30 October 2008

jonathan safran foer - extremely loud and incredibly close

extremely loud and incredibly close || jonathan safran foer || 4.5/5.0 stars

i wish there were more novels by jonathan safran foer available to me, but alas, there are only two - and this is my second. i read everything is illuminated this spring and loved it, and was promised by a friend that i would love extremely loud and incredibly close just as much but in a different way. and she was 100% correct. i really love the style of jonathan safran foer, and i love that he is so young in his life and career. i can't wait to see what else he has to offer us.

the story focuses on nine-year-old oscar schell, as he deals with his father's death in attack on the world trade center. its a beautiful story. as i do so many books, i listened to both of foer's novels on audio. both productions are really quite amazing, and the narration is one of the best i've heard on audio. (ditto for the audio of everything is illuminated - foer's got great audio adaptations!) i understand that the novel itself includes some photos and sketches mixed in with the text, though, and i am sorry to miss out on that.

definitely in the running for one of my favorites for the year. 4.5 instead of a 5.0 only because the ending left me wanting a little more oomph... but there's a realism in the ending that's hard to deny. absoultely recommended!

the saddest puppy there ever was

disclaimer: if you don't want to read a sob story about my dog, move along. but seriously, check out that picture - have you seen a sadder puppy?

today we had to take my darling girl to the vet for surgery on her ear. at first this seemed no big deal, but was i ever mistaken. she has an ear hematoma, a pretty common problem where blood vessels rupture and the ear balloons up with blood. so in max goes, to have it drained and 'quilted' back together. not a big deal, right?

wrong! while they're doing the surgery, the vet had a look inside her mouth and discovered a broken tooth. might as well remove that, too! and why not give her all her shots for the year? annual rectal exam? throw it all in! clip those nails, scrub those teeth - the whole nine yards in one go.

so poor miss max wakes up to a cone around her head, a missing tooth, a sutured ear, and several sore spots inside and out. when i met her coming home from the doctor she was stumbling around, still half-under the drugs. she can't quite manage the cone and keeps tripping over it. after she fell down the stairs three times, i had to carry her upstairs. ultimate tragic sadness!

i finally understand why parents at the doctor's office cry when their kids get shots. i've never seen a sadder puppy and i'm so heart-broken for her. max's favorite things are to (1) stick her head through the railing of the stairs and bark at people, and to (2) lick the dishes in the dishwasher. neither can be done with a cone on!! it's heartbreaking people, and halloween is going to be brutal. so many small children to bark at.

26 October 2008

1 charade sock

after probably eight months of very slow and distracted work, i finally finished off the first charade sock! many props to sandra [hearts] hearts, formerly at 'i may be knitting ranch house' for the fantastic pattern. now if only i could remember where i packed the pattern, i could get started on its mate.

25 October 2008

H5N1 influenza v. bacterial infections

when i was an undergrad, i wrote the culminating paper for my history major on the 1918 spanish influenza pandemic, and how it and the first world war shaped the formation of the united states public health infrastructure. it was pretty fun to research, and i have a special place in my heart for the 1918 flu after poring over heartbreaking newspaper headlines on microfiche for months.

so, it was with great delight that i learned of the lead editorial in the october journal of infectious diseases. the piece is a commentary on an article in the same issue, in which researchers re-examined the causes of death during the pandemic. the research put a spotlight on pneumonic infectious in flu victims - not novel diagnoses, but a reality long overlooked. morens et. al. found that a large majority of deaths were due to opportunistic pneumonia - in fact, only 4% of influenza victims died without a bacterial infection. indeed, many were on the verge of fighting off the flu when they contracted the bacteria. the attack of an opportunistic bacteria brings to mind the more recent experience of an HIV patient - once under seige, the human body is at great risk from other eager bugs.

this has very real implications for current global health priorities. since H5N1 reared its ugly head with an intention to stay in 2003, pandemic priorities have been focused on preventing the virus from crossing over into a highly human-friendly strain. the findings of the article suggest that we should be exerting a lot more effort into preparing for a massive need of antibiotics. it is rather likely that the outbreaks of 1957 and 1968 were so much less likely because of the availability of antibiotics. given recent breaks in our stockpile system, there is a great need to focus on this area.

i'm made much more hopeful by this view on pandemic influenza. chalk up another "thanks" to dr. koch.

24 October 2008

vlad and friend boris

its been a long time since i was so amused.

20 October 2008

david mccullough - 1776

1776 || david mccullough || 3.5/5.0 stars

my first david mccullough book. i wanted to start out with john adams, but i listen to audiobooks and this is what the library had in stock for me. well-written, of course - as mccullough is known for his engaging prose (as well as his pulitzer prizes).

i certainly enjoyed the book, and it is definitely the first real study of the american revolution i've undertaken outside of elementary school. the descriptions of war in the dead of winter with a six-month communication lag with the enemy made me consider how significantly our world has changed in the brief 232 years the united states has seen.

i do wish that the book had provided a bit of a epiloge to cover the war post-1776. i'd expected a complete history of the war, but the book actually only covers the year 1776 proper. maybe i'm just woefully ignorant of the period's history, but i was looking forward to learning the specifics of famous moments - the crossing of the delaware, the treason of benedict arnold, the surrender of yorktown. the crossing of the delaware was most excellently covered, but i found myself on wikipedia to find closure on mr. arnold and the events of yorktown.

a classic to have checked off of my list certainly, but overall too specific for me. i generally prefer more sociologically-oriented history, and a broader perspective than the detail found in military history. perhaps john adams next?

jason mraz - i'm yours

19 October 2008

colin powell on barack obama

after this, general, i don't think you'll need to campaign for senator obama.

13 October 2008

barbara ehrenreich - bait and switch

bait and switch || barbara ehrenreich || 4.0/5.0 stars

i enjoyed nickel and dimed, so i was eager to give mrs. ehrenreich another go. this less famous of her works focuses on the middle class - specifically on the white collar unemployed. given that i myself am attempting to enter the white collar workforce for the first time, it seemed an apropos read. wrong! this is a depressing book to read if you are unemployed, and only serves to reinforce the futility of most job searching activities.

i'd expected the book to be split between the search and the work, but was sad to discover she only covers the 'search' part of job search. (it must be noted that this is due to the fact that she is never able to find gainful employment. again, not inspiring to a current job searcher.) i'd been hoping for an expose on the base level of white collar corporate america, but was left hanging.

what the book does deliver quite well is an overview of the wild world of 'transitioning'. along with a rapid increase in the average number of jobs held per lifetime has been the rapid development of a transitioning business - a commercial field dedicated to helping individuals move from a layoff to a new position swiftly. dedicated to, but not necessarily successful at. the book is well-written and offers plenty of fun-to-read anecdotes and surprising statistics. ehrenreich offers yet another important and timely view into the social injustices of american society - one that is much more easily overlooked than the plights of the very poor.

all in all, a great read - just not one that i'd recommend to a fellow job searcher.

keyhole top

i have been knitting. just slowly and not very often. i'm excited about this top i'm working on, called "keyhole top" from an interweave issue a while ago. i've gotten through the tricky parts and now just need to keep my head down and get through the repetitive part. some work-in-progress pictures:

eddie from ohio - drive

08 October 2008

chomp chomp

before the first debate i ranted about how a change in format was overdue and necessary. i guess they've "changed" things up this year, but should i eat my words? i think no. maybe its not possible to change things so long as talking points are effective for campaigns.

my new idea for the third debate? cut the microphones off after time's up. or maybe start playing music like they do at awards show. i know they need to finish their thoughts, but they drive me (and tom brokaw) crazy abusing the time limits.

04 October 2008

on riding and running

every week i try to make myself ride at least 100 miles and run at least 10. even though i usually find myself doing the lion's share on saturdays, i've managed to meet my goal for the past few weeks. therefore i've learned that its a reasonable goal - the kind that is best defeated by sheer laziness.

i'm about a month into living in northern virginia, having spent the past two years living just down i-95 in richmond. the differences between fairfax and richmond in riding and running is pretty drastic. when i was training for the marathon in richmond, each run was a defiance of death by auto. there are almost no available sidewalks outside of richmond proper - leaving runners such as myself in henrico county to amble along the very shallow shoulders of three-lane highways. riding in richmond, however, is great - there's a strong cycling community and lots of people ride, and though i'd often be on huge divided highways, the traffic is generally light and drivers friendly.

northern virginia is a runner's paradise. there are paths along every major road, sidewalks nearly everywhere, and plenty of company. riding, unfortunately, is another story. while there are lots of "bike paths" available, they're really not suitable for road bikes (and definitely not for my rather worn front tire). fairfax county has done a very nice job trying to accomodate cyclists but the traffic defeats me. there are so many drivers at every hour of the day, and they expect riders to be on the paths. perhaps i've just lost some confidence since this summer, but i end up riding almost all of my 100 miles on a stationary because the roads are too intimidating for me. i suppose if i had a hybrid or a commuting bike i'd be much happier on the paths, but i think i'm more likely to invest in a trainer and continue watching tv while i ride. perhaps a group would help me get over my crowded suburban riding anxiety? or maybe this is a great opportunity to switch back into more running?