Questions & Answers

As a warm-up to my yearly round-up at the end of the month, here are a series of questions I found on Julie‘s blog, courtesy of Elisabeth. So…

  • Favorite hot beverage? Americano. I love espresso but I need the fluid ounce volume
  • Would you rather be rich or famous? Rich. What if I was famous for being poor? Of course, Mother Theresa just came to mind and I now I feel like a terrible person.
  • Do you have a nickname? Do you “name” your vehicles? I really wanted a nickname in grade school but nothing stuck. Vehicles are usually named after colors that do not correspond to the color they actually are, e.g. Bluey, the bright red Hyundai Accent
  • What is your most-used emoji? A few of the faces: smile with rosy cheeks, heart kiss, melty face, laughing face
  • What celebrity/public figure do people say you most look like? Not to brag, but in Japan, Mark was talking to a bunch of drunk construction workers at the local bar. When I walked up, they started screaming, ANGELINA JOLIE in a very complimentary way. So, you know. *Hair toss*
  • What superpower would you choose for yourself? To speak every language. And, to ward off the twist that an evil genie would use, I would also want to understand every language.
  • Worst haircut? Rather than the specific one, I will leave you a list of contributing elements to my childhood list of bad haircuts: the 80s, haircutting training schools, wanting to get one’s “money worth,” my mother
  • Favourite knock-knock joke? Knock, Knock/Who’s There/Yodel Yay Hee/Yodel Yay Hee Who/Why are you yodeling?
  • Favourite class in school? Biology Least favorite? French
  • Summer or winter? Toughie. But Summer. I think this answer has changed over time (and living in California!). I love the long days
  • Best teacher from grade school; name and why? Mrs. Butkis. She was a great teacher and really believed in her students. She also told a kid who asked if her name was “Butkis or Kiss-butt” that it was the former and he could write it 100 times if he was confused. He sort of shrunk away and I was impressed in the solid win for her!

10th Anniversary Celebration at Singlethread!

SMS and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this year! While it doesn’t feel like a lot of time has passed, it’s amazing to think back on how many events and experiences the last 10 years contain. One of those experiences was a dinner/overnight at Singlethread. It is a total splurge of an experience and we decided that a return visit was a gift to ourselves to mark our special day!

We decided on a two-night stay so we could enjoy the amenities of the inn a little more. There are so many snacks and treats, it’s hard to fit them into a single overnight. We were also excited about two breakfasts. Last time, we were upgraded to the suite (!) but this time, I think Singlethread is more renowned and more fully booked.

We decided against dinner in the restaurant. Although it’s spectacular, SMS and I have realized that big fancy dinners are less our thing than they used to be. While we’ve had some incredible meals/experiences over the years, we’re usually overly full, sleep poorly, and overall feel a little out of sorts the next day. So even though the food is amazing, the huge foodie omekase experience is less tempting than it used to be. Instead, we decided on the upstairs hot pot meal to have a more ryokan-like experience. The meal started with a few special bites, followed by a delicious sashimi course.

The main event was the donabe hot pot! We picked the Chicken Meatball Tan Tan hot pot. It sounded unique and difficult to find elsewhere. We almost picked the Hokkaido Style Seafood Miso, but felt that the broth might be too rich. But that’s a really minor quibble- we were just trying to figure out the best choice for us among four really tempting options! A mother-daughter pair across the study from us had the Hokkaido pot and although we were happy with our order, trying another pot is as good a reason as any to plan on a return trip someday!

While I don’t think Singlethread is going to call me asking me to be their new food photographer, I wanted to show how the donabe arrives. Everything is hot and ready to eat. The greens wilted super quickly once they were stirred in and we started eating right away. It was so tasty! The broth was so savory with deep flavor. All the ingredients were perfect and it just worked really well as a dish. We really enjoyed ourselves. The waiter was actually one of the guest experience directors filling in since they’re a little short-staffed. It was fun to talk to him a little bit about the local area and high-end hospitality industry.

The next day, we had scheduled a tasting at Skipstone. We had tried one of their wines at a restaurant and SMS liked it so much, he wanted to tour the place since were were nearby. It was just the two of us and the guide, who brought us to the vines and told us a little bit about the place. He was pretty cool, but also a little burnt out on the job, I think. Like, totally professional but sometimes weirdly candid about things he thought were “bullshit.” We had a really nice time on a gorgeous day. If you had a special connection to the wine, like having had it at a special occasion, I would totally recommend going. If not, you can probably have a similarly good experience at other wineries if you preferred.

The grounds were really nice. They had chicken and sheep. I took a picture of a new graft, as well as our delicious cheese plate!

Finally, I want to end with one of the things I had been looking forward to the most- breakfast! The first day, SMS and I both ordered the Japanese breakfast. I think. I was looking forward. to this more than the hot pot! There was fish, tamago, pickled veggies, miso, rice, fruit. It was an absolute feast and so delicious. I really miss Japanese breakfasts in hotels. So good. Although I do laugh when I tried to get Dad to try fish at the Miyajima ryokan and he kind of blanched and said that in the morning, “Not my thing.”

The spread was absolutely amazing. Definitely a highlight of our stay.

The next day, we were tempted by another Japanese breakfast, but we decided to branch out. I got the Japanese pancake, SMS got the omelet, and we split some excellent bacon. I’m glad we sampled the menu, even though I was thisclose to not! Either choice would have been a good one, though.

And then, it was time to go. On the way out, we saw the tiny door for tiny budgets. It might be a tight squeeze, especially after the second breakfast. But maybe…

May Wrap-Up: Concerts and More!

Human Disco Balls, aka Lucius!

After a fun Chicago trip, there were still a lot of fun things that happened during May. Although we haven’t been to BottleRock, we took advantage of a local show that was billed as “BottleRock After Dark.” It was our first show at The Guild, a local venue that is really, really nice. They had a COVID reno and the sound system is amazing in a really intimate venue. There is some tie-in with the Grateful Dead and they must have strong ties to the music industry because they punch above their weight class in bringing in amazing artists. SMS and I felt a little silly that we hadn’t yet been but the Lucius show was a great intro.

They were so good! I had heard of them and listened to a few songs in the preceding days but I now have a new top band! They’re great and excellent musicians. The live show was wonderful. They played several tracks off their newest album “Second Nature.” It features really upbeat-sounding songs about really sad source material (relationship falling apart). This might not sound like the catchiest tagline but really, it’s great music and I recommend!

Purchases this month included a tire after a nail embedded in the sidewall which required replacement instead of patching (boo hoo). I also bought the popcorn above as a joke but it ended up being deelicious! CoCo floss, which is excellent and although a dentist recommended Dr Tung’s SmartFloss as a cheaper alternative, it is not equivalent and CoCo’s wins as a slightly fiber-y floss that really gets the job done. It’s a substitute to a J&J floss they discontinued (boo) that we liked. Wait, wait, come back dear reader! I will stop talking about dental floss and onto more exciting things like…

This dress. I was searching for a dress for an upcoming formal event and I am still kicking myself for not getting it. And it was on sale!!!!

Even my work bestie thought it was a great idea!

SMS and I went to Frost Amphitheater and saw James Taylor. It was another fantastic show. Nothing could beat seeing him at Tanglewood in 2001, but it’s not always fair to compare one experience to another. Tanglewood was the concert where I was with great friends in cheap-o lawn seats. During the encore of “Fire and Rain” with Yo-Yo Ma playing in a guest appearance, the skies opened up in a thunderstorm. I am not even kidding. I felt like I was in a movie, like “The Notebook” without a Ryan Gosling in sight.

The internet continues to offer treasures: Truthiest meme of the month
SMS photo of Andytown Coffee on the first day of their Menlo Park outpost opening! Hooray! Snowy Plovers for all!

Reflecting on 2019

Since 2011, I’ve used this list to help reflect back on the year.  I really enjoy looking back while preparing to move forward. So…

1. What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

Successfully completed the Krispy Kreme Challenge!   Guest poster on the blog (SMS)!  Straightened my teeth!  Visited my sister and her family in Japan!  Went to Harry Potter World!  Ate at a restaurant specializing in sardines!  Voted Teacher of the Year!  Promoted to Commander!  Drove cross-country with SMS! SMS and I were YouTube stars (“stars” is used very, very loosely)! Threw a 40th Birthday Party!  I was a Maid of Honor! Went to a State Fair!  Lost a parakeet (sorry to end on a sad note).

2.  Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I was so-so on the resolutions from last year’s list.  I did not do a triathlon, I only made marginal improvements in Spanish, and I was good at wellness habits the first half of the year but not as good after my move.

I do have a lot of resolutions and thoughts about the upcoming year.  I think the combination of 2020, turning 40, and a general feeling that I’m setting up for the second half/stage of my life and career is inspiring these thoughts.  For now, these goals are in my paper planner but maybe they’ll make an appearance in a post. Maybe.  Don’t want to  get too feeling-y on the blog!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.  My good luck continues.

5. What countries did you visit?


US (Cross Country Road Trip documented on YouTube and (slightly) on the blog!)

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

A completed clinical study.  

7. What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

2/2: Krispy Kreme winner (haha, jk, sort of)

8/9-8/12: Tahoe Vacation for SMS’ birthday

9/1: Sister’s wedding celebration!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I was really, really proud to be voted Teacher of the Year by the residents.  It was also nice to finally promote to Commander.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Still no clinical trial and this Fall, three papers I’m on as an author were rejected.  Ugh.  Time for resubmissions!  Always forward!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

From September on, I’ve had a few mild musculoskeletal issues which just reinforces the fact that yoga is good for me and I need to get back into it.  Nothing major though.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Plane tickets! (repeat)

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent/Two Households.  Plane Tickets.  Savings account.

13. What did you get really excited about?

I was/am really happy I finally got back to San Diego.  The Tahoe party for Mark was really awesome.

14. What song will always remind you of 2019?

“ME!” by Taylor Swift.  Although I like other songs better from the album, that song was everywhere this past Summer.  The same goes for “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X.  I also really liked his NBD, “thought I made it obvious” coming out over the Summer.

“Good as Hell” by Lizzo.  I’m not a hipster- I didn’t know about Lizzo prior to everyone and their mother this past year.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Same.  Pretty happy.

– thinner or fatter? Fatter, will be thinner by 40!

– richer or poorer? Richer (continuing to save)

16. What’s one thing you wish you had done more of?


17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Phone-scrolling.  Gossip site reading during the second half of the year- I was so good the first half!

18. How did you spend Christmas?

SMS and I spent Christmas Eve and Day in Newport Beach with his family.  It was mellow and really enjoyable.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

FLEABAG, far and away.  I also liked Killing Eve (Hulu), Bodyguard (Netflix) and Big Little Lies, Season 2 (HBO). I don’t think I love Schitt’s Creek as much as most people do but it is funny.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

Fiction: The Overstory by Richard Powers, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, A Little Life by Hanya Yanahigara

Non-fiction: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

The Highwomen album, Taylor Swift Lover album, Lizzo Cuz I Love You

SMS and I also saw Hamilton in SF and we loved it!  I also liked soundtracks to the Netflix movies I watched (Always Be My Maybe and Someone Great)

I saw some great concerts: Anderson East with Lucy Silvas; Avett Brothers with Lake Street Dive; Lizzo

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

The Favourite. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.  Always Be My Maybe. Someone GreatThe Biggest Little Farm.  These five are also the only movies I watched during the year.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

39. A long California weekend that was wonderful!  SMS is the best planner.  I also had a memorable Korean spa experience that was my own doing/fault.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

It’s been a hard transition between jobs.  Even though I very much wanted to move to San Diego, it was harder than I expected to leave the clinical practice I developed and start from the ground up in a new place.  It’s getting better, but it was definitely a source of mixed feelings and frusteration.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

I am really struggling with the idea of being fashionable in a time where all the worst trends from the 1990s are back in full force- velvet, scrunchies, crop-tops, super-weird and unflattering-on-everyone jean cuts although this time, instead of super low-cut, it’s super high-waisted causing an epidemic of long-butts and poochy bellies.

26. What kept you sane?

SMS and my family!  Definitely not the parakeets.  They are making me talk aloud to myself…wait, wait!  This is not really true.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019

You can tell a lot about a person by his/her reaction to the fact that I ran five miles and ate a dozen donuts in under an hour.

Highlights: August 2019 (Part 3: San Diego and Wedding Prep!)


Look at me, look at me!  Looking like a total idiot!  Ok, ok, many of you will think I look nice and to that, I say “Thank you.”  But look at the photo carefully.  What is wrong?  I certainly didn’t know until someone told me at a very high-level change of command I was attending.  So high level that there were several people who noticed that I, a lowly Commander, was wearing an admiral’s hat!  I had run into the uniform shop with barely any time to spare since the evening before, they had closed an hour earlier than what was listed online.  Since I have a bowling ball for a head, there are very few covers stocked in my size.  I found one, saw that it had gold braid on it, and bought it, thinking it was the hat for O-5 and above.  I forgot that O-7+ hats have extra gold braid and, there you have it, that’s the explanation for my uniform faux pas.

The thing that sucks about having something wrong with your uniform at a big event is that there is nothing you can do about it.  Did a ribbon fall off?  That’s too bad.  Mix up your mini and normal sized medals?  You’re an idiot.  Wear an admiral’s hat when you’re not an admiral?  Oh, how people will talk!  So, someone will come up and “nicely” point out that you look like a total moron and then you have to say, “Oh, thank you!  I do look like a total moron!”  Alas, there is no concession stand-like uniform shop that will allow you to remedy the mistake.  Really, you should just find someone wearing a sword and commit seppuku.  That’s about the only acceptable response.

Well, really, I did actually think about leaving but then I was like, “You know what?  Ef it.”  And the funny thing was almost no one noticed.  Almost no one.  I was talking to an acquaintance at an evening afterparty and she laughed so hard when I told her the story but then she said thank you because she apparently started talking to an important nurse attendee after the important nurse said, “Did you see that person wearing the totally wrong cover?”

Anyway, moving on.  Look at this little slice of paradise I stayed at in August!  It’s my in-laws’ house!  They were so nice and let me stay for the first few weeks while I was in town.  The birds stayed at Our Feathered Friends, a bird-boarding hotel (seriously).  I was traveling a lot in August and didn’t want to worry about the messy birds while a guest at someone’s house.


And my in-laws have delightful neighbors.  So, now I have neighborhood friends who will play with me!


I saw the Avett Brothers in August.  It was a great show.  I saw them the year prior in Portsmouth and I highly recommend seeing them.  They have huge energy live.


Mid-month, I went back to Silicon Valley where SMS and I randomly went by a Leaf test-drive event.  We got free cups and played with the charger.

Will charge you with electricity and/or coffee!

My favorite water tower in Palo Alto!

The last weekend in August was a very special one because I was off to Minnesota for my sister’s wedding!  She and Ricardo have been married legally for over a year (or two?) but this was the actual party.  I was so excited because I was the Maid of Honor!  Yes!

Celebrating with an Aperol Spritz in the Centurian Lounge, yay!


And look who I got to see?!  This little treasure!  He’s so big and handsome…it’s amazing how much a baby grows in a few short months!

Yes, my little nephew is a cutie AND I got to see my other two cutie nephews too!  It was a great family weekend.  A little less cute are a few of the grown-ups I hung out while we were eating fried food as part of a State Fair scavenger hunt.  I myself enjoyed some cheese curds, which were not photo-documented.

The two loons above are eating veggies.  Fried veggies.  That’s about as healthy as it gets at the Minnesota State Fair!

We went to the lamb and sheep station.  I pet a ewe, with trepidation.


The above cow is a cruel joke since SMS really wants to milk a cow at some point.  Cow-milking, though, was after-hours.  Boo!


If you’re feeling hefty after eating fried food and famous chocolate chip cookies, just take a picture in front of the largest boar, 1000+ pounds!


And, finally, after all the running around with the scavenger hunt and trying to shepherd ever-wandering family members, I got a beer.  Why, oh why, do I always pick out the gross flavors.  I really wanted a drink and this was borderline undrinkable. This was a dark stout with a sad piece of bacon.  Blergh.

Best Books of 2015: My picks

2015 was a pretty good year for books.  My total number came in at 33, which isn’t terrible but I thought I had read more.  I guess that’s the surgeon in me- always inflating my numbers!  I’ve included the full list below, which is roughly in sequential order of my reading.  I searched my Kindle list since I download most of my books from the e-library.  I prefer actual books but the portability, ubiquity and weight of my iPhone/Kindle app make the e-versions my everyday go-to.

Picking favorites is always hard for me. I’m much more of a fiction-reader, but I tried to expand my horizons a bit this year.  For 2016, there is a lot heavier emphasis on non-fiction thanks to a few recommendation lists I came across during some of my end-of-the-year research/reflection (post coming soon!).

This year, I have four fiction recommendations:

1. The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
     This excellent book follows a former Australian POW captured by the Japanese and sent work on the Great Burma Railroad.  It switches among several different times as it looks backwards on Dr. Dorrigo Evans life.  The unexpected inter-relationships among the characters and the plot structure to a horrible climactic event in the work camp are masterfully executed, even if parts of the story itself are horror-inducing.
2. The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
  I love David Mitchell.  I have read almost all of his books and even though I’m not a super-fan enough to recognize all the cameos different characters play in his novels, his attention to detail and clear vision of his body of work as a magnum opus is very impressive.  I really liked the story even though it was a little more fantasy genre-like than I usually read.  
3. The Invisible Bridge Julie Orringer
  There was a lot of WWII reading this year.  I also tried reading The Nightingale after The Invisible Bridge but I thought the books were too similar, head injury to the main character and all.  The Invisible Bridge follows three Hungarian Jewish brothers in the years leading up to and including WWII.  It was a stark reminder, in fictional form, that history is made up of the seemingly mundane everyday events that can only be seen as a cohesive, comprehensible narrative in retrospect.   
4. Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
  This was a much-buzzed about book early in the year and an enjoyable, well-written read.  Nothing too profound but at the same time, not trashy chick-lit literature either.

I have three non-fiction recommendations:

1. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette Hampton Sides
  This book was amazing.  It’s a great story and the story-telling is superb.  What kept crossing my mind as I read it was, “How is this book even possible?” meaning, how did the first-person documentation in the form of crew logs survive when almost certainly, not everyone would live after this misadventure?  To find out how, read the book!  I won’t spoil it for you and this is a definite must-read!
2. On Immunity Eula Biss
  Some interesting insights into the thought processes of choosing to vaccinate children.  To me, it’s a no-brainer but there are interesting examinations of the domestication and false benign-ness of all things “natural” vs. the complexity of the modern world and science.  In addition, there is an interesting reflection on how the world of complementary medicine has very reassuring, straight-forward language (cleanse, natural, detoxify) while the language of modern medicine is more nuanced and less reassuring (complications, side effects).
3. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Susannah Cahalan
  Thank you sister for my Christmas gift.  This is an easy read and very interesting from both a medical mystery perspective (paging Dr. House) and the fact that our brains are so complex and, at times, terrifyingly fragile to seemingly little insults.

The books can be roughly grouped.  First, to counter-act the high-mindedness of the recs above, I definitely read some beach worthy, chick lit reads.  This is the year I discovered Liane Moriarty and I’m not ashamed!  The best is Big Little Lies.  There are some heavy themes addressed but overall, it’s a really nice read that passes along quickly.  I also read Kevin Kwan’s two books, which were a fascinating, fictional insider’s view to the world of Eastern Asia’s super-super-rich.  Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series was a fun fiction-within-fiction read and also worth reading, especially if you have a background in reading a lot of classics (hello high school reading lists!).

I also read a few comedians’ books, which I really liked despite not having any in my top recommendations.  BJ Novak’s short stories were great and very heavy on the irony.  Is it irony if it’s completely in your face?  I thought there should be an element of subtlety but sometimes, it hits across the face like a baseball bat.

I also read a few memoirs this year, which were all very well done.  I liked Dr. Marsh’s reflections on medical complications but I wish there was more reflection on how to transition from committing the complication to living with it.  In fairness, he did liken it to an open wound healing to a permanent scar but how does one actually live through and process that transition?  It’s something I’m grappling with in my own medical career and any guidance is always appreciated.

Ok, I’m going to wind down with the complete list because this post is getting ridiculously long.  In short, there are no real turkeys on the list below.  [ETA:  The previous statement is a lie!  I would not recommend Pretty Girls!]  I hope 2016 brings you some fun, worthwhile reading in the days ahead!

The complete list
Yes Please Amy Poehler
All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austin
Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty
The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty
Three Wishes Leane Moriarty
Redeployment Phil Klay
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories BJ Novak
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette Hampton Sides
Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan
The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Book 1) Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel
The Martian Andy Weir
The Invisible Bridge Julie Orringer
China Rich Girlfriend Kevin Kwan
The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels Jasper Fforde
The Heart and the Fist: The education of a humanitarian Eric Greitens
Something Rotten Jasper Fforde
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
Food: A Love Story Jim Gaffigan
The Knockoff Lucy Sykes
The Glass Castle: A Memoir Jeannette Walls
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Eric Larson
Pretty Girls Karin Slaughter
Shotgun Lovesongs Nickolas Butler

Do No Harm Henry Marsh
Art of Fielding Chad Harbach
On Immunity Eula Biss
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Susannah Cahalan
The Rosie Effect Graeme Simsion

The internet has lost its mind…

From’s sale

There are a lot of terrible and/or insane things in our world today.  These shorts are not the weightiest or most important of things but who, on this good earth, would buy these shorts from anywhere other than a clearance rack in a local thrift store?  $236.98, amazing.  Maybe that’s the number of pennies in the pockets of these sad, weighed down shorts.  The elastic waist, the shapeless hips, the length, the FRAYS!!!!!