Sunday, May 13, 2012

Journal on my bookshelf.

Rice's 99th Commencement was yesterday and I feel like I'm closing a chapter of my life here. My last official day at work is coming up, my birthday, my trip to Korea, the big move to the northeast (leaving the south), dental school...

I think now's a good moment to make the blog transition.

Abandoned blogs are a little sad but think of this xoxo blog as a journal on my bookshelf. I'll be (hopefully) keep writing on the D is for Dentist blog throughout dental school. I'm thinking about focusing more so on my everyday life as a dental student & writing about issues that are relevant to my career.

Read about Rice's 99th Commencement over at my new blog.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Run. You're meant to do it hours.

Daniel Lieberman and Dennis Bramble in 2004 found that the human body is designed to optimize long-distance running. Homo sapiens are not meant to outrun the deers and mammoths- they are meant to outlast them. Humans can cool down by sweating. The Achilles heel acts as a spring. This made the cover of Nature.

So running a marathon (or the desire to do so) is biologically natural.

I think I need to work on the psychological part of running. Here's my thought process when I am running: This is hard. I really want to stop. I could stop for twenty seconds. Okay, whew, that feels better. Why am I even doing this? I could walk a little bit more. Ooh, that guy just passed me. What? I'm gonna outrun him then walk a bit more. Yes!!! Oh, I'm tired... 

When I actually stop whining and examine myself, I'm not even that tired physically. So the trick is to keep going (in my mind). I imagine this is harder when you are doing this for four or five hours. I did cut down on my time last Saturday although I stopped and walked four stretches. It was awfully hot in Houston and I'd underestimated just how humid it would be at 8AM. 

But this kind of self-discipline must be useful in other aspects of life. For athletes, their greatest achievement isn't just what they do physically, but that they can push themselves in training and in competition to give their 110%.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life with or without $965 million dollars

Three weeks of this life and I am peacing out to Korea. About ten years ago we flew halfway around the world on Baby M's birthday. He ended up having two birthdays and got to pick out chocolates on our flight. Then we learned English. Then we ate too many Cheetos and began the life cycle of American-style over-consumption.

About my break home-home: I asked my dad if I could visit another neighbor country up north (you know the one) and he said "NO!". So what can I do? I could learn how to roller blade. Travel around. Learn Korean fan dance. What do you do when you have nothing to do?

This weekend my task was to come up with the answer to this question: What would I do if I had $965 million dollars? My initial answer was: pay for dental school, of course! But wait, really?

Would I still become a dentist if I had enough money to do whatever the heck I wanted? If I was set for life financially? There has to be something else I want to do. Travel and see beautiful scenery. Swim all day in my private pool. Go to auctions to bid on all my favorite Matisse pieces. But at the end of the day, I could never "just" do this. My answer remains the same: with that $965 million dollars, I would pay my dental school tuition. Actually make that my entire classmates' tuition. The rest? I'd probably give it away to everyone I care about (this includes you if you are reading this).

This realization made me unbelievably happy. No matter what my circumstances are, I would still go to dental school and pursue what I'm pursuing now. I can't imagine doing anything else for the next four years.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bed early for Cinco de Mayo

Last time I went to bed this early was for the Chick-Fil-A opening. Today I go to sleep early for the opposite reason: Sprint for Life 5k tomorrow morning!

Am I confusing you with the two blogs? I am confusing myself too. It is Children's Day in Korea (instead of the adult-appropriate Cinco de Mayo) and Appa says yes to #6 on my birthday list. He says he'll make one next time he goes rat-hunting (???).

I think Fifi would definitely approve:
The chicest rabbit you've ever seen.

My No Spend Month is going wonderfully. Instead of going shopping like I always do on Fridays, today I played baseball with the boys and sewed up some old clothes. Also met with my med school friend (at Chick-fil-A, of course) who got me excited about my upcoming move to Philly.

(I am so excited about HEB's Primo Picks. I love Houston.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Houston Museum of Natural Sciences outing

I dropped by Houston Museum of Natural Sciences this weekend. But perhaps more importantly, Saturday morning I went out of the loop! I live inside the loop and rarely venture out. I was out for the first time since... spring break when I drove people to the airport. That's about two months living inside the loop. Whoa.

Since I'm on my No Spend Month, I parked on campus and walked over to the museum. I didn't mind too much because the scenery en route was beautiful.

Sam Houston statue
The Reflecting Pool
I wandered around the museum. I liked the Wildlife Exhibits because there is no other way we would actually observe these scenes in real life. The animals would run away three miles before we got there. Many of the animals were donated from zoo's... which made me picture zoo's as stuffed animal factories. Look at this Circle of Life in action.

I made my way to the Gems and Minerals, where I actually recognized and appreciated the minerals and gemstones displayed (thanks Petrology!). I went inside the Gem Vault (probably the most popular exhibit here- so many ladies ooh, aah-ing). The jewelry pieces were beautiful, but I thought it was fascinating that these gemstones- rocks, really- have no intrinsic value. Humans have arbitrarily assigned them to have value, mean something, cost $$$$.

My favorite exhibit was the Energy Hall especially the Geovator. We went down 7,000 underground into an oil well with a guide! I learned what fracking is (Hello, I was down there when they used it- boom!) and learned a bunch of interesting information I never thought about (How do we find oil? What does it look like when we drill into it? How do we get oil out?).

I feel I have come in a full circle. About a year ago, Lo and I went on a field trip here. I had decided to take a gap year but had no definite plans. By the time I came back from the field trip, I had a job.

Look at this shirt- I want. This reminded me of the "dinosaurs find life's meaning" cartoon I wrote about a while back.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Higgs Boson demystified

If you do ONE THING today, make it this (from my dental blog: write this down on your checklist):

watch this video on the Higgs Boson particle from PhD comics.

I am amazed at the drawings (the movie moves like Prezi).
How exciting is the possibility that we might find this "God particle" in our lifetime? There's motivation to eat healthy and keep exercising for you.

Today's the first day of my No Spend Month and I'm going out to a Mediterranean buffet in 20 minutes...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chemical senses for the hedonist

NPR has an article about the cuban sandwich contest between Miami and Tampa. What! Tampa, of course. I miss those Cuban sandwiches! Last year when my mom flew up for graduation, she brought me Cuban bread loaves (baked with palmetto leaf) from La Segunda! Besides the beautifully lit Ybor City at night, grabbing Cuban sandwiches at the Columbia Cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center by the beach? I'm nostalgic (and hungry) this afternoon.

Also from NPR "Are Your Friends Bombarding You with Food Porn?" N-cakes once asked me, "isn't your blog a food blog?" because I talk about food ALL THE TIME here. Naturally because I think about it so much.
I want to try this. But I'm afraid I'll drop dead after first bite.

But what is it about taste and smell that makes people so happy? People don't abandon their new year's resolutions to "SEE" or "HEAR" something beautiful. These two senses in particular can make people irresponsible and lose all willpower. Is it because taste is so intimately linked to our survival? Other senses are not directly important in sustaining us (they take in a stream of information but for taste-and indirectly smell- every sensation is important).

Case in point: yesterday I had half-and-half in my coffee for possibly the first time and it was unbelievably smooth and delicious! Where have you been all my life? (Milk probably ups the pH too- happy teeth.) I was so happy sipping this cup of coffee on my mini-break. I could "sense" the endorphins and seratonins shaking hands with their receptors.

I'm adding dairy creamer to my groceries list! I'm doing a No Spend Month challenge for May so this is a mega-luxury but I view it as buying "happiness".

People reward themselves with ice cream or chocolate. But why not other senses? We can start small with smell. If I finish grading exams today, I'll grant myself one sniff of the acacia by the playgrounds. Somehow I'm not as excited.

(What is all this raspberry ketone business?)

I've had four cupcakes today and it's not even end of the day yet.... Holy shimozzlies.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"25 before 25"

I'm totally re-inventing myself in dental school. For one, I won't care about school. I mean, I won't only care about school. I will also love and enjoy school. I mean....

This weekend was just lovely. Take a look at this scene outside of our department:

After thundering and pouring all afternoon on Friday, this weekend's unexpected beautiful weather coaxed me to work outside.

I sat outside and thought about 25 things I hope to accomplish before I turn 25. It's at D is for Dentist: "Yesle's 25 before 25."

And I want to have an identity outside of school: "Don't let school define you."

(Can you tell this two-blogging is getting complicated for me?)

I wore my Chick-Fil-A shirt to the gym today and wondered if this was totally inappropriate! Oh wells. Happy Earth Day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

why being the first 100 at chick-fil-a will wreck you

I spent 27 hours with 109 strangers camping outside in a concrete parking lot yesterday. All for the promise of free Chick-Fil-A for a year. (52 meals for one meal a week anyway).

I learned how to pitch a tent for this occasion (It's surprisingly easy). I felt a little rugged and outdoorsy until I remembered why I needed to be outdoors.

It is sort of like being on a cruise. Since there were more than a 100 people, there was a raffle to determine the lucky 100 with 10 more alternates. I made friends with a former longhorn who works at a downtown hospital.

The crowd was predominantly middle-aged and female. There were a few other college students. Some of the raffle winners were wheel-chair bound so they had "guests" who stayed to move them around. You have to be at least 18 but there were a handful of kids that stuck around with their parents who had won the raffle. A lot of them, I found out later, are home-schooled. Some moms had brought their infant babies! Fortunately the weather stayed cool so no medical emergencies there.

The same people host the Chick-Fil-A openings nationwide. Many of the people were repeat customers who knew the CFA staff like old friends. A surprising bunch had driven hours and hours for this. One elderly woman told me she drove eight hours from Louisiana and was planning on coming in again next week to Katy.

Let's think about this. At 52 meals valued at $250, I was just at the tipping point of making economic sense, missing an entire day of work and babysitting. But to do this repeatedly? I wanted to ask others how they were spending an entire day sitting out here. I was in the parking lot from 5:30AM Wednesday to 6:15AM Thursday.

After lunch, there was a mini-jam session behind the building in the shade! I took my papers, poured myself a cup of iced sweet tea and studied listening to live music.

I met people I would normally never talk to. Being in the same boat naturally confers a feeling of solidarity. Huddled by the one outlet charging phones, talking about homeschooling, discussing "old" antibiotics (She gushed, "I remember when methicillin came out!"). I danced two-step with new friends, found another Kurt Vonnegut aficionado, checked off an item on my bucket list, and oh, got 52 free CFA meals.

#12 and #13 after an entire day in this CFA parking lot
But about the title (besides having your last exam two hours after you pull out from the CFA parking lot...), from the Chick-fil-A meal calculator I added up what I ate:

I had made some actively healthy choices, such as not constantly pouring myself sweet tea, ordering a chargrilled chicken sandwich for dinner, not winning a milkshake for a contest. But this day was out of control food-wise. My fitness calculator told me I'd gain an extra five pounds in five weeks if I kept this up. YIKES. Many people brought in chips and cookies in addition to the CFA food we were fed, so...

Some final thoughts:
I wondered why homeless/jobless people weren't here. For them this would be a great opportunity right? One speculated they probably didn't know because she heard about it on the Internet- how did I figure this out? (Facebook through a friend). People who could benefit the most from these openings simply don't know about them...

Did you see me on the news?? Houston Press and Click2Houston

Monday, April 16, 2012

the crawfish party.

There once was a boy who was turning seven. His parents asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He answered that he wanted to have a crawfish boil. His parents found this curious since the boy never liked crawfish (he found it too spicy) but promised him one anyway. The day before the dad went out to pick up the ten pounds of crawfish for the boy and his six friends, he asked the boy: "Why did you want to have crawfish instead of pizza or ice cream?" The boy answered: "I want to play with the crawfish." He was referring to the cleaning process where crawfish would sit in a salty tub for a few minutes. His parents laughed and headed over to the grocery store. They asked if they could buy one crawfish. One lucky (or unlucky) crawfish was brought home for the birthday boy. He put the crawfish in a glass bowl filled with water. He felt its smooth shell and looked at his claws. The birthday crowd ate pizzas at the party.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Homemade tortillas!!!

I woke up early on a Saturday morning and I decided to make flour tortillas from scratch.

This recipe is so simple: Easy homemade flour tortillas from with four ingredients everyone has in their kitchen.

Knead, form into 1 or 2-inch doughs, flatten and cook on hot griddle (or a frying pan!). I didn't have a roller so I flattened the dough by hand. You could probably get two dozen tortillas from this recipe if you made them really flat.
Off to work on today's errands! One week of school left.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Drinking out of a fire hydrant: Global Warming & Civic Scientists

I attended our weekly departmental lecture Thursday by Dr. John Anderson on global warming. He has been in the news lately about his censored article on Galveston. Heading down, I asked my friend, "Is this going to be really technical?" Because I get lecture abstracts from the listserve emails and don't know half the words in them. It turned out not to be. The lecture is part of Rice's UnConvention weekend and many in the audience were community members.

Some thoughts from the lecture:
- Can scientists be too "alarmist"? Dr. Anderson noted that now they are "vulgar" and throwing out phrases like "sea level rise", when decades ago they trotted carefully around the issue. Not to offend anyone.
- Free floating icebergs melting do not contribute to sea level rise!
- Most of sea level rise comes from thermal expansion of water!!!
- Glaciers don't grow back. Glaciers melting is inevitable. (I mean, obviously so but I never stopped to think about it.)
- How do we implement long-term changes that outlive politicians' election cycles???

After an hour of work catch-up, I made it to the Civic Scientist Lecture Series at the Baker Institute. I went to one by the discoverers of Buckyball a few years a back and loved it, so I RSVP'd for this one and invited a friend. The speakers were Dr. David Baltimore, 1975 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, and Dr. Alice Huang, a Senior Faculty Associate in biology at Caltech.

It's hard to summarize their accomplishments into one line. But their achievements could go for hours.

Interesting points from this Civic Scientist talk:
- Average age of NIH grant recipients is 42. Much of great science accomplishments happen much younger.
- Why do we train foreigners? (I had never thought about this question...) Because in doing so, we are creating competition. But sometimes they stay in the U.S. and further American progress. (????)
- Wealthy individuals privately funding research is an American phenomenon. Howard Hughes of HHMI dropped out of Rice!!!!
- New Asia might be a good incubator for new scientists because traditionally people hold respect for intellectual pursuits. (Traditional Korean aristocrats called yang-ban's spent their days writing and reading!)
- "Is winning the Nobel Prize awesome?" Dr. Baltimore answered yes, because it is recognized by everyone. "But", he noted, "individuals being singled out for achievements is difficult."
- Scientists should become actively involved in policy making.

I had so many ideas during these lectures (thus the post title). Still organizing my notes from the talks. I love lectures that become a two-way conversation of sorts, where the ideas presented spark new ideas of my own. Much more excited about my career: scientists are not just scientists. We have a responsibility to spread our knowledge and influence policies.

Baker Institute had a fantabulous reception afterwards too. Munched on mini cheesecakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries while chatting with others who'd attended the conference. It's really interesting to hear what different people take away from the same lecture.

Lifting weights while watching kiddie cartoons

(Don't google "bodybuilders". Yikes.)
Which of the following does not belong in this group?

On the weights floor at the gym today, they had Arthur on television. A bunch of muscular men were lifting weights and watching this children's cartoon starring an aardvark!!! Tell me this is not insanely funny.

Here is another instant laughter-inducer. I laughed out loud at the Baker Institute talk yesterday remembering this:
But this is actually photoshopped... They probably made sure to tell the oldest two boys to be very very very careful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Microbio facts and laughs.

Couple of fun facts I learned in class today:

In the E.coli outbreak last year in Germany, more women were severely affected than men. 70% of hemolytic-uremic syndrome patients were women. Presumably because women eat more salads.

- Oseltamivir, or Tamiflu as it is marketed (take when you catch the flu to keep symptoms from being full-blown), requires as its precursor shikimic acid isolated from Chinese star anise. Chinese star anise is produced only in four providences in China and grows March to May. These limitations of Chinese star anise is what ultimately causes worldwide shortage of Tamiflu!

- One of the most effective treatments of Clostridium difficile infection is fecal bacteriotherapy. This procedure is more commonly called a "stool transplant". This transplant can restore the patients' guts with healthy bacteria flora.

1. Don't eat too much salad. Eat some grilled steak, well done.
(I finally made it out to Jerry Built Homegrown Burgers with B who was in town a few weeks ago. The burgers were del-icious. The bun was soft, chewy and just perfect. And the fries- sweet and savory. It was really crowded when we went on a Thursday night, but Saturdays seem somehow less busy.)

2. Stop personal stockpiling Tamiflu.
3. Don't resist treatments because they sound gross. They can save you.

Yesterday while running I stopped by an acacia tree and took a deep breath: so overwhelmingly sweet I almost choked. There is a tree right outside my door too and it makes me so happy to begin each day smelling these beautiful white flowers.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finally: Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel

I finally made it out to Rothko Chapel. A friend from work who is new to Houston enthusiastically agreed to check this out with me, so off we went. The weather was gorgeous outside and there were people sprawled out on the green lots around the museum buildings.

First: Rothko Chapel.
The building sort of looks like a bomb shelter from the outside. It is tiny for a museum. And of course, there is The Broken Obelisk in a rectangular reflecting pool outside the building. Heading into dark the chapel, I pushed the glass doors, turned around, and saw this:
The black cushions are seats for people to sit closer to the art and think. There were books for spiritual reading on the benches outside the exhibit space.

We walked over to the Menil Collection couple of steps away. I didn't know this was an entire museum.  They had galleries of ancient artifacts: pieces with wood or human hair stayed preserved for hundreds of years!

This was my favorite piece: 6-30 by David Novros. While looking for pictures, I came upon this article: the piece that I saw is actually a replica of the decaying original.

The special exhibit of Richard Serra Drawings was interesting. Many of his drawings used paintstick, which I learned is thick and sticky almost like crayons. Some of his paintings that looked similar had wildly different titles.

A note about abstract art: it gives you nothing to think about. What I think when I am looking at these pieces: This is too much. Or maybe this isn't anything. Am I not feeling enough? Am I just not getting something? Wait, did so-and-so text me back? And my thoughts wander off to whatever has been lurking in my mind. Maybe this nothing isn't the absence of something, but the presence of this thing called nothing.

But I do love surrealism. ("Is that gin bottle part of the exhibit? What about that chair?") Like when we used to drive on I-275 over the ocean to the Dali Museum in St. Pete. The seven mile stretch over the ocean with turquoise water on both sides was part of the experience too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter weekend: immortality in some form

This quote from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
Francie came away from her first chemistry lecture in a glow. In one hour she found out that everything was made up of atoms which were in continual motion. She grasped the idea that nothing was ever lost or destroyed. Even if something was burned up or rot away, it did not disappear from the face of the earth; it changed into something else- gases, liquids, and powders. Everything, decided Francie after that first lecture, was vibrant with life and there was no death in chemistry. She was puzzled as to why learned people didn't adopt chemistry as a religion.
I recently got into watching the miniseries Dating Rules from My Future Self. The main character's future develops an app that sends texts to herself. At a team brainstorm meeting, Kelcy initially thought about developing an app that "creates" you (or who you wish to be) 10 years from now, who would answer your dilemma questions.

With Facebook, Twitter, and Google already gathering so much personal information on individuals, I think it would be very easy to create an immortal persona of anyone. People dying is sad partly because every knowledge they have becomes buried forever. But if a model was created of a person: ("When someone posts this status, you would respond with this sorta thing." "When this kind of picture is posted of your sister, you would comment this.") you could essentially interact with others and live forever.

This reminds me of P.S. I Love You or Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close, cases where someone who has already passed on continues to have a huge impact on someone's life.

Also, something about facebook: when someone passes away but hasn't deleted their facebook yet, their walls filling up with memorial posts? I think it's a little weird...

Heathen matters: this weekend has been delicious so far: our department threw a crawfish boil and I made a batch of delicious yellow cake fudge for N-cakes whose MCAT is next Friday.

Everyone is away for the long weekend - maybe if Rice was a Catholic institution?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Be like Charlie: observations.

I live in a nice neighborhood thanks to my second job and while running around the neighborhood yesterday I had to smile at three boxes of pizza piled outside an almost-immorally-big house. Because 1) they live in this beautiful house but ordered $5 boxes of chain-store pizza? 2) Three boxes. That means enough people live in this house to maybe justify its size.

I got an email from Joe Biden titled "Saturday night". As soon as I clicked and waited for Rice's slow webmail to load, I regretted it- it had to be spam! (It wasn't). I also got an email from Barack and Michelle Obama! Campaign season.

You know the farmers market spinach I was so excited about? I dug out a small orange frog out of my dinner last night. I poked at it because I thought it was a bean or something! It was smaller than the nail on my pinky. Sorry little frog.

I miss Village Inn. Of all the delicious meals and beautiful restaurants I've been to, this is what I was craving yesterday. Because they have the most wonderful pies in the world and the most attentive waitresses. I hope I can find somewhere as comfortable as this diner next year.

Also speaking of my second job, what is up with all these "elite nanny" craze? NY Times and NPR picked up feature stories about expensive nannies who are paid six digits a year. It sounds like a lot, but same logic for any other job: you are being paid for your time... so if you need to be constantly on call and not have any freedom of your own, then your hourly wage is probably low.

And this comment made me LOL, because I do the same thing and keep re-considering changing the station every time NPR talks about something crazy:

Ellen Whitton (EllenKW) wrote: My alarm clock is set to the station that plays Morning Edition. I guess I was sleeping pretty soundly this morning because I thought I'd had this really weird dream, and woke up shaken. Now I see that I actually heard this. Maybe I should set my clock to a music station.

I got an unwanted suntan from Beer Bike this weekend! Two hours in Houston sun means I need to make the switch in foundation to summer shades if I wore foundation. Also very dehydrated from junk food and free sauna, slept all day all weekend and tried very hard to focus at today afternoon's meeting.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Love this book: the perks of being a wallflower.

This is the first book I wished I had written.

I read this on the exercise bike sweating drops onto the pages and gosh this is the most wonderful piece of literature I have read. Because the character Charlie is so honest and feels everything and says things like this:
I didn't feel like reading that night, so I went downstairs and watched a half-hour-long commercial that advertised an exercise machine. They kept flashing a 1-800 number, so I called it. The woman who picked up the other end of the phone was named Michelle. And I told Michelle that I was a kid and did not need an exercise machine, but I hoped she was having a good night.
That's when Michelle hung up on me. And I didn't mind a bit.
And I am at peace with the ending. Somewhat unexpected but I think it explains a lot about Charlie. Charlie on the significance of your own problems:
I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won't tell them that people are starving in China... because it wouldn't change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad... It's just different. Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Like Sam said. Because it's okay to feel things. And be who you are about them.
And it's now a movie!
Picture Source

motivation for everyone.

Today's thought of the day involves "swim suit season". At the gym today, our instructor yelled out, "Swim suit season is coming!!!!!" and everyone started pumping harder. You could see the spark in their eyes. Not the first time this has happened.

Is Swimsuitseason a monster everyone is trying to outrun?

It's perfectly dandy that everyone is working out to look great when they go to the beach. Maybe someone will film them and run it slow motion with the beach waves glistening in the background. That would be something beautiful for the world.

My motivation for pushing through those classes comes from my nutrition professor Dr. Anding: I don't want my bones to snap like twigs. (Speaking of twigs, I held a black and white warbler in my hands this afternoon! It had flown into our department building so someone decided to pick it up and freeze it.) What really worries me is the possibility that I am speeding up my metabolism and just running my engine uber-fast which isn't good for me.

I picked up a bag of spinach at the Rice farmers' market last week and it is the most delicious spinach I've tasted. I was snacking on it on my way home. Snacking on spinach. It has a completely different texture that's almost lettuce-like.

Ten weeks until I fly out to Korea. There is so much to do before I fly out, but the motivation that keeps me going (my Swimsuitseason-monster) is spending time with family and relatives. I am actually staying for more than two weeks this time, so I want to learn how to play the so-geum (Korean flute) and jog with Appa and bake for my family and do all the wonderful everyday things I have been missing. In both senses of the word.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When studying Spanish pays off.

After that sad morning in Philadelphia when I failed to squeak a single Spanish word to Portuguese men, I've made progress.

1. I understood phrases from "Born to Run" without Chris McDonagall dutifully explaining ever line. (Awesome book, by the way.) Bruja. Caballo. Loco. Corriendo. I think I may have summarized the entire book in four words.
2. I was able to read SkippyJon Jones believably for the kiddos' bedtime. Including the parts where Chihuahuas appear in SkippyJon's fantasy and speak in Spanish and Spanish accents. Holy frijoles!

I wanted to be an interpreter for a long time in middle school because I thought I was talented at languages. I took up English so easily! I had no accent! I took Latin in high school and gradually decided otherwise. Taking Chinese at Rice also convinced me that I didn't have natural talent at learning languages, I just had exceptional English tutors.

Because the sun is finally out after months of clouds
At the library yesterday I saw a 5-year-old reading a storybook in Chinese. So wonderful.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Onward to D is for Dentist.

I started a new blog. Officially.

It is called D is for Dentist and as you may guess, I am going to write about dentistry. Specifically living in Philadelphia and being a dental student. It is all of two days old.

With this blog, I wanted to get used to writing (aka talking to no one and everyone). Since this new blog has a pretty narrow focus, I haven't decided if I will keep this blog once D is for Dentist starts picking up. I like being able to talk about whatever interests me: this blog is a place for me to ramble about anything that sounds cool to me. Hm.

The other blog is still a work in progress, so be nice.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Singing in French and debating healthcare.

M who is a co-worker in my department moved into her new apartment couple of weeks ago. She invited a dozen friends, neighbors, and co-workers for her housewarming/St. Patrick's party this Saturday.

I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Or had that much cheese and wine. Two observations: our department is very international and very active. The neighbor who brought over the guitar (he's Moroccan) sang us songs in French and Spanish, and it was wonderful. Also, half the guests had walked or biked to M's apartment. In 80's Houston weather. On St. Patrick's Day with dangerous drivers on the road.

At one point we had a heated debate about social justice and disparities in healthcare. The psychiatrist was dealing with the fact that he had to prescribe instead of treat the patients (pharmaceutical companies throw some awesome parties). Coming from international backgrounds, many of us had different opinions of what works and what doesn't. Socialized healthcare, capitalism, doctors living the same lifestyle as mechanics in Sweden. Korea has a universal healthcare system where everyone is automatically covered and the insurance claims occur between doctors/government. Going to the ER for toothaches is almost unheard of. Everyone was yelling with exaggerated hand gestures and personal vendettas with no resolution in sight. Then M brought over a new plate of Caprese salad and everyone calmed down.

Couple of thoughts:
1) Is it enough to say, "The world is big. You don't have to live in the United States if you don't like its policies. Move somewhere else"? Even if you decided to leave the life you'd built, your friends and families, country boundaries are becoming more and more artificial. It's a global world. I guess you could evade your problem (aka not have a panic attack everytime you turn on the news) by immigrating somewhere else. But when does it stop? Maybe you just have to take some Xanax and stop thinking so much.
2) How do you resolve your social ideals with your personal actions? For example, I could scream all I want about disparities in healthcare, demand changes happen. But I can't start taking in patients who can't pay for their treatments. Or could I? What if I was going to be fired for doing so? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

happy white day!

Today is White Day in Korea. In Korea, Valentine's Day is for women to confess their love with chocolate, and on White Day (a month later) guys give ladies candy to do the same. On April 14th which is called Black Day, men and women who have not received anything (and are forever alone) "celebrate" their singledom with ja-jang-myeun, or black noodles.

I went to bed at 8PM feeling sick (there are about three people around me who are sick) & woke up delirious wanting a pancake. So even before daybreak at 5AM, I whipped up three good old fashioned pancakes. We have a review session this afternoon for our exam tomorrow. Must keep going-going-going.But in another news, I have found a roommate and an apartment! It is the most adorable place ever. I will write more about it once it is officially ours.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Race photo from the 5k

Raceshots took pictures at our race, which were finally up this morning on their website. Look at this shot of me seconds from the finishline. I die.
Trust me, this is the better picture
But see how wet the pavement is? How dark the streets are at 9 in the morning? My Philly host and I are already discussing running schedules! There's the Philadelphia Marathon late October...or more realistically the 8k. Baby steps, people.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

first 5k: Bayou City Classic!

I ran my first 5k this morning, the Bayou City Classic. Couple of weeks ago, a bunch of my runner friends decided to run this race, and I figured why not? After sleeping through the thunderstorm, I woke up to a breezy 55F, sprinkling outside with the roads already flooded. 
mid 50's plus rain and some winds...

10k lined up at startline
The start is a little less dramatic than expected...
Here we are, after the 10k racers have ran off. At this point, we're already soaking wet and waiting. I was nervous since I had not run an entire distance of 5km since... maybe 2011, that one morning when I was so inspired (caffeinated) and ran along University. I don't particularly enjoy running.
Our course looked like this. The first mile up to the post office was easy breezy, although some people began jogging full speed. Since I didn't have music, I tried to distract myself by looking for orange colors. The little loopy ramp was difficult due to the incline (and eventual decline), but once I made it back onto the streets, this was the last stretch. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running!

The final stretch had people lined up cheering us on, so I sprinted the last block to the finish line. The 5k-ers didn't get a chip or a timer, but the guy who ran in with me had one: 30:09. My somewhat arbitrary goal was 30 minutes, and considering it was pouring and windy, I am happy.

We grabbed after-race snacks/goodies/beer and trotted home.
Chicken and fruit in one bowl. Peppery apples-mmmm.
Happy and dry at home with goodies
We are already brainstorming which next race to run together. When I told a neighbor that I was running a 5k, she told me "Congratulations!" which seemed like an interesting thing to say. But I feel so accomplished and inspired after running this mini-race that this compliment makes sense. Now I have a baseline to improve on and quantifiable goals to work towards, a minute at a time.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Philadelphia Love Letter.

A quick lunch break before heading off to the med center for our meeting.. (Did you know today is International Women's Day? A co-worker brought in cookies and flowers for all the ladies!)

I had saved this lovely clipping from a touristy magazine I picked up in Philadelphia. Turns out, this is part of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, specifically Steve Powers' Philadelphia Love Letter series. All these murals are visible from the train.

Here are some more murals from the project website (okay, the link gave me a virus, so... google at own risk):

Definitely worth a train tour to see more murals from this series. Whimsical and so so so romantic.

Monday, March 5, 2012

old and new roommates.

I almost included a video to a 90's pop song with cheesy inspirational topics, but I'll spare you. For the first time in a long time, I can picture myself in 5 years, maybe 10, 20 years. It is not a hazy image of me floating around anymore. And I am starting to move in that direction towards the new me, wrapping up my life in Houston with checklist of tasks.

One is leaving the boys.

I think I've found someone to take over my spot. She'll be amazing, and as Lo reminded me, I am happy I'll be leaving them in good hands. But it still saddens me to know my Friday evenings will soon be sans Wii, made-up games and bedtime stories, nights like tonight.

After I let Littlest pick his out his pajamas ("Ta-yo!"- this means Star Wars) and loop each limb through the opening, he hops out of the bed to brush his teeth. He holds out his toothbrush so I can squeeze a pea drop of toothpaste onto it. While he's brushing his teeth (which means he turns on the toothbrush and holds it in his mouth for ten seconds), I tell him "I'm going to be a dentist." He looks at me in the mirror and smiles, letting his little teeth show. "Do you know what a dentist does? Open your mouth? I'll be taking care of those teeth." Littlest collects water in his palms, licks his hands, then puts the toothbrush back in the medicine cabinet.

Littlest get in bed and looks at me as I'm about to turn out the lights. He says "Good night, Yesle" except his "Yesle" sounds more like "Yah-slee".

I think I definitely want a roommate next year. But how can I really know someone through Craigslist or facebook? Roommates used to be completely random in the World Before Facebook, and college kids all over the world survived just fine. So why not?
Tomorrow a penthouse, that's way up high! Tonight, the "Y", why not? It's NYC!
This has got to be my favorite part from Annie. Same goes for me. Why not live somewhere historic, "cozy", rat-infested with roommates for a little while?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Frank O'Hara: Personism

"Selected Poems" by Frank O'Hara (Literary Bestie sent me "Having a Coke with you") accompanied me to Philly weeks ago & I finally finished the collection last night. Couple of favorites including this last verse from "Steps"  that just makes me giddy.
oh god it's wonderful/to get out of bed/and drink too much coffee/and smoke too many cigarettes/and love you so much
And this stanza from "Poems" makes you believe (or feel) the power of love
.... when I am in your presence I feel life is strong and will defeat all its enemies and all of mine and all of yours and yours in you and mine in me sick logic and feeble reasoning are cured by the perfect symmetry of your arms and legs spread out making an eternal circle together creating a golden pillar beside the Atlantic...
Finally, my favorite "For Grace, After a Party":
Some albeit muted frustration then suddenly forgetting that you were supposed to be upset at that person, smiling at them as the sun shines in through the curtains. It's subtle and realistic.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

dental musings over no-coffee.

Here's an occupational hazard for you. Ever since I began working on this acid dissolution study, I have been drinking significantly less coffee. How can I sip on coffee when I can see exactly what that pH 4 solution is doing to my poor apatite crystals?

On my way back from the airport, I had an interesting conversation with the driver. When I told him I was applying to dental schools, he commented "Your husband must be really proud." I thought this comment was fascinating- would he have said the same to a man? After I laughed and corrected him ("No husband yet, but I am proud of myself.") he reminded me to "never forget about us folks" & to give back to the community.

There is an article today in the Chicago Tribune ("More Americans seek dental treatment at the ER") discussing the lack of preventative dental care for rural and low-income families leading to dental treatments in the emergency room. A common grievance for dentists is patients who don't return after initial assessments. But on the flip side is that these people who are not getting the dental care they need. They are choosing instead to "toughen it out" until small cavities become 3AM emergencies.

Hopefully before "tooth hurty." For everyone. Picture
I am slowly realizing that my career can help resolve inequality issues I find so disheartening. In a way, a dentist is more like a painter or a musician: you learn the skills to do things. Over the next four years, I hope to learn these practical skills that can help others- and actually do so. I just happen to have a supportive family; how fortunate am I to be selfishly studying for another four years? Staying grateful and happy about everything I have. Philadelphia, get ready.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

TED: Schulz talks regret.

An hour until babysitting and this is exactly what I needed: Kathryn Schulz whose other talk I adored so much discusses regret.
17 minutes. "Don't regret regret".
Schulz discusses regret as it applies to different components of life, quoting the Roese and Summerville paper I found so fascinating. Here's the bottom line: I had focused more on minimizing regret by using the emotion as a preventative measure (will I feel regret in the future?). But listen:
Because the inability to experience regret is actually one of the diagnostic characteristics of sociopaths. It's also, by the way, a characteristic of certain kinds of brain damage... So if, in fact, you want to live a life free of regret, there is an option open to you. It's called a lobotomy. But if you want to be fully functional and fully human and fully humane, I think you need to learn to live, not without regret, but with it.
She discusses three ways to deal with regret once you feel you've made a dumb decision:
And the first of these is to take some comfort in its universality. If you Google regret and tattoo, you will get 11.5 million hits. 
The second way that we can help make our peace with regret is to laugh at ourselves. All of us who've experienced regret that contains real pain and real grief understand that humor and even black humor plays a crucial role in helping us survive. It connects the poles of our lives back together, the positive and the negative, and it sends a little current of life back into us.
I love that last line.
The third way that I think we can help make our peace with regret is through the passage of time...
But what may be a really important lesson to learn(in a "hate the game, not the player"-esque fashion):
Here's the thing, if we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them.
This brings us back to remembering to forgive yourself and move on after a mistake, even though the experience pains us. I have basically Ctrl+C/V'd the entire transcript here, so go ahead and listen to it. If you are a twenty-something on major career crossroads, it will speak to you.