Almost there…

My goal this year was 50 new books, and right now I’m at 49, so I better get started on another book today! Here’s what I’ve been reading (if the widget doesn’t show at first, try refreshing the page):

I think my favourites were Ready Player One and Where’d You Go, Bernadette. What books have you enjoyed this year?

Tuesday in Tokyo

[Note: wrote but never edited or published this while in Japan.  Figured there’s no reason for it to languish in the intarwebs.]

After crashing at 8:30ish last night, I woke up around 2 and couldn’t sleep — no surprise, really, given the time change.  Chatted with Esther for a bit, checked up on the intarwebs, and tried to sleep again.  Gave up, and read The Signature of Things until maybe 5, then slept until 7:30.

My first order of business after breakfast was to visit the local 7-11 in hopes of finding delectable Kit Kats.  No dice.  I’ve been told candies and such are also sold at stations like Shibuya, but I have no idea where.  In case you’re envisioning the likes of say, a BART station, think again.  Shibuya is bewildering.  It’s not even a single station; there are at least 2 separate rail companies, probably more.  I walked around it 3 times today and I still have the barest sense of geography.

I did find my way to the JR Yamamote line, which circles central Tokyo, and went one stop north to Harajuku, where I wandered around a colourful retail area for a bit before retreating to a Starbucks.  With the help of free wifi, I got my bearings and directions to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine, which were my destination.  The park and shrine were relaxing and beautiful, despite the rain.  I might have spent more time exploring the park, but I thought I’d try to get to Google for lunch.  However, after 1/2 an hour searching for the right bus and getting progressively wetter and hungrier, I gave up and went back to the hotel.  Thanks to recommendations from other Googlers, I found a nice Nepalese place for lunch and enjoyed curry, naan, and chai.

Thus fortified I set out once again and this time found the bus, paid the fare without too much fumbling with coins, and even managed to get off at the right stop.  The Google offices are on the 26th floor and up of an office tower, offering great views of the city (when there isn’t so much rain and clouds).  After a brief visit (everyone was working, after all), I hopped on my fourth transit system so far, the Tokyo Metro, to get to Akihabara. [meant to write more here, but never got around to it]

Back to Shibuya, where I spent another hour attempting to find a vegetarian restaurant recommended on TripAdvisor.  I think I ultimately ended up in the right area, but either it doesn’t exist, or I wasn’t clever enough to locate it.  Navigating is more challenging than I imagined it would be.  Felt like a failure when I resorted to eating pizza at a restaurant attached to my hotel.  Incidentally, it was a “vegetarian” pizza that turned out to be a cheese pizza with a salad on top.  Odd, but perfectly decent, and at least a more proper dinner than last night’s Kashi bar.

While I did get around to a few places, and never got particularly lost, today felt inefficient.  On the bright side, between eating two meals alone and riding around on transit all day, I’m nearly done with The Signature of All Things.  I’m also exhausted, so it’s off to another early bedtime for me.

Patellar what?

Nearly four years ago, I spent my first New Year’s at Camp Harmony. Afterwards, I wrote

Unfortunately between all the dancing and some steep hills at the camp site, my right knee got sort of wonky and I had to take it easier the second half of camp.

It seemed simple enough: my knee was aggravated, and resting was enough to recover. As the year wore by, however, I noticed my knee hurting more often. After I hiked down Squaw Valley in July, my knee was killing me. I resolved to do something about it, and went to see a doctor on August 24, 2009. I was told that I had “jumper’s knee” and was prescribed rest, ibuprofen, and physical therapy. A week later, a physical therapist gave me a regimen of strengthening exercises and suggested that I might feel better in 8-10 weeks.

I mostly tell people I have patellar tendinitis, because that was my earliest diagnosis, and tendinitis is a term familiar to a lot of people. Here’s what patellar tendinitis entails:

  • Pain at the bottom and front of the kneecap
  • Caused by overuse, especially jumping-heavy sports like basketball
  • Inflammation of the tendon

When I looked it up online, I learned that

Initially the pain might be present only during the start or after completing the sport or work out which then worsens to becoming more constant in nature. Everyday activities such as climbing up and down stairs might be painful too. [source]

which seemed apt enough, especially the part about going down stairs. My pain was clearly not caused by sports activities, but I thought maybe my dancing was a factor, or possibly poor seat adjustment on my bicycle. As time went on, however, my pain persisted despite a (reluctant) hiatus from dancing and reasonable diligence with my exercises.

The next term I heard to describe my knee was patellar tendinosis. Where -itis means inflammation, -osis, according to Wikipedia, “implies a pathology of chronic degeneration without inflammation.” Degeneration? Yikes! Damage to a tendon at a cellular level? Double yikes!! Fortunately, I was told that exercises which focused on eccentric loading — some of which I was already doing in physical therapy — had been shown to be very helpful in recovery [ref]. So I continued with my squats and clamshells and quad sets. By the time I went to Ireland in March 2010, I’d been assigned about an hour’s worth of exercises a day. Let me tell you that it is bloody hard to motivate oneself to do any boring and/or uncomfortable exercises without seeing positive effects, much less an hour of them.

Around that time, I expanded my medical vocabulary yet again with patellar tendinopathy. Time for more etymology! -opathy comes from the Greek pátheia meaning suffering (cf. pathos). In medicine, however, it really just means disease. That’s right, I had a disease of (or more accurately, problem with) my tendon. Good to know.

The next phrase I heard spiced up my growing vocabulary by leaving out the tendon altogether. On the surface, patellofemoral syndrome seems even more useless than tendinopathy; no fooling I have a syndrome that relates to my patella. Back to the internet went I and found this page, which clarified matters somewhat:

  • “a syndrome is a set of symptoms that tend to occur together rather than an actual diagnosis of the cause of the symptoms” (ohhh)
  • “patients may complain that there is discomfort on descending or ascending stairs, or walking downhill or on uneven surfaces” (check!)
  • “The knee may become stiff and uncomfortable after sitting for a long time” (check!)
  • causes including hip weakness, IT band tightness, quads/hamstrings imbalance, and arch abnormalities, especially flat-footedness (aha!)

This certainly wasn’t the first time my feet had been brought up; the first orthopedist I saw watched me walk and suggested I get new orthotics to replace the ones I’d had for almost 10 years. However, what was emerging was a picture that suggested that the dysfunction in my knee wasn’t caused by particular activities or injury, but rather by biomechanical issues above and below (i.e. in my hips and my feet), probably ones which had been developing over some time.

It’s past my bedtime, but stay tuned for the rest this riveting saga, featuring needles, a detour to cartilage, and yet more etymology.

What’s in season?

As a consummate Berkeley-ite, it’s obviously not enough to buy organic groceries in a cloth bag at Berkeley Bowl. I want to attune my eating to the turning of the seasons. Live close to nature. And all that. So I did a bit of internet research and thought I’d share the results. Every site I visited had a slightly different list, so here are the items that showed up in multiple places for what’s in season in California right now:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Bok Choy
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Citrus: Grapefruit, Kumquat, Limes, Mandarins, Pomelos*
  • Kohlrabi*
  • Parsnips*
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries (bit early)
  • Rhubarb
  • Rutabaga*
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips*

*Indicates end of peak season (root vegetables and citrus). Here are some more that are in season year round (lucky us!):

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Lemons
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Oranges (variety depends on season)
  • Radishes
  • Scallions
  • Spinach

Sources:

I went on a bike ride!

Daddy and I went on an hour-long bike ride today down to the marina and along the bayshore trail. We went about 9 miles; it was a leisurely ride on a lovely day.


View Bike Ride 2011-09-17 in a larger map

It’s Therapeutic

Yesterday, it was hard to get up, and even harder to get started doing homework. Instead of being down on myself for all the other things I did in the meantime, I tried to think of things and being “therapeutic,” which reminded me of this video by Brigitte Dale (1:58 onwards):

Here are some of the kinds of therapy I applied yesterday:

  • Food therapy: Whether it’s filling, hearty oatmeal or can’t-stop-eating-it banana cream pie, food is good.
  • Shower therapy: Being clean feels great. Baths are good too.
  • Sunshine therapy: Sitting out in the sun, enjoy the warmth, admiring the blue sky.
  • Cat therapy: Or more generally, pet therapy. Petting and cuddling with furry creatures who don’t require you to talk or have anything to say themselves is quite fulfilling.
  • Laugh therapy: Tried and true. I highly recommend my sister or friend Simone for this one.

In sunlit silence

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air..
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

-John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

In memory of Marshall McDonald, December 18, 1916 – April 3, 2011

Budget woes

I am disappointed with the “current resolution” to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 (through September), particularly the spending cuts which will reduce or eliminate federal funding for:

  1. Government offices and programs that fund energy innovation projects.
  2. National Public Radio and public television.
  3. Education, resulting in a loss of jobs for teachers, larger class sizes for students, and less federal financial aid for college students.
  4. Planned Parenthood, which supports cancer screenings and other women’s health care.

Not only do I believe these are valuable services, but I don’t remember them being exactly pivotal sectors for reducing the deficit when I went through the New York Times Budget Puzzle. Yes, I learned about this through arguably liberal media sources, and I don’t claim any particular understanding of how to design a good government budget. If you’re interested, here’s a summary of H.R.1, the proposed “continuing resolution.”

The School of Information

I’m now in my second semester of a master’s program at the U.C. Berkeley School of Information. This term, I’m taking a course called “Concepts of Information” with Geoff Nunberg (whom you may have heard as the linguist contributor on NPR’s Fresh Air) and Paul Duguid. Our first assignment was to write an elevator pitch for the I School—a short prepackaged description of what the program is about. I’ve attempted to explain to many interested friends and family members what I’m studying, so here’s what I wrote:

The School of Information grew out of the School of Library and Information Science. Berkeley dropped the “library” part and entered the 21st century with a focus on information, particularly information technology but also the social and legal issues surrounding information. We’re trying both to understand how people use information and to design and build useful, usable information systems. In that sense it’s very multi-disciplinary, drawing on theory and methodology from fields including computer science, sociology, business, economics, and law. Examples of areas in which I School students specialise include information retrieval, interface design, technology in developing regions, education, and technological standards and policy.

Register to vote!

This year’s California General Election is less than a month away and carries with it far-reaching implications for the future of our state and nation. With that in mind, I would like to remind you that this is the last full week that you can register to vote before the registration deadline, next Monday, Oct. 18th. If you are not registered, wish to change your party affiliation, or have moved since the last election, I urge you to register or re-register to vote.

There are many ways to get hold of a voter registration form. Here are two online:

Many counties, including Alameda and Santa Clara, allow you to check your registration status online. The Secretary of State’s website provides a list of lookup sites and numbers by county.

I’m a fan of permanently voting by mail (a.k.a absentee), but you can also find your polling place using Smart Voter.