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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My 16-year-old son, "Derrick," recently stopped talking to me. Frustrated about not being able to open the lines of communication, I installed a keystroke recorder on our home computer. It enabled me to see what Derrick was writing in his e-mails. I know it was a violation of his privacy, but I was afraid and didn't know who else to ask what was going on.

I learned that Derrick has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. They are discussing various options, and he is thinking about running away from home.

How can I help my son through this, having gained this information in an underhanded way? If I reveal how I learned about this, I will lose his trust forever. But if I don't help him, I don't know what will happen. Please help me. -- SPY DAD IN TEXAS

DEAR SPY DAD: You may not have to tell Derrick how you got the information. You are his father. Sit him down, tell him you love him, that he's the most important thing in this world to you and that you're worried sick because he has become secretive and uncommunicative. Tell him that if he's in any sort of trouble he won't be punished or lectured to and that you will do whatever it takes to help him. And do not let him get up until he has finally told you what is wrong.

DEAR ABBY: Why is President Barack Obama considered to be African-American? Isn't he bi-racial? -- WONDERING IN GOLDSBORO, N.C.

DEAR WONDERING: He is both. The term African-American is used in this country as a label that describes skin color -- although in President Obama's case he is literally African-American because his father was an African from Kenya, and his mother was an American from Kansas. However, the term bi-racial is equally accurate because it describes mixed-race ancestry.

DEAR ABBY: I have been a professional musician for more than 25 years, playing piano in restaurants, lounges, stores, etc. My problem is I have never been able to talk and play at the same time. I must wait until I'm through with a song to talk to a customer.

I know that pianists appear to do this in movies, but those are actors who aren't really doing the playing -- someone else is.

When someone tries to talk to me in the middle of a song, I can either: (a) stop playing and answer the question, making the rest of the audience unhappy, or (b) struggle to answer and end up making mistakes and, perhaps, even losing my job.

I can't be the only pianist with this problem. Do you have any advice for me -- and can you print this so people will be more respectful to musicians? -- WAIT 'TIL IT'S OVER IN OHIO

DEAR WAIT: I have it on good authority, as well as personal experience in piano bars years ago, that many pianists can not only play and talk, but also play and sing. Having made it through a quarter of a century at the keyboard, I doubt you need much advice, but I'll offer this tidbit: Post a discreet sign atop your piano asking listeners to please refrain from making requests while you're playing. You might also consider a small metal tray upon which they can place their "requests."

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