Monday, April 27, 2009

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I just finished a book titled "the Name of the Wind" but Patrick Rothfuss. It is this author's debut novel and I have to say that I really loved it! The book is a little daunting when you pick it up -- a 750-page paperback doesn't fit easily between your fingers -- but it kept me thoroughly engaged.

A number of things were interesting to me about this book that actually didn't have anything to do with the actual plot. First, we are introduced to our characters at what seems to be the end of a story, not the begnning. The main character, Kvothe (pron. quothe) seems to be a great man who is "retired" and is living his life as a humble -- undercover -- innkeeper.

Second, there are two stories and two very different characters in the person who is Kvothe -- the boy and the innkeeper. The bulk of the book is Kvothe telling his life story to a scribe. Kvothe went to "magic" school as a young boy -- this gave me a little bit of a dark "Harry Potter" feeling. The author frequently jumps back to present-day innkeeper-Kvothe as the narrative gets interrupted by the daily activities of running an inn. While reading the chapters about the young Kvothe, I would completely forget that I was supposed to be reading a narration and would often get a little jarred when the author swapped back to innkeeper-Kvothe.

Finally, the plot itself. This book, while huge, really is simply setting the stage for the later books of the trilogy. The entire book encompases a little over 24 hours of innkeeper-Kvothe's life -- the first of three days he has agree to spend recounting his life story. The majority of the book is the narration of Kvothe's boyhood and adolescence. However, enough strange stuff is happening in innkeeper-Kvothe's life during the opening and closing of the novel -- the two evenings on either side of the day of storytelling -- for the reader to want to learn the backstory so that we can get to the current-day stuff! In terms of young Kvothe's plot, there is love, tradgedy, mishaps typical of magic school, adventure and, of course, a dragon. What more could an adventure/fantasy reader want?

Overall, five stars for this book -- I devoured it in two days of good reading (thank you to summer coming early to NYC!).

Monday, April 20, 2009

All Parents are Crazy

My parents are crazy. Always with the best intentions, but still... nuts. Usually in a lovable, easy-to-shrug-off way, but still... crazy. Despite this, I make the argument that ALL parents are crazy. It's the prerogative of being of parent.

I spent the weekend visiting my parents in Florida with my boyfriend, Rob. First thing, our flight was a half an hour early. Rob sensibly suggested, "Shouldn't you call you dad and tell him we ran early?" "Nope. He already knows" was my completely confident reply. And he did. My father has flight-tracker send updates to his iPhone. He knew we were landing early before we did and was already at the airport. Kindof eccentric, but in a lovable way.

Rob works in the wine industry. Therefore, part of the weekend was spent running Rob around to my parents favorite wine shops. The two of us were sent on an "errand" to Total Wine (actually, that worked out well -- Rob bought my parents a case of different wines to taste), tasted wines at Crown Wine and Spirits and finally, the local gourmet shop. I think Rob talked more wine this weekend than he usually does during the week! My dad took notes... literally.

Then there were the various assorted activities with the dogs. The trip to the beach worked out well-ish. My mother tried to panic every time a dog came over to say "hi" to the puppy. The weekend was rounded out with an insane and exhausting trip to an art fair... The puppy kept on whimpering while walking around. Werealized that the pavement was too hot for her baby paws... oops. We had to carry her. Then the big girl, Sashi, decided to protect our lunch table from every passing dog... of which there were millions. Then the fair turned out to be crafts not art... I'm unclear as to the distinction, but my parents complained. Oh yes, and apparently my parents weren't expecting a huge crowd... on a fabulous sunday... in april...??

Despite the crazyness, there was the entirety of Saturday, which Rob and I spent lounging by the pool, swimming, reading in the hot tub and generally getting very sunburnt. Fabulous. The food and wine were universally excellent all weekend.

Rob and I walked into the airport after the disastrous art fair experience on Sunday and sighed a huge, exhausted sigh of relief. He turned to me and said, "Baby, your parents are kindof crazy." I smiled back and said, "So's your mother, but I love her anyway." And that is exactly my point. So they're nuts and sometimes things (like the art fair) turn out to be a disaster. They're parents! Parents are all crazy -- mine included.

Mom with Deka, 14 weeks old.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Birthdays...

So, today is my Birthday. yay!

Every birthday I tend to compare it to previous ones. Kindof a "how am I doing this year?" thing -- but only in the sense of the actual, physical, day-of-birth way -- not in a general "life" kind of way. A lot of the birthday-days that I have had I have forgotten. They were normal days. The worst ones have stayed with me, so have the best.

Worst birthday-day ever -- I think that here there is a tie, colored by the age at which these birthdays happened.

1) When I was in Jr. High, all your friends would get you a balloon on your birthday and the trick was to walk around the school with this HUGE bunch of shiny "Happy Birthday" balloons tied to your backpack. On my 13th Birthday, a catty girl I didn't even like decided to be mean and told all of my friends that I didn't want any balloons that year. My gullible friends believed her (figures) and no one brought me balloons! As a 13-year-old, this was devastating. I went to the bathroom and cried. My friends felt awful, so the next day each brought me TWO balloons -- completely making up for the horror of the day before. So, sucky birthday-day, but I got over it 24 hours later when I definately had the biggest bunch of balloons in the school.

2) My 22nd birthday. I had just broken up with a long-time boyfriend, was taking time off before starting medical school and was unexpectedly now sleeping on a pull-out couch in my parent's new apartment. My parents had made plans long in advance and so they were out of town for the weekend (I was supposed to be living with my boyfriend, remember?). All my friends were still in college -- I had graduated early -- and the few in NYC were unavailiable. I sat in an apartment that didn't feel like home, broken-hearted and alone. I baked myself an entire cake, frosted it and proceeded to try to eat it. VERY bad idea. Once the clock turned to the 15th, I got over it. The blessings of age and maturity.

Best birthday-day ever:
My friends at college threw me a surprise party for my 21st birthday at my favorite restaurant. Not only that, it was fantastically perfect spring day in Chicago. It was the middle of midterms week-- none of them really had the time to celebrate and yet here they all were! Complete with balloons (I guess it's a theme), flowers, gifts and, ofcourse, alcohol.

How is today comparing? Pretty good. Didn't get out of bed until noon, reading a fabulous book, birthday wishes rolling in on Facebook. It's junky outside -- grey and overcast. My roommate reports that it's "meh", which in sane-person terms probably means "cold." My boyfriend tells me I have a cupcake from Crumbs coming my way (whee!!) and dinner. Plus, I have yet to change out of my pyjamas. I think all things are looking good for a nice day. Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rhodesian Ridgebacks

My family is in love with a breed of dog called the Rhodesian Ridgeback. My parents currently have their second, Sashi, and third, Deka. Longtime dog owners, my parents constantly rave about how Ridgebacks are the smartest and best dogs they have ever owned. As for me, we had a poodle when I was a kid and got our first Ridgeback when I was 7. Prior to the infamous poodle (kindof a blip in the "Hamburg dog history"), my parents owned all cold-weather dogs... Samoyeds, Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Ridgebacks are quite a different direction from the breeds my parents used to favor.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback takes it's name from both it's country of origin and most distinctive feature. The breed was originally developed in the south african county of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the late 1800's by mixing a local african dog with european immigrants. The african breed contributed a ridge of hair that runs the wrong way up the Ridgeback's spine. The hairs point towards the dog's head, not tail. During the original breeding of the dog, it was noticed that the dogs with ridges were better hunters and protectors, their main purpose in Africa. They were first accepted to the AKC under the "hound" group in 1955.

The rumours you have heard about this dog are not completely true. This dog was bred to hunt lions in africa and to protect the homsteads and children from predators. They don't kill lions. The Ridgebacks were used in packs of about 20 dogs each to corner and harass a lion until the hunters could then approach and kill the lion. Due to the ferocity of lions, this was an effective but not very efficient way of hunting -- quite a number of dogs from the pack would be killed on every hunt. They were also often put out with the children to protect them from cheetahs while playing.

Ridgebacks are extremely devoted to their "pack" of people and extremely intelligent. However, they tend to be a little aloof towards strangers. This is not one of those super waggy dogs that jumps all over everyone on the streets of NYC. More often than not, the little children complain "Why doesn't the doggy look at me?" Sashi has learnt to tolerate the audacity of New Yorkers to pet anything that walks by without asking permission. Deka is yet to experience New York City... we'll see how she does.

This breed also known for adjusting itself well to the lifestyle of the family. If every member of your family runs marathons, you will have ridgebacks that run marathons. The dogs can do it, come home and look at you as if to say, "When do we go again?" Alternatively, if you have a "lazy" family such as mine, you get lazy Ridgebacks who sleep on the bed all day. I took my lazy Sashi for a run once... I don't think her nose even broke a sweat after 4 miles.

Overall, I am as in love with this breed as my parents. I chase down Ridgebacks when I see them in New York City -- within a block. Similarly, I have had people chase me for much more than a single block just to meet mine! Huge stamp of approval.

Sashi, Deka (April 2009)
Me, Sashi, Kala (Sept, 2002)


I thought that I would start out by introducing myself and explaining a little about why I suddenly decided to start a blog.

I don't have a theme for this -- it really is simply that I recently have discovered a number of my friends have blogs and reading theirs has made me think, "Hey, I could write a post about this... or that..." at increasingly frequent intervals.

Now, the title. First, "pets." Pets because I really can't live without those furballs. I don't have any of my own right now, but my parents have 4 -- 2 dogs and 2 cats -- including one 12-week-old puppy. Most of my funny stories from my childhood involve my pet-siblings (only child). My parents tend to guilt-trip me into visiting them by pleading "but your cats miss you sooooo much...." or "the dogs really need someone to take them to the park..." You get the picture.

Second, "posts." Eh, this is there for the purposes of alliteration and the fact that this is a blog of random things.

Finally, "medical mysteries." I am soon to embark upon my residency in Emergency Medicine at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell/Columbia. There are plenty of medical mysteries in Emergency Med... and tons of crazy stories (really, why does anyone go into EM if not for the stories?). It worked in the title, pulled in that whole "soon to be doctor" thing. I'm not so good at the catchy/creative thing, so hats off to Rob for coming up with the title after only about 30 seconds of thought!

On to the second aspect of this post... about me. I am a born 'n bred New Yorker -- I love this city. I "techically" grew up on Long Island. Minor technicality. I was actually born in the same hospital that I will be doing my residency. By the time I was 18, I was sick of high school students getting plastic surgery and driving BMWs, so I escaped to Chicago for four years. That taught me two things. 1) Midwesterners are the nicest people in the world. I had culture shock because they were so much nicer than New Yorkers. 2) Chicago is COLD. Not just "brrrr," but "holy-shit-my-hair-has-become-icicles-and-I-have-tears-streaming-down-my-face-'cause-my-eyes-are-involuntarily-tearing" cold... Chicago and I didn't agree. I came running back to NYC and medical school at Cornell. Also jokingly referred to as "citibank medical college" because the chief donor to the college is Sanford Weill of Citibank fame.

The arduous process of choosing to go into Emergency Medicine involved numerous side trips into music, relationships, sailboat racing and a summer in Tanzania. Primarily. Plus a pure hatred of insurance companies, outpatient medicine and being woken up at all hours of the night. I want to treat whoever comes through my doors. I want to take my salary and at the end of the day go home without worrying. When I eventually have kids I want to know their names. Yeah, that would be a good start. Names at least. During my first year of medical school we had a lecturer who was a surgeon. His wife had just delivered their sixth child. The surgeon was ecstatically happy becuase this was the first delivery he had actually made it to. I know that I don't have a choice but to be at the birth of my children, but that comment put a lot into perspective about medicine for me. Not only that, but I vowed never to marry a surgeon.

I think that's all for now. As promised by the title, I will leave you with a picture of the newest baby, Deka. She is a 12-week old Rhodesian Ridgeback (post on ridgebacks to come) but in this photo, she is 8 weeks old. Also, she has fallen into that pool... twice.