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In only
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I will be Mrs. Daniel Tobin!

Monday, January 30, 2006

On vocations

Why in the world would anyone ever choose to become a Catholic priest or a nun? Why would you give up most, if not all, worldly pleasures, and place yourself in the service of people who, at the best of times, do not appreciate you enough to make up for the sacrifices you are making? Francis Porretto in this post talks about one possible advantage. A life surrendered to God and to the discipline of the religious life relieves one from having to worry about the sundry decisions we are faced with everyday.

I think this was one of the facets of religious life that most attracted me back when I was discerning my own vocation. I think it was also the reason I eventually didn't attempt to become a nun. Well, I am not a nun because I ultimately concluded that God did not want me to be one. But part of the reasoning that led me to that conclusion was that I felt I was looking to the religious life to provide me with an escape from the daily life I was living. I wanted that imposed discipline so I wouldn't have to make the effort to discipline myself. More than anything, I wanted all the decisions made for me, so I wouldn't have to go through the torture of making them myself. Or worse - be responsible for a decision that turned out to be wrong. I wanted the freedom to be a child forever - a child of God, perhaps, but nonetheless a child.

And, ultimately, I decided that this wasn't what God wanted for me. He wanted me to grow up - to live a life where I made my own decisions, and took responsibility for my own mistakes. I perhaps run the risk of indulging too much in those worldly pleasures that I would have given up in the religious life. But I am far less at risk of being that servant who buried his talent in the ground and got no use out of it.

Not, of course, to imply that people who do have religious vocations are wasting their talents. Far from it - they will certainly find occasion to use their gifts for the greater glory of God. However, I do believe that as a general rule, we are called to the vocation that would need us to have the most dependency on God. For me, the discipline of the religious life could easily become a crutch by itself, a routine that I could follow without fear of mistakes. That routine could easily become my downfall, taking away from the loving relationship that is the goal and prize of faith. The temptation in lay life is that the very many pleasures in the world will (and do) tempt you away from that relationship as well, but the lay world is more full of the painful situations that bring you back to God too. At least, this is the way the world works for me.

I am sure there are people whose biggest cross would be to submit to the discipline of religious life, and who could not get through that without a continual resubmission to God. It is those people, I believe who are most often called to that vocation.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Way to go, Chuck!

Dear Charles Schwab,

I've seen several of your "Talk to Chuck" commercials recently. They made an impression on me; I've been thinking "Maybe I should talk to Chuck. I do have some money I could invest, and advice and help would be nice." You were totally winning me over.

Then tonight I saw a new commercial. It said "When I'm a hundred-thousandaire, why am I paying commissions like a multi-millionaire?... Talk to Chuck." Wow, did that make me feel inadequate!

I'm not a hundred-thousandaire. My net worth is currently in the negative tens of thousands, thanks to 2 very expensive degrees that I'm still paying for. However, I'm a 25 year old professional woman who will no doubt have more than $100000 to invest at some point in the not so very distant future. And I want to start investing now so I get that 100k sooner rather than later. If Chuck doesn't want to help me get that money, I'm going to have to find someone else who will. And if I get good help from someone else when I'm young, (relatively) poor and inexperienced, chances are I will stick with that person when I'm older, have more money and know a little more about how I want my money to be managed.

So, Chuck, explain to me why I would ever give you a second look tomorrow when you so nonchalantly dissed me today? Thanks for nothing Chuck; I thought you were different...



Saturday, January 14, 2006

Insomnia and nightmares

Stupid nocturnal sleep schedule. That's why I'm wide awake at 0530.

Or it might be the awful dream I had. It was one of those where it isn't too bad while you're actually dreaming. It's just kinda sad or tense or 'not quite right' feeling. But then you wake up and remember what you dreamed and you just feel sick to your stomach because of how very horrible it was...

Man, I wish I could sleep... Oh well, bring on the Benadryl...

Good night/morning. See you later.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thoughts on love (and Shrek 2)

Ok, it's a kiddie movie, but I love Shrek 2. It's lighthearted, funny and tells a good, gripping story, albeit one that's fairly predictable. It's basically your everyday true love conquers all story as it relates to an ogre and a princess.

The reason for this post, though, is a line that's certainly not unique to this love story. "If you really love her, you'll let her go," says Fairy Godmother to Shrek at one point in the story. We've all heard that line so many times in so many different love stories. Sometimes the person follows this advice, and sometimes they don't, with varying consequences depending on the story.

Like any other cliche, there is some truth in this saying. True love requires that you want what is best for the person you love, and sometimes that means acknowledging that you are not the best match for that person. Sometimes, you do have to let them go. It is also truue in the more general sense that you need to let the other person be free to become the person they are meant to be, and not force them to conform to your vision of who they ought to be.

Nonetheless, I think this line is used too often, and makes people nervous and less confident than they ought to be is their relationships. When you truly do love someone more than yourself, you always worry that you might not be helping them live up to their fullest potential. There's always times when you wonder if they truly would be better off without you. And, like in the movie, there's usually someone around to whisper the poisonous line at the opportune moment. Sometimes the person has an agenda, but sometimes they just honestly believe that the two of you would be happier apart.

I'm not denying that some relationships just aren't meant to be. For many reasons, two people can love each other, but still not be able to make the relationship work. And, in those cases, the best decision you can come to is to walk away and live with the regret, rather than try and stick it out till you end up hating each other. Still, in most cases, you can make it work, and it's important to know that. You need to be confident that you are the one your lover is meant to be with; that there's no one else who would be better for them than you are. We all have doubts sometimes, but if we stick it out and try our best to make it work, we might just be rewarded with something beyond our wildest expectations.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Trusting the Source

Sarah talks about something similar to what I was getting at here. The Over There show admits it is fiction, but it claims to be realistic fiction. The events and people are not real, but we are clearly meant to think they could be. It's not like Gettysburg, which is clearly a "what might have been" story, but more like The Killer Angels. Of course, neither Over There nor The Killer Angels (and especially not Gettysburg) are meant to provide the reader/viewer with a historical education about the wars they protray. What these works do is give us an impression of what these wars are like. What did it feel like to be a soldier in the Civil War? What is it like to be on the ground in Iraq?

There may be errors in the historical accuracy of the Civil War novels. They might even be of the "that would never, ever happen" variety that Sarah's husband pointed out in the TV show. There are two important differences though, that make the TV one more worrying than any faults in the books.

The first, of course, is that the Civil War is over; it's outcome is decided. No one, after reading Gettysburg, is going to say "I think we ought to have let the South secede." Or certainly not "'I think we ought to reinstate slavery as a legal option." Factual errors, or even deliberate misleading statements can color our view of the past, but cannot change what happened. In that sense, the power anyone might gain by distorting the truth in these novels is very limited. On the other hand, if a misleading, negative impression is continually thrust upon the public about the war we are currently in, that could lead to significant societal and political pressures to change our policy. Potentially devastating actions are possible if someone with a deliberate anti-US agenda and enough talent were to undertake the job of systematically feeding the public lies about the war. (I'm not saying the makers of Over There are trying to mislead, merely explaining why they come under more scrutiny than the writers of historical fiction).

The other reason we should be more concerned about errors in the TV programs is that the events are still taking place. We obviously don't know everything that is happening, or how things will turn out. Quite possibly, historians in the future looking at the events of these years, will discover that many things that appeared good at the time turned out to be bad and vice versa. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of study already done about the Civil War. There is so much material out there already that it would be extremely difficult to convincingly pass off something about that time period unless it was grossly true. You might be able to conceal small changes, or skew things in a certain direction, but certainly, no one would be able to suggest that Gettysburg was a more accurate portrayal than Killer Angels.

It is far easier for the Iraq war to be mischaracterized as a "war for oil" or "American imperialism", or "imposing American ideas of democracy on people who don't want it". It is also easier for people to malign our troops as bloodthirsty, amoral, war criminals because the theater of war is so far away that most people only do get to see the troops as the media portrays them. Hence, it is doubly important that we keep a close watch on what those portrayals are, and correct the errors when we find them.

Which brings me back to a point I made in my earlier post - how do we know we are being misled? If you aren't intimately involved in the war in Iraq, either being there or knowing well someone who is, how do you even begin to theorize that the media portrayal of our troops is a distorted image? How do we know when the source of our information can be trusted?

I talked about blogs having accountability because of the ability to directly link to the source material. Still, I think blogs will suffer the same fate the traditional news media did, and become institutionalized, even mainstream, if you will. I admit to not always bothering to read the linked article on a blog, if I trust the author to generally be honest with what he reports. As blog readership increases, and bloggers get their information from more widespread sources, the job of editorial fact-checking becomes ever harder, and will need to be either delegated or subordinated to other tasks. At that point, it becomes a lot easier for an untrue story to slip under the radar and be given publicity it doesn't deserve.

Imagine if every subscriber of the New York Times read your blog. Imagine the quantity of content you would need to put out before this becomes a possibility. Imagine the nightmare of scrupulously fact-checking every piece of interesting news/information you come across before you mention it on your blog when putting out this enormous quantity of information every day. How do ensure that you as a news source remain trustworthy and only publish accurate information?

I don't really have an answer to that question. Maybe blogs will never grow into giant media entities like the newspapers and networks. Maybe everyone will have his or her own little piece of internet expertise where (s)he writes only about things (s)he has verified. I don't have a crystal ball. All I have is a fortune cookie that says "all is not yet lost..."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sleep Schedule

I tried an experiment today to see if I could live a semi-normal life while working nights. Usually, if I'm working one night, I just stay up really late the night before and then sleep in till noon or so the day I'm working. I still get about 5 hours of usable time, and I know I've gotten enough sleep.

This morning, however, I had a dentist appointment at 0830 that I had to wake up for. The prudent thing to do would have been to reschedule it for a more convenient time. But I wanted to see if the afternoon nap method of getting enough sleep works for me. I've tried it in the past, and I know I have trouble falling asleep during the day. But recently I've found that taking Benadryl knocks me out fairly well, and I'm reasonably good at staying asleep once I get over that initial wakefulness.

Well, I got home from my appointment (and a couple of other errands) at around 1000, and, unsurprisingly enough, found I was not sleepy. I had something to eat, talked to Dan online, and then decided that if I didn't try to take that nap fairly soon, the Benadryl would leave me sleepy at work and, obviously, I don't want that. So around 1100, I went to bed, took my Benadryl, and tried to sleep. I did fall asleep, and did stay in bed through 1600, but I'm not sure about the quality of the sleep I got. It felt like I was awake every half hour, although there were all memories of waking up, so I must have gotten some sleep in between.

The most difficult part about this is that I didn't fall asleep last night till around 0330, so I only got about 4 hours then, and those were not really good either. I guess I'm just going to have to keep pouring on the caffeine tonight, and go back to my usual sleep pattern starting tomorrow.

Result: If I'm going to work nights, I'm going to have to keep that nocturnal schedule, or get better knock me out drugs.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I'm preparing to watch the Steelers play the Bengals. Living here, I have to root for the home team. I have no idea, though, if they are likely to win or not. They won once and lost once against Cincinatti in the regular season. But they've been on a winning streak, and Cinci's been on a losing streak.... There's more that I would know if I were a sports fan like some of the people I know, who could handicap this game with the confidence of a bookie.

I'm, of course, not much of a sports fan at all. I do like watching football, a fact brought home to me mostly because I've been watching it over the past couple of days even though I don't particularly care for any of the teams in the playoffs besides the Steelers. Granted, my method of watching football is to sit here with it on and a good book, and look up when the announcers get excited. That way I get to see all the cool plays in slow motion during the replay.

The best part of football games, in my opinion, is cuddling up on the couch with Dan while he watches the game, and eating all the fun football snacks that everyone has to have - wings, veggies and dip, crackers, etc. Mmm... football season...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Alternate History

I'm trying to read Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen. I'm about 100 pages into it, and I'm realizing that I don't know enough to truly appreciate it as an alternate history.

Unlike Daniel, who's been a Civil War buff for most of his life, and was fairly close to being a history major in college, I have not ever had much interest in history. Most of my knowledge of the Civil War comes from The Killer Angels, and having Dan give me the tour of Gettysburg, explaining what happened where. So, while I have a general idea of the main events of the battle, I don't have nearly close to the ready familiarity with the events of those days required for me to understand how this novel changes things. I'm getting a vague idea that the first day of battle isn't going quite the way it did in real life, but I wouldn't be able to tell you in any detail what's different.

What all this means is that, while I will still undoubtedly enjoy the book, I will not be able to judge how well it works as an alternate history. I don't have enough appreciation of how things truly happened to decide whether the alternate presented to me is plausible or not. Fortunately, the authors make it clear that this is a work of fiction and not how things really happened. If it were presented to me as authentic history, I know I wouldn't be able to identify which parts were real and which ones weren't, or which parts were emphasised to reflect the biases of the authors. What I don't know is whether the typical American high school student who, theoretically at least, knows more about the Civil War than I do, would be able to identify fact from fiction in this book.

If we don't have access to all the facts about a situation, how do we tell fact from fiction? Would we even know that there is an alternate story out there? What would you have done had you been one of those listeners to Orson Welles' broadcast that night? What if you only had access to one news source, or didn't have the time to read more than one and compare their versions of what happened in any given event? What if we didn't have bloggers to give us the man-on-the-scene point of view? Is it possible for people to create 'alternate realities' of how things happen, based simply on the fact that they control the media people get their news through?

I get most of my news through blogs, rather than official news sites, and this is one major reason why. If the blogger is making things up, I won't be able to find confirmatory reports, and I will most likely find several refutations of his points. However, newspapers, or news web sites, and especially news on TV, make a point of being "objective, unbiased, professional, etc." and I have to trust to their reputation for being honest with me. There's no transparent fact checking like there is with blogs. I suppose a blogger determined to fool the world could set up a number of blogs whose sole purpose was to provide false information to the world, but the effort required would be huge.

I don't think this is because of the nature of blogs as a medium as much as it's a function of the fact that blogs are new, untamed and uninstitutionalized. Newspapers once were revolutionary and incendiary too, but as they got big and respectable, they got populated by people to whom power was more important than truth. Blogs could get the same way, given time, I'm sure, and then the people making the news will have to find some new means of getting the true information out to the public. But that will take a while, and in the meantime, blogs are the best source of unbiased news (or openly biased, which is still better than having an agenda but claiming to be objective) we have available.

The main reason we can identify alternate histories to be "alternate" is that we know what really happened. And that's because the event is in the past. In the present, we have to keep in mind that the story we hear may not be the complete one. We might not be deliberately being deceived (on the other hand, we just might be); the person reporting might just have only a partial picture, and we have to wait for other points of view before we know the whole story. But, to quote the book that gave rise to this post, "the rear of a battle always looks like a battle lost," and even today, we sometimes need to wait for the smoke to clear before we can make any statements about what really happened.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nervous Wreck

I'm turning into one.

I've been working on my own -off orientation - for two days now, and I can't stop thinking about my patients when I get home. And I keep thinking that I've missed something significant and very bad things are going to happen to them because of it. I know this isn't true. Even if I did miss something, there are other people taking care of them after I leave that will catch it. I might get written up, but the patient will be ok. I hope this gets better as I get more used to the work. When I'm not forever trying to catch up and make sure I've done all the paperwork I need to; when I know I've told the next nurse everything significant in report, maybe I will be able to actually sleep when I get home.

The worst part, though, is that when I do remember stuff that was important that I forgot to pass on, it's never on my drive home, or even within the first few hours after I get home, when I can call in and pass it on as a late report. It's usually a day later, when it becomes something I should have done that I can no longer correct. Like this morning, I remembered not having done 24 hour chart reviews Monday night. Something I missed that I can no longer fix.

I'm not a bad nurse; I take care of my patients. I am fairly good at advocating for what they need. I just wish I could do it without this gnawing at the pit of my stomach every day before I leave for work.