Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading Re-Reading, and Studying

When it comes to reading, I tend to multitask. There are books that I am reading, books that I decide to re-read, and books that I mull over as I read— that is the studying part. Seldom do I read one thing at a time.

The last fiction item that I read was a bit of a disappointment. Having read Angela Knight’s entertaining paranormal romance, Jane’s Warlord, I purchased her new entry in that series, Warrior: The Time Hunters, from eBook retailer Fictionwise. Jane’s Warlord, considered a “debut” novel by the “big time” publishers in NY, was not a debut at all, because Angela Knight, who has written for newspapers for years under her real name, has been writing erotic and science fiction for the eBook publishers for quite a while prior to making the jump to a bigger publishing house. My take on Jane’s Warlord is that Knight has a magical ability to combine character, setting, suspense, and a sufficient amount of science-fiction/fantasy elements to cause a lover of the genre (me) to say, “Wow, that was a good book.” Any readers of this blog who don’t know me might not realize that I do not gush over anything, so that is high praise. Alas, Warrior may share the same setting and a few characters, but it seems to be a pedestrian work. Knight has great talent, and I will probably try something else by her, but this book is not just not worthy.

For the past few weeks (months, really) I’ve been reading (and sometimes re-reading) Conversation Peace. This is a combo inspirational and self-help book. The intended audience is the gossiper, and, as I noted in my previous post, that is not usually a problem for me. That is not why I am studying it. All people, certainly not just yours truly, are sometimes victims of the wagging tongue. The lesson in this book is to avoid retaliation when being victimized. I suppose that means that perpetrators and victims can benefit from it! Certainly it is worth a read, and I am actually studying and not just reading it.

As for re-reading, I have logged some time in health care facilities recently— not as a patient, but as a “caregiver.” When there is nothing to read, I turn to my handy Palm, with some 65 eBooks installed. Thus, I was clicking through the list, and picked Pauline Baird Jones’ “The Key” to wile away some time, and I was hooked, yet again. An earlier entry is devoted to this book, and I did enjoy it the second time as well. Some books don’t hold up to re-reading, but this sassy heroine’s adventures are such fun that I finished it at home, where there are plenty of things in my TBR stack.

For more on my reading, including some upcoming titles, see my shelf at Shelfari.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being Quiet

I am, for the most part, a private person. That is, in part, due to being somewhat shy. Nope, I am not kidding. One of my Sunday School students, a spry lady in her 80's, laughs when I mention it, but my "teaching" persona is a bit fake. Oh, I can slip into that role well enough, having done so for thirty years, but given the choice, I will read a book rather than gossip.

Also, there is the matter of training. My mother was a secretary, a darned good one, in the days when that word was honorable. Mom told me, when I was still a youngster, that she knew many details from the private lives of the people who visited her boss, a minister with formal training in counseling, but that to ever discuss any of those matters was not only in poor taste, but it was a violation of her job title. "The job is that of secret-ary, and that is because one must know how to keep the boss's secrets." No doubt she took some juicy details with her to her grave. Yesterday, I met a lady in the grocery store, who had briefly employed my mother, and she gushed about what a wonderful person she was. Isn't it great to have a reputation that stands for 16 years past physical death? Those who knew mama, really knew her, still honor her memory. If she had been the local busy-body, would she be recalled with such glowing words? I think not.

For the most part, I am quiet, and there are those who think not jabbering all of the time is arrogance. Okay, I can't help that. However, when efforts are made to sully one's reputation, that can be tough to take. Thus a quote from a favorite science fiction writer comes to mind—

"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." —Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign, 1999

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Modern Medicine

I am old enough to have fond memories of doctors who made house calls, understood that paying for services could be a challenge for some folks, and who seemed to care about all aspects of the patient and even how his or her family might be fairing.

As the cliché goes, “that was then, this is now.”

My family has spent too much money and far too much time with medical folks lately, and I have to say one of my least favorite parts of modern medicine is the lengthy message that I hear each and every time I dial a doctor's number, listing various extensions for services, and almost always including this directive: “If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911.” The last time I called my orthopedic surgeon's office and got that message I did hang up. That means I did not see the surgeon for my post op visit, which did save me a bit of cash.

Even when patients do show up, miss-communication negatively affects modern medicine. Yesterday was a classic example of this. Daughter has a rare blood disorder, and, after many several trips to Athens and vial after vial of bloodletting, she was referred to a pediatric hematologist. This experience was a mixture of “old” and “new” healthcare. When I confirmed the appointment (a new fangled notion) I was told that she could go to the lab at the hospital to speed things along, in hopes that she could make her afternoon class at college.

Upon arriving at St. Mary’s Health Care System (what is wrong with the term “hospital”?) I pulled the car into the parking deck. After a hike from there to the main information desk, we were told that we should have parked at the pediatric clinic. When asked how to get there, the elderly ladies at information advised us to get back into the car and drive to the clinic, which is housed in a doublewide trailer at the rear of the facility. After a few minutes, we found it, then circled the completely filled parking area, three times, and decided that it was probably a favorite spot since it was the only “free” parking available. Back to the deck we went, which required a longish walk back to the doublewide. As we were hoofing it around the campus, the parking valet (whose mere presence falls under new) did give much better directions than the folks at the information desk. Interestingly, there are two handy parking spots behind the hospital, labeled “Clergy,” right next to the dumpster. Neither of us were sure what message that is supposed to send.

Once inside the doublewide, we were handed orders to the lab, which is located in the hospital (opps, it is now a health care system!) As we traversed the campus yet again, I read the orders, which basically would repeat the the last test she had done, the one that sent us to the pediatric hematogist. When we got to the lab, I asked the attendant to check for the results, and sure enough, those were available. She said she would fax them to the clinic so they would be there when we got back. Then common sense set in (an old-fashioned virtue) and she handed us a copy to take with us. Thus we were off on another walk, back to the pediatric clinic. Yep, that was a lot of walking. Isn't it fortunate that neither of us is actually sick? Several of those trips could have been averted if a patient could deal with one office, but we were referred to the clinic by the surgeon, and the clinic uses St. Mary's to do lab work. Anyway, after finally completing our visit with the doctor, some two hours after we began, daughter announced that she deserved a good lunch, and I agreed.

Meanwhile, hubby visited another medical facility, a new one built away from downtown. This one stop shop has five physicians, a social worker, a lab, two financial counselors, medical assistants, a pharmacy, and numerous nurses. With such a payroll , this facility's services cost so much that hubby says it is rather like the days when doctors attached leeches to the patient. But now, with the advances in modern medicine, instead of sucking blood, they just suck the patient’s wallet dry instead.

Modern medicine can cure many physical ills, but dealing with it isn’t making me feel one bit better.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love— yawn

Okay, let me begin by saying that Gilbert’s 2007 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, is well written, in a modern chick-lit meets spiritual journey sort of way. This book has been well received by reviewers and readers alike, and has sales stats that I could only dream of when I am farther from reality than either sleep or intoxication could ever take me.

Yet, I read a bit, and after a chuckle or two, I yawn and put it down. I have been doing this for days now, and as I am reading this for research, I will endeavor to finish it. Still, my heart isn’t in it. Over and over, I have asked myself why I don’t care for this book. After all, the millions of folks who have read it, recommended it, and purchased it could not be wrong.

Therefore, I embarked upon a spiritual journey to see why I am not whizzing through its pages. Gilbert’s journey takes a year; mine took about half an hour, because I have laundry to do, lessons to plan, others to help.

First, I do not read much nonfiction, and I almost never read biography or autobiography, so that may be a reason for my lack of interest. When I was a teenager, mom guided my reading, and she told me that I should read biography from time to time. My memory of that has faded a bit, but I remember standing at the biography section at the Piedmont Regional Library in Winder, GA, perusing the shelves. Finally, I selected a biography of Mae West, which I did read from cover to cover, but I don’t remember many details. Years later, my youngest sister gave me a copy of Carpenters, a biography of Richard and Karen Carpenter, which, due to Karen’s untimely death, was far more about her than about her brother. I really enjoyed it, because I love their music so much, but as for the details, most of what I remember is that I gained five pounds while reading about Karen’s bout with anorexia nervosa.

Secondly, Ms. Gilbert’s spiritual journey is all about herself. While she is not at all arrogant in her approach, indeed, I admire her ability to be self-deprecating as she explains her feelings and actions—the narrative is all about her. Seldom does she speak of others, and when she does, these persons are there to further explain Gilbert’s feelings about herself. She either reacts to these fellow humans or projects her own feelings upon them. Despite the good humor, the cosmopolitan settings, and the quest for spiritual balance, the whole thing is about self...self...and still more self.

And so I am along for the journey, as Ms. Gilbert works through her desire to eat, pray, and love. Readers want to identify with the narrator, and I quickly realized that I have little in common with this one. So, I continue to yawn and hope the author finds something to care about other than herself as my bookmark moves slowly toward the end.

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