Saturday, October 31, 2020


A Street Observation by Clinton Palanca, from the Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English (1998), Ed. Gémino Abad

A Street Observation by Clinton Palanca, from the Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English (1998), Ed. Gémino Abad


Friday, October 30, 2020

Even the Christmas tree wears a mask



Thursday, October 29, 2020




Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Neighbor's playlist

Uncle Ephraim plays Christmas songs this morning. I get teary-eyed when I hear Christmas songs. I can't explain it. Mother feels the same way.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Calvin distressed

Writing to William Farrel, John Calvin alludes to the death of Augustin Courault, a zealous preacher of the Reformation in Paris and Geneva. From the book's footnote: "Advanced in years, he had become blind. His death, which was at first attributed to poison, caused the deepest regret to both Farel and Calvin."

Distress and wretchedness during the day seems only to prepare a lodging for the more painful and excruciating thoughts of the night. It is not merely the want of sleep, to which custom has so inured me, by which I am harassed, but I am utterly exhausted by these melancholy thoughts all night long, than which I find there is nothing more destructive for my health. 

Monday, October 26, 2020


 My father's death anniversary. I miss him every day.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Auntie Netnet!

August 2020 - post-quarantine

Auntie Netnet, my mother's sister, the coolest librarian now based in General Santos City. She is the kind of person who knows exactly where to get the freshest tuna or where to order the tastiest lumpiang shanghai. She lavished us with books when we were growing up. With Uncle Glenn, she visits us almost every weekend, en route to their farm in Banga, the town after Marbel.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Calvin and Luther



Friday, October 23, 2020

The Taft papers

The Taft Papers and a Titanic Tragedy, via the Library of Congress blog:
Major Archie Butt, a friend and aide to two presidents, stood on the deck of the sinking RMS Titanic in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. He and Frank Millet, his close friend and perhaps more, would not survive the next few hours, although exactly how they died has been a source of Titanic conjecture for more than a century.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Letters of John Calvin volume 1

When I should be memorizing the clinical practice recommendations on bladder cancer, I find myself starting a new book. I make it sound as if this is not my fault (it is), that I’ve been forced into it somehow (it's completely voluntary). Months away from my diplomate exam, it is almost illegal to insert other leisurely reading materials other than DeVita and the NCCN guidelines. But I cannot resist not reading anything by John Calvin, one of my all-time favorite writers and thinkers, a hero of the Christian faith. I adore him to such an extent that I went to Geneva largely to visit the Reformation Museum and to see his handwriting for myself. It was my version of being a fan. (The main purpose of the trip was to accompany my good friend, Harold, when we presented our paper on pancreatic cancer. But the Reformation Museum was my ulterior motive.) I have long since overcome the need to keep abreast with the latest trends in pop culture. I simply cannot keep up. In exchange, I have, to my pleasure, discovered that reading ancient texts can be a breath of fresh air, a relaxing communion for my mind and soul.

The book I’m talking about is Volume 1 of Letters of John Calvin, compiled and translated from the Latin and French by Dr. Jules Bonnet. Reading published correspondence is the scholarly version of stalking. Whereas the Institutes sounds like an elegant and elaborate treatise of Christian faith—and it is!—the Letters offers a more intimate and personal view of Calvin. What was he like in person? How did he relate to his friends?

The collection’s preface refers to John Calvin’s correspondence as a body of work “in which the familiar effusions of friendship are mingled with the more serious questions of theology, and with the heroic breathings of faith.”

In his letter of Francis Daniel (dated 23 May 1532, written in Paris), his friend from Orleans, Calvin gives an update that his first work, Commentaries of the Books of Seneca, “De Clementia,” has been printed, but at his own expense.
At present, I am using every endeavor to collect some of it back. I have stirred up some of the professors of this city to make use of them in lecturing.
Therefore, rumaraket din si Calvin.

We also learn that Calvin was seen-zoned. In his letter to Francis Daniel (1532), he writes: 
I have nothing to write to Duchemin, seeing that often as I have asked he often returns no answer, nor shall I set out upon my journey until he write. What will it matter, if for some days I shave in the cold while in search of a lodging for the body!
May pagka-fierce din siya. 
“Concerning Coiffart what can I say, except that he is a selfish fellow?” 

My characterization of the great and eminent John Calvin is laced with humor and is perhaps short-sighted. But it is amazing to me that he, like the rest of us, was human, too. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Sounds of the morning

At breakfast I can hear our neighbor's music, saxopophone instrumentals of classic love songs. The living room acquires the quiet, soporific vibe of hotel lobbies, until Auntie Nanic, my mother's cousin, tunes her little radio to Brigada, a news show in Hiligaynon, as she prepares breakfast in the kitchen. Senior citizens walk and jog outside. They greet each other with the familiarity of having lived in proximity for decades. They talk of plants and pottery, children working in bigger cities, dying and dead relatives from the barrio, and plans to drive to their farms on weekends. St. Paul Street is stirring to life.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Even in grief, grace is everywhere

Dr. Russell Moore reflects on his father's death. I subscribe to his newsletter, which I enjoy reading.
As some of you know, my father died this past week, at the age of seventy-four. The poet John Berryman once wrote in a letter to Saul Bellow, “His father’s death is one of the few main things that happens to a man, I think, and it matters greatly to the life when it happens.” And, as I stood at my father’s graveside preaching his funeral, that’s much of what was on my mind: when it happened.

He writes, "Even in grief, grace is everywhere."


Monday, October 19, 2020

Beautiful mid-Autumn day

Neil Gaiman updates his blog.
It's a beautiful day in mid-Autumn on Skye and I'm not sure where the year went. This house came with an enormous walled meadow, which my neighbours use to keep their sheep in, and an ancient orchard. About seven years ago the orchard was flooded, and we lost all the redcurrants and gooseberries and rhubarb and such, but most of the trees survived, and there are apples and plums and pears still growing on them.
He uses Blogger, "which these days is a lot like blogging with a charred stick and a hank of bearskin."

I use Blogger!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The wrong word

From Stephen King:
Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

First public health campaign gig today

Speaking about breast cancer awareness this morning. Talk will be streamed via Facebook Live. Pleased and grateful to have the opportunity to promote breast cancer screening. Breast cancer, when detected and treated early, can potentially be curable. After the talk, family will go to my grandmother's house for a lunch party of sorts. The reason: it's the weekend.


Friday, October 16, 2020


Papaya or "Pepya". Note melon-like fruit attached to trunk of trees near top.  Barro Colorado Island Laboratory, 5 March 1935.  Name of Plant is "papayo". Name of fruit in Cuba is "fruta bomba."

From the Smithsonian Institute in Flickr Commons:
Papaya or "Pepya". Note melon-like fruit attached to trunk of trees near top. Barro Colorado Island Laboratory, 5 March 1935. Name of Plant is "papayo". Name of fruit in Cuba is "fruta bomba." Description: The photograph documents Isaac Ginsburg's field work in locations in Panama, particularly connected with the fishing industry. Photographer: Isaac Ginsburg Date: 1935 Image ID: SIA2016-002508 Collection: RU 7187, Isaac Ginsburg Papers, circa 1911-1919, 1924-1958. Box 8, folder 18.
This is a photo from Isaac Ginsburg's collection.
The Flickr set documents the field work of Isaac Ginsburg (1886-1975), an Ichthyologist who spent much of his career with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (1922-1956). His chief scientific interest was the marine fishes of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1935, he went to Panama for the Bureau of Fisheries, to study sites connected with the fishing industry. The photographs selected document his work in the field, showing examples of wetlands and shoreline, facilities at Barro Colorado Laboratory (later to become the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), locals and colleagues using cayucos in local waters, local vegetation, and places enroute.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

From North to South

Starved for adventure, I'm watching "Long Way Up" on Apple TV+.
Starring and executive produced by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, “Long Way Up” reunites the best friends after more than a decade since their last motorbike adventure around the world.

Covering 13,000 miles over 100 days through 16 border crossings and 13 countries, starting from the city of Ushuaia at the tip of South America, Ewan and Charley journey through the glorious and underexposed landscapes of South and Central America in their most challenging expedition to date, using cutting-edge technology on the backs of their prototype electric Harley-Davidsons in order to contribute to the sustainability of the planet.

What I most like about it is that it's fun to see friends hanging out, minding their own business, discovering the world. The views are spectacular.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Sean baked bread


Tuesday, October 13, 2020


Vintage pen—screenshot from the film, The Spirit of the Beehive

Dr. Butch Dalisay writes about restoration of old things.
We live in a repair-conscious society; unlike the throwaway Americans and even the Japanese, for whom labor could cost more than the appliance itself, we will fight to keep our TVs, fridges, aircons, and electric fans chugging until their last breath. We suffocate our new sofas with plastic so they will live 100 years.

Mr. J.P. Reinoso fixes vintage pens in Metro Manila. Maybe soon, when I find new old pens, I can send them his way.


Monday, October 12, 2020

In pain, she remembered her books

My sixty-something patient is an articulate woman who speaks excellent English, like schoolteachers of old. The excruciating pain in her low back has been keeping her up all night. The cancer has spread in the sacroiliac spine, announcing its presence as lytic lesions on her scan. On Sunday morning, she smiled at me for the first time—this, despite the recent finding that the cancer has reacher her brain, liver, and lungs. "I had very good sleep," she said. 

"That's life-changing in a good way, isn't it?" I said, smiling beneath my mask and face shield. 

“Doc, I already talked with my pastor."

"That's good."

"I also spoke to the person to whom I will donate my books.”

A reader—my patient is a reader. 

Later, I will ask her what books she reads, and I hope that she smiles again.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020


Interview with Marilynne Robinson in NYT's By the Book:

Are you a rereader? What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

I do reread. I tend to think of the reading of any book as preparation for the next reading of it. There are always intervening books or facts or realizations that put a book in another light and make it different and richer the second or the third time.

I reread Ms. Robinson's books.  


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana)


It's mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) season. 

From Wikipedia:
The fruit of the mangosteen is sweet and tangy, juicy, somewhat fibrous, with fluid-filled vesicles (like the flesh of citrus fruits), with an inedible, deep reddish-purple colored rind (exocarp) when ripe. In each fruit, the fragrant edible flesh that surrounds each seed is botanically endocarp, i.e., the inner layer of the ovary. Seeds are almond-shaped and -sized.
In our community, where people own and work in farms, fruits sometimes define "seasons." 


Friday, October 9, 2020

Harrison's in the background

Michael Specter's interview with Dr. Tony Fauci:

I saw the Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine in the background right away. HPIM is one of my favorite books, revered and respected in Internal Medicine circles. One of the authors is Dr. Fauci himself.
 HPIM Fauci

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Pens are more precious than money

Pens more precious than money

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Most number of posts - year 2020

Year 2020 is a great year for blogging. Since January 1, I have posted 338 entries. It is, of course, nothing to be proud about, but it functions as a landmark of sorts for me—a reminder, in a way, that time moves quickly. December, after all, is right around the corner. 

Updating this semi-secret space in the web has become a part of my daily routine since I began blogging in 2004. A blank entry is like an itch that demands to be scratched. To get things done—a technical paper to write, a book chapter to study—I post something, then move on to more important matters. I say "semi-secret" because even in my immediate circle of friends, nobody pays too much attention to blogs anymore. When I meet people from way back, they would ask if I'm still blogging. They are surprised that the site is still up and running. 

Facebook, Instagram, and recently, Twitter, absorb most of the people's internet-reading time. The advent of these social media platforms led Jason Kottke to write in 2013 that "the blog is dead, long live the blog.
Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.
But remains as vibrant as ever—a testament to the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, blogs are here to stay. But who knows, right?

To this day I do not know what to make of blogs in general, how they are defined exactly. Are they forms of journalistic reporting? Are they art forms? I certainly never think of Bottled Brain in those terms; those are, I believe, too presumptuous. Surely, photos of my handwriting cannot be considered art! Perhaps the closest workable definition of the blog is that it is an extension of my personal journals, almost like an online diary—and nothing more.

Nevertheless, the beauty of blogs as a platform of information- and personal-sharing comes from their relative detachment to the reader. In contrast to the noise of social media, this blog is a venue where I can think aloud without bothering anyone unnecessarily. When I post something here, the whole world does not need to be alerted, unless you have subscribed to a mailing list. Not everyone cares about fountain pens or books or literature or medicine. If you are a reasonable person, you must have already figured out what you like, or don’t. 

Occasionally, though, friends remember and drop by. Even strangers stumble upon this neighborhood once in a while, writing kind words of encouragement. They do not need to stay long, but if they do, they are welcome. 

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Iroshizuku smudges

When the ink leaks from the fountain pen, it produces smudges. This happened yesterday. A dab of toilet paper would clean the mess in no time, but there was no roll at arm's length, so I scribbled on the back page of my notes instead. It amazes me how this cheap Advance yellow ruled pad can be so fountain pen friendly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Rick Tulka's sleeping baby

Rick Tulka, one of my favorite cartoonists of all time, posts a sketch of a sleeping baby:
After many years of drawing at the café, believe it or not, this was the first baby I drew. This little guy was a great subject, he didn't move for a long time.
I check his Flickr feed every day.


Monday, October 5, 2020

A Children's Story

Poem by Louise Glück, via NYRB. 

Tired of rural life, the king and queen
return to the city,
all the little princesses
rattling in the back of the car
singing the song of being:
I am, you are, he, she, it is—
But there will be
no conjugation in the car, oh no.
Who can speak of the future? Nobody knows anything about the future,
even the planets do not know.
But the princesses will have to live in it.
What a sad day the day has become.
Outside the car, the cows and pastures are drifting away;
they look calm, but calm is not the truth.
Despair is the truth. This is what
mother and father know. All hope is lost.
We must return to where it was lost
if we want to find it again.


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Grasshopper in between pages of Isaiah


Grabbed an old Bible for my quiet time this morning and saw a grasshopper squished and preserved in Isaiah. The ESV 2007 Text Edition is owned by my cousin Hannah who used to live with us when she was in high school. A blessed Sunday to you!

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Saturday, October 3, 2020

Letterhead by Gene Autry


I love this letterhead by Orvon Grover "Gene" Autry (September 29, 1907 – October 2, 1998):
nicknamed The Singing Cowboy, was an American singer, songwriter, actor, musician, and rodeo performer who gained fame largely by singing in a crooning style on radio, in films, and on television for more than three decades beginning in the early 1930s.
Image credit: Letterheads via Flickr.


Friday, October 2, 2020

The United States of Letterpress

Field Notes - United States of Letterpress from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

I've been thinking of letterheads, letterpresses, and desktop publishing a lot recently. The header design for my prescription pad is long past due, but I can't quite wrap my head around it. Most doctors consider it a non-issue, but fonts and paper quality matter a great deal to me. I want the stationery to have a vintage feel, like the ones in Letterheady, but the Canva templates don't quite cut it. Let's see. 


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Downside of intermittent fasting

A Potential Downside of Intermittent Fasting by Anahad O’Connor (New York Times):
But the new research found that overweight adults who were assigned to routinely fast for 16 hours daily, eating all their meals between noon and 8 p.m., popularly known as the 16:8 diet, gained almost no benefit from it. Over the course of the three-month study, they lost an average of just two to three and a half pounds — only slightly more than a control group — and most of the weight they shed was not body fat but “lean mass,” which includes muscle.

There were downsides to the study; for instance, the small sample size and the short observation period.

“This was a short study, but it was enough of a study that to me it calls into question whether this works — and if it does work, then the magnitude of the benefit is very small,” [Dr. Weiss] said.

I do intermittent fasting intermittently. I don't care much about the benefits, to be honest. I am not overweight, and I do not have comorbidities to control just yet. But I like how I feel light and not overly bloated with IF. I enjoy my meals when I am allowed to eat. I consciously choose what I put in my plate. There are also fewer meals to cook and dishes to wash!

(Image credit: Chiara Zarmati, NYT)

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