Category Archives: Life



Today, I came home from school and noticed a bag full of oranges in my kitchen. I thought to myself, hmm…why did my mom buy these when there’s a carton full of Florida’s Natural juice sitting in our fridge? But then an idea occurred to me: It had been a while since I’ve had some freshly squeezed orange juice. I don’t know what drove me to do it because it seemed like a waste of time. But then there was something about its freshness and smell that drove me to finally make some from scratch. So I proceeded to look for that unused, old school juicer that was sitting in somewhere in our cupboard. I finally found it and began slicing and squeezing. Keep in mind; I was not using one of those electric juicers. This was one of those old, twist and turn ones. I went through about 3 oranges before my arm started to ache. I poured out what I had already squeezed and it barely even filled up a third of the glass. So I kept going, and at this point I got a little frustrated and wanted to stop and just fill the rest of the glass with water. But then I thought- I’ve got to finish what I started. So I went through a few more oranges, slicing each one and squeezing them by hand. Finally, I filled up the glass. Then, I took a sip. It was heavenly. It was better than anything Florida’s Natural could ever offer. It was even better than Simply Orange. It got me thinking, this was the real deal. My arm hurt. It took up double the time. But in the end, it was real. And it was amazing. No additional sugar necessary.


“It’s not worth winning if you don’t have to fight for it”- An old Disney Channel movie.

Social Media.

The majority of you reading this post will probably have arrived here through clicking on the link to the post we always put up on Facebook. The majority of you are also probably connected through some sort of social media, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, or… I can’t think of the other ones right now, and check it at least once a day, if not more. Most of you probably have more friends on Facebook than people you would actually call friends in real life (well, I guess that depends on your definition of friends, but I think the point is still valid). Anyways. Yes, social media is really really powerful. Think about the uprisings in the middle east, the Occupy Wall St. movement, and even our own CHP community! Not only that, I’ve seen Facebook used to report shootings on campus faster than campus police can send out a mass text message. People disseminate information, plan, and keep in touch with people using social media. That’s all good and dandy, but are we really that connected?

Personally, I find Facebook very useful, and am perhaps getting a little addicted to it. Having a smart phone with which I can access Facebook from on the go probably isn’t helping things. But after scrolling through countless updates on my news feed, I think, more than anything else, that it gives me a false sense of “oh yeah, I know what’s going on in ___________’s life”. Sure, you might know, but do you know? Behind every photo is a story, behind every status update is a yet another narrative. But those tidbits of information are often left out, unknown to everyone except those who actually talk to that person. Not only that, sometimes I find myself a little jealous that so and so is doing such wonderful things at their university, or that so and so got to see some famous person speak, or so and so is really loving and living out life at their university, whether it’s through extra-curricular activities or going on trips with their college friends. And then I have to remind myself that “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” –Desiderata, Max Ehrmann.

I’m not advocating for you to close your Facebook account. How else would we make sure you guys know about our awesome CHP events? I mean most of you probably learn about what events are coming up through Facebook haha. But what I do want to say is that your true friends deserve more attention than a 5-second glance on Facebook. So keep in touch with them; shoot them e-mails, call them, or even write them letters! You’d be surprised how many people appreciate a hand written letter. Not only that, the time you spend on Facebook is probably more than enough to even give an old friend a call to see how they’re doing. And be aware of how much time you spend on social media. Is it really that important? Probably not. And if it’s a huge life update, like someone getting engaged, it’ll probably still be on your news feed three days after its posting. So no worries. Walk away from the keyboard, from the safety of being behind a screen, and go for building up true friendships.

P.S.: The first link is to the poem Desiderata, one of my favorites. The second link is an article from the NY Times Modern Love Essay Contest. I found it a really entertaining (and short!) read.

Good is the Enemy of Great

In the business book Good to Great by Jim Collins, there are three lessons or pieces of advice that are applicable to any aspect of life. These pieces of advice are: “Good is the Enemy of Great,” “First Who…Then What,” and “Confront the Brutal Facts.”

Good is the Enemy of Great

On different levels almost everyone exhibits this principal in their lives. We all tend to reach a point where we become good at something, and once that happens, our desire to keep working hard just disappears. For example, a lot of times I set up intense running regiments for myself, and the moment that I begin to see serious progress I inherently take more days off, eat less healthy foods, sleep less, etc. What I am asking of you, is that you take another look at the things in your life that are good, but not great, and see if there is any room for improvement. And in changing things around, sometimes knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do.

First Who…Then What

In the book Jim Collins used an analogy of a bus when talking about this lesson. He said that if you get the right people onto the bus, then you will always get where you need to go. But you have to decide this from the beginning, you can’t just decide who the right people are mid-journey. So if in the near future you are forming a study group, creating a band, planning a retreat, or going on a road trip, make sure you get the right people on the bus first, and it will make the actual events much easier.

Confront the Brutal Facts

Essentially, you should take hits, accept losses, learn from them, and move on. There are certain things in business and in the real world that people choose not to see because they want to remain ignorant. Doing this does not make anyone better. You may not get the grades that you always want, or the top choice of research advisor, or get into that exclusive club or organization, but you have got to address the facts face first, and assess what can be done to improve yourself.




CHPers: Welcome back!

As I sit here in my room, the day before the start of yet another quarter, I wonder what to write about. So many things have happened these last three weeks, providing fodder for my unending desire to try to will about change in today’s society on issues ranging from education, to political gridlock, to violence. I could ponder why the mass shootings in CT occurred and blast the government for being puppets of the NRA. I could lament over the death of the girl who was beaten and gang raped in New Delhi. I could try my best, as a Chemist, to examine the constant political gridlock that had the world’s markets on edge as congress marched toward the fiscal cliff doing the same-old political posturing we’ve gotten sick of. I could go off again on how California, though Prop 30 was passed, still needs to put a greater importance on funding education here; though a California teaching credential can land you a job in any state due to its rigor, we’re ranked 47th in per-pupil spending by some sources.

But instead, something else pulled at my heart more than any of the above. Even though I have a draft stored for a post on gun violence, I think we should take a break and examine, in the midst of all of this negative news, the brighter side of humanity. Yes, we have a brighter side, and no, it’s not gone yet. This is going to sound cheesy, but it’s love. Bear with me here, as I will elaborate.

For me, I’ll be honest, I had a hard time willingly coming back to UCI after a three week break at home. Not only was I fed very well by my mom (I gained back all the weight I lost this quarter haha) but I also got to see really good friends of mine back home, catch up with them, and spend quality time with my family, without the worries and distraction of school. Caring for each other, talking to one another, playing games with each other and cooking together made me happy. Made me content. And I realized that even though I live in Irvine now, I will still call NorCal my home. As I left NorCal and began the long drive back to UCI, I teared up seeing my parents in my rear view mirror watching me leave. Now, I said to myself, I’m back on my own, I’m not going to see my parents for awhile, and I’m going to miss being able to be quirky, crazy, and sometimes just plain weird around close friends back at home.

When I think about everything that’s happened this break, I also realize though that I am very blessed. Blessed to have a family that loves (Greek: storge) me, blessed to have friends who love (philia) me, blessed to believe in a God that loves (agape) me. Without going on a discourse about the inadequacy of the english word love and how there are multiple words in Greek to describe the word, what I wanted to say is that I hope all of you were able to receive some form of love and care this holiday season. I hope that all of you were refreshed over break and are now ready to take on the quarter. Because however much Americans like to believe that if we have a strong work ethic, we can take on anything. But without love, I don’t think we can’t make it. There’s no support, and no encouragement for the times when we need it.

So to end, show love to family, old friends, new friends, and even complete strangers, because who knows who might be needing some that day? Doing random acts of kindness to those you know or don’t know will buoy your spirits too. For though the holiday season is over, there’s no reason we should stop remembering those who gave us strength, and those who need our support.

Procrastinate with Vigor

Yea. You heard me. A CHP PAA telling you to slack off. Well, not exactly. No matter how busy and hard-working students are, we ALL procrastinate. We all take intermittent breaks to check updates on Facebook, watch videos on Youtube, and do what I like to call “Procrasti-clean” (Sometimes even Procrasti-eat). Suddenly our rooms are always messier when we need to start studying.

It isn’t just procrastination though. It is sometimes just a lack of focus because we try forcing our assignments to completion, which leads to frustration. My first year at UCI I would spend all day half-focused on an assignment, when I could have just spent a few hours if my mind was completely present. This made me feel like I never had time to do fun things, and I was constantly stressed.

By second year I finally realized that when I can’t focus, I should go along with it rather than fight it. So I would go play sports, workout at the gym, or just hang out with some friends, and when I got back I was always more focused and was ready for whatever had to be done. Bottom line: You can fit in most of the things that you want to do on a daily basis.

Even more importantly, if you do choose to not study, then go do something BIG! If you are going to waste 3 hours, might as well go to the beach, if you are going to waste half of the day, go to L.A.! And if you are going to waste a whole day, then you might as well go camping up in the mountains somewhere instead of watching Youtube videos.

So please, next time you can’t focus on your studies or you need to take a break, just think about it. And if you don’t know where to go, here’s a place you could try. Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna. It’s beautiful. Enjoy.



Stop and Go

A common trait of all college students, especially CHP students, is that we want to do everything. We want to try everything, we want to be a part of everything, we want TO BE EVERYTHING! Of course it is great to aspire to be omnipresent super heroes, but when the gears start grinding most of us humans tend to get a little bit overwhelmed. A perfect example of this, is this blog post. Three days late. How did I manage that? Forgot about it. Arguably it was just a failure of responsibility, but I would like to think of it as more of a dropped object in my current juggling act.

What am I getting at? DO juggle it all, DO push your limits, but when you hit the wall, you should stop and think where you are at and if you are happy with where you are spending your time. Try not to spread yourself so thin that you are hardly making a mark in anything that you do. For example, I just got back into playing beach volleyball. I also want to run a half-marathon in a few months. With the rest of my daily activities, training for both is not all that realistic. So I will probably drop the marathon, and just focus on volleyball. Doing both just won’t allow me to progress as much as I would have wanted to in either of the areas. So CUT whats less important to you. But with the things you decide to continue doing, take the bull by the horns.


Treat College Like Tourism

Intriguing title right? You don’t quite know what I am going to say, but you might have a feint idea. Well, I am going to start with a story.

I lived with International students in Arroyo Vista this last summer. The majority of them were Italian, with a good handful from China, and there was a guy from Germany. My roommate was a 20 year old Italian named Giulio who was more American than most Americans. He played American football, wore USC apparel all day long, and he was constantly eating hamburgers and chicken. Basically, I got to know a few of the Italians very well, and we all became very good friends in the short six week span of summer session II.

As soon as they arrived in Irvine they started exploring. Some went to Vegas, some went to San Francisco, some even had a brief run in with Mexico. Being 20 years old and from norcal, I did not join in on the Vegas or San Francisco trips, but as I grew closer to them they started inviting me everywhere they wanted to go.

The beginning of it all was a Friday night. We were all watching tv, and I was going to head up to my room to sleep when they asked me if I wanted to go to Venice Beach in the morning. I initially replied, “Nah…I have so much work to do tomorrow.” They kept insisting, and after a few quick thoughts, I agreed to go. That day turned out to be one of the best days I have had in a long time. I went to a beach I had never been to before, I learned a few Italian words, and just had a genuinely good time.

Of course it didn’t stop there. I started showing them every beach I have ever been to, my roommate and I took a weekend trip to San Luis Obispo to visit some friends of mine, and we even went to the Grand Canyon! We drove 8 hours through the middle of the night and made it by the last drops of our canned Starbuck espressos to view one of the most wonderful sights of the natural world.

Sure I lost some sleep. Sure I turned my bank account into my personal “gas money” fund to travel to all of these places. But it was all worth it. The Italians opened my eyes to Irvine, California, and America! They made it their duty to see every single place that we as “Irvine-ians”, Californians, and Americans take for granted on a daily basis. Irvine and Southern California have A LOT to offer. Even if you have lived here all your life, I am sure that there is a secret hidden beach you have never seen, a hiking trail you have never traversed, or a slice of pizza that you have not tried.

So my advice to you, ladies and gentlemen, is to treat Irvine and your college careers like tourism, because there are wonders out there that we simply overlook.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust



Week one at UCI

The fall quarter at UCI can bring about a mixture of feelings—excitement, anxiousness, confusion and joy showing up in waves. At least that’s how I felt. I was a third year transfer coming from Irvine Valley College and I didn’t realize just how big UCI was until I got there. I was extremely excited to be starting school there and I was attending so many events—one after another. I found myself a little exhausted and lost at some point because there were so many things going on at the same time that I couldn’t keep up after a while. During the CHP transfer meeting, I met some friendly faces and I was glad that there was at least someone to go to if I needed something because everybody else appeared as though they knew exactly what they were doing. But the truth is, most people are on the same boat as you. The important thing to remember during the first week of college is that you need to pace yourself. This means that you should try everything out but the key thing is that you shouldn’t let it overwhelm you. Take it easy. It’s only the first week of the first year. There are plenty more to come. Go with the flow. If something interests you, stop and try it but don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. Chill out and enjoy the ride!

My Freshman Year Experience: Enjoy, but Continue

My freshman year I learned a valuable lesson that I hope many of you can learn from. Fortunately, now is the perfect time for all of you to hear this, so listen up.

I entered college with the mindset that I had to branch out instantly and make reams of new friends. So I went for it. It was really successful, I was meeting people right and left, and a few weeks into Fall Quarter I thought I was set. The only problem was that school work was starting to pick up speed, and I was spending countless hours in my “cave”. There was still time to socialize, but between all of the studying it was more convenient to hang out with people from my hall instead of branching out to other people or joining clubs. My hall mates and I would hang out almost everyday, and it was a fun year, but I never felt quite at home with that group of people.

At the beginning of my second year, I finally realized that I had to do something about the lack of a friend group that I really gelled with. I joined some clubs (Mixed Interracial Exchange, OpenJam, Video Game Developers’ Club, and created Beach Volleyball Club), rushed a few fraternities, started an IM volleyball team, and took up sailing. Not only did these activities introduce me to some of the greatest people I have ever met, they also provided me with some unique experiences that I will not forget anytime soon.

So what is the point? The moral of the story is: don’t settle. Enjoy where you are at, but if the experience that you are having is not exactly what you want, then go hunting for it. I am not saying that your best friends at UCI won’t live in the same freshman dorm as you, but that you should look beyond before making a decision. And of course, join some clubs! Knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what to do. And the only way to find out, is by doing it all.

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

Your time is now,


Freshman Year.

I still remember my first day of college. Everything from meeting my roommate and his parents for the first time, taking a photo with my family in front of Loma, and our first dinner together as a hall. Haha, I remember at that dinner. There were only about 9 of us sitting around the table in the “piano room” in Mesa commons with our RA. She did most of the talking, constantly asking us questions in an attempt for us to get to know one another. Needless to say, it was quite awkward. But after that first encounter, the rest of that week was exhilarating. I’m an introvert, and meeting all those people in my dorm was amazing. We stayed up late, played card games, sat upstairs in the kitchen area in a huge circle and just talked.

But then the schoolwork began. Honors Chemistry, Hum Core, and Physics. I holed myself up in my room most of the time unless someone came looking for me asking for help. I quickly got labeled as one of the “studious” ones in the hall. But even those labels can be broken.

I came to realize that this opportunity to live in a dorm with all of my peers, eating together in commons, playing Super Smash Bros 64, and simply chatting and being exposed to different viewpoints of life is something that might never happen in my life again. And so my schoolwork was bumped down a little in priority, and I began developing friendships and memories to last a lifetime.

I guess what I want to leave you guys with is the knowledge that we have been in your shoes. Whether it is as an incoming freshman living in the dorms, a commuter trying to find “that group of friends”, or even as a transfer student, we’ve felt and experienced the same feelings you guys have. But above all, be open. Be open to meeting new people and listening to their experiences, insights, and opinions. Be open to trying things you have never tried before. Be open to the possibility of finding that one major, that one extracurricular activity that you are truly passionate about. Yes, you’ll be challenged, and you’ll be shaken. But from these events, you’ll grow and find out so much about yourself. Embrace the journey.


David Cao, CHP PAA