Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coffee must hate cups

I have a theory.  Here it is.  Brace yourself, cause this is big.

Coffee hates cups.

Seriously.  I believe it can't stand the thought of being confined into this small cardboard/plastic/metal/ceramic container.  Like Freddy Mercury, coffee just wants "to break free".

I mean, why else would it be spilled more than any other beverage I have ever seen?

While I don't imbibe alcohol, I have been to concerts and sporting events at which alcohol was being freely sold and consumed.  Sure, there were some spills.  But nothing like freaking coffee.  And heck, at least those people had the excuse that they may have been a few drinks in and were carrying their beverages amidst large crowds.

No, I don't drink coffee either, so I may not fully understand this phenomenon.  I am, however, surrounded by regular coffee drinkers.  Like every day, many times a day.  Such is medicine, right?  Every day I see someone with fresh coffee stains on their white coat.  Every day I see spilled coffee in puddles on the floor, or stains on the carpet.  I see my colleagues reaching for the paper towel to wipe the coffee off their hands before it gets on their clothes.

I am a water drinker.  Sometimes I will also have a glass of milk.  But I don't usually spill those beverages on me.  Sure, everyone has the rare spill, but nothing like I see with coffee.  Is it because it is hot?  Is it a secret coffee drinker only sign?  Is a ritualistic?  Does it make the coffee taste better?

There has to be some explanation, because otherwise, I just don't get it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The price of experience

Plane ticket from SLC to NC: $250
Medical degree from private medical school: $Lots
Live experience from those four years: Priceless

I had an interesting discussion with a physician in clinic a bit ago.  He is a very intelligent, very well respected physician here, and he and I have discussed our families before.  He was talking about convincing his college age children to choose state schools over private institutions.

His main talking point was financial.  And he brings up a very good point.  My wife and I both went to a state university, graduated with (in my opinion at least) great educations, and with absolutely no educational debt.  That last part was a huge blessing.

When it came time for medical school, I had a similar choice.  I could have stayed close to home and gone to the University of Utah.  It is a good medical school and the tuition certainly would have been less.  The competing option was Duke.  After some serious reflection, discussion and prayer, we chose Duke.

Due to that choice, I have, to be quite honest, sizable educational debt.  That debt would have been much less had we chosen otherwise.  And my education would have been comparable (no matter what the Dukies may say).

But the experience would not have been the same.

Of course, I am just guessing.  Perhaps I am rationalizing to ease the pain of the student loans.  This I know: had we stayed at the University of Utah, we would have relied heavily on family.  I love our families.  They are wonderful.  But I think that, as a family, we are stronger than we would have been because we have been without them.

In North Carolina, our church group became our family.  We had to build strong friendships and learn to rely on ourselves and our friends, rather than being able to run to family.  That growth is something I just don't think you can put a price tag on.

Ultimately, I also don't think I would be where I am at this time.  I had very different plans when I started medical school as to what I wanted to do professionally.  The change really was due to people I met at Duke.  You just can't discount that.

In the end, money is just that: money.  But experience, well, that you can take with you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Star Wars: watching it again for the first time

I was only one when Star Wars was released.  I honestly don't remember my first time watching it.  However, the legacy has lasted my lifetime thus far.  I clearly remember the shock of the revelation of Empire Strikes Back.

Since that time, I have read books, played games, watched movies (even a mere 2 days after my first child was born!) and had a blast with the Star Wars universe.  It has been even more fun to see my children discovering the world of Star Wars.  They have played many of the major scenes of the movies in Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

Alex, in particular, has embraced Star Wars.  This certainly has something to do with his friend's love.  For his recent birthday, a friend gave him a lightsaber, and it has barely left his hands since that day.

However, none of my children have actually seen Star Wars or any of the other movies in the saga.  They are familiar with characters, some of the events, but they haven't ever experienced Star Wars the way I experienced it: through the original movies.  The reasons are many, but mostly because I haven't been sure they were both old enough and interested enough.

Tonight I shall rectify this.  Alex has been so fascinated by Star Wars that, after thinking about it, I decided he is old enough.  I told him as much earlier this week and the light in his eyes was priceless.  So we set a date: Thursday night.

On the way home from work, I picked up the DVD (I have the "Special-Han-Will-Always-Shoot-First-No-Matter-What-Lucas-Thinks-Edition" on VHS, but never have picked up the original trilogy on DVD) from the video rental store.  As I walked through the door, I showed him the case.  He literally started bouncing off the walls with excitement, clutching the case to his chest.

Should be fun.  It will be like watching it all again for the first time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An anachronism in the wild: Old school Walkman

The year was 1988.  I was 12.  For a few years I had used a huge, white Crown cassette player.  This thing was pretty basic.  It had no radio, no sound enhancement of any kind.  There was no auto-reverse.  Instead of a belt clip, this monster had a black strap so you could hang it around your neck (like a millstone).  It also required 4 AA batteries, which went on the bottom so this thing was much larger than a cassette tape.

But I played the heck out of it.  It serviced me well.  Time moves on though, and this just wasn't going to last.  Christmas, 1988.  Santa brings me the WM-AF64.  This was top of the line.  Auto-reverse at the tap of a button, Sony's proprietary Mega Bass sound enhancement, AM/FM radio with three presets as well (these were analog, not digital so you never lost them when the batteries ran out).  It also had a screw on belt clip, ran on 2 AA batteries and looked sexy.

I loved this thing.  I used it every day for years, and it withstood all that heavy use.  It would be replaced in 1994 by my first Discman, the D-33.  This, too, had Mega Bass and was billed as a "car" discman, meaning it was mounted on suspensors to try to limit the skipping.  It was also a beast.  Huge, thick, and a bit of a battery hog.  But it played me sweet, sweet music.  Years later I would finally retire this (after being married and having one kid!) in favor of the D-SJ15, a Sports branded discman that had buffering, was watertight and had a handy strap to use while running.  In fact, I still have this discman buried in a drawer in my room.

But as we all know, technology advances.  Time stands still for no one.  I finally jumped on the iPod bandwagon in 2006 with a 5th generation 30 GB model.  While I still have and use that iPod, the most commonly used is my 3rd generation iPod Nano (the best model in terms of form IMO).  I love it and use it every day.  And even then, I recognize that I am a few years behind the times.

So imagine my shock as, while driving home from work the other day, I saw a women getting ready to go for a walk outside.  She appeared to be planning on exercising, wearing athletic shoes and shorts.  She put some headphones on, then I saw her reach to her waist and push play on a huge, white Walkman style cassette player.

I was aghast.

Honestly, I don't even have any cassette tapes anymore.  I did, for years, but have no idea what happened to them or when they were left by the wayside.  Heck, my CDs basically only exist long enough for me to rip them to my computer then they go downstairs into storage.  Yet here this woman was, embracing technology from 1962, carrying at most 120 minutes of music in that bulky box.  And here I sit with 881 songs, totaling who knows how many hours, in a device smaller than a credit card and barely as thick as a couple sticks of gum.

My how the times have changed.  Though I cannot deny getting a little nostalgic for the tape hiss at the beginning of Europe's The Final Countdown, especially the start of "Cherokee" on side B.  Man I played the heck out of that tape.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Avatar: on coming late to the party

I am a science fiction fan.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I am a nut.  I mean, I have never been to any type of convention, so that has to bump me a notch or two in the normal direction.  At least I so delude myself.

Nevertheless, I like sci-fi movies, books, games, etc.  I also am easily amused by flashing lights and showy graphics.  So, given both of those aspects, I should have been seeing "Avatar" with my polarized lenses on day one, right?

Not so.

Enter geography.  I live in the Upper Valley, this little pocket in New Hampshire and Vermont right on the Connecticut River.  It is a great place to raise a family.  Low crime rates, good schools, safe neighborhoods and top quality medical care (I am probably biased in that last regard, but hey, what ya gonna do).  It is also a great place if you like spending time outdoors in nature.

It is not a great place if you like easy access to entertainment.  True, we have a theater in Lebanon and one in Hanover.  Both have small screens, with weak sound systems that are easily topped by the home theater set up your friend has (or maybe even you have).  The Nugget (the Hanover theater) sets itself apart though by being clean, and catering somewhat to the art-house theater crowd that Ivy League schools are bound to attract.

The Lebanon house-o-crap, on the other hand, is run-down, dirty, and so ghetto that the marquee does not have a single full movie title on it.  In fact, they don't even give each movie its own line.  For example, a month or two ago the movies "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "Shutter Island" were sharing a line, and became the new (and much more interesting sounding movie IMO) "Wimpy Island".  I'd see that, thank you very much.

Yet, they still charge $8/ticket.  I'm pretty selective of what I will go see there.  Or I'm just selective of when I will go see a movie there (ie. we have a babysitter and then will go just so we can actually go on a date).  "Avatar" was, of course, showing there, but I had no desire to pay $16 for a poor experience.  The closest decent theater is south in Hookset, and they were showing it in 3D there.  Some friends said is was awesome.  But that is 90 minutes away, one direction.  Figure out the babysitting for that one with a 4-5 month old (at the time it was released).  180 minutes both directions with a 150 minute movie, plus some buffer time and you have a 360 minute affair.  Right, like that was going to happen.

So I figured if I was going to see "Avatar", I would just as soon pay $3 to rent it for a subpar experience if my only real option was to see it at the Lebanon Ghetto 6 (not its official title, but the one I have loving bequeathed it).

Enter vacation.  Guess what?  There is an IMAX 3D theater in Myrtle Beach.  Oh, and they are still showing "Avatar".  And we had built in babysitting since we were there with my in-laws.  How could I pass that up?  Well, I couldn't, so I didn't.

So here is the part I actually talk about the movie.  If you made it this far, good on you.

In a nutshell, Avatar was a blast.  Sure, the story is one big freaking cliche.  It isn't original, it is very predictable, and it ends pretty much how you knew it was going to (unless, I suppose, you were lobotomized or something).  But you know what?  It was still beautiful to watch and a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle.  I have to give it to James Cameron, the 3D aspect of it was fabulously done.

Unlike other 3D attempts, this didn't feel forced.  I didn't feel that they were constantly reminding me this was in 3D.  Sure, there were scenes that showcased that better than others, but they felt like natural parts of the movie.  After a while, I actually forgot I was wearing ridiculous glasses and watching something gimmicky, it just seemed natural.  The CGI was still certainly CGI.  But it was very, very good CGI.  The aliens looked amazing.  Very expressive and emotive.  And the fact that they were aliens helped avoid the whole uncanny valley problem.

As I said, the story was nothing to get excited about.  But that wasn't the reason to see this movie.  It was all about spectacle.  And that was delivered in droves.  Maybe, when done well at least, there is something to this 3D technology.

Writings are hard!

As my second daughter would say: "Oh brilliant."

Not even a full week in to my "experiment" to blog daily, I miss a freaking day.  And it wasn't even as if I was too busy.  I just forgot.  Now granted, I was spending the day getting 60+ GB of music tagged appropriately so iTunes (oh how I hate you!) wouldn't choke on it.  Then again, my iTunes hate is a full blog article on its own.

Nevertheless, here it is, Monday morning, and I realized no blog article on Sunday.  Curses, curses, curses, I've been foiled again.

So how about two today?  Maybe?  I'll see if I am struck with inspiration sufficient to produce another article.  Yes, that means this one counts.  It's an article, right?  Ya wanna fight me about it?  I didn't think so.  I tell ya, some day, writings are hard.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heading home

Heading home is always a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, being able to make meals in our own kitchen, and just being around our own stuff.

However, as I look out the balcony window at the waves of the Atlantic crashing against the shore, I can't help but feel some sadness and remorse.  This has been a great week.  We have been able to play together, reconnect with family, and just relax in a way that isn't possible at home, even when not working.

I suppose the vacation isn't over yet, though.

We get a 9 1/2 hour drive today (past DC), and a 7 1/2 hour drive tomorrow (through NY).  Let the good times roll.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Project 260

Look, I am the first to admit I am not a great writer.  I would like to be better, though.  One of the most common recommendations to become a better writer is to write.

Sounds easy, no?

Nevertheless, I have really struggled in the writing department as of late.  As my brother and I are working to reinvigorate our music blog I feel the need to up my game a little.  Thus begins my 260 day project.  There is nothing magical about 260.  It just happens to be the number of days left in the year.  Yeah, I started a bit late.

I will write a blog article at least once a day in an effort to become a better writer.  Some will be trash, of that I am sure.  Hopefully amongst the throw-away articles, something decent will emerge.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Back in action

Yes, I have let this slide a bit.  I will try to do better.  Perhaps a shiny new theme will inspire me.

February wasn't a really great month for me on the running front.  I managed to go, but not very often.  I was in a funk.  It wasn't something I looked forward to.  March was better.  I managed to get in some good, long runs.  Sadly, April isn't starting off to great.  Hopefully I can remedy that this week.

Next week will also, hopefully be a good one.  We are actually going on vacation!  I know, how crazy is that.  Thanks to my in-laws, we will be spending 5 days in Myrtle Beach, SC.  We will be staying at the Dunes Resort, and honestly, if you ever have a chance to go there, take it.  Indoor water parks, right on the beach, it is a blast.  Should get some nice runs in the morning.  Maybe even a run or two on the beach.

I have also been determined to get my music blog collaboration with my brother back up and running.  I wouldn't pretend that we are somehow skilled music critics.  However, we do love music and are articulate enough to write what I hope are insightful reviews.  Feel free to stop by and bookmark us.  Hopefully this can reinvigorate my blogging overall.