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.