Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm in the News!!!

Check it out!!

To see the website where this story was posted, simply go to:

I knew my day of fame would come! lol.

PS: I did already vote, actually, but absentee ballot since I wouldn't be in California for the actual election date. But don't let this news story happen to you!

Monday, October 27, 2008

It Is Official

Today was my first day - Orientation Day. I received my ID badge, a quick orientation about what to expect and a "have fun!" That is all. I woke up at 530am, left the house at 6:51am and arrived to the Orientation site by 8am. Then, I waited. The appointment was at 9am. The lady showed up around 9:15am. We were done by 10:15am.

And remember: Have Fun!

Tomorrow is my first day at my actual hospital site: St. John's in Queens. This is my radiology rotation and will finish next week (2 week rotation).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seeing Old Friends Anew

This week in NYC has been pretty hectic and chaotic. I have been searching for apartments - but everyone works, so I spend the majority of my day just exploring Manhattan or doing nothing, then after 7pm, I fit in several apartment viewings really quick before heading home on the subway. Come to find out, the subway is basically built to get people from the boroughs into Manhattan - therefore, a subway ride from Brooklyn to Queens and vice versa can take upwards of two hours because you must basically do a U through Manhattan - there are no direct subway routes north/south from Brooklyn to Queens. Great.

I'll post more about the apartment hunt another time - I'm still exhausted from it - suffice it to say, apartment hunting in NYC is NOT like the amazing fortunes of Sex and the City. Turns out real life, yet again, is NOT like the TV. Oh well.

Today I wanted to post about seeing old friends again. Just before I came to NYC, I saw the awesome folks at the City of Santa Fe Springs Aquatic Center, where I worked one summer back in 2002. These guys are AMAZING people and we spent what turned into almost three hours that I was there just laughing and laughing and laughing.

Then, Carla took me to San Diego where I saw a whole crew of wonderful friends from ACYO and we spent a wonderful day together.

And of course, now I'm in NYC, where all my friends from med school are basically already doing their clinicals. I get to start on Monday. But point is, we are all back together again like we were on the island - and it is great to be helping and supporting one another again in this very vast city where one can easily get lost without a trace.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Coming to NYC...NOW!!!!

Things have been moving extremely fast, even for me, since I found out I passed my exam this past Wednesday. My school has been extremely accommodating and efficient in helping me find the right placements for my rotations and making sure I can get back on track sooner rather than later.

That said, I'M COMING TO NEEWWWWWW YOORRRRRRKKKKK!!!!!!!!! (Add Sinatra refrain here.) My school was able to schedule me into my clinical rotations starting next Monday, October 27th. Here is my schedule for the next year:
  • 10/27/08 - 11/7/08: Radiology (Elective)
  • 11/10/08 - 12/19/08: OB/GYN (Core)
  • 12/22/08 - 3/13/09: Internal Medicine (Core)
  • 3/16/09 - 6/5/09: General Surgery (Core)
  • 6/8/09 - 7/17/09: Psychiatry (Core)
As you can see, we have not been able to schedule the Pediatrics core rotation yet, but we are going to keep working on that - we have until July of 2009 to figure it out :) As you can also see, my Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and any other major holiday between now and Labor Day next year will be spent in a hospital working. That's OK, patients especially need love during Christmas time!

So, I haven't yet exactly said when I'm leaving for New York. Here is the bombshell: I leave tomorrow, Monday, October 20. Like I said, things are moving extremely fast! :) Here is my flight itinerary and schedule:

Monday, October 20, 2008:
United Airlines Flight 6676
Depart FAT (Fresno) at 7:22 am
Arrive DEN (Denver) at 10:37 am

United Airlines Flight 750
Depart DEN at 12:20pm
Arrive EWR (Newark) at 6:09 pm

Can't wait to see you all in NYC. And I HOPE I can see you all in Fresno before my departure. I will miss you all very much, but remember - the distance (and flights) to NYC are super easy and cheap to negotiate - make it happen!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Virgin America Airlines - Lovin' It Major!


October 8, 2008
Virgin America Flight 793


Depart: On Time

Arrive: ~20m early

Load: Only 40 passengers

In a word, WOW. The whole experience was superb. There was never a time where I was even slightly disappointed with something aboard my flights. Terminal 6 at LAX, where Virgin currently has its operations set up, is almost like a skeleton of a terminal – apparently United and and Continental have really abandoned ship in this terminal and don’t really operate out of all the gates from where they once did. But the contrast between the hip, cool, and interesting check-in counters for Virgin and the boring, gray, sterile ones for Continental were quite stark! But I’m jumping ahead.

I checked in for my flight online the night before. I was debating whether I should upgrade to First, but the option was never explicitly offered to me. Turns out it is only offered if you choose “Change Seats”, otherwise the system just checks you in without trying to upsell you. When I got to the airport, I went to the check-in area for Virgin, which is also tres chic! Flowers are set-up around their cool white check-in tables and screens, giving the whole feel of a great boutique hotel! But here is where the more important magic happened: I was just standing there, looking at the monitor to find my flight and gate, when one of the agents noticed this, came around the counter all the way to me, and said “Welcome to Virgin America, sir, may I help you with something?” What, huh, where am I?!?! I’m used to having to stand in line and beg for attention from an AAgent (not a typo) who scowls at questions. That’s right, the airline I love to fly and have miles with and even a credit card for, come to find out, doesn’t really treat me like they value me. With this one fairly minor and easy gesture, my whole experience was colored positive. I felt the rest of my trip on this airline would probably be equally welcoming and helpful – and I was not disappointed.

I got to my gate, which as I was mentioning before, is in a fairly decrepit and abandoned Terminal 6. I asked the gate agent if Virgin was going to be taking over the whole terminal – she said no, that they were going to be moving to Terminal 3 and taking over that whole terminal. They were going to deck out the whole terminal with Virgin style, including their cool check-in counters, mood lighting, and that whole W Hotel lobby feel. Great! That should be much cooler than the dead atmosphere at Terminal 6…where there isn’t even a McDonald’s to grab a quick bite to eat!

Check-in started about 25 minutes before the flight was to depart and the first thing you notice when you approach the flight is the purple mood lighting in the plane. With the white leather seats in First class, the black leather seats in Coach, and the purple see through dividers between classes, the whole plane has that W Hotel lobby feel. Very cool. I had made sure my row was empty save for me and got comfortable. Regarding seat pitch (basically the distance between your knees and the seat in front of you) – not the greatest. If the person in front of you reclines, space will be pretty tight. I was comfortable and my knees had some breathing space, so the pitch was average, but it can get tight if you are much taller than I am (5’11”).

Then, the Captain came on the PA: not from the flight deck, but standing in front of the plane, waving, and telling us to please not call him Captain or Sir; John (I think his name was John) was enough. He had a British accent and was hilarious – told several jokes and just set the tone for the flight – as professional, fun, and funny. I noticed the pilots don’t wear the traditional white shirt with black tie uniform. They actually wear the same uniform as the male flight attendants – black pants and black shirt, unbuttoned at the top. But the pilots differentiate by having a wings pin and chevrons on their collar showing whether they are a captain or first officer. I’m OK with this – if they are more comfortable flying the plane, then things will run smoother, right?

After this the safety video played on the individual video screens – they call their entertainment system “RED” and it is a touch-screen amazement. But again, I’m jumping ahead. The safety video was clear, CONCISE, and funny! It is a series of animations and you can see it online at YouTube. They throw in some good jokes and are just generally entertaining with it. Example: “For the .00001% of you that have never seen a seat belt, let us demonstrate for you…”

We took off and on the screen next to me I displayed the map to see our progress throughout the flight. On my seat, I explored the video system, which is available immediately. You can watch movies, premium TV shows (these options are for purchase), or watch free TV (like CNN, Bravo, USA, MTV, etc) and listen to free music from an extensive library. You can pick and choose songs from their library and make your own playlist to listen to. All very cool. The screen is touch screen, which can be cool, but also nobody was sitting in front or behind me, or else I think the touching would get kind of annoying because a light touch won’t do the trick. I didn’t purchase any movies because our flight was only two and a half hours, but I watched lots of Law and Order, listened to music, and even ordered Pringles and soda (soda is free) from the screen – which a flight attendant brought out within one minute!

The bathrooms are in the back and located in between them is a water bar – grab as much bottled water as you want during the flight for free! Cool feature. But if you don’t want to get up from your seat, again, just place your order right on the screen and the flight attendant will bring you water directly to your seat.

We landed at Sea/Tac Airport in Seattle about 35 minutes early, waited about 10-15 minutes for our gate, and then were thanked in person for flying with Virgin as we got off the plane. I was sold!

October 15, 2008
Virgin America Flight 792


Depart: ~5m early

Arrive: ~25m early

Load: ~50% full

My return trip was no less exciting. This time I checked in at the Virgin America counters at the airport. I was offered the upsell to First Class when I chose “Change Seats” option. It would have cost $100 for the flight to LAX, so I declined it. However, on the next page when you are looking at the flight seats available, the option to upgrade to first class is still made available, which I think is a great idea. For example, if after you see if the whole coach area is full on the seating chart, you may decide that first class seat looks good after all! I stuck with my coach seat since my row was again empty.

Virgin America’s gate at Sea-Tac Airport is in the new terminal where all the check-in counters are uniform to the airport’s standards, so no cool white counter, like at LAX. However, Virgin still has added its unique flare by putting its signature flower arrangements up. We started boarding about 35 minutes before flight departure and would have left about 20 minutes early, except we had to wait for two passengers, who arrived at the legal minimum time. So, we left about 5 minutes early. Still OK as we ultimately arrived early again! I noticed on their website that all their flights to and from Seattle have been arriving anywhere from 10-30 minutes early, pretty consistently. I guess Virgin is adding padding time to their schedule in case of a disruption – but if this is something happening so consistently, I think a more accurate arrival time should be told to passengers so we can tell our family when to pick us up!

Everything else about the flight was marvelous. I do have to say, though, that on this flight in Coach, one of the two male flight attendants was pretty lazy. While the older FA smiled the whole time, kept coming through the cabin to offer any assistance, and was generally pleasant, the other younger dude did nothing that I could observe. In fact, at one point, he was kind of falling asleep in the back chair! I’m about 98% sure that this is not OK, especially to the other guy who was working his butt off! Perhaps he was just sick or something – hope he feels better!

OVERALL: my experience on Virgin was top-notch. If their prices stay competitive or are even a bit higher than a competitor, I would still choose them on routes they fly over all others. They have figured out how to make the flight experience enjoyable and have a truly differentiated product compared to the other choices

Seattle Wrap Up

The things I did in Seattle - LOVED IT!

• Space Needle
• Monorail
• Westlake Shopping Center
• Downtown Walking Around
• Macy’s
• Westin
• Pike Center - fish throwing and scary looking monkfish faces that move!
• Dinner with Laura – Chicken Quesadillas

• Troll in Fremont
• Theo Chocolate Tour - DELICIOUS!
• The Canal in Fremont
• Golden Gardens Beach (with amazing Mountain Views)
• Lots of Stairs through forest back up to bus from Beach
• Dinner – Homemade Pesto Pasta with salad and delicious dessert

• Olympic Sculpture Park
• Walk along water seeing all the piers
• Anthony’s Fish Bar - Fish ‘n Chips at the Pier

• Snoqualmie Falls in North Bend – Hard hike
• Lunch at Tweed’s – bunch of Tweedy Birds hanging around perimeter
• Twin Falls – another long/hard hike!
• Kerry Park – amazing city skyline view at dusk
• El Diablo Coffee Shop for AMAZING hot chocolate
• St. Mark’s Episcopal Church for Compline (evening Vespers) followed by amazing pipe organ concert

• The Kingfish CafĂ© – delicious soul food
• Underground Tour at Pioneer’s Square
• Alaska Aqueduct
• Admiral’s ViewPoint – great view of Downtown Seattle Skyline
• Alki Beach – great view of Puget Sound
• That’s Amore Italian Restaurant – great view out back bay windows...and amazing food!

• Pacific Science Center
• The Edgewater Hotel - WOW WOW WOW - Loved it!!!!
• Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
• Anthony’s Bell Street Diner

• Edgewater Hotel – sat on my deck the whole morning enjoying the Puget Sound and great city skyline views to my left.
• On the flight home, got great shots of the mountains!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Passed...

the USMLE!!!!!

Got the exam results this morning. Whilst overlooking the beautiful Puget Sound, with calm beautiful glassy water, calmed from an evening without boat traffic and calm winds.

I suppose this means the next phase of the fun gets to start. Stay tuned! And thanks to all again for the support throughout the process.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Things That Make You Go...WOW!

I am not easily moved. I am an easy laugher, but I'm not easily moved. Today, however, I have been moved emotionally a couple times. I'm not sure if I should post this chronologically from first experience to now or if I should just describe what I'm seeing right now. I think I'll try the latter to capture all the vividness of the experience as it happens.

I am at the Edgewater Hotel at the waterfront of Seattle. To my left is the city skyline in all its glory. The ferry just departed its pier to shuttle folks to the island across the Puget Sound...which I'm currently sitting over on my deck in the hotel. (Pictures later). The water is gently rolling across in a somewhat calm and constant way. On my iTunes I am playing a song called Waltz of the Titans by Duke Levine - it has a very contemporary and cool slow jazzy beat to it - very Seattle Coffeehouse like, fitting for the occasion. And obviously, I'm at quite possibly one of the most beautiful - and yes, moving - places in the world. If I look a bit to the right of the city skyline I see beautiful Mt. Rainier covered in snow, with one half of its snow covered peak shining brightly due to God coloring it a gorgeous deep crimson from the sun. Which brings me over to the far right of my view - as I slowly move my eyes over the relaxing water, I have to start squinting as the sun has come pretty far down as it prepares for its setting into the Puget Sound, behind some other gorgeous rolling hills. The ferries from earlier are now crossing the bright shadow in the water the sun is casting. I am heated all over my body by this amazing sun that makes me forget how nippy Seattle can be - I am reminded as I type, however, that it is still kind of cold outside as my fingers protest having to do strenuous work whilst in this temperature.

And as I wait for a sunset, I am at peace. I am fully relaxed. I am taking deep breaths and enjoying this immense beauty that God has blessed me to see. A seagull actually just landed on my porch and is looking at me funny - wondering why I'm in his territory. But he seems to accept the fact and is just amused by my funny appearance, no doubt. But even this seagull is looking out at the sun and the beautiful Puget Sound and marveling in its full glory. He actually now just flew down, spreading his wings wide and diving into the water - hope he caught something yummy!

It is hard to capture the essence of the beauty I am witnessing in this blog. And even though a picture is worth a thousand words, even it won't be able to capture the holistic experience - the smells, the sounds, the feel of the heat, the movement of the water - the picture will capture one aspect and only one moment in time. But this feeling will no doubt last forever as a wonderful memory.

And with that, it is time to devote my full attention to the sunset that is fast approaching. It too will be a moving experience. Added to the moving experience of the exhibit of Christian art and history at the Seattle Art Museum. Added to the feeling overall of my week in Seattle of relaxation, fun, and wonder.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seattle is Bipolar

Seattle is like Edison High School - two entities within the confines of one place.

One face of Seattle is the serene, amazing, untouched beauty that God has created here. The mountains with sharp peaks and snow blanketing the tops. The lakes and creeks and waterfalls and inlets that display soothing (but pretty cold) movements of water. The greenery - oh the amazing lush greenery - that is everywhere and can soothe the nerves and relax the spirits. Indeed, this face of Seattle says come to me because I will relax you and help you reconnect with the beauty that could have been the Garden of Eden before the downfall of humankind due to our sinful nature.

In a word, this face of Seattle is gorgeous!

But, there is another face - a more ominous and powerful face. A face that tries to cover the natural beauty with big buildings that lack character. A face that tries to turn Seattle into "Everywhere USA" with sterile looking corporate buildings that sell the same things here, in Portland, in LA, in Billings, in Denver, in Chicago, in Baltimore and in New York City. There is a city here, nestled between beautiful mountains and waters, that is the exact same as it is everywhere else, due to corporate identity that usurps the importance of unique character that can be associated with each city.

Luckily, as strong and deep-pocketed as this face of Seattle is, there are pockets of individuality that are maintained. The Pike Street Market seems to still be authentic and unique to Seattle and its people. There are museums that also display amazing local talent. There are people who say hello as they pass you on the street, are happy to help with directions when you even seem lost, and are always willing to give a lending hand to a friend or stranger.

Yes, Seattle is bipolar. But luckily, the good face seems to be keeping the dangerous face in check and maintaining its beauty. And for that, I absolutely love Seattle!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Seeing Seattle from the Top!

I'm in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, enjoying the amazing weather (well, a bit cold) and the kindness of the people (they really are very nice). I arrived on time on an AWESOME flight (more on Virgin America Airlines in a future post - suffice it to say now that it is an AWESOME AWESOME AMAZING FANTASTIC FABULOUS AIRLINE!!) And I was greeted at a beautiful airport by my amazing friend from Teach for America Baltimore, Greta. She was an awesome teacher, great person with an easy and infectious laugh, and a really kind person (she opened up her home for me to stay, after all!) Super excited to see her and explore her town!

DAY 1: I explored Downtown, both by bus and on foot. Greta, in her excellent planning, had secured bus day passes for me so I had the most convenient way to travel through Downtown Seattle. The buses are totally efficient and unlike Los Angeles, the bus drivers are very kind and answer questions without a huffy puffy fit. Stop 1 was the Space Needle. I rode the Seattle Monorail (which only tourists use - it kind of is a tourist trap but I figured as a tourist, you have to ride it at least once down its 1 mile path to the Space Needle). At the Space Needle, I had the pleasure of capturing some amazing views from the top and capturing the amazing scale of the thing from the bottom.

I then went to Pike Place Market where they sell anything and everything, including BEAUTIFUL flower arrangements for very cheap and they have a fish market, too. It was a blast to watch them throw the fish back to be prepared or to play with the audience by then throwing a fake one back right into the people. It was just a lot of fun to see a great open air market (luckily covered, though, to protect from the rain that started) where people were all relaxing and browsing the thousands of items for sale.

We ended the day back at Greta's house, where another friend from Teach for America Baltimore who is also now in Seattle met up for dinner. We had a great dinner then great conversation and it was just wonderful to see old friends and relax in this really cool city!

UPDATE: I have added some pictures to some of my recent posts below - feel free to check them out!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Authentic UCLA Undergrad Experience

Back in 2000 I made the decision to respectfully decline my admission to UCLA in order to choose Whittier College. And while I will always value the amazing relationships I created, the awesome professors, and the experience of being on a small, community-focused campus, I have confided in some that I didn't feel fully prepared for Medical School. Our Science Department at Whittier, while fantastic and filled with top-notch professors, was small and thus missing in many of the classes that other, larger universities (like, oh I don't know, UCLA maybe) offer. As a result, many of my medical school classes, which were review for my friends from bigger universities, were brand new concepts for me - which made it just slightly more difficult to synthesize all the information into cohesive ideas in my head.

Can't live with regrets. But, last night, courtesy of an awesome person named Keith Teague, I had a little taste of what being a UCLA undergrad entails. Call it "A Day in the Life..." Everyday, thousands of UCLA undergrads start their day, most I found out, no earlier than 10am. Every night, those same undergrads live life to the fullest in the community that is Westwood. What follows are their stories (insert Law and Order gavel sound):

Well, now I have been thinking and since this is a family blog...and some of the family that reads it includes the mother of Keith, let me preface this by saying I hope I don't get Keith into trouble by pointing out some of the scandalous things we did. Sorry Keith, but the truth must be told:

He picked me up at 630pm, we went to the UCLA library to do some reading, he gave me a tour of the campus, I saw his immacuately clean apartment with excellent furnishings, and then we had a very nice dinner, sans alcohol, before going to the opera to catch an evening showing of Torreador. After the show, we met up with some of his friends who have a nightly homework club before going to bed around 11pm.

Thanks for an awesome time at UCLA!!!!

My Getty Center Experience

Let me preface this post by saying this: sometimes really REALLY funny things happen to good people. In my case, I finally figured out the whole bus system and how to get to the Getty Center from Garineh's apartment. I walked just over 1.5 miles from her apartment to the bus stop near UCLA Center, where I took the Metro Rapid Bus # 761. It is an awesome Red bus with that accordion looking thing in the middle and an extension on the back so more passengers fit. It only makes stops every few miles, so it has the feel of an Express bus. And they are all brand new and have TVs in the bus that also show Google Maps so you know when your stop is approaching. So, I was excited - I was looking for the Getty Center / Sepulveda Blvd stop. We got there - and there was the Getty entrance in all its glory - it was an "Angel singing 'aaahhhhhhh' softly" moment as the light shone down on the sign - Getty Center. I took a picture, which I'll upload later. I walked in, started going toward the trams, and was stopped by the gentleman - he was kind, but he pointed out, almost feeling sorry for me, that the Getty Center is CLOSED ON MONDAYS.

Humbug. HUMBUG, I SAY!

So, after all that careful planning, counting of change for the bus, camera preparing, and self primping, I dejectedly walked back to the opposite bus stop, plopped down, and waited for the Big Red Bus to take me back home.

I will say this about the buses: They all ran on time! And they were clean, bright, and airy. In a word, the whole experience was very CONVENIENT! I would take the public transportation again here in LA through nice areas...and I'll check to make sure the places I want to visit are open first.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life in LA

Well, I have visited my aunt's in Thousand Oaks over the last week and loved it. The area around their house, on top of a hill, is so peaceful and a perfect place to kick back, read a book, and do a lot of chillin'. But yesterday, I met up with my friend Garineh and Tammy and now I'm in ONE of the hearts of Los Angeles, very near to UCLA, ready to explore the city.

Yesterday, our goal was to go to Church for Divine Liturgy. Unfortunately, SOMEBODY (no need to mention names), was slightly late. This SOMEBODY arrived at 1130am at my aunt's house instead of 930am :) But all is well that ends well and we ended up attending just the picnic - where they served a delicious lulu kebab dinner (or chicken, but I chose the lulu). After the picnic, we headed to the Santa Monica Pier, which was GORGEOUS. We went on the Ferris Wheel and had some gorgeous views of the ocean and the surrounding community of Santa Monica. Very fun indeed!

Now I have the whole day to myself, because Gar has an "on call" day where she has to work 30 hours STRAIGHT at the hospital (she is in her first year of Residency, known as the "intern year". She LOVES her job (and I have no doubt that she is amazing at it!) So, my plans for today are to actually use public transportation in Los Angeles for the first time in my life! I looked it up, and since I'm staying in a big area of LA, it turns out it is very easy to take the buses. I am still deciding if I should visit the Getty Center or head back to Santa Monica and just relax on the beach or visit the Promenade. I'm definitely leaning toward the Getty for its beautiful views and sites of the LA basin around it.

Pictures and stories to come after my adventures!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Malls are a Beautiful Thing

When I lived in St. Maarten, my roommate had some cologne from Burberry that smelled exactly like Mall. That's right, good ol' American Mall - the indoor extravaganza of shops of all kinds, people of all backgrounds, and the gears of the American economy. And so, when I was in a particularly bad/sad mood due to an occurrence that could only happen on the Rock, I would go into his room and smell that cologne, close my eyes, and imagine myself in a good old American mall, enjoying being back in civilized society again.

One might say my wish has come true. I'm currently sitting at the Thousand Oaks, OAKS Mall - it is a GORGEOUS mall, absolutely stunning and beautiful. They really have done an awesome job over the years of keeping it updated, fashionable, and chic. Why am I here? Because they have internet, something missing at my aunt's house. So, I sit here, checking my email and writing a quick blog entry. I do love this mall - lots of memories here. My aunts and I used to do laps here when I was younger. I LOVED coming to the mall - it meant getting to play in the Brookstone - and what kid doesn't like playing at Brookstone? It also occasionally meant a cookie or some sort of nice, sugary, absolutely unhealthy treat - outside the confines of my mother's disapproving gaze. It was (and is, since it is offering me free internet at the moment) heaven on earth.