Honeymoon Over

Happy New Year… two weeks late. Well, I hope it was fun for you either way.

My break was nice. I got to sleep and eat lots of food. My cousins came for Christmas and we had fun playing games and whatnot. Then my dad and I drove my bro and his stuff to Utah to move him back to school. It was right before school started, so I was very tired. In fact, we spent New Year’s Day driving down to SoCal, spent the night, then drove all day to Utah. We spent the night in a hotel, then moved him into his dorm the next day and then literally drove the 12 hours back to California right after. Absolutely exhausting with all that driving. Then I had to drive the 2 hours to get back to Sacramento the day after. It’s a good thing we don’t have classes on Mondays or else I would’ve never made it.

A week and a half into school and I’m starting to feel the pressure and stress again. Week 1 was nice and easy as usual, and I thought maybe Week 2 would be the same. Nope. We had a brutal 4 hour lecture on autopsy procedures and basically found out that our exam next week is basically an in depth look at the entire textbook. We had TWO lectures. Now we have some crazy scary exam. Yeah, I’m terrified and stressing out like crazy. Plus, I’m super behind on path because I decided that doing nothing this weekend was more important. So there’s that.

Life’s a ball right now. Most of it is my own doing, but not all of it this time. That autopsy exam is definitely not my own doing. I just hope I can photocopy the right pages and somehow jam all that info into my brain in the next few days.

On the bright side, I had a few packages come in that totally make my life so much happier. I’m easing my way into the world of fountain pens. I bought the Pilot Metropolitan (Animal Print, White Tiger edition because I have a thing for white pens) because it’s cheap and everyone says it’s one of the really good starter pens out there. I splurged on the ink and bought the Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo ink. It’s this ‘moonlight’ blue that’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s THE reason I even bothered with fountain pens. I wanted to write with that color ink for pages and pages. I could take notes forever with it. I could write NOVELS with it. Which I plan on doing eventually.

I went ahead and purchased more notebooks from Baron Fig pretty much so I could use this pen. I got the limited edition Three Legged Juggler Confidant and the new Time Travel limited edition Apprentice pack. I’m so excited to do this. It’s completely old school and I don’t care. The pen writes wonderfully. The ink looks gorgeous on paper. The notebooks are quite excellent for the fountain pen. There’s very minimal feathering and no bleed through. I can write on both sides of the page! Huge, huge plus. I have plans for these notebooks and I fully expect to use them all up this year. I’ll just have stacks of notebooks and journals piled up. Especially once I start rotations. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say then.

It’s these little things in life that make it more bearable with all the stress and pressure of this program. Now let’s see how long this lasts. 😛

Art in the Blood

Whoa, they changed the New Post stuff! This is crazy awesome. Much better than it was before, I think. Unless it’s just me. *shrugs*

Anyway, Writing 101 was supposed to get us into the habit of writing everyday. Clearly, I failed at learning that lesson. I haven’t blogged in almost a week, I think. I wish I could say I’ve been busy with Camp Nano, but no. I’m failing at that too. The only good news is that I set my word count goal at 20k for the month so it’s very doable even if I fall behind for a bit. I tend to write in bursts anyway, usually on weekends. One time for Nanowrimo, I cranked out about 8-10k on a Saturday alone just to catch up. It was grueling and tiresome and it felt like I pulled a horrible all-nighter, but I managed to win by writing 10k+ per weekend. School kept be busy during the week.

I had a good Fourth. Didn’t do much, just relaxed and marathoned Legend of Korra to catch up to the current season, watched some of the World Cup games. I managed to see some friends this weekend and catch up a bit. One of my friends let me experiment with her watercolors just so I could figure those tricky things out and maybe add that to my Artistic List of Things I Need to Learn. In turn, I let her mess around with my Micron pens. I’ve decided to pick up watercolor. I’ve read so much about watercolor this weekend that I’m sick of it lol. I just need to pick a brand, and dive right in and start experimenting. Hopefully, I’ll be able to create a mixed media kind of thing with Pen and Watercolor in the future once I somewhat understand watercolor.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I want to talk about my art teacher who taught me everything I know. Her name was Mrs. Pierce and she was this tiny lady, no more than 4’10” with long wavy brown hair. She was awesome. I had a couple art teachers after she left (she had a baby and then she and her husband moved away :() but they didn’t come anywhere close to the level of excellence as Mrs. Pierce.

I think this all started in Junior High when I took art as a required elective class (it was either that or drama or choir). In there we learned mostly about drawing with pencil/graphite and charcoal. At least that’s all I remember anyway. She taught us about highlights and shadows and still life and how to shade appropriately. It was frustrating and fantastic at the same time. I started seeing the world in a different way. Like how the sun hit certain objects and the shadows it cast or the light it reflected off a metallic surface. It was very messy when we did still life in charcoal. My fingers and clothes were literally covered with black all the time, I’m sure it drove my mom crazy when washing my khakis lol.

She taught us the basics. Start with a sphere, start with a cube/rectangle, then a cylinder. What if the light came from the top? What if it came from the bottom? Or the sides? Then, let’s do a grayscale. Take your pencils and get them as dark as you can to create a gradient. So we learned what H and B meant and how the graphite worked. We learned which erasers were awesome and which were utterly terrible and didn’t do a thing. Ever since then, I don’t bother buying anything that’s not Steadler or Pentel click erasers (and Tuff Stuff).

We learned how to use colored pencils and paint and oil pastels. We learned about color and color wheels and palettes and how to mix colors to get what we wanted. About black and white and how that can change everything. Colored pencils were fun because they were still pencils although it took me a while to understand blending. Oil pastels were fun because of the blending and just the fun colors we could simply create by layering and blending with solvents. Painting was atrocious. I failed so hard at painting. Watercolor, acrylic, it didn’t matter. Once a paint brush landed in my hand, I was doomed to fail. I tried so hard and Mrs. Pierce knew it so she still gave me a decent grade for that unit, but man, my stuff looked worse than a preschooler. No joke. I could mix whatever color you wanted, I could tell you what color you needed to add to get the color you wanted, but I just could not paint.

In high school the beginning art class was strictly drawing, so no painting thank goodness. Since I had her my previous two years in Junior High, she let me and one of my good friends do more advanced stuff during that class. We got to skip all the basics again as she gave us different projects to do. The big project we did was an enormous grid drawing of any picture we wanted. We had to blow it up twice the size, so our grid boxes were 2”x2” instead of the typical 1” boxes. I did a police man with the twin towers in his reflective sunglasses. My friend did a large ice cream sundae that looked like you could lick it off the paper. We spent a majority of the school year doing that as the rest of the class continued on in basics. We still managed a couple little projects I think, but that was our big one.

Made by Me, completed 1/28/2002

Made by Me, completed 1/28/2002

This is it. Sorry it’s not that great of quality or lighting but I took this a few years ago. It’s nowhere close to perfect, especially with my metallic reflections but it’s not bad for a 14 year old kid. Mrs. Pierce is the one that gave me the suggestion of putting the twin towers in the reflection on the sunglasses. In the original picture it was a car. Since 9/11 just happened at the beginning of the school year, I jumped at the chance to do it. It was hard staring at that picture for a long time and trying to get it right in both lenses was a pain, but it was also a good way of letting out all that emotion.

I did other art projects later, with different teachers, but this is the one I’m most proud of. It’s also the last project (that I can remember) that I worked on with Mrs. Pierce. She would come over and tell me that my lines weren’t crisp enough, that I needed to “sharpen my edges” or my blending wasn’t up to par or my blacks weren’t black enough. At times I felt like she was incredibly nit-picky and it drove me absolutely insane, but in the end it helped me. Sometimes she’d fix something in two seconds and make the entire picture look so much better. When I tried to emulate, it took me the entire class period or two before I could get the same effect. We also did our own matting and framing. We had to measure it all out, mount it ourselves and everything. It was great. I don’t know if this is just the whole rose-colored lens deal, but she was the best. She took the time with every student, regardless of their level or skill, and was patient with each one of us, especially me and my friend. We grumbled and complained the entire way through, but we learned.

Seriously, I don’t think I could cover everything that I learned from her. Now that I’m getting back into drawing and art in general, it’s all coming back to me. Even though I’m rusty, the lessons she ingrained into us, into our muscle memory, into our precise vision, has come back. I hope to be a better artist in the near future because of her. And I hope to God I can finally understand how to use a freaking paint brush.

Endless Entertainment

For the final day of Writing 101, the challenge is about our prized possession.

This was incredibly hard for me. I value and love many things from my computer to my futon/couch to my guitar. It was so hard for me to narrow down something. Then I asked myself, “What was the one thing that you had to take with you every time you moved?” And then the answer was easy — my DVD collection.

Ridiculous, I know. A DVD collection? I’m not a movie buff, so this makes this doubly weird, but I love certain movies and I absolutely LOVE TV shows. A big chunk of my collection consists of each season of my favorite TV shows, or at least the seasons that I enjoyed the most before I stopped watching (CSI, NCIS being huge examples). I have tons of movies too. Lots of action, some chick flicks, almost all the superhero movies. This might not be obvious from my posts, but I am obsessed with superheroes, especially Iron Man, so if you see references to various superheroes, do not be shocked. I can’t help myself.

My collection isn’t so much about just having them to brag, it’s mainly entertainment value. I go on random marathons where I’ll pick a show to watch from beginning to end (or current season if it’s still ongoing). My most recent one was with NCIS:LA right before school started, which actually spilled into probably the first week of school before it got too crazy. All of these TV shows bring a certain amount of memories and emotions when I re-watch them. Sometimes I’ll notice something I never did before, sometimes it’ll just be a craving for a certain episode of a show, sometimes it’ll be a refresher on the previous season so I don’t get lost when the premiere comes on. Lots of memories are attached to these, especially if I rope my friends or my cousin into these shows and we’re always texting each other during the episode.

A lot of it, too, is the time spent investing in these characters. It’s exciting, exhilarating in meeting these fictional characters. I invest a lot into my shows, it’s all or nothing. I’ll usually give a couple shows an episode or two, but if I’m not hooked, then I don’t bother. Sometimes, I can tell just by all the commercials if it’ll be terrible and usually I’m right, so why bother wasting my time and energy in investing? These TV shows become a part of me, as strange as that sounds, and my time is even more limited now, so I have to be picky. Once I’m in, I’m in it all the way until it ends or the writers pull the most ridiculous thing ever that turns me off (a la House S7 finale, for the biggest example ever).

So, yeah, my DVDs of my TV shows and movies are my most prized possession. They’re a big part of me. While I may never be a superhero and fight bad guys or investigate crime scenes, it’s where everything started. Since I was a kid I loved the whole saving the world and mystery shows such as Dragonball Z, Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Scooby Doo. Action and mystery pretty much sells me every time. Maybe that’s why I ended up in Pathology. While there’s not much action, I’m a part of the diagnosing process which can save lives, and it’s definitely part of mystery solving. I love it. This is who I am, this is what I do.

As a final note about Writing 101, it was fun. I can’t believe an entire month already flew by! While I didn’t complete every single challenge or did them exactly as prompted, I did most of them and it was a great way of getting prompts. It definitely let me express my thoughts in ways I might not have had the courage to do before. Thank you, WordPress Editors, for creating such a lovely course and a great challenge. Now, onto my next challenge — Camp Nanowrimo July 2014 edition. (Yes, I know I said I might not, but I went ahead and bit the bullet. I have an idea floating around in my head that won’t leave, so here we go. I’m that crazy.)

RIP Jack Bristow

Today’s challenge is hard. Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of that isn’t incredibly depressing are my favorite characters on TV shows I used to love. I know this blog is supposed to be about my journey into grad school and becoming a PathA, but as my Lab Management instructor likes to tell us — go have a life. Don’t make studying your life. Go out, do something, watch a movie, catch a game, anything but this. So I’ve been taking his advice. I have many TV shows that I follow, but since it’s the summer, there aren’t many shows left for me to watch except 24 (SO excited this came back) and So You Think You Can Dance. So, I’m going to take my instructor’s advice right now and write about things not related to the program. (I mean, come on, the previous entry was pretty heavy and emotional — for me, anyhow.) Maybe I’ll do this every once in a while, maybe once a week or every other week. I’ll eventually run out of TV shows, but whatever, it’ll be fun while it lasts. I think I’ll call it RIP TV. It’ll be a category and tag so everyone can access it right away.

So, I have this habit of really falling in love with characters… only for them to die. Or never return for whatever reason the actor left the show. I mean look at what happened with House and Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy) leaving, or NCIS with Cote de Pablo (Ziva). Those broke my heart. I’ll eventually write posts about those shows, but the first one I want to talk about is Alias.

I don’t know how many people out there are familiar with Alias, but it was one of JJ Abrams’ first television shows (the other being Felicity I believe). It aired on ABC from 2001-2006 I believe, so I grew up with this show all throughout high school and into my first year in college. Yes, I’m dating myself, whatever. This was one of my very first hardcore TV fandoms. (I was into anime before that like Gundam Wing, which I am still a HUGE fan of today — that’ll be for another post.) I was on message forums and the like, speculating, flailing over spoilers and whatever happened in each episode. I was one of the biggest Jack Bristow (played by Victor Garber, who is still fantastic to this day) fans ever. No joke. We made a website and everything, it was ridiculous. (The site no longer exists, btw.) In fact, I got one of my favorite high school teachers hooked onto this show. She was my computer teacher, and for our web design project, we had to create a website on anything. I chose Alias and then got her hooked. It was the best freaking site ever, but this wasn’t related to the Jack Bristow site. So, huge, die hard Alias fan right here.

Before I go crazy, let me give you a brief summary. Alias is about Sydney Bristow (played by Jennifer Garner aka the person I want to be when I grow up), a grad student at UCLA working on her Masters degree in literature I think and she’s also a spy. Works for this secret branch of the government called SD-6 — or so she thinks. She realizes that they’re actually the enemy and ends up being a double agent for the CIA with her estranged father, Jack Bristow. Together, they try and take down SD-6 while working out the kinks in their relationship.

Boom. Not bad right? I have this thing for spies, hence 24 love. (I know I need to get on Blacklist and I will eventually, and probably Homeland.) Anyway, Jack is like this uber spy and would do anything and everything to save his daughter. And in the finale, he does sacrifice himself for her. It was so heart breaking. I knew it would happen because all my favorite characters die, but a part of me died with him too. I honestly have not watched the finale since it aired. I actually did a re-watch of the series a while back and stopped before the finale because I could not bear watching Jack die again. Ridiculous, I know. That’s the kind of impact he and this show had on my life.

It taught me a lot. Sydney is still one of the most bad ass female characters that existed on TV. She had a screwed up family, her best friend was killed, her other best friend got put into witness protection — her life was seriously screwed up, but she survived it all and had a happy ending (just not with the character I wanted haha). She and Jack repaired their relationship and it was so fascinating to watch. That was my real reason for watching the show, the father/daughter dynamic, not the romance (although Jack/Irina was quite the show), but the family bonding. There was a lot of love despite all the crazy things that happened. There were a lot of strong and intelligent characters too. It gave me confidence and hope that maybe one day I could be like that. I could stand up for myself and be confident in myself even as the world caved down around me. Plus, it was about spies.

Even if Jack Bristow wasn’t a real character, I still miss him. He was a force to be reckoned with. He wasn’t the perfect or the best dad by any means, but he definitely tried his best and gave all that he had left to his daughter. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. RIP Jack. Maybe one day I will watch the series again, including the finale, and be able to be strong about it.

where the dead things are

Today’s challenge:

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

I love the quote they give for the challenge:

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

– Joan Didion

I’d love to put down Europe because I’ve never been there and I want to go ALL OVER. I could put Disneyland or even Disney World since I haven’t been back in almost a decade. Or Japan. Or my favorite ice cream shop in SoCal, Handel’s Ice Cream. But the first thing that popped into my mind when I read the quote was the cadaver lab at Mt. SAC.

Totally normal, right? I mean, doesn’t everyone think of cadaver labs when they could travel anywhere in the universe? No, just me? Okay then.

I always joked that lab was my second home, except it really was. I spent more time in there than in my own room. When I needed something to do, I drove over to school, had one of my profs let me in and got to work. It was stress reliving to work in there, to be in there by myself if it wasn’t the actual class period, and just focus on a single task and let my hands to all the work. It wasn’t mind-numbing at all. In fact it took an incredible amount of focus to make sure I didn’t slice off my finger, didn’t cut/injure anything important on my cadaver, and find creative ways to expose certain structures. Sometimes it also required contorting my body into weird positions just to find the right angle to see a structure so I could expose it. That was fun.

I know most people can’t stand the thought of cadavers or dead people or seeing dead people, much less working on them, but I absolutely love it. If that makes me strange and weird and creepy, so be it. I’m proud of it. It’s a skill that I have and not many others share. Right now in my Gross Anatomy class, we do have a cadaver to work on, but it’s at the Coroner’s Office and it’s not like we can just walk in there any day and work on him whenever we want. We only get Fridays and that’s it. Since we only get it once a week, we have to work fast and it’s not much time to truly appreciate working on a cadaver. Not many people get the opportunity to do something like this and I wish this was part of the 16 week semester instead of the 10 week.

It could also be the people I had the privilege of working with at Mt. SAC. My profs were awesome. I made quite a few friends in there and we all had a blast. My particular class we got pretty close and worked our butts off at the same time. Our cadavers looked the best, if I say so myself. I enjoyed discovering new structures whether that was a new artery or nerve, or even a muscle that was never previously exposed on the other cadavers. It was fantastic. It was like slowly uncovering the secrets of the human body. I mean, the body is amazing. How everything works, how it functions, how it moves. It is simply amazing. Period.

It was hard to leave when I had to move for grad school. It was a place where I could be myself, I could be as crazy as I want, I could listen to whatever kind of music (except country because that was absolutely forbidden by one of my profs), I could say whatever I want. I knew where everything was. I knew the procedures. I made everyone else sure they knew the procedures. I knew the lab techs who came in all the time to help supply us with whatever supplies we needed or fix certain things. I tutored probably hundreds of students that came through that lab, making sure those muscles, blood vessels and nerves stuck inside their brains. I laughed, I think I even cried from laughing so hard in there. Heck, I even decorated that little lab. On holidays, I put up the appropriate decorations, including Halloween. Yes, a cadaver lab decked out in Halloween decorations actually happened. I practically ran that place. That lab was mine.

So yeah, I want to go back there. It was the place where I finally felt fully confident of myself and my abilities to take it to the next level. It was where I felt free, strangely enough. That little freezing lab with seven other cadavers is where I felt at home.

So go ahead and judge me. Call me a freak. Call me weird. I don’t care. That was my home away from home.