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bioscience

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!

Nope, ’tis not a wedding anniversary since I am still single, nor is it the anniversary of this blog (which I would never celebrate anyway)…but ’tis an anniversary of spiritual rebirth.  Some people would call it a one-year-old birthday celebration…but for me, ’twas a great time to reflect the growth I had in a year.

This year’s Holy Week coincided with spring break.  Unfortunately, spring break did not seem to exist for a graduate student in the biosciences.  Many guys I know were in town working on research or preparing for teaching, including my befriended animal staff Patty.  When I attended Dr. Irv Weissman’s seminar session last Tuesday, I was amazed to see the entire forum filled with graduate students and faculty, including one of my committee members whom I know quite well and one good friend of mine who is aiming to finish his studies in the summer.  Of course, Dr. Weissman is famous for his works in hematopoietic stem cells and his seminar would attract many, but the gyms and campus was a lot emptier during break without much undergrads around.

Since the last time I updated, I made quite a few progress in life: getting certified as a doctoral student after meeting with my committee members and obtaining their John Hancocks after answering questions with my best ability and hearing their suggestions (with two I took that were helpful), officially announcing the date of my Qualifying Exam in August 2012, getting approval from a professor in Japan to use his knockout mice, getting some results to analyze, and continuing with my work,…I also got to spend quality time with myself and others.

My “spring break” or Holy Week kicked off with four hours of volleyball followed by four hours of hanging out in front of a bonfire with food and conversations.  Other than that, I also got to catch up with friends through coffee or Korean food or Indian food buffet (instead of the typical Easter brunch) for two hours each, those from Bible study at the Terrace with beer and popcorn on Tuesday evening for two hours, meeting up Saturday morning for an hour and a half with Michael (who is getting married in June),…and the list goes on.  I enjoyed spending time with great friends and good people, and ’tis a blessing to have them in life.  Other than human interactions, I also enjoyed spring break with bike rides, six-mile runs, walks around town, almond croissants, and some of the littlest things in life.  ‘Twas funny to see that week went by quickly too.

This Easter also marked my first year of officially entering into the Catholic church.  ‘Tis true that there are some areas of the faith that I would debate on, but most of the topics were deeply absorbed by me since when I was young.  In college, I lost touch with church and Masses, and I was brought back to faith when I was in New York over a year ago.  I was a tourist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral taking photos, and suddenly a voice in me encouraged me to stay for the 1PM Mass.  I then sat in the pew and stayed for the entire Mass, noticing that I had missed the beauty of the Mass and homilies during the past four to five years.  When getting back to Madison, ’twas the move-in/move-out weekend, and I got so many blessings and free furniture and dishes from friends as I moved from a three-bedroom into a one-bedroom.  I decided to go to Mass that weekend to give thanks, and I met some great friends by then.  I became more involved in choir, eventually participated in an all-male graduate student/young professional Bible study, and volunteered in events if I could.  I was not hardcore though, for I did not attend Mass everyday or befriend the priests and many in church, but my whole being changed with this encounter or call-back.  After being baptised and confirmed last year, I felt that I became more tranquil with no short temper or impatience.  I treated things optimistically while planning for the worst so that I would not be surprised, and I would not lost hope if the worst happened (which occurred with one of the collaborators earlier last June to November/December) but continue to plan ahead and move forward.  I guess I became a happier person while searching and observing the simplest joys in life without materialism, sexual desires/lusts, and more.  Yeah, many of my friends and even parents would consider me living as a Catholic monk since I do not live in bars or that I do not bring folks back to hook up with, but I prefer to live simply without having too much drama and sexually transmitted infections.

Although many would say that science (since I am in the field of microbiology and immunology) and religion do not mix, I would consider them wrong in conversations.  Most people I talked to would be extremists, relying on one or the other.  Most greatness comes from people who have a balance of the two.  Without science, we would not be able to cure diseases with antimicrobials and knowledge of first aid through physiology.  Without faith, we would not be able to realize our wrongdoings and to maintain some moral codes.  Of course both are dangerous when politics is involved, but the roots of science and religion is to contribute to society in a good way.  When people analyze the Bible, they would interpret it in their own ways too and even condemn people to hell.  How would they know if that was really God’s intentions?  Did people also take the historical context into perspective?

As I sang during the Easter Vigil and Sunday Mass, many friends and acquaintances would wish me a Happy Birthday or Happy One Year Anniversary with smiles on their faces.  When I saw people willingly to be baptised and confirmed, my heart was filled with joy.  Even the music sang soothed my mind and soul, and I was reminded on the greatness I experienced for a year.  Although I was tired at the end of the Vigil and going into the Sunday Mass with sleep deficiency, I felt as if I was welcomed back into the church again by renewing the vows.  Perhaps the joys from Easter came indirectly from Lent.  ‘Twas a sad period for my family due to some matter, but when telling friends that I gave up alcohol for Lent, my social life did not change at all.  I felt healthier without drinking, and I enjoyed my friends’ company a lot more.  Perhaps drinking would make someone depressed, even with friends…but I still would not mind getting beer with friends once in a while 🙂  Interestingly, tons of beer were provided after the Easter Vigil during the celebration, but I decided to go home to bed instead to prevent myself from passing out after drinking…

The Easter celebration also reminded me to continue working to get my PhD as soon as possible.  With aims to attend a conference next year, I am hoping to do well on my Qualifying Exam and to get some results in order to submit an abstract or a paper.  I also hope to continue excelling in teaching and hopefully be nominated for a teaching award.  Another goal for now would be to continue running and eventually sign up for a 10K run while getting more muscles and being fitter.  I do try to keep myself busy, but I am also open to meeting new people.  I went on a date on the Monday after Palm Sunday for four hours, and ’twas fun to meet new folks.  However, I have to constantly remind myself that I am not that desperate to hop into someone’s pants and that at least I have God in life!

This year brought many rewards and harvests, and I could only pray and ask that I will be similar in the future.  So many individuals brought love into my life, and I also hope that I can pay those forward with my abilities.  School will be starting tomorrow, meaning that I will be back teaching and such, but the summer will be here within four to five weeks!  Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly without violent winds and thunderstorms…but if catastrophe happens, I look forward to seeing the rainbow in the near future!

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!

The semester is beginning soon, and the streets were occupied by more living souls.  ‘Tis great to see more people on the streets and to bump into familiar faces too!  For example, I bumped into Aaron a few days ago when walking to lab under the sprinkling snow from the skies.  I also met with Duncan yesterday since he is back in school and has math tests coming up…and I attended the first TA meeting of the semester today.  I was excited to see the old and new co-workers, and it seems to be a promising semester.

Anyway, I just came home from lab.  I went to lab at 4PM after the TA meeting and then started killing mice for their cells.  The bloodshed ended at 8PM, and I collected supernatant from cell culture until midnight.  I’m glad to be making progress and to enjoy my walk back to my place, but I am dead tired…however, I decided to write this entry since ’tis a bit different compared to my previous entries.  ‘Tis always good to have something new and different too!

So I am still talking to Matt everyday.  Well, not really talking but texting or chatting on google since we have been busy with research and he has an interview soon.  Matt told me a few days ago that he baked chocolate chip cookies, and we started talking about baked goods.  We both love the cinnamon cake from The Corner Bakery in Chicago, and he is quite an experienced baker with cookies and banana bread.  Similar to Matt, I love the smell of baked goods.  The aroma in a bakery or a patisserie always aroused me, and I love that smell to fill my apartment when compared to fume from grilled steak or fish.  Different from Matt though, I am not a great baker.  I love cooking and have been told to me a great cook, but baking is actually my weakness.  Although ’tis just following recipes and that should be easy for a scientist or graduate student like me, I tend to be a bit more creative and expressive in the past…and with the health conscious me, I would never add some ingredients.  A recipe usually calls for two to three eggs, tons of cream, cups of sugar, and sticks of butter…and I usually skip those.  Perhaps that was the reason why the “banana bread” I was supposed to bring to a potluck tasted like pancakes or cookies instead…Anyway, I also saw some blogs on baking after talking to Matt, including this blog from a Madisonian.  Since Mat told me that he is planning to bake banana bread later this week, I thought of baking something with materials I have…and out comes this gorgeous cake!  Yes, I did let go of a part of myself and added an egg.  However, this is the first cake I baked that actually turned out to be a cake…and a really great one…so I am sharing the recipe/baking experience here since I am so proud of myself 🙂  Cakes from most places can be really sugary, dry, and/or filled with artificial flavors.  This cake turns out to be quite moist (perhaps due to the large amount of berries), and the sweetness mainly comes from the berries too!  I added half a cup of sugar so that this would be a cake and not a tray of muffin.  ‘Tis easy to make too!

1. Grease a typical 13″ X 9″ rectangular cake pan evenly with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 350F.

2. Mix the following in a bowl:

  • two and a half cups of multigrain flour
  • two tablespoons of baking soda
  • one beaten egg
  • three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • one cup of nonfat milk
  • half a cup of sugar
  • one cup blackberries
  • one cup blueberries

Make sure that the mixture is moist and not too sticky.  All ingredients should be evenly distributed too.

3. Pour the mixture into the pan.  Make sure that the berries are evenly distributed.  You don’t want a bite full with flour and another bite full with berries!

4. Put the pan in the preheated oven and bake for forty-five minutes.  After forty-five minutes, let the cake sit in the oven for ten minutes.  Serve whenever 🙂

I have been hoping to write this entry since most of my friends would cry to me about life in graduate school, their dissolving or empty love life, and many other concerns in life. I do face these worries everyday as well, and there are definitely moments when I would just want to burst into tears and leave my frustrations aside when I stood in front of Lake Mendota. However, numerous homilies I heard from Mass and words from friends would calm me down, and I hope that this entry will serve the same purpose to many of my friends and fellow readers.

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Most of us have been educated by our parents and the society to have goals in life. As a naive child, one would want to become a firefighter or the president of the universe. When one gains more knowledge and eventually become more acquainted with the social order, one would plan to get married one day, have a nice house with children, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, things are not that easy in life, especially when one leaves the family and learn to become independent in college. Some of us would notice that we do not even fit in the current social order and things need to be changed. Many of us would use all of our strength to reach those goals, but they might not be fulfilled due to the lack of resources around or due to the timing.

When facing obstacles, some might just avoid hardships and choose an easier route. This can be hiding from the true self and work a job that is not as fulfilling. Or that one might forget about seeking love and just give in to instant hookups. For many, even if we decide to choose an easier route, we would still feel awful at the end and bitch about life. Yes, life does suck, life is full of shit, life is pointless, life is just boring…

The society has influenced many to live in fear: whether a nuclear missile will be coming towards our way tomorrow morning, whether those chopsticks made in China are bleached and toxic, whether someone would break into my apartment when I go on a vacation, etc. However, the worst fear is the fear of losing what we currently have, and not gaining what we do not have and what we desire. Many people would worry about the apocalypse and lost the motivation to live fully each day. Many folks would wonder if the relationship is not working and simply let it rot instead of doing something to make the relationship lively again. Many graduate students, like me, would plan a year in advance to submit an abstract to go to a conference in San Francisco…but became discouraged when collaborators lost the samples and did not notify others for four to five months, or when the collaborators are just slow and did not even pick up the samples prepared four weeks ago, resulting in losing the opportunity to submit an abstract. Things do not work out smoothly each time, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that. It is natural for one to feel depressed, sad, lonely, abandoned, discouraged, and sorrowful in life. Perhaps we can never find true happiness on earth, but we have to learn from each moment when we cry, when we just want to cuddle with someone, when we hate ourselves for not being able to go to San Francisco for a conference and a little break from the middle-of-nowhere, and especially when we feel hopeless. These are just some of the road blocks we face in life, and we need to persist and persevere to overcome these moments. Afterwards, we will be able to taste the sweet fruits and we would feel better. Even when we look back to those depressing days, we would simply chuckle and become a better person.

The path to taste the sweet fruits ain’t easy though. I do feel discouraged for a period, and it would not take a minute or a day for me to overcome these negative feelings and thoughts. However, I told myself that this is not going to be the last of me, and that there will be more wonders in my life in the near future.

The first principle I have is to love myself. I used to think that I am ugly as a guy who is seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier, that I am just a hopeless workaholic who is being utilized by single-serving friends, and that I am just going to die at an early age. I used to treat myself with a whole cheese cake for an evening, but soon I realized that is the wrong way to treat myself. I learned to change my short temper and have more patient with myself. I learned to love my body and soul, exercise a lot more, become more active in life, and even attempted to go on a few days. I also became more social and confident with myself, and I became more cheerful as a person. When I accomplished a task, even a babystep, I would reward myself with a dark chocolate truffle or a short trip. When I am discouraged, I would tell myself that it is not God’s will for me to focus on a certain task, and that I should focus on other items on my list in order to give me more potential and abilities to accomplish that one certain task. No longer do I look haggard with extra packages, but I still treat myself to some cheese cake sometime 🙂

The second principle I have is NOT to quarrel about money with others and to love others, especially those who are greater than myself: God, parents, brother, friends, students, peers, etc. When showing love to others, I felt happy in my soul. Although some people and the old me would bicker about money, I learned that many relationships are dissolved due to quarrels about money. I told myself that I only live once, so ’tis fine for me to enjoy my time with others. Perhaps that is why I became more social in graduate school too: getting beer with friends, going out to eat, have friends over for dinner, attending concerts with others, etc. I do enjoy some of the finer things in life, but I would be frugal with myself as I eat oatmeal in my apartment. However, saving money and contributing them to family and friends could be a wonderful thing. If money would be an issue, do not take your friend(s) to a fine dining establishment and then complain about the cost later during the evening. Instead, go to somewhere affordable so that you and your peer(s) would have a great time.

With this said, I also notice that I tend to be the giving tree in most of the dates and relationships I have been, even brotherhood. This leads to my third principle: to never expect anything back from others. Of course, ’tis nice if someone would give us gifts or spend his or her time with us, but do not expect anything from others. Think of the ability to be loving and sacrificial to be a generous gesture, and thank God that you have the ability to support, help, and show love to others in the world.

Another principle is to be patient with oneself. Many of us, even me, would dream to be in a relationship with the perfect being…and yet we would be too aggressive in that area that we would be disappointed after each date. Learn from each interaction and experience, and prepare ourselves to become greater. What is not meant to be or happen should not be forced to occur. Do not take things too personally too. Afterall, everyone has a different opinion about everything in the world!

Last but not least, enjoy the simplest happiness in life. When we are sad, be grateful to those who would listen to our speeches with agony. When we are crying, be thankful to those who would ask us if we are okay and even offer us a shoulder. When we are hopeless, look for the simplest blessings God has offered to motivate us to live through the toughest of times. Never give up on oneself, and don’t stop believin’ either!

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On a personal note, these thoughts have been circulating and forming in my mind since when I finally told myself that I would never be able to submit an abstract to go to the conference. I prayed to God, and who knew that I would change my view on that and thought of it as a wake-up call for me to focus on getting certified as a candidate for Ph.D. and to take my qualifying exam during the first half of this year? By then, I would feel more comfortable and even less stressful as a graduate student.

Another thing that has been preventing me from reaching where I want to be is due to the situation of the lab. My professor is sixty-eight and was hoping to retire. However, he accepted me to continue for a Ph.D. after I defended my Master’s thesis…and I am grateful for him. Yes, that was the same year the stupid me only applied to one university for Ph.D. I thought about taking a few years off working in labs and then reapply, but my advisor saw something in me and accepted me. He has always been a fatherly figure who cares about me and thinks of the best for me. He also published more than two hundred papers, but I guess that due to his age, he was not too eager to apply for research grants. I was actually fine with that since I am gaining lots from being a teaching assistant, and I also expanded my social network through teaching. I knew that funding would be tight, so I might not be able to fly to Tokyo or Italy for a conference. However, I was surprised that I would spend thousands of dollars on research animals and supplies, and that I was encouraged to continue publishing papers (which ain’t cheap and time-saving, by the way) too. ‘Tis true that I always aim to be as productive and even more efficient than the graduate students at Harvard, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and other prestigious colleges. Perhaps most of them are better off financially than me with a large research team, but my graduate school experience has certainly made me more independent. Although I have some collaborators, I would be the one to shift the direction of the projects in the near future and I even have the chance to design my experiments too…which is different from other graduate students I know where a topic or project was handed to them. Even until today, I still aim to be as dedicated and motivated as I can be to not just rot in the lab.

Even with love, I have never been in a serious relationship and I never know if I will. Yes, I have been discouraged after dates that never work out–simply because I do not see myself being with the other person most of the time or that I never heard back from the other person. However, I am grateful for the dating experience and I am glad for the friends I have. My close friends have been caring, and we would often meet up and chat. Family is also another great support, as I still talk to my dad and mom every weekend, and my brother and I would often text message one another to see how we are.

Perhaps 2012 started on a sour note for me, but not really! ‘Tis this experience that will make me cherish God, others, and myself more…and I just hope and pray that things will be better in the future.

Things have been going well for me in life. M and I are still texting and chatting with one another each day, and I am glad that he would be willing to share a part of his life with me. He will be back in town soon, and I just cannot wait to see him! I have also been going to the gym, and one of my students said hi to me yesterday. I did not know that he works there, so I will hopefully be seeing him more often there. Other than that, I still have lots to do: writing some letters of recommendations, hanging out with friends before the semester begins, and more on research. Speaking of research, I cannot believe that the pathologist that collaborates with my lab is just uber slow. My professor and I decided to give him another chance after screwing up and losing my samples that I submitted in June 2011…and the worst thing is that he notified us about that in November! He has been apologetic since then, but we were going to submit samples to him around Christmas. He told us that he would talk to people in his lab, but we did not hear back from him since late December! The samples were still sitting on my bench, and I have not been too pleased. I was hoping to be able to submit an abstract by 15 Jan, but now it seems that things are going downhill. Perhaps I should just quit my time here and go somewhere else. Sigh! All these frustrations in graduate school and the biosciences. If I were a grad student in the humanities, perhaps life will be so much better. I can even take vacations to exotic places!

Life is interesting with so many questions to answer. I have been talking to my mom, and I just wonder about myself and my love life sometime. I have never been in a love relationship, and I guess I am just confused about myself and even my sexuality. I thought that I am asexual since I do not think of sex everytime when I see a nice ass on the streets. I thought that I was interested in ladies in high school and college, but then I never went on a date with the ladies due to my workaholic self…although I did ask a girl out to a dance. I thought that she would be a great girlfriend, but she broke my heart after a few years of interactions. I thought then that I would be gay since I admired and always wanted to be one of those muscular studs in the weight room when I was seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier. I did go on six dates with different guys, but I felt awkward and disappointed at the end. Sexual attraction? I do get horny after a great workout due to an increase in the hormone levels, but I can control my own penis when I am horny, so no need for hook-ups and quickies. With my background, I am definitely paranoid and anal about sexually transmitted infections…just to think that around 30-40% of the youngsters who frequent the bars would have syphilis, chlamydia, or even HIV.

‘Tis true that these terminologies (straight, heterosexual, gay, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and the list goes on) are set by the social order, but sexuality and love is actually a lot more fluid biologically speaking. People tend to set preferences for themselves, but would we not be blocking a part of us from exploring more in life with these terminological restrictions? Some would say that they are only interested in dating African Americans, but what happens if a nice Caucasian comes along and satisfies your heart? Perhaps this is why many surprises would occur in blind dates…Yeah, I do agree that some of these restrictions are set by a culture in order to preserve a culture, but will that make the world more multicultural with different cultures truly interacting with each other? We can coexist and be tolerant of each other, but is that sufficient without truly serving and caring for each other?

Perhaps I am more attracted to men because I am a man and that I like meaningful relationships. I do have meaningful relationships with females too, but ’tis tough to treat a lady as your own brother. ‘Tis easier for me to relate to guys too. Brotherhood is quite important for me, and I do have strong support with many of my guy friends. ‘Tis easier for me to grab a beer, ride a bike, play sports, have long walks, and hang out with my guy friends…for I am not really too good and patient at shopping and fingernail painting with my female friends, although I could help picking a great outfit. Perhaps I view the brotherhood I have as love, and I do love those male friends. However, am I not seeing something here? I would love to have my own children i.e. with my genes and have a family too, and perhaps I have just not fully explored the dating scene with ladies. ‘Tis true that I would have dinners and chats with my female friends, but I have never been on a date with one. I have never been intimate with a female too.

So after the constant chats with my mom, I realized that perhaps I should be more open and to explore more of myself. I should not just rush through things and declare myself to be a set being. I am twenty-five, and perhaps ’tis true that men can age like fine wine, and that I will be more accomplished and attractive with a stable career in the future. For now, I am only a poor graduate student! I need to aim to get my degree first and get out of here…which means that I might not be in for a long term relationship unless if my partner would be willing to sacrifice his or her career and move with me. No matter what happens in the future, I do not mind to remain celibate as well. Who knows, perhaps I would be chuckling when I read this entry twenty years from now, thinking that I was just too naive.

I shared my thoughts with M, and he is on the same boat too. He dated a few women in the past and dated one guy for six months before me. Perhaps this is why we have so much in common, and I am definitely loving him more and more each day. He has been a great friend and brother…and although I love him and that he has indirectly asked me to be on a short-term relationship with him on the phone, I have to constantly remind myself that he will be leaving Madison soon for a faculty position somewhere…and so I will have to cherish my time with him and eventually make our relationship (even friendship) everlasting. He asked me to explore with him in life as he figures things for himself too, and I am glad to have a buddy during this process. I do want to get the hell out of Madison after I get my degree too, for Madison is just a transition point and not many people would stay here for a career…we’re both professionally minded, but ’tis always great to have a buddy to talk to at the end of the day and to share thoughts. I have been offering him many advice for different topics, and he liked those too. He is a sweet guy who likes the smiley faces I sent him and my sweetness, and that goes the same for him to me. I guess that we lift each others up, and that no matter what happens, we will still be in contact…but I will think about departure in June!

Yes, I know that is a cheesy song, but it has been on my mind since when I posted it on facebook.  Anyway, here’s the clip to share before writing about my day:

I went to work earlier this morning.  First, I stopped by the Zoology building since I volunteered to take care of some arthropods, echinoderms, molluscs, and cnidarians over winter break since I would be in town.  I went to check on the water levels, sprinkled cages with water, and made sure that animals were alive and well.  ‘Twas funny since I did the same thing last winter, and so ’twas nice to be able to take care of these animals again this week.

After then, I immediately went to lab to do some work until 5:40PM.  I was invited to go to Duncan and his family’s residence for dinner tonight on Christmas, so I biked to the place and arrived at 6PM sharp.  I knocked on the door and was greeted by Duncan’s dad and Duncan, who was making orange zest to be put into the big pot of risotto and shrimp.  Duncan’s mom then came out and chatted with me, and ’twas nice to see them all.  To them, I have become a part of the family since three and a half years ago.  I am grateful for their hospitality, care, and love…and I do love them too.  Anyway, the risotto was marvelous with broccoli on the side, and then we went to the living room for some tea and cookies.  We had an amazing evening with so many different conversations, and I also helped clean up at the end too.  The whole family will be going on a short vacation up north, so they gave me tons of leftovers to bring back with me.  Before I left, I was presented with a photo of the family and a letter along with a bag of cookies too.  ‘Twas a lovely and joyful evening, which ended at 10:15PM.

When leaving the residence, I noticed that I had a voicemail…and ’twas from M!  He called an hour earlier when he was going for a walk, and he was visiting his grandma’s with his family.  He hoped that the dinner at Duncan’s went well…and after hearing the sweet voicemail, I gave him a call.  He answered, and soon we started asking each other about how the break has been treating us, how the midnight Mass went, what are the plans for tomorrow and New Year’s Eve, and much more.  He asked me about my lab work and whether I am taking breaks from work, and I asked him if he is enjoying his family time.  Soon, we chatted about Chicago and my planned visit, his presents, his siblings, his parents, my mice, the dinner at Duncan’s, the fifteen year-old beagle of the family (which M was walking with), dogs, Madison, snow, winter, Lake Michigan, friends, and a lot more.  ‘Twas a phone conversation that lasted for forty-eight minutes.  Although my nose was dripping and my ears were cold when I was walking with my bike and chatting with him on the phone, I was glad to be able to hear his voice and to see that he is doing well.  We also agreed to meet up when he is back in Madison, and I promised him that I will not ditch him tomorrow 😉  He became a bit tired and wanted to head to bed, so we ended the conversation and I biked back home.

Along with family members, Duncan and family, and M–I have heard from many friends who also wished me a Merry Christmas, including: Kevin, Chuck, Erik, Dusty, Charlie, Dean, Shane, Mel, Rachel, Brock, Collin, Erich, and more.  Even my professor sent me an email wishing me a Merry Christmas!  I am grateful to hear from all these lovely folks, and I am content with such a marvelous Christmas in 2011.  I guess that Christmas was usually filled with snow and loneliness since I have been in Madison, and I am always grateful for the warmth many individuals shared with me.  Even if I do not have many or any materialistic gift, I am glad to have you in life! 🙂  Perhaps that was why Mariah Carey’s song has been stuck in my mind!

I have been blogging a bit more frequently, and I did notice that I have been sleep deficient for the past few evenings with all the festivities and excitement in life.  Since ’tis midnight already, I am going to jump to bed soon and get up early to go to work.  May everyday be like Christmas, where each individual will be showered with laughter, peace, and love!