Friday, April 29, 2022

On blogging

I stumbled upon Alan Jacobs’s blog. I’d been there before, but I hadn’t read it with sufficient curiosity to keep me going. Until now. An author, university professor, and blogger, he writes about cultivating his blog as a kind of a garden. He uses his blog to “generate and try out new ideas, get feedback from readers, develop the ideas a little further…” He writes about blogging as someone who seeks to understand this medium. Reading him is inspiring and instructive.

Part of me wishes I’d thought blogging through. When I published my first post in 2004, I didn’t think Bottled Brain would live long—at least, long enough to be older than high school students. Had I been a wiser 16-year old in that internet café in the row of houses near the UP Shopping Center, I should’ve planned out what content to put out. I could’ve chosen to write about a niche topic rather than post flotsam and jetsam about books, pens, faith, family, travels, and medicine. I could’ve planned to turn my posts into book chapters, which I’d subsequently publish. 

But I didn’t. Today the blog looks more like an online diary than a well thought out website. Perhaps that is why I find it so charming. Because it is my space—my own dot com domain—I can write anything. My friends and family are my audience. There’s no pressure to please or impress. There’s a sense in which I write for myself; my delight in the writing overflows to delight others, too. That is my hope.

What I can learn from Alan Jacobs is to make sense of my logorrhea. One of these sunny days I’ll find the time to organize my posts. Surely, several themes will emerge: my experiences in medicine, my thoughts about Christianity, my fountain pen collection, and so on. Maybe I can do something about them.

Moving forward, I envision more posts more about medicine, medical education, medical humanities, biochemistry, and technology in this space. I should also post more quotes from books I'm curently reading. Who knows? I might just develop new material from these! 

Monday, April 25, 2022

A Blackwing Pencil (Palomino)!

Snapshot of a page from my journal, currently a Midori Traveler's Notebook (Passport):

Blackwing Palomino

I turned 35 last April 22. I went on a short trip to visit my godmother. My aunt and Nanay were with me. I could tell you many stories, but the short of it is: we had a blessed time. During the tour, I found my grail pencil, something I've been meaning to buy but I never had the chance to—until this trip!

It's a Blackwing pencil (Palomino). This is the favorite writing instrument of Mary Norris, the New Yorker copy editor, and Austin Kleon, the book author and blogger

I adore the writing experience! Praise God for this blessing—and for 35 years of His goodness and faithfulness.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

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Christ is risen!

Sabado de Gloria

Woke up to a rainy Sunday morning. Drove Nanay to Rizal Park to buy flowers she subsequently arranges for the pulpit. She couldn't bear the sight of a flowerless pulpit, especially on Easter, the most joyous of all Christian celebrations.

Christ is risen! What a glorious, marvelous, and comforting truth! 

Meditating on the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian life, Dr. Albert Mohler writes:
As Paul well understood, Christianity stands or falls with the empty grave. If Christ is not raised, we are to be pitied, for our faith is in vain. Those who would preach a resurrectionless Christianity have substituted the truth of the gospel for a lie. But, asserted Paul, Christ is risen from the dead. Our faith is not in vain, but is in the risen Lord. He willingly faced death on a cross and defeated death from the grave. The Resurrection is the ultimate sign of God's vindication of His Son.
He quotes Dr. John A. Broadus:

It was the signed manual of the Deity, it was the seal of the Sovereign of the Universe affixed to His claim, it declared Him to be all that He had ever professed to be, and so it establishes the truth of all His teachings and the truth of the whole Christian society. The great fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the central fact of the evidence of Christianity. 

Have a meaningful and Christ-centered Easter Sunday, dear friends!

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Photo above was taken yesterday when the sun was up and the April shower plant was showing off its blooms.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Friday, April 15, 2022

The coming-home ritual

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Coming home from work, where two lovely patients had just died, I am welcomed by Paul in the garage, his nose toward me, his body crouched near the ground, just as I open the car door. I give him a belly rub, which leads him to roll over, enjoying the sensation of human contact. "How are you, my boy?" I ask. He responds by choking on his saliva, his tongue wagging. After two minutes of this welcome, he follows me as I enter the house. Distracted by the clanging sounds in the kitchen, he leaves me and bothers whoever happens to be there. Paul's love language is bothering humanity.

Dogs are God's gift to us. Despite the nightly destruction of Nanay's cherished plants and cacti and the tearing away of shoe laces and chewing of electric cords, Paul brings to our home a youthful joie de vivre, a reminder to not take things too seriously. 

Now—where is he?!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

How to manage chemotherapy side effects: a guide to general internists


Yesterday I talked to some 1,200 internists from the Philippines on how to manage cancer-related treatment side effects during the Bootcamp of the Philippine College of Physicians. In that talk, I argued that, in an era where cancer is set to become the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the world, general internists—and non-medical oncology specialists—can take part in the care of patients with cancer. One of those opportunities is the management of treatment-related side effects. I wish I had more time to speak about immunotherapy-related adverse drug reactions, but, with my 20 minutes, I focused mainly on chemo- and targeted-treatment-related side effects—hypersensitivity reactions, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, mucositis, and many others. Dr. Julie Gabat-Tan—or Madame Julie, as I call her, because she was my first ever senior resident during my internal medicine residency—moderated the Q and A. It felt like being on rounds again at Wards 1 and 3. I'm sharing my slide set here. Feel free to share or use this, and it would be great if you can link to this site. 

PCP Bootcamp Image credit: Dr. Jeriko Aguirre, who took a screenshot.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Do not make premature judgments

I love this line from the concluding pages of the chapter, The Fast Train to Canton, which appears halfway through the book, Riding the Iron Rooster, by Paul Theroux.

It made me think that you never really know anyone until you have traveled 10,000 miles in a train with them. I had sized them up in London, but they were all better and worse than they had seemed then, and now they were beyond criticism because they had proved themselves to be human.  

Friday, April 8, 2022

Notebooks and first chemo sessions

It's appropriate that my first entry in my new notebook is about my remarkable patient, a woman around my age, who gave it (and a few others) to me today. I love composition notebooks. In fact, I love notebooks in general. I use a Traveler's Notebook (passport size) for my personal journals. I use composition notebooks for my consultancy and faculty work. The wide lines are great for jotting down first drafts of my stories, many of which will never see the light of day. The pages are fountain pen friendly. See my writing sample below. I used a Pilot Custom 823 (Amber) with the classic blue Pilot ink owned by my brother Sean.

Notebooks and first chemo Notebooks and first chemo Notebooks and first chemo

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

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Innovative ways of disseminating research: an argument for blogs and podcasts in cancer research

Podcast poster

I talked to Filipino medical oncologists about innovative ways of disseminating cancer-related research information last Saturday. I argued that, as part of knowledge translation/mobilization, it is important that researchers, clinicians, and people involved in knowledge generation and dissemination must creatively, proactively, and intentionally think about how to share their knowledge more effectively to their colleagues and the public at large. I talked about blogging—academic blogging—as a tool to accomplish that. I also spoke about podcasting—using recorded audio to tell stories—and conducted a workshop on how to record and edit audio files using Audacity. I've never done anything like this before—much less through an online interactive platform. Many thanks to Merck and to Dr. Mary Manalo, my boss in the research committee of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, for the opportunity to talk about a topic so very close to my heart. I love reading blogs and listening to podcasts. My presentation was an overflow of my fascination. 

Here's a copy of my slide set. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

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Summer fruit

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The mango tree bears much fruit this summertime. Nanay snapped this on Sunday morning, 30 minutes before the start of the worship service, when the church parking lot was not yet packed. (It has been a long time since I had last shared Nanay's photos in this site. You see, years ago, I synced her phone to auto-upload photos in my Flickr account, an arrangement that gives me access to the goings-on in her life, which mostly revolves around family, friends, and church.) I love mango trees, not just because of their fruit but because anywhere they are planted, they offer a comforting shade and coolness, a respite from the tropical Mindanao heat. I look forward to see this mango tree grow up and flourish.

The Hiligaynon word for the day is búnga, which means "fruit."
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