Sunday, January 30, 2011

dineLA at LA Live

You wanna know what the best part of living in Los Angeles is? It's proximity to a variety of eclectic cuisines and the opportunity to try out these cuisines through dineLA restaurant week. I lived in Arizona for three months this past summer and I can attest that the food there is pretty monotonic.

Both Fogo de Chao and Spago were booked for the day so we ventured out to LA Market in LA Live. LA Market is a restaurant that is situated inside the JW Marriot hotel at LA Live, just down the street from where my boyfriend lives.

Linda and I at LA Market.
It was pouring around noon and you can still visibly see how drenched I was (just look at my hoodie). Yes, we were extremely smart and decided to walk there in the pouring rain.

Located on the first floor of the Marriot, the restaurant is comfortably roomy. The chairs are wide and plush and the ceiling extends to the third floor of the hotel. This restaurant would be more highly rated if the service here weren't so agonizing. It took more than 10 minutes for the waitress to come take our order. When I asked her if we could order our lunch now, she became very accusatory. Something along the lines of "I was here earlier to take your order but you guys were too busy taking pictures (so this whole holdup is entirely your fault)". Then it took another eon for our appetizers to arrive. We weren't even halfway through our appetizers when the waiters just shoved our entrĂ©es onto our table. Then another eon passed before we actually received our dessert.

The food, on the other hand, was delicious.

Appetizer: Hamachi
The hamachi was tender and I loved the capers on top. I still can't decide whether I liked the appetizer (Hamachi) or the dessert (pumpkin cheesecake) more. Both were simply top notch.
Entree: Grilled Scottish Salmon Fillet
The grilled Scottish salmon fillet was decent. I loved crispiness on the outside and the tenderness on the inside. I wasn't a fan of the lentil salad though. It was a bit dry and course, like chewing on half-cooked beans.
Dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake is possibly one of my favorite desserts and this pumpkin cheesecake was spectacular! The taste, the texture, the color vibrancy, and especially the flower petals they sprinkled on top won me over.

The food was beautiful and succulent. If only the quality of service here could live up to the quality of food they put out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Asian American Tutorial Project

I never believed that I would be a tutor. For one, I don't have the patience and two, I don't know how to teach people. I'm one of those people who knows the material but isn't able to coherently convey the information from my brain to my tutee. Nevertheless, I joined the Asian American Tutorial Project.

We tutored elementary school kids at Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown. My tutee, a second grader named Grace, reminded me of myself as a young kid. She was quiet, soft-spoken, and bright. Assigned a 5-page homework packet to be finished in one hour, she diligently completed the packet with 10 minutes to spare. Many kids simply become antsy and put off the homework packet. When I was little, my dogma was "work hard, play hard". Unlike other kids who play first and then work on their homework later, I would power through my homework first so that I would have ample time to play later (without a guilty conscience about not completing my homework). I can't tell whether or not she enjoyed hour time together though - she doesn't talk a lot and I'm at a lost of what to talk about with a second grader.

Not only was tutoring a good experience, I found a really great group of new friends.

Getting boba at Half & Half.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fourth Floor Renovations at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

I'm making the most of the dwindling days until Southern California's unusual summer-like weather deserts us. Honestly, how many people can say that they have frolicked around in a sundress and spent a day at the beach in mid-January? According to the weather report, the temperature is expected to drop to the mid/low 60s within the next few days and it will rain on Monday.
Newly renovated lecture hall on the fourth floor of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry.
While the carefree freshman were blissfully sunbathing on the grassy lawns in McCarthy Quad, I was holed up in the dental school research lab for much of the afternoon. Today was my first day back in the lab after a one week hiatus to take the DAT. I was surprised by the newly renovated lecture hall on the fourth floor that's equipped with two flat screen tvs on the outside. It smelled so new!

Gugghenheim Lecture Hall
How many other dental schools in the nation can boast about a $35 million donation from an alumni? I'm pretty stoked about USC School of Dentistry - within the past year, they have upgraded the entire 2nd floor clinic, the 3rd floor sim labs, and the 4th floor lecture halls (but apparently remodeling the research labs on the 4th floor is out of question). The money is also put to good use to "appreciate" dental students and staff - the administration forks out $5000 one Friday per month to buy food, refreshments, and alcohol for Dental Student Appreciation Day. I wish they could invest some of the $35 million in my dental school tuition in the near future. The USC School of Dentistry should decrease its exorbitant cost of tuition now that it was $35 million in the bank.
Lemon Macaron from Lemonade
Now I'm sitting in my bedroom eating an overpriced macaron from Lemonade (typical USC) and watching the sunset on this fine January day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Camera, New Shirt

Brand new floral shirt from Forever 21. Picture taken with my brand new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Cat Eyes

Freshlook One-Day: Pure Hazel
Freshlook One-Day (Pure Hazel)
Ever since I began wearing contact lenses, I've been dying to try out colored contact lenses. I wanted a subtle, natural color - different from my natural eye color but nothing too dramatic (i.e. no blue eyes). My optometrist suggested trying out Freshlook colored contact lenses in Pure Hazel and Green. I received my contact lenses in the mail this morning and I've already tried out the hazel pair. They resemble my normal eye color but with a slightly lighter and brighter tint, making my eyes pop out more in the sun. While colored contacts are fun to wear, overall comfort is sacrificed. Verdict: I still plan to wear regular Acuvue lenses as my default contact lenses.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

La Brea Tar Pits

The Boy and I took a short trip to the La Brea Tar Pits yesterday, savoring the beautiful mid-January sun. Personally, I suggested strolling along Redondo Beach but the Boy claimed that  (at 75 degrees) it was too cold to go to the beach. People in Chicago go to the lake when it hits 40 degrees outside.


Apparently La Brea Tar Pit admissions is free if you bring your USC student ID, which made the Asian in me very happy.

Saber Tooth Cat at the La Brea Tar Pit
Comparing the Boy's hand to the fossilized handprint of god-knows-what.
There was a small corner of the museum dedicated to animal dentition. It was like a dentist's haven so I had to take pictures:
For all the dentistry nerds out there. 
The tar pit museum isn't very big but it is connected to LACMA. We went all sorts of crazies with the outdoor modern art exhibit. I left a lot of the craziness out of the pictures.


It was a good way to spend my first Saturday of freedom post-DAT.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Study for the DAT

I’m finally done with the DAT after 28 days of the grind (well, technically 25 days because I was out with the flu for 3 days). I spent my winter vacation studying from 9am – midnight with a few intermittent breaks. I’m relatively happy with my score although I feel like I could have done better in a few categories. I’ll give a breakdown of my DAT here.

***

The amount of time it takes to study for the DAT varies drastically. It's a culmination of various different factors including dedication, perseverance, focus, how much of the basic sciences one actually remembers, how quickly one can grasp the nuances of the PAT, and personal preference. Many of the dental students I talked to prior to my DAT studied for three months or so. I decided to give myself three weeks to prepare.

When I tell people that I studied for the DAT in 28 days, most people give me a look that's a mixture of shock/awe/disbelief/WTH. It's not that I'm a super genius when it comes to standardized testing. Far from it. It's just that the 28 days that constituted my winter vacation was the only time that I had to study for the DAT. I didn't heed my own advice. Instead of taking the DAT the summer after my sophomore year, I traveled to Arizona, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and Ottawa. I don't regret frolicking across North America from June to August (it was tres fun!) but I still stand by my belief that the summer after sophomore year is the best time to study for and take the DAT.

The DAT is a particularly grisly test. No matter how much you study, you'll never feel completely prepared. There's always some obscure biological fact that you could have memorized, right? My philosophy was to put in my best effort, cover my bases on all the important materials, be approximately 85% prepared, and pray for the best. Rather than stressing out before the test, remember - GIVE DAT STUDYING AN HONEST EFFORT and if that score is a bust, you can always try again!
***

To Kaplan or Not to Kaplan

Many people swear by the Kaplan DAT course. I swear that it's a big waste of money.

I took one look at the blue book they used with Kaplan and saw that the science sections lacked detail, the PAT sections were much too easy, the practice tests were a lot simpler than the actual DAT, and that the course costs over $1,000. The only good that comes out of Kaplan is that it forces the unmotivated to adhere to a study schedule.

But to shell out $1,000 for a study schedule? No, thank you!

If I can find my study schedule (which Mediafire so nicely deleted), I shall post it here.

*** EDIT: I have finally located a copy of my DAT Study Schedule, saved as a PDF document ***

Otherwise, here is my review of each section of the DAT and my recommended study materials:

Biology ( 1.DAT Destroyer, 2.Cliffnotes AP Biology, 3.Campbell Biology textbook, 4.ExamKracker Biology)

The biology section, like I’ve been warned many times in the past, is random. This is one of the sections that I studied the least for because I figured there will never be enough time to learn everything that could possibly be on the biology section. My lack of preparation was quite evident in my score. Thinking back on the biology section, there seemed to be less of a focus on human biology and more of a focus on other random stuff (i.e. evolution, plants, phylogeny, Punnet squares, ecology). If I could redo the biology section, I still wouldn't know how to properly study for this section.

Chemistry (1.Chad's Video, 2. DAT Destroyer, 3.ExamKracker Chemistry)

The chemistry section is relatively basic – a lot of conceptual questions and some simple calculations. It's a lot easier than any practice test that you will take leading up to the DAT. The best part about the calculations in this section is that you didn’t actually have to work out the math. DAT Destroyer is very good preparation for chemistry – I simply wished that I had an extra week or two to go over the problems in destroyer a second time. Even though the section was basic, I didn’t feel like I did extremely well so I was pleasantly surprised by my score.

Organic Chemistry (1.Chad's Video, 2.DAT Destroyer, 3.ExamKracker Organic Chemistry)

DAT Destroyer Organic Chemistry Road Map
This section was nothing like I expected. There were very few synthesis questions (to think I spent so much time memorizing the DAT Destroyer road map), no question on carbohydrates, a few questions about stereocenters and isomers, a simple Diels-Alder, a question on Crossed-Aldol (damn I got this one wrong…), questions about SN1/SN2/E1/E2, a question on proton NMR, a question on carbon NMR, and a really really random IR spectroscopy that did not involve a carbonyl group or a -OH group. Definitely could have gone over DAT Destroyer a few more times.

PAT (1.Crack DAT PAT 2.Kaplan PAT Questions if you need a confidence booster)

  • Keyholes: the keyholes section definitely easier than Crack DAT PAT – I felt like the correct answer choices were pretty obvious.

  • Top-Front-End: this section was harder than Crack DAT PAT – it was so hard and taking me so much time that I had to mark the last 5 questions and move on to Angle Ranking for fear of running out of time.

  • Angle Ranking: as difficult as Crack DAT PAT – I think angle ranking is going to be the death of me. I have no good strategy for this section and I never seem to do well at it. Despite attempting to utilize the hill/laptop method, my score in this section is still based on luck.

  • Hole-Punching: really straight-forward/easy folds and hole punches. However, hole-punching also happens to be my absolute favorite section on the PAT.

  • Cube Counting: much easier than Crack DAT PAT – plus, there are no illusions.

  • Pattern Folding: this section was not impossible but it took a long time – it’s also one of the sections that I dislike. I would say that it is on par with the difficulty of Crack DAT PAT.

Reading Comprehension (1.Student Doctor Network, 2.Crack DAT Reading)

First off, I would NOT suggest Crack DAT Reading. The passages in the program are way too short and are not scientific in nature. The passages on the actual DAT are long and generally science based. Instead, I spent a week on Student Doctor Network researching potential reading comprehension passages. I stumbled upon posts about the infamous “Piano” passage - which seemed to be the bane of most test taker's existence - and I thought, “easy, I’ll just research how a piano works before my DAT in case I get the piano passage”.

Lo and behold, I got the piano passage on the DAT. The passage wasn’t that bad since I had already researched how a piano works prior to the test. I finished the reading comprehension section with 15 minutes to spare and I truly thought I did very well on the section. I was surprised that I only ended up with a 21. Oh well…

Quantitative Reasoning (1.Math Destroyer, 2.DAT Destroyer)

This section was an utter nightmare. I had 45 seconds left of the test and 7 unanswered questions. I basically put down “C” for the last 7 questions of the test. I honestly believed I would fail the math section (i.e. get a 13 or something) and I was trying to calm myself down by saying “it’s okay, just take it again next time and you’ll be more prepared”. I was so relieved when I saw that I got a “19″ on the section – it’s not a good score but it’s not failing either. If I had to do it over again, I would give myself enough time to finish Math Destroyer. I only had time to finish 5 of the 11 tests in Math Destroyer when I took my DAT.

This section still irks me because I knew that if I had timed myself better, I could have done a lot better. I mean, I was scoring 22′s on the math section in DAT Achiever.

Practice Tests

Crack DAT PAT
  • 22/21/20/22/23/25/22/23/22/25
Crack DAT Reading
  • 18/20/20/-/-/-/-/-/-/23/19
Topscore
  • Exam: [AA/TS/Bio/GC/OC/PAT/QR/RC]
  • (1):      [20/18/18 /18 /18 / 21  / 22 /22]
  • (2):      [21/19/19 /18 /20 / 22 / 23 /23 ]
  • (3):      [21/19/18/19 /20 / 21 / 26 / 22 ]

***

I wrote this post to summarize my thoughts about the DAT, which a lot of pre-dents have been asking me about. Hopefully someone out there will find this post useful in their DAT preparations. And I wish those taking their DATs the best of luck!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year


I'm thinking of wishing upon a (shooting) star tonight at 11:11pm on 1/1/2011. This could be interesting!

But here's my wish to everyone - may 2011 be nothing you expected and everything you wanted!