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Although life in graduate school can be boring for some people, where my schedule is: go to lab and do research, teach and grade assignments, exercise/work out in the gym, attend meetings and seminars, play volleyball, bike around town, check with my brother, talk to my parents, and then repeat…I always try to make myself occupied with tasks to do and people to see.  Many people would therefore view me as a workaholic, but I just prefer to have a fulfilling day before getting back to my place to read National Geographics, listen to music, cook dinner, watch movies, and sleep.  Even though life can be a drag with repetition, I aim to continue moving forward and make progress while feeling blessed to have so many good folks around me.

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EINS

After meeting with my committee members and finally getting certified as a doctoral student, I began searching from a strain of mice recommended by one of the faculty members to include in my projects.  After constant communications with my faculty advisor and the committee member whom bumped into me in seminars and knows me, I received the mice two Fridays ago.

My faculty advisor initially requested me to see if those knockout mice are available commercially since it would take me months to create the murine strain from scratch.  However, phone calls with staff from Jackson Laboratory led to a negative, and soon I was thinking of Plan B.  Luckily, the committee member was contacting a professor in Tokyo who created the murine strain on my behalf, and I was permitted to use those mice without breeding them.  Since the committee member only has a few old mice left, I soon searched and heard from a German researcher here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who bred the mice and needed to eliminate or move those mice to prevent housing costs from increasing.  After emails and phone calls, I got to know the German researcher and discovered that he is pretty close to my advisor and my advisor’s wife…He has a deep voice, portraying humor with his heavy accent.  Haha perhaps I do have a thing for Germans!  Anyway, I was glad for him to help me and to offer me some guidance regarding these mice too.

I received twenty mice that I requested with two extra, and ’twas a great Easter gift.  These knockout mice used in immunological research typically costs more than $150 for one, and boy would I not be able to purchase twenty of these mice with my own lunch money.  These knockout mice also look identical to the wildtypes since they have the same background, but a wildtype mouse from Jackson Laboratory would cost merely $17 in contrast.  With the help from so many people, I am then responsible to put these mice into good use and to advance on my research.  After this experiment, ’tis possible that I will be in contact with the Japanese professor and German researcher to set protocols and agreements on breeding so that I could maintain my own colony.

Many individuals, including some of my students, think that a graduate student in the biosciences or a researcher would wear lab coats with thick glasses, have messy facial hair and some quirkiness, and reside in a lab building (and even sleep there)…from one of my co-teaching assistants, one of my beloved students even came into the zoology building last Wednesday hoping to see me and talk to me…and I am only in that building on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays when I have to teach or attend TA meetings.  Horror stories about postdocs and graduate students from Boston locking their lab notebooks and being mischievous in sharing equipments and details would fascinate me since I would apply to postdoc opportunities in Boston and since my observations of labs in Taiwan, California, Germany, and Wisconsin are quite the opposite with an emphasis on collaboration.  Being able to communicate with faculty across the Pacific Ocean and obtaining free mice from a German researcher increased my faith that scientists should communicate and collaborate with one another, and that we should not be hiding inside the closet the entire time but share to gain feedback.  That was how I “used” my committee members too.  Instead of completely ignoring them, I do my best to obtain feedback from them and meet with them.  Hopefully things will pan out and that I can continue making progress to attend a conference soon.

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ZWEI

One of my co-TAs Michael told me that his birthday, 19 April, has been a day with calamities in history.  Since we would be proctoring an exam with other co-TAs that evening and one other co-TA Emily would have defended her Master’s thesis that morning, I used my happy planning skills and informed my colleagues about meeting at around 6:55PM to celebrate so that Michael would not become a Debbie Downer.  I knew that Michael would be back by then from his run and that Emily would be there too.  Unfortunately, we could not imbibe alcoholic beverages prior to proctoring, so I preordered a cake from Lanes Bakery, another great bakery in Madison with many cake selections, donuts, party supplies, and other baked goodies.

‘Twas raining on Thursday, and I walked around town to pick up the nine-inch cake.  I hid the cake on a cart with candles in a different room, and eventually wheeled the cart into the room at 7:05PM when everyone was there.  ‘Twas great to be able to make friends and people you know smile, and ’twas great to see people eating cake and loving it.  Somehow, words got into Michael and Emily that I was the one who bought the cake, and they both offered me gratitude at the end…which was unexpected since I did not want to take credit for the entire celebration.  The thanks with a pat on the back from Emily and a “Thanks joe, really appreciate it. total surprise. way too generous. thanks” text message from Michael did make me smile in my heart though.

And from here, one can see that Michael is pretty rough for cutting cake.  Maybe ’tis in the genes of civil engineers or people who study water management…but ’twas funny to see people coloring outside boxes, not drawing straight lines when connecting dots, and not thinking about symmetry but bringing out the au natural, free self when cutting cake for the fourteen in the room!

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DREI

I spent time with three lovely folks of the same age for four hours last Sunday evening over healthy comfort food and great conversations.  From the group, I knew two of them really well since I lived at least a year with them.  Peter though, was someone I never got to know but he caught my eye as being a great guy.  I first met him through another friend who was present on Sunday a few years ago, and Peter left me an impression of being a brewer with shiny earrings since we bumped into each other at his house party with his home brewed pumpkin ale and later around campus with minimal conversations.  Having to interact with each other over four hours made me appreciate him a lot more too, for he has traits of an ideal man (or as I called him, a ladies’ man).  Whenever someone is speaking, Peter would always remain eye contact to the speaker with his bright smile and portray interest in any topic with questions and/or comments.  When he speaks, he also looks around the room to make sure that no one was left out…and since I sat directly across from him, I got to see him smile more!  He also would compliment and thank people frequently i.e. on a dish that was cooked or a conversation piece, but not in a ass-kissing or superficial way.  He would also ask the hostess if he could offer to help, and he is extremely good at chopping strawberries.  He is also well-educated and has goals to achieve in life.  Overall, he is a gem in my eyes who is just not too desperate and is comfortable with himself.

With the past few incidents with folks I met on a date or social event, mostly everyone did not have the qualities that Peter portrays.  In many incidents, including one that took place two weeks ago, the guys would be so addicted to their cellphones that their eyeballs would check the screen every five to ten minutes.  There would be limited eye contacts.  Some guys might still be working during the meeting, but why schedule to meet when you are still at work?  I did meet some folks I thought that were great at first, eventually exchanging contact information and hanging out at their places, but being focused on work all the time prevented others and me to schedule another meet-up.  And then there were those who just simply do not have much to share or talk about, displaying dullness in life.  Perhaps I am just not the guy who enjoys awkward silences with someone, even through a graduate school social event…but there is a ticking bomb in everyone that would explode with passionate conversations ranging from your current research topic, travel experiences, politics, sports, maintaining an aquarium, good food, and more.  Sure, there might be those who do not have the financial and intellectual ability to go to higher education, but maturing and mastering life is a must for me and would definitely turn me on.  And worst of all are the leeches: they expect you to be next to them 24/7 and to pay for their dinners all the time.  I can be a giving tree to my friends and family, but being a twenty-five year-old sugar daddy is a different topic.
Perhaps my criteria are the ones that are preventing me from getting into a relationship.  ‘Tis true that graduate school is occupying my life and that I aim to go somewhere else for a postdoc opportunity, but ’tis saddening when even those in graduate school do not have higher goals in life or cannot even take care of themselves healthily and even financially.  I also am not comfortable meeting someone for the first time and then hop onto bed too, since I prefer to be celibate until I get into a relationship.  Even Peter, my friends, and I agreed that online dating is just not ideal to meet people since folks on there are desperately horny and even if ’tis hard to meet someone in person, the internet is still not the best place to get to know someone.  Oh well, I guess that although I have been single for the past twenty-five years, I am grateful to have a few great friends with Peter’s quality to keep me company.
Funnily, I got a wedding invitation of a guy friend who was present Sunday evening when I checked my lab’s mailbox on Monday.  ‘Twas surprising since he asked me for my mailing address a few weeks ago when we met together for dinner, and I did not expect him to invite me to his wedding.  The wedding card was simple and beautiful too, and that makes it the fourth wedding invitation to attend.  I never knew that received this many wedding invitations could be problematic too!  When I was an undergrad, I received two but declined to attend those since I was back in Taiwan visiting family.  Now as a grad student, many things have changed in my life and I attended my first US wedding a few Octobers ago.  With these four wedding invitations, one will be in Madison and I knew the groom really well since he was my Godfather.  I met the bride-to-be a few times too, and she is a nice lady.  Since the wedding will be in Madison, I of course RSVPed to attend since I would not need to pay for hotels and could easily drive around town to destinations.  For two of those (including the one I received on Monday), they will be on the same Saturday, and I could not fly or drive from one to the other since they are five hours apart.  ‘Tis a tough decision to make, but I eventually will have to decline one of those invitations.  Would I want to go to a wedding of a friend and former roommate or a buddy from church?  Would I want to drive to Northern Wisconsin or a city north of Chicago?  Church and hotel reception or one in a concert hall/movie palace?  I guess I have until early May to RSVP.
The last invitation is from one of my cousins who live in San Francisco.  As a man in his thirties, he found the love of his life (whom I heard is related to Dick Cheney) and is having the wedding in Maui.  Destination weddings could be a nice vacation, but they are hella expensive and could be time-consuming if you cannot really take a break.  I have been in communications with the cousin’s sister, who is the bridesmaid and another of my cousin (hah!)…and ’tis possible that I will not attend that wedding due to airfare for more than $1300, research experiments, and my possible hire to teach a summer lab course.  No matter if I decide to go to any of these weddings, I will definitely send those couples my best wishes.
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VIER
Life is treating me well, and I am making the most out of everything.  I was in contact with some of the guys I met in the past since school would keep me busy and prevent me to hanging out with them.  Many of them kept telling me that I am attractive and sexy and smart and motivated and yada-yada-yah, and ’tis great to know that there are folks out there who admire you.  There are times when I think that I am just not like the twinks and muscular guys on the dance floors, the gyms, and in movies, but I figured that I do not need to be like them!  Well, I am still aiming to become more muscular, but hopefully I will not turn into a brainless jock.  Who knows?  Maybe I will go on more dates, meet more folks, and have a midsummer night dream…although I will be preparing for my qualifying exam, teaching although not official yet, singing, and relaxing too.  A guy I met last summer, who is a graduate student from the University of Texas-Austin, will be back here this summer to do his research, so hopefully I’ll catch up with him.
When walking around the first outdoor farmer’s market of the year today, I saw so many people breaking away from the faster pace in life and simply chillaxing with family and friends. Everyone was smiling with the nice sun and cheese curds on one hand, with me taking photos after purchasing some lean bacon and other produce…The image made me smile too, for the winters here were quite dead in contrast.  With this entry, I pray that I will continue making progress in my own life while bringing joys, laughter, and love into other people’s lives…even during the harshest winters or summers with heat strokes!
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Thanks to LMFAO, I have been feeling sexy these days for many reasons.  Not because I’m high on testosterone and that I am horny, but because many wonderful things have happened since the last time I wrote.

My cousin Mel, the Texan native, visited last weekend and we hung out for a bit.  The visit was on a short notice, so we did not have anything planned.  My brother and I were excited though, since we have been telling her to come visit Madison.  She came with three friends (one is working here in a software company and engaged to his gay fiance who visited as well, and the other is a lady who is interested in psychology and sociology).  Although their flight was postponed and the arrival time changed from 11AM to around 11PM last Friday, we still managed to meet on Saturday.

The gang arrived at 6PM, and everyone chillaxed a bit at my place while my brother poured some of the New Glarus Wisconsin Belgium Red for the guests.  Similar to Ben’s Wisconsin friends whom I met in Chicago over New Year’s Eve, the UT-Austiners loved the drink.  We chatted a bit more and then headed out to dinner at 7PM.  Unfortunately with no reservations, we could rarely find a spot for six without a more than forty-five minute wait.  We walked along Capitol Square and State Street, and then my brother and I decided to take them to The Nitty Gritty.  My brother left when we got to the establishment since he needed to go to an 8PM discussion, so the five of us dined there.

Dinner was nice with conversations, and I was surprised by the two gay couple who are engaged.  They were not too handsome or hot, one of them has some gastrointestinal related illnesses and some other diseases, they were nice folks, and yet they look so wonderful next to each other.  I really do admire the both of them since that is true love right there.  They did not love each other due to lust or bed-related actions, but they looked beyond each other’s imperfections and linked their hearts together.  The strong support they provided for each other fascinated me, and I just hope that I will be able to find the special one too.

After dinner at around 8:50PM, Mel’s three friends decided to go back to their place since one of them needed to finish writing a paper.  I was going to send my brother a burger I bought for him, and Mel decided to come along and stick around!  We met up with my brother at 9PM when he was on his way home.  He was going to have a short night and head to bed soon since he was under stress with exams and studying, so Mel was left with me.  I took Mel for a walk, which she enjoyed with the fresh air although ’twas a bit chilly.  We walked around Memorial Union, then hiked up Bascom Hill, then onto Observatory along the lake, then to Tripp and Adams (where I resided during my sophomore year and first year of house fellowship), and then we took a break by the lakeshore area for some ice cream since Mel had not have ice cream from the Dairy State.

We shared a sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream, Heath, pecans, and Reeses…and sat on a booth and started catching up with life.  We did talk a lot about academia, her plans after graduating in May, law school, her trip to Italy, dating, and many more.  ‘Twas a great break with many exchanges of thoughts.  At first, I was worried that our four to five year age difference will not have too much in common since Mel was a bit more talkative to my brother earlier during the evening, but I was wrong.  Even my aunt told my parents (who told me later) that Mel has always respected me as a big brother and valued my conversations with her since when she was in high school.  She is hoping to work in Chicago through a law firm after completing an internship through the firm, and I will be glad to take her around Chicago with my brother!

After the break, we walked along Linden, passed by Henry Mall, and went into Union South.  Later, we walked along Johnson and Park Street, and then went into Library Mall and started walking along State Street.  ‘Twas the weekend of WIAA High School Wrestling, and there were many topless youngsters running past by us as celebration after the tournament.  Mel and I even laughed when one of the youngsters slapped my ass so hard that we both heard it.  If I were in an office, that could be sexual harassment, but ’twas fun for the both of us to see youngsters bearing the cold and cheering for their accomplishments.

Mel’s friend called at around midnight indicating that he would be going to bed soon and would like to pick her up since she was staying at his apartment with the others.  We then walked from the Capitol to my place, and she was off at 0:35.  She said bye before she boarded her plane on Sunday, and she enjoyed her visit too.

This visit also affirms my view that family members are the greatest and closest support for one another.  During the period of mourning for my grandma, whose funeral took place on Monday in Taipei, the visit reunited all the youngsters from my mother’s side who are in the United States.  Each visit, similar to the one in Chicago with Ben and those meals and walks with friends, are ways to renew relationships of any sort.  Even a small sundae with great ice cream and Heath toppings could make one smile for a day too… ‘Twas a great visit, and I could not believe that I had not seen her for five years, with the last time being before I went to Germany!!! I do hope that my brother and I will be able to visit her in Austin soon before she leaves that campus.

On a different note, I heard back from my advisor regarding my research proposal two days ago.  I am glad to finally see progress since he had the document for more than a month.  He made some great changes, and I am glad to learn from them and see his thoughts and intentions.  I am hoping to have that done soon so that I can meet with committee members to get their approval and take my qualifying exam soon!!!

Teaching has been going well too.  Students are learning about arthropods this week, and many of them were squeamish and excited.  Some of them were similar to Dora the Explorer (English and Zoology Edition) when observing hexapods, crustaceans, chelicerates, and myriopods with curiosity.  Some of them even dissected the destroyed the entire crayfish, which would need to be used by the next class too 🙂  Anyway, my students (especially the Monday and Tuesday ones) have been doing great this semester, and I hope that they will continue to be this motivated!

After working yesterday, I decided to take a walk in the afternoon and even call the afternoon off.  I left the lab at 2PM, and then bumped into Megan!  She was a former co-TA and a friend, and I was surprised when she walked by me and yelled out my name since she usually has a soft voice!  She was on her way to the library, so we walked together for a bit and caught up with one another.  ‘Twas great to hear that she missed teaching and that she is planning to come back too.  After she left, I continued walking, and eventually revisited Bakers’ Window.  I got to chat with the couple who baked the goodies since the wife started talking to me about organic milk in glass bottles and their use of organic materials.  The husband chatted more with me when the wife went to deal with the delivery man, and I discovered that they went to Munich together before.  They also learned to bake in Paris and also in San Francisco, and they are aiming to open a bakery under their names in the future without another owner or landlord.

My first visit to Bakers’ Window was last Saturday, and I had a great impression of the pain au chocolat.  There were more selections this time, since I went there during their normal hours when compared to thirty minutes before opening.  I got some pain au chocolat for my brother and Michael the co-TA, a Danish for myself, and carrot almond cake.  I am a big almond lover, and I loooooooove carrot cakes as well.  The mix of both made it an expensive dessert to make, and the cake made by the couple who baked all the goodies looked marvelous.  I tried some, of course…and ’twas surprisingly dense that I could only eat one-fourth to a third of a slice each time to feel fulfilled.  The cream cheese frosting and the cake overall was not too oily and sweet as the carrot cake made in other places, and the almond was a great compliment.  In many places, even those in the Farmer’s Market, the pastries and cakes would be swamped with frosting or sugar, but the baked goods from Bakers’ Window have always been simple.  ‘Twas not too plain, but the sweetness tasted came from the ingredients inside the pastry instead of a huge sugar-coating.  The cake was delicious and was worth it.  I am a food lover who would bike or drive for miles just to taste some dishes, and I can now say that Bakers’ Window is the best bakery I have experienced in Madison.

After being indulging on pastries for a while, I finally decided to visit the gym in case if I become a fat jolly Buddha.  I still go to the gym to play volleyball, such as my four-hour session last Saturday.  However, I have not been great at going to the gym on weekdays due to things to do, meetings to attend, and bad weather.  I finally made it to the gym at 7:30PM, started stretching, rowed 5000m, ran and hiked on the treadmill without phobia nowadays, and finished with sit-ups and stretches with an exercise ball.  I then saw Danielle, a grad student I know from a course I took last semester, and we started catching up with one another.  ‘Twas great to see a familiar face in the gym who is striving to live healthily too 🙂  So other than the awesome feeling of perspiration and meeting a familiar face during the work-out session, I felt wonderful after coming out from the shower.  I felt so relieved and clean, and I smelled great! 😉  I even flexed myself in front of the mirror, and boy were my arms getting larger and larger compared to the scrawny and flappy ones I had when I was bigger.

So yes, I’m sexy and I know it…I work out!!!!  Life and God have been good to me, and I just hope that I can continue visiting the gym and started going five to six days again like my usual routine.  I am doing well with my Lenten sacrifice: giving up alcohol.  I wonder if I can survive to forfeit having baked goods or sweets, but we can find that out in another Lenten period.  I hope that I can continue to make more progress with research, teaching, and in social life…and become more muscular soon, especially if I will need to put on swim wear and show my body if I go to Hawaii one day!