The Chute

I live on the 5th floor of my apartment building. When they trash in my kitchen gets full I tie it up and take it to the trash room where I press this glowing green button, hear sharp buzz, then a click, and then I open up the chute and throw in the trash.

I rarely think of that trash beyond the chute. Once that trash is down it’s out of sight and out of mind. It’s as if it never existed. Obviously that is not the case. It has to go somewhere, but it’s just no longer my problem. This is becoming less and less true as our trash is running out of places to go. Just seeing the amount of trash that my one apartment of 4 individuals produces on a weekly basis is honestly frightening, especially when you multiply that by the 500+ units in the building times the number of apartment buildings in LA times the number of cities as big as LA, etc. etc. But you really can’t blame everyday people for the trash that they produce. I mean you can to some extent; there are definitely ways that I can actively reduce my trash production. What I mean is society and corporations have made us so reliant on consumable, single use goods that you basically have no choice but to buy them if you are shopping at your average grocery or supermarket.

Just because this is where we are now, doesn’t mean this is where we have to stay. Just like small amounts of trash from a bunch of individuals adds up, so do efforts to reduce it. If we were all a little more conscientious about our choices (privilege permitting) and started thinking beyond the chute, maybe we can start moving a better direction for the future of our planet.

Chaos / Order

Probably the biggest thing I feel like I’ve been missing out on by starting medical school in a global pandemic is gross anatomy lab. Working with donors to learn about the structure and function of various parts of the body is almost like a right-of-passage for being a medical student. Fortunately for us though, we live in the 21st century and modern technology allows us to get as close as we can (if not closer) to a live dissection. We have access to 3D models of actual donors as well as virtual models that let us work with a “living” body. Plus our instructors have videos of them performing the dissections that we would be doing ourselves so that we could see what it would be like, minus all (most) of the human error.

What’s so amazing to me about watching these prosections is seeing how chaotic the tissue appears. There’s muscles, nerves, fat, etc. going every which way and its hard to make sense of it all just by looking at it. But the more closely you look, the more patterns appear, and the more organized it all seems. Not just organized, but in some cases it seems almost ingeniously so. Then beyond that, learning about embryology and how all these complex structures came to be where they are at starting from a single cell. It truly is awesome.

“What’s It For”

That’s been the theme for the past week. It was literally the title for one of the sections of the book I’m currently reading and has come up in a lot of my conversations recently. When we choose to do participate in certain activities or behaviors there’s always a reason behind it. That doesn’t mean the reason is good. We seldom do things completely out of sheer whim or randomness, even if it seems random. I’ve been thinking a lot about the reason behind why I do things, or more specifically to what end. What activities and behaviors build on the person I am trying to be, and which activities and behaviors detract from that.

Space that Works

I recently got some upgrades for my workspace. I got some cushions for chair as gift (thank you, you know who you are <3) which have made my hours of studying (and procrastinating) more bearable. I also got these cool reusable dry-erase sticky notes for me to jot ideas or reminders without the mess of actually stick notes. I got a new bullet journal from a Secret Santa and a new little side desk for me to expand my workspace. Lastly I got new keyboard that is just magical to type on. The sound, the wrist cushion, the feeling, it’s all so satisfying. While on their own, all these things may seem like relatively minor changes, but having a workspace that you enjoy using and working it makes a big difference in productivity (this keyboard makes me just want to type ALL THE TIME).

All that said I don’t want to fall into to pattern of consistently feeling like I need to upgrade and have novel things in order to be productive, but for now, I’m just gonna enjoy it.

FIRMLY GRASP IT

I always knew that I didn’t quite hold writing implements correctly; at least not the way those rubber pencil grips taught us in kindergarten. Instead I opted for the 3 finger pincer technique. Recently though, I was reading a book which explained why the “proper” pen/ pencil holding technique is the way it is. My way of gripping the pencil between my index finger, middle finger, and thumb activates the flexor muscles and leads to more rapid fatigue. In proper technique, the pencil simply rests on the middle finger and is held in place by essentially the natural position of the hand.

Now that I’ve been writing this way for the past few weeks, it’s hard for me to go back. It feels weird to write in my old way. And to think, I might have gone the rest of my life with bad handwriting technique.

This is America

When you have a bunch of people storming one of the most “sacred and revered” buildings in the country with little to no resistance, you know something’s wrong.

If you weren’t from Earth, you might think this might be the result of a great injustice. Perhaps the death of an innocent man. Perhaps the assassination of a great leader. Perhaps crimes against humanity at the hands of our government. But you would be wrong, because this is the United States of America. We don’t do that here. Here we rise up when when white people think they lose.

Seeing all those flags bearing the name of some lowlife gilding the walls of the capitol was quite dystopian, but its actually a good representation of what much of America actually looks like, despite what some politicians may say. Take note of the people who decided to storm the capitol today, take note of their motivation, and whose interests they serve. Tonight all these senators are taking the floor wagging their fingers them as if they aren’t the very people who interests they’ve been supporting for their entire career. A presidential election like the one we just had is not going to change that.

Kiasu

I was recently introduced to the concept of kiasu while reading Seth Godin’s The Practice. It’s a Hokkien word meaning to have a grasping or selfish attitude arising from a fear of missing out on something, an advanced FOMO. For me social media is a huge source of kiasu. Seeing other people’s success and experiences is a source of insecurity. Like I am not being or doing or living enough. Or knowing that people I was once close to are having bonding experiences with other people. Though this is something I’ve gotten better at over the years; recognizing that social media is full of curated snapshots. I can never know what another person’s life is like on the other side of the screen. Instead of having self-pity or feeling this kiasu, its more productive and emotionally healthy to simply be happy for another person’s growth. At the same time, I can also acknowledge my own growth and be content with where I am at, while still being optimistic about the future.

Pain

With the start of a new semester I’m reminded once again of my lack of willpower. At the beginning of the break prior to coming back to school, I told myself I would use at least some of my time off to get ahead on material for the coming block. While I did manage to get a little studying in over the holiday, it wasn’t enough to consider myself ahead of schedule. Now with the new material starting to pile up I’m kicking myself for not doing having done more.

I don’t necessarily feel behind, but I don’t want to just get by, I want to feel like I’m working at (or close to) my full potential. That said, studying by going through flashcards and listening to lectures doesn’t feel like I’m operating at my full potential. I know they say nothing worth doing comes easy, but why not? Being effective and being productive doesn’t have to be tedious. Challenging doesn’t have to mean painful. But we’re trained in life that there’s one right way to do anything, and often times it’s the painful way.

Why I admire bad comics

Standing up in front of a bunch of people who are expecting to laugh (or in some cases actively resisting laughter), and attempting to actually make them laugh is hard. Just motivating yourself to walk up to the mic sounds so stressful. What’s scary about doing comedy is during your performance you have real-time feedback. People either laugh at your jokes or they don’t, and there is little ambiguity to what each of those mean.

To go to other people and say, “Here I made this.” is scary. It makes you vulnerable. It takes a part of you and puts it out for the world to see… and to judge. The more you work on something, so bigger part of you it contains. And that is why I publish my blog publicly, because to not share it, to hide, would be to deny a part of myself and requires no effort on my part. If my goal is to grow, I need to fight against some resistance. Just like with exercise, if there’s no resistance, there’s no growth. For me, the stakes might not be as high as with the comic who is not only risking their pride as a comic, but also their reputation as a person, but it’s something.

hais cuaj txub kaum txub

This is a Hmong phrase that I came across while reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

“hais cuaj txub kaum txub”

It means “to speak of all things” and according to Anne Fadiman, the author of the book, the phrase often used as a disclaimer in Hmong storytelling which tells listeners that details which may seems excessive are actually important. To speak of all things is to make sure no detail is overlooked, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Just because you don’t immediately see the connection doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

This phrase stood out to me because I tend to be long-winded myself in both writing and speaking, and I always considered it a bad thing, something to work on. While I still would like to work on being a bit more to the point at times, this was a good reminder to embrace some of my more natural tendencies.