Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Square

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Trying out the square format of photos, inspired largely by Des's photos.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Ending the semester

I give quizzes in class to make sure my students did some reading before they listened to my lecture. I, and I suppose my students, find this approach good for learning. The concepts of biochemistry and molecular biology, the main subjects I teach, are best learned individually. The student reads the material, processes the concepts in his/her head, takes down notes, memorizes, understands, and applies it. The lecture serves as tool for the student to synthesize the concepts and to ask me questions, mostly for clarification. 

My students welcome my quiz announcements with nervous anticipation. We check the quiz together and discuss the answers. The quiz therefore accomplishes two major things for me: it helps me gauge their grasp of the subject matter and identify their gaps in knowledge. 

In a sense, I treat my students as Self-Deceived Rational Utility Maximizers, a concept I loosely borrow from Alan Jacobs, who teaches humanities. 
Students have many demands on their time, and they would also like to spend at least some of that time enjoying themselves, so when they look at what they’re supposed to do in any given week, they triage: What has to be done first? That is, what will I pay a price for not doing? Whatever would cost them the most to skip is what they do first, and then they work their way down the line. If you have assigned your students some reading but they pay no price for neglecting that reading, then students will neglect that reading. It’s as simple as that. When I was in college I thought in precisely the same way. I rationally maximized my utility, according to what was utile by my lights.

And this:
This is why I give reading quizzes: to move my assignments up in the queue, to force the practitioner of triage to reckon with me. And there’s another reason: We go over each quiz in class — I make them grade their own quizzes — and in the process I discover what they noticed and what they missed. That’s useful information for me, and not just when I’m making up future quizzes: I’m able in our discussion to zero in on those overlooked passages. “Why did I ask about this? Why is this passage important?” I also encourage them to tell me when they think a question is too picky — sometimes I even agree that it is, though whether I do or not it’s helpful to explain why I asked it.

Let me also just say: it's been a pleasure to co-teach biochemistry with this excellent gang of teachers the semester—Drs. Lyza, Nikki, Kath, and Junjun!

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Music nib

I am using Sean's Sailor fountain pen with a music nib. The ink is Diamine Chrome. The nib transforms my ordinary handwriting into something calligraphic.  

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Today is Tatay's death anniversay. It has been six years but there are days when I feel he is just right around the corner, napping in the other room.

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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Isidor, the siamang

Sean sends me this photo with a message from Australia, "Manong, kapangalan mo."

Isidor the siamang

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Tribulus terrestris

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Yesterday, I saw these flowers (Tribulus terrestris, according to my Wiki search) carpeting the airport grounds. Let them grow freely. Nature does better landscaping than humans do—at least in this part of the country.

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Friday, May 17, 2024

On Perfect Days

Perfect Days

Who else has seen Perfect Days? It's about a middle-aged man, Hirayama, who lives his every day. He wakes up early and hears the street sweeper outside. He rolls his mat, brushes his teeth, trims his beard, waters his plants, gets instant coffee from a vending machine, plays a song on a cassette tape, and drives to work. He is a toilet cleaner in what looks like an upscale neighborhood in Tokyo. He has lunch in a park where he takes photos with a film camera. He looks up at the sky and trees and smiles. After work he goes to an onsen and eats in an izakaya, where he has a glass of beer. He goes home, turns on the reading light, and reads a book before he finally falls asleep.

Nothing much happens. Hirayama hardly ever speaks. There's not a lot of dialogue. Other than the wonderful American songs in he plays in the car, the sounds you hear in the movie are mostly background noises, like vehicles swooshing, the toilet doors opening, or the leaves rustling.

I can't quite explain why I like Wim Wenders's film so much. Is it because I am in that moment in my life when I live almost the same way—getting through the day but finding quiet moments in between? Is it because the film is set in Japan, which has recently become one of my favorite places to visit in the world? Is it because the film seems free from distraction and celebrates the analog in an increasingly digital milieu? Is it because the ending features Hirayama listening to music and tearing up, like it was catharsis and thanksgiving in equal measure, and I often do the same, with prayer and remembering, because work can feel heavy? Is it because it is quiet and contemplative—and freedom from noise is what we all need at this point? 

I suppose all of those reasons are true. 

Image credit: IMDB.

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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Intentionality

Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker, on Alice Munro:
Working with her on the last two dozen or so was both a thrill and a lesson in intentionality. Although her stories seemed to move organically, sometimes even to wander, often when I suggested cutting a passage that I thought was extraneous I had to erase my suggestion when the importance of that passage became manifestly clear a few pages later. Invariably, when I felt that something wasn’t entirely working in a story, she would send me a revision before I’d even had time to talk to her about it.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Alice Munro, 92

At 2 am, I woke to a text update about a patient. While scrolling, as I often do, I read the news that Alice Munro, one of my favorite writers, has died. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I sort of expected her passing, the way one does with old people. I knew Tita Alice had been frail these past years. She couldn’t even make it to the Nobel ceremony in 2013. But a part of me wished she would surprise the world with yet another collection of stories. No one else writes like her. You see, I had just been reading her, as I always do. No other modern writer speaks to my consciousness the way she does. Her prose is not elaborate. It is simple, deceptively so. There are no big words. But it is so sophisticated and complex and so well put together that I am always left in awe, even in the rereading. I don’t know what I feel—some sadness that I will not read a new story of hers, but mostly gratefulness for an impressive, moving, and extraordinary body of work that has stretched the limits of the short story, still my favorite form of fiction. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Bic Cristal

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I bought a few Bic Cristal pens abroad last year. I've been using one this past week. These pens are iconic. The design is simple and functional. 

Then I saw a video that calls it a pen that changed the world, significantly decreasing the cost of writing instruments through near-perfect design and engineering. The video is super cool and definitely worth your time. 


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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Mother's Day

1.

Before I would head off to work in the early mornings, Nanay sometimes asks me why I'm busy all the time. I tell her, "To sustain my mother's lavish lifestyle."

"Ano nga 'lavish'?!" 

2.

Here she is, on our last family trip, with her favorite: the firstborn son. She tells us, "Wala ko favorite sa inyo; tanan kamo favorite ko." But Sean and I know. 

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3. 

Happy Mother's Day, Nay! You are the best mother God has given to us. 

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Friday, May 10, 2024

The little bird

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After rounds, I saw the little bird perched on top of my car. He looked at me, as if to say, "There you are," and ignored me for the next two minutes before he flew off. 

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

Website was down, but it's running now

Website down

For the last 4 days, this screen showed up instead of my actual home page. My apologies. There was a delay (not my fault) in processing the renewal of the dot com domain, but that has been fixed. 

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Monday, April 29, 2024

Bawal magkuha

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I saw this sign from a private garden in the neighorhood. Paul and I looked on, careful not to trample on the vegetables.

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Sunday, April 28, 2024

Iloilo

Iloilo extended tour with Ahmad, Brylle, and Cy

Iloilo City feels more like home than anywhere else in the country. My roots come from Panay, although we no longer have any connections with our relatives there, other than a vague recognition when someone shows up with a similar family name. Some cousins went to college there. The food tastes great, too. A great majority of residents from South Cotabato self-identify as "Ilonggo," even if some hadn't even been to Iloilo at all. 

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Exercising

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I wish I had paid more attention to physical fitness in my teenage years. Perhaps it's not yet too late to start.

Recently I've been walking the talk: doing regular exercises, getting myself a fitness coach, playing tennis once in a while. (Although, full disclosure here, I hadn't played in the court in the last three months). Much of physical fitness involves seemingly inconsequential choices which, when summed up in the end, might mean a lot: taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking instead of driving, and so on. 

Months ago, the trainer asked me what my fitness goals were. I said I wanted to develop strength. I didn't care much about whether I'd look good. It was all about functionality. Before all this, I couldn't carry my own luggage at the airport. After months of doing regular exercises, I am pleased to tell you that my upper body strength has so improved that I even offer my own services to other passengers in the plane: "You need help with that, Ma'am?"

One great thing about exercising is that it keeps my mind sharper. I wish I'd known this before; I could have had better grades.

(Photo above: tennis court in Prague). 

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Finding a place to live in

The writer of La Vie Graphite, one of the blogs I read closely and with much interest, has finally found a good place to stay. 

Amidst such anxious times, there’s a shelter in the storm for which to be grateful. Discovering a place and quickly moving in winter amounts to an unusual scenario for this area. My elation at finding a good way out of a bad situation generated its own traction gear, powering me through muscling the move and deep-cleaning both the newer and the former apartments. The season-that-was lasted nineteen excruciating months, devouring more than two-thirds of my earnings. There was nothing else to be found at the time. Now that episode is past; enough said here about numbers. Through the crucible, I could not have guessed at its duration, having to depend upon a housing market as feeble and fickle as the job outlook. But surely I know enough to be thankful. I mailed my first rent check in a thank-you note.


I remember about my own saga of finding a place to live in when I transferred to UP Manila for med school. 


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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Traveling at the speed of the soul by Nick Hunt

Nick Hunt on traveling:

There’s an old idea that the soul travels at the speed of walking. In an Arabic saying, according to the philosopher Alain de Botton, this is pegged specifically to the walking speed of a camel, which, at around three miles an hour, is the same as the average human’s. In “Essays on Love,” he wrote: “While most of us are led by the strict demands of timetables and diaries, our soul, the seat of the heart, trails nostalgically behind, burdened by the weight of memory.”

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Join me tomorrow as I speak with physician-writer Dr. Susano Tanael during the Book Talk of the PCP Committee on Medical Humanities

If you're free tomorrow, join me as I speak with physician-writer Dr. Susano Tanael. These past days, I've been immersing myself in his essays and poems. I'm excited to meet him. 

Book Talk with Dr. Susano Tanael

The PCP Committee on Medical Humanities warmly invites you to the: 

Book Talk with Dr. Susano B. Tanael on his Book Ambiguities of the Body, moderated by Dr. Lance Isidore G. Catedral 

When: 13 April 2024, Saturday at 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM 

Via Zoom Conferencing and Facebook Live 

Dr. Susano B. Tanael has contributed to publications of local and international peer-reviewed medical journal articles. He has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines.

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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Daghang salamat, Prof. Marj!

Something came in the mail yesterday—Prof. Marj Evasco's precious gift, Ma. Milagros Dumdum's Falling on Quiet Water. The author is the wife of poet Simeon Dumdum, Jr, whose collection, Why Keanu Reeves Is So Lonely, I thoroughly enjoyed. 

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Just a sampling of the excellent haiku (No. 18): 
Evening comes. I pray
With crickets orchestrating
Our pleas commingle.

On this warm April morning, I want to curl up in bed after reading that!  

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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Liminality

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I envied this middle-aged woman who read beside me. Lost in her book, she ignored the noisy crowd in Montmartre, on a busy after-work afternoon in Paris. She had a glass of wine and dark olives. She smoked in between pages and looked lonely, completely lost in her thoughts. After hours of walking, I rested my legs, had a glass of wine myself, and sat there, watching the locals and tourists pass by. The lady then packed her bags and left. 

The image evokes the word, liminality—the in-between, the transition. 
Liminality represents threshold space, margins between paragraphs. If you can find yourself the luxury of pausing between obligations and demands, there you’ll find those mental spaces to muse. I remember a professor from graduate school, a brilliant lecturer, who would occasionally stop speaking and look out the window. I admired that, realizing he was reflecting in mid-flight. Because the constantly streaming media in our midst obstructs our natural musing tendencies, misconstrued as unproductive, threshold thinking becomes intentional.


The pausing and musing and resting are valuable ingredients to a rich inner life but things our generation often ignores and sets aside. We have lost the art of meditation and are now poorer for it, having settled for cheap alternatives, like social media. 

For the believer, this liminality can be likened to moments of prayer, those precious, Spirit-filled moments of quiet conversation and contemplation. 

Or Sundays, when much of the city gathers in houses of prayer, setting aside the cares of the world for a day devoted to church and, later, rest.

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