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.