Tuesday, June 30, 2015

JACI WON!

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My favorite journalist, Jaci Stephen, was honored with the Southern California Journalism Award First Place for Humor / Satire Writing for her blog LA Not So Confidential.  I'll allow the readers to look at the pictured plaque if they must know the title of the specific blog entry that earned this award for jaci.Jaci's most frequent critique of my writing involves my excessive wordiness, so in her honor, I'll be brief. It's about time this association got something right.

Way to go, Jaci!


                          Jaci Stephen


Monday, June 29, 2015

Mount Whitney and Alexis: My Trip Up and Down the Killer Mountain

Do you see that very highest point? I was there if only for a few brief seconds.




My trek up Mt. Whitney came up in a recent blog. I said I would tell the story, which I'm not sure if I've done before. That's a problem with a really old blog. It's hard to remember what I've written about before. I'll start thhe story. If I conclude tonight, great. If not, it can keep until tomorrow.

It was July of 2004. Matthew and I were nine-and-one-half. My dad would have been in his late thrties. My Uncle Steve would have been in his early thirties. None of us had before attempted  Mt. Whitney, which, at 14, 505 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the lower forty-eight contiguous states.

If one could drive from where we were following the same route that a bird might have flown, the travel would not have been all that long, as Mt. Whitney's western base sits at the edge of Tulare and Inyo counties in California, which would not be all that far (less that 100 miles, I would guess) from Freeway 99. The trailhead, however, sits on the other side of the mountain, just west of the Owens Valley, near the town of Lone Pine. This is a considerable drive from the Sacramento area, from where we were coming.

My dad was concerned from the very beginning about the elevation gain and the effects it might have had on any of us, but particularly on Matthew and me.  Contingency plans had been made for if any one of us had experienced extreme problems.  if one kid had been unable to go higher, Uncle Steve would have continued on with the other kid while my dad took the ailing kid back down. If an adult had experinced a minor problem, he would have come down alone. If he'd had a severe problem, we all would have descended.

We arrive in Lone Pine - the town or village with the hotels closest to the Whitney Portal. Lone Pine had an elevation of  under 4, 000  feet. Dad and Steve had considered camping for at least one night at the Whitney Portal, which had an elevation of almost 8,000 feet, but had decided that the benefits of added exposure to high elevation were outweighed by the importance of a couple of decent nights of sleep. Instead, we spent two days hanging around the Whitney Portal, exploring trails and amusing ourselves while being exposed to greater elevation, then returned to Lone Pine at dark to have dinner and sleep.
We stayed at maybe a Comfort Inn or something similar.

On the morning we began the actual attack on Mount Whitney, we were awake well before the sun was up. Everything but our toothbrishes and the clothing we would wear the next day had been packed in the car already so that we could get a very early start on the mountain. Matthew and I had those flashlightthings that went around our heads for any time we hiked in the dark. Dad and Uncle Steve had regular flashlights. The sun had not yet peeked above the Sierra Nevadas when we hit the trail. 

We initially hiked just about six miles to the base camp where we would spend the night. We got there relatively early with serveral hours of light remaining. It's recommended that hikers move around and get exercise to help to acclimate to the elevation, which we did. We had only packed a tiny bear box because our plan had been to descend all the way the next day unless we couldn't possibly make it any further, so we just packed enough exttra food to ward off starvation. The bear box needed only to  be large enough to hold the food we'd carry with us for the next day plus our emergency stash for the following night. We needed it so the bears wouldn't feel complelled to enter our tent and enjoy our hospitality.  

Some hikers pack small stoves and prepare gourmet meals on the trail. The people camping next to us were eating chicken fettucine Alfredo with broccoli, along with garlic bread and Caesar salad. My dad and Uncle Steve decided against carrying all that equipment, because Matthew and I would prefer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anyway. My dad and Uncle Steve had large Subway sandwiches. They packed potato chips, which we didn't get to eat very often back then and considered a rare treat.  They packed a lot of beef jerky and trail mix to go along with our sandwiches. They decided we could find a decent restaurant after our descent and make up for any lost nutrition then.

Water is always an issue on Mt. Whitney hikes. You carry what you need
up to the base camp, then refuill there, but the water there has to be treated. My dad had tablets to go into the water, which would have made it taste worse than  swimming pool water, but the people camping next to us were kind enough  to let us boil water on their stove and then to share trheir purifier. My dad said he was still a bit suspicious, but if we contracted giardia or any  other water-borne illness, the symptoms wouldn't appear until long after we were home, and we could be treated medically if it happened, and chances were that it wouldn't kill us. Beyond that, there was no guarantee even the tablets would protect us against everything. At least we had water that we didn't have to practically gag ourselves getting down. Remaining hydrated is important in any elongated form of exercise, but when altitude is also a factor, hydration becomes critical.

Sleeping in sleeping bags in tents in cold weather (even in July it's cold at 6,000 feet) is not conducive to a great night's sleep, so we all awoke before the sun did. We had our breakfasts of  granola barss, bread, jerky,  plus instant oatmeal and egs that the neighbors shared. The eggs were hard boiled, and essentially practiaclly on my Donner Party list, but my dad told me to eat the white and give him the yolks and not to say a word, as the neighbors were being extremely gracious in sharing. I ate the whites of both eggs, while my dad ate both yolks. Both of us were happy that way, and the egg whites really weren't all that bad. I no longer eat boiled egg whites just because it would be a waste of the yolks, but if someone offered me a boiled egg white, I'd be happy enough to eat it.  They're really not that terrible if cooked firmly.

We quickly packed up our belongings to leave at the base camp. We packed our tent because the plan was not to stay another night. If we'd needed to alter our plans, we would then set the tent up again. Once again we beat the sun to the trail for the remaining roughly five miles of steep uphill climbing. So far, everything was going well. Adrenaline was compensating for any lack of quality sleep Matthew and I had missed.
The first four-and-one-half miles went without event, except that Mathew tripped and skinned his knee.  Uncle Steve cleaned the wound, spalled a large Band-Aid on it, and all was well. 

Matthew and I had been given both small doses of Ibuprofen(my dose was really small because I sometimes have digestive upsets with normal-for-my-weigh dosages of Ibuprofen) as well as  doses of a prescription drug called Diamox. (My dad ha tried both drugs on us a week earlier to check for any adverse effects on either of us.) My dad had researched it and had decided that research indicated that both drugs  were effective at preventing or lessening altitude sickness. They seemed to be doing their jobs. Steve, too, had taken both drugs. My dad had only taken Ibuprofen.

We seemed poised to make it to the summit without the slightest impediment when, at two-tenth of a mile from the summit, I began coughing.  "She just inhaled some dirt, " my dad explained away the coughing, though there was not a speck of dirt within miles of our location. We kept walking, and the coughing intensified.  Though it was a bit steeper, we wlked faster, my dad pushing me along.  I didn't want to complain, so I didn't, but my head was pounding. Maybe three minutes after we reached a marker indicating we were one-tenth of a mile from the summit, I threw up. Then Matthew threw up. My coughing became so barky yet deep and throaty that breathing became difficult.

Uncle Steve said, "We've got to get these kids down, John."

A couple of young guys were passing by on their way down. "The peak's not even one minute away. You can't quit. Take your backpacks off and carry them to the summit, tell them to have a look, and get them the hell down. Don't quit now. I don't think you can do much more damage than has already been done."

Against my Uncle Steve's better judgment, they threw off their backpacks. My dad thrw Matthew over his shoulder, and Uncle Steve carried me. Dad put Matthew on his feet and said, "Take a quick look, Matt. You're probaby higher than you'll ever be again on land."

My Uncle Steve put me on my feet, but I immediately collapsed. "You've seen all you're going to see. We've gotta get you down this mountain."

I hacked away as Steve carried me back to the backpacks. The young guys who had offered the advice that we had to go to the summit if we'd made it that far carried  my dad's and Steve's backpacks for a bit as they all walked as quickly as was safe  to get to a lower atitude. I can remember trying hard not to throw up on Uncle Steve's back as he carried me over his shoulder.

After maybe fifteen minutes we paused. The men talked. One of them had a knife. He suggested taking everything out of my dad's backpack, cuting holes for my egs, and putting me in my dad's backpack. With even just the fifteen minute's worth of descent, Matthew was doing a bit better and could soon walk on his own, they thought.

So they hacked away at my dad's pack until they had leg holes for me, which made it like one of those infant/toddler backpacks. That summer I believe I tipped the scales at a whopping thirty-seven pounds, so the backpack could certainly support my weight.  I remember my weight e=well because i had gone for a physical and my Uncle Steve had practically gone ballistic and the lowness of my weight.

I was still hacking and barfing away. Something my Uncle Steve had said led one of the young guys to believe he was a doctor. One of the young guys was a medical school student, though I don't know what year. He said to my uncle Steve, "This would be medical emergency, right?" 

"Yes," my dad and my uncle answered in unison. It was decided that one of the two of the guys would stay with us and the faster of the two would hurry ahead as fast as he could to summon medical aid to meet us. 

Matthew wasn't quite stable, so my uncle Steve carried him while the other guy carried the remaining backpack. After maybe a mile, Matthew could walk, so my Uncle Steve took the other backpack. We were apparently traveling at breakneck speed. We reached the base camp. My dad said he hated to do anything so environmetally irresponsible, but he was either going to pay someone to cart our tent, sleeping bags, and bear box out, or pay the fine for leaving it there. We were not quite at the halfway point, but the terrain was less steep at that point.

I mainly remember at this point trying so very hard to throw up to the side so I wouldn't get any barf on my dad, though there really wasn't anything left in my stomach. The time has faded my memories,  but I don't believe I was coherent at that point anyway.

At some point maybe a mile or two after passing the camp, we met up with paramedics, who came bearing a hand-carry stretcher. They put me on it and stuck an oxygen mask on me. They had Oxygen for Matthew as well, though someone just carried his tank in a backpack and he walked along.  My Uncle Steve and the other guy periodically piggybacked him.

I was in and out of consciousness, but I heard my dad ask the paramedics if they wanted his credit card right then or if they wanted to send him a bill. He knew that the service wouldn't be free. If a person gets himself or herself ont Mt. Whitney, he or she is expected to get himself or herself down, or there will usually be a price to pay. The paramedics just took down contact information.  

Matthew and I were loaded into the ambulance, and my dad went with us. My dad  had enough cash in his wallet to hand three young guys two hundred dollars to retrieve our tent and sleeping bags. He said to toss them or to do whatever they wanted with them. A ranger witnessed the transaction, so that took my dad off the hook if the guys had taken the money and run, but they apparently did not.

My dad told my Uncle Steve to get a decent hotel room in Lone Pine for the guys, which was probably the Comfort Inn.  He gave Uncle Steve his ATM card and asked him to take a thousand dollars out of his account and give it to the guys for their troubles. They apparently didn't want to take it, but my uncle insisted.  

Later on, my dad was able to help the younger guy get into medical school, and he wrote a really good recommendation for an intership position for the guy already in med school.  The guy ended up getting his first choice as a match. He might have gotten it anyway, but my dad's recommendation may have helped.

Matthew was treated with oxygen and I don't know what else at the hospital, and released after a couple of hours. Uncle Steve and Matthew stayed at the same Comfort Inn or whatever that we had stayed at two nights earlier. Uncle Steve got food for himself and Matthew, who had already developed an appetite,  and brought food to my dad.  

I had  developed pulmonary edema and had to spend the night in a hyperbaric chamber and also had to have fluid drained.  My dad said I was a very cooperative patient for a nine-year-old. The hospital would not have released me even the next day had either my dad or Steve not been a doctor. They sent my dad with two tanks of oxygen for me. We got home as quickly as possible.  My mother was practically hysterical and accused my dad of child abuse.

There wasn't a lot that could be done, though I had to have fluid drained once more. That one I remember quite well, and I remember not being very happy about it.  Uncle Steve promised me ten dollars if I would cooperate, so I did. He paid promptly.

I like to point this out as an example of the outstnding parental care I received as a child, but I'm not really sure my dad did anything wrong. He arrived a few days early so that we could acclimate to the altitude. He possibly could have turned around at the very first cough, but we were so incrredibly close to the top even by that point that  I would be disappointed now had we not gone all the way to the peak, even though I don't exactly remember it.  I at least know I've been to the very highest point of this part of the world.

In terms of Denali or Mt. Everest, forget it. No one could ever pay me enough to get me on either of those mountains.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Colm' Keegan's Music Theory Class

The title isn't really the topic of this post. I just didn't want to bury Colm's publicity in this post. I'll add another picture just to keep the publicity current.  I want this guy to suceed in his project. It's innovative, and music theory is a topic about which not enough people are sufficiently educated. Hell, I have two degrees in music performance and I'm taking the class. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what the professor looks like. I merely want to become more musically erudite.

He even LOOKS professorial.


Uncle Scott moved Jillian to the couch so he can sleep and the two of us can behave as  fools without disturbing anyone. Baby Andrew is sleeping peacefully. He had a bottle at midnight, so he should be good to go at least until 6:00 a.m. when the nanny arrives.

Anyhow, I cannot sleep and my Aunt Jillian is trying to turn her days and nights around because she believes her in utero baby, who will probably be born in the next two weeks, though that's still quite early, will sleep better at night if Jillian is awake more at night now. It would work better if Jillian could walk around more, but she can only walk to the bathroom and shower and back. Once she hits 33 weeks of gestation if she makes it that long, the doctor is going to give her carte blanche to walk around the house. He doesn't want her hiking to the summit of Mt. Whitney ***  or anything that strenuous, but around the house and yard will be fine.

There's a limit to how much longer Jillian can go without her first string cystic fibrosis drugs, which are not all that compatible with pregnancy, and labor will probably start on its own anyway, although the OBGYN thinks the amniotic sac is still far too strong for the baby to rupture at her current size. Labor often starts without water breaking first, though. I've predicted July 8 as the baby's birthdate. That would have her born at just about 33.5 weeks of gestation. I am not, however gifted I may think I am in many other areas, a clairvoyant.  Chances are that this kid will show up whenever the hell she pleases.

I've seen the 3-D ultrasound of this child. She's not going to win any early baby beauty contests. Babies often get cuter though. I'm told by everyone by my dad, who insists he always thought I was beautiful, that I was uglier than sin itself when I was born. I weighed, at 2.2, even less than Jillian's baby will weigh.  Most people who knew me then say I was at least not butt-ugly by the time I was maybe four months old. 

Just because a baby is born ugly doesn't mean she's doomed to a life of repugnance. Some relatives say I still haven't recovered from my repugnant phase, but they're the same people who believe douching with Coca-cola shortly after doing the wild thing prevents pregnancy, and that's even after the pregnancy that Coca-cola failed to prevent that they hold to this belief. I don't take their insults  exceedingly personally. If they think I'm homely, it probably means that I'm practically Miss America. (I'm being facetious. I do not consider myself necessarily even conventionally pretty, much less beauty pageant material. Thigh gaps are popular now, but I don't think they're supposed to be almost as wide as the Grand Canyon.)

We're expecting that Jillian's new little one will be pulchritude-challenged (vocabulary word for the day, for which context alone should help you define if you didn't happen to have memorized the word in high school SAT preparation). The baby WILL,  however, eventually be pretty. Two people who look as pretty and handsome as her parents do would have a tough time producing a child with sub-average looks, though I've heard it has happened before.  

You know how the tabloids at the checkout counter -- the cheap-looking magazines with outrageous stories on the covers that most of us never buy [though someone must or they wouldn't be there taking up all that space]  but do occasionally thumb through --sometimes have stupid contests-like features, like husbands and wives who resemble amazingly, or people who look startlingly like their dogs or cats? One of those tabloids should offer contest-like features with the ugliest parents who have the best-looking children, and vice versa. They'd have to have the Jerry-Springer-like feature of  paternity tests, the revealing of such,  and the resulting breakups when daddy is not who he is supposed to be, but that could add to the drama. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Steve Wilcos, and the producers of Paternity Court might try to sue for some sort of copyright infringement, but what is new in a tabloid being sued? 

Regarding Paternity Court if it is even still on the air on one of the 666,666 channels offered through some cable, satellite, community access, or other system, exactly what is or was the point of that program? Paternity tests were supposedly taken early enough for the results to be ready by the  time the show was filmed. Then the parents would come onto the stage and caterwaul obscenities, most of which were bleeped out, at one another for twenty-one of the twenty-two minutes of actual air time of the show, minus commercial time. All anyone really heard, anyway, was the bleeping out of obscenities. The program might just have well have been one of the weekly tests of the Emergency Broadcast System with all the bleeping sounds that were aired. At some point there would be an obligatory shot of the adorable baby cooing (it almost always seemed to be a boy) in his infant seat in the green room. Then, in the final fifteen seconds of air time, the envelope revealing the results would be opened. Depending upon the results, one parent or the other non-parent would physically attack the other. Then the show would end. Why not just read the damned results in the firsrt place and get it over with?

My thought was, "They took Judge Alex off the air and left this &$%#@*!  on?" Where was the thought process in that, and what studio executive would like to stand up and take responsibility for the decision?

Speaking again of tabloids , I just looked at  one a few days ago that said that Jeb Bush is a former drug dealer. I don't know tons about the background of Jeb Bush. Perhaps he was a pharmacist before entering politics. It would be just like a tabloid to spin that one around and refer to a pharmacist as a drug dealer. Though I'm not afraid of an administration with Jeb Bush at the helm and wouldn't feel as though I needed either to slit my wrists or to move to Canada or Australia if he were elected, he's not my first-choice candidate, and I'm far from his number one fan. Still, Jeb Bush as a former drug dealer? Doesn't that seem to be just a bit of a stretch?

Segueing now to both tabloids and to Judge Alex (the person as opposed to Judge Alex the show), has Judge Alex ever been featured in a tabloid? I would think one of my acquaintances would have mentioned it to me if they had seen an article or headline featuring him. If not, why not? He's important enough to be in a tabloid.  Janice Dickinson has been on the cover of tabloids. That despicable teacher in Dance Moms has been there. Carrot Top, too, has been there. The entire Honey Boo Boo family has been on the covers of numerous tabloids. So why not Judge Alex? What is so inferior about him that the tabloids haven't fabricated stories about him? I'm not saying the judge, his wife, his mother, or even I would be happy with the stories these veritable chronicles of untruth would spin about him. I'm merely wondering why he is not every bit as worthy of the attention as is the next celebrity. Jaci, you're in the media, though not the tabloid media. Surely you could do something to right this wrong!

*** I reached the summit of Mt. Whitney, though by the skin of my teeth. I don't think I've covered the topic before in my blog.  It was a shining example of stellar parenthood on the part of my father [sarcasm font], which is all the more reason to share the story. I'll get to it soon.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alexis Being Silly

Do you have any interest in studying music theory online? Would you like THIS GUY to be YOUR professor? Yup, I thought so.  P.S. He's bona fide IRISH!!!!
twitter:
ColmKeegan@celticCK
#CKonline #CKComingSoon


I just did something that at this point is probably harmless yet may still be a bit dumb. It won't be the first silly or dumb thing I've ever done if I end up following through with it and if it ends up even being silly or dumb, which maybe it will not be.

I listen to a few Irish groups, Celtic Thunder being one of them. My dad has had ties to members of the group in the past - maybe played for a gig or two as a filli-in musician, I think. I'm not sure. I was little. I've been to a few of their concerts. I like them.

Anyway, one of the younger members of the group, Colm Keegan, is advertising an online theory course on the Twitter. I actually responded and asked him about it.  I think this guy, Colm Keegan, performed in one concert I saw.

Probably the very last thing in the world I need to be worrying about right now is music theory. At one time I probably learned everything I'll ever need to know (not everything there is to know, obviously, but everything I'll need to know), but I've surely forgotten some of it by now. It's been like at least two years since I studied theory.

Then again, perhaps the idea that I don't need to be worrying about it is the beauty of the whole thing. I do it if I feel like it. I don't if it makes me feel stressed.  What's the guy going to do?  Chase me down all the way from Ireland to issue a demerit, or report me to the Dean of Medicine at my school, who doesn't give a rat's anus? And the guy is cute.

The bottom line should probably be the cost, but what are Godparents for if not to pay for discretionary educational splurges such as this?

One of the Gods of music, Josh Groban, sang "Bring Him Home" on that Kelly Ripa show (I have no clue who the guy is who co-hosts with her).
I hate to be critical of one of my idols, and I know it was very early in the a.m., but Josh was a bit pitchy in a few places 9Sharp on the second "bring him home," in the first refrain of sorts,  if I recall, and just a bit low elsewhere in a couple of places.  Also, Ramin Karimloo sang it in A, while Josh sang it in A-flat. In this throwdown, Karimloo wins, but I still love you, Josh, and I'll order your CD.









This is Colm keegan performing in a small venue somewhere. I chose this version of the song rather than the version in which he sings  it while performing with celtic Thunder because he's playing the piano. his singing is actually better miked on the celtic thunder version.  perhaps I'll add that one, though it is redundant to have two versions of the same artist singing the same song.




                                                   same song

Very Young Mothers

This is a random cute baby I found in a file. I don't know this baby. I just thought it was cute, as I think all babies are beautiful.


I'm still not allowed to lift or carry the baby, but he likes playing on the floor more anyway, and I can hold him in my bed while I give him a bottle.  In some ways I  see what would possess a teen or very young adult female to reproduce arguably too early, as in before she possessed the means to support the child, as babies are just about the most delightful creatures imaginable. I understand that not every moment with a baby is a good time. They get sick. They sometimes have colic. They don't always sleep when their mothers or caretakers are tired. They go through times when they're teething snd are not at their happiest.

Still, if someone approached me and said, "Here's enough money to get by - but just barely -- for the rest of your life. Quit medical school and have a few babies right now instead." I have to admit that I would be at least a bit tempted to take the person up on the offer.  

The logistics of who was going to provide sperm for these imaginary babies -- whether in real live or via a syringe in a medical lab -- would have to factor into the equation. The involvement of this sperm donor in the children's lives would also  influence my decision. In my family, having babies without the benefit of a marriage license -- or at the very least, an involved and supportive father -- is highly frowned upon.  I wouldn't necessarily be disowned, but neither would the relatives be flocking to my aid at every opportunity because I had allowed myself to be knocked up repeatedly without benefit of paternal support [financial or otherwise] for my imaginary babies.  Personally, even I think that babies deserve two parents whenever possible, although far be it from me to criticize a single parent for taking in a child who otherwise would be without any parent at all, and one good parent beats two lousy ones any day of the week. Still, it's a factor to be taken into consideration.

Then there's the absolute truth that, barring tragedy, babies grow into children. Some women adore babies but are less fond of children.  Will one take the same pleasure in caring for growing children as one did in nurturung babies? In my case, I think the answer is yes. I have numerous cousins, and I could sit all day just listening to the profundities with which they come up on an almost minute-by-minute basis. I know that they make messes they shouldn't, that they break things, and that they throw up without an advance notice,  but I still think I could go along with the program on that.  The sheer wonder of 
watching these tiny creatures advance from the infant stage to the toddler stage to the for-real human stage is nothing short of a miracle in and of itself.  

Next come the pre-teen and adolescent phases of development. That is where I may have to draw the line at this point. And, unfair as it seems, a parent cannot simply give his or her child away when the child reaches one of these phases.

i know I'm only twenty now, but I cannot right now see myself as the mother of a fifteen-year-old boy who steals my keys from my purse and goes out for a three a.m. spin in my car. In terms of how to react, I wouldn't even know where to start. I could lock my keys up, but what if the kid learned to hotwire automobiles? I could have him declared an out-of-control minor, but I've heard that's more easily said than done, and that would seem to somewhat have defeated the purpose of having had the baby in the first place. (And I've heard, though I couldn't tell you from personal experience, that girls can be worse.)  

Some parents would say that you lay the groundwork long before the kid reaches the age of fifteen so that by the time he reaches that age, the thought of taking his parent's car out for a twilight spin wouldn't even enter his mind.  There seems to be logic in this, though I'm not quite sure how one goes about accomplishing it. I suppose it has mainly to do with establishing respect for authority from an early age. I'm not totally sure how that is achieved either. I'm hoping wisdom hits me between now and the time I birth these supposed children that I'll probably eventually have.

Meanwhile, I'm passing on the early birthing plan, although in many of the less educated parts of California, I'm already way behind in the game, not having yet produced a singly offspring even though I'm already twenty years of age. I'll take every available advantage of being a Godparent to little Andrew, and I'll enjoy his baby sister when she comes along seomwhere around July 8 (my predicted birth date; NOT the OBGYN's). 

Sometime between my internship, which I'll complete when I'm twenty-four, and my residency, which I should be about twenty-seven when I finish, and there's no rule that I cannot take a break off to have a baby or two between internship and residency, though it might not be the most convenient way of doing things, I'll find time to have a baby if there's a suitable father in sight and biological factors work in my favor.
Twenty-seven seems a bit old to be having a baby, but my mom was twenty-seven when she had Matthew and me, and we didn't turn out THAT disastrously.

As I'm waiting for that time, even should I expose myself to the activity that can result in pregnancy, many reliable methods of preventing pregnancy are available. The info on the TV birth control commercials lists the reliability of most of the methods at around 99%. The one of my professors charged with giving the sex lecture to all of us early in first quarter said that most methods, if used EXACTLY as directed, are actually much more reliable than 99%, and that the manufacturers use that "99%" figure to protect themselves in the event of a failure. He said that almost everyone who gets pregnant while using a reliable form of birth control (other than condoms; they're certainly better than nothing and currently the best thing on the market for preventing STDs short of absitnence, but aren't the most reliable form of contraception) usually didn't use the  method exactly as directed and lied about it afterwards to save face.  That's just one professor's opinion, but he's been around awhile and has seen a lot of us pass through his program.

Someday I'll probably be a mother to my own child or children. While I'm waiting, i'm enjoying giving Andrew his bottle with one hand while typing with the other. He's either going through a growth spurt and has decided he needs to eat during the night.  or he knows what's coming to him in terms of a new sbling and is getting his final hurrahs as the only child before he is joined at the age of around eight months by a baby sister. Isn't that totally insane? I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it.  By the way, don't feel too sorry for Andrew. His parents know that their choice (?!? remember what I wrote earlier about condoms not being all that reliable) to have another baby so soon is their problem and not his, ad he will not be expected to turn into an adolescent at the ripe age of eight months. They know they will have two babies at once and that they cannot expect Andrew to dress himself or prepare his own breakfast just because he has a younger sibling so soon.

Andrew's father has shown up to collect him and put him back to bed. 

There's no real point to this post except one on which I haven't even touched, which is that so many reliable forms of birth control exist that every baby born in a frst-world country should be a baby someone wants.  Perhaps we should work harder to extend the things we know and have so that the same is true of the less developed portions of the world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Must life be inherently predominanly boring, or was my first grade teacher a buzzkill?

The only new thing about school bullying is that the word itself now exists in verb form. Not much about the act itself has changed. Scriptures show evidence that bullying was going on log before Jesus made Hiis appearance on the planet, and it certainly hasn't slowed since. Stakes may have gotten a bit  higher, particularly in terms of weapons used in retaliation when victims reach a breaking point, but otherwise not a whole lot has changed.



Thank you for the kindness and concern expressed by everyone. I genuinely appreciate it even if I sometimes act as though I don't. Without the kindness of people such as yourselves, life would be far more drudgerous (Is that a real word?) than it is, and we all know that life on a day to day basis can epitomize drudgery. 

I once had a first grade teacher who addressed our class, after a particular student (not I) complained that a particular lesson was boring. Ironically, the lesson probably WAS boring to me. I believe it focused on regrouping, as in borrowing and carrying. For me that actually would have been something a but ho-hum, as it would have been something I'd mastered in my own way by the time I was three or so. 

With the complaining child, it was boring because he would have preferred beating up other children on the playground or stealing from the lunch containers of children who brought our lunches to school. (I'm deadly serious about the stealing snacks from lunches. My uncle had to rig a padlock to my Blue's Clues lunchbox so I wouldn't come home starving every day. I was undersized as it was and had only recently beaten a major bout with pneumonia following the donation of bone marrow to my mom because she had leukemia.  I needed anything in that lunchbox that was deemed edible by me, which was probably about half oF the contents.) 

One time the kid threatened me to try to make me give him the key to the padlock on my lunchbox.  I told him my cousin was a police officer and I would have the bully / lunch thief arrested if he made any similar demands. My cousin worked on a police force nearly one hundred miles away, and we were so far out of his jurisdiction that even had he had the time to travel to my school to put fear into the kid, that's the worst he could possibly have done. The kid was relatively obtuse, though, so my threat trumped his threat, and I was never again threatened with violence over possession of the key to my Blue's Clues lunchbox.

Anyway, the teacher's response to the kid who was "bored" with regrouping (despite the fact that it would probably be at least midway through second grade before he came close to mastering the arithmetical skill itself) was that she hated to be the one to break it to him, but that life was and is inherently boring for the most part. We must push ourselves through the boring 90% or so that we have to do so that we can then enjoy the remaining 10% of life that is pleasurable.

At the time, I remember thinkging it was a terrible thing for the teacher to have told such young children. She could instead have spoken of the is wonder in everything in the world around us, including numbers and how to manipulate them to get them to do the things we need them to do. Instead, she just came right out and told us that we were going to be bored for 90% of our lives if we were lucky, and to get used to it.. If we were not among those with some degree of intelligence and/or initiative, she said (probably using different words), our lives would  be closer to 100%  boring.

I still think the teacher missed out on a great opportunity to introduce a broad overview of academia, and how school, and life like it, is a gynormous mystery and fantasy, more compelling than the most dramatic and provocative Harry Potter book (Harry Potter books were the rage at the time even though most of my classmates couldn't quite master them independently) could ever be.  The teacher could instead have talked about aspects of science, of literature, of geography and history, that would have had us sitting on the edges of our little chairs that were attached to desks, waiting to hear more. Instead she blandly declared that school was and is borning, and was a mere microcosm of life, which was also borning.

In fairness to the teacher, I don't know what kind of day she was having. She may have been suffering through a migraine. I don't know if she fought with her husband before school. I don't know if her own ADHD son had neglected to complete his homework for the thousandth time. There are many mitigating factors that may havwe explained our first grade teacher's lackluster performance that morning. I do know she had no warning that the "boring" comment was coming at that particular moment, although the comment is probably one for which any teacher from preschool to twelfth grade should be prepared at any time.  (I'm seriously digressing, as this doesn't relate closely to my topic, but it reminds me of the time in the algebra class in the movie  Peggy Sue Gets Married when Peggy Sue argues with the algebra teacher that she knows she will not use algebra again after the class. Even though I've used algebra in my non-academic life, I love that scene, and would have to agree that what Peggy Sue said is correct for the most part.) In any event, teachers of the future, know that  a few times in your career, students will complain that what you are teaching them or asking them to practice is borning. Step up to the plate and give it your best shot to git the ball out of the park. Have a decent answer prepared. You will eventually need it. What you do with the opportunity is all in your hands.

While denigrating my former first grade teacher and while decrying her substandard response to my classmate's comments, I must admit that there is, nonetheless,  an element of truth to what she said. What is fascinating about brushing and flossing? Very little, I would say, unless one is among the eccentric or arguably even grotesque segment of our population who finds joy in  examining he treasures  between one's teeth that can be found from flossing, or perhaps scrutinizes the contents of  used facial tissue after blowing one's nose ( I apologize to the squeamish among you).  The more typical among us don't get off on such things. Brushing and flossing are boring. So are wishing dishes and scrubbing toilets.Yet without doing them, a person risks dental caries and gum disease, a smelly, germ-and pest-infested kitchen, and a bathroom i won't rvrn describe.

When pretending to see any patient in the fake medical clinic of my Practice of Medicine course, I must thoroughly scrub my hands, wrists, and lower arms before approaching any of my fake patients, even if I'm going to immediately don latex gloves.  What is exciting or even marginally interesting about sctubbing my arms and hands? I'm going to so this thousands of times in my career (though less that will some of my peers, since as a probable radiologist, I'll have less patient contact and will thus have less of a need to srub my hands incessantly. So there, you non-radiologist prospective physicians out there. I may face endless days of staring at films, but at least the skin on my hands will be slightly less raw than your will be. Touche!) Still, just in the amount of hand-scrubbing I'll do in years three of med school through my internship, I'll use practically enough antibacterial  soap to fill Lake Tahoe.  

And scrubbing up is only oe of many mundane duties I'll perform. The time I take making copious notes on charts and into recording into esdictaphones will be enough time to travel to Machu Pichu and back several times. Still, it is in performing these seemingly endless tasks that will allow me to travel to Machu Pichu and back if that is what I choose to do with my spare time. In doing those jobs well, I will avail myself of a life of excitement if I choose to take advantage of it.

So in a way, the first grade teacher was correct: in fullfling life's unexciting duties, a person gives himself or herself the opportunity to do more exciting things once the paycheck  and time off arrive. Still, the teacher might just as  well have announced to those little ones in the classroom who may not yet have been in the know that Santa Claus is a metaphor, that the Easter Bunny is an unrealistic fantasy for anyone stupid enough to buy into it after the age of four, and that the Tooth Fairy is an unadulterated  scam.

What the teacher might have included is that if one who is reaonably bright and resourceful and applies himself or herself in school and chooses his or her career wisely, the ratio of boredom to enjoyment can magically morph from 90/10 to 50/50 or even 10/90. There's no way to avoid all drudgery in work, but a smart person who is willing to work hard when it is time to do so can drastically manipulate the monotony versus enjoyment factor of his or her work in his or her favor. I seriously hope that is what I am doing.

As I was speaking with Becca, she suggested that neither she nor I deal with vacation terribly well. We're both excited when time for vacation hits, but then problems seem to arise with lack of structure and routine. I have some structure and routine in being an assistant nanny, but probably not enough.  Vacation is  necessary, and I wouldn't given it up even if I were offered money in its placr,  but I'm not going to have nearly so much of it in the next few years, so if vacation the primary source of any of my ills, I shall be one healthy person in the next four years.

I don't think my former first grade teacher is teaching any longer. The job probably truly was 90 % monotony for every 10 % of enjoyment to her.  As for the "bored" student, he happened to travel down California's delta and end up at the same high school I did.  I had another ecounter with him. He was the infamous plagiarist who took my paper from a teacher's file cabinet and turned it in as his own. When he was caught, he reacted violently toward me.  His period of incarceration was relatively short, though his probation is , to the best of my knowledge, not yet complete. My guess is that the ratio of boredom to excitement in his life is not even as high as 10% to 90%. We are, to an extent, masters of our fate.  He may not have been the sharpest Crayola in the eight-pack, yet neither was he a literal cretin. Within him was the potential to have done much greater than he did for himself. Instead of graduating from traditional high school (I believe he did receive a diploma from an alternative program eventusall), he graduated from stealing children's snacks and beating them up to stealing academic work and committing sexual assault. He chose, instead of looking for the excitement and wonder in the workd around us, to find his excitement in intimidating others. He he's paying dearly for that choice now. How many Twinkies or even homemade cookies one eats as a child can compensate for a bromidic (I've provided most of you with a vocabular word for the day) adulthood in which even one's liberty is not a guarantee?

A side note to this is that my interactions with the "bored" student lend heavy credence to the idea that early childhood educators can, with remarkable accuracy, predict the criminals of tomorrow. Sadly, too often there's little they can do to change that outcome in the present system, but the teachers' predictions along those lines are uncannily accuracte..

Seguing to everyone's favorite topic -- hospital stories -- i'm out of that dastardly place. My procedure was delayed due to an emergency appendectomy my GI man had to perform, to a child appraring for an endoscope, and to few diabetics showing up for the same procedure I underwent. The pecking order is as follows: 1. emergencies; 2. diabetics (I'm not complaining, as I would not trade place with them);  3. children; 4. the rest of us.

The source of my GI bleeding was identified relatively quickly. GI man (I told him I'm going to buy a leotard and a cape so he can come to work dresed as GI Man, Superhero, but told me to save my money because he ain't [his word, not mine; I don't think a doctor should use the word ain't, but i'm neither his mother nor his English teacher] wearing the damned thing even on Halloween) found the sources of the bleed-outs and treated them the only way he could without cutting out parts of my colon. I didn't curse at the man, but I did holler out at the top of my lungs, "You're killing me, Egan!" before he had the anesthesiologist hit me with additional meds to shut me up. GI man found something a bit unusual in a the sigmoid portion of the colon and cauterized it, but I was unconscious and therefore unable to complain.

Life will soon be good again for me.  I hope it is for all of you as well.

Note: If I type anything when I'm somewhat mentslly impaired (some people would say that on a good day I'm mentally imparied, though we'll ignore those negative Nancies for the moment) I go back a day or two later and clean it up a bit if I think of doing so. I'm a pitiful typist, but there's no reason to leave as many errors as were previously here out in the ether for all to read when the marvelous feature of editing exists.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Least Favorite Hotel in the World (worse even than Motel 6)

just like a regular trip to Disneyland


I'm typing this from the [dis]comfort of my local hospital. I had a bleed-out of  minor sorts as my bleed-outs go, but enough to need a transfusion. I had a CT scan, and I have to have a colonoscopy early in the morning. I pled with my GI man for an alternative to the  gallon or so of polyethelene glycol with electrolytes because even with anti-nausea meds I'll throw it up, and I'll have endured the stuff for nothing. Instead, I had to take seventeen tablets with fifteen ounces of clear fluid. I'll have to do the same in about four hours. It's not great, but much better than a gallon gve or take a pint, of Golytely.

The colonoscopy will presumably reveal nothing that the GI man didn't already know. He's just being thorough. I respect that.

My mother was planning on setting up camp here in my room, but since I'm still not speaking to her, that seemed pointless, although I honestly appreciate the thought. My Uncle Scott is staying instead until Timmy, my friend who just finished his internship, has passed board exams, and is a licensed MD (way to go , Timmy!), will arrive and take over the vigil for him. My extended family doesn't believe than a patient sick enough to be in a hospital should be there without someone to monitor the hospital staff. Matthew wanted to stay, but my uncle said next year he'll be qualified, but not yet this year. 

Someone even brought my shrink in here at 1:00 a.m. I'm not quite sure why anyone thought that dragging him out of bed was necessary since he doesn't even have the right blood type to give me. He told me what I already know, which is that I have to learn to handle conflict better, and just because someone says something insulting to me doesn't make it true. I know that in theory, but I'm still working on putting it into practice.

In four hours or so the lovely colonoscopy will begin. My GI man doesn't like to put patients totally out for colonoscopies. He uses sedation and IV painkillers.  It's a bit incomfortable but I've lived though it every time. If they reach a spot that's extremely tender, they hit you with more fentanyl and sedatives. After the procedure, they give the patient a bit of extra sedative and let them sleep for forty-five minutes or so if the line isn't too backed up, since the patient has had little sleep following the delightful cleansing process.

This has to be the worst room in the hospital. If I want to actually see the TV, I have to crane my neck to an angle that will cause me pain for the next week. instead, I'm watching Youtube videos. The nursing staff is telling me to go to sleep, but what's the point when I'll wake up in three minutes needing to use the restroom again?

The hospital room has so many flowers in it that it smells like a damned mortuary. Where does a person find a florist that will deliver at 1:30 a.m.? Money talks, I suppose. Ilianna, Jillian's mother, feels very guilty, which she should. I'm not saying this is all her fault, but she was very unkind to me.

My dad is flying back from Boston. He should be here just about the time the colonoscopy starts.  I suppose he'll try to supervise, as though my GI man hasn't performed thousands of the procedures and doesn't know what he's doing. Still, I appreciate that fact that my dad is coming back from his conference a day early for my benefit.

Thank you, Gerard, for riding in the ambulance with me. Ambulances scare me, and it's nice to have a person I know riding along with me.

I should be back to whatever home I'm going to by midmorning tomorrow presuming that the GI man finds nothing out of the ordinary and the bleeding doesn't resume. He told me he does not expect to find anything that's unusual for me.

P.S. Becca when are you not in class? I might want to call you.