Sunday, June 30, 2013

The "N" Word

First of all, I will say that I detest the sound of the "N" word. To the very best of my knowledge, I''ve never said it.  My parents didn't say it, and we were not around other people, other than maybe my paternal grandfather , who said it, and he was threatened by his wife with dire consequences if he were to say it in the presence of his grandchildren. we did not watch TV programs in which the word was used. Eventually we heard the word, but were old enough by then to understand that it was a hurtful and despicable word and that nothing good would ever come of saying it.

With that as a backdrop, I must also say that i believe that Paula Deen is being treated unfairly. She admitted in a deposition that she had used the word before. Big fucking deal! As abhorrent as I personally find the word, Ms. Deen grew up in the deep south in the forties or fifties.  (I'm not entirely sure she's forthright in disclosing her age. As my mom says, "If she's in her fifties, I'm in my twenties.")  The deep south in the era in which Paula Deen came of age is quite different from the liberal college communities and suburbs of California in which I was brought up in the '90's and 2000's.  I cannot judge her except to commend her  honesty in admitting that the words have come out of her mouth, even if she's not 100% honest about her age.

I was brought up to believe that the "N" word was probably worse than saying the "F" word. (My father swore like a sailor but never used the "N" word.) That, however, was the view of my liberal, hippies-born-too-late-for-their-time parents.  i cannot expect everyone to share my values. I still think it's an ugly word and that the world would be better off without it, but i'm not the arbiter of political correctness in speech. neither, really,, is anyone else, as we have this thing in the united states called The First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees, among other things, freedom of speech. this freedom of speech does not come without limits, the classic of which is shouting, "Fire!" in a crowded theater.  

Other limits to freedom of speech exist as well. Children are not necessarily free to speak their minds either at home or at school. Not only is yelling, 'Fire!" in a crowded theater not covered by the First Amendment, but talking out loud in a theater to the extent that other attendees cannot hear what is being said  is also forbidden.  What can be said and when it can be said  in a court of law is controlled by a judge, which would indicate that freedom of speech in a court of law is not absolute, either.  Furthermore, limits exist as to what untruths can be spoken publicly or published.  Thus, we can agree that freedom of speech as dictated by the First Amendment is not absolute.

Yet the use of the "N" word is not considered a violation of the first amendment under most circumstances, and certainly not in a private conversation.  The word is inflammatory by nature, and the need for its use is difficult to justify. Still, such does not make utterance of the word illegal.  Too often its use has been called upon to justify other inflammatory action, some of which is bona fide illegal.

I'm going to digress just a bit to make a point. When i was a child, I sometimes had occasion to be around a cousin two years older than I  with whom I did not get along particularly well. Anytime the two of us were together, the two of us would whisper or mumble insults at one another under our breaths so that the adults present could not hear. This cousin would call me all sorts of derogatory names related to my appearance. a few that come to mind are anorexic, bulimic, AIDS patient, eastern European orphan, heathen gentile, Ebola victim,  albino "N" word because of my blue eyes, summer tan, and wildly curly hair. aborted fetus  [presumably because I was born very prematurely], and idiot savant because I could play the piano by ear. Most if not all of these names were fed to her by her older brother, because she would not have been intelligent or clever enough to have thought of any of them on her own. I would tolerate the verbal abuse for the better part of a day until I eventually gave in and called her the name that obviously applied: fat. When we were eight and ten respectively, she probably weight roughly 170 pounds.

The second I uttered the fat word, she would go crying to her parents about what I had called her, and her parents would expect my parents to punish me. Fortunately, there would have been between twelve and eighteen witnesses as to the names she had been calling me all day, so I was never in trouble for calling her fat. I eventually became more savvy, and resorted to calling her corpulent, obese,  adipose, rotund, ponderous, porcine, capacious, commodious, and bovine, to name a few of the terms I used. She could never remember the word I used for long enough to tell on me for having called her that, so I was safe.

Anyway, my digression was not without a point. My cousin  and her parents felt that she could call me any name under the sun, no matter how inflammatory the term, but that the instant I uttered the word fat, all  bets were off, and I had crossed an unspoken line.  

Sometimes people take a similar attitude regarding the "N" word. When my mom was sometimes called out of her office at the district headquarters to function as a school principal when the actual principal had a baby, had appendicitis, or was chosen as a juror for an extensive trial, she was sometimes called upon to mediate disputes in which an allegation of the use of the "N" word were part of the disputes. Often no one witnessed or heard  the use of the "N" word. The accused party usually denied it. What was witnessed by both other students and playground supervisors, though, was the first and/or only punch that was thrown. My mom said she felt as though she was beating her head into a brick wall in trying to explain to the allegedly maligned student and his or her parents  that no word, however offensive, justified the use of violence. She said that if the epithet were hurled and the student chose to alert a playground supervisor, the situation could be discussed and appropriate punishment could be meted out if the preponderance of evidence indicated that the epithet was, in fact, uttered.  If the student chose to take matters into his or her own fists, however, the administrator had to deal with the facts as they were present, which was that a student was physically assaulted. Allegations of the use of the "N" word did not automatically trump all other rules or laws. (In cases of school assaults, schools and parents have the option of filing criminal charges as well.)

It seems that the Food Network and some of Ms. Deen's corporate sponsors.believe that an admission of the use of the 'N" word does indeed trump any and everything else accomplished by Ms. Deen. I'm not a staunch fan of Paula Deen, but I don't understand the rush to judgment as taken by her sponsors and by the Food Network.  Perhaps further investigation will reveal that Ms. Deen has demonstrated a history of racist behavior, in which case non-renewal of contracts and cancellation of sponsorships might  be deemed appropriate. On the basis of a single admission of the use of a racially-charged term, however, both the Food Network and the corporate sponsors acted prematurely.

From the most recent reports I've heard, Mark Fuhrmann is still employed as a consultant regarding legal matters  by cable networks . .  and he wasn't even honest concerning his use of racial epithets, but instead lied about it and was caught in his lie by a recording -- a lie that quite possibly affected the outcome of a murder trial.  If anything, one would think a person involved in providing commentary for law enforcement and legal matters would be held to a higher standard in terms of lack of racial bias than would a woman who hosts a mere cooking program.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Smooth Flight Out of Happy Valley

the snow-capped Sierras -- one of nature's great wonders

My flight was actually out of Salt Lake City, which is not technically Happy Valley, but the gist of it is the same.  I came home in a more financially sound situation than I was when I left for Happy Valley, even after the road trip, which is always a good thing.

I  received my check for the recording work I completed. It was for more than had been negotiated. I pointed it out to the producer, but he said that I saved him considerable money by nailing most of the tracks on the first or second take. I hate to be cynical, also,  but I know better than to count my chickens before a check clears the bank.  The producer seems like an honest and up-front sort of guy, but so do a lot of scam artists. The fact that we have mutual acquaintances should work in my favor, but I'm not making any plans for use of the money until the cash is officially transferred  into my account.

Yesterday I had lunch with my grandmother at a nice little cafe overlooking the American Fork River just up Provo Canyon a few miles.  It was all very amicable, which lends credence to my belief that the impetus for the issues between  the rest of the family and me have been largely of my grandfather's doing.

At the conclusion of our lunch, my grandmother handed me two envelopes, one with my brother's name on it and the other with mine. I asked if I should open mine, and she responded affirmatively. Inside was a check for eighteen thousand dollars. I could feel my face turning red. I told her it was not necessary for her to give me the money. I didn't speak for Matthew because he probably does need it. My grandmother explained that every other grandchild had received a thousand dollars deposited into an account on each birthday, and that my grandfather had refused to  create similar accounts for my brother and for me, and that she had decided it was not right to exclude the two of us from this practice, especially considering how generous my parents had been with various nieces and nephews over the years in terms of paying their college expenses. It seemed pointless to argue, so I thanked her and put the checks into my purse. Incidentally, the checks were written in my grandmother's personal account. It would appear that there is little or nothing my grandfather can do about it.

I haven't yet broached the subject with my parents. Just because someone gives a person a check doesn't mean the person has to cash or deposit it.  I'll listen to what my parents have say, and then I'll decide for myself whether or not to deposit the check. My assumption is that my brother will definitely deposit the check.  He should listen to what my parents have to say, but he's an adult, and the decision as to what to do with his check is his alone.

The scenery visible on the flight home was breathtakingly beautiful. The Rockies are spectacular, but to me, nothing compares with the majestic wonder of the Sierra Nevada Range.  Having both the Sierras and the Pacific Coast in a single state seems almost too much to ask. I know California has its share of wasteland and negative baggage, but it also has what would have to be considered among  the most awe-inspiring terrain in the world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Napoleon Dynamite Country

the site of my tetherball loss

My friend Alyssa and I forewent plans to take in the canyons and mountains in and around Utah County.  Instead, we drove approximately two-and-a-half hours north to Preston, Idaho.  Mostly we just drove around the area and looked for places that we thought were locations for scenes in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. We took along Alyssa's cousin's tether ball so we could play a token game of tether ball in the same schoolyard where Napoleon played. I am sad to report that I did not win the game. My opponent is six inches taller than I and probably out weighs me by close to thirty pounds.  I was outmatched and never had a chance, but winning wasn't exactly the point.

Even after searching out sites from Napoleon Dynamite, there is only so much a person or two  can do in Preston Idaho. We then headed south just a bit before traveling northeast.. We traveled up Logan Canyon to catch a bit of the Bear River and the Bear River Mountains.  We got the general idea of the place pretty quickly and moved on. We checked out several small northern Utah towns, including  but not limited to Smithfied, Hyrum. Hyde Park, Nibley, and Brigham City.  I'd never been to the Brigham City Tabernacle, which is quite lovely in its own way.

When we went into Logan, we went by Utah State University.  Alyssa basically plugged her nose, covered her eas, and closed her eyes simultaneously most of the time we were anywhere near Utah State University. She says her second worst nightmare is having to go to college there. her worst nightmare is having to go to bYU Idaho. the hurdles were on the track at the university, as i had told they might be. A youth group was gathering and preparing to use the track, but it was a practice and not a meet, and they weren't on the track, so I took the opportunity to do just a bit of hurdling.  at least I was better than Alyssa at hurdling. She did oopen her eyes and unplug her nose and uncover her ears while she was hurdling. she couldn't figure out how someone my size could ru hrdles so rapidly. I dodn't point it out, but my legs are alost as long as hers even though she's considerably taller than I. i just told her it was because I used to be a gymnast, which is true.

We didn't get home until about 10:15 tonight. We made it a point to have Alyssa spend the night with her aunt, because her parents would've freaked at her being gone from 7:00 a.m. until 10;15 p.m with no "adult" (we're both 18) accompanying us. (The truth of the matter is that she's staying at the condo with me. What her parents, who do not know about this blog, don't know will never cause them any harm.) I hate to be the one to remind them, but Alyssa is moving to California to attend a junior college in less than two months. They won't have any idea where she is at any given moment. It must be a daunting thought to them.

Tomorrow I'll pack, have lunch with Grandma, and possibly use the pool before boarding a plane and  leaving this vast wasteland.

A Very Long But Productive Day

The plan was to start by  9:00 a.m. at the very latest yesterday.  We succeeded in that regard, as our very first recording began at 8:40/  That particular track went like a breeze, with no glitches whatsoever of which i was aware, although we did record one more version of the track, as the producer wanted at least two recordings of every track for insurance. The second recording of that particular number was equally .glitch-free.

Some of  the subsequent recordings presnted a few more technical challenges, but we stuck with the job until      
everything had been nailed.  The producer listened to everything multiple times for problems that hadn't shown up while we were recording,, and he said all our final copies were clean.

I  played keyboards on six of the tracks, which had not been in the original plans at all. The producer didn't know that I played. I'm actually more skilled in that area than he is, although on some of the songs he was looking for a particular  effect that was easier to do himself than to demonstrate to me. Having played keyboards will supposed ly increase my paycheck, ,which should be ready and handed to me when the producer and his wife pick me up at the condo just before 4:00 tomorrow to take me to the airport.  This isn't exactly The  Titanic in terms of its budget production,  but i should still clear enough  to avoid delving into my savings account for this year's spending money, which is great, as I originally planned to take about $1,500  for that purpose this year.   In the grand scheme of things, perhaps $1,500 won't make a huge difference, but  with interest, it adds up.

the day went incredibly long. I'm surprised my voice held up, but we didn't have to do a large number of takes on the vocal tracks. I think we ended up doing more takes on instrumental tracks than on the vocals. I also played violin parts on three tracks, and even a couple of brief tuba excepts for effect.  Had I known, I would have brought my violin. My mom has a  case I could've borrowed that make s the instrument safe for air travel.   I don't own a tuba or sousaphone, but the producer borrowed one from some local band director  who is a friend f his.

We didn't get out of the studio until 11:20, but since that we completed my portion of the project yesterday and I'm totally free today, I'm really glad we stayed. I just kept pushing the bottled water down  They do ave plenty of that in Lehi even if their tap water supply is critically  low. The producer's wife is concerned about the quality of the water at the very bottom of the underground wells, so she uses bottled water even for cooking. She says if it were practical, she would truck enough in to bathe her children, but that it's not practical. As much as possible, she tries to take her kids to her mom's house in another happy valley community to swim and shower,  but doing so every day sin't practical, so she uses as little of the well water as she can get by with using and just hopes for the best. water shortage isn't usually a problem there, so individual homes aren't even metered. The city has to encourage residents to conserve water and hope that they actually do. The local LDS church officials are involved in the campaign to encourage citizens not to over-tap their limited supply of water. Involving church officials increases the chances of success in encouraging compliance. There's 'nothing they [the local LDS officials] can do other to than say something to members they observe abusing the "voluntary" (the city is scrambling to enact laws mandating watering days and such), but Mormons are in general compliant with their church leaders.

.A few acquaintances of the producers came in to add vocals and a few lead guitar parts, which didn't exactly simplify matters, ut they were all professionals, so it wasn't as though i had to stand  around waiting while they mastered their parts. It's always good experience to work with high-quality musicians, and even though any sort of recording career in recording is the furthest thing form my plans, the networking that is happening by chance can only work in y favor. All the musicians with whom I worked yesterday were very professional and were most kind to me. I may have the opportunity to earn a little additional cash working on other projects when I;;m in break from med school or law school, I like as much financial independence from my parents as possible.

When it was time to wrap thing sup, the producer's wife insisted that he follow me in his car all the way back to the condo where i was staying. It seemed a little overly cautious, but I'm sure my parents would have appreciated the gesture,  An advantage to having worked such a long day is that I slept soundly enough that I heard no boogeymen lurking outside my doors or windows. I'm not saying they weren't actually there, but if they were, I was too exhausted to take any notice of them,

In a few minutes I'm having breakfast a my pseudouncle's sister;s  house. she's the one who had twins  around Christmas. They're finally getting old enough to be just a bit mobile, so they're fun to watch in action.  Pseudouncle's niece [and Jared's cousin :(], Alyssa, who is my age, is coming as well. Alyssa is also coming with me to tour a couple of canyons and to go up into the hills to Sundance. Tonight the two of use will babysit pseudouncle's sister's six kids. Alyssa could probably manage the job by herself, as she;s the  oldest of eighth and is used to managing large numbers of children, but we;ll have more fun watching them together.

Tomorrow I'm sleeping late, packing, going to lunch with my grandmother, and heading to the airport to leave the confines of Happy Valley for the sad and miserable shores of  California's central coast ;).  It's been fun, but I won't be sad to leave, and there will be plenty of times when I can return to visit if i so desire.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

28 Hours in Happy Valley and Not Crazy Yet

It makes sense if you read to the end.

I arrived in The Beehive State last night and spent the night in the drought-stricken community of Lehi.  It was fun while it lasted, but I'm now at least spending my nights in a slightly more comfortable and less parched community roughly twenty minutes in driving time from Lehi. It's a bit creepy, as I've never spent the night in a house or condo by myself. Spending the night alone in my dorm room is as close as I've come, and even that wasn't totally easy for me.

I still have the option of sleeping at the music producer's home in Lehi,  but I prefer being slightly spooked  to feeling guilty about taking a shower.  My pseudouncle has a sister whose family lives just around the corner from the condo where I'm staying. She told me if anything really scares me I can call at any hour and her husband will walk me over to her place, where I can sleep in one of an extra bed in one of her little girls' rooms.  I doubt that I'll be so desperate, but it's nice to have the option. The condo where i'm staying has a pretty good alarm system. I don't really think the boogeyman is outside waiting to get me, but it's easy to imagine things when one is not accustomed to being alone at night.

I worked from 9:00 a.m. until about 5:00. The producer thought it would take longer, but I sightread with ease, and nothing needs to be memorized; I merely need to be familiar with the music. The producer is thinking now that we may finish everything tomorrow if we work a slightly longer day and  my voice holds out. That will give me an entire day by myself in another state to do exactly as I please, which is quite cool even if the state is Utah.  I'll also have until about 4:00 on Thursday, at which time I'll head to the airport.

What does a person do in Utah when he or she has already done most of the touristy things. I think I'll check out a few safe hiking trails in the canyons or maybe around Sundance. I'm not going anywhere by myself where mountain lions are likely to be found.  I'm also considering driving north and checking out the little town in Idaho where Napoleon Dynamite was filmed.  There's nice scenery in northern Utah to check out as well/. I also hear Utah State University, in Logan, often has the hurdles out on its track, and it might be fun to hurdle. Anyway, I have t finish tomorrow to be able to have all of Wednesday to myself.

I'm meeting my grandmother on Thursday to have lunch with her. She has a driver at her disposal, so she offered to come here so I would not have to go to Salt Lake City, which was very nice of her. My grandfather knows nothing about our meeting. He couldn't stop her from meeting with me, but he would throw a temper tantrum. There's no good reason for her to have to watch and listen to it.

I'm not my grandmother's favorite grandchild, but she does like me, and she refers to me as her most talented grandchild. That's akin  to being called the cleanest pig in a mud hole, but still it's nice of her to acknowledge it. Those of her children who are musical (my dad, my Uncle Michael, my Aunt Cristelle, and to a lesser degree, my Uncle Steve) inherited it from her and from her side of the family. My grandfather can't even sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or "Frere Jacques" in such a manner that the tune or the rhythm can be recognized. my grandmother also appreciates my gymnastic/diving and hurdling skill. She was something of an athlete -- at least as much as girls were allowed to be -- in her day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sleepless in Happy Valley Tomorrow

Thisis the Lehi Rollermill, where the Kevin Bacon character in Footloose worked and where the dance took place.

Instead of being awake at ridiculous hours here, tomorrow night, I'll presumably be experiencing the same in Happy Valley.  I won't arrive at the airport until about eight o'clock, so by the time we get to my hosts' home for the first night, it will be between nine and ten. If the children are with the parents picking me up at the airport, they'll be tired and cranky, and the whole evening will be a delightful experience.  At least their house is clean and they have an extra bedroom so I won't have to sleep on  sofa in the living room.

On Monday, we'll try to go over everything that needs to be done so that we can make a heavy dent in the work on Tuesday. With a little luck, we'll finish by noon on Wednesday, which will allow for  little leisure time. What I'm suppposed to do with that time I'm uncertain, but if it's hot, my pseudoaunt's condo, where I'll be staying on Monday and Tuesday nights, they have a private pool tht's just for their extended family, and I'll have use of it. I know it's not safe to swim alone, but I'll basically just jump in to my neck to cool off for a few minutes if no other relatives are there. I don't want to put my head in because the last time I put my face in the water in an unfamilar and overpopulated pool, I contracted pinkeye. This pool may be perfectly safe, but I'm taking no chances.

I'm glad I'm only staying one night in Lehi. They're having a critical water shortage, and I'm not even sure I'd feel comfortable using their meager water for a shower. As it is, I'll shower right before I get on the plane. Then I'll shower Monday night at the condo where i'll be staying.

Lehi, Utah, was established in an area where none of the runoff from the melted mountain snow naturally flows. They've had some sort of deal to divert water fom the American Fork River to the Lehi area, bt when water runs low,  the folks in lehi are sort oflow on the pecking order.  The population more than doubled in Lehi between 2000 and 2010.  I hate to point out the obvious, but if you build a settlement in the desert, there may not be enough water for those who eventually show up.   Residents are being asked not to watr their lawns in Lehi. From what i've been told, most of the younger families in Lehi are reasonably environmentally conscious, at least when it comes to water conservaton  -- they still average about five children per family --  but some of the old-timers are reserving the right to water their Kentucky bluegrass, which is a really sensible lanscaping idea for a desert.  The city hasn't yet enaacted legislqation to penalize those who water thier lawns until the crisis can be averted.

As a side note, much of the original Footloose was filmed in Lehi, leading to rumors than Mormons prohibit dancing, which is absolutely untrue.

Anyway, I'll be happy not to be spending my entire time in Happy Valley stuck in drought-stricken Lehi.

I don't have to leavefor the airport until about 4:00, so I'm hitting the beach tomorrow. What I'm doing there besides being a sunbeam for Jesus, I haveno idea.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jesus apparently really does want me for a sunbeam, depending upon whom I consult.

The song is torturous enough. Why in hell would anyone create a game about it?

I recently became curious about the song "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  I know that it has been sung in both LDS and Protestant circles, although the Protestant children seem to have moved on to bigger and better musical genre, while the LDS sucklings are still screeching away about being sunbeams for Jesus.

I've played piano for Primary (the LDS children's organization that takes place on Sunday during meetings that teens and adults are having) on a few occasions when I was still on speaking terms with most of my LDS relatives. Even in the most recent LDS children's songbook, most of the songs are arranged in keys too high for the children or most of the adults to sing, except for the person they call the "chorister," who leads the children's music and usually is a soprano and enjoys the opportunity to show off her range. (Chorister is more commonly used in other settings to refer to a choir member, but the LDS have their own lingo for many things, i.e. communion versus the sacrament, sacrament versus ordinance, sacrament meeting versus morning worship, the stars in the heavens look down where he
lay versus the stars in the sky look down where he lay, and saints and angels sing versus heaven and nature sing. I could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that Mormons, when they're not pretending to be mainstream Christians, pride themselves on being a most peculiar people (their words, not mine) and are usually pretty damned successful at it.

Anyway, the times I've played piano for Primary, if a particular song happened to be arranged in an especially screechily high key, I just transposed it on the spot into  a key more singable.  Most of the time everyone was very happy with it. They could actually sing the song and didn't know why. "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" fell into this category. The only person who would usually notice, if anyone noticed at all, would be the "chorister," not because she had absolute pitch or anything like that, but because she wasn't the only one hitting the highest notes, which might have been distressing to her ego.

I did just a bit of research on "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  . The words were written by a lady from Missouri named Nellie Talbot somewhere around 1900. She should probably be forgiven, as that's probably the way people talked in Missouri back then. Come to think of it, some of the more backwoods Missourians probably still talk that way. Arkansas, home of the famous Duggars,  is just south of Missouri, and I can see Jim Bob coming up with something equally lame.

The song has been referenced by Nirvana, the Vaselines, and Elvis Costello in various forms, all superior to the original.

The melody was composed by Edwin O. Excell. While the melody is far from easy on the ears, it did not deserve the words that someone chose to combine with it, so Mr. Excell, too, should be forgiven. Incidentally, the words and music together were first published in 1905. One-hundred-eight years later, the Mormons still haven't figured out that there are more worthwhile songs their children could be singing. I'd be OK with it if I knew one LDS kid who liked the song, and I know many LDS children. A few months ago, I was entertaining about thirty of them by playing their favorite songs on the piano so that they could sing along. One of the adults suggested, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."  An instant unison groan arose from all the children present -- I'm pretty sure even the two-year-old groaned -- and a six-year-old girl said , "Not that one. They shove it down our throats at least once a month in Primary, and we all hate it." Her words summed up my feelings pretty succinctly, and I haven't had half the exposure to the song in my eighteen years that she has had in her mere six years.

P.S.  I don't think the music producer who is hiring me to fly to Utah tomorrow to finish up with recording songs for some computer-animated  LDS children's short feature movie knows anything about my blog. If I'm wrong, my contract is probably null and void.  If he insists that I am to sing "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam," the contract is either going to be null and void or it will be breached  unless I can get him to speed it up to "Alvin and the Chipmunks'" pace. That would be funny.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, or does he?

I'll be spending five of the next seven days in Happy Valley,  where I'll be expected to be a sunbeam 24/7.

Jared's mother asked me to babysit this afternoon.  I asked if Jared would be around at all. She  said he might be in and out. I told her that she was more than welcome to bring her children to my house, but that I didn't feel comfortable encountering Jared. (He stays with mutual friends of ours but comes by during the day when his father isn't home.) She asked why. Even though I probably should not be tattling to Jared's mother about his latest social faux pas, she asked, so I told her. She told me I wouldn't have to worry about Jared coming to the house while I was there because she would let him know that he was not to come to the house while I was there.

That left me babysitting Jared's youngest four siblings while his mother took kid #2 to the dentist, out to lunch,  and to have her hair cut. Kids in families with six children don't get tons of one-on-one time with either parent, so I suppose outings such as this are occasionally necessary.  The older two girls, now seven and nine, are relatively self-sufficient and can be trusted not to do anything totally stupid even if a person doesn't have his or her eyes on them constantly, though they like attention and want me to do their hair or put makeup on them. I'm absolutely not putting makeup on them without a parent's permission,  as I don't wish to be accused of turning the house into a Toddlers & Tiaras set.  I didn't mind doing their hair, but their mother is so much better at it that I could not understand why they would want me to undo the perfect french braids their mother had already done so that I could make a half-hearted attempt at making them not look like neglected foster children.

The two littlest children are two and almost four. The older of the two - a boy- was a very wild almost-two-year-old  when I met him. Now he reads, colors, plays with Legos, and does things a normal four-year-old would do. I did have to go out into the backyard and pitch baseballs to him for half an hour, but after than, he was content to play with his toys again. The two-year-old girl is as close to the perfect child as I've ever seen. She colors and can be trusted not to color on any surface except her blank paper or coloring books, and will sit for an hour to listen to books if someone will read to her. The girls usually take turns, but I read to her for about twenty minutes. On the simplest books, she tracks the words with her finger as she is read to. She prefers more complex stories like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, though. Her brother listens in and tells what is going to happen next in the story, which angers her. "I know, Bryson," she barks at him.

I got paid eight dollars an hour to watch the children. I knew it was way too much and tried to give it back, but the mother said that it was worth eight dollars an hour to know that her children were being cared for properly. I was there for five hours, so I'm forty dollars richer in cash. I really like being paid in cash for things like babysitting.  My mother did not like the idea that I accepted eight dollars an hour to babysit, but I tried to ask for less, and furthermore, if my mother doesn't like my style of babysitting and being paid, next time I am asked to babysit anyone, I'll just hand the phone or forward the text to my mom.  She can be the one to babysit.

Grades were posted for all my classes. I'm still 4.0, even after the MoFo final of the century for Physics and Mechanics of Fractures.  If I don't do anything really stupid, I'll graduate next spring with a 4.0.  My pseudoaunt's brother, Timmy, hasn't had the Physics of Fractures course yet because of a glitch in his schedule, and next year, as a third-year med school student, he won't be in the classroom for the most part except for a few auditorium lectures. He had to take the course this summer, and got permission to take it from my university to avoid having to spend the summer in Los Angeles,  so he'll be taking it from the same instructor who taught me.  The pressure is on him to outscore me, or at least not to be outscored by me, but he has nothing about which to worry. He's brilliant. He'll ace the course with one-third or less the effort I put into it.

On Sunday night I'm flying to the beautiful [irony font on the word beautiful] State of the Deseret  to finish the recordings that I stated earlier. I'll be picked up at the airport by the music producer and his family and will have to spend the first night with them, but the next three nights I'll stay at my pseudorelatives' condo, which is only about twenty miles from the music producer's  home studio. Pseudouncle's parents left an extra car in the garage that I can drive.

I won't do tons of sight-seeing, as I've seen most of what there is to see in northern-central Utah, though I 'll probably drive up the canyons a bit. I've heard Sundance is lovely this time of year as well, so I may make the short drive there, too, just to look at the wildflowers and the beautiful mountainous scenery.  I will fly home on Thursday evening.

One thing I will not see, intentionally anyway, is my relatives, although I may attempt to take my grandmother to lunch if I can manage to call her without her husband answering the phone. He'll just hang up on me as soon as he realizes who it is if he's the one who answers. (Perhaps I'll have the music producer's wife make the call for me until my grandmother gets onto the phone.) He's an evil man, and he's a high-ranking LDS official.  I'm glad I do not have the same last name he does. He changed his family's surname when he had a feud with his own father. My father changed his name back to the original once he had the means to do so.  That was before he was even married, so my mom, my brother, and I never had the new surname.

Why would a person change his or her surname over a petty argument? I can see why someone wouldn't want his or her father's name if the father had beaten or molested him, but from what I understand, such was not even close to being the case. My grandfather is just hard-headed. I'd love to know how he gets along with Boyd K. Packer, who, although aged, is, if my understanding is correct, about as hard-headed and hard-hearted as my grandfather.

Until Sunday, I'll kick back, practice my violin, and do absolutely nothing to weaken  my already less-than-powerful voice.

My Grandfather's Alter-Ego

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Insomnia runs rampant, but there are always the plygs, among other people and things, about which to think

I don't think I'll be awake until the sun comes up tonight, but I am still up into the wee hours, and not by choice.

The Colorado City polyg churches look a great deal like mainstream LDS churhces.

Looking at the picture of the polygamous sister wives caused me to think of the time a few summers ago when my pseudouncle, pseudoaunt, and I visited southern Utah for the purpose of catching a little polygamous activity. (It had been a miserable spring and summer for me, with serious injuries that were not healing fast, and this was supposed to be the equivalent to my trip to Disneyland to make up for the not-so-fun times of the summer.

We even attended  one of the Church services in Colorado City. (Looking back. it's hard to believe we had the nerve to even drive onto the compound, much less to barge in on one of their church services.)  The strange specially-ordered cast I had on my leg to allow air to heal my skin infections while holding my bones in place, in addition to the sling on my arm, made me look like a little crippled girl, which made them feel sorry for us.  Pseudouncle has a booming baritone voice, and i had, as I still have, the sweet little-girl soprano thing going on, so after hearing us sing the opening hymn,  the polygs invited us to sing a sing for them. Pseudoaunt bowed out. she can carry a tune but does not perform in public, and probably for good reason. We sang "O My Father" from the Mormon hymnal. The Jeffs' branch of the fundies  use, if I recall correctly, the second-most-recent edition of the mainstream LDS church's hymnal.

We had brought conservative clothing to somewhat dress the part.  None of us own prairie style clothing, but we had on stuff that was sufficiently modest.  We had already planned our "story." I was pseudouncle's daughter. My mother was dead. Pseudoaunt was his new bride, He'd tried out two other brides since my mama passed,  but they both left us to return to the secular and monogamous world.  According to our story, Daddy went to Juarez, Mexico to find a bride because the women there were reportedly more compliant. Pseudoaunt said as little as possible because she isn't good at faking a Mexican accent, but fundies like their women silent anyway, so it worked out well. she pretended not to speak English at all, and the two of us "communicated" through both of our very limited Spanish. peudouncle spoke to her in Spanish a lot, apparently issuing orders. he's fluent. She just nodded. i tried t talk pseudoaunt into pretending to be one of his daughters, too, but she said she didn''t look enough like him, and besides, it would be creepy.

My fondest memory of the entire trip was the homemade fudge that we bought at some mercantile or general store there. only God knows if the kitchen in which is was made was clean enough in which to prepare food for a pet rat, but god, the fudge tasted good. there were several flavors. We bought a bit of divinity, but mostly we bought  chocolate fudge and a brown sugar-flavored kind. I ate so much of it that first night that Pseudouncle made me stop because he was afraid I would get Montezuma's revenge despite not having crossed any national borders. He did swing back by there on our way home to pick up some more of the stuff, which we carefully rationed to make it last two weeks.

Driving through the streets of Colorado City and its twin city, Hilldale, was quite an experience.  The twin cities straddled the border of Utah and Arizona. The reason the cities were originally so located was that in earlier anti-polygamy days, if Utah authorities showed up to raid the place, all the polygs could run across the border to Arizona. If the Arizona authorities showed up for the same purpose, all the polygs would run across the border into Utah. It took the two states and the feds considerable time to coordinate their efforts so that the "run for the the border" plan didn't work.  thus we had the infamous Short Creek Raid." (The place was originally was called Short Creek.)

My feelings about polygamy are that it's difficult to justify making the practice itself illegal when others are allowed to have sex with whomever they choose, and to have children with whomever they choose, with no legal repercussions. On the other hand, I have problems with several aspects of it.  One of my issues is with their reported method of thinning the herd by kicking teen-aged boys off their compound before they really have the job skills to fend for themselves. Another of my issues is with  the rampant underage marriage and even with  those who wait until they are of age to marry but have  no experience with the outside world and, this, think plural marriage is normal and is the only way to live.  Another issue I have is with the inbreeding that occurs -- with the arranged marriages of cousins and even closer relatives, which promote all sorts of health conditions and birth defects, the most notable of which is fumarase deficiency. One of my most major issues with the fundies'  system is with them having, through multiple wives, more children, than one man and however many wives he has can possibly support. Thus, government welfare then becomes the primary means of support. I have the same conflict with the polygs using welfare in this way as I do with single mothers who have multiple babies  who they cannot support and whose fathers cannot contribute to their support. I wish something could be done to stop this abuse, as we're soon going to reach a point where too few of the working people re supporting too many of those who multiply like rabbits.

I wish there were a way to allow the adults who chose the lifestyle and were able to finance it to live their religion, while forbidding those who attempt to access government funding to support their way of life from doing so. Likewise, I wish there were a way to insure that young people were neither either kicked out of their homes and off the compound without adequate means of support , nor were girls ever allowed to marry before legal adulthood, Furthermore, i wish there were a way of forcing public schooling upon these people so that girls would know if only by association that the polygamous way of life was not their only choice.

Perhaps if the government could force, as a condition for allowing polygamous communities to continue to exist in our nation, , a period of Rumspringa (also spelled Rumschpringe) as the Amish practice, whereby the youth experience a period of life in the outside world before deciding whether or not to continue with the Amish way of life.  Jeffs' church, or the other polygamous sects around, should be forced to provide a decent stipend so that the young people could at least survive while experiencing the outside world. If the young adults wished to experience life more fully nd more luxuriously, part-time jobs could be obtained, but that's not always easy to do in the present economy, especially with no job history. Part-time jobs at Wendy's or McDonald's are not that difficult by which to come, but some subsidy from the church and community would be appropriate as well for a year or eighteen month, as it's doubtless that the church and community have obtained more than their share of free labor from the youth.

I would be more comfortable with a young woman choosing a polygamous lifestyle if I knew that she was aware she had a choice in the matter. Likewise, I'd feel better about the Lost Boys being tossed out were they to receive a year's worth of subsidy while they looked for work or honed job skills.

The current system, at least as practiced by Jeffs' followers and similar cults, is inadequate for all except for the relatively few men (and a few of their favored wives) who hold power in the local communities and in the churches, which are essentially one and the same.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sleepless in Santa *****/ Other Options for Some of My Favorite People

I kept myself awake all day and actually made it up and down the stairs about twelve times and outside to walk the dog once. Nonetheless, sleep eludes me. It may have something to do with the fact that final exam scores and grades are being posted for my last three classes by noon tomorrow.

As far as Jared is concerned, he can take a flying leap from just about any rock jutting out over the Pacific and land a complete belly-flop, and it would only serve to amuse me. To say that he is the very least of my concerns at the moment would be an understatement.

As far as the Judge  is concerned, he could join up with his Texas/Oklahoma/ Southern California/Georgia/ Tennessee contingent and make a home for themselves --  with or without his present wife  -- I couldn't care much less either way --  right in the middle of  Warren Jeffs' polygamous Yearning for Zion Ranch, and it would only make me happy for all of them, because it would seem that they've all already found their true callings in life, which involve something very similar to that lifestyle. For that matter, with Warren Jeffs locked up for the foreseeable future, perhaps the Judge  would be a suitable replacement to lead Warren's flock. Warren had been doing a pretty good job of leading the sheep himself from his prison cell, but as of late, the system has been cracking down on his ability to rule from the confines of prison. Perhaps this is where the Judge should step in. I suspect he could come up with some creative revelations all on his own with no help whatsoever from Warren. Furthermore, I suspect he would crack down on the pedophilia that has run rampant since the place was instituted. It seems the Judge is not fond of pedophilia, which is presumably his excuse for why he no longer even exchanges pleasantries with with either me or a similarly aged friend of mine.

Business as usual could continue for most of them. The Judge filmed from Texas before. It could be done again. He might be operating his courtroom under a new set of laws, as opposed  to ruling according to the jurisdiction in which a case was filed. The Judge, however, has shown himself to be a quick learner. He could even limit himself to cases involving the ranch and Warren's/the Judge's sect. He could settle which young get thrown off the property with nothing buth the clothing on their bodies and become Lost Boys. He could decided , as Warren for so long did, who gets to marry whom. He could even reserve the choicest of the young brides for himself, although, if truth is to be known, with all the inbreeding that's gone on for generations, not many are all that choice in either the physical appearance department or in the cognitive development domain.  He could also decide, with the widom of Solomon,  which men get thrown out of the faith and off the property, and could divide up their property and wives accordingly. If one really thinks about it, it would be far more interesting than his show under its present circumstances.  Furthermore, I suspect the lifestyle would suit him well.  He never totally seemed all that monogamous by nature, although I will refrain from commenting about any, all, or none of the extramarital activities in which he's engaged himself, because, as a non-stalker, I have no idea what he's been up to in his spare time.

The others could continue their normal day-to-day activities, most of which I have no clue as to what they might be.  I understand that the YFZ Ranch is an excellent place for breeding and raising cattle. The judge would be on site to determine which specimens he wanted named after himself.  The YFZ ranch needs a choir every bit as much as does Dunwoodie , Georgia, and would similarly be in need of nightly weather reports. The Wicked Witch  Beautiful Christian of Tennessee could just as easily function as the Wicked Witch   Beautiful Christian of  YFZ.   Facilities accessible for morbidly obese people could easily enough be constructed there.  English grammar is not at a particularly high premium on the YFZ ranch, so various members of the Judge's coterie would find themselves right at home among the under-educated population who speak and write as though the concept of subject/verb agreement has yet to be invented and their formal educations were cut off somewhere between fourth and sixth grades.. Warren Jeffs had excellent security for himself while he was there. That same force could be used to give the judge much needed privacy from his stalkers when he so desired it.

The only flaw I see to the plan is that, under the present regime, neither the present bailiff nor the one he replaced would be all that welcome on the ranch due to pseudo-religious beliefs and simple bigotry of the population at large. The Judge would have to work tirelessly to enforce racial equality in order for either of them even to visit, much less to make their permanent residences there.

These are merely musings on my part. If it suited him better, the Judge could, like Jared, take a flying leap off some rock jutting high above over the pacific and, likewise, land a perfect belly-flop, ideally into shark-infested waters.

I'm no closer to sleep than I was when I began this discourse, but I've at least accomplished something constructive.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Favorite Song from a Children's Book/CD

I hope this turns out right. If so, the song is from a Sandra Boynton book and CD, Dog Train.  The sound quality, on my computer anyway, is a bit choppy initially,but it does get better.My mom has it in her office at school, so I can't give as much information as I'd like.  Some of Ms. Boytnton's songs are better than others, but she has an amazing knack for getting people like John Ondrasek, Kate Winslett, and Kevin Bacon to record songs for her CDs that acompany her books. (I think the late Davy Jones of The Monkees even recorded something for her.)

This  particular song was recorded for the book-accompanying CD by Alison Krauss. Even though I'm really too old to like it so much, I do. It reminds me of a favorite childhood book The Runaway Bunny. I don't thnk that is just because of the rabbit pictures next to it in the book; I believe thesong itself reminds me of the book. It's one of the things my mom sings for me when I can't go to sleep. Usually only things in the key of A major put me to sleep, but this one is an exception.  My mom has a bigger voice than does Alison Krauss, but she can produce a similar effect when she holds back. When you're singing a lullaby, you don't sing as though you're trying to be heard by the last row of the auditorium anyway.

Incidentally, another favorite of mine from the Dog Train CD is "Pengin Lament" as sung by John Ondrasek of Five for Fighting.  If a person didn't listen closely, it would sound like a regular  Five for Fighting songOne of the university courses my mom teaches is Children's Music Education. She spends time in preschool and elementary classrooms to research for it, and she says that children tend to love this song even though the key, as written, tends to be such that almost any normal person who sings on-key has to change octaves. It doesn't seem to bother the children, though. She plays it on the piano or a keyboard in a more singable key. Regardless, it's a totally cool song. I'm not sure who is responsible for this  particular video. (Has anyone who reads this  ever traveled to Antarctica or, for that mattr, had any desire to tour Antarctica, by the way? Sometimes I think about it.)

Father's Day

Even by PDT standards, it's no longer Father's Day, but I'll pretend for the moment that I'm in Hawaii, which doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time, and is therefore three hours behind us.  It's 10:26 p.m. in Hawaii as I begin this post, and Father's Day is still going strong.  There's still plenty of time for my tribute to my dad.

If you watched House, M.D.,you know that this  is a picture of the character Wilson, as played by Robert Sean Leonard, and not a picture of my dad. I've posted it because I don't have permission to post a picture of my dad, and all the girls at The Loony Bin, my name for the in-house facility where I was treated for PTSD, insisted that my dad is a doppleganger for Dr. Wilson. I should note that my dad's eyes are not brown, as are Robert Sean Leonard's, but are dark blue. 

I'll try to avoid telling the story of the birth of my twin and me, as it's a story that has probably been recounted more than enough in this blog already, but I can't start any tribute to my dad as a father without again mentioning that his hands were the first human hands to touch me. He was scrubbed up, gloved and in the operating room for our Caesarean delivery.  The decision was made to take the tiny baby first if I was accessible -- and I was -- because I would need the most immediate treatment.  So my dad reached for me, while almost immediately after, my Uncle Jerry removed Matthew. Matthew  and I have an ongoing argument as to which of us is older. He was conceived in an earlier cycle. He says that makes him older. I was the first one out of the womb. I say that makes me older. While we both have identical times denoted on our birth certificates -- Dad and Uncle Jerry worked fast and got us both out in under sixty seconds -- also noted on the long form of the birth certificate is that I was the first of the twins delivered. I'm older. End of discussion.

Getting back to my original point, though, there's a special significance to my father's hands being the first to touch me. The story goes that I was initially suctioned, and immediately began wailing as loudly as the average three-month old baby with a serious mad-on is capable. Uncle Jerry remarked, as he was removing Matthew,  that I was going to be a singer just like my mommy. Once I was screaming and breathing, my dad held me so that my mom could see me. She sort of recoiled, as I was tiny, with the transparent skin early preemies have that allows many of their veins to be seen. "She's going to make it, Erin," my dad reassured my mom, who had, less than two years earlier, lost twin micro-preemies. He turned to the neonatologist -- the one of the two who had been present for the births of our older twin brother who didn't survive because they were born too early. At the point Nicholas' and Christopher's births were imminent, it was known that the odds were heavily stacked against them.  When Christopher, the firstborn, was delivered, my dad whispered to the neonatologist, "No extreme measures." He didn't even have to say the same for Nicholas, the second twin, as he didn't even survive the second Apgar scoring. He was allowed to go quietly.

When my dad handed me off to the neonatologist for suctioning, Apgar testing, and whatever else it is that they do, he quietly said to him, "I want extreme measures for this one."

Though the neonatologist replied over my screams, "We won't even need'em, John. This one's a strong baby."  It is significant to me that my father, in addition to being possessor of the first human hands ever  to touch me, was also my very first advocate in my entire life. Even though it hasn't always seemed that way to me in my very biased eyes, he's probably continued to be my greatest advocate throughout my life.

My relationship with my dad hasn't been entirely one of sweetness and sunlight. I was not the easiest child to raise, and my dad has always dealt with a highly demanding profession and, for several years of his marriage, with a very sick wife.  My mom had her first kidney stone on their honeymoon. He said he should have taken that as an omen.  Then there was the tragedy of Christopher and Nicholas.  We were born and, despite early issues with my premature birth, everything worked out. Then my mother became very high-strung almost to the point of being manic.

My father -- more, I'm told, than the average physician, which is probably one of the attributes that makes him the outstanding researcher that he is -- has the ability to step back and look at things relatively objectively even when his own family is concerned. While most doctors, or even most husbands in general, would be phoning the first psychiatrist  whose number they could locate, my dad knew that physical causes needed to be ruled out first.  It was a wise decision on his part. My mom had become extremely hyperthyroid. Symptoms were controlled through drugs while an endocrinologist waited for long enough to ensure it was not thyroiditis and would not soon burn itself out. It didn't, and the diagnosis of Graves' Disease was given.  That was taken care of easily enough with Radioactive Iodine therapy, but she then developed thyroid eye disease. She had radiation at one point, in addition to steroids, to reduce the swelling of her optic nerve. The measures were not enough, and to relieve the severe bulging of her eyes and to preserve her vision, she had done an extremely invasive surgery known as orbital decompression, whereby through means of which I'll spare you the details, the eyeballs were removed from their sockets, tissue and bone were removed, and the eyeballs were replaced.  this surgery was successful.

Then, about three years later, She began to lose weight, and she was thin before experiencing any symptoms. She also was having unexplained nosebleeds. She fainted a few times at work and once at home when just Matthew and I were there with her. We called 9-1-1, which angered her somewhat once she regained consciousness, but ended up being the very best thing that could have happened, because it started the chain of testing that revealed her leukemia.

She had chemotherapy, which slowed the progression, but was in need of a bone marrow transplant.  Every living adult relative - siblings, aunts, uncles -- was tested. No one was a close enough match.  She insisted that she did not want bone marrow from either Matthew or me -- that it was too hazardous a procedure through which to put five-year-old children. Now it's quite a bit simpler, but back then, it involved an overnight hospital stay even for the donor, and the site would be painful for quite some time. My father weighed his options and had us tested without her knowledge. I, as he had predicted, was a near-perfect match.

My father lied to my mother about whose bone marrow she was receiving. I can't recall whether he told her it was an aunt or whether he said it was a random donor match.  Regardless, the procedure was undergone, and it took. She underwent an additional round of chemo that took a heavy toll on her, and I  became ill for a variety of reasons, but I recovered and so did she.   My part in the procedure was to be kept a secret from my mom, but I blurted it out on Christmas morning of that year when I felt slighted because my mother appeared to like the Christmas present my brother had made for her at school  more than she liked the one I had made.. My mom was mad at my dad, my dad was mad at me, and Christmas was essentially ruined, but the bottom line is that nearly thirteen years later, she's cancer free. Other than still having kidney stones and not being terribly energetic, she's as healthy as she's ever been in her life. My dad had made the right call.  He said the rationale was that no amount of pain from a procedure could be as harmful to a child as losing her mother. He was 100% correct, as he is more often than not.

My father, eminent oncologist and hematologist and esteemed researcher that he is, is not without flaws.  His work is never very far from his mind. he can be mid-conversation with one of us about something fairly significant, and his eyes will get this look that they always get when a revelation of some sort comes to him. He walks away and goes immediately to his computer, types in information, does whatever it is he does with his data, and comes back half an hour or so later, having forgotten that an important conversation was ever taking place. He does the same thing in social settings, although under those circumstances he does politely excuse himself mid-conversation before walking away.  People who know him well have come to expect this of him. It makes the behavior no less irritating, but we know it will happen.

The funny thing about this is that he hates all medical TV shows, and has a particular loathing for House, MD, which is still around in reruns.  (It's not unusual for people of a particular profession to find flaws with any TV show relate to their field. My cousin who is a District Attorney hates  Law and Order and all its spinoffs. Another cousin who's a firefighter hates Chicago Fire. These programs supposedly have actual people from the field advising them on technical aspects of the profession, but those expert consultants  apparently are not allowed enough input, as it's practically a law of nature that doctors detest medical dramas in particular.) Anyway, my dad said House  jumped the shark with the very first episode: that the whole premise of having a diagnostics department with several highly paid doctors, who collectively deal with only one patient at a time, would bankrupt a hospital in a matter of months. He's probably right about that part. Additionally, he was fond of screaming stuff like, "A protozoa is not a fungus, you moron! Who writes this garbage, anyway? Someone with a sixth-grade education?"

The one thing that House got right, though, at least as comparing Dr. House himself to my dad, was the way House would be talking to someone -- usually Wilson or Cuddy -- and something they said would trigger something in his mind. He'd get that weird look in his eyes, he'd walk away, and then he'd immediately cure the patient of the mystery illness. In my dad's case, it's not quite so dramatic; he walks away, types something into his computer, re-configures data, and maybe somewhere two years down the road someone will be saved as a result of his inspiration. Still, it's a similarity, and acquaintances outside the family have even pointed it out.

Another manifestation of my dad's humanity is his vocabulary. By this, I don't mean that he speaks in monosyllabic words or sounds like a hillbilly. What I do mean is that words most of us would consider profanities are far from foreign to him. He managed to restrain himself reasonably well until my brother and I were about six. He considered that, for some arbitrary justification, to be the age of reason.That was the age, he decided, that Matthew and I could hear naughty words on a regular basis and understand that just because he said them did not give us license to use the words ourselves. For the most part, it worked. My mother, who was still pretty sick at the time, didn't have the energy to fight it. She merely told us, "I know Daddy says those words, but they're adult words, and if I catch you or hear of you saying them, you'll have your mouth washed out with soap." That was all it took to keep us from turning into the verbal equivalent of miniature sailors. By the time we were in high school he even unleashed his full vocabulary in front of our friends. They thought he was absolutely hilarious and wanted to hang out at our house all the time.

Up to this point, I've mostly illustrated what a flawed human being my father is. There is far more to him than just his flaws, though.  When I had multiple fractures from a freak hurdling accident about three years ago, he was at my bedside all night every night until I was released from the hospital. He even had me moved into a larger room so he could set up a miniature work station in my hospital room and be there most of the daytime as well. When a nurse mistreated me during that hospital stay, he used his influence (which was unusual for him; he doesn't take his influence terribly seriously and doesn't like to throw his weight around) to have her censured and transferred to another floor.  When I had an auto accident last year (THAT WAS NOT MY FAULT!!!), he made other relatives and near-relatives promise to provide round-the-clock coverage at the hospital and not trust the staff to look after me until he and my mom could make it back from Australia.  When I was in third grade and lost a math textbook (to this day I have no clue as to where it could have gone) and my teacher was making my life miserable over it, he personally went to the school office, asked the price of the textbook, forked over the cash, and asked the principal to guarantee that the teacher would stop giving me nightmares about a stupid missing math textbook. When 9-11 happened, he drove nine hours through  heavy traffic from San Diego to the Sacramento area to be at home with his family. When CPS showed up at our house because (it's along story recounted elsewhere) I had strange bruises on my bottom from sitting on my brother's Mardi Gras beads all the way from Las Vegas to  a place near Fresno. and a junior pervert girl looking over the bathroom stall saw them  and reported it to the office,  he first tried to bribe me to show the CPS worker my body, then, even after he had to restrain me so that she could look, gave me the money he had offered anyway, and let me stay home from school that day and watch videos and eat pizza for lunch because he knew I was traumatized by having a stranger who was not a medical professional look at my nude body. When the thugs propelled the rock and brick through my window with a high-powered slingshot the night after I was attacked, he was on a plane from New York  two hours later and was home before the sun was up even though the conference for which he had paid thousands of dollars to attend still had two remaining days.

My dad has been there for me when I needed him most. Though I don't even like to think about it, as my father right now to me seems ageless-- someone who will never grow old -- I hope I can do the same for him when he needs me.

It was past  Father's Day in Hawaii when I finished this, but, if my understanding is correct, it's still June 16 @ 11:14 in Pago Pago, Samoa, so I made my deadline.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

depression by any other name, though my mom says it's situational rather than clinical depression, whatever the hell difference that makes

I've never been a huge Carpenters' fan, although I think Karen's voice was lovely. I wasn't around when this song came out,or, for that matter, when Karen Carpenter was alive, but the song  suits my state of mind right now.

Does the course of true love ever run straight and smoothly? For that matter, does the course of true like  ever run without all sorts of twists, rapids, and hidden and unexpected drop-offs?  I'm not sure where my relationship with Jared falls  I would have said somewhere between like and love, which I believe is a song title, but it wasn't a song I especially wanted to hear tonight, since I'm less certain of our relationship than I was before the evening began.

The weeks finals have taken their toll on me, and I haven't been up to doing much of anything since Wednesday evening. nevertheless, I dragged myself out of bed, showered, put on actual clothing, and dried and straightened my hair, as Jared has never seen me with curls, and I wasn't ready for a total freak-out on his part. I may as well have stayed in bed and slept, which is what I felt more like doing anyway, as he did a complete no-show.  Also a no-call, no-explanation, and no apology, I might add.  I would not have minded so much had I not gotten out of bed and made myself presentable when it was the last thing I actually felt like doing, but I did it anyway because it was a previous obligation.  s of this morning when we spoke briefly on the phone, his visit was still on.

My mother says that I need to do two things. The first, she says, is to give Jared a bit of a break, as he's going through all sorts of emotional struggles at the moment, with his father still not speaking to him, his parents' marriage still suffering a bit as a result, and the only religion he's ever known somewhat turning its back on him. She also says I need not to put too many of my eggs in Jared's basket, so to speak. I should not allow him to think he owns me or that I can't find anyone else to date if he stands me up or otherwise flakes out on me. Time will tell, my mother says, whether or not Jared is decent long-term relationship material, but at this point in time he has shown himself to be  more than a little flaky. She says the two of us have all the time in the world to sort that out, but that by limiting myself to dating him, I'm giving him the idea that I have no other options, and it's not a good thing for him to think, whether he has my name tattooed on his arm or not.

What my mom is ignoring is that the boys who are my age or older are just graduating from high school. They'll hit the university campus in the fall, but even when they do, I'll still look a bit like jail bait to them.  I don't need to get too heavily involved with anyone right at this moment, as medical school (ideally) or law school (if medical school doesn't work out or if I chicken out at the last minute) will happen in just over a year most likely. Between that, I have relatively few difficult courses but two different senior recitals on which to concentrate. A serious relationship that makes concentrating on my recitals and makes it tough to leave town to attend whatever program I end up in will not be an asset to my future. Still, I need someone with whom I can attend an occasional event, or just to hang out with so  I don't turn into a hermit.

Freshman boys, bring it on!  I'm waiting.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

never made it to the beach / time for a new edition of column

I haven't been able to come up with enough energy to make it down the stairs,much less back up. My mom has been delivering food to a sitting area or loft just off our staircase (I don't allow food in my bedroom) three times a day. At some point I eat it,then go back to sleep. It's an exciting life I lead  Anyway, for the most recent edition of ASK ALEXIS:


What if a male's penis is too large in circumference to fit inside a female's vagina?


In cases of casual relationships, there are plenty of both male and female fish in the sea. In cases of committed relationships, dilation therapy or even surgery can alleviate the problem to some degree.


Does sex hurt?


Ask the author of Question #1.

CreditMy mother's best friend's husband, who teaches middle school science, in which human reproduction is covered, gave me a few choice questions from the proverbial "Question Box," into which middle-schoolers may submit anonymous questions.

Friday, June 14, 2013

people who follow you and then don't, Judge Alex Ferrer in this case

Judge Alex used to follow me on Twitter. Then he deleted me without notice or explanation. I just happened to notice it.  I don't know why he did, but it was apparently easy as a click of a button. I happened to notice that now he doesn't follow me. It wouldn't bother me if he had never followed me, but when he followed me and then deleted me, it got to me.  I never sent PMs except twice in response to ones he sent. I tried not to bother him.  It was more trouble on his part to delete me than to just leave it alone. I wonder why he went to the trouble of deleting me.  I've gone back and forth on the "he's a nice guy/no, he  isn't" pendulum enough times that almost anyone would be dizzy.

He has "fans" who bother them with their asinine remarks almost daily. He continues to follow them. I wonder why? Is there something that they can do for him that I cannot? I really don't know. In many cases, it's not because they're especially good-looking, because many, in fact most of them are not. Even considering their ages, they're not physically attractive. Many are grossly overweight if not morbidly obese. Some of them show up at events where he will appear almost to the point that they are practically stalkers.  I don't do any of such things. If I did, would he like me better? I cannot help wondering.

I don't  really believe  it's the perception of being a pedophile that causes him to distance himself further from me than he was in the first place. I am eighteen now, and furthermore, I never threw myself at him in any way, much less in the way that some of those whom he follows do.  Nor do I believe his wife went through his list and deleted anyone who was pretty, because if such were the case, I'd still be on his list. I'm not butt-ugly, but neither am I beauty queen material.

Either he or someone else, and I believe it was he, because I choose to believe he controls his own Twitter followers, made a conscious choice to click a button and un-follow me.  I cannot help taking it personally. I did nothing to earn his wrath or even his rejection. Perhaps if I were to convince my father to dedicate his next journal article to Judge Alex, he would follow me again. Or, for that matter, my godfather is an owner of a very large dairy operation. If I begged hard enough, I could possibly get him to name an entire dairy cow line after the Judge and his progeny, or after various aspects of his TV operation.  Since dairy cows are female, they would have to be  "Alejandra," "Masonia," etc., and I could incorporate his family names in as well, although I don't know how his wife would feel about having a heifer named after her. If I were she, I wouldn't be crazy about the idea.

Regardless, I would never stoop to such levels. If he will only like me if I manage to have journal articles about multiple myeloma dedicated to him or dairy cattle named after him, he was never really even my "Twitter" friend, much less my real-life friend.  Maybe it's different with the middle-aged women who drool over him.  Perhaps their adulation boosts them over the top to the extent that he actually likes them. Somehow I think if I did that, though, even were it not beneath my dignity, I think it would creep him out.  Maybe if my family were a Nielson rating family, he would ignore the"creep out" factor and not kick me off his list of people he follows. I'll never know, though, because my family is not among the elite few whose choices impact what stays on TV and what goes off for the entire nation. I'm merely a lone unimportant eighteen-year-old girl or woman.

I can't help wondering if Judge Alex has any idea that a simple click of a button actually hurts a person's feelings. I've read and heard that the true measure of a person's character can be measured in how he treats someone who is not in a position to do anything for him or her. If such is the case, Judge Alex's character comes up short.   

ASK ALEXIS: Alexis answers your questions about sex from the perspective of a person who has no practical experience but who knows how to read and uses that ability, in addition to a very slight degree of common sense, to access the Internet for answers to you questions.

The real Dr. Drew

the uneducated, inexperienced, female Dr. Drew

Author's note: These are actual questions found at various Internet sites, paraphrased to protect the guilty [ of plagiarism].  Obviously, the seriousness of the askers is open to debate.

Question # 1:

       My wife is pregnant. We do not yet know if the baby is a boy or a girl.  If the baby is a girl, is there a possibility that I could impregnate the baby while having sex with my wife?

Alexis' Answer:

The cervix in almost all cases will remain firmly closed during pregnancy, as will the junction between the cervix and the uterus. Both have been known in rare cases, due to low human chorionic gonadotropin levels, to remain open just enough to allow sperm to enter a woman's body and, again due to low HCG levels, to fertilize an ovum that normally wouldn't be present during pregnancy. This is rare, but does happen, and is known as superfetation. (I am the product of a twin conception that occurred due to superfetation.)

Your question concerning impregnating a female fetus, however, is quite another matter. I suppose if your wife happened to be carrying a fetus that was already sexually mature and your timing was just right, the impossible could happen. Moreover, what if that baby were also carying a female fetus who was also sexually mature and in her fertile phase? And what about that fetus? What if she, too, were female,  sexually mature, and she, too were nearing ovulation at the time of intercourse? You could become a great-grandfather within months of the time your original daughter was born.  Furthermore, you would be not only  Baby #3's great-grandfather, but her grandfather and father as well. Unless you have some spectacular genetics working in your favor, which your original questions clearly illustrate is not the case, you could be dealing with children who would make the Ozarks characters in Deliverance seem like creatures of Einstein-calibre intelligence. You would set new world records for consanguinity and its resulting intelligence deficits that would decimate those records previously established by the British monarchy in the 16th and 17th centuries, or the polygamous cults of the twin cities of Colorado city/Hilldale, and Eldorado Texas.

On a more serious note, have you completed, or even begun seventh grade science? Are you not aware that even when fetuses are born with more mature primary and secondary sexual characteristics than is the norm, still they are not anywhere close to capable of conceiving offspring of their own even if all other factors are ripe for such to happen, which would be a super-colossal if.

Not only should you not have sex with your wife when she is pregnant, but you should never ever have sex again for the rest of your life with anything or anyone. Do not even masturbate, on the outside chance that the by-product might somehow make its way somwhere it might cause fertilization with something or someone and create new life, if that is what it's technically called when the organism's brain,  even on the outside chance it defies  all laws of nature and is born with a  brain,  is clinically dead.  Your idiocy is of such a level that you should take no chances even with the possibility of impregnating a lizard,  although no known fertilization between the human and lizard populations has ever occurred, as should a "miracle" happen, the lizard population would soon become too stupid to survive, which would have irrevocably harmful effects on the food chain.  Your sexual activity has apparently alreday resulted in the creation of one offspring, which is one too many.  More than one offspring spawned by you could have serious repercussions on the future of the human race. I recommend castration.

Question #2:

    When masturbating with a cucumber, is it necessary to use a condom?

Alexis' Answer:

If anyone intends to eat the cucumber later, absolutely.

Note: Please submit questions so that Alexis is not forced to scour the Internet for them, unless you happen to like the Internet questions Alexis has been able to find thus far.