Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So, I finally got my book from the library. Yeah!

It was a little hard to get into at first, after reading six unrelated books between the second book and this one.

But now, the book is done (although apparently not the series. What a let down. I had no idea there is going to be a fourth book. Good thing though, since the ending would have been terrible if the third book was the final one.)

Anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm calling these books the Dragon books. Technically, they are called the Inheritance Cycle (yes, "cycle," not series.) But the only people that know what they are called are the ones who've already read the books. But since everyone has seen the big, fat books with different colored dragons on the cover at Wal-mart, Barnes&Noble, or any other place you can buy books, that's what I'm calling them.

I read these books because I've been on a semi-fantasy/science fiction kick lately (with a little Austen mixed in.) They haven't reached Twilight or Harry Potter popularity, so I hadn't heard anything about them, and figured I could read them without anyone passing judgment (as comes with reading Twilight in a house full of boys. And I was intrigued once I heard that they were written by a home-schooled, 15 year old boy.

Brief synopsis (with minimal spoilers, hopefully): The main character is a boy named Eragon who finds a dragon and raises her. Unfortunately this act brings a variety of horrible things to happen to him and his family. He eventually finds himself fighting, side by side elves and dwarfs, against the evil king who rules the land and wants to kill Eragon and his dragon.

Hope that's brief enough for you.

So, first what I liked...
It has the epic adventure fantasy style of Lord of the Rings and Wizard of Earthsea that I love to read. The basic idea and adventure is intriguing. The books, especially the first one, is an excellent option for younger readers, for whom other fantasy books are too dark, violent, or otherwise "questionable." They are an easy read and fun.

Unfortunately, that is about there the list ends.
Especially during Eragon, it is painfully obvious that the author was only 15 years old when he wrote the book. While the writing itself is decent, the depth of characters is lacking. The characters, regardless of their age, have as much insight and strength of experience, as, well, a 15 year old boy.

The books could use a good editing. While I applaud Paolini for thinking through all the details of his story, there is something to be said about leaving something to your readers' imagination. (Seriously, an entire chapter on the making of a sword?) There are times when it felt like reading Numbers in the old Testament, when they are sounding off all the measurements of the temple. Okay, we get it already; it's a big building.

However, the thing that I disliked the most, to the point of distain, was Paolini's reliance on other, far superior fantasy writers. From the use of true names from Ursula K. Le Guin, to the surroundings of elves and dwarves from J. R. R. Tolkien, I felt that he stole many of his ideas from major fantasy series and had very little to offer that was truly unique.

So, in summary, will I recommend them? Um, not really. Will I read the fourth book whenever it comes out? Of course.

More Vampires

Monday, December 29, 2008

While waiting for the third book in the Inheritance series from the library, I had to have something else to read. (I'm still not reading Harry Potter again yet. I'm waiting until just before the sixth movie comes out.)

So, after meandering through my books, I decided to read Twilight again. I started just as I went to see the movie.

I used to have the definition that a good book is one that you can read over and over again, and the book loses nothing with each re-read. That you enjoy it just as much when you finished it the second, tenth, or fiftieth time as you did the first.

Clearly, I will have to work on that definition. Because I don't consider the Twilight series "good" books, as in the writing is not strong and it only appeals to a very narrow group of readers. But, I have to admit, that I enjoyed entering Stephanie Meyer's world of love and myth just as much the second time.

This time, I decided to also read the unfinished manuscript that Meyer had posted on her website. For those that don't know, Meyer started writing a fifth book, titled Midnight Sun, that tells the story of Twilight from Edward's point of view. She had sent unfinished copied of the work to several friends, only to have the pages posted illegally on the internet. Since then, the work has been on hold indefinitely. However, she created a link to the manuscript so that her fans could read the first part of Midnight Sun without feeling guilty.

So I read it. All in one afternoon.

Reading the story from Edward's point of view was amazing. It added such dimension to not just Edward, but Bella. I will admit, Bella is a character that, up until the fourth book, frustrates me to no end. She is selfish, silly, and manipulative. I will give it to her that she is only 17 years old, and thus "entitled" to act like a teenager, but still. She acts in ways to get everything she wants without sacrificing anything. Seeing her through Edward's eyes helped mitigate my dislike of her.

Maybe seeing someone (even a literary someone) through the view of love helps soften their flaws, as it does in real life.

Hearing Edward's thoughts created a character that, unlike the one Bella sees, has the thought process of someone born in the early 1900s.

I hope that Meyer decides to finish the book and publish it. I'm sure it will be well worth the wait.

Wrapping Up

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Every year, I'm on the quest for the perfect wrapping paper. Something unique, gorgeous. Something that says the gift is from me.

I'm sure I could do it easier ways, just stuffing things into gift bags or using the closest Santa themed paper.

But this is my one time a year to show of any ounce of creativity I can muster. So I search through stores until I find the "perfect" wrapping paper. And then, I have to find ribbon and other accessories to make the perfect gift into a holiday work of ark.

This year's design:

(I wish that the scan had turned out better). This shiny paper lead to my color scheme this year: red and black. So my presents have this beautiful black on red bird pattern, wrapped with black satin ribbons. Fan-ta-stic!

The combination with the holly berries (picked up for a dime a piece at a pre-Christmas sale) with quite striking. A modern look, while still maintaining a very classic holiday look.

I'm quite proud of the final look. Who wouldn't want to open this?

Twas the night before Christmas

Sunday, December 21, 2008

As the preparations for the holidays literally wrap up, I am starting to make plans for Christmas Eve.

Since Christmas will be spent with my in-laws, the traditions of caroling to candle-light until the early hours and the Christmas present parade will not be taking place (Trust me on this: not singing with my brothers-in-law is a very good thing.)

But I still want to have traditions that can be repeated every year with my children. Those include Christmas Eve stories. These are my favorite:

1. The Polar Express: Even though we don't do Santa in our house, this is my favorite Christmas story. The pictures are magical, the story line simple and heart felt. Even though neither my children nor me believed in Santa Claus, it almost makes me want to. The beauty of receiving confirmation of a childhood belief is so wonderful, it brings tears to my eyes every time is read the last few words. "...for those who truly believe."

2. The Night Before Christmas: Another Santa story, I know. But one that is as ubiquitous with Christmas as "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls." The verses and mental images are the creation of an icon. The familiarity of the words is the perfect family tradition.

3. St. Luke's telling of the birth of Christ: Although the "complete" story is spread out over several gospels and several chapter, the story creates a sense of wonder. (My family traditionally does a skit every Christmas eve of St. Luke, there are never enough children to cover all the parts, and something always goes wrong, making the skit to the "inexperienced" look very irreverent.

4. The Velveteen Rabbit: While not completely a Christmas story, the beauty and child-like innocence of the story make it a perfect reading for the magical time of Christmas Eve. Especially, if you are so lucky to have one with fantastic illustrations.

5. My Penguin Osbert: A more light-hearted reading, the tale of a boy and his request to Santa for a real penguin is silly, wishful, and whimsical. Perfect for getting a few giggles into a rather serious, thought-provoking line-up.

I would love to hear any suggestions anyone has for other readings that I can add to my Christmas Eve line-up.

And maybe these will give some of you ideas for your own magical night before Christmas

All I Want

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As Christmas rapidly approaches (just 8 days left!), I've thought about what I would really want to open early Christmas morning.

My family always does a wonderful job, and Christmas is always magical. But today, I was thinking, "What if there wasn't a budget? What would I really want?"

So, here is my Christmas list, posted too late to make anyone feel guilty or obligated:

1. Digital SLR Camera: I've been reading reviews for months, and can't decided between the Canon EOS Rebel XS or the Nikon D60. I need to get into a shop and try them out and see which one feels better. While my digital point-and-shoot has been great, it is definitely time for an upgrade.

2. Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer (with storage stands): I know, appliances. Yes! It's not like there is anything wrong with our current washer and dryer. They work fine. But just look how pretty. And the thought of being able to stuff more clothes into a single load (all while using less water).

3. MacBook Air: I would like to say that I really, really, really need a laptop. And there are times that I do. Most of the time, it's just that I want one. So that I can blog at airports, check e-mail during incredibly boring days of radiology rotations, and Facebook during class. All noble causes. And it would also be nice to have to computers in the house. (And this one is so thin and pretty.)

4. Restoration Hardware Portman Sleigh Bed (in Espresso): After all these years, we still don't have a real bed. We've looked, of course, but haven't found anything that we really liked. Until now. This bed is gorgeous, with the dark wood, and shape of a sleigh bed, without being too curvy. And of course, it will be king-sized. The queen was fine, until the kids started sleeping with us, too.

5. Lasix: I'm sick of glasses and contacts, and all that. I'm done. Ready to actually see people when I wake up. That's all.

I think that I'm just going to stick with 5 dream items this year. So I don't look to greedy. Because I'm not really. It's just fun to dream.

Let It Snow

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Watching it snow. Cleaning my house. Listening to Christmas music.

And realizing with three to four inches predicted today, no one is coming to my party. More cookies for the boys and me.

Looks like it will be a white Christmas.

My Secret Love

Monday, December 15, 2008

I have a confession.

I have a love affair with the ocean.

Living in the land-locked, desert and harsh winter state that I do, it is sometimes easy to forget how strong my feelings are towards the ocean.

But all it takes is a moment, a glance, and all those emotions come rushing back.

Recently, I was traveling for school/work, and was driving from Loma Linda, CA to San Diego. As I wound through the hills, ever nearing the ocean, I could feel my heart beating faster and faint butterflies forming in my stomach. Just like the moment before you know you are going to see the boy you've been crushing on.

And then, I make a turn in the road. And the world falls away. There it is...the ocean.

(I'll even admit that there were tears in my eyes. Which, like the rest of this, is completely irrational and even a little silly. But it still happens.)

I managed to find time between my meeting and my flight to make it to the beach. Best 2 hours of my entire four day trip.

I'm not sure how to explain my emotions towards the ocean. Walking along the sand, just letting the water cover my ankles, I feel at peace. I only lived by the beach (well, pretty close) for 18 months as a young child. But the pull is always there.

Here, I feel the most connected to my childhood.

The sound of the waves, the feel, smell, taste of the salty air.

I always say (and yes, I am getting old enough to be able to say, "I always say...") that everyone needs a dermatologist and a therapist. (Maybe I'll explain that sometime.)

This is the best therapy session. I don't think about to-do lists, excuses, the hectic pace that normally fills my life.

I think of me (and not in a selfish, egotistical way). I feel connected to myself. My thoughts are clearer, and I find that I like my thoughts (at least in this place.)

I've lived elsewhere most of my life.

But this...

It always feels like coming home.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Yeah, I'm done with school!

No more tuition. No more "oh, you're just a med student."

(Now it "oh, you're just an intern.)

But still, I'm DONE!!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Currently, I'm on a nice, cushy rotation that only requires me to work 40 hours/week.

Yeah, that's right. Cushy. Just a normal full time job.

As everyone in the medical profession knows, five years ago, hours restrictions were placed for medical residents. This, among many things, included restricting the number of hours a week to 80. Just a measly 80 hours/week.

Apparently, this is not enough.

Who ever thought it was? 80 hours/week is more hours than professionals work in other jobs. And it isn't that you can work up until 80; the restrictions are that you can't work more than 80. And everyone knows someone who is working more. Many programs encourage "adjusting" hours, or logging out before the resident starts writing their notes, or before doing discharges, etc.

And as a medical student, there was no way for anyone to keep track of my hours, except me. I commonly worked 90-110 hour weeks on some rotations.

Once I asked about this in a school meeting. I was told that yes, the hours restrictions did not apply to me, because I had more to learn than a resident. I offhandedly replied, "Oh, I thought part of hour restrictions were for driving safety."

There were days I wasn't safe to drive home. But what was I going to do? Spend more time at the hospital on a Saturday afternoon while my family was at home?

I hope for the sake of both patients and medical students/residents that we continue to see improvement and better hours.

World AIDS Day

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1 is World AIDS day.

I'm so glad that there is a day for everyone to hopefully think about this disease.

Since its identification in the 1980s, this disease has claimed millions. Many of the victims are children.

HIV/AIDS is not just epidemic, but pandemic.

Hopefully, anyone at risk will take advantage of the free testing that is available in many communities, learn how to prevent it, or just educate themselves about the disease. There are so many stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS that it is important we get the truth.

A Girl Moment

Sunday, November 30, 2008

This weekend, I decided to cater to my inner adolescent and go and see Twilight.

Okay, I'll admit that I was excited for it. I loved the books, the reviews weren't too bad, and many bloggers (like here) said they liked it.

So, I took my mom and my sister, and prepared to enjoy a truly girl moment.

I liked the movie. Despite the reviews that said it was flat, and would only appeal to die hard Twilight fans. And even then, it might still disappoint. I still liked it. Even my mom liked it (and believe me, that's saying something.)

The characters were well casted, the story line true to the book, the soundtrack fantastic. The special effects were a little lacking, bordering on cheesy. But who cares, when you can look at Edward Cullen?

I was sure that since the movie came out last week, I would be able to get through the movie without the, um, "enthusiastic" viewers who went during the opening. But apparently, that was not to be. When Edward first made his appearance on screen, there was a wave of whistling and squeals. And every romantic scene was accompanied by more squeals and nervous giggles. (Seriously, is this the first silver screen kiss these girls have ever seen?!)

I thoroughly enjoyed my girl moment, and look forward to the DVD release.

Before the Holidays

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Every year, Christmas items show up in stores earlier and earlier. Some stores are barely letting Halloween hold the spotlight. And Thanksgiving? It's really just an excuse to have crazy sales.

I'm not really complaining. Although I do think that having Christmas displays in October and Christmas carols playing November first is a little ridiculous, I love Christmas. That right. Love, love, LOVE.

But I always try to pace myself. I don't play the carols or put of decorations at home until it is good and truly December. And I try to not buy anything until after Thanksgiving. You know, just making sure every holiday gets its due time.

And this year, I did pretty good. I only bought two rolls of beautiful wrapping paper and two (okay, fine, three) presents (which were way too cheap to not buy at the time). (And if I see the perfect wrapping paper, I have to buy it, regardless of what season it is, because it is slim pickins' later in the year. And the quest for the perfect wrapping paper never ends.)

But in two days, I will not have to make excuses anymore.

Let the holidays begin!!

And Happy Thanksgiving.

The Problem with Being Cheap...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recently, I decided that I couldn't afford to keep buying books at the same rate I was reading them.

(You know, with times being what they are, we all have to cut back.)

So, I went somewhere I haven't been since I first got married: The library.

And at first, it was great. I checked out six books, and it didn't cost me a penny. I nearly skipped out to my car with my armload of $100+ worth of books.

I was able to finish Le Guin's series.

I started the Inheritance cycle.

And that's where the joy ended. I was able to get the first two Paolini books without any trouble. But the third book. Well, that's another story. The book just came out a few months ago, and there is not a single library in the valley that currently has it on its shelves. I reserved it, only to be told "Your queue number was 659."

I think it is going to be a while before I get that book. At least the free way. The book is only $14.86 at Costco (Hardcover!). It is very tempting. Especially since I can't really read anything else while I'm mid-series with other books. And since I can't really write a great post about the books until I've read the entire series.

Needless to say, this is a dilemma.

Maybe I'll re-read Twilight, waiting for the other 659 people to hopefully quickly read Brisingr.

Mark Twain

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Before I go out of town and completely abandon both my family and this blog for an entire week, I thought I would leave some parting thought.

These thoughts come from the brilliant mind of Mark Twain, who always has a quote that fits my mood when I being particularly sarcastic.

So, ponder on these:

"Supposing is good, but finding out is better."

"The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain't so."

-Mark Twain


Saturday, November 15, 2008

While I'm on my fantasy kick, I decided to re-read some books that have been sitting on my shelf for years.

My grandmother got me a collection to Ursula Le Guin books while I was in middle school and on a huge science fiction reading kick. Let's just say I wasn't entirely pleased, but did read them. I had forgotten much of the details, but remembered that I enjoyed them, and was excited to read them again.

The first three, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore are a must read for fantasy lovers. The style of writing and epic adventure story line reminds me of Lord of the Rings. The "main" character, Ged, is an amazing hero, that I really want to support. Each of these stories can stand by themselves as an individual story (unlike the Lord of the Rings trilogy). However, reading them in order adds a depth to each successive book that would be missed otherwise.

I was excited when I found out that Le Guin had continued the series with Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind.

However, after reading Tehanu and Tales from Earthsea, I must confess that I'm not as excited to read The Other Wind as I previously was.

The collection of stories in Tales from Earthsea was a great collection of short stories, each with intriguing characters and interesting plots.

However, the difference between the original three books and Tehanu is striking. You can tell that Ursula K. Le Guin has undergone some personal changes. The book lacks the epic adventure that was at the heart of her first three books, moving at an often painfully slow pace with adventure and plot development few and far between. The book does focus on roles of male and female in society, not so carefully disguised under the cloak of magic. The theme was intriguing for me. Unfortunately, the story line, while interesting in parts, was not enough to engage the reader.

The interesting thing about these books is Le Guin's incredibly original twist on dragons and their origins and relation to people. (Sorry, no plot spoilers here.)

I still plan on reading The Other Wind, just because there is no way I can leave a series unfinished.

So my final recommendation: Read the first three books. They are FANTASTIC. But feel free to stop there.

The Female Ego

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We hear a lot, A LOT, about the male ego.

And supposedly this explains the majority of their behavior. Anything from problem fixing, chest thumping, job ambition, remote controlling, and door opening all arises from the sometimes frail male ego.

But we never hear about the female ego.

I never thought about my own personal ego until about 5 years ago. Before this, my feelings go hurt, I studied hard, and tried to fix my friends problems, not from an ego stand point, but because I was female and I was me.

I first became aware that I had an ego just as fragile and ambitious as any male when I went to medical school.

As an undergraduate, I think that all pre-med students are used to being at the top of their classes. I know that I was. I did better than most other students and had the grades to show for it.

So I entered medical school with these same expectations, even though I don't think I had ever given them the time of day to properly define them.

However, after our first anatomy exam, I scored right in the middle of our class.

And at that time, I realized that I am only an average smart person.

My egotistically way around this was to study harder than the above average smart people. And it paid off for the most part.

I am writing about this because I just had another run in with my ego. I got my first interview rejection. I wasn't necessarily bothered by it. I hadn't planned on interviewing at Stanford anyway. (And honestly, I'm not just saying this because they turned me down). The cost of living is ridiculous in Palo Alto, and there is no way to afford a home that my family desperately needs. But I wondered why the rejection carried with it a little bit of a sting. Being completely honest, that's because I liked to think of myself as Stanford material. And to have Stanford tell me I'm not hurts my ego.

I'm going to go nurse it with some plane tickets to a program that wants me.

Two Places at Once

Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is a problem with having two blogs.

When I initially started blogging, I, like so many other busy parents, started one to keep friends and family updated on the comings and goings and life-happenings of my little family. I regularly post photos, school events, and birthday parties on my family blog.

(I have also poked and prodded nearly all of my family members to start blogging as well, so that I can keep up with what is going on in their lives. It so far, has been to no avail. Although three of them have set a blog, none of them have posted since the day they first logged on.

But that is neither here nor there...Just a continuation of my guilt trip.)

I initially started this particular project when I felt that I had more to share than was appropriate on a family newsletter type blog. I wanted a place to talk about books, poetry, quotes in particular, random thoughts and life in general.

And it has been great so far, each blog respectfully maintaining its boundaries.

But I find that there are some topics that don't pigeon hole as nicely as I would like them too. Do I talk about the election on this blog or the family blog? (I decided to write on both.)

When I am feeling overwhelmed by the joy and struggles of parenthood and career and marriage, do those thoughts belong to my family, or to the more anonymous world of this blog? I'm not sure.

The blogs have more defined roles than my thoughts do.

While I work that out, I will share this.

That I am fiercely proud of my children. Even now, after and in the midst of the messes, power struggles, teething, and frustrations, I am deeply in love with them. I tear up when I am presented with drawings done especially for me. I feel the heart crushing pride at each new idea, statement, leap of faith, and step of independence.

I love my children.

Yes We Can

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I have attempted to make this blog a random collection of thoughts, opinions, and self-reflection.

I have attempted to avoid politics (despite how much I talk about them personally).

But tonight, I will say that I feel priviledged to have seen America come together and vote a black man into the highest position in the United States.

Regardless if you are for Obama or McCain, big government or small government, for the war or against it, this is an amazing milestone in not only our history, but the history of the world.

I know that there is no perfect politician. That promises made on the campaign trail are mostly empty. That there is more red tape and interia against change than there is for it.

But I will say that when I listen to now President Obama speak, that for the first time I can remember, I feel hope. That things will get better. That I can stop being so afraid of what the future has to offer my children. That finally, I have reason to believe that we can make a better world.

And nothing has made me feel like that in a very, very long time.

Having been raised in a extrememly "red" state, by conservative parents, I have always considered myself conservative, right-winged, red, or any other label you would choose to put on it.

But today, I am proud to have contibuted to what I feel is finally, a reason to hope.

Yes we can.

Tickle Me Pink, or blue, or yellow...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Apparently, I have a lot of free time on my hands.

I don't really, I just think I do.

Apparently, I have time to read random blogs, take online personality tests, and watch cooking competitions. So really, I should have time to put away the growing pile of laundry, write my research paper, finish some of my art projects, and cook dinner.

However, is there anything better than online personality tests? This one is interesting, since it is based on colors. Apparently that fact that I like blue more than purple, and lime green more than gold says a lot.

Like that I'm an "Organizer" and a "Persuader."

My husband's only comment: "You really need a test to tell you that?"


Thursday, October 30, 2008

I have to wonder how my Gmail knows me so well.

When I was reading my email, a quote came across the top:

"Indecision may or may not be my problem."
-Jimmy Buffett

This may be the best quote to describe myself. Or not. I'll keep looking.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

I realized this week how much I love it when I get comments on my blogs. (Okay, this particular blog doesn't really get any comments). When I sign in, and see a comment, I get excited to see who it was and what they said. And it never gets old.

I think the best part is not necessarily what is said (although, don't get me wrong, I enjoy the feedback). No, the best part is that someone actually read what I wrote. That I put myself out there. And it got noticed.

After all, anyone who blogs regularly knows that a lot of thought goes into each post. What topic to cover, what pictures to add, and how to make it interesting. After all that effort, it is satisfying to have the acknowledgment that it was noticed.

I read a lot of blogs. I don't put myself out there as much as other "writers" do. After reviewing some of the topics I've covered in this blog, I realize that I don't come off as thoughtful or insightful. Maybe I haven't become brave enough yet.

It's a work in progress.

I've also realized that while I wish I was funnier, more clever, wittier, and thought-provoking, I'm just me.

And that's also a work in progress.

So, hopefully with time, this blog will continue to grow with me.

And please, continue to comment.

More Teen Books

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I know. You think that with eight years of post high school education, I would enjoy a philosophical, though-provoking book. And it's not that I don't. It's just that I prefer something less strenuous. And something that is completely different than my life. It's what I call brain candy.

And I just finished the most delightful serving.

I admit that I hadn't heard of Libba Bray. And apparently neither have any of my friends, even the ones who actually read the Twilight series. But I think that this series could be easily as popular as Twilight. (Especially since they are making a movie!)

After I read the Twilight books, I found that I didn't have anything I wanted to read. I spent time on LibraryThing and Shelfari, looking for "what should I read next." And nothing stood out. Until I read a review about one of Libba Bray's books.

"This series will appeal to lovers of Jane Austen's novels,
along with older female readers of Harry Potter."

Okay, now I had to read it. I've never read a description that so accurately describes the books I loved.

The books are A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. Most of the titles are lines from classic poetry. And the cover art is some of the most beautiful I have seen.

I'm not going to give anything about the plot away, in case you were worried.

The triology, set in 1890s, features sixteen year old Gemma, who moves to London to attend finishing school. However, she is haunted by a secret that she doesn't understand and that threatens to destroy her and everyone she cares about.

These books explore not only the magic and power surrounding Gemma (yes they are fantasy), but also the twisting, complicated psyche of the female teenager. Although the writing is lacking in appropriate period figures of speech and language, the story not only explores the fantasy world, but the social pressures and expectations of females, at that time and today. Issues of race, class, and self-identity are discussed.

Libba Bray also brings to the surface a multitude of issues that young girls face, not just then, but today. She mixes these issues throughout her characters, and they alway come to surface just when you least expect it (and in the character you least expect.) And you realize: everyone has a secret.

Gemma, who desires to be her own person, still desires to be beautiful and wanted. She can be frustrating, doing things against her better judgment because of her friends. And then she can be amazing, turning against the most stringent social pressures. She can be very immature and the next second, make the best decision.

These books are a wonderful read for any girl that felt she didn't fit in, that there was something about her that made her different from the girls around her. For every girl that remembers how confusing being a teenager could be, and how hard it can be to separate out what you want and what everyone around you wants.

The Big Picture

Friday, October 17, 2008

So in all of my free time [insert sarcastic laugh here], I was surfing the web, and found some of the most amazing images. I just has to share them with you.

The photographs are the work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who hopes to inspire everyone to think globally and to inspire sustainable living.
They are going to be on exhibit in New York in 2009, and then in California in 2010. This is an exhibit I would love to see. We all have dreams.

I hope that you are amazed by this pictures as much as I am. The perspective is unique and awe inspiring. It makes us realize how diverse the world is. At the same time, the subject is familiar, and feeds the sense we are all connected.


Glimpses of Autumn

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm feeling drained from the events of the last few weeks. From personal events, to political events, to professional events, I don't really have the energy or creativity to say anything even remotely clever at this moment. But rather than let myself wallow in misery and fatigue, I will fall back on my self-proclaimed optimism, and share something I love.

I love fall. The dynamic nature of the season, the fundamental transience draw me in. As sad as I am to see summer go, and despite knowing that fall signals the inevitability of winter, I can't help but revel in the season.

The other wonderful part of fall is the amazing photography opportunities. I will not claim to be the best photographer out there, but I love what I do and have some small sense of pride in the result.

So here of some of my favorite autumnal images. Enjoy!

Because harvest is such a part of fall...

Guilty Thoughts

Friday, October 10, 2008

I have to admit something. As much as I would love to have my life governed by happiness, idealism, and other lofty motives, it hasn't been that way in a while. Lately, the main motivator in my life has been guilt.

One of my friends once told me that guilt was the most useless of all emotions. And I must disagree. I will readily admit that guilt feels terrible, that it can weigh one down and completely eliminate other motivators. (I will get to why I disagree later...)

And for the last, oh, I don't know, several years, I have been lugging around my own guilt grindstone. There are so many pressures on women and families these day (I'm sure there are similar pressure on men, I just don't internalize them, and therefore can not elaborate on them). I personally believe that every women is riddled with guilt. Maternal guilt is nearly a definable disorder.

I've been taking a public health course the last couple of weeks. And this is what I've gotten from it so far:

-I need to eat healthier. I should be cooking all my food from organic, whole foods, avoiding anything with preservatives, imported from another country, harvested by slaves. I should never eat at fast food "restaurants."

- I should eat less of this wonderful food that I'm cooking. All Americans overeat, and the only way that I'm ever going to find happiness is to eat less. I should always stop eating before I'm full, I should never have dessert. I should eat few enough calories that my weight is always trending down.

- I should exercise more. The number one predictor of individual health is physical activity. I should have a minimum of 120 minutes of strenuous exercise a week, with a variety of activities and a gym membership with a personal trainer.

- I should start participating in research. As an academically trained person, I have a social responsibility to contribute personally to the body of knowledge. And people with bow to me if I'm published.

- I should spend more time with my family. I should never let my children watch television, eat junk food. Their time should be spent in intellectually stimulated family activities that also promote the sense of social obligation.

So, obviously, I have a lot to feel guilty about. I feel that I will never be able to be the "ideal" community member.

However, I don't think that guilt is useless. If it was, I would never go jogging, never try to get home early to spend time with my children. Without guilt, what is there to motivate us to try to be better people? I wish that I could arrange my life so that there would be less daily guilt. However, if the twinge of guilt gets me into my running shoes a little more often, out of McDonald's and around the dinner table more frequently, and home playing tag or Chutes and Ladders instead of shoe shopping with the girls, I will take the guilt.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Now that I am halfway through my current series, I thought I should take some time to comment about the last series I read.

Which just happened to be the Twilight books.

Now, wait.

Let me explain myself. You probably are thinking the same things I thought when I started reading the books. Things like, "I really should be ten years younger to read this," and "Oh, another silly book about insecure teenagers." But I would like to justify myself a little bit.

Before August, I had never heard of the Twilight books. Looking back, I do recall seeing the striking red and black covers in the grocery store and at Costco, but really gave them no notice. Books like Twilight just don't make it into the conversation in medical school. (Although I think that it is because we are busy, not because no one is reading them.)

When I was at a community service event in August, I was talking to some of the other volunteers about books to read. Mainly, I was looking for suggestions. I had just re-read both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility for the, um, who knows how many times. I didn't want to re-read Harry Potter just yet (I'm waiting until about 6 weeks before the 6th movie comes out.) I mentioned that I was looking for something light and easy to read. One of the girls said, "Why don't you try the Twilight books?"

And so I did.

I have to say, while reading them, I was surprised at how polarizing they are. You love them, hate them, or refuse to read them. Scrolling through conversations at Shelfari and LibraryThing, there didn't seem to be anything in between.

But I'm not going to comment on other peoples' opinions. I'm just going to give my own.

I have to admit, I felt a little silly reading them. I kept feeling that I'm way to old to be enjoying them. And I did enjoy them.

I will be the first to admit that I don't think Stephanie Meyer is the strongest technical writer. But she does create a compelling story line and characters that you may even find yourself attached to by the end.

Bella Swan is a very strange girl. She drifts between being an amazing obnoxiously insecure teenage girl, who really can't form opinions for herself to being very self-reliant and independent. There were times throughout all the books that I wanted to shake her by the shoulders, and tell her to get a grip.

I've read many reviews where people expressed dissatisfaction with the story line. While reading the books, it never occurred to me to do such. I was just along for the ride, which is how I feel books should be read.

Breaking Dawn was probably my favorite book of the series.

So it came as a surprise when I heard the most criticism for it. People didn't like the ending, thought there was not enough action, it was too unrealisitic (this comment amuses me: it is a book about vampires and werewolves after all). I think I liked it so much, because Bella finally became someone I enjoyed reading about. She matured, was loyal, and centered, something that was missing from the first three.

I really should say something about the men of the book. I did like Jacob, but honestly, it had to be Edward, right?

So, I think that the books deserve their fair share of critique. But for me, they fulfilled just what I was looking for: A little escapism at bedtime.

Brain Candy

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm very proud of myself. I completed everything on my "to-do" list for the day, including cleaning the fish tank and going for a run. I even completed things not on the list for today.

So I am rewarding myself with a little time to blog.

I am also taking a break from the slurry of posts on reality TV to revel on a true love: books.

I love reading. However, I have a very different attitude about reading than some of my family. I read rather silly books, usually light hearted adventure novels. My dad only reads serious philosophical works or historical non-fictions. What is more important? That we read serious books, or simply that we read? I stand firmly behind the second opinion.

For the first several years of my marriage, I never saw my husband read a book for pleasure. He read plenty of textbooks, but he admitted he had never read for fun, and had not read a novel since high school. However, after much coercion, I started him on the Harry Potter series. Since that moment four years ago, he has read a book at night almost every day. Admittedly, it is usually still Harry Potter, but I love to see him read so much, that I don't say, "Haven't you read that four times already?" (Since I have too, and don't want to draw attention to that fact.)

I read non-school related material purely for fun. If I'm not enjoying reading it, and I don't real relaxed after reading, I really don't have the time to waste on it at the current moment. It doesn't need to make me think (I am required to do plenty of that for real at work). I read for one purpose: escapism. I find I actually sleep better after a dose of "brain candy" before bedtime.

I think everyone would.

How Embarrassing

Sunday, September 28, 2008

If there is anything more embarrassing than admitting my love for reality TV, it would be having two posts in a row that focus on it.

But, since we are only hours away from the premier of Amazing Race, I really have no choice. So, for today, there are no deep thought, no improvement of the human race, just my guilty pleasure.

There are episodes of Amazing Race when I have harbored feelings of infidelity to Survivor. Since Survivor was my first love, nothing should knock it out of first place. But Amazing Race always attempts to. It is the only show where I have mentally dappled with the idea of applying. I know it will never happen.

But I am often envious of the places the contestants get to travel, and the things they get to do there. And Keith would be awesome at the challenges. (I, on the other hand, would only be a team liability, since I have the upper body strength of a guinea pig, despite hauling two screaming children out of Wal-Mart.)

The advantages Amazing Race has over Survivor: it is purely your skills that can take you to the end, not the scheming of others. The variety of locations within a single season. And the chance I get to pamper my wanderlust vicariously.

First Confession

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I have neglected this blog for long enough. It's not that I haven't had anything to write about. To be completely honest, I have been mentally running through ideas to post nearly every day. But the last month has been very busy, and I was worried that if I started posting here, I would never sleep.

I'm pretty sure my husband dreads the idea of me writing another blog. I already spend more time than is rational on our family blog. But I have so many ideas and thought to share that have no right hanging out on a family blog.

So here we go...

My first confession: I love reality television. I know, I know. I've read plenty of columnists blaming the downfall of television quality and our qualify of life on reality TV. But ever since I was overcome with morning sickness six years ago, and watched Survivor: Africa, I've been hooked.

I do try to watch with moderation. So far my list included Survivor, Amazing Race, Design Star, and America's Got Talent. I have, much to the dismay of friends, avoided American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and Project Runway. After all, there are only so many hours in the day, and someone really should watch the children.

But Survivor: Gabon started on Thursday, and Amazing Race starts back up on Sunday. So now is the perfect time for me to relish in my guilty pleasure.

Survivor, for me, was the initial reality television show, and everything else is just a spin off. I love the exotic locations, the mind games, and the challenges. My husband and I always wonder how good we would be at the challenges.

Not that we will ever find out.


Friday, September 5, 2008

This is one of my favorite poems, so much so, it has become a life philosophy for me.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

-Max Ehrmann, 1952