March Recap + Favorites

Can you believe today is the last day of March? I know the months seem to fly by faster and faster, but it really seems like the single-digit days were just yesterday and now it’s the 31st!

March is usually when things pick up in pace for me, as spring tries to spring and activities are on the uptick! So here’s a little recap of how my month went:

I started the month with a sleep study It was a bit strange, but I’ve been having a lot of sleep issues for the past few years and thought it was high time I asked my doctor about them. The sleep study was definitely interesting, so let me know if you’d like to hear more about that experience!

In general, I re-prioritized my health. I have been making my doctor’s appointments instead of putting them off, and even though I am missing time at work (that I make up by coming in early and staying late), it’s good to know that I’m getting care, especially because not everyone is currently insured and able to do so. I’ve seen several different doctors this month and will be seeing many more with the appointments I’ve made, and this is mostly to maintain good health and as follow-ups to past appointments. I do think it’s important for me to think of these visits as health maintenance, rather than think of visiting the doctor as something I only do when I think something is wrong. Prevention is key! I have also been exercising and I gave up fried foods for Lent, so it’s been a healthy month!

I visited San Francisco! I will be putting up recaps from my time there shortly (I swear!), but I made solo trips to museums during the day, caught up with friends for dinner, and was able to support my boyfriend after he gave his first big conference talk. I also got to see Christine (and meet her boyfriend!) while I was out there, my first time visiting her in SF since we became friends!

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Um, it snowed for the first time all winter in DC. We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter this year. Like actually warm many days, and no where near as brutally cold as it usually is. It’s been comfortable for us as humans but very worrying, especially given that the cherry blossoms seemed poised to peak weeks earlier than usual. Then it snowed and dipped below 30 for the first time in weeks and we were all very scared for the cherry blossoms. I only wish we got more snow, as the initial predictions for this Stella were much higher than anyone experienced. Oh well! It looks like that is all DC will be getting this winter and we’ll have to wait until the next one.

I met Danny Boyle at an early screening of T2 Trainspotting. He was such a sweet man, honestly, and I really have a renewed respect for him and his films after hearing his Q&A and being able to meet him. I haven’t seen all of his films yet, but you can bet that will change soon!

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I got to see the Instagram-famous cherry blossom + Super Mario pop-up bar! This was an awesome Instameet, so we were actually able to sample the cocktails free of charge an hour before the bar opened to the public. This bar is as cool as they say, and here’s my friend Andy‘s video to prove it!

Fun fact: I actually met Andy for the first time over 2 years ago and hadn’t seen him since until this Instameet! He’s an amazing photographer and vlogger and overall dude, definitely check him out on Instagram.

I was able to experience Yayoi Kusama’s Infinite Kusama exhibit and the Hirshhorn. The same week, I got to see another Instagram-famous DC happening and it was pretty spectacular. As stressful as it was to be rushed through the infinity rooms (20 seconds to try to take in… infinity?!), I really enjoyed this exhibit and really hope I can come back before the exhibit goes to the next city.

You know what, here’s another one of Andy’s videos because I just have not edited my videos or footage together yet!

Christine and Phil visited DC! The weekend after my SF trip was Christine’s birthday, and then the weekend after that, she and Phil actually came to my city and visited DC! It was so great to be reunited with Christine and to spend more time hanging out with Phil.

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Reunited and it feels so good!

I attended the second Women in Tech Summit DC in a row. Last year was the first year of the DC Women in Tech Summit and I was able to come back for another year, this time at the new(ish) Washington Post building! (The last time I was at WaPo, it was for a hackathon in the old building. The old building is now completely gone!) It was fun to see some great women in tech that I haven’t seen in a while and also to just be surrounded by so many awesome ladies and supportive men. It’s hard not to feel motivated and inspired after events like this.

I saw my first Wizards game! And they were playing the Nets, so it was my first time seeing Jeremy Lin (and his terrible hair), too! This was a work outing and it was a lot of fun, minus the part where I didn’t know where the free food + drinks were for a long time while watching the game alone (because everyone else was eating free food and drinking free drinks).

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The Wizards are currently the #3 team in the NBA Eastern Conference! The Nets are the lowest ranked team, so we beat them easily. Probably because of Jeremy Lin’s hair.

I watched the Hamburg Ballet’s production of The Little Mermaid at the Kennedy Center. The tickets were on sale so I had to snag one for myself, starting a pattern of me seeing ballets at the Kennedy Center solo. This one wasn’t quite my cup of tea (I wasn’t a fan of the choreography, as it was distracting…? and was so abstract that it was difficult to suss out the actual story) but I still really enjoyed seeing these incredible dancers. This production in particular had a lot of male dancers, and I was reminded at how stunningly athletic male ballet dancers are. (Two words: six-packs.) (Everywhere.) It’s fun to take myself to see a show every now and then, and the Kennedy Center remains one of my favorite venues to do so!

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I was also crazy close! Maybe too close, the dancers occasionally were out of my field of vision…

I am seeing results after working out for 2 months. I always heard that it takes 6-8 weeks to see any semblance of progress when it comes to exercise. About 2 months ago, I decided enough was enough, I need to stop struggling to lift things and open that heavy glass door to my office building. (Look, it’s really heavy and sometimes the wind catches it, which makes it harder to open and… I mean you get the picture, small arms, heavy door.) I got a ClassPass membership back in January, which I’ll be telling you guys all about really soon here on the blog, and have also been doing some very casual/haphazard strength-training and running at my office gym so that I can eventually accomplish those resolutions I set at the beginning of the year. This past week, after a day where I somehow squeezed 2 intense workouts into one day, I got home and could see tiny signs of progress! It was really exciting to not only look stronger but to feel a little bit stronger, too. (That being said, I still huff and puff up the stairs and I struggled with a heavy glass door this week, so I have a lot more progress still to make!)


To wrap things up, I wanted to share some things I’ve been loving this past month:

Jidenna’s album, The Chief: I have been waiting for Jidenna’s debut album for a long time, ever since I saw him open for Stromae. That was almost 2 years ago and I’m really enjoying the album. I highly recommend having a listen because it’s very likely you’ll find at least one song you like, given how flexible Jidenna is with the genres that he plays around with on this album. I watched his music video for “Bambi” when it was still just in the tens of thousands of views on Youtube and I’ve had the song stuck in my head ever since.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out: This movie is as good as the hype. I was too scared to see any of the press screenings, even with Annie telling me it was sooooo good and that I have to see it. STILL I was much too scared to see it, until she sent me this article where the author is a self-professed wimp but didn’t find the movie too scary. Ultimately, I went when Annie invited me and my boyfriend to see the movie with her and her boyfriend, because we don’t get to see the two of them that often and they were really close to where we live. I was SO NERVOUS to see it, but it really is a tour de force and you really should watch it. It’s masterfully done and, you know what, not really that scary! In the traditional horror movie way. (Maybe it’s scarier because… the horrors of the movie are not too far from reality.)

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The March Disneybound Challenge: I’ll be posting up my annual March Disneybound Challenge recap but this was a lot of fun! This year was different because Leslie actually posted a day-by-day challenge guide, so I was able to lean on that for inspiration rather than thinking of something from scratch every day. I did feel like it was harder to break that guide to go with outfits that I had that didn’t fall neatly into them, but overall, it was good to have some structure to the challenge. Also, I got to see some really incredible outfits on Instagram and this challenge reaffirms how much I love the Instagram Disney community every single year. These folks are amazing.

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A little preview of some of my #disneyboundchallenge posts on Instagram

How has your month been? Any highlights to share?
What are you looking forward to in April?

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The Inkblots (2017)

I enrolled in college as a psychology major, not because it was a way to be undecided without bring actually undecided but because I really enjoyed psychology. While I didn’t take psychology in high school, I self-studied for the AP Psychology exam and got a 5 because I absolutely devoured the material. My dad works in psychology and is the person who exposed me to the field. As a result, I’ve long had a deep interest in the workings of the human mind and the rigorous scientific study of it. (The scientific method is your best friend, folks!)

The Rorschach test is pretty famous. You probably know it as the symmetrical ink blot that shrinks show to people, drawing conclusions about their mental state based on what these crazies see in the amorphous shapes. You may even know the name from the character in The Watchmen, whose mask shows a symmetrical, always-changing pattern of black shapes.

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This guy right here.

Author Damion Searls set out to write The Inkblots:Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing because there was no definitive Rorschach biography, despite the huge impact that his inkblots have had on psychology and pop culture. I’ve known about the Rorschach for a long time, primarily as a pop psych test that is fun to do and fun to get results from, but ultimately not that reliable. I learned that this perception of the inkblot test comes not from the original test that Hermann Rorschach spent his life developing but from generations of people not giving the test correctly and letting politics get in the way of psychology.

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The first half of the book is a great biography of Hermann Rorschach. First of all, look at him: he looks like a combination of Karl Urban and Brad Pitt and he lived during the golden age of psychology. His contemporaries were Freud and Jung, two of the biggest names in psychology to this day, and wrote letters to Tolstoy. He was just this extraordinarily brilliant mind who placed high value on art and the human part of the human mind. While many psychologists and psychiatrists of the time saw patients as just patients, Rorschach never lost sight of the humanity of his work. Born into a family of artists, he was extremely in tune with how art affected people and how perceptions reflected the condition of the mind.

Honestly, it was really inspiring to read about this man who was likely a genius and definitely ahead of his time with his approaches to the study of the mind, interacting with patients, and using art for therapy. Searls paints a very flattering portrait of Rorschach as a man who was raised at the juncture of an artistic family and Russian thought, a man whose brilliance was only magnified by his great compassion for the minds who needed his help the most, a man who was able to see patterns and draw conclusions that would not be confirmed until decades later when science was able to catch up.

It was a bit of a shock when he passed away halfway through the book, to say the least. By that point, I had become so attached to Hermann Rorschach, his loving family, his patients and his colleagues, and of course, the inkblots that were the culmination of all the experiences of his life (as highlighted by the book). Turning the page and finding that Dr. Rorschach had suddenly died hit hard, and as a reader, I was left scrambling to pick up the pieces while the inkblot test remained in motion, just as the world was left trying to figure out what to make of the inkblots before Rorschach was able to publish about them.

If you thought Rorschach’s biography was fascinating, the timeline of the Rorschach inkblots as they relate to psychology over the decades was incredible. I have been really enjoying these non-fiction books where I can explore a field over time, like cellular biology and quantum physics, and The Inkblots is no exception. Learning about how the Rorschach test became a test, was changed in execution and perception as it traveled from one practitioner to another, from one clinic to another, from lecture hall to student, and back around again… The politics that surrounded the 10 inkblots as different camps emerged in the attempt to uncover the best way to utilize the Rorschach, how best to help patients, how best to get accurate results.

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Card I of the Rorschach inkblots. What do you see?

I closed this book with an enormous newfound respect for Hermann Rorschach, whose brilliant mind was tragically taken from the world with his early death at a time when he was poised to change it drastically. I also took away a new respect for the Rorschach inkblots in their design and original intent and execution. The inkblots seem very random, but in fact, Rorschach agonized over perfecting their abstract forms. And he got incredible results showing those inkblots to patients and to other clinicians, who were seeing the same amazing results. It’s just that, over time, as people were not trained properly in how to administer the inkblots, the reliability of the test went way down, and so did the esteem of these humble inkblots.

I highly, highly recommend this book if you are a lover of science, psychology, art, and the nexus of the 3.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Gifted (2017)

I’ll be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Gifted, I was sold by one thing: Chris Evans. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of his, not only as a known beefcake (is this a term that people use? I don’t know how else to describe the pop culture status his physical attractiveness has garnered him without using “beefcake” or “Dorito” so…) but also as an actor and a person.

Basically, Chris Evans is bae. I don’t like the term bae, but that’s what he is.

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I was also drawn by the premise: A young math prodigy whose mother passed away is being raised by her uncle, who is desperately trying to allow her to live a normal kid’s life rather than the accelerated genius path that he saw his sister experience.

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And then my friend Annie gave me this testimony after seeing an earlier screening:

OMG STARR! The Gifted screening was sooooooooo goood!!! You’ll cry like a baby and Chris Evans was so hot. Chris Evans was distractingly hot.

I mean, if I merely was interested in the movie before, I super wanted to see it after that glowing, personal review from Annie. So, off I went with 4 tickets to see the movie alone, because I did not want to work too hard to find people to sit next to me while I sobbed over the movie-induced and Chris Evans-induced feels.

TL;DR This movie really was good. It was heartfelt, the story was well-told and well-paced, and the actors were excellent at conveying subtle and complex emotions. Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, and Lindsay Duncan shine. Chris Evans is, indeed, distractingly hot.

I really loved watching this movie. It tugged at my heartstrings without it feeling gratuitous. It wasn’t as predictable as I thought it’d be, and I really enjoyed exploring the different character dynamics within the film. I don’t have a lot to say, actually, but I just thought this movie was very simply well-done. I’m sorry I can’t say more about it, but I just…

… walked out of the theater feeling really good. Satisfied. Content. And wiping tears from my eyes.

Gifted is in theaters April 7th.

Thanks to The City Vault and Fox Searchlight Screenings!

T2 Trainspotting (2017) // review + Q&A w/ Danny Boyle

Choose life…

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If you mention the first Trainspotting movie, based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Walsh, you’ll hear people tell you things like it is their favorite movie of all time, that they had the “Choose Life” poster in their adolescent bedrooms, that the movie soundtrack turned them onto their favorite artists. It’s a pivotal, cultural icon.

I’ve never seen it. In 1996, when Trainspotting was released, I was a toddler and not particularly interested in a film about Scottish heroine addicts and their trials and tribulations. But I was interested in seeing what the sequel would be like, 20 years later, with the original cast. I know Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly MacDonald from their more recent work in film and television, so it’s fun to revisit this film that helped put them on the map so long ago.

TL;DR Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you’ll enjoy T2 Trainspotting for its character development and dynamics, great storytelling and pacing, and fun soundtrack.

Before I talk more about the movie, however, I’d really like to share some tidbits I learned in the awesome Q&A we were able to sit through with director Danny Boyle. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may just not know the breadth of his work. He is best known for films like Slumdog Millionaire (yep, the one and only!), 28 Days Later, Steve Jobs, and 127 Hours, among others.

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Danny Boyle was incredibly kind and thoughtful with all of his answers, and I honestly have a greater deal of respect for him as a result of being able to hear him talk about the film. Some insights and stories he gave us included:

  • The first scene they shot was the one where Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) are yelling and beating their chests in a basement. The cast and crew were a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to have everyone working together again after 20 years, and Jonny and Robert quieted all those fears by just bringing it for the first take on the first scene and really set the tone for the rest of the shoot.
  • He shared a great anecdote about how he was really taken by the thriller Don’t Breathe, and how even though British people are accurately known for being quite reserved, including at the cinema, his theater for that film was yelling and shouting. It was nice to hear how much he appreciated the pacing and storytelling of this film (he brought it up again twice during the Q&A) and be able to poke fun at British-ness.
  • While the US release of the first movie had re-recorded dialogue because the original accents were too difficult to understand for American audiences, T2 made use of some fun typography to help fill in gaps in understanding for the 2 speaking characters who start the film who happen to have the heaviest Scottish accents in the film.
    • This was actually an answer to a question I asked! I wanted to ask about if American audiences take away something different because we don’t have the same cultural context for the film, and I tried to contextualize it in terms of the accents and the dialogue, but he only answered about the dialogue. That’s what I get for asking a 2-part question!
  • The change in narrator and voiceover for this film was very intentional, as the first film focused on Mark (Ewan McGregor), who is essentially silent for T2 even though he is the catalyst and center of the events 20 years later. Instead, Spud (Ewen Bremner), who is kind of a tragic character, is the voice telling us the story of what happened then and what is happening now.
  • Danny Boyle actually said that he hopes people in the future will watch T2 first and then watch the original, because of how referential it is and how it changes the relationship with the first movie. Glad I could oblige by watching T2 first!

Basically, Danny Boyle was a complete sweetheart, introducing himself “Hi, I’m Danny” when I asked to get a photo with him. He was just so considerate with his time and his answers, we didn’t feel rushed at any point and he really gave full thought and consideration for each question that he got. It was fantastic.

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BACK TO THE FILM.

It was a lot of fun to watch. It’s very nostalgic, so if you loved the first film, I think you’ll appreciate that this one picks up 20 years after the events of Trainspotting. It’s about consequences. And it knows it’s nostalgic; there’s a meta scene where Simon is yelling about how nostalgic Mark is being, living in the past when it’s nothing to be glorified and, instead, something to be left behind and forgotten.

But it’s fun to be nostalgic about Trainspotting. We see clips of the first film sprinkled throughout, and there’s a great moment where, when Mark returns to his parents’ home at the beginning of the film, and he begins playing the Iggy Pop record and “Lust for Life” starts, he isn’t quite able to bring himself to listen. But by the end, he is. And juxtaposed with a clip of young Ewan McGregor from the first film and… it’s really great.

Plus, the entire film is framed by Spud telling the stories that make up the first Trainspotting, with him turning to writing to beat heroin addiction and those written stories later comprising… the original Trainspotting novel.

Thanks to BrightestYoungThings for hosting this screening and Q&A!
More thoughts and spoilers after the trailer. T2 Trainspotting sees its US wide release on March 31.

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Headaches

Hello all and happy Saint Patrick’s Day if you are observing!

I’ve been having a really incredible March so far, not least of all because DC had its first actual snowstorm a week before the vernal equinox, aka the first day of spring!

And maybe that’s why I’ve been having a lot of headaches. Allergies? I’ve always been prone to headaches, usually with my monthly cycle and occasionally outside of that, but lately it’s been an almost daily throbbing pain in my head.

I saw a doctor about it and she recommended I take a few supplements to see if that helps, so I’ve added magnesium and riboflavin vitamins to my routine and am hoping for the best. I have definitely been feeling out of sorts of late, but there are so many good things happening this month. I saw Christine last weekend in San Francisco and I get to see her next weekend here in DC, with her birthday sandwiched in between during this weekend!

Posts to look forward to for the rest of the month:

  • At least two movie reviews (I saw two these week, so those will be going up very soon)
  • Any lingering China posts
  • San Francisco posts
  • Christine in DC posts

And if somehow that doesn’t fill March, I have even more drafts ready to go for my experience with Blue Apron and ClassPass (crazy, I know) so keep an eye out for all these things!

But in the meantime, if you have any suggestions for how you manage headaches and migraines, they would be very welcome. Thanks!