Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Church of the White Blood Cell

I hesitate to be contrary, but I think i just used this for free. It will probably be unceremoniously yanked in the near future, at which time I'll scour Google Images for another white blood cell icon.

This morning I was asked to perform as a last-minute fill-in for a violinist at at third-year medical school student's wedding. I finished the job just a short time ago.The  violinist originally contracted by the bridal couple  was the bride's cousin, and his flight from somewhere on the east coast was grounded due to inclement weather. If anyone had asked my opinion -- which no one did --  I would have told them to forget about the violin parts, and I would have asked me to fill in for the keyboard artist, whose skills could most charitably be described as atrocious at best

I'm not quite sure under what rock the hired organist/pianist was found, but it was clearly a stone that would have been best left unturned. My initial assumption was that she was most likely a relative of either the bride or groom, as no one so unskilled would have possessed the utter gall to ask for compensation to make a mockery of someone's wedding. I was wrong. She was paid what she said is her usual fee of two-hundred-fifty dollars for the privilege of butchering every song she attempted. (The fee would have been modest had she been able to scratch and claw her way at least to an absolute minimum level of proficiency.) What I don't understand is why someone didn't realize after hearing the woman mangle one song after another at the rehearsal (which she did, I was told by the best man) that she wasn't quite up to snuff. Whoever knew of my violin-playing ability and gave my name to the bride would also have known that I play piano and organ.  The songs were less painful to hear because I played along on the violin, but they would have been better still had I just played the piano and organ myself. I did my personal best to cover up the other musician's incompetence, but the world's greatest violinist (which I am not) is powerless to camouflage all the wrong notes of a pianist or organist who is determined to be heard at all costs.

From the perspective of the bride and groom as I see it, the sole consolation is that there doesn't appear to be much if any correlation whatsoever between the quality of music at a wedding and the longevity and satisfaction of the marriage. The late Vladimir Horowitz might emerge from the grave to perform for a wedding, and the groom could still very well turn out to be a  controlling, wife-beating, child-molesting thief of women's undergarments who has wives and children in seven states and three Canadian provinces. 

The professor to whom I refer as Larry Bakman [because of his physical and auditory resemblance to the faux TV judge] was in attendance and spoke to me after the wedding. After complimenting me for not sucking as much as the organist did, and amidst a thinly veiled solicitation for music lessons for his progeny, he asked me about my church -- not the Roman Catholic Church, or even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but the church I told him I plan to found as soon as its tax-exempt status has been granted. Initially I was caught off-guard and didn't know quite what the hell he was talking about, but I recovered quickly enough. The man invited himself to my church's Sunday morning service tomorrow. I told him that at my congregation's next service will consist of watching YouTube videos because I plan to be both too busy and too exhausted to throw together anything more substantial this week, and that, furthermore, my followers do nothing so bourgeois as to attend Sunday morning services. If he truly desires to see the inner workings of my religious society, Professor Larry Bakman will need to drag himself there on a Wednesday afternoon as all the rest of us do.

Of course we do not actually meet for religious purposes on Wednesday afternoons or at any other time, because the religion exists only in conversations with Professor Larry Bakman. We will, however, make a single exception and meet on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 3, for the sole purpose of satiating Professor Larry Bakman's curiosity. I'll make it a point to pass a collection plate. I'm undecided as to what form of deity we will pretend to worship. The flat Earth and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have already been taken, so I'll have to come up with something vaguely original.  People from at least one of my study groups will show up. If Larry Bakman fails to appear, we'll study. For that matter, we may just study even if he does show. Maybe we worship the God of Medicine. Perhaps we even worship the human immune system. 

In any event, I'll pick up a carton of extremely tasty flank steak burritos from a taco truck that sells them midway between the medical school and my condo. Professor Larry Bakman will not be offered a burrito because the burritos will be a part of our Eucharistic rite, and we do not have an open table; only believers of whatever it is I decide that we believe will be allowed to commune with us. I happen to know that Professor Larry Bakman would offer up his own child in a ritualistic sacrifice in exchange for one of the flank steak burritos from the taco truck to which I allude if such a burrito were not otherwise made available to him.

Even if Professor Larry Bakman professes to believe, he will not have professed his belief prior to the deadline for being granted inclusion into our Eucharistic ritual. He can drool until he dehydrates himself, but he will not be given one of the coveted burritos. And I'll buy so many of the damned things that the taco truck will be out of flank steak by then if he tries to pick one up on his way back to the campus.

In the past thirty seconds I have inadvertently stumbled  upon a deistic focus for my religious society. We shall worship the white blood cell. Such allows for and even lends itself to the eventual schisms so inevitable among religious groups. My followers can ultimately regroup themselves depending upon whether they deem the true nature of the Supreme Being  to be more closely aligned with neutrophils, esinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, or monocytes. The possibilities for further fracturing among my band of religious zealots are limited only by the bounds of the knowledge of biology and by the human imagination. The possibilities for schisms, divisions, wars, rumors of wars, and hosts of other conflict far exceed anything of which any Abrahamic religion ever conceived. Profound, isn't it?

Monday, January 18, 2016

ExMormon Literature: A Disappointing Purchase

I've read numerous accounts of LDs mission experiences including [but not limited to] William Shunn's The Accidental Terrorist, Scott Miller's The Book of a Mormon, David Wagner's No Ordinary Mission, and Craig Harline's Way Below the Angels, in addition to  first-person accounts of varying lengths penned by my own cousins. Before clicking the "Buy Now" button on my most recent purchase of When I Was a Fucking Mormon Missionary  by Bailey Jones, I skimmed a couple of short reviews, of which at least half were uncomplimentary. I naively dismissed the negativity of the customer reviews as being the likely product of members of the LDS church eager to discredit anyone who told the real story of what it was like to be a young adult serving a mission for their church.

While the reviews of which I write may very well have been motivated by anti-anti-Mormon bias, after having read the book, I would echo some of the sentiments expressed therein. A good portion of the negative comments focused on the author's use of profanity.  Some reviewers took exception to the author's the use if the f-word in the book's title. I don't agree with that particular criticism: the use of  fucking in the title served as fair warning that the auther would not be frugal with respect to expletives. A buyer has the right to be warned about liberal use of profanity.

As for me, I'm far from shocked by the use of expletives. I use them myself on occasion [though far more often in written than in oral form; the words just don't flow from my mouth as freely and as easily as I would like them to, and I end up sounding like a kid practicing forbidden vocabulary while parents and teachers are not within earshot].  An occasional and well-timed application of an unexpected curse word can have a nice effect. Randomly distributing profanity throughout an otherwise not-terribly-compelling piece of writing, however, does not magically rescue the work from literary mediocrity or worse. Sprinkling f-bombs and consistently choosing cruder terms over milder ones eventually loses its charm, shock value, or anything else it might have had to offer. One would normally try to eschew the overuse of any given content word in writing. For example, a semi-skilled writer wouldn't repeatedly rely upon the the use of adjective incredible, or upon its adverbial counterpart incredibly. The writer would eventually, one would hope, scour his or her memory bank for a suitable synonym, or at least consult a thesaurus. Why would fucking be an exception to this general rule? What is so overwhelmingly powerful about the word that would merit its inclusion on virtually every page of a manuscript?*

The editing in this book was substandard. I read from the author's blog that in an earlier book, the absence of editing was deliberate. The author did not want any change of the overall essence or tone of the book  to happen as a result of the editing process. I looked for a similar note in the preface or preamble to the current book, though I did not find one. Perhaps it was there and I simply did not read carefully enough to find it. In any event, I would suspect that the author desired "rawness" for this book as well. A spell-check may have been run, as the typographical errors I noticed were ones in which actual words were substituted for similar words that would have made more sense. An example would be the use of the term "sleuth of rules" when can only guess that "slew of rules" was the intended meaning. In any event, I consider the author's choice not to edit the book to have been unfortunate. Someone -- even the author herself -- could have read the manuscript carefully and might have caught the actual errors resulting in confusion over semantics without removing any of the all-important expletives.

I googled the author, which provided me with a link to her blog, on which I clicked because I'm nosy. I also read a transcription of an interview she gave.
The author, who writes under an assumed name, claims to have an bachelor's degree in English from Brigham Young University. Her assertion may very well be true, though if such is indeed the case, I'm thoroughly unimpressed by the standards of BYU's English department. Her writing in her blog is far more technically accurate than is the writing in her book, which lends some credence to her claim that the lack of editing in at least one of her books was deliberate. 

Still, the author's blog shared a few insights not casting the author in the most positive of lights. In one case, she discussed the publication of a subsequent book. She described it as a collection of short stories. A few sentences later, she referred to that same book of short stories as a "novel."  I would expect that an English major would grasp the distinction between a novel and a collection of short stories.  In another post, she made reference to  a "ratio of people living in ward boundaries versus those who actually attend church" as "50 per cent." I was a biochemistry and music performance major [as an undergraduate], so I'm not necessarily the best source for precise definitions of mathematical and statistical terms,  but I'm pretty sure that a ratio is the relationship between two values with respect to the number of times the first contains the second. I don't think a percentage is a ratio. Perhaps it's nit-picking, but both examples I cited demonstrate that the author is arguably lacking with regard to the level of general knowledge one would expect a holder of a "bachelor of arts" degree to have attained. Vocabulary should be an area of strength for an English major, and the vocabulary of an English major should extend beyond literary terms to the basics even of mathematical terms. I haven't even scratched the surface in terms of the many ways in which the author's lack of mastery of the conventions of standard written English is not on par with what one would expect of a university English department graduate.

All of that having been said, the book's single greatest detraction, in my opinion, was its lack of absorbing anecdotes. The author told readers that her companion in the Mission Training center "acted manipulative and bitchy." She told readers that her mission president was an "asswipe." Would her story not have been more compelling had she shown us just how it was that her companion behaved in such bitchy and manipulative ways and what it was her mission president did to convince her that he was such an asswipe? These are only two examples of the many places in her book in which the author might have painted a more cogent picture for her readers. I suspect that the story of the author's mission probably is a captivating one, but her retelling of it was anything but captivating.

I could list even more ways in which  the book disappointed me, but I shall cease. As it is, I'm risking a major blast. The author sometimes googles her pen name or book's title. Those who have criticized her works are frequently called "morons" or "idiots" in retaliatory rants. I may very well be the next idiot or moron blasted in her blog, or perhaps even in the comments section here. I wish my aunt could be given a refund on the purchase price of the book, but I doubt that will happen.

P.S. I live in a house that is very much made of glass in terms of my own typing skills. My blogs frequently contain typographical errors. My written work for school, however, does not, nor would any manuscript I sold on Amazon or elsewhere.

* An obvious exception might be a sex manual or similar how-to book.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hot chocolate, Bundys, and Palins

I'll probably never again look at hot chocolate in quite the same way.

My friend gave me her personal recipe for homemade hot chocolate. This friend has cooking skills that are even less impressive than mine are. Her idea of cooking from scratch is buying a pizza from Papa Murphy's or a similar place that sells pre-assembled pizzas that you take home to bake.  I should have been skeptical of her hot chocolate recipe. She says that you take one packet of Swiss Mix hot chocolate and mix in the hot water. Then you stir in one level teaspoon of Pillsbury ready-to-spread vanilla frosting until the frosting melts. Then you sprinkle  marshmallows on the top and drink it. Then, if you're Alexis, you throw up after having just one sip of the vile concoction. Don't try it unless you're bulimic and welcome the opportunity to toss your latest meal.

Bristol Palin had another baby. Doesn't it make you feel that all is now right with the world around you when you hear that the queen spokesperson of abstinence has her second kid out of wedlock? 

The Bundys and their associates and partners in crime are still occupying the federal wildlife reserve in Oregon. Another group of militants showed up on the premises with the reported intent of "providing security" for both sides of the conflict. Wouldn't  you feel intensely secure in the prospect of having a large number of armed half-wits circulating around you? With security personnel such as those, who needs insecurity?

The members of Bundy's tribe are now driving the federally-owned trucks and heavy equipment around the premises of the refuge, claiming the vehicles now belong to the citizens of the area. If one of the students who attends an impoverished high school a few stones' throws from from my medical school were to get into a federally-owned vehicle and turn the key in the ignition, much less to drive the conveyance, he or she would almost certainly be arrested. I certainly hope that all of this is noted, and that when the scofflaws are eventually rounded up, appropriate charges are levied. 

While I enjoy peace as much as does the next person, it seems, in retrospect, as though our federal law enforcement agencies may have erred in not addressing the Bundy clan's lawlessness more aggressively in the previous encounter.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reproductivity, Family Trees, and Stupidity

My family tree is far more convoluted than is this piteous stock illustration.

My newest cousin has a name, Kensington Malia, though the name won't be considered "official" until the child is blessed in the Church. If her father screws it up in the blessing ceremony, the name will have to be changed on the birth certificate. Don't scoff, as it's happened before. Kensington Malia. I'll leave readers guessing as to whether "Kensington" is one of the few real cousin names I've posted, or if, as in a case of most of the cousins I've listed, it's a para-wording of the actual name.

It seems that I wrote prematurely, or at least incorrectly, when I suggested that Kensington was likely to be my final first cousin. Another aunt is pregnant again. I won't even go to the pretense of suggesting that this cousin-to-be is the final installment in this generation of the family. God only knows how many more babies my rabbit-like aunts will squeeze out, and I'm not sure even God knows. He (or She) is probably throwing  His (or Her) hands in the air in disbelief even as I type these words.

I tallied my cousins just because I needed something to occupy my mind for a moment while a professor was lecturing abut something that was making me queasy. On my mom's side I have a total of nineteen cousins. On my dad's side, I currently have sixty-five cousins. (One cousin, William, was born after I compiled the list of cousins on my dad's side.) If nature proceeds as planned, although I highly doubt this blessed event was ever planned, the grand total will expand to sixty-six. (Eighty-five will be the collective total of first first cousins for me.) Only time will tell in regard to the finality of this number. For the record, the next generation is moving along in oyster-like fashion. (Oysters are among the most prolific of breeders of complex organisms, even more so than rabbits.)

Last night my brother was pondering aloud concerning the reasons for my fathers' siblings fecundity. The possible reasons may vary from one couple to the next. My father is one of ten surviving offspring, so he and his siblings have a head start in terms of filling up an entire republican caucus with just their own seed. Four of the ten had only two surviving children each, but the remaining six more than made up for their siblings' reproductive slacking. The reasons I have so many cousins on my dad's side, according to my brother -- and for once he's not totally out in right field and actually has a bit of a grasp of the reality of the circumstances -- are varied. 

Some of my aunts and uncles have large families because they feel that it's what God and the Church expect of them. Birth control has never been officially banned for Mormons, although some members of the LDS faith have interpreted various words of caution from church leaders against limiting family size as a de facto prohibition of artificial methods of birth control. Even among those who don't consider birth control to be against the Church's teachings, the prevailing belief is that God wants LDS couples to have as many children as they can support without risking the health of the mother. (Risking the health of the mother is a subjectively-defined term. To the most ignorant LDS adherents, if conception alone doesn't risk the mother's life, it's considered a safe undertking.) Among some members of the faith and certainly in some branches of my family, children are seen as empirical data supporting evidence of their parents' righteousness. 

It seems worth noting that the reigning LDS Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Thomas S. Monson, and his late wife Frances, had only three children. My best guess without actually being privy to any inside information would be that the late Mrs. Monson probably delivered her children via Caesarean section in the days of lengthy vertical incisions, when three was usually the highest number of such deliveries recommended most doctors.

Others of my aunts and uncles may like sex. Some may be too inept to use birth control effectively. In other cases, they may be too lazy to use birth control effectively. Regardless of the underlying cause for the failure to implement birth control, the effect is the same: too many offspring.

Matthew threw this last possible reason for having a large number of children for entirely theoretical or academic purposes. Some people have many children because they genuinely enjoy children. There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it applies in the instances of my father's siblings who have large numbers of children. The only members of my father's family (other than his mother) who actually like children are the ones who had only two children. It's possible that this phenomenon -- the actual liking of children by those who have only two children -- may actually be an effect rather than a cause. Such certainly makes sense, as it's easier to enjoy children if one doesn't have to clear a path or risk stepping on half a dozen of them every time one needs to use the bathroom.

Matthew shared something in class today about the birth of our sixty-fifth cousin on my dad's side. This led to an extensive discussion (irritating me somewhat, because I'm paying for my education, and I don't need to waste lecture time for which I've paid by talking about how many cousins I have). No one in the cohort has as many cousins as Matthew and I do. I know sixty-five is not a world, national, or even local record. With high birth rate being prevalent among Mormons,  there would likely be numerous LDS families who would edge past our family in terms of sheer numbers. For one thing, there were four reproductive slouches in my dad's family of ten children. Sometimes the original families have zero slouches. 

Most of my cousins on my dad's side have even more cousins than I do. Most of them are LDS on both sides, and while the numbers of cousins on the other sides of their families don't necessarily reach the sixties, they do quite possibly reach the forties. They have fewer cousins on my side than I do, because some of those large nuclear families I count as cousins are siblings to them. Still, their overall numbers of cousins may be close to or even in excess of one hundred.

Then again, my number of cousins is probably close to the 99th percentile ranking. If you look at a family such as the Duggars, it wouldn't take very many families of nineteen to overtake my dad's family. I don't think either Jim Bob's or Michelle's siblings have contributed enough collective spawn to their litters of cousins to overtake us. Most likely Jim Bob's children will reproduce enough offspring to best my generation of cousins in the population war, as will their friends the Bates family and some of the other Quiverfull Movement fundies.

Several times my large number of cousins has come up in discussions. Usually people just scratch their heads at the insanity of it. Once in awhile someone will insist in response that they have at least as many cousins as I do. (In some of these cases, people are counting step-siblings and live-in pseudo-siblings from several different relationships. It's not the same thing. If someone was neither born nor legally adopted into a family, they don't count in the total of cousins. Furthermore, it's not a contest any intelligent person would desire to win. Sometimes less is more.) In some cases the ones professing to have more first cousins than I are people I actually know, and I know their estimated numbers to be wildly inaccurate. I could ask  them to actually count their cousins, but I let it go. If they really want to believe that their extended family is even more stupid than mine is, they are free to bask in their mistaken ignorance with my blessing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Taking the Good and the Bad: Sitcom Purgatory

Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner

I took the headache drugs at about 5:00 a.m. after I sent my brother to pick them up.After that, I slept for more than nine straight hours. Then I woke up and studied until about an hour ago. i'm still not sleepy after having been unconscious for the entire morning and then some, so i'm curled up in bed with my kitty, watching mindless TV.

I'm watching, of all things, a  The Facts of Life marathon on TV. I had  the channel on for something else when my remote control batter apparently died.I like Charlotte Rae but thing the show is quite lame. I could turn the television off manually but I cannot change the Direct TV channel without the remote on the TV in my room.

The Facts of Life 's target audience must have the pre-adolescent demographic group, as hardly anyone much older or smarter could have tolerated the mediocre-at-best writing and even poorer acting. The plots were inane, and the characters were neither relatable nor likable. 

"Blair Warner," the token hottie among the group of girls in the sitcom, is particularly hard to swallow in her designated persona. I didn't find the actress who portrayed her -- Lisa Whelchel -- to be attractive in the first place, and whoever it was who colored her hair was roughly as lacking in skill in that department as I would have been if I had been the person doing her hair. Not everyone has a stylist as talented as my friend Alyssa, but one would think a TV show could have afforded to pay someone with a the skills of the average cosmetology school dropout, or, that failing, that the actress herself would have sprung for the cost of a decent coloring job. The color is brassy  and the roots are horrendous. The show was presumably filmed before hair weaves were stylish. Still, the character "Blair" was supposedly to have been from a very wealthy family. She should not have looked as though she picked up a cheap packet of L'Oreal hair coloring from a shelf at Target and applied it herself without the assitance of even a mirror.

I'm reluctant to complete the expression of my thoughts in relation to Lisa Whelchel and her portrayal of "Blair Warner," but, at the risk of coming across as petty or unkind, I will put my thoughts into words here. Lisa Whelchel appeared to have gained a bit of weight not long after being cast as "Blair" in The Facts of Life.  As females proceed through adolescence, weight gain is as often as not a normal component of the transition from girlhood to womanhood.. Sometimes when actresses gain weight during the courses of television series, the actresses' roles are written out or the actresses are replaced with other actresses who are not experiencing weight issues, or at least not experiencing weight issues visible to the camera. In other instances, the situation is addressed in the plot itself in the form of lines being written into the dialogue in which the character, and, by extension, the actress herself, is the butt of fat jokes and cruel weight gain comments. Adolescence is a time of emotional vulnerability, and practices of the sort have had devastating effects on the development of actresses unfortunate enough to have been on the receiving end of such treatment. Google "Tracey Gold" for specifics of an especially harrowing example of Hollywood's handling of a young woman's body going through the normal maturation process.

To the best of my knowledge, Lisa Whelchel was not subjected to any of the aforementioned tactics. It might have been that Charlotte Rae,  considered to have been cast in a sitcom role somewhat beneath her stature as an eminent entertainer, would not have stood for handling of a young actress's weight gain in such a callous manner. Or perhaps the producers of the sitcom had consciences. Whatever the circumstances were, it would seem that Lisa Whelchel didn't suffer the same psychologically abusive fate as did some of her contemporaries. If my presumptions are correct, Whelchel's situation was dealt with in a sensitive and humane manner. For that I'm grateful.

On the other hand, pretending that Whelchel was a complete bombshell was, in its own way, an error in the opposite direction.  The show's producers could have steered the writers away from plot lines making reference to the consummate hotness of the character of Blair. If an absolute knockout had been essential to the show's chemistry, another character might have been added. Or not. I'm not sure such a character was essential. What I'm trying to communicate is that the show's producers, in a way, set Whelchel up for ridicule by highlighting her as some sort of sex symbol when she was clearly not perceived as suh by most of the viewers in TV Land. In essence, the show's production staff did the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

I'm unaware of how much if at all Lisa Whelchel continued to act after The Facts of Life. She did, however, go on to to a career as a fundamentalist Christian motivational speaker and as an author of slightly [presumably unintentionally] kinky parenting books about disciplining children by, among other things, putting hot sauce in their mouths. Jessica Beagley, the Mormon mom of Dr. Phil fame, did not invent the "let hot sauce be a tool in your disciplinary arsenal" child-rearing strategy.

                                           I don't own this video.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Headaches, New Cousins, and Associated Bullshit

me right now except that she doesn't look much like me

One of our lecture sessions today (technically yesterday, but Wednesday hasn't yet begun in my world because I haven't gone to bed yet) focused on the topic of headaches. This was most ironic for me, as I was at the same time experiencing the mother of all headaches. Having to listen to the pathological causes of headaches while laboring in vain not to toss the contents of my stomach was most interesting. I did manage to hurl into trash cans outside the lecture hall, which was a moral victory of sorts.

So far I've been fighting the headache with over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies and with acupressure. The score thus far is headache: 3, Over-the-Counter and Homeopathic Remedies and Acupressure: 0I will soon throw in the towel on Tuesday and go to bed. If the headache is still with me when I arise, i will resort to more potent drugs. There are five MDs living within one-hundred yards of me. I've babysat the children of three of the MDs (free of charge, no less), and I've dated the fourth. (The fifth one probably couldn't pick me out of a police line-up, so I won't solicit drugs from her.) The drugs are as good as in my hand. If I had a known or suspected chemical or psychological dependency, the doctors living around me might not be so quick to hand them out, but I don't,  so they will be.

I'm a cousin again for roughly the ninetieth time. I should know the exact count, but I confess to not keeping a running tally in my head. This is quite likely my final first cousin, as my dad's sister Cristelle, the only aunt still realistically young enough to safely produce children, has called a moratorium on childbirth after just two babies. The newest cousin is from an aunt who is forty-four. The child, or so we've been told anyway, does not have Down Syndrome.   This baby has not yet been named. I'll share the name with you as soon as I'm informed of it.

In an earlier blog I shared the names of my cousins on my dad's side. As you probably surmised, in the interest of anonymity, I changed the names of most of my cousins. I left a few intact, but I created most of the names based on the style the parents used for their children's actual names. If alliteration was a theme employed by parents, I chose another letter for the same alliterative effect. If church history was a prevailing theme, I switched to similar names prominent in LDS history. If a continent was used as a name, I substituted another continent, and if the child with a continent for a first name had a dessert for a middle name, I substituted another dessert.  I think you probably understand my code. 

Tomorrow I have no classes and Matthew has only one. i took all of my scholarly concentration courses in the two preceding quarters. Matthew has only one of his scholarly concentration courses remaining. Most of our cohort mates are burdened with two our three of the electives. It was a major pain in the glutes to have taken them earlier, but tomorrow I'll be studying in bed if my headache has gone away, and I'll be sleeping off whatever drug I've taken to combat the headache if the headache has chosen to stick around for another day. Either choice is preferable to once again dragging myself to class and tossing my cookies into trash receptacles. Being future-oriented does occasionally have its benefits.

P.S. I texted the MD I used to date to tell him I had a killer headache. He's dropping off a prescription for migraine-specific meds along with a script for Vitamin V (which can no longer be phoned in) at the local 24-hour pharmacy in a few minutes so that he can go to sleep when he gets off his 36-hour shift without being woken up by me. One should not really want any prescription for a drug that may be needed ASAP to be buried under all the others that were faxed in, anyway. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Return Trip, Accidental Terrorism, and Bundys Up to Their Usual Nonsense

Ammon Bundy, who is currently involved in an unauthorized occupation of a federal wildlife reserve building in Oregon

My brother and I made it back to our condo safely. Each of us had our own car, but we traveled in a two-car caravan to placate my mother. We encountered a bit of weather Had Matthew been traveling solo he would almost certainly have arrived home significantly earlier, but I refuse to drive as fast as he does when left to his own devices We encountered just a bit of weather near then end of the trip, but it wasn't severe enough to be scary.

I'm in the middle of a book, so I had to finish it before getting to bed. I'm reading The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn. In his first-person account, Shunn tells the story of his experience as an LDS missionary, the acme of which would surely have been his admittedly ill-advised decision to telephone a pretend bomb threat to an airline in order to delay a flight, thereby preventing a fellow missionary from defecting from the mission force before LDS officials could arrive in attempt to dissuade the young man from leaving prior to his originally-scheduled release. Knotty blogged about the book recently, and I remembered having read it quite some time ago. I have no clue as to where my original copy might now be, so I reordered a copy -- this time an electronic version.

I greatly enjoyed Shunn's story, but I found his retelling of the early history of the LDS church to be rather tiresome.  Shunn is an engaging writer, and I understood how seamlessly the early history of Joseph Smith story wove into Shunn's own narrative, but I've heard almost all of the LDS lore so many times that I found myself scanning ahead through the LDS history to wherever Shunn's own tale resumed. Regardless, it's an entertaining read, and I highly recommend it.

At least two of the sons of Cliven Bundy -- an LDS rancher and second amendment enthusiast who took part in a much-publicized dispute with the federal government in 2015 over the right (or lack thereof) to allow his cattle to graze free of charge on federal land -- have, along with some members of a local militia,  occupied a federal wildlife refuge. While I recognize the rectitude of being more respectful than I typically am of the rights of others to hold beliefs that aren't  in line with my own, I hope that this most recent act of civil disobedience on the part of members of the extended Bundy family is causing some of those who aligned with them in their previous controversy to re-think the advisability of supporting such anarchy.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Years' Resolutions and Other Bullshit

This is not actually Alexis, by the way, though such is already painfully obvious to all. I can only wish I had such a nice figure.

Happy New Year, Feliz  Ano Nuevo, Bonne Annee, Gong Hay Fat Choy, Gong Zi Fa Cai, or however you most like to say or hear it. 

New Year's resolutions are something that I consider a waste of time. For the most part, if a person needs to change something about himself or herself, what is the point of waiting until the next January 1 to begin to address it? Do it now! Perhaps a modification in a person's financial practices is considered, such as making a decision to be more careful and systematic in saving receipts. Maybe the idea occurs to a person too late in a given calendar year for it to make an appreciable difference in that year, but making the change would create a tangible benefit if it were done for an entire year or at least for the better part of a year. A rationale for postponing the change until the onset of the next calendar year might then conceivably make sense. Otherwise it's an exercise in absurdity.  If a change is important enough to make, anyone who is sufficiently committed to make whatever change has been proposed after January 1 would do so if he or she decided to immediately [or very next day at the absolute latest] effect the change. 

I had a very quiet New Year's Eve / New Year celebration. I spent it at my pseudo-relatives' condo in the mountains of Utah. My original plan had been to spend the days between Christmas and New Year's Day in the Beehive State, but plans changed for all of my prospective travel companions. I didn't want to go there all by myself Then my aunt called and said their family was  chartering a flight for a three-day trip to Utah. I chose to go with them. Once there, I managed to squeeze about twenty hours of skiing and snowboarding into three days. The time there was an almost perfect interval -- just enough time on the slopes to have made the plane trip worth my while, and then as I was beginning to feel most fortunate that I normally live in parts of California that have mild climates, it was time to board the plane again and to return to California.

I seriously considered enrolling in a medical school in a location further north and with harsher winters even than those typically experienced in most parts of Utah. Think The Great White North if you need more specifics to create a picture in your mind. In what was probably a fortunate turn of events for me, the day I flew there for the interview, the area was hit with a winter storm so harsh that it could have stranded me there for a week. as I'm reading this back to myself, it hardly sounds like serendipity, except for two reasons:1) a professor with whom I was interviewing absolutely had to make it to Philadelphia within two days and was driving herself there in a four-wheel drive, and generously offered me a ride so that I would be able to catch a flight from an airport that wasn't closed due to inclement weather; and 2) I saw just enough of winter weather to realize that moving there all by myself and committing to live in it for however many days each year that Mother Nature chose to send it for the next four years might not be the wisest course of action I could take. I still may choose to complete my one-year internship in a place with real winters -- perhaps even at or near the virtually Siberian facility where I interviewed -- but I'm not committing to any more than a single year in such a location.

My old on-again/off-again flame Jared was there. The flame never burned all that brightly to be perfectly honest, but it's still at least flickering. Who the hell knows where that relationship will end up? Only time will tell. 

School resumes for me on Monday. Matthew and I will make the return drive very late on Sunday. If a worst-case scenario were to materialize and we were to be stuck in traffic for ten straight hours and not make it back in time for class Monday morning, the professors and our advisers would be less than thrilled with us, but it wouldn't have any long-term ramifications where either of us are concerned. When we were new to the program, we had to be extra cautious about such things, as we will again need to be once we begin clinical rotations. For now, we're known not to be flakes and can each afford a minor screw-up or two.

I have less than thirty-three hours in which to successfully transition from my vacation mode persona of "merry sunshine Alexis" back to my school alter ego of Cutthroat Bitch. I'll probably make it if I begin the transition as soon as I get into my car for the return trip. Matthew and I will be driving separately, so he won't care.

Ski resorts in France, and, for that matter, in most of Europe,  know how to ring in the new year with elan. It wasn't quite so exciting where I was.