Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Merry Little Christmas and Assorted Bullshit

what one of my pink scrub sets looks like

close to how the other set looks

I've never roasted chestnuts on an open fire or anywhere else. I don't know if I'd consider the resulting roasted chestnuts even edible. 

My family's Christmas was almost Rockwellian. I don't often pause to consider just how very fortunate I am that all of the relatives with whom we either celebrate holidays or associate on anything resembling a regular basis are normal, functional human beings. Whether we celebrate with the extended pseudo-relatives and my dad's brothers and their families near our home or travel to the San Joaquin Valley to celebrate with my Godparents, who are also my aunt and uncle, everyone is friendly. A fair amount of alcohol was probably consumed on Friday, but no one ever goes into drunken rages or practically gives themselves cases of acute alcohol poisoning at our holiday gatherings. We don't have major arguments that cause anyone to feel the need to leave. We're almost boring.

I've apparently become the most difficult member of the extended family for whom to buy Christmas presents. After my recent cello purchase, I now have the reputation of a person who buys anything she needs or really wants for herself. The reputation isn't all that far from actuality. 

During the entire time I was in high school, I worked at a steady part-time job at union scale wages as a piano accompanist; I even purchased salary protection insurance, so I continued to draw three-quarters of my contractual wages during the times I was injured or hospitalized.  At the time I spent only a small fraction of what I earned. I played for numerous masses, funerals, and weddings, banking the proceeds for those as well. I had enough scholarship money that I didn't need to self-finance my education, and my parents would have paid for my undergraduate degree, anyway. I earned just enough from occasional musical gigs in college that while I wasn't baking much, I at least didn't need to tap into my savings for spending money. Furthermore, I was gifted with two relatively sizable grants because of finishing third in in my undergraduate class. One of the grants I will use to supplement scholarship money to fund my medical school tuition, but the other will remain untouched and will continue to earn interest.

The end result is that I have an unusually large savings account for someone whose parents are presumably upper-middle class. (I know relatively little about my parents' finances, but I would assume that they would be considered as falling into the upper end of the middle class.) My original plan was not to touch any of my accrued earnings until my residency at the very earliest, and ideally not until beginning to work in an actual medical practice.

I've decided to amend the plan ever so slightly. I dipped into my savings to buy my cello just because I wanted it right then. I didn't want to drop hints so that my Godparents might possibly buy it for me for Christmas. A cello is a major enough undertaking that if one is going to obtain one, one wants the cello of his or her choosing and not something that someone who doesn't know a great deal about cellos might come across and elect to buy. 

I decided when I bought the cello that I was going to allow myself to spend a total of twenty-thousand of the dollars I have saved in any way that I want. I don't spend a great deal of money on clothing, but if I need or want a few outfits, the money for them will come from the twenty-thousand dollars. If I decide to travel on my own (my parents still pay my brother's and my expenses on family vacations), the money for my travels will come from the twenty-thousand. Money for auto maintenance as well as maintenance of my musical instruments will also come from the twenty-thousand. I could technically afford a larger discretionary allowance, but I don't really need it. 

Some people would say that even twenty-thousand dollars is extravagant and self-indulgent, but many of my classmates who have taken out educational loans will spend more on their discretionary expenses than what I have allotted for myself. My spending isn't too far from what my brother spends. He hasn't made any single purchase as large as my purchase of a cello, but he spends more on clothing and entertainment than I do. 

I'm not sure exactly where my brother's money comes from, but I'm not going to worry about it. His earning opportunities were not nearly what mine were in high school. My parents may be floating him a large loan that he will eventually pay back, or they may be giving him money. I could make myself miserable by concerning myself about the fairness of my brother getting money that I'm not getting from my parents,  but I choose instead to adopt the attitude that I'm very lucky not to need much help from them. I assume that if I were in need of financial assistance, I would get it from them. As it stands, I live rent-free in a condo that is owned by my parents. I'm happy to have that be essentially
the sum of their financial support.

In terms of presents this year, I was given a very nice stethoscope,  two sets of Dominant strings for my violin, one set for my cello [they're far from cheap], a double-strand of pearls, a few chain restaurant gift cards, and four sets of scrubs. Two of the sets of scrubs are pink; I had said that I would not wear pink scrubs, but since someone else bought them for me, I probably will wear them. We will wear hospital-issue scrubs when on official duty, but we wear our own for leisure wear, lectures,  labs, meetings, or for times when we go to the hospital to check on things but are not serving official shifts. There's ample time to wear our own scrubs, and every med school student I know has several sets. All of the sets I received somewhat fit me [they're not supposed to be form-fitting], and I commend those who gave them to me for going to the trouble of finding scrubs in small sizes.

I did midnight mass and mass today as well, but Christmas this year wasn't much of a religious experience for me. It's tough to for me to feel tremendously spiritual when I've scarcely had time to survive for the past four months. I assume that God is probably satisfied that I'm not breaking at least one of the ten commandments every time I leave my room (or, for that matter, enter it). We should all appreciate all of our loved ones while we still have them in our lives. Not one on us knows for certain how long any of us or our loved ones will be here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Aloha Auinapo

I don't think I'd want to live there, but it's a great place to visit.

Our plane touched down just before 7:00 a.m.  Wednesday, bringing us safely home from Hawaii. It was a much-needed respite. I did absolutely nothing constructive in the entire seven days I was in Hawaii. I had not realized just how desperately I needed to do nothing constructive for awhile. I now feel almost sane for the first time in months.

My shopping has been done. I'm wrapping gifts right now. Mostly I'm lazy and use recycled gift bags, but I try to use actual wrapping paper for the kiddies' gifts because I think it's more fun for them to tear wrapping paper off a present than to merely take the gift from a bag.

Earlier this evening I had a date with one of my cohort mates. We had a good time, although I committed a major faux pas in falling asleep during the movie. I thought I'd gotten enough sleep on the plane last night to get me through today and tonight, but I apparently miscalculated. I hope my date didn't take it personally. C'est la vie. I'll sleep well tonight when I eventually make it to bed.

I didn't get a tan in Hawaii, but I did achieve my goal, which was to avoid a sunburn. If there's one thing I've learned so far in life, it is that melanoma is not your friend.

Monday, December 21, 2015

We (the general public) have absolutely no clue as to how Judge Alex feels about Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, or any other aspect of the presidential race!

what can be found in a google image search of "Donald Trump"

We're back at our hotel now. Midnight has come and gone, but neither my cousin nor my brother nor I feel like sleeping. My room here adjoins theirs with doors that lock on both sides. Right now Matthew is channel-surfing on the extra bed in my room while Josh is doing the same in their room. If Matthew falls asleep in my extra bed, it's fine. If he doesn't, that, too is fine.

I'm not using my TV because I'm reading a Facebook post of Judge Alex's.  I don't have a Facebook account. My mom was a district office administrator for the local school district  in our family's previous city of residence. One of her duties was to deal with anything connected to cyber-bullying, which typically happened at the middle school and high school level. Many years ago this may have involved Myspace, but in more recent years it was almost always related to Fecebook. She was so bothered by some of what she saw in terms of kids' interactions on Facebook that she offered my brother and me each five thousand dollars not to have Facebook accounts until we turned twenty-one. Initially she just said we could not have Facebook accounts, period, but as we got closer to leaving for college, the offer of cash to avoid social networks came into play. I have a Twitter account which is, like my blog, not under my actual surname, but she was OK with that as long as it remained low-key.

I have access to a password to someone else's account so that I can read Facebook postings that are either her friends' postings or public postings, but I don't post at all. Now that I'm twenty-one, I can have an account if I want, but I'm not sure I'll bother with it. Once I'm into or even halfway through a residency, I'll think about it if I have time. 

Anyway, Judge Alex made an interesting post. Donald Trump bought the rights to If a person types in "," he or she is directed to Donald Trump campaign ads. Such a campaign tactic was, in my opinion, rather puerile of Trump and/or his staffers. Anyone whose vote would genuinely be swayed by such antics is probably cognitively beneath redemption and is probably too dull-witted to navigate his or her way into and out of a voting both, much less to correctly fill in a ballot. Still, the crux of Judge Alex's post was clearly that if a person is going to run for office and spend a large number of dollars in doing so, it might be a good idea to allot a few of those dollars to registering any domain closely associated with one's name.

A few of Judge Alex's followers understood the point of his post. Even more, seemingly, did not. Though the judge posted this more than a week ago, some of his followers are still arguing over the judge's wisdom, sanity, political smarts, and over an array of other attributes.  They're accusing him of supporting Donald Trump, of making fun of him, of wanting to bear Donald Trump's love child, and of God knows what else. 

All the man did was call attention to Trump's having bought the rights to the "" domain.

Judge Alex has since gone into cyber-seclusion. He's probably banging his head against a wall. I don't blame him.

what is presently displayed at

Impromptu Vacations, Irish Accents, Dates, and Harassing Professors

This is obviously not my actual professor, but he bears an eerie resemblance to this TV buffoon who was never a judge in real life but plays one on TV. He's no Judge Alex.

I'm on vacation with my family. It was an unexpected thing, at least as far as I was concerned. My dad walked into my room early Monday evening, announced that he was making reservations for the next morning, and asked if I wanted to come along. I didn't have many plans, so I said yes. So did my brother and the cousin who lives with my parents when he's not in school. We'll be home in a few days. I'll share more about the trip when I return.

We're in a bar that has an open mike format. My dad borrowed a guitar and played two songs. If my mom gets sufficiently wasted, she may perform as well, though I doubt she'll drink enough tonight to be persuaded. It's not at all that she's reticent about performing, but more the idea that she doesn't typically sing in bars. Right now Matthew is singing. He's seriously not bad. I'm jealous. I'd never noticed this before and don't hear it at all in his speech, but he has a bit of the Irish dialect, particularly audible in his vowel sounds, when he sings. My dad commented on it a moment ago.

My mom's mom was from Ireland and immigrated to the U.s. when she was seventeen. She supposedly never really lost her accent. My own mother spent probably a combined total of five years in Ireland while her dad was deployed to various [mostly southeast Asian] locations where an air corpsman wouldn't necessarily take his family along with him. Between being raised by a mother with a relatively strong accent and actually living on the Emerald Isle herself for a significant portion of her formative years, my mom has a slight but discernible brogue going on.

When Matthew and I were very young, singing on-key came quite easily to me. Matthew's singing was essentially atonal. It freaked my mother out that one of her offspring might be tone-deaf, so she spent a lot of time in those very early years singing with him and getting him to match her pitch. by the time he was maybe three-and-a-half, he could more or less stay on-key if he was singing along with someone else or with piano accompaniment. Matthew presumably picked up just a bit of an accent from her as well. Whatever. It will probably make the ladies think he's all the more charming. One of them is hitting on him right now.

I have a date for Wednesday night. A guy in my cohort lives just over a hundred miles from where my parents live. He texted me and invited me out for dinner and a movie. Other than the Star Wars sequel fiasco, which I haven't followed and don't intend to start now, I don't even know what movies are out now. I will not go to the Star wars sequel, but I'll suffer through anything else the guy chooses.

I didn't mention this earlier, but I played piano for a faculty event during finals week. It was a non-paying gig, but it's politically wise to do a few of those events when asked. Anyway, the annoying professor (the one who looks like Larry Bakman) who thinks I roll my eyes too much and questions my overuse of the words fiasco and debacle was in attendance. He predictably could not leave well enough alone and had to wander over to the piano to harass me. I was playing without music (it was just Christmas and light classical music that the chairman of the event wanted; who needs printed music for that?), and he asked how I knew what notes to play. I couldn't resist. I told the guy that God tells me what notes He wants to hear. The guy backed away looking spooked. He's a masochist. He had to know how I would answer his question.

I'll probably post again before the big day, but if not, happy Christmas to all and to all a good night, God bless us everyone, and merry fucking Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An Early Christmas Present

I received word indirectly from a dean at my school that I did very well on my finals for this term.

Sometimes studying seems like a waste of time. The material doesn't make sense even after you're committed it to memory. At other times, what you have studied has begun not only to make sense  in its own context but also fits into a larger picture in terms of clarifying the content from other classes and even from other sources not necessarily directly related to course you're taking. I've finally reached this point.

I'm not deluding myself into believing that the content from my courses I take will never again seem overwhelming or that I'll never wonder why in the world I decided that attending medical school would be a good idea. I assume it will continue to be tough, as the material is only going to grow more challenging as we progress. Still, I now have confidence that it's all within my grasp.

Merry Christmas, everyone. It's going to be a most merry Christmas for me.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Football Builds Character

Add caption

I've never been a major fan of much of anything relating to the state of Texas. I've driven through large expanses of it, though I recognize that the state is so massive that what I've seen is proportionally the rough equivalent  to  how much of the proverbial elephant each blind man took in. The physical appearance of the parts of Texas I've seen wasn't exactly awe-inspiring. I suppose if a person likes the parched southwestern look, there could be a certain appeal to places such as San Angelo or San Antonio. I don't particularly care for that stretch of the Gulf of Mexico, either. I suppose Galveston is charming in its own way, but I cannot imagine a sane person choosing to live there with its level of protection from storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the like.

While Texas doesn't have quite the weirdness-per-capita as Florida in terms of bizarre  happenings, it has to its credit a few "only in Texas" sorts of crimes, with the "cheerleading murder" standing out as such. Texas has a reputation for law enforcement and judicial systems being tough on criminals, and, if I'm not mistaken, Texas recently executed the first woman in the U. S. in quite some time. The "don't mess with Texas" mindset is evident. Texas residents are proud of their gun-toting mentality, and like to proclaim in reference to various crimes or supposed abuses of citizens' rights that such a thing would never happen in Texas. (Again if I'm not mistaken, at least one mass shooting at the University of Texas did happen.)

High school football seems to be second only to gun-toting or perhaps to Bible thumping in Texas, if it is indeed second even to either one of the aforementioned pursuits. My mom did  large portion of her doctoral research using Texas-based data.  The focus of her study was on the success rate of grade level retention or repetition when the primary impetus was to provide the retainee with an additional growth year in order to maximize chances of success in football. Ironically, the athletic retention is the one circumstance of grade level retention that isn't more often than not more harmful than beneficial to the retainee himself. I could go into the sociological and psycho-educational ramifications of grade level repetition, but it's too complex an issue to be addressed in the amount of time and space I would have to devote to it at this time. It could be a subject for another day's blog . . . or it could not.

Anyway, Texas came to the forefront too long ago in an incident in which a high school assistant football coach ordered football players to "take out" a referee, allegedly in retaliation for the use of a racial epithet. referee denies ever using the racial epithet. I'm not even sure it matters in terms of the commission of the crime. Certainly no one should be allowed to referee a game who hurls racial epithets at athletes or at anyone else. Once a coach has responded  to the racial insult, which may or may not have actually happened and which the coach did not actually hear, with involving minors in the act of an assault, the conflict has been taken to an entirely different level.

It used to be - and still is in the eyes of the law in most places in the U.S. -- that nothing a person said gave anyone else the legal right to retaliate physically. We know that what can be done legally and what actually will happen are often two entirely different things. While it would be wise to consider one's own well-being before spouting off beyond a certain respectable level, rules or laws consistently came down firmly against whomever chose to take something to the physical level. Now it seems that if a racially charged comment was made or if something was said about one of the battling parties' mothers, rules against physical retaliation do not necessarily hold up and that assault may be considered justified. I wouldn't be all that surprised at some point in the near future to see actual laws revised to reflect this modern way of thinking.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should make racially insensitive comments or comments of any other sort intended to inflame an already charged situation or to hurt someone. I don't think I've ever in my life spoken a racial epithet.  And yes, I know all about the "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" qualifier of free speech. But even if a person does yell "fire" in a crowded theatre -- either literally or metaphorically speaking -- does that give another the right to assault the person?

The coach had other options when he learned of the alleged use of a racial epithet. If such indeed happened,  why did the coaching staff not complain through more official channels. The assistant coach  could first of all have referred the situation to his immediate job superior, who would have been in this situation the team's head coach. Perhaps the head coach might have chosen to immediately pull players off the field and to refuse to continue the game until the epithet-spouting referee was replaced.  Perhaps the battle could have been waged by school administrators or athletic commissioners. Almost anything would have been preferable to ordering adolescent boys to exact their own revenge by committing assault.

As a victim of physical assault at the hands and feet of a football player (an off-the-field player in my case, but a football player nonetheless), I resent the excuse that acts of violence happen in the "heat of the game." That sort of justification led indirectly to my own assault. I refuse to cower to any Neanderthal rationalization that football is a world of its own with its own rules, and that women have no grasp of it and, hence, no right to criticize football-induced  profanity, violence, or anything else associated with it because we're not part of that world.

The situation should be investigated if only to ensure that if the referee in question did indeed use racial epithets in an officiating or other educational capacity, he does not gain another opportunity to repeat his performance. We have no evidence at this point other than the word of an unethical and unprofessional coach (who did not hear the epithet) and of students involved in the retaliation and of one of their teammates that such did happen. For the good of  the youth in the state of  Texas, a thorough investigation should take place.

As far as the coach is concerned, however, he has, in my opinion, no standing in terms any demands of exoneration by virtue of anything the referee may or may not have said. When he chose to take the conflict to the level that he did, he forfeited that right. Neither do I hold the athletes who physically committed the assault blameless. They had to know, unless they are  literal morons, that they were not under any obligation to follow the assistant coach's unsportsmanlike, immoral, and illegal directive. They, too, should face stiff consequences.

My Nightmare Before Christmas (that has nothing to do with Christmas)

Have you ever wanted vacation time (with vacation in the particular sense I'm using it referring to time off from work or school as opposed to a specific trip or travel agenda) so intensely that you could barely make it through the remaining days of work or school, only to have it arrive and to find yourself almost unable to function without the usual rigors of work or school? Is this something that happens to ordinary people, or am I even more abnormal than I previously thought?

Final exams came and went. I did well and maintained my average, and managed not to freak out during any of the finals. I've had nightmares about totally losing my composure during exams, but so far haven't even become upset (except perhaps for the time the professor asked an arbitrary and irrelevant question for which he'd never divulged his bogus answer, and even then I was highly irritated but very much in control of myself). I talked to my shrink (for the record, I was under the care of a psychiatrist when I was sorting out PTSD issues following a physical and sexual assault, but I'm not under continued psychiatric care, not that there would be anything wrong with it if I were still seeing a shrink) on the phone earlier this evening. He's a family friend, so I can call him whenever I want to talk to him. I don't abuse the privilege, and he doesn't charge me. 

My former shrink said my dreams are the rough equivalent to the ones lots of people have, often persisting for many years after they've completed the formal education process, in which they either cannot locate the classroom for a course in which they've been enrolled for an entire term or they walk into the classroom to take an exam either never having attended a single class session or perhaps having shown up once or twice in an entire term. In any event, the common thread is that people who are ordinarily relatively diligent students find themselves thoroughly ill-prepared for a mid-term or final exam in their dreams, often long after whatever degrees they'll ever have were long since awarded. Maybe I'll have those dreams someday, or maybe I'll just continue to have the dreams where I scream at the top of my lungs in a crowded auditorium because something about the test cause me to lose all sensibilities.

It has never been clear in my dreams just what it is about any of the the exams that caused me to come unglued. It just happens. My former shrink said if I could ever discover in any particular dream what it was that caused me to flip out, I might be able to address it in some way, but that in the meantime, worrying about it will only make it worse. He said that dreams are basically just dreams and aren't necessarily of any significance. He says I do not ever have to actually go bananas during an exam and have an all-out screamfest. I can choose not to scream no matter how daunting the circumstance of any exam if it is important to me not to carry on while both humiliating myself and disrupting the testing process for my fellow students. If I've studied, the exam probably will not be intimidating to me in the first place, but even if something about it were to be, it is within my power to control my reaction. Just because I've had a nightmare in which I've behaved a particular way when faced with a circumstance does not dictate that such is the way I must react if I'm ever faced with such a circumstance in a conscious setting.

Still I wish that particular dream theme with its slight variations would stop haunting me during my sleep. I've had and continue to have recurring nightmares of a more disturbing nature than is that particular one. I'd take that one any day over three other recurring nightmares that I would prefer not to share and that I'm reasonably certain my readers would just as soon not  read about.

So now vacation is upon me a week earlier than most of academia has started vacation, which is nice except that I'm not quite sure what to do with myself in my leisure. My brother and I, along with several of our high school friends, spent the weekend with my late friend Claire's family. It was time very well spent, but the weekend is now over. 

I'm now in a particular nook of California's vast Central Valley. My friend Raoul from medical school wanted me to visit him at his brother's home in the southern or San Joaquin portion of the Central Valley. We hung out at the emergency room where his brother works as an MD earlier in the evening. Tomorrow we're going to do whatever it is that people in this place normally do to entertain themselves except that we won't be using any methamphetamines, which is probably the number one form of recreation in this valley. One of the people we observed in the E. R. had gotten his hands on some especially toxic meth. The results were not pretty. In place of meth, we will visit my aunt's preschool classroom. One of her special needs preschoolers has just discovered the "MF" word, so it might be mildly amusing. We won't stay for too long, as there's a limit to the potential entertainment value of a three-year-old hurling expletives. Following our preschool encounter, we will drive into the nearby mountains. El Nino is in effect this season, so the drought is temporarily on hold. We may even see snow.

One nice aspect to living in this valley is that it's such an utter slum that property values are low. Nice housing is extremely affordable. Of course it's only nice housing as long as one is inside the walls of the house, but sometimes one would do well to make lemonade of the unbelievably sour lemons one has been given. Even though Raoul's brother is only in his first year out of his residency, he owns in a home that is both larger and nicer than the one in which my parents presently live. The area surrounding Raoul's brother's house looks somewhat like what I would imagine Kuwait to look minus the roaming camels, but the inside of the house looks like something Martha Stewart would own. The guest room in which I'm spending tonight and tomorrow night (without Raoul in case you're wonderinghas its own fireplace. Unfortunately, the air quality here is so utterly abysmal that the EPA only allows people here to have fires for maybe twenty or so days out of the year. Fortunately, tonight is attached to one of those twenty days. Even if I'm wide awake, I'm at least toasty and warm inside the bedroom-with-a-fireplace.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Many Faces of Ted Cruz and Other Matters With Which I'm far Too Busy to Concern Myself But Do Despite Present Time Constraints

I copied and pasted the first nine images

of Cruz that appeared in a Google Images search of "Ted Cruz."

I omitted image #3 because it was a closer view of image #1.

I did otherwise nothing to manipulate the results in order to gain stranger looking images of Cruz.

Any manipulation was done either by the folks at Google 

or by the photographers

or by Ted Cruz himself.

Perhaps he deliberately makes farcical faces whenever a camera is pointed at him.

You be the judge.

I'd first like to say that I believe or at least hope that the American public is smarter than the polls would indicate. I believe that at least a part of those people who have told the pollsters that they support Donald Trump for president are, in actuality, too smart to vote for him. While it may seem fun for some strange reason to some people to pretend that Trump would make an acceptable president, when those people are actually faced with a ballot bearing the names of candidates, I'd like to think that most of even those individuals who have indicated support for Trump in some ways in the past won't be able to force themselves to cast their votes for him. A relative few of them, in my estimation, probably truly are stupid enough to elect such a man to a position that gives him access to even more power than the power his money already affords him. Most people, however, may be sufficiently disillusioned with the political process to pretend they'd like to elect change by electing a man who is foreign to the political process, but in the final analysis, they'll recognize that placing someone with Trump's disposition and level of self-control in such close proximity to the black box is too daunting a prospect to undertake voluntarily. The North Koreans had no choice when it came to Kim Jong Un and his ascension to power. This is, however, the U. S. A. In theory, at least, we all have a say in the matter. 

But enough of political pontifications and doomsday predictions. What I actually wish to say even though it pertains to a presidential candidate, is not all that political in nature. 

Why does Ted Cruz consistently look so goofy in his pictures? I understand that he has many people following him around with cameras. If someone took enough pictures of me, I'm sure I'd be caught with silly expressions in some of my photos. I don't know if I could compete with Ted Cruz on that battle ground, however, even if I consciously attempted to look crazy or ditzy or foolish.

Is the biased liberal media so out to get Cruz that they've convinced the folks at Google to post at least four pictures of Cruz in which he looks as though he's deliberately displaying preposterous faces for every single image in which Cruz looks even remotely lucid? The question may sound sarcastic, but I'm actually asking it with sincerity.

Don't make any conclusions based on the information I'm providing. Go to Google and type in Cruz's name, then click on "Images." See for yourself. I'm interested in feedback from anyone who has an opinion. If you wish for your feedback to be private, either DM me at my Twitter or email me at I keep confidences.

I'm down to a single final exam remaining. The other six all went well. The last final exam is a combination practical / written test, and is potentially ugly, but I've studied diligently already and will, counting both independent and group study time, put in about five more hours in preparation for it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Alexis Is 21

My birthday wasn't quite this exciting, but it was fun nonetheless.

I'm twenty-one now.  As such I'm legally old enough for almost everything anyone else is other than senior citizen-types of discounts and privileges.  Some rental car companies will not allow a person under twenty-five to operate their vehicles.  If I ever need a rental car, I'll find out what companies rent to individuals under the age of twenty-five.  Otherwise, I don't really care.  The other obvious exceptions are the right to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives, for which I would need to be twenty-five, and  the right to serve in the U. S. Senate, for which I'd need to be thirty.  Another notable exception is that to run for or to serve as a U. S. president or vice-president, I'd need to be thirty-five.  The minimum ages for the various U. S. state governor positions vary by state. I have no intention whatsoever of aspiring to fill any of these positions or, for that matter, any other political office,  so the point is essentially moot where I am concerned.

In terms of minimum ages for political positions, even though it doesn't pertain to me, I'm not without misgivings about the premise. If the voting public knows how old a candidate is and chooses to elect him or her anyway, it should, in theory,  be the right of the  public to make a collective decision via the voting process regarding his or her fitness to hold a given office.  My mom and I discussed this recently, and she doesn't agree with me.  She believes that  in today's world, with a level of media coverage [that could never have been anticipated by Madison and the other founding fathers as they were drafting the pertinent statutes of our nation's constitution] and with the tendency of a large segment of our society to venerate the qualities of youth and physical attractiveness, a highly unqualified candidate could potentially be forced upon us by a voting public, the majority of which might very well be too ignorant to look beyond a candidate's glowing physical attributes. A similar case could be made in regard to candidates with other blatant deficits in qualification for our nation's highest office, but such an objective across-the-board disqualifier would be far more elusive to implement than was the simple age requirement. We all still may eventually be doomed by the public's stupidity in voting in a wildly unqualified presidential candidate, but the candidate will not be the rough equivalent of perhaps a thirty-year-old Brad Pitt, voted in primarily for his unprecedentedly telegenic advantages. Maybe my mom has a point, but enough with  political pontification.

My big day came and went without major incident. I did go to a bar to celebrate along with many of my cohort mates, many of whom actively look for any reason to get wasted. My brother came along to serve as my designated driver. While it sounds like a highly selfless act on his part, he wouldn't have had anything to drink anyway because he never drinks during the week when school is in session. Medical school is challenging enough for him even if he's not drunk or hung over. Matthew has also had far more opportunities to party than I have had. He looks older than I do, and hardly anyone has thought  twice about passing a beer to him for the past couple of years. 

I drank the two mixed drinks I had planned to consume on my twenty-first birthday: one mai tai and one strawberry daiquiri.  My alcohol consumption left me reasonably wasted but not to the degree that I was impaired the next morning. My conclusion regarding drinking is that while it might be something to do once in awhile for major celebrations when circumstances are such that my drinking would not place me in any sort of perilous situation, neither is drinking something I feel compelled to do. After consuming the two alcoholic beverages, I ordered a virgin strawberry daiquiri. I liked it every bit as much as I liked the one with booze in it. I don't feel driven to drink.

I'm in the midst of finals. It's rather intense -- something to which only other medical students can really relate, although law students and engineering students have tough programs with difficult exams as well. I've finished three tests and have four more to go. I should do well on them because I'm well-prepared, although I will study independently and with my groups until all of the exams have been completed. My school  has a pass-fail system for the first two years. Some of my cohort mates benefit from this policy. It isn't particularly helpful to me. I'm too obsessive to be content simply with passing, and I know the powers that be are tracking all of our actual scores and not merely whether we've passed or failed. This is still probably the best school for me for other reasons, but the pass-fail system is essentially lost on me.

This quarter will conclude for me just past noon on Friday, at which point I will be able to breathe comfortably for the fist time in over four months.

This video -- the official video for the song -- doesn't belong to me, obviously.  I played the song for a wedding awhile ago. The singer needed the song to be done in the key of C. I didn't really like the song then. Then I paid more attention to Christina Perry's recording, in which the song is sung in B-flat. It's just a full step, or an interval of a major second, in difference between this version and the song as I played it at the wedding of which I wrote, but it makes all the difference in the world in terms of how the song sounds. Sometimes subtle differences can be huge. That's how I feel about grades in medical school. Not everyone thinks there's a difference between a 100% and a 72% as long as one receives a passing score. I couldn't adopt that mindset even if I tried. I cannot escape the feeling that it may  someday matter in the lives of our patients.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lampshade Headwear



 Please feel free to cast your vote for chapeau haute couiture.

My brother and I are back at school. We decided to come back a day earlier than we absolutely had to in order not to have to fight the very worst of horrendous traffic, which we would have faced had we postponed our trip back until Sunday. It's technically already Sunday now, though I never consider a day to have ended and a new one to have begun until I go to bed and get up, even if it's only for a few hours that I rest. On those lovely days when I have so much studying to do that I never actually make it to bed, I arbitrarily look out the window at some point and see that the sun has risen, and I officially declare tomorrow to have happened. Isn't it delightful to have such control over one's environment as to decide if and when a new day is to start? This power exists, I concede, solely in my own mind. While I'm perhaps a tad delusional, I have at least a tenuous grasp on reality.

The trip home served as a sweet reminder that I genuinely love and like my parents. They're good people. Our relationships are far from conflict-free. My parents and I have always had disagreements, and Matthew's and my newly-attained adult status has in many ways only intensified this. The things about which we disagree, however,  are just that -- things, which money can buy. We're not Trumps or Gateses, financially or otherwise,  but we have enough money to pay for anything we really need. My parents (usually my mom, though neither is my dad shy about making his opinion known) may at times be a bit insistent about being heard when Matthew or I have decisions in this regard to make, but in the end, the decisions are made by whomever has the right to make the decisions, and we go back to the people we were before any disagreement interjected itself into our respective relationships. I acknowledge that it cannot be easy to bring children into the world and to be responsible in every way for them for eighteen years or so, only to cede that responsibility and everything that goes with it to those children. It's uncharted territory for all of us that we're navigating.

This week marks a milestone for my brother and for me. We turn twenty-one one Wednesday.  I plan to celebrate it by getting just a bit bombed. I have class the next morning, and I have a final exam three days after the big day itself, so just how deeply into debauchery I can afford to sink is greatly limited by the rather poor timing of everything. My mother could have planned the whole labor and delivery thing a bit more considerately. 

On the other hand, had Matthew and I been born six hours later than we were, we would have missed California's cutoff age for kindergarten entrance for the year. We finished school a year early in addition to narrowly squeaking past the cutoff date. This happened when we were promoted mid-year from seventh to eighth grade. There are probably very few circumstances under which any school system would have allowed my brother and me to be advanced two school years ahead of our chronological placement. It was arguably a bit crazy even to bump us up a single year when we were already the youngest children in the class. Regardless, had my mother dragged out the labor process any longer, right now we would presumably just be wrapping up our first quarter of medical school. First quarter now seems like half a lifetime ago. I'm glad it's in my past even if such means the I'll need to limit the magnitude of my twenty-first birthday drunken revelry in the name of academic sanity.

Up to this point, the most alcohol I've ever consumed at a time is when I drank one-and-one-half bottles of Guinness in order to deal with writing a particularly difficult paper. Those one-and-one-half bottles of Guinness gave me a noticeable buzz. This time I'm going for the ever elusive midpoint between buzzed and wasted. Here's to hoping I find that perfect stage of almost drunk.

P.S. If anyone who reads this knows Senator Marco Rubio and happens to run into him before Wednesday night, please tell him that he's invited to my birthday party. I'm not sure exactly where it will be held except that I know it will be in a bar somewhere around here. For the first time in my life, I will be allowed into a bar. Miracles occasionally happen.

 I may need someone to carry me home on Wednesday night.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pass the Turkey

I'm most thankful not to have been a part of THIS gathering.

. . .  nor of THIS one . . . 
. . .  nor, for that matter, of THIS one . . . ***

I attended Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with approximately eight-seven other people. Eighty-eight was the closest count I could get of the total number of bodies present, but those being counted were not all that cooperative in regard to being counted; some may not have been counted at all, while others may have been counted multiple times. Additionally, the head count includes the heads of numerous babies, who shouldn't necessarily count as total, complete, and separate entities for practical purposes, but since I didn't have a factor to apply to infants, I counted them each in the head count since all of the babies that I saw had heads. Hell, the pro-lifers would say even the in-utero babies (I have no idea whether or not there were any of those, though no one was morbidly [as in in danger of popping out a new kid before the meal was over] pregnant) count as separate and distinct individuals since life obviously begins at conception, but I will not go there.

After the dinner, my grandmother called us. She was appalled at the dinner that we attended and said that we must not attend another such Thanksgiving celebration and must instead have a smaller gathering at our home with just the fifteen- or-so biological relatives who might show up, that we or must attend her Thanksgiving meal in Utah. My grandmother is a nice enough person, but she's growing every bit as senile as many of her age-level peers. For that matter, her Thanksgiving meal, with just her husband and Utah-based children and grandchildren, wouldn't have been much smaller than ours would have been. I happen to know that the gathering she held was too large to take place in the home of any of the attendees and instead was a catered affair held at some rustic LDS-owned mountain location in Utah. At least all the food we ate at our over-sized gathering yesterday was home-cooked.

After the meal, my immediate family (my parents, my brother, and my cousin who lives with my parents when he's not away at college because his parents kicked him to the curb after he failed to complete his LDS mission because of grave health concerns) discussed the merits of continuing to participate in the gargantuan Thanksgiving Day celebration versus having a more intimate gathering with just ourselves and the families of whatever biological uncles and aunts happened to be in the area. The conclusion we reached is that we genuinely want to spend time with all the people who attend the large gathering. (Half of the attendees are only there every other year, as they spend alternate thanksgiving Days in Utah.) we have the option of inviting anyone we'd care to invite to the event. If we wish, we can have a smaller and more intimate gathering the previous day, the following day, or whenever.

One of the main things for which I give thanks is not having been forced for much of my life to attend the family Thanksgiving affairs in Utah, where the food grows cold waiting while for long-winded relatives to finish praying before we can eat. 

 *** shout-out to Knotty and to textile-free Thanksgiving Day celebrations (which, for the record, Knotty did NOT have)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When it rains, it pours.

Fate had not been sufficiently cruel to me in calling an end to the longest relationship of my life (only three months and a few days but still a long-term relationship by my standards). Fate decided to call it quits on another significant relationship in my life and in the lives of three others when its fickle fingers claimed the life of my dog yesterday. The loss of the boyfriend is nothing in comparison to the loss of my dog.

Pope John Paul III, less formally known as "The Pope" and "Pope," passed away yesterday during what appeared to be a massive heart attack. His suffering was very brief according to my brother, who witnessed the episode. He groaned and fell to his side, then lost consciousness, which he never regained. He seemed to stop breathing shortly after keeling over.

Pope John Paul III first joined our family not long after my brother and I turned ten. We never knew his exact age because he came from the SPCA; their veterinarian estimated his age at approximately six months, which would have him roughly eleven-and-one-half years at the time of his death yesterday. That's almost par for the course as golden retrievers go these days. It's too short a lifespan for a dog in my opinion, although I would have chosen to have The Pope for the amount of time we had him versus any other dog  (except for our first dog, Our Lady of Fatima, who had equal status to The Pope) for one hundred human years.

The Pope initially slept in a spot roughly equidistant between Matthew and me. From the time I suffered the assault in my final year of high school until the present, however, he slept next to my bed whenever both the dog and I were in the same house at night. If I worked through the night on school assignments, he rested on the floor next to me wherever I happened to be working. How did he know that I needed him to sleep next to me? I didn't tell him.

I was in Merced (a few hundred miles north of here) when The Pope died. I have mixed feeling about not having been here. There was obviously not much I could have done either to ease The Pope's suffering or to provide any care that would have increased his chances of survival. Seeing him go through the fatal cardiac event would have been traumatic. Still, I would have chosen to be here had the choice been mine to make.

The family waited until I returned home today to bury him. No one told me about his death until I got here because my mom thought that crying all the way home might have impaired my vision and my driving ability. My brother had already dug the grave. All that was left was for us to say a few prayers and words of farewell and to sing "Amazing Grace."

Will Rogers once said, "If dogs don't go to heaven, when I die, I want to go where they went."  He expressed my sentiments perfectly.

Thanks, Judge Alex.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Eye Rolling, Tongue-Twisters, Hard-to-Pronounce Words, and Telephone Harassment

On Friday in lecture, the lecturing professor hit upon the topic of difficult-to-pronounce words in our current topics of study. He then brought several tongue-twisters up on the overhead monitor for all the students to practice. I admit to rolling my eyes. I'm sorry, Judge Alex (the judge doesn't believe in eye-rolling, as in he feels that it's inappropriate, not as in he places it in the same category as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy), but at the prices we, the students, are paying for medical school, wasting even fifteen minutes of our time on puerile tongue-twisters is eye-roll-worthy behavior.

The professor took exception to my eye roll. "Don't you roll your eyes at me, young lady!" he barked. I wasn't entirely certain he was speaking to me, as I was far from the only student who rolled my eyes at his complete and total disregard for the value of our time. "Yes, I'm directing my words to you, Alexis!" he clarified.

At this point, Cool Guy came to my defense. "Anyone who just rolled their eyes [sic], raise your hands. . .  Be honest." Almost half the class raised their hands, some presumably because they actually had rolled their eyes. The others were acting in solidarity against a totalitarian regime.  The professor ignored them.

"Why did you have to call me young lady'?" I asked him.

"You have a problem with being called 'young lady'?" he questioned me. "I've never even heard of anyone being offended by being called "young lady." That's a new one for me."

"Probably because you don't often refer to medical school students as such," Kal Penn interjected. "Young lady is something a person calls a female child when the person is reprimanding her."

"If the shoe fits. . . " the professor opined.

"It doesn't," I countered in my most monotone voice, all the while maintaining eye contact with the lecturing professor and exercising utmost caution not to roll my eyes again. "The shoe is too small."  

"So what would you prefer to be called?" the lecturing professor asked pointedly. I assumed his question was rhetorical. "I'm waiting for your answer," he told me. Meanwhile, the more easily amused among us were babbling asinine things like "I slit a sheet. A sheet I slit," thoroughly mangling their tongue twisters and saying the sh- word all over the place in the process, then laughing hysterically as though they were second-graders.

I continued to stare at him, channeling my inner Aubrey Plaza, though being extremely careful not to roll my eyes, as I pondered his question. He eventually looked away. For the record, it's the same professor who, months ago, questioned my used of the words debacle and fiasco, and who also asked my brother about my religion. (Matthew told him I was starting my own church.) After a moment, i answered, "Alexis would be perfectly acceptable, as would either Cutthroat Bitch or Madame Rousseau. Take your pick."

He declined to state his preference. Time will tell. For the record, this lecturer doesn't assign grades to us. Duh. I may be a bit stupid at times, but I'm not going to slit my own throat.

My phone has been non-functioning because someone created several bogus Twitter accounts, linked my cell phone number to all of them, and turned on notifications to a whole bunch of the people she followed using the bogus Twitter accounts. The moron was dumb enough to follow only people whom she followed on her for-real twitter account, so it was easy enough to find her. After complaining to the Twitter people, I took it up with her brother, who initially denied her involvement, but then said he would see to it that she ceases and desists.

Her awesomeness is incomparable.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rubric, Schmubric!

I'm not entirely sure this is a parody. 

I just received a text from a woman who was my middle school counselor and who worked in the district office with my mom in our previous town. She wasn't  my personal counselor or anything like that. For that matter, I do not recall her ever once counseling me except maybe for the time she had cafeteria duty and she told me I was wasting food because I threw away what she said was a perfectly good apple. Perhaps that would be considered counseling. I just thought she was being a busybody.

The woman was soon thereafter promoted from being a middle school counselor to being a district English curriculum director. What I and probably everyone else remember most about her was that when she came to our high school to model or critique lessons for English teachers, her favorite word was rubric. The woman wanted to create a rubric for every stinking thing under the sun. Does one really need to consult a rubric to know if he or she has a sunburn? I don't know about the rest of you, but if I've been in the sun and my skin looks red and hurts, I probably have a sunburn. If it's not and it doesn't, I probably don't have a very significant sunburn no matter what the damned rubric has to say about the matter.

Some kids eventually started calling this woman "Rubric Head." That was after my friend Brendan said that if she were to have another baby (she already had five kids; I don't know if she had another child or not after that) it would almost certainly be named Rubric. With high school students' typical difficulties in keeping their mouths shut about anything, someone told her what Brendan had said. She looked hurt, but she didn't stop saying "rubric" roughly once for every nine other words that came out of her mouth. My friend Nate said that when she was getting frisky with her husband or her trainer at the gym or with whomever was her main squeeze, she probably called out "rubric" at the moment of climax --  either that or she scored her partner's performance after each act of coitus based on a rubric she had created.

My dad had to work with Rubric Head on a joint parent/teacher/administrator task force established for the purpose of  selecting exemplar writing samples for each possible score on district writing benchmark exams. My dad couldn't have been much less interested in the committee's task at hand if the committee's defined purpose had been created based solely on what my dad had said would be terminally boring to him personally. He was on the task force because no one else would sign up,  so my mom volunteered him. It was one of the times I feared my parents might divorce. In the end, my dad dealt with the issue by downing two rum and cokes before he showed up for each of the four meetings of the task force.

I heard from on of my teachers who was also on the committee that a particular  writing sample was distributed for scoring. The particular piece of high school student work had no paragraphs, no punctuation or capitalization, atrocious spelling, nonexistent sentence structure, and didn't come close to addressing the assigned topic. My dad and several others instantly gave the sample a "1," which was the lowest possible score. Rubric Head immediately rebuked them all for failing to consult the rubric before determining the score. My dad, whose inhibitions may or may not have been diminished by alcohol consumption, countered her objections with, "Rubric, shmubric! I don't need to consult a God-damned rubric to recognize a piece of shit when I see it!"

The district superintendent reportedly muttered, upon witnessing the interaction,  that Rubric Head probably couldn't force herself to flush a toilet after using it until she rubricked the toilet's contents to ascertain that what was inside was, indeed, urine or fecal matter [though he didn't say "urine" or "fecal matter"]. My mother was mortified to learn the next day of my dad's outburst the night before, but everyone else I knew who either witnessed it or heard about it sympathized with my dad.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, Rubric Head is in town and wants to have dinner with my brother and me tomorrow night. I would have loved to make excuses except that A) my mom is already a bit irritated with me and B) Rubric Head is taking us to a really great restaurant. Matthew wanted to send in his place a guy named Emil from out cohort who looks like him and who will do anything for food. The only problem with Matthew's plan is that Emil is from the Basque region of France and has a fairly strong accent. Matthew is going to have to come to the Rubric Head  dinner with me. I told him we can decompress afterward by rubricking the whole experience.

We're going.  We may be expected to rubric the waiters, the meal itself, the quality of the toilet paper in the restaurant's bathrooms, and God knows what else.  I may need Prozac before the night is over.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cut the Cord

My mom is a micromanaging helicopter parent of the utmost degree. When i was still a minor, it was her absolute  right to parent in such a manner if she so desired. Now that I am an adult, she can still say whatever she wants, but I don't have to listen all that closely if what she says does not suit me. 

One could argue that because I'm living rent-free in a structure that she jointly owns and am subsisting mostly on food that she has financed, she still should have a say in what I do. I interpret it somewhat differently. If I were engaging in behaviors that went against everything she and my father ever taught me, she would have the right to ask that I either live within the rules of polite society or move out of the condo that she owns. I've banked enough money that I could support myself throughout the remainder of medical school if she pulled the financial carpet from beneath my feet. It's money that might be better spent on expenses when I am in an internship or residency and am not earning much money, but the vast majority of interns and residents survive on what they earn in their rather marginal positions.

Still it's good that I have the money that I've stored away. It allows for a level playing field in negotiating this game of territory as I'm finding my way to adulthood. It gives me freedom, in the event that a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce me under absolute despotism, so that I might  throw out such government and provide new power for my own future security, to borrow a few words from Thomas Jefferson. My mom can give me all the advice she wants. I can take it or leave it. If she doesn't like it when I leave the advice as opposed to taking it, she can evict me from the premises. If she evicts me, I can used my savings to live wherever i want. It works for me.

The situation in which my brother and I find ourselves is a bit unnatural. Brothers and sisters do not typically go off to medical school together. The fact that we did lends itself, sometimes through the most casual sharing of information with our parents on the part of either my brother and me, to intentional or unintentional blurring of boundaries. It's uncharted water for each of us to navigate. 

When i first began seeing the person I dated this fall, I asked my brother not to mention the relationship to my parents. It that I felt I had anything to hide from them so much as that I wanted to deal with the boyfriend on my own terms without any parental interference. I'm not sure how or even if they might have interjected themselves into the process even had they known, but it was easier with them not being in any way involved. It was not a hasty decision. I would do it again the same way if I had the chance to do it over. I probably will do the same thing again at least once. I won't marry a guy without allowing my parents to meet him first, but I can easily see myself carrying on a relationship of equal or greater length without their knowledge. My parents simply do not need to know every single thing I do.

In a few short years, my brother and I will each complete internships in cities away from each other and our parents. At that point the invisible tie that still provides a not-all-that-age-appropriate connection will likely disappear once and for all. Both my brother and I will always be connected to one another and to our parents in some intangible way. Right now, however, we're all a bit too connected. The metaphorical umbilical cord binding us all has entered the final countdown phase.