Friday, December 04, 2009

Hooray for Texas?

Currently I'm working on one of the final papers I have falling due with the end of the semester. The assignment has to do with designing an evaluation, and I've been planning to look at the impacts of some kind of state curriculum mandates. This has led me to look around for any states with interesting recent changes in their curriculum policy. Anyway, I stumbled upon Texas as having started some interesting new graduation requirements this year that I'll probably be looking at for my paper. That is all fine and dandy, but why do I express this ambivalent reserved hopeful excitement? It is because of one of the many other things that happens to be buried in this bill.

In a strange mood to fool around with graduation policies, the Lone Star State has decided to run an early-readiness graduation pilot program. Colleges and universities are being solicited to coordinate with school districts to invent an assessment system that can facilitate early high school graduation by giving students an opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready for college, ostensibly at any point during their high school careers. Why is this potentially a ridiculously awesome thing? Because at its base, compulsory secondary education is oppressive and this can create an opportunity for some willing and able people to escape it. This is also cool because it is the first time I've heard of a policy plan that sought to inquire about what people really need to learn from school that can in turn inform future policies about what the schools require. Granted, “need” here is defined as including achievement levels in core-curricula and readiness for continued education. However, as I've learned time and again since I began teaching, successive approximations of the goal are something to rejoice over. Now there are lots of other doubts that hedge up my joy. What sorts of attitudes and expectations are the universities going to bring to the table? If the findings are good are Texans really ready for a radical policy maneuver that would be implicated by this? How would the teachers' unions respond if this proliferates enough to threaten job security? Et cetera. But either way it's something to keep the ol' eye-ball on.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


This writing grows out of observations I've made recently in several interactions I've had with other people. There exists in here a principle that I think could be of real benefit to many people in developing their spiritual lives.

The scriptures have it that the works of God are done in the open for everyone to see and know, but the devil uses secrecy to hide all of his efforts. In 2 Nephi 26 we have: “ there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness. … For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world.” In Acts 26 Paul declares before Agrippa “This thing was not done in a corner.” And one final reference from Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret...”

Understanding this principle Ignatius of Loyola gave some clarification for its application to the work of discernment of spirits.

[The evil spirit] acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun. (Spritual Exercises, Rule 13 for discernment in the First Week.)

Now there are a few things that I would like to point out about this teaching and it's general implications. First, it may be noted that for most of Christianity there is a certain understanding of a need for confession with regards to sin. This is not what he's talking about here. He's saying that the enemy desires us to keep even the ways in which we are tempted a secret and that by revealing the secret to someone else we unmask the villainous plan and obtain some power over the temptation. And this goes beyond just temptation. It includes trials of any kind. How often do people afflicted with spiritual trials in life keep them a secret either because they are ashamed or feel like they shouldn't burden another with their problems? And yet the argument here is that this tendency towards secrecy is a method of diabolical deceit.

The second point to observe here is that the instruction leaves plenty of room for exercising wisdom and judgment in the manner of revealing the secret. There is no injunction to be completely open and make all temptations and trials public. There is no rule that one should confess to persons directly involved in the problem. It simply states a confessor, or another spiritual person. For example if a trial exists around angry feelings towards a family member, it is not necessary to reveal this to the family member if it is liable to create unnecessary problems in the relationship. One may safely choose to reveal the issue to a friend or spiritual leader and thereby gain strength against the enemy.

The third point deals with how it is that this process works. There is something about a secret that it does interesting things to the mind of the person who harbors it. In the case of secret emotions as temptations, it can be very difficult for a person caught up in them to see and understand them with clarity and objectivity. However, the second that one reveals them to another person there is the opportunity where one can hardly help but consider them from an outsiders perspective. It is an automatic human process that we model in our own minds what we expect others to think when we are communicating with them. And should the hearer be sufficiently spiritual, they can provide actual feedback, the sum of which will uncloak the deceits being used against the afflicted and destroy their influence.

A fourth point can be made in the fact that Ignatius does not specify the gravity of the “wiles or afflictions” in question. Though I think it can be seen clearly that this principle applies to help in preventing one from following through with temptations to commit serious crimes, I believe that it can also apply to smaller struggles according to the judgment and perception of the person in question. I read recently that sometimes just having an opportunity to talk to another person about one's spiritual life can be such a relief that what were before great trials seem diminished even to non-existence. It was recommended that when this occurs one ought to reveal the secret anyway and thus more completely destroy the temptation.

Finally I enjoy this passage from Doctrine and Covenants 123:13-14“... we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them... These should then be attended to with great earnestness.”

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Metallica's “Wherever I May Roam” as Cultic Hymn in the Mysteries of Hermes

So far I have not been able to discover an actual mystery cult in worship of Hermes or Mercury. It seems that this divinity may be associated too much with other mysteries (eg. as Corvus the messenger in Mithraism and as the psychopomp escorting Persephone to and from Hades in the Eleusinian mysteries). This seems strange in that this god is associated with many things that are particularly apropos for a mystery religion. His early forms were frequently related to fertility, his images frequently phallic. He often functions as a sort of liminal being, standing as a mediator between the mortal and the divine, the living and the dead, and males and females. He was patron of all sorts of common folk particularly those involved with travel and exchange.

The primary identifying characteristic of a mystery religion is that it consists largely of a set of ritual dramatizations that are kept strictly secret by those who have been initiated into the cult. These rituals somehow functioned to provide the initiate with knowledge and some kind of magical appointment (sometimes by means of a sacred marriage) in order that they might attain some advanced form of afterlife. With such celestial goals in view, several of these mysteries and their antecedents possessed a particular interest in astrology. In the hymn “Wherever I May Roam,” several characteristics common to mysteries can be observed, characteristics which indicate Hermes as a focus for the cult. The first line of the hymn is repeated twice and represents both an element of mystery religion and an association with Hermes.

And the road becomes my bride

Inasmuch as the mysteries were held under great secrecy, very little detail is known for certain about the rituals that were contained there. So, I cannot comment on the likelihood that a marriage ceremony would have been a part of the initiation. However, it is generally considered quite probable that initiations consisted, among other things, of rituals providing purification. The concept of purification appears in a couple of places in our hymn starting with second line.I am stripped of all but prideIt is interesting that the initiate's bride is “the road” this suggests the embarkation into the cult which may be represented as a road as such mysteries often involved the devotee progressing through a series of levels or grades until they had learned every rite in the whole system. It is also reminiscent of the road that the deceased may traverse into the higher realms of the afterlife. This aspect of the road also indicates the relationship to Hermes whose interest the roads were.

Only knowledge will I save
To the game you stay a slave

In addition to the ritual sanctification, most mysteries seem to have carried a gnostic component to their soteriology. The knowledge of the mysteries is the critical difference between the celebrants of the cult and the population at large. Such knowledge is the mechanism by which greater stations are obtained after death. This type of salvation is also a liberation and in the case of this Hermetic cult the abandonment of home and goods contributes to this liberation. It seems that the freedom to live as if at home, comfortably and on balance in any situation is the measure of freedom and salvation the Hermeist obtains as seen in the following lines.

and my ties are severed clean
The less I have the more I gain.
Off the beaten path I reign.


Anywhere I roam,
where I lay my head is home.

One indication that this hymn is related to a cult of Hermes is embedded in a string of epithets: Rover, Wanderer, Nomad, Vagabond. It may be that these terms refer to four grades of the Hermetic mystery cult. However, they are succeeded by the line “call me what you will.” This suggests that the terms may be appropriately tied to any individual in the cult according the will or inclination of outsiders, regardless of rank. This concept of wandering is carried over in the following line:

Under wandering stars I've grown.

This is particularly appropriate in such a mystery on two grounds. First it shows the object of the initiate's emulation in the celestial sphere. It also suggests a connection to Hermes in that his planet is the fastest and most wandering of the lot.

One interesting connection with Hermes is one of the abilities that the devotee claims to obtain from his observance of the rites and their associated asceticism.

free to speak my mind anywhere

One may remember the Lucan account in the New Testament of the Apostles Paul and Barnabas preaching in Lystra. When a crippled man was healed, the people believed Barnabas to be Jupiter, but Paul they thought to be Mercury on account that he was the greater orator. The ability not only to speak one's mind, but to speak it well and in strange company would be an ability quite consistent with a tradition worshiping Hermes.

The final evidence for the song “Wherever I May Roam” to be considered a hymn of the hypothetical Hermetic mysteries is found in the final lines. It is the culmination of the system's salvation doctrine and arguably implies the patronage of Hermes both in his role as psychopomp and due to the passage's traveling motif.

Carved upon my stone,
my body lie, but still I roam,
wherever I may roam.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A strange parable that went too far

March 1996 – Brunhild has been in estrous and seems to have influenced the rest of the troop with her mood because the other females are showing some tumescence. The males, Brian and Borris, have been approaching her. She's allowed them to mate, but has shown real signs of dissatisfaction with them. After one mating with Brian she hit him in the head with her hand then chased him off with a stick. He's gotten to be old enough that he cannot properly defend himself from a female as forceful as Brunhild. Each time Brian solicited her she walked off until he presented her with a small pile of figs. When he attempted to force himself on her, she began screaming and then
Barbara with one or more of the other junior females came running in and the group chased him off.

April 1996 – Brunhild's estrous has come to its end while several of the other females including Barbara, have come to mating. Most of the younger ones have been passively accepting couplings from Brian and Borris. However, Borris has been somewhat more abusive with the females lately. It seems that this may be related to the appearance of a younger sexually mature male from another troupe that has been hanging around. In fact both Barbara and Brunhild have met this male to exchange grooming out of sight of Borris. This has led to both of the senior females mating with this new male, who absconded from the troupe after each event.

Barbara was observed to be grooming Benjamin (the young foreign male) when she walked in front of him displaying her swellings. Benjamin approached as if to mate with her and she sat down, denying him access. He also sat and began grooming her when she got up again and began walking towards the troupe. Benjamin followed her, increasing his pace as if to catch her. Just as he nearly caught her, again she quickly sat down. Benjamin hooted a bit in frustration and resumed grooming her. Again Barbara got up, but this time ran toward the troupe and Benjamin got up to follow. As he ran though, Barbara came within sight of Borris. Benjamin seemed to detect this because when she stopped running he stopped chasing and crouched down in the leaf cover. Benjamin watched her closely as Borris noticed Barbara and approached. Barbara allowed him to mate with her as she frequently turned back to look in Benjamin's direction. At this point Bridget joined them and also mated with Borris. And as Benjamin watched Brandy also approached and mated with Borris.

Late that night, there was sudden commotion, several of the troupe were screaming while at least one male and probably two were going from tree to tree shaking them and beating on the trunks. There was no visibility but at one point there was the sound like a large stone hitting a tree and breaking it and there was the sound of one chimpanzee repeatedly screaming but gradually moving away from the camp.

In the morning, Borris was found dead. He had suffered severe head trauma that seems to have been associated with a large rock nearby that has blood splattered on it. Several of the females were making soft howls consistent with mourning as they touched Borris's body, lifting his arms and watching them flop back to the ground. There was no sign of Brian. However, Benjamin was quite present, always within sight of the females. Occasionally one would join him and engage in grooming.

Over the course of the next few days eventually all the females had substantial time to spend in grooming and mating with Benjamin. Most of them have been at the peak of their tumescence and have proven quite willing partners to this new and apparently able young male.

August 1996 – Just as with Bridget last month, Benjamin attempted to mate with Brandy, who is in estrous. However, Brunhild and Barbara got in between them. Brunhild with her stick chased Brandy off and Barbara, who is currently pregnant, solicited Benjamin to mate with her. Benjamin at first complied, but with slow, seemingly resigned body language, instead walked away. Benjamin sat under a date tree as Buster and Bruno stopped wrestling to practice their grooming skills on this elder male.

December 1996 – It seems that Benjamin has had enough. After months of Brunhild and Barbara interfering with his attempts to mate with the younger females, he's abandoned the troupe. He's been gone for several days, certainly longer than his norm. Though it is uncertain where he's gotten to, it seems probable that he's working on joining a different troupe where his mating opportunities will improve. Most of the females in the group seem unhappy about this situation. Bridget and Brandy sit silently and stare, ignoring their young as much as possible. Meanwhile Brunhild goes back and forth terrorizing the other females with her stick. She even went so far as to attack Barbara with it.

March 1997 – In the past month, two roving young males have approached the troupe, which is feeding much further to the north than they did last year. It is not quite clear how or why but neither male chose to stay, despite the very easy access to females in the absence of any resident alpha male. The first one mated with a few females that presented their swellings to him, including Brunhild and Bridget. After finishing this task, he left and never returned again. The second one, approached Barbara in the forest and seemed to be checking her out, mostly by smell. Then, suddenly he hit her in the head several times, chasing her in a circle. After tiring of this exercise, he rested and ate for a minute, then left. Brunhild has not gotten any less surly with the others since Benjamin left. And the effect of her abuses are starting to show as one of the youngest adult females, Bertha, has left the group with her six-month-old daughter, Beryl.

November 1997 – It has been 8 months since any matings have occurred in the troupe. From April to the present there have been 6 males that have approached them, but for reasons that aren't clear, these males left in search of another option. Though 5 of them left without much incident, the 6th one to come made a scene by lifting and throwing large rocks and tearing branches out of trees while hollering at the females. The day after the second of these visitors, Bridget was observed leaving the group to follow in the same general direction taken by that male. In fact, one-by-one the females have been sneaking off into the forest with their young until now the only adults are Brunhild, Barbara, and Beverly. There are also no males remaining among the juveniles because they all left with their mothers.

There was a big fight. Brunhild and Barbara with their daughters were feeding on figs in the same tree. It started when Brunhild began shaking the branch that one of Barbara's daughters was hanging from. Barbara quickly climbed down from a higher branch with her teeth bared toward Brunhild's location. Brunhild backed up onto a different branch, grabbing her daughter and started to climb down, fleeing the furious Barbara. Slowed by the young one on her back, Brunhild was quickly caught by Barbara and the two of them tumbled to the ground. Brunhild was badly injured and limped away with her daughter. It looked like she may have broken her left leg. Beverly, having no young of her own, coached Barbara's two daughters down from the tree where the three of them mourned Barbara for several hours. Beverly then took the two young ones out to find food, but in a different direction than Brunhild.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two Stories of the Sword in Retreat

As some may be aware, yesterday I returned from retreat. The experience provided great spiritual benefits and a pretty good opportunity to train physically. The grounds of the center are large and verdant with great expanses of plush lawn. I don't know how others feel but, lawns are among my favorite places to practice martial arts. The grass provides a contact that is ideal in both softness and support for techniques that involve kneeling or tumbling.

One evening while practicing sword forms I noticed a an observer half hiding behind a shrub he happened to be browsing. The two-point white tailed buck would stare intently at me for a moment and then return to whatever leaves he was partaking. As I continued to train, I noticed that one of his antlers was broken or deformed, and that they were both still covered in velvet. He had been coming gradually closer as he'd been eating, watching me quite carefully.

A lot of the forms I practice these days end with a kind of jumping attack. As I was working I tried not to pay too much attention to the deer in that I didn't want to make a sudden change in behavior and chase him off. That being said, as he got within about 8 or so meters, the jump was sudden enough that he would slightly spook. But seeing that despite my sudden movement and the sound of landing, I was not making any attack against him, he'd jerk back a couple of feet and then approach the spot where he originally was.

This pattern continued for two or three more forms when he seemed to become more comfortable with this strange thing walking around in circles swinging a stick. Eventually he eased his way to within about 5 meters, where he watched as if enraptured by my spectacle, pausing occasionally for a bite of grass. As he walked around to the other side of me from where he was, I came around to another jump. This time, the tension was too much for him to handle and he bolted off. I was reminded of certain American Indian groups that historically forbade warriors from eating venison because they didn't want to be infected with the animal's timidity.

The next evening I had the opportunity to enjoy the company of a different order of wildlife: mosquitoes and horseflies. The reality is that I was a great attraction to such creatures every time I went outside, but at this particular time it had particular significance.

One of the tricks for dealing with flesh-eaters and vampires was to just keep moving. As long as I was moving around and my sword was swirling over and around my body they were more or less deterred from harassing me. This was great motivation to train with alacrity. Combining my efforts with the humidity and heat I found myself quite exhausted at the end of my set of forms.

It seems like I've heard somewhere that insects, mosquitoes in particular, detect their victims by means of body heat. So when I stop and sit down from my exertions, I imagine my body must have registered as a giant infrared beacon promising a hot meal. The sudden swarming I received alarmed me. In order to shoo off my foe I started to swing my sword in a spinning motion over my head and nailed my target. The end of the sword's handle clipped me a bit and left me with that subtle ringing sensation one gets when hitting their skull into a hard object.

Humiliated by my pathetic show of swordsmanship I stood up and started walking back towards the center to shower and move on to my next spiritual exercise. After I got a few steps though, to my surprise I found a stream of blood starting to drip off of my nose.

The pain of my self-attack had not been so bad that I should expect the injury to be serious, it was only a bit of a twinge. All the same, there is something about those cherry droplets that can impose a sense of urgency, especially when you cannot see the source. In fact because I couldn't see the cut, I hesitated a bit before realizing that I needed to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. So there I was trying to juggle a pair of socks, a sword, and a water bottle, while putting pressure on
some random spot where I might have broke the skin, and trying to not drip blood all over everything.

In this state I walked, playing an awkward form the little tea pot, back up to the door where I have to punch in an access code and pull it open. Still though the bleeding has definitely slowed I keep thinking about how I want to get through all this without anyone seeing me. Consciously I didn't want to terrorize some poor old Jesuit with my blood covered face, but really I didn't want to have to explain to anyone what happened.

By some miracle I made it through the door with all of my stuff and without leaving any little rubescent spots on anything. I turned down the corridor and found myself closer to the bathroom than I'd been to the deer when popping around the corner in a slightly Irish accent came: “Good God man! Are you all right?”

“Oh yes, it's not bad at all. I just need...”

“The bathroom? It's right through there. What happened? Did you fall?”

“No, no. It's alright. I just hit myself in the head with a stick.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Problem to be Avoided

This may seem like kind of a strange or perhaps even uncomfortable subject for me to broach but, it has been on my mind a bit lately. Recently a young man that I train marital arts with asked something about my opinion on abortion. He's of a different spiritual and religious background than I am obviously, and in the moment of surprise at the question and a hope to not create offense for him or his parents, I flubbed a pretty feeble response.

In general I subscribe to the belief in the sanctity of life and that with a few exceptions abortion is, in short, bad. At the same time I understand and respect the fact that many people do not share my religious convictions on such things. Also, being aware of infanticide as a low-tech alternative that appears throughout the ethnographic record, I'm somewhat inclined to be sympathetic with the staunchly pro-choice.

Curiosities surrounding my religion are a common point of discussion with my students. This has naturally included issues of sexuality, and the boys have time and again made it quite clear to me that the concept of chastity is too extreme for them to consider seriously. Something I read from Barak Obama recently reminded me of what I had to say to them about abortion some time ago. He referred to the controversy around the Notre Dame commencement saying, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually. It has both moral and spiritual dimension. So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Let’s reduce unintended pregnancies.”

In my class, I asked the boys to consider the view point of their girlfriends and hookups. I asked them to think about what a pregnancy means to the person who is pregnant.. In biological terms alone the process is difficult both physically and emotionally. To terminate this process prematurely, for any reason, can only complicate matters by imposing a difficult mix of conflicting feelings. With these consequences in mind I come to the same short answer for the question of abortion that I would give to any young man regardless of his religion or lack thereof. If he has any respect or concern at all for the young woman who loves him or trusts him with her body, he will do whatever is necessary to ensure that she never has to come to the point where an abortion would be an issue.

It is not the culture of my students to think about things in these terms. With a few exceptions, they often regard females as objects to be exploited for whatever selfishness comes into their heads. Some of these students have become fathers, and it's interesting to see how the models provided by their own fathers are predictive of the students' ambivalence towards their children. It's one of the great and terrible feedback cycles of the world. In any case, whether a boy has become a father or has had a scare of becoming one, it almost always comes out that he's been cavalier about the whole business and chose self-interest and laziness over responsibility. Despite knowing better and having all that might be needed available he has still chosen to deal with things conveniently rather than prudently. The idea that some form of foresight or self-control might be a component of true manhood seems too elusive too often. He even fails to get things right in a world with Plan-B.

What I'm saying here doesn't really describe what I think about abortion. It is more a philosophy of action, or if I dare say it: wisdom. Whatever beliefs a person may have about the complex relationships between spirit and body I feel quite safe in commending that every man, regardless of age, who is unprepared for fatherhood should commit himself to never afflicting a woman with the necessity to make such a “heart-wrenching” choice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mnemosyne is a Fickle Crone

What a fragile thing the human memory! Lately I'm experiencing a great deal of difficulty with my memory on a couple of levels. First, I'm just not accessing things. It could be the hinted beginnings of age or it could be sleep deprivation, but I cannot count the times in the last couple of weeks I wanted to say something, new precisely the right word for it and yet really struggled to drag it up. I blame this partly on the range of vocabulary I get to hear and use in my work. Let us just say that it seems likely that my lexicon has not been getting its proper work out. I expect that things will improve as I return to school this fall.

The other memory issue I'm having is created memories of information. I have these memories of specific passages I've read that I've wanted to use in some things I've been writing lately. Some of this information I've gone back to look for using computer search engines. I've been careful to choose careful wording for my searches because it was something special about the wording that made me remember the information in the first place. Frustratingly, it turns out that in too many instances I can find nothing. I would like to blame the software, but as I've gone to the labor of rereading some of the texts in question I've not found any support for my cause. It's kind of frustrating in that I don't like being forced to question that I know what I know.

I recently read a book that describes how easy it is to create false memories and to even implant them into the memories of other people. It's a process that's been demonstrated to occur in judicial and clinical contexts. Both of these are quite frightening. In the first, people can be falsely condemned and punished for crimes they haven't committed based on the testimony of a witness with a false memory. In therapy people have created delusions of trauma which have led them to engage in behavior that has created real trauma. It's a pretty serious mess. One of the things I find interesting about it is that often people substantiate their belief in their false memories by reciting a lot of detail about whatever their memory is. Some research though, has indicated that such details are lavishly created from thin air by the person with the implanted memory.

I've observed the process happen accidentally with my students recently. I set to them a certain assignment to find some information and then report back on it. When the students actually looked for the information they didn't find any to speak of. But with the passage of time, they've created memories of all sorts of details that they could never have gotten from their sources and some which don't even exist.

It's also a process I've seen them use deliberately from time to time. Some relatively bright students can retell stories about things that they are in trouble for in such a way that it becomes easy to doubt what you've seen with your own eyes. If you're not vigilant you can start questioning or even recreating your own memories and let someone off with the benefit of the doubt. At one point I was trying to come up with a way that I could use this process back on them to accomplish some useful learning or something but, nothing has really come to me yet.

Random stuff to look at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back from the Cave

It has been a long time since I last wrote. I'm not sure if I ought to apologize for the lapse or for bringing it to an end. There are several reasons for this. One is that the major events and forces in my life lately have not been things that I could speak of too easily for several reasons. They either have had to do with clinical issues on the island I haven't felt comfortable discussing, various political issues, or personal spiritual and psychological events.

At any rate, I probably should announce that I have been accepted into graduate school. If it is not exactly what I hoped for more in accordance with my expectation I was accepted for the masters program rather than the PhD. One of the main motives for applying for the doctorate program was that acceptance guaranteed full funding. As it turns out it seems quite likely that I will be able to obtain sufficient funding that I will be just fine with doing the masters. It also turns out in hindsight that this may be fortunate in that I may be better able to revert to an earlier plan where I could get the skills I want from this program and then apply them in a different context of research more closely focused on what I'm interested in at a different school for the doctorate.

On a completely different topic, I've had a recent unfortunate experience that certain people would surely consider me an idiot for. I get health insurance through my work, a fact that I've felt some irritation about from time to time particularly the fact that only the last couple of years I've been required to have it by law. As everyone knows it's not cheap and I've been paying for it the last four and half years and haven't in that time seen a doctor once. I'm a decently fit person and have found that I've got a pretty functional immune system. Anyway, I recently got sick in a somewhat serious way (a strange bug I think one of my roommates brought back from Mexico) such that one of my coworkers talked me into having something done about it. So anyway, having not seen a doctor since I moved out here I really had no idea who I had as a primary care physician, or if I even had one. Turns out there was a doctor that had been sort of chosen at random when I first signed onto the plan but because I had never been seen by her before, she refused to see me until there was an opening in about a month. So, eventually we found a walk-in clinic that helped me out. However it turns out the insurance company may not cover the cost without getting a referral from the primary care physician. I again called her office to ask if they would provide a referral and was rejected again. At the end of the day, I realize that this situation is really my fault for not taking care of all this a long time ago. At the same time I'm more irritated by the fact that I've basically been giving my insurance company money all this time for what may turn out to be nothing in return.