مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Perfection incarnate.

I'd like to introduce the newest member of my family...Sandra Grace!
Yeah, we named her Sandra in honor of my grandmother (weird, I know). Don't hate (I'm finally getting used to it). Regardless of whether you like her name, I can promise that you'll just melt when you see her little face! She is incredibly cute--five pounds, ten ounces and seventeen inches long--small and sweet, with dark eyes and tiny tufts of dark hair. Needless to say, I love her already.

I held her for the first time yesterday, all wrapped up like a baby burrito, with a cushy little hat on her head and a hospital blanket scrunched around her teensy body. She opened her mouth in the shape of an O and opened her eyes, looking up at me for one perfect second before settling back into her quiet sleep. She is warm, soft, and light, like a little living cloud, and I just want to hold her forever, to make her part of me and never give her back.

It's odd to me that she was created; nine months ago, the soft, trusting little person I hold in my arms was no more than two separate sets of chromosomes. Just looking at her amazes me; I run my finger lightly along her ear, which feels paper thin and can't be any bigger than a coin, and wonder at its immaculate formation. I slide my finger in the pattern on her foot I know will elicit the reflex response inherent in all babies, marveling every time it occurs just like I know it will.
She is perfect, she is beautiful, and now she is ours to keep.
I can't think of a better birthday gift (mine's next week).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


My mom's in labor...

While we await the baby, I'll provide you, my loving readers, with something funny. In the ample time I spend at work, unable to leave my desk or my laptop, I cruise around on the Internet, bookmarking interesting medical blogs and cool YouTube videos. Here's a post from a physician that really made me laugh:"I Saved a Horse (and I liked it)."

The phrase "cyanotic palomino" is enough to start me giggling again, not to mention the spotty capitalization.

I LOVE the things random people feel inclined to write about! Blogs are the most entertaining Internet time-wasters I've ever encountered (and that's saying something). There's nothing more fascinating than eavesdropping on the thoughts of Someone Else--it's kind of like mind reading, in a way. The author could be anyone, which really gives me an appreciation for other people in general.
After all, everyone is Someone Else to someone else.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Idol worship.

Take a little time out of your busy day to meet my idol!

Dr. Atul A. Gawande

General surgery with endocrinology and gastrointestinal concentrations (esp. cancer)
Associate professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School
Associate professor of health policy/management, Harvard School of Public Health
Associate director, BWH Center for Surgery and Public Health
Director, World Health Organization (WHO) Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care
Staffwriter, New Yorker magazine

Undergrad: Stanford
Masters': Oxford (Rhodes scholarship)
MD: Harvard Medical School
MPH (Masters' of Public Health): Harvard School of Public Health
(Academic degrees in philosophy, politics and economics)

Complications (2002); Better (2007)

My life would be complete if I could accomplish 1/100 of what this guy has.
Read his books and articles (try "The Itch," published by the New Yorker (and available through my link), as your first sample)...they're nothing less than FASCIA-NATING (hehe...medical joke).

Sunday, July 27, 2008


This morning, I straddle my bicycle seat and roll into the visible heat waves.
I take a trail past the busy roads and into the canyon, coasting up through the dappled shade and feeling my leg muscles grow accustomed to the rhythmic contractions that keep my pace. I picture the bundled fibers sliding in unison, responding to my brain's chemical signals like trained soldiers, no questions asked: Activate the actin, myosin, troponin, tropomyosin, and everything in between. ATP, phosphorylation, electrolyte concentrations, conduction, catabolism, protein synthesis, hydrolysis, feedback inhibition...I am the emergent property of my biology, and that's okay with me, because I can see and feel and comprehend; I can be, and I can induce this accepted psychosis, this surreal dreamstate.
I can feel my heart pounding in blissful overuse, diverting my blood from normal metabolic processes to my lungs and brain, coupled with reflexive vasodilation in response to the heat I generate and now exude, each consecutive push making my outermost epithelia more flushed and shiny with the ecstasy of positive endorphins.

No makeup + wavy hair + a bike ride, completely alone + physiology + spirituality = identity.

Friday, July 25, 2008

So it goes.

So, um, Slaughterhouse-Five.
It wasn't what I expected. It was better, deeper, more interesting...

I had very little background knowledge about this book, other than the fact that it is about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. I was surprised, then, to see that Vonnegut puts the actual bombing near the end of the novel and makes it very anticlimactic, a choice he also makes with the execution of Edgar Derby, which is built up from the beginning. Since reading some different opinions, I've learned that most see this as part of his overall stylistic theme. The point isn't the bombing, the point is the war, and if everything is inevitable (another theme), why should it be dramatic when someone dies? So it goes.

The structure was almost Heart of Darkness-style, having an "I" narrator who would only show up in certain parts, with an omniscient, third-person view of Billy Pilgrim the rest of the time. Hmm.

Vonnegut has a way of writing his characters that really gets me. I feel for poor Roland Weary, whose loneliness is pitiable even though he is fat, boorish and annoying. I love Valencia, Billy's wealthy, obese wife, because it is obvious she loves him. Wild Bob is pathetic as he wishes his dramatic goodbye to a platoon that never knew him and couldn't have cared less when he died. And Billy is powerfully disjoint; I never knew whether or not to trust him (Montana Wildhack, anyone?).

My favorite image from the book comes from the Tralfamadorians (an alien society Billy joins that I can't figure out whether or not is supposed to be idealized). They have a different concept of time than we do on Earth; they see people as "great millipedes, with babies' legs on one end and old people's legs on the other." Everything that will happen/has happened IS happening, and the Tralfamadorians accept every action they have done/will do as inevitable, believing "the moment is structured that way." Instead of dwelling on the bad parts of their lives, they can pick and choose which times to visit. Death, then, is never sad; though the person may not be alive at this particular moment, we can always visit one in which they are just fine. Many people see this as a skewed coping strategy for Billy, who has encountered an overwhelming volume of tragedy in his own life, even outside the war.

As a Tralfamadorian explains to Billy (while describing the structure of books in his society), "There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time." Vonnegut channels this attitude in his fragmented style, giving the reader just a few paragraphs in a particular time in Billy's life before jumping suddenly to another, leaving the reader with a sense of depth in the fact that one can get something out of each anecdote. This is strange and interesting to read, because there are probably no less than ten storylines going on at any given time, and the reader has no idea which is really happening "now," because there IS no "now." There are only a collection of moments that make up a life, and we see them all, from Billy's birth to the death he so emotionlessly predicts. He is "unstuck in time;" he knows when each event will occur, and none of them are sad.

As for motifs/symbols, many recur, but I believe some to be pointless just for the sake of being pointless (I would not put that past Vonnegut), or just to provide the reader with another way to question Billy's sanity (color sequences will recur in passages we know to be true/real and then show up in some we don't). Billy is an optometrist by trade, so that associates him with vision, but I don't know if I'm supposed to believe he can "see" or if I'm supposed to think it ironic that he can't. Owl imagery (knowledge?) pops up every so often, but the instances are so different that, again, I can't tell if Vonnegut is going for symbolism or irony. I made a list of the many blue-and-ivory references (a color combination that repeats when someone is dead/close to death). Oh--another thing I loved--after every mention of death, no matter how large or small, he writes "So it goes," keeping the reader engaged in the Tralfamadorian concept of death.

All in all, it was a fascinating read, and I'm happy I've expanded my horizons a bit.
As stated in Billy's ironic epitaph, "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt."

Monday, July 21, 2008


This morning, I got a job.
I am an official calculus tutor.

Mathematics is at once the most frightening and most beautiful subject I know. As the universal language of purists, the discipline is crafted from amoral symbols, facts, axioms and conjectures and culminates in what I believe to be the most undiluted pursuit of truth. Every concept requires sequential, concrete proof, which can be as sharp, eloquent or unnecessarily verbose as literature. With all the similarities between English and math, I find it funny that people usually pick just one to enjoy.

If academic subjects were drawn on a Cartesian plane, most people would probably sketch math and English as parallel lines, destined to hold each other at a constant length forever, never crossing. I prefer a Venn diagram. There's so much the same between the two subjects; not the specific course material per se, but the critical thinking, the desire for truth, the techniques of innovation. For example, in my way of thinking, the literary device of satire is a perfect example of proof by mathematical induction. In an induction proof, to prove something is true of k, one must prove it is true of k+1. Similarly, satire is used to twist a situation into hyperbole (k+1), and by so doing proves truths that apply to our current situation (k), which may not be so extreme. QED.

I've found that teaching math, though, is much harder than learning it. If I concentrate, math comes easily to me, and when I do it I skim along my own plane of thought, which is why I find it difficult to teach a student. If my thinking style is a convex plane, and hers is concave, how are we to understand each other? I'm learning to design equations for the space between our intersections, creating functions tangent to her style, molding my well-worn neural pathways into something she can more easily recognize.
I hope it works.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


My blog got an unexpected compliment today. It was described to me as "genuine," an adjective I don't think I've ever been given. I don't think I've ever been given that adjective because I don't think it's ever been true, at least of me in real life. There's always something under the surface, something you can't see, something I keep for just me and pretend it doesn't exist when you talk to me. Oh, I'm happy enough- maybe a little quieter these days, but me just the same, and I keep strict composure, as I always have.

Maybe he's right. Maybe I am genuine. Maybe this is me now, this disembodied voice, devoid of affect, just a collection of inaudible words, just here. It's not like I go anywhere else these days.
I'm more real here than I am with you, and it's kind of a paradox because here you can't see me. Here you don't listen, you watch; here, you see what I choose to show you, and here, you'll see more of me than you ever will in real life, and yet you're not seeing me at all. You're seeing my words, a few of my thoughts transcribed onto a screen where symbols and descriptions try and do them justice, and at the center of it all is me, which I don't really understand. Is this what I am? I don't talk much anymore; does that make me words? Words meant only to be read, never spoken- does that mean I'm words at all, or is this just a pathetic attempt to matter, a pathetic attempt to shield myself from the fact that maybe I don't?

"Maybe I am silence after all," she doesn't say.

And I guess he's right; if it turns out I am silence, what could be more quiet, more genuine than the letters on your screen that spell the words I never meant to speak?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why so serious?

Lately, I find myself strangely attracted to them.
Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight...

The fact that there are people out there that honestly don't care about anyone or anything thrills me.
I think I'm kind of sadistic, when it really comes down to it.

I saw The Dark Knight at midnight and thought it was fantastic. Heath Ledger...ohh, man- he was deliciously imbalanced, and every scene with him became my favorite. Wow! And props to the art director- I really liked the color scheme: grayscale for everyone but the Joker, with his psychotic clown makeup, ratty purple suit and greasy, green-black hair. And yet, through all that, I still found him immensely attractive.

I have weird taste.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Wow, I am seriously antisocial these days.
The only time I leave my house is to run errands or lurk in available chairs in the back sections of random bookstores/libraries.

Things I like:
Playing the piano
Watching movies
Barnes and Noble
Arrested Development
David Archuleta
Sociopathic movie villains

Things I don't like:
Repetitive work
Unhealthy food
Small talk
Perky people
OxiClean commercials
Loud, inconsistent noises (it's okay if they're evenly spaced)


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Sometimes when I'm around a lot of books, I get the same feeling I get when I'm about to take part in a big academic competition. I feel really scared and want nothing more than to run away, as fast and as far as I can, forcibly blocking all mental stimulation to the point of total oblivion. Economics, mathematics, philosophy, political theory, physiology, history, literature, music, psychology, physics, chemistry...There's so much out there I think I should know, and the fact that I don't have the time, money or maybe even the mental capacity to know it all freaks me out and makes me feel like no matter how much knowledge I cram through my neocortex, I'll never, ever be good enough.
It's times like that when I have to step back and realize that I'm making progress, no matter how minute it might feel.

Today at Barnes and Noble, I read a selection of personal essays compiled into a book I pulled off the shelf for its title, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," which I learned actually comes from a badly translated Japanese fire safety manual the author came across in his travels. The essays were creative and down to earth, a collection of simple anecdotes from the author's life turned into illustrated vignettes that captured my attention. Eloquent at times, witty and clever throughout, I feel like I learned from his easy and comfortable writing style.

I also picked up "I Am A Strange Loop," a book I've heard reviewed really well that I put on my summer reading list. However, I was sadly disappointed. Though the material may have been interesting (the subject, consciousness and identity, definitely was), the author wrote with such an absolutely condescending, droll attitude that I was entirely turned off after just a few chapters. The drawn-out, verbose introduction made it disgustingly obvious that he thought himself above nearly everyone else in the world, an assumption confirmed in the first chapter, where he included a chart of relative "soul development" increasing with age. He droned on for a while about how he believed a zygote and a five-month-old fetus to be equivalent (at "essentially zero") in terms of possessing a human soul, placing babies at the bottom of his coldly drawn chart. He then postulated that even adult souls were at different levels in terms of worth, rating people from 0 to 100. The whole time, I couldn't stop thinking, "Raskolnikov complex!!" What a loser. It didn't help that he began the book with a sickly emotional, in-depth portrait of why vegetarianism is the only moral option that went on for pages, leaving me with no more feeling for him than a sneaky desire to look up his address and barbecue bloody pork roasts on his front lawn.

The only thing I got out of that book was a desire to look up Roald Dahl's macabre short story, "Pig," which was referenced in the vegetarianism section. Roald Dahl is my favorite childhood author, and his writing is always creative, witty and oddly meaningful. If you didn't grow up reading him, start now! It's never too late.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Straight up.

In other news, AP scores are out!
Bio: 5
Lit: 5
Stats: 5

I was absolutely shocked with my bio score- as mentioned here, I skipped two important parts of the FRQs. My mc score must have been high enough to pull it out! Haha.


I just watched the movie August Rush for the first time.
I can't help but wonder whether the little boy, tortured by his genius, will descend into schizoid madness as he ages, ending up a strange, distant entity characterized only by frenetic scribblings on sheet music and a volatile reputation.
So he hears the music. He hears it all around him.
What happens when it takes over completely, when the music's all he can hear?
What happens when it drowns out social skills, loved ones, expectations, realities?
The adored, revered, all-consuming compulsion just might consume him.
And what then?
Symphonies are produced, operas written, cello solos inspired- but what of the composer, driven to freakish agony in his cage of grand staffs and accidentals?

Empirically, though, is this a bad thing?
Who says schizophrenia isn't acceptable?
Just because others can't see our demons doesn't make them any less real.

I'm reading a definitive biography of John Nash, so maybe that's why I'm worried.
To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre, genius is no more than the brilliant invention of a way out.
And some eventually find one.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

La dia fantastica.

Today was one of the BEST DAYS EVER.
I think it was because when I was in Salt Lake this morning, I went out of my way to buy a bracelet supporting a little girl who has leukemia.

As mentioned, I spent most of the day in SLC with my mom. We shopped for Jordan's and Emmy's new uniforms at this expensive little standardized shop that sold only specifically named plaids (ours, I believe, was called Columbia, and the only thing separating it from Maribel was four small red stitches to the right of each hunter green square). The place was filled with anxious, ultraconservative private-school parents and their repressed little children, cowering in elastic-waistband khakis. I reminded my mom that she probably didn't want to rejoin this sick social sphere, but she's putting the kids in Conformity Central anyway. Emmy's jumper (for "dress day," a biweekly occasion) was $45. That's more than I paid for the dress I bought yesterday. Ridiculous.

We ate lunch at the cafe in the Little America hotel (try the rainbow sherbet!) before driving up to the University hospital to visit my grandma in rehab. Don't worry, it's inpatient orthopedic rehab, not the substance abuse kind. Her therapist was short an aide, so I got to help with a few things, which was fun. It was refreshing to be back in a hospital.

On our way back to Provo, I said to my mom, "Do you know what I want for dinner? Sushi!" She hates sushi, so she just laughed. BUT, when we got home, my dad said, "I have a surprise for you."
Do you know what it was?
At that moment, I was one hundred percent elated.

THEN, I went to Borders for a few hours, because I still had one gift card left over from graduation. I sat down with four books, read one, and bought three. The one I finished was "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," which was on my list for the summer. It was the angsty-teenage kind of engaging, which kept me mildly interested, but I really expected more from it. I liked the sentence structure and epistolary stream-of-consciousness style, though. It's a series of letters written from a 15-year-old's perspective, and whatever he thinks, he writes. There was some nice imagery that I could identify with (about passing through a tunnel, if you've read it), and every so often the speaker would wax eloquent about other aspects of life, but I wish there was more of that type of thing and less of the moody storyline.

What I like most about reading is the opportunity to watch someone think.

THEN, I saw "Get Smart" with my mom. It was entertaining, but not anything I'd overtly recommend. Dollar movie? For sure.

Sorry to make this post so sequential and diary-esque, but my day was absolutely wonderful, and I just couldn't help but immortalize it! :-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Eye of the storm.

Things are better these days.

I think all that family stress with coming home early from vacation for the risky exchange transfusion played evil psychological games with my rationale. Once I heard it was over and that everything went all right, my psyche imploded and I lay on the floor and cried in relief for at least fifteen minutes.

But everything's okay now. The baby's fine, but she still might need to spend a little time in the NICU, because they're inducing labor a month early (July 29!), so she'll be small, and it doesn't help that her hematocrit came back at 38 (slightly anemic). I believe they gave her 40 ccs bld during the procedure, so that should help. Plus, all the signs point to bilirubin levels that will probably be off the charts, so it'll be phototherapy for a month or so, and then we're in the clear.

Her name is Grace.
Well, her first name will be Sandra (after my grandmother), but we aren't going to call her that.
Sandra Grace.
And she'll go by Grace.

^ For those of you who don't know my family, I'm not pregnant.
It's my mom's baby.

In other news, I've formulated a reading list for the next couple of weeks or so:
* I Am A Strange Loop (Hofstradter) (scientific; about self-awareness/identity)
* Godel, Escher, Bach (Hofstradter) (just sounded awesome; we'll see if it actually is)
* The Book of Lost Things (Connolly) (fun; I've wanted to read it since a recommendation junior year)
* The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Chbosky) (to appease a friend)
* Slaughterhouse-Five (Vonnegut) (recommended to me multiple times, but I've never picked it up) (plus, Lost references it: "unstuck in time")
* The Prince (Machiavelli) (shut up, I know I'm a slacker for not having started it yet)
* Assorted chemistry textbooks (I need to get moving on that)
* Carrie (King) (I've always wanted to read it)

A nice combination of science books, random fiction, and classic literature.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I've realized that I see things overwhelmingly from my perspective.
That statement isn't as obvious as it sounds--remember the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would like to be treated? Well, I've learned that that doesn't really apply to me.
I've found that I need to treat others the way they want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated, because the way I want to be treated is entirely abnormal.

I don't experience things the same way other people do.

This confuses a lot of people. We'll do something, and they'll tell me, "This is fun!" At my confused expression, they ask exasperatedly, "Can't you just have a little fun?" In my mind, whatever activity it is that may make so many people happy really isn't "fun" for me at all.
Conversely, I enjoy a completely different spectrum of things than anyone else I've met.

Family vacations seem to illustrate this point in further contrast.