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.