One of my favorite parts of experiencing a book–whether it’s a nineteenth century treatise, or a trashy beach novel–is reading the dedication page.  I always wonder how much time and effort the author puts into deciding who gets the honor of the dedication (and of course, thinking about who I will dedicate my dissertation to…) and am at times marveled at the beauty of the words.

Having said that, here’s one of my favorite dedication from John Cunningham Saunders’ (1773-1810) atlas, The Anatomy of the Human Ear (1806):

To Astley Cooper, Esq., F.R.S.


The dedication of this book to you indulges at once my gratitude and my ambition. I avail myself of this opportunity to acknowledge the many obligations which your kindness and uniform attention have conferred on me. With pleasure I render this tribute to your friendship.

In seeking the authority of your name I have consulted the means of enhancing my own reputation. Who can more properly patronize a work on the Ear than one who has signalized himself by the elucidation of its diseases? Who so well appreciate the merits which it may possess, or shield its defects against the severity of criticism? The world is acquainted with your professional abilities, and respects your opinion. Your enthusiasm and unremitting endeavours to cultivate the department of Surgery, are displayed in the works which you have already given to the public; and it is confidently predicted that your talent for observation, quickened by an ardent desire to improve the science, will contribute fresh accessions to our knowledge, and add lustre to the profession.

But it is not merely by your own labours, great as they are, that you benefit society. Placed as a principal teacher in the first medical school in Great Britain, you impart a portion of your energy to your pupils, many of whom will be excited by the influence of your example to professional exertions not worthy of the place where they received their education.

I am, Sir,

With respect and attachment,
Your most obedient Servant,

J.C. Saunders.

Ely Place, March 12, 1806.

On a related note: how come we don’t close our correspondence that way anymore? There’s some romantic flair in professing one’s respect to another…no? Too outdated?


War Games

I watched WarGames (1983) last night,

and I couldn’t help but recall Arthur Roberts’ (1912–2004) song “Take Away Your Billion Dollars” (1948):

Up on the lawns of Washington the physicists assemble
From all the land are men at hand, their wisdom to exchange.
A great man stands to speak, and with applause the rafters tremble
‘My friends,’ says he, ‘you all can see that physics must now change.
Now in my lab we had our plans, but these we’ll now expand,
Research right now is useless, we have come to understand.
We now propose constructing at an ancient Army Base
The best electro-nuclear machine in any place.
Oh – it will cause a billion dollars, ten billion volts ‘twill give,
It will take 5 thousand scholars 7 years to make it live.
All the generals approve it, all the money’s now at hand,
And to help advance our program, teaching students now we’ve banned…

*Click here to hear audio

A Productive Morning! (or, My Drug of Choice)

Spending the day at Second Cup with the bestie somehow forces me to get my brain together enough to write. Or maybe its all the triple lattes I’m drinking throughout the day. Who knows? I’m not complaining as long as Part II of this paper–which is today’s task–is finished early enough so I don’t have to pull an all-nighter. Welcome to Grad School, folks, where caffeine becomes your drug of choice.

Dealing with Writer’s Block

I confess.

I struggle with writer’s block at least for a week every month. It’s excruciating, infuriating, and frustrating all at the same time. I literally sit at my desk for hours at end, staring at an annoying blinking cursor whose only job is to taunt me. I write a sentence or two, get angry at the crappy structure of it, and then delete it. Progress, if any, is sloooowww.

Source: Mutt Comics

Several people have advised me on how to deal with writer’s block. Take a break away from the table. Walk the dogs. Find something to eat. Watch tv. Clean. Read. Breathe. Over the years, I’ve tried all sorts of approaches, and to an extent, nearly all have failed to solve my writer’s block. One time during my undergrad, it was so bad, I didn’t sleep for 4 days, surviving on a steady dose of red bull.

See the thing is, I’m don’t consider myself to be a natural writer. English is not my first language and my hearing loss coupled with my language difficulties that resulted from it sometimes make it hard for me to match what’s in my brain with what I want on paper (or the screen). There are times when writing one simple sentence becomes the most painful thing I encounter throughout the day. I actually started this blog as a way to escape from the prison of my head and just force the words to come out. This blog became my way of dealing with occasional bursts of writer’s block. For the most part, it has worked more so than any other strategy.

I think my problem resides in expectations, especially when it comes to rewrites. I’m always grateful for the constructive criticism and advise I get from editors, but honestly, there are times they only give me a panic attack. Today I spent five hours (!) and only wrote 168 words. Only half a paragraph. This frustrated me to no end.

I also know I’m not the only one there afflicted with this syndrome. How have you dealt with it? What finally gets you motivated enough to write for days at a time? For me, there will be a random moment not associated with my writing whatsoever when I finally get an “eureaka” moment and stay trapped in my room writing, writing and writing.

Right now, I’m eagerly waiting for that moment.