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.