Saturday, December 8, 2018

On my third winter in Boston, I finally bought a puffy



I'm giving away my vintage leather jacket, and I bought a down puffy from Uniqlo for triple its price. This was a good decision. Watch me justify it.

I bought and loved this vintage leather jacket when I was 17, in 2012. It saw me through the coldest, windiest day in Berkeley. It even saw me through a torrential downpour in Berkeley when I was walking home, and saw two raccoons slide into a storm drain -- it stopped me dead in my tracks, and I forgot to worry about the effect of rainwater on old leather (no effect). But in truth, I almost never wore it because it was almost never cold enough to tolerate it in Berkeley.


I wore it a lot more in Boston, where there are a lot more cold (30-50F) and non-rainy days where a heavy leather jacket is appropriate. But the more I wore it, the more its flaws bothered me. Windproof, but way too heavy. A distinctive look, but it added so much bulk to my frame. It's an attention-grabbing piece in person, and I'm not one who wants all the same wow cool jacket every time I wear it. It also smells bad when rained on.

I had a gap in my wardrobe to the effect of "too warm for the parka, but too wet for the peacoat or the leather jacket." For a long time now, I've wanted a down puffy, a staple of Boston because of its practicality. Added bonus of being important when camping. Something lightweight, reliably warm, and easy to layer under or over.

Recently, my disdain for the leather jacket and disenchantment of the wild, wild west Americana look it brought reached its peak, and it got cold enough to wish I had a down jacket. So I did it. I decided to lose the $20 and not bother reselling the leather jacket, and shell out $70 for a hooded down jacket at Uniqlo.

Which seems at odds with the minimalism-sustainability-slow fashion ethos I admire: I'm ditching a secondhand, high quality piece for a more expensive fast fashion one. But it's a decision two winters and cold springs in the making, and one that makes sense given my shift in tastes and priorities. I can take the puffy camping. It weighs almost nothing. It's subdued and functional, and just as warm. It has a hood and a high collar.

That's the way it is. As goes my favorite William Morris quote: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I have replaced something that has never been useful and was formerly beautiful, with something that is extremely useful and kind of beautiful.

Thank u, next

And to further my point, this is a picture of me from college with that leather jacket. Possibly Halloween 2012?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The most California cookbook of all - The Art of Simple Food - Alice Waters


California, my home state, is on fire. The air is smoky and people wear masks to go outside. Low visibility. School cancelled at UC Berkeley - if this were three years ago, maybe I would be eagerly packing up my laundry hamper to go home for Thanksgiving break a few days early. Now I'm in Boston watching this unfold from afar. Truthfully, I don't know how I would react or feel if I were in California now. Right now, we're expecting our second snow in Boston. It's a surreal nightmare happening far away, at home. Towns destroyed. People displaced. People missing. People dead.

In reality, this post isn't about fires or even about California at all, but just a jumble of thoughts about eating and cooking that have been cooking since my surgery rotation, begun in September, now a week ended. Long story short, thanks to long hours, I've been eating less and eating worse.


To bring these thoughts together, I'm sharing some extracts from Alice Waters' - of Chez Panisse fame - cookbook The Art of Simple Food. As a point of food anthropology (lol), her perspective on fresh and simple food was apparently revolutionary, and this food was emblematic of that kind of hippie Berkeley, California attitude. Fine dining gone green, French-inspired but with local ingredients because California is the center of the produce universe.

Anyhow this was a ridiculously rambling preamble to what should be a brief post. Also, I find it kind of cool but weird but awesome that our hospital has a food pantry, a rooftop garden, an apiary, and actual farmers in a city that is frozen for a third of the year and has zero compost bins.

Without further ado...


...Alice Waters' book begins with an introduction about how the food culture of America is terrible. Fast food, microwave dinners, etc. As a medical student on her surgery rotation, three years removed from the organic vegetable/fresh bread/cheeseboard/hella fruit paradise that was Berkeley. California, and now subsisting on black coffee for breakfast, half a Clif bar before the first surgery of the day, the rest of the Clif bar before the second, and ginger ale/peanut butter/graham crackers from the PACU the rest of the day, and instant noodles for dinner...I decided to read the rest of the book after the clerkship finished. Without really knowing a ton about Alice Waters while I lived in Berkeley, I devoured the book. I even noted recipes I wanted to try. Her kind of snobby attitude about how we must all be green goddesses and Luddites and foodies was kind of aspirational.
  1. Eat locally and sustainably - that's a lot easier to do in California than Massachusetts, but I've been known to drag home big bags of local apples and cider and cider donuts, local honey. Other than that, I don't know the last time I paid attention to where my food came from. 
  2. Eat seasonally - beyond seasonal offerings like stone fruits vs. apples vs. oranges, and Halloween-themed vs. pumpkin spice vs. Thanksgiving-themed vs. Christmas-themed things, I regrettably haven't given seasonality a thought. Actually, no. Tomato soup is only for the summer and early autumn, when tomatoes are in season. And I look forward to it every year.
  3. Shop at farmers' markets - this I actually do, when our market is open in summer and early autumn. Apples, mostly, and tomatoes. I'm a farmers' market kind of person, and it really makes me happy to go to them and just walk around, though the one I go to is small and more arts and craftsy than one where you can actually do your groceries at.
  4. Plant a garden - how I wish I could do this
  5. Conserve, compost, and recycle - there is no composting in Boston, but the other two I try. Recycling more than conserving, admittedly, with my zero waste attempts mostly futile.
  6. Cook simply, engaging all your senses - I realized recently that a lot of the food I cook has the same texture - mushy, mostly. When I try to make stuff my mom made growing up, it tastes approximately the same, but the wrong texture. That's something I can work on.
  7. Cook together - this is probably a universal joy. It's fun to cook with friends, and something that I miss. My roommates and I, in all the apartments I've lived in, have vastly different dietary requirements and tastes.
  8. Eat together - another universal joy. I like going to potlucks. My friends and college cooked and ate together a lot. It happens less often in med school, partly because we all live spread out over Boston, and because we're a lot busier now. Lots of good memories of being with friends crowded in a kitchen making messes, and then hanging out and eating the stuff we made. Doing dishes, even. This is something I miss and wish I could do more of.
  9. Remember food is precious - always. 


And so, I have a lot to learn from Alice Waters, and a lot longer to go towards home. And even though she's kind of a food snob, I don't mind trying to improve my relationship with food and cooking with this book as a model.

As a last, unrelated point, my home cooking has become a lot more like the food I grew up eating. And maybe my greater goal is to master the simple, quick, and comforting Chinese home cooking that makes it into no cookbooks. That, most of all, is going home.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Ten item summer clinic capsule wardrobe - Family Medicine, Radiology

Clothes, hand washed, drying

This is more of a capsule wardrobe by circumstance, not deliberate curation. A bit about the status of my personal style and wardrobe now: I was building my professional wardrobe slowly over the past two years, and have settled on an equilibrium that I am happy with. I also moved to an apartment with much more limited storage, and am content being confined by space and eye-stress from clutter, if that makes sense. We also don't have a laundry in the building, so I am hand washing for the most part, and dragging my stuff to the laundromat less frequently.

I had my Family Medicine rotation - primary care, outpatient, plus a train commute - for six weeks, and it's over. The weather is slowly changing, but still swelteringly hot into the 90sF some days. I'm on Radiology nowadays and though nobody is really going to pay attention to what I'm wearing in a dark radiology reading room, we are in the hospital and I do feel obligated to dress better than I did in FM (+ no commute).

Here are my pieces:



Tops

  1. Dark red sleeveless blouse - $20 - bought this for my medical school interviews and wore it to each one, looked very smart and professional under the suit that I babied it a lot. Now it's shown its nature as a cheaply made, fast fashion item and as nice as the color looks against my skin, I will definitely be spending more on my residency interview blouse
  2. Purple flutter sleeve blouse - $15 - bought in 2010 for my high school job. It's very airy and breezy in hot weather, but that hardly matters if I have to wear a white coat. Unfortunately, it's showing its age and the fabric looks pretty worn (100% polyester), but I like the cut and the way it looks on me. I would not choose this color for myself again, though
  3. Navy linen sleeveless shirt - $20 - this is a Uniqlo shirt that I wear usually for casual occasions, but it works in a pinch for the hottest of summer days. Very wrinkled, as expected of linen. I don't really want to buy more Uniqlo, but I am considering getting one of their rayon blouses
  4. Black silk t-shirt - $25 - secondhand Eileen Fisher from Poshmark. Really good-looking shirt and fabric. With some of the above blouses nearing the end of their useful lifetime, I am definitely looking at buying secondhand, higher quality silk blouses for clinic purposes
  5. Dark red mock neck shirt - $6 - from Uniqlo. This cheap little shirt is just barely appropriate for a casual primary care clinic, but I would not dare to wear this in the main hospital campus, even in the cover of darkness (again, Radiology). However, I did rely on it quite a few times in FM when it wasn't disgustingly hot
  6. Blue and white psychadelic dress - $14 - this one again. It's 100% polyester too, but the movement makes it comfortable for the summer. I don't wear it too often


Bottoms
  1. Black polyester A-line skirt - ??? - bought in 2010. Hardworking little skirt. I love it a lot, very versatile. I took in the waist and shortened (!!!) it to make it more professional, less witchy. It moves very well, and despite the 100% polyester, the cut is very breezy and comfortable in the hot, hot summer. I wear this about three times a week and hand wash on the weekends
  2. Navy trousers - $9 - from H&M in 2011, a bit too casual for the hospital, but when there were FM attendings literally wearing leggings in clinic, I didn't care. I feel like this is okay for Radiology, but I have more professional trousers waiting for cooler weather
Shoes
  1. Black flats - ??? - Lucky Brand flats dug up from my closet in high school. Don't remember ever buying them, and I never was a flats wearer until this year. I didn't want to tear up my pumps wearing them every day, and they were too formal for FM clinic anyways. These little flats are clear staples in my wardrobe now.
  2. Sperry boat shoes - $95 - I don't remember exactly how much I got these for, but they are my default casual shoe and work when I'm wearing the trousers. Not sure I can pull these off once cooler weather hits, with darker trousers. Wouldn't dare wear them on Surgery, though
Looking back at this, ten items is a bit...Spartan. But I do promise you I'm handwashing very diligently. I'm not always comfortable with the "minimalism" game, but I feel pretty good about this. I am still actively pre-buying, that is, browsing Poshmark and keeping track of items I would want to buy. The plan is to replace the purple blouse with one of a similar cut, and buy another one. Professional shoes, too, for the cooler weather. 

The next post may be a roundup of outfits, and the one after that will be wardrobe planning for the autumn and winter. These are the kind of posts suitable for microblogging about minimalism in 2018.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Finally a breather - and something about Spanish

Somewhere in Boston, there is a garden

So, getting used to being a third year has kept me away from writing, but here I am in a more relaxed rotation, ready to write.

The first thing: I got my Step 1 score back. Some combination of disbelief, relief, joy, fear, and anticipation. I will be going full steam ahead towards orthopedic surgery. My score is below average for ortho, but still within striking range. So now what lies ahead is doing my best on my rotations, keeping up with research, maintaining my relationships with my mentors, and looking far ahead at Step 2 and away/audition rotations.

I finished my first rotation, Obstetrics & Gynecology, a few weeks ago, and am just as many weeks deep into Family Medicine. I think I will eventually write more thorough, thoughtful update and reflection posts on each specialty, but that those will come eventually, much like my posts about my trip to Germany in summer 2016, and my Grand Canyon hike. Someday.

The changes in my life, other than the shift from pre-clinical to clinical education and the new three digit number that identifies me are my (1) new apartment and my (2) improvement in medical Spanish.

For the first one: I moved in with two of my classmates into their apartment, where there is a larger, more home-like common space, a smaller kitchen and bathroom, and a smaller bedroom for me. In strict terms of real estate, it's a downgrade, but I realized that my old digs were not great for my wellbeing. I got along fine with my old roommate, but I also tended much towards being asocial and a shut-in unless there was a place for me to specifically go or people I wanted to specifically see. My new apartment is a lot more like my college one, where I interact with my roommates more, and we get along.

That said, a big thing that I realized about myself is that I really miss my college friends. Like terribly so. Maybe it's that we're all scattered out at different rotations, but I don't feel as connected as I used to with my med school friends. We don't actually have that much in common, whereas I felt I was very close with my college friends (and in love with one, who is not my ex-boyfriend). So lately I've found myself really keeping in touch with old friends, and old-old friends (my best friends, the ones I've had elementary-middle-high school + two years of college, and I'm lucky to have two of them).

Hollyhocks will always make me happy

And I guess the last thing I'll say is that my improvements in Spanish have probably been what I've been most proud of in terms of soft clinical skills achieved. My Family Medicine clerkship is at a community health center where probably 90% of the patients are either from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Colombia. 5% more are probably from the Dominican Republic. The others are old white Italian-Americans. So I've had the very special challenge and privilege of learning primary care en espaƱol, which means going in to see patients on my own, collecting a history and doing a physical exam, reconciling medications (with some patients illiterate in English and Spanish), distracting the little people accompanying parents to their visits, seeing patients as young as three days old to as old as ninety years old. In the past three weeks, I've perhaps spoken English to ten patients. I feel a lot more confident and competent as a clerk and as an hispanohablante. I am making progress.

I've been getting good feedback as a third year student, but I get really proud when the attending physicians (all of whom speak Spanish themselves, running the gamut of gringa to fluent) ask me where and how I learned Spanish. Even better feedback is when the patients grill me about where I'm from and are surprised to learn I was born and raised in the United States with parents from China, and not Peru or Puerto Rico or Mexico where the Chinese diaspora has also touched. That's the best trophy I have in the road towards professional Spanish fluency.

So I think I feel a lot of things, and I think I need to write a longer post about this. But I now speak medical Spanish much better than I speak medical Mandarin, which makes me feel very guilty on one hand, proud on the other. The next step will be to actively seek out learning or patient care opportunities where I will use those languages.

This year will be one of many changes. I already has been. I'm growing a lot. I loved OB/Gyn, and though I don't love primary care, I look forward to every clinic day. And I'm ready to get back in the operating room. A lot has changed, but really, a lot has not.

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 own...one 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.