Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yearbook Staffer

A few days ago, I was offered a position of photographer for the El Rodeo yearbook. I longed for the opportunity to improve my photography skills, which has long since stagnated. I yearned for more opportunities to shoot. I longed to serve as the apprentice to a more knowledgeable photographer and pick up a few gems here and there.

So I took a risk.


I applied for the photographer position at the USC El Rodeo yearbook. Despite my lack of experience in the yearbook industry (one of my close friends was the design editor for my high school yearbook and I often hung out in the publications/yearbook room) and my limited knowledge of Adobe InDesign, I truly wanted to be part of yearbook. I wanted to see my pictures featured in the student life spread of the yearbook.

"YES!" I exclaimed when I saw the acceptance email from the editor, which came less than 10 hours after I applied for the position.

And then I panicked.

Damn. What if I'm not cut out for this yearbook business? What if they scorn at my pictures? What if they see through the fact that I've only been shooting with my DSLR for 2 years? What if they find out that I only started shooting on manual mode last month? What if they realize that I only know two rules of composition - Rule of Thirds and Leading Lines - but only capable of following one.


I took a breath and looked to my photography idol, Jasmine Star, for inspiration. Like me, she started her photography career with a simple DSLR and big aspirations. "To get good at anything, you need to practice - there is no magic pill", she said.

All I need is the opportunity to shoot and the passion to become obsessive about photography!

My goal at the end of this year is to compile a viable photography portfolio and become a fully manual shooter.



Song of the Day
Lighters - Bad Meets Evil ft. Bruno Mars

Saturday, August 27, 2011

USC Ostrow Class of 2015: White Coat Ceremony

In spite of the stifling late-summer Southern California heat wave, 144 members of the Ostrow School of Dentistry Class of 2015, their friends, and family gathered at the Bovard Auditorium for the traditional white coat ceremony on Friday afternoon.

With the acceptance of the oath* and the donning of their brand new white coats, I watched my friends transform into medical professionals right before my eyes.
There were those who never believed that they had what it takes to gain acceptance into dental school. They were now proudly wearing their white coats, displaying their newfound status as dentists in training.

There was the proud single mom, running around to videotape every single moment of this momentous occasion - the day when her son became a 'doctor'.
The White Coat Ceremony provided me with newfound optimism in the midst of the dental school application cycle drudgery. In my room is a pile of secondary applications, half-finished and unmailed. My email inbox is cluttered with a mess of unopened dental school secondaries. Apparently my motivation to submit them in a timely fashion had gone down the drain.
But I resolve to finish them within the next week, before my academic deadlines and extracurricular obligations begin piling up.
I still need to complete the secondary applications for UCLA, Midwestern University, ASDOH, Boston University, UNLV and Temple. I'm withdrawing my application to UCSF and Tufts. I've received emails from USC, NYU, University of Louisville, University of the Pacific, and Buffalo stating that my application is complete. Now, it's just the gut-wrenching waiting game.

Wondering if you are good enough to get accepted into dental school.
At this point, I'm optimistic yet scared. When will I get my first interview? What if I don't get ANY interviews? What if I receive a rejection letter? What if I don't get into any dental schools this cycle? What will I do with my life?
But then again, these white-coated dentists in training probably shared the same sentiments last summer. And look, they all made it in! So here's me keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that I will have the privilege of donning a white coat next August.

And a big congratulations to the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC Class of 2015. May you guys have an unforgettable four years here!

*****

*Oath: The Making of an Oral Health Professional
I will dedicate my professional life to regarding each patient as a whole and complex person, promoting health to all people, identifying risk factors and serving as an advocate for disease prevention, using the very best clinical diagnostic strategies, providing the finest clinical treatments and therapeutics, and continuing to learn, revise and enrich my knowledge throughout my career.

I dedicate my life to the health of those whose lives I directly or indirectly touch: my family and friends, the broader community, my individual patients and their families.

I extend to the learned faculty, staff and fellow students my full respect and gratitude which is their due.

I will always practice my profession with the highest integrity, thoughtful judgement, and skills derived from scientific evidence.

I will always conduct myself with conscience, compassion and dignity, with the health and well-being of my patients and community as the first consideration.

I promise to respect the privacy of my patients.

I will maintain by all means in my power the noble traditions of the dental profession.

I will honor my fellow students as professional colleagues, and function in such a fashion as to earn their trust and respect and, together, we will nurture our shared humanity.

I will always provide oral health care without consideration of religion, nationality, race or ethnicity, gender or sexual preference, disabilities, political choices or social and economic standing.

I will always maintain the highest respect for human life.

I make these promises without hesitation, freely, and upon my Honor.


Song of the Day
Collide - Howie Day



Friday, August 26, 2011

Damn.

Wordpress deleted a majority of the pictures that I uploaded onto this blog. This is batshit crazy. Unless someone knows how to get those pictures back, I'm going to have to take time to manually repost the images in my blog posts. Lesson of the day: don't upload pictures directly through Wordpress. Use Flickr instead.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School, Senior Year Edition

I survived my first day of school of my senior year.

Wait, senior?

As in senior in college?

Damn. Time does fly. Because four years ago, I was definitely still a senior at Walnut High School, lost in a world that revolved around SAT, SAT II, AP tests, IB tests, and college apps. Looking back, it seems like my life has changed significantly since - expanding my boundaries, meeting unique characters, living independently in Los Angeles, growing up and maturing. At the same time, not much has changed- my life still revolves around the DAT test, midterms, finals, papers, not getting enough sleep, and dental school applications.

Senior Year Halloween - Green Arrow and Black Widow
Senior Year Halloween
Even after four years in college, there are some things that are still universal - arguing with parents, feelings of insecurity, those annoying cliques, and staring at your eye-candy/crush who just happens to be sitting in front of your in class.

And four years after leaving Walnut, I'm still surrounded by water polo guys. Some things definitely never change.

Senior Awards Night
I'm looking forward to senior year now just like I was looking forward to senior year back in 2007. For one, I am once again the big bad senior on campus. Unlike the confused slew of freshman, I know the campus like the back of my hand. Often times, I'm bored. I want to move on to the next chapter of my life and accomplish bigger things. But before that happens, I have to get over the hurdle otherwise known as "senior year".

Prom, 2008
And just when you have started to become accustomed to your surroundings, your classes, and your friends, graduation season arrives and everyone disperses. Some friends move halfway across the country, some remain nearby, some get engaged, and some you'll simply never see again.

Last day of high school

Once again, hello senior year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Father's Office

We had been talking about this place for over a year, ever since we heard about it last summer. Craft beers, heavenly sweet potato fries, and the juicy Office Burger. We couldn't wait to try it out. Only problem was that you had to be 21 years old to get into Father's Office.

After a year of talking and planning, we finally turned 21 this summer. Our first order of business - hit up Father's Office. The one in Los Angeles, because my coworker said it has a better ambiance than the one in Santa Monica.



The bar was jammed packed on a Tuesday night. We stood awkwardly between the outdoor patio and the indoor bar, hovering over tables waiting for someone to leave. About seven minutes into our journey to find a table, a group finally decides to dipset. Score!

Father's Office makes no pretenses. There are no servers, no table service, and very few menus to go around. Everyone orders their food at the bar, which boasts a large selection of craft beer.


It was my friend A***'s first time at Father's Office and I had the honor of introducing him to the place. A*** is a friend I've known since my freshman year in college. We lived in the same residential complex as freshman. He was my organic chemistry lab partner during sophomore year. Good times.


I'm not a fan of beer, except at Father's Office. I ordered the peche lambic (peach beer) my first time at Father's Office. It was the most amazing beer I have ever had - it tasted just like peach soda. I would highly suggest it for all the females (and males, if you wish) who haven't yet acquired a taste for beer.

This time, I tried to be creative and opted for a craft beer with citrus flavor. Bad choice. My beer tasted distinctly of citrus rind, extremely bitter.

When it comes to Father's Office, there are a few main items you MUST order (at least once). One of which is the sweet potato fries, which I describe as heavenly.


The second item is the infamous Office Burger. It is a scintillating combination of caramelized onions, bleu cheese, spinach, and a juicy and tender beef patty on a toasted French roll. In my opinion, good but overhyped. The sweetness of the caramelized onions and the pungent taste of the bleu cheese is a little strange to my taste buds. The beef patty is somewhat soft and insubstantial. In all honesty, I prefer the more traditional burgers at The Lazy Ox Canteen.


Nonetheless, Father's Office is still a superb place to hangout and test a wide variety of craft beer. The sweet potato fries are to die for and the Office Burger is worth a try!




Father's Office
3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate and Pecans

Though it has been a relatively mild summer in Los Angeles, the heat from the oven still manages to escalate the temperature in my kitchen to barely tolerable levels. But it is worth it. The smell of fresh banana bread radiating from the oven - warm, summery, and sweet - was the perfect breakfast pick-me-up.

It was a sorely needed pick-me-up.

I woke up at 4am that night/morning to cram for my physics midterm. I had just taken a midterm on 3 hours of sleep, during which I felt like I had a hangover from lack of sleep.  It was a bad case of unforeseen circumstances the day before my midterm and procrastination.


Not getting enough sleep has been a common theme in my life since high school. There's just too much to do and not enough time. At the moment, I'm having a big dilemma over my fall schedule. I want to continue working as an athletic trainer for the men's water polo team, continue working at the dental school library, work as a front office receptionist at a plastic surgeon's office (the pay is pretty good), volunteer at St. John's clinic, start researching with a dental school faculty using saliva as a diagnostic tool, compete with the ultimate frisbee team, take an introduction to guitar course, and continue as Vice President of the pre-dental honor society.


The problem is that with 18 units scheduled in the fall semester, I can realistically only participate in 4 out of the 7 extracurriculars. So which ones should I pare down?


On a simpler note, I bought three bananas from the market last week. I let them sit in my room for a week to mature until they became soft, speckly, and somewhat unsightly. But the riper the banana, the most flavorful and sweet the resulting bread is.

There are a few secrets to good banana bread. For one, mash the bananas well (by hand). Also, adding yogurt to the recipe softens and moistens the banana bread. In addition, by mixing the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately then combining the two afterwards, the resulting banana bread had a nice moist, crumbly texture. Mmmm!


Banana Bread with Dark Chocolate and Pecans

Adapted from: Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe
Serving Size: one 9-inch loaf

Ingredients
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 3/4 cups pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I followed the original recipe and used 3/4 cup of sugar, only to find my banana bread to be extremely sweet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe, soft, speckled bananas mashed well (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 6 tablespoon (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled.
  • A handful of rolled oats, for sprinkling.

Directions
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Grease the bottom and sides of the 9 by 5-inch loaf pan then dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  4. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and pecans together in a large bowl.
  5. In another bowl, mash the bananas. Then, mix the yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla into the bananas.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula. Combine until the batter looks thick and chunky / until the dry ingredients have been moistened. Do not overmix.
  7. Add the dark chocolate chips.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  9. Sprinkled a handful of rolled oats onto the top of the batter.
  10. Bake for approximately 45 minutes - the loaf should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  11. Cool the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.



Song of the Day
I Would Do Anything For You - Foster the People


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Palomar Mountain State Park

For a long time, I've wanted to lie under the pitch black night sky and stargaze. To catch a fleeting glimpse of a shooting star. To find direction under the North star. And to purge my memories of my first stargazing encounter with (insert name of bad freshman year relationship here).


I love the way the stars breathe life into the night sky. I love the stillness of nature and the sounds of crickets. I love the soothing embers of firewood.


In the morning, I wake up to a gust of fresh air and the smell of nature. Pristine, undisturbed nature. Without the haze and carcinogenic smog that consumes the city.


Here, the thick trees engulf the roads. And frogs croak blissfully into the dead of the night. Well, maybe not so blissful for sleeping campers.



And the pond a little further off the road, where we caught one fish but lost four bobbers and hooks in the process.


Next to our campsite sits a trail that leads to a lookout at the top of the mountain. We never made it to the lookout.

Run-down signs along the path directed us towards a scenic route along the stream. Our trail was significantly easier than the trail towards the Bridge to Nowhere but a far more enjoyable experience.




We are an epic group of friends.




Song of the Day
How Six Songs Collide - Norwegian Recycling


Muffins and Musings

Today was a good morning. You know why? Because for the first time in a week, I got more than 4 hours of sleep at night. It came at the expense of skiving physics, but it was worth it. I woke up more energetic and refreshed than I had been for days.



My parents don't really understand the pains of being a student. In their mind, college in America is all fun and games. They don't know that my schedule consists of waking up at 6am, driving to Northridge by 6:45am, going to lab from 8am - 10:30pm, sitting in physics lecture from 11am - 12:15pm, driving back to Los Angeles amidst traffic, going to work from 3:30pm - midnight, all while studying for physics, doing dental research, and working on dental school secondaries in my spare time.


I don't bother to tell them either. My mom will simply go off on tangents about how hard it was to go to college in America as a foreigner; how hard she had to work to pay off her college tuition. "You have it easy," she'll tell me, "you don't even have to pay for your college tuition."

Which is true, I suppose.


I'm very fortunate compared to some people in this world. Less fortunate compared to others. As The Count of Monte Cristo (from one of my favorite novels) would say, "there is neither happiness nor misery in the world. There is only the comparison of one state to another".


Sometimes, I wonder if I'd be happier at another university. Would I be happier if I could stop comparing myself to the filthy rich kids at my school? My alma mater is known for its exorbitantly rich kids whose dads are seemingly all executives at major Fortune 500 companies and raking in bank. They get courtside tickets to the NBA Finals game, unlimited access credit cards, the opportunity to blow $100 on dinner, luxury apartments in downtown LA where rent far exceeds $1000 per month, and a Mercedes Benz or BMW as a birthright. And they all believe that they will land an amazing corporate job that will give then $35 million by the time they are 35, at which point they plan to retire.


And then there's me, working 30 hours a week to pay for my dental school applications. I have never watched a Lakers game live, I have to fund my own discretionary spending money, I share an apartment with 9 girls to offset the cost, and I only recently received my family's old hand-me-down car.


And I want to become a dentist instead of an investment banker. I'm going into a profession that requires another 4 years of higher education (minimum). I won't have any income until I'm 28 (minimum), at which point I'll probably be $500,000 in debt. I'll spend the next 20 years paying off my dental school loans and retire at the ripe old age of 70? This is the life I'm choosing.

Nobody in their right mind goes into the healthcare field solely for money. Why bother? You can graduate with a business degree in four years and work in investment banking, where you can potentially make millions.

Being a healthcare professional is about job satisfaction - knowing that you are actively helping people and making a difference in their lives.


Over the weekend, I went on a camping trip with high school friends. It was a refreshing reminder that there are people who think like me; that there are people who aren't born with a golden spoon in their mouth. Normal people.


"It's the luck of the draw," the rich kids always tell me, "some people are born into rich families and some people are not. There's nothing you can do about it. Life's not fair."

Which is easy for them to say, sitting on their big fat pedestal.

For us normal kids, we don't have a trust fund waiting for us. We don't have the luxury of taking over our parent's business.  Instead, we are faced with a 'do or die' situation and what we do possess is a greater drive to succeed in life.


Perhaps the grass is not really greener on the other side. You just have to water your own grass. Likewise, these muffins don't taste as good as they look. Appearances can be deceiving.


Maybe its because this is the first baking recipe I've used that does not involve butter? Maybe I have a general distaste for muffins? Anyhow, these dark chocolate peanut butter muffins are really dry even though I lowered the oven temperature from 400 to 350. Any suggestions? This recipe is a no-go so make it at your own peril.



Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Muffin
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Makes: 12 muffins

Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Start by whisking flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt together in a mixing bowl until combined.
  3. Combine milk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add the bittersweet chocolate chips to the mixture. Mix until combined.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add milk and sugar to the peanut butter and beat until smooth.
  6. Line the muffin pan with tins and fill 3/4 full with batter.
  7. Drop a spoonful of the peanut butter mixture onto the top of each muffin.
  8. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes (would not suggest baking over 15 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve.


Song of the Day
How Great Thou Art - Carrie Underwood

Thursday, August 4, 2011

High School ID Cards (2004 - 2008)

I don't know why I keep all of these in my wallet still. Maybe it's the sentimental value associated with my high school ID cards? I can whip these out of my collection in 20 years and laugh at how much I've changed; how much ID cards have changed since then.

Walnut High School ID Card (2004-2005)
Walnut High School ID Card (2005-2006)
Walnut High School ID Card (2006-2007): My friend Jessica's notorious happy face sticker is still bonded to my ID card.
Walnut High School ID Card (2007-2008)