Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

A historic accomplishment

Watch here to hear President Obama talk about signing into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  This law adds sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and disability to the protected categories covered by hate crimes legislation.  This allows the federal government to get involved when necessary to assist local law enforcement with hate crimes investigation and prosecution.  It saddens me that it has taken so long, but at least we have it now, thanks to the tireless advocacy of people like Judy Shepard and countless other advocates for the protection of all people from crimes motivated by hatred and bias. 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that a comprehensive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) will be soon to follow!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top Chef… and the social value of television

I didn’t watch a lot of TV as a child.  I would, overall, characterize this as a good thing, as I learned to love to read more than I might otherwise have done.  I didn’t have a television in college either.  Ash and I would occasionally venture down into the MCB basement to watch movies (often obscure Spanish-language films for my classes), but mostly we were entertained by conversation with other residents and between ourselves.  Alicia and I didn’t have a television for the first several years of graduate school, but it was at that point that I started to realize some of the social benefits of having a limited number of televisions.  My friends would invite everyone over to watch either Top Chef or Project Runway, and everyone would bring snacks and built up resentment of school from the previous week, all to share.  This became a lovely ritual, and though it got a little rough while my friends were third years, and has been less regular now that they are interns, it has continued.  The group of people attending has varied slightly over the years, but it has remained a bright spot in my evenings for quite some time.

I went to watch Top Chef last night, and though I’m exhausted today, I had a lovely time.  (As an aside, I wish it would be on earlier in the evening…  10-11pm is much too late for me!)  It’s really wonderful to be able to (re)connect with friends from medical school, and be reminded that there is a job on the other end of this lengthy graduate school trajectory.  Also to be reminded that a leek is not, in fact, a protein, which was mostly what I took away from last night’s show.  I’m sleepy, so this is rambling, but mostly I’d just like to express how thankful I am for friends, and to some extent for television that’s given us an excuse for weekly reunions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cannot get a handle on this weather…

I’m sure that the trip to Arizona made this adjustment more complicated, but the weather this October seems more finicky than usual.  Yesterday I was too warm and had to take off my jacket in the afternoon, so today I wore a short sleeved shirt with my jacket and I was cold every time I went outside.  What’s a girl to do?

I know the real answer is to layer, but then I end up carrying around a ton of different things and the potential to lose them increases exponentially with each item I’m carrying.  I have enough to worry about (and enough to carry) without a bunch of clothing draped over my arm as I run around campus. 

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will just stay cool from here on out and I’ll be fine in my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts.  I prefer them anyway and they give me a much broader range of dressy clothes in which to teach.  I know that some of you will be cursing me for that wish, and I’m that sure soon enough I’ll be longing for the warmth of this bizarre interjection of spring/summer in October, but right now, all I want is a constant chill.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When you find yourself seated next to a knitter on the plane…

…you should not make comments intended to suggest that what she (or he) is doing might simply be a waste of time.  Comments like “well that’s a lot of work for just a dishcloth” simply do not have responses!  They lead only to awkward justifications of knitting as a hobby/calling/whatever, and if you don’t already understand that I make dishcloths because to me they are fun and beautiful, and not because it is efficient and money/time-saving, you won’t even after I’ve explained it.

Apart from this somewhat odd interchange on the plane, my trip to Tempe, AZ was fantastic.  Jack and Linda were the kindest hosts a person could hope for, and it was wonderful to see them.  We had delicious Indian food, and went up to the top of South Mountain Park, which according to the website has lookouts at 2,300 ft. and 2,600 ft.  We drove up just past dusk and saw a bit of the sunset and then the lovely sea of lights that is Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun at night.  It was beautiful!  Next step: find a way to visit in the winter when it is most terrible here. 

The conference was also pretty good, though my talk was attended only by a small group of folks.  (I was scheduled opposite someone much more well-known than I…)  I nonetheless got some good feedback about my work, which was the purpose of the conference in the first place. 

Overall it was a lovely weekend, and it allowed me to miss a few days of rain and cold for sunshine and warmth.  I’m glad to be home though (and that I’m not traveling for at least a few weeks more), and am settling back into fall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One more thing…

I forgot to mention in my last post that I will also be seeing Uncle Jack and Aunt Linda while I’m here in Tempe, AZ.  This is very exciting, and makes much of the traveling worth it.  Yay for having family in warm, beautiful places that host conferences. 

October… You nefarious month…

October this year has been crazy.  I was at GLMA at the beginning of the month, the Point Foundation Regional Leadership Conference last weekend, and am now at the Annual Conference of the North American Association of Computational Social and Organizational Sciences.  (As an aside, I think social sciences folks like really, really long acronyms.  You will recall that I attended NCPSSSH last year – the National Conference of Physician Scholars in the Social Sciences and Humanities…)  As much as I love to travel, this is crazy – 3/5 is not an appropriate fraction to represent the number of weekends I’ve traveled in a given month.  It should be at most 2/5 or 1/4.  In the middle of the semester that’s even pushing it, as I’ve learned.  And yet, here we are.

On the positive side, the conference has included some interesting speakers, and the weather is amazing.  It’s currently about 75-80 degrees here, and the sun is shining.  Not to rub it in the faces of those of you in Michigan, but I happen to know that it’s raining and cold there.  Take solace in the fact that you are seeing the height of the beautiful fall colors and here all of the trees are plain old boring green. 

I think conference attendance is an art.  It requires a number of critical skills, including abilities to:

1. determine ahead of time which sessions will be well done and which ones will be presentations of the authors’ previous night’s rambling.

2. apply disparate research and theory presentations to your own life and work.

3. network efficiently, even with sometimes socially awkward academics.

I’m working on all of these skills, as well as on finishing a last minute presentation myself for tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A week of purple vegetables

I went to the farmers market yesterday with only two things on my list: cauliflower and eggs. I had $5, so I hoped I’d be able to pick up something additional from my favorite vegetable stand (Frog Holler Organic Farm). When I arrived, I saw that they didn’t have cauliflower, but that the stand across the street had the most beautiful gigantic cauliflowers I’d ever seen – and they were purple! (To be fair, they had white cauliflower too, but who wants white cauliflower when you can have purple?) I was so excited, and after buying my eggs and noting the $2 price tag on the cauliflower, I went back over to the Frog Holler booth to see what I could get for my last $1. Looking over the list, I realized that it had to be a week of purple vegetables…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Knitting with Stainless Steel

On a whim, I purchased some Habu A-21 1/20 silk stainless B (in color 4, which is brown) when I was at Nina, a posh knit shop in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. I’d seen a few projects knit with it online, and it just seemed so cool. I also got a skein of super fine merino (in color 56, which is grass green) to run with it – largely because after starting the lovely purple lace scarf last year (which continues to languish in my knitting bag), I vowed to never attempt to knit anything out of lace weight yarn again. It is simply too skinny and I don’t understand how anyone knits with it. I love lace with fingering-weight yarn, lace with DK, lace with worsted, even lace with bulky, but not lace with lace-weight.

I started the shawl – the same Ishbel pattern I knit for Jess a while back – last week, and it’s really coming along beautifully. The green and brown mix in a lovely way (that occasionally looks a bit like seaweed, but I’m okay with that) and the steel gives it the most interesting texture. (I even wound the yarns together into a single ball to make my life easier... And now I have the most parenthetical statements of any post I've ever written...)

No other point to this post… I’m just excited to finish it so that I can wear it – I’m working on expanding my wardrobe through knitted goods this year…

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A short addendum – and more pictures

Mom reminded me of one more thing about having a dog as a student (or any sort of busy person):

Having to leave your new pet alone at home is difficult. Walter cried for 20-30 minutes in his crate each time we left the house for the first week or two that we had him. It was heartbreaking, and also nerve-wracking as we didn’t know at what point the neighbors would think we were torturing him (or complain about the noise). It didn’t take long for him to realize that we were always coming back, but feeling like I couldn’t leave the house was a horrible experience… Now he’s pretty good, and we’ve learned that for a treat, he will settle into his house and be perfectly happy sleeping for hours, so life with Walter is pretty good.

Most recent ridiculous undertaking: Walter created a nest out of some pillows and unused bedding that was sitting in the corner. We’ve moved it out of his reach, but he loved it for the 1-2 days before we cleaned it up.

Here is Walter helping Alicia to make the bed...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Reflections… and gratuitous cute Walter photos

Many people have asked me whether it’s feasible to have a dog (or any other kind of pet) while in graduate or medical school, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Hearing others’ thoughts on it this weekend (at the GLMA conference) made me think about it again. Reflecting on our first nine months with Walter, I think the answer is clear: it depends.

My schedule has changed substantially over the course of my program. I have significant flexibility in how long I am out of the house, though I know that this will change when I go back to medical school and am on the wards. Alicia’s schedule has been relatively constant through all of this, with a few exceptional days, though this may also change when I go back to medical school and lose any semblance of control over my schedule.

Conclusion #1: Sole responsibility for anything other than a fish isn’t something I would have undertaken or plan to undertake at any point in my life.

Caveat #1: If you can pay someone to help out, conclusion #1 is null and void. We discussed the possibility of hiring a dog walker to take Walter out in the middle of the day to give him a chance to relieve himself and play outside. This ended up not being necessary, but may come back into consideration in a few years.

In spite of the altered schedule, I have been impressed with the anti-stress benefits of having Walter around. I think I laugh even more now that he is constantly hiding in the blankets or trying to lick my face. I definitely walk more since I’m obligated to take him outside once or twice each day for half and hour or so. I’ve been able to listen to more podcasts/books on tape, and find that the time away from work makes me more productive.

Conclusion #2: Having a pet forces you to slow down, and for someone like me, this is a good thing.

Caveat #2: Getting a pet during finals was probably the worst possible time, as I was crazy and there was nothing stress relieving about having to take the dog out when I had an exam due. I’ve figured out his schedule now, but I’d err on the side of a calm time if I had the opportunity to do it again.

Overall, I love having Walter around. There’s nothing like having the dog snuggled on the couch to make a nap even more inviting, and I’m constantly entertained by his antics. Clearly, however, it’s a balance. If I were responsible for all of his care, I’d probably go nuts, and if we had a dog that required 10 hours of walking and intensive playing every day, we’d all be unhappy. But I’m not, and we don’t.

Conclusion #3: It depends.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

AIDS Walk Michigan!

I didn't get a chance to post about the AIDS Walk, and don't have much to say other than thank you to everyone who donated and to Alicia for walking with me. Walt also walked, and looked quite dashing in his bandana...


I missed the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association conference last year, or this one would have been my fifth.  At this point, I’ve been to enough of their conferences that I can say that this was one of the best in terms of programming.  Though some of the sessions can seem a bit repetitive (largely because there are health issues that we just can’t seem to successfully beat, like HIV and smoking), this year there were some new perspectives and lots of excitement. 

I attended a number of talks by healthcare providers and activists who are thinking about the delivery of transgender healthcare in interesting ways – whether working with insurance companies to demonstrate that trans-inclusive policies do not actually end up costing companies much extra money at all, or working loosely with the standards of care to create an informed consent model that gives patients a greater degree of autonomy and control in their care, they are pushing to make the world a healthier and safer place. 

I also heard more sessions this year dealing with intersections of identities (like age, race, and sexuality, among others) and how those intersections affect health in unique ways.  I was heartened to see some discussion of the resiliency of youth, while I was saddened by the continued realities of high rates of depression and suicide among our young people. 

It was also lovely to touch base with the UMMS BGLAM folks again – I tend to get a bit out of touch since I’m not physically in the medical school right now.  In addition, I got to see Liz Eaman, illustrious UMMS alum, family medicine resident, and GLMA board member.  She is always inspiring and wonderful, and it was great to see her again.  Rounding out my social calendar were Tanya, Brian H., and Aaron P., all of whom are interns this year, seeing patients, saving lives, and sleeping when they can. 

Overall, it was lovely.  I returned home feeling inspired (although wary of the volume of unaddressed e-mail in my box) and ready to get back to work…