Saturday, September 22, 2018

In my mind



Jon Bryant's Carolina is stuck to my head. It's a song full of longing, distance, and detachment, and it's sobering. Days find me wishing I were somewhere else—at home, for example—but reality finds me back and clutches me with the reassurance that I am where I should be. Travel breaks the monotony of daily life, but so does music and books.

In my mind, I'm going to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine?
Can't you just feel the moonshine?
And ain't it just like a friend of mine hit me from behind?
Yes, I'm going to Carolina in my mind

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Steroids decrease efficacy of PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors in NSCLC

Dr. Matthew Stenger, via The ASCO Post:

In a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Arbour et al found that baseline treatment with corticosteroids was associated with poorer efficacy of programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) or programmed death cell ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibitors in patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Furthermore,

The investigators concluded, “Baseline corticosteroid use of ≥ 10 mg of prednisone equivalent was associated with poorer outcome in patients with non–small cell lung cancer who were treated with [PD-1/PD-L1] blockade.”

Baseline corticosteroids were associated with decreased overall response rate, progression-free survival, and overall survival with PD-(L)1 blockade.

What's the clinical impact for oncologists? Must we then avoid corticosteroids entirely? The authors recommend its "prudent" use.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Visiting Nella Sarabia's new optical shop at Acacia Dorm, UP Diliman

Composed September 3, 2018, but I've just only realized it was saved in drafts and not posted publicly. 

My commute to UP Diliman was brief. I took the bus, hailed a UP-Philcoa jeepney, and alighted at what used to be the UP Shopping Center, home to my favorite karinderya and optical shop, a block away from Yakal dorm where I used to live. The karinderya did not survive the fire, but the optical shop did. The new location was right across the street—the new dorm complex, Acacia, at the back of Kalayaan. Gone are the days when I bumped into familiar faces—classmates, groupmates, dormmates, labmates, my tsinelas-and-shorts UP community—busy with the same things as I was. An essay that needed printing, a provincial urge to munch on the acidity of a green mango, half-cut in the middle, dabbed with rock salt and chili.

The area at 2 pm was foreign and familiar. I savored all these, what used to be my every day walk, the treelined streets and the educated banter in the background.

Dr. Nella Sarabi, having emerged from lunch break, greeted me with smiles and a compliment. “Those are nice frames—are those from the shop?” she asked, to which I answered, “Of course.” Going to her shop reminds me of time that had passed since she had introduced me to the world of eyeglasses when I was in second year college. She asked about me and my brother; she remembered our names, picking them from her mental cloud of customers, her smile widening as she learned about the things I do. Cancer. Rounds. PGH.

I visited her to have sunglasses made. I made a shortlist, eventually zeroed in on the metal, bronze frames. Dr. Sarabia approved. I went through the ritual of having my eyes checked. “Read line seven,” she said. I knew the answer, even with eyes closed—D-E-F-P-O-T-E-C.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why I love being married to a chemist

Cheesy, funny poem by Barbara Crooker. (HT: Jim Culleny, 3QuarksDaily)

Because he can still cause a reaction in me
when he talks about SN2 displacements,
amines and esters looking for receptor sites
at the base of their ketones. Because he lugs
home serious tomes like The Journal of the American
Chemical Society or The Proceedings of the Society
of the Plastics Industry, the opposite of the slim volumes
of poetry with colorful covers that fill my bookshelves.
Because once, years ago, on a Saturday before our
raucous son rang in the dawn, he was just
standing there in the bathroom, out of the shower.
I said Honey, what’s wrong? and he said Oh,
I was just thinking about a molecule.

Because he taught me about sublimation, how
a solid, like ice, can change straight to a gas
without becoming liquid first. Because even
after all this time together, he can still
make me melt.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Monday, August 27, 2018

John Cheever

Next on my list: The Journals of John Cheever.



Dustin Illingworth, writing for the Paris Review.

Cheever is a member of that rare group—Witold Gombrowicz, Anaïs Nin, perhaps Franz Kafka—whose private diaries comprise their finest writing. The route to Cheever’s journals is almost always a circuitous one – first one reads his exquisite stories, some of the finest ever written, followed by his largely disappointing novels, his voluminous correspondence, the memoir by his daughter Susan. One comes to the journals, then, ready for something safe and genial and above all expected, the improvisations of a suburban mystic. How thrilling to discover instead this offhand, extemporizing masterpiece, a storehouse of incomparable lyricism—no one writes light or water or fire better than Cheever—commingled with the greatest index of shame in American letters.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Crown shyness


Photo credit: Dominyka Jurkštaitė, Boredpanda.com

James McDonald explains what crown shyness is.

In certain forests, when you look up you will see a network of cracks formed by gaps between the outermost edges of the tree branches. It looks like a precisely engineered jigsaw puzzle, each branch growing just perfectly so it almost—but not quite—touches the neighboring tree.

Some hypotheses as to why it happens, as summarized by McDonald.

  • Abrasion, which happens when trees rub into one another during a windy day, causes trees to maintain shyness gaps in order to minimize this contact (Putz et al, 1984).
  • But there's no difference between trees in windy areas than in not-so-windy ones (Rebertus, 1988), so there must be other factors that explain this behavior.
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