Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taco Tour!

Alicia and I rode in the Taco Tour on Friday, which was definitely an interesting experience. It was organized by Bike Ypsi, a group of enthusiastic and eclectic cyclists from Ypsilanti (and a few from Ann Arbor like us). The weather didn’t look overly promising, but we pushed onward, having been assured by cyclists who participated in last year’s event that it was more fun in a torrential downpour. It ended up only raining lightly for a little bit toward the start of the ride.

Because we were riding through lots of parts of Ypsilanti, the traffic and road quality varied, though the organizers did an incredible job of selecting lovely roads for us to use as we biked between taco locales. Overall, I think the ride was about 20 miles, with only a few hills. I was tired by the end and, as always, resolved to bike more during the week to avoid the weekend exhaustion/weakness.

The tacos were clearly the highlight of the tour. We started at Los Amigos, which served a hard shelled taco with lots of shredded cheese and cilantro. I had a bean taco, and enjoyed it. The shell wasn’t great, but the cheese was delicious. After a long-ish trek out to Ypsi Township for
Los Amigos, we headed back into town for Dos Hermanos, a Mexican market in Ypsilanti that carries an amazing array of delicious goods. I thought their tacos were the best – small fresh tortillas with spicy beans and pico de gallo. After several other places that fell somewhere in between both geographically and in terms of their food, we arrived at La Fiesta Mexicana, a restaurant I know and love right near Depot Town. They served a delicious potato taco in a freshly fried (and thus hard shell) tortilla. Anything that has been recently fried is delicious, which I thought gave them a rather unfair advantage in the voting.

Finally, we headed back toward the start of the ride and united at the Corner Brewery for some chips and salsa beer brewed specially for the Taco Tour. It was not delicious. Alicia rightly suspected that it would be awful and ordered one of our old standbys. I made her share with me, and help me drink my small glass of really spicy beer. I’ve concluded that beer should not be spicy. It is not refreshing to have your drink leave a hot burning taste in your mouth, especially when you can’t bring yourself to eat something salty with it because you’ve already eaten six tacos…

It was a great day, and we left with spoke cards and t-shirts to show off around town.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baby Bunnies

My neighbor pointed me in the direction of these tiny bunnies yesterday morning, though my ability to take good photos was hampered by my dying camera. You can still tell how cute they are though! Later in the day I only saw two of them hopping around the grass. I’m choosing to believe that the others found a less conspicuous hiding place…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Does balance exist?

A year or two ago I overheard two faculty members discussing the start of another busy semester.  One said to the other “Every semester I think it will get better, but it never seems to.  I find myself with just as much work, even though I vowed to cut back.”  This is a bit of a paraphrase, but you get the idea.  These were not junior faculty.  They were not disorganized faculty.  They were not unaccomplished faculty.  In fact, they were the kind of faculty I aspire to be when I grow up.  Which brings us to today’s question: is balance between work and family/life/play really possible?  The answer has to be yes, but at what cost?

Some doctors I’ve spoken with choose to prioritize their lives outside of clinical work, and often make conscious decisions to be excellent clinicians while acknowledging that they will neither be experts in their field, nor will they publish papers about their work.  They see patients, often in generalist clinics, enjoy their work, and lead happy lives.

Others, who hold both research and clinical positions, manage a small generalist clinical practice while engaging in collaborative research projects.  They are able to prioritize their lives, but often at the expense of being organized and having a sense of control over their lives.  This is my sense, at least, looking in from the outside. 

Few even manage to truly escape for a few days or a few weeks in the summer and really rest and recharge with family and friends.  Returning to the “real world” after that seems almost impossible however, and things are missed. 

Nearly everyone that I’ve talked to has struggled with balancing their work lives (whether research based, clinical, or some combination their of) with their personal lives.  The two options I’ve described above are simply two strategies for carving out time.  It’s clear to me that the hours in the day are finite, and that the opportunity costs of any choice are high.  I suppose what it comes down to in the end, however, are priorities.  Where do expertise and prestige fall in comparison to sleep?  How do children and home life compare with patients and paperwork?  What kinds of work are reimbursed in what ways, and how does that limit the choices we make?  Are there other rewards that motivate us beyond fame and fortune?  Apart from family and friends?

There is no easy answer, and I’m finding this term as difficult as any other.  What must unite us all, however, is that we keep struggling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



11-12 Lunch with students

1-2 Discussion

3-5 Coffee time with students

5-6 Meeting about the class

6-6:30 Meeting about my observed class time

?:??-?:?? My work

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The first day of fall…

The tiniest tinge of fall color...

Having googled autumnal equinox, I’ve discovered that fall in the Northern Hemisphere actually began at 5:19am this morning. The link will lead you to an enthralling National Geographic discussion of what equinoxes are, and will also explain that “the true days of day-night equality always fall after the autumnal equinox and before the vernal, or spring, equinox…”

Official or no, it does NOT feel like fall. Last week we had some lovely crisp days and chilly nights. This week, it has been muggy, thunderstormy, and terrible – it’s like we are getting the bit of July that we missed earlier in the summer. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the upper 70s and low 80s this week, but I’m hopeful that it will cool down after this.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tour de Troit

As promised, Alicia and I rode in the Tour de Troit today. Aside from a little frustration due to a riders angering our police escort by riding on the wrong side of the road, and some slowdowns due to who-knows-what, it was wonderful. The weather couldn’t have been better, and we both had a great time!

The ride started in front of the old train depot – long abandoned, and tragically empty-looking. I’ve heard that there are talks about how to best use the space, and I hope that they are able to keep the original building intact and repurpose the structure as it stands.

We rode through a lot of different neighborhoods, guided by the numbered list of sights to see on our map of the route. Notable among them were Corktown, the Ambassador Bridge, the Heidelberg Project and the remains of the old Tiger Stadium. It was sad to see how empty so much of the city is, even on a Saturday afternoon, but there were a decent number of folks out watching the riders. I heard that there were 1800-2000 riders today, which is amazing!

About halfway through the ride (~17 miles), we stopped at F. Gabriel Richard Park, which is right across from Belle Isle. It seemed a lovely symmetry, given that we started our summer of Detroit biking around that lovely little island. We ended the ride (~30 miles) back at Roosevelt Park (outside the train depot), loaded the bikes back into the car, and had lunch courtesy of a number of restaurants in Southwest Detroit – Organaman’s Catering (delicious burrito – sorry, no website) and Moo Moo’s (black bean patty and corn/something salsa).

Overall, it was a great day, and a fitting finale to our Summer of Detroit.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Really the end of the summer of Detroit

With a few last hurrahs, Alicia and I are winding down our summer of Detroit. We’ve enjoyed it a great deal, and are likely to continue with Detroit through the seasons as long as we are in Ann Arbor. I don’t think that enough folks really take advantage of all of the cool stuff that goes on in the D…

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Ra Ra Riot: They are an awesome band out of Brooklyn, and they happen to be playing at the Polish Festival in Hamtramck over Labor Day Weekend. While definitely not the same as the City of Detroit, Hamtramck is entirely within the city limits of Detroit, so I think it counts well enough. We’ve been pretty liberal with our definition of “summer of Detroit” thus far, including Grosse Pointe, so I think this still fits. Anyway, I hadn’t heard much about this band before Alicia mentioned them (nothing new there), but they had a really great and tiny cellist, which I always admire. I even took a photo with her – she is super tiny!

Matt and Kim: Another Brooklyn band, another great concert. This one was at the Magic Stick, a smaller venue attached to the Majestic Theater right on Woodward Ave. It was especially exciting to see them right after the Video Music Awards, at which they won an award for their amazing video streaking through Times Square. The show was great and the crowd was crazy, though it made me wish even more than Michigan would go smoke free. It just seems wrong that someone could just stand next to you inside a really crowded venue and smoke. Keep your fingers crossed and contact your legislator!

Tour de Troit: This event is still upcoming. On Saturday, Alicia and I will be riding in this 30 mile ride around the fair city of Detroit. This ride has been going on since at least 2002, and they always have really amazing routes. I’m looking forward to getting to see a new part of the city (or a familiar part from a different vantage point). I’m a little nervous about the mileage, as I’ve been off the bike a bit. I’ve been riding this week though, and 30 miles isn’t too bad, so with any luck I’ll just be a bit sore the following day!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Day 1

Classes haven’t started, but I had my first day of proficiency exams and orientation meetings for my GSI (graduate student instructor, or TA for those of you at institutions that use that acronym) position.  It was a little crazy, going from not really having spoken Spanish in a while to interacting almost exclusively in Spanish all day.  It was a bit of a transition, and I was definitely “cometiendo errores” all day…  Thankfully I was examining others on their proficiency and not being examined. 

For those of you not in the know, I am teaching the discussion section of an advanced introductory Spanish course this semester.  This means that I’m not teaching grammar and vocabulary (they have that in the mornings), but that I’m helping them navigate readings, essays, and other activities to help them immerse themselves in the language.  I also have lunch with them a few times a week and attend several coffee chats during the semester, at all of which I will engage them in lively chatter exclusively en espa~nol.  (The ~ is the closest I seem to be able to get…  Sorry…) 

I’m pretty excited, though I know that it is going to be a lot of work.  I have enjoyed my previous teaching positions, and this one has the added benefit of qualitative evaluations rather than letter grades.  I teach 4 days a week, but so far it’s fun.  The faculty who run the course are dedicated and interesting, so I anticipate having an exciting semester. 

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Cupcakes (and a wedding)

Last weekend, Alicia’s mom got married. It was really beautiful and everyone had a great time. True to form, my favorite part was the dessert. A wonderful friend of the family had made an array of delicious cupcakes that were so wonderful and beautiful. They were stunning to look at, and even more stunning to eat!

Actually, my favorite part of the wedding may have been meeting Bud, Alicia’s grandfather. As a public health and medical student, I spend a lot of time learning about everything that can go wrong as a person ages. We discuss at length the isolation and difficulty that can accompany reaching the mature age of 89 (if one reaches it at all!), but often forget that there are lots of dynamic and active older folks who should inspire us all to get moving and keep our senses of humor. Bud is one of these! Still hilarious (at least I thought so – he tells people he would be 90 but he was sick for a year), still golfing, and still catching a ride with a nephew to see his daughter get married, I’d be pretty happy if I were doing as well as he is when I get to his age. I don’t know what the lesson is here, but I’m convinced there is one. Maybe it’s that laughing keeps you young. Maybe it’s that we need to raise our expectations for the later years: absence of disease is not necessarily health. Maybe it’s that articulating the lesson doesn’t matter, just keep laughing, eating cupcakes and living your life.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Did someone hit "whir”?

I know that it feels like fall outside.  It’s been cool and crisp, and I can see tiny bits of brown and red on the edges of the still green leaves, but it is only September 1.  That’s practically still August, which everyone knows is decidedly not fall.  In spite of this, things seem to be ramping up quickly.  Working through my various e-mails this morning I had the distinct feeling that on the little blender that is my life, someone hit the “whir” button.  Suddenly there are September bills, preparation for school starting again, and clear evidence in my e-mail that everyone is back from their summer breaks and ready to get going… 

Time for a few deep breaths, and then a big one before diving in.