Saturday, May 24, 2008

War, peace, and surgery

My first article of choice today concerns a set of experiences that I am very thankful my parents didn't put me through (although they threatened to when I was exceptionally rebellious): the junior year of high school. Since I was home educated through 12th grade and attended community college simultaneously during my junior and senior year, I got a taste of the stress, but nowhere near the level of the young people featured. For that same reason, I hope the other 49 states stay saner than California. Excerpts below; bold parenthetical material mine.

[Eleventh-grader] Ms. Glickman typically wakes up at 6 to get ready for a school day that begins at 7:30 a.m. The night before, she packs her lunch -- usually a bottle of water, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and a treat like Scooby-Doo fruit snacks. (Yikes! I usually took three times that much when spending 11 hours at community college. No wonder her stomach hurts!) The cafeteria at Farmington High School offers a wide selection of dishes. But Ms. Glickman's packed schedule doesn't have time for a sit-down lunch because one of her elective classes, chorus, meets at lunchtime. Her chorus teacher lets the kids quickly grab lunch out of paper bags in the back of class.

Hours of Homework

As she moves from class to class, the demands of being a junior pile up. Honors Spanish -- 30 minutes of homework a night. Advanced-placement English -- 30 to 90 minutes a night, depending on which books or documents the class is studying. Honors pre-calculus -- another hour of homework. Honors biology -- 30 minutes more. At the end of the day comes Ms. Glickman's favorite class and her toughest -- advanced-placement history, with two hours of homework a night, including reading and regular essays.

Total: an average of four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half hours of homework a night. (That's five classes, not counting electives.)

Another junior's brother "finds college less pressured than junior year of high school." Discussion starter: Do you readers have suggestions why this is the case? As a side note, Darth Kelvin (a former coworker) managed to have a 9pm bedtime and a 6am rising time - it shows what one can do with well-trained self-discipline.

Next on the list of great articles for today is a eulogy of a microsurgical pioneer, Harry J. Buncke. In particular, I found his technique of a toe-for-thumb substitution amusing (emphasis mine):

A British doctor who had studied microsurgery with Dr. Buncke performed the first human big-toe-to-thumb operation in 1968 on a cabinet maker who had an accident with a circular saw. But Dr. Buncke's first four attempts at repurposing toes as fingers ended in failure when the transferred digit died.

In 1972, Karl Tagler, a Redwood City, Calif., fireman, sliced off his thumb with an electric saw while building a house. After an operation to reattach the thumb failed, Dr. Buncke transplanted Mr. Tagler's big toe as a replacement.

Contacted at his rural California home, Mr. Tagler says that 36 years later, "the thumb works beautifully," and is almost unnoticeable, although "people will notice I have a stronger grip than some people." The fire department forced him to retire, but Mr. Tagler subsequently worked as a forest ranger and home builder, among other jobs.

As for me, I'm just glad to have a big toe that will turn out straighter and won't have to be used for a thumb after all the work the surgeons did straightening it Thursday!

Finally, here's a short op-ed concerning a topic of deep interest to Caoilfhionn, anti-antiwar protests. It speaks for itself.

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