Friday, September 18, 2015

BookShelf: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

The Book ThiefIt’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

Like most books set in Nazi Germany, this one is tragic too.

The story follows Liesel, a young girl who is taken in by foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans is her new, gentle Papa who teaches her how to read, comforts her in her nightmares and plays his accordion for her. Rosa is her new tough, foul mouthed Mama who does laundry for richer people of the town. Despite seeming crude, she clearly has a big heart which is made even more apparent when they hide the Jew in their basement.

The story is narrated by Death, who is apparently some sort of being whose job is to gather souls. His narration was interesting, especially how he would explain some of the background of the situation. At the same time, he kept dropping spoilers ._. And not just one spoiler. Several spoilers. Repeated spoilers. A guy like that should be fired from narration. But one thing I liked was how I kept expecting the spoiler to happen, and it kept me on my toes. One major spoiler was announced somewhere near the first 1/3rd of the book and the whole scene was described by Death. But the scene itself happened right at the end. During the whole book, I was holding on, wondering how- more importantly, when- it would happen.

Another thing I liked about the book was how it didn't focus on the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust. It focused on the plight of the Germans themselves- how they lived in poverty, how a simple act of humanity could brand you as an outcast, how the visit of official Nazi officers would send a household into panic.

All in all, I would give this book a 4/5 stars.

If you like historical fiction, books about books and interesting imagery (hair the color of lemons? seriously?) then The Book Thief is the book for you ^^.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Innocent Attempt at Murder

You know those little episodes that happen in your life that people suddenly seem to associate with you even though you're a changed person and don't act that way anymore? Or if you still do, the other person misinterprets what you mean (not on purpose of course) and continues to bring up their side of the story? Like when you accidentally mispronounce a word and your friends turn it into an inside joke that will never seem to fade. Or when your dad starts telling stories about how you used to sit in the shopping cart and blow kisses to complete strangers.

We all have at least one of those stories and here's mine. (ok, the shopping cart one is also mine)

My brother has a habit of bringing up this episode every month on different occasions. I can only place my palm on my forehead as he shifts his posture and begins to reminisce out loud, in a style that clearly communicates the exaggeration and grandness of the story to come.

This is probably the picture of what he's describing me as in his story.

He claims to still remember that day, even though he was actually only a few days old (questionable, but as I said, exaggerated) and he had been placed in his little baby bouncer as my mother went to take a shower. All was well, for I watched over the small baby as well as any two year old could.

Until he started crying.

In a mad fit of rage (again, questionable) I had picked up one of the many apple slices that had been cut for me and shoved one down his tiny throat, perhaps in the effort of trying to choke him to death (or maybe I thought he was hungry) which did indeed, result in choking. (I personally am of the opinion that I had gotten this idea after watching Snow White because it too focused on feeding apples to people to make them fall asleep)

Mother's intuition beeped when the crying was cut off and she hurriedly came out of the shower to find me eating apple slices, looking mildly pleased that I had managed to make the baby quiet while the baby in question started having difficulty breathing as the shared apple slice slipped closer to the back of his throat, too large to go down. She quickly retrieved the apple slice and all was well.

For then, at least because my brother claims to be in constant fear of his life in case I decide to finish him off once and for all. It is amusing, especially since he towers a good 10 inches over me. It doesn't stop him from hesitating to bring up this incident, though, whether it is at the dinner table, at family gatherings or even at Eid!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

BookShelf: Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

21480930On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

~Taken from Goodreads

If I had to describe what reading this book feels like, I'd say that it's the kind of novel that starts off smoothly and seems pretty normal. The wife disappears, the husband is suspected but everyone is sure he's innocent. The secrets are unwrapped slowly, chapter by chapter and you'll find yourself thinking different things about different characters in different chapters. One chapter will make you feel sorry for the character, the next will cause you to hate him, and the very next will make you feel sorry again.

I loved how the tables kept turning, not once, but again and again. It wasn't a typical novel where I could guess the ending and read just to see if I was right- it was the kind of novel that kept me guessing again and again and surprised me multiple times.

Simply put, this book was delightful and it definitely made me put Gillian Flynn on my list of spotlight authors. There were so many things she covered- police investigations, lawyers, a break down of the whole crime, exploring character histories, how the family reacted- it was amazing and well paced, keeping everything interesting and intriguing.

There is an awful amount of profanity, a couple of pages of violence and quite a bit of adult themes. Nevertheless, you should read this book if you're interested in psychological thrillers. I give this book a rating of 4/5 stars!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Med School Interviews

It's that time of the year again! People are applying to med schools and giving more exams and interviews! I've had a couple of people ask me about the test and interview for my own college, which is why I am re-posting what I wrote on my previous blog (the emo wolverine writes).

I hope this helps out people who will end up as my junior Class of 2020! If you think I should write a post on a different topic, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

The interview is basically called MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews) and the introduction given by the college is as follows:-
The college will conduct MMI as a part of its admission process. These will consist of 8-10 interactive stations of 7-8 minutes duration with a single interviewer at each station. The stations will focus on the following domains.
-      Critical Thinking
-      Ethical Decision Making
-      Communication Skills
-      Knowledge of Health care system
Final eligibility for admissions will be decided by the admission committee according to the applicant’s performance in all area of assessment.

Here are the questions I was asked in my interview (roughly).

"You are holding interviews for a job position and one of the applicants says that due to his father's ill health, he was unable to complete the application in time. He is now asking for an interview. What would you do?"

Me: Well, I'd ask him to bring some sort of proof of what he's saying, like a medical certificate of his father and see whether it was really serious or not.
Her: So you think you'd be able to judge whether the condition was serious enough for the candidate to personally attend to?
Me: No, I'd show the certificate to a physician and ask for his advice.
Her: Good, but what if the condition was fifty-fifty?
Me: Then I'd ask at least three physicians and take the majority opinion.
Her: Good, okay. Well, we finished your interview early.
Me: Oh okay. So, uh. What do you think about the Shifa and PMDC issue?
Her: That's not a problem, it'll be resolved in no time.

 "You had an argument with one of your classmates. Your teacher has divided the class into groups and both of you are in the same group. You want the groups to be changed. Request your teacher for this"

Me: Uh. Hello, I'm a student in your class and I have something I wanted to discuss with you.
Her: *nods*
Me: Uh. You recently divided our class into groups for a study project and I want to ask you to change groups.
Her: Why?
Me: Because there's someone in my group who I cannot get along with.
Her: Why?
Me: *flustered* Well, we had an argument and I think our feelings will disturb the rest of the group.
Her: Who started the argument?
Me: *thinking along the lines of 'what the hell'* Uh. Well I'm not sure I could answer that question properly since I'd be biased in my own favor.
Her: Did you think about apologizing?
Me: I think we should give it time to cool off before apologizing.
Her: Okay but why should I change the groups? It's been this way for weeks and it would disturb the class dynamics.
Me: *I think we're roleplaying in two different time sets* I'll find someone willing to change groups.
Her: No one will change groups-
Me: *turns slightly frustrated and mad* No, I will find someone. Let me take care of this and then you can change the groups.
Her: Okay, tell me what the fight was about.
Me: *still mad* I didn't like her so we fought.
Her: Why didn't you like her?
Me: *realizes this was a bad course of action to take* Uh.. she uh... She does her work really late.
Me:... *realizes this was a stupid reason to fight imaginary friend with and go complain to teacher for*
Her: ...
Me: *stares at shoes*

"What qualities should a good doctor have? Relate an incident which shows that you possess this quality"

Me: Relate an incident? That's going to be difficult.
Her: No it wont, just tell me something that you did at home or at school that would prove any positive quality needed for being a good doctor.
Me: *clearly confused and has no idea what to say*
Her: Why don't you tell me about an internship you did.
Me: Oh, yeah, I've done a few internships, Most of them were about teaching children in katchi abadis, not like, educating them, but trying to get them interested in reading books and stories and stuff.
Her: So what did you learn about yourself?
Me: I learned that I'm pretty patient. It's really hard to control a group of 8 year olds and keep them entertained *gets an approving nod from interviewer*
Her: And what was the drawback?
Me: Well, the only drawback I felt was the language barrier.
Her: *leans forward* Language barrier?
Me: My Urdu isn't topnotch and for katchi abadi children who are fluent in Punjabi and Urdu, it was a little hard for me to communicate properly with them.
Her: Your Urdu?
Me: Yeah, I came from the States about seven years ago. My Urdu is good for conversation, but it's mostly filled with English words, which I'm sure you know, those children would not have understood so easily.
Her: That's true. So what did you think about Pakistan's education system?
Me: Uh- *bells rungs to end interview*

"You run a tertiary government hospital which is supposed to provide free medication. However, you have a shortage and patients have to end up paying themselves. What would you do?

Me: I'd file a report to the government.
Her: ...
Me: And maybe start a trust or an NGO to get funds for these people.
Her: ...
Me: ...
Her: ...
Me: ....
Her: ...
Me: *sniffs*
Her: You have a cold?
Me: Yeah, it's just mild. It started on the weekend.
Her: Are you taking medicine?
Me: No, just hot milk in the morning.
Her: ...
Me: ....
*bell rings*

"You were exiting a car parking when you hit the car next to you and break something. The security guard sees and informs you that it is Doctor Y's car and he has been told of this incident. Call Doctor Y and tell him what happened"

Me: Hi, my name is Kanra and I accidentally hit your car in the parking lot.
Him: Yeah, the security guard told me, I asked him to get a hold of you. Did you come by yourself or did he send you?
Me: .... I came myself.
Him: Good, so you came by yourself?
Me: Yeah, I felt it would  be better to deal with this problem face to face.
Him: Okay, so do you have a license?
Me: No...
Him: Then why were you driving?
Me: Wait, are we talking about real life or the scenario?
Him: ... the scenario.
Me: Oh! Then I'd have a license!
Him: ... Okay so if you have a license, you must be a careless driver to have hit my car.
Me: It was an accident and besides, my ability to park and unpark a car doesn't really affect how I drive on the streets.
Him: Fair enough. So who's going to pay for the damage?
Me: I'll pay it.
Him: Are you going to pay it or get your parents to pay it?
Me: It was my mistake so I should pay for it.
Him: Okay, that'll be all.

 "You are a drug addict and you really want to get admission into a college. The college is conducting screening tests. What would you do?"

Me: I'd sign up for a rehabilitation program.
Her: But you don't have enough time to get the drug out of your system. What would you do then?
Me: I'd tell the college about my problem and ask them to make concessions for me. I'll tell them I'll join a rehabilitation program and kick off this habit.
Her: Would you think about switching your urine sample with someone else's?
Me: No way! That wouldn't be fair. I would go straight up to the administration.
Her: Okay. Do you think drug addicts should be doctors?
Me: Well, if they kick off the habit, then I think they should definitely become doctors so they can help other people kick it off.
Her: Oh you're taking it in a positive light. Good good.
Me: *psychology classes paid off! whoop whoop!!*
Her: Okay so what do you think about someone taking drugs in your class?
Me: I'd be okay with that person being in my class and I probably wouldn't have anything against them personally, but I'd like to stay away from that person.
Her: Why?
Me: I don't want them turning me into an addict.
Her: How do you think most people turn into addicts?
Me: I imagine someone randomly hands it to them and says "Hey check this!" and they taste it and get addicted.
Her: So is it their fault their addicted?
Me: No, it's not their fault if their addicted but they have the power to kick it off. If they stay addicted, it's definitely their fault.
Her: What would you do if one of your friends starts taking drugs?
Me: I'd talk to her and then call her parents and say "Do you know that your daughter takes drugs?"
Her: What about smokers?
Me: I don't have a problem with smokers as long as they're not smoking in front of me. They can go outside and so it or whatever, but not infront of me. They should respect my feelings about smoking the way I respected theirs.
Her: So why are you lenient towards smoking than towards drugs?
Me: Well, I think drugs are more dangerous, you'd literally watch a human being degrade into an animal. I think that's scary and as a friend, I should stop that from happening.
*bell rings*

 "Here is a table of a survey conducted by an ice cream company who wants to launch a new flavor. Look at the data and explain which flavor they should launch"

This one would be really hard to explain because there was a table of data and I kept referring back to it but the main point I focused on was restricted samples and how you CANNOT survey ice cream flavors from adults when it's actually the children who consume it and to put flavors that people like up front, not random flavors the ice cream company likes.

"Why do you want to be a doctor?"

I can't remember this one really well, but just this snippet.
Him: 70% of females sit at home after getting a degree.
Me: I will be that 30%

And that is how my interview ended xD My percentage was 68%/87.5% and my final percentage is 79%. That means that out of 12.5, I scored an 11 in my interview. Not bad, don't you think? ;)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tampa, Florida


Sorry I went on an unannounced hiatus- it was just that I had to adjust back into med school and get through all the material I had missed as well as give an exam on everything! So I had to refocus my priorities a little and cut blogging down for the moment. But I'm back and that's what counts!

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Friday, 14 August (Independence Day for Pakistan!!) started out with going for the Jummah prayer in the masjid. Tampa has a really big Muslim community and there are quite a few masjids there. It was really nice going especially because there is always a specific place for women to pray (which is lacking in most masjids in Pakistan). So we attended the khutbah (sermon) and prayed before heading out to Busch Gardens!

Busch Gardens is basically a combination of theme park and zoo. Or maybe you could say it's a zoo themed park. You have lots of animal and conservation projects and funds going on where visitors can look at animals, watch the trainers interact and maybe get personal with some of the cute creatures too! Apart from that though, there are lots of rides like roller coasters, restaurants and shops too!

The first day was spent mostly roaming around to look at the larger animals like gorillas and elephants. When we went to Myombe Reserve (the section for the gorillas) guess what we saw? Babies!! They were the smallest cutest things, playing in the grass next to their mothers and then the mother picking them up. We also got to see the trainers feed them- by throwing broccoli from above. They didn't seem very interested in eating their veggies though..

When elephants are fed, they get apples and corn! To make things interesting for the audience, the trainers even showed a few tricks that the elephants could do- she would blow her whistle and raise her hands to make a specific gesture and the two elephants would do exactly what she meant at the same time! This picture shows the elephants raising their trunks- apart from that they would raise one foot in the air and swing their trunks.

Sunday, the 17th of August was also spent at Busch Gardens but this time, we went at night to watch the Kinetix: Summer Nights show! It was the last night for the show and I really wanted to watch it so I convinced my parents to head out. We got there late in the evening and my younger siblings went on some Sesame Stret themed rides before it started to rain!

The thing about Florida is that it'll be super sunny in the morning and start raining in the evening with terrific thunder and lightening- and this happens almost every day! We went to Gwazi Park where the show would be held and took cover from the rain. When it finally slowed down a bit, they started the show.

It was basically acrobatics mixed with a concert and the acrobatics were definitely amazing! After the show there were fireworks!

Here are some more pictures of Busch Gardens.

Super cute video of an orangutan swinging around.

Leaving Busch Gardens at night.

The last day in Tampa was spent shopping and we even went to visit our house!

It's still ours but it's up for rent. It doesn't look very blue here, but it's painted blue so we used to call it 'blue home'. It also has a swimming pool which you can't see here. Also, all the plants look dead. :(

Early Tuesday night (18th August) was spent driving to Orlando and spending the night there before heading out to drive all the way up north back to Virginia- a colossal 13 hour drive! I spent most of this time sleeping xD.

Six days left till we returned to Pakistan! To be continued in the next post!
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