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.