Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sarah Préfère La Course

I attended my first film festival this Sunday. The Mill Valley Film Festival showed the American premiere of the Quebec Film "Sarah Préfère La Course", or in English, "Sarah Prefers to Run". The film is about a young woman who goes off to college and is disinterested in pretty much everything except running. My favorite part was the opening scene, starting with a track workout and then showing the competitors at the starting line of the race. It was in French with English subtitles, allowing me the opportunity to practice my French. I only wish they had taught the actress to run better. She kept swinging her arms too high in front of her and landing flat footed. Maybe next time recruit a runner?

After the film, we had the opportunity to meet the film's director, Chloé Robichaud, a demur 25 year old young woman with a strong French accent. I'm going to keep an eye out for the debut of her next film, "Country".  Looking forward to seeing Ben Stiller's premiere next Sunday. 

Sarah doing her thing
A grainy iphone selfie in the Sequoia Theater before the film began
Director Chloé Robichaud answering questions after the film. Photo © Jonathan Shensa

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why I Support the Affordable Care Act

Watching another instant classic Jimmy Kimmel clip made me realize that we supporters of the ACA have been failing. Jimmy Kimmel went to talk with people on the street about whether they supported the Affordable Care Act versus Obamacare. The joke was that everyone supported the ACA and no one liked Obamacare, highlighting the fact that most people failed to realize they were the same thing. I want to make sure you know why I support "Obamacare", aka the Affordable Care Act. 
     At a recent town hall meeting with CA Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley, she highlighted that the Affordable Care Act has three legs to it. The “Affordable” part, aka the delivery and finance reform, the "Prevention and Wellness" leg, and the "Coverage Expansion" leg. This third leg, the expansion of coverage starts this week. Each state runs its own health insurance exchange, ours is “Covered California”, which is basically an online marketplace for health insurance. You can visit the website at https://www.coveredca.com/. From my work with creating websites in the past, I have to give major credit to Secretary Dooley and her office for the user interface and ease of use. Check it out yourself, in one of the 14 languages it's been translated into. Starting now, you can “enroll” in health insurance that will go into effect on January 1st 2014. All insurance providers who enter the exchange are required to cover 10 Essential Benefits
      To give you some examples of the coverage rates. If you are single, and make $27,000 a year, your health insurance will cost $175 per month, thanks to a $2460 subsidy by the federal government. Or lets say you are a nurse with a family of 4, earning $88,800 per year, your monthly health insurance will cost $700. Compared to the old individual market, where a family of 4 could cost $2k-3k a month, these are very affordable plans. The rates vary depending on the particulars of the plans you choose of course. 
    As for the other two legs of the ACA, I’ll be brief, you need to know that with the “Affordable” leg the ACA bans discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and bans insurance caps. For us healthy folks, this doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it is a really big deal. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the US is health care costs. Now, because of the ACA, less people will go bankrupt due to hitting their insurance limits while on chemotherapy treatments or living with cystic fibrosis. With regards to the “Prevention” leg, your routine health screenings, vaccines, and birth control will be free. Many of these perks have started to kick-in already. Check out https://www.healthcare.gov/prevention/ for more. 
     Is the ACA really such a big deal? A resounding yes. The insurance reform, focus on prevention, and extension of coverage, are exactly what we need in the health care sector. The ACA will make us healthier as people, communities and as a nation. There will be bumps in the road, the ACA is not perfect (has any legislation been perfect ever?), but it is definitely a big step forward. As Congresswoman Anna Eshoo recently remarked about us Americans, “we love our history once it’s been made, but we seldom embrace the fact that we are making it. As someone who was in the Senate chambers on March 23rd 2010, watching the Senators vote for the passage of the ACA like a Giants fan in game 7 of the World Series,  I knew that I was part of something historic. I will consider it an privilege to serve my country as a doctor under the Affordable Care Act. 

I hope you’ll join me in my support and spread the word yourself. 

Weekly Goods

A good book...
Hilary Rodham Clinton's Living History
Finally finished it. My favorite part of the book was learning more about her younger days, at Wellesly College especially. It was also interesting to hear her opinions on the contrast between her image as First Lady when she tried to take on legislative roles vs advocate for women's rights internationally. Her China speech as Women's Rights being Human Rights is historic, a must watch, and an excellent call to arms. "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all". I know that in the development world so many people are advocating for women's rights as a path towards development, and I think Hilary was the one who really set that agenda in action. I'd be proud to support her in 2016 if and when she decides to run. I couldn't think of a better candidate.

A good song...
Let Her Go
By Passenger, this is a beautiful song. I want to learn the guitar so I can play it myself.

A good film...
Miss Representation
A few facts I learned from this film... Cuba, Iraq, China, and Afghanistan have more women in politics than the U.S.... Did you know domestic abuse was acceptable denial of insurance as a "pre-existing condition?" (Thank goodness for Obamacare)...I also didn't know that the US is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave. Jennifer Newsom did a great job.

A good talk...
Stanford Population Health Symposium 
I attended Stanford's kick off conference debuting the new department of Population Health.  The best part was my lunch table conversation with Dr. Jack Rowe, former CEO of Aetna, and Dr. Mads Melbye, head of the Danish National BioBank -to say it was an interesting conversation is an understatement.

A good youtube..
Hitting the Wall
Paula Newby Frasier, one of the epic ironman triathletes in 1995 pushed herself beyond her limits. This is a heartbreaking and inspiring video illustrating her limits. "Totally surreal". It shows how dangerous athletics can be when we are strong enough to push ourselves beyond our limits. You get knocked down, but you get up again. That's the best 4th place finish I've ever seen.

Another good week in the books.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekly Goods

Attempting to get back in the blogging groove, here are a few highlights of last week.

A good movie...
La Misma Luna
A wonderful movie directed by Patricia Riggen about a boy and his mother.  An enticing summary can be found here. Spanish with english subtitles, so a great movie for improving your spanish language skills as well. It's also called Under the Same Sun. Watch the movie trailer for yourself.

A good song...
Pure Imagination
A hauntingly beautiful song remade by Fiona Apple. This is the song behind Chipotle's latest advertisement, The Scarecrow.

A good book...
The Thoughtful Dresser
A novel by Linda Grant taking a closer, and more serious look into our love of fashion. She intertwines many wonderful bits of fashion history, from Chanel to Christian Dior's New Look, while telling moving stories of the power of fashion and style in the face of of atrocities against humanity. Makes me like fashion even more then I did before. Quick and easy read, if you like fashion at all, this book is for you.

A good eat...
After making a reservation 3 weeks ago, we finally had dinner at Boulevard. If you are up for a gourmet meal, wonderful ambience and the best halibut I've ever tasted, Boulevard is where you should eat. Chef Nancy Oakes lives up to expectations, now I want to check out her other restaurant in town, Prospect.

A good talk...
ACA Town Hall Meeting 
I attended Stanford's Affordable Care Act Town Hall Meeting today. The guest speakers were Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, California Secretary of Health & Human Services Diana Dooley, and Stanford Pediatrician Paul Wise. Enrollment in "Covered California", our health insurance exchange begins next week. Thus why House Republicans are all in a fit this week. Diana Dooley did an excellent job breaking down the 3 legs of the ACA, the delivery and finance reform, prevention and wellness aspects, and expansion of coverage. My favorite quote from the event was via Anna Eshoo, "We love our history once it's been made, but we seldom embrace the fact that we're making it". Let's hope that with the bans on lifetime insurance caps and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions that health care stops being the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US.

A good run...
Palo Alto Moonlight Run
Stanford Med came out in full force, fundraising over $6k for our free clinics in honor of former Dean Phil Pizzo, aka Marathon Man and one of my idols. I entered the 5k race, and wasn't going to push myself, because I strained my calf earlier in the week (yes injuries still mar my existence). But, when the gun went off, I couldn't help myself and I went for it. The sheer joy of racing was felt in every ounce of my being. I was grinning from ear to ear for at least the first half of the run (don't worry shortly after I started to feel like I was going to die from lactic acid). Seriously though, such a joy to be out there with everyone. Racing is a spectacular feeling! Even though I was about 200 people back and took a solid 5 minutes before we were going faster than 10 min/mile pace, I somehow managed to win my age division? I didn't even know this until my advisor emailed me saying she picked up my medal for me. Sure enough, I am now in possession of a blue ribbon medal! A surprising highlight. I think I can run a pretty good 5k in the upcoming year. So here goes nothing...

Ok, first post in two months, have to start somewhere. This was certainly a good week, hopefully I"ll have something worthy of posting soon. Pass along any "goods" from your week.

Friday, July 26, 2013


We enjoyed a day in Venice, 5:30am to 8:30pm. What a day it was!  We had St. Mark's Square to ourselves at 7am...

The Grand Canal became really busy as the day progressed.

We made our way over the Rialto Bridge

To the historic Rialto Fish Market. Octopus anyone?

Ah the gondola...

Venice -I definitely want to come back!

Friday, July 19, 2013


It's summer in Roma, meaning it is affollata y calda. Crowded and hot! A good game plan is to walk from water fountain to water fountain, stay in the shade, skip the heat of the day, stay inside at the musuems, enjoy the awesome public parks and avoid the Disneyland parts of Rome.

Off the beaten path in Roma makes for some beautiful photographs. Enjoy!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Best 28th Birthday Ever

What an amazing last few days, I am struck by the beauty of Paris, and its sophisticated style. I adore the public gardens and parks interspersed throughout the city; so well groomed, full of birds and ideal for people watching. Thankful for my good pair of walking shoes.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

First evening in Paris

Great flight, arrived safely with no problems. After dinner in Luxembourg Gardens, we walked the streets of Paris and arrived in time for the lights to glitter at the Eiffel Tower!

Now time to get some rest in time for the big 2-8 tomorrow. :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bon Voyage!

Check in went smoothly with XL airlines. Everyone was wishing me a happy birthday and it brought smiles to the employee’s faces to know that I would be celebrating in Paris! My Osprey Farpoint 40L bag zipped up nicely just like a duffle bag. I had to check it because XL has stringent carry-on limits. 5kg or less, which fortunately for me, is enough for all my electronics, which include my iphone, kindle, canon cybershot, canon DSLR with telephoto lens, and this MacBook Air I’m typing on. I’m officially a flashpacker. Once I was safely past security, as a farewell to San Francisco, I indulged at Firewood Cafe with clam chowder in a sourdough breadbowl. Yum! Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is on, I hope LeBron and Miami loses, mostly for the sake of Jon’s sanity.  Au revoir San Francisco! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Expiration dates -my nemesis

So, I leave for Europe on Monday. Excited? Yes. After an awesome destination wedding over Memorial Day weekend, I was confident I could get everything ready for my trip in 6 days...Then the curse of expiration dates took over.

First- ATM Card. I had the forethought to call Schwab about my international travel, as I was calling, noticed my ATM card expires in July...Oops. After a few phone calls, some excellent customer service (thanks Kyle!), and a walk to my local branch, it should be fed-exed on Saturday. We hope.

Second- Passport. Now, I know what you're thinking, isn't the number one rule of international travel to make sure your passport is up to date? Yes, and now I know why. Technically my passport isn't expired yet, I still have another two months...But online searching tells me that many countries have the right to deny you access if your passport expires within 3 months of your entry to their country. Not okay. So, after unsuccessful phone calls, filling out an application, a trip to the Walgreens photo booth, and 90 minutes at jam-packed but surprisingly efficient San Francisco Passport agency, I will be picking up my passport tomorrow afternoon. Thank goodness there is an SF office! Again, we can only hope...

Third- Car Registation. This was the only one of the three I anticipated! Somehow got locked out of my online California DMV account, will try to call this afternoon. I really don't want to be standing in line at the DMV and the Passport agency tomorrow. Two overworked, underpaid government agencies in one day is two too many. This is less vital to my trip, thus it's last on my list.

Is there anything else that can expire I should be aware of?! I hope not. I already double checked my credit card and drivers license. Three times a charm I guess.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Rant about Foodies

I was going to add a fifth reason to why I joined a CSA, but decided to make it a stand alone blog post. My fifth reason was going to about the whole environment and health part of joining a CSA. However, I have mixed feelings about this. I really don't like things that get overhyped, and there is something about the "locally grown" and "sustainable" trends that irks me. Yes me, the passionate outdoorswoman and environmentalist. I think what rubs be the wrong way is that people are such zealots around here.

I used to eat a lot of fastfood, it's tasty, on the way home, and affordable. I still do, especially when traveling, because $4 at Wendy's vs a vapid overpriced salad seems like a no brainer to me at times. And sometimes after a 10 mile hike what you really want is Carls Jr curly fries and a chocolate shake.  I have fond memories of always stopping at Panda Express on the way home from backpacking in Yosemite. Plus, there are so many people that would in theory love to eat well, but it is overpriced and no one knows how to cook these danged vegetables. I have certainly come a long way from my days of microwaved cheese quesadillas. Yes, I will still keep a stock of frozen vegetables and precut sweet potato fries in my freezer at all times. No I don't have a garden that I love spending hours in. I probably won't until I'm 80. If I'm lucky I'll have an herb garden in which all the herbs don't die in under two weeks. No I don't think brussel sprouts taste amazing and should be eaten raw. I have a giant sweet tooth and rank dulce de leche next to godliness. And yes I have never seen the giant orange/lemon fruit delivered in my box this week, and my giant purple cabbage has an uncertain future, I will try the recipe but will not hesitate to dump it if it tastes bad. Now stop judging me!

The "foodie" movement is overtaken by an air of "I'm better than you are because I eat dirt" that feels elitest and pretentious. When something seems overhyped, I tend to stay away. However, that doesn't mean that I don't agree with the values and principles. Especially in the great state of California, where we have a wonderful climate to grow and harvest delicious foods, I'm going to support our locally grown produce and join the charge against the big guys. I haven't read enough to feel that I can truly speak on the health effects of pesticide-free organic growing methods, but I will say that getting a giant box of any fruits and vegetables on my doorstep is going to be a good thing for my health!


2013 marks my first foray into the world of community supported agriculture (CSA). Luckily, I live in San Francisco, the mecca of such activities. I thought joining a CSA would be a good idea based on a few reasons. 

One, receiving weekly deliveries of food for the week on my doorstep cuts out a trip to the grocery store. I actually enjoy trips to the grocery store, but decided with my medical school schedule that I like real runs more than grocery store runs. 

Two, the weekly deliveries of food removes a lot of decision-making from my daily life. I don't plan meals based on the infinite amount of ingredients at the store, instead I receive my food supply in the box, with recipes included. Doctors, even those still in training, make hundreds of decisions every day, many very small, but still using the decision-making parts of our brains. Decision fatigue is a real thing. I just became less decision fatigued. 

Three, rutabegas delivered? I cook rutabegas. Doesn't matter that I didn't know what a rutabega looked like until I googled it. I have an easy recipe and 2lbs of rutabegas- it will be done. I like the fact that being part of a CSA forces me to try new things on a regular basis. I consider this a good thing. Change is good, a few years ago I wrote a post about inertia, and how it slowly and steadily overtakes us. I could detail perfectly my Trader Joes run, what I choose in the vegetable area, my route down the isles, and thus my fridge and food stay strikingly similar week to week. Don't get me wrong, I still love my Trader Joes, and will definitely continue to go there as needed. My new weekly CSA delivery is a system that fights against this inertia and builds in change to my week.

Four, my CSA box teaches me what fruits and vegetables grow in different seasons. I've been enjoying Farmer's Markets for several years now, you learn to appreciate the revolving cycle of food during the year. When summer rolls around my excitement grows for the plentiful amounts of zucchini and peaches. As winter nears, my stomach rumbles for sweet potatoes. On a psychological level, I  find there is something good for the soul about the sensory perception of time passing. California doesn't really have seasons, so sometimes you can't really feel the change in time. It's why I put away my summer clothes in the fall, and am happy to bring out my rain boots. I like that my food expresses to me the change in seasons and a CSA helps with this. 

In the end, I sorted through the vast numbers of CSAs in the Bay Area and decided to try LolaBee's Harvest. Lolabee's works as an online store that sends a weekly harvest box, a smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables, and also allows you to add other locally grown items to your order including meats, cheeses, eggs, herbs and other fruits and vegetables as you wish. Keep you posted!