The Heart Goes Last (2015) – Margaret Atwood

heart goes last

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last

by Margaret Atwood

After a major economic collapse Charmaine and Stan are living in their car and trying to make ends meet. They are living in a lawless society constantly on edge. They find an opportunity to live within a crime-less utopia. The catch is that this utopia is a social experiment. They live one month in a regular community doing regular jobs and then the next month they alternate with another couple and live in a prison. They have made both circumstances as posh and attractive as possible to attract folks to sign up. Each individual has one month in the town called Consilience and one month in prison a called Positron doing a separate job. Stan and Charmaine are so happy to be rid of their past lives. They immediately sign up to this experiment where everything is monitored and you can’t get out.
Continue reading

President Donald Trump

flag

Dear Donald Trump,

As I quoted in my blog back in July after the Dallas Shooting you said, “Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they’ve lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better. This isn’t the American Dream we all want for our children.”

Please don’t let us down.

Sincerely,

Your fellow Americans

Please be sincere in Making America Great Again – especially for our children and our future.

I agree with Mr. Colbert here.

Stanford: My experience Part 1

Sunset Across Campus Drive West at Stanford

Sunset Across Campus Drive West at Stanford

If I tell you that I went to Stanford, I inevitably get the same question – “What was it like?” At times it feels so long ago, thus I’ve decided to write some thoughts down. Sorry if this post gets a bit long.

Honestly, what is Stanford like? That’s one of the hardest questions to answer, because the Stanford experience was so many things. Stanford isn’t just preparing yourself for your adult life, it’s also about being young. For me it was my first time away from home, mostly on my own. I spent 5 years at Stanford. I finished my both my bachelor and master degree in those 5 years. Many people find that their time in university to be one of their most formative years, the most intense years, the most memorable years. I also have tons of stories I could tell about my Stanford experience. However, lets begin with some generalizations.

Going to a school like Stanford with successful driven people, you begin to understand that everyone has their own experience with Stanford, none of which reflects the value of your experience. It’s very easy to get caught up with comparisons in a such competitive environment, but at the same time that competition is in itself also valuable. It pushes you and at forces you to confront your inadequacies. If you use it correctly it forges a hardiness in dealing with life in general. You learn breaking points, how it is useless to put on a fake image of success when you’re struggling to keep afloat, and most importantly how you can rely on yourself and others.

This school is very much a central communal bubble. The well-known “Stanford bubble” definitely exists. Part of it is physical. Stanford is the second largest campus land area wise in the world and largest in the US. Sure, there are tons of off campus getaways, but the majority of action occurs on campus. There are large dorms, but also row or small group houses, and apartments. The row houses are typically themed houses (language or academic themes) co-ops, self-ops, or Greek houses. Undergraduates are guaranteed four years of housing. A majority take advantage of that fact. Unlike colleges in big urban cities, nightlife occurs on campus a great deal more.

Part of this bubble is the assumed prestige. Outsiders treat Stanford students a bit different. Whether this is real or perceived, being in any prestigious community carries weight. This affects both those in and those out of the group (As a medical student, I’m seeing this in a whole new light). Having a Stanford email address allows you privileges. You can contact a Nobel Prize winner to answer a quick question and stretch your wings toward countless opportunity. In essence the alumni experience in combination with the time you spend at Stanford in combination is that much more powerful. Many people like me move onto further education and continue various academic pursuits or professional careers. Having that connection to a fantastic network is priceless. Yet at the same time makes me wonder about equal opportunity.

Another part of the insularity also stems from the psychological perceptions of academic pressures, extracurriculars, daily activities, and all the other stressors of life. This personal bubble exists within the larger bubble that everyone at Stanford sees.

Despite being unified by the insularity I mentioned above, the campus is also very much a microcosm of the greatest variety of societal in-groups. In probably no other place will you have such close connections with people outside of your “normal” life sphere. As a graduate from Stanford, I learned about the extreme value of diversity and why having interactions outside your comfort zone means so much for personal growth. It’s something best experienced firsthand.

I’ve spoken a bit about a few cultural aspects from my personal perspective. I’m sure people are curious about other things. The academics, daily student life etc. This may be of most use to high school students and parents, but I’m going to try to share personal impressions and experiences rather than “pamphlet-y” as possible in part 2 of my Stanford experience.

 

Writing A Blog

With the slow down in blog posts, I decided to crystallize some thoughts on writing a blog. The main thing I’ve learned is that writing itself should be the main focus. Specifically, the important parts are the content of the writing and the process of writing. It’s an endless loop of writing, sharing, more writing. There’s occasional reader feedback and rethinking and regret when I look back at some of the things. I created this blog because it fit my personality. And in the end, it’s a hobby that challenges – one that allows me to better myself in the broadest sense possible.

Behind the times?

For many, the era of the personal site is over. In 2016, a personal site is more a landing page where someone places a short bio and links to other social media (Facebook, twitter, snapchat etc). Either that, or the website acts as an organizational or business front. Am I behind the times with wanting to create a personal blog? It seems that personal online presence has been trending to much shorter timelines via Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.

It is much easier to share my thoughts and interests with these newer platforms. It’s also easier to have a discussion or continue a conversation on those platforms because they are more synchronous. At the same time, this often means they are more fleeting and posts from a month ago often don’t make sense without any context.

Why I do it

Nonetheless many personal websites still exist and many are created everyday. Yet, how many of those sites last? In the realm of personal websites in 2016, things are geared towards a very focused audience. I visit many of them frequently. However, I rarely visit a good personal blog that covers the gamut of an entire person. But when I do I feel a positive connection. These rare gems are blogs where you can tell the person has clear thoughts and can express strong opinions or educate me on a unique aspect of life. It’s a goal to reach that apex in writing, but also its a personal memoir as I’ve mentioned in the past.

In a personal blog:

  • I can more creatively tell my own story
  • I can record and share my own thoughts in more depth
  • I care more about having control over my public content
  • Plus its fun to design, develop and maintain this site
  • I care less about connecting with other people via other social media platforms

Conclusion

So yes, I will continue to share things here. This site will continue to evolve, but mainly I don’t want it to die. I vow to continue writing a blog.

 

US Citizenship

US Citizenship

statue of liberty

I’m reminded of it by many current events. The recent 15 year anniversary of 9/11. The current 2016 election less than 2 months away. The Colin Kaepernick/NFL players protest during the national anthem. The recent presidential debate and the many other news stories that continue to inundate us everyday.

For a large majority of us we are born as citizens of the US. We don’t have to go through any active process to get citizenship. It is a right bestowed upon us by our birth in this country. However, it’s not a right we extend to everyone in our communities. True, those of us born in the US learn about what it means to be a citizen as part of our education. We learn about history and politics in the first few years of school. In fact education in-grains certain elements of citizenship. We say the Pledge of Allegiance, we learn about voting and civic engagement. Moreover, we take trips to national monuments, the capital or other institutions that represent aspects of our local government.

Let’s look at what outsiders immigrating here have to know to become a citizen. Is that a better barometer of what a US citizen is?

I would argue not. You are taught a cursory number of facts which have been deemed important. Then you need to use those facts to pass a test that reminds me of the one needed to get a driver’s license. Can you identify the statue of liberty, the length of a senate term, who the speaker of the House is, or the president during WWI? Do you know the word “capital”, “stripes”, “border” or “east”? ie Why are there 13 stripes on the US flag? Name a state that borders Canada. What ocean is on the East coast of the United States? These are real questions that real immigrants study to attain US citizenship. I know because I encountered a person doing this precise studying. That’s what motivated me to write this post.

Personal Meaning

So what does US citizenship mean? First let’s tackle what it means to me. To me it means being a part of a community. I’m obligated to interact with and contribute to this community. It’s one where everyone deserves our respect, and one in which we share many core values. One of those values is that everyone has value. Sometimes it takes more to discern what that value may be. However we should care enough to try to find that value

In the current climate, and with our country still in a state of constant agita, I find it meaningful to reflect on this. We are very worked up about race relations, about economic uncertainty, about both real and perceived infringements on freedom, about all the social injustice in our imperfect world.

That said, what do we do about it all? For me I’m reflecting on what it personally means to be a citizen of the USA. Why is this important?

It’s important to construct a well thought out personal world-view. For it is collective word-views of a group of individuals that shape a community. That’s where I think we start. My last point is that the diversity of world-views is where we get in trouble. The way we respond to that diversity of opinions is what ultimately decides if the foundation of our community is robust and capable or not.

The Hedonic Treadmill: A Loophole

The Hedonic Treadmill

I came across an article recently that made me pause. Exceptions to well found rules or theories are interesting to explore. In this article the author explores a loophole to the hedonic treadmill theory, the lasting level of satisfaction and well-being that accompany plastic surgery. Continue reading

Hiking Alone

29110529586_2776cfe3e2_b

During my sister’s wedding weekend I took a very lonesome ~ 2 hour hike and promised to share more about it here. This hike was the loop at Pine Valley Park that connects to trails at Pike National Forest. Halfway up a hill and halfway down. I had already done the loop around the lake at Pine Valley Park. We had been one of the first folks to arrive at the park for the picnic (see prior post). I had been to other Jeffco Open Spaces and was excited to see what this particular park held. Part of the South Platte River ran through Pine Valley Park and the lake were definitely scenic. However, I love the challenge of going up to reach a summit especially on winding trails where you see lesser touched parts of nature. Thus, the decision to embark on this longer hike. It’s always a thrill to be at any peak looking out at the world spread out in front of you.

Continue reading

My Little Sister’s Wedding

Congratulations Mark and Thienbao!

It’s been planned for a long time, and now we’ve finally here. My sister’s married and I have a new brother. Congratulations and best wishes to Thienbao and Mark!

This was meant to be a quick post and has ended up being quite long. It’s all from my own perspective of the wedding. I wanted to immediately put thoughts down so I don’t forget something I may want to say now. Also for posterity sake so I don’t forget things when I look back at this time in the future. But most importantly to share all my love for Mark and Thienbao. Hopefully you get something out of this too. I know the day must have gone by in a blur for you guys.

Continue reading

Website Relaunch

If you’ve been here recently, you’ve noticed a lot of changes to the look of this blog. I’ve been doing some website maintenance. Here’s the official welcome to the relaunch. No more testing and tinkering from me. I’ve chosen a look for this website and will stick with it. Please keep me honest to that. Yes, it must have been disorienting for some. Many probably never noticed. In any case, anyone reading this blog can now focus on my content rather than any website design issues for the foreseeable future.

This website’s theme/design is clean with plenty of white space. Also, it loads quick enough (though sometimes I wish it was faster). Lastly, it has the functionality I feel I want for this blog. That’s enough for me. I may make minor tweaks here and there. However, the feel will stay consistent. Maybe, I’ll write more in depth on the process in a future post.

Deep Down Dark (2014) – Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Story of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

by Hector Tobar

This is a vivid and immediate account of the mining disaster that occured in Chile in 2010. A group of 33 men were trapped underground for 69 days (17 of which was spent inching towards death before they were eventually found). Tobar was seemingly an unseeing eye watching and recording the whole ordeal unfold. It’s very evident that Tobar has done his research to recreate a seemingly minute by minute account. The account of the mining diaster as experience by both the miners and those above ground is very intimate. I found myself immersed in this world. Throughout the book Tobar will expertly set a scene and will insert a memory from one or two of those involved recollecting that specific moment.

This story is very much a cultural account laced with a historical vibe that speaks to the very nature of the region and specific landscape. I enjoyed these tidbits immensely. However, the universal aspects of the story also truly resonate.
Continue reading