04 October 2010

moving on up

life of piefairy is closing up, and moving on.

because even though i am the piefairy, it's not just my life anymore, and actually hasn't been the whole time i've been writing this (seeing as "me" became "us" oh, one year, one month and fifteen days ago...ish).

which is why we've been sitting on a domain name since last fall, and working on a website since i found out i got into medical school, and why i am now very pleased to introduce to you...


doesn't yet have all the bells and whistles, but it'll get there. =) i'll still be doing everything i'm doing here, with some hopes for a bit more here and there.

so, update your readers and feeds and follow me on over to doctorsterry.com, for the [mis]adventures of a physicist and a physician-in-training. =)

30 September 2010

how i spent my fall vacation

ansel adams wilderness, inyo national forest
local maximum near agnew pass
approximately 10,000 feet above sea level

24 September 2010

book club bloggers - maniac magee

where do legends come from? are they born, or made? how do they grow? how do they fade?

maniac magee is the story of a twelve-year-old boy named jeffrey who becomes a legend in the highly-segregated [pennsylvanian?] city of two mills. after running away from a stifling home with his aunt and uncle eight years after his parents died, he shows up in two mills and people start talking immediately. he's the kids who runs everywhere. the kid who out-plays the high school sports stars at their own games. the kid who unties all knots. the kid who isn't afraid of finsterwall. the kid who isn't afraid of anything. the kid who doesn't see, or doesn't understand, the sharp, self-imposed distinctions between white and black.

the story is a cycle of gains and losses. at the beginning, jeffrey has lost everything. the first thing he gains back is a friend (amanda beale), and then notoriety and the nickname "maniac." he gains a home. he gains enemies. he gains understanding, and loses naivete. he loses one home, then slowly gains another, and a friend and co-mentor, with the has-been baseball player earl grayson. when jeffrey loses grayson, he gives himself up for lost as well, but it is then that we start to see that, after all that he has gained and lost, he has much now to give. not bad, for a twelve-year-old kid.

i first read maniac magee when i was around ten years old, and re-read it occasionally through middle and early high school. i don't remember much of my initial reactions, other than that it was a book worth reading again. i haven't ever seen the made-for-tv movie, though i'm slightly intrigued (though i think a "real," cinema-oriented movie would be more likely to do it justice, i think...). i could also see this being a good play--the juxtaposition of the intimate theatrical setting and the larger-than-life legend would work really well, i think.

i came up with the questions to consider for this story having not read the book in years, but since re-reading it all i keep coming back to the legend and young hero archetypes throughout the story. i had forgotten that jeffrey was orphaned young, and "re-orphaned"/abandoned/isolated several times throughout the story -- emotionally by his aunt and uncle, literally with the passing of grayson, and socially with the east and west sides' inability to accept his acceptance of everyone. that isolation and orphaning is a powerful tool, one that we see over and over again in literature (harry potter, anyone?). with the lack of parental oversight and expectations, the boy has opportunities to push boundaries beyond what others have. here, what jeffrey perhaps does not do himself, his "maniac" legend does for him.

i don't think that, in any younger readings, i had ever noticed the writing under the story. i really enjoyed it, and i especially enjoyed the tone of the narrator. it called to mind the way kids swap ghost stories or tall tales -- all contributing to the "legend" qualities of the narration -- and i especially enjoyed the way i could get a feel for an unfamiliar storytelling voice ("packing candy," for example -- like "packing heat," a phrase i wasn't familiar with before). in reading through last month's reviews, i recall one blogger saying that she preferred to listen to her books. i think that that would be an intriguing way to experience maniac magee, but i would want my book on tape to be done a certain way. the vocalizations of white and black urbania would have to be done properly to get a true experience; no polished professional readers would be able to be true to the story. in that respect, i think that simply reading the book also doesn't do full justice -- i know that as a white midwestern girl, in all my previous readings the characters' voices sounded to me like midwestern folk. it wasn't until this reading, when i was being intentional about it, when i could hear the "badness" and blackness in mars bar's scowls, imagine grayson with the vestiges of a slow southern drawl, or hear the indignation in amanda when she was provoked into using "ain't" and other colloqualisms in her discomposure.

all in all, this is a book i think i'll always enjoy, and will keeping coming back to every decade or so. =) jeffrey magee could have been any fairly ordinary orphaned kid, but maniac is a legend. he -- or social perception of who he was -- challenged those around him to question whether the way things were needed to be so.

be sure to head on over to the daily snapshot and check out what everyone else has to say!

15 September 2010

a question of ethics

a week or two ago, we had a lecture and then a lab/seminar/discussion on codes, ethics and regulations. among the many topics discussed was academic and professional integrity. what is right and wrong? are these answers absolute, or subjective? how do morals and the law intersect? how would you respond to a patient who asked you to help them in a way that was illegal? how would you respond to a classmate who asked for information on an assessment that you took before they did?

today we had one such practical skills assessment. to prepare, we were told we would be assigned a partner and each asked to identify ten surface anatomy items from a study list of about fifty. we each would be timed, and graded based on our professionalism and demeanor as well as accuracy of identifications.

i came in feeling pretty good -- i knew my landmarks and could palpate almost all of the pulses, and i was beginning to understand the positioning of the lungs and how to listen to each lobe. as classmates ahead of me finished and rejoined us in the common area, i kept reviewing all the items on the study list. all around me, classmates were sharing the exact items they were tested on, and it soon became clear that there were only two sets of landmarks being assessed, one for each student doctor in the pair.

is it wrong that this bothered me? was i stupid not to take advantage of it? though i couldn't help but overhear, i still kept reviewing everything i was stumbling on, not just the limited material that was actually being tested. when my turn to test came, i nailed every aspect perfectly, but because i studied it, not because someone told me what the doctors wanted to hear.

was the administration trying to set us up for this? logistically, the set-up could have been handled much differently...it seems like they didn't even try that hard. didn't they foresee this happening? did they care? my partner, when it was his turn to be assessed, started right in and correctly found all his marks without the proctor even telling him which landmarks to identify. (i was dumbfounded. dude! you couldn't possibly have been more blatant about knowing the exam questions ahead of time!)

i'm a compassionate person -- if someone asks me for help, i'll do pretty much anything in my power to do so. however, while i'm not going to turn someone in for something like this, for myself, i always play by the rules. while i'm not about to apologize for it, i have noticed -- throughout my education, and echoed again today -- that not compromising that integrity has social consequences and, not infrequently, gets me left out of things.

is this just a little thing? is this not a "real" issue of academic integrity? am i too uptight? or should it be bothersome that many of my peers so nonchalantly defied instructions, and that the instructors themselves didn't seem to mind? this really bothers me...

13 September 2010

block exams, take one.

five exams in four days.

two practical skills assessments, two written theory exams and one lab test.

i am 80% confident on 50% of the material for one of the theory exams...

this does not bode well. =/

06 September 2010

almost feels like home...

little by little, the familiar is finding its place in this new home.

for all that i was freaking out about everything in my life is going to change!, since the mister has [finally!] moved out west with me, it's been far more subtle than i expected. this weekend, for example, was a pretty typical weekend for us. we went to the farmer's market on saturday morning, and dancing on saturday night. we had french toast for breakfast on sunday and checked out a church nearby.

still, some things just aren't the same...

the farmer's market simply cannot hold a candle to the wonder that is madison's. i have to admit my disappointment -- we'd been anticipating berkeley being a foodie haven with excellent local produce options (hello, year-round growing season!). the truth? the markets are waaaaay smaller, the selection narrower (with the notable exception of stone fruits -- i am in peach/pluot/plum ecstasy right now), the prices higher (!!!), and produce goes bad much more quickly. not impressed, berkeley, not impressed.

and the dancing? i'm holding out with the hope that the event just happened to draw more of the east coast scene than lindy hoppers. the band was great fun, but the crowd wouldn't have felt the energy if it slapped them upside the head. maybe the lindy lives in the city, and the divorcee- and college-kid-heavy east bay swings (hah) more toward the east coast? realistically, how often will i get a chance to go dancing if medical school is kicking my butt (which it totally is)? not much. so really, the scene doesn't matter.

don't take my complaints out of proportion. i like berkeley. i like school. (one of these days, i'll sit down and articulate why i'm feeling more and more convicted every day that i was born to be an osteopath...) i'm excited about the prospect of finding a church that feeds us in a real spiritual way. as the mister wrangles what was just a week ago an apartment full of boxes into a functional household (we have a kitchen! o happy day!), i'm feeling more and more like this could be home. it isn't, yet, but it could be. coming from someone who's only really moved once before in her life, and that's out of the house she grew up in, (changing apartments within madison doesn't count, and neither does going to peru and back), that's significant.

this almost feels like home.

26 August 2010

book club bloggers - the giver

well, here we are, with my contribution to the first monthly installment of the book club bloggers: lois lowry's young adult novel the giver. be sure to visit the daily snapshot to see what everyone else has to say!

the basic premise of the story is the coming-of-age of a twelve-year-old boy, jonas, in a world that has removed weather variations, color vision, animals, controversy, individuality and self-determination -- as well as any true emotion -- in the consensus that the absence of all these sorts of things brings a simpler, easier, safer life for everyone. at the age of twelve, all children are assigned their adult role in their community and begin the training that moves them beyond childhood to a productive, responsible member of society. jonas receives a special, prestigious assignment that exposes him to the entire human legacy: pain, fury and desperation as well as joy, love and hope. jonas and his mentor make the decision to lead their community away from the sheltered existence they'd known for generations back to the full potential of mankind's experience.

i first read the giver in sixth grade. i don't recall if it was within the school curriculum, or something i read on my own, seeing as i was reading everything and anything that had printed word and stayed still long enough for me to take a look at it. =) i don't remember much of my initial reaction to the book -- i know that i really enjoyed it, and that the idea that "equality doesn't mean everyone is the same" really resonated with me.

reading it again, my reaction has the added depth that ten years' worth of education bring, including having read other political-utopia-focused science fiction (1984, brave new world, and animal farm all come immediately to mind). lumping the giver in with the rest of these works may seem strange, given the very dark nature the adult books possess. however, i think it is just as compelling, and that the lighter tone of the giver makes the sinister nature of the world it describes that much more chilling.

i was also intrigued in this reading to note the ethnocentrism visible in the homology of the community described. if we were to "average" humanity today together into one homologous race we'd be some shade of brown; however, the community only included one non-english name, and jonas had never even heard of a dark-skinned person before inheriting the memories of prior generations. i am pretty confident that this was intentional, as it reinforces the stark contrasts -- or rather, lack thereof -- in the story. i hope also that, as our nation and our experiences become more diverse, the association of social homology with an intrinsically flawed society, however perfect it may appear superficially, will contribute to the development of acceptance and value in our young minds.

speaking of young minds, i certainly believe that this book is a valuable contribution to a 5th or 6th grade classroom. i know it has received controversy, particularly regarding the protagonist's first recognitions of sexual maturation. however, we start teaching public school kids about puberty and their upcoming physiological developments as early as fourth grade (at least, my district did) -- and well we should! to do so without addressing the psychosocial development that they may also experience is a disservice and an incomplete preparation. besides, it's very tastefully handled, and any potentially controversial content -- a discussion of a dream that jonas is confused and uneasy about -- occurs in the initially benign context of the suppressive, rule-abiding community. kids are more likely to glom onto the far more shocking discussions of death and ritualized homicide, which are also presented in an age-appropriate manner. one mention of an incident of adolescent suicide may raise a red flag, but i think presenting this book in an academic setting with a guided discussion to help kids work through these difficult but important concepts would be far "safer," if there is any concern, than banning it, having kids encounter these ideas on their own, and not have an opportunity to process in a productive way.

regarding the ending of the book, i think i always assumed in earlier readings that the boys had died, but hoped that i was wrong. it's a bittersweet but hopeful ending, and just ambiguous enough to allow for several interpretations. when i snagged this from the library i also picked up gathering blue by the same author -- a story of another society, though very different, that has a sinister secret rippling under the surface -- which mentions in passing a youth who may or may not be one of the boys whose fates are uncertain at the end of the giver. i like that (though, honestly, i'm not certain that the two worlds described in those books can exist together), i like the ambiguity. with no concrete ending, this story retains its might-have-been/might-yet-be quality, serving then not just as a novel but also a cautionary tale, and one of hope.

...well, this was fun! what's next?