Archive for October, 2010

I honestly wish more days were costume days. I think costumes are brilliant. They’re fun, they’re silly, kids get to be kids, and adults get to be kids too. They’re a great display of creativity and artistry in some people’s hands and wonderful tradition in others. Too bad you only get to dress up and pretend (for fun) once a year, unless you’re employed on a stage somewhere of course.

My favorite traditional costumes include vampires and pirates. Because honestly, before this whole Twilight thing, both were absolutely straightforward, but oh-so-flexible. You can have adorable little kid vampires and pirates begging for candy with blacked out teeth and peg legs on your doorstep and you just have to grin. Like a fool. Because it is freaking adorable, especially with the plastic fangs and stuffed animal parrots. Then, after the candy is passed out, you go to the adults’ party and there’s a whole different spin on the idea. You get tramp vamps, wenches, and half naked men! That’s something for everyone, right?

Then there are always the group things. Sadly, I’ve never been a member of one of these, but saw some of the best ones in undergrad. The rendition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles complete with Splinter, weapons and unwieldy shells showing up for the annual live performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will always remain a  favorite. Salt and Pepper, Red Bull and Vodka, and other famous pairings get a mental high-five from me as well. I once saw a full five piece place setting walk into a party. No idea who came up with it, but it was brilliant and would have won any contest there.

Now, just wearing your normal skanky clothes and a pair of fuzzy ears? No thanks, please save that for you significant other at home. I have no problem with revealing IF some effort is put into it to make it look artsy and costume-y. That is to say: it’s fine if there’s a point other than “Hey look, I’m half naked.” I expect I’ll see a few Na’vi this year, and that’s great (gorgeous film) and can be totally sexy/barely clothed in public while still being decent at the same time if care is taken to do the paint properly and make it as awesome as it should be. I mean, if it’s not gonna be good, why even bother?

I say this not as a costume snob. I’ve done the skeleton, the cat (more than once), vampire, etc. I am not the one to go to for original, kick ass costume ideas. I get by, and I have a basic skill set, that’s all. But everyone, please just do something. Make some sort of an effort if you’re going bother at all. I love seeing costumes and I’m not hard to please. I just want to marvel at the variety of both new ideas and variations on old ideas that Halloween is about. Better just to put on a silly sweater with pumpkin on it than make a truly half-assed attempt at a costume.


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So what’s the deal with me watching chick flicks? They’re romance movies, most often with some comedy mixed in. Usually with a soon to be or recently failed bad relationship that is eclipsed by the wonder of a new and perfect man whose perfection is only realized at the last minute. Now, I am as guilty as the next chick of loving these fluffy useless pictures. I toss money into the Hollywood coffers both at the local Blockbuster and at the Cinema for the privilege of watching lovely men who often have accents prance about the screen playing roles as fictional as any of my daydreams.

Recent favorites include Letters to Juliet and Leap Year, the latter especially because it includes music from Flogging Molly. I think they’re favorites because they are utterly useless.  There’s no semblance of reality, so it’s completely safe to fantasize. There’s no chance of being let down when you know there’s nothing real there to start with. It’s also nice because you KNOW there will be a happy ending. You may not know how it gets there to start with, but when you go to a chick flick, you know it will be a happy ending to look forward to even when you want to scream at the characters that they’re about to do the wrong, utterly stupid, thing. In real life, there is no such assurance, which is one more reason I like sappy romance.

I think that is the biggest part of these films for me: the knowledge of what is going to happen. If you know, then even the bad parts aren’t that bad, but you can never know those things in real life. So you have to go on faith, and faith, and trusting other people in real life… that is something that is pretty difficult. People are perfect and good in chick flicks because they’re fantasy. I don’t know any perfect people in real life. Which is where the post chick flick sadness comes in. I know, all viewers know, that Hollywood is just fantasy put on a screen, but even if it’s not for real, the desire for that perfection is still there and the desire is real. Then, after watching fantasies played out, just how unobtainable it all is sinks in once again and leads to the post chick flick let down. Reality is a bitch that comes roaring back after these cotton candy jaunts on the big screen.

Which is why it pays to have a good imagination… then you’ve got your own private cinema whenever the need arises.

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How to Choose

Tell me. Tell me, oh universe, what is one to write?

Castle tells me to write what I know (though I am certain he’s not the first to say so) which is quite excellent. There are many things I know. There are many things that I am happy to speculate on as well. But ideas flit around like gnats in a sunbeam- they’re too numerous to isolate one by one. I have a list next to me. At least ten potential posts just waiting in the wings for their cue to rush on stage and be written. And what I am I writing at the moment? None of them. Not for apathy, but because this idea, this wondering has snuck about in the shadows of each one of these that has made the list, raising it’s head so often that it has earned its own time.

How does one choose something to really write? For short bits like I am doing, it is all very well to write each and every one, but how do people who write real books, novels of length get settled on one idea? Is it like love, where you (supposedly) know when it has hit? Will I know if a topic of suitable strength and durability occurs? Or does that knowledge only come after the subject is well felt out, kneaded, and handled at great length? Maybe I do have ambitions to be a writer of something at sometime, but the what and the when are yet to be hammered out.

Waiting for inspiration to strike is not something I think I will ever be good at. Waiting in general is one of my weak points. I much prefer to rush forward. To go and seize what there is to take and to own it. It is simply what I have always done and how I have learned to live my life. Carpe diem and all. Writing is a bit different of a pace though. It is not action and rushing about, it requires more sitting and reflecting.  Perhaps the practice will be good for me. Perhaps I will learn to reflect and to choose, to isolate and savor and grab that one good thought out of the swarm to grant full time and audience to.

Until then, I will dash a short bit here and a paragraph there about the random bits that grab my attention as I live my daily life. Maybe the other subjects on the list will get their fifteen minutes of fame here soon.


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I recently realized that I have developed a personal philosophy. I’m not really sure when it arose, or at what rate. It definitely grew plantlike. A little seed settled in some corner and found a receptive environment. It settled and swelled and finally germinated. The the little roots began to sink in. Deeper and deeper they found purchase as only a nubbin rose up. The little leaves, the cotyledons, bore virtually no resemblance to what it would become with time and the right environment, but they were there. Easily overlooked and mistaken for every other plantlet it continued to grow amongst the weeds until such a height and distinctiveness of maturing leaves kindled a faint recognition. A thought that there was something familiar about this one.

Then, some event. A drought, a fire, a landslide revealed this growth for what it was. While all else was swept or burned away, this one, deeply rooted and grown strong remained and stood tall and was recognized.

I imaging this is how it goes for many people, though certainly not all. Folks strong of faith in their religion I imagine to have a strong awareness of philosophy from a much earlier age than I, just because it is taught and named rather than discovered. I am sure that produces its own struggles and challenges, but I am equally sure that they are somewhat different. I was never given a guiding light as a child. I built my own lantern out of construction paper and toothpicks to start with, and only now do I have something that feels clear and sturdy. And while mine may bear similarity to others, that is more a facet of analogous evolution for similar, basic human needs and motivations than by design.

And in my philosophy, serenity plays a huge role. Think of the monk on a distant mountain chanting to the winds. That is my ideal. Serenity, harmony, balance with the world. To that end, I appreciate the Serenity Prayer. I’d like it even better sans the whole ‘god’ bit, but it is well known, and when things are well known, it makes it easier to communicate meaning. You can say to someone, “You know about that thing there? It’s like that,” with some confidence you’ll actually be communicating your meaning to them. It’s like having the nature guide book- the one with all the plants and pictures in it over the different seasons and being able to point at the pictures and saying, “mine is like this one here.”

This is especially important when, like mine, yours is not, say, a maple tree, or a California redwood, but a somewhat less well known Madrone.

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This comic makes me want to do a google search for “Dolphin Rape” but I don’t think the results would really be what I am looking for…

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It is just really not a good idea.

At all.

There are things that happen in daily life in the medical world that are half voodoo, half superstition , and half tradition. If you look over someone’s shoulder as they’re preparing to put in an intravenous catheter, you never remark on how good the vein looks. You never call the family before the patient is awake from anesthesia. If an emergency talisman of healing has been affixed to the patient (their bed, their chart, the door handle, etc) it cannot be removed before they actually go home, even if there is no reason to expect them to relapse or suddenly have a horrible accident. Saying anything along the lines of ‘nothing could go wrong’ is asking for a train wreck or a freakish never-before-seen complication. Saying you “never see that complication/reaction/outcome” is asking for it just as surely. Never, ever say that it’s been quiet!

Avoiding these things  becomes second nature. It’s not uncommon for someone to begin a sentence and stop halfway though when the realized what they were about to say.  We all know where they were going and sigh a little mental sigh of relief that they stopped before throwing the gauntlet down before fate. Occasionally, though, even thinking something is too much.

As I walked down the hallway today, thinking about the day and cases before me, I realized and thought, ‘”none of my patients have died recently.” I immediately wished I could bleach my mind. Take it back. Hit rewind and do it again, without that cursed thought. Even thinking that is asking for death to visit. And naturally, I wound up taking on a critical patient who is spending the night in the intensive care unit.

Hopefully fate is feeling kind enough to overlook my transgression.

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People who go into human and veterinary medicine are special. Maybe in the President-of-the-United-States way, maybe in the rides-a-short-bus sort of way. Maybe both within a few hours of one another. We tend to be highly driven individuals, a bit obsessive-compulsive, and motivated by some sort of need or calling to be helpful and care for others. It is a service profession. Not exactly like the local diner, but a service that is necessary for the health and well-being of the community. People go into medicine because We Want To Help.

And it’s not exactly easy to get into vet and medical schools these days. They’re expensive as hell, selective about who they’ll take, and usually not where any given person actually wants to live. They have a whole list of undergrad prerequisites that constitutes a major almost unto itself. Add to that the increasing focus on candidate’s ability to communicate effectively and in writing, the necessary admission test scores and required experiences, and these schools are looking for people who can and do accomplish it all. We all have an overabundance of hard-working and dedicated sounding adjectives following us about on our letters of recommendation.

Then, joy of all joys, we get in. It’s a letter or  phone call that changes the world. It’s one of the happiest days in my life and I wouldn’t change it. But.

There’s always a but.

But, then, we people start school. We go from pushing and fighting for the classes and everything we need to having someone map out our lives for us for four or more years. There is no ‘optional,’ there are only orders, though they may be politely worded. You will be at these classes and these labs at these times where you will learn these things. You may not go home. You may not have a life. You do not get to be a normal person. You must not fail.

Because failure is unthinkable. We do not fail. We all worked so hard to be here, and we have all been successful before getting into school. Then, we are put in a position where it is impossible to win. We cannot know it all, absorb it all, get it all right. Even if you’re a book-pro, there’s still the art of medicine and the whole ‘communication’ thing. There is too much and more all the time.

At first, the glory of finally achieving this last step towards the ultimate goal washes away the pain and long nights. Eventually we succumb though. Most students of medicine self-medicate. Or they medicate with official MD blessings. I’ve had different friends twist a gut, develop ulcers, lose large amounts of weight, go on anti-anxiety drugs, gain large amounts of weight, and drink themselves into a stupor. And it’s all considered normal and par for the course.

It’s like a giant trap for self driven people- our drive gets us here and into it, and puts us in this posistion where we have no power. We have no control over our own lives. And the expectations (both from within and without) continue to mount. There are  only a few things that sustain us. It feels like hanging on by our fingernails. It’s that faint light at the end of the tunnel that teases us and whispers- if we just survive this test, this week, this grilling by the clinicians, then we will win. We will get our degree. That and the black humor that the entire profession is awash in.

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