Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I also did all my Christmas shopping the week before Christmas, which wasn't the best plan in the world. But I think it turned out okay! My mom and dad came to spend the holiday with us. We had afternoon tea at the Olympic Hotel downtown, and had Christmas Eve dinner at the Hunt Club - which was much nicer than I had expected. We also went to see the Black Nativity at the Intiman at the Seattle Center. I am an atheist but wow! I sure enjoyed the music!
Christmas Day we spent at home. We cooked a Thanksgiving-style dinner, since both R* and I, and my mom and dad, had gone to restaurants for Thanksgiving due to scheduling problems. It was great to have homemade pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes and gravy and all that good stuff. Fattening, though. I think I gained three pounds in four days. R* and I started hitting the gym again on Monday!
My application for nursing school is due next week. After that, it's a sit and wait game. I have a bad feeling that I don't have *quite* enough points to get in... but I will definitely go ahead and apply. The worst thing that will happen is that I'll have to wait until fall quarter, and spend the intervening months working at my current job and volunteering at a hospital. That is not a bad thing.
I hope you all had happy holidays!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
book report: The Forest Lover
by Susan Vreeland
This is a fictionalized account of part of Canadian painter Emily Carr's life and work. I didn't previously know very much about Carr, apart from the fact that she was a Canadian woman painter around the turn of the (20th) century. The novel starts when Emily is already in her 30s, having studied art and painted for many years, and finally gaining some independence from her rather stifling family after the deaths of her parents. Her sisters strongly disapprove of her artistic passion, but Emily defies them and continues on her own course.
During the course of the novel, Emily travels out into the wilds of British Columbia in order to paint First Nations people and artworks, such as longhouses and totem poles. Vreeland skillfully underscores the passion and curiousity that Carr must have had to withstand the primitive conditions and the suspicious attitudes that both native and white people had about her intentions. The reader can feel the emotion that Carr put into her work.
The novel also fictionalizes an account of Carr's trip to France to study with avant-garde French painters, during what would become the Impressionist movement. I personally found this part of the novel less satisfying, perhaps because not much is really known about how Carr passed her time while in France. Her work was exhibited at a respectable salon, which seemed like a victory for a woman at the time.
The biggest disappointment for me was after I finished the novel and went to look up Carr's paintings online. The novel had given me the expectation that Carr's work was bold and shocking and emotional... and I found it kind of tame and boring. Perhaps I am not viewing it in the proper historical context? Anyway, the book is still a terrific window into the time and place where Emily Carr lived and worked, and she is a delightful character to read about.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
why I want to be a nurse
I know that the point the author (a med student) was making was about her own desire to heal, to have that "therapeutic moment" - but I responded so much to this:
"You can walk around making decisions all day long: “decrease TPN to 80,” “d/c phototherapy,” “increase IV fluids,” “stat CBC and blood cultures,” “wean to open crib,” “feed for weight.” But it’s only words. This, the actual blood draw, the actual medication change, the act of talking to the parents, the act of holding and feeding, this is the healing. "
I read that and thought "yes! this is why I want to be a nurse!"
book report: The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. LeGuin
This book is an account by Genly Ai, a representative from the Ekumen, and his mission to the planet Gethen (aka Winter). Ai's goal is to convince the people of Winter to become members of the Ekumen, which is a federation of planets that trades in thoughts and ideas. They have technology that provides faster-than-light communication, but not faster-than-light travel, so material trade is impractical. The major cultural difference between Ai and the people of Winter is their sex - Ai is a human male, while the Gethenians are normally neither male nor female (or they are both?). They undergo a sexual cycle called kemmer, during which they change into either a male or female role for the purpose of procreation.
At the outset, Ai is a guest of the state, but following some court intrigue and some hasty decisions by the (possibly mad) king, he finds himself on the run with a former court official, Lord Estraven. They have to make a long, hard journey across the most rugged terrain on Winter, in theh wrong season. During the journey, they learn a lot more about each other and their respective cultures.
There is something very opaque about Ms. LeGuin's writing. I know I've talked about this before, as I've worked my way through her back catalog. While I fully recognize her mastery of the language, and her undeniable creativity, and her ability to allude to modern human societal issues using the allegory of an alien culture... I have trouble mustering an emotional response to this book. It's all very thinky. That said, I'm glad I read it. The mental experiement of imagining a culture where there is no sexism because everyone's sex is the same is a worthwhile one.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
This is too much. I'm awfully glad I don't live in Kansas anymore.
Monday, December 05, 2005
book report: All In My Head
by Paula Kamen
This book is a memoir by Paula Kamen, a woman in her thirties who has suffered from a chronic headache since her early twenties. In this book, she chronicles the treatments she pursued in the quest to cure her headache, ranging from the traditional (painkillers, antidepressants, surgery) to the downright weird (craniosacral adjustments, guided visualization, strange diets) and everything inbetween (biofeedback, massage, chiropractic). Nothing cures her, although some things do seem to help a bit.
Interspersed with Kamen's own story are facts and statistics about chronic pain and its sufferers. I found that information fascinating. Kamen calls them the "Tired Girls" because chronic pain sufferers who have pain that is not from an obvious cause tend to be young-ish women with fibromyalgia, chronic headache or migraines, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and so on. All of those disorders cause chronic, disabling pain and fatigue, but without any outward symptoms or foolproof diagnostic signs. So the people who have those disorders end up seeming like they are just lazy and wimpy, and that their problems are "all in their heads".
Even as someone who is sympathetic to the "Tired Girls" - my closest friend in college had fibromyalgia, and I never doubted that she was genuinely suffering, even though I couldn't see the source of her pain - I was taken aback by the callousness that the Western medical establishment, and Western society at large, show toward them. We would never say to a person with chest pain from heart disease, "Oh, quit your whining, if you stop thinking about the pain it will go away" or "if you just weren't so emotionally uptight you wouldn't be sick." Also, I think our medical culture still doesn't give enough consideration to the effects of chronic pain - it's demoralizing and depressing to be in constant pain, especially if you're told by your doctors that you're imagining it!
Finally, Kamen is a witty and funny writer, and really captures the absurdity of her situation. I didn't expect to laugh at a book about a headahce, but I did.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Then I had a weird conversation with my friend A* the other day, where she was telling me about a guy she knows who had gone to visit an old friend and her French boyfriend at their home... only to discover that the couple was in the process of handling their own sewage treatment. They were trying to reclaim their "grey water" to do... I'm not sure what. Water their garden? Anyway, the upshot was, they didn't flush their toilets. Which is just gross, no matter how environmentally correct you are. If you want a non-flushing toilet, you should go ahead and install a composting toilet! Or an outhouse!
That got me to thinking... modern sewage treatment isn't just about the convenience or the stink prevention - it's really about hygiene and public health. In the biography of Florence Nightingale that I read recently (review coming soon), one of the things that she noticed in the military hospitals in the Crimean War was that the men got sicker when their drinking water was not kept clean. Although she didn't know that cholera was spread by the ingestion of water contaminated with infected feces, she instinctively understood that dirty drinking water is unhealthy. This is still a problem today in less-developed parts of the world... which leads me back to the point that human civilization really does revolve around poop.