Sunday, March 29, 2009

art of language

Juxtapose reading this:

"A little thing, like children putting flowers in my hair, can fill up the widening cracks in my self-assurance like soothing lanolin..."

...with hearing this:
"Dr. Pepper sucks my balls."

(First quote is the start of an entry from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, written when she was 17 years old; the second quote from a burgeoning T.S. Eliot on the Caltrain from San Francisco).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"We do prime time now"

A capella version of "Facts of Life" on Scrubs with The Blanks, who incidentally were performing in SF tonight. Alas, I had chocolate-Guiness cake to make.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

vintage furniture :: D and L Smith Collection

I saw the D and L Smith Collection booth at the January Alameda Flea Market, and was in awe of their pieces. Couldn't afford to buy the pieces, nor do we have space for them, but wanted to keep them in mind for when W and I have a fabulous home with a wraparound porch and vegetable garden and a dog.

It looks like they restore old furniture, as well as create custom pieces. I'm always in awe of these kinds of skills, since I can't really wrap my mind around how to even paint furniture, much less build it.

The pictures are from their site (they probably could be better, but the pieces are beautiful nonetheless).

Green tall window cabinet

Magenta pink Vanity

LightBlue Dresser

National Musueum of Health & Medicine archive on Flickr

The National Museum of Health & Medicine has been putting their public domain archived photographs on Flickr. Some really great photos of soldiers at Walter Reed during WW1, surgical photos and drawings, WW2 propaganda posters that are also public health education, etc. Link to the full set on Flickr here.



Reeve 287

Announcement via

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Match Day 2009

Today was Match Day, the day when graduating medical students find out which residency program they will be a part of.

Margie and her match letter

For me, it was a series of poignant moments. A friend, who I had known before she or I were even part of the medical school, matched in Michigan, and while she was very happy, we both blinked back tears trying to reconcile her finally leaving Stanford. Students who I had not been particularly close to while they were MY students, wrapped their arms around me in exuberance. Students that I initially knew as scared, timid first-years, tentatively touching their stethoscopes to a patient's skin, were now going to be surgeons, gynecologists, pediatricians, neurologists.

Explaining Match Day to my housemate, he wondered about the randomness of it, and how strange it was for students to not know where they were going. And while I tried to unsuccessfully explain that they do have some idea, since they have to rank choices, I realized that it was sort of random. And I sympathized with the students' fear and uncertainty that they must have had last night (one said that he hardly slept). These are individuals who, in the face of the randomness of life and death, tightly plan, schedule, and forecast their own lives. To not know what your next step is when you have been used to knowing your future since the age of 15 must be an excruciating task.

It must be even harder to also put all your hopes and dreams into some giant computer system, and wait for the result. From this year's NY Times article on the process of matching:

For every senior medical student nationwide, Match Day is the culmination of years of work, months of applications and interviews, and weeks of wrangling over a final rank list. In mid-February, students submit their top picks to a central computer in Washington, D.C. At the same time, residency programs throughout the country submit their own lists, ranking candidates based on grades, interviews and recommendations. In the weeks leading to Match Day, the computer churns the tens of thousands of choices through a complicated matching algorithm, finally spitting out the name of a single residency program for each student.

At the end of the day, everyone I saw was happy with their result (I imagine the ones that weren't stayed home once they got the e-mail of their match). I met lots of siblings and parents, spouses and partners, and children. And I'm so, so proud that the students I first saw in September 4-5 years ago are now that much closer to what they dreamed of achieving.

I hadn't read the second page of the NY Times article, and now realize that the author discusses this same phenomenon - people who are used to being in control now not able to have control:
I mentioned that over time, each of the women, as well as their classmates, seemed to relinquish a certain amount of control over their own lives. “That was one of my fascinations with the Match,” Mr. Eule said. “In medicine, you are dealing with people who really excelled in their academic career and who were used to being in control. But the Match was a lesson for them because clearly they do not have complete control.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MFA documentary short film screening

I went to see my friend Theo's winter quarter project film tonight. He's in his first year of Stanford's MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video.

The screening was actually of four films; all told such beautiful stories. I'm just so very impressed at what talents people have. Theo's film (along with his project partner, Jason Sussberg) focused on the effect that incarceration has on families. The other films' topics were a family with two sons living with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome; two sex offenders attempting to live within society; and a man in Stockton, CA who believes that he found the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a rock.

Monday, March 16, 2009


My friend Angie has her pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) for sale online. They are spectacular.

Icon Egg - Czarna Madonna

Star Rose Pysanka

Blossom Pysanka

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Hitch" Dancing Scene

Watching "Hitch" with Will Smith and Kevin James, and have a new favorite scene of the week:

USA Network Character Project

USA Network did this awesome project where they sent awesome photographers out to America to photograph awesome people.

From the website:
Character Project is USA Network's ongoing artistic initiative to celebrate the extraordinary people, from all walks of life, who make this country unique. Inspired by USA's iconic "Characters Welcome" brand, and with the support of the not-for-profit photography organization Aperture Foundation, USA assembled a team of 11 world-class photographers during the summer of 2008 to capture the character of America.

"Oliva with chicken," Frog Song Farm, Skagit Valley, Washington. Photo by Anna Mia Davidson.

Here's a video of one of the photographers, Anna Mia Davidson, talking about the project, with some more of her pictures.

Other photographers include Dawoud Bey, Jeff Dunas, David Eustace, Joe Fornabaio, Mary Ellen Mark, Eric McNatt, Eric Ogden, Sylvia Placy, Richard Renaldi, and Marla Rutherford.

Harry Potter and the Pride of the English Major

So, I'm reading a book. I won't tell you what it is, because I'm ashamed to be reading it.

I love books. I love them so much that I spent 6 years of my post-high school education on them. However, because from a degree standpoint I would be considered a semi-expert in books, it gives me pause to admit to reading what would be considered "popular literature" (roughly translated, bestsellers).

This is kind of ridiculous. I mean, Charles Dickens was pop lit. So was Harper Lee and Gabriel García Márquez. Achebe, Heller, Morrison...just because a book sells a lot of copies and is widely read doesn't make it bad writing. In fact, this is the same argument that I have with my friends in Las Vegas all the time about music.

And speaking of music, despite the fact that I was at some point an actual musician, and have an equally great love for it, I have no problem admitting my like of Britney Spears, Beyonce, Coldplay, or Weezer. I am comfortable acknowledging the space for pop music in the universe - those songs are catchy for a reason. (Although when I bought a Backstreet Boys album in Japan because I was dying for some mindless American pop music, I sandwiched it among three Belle and Sebastian albums, so maybe I'm not as comfortable as I thought).

However, I can't seem to harbor the same confidence for books. I ridiculed Harry Potter my entire senior year of college (choice phrases were, "what the hell are these ADULTS doing reading some stupid CHILDREN'S book?"). And yet, during the beginning of my year living in Japan, I bought all four Harry Potter books that had been published and devoured them; my initial, sheepish excuse was that I was starved for something easy to read in English because I was exhausted from having to communicate in Japanese all the time. As the years went on, however, I stopped being so embarrassed and began to actually read subsequent books in the series in broad daylight.

So why does the thought of admitting what I'm reading now fill me with mortification? Why can't I come to terms with the space that popular literature fills in the universe the same way I do for music? Maybe because I take writing so much more seriously than music since I spent so many years studying it (I feel like I should know what makes good literature), whereas I never formally studied music, and so have less of an understanding of what classifies quality there.

The thing is, I really LIKE this book. However, not enough for me to read it in public. Sorry book; into the anonymous book cover you go.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SF dream house raffle

For the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fundraiser this year, they are raffling off a $2.4 million home in the Inner Sunset. Raffle tickets are $150.

Via Apartment Therapy.

Adi Nes Exhibit at Contemporary Jewish Museum

Field trip today for First Exposures; we went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to check out the current exhibitions.

Adi Nes, "David and Jonathan." Via

The big one to look at was Adi Nes's "Biblical Stories." From the Contemporary Jewish Museum exhibition description:
In Biblical Stories, Adi Nes, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, re-tells the familiar stories of the Hebrew Bible. Using cinematic techniques, and referencing iconic works in the history of painting and photography, Nes' rigorously staged photographs add new layers of complex social commentary to our understanding of these stories, and of Israeli life today.

In this public program, Adi Nes will explain the techniques he uses to create his multi-layered images, and the reasons he chooses particular images as part of his commentary on contemporary art and identity.

It was a pretty powerful exhibit; I think I was able to separate the photography from the perspective because I'm just not as familiar with Old Testament stories. One student did mention that she was offended by the interpretation because of her strong religious upbringing. It was pretty understandable; the relationship of David and Jonathan being viewed as a homosexual one is definitely controversial.

Since the students are doing documentary photography this semester, the program organizers thought it would be good to not only have examples of documentary photography, but documentary photography with a very clear perspective of the subject. In other words, photography isn't really truth, but what you choose for it to mean. I think most of them got that, but it's a difficult thing to teach. As a photographer, you learn to photograph "what's really there," but the point that Yoni (one of the mentors) made is that even by taking a photo from a particular angle, you are making a judgment about what to show. And that's sometimes difficult to reconcile with my ideal role as a "truth-teller."

Friday, March 13, 2009

citrus trees

Despite my living in the same house for 3 years, I have just now noticed the abundance of citrus trees in our neighborhood. We have a lemon tree in our own yard, which we alternate between ignoring and picking the bejeesus out of (mostly to make lemon marmalade).

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

But in the neighborhood - wow - lots of choices! Oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, kumquats.

California's great because the law allows people to pick fruit on a tree that hangs over public property - like a sidewalk. Unfortunately, since most houses in Palo Alto are on rather large lots, many of the trees are deep in yards and nowhere close to the sidewalk. I have been staring longingly at a tree two blocks away with wasted oranges littering the ground. A tear comes to my eye just thinking about the potential for pound cakes.

W seems to think we can trade for our lemons, but I just don't feel like the barter is equal. I mean, honestly, lemons for oranges? Who would do such a thing?

Grapefruits on fence
Some neighbors, however, seem to invite people to grab their fruit; this house had grapefruits lined up on their fence for the taking.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

things accomplished this weekend

  1. Had unexpected day off from mentoring.

  2. Watched Watchmen.

  3. Baked bread.

  4. Made potstickers with this recipe.

  5. Drank coffee at Dana Street Roasting Company for the first time in months.

  6. Bought wine at BevMo sale.

  7. Ran into three medical students while grocery shopping.

  8. Attempted to get to bed before 11 (this is one of those "if you wish it, it will come" tasks).


I saw Watchmen last night, and am still in post-flush.

Loved, loved, loved the title sequence. Loved some of the small touches that were added, despite critics' complaints about it being "slavishly reverential to the source work" (the swinging-door hide/reveal of Rorschach closing in on Big Figure is quite refreshing in a movie that revels in open displays of violence). And I even loved the ending, despite changes from the original; it felt a bit more believable, especially considering that you already had to imaginatively backtrack to the ethos of the Cold War.

Speaking of violence, this movie laid bare my bias towards violence vs. sex in entertainment. The scenes that had me burying my face in W's arm? Not the cleaver to the head, or exposed broken bones, or arms being sawed off. No, it was the prolonged sex scene of Dan and Laurie. My Puritan sensibilities were besmirched; bring on the fainting couch.

(Had to post this; found it on a general image search of photos. via Bam! Kapow!)

Friday, March 6, 2009

goodbye, kos

W's advisor, Kos Ishii, unexpectedly passed away on Tuesday. The memorial service was yesterday. Despite W's assertion to take photos, since "if Kos were here, he'd already have taken hundreds," I found myself straining to photograph, and it showed. So I'm just posting this one photo:

Apples on desk

W said that Kos would pass out these apples to everyone in the lab, even though they weren't all that great-tasting. He put these two apples on his desk the day he collapsed (Thursday). His desk was still untouched as of yesterday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

new iMac

Oh. Ohhhh.

Maybe it's because my current iMac is showing it's age a bit more lately; maybe it's the pretty, pretty brushed chrome, 24-inch body (drool); maybe it's the totally awesome price (I think my original iMac cost $1800; the new iMacs start at $1400.

In any event, delicious.