San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, owned photo
Golden Gate Bridge, owned photo

Over the last week, I was able to travel to San Francisco and spend time with friends that I’ve made from school and summer internships. It was a truly fantastic time both reconnecting with friends as well as connecting with new ones. Discussing our lives, our stories, experiences, opinions, and future plans with vigor and excitement made me even more anxious to begin the new chapter in my life — attending grad school.

Some of the most exciting things that we did was getting to see the Golden Gate Bridge in a variety of weather. Although it’s not the most exciting thing to watch the clouds descend over the towers, it made for a pretty awesome picture. Another thing that was gorgeous to see was the Palace of Fine Arts, a wonderful structure built in 1915 and later rebuilt after it was destroyed. This towering structure is finely decorated in a style from ancient Greece. Lombard Street, the iconic hairpin turns, was also beautifully in bloom while we were there.

Palace of Fine Arts
Palace of Fine Arts, owned photo

In addition to spending time in SF, I was able to tour the UC Berkeley campus and Stanford campus while contacting both new and old friends. I look forward to furthering friendships of everyone I saw this week.

As excited as I am, I’m also very disappointed to leave friends and family behind to move away; that’s what makes every moment spent and memory made cherishable. I try not to be too sad over something like this but, never-the-less, it does hurt. Oh well, that’s the way the rabbit skips…

House on Lombard Street
House on Lombard Street, owned photo

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

By Source, Fair use,

Shadow of the Wind is a beautiful reminder that everyone has a story and that life is made up of these intertwined stories.

Daniel is a young boy who stumbles across a lone copy of a book called Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. After losing himself in the story, he sets out to learn more about this author by talking to friends and strangers around his father’s bookstore in Barcelona only to encounter a mysterious figure who wants to purchase the book for poor intentions.

As Daniel discovers more about this illusive Carax, Daniel’s life is turned upside down with every newfound connection. Individuals begin sharing their stories with Daniel and his friend only for it to bring them trouble. As Daniel comes closer to the truth, a familiar story shows how history repeats itself and we must learn from prior mistakes.

A very easy and pleasurable read, Zafon explores character archetypes that are easily understandable and who have stories and secrets that are well explained by their monologues and confessions. The story unfolds in such a way that leaves you constantly guessing about how the story all comes together. As this book was recommended to me, I also would recommend this book to a friend.

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Mlodinow tells a story about the history and use of probability and randomness in The Drunkard’s Walk. This book is told from a series of stories and examples with explanations verbally explained without relying on the use of mathematical jargon at depth you wished your highschool math textbooks did. Some of the topics covered include the concept and history of basic probability, Bayesian probability and statistics, law of large numbers, causality, and randomness.

To break these down, he uses examples of gambling, our tendency to seek patterns, the failure and perseverance of renowned authors (who comically couldn’t get publishers interested in their anonymous re-submission of first chapters in their award winning books), how likely is it that your favorite sports team comes back in a series (like the Cavaliers against the Warriors), stock market predictions (and thus why you shouldn’t always go with the hedge fund manager with the best 5 year track record), understanding false positives, and the prosecutor’s fallacy (which helped O.J. Simpson be found not guilty).

This book does not read like a math textbook, constantly lecturing you, but more like a grandparent telling his family stories.

The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind

By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,

Terry Goodkind entertains you with the story of Richard and Kahlan who overcame a seemingly endless series of obstacles while trying to eradicate forces of evil, some using the idea of reward in the afterlife as a justification for suffering in this life. This eleven book epic fantasy series follows Richard, the “Seeker” of truth with his sword and — unbeknownst to him – wizard with unique powers, as his life, friends, love, and the world are threatened by forces of darkness.

The main characters in these novels are quickly identifiable and relateable which is no surprise with how elegantly the setting and minor characters are introduced between books and carried over if relevant to the overarching plot. To help the story (and create dramatic irony), the point of view changes between chapters for characters and story lines that are separated. Without fail, the change is on a cliffhanger, adding questions to the already long list and encouraging the reader to continue to seek answers to the end of the book.

Goodkind uses dichotomies to further his message and plot, namely, free will vs prophecy. As people seek to interpret the ambiguous words of prophets thousands of years before them to influence the course of both the world and Richard’s life, they are constantly rebuked by Richard’s belief in free will and problem solving. This idea is not only central to the book, but blatantly stated as the final line of the series (“Your life is your own, rise up and live it!” in a way that reminds me of the end of a cartoon episode where they cheer as they fist pump and jump into the air to leave that as the triumphant final image of success).

The use of rape to deepen the understanding of antagonistic characters is both borderline excessive and eventually, counterproductive by making antagonists static and too cookie cutter. Lastly, for those who like stories where the problem can be solved using a predictable series of events, these books may bother you. There were many points in this series where the problem was solved by knowledge out of thin air leaving you frustrated that you read the last 758 pages to have something like that occur. Regardless of the incalculable solutions, Goodkind paints a wonderful universe that I enjoyed losing myself in while reading the 8,000 page series and look forward to explore the expansion of the universe in the Richard and Kahlan and The Legend of Magda Searus series.

The Sword of Truth Series:
Wizard’s First Rule
Stone of Tears
Blood of the Fold
Temple of the Winds
Soul of the Fire
Faith of the Fallen
The Pillars of Creation
Naked Empire