Sunday, January 31, 2010

NADH and me

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

About two years ago when I took Bio I, I first heard of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and it sounded so specific, detailed, difficult, and entirely beyond my comprehension.

Now, however, as I'm revisiting glycolysis in-depth for an exam, it's not any big deal to me at all. The new car smell is long gone, if you will. At this stage in the game, if handed pen and paper and asked to produce a Kekulé structure of it, I could probably whip it out in a matter of seconds (well, maybe a minute or so).

Just a few moments ago, I realised how amazing that is and just how far I've come.

One thing that I wish I could change about the science curriculum in university is that Bio I & II would have to come after completing your chemistry sequences. Actually, Bio II didn't have much at all in the way of anything related to chemistry, if I remember correctly. I remember a lot of memorisation of family, genus, species for all sorts of things... At any rate, Bio I was full of stuff that required some background in chemistry. Maybe most high school students get that these days, but I didn't. I would've, but my family moved and the school I attended for my last years of high school was well behind where I'd come from. Knowing about reaction rates, balancing chemical equations, equilibrium, stereochemistry, chirality, etc., would've given me a much, much deeper understanding of the things I was frantically trying to study...the Krebs cycle, for instance, was almost completely meaningless. I knew the overall picture and what resulted, but the why and how of it were as mysterious as the sky is blue. I can't fathom how I managed an A in that class. I stared at my biology book in amazement and wonder for hours on end, trying to sort out the drawings of chemical compounds and such. I couldn't wait to get to the point when I could look at those and gather all sorts of info.

That day has come and passed, and I see molecular model kits and SN2 reactions in my dreams.

I get such a kick out of this, and I'm really looking forward to comparing my knowledge after taking biochem and my molecular bio sequence! I'm really in awe about the whole thing. Words escape me, and all I can do is grin excitedly and place exclamation points at the end of as many sentences as possible.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A glimpse inside my mind

To whom it may concern:

As I was flying down the motorway this evening at a crisp 45 MPH (precisely the speed limit on this one stretch of road), I decided that my gum had gone bad and I'd like to to get rid of it. Normally, I would use an old kleenex, notecard, or whatever might be available at present, but having cleaned out my automobile just the other day (several weeks ago), there was nothing to find. I took a cue from my father, who was notorious for spitting gum out of the window whilst driving. I don't make a habit of this, but tonight I thought I'd make an exception.

Zzzwwwwwppppp, down goes the automated window. The wind comes a-roarin' on in and whips my hair around every which way. One, two...THREE! And with that, the gum with which I'd spent 90 endearing minutes was gone. As it flew from my lips, I noticed the arc...sort of parabolic, I thought.

This is where you step across the threshold of my mind, and all of that sort of lovely-sounding foolishness. Ah, yes, I wondered how one might calculate the speed with which the gum travels from the very second it left my mouth until it hit the ground. I knew I was traveling at 45 MPH, and estimated (took a wild guess) that I expelled the gum at around 20 MPH. I wondered how one would calculate the slowing effect of the wind on the airborne gum once it left the confines of my automobile.

Having not yet started my physics sequence, I'm in the dark.

I think I quite like that. It's a mystery, and mysteries are sometimes marvelous things.

So, there you have it. A moment in the mind of J.O. Morris... on a Saturday evening, no less! On the bus home Friday afternoon, I noticed a nice pattern from a leafless branch against the sky and was remind of fractals. I spent a Sunday morning once (when I should've been in church, studying something, or any other number of things) watching a program on PBS about fractals and was pleased with what I saw.

Scope that out...two thoughts for the price of one. There are plenty more, and I'll do what I can to document them in the future. It's generally the case that I forget what it was I was thinking about moments after thinking it, for I've moved on to something else. It's occurred to me to carry around a tape recorder. Who knows what genius might gush forth.

Gush forth? Well, too late to change it now, I reckon. Go, go, go.

As I carry on with my studies just now, and as I write this, I'm listening to a radio program called Smokestack Lightnin' via the Internet. It's a blues program. New blues,'s a top 25 countdown for the month of January. Some of it is really terrible and cheesy and vanilla that it sickens me to hear it, especially upon consideration of the old, black greats. No, there's nothing like the original, but some of this new stuff does come close. A guy who calls himself Taildragger (after the Howlin' Wolf song...and from whom his vocal stylings seem to have been lifted), starts the program off, which you can hear even after the broadcast is over. It's about the best blues I've heard made in the post-1960s world.

Give it a whirl!

All the best,

J.O. Morris

From the fringes

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I'm going to get straight to the point. One thing that is constantly on my mind is the general trend of conversations with my pre-med cohorts...and most folks in general. I'm kind of awkward and I've always thought it was just naturally how I am, but I've begun to realise over the past couple of days that it's mostly due to trying to find some way to relate to the person, or people, with whom I'm speaking.

I'm kind of an eccentric fellow, if you hadn't noticed. My tastes and interest are wide and varied, and in many cases, very European. In the American South, this is not ideal...especially since my accent has no detectable European influence. I thought that in coming to the big city for university, I would run into more culturally aware and exciting people...but I'm finding that I'm rather let down. Even many of the international students are, ordinary. It's tough out here on the fringes of society, I must say.

But, yes, as I was saying, every last one of my peers are so scientifically-oriented...and I'm really not. I mean, I certainly have the capacity to interpret, deal with, and dispense scientific data and other such goodies, but I'm a natural-born artistic personality. Just the other day, I was involved in a very scientific conversation. I contributed my bit, and someone asked for clarification on a point. I answered in relaxation mode, opting for an explanation that came out like, "So, this crap flies over here and affixes itself to this junk, and the whole mess goes on to..." It should be noted that I was pointing to a diagram. I'd demonstrated my knowledge on the subject and felt that it was fine to drop the formalities at that point, especially considering the informal environment...I got some raised eyebrows, and a little giggling. "You want to be a doctor?" was what I imagined going through some of their heads. hah.

The biggest example of constant disconnects with my audience come when I make some reference, or connection, to or between related items. Nine times out of ten, I get a blank stare...a few seconds later, the deer-in-headlights gaze or a raised eyebrow. I'm laughing, and they're trying to figure out what I'm on about.

Furthermore, I choose my words carefully, and this sometimes leads to a point in my speech where I pause, filling the space with an "errmm..." or some such similar, and then several avenues present themselves to me, leaving me in the position of deciding which is best suited for the situation. My natural tendency is to lean towards the laid-back, relaxed, humourous route...but historically, it's led to embarrassment. I should think that the other party would be the embarrassed one for not having understood my offering, but since I deviate from the norm I take the brunt. It's comical, and I wouldn't change it for anything, but I wonder how this will affect my medical career. I can just imagine myself in a med school interview making all sorts of wild statements that really make perfect sense to those in the know, but uh... yeah, obviously there aren't so many in the know.

A quick note on the above point: I saw an episode of Code Blue, or something, where this funny, laid-back ER doc was explaining to a patient's family that they'd found a big aneurysm. The doc said something like, " aneurysm about as big around as my head..." and one family member clutched her chest, and exclaimed, "Oh, my word!" The doc, very nonchalantly said, "Oh, no, that was just an exaggeration," and carried on. Naturally, that's a situation I would work to avoid, but I could picture it happening to me. Heh.

All of this does make me feel like I don't belong in my major and that I'm nuts for even thinking about being a doctor...but wouldn't it be better to be the one who stands out from the crowd as far as personality is concerned? I'm a likable chap, smile and laugh easily (and frequently!), and employ my ability to recreate voices and accents in a humourous light as often as possible... ah, I don't know.

Heaven to me would be to show up and have 50 or so people who carry on just as I do. Maybe this will be my medical school experience.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Almost ready to ask, "What next?"

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Exam results: 81
I made careless mistakes... the one that cost me the most points was one of the easiest questions. A carbon atom in the middle of a jungle of other junk had three sigma bonds and a lone pair attached. Part of the larger question was identifying any non-zero formal charges we came across. I wrote that this particular carbon had a +1 charge. Yeah. Obviously, I meant -1 because it had one extra electron... At least my professor knows I'm not a complete imbecile, as I'd gone to his office to procure my graded paper and we discussed my carelessness. My instantaneous verbal correction of mistakes went a long way... but not far enough. I can't believe it.

...but I'd better forget about it, march on, and be more careful in the future. I was so confident that I was going to make an A, and when I saw how easy the exam was, I went on autopilot. Big mistake.

Half an hour was wasted this afternoon waiting for two group members show up to iron out the last details of our presentation tomorrow. They never showed, so the only other responsible member of the group and I did what we could with it and split. Luckily, we get a grade solely on what we contribute.

Came home to a clogged toilet. Always great fun, especially when you're the one stuck fixing it. It was an epic battle, and surprisingly, I only flirted with vomiting once! This is a vast improvement over past efforts. I kept telling myself that (hopefully) in a few years, I'll be a doctor and will be dealing with much worse and won't want to hurt the feelings of my patient, so I'd better buck up and think pleasant thoughts throughout the exercise.

Conveniently, Party Boy I emerges from his room (was not aware that he was at home) after the problem with the toilet was rectified.

I then washed a load of laundry, loaded it into the dryer...only to find that it would not start up. It just buzzes a lot. I cleaned out all of someone else's lint from the trap, checked all connections, so on and so forth, and still no action. Oh, maintenance maaaannn...

What a day it has been. Oh, and SURPRISE! Statistics exam next week, right after my physiology exam. Thanks for the week+ notice you swore you'd deliver.

Coffee in hand (on desk, actually), boldly I go into the great (still) unknown of physiology. It'd better be grateful because I've passed up the opportunity to socialise with members of my pre-med organisation, including a cute Eastern European with the loveliest appellation, to get better acquainted with peroxisomes, oncogenes, and other various items.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some favourite music

To whom it may concern:

Music is one of my strongest passions, and there are certain artists and/or songs that are just inexplicably good and have an enormous effect on me. Here I shall list some of my all-time favourite songs, partly in hopes that what I present is unfamiliar to you in some manner.

Django Reinhardt - "September Song"

This song is so warm and's lazy, like a nice Sunday afternoon lounging around with family. Every single time I listen to this version of it (there are several that ol' Django did), I feel some strange sense that I heard this while on some travel to lands faraway...a beautiful time, full of happiness and remarkable joy. Beyond this, I cannot find sufficient words to describe just what the music stirs up within me.

Spiritualized - "Lay It Down Slow"

I've been a huge fan of this band (okay, yeah, J. Spaceman) for nearly ten years now, starting after I first heard the record "Ladies & Gentlemen...We Are Floating In Space." I bought "Let It Come Down" via pre-order (special edition and everything!), which had come out a few months after I graduated high school. In fact, the day I received it in the post, my band at the time had a birthday party to play that night and we all got drunk on some nasty grape-tasting wine and some other junk. Apple flavoured Boone's Farm wine, probably. This one's off "Amazing Grace," but that story was somehow worth telling anyway.

This song, unfortunately, appears to have been used on the season finale of some show called Prison Break. On one hand, great for the exposure, but knowing this somehow cheapens my association with it. Probably just as well, since I mostly think of Old Flame when I hear it. Still, it's a beautiful and delicate song. So fantastic. So Spiritualized. Listen to everything ever recorded under that name. Do it.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - "A Fine Romance"

I don't recall precisely how I came across this one, but it was the spring of 2006. So many changes were taking place within me and around me during that time, and this song cheered me up on many occasion while I was getting screamed at by unruly customers on the telephone. It's a cute song, and fun to sing Louis' part when I'm feeling particularly outgoing. I can do a fair impersonation of Mr. Armstrong, you see.

The Beatles - "Within You, Without You"

This one, I'm sure, is known to just about everyone on the face of the planet. I don't even know where to begin about how much this song has impacted my life. When I first heard it on Christmas day, aged 17, I thought that maybe it was just some weird effects that they'd whipped up in the studio. I soon learned that there were a lot of Indian instruments present and, while it was cool, I focused my attention and adoration elsewhere. When I was working that terrible call center job, I took a liking to this one much more than ever before. I understood more of the spiritual aspect of the song and got swept up in the mystic qualities of the sweeping, droning music and vocals. I wanted more music like it. This led to Ravi Shankar naturally, and then to Nikhil Banerjee, and on down the line. As I was exploring this, Buddhism and Hinduism became incredibly appealing from a very Western, "How so very strange!" point of view. I soon saw the beauty in it, and loved all of the peace and altruism I was reading about. It fit in so nicely with my views as a Christian, and with my political beliefs. For the longest time, I wanted nothing more than to go to India, grow my hair and beard long, wear a kurta and salwars and whatnot, learn to play Indian classical instruments and spend the rest of my days practicing patience, love, generosity, graciousness, and so on. This is still a dream I hold close to my heart, and I think that I should like to travel to India to provide medical care and explore this fantasy.

All the best,

J.O. Morris

St. James Infirmary Blues... Well, it's a great song, at least.

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Still having not received any reply from you, I continue to write...perhaps foolishly, but something deep within won't let me stop. Keeping up with your whereabouts is difficult, especially since such great distances separate us. Thankfully, the innkeepers continually, and quite kindly, provide your forwarding address. It has only happened a few times, but when a letter comes back in the post as being undeliverable, I fear the worst. Send me some indication of your continued good health and happiness, or tell me to bugger off. The choice is yours. Just, please, say something.

I write today to inform you of the news that next weekend, I'll be interviewing for a volunteer position at the local infirmary. My excitement can barely be contained, especially at the thought of getting placed in my top choice. More details as developments emerge.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update on this evening's shindig

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

So far, only two of my flatmates (Party Boy I & II), and their two loud, but otherwise friendly, friends have shown up. Party Boy II got into a tiff with PB I over the general state of cleanliness of the apartment, which is a completely valid thing to bring up. He stormed out and went across the hall to Loud Genius' place, which, I hope, means that neither he nor his loud girlfriend will be making an appearance here this evening.

I've done well to drown them out with The Beatles catalogue and have made vast improvements in my mood (Three cheers!), and have made significant progress on my physiology notecards. Only three more PowerPoint files to go through!

As I was following the diagram of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and testing myself on several of them just for kicks, the smoke alarms went off.

Pompous Pre-Med, or whatever I've called him in the past, came flying out of his room at the same time as me to see what was the matter. Party Boy I is cooking something on the stovetop, and the layers upon layers of crud and bits of broken-off Ramen noodles on the burners...well, started burning.

I took this with a positive attitude and announced my satisfaction over the fact that I would now no longer require any sort of caffeine for the remainder of the evening.

EDIT, one hour later: Some loud girl I've never see before showed up, Yankee Girl With A Stripper Name showed up, and just now Loud Genius walked in. The time is 10:12 p.m. The TV is blaring, everyone is congregated in the living room yelling and trying to out-laugh (in terms of volume) each other.

I better get quieter, more studious and civilised roommates next fall.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

The hits just keep on comin'

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

After a few hours of study last night, I took a break to prepare a cup of tea and enjoy some pure milk chocolate in an effort to lift my mood. It helped a little, but I couldn't shake my feeling of disappointment and general blah-ness. I decided to turn in early, but those plans were foiled thanks to the highly entertaining posts at Tales From the Serenity Now Hospital. A hint, my darling: their most popular posts, listed on the right-hand column, are popular for a reason.

Having awoken from the first full eight hours of sleep I've had since the start of term, I expected to feel good and be rarin' to go. I had to force myself out of hour after my alarm went off. This set off a chain reaction that, I must say, was most unfavourable.

The bus I normally catch has started coming anywhere from 5-10 minutes early, making it exceedingly difficult to judge just when I should head out to the stop. I was determined to get there 20 minutes early today, having been forced to take the later bus and sprint across campus to make it to class on time three school days in a row. So, because I'd woken up late and was still feeling sluggish, I was ready 10 minutes before the bus is scheduled to appear...

and it had already come. I decided that I'd go ahead and drive to school and fork over the cash for a temporary permit. This would be good, I smiled, because I'll make it to class in plenty of time, get a good seat in the front, and then be able to go home whenever I please later on in the evening.

Twenty minutes later, I was not smiling.

In fact, I had uttered a few cursewords and gave an inconsiderate driver the finger. I was in shock after that event because it's something generally quite far removed from my character...not to mention, dangerous as all get-out.

I circled the campus, entering and exiting several parking garages without a glimmer of hope of finding a space. By the time I'd made it back around, class was starting in 20 minutes. There was no time to go back home and catch the bus...I'd be at least 10 minutes late. Once more I searched through a ground-level parking area, and once more came up empty.

...but wait, what's this?

Several cars had parked in the grass alongside the road. Of course! I've seen a million cars do this! I'm going to make it to class (just barely) on time! I parked, properly displayed my temporary permit, and scrambled like a maniac to make it on time.

I didn't make it on time.

In fact, it took me 15 minutes to get to class...which had already started. All of the seats, except for two on the far right side of the room, near the back, with the only accessible pathway to them being all the way down to the front of the room, across the length of the whiteboard where aspects of the lecture were being scribbled out, and then way up to the back of the room. No way. I hate it when kids come shuffling in late and disrupt the whole proceeding by their tardiness. I'm not going to be that guy, especially since the professor knows me. The silent scolding is even worse when it's from someone you know.

Not many things make me feel as crappy as missing class, especially for something that was completely avoidable. Had I not been wallowing in self-pity, or whatever my problem was in the a.m., none of this would've happened. I felt like a failure. It was all horribly blown out of proportion, but that's how it gets for me when that ball starts rolling.

Into the library it was with me and after getting a fair amount of work done, I was feeling better. After lunch, I had an appointment with my adviser, which I was really looking forward to.

Five minutes into that appointment, I want to curl up into a ball under the covers of my bed and just stay there until I was old, grey, and senile.

My academic record is quite good, at least I thought, despite some garbage when I first started college (and subsequently dropped out...I was 19, maybe 20) and the poor showing last term. When asked what my plans were, I stated that nothing had changed and that I desperately want to be in medical school. That's when she did it.

She raised her eyebrow in such a manner that, to me, indicated something equivalent to, "HA! You? You'll never make it!" Way, way back down went my mood. That's a really touchy point for me. In my youth, a lot of poor decisions were made and of them I'm enormously embarrassed. I resolved to work hard to essentially cancel out all of the rubbish. It's a matter of pride and, perhaps a bit foolishly, self-worth.

After the meeting, I thought that maybe I should just major in something silly...or throw in the towel altogether... and carry on not doing anything really productive, meaningful, or worthwhile with my life.

On the trek back to my car, I managed to talk myself out of my bad mood a bit. "I'll show her!" I thought. "I'll get into medical school, alright. I'm going to bust my rump twice as hard from now until graduation, and I'm going to make it." Nothing motivates me more than proving someone wrong about some aspect of my character.

When my car came into view, none of the other grass-parkers were in sight. A little closer, and I noticed a citation affixed to the windshield.


I was charged $25 for parking in the grass. Well, you know, I pay you thousands of dollars in books and tuition each term and I don't make life at all difficult for you people. The least you could do would be to have enough parking to accommodate at least 500 more than the entire student population. At least. Furthermore, posting clear indications that there is to be no parking in the grass would also be a good idea.

Now, there has only been one time in which I received any sort of traffic violation. I got it nearly nine years ago downtown. My meter ran out on me. My fault entirely. The ticket was paid the following Monday. Having been cited for parking on the grass irritated me. I shouldn't have even bothered not getting the temporary permit. In fact, I don't see why I didn't just pull straight up to the building in which my lecture takes place.

I'd had a mind to purchase a parking permit (good for a year), but after today's fiasco with the unavailability of parking, no way. They're so over-priced, as well. I'll keep my money and pay off my loans $100 sooner, thanks.

Results of my first exam tomorrow morning. I hope that brightens up my world. It should.

...but, knowing my luck, I'd better not put any stock in that at all.

Oh, yes, and despite my mentioning several times that I have a big exam next Monday, my flatmates have seen fit to invite some loud guy and his loud girlfriend over to cook dinner and watch what I'm assuming will probably be some loud movie. All of this to take place within the next two hours. Going to study as hard as I can until then.

Oh, no. It starts now. The front door just opened and slammed shut. Heaven help me to be kind and diplomatic with these jokers.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Monday, January 25, 2010

Par for the course

Dear Ms...err, Mrs. Blondie,

Thank you for your interest in my proposal. I was terribly excited to see that you had registered to lend a helping hand, and was very much looking forward to getting better acquainted with you. When we'd last spoken, I was taken aback by the mention of your interest in neurology. You're the first aspiring neurologist I've met, and I found this wonderfully exciting...and your physical charm didn't hurt anything, either.

As the time of our first interaction as a group approached, I became increasingly nervous and couldn't wait for you to arrive. When you finally did show up, five minutes early, and blushed a bit as you grinned and excitedly said hi, I had a feeling that we were really going to hit it off.

...and so we did! I couldn't stop smiling!

...that is, until I noticed the ring on your finger.

...and then you constantly mentioned your husband. My mood declined a little with each utterance of the phrase. "My husband" this, " husband" that. I know. I backed off when I saw the ring, 30-some minutes ago. Slow on the uptake though I may be at times, this was wholly unnecessary.

Thank you, though, for having been upfront about your relationship status, unlike the last woman I pursued, who strung me along for several weeks before casually mentioning her boyfriend of several years.

Wishing you continued success in your marriage,

J.O. Morris

Saturday, January 23, 2010


My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Some things on my mind:

Finished The Dharma Bums today on the bus home, and with nearly perfect timing...finished the last sentence about a minute before my stop.

One of the last great quotes from the book:

"But let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious."

Took the night off, watched a couple of films, and had a few beers with my pre-med cohorts. It was a good time. In between films, we discussed several aspects of organic chemistry in depth and I stepped back from it for a second to realise what was taking place. Instead of being out chatting up females on this Friday evening, four intelligent, not-bad-looking guys were sitting around in an apartment sorely in need of a good cleaning arguing over reaction mechanisms. It was a strange moment, but I swiftly came to the realisation that there were few places that I'd rather be. I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to pursue my academic interests, and to have other people equally as enthusiastic to discuss it all with.

Kate Beckinsale is...astounding. That accent, too.... Oh. My.

My alarm is set to go off in approximately six hours. Approximately one hour later, I'll be with my nose in a book revising for an exam on Monday...probably put in a good 12 hours, and another on Sunday. Glad I'm stocked up on coffee.

Noticed a girl walking in the opposite direction on campus today. She was checking me out, no question, because when I took notice and reciprocated, she smiled. I smiled. As she passed, I fought with all of my might to resist the urge to turn around and initiate conversation. Had to get to physio lab, though, and was pressed for time. She was quite lovely, but perhaps a bit short. Brunette, blue eyes, slight tan. Mm.

Got asked to go on a road trip with a girl who I think might be chasing after me. The adventure is right up my alley, but to accept would send the wrong message. Complications. Needless. Darn. Darn That Dream. Good song.

That about rounds it out.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coincidence, or something else?

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Strange things are afoot. It all began at the beginning of the term (not even two weeks ago!) when I pulled out my copy of The Dharma Bums for reconsideration. It had been years since I'd read it, as I believe I have mentioned at least once had been years since I'd read any Kerouac.

My mind began to wander again through thoughts of beautiful and peaceful Buddhist imagery, and I found myself once again looking at nature through child eyes...wonder, amazement, tranquility. Having always been a fan of nature, it took my first reading of Walden to really open my eyes, and then The Dharma Bums to reawaken them. Lovely.

As recounted the other day, I ran into a fellow selling what purported to be peaceful messages. I longed for a sincere transaction, and had time permitted, I may have had one today.

My university holds an open-air market at some scheduled intervals that I once knew but have since forgotten. Today was one of the days. Among the tables of frats and sororities trying desperately to recruit a bunch of poor, lost suckers also sits tables for groups with political affiliation (or with none at all!), some sell food, others sell entertainment memorabilia, and so on.

Let me back up and tell you that when I made my way out of one of the many coffee/tea shops on campus, having secured a delicious blend of green teas, I was on my way to a class that was to start in 15 minutes. As the doors swung open, I heard what sounded like finger cymbals, or something similar, crashing at a steady beat. My heart rate elevated and I immediately thought of far east monks, chanting and spreading their word.

Where!? WHERE!?

At some table, off to the side, kind of near to where the frats and sororities advertise, that's where.

Seated under the shade of a four-posted cloth overhang (couldn't tell you the correct term) was an older gentleman in a saffron robe. Perhaps this would be of some interest!

As I approached, a young Asian man walked up to the table and initiated conversation. I wanted to join in and see what there was to see, but no time. A sign hanging from the front of the table mentioned free organic dietary information. Lots of little books stacked up. Hmm, why just this when a few tables down, some guy is yelling at the top of his lungs about a severe Christian guilt trip -- "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL, HE'S GOING TO HELL!!" and on like that. While I subscribe to the Christian faith, I certainly don't associate myself with that sort of finger-pointing. Where we end up is purely God's choice. All we can do is carry on in the best, most sincere, and compassionate way we know how.

At any rate, the man was bald on top all the way down to just above and behind his ears. Grey, curly hair. Grey and white beard just barely in need of a slight trimming...not an overwhelming jungle at all. Didn't get a look at his eyes, or any other detail of his face, for that matter.

I went hunting around in the library for another book to read, ending up with The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, which I'd selected rather at random from amongst the dozens of other books dealing with Buddhism. The reason I settled on this particular book was something I'd read on pages 117 and 118 after just happening to open the book up to that point. Here is what I read:

If we consider a particular moment of perception, the object of that perceptual episode no longer exists. This is so simply because of the mundane fact that the chain of events responsible for the arising of perceptual consciousness takes time. So the tree of which I am perceptually aware now is a tree that existed about one hundred milliseconds ago; not one that exists now. The light took some time to reach my eye; the nerve impulses from the eye to the brain took some time; visual processing took still more time. So if the story about how the tree is the percept-object condition of my perception according to which the tree exists simultaneously with the perception and exerts a causal power on my eye or visual consciousness were accepted, perception would be impossible. 

Of course, the last sentence of that really only does anything for you if you'd read the page(s) preceding. Anything at all dealing with perception grabs me by the ankles at once and does not relinquish its grip. I had to check it out.

And so I did.

As I made my way back to my apartment, I began studying the events of the last few days and wondered about how so many things related to the book I'm reading could make themselves apparent in my daily life. First, I thought it was a coincidence, like when someone or some thing shines a light on a particular word or phrase and it makes you take notice. "Hmm," you think, "I hardly hear anyone say that!" and suddenly, the whole world is saying it all around you. This must be it.

Then, I began to think about other moments in my life where such seemingly coincidental happenings were taking place, and I always come back to a feeling that none of this was random. The best part, and the part that makes me giggle like a child, is that I have no idea why these sets of events happen(ed) to me...and I know that I can't know why. Whereas once this was frustrating, now it is beautiful. Another of life's quirks, and something that might be answered after the completion of this life. Even then, maybe not. Makes no difference. Maybe this is the joy of ignorance!

These thoughts took me to a grand idea, but one that would, at least by percentages, be unsuccessful. Wouldn't it be fun to form a group whose sole purpose is to leave fragments of teachings from the wise, especially in matters such as compassion, forgiveness, and love, in various places to be discovered by unsuspecting university students? Little treasures that might profoundly impact their discoverer's life! Maybe it wouldn't even do that much, but would provide a few minutes of wonder over who would do such a thing, and why. I really found the idea appealing that, if stuck in library books, let's say, some of it would not be discovered for years, perhaps decades. This is something else that I got a kick out of as a child. While staying in hotels, I'd use the hotel stationary and pen to write something, anything, to someone, anyone and find a place to hide it so that it would not be discovered by the housekeepers, but by an unsuspecting guest. I even wrote some things and stuck them in a hole in the wall, later patched, of a house I used to live in. I know for a fact that all of the houses in that area were demolished to make way for new houses, which all look precisely the same as the ones that stood before. No doubt a shady deal led to that. But, I wonder if any of my writings were discovered by the workmen. Maybe not, but where did the end up? The possibilities are endless and fun to daydream about.

It's been a long time, Nora, since I've felt so silly and childish and adventurous...and fun! You don't know how much time I spent being serious as stone, always thinking of my studies. I'm glad this happened before I burned out and had to start all over, trying to figure out what to be...or worse yet, staying on the trail but failing miserably, only to be rejected by every last medical institution under the sun not once, but twice, or maybe even three times and THEN asking, "What now?" A balanced mind is a healthy mind, and the more fun I have with it, the healthier it feels.

Only time will tell what sort of oddball things you'll hear from me in letters to come. I'm looking forward to it.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Little (olfactory) trips to grandma's

Dear engineer lounge,

I often pass through you on exceptionally hot days (just about every day from April/May until early December), and not just for the protection you so graciously provide. You see, every time I open the door and enter, I'm greeted with the same pleasant aroma that I used to find in my grandmother's house. This is terribly important to me, for she left us over three years ago, and had moved out of the house I loved so dearly a year or two before that.

I spent much time in that house, exploring her cabinets and admiring the old-time things she had stored in there. She would smile and get a kick out of my rummaging, answering questions about items I found particularly fascinating...even at that age, for me it was the older, the better.

She'd wake up at 6 or 7 a.m. (can't remember which) each and every day, and start the day off by brewing some coffee to go with her breakfast. The wonderful scent of coffee combined with her home's natural smell was really something else...unique and comforting. Nearly every day, I'd awaken to the beautiful conglomeration of aromas wafting out of the kitchen, smile, turn over, and go right back to sleep. I miss that. It was a wonderful feeling of safety, comfort, and love.

Even in my angry and confused teenage years, the house really worked its magic on me...not that anybody else could tell.

So, engineer lounge, this is the real story  behind our frequent encounters. I'll have you know that I sometimes even go out of my way just to pass through, because in no time at all, I'll be gone from this university for good and will no longer have such a rare and pleasant opportunity. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face so many times already, and for all of the times to come.

With respect and admiration,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Foul mood

To whom it may concern:

It's "whoa," not "woah." Each time you spell it incorrectly, such a simple word, my irritation with you grows just a little larger. Also, your links to ultra right-wing websites that spin things so hard it's changed the rotation of the earth on its axis...yeah, dig deep, check out the sources, quit watching FOX News. I'm not interested in your greedy, self-centered politics.

Party Boy #1 (roommate): Please quit letting the front door slam. It rattles all of the other doors in the apartment, making it that much more aggravating and distracting. Don't make me sort out some sort of padding for the door frame. Just be civilised.

MA... 1/2 step forward, 3 back, huh? My faith in political decency had only been around 2 or 3 percent (a sharp increase from the...ugh, Bush years), but your shenanigans has cut it back down to size. What next? No, I don't even want to know. More of the same. Oh, well. It's not like that healthcare bill was anything near appropriate anymore, anyway.

All the best,

J.O. Morris


My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

In the living room of my apartment at this very moment sits a lovely young woman...who is single...and is sitting scrunched up next to one of her friends, who happens to be dating one of my roommates. Now, there are two empty sections on the larger couch and I should think that there'd be ample room for the both of us there. I should be out there, watching whatever typical Hollywood "comedy" they're screening, and flirting with a pretty girl.

Instead, I'm sitting at my desk in my room, by myself, with earplugs in to drown out the racket pulsating through the paper-thin walls. To make matters worse, I've been in here for four hours already this evening doing exactly 63 end-of-chapter problems from my organic chemistry textbook. With that out of the way, I am now turning my attention to 34 riveting pages from my statistics book. Better still, is that once I've read the chapter, there are 20 (mostly multi-part) questions that I'd like to knock out (although not due until Thursday), so that tomorrow, I may devote my out-of-class time to physiology.

Statistics... pretty girl...

Histograms... whiffs of pleasant, fruit-like lotions and hair-care products...

Percentiles, box-and-whisker plots, standard deviation... bright blue eyes, soft skin, flirtatious giggles...

"Pretty girls make graves," said the man, speaking of another subject entirely. I'm sure that he wouldn't mind my adoption and alteration.

...I don't buy it. But I have to.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Forgive me, oh Boddhisattva of intellectual radiance

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

As I made my way into the university library, I was approached by a wild-eyed young gentleman who asked if i was a full-time student here. Figuring that he was probably new and needed directions, I smiled and nodded. I was pulling up my mental map of the campus when suddenly, he shoved a book into my hand and asked if I'd ever tried yoga.

For some reason, I said yes. Yoga is wholly unappealing to me. I'm a large guy. Large as in tall, and I'm 20 pounds underweight (which makes no difference when it comes to yoga, but I thought I'd like to paint a better picture). I have the worst balance on the face of the planet. None other is clumsier. Well, at least that's what it feels like.

So, this guy tells me that he's studied as a monk for 10 years and has hit the road, forsaking wealth to spread the word about meditation, yoga, and other teachings of the east. I got excited because I am fascinated with that stuff, but this just didn't seem like the appropriate venue.

He put some more books into my hand, and I was looking forward to reading through them to see what jewels they may bear. He carried on, asking me about my major and such....kind of a swift operator, not really taking much time to soak in what I had to say. Just as I was wondering when or if he was going to ask, he asked.

"All I ask is a small donation, blah blah blah."

Even though I expected it, I was kind of hurt in a way. I wanted that to be a sincere transaction. The deliverance of knowledge, enlightenment, etc., out of the goodness of another being's heart.

I was barely audible when I told him I had no money.

He stretched out his hand so as to ask for the books back, and walked in the direction from which I'd just come.

I felt foolish, having stood there and listened to his game.

As I sat down here to write this, I began to wonder about all of the possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, he was sincere and even a dollar would've sufficed. Had I had a dollar to give... No, no second-guessing this. Had the man been genuine and talked at length with me, expressing emotions at my limited knowledge of such things, the situation would've been much different. I said a little prayer for him anyway.

Just another moment in my "small-town boy meets big city life" experience.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Monday, January 18, 2010

No place like home

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

This past weekend saw my temporary return to my mother's house. My grandmother is ailing, and I fear that her time may be short, so I seized the opportunity the long weekend provided and headed back...mainly to spend some time with her.

The plan was to see her Sunday afternoon for a spell, and then perhaps again on Monday, but it didn't work out that way. I was recruited to act as a shopping aid with my mom at the grocery store, which had the added bonus of her purchasing some items for me...things I normally don't have money for on my shoestring, university student budget. We made dinner together that night, trying out a new recipe, and it was an enjoyable and memorable experience...and the food was exceptional. I'd gotten in some good studying, which is rarely the case at my mom's because of all of the distractions (but I don't mind them at all), and I spent the rest of the evening watching television with her and reading more medical blogs. It's an obsession.

I had the rare opportunity to sleep in this morning and gleefully took it, only to wake up to discover that a day-long Mythbusters marathon was taking place for my sporadic viewing enjoyment throughout the day. If being a Mythbuster was a job from which I knew I could retire, I'm absolutely certain that I'd go that route instead of medicine. I'd probably go to PA school afterwords and have a good time of it until my end of days.

Visiting my grandmother (paternal...and the only remaining one I have) was an occasion more special than usual, for also in tow were my sister and my mother! My grandmother and mother hadn't really spoken nor seen each other since my parents divorced ten years ago. The last couple of times my grandma and I talked, she expressed interest in at least talking with my mom again, so I relayed the message each time, and my mom felt the same way. Since it was my mom who initiated the divorce proceedings, she felt a little awkward about keeping contact, and assumed that since my grandma hadn't made any attempts, that it was best to leave it at that. Of course, my grandma, the whole time, didn't want my mom to feel awkward by contacting her! Funny how things like that go.

It was a great time and my grandmother was in a great mood. She'd been sounding really bad on the phone, but looked and sounded like nothing in the world was wrong throughout our visit. It gave me hope (perhaps a false sense of) that cancer is not doing its dastardly deed within her. She should get her results back sometime this week. Fingers crossed.

While talking, I had one of those perfect, "I'm going to remember this always!" warm kind of moments. My grandma was talking about her life after marrying my grandfather (which she did directly after his return from WWII). They lived in a nice midwestern city, still Mayberry-enough that she could walk to work and back without fear of becoming any sort of victim. Only as an aside, she mentioned that it was oftentimes the case that, on her way to work, she'd wind up with a couple of dogs and children following her along her path. She said it was the sweetest thing and that the kids just loved to talk to her about her work, show her their favourite toys, and so on. She told this tale with such joy and all I could do was sit there beaming as I imagined the scene over and over. Cute.

Ah, also during that visit, as we first walked in I smelled the scent that, as a child, I associated with grandma (and at the time, grandpa's) house! I've smelled it time again in her new house, but hadn't really noticed it during the last few visits. I was pleased that it had returned.

After we got back to my mom's, I did my best to do some more homework, having fallen slightly behind in one course now, but it was no use. Dogs begging to get into my lap, almost immediately begging to get down, mom and I exchanging stories that neither of us have had time to share since my classes have, I gave in and watched some more Mythbusters as I ate half of the remaining batch of last night's dinner. I knew that in a few short hours, I'd be packing up again to head back to the apartment. I get a bit anxious and have a sense of dread each time I have to do that. For one, I never know what kind of shape I'll find the apartment in when I roommates are sloppy, although they've been really good lately. Let's hope it lasts. Also, and most importantly, it's just so hard to say goodbye to my mother. I'm really lucky to have her and realise that in just a few short years, I'll be hundreds, or probably thousands, of miles away. She's not getting younger. Should no major accidents occur, it'll be a really long while before she passes away...but still. Trying to imagine life without her is unbearable, and the thought has just now brought tears to my eyes.

I'm having a hard time with the idea of moving so far away, and only for my selfish reasons (in search of colder weather). I feel like I should stay within at least a hundred or so miles just to keep spending time with her. I don't want it to be a time of regret when she passes away...I want to feel like I maximised my time with her. But, then again, she'll have my soon-to-be stepfather, and they're planning on doing lots of travel after retirement (less than a decade from now! How strange a thought!) and I know they'd come and visit often, especially once (if) grandchildren appear on the scene! Ah, I don't know why I'm even thinking such things now. Still a ways off.

Right now, I have to focus on getting into medical school.

Quickly, while on the subject, I've added something else to my long list of back-up plans: PA school. I don't know why I never gave it much thought before, but in some ways, at least as I have had it explained to me, they have the upper hand against physicians. Less money one has to dole out for malpractice insurance, still great pay, less patients (less stress), a little more flexibility... I'd still apply to med school after PA school, though. I'm not sure when my cut-off point would know, that point at which I'd relinquish the MD dream and settle elsewhere.

I should just relax and float on down the river, to wherever it is the good Lord has seen fit to send me. Yes, that, I think I'll do.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Parker's Mood

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Charlie Parker.

It just does not get any better.

I can lay in my room, warm and snug in my bed, window open, watching the clouds roll on by, listening to the birds riffing with Bird, and feel like all is right with the world. This moment is perfection. I do so wish that you were here to share it.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two minutes

To whom it may concern:

I feel as though it is time to start a new tradition, mostly to whip myself back into shape to carry on where I left off with my "spontaneous prose" experiments (Thanks Mista Key-roo-ackylacky). To do this, the goal is to set a timer for a few minutes and just type. Anything and everything.

Two minutes on the clock. Ready, steady, g-o- GO:

Still think I might be falling for an Asian girl. Never had found myself too attracted to them in the past...just the way it was. But boy, them thar Persian girls really had me going for a while, what with their mysterious, silky brown hair and those who had exploding green eyes.

I sometimes still wish that my lectures would be interrupted by the roar of jets taking off, just as it was for me in middle school and high school. I wonder just how many folks out there might be able to say that part of their scholastic experience involved such frequent happenings. I'm so glad for it.

...and that was two minutes. Went by in a flash.

Other things on my mind, not timed:

Still reading The Dharma Bums. A thought occurred to me yesterday, and it was that if my friends and I were the characters in the book, I'd be Japhy Rider. Then again, I have a good bit of Ray Smith, as well...and have always wanted a good Japhy Rider in my life. Silly.

"This American Life" today was amazing. The introduction was a Harvard physicist calculating the numbers behind finding a suitable girlfriend in Boston. Funny, interesting, etc. Then, the first part told the story of an American man who ended up in China, doing Chinese opera, and it was there that he met a young lady. They went on a few dates, he moved back to the US, they didn't really keep in touch. He went back to China a few years later and went all over Beijing, I think it was, trying to track this girl down...and he found her! It was an amazing story. They ended up marrying, but it wasn't a "happily ever after" sort of thing. I guess they'd thought about splitting up, but did manage to stick it out. The next part was about transgender children, which was really fascinating. Such a thing never really occurred to me. The kids were really sweet and while they did talk about some of the torment they receive, that wasn't really the focus. I wondered, though, how many times those kids, and ones like them, have gone home crying...cried themselves to sleep, and that sort of thing. The very idea of such things has always eaten away at me, even as a child. I knew, and was sort of friends with, some kids who got picked on and, looking back, I can't recall ever seeing more sincere sweetness and all-around goodness than I did in those kids. Almost all of them still tried to be friendly to their tormentors, but it wasn't in a, "Hey, I'm not so bad, don't beat me up," kind of desperation. It was honest-to-goodness kindness and willingness to set junk aside and just try and get on well with people. I hope all of them grew up to have the kind of things they so rightfully deserve--the love of a good partner, good family, good friends; a meaningful and happy existence.

Talked to some nice folks who work in the campus bookstore as I was getting some tea this afternoon. Quite friendly, talkative, and happy. They made me leave grinning and feeling good about the world.

Pardon me, but I have a date with some physiology notecards, dinner, and then visitation with friends.

All the best,

J.O. Morris

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some indication that my father was at least partially correct

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Recently, an audio recording of a lecture at my university by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine became available. I was in attendance for this lecture and had hoped to learn a lot about what a DO is and isn't. I never had a clear picture. All I had was what my father told me throughout my youth, which was that all DOs are crazy and won't do you a bit of good. Naturally, having come from my father, I took this as complete, indisputable truth.

Of course, as I grew older, I realised that there are just as many bad MDs as there are bad DOs, but that the majority of folks with either degree are worth their weight in salt...but I still didn't know how a DO practices, precisely.

So, yes, here I am, sitting in this lecture hall with a large sample of my university's population, all eager to hear what all there is to be said.

Things started off smashingly. She gave distinct definitions of what a DO can and can't do as compared to an MD, and I was satisfied. Then, she got into some of the specifics about how a DO treats patients. Interesting, but not how I want to practice. At this point, I was just kind of wishing that I could get up and leave...go study organic chemistry, or something. Yeah, desperation. I'd heard what I wanted to hear.

...and then I heard more than I wanted to.

Here is a portion of the actual audio recording (quality slightly questionable, but not grating on the nerves or anything):


An anti-EMF pendant.

This sounded like New Age quackery and not serious medicine. I sat in amazement at what I'd just witnessed. I hoped that she was joking.

She carried on a bit after this, but it was too much for me. I had to get up and out of there, and the sooner the better. Some other folks had the same idea. Maybe they had class, or maybe they, too, were suppressing laughter with all they could muster.


Part of me wished my father could've been in attendance. I told him about it shortly after the incident, but it just isn't the same.

I imagine that if I hadn't discovered that my father was wrong about most DOs, after this experience, they'd have seemed a bunch of space aliens to me. Heh, an amusing thought.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Talkin' 'bout talkin'

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I'm in the university library at the moment--the first floor, or "the dungeon," as I often refer to it. Rather than pounding physiological facts into my brain, I'm daydreaming about a situation that is quite common but really caught my attention today.

Nothing is more fascinating to me during my cross-campus travels than hearing people conversing in other languages.

Language has always done something for me, and having (at one point, many, many years ago) thought I'd mastered just about all modern English had to offer (Yeah, I know. I swear I was always too mortified of appearing pompous to admit it aloud), other languages seemed like the obvious route to go.

I spent a lot of time learning Swedish after a fateful encounter, and as happy as I was with my progress...there was no one else around to speak the language with. All of my Swedish-speaking friends have gone back to Sweden, and the time difference and our busy lives makes it difficult to coordinate a Skype conversation or some such.

Just once, I'd like to be wandering around campus and speaking another language, any language, with someone. Even as a child, the prospect of speaking in code to my closest mates was wildly exhilarating. Many times were codes devised and employed, and great fun was had, but those days were all rather short-lived and dried up by the time I'd reached 6th grade. I reckon most thought it too immature a thing to be involved with, what with the fact that the middle school I went to was adjoined with the high school. Childish and immature fun has still, at the age of 27, stuck with me and I'm glad for it. Who wants to be a miserable old coot who is preoccupied with concerns of others looking down upon them?

But, I'm rambling. Surely on this campus are a number of Swedes, perhaps some pretty girls, just waiting for the chance to giggle at my bad grammar.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

To tea: I love you

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I've begun re-reading Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, which I first read approximately 8 years ago. When I read the following excerpt, tea became the most mysterious and wonderful tangible object in the world to me:

A peacefuller scene I never saw than when, in that rather nippy late red afternoon, I simply opened his little door and looked in and saw him at the end of the little shack, sitting crosslegged on a Paisley pillow on a straw mat, with his spectacles on, making him look old and scholarly and wise, with book on lap and the little tin teapot and porcelain cup steaming at his side. He looked up very peacefully, saw who it was, said, "Ray, come in," and bent his eyes again to the script.
"What you reading?"
"Translating Han Shan's great poem called 'Cold Mountain' written a thousand years ago some of it scribbled on the sides of cliffs hundreds of miles away from any other living beings."
"When you come into this house though you've got to take your shoes off, see those straw mats, you can ruin 'em with shoes." So I took my softsoled blue cloth shoes off and laid them dutifully by the door and he threw me a pillow and I sat crosslegged along the little wooden board wall and he offered me a cup of hot tea. "Did you ever read the Book of Tea?" said he.
"No, what's that?"
"It's a scholarly treatise on how to make tea utilising all the knowledge of two thousand years about tea-brewing. Some of the descriptions of the effect of the first sip of tea, and the second, and the third, are really wild and ecstatic."
"Those guys got high on nothing, hey?"
"Sip your tea and you'll see; this is good green tea." It was good and I immediately felt calm and warm.

I thought from then on as tea-brewing being an art form, and perhaps even a spiritual sort of ritual. I was reading this book at work, in a coffee shop that just sold that cheap Bigelow crap, and stopped at the grocery store after my shift ended to buy a box of the best stuff I could find.

Ended up with regular old green tea, in little bags without a string, which tasted like grass. I kept drinking it, though, thinking that, like beer, it is an acquired taste.

No, as I later learned, the stuff I'd purchased was no better than the Bigelow stuff at my job.

I spent a few years strictly drinking the bagged stuff. It was not until I met Old Flame that I first encountered the joys of looseleaf tea. One of the first of many similarities we shared was a desperate fondness for tea. Hmm. Once she turned me on to the looseleaf stuff, I've hardly looked back. One of the best gifts I ever received came from her on my 24th birthday...a tea strainer and a bag of quality green tea blended with some sort of cherry and rosehip bits. I felt like I inherited the world, and my first independent brewing experience shall live on in my memory until the end of my days.

When preparing a cup, I first like to observe the manner by which the steam is rising from the cup. Next, I note the change in the steam-rising-pattern as the strainer is introduced, and then watch with childlike glee as that old familiar turbidity comes on, settles... Then, there's the first sip, like a gracious bow to a dance partner in some customary dance of a far away land. Things press on swimmingly until the last two sips. It's that sip before the last that always, without fail (assuming it's good tea to begin with), tastes the best. It's perfection. Not too hot, not too cold. Not to strong, nor too weak. It's satisfying, like the feeling of downing a half-gallon of ice cold water after prolonged exertion in the worst of the summer heat. It's a beautiful and touching farewell, with the last sip being that wave through the window of the the train pulling away from the station, bound for destinations unknown. Best of all is when those last two tastes leave one yearning for another cup. I don't generally give into that lust, for it's been my experience that any subsequent cups are never quite as good.

I'm severely indebted to Mr. Kerouac for numerous contributions to my life, which all started at the age of 18 when I read On the Road. The time in the spring of 2006 when I took to studying Buddhism on my own, was one of the most beautiful and peaceful times in my life. I had no intention of becoming Buddhist, and didn't, but I took away some serene imagery and helpful mechanisms for dealing with certain troubling aspects of life.

I sometimes want to pack it up and head off to the mountains in Nepal, grow my hair and beard long, and meditate, write, paint, think, dream, learn, wonder, appreciate, wander... I would say Tibet, but China's gone and ruined that...and for that reason, I didn't say China. Japan is appealing, but is too "modern" in the sense that whenever the country is mentioned, mountains and peace and Buddhist mental meanderings are not the first things one thinks of. Personally, electronics, manga, and strange expressions of sexual repression/aggression/who-knows-what are forthcoming. Shame.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Monday, January 11, 2010

Overjoyed at the prospects of this term

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

The return of the previously mentioned coat was an uneventful one, and I traded it in for a nice overcoat that compliments my wardrobe nicely. Wore it today, as a matter of fact.

Upon return to my apartment last eve, I discovered soon that the heater was not working. Temperatures were to drop to the upper 20s (F) overnight. As midnight approached, despite our best efforts, the apartment became quite frigid. When I retired for the evening (approximately 1 a.m.), I added four layers to three I'd already been wearing on my upper body, and another two layers below the waist. My bed was unfortunately a pretty solid retainer of cold and it took some time to get it warm. So, there I was, dressed for the arctic just to sleep. I am quite enamoured with cold weather, but I draw the line here.

Classes today were good. I have lovely lady friends in each of them, which I did not know was the case until arriving today! A welcome surprise. My organic professor (didn't take the same fellow I had last term--hated his manner of teaching) is much more tuned to my style, and there are twice the number of tests as the other professor gives. I don't expect to do poorly (Can't! Won't!), but the security of the grade being spread out makes me breathe a little easier. Physiology is going to be amazing. My professor is, first of all, absolutely stunning. She is of middle eastern descent and has the most wonderful accent...her voice is terribly cute. She is, unfortunately, married to my all-time favourite professor. Boo to that. The material seems easy enough, and she uses the same format for lectures and exams as her husband, so I'm in good shape. I have never had an extremely good-looking professor before, so this is a real treat.

Waiting to hear back from the hospital about my application for volunteering...excited to begin. Equally excited to begin planning the charity tournament with my friends in a pre-medical student organisation...good fun, and an interesting young lady with whom I've exchanged shy banter signed on for that committee. Looking forward, indeed, to seeing where that might end up.

I am excited to resume my studies and feel "at home" once again.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Well, how was I supposed to know?

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

This evening, I embarked on a journey to a local department store to snatch up a deal on a new leather jacket. After some careful deliberation in true male shopper fashion, it took about 5 minutes to pick the one I liked best and make my towards the register.

The lady with whom I conducted the transaction was quite nice, and even cut the tags and such free from the jacket so that I could wear it immediately. I got an amazing deal, saving $150. This was the best-fitting jacket I've ever owned. I did notice one abnormality, but I thought it was just the way the jacket was styled. When it comes to fashion, I have no clue.

I spent a few final free hours of hanging out with my friends back home wearing the jacket, and liked it more as time passed. Fantastic.

Upon returning home, I took the jacket off, again noting the irregularity, and emptied my pockets, as is my routine. As I examined the receipt from my beloved purchase, my eyes widened suddenly and I honestly did a double-take. The item was listed as "Ladies Outerwear."

Ladies Outerwear.

How the...?? It was on a rack with a bunch of other men's the men's department...which is a long way from the women's department. A long way. Furthermore, there is no indication whatsoever that this is a women's jacket. I wondered if some store employee put it there, laughing that some sucker (like me), unaided by female guidance, would unwittingly purchase it.

I can't believe I wore it all night and nobody said anything. They're probably just as clueless as I. I wonder what the nice lady at the cash register thought!

Then, the irregularity came back into focus. The buttons are on the left side of the coat, instead of the right. I do believe that I've always heard that this was the hallmark of a woman's coat.



Can't wait to see the look on the face of the person I'm explaining this tale to when I go to return it.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Therapy with the PGA Tour

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Previously unbeknownst to me was the return of the PGA Tour! Last year, I jumped in during the month of June on a complete whim on an anxiety-riddled and quite sleepless evening. The Golf Channel was televising some amateur match and I was stricken by the calm and hushed tone of the was such a welcome change from the majority of other television channels. As you may recall, I'm a quiet and reserved person generally and loud-mouthed television personalities are particularly grating. As I was saying, before I knew what had happened, two anxiety-free and relaxing hours had passed. I had found my anti-anxiety wonder drug, without requiring prescription medication! All I had to do was put on the Golf Channel for a bit and all was calm. Naturally, I had to devise a more practical approach and began imagining myself out there on the course on a nice, crisp and cold day, all by myself...nothing but me and the chirping birds. Terribly effective, especially when my patience is being tried by my annoyingly immature and sloppy roommates.

Looking forward to the year in PGA Tour golf!

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New techologies!

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

Whilst listening to NPR in the shower this morning, I heard talk of the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. This used to be something that would get me a bit excited, but after years and years of disappointing and seemingly pointless consumer garbage, I became disinterested. Fast forwarding to today, that old magic feeling has returned.

3D television was the big item of focus. 3D television. I know that 3D movies were kind of an unsuccessful undertaking in the 1950s, with quite limited use until the present. 3D television. It seems as though one must still adorn some sort of eyewear to participate, which is disappointing. I'm sure that someday there will be technology to shed the shades, and only then can I imagine any real widespread success of such products. The cost, the relative inconvenience, and lack of 3D programming (ESPN's coverage of the World Cup will be first, and some other network will soon offer its own dedicated 3D channel...not nearly enough considering the cost, and the fact that the network, although I've forgotten which, is a crappy one) will hold this back. Still a terribly exciting prospect, though. I'd love to watch Ken Burns' "Jazz" program, or Rick Steves' Europe in 3D! I think golf would be mildly entertaining for a minute, but I wouldn't mind if that stayed in 2D. Hmm.

Laser handheld projectors sound amazing and more practical than 3D televisions. I can imagine such technology could possibly be incorporated in medicine, perhaps best fit on the battlefield. However, not knowing much about any of those situations, I don't know the actual practicality.

Some of the items in the video in the article I read ( are still the same kind of garbage, especially the last two items... an alarm for when you've wandered to far from your phone (!?) and a wireless speaker integrated into a bedside lamp. Mmhm.

At any rate, it's exciting to see some of my childhood, Back-to-the-Future-fueled dreams of future technology kind of creeping out. Highly portable, practical mobile television was one thing that had desperately dreamed for around the age of 7 or 8, and now apparently with the switch to digital television broadcast has made that a possibility and such devices are also on display at the convention. Quite amazing, although I have no desire to own one at present. Even my MP3 player hardly gets any use these days.

The one piece of technology I dreamed of as a child, and still am patiently waiting for, is the hoverboard.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

DIY remedies

To whom it may concern:

I quite fancy making these videos and I wish I had more subject matter for them. In time, I reckon, in time. This is not something I personally experienced, but heard from my nurse friend not long after taking her first job after college.

I laughed uncontrollably for hours at the images conjured up by this tale after it was originally related to me, and it still nearly reduces me to tears each time I think of it. The best part is that the woman wasn't solemn or embarrassed as most people might expect. In fact, she was apparently proud of her DIY ingenuity. One must hand it to her...can't say as though I'd have thought of such a treatment.

All the best,

J.O. Morris

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One of my first experiences, exceptional patients

To whom it may concern:

I've just seen the fantastic "Patient faking seizure in ER" and was reminded of an experience whilst shadowing a neurologist one fine morning.

All the best,

J.O. Morris


My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

I've just learned that Old Flame became engaged on New Year's Eve, and my immediate reaction was an anguished one. I felt as though someone hit me square in the chest with a battering ram. What hurts even more is that I felt that way. I'm mad at myself for obviously still feeling so strongly for her, even after all of the heartache and misery she brought to me.

How can this possibly be?

Perhaps jealousy is tangled up in the formula. Marriage, even at the age of 5, has been my most sought-after desire. Three engagements have recently been revealed to me and I've not felt happy about any of them, though the realisation that I should is there. Depression must play some part in this, as well.

The need to get my head straight is now more apparent than ever. I am hereby announcing my intent to resign from this position of gloominess and misery and buy up the controlling share of stock in J.O. Morris, Inc.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Visions of the future

My dearest Nora, wherever thou mayst roam,

As I was showering in preparation for an evening at a friend's, A Prairie Home Companion helped me pass the time. I've taken comfort in the program in my automobile on a Saturday evening, mostly driving to an out-of-the-way grocery store to savour the time away from my roommates.

I first heard the production, however, on a Sunday morning after a visit to Old Flame's church. It was March and still slightly cool outside...quite comfortable. The down-home, suspended-in-a-time-gone-by atmosphere grabbed hold of me, as you would probably expect.

As I was saying, though, tonight's program was a retrospective and during a segment in which a mother was calling her son from The Price Is Right studios just before going on, my mind drifted from the humourous proceedings and thought how nice it might be to have a cozy little house sort of out of the way, and to be listening to the program as my wife and I prepare and consume dinner together. It'd be a Saturday evening ritual, even when children enter the picture. I would hope that it'd be something they'd look back on many years down the road and feel a sense of warmness and joy at the time we all spent together.

Yes, I quite like to dream of such things and anxiously await the chance to make them a reality.

May the grace of He keep you always,

J.O. Morris

Friday, January 1, 2010

A tribute to greatness

Dear Jack Benny,

You don't know me, having died approximately 8 years before my birth, but I know you very well.

I'd first heard of you on a PBS program showcasing the greatest of television comedians. It's difficult to admit, but the presentation on you did little for me. However, a year or two later when we bought a high definition television, I was watching a digital broadcast channel called RTV (Retro Television Network). I believe Perry Mason had caught my eye at first, as I'm a huge fan of that program. After a brief commercial break, your program started and I had a mind to go in search of something else.

I am, a bit less than a year later, so incredibly overjoyed that I did not.

What I like most about your show is its simple presentation, not relying on flashy stage decoration and other such distractions...the comedy stands for itself. Despite being 50+ years old, almost all of the material could've just as easily been written in this day and age...that is, of course, if comedy show writers weren't so keen on taking the cheap, raunchy road to get a laugh.

It might amuse you to learn that I have subconsciously adopted your hand-to-cheek response in comically exasperating moments and had a great laugh when I realised it. I make Jack Benny violin jokes in hopes that I might connect with others out there who also enjoy your program, but so far, my search is in vain. However, my grandmother and I did have a somewhat lengthy conversation about you and your program, and we had quite a laugh whilst doing so.

Thank you, Mr. Benny, for the hours up on hours of quality entertainment. I'll do what I can to pass your show on to my children, should I ever have any, and to whomever else I can.

All the best,

J.O. Morris

P.S. You never did look a day over 39.