Monday, February 29, 2016

My Brother's Love Life

Incidentally, this is not a drawing of me.

My brother is certain he is in love. The current subject of his infatuation is a twenty-seven-year-old member of our cohort. She's so gorgeous that she doesn't even look real. She's a dead-ringer for Julianne Hough, the former "Dancing with the Stars" dancer who is trying to be n actress or singer or something else other than a dancer. I don't really have time to be current in regard to pop culture. I'm doing well even to know that there is such a person as Julianne Hough. I only knew that my cohort mate looks like her because someone told me, and I google her to see if the resemblance was real or existed only in the mind of the person who first alerted me to it. The resemblance is legitimate, except that the "Julianne" over whom Matthew is pining is brilliant as well as beautiful.

Matthew falls in love roughly once each month, and usually twice in months that have five weekends.  I don't know if he's any further gone on Julianne than he has been on the others, but he's wandering around the condo practically walking into walls, and tonight he put ketchup on his peanut butter sandwich. He ate halfway through the sandwich before noticing that it had an unusual flavor.  

This is only the third time since we've been here that Matthew's love interest has been a cohort member. Another time it was a girl in the cohort two years ahead of us, and a couple times his crushes were RNs on staff at one of the hospitals associated with our medical school. One of them he met up with after I had a medical procedure. He was bringing me In and Out Burger because I was in grave danger of starving to death due to the suckiness of hospital food. Another time the crush was a girl who worked in a taco truck. Matthew's not a class-conscious snob when it comes to his women. If they're pretty enough he'll date them no matter what their station in life. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the bimbo who wanted to bear his child who was so incredibly stupid that at her part-time bank teller job, she gave away thousands of dollars in traveler's checks because the customer held a premium account at the bank, which entitled him to traveler's checks at face value. Bimbo thought it meant he got however much her wanted in traveler's checks totally gratis. That one was pretty, too, but she barely had a two-digit IQ.)

I have no clue as to whether or not Matthew will get as much as a lunch date with Julianne, much less to first base or further. She seems to think he's adorable, but in the way a teen-aged babysitter thinks the four-year-old boy she babysits is cute.  She's twenty-seven and female; Matthew is twenty-one and male. The difference between their ages might just as well be a century.

This would be how Matthew's latest love interest looks on a bad day. (Incidentally, this is NOT a picture of me.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

It's not arrogance when confidence is supported with substance.

my new instrument, though I do not yet own one

Professor Larry Bakman (not his real name; in the event that I mention him again in this blog, I probably will not offer this disclaimer but will instead leave it to the reader to determine [if he or she actually cares,which he or she probably doesn't] that I refer to this professor as Larry Bakman because of his rather obnoxious resemblance to the made-for TV judge Larry Bakman of Hot Bench) seems to have taken exception to a claim I made several weeks ago. Larry Bakman and I met up in early February at a religious observance at which I played the violin. He asked at the time what instruments I play. I listed them as tuba, baritone, trombone just a bit, piano, organ, cello (barely intermediate skill level there), and violin. I could have added other keyboard instruments, as in if you play one, you by virtue of transfer automatically possess basic skills in others, but I didn't want to pour on the self-praise too thickly; I've played organ long enough to have a reasonable mastery of bass foot pedals and of the specific fingering techniques that differ from those required for playing the piano, so it didn't seem disingenuous to differentiate in that regard, but I left off harpsichord, clavichord, and other instruments of that ilk, as well as electronic keyboard. As an afterthought, I added that I technically play viola, as anyone who plays violin also knows how to play viola, though I had at that point never actually touched a viola, much less played one.

Friday morning the professor carried a viola into the auditorium. Just before class was slated to begin, he announced skeptically to the cohort that I had "blazenly professed"  the ability to play the viola despite never having played one before. He handed the viola to me with a terse order to play.

I took the viola from him and tuned it to my satisfaction. Larry Bakman accused me of wasting time in tuning the viola ("put up or shut up" were his actual words),  but I told him I would not play an out-of-tune viola. Once the viola was tuned to my satisfaction, I played a few tentative scales, then segued to a Handel aria. A proficient violinist really can play the viola. I then asked Larry Bakman if he had any requests. He didn't. A guy in the cohort I nicknamed Raptor Jesus [for no reason other than that I read the name on the Recovery from Mormonism message board and thought it was too great a name not to co-opt, and he was the first  person with whom I came into contact after reading the moniker]  requested his favorite song, "In the Ghetto." I played through "In the Ghetto" for Raptor Jesus, then handed the viola back to Larry Bakman, muttering "Touche!" to him under the sounds of applause from my cohort mates. I hastily apologized to the class for wasting their time and money on such a pathetic display. If Larry Bakman had the grace to be embarrassed  even to the slightest degree, it wasn't discernible.

The only result of consequence to come of the encounter is that I now want to own a viola. They're not terribly expensive. I'll pick one up soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Did God ever send YOU a thank-you note?

a reasonable facsimile of my cousin's tithing for the month of January

My eleven-year-old cousin Hannah is standing up to LDS authority in an unusual way for someone her age, especially considering the sheep that surround her and call themselves her parents and siblings. Hannah has decided that she does not wish to pay tithing to the LDS church anymore. I find Hannah's rationale supporting her decision to forego tithing to be profoundly comical.

Hannah says that she is required to acknowledge any and all gifts she receives with thank-you notes. She said she's been paying tithing to the LDS church since she was three, and that she's never once received a thank-you note either from God or from the LDS church. Her mother said that the twice-yearly receipts submitted by the church count as thank-you notes. Hannah then said that she'll consolidate all her own acknowledgements into twice-yearly receipts if such constitute adequate thank-you notes. Her parents, of course, said that she would do no such thing. 

Hannah's father then pointed out that tithing was not so much a gift as a tax. Hannah debated this point on the grounds that a tax is mandatory, as in one will ultimately find himself or herself in the slammer for not paying it.  Hannah's father said that a person will absolutely find himself or herself in a spiritual slammer if he or she fails to pay tithing. Hannah responded that she was willing to take her chances on that ever happening, and that furthermore, the slip which is to accompany all tithing contributions displays the heading "Tithing and Other Offerings"; offerings is synonymous with gifts, not taxes. When was the last time anyone's tax return noted the amount due to the state or federal government as an offering?

Hannah then went out and spent her entire month's allowance on candy and gum so that her parents could not force her to donate ten per cent of it to the church. Her father then took ten per cent of the candy and gum she bought and shoved it into three of of those Mormon tithing envelopes and gave them to the bishop. Uncle Lee, Hannah's dad (the uncle who looks like Oswald), said that it is not the way tithing should be paid, but that if something terrible were to happen to Hannah before she earned enough money to catch up on her tithing, perhaps forcing her to fork over ten per cent of the candy would save Hannah from the fires of Hell. (Mormons take Hell very literally, and sometimes refer to tithing as "fire insurance.") It is heart-warming to me to know that Uncle Lee worships such a merciful God.

God alone knows what their bishop will do with four Jolly Ranchers, one package of Pop Rocks, one extra large envelope of Fun Dip, and one package of Chiclets Tiny Size gum, and one package Hubba Bubba gum that comes in a container sort of like chewing tobacco. Technically, I think all tithing is supposed to be forwarded to Salt Lake City. I can just see Thomas S. Monson, the Grand Pooh Bah of All Things Mormon,  ripping open the Pop Rocks and Fun Dip and pouring them into his mouth, sending himself into his final diabetic coma. At least he would die a happy man. 

Hannah's mother said that in the future she will deduct ten per cent of Hannah's allowance before it is given to her and will make the payment to the church. Hannah said that forcing people to do the right thing was Lucifer's way, not Jesus' way. I would assume Hannah was probably slapped for saying that, though that detail didn't make it onto the story as it was told to my dad by my Aunt Cristelle, the Wiccan, who takes perverse delight in any deviation from Mormon Orthodoxy that she perceives in the ranks.

My brother says that Hannah's actions are evidence that what is wrong with me is genetic and comes from my dad's side of the family. My mom seconds Matthew's conclusion. My dad says that he needs to make sure he and my mom put have away enough money for Hannah's education, because the chances of her remaining in her parents' good graces for long enough either to get married or to finish college are hovering around zero.

It's rare that I am proud to claim one of my relatives on my father's side, but tonight I'm toasting Hannah with my half-bottle of Guinness.  Here's to independent and forward thinking and to turning one's nose up at the purple Kool-Aid. Great job, kid!

Monday, February 15, 2016

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you

The cast of characters by which I'm surrounded here each day of my medical school career seems to be slowly but surely parting with its rather tenuous (my favorite word of late) grasp on reality. It's like a reality show except that no one gets kicked out or kicked off anymore; we're past that. People just slowly but surely lose their marbles a few at a time until they're saying or doing truly bizarre things, even more so than when these people first arrived, and most of them were more than a few centimeters off-kilter in one direction or another even before they got here.

To put things in perspective, Matthew is probably one of the saner people here. I know I disparage Matthew about as regularly as I clean my ears, and my ears are cleaner than most. To be fair, Matthew's been a bit challenged in terms of raw intelligence for most of his life, but he hasn't necessarily been crazy. There's a difference, as I'm certain you can appreciate.

One of my high school teachers told a story that illustrates the difference.  A man had a flat tire, so he pulled over to change the tire. The spot where he was stopped was just outside the fence of a home for the insane, criminally or otherwise. One of the residents watched the man as he changed his tire. The man jacked his car and removed the flat tire. Before he could replace the flat tire with the spare, all for of the man's lug nuts rolled down a curb gutter and beyond his reach.

Not quite sure what he should do next, the man stood idly while pondering his fate until the loony bin inmate calmly suggested, "Maybe you should take one lug nut off each of the other three wheels. Put those three lug nuts on the wheel with the spare tire. That should keep all the wheels in place until you can get more." 

Not having a better idea, the man did just as the inmate had suggested. Then he turned to the man and asked, "If you could think of that so easily, why are you in there?"

The inmate replied, "I'm crazy. No one ever said I was stupid."

I don't think there's anyone left here in my cohort who is stupid. Some are brighter than others, but no one (even Matthew) is bona fide dull-witted. I cannot assert with equal veracity, however, that no one here isn't just a bit touched. 

Germophobe behavior is so common here that it's practically mainstream. I've heard from some of the doctors in the family that germ-obsession is off-the-charts among medical school students in general. Most though not all of  of them will eventually get over it to some degree. My cohort mates are certainly holding their own in this regard. Several cohort mates wear nitrile or vinyl gloves the entire time we're together. Considering that in the lecture halls we're more or less limited to note-taking, such would seem to be a bit extreme. One of my fellow med students carries a container of antibiotic facial tissue with him everywhere she goes. If anyone sneezes or coughs, he gets up from his seat to distribute exactly three tissues (never one, two, or four, but always exactly three) to the sneezer or cougher. He wears a facial mask at ll times. He used to wear the facial mask just to school functions, but the word on the street is that he now wears it everywhere. I have no clue as to whether or not he wears a mask in her own apartment, and I don't intend to find out.

Other quirks I'm seeing in my peers are not quite so easily explained away as is the germ obsession. One guy has to sit where he can see all doors in whatever room we're convening. This is a bit weird but still basically fine as long as we're in a room that doesn't adjoin another room with doors. If we are in an adjoining room or hall, he sort of wanders as though he's patrolling. Some professors are less bothered by this than others are.

Corinthe (I'll leave you to guess whether or not that's her real name), who is my closest friend in med school other than my brother, has begun to think about one of every two males she sees looks just like Jim Jones. I'm not certain from whence her fixation with Jim Jones sprung. He and his band of followers were six feet under long before she was born. No one among her extended family or circle of friends had any association with his cult. It started when she was, for some reason known only to her, watching a Bertie Higgins music video on her computer while waiting for a lecturing professor to medicate himself because the poor guy could barely get through a sentence without practically asphyxiating himself in cough spasms. (We were all amused by the irony that the guy was lecturing about the ineffectivity of traditional cough suppressants -- both over- the-counter and high octane, as compared to their homeopathic counterparts. Yet when the disparager of Dayquil and all its neighbors on the pharmacy shelf was forced out of commission by the mother of all coughs, to what did he resort? Codeine laced phenergan with a side of 10/325 hydrocodone / acetaminophen, more commonly known as Norco. I have good reason to believe we're being taught by a team of junkies. They may preach homeopathic remedies, but when push comes to shove, they'll reach for the opiates every time.) 

Anyway, Corinthe was killing time and for some reason to which only God and Corinthe are privy, she stumbled upon the video of Bertie Higgins wailing that godawful song about having it all just like Bogie and Bacall. I must assume the song was the only Bertie Higgins hit. He was probably banned from recording in studios everywhere after the fiasco that was "Key Largo." In today's world, it wouldn't stop anyone. They'd just record their trashy works on their cell phones and become bad Internet sensations. Back then, however, such was not an option, and the world was thus spared from further musical degradation at the hands or voice of Bertie Higgins. I looked at Corinthe's monitor when she called my attention to Bertie Higgins' supposed similarity in appearance to Jim Jones. To be perfectly honest, I could see the resemblance. (Higgins probably sang like Jim Jones as well. That was probably part of the musical problem, though only a small part. Bertie Higgins was too great a musical debacle to be blamed solely on Jim Jones or on any other single entity.) Since then, she's pointed out at least thirteen other guys as well as two women who, in her estimation, look a whole lot like Jim Jones. None of them look any more like Jim Jones than you or I do. To say that Corinthe has Jim Jones on the brain is an understatement.

Another cohort mate who sits near me during most lectures is developing some sort of obsession with the rate at which people blink. You can see in his eyes that anytime he looks at someone, he's calculating the person's number of blinks per minute. He doesn't seem to do a whole lot with the data once he's gathered it, though I'm not sure what could be done with it, anyway. I've heard that some people blink more frequently when they're lying than when they're telling the truth, but since there's not really any major incentive around here for anyone to speak untruthfully on a regular basis, it's probably not a major causative contributor to the statistical phenomena. I say whatever floats the guy's boat is probably harmless if it's so out in the open. (If he were hiding cameras in restrooms to gather data of a more private or insidious nature, I'd be the first one to protest.) A few of my cohort mates, however, aren't so laissez-faire and are beginning to be freaked out by someone staring at their eyes. I admit to sabotaging his collection of statistics by staring for seemingly impossible intervals.

We're dealing with digesting a whole lot of very important information in a relatively short period of time, and we all have our own ways of breaking down the information, of making sense of it, and of storing it in places that will make it easy for us to access the information when needed.

One lady who sits three rows ahead of me and two my left for most sessions is a flutist. I've never seen her with  flute, and she's never spoken to me about it, but I can see that she places her hands in front of her and  moves her fingers in the configurations to play flutes scales when she's trying to process information. I've never played the flute, but my mom plays it, so I recognize fingerings. 

A girl who sits in the same row as I but to the far left of me takes notes on her laptop as do most of us, but the very key points of any lecture she writes with Sharpie marker on her left arm. Her left arm is often very red from having been scrubbed so hard to rid it of each day's notes. I don't understand why she doesn't switch to an easier-to-erase marker than a Sharpie. Then again, perhaps it's the erasing and not the writing that locks the information into her brain. By the time I'm helping people to justify such odd behavior, I'm probably just about as screwed up as the rest of my cohort is.

I'm not going to go into every quirk of every person who attends lectures and other class sessions with me, or at least not in this particular blog.. Suffice it to say that no one has ever noticed that I don't touch the arm rests of the auditorium-style chairs in which we're almost always seated and that no one thinks anything about having to check public restrooms for goons or bad people before I am comfortable going in myself.  Even if I didn't have a good excuse (for the latter, anyway) my quirks are so insignificant that they fail to attract even minuscule attention. I'm normal to the point of being boring by comparison to my medical school peers.

One of my cohort mates who shall remain nameless (he's been mentioned) made a proposition of sorts. He suggested that when he's through with his residency and I'm finished with mine, if neither one of us is in a significant relationship, we should perhaps contemplate looking each other up at that point. I told him that when the time comes, I'll think seriously about considering it. Thinking seriously about considering contemplating looking someone up in five to eight years IF we both happen to be unattached is about as serious a commitment as I'm willing to make to anyone at this juncture of my life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Smashed Violins and Internet Sensations

how my smashed violin might have looked on the floor of the parking garage; I didn't see it, so at least I don't have to live through flashbacks

I played as a member of  a string quartet  in an Ash Wednesday service earlier this evening. I did not have the time to spare on such a diversion, but my arm was figuratively twisted by a professor  whose wife was fretting about the original first violinist having bailed. I don't really see how Ash Wednesday equates all that well with a string quartet, as it's usually a decidedly low-key observance, but what the hell. The  congregation in question apparently had plenty of money to toss around, if what they paid me was any indication of their wealth. If what they paid the second violinist, who seemed to consider key signatures as mere suggestions, was anything more valuable than Monopoly money (hell -- I would've considered Monopoly currency too pricy a commodity to part with in exchange for her performance), they were ripped off in a most egregious manner.

Semi-regular readers may recall a previous conflict with my mother, who made short work of my previous violin by borrowing it, then almost immediately dispensing of it by backing over it with my dad's Porsche. It seems that she has redeemed herself to some degree. She finally came up with the rough equivalent of the violin she slaughtered. She says she intended to do so all along. I don't know whether or not to believe her, though I don't really care. The new instrument will get only limited play time, as it's a shell of the one my Uncle Jerry bought for me. 

The impetus for my mom  actually breaking down and forking over the bucks for the new violin was that she learned that I took my $18,000 violin to a beach bonfire in northern California when I was there with Claire's family and some friends a couple of months ago. I'm not sure what my mom's issue was. Hasn't she seen any of those Piano Guys' YouTube videos? They lug that expensive Yamaha grand (probably not as expensive as any one of my mom's four grand pianos, but still expensive nonetheless) all over Christendom and beyond. Still, if I'd known that taking the violin into dangerous territory or uncharted waters would result in a new violin coming into my possession, I would have carted the expensive violin off to a combat zone or perhaps to Antarctica a long time ago.

In any event, I now have no need to take my nice violin to the beach, to the morgue, to the forest, to the desert, or on my ascent of Denali should I attempt the behemoth. I own a two-thousand-dollar fiddle to cart with me on little side trips. In theory, it's not a bad idea. 

All I need now to complete my own personal string quartet is a viola. Wouldn't it be really cute if (once I obtained a viola) I filmed myself playing all four parts of a string quartet? I could become the next Internet string musician sensation, right after Lindsay Stirling or whatever her name is. Perhaps I could even gyrate all over the screen as she does to distract viewers from noticing that I'm not exactly exuding talent from every pore. It's just a thought, though,  and it will die in the thought process, as I have no intention whatsoever of attempting to become an Internet sensation in any form.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Political Rantings

I'm contemplating switching my voter registration to Republican for the presidential primary. If it looks as though my pal Marco Rubio is still in the race by the time the California primary rolls around, I will wish to support him. If he's for all intents and purposes out of the race, I'll participate in the democratic primary.

I was pleasantly surprised that Rubio did as well as he did in Iowa. It will be interesting to see what happens in New Hampshire, where a greater percentage of the population may actually be sane. Regarding Trump, and Cruz, I'm hard-pressed to decide which one is the lesser of the two evils.

My brother thinks I like Rubio because he's better-looking than the other candidates. I won't argue that he's the best-looking of the presidential candidates, though that's not why I support him. I don't disagree with the majority of Trump's views on the major issues, as he's a relatively moderate candidate. I do think, though, that he's so inflammatory and so lacking in decorum -- the apparent absence of any sort of internal filter regulating the words that come out of his mouth is particularly appalling -- that it would be unwise for our populace to elect him. I also think Trump is a sexist pig.

I  have only one vote, which I will cast it whether it makes any difference or not.  It would be nice if the U.S. would drop the whole electoral college thing for presidential elections. It's obsolete in modern times.

Is there currently in circulation a photo of Ted Cruz that doesn't make him look like a comic book character?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Catholics, Mormons, Fundies, and Everything In-Between


Religion is my particular concern at the moment, though not necessarily in the sense that one might expect. My personal religious beliefs are arguably a bit in limbo at this time, but I'm happy with my present theological standpoint of still having at least some faith in a few of the most basic principles of Christianity, yet simultaneously doubting that there is only one path to God. In any event, my state of faith is not a great concern to me at this time.

What does perplex me is the concern others marginally in my life have of late been expressing concerning the fate of my immortal soul. Several acquaintances -- mostly relatives, but some unrelated acquaintances as well -- have, in the past month or so, made very pointed comments to me about this precise matter. The Catholics think I should be a better Catholic.  The Mormons think I should no longer say anything that remotely hints at a disbelief in any of the many teachings (some of which are a bit hard to swallow, to put it mildly) of the LDS church. A couole of evangelical Christians are have asked me point-blank whether or not I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

My relationship with Catholicism has long been on the tenuous side. Just about the time I admitted to myself that Santa Claus was a metaphor, I came to the same conclusion regarding the Host and the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine,  Lest any of the anti-Santa fanatics who think that allowing a child to believe in a literal Santa causes him or her to later reject religious teachings on the grounds that he or she was lied to about Santa Claus, so what was told to him or her about religion was equally fictitious, use my words as fodder to support their own misguided views, I had my doubts about the Eucharist wafer being one and the same with the body of Christ considerably before I forced myself to come to terms with the unlikelihood of a fat man in a red suit delivering presents all over the world in a single evening.

I think Jesus existed. I know there's no positive proof, but I'm comfortable with the belief that he was. I'm not quite sure exactly how He came into existence, but that doesn't matter a great deal to me. The words in the Bible directly attributed to Him are words by which I feel it is reasonable to try to live my life. I'm a little more dubious about the words of some of the others, including the Apostle Paul.  I prefer to stick to the words of Jesus himself, though I know we cannot come close to authenticating that they were actually His words. Still, they seem wise enough that I'm OK with accepting those words and with trying [sometimes poorly] to follow them. 

Over Christmas break, two of my more devout Catholic aunts questioned me (they actually ambushed and ganged up on me; it was seriously like a planned attack) about my feelings concerning abortion.  I answered that I'm not in favor of it except in cases of rape, maternal health, or insanely young maternal age, but that I'm not comfortable denying anyone else the right to the procedure because of my personal beliefs. I don't know why my aunts would care so much about one relatively unimportant person's stance on abortion. I'm certainly not planning to open up an abortion clinic once I'm licensed to practice medicine.

Where Mormonism is concerned, it's a little less clear exactly what those who talked about it to me expect me to do. I do know they would prefer that I not speak or write in jest about the LDS Church. Whether this is out of fear for my immortal soul or simply because they don't like anything said about their church that is not 100% favorable is unknown to me. In truth, there's probably a bit of both. The conundrum in this regard is that I'm in a stress-laden environment, which will likely grow a whole lot more stressful before it becomes less so. I need moments of levity to lighten my mood and my load. I find the Mormon Church funnier than hell. Why should I not laugh at the things I find funny when the opportunity presents itself? I wouldn't be so insensitive as to make light of what the LDS Church and its members hold sacred directly to a person who practices that faith. The Mormons in my life only read it or hear about it from others. That, in my opinion, is their problem.

Beyond that, I am the very least of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' problems. Why should anyone care what silly little Alexis has to say about them? I don't go to to post obnoxious comments. I don't show up on Mormon-friendly boards to debate with them. I rarely even go to organized exMormon sites to poke fun at the Mormons. I keep a low profile where my grandfather is concerned; his buddies do not know anything about his errant granddaughter unless he tells them himself. I occasionally share thoughts [which I distinctly frame as my own opinions] or stories [which are true, albeit with the caveat that anything one remembers from very early childhood may be ever so slightly degraded by the constraints of the human memory] in my own spaces or in the spaces of other like-minded individuals. I don't say or write any of these things with the intent of hurting the Mormons in my life. At the same time, if these people practically stalk my Internet activity, they may come across things that are hurtful to them. I'm sorry that people may have been have been hurt by something I said or wrote [not to them], but I'm not sorry I said or wrote it.

With respect to the individuals who have expressed concern for my salvation as far as whether or not I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior . . . I actually have done so. When I was twelve, I'd heard just enough of such talk that I was troubled by the idea of Catholics being excluded from heaven over a technicality. I formally accepted Jesus. Some would say I was merely hedging my bets with my actions, and perhaps I was, but the acceptance was sincere, and I haven't rescinded it. I have no reason to believe Jesus has, either. I'm covered on this base.

On the other hand, if this were the most serious problem in my life, I lead a fairy tale existence. Alas, such is not the case, though from what I hear and read, others around me are dealing with matters of far more gravity than that with which I presently contend. I should probably stop complaining.