Happy May!  May has always been a joyful month with great weather and my birthday, but it is also sorrowful as I said goodbye to students, friends, and coworkers after the semester ends.  Anyway, school is still in progression and I have tons to do, so I thought of providing a short and quick update with photos.

My breakfast for a day: chicken, mushrooms, and oatmeal.  Although not as heavy as a huge slab of steak or piles of pancakes with bacon, this is also a healthy version of breakfast of champions!


My newly found sin: a pint of Haagen-Dacz goodness, which was sold for $2.34ish per pint!  Pineapple coconut was an usual flavor, but ’twas creamy with coconut aroma and pineapple bits.


I bought tons of vegetables and fruits to stack my refrigerator, and here are two samples above.


I attended a Javanese music and dance performance last Saturday since I never experienced anything like that.  The music was soothing and quite laid back, and not as intense as Beethoven’s pieces.  I felt as if I were slouching and on ecstasy too.  The instruments, although simple and shaped pretty much similarly to one another, produced great harmony although I thought those were pots and pans when I first saw them.


And then, I was walking around town and came upon this.  Something inspiring and food for the soul:


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.

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!

Before I begin writing about the day and night, MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!  Although not many folks read my blog, I am grateful to those who did and have left comments.

After sacrificing all the mice necessary for an in vivo portion of the experiments, I have been feeling quite awesome since yesterday evening.  Spending four hours, from 2:30 to 6:30PM, in the animal facility was not too pleasant with the smell of murine urine, but I am glad that the work is done and that I get to relax a bit.

Today was pretty sunny, and so I walked around town starting at 11AM.  ‘Twas fascinating to see people walking up and down State Street, since Madison was empty during the previous few winter holiday seasons.  Perhaps people were staying home a lot more due to an increase in travel costs…but I was even more amazed when I went to the mall this afternoon.  When hopping on the bus, I thought that only foreign students and I would be the ones in the mall…but I was wrong.  I went to Target to pick up some light bulbs for home improvement, and ’twas crowded with people shopping for last-minute gift items.  The parking lot was full, and people were even fighting with cars to cross lanes.  I then went to Sentry’s, a grocery store, and boy was it filled with humans aggregating around the entire store!  Lines of carts and groceries paraded the check-out area while customers fought for the ham and turkey.  ‘Twas just amazing for me to see Madison being so heavily populated around this time of year!  I am glad that I am not the only one walking around too 🙂

I later walked around the mall hoping to find a good-looking sweater for clearance at Macy’s.  I saw it on the website, but it was nowhere to be found in the store.  Oh well…I then walked all the way to my lab while enjoying my time and the sun, and soon I was done collecting serum samples from the blood I drew yesterday.  When leaving lab at 4PM, I bumped into my Thai friend Tawin, who was going to his lab.  I always bump into that oncology graduate student in the weirdest places at the weirdest moments, but now we are planning to meet up for lunch next Monday.  ‘Twas nice to see him too.

I went back to my place and took a good nap after getting some food.  I was really tired from the walking, and I looked like a zombie 😉 I did however remember to go to the midnight Mass.  I walked to the church and arrived at 11PM, prayed for a bit, and enjoyed some of the preludes.  I am always fascinated by the organ with its majestic tones, and the shape of the church made voice float around the air, making tutti sound so grand.  That always reminded me of the churches in Germany, where the voices of so many can strengthen the community and unite one to another.  I also love the incense fabreezing the entire church and my clothes, and I was surprised to see so many families, including one with six children!  The bishop of Madison was responsible for the Mass, and there were quite a few folks!  On my pew that was about ten to twelve feet long, a total of eight folks sat on it!  I was in the middle since I was one of the earliest folks to arrive, but ’twas nice to see so many folks coming to church NOT to just receive the “free cookie” as my dad would put it, but to pray and celebrate.

The Mass ended at 1:45AM, and I immediately thought of text messaging some of my friends a Merry Christmas.  I of course sent M the first of the messages at 1:45AM since I have been thinking of him and even thought more of him after Mass…and he replied!  So below is our conversation, with J being Joe (me):

J: Merry Christmas, M___!  I just got done with the midnight mass and thought of you.

M: Thanks, that’s sweet of you 🙂 Merry Christmas to you too!

J: Lol thanks…how come you’re still up?

M: My family went to midnight Mass too, now I’m buying Kindle nooks for my parents.

M: Books, not nooks.  They make awesome instant gifts.  Haha I’m waiting for Santa to come of course 😉

J: Glad to hear that you’re spending quality time with your family. your parents will be so happy to receive those kindle books! lol do you see something wrapped like an ipad?

M: My parents were still getting out all the Santa gifts when I went to bed, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow. 🙂

J: Hehe cute…well, dont be disappointed if you dont get one…family moments are more precious…or else i’ll get you an ipad…made of chocolate chip cookie dough!

M: Lol, that sounds like a delicious idea. I learned long ago not to get too “wrapped up” in Christmas gifts.  I like getting and receiving gifts that are thoughtful and unexpected, regardless of the size or cost. I will be happy and grateful for those gifts more than an iPad anyway.

J: You’re a good man with that thought 🙂 I hope that you’ll have an exciting xmas morning nonetheless too!

M: Thanks! I think I’ll try to get some sleep now. I hope you have a chance to talk to your parents on Skype tomorrow. I’ll give you a call, too. 🙂

J: Thanks, M___. I talked to my parents yesterday and the day before when ’twas xmas eve over there. i’m going to my tutee’s place for dinner at 6, but would love to chat with you and hear your voice…iff i wont take away your family time. may you sleep well and have sweet dreams 🙂 good night.

So that conversation ended at 2:11AM.  My fingers were freezing and shivering when I was typing, but I enjoyed the chat with M.  He is such a wonderful guy, and I was glad that he offered to give me a call!  I’m loving him more and more, even just as a good friend…and I hope that I’ll be able to spend more quality time with him before he leaves Madison for a job…

With this idea, even a simple thought of word can produce warmth during the holiday season.  A special holiday, such as Father’s Day or Mother’s Day…or even Christmas when people noticed the presence of family members…should occur everyday in our lives.  We should not forget about our dad after Father’s Day, and we should always cherish the moments we share together.  ‘Tis true that giving and receiving gifts can be joyful, but one thing I noticed is that many of my friends, including Eric and Chuck, were happy enough to receive a card from me without any elaborate gifts!  My conversation with Matt drew me closer to him because he is happy to receive anything from anyone!  He won’t be pouting if he does not receive an iPad, and that made me smile.  Instead of making holidays into materialistic or hallmark holidays, let’s be glad for the joyful tidings!

Bed time calls…and yes, I am invited to go to Duncan’s place tomorrow for dinner at 6PM.  His mom left me a message earlier, and I’ll have to call back within a few hours to thank her for the invitation and to confirm my attendance!

In fact, ’tis not a musical but choir performance, but oh well…

Three and a half years ago, I was looking for another job just to make myself busy.  I searched online at the student job website and noticed a family looking for a math tutor for their son.  I applied, got a phone call from the dad of the family, and went for an interview at the house.  My first impression of the parents were that they were nice folks and professional due to their career, and the family was quite large with three children.  The eldest son, who was a freshman in high school by then, looked scrawny with a poker face…and he was the tutee-to-be since he was struggling with Algebra I.  After talking to the family about my background, my graduate school career, and my teaching experience, I left the house and was hired!

So that was how I met Duncan.  He and I have known each other for three and a half years now.  At the beginning, math would be tough for him due to the lack of great resources in a public high school setting.  There were times when he would be really tired or confused, but then the winds changed his fate.  He improved bit by bit with my guidance, and eventually got an A in his Algebra I course.  After then, I thought that my duties were fulfilled, but I was kept by the family to go through geometry, some algebra II material, ACT and SAT math, and eventually precalculus and calculus.  I got to know everyone in the family really well, and they have been welcoming by encouraging me to dine with them, especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Time flies.  Duncan is a senior now, and he took his SAT I and SAT II in October and November.  After going through the materials since his sophomore year, he did really well on those exams and I am pleased.  He is a smart guy, and I hope and pray that he will get into a great college too.  I thought that my duties were done in late November when Duncan got his scores, but he actually would like to meet once every three weeks instead of every week to go over some items in calculus and et cetera.  This means that I am still in contact with him and his family, and I was notified during my visit on Thanksgiving of Duncan’s choir concert that took place tonight.  I scheduled it into my agenda since I have been hearing about Duncan’s involvement and love for singing since I met him, and I eventually went tonight.

Stepping back to high school was actually awkward for me.  Passing by the lockers, you see those brats who think they are the coolest folks in the world, and high school is filled with popularity contest.  You feel that you as a twenty-five year old have aged so much when seeing a horde of folks going through puberty or singing songs that might not be too pleasing.  Wait…did I just hear someone singing Rebecca Black’s Friday?!?!?  I did feel a disconnect after being in college and graduate school, but ’twas fun to feel young again.

The choir concert was held by five main staff of seven different choirs, with four I somewhat know: the director of choir being a popular pianist who sings with his wife in musicals and in the piano bar, the student teacher who is a student in Madison, the piano accompanist being someone I have seen online before, and another choir director being a graduate of an a capella group from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The organization was lacking and quite messy, and there were moments when I felt that a main part of the choir had gone off-tune.  Duncan’s choirs, being two of the higher level ones, sounded lovely.  He stood out in both choirs due to his height, and I could hear his voice from where I was sitting too.  The pieces by the second choir he was in were really amazing with great balance.  However, I could see that many of the parents and I were shocked when folks on stage started singing songs by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, David Guetta, and Rebecca Black.  Sure, singing is supposed to be fun and entertaining, but I wonder what the parents around me were thinking when I saw their eyes bulging and their jaws agape during that performance.  However, I am really glad to hear pieces from the Concert Choir, the Popular Vocal Styles singing songs by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and choirs singing music in different languages (Russian, German, English, and African).  There was a choir that sang songs from Ghana with African instruments, and that was a delight.

I did enjoy the evening since I used to perform on stage in high school in Taiwan and even in college.  My parents never attended any of my concert performances (and needless to say, college and Master’s graduation) since they have been busy working.  ‘Twas until when my brother became a famous saxophonist in high school that my parents would invest in those concerts.  However, I learned to be professional from wind ensemble and orchestra.  I learned that each performance is an evaluation, that you are satisfying the ears of the audience.  I learned to practice my French horn quite constantly so that I would not embarrASS myself.  Never would anyone from my high school joke around with the conductor personally on stage, or burst into laughter by random.  That was quite different tonight though, where things just seem a bit too laid back.

If high school students in the United States were similar to the ones I see tonight, how would they be able to do well in college?  For many of my students, transitioning to college during their first year was tough since college and high school hold different standards.  The weed-out courses in a university certainly does not help a student, and a student would often struggle with studying for exams and writing papers.  Perhaps ’tis a change in lifestyle, but what exactly is different between high school and college?  Perhaps in high school from what I have seen, students could get good grades easily and memorize things for exams.  Students do not need to study too much to do well, and they are not challenged.  In college, students should be able to apply what they have learned in class and think critically of those.  Yeah, ’tis true that a six hundred person lecture could be intimidating and that multiple choice exams are not the best tools to test whether a student understands the materials or not…but people need to overcome these fears and show their logical reasoning and understanding in order to do well in the real world.  Perhaps the educational system yearns for students to learn things the hard way during the transition…but why learn those this late?  Why not start teaching students about the real world experience and professionalism in high school?  Why not challenge their brain cells during puberty?  Why not allow students to explore beyond concepts?

I do not mean for all educators to be serious with everything as if a classroom setting is a German boot camp, but we have to remember that we are competing with members of other countries as well.  Although I do joke about this, I think that ’tis true that folks from Asia–especially mainland China–will take over the world one day, and the United States will just be somewhere unimportant.  If we cannot compete diligently and smartly with folks from other places, how will we be able to survive?  How will the United States be an attraction for people to come to work and study?  Why are we outsourcing so many things to India, Brazil, and China when unemployment is increasing in the United States?  Will the American dream become a Chinese version?

As a teaching assistant, I do want my students to do well.  ‘Tis true that my quizzes can be tough and challenging since I do not ask students to recite things they memorize but to show understanding and application.  ‘Tis true that I have high expectations, but it always saddens me to see a student being unmotivated in a classroom setting, not to mention work.  Especially in the biosciences, folks have to use their brains to create wonders and make discoveries instead of repeating the same ol’ crap again and again!  Even if collaboration is stressed, we need to have our own skills and talent so that we can attract others to work with us.  Although the US still has many Nobel laureates, I do wonder if the majority of the prize would be taken by a different country.  I just hope and pray that things will become better in the United States, and that people will be able to work hard, work smart, and be persistent to overcome failure.

After the two-hour choir concert, I left quickly to avoid squeezing through the crowd in the hallway as a sardine.  I bumped into Duncan’s mom outside of the high school, and ’twas nice to catch up with her.  I then started riding my bike and came back to my place.  I sent Duncan an email congratulating him with the performance and attached some pictures I took…and I hope that he is proud of his performance too.