Portland presents and cancer

natural VSCO fade +1 aka fog IRLIn case I haven’t made it abundantly obvious, I love San Francisco. I’ve parallel parked on a 30% grade hill (and only hit one school bus), I’ve been to every cafe within a five mile radius of my house, and I own an It’s It t-shirt (best 2016 purchase by far aside from the hundred actual it’s its). I can even do that finger thing to make my hand look like the Giants SF logo (but i live in chicago now so go cubs fly the w 108 years omg so crazy). I’m a west coast/best coast subscriber and I bleed 415, so when I visited Portland, Maine in late September with the tallest man on earth (my friend sam, not the other guy), I was fully prepared to keep my opinions to myself and put on a polite smile for a small coastal city that was trying its best. Red velvet cupcakes? That sounds delicious. Self-service froyo? What an idea.

Unfortunately, halfway into my fourth Holy Donut, I had to do some major rethinking. Because it turns out that Portland is pretty amazing: mom and pop cafes, bookshops you can walk to in light zip-up hoodies, lobsters that you literally disassemble and eat (what an idea!). They even have their own version of @karlthefog and lighthouses, which apparently are a thing in Portland. And while we didn’t hang out with Anna Kendrick (something that i was promised and am v bitter didn’t happen), I was able to wander around a local yarn store and get myself a healthy dose of fiber (wool. but also granola). img_7257it's called stylizing your photosThough I already have people that I need to be knitting for (tiffany, josh, alice, jessie ware, jessica chastain), this particular Portland purchase is for my good friends Lars and Judy, who housed/fed me during my time there and pretended not to notice when I ate their entire candy dish of peanut m&m’s. Twice.img_7302For him: a no-nonsense, charcoal grey ribbed watchman cap. The one on the right was my way of using up some leftover grey yarn that I had, but it was only enough for a child’s (tanner stage ii or iii) cap. Also note the photogenic backdrop of leaves that I’m sure multiple dogs/drunk humans have pissed in. Happy fall, people._dsc0026_3And for her: a slightly more-nonsense, infinity scarf that’s red enough to sink your teeth into. Inspired from a pattern that I saw at a local Portland goods/clothing store where a pair of sweatpants cost $200 (that kind of extravagance is unheard of sf). I would have had pictures of actual people wearing these things, but I’m a medical student on my pediatrics rotation, so half the people I see everyday are evaluating me (will knit for honors #fiberybribery) and the other half are too busy figuring out this whole head control business.

As a quick aside, I have a friend named Kirstie, and she talks like she’s on speed. Kirstie started her own small business a few years ago designing punny cards for all occasions (allmark cards?), and I used to make fun of her so much for it. I even sent her a list of ridiculous puns/portmanteaus as a joke. And then she took one, Illustrator-ed it onto a card, slapped on a few figs, and now they’re selling like crazy. So I guess the joke’s on me._dsc0075_2Anyway, go check out her shop for more grocery store appropriate gourdplay and support her, and by extension me, because it was my figgin’ idea.

After twenty minutes of writing and deleting and rewriting this sentence, I have come to the conclusion that there is no good segue from figs to cancer. Oh well. Fair warning, this one’s long, but hopefully you’ll find it worth while.

***The last time the Chicago Cubs won the world series, Albert Einstein was alive.

Oh yeah. Also, in case there’s any doubt: as irreverent as I am towards the personal space and privacy of others (i went through a phase in high school where i tried breaking into people’s lockers with shims cut from coke cans), there are some things, like HIPAA (and the episode of this american life that made me cry), that you just don’t mess with.

I first met Paul on a Thursday. It was morning and he was in the middle of eating breakfast, talking to his wife between bites of French toast. He gave a wet cough into a napkin and shook my hand when I approached. Read the full post »

iPad covers and alarm clocks

I feel like I need to explain why my knitting is draped over a cinder block on Ellis Avenue. As it turns out, my attendings and residents haven’t been the most understanding in allowing me adequate time off throughout the day to photograph my knitting (kniternity leave). We work straight through golden hour and it’s like no one even notices. It’s a little ridiculous. I wanted to say something (the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing), but I’m learning to pick my battles. So, instead of carefully stylized photographs, I’ve started taking pictures of my knits on my morning walks to the hospital with my phone, and then filtering the hell out of them afterwards.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI can’t even tell the difference (for real though please pick up after your pets it’s so annoying when people don’t and it takes like 10 seconds).
In case there’s any confusion as to what exactly I’m parading around Hyde Park, this is a stethoscope bag, which is something I made up a week ago but which definitely needs to start being a thing. It’s a must-have for any budding physician, a way to keep their tool of the trade cozy warm and carried in style. Unanimously endorsed by the AMA (no) and J. Crew (i wish), it’s the perfect accessory to contrast that formless white coat. Also, it’s a great nidus for MRSA (murse-a). Complete with a hot pink drawstring and a questionable Brazilian color scheme, there is literally nothing like it.

Except for this pattern, which I found on Ravelry that I used to make it. It has a great fair-isle design, and it used up the bits of leftover yarn I had laying around while also letting me feel productive for binge watching season 6 of Great British Bake Off (omg tamal hurry up and marry me already).

In truth, I was actually trying to make an iPad case, but I messed up real bad (cue: fail bunny from high school), so I made another one that was better, neater, and way less of an eye sore (iSore). I even included a J. Crew Admiral Blue 30/32 Driggs light weight chinos button to ensure maximum security. I also spent my day off (between great british bake off and more great british bake off) taking various photos of it in proper light.IMG_6928IMG_6935See people! This is what’s at stake! This!IMG_6979Now the reason I made this case is because I’ve started bringing my iPad with me wherever I go in an effort to get myself writing everyday. The plan was originally to record my thoughts day to day to help keep track of how I felt about my various rotations come time for residency. But what ended up happening was I reflected more on the thoughts of others than my own (#selflesspeopleproblems), and rather than day to day, I focused in on the minuscule–an hour or minute or even just a word–turning a single idea over and over in my head. I admit that seems a bit neurotic and obsessive (would you expect anything less coming from me?), but regardless, here’s what came of it.

***The Great British Bake Off is currently on its 7th season and has won 2 National Television Awards, 2 BAFTAs, and a Rose d’Or.

Oh yeah. Also, in case there’s any doubt: as irreverent as I am towards the personal space and privacy of others (i’ve joined already occupied revolving door quadrants on multiple occasions), there are some things, like HIPAA (and jed bartlet and deb’s parsley pecorino biscuits), that you just don’t mess with.

She called me her alarm clock, which is funny in a cute kind of way—the kind of way to make you blush—a sort of pet name she had for me. Read the full post »

Baby socks and cards

IMG_6842Part of me didn’t want to post anything new because then that would push down the pictures of my baby cousins (best feature of this blog so far), but then the other more narcissistic part of me thought about bringing the attention back to me… and so here I am.

But I come bearing socks!IMG_6806So while I was in Paris a couple months ago, between locking my family out of our Airbnb and double fisting croissants, I stumbled upon a yarn store at one of the flea markets. It was actually more of a sewing shop, but in a corner they had a few trays of this yarny type of stuff that looked knittable, and as a life goal (starting today) I try to get yarn from every place I visit (though i will always have an imagiknit shaped hole in my heart), so I bought a couple skeins (or toupets?) and packed them in my bag, right next to my contraband flax seeds, which I accidentally brought home with me and started planting and by doing so probably broke about a dozen international laws (treeson).

Anyway, after thinking about what other knit forms of love I could shower onto my baby cousins, I found this pattern for baby socks on Ravelry and adapted it (anchors have been out since like, 2005) to include stripes, because stripes are slimming and I know how babies get about their breadroll-esque legs (#thighgapstruggles).IMG_6866Other than the colors (i know: ronald mcdonald), are these not your favorite pair of socks ever?! Mother. Fudging. Adorable. I’m almost afraid of sending these (one each, of course) to my cousins for fear of outshining their cuteness (just kidding i would never say that please forgive me, m&z).IMG_6888Here’s the where’s waldo version of my socks (which i also posted ON MY NEW MASCULIKNSTAGRAM! check out all my four pics @masculiknity) as well as evidence that my apartment is now overflowing with plants. Most of them are my new roommate’s (i kicked chester out when i saw him texting during jed bartlet’s 20 hours in america speech. rude.), but I personally am growing (against all odds) two Trader Joe bell peppers and the aforementioned probably invasive species of French flax. I also had a succulent, but a squirrel ate it.

Other than my burgeoning illegal flax farm, a lot of things have changed for me since we last spoke. I am a year older, a year wiser, and forty days away from having my insurance ripped out of my soul (kaiser permanente is a misnomer). I started working in the hospital and having weird medical dreams where my parents are my residents and my friends are our patients. I watched all of Harmonquest in two days. I have also been writing.

I don’t share what I write very often, since 1) I’m much more comfortable filling these posts with as many outrageous parentheticals (JESSICA CHASTAIN MARRY ME PLZ) and pithy self-realizations as I can muster and 2) I’m afraid it will turn masculiknity into an ‘I’m a medical student and here are my encounters with the modern day healthcare system’ kind of blog that people will roll their eyes at because it’s expected and clichéd (ugggh thanks a lot, atul gawande). It’s true that ever since I’ve started spending six days a week in a hospital, I’ve seen and experienced a wide variety of things–things that I struggle articulating into words. And every time I sit down to write about them, alone in my room (more accurately alone on the couch eating fig bars in my underwear), even then I’m terrified of peoples’ thoughts, what they’ll presume about me or say about me based on what I choose to put up here. But if my 3 weeks experience of being a 26 year old has taught me anything, it’s that 1) I probably never stood a chance with Jessica Chastain and 2) Atul Gawande doesn’t even read my blog.

***PRN stands for pro re nata, which, in Latin, translates to ‘as the circumstances arise’


Her name is Ruthie.

Not R. Not R.C. Ruthie. Ruthie Crowley if you want specifics. Ruthie Ann Crowley if you already know a Ruthie Crowley and are wondering if we’re talking about the same woman. She eats at the McDonalds on Cottage Grove at least once a week and she wet the bed until she was seven, but her mom made her wear diapers to bed until she was eight just to be safe. Her parents are divorced, she’s allergic to penicillin, and her first kiss was in the seventh grade on a dare with a boy named Ganner. She thinks he’s an auto mechanic out in Atlanta now, but she isn’t sure.

Ruthie has a bad heart. Literally. Read the full post »

Baby hats and Paris

IMG_2209I’ve always fancied myself a baby person. And luckily for me, most babies I’ve met have fancied themselves a Daniel person (i like to think they respect me more because I never break eye contact and don’t speak down to them). Up until a few months ago, my only contact with babies has been at church (a german baby who just stares and points at me) and peering into strollers on my evening constitutional. But while I was back home studying for the boards, I had the great privilege of meeting my cousins’ kids (the first of their generation) for the first time, M and Z. And thus began the great experiment: to find whatever it takes to become their absolute favorite, coolest, knitest, most obsessively involved uncle-but-actually-second-cousin ever.

Step 1: baby hats. Lots of baby hats. Tons of baby hats. More baby hats than their cute little giant heads even know what to do with.IMG_6459I adapted purlsoho’s garter stitch baby hat to be done in stockinette because I have weird feelings about garter stitch. Next, I bought a couple skeins of Berroco Comfort, and then it was off to the races. In total, I made eight baby hats in the span of two weeks, at which point I finally stopped to re-examine some of my life choices. This pattern’s great not just because you can make a million hats out of two skeins, but also because the entire thing is knit continuously, including the little ear flaps! So no need for any provisional cast-ons or bothersome sewing.

Okay, are you ready for some ridiculously adorable baby pictures? (fingers crossed that one of these ends up being the thumbnail when i link this on facebook)IMG_1168 IMG_1172 IMG_2327Uggggghhhh they’re the best! As far as relatives go, they’re definitely top 5.

Well, as much as I’d like to rebrand this blog as a virtual declaration of my devotion to my baby cousins (MandZandme.wordpress.com), that would be borderline creepy (even for me), and besides, that would prevent me from sharing exciting life updates, such as 1) I recently purchased two dismembered heads for the price of one (bringing a literal interpretation to the payless shoesource slogan, ‘got bogo on the brain?’) and 2) I’m in Paris right now.

That’s right! You read correctly, I’m in Paris! If you’ve kept up with my traveling misadventures, you’ll know that this is my second time in Paris (#medschoolloans), which means I’ve been able to spend less time rushing from sight to sight and more time walking around, hanging out at cafes, and taking it all (i.e. any pastry even remotely resembling a croissant) in. And since I have my computer with me in Paris (‘to do work’ lol), here is what my days have looked like:

(fingers crossed this doesn’t end up being the thumbnail when i link this on facebook)IMG_6554Day 1: Landed exactly when the RER trains decided to fail so spent five hours getting to airbnb, my first meal was burger and fries (‘murica), and then accidentally fell asleep, locking my family out of the apartment for two hours (though tbh best sleep ever). Walked through park with coolest flax exhibit. Found a uniqlo, didn’t fall.

Day 2: Ran along Seine listening to Hamilton (‘murica), bought yarn at a flea market (baby socks coming soon to MandZandme.wordpress.com), and walked 20 miles. Fell asleep at Gustave Moreau’s house, fell asleep again at Sacre Coeur (right after i took the above photo, despite his disgusting rat tail), ate udon (because asian), and walked 20 miles. Went to Louvre and Eiffel Tower and walked 20 miles. Did I mention that I walked 20 miles?

Day 3: Walked through a five-street-long farmers market and only bought one piece of baklava (I LOVE BAKLAVA), fell asleep because walking hurt (did i mention that i walked 20 miles?), cafed, and read. Found a couple babies to smile with and falafels for dinner.

Day 4: Bread, cheese, fruit, and more bread. Printer struggles and watching LMM with James Corden over and over and over again (how does a bastard, orphan…). Tapas and crepes and conflicted over which mailbox slot to put my postcards in.

Day 5: Walked four miles for green tea and a muffin, accidentally tried to break into the Secretary General’s private garden, read-walked á la Belle from Beauty and the Beast another three miles, and L’Orangerie (luhhh chaim soutine). two tarts, eight macarons, one macha croissant, and eight macarons.

IMG_6596As you perhaps can tell, I’m not very good at documenting my travels, so I apologize if that was confusingly brief/literal/parenthetical. Unlike the rest of my family, who doodles/scrapbooks/posts endearingly honest and grammatically correct facebook updates to catalog their days while abroad, I’ve never been able to get into those sorts of things. Though contradictory to my entire disposition, traveling seems to be something I enjoy in the abstract. Perhaps it’s my one creative outlet (other than making stencils of martin sheen’s face). Though I take the occasional stunning photograph or two, I find that I often pick the in-the-moment experience over a souvenir or an over-saturated instagram, and I almost never keep a journal (except for the burn book i wrote in europe two years ago). To be honest, even I am a bit baffled by this preference for the subjective, especially given that pre-trip planning and organizing makes me quite literally giddy.

Maybe it’s because, when spelled out, traveling is just like everything else, reduced to the mundane, and only pieced together in hindsight does it become at all rewarding. Maybe it takes the perfect mix of novelty and anxiety and nostalgia to hit me just right for me to find it worthwhile. Maybe, as concrete as I am, even I understand that there are some things better experienced than understood, and that perhaps there’s a certain something–a je ne sais quoi–about exploring new places (even if for a second time) that makes it so inexplicably enjoyable.

***A coconut macaron contains approximately 97 calories.

Unseasonal winter wear and pain

IMG_6432Before I begin, some apologies are in order. #1. I apologize for the rather lengthy sabbatical (though tbh it was kinda sagreatical) and leaving so many of you without your fix of knitting, puns, and portmantoe socks. I know it must have been difficult. #2. I apologize to my friends in San Francisco who I’ve been texting as if I were in Chicago. Because I’m actually in San Francisco. And have been for the past month and a half. So let’s hang out! But let’s do it soon, because I leave in like, 3 days. And lastly #3. Sorry to the lady in the above picture (rightward gazin’) who gave me a super dirty look. I wasn’t creeping. I promise. I just had to rule-of-thirds that vertical succulent wall garden behind you.IMG_6429This is Beacon, my favorite cafe (ever. except sometimes their sandwiches give me the runs.), where I’ve been spending almost literally all day everyday brushing up on my pattern recognition skills (aka learning how to be a doctor, apparently) in preparation for the boards exam. Step 1 studying was actually kind of fun on the one hand, as cafeing is among my top 5 past-times (also gossiping and gambling), but on the other hand, nonstop eating, drinking, and breathing practice questions (also green tea and it’s its) and spending an inordinate amount of time looking at crusty rashes and men with boobs gets tiring pretty fast (except the it’s its. ate like 20.). So, as much fun as excessive cafeing and people watching was (i saw a woman drinking coffee get hired by a modeling agent ON THE SPOT), I’m glad it’s finally over.

Because ‘better late than never’, here are some of the things that I’ve been working on for the past few months. And yes, I know that it’s a bit warm to be discussing winter wear, but I’ve been quite busy lately. If you have any issues with this, please direct your complaints to preclinical medical education everywhere.IMG_6371I have tried arm warmers in the past, but I have never really given it a full-hearted effort because I am deathly afraid of thumb holes (a niche subclassification of trypophobia). They’re small, intricate, and you have to pick up the stitches just right or else you’re left with a gaping hole–in short, I’ve never been any good at them. But when I was gifted some amazing finnsheep/angora wool from local color fiber studio, I decided to give it an honest effort. So I found this cool/free arm warmer pattern (from a finn no less! coincidence? i think not.), added some of my own creative leanings, and produced a pair of passably thumbed arm tubes! Finntastic!IMG_6403I felt so good about my arm warmers that I got a bit overly ambitious and tried to make fingerless gloves/mittens. It seemed easy enough, right? Well, apparently it’s not. Apparently, it’s hard. Also, apparently, I can’t estimate the size of a woman’s hand at all, because what I made fits the palm of an adult but the fingers of a small child. If you know any such unfortunate individuals with the aforementioned proportions, let me know and I’ll send these glittens their way.

Now, as a rule, I try to keep photos of myself off my own blog. It’s partly a matter of taste, but also I don’t want to take away from the art (like this). However, one of the main things I’ve been working on lately (unrelated to knitting but equally as mind blowing) has been fixing my back, and I think it’s only right that all of you see what months of sweat and dedication have earned me.downloadI also might have thrown in a couple arm days, too. And a tan.

You may remember that I threw out my back a little over a year ago (and lived to tell the hilarious yet poignant tale), and while I portrayed my injury as ironic and light hearted initially, it has since become anything but. Because contrary to what doctors have told me, I didn’t get better. Not after 4, 6, or even 8 months of physical therapy. But I stayed optimistic. In fact, I was so optimistic that I didn’t even see the shift that happened. There came a point where I was no longer dealing with a bad back; I was dealing with chronic pain, something I would spend the next 472 days (and counting) trying to escape.

I’m embarrassed to say, I did not handle my back pain very well. It became something insidious inside of me. It consumed me, and my time and attention, taking space and joy away from the things I loved, slowly eating away any hope of its transiency. In the span of a year, I saw over 10 medical specialists and received the full gamut of treatments, everything from the medically sound to the ethically questionable (one man literally set my back on fire). I had MRIs and X-rays done, my tongue examined, my gait and posture analyzed. They all told me different things (insert overcrowded kitchen adage here) and gave me different explanations as to what the underlying problem was and all the things I was doing wrong (from which I can only surmise that it’s a miracle i’m not irreparably crippled right now), but they couldn’t get rid of my pain. Despite their credentials (everything from MD to DC to ‘in the chinese army they called me the ‘bone-mover”) and expertise, that was the one thing they could not do.

As a future health professional and Christian (#salvation), my back pain has been an unending supply of wisdom (the complexities of modern healthcare, faith in suffering, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a creme brulee torch, etc.), all of which I had consistently ignored. I was bitter and tired of hearing from doctors that promised to fix me and, above all, I was in pain. As a result, I ended up living much of the past year through a filter of fear and avoidance, willing to give up any and everything to escape the pain. But the thing about chronic illnesses is, it’s exactly that. Chronic. It’s inescapable, which means that denial and self pity are just temporary fixes, and inevitably, I would have to face this thing that I had, figure out what about it made it so utterly devastating. I don’t claim to be an expert (especially considering that within the realm of chronic pain, my 1 year is fleeting), nor can I promise that my thoughts won’t change with time, or change with pain. All I have are the things I’ve found myself repeating in my head, when 400 something days feels a couple days too long.IMG_6444One of the hardest parts about chronic pain is the feeling of loss. That I no longer am the person that I used to be. With each day I experienced pain, I felt like I was missing out on a day that I could have been who I was before. And with each day, that person grew farther and farther away. I had demonized my pain and idealized my prior self to the point where I forgot that pain existed (and even flourished) elsewhere. I discounted the suffocating pain of an asthma attack or the noxious pain of a migraine. I selectively ignored the sinking-dread-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach pain of getting pulled over for making an illegal turn onto Market (even when i was just following the car in front of me!) and then, a few hours later, the soul crushing pain of spilling an entire Fage container (costco sized) of granola onto the carpet (bad day for daniel). For so long I believed that pain had stolen something from me, when in truth I just didn’t want to accept what it had given: a reason to think and learn, to exercise and grow strong, to struggle and share and prepare myself for what’s next, for day #473.

***The leading cause of right-sided heart failure is left-sided heart failure.

Yarnoplasties: A Case Report

As second year of medical school is nearly over and Step 1 is 1 step away (aha! but seriously, t-73 days someone save me), more of what we’ve been learning has been put into a clinical context, and literally half of each day is spent going through cases, the kind of cases that we’ll be expected to present ourselves next year.

So, in an attempt to more fully embody my education (and to prove that knitting is the most relevant hobby one could pick up during medical school, aside from watching house), I decided to write up a case of my own. IMG_6331

Chief Complaint: This is a left handed arm warmer in need of repair. I initially declined, but then reconsidered upon learning that its owner, Tiffany, plays Killer Bunnies (i love killer bunnies) and loves the West Wing (i bleed west wing).

History of Present Illness: The arm warmer was knit approximately 3 years ago with a worsted weight yarn, likely a wool/acrylic blend (a precise manufacturing history was not obtained due to the fact that we ended up talking about jed bartlet dreams and which killer bunnies expansion pack is best), and began to unravel some time ago to the point where it is now unwearable. Tiffany denies any neglect or improper care and maintenance of her knitted accessories, claiming the injury is a result of ordinary wear and tear. She is most definitely lying.

Past Medical History: Pilling — appears to be chronic, likely due to repeated use and cleaning. Given Tiffany’s extensive history as an all-around liar, I suspect it has been machine washed and dried several times, expediting the pilling process.

Past Surgical History: There is no evidence of past darning or repair.

Medications: Knitazoxanide, Lispinapril, Purlax, Woolfarin

Allergies: Washing at high temperatures, machine drying, cats, babies, and annoying adults that like to pull on loose strands. Also penicillin.

Social History: Spends most days on the left hand or balled up in a coat pocket. Has a moderately healthy diet and frequently exercises. Has smoke alarms in the house, does not own a firearm, and wears a seatbelt when riding. Denies alcohol, tobacco, and any illicit drug use. Has not received vaccinations because, as per the patient, “I’m a hand warmer. Also that stuff gives you autism or something.”

Family History: Wool on mother’s side came from a merino sheep named Wilson in Minnesota who was served for Christmas dinner 3 years ago. Acrylic on father’s side produced at an unknown company, but likely Red Heart Super Saver, which is unfortunate, because I despise Red Heart Super Saver.

Review of Systems: Positive for cables, intarsia color-work, and ribbing. Notable unraveling and yarn loss.

Physical Exam:

Body: blocked and well-knit, with moderate pilling. Mild jaundice noted.

Thumb gore: loss of ~2cm due to unraveling distal to the gusset.

Genitourinary: deferred.


This is a case of severe unravelling in a left handed arm warmer. I recommend the following intervention immediately:IMG_6339Using a tapestry needle (1 gauge) and some scrap yarn, thread the yarn through the last preserved round of stitches and tie off.IMG_6342Next, remove any old yarn above this tied off round, leaving just the strand connected to the tied off round.IMG_6349Tie a ball of new yarn onto the strand of old yarn and pick up the stitches from the tied off round onto appropriately sized needles. Knit in a round until desired length, and then bind off.IMG_6355Progress Note:

The arm warmer recovered quickly and was discharged immediately. The cliknitian who performed the yarnoplasty is open to more clients, as he needs something to do while he avoids studying, re-watches Youtube clips of Adele, and binge-watches The Blacklist on Netflix.

***Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot has 10 expansion packs, which amounts to a total of 864 cards.

Crazy cable beanies and the north pole

IMG_6261Winter in Chicago means I am in no short supply of inspiration for my next knitting endeavor (also the time of year when i have to remind myself that a really cool knit scarf is never good enough reason to stare at people on the bus), even if, so far, the climate has been unreasonably SFesque (#graciaselnino). And what I’ve seen more than anything–even more than those blankets that people wear as scarves (blarfs)–are beanies. Not just any beanies, but cable knit beanies. So, unable to find a free pattern on Ravelry that matched what I was looking for, I decided to write my own!IMG_6270I know that most of my patterns have been directed at the XX population, so I tried my best to make this one as unisex as possible. To really drive this point home, I asked a frenemy of mine to try it on.IMG_6276This is CJ, and I told him to try really really really hard to look like a hat model.IMG_6307I kinda wish he would’ve tried a little harder.IMG_6312In the spirit of Christmas and making good(ish) beanie patterns available to all, this pattern is absoknitly FREE, and you can download it here or on Ravelry. Enjoy!

As many of you might have gleaned from the recent scarcity of blog posts, second year of medical school has really taken off. There is a wealth of information to learn and/or (but preferably and) memorize, which means I’ve been spending less time knitting in my long johns over re-re-re-runs of The West Wing and more time holed up in a cafe trying to find a good portmanteau to remember which codon the sickle cell mutation is on (sixle cell). I will spare everyone the long tirade on why cafes are among the best locations in the world (right next to san francisco. and iceland. and the yarn aisle at michael’s.), but one of the biggest reasons why I love cafes so much is because they are one of the few places where it is mildly acceptable (or at the very least expected) to listen in on nearby goings-ons. Before you all start judging me, let me just say that I am not a very nosy person (except when i’m at a cafe, then i am most definitely a very nosy person). That being said, what follows are some of the more memorable things I’ve heard drinking my tea at a cafe counter (teavesdropping?).

‘Jonathan is just the worst.’

Most of what you’ll overhear at a cafe are some variety of a date (even if they don’t know it yet😉 ), but every once in awhile, you’ll stumble upon a break-up or post break-up debrief with the BFF, like last month, when the girl sitting next to me was telling her friend about how Jonathan had just broken up with her. It was all pretty run of the mill until PLOT TWIST: Jonathan was going to pay for her to go to the North Pole, and since they’d separated, she needed to find someone else to fund what I can only assume to be a woefully misguided attempt to visit Santa Claus. Why Jonathan had agreed to subsidize such an endeavor in the first place was beyond the scope of the conversation, but needless to say the relationship ended badly and tearfully, and there’s pretty much a consensus that she is an amazing beyond amazing survivor and Jonathan is the absolute worst human being ever.

‘Football is just, like, so confusing. Could you explain it to me?’

By far the most cookie cutter blind date I’ve ever eavesdropped on. I know I’m not one to criticize, seeing as I am deathly terrified of first dates in all shapes and forms (#bachelortiltherapture) and lack the courage to go on them, but as I sat there with earbuds on, bobbing my head, pretending to listen to music but actually listening to a guy spend 15 minutes explaining who Tom Brady was to the head tilting, vocal frying girl across from him, I had to suppress a very visceral eye-roll. Unfortunately, I left before the date concluded and either of them had a chance to ask about a second date, but there was talk of Laser Tag, so I’m hopeful.

‘Just as you knit these stitches together, so shall you knit together the hearts of your friends and family.’

On one of the rare occasions when I was just knitting at a cafe, minding my own business, this guy on his way out stops, walks up to me (led by the holy spirit obvi), and prophesizes over me. He left me somewhat jarred and skeptical, but seeing as how this happened over 5 years ago, before I even considered going to medical school, it turns out I’m 1 for 1 in terms of prophesies fulfilled–a success rate rivaling that of Jesus Christ himself (bonus points if i actually go into cardiothoracic surgery in 2 years). I’m not entirely sure how the residency match algorithm works, but there’s gotta be a variable in there for divine intervention, right?

TL;DR: Eavesdropping is rude (but informative), cafes are holy places, and if a guy named Jonathan ever tries to buy you a drink, he’s a complete flake and will drop you in a heartbeat.

***The word ‘eavesdrop’ refers to the place outside one’s house where water drops from the eaves of the roof–the same place where one would stand in order to hear what is being said inside the house.

Eyeballs and starbucks

jiptheowlA couple of months ago, I traveled to Japan, a country of rich culture and history and–probably the reason why most people go there–the world’s leading authority on amigurumi, the art of making cute, tiny things out of yarn (pictured above). I also ate some California rolls, which I guess were okay. Now, I have tried my hand at amigurumi before, with questionable success, and since then had resigned myself to the fact that this was just one of those things that I would never be able to do (right next to touching my toes and respecting people who chew loudly). However, being in Japan re-inspired me, and so I decided to give it one last go–one last attempt at knitting Lamigurumi.IMG_6076Okay, so I definitely won’t be making a winking owl anytime soon, but at least it’s progress. Kind of. It’s tiny, that’s for sure, and maybe cute in a weird, biological kind of way. For those of you wondering what exactly it is that I knit, here’s a closer look:IMG_6078It’s an eye! And not just any eye, but an anatomically correct(ish) right eyeball with all 6 extra-ocular muscles attached (the red and grey knit cords, which, as fate would have it, are actually called i-cords)! You know what they say, ‘you can take the knitter out of the anatomy lab…’IMG_6082If you’re asking yourself why I knit an eyeball and suspended it in an old shoebox, the answer involves a fair amount of geeking out (you could say i put the ‘eye’ in knitting) and an even greater amount of boredom. But in short, for the past month or so, I’ve been a (self-proclaimed head) TA for my medical school’s human anatomy course, and, as so clearly demonstrated by my retina-replica, understanding the eye and its associated muscles can get a bit tricky. So, I decided to be a responsible teaching assistant as well as defend my position as best knitter at Pritzker (#knitzkerchief) by knitting an interactive model eye that shows the component actions of each extra-ocular muscle.

Okay, so I originally was going to have a series of pictures here with explanations of how each muscle moved the eye based on its origin and insertion, but then I realized the only people who would actually read that would be my classmates, other medical students, and my mom. So I’ll skip all that and you can just trust me when I say that the eye works as it should, and that it was well re-see-ved by all the first year pupils (the volume of potential eye puns is kniterally addicting)

IMG_5274Over the several days it took to assemble this d-eye-orama (also iBox, yarn bomb, orb(kn)ital fossa. can’t stop won’t stop.) into an oil-stained shoebox, I had a lot of time to think about my trip to Japan, the impetus of this entire project. I got to reminiscing about the things that went well or terribly, terribly wrong, the risks that paid off and those that didn’t, and I ultimately came up with a few tips that I feel like every budding traveler could benefit from.

Learn how to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep my hands to myself.’ My brother-in-law is Japanese, and upon hearing that I was going to Japan, he sent me 4 full pages of recommendations on what I should do while there. However, in all his wisdom, he failed to mention that Japan has female-only trains during rush hour (inconspicuously painted bright pink), which is an option for females, but (as i learned the hard way) absolutely not an option for males. Needless to say, the 2 minutes from Shibuya to Harajuku station amidst a sea of dead silent, nervously staring women was one of the longest train rides I’d ever been on (and an accurate representation of my social life circa 2002-2011) and would have been easily avoided had I been equipped with the vocabulary to relay my innocuous and totally non-pervy intentions.IMG_5085Imagine this but times a million and then crammed onto a subway car.

Stay off the grass. Unless you don’t want to. IMG_5703It is no question that Japan is the place to go for beautiful gardens–most of which are associated with ornate temples and deeply entrenched in religious and historic meaning. And while many are compelled by propriety (or japanese law) to honor this beauty with respect and from a distance, I was fortunate enough to witness a group of middle aged Cantonese couples do exactly the opposite. I was especially impressed with this lady shamelessly lounging by Kyoto’s Imperial Palace gardens. Not pictured: the half dozen ‘Stay off the grass’ signs and this lady’s husband using the Nijo Castle as his personal tripod.

Find yourself a bald companion.IMG_6014That’s right, I didn’t go to Japan alone. I went with my roommate, who is, among other things, bald. This proved useful when needing to identify him in high-volume tourist areas (e.g. public transit at rush hour, temples and palaces, the garrett’s popcorn outlet) and made for an excellent series of photographs of him with the various Buddha shrines (#buddyandbuddha).

But, of course, he was more than just a human homing beacon. Of all the good things that happened during the 2 weeks I spent in Japan, I was perhaps most fortunate in that my roommate also turned out to be my ideal traveling companion (also that we saw an actual freaking geisha). We both are early risers and enjoyed excessive, fitbit-busting walks. We like the same 5:1 ratio of strict itinerary planning to spontaneous impulsive decisions ($25 worth of soba. worth it.), and when I claimed that I saw a cockroach the size of my face in our bedroom, he actually went looking for it so he could kill it (#hesakeeper). And then, as if things couldn’t get any better, he turned to me one day and said the 8 most beautiful words you could ever say to an ISTJ: ‘Wanna just hang out at a cafe today?’ (also: ‘can you organize this into a google doc?’)IMG_6007Regardless of where you lie on the extroversion-introversion continuum or who you’re traveling with, I’ve learned that, given enough time, everyone is driven to seek alone time (the introversion conversion). Even my roommate, who I feel is split 50/50 between E and I, after only 4 days together, wanted nothing more than to just sit at a Starbucks (don’t judge) and journal for hours (i consider that a personal victory for introverts everywhere). So for those looking for a traveling buddy, consider going with a friend who’s an I. We introverts can sniff out a cafe at the drop of a hat and are experts at being with you while leaving you the hell alone. And if you have no I’s in your life, don’t worry. I’ve got a spare one lying around here somewhere…IMG_6080

***The floors of Nijo Castle in Kyoto are called ‘Nightingale floors’ because of the sound they make when they are stepped on–a security measure to ensure no one could sneak through unheard.

End of summer cowls and triquetrums

IMG_6029Just like with trashy thrillers and Trader Joe’s chicken taragon wraps, I have a love-hate relationship with lace weight yarn (also with hearthstone, criminal minds marathons, and this guy in my class named cj). I’m always really excited when I get it, but then I get started and realize that it will take me freaking forever to knit anything appreciable out of it. So, what was supposed to be a summer cowl is now an end-of-summer cowl. A 2-month long endeavor that I almost rage-knit on multiple occasions, and the time commitment equivalent of 6 seasons of 30 Rock (also like 3 of the underworld movies).

IMG_6031Sadly (though not surprisingly), I did not make this pattern myself. Rather, I capitalized on the creativity and generosity of others and adapted it from this free lace shawl pattern on Ravelry, repeating the main motif between rows of stockinette. So check it out if you’re looking for a good lace project!

This is a picture of a stone bench wearing my cowl (quite fabulously in my opinion), because I was having trouble finding a human to model it for me. I know what you’re thinking: Really? A bench? Anyone can wear a scarf better than a bench!

I thought the same thing, too.

IMG_6052And then I ran into Caroline. Despite being among the top 5 best dressed (with celiac’s) in our class, she struggled a bit in front of the camera. I took a few pictures (mostly for show. my camera was off for most of it), but could tell almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work out. She lacked that natural ease that comes so effortlessly to benches. In the end, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was passed over for a seating fixture.

IMG_6038But to be fair, that is one good looking seating fixture.

Like I mentioned earlier, this cowl took me 2 months to complete, which is a long time given that my summer was relatively relaxed and free (i bought a human head). I would have actually finished much sooner, had I not broken my wrist.IMG_1948My right triquetrum, to be specific (for those curious and/or anatomically inclined). Thus, I was put in a short cast for 3 weeks, which put a real damper on my knitting. Not to say I didn’t try, which I did, holding the yarn between my knees (kneeting?), but ultimately I just had to accept that I’d be taking a break from knitting. I was forced into a yarn sewbattical, a knittermission, a suspinsion (okay i’ll stop).

It was shawlful (sorry last one).

So for 3 weeks, I had a lot of free time, and I ended up spending most of that time lying on my couch, shoving carrots and hummus into my face while letting Netflix count down all the way to 0 before autoplaying (#rockbottom). I was a little surprised at how bad I felt and how shamelessly I wallowed in my invalidity, so between games of Hearthstone (the one thing my cast couldn’t take away from me), I thought about why that was.

And I think it’s because I broke my wrist falling off my bike.

Anyone who knows me or has seen me attempt to ride anything with 2 wheels knows that I am a terrible biker, which is ironic, because my dad is such a phenomenal one (his email address is bikes2work not even kidding). I fall, constantly. In the short 5 months that I’ve had my bike, I’ve fallen trying to avoid potholes, street lamps, other bikers, and cars (both parked and otherwise), most often unsuccessfully so. I’ve fallen on multiple occasions all by myself, tripping over the pedals before I’ve even started biking. I’m so incredibly inept that I’ve managed to make a joke out of it, much like my devotion to The West Wing (my summer project was making a stencil of martin sheen’s face) or my limbiness (2015 pritzker limbo champion whaaaat). But in truth, I’m kind of devastated that I’m a bad biker, because I think part of me always assumed that I was going to be an amazing one. Just like my dad.

In recent years, I’ve noticed my interests gradually converge with my father’s. I’ve developed an ear for This American Life and a disproportionate joy in finding things on the street (order by level of excitement: earbuds, flashlights, doorknobs). I’ve begun small home improvement projects (my next summer project is to decorate the living room with a stencil of martin sheen’s face) and, in the rare instances I succeed in bicycling accident-free, my go-to destination is always a cafe that I can sit and read at for hours (actually it’s bang bang pie shop. and then g&i donuts. and then a cafe). People used to tell me that I’d end up like my father, and that always brought me a sense of relief and security. It might be an Asian thing, or an ISTJ thing, or something else, but whatever it is, it started slipping away as I scraped my shins, bruised my palms, and came to the injurious conclusion that not only am I an abysmal biker, but I will never be my father.

I think I’m old enough where I can actually start being things–a doctor, a writer, a father and husband–and it is terrifying. It implies an ownership of an undetermined future, learning from mistakes and decisions, but only after I’ve made them. I’m the first in my family to move out of California and the only one to pursue a career in the medical field, and I’m just starting to realize that my life will look nothing like my parents’.

It’s weird, acting outside the comfort of precedence. Liberating, I’ll admit, but also unnerving and wrought with doubt. To be honest, I don’t know how people live with such uncertainty, or thrive for that matter. I can only hope it’s kind of like riding a bike, a skill built with time and patience and maturity and, most important of all, incessant falling (because god knows i know how to do that).

***Penny-farthing bicycles are named so because the two tires resemble British coins (a penny and a farthing), with a larger wheel leading a much smaller one.

Bun hats and birthdays

I’ve never been much for trends, which isn’t to say I don’t follow them. Because I do, religiously (kale and quinoa. all day errday). It’s just that I’ve always been really bad at them, more often than not miscalculating what the next ‘big thing’ would be (welcome to my knitting blog). Well, no longer. I’ve decided to get ahead of the curve and become a trendsetter. And as everyone knows, the defining characteristic of a trendsetter (other than ombre and succulents) is thinking outside the box.

Or in my case, thinking outside the… bun.


Manbuns are on the rise (here as well as in china), quickly becoming the next hottest updo for men (updude). But while everyone is eager to hop on the bundwagon, I’m already looking ahead to the next trend the manbun will trigger. After 50% of our population begins sporting buns (a reasonable estimate), what accessories will they have for their buns? How will they keep them perfectly coiffed throughout the day? What will protect their buns from rain or snow or rogue scissors?IMG_5031I present to you: the bun hat! Essentially, a cod piece for hipsters. Because why would you want a hat that covers all your hair when you could have one that only covers the last 6 inches?IMG_5001It’s like a bonnet and a yarmulke had a love child who was infinitely trendier than both of its parents.

Wearing the first ever bun hat is my be-manbunned friend, Sam. Now, I know I have mentioned before how my class is made up of a diverse set of people, some with fascinating backgrounds prior to starting medical school (the armed forces, deloitte, minnesota, etc.), but Sam is truly unique. I mean, who would expect a male model to just quit his job and become a doctor?

IMG_4702If you thought you recognized Sam, it may be because you saw his work in the October issue of Outside magazine back in 2013. Impressive, right? Sam was gracious enough to lend his modeling expertise to the photoshoot we had, and he even gave me some pointers as the photographer (‘use the rule of thirds’).IMG_5028Convinced that the bun hat is going to be the next big thing? Perfect! Download the free pattern here! Your friends and their naked manbuns will thank you.IMG_5023Now, as my 947 (a number i check daily) Facebook friends are aware of, I recently turned 25, and it’s been a pretty confusing time. I go back and forth between loving my fortified status as an adult (last week i played craps and it was the literally the best feeling i’ve ever felt in my entire life) and panicking over my newly developed quarter-life crisis. And while I was never the kind of person to make New Year’s resolutions or 10-year plans, I started to think about the kinds of things I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my 20’s and what skills I wanted to refine.

Writing. I decided it was writing and that I want to be a writer. And I know I already write here, but I mean like real writing (personally, any forum that contains ‘fart’ and ‘yoga’ in the same parenthetical has definite room for improvement). So for the past week, I’ve been putting aside time each day to write. About anything. It was rough at first, with a lot of typing and backspacing and long stretches of time when I was just staring at a blank page. But then I imagined that I just received a voicemail from Ira Glass saying, ‘Daniel, I heard about you from my niece who loves to knit. First of all, love the blog. Hilarious. Can’t get enough of it. Also, I need a piece by next week. I asked David Sedaris, but he said I should ask you. Can you write me something?’

And this is what I wrote:

I don’t like birthdays, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t mind the unrelenting reminder of time passed, the steady crawl towards death and the loss of memories and all material things. Nor am I alone, without friends to flood my Facebook wall with congratulatory notifications. I have no devastating character flaw that surfaces each year to remind me that, while my age and body may change, I remain the same selfish, hypocritical self that I’ve always been. I also did not kill a hooker on my last birthday in a drunken rage and haphazardly dispose of the body, the guilt of which drains the very life from me and torments me as I wait for the cops to knock down my front door.

I don’t like birthdays because I’m me, and people are people.

Birthdays are complicated, which might explain why, while my friends’ celebrations included everything from sushi making to rock climbing, I was content with having the same birthday party 6 years in a row. From the ages of 8 to 13, every July 10th, me and a close set of friends and family would meet at Presidio Bowl to enjoy a couple hours of bowling fun. Bowling. Life’s most inoffensive activity. Bowling followed by ice cream cake (life’s most indecisive dessert). By the time I started middle school, it became a sort of mindless tradition in my family, like spring-cleaning or piano lessons. My parents would call the bowling alley, I would invite my friends, and then we would all go bowling and eat ice cream cake afterwards. It was simple and expected, which, as it so happened, was the birthday present I wanted most of all.

I was an anxious kid growing up. I thought. A lot. I scrutinized everything, discerning subtext and implications, playing and replaying old conversations in my head. Was it weird when I said that? What did she mean by that? To me, every opportunity to speak was an opportunity to say so much more, and I wanted—needed—to figure out exactly what everyone was saying, including myself. As you can imagine, this led to more than a few social phobias as well as an unhealthy need for predictability. But fortunately, like most other kids I knew, I grew up. I figured out how not to read too much into things and to trust that people said what they meant and meant what they said. And years later, I was able look back at that unseasoned, immature teenaged me as just an embarrassing memory, a version of myself that, thankfully, I was no longer.

But then I turned 25.

For fear of losing the few friends I have, I first must say that I had a very happy 25th birthday (almost as good as my 4th bowling and ice cream cake party). I was surrounded by laughter and good conversation, and it was over far too soon. But in the events leading up to it, my birthday had cracks, moments where misalignments of social expectations—what, if anything, one should bring to a potluck, how obligatory attendance is, etc.—had been exposed. And this time, there wasn’t a sense of routine, an overriding ritualism, to cover them up. In other words, this wasn’t my 7th bowling and ice cream cake birthday party. By the end of the night, I found myself not so much frustrated as overwhelmingly unsure, and I began to think. A lot. Was I the host or recipient of this celebration? Were these people with me friends throwing a party or guests intent on enjoying it? What do I do now?

When I was in the 7th grade, I came to the conclusion that we were all just square pegs and round holes. That everyone’s actions could never truly capture their intentions. Something was inevitably lost at the synapse, from mind to mouth, no matter how hard we tried. Human communication, according to my young, adolescent mind, was messy and inherently flawed, prone to misinterpretations, social gaffes, and, ultimately, hurt feelings, so we should all just wait around for telepathy to become a thing.

7th grade was a long time ago, of course, but there are times when I rediscover that same paralyzing uncertainty and feel like I haven’t changed at all, like I’m that same scared little kid again, hiding behind 6 identical birthdays just to avoid the slightest chance of rejection. But I have changed. And while it may be true that communication is innately flawed, I have realized that it is not irredeemable. It is a fixable machine. We try, we fail, and we learn. We make friends and hurt them and spend forever making it right again. We are at once fragile and indestructible, masters of apologies and products of forgiveness. And perhaps it is this very trial-and-error nature of human relationships that makes them so unique and invaluable, and things like a happy 25th birthday nothing short of a miracle.

***Craps comes from the French word, ‘crapaud,’ meaning ‘toad,’ which refers to how players used to crouch when playing on the floor or sidewalk.