Friday, December 28, 2012

SUNDAY CARTOONS: Heaven or Hell?

Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed will be published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents, and more surprises to come!


Mark Twain once said something along the lines of, 
"Go to Heaven for the climate...

And, go to Hell for the company."

Feel free to send in your cartoons and art! We might just publish it. 

Cartoonist, Lesa Martin:
Lesa Martin, after retiring from a career of professional ballet and graduating from UCLA, has sparked a wonderful career as a multi-media artist. She has shown her work in the SF MOMA Rental Gallery, and has many ambitious plans concerning enticing new paintings people are itching to see! Her subtle humor leaves us thinking about life. Enjoy!

THE RIPPLE EFFECT: Modernization

Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents and more surprises to come!


The allusive term professors and politicians always use: modernization. 

"What is modernization?"
"Well, I define it as..."

Well, what is it really? 

The answer is that it truly does vary. 

Today, being modern entails the ability to discuss in depth the most popular TV shows, being able to talk about celebrities, and investigating the modernized world of multi-media industries. But, are we really so modern?

In the Renaissance, picking up a classical book and reading it and bleeding it of all its information so that you might soak up the fascinating insights of authors past? That was considered modern. People, during the time of the Renaissance, called their world a modernized one. In the Victorian Era, if one were to be properly modern, one had to use education in a clever manner during conversation to publicly emphasize just how much one knew. Until television gripped the heart of the world, was it not the turning of a page that brought about a certain satisfaction and a "modern outlook"?

Is the newest generation, and the multi-media hounds preceding it, really all that modern? Doesn't modernity imply a certain heightened intelligence? Though the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and other educational programs are indeed quite useful for the fun facts spectrum of our lives, it is unusual to find thought-provoking TV shows, let alone movies, as the world turns its back on the old tradition of entertainment: books. 

People always say, "Oh you must watch _____, it's so clever! They reference all kinds of smart things, so you have to be smart to watch it." Perhaps, and yes. Often times TV shows are clever. But, you must notice that it is the show that is clever, not the thoughts forming in your head as a response. It is a much more one-sided experience. 

Books, however, are directly engaging, pulling the reader in with the entire mind enwrapped in the text. We analyze the literature as we read, whether it be wondering if we are like the protagonist, or picking apart words out of habit, wondering why the author chose to write a certain phrase as he did.   

Over this break, perhaps read a book. What a beautiful, "modern" New Year's resolution. 

Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed

Women in the World and the Ripple Effect Section, Sasha Martin:

I made my own major, The Nature of Emotion as investigated through literature, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science and other interdisciplinary fields, and am minoring in Creative Writing. I created Unleashed for the general empowerment and knowledge of women and men everywhere, and continue to be involved as editor, designer and writer. I am an editorial and PR intern for City Lights. I happen to love the Unleashed staff quite dearly, as well as readers like you. It's amazing what words can do! Feel free to email me at Unleashed. I hope you enjoy! 

PAGE TURNERS: Thou Shall Be Asked Out Properly

Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents and more surprises to come!


The Ten Commandments of Women...

Commandment I. Thou shall be asked out properly

The whistle. The hand grab. The mortifying pick-up line. And of course, the wink—smile—gun combo. Women are all too familiar with these attempts at getting their attention, but men should know there is a better way of asking a girl out. A much better way; a certain etiquette that should be followed, if you will. It’s quite easy, and with practice can be accomplished in no time.

First and foremost, women are not dogs. Therefore, if you whistle at a woman that is walking by, do not expect her to turn around, joyously panting, running to your feet. Expect her to roll her eyes at the ignorance of such a gesture and keep walking. Sure, you might be so far away that the only way for her to acknowledge your presence is the high pitch of a whistle. But if you want to talk to her that badly, do some exercise and jog over to her. The same goes for honking horns. Women will not chase after the car in excitement, such as a dog would. Save the whistle for dog kennels and the horn-honking for traffic.

Next, unless a woman drops something on the ground or is about to walk into oncoming traffic, never ever grab her hand, or any other part of her body for that matter. Respect her personal space and use your words like a civilized human being. A light, gentle touch on the arm is okay in situations where vocalization may be difficult, such as in a loud club, but grabbing is what is expected of monkeys, not people. Just keep your hands to yourself.

And then there’s the pick-up line. “Did it hurt? When you fell from Heaven?” “Hey baby, are you a parking ticket? Because you’ve got fine written all over you.” “I lost my phone number . . . Can I have yours?” Lastly, “Are you from Tennessee? Cuz you’re the only ten I see.” Believe it or not, lines just like these (and many much worse) are used every day, and unfortunate women have to listen to them. Remember The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, where Will Smith would pull out one of these little devices to grab an attractive girl’s attention? Well even he couldn’t swing the pick-up line in his favor without getting the cold shoulder or an occasional slap in the face. That in itself should be a telltale sign not to use pick-up lines. While it is true that they can be pretty entertaining, they are best used in a non-serious setting—i.e. as a joke to friends or family, not strangers.

Well, how do you properly ask a woman out? one might ask. If you heed to the advice above, you’re already off to a great start. Let’s go through some possible scenarios. If you see a woman walking on the street, walk over to her and say “Excuse me miss, may I talk to you for a minute?” or start a conversation, “I noticed you are _____, I am also _____” and so on so forth. This gesture shows that you are treating the woman as a person and not an object or animal. If a woman is sitting on a park bench or in a café, don’t plop yourself on the seat next to her, put your arm around her and say, “Your place or mine?” Walk up to her and politely ask, “May I sit here with you?” Lastly, if you are at a nightclub or bar, and a girl is with a group of friends, don’t come up behind her, grab her ass and give her a seductive wink as you pull her away from the group. Walk up to the friends, acknowledging them, and ask, “May I steal your friend away for a second, I’d like to talk with her.”

In summary, when asking a woman out, treat her with respect and courtesy. That’s all we ask. Don’t get shut out by a woman before she even gets a chance to know you because you whistled at her or used a demeaning pick-up line. You’re better than that. 
And she will see that, too.

 Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed 

Creative Writing Columnist, Caroline Lewis: 

My name is Caroline Lewis, I am a super-senior at Cal (they just can't get rid of me!), and I am studying Integrative Biology with a minor in Creative Writing. Some might be thinking, "Why, those have absolutely nothing to do with each other" but I love writing fiction, it's my means of escape from the rigorous world of science. I especially love to incorporate humor into my writing; sometimes you have to search for it, but don't worry it's hidden in there somewhere! I hope you enjoy my work as much as I love creating it, and I look forward to working with this great group at Unleashed. 


Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents and more surprises to come!

Coming to you from Spain... 

Something bad happened. How did it go wrong? How did it happen? When? Who was there? Who was involved? How did it get there? Who told you that?

Something good happened. This is so great! How did you do it? When were you there? What is it? When did you learn how to do this? Who is he? Is she the one?

You know the six question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how. But, when things happen in our lives we usually focus on the who, what, when, where, and how’s of it; we seldom ask “why?” Is there a reason we avoid this question? One reason is because this question generally does not have a simple, concrete answer.  And people like simple, concrete answers.

Asking why something happened allows us to explore not just the details of an event, illness, or occurrence, but also how we feel about it, and what role it plays in our lives and in the shaping of our character.   

Some of life’s most important questions do not have simple or concrete answers. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid seeking answers to them.  Complexity and uncertainty should be embraced, in part because it is precisely in these arenas that you allow yourself to explore your own suppositions, curiosities, hidden fears and insecurities. Between black and white lies an infinite spectrum of grey; between the known and the unknown lies the imagination. But to this terrain, you must ask yourself and commit to answering the question, “why”?

Why did this happen? Am I supposed to learn something from it? Is there an obvious life lesson staring me in the face that I simply do not see? Or am I choosing to blatantly ignore? Am I afraid of the answer? Did I learn something about myself from this? Did I just find something I am really passionate about? Was the (e.g.) occurrence attributable to love, or perhaps the absence of love?  

Maybe there is no simple, concrete answer. But maybe there is. Or, perhaps there are many equally plausible alternative reasons. But until you ask yourself, you’ll never know the answers to any of the important ‘whys’ of your life, e.g.: whether you traveled to learn about another culture, or to learn about your own self; whether you’re mad because of something he said or you’re really just frustrated with yourself; or whether you gave the street musician your spare change because you thought he needed it or to tell him that his music just made your day.

So ask away! Ask questions without simple, concrete answers and see what you discover. Let your questions lead and teach you. And, don't be afraid to explore the darker sides or yourself or life, because though it doesn't seem like it, it will give you light.

Feel free to contact columnists or Unleashed at 
The Words of Wisdom Column, Lia Vosti:

Lia Vosti is an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, majoring in Bioengineering. Growing up together, her words always made the most obscure situations crisp and clear. She is the up and coming Renaissance woman, able to give homely advise after a day in the lab, and wise beyond her years.  

Breaking the Limits of Music: Introducing the 14-Note Octave 7-Limit Just Intonation Guitar

Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. 
Cheers to our first wonderful guest article of the New Year!


When the familiar becomes your only measuring tool, all creativity is lost-- this became my philosophy many years ago. Over ten years ago, I began a journey into the reexamination of the 6-string classical guitar. After having a serendipitous encounter with the Shaman of the 11-string arch guitar, James Kline, I was convinced my musical thought process needed reevaluation. Witnessing James Kline’s 11-string, its vast range of color, its harmonic and contrapuntal possibilities beyond the 6-string guitar, left me with no choice but to abandon my current parameters, which were imprisoning me. The emotional and spiritual depth found in the music of Ravel, Debussy, and Rachmanioff, would become my new inspiration for the next chapter in my musical life. I worked with Willits, Ca. luthier Greg Byers to construct a 7-string guitar with a lower bass string. We decided to add two extra frets on the 7th playing string making a scale length of 730mm from the other 6-playing strings at 650mm. Greg and I also added three extra frets on the 1st string, making a total of 22-frets or a high “D”, plus a sliding capo for the first five frets of the 7th string. I gave this guitar the name, Extended 7-String Guitar. I would be honored to share my adventure that gave birth to the 14-note octave just intonation guitar, an instrument of great complexity and spirituality.

As a performer of Indian classical music, I realized the limitations of my musical expression on a six or seven-string guitar set in equal temperament (E.T.). An interview with John Schneider about his microtonal guitars, inspired me to design a guitar that could express the gamut of Indian classical music. I worked with Fairfax, Ca. luthier Scott Richter to design a new guitar that fused the 7-string classical guitar and the Indian sarod into one creation. The raga guitar (the title I gave this instrument) has 7-playing, 12-sympathetic, 2-chikari, and 4-jawari strings making a total of 25-strings. We also included a just intonation fingerboard to accomplish the proper tuning of Indian music.

About two years ago, my raga guitar was partially destroyed in a freak accident. With his divine woodworking skills, Scott Richter was able to rebuild the raga guitar in nine months. In the meantime, I had a dozen Indian music concerts to perform. I needed some type of interim guitar. I had a 6-string guitar made by Greg Byers I intended to sell, so I asked Scott if he could remove the current fingerboard and replace it with a just intonation fingerboard to allow me to perform Indian music on some respectful level. Within one week Scott completed the task. At this point my guitar had a 12-note octave tuned in 5-limit just intonation. After having this guitar for five months I decided to add two additional notes to the palette, making a total of 14-notes per octave (1.). I gave this instrument the name: The 14-Note Octave 7-Limit Just Intonation Guitar. A new musical system was born.

I will give a brief overview of how just intonation works. Just intonation can be defined as small numbered whole number ratios based in the overtone series.  It can also be defined as musical intervals that are acoustically pure.  The relationships in the overtone series are given to us from the natural world; it cannot be altered on any imaginable level. J.I. can be expressed in whole number ratios or cents. For example: 3/2 is a just fifth measured at 702 cents, 5/4 is the just major third measured at 386 cents, and 7/4 is the septimal minor seventh measured at 969 cents.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both equal temperament (E.T.) and just intonation (J.I.). E.T. has the ability to perform in all the keys being “equally out of tune”, thus giving the illusion of perfect intonation. E.T. has homogenized all the pitches and have taking them away from their pure forms. However, the pitches are not taken to the gross level of a wolf interval. J.I. offers the purity and sacredness of pitch. All of the relationships are based from a fundamental tone and are tuned to low whole numbered ratios. If the music stays in one tonal center (not necessarily one key) the tuning is very pleasant to the ear. If the demands of the music require constant modulation, J.I. will start to produce some very gross wolf intervals that are not very pleasing. Neither J.I. nor E.T. can offer a universal solution for every musical system. This process becomes a personal preference of philosophy and musical aesthetics.

The path of developing a 14-note octave, was not an easy one. This instrument was originally intended to be my interim guitar for Indian classical music concerts until my raga guitar was rebuilt. It started with a 12-note octave in 5-limit J.I. After the interim period, I decided to include two additional notes to my octave, making 14-notes total. I added the ratios: 7/4 and 7/6 (septimal minor 7th and septimal minor 3rd) immediately to my palette of notes. I also considered adding: 9/7, 8/7, 12/7, and 11/8 (septimal major 3rd, septimal whole-tone, septimal major 6th, and 11-limit tri-tone) to my octave. One major hindrance was the frets being too close together, making it nearly impossible to play. I decided to make 36/35 (49 cents) my smallest interval on the fingerboard, thus maintaining a level of practicality for myself. The measurement of 36/35 can range from 9-16mm. The notes past the 12th fret return to a 12-note octave in 5-limit J.I. I started off with 12-notes per octave and then pushed for at least 18-notes per octave, thus settling for 14-notes per octave. Once I completely realized the complexity of 7-limit J.I., I was very happy to live humbly with 60 different sized musical intervals to master. J.I. allows for a distinctive voice in the creation of music. A musician is transported into their own musical universe through their choice of ratios. Most musicians stop at 5-limit J.I. When I heard 7/4 it was a mystical experience beyond words, I hade to have that note.

E.T. has only 12 different musical intervals. Every semi-tone (100 cents), whole-tone (200 cents), etc is the same distance in E.T. On my 14-note octave guitar, I have eight different sized half steps, ranging from 36/35 (49 cents) to 27/25 (133 cents). The inversion of the semi-tone, the major seventh has eight different sizes musical intervals as well. The augmented fourth has six different sizes ranging from 25/18 (568.7 cents) to 121/84 (632 cents). The major second, minor third, major third, minor sixth, major sixth, and minor seventh have five different sizes. The perfect fourth and perfect fifth both have four different sizes. From one perspective, the palette of musical intervals found in J.I. offers more color and emotional depth then E.T. has to offer.

The esoteric nature of J.I. provides the seeds for musical expression through musical composition. In Settings in a Utopian World for solo 14-Note Octave 7-Limit Just Intonation Guitar, I composed four movements: Prelude, Invocation, Intermezzo, and 7 Winds. The Prelude, Intermezzo, and 7 Winds are composed in 7-limit J.I. There are auspicious chords that reach into the depths of creation and transcend both time and space. Some harmonies are: 7/6, 4/3, 3/2, and 5/3 (simultaneously). Invocation utilizes the Dorian Mode in 5-limit J.I. One hears beautiful Em9 chords (6/5, 3/2, 9/5. and 9/8) justly tuned. There was a period I decided to try some “traditional” classical guitar music on this instrument. Interestingly enough, some of the music sounded very good. However, because of the fret placements, I found playing this repertory on this instrument to be very awkward. Music set with 12-notes per octave regardless of the temperament, is much more simple than my 14-note octave. One still needs to have an idiomatic nature to one’s instrument; musical performance needs to be accessible to one and all.

What type of notational system does one use for a 14-note octave guitar? I decided to list the ratios with the corresponding notes (i.e. E=2/1, F#=9/8, G=6/5, etc). This allows for a precise measurement of intonation. My instrument has two minor 3rds and two minor 7ths, if the desired piece of music utilizes both minor 3rds (G-note), I label above or below the written pitch either 7/6 (septimal minor 3rd) or 6/5 (just minor 3rd). This denotes what “shade” of “G” one should use. And similarly, I notate 7/4 (septimal minor 7th) and 9/5 (just minor 7th) to distinguish between the two “shades” of “D” or the minor 7th. My notational system allows for very little deviation from traditional notation. I hope this maintains a sense of familiarity, when one redefines their aesthetic.

My journey with the design of musical instruments has been an enlightening and peaceful journey for my soul. I feel “thinking outside of the box” is my general philosophy with life. The reexamination of what a musical instrument can or can’t do, is worth the time and effort. It colors our consciousness with contemplative thoughts about who we are as individuals. I believe we must understand our strengths and weaknesses as humans and be in touch we our “path” and live it to the fullest. This is what I see in my instruments.

1.)   Octave is a problematic term that makes no real sense outside of a system that uses 7-note scales. The precise measurement is 2/1, which expresses a frequency that doubles its vibration. I use the term “octave” as means of convenience to the reader.

About the Author
Born in 1972 of Chinese and Italian ancestry, Matthew Grasso began playing guitar at the age of twelve. He attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied with Scott Tennant and Lawrence Ferrara. Matthew has participated in master classes by Eliot Fisk, David Russell, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; he has further supplemented this training by studying the classical music of North India at the Ali Akbar College of Music with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Moreover, Matthew has advanced the genre of world music by combining Eastern and Western traditions in both fixed compositions and improvised works for solo guitar and ensemble. He has developed a new style of playing entitled Indian classical fusion which combines elements of north and south Indian music, and has conceived new talas (rhythmic cycles) such as 10 1/2, 27 1/2, 9 1/4, and 26 1/4. This music can be heard with his group, The Nada Brahma Music Ensemble.

Matthew performs and lectures throughout Northern California. He has appeared as a soloist with the Solano Symphony and played with the Sacramento Youth Symphony Premier Orchestra. His recordings include two CDs of original compositions, Intimate Settings (1995) and Echoes of a Lake (1999) as well as his transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (2001) for solo guitar. Matthew has self-published music scores of his compositions and transcriptions, and his CDs and sheet music are available from his publishing house:

Matthew teaches privately and is on the faculties of Sacramento City College and The Experimental College of U.C. Davis. He currently resides in Davis, California.

To learn more about Matthew Grasso and his music, please visit his website.

ALL AROUND THE WORLD: Disney in the Rainbow State

Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents and more surprises to come!

ASHELEY GAO           

            Mickey Mouse and his pals rode their first wave onto the shore of Hawaii in 1937, presenting the Rainbow State to the world in an animated short film titled Hawaiian Holiday. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, the movie features Walt Disney as the voice of Mickey Mouse. It became the first production released independently from United Artists. This eight-minute film begins with Donald Duck, Minnie, Pluto and Mickey gathered under coconut trees and playing slide guitars while dancing in grass skirts; as it continues, every scene lives up to the audience expectations of Hawaii: surfing, ukulele, lei, and the endless stretch of beaches. An instant hit in the theater, Hawaii Holiday marked the beginning of Disney’s fascination with this string of islands in the Pacific.

            Twenty years after the release of the film, under the direct supervision of Walt Disney, Disneyland opened at Anaheim, California. Disney transformed a small portion of the theme park into a Polynesian themed attraction called “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room,” featuring tropical animals and dance performances. In an era where Polynesian culture was immensely popular, the Tiki room became a huge success and was then copied in the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld and Tokyo Disneyland. The Tiki Room serenades the visitors with Hawaiian music and presents the tale of Hawaiian gods through short films and Audio-Animatronic. Visitors flooded the Tiki Room trying to catch a glimpse of the wonder of Polynesian culture and animatronic technology.

            Disney returns to the islands in 2002 during the production of Lilo & Stitch, a heart-warming animated film revolving around the idea of “Ohana”, the Hawaiian tradition of family. Taking place in the island of Kauaʻi, the movie is one of the few Disney productions that depicts the present day (as opposed to fairy tales and mythological stories); while choosing the location, the director traces Disney’s relation with Hawaii back to the ‘30s, when he picked natives to voice the characters. The movie received positive reviews from both the audience and the critics and started off a franchise both on TV and the big screen.

            As Disney expands its business from media to real estate, it seizes the opportunity to open a resort in west Oahu, not too far away from Honolulu. Steering away from the crowded Waikiki beach, Disney Aulani Resorts offers various packages for family vacations and special programs for the kids. The first family resort outside of its themed parks (according to a report by Leland Kim from Hawaii News Now), Aulani continues Disney’s magical romance with the Rainbow State.

Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed 

The Culture Columnist, Asheley Gao:

My name is Asheley Gao and I’m a junior at Cal, majoring in History of Art and minoring in French. I grew up in Asia, the land of dragons and jasmine green tea, as a kid with too much imagination. Indulging myself in exploring different cultures and what they have to offer (art, movies, cuisine, you name it!), I’m on my way to becoming a woman whose country is the whole world. Along with all the excellent writers at Unleashed, I would love to share with you my adventure and take you all around the world.


Quick announcement: For the Spring Semester, starting in December, due to authors traveling abroad (to Italy, South Africa, France, and more!), Unleashed is being published once a month. This semester, we will include guest articles written by people of interest: musicians, wise parents and more surprises to come!


You may walk the walk, but can you talk the talk...
 with your doctor?

Although most physicians are uniformed by a white coat, they are all very different in their approach to medicine, bedside manner, and social skills. As a patient, your access to care as well as your physician’s ability to help you are intrinsically linked to the relationship that you develop and maintain with your doctor. This may seem self-evident, and by no means am I saying that you need to become best friends with your doc (though some people are), but don't underestimate the benefit of having a meaningful and comfortable conversation each time you visit your doctor.

As much as North Americans and Europeans tend to view western medicine as the ultimate authority for addressing health concerns, the fact remains that a physician is limited by the information he or she might get from patients. There is only so much a blood test, x-ray, or throat swab can tell a doctor. At the end of the day, it is often up to you to provide certain key details necessary for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment!

Here are five key points to keep in mind every time you go to the doctor (they are not listed here in any particular order of importance, so let's not be lazy; read on through-- it will help you in the long run!):

1. Lifestyle

There are many aspects of your life that affect your health, but many of us don’t always think to discuss them with our doctor. Start by discussing what it is to be you: where do you work? go to school? both? what do you do in your spare time? significant other? How much do you sleep? How often do you eat and how much? what is going on in your life that’s got you excited? --anxious? --happy? --afraid?

It is important to discuss theses features of your life as they currently exist, but almost more important is how they have changed. For example, you used to go to school, but now you are part-time at school and part-time working, which may seem manageable on paper, but the reality could be that half of your shifts are night shifts, so you are a "normal" person Sunday through Wednesday, and then you don’t see the sunlight from Wednesday until Sunday... Be intimate about how these changes have affected your life, and do not hesitate to complain! There are no judgements coming from your doctor. All your doctor cares about is your health. 

Though you may not be the type to overshare, and you assume your doctor doesn’t want to hear your wailing, let the physician sort through what is significant and what is not; you provide the raw material (your life story), and they (if they are a good doctor) will provide the refined product (your treatment).

2. Details

Building off of the last point, don’t forget to go right into the nitty gritty details of your condition. No one knows what its like to live in your body like you do. You are the expert on how you feel, what you’ve been through, and what you are hoping to get out of your visit to your doctor. So take advantage of that and dive into the specifics of what it is you are going through. When you talk about pain, describe what it feels like-- is it off and on? --constant? --subtle but unforgettable? --what does it feel like? --where does it feel like the pain is coming from? This last one can be tough sometimes. Though a scrape or cut will have fairly obvious localized pain, internal afflictions such as gall stones may not trigger pain in your gall bladder itself, but rather manifest itself as crippling pains spread across your back, upper abdomen or even shoulders. Be explicit and give as many details as your mind can muster in the moment!

3. History

This one is particularly important if you are seeing a new doctor. They will ask you about your own personal medical history as well as your family medical history, but make sure you touch on other details of your life such as where you’ve lived, what you’ve done for work, and events in your life that have and may continue to affect your own physical and psychological health.

Don’t forget to talk about vaccinations you may have had, serious illnesses you’ve been through, injuries, surgeries (minor or major), any times you’ve been in the hospital, and especially what you are afraid may have stuck with you over the years (this could be a disease, a chronic pain, a susceptibility to a certain condition like strep throat or even insomnia).

4. Diet

Your doctor may enquire about your appetite, and ask you if you are eating more or less these days, but they may not go into what you are eating... What are your favorite foods? What do you eat the most of? What do you hate eating? Are you taking any nutritional supplements? These are all important elements of your lifestyle that should not be ignored! Again, it is better to say too much and let the doctor decide what is relevant.

You may notice random cravings for specific foods or food groups that seem to come and go in weekly phases. Some people liken these cravings to your body’s recognition of a certain nutrient that your body needs or wants more of. Randomly craving dairy products like yogurt, cheese, or milk, for instance, if you have a low-dairy diet... You may also crave fruit, particularly citrus fruits if your body is looking for vitamin C!

Talk about these things with your doctor. Some physicians will know more than others about nutritional science and food health, but many afflictions can be helped, if not cured, by simply changing your diet!

5. Be Open!

There is no such thing as TMI once you enter your doctor’s office. Treat your conversation with your doctor as a release: a safe place where you can divulge the most intimate details of your existence at no extra cost, just go for it! Some doctors may go out of their way to encourage an honest and open relationship by divulging their own embarrassing or personal secrets to you as a way of sharing the experience, but do not expect this with all docs...

There is nothing awkward about your body that is worth keeping secret at the sake of your health. Some things about your body may seem so strange and embarrassing to you that you don’t even feel comfortable saying the words that describe what you are going through, so practice by just saying the words of your condition. By yourself in total privacy. Just say to yourself, out loud, what’s going on. This may make it easier to get the words out when you see your doctor, or at least help you begin to think about how you are going to explain your condition.

On a closing note, remember that your doctor’s office is not a salon that you visit in order to sit there passively while someone else works on you; it is a place where you and your doctor are both at work, together, to help you, and to continue to improve the condition of your health.

Help them help you, and try to have fun while you’re at it! White coats or no, each doctor has a fascinating story. Tell them yours for the benefit of your health, maybe you'll even get one in return.

Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed 

Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!