Night view of the financial district

Big Apple Recap-ple 2015

Yup, the post title that was so good I had to use it twice. (Not going to lie, pretty proud of that one.)

I’ve been meaning to return to my home city for a while now, but I hadn’t been able to get the timing right. Then, Ben’s company sent him to a conference in New York so away we went! I didn’t do a lot of planning this time around, which was giving me anxiety because I was waking up every day not really knowing what I was doing that day… But it was also pretty freeing. As a result, though, I wasn’t able to see as many people as I usually do when I’m up for a visit. Freeing, but I love seeing my old friends. I didn’t want to drag Ben around, though, so it was good that we were able to spend some just-us time and go with the flow. (You all know how much I struggle to do that.)

I’m going to include links to the businesses we visited and links to reviews so as to not bore you with details in this post here. If you’re interested, I do go fairly in-depth for most of the businesses in my reviews. I have lots of photos and we saw a fair bit, so strap yourself in!

Night view of the financial district
View of the financial district from the roof of Google NYC

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2016 Resolutions

Even though it seems contrived to repeat myself year after year after year, my resolutions posts are easily the most important blog posts I write. I could write nothing else but resolution posts and they would validate the existence of my blog, personally. It’s important for me to have them bookmarked so that I can look back on them. Yes, most of the time, most of my resolutions go unkept by December 31, but it’s still important for me to set these goals for myself. I like the promise of a fresh Gregorian calendar year ahead of me to taking more steps towards becoming the person I want to be.

This year, I’m going to do what I’ve been futzing about and not doing in past years: I’m going to schedule time for these resolutions every day, every week, every month. After not achieving certain resolutions year after year after year (see #1 and #2), I really understand the value of me making time for myself and the goals I am setting for myself. Even though my schedule has been — and will remain for some time — painfully uncertain, I can still make sure to make time for goals that are important to me. I’ll denote things I need to schedule with an asterisk(*).

2016 Resolutions
Here we go!
Without further ado, my resolutions for 2016.

Concrete

As in previous years, these are the resolutions that, by December 31, 2016, I will know if I successfully kept them or not.
  1. Read more books (min. 12)*. What happens here every year? I can actually answer this: I don’t set aside reading time that isn’t on my commute, and my commute time often is spent on reading the news instead of the book I’ve brought along. That’s not to mention the large portion of the year I spend, er, not commuting at all, which means I don’t have dedicated reading time at all! I used to just read whatever book I had on my nightstand until I finished it right before bed, but the older I get, the less I want to delay sleep. So, reading is something I will definitely be writing into my schedule for 2016 and beyond.
    *(Min. 20 minutes/day)
  2. Do a full split*. This has been on my resolutions list for the past 2 or 3 years now, I think?? That just means that I do need to put it on my schedule, every day, to stretch until I can do a split. I am closer this year than I have been in past years, but I haven’t been doing the stretches consistently enough. Gun to my head, I could do a split, but I will be in a considerable amount of pain for several days afterwards, so that’s what we’re trying to avoid here.
    *(Min. 5 minutes/day)
  3. Get a job and keep it for more than 6 months. If you’ve been keeping up, I’ve had a lot of job-related resolutions the past few years. The thing with my transition away from medicine when I graduated is that I’ve just not been that happy with the jobs I’ve had since. As a result, I haven’t really stayed anywhere very long. It’s bad for my resume, but more importantly, it’s just bad for my mental health because I don’t have the sense of job security and stability that I really want and need at this stage in my life. Hoping that I am in a better place to achieve this than I have been in the past. This does put some pressure on me for my job search, and I am not trying to just find a dream job immediately upon entering a new field. But I’d like to have some job stability, first and foremost. I want to feel — at the very least — glad to be working somewhere, given my past experiences where I just was not.
  4. Pay back the people who supported me. In between my funemployment and my full-time student-ing, a lot of my loved ones have supported me emotionally and financially. Part of why I want to have some job security is because I want to pay back the people who have made my journey so far possible by helping keep me housed and fed and then some. It feels weird and unsettling to not be quite financially independent right now, after having been independent for while after I graduated, so I want to clear my personal debts and be on my own two feet again.
  5. Complete Whole30. Ben and I are embarking on Whole30 for the month of January in an effort to reset our bodies post-holiday eating and to just work on healthier eating habits. I’m really nervous because while eating simply and for sustenance only comes easily to Ben, it’s very difficult for me to take the joy out of food. Fingers crossed that the sugar withdrawal isn’t too rough on me and that I don’t just end up skipping meals to avoid meal prepping altogether. Because of food poisoning and a surprise visit from my mom this upcoming month, January may not be the month that I complete Whole30, but I may try again sometime later in the year. (In the summer, when I won’t crave hearty noodle soups?) (BUT then I can’t have ice cream???)
  6. Get a regular exercise regimen*. Okay, so the joke I constantly make about people exercising has never really been funny and it’s time I stop dilly-dallying about my fitness and health. This is another thing I need to schedule, even if it’s just using the 7 Minute exercise app on my phone. I know I like group fitness classes, but it’s currently not feasible for me to be doing that, especially knowing that it might be hard for me to just get out the door to the gym. I’ll try out Terry Crews’s tip to just go to the gym, even if I don’t exercise, so that I can build up the habit of just getting to the gym, which is most of the battle. Even some stretching to help me achieve that full split (see #2) would be better than my current exercise regimen of nothing.
    *(Min. 3 times/week)
  7. Stick to a blog schedule*. 2015 has been a pretty bad year as far as blog consistency. Blogging is definitely one of the first things that gets dropped from my life once something full-time happens (i.e. a new job and a new full-time course). This is something I need to be making time for, because it is important to me. I also want to get all the posts that I owe to this blog up by the end of this year.
    *(Min. 1 hour/week)
    In fact, here is a list of specific posts that I want to get up here by the end of 2016:

    • New York trip recap — has been done since a week after I got back but I have been putting off uploading photos for
    • Florida trip recaps —  again, I just have been really lazy about uploading photos from Disney World…
    • Book reviews — Thanks to Christine, I have started doing Blogging for Books, so I need to start getting reviews up for the books I am receiving.
    • Europe trip recaps — ahahahahahahahah I went to Europe in 2013 but I’ll get the posts for Copenhagen, Paris, and London published if it kills me, I really will!
    • Color Run recap — um… this is literally done and has photos up with it, so it’ll just be a randomly belated post really sorry about this one (I think I was waiting for the official photos to come back and they were awful so we’re not going to use them)
    • Eat DC posts — I had one or two more that I planned to have up before Karen and Christine’s visit… and clearly they didn’t make it in time oops.
    • Gift guides?? — I had started planning out gift guides for the holiday season early last year, but it didn’t happen… maybe we’ll try again but I have a lot to catch up on so no holding your breaths for this one! I’m just throwing it out there because it’s an idea that I had in mind but I know that I have a huge backlog…
    • Thoughts and ramblings — I have a lot of drafts backed up that are just my thoughts on some things in life. Not tied to any events, but just things I think about and want to articulate and write about. I get nervous even writing them, because it’s not the kind of content that people really come here for… but it’s stuff I care about and I think if I wanted to make this a travel/movie review blog, I would have rebranded it as such but it’s not so I’m sorry/not that sorry.
  8. Have my personal website up and running. I’ve owned my domain name for about 2 years now, but it’s been blank the whole time. With a new career path unfolding before me, I think it’s high time I had the site working and representing myself professionally on the Internet. (Especially since I’ve been paying for just that for over 2 years.) This is tied with #3 of my abstract goals (below) but also needs to happen pretty immediately as I finish my web development course and enter the job market.

Abstract

Ah… the abstract resolutions. These goals are a lot harder to check off of a list. Some self-betterment ideals that are more difficult for me to pencil into my schedule, but are still really important for me to be mindful of. Here’s a few:
  1. Practice patience. This year, I realized I am a really impatient person. Whether I’ve always been this impatient or if 2015 just shortened my fuse, I’ve become really aware of how quick I am to snap about, well, anything. It’s part of my anxiety, sure, that I hate waiting around and feeling like I’m wasting time. But what worries me is how short-tempered I am with the people in my life. It’s so apparent that I know immediately after snapping that I am being a dick but by then, I have already shown this ugly side of myself. Maybe all the time I spent alone made me forget how to interact with humans, but this is undoubtedly one of my top priorities as far as flaws I need to address and fix.
  2. Make time for friends*. There are friends in my life that I don’t see enough — all of them. I have been so terrible about keeping in regular contact with my friends, and it takes a toll on me. I spread myself very thinly amongst my friends, but I am the kind of person who needs deep, meaningful relationships. To some people, what I’m craving is a higher maintenance friendship, yes, but I have to acknowledge what I want. If this means having a set day to see and/or talk to a friend, then that’s what I’ll have to try. Because the older we all get, the harder it is to make and keep long-lasting friends.
  3. Actively work on my professional skills*. I dedicated the last part of 2015 to developing a completely new set of professional skills. In addition to having my personal domain site running, I want to make sure I keep practicing my new skills and picking up new ones. This is not something I want to be complacent about, and it ties in with how happy I will be at my next job: If I’m happy, I like what I do, and I have good work-life balance, then I’ll have time and motivation to work on my professional development. Tied in with that…
  4. Upload photos for blog posts. If you haven’t noticed the trend of apology posts, I tend to be late with recaps primarily because I don’t want to edit and upload photos. I’m going to make a big effort to be better about this, but I think I’ll also let myself post blogs without photos if I feel the timing is more important. Yes, it’s rough reading my own posts that are just loooooooooong essays about some random event. I know that photos make things more compelling, even for myself to read. In fact, a kind of more concrete goal I have related to this is to fix the broken photos on my old posts, which I previously just had taken from Facebook. (Unreliable hosting, I guess.) I know all-text posts are less fun for you all to read, but is it better or worse than no post at all? Let me know.

I’ve liked the convention of choosing a kind of guiding word for the year, and the idea started to really resonate when I saw Stephanie talk about it on her blog last year. If I could sum up the guiding principle of my resolutions this year, it would be with the word effort.

Word for 2016: EFFORT. Make the time, make the effort.
Make the time. Make the effort.

At some point, between trying as hard as I could at everything I could imagine and now, I became afraid of exerting true effort. The thought of really trying and then failing became so terrifying and paralyzing, and I was just smart enough and just talented enough to do okay-to-well on everything without really trying. If I did well, I chalked it up to luck and that just enough that I contributed. If I didn’t, well, I mean, but imagine if I had really tried, right?

It’s time to do away with that attitude this year. I need to really make an effort in my resolutions, and with most things I do. And in order to do that, I know that I have to make time for that effort as well. This isn’t an exhaustive list of areas of my life that require more effort, but a resolutions list is not an exclusive list of goals, after all. I’ll keep you updated on how these go and if any new big goals come up.

Before we head into 2016 with new goals to fail achieve, I think it’s also important for me to look back on resolutions that I have actually kept, much to my own personal benefit, over the past few years:

  • I am still drinking more water than I used to
  • I SPF (virtually) every morning and moisturize (nearly) every evening, even moreso than I did in 2014
  • I got over 700 on the GMAT after studying for just 2 weeks
  • I did get new jobs (even if I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked)
  • I started learning to code!

Past new year’s resolutions: 2015 (concrete / abstract) | 2014 | 2013

What are your big resolutions this year?
What single word could be used to describe your goals for the year?

Looking Back on 2015

I started this post on January 1, 2015, knowing how difficult it was to put together my 2014 post, but I have not been as good about updating it with significant events in the 364 days that followed, unfortunately. (So much for the foresight to avoid my current struggle.) Despite that, I can still tell you a lot of really big things that happened in 2015 because it was a significantly eventful year for me.

In the interest of time, here are some things I did in 2015 (without accompanying photos) (for now):

  • Took the GMAT after 15 days’ notice
  • Got into graduate school
    • Withdrew my enrollment from graduate school so that I could say yes to a different opportunity
  • Reunited with my friend Tammy after having not seen her for over 10 years
    • And again the day after Christmas! Meaning I saw her 2 times in 2015, which is 2 times more than the past 10 years combined!
  • Survived Valentine’s Day
    • Cooked a surf ‘n’ turf meal of steak & crabcakes from scratch
    • Attended a really kick-butt Valentine’s Day party
    • Hit a bus (at ~3 mph)
    • Saw a tree fall
  • Watched 50 Shades: The Musical Parody at the Warner Theater
  • Attended my first ever Instameet, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • Watched Anything Goes at the Warner Theater
  • Saw Chelsea Clinton at the American Heart Association ball
  • Met and had my copy of The Buried Giant signed by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Listened to the NSO Pops and Lea Salonga perform live at the Kennedy Center
  • Saw my friends Megan and Don get engaged
  • Proved that blog friends are real friends when Christine and Karen visited
  • Went to Florida for my first proper spring break, stopping by:
  • Started a new job with an exciting new DC startup
    • Left that job
  • Watched Once at the Kennedy Center
  • Moved my stuff to Ben’s place
  • Ran my first Color Run (belated blog post to come shortly)
  • Resumed eating chips!
  • Attended Diner en Blanc DC
  • Saw Bo Burnham at the Lincoln Theater
  • Saw Stromae at Echostage
  • Started a full-time web development boot camp
  • Got food poisoning for the first time

I’m sure there are more significant events that happened in 2015 that I just never got around to writing down here. It’ll be March and I’ll suddenly jerk away with the realization that I actually did something super wicked awesome and need to put it on this recap before I forget it forever!!

As far as reflections on 2015… I’m glad that I was able to attend so many live performances! These experiences can get expensive but the Kennedy Center has made them so much more affordable than I previously thought possible. Definitely take advantage if you are 18-30 and/or active military! I really did try to say “yes” to more experiences this year, given how well that went for me in 2013 and how I felt the effects of not doing so in 2014. It definitely doesn’t hurt, although being a student and paying tuition did put a damper on saying yes to as many of these experiences.

It quieted down towards the end of the year when I started my full-time boot camp. But I’m really excited for what 2016 will hold because I am entering a new field and there are just so many new opportunities opening up for me. I just have to be brave enough to go for them.

https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/548014904_1280x544.jpg

Past annual recaps: 2014 | 2013

How was your 2015? Any big milestones?

2015 in Film

It’s time for my annual movie round-up! It feels like another year that went by without me really seeing as many films as I wanted to. That’s always the case, but I know that this year, my schedule got crazy a few separate times (as clearly evidenced by my super spotty update schedule)…

Running down in the order of the list that Wikipedia has, here’s what I’ve seen this year:

  1. The Wedding Ringer (nailed it)
  2. Cinderella
  3. Trainwreck
  4. Furious 7
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  6. Pitch Perfect 2
  7. The Age of Adaline
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road
  9. Inside Out
  10. Jurassic World
  11. Ted 2
  12. Ant-Man
  13. Self/Less
  14. Pixels
  15. The Danish Girl
  16. The Martian
  17. The Intern
  18. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
  19. The Big Short

Definitely a sparse year in terms of reviews written, eh? Should I be writing reviews for movies that I’m not seeing at early screenings? I just figure those were the only ones of value to most of you, but please let me know if you don’t mind seeing a review after a movie’s release date.

2015 Movies

Past annual movie round-ups: 2014 | 2013 | 2012

What did you see this past year?
Any must-see movies that I missed??

The Danish Girl (2015)

It’s been a while since I last posted a movie review! But it’s been a long while since I’ve seen a movie early enough in theaters that I thought I could still get away with writing a review. (Right now, I only write reviews for films I’m fortunate enough to see early, but please let me know if you’d like reviews for movies I see during their regular theatrical runs.) (And possibly others?)

danishgirl

I was excited to see The Danish Girl because the casting had made quite a splash when it was announced. Eddie Redmayne plays Lili Elbe, born Einar Wegener the painter, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Alicia Vikander plays Gerda Wegener, Einar’s wife and a painter by her own right. Einar and Gerda and kind of a beautiful couple, truly and madly in love with each other and trying to have children at the start of the film. While Gerda is struggling to get her portraits shown, her husband’s career is more successful as he shies away from the attention he is beginning to garner in art circles.

At a pivotal point in the film, Gerda asks her husband to put on stockings, shoes, and a dress for a sitting so that she can work on a portrait that her model (a wild child ballet dancer named Oola played by Amber Heard) is late to. At first, Einar puts up little resistance out of his love for his wife, but he hesitates when Gerda asks him to hold up the dress so that she can see how the fabric falls. “Maybe you’ll like it,” she teases.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/09/01/15/2BE0133700000578-3218411-Awakening_When_Gerda_asks_her_husband_Einar_to_stand_in_for_a_fe-a-7_1441119222805.jpg
Einar sitting for Gerda

This is where Eddie Redmayne’s performance starts to shine through. You can see that Einar is visibly changed from the moment he begins to slip on the silk stockings as he looks down and sees, for all intents and purposes, a woman’s legs. There are a lot of closeups on Einar’s face as he grapples with how he feels in women’s clothing and how he feels seeing himself in it. He touches the soft satin of the dress and – for his wife or for himself? – strikes a more feminine pose as Oola walks in. The moment is broken and Einar immediately laughs in embarrassment that Oola has seen him in stockings and holding the dress to his body. She is immensely amused and dubs this feminine Einar “Lily” while giving him a bouquet of lilies.

From this moment, we see Einar gradually becoming more and more comfortable as Lili, and less and less comfortable as Einar. It’s difficult to watch, not only because it’s a difficult period of a person’s life to be intruding upon as she comes to embrace a different gender identity than the one she has been forced into, but also because of how it’s portrayed.

Even as someone who is maybe a bit more social justice-oriented than the average American, I am quite new to transsexual issues. That being said, I am not sure that the fixation on feminizing Einar was the best way to show the character’s shift in identity. There is an entire scene where Einar goes to a peepshow to watch a naked woman touch her body and he mimics her. I understand why these kinds of scenes happened, and I can’t speak on behalf of the trans community, but it seemed a little gratuitous and oversimplified as far as what it means to be a woman. (Although I understand that, for a visual medium, it’s difficult to convey this mental shift without using these borderline-garish visual means.)

Another thing that is difficult to watch is Einar and Gerda’s marriage disintegrate, because their love is very clearly demonstrated to be so beautiful at the start of the film. Obviously, their relationship as husband and wife changes as Einar transition to Lili. It’s so tricky to portray, and I think maybe the film got ambitious with showing this because I think it missed a few beats. I’m not saying that a situation like this is easy to portray, but in The Danish Girl, it seemed to be misisng something. We see how much Einar and Gerda love each other, and can’t keep their hands off each other, and fell for each other at first sight. And when Einar starts to let go of Einar and embrace Lili, we see that she still loves Gerda, even while Gerda really fights Lili replacing her husband. But by the middle of the film, Lili is having illicit rendezvous with a man (Henrik, played by the adorable Ben Whishaw), and by the end of the film, she is telling Gerda how she wishes to marry a man someday and have children.

http://40.media.tumblr.com/462331930fb00fb613bb32e71bab5f97/tumblr_nx1gr0bU671roci9qo1_1280.jpg
Lili and Gerda having a difficult conversation

I really struggled to believe Lili being this callous toward Einar’s wife. Was there such a strong divide between Lili and Einar that Lili did not love Gerda the way Einar did? It didn’t seem that way in the middle of the film; it seemed that Lili did still care for Gerda deeply. But maybe she didn’t love Gerda? It didn’t make a lot of sense, especially given what Lili would say in public about marriage and how much she valued it, and I think this may have to do with just how gender identity itself doesn’t often make a lot of sense. But it was painful to see how Gerda had to suffer in a very different way from how Lili was suffering. And I’m glad that the movie did not try to minimize Gerda’s suffering and only focus on how Lili alone suffered through her transition.

Also interesting is how Gerda has to deal with this transition herself. Her career as a painter is only able to take off because of her paintings of Lili. (“It takes the right subject matter to make an artist great.” – very roughly paraphrased) So it’s interesting to see her treat Lili as this amazing person who helps her create amazing art, but also for her to deal with the conflict that by having Lili, she does not have her husband. But her love persists throughout the entire film, even though when it’s difficult for Gerda. It’s very tough to watch and to show, and I think that’s really honest.

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I do like how they also showed Lili’s struggle with medical professionals, most of whom diagnosed Einar with perversions or a series of other mental illnesses. It is implied with her first doctor’s visit that Lili may be intersex, as she has stomach cramps every month. (It has not been confirmed if Lili Elbe was intersex in real life.) However, that first doctor subjected Lili to painful radiation therapy that did not cure her ailments. It’s difficult, then, for Lili to trust Dr. Warnekros (played by Sebastian Koch), her last resort to seek medical treatment. Only Dr. Warnekros believes in Lili’s gender identity as valid, and rather than trying to cure “Einar’s perversion”, tries to help Lili exist in the world as a woman.

(Again, though, I don’t love how Lili and Dr. Warnekros use terms like “real woman” at times. For example, Lili expresses a desire to have a baby, “like a real woman”. I’m not saying it was wrong, but it was hard for me to understand what Lili thought of herself as a woman and maybe that was the point; that Lili herself was not yet sure that her identity as a woman was valid.)

The scoring by Alexandre Desplat was also great. Desplat frequently does a wonderful job of creating very emotional film scores and this was no exception. The only thing more powerful than Desplat’s moving scores were the very pronounced awkward silences that filled the gaps. The soft color palette of the film was also pretty key in highlighting, then, the brighter colors of Lili, for example, who was never comfortable being in public as Einar but was so comfortable being in her red lips and beautiful gowns. Really great work by the set designers in tandem with the cinematographers, truly.

I cried a lot watching this movie, and I’m really happy to see Hollywood begin to tell these stories that really need to be told. I’m expecting to see a lot of The Danish Girl in the upcoming movie awards season. (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander already have several – well-deserved – nominations including ones for the Golden Globes.)

This isn’t a great family movie. There is a scene where you see, erm… a lot of Eddie Redmayne. And if you are uncomfortable with seeing a male actor in women’s clothing and makeup, you will definitely be uncomfortable watching this movie. And if you’re kind of salty about Eddie Redmayne being a more beautiful man and more beautiful woman than you are, prepare to be salty while watching this movie. But it’s a good film to see, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Because these are stories you should know. This is suffering you should be aware of.

And it’s a gorgeous movie.

The Danish Girl has been on limited release since November 27, 2015 in the United States.