Monday, August 30, 2010

School and the New Independent Study Course

There isn't much to say about school. I had forgotten how uninteresting it really is. When the most exciting part of my day is making it from one class to the next without being flattened by the mob, that doesn't exactly speak well for that quality of education in The Golden State.

Tomorrow will be slightly better. For one thing, it will be the chamber choir and not the tone-deaf choir that I have to accompany. It's technically called "concert choir," not "tone-deaf choir," but the director had to accept anyone who enrolled, so one can understand the overall quality of musicianship with which I must deal. "Chamber choir" can seem fairly atonal as well, considering that these people actually had to audition to get into it. I'm not sure what criteria the director used in determining admission. Perhaps the singers had to provide medical evidence that they weren't deaf mutes.

Tomorrow I also have a brand new class on our campus, called "Advanced Placement Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies," or "APAIS" for short. (Educators cannot sleep at night unless they come up with at least one new acronym each week.) We are to create our own projects and give ourselves grades. Isn't that a hoot and a half? I have no freaking idea what my project is going to be, except I plan to combine it with assignments in other classes to minimize my overall workload, or do something totally bogus, such as a study of court TV shows. (My dad said, "Great. Another reason for you to obsess on that Judge Alex guy." Then he reconsidered. "Maybe you can watch the show there and not waste all my DVR space.") Next week the course directors (we're apparently too damned precious to have mere teachers) will bring in a few different professors from a nearby university to lecture to us about our boundless possibilities.

My friend Megan told me the room was gutted out of an old building that doesn't even meet earthquake standards. If the big one hits California during eighth period, we'll all be buried in bricks. The top floor is an old theatre that was last used in the early 60's, with seats, a stage, and everything. There's supposedly a Steinway that no one bothered to move when they abandoned the building, and which will be harder than hell to tune. If necessary I'll use my own income to pay my piano technician to give it a stab, although I've been told that some ridiculous grant has been written and we can request supplies, so perhaps services could be included. The bottom floor of the building has partly a gymnasium floor with a basketball hoop and two different TV viewing areas with carpet and couches.

The whole course is the most bizarre concept. Our rather strange principal supposedly came up with it when he was in a drunken stupor, then inexplicably still liked the idea in the light of the next day. Admittance was based on teacher recommendation, the principal's psychic premonitions, SAT scores where available, and IQ scores where available. The course developers gave thought to making the class somewhat ethnically diverse, which is a virtual impossibility at my school, as the student population itself is anything but ethnically diverse. Ethnic diversity at my school means we have some students of Asian descent who don't exactly need the benefits of affirmative action to succeed academically. My brother and I are probably listed as being among the ethnically diverse students, as we have a grandparent on each side who wasn't born in the U. S.

The mere presence of my brother in the class would indicate that a not terrribly impressive baseline was required for entrance, but I just let it slide when he told me the course was on his schedule. It seems there will be enough room for both of us. I intend either to use the time wisely or to have a great deal of fun. I'm not yet sure which one I will choose.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Job

I have a new job. I'll be playing for the two choirs at my high school, which I did last year until I was injured, so that's my old job. My new job is playing for a minimum of two masses per week at a different Catholic parish that I played at before my accident. The pastor (head priest) of the parish for which I now play asked me tonight, when my family went to mass, if I'd be willing to help out with musician chores. I told him I would need to call him back as soon as I could.

I asked my mom what I should do. She said that it is up to me, but at the very least I would need to call the monsignor of the old parish and either: A) ask him if he was ready for me to return, as he told me shortly after my accident that my position would be held for me until I was ready B) ask him if he wanted me back, but tell him I'd need a slightly higher salary (she didn't recommend this option, but she said when one is offered a different job at ahigher salary, it isn't unethical to give your previous or current employer the opportunity to match the salary even if the employer is a church (she didn't say what she knows but isn't aware that I know, which is that my replacment at the old parish is being paid more than I was); or C) tell him that I wouldn't be returning. I chose to take the most noble route and ask if he was ready for me to return, and not ask for a higher salary than I was receiving previously.

When I called the monsignor at home tonight, he asked, "Who?" when I identified myself, then complained hat I had called at him at home on his own time instead of during business hours at the office. (My dad said that's half the problem with the Church -- that it has become a "business.") The monsignor next asked what made me think the position was still open. I told him it was because he had told me it would be held for me.

"That changed when your status changed," he told me. He apparently continues to be upset with me because of the infamous "dart-board incident," which happened when he came to my house just minutes after I was first discharged from the hospital and found a dart-board with the picture of the guy who asked another girl to the prom without canceling his date for that same event with me. (The guy, who is also known as prom date pond scum, has parents who have agricultural wealth and donate generously to the parish. For readers who didn't read an earlier blog, the dart board was a gift from a friend.) I asked the monsignor if it would help if I removed the picture, which has not been the recipient of a single dart aimed in its direction, from the dart board and put it into an album or a frame. He said thhat it was a little late for that. I thanked him for his time, said good-by, and hung up.

I called the priest from the other parish, who didn't complain that I was calling him during non-business hours and at home, and told him that I would accept his offer. He asked if he could come by our house with a contract. I said yes, but had never signed a conract for playing the organ or piano in church before, and the thought made me very slightly nervous. My mom said not to worry, that it is standard practice.

The priest must have ESP or some equivalent -- maybe all good priests do -- because he was at our house five minues later with a detailed typed contract. The contract is a good one for me, as it gives me two weeks of paid vacation and two weeks of sick leave, which I've never had before, possibly because I didn't have a contract before. I will be paid more for the two masses per week than I was for three masses at the other parish.
I have the option at the end of each month to sign up for as many Saturday 5:00 masses as I would like for the next month at the same rate that each Sunday mass paid. I have the first right of refusal on weddings and funerals. The priest told me that he understood that some illnesses or injuries come without warning, and that if I had to call in sick with so little advance notice that a substitute couldn't be found, the congregation would get through the mass without instrumental music. I will begin on the first Saturday evening in September. I warned the priest that my organ-playing skills are not yet at 100% because I cannot yet use my right leg for the foot pedals, but he very nicely said that 50% of my skills would be better than what they've had. I'm not sure that is truly the case, but it was a nice thing for him to have said, and I thanked him for the compliment.

The parish is the one we've been attending since the monsignor told my parents that no one in our family, including my brother, who had no more to do with "Dart-boardgate," as we've come to callthe incident, than Joe Biden or Sarah Palin, could have communion until we'd sufficiently reconciled ourselves with God. I would have been happy to go to confession and repent for the iniquity of my ways, but I tried to do so in Utah, and the priest there said that ther was nothing for which to repent regarding that specific incident. The new parish is actually closer to our home than the other parish. It's wasn't yet constructed when we moved here. Because we started out at the other parish, we maintained our membership there after the new one was constructed.

The entire "Dart-boardgate" occurrence has been very disillusioning to me, somewhat like when I learned the truth about Santa Claus, or when Dorothy looked behind the curtain to see the Wizard of Oz and discover how ordinary a person he was. While I undertand that clergy are human and as such will err on occasion just as anyone else will, this incident was too close to home for me. It was far better than learning the fallabilty and human weakness of a priest by being his molestation victim, and I'm very thankful nothing of that nature ever happened to me. At the same time, I wish I could go back to the time that I thought all servants of God were practically perfect and before I knew that politics and religion are irrevocably intertwined.

I begin school on Monday. If you are a person who prays or one who has other ways of influencing the powers that bestow serendipity to or upon a person, please employ your partcular method on my behalf that I will not be trampled in the halls of my high school. Had I written this a week ago, I might have asked you to pray or wish for me that I would never have to return to my school campus, or that if I did, no one would make fun of me or be unkind. My outlook has broadened. The vast majority of my peers will treat me as they did before, which is to occasionally poke fun at my thinness or lack of development in particular areas. A few jerks will make fun of me, expecially after the wrappings are removed from my leg and I am walking without crutches and with a limp. I no longer worry about those people; they'll always be there, but what they say, do, or think is of little or no consequence.

To anyone who reads this, have a great rest of the weekend or rest of the summer or whatever applies to you. Before you know, it will be gone, and we'll be back to DVRing Judge Alex or whatever are your favorite TV programs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Got My Cast Off!

My final cast for this particuclar fracture, or set of fractures, is now history. I did not opt to save the cast. The leg looks a bit creepy, but most of the creepiness will disappear on its own. I may need a very minor surgical procedure (just skin-deep) to clean up the scars from the surgeries. The infection at one point was so nasty that it caused more raised places and a less flat scar than anyone would want, also known as a keloid scar.

It was really hot today, so I swam in our pool. I took a nice long bath, as opposed to triple-wrapping my leg in plastic and showering on a shower stool while sticking my leg out. I kept my toes as clean as I could before, but it felt so good to soak. My mom kept knocking on the door to make sure I hadn't drowned because I stayed in the tub for so long.

Anytime my leg itches, I can scratch it. The novelty of scratching my leg has almost worn off. For awhile I was scratching my leg even if it didn't itch just because I could, but I'm past that now. When I go to school on Monday, I will still be on crutches and will have to keep the leg wrapped, but those are minor inconveniences. The bruises on my face are almost entirely gone. By Monday they should be history along with my cast. It didn't matter a great deal because of the location, but the scar from the stitches under my chin is absolutely mimimal, and it's only been about four weeks. I want to give a shout-out to the 4th-year medical student, my almost-uncle Scott, who stitched my chin up for me. He didn't even charge me a cent. Thanks!

I feel so wonderful that I can't sleep, but it doesn't matter because I don't go bacl to school until Monday. This is the only part of my summer vacation (technically it's medical leave now, because my classmates are back in school) that actually feels like vacation, except for my trip to southern Utah to see the polygamists. I will write more about that another time soon. Since I'm no longer getting class credit for blogging, I'll try to combine that with a school assignment in order to kill two birds with one stone. I meant that figuratively of course. I don't kill birds with stones or with anything else.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Cast Comes Off Tomorrow!

I'm getting rid of my final cast tomorrow. I'm nervous because I know the leg will look bad for awhile, but the doctors assure me it's temporary. The surgical scars may not fade entirely, but they tell me any scarring from the lesions from the infection will go away, but it will take some time. They also say it's normal for the bone to still appear slightly misshapen, but I had an actual X-ray, of which I don't have many because my father is worried about radiation, and the doctors are all confident the bone is growing together straight and is almost completely healed four months after the accident. I'll still be on crutches for at least three weeks, but what's three more weeks in the grand scheme of things?

School has started, but I'm not there yet because my doctor said I shouldn't have to go until the bruises on my face have faded. My dad says Monday I'll have to go. I just hope I don't get trampled by the masses. I do not need any more casts or broken clavicles.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Shrinking Heads - Part Three

Whew! I got my last post in on time by the skin of my teeth. The ending point on part teo was an odd place to break, but I was dealing with the clock. I'll attempt to make more sense on future breaks. Also, that post wasn't even quick-edited. To do a decent job of editing, I really need to print a hard copy to proofread. If I attempt to proof it from the computer screen, which I usually do, it takes several tries, and sometimes I still miss errors. For that post, however, no form of editing was even a possibility. I hope no unfortunate soul comes across it before I have a chance to do at least a cursory edit of the most obvious typos. As I've stated earlier, I am a fast, furious, and wildly inaccurate typist. In the old days of typewriters, I would have been up a creek. During the time I was not allowed to touch a computer because of issues involving a child predator who contacted me online (I wasn't stupid enough to take his bait, if that is any consolation), I did have to use a typewriter to complete major written assignments. I put so much liquid paper on most of my compositions that they felt like stone tablets by the time they were completed and edited. I'll get back to the topic at hand now, and I hope my instructor notices that I have continued blogging past the required number of bloggings. I don't expect extra credit for any such thing, of course. I just want the instructor to know that she has inspired me to write even when I'm not required to do so. Of course I am sucking up at this point, as you, I, and the instructor know, but to fail to do so would be foolish.

So the therapist brought out copies of a blog I authored on the topic of favorite children within a family, and how my parents had one, but it most definitely was not I. My parents have all my passwords, so they responded on my blog, which I felt was a little bold of them. Still, it would be hardly fair to talk about someone without giving that person or persons the same forum on which you initially wrote about them to respond. I always thought that's what the "Response" section of "Blogspot" was for, but I suppose my parents felt they needed more space than the "Response"
section allowed. Wven if you are defying the odds of blogdom and readership by reading this blog, chances are that you did not get a chance to read either my original post entitled "The Favorite Child" (it's been so long and so much has happened since then that at least I think that was the title but I'm not sure; I'm too lazy to look it up. If it was not that, it was something very similar) and my parents' responses to my post.
To give proper credit where it is due, my parents' reponses were kind, thoughful, and heartfelt. I appreciated them so much that I printed copies so that I will always have them even if computer systems all over the world crash and burn.

Anyway, the shrink had made enough copies of my blog so that each of us could look at it as it was discusssed. I was mildly impressed, as I'd never known a shrink to do so much prep work. The shrink commented that, while the early paragraphs were interesting historical context for sibling rivalry, what we really needed to look at were the more personal paragraphs located nearer the end of the blog. He started by discussing the section where I complained of routinely being blamed for things my brother had done and that my parents yelled at me more. He said he sympathized, but that almost every child probably feels that way at least from time to time if not all the time. He was more concerned about a few specific instances I had cited.

At this point I began to grow very uncomfortable. I believe I may even have stated in the blog that i was writing the things I wrote because they were things I could never say out loud to my parents. I don't remember if I started to shake or perspire, or grow red or pale, but my discomfort was obvious to my mother.

"Alexis, would you like to sit with us on the couch?" she asked.

"I don't think that's a good idea," the therapist argued. "For one thing, you can't see each others' faces as you speak."

"She can't see our faces anyway if she's staring at the floor," my mother told him.

"I think Alexis needs to sit on the couch with us" my father concluded. He stood and helped me to my feet, then put one arm around me and under my arm, carrying most of my weight to the couch as I hopped on my good foot.
He put me between my mom and him. I hid my face against my mom's shoulder.

My mom stroked my hair for a moment, then said, "Sweetheart, you can't hide your face right now. We're going to talk about your blog, and that seems to be awkward for you, but no one will be mean to you."

"Thank you," the therapist said to my mother. Then, turning to me, he said, "Now, Alexis, you wrote about a time when you were just barely two, when your mother wouldn't stop reading when you told her you were awake from your nap. Then when your brother woke up, she put her book down and picked him up."

I nodded.

The therapist continued, "How can you possibly remember anything from
when you were so young?"

I shrugged. My dad chimed in. "Alexis has an unusual memory. She probably remembers what she had for lunch hat day."

"Tomato soup," I filled in. "With oyster crackers. We had orange slices.
Mom wouldn't put chocolate in my milk because I wouldn't eat my tomato soup."

The therapist stared at me, then at my mother.

"Yes, I believe she's right," my mom said. "I remember thinking she needed a bib, because I didn't want her to drip tomato soup on her brand new Rudolph overalls, but I was really tired and didn't want to get up from the table, and I thought to myself that she probably wouldn't eat the soup anyway, so it really didn't matter if she had a bib or not."

"So she really does have memories from when she was two?" the therapist asked.

"Yes," my parents answered in unison.

"So what happened after that?" the therapistt asked me.

"I didn't know what I was supposed to do," I told him, "so I went to my room and got back into my crib. Later my dad came in and got me up."

"Is that what happened?" the therapist asked my parents.

"Yes," my mom answered.

"When I got home from work that day," my dad said, "I saw Erin holding Matthew. I asked her where Alexis was. She said she didn't know. I asked her if she didn't think it was a problem not to know where her two-year-old was. She told me that Alexis had been up, but had left the room. I checked her crib and found her there. I got her up and sat with her on my lap in a rocking chair. Later that night, Erin and I argued, but she agreed that she was paying too much attendtion to Matthew and not enough to Alexis, and she took care of the problem."

"I notice that Alexis donated bone marrow to her mother." the shrink commented.

My mother put her hand on her forehead and looked down, then looked up and put her arm around me. She looked at my dad, communicationg to him, I assume, that she wanted him to talk.

"We couldn't find a donor anywhere in the family, and no outside donors were coming up as matches, " my dad explained. "Erin didn't want the children tested. She did not want them to go through any procedures for her benefit. I had them tested without her knowledge. Alexis was a perfect match. Alexis donated, and Erin thought it was from a private donor. Alexis knew everything that was going to happen, and was totally willing to do anything to save her mother. We didn't tell Erin before that Alexis was the donor because we thought she might fight it. Afterwards, we were worried that if Erin were terribly upset, she might get sicker, so we didn't tell. Alexis told when she was upset because she didn't get much appreciation for her Christmas gift."

"So you sent her to her room?" the shrink asked. My dad nodded. The shrink continued. "What happened when Alexis came out of her room. I mean after she tried to throw her ornament in the fireplace?"

"Her mother pulled her into her lap," my dad answered, "and Alexis clung to her mom and wouldn't let go. She sat on her mother's lap all through dinner. I think she even slept in our bed that night. She was clingy to her mom for days."

"How were things after that?" the doctor asked.

"As normal as things could be under the circumstances," my mom answered. "It took that for me to see how second-place she felt. Attention or anything else can never be strictly fifty-fifty between kids no matter how hard parents try, but we've made it as close as we could."

"Alexis, do you agree?" the shrink asked.

"Mostly," I answered. My mom turned to look at me. "I still think they both yell at me more and i get in more trouble."

"Babe, you're a lot more difficult than your brother is," my dad answered.

"That's because he lets me have all the arguments, and then he benefits from them," I defended myself. "I fight his battles and mine."

"There may be some truth to that," my mom said, "but it doesn't account for everything.

"This is something you don't want to hear, Mom and Dad," I told them, "or else you'll want me to provide specific information, which I will not do, but Matthew is not the angel you think he is. You can ask him, and he's not going to tell you, but if you pay a little more attention to certain things, you'll know what I'm talking about." I decided I could go just a bit further. "Do you remember that old show "Leave it to Beaver" that's on TV Land? Matthew is Eddie Haskell. Mom, I suspect your friends have some idea of what I'm talking about. But that's all I'm saying."

"I thinnk it would be good if Matthew came for the next session," the shrink said.

"Good luck getting him here," I said to my parents.

"Don't worry. He'll come, " my dad said.

The next appointment is Saturday. Thing could get interesting.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Shrinking Heads - Part Two

Most people wouldn't want others to know they'd been to a family therpist/ My mother would certainly prefer that we keep it to ourselves. My mother, however, doesn't have to complete one more blog bfore midnight, so our visit to the family shrink is fair game. As I stated earlier, we left twin brother out of this visit. We didn't even tell him where we were going. I don't know if that was because it will give him time to plan his defense when he is forced to tag along on the next visit, or if my mom simply didn't want him telling the entire Western Hemisphere that both of his parents and his sister are bat-shit crazy, and he has the shrink visit to prove it.

As I ended Part One, each of us had spoken individually with the therapist, my parents had spoken together with him, and my parents were entering for our group session. To sat that I was apprehensive would be expressing my state of mind in the mildest possible terms. as my parents entered, I pondered the word therapist. Surely I'm not the first person to have thought of this, but if oe were to leave a space between the e and the r in therapist, it would instead read the rapist. Perhaps there is something significant in that, as a therapist is a rapist of one's mind. I know, it's a ridiculous thought. I was grasping at things about which to think so I wouldn't have to think about what would shortly transpire.

My parents came in and sat on a small sofa, smewhere between the size of a sofa and a loveseat, directly across from me. The thera[ist asked me, "Do you understand why we're all here?"

"I thought for a brief moment, then anwered, "I assume it's because we have roughly one more year that we need to remain under the same roof, and my parents would prefer that we get through the year without one of us killing another one, presumabbly one of them killing me, since I've never been prone to violence of any sort."

My mom looked angry but said nothing. My dad looked as though he was trying not to laugh.

"That's one way of looking at it, " the therapist commented, 'but that wasn't what your mother mentioned when she called me to make the appointment.

"I can keep guessing until I finally get it right, at a rate of I don't know how many dollars an hour, or someone can just tell me," I bluntly said.

"I told you earlier, " the therapist responded, "that your parents felt you were having difficulty dealing with some of the things that had happened to you.'

He waited for a response. "Yes, you did," I responded.

"We also know that there have been areas of difficulty since you were a baby," he said, lifting from his desk printed copies of what I recognized to be the blogs I had authored and to which my parents had responded.


The Shrinking Heads - Part One

My parents would almost certainly prefer that I not share this, and I won't repeat anything they said in confidentiality, but I will tell a bit about the experience from my perspective while trying hard not to invade my parents' privacy.

My mom, my dad, and I went to family counseling this weekend. My brother was spared juat this once, as the issues belong mostly to me and to my parents, but, as another piece of the puzzle, he gets to come next time. He is not pleased. As such an unwilling participant, I'm not sure how much good his presence will accomplish, but the therapist will see with his own eyes and view objectively the hostitly with which I deal on a daily basis, unless he successfully pulls off his Eddie Haskell impersonation.

The whole idea of visiting a therapist was terrifying to me. I didn't know what would be dredged up. I didn't know if tings would be said that would make me cry, as I do jnot like crying in front of others and have only done so twice in at least the past five years. I didn't know if the therapist and my parents would all gang up on my simultaneously. The thought of it all was rather daunting.

I had no choice, though, so off I went. I took my laptop so I would have something to do, and managed to complete one blog and start another in the times I was not directly involved with the therapist. The therapist spoke to my parenta individually, to my parents together, to me, and then spoke to all of us together. I hate to think what it all cost. As much as I dreaded the experience, I would have preferred being the first to talk to him, because then I would have had the opportunity to tell my side of whatever story he wanted to hear before he was prejudiced by whatever either of my parents said about me.

Instead, the therapist spoke first to my father, then to my mother, then to my father and mother. I will be honest: I considered sneaking out when my parents were together in the therapist's inner office, but I knew that would have ultimately created a worse situation for myself, and would have allowed my parents to more easily build up whatever case they were building against me.

After my parents spoke together, it was my turn. By then my arms and my one good leg were shaking so much that I could barely make it into the shrink's private room. My dad walked with me, presumably because I looked as though I might fall, and helped me get seated into a chair.

The therapist at first tried to establish rapport. I tried to give more than one-word answers so that I would not present as a sullen, uncooperative teenager, but since I didn't really know where he was going with anything, I had to be at least a little bit guarded. He tried to get me to say bad things about my parents, but I wouldn't take his bait. I could tell he was frustrateed and thought I was being oppositional. I finally told him that if someone would just tell me exactly why I was there, I might be able to be of more assistance to him.

He explained that my parents were concerned about what I had been through recently and how I was handling it, and that I wasn't sharing my emotions openly, but they knew I was bothered by things that had happened and afraid of what would happen in the future. I asked him how he knew these things, or rather, how my parents knew them, snce he knew at that point what my parents had told him. He mentioned bad dreams and my shouting out or screaming in my sleep. I wasn't aware I had been doing that. I knew there were times in the night when one of my parents would be in my room patting my back and telling me to go to sleep, but I had no idea I had been yelling or screaming. It seems odd that they never said anything to me the next day, but maybe they thought I already knew and my not bringing it up myself meant that I wouldn't discuss it when they brought it up.

The therapist asked about the prom date situation. It isn't something I like to talk about. I must have turned red, because he told me I had no reason to be embarrassed; the only person who should be embarrassed, he said, was the inconsiderate boy who broke off the date in the way he did. That's one of those things that is easy to say, but not so easy for someone else to totally accept or be at ease because it was said. I told him that it was mostly just embarrassing to me, especially knowing that I have to go back to school and that even though it had mostly been forgotten by now, my reappearance at school may cause it to resurface as a topic for discussion and gossip.

He asked if that was the only reason I was nervous about returneing to school. I told him that I was worried about getting from one class to another in the halls without being knocked down and that I was worried that once I was walking, the kids would make fun of my limp. He asked if that was all, so I talked about how bad my leg would look and how I could hide it temporarily, but eventually, especially if I was able to dive competitively again, or even hurdle, how I would have to wear clothes that showed it. I told him how my diving coach talked last year about physical appearance psychologicall impacting judges and negatively affecting scores. The coach was tallking mostly about weight, but I'm sure the same would apply with a crooked leg that had so many scars from surgeries and infection lesions that I practically looked like a burn victim. He told me he thought there were laws guarding against such discrimination, but I explained to him that the judging was so entirely subjective that no one what get anywhere challenging a low diving scored based on the Americans with Disabilities Act because it would be next to impossible to prove that the low score was as a rsult of the way my leg looked.. The therapist asked about my accepting a date for the prom, or other dates in general. I told him that I would never ask a boy for one of those girl-asks-boy dance things, and that it would make me nervous to accept a date, especially for a major dance where one had to go to the trouble of getting a special dress and all the stuff thaat goes along with it.

The shrink said that a life with no risks at all was rarely one worth living. I half-expected him to break into his own rendition of Bette Midler's "The Rose." I told him I found what he said interesting in light of my parents' views regarding risks. He asked what I meant. I told him that at times I had taken physical risks that my parents had opposed very strongly and had imposed consequences for my having taken those risks. Yet I assumed he wouldn't be asking me about emotional risks and my reluctance to take them if my parents hadn't said something about it. So basically they didn't even want me to cross busy streets at the age of sixteen, but they wanted me to risk humiliation that I wasn't ready to face just so that they could feel that I was over everything and 100% OK about everything that ever happened.

The therapist said nothing for a long time. I would have liked to have asked the therapist what his hourly rate was so I could mentally calculate the price my parents were paying for his dead silence, but making shrinks think one is a smart aleck rarely works in one's favor. Eventually he said, "I sense cognitive dissonance." Shrinks, like a lot of other people. when they can't think of anything else to say, spout large words or psychobabble. It doesn't work as well in terms of bullshitting me as it would for many people my age.

"Yes, I suppose there is an element of that, " I responded to him. He seemed surprised. "They want to coddle me physically, yet force me to take emotional risks before I'm ready. I don't want to be coddled by anyone, but I would like the option to use my own judgment in both the physical and emotional risks I take. And as far as the emotional risks I take, I won't say it's none of their concern, because as parents they're going to be concerned, but in the end, it has to be my choice whether to accept or reject any offer of any kind."

"Okay, we're getting somewhere," he countered, "And it's you I'm concerned about right now, so this is just something I'm throwing out for you to consider. Has it occurred to you that anyone who asks you out is also taking an emotional risk?"

"Since no one has asked me out since my original prom date, no I hadn't considered that, but it is worth thinking about, " I answered. "I suppose I'd have to be really diplomatic about rejecting anyone's offer. But I still reserve the right to say no. I'm not saying you're old, (he half-smiled) but it's been awhile since you were a high school student. High school students can be mean. That was probably true in your day, but I think it's even more true now. It's not beyond possibility that a guy would ask a girl out just on a dare. I was probably always at risk for that sort of thing, but I am even more so now. I don't intend to be the butt of a big joke for any group of athletes and cheerleaders."

"I don't think that sort of thing happens all that often," he answered, looking at his watch. "I think it's time to bring your parents in."

"Whatever," I answered, immediately wishing I hadn't said that.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pet Peeves

Note: I'm interrupting my "I didn't know how many parts" series about my parents' friends with a public service commercial break.

Almost everyone except Kim Jong Il and a few others of his ilk are disturbed by things like nuclear war, but most of us are bothered by matters that might be considered somewhat trivial by others but, on a day-to-day basis, actually give us more grief than the big problems in life, i.e. political assassinations, home invasion robberies, and the fact that Sarah Palin's name and face continue to pop up in the media. I'm talking about pet peeves, and we all have them.

I've learned from watching "Judge Alex" that one of Judge Ferrer's pet peeves is women who call the police or initially press charges for domestic abuse, then either drop the charges or, even worse, let the "abuser" move back in with them. He probably has oher more oersonal pet peeves along the lines of other people not squeezing toothpaste properly or people toucning his Harley and leaving fingerprints, but he doesn't talk about those things on television.

My cyber-friend Rebecca is peeved by the medical system in general, but specifically by doctors who are not truthful. When she is someday healthy, she will write a book called Lying Lies and the Doctors Who Tell Them.

My friend Megan's pet peeve is her mother's penchant for taking Megan's cell phone away from her for the slightest slip-up on Megan's part. One missed assignment should not euqate with the confiscation of one's only means of communication with the outside world. Megan's mother grounds her and takes away her laptop as well. Megan might as well live under the old USSR regime.

My friend Ian's pet peeve is the judging process utilized in high school diving. In our league, diving is an under-recognized sport. The coaches and a third body grabbed off the street by the hosting school perform the judging tasks. Some coaches are fair, as ours is. Some coaches consistently score their own divers higher. The bottom line is that the hosting school's team has a huge advantage at every diving meet. Can you imagine a high school football game where one coach from each team plus a third body the home team plucked from the stands did all the officiating? Of course you couldn't, because it would never happen, but the rationale is that football pays for itself and many other sports, and maybe it wouldn't with that form of officiating. Wrestling, on the other hand, does not pay for itself, yet has objective paid officials. Diving doesn't require paid officials. The athletic directors of each school could provide between five and ten judges, who would judge other schools' meets. The CIF budget could probably even pay for the judges' gas, or even offer a small stipend, by eliminating CIF dinners hosted and paid for by the CIF. (I'm sorry for using an acronym without defining it. CIF refers to California Intersholastic Federation, which is the governing body for California high School sports.) Coaches and athletic directors could pay for their own meals in a perfect world.

My mother doesn't like it when people crack their knuckles. She comes unglued when students use double negatives or use the word "seen" in place of "saw" when speaking to her. She doesn't care what they say when she can't hear it, but if they say it to her or write it in a college application essay, the normally calm if grouchy (I could use a more precise description of her recent demeanor that begins with the letter b, but I won't use it because, while I may be stupid at times, I'm not suicidal) woman turns rabid. My mother also goes all pre-menstrual on us when someone leaves the top to the grand piano up and the cat crawls inside. OK, so one time she saw it open and closed it without checking inside to make sure the cat wasn't in there, and the cat, who had access to air but not a litter box, did what it needed to do. The piano technician charged something like three-hundred dollars to replace whatever the cat excerment had ruined, but in the grand scheme of things, when people are dying of the ebola virus and corruption is happening in government all around us, are three hundred dollars and a little cat poop inside a piano sufficient reasons to practically cancel Christmas?

My father is highly irritated by people who have loud cell phone conversations in restaurants. Under ordinary circumstances he's a law-abiding citizen, but he is considering purchasing some sort of device that interferes with cell phone reception in one's immediate proximity just so that he can jam up cell phone conversations in restaurants. The noise the callers make when their calls are dropped will be at least as loud as what they were when they were conversing on their cell phones. It's just that my dad would get perverse satisfaction in seeing the anger on their faces when they couldn't get a signal. His secondary pet peeve is when baseball players make the sign of the cross before batting. He is a Catholic, although not the world's most devout or adherent one. Still, he says that it degrades the sign of the cross when one uses it for that purpose. If it were clear that the person were doing it in prayer that no one would be harmed, he says, it would be a little different, but why would a player all of a sudden become concerned about everyone's wellness just at the instant he came up to bat? The batter making the sign of the cross is clearly pulling the Jesus card in hope for a base hit or better, which is ludicrous, my father says (he doesn't actually say "ludicrous; he says he stopped using that word when Mike Tyson started using it) because Jesus has bigger fish to fry than base hits, ERA's, wins, losses or anything else in baseball or other sports. He is equally disgusted by Superbowl MVP's thanking God for the win, the award, and everything else. He says it's against what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount about not making such public displays of religious devotion. At other times, such as when the cable goes out during overtime in a crucial game, the language he uses would indicate that my dad is not overly concerned about what Jesus, Moses, Peter, Paul, the Mother of God, or God himself said in the sermon on the mount or anywhere else. (Sorry, Daddy. I'm merely calling it as I see it.)

My brother's pet peeves relate mostly to food. If someone else has ungraciously consumed the approximately one tablespoon of ice cream that he left in its carton in the freezer, he is greatly peeved. It doesn't matter that he consumed the remainder of the container without sharing it with anyone. He is greatly peeved that my parents insist that he use a cup or glass when drinking milk, as opposed to drinking straight from the plastic jug. He thinks that he should have his own private gallon of milk from which he can drink straight out of its container at any time, including at the dinner table, and even if President Obama happens to be present for the meal. When that container of milk is consumed, the next container should automatically become his private container from which to drink even if it's the last one in the refrigerator. No one else really needs milk, he thinks, or at least not as much as he does. (I don't even like milk unless it has chocolate in it. My brother's selfishness is my point.) As you can readily observe, my brother is a primal creature whose concerns revolve primarily around himself, food, where he's going to get his next fix, and who might get between him and what he wants to eat.

I would like to say that I have no pet peeves because I am above that sort of thing and instead occupy my mind with global concerns, but I would be lying if I really said that. Other than terrorism and world hunger, what I really hate is when the associated student body president recites the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom each school day. I especially am irritated by the pauses as though there is a comma between "one nation" and "under God." It's "one nation under God," not "one nation[stop long enough to smoke a cigarette or blow one's nose], under God." Get it right or don't say it at all, morons. (Another of my mother's pet peeves is the use of moron, imbecile, or idiot as insults because they were once clinical terms for categorical levels of mental retardation. That's ancient history, Mom. Get over it. We insult each other with those words now. The doctors and psychologists no longer own them.) Furthermore, why do we have to have the associated student body president or any other imbecile (Is your blood pressure rising, Mom?) reciting the pledge over the intercom? Students were saying the Pledge of Allegiance more or less effectively (although probably still taking that almost five-minute break between "one nation' and "under God") since long before intercoms were installed in schools. Are the school administrators afraid that if it isn't blasted over the intercom, some rogue teacher might skip the pledge? For that matter, how can anyone know without installing spy cameras that some teachers aren't teaching right through it and ignoring the pledge anyway?

If somoeone with a voice like James Earl Jones were available to recite the pledge every day on the intercom, I'd have no problem with hearing it. Instead, this year we'll hear it from a female student with a denasal voice and a slight lateral lisp. When she's not available, the voice heard over the intercom will be a male voice that still squeaks on occasion due to that delightful process we all know as puberty. I can hardly wait.

Another of my peeves is gum carelessy deposited on the ground, but the annoyance factor regarding that needs no further clarification.

Feel free to share your own pet peeves in the comments section.

My Parents' Good Friends, the Ratzlaffs *

* names have been altered to protect me

My Parents' Friends

Part One in an "I don't know how many part" series

(Dad, I'll gladly change my topic if the price is right.)

Among my parents' friends are a couple with a marginally preadolescent son. For the sake of convenience, I will refer to this family as the Ratzlaffs. Dr. Ratzlaff is a neurosurgeon at one of the hospitals at which my father does research and holds privileges. Mrs. Ratzlaff teaches higher-level mathematics courses at a local secondary school. Baby Boy Ratzlaff will begin eighth grade at a local public school next week.

Dr. Ratzlaff is the sort of neurosurgeon who causes me to utter a prayer of thanks each day that I am presently not in need of neurosurgery and am unlikely to require such a procedure in the immediate future. Once, while visiting our home, he was in need of a bathroom for one function or another. My brother told him that the nearest bathroom was the second door to the right in the downstairs hallway. Dr. Ratzlaff must be a visionary sort of person, seeing doors where actually there are none, because instead of the second door, he opened the first door on the right. It's clear that the issue must have been one of seeing nonexistent doors because the man could not have completed the rigorous coursework and residency to be a neurosurgeoun without the ability to count doors with one-to-one correspondence at least to two. Anyway, he opened door number one and went inside a closet where we store sports equipment. My brother and I assumed that Dr. Ratzlaff would exit immediately upon discovering that the all-important feature of most bathrooms -- a toilet --- was not in this closet. My brother and I were wrong.

About one minute after Dr. Ratzlaff had walked into the closet and still hadn't emerged, I began to grow concerned. I told my brother to go get Dr. Ratzlaff and direct him to the actual bathroom. "Hell, no!" my brother answered. "What if he's already partly undressed and is taking care of his business?"

"He wouldn't do that," I insisted.

"He might," interjected Baby Boy Ratzlaff. "He's done stranger things than that." Despite having been spawned and reared by a couple of the looniest creatures on the planet, Baby Boy Ratzlaff was and continues to be comparatively lucid, which throws both "nature" and "nurture" theories out the window.

"What if he pees?" my brother asked.

"What if he poops?" I asked.

"I'm not worried," my brother concluded. "Mom and Dad will assume you played a trick on him and told him the wrong way to the bathroom, and you'll have to clean it up."

"But why would they blame me for a presumably intelligent adult mistaking a sports equipment closet for a bathroom?" I countered.

As my brother was answering, "They've blamed you for worse on weaker grounds than that," Dr. Ratzlaff exited the sports equipment closet.
He smiled at the three young people seated in the family room, took a turn to the right, went down to the next door, walked in, and presumably did what it was that he had intended to do in the first place. Later that evening, just to be safe, I opened the door to the sports equipment closet. I turned on the light and did a cursory visual scan of the closet, along with an equally quick sniff test. Nothing seemed amiss. I did not go to the trouble of checking inside batting helmets with the rationale that if my brother ever put on a helmet before going to bat and received a pleasant surprise, it would be Karma at work.

My Uncle Steve, too, was at our house that night. My Uncle Steve is a doctor and also has privileges at the hospital where Dr. Ratzlaff and my dad work together. Uncle Steve, however, is a pediatrician. Dr. Ratzlaff doesn't ordinarily go out of his way to extend common courtesy to pediatricians, even though Uncle Steve is Baby Boy Ratzlaff's pediatrician, because he considers pediatricians the equivalent to veterinarians, according to my Uncle Steve. (Why one wouldn't extend common courtesy to a veterinarian is a mystery to me, but for the moment, I'll let it go and remain fixated upon the topic at hand.) My brother told Uncle Steve about Dr. Ratzlaff's slightly abnormal bathroom visit. Uncle Steve observed, fully knowing that the Ratzlaff offspring was seated among us, that most neurosurgeons are a few centimeters closer to the Twilight Zone than are the rest of us. "That's probably one of the more normal things he's done today," he added. Baby Boy  Ratzlaff nodded his assent.

Mrs. Ratzlaff teaches at the high school I attend. She was my pre-calculus teacher my sophomore year. She clearly understands mathematics but doesn't excel at explaining mathematical concepts in language understood by students who aren't themselves gifted mathematicians -- a characteristic that is far from rare among math teachers. Her classes are basically well controlled, but because she doesn't possess either a sense of humor or a grasp of the figurative aspect of language, it is easy for students to civilly aim insults at one another throughout an entire class period without Mrs. Ratzlaff ever being aware that it is happening. This practice is particularly prevalent during any sort of student presentation session. Curiously enough, Mrs. Ratzlaff is never the target of the politely voiced subterfugal insults. There are levels to which high school students in possession of consciences will not stoop. We don't harass the severely handicapped students on campus, and we leave Mrs. Ratzlaff alone for the most part.

Mrs. Ratzlaff has her own fashion style, because she makes all of her own clothing. Rumor has it that she even sews her own bras and underwear, although unless she told someone, I don't know how anyone could verify this piece of information. I've been told that she doesn't use patterns when she sews her clothing. That is not one bit hard to believe, as it would be virtually impossible to find patterns for the clothing she makes and wears. She's partial to bold-colored paisleys, calicos, and plaids. (Baby Boy Ratzlaff was almost given "paisley" as a first name, which would have surprised hardly anyone, as that's just the sort of thing Dr. and Mrs. Ratzlaff would have done, but that will be discussed in greater detail later.) Two boys in my class nominated Mrs. Ratzlaff to be a participant on the television show "What Not to Wear." (I'm not contradicting what I said earlier about students not picking on Mrs. Ratzlaff. I honestly believe they thought they were doing her a favor when they filled out the online form.) I don't know whether she declined the invitation, whether the show has such a colossal number of nominees that production staff either hasn't gotten to her yet or had to randomly elimate her because of the sheer numbers, or if they took one look at the scanned photographs of her and determined that she was beyond help.

Baby Boy Ratzlaff is referred to as such because that's what his name was until a week before kindergarten registration. It took his parents that long -- four years and six months -- to decide on a name for their child. I mentioned earlier that "Paisley" was one name considered. Also under consideration were "Motor Neuron," "Hypotenuse," amd "Cincinnati. " (No one knows how Cincinnati made it onto the list. As far as anyone who would know such things knows, he was neither physically conceived, mentally conceived, born, baptized, or anything else of significance in Cincinnati, Ohio, or any other place named Cincinnati. To the best of the knowledge of Dr. Ratzlaff's only brother, who owns a tattoo parlor in our city, the Ratzlaff family has never even been to Cincinnati.) In any event, the kid had to have a name to begin kindergarten. I don't know if this is an absolute requirement or state law, or if the combined Ratzlaff weirdness has its limits, as in even they understand that a child can't be expected to be called "Baby Boy Ratzlaff" by his kindergarten teacher and peers. (His aunt babysat him before he entered kindergarten, so it was not an issue for preschool.) They ended up naming him Michael. "Michael" is a name that's been on top-twenty lists of names for male children roughly since the reign of King Solomon, so only God knows why it took the Ratzlaffs roughly four-and-one-half years to think of it, but it was fortunate for Michael that they did. Michael receives mention in this blog only because he is a part of their family. He's otherwise too normal to merit the space.

I've been told by both of my parents countless times that I have no qualifications to practice either conventional medicine or psychology/psychiatry, and so I won't. Let me say, though, that were one to look in the second-to-last edition of the Diagnosis and Statistics Manual, which is considered a Bible of sorts for mental health professionals, (the reason for looking in the next-to-last edition is that the condition has been elimitated from the most recent edition of the manual), and one thumbed through the a's until one arrived at a particular syndrome that sounds a whole lot like "ass burger," one would very likely find a photograph of Dr. and Mrs. Ratzlaff posted prominently next to a description of the syndrome. My parents are the open-minded and non-discriminating sort. Little things like mental health diagnoses do not deter them from befriending and socializing with people.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm working to complete this assignment

I haven't completed quite enough blogs to fulfill the summer requirement for my Independent Study course. If you're even a semi-regular reader, you know that part of the problem is that each blog is far too long. Were I to have chopped my mega-blogs into chapters, I'd be finished. I would be tempted to do just that, but my instructor has been keeping track. It's too late.

My father has made the very self-serving suggestion that I have probably written more about my own nuclear family than anyone would care to know. I offered to write about our extended family on his side, but he didn't think it was such a wonderful idea. He suggested that I blog about the eccentricities of the families of my friends. Not HIS friends, mind you, but mine. Now how stupid does he really think I am? Other than a few loyal followers, and a few relatives on his side of the family who are paranoid (If the shoe fits, Uncle Mahonri, put it on and walk around in it for the rest of the day)at the very least, the only people who read this blog are my very closest friends. I have no intention of alienating them. I could not be nearly so open if it the existence of this blog were common knowledge at my school.

So I will take a slight twist on my dad's suggestion. I will blog about HIS friends. I have a later afternoon doctor's appointment -- no cast off yet, but a final check -- but as soon as I return, I will peruse my parents' rol-a-dex for ideas on what family should be me next subject. I will only do this for a short time because I don't want to bore you to tears, and I only want to make the point to my dad that my blogging topics should not be of concern to him. I promise I'll pick only the very most interesting people my parents know.

Sayonara para maintenant,

(My closure was put there with the intent of annoying my father if he reads. He's a language purist and would oppose mixing three languages in one phrase.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Life is Not Wonderful/ Hand Dominance/ What the Future Holds

School starts one week from today. I will still be in a cast, and my face will still be shades of purple and yellow from when I fell on my hosts' tile kitchen floor while I was trying to heat up instant oatmeal in their microwave and my crutch got caught between their tile and grout. Some people's bruises disappear fast. Mine don't. Since I have to go to school regardless, I'm going to be very mysterious about how the bruises got there. My brother pays little enough attention to me that I seriously doubt he's heard any discussion of how they got there -- he probably hasn't even noticed that my face is bruised, for that matter -- so he can't tell anyone how benign the incident really was.

I'm afraid of being knocked down and hurt again all over in the halls by people who are careless when they're in a hurry to get to one class from the next. It's bad enough with the cast on, but with it off, the danger of being reinjured is actually greater. The Utah doctor warned me not to break any fall with my right arm or I'll re-fracture my clavicle. What am I supposed to do? Just fall on my face again? It's a lose-lose proposition from every angle. If I were to break the fall with my left arm, I'd probably end up breaking that wrist, because non-dominant arms aren't as strong as dominamt arms. Let's see, a broken left wrist, or a re-fractured right clavicle? Which one would you choose?

I wonder why nature made it so that almost all of us have dominant and non-dominant hands/arms (and feet/legs for that matter, although it's less noticeable or significant). If one takes an evolutionary angle to view such things, were our less cerebral ancestors so dull-witted that they had a tough time directionally without hand dominance for reference? Did they even have dominant limbs then, or is THAT something that evolved later? Two summers ago at a summer camp I took a university-level course in motor learning. I did my research paper on hand dominance. I'm still a bit obsessed with the topic.

Many more people claim to be ambidextrous than actually are. It's something people like to be, for some odd reason. (Many people like to boast of being "legally blind" because their vision is 20/400 or worse without their glasses or contacts, too, but "legal blindness" by definition is vision of 20/400 or worse with correction . What a dumb thing to brag about, anyway.) Often it's a matter of their non-dominant hands being more coordinated than most of ours are. Then they perfect a particular skill with the non-dominant hand, and suddenly they're calling themselves "ambidextrous." The correct term for when one does some things with one hand and some with the other is technically ambilateral rather than ambidextrous, anyway. On the other hand, even if one had equal ability to master skills with either hand, the smarter thing, for the most part, would be to master a given skill with one hand, rather than spending time mastering it with both hands. That would then make most ambidextrous people ambilateral.Depending upon what skills a person was talking about mastering, it would be a waste of time to perfect every skill with both hands, anyway.

For some skills, there would be an advantage, as in hitting or throwing in baseball, or serving in tennis. For baseball, the ability to hit effectively from either side of the plate would give one a tremendous advantage against pitchers who have difficulty facing batters of a particular dominance. (Usually it's lefty hitters that give pitchers trouble.) Left-handed pitchers often bother batters as well, but mysteriously, the pitching advantage disappears when the batter is also left-handed. It's all a bit confusing to me. The main problem with any of this is that you would need to spend more time practicing to master the skill equally with both hands. Would that time be better spent becoming a super hitter with one's preferred hand? It would vary from case to case. Then we have the concept of "lateral transfer of learning" to consider. In theory, if you've mastred a skill with a particular hand, you have an advantage at mastering it with the other hand than you would have mastering the skill with the other hand if you'd never mastered the skill with either hand in the first place. The degree to which lateral transfer of learning exists varies from person to person, often depending upon cognitive intelligence and relative coordination of the non-preferred hand, but it exists to some degree in everyone. My father's idea in teaching my brother to hit, which my father didn't invent but read somewhere, was to teach my brother to hit first on the non-dominant side, which was left for my brother. Then once he had some degree of mastery in hitting as a lefty (my dad waited two years for my brother), he had him bat right-handed, and it came fairly naturally. This appproiach owrked for my brother, who finshed last season as a junior in high school baseball batting around .400.

Where throwing is concerned, there's less advantage. With pitching, for one thing, a baseball glove fits only the left or right hand. I believe there are baseball rules regarding keeping extra gloves on the mound, and I don't think players and coaches are allowed to randomly toss gloves back and forth for exchange purposes. On the other hand, if the team at bat put in a pinch hitter who was a lefty, and the pitcher could also pitch as a lefty, a trip to the mound could be used to exchange a glove. (Coaches' trips to the mound are limited per inning in all but little peewee leagues for children below the age of eight, and must be used judiciously.) Also, in leagues where pitchers' innings aren't limited, if a player's arm tires, he could switch gloves between innings and be fresh for a few more innings with the other arm. Overall, for reasons of practicality and practice time, switch-pitching idn't one-hundredth as common as switch-hitting. it might be adantageous for a quarterback to be able to throw with either arm in football. Still, this sort of thing is a rarity. i don't think it's ever been seen in the NFL. The difference between success in switch-hitting and switch-throwing could likjely be accounted for in the degree of arm strength required for throwing, and that throwing is a skill that is accomplished entirely with one arm independently, where, in hitting, both arms work together to accomplish the task, so with the other hand assisting, arm strength isn't quite such a factor. (Batting left-handed for a righ-hander is much like hitting a two-handed backhand for a right-handed tennis player, which is practically the norm in tennis ever since the days of Chris evert and Jimmy Connors.)

Where tennis is concerned, some people have thought that there would be an advantage to hitting groundstrokes or volleys in tennis with either hand, which would leave the player hitting entirely forehands -- the preferred groundstroke for most players. Preference of forehand to backhand notwithstanding, a forehand does have more extension. atill, the fraction of time it takes to change the racquet from one hand to the other would cost a person. In the long run, developing a good backhand would be more advantageous. With two-handed backhands being the norm, it's not all that hard to master the backhand stroke. The theorectical idea of mastering the tennis serve with either hand could offer some benefits. Spins and curves would come in the opposite direction, which is confusing to the player receiving the serve. A glove to catch balls is not needed in tennis, so that wouldn't be a drawback as in baseball. One identical disadvantage to throwing, especially pitching, is that it's a task accomplished entirely one-handed, and a strength factor is involved. (A tennis serve is fundamentally a throwing motion.) Few people theoretically possess the strength in a non-dominant hand to master the skill of serving effectively in tennis. On the other hand, when a person's dominant hand is permanently disabled, he or she usually masters the skills anyone else has with his or her non-dominant hand. That would indicate that if a person cared enough to put in the time, skills such as throwing or serving could ultimately be mastered with the non-dominant hand. Not too many people want to put in that much time, though.

In many sports, there is no advantage or disadvantage to using one hand or another. In golf, for example, each player hits his own hots and is not reactive to anything about the other player's strokes. Each player is just trying to hit the ball into the hole using fewer trokes than anyone else. There's the practical disadvantage to a lefty of beeding equipment made for left-handed golfers, and of left-handed golf clubs being not as available, but for the most part, lefty clubs can usuaully be rented and can always be ordered for purchase.

Extending the idea of dominance in handedness from sports to music (I'll focus on the piano, because that's what I know most about), fingers on both hands have to play the keys. Because of the configuration of the piano, with the higher-pitched keys being to the right, the melody of a song is mostly played with the right hand. The accompanying notes may be more or less difficult than the melody, which gives a left-handed pianist no advantage or disadvantage. Mozart wrote many piano pieces using rapid movement of the fingers of the left hand, for which left-handedness might give one an edge. bach keyboard works usually require the right hand and left hand to play the very same lines of music at different times. A truly ambidextrous pianist probably pprefers palying th music of bach to the music of other composers. Regarding other instruments, some are played the same way, while others are played different ly by right- or left-handers.
That could be considered in choosing an instrument.

Exactly why I digressed for seven paragraphs on the motor-learning subtopic of dominance or handedness is probably because I didn't want to think about real issues facing me. I'm still eager to get this awful cast off my leg, but I'm worried about how it will look. Some of the lesions from the infection may have scarred. I'll have to use that scar-fading cream on them. Does it actually work? Then there are the scars from the surgeries themselves. Will my right leg look as though it has railroad tracks running and lunar craters all over it? Probably, but that is the least of my concerns. Will it be straight? When I'm allowed to put weight on it approximately three weeks after the cast comes off, will I have much trouble regaining the ability to walk? Will it be the same length as the other leg? With physical therapy, will I ever run as fast or hurdle as high as I did before? Will even my diving be impaired because of the strength of it? Will it look so awful that I'll lose points on my dives because it looks so ugly that the judges are subconsciously affected by the appearance? Even though girls wear long dresses to the prom, will any boy ever ask me when he knows how ugly my leg is?

I'll find out the answers to all these questions soon enough, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Facebook, Judge Alex Style

My abilities fall somewhere between moronic and imbecilic when it comes to Facebook. Because I've been accused in the past of starting any story with either the Creation, the Flood, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, or some similarly ancient occurrence, I will skip the reasons why I can neither text message nor have a Facebook account. Almost anyone with Internet can access the very basic page that is presented on someone's Facebook account. In most cases, all you can see very is very limited information about the person whose Facebook page you are viewing if you are yourself not a Facebook member and a "friend" of the person. The avaibale information on such pages doesn't hold my attention for long. I'd just as soon be searching odd facts or reading about Kim Jong Il. A few Facebook pages, however, focus upon celebrities and are open to non-Facebook members. One of such pages belongs to Judge Alex Ferrer of television's "Judge Alex" courtroom television program.

In the case of most celebrity pages, the featured celebrities either know nothing about the pages or do know and wish for the pages to be cyber-eliminated pronto. Such is not the case with Judge Ferrer's Facebook page. He established the page either himself, or someone at his network did it for him. He makes occasional comments and responses to others' comments. Initially, his appearances at the page were frequent. He now comments and responds less frequently (he does have a real life), but he still makes appearances.

I've never been allowed to watch soap operas (I suppose if, at the age of 16, I tuned in to "Days of our Lives," my parents would make a few choice comments, but I doubt that one parent would cover my eyes and ears while the other grabbed for the remote control to change the channel) not that I've really wanted to, but Judge Alex's Facebook page has become my soap opera of choice. I'm convinced it's actually more compelling than the networks' conventional daytime dramas.

All soap operas have characters, major and minor. Some of the minor ones on Judge Alex's Facebook page approach the level of oddity of the litigants appearing on his television program. Others are, or at least seem to be, comparatively lucid. The rest fall somewhere in between. To facilitate your viewing experience, I'll give you a brief overview of the major characters and some of the more salient minor ones. To list and describe them all would make me guilty of the wordiness of which I've been accused. I'll still be wordy, though. There's no way around it with this topic.

The lead role, romantic or otherwise, of the "Judge Alex Facebook page" soap opera is, fittingly, Judge Alex E. Ferrer. (The "E." stands for "Enrique," which, the judge has explained, actually sounds much better with "Alejandro," the Spanish form of his first name.) Judge Ferrer left Cuba with his family to escape Fidel Castro's regime when the judge was less than a year old. Judge Ferrer became a police officer at the age of nineteen, then completed college and law school. He was a trial attorney, then a judge. He was on the short list of judges being considered for an appellate position by then-governor Jeb Bush, but instead opted for the more lucrative TV judge gig. How much more lucrative is confidential; the network doesn't allow that information to be disclosed. By most accounts, though he worked hard in his early years and had to escape a communist regime (at the age of less than a year, he probably was not the braintrust behind the escape operation and thus does not likely take credit for it), he's led a charmed existence, with a beautiful wife, basically perfect children, and the capacity to go almost anywhere he wants at any time he wants, and the ability to snap his fingers and immediately procure a Harley once he gets there. Judge Ferrer's major role on the Facebook page is to make profound comments, post pictures of himself in alluring poses on his personal or rented Harleys, answer questions, graciously accept compliments detailing his degree of hotness, and occasionally tell posters [one cannot "befriend" Judge Alex on this page; perhaps he has a "real" Facebook page where his actual friends can befriend him] to chill when they come almost to the point of cyber-blows or cyber-catfights. (Victor,who shall soon receive his own featured highlight, is not available at this forum to provide saucers of milk to feline-behaving posters.) I'm not in the habit of becoming light-headed over men who are roughly my father's age, but I will say for Judge Ferrer that he looks much better than my father, my father's friends, or any of my friends' fathers, all of whom are in the same approximate age bracket. It isn't his looks, nonetheless, that draw me to watch his show, or even to read his Facebook page.

The man is brilliant. He reportedly each night reads hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the cases he will try the next day. His recall of what he has read the night before, sometimes probably at 2:00 a.m., is phenomenal. He manages not to confuse documents he read the prior night concerning one case with those from another, thus managing to catch litigants in lies on a fairly regular basis. If the judge were to apply his reading skills to the Bible (I'm not implying that he doesn't already; perhaps he's a profound Biblical scholar and chooses to keep that aspect of himself private) he would put Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, the Grahams, Joel Osteen, Paul & Jan, and all the rest out of business with his first televised sermon. If any of the televangelists I've mentioned happen to be dead already, may he, she, or they rest in peace. I apologize for desecrating the memory of the dead if I am indeed guilty of such, and/or taking shots at someone who's no longer on the planet to defend himself or herself. The point remains, however, that were Judge Ferrer to take up televangelizing, the rest would be toast.

The lead supporting role would have to go to Victor Simon, the bailiff. (Mr. Simon will not appear in the upcoming season of "Judge Alex" because he was unable to make the move to Los Angeles. Any discussion of "Judge Alex" without mention of Victor, however, would be akin to an attempt to discuss the history of "Days of Our Lives" without mention of the late Dr. Tom Horton.) Mr. Simon's role on the Facebook page is to occasionally be commended for his hotness. (Judge Ferrer does not appear to be jealous when such happens, as there seem to be enough "hotness" compliments to feed the egos of both men.) He merits his own section of this blog primarily because of his prominent role on the "Judge Alex" TV court program. Mr. Simon, a graduate of SMU and former linebacker for the university's football team, a taciturn uniformed police officer, possesses a build that would deter the most psychotic of litigants from even thinking of attempting to attack the judge. Mr. Simon's secondary role is to serve as frequent fodder for Judge Ferrer's humor; his state of baldness is a particular source of mirth to the judge. Mr. Simon is not himself without a quick wit, and has been known to make jokes at the judge's expense. Mr. Simon has occasionally stepped between feuding litigants. Judge Ferrer has commented on more than one occasion when females disparage each other that that Victor may need to provide them with a saucer of milk. This expression used by Judge Ferrer may be mildly sexist, as I've never heard him offer to send Victor out to get Milkbones or rawhide chews when male litigants take shots at the masculinity, or lack thereof, of one another, but I don't really care because I think it's funny. The Los Angeles-filmed version of the show will feature a bailiff named Mason. Let us all hope for Judge Alex's sake that the top of Mason'a head resembles a cue ball.

The second supporting role is filled by an entity known simply as **admin**. At some point after the Facebook page began to grow in popularity, **admin** took on the role of administrator. Among **admin**'s duties are to let readers know about upcoming episodes of "Judge Alex,"
to answer questions not requiring the level of expertise of the actual judge, and to give updates and ask questions regarding some incredibly exciting thing that's supposed to happen as soon as September. I for one find it a little hard to swallow. I would almost suspect an identity theft ring of some sort, but Judge Ferrer does frequent the board often enough to see the posts, and surely he wouldn't allow his Facebook page to be used for identity theft purposes. (But if it is, I'll have a good laugh at all of you suckers who are allowed to join Facebook and blindly gave your partial identity to **admin** when it was requested.) We've been told that **admin** is also named "Alex." Conclusive evidence has yet to be presented that **admin** and "Alex Ferrer" are not one and the same. Perhaps the network is paying someone to administrate the site. Judge Ferrer may not be willing to share any of the take. We've read references to "The Ferrer Children's College Fund." **admin**'s paycheck may have a direct pipeline into "The Ferrer Children's College Fund," and it's probably even some sort of tax shelter. Some of the posters feel that it is **admin**'s duty to mediate when posters declare verbal war on one another. Either **admin** does not believe that it is his or her job to do so, or is seriously shirking in that regard.

The plots on the actual "Judge Alex' television program are of course centered on the cases tried -- one per episode. They range from sad to stupid to mundane to hysterically funny. The plots on the Facebook page
are sometimes dictated by Judge Alex when he posts something about his weekend plans, what he ate or drank, or perhaps a picture of himself on a Harley. His fans at times take the judge's posts in strange directions.
Once he mentioned visiting Victor's ailing grandmother in the hospital while he was in Houston. Most posters expressed positive thoughts wishing Victor's grandmother well. One obnoxious poster wrote something inquiring as to why Victor's grandmother was so special to merit so many messages of prayer and wishes for good health when people were dying everywhere all the time. "Others" were quick to criticize the hostile "other" for his insensitivity. I don't think we ever learned whether or not a full recovery was made by Victor's grandmother. I certainly hope so, and if not, I hope she's in a happy place.

Some miscellaneous "others" have been known to "hijack" threads and talk about all sorts of matters unrelated to the judge and his show. Plots thicken when other "others" take offense at each other for a variety of reasons. Any hint of a slight aimed at Judge Ferrer will result almost immediately in the loyal "others" "Strategic Defense Initiative"-style barrage of protection of the judge, which ranges from from literate point/counterpoint-style debate to outright verbal assault on the "other" who dared slight the judge.

The significant "others" are too numerous to mention, but I cannot adequately address the drama that is Judge Alex's Facebook page without mentioning a few. I've been advised not to use names, but I'm prone to ignoring advice. I'll limit myself to first names. What I write will be objective information or will be clearly stated as my opinion. I don't think I am setting myself up be sued for such, but I know that hiding behind the "I said it was my opinion" does not shield one from every possible legal consequence. Example: "I think ------- is a child molester" can land someone on the defendant side of a civil suit if one does not have adequate evidence to back up the statement. What I have to say about the "others" is not so inflammatory, and is mostly objective information, anyway. If an "other" actually happens to read this, which would constitute a miracle in and of itself, and does not like the way he or she has been portrayed, perhapsthe "other" should take a long and hard look in the mirror.

I shall start with Beausoleil. I said I was going with first names. Beausoleil is very likely not this "other's" first name, but it appears first in her screen name, so we're going with it. I'm including Beausoleil primarily because it's an interesting name. I've spent considerable time deciding how it should be pronounced.
My father, who speaks French, says it's hard to say exactly without the availability of the French language accent marks, one of which would probably appear over the second e, but it's probably something like
BOH/soh/LAY'. Beausoleil has never posted anything outrageous that I've read.

Pinaz seems very sweet, and her comments are always positive. She's from Bombay, but lives somewhere else now. She hasexperienced trouble with her television recently.

Martin is an actual "real life" friend of the judge. They were on the force and worked riots somewhere in the Miami area.

Jaci is a journalist from the UK who has blogged about things she would do if granted access to the judge's body. She would like to interview the judge, but to date, as far as the Facebook page has informed anyone, the interview has not happened.

Betty seems to be a very pleasant and nice lady. She only posts kind things. She may be moving to Los Angeles, but not, she said, to become an actress.

Rebecca, my Twitter and blogging friend, does not post as often as she would like because of health issues. She's a teen, only slightly younger than I. Her posts exude wisdom.

Matt is a fellow football fan of the judge's. I do not know whether they know each other in real life. It doesn't really matter.

Stephen calls himself a friend of the judge. I took it to mean they actually knew each other, but then, I'm fairly gullible. Maybe the judge is Stephen's friend in the same sense I was taught in Catechism that Jesus is my friend, or maybe they've had face-to-face encounters.

John created a major controversy by twice suggesting in not the most tactful of ways that the judge was wearing excessive makeup on camera. Loyal "others" came to the judge's defense to the degree that the judge stepped in to call off the dogs. Then Gail thanked the judge for taking control, because the "others" calling themselves "The Doghouse" were taking over the boards and "hijacking threads," burying more important and pertinent threads. Then the judge came back on to post that he was joking; he was actually "chuckling" at his defenders as he typed, not intending anything to be a reprimand. He further told posters that he was not available to post on the board constantly, and that "others" should use the board to have fun. It may be that my vision is failing, but I can no longer find Gail's complaining post. If it is still there, please direct me to it by posting its approximate location in the comments section of my blog.

Yesenia is a sweet mother of four who has dreams about the judge, but not R-rated dreams. She's someone you'd want to be your aunt or your friend's mother.

Jim thinks there is a stain on Judge Ferrer's name plate. I've looked at it from every angle imaginable on a high-definition screen and can't find the alleged brown stain. The problem could conceivably be with Jim's own TV, or even with his eyes.[MY OPINION]

Stacey posts with relative frequency, but seems relatively sane.

Kristeen has a vivid imagination. She "saw" Judge Ferrer in a white convertible on the 20th Century Fox lot when he was never in said car. Kristeen probably "sees" the image of The Blessed Virgin in her pancakes and tries to turn them into shrines.[MY OPINION]

Laura desperately wants to attend a taping of "Judge Alex" in 2012 and TO MEET HIM. None of the "others" can understand why she is so fixated on the year 2012 as the time to attend a viewing. One helpful "other" even reminded her that many have predicted 2012 as the year the world will end. Perhaps Laura just wants to spend her final moments in the presence of Judge Alex [MY OPINION].

Catherine is the matriarch of the Judge Alex Facebook page. She frequenty dishes out Greek wisdom to many recipients, including the judge himself. Some recipients are more receptive than others. She is a kind and wise soul, and those who fail to heed her advice are poorer for not having listened. (Catherine has been outed as having possible association with "The Doghouse.")

Sharon is a loyal fan "other" on the JA Facebook page, and will jump in to defend him with the rest of the Star Wars Defense Team.

Joyce is a gentle soul and a lover of animals. She finds good in almost everything and everyone. I think she probably draws the line at Scott Peterson and Charles Manson, though if pressed would probably name at least two good qualities each one possesses. Sometimes other "others" are upset with her, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. She is very sensitive, and if she feels that she has hurt someone's feelings, it hurts her. Y'all be nice to Joyce now, ya hear?
(Alert: possible "Doghouse" connections)

Jillian is an ally to Joyce and other "others" who have called themselves "The Doghouse." If you ask Jillian what color her underwear is, she will write a one-thousand-word response. Her typing is abysmal. I don't know if she's blind, uncoordinated, or truly dyslexic. She has a couple of years of law school under her belt, so she likes to spout legalese. Sometimes she knows what she's talking about, but not always. You have to guess. It's like that old television show "Hollywood Squares."[MY OPINION]

Cathy uses a combination of text-message style typing and unconventional spelling in such a way as to leave the reader wondering if she actually thinks the spelling she uses is standard. [MY OPINION] She is a special defender of Judge Alex; if one of the "others" mentions hoping he had a safe trip home or to wherever, she reminds them that he has a wife and kids to worry about such things for him. Worrying about a person is perhaps akin to committing adultery in one's heart. Maybe she's onto something. What do I know?

Ken practically had a seizure because [my opinion; a medical diagnosis is difficult to make over a Facebook page posting, especially by someone who has no qualifications to make a diagnosis even in person] a preview of a Judge Alex episode alluded to a video that the litigant was then unable to produce in court. Despite Judge Alex's uninvolvement with the production aspect of the program, Ken chose to make a very personal attack against Judge Alex over this seemingly trivial issue. This brought the Star Wars Defense Team out in full force.

If Judge Alex is the Alpha male of the board, Wolf would have to be the Beta male. His primary purpose on the board seems to be to bring levity to tense situations. He does this despite his self-admitted status as an (GASP) atheist. I don't mean to come across as facebook's version of Senator Joe McCarthy (I paid attention in U.S. history and passed the AP exam), outing communists under every bed, but Wolf has been associated with the infamous "Doghouse."

Sandy, despite her known association with "The Doghouse," is often a voice of reason on the JA Facebook page. She defends the judge, but not to a ridiculous extent. She is respectful of others and gets along with most "others." Sandy is an anomaly as a Texan Mormon. You do not find too many of those. Sandy has beautiful red-hair, about which she frequently complains. Victor (and hopefully Mason) would tell Sandy, "At least you have hair."

There you have it in a very large nutshell (maybe a coconut shell?): Judge Alex's Facebook page. It has more drama than any daytime TV drama, with the possible exception of "Grey's Anatomy" re-runs. If you did not find your own name here, consider yourself blessed. If you did, why would you want to sue a sixteen-year-old temporary cripple?

P.S. To my other "mom and dad" ( you know who you are): I miss you!!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Say Anything When You Don't Know What to Say?

The killing of ten civilivans in Afghanistan, with credit proudly taken by the Taliban, leaves me without words. (I'm still typing, so obviously nothing leaves me literally or totally wordless.) Ten people who gave up comfortable existences to help those in need were shot and killed for reasons ranging from bogus to nonexistent. Some were nurses. Others were miscellaneous health care specialists. One, a dentist, looked a great deal like my Uncle Brad, who is also a dentist. I hope my Uncle Brad continues with his selfish pursuit of holding onto his dentistry practice to support himself and his family. His son, my cousin Jeff, has just completed dental school and is considering an extended trip into what I would consider perilous territory for some sort of humanitarian aid mission. Perhaps this will cause him to reconsider.

Compelling evidence showed that these people had no religious commonality; in some cases the humanitarian aids practiced no religion at all. The Taliban claims of the group's working to convert the residents of the area to Christianity lack credibility. Furthermore, why are the Taliban so paranoid of outside groups' attempts to convert their people to religions other than their own extreme brand of Islam? If theirs were such a wonderful form of religion, would we not all be fighting to get into it as opposed to the Taliban leadership's use of force to deny their adherents the knowledge that other religious options even exist?

I know nothing about this incident beyond what I've read in newspapers and on the Internet, or have seen on television. Perhaps I'm the last person in the world who should be offering up an opinion on the topic. What does a sixteen-year-old girl know about killings in Afghanistan?

All I know is that I want no one I love anywhere near that region. Beyond the fact that I have no control over that -- for that matter, I do have a a cousin serving in the military in that region -- I concede the selfishness of my wishes. Underprivileged people in that part of the world should have access to healthcare just as should anyone anywhere.

I've never had a cavity in my life because of fortuitous genetics, fluoridated vitamins, and good dental care, so I have no idea what it's like to experience a single toothache. How can I say that people in Afghanistan should suffer with pervasive dental caries and a host of other dental, visual, and medical problems too numerous to mention? Yet I would be selfish enough to do anything in my power to keep my father, a doctor, from going over there. As far as I know, he has no current delusions of grandeur in relation to saving the world by working his way around the planet starting from the mideast. If he gets any such ideas, however, I'll become the most anorexic, agoraphobic, self-mutilating adolescent the world has seen, someone much too messed up that my father would leave my mother alone to handle the situation. My contingency plan is the epitome of selfishness, yet I would do it in a heartbeat. Some method of helping such needy people must exist or be devised, but until it does not involve religious extremists shooting at people who are merely trying to help, it will have to be accomplished without my close relatives.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


We've all heard the proverb, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words (or names) can never harm me." This quotation is generally applied to schoolyard taunts, adult name-calling, and generally insulting and derogatory terms. I'm considering it today in a more literal sense.
Parents in almost all cases name their children. With very few restrictions, a parent can choose just about any name he or she wants to give to a child. Prudence indeed would dictate (sorry for the plagiaristic T. J. reference, but he's far too dead to care, and I think the document has to be public domain by now anyway) that a parent would choose a name that: a) the child might like; b) that would give others a favorable impression of the child; c) would, at the very least, not subject the child to abuse of any kind. Prudence may dictate until her face turns purple, but parents have been known to commit all sorts of atrocities, some bordering or actually crossing over the line to outright tort, in the naming of their offspring.

The most common name faux pas, and possibly the one least harmful to the child, is the choice to combine a given name with a particular surname for the purpose of creating a precious, saccharine, or otherwise cutesy overall name. We've all known a few. Candy Cane comes to mind, as do Chris Cross, Kelly Green, "Ima Hogg," "Candy Barr," and "Pearl Harbour." Those are the ones I've heard personally. One could search the net and come up with a catalog of similarly charming first and last name combinations. (Some are even urban legebds who probably never existed.) The parent or parents presumably thought the name to be innovative and appealing. In the cases I've known where the child was saddled with such a name, the child didn't usually agreed with the parent's overall assessment of the name's endearing qualities. In the cases of the females gifted with such names, often they marry and eventually rid themselves of hearing the same lame comments made each time they are required to give their names. In the cases of females who do not marry, or males in general, although I understand it's unusual but legal for a male to adopt his spouse's surname, they're stuck for the duration of their lives hearing muffled laughter every time their names are read aloud (in middle school, those laughing do not even bother with the formality of muffling their laughter),or shelling out hard cash for court costs involved in legally changing their names. Beyond the cost -- I have no idea what the cost actually is -- there's an embarrassment factor in changing one's name. Usually one is required by law to post the name change in a local newspaper, which in and of itself can be a source of discomfiture (I admit to using a thesaurus here). Beyond that, one changing his or her name would constantly run into the quandary of what to say when meeting up with acquaintances from one's past. Should one tell the person, "I changed my name legally and am no longer named Robin Hood, " or just let sleeping dogs lie? It's funny to me because I don't have to deal with that issue, but I try to put myself in the place of one who does and imagine the baggage that goes along with such a name.

Another charming gift some parents bestow upon their children in the form of names is to name their children after someone famous. George Clooney wouldn't be such a bad name to be given, but what if the poor kid happened to be butt-ugly? Going through life with a name like "Henry Ford" isn't exactly a life-long trip through Busch Gardens, but my cousin had a kid in his football division whose given name is "President Ford." This young man's parents supposedly admired our nation's thirty-eighth president so much that they chose to name their son after him, yet they couldn't even be bothered with looking up his first name of Gerald? In that case, I can't decide if it's more a case of stupidity, laziness, or some more evil force at work. This last one I cite is inevitable, because Keller is something like the tenth most common surname of German ancestry in the Unites States, but couldn't parents with the surname of Keller show just the barest minimum of restraint by not naming their daughters Helen? I'm not suggesting that Helen Keller led anything but an exemplary life, but the jokes alone are sufficient reson to kill the name. Would anyone want to go through life hearing, "Why did Helen Keller masturbate with her right hand? So she could moan with her left." (Sorry, Mom.) If a person wouldn't like having such jokes directed at him or her or said in his or her her presence on a daily basis, why would he or she assume that his or her daughter would like it any more? If a child is determined to be famous, the child will find his or her own path to fame. Giving the child the name of an already famous person will not expedite the process even if fame is the child's ultimate goal.

The next naming spectacle is one my mother calls "The Scrabble Letter Phenomonon." She calls it such because the child's name sounds as though the parents or whatever people chose the child's name were playing some sort of a drinking game whereby each couple was required to draw out a given number of scrabble letters and to somehow combine them, using each letter drawn, to come up with a name. She maintains that or some very similar method had to have been used in choosing some names she's seen because there is no other conceivable reason a child could have been stuck with such a peculiar name. My mother works in the counseling department of a school district. She comes across the name of every student who registers at the high school level in her district. She and her cohorts maintain a list of the more bizarre names they've come across. I would share that list, but I would like to attend college next year. If my mother loses her job, college may have to be put on hold until my mother finds another job. Thus, I'm going to have to keep the list to myself, which is truly disappointing, because I know you'd enjoy reading it. I'll have to make do by sharing with you a few names apparently chosen by "The Scrabble Letter Phenomenon" that I've come across from sources other than my mother's list. Zazzette, Qwerty (actually the first six letters on a standard kepyboard; at least there was a method to this particular madness: the parent would always be able to spell the name if a keyboard were available), Phrygix (perhaps the game's participants were awarded points based on the value of the Scrabble letters, in which case both Phrygix and Zazzette would be contenders), and Sillyhp, which is , coincidentally, Phyllis spelled backwards, although I'm not convinced that had anything whatsoever to do with the actual name, which, to me anyway, a little too closely resembles the word syphilis.

Another naming transgression is usually borne either of a desire to be different and, hence, to make one's child different, or inherent ignorance in regard to standard spelling. Some names have more than one common spelling. Catherine, Katherine, and Kathryn are all recognized spellings of the same name. Even a few slight variations ar not so heinous as to label the child stuck with the name as a freak. Lindsey and Lindsay are both considered standard forms of the name. (Oh, my gosh! Should I edit this part out? Might I be sued for infringing on a copyright or trademark by even using this name?) On the other hand Megan is standard, while Meggun is not. Meggun will have to spell her name to every person who writes it for her for the rest of her life. Maybe Meggun will like the extra attention of being different. Most likely she'll very soon grow tired of it. Furthermore, her parents will appear to be semi-literate at best for having spelled her name as such. As a general rule of thumb, if a child desires to be different, the child will distinguish himself or herself from his or her peers in some way. The parent dose not need to make that decision for the child at birth. One particular anomaly concerning spelling of a name is that a parent's spelling of a name is not required to be either standard or phonetic. In other words, a child's name could be spelled uvfrhgm and pronounced /tim/. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that to a child, but no law prohibits it.

In the United States, laws concerning naming of a child are both broad and vague. Numerals can only be used in distinguishing a child from a relative of the same name, and are typically Roman numerals, although I'm uncertain that such is a requirement. I could find no law, however, stating that a child could not be given a number for a name; it just has to be spelled out. A child can be named Seven, but not 7. I haven't found the law, but I assume there must be some statute prohibiting the use of recognized curse words in the naming of children. Otherwise, with the number of total reprobates proliferating society, we would have little Motherfuckers and Sons of Bitches in most classrooms. (Some teachers would tell you that we do, but just that those are not their given names. Sorry, Mom.) Since I'm unable to locate any laws pertaining to such, I'll ask Judge Alex. He's busy now, so I may not get an answer, but it's worth a try since he's the most intelligent person of my Internet semi-correspondents. I'll also ask Russ carney, as he's the most culturally aware person among my Internet semi-correspondents. Another legal question I would like to ask Judge Alex is this; what if the parents cannot agree on a name? Is it the mother's final decision? Does it vary from state to state? Does it matter if the parents are married?

In one of my many bouts with insomnia, I developed a solution to the plight of bizarre, attention-getting (in a bad way) or strangely-spelled names. Statistics are kept on names. A person can consult the Internet and instantly come up with a list of the top however many names they want for any state or for the United States as a whole. My proposal is this: A list of the two hundred most frequently chosen names for the state or nation (parent's choice; in a place like Utah, it would make a diference) is printed and given to the parent. If the parent chooses a name that is not on that list of the top two hundred names for the state or nation, a panel will appear before the parent. The panel will consist of a "typical" child a schoolyard bully, a teacher, a human resource director of a hospital, law firm, or other business or corporation, and a member of the opposite gender of the child. The parent must listen to each panel member's take on why that name is or is not a good name. The bully will tell you how other kids will make fun of the name and what about any particular name would bring out his predatory tendencies. The normal kid (a fourth or fifth grade boy or girl who receives many B grades, who is probably not the class representative on the student council but may be the alternate, one who probably doesn't receive a "Student of the Month" award every year, but probably does every other year, and one who is usually chosen neither first not last when teams are selected for anything -- the "average child, if there is such a thing,) will give you an ordinary kid's perspective of that name. The teacher will tell you if your child's name is likely to be mispronounced or misspelled,or if there are presently a disproportionate number of dysfunctional students with that name(my pseudo-aunt, a teacher, says avoid the name Liam like the plague; it was fine for those of Scandinavian descent a generation ago, but anyone under the age of fifteen with that name today is almost certainly doomed to terminal geekhood or juvenile delinquency --usually the latter, if not both). The human resources director will tell you the first impression he or she gets from that name in terms of hiring potential. The member of the opposite gender (five to eight years old; we don't want to promote total pedophilia) will tell the parent if he would go on a blind date with a person with that name. The panel would vote. If the panel were to give the name an OK, the name may be given with no stipulations. If the name is nixed, the parents may still give the name to the child, but must post bond equaling whatever is the total cost, includng court fees, lawyer fees, publication fees, and and other hidden costs, for the child to change the name if the child decides later that it is not a name with which he or she can live. An age at which the child may elect to change the name must be selected. I propose that the age be a minimum of eight years. A minimum of ten years would be preferable, as we know eight year olds can be fairly stupid at times, but if the name is truly hideous, the child's life could be virtually ruined by the time he is ten. Thus the earlier minimum. The child must choose from the list of two hundred most commonly gien names for the child's birth year. If the kid wants to change his name to something ridiculous like X-Box when he's eighteen, he can pay for it himself.

For the sake of argument, middle names can be exempt, embarrassing as middle names sometimes are. If a kid doesn't like his middle name, he should be allowed to simply drop it at the age of eighteen.

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet . . . or would it?