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9th May 2009

what i’ve been up to

A visit to Chicago and meeting my favorite musician, Vienna Teng.

From Vienna Teng

Back to the Grand Geneva resort, this time with my internal medicine peeps. I’m going to miss these people.

From Medicine retreat – 2009

A murder mystery party. There is a serious lack of pencil-thin mustaches these days.

From Great Uncle Seymour’s Birthday Party

I’ve taken over 2000 pictures with my camera since I got in December. To say that I love it is an understatement. If I die, I may end up bequeathing all of my earthly belongings to it. My friend, Vaishali’s husband brought his D300 to the medicine retreat, which is such a massive camera compared to mine (it weighed a ton. I’d never be able to keep it steady) and, it took beautiful pictures, but I think mine does a good job too and will be even better once I get more practice and become a better photographer. He lent me his 50mm f1/8 lens for the evening though, and oh, that is heavenly. It is going to be my next (and likely last as I can’t really see needing anything else) lens, I’m just saving my pennies. My next project is learning how to create high dynamic range landscapes; I took some photos during that rainstorm a couple of weeks ago, when my basement was flooding again and if I had known that HDR existed then, the pictures would have been phenomenal, instead of just pretty.

From Wisconsin spring

posted in All About Me, Friends, Milwaukee, Photography, Social Life, Those Rare Days Off | 6 Comments

26th November 2008

let me sing the praises

I love YouTube. Love it. How did the world survive without it? Thanks to YT, I can waste my days watching music videos of coordinated treadmills, watch clips of the Beaker performing Ode to Joy or singing Carmen, learn about cardiac arrthymias by watching a mad german doctor dance them out, or revive my infatuation with Everwood (there’s really a lack of clips even on YT, but good news: there’s a rumor of release of more DVDs next year!).

But the best part is finding all of the old movies that I loved as a kid online. Some of them: bad. The Boy Who Could Fly? Wow, sorry mom for the hours that you had to endure of that movie. (Although it made me realize how clueless of a kid I was. Never even knew that there was a scene of *horrors* underaged drinking.) Some of them: awesome. Toby Tyler (which has since been sadly taken down) and A Little Princess are still fabulous.

Tonight, I’m settling down to watch The One and Only Genuine, Original Family Band. I don’t know when the last time it was that I saw it, but I have had some of the songs in my head during the election season (It’s time for a man! And he is the man for the time!). And I just found The Witching of Ben Wagner there as well! I can’t wait.

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16th November 2008

:)

I could have just made an empty post with this icon and it would have summed up my day. 🙂

I took off after early morning church to Madison and spent the day with Chris and his friends. We hung out at his new apartment (which so reminds me of Suz’s apartment that she shared with her sister in SLC), fixing his water faucets that, of course, sprayed rusty water across the room, ate bagels for lunch, wandered around a little bit downtown (it’s definitely starting to get chilly!), went to the movies (Quantum of Solace), ate fried cheese curds (it’s a really good thing that I didn’t know that those existed before) and played trivial pursuit while eating dinner. My friends started falling asleep around 9 (they tend to wake up at atrocious hours like 4:30 to get to work), when I graciously took my leave then.

I don’t get to see Chris much these days. Granted, it’s much more frequently than if he had done residency anywhere else (I haven’t seen any of my classmates since graduation), but considering that we only live an hour and change away from each other and we practically spent every day together for 2 years, it’s pretty paltry. I love how we can get together and nothing has changed. I think I also get the benefit of really seeing him become a surgeon; every time I see him he is more assured and comfortable in his role. He’s planning on applying to this research program that exactly fits his plans for life and I’m so stinkin’ proud of him that I almost don’t mind that it’d be 2 years completely across the country, starting this summer. Oi.

I love his friends. His co-surgery resident (Aaron) is an absolute hoot and in many ways a mirror image of Chris; its not hard to see why they get along. His girlfriend (Gretchen) is someone that I heartily approve of and I’ve almost forgiven him for not telling me that they were dating. She’s smart, athletic, funny, and sensible (a trait that I found somewhat … lacking in his other girlfriends). Plus, she belts out musicals in the middle of a restaurant too–definitely a kindred spirit. I hope she’s around for a long time.

Man, it’s really hard going back after weekends like this.

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3rd October 2008

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14th September 2008

i love weekends

I have had a fabulous weekend. It’s been so refreshing and relaxing that it almost feels like I had the entire weekend off, instead of just Saturday.

Friday, I came home post call and packed for the “girls only” camping trip. It was one of my friend’s 30th birthday, so to celebrate, we decided to go camping. Yay! I’ve been wanting to go camping all summer long but have been thwarted over and over again by forgetting tents, threatening rain and long work hours. The weather didn’t look promising, but I was naive enough to believe the forecast of “20% chance” of rain. It started raining before we were even on our way. There went those plans. Instead, we went to my friend’s mother’s house, and sat under her car port, grilling our tin-foil dinners (seriously, tin foil asparagus is the most incredible food ever), and basking in the glow of the fire pit (I’m more determined than ever to get one). Afterwards, we all came back to my house and had a sleep over; my upstairs room almost looks like an oversized tent and everybody fit perfectly. We stayed up late talking (well, they did. I crashed early. 2 hours of sleep in 40 hours does not a coherent Julia make) and in the morning consumed pancakes (cooking tip: the addition of vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon makes a fantastic pancake). I haven’t had so much fun in a really long time.

After they all left, I decided to take advantage of my one day off and went over to Home Depot to research more about garage doors. The contractor was busy with another customer, and I got impatient waiting, so just as I was about to decide to leave and just order the darn thing online, one of the other sales associates stopped me. He listened to my rambling complaints of what was wrong with my door and felt that the door and opener were not the problem, that likely I needed some lubrication and new wheels as they get worn out.

I attempted to install the wheels yesterday and I think I’ve figured out the whole problem. It’s doesn’t even seem to be worn out wheels. The tracks were entirely caked in about 6 layers of grease and grim and the bottom part has rusted and the wheels were in a similar state (I don’t think those wheels have made actually contact with the tract in years, hence, there is barely a sign of wear on them, once you remove some of the grime).

I spent all day yesterday getting as much off as I could with a combination of paper towels, knife, fingernails (they could angle the best. I chopped them all off afterwards), and finally, dish soap (didn’t work so well). There’s still at least one multiple layers, but it’s already running just a little bit smoother. I just need to find a really good grease solvent to cut through the rest of it (any ideas???), and then lub it up good with some WD-40, and I think I’m set! YAY! You have no idea how much of a relief this is, this possibility that I might not have to replace my garage door. Of course, I still might have to actually replace the tracks if the rust at the bottom is worse than my original glance-over, but my bishop’s wife has recommended an independent contractor who is reasonable, so I might be able to get that done for a quarter of what I originally predicted. SWEET.

Afterwards, I cleaned up and went over to my neurology program director’s home for dinner which was nice. Everybody brought their kids, there was more food than imaginable (we have a rather large mix of vegetarians, meat consumers, Muslims observing Ramadan, etc). And then after that, I went to my friend Laura’s birthday party. She decided that she wanted to do a sing-a-long party, so we all got together and sang “The Music Man.” Yep, you read that right. We are such nerds. I haven’t seen it since high school at least; I remember most of the lyrics.

This morning, I rounded on all of our patients. We’ve cut the number patients down a lot, which made for easy rounds so I actually was able to make it to church for the first time in three weeks. And then I came home, ready to make potato soup for our on-call pot luck tomorrow, but I’m missing several ingredients, so instead I’m heading to the grocery store bright and early, chopping the vegetables and bringing it all to work so that it can cook in the crockpot all afternoon. Yummy.

And, I’ve figured out most of the problems with my from-scratch blog. It should be up and running in a couple more days. I’m so excited for its unveiling.

This week will be busy. I’m on call tomorrow and Friday. Saturday, I’ve invited my entire church over for a party. *boggles* Not sure exactly what possessed me to agree to host a party when I’m post call and sleep-deprived but there it is. It’s going to be fun, with a firepit in the backyard with camping chairs around and white Christmas lights on the fence, music in the front room, games and instruments downstairs, more games upstairs and tons of food. Luckily, I have the day off on Thursday to clean and all of my friends are coming over Friday when I’m at work to set up, so I don’t have to do that; hopefully, all I’ll have to do on Saturday is nap, take a shower and put on clean clothes and greet the guests.

Okay, I’m off to bed. Gotta get those veggies in the morning. 🙂

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7th August 2008

cooking adventures

(Notice the date… written last week and accidentally posted now.)

Chicken spagetti made with spinach and yogurt is an interesting combination. Not bad, really, but it took a couple of bites.

This started out as an attempt to make chicken tikka masala. But I’m missing ingredients for this new recipe I found (there is an appalling lack of ginger in my house), and I couldn’t let the chicken go to waste and I’m rather infatuated with cooking with yogurt recently (I think I perfected my salmon recipe), so… the above was the result.

I’m not sure that I’ll be repeating it soon.

So, my mother noted that I haven’t been updating my LJ and called in a panic on Sunday to make sure that I was alive. To alleviate those other worries about my safe-being, yes, I’m alive. I’m just bored and have little to talk about. Okay, I do have things to say: I’ve got a post brewing about the Vienna Teng concert that I went to on Tuesday which may have even been better than her first concert two years ago (her music makes me want to write in purple prose. I love it!). I’m still not a clinic person and I’m really glad that I didn’t go into orthopedic surgery (sample of the conversation today: “Is [he/she] on pills? [He/She] sounds like someone who would be on pills” – referring to antidepressant medications. And this gem to a young, but overweight patient coming in for referral “So, is this you? I mean, when we do the operation is this what I have to deal with?” UGH. Please note that this is not an attack or rant against orthopedics or surgeons in general. My favorite, most inspiring doctor in the entire world is an orthopedic doc. Because of my bone disease, I have to see them periodically as a patient, and the number of muscles and ligaments that they have to know thwarted me in med school and hasn’t gotten much better. That said, this particular orthopod was a jerk.)

My new blog s almost, almost ready for its unveiling. I’m trying to figure out the heading, and once that’s done, I need to transfer all of LJ entries over (which I keep putting off in the hopes that somebody will figure out how to import moods and current music fields. Tags would be nice too), and then it’ll be ready. I think. I can’t tell you how much effort this has been. I started working on it back in March, messed something up, deleted it, started again in May, deleted, repeated about 3 times in June and finally got the current version partially running in July… just in time for the upgrade of wordpress to 2.6. *sigh* I’ve devoted much of my spare time over the last two weeks to figuring it out. Most of my problems have been related to the fact that I know next to little about webdesign… the little I taught myself for my little website was all HTML (and sloppy HTML at that) and that has been long since forgotten. WordPress does make it easier in that most everything is run through plugins, but if something goes wrong (and it always does), then I had to dig through the code to figure out what was up. The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to expand out the default size of the comments once they’ve been posted and how to get the UserPhoto working so that it actually shows up inside the comments, rather than haphazardly across the page as it currently is wont to do. I’ve given up on that for the moment (unless of course some computer programming brainiac out there might know the answer!) and have accepted that my blog won’t look quite the way that I want it to. At least at this point.

But, Julia, why the switch, I hear some of your asking (I’m psychic, did I tell you?). There’s a variety of reasons (I like lists):

– One, I’ve got a lot of friends and family who read this journal and don’t have a LJ themselves, and I don’t think any of them enjoy replying as an “anonymous.”

– Two, I have been rather disgruntled by the change in management styles and the addition of advertisement across all of the pages, and while I completely and totally understand that this is a for-profit business and they can do whatever they want, that doesn’t mean that I have to support it with my money.

– Three, I’ve been paying for my own web domain for over 4 years now. I probably won’t ever finish my LOTR Inklings project, but the thought of giving it up breaks my heart. So this is a little bit of a compromise and allows me some relief of the guilt of money wasted.

– Four, WordPress has some nifty, nifty functions, like a picture gallery plugin that’s even prettier than Flickr and customizable sidebar widgets.

– Five, I don’t know if you all are aware, but there’s been some backlash and criticism to physician blogging, thanks to a couple of articles in the LA Times, the NY times, and JAMA. I’m such a lurker and rarely update my other medical blog, so I’m not showing up on anybody’s radar, but I like the idea of being able to more closely control who is seeing what I write. And while LJ has this great feature of being able to friendslock an entry, that doesn’t change problem #1. WP allows me to register readers.

– Six. I can’t recall what the sixth reason is. It probably doesn’t matter.

I’m not leaving LJ, no worries. All of my entries will be cross-posted to both, the entries here will just be much more censored and locked down. And I’ll still be active in reading my friends’ LJ, although comments are still expected to be sparse.

The problem with wordpress is that it is a blog. LJ is great because it’s a journal, my journal. I can write down everything, regardless if it has a purpose. But a blog conveys that posts have themes and reasons, and I’m not sure that I like that. I’ve tried writing a couple of pure medical blogs and failed miserably. We’ll see.

I might go camping tomorrow. Yay! That is, if I manage not to get called in for back-up call and I get out of clinic on time.

And I don’t want to go to clinic in the morning.

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8th October 2007

Random things

I decided to make a list. I don’t know why.

– Crush news (which right now, is ever so much more interesting than patients and their neuroanatomy): He has a freckle on his right ear lobe, and a faint, thin scar down his right middle finger. His hair curls across his forehead (it’s such a good thing that these many many years have trained restraint!) and he’s had his beard for as long as he’s been a resident here (as evidenced by his name badge) which manages to hide a very small dimple and I can’t find adjectives to describe his blue eyes. And he has really bad breath post call. Oh, and he owes me big time for doing his discharge summary for him. Am I wonderful or what?

– I had a wonderful weekend. Saturday night, when I woke up from the post call coma, I went to the symphony with one of the neurosurgery residents. Mahler. My dad used to love Mahler, but until Sat. night, I never understood why. I’m now addicted. Absolutely lovely.

– Sunday I went to watch conference at my bishop’s house, which is always a spiritually uplifting time. Pres. Hinckley is still looking amazing for his 95+ years. One of the guys there hugged me and reminded me that it was exactly one year since we had met. I had forgotten. I thought that was sweet.

– It was the first day off that Chris and I have had off together in 2 months, so I drove up to Madison and spent the afternoon and evening with him, fixing his bike, eating Vietnamese food, and digging through all of his music collection. I came home with 300+ new songs and all of his pictures from Ireland and Scotland. Scotland was incredibly gorgeous from his pics… I guess I’d better add that back to the list of Must-Go places.

– Chris broke up with his girlfriend. And didn’t tell me until I pressed. Okay, I think I overlooked a big dropped hint earlier in the evening, when we were putting together pictures for a framed collage, but still. *sigh* Anyway, we had a great talk sitting on a park bench overlooking the lake. I told him about the many dating woes of the past two months. He thinks I’m missing clues (I think that no reciprocation and avoidance of conversation afterwards speaks volumes). He’s thinking about taking up Match.com dating, which I can’t wait to see how that goes. 🙂

– I’m still really bad at music guessing games. Apparently I need to listen to more Phish and Eagle Eyed Cherry(ies?).

-He beat me on the word games as well. The Word of the Day emails are not helping.

-I’m not on call again until Saturday. !!!

The Seeker has gotten terrible reviews and didn’t do so well at the box office. Maybe that will stop any sequels.

-Still can’t figure out exactly what you do on Facebook, but at least it lacks the ads and spam of Myspace. Am trying to collect friends like mad over there. Perhaps I will make a trophy wall with all of my friends. I guess I need to add more photos, or so a little bird told me.

-I’m reading New Moon right now, as I finished Twilight a few weeks ago on call (man, I miss the ICU call). Liked Twilight, although spent a majority of the book irritated at the heroine and her love interest. I’m really looking forward to reading this, after mulling over valancy_s‘s recent posts about why we go for vampires.

-Congrats to Michelle and Kelly! Maybe, hopefully, I’ll be able to see this little one before he/she’s 40 (are you going home for Christmas?)

-I love Matchbox Twenty. This new album is just gorgeous as always.

You all are watching Friday Night Lights, right? You’d better be. Best show on TV right now. I’m watching it online, so what’s your excuse?

-Clinic tomorrow. Only 3 patients. Maybe I’ll actually finish on time (and possibly get my notes done, that would be amazing).

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3rd September 2007

itunes love

My iTunes is in a sappy mood. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Phantom of the Opera, Vienna Teng, Eva Cassidy, Josh Groban all have rotated on in the last hour. Hmm. I don’t know what it’s trying to tell me.

All I know is that I’ve been reading about some of the discussion in reducing resident work hours from 80 hours to 72, and limiting it to 24 hours straight, rather than 30. Half the posts are about how all it does is train physicians to be sloppy and less dedicated and less educated. And that’s enough to make me cry. There’s a nice post here about Labor Day and resident physicians. England is going to a 48 hour week for its residents. 48 hours. I can’t even imagine.

More blogs:
http://fatdoctor.org/2007/09/03/doctors-labor-day/
http://www.hourswatch.org/
http://pandabearmd.com/blog/2007/08/23/in-which-your-uncle-panda-rips-off-the-lid-rolls-it-in-a-tube-and-places-it-politely-where-the-sun-doesnt-shine/

My program is quite good about getting us out within the 30 hours. I usually am out in 29 hours. And I usually only feel exhausted and overworked when I’m on call and unable to claim more than 15 minutes of sleep with my head on the table. Those are the hard nights and it depends on the rotation of how frequent they are. My last two calls have been unbelievably sweet. No new admissions. I went to bed by 11 pm and didn’t leave my room until after 6 am. Saturday night, I didn’t get a single page all night, until 4:30 am. But I sleep with a light on and I wake up every 20 minutes or so, worried that I am missing something. I still go home in the morning absolutely exhausted.

I worked today. In the hospital by 7:30, didn’t finsih until after 3. And it was a holiday, but I didn’t get paid extra. I don’t get time and half. My paycheck states that I work 46 hours a week, isn’t that nice.

*sigh* Sorry for the negativity. I came home from the hospital after spending over an hour trying to get a foley catheter into a man with prostate cancer, with a bad migraine and my smoke detector beeping every 3 minutes because the battery was dying. So I’ve never gotten rid of the headache. And sometimes, it really depresses me that this is what my life is like and it won’t ever get better.

I’ve got a date tomorrow night. I’m a dating machine, I guess. Either that or a masochist. Different guy, one that I find conversation with to be somewhat stilted and painful, really. But he was the medical student on the neuro wards and my friends were raving about how great he was (which he is a very nice guy) and they all seemed to enjoy talking to him, so I decided to give him another chance.

We’re going to a baseball game. I apparently don’t learn my lesson. Luckily, it’s with about 40 other people, so there will be a chance to engage others, if we decide there’s nothing to talk about and the game goes into extra innings.

And I’ve got clinic tomorrow morning and have to round on my patients before rounds. Oh, and did I mention that it’ll be another 14 days before my next day off (16 days total)?

Okay, iTunes is now playing Enrique Inglesis’ “Hero”. It is definitely time to go to bed.

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6th July 2007

summerfest

Tonight, I realized that I am not 20 years old anymore and screaming at the top of my lungs, listening to loud music, being pushed and shoved by drunken slobs are not my ideas of fun anymore. (Not that they really ever were).

And that’s okay.

Because that was a fun part of my life, but growing is ok too

(Let’s see if I’m still saying this when I hit 30 in a year and a half)

But Dashboard Confessional is pretty awesome live and I still love “Vindicated” as much as I did when it represented the dark haired rebel boy who had a thing for paperback novels in his back pocket.

And I think I have filled my lifetime quota of Summerfest.

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29th June 2007

answering those pesky questions you never wanted to ask

I did not end up getting a permanent account. I was really having a hard time justifying the expense of it and kept putting it off. I did convince myself yesterday that maybe it wasn’t that much money, but I was on call and that didn’t leave any opportunities to slip away.

I think I probably would have regretted it. I had been counting on the end of the year bonus from work so that I could indulge a bit and discovered that Uncle Sam had taken 40% of it, leaving me with less than what it’s going to cost to take get my medicine license, so I can’t even afford that, which is much more important in the long run. I’m so tired of money issues, so wearied. I was really hoping that with the very small cost of living raise that some of the money pressures that I’ve been drowning in for the last six months would ease, but taxes and insurance are going to suck that all away as well.

*sigh*

On a good note, I’ve completed my last call ever as an intern! Whee! Of course, things really aren’t going to be that much different next year. When I’m in the neurology department, I’ll be a “junior resident” which is really the exact same thing as an intern (still the low man on the totem pole) and when I’m on my medicine rotations, I’ll still have to take call as a senior resident (just not as frequent and I won’t have to write daily notes! Yay!).

And I just realized how confusing my life must be to those of you who actually read this thing. And that I’ve never explained what I’m doing. I have a tendency to assume that people can read my mind, and are really living my life with me (I should have probably outgrown that belief when I was, I don’t know 15 months old. I’m a little behind) So allow for a brief detour.

explainin’ stuff here

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18th March 2007

Music rec…

The iTunes Single of the Week is a MUST HAVE.

I first heard Brandi Carlile’s “The Story” on Milwaukee Public Radio’s “Cafe Tonight” (still the best music on the radio in Milwaukee *sigh*) and I almost swerved my car off the road, I was so intent on finding out who sang this song (it was a dangerous drive that night. First time I heard “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol as well). Strong, raw vocals and powerful, yet slightly whimsical lyrics. I bought it on iTunes that night.

Lyrics for The Story

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9th December 2006

Temptation

iTunes now carries soundtracks from all of my favorite musicals. I think they’ve carried them for a while, but luckily I was ignorant to their presence.

Singin’ in The Rain. South Pacific. The King and I. Mary Poppins. The Sound of Music. My waller is not appreciative.

I’ve already given in to the lure of owning Finian’s Rainbow which was my favorite as a teenager; I had such a crush on Tommy Steele. That brogue. That twinkling smile. I know, I know Fred Astaire and Petula Clark’s accents were atrocious and Keenan Wynn’s makeup job as the white Senator turned black is laughable, but oh, it was magical. I’ve carried fantasies about being wooed under a devil moon since then.

We didn’t get cable at my home, because we lived too far out of town, so I watched mostly musicals and old Disney movies from the library growing up. When I was younger, my sisters and I would have contests and sing all of the musicals that we could remember. It made washing the dishes go by faster. I could probably sing you most of “Oklahoma!” from heart even now. There are very few of the “classic” musicals that I have not seen (I don’t think I’ve seen State Fair all the way through), and fewer that I hate. Gigi is probably top of that list. Old men singing about lusting after little girls is too much. As well as The Pajama Game (adore Doris Day. But, ugh that was a painful movie). And I’ve fallen asleep twice now rewatching Annie, because it’s so boring. Boring! The lure from childhood isn’t there anymore.

My favorite musical of all time is actually an operetta. Junior year of high school, I had stayed up to work on a paper, and a episode of “Live at Lincoln Center” was playing. They were putting on a performance of The Merry Widow. Within minutes I was hooked (the paper, if I remember right, did not get finished on time because of my latest obsession). I’ve watched it probably 50 times since then and still love it. I’ve seen it performed live, but it was a horrid disappointment. Apparently, the Lincoln Center performance was a new translation and interpretation; the version that I saw live was the San Francisco version and it lacked the humor and warmth and the threads of the Merry Widow Waltz throughout. I’ve never been able to track down a recording of it and I’ve worn holes in my old VCR copy. Such a shame.

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20th September 2006

this moment now. and this moment, now.

(Author’s Note: Trying something different. Don’t know if it’ll really convey what I want it to, but this was the way the words were coming to me.)

At just half past 7, the sky has already darkened to black, the street-lamps glowing a hazy yellow. The air has taken on the crisp chill of autumn and I am grateful that I had ignored the calendar and now wear a warm sweater and jacket.

The neon sign above the nondescript building glows white, contrasting black letters. “In concert,” it proclaims, “Vienna Teng, Sept 19.” The building is one of those relics from the sixties and seventies, when local bands found music clubs to perform in, little more than a bar with a stage at the back of the room. Or at least that is the impression they are trying to create, as I read the history of Shank Hall papered on the walls. The fictitious music club from the documentary “This Is Spinal Tap” brought into existence much as a self-fulfilled prophecy. I’ve never seen the movie–perhaps if I had, being in the building would have had added more significance to the evening.

The walls are brick, painted red, covered with scrawled graffiti and posters of past musical acts. The guy behind the counter–bald, with a bright red beard–manages not to gape in amazement when I ask nervously if the show is sold out. I am used to disappointment–find out about opportunities the day after the occur, and I still can’t believe my good fortune at discovering that she would be performing in my city, a week before she was scheduled to tour. But lady luck is with me tonight (would luck be male in this case?), for there are only a half dozen people scattered across the room.

One of them is a coworker, a nurse whose office I inhabit in the mornings, furiously writing down laboratory results and medication changes. She doesn’t remember my name, which since I had to sort through my memories to place her, doesn’t bother me. Her companion is a radiologist and we soon fall into comfortable conversation, passing the time, until the lights dim.

I’m sitting at a table, just mere feet from the stage–front row seats. The stage is small, with a keyboard and guitar stand, just two chairs. By now, the room has filled with another twenty people, still far from the three hundred that could fit into the hall. A man who sits next to me grumbles about the idiots of Milwaukee, how the performance in Illinois had sold out in days and states that it is a “disgrace” that the place is so empty. I can’t give him a satisfactory answer–personally, I am relishing the intimate setting, the sense that it is almost a private performance.

The opening act is a duo, Ellery, a couple from Ohio. She’s on the keyboard; she sings while he plays the guitar as backup. The lyrics are stirring, she has a sweet, ethereal voice, but I strain to understand all of her words. Dictation is not her strong point, but I enjoy the performance. There is something charming about a wife and husband touring and creating music together, and their love for each other is evident. “We’ve learned to forgive each other quickly” she states wryly. He smiles at her with that remark, and I am caught again in the desire to one day possess that–the shared communication of just a glance. I have gotten used to the idea of being alone, but the extended weekend of being around my best friend and her husband has awaken the realization that I still wanted more, a partner with whom to share my life and more.

The break is short as the team moves the keyboard around on the stage, adding another chair, replacing the guitar rack with a viola and violin. The nurse, her companion and I spend the time discussing the music and the other concerts they have seen; I am relieved to discover that while Milwaukee may have atrocious radio stations, there is a high selection of bands and artists who tour through the city. I resolve to keep my eyes open–perhaps there is the possibility of catching other favorites.

Vienna enters the stage without any fanfare or introduction. She and the other two members of her “band” sit and begin playing and I am instantly immersed. She is unassuming, warm and human on the stage. Her fingers fly across the keyboard, effortlessly. Every song seems to have personal meaning, meaning that even in my multiple listenings I have never discovered before. Her speaking voice is surprisingly deep and husky, in starch comparison to her fragile voice in song that soars in height.

Many of the songs are new; chagrin spreads over me as I realize that the reason she was on tour was because of a new album release. It is not long before the new songs seep into me.

it’s the quiet night that breaks me. I cannot stand the sight of this familiar place. it’s the quiet night that breaks me, like a dozen papercuts that only I can trace. all my books are lying useless now. all my maps will only show me how to lose my way.

oh call my name. you know my name. and in that sound, everything will change.
tell me it won’t always be this hard. I am nothing without you, but I don’t know who you are.

it’s the crowded room that breaks me: everybody looks so luminous, and strangely young. it’s the crowded room that’s never heard. no one here can say a word of my native tongue. I can’t be among them anymore. I fold myself away before it burns me numb.

oh call my name. you know my name. and in your love, everything will change. tell me it won’t always be this hard. I am nothing without you, but I don’t know who you are.

The two hours slip by too quickly. Once, she stares out and asks the small crowd if we were familiar with her music and which songs would we like for her to perform. She seems stunned by the avalanche of requests–we may have been small in number, but devoted. She manages to play all of our favorites, many of them as solos, others joined with the haunting cello and the souring violin. Each song is introduced with a small insight into the writing process, the inspiration behind the lyrics.

Lullaby (my request) is her encore, followed by an a cappella performance of a Chinese lullaby. As she stands away from the spotlights, without a microphone, it doesn’t matter that the words are in a language that I don’t understand–I feel comfort, as if I found my home here.

I approach Vienna after the show, as she stands by the little stand of merchandise (my plans of buying the CD and getting her autograph are lost after discovering that I was seven dollars short in cash), conversing with the patrons. I try not to be a celebrity seeker, but I can’t resist the opportunity to express how much her music has meant to me. She hugs me , and I leave the music club, slightly heady at the experience.

The street is even more deserted as I make my way to my little car, wrapping my jacket closer. But there is music running through my head, and, at least for a little while, I have forgotten the loneliness.

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18th August 2006

breathe in the night, let it know just who you are

It’s kinda pathetic when the best music station on the radio is the local NPR station. They seem to be the only one who’s playing something besides hiphop or punk or bubblegum pop or worse, 80s music. I listen to NPR every morning on my way to work, so I discovered quite inadvertently that every night, they host “Cafe Tonight” where they feature local artists, plus a wide variety of alternative, acousitc bands. Just my type.

For example, tonight, through “Cafe Tonight”, I discovered that Carbon Leaf released a new album on Sept. 12th (yes, i squeed) and already I’m in love with it. Especially “Under the Wire.” Too bad it’s not on iTunes yet… I can’t decide whether I should wait to see if iTunes picks it up or just buy it on Amazon.

Carbon Leaf also played tonight in Chicago. I may have been tempted to tackle the big city had I known. Instead, I did have a good evening, hanging out with a couple of other interns. I’m trying to get a social life, so I’ll have something to talk about when I call people or update LJ. I guess talking about my patients gets a little wearisome after a while.

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9th July 2006

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22nd February 2006

Foiled again

I missed out on my chance to try for the iTunes billionth giveaway. I thought they still have 25,000 songs to go–I refreshed the countdown page, and it was over. 🙁

To rub salt in the wounds, iTunes then sent me my bill of the $37 that I had spent to just get one of the sub-prizes with no luck. I suppose I must console myself with the great music. I did end up sticking to mostly tried and true–I found some Loreena McKennitt songs (and since I felt guilty because all of the music that I have of hers is from CDs borrowed from the library, I had to get the few that I don’t have), Rob Thomas, and Vienna Teng.

It’s still disappointing. I was having such nice dreams of the 20″ iMac, surrounded by black and white iPods…

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20th February 2006

The nature of comfort…

I’m trying to avoid going to bed for just a while longer, so that I might sleep all night long, so hence another post. I think having a computer connection and being back to my lovely Flower iMac has made me a posting fiend. 🙂 Four whole posts in one day! I’m insane!

I’ve been rather introspective due to everything that has been happening. As first year medical students, we took a class called “Physical Diagnosis” (it’s the class that I helped teach this past December), where you learn to do a physical exam, but more importantly, you learn how to conduct an interview and how to talk to patients (which really uses different communication skills than just carrying on between two friends or acquaintances). One of the first lessons was how important physical touch and sympathy were to establishing the rapport and caring between the patient and doctor–that illness affects us all and to be able to show concern is the best way to develop the relationship. At the end of the week, we had to perform an interview with standardized patient. I still remember the patient I had — an older woman, coming in to get some sleeping pills, where I discovered that her husband had died only a few weeks previously. I remember sitting there, trying to think of something to say, wondering how you could comfort somebody with such an acute loss, and feeling like an absolute failure.

I’m not sure that it has gotten easier since then. I’ve gotten better at placing my hand on a knee, leaning forward, holding patients’ hands after they found out that they might have cancer or some other horrible diagnosis, but the right words to say still seem to stick in my mouth. “I’m sorry” seems trite (and half the time followed up with “it’s not your fault”, which aggravates me to the point of grinding teeth.) At least the sympathy, which felt so fake during the first year (oh yeah, they were ACTORS. It was fake), is real and sincere now, and I care very deeply about my patients and all of their problems, but it doesn’t change that uncomfortable feeling of intruding.

I think I’m worse with my friends. That’s not to say that I’m a fairweather friend who disappears with the first sign of trouble, but that I feel like an absolute idiot in trying to comfort. It’s strange too; everybody seems to know how to comfort me, but that might be because I’m pretty simple that way–hug me tight, let me cry and rant, and I’m good to go. Honestly, I think this is the one area where having a male friend is more difficult, because I communicate my sympathies and pain at their heartache through touch, and Chris is not a touchy kind of guy.

I’ve been trying to be the best friend I can be through all of this, but it’s been hard. I distracted him with two hours of looking at pictures (“Lions. And more lions. And look, another picture of lions.”) and discussion of his trip to Thailand and our trip to Mexico (!!! – I was worried when I suggested tagging along, but he seems as excited by the idea as I am. And it will be our last time together for who knows how long.), but the conversation still seemed to wind back to the unmentionable, and I felt so lost as to what to say. I feel so much for him, but I can never find the words for it.

So a question… what are some of the best methods/words that you’ve found to comfort a friend? And in times of personal loss, what are some things that others have done/said that have made things if not better, then tolerable? I know that some of you have gone through incredibly hard times, and I’d really love some advice on how to be a better sympathizer and friend.

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20th February 2006

Does worthless blabbing really need a subject?

I rarely do memes, but when you get one that is just so accurate… well, I couldn’t resist.

julia —
[adjective]:

Pretentiously academian

‘How will you be defined in the dictionary?’ at QuizGalaxy.com

(And yes, I’m posting a ton today. I’ve been away from fast internet for a month! Deal. 😉 )

I’m not doing very well with the timing of the purchasing of music, if the on-line counter is anything to go by. I’m either under or over by at least 2000 songs. And since I’ve purchased more than $30 of music, I think this could turn pretty dangerous. There’s a reason that I don’t gamble!

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20th February 2006

Jet-Lag and Music

After years of sleep deprivation and learning to fall asleep whenever I can (thank you med school!), I scoffed at the idea that I would be affected by jet-lag. My transition to Kenya time (which is in the same time zone as Moscow, Russia. How amazing is that??) was so smooth–I took my Ambien and slept like a log. I had a few days of some mild sleepiness for a few hours, but it passed very quickly.

I crashed mentally, absolutely exhausted, at around 5 pm yesterday (around 3 am in Kenya) and it was all I could do to keep myself awake until 10 (of course, I then got involved in checking my email so I didn’t actually go to bed until 11–addicted? moi?)… and woke up promptly at 5. The funny thing, is that the times really aren’t corresponding to my sleep cycle in Africa, so I’m not sure what’s happening.

I’ve been spending the morning surfing iTunes, because I’m bound and determined to be at least one of the 100,000 download winners (http://www.apple.com/itunes/1billion/) and since I only found out about it this morning, I have only a few chances left. I’m now the proud owner of the “Rob Thomas – iTunes Originals Album” and have been swooning listening to Rob talk about making sweet music all morning. I own 114 songs sung by Rob in one band or another. That tops Eva Cassidy (84), Loreena McKennitt (63), Fisher (61), and Carbon Leaf (51). Rob is not the most populous artist on my playlist, however. At 162 songs, Alan Parsons takes that award. 🙂

I have been out of the music world for quite some time, and I’m running out of ideas of songs to purchase (not to mention money). Suggestions of songs that I must, must have? New or old, it doesn’t matter. I just want a chance at a black nano!

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27th October 2005

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