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Tag: EightYears

Goodbye, Scrubs

image This past Wednesday was the last episode of Scrubs, a show which I had gotten hooked on in college.

What had initially gotten me hooked were the main character’s (JD, played by actor Zach Braff) fantasies and daydreams. They reminded me a great deal of the little daydreams I had while walking/driving from place to place or when doing something monotonous (although they were nowhere near as crazy as JD’s were in the show).

What kept me coming back season after season was watching the show’s characters mature from “little baby interns” into residents and then attending physicians, all the while dealing with issues and life choices which were becoming all too familiar for me.

And, before I knew it, I was watching it week-after-week with my college roommate and his girlfriend, sometimes even while doing problem sets (explains some of my lower grades, now that I think of it…) This culminated in an interview with Dr. Jon Doris, the real person which Zach Braff’s lead character JD was based on (and one of the show’s medical consultants), about medicine and Scrubs for the Next Generation MD, a publication for pre-medical students that I wrote for.

The end of Scrubs, to me at least, was like saying goodbye to some friends I had gotten to know over the past few years. And so, yes, I will miss Scrubs and the hilarious antics of JD, Turk, Carla, Elliot, Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, Jordan, the Janitor (who’s name I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it yet), Ted, and all the other characters I’ve gotten to know.

(Image Credit)

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Mr. Hexane

There was a semester where I considered going into organic chemistry. Why not? I had liked the orgo classes I had taken. The subject matter, at least from textbooks, seemed fascinating to me — using the properties of Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and my other friends from the periodic table to either construct or understand molecules of industrial and biological importance — and it seemed so much more creative than the molecular biology stuff that I was beginning to get tired of. After all, my roommate seemed pretty happy with his Chemistry major.

So, I took Chem135 — Experimental Synthetic Chemistry, a much more advanced and realistic look at synthetic organic chemistry compared with the introductory lab sections I had previously taken. Excited, I dove straight into synthesis — my two projects being the synthesis of Aspartame (better known as NutraSweet) which was, incidentally, discovered by a guy doing random amino acid-like fragment coupling who just happened to lick his unwashed hands (not something I’d recommend) and the Wieland-Miescher Ketone, an interesting chemical structure which is used to synthesize taxol (a potent anti-cancer drug) and other hormones.

Excitement is not the same as skill, however, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I was a very poor synthetic chemist. An illustrative example of this was during the Aspartame synthesis project. One of the steps of the project entailed azeotroping away acetic acid (what makes vinegar vinegar-y). Acetic acid does not readily boil off or evaporate, but heptane (C7H16) does and because heptane is known to azeotrope well with acetic acid, one can eliminate the acetic acid by adding heptane.

I, the brilliant and attentive budding scholar that I was, made the mistake of adding HEXANE C6H14 (not heptane), and, while in principle, hexane and heptane can sometimes be good replacements for one another, it did not work quite so well — necessitating me to evaporate off an extra four equivalents of heptane. D. Zhao, wonderful friend that he is, hence dubbed me Mr. Hexane — and from that day forth, I labeled all of my tubes and flasks and vials “Mr. Hexane”.

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Second Period. Honors Integrated something (whatever came before pre-calculus). Sophomore year in high school. While most people can only remember sleep deprivation, I remember my awesome math group which included A. Phan, A. Cheung, and L. Li.

There are two distinct eye-problem memories from that period of time that made that class memorable. The first was that it was in that class that I got the set of glasses that would serve me into my senior year in college. They were a set of black, thin-frame Calvin Klein glasses which, at this point in time are beat up and dirty like crazy. Up until receiving them, though, I had been using a tacky old pair which had lost one of its screws. To hold my glasses to my face, I would thread the hole where the screw was supposed to be with staples. Whether or not this was good for my eyes, I don’t know, but it was essentially trying holding my glasses together with chickenwire.

On that great and wonderful day that I received a new pair of glasses, I wore them with pride knowing that I would not have to resort to tape and staples to hold together my means of looking at the board.

A. Phan, of course, noticed the change and of course poked fun at the fact that I had been using staples and tape to hold together my glasses. To which I replied in my best sing-song voice:

“I can see clearly now… the rain is gone…”

This became a running joke for us in the years since. One day, I became fed up with the fact that I only knew the first two lines: “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone | I can see all obstacles in my way” and A. Phan and I printed up a copy of the lyrics. I’ll admit that time has dimmed my memory such that I don’t remember the lyrics anymore, but I do remember singing the song on car rides.

The other big eye trouble-related memory from that class was that A. Cheung also had some contacts/glasses-related problems during that year. In order to see the board, instead of using old glasses or asking to sit closer to the board, he brought BINOCULARS to class! Every now and then, A. Phan and I would see him attempt to surreptitiously take out these massive binoculars and set his sights on the board.

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It wasn’t much to look at. Granted, I wasn’t expecting an expansive, well-furnished room for a dorm at Harvard. But… my immediate thoughts were, “damn, I have to spend a whole year here!?” I felt what I could only describe as a mild sense of claustrophobia. Then the nausea set in…

And the name… Wigglesworth? Had there seriously ever been a rich person on this planet named “Wigglesworth” who might have possibly donated this wing? I mean, maybe I’m being prejudiced here, but I’d NEVER do business with a guy who’s name sounds like it came out of a Harry Potter book.

And I resisted. Mercilessly. While many campus counselors and “guide to college” books and guides that I consulted recommended decorating a room as a means of learning to think of someplace as home, I steadfastly refused. I put up nothing but my books and what I needed for my studies. I refused to think of this place as home. This was where I slept and worked. That’s it. Nothing more. Home was back in California. Home was where my family was. Home was where I grew up. This. was. not. home.

But, as classes piled on work, and as I developed friendships with the people here, the room — which I had once detested just didn’t seem so bad. “Cramped” became “cozy”. “Dirty” became “homey”. It was a place where I could relax, where I could hang out. I remember one day in November, I believe, when I looked down at the hardwood floor, cracked, splotchy, and covered in dust — despite its obvious imperfections, it was, to me at least, a calming sight to behold.

My “roommate” was from Boston and, for some reason, preferred to live off campus — I was thus left with an entire double to myself — my own bedroom, my own bathroom, my own common room. (To this day, I believe I’ve seen Andrei for a total of less than two hours) And when it came time to head to the airport for my flight, I realized that I had just been a stupid idiot who hadn’t realized just how good the housing lottery had been to me.

My rooming situation, to this day, has never been as good as that of freshman year. And, no room since has ever been quite as homey to me.

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Team Aconcagua

In high school, I was part of our high school Academic Challenge club. We participated in quiz bowl tournaments and the Science Bowl/Ocean Science Bowl tournaments. While I could probably go on and on about the crazy adventures we had, one particular tournament stood out to me. While in science tournaments, I was hot stuff (read: big nerd who could answer science questions really really quickly), I was fairly mediocre at general trivia. So, at one tournament at Mills College, I was on the B team while our team’s true hotshots were on the A team.

We were of course having fun, knowing that we probably wouldn’t take top prize. Our team consisted of myself (then, a junior in high school), a senior (J. Tsai), a sophomore (J. Cheng) who rounded out our overly academic knowledge with “more practical” knowledge in sports :), and a hotshot freshman (K. Koai) who I had known in Junior High pre-growth spurt and who was now the tallest (and possibly loudest) member of the team.

Quiz bowl tournaments come in many different flavors with many different rules. This was a quiz bowl format which used a bonus format whereby a tossup question is “tossed” to every contestant and the team with the first correct response was then offered a bonus question which allowed conferral between the team members (and a lot more points!).

For one of the bonus questions, our team was given a question which asked for the name of a mountain in South America with certain attributes — the specifics of the question are lost to time. The amusing thing, however, was that none of us knew the answer. In our conferral we panicked — saying random names like “Mount Titicaca” and “Mount South America”. I think we finally went with “Mt. Andes” or something really stupid, and as I was the team captain, it was my job to inform the moderator of our answer. Before I said it, though, something clicked inside my head, and instead of saying “Mt. Andes”, I blurted “Mount Aconcagua” which I had suddenly remembered was the tallest mountain in South America.

My team was in shock. “Mount Aconcagua? What the #$*#!?” I too, was somewhat shocked at the spontaneity of my response. I grimaced, waiting for the moderator to tell me that I was wrong. To my surprise, it was correct. Bemused smiles were suddenly on the faces of all of our teammates. Confused and somewhat shocked looks were on the faces of our opponents.

And hence, Team Aconcagua was born. That tournament witnessed two or three more instances of our spontaneous wisdom — allowing us to almost (but not quite…) trounce even the A-team when we faced them. We even competed together (although rarely all four of us together at once) in several other tournaments, and though we were never the champions of any tournament, the four of us were always proud of “Team Aconcauga”.

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