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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:

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!

I have no idea what’s up with me today.  Perhaps ’tis due to being in Madison too long, being too busy with work lately, or missing time with friends…but I became nostalgic today for some reason…

First, I started thinking of family in Taiwan this morning when I was in lab.  I played some traditional Taiwanese songs on youtube, and I started seeing pictures of the green terraces with tea bushes and Taipei 101.  I was home last May for two weeks due to an urgent family matter, but I was not back for three years before then.  I started thinking of my time with my parents, grandparents, and some longe-lost friends when I was back during the past seven years.  There were many wonderful moments: trying restaurants with my mom, going to the ocean with my dad, spending time in traditional markets with my grandparents, singing with my aunt and uncles, meeting up with friends over meals, and cooking for the family.  Who knows when will be the next time I will be back visiting family members?  Although the flights can be lengthy and the time differences would mess with my circadian rhythm, I just miss people’s friendliness and hospitality.  Wisconsin is a friendly state in the Midwest, but ’tis nothing compared to Taiwan.  Plus, life in Taipei is more exciting with night markets and a convenient metro system.

After getting off from lab, I decided to treat this nostalgia with a quick fix of Chinese food.  I went to QQ Express across the street, ordered the noodle with seafood combo and peanut chicken, and paid six to seven dollars for a mountain of food.  I am picky with Asian food since most restaurants would Americanize the dishes with too much salt, oil, sauce, and glutamate…but ’tis something different from eating oatmeal with tons of vegetables and protein for every meal.

While eating dinner, I decided to watch Shall We Dance?, a great movie starring Richard Gere (one of the sexiest men alive for his age), Jennifer Lopez (hot sexae ladae), and Susan Sarandon (whom I’ve noticed from other films that I cannot remember now).  The movie actually created the other three things I missed…

Chicago.  Yes, the movie was filmed in Chicago, and I missed that great city as I saw the skyline, the the L train, bridges, and one of the malls.  I was in Chicago quite a few times: last January, last August, and also during New Year’s Eve…and I do enjoy being in a large city with things to do and places to go.  I remember my time with Ben over New Year’s Eve: walking along Clark Street from his Belmont/Lincoln Park neighborhood to downtown, going to a party with Wisconsinites on the twenty-somethingth floor with a great view of the downtown area, being introduced to some Chicagoan favorites, and simply catching up with him.  Actually, that also made me think about how Ben and I surprisingly bumped into each other at Memorial Union two to three years ago and started renewing and deepening our friendship more and more since then.  I also went to Chicago quite a few times with my brother to celebrate our birthdays, and that was fun too.

I have many favorite things to do.  I work out and exercise quite regularly with volleyball and broomball although the weather would rarely permit biking nowadays, but the tango music and dance moves made me think of ballroom dancing.  I noticed a couple doing ballroom dancing steps at my friend’s wedding in Oct 2010, and the beautiful and graceful moves captured my heart.  I decided to learn to dance other than aerobic dancing and took the Ballroom Dancing I course last summer.  ‘Twas one of the highlights of my summer with a funny instructor with a South African accent, seeing people who are not too well-coordinated and musical attempting to move their legs and arms, and pretty much relaxing.  Slow waltz was one of my favorites, and I still dance to waltz music whenever I hear one.  I also missed foxtrot, swing, tango, and cha cha although I did not learn too much about some of those.  I started thinking about when I went dancing with my friend Eric last May and even to swing dancing last September.  However, the movie made me want to dance more, even now!

The dancing part made me miss my joyful self.  Being submerged with work ain’t too fun in life, and I just feel that the beginning of a semester is always tough with so much to do.  Even with research, I want to move forward, but my professor can be slow with things.  I met with my professor today, and I will unfortunately have to do more mouse work and eventually kill more mice…which I hate.  With teaching, I felt impatient when my co-TAs would submit things in the last minute or would rely on me too much.  I could hardly smile this afternoon due to all the things on my mind, and having a nervous college does not help.  He is open to me and would share with my things, but he has little faith in himself…and even cried in front of me after he taught today.  I did talk to him and offer him tips with encouragement since public speaking is one of his fears, and I hope that I will continue to be patient and stimulating to him and others around me.  However, I hope that I will not become a victim by focusing on them since I have other things to accomplish and people to meet too.  I hope that I can be carefree and start dancing around with happy feet.  I hope that my heart will not be chained with concerns but be lightened.  I pray that I can be humble and cheery.  Heck, I think I’m going to walk around town while dancing to songs in my head after posting this entry.

After being done with work, I hurried home, removed my sweatpants and v-neck shirt, jumped into shower, and started getting dressed.  I had been quite excited for this evening since I had not seen Matt for a while and we planned this dinner a while ago too.

Somewhere around last week, Matt and I were chatting on google…and we started talking about food.  I then asked him if he would like to go to an establishment during Restaurant Week, and he said yes and recommended Harvest Restaurant.  Actually, he said that he would like to go to Harvest because of the braised beef short ribs that melted in his mouth the last time he was there for a previous Restaurant Week event…so I dialed the phone number, talked to the staff, and made a reservation for two at 8PM for tonight.  Matt was excited as well…so perhaps the both of us were looking forward to this evening.

Matt and I are still “talking” to each other through text messaging and google chat everyday, even before he left for his interview.  We met at his most favorite place–The Old Fashioned–before he left, and surprisingly we would still be in contact when he was out-of-town.  He would message me first numerous times on google chat when I was around my computer.  Some of the conversations were short since he might be preparing for the next day or working on his paper, but ’twas great to have his company and to hear from him.  We even briefly messaged one another when he was back in town, and finally…we were meeting tonight!

Matt told me that I should dress up a bit if I remembered correctly, since I would wear jeans and a t-shirt when we hung out at The Old Fashioned or during that one time when we went to grab Indian lunch buffet.  I started preparing last night by picking out a sportscoat, a white collared dress shirt, pants, nice shoes, and a trenchcoat my dad gave me since ’twas cold.  Since my hair was a bit bushy on the sides as if I looked like Chairman Mao, I thought of getting a haircut since two days ago.  However, a haircut around the downtown area costs more than $15…so out of nowhere did I decide to give myself a haircut.  I looked at teaching videos on youtube, went to Walgreen’s to purchase a haircutting kit (which includes a hair clipper, combs, scissors, and other items), put newspapers all over my bathroom floor, and started experimenting.  I was trimming the sideburns since I am never a big fan of sideburns on me, but I accidentally trimmed past where I wanted and was two inches above my ear…so I had to continue trimming or else it looked weird.  I left a strip of hair in the center with the other parts trimmed, but I did not look that good as a punk…so I ended up trimming away all of my hair!  I felt like a person who just got out of prison, and a good German friend even thought that I looked like a Shaolin monk…’Twas nonetheless refreshing although my head felt pretty cool this morning, but what is done is done.  I’m hoping that practice will make perfect, and that there are more self-haircuts for me to come.  Maybe I can be a barber as a side profession too.

After putting on my clothes and shoes, I started walking to the capitol area and started snapping some photos.  Matt soon arrived at around 7:58PM.  I called out his name with excitement, gave him a long hug, and started chatting.  He told me that I looked great in a suit, and I thanked him.  He was wearing his normal wear with a dress shirt and nice pants…but he was not as dressed up as me.  Haha so it turned out that I did not really need a coat, but ’tis nice to dress up and to have someone saying that I look great.  We soon entered the restaurant while updating each other on life.  There were many great conversations, and Matt was actually smiling and relaxed!  He was not as stressed as before, and he was the Matt I know during the first two times when we met.  He had so much to share and say, and we were both enjoying each other’s company.

With regards to Harvest, this was the first time I went there.  I passed by that restaurant pretty much everyday but had never been there.  At first, I thought that Harvest would be similar to the acclaimed L’Etoile, which used to be next door to it, but there were some differences.  Tables at Harvest were quite close to each other compared to L’Etoile when L’Etoile was at the intimate second-floor location before it moved to its current location.  ‘Twas fascinating to hear two lovely ladies strategizing on things to order and share, but the noise level was significantly higher for an establishment within a higher price range.  Surprisingly, there is no coat check too.  ‘Tis definitely not like Alinea in Chicago, but people in Wisconsin would have high expectations for this kind of establishments in Madison.  Our server, Ellen, was caring and entertaining, but not as much as Matt B from Sardine (when I went with Rogerio on Sunday).  However, the service was not too bad and suited our needs.

As we sat down, I asked Matt if he is getting a drink, and he was thinking of a cocktail.  That was surprising since he is usually a beer or wine guy, but he ended with a glass of sherry, which I tasted too.  I decided to ask Ellen my typical and perhaps famous question when going to a restaurant or bar for drinks, and I was served with a cocktail with grapefruit juice as base.  The bartender, who looked like Antonio Banderas with an intersting and curvy mustache, brought our drinks.  We continued chatting, with a focus on my hair.  Matt told me that I looked great and even better when compared to having longer hair, and I started telling him my haircutting experience.  He told me that I should maintain it too, and he liked my looks tonight.  For himself, he prefers longer hair, and I remember him looking like a lion before getting a haircut for his interview.  He looks good either way anyway.

The appetizers were okay, but Matt was actually right with the braised beef short ribs we both ordered.  It was quite flavorful and soft!  We did not even need to use our knives to cut the ribs into pieces.  The serving was just right too since many American restaurants would have servings that are just too much to stay healthy.  Matt quickly finished the dish since he really loved it, but I savored mine and so I guess I made him watch me while talking more too. 🙂  Anyway, that dish was quite memorable…but Matt, being a cutie, said that the beef dish reminded him of the beef barbacoa burrito he got from Chipotle for dinner last night.  I was laughing so hard with the comparison, but that made me want to try beed barbacoa from Chipotle next time since I only get chicken with roasted peppers from there.

After embracing our conversations and the beef ribs, our desserts came.  I was thinking of the turtle cheese cake before, but I decided to try the mocha Bavarian cake.  Matt eyed on the cafe-flavored cake, but decided to go for house made gingerbread ice cream.  I like the cake due to the hint of dark chocolate, but we both agreed that the desserts did not create sparkles in our mind.  I then told Matt about a place where I had the best dessert dishes in Madison, and he has never been to there.  Hopefully we will be able to have something to celebrate and I will bring him there!

We spent more than an hour and a half at Harvest.  We chatted, enjoyed our time there, I took photos, he sipped his cup of decaf coffee (something he got used to after making a pot of decaf coffee everynight after the interview just for the taste) and we even took a photo together at the end.  Matt was initially discouraging to take a photo with me, but I made him take one at the end anyway.  On our way out, I started telling him that I do not post too many pictures on facebook, but photos serve as my best souvenirs and create memories…hopefully I will be able to see them if I get to live to eighty or ninety.  He laughed, and told me that he does not think that he looks good in photos.  I then told him that he looks handsome tonight and he should not worry and started lamenting on my hair, and he kept telling me that I look dashing and he likes my looks from tonight.  We continued chatting until we reached his place as usual, and then he held me…tightly.  I haven’t felt Matt being this passionate in hugs since our second time together, so I was surprised!  We held each other tightly longer than usual, and soon we parted ways.

After coming back home, I signed onto google chat and started sending Matt an email while attaching photos from tonight.  It turned out that Matt was online, and he quickly messaged me, thanking me for tonight.  We chatted for a bit…he was tired and was hoping to get to bed earlier tonight, but was waiting and hoping to see my email to him.  The email was finally sent to him with photos and words, and ’twas a great evening with him.  He became a lot more loving, and I told him that I will message him to check on him tomorrow since I was heading to grade some prelabs.  I hope and pray that he will be able to recover strengthwise from his trip soon, and that he will receive good news and know God’s plans for him soon!