Friday, April 20, 2012

April aardvarks

If you came here looking to read about aardvarks, sorry to disappoint you. I needed a gimmicky title. Just so you don't leave angry at me and at life, here's a picture of everyone's favorite aardvark Arthur, sporting one of my favorite outfits:

Moving on. Currently we are three weeks into the third and final block of first year. Neuroscience is the flavor of the month (or rather, the block).

First day of neuroanatomy lab, we were handed a bucket with a brain sloshing in formaldehyde, a rusty set of dissection tools, and a giant-ass steak knife. What a beautiful knife. I couldn't stop staring at it. So when the time came to chop the mushy brain into half, I wielded the beastly looking thing and went to work. The first thing I realized is the brain is disturbingly soft and food-like. Brain slices look like banana bread from a distance and one of my classmates even went as far as comparing it to a steak.

Having never taken neuroscience before, this is mostly uncharted territory for me. But I have found I get easily excited by G-protein coupled receptors, signaling cascades and ascending somatosensory tracts, so this has been a very fun journey. Nothing like a good view of lateral geniculate nucleus to brighten the day.

Enough about academics. In the past four weeks, I read five books - a pace I have not been able to match since my senior year of high school. To take up more space and give this blog post some more substance, here are capsule reviews of each:

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan: mega-bestseller, multiple award winner blah blah. Was made into a sappy movie. The book, though, is exceptionally well-written. He has a knack for transporting readers into the worlds and the minds that inhabit the book. One of the better books I have read in a while. 5/5

2. A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux: picked up on an impulse from the local library. Theroux is a well-known travel writer and occasionally writes novels, like this one. A weird blend of crime and mid-life crisis confessional that ultimately fails to be either, which is a shame because Theroux is very talented and would have done better if he had focused on only one of those things. 2/5

3. Dune by Frank Herbert. I don't read sci-fi or fantasy normally, but had to check this out for all the hype and hoopla that has engulfed it since its publication ("Science fiction's supreme masterpiece", screams the cover). Herbert tackles a lot of intricate issues - politics, class, environmentalism, gender - in vivid and imaginative prose. Loved the twists and turns of the plot and the legions of interesting characters. 4/5

4. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford: always wanted to read a survey book on the Mongols. This one fits the bill perfectly. Not overly academic or pedantic. Reading of the book is best augmented by reading some online sources, especially if you are interested in maps and details of campaigns and such. Third section of the book has too many far-reaching conclusions that are just, well, far-reaching. Otherwise very solid. 4/5

5. The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer: has nothing whatsoever to do with the shitty Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie movie. Standard espionage thriller set in post 9/11 America detailing the inner conflict of an ace CIA operative. Breezy, gritty and enjoyable. 3/5

And that's all for now. Going to Maryland for the weekend. Will have new material to drum up another "On the road" post after I come back.

1 comment:

  1. Arthur the aardvark has often been compared to Tirth Patel, or is it Tirth Patel has often been compared to Arthur the aardvark?