31 January 2008


Teaching is a really funny thing. I'm a big fan of reality, and the reality is, that if these kids don't start studying for their MCAT soon, bad things are going to happen.

Fundamentals are important, but obviously (as most of them know), the MCAT almost never has passages on fundamental concepts, but tries to build on these concepts through more advanced topics. So should I, as a teacher, be limited to just the fundamentals? As far as teaching time is concerned, yes. I can't stray into random topics when they're paying to learn the fundamentals. But, I will take time before and after class to talk about more interesting things, because "melting of ice into water exhibits endothermicity and a positive change in entropy" isn't that interesting as it is obvious.

So I prepared two (relatively) difficult topics. The Photoelectric effect and Negative temperature (spin systems). I also stressed that being acquainted with more difficult topics reinforces simpler ones. Legally however, I can't say that they need to know these things, they really don't. So I ended class with a short introduction into these two topics, but qualified that this wasn't absolutely necessary for the MCAT.

Nearly everyone started packing their bags and left. The "fuck this, i'm outta here" attitude isn't going to get anyone anywhere, so it makes me a little sad that many students call themselves pre-med but have little grasp of what it means.

Medicine isn't just a job. It isn't something you show up to, and you sure as hell don't start packing your bags at 5pm. It's not a "9am-5pm, then let me go play airsoft/video games/sleep/let someone else do the work" business. Any lifestyle like that is a pathetic one. In that sense, I feel sorry for people in IT, for people in business environments that look forward to 5pm, that dread Mondays, as they have little purpose in life except to live in it. They might make millions, ascend the corporate ladder, but ultimately, most just work for themselves. History is full of rich people but how many can you actually name? Research in science, and to a certain degree, Medicine, provide a measure of immortality. You cannot name 20 successful businessmen as fast as you can rattle off a list of scientists.

Even in Medicine, you must engender an interest to make people better, to go beyond what is necessary or even what is expected. Good doctors won't cite their Benz or mansion or private jets or golf club meetings as highlights of their lives, but rather the fact that there is happiness to be found in a sterile surgical environment or in improving patient conditions through decisions made not using belief or faith but hard science and logic.

So did I expect less than half a dozen kids (out of 30) to stay behind to listen? No. I expected a lot more. In a state where nearly 1/2 applicants will get an offer to medical school, I expected these future doctors (and mind you, no medical school really is bad one, there are just good ones and great ones) to show more interest in the advice of a seasoned applicant, to challenge themselves through more difficult topics.

The idea that they're "just kids" or "just starting out" and will "eventually learn" is total bullshit. If 4 years of college hasn't changed anything, I doubt the next two years will be different. If all goes well, half of my students will be responsible for patients in two years. Would you want someone you know being treated by a doctor with this kind of an attitude? Probably not.

29 January 2008

What's up, losers.

Actually, I'm going to lame out. Enjoy. You know you like these things.

Apple juice or orange juice?


Are you a morning or night person?

Both. I sleep 4-5-6 hours a night.

Which do you prefer, sweet or salty foods?


Ninjas or pirates?


Ninjas vs pirates, discuss.

Pirates are slow crackers, who prefer to use their subordinates/parrots. Wait, unless this is like a music pirate or a movie pirate like aXXo or something. aXXo kicks ass.

Autobots or Decepticons?

What the hell are these things?

What was your favorite childhood television program?

Pinky and the Brain. Interestingly, it's not obvious which one is the "genius", nor which one is "insane"

Are you a collector of anything?

Flashlights. My last one cost me $100.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A hummingbird, if that counts.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Storm. I'm sorry, but there isn't a superpower better than controlling the weather. Offensive/defensive/espionage tactics bundled into one awesome power.

What is usually your first thought when you wake up?

Once it hits 9:21am, I have to go to the shower. I have this time down after 4 years of perfection. I will usually end my shower around 939-942, leaving around 15 minutes to get to class. Perfect.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?

I hope those fools don't screw up and forget to prepare me an agenda for today's meeting.

What's your favorite color?

Royal Blue

What's your favorite animal?

Already answered? Hummingbird.

Do you believe in extraterrestrials or life on other planets?

Of course. cf. Drake Equation

Do you believe in ghosts?

Yes and no.

Ever been addicted to a video/computer game? Which one(s)?

Counter-strike. One of two reasons my high school grades went south.

You're given 1 million dollars, what do you spend it on?

Absolutely nothing. A million dollars is 50k a year if dumped into an average rate CD.

Have any bad habits?

Some of those perfectionism habits.

Which bad habits, if any, drive you crazy?

Compulsive need for answers.

Have any celebrity crushes?

I dunno. Maura Tierney? Not really.

List 1 thing you wish you could change about yourself:

I want that infrared sensing ability some snakes have.

Any tattoos or piercings?

Not yet.

What's the first thing you notice in the opposite sex?

Whether they look like an idiot or not.

What personality traits do you look for in a partner?

Intelligence, and lack of craziness.

What personality traits do you dislike in other people?


Are you mostly a clean or messy person?

Somewhere in between.

Do you see yourself getting married in the next 5 years?

No way.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?


If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I'm planning to go there / I would have gone there by now

Name 1 regret you have:

Not applying to more summer programs when I applied to UTSW's SURF.

Name 1 thing you miss about being a kid:

Trick or treating. Seriously. Some of those people just leave the bucket of candy outside for kids to take candy from. HELL YEAH.

Have any hidden talents?

Whittling away at people's souls.

Which would you rather have, 100 million dollars or true love?

100 million dollars. There is no such thing as true love, only happenchance compatibility.

If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be?

More wishes, more wishes, more wishes.

Name 1 thing not many people know about you:

I don't experience jet lag. I'm always tired and hungry, but somehow, like a zombie, I can put sleep and food off until pretty late. For example, it is 513am now, and not a shred of sleepiness can be felt inside me. Until I hit the bed, that is.

Do you believe in the afterlife?

Yes. I'm more of a reincarnation person, though.

On the topic of abortion, how do you feel about cookies?

What kind of a question is this? Yay to both. Unlike too many abortions, too many cookies can do no harm.

26 January 2008


Now that I'm all settled with my new toy, I thought I'd upload some blurry pictures.

Thai restaurant in Plano. Yeauz @ Plano!

Thai food in Plano.

Cheng, the big Asian square. (jeebus!) I visited Cheng on the way to austin and stole some Nutri-Grain bars, which he has a lot of, and which is the only reason I stop by. I'm still trying to figure out what he does with baby wipes.

Often at SURGe meetings, SmurtzRanjan will do nothing but play games. Here he is playing Fancy Pants (see here). This would have been acceptable, except that he kept bouncing around a damn shell the entire time. I felt like jamming my pen through his shoulder, but I figured eternal damnation on the web would be worse.

Over winter break, I listened to Vivaldi's Four Seasons repeatedly, and developed this strong affinity for it, especially the first Summer movement. What's great about* it is not just the speed or the control that is demanded by the piece for the main melody, but the intricate harmony is not only difficult to follow, but rewarding to able to distinguish.

It's a challenge in itself, not only artistically, but computationally as well. In the back of all physicists minds, there is satisfaction to be derived from being able to have that much more awareness about aural fourier transform mechanisms - after all, isn't that what you do when you pick out that subtle harmony?


My recommendation - Summer, First Movement (Allegro), 75% of full volume on whatever you're listening to. Overwhelming at first, but ultimately cleansing. One of my wishes (or goals) is to attend a Four Seasons concert, sit up close and let the strings work their magic. These concertos can be judged by the amount of thinly spread rosin over the stage. I sound like a hippie, but the difference is, I don't plan on using recreational drugs in the process.

*: Immediately after typing "What's great about", I thought of Dinesh D'Souza and one of his books. Sigh.

19 January 2008


So I broke down and got an iPhone. Yes, it's kickass. No, EDGE doesn't seem that slow. Certainly more than enough for reading email / RSS feeds.

I kept telling my students (at The Princeton Review) about how I'd become a paranoid neurotic if someone gave me handheld email, so the next few weeks will be crucial in this aspect.

Teaching is a very interesting thing. G-Chem classes have just started up, and as usual, my students are terrified. Terrified of the MCAT, terrified of the demanding TPR schedules, homework, etc. I guess all I can say at this point is that, for all the materials, very few brain power is actually required. One guy even asked me to say something comforting. Well, the MCAT is only one day. And do all your homework.

To be honest, I was pretty happy until I got a particular email. See, I've been applying to MD/PhD programs all over the country, and I got invited to Baylor's Candidate Review. This should be a great exciting moment, but now I wonder if Baylor has the programs and facilities that meet my needs.

A lot of MD/PhD's get a PhD in basic sciences, i.e. cell biology, or something involving mouse genomics. That stuff is interesting (like siRNA, knockout genes, etc), but I don't feel it's as clinical as a PhD I'm seeking. Above all, I don't want to start something that I regret. I've been telling all my interviewers that any PhD I seek would be as close to the bedside as possible. I also want to apply my physics somewhat.

So where's the stress? If BCM didn't have the right program for me, I'd be fine doing the MD alone with a few summers/semesters of research. The stress comes from uncertainty in knowing what's right.

I suppose this is what they mean by "An opportunity to help you experience the school and decide what's right". That really should be an important thing to all applicants, even though most are concerned with admission. Trust me, the admissions offer glee only lasts a few weeks if you can't see yourself there.

For example, I had an offer to A&M MD/PhD on Oct. 15. I was happy, but then when I really examined what A&M had to offer, I'm not sure I wanted to go there. Their research is excellent, but one thing that really bugged me is that the teaching hospital was 90 minutes away! It didn't occur to me how ridiculous this was until I visited other schools like UTSW, Vandy, Baylor, and realized their teaching hospitals were connected to the medical schools. It makes sense - better patient connections, more mingling between hospitals and teaching institutions, and overall more exposure to medicine. It would be best for A&M, I think, to move their medical school to Temple.

Anyway. I'll be doing my share of convincing, but more importantly, Baylor will have to convince me that the MSTP option is the right path for me. (The 8-9 year average is also kind of scary.)

18 January 2008

A saga ends

t 3:11pm today, I got a phone call - "No Name". I subconsciously knew what this was going to be about, but I was still messing around with ClustalX, so I didn't pay too much attention to what was going on.

I walked out of lab, picked it up and heard a voice ask me they had reached the right person, mispronouncing the name a bit. I knew what was coming, but really, I just needed to hear it. He introduced himself as Dr. Greenberg, Dean of Baylor College of Medicine, and congratulated me on an acceptance into the medical school.

I was shaking from excitement. I stammered out a "thank you very much" but I probably sounded like a dumbass. I still can't believe it. I've been losing sleep over medical school admissions over the last month, and I can't type any word ending with "bay" without adding the "lor".

Well. This is it. The undergraduate saga is almost over, and has been a success. Same goes for the MCAT and the medical school admissions and interviews. It has all been extremely favorable. I'm quite content with this outcome, and I think I'm going to catch some peaceful shuteye tonight.

Before I do that, I want to discuss a few things, namely, why the saga ends now. At this point, Baylor is my top choice, and the only other school I applied to that's ranked higher is Stanford, which is in Palo Alto, a city I probably wouldn't like. I realized well into the interview season that I prefer to live in very large cities like Dallas / Houston / NYC / Los Angeles. The only other school that offers a similar city experience coupled with a research powerhouse is Harvard, and I didn't apply there (and I regret it). With Baylor's ties to Texas Medical Center (enormously huge) and proximity to Houston, I couldn't be happier.

On another note, I've been hearing stories about a URM that got both UTSW and Baylor on the same day. Usually this is accompanied by a tirade about affirmative action and its shortcomings. He's going to have a difficult time at one of these places, with a stigma that he got a significant advantage due to affirmative action. Perhaps one of the greatest triumphs that I've had is that no one will dare accuse me of getting favored in any way. In fact, this system usually works against Asians. This is the result of me persevering for four years (and not five!) and a touch of luck in the end.

Finally, the only other school that I considered - UT Southwestern. UT Southwestern was very nice in terms of interviews and arranging additional tours. I want to take this opportunity to clear up some rumors. Apparently, all the gunners in Texas go to UTSW, which makes for a very competitive atmosphere.

I heard this rumor at both well ranked schools (Baylor) as well as others (A&M, UT-Houston, etc). This is not the case. I found the atmosphere to be congenial, students to be happy, and clinical/research facilities that served them well. In any case, I implore you and others to not spread this rumor; it seems like a bitter thing to say.

In any case, thank you, Dr. Greenberg and thank you, Baylor College of Medicine.

08 January 2008


Race and religion are probably the two most important 'R' words that get people really riled up these days.*

You'd think that after the Crusades and Nazis, that the world would let go, at least somewhat, of these two concepts, but I don't see that happening. Everything from politics to science to children's books is infused in it.

Take for example, one of Mike Huckabee's** recent ad with the floating cross.


Absolutely ridiculous! First of all, not everyone is a Christian. Second, it's so.. snake-like to use such subtle imagery. ("subtle").

Even science is jumping on this bandwagon. The National Academies Press has released a new book called "Science, Evolution, and Creationism". It is an immensely difficult battle to wage, to convince people that science and religion are separate. Yet the only way to do so is to compare them, often in the same book or article, which confuses the hell out of people.

A NEJM article even discussed gods being an artifact of evolution:


In fact, I'm here to say that they are largely compatible. In fact, if you look up "The History and Fate of the Universe"***, you'll see an "Unknown Era" at 10^-44 seconds. That's where religion comes in! Creationism? Sure, why not!? A giant turtle hawked up a universe? That's fine, too.

You may run into some problems here with Occam's Razor, but I've been wrong at times applying this in scientific circles. I still like Parsimony (because I'm old school, aka 1992), while everyone else likes Neighbor Joining algorithms. Go figure.

Sometimes, science goes too far. Dawkins writes scathing pieces about religion, especially in one of his more recent books, The God Delusion. It is unscientific to say that there is no god. How can you assert any negative statement? Proving the absence of god is impossible, and in fact, it's generally pretty difficult to prove the absence of anything, except in Mathematics, which is mostly fiction anyway.

The bottom line? You can't consider yourself to be a scientist and assert that there is no god. You may believe there isn't one, but that's personal. In the mean time, such assertions are counterproductive to arguments against what people may see as legitimate scientific theories, like intelligent design.

I once asked someone who believed in this bullshit idea, where the 'creator' came from, and he told me that the question was irrelevant. Well, this is what I want to know. So all you right-winging conservatives better find this post and give me an answer - Where is the creator? The question can't be irrelevant, because no real scientific theory invalidates questions.

*: There's another one that starts with a, and ends with "ffirmative action" that gets me riled up, but that's personal.
**:At a time when we should be seeking other countries respect, "President Huckabee", in charge of the world's most powerful armed forces, somehow doesn't cut it (ideologically and nominally). Reminds me of this. Constantly.
***:The 'fate' thing in this title doesn't help the cause.

06 January 2008

Happy New Year

Hello everybody.

I got a speeding ticket a couple of weeks ago.


DEBAANTTA? I'm not sure I know who that is.