Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

A city without roaches? No way!  0

Posted on September 29th, 2005. About Ramblings.

Previously posted on September 29, 2005 at:!1p1a54g1PSNkhyBLLbfi4i8A!110.entry

My brother and I spent our formative years in Houston before moving to South Carolina as young children. This means many things, including an intense phobia concerning roaches. This morning we were talking about how these creepy, crawling, multi-legged bugs give us more than the creeps. If either of us sees one at some point during the day or comes close to one, we have nightmares about them. We then cannot sleep in fear of them crawling up our legs. I do not use the word “hate” often, but I hate roaches.
That being said – after my move to Seattle this spring, I did not see a single roach this summer. Not one. To those of you in the South, New York City, or any of a vast number of U.S. locations, you may be going – WHAT?! How is that possible? Well, I did not believe it either. Amazing. An entire summer – a roach-free season. Not a single nightmare. Then, in mid-September I flew to Houston to visit my family, and in a very nice, well air-conditioned and clean middle class home, while I was taking a shower, a big one crawled across the inside of the shower curtain. Upon my return to Seattle after that weekend – no more roaches.
It’s a beautiful thing to live without obnoxious freaky insects. I am posting this to share with my brother that, yes, it is possible to live away from them. All it requires is a move to the Pacific Northwest. 😉

Yes, Mom, I like Charleston  1

Posted on September 28th, 2005. About Ramblings.

Previously posted on September 28, 2005 at:!1p1a54g1PSNkhyBLLbfi4i8A!109.entry

I was raised in South Carolina and studied for my MD at the Medical University of South Carolina, which is in Charleston. This morning, I spoke with my mother, the assitant principal for instruction at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, SC, who was concerned that I posted in my running blog that my favorite cities were London, New York, and Seattle. She believes I am forgetting my Southern roots. Before I moved to Seattle my mother showered me with South Carolina-esque gifts – Palmetto tree wine glasses (which are beautiful, by the way) and Palmetto pajamas, to name a few.
So I will correct myself here – yes, I love Charleston for many reasons:
1. The city is beautiful – I really enjoyed running past the old mansions on the Battery as the sun rose over the Ashley/Cooper Rivers. It’s breath-taking. It’s refreshing. Few experiences can compare.
2. It’s seldom cold in Charleston. During my second year of medical school some snow flurries were spotted, and everyone immediately abandoned the library to observe them. They were gone within minutes. This was my experience with snow in Charleston.
3. The islands around Charleston are fabulous, particularly Edisto, where my aunt and uncle live, and Kiawah Island, where I would really like to vacation someday (as soon as I have the salary to make this happen).
4. I earned my medical degree there. The good people at MUSC believed in me enough to give me the chance to become a physician at their school.
5. I met some of the most wonderful people in Charleston – I am forecasting life-long friendships with several of my medical school cronies. Plus, in general, the people of the area are quite friendly.
6. The food is SPECTACULAR. Okay, I said few experiences can compare to watching the sunrise while running down the Battery. One of them is savoring shrimp and grits or she-crab soup at 82 Queen or Poogan’s Porch or especially The Old Post Office (actually located on Edisto Island). Don’t forget the Coca-cola cake!
7. Charleston is a semi-liberal haven in an otherwise fiercely conservative state. I actually met people there who voted for John Kerry.
8. Beaches! The Charleston-area beaches are very nice – clean water and a cool breeze that keeps the temperatures from becoming too much.
9. Charleston is nicknamed “The Holy City” because of its history of religious tolerance. One can find a vast number of denominations there – for example, it hosts the oldest Hugenot and Unitarian churches in the South. I like tolerant cities.
So there you have it – I do like Charleston. My husband works in technology, and unfortunately this is one area where Charleston is lacking, so staying for residency was not even an option for us. It’s a small city, so opportunity is limited in some fields. However, I love the idea of having a vacation home there at some point, so that my children, even if raised elsewhere, can return to the place I called home for so long and understand the culture that molded their mother into who she is.

Young adults need to think more about personal finance  1

Posted on September 27th, 2005. About Uncategorized.

Previously posted on September 27, 2005 at:!1p1a54g1PSNkhyBLLbfi4i8A!107.entry

I love payday. Even more, I savor joy of opening Microsoft Money and allowing the beautiful colorful pie charts and line graphs to hypnotize me. While paying bills may not top the list of life’s greatest exhilarations, I still enjoy keeping track of where my money is going and ensuring that my routine expenses are covered. But my very favorite part of payday is downloading my statement from Fidelity’s website outlining my latest automated mutual fund purchases within my 403(b). In addition to this, a portion of my after-tax income is transferred into my Roth IRA. I am 26 years old, and I am an investor.

So here is what baffles me. I am surrounded on a daily basis by intelligent, capable, educated colleagues – people who have earned medical doctorates and are, like myself, in the throes of residency. Yet, without fail, every time the 10th or the 25th of the month rolls around, I will at some point announce, “Today is PAYDAY!” The response I receive from those in the room with me is inevitably, “Oh, is it really?” or “I never keep track of stuff like that.” What?!?! Are you kidding me?! Who doesn’t know when payday is? Who does not keep track of paychecks? A colleague asked me a month ago, “I’m not even sure what our salary is – do you know how much we make?” Since the majority of these people are unaware of payday, then forget expecting them to participate in the voluntary retirement investing program – contributions to a 403(b). Forget going out of their way to contribute regularly to a Roth IRA.

So, then my next question is – the lack of retirement planning/savings must be secondary to student loan repayment, right? WRONG. Many residents opt to go into forbearance on student loans (they are not required to make payments during residency but interest accumulates on the principal).

So fine – maybe physicians just are not taught how to properly manage money. After all, many come from well-to-do families (of course, there are those who do not as well, so no nasty emails please), and they are forced into studentdom for extended periods beyond high school (a minimum of eight years). Yet – it’s not just physicians. I’m finding there are so few people my age that actually contribute even miniscule amounts to any sort of retirement/savings plan. My husband and I are quick to notice that charts in Money demonstrating rate of return on investments usually begin at age 35 and end at various retirement ages. Do even the financial magazines expect for 26 year olds to be squandering their money until they finally settle into reality ten years later?

Consider this: If a young 26-year-old medicine resident places even $100 per month aside over a four year residency, she will have $4800 upon the completion of her training (age 30). Now, pretend she contributes absolutely nothing more to this (which, of course, is nonsense because she will) and withdraws the money at age 60 (since she cannot withdraw it until she is 59.5 years old, if it is a Roth IRA or a 401(k)/403(b)). This $4800 alone, assuming an 8% rate of return on investment (a general average used for stock market estimates) will be valued at $48,300.75. So you may think – no big deal, she can wait awhile before she needs to begin thinking about retirement – how about 39? Waiting even just nine years will drastically cut back on the amount this money will earn for her – still assuming an 8% rate of return, investing it just nine years later and withdrawing it at 60 years old (so only allowing it 21 years to grow rather than 30) – and the same $4800 is worth $24,162.40. Spending that extra $100 per month is not just costing someone $4800 over four years, because the reality is >$24,000 has been lost. Never underestimate the “miracle” of compound interest.

I’m not an accountant, and my knowledge of personal finance is frighteningly limited. But this just seems obvious, people. Personal finance has GOT to be become part of the basic curriculum in schools if we ever hope to move to a system of self-reliance and a lower deficit. The same people who laugh about social security still being around when my generation retires are those who have not begun saving for their own retirement. They are denying themselves money in the years ahead, and while money cannot necessarily buy happiness, it can buy financial freedom – and freedom is a major component of happiness for many.

My Introduction to Jonathan Safran Foer  0

Posted on September 25th, 2005. About Books.

Previously posted on Sep 25, 2005 at:!1p1a54g1PSNkhyBLLbfi4i8A!106.entry

During the summer of 2001 The New Yorker magazine published several stories (I think there were four) by new, young, up-and-coming authors. I had begun reading the publication a year earlier, when a biology professor informed me that reading New Yorker-quality articles would aid me in preparing for the verbal reasoning portion of the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Yes, he admitted, this was South Carolina, and the locals were not prone to reading periodicals with Yankee state names in the title <g>, but this was worth the read. I quickly became hooked on the weekly short fiction. In any case, I distinctly remember several things about the up-and-coming fiction writers issue of The New Yorker from 2001 – the first story was about a young girl who falls in love with a much older man in India, but I don’t recall the author’s name. There was a story by Gabe Hudson about a soldier who returns from the Persian Gulf with Gulf War Syndrome – an intriguing, tongue-in-cheek piece outlined in the form of a letter to President Bush (41). Most remarkably, though, was an excerpt from a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. I won’t elaborate on details, but the style of the piece took me by surprise – Foer possessed a mastery of language, of delineating the barriers of languages in communicating sentiments and emotions. His writing was hysterically funny, too. I placed the magazine onto my bookshelf, deciding that I would watch Foer’s career and see where it took him.

Summer of 2002: Again, I’m reading The New Yorker, although I haven’t been as diligent about reading it cover-to-cover over the past year as I have been surviving my first year of medical school in Charleston, SC, and I must admit that I had forgotten that Jonathan Safran Foer existed a year ago for me. One of the most phenomenal pieces of short fiction I had read to that point (and have still read to this day) was hidden, awaiting me as its audience. “A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease” utilizes typeface symbols to represent expressions. Foer introduces the symbol, then gives an example of how the symbol would be properly used, and then throughout his story he incorporates these symbols as a substitution for the English language, but still perfectly conveying his intentions, the meaning behind the passage very clear. I loved it.

In the interest of keeping this entry brief, I will outline some of Foer’s writings I have enjoyed since my introduction to him:

Everything is Illuminated – Foer’s first novel, and an excellently crafted montage of tales featuring the history of Trachimbrod, a town obliterated during the World War II. Paralleling these mythical accounts is the story of Jonathan and Alex (Jonathan’s Ukranian translater) journeying through the Ukraine in search of information about Jonathan’s family history.

“Cravings” – short story, kind of bizarre, but a fun, interesting read

“About The Typefaces Not Used in This Edition” – short story in The Paris Review, where Foer further explores the use of symbols to convey tone/emotion

The Future Dictionary of America – edited by Foer, this is a compilation of satirical definitions, most of which possess political overtones. It was published before the 2004 presidential election, and proceeds were advertised as going to liberal groups. It is one of the most clever concoctions so far this century.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Foer’s brilliant 9/11 novel about Oskar, an extremely gifted and eccentric young boy who loses his father in the World Trade Center catastrophe; again, Foer manipulates language, this time between a man who has gradually made himself mute, but who uses “yes” and “no” tattoos on his hands and points to phrases on a pad of paper that mean almost what he is trying to express. One of the best novels I have had the pleasure of reading – I highly recommend it to all (anyone who does not mind putting energy into a rewarding reading experience, anyway).

So this is my official introduction on Jonathan Safran Foer. More to come later

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