Monday, April 29, 2013

The Fallout

What's going on in Jared's life is a whole lot more interesting than anything happening to me, so I'll share a few of his details.  Those of you who read last night/this morning's blog know that he had my name tattooed on his bicep because missionaries aren't supposed to have tattoes.  All hell broke loose.  His father said he's not paying for Jared's education. I'm not sure how Jared's paternal grandmother heard about what his father said so fast, since she's all the way in Utah while both Jared and his father are in California, but Jared's mom and Jared's paternal grandmother said almost simultaneously that if his father won't pay for his education, they will

Stephanie, Jared's mom, said every bit of money they have is half hers, and if she needs to go to court to prove it, she will. Furthermore, she handles their personal finances and oversees his medical practice finances as well.  I'd hate to see their marriage disintegrate over something as stupid as either a mission or a tattoo, but they've weathered worse than this as a couple. This , too shall pass. Jared's dad can be a jerk at times, and sometimes it takes him awhile to come to his senses.

My brother Matthew has what he thinks is  a great idea, which is to get as many males -- maybe even a few females --  Mormon, half-Mormon, or otherwise, to show up at Jared's student ward this Sunday wearing suits with short-sleeve shirts. Halfway through the service, everyone would take off their suit jackets to reveal realistic-loooking fake tattoos that all said "Alexis."

My mom told Matthew it was a terrible idea because when ladies were going to wear pants to church for one week just awhile ago, it practically caused an apocalypse. Mormons take insurrection very seriously.  If Matthew were talking about doing this in Jared's parents' ward here, I'd agree with my mom. In a student ward, however, almost anything goes. Furthermore, if most of the people with the fake tattoos won't even be LDS; what's the worst thing that could happen to them?  Fast and Testimony meeting meeting would probably be interrupted while  all the tattooed people were tossed out, but at least it would give the rest of those in attendance something to talk about.  Usually one leaves Sacrament Meeting   Fast and Testimony or otherwise, remembering absolutely nothing, because it's so much the same as last week and the week before and the week before that. etc.  Kotex Head incidents are few and far between.

Jared's mom and my mom both think it would be a bad idea for him to come here [to this city] this weekend, so he's staying in LA. My pseudoaunt's younger brother, Tim, who's practically related to him, has volunteered to host him for the weelend. Matthew will join them after his baseball game on Saturday. They'll do bachelor things. Hopefully they won't get anymore tattoos.

For anyone who heard the Gordon Lightfoot song I posted on my last blog entry, isn't it arguably the prettiest song ever written about a tattoo?

Whatever you think of me, I'm still your friend, with or without a tattoo.

Risking the wrath of Uncle Scott, Jared sent me another video, along with a message that he had a tattoo bearing my name applied to his upper arm. He's probably the first person in his family on either side of a long line of Mormons who date all the way back to the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to have gotten a tattoo. The significance of the tattoo is that now Jared cannot go on a mission. LDS missionaries, at least in the US culture, do not sport tattoos. It's conceivable that at some later date the tattoo could be removed, and Jared could repent and still serve his mission. It won't happen anytime soon, though, and probably won't happen at all.

Gossip travels fast in Mormon student congregations even at UCLA. Jared's bishop got wind of the tattoo, called Jared in to see it for himself, and promptly called Jared's father, telling him the mission is a no go. (This is one of my major issues with the LDS church. Jared, at  eighteen, is a legal adult.  Why did an ecclesiastical authority feel the need to inform Jared's father of his son's most egregious sin,  which isn't a violation of any state or local law -- only a Mormon law. For that matter,  it's a damned tenuous "Mormon law" he broke. Some random "prophet" has a "revelation" that tattoos are bad, and BOOM! It's a commandment! Jared didn't break any of the ten commandments except possibly #5, "Honor thy parents," and that one was broken only in the vaguest sense. At some point a young man's body ceases to be the property of his parents, and if he chooses a piercing or a tattoo, it's not dishonoring one's parent; it's self expression. Does a parent have a son (sorry to be crude) by the testicles until the day either the parent or child dies by hanging the threat of the fifth commandment and the consequences of its violation over the son's head for as long as the parent can speak? In a civilized society, I would certainly hope not.  

By now the bird poop has hit the fan.  Jared's father wanted him to come home tonight. Jared refused to go, as he has classes for the rest of the week, and he didn't feel like fighting traffic along US 101 just to be screamed at in person, then to have to fight traffic back down US 101 to get back to campus. It seemed like a waste of both time and gasoline.

I'm sending along the video Jared sent me. It's of a Gordon Lightfoot song about a guy who had too much to drink, then went into a tattoo parlour and had a woman's name tattooed somewhere on his body. The melody to me doesn't fit the subject matter of the song. It sounds more like a tune for a song about the Duchess of Wales' new baby, or maybe about Jesus feeding the mutitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish. The melody is just too dolce to be about a tattoo. Regardless, it's Gordon Lightfoot's song, and I supose he can write it about anything he wants. At least it's not about a shipwreck in which twenty-nine people lost their lives.

So it appears Jared has made his decision, and in a unique way, I might add. I applaud his creativity as I applaud his courage in doing what he feels is best for his own life despite considerable pressure to do otherwise.  My only regret in the entire matter is, first, that he felt that a tattoo was his only way out of serving a mission, and second, that it is my name tattooed on his arm. Only God knows, if even He knows, where Jared  and I will be relationship-wise in ten years.

I hope Jared's father considers one point. What if it hadn't occurred to Jared to get a tattoo to avoid serving a mission? What if Jared had taken a more drastic step?  Jared would not have been the first young LDS man to take his own life to avoid serving a mission, or to do the same because he couldn't cope with the craziness once he found himself in the mission environment.  Jared's father should be thanking the God he worships that he still has a living, breathing son, even if that son does have the name "Alexis" emblazoned across his right bicep.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Favorite Music Videos

This list probably changes everyday, but that's not necessarily a reason not to put it into print.  For the most part, I have to like the song in order to like the video, but there are a few exceptions. Unlike others of my generation, I don't necessarily agree with them that, even though technology has improved, today's videos are superior to those of a few years ago. Anyway, here it goes.

"Pon de Floor" by Major Lazor. It's just too bizarre not to love. I find something new in it each time I read it, similar to when I read the Bible. I'm not suggesting that "Pon de Floor" is scripture or anything like the Bible, so please don't start casting stones at me. I was merely making an analogy.

"Like a Prayer" by Madonna. The Queen of Pop is in top form, but it's the gospel choir that makes this video.

"Just" by Radiohead. It's classic Radiohead, and there's even a bit of a plot.

"You Can Call me Al" by Paul Simon. Chevy Chase lip syncs hilariously while Paul Simon plays along on a large bongo. At one point he appears to prepare to sing, but Chevy hogs the mike. It's hard to explain why this is funny but it is. The contrast in size between Paul Simon and Chevy Chase adds to the hilarity of it.

"Bad Day"  by Daniel Powter. It's a good song with a video featuring a boy who almost meets a girl about a thousand times through each of their consecutive respective bad days until they actually make contact, all going down in Times Square. Daniel Powter pops up at odd times with his piano in Times Square just to add to the ambience.

"100 Years" by Five for Fighting. The song is deep, and the video is deep. I love the way John Ondrasik has grand pianos placed in bizarre locations - on beaches, deserts, etc. It always reminds me of a couple of years ago when some moron carried a grand piano by boat out to a sandbar in Biscayne Bay, then had his friends torch it. Why torch it?  Someone could have held  a hell of a concert out there until the waves got too high. I like almost any video by Five for Fighting.

"Down to the River to Pray" by Alison Krauss. There are scads of videos of this, but my favorite is from the movie  O Brother, Where Art Thou. 

"The Scientist" by Coldplay. The video features Chris matin waking up from an auto accident. It's bizarre but good.

"Bohemian Rhapsody"by Queen. The song gives any videographer so much with which to work, and it seems as though the tendency would be to overdo it, but in this case it is, if anything, understated.

"Good Riddance" by Green Day.  I love the song. I understand the song itself is about a breakup and is really intended to be somewhat mocking and ironic, but is often taken more literally.  The video features the singer and various others with totally blank, mindless expressions on their faces. I'm not sure I get it, but I like it.

"Sister Christian" by Night Ranger. It's old-style and cliche, with a beautiful but pious Catholic girl getting tired of watching the good life pass her by, and eventually gives in and takes off with the fun group.  The video has some great nun scenes. Not that anyone ever accused music videos of overdoing reality, but I don't think Catholic school has been quite like this since the mid 60's. Maybe the song's that old. I really don't know. I do like it, though.

"Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's. It's a bit cliche, also, but it's sweet in its own way. I probably actually like the song more than the video. It reminds me of a girl my mom has helping her with our cleaning.  The girl actually married the musician after getting pregnant at 17, then had another baby. They're still together, but he's on the road trying to make enough money to support the four of them, and, at the age of 19,  she's cleaning houses with one baby in a backpack and another in a playpen. I don't think he has any idea how heavily the odds are stacked against him actually getting anywhere in the music business, but I have to give him credit for trying, and what do I know , anyway? Maybe he will make it. My mom would like to get the girl in college. My mom's afraid they'll split and she'll have no job skills except scrubbing showers and toilets. It's a tough situation. I wish them all the luck in the world, as they're going to need it. This really has little to do with the song or the video, but I'm just typing as thoughts come out of my mind to my fingers.

"November Rain" by Guns 'n Roses. The song is beautiful and the video is basically perfect. I can't say more.

Post script: Jared still hasn't received his mission call and it's driving him nuts. typically it would havecome about ten days ago. Maybe thy're saving a really special spot for him, like Antarctia. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

ain't much an old college girl like me can't hack

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,
I pull out my fiddle and I resin up the bow.
The [nonexsistant] kids are asleep, so I keep it kinda low;
Thank God I'm NOT a country girl.

When I finished the very last of my memorization tonight, I did something I haven't done at any length for quite some time, which was to play my violin. I don't play it nearly as often as I should, especially since the professor of my "Strings" class and my academic counselor think it would be wise for me to tack a violin performance major onto my existing piano performance major.

Doing so will be a bit of a stretch. I haven't had tons of formal instruction. My mom has been my only teacher, and while she's a great musician, she doesn't play the violin with the skill that she plays piano or sings. She's not unskilled; it just was never her major instrument.

I don't have my mom's level of technique at violin, but I achieve a naturally better sound with any song I learn to play than she does. I just don't learn to play songs as easily as she does because I lack the foundation.  She just looks at the music and plays the songs. I have to work out the fingering.

I'll need to improve my skill level to the extent that I will be able to sightread on violin at least a little bit, as I will be required to do so as a violin performance major.  Playing the works I'll need to play for my senior recital next year won't be such a challenge, as I can learn things in advance easily enough. It's just the sightreading that will hold me back a bit.  It's not the most important component of anything on which I will be adjudicated, but I will need to sightread with at least minimal proficiency before a faculty panel.

All things considered, I wish I'd learned cello instead of violin, as the sound a cello produces is such a thing of beauty. I suppose there's plenty of time for that later. If my Godparents ask me what I want as a gift for college graduation next year, I'll ask for a cello. That sounds greedy of me to ask for such a pricy gift, as I would want a good cello if I got a cello at all, but it's in the price range of what they would have spent anyway. Just asking for it hints of a sense of entitlement.

My academic adviser from the university counseling department says  standard pre-med curriculum majors with dual majors in violin performance  tacked on have a better chance, for some reason unbeknonwst to me, of gaining admission to quality medical schools and to prime residency positions, assuming they have high GPAs and MCAT scores as compared to the competition. Had I known that earlier, I might have scrapped the piano performance major, but I've gone far enough with piano that I may as well take the major to its completion. It will still presumably be  advantageous to have piano and violin to add to my math/science pre-med curriculum major.

It was about at this point that my mom's full voice began to come in,  causing her to spend an extra semester in school (she graduated in 3 1/2 years when it otherwise would have been just three) to complete the voice major.  It appears that's something not happening right away if at all for me. I still have a young girl's voice, which is better than no voice at all, but not good enough for a voice performance major.  I may never really be a singer, or one day I may wake up with a full voice.

Paul, if you're still around, at some point soon I'll post a vocal. You won't be all that impressed. I still sound like a kid,

Regarding my memorization, I feel compelled to offer words of advice. If you're planning to break a bone, there are a few bones you would do well to leave out of this plan. The vertebrae surrounding the upper spinal cord (neck and upper back)  are logical inclusions to this category because of the potential damage to the spinal cord, which is something with which you should not monkey around.

You should not wish to break you maxilla (upper jaw-bone, which extends all the way to the eye socket) because it  heals very slowly and often only with the need of much intervention, surgical and otherwise. Just thinking about it is painful.

Another fracture to avoid is the "Jones' Fracture," which is a fracture of the diaphysis of the fifth metatarsal of the foot. It seems trivial enough, as it's essentially the lower porion of a person's pinky toe, but in a disproportionately high percentage of cases, the bone segments fail to reunite, resultng in treatment of surgery and up to twenty weeks in  a cast. Think about it: surgery and twenty weeks in a cast, on crutches to keep your weight off it,  just for breaking your pinky toe, and even then it's sometimes a chronic problem that's never fully healed.

I'm gaining increasing respect for my dad, my uncles Steve and Michael, my aunt Joanne, and my uncle Scott, because all have made it through medical school, yet none of them are hypochondriacs.  I'm finding that just the pre-med stuff is making me paranoid. I feel every symptom about which I either read or hear about in a lecture.

My opening quotation was a slightly paraphrased version of an old John Denver hit actually written by his fiddler and guitarist John Summers. the penultimate quotation is Randy Newman's theme from the TV series Monk. I find it most ftting in light of all the things I'm learning in pre-med. I shudder slightly at the thought of what medical school has in store for me.

It's a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well I do
Hey, who's in charge here?
It's a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what's in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it's amazing
People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don't think so!
'Cause there's a jungle out there.
It's a jungle out there

All paranoia aside, my hard work for the quarter has been done.  

Hallelujah! Hallelujah
!Hallelujah! HallelujahHalle-lu-jah! 
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle-lu-jah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world is become
The kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!
And of His Christ!
And He shall reign forever and ever!
And He shall reign forever and ever!
And he shall reign forever and ever!
And he shall reign forever and ever!
King of Kings!
Forever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords!
Forever and Ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings! 
Forever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords! 
Forever  and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings!
Forever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!And Lord of Lords!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
And He shall reign
And He shall reign
And He shall reign!
And He shall reign forever and ever!
King of Kings!
Forever and ever!
And Lord of Lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And He shall reign forever and ever
King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
And He shall  reign forever and ever!
Forever and ever and ever and ever!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Pardon my irrevernt if not outrightly blasphemous use of Handel's scripture-based "Hallelujah Chorus" from his "Messiah" oratorio, but I'm so freaking elated to be finished with the workload from this quarter than nothing else can adequately express how I'm feeling, unless it was maybe "Everybody have fun tonight! Everybody Wang Chung tonight!"

I wish for everyone  a reason to feel as happy as I feel at this moment.

#  The non-artist still known as Alexis

Friday, April 26, 2013

lies, liars, and people who confuse rudeness with honesty

I had to take an additional writing test -- this one for the who apply to graduate programs -- in addition to that MSAT LSAT MCAT, or anything else of that nature.We had three topics from which to choose, and were required to use the testing center's laptops. The tests can be graded more quickly since they can be forwarded to graders immediately. As far as the old hand-written method of composing essays for tests,  graders are weary of attempting to decipher the test-takers' penmanship, and my particular university encourages the disallowance printing on tests reiquiring the writing of text (poetry or prose) because the head honchos here refuse to give up on manuscript.

About the actual topic. . . there were three choices. One  involved the electoral college, as in why it was instituted, why is or isn't it still practical in today's U.S.A., and what changes to it would the writer make if allowed? Another involved population control. Speaking globally, the world is in a precarious overpopulation situation. In the United States, however, while resources are still an issue, we're also in a situation where those who work, who pay taxes, and who function productively in society are reproducing at a far lower rate than those who do not contribute substantially to our work force. This is obviously not referencing the elderly retired population. What's the answer? Do we go for the short-term solution and improve American society by somehow encouraging the educated the wealthy or educated to have more children, or do we think more globally and try to control our popultion for the benefit of the Earth's resources and deal with the U. S.'s social problems in some other way? Option three involved aspects of lying. It asked for the writer's definition of lying, asked the writer to discuss lying in personal and professional settings, directed the writer to  discuss the absolutes as well as the gray areas of lying, and asked the writer to consider when or if lying might be appropriate or even the right thing to do. It asked the writer to consider the practical and ethical aspects of lying.

I chose option three --lying -- primarily because I felt I would write too much on the other topics. Lying is something I don't like to think about very much because it reminds meof the times I have lied and causes me to feel guilty.

I defined lying as simply propagating an untruth by word or action. The absolutes of lying can involve not telling the truth when one is under oath.  Another absolute aspect of lying would be telling an untruth or allowing others to reach the conclusion when doing so would cause blame that should belong to oneself to fall on another.  Any untruth that harms another, whether physically,professionally, financially, or by personal reputation, would presumably fall under the absolute category of ling.

Gray areas of lying of the not-so-noble kind might include passing around a rumor that one doesn't know to be fact. Even though one does not know for certain that the tale is untrue, neither does the person know with any degree of certainty that it is true.  If it's the sort of rumor that would damage a person's reputation, I would classify it as very dark gray at the lightest. If it's the sort of rumor that damages one's reputation and it turns out that it is true, while the telling of it may be neither necessary, nice, nor right, it's still not a lie, and wouldn't fall into a gray area where honesty is concerned. It's still a character issue, as why would an ethical and moral person need to tell a story in most instances, true or not, solely for the purpose of damaging a person's reputation?

Then come the trivial lies -- ones people call white lies --  intended to spare someone's feelings or perhaps spare someone from facing consequences when doing so wouldn't really cause  great deal of harm. Each person has to determine the parameters for himself or herself.  What if the lie is intended to spare someone embarrassment? Is one really obligated to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when reporting his or her weight at the DMV for one's driver's license? On the other hand, if the lie is to spare oneself from consequence, it's really not in the gray area for the most part. It happens all the time, and maybe little will come of it, but it's still not a morally upstanding thing to do.

What does one do when teaching honesty to children? If a parent frequently lies in front of a child, the child will eventually recognize that some of the things the parent says are untrue. The child will then learn either that the parent is a liar or that it is permissable to lie when it suits one to do so.

On the other hand, it is possible for a parent to teach honesty at the expense of tact. There is a difference between honesty and discourtesy. One young child I know is fond of pointing out overweight people she sees in public and loudly announcing her classification of the person as overweight. ("Fat" is the actual world she uses.) The mother gives a smile that appears halfway between apologetic and believing that her child's behavior is  cute. "I teach her to be honest, " she explains to the offended person. No, lady, you teach your kid to be rude. Just because a person, child or adult, believes something to be true does not mke it dishonest not to proclaim it loudly, particularly when it is offensive or will embarrass someone or hurt the person's feelings. I'm almost looking forward to kindergarten, when some other child decks the kid for something rude or hurtful she says.

In summation, it is [basically] always wrong to lie under oath. (There was an instance on a repeat of Judging Amy when either Amy or her mom lied on the witness stand to keep a kid out of trouble who killed a felon who was attempting to harm Amy's family. I thought it was justified.** Those instances are few and far betweeen,however.)  It is wrong to lie when your lie places blame that should belong to you or your friend upon someone else. It is wrong to lie about faithfulness to one's spouse or significant other. It is wrong to lie for business or financial gain, especially at someone else's expense. Similarly, it is wrong as well as illegal to lie in advertising. It is wrong to lie to damage someone's reputation. It is wrong to lie in any situation in which your lie will harm someone else for any reason.

If your friend is thinking of starting a  cupcake business and you happen to know that the cupcakes she makes taste like cow manure, you are not under obligation to volunteer that information, but, if asked, perhaps you would be doing the friend a kindness to suggest that her recipe or technique be altered a bit.  Your friend may not like hearing this, as his or her ego may be severely harmed by your reply. It's up to you to make a decision as to whether or not your relationship can withstand the truth, or whether you would prefer for your friend to be angry with you for awhile as opposed to going bankrupt due to a failed business venture.

What do you do if you know the spouse of a friend is being unfaithful? The answer here may depend upon multiple factors. How close to you is the friend? Are you equally close to the spouse?  Is the friend asking you point-blank, or is this simply information to which you are privy but the spouse is not? Bear in mind that if it is unsolicited information you're giving out, chances are that the bearer of bad news may receive the bulk of the blame. Are you prepared to lose the friendship over this?  Can you possibly persuade the spouse to tell your friend, possibly by telling the spouse that you will tell if the spouse has not informed your friend by the relatively short deadline that you give? Then, if the spouse doesn't tell, you can decide if you meant what you said or if you were bluffing.  On the other hand, if the friend finds out that you knew and didn't tell, you might be blamed for that as well. In some cases you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Where children are concerned, it's best not to lie in their presence, especially before they're past the concrete operational stage. Most likely they'll hear you making a phony excuse as to why you can't go somewhere or do something. If you're really lucky, they won't contradict you on the spot.  Be prepared with a really credible explanation to your child as to the reason for your words or you'll undo years of good teaching in one fell swoop.  It's also wise to teach children that keeping one's mouth shut when one sees someone with funny-looking hair or a glass eye is not akin to lying.  Being truthful does not require one to loudly announce his or her opinion about everything or everyone he or she sees. I know many adults who hav yet to master this concept.

Everyone lies. Some people are really good at it. Others aren't smart enough to be successful liars. Still others are too stupid to know when to throw in the towel on an attempt at a lie. When you're caught in the liquor cabinet and you've already consumed a drink or two, only an incredibly stupid or gullible parent is going to fall for the lie you make up about dusting off all the bottles because you're worried about the dust affecting someone's allergies. Similarly, if your parents attach a GPS that tracks your every move to your car, don't say you were at the library when you were at a party. Instead, park your car in the parking lot closest to the library and walk if it's close, or otherwise take public transportation to the party.

If your child is one of those obnoxious brats who loudly points out every physical difference he or she observes in anyone, be prepared for a lot of dirty looks and rude comments for the present, and stock up on ice packs and band-aids or consider home-schooling once the child reaches school attendance age.

Incidentally, what I wrote here was not what I wrote on my writing exam. I did want to pass, after  all, in the event I  choose to enter a graduate program at my present school.

I have only  about threemore hours of memorization ahead of me. Yippee!

** Judge Amy was fictional, by the way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making News Out of Nothing at All

I offer my apologies to the 70's or 80's group Air Supply for the paraphrase of the title of one of their hit songs, and also for associating their song with the Jodi Arias trial.  Other than it being a slow news quarter-of-a-year until the Boston Marathon shooting came along, and we seem to quickly be losing interest in that and going back to the Arias trial, I can think of nothing other than the idea that many of us are inappropriately attracted to morbid crime.  I admit that I've watched more of the gruesome mess than I can excuse, although part of it is my fascination with the weirdness that is Madame LaViolette.

Alyce LaViolette is a piece of work, to say the least.  She's weird-looking to begin with, which I probably shouldn't hold against her, yet her bizarre appearance cannot help adding to my total fascination with her.  Added to that is my opinion that at least half of the words that come out of her mouth are ludicrous.  Furthermore, she gives off the strangest of vibes. If I enrolled up in a class and showed up to find someone who looked, spoke, and conducted himself or herself as does Madame Laviolette, I'd seriously consider dropping the course even if it delayed my graduation or if the word on the street were that it was the easiest A on campus.

Somewhere on the vast World Wide Web, chances are that once can find some sort of Alyce La Violette Fan Club.  Suffice it to say that I'm not a member.

I'm watching HLN right now. A program, "After Dark: Jodi Arias Trial"  is currently airing. It features a mock jury and a couple of hosts that are strongly opposed to the idea that the murder of Travis Alexander was premeditated. I don't know how many rocks HLN had to dig up and look under to find so many mock jurors who seem to believe much of what Jodi Arias has to say. I suppose it's only fair, though, since so muh of HLN's coverage of the trial has been heavily biased (though not without reason in my opinion) against Jodi Arias.

I need to forget about Jodi Arias for a few hours in order to commit to memory what was discussed in class today regarding a difficult chapter of my Physics of Fractures textbook. Once I have completed that task, which should take me a few hours tonight and tomorrow night, I will have cause to celebrate. I hope that in a few short days, the late Travis Alexander's family and friends will have similar cause for celebration, although a "Guilty" verdict, even of the gravest charge on the table, is hardly cause for legitimate celebration. It won't bring Travis back.

I'm not idealizing Travis in death beyond what he was in life. He appeared to be a man, though well-loved by many, who was of questionable character. Still, he did nothing to deserve to die, and certainly not in the heinous manner of death chosen by Ms. Arias.

Still, is this really news on a national scale? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Theodore Seuss Geisel

I don't think I've ever shared before just how deeply I am in love with the works of Dr. Seuss. I own  fairly large collection of his books. My parents still get me one I don't yet own for every Christmas and birthday. I also purchase them on my own on occasion, but not near Christmases or birthdays because I want to avoid duplication.   I keep them neatly stacked in a bookcase in alphabetical order in my bedroom. My parents have repeatedly offered to make room for the Dr. Seuss volumes in their own library, but I want them in my own room.

 Someday, assuming nothing else goes out of print and becomes ridiculously expensive before I've collected it, I hope to own every book ever written by him, including the ones written under other pseudonyms. Ones that he has written but not illustrated are published under Theo LeSieg, which is, of course, the backward spelling of his actual last name, Geisel.  Suess, his middle name, was his mother's maiden name. Interestingly enough, the correct pronunciation  of is is /soiss/. He original labored to have his number one pseudonym pronounced correctly, but eventually gave up in his effort.

Sr. Seuss first began using Seuss as a synonym because  he was for some reason banned from writing for a publication at Dartmouth, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He continued to contribute to the publication, though under a synonym.

Dr. Seuss went to Oxford University in England to earn his doctorate, but met and fell in love with a woman, so instead returned to the United States and married her. he never officially earned a doctorate, though he must have possessed a truckload of honorary doctorates by the time of his death, which was, I believe, in 1991.

While Dr. Seuss professed liberal political leanings and was a registered democrat (he once rewrote
Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now with the name Richard M. Nixon inserted in each place where "Marvin K Mooney" had been. That alone would make me love the guy as an author even if he had written nothing else of significance.

While his political ideology may have been liberal, I suspect the agenda of Dr. Seuss with most of his books was more about getting people -- children in particular -- to think than to persuade them to believe one way or another. A couple notable exceptions to this, are The Butter Battle Book, which is clearly anti-war and especially a treatise against nuclear power and [my personal favorite] The Lorax, which clearly has an environmental message. For the most part, though, I think he was deliberately open-ended.

Not everyone likes the works of Dr. Seuss. Some people find  the rhyme scheme and the meter usually employed -- anapestic tetrameter --  to be monotonous.  Some elementary school teachers have told me they dislike many of the works because the language is unnatural. They're slightly missing the point in my opinion. The language of poetry is, by nature, unnatural. Anyone who disagrees should compose a lengthy rhyming poem. We'll all dissect it afterward to determine the natural flow of the poem's language.

Furthermore, the natural flow of language should matter only in the Dr. Seuss books for the very earliest readers. (After the earliest stage, the readers should have sufficient vocabulary and reading skills not to require extremely heavy context in order either to decode or to comprehend literature.) Books for early readers should have built-in cues on which young readers can pick up. One such method of creating such cues is making the language very predictable and adding pictures that practically give the words away. Another method of making text predictable is to  employ the technique of rhyme. It's difficult to use both methods simultaneously on a very large scale. Again, anyone who thinks otherwise should give it a try. I'd love to see it done well.

A friend of mine teaches preschool for children with special needs. A mother of one of her students complained about  The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in The Hat Comes Back being read aloud to her child.  The mother felt that Thing 1 and Thing 2 plus Little Cats A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc., in addition to the cat himself,  were destructive to the extent it encouraged her child to be naughty. my friend explained to the mother that it was not the children behaving badly -- in fact, they, along with the fish, were appalled at the antics of the cat ant the little creatures.  It was intruders misbehaving. My friend explained both that she always made the point whenever she read the books that one should never let strangers into the house when their parents were not home -- that Sally and the boy (he had no name in the book, but in the movie was called Conrad) were very lucky something much worse didn't happen. It's a good opportunity to remind children that it's dangerous to answer the door when mommy is in the bathroom or wherever.

Furthermore, my friend explained to the mother, the sorts of things the cat, the things, and the little cats did -- standing on a ball while holding a rake and balancing a fishbowl on top of it, or flying kites inside a house, for example, were things that would be difficult for young children to manage if they were under any responsible supervision whatsoever. If a parent goes into his or her bedroom, closes the door, and sleeps for three hours while her two- and four-year-olds have the run of the house,  it's conceivable they might attempt some of the cat's feats, but any parent who would provide such incompetent supervision could hardly blame a book for what destruction his or her toddlers might create in a parent's virtual absence.  And any child legitimately old enough to be left alone who would try such things belongs either in a psych ward or in juvey.

My friend's experience is a reminder that whatever profession one chooses, one will inevitably deal with either batshit crazy or highly ignorant people. but, as my friend pointed out, it's better to deal with one of them than to be one of them.

I digressed in a major way. my point is that if you haven't picked up a Dr. Seuss book recently, find one and read it to a child. It will be time well-spent.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

must be karma biting me in the butt

I wrote a post in which  I spoke ill of, depending upon how one views things, the Lord's anointed, JimBob Duggar. Next thing you know,  old JimBob's a millionaire, but I have a nasty cold with a hacking cough. Then again, perhpas I just caught it from lurking in prison visitors' rooms. Only God knows for certain the cause, and so far, anyway, He's not telling  The worst thing about it is that I'm sick anough that my nose literally needs a tampon in each nostril when I have to use both hands to type or take notes (I was using loose-leaf paper for one class, ans you  need to hold onto it while you write) and I'm sick enough that I make barking seal noises all the way through each class, causing professors and classmates alike to stare at me with  ill intent, but not sick enough to stay home in bed. It's the worst of both worlds.

So either Karma or God is getting even with me, or I've been hanging out with the wrong element by spending too much time lurking in prison waiting rooms.  Personally, I don't care which it is, I just want it either to go away (best case scenario) or get worse so I can stay home and feel sorry for myself for the rotten hand life has dealt me in the past week. I can't be too sick to go to class on Thursday, though, as that is the day my Physics of Fractures professor covers one of the two really complex chapters.

Life will go on, and so will I. I can't do a hell of a lot about the Jared situation, but I hope the bleeping cold at least gets better soon.

Hasta la vista.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Why does a grown man allow himself to be called Jim Bob?

When you're a child, you're given a name. Sometimes you're called that name. Sometimes yu're called by a variation of that name or by a middle name. Sometimes you're called by a nickname that has nothing at all to do with your actual legal first or middle name. When you're very young, ther's not a hell of a lot you can do about it.  our parents are going to call you what they want to call you. In most cases, refusing to answer isn't in your best interest.  If you are "fortunate" enough to have many older siblings, they, too may take liberties with your name in ways of which you ae not fond. Unless your parents wish to do something about it, or unless you're big and strong for your age, you're at a loss to do much about thatm either.

That, however, is when you are a kid. Once you grow up, you have all sorts of options. Sometimes a legal name change is in order. i knew of a uy whose parents named him "Junior;" not "William Jones, Junior" or Samuel Peckham, Junior."   Before "Junior" even graduated from college, he had turned twenty-one, saved his money, and legally changed his name to "John." I would have done the very same thing had I been he.  Another guy I knew was born with the rather unfotunate surname of "Fagg." His parents were determined to live with it, as it was their family heritage. The kid was not. He took money that was in an account intended to fund an LDS mission that fell under his own control the day he turned eighteen, and used the money to  file the paperwork  and pay the fees to legally change his surname. I believe he used his mother's maiden name, which was, I think, "Madsen." I don't know whether or not he ever made it onto his mission after raiding his mission fund to change his name, but I would have done exactly as he did, too.

So the Duggar family lives in a part of the nation where many of us from other locations consider some of their names countrified to the point of being undignified.  "Jim Bob" is one such name. I've never seen Jim Bob Duggar's birth certificate, but i'd be surprised if his legal naem were "Jim Bob," though nothing about the Duggars or anyone else on reality television should surprise me anymore. Anyway, to me it seems more likely that his name is probably something liked "James Robert." Again, I could be wrong. But even if his legal name is "Jim Bob," would any of us hold it against him either to legally change it to something both more grown-up and something more civilized, or, for that matter, simply choosing to call himself a more adult version of one of the names.  "Jim" by itself is probably fine. "Bob" by itself is OK as well. JimBob, however, reeks of unsophistication to my California-born and -bred ears. I cannot understand why a grown man would choose to call himself that or allow himself to be addressed in such a manner regardless of whether it's his legal name. He can't help it if, at family reunions, long-lost cousins approach him and call him by that name. He does not, however, have to use the name when running for state legislature.

The Duggars, on the other hand, may sit around making fun of some of the more hippie-ish California names such as Rainbow and Moon Unit, or the creative Imunique or Nevaeh.

snark that gets a lot more serious

Jared seems to have had a change of heart. He's sending me videos. Here's one he sent

There are so many I'd love to send in return, but I'm not playing that game. Matthew told me I should have sent this old seventies joke of a heartbreaker called "Torn betweeen two lovers, except tell him that in his case it's at least three lovers he's torn between. but I held my tongue, or fingers. He couldn't deal with my silence, so he sent this one.

I deleted on the request of myaunt.

Then he sent the Art Garfunkel one. If  all he knows is that he loves me so much, he has a funny way of showing it.  Furthermore, his grades are in serious peril if that's truly all he knows.

My brother wanted to text him and said that if the next song he texts is that one from the Police or Sting or whoever, "Every Breath You Take," he's seriously calling the police whether Jared is a friend or not. Instead, my pseudouncle Scott, who is his biological uncle, insisted on texting him. I don't know what the message was, but I haven't received another text.

Seriously, why can't the guy just make up his mind. He could have had me -- well, not really had me -- but I would have dated him until he made up his mind about his mission. I would not have agreed to have waited for him because I think that's a bad idea because it's making a promise one can't necessarily keep. Also, it implies marriage is at the end of the rainbow, and that's an implication I'm not sure I can follow through with even if I'm otherwise unencumbered. There's no guarantee, even if it were to end up that we were right for each other, that either one of us would be anywhere near ready for marriage in two years.

Mormon mishies are typically encouraged to be engaged within six months of returning from their missions. Most likely I'll be through year one of medical school when he returns.  That hardly seems like an ideal time to plan and implement a wedding.   Then, should he successfully complete his mission, chances are he'll be a much more devout Latter-Day Saint than he is right now. I can't see him being all that comfortable with marriage to a Catholic. I know it worked out for Scott and Jillian, but Scott had one foot out the door of the church before he ever left for his mission. Maybe Jared does as well, but if such is the case, he'd be better off not going at all. Not everyone is as lucky as Scott was.

Bottom line: I'm kind of taking the same position as girlfriend #2, or would she be #3, since I'm probably technically numero uno? Anyway, it's the non-Mormon other woman of whom I speak, the one who told Jared to get lost and not to call until he decided for certain that he wasn't riding his bicycle all over God knows where handing out sky-blue paperbacks with golden angels blowing horns that look like the ones people take to football games just to be obnoxious, except that the horns, too, are gold like the angels.

I don't wish to be hardhearted. I won't refuse to have a relationship with him when he returns (if he goes) just because he's a more devout Mormon than he presently is, as long as he's OK with me being the way I am and as long as all other factors work out in such a way that it's a good idea for us to have a relationship at the time. Neither will I promise not to date, or even not to fall in love with anyone else while he's gone. My heart belongs to me, as Barbara streisand used to sing, (I don't think she does that one in concert anymore.)  And  if he decides not to go, neither is that any guarantee we'll again become an item.

Jared needs to decide, totally independent of me,  what's right for him in terms of a mission. Once that decision is made, there's plenty of time for me to decide if I want a casual relationship, a more serious one, or no relationship at all. He'll need to grow up a bit and prove to be more straightforward and less flaky if he expects me to as much as  meet him on campus for ice cream on a day when he has no classes.

My primary concern at this point is not for me (as strange as the songs he has sent me have been, Jared isn't some male version of Jodi Arias who is going to stalk me or worse) but for  Jared's mental health, which  seems a bit shaky to be potentially put on a plane and flown halfway across the world to a place where he knows absolutely no one and possibly doesn't even speak the language. I believe the decision has been weighing on him so heavily that he's really not himself and not quite in his right mind. (I won't entirely excuse his indiscretions on that account, but I do think there's a connection.) I can't say for certain that my state of mind would be a whole lot more stable were I in identical circumstances.  I wish his pareents could see this. He's their son; his well-being should come before any program their church pushes.  Even though he's eighteen, his parents have some obligation to look out for him. Despite what the church says about every young man being obligated to be worthy so that he can serve a mission,  the calling obviously isn't for everyone.
Thomas S. Monson, the current President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the LDS Church, did not serve a mission as a youth. Why, then,  is it absolutely necessary for Jared to do so if either he doesn't want to go or if it wouldn't be in his best interests?

I'd hate to see him come back as my cousin did last year,  half dead from intestinal disease, or worse, so mentally ill that he never fully recovers, as did his uncle about twelve years ago.

Billie Jean is the Queen, and My Mother's Channeling of Madame La Violette

I finally dozed off, woke up at about ten, and knocked off another project  - the one for Sports Sociology. I used the transition of tennis from an amateur to a professional sport as my topic. The bullshit that went on back in the day was unreal. Major  tournaments such asWimbledon and the U. S. Nationnal Championships (now called the U. S. Open) were only available to amateur players.  Many "amateur" players weren't actually amateurs at all. They were being paid money secretly to show up to the major tournaments. The bigger name the player had, the more he or she was handed "under the table." A player's finish in the tournament had no outcome on the money a player received. Sometimes up-and-coming players were not given sufficient money even to travel to tournaments, so the game was heavily biased in favor of the established and the wealthy. This was particularly true with regard to women's tennis. Women who chose to reject this hypocrisy were unable to support themselves with the paltry prize money offered by the few professional tournaments available to them.  While the hypocrisy of "amateur" status 'under the table payment existed within the structure of men's tennis, and male professionals, too were banned from major tournaments,  the men's professional circuit was financed to the degree that a male could earn a living as a touring professional without playing the game of pretending to be "amateur" and accepting the unofficial payment.

Billie Jean King spearheaded a group of women, including herself,  Rosemary Casals, Francoise Durr, and Ann Haydon Jones, who obtained sponsorship for a tour and turned professional. Eventually major tournaments became "open," as in open to both professionals and amateurs. Soon the issue became the disparity between prize money offered to men and to women for either the same tournaments or comparable tournaments.

At the 1970 U.S. Open Tournament,  the women's prize money was to be one-eighth of what would be awarded to the men.  Several women threatened to boycott the u. S. Open. Gladys Heldman, founder and at-the-time publisher of World Tennis magazine offered instead to find a sponsor for a tour, beginning with the Family Circle Cup tournament, to be held a week before the U.S. Open in place of the usual preparatory tournament.  Nine women signed up for this tour, which was to be sponsored by Philip Morris.  Two Australian women who signed with the new preparatory tournament were banned by their national association. The United States Lawn Tennis Assosiation (then the USLTA, since then shortened to the USTA) president Jack Kramer threatened all nine women with sanctions, but instead formed his own rival tour.  Because Kramer's tour couldn't or wouldn't offer the prize money equal to that  offered by the Virginia Slims tour, sponsored by Philip Morris, depending upon how one views it, the USLTA women's tour either caved in or merged with the Virginia Slims Tour. The Virginia Slims Tour evolved to what is now know as The Women's Tennis Association Tour. Prize money on the WTA tour  is comparable to or equal to the money received by the men on their tour.

There was a major sideshow in a highly publicized televised match between Billie Jean King and senior men's tour professional Bobby Riggs, a self-proclaimed male chauvinist.  King Prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

Women who chose not to risk their careers and the sanctions that might have occurred also ultimately benefited from the risk-taking of the original nine Virginia Slims signers and a few others who joined the tour shortly thereafter without themselves taking any risks.This created many hard feelings, some of which persist to this day.

One player who did not prticipate in the original Virginia Slims Tour was Chris Evert. She was still a minor at the time of the USLTA/Virginia Slims rift, and had little choice but to abide by the decision of her parents. She is now probably Billlie Jean King's  staunchest and most vocal supporter and admirer, and was the first of the woman professionals to state publicly that the women who (while she was still playing) were earning prize money equal to the men owed it all to Billie Jean King. Eventually Martina Navratilova and others echoed her sentiments, but she was by far the first of the younger players to publicly commend King. In contrast, the Willliams sisters seem to offer very little in terms of words of appreciation or praise for Billie Jean; they're too busy praising themselves or each other.

It was an exciting time in women's sports. I wish I'd been alive to witness it.

I'm typing now on my pseudo-aunt's computer.My mom took my books and laptop away from me and sent me to my pseudoaunt's house. She told me pseudoaunt I can blog or othrwise use the internet ut that I may not do any work. Her "licensed clinical psychologist' persona is getting the better of her, and she's forgetting that she's my mother and not my therapist. Her concern is that by working so hard and completing all my assignments, I'm burying my feelings about the breakup with Jared, and that if I don't deal with the feelings now, they'll emerge at some point in the future, most likely in the form of an illness. It sounds like voodoo psychology to me. Perhaps she picked it up from listening to Madame LaViolette's testimony in the Jodi Arias trial. It sounds like something that quack could have come up with.  What does my mother want me to do?Sit around and cry all day? Would that be healthier? Sometimes I think the Mormons are onto something in their distrust of the professions of pschiatry and psychology.

Ironically, my dad can't help me in this situation because he is off playing in the finals of some club tennis tournament.  He would side with me, as his distate for madame laViolette is, if anything, even stronger than mine is. He may even have to change a reference he's made since I was born, and probably longer ago than that. While he admires her as a tennis player and human being, my dad doesn't think Billie Jean is particularly attractive. I say big deal; half the world isn't all that attractive. My dad isn't quite so willing to leave it alone. Anytime he sees a person he thinks is especially homely (and my dad isn't exactly Jesse Spencer's clone, by the way, so I'm not sure who he thinks he is to be critiquing the appearances of others), he says (not to the person, of course) that the person looks just like Billie Jean King. Now perhaps he'll change things up and say the homely people of the world look just like Madame La Violette.

So my psuedoaunt and I are entertaining ourselves by making fun of Jared. She probably shouldn'tbe doing that, as she's Jared's aunt by marriage, but I'm not going to repeat wha she said, so no harm has been done. She said if she makes it to church before Wednesday, when Jared will most likely receive his mission call, she'll light a candle and say a prayer that his mission is in Afghanistan. There isn't really an LDS mission in Afghanistan or in most war zones. She's joking. If Jared were to be somehow assigned to Afghanistan, pseudoaunt do everything in her power to keep him from going.

My mother thinks she has drastically altered the remainder of my weekend for the sake of my mental and/or physical health.Little does she know that all the work I have remaining is two chapters of my "Physics of Fractures" text to memorize, and I wasn't going to do it today, anyway, because we're going over one chapter in class on Tuesday, and the other on Thursday, and since they're a little unclear to me, it seems prudent to wait to hear what the professor has to say about them before committing the material to memory.

So there, Mommy Dearest!

Don't Think Twice . . . It's All Right

I know I said I was going to sleep a couple of hours ago, but some things are easier said than done. My dad says if I'm not asleep in an hour, he will intervene with pharmaceauticals  because he doesn't want me to get sick. Whatever, I'm getting a little tired of being awake  myself

Meanwhile, I may as well clarify things in my own mind by detailing the events that led to my latest break-up. Jared doesn't read this blog. His mother knows about it and possibly reads it on occasion, but she has six kids and manages the office for her husband's medical practice. She has better things to do than to obsess over the details of my love life, even if it does involve her son. Furthermore, she's not a blabbermouth. If push came to shove, she'd take her son's side, because there is that mother-son bond thing, but by the same token, she knows he's fallible. She wouldn't  further the rift by letting him know how the whole thing is playing out on the Internet. Furthermore, what I'm writing is true if biased. The conversations between Jared and my brother, by the way, are from the best of my brother's recollection. I trust his memory for details.

My brother Matthew called me to ask me the status of my relationship with Jared. I said as far as I knew, it was the same as yesterday, the day before, or a month ago. He asked if the relationship was supposed to be exclusive. I told him we'd never actually discussed it.  He told me that it was not exclusive -- that Jared had dated two girls twice each in the past two weeks. He said there could be more, although he doesn't know where Jared would find the time for any additional dating if he's    still attempting to keep his grades up, which one would assume he is. I asked Matthew first of all if he was sure, which he said he was, and secondly,  if I needed to deny having heard the information from Matthew. Matthew though about it and said no. Jared should know that Matthew would tell me if Jared dated someone else while he and I were supposedly in some sort of relationship

I didn't call or text Jared because I'm not a Jodi Arias-style stalker, even without the blood, gore, and homicidal tendencies. Two days later, which was a little less frequent that we had been speaking or texting, he called.  After the initial exchage of social pleasantries, I asked him if  he considered our relationship to be exclusive. I said I didn't want to put him on the spot, because we hadn't discussed it, and I had no right to assume that we had an exclusive relationship without hearing it from him.

He immediately jumped on the offensive, blaming my brother. "Matt called you and ratted me out, didn't he?" he demanded.

"Yes, he did," I answered truthfully.

"That asswipe!" he blurted in a manner unfitting for a young man who had submitted mission papers and was expecting a response shortly.

"He's my brother. I would do the same for him. In fact, I have done the same for him," I told him.

"That's different,' he muttered. "Girls blab. Guys are loyal."

"Loyal to whom? " I asked him.

He hung up on me.

The next day he ended up at an event Matthew was also attending. The two allegedly had words that were hostile initially but quickly grew more civil. Jared wanted to know why Matthew had told me,as he considered Matthew a close friend. Matthew told him that he wasn't totally sure where regular sibling relationships fit into the hierarchy of loyalty but twin trumps friend every time -- even best friend.

Matthew asked Jared about dating both of the girls at once - one a girl from school and one from his family's Mormon ward at home.  He asked if it didn't feel just a bit slimy to be leaading the two of them on, never mind me.  Jared answered that neither had any reason to believe that anything was exclusive at that point. Matthew said he disagreed - that if you take a girl out, then ask her on another date for three days later, she has a reason to believe you're not dating someone else in the meantime.

Jared asked if it was Matthew's Mormon heritage coming out in him. Maybe he planned to marry both of the girls he was dating.  Matthew told Jared he could probably forget about including me in the polygamous set-up, as he couldn't see me going along with it.

Jared was understandably miffed at Matthew's dragging of religion into the discussion, but Matthew said that LDS boys who two- or three-time girls are asking for  polygamy jokes at their expense.

"Well, I'm not exactly dating either of them anymore," he confessed.

"Why?" Matthew asked, mildly surprised.

It seems that he had explained his upcoming mission dilemma to both girls -- that he had filled out papers but was waiting to see the location and timing before he made a decision for certain as to whether or not he would go. The Mormon girl flipped her lid and told Jared not to bother calling her until he was committed to serving a mission. The other girl was equally upset, and told him not to waste her time if he was considering taking off for God knows where for two whole years, and that she did not want to hear another word from him until if and when he had made a permanent decision not to go off on one of those "Mormon missionary things." Jared apparently is attracted to cerebral women. I hope that doesn't say anything about me.

"It sort of makes Alexis look better all the time, huh?" Matthew commented to Jared.

"Yes,but I'm not sure that's the dorection I should be going, either," Jared responded.

"Maybe not, but before you call her again, if you call her again, make up your mind what it is you want. If it's a casual relationship, be up front about it. If you expect a relationship to be exclusive, be up front about that, too. But hold up your end of the deal. Don't tell her the two of you are in a steady relationship, then feel free to date someone else."

"That's fair," Jared replied.

"I'm not sure  she wants you back, anyway, " Matthew added.

He's right. I'm not sure I want Jared back, either. Too many things are up in the air right now, with his mission being the most cumbersome of them all. Then there's the issue of whether or not either of us wants to date the other, what sort of relationship we'd want even if we did decide to see one another in some capacity, and whether or not I can trust him enough to have any sort of relationship with him. Maybe neither of us is mature enough to be involved in anything more than a fun-and-games occasional trip to the beach or some campus function when he happens to be around. Or maybe he really wants to go on his mission.

I'm certainly glad I never gave up my viriginity to the guy, not that he was pushing me hard in that direction, anyway. Regardless, however rotten I'm feeling  now, it would be worse if I had let the physical aspect of the relationship go any further. I don't feel as though I have to hang onto my virginity forever. Depending upon my schooling situation and how long I wait before marrying, I may not hold out until marriage . . . Or then again, I might. Nevertheless, it's not something to be given away lightly, and not to be a prude, but I'm certainly glad to have held onto it for at least this far.  I'm feeling lousy and generally used, but had I allowed him to take that from me, I would be devastated.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Get the Work Done Before My Heart Finds Out

It's difficult to deal with problems of the heart while one is attempting to knock off an entire quarter's work of academic work, but I'm giving it my best shot.  My psychopathology paper is finished.  I endured at least one rather unusual interview but now, a mere thirty-two hours later,   it's all history;  recorded history, in fact, as I included every titillating detail .of the interview in the paper.

My Appalachian music project has likewise made it to the press. The research was very interesting to me. I delved into the pentatonicity of Scottish and particularly Irish ballads and their influence on the ballads and hymn tunes of southern Appalachia.  The pentatonic scale consists of the tones do, re, mi, so, and la.  (The tones can be most easily visualized/auditorialized by thinking of he black keys on a piano, although a pentatonic scale can be played beginning with any kep on a piano[unless it's too high to complete the scale; duh!).  Some tunes, such as "Amazing Grace" or  "Beech Spring," (a hymn tune associated with such hymn titles as "As We Gather at Your Table"  or "Come All Christians, Be Committed,"), "Wayfaring Stranger," and non-hymns such as "It's Raining" or "The Riddle Song" arecompletely pentatonic. Other tunes are suggestive of a pentatonic scale, but insert  the rare to occasional fa or ti,  such as "Shenandoah" or  "What Wondrous Love."  Other cultures, particular various Asian cultures, relied heavily upon the pentatonic scale in melody composition as well.  I know less about Asian music, but with the Celts, many of whom migrated to Appalachia, they obviously knew the diatonic (do re mi fa so la ti do) scale and thus had access to the tones of fa and ti as well, but instrumentation heavily influenced the notes they used in singing.  Pentatonic harps and lyres were common  in Scotland in Celtic regions, and were brought with the Scottish and Irish as they migrated to southern Appalachia. The mandolin, common in southern Appalachia, is tuned to a pentatonic scale minus mi. The banjo, also essentially pentatonically tuned (minus la) made its way up from Africa to southern Appalachia.  The accompaniment  instrumentation clearly influenced the melodies. I suppose anyone who has made it this far has read more than he or she ever wanted about the pentatonic scale and its  influence in Scottish, Irish, and Appalachian music.

If you were bored by the pentatonicity treatise, I apologize in advance for my description of  the incredibly complex memorization required in my "Physics of Fractures" course. No paper or project is required. I merely need to parrot the information I memorize in a series of combination multiple choice/fill-in-the-blanks/short essay answer tests.  I'll try to minimize the boredom to which I subject you here, but did you know that, in theory, because the bone itself has no nociceptors (sensory neurons), a bone fracture in theory would not be painful were it not for several other factors, such as breaking in the continuity of the periosteum, injury to nearby soft tissues, and muscle spasms as muscles try to hold bone fragments in place. I'll spare you, any further clarification, as just hinnking about it has been known to cause pain. Additionally I'll give you a pass on the many types of fractures: many you already know, and the rest you'd probably be better off never knowing..

I still have work from a few classes to address, but I'm making progress at record pace. With any luck I could be finished with this drudgery by Tuesday. . . Except that  it's not really drudgery when it's taking my mind off things on which I'd prefer not to dwell. At least this time the breakup was of our own doing and not the work of parental interference. It could be the final end, or the situation could resolve itself in a mending of the current rift.  Alas, relatively few people end up permanenetly with the subject of their first relationship.  What happens will happen. I can cry, pound my fists against the wall, go on a hunger strike,  or vandalize his car [not seriously an option], but none of those things will change the final outcome.  Que sera, sera.

I've been awake for forty-one consecutive hours. I must sleep, although I'm mildly concerned about what the dream world has in store for me tonight.

Incidentally, the music video is a late 1970's minor hit, "Before My Heart Finds Out," by Gene Cotton, which I've always found charming,  though less so when it applies to me personally.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Latest Encounter With a Psychopath

not my actual bra, but not far off (it may in fact be bigger than most of my bras)

Because I'm attempting to get a jump on all my coursework so that I'm not running around like a chicken with its head cut off late in the quarter as many of my classmates will be, I had my second interview in one week (fourth interview overall) with my diagnosed psychopathic inmate. There's always an unbreakable (to the degree that anything is unbreakable) glass partition between us, and there's a guard on each side of the glass lurking not far away, surpervising usually three inmates and their visitors, all of whom for various reasons require closer supervision than do the average prisoners who conduct their visits through glass. In addition to the guards' supervision, our conversations are audiotaped and viedotaped. We converse through a telephone.

Today's visit started out much as did all the others. We always start out with the usual social niceties (psychopaths are better than most at that) but quickly got down to the heart of the matter.  It has been made clear to all of us in the course both by our professsor and by prison officials  that we are not the prisoners' counselors. We are in no way qualified to counsel prisoners or anyone else. We are there to collect information that is to be used in our personal research for the course.
For the most part, we are given a script from which we work. We are authorized to deviate very  slightly because sometimes a prisoner's response  leads to a logical follow-up question, but curing what ails them, or making them feel  better about their prognoses or about life in general, are not the reasons we are speaking with them.  The guards supervising on both sides of the glass are also aware of our parameters and have been instructed to cut any interview short if it appears to be veering blatantly off-course, or if they see us [the university students] doing anything as stupid as giving out  personal information that could endanger us. We're just dumb university students. It's their job to protect us from our own stupidity. If that sounded snarky, such was not my intent. The correctional officers are looking out for our best interests and are doing their jobs.

I was pretty much following the script. The guy was describing his high school experiences when he started talking about a girl he dated in high school. As he became more and more specific about this girl, the guard on the other side stepped closer to him. Then the inmate asked me my bra size. He was immediately handcuffed, and the interview was over. He laughed hysterically as he was led away in cuffs.The officer on my side escorted me to an officer just outside the door of the visitors' room with the glass partitions. This guard immediately asked me if I was OK (he didn't yet know what had been said, but knew the inmate had spoken inappropriately to me). I had to wait in an office while administrators listened to the audiotapes and viewed the videotapes.  I'm not certain exactly what they were listening for; I can only surmise they wanted to know if I had in any way contributed to the direction the interview had taken, or if the inmate had said something even worse than what he had been heard asking me. It was confirmed that neither was the case.

I was directed to an outside office (proson personnel can't, for a myriad of reasons, take us into the secure areas, where most of the high ranking administrators' offices are housed) where I met with an assistant to the warden. She apologized to me for what had happened. No apology was really needed on that account; if a person has reached the age of eighteen without enduring anything more traumatic than being asked one's bra size  (in my case, it's not particularly impressive, incidentally), that person has lived a highly insulated life. My life certainly has not been lived with that level of protectiveness, it almost goes without saying, or I probably wouldn't be finishing my second year on a university campus as someone who is barely eighteen.

Then the warden's assistant went on to deliver the blow, which was that I would not be allowed to have further contact with that particular inmate.  She apologized, saying that it was through no fault of mine and that she understood the inconvenience to me (major understatement), as I had already invested considerable time in this project,  but that it was a privilege for a prisoner to participate in such a program, and that the inmate in question had abused his privilege to the degree that he could no longer be trusted to be involved with interview-based research involving university students. She offered to have another inmate available for me by Monday. She gave me her card and told me to call her on Monday, and she also told me she would personally contact my professor to explain the situation and the time I had already devoted to the project in the event that a time extension for completion of the assignment was required.

There was nothing more she could do. The prison has its protocols it must follow. I thanked her for her time and consideration. I was escorted all the way to my car by a correctional officer, which I thought was perhaps a bit of overkill. After all, an inmate in one of the more secure penitentiaries in the nation had asked for my bra size. He was on  one side of the barbed wire, and I was on the other. It wasn't as though my life had been threatnened or I was otherwise in any danger. Still, it was a thoughtful gesture.

Right now I wish to take the time to say that I formerly lived in a community in which a not insignificant number of (mostly California State-employed) correctional officers and their families live. For whatever reason, recent legislatures and governors in California have given generous deals to the state's prison employees, and their salaries, benefits, overtime compensation, and retirement plans are reflective of this treatment.  While I concede that many prison jobs are quite dangerous and/or unpleasant, when  roughly twenty qualified applicants vy for every available position,  it's indicative that the pay and benefits could probably be lowered to some degree without losing an unmanageable number of qualified employees and/or future applicants.  This is critical in a state with a budget deficit the size of California's.  

It is unfair to paint all workers of a particular line of employmnet and their families with the same brush, but, speaking broadly, while I didn't know most of the officers themselves well, I knew their children quite well. In one of the most educated communities in the nation, many of these offspring stood out like gangrenous thumbs.  (My primary attacker in the restroom assault incident was the offspring of a state prison correctional office, as one of his two accomplices.)  In general, the overall attitude of many (but not all; I must be fair)  of these students seemed to be that their fathers (if the families were intact, most of the mothers were stay-at-home moms) were doing quite well financially without ever having taken education seriously. There seemed little reason for the offspring to invest any major time or effort toward the endeavor of academic success, either. I must add that the number three graduate in the academic standing of my graduating class was the daughter of a state prison correction officer. She was a most diligent student and a genuinely good and decent person.  Not everyone fits the same mold.

My experience with the correctional officers and other prison employees with whom I had contact today (though, as federal employees, they could be cut from a different cloth, but I'll hope that such is not the case) gave me a more positive feeling toward prison employees and correctional officers in particular than I've ever felt since being aware of them. I felt that they all did their jobs proficiently and professionally, and were a credit to their profession, and additionally, went out of their way to be kinder  to me than their job required that they be.

It was a thoroughly dejected state of mind that dominated my thoughts as I drove through the prison gates and along the highway leading to home.  I don't have the technology to talk on my car phone through speakers because my parents consider it unsafe for an inexperienced driver.  I exited at an off-ramp so that I  could call my professor. In a major stroke of luck, I actually reached him rather than his voice mail. The prison official had already spoken with him. He asked me to come to his office as soon as I made it back to campus.

I thought it would be wise to carry evidence of the work I had already completed on my Psychopath Study, so I quickly stopped by my house to grab the file before going to the university to meet with my professor.  ( The idea of carrying a file jammed with transcriptions of  prior interviews with an inmate to a prison and leaving it in my car in the prison parking lot is something that, to my paranoid mind, is inviting trouble.)

I parked in the parking structure closest to the professor's office because he had told me to hurry, as he had things to do and didn't wish to waste an entire Friday afternoon waiting around for me.  (This professor is a most genteel sort of man.)  I pretty much  ran (I wish I'd had my skateboard in the car with me) to the professor's office, taking the stairs to the fourth floor so as to avoid wasting time waiting for the 1970's-designed elevators. A paraplegic could pull himself up the stairs at about the same pace that the elevators in this particular building move.

Allow me to state that I was not expecting sympathy in any form. I showed up at the professor's office because he told me to do so. Still,  it caught me by surprise when the first words out of his mouth were, "Boo hoo! An inmate asked you your bra size. Now I suppose you expect to be exempted from the assignment and expect a week off from classes for mental health reasons."

I had no answer, so I gave no answer. I just stared at him. "What do you want from me?" he finally asked.

"You told me to come here, " I reminded him.

"Oh, yeah. I guess I did." He stared blankly. My guess is that the professor is roughly in his early sixties. All sorts of stange and mind-altering drugs were avsilable during his college years. My suspicion is that he partook freely of those substances back in the day.

"So what have you done so far on this project?" he asked.

I took out the typed transcriptions of the first four interviews and handed them to him. All were quite lenghty because the inmate was cooperative and loquacious in those interviews, and the guards allowed me a little more time than was supposed to be allotted. The professor read through the transcripts  closely.

"I have twenty-five minutes of interview material from today's interview, too," I told him.

"You have more than enough to complete the project just with what you've already done. Go with it. You don't need to start over," he concluded.

"Thank you," I said to him, leaving hurriedly so as not to waste any more of his Friday afternoon.

"I'm sorry if I seemed a bit abrupt," the professor said as I walked out of the office.

"No problem," I answered. "It's all good."

So miracles do happen, whether they're more heavily influenced by God himself, by persuasive prison officials and crusty and spacy but not inhumane professors, or by mere chance. I'm not looking this particular gift horse in the mouth. Instead, I'll simply type  the final project tonight as I begin The Big Push.

I'll pop in sporadically over the next seven to ten days when I need a mental health break as I'm grinding my way through every reading assignment, project, essay, research paper, or even short-term assignment if it's already been given.

I'll appreciate it if you think of me as you're enjoying your leisure time, but my time will come soon enough.

Happy Friday!