Monday, August 25, 2008


I don't think it would surprise you to learn that I'm a voracious reader. I love to read, love exploring bookshops, and love buying books.

Does anyone remember Book Week from primary school? Each year at my school, we had Book Week competitions - from colouring in when we were little, to writing competitions as we got older. I won several of the competitions, but I distinctly remember winning in year 4 (age 9). The prize was a book (of course), and the school librarian specifically chose a book for me that was recommended for older readers: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park. I loved it, and continued reading at a higher level. I first read The Lord of the Rings at age 11 (and have re-read it several times since then). And of course I was all over the MS Readathon.

I'm a speed reader too, which comes in handy. And if I find a spelling or (more likely) grammar error in a book, I find it very hard to enjoy the book. It really spoils it for me. I suppose it's not the author's fault - I should blame their editor.

These days, it's harder and harder to find the time to read for pleasure. My bus commute is very short, and I simply don't have time to sit down with a book over the weekend. Mostly I try to read a chapter when I go to bed, but even that's difficult to fit in around work and study. I can't wait for the holidays!

So as you can imagine, the meme Liz posted was right up my alley.


The Big Read says that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

  1. Look at the list and bold those you have read.
  2. Italicise those you intend to read.
  3. Underline the books you love.
  4. Put a line through the books you read but didn't like.
  5. Publish the list to your blog.

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  6. The Bible

  7. (I've read the bits I had to as part of my Catholic upbringing.)
  8. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

  9. (I know, sacrilege right? I hated this book.)
  10. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
  11. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
  12. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  13. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  14. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  15. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

  16. (Finally got around to reading it earlier this year)
  17. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  18. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  19. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  20. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
  21. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
  22. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

  23. (I adore this - it's not very old. Such an unusual concept, so wonderfully realised.)
  24. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  25. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

  26. (I think I need to re-read this - I didn't fully appreciate it the first time.)
  27. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

  28. (Thankfully not ruined by studying it at high school.)
  29. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  30. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

  31. (I think I started reading this once, but it was too overwhelming.)
  32. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  33. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
  34. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  35. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  36. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  37. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
  38. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  39. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  40. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

  41. (It's been a while - these are on my 're-read' list.)
  42. Emma - Jane Austen
  43. Persuasion - Jane Austen

  44. (This is actually my favourite Austen book [well, it's about equal with Pride and Prejudice] - mainly due to Captain Wentworth's letter. Oh how I swooned!)
  45. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
  46. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  47. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  48. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  49. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

  50. (I own a beautiful hardcover version of this that I hope to read to my kids one day.)
  51. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  52. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  53. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  54. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
  55. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  56. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

  57. (How I wish I could meet a doctor like Gilbert Blythe...)
  58. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
  59. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  60. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  61. Atonement - Ian McEwan

  62. (Loved the movie.)
  63. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  64. Dune - Frank Herbert
  65. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
  66. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  67. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

  68. (This is my favourite book of all time. I've read it a few times now, which is no mean feat at 1474 pages. I love books about India, and I love love stories, so this book is perfect for me.)
  69. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  70. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  71. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
  73. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  74. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  75. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  76. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  77. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  78. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  79. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
  80. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  81. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
  82. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
  83. Moby Dick - Herman Melville

  84. (There's a large portion of my life that I'll never get back.)
  85. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  86. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  87. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

  88. (One of the most adored books from my childhood.)
  89. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

  90. (I much prefer Down Under.)
  91. Ulysses - James Joyce

  92. (Only because I thought I should read it. I didn't hate it, but I can't say I enjoyed it.)
  93. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  94. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  95. Germinal - Emile Zola
  96. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  97. Possession - AS Byatt
  98. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  99. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  100. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  101. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  102. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  103. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  104. Charlotte's Web - EB White

  105. (Another adored book from my childhood. Oh how I cried!)
  106. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

  107. (I bought it second-hand last week.)
  108. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  109. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

  110. (My sisters and me were very much into these books.)
  111. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  112. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  113. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  114. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  115. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  116. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  117. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  118. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
  119. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

  120. (I love anything by Roald Dahl.)
  121. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

  122. (I also bought this second-hand last week.)


57 out of 100 - that's not bad!

It's a funny list - clearly British with that Bill Bryson book on there. And of course there's a dearth of Australian books. I'd like to include these:
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

  • (Just finished this last night - brilliant.)
  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
  • The Woman Who Walked Into Doors - Roddy Doyle
  • The Shipping News - E. Annie Proulx
  • Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
  • The Riders - Tim Winton
  • My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
  • The Harp in the South - Ruth Park
  • A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
  • Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner
  • The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay
  • The Alchemist - Paolo Coelho

  • (I haven't read this yet - it's also sitting on my bedside table. But from what I've heard, it deserves to be on a 'best books' list.)
  • The Tomorrow series - John Marsden
  • The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

To put an Aussie spin on it, check out My Favourite Book, which was a survey (and TV show) done by the ABC (last year I think).

An errant apostrophe

A very clever person was published on Apostrophism today...

(I submitted a close-up photo too, but you can read the blog author's reason for omitting it.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The brain!

I enjoyed my Neurology and Neurosurgery rotation. Most of the people I dealt with on the wards and in theatres were lovely, and they enjoyed teaching.

Here are the highlights and lowlights:

  • Best moment: Brain surgery. 'Nuff said.

  • Weirdest moment: The patient who lied.
    This patient in his 30s came in with acute cerebellar ataxia. He told us that he'd had brain surgery as a child, but didn't remember what for. CT and MRI showed the craniotomy scar and some calcification where the surgery was done, and also showed severe cerebellar atrophy. The registrar examined the patient and asked him to get out of bed so we could check his gait. As he did this, a red and white capsule rolled out of his bed. He told us it was a vitamin pill that his friend gave him. It sounded very odd, but wasn't pursued at that time.
    About half an hour later, the patient asked to see the doctor again because he'd lied about the tablet and felt guilty. He told us that it was Dilantin (phenytoin), an anticonvulsant, and that he doesn't take it very often. However his phenytoin level was VERY high, and the docs concluded that it was causing his cerebellar signs. He improved off the Dilantin, but will have permanent damage to his cerebellum.
    (He also lied about the brain surgery - it was done about 10 years ago to remove a cavernoma, and he was taking the Dilantin to prevent seizures caused by the scarring.)
    I still don't understand why he lied - I guess he was scared. Read this interesting post by Edwin Leap about patients who lie and deceive.

  • Worst moment: The patient who died.
    This university professor was in his 70s, but still lecturing occasionally. Then one day he suddenly lost his speech and collapsed. He had all manner of neurological investigations, but imaging and other investigations were inconclusive. It didn't look like a stroke, or epilepsy, or a hypo, or syncope.
    However a suspicious lesion on the chest X-ray was explored further (with a CT), showing advanced small-cell lung cancer. There were no metastases, but it was decided that his neurological signs were explained by a paraneoplastic syndrome.
    The prognosis was poor. He was on the ward for the first 3 weeks I was there. In week 1 he was able to talk and follow commands. In week 2 he deteriorated, and by week 3 he was moribund. He passed away in the middle of week 3. It was very sad.
My next placement was supposed to be at a rural location, but it was cancelled. It's kind of a long story, so I'll save it for another post. I'm doing Immunology and Infectious Diseases instead, which so far is very interesting.

Oh, and my long case exam (described at the end of this post) went well, I think. We get the results next week. My patient had lot of things wrong with him, and I spent too long taking his history, but my presentation was good and I think I answered (most) questions intelligently. My two examiners were very nice - not at all scary.

Now I'm having a week off from study and focusing on:
  • My sister's wedding this Friday - will be fantastic, as long as family dramas are avoided (is it possible for me to get a divorce from my father?)
  • My netball grand final on Saturday - I hope my hangover is not too bad (luckily the game's in the afternoon)!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Follow the day, and reach for the sun

I've liked The Polyphonic Spree* for ages - beautiful, fun, uplifting music, full of energy. But for some reason I've never gotten around to buying any of their albums.

Last weekend I saw their latest clip on Rage:

I thought, "Right, that's it - I must own this music!" So I got their 3 albums during the week, and have had them on high rotation ever since.

Seriously, how could anyone resist this song?

You probably recognise it from TV, movies, and ads - specifically, it was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Murderball (ooh I love this doco), and an episode of Scrubs (with the band appearing too):

Anyway, I really should get to the point of this post. Yesterday, while listening to their music and procrastinating online, I thought it'd be good to find out when they're touring Australia. Based on their clips, this is a band that can be best appreciated live. So I explored their website, and to my dismay I found that they're currently in Australia, and they played the Metro in Sydney on the Tuesday night just gone! Aaaaaagh!! I'm SPEWING.

Can't believe how bad my timing is. I'm usually very much in the know about which bands are touring, etc. I get various email updates from places like The Vanguard. Now I'll have to get on the mailing lists for the Metro and the Enmore Theatre to ensure I don't miss any other brilliant bands.

In the meantime, I'll keep listening to The Polyphonic Spree, whose songs have the power to turn my frown upside down! (Heh.)

*The Polyphonic Spree is a 23-member "choral symphonic rock" group. They started out wearing white robes, then coloured robes, and have recently changed their look to black army outfits.