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.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Beatles

Notebooks given by Crizzy.

These are fountain-pen friendly, Beatles-inspired, unlined notebooks given by my super-smart colleague, Crizel Uy. Thank you, Crizzy! May you write your own stories, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Cancer Institute figures into Glenn Diaz's The Quiet Ones

Untitled

What with all technical papers I need to write and the oncology journals I need to read, I can't get my eyes off Glenn Diaz's The Quiet Ones (Ateneo Press), winner of the 2017 Palanca Grand Prize. It is a masterful work of someone who breathes the English language in Filipino atmospheric conditions. The book is about a call center agent who gets involved in a scam and who scrambles out of Manila to escape the authorities. The details that intersperse the story make the novel riveting: such as this scene at the PGH Cancer Institute. Alvin's mother had pancreatic cancer.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Exhortation to move on

John Calvin's exhortation to live the Christian life begins with the reminder that we can't live perfectly in this world. How beautiful is the Christian faith! It is aware of man's limitations, does not burden him with back-breaking toil for an otherwise unattainable salvation, but offers him the assurance that all he needs is to put his faith not in himself but in God.

I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected.

But the young Calvin turns us back to God's Word, as if to tell us, "I know your frustrations." I wonder how much of The Institutes is autobiographical. I read the passage below and think that this mirrors my own experience: the struggle to worship God amidst the filth and dirt of sin, failing, but moving on, getting closer to the goal of Christlikeness inch by inch, until the time when God calls me home.

What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God. (Emphasis mine.)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

On Mon Tulfo's diatribe at the PGH Emergency Room

The news of Mon Tulfo berating a tired Emergency Medicine resident made my blood boil. Nurses were talking about it when I made rounds yesterday, which was how I had learned about the incident. The journalist Tulfo brought a child who sustained minor injuries to the Philippine General Hospital's Emergency Department; the child was assessed at the Triage and was deemed a non-emergent case. The child was therefore not immediately attended to. Mon Tulfo lashed out invectives, and official accounts report that he even showed the physician the middle finger--all these, while the event was recorded illegally through a camera phone. Many issues surface here--patient privacy, physician-shaming, and so on--and if there's one good lesson to come out of this, it is that you never attack people mindlessly just because you're a media personality.

The issue of rendering service equitably comes to the fore. PGH medical personnel are called to serve the ill and dying, and we do so gladly, passionately, with all our hearts and minds and, when tough times come (and they do come often), even our pockets, even if we're discouraged, nay, forbidden to. How can we muster the strength to not spare our money to pay for mechanical ventilation just so our patients can avail of this life-saving intervention? How many times have we acted, not merely as physicians, but as social workers: looking for sources of funds so our patients get better and stronger? To deliver the best medical care to the steady influx of patients, we need to prioritize who needs help the most the soonest. This was the process that the child injured by Mon Tulfo's car went through: an evidence-based, pragmatic, and effective system called the triage. This was the process that Mon Tulfo, in a horrifying display of hysteria triggered by an inordinate supply of self-importance, wanted to bypass. 

So this is why the Mon Tulfo incident strikes a chord among my colleagues: it is a mockery of our daily struggles against sickness worsened, and even caused, by poverty. We do not have a shortage of compassion in the hospital, even if our hospital beds overflow with occupants. Mon Tulfo's outburst was a short-sighted, anger-laden, ignorant, uncouth diatribe. It is people like him who make our work harder than it already is.

But we carry on.

Friday, August 17, 2018

God's sovereignty and suffering

Cameron Cole on the sovereignty of God and the death of his child.

For me, one of the most comforting things in surviving and recovering from the death of my child was knowing that God was completely and fully in control in his death. Before he created the world, my God had marked the number of days that my son would live.

That means that his life was complete. That means that his death was not random; it was not accidental. That means that it has meaning and purpose.

And it also means that God is in control of my redemption and my healing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

New day, new coffee

Untitled

I love how the coffee maker mimics the sound of quiet thunder whenever I make a fresh brew at 5 am. I never have much use for alarm clocks, but this ritual of coffee making is part of my slow, graded, and gradual ascent to total wakefulness. Praise be to God for a new day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Old friends

Untitled

Tears come to me in moments that surprise me: seeing a father walking his kid to school, hearing a blind man sing an old kundiman, and, this afternoon after work, reading Justice Antonin Scalia's eulogy for his friend, Martin Feinstein, then first executive director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Justice Scalia said:

"It is with the greatest curse of advancing years that our world contracts, as friends who cannot be replaced, with insights into life that are not elsewhere available to us, leave us behind."

His speeches, compiled in the book, Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well-lived, reveal the brilliant mind of a kind person who loved his country, family, faith, and friends. I finished this collection today, after a grueling day at the clinics, with so many patients hoping for another day to dawn. Perhaps this is why I don't mind these packed train rides: I get lost in my thoughts and prayers and books, and in those precious minutes of wrestling with my thoughts and conversing with God and making sense of words in my Kindle, I find rest.

Something dawned on me, too, as I read of Justice Scalia's account of William Howard Taft, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln—excellent leaders who propelled the United States into what she is now (but, as Justice Scalia pointed out, they were not just leaders but above all good men). It is that we lack leaders to whom we can look up to, leaders who inspire and not just command. I don't think we fall short of these kinds of men and women in this country; perhaps they're not just part of this government.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Readings on reading

Michael Dirda on small presses:

All of which said, I want to make a pitch for some works you aren’t likely to find in your local bookstore, no matter how extensive its holdings: small-press titles. In recent years, as trade houses increasingly gravitate to wholly commercial “product,” specialty publishers and independent presses have risen up to make available wonderful books, real books, of all kinds. Let me stress that I’m not talking about those generic print-on-demand titles, most of which are bare-bones ugly and little better than photocopies bound in bland paper wraps. Nor am I talking about self-published work, so much in the news these days. No, I’m thinking of legitimate small publishers with a mission to bring neglected authors back into print and to produce the kind of books that dreams are made of.

His column, Browsings, in the American Scholar is a delight
to read. Reading about reading is makes me want to read more. I just got myself of a copy of the book which is a compilation of his blog pieces.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My colleagues at the Cancer Institute



This was snapped after an evening lecture, just minutes before our karaoke stint. It amazes me that doctors who work with cancer patients are among the funniest. I count it a great blessing to work with these kind people. They share my fascination for newly approved drugs by the FDA for this or that neoplasm, and they take lunch time orders for cold Serenitea to take the stress and heat off crowded clinic days.

From left: (1) Rich King (his real name; read my post on weird names of my classmates in med school), who sang heartfelt renditions of Michael Bublé and U2. (2) Bobby de Guzman (his real name, too), whose Basang-Basa sa Ulan was a riot—a mashup of L. A. Lopez and Adele. (3) Roger Velasco, who channeled Ariel Rivera. (4) Fred Ting, who knew S2pid Love by heart, and whose repertoire was mostly Filipino rock, which is great to listen to. (5) Ozzie So, who channeled Rihanna. (4) Pau Vergara, the singer that he is, moved us with his Hanggang by Wency Cornejo. (5) Crizzy Uy, guest speaker (a private joke), who also liked old songs, like those of Leonel Richie. This is amazing because she's the youngest in the group. (6) Norm Cabaya, who gave a soulful interpretation of Tootsie Guevara's Kaba! Our song choices dated us. Don't you agree with me that after the 90s, the quality of songs have mostly gone downhill?

A good restaurant experience is more than just the food



Annoyed by Restaurant Playlists, a Master Musician Made His Own by Ben Ratliff in the New York Times.

Last fall a friend told me a story about Ryuichi Sakamoto, the renowned musician and composer who lives in the West Village. Mr. Sakamoto, it seems, so likes a particular Japanese restaurant in Murray Hill, and visits it so often, that he finally had to be straight with the chef: He could not bear the music it played for its patrons.

The issue was not so much that the music was loud, but that it was thoughtless. Mr. Sakamoto suggested that he could take over the job of choosing it, without pay, if only so he could feel more comfortable eating there. The chef agreed, and so Mr. Sakamoto started making playlists for the restaurant, none of which include any of his own music. Few people knew about this, because Mr. Sakamoto has no particular desire to publicize it.

Here's the playlist.

Photo credit: Nathan Bajar of the Times

Friday, August 3, 2018

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Dr. Butch Dalisay talks about medicine, literature, and what it means to be from UP

Dr. Butch Dalisay, who inspires me to collect fountain pens and write long blog entries, was the commencement speaker during the graduation rites of the UP College of Medicine this year. His speech is worth reading in full. I am inspired and moved by this speech.

Not all doctors can write—although many write prescriptions that can hardly be read. But one doctor who did write, of course, was Jose Rizal, one of my personal heroes whose travels and haunts I have tried to follow around the world from Dapitan, Singapore, and Hong Kong to San Francisco, Madrid, and Barcelona and, two years ago, to his medical studies in Heidelberg. When my creative writing graduate students in their mid-20s sometimes tell me that they have nothing to write about, or are too young and too new to strive for greatness, I remind them of Rizal, who many forget was only 25 when Noli Me Tangere was published. Twenty-five, and already by then approaching the perfect synthesis of the arts and the sciences in the one same person.

Rizal’s example underscores the need to embrace and imbibe art and science as corporal elements of ideal citizenship. To create a viable national community, we need to promote rational, fact-based thinking and discourse over political hysteria and hyperbole, just as we need to actively recover, strengthen, and sustain the cultural bonds that define us as a people.

He is due for retirement in a few months, and he used to opportunity to flesh out what being a UP student (and, extrapolating this further, UP graduate) means.

To be a UP student, faculty member, and alumnus is to be burdened but also ennobled by a unique mission—not just the mission of serving the people, which is in itself not unique, and which is also reflected, for example, in the Atenean concept of being a “man for others.” Rather, to my mind, our mission is to lead and to be led by reason—by independent, scientific, and secular reason, rather than by politicians, priests, shamans, bankers, or generals.

You are UP because you can think and speak for yourselves, by your own wits and on your own two feet, and you can do so no matter what the rest of the people in the room may be thinking. You are UP because no one can tell you to shut up, if you have something sensible and vital to say. You are UP because you dread not the poverty of material comforts but the poverty of the mind. And you are UP because you care about something as abstract and sometimes as treacherous as the idea of “nation”, even if it kills you.

Yes, even if it kills you. Hand me the handkerchief.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hiligaynon

I'm a fan of Wikipedia, which replicates for me the experience of browsing Encylopedia Americana while I was growing up. I loved that encyclopedia set at home—I still do. My curiosity today brought me to Hiligaynon, my first language, the one I grew up with and which I use to talk to family and friends from home. It is a beautiful language, quite melodic and sonorous, and it warms my heart to hear it from strangers.

The Hiligaynon language, also colloquially referred often by most of its speakers simply as Ilonggo, is an Austronesian regional language spoken in the Philippines by about 9.1 million people, mainly in Western Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN, most of whom belong to the Visayan ethnic group, mainly the Hiligaynons. It is the second-most widely spoken language and a member of the so-named Visayan language family and is more distantly related to other Philippine languages.

The etymology of Hiligaynon, or Ilonggo:

Historical evidence from observations of early Spanish explorers in the Archipelago shows that the nomenclature used to refer to this language had its origin among the people of the coasts or people of the Ilawod ("los [naturales] de la playa"), whom Loarca called Yligueynes (or the more popular term Hiligaynon, also referred to by the Karay-a people as "Siná"). In contrast, the "Kinaray-a" has been used by what the Spanish colonizers called Arayas, which is most probably a Spanish misconception (as they often misinterpreted what they heard from the natives) of the Hiligaynon words Iraya or taga-Iraya, or the current and more popular version Karay-a (highlanders - people of Iraya/highlands).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

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Hotcake

Pancakes

The local crepe is called the "hotcake." It is lathered in margarine, drizzled with sugar, and is best eaten while hot. I remember accompanying my father during this February afternoon. We were about to go home from the mall, but he wanted to surprise Nanay with fresh bananas, so we walked to the nearby market, recently razed by fire. Going to the palengke never felt like chore for him; he liked the back-and-forth of kind words and niceties, the extrovert that he was. He had a community there. In his mind was geographical map of his suking tindahan—separate stores for green leafy vegetables, fruits, and other miscellaneous things. There was, as far as I knew, nothing extraordinarily special about these stalls: he just wanted to the tindera to be warm and smiling. Whenever I joined him, which I liked because it made me felt at home, he'd always take me to the stall of Junie Puada, my classmate from elementary who shared with me his baon of fresh fruit, so I could properly say hi to Junie and his mother.

Our fridge was never full. Unlike other households, we never did groceries to last the week. I guess this was Tatay's excuse to leave the house and visit the palengke.
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