Monday, December 31, 2007

welcoming in the New Year, New Year's Eve

So now onto another rambling list for the year. Be thankful. I could have spent this post whining about some things. But I took a deep breath and determined that I ought not to end the year on negativity. It wasn't for everybody, not even everybody in my life, but this year was an extraordinary one for me. Once you get what you want, it's easy to forget how badly you wanted it. I remember, now, upon pushing myself to remember, how truly grateful I was last year, to know that this year was coming. And then this year exceeded my expectations and then some. I made some very bad calls along the way, but in the final balance sheet, I am on the far end of the positive over the negative.

So instead, just put up with another year end wrap up of random observations. And feel free to critique as you see fit, assuming you bother to read on.

    Most Tiresome Theme of the Year
    If I have to hear one more person complain about the abundance of good fortune that has befallen New England teams this past year, my eyes might get stuck, rolled into the back of my head. Yes, it has been a ridiculous year for New Englanders (and man, if that last Giants game was any indication, they like to keep us engaged too). But you live through Bill Buckner, Len Bias and Steve Grogan, and then we can talk about how easy we have it these days.

    Best Photography in the corner of the blogosphere I peruse
    Undoubtedly, Yasmine's. She succeeds in making me believe the world is a vibrant, technicolor, beautiful place.

    Worst Blog Trend of the Year
    Shutting down blogs, taking blogs private, updating blogs once every two to three months. The blogosphere as I know it may be extinct by next year. Here's the rare emoticon from me to express my feelings about this: :(

    Biggest Time-sucking trend I fell victim to this year
    Facebook. And I don't even have Scrabulous installed or have very many friends.

    Best Television Comedy
    30 Rock- damn you, Tina Fey! You're making me feel affection towards Tracy Morgan, and that's just wrong. Which reminds me...

    Best Faux-Song of the Year
    Werewolf Barmitzvah- 'men becoming boys, boys becoming wolves.' Seriously, it almost makes you not feel that huge void in the world where Arrested Development used to exist.

    Biggest Fall from Grace
    I am sad to report it, but Friday Night Lights takes this one. Murder plots, weird pairings (Julie + creepy teacher, Julie + the Swede, Matt + Smiley, Matt + Carlotta), too much fighting of the not-cute variety (yes, showing mother-daughter fighting that is realistic should be praised, except that when it's so real that it makes you want to shut your eyes and go to your room to block it out, you've pushed it too far)- all sum up to a terrible nose dive of a show that was already in trouble at the end of last season. Thanks to Coach's hair, Tim Riggins, and the superb storyline for Buddy this year, though, I'm still tuned in.

    Most impressive comeback
    Though I am loathe to admit it, since I know, I just know JJ Abrams will make me live to regret saying it, but holy sh*t, Lost got their act together at the end of last season.

    Best wee wonder film of the year
    Hands down, Once. Anyone who likes music and has a beating heart must be floored by this movie. Fact.

    Best movie (allegedly) that I have not yet seen
    There Will Be Blood- Daniel Day Lewis! The return of Paul Thomas Anderson! That little dude from Little Miss Sunshine! Manterpillars (TM Manish)! If I wasn't still recovering from the toll that No Country for Old Men took on me, I would have seen it already. Thanks for putting out a zillion dark movies right in time for post-finals decompression, Hollywood- are you trying to kill students?

    Best television show (allegedly) that I have not yet seen
    The Wire. I hang my head in shame, and proclaim that I no longer have HBO (except that I didn't watch it when I had HBO, so I've really no excuse).

    Most Unpopular Opinion I've Had this Year
    I didn't think Knocked up was funny or even a good movie.

    Best Actor who needs to stop starring in such crap films
    CLIVE OWEN. I love you, man, but come on! Shoot 'Em Up? You're killing me, man.

    Most Unexpected turn of the screw
    Think about this. Next year, there's a very good chance that we'll be deciding to elect a Mormon, a divorcee, a woman, or an African-American into the office of the President of The United States. I don't know anyone that predicted that a year ago.

And... that's all folks! Happy New Year! Time for me to consider whether or not I feel up for a party tonight. After having my parents sharing the same residence as me for a week, I'm sort of steeping in all the solitude with great pleasure just now.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

as the story goes

I hope the way this year is shaping to end is not indicative of how the following year will begin. This past week has been one filled with facing some deep-seated fears. I might be tackling a lot of these fears on the blog if I can think of how to write about them intelligibly. But in the meanwhile, it's the end of the year, which means it's time for lists. Tomorrow will be the year-end random list, but today, I figured I would knock out music. Namely, here are my most notable music selections for 2007. Some of these probably came out earlier than this past year, but this past year is when I started to go fanatic over it, so that's basically how my quite scientific determinations were made.

There was plenty of other great music, but this is the stuff I listened to over and over again this year. This is the music I poked other people about and said, you have to hear this. These are the songs that, if I heard them in a restaurant or bar, I had trouble following conversation because I was so pleasantly distracted.

So here we go with my top five recommendations:

    Ryan Adams' Easy Tiger
    The entire album is solid stuff, but Two and Everybody knows crawled under my skin and decided to set up base camp down there for the foreseeable future. Ryan Adams may be off his gourd on occasion, he may be a total nutcase, but when that guy sits down to write a good song, he makes it look like easy work.

    Rilo kiley Silver Lining
    In this particular case, I'm recommending the single only. I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole of Rilo kiley's last album, but I absolutely adore Silver Lining even though it has a few clunky lines (I never felt so wicked as when I willed our love to die sounds like something a teenager would write after reading too much Shakespeare and Herrick). You can forgive such silliness when you hear a chorus that proclaims, I was your silver lining, but now I'm gold.

    Band of Horses' Cease to Begin
    So, this band was on my list of favorites last year, because I thought their first album had this great build on the 90s Seattle sound that made it modern and rocking. But then they turned around and released another album this year, and now I can't put them in the Silversun Pickups novelty category. Their new album has some stunners on it, and I've already blabbed at length about why I like the single No one's gonna love you. But I'd also point out The General Specific as another fantastic single, that also serves as a great demonstration of how Band of Horses are no longer fixated on modern grunge.

    Feist 1,2,3,4
    I really hesitated to put this on my list, because it's on that damn iPod commercial 24-7 and this song already feels five years old. But the thing is, every time I take a break from it and then return to it, listening to it fresh, I'm once again struck by how fantastic it is. Also, I've come to the realization this year that I have a thing for crescendoes and a big chorus.

    Cold War kids' Robbers & Cowards
    This is one of the few albums I picked up this year that I can gladly listen to from start to finish without getting the urge to skip a single song. After hearing Hang Me Up to Dry on the radio one afternoon, I found my car mysteriously transported to the record store. But the album was kind of shocking. Hang Me Up to Dry does not prepare you for what you are in store for on Robbers & Cowards. But it's that rare album these days that has a cohesion from start to finish. Right now, I'd recommend Hospital Beds and Rubidoux as two strong singles that show you what these guys are all about. But really, I'd much rather you listened to the whole album.

There. I did my part. And this was on three hours of sleep (thanks for the 4 am flight, parentals!) and a lot of negativity circulating through my system. Your turn- I tag any blogger or commenter who listens to music and has working digits.

Monday, December 24, 2007

gets colder day by day, I miss you

Here's a less embarrassing holiday tune than the one I posted last week (not that I apologize, because no matter what I will ever admit in public, I will always enjoy a little dose of Last Christmas, however cheesy that may be, this time of year). It's not as weepy, and yet it's not overly exuberant. In short, I like. But then again, I like any songs that use the word ampersand, effectively or not.

In addition to baking up a frenzy this weekend and completing one glove (humiliating picture pending), I became so well-acquainted with the folks at Trader Joe's that they started remarking on my purchases. This is pretty much my worst nightmare, for the cashiers to judge what I am putting into the old piehole. But in this case, I let it slide, since 90% of what I was buying would be heading into my oven. I did, however, purchase a big jug of spiced apple cider. I've been heating a mug of it every morning since, and it is probably the only right-headed thing I've done for ages.

A cup of warm, faux-mulled apple cider tastes so close to the real thing that it turns me into a ten-year old, sucking this stuff down at the orchards in the fall, giving myself a stomach ache from drinking too much at once. Or the orchards in the winter, covered in snow- you would perfectly follow the tracks with the glide-glide of your cross-country skis. It seemed so effortless, not at all like trying to stumble about on downhill skis, fumbling from where the slope leveled to the short but sputtering trek to the lift. You never got cold cross-country skiing either- no feeling your ears stiffen and burn as the biting wind smacked you in the face on the lift ride back up the mountain.

But the glide-glide was not effortless. It just seemed so. There was a reason you didn't feel cold. You ended the course damp from your body's heat. You had to be careful, had to keep going. You could not stop to admire the orchard graveyard or the sun dancing on the crusted snow. If you did, you would find that it was no warmer on the ground than it was on the lift. The wind would hit you the same way, and you'd catch a bad chill, much worse than anything you could catch from the slopes. It's not so meek, the solid ground compared to the heights of mountains.

I've had to face the fact that I'm simply grumpy this time of year. I have had to face it or I would have misinterpreted some moments. I've had to draw a sharp breath and shut my mouth the past week or so. Things, people have annoyed me, but I've had to stop myself. It's important to be annoyed for the right reason, and not just because everything bugs just now. I used to reason that it was alright to react, whenever, because the reaction was to something fundamentally there. But lately I've been trying harder to squelch such thoughts. Because the thing is, everyone is annoying, and it's important not to discard the slightly annoying as part of the completely annoying. Everyone is annoying. I know I am, and not even just slightly.

And it's Christmastime, which shouldn't mean too much to me really, but does nonetheless. This time of year, when I'm puttering around the kitchen baking, I inevitably think of friends far away, fixate on those who are not near or have been lost, and miss them. Maybe it's human nature, to think of the things that you don't have when left to your own devices. But it's Christmastime, and this is the time to remember that, even if on the West Coast it's not as sincere or not as solid or not as reliable, friends are both near and far. And what you have ends up being enough.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I know these habits are an important part of you

The place smells like apple, cinnamon and spices. Until just about an hour ago, it was toasty inside. Even now, as the wind outside starts to creep through the walls, everything feels quite cozy at the moment.

I've still got a lot of adrenaline left over from finals and the impending arrival of my parents. There were a lot of not-particularly relaxing activities that needed to be done today. As is usually my way, I put off all sorts of things until I was free from the claws of studying. So today was filled with a lot of catching up- replacing light bulbs, filling out overdue paperwork at various governmental offices around town, sorting through a pile of set aside mail. I also had to drop by a friend's place- AP's going out of the country during the holidays, and I'm one of the few people left in the area for that time, so I am to look after her plants and check her mail. It's pure folly for her to leave me with any kind of botanical responsibilities- it is well-established that I am horrible at growing plants of any kind. All the same, I will try my best not to kill her orchid before her return.

AP seized the opportunity to loan me her collection of Battlestar Galactica DVDs. There is at least one person out there who is chuckling at this-- I've stalled on watching BSG for ages now. But I do finally have some time on my hands, and now I have the DVDs too, so I no longer have much of an excuse.

left or right

You can see that, in addition to acquiring BSG DVDs, I made some progress towards completing one set of gloves. I have to tell you that these gloves are a bit garish. I'd concluded from the beginning that they were going to be lousy- first attempts should have low expectations. But they're also ugly, which is just an added perk.

Besides that, there is the cause of all the spices wafting through the air in my apartment. I forgot how relaxing I find it. All of the baked goods pictured above are items I made with no particular recipients in mind. I hope to give them to someone, but there wasn't much planning involved. In some ways, it's really too late to be making anything for the holidays, but logic has been set aside in this house. And besides which, I simply like the feeling. There's something that makes you feel like you are at home, and that something for me is exactly this smell.

What's more is that, this time of year, when I'm baking, even when it's without a particular purpose in mind, I just get to thinking about friends who are not near to me at the moment. I don't think of them with sadness, don't bemoan their distance, even though I might like them to be closer in an ideal world. I'm not explaining it particularly well, but baking this time of year just reminds me of my friends and this just adds to the comfort that all these simple ingredients bring when combined together.

I wish that the next week could be as relaxing, but there are certain realities that will not allow that. But it's okay. There's something comforting in the awareness that such days exist, that they existed in the past, that they return as quickly when called upon now, and that they will be there in the future. So tonight, I'm content and happy even.

ETA: sorry about the techically glitched earlier unintelligible version of this post (although some of you will find very little difference in terms of coherence)- three + years of blogging, and I still can't figure out the simplest of issues!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

out by the fire breathing

Wow, I hope this finals-induced mania sticks around because all day long I have been running around with some weird unlimited energy supply. Maybe it's just the euphoria of being finished, maybe it's the dread of my parents visiting soon 9(!), or maybe it's that I finally hit my tolerance for life-in-shambles levels. Whatever it is, I want to bottle it up and keep it on hand for future lulls, because I was uncharacteristically productive today.

I have a feeling, though, that some of it also has to do with keeping one step ahead of a wave, and that wave would be one of contemplation and reflection. It's really odd to have moved so fast through the past four months to not even have time to think over what it all means. I know I'll slow down once those thoughts really have time to process in my head. This space is included in all that contemplation. Ever since school started, this blog has pretty much gone to crap, and I'm going to spend some time in the next two weeks thinking through what the future of all this babbling should and can be.

Since everything was on hold until yesterday evening, today I went into a panic about what I ought to do regarding the impending holidays. Here is what I propose to my friends- some of them will have to forgive me about the tardiness of certain packages arriving at their places of residence, while others will have to forgive me for the lump of coal that I am not even bothering to send them. I'd like to plead poverty, but actually the cost of med school in dollars is nothing compared to its cost in hours. I started up my first batch of holiday baking today, while I usually get this type of thing going in late November or at the latest right after Thanksgiving. Still, now my refrigerator has all sorts of things that scream to be baked, so someone is going to have to receive all of this. Who, I have yet to determine.

I suppose I ought not to whine so much though. Even during finals, I still managed to get some recreational activity in. Every night, when I got home from grueling session #392 of Cramathon 2007, I sit down and knit for at least 20 minutes. It was just a way to calm down really, but at least something resulted from it. The wife of one of my classmates had a baby last week, so I made some socks for the baby. Also, it's been cold here. It's odd how a distance of just 100 miles can result in such a big climate difference, but I should have known this after living in the Bay Area for so long. The cold convinces me that things. have. to. be. knit. immediately. I made myself a pair of socks, but that wasn't enough. I have these fleece gloves that are so old that they have holes in them, but I am too lazy to buy new ones. No, instead, my idiotic logic results in me attempting to knit a pair of gloves to wear underneath. I promise to post the final result no matter how horrible, because I am not afraid to make a fool of myself.

Also, after losing my k on my keyboard, apropos of nothing, my shift key decided to hang it all up yesterday. I can't believe the land of Apple would let me down like this- after all my years of cursing about PC's, I am beginning to think it was a 'grass is always greener' situation. Damn you, Justin Long!

In the event that you should want to see bad photography up close and personal.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

if I sigh, I'm half way to silence

I spilled soda on my keyboard today and as a result, I have lost the ability to type the letter k. I know what you're thinking- bullsh*t, you're typing with the letter right now, liar liar pants on fire! But, for a change, I am being truthful. I've had to cut and paste k's for the past five hours while studying and it is getting old, to say the least.

Studying, just now, is getting old too, so I had to come up for air for a moment and get a little perspective. It's just feeling a little insane, and I am having the perfectly normal reactions to the stress. I've had the moments of doubt, the concerns that maybe I am, as Danny Glover would have remarked, too old for this sh*t. I have wondered what made me think this whole idea of going flat broke and moving away from San Francisco was at all wise.

But in those moments, I have let myself ask the question. Was it a mistake? Would I have been better off doing what I was doing, finding some other way of being happy? And the answer is a resounding, loud, definitive no. It's the strangest thing to be this stressed out, to feel this tired, to get this annoyed with select gunners in my class, and at the very same time to be certain that I'd rather be doing this than anything else. Maybe that is why this unnecessary intensity is inflicted upon us.

This will probably be the only peep from me until next week, when I'll probably regale you with boring tales of getting my computer fixed, knitting a sweater, and baking cookies for the holidays. I wish there weren't so many k's in all of those activities.

Oh, also, do you know how you'll listen to an album with an affection for one song, and one day, you'll take another listen to the album, and all of a sudden, an entirely different song will jump out at you and you will get all re-excited about the entire album? That's how I feel about Ryan Adams' Everybody knows, especially after listening to a live, more rocking version of the song with The Cardinals. I adore this song so much, I just want to find a crazy dysfunctional relationship so that it will hit me even more acutely. The song is old news, but so is everything I write about these days.

But then again, two of my classmates were chatting with me yesterday and they had no idea there was a writer's strike in Hollywood (the only good thing about the strike is that I won't have to listen to them talk of Grey's Anatomy very soon). So, in comparison to their awareness, I'm doing pretty well.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

disguised as a blessing I'm sure

Well. I promise to post more next week. I also promise not to post much this week. Things are at a frenzy. I'm sad to report that there has been no holiday baking. Everything is on hold until the following week, at which point, I'll be running to stand still, just trying to catch up with everything that I'm letting fall to the side at the moment.

Let's just say I'm usually better at the balancing act than I am at the moment.

On the other hand, when I get through next week, and you'll note that I said when because I am too old to entertain the notion of if, I will feel elated and drunk with euphoria. And that's all I really have to say at the moment.

In the meanwhile, enjoy this week's song, which is somewhat a reflection of my nervous energy level these days.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've always been a dreamer, I hide my head among the clouds

There's some gravitational pull of late that inclines me towards listening to the silliest of music. Maybe I encounter too much reality in my day-to-day existence, and so nowadays, everything I listen to has an escapist quality to it. The same might be true of a lot. A friend of mine here, when we finally have a spare moment, always suggests going to see these thought-provoking, dark movies. They always sound great in theory. The last one we were supposed to go see was Michael Clayton. But in the end, when the day approached, I would have preferred to see some mindless shoot-em-up action movie or something in the Will Ferrell genre. I hope this tide turns at some point, because I would really like to graduate from medical school without having turned into a complete moron when it comes to everything outside of the sphere of medicine.

Anyway, of all the cheesy, silly songs I've been listening to, this is maybe the least cheesy. I still think of it as cheesy because I'm sure it has been played on some teenager melodrama soap opera that is on the CW or Fox or something. But I really started listening to it because the lyrics talk of how it rains a lot this time of year. It does, in fact, rain a lot this time of year in Northern California, so I must conclude Jason Schwartzmann is from SoCal, which would not be much of a shock. I'm too lazy to look it up. I also like the cuteness of talking about putting someone in a suitcase. I suppose that taken the wrong way, it could be disturbing or creepy. This just proves that I have no taste in men.

It's weird though. There are a lot of songs like these out lately. You listen to them and you start to think that the person who wrote the music and lyrics was probably envisioning it fitting in on a soundtrack. There's something cinematic about the song, if that makes any sense. It's kind of like those novels that come out every so often. You put them down after finishing them and think, well, it's just a matter of time before they make a movie out of that. I can't help but suspect it was the author's plan all along. The chorus in West Coast has such a crescendo that it's like Schwartzmann was having a conversation with Wes Anderson about a turning point in a drama, and then wrote a song to go along with it. Or maybe that's just my imagination running away with me. Am I just talking loco as usual?

In other news, I'm suffering from severe inability to concentrate and get it together for finals. I have this problem in general. I'm notorious for having problems with endings. When I'm this close to finishing something, I tend to find it tiresome. I keep yelling at myself- I've cleared the big obstacles, why can't I work up the motivation to cross the finish line?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I admit it, what's to say

Well, it was about time. I knew I wasn't immune, and that eventually, I would succumb, but it's hard to predict when and why and what will trigger it. And yesterday, unpredictably and quite without warning, the moment arrived. Yes, I have officially become a medical student.

You would have thought the hours spent with cadavers, or the days spent buried in books would have had something to do with the transformation. You might have thought it would be the first time I did something useful for a patient. But the fact is, a med student doesn't do very much that is useful for a patient. At best, a med student does not act to a patient's detriment- that's about the most you can hope for, especially as a first-year student.

No, it wasn't that at all, and I am somewhat sheepish to admit what finally signalled that I am, indeed, an undeniable student of medicine. Yesterday, I was working at a free clinic, doing the usual thing that first-years do, bumble around while trying to walk the line between doing something and faking it. As students, after we see a patient, we go get a doctor, present the case to him or her, and he/she promptly throws away most of what we said (rightfully so, because we're mostly morons) and sees the patient again.

So we did this, like we do. But I was scared of this clinic. I had heard this clinic was more no-nonsense than the others and the physicians who volunteered there tend towards being, let's say, gleeful about grilling students. I had also heard that the goal of this clinic is to see as many patients as possible in a day, so I also figured there would be a little less patience for first-year ignorance than in some of the other clinics. All of this wasn't enough to put me off from going-- I think every clinic experience is important in terms of humbling students, especially the ones that do well with all the nitty-gritty book work, that there's this whole other dimension of medicine that we are not even close to incorporating into our thinking. And what's more, you have to learn it in a very different way, and it doesn't have 100% to do with cold, hard facts.

Off we were, doing our thing, stumbling through patient interviews and nervously pacing ourselves through the physical exam. Then we went to get the physician and my stomach dropped. It was the exact doctor we'd all been warned of, the one that has a penchant for drilling anyone around and taking them down a few notches. On top of that, he seemed grumpy on this particular day. I turned to the second-year I was working with and gave him this pleading look, but he ignored me.

We went to see the patient, and the exam began from scratch, for the most part, with the doctor telling us everything we caught and the everything more that we missed. I was surprised. This guy was actually teaching us a considerable amount of practical information while taking good care of a patient. But then, his eyes fixed on me, and I had that feeling that people get when a bear spots them in the woods. Should I run? Should I pretend I'm dead? Don't antagonize. Maybe if I just stand very still, he won't notice I'm here?

The questions started. The first one was easy. The second one was a more obscure question, but I threw a hail mary, and actually answered correctly. The doctor turned to the second year and muttered, "ask most surgical residents and they don't know the answer to that one." I think this is the closest you get to a compliment from this doctor.

Don't get me wrong. First of all, I guessed, so there is no need to conclude that I am in any way extraordinary for answering the question correctly. Secondly, as I pointed out myself to the doctor, I learned some of this stuff this year, so if you ask me the same question in 6 months, there is a very good chance I won't even be able to guess correctly. Third, my knowledge of this obscure fact contributed in absolutely no way to treating the patient any better.

Rationally, I knew all of these things. And thanks to my, ahem, advanced age, I didn't walk out of clinic that day with an inflated ego. But I did learn that I like the game. And when I thought about it, I kind of always have. I inadvertently do it to other people when I'm studying with them- basically pimping classmates into working something out for themselves rather than directly explaining it to them by spoon-feeding. It's not that it was so wonderful that I got the questions right. It's that I liked the process. During the course of the day, there would be plenty of other things I got wrong and had to have explained to me. But I liked it. I like the quizzing, the thinking, the searching the memory banks, the answering, the follow-up, the explanation, the idea that I could be learning something new from now until forever.

I know I sound like a nerd. I know I sound like an idealistic windbag. I know I sound irritating. And undoubtedly, though I've tried to dispel it, I probably sound arrogant too. And if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... yep, it's true. I'm a medical student.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

built a room in the sky, window on the floor

Yesterday was truly the first time I realized that I really no longer live in the city. Since I've been too busy to really ponder the question, until now I pretty much assumed I was in a somewhat urban environment but simply lacked the time to discover all the city haunts. Last night, however, the reality stared me in the face. I turned a corner and suddenly a row of houses spread out, lit up. For a moment, I thought I was at some kind of fair, like the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy. But no, it was just one of those streets, one of those blocks that somehow evolves in the suburb such that everyone that lives on that block knows that the day after Thanksgiving, you best have strewn your holiday lights around your trees and lining your house.

At first, I didn't even understand why it seemed so foreign to me. Growing up in EBF, there were neighborhoods you'd drive to around this time of year to admire the handiwork of a little enclave of majestic old homes. Then it occurred to me that I never saw a display like this in all the years I lived in the Mission. Sure, there were the occasional Christmas trees in the window or a few lights. But never this kind of coordinated Martha Stewartesque spectacle. In the Mission, if anything, the lighting was all crazed, always somehow ironic. Furthermore, in San Francisco, I imagine you could get a serious amount of grief for wasting that much electricity.

And then, just then, for the first time, I felt worried about how I will handle living here for the next 3.5 years. Most likely, they'll go as the last stretch of time has gone: thoroughly unnoticed. Still, when I had the brief moment yesterday, I have to admit I worried.

I worry about other things too. I don't worry about the things that other students seem to freak out about. Right now, people are starting to show signs of cracking because finals will soon be upon us. That doesn't concern me, honestly, and I do not say that the way some students say that, with this strange machismo attempting to pretend they're not scared. I'm sure I will freak about finals, but they are not directly in front of me at the moment, and besides which, everyone seems to get through them every year, so I just don't imagine I'm particularly special.

But that's what I worry about. There's a lot of things I'm interested in, but I can't bring myself to muster up the energy to be as bubbly or enthusiastic or ridiculous about appointing myself to anything the way that some of my classmates can. And also, the fact that so many of my classmates are obviously gunning to gather titles for themselves, well, that fact further repulses me from the idea of pursuing anything. I know I am probably shooting myself in the foot, and someday, when I am applying for residency or searching for recommendation letters, I will be so indistinct as to be in big trouble. But I guess that's what bothers me about the whole thing. It seems like the only way to be distinguishable or noticeable is to be an annoying or cutthroat person. I aspire to neither, and frankly, I'm too old to fake it for the sake of advancement.

Of course, a moment after these thoughts overrun my head, they leave my brain, and I return to what is in front of me. I guess that's the one advantage I've garnered over the past few years of treading water. I've become well-versed in the art of not worrying about the future. It will sort itself out, and I very much doubt anything I do (or do not do) today will change that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

there's so little else occupying my head

I have this sneaking suspicion that the blogosphere is out-of-fashion these days and no one bothered to inform me. Or is it solidarity with the writer's strike? Or maybe this is just a sign of my advanced age, as all the blogs I used to frequent seem to have thinned out considerably. Maybe there's a whole crop of newbies that I'm just not aware of. Give me some suggestions, peeps, and I'll play the auntie at all kinds of blogs. Not really, but you never know.

Anyway. This week's song spurs a question. There's this whole list of artists in my head, these wonderful, wonderful artists who lost their minds at some point and never quite got it back together. You could argue with this week's song that it was the 80s, so maybe it was the listeners that had lost their minds, and simply recovered it after a time. Except this: I still love Raspberry Beret. And you know, let's face it, so do you.

I can't hold it against people when they sort of fall into decline and start to suck. Just because he is woefully un-funny these days, it doesn't mean I can turn up my nose at old Seinfeld episodes and pretend that I don't find them hilarious even still. I think you ought to be given credit, cut some slack. I'm not saying I'm going to run out and watch Bee Movie to support the guy, nor am I going to watch Norbit. But, you know, Eddie Murphy used to be a bada$$, and I have to give him props for that (even if he turned into an a$$hat later on).

Similarly, I don't mind telling you that Prince was really only good during a certain era. But when he was good, he was sort of unbelievable. There's this temptation to tell him to just stop and bask in the glory of those old songs. But it's kind of unfair to say, "Hey, that was awesome. Now can you stop and go away?" I guess that's entertainment for you.

It doesn't bother me that these guys stick around. It does me no harm that U2 loiters about and pumps out a mediocre song or two every so often, takes nothing away from how well-crafted Joshua Tree was. Who could blame the guys? I'm not going to run out and buy any of their new albums, but if other people bear them even more good will, enjoy.

I guess the thing is that I take music really personally, but so personally that I could give a crap about the person that actually made the music. There was probably a time when that was not true, but I was 12 then, so I'm glad I grew out of that. I don't care that Axl Rose looks like a Botox victim and is still talking smack without backing it up and hasn't put out a decent song in a decade- I'd still listen to Welcome to the Jungle any time it poppped up on the radio.

That's what I'm asking, I suppose. Do you feel that way too? Or are there some mistakes artists have made that you can't forgive them for? Can you just not listen to Madonna anymore because she covered American Pie or tried (badly, and in vain) to rap at one point? Or more importantly, are there songs so good that no matter how much crap an artist puts out afterwards, you can't hold it against them?

Or maybe I'm still suffering from after-effects of too much tryptophan and Theraflu and getting nothing much done this weekend. Move along then.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

it's okay, I know nothing's wrong

Last night, I slept for 5 hours, got up, took some Theraflu, and then slept for 9 more hours. By the way, Theraflu, while quite effective, is probably the most disgusting medicine as far as taste goes.

I made a cake for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner earlier this week. It was an easy to make apple cake. I am going to try to make it again, for three reasons. First, I made it in a 9" inch pan this time and that was actually a bit too small, so it wound up being a bit thin. Second, as usual, I was fiddling and bastardizing other recipes, so I have to see if it is reproducible. Third, I was in too much of a rush to take a picture, so there's no proof that it's worth making.

We all ate too much at dinner, and the hosts had a cat, so I figured my allergies were the cause of me feeling a little stuffed up when I went to bed that night. I got up the next morning and was feeling lousy, but I got through the day of classes. However, I stopped at Trader Joe's right afterwards, bought some soups and ginger ale. Then I went home and collapsed.

I will say this. Getting deliriously feverish when in your first year of medical school is somewhat hilarious. You're not thinking straight, but your brain is filled with all these stupid facts that it doesn't know how to put together. Oh, my ethmoid sinuses. And then, my adductors ache. My immune system must have been going heavy duty, because I was oscillating from chills to sweats to aches to lethargy.

All of this is boring, I know, but it's only to say that the body is kind of amazing. Because it feels as though 13 hours of sleep and one nasty dose of Theraflu has got me nearly back to healthy. This is good because I got a last-minute invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

Because of the upcoming christening, I made a trip to the mall this morning, and all I have to say about that is that I am totally disconnected from consumerism these days. And for that, this Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I know you'll act as a clever medicine

We drove through fog, so that it seemed like here was all the more disconnected from there. It took me back to those days, so long ago now, maybe a decade now, those sojourns from New Jersey to New York and then back. The late nights, the feeling of having to return home from the place that you really wanted to be.

But then, this was your city. It was your city as much as it could be anyone's. You know the streets, you know how to navigate your way around, you know how to manage the city. It doesn't groan on your arrival. You walked away from this city, instead of fleeing it. And that's when the fog lifts away and it's a welcome home, not a wistful, nostalgia-filled visit.


The concert at The Warfield was, frankly, f***ing amazing. I really accomplished very little else this weekend, despite many lofty goals. I did bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but they were sort of a warm-up. It's almost holiday cookie season, and I'm going to have to be really organized and disciplined to get it done this year- so, you know, the chances are low that there will be good yields this year.

But even with the otherwise dismal productivity this weekend, yesterday redeemed everything and then some. The Warfield means a lot to me for reasons related to music, to relationships, to movement, to freedom. Both times that I've seen concerts there, I have not been a resident of San Francisco. And it makes me certain, somehow, that I'll get back there, if that's what I wind up wanting.

Setting that aside, The Cold War Kids were pretty much the best band I have seen this past year. That's saying something because I thought Rodrigo y Gabriela & DeVotchKa were hard to beat acts. But, despite a really bizarre mixture of fan followers, the show was exactly what a show should be. There was the energy and the gawky guitarist stumbling about in impassioned play and the hyperactive drummer with the posture and demeanor of Animal (who was, for the record, my favorite Muppet, though I probably would not admit it in person). They had already put out a great album, one of those rare albums that you can listen to from start to finish without the temptation to skip a single song. That was reason to see them enough. But they actually put a new spin on their songs when playing them live, and that is the stuff that fantastic shows are made of.

I was thinking of posting St. John as the song of the week, because they tore that song to pieces during the encore. But I've already posted a Cold War Kids song in the past, and the recorded version of St. John is not representative of the kind of jam that results when it is played live. Instead, I thought I would highlight the other reason the show was so great. The opening band was kick a$$. I had heard of Richard Swift in passing, but after seeing him live, I'm officially a fan. In addition to being hilarious (he switched from playing piano to playing guitar, and explained, "because that is how I roll."), he has one of those buttery voices and his music is quite catchy. So, take a listen to this song off of his latest album and see if you might like him.

In other news, does anyone know what sort of gift I am supposed to give for a christening that is fast approaching? Such pagans as myself are ignorant, and need help from more worldly sorts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

out of this all-encompassing trip

Every other week, there is an exam. And it's fine, and the frequency has this dulling effect. Before the exam today, I remarked to a classmate, "Is it bad that I just don't care anymore?" It wasn't a statement of bravado or one of whinging either (and believe me, there's been plenty of that from most of the camps of my class). It was plaintive, fact.

The only thing left from the early days of these tests, the only hint of any drive is that I still need a song. It's always been this way. I need some bouncy tune to keep my feet moving forward towards school in the morning, some song to pulse through my head while I sort my way through multiple choice questions. This week, it's been Can't Believe A Single Word by VHS or Beta. I'm not sure if this band is any good or not, in fairness. All I know is this song is a perfect kind of indie pop that will keep your head nodding. Sometimes I worry that I will start humming in the middle of an exam. I know I should be fretting and sweating, but I think it's all part of this wtf attitude that develops over time. It happens to some neurons- you fire too many times, they adapt and get desensitized.

Some of my classmates are starting to question what they got themselves into. I am not unsympathetic to their situation. Truth be told, and I think this is why I manage to get along with a pack of youngsters a decade younger than me, I respect their dedication. They are giving up a lot. Some people think I've given up a lot to go to medical school. And while I think anyone who goes through this type of schooling has to make some sacrifices, I feel like my classmates' are in some ways more sad.

I didn't necessarily love my early 20s. It's not as though I was living life without a care in the world. But I was working a lot out for myself, I was defining boundaries and relationships, sorting out what I found important in life and what I didn't. The trouble with making a serious decision in your early 20s is that it's harder to really think of all the possibilities, the endless possibilities.

Schooling or any experience like this forces you to pare down to just the bare necessities. This past weekend, it took every last bit of willpower not to pull out a skein of yarn and start making a sweater. I had to hold back from the urge to bake cookies as a test-run for the upcoming holiday season. It is sometimes tempting to miss those days when I was at leisure to throw a whole weekend away.

But I have the benefit of having actually done all of that in the past, and knowing that, while enjoyable, it wasn't enough. I know I need to do what I'm doing. But I also, so far, know how to carve out the right piece of provisional time for myself. Even though I have exams this week, this past weekend I visited the broseph in SF (where, I was surprised to find, Fritz has moved to the Mission, which is a bit jarring, because I associate that restaurant so wholly with Hayes Valley). Next weekend, I'm going to see The Cold War Kids at The Warfield. I rationalized making muffins last week because I brought them in for my classmates. And while I haven't knit a sweater, I have been plugging away at a pair of socks.

Flexibility is useful. If you think you can't handle hanging out with people 10 years younger than you, if you think you can't handle giving up some dearly held hobbies, if you think you can't become more frugal once you've made a good wage, then you won't be able to handle it. But it's more than that. It's also figuring out that one size does not fit all. I never had a problem with who I was or what my life was in San Francisco. But I also know that who I am here and what my life is here does not resemble that former life very much. For a different set of circumstances, a different set of characteristics manifest, emerge.

For my classmates, it's tough, because it's harder to see this when you haven't lived through it a few times. And some people need commitment and certainty. I can't say where I'll be in five years, or what kind of life I'll be leading. But I am acutely aware that I have a large say in the outcomes for both.

Besides which, Thanksgiving is around the corner, which means I will indulge in the knit/bake/solitude-fest to end all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

singing my life with his words

First off, Happy Diwali and all that good stuff.

Secondly, sorry that I only seem to post these days when it's time to explain a song of the week. I won't cheapen our relationship by promising that this will improve soon.

It's not for lack of time, more lack of focus. Or more accurately, my focus is on something else. I'll show you later this week maybe, but I'll just note for the timebeing that I purchased a dry-erase board recently. Because I was convinced it would improve my life. And you know what? It kind of has.

So, instead of writing in a coherent fashion, I feel like my energy goes towards thinking coherently and motivating myself to stay coherent. I get annoyed when I can't explain myself to others, but I find it happens more and more lately. There's a big difference between understanding something and being able to explain it. I'm not in any kind of crisis that requires great pondering. It's just the articulation part that takes just that extra little bit of effort that I do not seem to be managing at the moment.

But I can tell you a little about music. Not much, but just a little. If you want to really read about music, about a personal connection, may I humbly recommend Moistworks? Whenever a story accompanies music there, well, that is the way people ought to write about music, all the time. Moistworks is actually a fantastic way to encapsulate what music can mean to people, or why it means anything at all.

Back to business: this week's song is a killer. An old, aging fossil of a killer, but deadly nonetheless. I love this song but I think it's totally naive. I think it's totally naive and gullible, yet I get it perfectly. It's exactly what you want to believe, everything in this song. And every once in a while, that 1 in a 1000 chance occurs, and it is true, and that's what you wind up remembering more vividly than anything else.

I think I first heard this song when I was fifteen. Back then, I really believed it, not the way I do now. Now, I hang onto it, but back then, I believed it. And I thought it was such a beautiful notion, because I was always something of a tomboy. The why's and how's are not so important, but it was always the case that I had to stay protected. If I was the protagonist, this song was 100% true. I put up the brave face, however unconvincing. I was always the girl kicking the shin of the boy she liked.

What no one knew was that I was singing this song at the top of my lungs in my bedroom when no one was home. Being alone was a rarity at home, but there was a span of time when the bro-seph was in track and I'd get an hour or so before anyone else inhabited the house. And this song would get cranked and I would sing along to every word until I almost choked from belting it out so loudly.

It's kind of comical, the visual. But then again, I kind of miss it, the abandon, the utter bliss of just jumping into a song. I'd sing it in the living room, pretending to confess, but the whole time, I was just hoping someone would sing it to me someday. I found it so romantic. It's all so cute to think back on, and yet I was a complete and utter idiot. You think about it, and the whole song is a problem. You're not supposed to be this guarded, you're not supposed to break up and pretend to be fine and confess in a song that you're actually pining away- that's the thing that annoying, on-again, off-again relationships are made of, not anything lasting. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I shouldn't have listened to so much music as a teenager- it left me with a warped sense of love. Maybe Nick Hornby was right about the dangers of music. But more likely, I already had these warped ideas, and the music just gave me a soundtrack.

Some people are just drawn to the rollercoasters and instability. I was listening to Fresh Air the other day, and Katha Pollitt was describing some of a recent book she wrote about her failed relationship. She postulated that women are drawn to the wanderers, the fleeting guys who just can't make good. Rather than going with the tired hypothesis that women like a challenge and think they can change these dudes, she suggested that maybe these women wanted to be them. She might be onto something.

Either way, this is one of the best songs ever recorded. Yes. It is. I dare you to argue with me. Actually, instead of arguing with me, why not give me that one song that you think will never get old? I'm always curious.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?

For the ladies, a question, if you care to comment, or even read. I know some of you do not know me, in the sense that you've never met me personally, but based on what you've gleaned, I need some advice. Have you any theories on why I get on so much better with men than women? Why are all my close friends men? Why do I fail at sustaining friendships with women? Is this some weird form of chauvinism on my part? Do I hold things against women that I don't against men? Or am I just an oddball who has more in common with dudes? What is it?

See, I am too tired to figure it out right now. I just know it's true.

For everyone, new song of the week. In my continuing swing of the pendulum, I'm going from the old school to the new. This song might give you a headache. I'm not sure. I'll be the first to admit that I'm actually too old to be listening to it, if I was behaving. But too bad. I like it.

It's this weird line you walk when you are living a life that does not exactly meet prespecified requirements. Some things about me are still quite childish. I still think of the world as uncertain in a way that many people my age no longer do. Also, I can't imagine just listening to the same five artists for the rest of my life. I certainly hope there will never come a time that I simply state, eh, all that newfangled music makes my ears hurt.

Granted, there are some things about contemporary music that really bothers me. It bothers me that there is really no anti-establishment rock out there anymore. Even your most indie band is getting pimped by VW or some shizz. And sometimes rap can be depressing (a most recent example involved watching my classmates jump around to a song in which the chorus involved supersoaking a ho). Not to mention, radio stations have become such a corporate enterprise that it's depressing to think of how difficult it is to get access to decent new music.

Still, there's this silly band. They put out a pretty, bouncy song about the pointlessness of it all, and of course, about drugs. I came across them and this song puts a little spring in my step, which is most welcome on fall mornings when you'd rather hide under a blanket than walk to school. So, I pass the song on to you, and maybe you throw it away, maybe it makes your head hurt, or maybe you like it. I know it's hokey and all, but the internets, in a way, counteract the radio and the corporate message and all that noise. Surf some music blogs on any given day, and it's like getting mixtapes from strangers. You might like it and realize you have a lot in common. You might not like it, appreciate the effort, and move on. Either way, if you think about it, it's a very old-fashioned treatment of music.

p.s. The writer's strike is upon us, and on top of that, all sorts of people are dropping out of the blogosphere. It makes me sad, because, you know, I may have to actually start studying if no one is going to provide me with any useful distractions. Also, while I'd like to say that I will boycott reality television if the writer's are not properly compensated by the muckety mucks, I am aware of my weaknesses. I can't resist a new season of Project Runway, y'all. Plus, lately, I find I've been watching The Hills with a deep and aching horror, as I realize I may have once dated a Justin-Bobby doppleganger. I know that's awful and all, but it was an important breakthrough. So, thanks, MTV. Now please bring the writers back before my IQ dips to single digits.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

seeing things I never saw

Rather than bemoan what a crap blogger I have become, before the week officially comes to a close, I thought I should at least point out that I did actually post a song this past Monday. For some reason, I kept hitting a block when it came time to explain myself.

Because, and I know this sounds a little like the kind of gloating that makes people throw up in their mouth a little and think I'm either Sister Mary Sunshine or an immodest jerk, but lately I have been suffering from an embarrassment of riches. Well, suffering is not the right word, of course. The song this week, Inside Out is not just for nostalgia's sake, although it does make me wistful for an entirely different time in my life, when I was less aware of what I was feeling so much as feeling that something big was happening. And the song this week does not really fit with my current mood.

But the song is belligerently happy, even if it does not mean to be. Some of the lyrics are a bit somber and even angry, but if you just sit and listen to it with your eyes closed, it's a bit hard to feel that way. Or maybe it's based on your own mood. Maybe if I was fifteen again and listening to this song, it might bring back those more appropriate feelings of isolation and heartache. But I don't feel it right now. I just can't feel it.

Instead, I hear this song, and it's almost like a battle cry: you can't stop my heart from turning inside out, try and stop my heart from turning inside out. Oh, just try to bring me down. It's like a dare to the fates, which is most ill-advised, but impossible not to issue when you feel this high.

I know it's missing the whole point of the song, and maybe that's why I haven't written about why I posted it. The real pull towards the song is that I got two presents in the mail the week after my birthday. Both were very sweet, one from a new friend and one from an old friend.

you've been around for such a long time now

The one from the old friend made my heart break and soar all at once, and that's what brought me to this song. It reminded me of who I was when I was young, and what I wanted, and how it all turned out better than I could have ever hoped even though I didn't get any of the things that I thought that I wanted. And I kept trying to write a post about that, and then I realized that was impossible. So, unfortunately, you get this instead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

nothing keeps me up at night

Today, a classmate sitting next to me popped up in the middle of lecture as though his cell phone propelled him out of the room, and returned about 20 minutes later, sweating and nearly clammy. He tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that somehow he found himself daydreaming in class, convinced himself that he had to give an important presentation, and bolted to go practice. He got all the way to the place where he was supposed to present before he realized it was all in his head, and that his presentation wasn't until next week.

So, you know, people are a little stressed out around here.

I find I spend a lot of my actual time devising ways to allot my time. I think this is some attempt to be more efficient, but I ought to give it up, because all that happens is that I make big plans and fall short of my own expectations.

There has also been grappling with some lousy instructors. For the most part, I shrug off such instructors because I like what I'm studying such that I can usually overlook that the subject matter may not be taught perfectly. However, when the instruction is so bad that you have to actively turn a deaf ear to the instructor because he reverses your comprehension of material, that's a bit uncool. One of my classmates called him the "Jackson Pollock of Medicine" today because of his indecipherable lecture slides.

Other than that, I baked cookies the other day. I've been in a war with my oven. In addition to being ancient, it refuses to cooperate when it comes to maintaining a proper temperature. But through a few rounds of trial and error, I think I have it down to something reasonable. The cookies were peanut butter and chocolate chip. I figured something out- people tend to think the key to a good cookie is the sugar and butter, but the right amount of salt gets short shrift. I'll post pictures when I find my camera adapter, and then you can decide whether there is any point in posting the recipe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I chose to listen to that filthy mouth

First of all, thanks a billion times plus a billion to the billionth power to everyone who left me birthday wishes on Friday and over the weekend. Talk about sweetness. I’m never melancholy about my birthday, but I’m usually somewhat reflective and brooding. Or annoyed that it somehow didn’t work out the way it should have according to my master plan (see last year’s hilarious, possibly drug-tainted party with a bunch of people who didn’t even remember my birthday this year- and that was a sigh of relief you just heard from me). So, it was interesting that this year, I was wholly in the moment. There was a lot going on, and a lot of it had nothing to do with festivities, and it wasn’t really until Saturday afternoon that I really had a chance to breathe and stew, if I wanted to.

But as it turns out, I didn’t want to. There isn’t much to look back on now in some ways. And there’s so much ahead, it’s like a tidal wave waiting to crash over me if I don’t keep my eyes focused on it. I have to tell you that it’s strange to be my age and to be experiencing that feeling for the first time.

On to the next order of business though. This week’s song. Truth be told, I was never some frenzied Fiona Apple fan. You have to understand that when she first broke onto the scene, she seemed to be too young for her voice. She also seemed to embody that whole heroin chic, waif thing that Kate Moss has decided to put a lock on. Also, her videos were getting plastered all over MTV, but she was pulling that Avril Lavigne/Pink stance of telling everyone to suck it. Also, she put out a sophomore album that had an absurdly long title. The title seemed like the kind of thing Axl Rose would mutter at the end or beginning of one of his tunes.

In fact, I think Apple was too young for her voice. She was precocious, and partly what put me off so much was that she seemed to be prematurely jaded- the video for Criminal always gave me a hefty dose of the creeps. On the other hand, from her second album, Limp happened to come out at a particular moment in my history when I benefited greatly from her rage-fueled lyrics and piano banging.

So, I’ve revisited her older songs, and I’ve checked out some of her newer songs, and I have to admit that she’s a solid artist. Criminal still gives me the heebie-jeebies, but maybe that’s the whole point. But when she put out Extraordinary Machine, I caught the video for Not About Love and then I really couldn’t frown at Fiona Apple anymore. You should really view it, for Zach's interpretive dance if nothing else.

My love for Zach Galifianakis has been documented previously. He’s an acquired taste and not for everyone. I’ve seen him live three times- he was hilarious twice, and drunk and offensive the third time. But he is naturally funny- especially when music is incorporated. But Galifianakis causes me problems. The most serious problem is that of possible institutionalization for use of the expression: ”That is so Raven.” Now, if you have seen Galifianikis’ act, you will appreciate the need to interject this expression into conversation. But if you have not seen his act (and sadly, most of my friends and colleagues have not), you will think that I watch the Disney channel and have an odd fixation with that jump-the-shark Cosby Kid. Or that I'm just plum out of my mind. That's how I'll know when I've met my soul mate. I'll remark, "That is so Raven." And he will nod his head knowingly (or at least tolerate the comment- my standards have dropped over the years).

And now, with that incoherent bit of rambling, I will return to reeling from my disbelief that the Red Sox actually got their act together and came back from 3-1 to win the ALCS. The Patriots and the Red Sox both winning in one weekend is proof that the global warming crisis is real, in my opinion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

like a full force gale, I was lifted up again

This week has been a long stretch of oh well, of good intentions that don't amount to anything. Something in my brain put on the brakes, some kind of self-preservation mechanism. The important thing, though, is not to fight it. Normally, under these circumstances, I would take a break and go to San Francisco. But that's a bit too easy. It's too easy to run back to the familiar-- I need to learn to find balance in the everyday, in my surroundings. Oh wow. That was so new-age and cheesy that it is clear I need to get it together.

I don't know how to explain that, even though I feel tired, dead tired, and even though I spend most of my time with my nose buried in my books, and even though I mention wanting to strangle my classmates every other day, I know at certain moments, in certain precise seconds of awareness, that this makes me happy. Little, stupid things contribute to this feeling, so that it makes no sense to catalog them.

Maybe that's what the best things are like, though. I remember, a long time ago now, my friend Jersey told me that he was completely opposed to writing special vows for his wedding, and that, if he had it his way, he would do away with the whole idea of saying vows out loud at a wedding. "I know how I feel, she knows how I feel. What the hell should we care if anyone else knows how we feel about each other?" he would reason with his thick, swashbuckling-to-me accent. It's kind of true. Over the years, he did not spend a lot of time talking about how crazy he was about his wife, but he did not have to, because it was evident in his very essence, and in his every action.

People think that not being able to articulate a feeling is a cop-out. That maybe you can't talk about it because you don't feel sure how you feel about it. But sometimes you know exactly how you feel about something and that is exactly why you can't put it into words. You can put up a hundred, a thousand, a million words around it, adjectives and descriptors and metaphors galore, but you won't really get much closer to putting your finger on it, to really pinpointing it.

For now, it has to be enough to say, things are good. I don't know where I'm headed, but I know it will all be okay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

or altogether just taken apart

My godchild, on another continent, really spurred this week's song inadvertently. I do not have much to offer a child of one. She's too far away for me to bake her anything, and besides which, her parents would not approve of a cupcake or cookies, unless it was made of such things as honey and spelt and wheatgrass. Okay, I don't know what spelt is. I only have a vague notion of what wheatgrass is, for that matter. Sufficed to say, I'm still unclear as to how I got the godmother-title, given that I am writing this while eating a Cadbury bar that I purchased simply because I'd never heard of the flavor "soft toffee" before. In case any of you are wondering, as far as I can tell "soft toffee" is just a fancy way for the Brits to say caramel.

I feel odd buying clothes for babies. They could not care less what they are wearing. They grow out of things so fast that it seems completely illogical to outfit them in anything expensive. And honestly, my friends tend to have definite ideas as to what their children will and will not wear. And given my lack of fashion sense with adults, I know I have no business buying anything for a child.

Then we come down to toys, but people, I haven't been surrounded with babies for a while. I don't know what a 1-year old plays with. And most toys that babies actually enjoy are like a cross for their parents to bear, so annoying are the sounds that come out of the little gadgets.

This was all causing me quite a bit of paralysis, and then I took a breath. These fools wanted me to be a godmother. The only thing I could give this kid was so obvious, I almost laughed when I realized what it had to be. Music. I don't care what you say. It's never too early for a mixtape.

I had this whole brilliant notion of how, every year, I'd mail the kid a mixtape. Eventually, it could become a mixtape of hey, these songs are cool. But the first one had to be something that summed up the idea, I thought. The list-making started and my explanations to the kid were all planned out as follows:

  • We're from Barcelona- because, when you're young, you like clapping your hands, and when you're old, you like acting as though you're young.

  • Grace Kelly by Mika- because you must remember to be yourself, even though someday someone will come along who will tempt you to forget that.

  • Love and Longing by Stellastarr*- because, well, mostly because of the band name (this has to do with the kid's name).

  • Me & Julio by Simon & Garfunkel- because sometimes songs don't have to make sense to be great. Life can be like that too.

  • Tamacun by Rodrigo y Gabriela- because it is my great, fond wish that one day you will rock the guitar like Gabriela (or Rodrigo, for that matter).

  • Jackie Wilson Said by Van Morrison- because your parents undoubtedly think 'and when you walk across the room, makes my heart go boom, boom, boom!' And because the whole world must think, when they see you, 'I'm in heaven when you smile.'

  • What Light by Wilco- because with light comes great responsibility to be true.

  • Smile by Pearl Jam- because 'I miss you already, I miss you always.'

Here's the thing though. When I made the list, I really wanted to include this week's song, No one's gonna love you. Because I believe that, about your parents. If your parents are saying it, they're probably stating a fact when they inform you that 'no one's gonna love you more than I do.'

The problem is that's not what the song is all about, really, at least I don't think. Figuring out songs like this is difficult. I never know whether to think of this idea as romantic or not- no one is ever gonna love you more than I do. Is it a threat? Is it a putdown? Aren't you really saying that a person should consider themselves lucky to have you when you say something like that? On the other hand, maybe it's really true. And maybe some people would find it flattering? I don't know.

In the end, the song created an impasse and stalled me out such that I never finished the CD. After getting stuck on that song, all the songs on the list started to cause me great doubt. Maybe it would come across as ridiculous (which it is). And do you know how hard it is to find a CD's worth of songs that are actually appropriate to send to a child? Maybe it's just my iTunes playlist, but every song I like tends to be about dysfunctional relationships, heartbreak, drugs, or, okay, being a playa (don't hate!). Maybe that says more about me than it does about music. But really, I spent some time thinking about it, and it's not all that easy to come up with really good music with lyrics worth inflicting on a tiny child. If she were 15 and filled with angst, oh, then I'd know exactly what to send her. Her father claims it's those teenage years he had in mind when he singled me out as godmother-- probably because I never really outgrew my adolescence.

It sounds like I'm disparaging Band of Horses, but I am not. I really like this song. It's old school, even though it's from their new album. When I think old school, I think of early 90s music that had those large sounds, the big choruses and the rousing opening riffs. Kind of what Coldplay tried to keep up afterwards. Band of Horses do it better, and with more interesting lyrics. It just wasn't right for a 1-year old.

So, if anyone's still tuning in, leave me some suggestions about what I could include on a CD for a 1-year old child. No Sesame Street or Spongebob sh*t either, okay? We're talking real music, adult music, that you wouldn't mind a child hearing as well. I guess I find this really important because I can't remember a time when I didn't know what music was. And that's the only thing from my childhood that I would really want to pass on to a godchild.

Monday, October 15, 2007

when you were young

It’s not really the time to be thinking backwards and reflecting, but I realized today that this here blog turned 3 without me noticing. It’s strange to look back on what was going through my head back then. In some ways, many things have remained similar- I still get wrapped up in a good song or a frothy nothing of a television show or a beautiful foggy San Francisco day. But I don’t live in San Francisco, and the number of uncertainties in my life has certainly been reduced. And I haven’t been anywhere near as dedicated to writing as I was back then. But I don’t really want to think about that today.

There’s this concept called degrees of freedom in molecules. Because we all have infinite possibilities. And then we constrain ourselves. Every time you pin yourself down on a certain point, you lose a little energy. Because you’re at your most dynamic when you are unreliable and random. You're unsteady and insatiable and that's when something, inevitably, happens or you make it happen.

I used to worry. I went from being someone who had imagined shackles locking her to the mud to someone who was uncomfortably teetering, suspended on a hot air balloon that could pop at any moment. Having gone from one extreme to the other, I really worried that it was just a matter of wanting. I used to think that maybe once I got what I wanted, I’d want something else altogether.

It’s an important question, I think, the question of whether you want something because you want it or because it keeps you from standing still. Some of us are afraid to stand still. Some of us are afraid to be constantly on the move. And some of us are in between.

I had all my degrees of freedom three years ago. I had no idea where I was heading, and whether it would end in triumph or a spectacular disaster. But thinking of it today, three years later, with a lot more pinned down, there’s still a lot of freedom. I still feel very much like there is much that is unknown in the future. I still could be headed for a fall. But I never thought it would all turn out this way, and I mean that in the best possible way. And therefore, I am temporarily at peace with the notion that there are still a lot of surprises ahead, even as I am also at peace with the notion that my feet have been planted, somewhat, in the ground now. I’m on a path now, even if I’m not sure where it is heading.

An explanation for this week’s song will accompany tomorrow’s post. Maybe. Or you could just listen to it and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

on a long taxi ride

Even though it's entirely likely that I've become so boring that no one is interested in any of my ramblings anymore, and it is an absolute certainty that I should be studying right now, I am still inclined to put a little something out there.

So there are two guys that are seeing me through this whole experience, guys that are not in med school with me, but are in med school with me, if you know what I mean. Both of them have toyed with the idea of becoming a physician at some point, but they have very different ideas about my decision to do this:

  • RR is living vicariously through me in some ways. He cheerleads, he tolerates my whining about missing some stupid question on some stupid quiz, he allows me to brush some of it off but he also encourages healthy fear. He wants me to get some scary board score and match to a ridiculous residency. He has threatened bodily harm if I were to change my mind at some point during this process and decided to become a basketweaver (not that I have any problems with basketweavers, but we can safely conclude that RR has a big problems with them, and with me becoming one of them).

  • W constantly struggles with whether I am doing the right thing. It tickles me a bit because he's more worried about it than I am. In a recent email, he worried that I would lose my soul in the process. He thinks poorly of medicine and the medical profession. I would never dare tell him about any anxiety about an exam, because he would probably fly to the US and stage an intervention. On the other hand, he's kind of hilariously channeling one of my masi's right now, because he recently told me he's convinced that I'm going to swoon for someone during this experience (for the record, I find that notion laughable, and the idea of dating another medical student/doctor makes me throw up in my mouth a little).

So, they're two very different dudes. And they are both bringing their own biases and demons into their ideas of my life. But I don't mind that really. Actually, I feel rather grateful to have them at all involved in my life. They serve as my yin and yang. To one, I can discuss the details of class and annoying medical students and all such minutiae that in the moment feels much more momentous. To the other, I can discuss the philosophical conundrums, the concerns about not wanting to become someone I am not. I feel, in a way, that they keep me anchored at the right point with their tugging in opposite directions. I care so much about both of them, and value both of their opinions so that I like them both pulling at me. But at the same time, I'm happy they're both there, counteracting the other.

In other news, Indian Uncle came through with two more moments of awesomeness:

    #1: He said, "I have a great uterus!" at one point in lab. This is funny coming from any male, but coming from Indian Uncle just sent it over the top.

    #2: He was talking to me about an upcoming exam, and said, "I'm shit-scared yaar!" As my fellow classmates would probably say, OMG, I heart you, Indian Uncle!

Also, yay for new Radiohead! I've only heard Reckoner but I love what's happening with it. I kind of feel like Radiohead knows how to give electronic music soul, if that makes any sense.

Monday, October 08, 2007

now I know I want to win the war

Some of my East Coast peeps have been telling me it's very un-autumn-like over there, and that sort of amuses me, since finally, for the first time since I started school, the mornings and evenings are that nice, perfect level of chilliness that is associated with fall. I had this thought yesterday, pausing from tearing my hair out, that I would be having a much harder time of it if I lived in some of the other places I could have potentially lived. Weird how you can just feel fall in the air, know that winter will be mild, and how that can provide such a comfort.

I have sussed out more of the things I need to keep me happy. Somewhere along the way the past few weeks, I lost the obsession with getting the grade. Yes, I still obsess like every good med student seems programmed to do. But I had a kind of reset occur the past few weeks, a reminder of what it is all about, from the most unexpected source.

This is going places I probably shouldn't go here, so I won't go into the details, but I put some puzzle pieces together about the cadaver my lab group was assigned to dissect. The information that is given to us is very sparse, and is probably sparse on purpose. However, there was just enough of it to go on an expedition last week to sort it all out.

It was fascinating, because a lab partner and I had a completely different reaction to what we discovered. Her reaction was: how depressing, doctors suck- they try to fix one thing and screw something else up in the process. Mine was: medicine is not an exact science, and you have to make the best decision with the facts you have at your disposal in the moment. For me, there was something fulfilling about it, about figuring out the whys. For my lab partner, it was about the what, which was death. But death is a inevitability. Death, I'm comfortable with. And to some extent, I'm also aware that death is not something that can be prevented in every case.

And some would say the why isn't really the why that I discovered- the why might be about some bigger plan or about fate or about time running out. I'm not opposed to those why's, but to me the body and how the body works is one big why-- and it's gratifying to me that science explains so many of the mysteries. To me, it makes the other mysteries all the more profound and mystifying.

I might be making it sound like I want to be a coroner. That's not the case. It's just that we're still all little muppet babies in class right now- we're not really exposed to situations where we can do a whole lot (and that's probably for the best) for patients yet. But it's quite easy, given that, to get sucked into the classroom mentality of making it all about how well you answer multiple-choice questions. But the last few weeks, I remembered that important detail, that everything I'm learning right now can quite legitimately be applied to thinking about treating a patient. The point is to learn it well enough such that you have it at your disposal in those critical moments when you have to make a difficult decision that will sometimes have a poor outcome.

And now I've gone and made it seem like I consider being a physician some high-and-mighty office, and I really don't. I am maybe the least idealistic student in my class, because I make no excuses for myself-- I'm not going to save the world by becoming a physician. But I can tell I am going to like it, thinking about the complex variables and bringing it all together and having to take responsibility for decisions. It's a thing too easy to forget in the madness of memorizing nerves and signaling pathways.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

my sleeves have come unstitched

A part of me really wanted to just post this song, give you the title and let that be the end of it. I feel like anything I’m going to say about this song is going to ruin it. Words cheapen it. But I’m kind of shameless that way.

There was another, much, much newer song that I contemplated posting, but it’s going to have to wait until next week. This song returned from the past, got into some crevice of an atrium, and just refused to let go. I don’t know if I was just occupying the wrong space and time or was just an idiot when I first came upon this song, because it really didn’t register with me. And then out of nowhere, I was watching my favorite television show on Friday (and, yes, it’s still my favorite show despite the dubious storyline that has been unfortunately introduced). At first, I was just marveling at how perfectly the music fit the show. But then it was nagging at me; the song sounded so familiar.

And now it’s gotten so that I don’t really know how to write about this song without getting uncomfortably personal. It’s like this song knows things about me it shouldn’t, or like it cracked a combination and whoops, all my guts just spilled out on the floor.

It really makes no sense, on a lot of levels, and then it makes perfect sense on others. It makes no sense because I’ve been single for eons, have had mostly disastrous relationships/quasi-relationships, and have been almost always happy alone. And most people assume I’m the sort of person who stomps on rainbows and pops colorful balloons with glee; most people assume I’m fairly jaded. Yet, here’s this beautiful song and I am totally a sucker for it. More than a sucker for it. I know all about this song. I know this feeling like the back of my hand and would welcome it back into my life in less than a heartbeat.

But then again, it makes sense, because if you really listen to this song, it’s all about illusion or self-delusion. However you want to characterize it, here you have someone walking on clouds in a world that may be entirely of his own creation. And whether it’s real or not is not really a question he’s yearning to answer. The unknown is much prettier, after all.

I have all these assumptions, assumptions I dare not even share, but that I hold close to my chest, assumptions that keep me warm and allow me to float from time to time. I am certain some of them are false, but I am not keen to suss it out further than that. Which probably explains why I have such affection for this very brief Russian poem translated by Albert C. Todd:

Eagles and butterflies (and some other things)
Still live. Let’s leave them in peace.
And clouds. Don’t disturb them either.
Let there be you and I, two umbrellas and the rain.
And if everything gets broken, there’ll be nothing,
And people have broken so much inside.
- Nina Berberova

But setting all of that aside, just the gentle vocals and the delicate guitar and the quiet pauses for piano keys leading into a crescendo of vibrant electric guitar are enough to make you swoon. Maybe this whole post is just a friendly warning: soak up the song by all means, but pay too much attention to the lyrics and you could fall into my predicament.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

when the world is running down

Sometimes I really get frustrated with how inefficient I am, and that is one of the moments when I'm most glad to be a geek. Because, we're designed to be inefficient. This is probably going to cause any few readers I have left running, but here's the thing- the body has this need to stay at a certain point. I mean, I've already gone off about homeostasis, sure. And I knew it wasn't some static point that we just tightly stay at, that there are always things throwing us off kilter and then other things that set us closer to where we ought to be. But I guess I didn't fully appreciate how inefficient and stupid we are. Or maybe that's not the right way to put it. Maybe the way to say it is that we do the best with what we have, and that doesn't always mean intelligent design.

So, for example, we have to keep our body's pH, or acidity, in a very tight range, and generally this is done with buffers. But we have a couple of different buffer options in our body:

  • A carbon dioxide/bicarbonate buffer, which is not actually a great, powerful buffer. Though it's not a great buffer, it does have one thing going for it- bodies know how to control the amount of carbon dioxide or bicarbonate they're letting go wild at any given time.

  • Phosphate buffers, which are excellent buffers, really the kind of perfect buffer we've always been looking for. The only problem is that they're not around in much supply.

  • Protein buffers, which are also great buffers. But they're a bit slow, and bodies can't control their levels very much.

It's like three boyfriends. One is not a great boyfriend but at least he does what you tell him to do- he's predictable and reliable, even if he is reliably late or predictably falling short. He might not make you happy, but he's also not going to upset you such that you start drinking and listening to The Cure in the dark. The second is the boyfriend you've been waiting for all your life, but you're starting to wonder if he's just a figment of your imagination because you sure haven't seen him around. And the third is the boyfriend that had the whole package but somehow you just never could get on the same page, and you knew there would come some time where your lives would just cause you to drift apart quite naturally.

If your body had anything to say about it, you'd choose the not-great boyfriend. You'd settle. It's not about being perfect, after all, it's about being reliable enough such that you don't end up dying of a broken heart, or in the body's case, of acidosis or alkalosis. The body is very pragmatic that way.

Anyway, I don't know what boyfriends have to do with inefficiency really. But I do know that my feeling towards relationships are sometimes similar to my feels about myself- nothing is ever good enough, and I'm constantly wondering why it can't be better or why I can't be better. Even now, in medical school, I am sort of awed by my ability to slack off or procrastinate despite healthy levels of fear that ought to motivate me into working harder. In the end, I have to remember that it's better to be not-great: after all, if you want to make it to the finish line, it's important to stay alive. I mean that metaphorically, but I don't think I need to drive the point home any further.

p.s. The song of the week is returning on Monday. I miss it, and I'm hoping it will prompt me to be better about posting regularly about something that has nothing to do with medical school.

p.p.s. Big Shots and Bionic Woman were so lame last week. So far, it's looking to be a really lame season for new shows (and no I did not like Aliens in America, in case anyone is about to throw that one in there). I also checked out Gossip Girl, but it turns out I really can't bring myself to care about another set of Dylan/Kelly/Seth/Marissa types all over again. Why are all these shows coming out about rich people anyway? Don't they have enough attention without fictionalizing their already nearly fictional lives as it is?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory

Breaking news. I'm the kind of jacka$$ that can write several posts about how she hates everyone and then turn around just as swiftly to tell you that I went to a party on Saturday that was actually very pleasant with very pleasant people who happened to also be medical students. And sadly, I can also tell you that I'll probably be complaining about those same people in another two weeks, once the stress level kicks up near the time of an exam and everyone turns into gremlins again.

Saturday was the kind of day that turned Sunday into recovery, even though there was nothing wrong with Saturday. It's classic introvert behavior. On Saturday, I had to attend a big event in the morning that involved a lot of mingling. Now, this mingling was of the good variety (i.e. it did not involve mingling with other students) and it was extremely meaningful. But it also required a lot of energy.

On the walk home, I had resolved to make something for the party I was attending that evening. I know it would have been quicker to pop into the ever-beloved Trader Joe's, and it probably would have been better for everyone involved if I had. But once some foolhardy notion gets lodged into my head, it's surprising (or perhaps not that surprising to those who know me) how difficult it is to change course.

I have this bad habit of not testing out recipes before dinner parties. Technically, I am totally opposed to bringing experiments over for parties, yet in practice, it seems to almost always happen exactly that way. This adds an undue element of stress, but I am slowly starting to come to terms with the fact that I actually require a certain level of stress in my life. I'm not the sort of person who runs completely and solely on stress-- if I'm overwhelmed, I can get paralyzed. But a healthy dose of stress, that I seem to require just to motivate myself to snap out of inertia.

Anyway, end result:

In case anyone really is curious, which I sincerely doubt, I followed a recipe that can be found here. And when I say I followed the recipe, I use that term in the loosest possible sense of the word. If you actually follow the link, you will see that it is a recipe for Cheddar Cheese Chive Bread. And what I made consisted of basil, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and a layer of sun-dried tomato pesto. Clearly, I have a problem with authority. Also, I clearly am not in top form when it comes to baking. I was in a bit of a rush so it wasn't exactly the most aesthetically pleasing bread. But it was edible, which was really all I was going for with such a slap-happy attempt.

Then it was off to the party, and today, all I wanted to do was curl up on my couch and watch awful movies. So maybe I did not accomplish a lot this weekend. But it was kind of nice, for a day or two, to suspend reality and pretend I was someone with this kind of leisure time on her hands. I figure if I pretend for long enough, I might just become someone who actually has the time.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

everyone believes in how they think it ought to be*

There was this guy F in graduate school who was quite smart, but also quite, quite proud of that and felt the need to make sure everyone knew this. In fact, he'd go so far as to hold his exam up after the professor had handed it to him and actually say, loudly enough for everyone in my 25-person graduate class to hear, "Wow, I can't believe I got another perfect grade!" Then he'd also turn around and try to show his exam to those around him.

The funny thing is, everyone just kind of rolled their eyes at him and put their eyes back to their books. The class was filled with pretty sharp people, and they sort of felt sorry for this kid's need to prove himself to everyone in order to validate himself.

I find that funny now because, basically, I'm in class with about 25 F's, except they're less smart than the original F's, and then on top of that, I'm in class with about 70 people who do not shrug off such proclamations. Instead, they either moon over how superior those 25 people are or get so annoyed with it that it is really obvious that they're jealous.

So, see, I think this is my main problem with medical school, and really, if this is your only problem in medical school, you probably should shut your trap and be grateful. And I am pretty grateful. But I am pretty sure that, by and large, I dislike doctors. I don't like the self-importance, I don't like the fake positivity or fake altruism (in some), I don't like the blatant greed (in others). But most of all, I don't like the way they approach knowledge, like it's some kind of weapon. In graduate school, you had to know your sh*t, but ultimately that was going to come to bear in your research, not on how you did on one quiz. And when it comes right down to it, medicine ought to be the same way.

Of course, the way the system is designed basically opposes that in every way possible. First, there's the competitive process to get in. Then, there's the competitive process to match for residency. And about a million competitive things in the middle of it.

And my problem is not that those people exist, because I already knew I was in for that. What really worries me is the possibility that I could turn into one of them. The system is designed to turn you into this kind of person. So trying to keep my own perspective about things is definitely swimming upstream. I have my ideas of what is doing well and what is doing poorly, and I want to anchor my feelings on that-- but I can see that, even in the past month, there have been moments where my ideas have drifted based on external influences. I was able to shut them out and get back to my own center, but I wonder how long I will be able to maintain that.

You really won't believe this, but medical school lacks nerds. There are a lot of highly driven (maybe even madly driven) overachievers, know-it-all's even, but that is very different from being a nerd. They are passionate about things, but not about learning, not about the science of medicine. Maybe none of them care about the science, but to me, without the nerds, the educational experience is a bit lacking.

The bottom line is that I don't think I like doctors. But I do like medicine. And that's the dilemma. But I have to remember that there are definitely doctors I like a lot, and also that I don't have to be anyone I don't want to be. So I can tell that the biggest challenge that will face me in school is those moments of having to draw those lines, the lines that point out this is who you think I need to be and this is who I am willing to be, and then not crossing those lines.

* Even though I doubt he's reading these days, Abhi should note that I did something monumental today- I quoted a John Mayer song. I still hate him (John Mayer, not Abhi! I really need to work on my grammar), and I even hate this song (based on the lyrics) but I must begrudgingly admit that the music is actually kind of good. God, maybe medical school has gotten to me.