Friday, 17 December 2010

I LURVE MY SISTER!


Just a quick post before I get back to revision-ing!

Since Christmas is just around the corner, and we're all full of good cheer, family love and giving (or try to be), I thought this quick post should be about someone in my family who I'm really close to and is my one true confidante and partner in crime: my little sister.

My little sister is an amazing little troll, who juggles a full-time uni course with a vast expanse of extracurricular activities and sports, and still has time to socialise with her friends. And to top it off, she has time for her needy elder sister, me. This little power house (i'm her senior by a year and 10 months) has been the source of much frustration in the past (ie. when we were kiddos) but in the past 5 years she's grown to be a wonderful young woman who reflects the best of our parents and has her very own qualities that make her the amazing person she is. Fiercely independent, she's moved out of our folks house two years after I fled the nest and has managed to sort herself out completely on her own (well i did help her out with her phone contract and some other stuff while I was still in England). And 6 months since I've moved back to continental Europe she's still blazing ahead, unstoppable and gorgeous as ever!

As amazing as she is, she does have moments where you can see the kid in her again and one of those happened yesterday when she came to have a look at my new flat. Her first impression: WOW! It's sooo big, my room is like a third of your bedroom's size, piss-take!

And with those words independent as she is, she made me feel like a big sister again. Not the needy big sister I am, but the cool big sister who she looks up to. And its pretty cool to have a little sister who's practically bad at nothing (except biology) to look up to you.

So this is for my little gurly-wurly: Merry X-Mas! I love you! Hope you like the present!

Merry Xmas Folks and Happy Holidays!
xxxx

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Best Show In The World!

HI HI!
haven't written in ages and i've not experienced anything super exciting lately so i've decided i'll talk about the past for todays entry.

being nostalgic is something not only old folks and fishwives tend to do, i've noticed when i'm home for holidays my mates and me tend to delve into the past and remember better times, carefree times, generally good times. this is generally accompanied by some merry drinking but i've got to get up early tomorrow so i think i'll leave that bit out for tonight :)

[spoiler- here comes the sad bit]

since my daddy's illness i've taken to clinging to all the things he loves to do, everything from watching his favourite movies, listening to his music and finding the simple joy in ironing or doing the laundry. it's silly but it makes me appreciate the smaller things in life and going by his motto of 'give everything - expect nothing'. it makes me feel closer to him and simultaneously allows me to understand choices he made in the past, that i'd judged him too quickly for. and it has the added benefit of making him believe that we share more character traits than we used to.
so sad and sentimental stuff aside, the things my dad enjoys doing include:

-sitting in a comfy deck chair on the garden terrace after some gardening
-ironing a bunch of clothes while listening to his record collection
-sitting and listening to his two little girls chatter about uni life and stuff
-watching a bunch of old westerns and movies from his 'era'

Now westerns and classics like 'The Graduate' are amazing movies that can keep you entertained for hours, but now and again you need something you can really relate to and enjoy on a day-to-day base. This is where TV shows come in. As kids our dad used to record a german kids music show and The Cosby show for us on VHS tapes (we have racks of them in the basement) but since our VHS player stopped working, we've not been able to watch those tapes for 4 years now (my dad was waiting for a combined DVD-VHS-recorder gadget to come out).

The thing is, when you move away from home, everytime you see something that reminds you of home makes you miss it more and think of the good times you had. My sister and I had an amazing childhood filled with great memories and lots of stories of adventures. Our folks were great about everything and really knew how to handle kids waaay before they had their own (they used to be teachers) so they knew that the normal methods of parenting needed to be expanded and adapted to how quickly children were developing in the 90s (and still are now!)
So, they turned to, and a lot of you may argue against this, TV. They realised we'd be spending a fair amount of time in front of it so they decided to make sure we were watching sensible stuff that taught morals and good manners and generally compassion and tolerance. Luckily, the universe experienced one of those miraculous moments of good timing that only occurs a couple of times in ones life as German TV bought the rights to air The Cosby Show.

Now I've heard a lot of criticism about this show lately, saying it gives a flawed image of what afro-american families were and are experiencing in America. I agree, looking back at that period I'm sure things were everything but the peachy-Cosby state of things. We still hear stories of inequality and discrimination in Europe where we're not sure whether to believe them or not.
However, I think the Cosby Show circulated some good ideas about parenting, social behaviour, tolerance and morals. Rewatching almost the entire show (we bought up 6 seasons this summer!) I realised there were a number of episodes that would have helped out a couple of my friends, not back in the day as kids but later on as young adults. There were numerous episodes about self-respect, in fact i think this was a very central theme through most of the show, which would have been a useful lesson for some of my mates who'd had some rough patches. Nothing as extreme as the episode where Vanessa and her friends get Kara's brother's car stolen and lose their concert tickets to some phony security guy. I just love Claire's rant/speech at Vanessa afterwards though, I remember getting a few of those as a kid from my mother.

Speaking of Claire, that lady was strong and fierce and loving and caring, patient and smart and I only hope that I turn out half as amazing as her. I know its just a show, but she is definitely a role model to look up to, I mean she raised 5 kids, with her full-time job as a lawyer and her husband being a doctor. And her kids weren't all angels that sat up in their play clothes and never got crumbs on the table cloth either! And Phylicia Rashad is beautiful! everytime i see posters of her from all the West End shows she's doing I need to stop and stare at them (too bad i see most of them when i'm on the escalator on the underground in london).

And Bill Cosby is just insanely funny! Cliff can keep my family in fits of giggles (hysterical giggles) even now and his humorous way of tackling issues in the family just make you smile. I especially love how he's so persistent in trying to figure out what secrets his family are keeping from him.
Years of watching the show didn't only have an effect on my sisters and my upbringing. Looking back at how our parents acted around us, I realise that our father adopted a lot of Cliff's behaviour (especially his dancing!) and my mother definitely has had some Claire-moments!

But another point that makes this show so exceptional, is the music that the shows audience is exposed to. My dad's always listened to Jazz and Blues, but I think this show took it to a new level and got me interested in the genre later on. There have been numerous guest appearances by big names such as BB King, Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Sammy Davis Jr and the amazing Stevie Wonder. I think one of my favourite moments in the show is the episode when Lena Horne sings 'I'm glad there is you' for Cliff's birthday. When Jamie Cullum covered it on 'Catching Tales' 20 years later, I knew i'd heard the song somewhere before.

Apart from the terrible fashion (all except Claire, and Vanessa at times) this show is definitely up there among the best and probably my favourite as I connect so many great memories from my childhood and images of my parents with it.

So I leave you with three of Rudi's greatest moments, in my opinion of course, and hope you've enjoyed this show as much as i have.

sit there till you eat them

it aint easy being green

the locker room

xxx

Thursday, 30 September 2010

PICTURES!

Hi hi!
so a month after moving here, I've finally managed to post the link to the Picasa album containing the pictures from my frolicks around Budapest. Just check on the left hand side of this page under 'DFT's Picasa Photostream' or just click here to go straight to my Picasa profile!

Enjoy!

much love

Ran
xxx

Monday, 6 September 2010

First impressions of Budapest: Museums, History, Philosophy. Is it necessary?

I’ve recently just moved to Budapest to study medicine. Why Budapest of all places? Well there’s a couple of reasons I chose to come here:
1. The medical school has a good reputation and has been recommended by several of my mother’s colleagues.
2. I would have the opportunity to practise and even study abroad
3. It’s close to home yet it’s not close enough for my folks to drop by spontaneously
So now I live in a completely new country. Whose language I don’t speak. Let me tell you I’ve heard the only other European language Hungarian is distantly related to is Finnish. Now as someone who studied Latin for 4 years rather than something practical like French of Italian in the hopes of being able to master any other language that way, this was not good news for me. But no worries, I have some very friendly people willing to teach me the language and the majority of the natives speak either German or English with relative fluency. That on the other hand is good news.
However, despite being equally fluent in German, I realised today I have a tendency to revert to English when asking for directions, out shopping, etc. Thanks a heap London!
SO yesterday was my first day at Uni and I had to register for all of my courses. This was done quickly and over by 9 am. Spontaneously, I decided to unleash myself on the city. This proved difficult as a. It was raining and b. I couldn’t understand any of the street signs. So I resorted to aimlessly walking around Kalvin Ter (Kalvin Square) looking for something to do. Which is when I spotted a branch of the bank I had an account with at home and I remembered I needed to enquire about money transfers and withdrawals with my cash card from home. I stalked in, picked a number (you need to pick numbers here for banks, in phone shops, etc) and had a chat with a bank official who spoke English. Upon inspecting my student ID to determine whether I was eligible for a student account she looked at me and told me we could have been speaking German all along, as she was more fluent in it. I remembered my ID stated I was a German student. WHOOPS!
After finishing up at the bank, I walked out onto the square again where it was not raining even harder. Feeling stranded I pulled up my hood and trekked up the Museum K├Ârut. And there amid the downpour loomed in front of my eyes a familiar sign: Coffee Shop Company.
The Austrian coffee chain based in Vienna had spread this far and shone a light at me in this hour of need. After a dark hot chocolate I was in better shape and ready to explore this beautiful city cursed with horrible weather. Luckily, I had packed a German city guide distributed by Uni listing the main attractions. And what’s better than visiting museums on cold rainy days?
Luckily, the national museum was immediately opposite to the coffee shop, so I waited till opening time and braved the wind and rain to enter the giant Acropolian building that houses a massive collection of Hungarian history reaching from prior to the Vandalian conquests to after the fall of the Communist Regime. Two hours and a load of information later, I still had ages until my afternoon talk back at Uni. And I was getting hungry. Armed with a map of the city and my tour guide I jumped on a tram headed to the large Market Hall close to Erszebeti Bridge. The Market is housed in a building generally associated with old Victorian railway stations, all steel framework and pointed roofs. The bottom floor is lined with stalls offering veg, fruit, meats and fish. Out of the centre of this floor staircases jut upwards to the parterre along the sides of the walls, where one can find Hungarian lace and cloth, as well as the usual bric-a-brac stalls such tourist hot spots attract. One side of this balcony is lined with stands selling cooked foods typical to the capital and a large cafeteria or so-called Etterem. Having explored this thoroughly, I headed back to the centre of the city on the tram and decided to explore further up north on the Pest side of the Danube.
My search took me to the House of Terror, the former abode of the Hungarian Nazis (Arrow Cross) and the Hungarian executive body of the Stalinist regime – the Hungarian equivalent of the KGB. Being a WWII and Communism history buff myself, this was of particular interest to me. The exhibition is excellent although not entirely translated to English. The use of audio and video creates a vivid picture of the political atmosphere as well as the civil situation by using recordings of political speeches and videos of victims who survived both terror regimes, thus conveying the grotesque events and decisions that took place in number 60, Andrassy Utca. The basement in particular, featuring recreated and preserved prison and torture cells, was an emotional experience. My favourite exhibit however, was the memorial to all the victims – candles and old torchlights mounted on iron rods, illuminating an otherwise dark room, where the names of the victims line the walls.
This leads me to draw the conclusion of this blog post:
Many students and pupils complain about studying history. My father has a tendency to say, memory of past experiences leads us to improve ourselves and avoid making the same mistakes twice. I like to believe that studying history will teach us what went wrong in the past and what we should avoid. Unfortunately, this knowledge is lost somewhere along the way, maybe because we are so reluctant to study history and remind ourselves of the errors of our forefathers. Until this is altered, history will indeed repeat itself.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Disease is multi-factorial?

So the situation that sparked off the initial thought for this monologue was my mother's insistence on my living in my hostel. I don't want to divulge too much, but to briefly explain:

just recently I finished my first degree, now I'm headed for Med School, as most pre-med students aim to do. That's all fine and exciting and my parents are thrilled that soon they'll have a qualified doctor in the family (soon, huh! more like 6 years) but the top-most issue or fear in their minds is the fact that I won't have accommodation.

'SHOCK, HORROR', they exclaimed (pardon my use of caps, but that's just how my folks sound), while I sat opposite them, irritated and annoyed at the fact, that once again I had surrendered another opportunity to hone my independence and decision-making skills. You see, at the start of this summer I had promised them I would look at hostels, houses, etc prior to actually moving out to campus. 'Nyahaha', I thought, 'This time I can have it all my way'. Wrong.

Due to the relatively closer proximity of the second institution of my further education, my folks, recognised an opportunity to once again take matters into their own hands and leave me out of the say. It started of harmlessly, an email correspondence between my mother and her brother in Australia. Soon enough, a plan had been hatched and now a further relative had been involved in the matter. I was previously happy with the calls I was receiving from overseas aunts, uncles and cousins, congratulating me on getting into med school. 'Yes, this is the way it should be. I will be the first doctor in this large family.', I kept thinking to myself. (when I say large I mean large. Both of my parents have 6 siblings each. On average each sibling has 2 children.) But I hadn't expected my uncle's involvement in the decision-making as to where I was going to live.

You see, my first degree I spent entirely living in hostels or university-associated accommodation. Sure there are benefits, such as added security, the opportunity to meet different people, proximity to campus, hostel-organised events, and in my latter two years, cooked meals. However, a number of my friends lived in non-university accommodation (a.k.a. flats and houses) and after being at their places most of the time for the majority of the week, you feel ashamed of inviting them around to your dingy hostel room. Yes room. First year I shared with one girl, who was sweet enough, but the next two years I was in a triple, where my roommates were continously rotated each term. That was hard to get used to. Now, I'm an amiable person, and I know I shouldn't be complaining, loads of kids have to stay at home, don't meet new people, haven't experienced university life to the max that way. Yes, I understand, but I have. To The Max! And I've found it tough to deal with when you have exams looming over your shoulder and your roommate happens to be a very chatty person. Sometimes, just having a door to shut so that you don't have to partake in every single of your roommate's actions can be a great help.

So, you can imagine that I was hoping to finally move into a house or an apartment, shared of course with a max of 2 others this fall. I've even been looking up some places and people who were offering or looking for people to live with them in apartments. And I've found the perfect place with a seemingly lovely person starting med school this autumn as well. Brilliant! So I tell my folks about it, really optimistic and excited. It all goes over well and I seem to have convinced them that it will work.

Little did I know that my mother had been scheming. Because today I receive an email from her, a forwarded message from my uncle who's organised a place in a hostel through his friend. Now hostels are fine, they have their advantages (see above) but I'm done with them. Additional disadvantages this hostel would have: a. the kids I'd be living with don't speak English, b. The kids I'd be sharing with wouldn't necessarily be studying medicine (which leads to that well-known ordeal of having to rush to the library to get some peace and quiet time), c. I'd be sharing with 3 others. After my first degree, I swore to myself, never again am I sharing ONE room with 2 other people for an ENTIRE YEAR!

I put these three points to my dad this morning and he seemed thoughtful. You can always trust my father to weigh out both sides of the argument and depend on his own morals and experience to make a decision. Or a compromise. His reply was: 'Talk to your mother about it.' Great. Now I'd have to face the dictator.

And this is where my monologue comes in. You see, these kind of talks you need to prepare. Think of a strategy. Formulate your argument. Find supporting evidence. Draw a conclusion or in the worst case, a compromise. Structured speeches, that's what it's all about.
And of course, a good rhetorician will always consider their opponent's possible counter-arguments. In my case, think of what you're mother will say to discourage you.

Now, I'm quite lucky to have at least 19 years of knowledge of what kind of arguments my mother is going to bring. For example:

* Don't do it, you might hurt yourself
* I'm not doing this to hurt you, I'm doing this so you avoid getting hurt
* You saw what happened last time you tried to do this. Do you want that to happen
again?
* I've told you this a million times before


As you can tell, these aren't very constructive or useful arguments. No solid evidence in fact rather emotional, the line of thought is pretty much the same (i.e. always opposing my actions or thoughts) and very weak. This means I might actually have a chance of putting through my opinion and driving home the point.

However, there is one strong argument she might bring. I failed a bunch of my exams in my first year. She clings to this point and insists that this was because I spent more time cooking for myself than actually studying.

Now, as a life sciences graduate, I say this is bad science. That's a bad assumption, with a correlation between two distinctly unrelated variables. Why?
Because I know the truth. (Let's not go into how she is misinformed, due to false or incomplete reporting of the going-ons of my first year on my part. She's a laymen and my mother, so she always thinks she's right and will not hesitate to bring together two such far-fetched statements.)

You see, (and this is how I will explain it to her tonight, if she brings up the point - which she's bound to do) my failure to pass a number of exams in first year, was the consequence of multi-factorial reaction. For example, the manifestation of a genetic disease in an individual depends on a number of variables:

*Is the disease recessive or dominant? In which case, if it's recessive is the second allele present?
*For recessive disease, is it sex dependent (i.e. will it be cancelled out by an intact allelle on the second sex chromosome?) or is it an autosomal disease?
*Will the consequences of the activation of the faulty gene manifest? Is the cellular machinery required for the synthesis of the gene product available or is it itself faulty due to another mutation?
*Will the fault in the gene even allow viable cells to form? Will the organism itself be viable?

As you can see a number of questions pop up, as you carry on down the check-list and you become aware of the number of hurdles one has to overcome to even reach a state of fault. The same can be applied to a less scientific, more general human behaviour analogy:

For example, our subject Rose has been considering purchasing an article from a tele-shopping channel. Her friend, Sam has previously praised this article's function and usefulness. Now Rose may purchase the article or not, depending on number of factors, or variables, that come into the picture.


- What does she herself think about the article? Is she convinced of its function and value? Is it an impulse buy? Does she usually impulsively buy or does she prefer to weight out pros and cons before purchasing?

- What are her previous experiences with tele-shopping? Are the products generally good or low quality? Does she trust the salespeople? Where the telephone operators friendly to her last time? Has she had a bad experience?

- Does she trust Sam's judgement? Has a previous recommendation of Sam's proven to be wrong before? Has Sam lied to her before? How close is their relationship? Does she even trust Sam? Does she generally have issues trusting her friends? What does she even consider friendship? How close was she to her friends during her childhood and how much did she trust them back then?

- What if we introduce an additional factor? Rose's relative has preached to her about the inefficiency of this article. So Rose will wonder: How much do I trust this person's judgement (depending on the type of relation, past experiences with this relation, the relationship with her relative, etc)

Now you may think that this is somewhat exaggerated, particularly with the example of Rose's blast to the past to remember childhood experiences. But there is an inkling of truth. Humans, like apes, learn from previous experience. Just as babies learn not to touch the stove due to the memory of the sensation of pain and possibly the telling-off received from the mother associated with this action, monkeys have been shown to use objects as tools once they have done this before. But I'm going off into the nature vs. nurture argument now..

But as you can see, all these things are multi-factorial and not determined by a single causative factor. In fact, in life, hardly anything is. Which leads me to my conclusion. Which in effect is, that there is none. Everything is multi-factorial, but I knew and was convinced of that before I started writing. I guess there is no conclusion. Maybe that's the conclusion. There is not always a lesson to be learned from each story or stream of thought.

If this conclusion disappoints you, go back to the header of this blog. It reads:
'Incessent ramblings of the mind'
I'm sorry if I wasted your time, but I did warn you at the start.

much love from the rambler

Ranalie
xxx

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