Saturday, June 9, 2018

Spring into summer update

View of the green, green Colorado River from the South Kaibab trail
None of these pictures are in order. I think my dad took most of these. But since I'm probably going to take an eternity writing up a post about the Grand Canyon hike itself, here are some pictures.

Hello from third year of medical school. I'm starting on OB/Gyn and like it so far. Still waiting nervously for my Step 1 score and having catastrophic thoughts of not scoring high enough for my dream specialty. Felt all kinds of sadness and guilt and inadequacy when my research attending and some of the ortho residents I worked with last year said hello to me on the day I thought I would get my score back (they're delayed and I have to wait longer). Felt something similar when the resident who mentored me since first year called me volunteering advice for my surgical rotation (and then gave me some advice as a new parent whose wife delivered her baby on the floor I'm working on right now). Keeping an open mind is surprisingly not hard, since OB/Gyn is really cool, but it's also not hard to remember how happy and excited and home I felt in orthopedics.

I'm learning some things about myself. I'm getting better at talking to patients. I like our patient population (safety net hospital, non-white, non-rich, many immigrants, many complications). I have more role models now: two gynecological oncologists whose patients trust and adore them. Gyn-onc doc #1 speaks fluent English and Spanish, and proficient Haitian Creole and Cape Verdean/Portuguese Creole. Gyn-onc doc #2 speaks fluent English, Spanish, and Mandarin. About 1/3 of the patients that go through our hospital don't speak English (most common languages Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean, Vietnamese...I would have lost my fucking mind if I had heard Doc #1 speaking Vietnamese). I don't think I'll go into OB/Gyn, but I do think I'll eventually work somewhere where I'll need to speak Spanish on the regular. Eventually I'll find my way.

My Spanish is getting good. I thought it was good until I heard Doc #2 speaking with perfect, perfect grammar. Subjunctive tense, correct yo forms of irregular verbs in all tenses, correct conjugation of mandates and everything. The feedback that I treasured most from last week was when a patient I interviewed asked me where I was born and raised, and if my parents were from Latin America. Like everything in third year, I'll get better at the things I want to improve on if I actively seek out opportunities to try. So on I go.

I'm moving into my new apartment at the end of the month, and I'm doing it slowly over the next few weeks. Always kind of been into ~~~minimalism~~~, but I've accumulated some junk during my first two years in Boston and am downsizing. Namely, I'm giving away some of my plants, since I propagated too many of them.

Lastly, I was really affected by Anthony Bourdain's suicide. I loved his shows, and his overall attitude and approach to life. He, too, spent some of his formative years in Massachusetts, and I'll spare the details so you read Kitchen Confidential. Part of this was because it came after the death of one of my friends and mentors from the free clinic I was part of in college. The O was the coolest almost-octogenarian I've met. He helped me find my feet when I was struggling with new leadership and more responsibilities in the running of the clinic. He gave me lots of solicited and unsolicited advice. I owe a lot to him, more than he knew. Wouldn't be in med school if it weren't for him, wouldn't have even wanted to become a doctor if it weren't for him. He said he'd thought he'd die in his 20s, then in his 40s, then went quietly a few days after a stroke pushing 80, surrounded by friends. I wish I could have seen him again.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

S/S 2018 | Wardrobe Planning

I'm back from Step 1 hell, and from my Grand Canyon hiking trip. More on that later, but it was the most fun, challenging, and fulfilling great outdoors adventure I've had. I'm glad I shared the experience with my dad, and I hope to do a lot more hiking/camping/backpacking in the future.

It's kind of late for me to do a wardrobe planning post for this spring and summer, but the context is that I'm starting clinical rotations in a week and need enough clinic-appropriate clothes to dress up in. Currently, I own two 'nice' blouses, two potentially clinic-appropriate shirts, one dress, four pairs of trousers, and a skirt. For shoes, it's a pair of pumps a pair of flats. Looking at this, the only things I really 'need' to get are blouses -- everything else I have enough of, at least to get me started. I'll think about adding to my shoe collection when autumn comes around, or if suddenly during my first rotation (OB/Gyn) I realize I need clogs or something. I'll survive OB/Gyn OR with sneakers and maybe my very waterproof snow boots for the time being (only sort of joking).

Anyhow, here are my ideas for adding to my spring/summer wardrobe:

  1. Short sleeved Eileen Fisher blouse, silk -- I've actually bought one of these secondhand from Poshmark, and may be gambling a bit on the sizing. I would prefer a looser fit, but the measurements may suggest otherwise. I wanted high quality pieces for a lower price and environmental impact, so secondhand I go
  2. Eileen Fisher tank, silk -- there's another one of these on Poshmark that I want to buy. Both would be black, but it's hard for me to find colors that I want to wear (that are not navy, as I've temporarily banned myself from buying navy anything)
  3. Muji dress, linen -- last year I sort of fell in love with a linen dress with 3/4 sleeves from Muji, took a great picture of myself in it, and never bought it. I don't know if I'll buy this year's version, but this marketing image with Honey and Silk was so captivating, and exactly evocative of how I want to be when I wear a linen dress (thanks, advertising)
  4. Uniqlo shorts, linen -- well, I already bought these and they are great
Lastly, I'm actively trying to suppress my memory of Step 1. It was awful, I felt awful during and after the exam, and I don't think I did well. My dream specialty may be out of reach -- I'm almost certain of it. So I'll strike any mention of Step 1 from here. Grand Canyon post coming shortly, hopefully.

As a final aside, Eileen Fisher is a brand I have only heard of/had any desire to buy from thanks to the blog world. So many people I read wear Eileen Fisher. But, I love linen, and I love silk (of which I garment so far). The consumerist web has nabbed me on this one!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Early spring update: loose leaf tea, greenery, and what's next

It's been a long time since I last posted. I'm finishing my second year of medical school soon with our last exam, then taking the next 1.5 months for my dedicated study period for Step 1. And then it's off to a great hiking vacation with my dad for a few days: Grand Canyon, South Rim to Colorado River and back up again. Down 4860 ft the first day, camping at Bright Angel Campground. Then up 4460 ft the next day.

I went home for a week earlier this month and saw old friends, and replenished my stash of loose leaf tea, which I get from Berkeley Bowl. I went back to Berkeley with my parents and sibling and had a good time showing them around, revisiting my old favorite places. I miss many things -- maybe most things -- about Berkeley. Seeing old friends from college reminded me of that, and though I'm very happy pursuing my dream career on the other side of the country, spending time with familiar faces does remind me of what I lost by living so far away. And I did lose a lot. More than a perfect day hike, long car rides, and nostalgia could give back.

We were planning on hiking a notable summit in the Bay Area, but rain got in the way and we went up and down some killer muddy hills in a local park. Still worth the effort, mostly because of present company.

I don't want to dwell on the past, but it's hard not to. And it's also hard not to be nervous about my future, uncertain as it is now. I still want to do orthopedic surgery, but to do that, I need to absolutely kill Step 1. And to do that, I need to stay disciplined and healthy and smart and study better than I ever have. And to do that, I need to focus.

So, after the Grand Canyon trip, I'll come back to Boston and start third year. Clerkships -- it's been a long time coming. What I'm saying is I'll be off the blog until mid-May, and probably sit on editing what I expect to be mediocre pictures of the most beautiful landscape on Earth. Before that, I'll probably have something to say about building my professional wardrobe, and my spring/summer shopping list for clothes. I haven't made a lot of effort in these things, but I'll need to, given how imminent rotations are.

And that's all for now. I hope you're having a good week so far, and that the snow melts sooner rather than later. I thought I put my parka away for good last week, but I was wrong.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Raw denim - a 13 month update, and some thoughts on jeans

A few years ago in college, one of my friends fell down the rabbit hole of r/malefashionadvice and took it upon himself to start dressing well. There was a period of time when he texted me and two others in our group every single time he bought something -- raw denim, cordovan boots, leather belt, weird thrifted sweatshirt with a painting of a dog screenprinted on it...

My jeans thing we gave him particular shit about was his obsession with raw denim. Selvedge. Vocabulary words that I still don't completely understand or care to understand at this point. He babied his jeans, cared about each crease and fade, wore them every single day, soaked them in the bathtub. I didn't get it. I still don't really get it.

My tumble down the rabbit hole of raw denim was gradual over the years, and it was only 13 months ago that I bought a pair -- a less expensive pair, from Uniqlo. My two older Uniqlo jeans were stretchy and getting uncomfortably skinny, and I wanted the option of layering tights or leggings underneath them if it got that cold. So I got a new pair of jeans -- men's raw denim -- in size 29. That's another thing: I needed to accept that my body has changed since I was 19. I wanted a looser fit and that's what I bought.

I retired the two old pairs (of three - the other I wear in spring and autumn) and wore my new selvedge jeans damn near every day for the rest of the winter. And then I did it again this winter. They were stiff the first winter, rubbed indigo everywhere (I paid more attention to where I sat and leaned), and I actually think I should have sized down. I had too much fabric around my waist, and it sat weird under a belt. I really thought about getting them tailored.

Not really qualified to say what combo of soaking, washing, etc is the best. But I'm not dead set on having Reddit-worthy fades, so I wash my jeans regularly now. Then I made the stupid, stupid mistake of putting them through the dryer. This shrank them down to be more of a slim instead of a relaxed fit, but it fixed the waist issue. Now they fit like women's size 26 or 27. I'm glad I sized up when I did.

I liked not having to decide what kind of pants to wear every day. Unexpectedly, I got compliments on my style, that it was cohesive for so consistently featuring "dark blue or black" jeans. I don't own black jeans, but my winter ones are dark blue indeed.

So, that's where I am. I kind of wish I had taken more pictures with them over the past year. But, in the end, they're just jeans.


My own story of jeans began with something from Marshall's or Ross in middle school, then three <$10 pairs from Forever 21, then two pairs from Uniqlo in college, a thrifted pair, to present day. My preferred fit is mid-to-high rise, slim or straight leg, true or dark blue. I have to be able to squat and deadlift with full range of motion in them. Must look good cuffed or uncuffed. Nondescript. Absolutely no obvious branding. And for now, the search is over. I had a pretty bad relationship with jeans and body image as a youth, and I'm better at keeping it at bay. I think I'm in a good place now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A review of my 2017 clothing purchases

Left: my jeans | Right: a crazy Monstera deliciosa trying its best to survive in the hospital

As always, to keep myself accountable. I don't like doing too many clothing or consumption related posts in a row, but my updates in general have been pretty sparse.

Call it what you will, I'm trying to have a more intentional and critical approach to my wardrobe. Shopping as an activity to do out and about is loathsome to me, but that doesn't capture how much time I burn thinking about clothes, researching them, looking at them on the internet, or even going into a store and trying things on without buying anything. With that in mind, I'm listing my purchases and acquisitions in chronological order, +/- $5.

January to March
  1. Uniqlo men's selvedge denim jeans - $50 - my winter jeans. I will write a long post about just these jeans sometime soon
  2. Uniqlo dress - $20 - a really good purchase. I love this dress and wear it as often as I can. It looks professional and suits my body shape
April to June
  1. School group tank tops (2) - $28 - unfortunately, I didn't have a choice in buying these or not. One was to wear to Boston Pride, the other was because I was a hiking group leader for the first year orientation hike. I bought the first one by choice, second one because I felt like I had to. I need to be more vigilant, but these serve me fine at the gym
  2. Uniqlo linen sleeveless shirt - $20 - so important in the muggy humidity of an East Coast summer
  3. Uniqlo mock turtleneck shirt - $5.90 - my replacement for the Red Polo of my youth. I like the cut of this shirt a lot, but noticed that the color has faded. Additionally, I find that Uniqlo tops are sometimes just too short for me
  4. Scrubs (3 pairs) - free - a very, very kind chief resident in orthopedic surgery gave me three pairs of scrubs (exchanged for new from the hospital scrub machine) when I told her my scrubs were from Goodwill, and that students don't get scrub cards. She was such a darling, and absolutely radiated warmth and authority both. She taught me a lot and I am so grateful to have found a female role model, if only for the summer.
July to September
  1. Mizuno running shoes - $60 - my old pair had a hole, which I discovered after my sock got soaked with blood in the OR
  2. Maggy London black silk dress - secondhand - $45 - 100% an impulse purchase off of Poshmark. It's a gorgeous dress that I would wear to any evening occasion, though it's a bit too big. My first foray into the online secondhand market
October to December
  1. Volunteering event t-shirt - free - I didn't have a choice here
  2. L.L. Bean flannel - $30 - not as stoked about the black Stewart colorway, and I also think this one fits boxier than the same flannel I got last year. This was purchased on steep discount
  3. Old Navy pixie pants - $18 - for my growing professional wardrobe. Bought on Black Friday
  4. Old Navy underwear (4) - $20 - also bought on Black Friday. Not a huge fan of them, and I wouldn't have bought them had I known my mother would force me to get red underwear for my zodiac year (my other Chinese-American friends warned me, I didn't listen)
  5. Uniqlo heat tech thermal - free - Uniqlo had a code for a free thermal and I absolutely got it on impulse because it is so fucking cold in Boston - at the time of writing, it is 10*F
  6. Calvin Klein underwear (5) - free - a 23rd birthday gift from my mother, per Chinese tradition. It's the year of the Dog next year so naturally I must have plenty of red underwear to ward off bad luck

Total amount spent on clothing in 2017 - $296.90
Total number of items purchased in 2017 - 27

Excluding the scrubs and underwear, that number comes to 12 items purchased in 2017, which I am quite happy with. I'm still in the process of building a professional wardrobe in time for third year rotations, and I'm still in the process of building a casual wardrobe fit for a young woman. Where I see a "lack" is definitely in the professional clothes category, to which I hope to add at least two more blouses and another pair of trousers, as well as a pair of black ankle boots that I still haven't bought.

Overall, I don't know if I'm any closer to developing a coherent personal style or not. Lots of Uniqlo here, but I think I've realized I'm not so suited to Uniqlo anymore.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Late autumn updates

Do I even live in New England if I don't post pictures of the foliage? Autumn came and is on its way out. We got a tiny moment of snow last night. It is starting to get cold. We're making another turn around the sun.

Clothing, cosmetics, personal finance, and minimalism


I bought another flannel from L.L. Bean, and plan on revisiting my review of it from last year, now that I have a brand new one to compare to a year-old one. I have plans to buy another pair of professional-looking trousers, but am waiting for sales. I also have some socks and underwear to replace. This means Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping, which I have deliberately avoided for years. I am possibly also deferring my black leather shoe (or boot) purchase for another year. I just haven't found one that I really like.

How do I build my professional wardrobe while keeping consumerism in check? As much as I try to limit myself in how much money I spend or how many items I buy, it's also important to limit how much time I spend thinking about or planning what I'm going to buy. On the other hand, isn't having a plan better than not having one? Either way, I am not satisfied with the amount of mental space I routinely use thinking about purchasing stuff. There's got to be some kind of a balance (obviously I haven't found it yet).

I also finally (finally) washed my jeans that I bought in January. It sounds disgusting, but I wore them only in <50F weather, freeze them on the weekends, and they held up well. Raw denim cult, my friends. I'll write something about them soon.

So here's something a little disappointing: my friend group talks about shopping a lot. They really love Uniqlo, and as someone who owns a lot of Uniqlo clothing, this normally doesn't bother me. And it really is a minor annoyance, but they incessantly talk about sales at Uniqlo, make multiple orders a month on Uniqlo, and joke about lacking self-control from buying at Uniqlo. I only noticed this recently because they went crazy over a specific scarf that one of them had. Two others bought the scarf immediately. Something about that makes me uncomfortable, despite how many Uniqlo garments I personally own.


I'm getting back into makeup again. My goal is to have a bare bones makeup kit of items that I love and use regularly. Currently, I have holes in some parts of my kit (skincare, base), and excess in others (eyeshadow). It makes me feel more professional and put together. I will be patient in editing what I have, adding and subtracting, until it is perfect. It is 100% consistent with my personality that I am hyper-focused on what I look like. What I mean: I love my face without makeup, but if I do wear makeup, I am extremely critical about how it looks when I put it on, and how it wears throughout the day. I must still look like myself. I use very little makeup, but what I use must matter.

Personal finance and minimalism

I fell down the rabbit hole of personal finance and financial independence blogs, especially those written by residents and attending physicians. This is something I must learn.

Regarding minimalism: I'm trying. More now than ever, I realize I need to get my perspective in check before I go about trying to 'minimize' any other part of my life. I recently went to talk to one of the deans about how hassled I was by people gossiping about me (mostly my research) and he repeatedly asked me why I cared. Why did it bother me so much? I don't think I had an answer. He told me to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (because I told him my sibling told me to read it years ago), talk to my friends and family, and keep doing what I'm doing. If there are people gossiping about my work, then I must be doing something right.

In other fronts, I'm working on reducing waste in my life. Still trying to go low waste, it's hard. But this is important to me so I'll work harder at it.

Step 1

This is the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) that will determine whether or not orthopedic surgery is magical thinking or a real option for my future. So I am studying. I am doing better in school than last year, studying better, but there is still so much room for me to improve.

I've been thinking of potential vacations to go on after I take the exam in May. The dream vacation is to do a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon, but that is a far reach of a vacation. More realistically is Katahdin in Maine.

Research and scholarly pursuits

We're finally writing the manuscript. Our project won a prize at a hospital poster session. I'm glad that something I worked hard on since this time last year is finally coming to fruition. And now, I'm looking for more research projects. I want to continue working with my same mentor, and I feel more and more strongly about orthopedic surgery.

At the same time, I am more and more curious about general surgery as well.

..speaking of my mentor and orthopedic surgery, I shadowed him in clinic this week and it was awesome. It was a lot more fast paced than the surgical oncology clinic I normally go to, but I really like his style. Straightforward, to the point, but super comprehensive about all the options a patient could have, non-operative and operative alike. Orthopedic trauma has truly a crazy spread of patients, from little old ladies to a guy my age shot several times over a basketball game, joggers hit by cars, custodians falling from ladders, etc, etc. Vastly different patients with vastly different injuries, needs, goals, and lives. More than learning about how to care for fracture patients, I have another role model for how to talk to patients, how to listen to patients, and how to identify when they have questions, reservations, or things they don't understand.

Recreational reading

I took Thanksgiving break to read as many books as I could. Sabriel (Garth Nix); The Two Towers, The Children of Hurin, and part of The Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien); and The Hot Zone (Richard Preston) are all great. I'm not a book reviewer, but I can recommend all of the above.


I have a lot to be thankful for
  • my family loves me and supports me in every way: emotionally, financially, in small ways, in big ways
  • I am exactly where I want to be doing exactly what I want to do
  • I have great friends, old and new
  • I am healthy and happy
  • I have great mentors that push me to do strong work and let me see and do cool things
  • I am finding time for creative pursuits and personal enrichment

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Beehive and Precipice | Acadia National Park 2017 part II | Maine

Note the iron rungs on the rock behind my head. The trail continues when you climb up them

Here I am with the second installment of my mini-vacation to Acadia National Park back in early October. I can only imagine how the landscape must look in the full blaze of autumn. Can you imagine sitting on this cliff overlooking a flaming red, orange, and yellow pit of foliage below? I tried to imagine that, and I imagine it would feel as if I were escaping from the pits of Hell. But the leaves were just barely beginning to turn when we went, and I can only imagine.

At Acadia, we went on two steep, strenuous hikes. All of us were fairly in shape and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but I would caution against anyone not accustomed to hiking, or hiking with improper footwear. The first of these hikes was the Beehive Loop, which has an elevation gain of 534 ft over about half a mile (the loop is 1.3 miles long, but the descent is much, much milder). Short and very sweet, with gorgeous views of the land and the sea. I deliberately did not include any photos that included the big cruise ship.

It is me

Beehive consists of a steep ascent from the forest floor up the side of a cliff, with narrow, rocky, and steep switchbacks and sections of ladders with little thin iron rungs. In this picture, I am cautiously lowering myself to sit down. It's a straight drop from there.

Don't look down. Or look down and try to spot the cairns

Barely getting started. The trailhead is at the elevation of the road, with a mild ascent to the cairns in the exposed rock at the upper right quadrant.

I read that this trail is reminiscent of ferrata hiking in Europe, which sounds very appealing and exciting.

This was about as summit as it got, and I admit that the views were not as awesome as I would have hoped for. But in this hike, the journey is the fun! We were a large group on this hike, and passed two families. It's a popular, but congested trail and we sped through it to thin out the group. I wish we could have been a smaller group and taken it a bit slower.

Next, we went along the ocean trail to check out the local wonder, the Thunder Hole (kind of cool, and the ocean trail was pretty cool).

As you can see, there were plenty of these jumbles of boulders to climb up and over, which we did with glee.

Climbed up high to get a view of the shore. The rock is an orange-ish color.

Another deceptive photo -- I am about 20 ft above the shore

The Thunder Hole was crowded with people and not worth photographing.

Down to Precipice!!

On the second and last day of the trip, we hiked the Precipice Trail, for which Beehive was the warmup. This was the coolest hike I've done in New England. In a half mile ascent, we went up 1072 ft, double that of Beehive in almost the same distance. Very steep. Very thrilling. I'm getting riled up just thinking about Precipice.

Shortly after we began the hike, we came upon the first challenge: a huge tumble of boulders to scramble up and over. Need I say it again? I love scrambles. This was just a taste of what was to come.

What was great about Precipice was that this trail essentially took us up the side of a cliff, meaning the views were always there, and getting better by the moment.

The first of the ladders. There were more than double the amount of ladders on Precipice than Beehive. After this point, it was steep, steep, steep all the way up. If you get to this point and find yourself exhausted, it is safer to turn back.

Interestingly, Precipice is closed for significant parts of the year for peregrine falcon nesting. We were lucky to come here when we did!

A rare flat stretch...and a precarious drop

Regrettably, I didn't take too many photos of the truly steep portions. The simple truth is that there wasn't really a place where I felt safe to do it. Between this photo and the last were crazy steep and narrow switchbacks, long ladders, and mere inches of rock between us hikers and a deadly fall. Admittedly, we were on a tight schedule and really booked it up the mountain (recommended at least 2 hours for an ascent, but we got up there in 1.5). We were exposed, exhausted, and I don't think my heartrate has ever been higher.

I admit, I had a dangerous light-headed moment when I was clinging for dear life on a ladder on an exposed cliff face, and looked over my shoulder.

But this photo is cool. I scampered up to the next highest boulder to take a picture of my friends seemingly emerging from the depth of the mountain.

The summit!

The views were worth all the effort.

There are a few other trails -- longer, less steep -- that lead up the mountain. But I was very happy we picked this one. How much more thrill could you pack into half a mile?

We took a long descent that still managed to be tough on the ankles and knees, but that's New England hiking for you. Here is a photo of the cliff from the parking lot. How exhilarating it was to climb up that exposed rock. It was the highlight of the trip.