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love

A guy like me would be frightened of birthdays since everything (or most things) after the twenty-first birthday might start going downhill.  For me, I often critically think whether I have been using my time wisely, or if I would regret not being sexually active and hunt for relationships.  I removed my birthday from facebook, since I feel weird when “friends” only message you on your birthday when they are actively checking statuses and pictures.  I did prevent the flood of wall posts, but my birthday this year actually turned out to be great with a weekend of festivities.

 

I. The Messages

Even if I did not roam around town and publicize my birthday, I received warm messages from my parents and my brother around midnight.  I have been extremely close to family members since when I was young, and I was glad to hear from them.  They kept telling me that I have been an amazing son that they could trust and let me go, or that I am the most amazing brother in the world.  Sounds cliche, I know, but those words mean a lot to me since they portray love.

Other than my parents, I got a surprising email from my childhood friend Lincoln.  We went to the same elementary and junior high schools, but he left Taipei at a young age with part of his family to go to Africa.  He is now doing well as a doctor in Scotland, and he remembered my birthday too!  I was happy to hear from him and that he is doing well with his brother.  Hopefully we will meet up and catch up in person soon.

The last message I want to include here is a message from my college friend Kevin.  Even though I removed my birthday from facebook a while ago, he left a post about it today.  He was traveling for the past few days, but he remembered my birthday and wished me well too.  I was touched since I did not expect anyone to leave a message of that sort on my wall on facebook, but Kevin’s care reminded me of our first year in college.  ‘Tis amazing that we still keep in touch although we are at different states in the country now.

 

II. The Visitor That Arrives Back

I met John last summer when he came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to conduct research as a graduate student from the University of Texas-Austin.  ‘Twas a great summer with some meetups accompanied by drinks, food, and conversations.  John messaged me earlier this month indicating that he will be back to town this summer and that he will be arriving around the weekend.  I noticed that he was back on the eve of my birthday, and gave him a call.  We chatted and soon decided to catch up and meet up since he was around my neighborhood.  We walked around town for a bit and then went to Brocach.  ‘Twas a great catchup of more than two hours, and he bought me a pint of Guinness at that Irish pub.  He then drove me back to my place, and we are already talking about hanging out together this summer.

 

III. The Night Out

My friends Colleene, Collin, and Peter were talking about going to Madison Children’s Museum for Adult Swim, where adults roam around the museum and rejuvenate themselves for an evening offered once a month, a month ago when we had dinner at Colleene’s.  Seeing that there was one in May, I emailed the group a few weeks ago seeing if people were still interested.  Unfortunately, Collin would have to be in New York for his job, but Colleene and Peter quickly gave me a YES.  Who knew that Colleene remembered my birthday and noticed that May’s Adult Swim was on my birthday?  So a simple trip to the museum soon become a lot more complex with planning…but after a few emails, we got something set.  We first had dinner at Kabul, an Afghan restaurant along State Street, at 5:30PM, and then we walked along State Street and arrived at the museum by 7:20PM.  We had so much fun in the museum, and left at 9:30PM for a seven-minute walk to grab desserts at Nostrano.  ‘Twas a great evening that ended at 11PM with these two wonderful folks, and then I stopped by my friend and former student Vinod’s place.  I promised Vinod, who has the same birthday, that I would stop by and say hi since I was invited to his birthday/graduation party, and I did.  I stayed there until 11:30PM and headed home.

I passed by many folks on the streets since ’twas bartime.  I walked along University Avenue and saw funny faces going into some undergraduate bars.  Who would know that there would be three gunshots around that area later at 1AM?  Thankfully I was in bed by then.

 

III. The Party In The Farm

On the next day of my birthday was Dr. Brad and Dr. Isadora’s graduation party on a farm in Oregon.  I met Brad and Isadora through volleyball and was invited to the party. They have been great friends to talk to and that they indicated that there is an end of life as a doctorate student.  They will both be moving to Chicago, and I am glad to be able to attend and send them off.

Since I currently co-own a car, my brother was using the car by then, and that I will be buying my own car later this or next year, I got a ride from Erik, whom I also befriended through those four-hour volleyball sessions on Saturdays and/or Sundays.  ‘Twas a nice ride with conversations, and Erik’s wife Andi joined us too.  We were a bit lost at first, but we were amazed by the mansion and the farm Brad and Isadora booked for the party and for accommodating their family members.  The place was HUGE and there were TONS of food.  We all felt as if we were in heaven while walking around with wine, interacting with others, playing beanbag toss and croquet, and so much more.  ‘Twas a great party, and four hours passed by quickly.

 

IV. A New Friend For the Day

When playing outdoor volleyball today, I made some contact and interactions with Adam, a guy who came to Madison to start his business.  He was a jolly guy to talk to, and he was pretty good at sand volleyball too after growing up in Michigan and living in California by the bay area.  We only chatted for ten minutes at the end of the games, and then we parted.

I came back to my place a bit tired, but interestingly I felt that perhaps I should go out and start dating again.  I felt lonely again somehow despite having so many awesome friends, and perhaps I just hope to be able to cuddle with someone.  I started texting John for advice.  He is a guy who likes me a lot, even to the point of flirting with me…and I value him as a friend.  He is also encouraging too, for he told me not to go to bars by myself and that I deserve way better than that…that I am a quality, attractive, and intellectual man…and that I would be a great catch for any guy.  ‘Tis funny though since I’ve been single my entire life for now, and maybe that’s cause I can be a bit picky; I like someone who is tall around my height since I cannot see myself making out with a 4’2 person, healthy/athletic and even muscular, well-educated with travel experience, curious and open-minded, nonsmoker and non drug abusers, independent and organized, and fun to talk to.  Unfortunately after all the eight dates I went on, I have not found the right person yet.  I then decided to take a walk around town to calm myself and to destress myself from work, and who knew that when I passed by Michelangelo’s, I saw a familiar face with dark hair and thick eyebrows looking at me.  ‘Twas Adam!  Haha he was working with a cup of Joe, but he still offered me to sit with him on the table and chat with him for a bit.  He is in his thirties, but he looks young.  He graduated from Michigan (AA); lived in New York, Germany, and San Francisco, been to many parts of Europe; and is a great guy to talk to with more questions and exchange of ideas.  We have many commonalities too: our appreciation for applications since he is an engineer, our desire to get out of Madison and go somewhere else, our aim to do great things in life, our passion for travel and beer, and so much more.  I sat there for a bit more than an hour with excitement, and we exchanged numbers at the end.  Although I do not expect much from this, I am glad to gain a new friend and hopefully we will hang out at the end of this week or soon in the summer.

 

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Madison is a transition point where people just come and go.  My heart feels funny every year in Madison around my birthday since it coincides with the graduation weekend.  Seeing those smiles from people walking down the streets with their gowns reminded me of my own college graduation, which was also a moment where good friends depart from one another.  I was a workaholic in my undergraduate years, and it took me until graduate school to learn to socialize with others.  I regret not spending enough times with friends in parties as an undergraduate, but the only thing I can do now is to renew friendship while gaining new ones too.

I am blessed to have so many wonderful and amazing people in my life.  Along with family members, I am surprised when a few of my friends would remember my birthday and/or spend part of their time with me.  The evening with Colleene and Peter strengthened our relationship, and we will be hanging out again within two weeks on Collin’s big day.  The awesome trip to the children’s museum reminded me that we can be forever young and we should not worry much when we age.  Sure…there can be arthritis, broken hips, and Alzheimer’s, but men and women can age like fine wine too.  Although many people have left Madison, I am glad to be able to send people off and at least wish them well before they leave.  However, I will be interacting with incoming students next semester when teaching, and the cycle begins again.  Although I hate the fact that the end is another beginning, perhaps that is how I motivate myself to move forward nowadays.  When I was in first grade, I cried after the last day of school since I worried about not seeing my friends again, but things went well during my second grade and even in graduate school.  New people, such as Adam, will come into our lives, and we need not to live in the same moment all the time but move forward while viewing photos from the past.

Thanks to all of the beautiful people in my life, I have so much love during my twenty-six years of existence…and I look forward for more to come and share!

 

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Despite all the pressure from research and my approaching qualifying exam in August, I somewhat felt broed and lonely.  This was not the first time I felt as if I were Mr. Lonely, but ’twas definitely the first time when I did not have the urge to move forward.  I still got things accomplished, but I noticed that I had been in front of the computer a lot more often for the past two to three days.  My true self would be around town exercising, mingling with people, or simply biking around…but I noticed that the me for the past two days would be watching movies or searching for people to chat with, which could be sad.  I also could not fall asleep since I yearned for someone to be beside me…Things changed today though, as I went to one of the Thursday events at church.  I had not been attending those events since the beginning of the school year due to my busy schedule, and I thought ’twas time to go back.

Tonight’s’ graduate student and young professional group merged with the undergraduate group at 7PM due to a Dominican sister giving a talk about Ave Maria.  Since I had free time tonight and since I went to a Catholic elementary school ran by Dominican nuns, I thought of attending the event.  I was sitting by myself at first, but then a young lady invited me to sit with her group.  We did not chat too much since I am usually shy towards strangers and because I had a long day.  Plus, the presentations forbade us to interact.  She left early though, ditching her friends behind.  So I sat in the middle of the crowd, said hi to James when he passed by, listened to the talk, sang some songs, and then off I went to mingle!  I did bump into some of my current students and said hi to them, and then I joined the graduate student and young professional crowd.  I first met Doug, who was my friend and buddy from the 11AM Mass choir and Bible study, and then we headed downstairs to the basement to meet with the others at 9PM.  ‘Twas actually great to be back and to see faces I did not see for almost six to eight months.  ‘Twas amazing to be able to reintroduce myself and learn names of some, to talk to Liz and Kenny, and to join a group circle by being entertained with conversations.

Although I did not really know the people that well, I at least knew them of their names before since I interacted with them through service activities, men’s night playing poker or grilling out somewhere, or other events.  Before though, I tried to distant myself from them since I thought that I was not as Catholic as they were, but they are actually fine young men!  Just to see Luke and Andrew being so joyful and humorous, just to see people in the circle being so expressive and accepting of others, just to be united with these men made me feel that perhaps I do belong somewhere and that there are people who would accept me for who I am and invite me into their group.  Although I could be quite accomplished in many ways, I mostly felt that I would be used by others to help them move furniture to their new place and never heard back from them (eh hem, such as my Ayn Rand following “friends”) or even in the dating scene.  ‘Twas great to be back, and I look forward to making up for what I had missed for more than a semester and to get to know them.  ‘Tis possible that a few of us will go on a trip together next year, but I will write more about the trip when it is official.

The interactions ended at 10PM for me since I needed to go buy avocados and they were heading to a bar.  I wished Doug well since he was thinking of working on some research tonight and some of the others that were heading to the bar.  Since 7PM, I thought of emailing Erich since I lost contact with him since the beginning of the spring semester.  He is a great and holy guy, and we shared many wonderful memories together: talking about our lives and helping each other, going to Caroline’s place for pancakes and breakfast, going to ballroom dancing, and much more.  We would often bump into each other on State Street, and the last time when I saw him was in January.  He was planning to study abroad in Bonn this semester, but he changed his mind.  He also seemed to be frustrated and gloomy when I saw him in January, and I thought of him throughout the evening and planned on emailing him when I got home.  Who knew that when I went out of the center after parting from the graduate student and young professional group, I saw Erich standing in front of me!  He saw him, had his eyebrows raised with delight, and soon we were embracing one another!!!!  Who could have known that God works in mysterious ways?  We soon started exchanging questions to see how we are doing in life, and he is doing well.  He is still a caring guy, and he will be graduating next semester.  He also has been taking care of this elderly guy with Parkinson’s Disease, whom I saw before in Mass, and know they would go to a church in Middleton.  ‘Twas great to see Erich cleanly shaved and smiling too, for he is a handsome man with a big heart.  We chatted for around twenty minutes, and ’twas great catching up with him.  Since he thought of talking to another person, I let him go before ’twas too late at night, but hopefully we will be able to grab lunch together sometime with his friend!

Love does not mean to find some attractive and to sleep with him or to perform sexual acts.  Love does not mean to use someone as kleenex and then throw him away.  Love is something a bit deeper that requires patience and sacrifice, for love is when you reach out to people beside you and to welcome them into your circle.  After tonight, I do not feel as lonely as the past few evenings.  I felt that there are people I can talk to and be with.  Sure, we might have disagreements and different views, but we could talk about those with one another and that I am never alone.  Even if I feel despair, I need to recognize that God loves me, and that Mary will be with me.  I got many amazing friends and people around me, and I just need to make sure that I am not blindfolded and being self-centered.  Similar to the great folks from tonight, I hope and pray that I can carry their traditions and reach out to others as well, whether it be a small step or not.  Seeing that ’tis 11:30PM, I know that I will be sleeping quite well tonight 🙂

For the past forty-something entries, I’ve written about my graduate student self, my scientist/researcher self, my educator self, my Catholic self, my food-loving self, my sporty self, my adventurous and curious self, my tall Asian self, my caring and loving self, my traveler self, my photographer self, and much more.  I have been avoiding writing about one of my other identities, and I instead focus on being my progressive self so that I could get out of this town and get my PhD as soon as possible.  However, a man has feelings and cannot solely think of work the whole time too,…and now ’tis time to introduce my gay self.

Labelling myself gay makes me feel funny, since I would still consider a woman to be beautiful and would be honored to dine with a lovely lady, but I dreamt of being held tightly by a man with strong arms.  There were numerous moments in my life when I was told that I am not too gay, for I do not act flamboyantly nor go to gay bars or socials by myself.  I also know limits and would not prey on students, coworkers, friends, and such…and perhaps my aim to make progress in graduate school and life prevents people from seeing the gay me.  Interestingly, a little bit of me always wonder if I will be loved by others.  I have many friends of both sexes who told me that I am a great guy and that I will make a great lover, but I never thought that I am attractive enough.  For a person who used to be seventy-five to eighty pounds heavier, I did become more confident socially, but I always feel that I could become more muscular or make my physical appearance better with contact lenses and one of those wacky hairdos.  Even if my heart tells me so, I still decided to be my own self with my glasses and short hair, although I do visit the gym to work out my muscles.

Another obstacle is that I am not interested in hookups or one nighters.  I noticed that many people around my age and myself could be horny quite frequently, but I just have my ways to suppress the urge by going to the gym, having long walks, or riding my bike around town.  Perhaps compared to many others I know, I could be considered asexual since I do not dread to bang or be banged by other folks everyday.  Maybe that is why I do not consider myself hetero- or homosexual since I want to focus on love instead of being sexed up.  When having some conversations with a family member who was afraid of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases when I came out to her last December, I also vowed that I will not have anal sex with any random person I met, and I have been a virgin since birth.   For a masculine man with some manners, I also do not just stare at people on the streets and think if I would penetrate or be penetrated by them or not.

No matter who I am, I feel distant and different compared to most of the gays out there.  I have many wonderful friends and family members, and I will stay loyal to them,…but good gay friends are limited on my list.  I wonder if I am the only gay guy looking for something more meaningful than what is behind the zippers, and why I would feel lonely in an ocean or pond of gay men.  I felt as an old-fashioned gay since I love Frank Sinatra and some classy taste in food and wine, and I do not submerged myself into Lady Gaga or dollar beers the entire time.  I prefer to stay at home, cook dinner, and cuddle with my lover while watching a movie instead of going out onto the dance floor and get wasted.  Even if I dedicate myself to work for now, the little bit of my hopeless romantic self would feel neglected when seeing couples holding hands on streets.  I believe that there is someone out there who really cares about me and that I can be loved, but I was disappointed through time.  Of course, I do have standards to find a guy who is well-educated, who is independent (even financially), who takes good care of himself, who has goals to achieve in life, and who is adventurous and curious (since I did not end up well with a guy who only eats burgers and apples).  One of my friends told me that my standards could be high since many folks would leech onto others and depend on others, and that the independent type pretty much makes the 1% of the population…I also know that I will not be happy when dating a guy who is not disease or drug free, and maybe my standards could be too high in the gay world.

I watched a movie called “Is It Just Me?” today, and I felt that I was portrayed in the movie through the main character Blaine.  Similar to him, I could be considered “average” since I am not obese, overweight, muscular, twinkie, or sexually active.  Blaine and I shared many other aforementioned similarities, and the movie gave me courage and hope to continue being who I truly am. ‘Tis not that I am going to break my vow and start sleeping around town,’tis not that I am going to change my wardrobe into flashy neon pink, ’tis not that I am going to ditch my other identities and become a typical gay man.  There is nothing wrong with me; although I could be considered “different” compared to many other gay guys, I am unique and special in my own ways, and I am PROUD of who I am.

Along with reminding me to accept myself and not compare myself to others, the film also sends the message that there are guys out there like me who would appreciate my character.  Maybe he is not discovered by me in Madison, or that–similar to Blaine’s plot in the movie–he is going to be a Texan cowboy with leather boots and hat.  I do know that it is fine if my first boyfriend does not become my lifelong partner, but I do hope that he is there somewhere.

Many folks told me that I am becoming into a Catholic monk and that perhaps I should join the seminary and become a priest.  Unfortunately, I did not hear God’s calling for that but for me to dedicate myself in the health sciences field and to educate others.  Even after being amazingly single for twenty-five years and continuously making improvements in my abilities, my body, and my soul…I am not giving up and am going continue to be patient while meeting more folks in life.

At the end, I dedicate this song to all folks out there, no matter who you are.  Do know that you are loved and that you will find love, and may you continue loving your true self and showering yourself with the simplest joys around you.

Kevin was my buddy from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults group at St. Paul’s University Catholic Center a year ago, and he was there since the ex-Methodist wanted to get married in a Catholic church and was inspired by the sense of morals and community by some of his Catholic friends.  We initially sat distant from one another, staring at the group leader on Sunday evenings and eventually breaking the silence to answer questions or volunteer to read text.  Soon, I noticed that he looked familiar and had been participating in the 11AM Sunday Mass choir with me, and so we started breaking the ice and hitting things off.  We became good friends and supported one another, and then I was baptized and the both of us were confirmed in the Easter of 2011.  Since then, I continued attending Mass around the downtown area, and Kevin started going to a church closer to his apartment and workplace.

Kevin introduced me to Jen, his fiance, and a few of his friends through greetings around the downtown area but mainly through Indian food.  After one of the Mass sessions, Kevin invited me to join him and his group for lunch, indicating that it has been a tradition for him to go to Indian lunch buffets after Mass.  It began with his mom, who with the family of normal Midwestern potato and burger lovers visited him on a sunny Sunday and decided for the family to try some “impoverished nation cuisine” for lunch after Mass.  Since then, Kevin and his family fell in love with Indian food, and Kevin would go to the usual spot around Capitol Square.  So…that was how I ended going to a few of those, including a session where I took Kevin, Jen, and two friends to the popular and my favorite Indian food restaurant Maharani around the downtown area for lunch buffets, and the five of us saw a big gay truck with balloons and drag queens passing by our eyes.

Time passed by, and I rarely see Kevin and the gang around.  One of his friends whom I befriended for a summer moved to Amherst for graduate school, and Kevin and Jen would drive back to Eau Claire and Minnesota and became occupied with wedding planning.  However, I still keep in touch with them mostly through email and poorly through facebook…and Kevin and I decided to meet for lunch after today’s Mass.  I was excited since Kevin has been out-of-town for nearly every weekend, and ’twas great to be able to see him again.

After today’s choir, I brought the hymn books to the music room and started mingling for a bit.  Then, Kevin entered the room and appeared in front of me, wearing his usual sneakers and shorts.  He then asked if Jen could join us, and of course I said yes.  So the three of us started chatting and catching up with one another after exchanging hugs, and soon we were walking on State Street.  I asked Kevin where he would love to go for lunch, and he told me “INDIAN LUNCH BUFFET!” without hesitation.  I laughed, but ’twas great since I love Indian food and became wiser in choosing the healthier dishes instead of the buttery and oil-soaked ones since last time.  We continued chatting while walking, and eventually arrived at the same ol’ spot on West Mifflin Street.  Somehow the ownership was different and the name of the restaurant was changed to Mirch Masala despite the same paintings and decor in the establishment, but we still had a great time.  Kevin loved the fried vegetable pakoras, and Jen usually gets some along with curry too.  For me, I am a huge fan of samosas and curry, so anyone can win my heart by having Indian food with me.  I also tried some fish, chicken, and beef dishes along with TONS of servings of vegetables.  We continued chatting about wedding details and even frustrations, Kevin’s work, Jen’s nursing career and moving to Madison from Eau Claire, my progress since the last time we met, my teaching and students, future goals, bridezillas, and many other exciting topics.

After two plates for the each of us and constant exchange of words, lunch came to an end and we enjoyed the sun by walking along State Street and back to the area where I parked my bike and where Kevin parked his car.  Kevin surprisingly paid for my dinner since he remembered that I paid for the two previous ones, so that was funny since I was going to pay for the three of us due to them not being around the downtown area as often.  I also shared with them my dilemma with their wedding date, since Collin set his wedding on the same day, and Eau Claire is five hours from Waukegan.  Kevin was understanding and told me not to worry if I could not make it since many people will be married that day…and even Jen’s cousin was invited to three weddings on that day!  I did not indicate a 100% NO, but I told them that I will mail my RSVP to them on May Day.  They did not know about this, but of course I will mail a card with a gift to wish the lovely couple well!

The one-hour and a half interaction was enjoyable and splendid, and I was glad to see Kevin and Jen again.  After talking to them, I learned that Kevin and Jen are planning to reside in Madison and establish a family, so I will have someone I can visit as a reason to travel to Madison in the future.  I am happy to see them so in love with one another, and that is just true love.  They would not criticize each other due to small things and flaws, but they cherish one another and determined to grow old together.  This kind of love should be more visible and applauded in the world–no matter if ’tis heterosexual, homosexual, or others.  So many people would become impatient with one another or had an affair or scandal, resulting in a broken family.  For most people around my age, they do not seem to value a deep and meaningful relationships but often seek for hookups to fulfill their instant pleasures…making me a dinosaur of some sort.  Even in love, people learned to make sacrifice and tough decisions while aiming for their goals to support themselves and their loved ones…and I always admire the lovely couples in their eighties who walk around town, holding hands and smiling with one another.  I could see Kevin and Jen being those couples in the future, and I just hope that I can be like that one day.  ‘Tis true that I am mainly a professional, confident, and independent man with goals in the short- and long-run, but I also hope that I will be able to find the one I love and who loves me, and that we can grow old with one another.

 

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!

One

I never enjoyed running when I was a child.  I used to be overweight, and would moan when my parents took the family to the track or the gym.  I love swimming, volleyball, and soccer…I even joined soccer and volleyball teams and even become a lifeguard, but running just never clicked with me.  Carrying extra baggage made running a tough task too, and I also did not enjoy being on a treadmill.  I just felt that I was dragging my sole and my body unwillingly as I ran from a step to another, and it just felt drowsy.  A few years ago as an undergraduate, I also thought of running along the lake, but I pretty much failed since I would be tired after running a few steps.  Even some passersby who saw me would encourage me not to give up but continue running…but I ended walking back to my residence hall instead.

Time passed by, and I changed my lifestyle to become a healthier guy.  Around the end of last year, I decided to overcome my treadmill phobia and started running on treadmills since then.  I challenged myself to increase my time on the treadmill bit by bit, and soon I was making more progress.  Of course, I did not forfeit my usual routine of rowing, biking, playing volleyball, and taking long walks.  Perhaps my endurance elevated from all the exercising through time.

The weather has become quite warm as if ’twas summer in Madison.  With all the snow gone and humidity increasing under the weather ranging from 60 to 70F, many bikers and runners could be see on the streets.  Guys would be playing frisbee or dipping into Lake Mendota, and ladies could be seen lying on the green grass reading novels or taking naps.  Bascom Hill is once again flown by students and community members who would bathe themselves under the sun.  As I passed by these folks on my bike today, I noticed some topless guys running along State Street.  I have always hope to become one of those muscular guys who could show my body as I was on the streets, and all of a sudden something in me told me to go out to run and enjoy the sun.  I was doubting myself, thinking that I would just run a few steps and started bickering about it, similar to my old self.  However, I started filling my water bottle and preparing myself for a short run after getting back to my place at 5:45PM, and I started my run at 6PM.  ‘Twas still warm and sunny with many folks on the streets, and I just could not tell myself to stop running from there!  Of course I halted from time to time to take water breaks and to stretch so that I would not have a cramp, but I felt so amazing as sweat was streaming down my back and was inked onto my shirt.  I felt the winds next to me and people’s smiles on their faces as encouragement when I passed by them.  I saw other runners around me, which became my single-serving friends and motivators.  Who knew that I would spend thirty to forty minutes running around and stretching out at the end?  I felt as if I became a bird spreading his wings to explore unknown territories, and I did not feel as tired as I would have imagined.

I ended running 2.3 miles, which was longer than I thought.  I remember as a middle schooler that I would spent more than thirty minutes just to do a mile run on those good ol’ days of fitness tests, and taking more than ten minutes to do a 800m run as a high school student.  Those were during my overweight days, and I noticed changes in me as I was stretching in the park in my neighborhood.  The sun was lowering itself as the day ended, and I just felt so peaceful at the moment.  This experience would make me a regular for running, and I am definitely moving forward in life by overcoming my phobia and by making myself into a stronger and better person.

I passed by crowds in the park, and I was overjoyed to see children enjoying time with family and folks enjoying time with friends.  I took a quick shower, looked at myself in the mirror, and hope that I would become even more attractive physically soon.  Running, although considered as high-risk with knee injuries, can be health-improving with many other benefits.  I just hope that I will be able to see the benefits after running a lot more around town.

Two

My brother’s birthday was today, and after knowing that he did not have special plans other than spending time with his girlfriend, I decided to invest in a birthday cake.  I know that he does not like chocolate and that the both of us hate those sugary frosting and icing, so I went to my favorite Bakers’ Window and ordered a carrot almond cake a few days ago.  I figured that Bakers’ Window would be the ideal place since my brother and friends love the croissants and pastries I got them from there.  I also am a supporter of local businesses that use organic and community-produced ingredients when compared to large corporations with their artificial coloring and partially hydrogenated fats.  Plus, the baked goods from Bakers’ Window always tasted wonderful and fresh out of the oven without any sugar-coating.  The dense carrot cake with tons of almonds also left me a grand impression, so I thought that would make a lovely birthday cake.  After seeing me quite often with my bulk orders (since I eat some for breakfast and would share fifty-percent of my purchase with my brother and friends), the adorable managers and bakers (a lovely couple) agreed to make the cake.  When I went to the bakery today, I saw the familiar welcoming smiles from the bakers and staff, and the cake was adorable.  After a few minutes in the bakery and storing the cake in my refrigerator, I started my day and planned on meeting with my brother at night.

My brother stopped by my place at 8PM after he and his girlfriend had dinner together at Bonfyre, which is one of their favorite restaurants for barbecue except that ’twas not as good tonight as the previous times they went there.  They are a beautiful couple, and I am happy for my brother to be in a relationship with a gorgeous, caring, simple (not materialistic), and well-mannered lady when compared to his exes.  They were both glad to see me, and they were shocked by the huge size of the cake when I presented it.  When I told them that ’twas a carrot cake, my brother’s eyes started glittering.  He then told me that he loves carrot cakes, and I guess that is why we’re brothers 🙂  He felt that the cake is different compared to other cakes since ’twas dense but moist, the cheesecake frosting was not as sweet or overpowering, the almonds were a nice decor and complement (and we love almonds), and he simply LOVES it.  His girlfriend, being a foodie, also loves the cake too!  We chatted more throughout the evening until they left, and they ended taking half of the leftover cake with them.  I had never seen my brother hugging that much of a cake, but he indicated that he really loves it and that his friends would not have introduced such a wonderful cake.  I am glad that the cake was a success, and then I presented him and his girlfriend the other pastries and croissants I got for them earlier today.  They went back to my brother’s place happily, and I was glad to send them off.

I only have one blood-related brother, and ’tis amazing to see that he is now twenty-three years old.  When we were younger, I did not cherish him as much since I became independent at a younger age.  We did share bedrooms until we moved to a new apartment during my high school years.  He would want to come to my room, but I ended dragging him out.  Although we have been in Madison together for five years now, we rarely hung out until this year.  Maybe this comes with age.  We met with each other more often on a weekly basis, and our brotherhood became stronger.  For me as the older sibling, I also helped him with groceries, great croissants, and many others, and these simple acts of giving did lighten his heart too.  He is always appreciative of the many wonderful things I gave him…and I could see that he loves those or else he would have returned them to me.  I hope and pray that we will be stronger support for one another and that things will go well for him too.

Three

And just a list of a quick update:

1. I went to All You Can Eat Sushi at Restaurant Muramoto with my brother.  My brother and I are sushi and seafood lovers, and Restaurant Muramoto created many memories for us.  This establishment was introduced to me through my brother when we dined together on the evening of my college graduation, which was on my birthday a few years ago.  We would go to Muramoto establishments for sushi since the Asian fusion style is unique compared to other sushi restaurants.  And then…  Restaurant Muramoto started having the All You Can Eat Sushi deal for $25 per person!  That was a great deal for us since our typical sushi bill would unfortunately be in the hundreds, which is a great contrast between the price and freshness of seafood in the midwest when compared to Taiwan.  We finally went there together two Sundays ago, and the food was great as we remembered.  We ended eating ten rolls and twenty-two pieces of nigiri along with servings of seaweed salads and miso soups for three hours…The original price without the deal would be more than $220, but we only paid $50 without the 5.5% tax and tip!  What a meal!

2. Grad school is going well.  I’m enjoying teaching, and I am moving forward with research.  I will be meeting with my committee next week, hopefully to be certified and to set a date for my qualifying exam.  Some folks have been decontaminating and “fixing” the biosafety cabinets in the lab, so it has been a war zone!

3.  Life is good!  Volleyball, as usual, this weekend.  Hoping to enjoy another three to four-hour game 🙂

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!