Saturday, March 31, 2007

Uh... Ouch?

While I am tempted to play down the severity of the drubbing UCLA took at the hands of the (much better) Florida squad (they were never really a good match, Afflalo had a HORRIBLE night, they got demoralized early on, etc), I think I'll resist it and simply concede the inevitable: UCLA simply can't cut it when it comes down to the big games.

Now don't get me wrong, I've been overall pleased with UCLA's performance in the NCAA tourney so far, having won some challenging games against Pitt and Kansas, but it always seems as though the Bruins have a knack for choking/misfiring when the tire meets the rubber. Granted, as I mentioned in my previous post, the Florida squad was fortunate to have its top 5 starters from last year's championship winning team return in full form (Joachim Noah and Corey Brewster were outstanding again), but it was never really a fair match-up. We were outscored, outplayed, outrebounded... basically outmanned in every sense of the word.

I was so disgusted at one point with UCLA's performance that I was on the verge of simply turning off the TV but decided I should at least watch the rest of the game, however painful (and boy was it ever), as a loyal Bruin. Though the outcome was never really in question, I kept hoping that Howland's men would mount a last ditch surge and somehow even the score, perhaps even eking out a narrow, miraculous victory. Fat chance, I know.

Well, all I can say is that Florida better beat Ohio State in the championship game this Monday. At least then I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that we lost to the best damn team in the country. For the second time in a row.

Blogging the Final Four: UCLA vs. Florida


So it's finally upon us... The rematch of the century (OK, maybe not SO much) between the two teams that disputed the NCAA title last year has just started, and your humble scribe couldn't be MORE excited. Granted, the odds are still against my beloved Bruins (with all sports commentators/forecasters worth their dime predicting a Florida victory and repeat win on Monday against Ohio State) but, if anything else, I'm expecting Afflalo, Collison and crew to give them a run for their money. Obviously, for the Bruins to even have a chance of cracking the formidable Gator squad (with 5 starters running from last year's champion squad), they'll have to fire on all counts, not make any stupid mistakes (definitely not a given) and put up the best defense they can muster under the net.

If, and only IF, they can perform to the best of their ability do they have a chance of keeping up (and, do I dare dream, "defeat") with the Florida players. Well, the game's just about to start. Here goes nothing!

UPDATE: Not looking too good right now. Afflalo has already been benched with 3 fouls with less than 5 minutes played. UCLA NEEDS him on the floor scoring points (like he did spectacularly against Kansas a week ago) if it wants to have a chance of winning. Talk about a good start...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Media Overload

For any of you even remotely familiar with Orange County and, particularly, the Anaheim-Yorba Linda area, it won't come as a surprise for you to hear that I've been spending most of my days at HOME, instead of going out and seeing the (non-existent) "sights". Far be it from me to convey any sense of self-pity through this statement, however.

In fact, I've been enjoying myself tremendously, spending most of my waking time watching various movies (I've probably watched more movies over the period of three days than I have over the past few months), including The Departed, Borat (which wasn't nearly as hilarious as I thought it would be), Pan's Labyrinth, The Prestige and The Host. Also, as befits my uber-nerdy interests, I've spent a LOT of time reading through blogs, news articles and a few books, an activity that I've sorely missed while at school.

It is therefore with a bit of sadness that I look to returning back to San Francisco tomorrow night, a few days before I resume classes again (Monday, April 2 to be precise) to take care of a few errands and some extracurricular work. The next time you hear from me, then, I will once again be writing from the windy/foggy recesses of SF. I can't wait.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nawlins Recap


I'm sure it came as no surprise to most of you that I did not, in fact, post regular updates on my trip to New Orleans. In my defense, however, I'd like to cite two critical factors that resulted in my lack of blogging: little to no wireless connection at my hotel and the NCAA tournament.

While I was able to go online at the convention center to check my e-mails, some current events and a few research-related matters, I was very pressed for time and ended up spending most of my time attending talks, examining posters and talking to faculty members and students from different schools. Trying to connect from my hotel was a virtual non-starter: although I ended up paying for the ability to access a wireless network (I know, I know, I'm a real netwhore), I was sorely disappointed to find that I could, at best, stay connected for up to 5 minutes before I got kicked off again. In addition, the fact that I spent most of my free time (outside of visiting the city and attending the conference) watching the NCAA tournament (Go Bruins!) with some of my UCSF buds (and fellow UCLA alums) made it very difficult to take the time to hash out some intelligible and "entertaining" postings.

So now that I've made my amends, it's time to delve into the meat of my trip, which (not surprisingly) had to with visiting the actual city of New Orleans. Two things immediately came to mind as I spent my first few nights walking along the city with my friends and dining out: (1) holy shit, there are a LOT of bars and stripper joints here and (2) I've never seen so many fried food offerings on a menu before (that's not to say that the food wasn't good, however, I gorged on seafood gumbo, jambalaya, crawdads and oysters).

Walking along Bourbon Street (the street with the highest density of aforementioned businesses per square foot) was certainly an enjoyable if, at times, slightly disconcerting experience. Seeing prostitutes and pimps parade along the sidewalk in an effort to entice tourists (many of which were spring breaking college students) while strolling past very inebriated (see "wasted") men/women made for an eye-opening experience.

One clear highlight from my trip was going on an organized swamp tour with one of my friends. As one of the few pristine, natural settings outside of the city that has mostly recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the swamp was inhabitated by a lush and diverse array of wildlife and plants, including alligators, egrets, owls, water snakes, turtles and catfish. Though we regrettably weren't able to see some of the larger alligators, our tour guide did a commendable job of finding some of the more distinct and rare animal and plant species for us to see and taught us a great deal about the swamp ecosystem.

Overall, it was definitely a great trip though I am glad to be back at home in Yorba Linda to enjoy some quality time with my parents and (hopefully) some of my high school friends. Let's hope that my being at home contributes to more regular posting for the next few days!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Blogging from N'Ewlans!

And yes, before you ask, I am aware that my spelling of the city name is slightly askew (but I saw it written that way in a restaurant name so I thought it'd be appropriate to give it some cultural spin). So anyways, I just got into New Orleans yesterday afternoon and, after spending some time dropping off my stuff and organizing my hotel room, proceeded to explore the city a bit, getting as far as several blocks down Canal Street (one of the main streets in the city).

What's my overall impression of the city so far? In three words: I like it. The architecture is very rustic but interesting (hearkening back to the plantation era), and the French Quarter is absolutely teeming with cool bars, restaurants and jazz clubs. I am currently taking a little break from my convention-attending duties, having spent the better part of the morning looking through poster presentations of some of my dental colleagues from across the country, and am planning on diving right back in as soon as I wrap up this entry.

I hope to update the blog every now and then during the next few days with any interesting tidbits or event updates as time permits, and will also do my best to convey a distillation of my experience visiting the Big Easy and exploring its culture and sites of interest.

Oh yes, so to end this posting, here's a small picture of the hotel I am staying at, the French Quarter Suites (not the best quality, I know, but you do what you can):

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Guess Who's (Finally) Back...

Wow, has it really already been two long weeks since the last time I posted? As much as I'd like to say that I'm surprised, doing so would only be kidding myself (and you, my loyal readers). So yes, as I expounded at length in my previous postings, I've been weathering what has been a tiring and challenging two weeks of finals, something I'm glad to say is now officially over (as of yesterday, 10:20 AM to be exact).

As you may imagine, I spent the next few hours immediately following my last exam vegging in front of my computer screen and lying in bed, two activities I've dearly missed over the past few days. Afterwards, I mustered up all the remaining energy I had and dragged myself to the gym, where I proceeded to jog for a short spell before the rigors of studying and lack of sleep overwhelmed my body and forced me to retire once again to the confines of my room and bed.

Having now rested up for a full night (sleeping an unprecedented 9 hours), I am busily taking care of a few random errands in anticipation of my flight to New Orleans in a few days to attend the IADR/AADR Research Conference (International Association of Dental Research / American Association of Dental Research). That should be a fun few days and, hopefully, if I'm as diligent as I hope to be (in other words, no promises) I'll be updating the blog with pictures of the conference floor and various posters.

All right, well, on that note, I will now return to packing up some stuff and finishing catching up on all of the reading (Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, The Economist, etc) that I've been forsaking for the past few days.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saving Lives, One Extraction at a Time


I'm not sure if you've had the chance to read this moving story from the Washington Post but, if you haven't, I strongly recommend you take a look here. It essentially reports on the case of a 12-year old boy, Deamonte Driver, who, because his mother wasn't able to afford an $80 extraction for him, passed away after the bacteria from his abscess spread to his brain. Here are some key excerpts:

"A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.

(...)

Fewer than 16 percent of Maryland's Medicaid children received restorative services -- such as filling cavities -- in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available.

(...)

In spite of such modern innovations as the fluoridation of drinking water, tooth decay is still the single most common childhood disease nationwide, five times as common as asthma, experts say. Poor children are more than twice as likely to have cavities as their more affluent peers, research shows, but far less likely to get treatment.

Serious and costly medical consequences are "not uncommon," said Norman Tinanoff, chief of pediatric dentistry at the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore. For instance, Deamonte's bill for two weeks at Children's alone was expected to be between $200,000 and $250,000.

The federal government requires states to provide oral health services to children through Medicaid programs, but the shortage of dentists who will treat indigent patients remains a major barrier to care, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures."

It just sickens me that the state of Medicaid in our country is so poor and that health insurance remains so hard to come by for most individuals of low income backgrounds that lives such as this young boy's are so needlessly lost. To think that a simple extraction could've solved his problems and saved his family and care providers from having to confront this tragedy...

Two to Go...

So, before all hell breaks loose and I proceed to completely absent myself from this space, I thought I'd share with you a short perspective on my quarter so far.

As I've mentioned in previous postings, I'm almost amazed at just how fast this quarter has zoomed by me. I mean, to a certain extent, I've always felt that the quarter system seemed rushed (except for a few agonizing quarters during my undergraduate years, that is) and that I never really knew what was going on until the very end (by which time it was already too late).

All that really comes to mind as I sit back and consider the past weeks that have just gone by is how much #$#%& time I spent in the lab, breaking my back trying to finish up my various lab homework assignments. Excruciating? Yes. Lengthy? Excessively so. Fun? Surely not, unless you consider manual labor "fun".

OK, so maybe I'm making it out to seem exceedingly bad, but let's just say that I'm not exactly cut out for lab work (unlike some of my much more talented colleagues). Overall, though not entirely forgettable, the didactic component of this quarter wasn't superb either. Sure, it was fun to hear about the different bacteria that can kill/impair you (especially when they coincided with news reports I would vaguely hear on the TV) and where they came from, but (especially when it came to midterms), it all boiled down to a series of exercises in rote memorization.

Overall, though, it was a pretty good quarter though I can honestly say that I'm very much looking forward to spring break and my trip to New Orleans for the American Association of Dental Research (AADR) Conference (more about that in a subsequent posting).

I'll do my best to keep you updated on my latest travails and triumphs (more of the former, I'm expecting) within the next few days but no promises... for now.