Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exotic Petting Zoo

It has been waaaaaaaaaay too long since I composed an entry here. That said I haven't really had much of significance to post until recently. I've been super busy between work and my classes and the most I could really have put forward in terms of updates would have been brief mentions of my performance in Principles of Chemistry I & Medical Terminology. Speaking of which I am doing well in both classes for the moment though I am trying not to let myself get cocky. Especially with chemistry. This last week and change was spent focusing on thermodynamics [primarily as it applies to chemical reactions] and it left me feeling much more overwhelmed than the previous units have. Due to an annual convention of the union which the staff at MCTC are a part of our mid-term exam that will cover this content has been delayed by a week which means I will be studying the quantum-mechanical model of the atom, a subject that I will not be tested on for the mid-term, while trying to review all of the course content that I has preceded that topic to date and complete a couple of labs. And the mid-term is on the evening of the anniversary of my marriage (though my wife has class at the same time so it could be worse). If any of this reads as though I am the least bit stressed or frustrated about this situation I am and it should. *sigh* At least I'm doing fairly well so far. Let's hope I can sustain that.

On to more pleasant topics. Yesterday, after having lived in the upper-Midwest of the United States for over 29 years I visited a corn maze for the first time ever. It was a pleasant (though tiring experience) to share with friends and family. There were plenty of attractions at Sever's Corn Maze all of which are described on their website (a site I wish I had visited as Google Maps failed to provide me with remotely accurate directions to the maze) but the special treat for me was Vogel's Exotic Animal Petting Zoo. It was incredible and a rare opportunity for me to spend time in close contact with the large animals, particularly small-ruminants, that I so greatly hope to serve as a doctor of veterinary medicine some day. They had a huge goat pen and I truly could have spent all day with those wonderful little guys and gals. Additionally there was a young dromedary camel and some llamas but there were a lot of other very interesting animals too including spider monkeys, lemurs, a dwarf horse, a zebra, ostriches, golden pheasants from China, multiple varieties of antelope, deer and gazelle, some large South American rodents, miniature deer (muntjacs), tortoises an albino wallaby and several other animals I didn't even have an opportunity to interact with (though at a distance I am fairly certain I saw what were either more wallabies or kangaroos and some breed of ox or yak). I'll say it again; I really could have spent all day in there. It was very pleasant for me.

In other long-term career related news my Mother informed me while driving me over to visit her and my Father this morning that the newest member of one of her book clubs is married to a recently retired veterinarian who had worked at the Minnesota Zoo. She offered to let the new club member know about my career interests and attempt to help in arranging for some contact between me and this fellow. Talk about an offer one can't refuse! It would be great just to have a chance to conduct an informational interview, but if I'm being really optimistic here is somebody I might be able to find a mentor in or at least a friendly acquaintance who might be able to help me in arranging volunteer opportunities working with animals and/or be willing to throw together a letter of reference someday, when I finally have the necessary educational and volunteer background to apply for vet schools. If you're reading this please pray or cross your fingers for me as is appropriate to your sensibilities that this may be the start of an exciting new opportunity for me.

That's all I've got for now. Hopefully I'll be writing here again sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chief of Security's Log [II]

Stardate: 53993.2.

The events of the last 24 hours have been mentally, physically and emotionally fatiguing. Well into the Neutral Zone the Spector's sensors detected a Romulan D'Deridex class Warbird derelict and displaying no life signs on redundant scans, but with all shipboard systems functioning normally. After conferring with Captain Robau, Shano & I assembled multiple away teams. One, Able Team, including a medical team under T'kela and Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath (who was deferring to Shano and myself for reasons as yet not entirely clear) transported to the bridge of the [ship we would later learn to be named] IRW Sha’arik, while a second, Bravo Team, under the command of Lt. Fletcher with security command delegated to Lt. Tor transported to the engineering section. What we encountered proved nothing less than a shocking and a deplorable example of the lengths to which the elite of the Romulan Star Empire (particularly the Tal'Shiar) are prepared to go, exploiting their own loyal citizenry, in pursuit of their ambitions.

The bridge and to a lesser extent the engineering section of the Sha'arik were found to be laden in corpses, the first view of what would later be found to be the entire crew compliment of the Romulan vessel victim to an engineered virus. Beginning our investigation, Lt. Fletcher and Bravo Team began to dissect the Romulan engineering section while those of us with Able team worked to determine the location of the Warbird's sickbay (an endeavor which may have won Starfleet intelligence the subtle victory of access to the layout and schematics of the D'Deridex class) and to decrypt any ships logs that may have been of use in determining the cause of the Romulans' deaths. (Notably Lt. Sakkath proved invaluable in translation of the Romulan text, displaying an even greater familiarity with the language than myself, but this is an aside to return to later.) After locating their sick bay I formed Charlie team out of myself and Crewman Washington to escort Doctors T'kela and Corwin to sickbay and leaving Lt. Vincenz in charge of Able Team. Between the research by the Medical teams and the information relayed to me by Shano after his team managed to gain access to the logs of Palar, Commander of the Sha'arik, all data seemed to indicate that the ship had been intentionally infected by agents of the Tal'Shiar with the engineered virus and left to be found in Federation space. Effectively the Tal'Shiar had destroyed one of their own ships, commanded by a man who evinced respectable traits of honor and duty, to become a weapon of propaganda and/or biological decimation against the Federation. This treachery went so far as to install a device of sabotage on the bridge operations station of the Sha'arik that disabled it's cloaking device after a set time when they predicted the entire crew would have succumbed to the virus.

As our investigation continued I had the good fortune to be unaffected by the virus. I wish I could say the same for all my colleagues. Within a matter of hours all members of the away teams of Human and Vulcan (and Romulan?) decent were suffering symptoms of the virus. I am thankful that Shano had the foresight to order the Ops officers he brought with us to travel in EVA suits or we may have suffered worse than we did. While T'Kela and our medical staff worked with Lt. Aban and the science officers to try and find an effective treatment for the aggressive virus, matters became complicated when another D'Deridex, the D’vairin, de-cloaked, having arrived in response to Palar's distress signal, sending their own boarding parties onto the Sha'arik (N.B. all boarding parties consisted of ten members). I must diverge here a moment to consider my own actions at the moment that Captain Robau informed us of the the D’vairin's arrival. My first response was to carve my old "signature" from the Iota-Eridani VI War into a prominent location and to prepare weapons that would have been otherwise concealed for use in battle. Had I not engaged in the latter action I would have still been armed after we were taken prisoner should our situation not improved and martial action proven necessary. This is a lesson in forethought that I should remember for future encounters regardless of the opponent.

In any event, outgunned and without cover to balance matters tactically Able, Bravo and Charlie teams were all forced to surrender. While we attempted to stall any action by our captors with talk (my praises to Captain Robau for whatever simultaneous diplomatic battle he engaged the Romulan ship's Captain in) and to convince them of the danger they had exposed themselves to things became progressively worse. Exacerbating the situation was the indoctrination to which the personnel of the Romulan fleet are subjected was very apparent in their attitude towards the Federation, their initial insistence that the virus was deployed by us and their willingness to disregard basic logic in defense of the purity and honor of the Star Empire. We lost Dr. Corwin first. While I was prepared to be patient for the virus to disable our captors to a sufficient degree that our lower numbers would be balanced the losses would have been too devastating. I watched my trusted Ensigns Vazquez and Vincenz both die to the disease. How many times had they enthusiastically joined me in the Spanish Civil War scenario campaign in the holo-suite? They both always performed exceptionally in the Barcelona scenario. Crewman Mantegna, one of the most devoted men I have ever met with regard to the ideals of the United Federation of Planets, was lost to us as well as many other good men and women outside of my department. Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath very nearly died (will come back to this), and Lt. Fletcher and T'Kela did not fare much better. I cradled her head as she was lost in delirium, in and out of consciousness as I engaged the leader of our Romulan captors, Sub-Commander Galtus, in a gambit of words. Eventually the evidence of the Tal-Shiar timer and Palar's logs convinced Galtus and his superiors that we were telling the truth. We were released and Galtus and I oversaw the make-shift triage unit that the cargo bay we had previously been confined was converted to. Thanks to the co-operation of Dr. Elbrun and the Romulan medical personnel and the excellent computer modelling skills of Lt. Aban the work begun by T'Kela could be completed and a cure deployed before we lost any more people than could be helped.

Based on his physical fortitude, his calm under pressure and his display of good judgment in a tense situation I requested that Crewman Washington receive a field promotion to the rank of Ensign to replace and have requested the same of Crewman Said, who was with Bravo team, at the suggestion of Lt. Tor.

Ultimately I was impressed with both the late Commander Palar and Sub-Commander Galtus as men of integrity, honor and good faith. It disgusts me that they should be subjected to such manipulation and exploitation by those who they serve with virtue. It is both a testament to the potential of the Romulan people to be great and noble and an indictment of the depravity, avarice and duplicity of the Star Empire in which they live. It is my hope that Palar's own people will give him the honors he is worthy of. I have already asked of Captain Robau that we should pay him his due respect. As for Galtus I would be pleased to encounter him again on the same positive terms we parted ways. I am confidant that if we were to meet again in an antagonistic encounter neither of us would hesitate to see our duty through, and while I respect him for this, it is unfortunate. The examples of these men are contrary to so much of what I experienced of the Romulan Star Empire in my final years on Iota-Eridani VI and this bears reflection.

On the other side of this is the USS Spector's own Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath. Sakkath has presented himself as being born from one Human parent and one Vulcan parent and alleges to favor Human custom. Unfortunately, I have found numerous evidences since assuming my duties on the Spector that lead me to find this claim suspect. From the first his demeanor, gregarious rather than reserved. gave me reason for pause. While I do not deny that it is possible this may simply be the way he behaves, my studies at the academy indicated that Vulcans are far enough removed from Romulans culturally and [at this point] physiologically that their emotions can be far more volatile and intense than those of other humanoids if they do not adhere to their tenets of logic and comport themselves in a stoic or, at least, reserved fashion. This is alleged to be the case even with Vulcan-Human hybrids (in fact I seem to recall reading explicit reference to it in the memoir of the late Dr. Leonard McCoy, who served on the original USS Enterprise and the USS Enterprise-A with the venerated Ambassador Spock of Vulcan perhaps the most famed of such hybrids). I believe I will try to find a moment to speak with T'Kela privately and verify how much veracity there is to this belief about the Vulcan/half-Vulcan temperament. Beyond this most of my has been primarily speculation but I believe the incident we have just endured may have generated more evidence, circumstantial as it yet is, to indicate that my hypothesis that Sakkath is not a Human-Vulcan but in reality a Human-Romulan may be correct. Most glaring of these points are his extensive familiarity with the Romulan language and technology we encountered on the Sha'arik, talents of which he has never made any prior mention or display. There was also the speed with which the Tal'Shiar engineered virus attacked him. While he survived where some of our human comrades with weaker constitutions did not he seemed to be effected at a much faster rate and with more severity than the more robust humans to be infected (Washington for example), and faster than any of the Vulcans. T'kela is by no means the most physically resilient Vulcan I have ever met having been a Starfleet Security for over a decade including direct combat service during the Dominion War, but she spent more time in closer proximity to potential infection sources than Sakkath did and was one of the last of the infected to lose consciousness. Then there was the boarding party serving under Galtus the members of which began to show signs of infection as quickly if not more so, than any of our human casualties. What does all this mean? The evidence remains circumstantial and I as yet have no genuine proof that Sakkath is actually of Romulan and not Vulcan ancestry. If this is the case however what then? It would be my hope that this is nothing more than a repeat of the Simon Tarses Affair; that Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath misrepresented his heritage when applying to Starfleet academy out of fear of discrimination for being descended of a people [with a government] historically antagonistic to the Federation. The more sinister possibility is that he is in fact an agent in deep cover for the Star Empire, perhaps the Tal'Shiar. I would prefer that such a complication not trouble us, but if I learn this possibility to be the truth I will do whatever is necessary to see that truth brought to light and dealt with as necessary.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


And another week of Fall semester, 2010 gone by for this student of chemistry and medical terminology. This weeks chem lab had us working individually to produce zinc iodide and calculate the empirical formula of the molecular compound (which I am fairly certain is a salt). Equipped with my own lab coat and goggles (I am so a nerd) I set about combining solid zinc (Zn) granules with iodine granules (I2) granules, then dissolved the latter in methanol (non-reactive with either substance) and heated the mixture to affect the reaction of zinc and iodine ions. And then I spent the rest of the week to date with this classic moment from the Simpsons floating around in my brain. Up next a lab titled, "Solution Conductives and Titrations," (I have yet to read the lab report but I suspect this may involve mixing a solution with a strong ionic charge), and then my first exam of the Semester (yikes!).

It occurred to me earlier today that I have been so focused on my classes of late I don't think I have really thought about WHY I am pursuing this course work to begin with, namely my desire to pursue a career as a Veterinarian. I am glad that I became aware of this and intend to try to find a way to regularly connect with this aspect of myself. Today I think I did that a bit when I joined my Wife at a yarn store in St. Paul. While Kristin looked for yarn and new crochet hooks I made an effort to familiarize myself with the different yarns from different kinds of sheep and alpaca (and their was some llama and mohair in there too). In a roundabout sort of way I think that's a good start.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chief of Security's Log [I]

The ongoing situation with the Neural Parasites [originally encountered by the Federation and Starfleet C.A. 2364] provides a particularly challenging ethical dilemma.

We are faced with a species that perceives itself as superior to humanoid life in all capacities. The actions of the Neural Parasites (to be referred to hereafter in my records as NPs for the sake of expediency, until such time as a proper species name is designated) to date indicate, however, that they require, or at least desire, the use of supposedly inferior humanoid forms in order to utilize the technologies and increased size of these species. A host organism does not seem to be required for sustenance of the NPs, as they have exhibited the behavior [per records composed by Captain J.L. Picard, Commander Dr. B. Crusher, Commander W. Riker and Lt. Commander Data of the USS Enterprise-E] of ingesting worms or insectoid larvae of uncertain origin by means of nutrient consumption typical of the host organism. I speculate that they would be capable of ingesting and metabolizing this food source without the aid of a host organism if necessary. Observation of three NP controlled crewmen detained on the Spector [Lt. Commander Sakkath, Lt. Aliok & Ens. Jaina] indicated that the NPs can also sustain themselves by gradually extracting nutrients from a host life form as well. The physical strength and resiliency of the host organism seems to be increased as a result of this attachment. This enhancement of athletic capacity is a benefit of the relationship between host organism and NP that might lead me to characterize the NPs as symbiotic were it not for the fact that they dominate the brain functions and dictate the actions of the hosting organism. This control is such that the host is not aware of their body's actions while inhabited and retains no memory of actions undertaken while under the domination of the NPs after the NP is separated from the host. Likewise the NP controlling a host body generally displays a vague awareness of the persona of it's host and their role in society, but does not have access to the stored personal memories of that person. Of the five NPs identified on the Spector following an effective scan by the ship's sensors (N.B. suggest to Captain Robau that commendations be issued to T'Kela, Glas and Fletcher for this critical technical breakthrough) one inhabited a Vulcan host & another a Vulcan-human hybrid at the time of their identification and capture. A third had briefly inhabited T'Kela, a Vulcan, a few hours earlier. All four NPs abandoned their hosts when the hosts were intentionally incapacitated (the fifth NP was not in possession of a host at the time of its identification and capture) with anesthizine gas.

Based upon the aforementioned facts I hypothesize that the NPs selection of host was intended to maximize physical capabilities by combining the natural physical enhancement to the host form that results from infestation by the parasite with Vulcan physiology, inherently more physically able relative to that of most other Federation member species, wherever the strategic opportunity presented itself. I would further extrapolate that, despite their attested belief in their racial supremacy, they are not capable of effectively defending themselves or executing their goals without possession of a capable host form. The abandonment of those inhabited bodies that had been disabled is reminiscent of a tactical retreat. In terms of metaphor, the humanoid life of the Federation, perhaps the whole galaxy, is both territory for which the NPs are engaged in an extended battle for control, and tools to be exploited in waging their war of domination. They need not even infest every living entity in the Federation to affect dominance of our civilian and military organizations. Sufficient domination of key personnel of influence within the civilian government of the UFP, Starfleet, and other official and unofficial social and cultural organizations could have granted them victory before anybody capable of mounting a resistance could be alerted to their actions. Based on the engagement of the Spector, Hood and Monitor with the NPs I am optimistic that we have already begun a sufficient resistance to their efforts.

Past encounters have indicated a telepathic, possibly hive-mind like, collective link between the NPs at least those spawned in the same brood. This may extend to all those descended from the same NP Mother Creature regardless of generation. The records of the 2364 NP conflict indicate that when the NP Mother Creature inhabiting the body of Lt. Commander D. Remmick was slain life functions of all the spawn NPs were terminated. This may suggest that the standard NPs are themselves only extensions or tools of the NP Mother Creatures without sentience of their own and cannot exist autonomously of this central intelligence. It also suggests that the standard NPs do not share a telepathic or neurological connection with any NP descended from any other NP Mother Creature (though the possibility of non-collective telepathic communication between NPs from different broods cannot be excluded).

Efforts at interrogation of the NPs dominating Lt. Commander Sakkath, Lt. Aliok and Ens. Jaina while in holding (bearing in mind that all 3 may have been extensions of the same entity) indicated a duplicitous negotiating posture and an unwillingness to seek genuine compromise on the part of the NPs in finding a living situation amenable to both species. To clarify the latter point when it was suggested that the NPs abandon their host life forms and accept assistance in locating a protected world they could inhabit where their needs would be satisfied the offer was dismissed with an attitude that bordered on condescension. In hindsight such a suggestion bears comparison to the internment or forced relocation of a subjugated or repressed people to ghettos or reservations. I use the terms ghetto and reservation rather than suggesting a concentration camp because the intent of such an arrangement would be to provide the NPs a world under Federation protection where they would be essentially left alone to exist without dominating other sentient species while being the beneficiaries of defense from extra-planetary threats it remains one of the less morally repugnant resolutions to this conflict I've conceived so far.

A (less-ethical) and more concentration-camp like solution similar to the previous one would be to forcibly bond the NPs to a largely passive non-sentient species such as the Tribble, but this would only be feasible if a method could be developed to make it impossible for the NP to separate from its host after infestation (N.B. It may be worthwhile to consult T'Kela about the possibility of this type of genetic engineering?).

A more preferable solution would be if there were a willingness on the part of the NPs to allow the host organisms to enjoy a genuine sentient symbiosis like that between the Trill and Symbionts. The benefits to the host would then be enhanced physiological traits and participation in a collective consciousness (these benefits would be particularly useful for Starfleet military intelligence operations). In such a hypothetical scenario hosting an NP would be purely voluntary on the part of the host. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that this is possible. The attitude of the NPs to date has indicated that they do not deem their hosts as worthy of maintaining control or even awareness of their own bodies during infestation. Furthermore, even if the desire to be cooperative on this matter existed or were to develop in time there is no indication that the NPs are physically capable of interacting with a host in this manner.

Negotiation with the NPs to redirect their efforts at another culture, even one in conflict with the Federation, is NOT an acceptable solution. I will not be permit such a fate or abuse to befall another civilization for the dual reasons that to do so would make me implicitly guilty in the enslavement of that society, and there is no guarantee that once their work was complete the NPs would not simply utilize their newly subjugated hosts as weapons in a renewed effort to pursue domination of the Federation.

All other alternative measures to address this conflict I have been able to devise thus far share the same despicable resolution: extermination of the NPs under the provision of Starfleet General Order 24. There is little I find more repellent than the concept of genocide and to make such a proposal is in contradiction of virtually all the principles of Starfleet, the Federation and the code of Ushaan I have sworn to uphold and defend as a Starfleet officer and Andorian warrior. That said, the intelligence gathered to date indicates that the intention of the NPs is nothing less than the total subjugation, domination and exploitation of the peoples of Federation Space [and perhaps the galaxy at large], that they are uncompromising in this goal and that they will utilize every means at their disposal to achieve victory. This is a wholly unacceptable outcome. I did not spend nearly two years of my youth in bloody guerrilla conflict on Iota-Eridani VI challenging enslavement, abuse and exploitation by the Romulan Star Empire only to permit a species that extends the methodologies of the Star Empire and Tal Shiar to their most extreme ends to subjugate the whole of the Federation. Given the uncompromising posture of the NPs and the danger they pose to the freedoms of peoples of all worlds in the galaxy it is my belief at present that they constitute an extreme, actively hostile, threat to the Federation and I reluctantly concede that, given these circumstances, the application of General Order 24 to the NPs is the only realistic means by which to address the threat they pose to other sentient life. May God, our ancestors and descendants forgive us such an undertaking.

Let's See How Coherent This Turns Out

As I write this I've been ill and fairly out of it for a few days now. However I promised myself I would write another entry as soon as possible, and since I am having trouble maintaining my focus on studying chemistry during my break at work now seems as good a time as any.

I think I mentioned in my last entry that I had done some more creative writing recently and this seems a good time to talk about that. Basically I left work super-upset a couple of Fridays ago. When I got home my wife and our house-guest weren't really hungry, having eaten a late lunch, so I had a snack and cloistered myself in the bedroom where I began to expand on the gazetteer of the Fantasy setting I have conceived of. I had already come up with two fairly well developed nations: The Vyzalvian Empire, inspired by the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires with some Egyptian, Arabian and pan-Middle eastern flavor in the mix as well. Their rival to the north is the Confederation of the Martine Archipelago, a loose alliance of late-medieval to baroque European style island states that trade freely among themselves and ally for the sake of common defense. I already had short write-ups on these two nations finished, and had written the words, "The Raj of Bactristan," on a new line in my notebook in preparation to write about a different country. For Bactristan I took my inspiration from the pre-colonial Indian sub-continent, with a bit of Persia added to my recipe. A fuedal kingdom with natural fortifications in the form of mountain ranges to the north and densee jungle to the south separating small communities connected by an elaborate network of rivers that serve as highways. I didn't stop there.

About a month earlier I had thought it might be interesting to add country with a pre-colonial African flavor to the mix. This is something that isn't commonly explored in Fantasy literature (not in any sort of respectful way anyhow. The result was the Kingdom of Lumba and the Keewok Protectorate. This country is actually two peoples; the heavily agrarian and hierarchical Lumbana of the plains and the tribal Keewoka who survive by hunting, gathering and subsistence agriculture. The two cultures frequently skirmish with one-another over resources the other is covetous of, but they actually have much in common culturally and unite against aggressive actions by outsiders towards their lands.

After this I just kept going with new ideas. What was East of the Martine Archipelago and north of Bactristan and the Vyzalvian Empire? I found myself writing of a vast wilderness dotted with small Duchies and Principalities of limited power, ranging tremendously in terms of technological and social development. Forests frequented by highwaymen. Nomadic Herding peoples and raiders. And at the end of it all , far to the east where scrub land gives way to the fields of glass, the city of Shi He Sai. Traders from all other countries travel to Shi He Sai to exchange their wares for exotic goods and artifacts of unknown origin. Many suspect that Shi He Sai is the gateway city to a fantastic isolated empire, but none who have attempted to explore beyond the city have ever returned. I wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the truth, but why should I give everything away here?

Next up for my creative writing projects: A personal log for the character I play in the pen and paper RPG I participate in every other Saturday. Yes, I am that big a geek.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So Busy!

It's been over a week since I've drafted an entry and man what a week and change it's been. I've been keeping pretty busy with homework for one. My classes remain interesting but they definitely are keeping me occupied. Last Tuesday was my first lab section in over a decade, and I think it went pretty well. It was a simple temperature monitoring exercise (measure temperature trends of hot water, add ice, melt, measure temperature trends of ice cooled water) and I believe I understand the concepts about thermodynamics/energy transfer it was intended to demonstrate quite well. For the most part the material in the text and video lectures for Chemistry has been a slightly more in depth review of material I read about over the summer in Kristin's Intro Chemistry text book. Ions, different types of substances (Compounds, mixtures, diatomic elements, etc.), chemical bonding processes, molar measurements, composition of an atom, calculated atomic mass, balancing empirical formulas, isotopes. It's interesting to me, which I guess is a good thing and a positive indicator that I am preceding in the right direction in my studies and career aspirations. To put it concisely: science is awesome. Medical terminology has been okay too, though not as exciting. It is definitely living up to its status as a one credit course so far, but that is not to say I am not learning material there. It's just so straightforward compared to what I'm used to in my studies; there aren't really higher concepts to familiarize myself with (well basic word construction concepts, but that's nothing new to me), it's just data memorization. Once that's down it's pretty easy to steamroll my quizzes.

Outside of school things have been going fairly well. I think I may have mentioned this in an earlier entry but I volunteered myself for the extra homework of preparing a devotional for last night's 19 Day Feast (for the month of'Izzat) at the Baha'i center of Minneapolis. This was a little bit stressful (largely because of my procrastination) but did feel very rewarding. I hadn't realized it when I volunteered, but this year the Feast of 'Izzat fell on the same night as Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year on the Jewish calendar. This has particular significance to me as a member of the Baha'i faith who is partially of Jewish descent. I made mention of this during the Devotional portion of Feast last night and also acknowledged that we are approaching the new year on the Islamic Calendar (Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan, is tomorrow). I found significance in the alignment of these events and it definitely influenced me in constructing the devotional, leading me to draw on passages from the Torah/Bible and the Qur'an as well as the Baha'i writings and prayers. I neglected to mention this to the assembly but it really felt very special to be there with that community on Rosh Hashanah. For much of my youth my Hebrew heritage was a liability that could place me in physical danger if certain members of the community at large were aware of it. Last night I was able to discuss that part of my background and identity in a spiritually nurturing environment where I feel a genuine appreciation for diversity, a respect for differences and a comfort that I never would have felt celebrating Rosh Hashanah ten or fifteen years ago.

That's all I have in me for now, but I want to try to put another entry or two together before the week is out. I've done some creative stuff recently that I definitely would like to reflect on. Until then . . .

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Week Down . . .

That is to say I have completed my first week as a sufficiently-part-time-to-receive-financial-assistance-student. Of my two classes I've found them both at least satisfactory if not enjoyable.

Medical Terminology has felt ridiculously easy so far. There hasn't been much in the way of instructor or student interaction as yet in this course but I don't really perceive that as a negative. For one there's no classroom component to the section I'm enrolled in, it's wholly online. Additionally, the structure of the course is basically to work within a workbook that is very well structured to familiarize oneself with the subject matter and prepare for weekly quizzes. Finally, it's one credit. Only one credit. I don't feel like I'm being robbed if I end up not interacting with anybody very much for this class. For what it is it feels like it's well arranged.

Principles of Chemistry [first course in a 2 semester sequence] has been totally different. Also an online course, the interaction level has been pretty high at least between me, the professor and a fraction of other engaged students. The professor seems really good and the slide-show lectures he's made up using Power Point are very well made. So far the subject matter has been pretty basic and foundation, about half of it was a refresher on essential math and problem solving skills. There have been some good discussions on the class message board, and I feel a degree of pride in that I think I helped a fellow student gain a better understanding of the principles dictating significant figures in an equation. Next week I expect we will begin delving into chemistry in earnest and that should be cool. We also will start having labs, mine meets Tuesday evenings after I get off work, and I'm interested to see how that goes. If I'm being totally honest with myself I'm a little bit nervous too; it's been a looooooooong time since I've participated in a scientific lab experiment. I've already completed my reading, homework and quizzes for both courses for the week. I guess I'm pretty excited about the whole experience of being back in college and working towards a career as a veterinarian.

On a different topic relating to personal growth I have volunteered to put together the opening devotional for the next Nineteen Day Feast at the Baha'i Center of Minneapolis for the month of 'Izzat which means might. I intend to try and find five to seven might themed passages to be read at the beginning of feast. They could reference either the might of God, or the strength that one draws from one's faith. I had a somewhat silly idea to see if I couldn't find appropriate passages starting with the letters for Captain Marvel's magic word Shazam as sort of a hidden bonus that I don't expect anybody to pick up on. So I guess it would just be for my own amusement, but there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. I'm glad that I'm doing this, introvert that I am, I am very conscious that I am not necessarily super active in the Minneapolis Baha'i community and this is a way for me to make a contribution that feels safe to me. At the same time I feel a bit of extra weight in having volunteered for this because I feel like life is very busy for me and my family in the immediate moment and I know I basically volunteered myself for an extra-credit homework assignment that was never assigned. Those apprehensions aside I think this could be a really fun activity and I'm looking forward to the satisfaction of putting together something that I hope others will find spiritually engaging.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Saturday Morning At School

This morning I attended a new student welcome session at MCTC. During the course of the morning and into the noon hour I identified the location of my Tuesday evening lab, patiently waited to have a student ID created for me and visited the student bookstore where I purchased a student bus pass allowing me unlimited rides on public transportation through the end of the year.

This comes hot on the heels of the first communications being issued from the instructor of one of my two courses, Principles of Chemistry I [of II]. I am impressed with my professor so far. The online lecture I've already viewed (put together using power point) was rather straight-forward and visually effective, and the audio presentation is synchronized well with the visuals. There are also lots of links through which one can watch experiments displayed in snap-shot form on the lectures as full videos. Very high caliber stuff. I'm looking forward to the semester which starts on (yikes!) Monday.

Later in the afternoon I paid a visit to Comic Book College. In addition to picking up 2 weeks worth of new comics (which now amounts to only 3 issues) I dropped off the copies of the six pages of content from my Spanish Civil War comic with Comic Book College Yearbook organizer/publisher Dave. It's somewhat exciting to me that some of my work will see publication again, even if it's only on a local level. Dave and I also talked about the possibility of doing a larger compilation for next year's CBC Yearbook where the same comic would be reprinted. I like the idea of that, not least of all because it may give me the opportunity to create additional content or to re-draw some of the panels and/or pages from the original work that I feel I could better illustrate now than when I initially produced it back in early 2003.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tell Me Where It Hurts Pt. I

I pushed through what probably should have been my bedtime last night in order to finish Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr. Nick Trout. This book was really great, a sort of composite memoir based on the professional experiences of Dr. Trout, a veterinary surgeon in the Boston area. I'd like to revisit the topic of the book at some point and review it a little more thoroughly when I have it at hand (at the moment I do not) to reference and perhaps quote excerpts from. That said I will sum up my reaction by saying that this was an excellent book that did a good job of reinforcing my desire to pursue a career in animal medicine. Having had a rough week last week I have backed off my pursuit of volunteer opportunities in veterinary clinics and/or animal rescue operations for the time being. Part of me still wants to hold out for an opportunity, sparse though they are in a community with the suburban sprawl of the Twin Cities metro area, to work with large/food supply animals, but I now feel that there is just as much for me to be gained by working with companion animals at an urban clinic or shelter for the moment.

In other news I joined an old friend who [entirely coincidentally] lives half a block away from me for a trip to the gym last night. I had a pretty good workout and didn't feel too sore afterwards. I also, despite going to bed later than I ought to have last night, felt much more well rested than I have in over a month. Maybe the good workout helped. Maybe the adjustments I've made to the supplements I'm taking are proving beneficial (I've stopped taking vitamin D pills. I'll start again when the time available for me to be out in daylight wanes again as winter approaches). I think a major factor has to do with the changes in weather conditions that began a few days ago. It is a bit cooler, and humidity & barometric pressure levels have dropped significantly. I really think that this has helped my ability to sleep comfortably significantly (yes, even with the air conditioning in my bedroom). I know I have actually had dreams the last evening or two. I don't recall exactly what I dreamed but I know I did dream which suggests a deeper and more restful sleep than I've had in ages. Thank you, God.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Psychological Cripple

I've been experiencing varying degrees of anxiety almost constantly for upwards of a month at this point. It has made it very difficult for me to interact with others, and I think placed strain on my relationships. It has hampered my ability to focus. It has negatively effected my ability to think rationally. It is scary and sometimes paralyzing and it sucks. My heart is too often racing. My attention too eratic. I have difficulty calming down. I sleep restlessly. I've tried to dismiss it as having passed, or as being circumstantial, but it's beyond that. There are things that have definitely fueled it. my birthday. the assault on August 4th. trying to make plans for gatherings with friends. consistently busy weeks and weekends. irregular sleep. sorting out school scheduling and financial assistance. coping with a job I often find frustrating or boring. being the sole bread winner for my home. All of these things weigh on me and make it that much more difficult. I feel isolated and alone and as though this, fuelling my anxiety further, is creating a snowballing self-fulfilling prophecy of isolation from others. I feel like I almost have to isolate myself to protect people from my toxic emotional state. I want to hide and cry and throw up until I'm so exhausted I just sleep until I'm refereshed. But when I wake from sleeping it's still there. I've been encouraged to accept and embrace and experience the emotons, and I'm trying but they're so intense that it is terrifying and overwhelming and I feel like I just keep going in deeper. Why can't I be a robot? Why do I have to feel and be so fragile. My insides burn, and my thoughts mislead me. My muscles ache. I feel my blood press against the walls of my skin. I leak emotional poison like a plague carrier. I radiate madness to infect anybody not so emotionally repressed and guarded to resist it. It hurts. It hurts so much. Emotionally yes, but there are now physical sensational symptoms too (maybe psychosomatic, maybe not), and it's effecting my mental faculties as well. Feel so totally lost in a crowded wilderness of madness. Scared of ending up on the street or an instititution. Affraid of hurting somebody.

Help. Please God. Don't let me become the Joker.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Long Days Call For Long Exhalations

What a busy day it's been for me. Incoming calls were steady before I went to lunch, but shortly after one of my co-workers inexplicably disappeared for the day, this in addition to the one who had taken a vacation day, and those of us left barely had a moment to breathe in between calls. Compound it by the fact that our office floor is now between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual due to renovation of the windows and it was a pretty grueling day.

In spite of this I managed to find time to pursue some of the goals I stated for myself in the entry I drafted last night. I managed to cobble together an initial contact email to Dr. Cyndi Wolf of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine; alleged to be an enthusiast of small ruminants including the maintenance of her own goat herd. Hopefully this effort at first contact was not overly clumsy and should prove an initial step in setting up an informational/occupational interview. If I'm really lucky it will even lead to opportunities for me to work on a goat farm.

I also called Uptown Veterinarian in Minneapolis. I was reminded by Kristin over the weekend that they had suggested I might have an opportunity available to me there to shadow one of their vets when we brought our younger cat, Katie, there for her final boosters last winter. I spent my afternoon break on the phone with their office manager, Kate, who informed me that they could not offer me volunteer opportunities (what I am really seeking) due to their level of liability insurance being insufficient in the event I were to be attacked by a patient. Shadowing one of the doctors was weighed as a possibility, thought that particular vet wasn't on duty today and could not be consulted at the moment. In spite of their facility being less than prepared to provide me opportunities for on-the-record animal interaction in a professional environment, Kate was very forthcoming with suggestions of other clinics and hospitals that might have more opportunities for the sort of volunteer-time, informational interviews and opportunities to shadow a vet I am seeking. Multiple facilities in South Minneapolis and the near suburbs off of the main street closest to my home were suggested, and a a Humane Society facility in one of the suburbs closest to my corner of Minneapolis was identified as a likely place to be able to log some volunteer time, particularly on the weekends. I will have to look into this further tomorrow. With any luck work will be a bit slower and I can make some other inquiries and also attempt that Craigslist experiment of offering myself up as a vet clinic/hospital volunteer. I have no idea how likely it is, but it might turn something up.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Inspiring Birthday Weekend

Yesterday was my birthday, and over the course of the weekend I've had a lot of things come my way to encourage me in my career pursuits. A lot of this came in the form of gifts. Kristin gave me two books: Tell Me Where It Hurts by DVM Nick Trout and the Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. The former is, as near as I can determine, the only contemporary memoir by a veterinarian describing modern veterinary techniques and interactions. It's very good so far, fascinating and compelling, but I wish there were a similar text written by a food supply vet; Dr. Trout is a veterinary surgeon in Boston and so far all his tails [*rimshot*] have featured dogs. On the other hand that means that maybe there is a need for a latter day James Herriot to author a book that does deal with food supply/large animal work in the present day; a need that could be filled by, oh, I don't know, an aspiring large animal vet who enjoys writing *wink, wink*.

Elsewhere in the gift department my Parents and Sister purchased me some very helpful items. Foremost of these (from a practical standpoint) is my textbook with online package for Principles of Chemistry I this Fall semester. This has saved me some money and shows support for my efforts to fulfill the necessary curricula to begin applying to Vet schools (slogging though my pace may feel right now). They also surprised me with some Schleich toy company animal figurines. I am now the proud owner of an imaginary hobby farm consisting of juvenille food supply animals: a donkey foal, [my personal favorite] a dwarf kid, a lamb, a Scottish highland calf and a Swabian-Hall piglet. I find myself sorely tempted to expand upon this collection in the future, but for now these delightful miniature farm friends offer me inspiration and motivation not to let up in my pursuit of a career in animal medicine.

Speaking of not letting up in my pursuit of a career in animal medicine, I had a conversation with Kristin on my birthday which kind of lit a fire under my backside pointing out that I really need to get some involvement. My overtures last year and this spring to get in some time working with large animals haven't really been fruitful as yet and I've let my pursuit of them fall to the side with the tunnel vision I've had on school for most of the Summer. I need to broaden my horizons I think and accept the fact that the most readily available opportunities for me for volunteer work, shadowing of vets and occupational interviews lie in the seemingly innumerable companion animal clinics in the Twin Cities. I also still need to attempt contact with the U of MN Veterinary program professor I was referred to back in July who shares my proclivity for goats and is alleged to have a goat farm not too far outside the suburban sprawl of the metropolitan area. My goal for this week is to initiate a first attempt at contact with the goat/sheep professor, to attempt to make an arrangement for something (volunteering, an interview, anything) with a local companion animal vet/clinic and to put up a post on Craigslist (this may be totally insane) announcing my interest in opportunities for direct work with animals in what little free time I have. If I have to make time, I HAVE TO MAKE TIME. Oh and I'm going to challenge myself to read Tell Me Where It Hurts in full this week. Goals established, strive to satisfy them Jon; don't get discouraged or distracted!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Yesterday I was the target of an unprovoked assault.

I was walking from my car to the sushi restaurant I had just dropped Kristin off at and decided to cut across the alley-like parking lot of the neighboring liquor store. No big deal, I've done this dozens of times before. About half way across the lot I realized that the background noise of somebody shouting was directed at me when a guy in his early to mid twenties ran up behind me and slapped the left side of my face hard enough that my glasses came off. He proceeded to shout semi-coherent things at me, referring to me as "punk" and shoved me as I continued to move through the parking lot to my destination. I don't know if he was hoping to mug me or just attempting to pick a fight, but when I neared the edge of the parking lot he backed off and slunk back in to it. I went into the restaurant and told Kristin what had happened and that I was pretty shaken up. She encouraged me to call the police and file a report. Me, of all people, call the police. There was a time where I NEVER would have turned to the police. When I actively avoided law enforcement.

We ate our dinner with me feeling a degree of agitation as the initial shock wore off and the pain in my left cheek, brow and jaw set in. I started to worry that this clearly angry and unstable person had seen me leave our car and that he would have damaged it, but I was becoming scared to go back to the vehicle without seeing the police first. Especially with Kristin there. I'm trying not to be misogynistic there, but she's my wife and I feel protective of her. She is also still recovering from a Yoga related injury to her knee. Right around the time we received our check the police officer arrived to take my report. The guy had fled the scene, my car was fine, and the officer filed the incident as a fifth degree assault.

*sigh* I don't know how to talk about or even think about this. I think maybe I feel emasculated. Weak. It isn't like I got really beat up. I didn't get robbed. I just have thought of myself as a tougher person than that. Somebody who defends others. Not a victim. On the other hand, I guess I'm more hard on myself than I am on anybody else; hold myself to more unreachable standards. I may jump to the defense of others, but how often do I really stand up for myself in non-physical confrontation.

Well . . . at least I've got something significant to discuss in therapy tomorrow. Happy almost-my 29th Birthday.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Delicious Dining

In the mist of not writing entries lately due to the state of exhaustion I've been in since last Sunday (3.5 hours of sleep a very busy day and not really catching up on successive evenings is not conducive to a stable frame of mind) I have strangely managed to prepare no less than 3 really fantastic meals adapted from cookbooks my Wife checked out from the Minneapolis Public Library system. From a cookbook for casseroles I prepared a Turkey Wild Rice Au Gratin casserole which was devastatingly tasty. Monday and Tuesday of this week I prepared recipes from The Ayurvedic Cookbook [which has a very, very direct and accurate title]. Monday night featured the recipes "Dark Leafy Greens [I used curly kale] with Cumin" and a variation on the tofu and vegetables recipes where I merged chicken [in substitute for tofu] with the recipe for mushrooms and peas [substituting fresh chopped and steamed green beans for peas because we had just eaten peas in the Turkey Wild Rice casserole]. Tuesday the brown rice I prepared both evenings was accompanied by a dish called "Tofu Middle Eastern Medley". This time out I used chick peas/garbanzo beans in place of the tofu. I don't have anything against tofu, but it doesn't always agree with Kristin, and it falls short as a protein for me in a lot of recipes, so if I have a suitable alternative I'll often take it.

If the word Ayurveda is unfamiliar, well I should probably just refer my readers to my Wife's blog, but to cover the basics here, Ayurveda is a centuries old system of medicine originating in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda heavily links diet, body type, physical health and mental/emotional health and utilizes a diet appropriately balanced for the individual to promote all aspects of health.

On an interesting side note, relating to my career goals, Kristin sent me a link to this web page discussing Ayurvedic analysis and care for typical [North American] house pets. This got the gears turning in my brain. While I found the information on the page interesting, my primary interest as a [hopeful] future Veterinarian is to specialize in food supply animals rather than companion animals. I find myself wondering and brainstorming about the prospects of integrating ayurveda for the care of animals such as goats, sheep, cows, chickens, hogs, etc. I think there definitely is room to apply some of the practices. Kristin checked out another book from the library about ayurveda that made mention of ayurvedic veterinary medicine in ancient and early modern India (including ayurvedic veterinarians dedicated wholly to the care of elephants!). I don't think that there necessarily is anything contrary to ayurveda about working with food supply animals and, by extension, promoting dietary practices that are not vegan or vegetarian. Indeed ayurveda isn't necessarily vegan at all; ghee, clarified butter is absolutely an animal product and is a staple as a cooking oil in many ayurvedic dishes. While excessive meat consumption is discouraged by ayurveda it is not significantly more so than excessive, imbalancing indulgence in anything else. I've got food for thought I guess. Pun intended.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Magic & Science

Since I got it together to bring the textbook from Kristin's summer term Chemistry course in to work I've been making steady progress through it. At this point I'm reading about atomic modeling and structure, the same subject matter that was being addressed in the Physics of Superheroes when I set that aside for the time being. It's very cool to me anytime I can identify a direct link between scientific disciplines.

In the documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore Mr. Moore, my favorite author who many know as the scribe of such groundbreaking comics work as Watchmen & V for Vendetta, suggests that magic is the original all-encompassing science. I am inclined to agree. While it is beneficial for the purpose of initial [a word that should be considered on a generational scale time-frame here] study and familiarization for people to gain a principal understanding of the building blocks and operational systems of the universe, ultimately these distinct threads of learning weave back into one another. The potential exists to eventually identify and verify these very real connections, reassembling what has been deconstructed into separate fields of study into a comprehensive, unified understanding of all existence. The magical understanding of reality of the mystics, shamans, prophets & magi lead human curiosity and inquiry to alchemy, astrology & philosophy which in turn begot the myriad modern disciplines of scientific inquiry; an evermore microscopic analysis of that which is. It seems to me inevitable and necessary that once these increasingly specific fragments of knowledge are sufficiently
explored and understood they will be reassembled into a genuine and accurate understanding of all that is and only one field of study will remain for the student, scholar or philosopher; the all encompassing science for which I as yet have no other word than magic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not Much To Report

I haven't been making much noise recently. Since I submitted my financial aid award request paperwork it has felt like there isn't anything much to do. Reading lists won't be posted until next Monday for my classes so I can't even really sweat what textbooks I need.

Now as I write this I am realizing all these things that I could be doing. That I perhaps should be doing. Kristin is done with her Summer semester and her chemistry class freeing up her textbook to be reviewed by me to refresh myself on the subject matter before I take the higher level course this Fall. I have already gotten back into that some (8 chapters down!) but I still have a ways to go.

I've been so focused on school that I've really neglected other things that I could be doing with an eye towards my long term goals. I still need to initiate contact with the professor from the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in small ruminants. Thinking about it I believe it would be good to try to set up an informational/occupational interview with her in addition to trying to arrange to log some hands on experience working with the goats on her farm. Investigating other opportunities, volunteer or otherwise, for working with animals might be wise as well.

Then there is the Comic Book College Yearbook. I'm still at war with myself over my submission to it. I've got my six-page brief history of La Guerra Civil (is my Spanish correct there?) ready to go from my original printing back in 2003. I like the text and the presentation structure, but there are some panels that I'm not entirely satisfied with and would like to redraw. I used cross hatching exclusively to ink the comic and in some instances I feel it's pretty hideous looking. There are other things I wouldn't mind changing either, particularly my renderings of Ernest Hemmingway and the representatives of the International Brigades. I just feel I could do better work, but then there's inertia and the requirements of everyday life. On the other hand there are panels that I am very proud of including what I feel is a very well illustrated cartoon reproduction of Pablo Picaso's Guernica. I'm trying to figure out a way, technologically, that I could re-draft just the individual panels I wish to replace without having to re-make the stuff that I like. I could conceivably draw the panels and try to paste them in over what they are replacing on the page, then photocopy a new master, but I don't know how clean that would look. I'm concerned that may generate shadows and/or lead to a degraded appearance for the older panels. Maybe I can make a test run with bare panels to see what I have to look forward to. Yeah, that's probably a good idea.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Geting Those Dollars

I've spent most of my free time during the last day or so trying to sort out my financial aid situation; to get everything in order to get that temporarily free money called the loan, and to figure out the best course of action on that. Since my financial aid award from MCTC included more than enough to cover the six credits I'm able to take this semester, the minimum necessary to receive financial aid, I definitely had some options available to me and this necessitated delving in to the minutiae of the different award types a little bit, so I could determine what type of aid to request and how much.

The offer I received is for $11,000 for the year total, $5,000 of which is assigned as Work Study funds. Now that would be far more than I need for the year and very tempting to take on its own and eschew loans all together, but the usefulness of work study is limited by the assumption that I would have the time (including an accommodating schedule) and energy to work a part time job on campus. Given that I'm only taking six credits because I can't afford to leave my full time, first shift job I find it unlikely that accepting the work study award this year would be practical. That's too bad because it is money that is simply earned and doesn't need to be paid back to anybody at all ever but I just don't see it happening. Maybe in the future if I'm a bit more comfortable with the whole work, school, rest-of-my-life balancing act but not right now.

With work study out that leaves loans. Apparently I managed to make it through my entire initial undergraduate career at the University of Minnesota [Twin Cities] without actually understanding the different loan types . . . at all. Private loans are their own separate entity that I don't even want to contemplate right now (and they aren't awarded by anybody, they have to be sought out) so that leaves Federal loans, which come in two varieties: subsidized loans and unsubsidized loans. Pay attention fellow students who are reading this! If you don't know what I'm about to present it may be helpful information. Subsidized loans are Federal loans that have their interest covered by the Federal government (that's the subsidizing part) as long as the student is enrolled in school at least half time and for a grace period of up to six months. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the time they are issued and interest unpaid within a certain time frame capitalizes, becomes part of the principal loan amount meaning that interest will be charged on that new total as time goes on. Payment is not required on either type of direct Federal loan while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time, during periods of deferment, or during the six month-grace period after leaving school (on a temporary or permanent basis.

Given these facts it was pretty easy to decide that since I can get away with it for the moment I only want subsidized loans. I loathe debt. The faster I can clear the balance of what I owe the happier I will be, and the less interest I'm accumulating the faster I'll be in the clear. Ultimately I decided to accept $3,000 in subsidized loans from the total award package. It's more than the bare minimum I need, but I'm sure there will be expenses that I cannot account for at this time so I'm preparing for that possibility.

Oh capitalism, how repellent I find you. How I wish I was in Sweden or some place I could be doing this basically for free. But as the saying goes, "Cash Rules Everything Around Me."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Class Visit

I used a vacation day from work today to attend my Wife's chemistry lecture over at MCTC as a guest. It was pretty cool. The instructor discussed buffer solutions, aqueous solutions composed of a weak acid and its conjugate base that is resistant to changes in pH when relatively small amounts of a stronger acid or base are introduced to the mixture. She also showed the class how to calculate a mixture's rating on the pH scale based on the molarity of dissolved hydronium ions (H3O+) contained therein. I have some catching up to do in reviewing the textbook for the class to bridge this concept to those I have already read about, but I think I understood the basics. I was able to surmise the appropriate means of solving most of the problems on the worksheet that was handed out based on what I've read from the textbook, the day's lecture and what I've retained from taking Pre-Calculus last Spring (I'm extra glad I toLinkok pre-calc now); that was pretty cool. Right now, I am super excited for Principles of Chemistry [I] this Fall.

Before I attended the lecture this morning I got up early enough to make some breakfast (I lied it in spite of the portion I burned) and took advantage of the available time to visit the bench dedicated to Abdu’l-Bahá in Loring Park again where I practiced some solitary prayer and meditation. After the lecture I picked up a copy of Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour which Kristin and I successively read with enough enthusiasm that we were both finished within a couple of hours. I felt it was pretty intense as a concluding volume for the six-book series, and very fast paced. Good closure, and I'm still looking forward to the movie.

I am very proudly a geek/nerd.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Adventure"! That Could Have Sounded Cool.

Having purchased a subscription to Visual Thesaurus for my sister last year as a birthday gift I for some reason receive word of the day emails. Last Wednesday the word of the day was adventure and it presented the following:

"adventureThere is so little semantic association nowadays between advent and adventure that we lose sight of their connection. They were, however, once as closely associated as, say, depart and departure or mix and mixture. Back in the day, adventure meant whatever happens to us -- in essence, whatever came (advent being from Latin for "arrival"). From this developed, by baby steps, the current sense of a wild or exciting undertaking."

Look at that! Essentially, at its origin, that word adventure is a single word for the entire mission statement of this blog: to chronicle whatever I encounter as I journey through my life. If I had known this three months ago I might not have gone with Walking an Invisible Road and may have honored my beloved team of super-hero freaks, the Doom Patrol, by naming this blog My Greatest Adventure. Of course that may have caused problems. For example, if I ever were to submit anything I write in here for, for-profit publication I could run into trouble with DC Comics. Also, apparently there's this guy. And this guy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It's been a pretty busy weekend I suppose. I think it would have felt significantly less so if the major interstate linking the core of Minneapolis to the core of St. Paul hadn't been closed requiring me to take four trips from one to the other on local streets. It got to be pretty frustrating. The brutal heat/humidity and near tornado thunderstorm didn't really help either. Can I have some cheese to go with this whine?

Saturday morning I got up relatively early and went to the gym. I went straight to the Baha'i Center afterwards to attend a reflection meeting, my first ever. A reflection meeting is basically a gathering of members of the community to discuss successes and challenges in community building and sharing about the faith and to try to brainstorm personal or group plans for teaching activities during intensive programs of growth [essentially periods of making a conscious effort to proliferate awareness of the Baha'i faith to those who may be ignorant of it, or to educate those who already have an interest]. It was a neat experience and it left me determined to study Anna's Presentation thoroughly until I have a comprehensive knowledge of its format. I believe that this will give me an excellent framework to work from in discussing my faith with friends [or anybody else I encounter] who has questions about what the Baha'i faith is all about.

Following the reflection meeting I went to my local comic book store to reserve a copy of Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour; the final volume of the six volume series of comics from which the upcoming movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was adapted. While there I learned about the Comic Book College Yearbook. Apparently last year the guys at the shop I buy comics from put a zine comic together out of short features by patrons of the store. I mentioned the zine comic I made and sold locally during college, a basic history of the Spanish Civil War, and I was enthusiastically offered the opportunity to have it reprinted in this year's Comic Book College Yearbook. I think I may want to redraw some of the pages, but it's exciting to me that I have this opportunity. Following this I drove for nearly an hour to complete a trip that usually clocks in at ten to fifteen minutes, then spent another 3 hours or so doing laundry at my parents' house before making the slightly less gruelling return drive with detour to pick up dinner.

Saturday evening was pretty laid back. I read a lot and Kristin and I watched an episode of the X-Files and the movie TiMER through our streaming Netflix. It was a really great movie. Probably the best thing I've seen since How To Train Your Dragon (and Kristin and I saw that four times in the theater). I very strongly recommend tracking it down and watching it in whatever format is available.

Sunday was another crazy day. After sleeping in way too late I scrambled to lunch with Kristin then we went to a gathering of friends (including my in-laws) for hanging out and a group photo staging Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper (I was positioned as the Apostle/Saint Andrew). This was followed by another very long drive after which Kristin and I ate Sunday dinner with my parents and sister and then headed home. After another too long drive I arrived home to discover that somebody was finally making a serious offer on my desk through Craigslist. I managed to make arrangements for them to pick it up that very same evening. Then I stayed up too late watching more X-Files episodes.

There! It only took me a full day to complete this entry about how busy I was for the last few days. Maybe I'll get to the entry that I actually wanted to make this weekend tomorrow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Please Take A Picture . . . It's Been a Good Day

Wow! Well it's been quite the day so far. So much has happened. I took the day off from work and slept in [a bit more than I meant to] which is usually nice. After I got myself together I walked over to MCTC to talk to people in admissions and financial aid to figure out how my dropping down from 3 courses to one would effect me. Admissions was my first stop. They informed me that even if I was only taking one class per semester I could still be considered a part time student eligible for a degree program. Good news!

Financial aid was a longer conversation. I learned that I would actually be eligible for financial aid at the level already offered me at any number of credits from a minimum of 6 to as many as 15. With the one class I'm hanging onto weighing in at a hefty 5 credits that means I would only need to tack on a 1 credit course to meet the requirements for federal loan money or financial aid through work study. A quick review of 1 credit courses that I could squeeze into my life includes, "Supervised Activity Programs" from the Physical Education department (basically come up with a personal fitness plan or participatory sport schedule with an instructor and check in every so often to verify that you are sticking to it. I think I could easily do this.) and Medical Terminology as an online course. I think either would be good, I'm going to work out whether I get course credit or not and a greater familiarity with medical jargon will ultimately be helpful (even if the course focuses on human rather than animal medicine), but Medical Terminology has a slight edge for me because my Wife is taking it. Like right now. Literally. I wouldn't even have to buy the book, I could just use Kristin's copy. And based on her description of the course it sounds like something that I could excel at quite easily. I haven't made a decision for sure, but I'm [obviously] leaning towards adding Medical Terminology right now and getting myself some financial aid for the fall.

This reminds me; I need to follow up with the financial aid office and/or my loan consolidation company and see if receiving financial aid as a part time student will make me eligible for loan deferment. How awesome could that be?

Anyway, my business for the day concluded at MCTC I walked home through Loring Park. For a while I have been aware that there is a bench in the Park dedicated to Abdu'l-Bahá, the successor to Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Baha'i faith of which I am an adherent. Recently I learned through Kristin, who learned through a friend within our local Baha'i community, the approximate location of this bench. Today as I walked home through the park I decided to make a point of attempting to locate the bench. I located it just slightly east and north of the horseshoe courts. The inscription into the metal of the bench read [let's see how accurate my memory is], "Abdu'l-Bahá blessed this location on [date during his visit to Minneapolis] 1912 ". It was a very profound feeling to me to realize not only that the bench was dedicated to Abdu'l-Bahá, but that it was also located upon an exact spot that he had visited AND blessed. I sat on the bench and recited one of a few prayers I have memorized. Then in the shade cast by the bench I did some stretching because my lower back and left hip were bothering me a little. I did feel much better afterwards.

I sat on the bench and read some of Catching Fire, recommended to me by my Sister, for a while until I was interrupted by an Ethiopian tourist who asked me to take a picture of him in front of the Minneapolis skyline as seen from Loring Park. And that interesting and unexpected happening inspired the title, antithetical to the refrain of a song I'm fond of, to this very long blog entry. I returned to reading until I finished the chapter I was on and then headed home.

Almost immediately after arriving at home I received a call from Kristin informing me that her Chemistry Professor [to be my lab instructor this Fall] had granted permission for me to sit in on a lecture presentation. Unfortunately class was moments from beginning and there was no way I could make it today, but if I can take another day or half-day from work in the next week or so I should be afforded another opportunity to sit in.

As it happens it isn't so bad that I couldn't make it to Kristin's chemistry class because while it was going on I received contact from an admissions counselor with Animal Behavior College. Animal Behavior College is a primarily web-based, for-profit institution entirely dedicated to technical programs in the field of animal care. We discussed their veterinary assistant program at some length. It is very clear that the program at ABC will not give me the opportunity to fulfill any of the prerequisite academic work necessary for my admission into vet school. However, it is, so far, the most flexible and lowest tuition program I have encountered for becoming a veterinary assistant or technician to date. If I can't turn up any other vet tech/assistant programs that will enable me to complete coursework applicable to acceptance into a professional program to become a doctor of veterinary medicine I may still consider a technical program as a means of expediting the transition out of my career in customer service and into work in veterinary health while I continue to work towards entering vet school. If that is what lies ahead for me the program from Animal Behavioral College seems, far and away, of the best value I have encountered, thus far, in terms of my needs as a student.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making Up For Lost Moments

Since my current prospects for knocking through the prerequisite coursework to pursue veterinary school are limited right now by my need to continue to work a regular first-shift job I don't anticipate being able to take more than one or two courses at a time until that situation changes. Unfortunately there's only so much time I have in a day, and my options for night classes and online classes in a local two-year or four year public college are limited. That being the case I have taken up my Wife's suggestion that I look at some other options to expedite career change. I have made informational requests to a number of local for-profit and web-based colleges about programs for becoming a veterinary technician or assistant. One institution, Globe University Minnesota School of Business, offers both an A.S. and a B.S. for veterinary technology and a representative already contacted me. I requested information from her on both programs.

Ultimately what I have in mind in exploring this possibility, veterinary tech/assistant, is to determine if there is a program out there that will provide me with some (I hardly expect it to supply all) of the necessary coursework to create a foundation for my taking further prerequisite courses to ultimately apply to vet school. Entering such a program could allow me to make a career change that much sooner and provide a respite from the world of customer service of which I have grown increasingly weary. The other plus of starting off in this direction is that many of the institutions that offer such programs are very accommodating to working adults, by which I mean they offer sufficient night classes and online coursework that one could potentially utilize to function as a full time student while working a regular clock-puncher day job.

Ideally this is a two birds with one stone type of situation, advancing me towards vet school AND getting me out of customer service and into animal care sooner than later, but even if my investigation of the possibilities only turns up the latter as a direct benefit of following my road in this direction it may be a worthy one for my personal growth and happiness. Either way, I look forward to finding more out.

Part Time A-No-Go

So the whole working part time and going back to school full time thing isn't really going to work right now. The financial aid package offered me by MCTC can cover my expenses for tuition and books, but not much past that (plus I'd have to put in work study time at a second job for the full amount). To remain financially solvent and go part time at my work I would have to wrangle about $30,000 in private loans and/or scholarships and that's a pretty hefty load, one that I don't believe it would be prudent to take on at this time.

I spoke to my boss to find out if the third, last resort, mystery option for alternate employment situations happened to be a move to the 7 days on/7 days off overnight shift [which is considered full time]. It wasn't; it was another part-time option. I told my boss that she could fore go looking into it further. She was happy to know that she wouldn't have to worry about replacing me, and let me know she would alert the manager of the after-hours personnel to my interest in moving to that position. At the moment I'm feeling angry that I'm going to have to delay my education yet again, and having a difficult time with the fact that I'm remaining in this job by which I feel increasingly unfulfilled.

My next step is to try to arrange to take Principles of Chemistry [I] as an online course with an evening lab time. Apparently this will require the same acrobatics with the registrar's office in terms of prerequisite waivers to allow me to enroll in a different section of the same course and lab that I've already received a waiver to enroll in. *sigh* And I've decided it's best that I take time off from work to deal with this because I'll need to explain to personnel in the Registrar's office why I'm seeking a Prerequisite Waiver for a class I'm already enrolled in, but for a different section. I may need to talk to admissions and financial aid as well to determine how going down to one class effects my status as a student. Then I have to make sure I can actually afford to do this. I'll do what I have to, to make that happen.

Ugh, I feel so exhausted, and frustrated and down after all the energy and time I've invested into this over the last, what? three months? four months? No wonder I'm having trouble sleeping. And getting out of bed in the morning. And dealing with the emotional roller coaster of this whole process. I just want to rest now please.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chemical Resolve

All right, so I won't really know where things stand until I speak to work sometime next week, but I resolve that I am going to do everything in my power to take at least one course this fall and to keep going in spring 2011. Principles of Chemistry I (in a sequence of two semesters) is in my sights and I don't want to back away. Even if I have to take a second job I am taking that class and moving ahead on the path towards a life, a career, of science and making the world a better place. Stepping towards that and away from the stagnation I feel in the fog of customer service with indefinite end. There are some people for whom that is the perfect role, but it is a very small part of what I am capable of and not even that which I am most able at. Science, here I come.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Virtual Award Notice.

I've received my award notice, at least in virtual form, from MCTC and am somewhat underwhelmed. I don't know what I was realistically expecting, but it amounts to about $11,000 for the standard academic year. $5,000 of this comes from theoretical work study. I don't know how well I would be able to balance that with other employment. Still it should be plenty [at this school] for tuition, fees and books/supplies. I don't know what I'll find out next week with respect to the mysterious possibility of last resort for me going part time with my present employer. I'm thinking that if they do make part time employment available to me I MAY be able to actually do this, but I will definitely need to explore private loans.

If part time with my present employer doesn't work I don't think it is happening for me this year. That doesn't mean I just roll up and give up. I'll be upset, definitely angry & probably sad too, but I don't have to give up. I can look into resources to try and take at least one of the ultimately necessary courses, ideally something that might eventually transfer to MCTC at one of the other commuter or community colleges in the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system. This would all be much easier if MCTC offered more in the way of online coursework or night classes, but they don't have much. Since pretty much every class I need to take at this stage involves a lab (before I can move on to classes that don't actually have separate lab sections) that makes it that much harder to find a single class that is easy to schedule for. I can also try to look at other degree, programs but that will have to wait until tomorrow since my home iMac is pretty old and doesn't like newer .pdfs. Apparently I have a plan of sorts. That's good, right?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Be Patient Jon. Patient.

I'm trying to remind myself to have patience right now as I'm feeling particularly frustrated with the slow pace at which MCTC is producing my financial aid award letter. I took a couple of days off to try and deal with it, operating on the understanding that the institutions award notices for Fall Semester 2010 should be ready and issued within the first week of July. When I called this morning to clarify my financial aid status as reported in my on-line account, however, I was informed that at the earliest the letters will go out tomorrow and may be sent out as late as Tuesday of next week. This led me to take care of all the major errands and little projects I had in mind to fill some time off today. Now I am sort of stumped about what to do with my day off tomorrow, to the point that I even checked in with work to see if everything was okay or if they needed me to come in and help out [incidentally the week after the fourth of July tends to be pretty dead for our phone bank and things are apparently fine right now]. There aren't even comic books being released this week that I am interested in. I mean I guess I could always try to just relax and read. If nothing else comes up I may have to do that.

Anyway, as I stated I am frustrated by having to wait longer to learn about financial aid awards through the college, but there's nothing I can do about it except to wait and see what they offer me. My co-workers don't have much time off between them for the rest of the summer so it should be relatively easy for me to take time as it is needed. I think my frustration really comes from, first, not knowing and the anxiety that comes with the unknown and, second, knowing that the sooner I can identify what my financial needs are the sooner I can start pursuing additional resources to support this effort and the more likely it is that said resources will be available to me. Of course wrapped up with all of this is question of whether I'll be offered sufficient aide to have even a remote chance of returning to school at this time, and not being able to answer that is a big source of fear for me right now too. Okay, I think I've covered the subject to the extent I can right now. I'm going to try to just ride out the frustration and the anxiety and read and find some patience.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yay For Goats!

As I continue to wait for that financial aid award notice letter to show up (it should come sometime this week according to the financial aide office at MCTC) so that I may gauge whether a full time return to school is plausible for me this year I have sort of a weird week of not working [Independence Day holiday paid day off], working [today], middle of the week weekend [tomorrow and Thursday] and working [Friday]. Hopefully things will fall into place a bit so that I can figure out whether or not I'm going to school in the Autumn. If that aid letter is slow in coming though I may just have to divide my time between reading, going to the gym and napping. That would not be such a bad thing either. Oh yeah, and I guess this would be a good time to go to my County administrative office of choice to get my driver's license renewed.

Anyway, I took a little bit of an actual vacation this last weekend and went over to my parents house to basically be a hermit for a couple of days. I did interrupt this briefly, persuaded by my Father, to attend the annual Block Party in their alley and allow myself to be introduced to a neighbor of my parents who is presently gearing up for year two of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota. It was good for me to get an opportunity for me to talk with somebody who, like I am attempting to, pursued veterinary medicine after already completing one bachelor's degree with pretty much no academic background in the sciences. We talked animal medicine stuff some and the ups and downs of trying to go back to school after some time away. While her interest lies in entering small/companion animal practice when she learned I was interested in large/food supply animal work, and small ruminants in particular, she offered to help get me connected to a Professor of hers who is apparently VERY enthusiastic about goats in particular and actually has a goat farm. This could be a great opportunity for me to talk to an academic professional (rather than the semi-knowledgeable stonewall that is admissions personnel) in my intended field AND provide potential for some volunteer work on a farm working with goats. That would be really good since I've been having a difficult time arranging something with my academic adviser from undergrad who happens to own a sheep farm. Here's hoping this turns into a chance to do more investigation with an eye towards my future and maybe some hands on experience.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Those Things Which Cannot Be Anticipated

I believe I mentioned a while ago a proposal I had submitted to my supervisor and my boss that would allow me to return to previously held job duties on a part time basis; job duties that would allow me a much greater flexibility of schedule and enable me to stick with my current employer [and medical benefits] while simultaneously returning to school full time in pursuit of my longer term career goals. The decision required the input and authority of a different manager who was on vacation at the time I submitted my proposal and I had been waiting with increasing impatience for a judgment to be made. Well, this past Friday I was called aside by my boss for a short meeting at which I was informed that after a few meetings between her and the other manager the judgment was that my proposal was not a good fit at this time and would not be acted upon. One potential note of optimism; I was told that they had discussed some third option to aide me in returning to school but that it would require consulting with yet a third manager and I would not be allowed to know what this other possibility was until further discussion could be had at the management level. So I have been offered some hope despite the disappointment of my rejected proposal, though the ambiguity of this is not really sufficient to diffuse my anxiety over the situation. I still haven't received a financial aid award letter so there is some anxiety tied to that as well as I question whether there will be financial assistance of a sufficient degree to allow me to return to school full time even if part time employment [and benefits] can be arranged.

Given the circumstances it is difficult for me to not feel generally pessimistic about my prospects for returning to college, going on to veterinary school, and pursuing a career as a veterinarian right now. This is a very trying time for me. I even find myself questioning if these obstacles are not God's way of telling me that I have in mind the wrong ends for myself, the wrong way for me to best serve God and all humanity. But I don't think I need to really look any further than the very title of this blog (though it has taken the assistance of certain people who love me very much and who I love as well to help me be able to see it) to be reminded that this is not so. I remind myself that the road I walk through life is not always clearly visible but it is the path that must be taken, no matter how difficult. I don't really know that my road will lead me to the place I believe it will, but I do trust that if I hold fast to it and remain faithful that it will lead me to where I need to be at the time I need to arrive there. Simply because I cannot see the path or where it is leading me does not mean my path is wrong when I encounter hardships. Sometimes when we walk or ride down a road we must take a detour from what appears to be the obvious path and wait for this diversionary trail to lead us back to a path where we can once more clearly perceive our destination. Other times we find ourselves at a crossroads or a barrier and must wait for the road to become free enough from obstructions that we can safely traverse it once more. Some roads curve around hills or in ways that we cannot understand, seemingly directing us away from a straight vector to our destination before redirecting us clearly back on course. These things do not mean that the road is wrong nor our destination. They are merely tests of patience and resolve. Sometimes we must wait for conditions to be correct before we move forward. Sometimes we must take a direction that does not seem to be logical to safely arrive at our destination. Sometimes to attempt to avoid a detour can leave the traveller stranded or without experiences or resources that would not have been acquired had the advanced on what seemed the clear path.

Patience is essential. Patience and faith that the road will not lead us astray. The invisible road of life cannot lead us astray. It sets a course for us that we cannot help but follow. If we resist this and attempt to crash through we will inevitably miss important steps along the way or become stuck until we find our way back to the road. When we are patient and faithful to the path set forth for us we will still be tested and face obstacles that must be overcome to advance, but these are trials that are necessary for us to have the strength to continue down the road and overcome challenges we cannot yet envision, and arrive at our destination safely.

With this understanding I resolve to continue to walk my invisible road. I resolve to strive for patience and steadfastness in my journey. I resolve to do my best to accept the road as something that I cannot change and cannot have foreknowledge of. I resolve to strive for the courage to overcome obstacles I find for myself as I press on. I resolve to hold faith in my heart and mind that the road will lead me to the proper destination, even if I cannot yet see that destination, and that every step of my journey is absolutely essential to my my arrival there. Those of you that have helped me to gradually come to these realization and resolutions over the last few days, I hope you know who you are, I am very grateful to you for helping me wash the fog of disillusionment, self-doubt and despair from my eyes. It is time for me to stand back up and take another step on the path I cannot see.