Monday, December 27, 2010

Technorati verification

Apparently technorati takes blog claims seriously. Like insurance agents wanting to make sure the fire wasn't a self-caused arson, they want to make sure I am indeed the author of this blog. I was directed to post this unique code in a post and publish it.


Happy technorati?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UG Sports - 6: Punday football edition

Freshly back from a weekend trip to Northern California, I am all ready and excited to do a roundup of sorts of today's ever-important football games.

  • Freshly back from a concussion, Packers superman Aaron Rodgers put up mighty fine numbers to send the Giants packing home (except a snowstorm forced them to spend an extra night in the town). Eli Manning now leads the league in total interceptions - a giant problem indeed. Somewhat incredulously, the Giants can still make the playoffs and salvage their ship from sinking in the bay if they win next week and a few others thing happen.

  • Although the New York Jets crash landed today and had to bear a tough loss to Chicago, they easily flew into the playoffs because the Redskins beat the Jaguars. I guess the Jets have a "foot" in the door after all. 

  • With Peyton efficiently manning the reins, the Colts galloped to a victory over the Oakland, which was obviously not prepared to withstand the raid.

  • Meanwhile in the garbage dump NFC West, San Francisco was rammed against the wall by Sam Bradford and company and was eliminated from playoff contention. Their coach Mike Singletary was singled out by the top brass for dismissal as well. 

Some other stuff happened as well (e.g. Brady threw a gazillion passes w/o an interception; his hair joined the fray by throwing a few passes as well.)but I am all punned out for now. Lame. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Immaculate Reception Day

The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Carolina "worse than the Bills" Panthers as I write this. Let's take this opportunity to talk about a really memorable playoff game involving the Steelers that took place exactly 38 years ago.

The Steelers played Oakland Raiders in the AFC divisional playoff game.
With only 22 seconds left on the clock, Oakland was leading 7-6. Pittsburgh was at its wit's ends, 4th and 10 on its own 40. In desperation, QB Terry Bradshaw threw the ball to RB Francis Fuqua, but before he could catch it he collided with Raiders' Tatum. The ball deflected due to this collision, and that was it...except not really. Out of nowhere, Pittsburgh RB Franco Harris caught the ball and ran for a touchdown, winning Pittsburgh the game. With that "immaculate reception" (the name is obviously a play on the Catholic dogma of Immaculate Conception), Harris made a place for himself in the hearts of Steelers fans (and on the most wanted list of Raiders fans).

Like any play, this one was enormously controversial. Did the ball touch the ground before Harris picked it up? Did it bounce off Fuqua only? 

Harris is really really important to the city of Pittsburgh, because there is a statue of him making the catch in Pittsburgh airport, right next to a statue of noted founding father George Washington.

When I visited Pittsburgh in September, I took a picture of that statue:

Harris: grinning all the way to the endzone

Here's a youtube clip of that play:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(Not)On the road - 9: The Homefront - You. See. El. A

Last installment of the series
Part 7(Harvard, Boston) is here and part 8(WashU, St. Louis) is here.

So as you can see from the title, not really a on the road post. Well technically, I was on the road. For 12 minutes, which is about the time it takes to walk from my apartment to the admissions office at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. That's quite a mouthful. You'd think a guy donating hundreds of millions of dollars to have the naming rights to a medical school would be kind enough to call it by something short and sweet. Like Dreamworks school of medicine.

The medical school, for those not in the know, is located in one of the nicest parts of Los Angeles in an area called Westwood. The famed beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu are not very far, which in LA parlance could mean anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Bel-Air hugs one part of the larger UCLA campus, and Beverly Hills is a stone's throw away (if you are Michael Vick). Pretty safe neighborhood and unless you do something incredibly stupid, you can walk around freely even at odd hours of the night. I have done it, with no problems (the waking around, not the doing something stupid, obviously). If you are into that sort of thing, you can spot multiple celebrities from multiple fields. A lot of my friends brag about seeing the Chicago Bulls or Adam Sandler in the gym playing basketball.

Now it is no secret that the med school building is nowhere as fancy as some of the others across the country. It is located in some cramped corridors of the ancient Center for Health Sciences building, sharing space with the dental school. To compensate for this, the spanking new Ronald Reagen UCLA medical center opened up just across the street a couple of years ago.

This much, I knew. What I didn't know was the med school has a first-class top-notch A-grade student lounge that looks like a boring arboretum from the outside. This swank piece of work boasts multiple flat screen TVs, a Wii console and ping-pong tables. Our tour guides touted its exclusivity and its opulence quite a bit during the tour. The library is equipped with an exclusive study lounge as well. The school has the added benefit of being surrounded by multiple research buildings. Keep your friends close, your research closer - as the famous saying goes.

All in all, a damn fine med school.

Anyway, that's the end of the on the road posts. Hope you (and I mean my one and a half readers) enjoyed them. As the looney tunes used to say: That's all folks!

On the Road - 8: Wasssss(h)up!

Second of the final three installments in the series 

Part 7 (Harvard, Boston) is here and part 9 (UCLA) is here.

St. Louis doesn't get much to boast about these days. The city used to be a glamorous, busy hub back in the day, even hosting a World's Fair and the olympics in 1904. But that was then. Nowadays, it is in the news for the wrong reasons, like for being named the most dangerous city in America.

Which is really a shame, because St. Louis is a nice idyllic midwestern city. Absolutely would not mind living here. Plus it has the gateway arch. Can your city boast a giant arch that leads into Illinois? St. Louis is home to Washington University, whose undergrad campus is right next to Forest Park, that is 50% larger than Central park. Take that New Yawk! Someone from my interview group raised the crime question and our gracious tour guides told us that was because the numbers were skewed by East St. Louis, which is actually in Illinois. Oh right, let Illinois take all the blame.

The university and the med school are located in an area called Central West End, which is, by all accounts, a typical college community. The public transportation is pretty easy to use (LA, I am glaring at you yet again) and I had a swell time visiting the city. But I bet y'all (my one and  half readers) want me to skip to the fun part where I visited the arch, right?

Well here you go. Most people don't know you can actually go all the way to the top of the arch and gaze out at the city skyline or, if you so choose, look imperiously over Illinois on the other side. The top is all closed up (obviously) and the windows are tiny, but it is definitely worth the view.

The gateway arch: facing Illinois since 19

They like to tell you exactly how high off the ground you are

St. Louis: standing tall
Now if only the Rams had a better season this year...But one must not be greedy, right?

On the Road - 7: Har-Har(vard) in Bahstun

Due to a proper lack of time last month, I have decided to publish three final installments of the On the Road series today. All the trips I describe here were made in the month of November.

Post #8 (St. Louis) is here and post#9 (UCLA) is here.

I arrived in Boston (or should I say Bahstun?) on a chilly Monday night. I jostled my way through the crowded Logan airport (Hey Boston, mind expanding the restrooms a bit? The lines were Disneyland long, man) to begin the first of three legs of the public transportation-assisted journey that would take me to my gracious host's house. You see, a family friend, who is a first year dental student at Hah-vahd, was kind enough to put me up for the night. All hopes of getting a glimpse of the Charles river ("Charlie") were destroyed, however, when the Silver line bus got a massive influx of people. Thirty five minutes later, I was all aboard the Green line subway, en route to the Red line subway. Which reminds me: why are all these subway and bus lines always named after boring colors? How about the Cyan line? Or the Fuschia line?

My friend lives right across the street from the Medical-dental-public health-pharmacy-Harvard hospitals megasupercampus, so I didn't have to worry about waking up early the next morning and scrambling to get there.

Before  my trip, an acquaintance of mine, a resident physician in SoCal (whom I had run into after a long time on the morning of my flight) had told me to savor my interview and take lots of pics because the main admissions building looks like the White House. And boy was he right. Even the damp morning air couldn't put a damper on it (zing wordplay!):

Clearly, Harvard likes to protect its lawns

At the risk of sounding pedantic, let me describe the area a little bit: the medical school is located (along with a host of other professional schools) in an area of Boston called Longwood. Two major Harvard teaching hospitals are adjacent to the med school (BIDMC and Brigham and Women's), as is the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. If Longwood were a solution, it would be a supersaturated one. Security is pretty tight around here. Every building has a guard at the entrance and it is impossible to get past them without having valid IDs.

The Biomedical library, located right behind the main building, is a pure nerd haven. They had an ongoing display on the life and times of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., famous intellectual from the mid-19th century. (His son was more famous then him for, among other things, supposedly telling an incognito Abraham Lincoln to "duck, stupid" at a charged Civil-war battlefield and for becoming a supreme court justice).

They even had a portrait depicting the first surgery under ether (a crude anesthetic used in the late 19th century):

Quite surprisingly, a few in the audience look positively bored

The crown jewel was this exhibit of Phineas Gage's skull. Gage was a railroad worker who suffered a truly bizarre injury when a steel rod pierced his frontal lobe and came out the other end. Miraculously, he survived, but his personality altered irrevocably.

Phineas Gage's skull: educating Neurosci 101 undergrads for generations
It was only later that I noted a tiny sign at the top left that said: "No pictures." Oops. Sorry Harvard.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stuck on a problem you can't solve? Try the Feynman algorithm

All of us, at some point or another, have found ourselves stuck while working on a difficult (or not-so difficult) problem. We all have different methods of coping with us. Some of us wallow in self-pity and despair; others bang their heads against the wall. Yet others go drown themselves in beer and Guinness.

Well people, fear not. Cast away your untrained, untested crude methods because I have here a sure-fire approach to problem-solving, patented and endorsed by none other than legendary physicist Richard Feynman .

Dick Feynman was an absolute beast at physics, but it is reputation outside of physics that made him into the larger-than-life figure he is today. Feynman defied the stereotype of the boring, awkward physics professor and exuded charisma and unbeatable energy. He played the bongo drums, enthusiastically took part in student plays at Caltech, cracked safes during the Manhattan project in Los Alamos, and drove around in a van with Feynman diagrams scrawled all over it. Oh and he won the Nobel prize in physics. Pretty damn good, I'd say.

Anyway, here is the time-tested Feynman algorithm you should all use whenever you need help. Just three easy steps:

 1. Write down the problem. Very critical step. If you don't know the problem, how the hell are you going to know what to solve, right?
2. Think really hard. And I mean really really hard.
3. Write down the solution. Voila! You are done! Not too shabby.

Now there used to be a variation of this algorithm that went like this:

1. Write down the problem.

2. Let Dick Feynman solve it.

3. Copy the solution.

Unfortunately since Feyman passed away in 1988, we can't use this anymore.

[The tongue-in-cheek Feynman algorithm was described by fellow Caltech physicist Murray Gell-Mann , a legend and a Nobel laureate in his own right. The Gell-Mann - Feynman rivalry during the 1960's riveted the physics community. It was like the Jersey Shore of their time.]

Here is an example of shenanigans Feynman was known for:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Post-finals euphoria music

Hokey so...finally done with finals (sorry that's the best I can come up with right now). Ten quarters done, two precious ones to go. On my way back from the classroom today, I had his spontaneous urge to start humming AC/DC's Girls got rhythm . Naturally the first I did when I got to my apartment was to flip open my laptop, head straight to youtube and play it.

He starts off so imperiously here too: "I've been around the world..." and that gives the song an irreverent, cocky tone throughout (which, I have no doubt, is precisely what Messrs. Young and Co. had in mind).  Really infectious riff here. And the screeching, rather than being obnoxious, just adds to the magnificent aura of this song. Cheers:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sayonara, goodbye and so long

What has two thumbs and just got out of the last o-chem final of its life? This guy! The last organic chemistry class/lab/instructional yada yada of my life. Done. No more. Clearly, a very poignant moment. So poignant, in fact, that I am going to take a break (no literally, I will make a line break here) to symbolize this sublime moment.

Although I like organic chemistry (a lot), I think O-chem labs are a complete waste of time, effort and talent. They are very shoddy, shabby and hilariously dumbed down. Dichloromethane? Oh no no no undergrads you can't use that! DMSO? Too expensive to let klutzy undergrads handle it!

As a result, we don't end up learning anything useful (as opposed to just the o-chem class where there is some good theory to learn). It becomes a chore to do lab reports and I can't even describe how absurd it is to "reference"  your professor's own course reader when writing up a post-lab. We are obviously writing Nature caliber reports here, right?

Our professor was actually a very nice guy (which made the class oh-so slightly tolerable) and was pretty generous in holding office hours, review sessions, and so on. But that's not enough to overcome the mind-numbing drudgery of decoding noisy IR spectra and hustling in line to get to the reactant first. A freakin' rat race in lab every week!

It's not like this is a sour-grapes type post because I am actually pretty good at o-chem and really enjoyed my normal o-chem classes. I am merely allergic to mindless labor that is not going to lead anywhere anytime soon, and writing endless pre-lab reports comes under this category. If this wasn't a requirement for medical school, I would never have taken an o-chem lab. Would I have taken an o-chem class? Yes. It is a lot like calculus and I love me some calculus on a fine day...

Monday, December 6, 2010

That's quite a 'hand'ful

Ever wonder what it is to be a hand model? Worry no more. America's top hand model is here to tell it all:

Quite a "hypnotic" video, eh? I am surprised it got to see the light of the day (har har).

Of course, we Seinfeld fans know exactly what being a hand model entails, don't we? George "Perpetual failure" Constanza's tragically short-lived career is testament to that.

Whacky statistics

It's finals week here so my roommate and I are finding creative ways to deal with the humdrum of studying for exams. Now he is taking a statistics class this quarter, which surprisingly gave him some great ammo for some lame jokes (if you haven't figured it out yet, I am a sucker for lame jokes).

We (mostly he) put our talents to good use and came up with some very outrageous statistical predictions: (Just a fair bit of warning: using these will likely lead to you instantly flunking out of Stats):
  • People who wear sweaters are more likely to fall sick. How so? Well, think about it: when do people wear sweaters the most? Winter. And when do they fall sick the most? Winter. Aha!

  • People who hire lawyers are more likely to go to jail. 

  • People who fly are more likely to get medical school interviews.

  • People who read are more likely to read.

Oh and get ready for the "Game of the century" of the season as the Jets and Patriots clash tonight. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

My winter break project: start a facebook meme

So apparently I am the last person in the whole universe (or the multitude of universes, if Stephen Hawking's theory of multiverses is to be believed) to find out that facebookers are changing their profile pictures to cartoon characters to relieve childhood memories and support the fight against child violence.

Now don't get me wrong. I am wholly against child violence (I mean we all are, right?). But how the hell does copying and pasting this status (and changing your profile picture) help fight against child violence?

Is facebook donating a dollar every time a user changes his/her profile picture to a charity? Are the users joining volunteer shelters? No and no. So the posting of new profile pictures is nothing but a clever meme (not unlike the cryptic breast cancer awareness status updates that crowded facebook a few months ago).

Again, I have nothing against synchronized changes in profile pictures. I actually kinda like looking at some of these cartoon characters because they do indeed remind me of my childhood. But associating it with a cause of some sorts is a cheap shot. It trivializes the cause it is supposedly fighting for.

Take the profile picture change as what it is : a clever meme. Don't try to dilute serious causes by coupling them with superficial events.