Thursday, May 28, 2015

One cannot post too many copies of the stock phto guy who bears the uncanny resemblance to 4th-year med student cutie pie.

  1. Almost-doctor (4th-year med student) cutie pie paid his visit this morning and pronounced me out of commission for the rest of the week. It seems my hemoglobin levels are in the cellar or even lower. there's no obvious cause. The consensus (the med students have to discuss my case with actual MDs) is that it's likely a case of too much work and not enough sleep, recreation,  and fresh air, since I haven't exactly been hitting the clubs on a regular basis, or, ore precisely, not at all. Life should improve a bit when I'm allowed to run again. It's amazing what running just a mile or two can do for a body. 

  2. The condition is all presumably a combination of ridiculous studying hours, not being able to exercise for so long because of the foot, and the lovely stomach virus from a few weeks ago. It's irritated to being capacitated when I'm not even sick, but I'm supposedly lucky not to be sick.
      Because it was early enough that Matthew was still home, 
      Almost-Dr.Cutie pie didn't bring a flunkie. This was good 
      because the 4th's year students make the flunkies draw blood 
      and do the injections.  There's nothing quite like being a guinea 
      pig when it comes to having blood drawn. Injections aren't 
      quite so bad. I could do that, but my veins aren't the easiest in 
      the world to pinpoint. The 4th-year student talks the flunkie 
      through the procedure, but that's of limited value when one is 
      being stabbed repeatedly. After the flunkie's second attempt    
      yesterday (they only get two tries per patient, but I didn't know 
      this) I asked if i could just do it myself. The 4th-year guy said I 
      could try, or he would do it himself. I let him do it.

      Until Monday, I'm allowed to play my musical instruments,    
      watch as much TV as I want provided that it's not medical    
      videos, go for walks (I have a note to carry with me in case an 
      @$$hole professor accosts me and asks why I wasn't in 
      class), have very light social activity, and sleep. I'm not     
      allowed to study or even to read non-medical literature.. I 
      didn't ask about blogging because no one there knows I blog.

      On Sunday someone will show up here and jab at my veins 
      until they can get enough of my blood to determine whether or 
      not my blood contains enough hemoglobin to keep a gerbil 
      alive. The results will presumably be positive, and I'll then be 
      back in class for the final week of instruction before finals.

     This incident is really of little concern. People overwork 
     themselves all the time, and sometimes they either get sick or 
     develop anemia. my adviser's concern is that if it is happening 
     to  me now, what is going to happen in my third year of med     
     school and in my year of internship.  He said it may be that I'm 
     pushing myself harder and working more hours even that a 3rd-
     year student or intern is required to do, in which the problem
     won't be a problem. Otherwise, he said, I may need some sort 
     of 504 plan to modify my workload. As long as I demonstrate 
     mastery of the skill set and content, it's all kosher.

     I can either worry about it and make things worse, or I can 
    cross that bridge when I come to it. All I really know is that if i 
    hadn't studied like a crazy person up to this point, no one, 
    including my adviser, would be advocating for me to the 
    degree that is being done. My mom says I did this to myself, 
    which s true, but for no good reason, which is arguable NOT 
    true. I'm being cut slack now to the extent even that the clinical 
    professor who dislikes me because of a single negative 
    encounter has no power to impact me.  I don't think the 
    other profs would be standing in his way to the degree that they 
    are had I not worked my head off. Hard work usually pays off 
    even if it's too much hard work. I am aware, however, that if i 
    get myself into the same situation, the powers tha be will not be 
    so sympathetic the next time, so I will not allow there to be a 
    next time.

    I've said all I care to say about this non-illness. My next post 
   will be more positive in outlook.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Not Exactly Quarantined, but Housebound

This isn't one of my 4th-year house call students, but he looks a lot like one who showed up yesterday. I like it when they send the cute guys. 

I was sent home from my first lecture because my coloring looked bad to my adviser.  He told me to stay home all day and that the Nazi sometimes in charge of Practice of Medicine cannot do anything about it. He sent three 4th-year med students to check on me during the day. Another 4th-year student is showing up in the early morning to decide if I can go to class tomorrow.

My adviser says I already know everything I need to know to ace the finals, and that my friends will share notes and review withe besides.

I don't have anything contagious. My dad ran a really thorough blood panel because I wanted to see my Godchild, and it had to be ascertained that I wasn't harboring anything the baby or his pregnant mother could catch.

Baby Andrew is so adorable. Even my friends who have never seen him before ainggree, and I don't think they were just saying it to humor me. Everyone sort of fought over who got to hold him and play with him. He won'y be seven months for three more days, and he'd already starting to let go of sofas and furniture and trying to walk on his own. His record is seven steps, but he'll be walking very soon, I suspect. He's a big boy like his daddy even though he was under five pounds at birth.. His mother is petite.

The next baby should be born early to mid July. That's a little early, but the mom has cystic fivrosis, and and she'll probably go into labor early. She's 27-qand-a half weeks a long now and is doing very well except tired a lot. After finals, i will move in and be her full-time nanny.

In June, my aunt and uncle from the Isle of Man will visit. They give their children strange names (Bliyten Manx and Antarctica Meringue). If my dad doesn't like the name someone gives their kid, he just calls the kid whatever be wants. Blitzen Manx is now known as Mutt. Antarctica Meringue used to be Kitty Carry-All, but now my dad has changed her name to Calamity Jane. She answers to Calamity Jane. They'e both very sweet and well-behaved. I can hardly wait to see them again.

In another two hours a fourth-year med school student will be here to decided my future fr the day.

Monday, May 25, 2015

BBQs When Your System is not Ready for Such Food

Don't eat this meal on a regular basis if you do not wish to build up arterial plaque in really bad places.
 My dad barbecued for my friends who are here, which was a kind thing for him to have done. Unfortunately, it was my first exposure to beef after my stomach ailment of a couple of weeks ago, and my gastric system was apparently not quite ready for beef. I'm suffering as though I ate at one of Bobby Flay's restaurants. I will probably live, but I'm in a bit of agony right now. The group, including the non-med-school students, is in my room studying. I run out every few minutes to hurl or have other issues. Studying must go on.

Earlier today we had a nice day at the beach. The Pacific along the California coastline is cold, but people get in and swim anyway as long as there is no undertow, which there wasn't. Our beach doesn't usually have an undertow, but once in awhile conditions favorable to it appear, and then everyone but the idiots stays out. The beach itself is lovely. We played football and volleyball more than we swam, anyway. I only play volleyball with beach balls. Even moderately weighted foam rubber balls can damage my wrists, and I cannot afford to have damaged wrists.

I'm supposed to be able to run up to a mile now, but the food sensitivity threw  a real wrench into my running plans. Maybe I'll be OK tomorrow. I'm looking forward to hurdling. I haven't hurdled at school when any actual track people or coaches were present. It's fun to see their reaction to a little white girl who hurdles like she's from the west coast of Africa. At another school across the bay, they tried to recruit me last fall until they found out that I was already through undergrad studies. 

The advantage gymnasts have against both dancers who become hurdlers and pure hurdlers in the 100-meter high hurdles is that we don't usually have a preferred lead leg for hurdling. In perfect conditions, this shouldn't matter. One should require 8 steps (unless one is Lolo Jones with legs that extend all the way to the Northwest Territory) to get to the first step, and 3-steps between hurdles. If conditions are somehow not perfect, however, gymnasts don't have to stutter-step (adjust the length of steps just before hurdling) to end up hurdling with the preferred leg. A potential problem here is that if you practice equally with both legs, neither leg is getting s much practice as the preferred leg of a hurdler who has a preferred leg. One can get around this as long as her bones, joints, and connective tissues are in excellent condition by practicing just a bit longer than does the average hurdler.

Lolo Jones, with her legs roughly the length of the Nile, who needs only seven steps to reach the first hurdle

In the 400-meter low hurdle, because you run on the curve of the track, it's best to hurdle with the left leg, which initially involves counting steps. (A longer-legged hurdler can make it to the first hurdle in 23 to 24 steps. I was not so blessed. It took me 25 to 26 steps on most days. might have been.still, if I had to hurdle with my right leg even on a curve, it was preferable to stutter-stepping in term of lost time, so it was still an advantage.

The decided disadvantage to most gymnasts as hurdlers is that we're not usually 5'8". I'm shortish (5'3") but that's big for a gymnast, and my height is in my legs, so I wasn't as disadvantaged as  most former gymnasts would have been in hurdling. 

The bottom line for me was that my legs were enough shorter than those of the competition that it took less time to get them started, and the race was too short often for them to make up the time.  The shortness became a detriment in the full 400-meters, where the longer-legged girls had plenty of distance to make up for lost time at the beginning of the race. 

The "sexy" outfit I wore to capture the males' attention during presentations

If you're a former gymnast who desires to hurdle, go for the 100-meter races.

My study partners are growing impatient with me. They don;t care about hurdling, or long or short legs, or the number of strides it takes to reach a hurdle. They want me to focus both on abdominal aortic aneurysms and on arterial plaque buildup, the locations it is most likely to occur, and the relative dangers of each. They're all total buzzkills, but I'll stop my dissertation on track and field and share with them what I memorized five weeks ago. I'll help them as long as my gastric system allows, anyway.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bobby Flay-ming @$$hole

I have no clue as to why Bobby Flay looks the way he does in this picture. Perhaps he groped the wrong person's sister, girlfriend, or wife. Then again, maybe he tried to ride one of his race horses and fell off.

The Bobby Flay/Stephanie March split, which started out ugly, appears to be growing even uglier. Flay now claims that March's health problems -- including endometriosis and a ruptured appendix -- are a result of a vain cosmetic procedure -- specifically a boob job. I'm not sure where and when Flay obtained his medical doctorate. I don't have one either, but I'm three years and two weeks closer to having one than Bobby Flay is.  Wait! Make that seven years and two weeks closer; Flay didn't go to college and was a high school dropout. 

So I'm not sure where Bobby Flay got his apparently highly reliable medical information that a boob job, good or bad, can cause one's appendix to rupture. Such hasn't been taught in any of my courses yet this year. Perhaps it's a second-year topic for study. Third and fourth years are largely sent in clinical rotations, with some lectures and research time  but limited classroom  hours. Where bobby Flay is concerned, however, it's largely a moot point. He's not going to any medical school anytime soon.

Flay appears to be grasping at straws, or more appicably, grasping at boobs, which is something at which Flay has grown quite proficient.  He had the reputation of a womanizer long before Stephanie March met him. When he fell in love with her, he appeared to change for the better. Alas, the change was temporary. A true leopard isn't going to change his spots, a zebra is not going to change is stripes, and a serial adulterer isn't likely to change his adulterous ways. The whole thing makes me incredibly sad, as theirs seemed like such a fairy tale relationship.

If my information  is correct, Ms. March has been suffering with endometriosis for a long time -- long before any boob job ever happened -- and to criticize an actress for  a cosmetic procedure is roughly akin to criticizing a neurosurgeon for having cataract surgery.  Expectations regarding appearance come with the territory of being a female in the entertainment industry. Actress Patricia Heaton has openly discussed the topic, detailing what procedures she's undergone, explaining the need, and going so far as to tell "normal" women it's not fair to compare their own appearances to those of women in entertainment, who must go under the knife unless they are willing to drastically limit the jobs for which they will be even considered.

When I first became aware of Bobby Flay, I was not impressed. I found him to be haughty and full of himself. He blamed the public perception of his cockiness on his being a native New Yorker. While I'm not an expert on the subject of the personalities of native New Yorkers, I'll venture a guess that not a huge percentage of them walk around with the aura of arrogance Bobby Flay seems to exude. Stephanie March appeared to diffuse some of the air of pretension surrounding Flay, but now that she's no longer in his life, the hubris has returned, if anything, stronger than ever. 

Didn't Flay say initially that he would take the high road regarding accusations in the divorce battle? Perhaps I dreamed it and he never actually said it, but either way, he's certainly not taking any high roads in even mentioning his estranged wife's cosmetic procedure, mush less in detailing it and blaming it for her ruptured appendix.
and even had the cosmetic procedure been the cause for her ruptured appendix, is that really a good reason for him to be anywhere but at the hospital while his wife is having her ruptured appendix removed? With husbands like Bobby Flay, who needs enemies?

Go back to high school, Bobby Flay. Perhaps you will learn there in a biology class that there is a considerable distance between a human breast and an appendix, and surgery on one doesn't typically cause the other to rupture. And, ideally, go to a high school that teaches manners along with the standard curriculum you lack. Learn to pronouuce chipotle while you're there. (Hint: it has  three syllables when pronounced properly.)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Teachers Are Too Lazy to Teach: Student Presentations

what the auditorium looked like during most of the presentations

Depending upon one's schedule, finals are from fourteen to sixteen days ahead of us. For some reason, the great brain trust in charge of our Human Health and Disease course thought it would be a fabulous idea for us to waste a full class session (it was actually more than a full class session; we started early to ensure that there would be time for all presentations) with student presentations on various topics related to our course of study. Five professors, lecturers, or whatever they choose to call themselves, sat in the rear of the auditorium for the purpose of evaluating us.

Despite my occasional denigration of some of  their respective abilities to teach us, I would venture to surmise that any one of them could have made better use of our time by lecturing to us about any subject even vaguely related to the cardiopulmonary aspects of human health and disease than was actually made of the time with our lame presentations. 

Some presentations were better than others, of course. Some students know more than others, obviously. Other students know a great deal but are horribly uncomfortable at speaking to a group of one hundred or more people, which is probably why they chose to go into medicine as opposed to something more like acting or motivational speaking. 

Mostly the experience was incredibly boring, but those of us with at least minimal social graces tried hard to pretend that we were interested in everything that each presenter had to say. It's hard enough for a shy person to speak in front of a large group without seeing people in your  audience using their ipads or playing with their cell phones. (At least with ipads, one could pretend to be taking notes, although we're supposed to use our official laptops for that purpose.) I'm not quite sure A) why it was not announced before the presentations began that such use was prohibited, as professors and lecturers would never allow students to play on their phones during lecture;  or B) why the offending students lacked the human decency not to engage in such behavior.

Had I been a meaner person, I would have taken a mental note of which students were being rude during the presentations of others and would have organized an attention-boycott of the rude students' presentations, but I'm not quite as unkind as I sometimes come across in this blog. Some of the ruder students were every bit as flustered in their presentations as were the most shy students there. I would not have been a guilty party to adding to their stress.

I even helped "Bimbo." She was struggling for terms. As I knew her topic relatively well, I quickly came up with a list of terms that might elude her grasp. I scrawled them on note paper with markers and discreetly held each one up when she seemed to need it. I don't think anyone knew other than the students seated on either side of me and perhaps the one directly behind me. She made it through her presentation without totally falling flat on her face, and actually thanked me afterward.

Matthew did predictably well. I wrote a large part of his content, but anyone could have written it. The skill was in the presentation. A few students  are sufficiently  good presenters that they could hold just about anyone's attention. Matthew is one of such people, along with Kal Penn and The Cool Guy.

I had the privilege of presenting dead last, after even those who might otherwise have had  vague interest in anything I had to say were already zoned out far beyond redemption. As a last minute addition, I pulled up a joke video of the features of the latest iphone, put it on the available screen,  and started my presentation with it. Less than a minute into it, I cut it off, mentioned that speaking of phones, we could probably all live without ours for the next four minutes, and asked students to put theirs away, then waited while they complied. I got a few scathing looks, but no one was on his or her cell phone during my presentation.

One of my proper little Asian friends said that my presentation would be enhanced by my appearing more sexy. She had her younger sister from up the peninsula take the train down to do my makeup and bring me sexier clothing. I started out wearing an over-sized blazer, but took it off once I semi-had the group's attention. After that, I actually did have the attention of the males. My topic was asthma as related to occupation. Most of it involved showing videos my friends had graciously  traveled all over northern California on weekends taping for me. They had to pretend to be miners, teachers (we were fortunate enough to find a teacher that would let us use her classroom full of students; I think she had parent-signed-waivers, but just in case she didn't, I will not post the video; the  kids were great little actors who wheezed and coughed right along with Kal Penn as he was trying to teach while wheezing), farmworkers and farmers (I caved in to stereotypes: Raoul was the farmworker; for someone who does not even speak Spanish, he does a great accent), occupational cleaning, and hairdressing (The Cool Guy portrayed an awesome hairdresser).

My strategy was to speak as little as possible, have good visuals, and be quick and to the point. My brevity allowed the class to leave two minutes early, so everyone loved me at least for the thirty seconds it took for them to get out the door.

All of this would have been just delightful had we done it three weeks ago before everyone was stressing out over prepping for finals.  The word on the street, however, is that once a person attains sufficient education to be in charge of a medical school program, he or she loses whatever common sense he or she once possessed.

Because it's Memorial Day weekend, Matthew and I traveled home. We brought along  two friends -- a girl whose family lives in Taiwan and Kal Penn, whose family lives in the Midwest. We'll study, but not a hell of a lot. Jared and his cousin Alyssa are coming over in just a bit. Jared has applied and been accepted to a med school not far from where I will be. We can see each other on occasion, or at least a lot more than we currently see each other.

Happy Memorial Day! I will remember to honor the veterans who gave their lives (and even those who did not) to ensure the freedoms we now enjoy. May it ever be thus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seth and the other Cravenses

Seth Cravens

I shall now return to my treatise concerning my acquaintances' dealings with the Cravens family and what my dad calls my imminent desire to wind up in court on the defense side of  a big fat defamation suit. My dad is full of #%^&@#!!. I will state s facts only evidence I can back up with witness testimony. Conjecture will be indicated clearly as such and will not be libelous.

The Cravens family was most recently in the public eye when Seth Cravens,  the thirteenth of their fourteen children, was convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of  Emery Kauanui, a surfer originally from the isle of Kauai in Hawaii but more recently based in La Jolla, California, which is an exclusive suburb of San Diego. I believe the murder occurred somewhere around 2007. Seth cravens was just a part of a gang that beat Kauanui, but was convicted of having delivered the final blow after the was attack was essentially over. 

The others accused in the incident -- all members of the notorious Bird Rock Bandits, which escaped  meeting the criteria, as determined by a judge, of  the technical classification of  a gang* -- plead guilty for lesser offenses. (They received short-term jail sentences and probation, but three were found guilty of probation violations and were later sent to prison.) Cravens, too, had a plea bargain on the table, which he opted to reject, presumably because his proposed sentence was much greater than those of the others since he had delivered what proved to be the fatal blow to Kauanui. Cravens' plea bargain would have given him an eighteen-year prison sentence. Assuming that he had kept himself out of further trouble behind bars, he would have served a substantially shorter interval than the proposed eighteen years, but he and his parents must have been confident that he could beat the charges. 

In hindsight, the family's confidence, whether based on their own views of  their perceptions of Seth's sympathetic  impression in view of the the jury or upon the hubris of the attorney retained to represent Seth Cravens. The attorney, Mary Allen Attridge, mounted a rather aggressive defense, blaming the deceased victim for the attack during the opening and closing statements and attempting to support her stance during questioning of witnesses. The coup de grace was the closing argument, during which Ms. Allen-Attridge moved her own face to within five inches of the Assistant District Attorney's face[in admitted attempted to provoke the ADA to physically strike her; the ADA stated afterward that the thought of hitting her adversary never even crossed her mind during the rather bizarre delivery], shouting obscenities, and ending with the arguably non sequitur at best and more realistically nonsensical to the point of childishness, conclusion of "choo choo!" in apparent reference to what she had described as the "runaway train of the prosecution."

In the end, bold though the defense strategy might have been, the jury must not have been as impressed with the theatrics as Ms. Allen-Attridge and the cravens family had hoped, with Seth Cravens receiving a conviction on the second-degree murder count, in addition to three convictions for unrelated violent acts, and a twenty-years-to-life sentence. My understanding, of the sentencing protocol is that, barring unforeseen changes, no parole hearing will be scheduled until the predeterminate sentence (twenty years) has been served.

In Augeust 210, the Third district Court of Appeals overturned the second-degree murder charge, agreeing with Cravens' leagl team that proof had not been established that Cravens was aware that the fatal blow to Kauanui's with Cravens' non-dominant left hand posed a potentially fatal threat to Cravens. (Cravens had hit several people before with one hand or the other and none of them had died, was the reasoning of the braintrust comprising the third district Court of Appeals.) In January of 2012, the California State Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Third District of Appeals Court, upholding the original conviction.

To the best of my knowledge, Seth Cravens is now incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in an especially non-aesthetically pleasing section of  California's San Joaquin Valley, which is a considerable distinction in the mind of virtually anyone who has visited the San Joaquin Valley and has seen what even the most aesthetically pleasing features of the region have to offer.

Cravens' parents believe he is 100% innocent, which should come as no surprise to anyone. (Scott Peterson's parents were equally convinced of his innocence even after his late wife's body turned up in the very body of water in which he claimed to have been fishing on the day she disappeared, which was on Christmas Eve. Parents do not want to believe their offspring are capable of murder, and such is understandable.

What is less understandable is when parents defend their younger children's every act of misbehavior and proclaim their children's innocence despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary despite not having been within miles of the location of the infraction, based solely on the denials provided by their children.  I cannot say with certainty that such was the case with Mr. and Mrs. Cravens, but if teachers were allowed to tell their stories, my suspicion would be that there were numerous accounts of misbehavior on Seth's part in which his parents stood behind their son and insisted  - based on his sole  word -- that he could not possibly have done what the teacher or other adult who saw him in the act of misbehavior because he never would have lied about such a thing and was, furthermore, incapable of any act of violence or bullying. Again, this is pure conjecture on my part. Laws, however, prevent teachers from retelling the accounts that would establish a pattern that typically leads to the antisocial behavior we all eventually read about on Internet news outlets or hear on TV news channels.

The Cravenses describe their son as caring and -- this is very typical in such cases -- not one to back down from a fight but never capable of starting a fight. Conceivably what they say is true, but if such were really the case in the accounts of all the parents we hear defending their children, no fights would ever happen, because no one's child is, in the words of his parent or parents, capable of starting a fight; he only refuses to back down from one that has been forced upon him. How do any fights ever actually take place, then, if absolutely no one will start one? Strange, isn't it?

Accounts I've been given of Mrs. Cravens from those who ever knew here personally are that she is a genuinely lovely person.  No one has anything unkind to say about her. The only remotely negative thing I've heard about her is that, in the opinions of those to whom I have spoken,  she may be been a bit quick to defend her children and may not have been the sternest disciplinarian on the planet. For the most part, however, everyone who has ever known her loves her.

The same can hardly be said of Mr. William H. Cravens. He left Hawaii for the San Diego area allegedly over a debt he verbally refused to pay. The finds were reportedly garnished from a bank in san Diego, anyway, so the move was moot. (1) Mr Cravens was his charged for his part in a Ponzi scheme. He ratted out his co-conspirators in return for  a lighter sentence. (2) His original sentence was four years of incarceration, but I do not know whether or not he was required to actually serve any of that time.

My relatives who lived in the same community as the cravens family in Hawaii tell stories of the Cravens children being allowed to drive the Polynesian Cultural Center mini-vehicles to school as though the golf carts or whatever they were belonged personally to them. They attended LDS church functions regularly but, again in the opinion of relatives and acquaintances, as I was not yet born and could not possibly verify this information, often were treated as local royalty.Despite this supposed preferential treatment, many of the cravens children were reportedly nice, well-behaved children. Most or all have gone on to find gainful aemployment and have led ily. The children were treated as children of great privilege according to my relatives. to the best of my knowledge, no Cravens child other than Seth has been convicted of, or even accused of having killed anyone.

My harshest criticism is reserved for William H. Cravens, the father of Seth. During at least part of the time he was president of the Polynesian Cultural Center, he was, as I mentioned in the blog introducing this one, the President of the Laie Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (At that time, other than the BYU-Hawaii student stake, Laie had only one stake.) As befitting one of his ecclesiatiscal stature, one would expect that he would be almost Christ-like in demeanor, or at the very least, not a terrible guy. Such, unfortunately, would have been a most false assumption.

My mother's best friend attended bYU-Hawaii as a sixteen-year-old undergraduate. She worked in various capacities as a statistician and as an equipment manager for mean's and women's basketball teams. At one men's game, while she was attempting to keep statistics (this was when it was all done on pencil and paper - long before computers were used for the purpose),  particular man who worked in the business offices was blatantly hurling racial epithets at the African-American members of the opposing members of the opposing team, and even going so far as to make threats as to waht would happen to these young men if they continued to play in what the an considered to be an overly aggressive manner despite the fact that the referees were calling few if any fouls for the real or imagined infractions. Eventually a few other older males - at least one of whom was one of her professors -- joined the original man in hurling the racial epithets. (Not that this should matter, bit this was post-1978, and the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood had been lifted.)  My mom's friend said it became apparent from the expression on the basketball player's faces that they were hearing the comments and were bothered by them.

My mom's friend was tiny -- she was a literal anorexic before most people even knew what the condition was, and probably weighed in the upper eighties at the time, and was about 5'2".  When a timeout occurred and she was able to pause in her statistics-keeping duties for a moment, she says that she said in as respectful a manner as possible that the men were sitting in the student section, that they were making the students as well as the entire university look bad, thathe men simultaneously jumped down the  their words had the potential to incite violence, and that it was not in keeping either with good sportsmanship or with the teachings of the LDS church. The men simultaneously [figuratively] jumped down the throat of the sixteen-year-old statistician, in at least one case physically threatening her, and in other cases threatening her continued attendance at the university.

Stake President Cravens was among this crowd, seated right in the middle of the student section. his nephew played for the team. Most of the time he tended to spend hollering at the coach to put his nephew in as opposed to actually cheering the team on. my mom's sixteen-year-old friend made direct eye contact with president Cravens, hoping that,as the men's ecclesiastical leader, he would feel obligated to tell them to knock it off. he didn't join them in their racist remarks, but he certainly didn't rebuke them, and he did tell her to mind her own business. My mom's friend located the athletic director, whi was maybe 5'5" and 130 lbs, who yelled at all of them and told them he'd have them ejected. he walked my mom's friedn back to the car, which was a good thing, because at least one of the harassers appeared to be following her.  That's a powerful Stake President William Cravens was, wouldn't you say?

In another less blatant inciddent but one equally illustrative of the man's character, my mom's friend was walking to basketball practice as President Cravens and a couple of his daughters were playing tennis. The girls were not very skilled at tennis, and one of them hit a ball over the fence. My mom's friend, because she was polite and respectful, took several steps out of her way and retrieve the tennis ball from the bushes where it had landed. just as she was preparing to throw it back over the fence to the Cravenses, President Cravens bellowed out to her, "Don't you even THINK about stealing that tennis ball!" She tossed it back over to the fence to him, but she was so embarrassed that she cried all the way to basketball practice. It was an overreaction, but she was sensitive, and it humiliated her that anyone would even think that she was plotting to steal a tennis ball or anything else.

The basketball coach asked her what was wrong. She told him of the incident. He told her she should have thrown the ball back into the bushes where she found it and told Cravens to chase his own tennis ball. 

The basketball coach didn't like President Cravens, mainly because the guy was always complaining about his nephew's lack of playing time. [He didn't say so explicitly, but the coach's wife had told my mom's friend something that gave her the indication that such was the case] that Stake President Cravens attempted to use his ecclesiastical authority to force more playing time for his nephew. (Again, I cannot corroborate this, although anyone who would attempt to bilk others out of their hard-earned cash via Ponzi schemes or anything else is probably also capable of abusing ecclesiastical authority). The coach said to her, "Sometimes a person can have too much power, and power can corrupt." This was from a TBM basketball coach.

* Technical gang classification would have added about ten years to each of the convicts' sentences.

I would like to conclude by saying that I'm not an overly vengeful person and don't honestly wish prison on anyone. I recognize it as a deterrent to antisocial behavior, and realize its necessity as such. Likewise, I accept that society is not safe if some individuals are allowed to roam free, and for the rest of us to be safe, some of us have to remain locked up. As to where Seth Cravens falls on this continuum, I have no clue. I wish him well while he is in prison, and I hope that if and when he is released, he is prepared to rejoin society as a productive member.




Sunday, May 17, 2015

Catholics aren't perfect, either -- or at least the Interim Parish Priests aren't.

I think PeeWee is attired more like a Bishop or a Cardinal than a simple priest, but you get the idea.


My next series is supposed to be about the Cravens family, but that was set for tomorrow, anyway. In the interim, something happened that may cause me to switch from Catholic to Protestant. I'd never go so far as to find my way back to my LDS roots, but mainline Protestantism isn't too beg a stretch.  In the end, though I'll simply avoid the offending parish as though everyone inside it had a massive case of head lice. I don't take religion that literally, anyway. I think it's there to be a source of comfort for those who choose to utilize it as such and, under the best of circumstances, an inspiration to lead a better life and to spend a bit more of one's time and means in helping others less fortunate. Some do not even need religion to achieve this. To such people, I tip my hat.

This morning, after a whopping one hour and thirty minutes of sleep (I was supposed to get a grand total of three hours and forty-minutes of shut-eye) our house phone rang. I was too far into the depths on unconsciousness to even hear it, my brother, who is a morning person, hear it, answered it, and summoned me to the phone with "Some man wants to talk to you."

I dragged myself out of bed in my state of incoherence to mutter a less-than cheery "Hello" into the phone. The caller was a fill-in parish priest for an actual parish priest who was on sabbatical. The parish was not the one closest to our condo, but it was only  a bit more than a ten-minute drive from our condo. Unlike Mormons, who are assigned to congregations, Catholics attend whatever Catholic parish suits their fancy with no repercussions whatsoever from either the locals or from the big boys in the Vatican City. Even without the mandate to attend a particular parish, it somehow works out. If a parish becomes too sparsely attended, diocesan leadership tries beefing up the parish with a more popular priest, better music, more youth programs, and other things, if it still doesn't work out, they close down the parish and assume Catholics who really desire to attend mass will find a place elsewhere to do so. I'm digressing, however, from my main point of the morning.

I had played for one wedding and for one funeral (both for members or relatives of members of our med school community) at the parish, but had not dealt with the interim priest, as the actual parish priest had not yet gone on sabbatical on the two occasions on which I played. The interim priest, who had a remarkably de-nasal voice, explained to me that the usual church organist was sick with an acute intestinal ailment, which is far more information that I'd want someone giving  about any sickness to a stranger or even casual acquaintance. I should have taken my cue in terms of the interim priest's social skills from that brief exchange.

The priest went on to explain in his whiny voice than he  had called virtually everyone of whom he knew with any musical skills whatsoever when he came across my name and phone number in the bench of the grand piano and decided it probably wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to give me a call.  It was such a vote of confidence, and gave me such a thrill to have been thought of when the need for a church musician arose[sarcassm font].

He explained that the usual fee was $125.00 for being the primary provider of music at a mass, but since I was an unknown quantity as far as he was concerned, he would do what he could to come up with $100 dollars for me. The payment, whatever it was, would be in cash from the morning's offerings, and I would need to sign a receipt for it. 

This should have been my first clue that my time would have been better spent in bed, but I was raised to help out the church when it has been practical for me to do so, I inquired of the time of the mass, which was eight-thirty. The de-nasal priest voice on the other end of the line told me I would need to be there half an hour early at an absolute minimum.  Fool that I am, I agreed to the terms on the rationale that it was the church and the people I was helping, not the priest lacking in social skills.

I hung up and staggered to the shower. I heard my brother hollering at me through the bathroom door, asking where I was planning to go. "To mass," I answered. "A parish not far from here is without  musician this morning."

"Are you crazy?" my brother hollered back through the door. "You haven't even had two hours of sleep!"

"I'm sure God will appreciate the sacrifice," I yelled back through the door.

"Just don't fall asleep at the wheel and kill yourself or someone else on the way there or back," he muttered. "I'll take care of your share of the food for study group this morning." He really is a kind soul.

I left at 7:35 to allow for traffic even in the nonexistent traffic of Sunday morning since I was told by the penguin-like priest that I must be there at least one half hour before the service was slated to begin, and I didn't want to cut it close lest the Lord strike me dead or lest I bring some other equally severe act of retribution upon myself.

I arrive at 7:48 precisely to find every door to the building locked. I know, because I checked and knocked on each one of them. No one answered. I went next door to the rectory and rang the bell once as 8:00 -- the absolute latest mandated minute of my arrival -- approached, and still not a soul other than myself was onsite.

Finally, at 8:12, a man showed up with a key to the front door. He really didn't want to let me into the place -- I must have the appearance of a thief or a  vandal -- but I was able to plead with him that the priest had threatened me with  lenghty purgatory if not outright damnation to outer darkness if I were not inside the building twelve minutes ago, so the man took mercy and allowed me inside the sanctuary. I made my way up the rickety stairs to the choir loft, wondering if Worker's Comp would have  covered me if I'd fallen and had been seriously injured, I answered my own question: No. The priest and everyone connected to him would have had me declared an intruder and would've had me arrested before allowing me to be placed in the ambulance, and I would have been hand-cuffed to the stretcher for my ride to the hospital. 

I looked at the organ, which appeared to be more a piece of junk than anything else as church organs went. It was locked, but the lock was much like the lock on most suitcases, in which virtually anyone's suitcase key in the United States unlocks anyone else's. The same keys also probably work for suitcases from all seven continents; I just haven't personally tried Antarctica's,  Australia's or Africa's suitcase keys yet. I took my key ring out and found a likely match. As I was inserting it into the keyhole, the strangest-looking creature in priestly vestments that I've ever seen --  and I've seen my share of strange looking priests, monks, and the like -- rounded to final corner of the staircase and called out in the most squawkishly ugly bird-like tone ever to emit from the mouth of a priest, "Stop what you're doing right now and put your hands in the air!"

For all I knew, the man held a gun, so I dropped my keys and held my hands up, "Exactly who do you think you are and what are you doing here?"

"I'm the organist you demanded to be here by eight 'clock at the very latest," I answered him. "Since no one was available to let me in until almost fifteen minutes later and the organ was locked," I explained, "I was trying to make up for lost time by unlocking the organ with one of the organ keys I have."

"You have organ keys, do you?" he demanded. "I don't suppose you're the one who has been letting herself into the building and using all of our instruments in an unauthorized manner. We intend to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, I'll have you know."

"No, that would not be I," I explained to the supposed priest [ I still was not convinced he wasn't an impostor], because i have no way to get into the building, If I had, I would have been in here well before 8:00 and would already be set up to play."

"So you think you know how to play the organ," he asked, glaring at me with beady little reddish eyes, almost as though they were discolored either from disease or possession by evil spirits.

"I know how to play the organ," I clarified. I was a piano major, not an organ major, but my mastery of the organ is far above average as compared to  run-of-the-mill Catholic organist.

"Whatever you do, do not try to unlock this fine instrument with that makeshift key you're holding. If seen more organs destroyed by attempts to unlock them with faulty keys than you've seen organs, period, in your lifetime."  The priest would have had to see roughly one organ destroyed with a faulty key almost every week of his life for this statement to  have even come close to being true, compounded by the fact that most of us could not actually destroy an organ by attempting to open it with a faulty key even if we tried, but I let the statement go unchallenged.

By this time I had a better look at the fill-in priest. He looked more like PeeWee Herman than Peewee Herman himself did, if such a thing were possible. And I don't mean he merely looked like Paul Reubens, the actor who portrayed PeeWee Herman. He looked like PeeWee himself,  having stepped right out of the playhouse or off the bicycle he finally got back from the nefarious Francis. All the priest needed was a bow in place of his cassock and half the parishioners would have been lining up for his autograph while the other half grabbed their children and ran out the door. The resemblance was positively uncanny. 

"I suppose you'll have to play the piano," Father Herman [his name in my mind regardless of his real name] conceded. (He said the word piano as though it were a swear word.) You do know how to play the piano, don't you?"

"That's what the committee that conferred my piano performance degree concluded," I answered somewhat boastfully.

"Do you have an Order of Worship?" I asked him.

"You'll have to find an usher and get it from him," he sniveled at me, making his way to the altar.

I found an usher, obtained an Order of worship bulletin, grabbed a missal, and made my way to the piano, uncomfortable with the distance that the piano, located just in front of and to the right of the altar, would place me to Father PeeWee Herman. At this point I had no reason to believe the man was not homicidal, priest or not. I've seen Law and Order, SVU. I know that priests can kill just like anyone else. My sole consolation was in the presence of the congregation. He probably wouldn't murder me or anyone else in front of a crowd of hundreds.

The cheap Baldwin grand piano was also locked, but I didn't dare mention it to Father Pee Wee Herman. I quietly unlocked it with one of my three standard church piano keys, opened it, and began playing the prelude music which would only be needed for about three minutes since so much time had been wasted getting into the building, establishing that I was neither an intruder nor a vandal, and unlocking instruments.

I played "Joyful, Joyful, We Adroe Thee"as the priest and his helpers, including those carrying the host, made their way down the aisle. Father Herman paused to give me a death glare as he proceeded up the steps. "It's the wrong song," he hissed at me, loudly enough that those seated in the back pews could robably hear.

"It's what the Order of Worship says," I countered. 

"Then the order of worship is wrong, wrong, wrong!" he again hissed loudly.

He began he greeting by apologizing to the parishioners about the quality of music. "This organist doesn't play the organ," he lied. "It appears she doesn't play the piano all that well, either. I suggest we pray for the quick recovery of our regular organist."  Some people gasped. Others giggled.

He rolled his eyes at me when I played the Kyrie Eleison. I played the one that was indicated in the order of worship, and the soprano soloist was apparently prepared to sing that version, as she didn't miss a beat.

He rolled his eyes at me again during the Lamb of God. The soloist just shrugged at me.

The Offertory hymn was one called "What I have I will Give Thee." He cut me off. "It's the wrong song!" he bellowed. 

"It's what the Order of Worship says," the soloist responded. 

"Then the Order of Worship is wrong wrong, wrong again!" he ranted. "I obviously need a new secretary." 

Some man near the front of the sanctuary whispered a little too loudly, "We all need a new Interim Priest." Father Herman heard it and turned red. 

"Bad things happen to those who speak ill of the Lord's anointed," he admonished in his most PeeWee Herman-like tone yet. I half expected someone to say the secret word and for everyone to burst out screaming while bells and whistles rang.

"What do you want us to sing, Father" the soloist asked exasperatedly. "How about something sane like "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." I began playing it before anyone else could argue. The soloist sang along, shooting me sympathetic looks.

He didn't like the Agnus Dei, either, and rolled his eyes at me again.

Then came the recessional hymn, which was some text to the tune of "All Creatures of Our God and King." He started to protest, but the soloist just bellowed the words right into the microphone so that he couldn't have been heard even if he had protested. The mass was finally ended, and we went in peace to love and serve the Lord, but there was still the small matter of financial compensation.

Under ordinary circumstances, I do not come right out and ask for money. An agreement is reached before, but I don't go begging for the money after the service if payment is not forthcoming. If it appears either than the congregation,  or that the family in the case of a funeral, is not wealthy, I hand the money back. In this particular case, I chose to go against my principles and ask for the money since Father PeeWee Herman obviously wasn't making a point of offering it.

I approached him. "The payment, Father? You told me that the regular organist is paid $125 per mass, but that even with my limited skills, you would pay me $100 cash out of today's offering."

He looked aghast. "That was before we heard you play. You are the one who should be paying us for the use of our instruments to perfect your skills. Now go away and don't come back."

The whiny nasal little bitchface does not know how to speak quietly, apparently, and many parishioners heard his words to me.
Ladies started taking twenties and fifties and hundred dollar bills from their purses. Men were removing bills from their wallets. After my hands were full, I said "Really, this is quite enough," but they kept giving me more. One lady gave me a silk clutch purse to put in all in. I didn't count it until I got home, but I came out of the deal just over $1100 richer than I was before I started the day. It was definitely the most profitable piano-playing experience of my career.

The only really bad part, after the fact, is that one of the professors -- not one who is lecturing my current classes, but one I see in the halls. was there. I'm afraid he might tease me.

Studying was more or less a lost cause for me. I got into my swimsuit and climbed in the hot tub in my parents' master suite in our condo. everyone brought food in and we studied a bit while they all ate. I wasn't hungry. Then i went to sleep. The Asian girl was kind enough to make note cards for me about everything we covered.

I don't blame you if you don't believe this story. I wouldn't believe it if I had not been there to witness it.