, but no available evidence indicates that I am infertile. I am childless at this point of my life either through abstinence or through some other effective form of birth control; I'm not saying which.

The ladies who lambasted me for having had such an easy and uncomplicated life were not brought up in the dark ages. One is probably in her early thirties, while one is more likely in her forties. In the years in which they attended school, even if parents didn't talk bout the importance of paying attention, making good choices, and doing well in school (and most parents did), teachers talked about it. If they chose not to listen and to get married and to begin reproduction without having completed college degrees or vocational programs, they were exercising their own powers of free will in doing so. They had a right to make the choices they made, but that doesn't give them the right to excoriate me for having made different and perhaps better choices.

In many ways, it would have been easier for me to have done things in the manner in which the two professionals had done them. Completing homework at midnight, then being at the pool for diving practice at 5:45 a.m. three days per week, was not easy for me. All the reading and homework I did in high school, including taking one university class each semester in addition to the advanced placement classes I took in school, would not be considered to be the course of least resistance. It would have required far less effort to have taken a general college-preparatory curriculum without university courses and advanced-placement classes. I could have spent afternoons with friends or with a boyfriend. I could have gotten a couple hours of additional sleep each night. A less intense course of study would have been so much easier on so many levels. It wasn't as though I was born some sort of a genius who didn't have to expend any effort for my achievements. I worked hard for everything I achieved. Beyond that, I even had a few major hurdles thrown into my path, which I could have used as excuses not to achieve, but I worked around them.

I'm not claiming that my level of achievement is highly unusual. I'm two years ahead of where I otherwise would have been in school because of having skipped a grade and because of having taken AP and university courses while in high school. Some students have skipped more grades than I have, though. Others I have known have been far more successful than I. I'm not laying claim to any superhuman accomplishments. What I am doing is speaking up for all of us who have done things in the most prudent order: who have taken care to complete ourselves to some degree before bringing others into the world who are dependent upon us for every need.  

The University of California system in which I received my undergraduate education is relatively cognizant of and respectful of the sacrifices those of use who have done or are doing things in the most prudent order. The same, however,  cannot be said for all systems. My cousin was a finalist for the outstanding student award for her graduating class at her California State University campus, which is a lower-tier of the university system in California. 
My cousin is one of the students who did things in the most prudent order. She graduated at the age of twenty-one with a 4.0 grade-point average in an engineering program, while simultaneously holding a part-time job, while also serving in a leadership capacity in a charitable honor society related to her future profession, and while participating in religious education for children and in charitable works through her church.. One of her competitors, who was, in fact, the eventual recipient of the outstanding student award, was a young woman who had been one of my cousin's high school classmates. The young woman had made an unfortunate choice or two in her earlier years and was, as a result, raising her young child with the help of her parents. This young woman was not from a skid-row family. Her parents were both teachers, as were the parents of my cousin. This young woman, despite having made a few mistakes earlier in her life, had defied the odds and had managed to graduate from high school and had managed to, at the age of twenty-two, complete a liberal arts degree with a near-perfect 3.9? grade-point average. It was made clear through the speech given by the chancellor in the presentation of the award that the [self-created] adversity faced and overcome by the young woman had factored heavily in the decision as to whom to give the award. 

My cousin's resume (as may have been several of the other finalists' resumes; I have knowledge of my cousin and of her former high school classmate, but not of the other finalists) was far more impressive except for not having created and assumed responsibility for a child. While I don't believe that the other young woman should have been penalized in the award process for having become an under-aged parent, neither do I think having done so should have worked in her favor. My cousin wasn't entitled to any sort of a morals-clause bonus for not having been knocked up, but neither was it fair that, for the purpose of determining the final standings of the award, her lack of child-bearing status counted against her.

This essentially sums up how I feel about the administrator and teacher who felt so vastly superior to me because they finished their educations under far more adverse conditions, while I was somehow magically gifted with the opportunity to coast through life. I see the matter from  different perspective. I would say, rather that I did things the difficult way earlier in my life so that I might have a less adverse path later in life. It's  matter of choices. We all have them, to some degree, and can use them as we see fit.

You have my sympathy, but don't blame me for your adversity.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why Has God Not Stricken a Shitload of People Dead for Revealing Temple Secrets? Calling All Mormon Experts!

Perhaps they should have given in to sick fans' sicker fantasies and married each other.

This morning I thought of a quandary concerning LDS temple proceedings. I asked my dad about it. He said he had no idea. I asked him to call his father in Salt Lake City, who should know the answers to such things. My dad said he only talks to his father on such occasions when it's an absolute obligation, and he had no intention whatsoever of calling his father on a random Thursday in August when no one in our family has died or is in the immediate process of dying.

I am, therefore, asking anyone who comes across this blog to PLEASE answer my question if you know the answer.

How is the following quandary solved according to LDS doctrine?

A LDS woman went through the temple to receive her endowments and be granted permission to wear sacred underwear on the day of or a few days before her wedding. She was given a secret new name at that time. Her betrothed was told the name so that he would know what it was, and would only bring her through the veil if she knew her name.

The woman was told not to disclose the name to anyone and not to discuss the matter.

Then her husband became a cheater. Or perhaps he decided that he no longer believed in the teachings of the LDS church. Or perhaps he decided that he liked the teachings of the LDS church too much, to the extent that he wanted to follow his religion in the old style of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and wanted to be allowed to marry as many women as he could service. Or maybe the woman and the man simply grew apart. Or maybe he discovered that he had same-sex attraction and wanted to act upon it. or maybe she never actually went through with the wedding in the first place after the endowment and after having been brought through the veil in the temple by the guy who was to be her husband before one of the two of them changed their minds?

In any event, the man and the woman divorced (or were never married in the first place). Their temple sealing was dissolved or canceled (or never happened). The man may or may not have remarried in the temple. The woman did remarry in the temple. Perhaps this would seem to be enough of a happily-ever-after scenario to you. If such is the case, you have not considered all the angles.

How is the new husband supposed to know the woman's secret name if she's not supposed to tell anyone? For that matter, how does any man learn his wife's new name if  she goes through the temple for her own endowments for some reason or other at a time when he's not there if she's not supposed to tell anyone what her secret name is? Something seems fishy here. The Church makes all these rules, but I've never heard of any Mormon being concerned about this before, so chances are that someone is talking about things they have been told NOT to talk about. 

What is the protocol concerning informing new spouses about old secret names? And what about if two husbands know a woman's secret name? What if the original husband says he has moved on, but he really hasn't, in an emotional sense, and he still knows his ex-wife's secret name? What if he manages to get himself posited into the right place to bring his ex through the veil? The wife is unsuspecting and thinks it's the right person bringing her through the veil, or whatever, and then VOILA! She gets through or across and sees that she has been facilitated into eternity by someone she wasn't at all expecting to see there. What does she do then?

Or does she get a new secret name so that the old husband, in case he's not on the up and up, doesn't know her more current secret name? That way she would have two secret names. Then, if she decided after the fact that maybe she screwed up in dumping the original spouse and would have been better off without a new spouse and a new secret name, she can forget she ever knew the second (or third, or fourth) one, then go back to the old one, and when two spouses are waiting for her at the veil, she'll know which one to go to or with even if she doesn't recognize the voice because she'll know which name goes with which husband.

What if they really give separate wives' temple names for each marriage, and then, just by luck of the draw, a woman got the same temple name both times? They do recycle the names, I've been told. That would seem to be tempting the fates if the original husband wasn't the sort to be trusted.

The woman could still get the names or the husbands confused, particularly if she's someone like Marie Osmond, who married someone in the temple, divorced that guy, married someone else in the temple, divorced him, then married the first guy in the temple again. Did she seriously have the same secret name all three times? And Marie's esposo numero dos seems like a potentially nefarious character. I could seriously seem him showing up at the veil or wherever such transactions are to be conducted and attempting some sort of celestial coup, tricking and kidnapping Marie right there at the veil! I shouldn't be so worried, though. Even if rank-and-file LDS women get just one temple name, people like Osmonds are probably sufficiently worthy to be given as many temple names as they need or want. Marie probably gets a new temple name each time she changes the color of her fingernails if that's what her heart desires. She probably doesn't even have to physically reappear at the temple to get a new name. There's probably a special phone line or web site just for Marie and the other seven-digit tithers (we're talking about cumulative tithing here, not annual) for anytime they need new temple names or any other special privileges. 

I'm quite concerned about this. It could potentially affect thousands if not millions of people with the divorce rate being what it is.

Trump Is Brain Dead! Oxygen Deprivation!!!!!!!!!!

My leg is giving me a great deal of pain tonight. I had reviewed everything I can possibly review that is work- or study-related, so I resorted to wasting time at various sites including Twitter. I read Donald Trump's tweets. He had a few new ones up. I didn't check the time stamp for precisely when they were posted, but they were his most recent.

One of Trump's tweets I don't recall. Another was an inane reference to Glenn Beck's tin foil hat being too tight. I'm not a Glenn Beck fan by any stretch, though I don't think Trump is better than Beck in any way. 

The third of the tweets stated that if [the proverbial] "you" want clean air or water, get out of America. (I'm not certain if it actually read "leave America" or "Get out of America.") The tweet has been removed, so I cannot verify it. Only thirty responses had been posted prior to mine. I left three responses. Then I went back to see if Mr. Trump left any new tweets, only to find that he had deleted his three most recent tweets. He made a reference to "breathers." We who desire to have clean air or water are now known as  "breathers."  Perhaps therein lies the root of the conflict. Maybe he's not breathing, is not getting any oxygen to his brain, and is, thus, brain dead. it makes as much sense as anything else.

I didn't get a screen shot. It didn't occur to me that he would take his tweets down. I'm sure it occurred to someone else, and I hope someone got a screen shot of his tweets.

One of three things is happening. Trump may be fucking insane in a literal and clinical sense or perhaps criminally senile, as in sufficiently senile for it to cause him to act in an unlawful manner. If he is not indeed insane, it may be that he will in some way benefit financially if our entire nation goes to Hell. I have no idea how destroying our nation might possibly cause great financial growth to happen to one or more of his holdings, but I am not ruling out that such is the case. If neither of these things is true, Trump is playing games with all of us and is entertaining himself at our expense. Perhaps he thinks this is all one big joke, and he's having a great time making maniacal speeches, posting insane tweets, and playing "Survivor: White House" with the staff of the executive branch for the sheer purpose of his own entertainment. I'm having a hard time convincing myself that he could be toying with us. I've never in my life played so many games, and until less than five years ago, I was officially a juvenile. The man is seventy-one years old. Unless he is senile, he would have no excuse for behaving in this manner. And if he is senile, we need to get his sorry ass out of office and into a secure facility for those who are both senile and criminally insane.

One of the three possibilities I have listed is true. I do not know which one.  The craziness is not at the hands of some supposed fake news entity. No one but Donald Trump and perhaps those closest to him could be responsible for this. Regardless, he cannot be entrusted with codes to access our nuclear weapons. He's either a nutcase, a sociopath, a megalomaniac, or perhaps all three. We must remove him from office. He cannot be left in place to cause any more damage than he has already done.

I've been concerned about his actions for quite some time, but seeing his absurd tweets go up and them come down almost as quickly as they went up has firmly convinced me that something is not right with this man. Does he do this every night, as in post tweets while most of the nation sleeps, then wait for public reaction to determine whether or not they are too preposterous to be left for most of the nation to see them? Is he so far removed from reality that he doesn't know if a tweet is irrational until those who respond tell him such? Either way, he's either too stupid, too crazy, too opportunistic, or too sociopathic to hold any office, much less our nation's highest office. The only thing that would comfort me in any way is if someone were to offer credible evidence that he had been hacked, and I don't think that is going to happen.

A close friend one -- one who admittedly voted for Trump -- acknowledged to me a couple of weeks ago in response to concerns I had raised  at that time about something else Trump had done, "He's an asshole, "  as though that was the worst that could be said of him. Yes, he certainly IS an asshole, but that is far from the worst that can be said about him. For some reason, he is willing to stand idly by, eating popcorn, as he watches our nation deteriorate. It's deteriorated far enough. GET HIM OUT OF THERE!

Someone in congress, PLEASE accelerate impeachment proceedings. if the ball is firmly rolling in the direction of impeachment, Trump will quit. I very strongly oppose the political stance of the vice-president, but he HAS to be more fit for office than is Trump. GET HIM OUT NOW!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Unrequited Lust and Fisticuffs: WWE* in the Parking Lot

This would be my luck.

For me personally, action is a bit slow because of the rate at which I am presently capable of moving and with my reduced work hours in order to allow the knee attached to my better leg to heal.  The action around me, on the other hand, is heating up ever so slightly. A cohort mate of mine -- one I had considered a friend though not necessarily a bosom buddy --  returned from a visiting clerkship to learn of my injury. I'm not sure why my cohort mate took my bad news so acutely, but when he met up with the careless resident  (there was more to the story that I wasn't and still am not  free to share), following a heated argument during which the resident threw the first punch, my cohort blocked the jab and responded with a knockdown punch (knockdown as opposed to knockout) at the resident. I'm told that the response was measured and that my cohort mate could have done far more damage than he chose to do.

It happened outside and wasn't witnessed by any of the brass or by any patients to the best of anyone's knowledge, so probably no one gets into trouble. My cohort mate walked away after one punch so that no one had to pull him off the resident. It could perhaps be argued that my cohort mate lacked the authority to speak to the resident in the manner in which he chose to speak, but my cohort mate presumably would have kept the disagreement within the verbal realm. It was the resident who chose to escalate the level of aggression.  

I really wish this meant that the cohort mate liked me as much as and in the manner that I would wish for him to like me, but such is not all that  likely. It's far more probable that my cohort mate's anger was fueled by a sense of protectiveness toward a young and defenseless colleague than by any amorous feelings toward me. Alas, that's the way the cookie crumbles. He's almost unbelievably good-looking.

*albeit not all that entertaining

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Brain

The world of modern educational administration will probably not soon be accused by anyone who understands it as being overly bogged down by an insistence upon using common sense as any sort of a barometer. Anyone with much of a sense of awareness who has been in the public school system in the past fifteen years or so should be able to identify with this concept. I would suspect that such has been the case for far longer than fifteen years, but I cannot speak from personal experience with much authority about things that happened in the school systems before I was seven years of age. Likewise, the same might be fairly said of most private school systems, but because I spent only two of my kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade years in private schools of any kind, I cannot form valid conclusions about even the parochial system I attended for the two years I did not attend public schools, much less about private school education as a whole. I will, however,  speak with apologies to no one in terms of much of the madness I have seen with my own eyes.

A mid-sized school district that I attended very briefly and in which I worked even more briefly as a substitute teacher has a superintendent who would be described as cautious. Caution with regard to other people's children entrusted to one's care is generally a good thing. School district personnel are charged with acting in loco parentis, or in place of the parent. The welfare of children should be first and foremost in the minds of school personnel in dictating policy.
All reasonable efforts should be made to safeguard students. Reasonable is a key concept. Because individuals, including children, have the volition to act, and because forces of nature can come into play, no one's safety can be one-hundred per cent guaranteed. Furthermore, what might be the safest policy in terms of injury prevention may not be the safest in terms of facilitation of learning, in terms of student emotional well-being, or in terms of overall wellness and disease prevention.

For example, students can be injured in a variety of ways while playing on a playground. On the other hand, students can develop life-long sedentary habits that lead to poor overall fitness and even to serious cardiovascular disease if they are not allowed or encouraged to take part in physical play. What is a reasonable course of action in response to this? The most reasonable course of action is to remove the greatest contraindications to safety from a playground, to provide competent supervision to students while on the playground, and then to encourage students to move about freely and to play. Even though trampolines offer many developmental and cardiovascular fitness-related benefits, they can be dangerous for large groups of children. Trampolines, therefore, are not typically found on school playgrounds. Along similar lines, the sport of archery has its benefits, as do lawn darts, but neither of those are typically found on school playgrounds for obvious reason. Common sense has prevailed in the balance between physical activity and safety.

Bad things sometimes happen when students interact with each other. Sometimes students disagree, and the disagreements can become physical, which on occasion has led to injury. Sometimes children say things that hurt other children's feelings, and sometimes bullying between students happens. School personnel could conclude that the risk of physical or emotional harm might possibly happen as a result of student interaction. They could ban all student interaction at school. They don't, however; in addition to bad things that might happen, good things can and usually do happen as a result of interaction between students. Furthermore, students will eventually have to interact with others. If children and youth are not allowed to interact while in school, where will they learn to deal with each other? For those reasons, it would be considered ludicrous to attempt to ban interactions between young people at school despite the realization that bad things sometimes happen as a result. School personnel provide supervision in order to mitigate damage happening as a result of student interactions, but students are allowed and even encouraged to interact. Once again, common sense has prevailed in the balance between student interaction and the need for physical and emotional well-being.

If I stopped there, a person might conclude that common sense is a major guiding factor in the dictation of school policy. The person would be sadly mistaken, at least with regard to the  particular school I mentioned earlier. Allow me to elaborate.

When I worked as a substitute teacher, the students were working on the geometric concept of determining the areas of triangles. We all remember that the area of a triangle equals one half of the product of the base and the height in square units. If a triangle's height is four inches (The term height is used as opposed to length to differentiate between the length of one of the other sides in a three-sided object; the height is the number of units between the base or bottom and the  point or vertex at which the other two sides meet. Any of a triangle's three sides can be designated as the base with the same result being reached) and the base is five inches in length, four and five would be multiplied, then divided by two. The answer would be ten square inches, with the term square being used because when multiplying perpendicular units, square units result.

We all have sufficient background knowledge to comprehend that any given triangle is one-half of the surface area of a rectangle (one with the dimensions of its base multiplied by its height). Most nine- or ten-year-old children don't approach the lesson with that level of background knowledge. In the olden days, a child would simply have been told that  base times height over or divided by two is how the area of a triangle is calculated, period. Commit it to memory, kid. It didn't seem to matter whether a kid understood why it was that one-half of (the base times the height) equaled the area of the triangle. It was taught with no thought to concrete understanding or conceptualization.

While I am critical of many modern trends in education, and while I feel that educators have taken many good ideas and have extended them too far, it makes perfect sense to attempt to conceptualize an idea for children. If  child understands why it is that the area off a triangle is the one-half of the base times the height, the child is more likely both to remember the algorithm and to have some idea if his calculation is way off. If objects have been used in repeated attempts to objectify a concept, and if the child still cannot grasp the why of the concept, at some point a teacher almost has to use the old base times height over or divided by two is how the area of a triangle is calculated, period, with the hope that someday in the future, if it is explained again, the child may grasp it. The child cannot be left behind because he cannot understand the underlying concept. He has to learn the concept even if he doesn't grasp the underlying reason. Some of today's educators would say the child is not to be taught the algorithm until he understands the reasoning behind it. The problem with this philosophy is that if the child has trouble understanding this, he may have trouble understanding many other concepts as well. By the time he grasps the underlying reason for any of them, he's years behind his classmates in learning the basic math. He cannot afford to be that far behind; he has to be taught what to do to reach the correct answer even if he doesn't understand why it is that we do it the way we do.

So, because a teacher was out for a complete week, she had to leave it to me, her substitute, to teach the concept and the method of determining the area of a triangle. The teacher had a sudden case of appendicitis (as is typical with appendicitis) and did not know in advance that a substitute would be teaching the lesson plans that she wrote for herself.  Had she known, she might have given me different ways to teach the concept. I attempted to use what seemed to be the logical way of teaching it. I cut a paper into a triangle. I used the standard algorithm to calculate the area of the triangle. I then used the existing triangle as a template to cut another triangle. I had the children direct me in how to put the two triangles together to form a rectangle. With the children, I calculated the area of the new rectangle. We discovered that the rectangle's area was twice the area of the triangle, or that the triangle's area was one-half of the area of the rectangle.

I'm taking entirely too long to express the point that children learn better by doing something themselves than by watching something be done. I handed pre-cut rectangles to the children and asked them to take out their scissors and to cut the rectangles corner-to corner in order to create two equal triangles. The children looked at my dumbfoundedly. "We don't have scissors," one of them finally volunteered. We got through the lesson by folding and tearing the rectangles into triangles, but it would have been both simpler and more effective had the children been able to use scissors to cut the shapes.

At lunch, I asked another teacher why Mrs. Ernst's class didn't have scissors. The teacher and all the others within earshot laughed. One of them explained, "About three  years ago a kindergarten boy cut a girl's hair with scissors. The girl's mother went to the district superintendent and complained. After the next principal's meeting, all of the student scissors in the district were confiscated." No students in the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade district are allowed to use scissors now because one kindergartner cut a lock of another kindergartner's hair.  

Are scissors potentially dangerous? Yes. Could they potentially be used as weapons? Absolutely. Could they be used by students to cut hair? Obviously. Is that sufficient reason to ban all student use of scissors? I wouldn't think so, but my opinion didn't matter. One teacher mentioned that inevitably a student would eventually poke himself or another student with a pencil or pen and cause an injury. It hadn't happened, or hadn't been reported, since the present superintendent had been in power. The teachers were afraid that the superintendent would ban writing implements when that happened.

Other policies the superintendent had instituted were a ban on all peanut products including peanut butter even in lunches from home because one student in the school had a peanut allergy. (This is perfectly ludicrous but he's not the first principal to have instituted such a policy regarding peanuts.) Tetherball was not allowed because the superintendent feared that a suicidal child might ask to use the bathroom, then go to the playground and  hang himself on a tetherball rope. The teachers said site principals offered to take responsibility for getting the tetherballs on and off the poles so that they would be out only when children were supervised on the playground, but the superintendent insisted that someone would eventually forget, and that might be the one time a child was suicidal and decided to end it all. The teachers told me that one principal then commented to the superintendent that if a child were sufficiently desperate to end his or her life, the child could potentially drown himself or herself in a toilet.  They told me that the superintendent worried about that possibility for a long time and considered banning the use of all restrooms except for the one student toilet in the nurse's office. The superintendent doesn't allow teachers to use paper clips at all in their classrooms because children could turn them into weapons even though it's never happened in the district, or the children might steal the paper clips, take them home, and stick them into electrical sockets. I'm sure there are many other asinine restrictions in this district based solely on the superintendent's unreasonable obsession on safety.

The superintendent's safety obsession, I have learned from a relative who teaches in the district, is in full force today -- the day of the solar eclipse.  It would have been better had he taken the eclipse into consideration when the year's school calendar was developed and had the day declared to be a school holiday. It would have been inconvenient for working parents, but the students could at least have had the opportunity to observe the eclipse. Instead, the superintendent has decreed that on all campuses in the district, a rainy-day schedule will be in effect so that no one is to observe the eclipse. There hasn't been one in North America in thirty-three years, there won't be another one here for eight years, and the students and teachers of the district are going to miss out on all of the excitement and the learning opportunities associated with the phenomenon because he's too cheap to order protective glasses for the children. This blows my mind.

When they learned of the policy, many teachers went out of their way to inform parents of the district policy so that the parents could keep their children at home today if they felt strongly about wanting their children to observe the eclipse. The superintendent will pay a financial price for his absurdity. A large chunk of school funding is based on student attendance. Teachers are guessing that as many as one-third of students in the district will be absent today. The superintendent's lack of common sense will hit him where it hurts most.

I am utterly flabbergasted by the stupidity of this person who has been elevated to a position of authority over every student and teacher in a school district with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students.